Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 9, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 9, 2007

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

In today's edition:

  • Warming Draws Some Evangelicals into Environmentalist Fold
  • WCC Moves Towards Code on Seeking Converts to Christianity
  • ELCA Re-Elects Hanson
  • Parents Can Help Teens Stay in Church

Warming Draws Some Evangelicals into Environmentalist Fold


After a years-long international campaign by British bishops and leaders of major U.S. environmental groups to bridge a long-standing divide between global-warming activists and American evangelicals, the conversions have begun in earnest, according to the Washington Post. "I did sense this is one of these issues where the church could take leadership, like with civil rights," said Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor at Northland Church in Orlando. Hunter has emerged among evangelicals as a pivotal advocate for cutting greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are warming Earth's climate, preaching about climate change to over 10,000 via the pulpit and the Internet. Other evangelicals such as former National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) president Ted Haggard and NAE lobbyist Richard Cizik have joined Hunter in his voiced concern. "The United States is absolutely key to the question of climate change," said Sir John T. Houghton, a British atmospheric scientist and an evangelical, who helped spearhead a jump-start retreat for the movement in 2001. The "greening" of Hunter and others still elicits scorn from many evangelicals, including Focus on the Family's James Dobson and Prison Fellowship's Charles W. "Chuck" Colson. Even some of Hunter's own congregants remain skeptical, and a handful have left his church.

WCC Moves Towards Code on Seeking Converts to Christianity

Reuters News Service reports that Christian churches are moving closer to a common code of conduct on how they go about winning converts among themselves and from other religions, the World Council of Churches (WCC) said on Monday. Conversion is a cause of friction and conflict between religions and among different branches of individual faiths. The Geneva-based WCC, working with the Vatican on the issue, said a meeting in Toulouse later this week should bring the year-long process of agreeing a conversion rule-book nearer to completion by its target date of 2009. "Evangelical and Pentecostal representatives will be taking part in the dialogue for the first time, and we see this as a good sign for the eventual success of this project," said WCC spokesman Juan Michel. A member of each of the two strongly proselytizing sects – which have made heavy inroads into membership of other Christian groupings especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia – will attend, although in their personal rather than institutional capacity. A first meeting was attended – alongside the Christians – by representatives of the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Yoruba faiths. They issued a joint statement saying freedom of religion was "a non-negotiable right of every human being." WCC officials say the code should help ease relations with other faiths, especially with Islamic leaders who regard individual Muslims who convert as apostates.

ELCA Re-Elects Hanson

The Christian Post reports the Rev. Mark S. Hanson was overwhelmingly re-elected Tuesday as presiding bishop of the nation's largest Lutheran denomination. After falling two votes short of being re-elected on the first ballot, Hanson won the second ballot with 888 out of 1,022 votes cast at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)'s Churchwide Assembly in Chicago. Hanson will serve a second six-year term. ELCA is the second largest member church of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which claims 66.7 million members in 78 countries. ELCA’s membership, however, has continued to drop including a 1.6 percent decline between 2005 and 2006 to 4.8 million. Moreover, only 30 percent of the members attend worship weekly, Hanson noted in a sermon on Monday. Hanson, also president of LWF, said he feared shrinking membership and differences over homosexuality would lead the ELCA to become a "settled church." "Sometimes I wonder even worry that for far too many of us ELCA stands for 'Expectations Low. Climbing Anxiety,'" said Hanson during the opening worship on Monday, according to the ELCA News Service.

Parents Can Help Teens Stay in Church

Parents and churches together can help their teenagers decide to stay in church as young adults, new research from LifeWay Christian Resources indicates. Baptist Press reports that, despite appearances, teens do want guidance when it comes to the decisions they face in everyday life, and parents and churches who meet those needs make it more likely those teens will stay in church as young adults, according to the survey of more than 1,000 adults ages 18-30. LifeWay Research conducted the survey in April and May 2007. While the study revealed that 70 percent of young adults ages 23 to 30 stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between 18 and 22, it also indicated several tangible ways parents and churches could make them more likely to stay in church. Two-thirds of the teens who stay in church as young adults describe the church as "a vital part of my relationship with God" –- demonstrating the importance of each teen having a strong relationship with God, as well as the importance of church attendance, said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. "Teens are looking for more from a youth ministry than a holding tank with pizza," Stetzer said. "They look for a church that teaches them how to live life. As they enter young adulthood, church involvement that has made a difference in their lives gives them a powerful reason to keep attending."