Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 17, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 17, 2007

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Gospel Explosion outside the West
  • New Study Re-Ignites Debate Over Abstinence-Only Programs
  • Bush Stresses School Choice, Sanctity of Life at Prayer Breakfast
  • French Security Police Probe Evangelical Churches

Gospel Explosion outside the West

Christianity is exploding around the world outside Western countries, and there is a real possibility that every unreached people group will have the Gospel within 20 to 30 years, ASSIST News Service reports. The international director of World Outreach, John Elliott, is excited at the possibilities. Elliott says World Outreach has a long history as a pioneering mission. “People have gone out and started stuff from scratch, then handed the ministries over to local people.” He says the organization is on a journey of reinventing itself. “Our primary focus is to reach the least-reached people groups. We are involved in a number of countries where Christianity is established but still has a long way to go to get the percentage ratio up to something approaching respectable numbers. But we also want to keep pioneering into areas where the Gospel still needs to go.” In the early 1990s, missiologists estimated there were 14,000 language groups without access to a viable church. Elliott says that since then, better co-ordination between different mission organizations has curbed duplication of effort. “Just this year we have heard that the number of least-reached people groups is down to 6100, so great inroads have been made in the past 12 years."

New Study Re-Ignites Debate Over Abstinence-Only Programs reports that the results of a 10-year study of four abstinence-only-until-marriage programs has drawn sharp comments from both sides of the sex education issue. A liberal group called the programs "an ideological boondoggle" while a medical non-profit organization said the research does not support calls to de-fund them. "The study found that youth in the four evaluated programs were no more likely than youth not in the programs to have abstained from sex in the four to six years after they began participating," Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., said in a news release. "Youth in both groups who reported having had sex also had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same average age." Nationwide, more than 700 programs receive up to $50 million annually from the federal government under 1996 legislation, to teach youth about abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage. Gary Rose, M.D., president and CEO of the Medical Institute, argued that the report's findings do not support a conclusion that funding should be withdrawn from abstinence education programs. "To the contrary, the report specifically indicates that programs should continue with changes where necessary to make them more effective, particularly 'promoting support for abstinence among peer networks' as an important feature."

Bush Stresses School Choice, Sanctity of Life at Prayer Breakfast

A renewed commitment to the "dignity of human life" and greater choice in education can help to rekindle the promise of America, President Bush said during the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Friday, reports. The president praised Catholic Americans for the role they have played in upholding the "self-evident truths" outlined in the Declaration of Independence. He also credited Catholic schools for providing inner city students with viable alternatives. Catholic schools have supplied "millions of Americans" with the "knowledge and character" they need to succeed in life the president told the gathering.

French Security Police Probe Evangelical Churches reports that Protestants in France have asked the country's national police intelligence service to explain why it has launched an investigation into evangelical churches. Pastor Jean-Arnold de Clermont, president of the French Protestant Federation, said he had learned from several member churches that they had been contacted by the police service and asked to pass along any information they had about evangelical churches in their region. The RG has been sending Protestants a series of questions asking the names of evangelical churches and whether any of their activities might be causing harm. "It is inadmissible that the RG should investigate evangelical churches," said de Clermont. "It is not part of their national mandate -- their mandate is to fight terrorism, prevent urban violence and other national threats against French society."