January 7, 2010

1536 RNS News 2

The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors

Survey: Two-thirds of Protestant
Pastors Consider Islam 'Dangerous"

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                                  ©2010 Religion News Service

capTwo out of three Protestant pastors believe Islam is a "dangerous" religion, according to a new survey from a Southern Baptist-affiliated research group.
The survey of more than 1,000 Protestant clergy by LifeWay Research, released December 14 found that 45 percent strongly agree with the statement "I believe Islam is a dangerous religion" and another 21 percent agree somewhat with it.
Evangelical pastors were more likely to agree with the statement than mainline Protestant pastors--77 to 47 percent. Likewise, pastors with a bachelor's degree or less education are more likely to strongly agree than those with a master's degree--64 percent to 37 percent.
"It's important to note our survey asked whether pastors viewed Islam as `dangerous,' but that does not necessarily mean 'violent,"' said Lifeway president Ed Stetzer in a statement about the survey results.
"`Dangerous' can be defined in a variety of ways, including from the perspective of spiritual influence. Regardless of the definition, the numbers tell us that Protestant pastors are concerned."
The results of the telephone survey were based on a random sample of 1,002 senior pastors taken in October 2008 and had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

U.S. Postal Service to Honor Mother Teresa With 2010 Stamp

BY ADELLE M. BANKS                                                                                  ©2010 Religion News Service
The U.S. Postal Service plans to honor Mother Teresa with a stamp this year in recognition of her humanitarian work.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning nun who died in 1997 will join the late actress Katharine Hepburn, athletes of Negro Leagues Baseball and stars of cowboy movies as celebrities featured on stamps in 2010.
Roy Betts, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, said the Mother Teresa stamp is tentatively scheduled to go on sale on August 26.
 “We have honored other American legends, not because of their religious beliefs, but because of their contributions to civil rights and youth development, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Father (Edward) Flanagan,” he said.
Mother Teresa was known for her work caring for the sick and needy in India and beyond for almost five decades. She was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and an honorary U.S. citizenship.
Her stamp will feature a portrait painted by Thomas Blackshear II, an award-winning artist from Colorado Springs, Colo.

Report: Executions Rise as Death Sentences Decline

BY ERIC VELASCO                                                                                               ©2010 Religion News Service

The number of state-sponsored executions jumped 41 percent in 2009 even as the number of death penalty sentences dropped, according to a new report from the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).
Last year's 52 executions nationwide represented a 41 percent increase from the 37 executions in 2008, the DPIC said in its annual report on capital punishment trends.
Much of that increase was due to the end of an eight-month informal moratorium on executions nationally through mid-2008, while the U.S. Supreme Court considered a case on methods used in lethal injection, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the DPIC.
“The rise in 2009 was expected as states were backlogged with cases,” he said. “But the country continues to move away from the death penalty. This decade has been marked by a declining use of the death penalty.”
Fewer death sentences were imposed by courts nationwide in 2009 than in any year since 1976, when states began operating under new laws after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down most death penalty laws in 1972.
The 106 death sentences issued nationwide in 2009 marked the seventh year of decline, and were 68 percent fewer than the 328 death sentences imposed in the peak year, 1994, the DPIC reported.
The decline nationally in death sentences has been greatest in Texas, which added life without parole as an alternative to death sentences in 2005, the DPIC reported. Texas, the nation's historical leader in the use of the death penalty, averaged 34 death sentences per year during the 1990s. Last year, Texas sentenced nine to die, the DPIC reported.
In Alabama, which ranked No. 2 in 2009, judges ordered nine death sentences in 2009, versus 13 in 2008. “It's a reflection of skepticism about the death penalty,” Dieter said. “When juries see strong alternatives like life without parole, they often view that as sufficient punishment.”

Teens Carrying The Gospel in Their Hands With `Believer Bands'

BY GREG GARRISON                                                                                               ©2010 Religion News Service

First there were the WWJD wristbands, and then Lance Armstrong's yellow Livestrong wristbands, and Bono's white One wristbands ...
Now there's “Believer Bands,” multicolored rubber bracelets in the shape of familiar Christian icons that allow trend-chasing tweens and teens to share the gospel from the palm of their hand.
It started last year, when the Silly Bandz City kiosk at a mall in Birmingham, Alabama, started the craze with stretchy animal-shaped wristbands. Here in the Bible Belt, it was perhaps inevitable that a religious version would emerge.
Thanks to Michael Pugh, youth pastor at Bluff Park United Methodist Church in Hoover, Alabama, “Believer Bands” are the latest craze sweeping the church youth scene.

“I kept seeing Silly Bandz in our youth group, and I thought, `We need to do a Christian version,”' Pugh said. “The difference with ours is they have a purpose. We can share the gospel through these. They're not silly or crazy.”
Local Books-A-Million stores carry the bracelets with the spiritual twist, which have taken off as stocking stuffers. They come in packs of 10, two of each symbol, and cost $2.99 a pack.
On your wrist, they look like colorful squiggly lines. But when you take them off, they resume their recognizable shapes. Believer Bands come in five shapes and colors and tell the Christian story in a nutshell.
Pugh said he settled on a black rotten apple with a bite out of it as a symbol for sin; a red cross as a symbol for Jesus dying to pay for sin; a white heart to symbolize Christ's forgiveness; a green flower to symbolize spiritual growth; and a golden crown to symbolize heaven.
“We've got Scripture to back up everything,” Pugh said. “I teach the Bible. That's what I go by.”
Pugh teamed with his ministerial mentor, the Rev. Wayne Cook, pastor of First Baptist Church of Eclectic, Ala., to form a company called Relevant Trends to produce the bands. They contacted a manufacturer in China and set up a Web site, www.believerbands.com.
People can order through the Web site, he said.
“Kids have a tough time sharing their faith,” Pugh said. “This makes it easy to share the gospel.” He's already heard numerous testimonies of people using the rubber bands to start conversations about faith, he said.
Pugh said he's gotten an order from Winter Jam, a large Christian youth conference. “I can guarantee it will take off,” he said. “We can't keep them in stock.”