Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 10, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 10, 2008

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

  • China Reaches Out to House Churches; Raids Continue
  • Churches Need to Address Poverty More, Clergy Say
  • UN: Nearly 40 Percent Need Food Aid in N. Korea
  • NAE President Reassures Critics of Pro-Life Stance

China Reaches Out to House Churches; Raids, Arrests Continue

Compass Direct News reports that in recent months Chinese officials have attempted to build bridges with the Protestant house church movement even as police raided more unregistered congregations, arrested Christian leaders and forced at least 400 college students to swear they would stop attending such worship services. Two research institutes – one from the government – organized an unprecedented symposium on Nov. 21-22 that concluded with an agreement for house church leaders to begin a dialogue with government officials. A month earlier, the chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement told a gathering of 200 Hong Kong church leaders of his desire to assist Chinese house churches and provide them with Bibles, according to Ecumenical News International. Rights groups pointed to recent raids and arrests, however, as confirmation that Chinese authorities still restrict freedom of worship for local house church Christians. Police have raided at least two house churches since Dec. 2, arresting 70 Christians between the two raid.

Churches Need to Address Poverty More, Clergy Say

Slightly more than half of Christian clergy surveyed say their own congregation should be doing more to address global poverty and health. The survey of 1,024 Protestant and Catholic clergy found that almost two-thirds of them -- 64 percent -- said U.S. churches in general should increase those efforts. But while 57 percent said their own congregation should be doing more, 43 percent said they believed they were doing enough. "The church is really split when it comes to their interest in dealing with international poverty," said David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, which conducted the research for the ONE Campaign, a secular advocacy organization that has started a ONE Sabbath effort to engage religious congregations. "Usually poverty is something that's mentioned once or twice a year," said Kinnaman.

UN: Nearly 40 Percent Need Food Aid in N. Korea

The Christian Post reports that the end of North Korea's severe food shortage won't come until the next harvest season in October 2009. Until then, about 8.7 million people - 38 percent of North Korea's population will need food assistance until then, as the shortfall grows to more than 800,000 tons of grain until October, according to the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization. “Accessing enough food and a balanced diet will be almost impossible, particularly for families living in urban areas or in the remote food-deficit provinces in the Northeast,” WFP country Representative Torben Duesaid. “This could have grave consequences for the health of the most vulnerable groups.” North Korea has been plagued by food shortages since the mid-1990s due to droughts, floods and mismanagement. A 2007 flood is blamed for the most recent crisis.

NAE President Reassures Critics of Pro-Life Stance

The Associated Press reports that National Association of Evangelicals is hastening to set the record straight on its commitment to life, marriage, and other biblical values after controversial statements by its vice president found their way onto airwaves. According to the AP, the Rev. Leith Anderson said in a letter to NAE's board that the wording of the Rev. Richard Cizik, NAE’s vice president for governmental affairs, during a recent interview with NPR (National Public Radio) “did not appropriately reflect the positions of the National Association of Evangelicals and its constituents.” He continued, "Our NAE stand on marriage, abortion and other biblical values is long, clear and unchanged."