Religion Today Summaries - July 21, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - July 21, 2009

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

  • Appeals Court Rules on Bible Distribution in Schools
  • Episcopal Parishes Again Contemplate Leaving
  • Church Provides Help for Communities, Tearfund Says
  • Somali Insurgents Loot U.N. Compounds

Appeals Court Rules on Bible Distribution in Schools

Religion News Service reports that a federal appeals court found a Missouri school district unconstitutionally permitted distribution of Bibles to elementary schoolchildren in their classrooms. The decision has upheld a lower court ruling. The court also ruled that the South Iron R-1 School District in Iron County, Mo., can enact a new policy permitting "any printed material" approved by the superintendent to be distributed outside classroom time." The policy itself applies to all persons or groups wishing to distribute literature to students, not just to Bible distribution by the Gideons," wrote Chief Judge James B. Loken in the unanimous decision by the three-member panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Groups on both sides of the case said they were pleased with the ruling.

Episcopal Parishes Again Contemplate Leaving

The Washington Post reports that conservative Episcopals find it harder and harder to remain in the U.S. church given the continued push toward gay ordination and same-sex blessings. Church of Our Redeemer in Loudoun, Va., has stuck with the Episcopal Church until now. "It's not something you consider lightly, leaving," said church member Michael Hollinger, 37. "But at the same time, the decisions they're making in the larger church are getting harder and harder to accept." The small church's pastor, the Rev. John Thomas Sheehan, expressed similar sentiments. Sheehan says he tries hard to keep politics out of the pulpit, but finds the line increasingly blurry. "Is this political or theological? Should I speak up?" he often asks himself. There is no easy answer.

Church Provides Help for Communities, Tearfund Says

Christian Today reports that one Christian aid agency is highlighting the church's role in providing for Britain's poorer populations. “The local church is the poor – its members share in the suffering,” the Tearfund report states. “As the hub of many communities, it endures even when other community structures collapse, outstaying even the most dogged NGO." The report was released two weeks after the British government promised to partner with charities and faith groups in community efforts. “It’s very encouraging to see the UK Government take a huge step forward in recognising the role of churches in meeting local needs and in engaging with local communities to facilitate discussion and come up with local solutions,” said Matthew Frost, Chief Executive of Tearfund.

Somali Insurgents Loot U.N. Compounds

Reuters reports that al-Shabaab insurgents continue to purge Somalia of outside influence, targeting individual Christians and some international groups. Al-Shabaab gunmen raided two United National compounds on Monday, saying they will shut down three U.N. agencies in the country. "In Baidoa, the looting of all emergency communication equipment and the lack of security officers makes it impossible for the United Nations as a whole to continue its operations," the U.N. said in a statement. At least eight Christians have been killed in the last week in Somalia, seven of them in Baidoa where the U.N. compounds are located. According to Reuters, al-Shabaab said foreign groups operating in Somalia should contact the administration in their area and they would be informed of the conditions and restrictions on their work.