Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 8, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 8, 2010

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Gunmen Attack Egyptian Christians, Kill Six
  • Uzbek Court Overturns Baptist Fines
  • Joel Osteen Blesses Houston's New Gay Mayor
  • Dobson Plans New Radio Ministry

Gunmen Attack Egyptian Christians, Kill Six

Christian Post reports that five Coptic Christians and one Egyptian policeman are dead following a drive-by shooting at a church. On Dec. 6, when Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Eve, three gunmen fired on a shopping district in the southern town of Nagaa Hammadi before a Christmas Eve Mass and afterwards on worshippers who were leaving the church. The lead attacker is reportedly Muslim. The church's bishop said he had received threats in the days leading up the attacks, and ended the service an hour early hoping to avoid any conflict. "For days, I had expected something to happen on Christmas Eve," he told the Associated Press. At least seven other people were reportedly injured. On Dec. 7, relatives of those killed in the shooting smashed ambulances outside the hospital where the bodies have been kept, demanding them for a Christian burial.

Uzbek Court Overturns Baptist Fines

Baptist Press reports that a court in Uzbekistan has overturned massive fines levied against three Baptist Union leaders in late October but upheld their suspect criminal convictions. An order barring the three from holding responsible positions in the Baptist Union for three years also remains in place. Baptist Union President Pavel Peichev, union accountant Yelena Kurbatova and Baptist layman Dmitri Pitirimov were relieved the fines -- which equaled 260 times the monthly minimum wage -- were overturned but say they planned to appeal the Dec. 4 ruling. The charges of evading taxes and involving children in religious activity without their or their parents' consent were based on assemblies held at the union's Joy Baptist Children's Camp, which was directed by Pitirimov. The three were convicted even though some of the parents involved denied their children were forced to listen to religious teaching.

Joel Osteen Blesses Houston's New Gay Mayor

USA Today reports that megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen took an active part in supporting Houston's newly-elected mayor, who is also a lesbian. The pastor of the 45,000-member Lakewood Church swore in Annise Parker and gave the opening prayer at the ceremony. Osteen, who has told celebrities such as Larry King and Whoopi Goldberg that homosexuality is not "God's best," has avoided condemning homosexuality in strong terms. "She's our mayor. Joel doesn't view Annise through a gay lens," Don Iloff, Jr., spokesman for Lakewood Church in Houston, told The Christian Post. "He sees her as a person." Osteen prayed for the previous mayor, Bill White, at his inauguration. "If you ask Joel he'll tell you 'when I can pray at an event over government leaders and in Jesus' name it's hard to resist,'" Iloff said.

Dobson Plans New Radio Ministry

Religion News Service reports that Dr. James Dobson will leave the "Focus on the Family" Christian radio program in late February but will continue on the airwaves through a new ministry. Officials at the Colorado-based ministry that Dobson founded three decades ago say they don't see his plans, which Dobson announced on his Facebook page, as competition. "No, we don't view that as competition," said Focus spokesman Gary Schneeberger on Tuesday (Jan. 5). "We believe that people believe in what Focus on the Family is doing and that they'll continue to do so." Focus plans to continue the radio program, which will feature Focus president and CEO Jim Daly, on-staff family psychologist Juli Slattery and other experts on parenting, marriage and culture, possibly including Dobson. In his announcement, Dobson said his new 30-minute daily program will be "much like what you have heard on Focus on the Family for the past 33 years."