Religion Today Daily Headlines - April 10, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - April 10, 2013

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Biggest Reason for Declining Church Attendance: Children's Sports?
  • Egyptian Christians Flee Under Increased Scrutiny, Persecution
  • Jim Wallis Now Supports Same-Sex Marriage


Biggest Reason for Declining Church Attendance: Children's Sports?

Sunday morning used to be a time reserved by many Christians for attending worship services, but new research indicates the extent to which American churches today are competing against other activities -- the biggest competition being children's sports, Christianity Today reports. According to a study published in the Review of Religious Research, an examination of declining attendance at 16 congregations revealed that most pastors place the most blame on children's sports activities, since practices and competitions alike are increasingly "scheduled on Sunday mornings at the very time when many churches traditionally have provided religious education." However, that doesn't mean that families whose kids are highly involved in athletics will stop attending church. Instead, more Protestant churches are offering alternate service times to accommodate members with Sunday morning commitments. They're also increasing their emphasis on physical fitness programs or sports ministries. According to David Briggs of the Association of Religion Data Archives, "More than two-thirds of congregations who said sports and fitness programs were a specialty of the congregation reported more than a 10 percent growth in attendance from 2000 to 2010. In contrast, only a third of churches with no athletic programs reported such growth."

Egyptian Christians Flee Under Increased Scrutiny, Persecution

Tens of thousands of Christians have left post-revolution Egypt due to concerns over rising Muslim conservatism and a general instability they say is emboldening attacks against them. Perhaps the most dramatic example of sectarian tension yet occurred Sunday in central Cairo, where a crowd attacked Christian mourners after they emerged from a funeral in Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral. Coptic Pope Tawadros II underscored rising tensions between Christians and Muslims when he criticized Islamist president Mohammed Morsi for the weekend violence which resulted in the deaths of four Christians. The state of instability, decaying economy and rise in crime have scared many Egyptians into leaving, or trying to -- not least of all Egyptian Christians who say they are easy targets when trouble erupts and there is no system in place to protect them. "They feel if there is an issue, there is vigilante violence," said Douglas May, a U.S. Catholic priest based in Egypt, where he has lived for 18 years. He said that although there were restrictions on minorities under former President Hosni Mubarak, Christians felt safer because there was at least a sense the country was under control. There are no official figures for how many Christians have left Egypt since the revolution, though estimates range as high as in the tens of thousands. "When there is no clarity, rumors abound,” said Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak, patriarch of Egypt’s estimated 250,000 Coptic Catholics. "There are those saying hundreds of thousands, others saying thousands, but there are people leaving, this we know -- and not only Christians, Muslims are leaving as well."

Jim Wallis Now Supports Same-Sex Marriage

Long-time evangelical left leader Jim Wallis, founder and CEO of Sojourners, has changed his position on government recognition of same-sex marriage, the Christian Post reports. Wallis, who announced his support in a Friday interview with the Huffington Post, said he was worried about the decline of marriage and wanted to strengthen it, but believed that same-sex couples should be included in that endeavor. "I think we should include same-sex couples in that renewal of marriage, [but] I want to talk marriage first," Wallis said. "Marriage needs some strengthening. Let's start with marriage, and then I think we have to talk about, now, how to include same-sex couples in that deeper understanding of marriage. I want a deeper commitment to marriage that is more and more inclusive, and that's where I think the country is going." When the Huffington Post asked Wallis to clarify if he meant he specifically supported same-sex marriage, he answered "Yes." A spokesperson for Sojourners confirmed on Monday that this is the first time Wallis has publicly stated that position. 

Publication date: April 10, 2013