Daily briefs of the top Christian news and persecution stories impacting believers around the world.
In today's edition:
Hitchens: Don't Trouble 'Deaf Heaven' with Prayers for Me
Atheist Christopher Hitchens, who suffers from esophageal cancer, says he would be happy if Christians didn't follow through with "Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day" on Sept. 20. In Vanity Fair's October issue, he writes, "I don't mean to be churlish about any kind intentions, but when September 20 comes, please do not trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries." He added, "Unless, of course, it makes you feel better." Hitchens, author of the New York Times bestseller God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, says he appreciates the sentiment behind people's prayers, but certainly doesn't believe their prayers will have effect. "[W]hat if I pulled through and the pious faction contentedly claimed that their prayers had been answered? That would somehow be irritating," he writes.
Former Church Condemns Koran-Burning Pastor's Plans
A German congregation founded by the Florida preacher who has sparked global controversy with plans to burn Korans on 9/11 says it has had nothing to do with the preacher since 2008, denouncing him as "violent and fanatical." Religion News Service reports that the Christian Community of Cologne, which the Rev. Terry Jones formed in the 1980s, ousted the pastor over financial irregularities and personality clashes. Meanwhile, Vatican officials added their voice to the growing number of leaders denouncing the plan, calling it "an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community." Similarly, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said the burning of the Koran is "appalling" and does not represent the teachings of Christ.
Federal Stem Cell Funding Wins Temporary Reprieve
An appeals court temporarily reversed a stay on stem cell research funding by a U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, allowing limited funds to flow to research. On Thursday afternoon, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted a request from the Justice Department to lift the Aug. 23 stay blocking the funding, saying the court needed more time to consider the case. The court, however, explicitly refused to give a final ruling on the matter, The Washington Post reports. "The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the emergency motion for stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion," the appeals court wrote in its one-page decision.
'Back To Church Sunday' Set for Sept. 12 across America
A national campaign to invite Americans "Back to Church" has extended more than 1.4 million invitations, according to organizers. Christian Newswire reports that more than 3,700 are participating in the special service, and these churches have doubled last year's 700,000 invitations. "As church-goers show concern for family and friends, the impact of this campaign will last well beyond this coming weekend," said Philip Nation, director of ministry development for LifeWay Research, whose surveys of unchurched people have shown they are receptive to invitations from people close to them. "Our hope is that God will touch many lives through the simple act of an invitation." Although 83 percent of American adults identify themselves as Christians, only about 20 percent attend church on any given Sunday.