Religion Today Summaries - April 28, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 28, 2006

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

  • Methodists Continue to See Consistent Drop in U.S. Church Membership
  • Christian Minorities in Iran Seek Freedom to Proclaim Faith in Public
  • Sri Lanka’s Anti-Conversion Bill Revived in Parliament
  • Religious Communities at Odds on Immigration

Methodists Continue to See Consistent Drop in U.S. Church Membership

The Christian Post reports that worship attendance has been on a consistent decline for the United Methodist Church in the United States, but for conferences in Africa, Asia and Europe, numbers have shot up over the past several years. "In the central conferences, significant growth has been seen in Africa, with a growth rate of 30 percent in the last four years," said Scott Brewer, senior researcher for the UMC General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA). United Methodist members in the United States reportedly decreased by 0.81 percent, bringing numbers down to about 8.07 million. "This report cannot provide the final word on the state of our connection, but it can contribute to a continuing conversation about what it means to be a strong, faithful and living church," stated the GCFA staff in the report. "Our goal is to raise some of the questions we believe are relevant in forming the vision that will lead our connectional church into its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

Christian Minorities in Iran Seek Freedom to Proclaim Faith in Public

Christian minorities in Iran are confined to sharing their faith only within their communities, a Swiss Catholic Church delegation reported after a weeklong visit to the Islamic country. "On one side they are happy to live in a country where they can practice their faith. They can organize mass, they can pray and they can have churches," said Mario Galgano, spokesman for the Swiss Bishops Conference. "But the problem is they cannot do more than this. They cannot speak about their faith outside their community. They don't have freedom of religion." As a result most Iranians knew little of Christianity and other religions, the Christian Post reports. In light of the current political crisis over Iran's nuclear aspirations and the controversy over the Mohammed caricature, the church spokesman said Iranians had been anxious to find out what people in the West thought of Iran.

Sri Lanka’s Anti-Conversion Bill Revived in Parliament

Sri Lanka’s Parliament has appointed a 19-member committee to review a bill that would outlaw “forcible” conversion, before it is presented for a final vote. A Compass Direct release states the April 5 move to revive stalled anti-conversion legislation came as sporadic attacks on churches continued. The bill calls for prison sentences of up to five years and/or a stiff fine for anyone found guilty of converting others “by force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means.” Against a backdrop of increased military activity between the government and northern separatists, attacks on churches have continued, including a Buddhist monk leading a 100-strong mob to attack a Methodist church in Piliyandala, southeast of Colombo, during a worship service on Sunday (April 23).

Religious Communities at Odds on Immigration

The immigrant rights movement appears in many outwardly ways to have the support of the USA's Christian communities, but appearances can be deceiving, says a story in USA Today. Although Catholic and Protestant leaders are voicing strong support for undocumented immigrants, recent surveys suggest that their flocks are uneasy about immigration trends. Evangelicals, meanwhile, are somewhat divided along ethnic lines. In a March survey by Pew, respondents were asked whether they agreed with the following statement: "Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care." 64% of white evangelicals agreed, up from 49% in December 2004; 56% of white Catholics agreed, up from 44% in December 2004. Meanwhile, 51% of white Protestants agreed that "The growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values," up from 41% in December 2004. Some prominent religious conservatives have stayed silent on immigration, while others with clout in Washington - such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council - have said the issue lies beyond the scope of their agendas.