Religion Today Summaries - August 3, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - August 3, 2011

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

House Church Alliance Leader in China Sentenced to Labor Camp
Survey: Women Show Deep Drop in Church Attendance
Pastor in Iran Awaits Decision on Execution
Bible Agencies Unite to Strengthen Ministry Impact

 

Muslims Seize Christian Burial Sites in Tanzania’s Archipelago

Authorities this week sentenced Shi Enhao, deputy leader of the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA), to two years of “re-education through labor” – a sentence that requires no trial or conviction, according to the China Aid Association (CAA). Compass Direct News reports Shi was officially charged with holding “illegal meetings and illegal organizing of venues for religious meetings,” due to his leadership of a house church movement of several thousand people meeting in several venues around Beijing, CAA reported. Police have since ordered Shi’s church members to stop meeting for worship and confiscated musical instruments, choir robes and some 140,000 RMB (US$21,740) in church donations. They also raided Shi’s house on June 1 and have threatened and intimidated Shi’s wife, Zhu Guangyun, and their four adult children, according to the CAA. A government article analyzing reasons for the growth of Protestant Christianity in China last year indicates how much the expansion of Christianity threatens officials. “Western powers, with America at their head, deliberately export Christianity to China and carry out all kinds of illegal evangelistic activities,” writes government advisor Ma Hucheng and in the article published by the China Social Sciences Press. “Their basic aim is to use Christianity to change the character of the regime in power in China and to overturn it.” Ma also claims that Christianity would endanger national security by destroying the “present balance between religions” in China, largely because house churches have “avoided government control” and persisted in “illegal Christian evangelism.”


Survey: Women Show Deep Drop in Church Attendance

According to RNS News women, long considered the dominant pew dwellers in the nation's churches, have shown a dramatic drop in attendance in the last two decades, a new survey shows. Since 1991, the percentage of women attending church during a typical week has decreased by 11 percentage points to 44 percent, the Barna Group reported Monday (Aug. 1). Sunday school and volunteering among women also has diminished. Two decades ago, half of all women read the Bible in a typical week -- other than at religious events. Now 40 percent do. The survey also found a marked stepping away from congregations: a 17 percentage increase in the number of women who have become "unchurched." "For years, many church leaders have understood that `as go women, so goes the American church,'`' wrote Barna Group founder George Barna, on his website. "Looking at the trends over the past 20 years, and especially those related to the beliefs and behavior of women, you might conclude that things are not going well for conventional Christian churches."
    

Pastor in Iran Awaits Decision on Execution

Compass Direct News reports a pastor in Iran found guilty of leaving Islam awaits the outcome of a judicial investigation into his spiritual background to see if he will be executed or, if possible, forced to become a Muslim, according to Christian groups with ties in Iran. The court-ordered investigation will take place sometime this fall to determine whether Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, 34, was a Muslim as a teenager before he became a Christian at 19. On Sept. 22, 2010, a regional court sentenced Nadarkhani, who leads a 400-strong house church movement in Rasht, to death by hanging for “convert(ing) to Christianity” and “encourag(ing) other Muslims to convert to Christianity.” Nadarkhani’s lawyer appealed the verdict to the Iranian Supreme Court, in part because the pastor said he had never actually been a Muslim and therefore could not be found guilty of abandoning the religion. The court issued a written response to the appeal on June 12, upholding the death penalty but ordering the investigation. Even if the investigation releases him from the charge of apostasy, it is likely the charge of evangelizing Muslims will still carry a lengthy prison sentence, sources said. Jason DeMars, president of Present Truth Ministries, said officials have repeatedly used pressure tactics to force Nadarkhani to become a Muslim, including threats to seize his children and arresting his wife on apostasy charges. On June 18, 2010, officials found Fatemah Pasindedih guilty of the charges, but her conviction was stricken on appeal, and she was released in October.


Bible Agencies Unite to Strengthen Ministry Impact

Two like-minded Bible ministries with complementary missions have announced plans to merge, forming a vital partnership that will enhance the work of both organizations. Bible League International (BLI) and the World Bible Translation Center (WBTC), have a common mission of sharing the Word of God around the world so it can be understood and lives can be changed. The boards of both ministries approved the merger unanimously, with the agreement to become final in September. Each ministry brings unique strengths to the relationship; Bible League in Bible distribution and WBTC in Bible translation. The impact of combining these strengths and building together will be global in its reach. The new united organization will focus on expanding a literacy program around the world, as well as using new digital delivery technology recently developed in a strategic alliance with 12 other ministries. “One of the directions we see God moving in the 21st Century is ministries are looking at ways to collaborate with other organizations to grow their common mission,” BLI CEO Robert T. Frank said. “This merger will strengthen operations for both of our ministries, increasing the tools available to reach the three global audiences we share: the poorest of the poor, the persecuted church and those walking in darkness.”



 

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