Religion Today Summaries - May 12, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 12, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • PC(USA) Clears Way for Ordaining Gays, Lesbians
  • U.S. Religious Freedom Head Silent on Egypt
  • ‘Blasphemy’ Laws in Egypt, Sudan Threaten Converts
  • Navy Halts Move to Allow Gay Unions by Chaplains


PC(USA) Clears Way for Ordaining Gays, Lesbians

Non-celibate gays and lesbians will become eligible for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) following ratification of a constitutional amendment, according to USA Today. The decision reverses decades of official policy. The long-debated change came late Tuesday when a Minnesota presbytery voted 205-56 to strike the requirement that all ministers, elders and deacons live in "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness." That vote by the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area brought to 87 the number of presbyteries approving the change for the Protestant denomination based in Louisville, Ky. -- the majority needed to amend the constitution. Conservatives worry the new policy will usher out those who disagree with the homosexual lifestyle. At the Institute for Religion & Democracy, Vice President and Presbyterian Action Director Alan Wisdom said, "This is a lonely day for Presbyterians who believe what the Bible and the Church have consistently taught: that God's will is that we be faithful in marriage or chaste in singleness. Now we belong to a denomination that is no longer sure it believes that teaching.

U.S. Religious Freedom Head Silent on Egypt

Persecution watchdog Open Doors USA is not impressed with the new U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, who has been strangely silent following the recent religious violence in Egypt. Mission News Network reports that Advocacy Director for Open Doors USA Lindsay Vessey said, "I have looked for any type of statement by Dr. Susan Johnson Cook, the new Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, and I haven't been able to find any statement by her. That is a little surprising, because Egypt is one the top countries where there's been more violence against religious minorities, especially since President Mubarak was ousted." Vessey says reports of the violence, which killed 12 people, have neutralized its nature and merely called the deadly clashes "sectarian."

‘Blasphemy’ Laws in Egypt, Sudan Threaten Converts

Shifting political winds in the north African countries of Egypt and Sudan will leave their mark on history, but local attitudes ensure the laws against defaming Islam will stand like granite in a sandstorm, Compass Direct News reports. As Egyptians continue to grapple with a revolution and seek freedoms commonplace in other parts of the world, there is no sign that Egypt’s version of an anti-blasphemy law will be changed. In Sudan, where the non-Islamic south is set to split from the Islamic north on July 9, Christians remaining in the north are more vulnerable than ever to baseless accusations of defaming Islam. Christians in Egypt can face five years in prison for even insulting Islam, while Christians in Sudan face one year in prison, a fine and 40 lashes. Christians say the laws are used as an excuse to take the property and livelihood of Christians. “This article is being used by the police to crush any person who leaves Islam for Christianity,” said one Christian convert.

Navy Halts Move to Allow Gay Unions by Chaplains

The Associated Press reports that chaplains in the U.S. Navy will not have the option of performing same-sex unions regardless of whether or not the Pentagon decides to recognize openly military service later this year. The announcement reverses the Navy's brand-new decision to allow the unions to take place on bases. In a one-sentence memo, Rear Adm. Mark Tidd, chief of Navy chaplains, said his earlier decision has been "suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination." More than five dozen lawmakers objected to the initial decision. "We find it unconscionable that the United States Navy, a federal entity sworn to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States, believes it is their place alone to train and direct service members to violate federal law," said the lawmakers' letter, which was signed by 63 House members. Military training to apply the new law allowing gays to serve openly began earlier this year and is expected to be completed by midsummer.