Sunday, January 17, 2016

The 3 - January 17, 2016

On this week's edition of my week-in-review feature, The 3, I offer a look at a significant action taken by leaders of Anglicans worldwide.  Also, the leading nations persecuting Christians are highlighted in a new report released by the organization Open Doors.  And, four Americans, including an Iranian-American pastor, have been released from imprisonment in Iran.

3 - Episcopal Church USA excluded from Anglican Communion

The Episcopal Church USA has been suspended from committees and decision-making in the worldwide Anglican Communion for three years, according to a report on the website.

Meeting in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral in England, the majority of the Communion's 38 primates voted to suspend the denomination for voting last summer to allow its clergy to perform same-sex marriages. The primates' statements read, in part: “The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching."  The vote passed by a two-thirds margin.

According to the article, the Church will no longer be able to represent the Anglican Communion at ecumenical or interfaith gatherings, be appointed or elected to internal standing committees, or take part in decisions relating to doctrine or polity.

The senior bishops of the Anglican Communion later released a statement, noting their "unanimous decision ... to walk together, however painful this is, and despite our differences, as a deep expression of our unity in the body of Christ." Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby emphasized at a press conference that the action "is not a sanction. It's a consequence."

CT also points out the full participation of the leader of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), a new conservative body, among the leaders of the communion's 38 provinces. The church leaders noted that ACNA "would raise significant questions of polity and jurisdiction" if it were to apply for full membership as an Anglican province.

2 - Nations which are leading persecutors of Christians identified

For the 14th consecutive year, North Korea is in the number one position on the World Watch List, issued by the organization Open Doors, according to a report on the Christian Post website.

Open Doors CEO David Curry told The Christian Post in an interview on Thursday that even though Islamic extremism generally stole news headlines throughout 2015, there are very good reasons why North Korea still has not moved from the top spot on persecution.
Open Doors CEO David Curry told The Christian Post in an interview on Thursday that even though Islamic extremism generally stole news headlines throughout 2015, there are very good reasons why North Korea still has not moved from the top spot on persecution.
Religion News Service notes that Iraq is in second place on list, which it describes as a ranking of the top 50 most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian and is the first of 35 countries on the list where Islamic extremism “has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing,” said the Open Doors report, which was released Wednesday.

The top 10 on the list are:
  • North Korea
  • Iraq
  • Eritrea, leading several sub-Saharan African nations on the list
  • Afghanistan
  • Syria
  • Pakistan
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Iran
  • Libya, which appeared on the list for the first time
According to RNS, at a press conference introducing the new report, Open Doors CEO David Curry gave a world tour of murder, exile, terror, detention and destruction. The militant groups Boko Haram and al-Shabab, he added, are the “sinister” power behind persecution in four African countries. Curry said, "The level of exclusion, discrimination and violence against Christians is unprecedented, spreading and intensifying."

1 - Iranian-American pastor freed from prison in Iran

It has been announced that Pastor Saeed Abedini and three other Americans have been freed from an Iranian prison.  The American Center for Law and Justice confirmed the news, saying, "This is a major victory. We are incredibly grateful to the more than 1.1 million people who have joined us in fighting across the globe for Pastor Saeed’s freedom."

According to the Be Heard Project website, which has hosted a petition drive for Saeed to be released:

On 28 July 2012, during a visit to Tehran to visit family and to finalize the board members for an orphanage he was building in Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard detained Saeed, asserting that he must face criminal charges for his Christian faith. After intense interrogations, Saeed was placed under house arrest and told to wait for a court summons. On 26 September 2012, instead of receiving a summons telling him where to appear, five members of the Revolutionary Guard raided Saeed’s parents’ home in Tehran, confiscated many of Saeed’s belongings, and took him to an unknown location. After four days the Revolutionary Guard informed the family that Saeed was in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison.

The website said that during his imprisonment, Saeed has spent several weeks in solitary confinement and had been subject to abusive interrogations.  He also had been denied medical treatment for infections that resulted from beatings.

Pastor Saeed’s wife Naghmeh, responded, according to the ACLJ:

“This has been an answer to prayer. This is a critical time for me and my family. We look forward to Saeed's return and want to thank the millions of people who have stood with us in prayer during this most difficult time.”

CNN reported that Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian was also one of the prisoners released. The story said that senior U.S. administration officials confirmed the release as part of a prisoner swap involving seven Iranians held on sanctions charges. The deal comes after more than a year of secret negotiations, the officials said.

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