Religion Today Summaries - May 20, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 20, 2008

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

  • Iraq to Execute al Qaeda Leader in Murder of Bishop
  • Prestonwood Minister Arrested in Sex Sting
  • Willow Creek Undergoes 'Huge Shift' away from Seeker Sensitivity
  • Worker Wins Case against Charity Accused of Only Hiring Christians

Iraq to Execute al Qaeda Leader in Murder of Bishop

ASSIST News Service reports that a leader of al Qaeda in Iraq has been sentenced to death for the killing of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose murder in March drew worldwide condemnation. According to a Reuters story, the Iraqi Central Criminal Court imposed the death sentence on Ahmed Ali Ahmed. He is known as Abu Omar, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement. Reuters reported that Rahho, the archbishop of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, was abducted on Feb. 29 after gunmen attacked his car and killed his driver and two guards. His body was found in a shallow grave two weeks later. At the time, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki blamed al Qaeda and vowed to bring the bishop's killers to justice. Reuters said his Shi'ite Muslim-led government has been accused by members of Iraq's shrinking Christian minority of not doing enough to protect them from violent persecution.

Prestonwood Minister Arrested in Sex Sting

Baptist Press reports that a minister from Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church has been arrested in a sting operation for soliciting sex with a minor. Joe Barron, 52, a minister to married adults, was arrested May 15 in Bryan, Texas. Barron had made a three-hour drive to Bryan to have sex with a girl he thought was 13 but, instead, was a police officer he had been chatting with online in a sting operation. Prestonwood’s pastor, Jack Graham, said in comments to the congregation May 18, "Our church has experienced a heartbreaking and tragic week. We are appalled by the disgraceful actions and subsequent arrest of one of our ministers. I am so sorry for the injury this grievous situation has caused. We have requested and received the resignation of Joe Barron effective immediately. He is no longer a member of the Prestonwood staff." Graham said. "We work very hard to earn your trust and maintain the testimony of our congregation in the community. You can be sure we always make every effort to provide a staff of godly integrity and devotion. I am confident that our ministers are of the highest character and are faithfully fulfilling their calling with accountability." Barron had been on Prestonwood's staff for 18 months.

Willow Creek Undergoes 'Huge Shift' away from Seeker Sensitivity

According to a Christianity Today story, Willow Creek Community Church, after modeling a seeker-sensitive approach to church growth for three decades, now plans to gear its services toward mature believers seeking to grow in their faith. Since 1975, Willow Creek has avoided conventional church approaches, attempting to reach the unchurched through polished music, multimedia, and sermons referencing popular culture. Last summer, executive pastor Greg Hawkins co-authored a book titled, Reveal: Where Are You?, which detailed much of Willow Creek's four-year research effort into whether the church's model had been effective or not. Hawkins declined CT's interview request, and senior pastor Bill Hybels was unavailable for comment. Greg Pritchard, author of Willow Creek Seeker Services, told CT the church "sporadically has recognized it was not teaching a robust enough biblical theology and needed to turn the ship around. It is a huge shift."

Worker Wins Case against Charity Accused of Only Hiring Christians

ASSIST News Service reports that a manager who resigned from a British charity in protest about its new alleged "Christian-only" recruitment policy has won a discrimination case he filed against the group. According to a BBC News report, Mark Sheridan, 56, a self-described “former Christian” from Conwy, North Wales left Prospects, after eight years of employment, in Jan. 2006. The charity works with adults with learning disabilities. The BBC reported Sheridan said, “I am really very pleased with this result. When I worked for Prospects, I felt that what they were doing was wrong. Winning this case now justifies my claim.” The BBC said that Prospects declined to comment. The BBC reported Sheridan told the employment tribunal that workers were expected to promote a Christian philosophy. Sheridan resigned twice in four months, the BBC report said, withdrawing his resignation the first time before finally resigning in Jan. 2006. But the tribunal in Conwy heard he did not mention his reasons for leaving in his resignation letter.