Sunday, September 28, 2014

The 3 - September 28, 2014

On this week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, I shine the spotlight on hundreds of events this week remembering the tortuous imprisonment of Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, which has now hit the 2-year mark.  Also, a leadership committee of the Southern Baptist Convention has severed ties with a church for its affirmation of the gay lifestyle.  And, the top story comes from the nation's capital, where thousands gathered to be reinforced in their determination to vote in accordance with their conservative values.

3 - Hundreds of prayer rallies support Pastor Saeed

This past Thursday, to commemorate the completion of two years of imprisonment in Iran for Pastor Saeed Abedini, an estimated 460 prayer vigils were scheduled to take place in 30 countries and territories, according to Christianity Today.   Two years ago, Abedini, a convert from Islam to Christianity, made one of his frequent trips to Iran.   The pastor, an Iranian-American citizen, had been warned by the Muslim nation against his involvement with house churches, so he had returned instead to continue building a government-approved orphanage. While there, Abedini was pulled off a bus, charged with undermining national security, and sentenced to eight years in prison.

During his imprisonment, he has reportedly been tortured and pressured to renounce his Christian faith. His release has been requested by Billy Graham, President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the United Nations.

Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice, the ACLJ, is quoted as saying, “Pastor Saeed has become the face of the persecuted Christian church worldwide, one of many Christians around the world who face imprisonment, beatings and even death for their faith."

The Christianity Today piece points out that in the midst of religious intimidation, Iran is seeing a record number of conversions, according to Elam Ministries, speculating that a crackdown on house churches seems to be making the faith more appealing to Iranians disillusioned with their government.

This week, Elam celebrated a "massive milestone" for the Iranian church: a new translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into Persian.

2 - Southern Baptist leadership committee breaks ties with gay-affirming church

The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention voted unanimously on Tuesday, September 23rd to break ties with New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, CA, after determining it was condoning “homosexual behavior.”  That's according to a report on the Religion News Service website, which quotes a spokesman for the group, Roger Oldham, as saying that, “We believe that, following the lead of Pastor Danny Cortez, New Heart Community Church has walked away from the Southern Baptist Convention’s core biblical values.” Oldham said Cortez attended the meeting and indicated that he had officiated at a same-sex wedding.

The article states that the move came less than two weeks after the California Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Board voted unanimously to withdraw fellowship from the congregation because of the announcement by Cortez that he affirmed gays — including his teenage son — and his church had taken a “third way” on homosexuality.

1 - Values Voters gather in DC, call attention to religious freedom, participate in straw poll

Each year, Family Research Council Action, headed by Tony Perkins, invites a number of high-profile pro-family conservatives to speak at its Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC.  This year, according to a report on the WORLD News Group website, religious liberty took center stage.  The winner of this year's Presidential Straw Poll, Senator Ted Cruz, called for a new president who would make freedom a foreign policy priority.  Cruz is quoted as saying, “Oh, the vacuum of American leadership we see in the world...We need a president who will speak out for people of faith, prisoners of conscience.”

Last year’s speakers honed in on what are commonly called, "social issues," but on Friday, FRC Action President Tony Perkins noted, “Without religious freedom, we lose the ability to even address those other issues."

In the straw poll, Cruz won 25 percent of the votes cast by those who attended the event.  Dr. Ben Carson, took 20 percent of the vote, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 12 percent.

Carson won the vice-presidential poll, with 22 percent of the vote. Cruz took second with nearly 14 percent, and Louisiana Govenor Bobby Jindal took third with nearly 11 percent.

The annual summit draws about 2,000 conservatives to the nation’s capitol to rally around key issues.

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