Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 19, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 19, 2007

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

  • Open Doors Official: China's Human Rights Record Showing some Improvement
  • Eritea Arrests Founder of Full Gospel Church
  • Research Looks at Loyalty to Denominations among Churchgoers
  • Useful Data Available to SBC Churches from Research Center

Open Doors Official: China's Human Rights Record Showing some Improvement

An official with Open Doors says it's surprising that Communist China is no longer ranked in the top 10 among nations where Christians face the most severe treatment. But while China has fallen a little further down the list, he says life is still difficult for believers in many parts of China. Last year, China was number 10 on the list; but this year, the communist country fell to 12th place. Paul Estabrooks, minister at large for Open Doors, says some parts of China are seeing an improvement. "China is a really difficult country to talk about in terms of persecution," he notes, "because, as one China watcher has said, everything you say about China is true somewhere and false somewhere else. AgapePress reports that North Korea tops the Open Doors "World Watch List" this year. Other countries listed among the top 10 worst persecutors of Christians include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia, Vietnam, Laos and Afghanistan.

Eritea Arrests Founder of Full Gospel Church

Just days after Eritrean security police arrested one of the founders of the Full Gospel Church last month, two Protestant pastors and another church leader jailed months ago have been released. Pastor Habtom Tesfamichel was taken into custody on January 23 in Asmara. The 57-year-old Tesfamichel is incarcerated in the capital’s Wongel Mermera prison, along with nearly two dozen other Christian pastors and priests known to remain jailed in the notorious investigation center. In late January, two Protestant church leaders, Pastor Simon Tsegay and Gebremichel Yohannes, were released. Soon afterwards, Full Gospel Church Pastor Fanuel Mihreteab was released from Sempel Prison in Asmara, two years after his arrest in January 2005 in the town of Dekemhare. Like Tsegay and Yohannes, Mihreteab was forced to surrender property deeds to guarantee his required bail, Compass Direct News reports.

Research Looks at Loyalty to Denominations among Churchgoers

A recent survey conducted by Ellison Research examined loyalty to denominations and specific churches -- along with length and frequency of attendance -- and found that one-third of all Protestant churchgoers in the United States are not positive they will continue attending the same church in the near future, AgapePress reports. According to the survey, which polled 1,184 adults who attend a Protestant church at least once in a typical month, the average length of time adults have been attending the same church is 13.7 years. Also, the researchers found no strong differences in denominational loyalty between people in mainline and evangelical churches, but did discover distinct differences among different major denominational groups.

Useful Data Available to SBC Churches from Research Center

Say you’re at First Baptist Church in a fast-growing town and need to know the area’s changing demographics to better plan the church’s outreach and various ministries. How would you start? Where would you find research on planting new churches, refocusing declining churches through evangelism, reaching young adults through conversion growth or best practices for evangelizing children? The North American Mission Board has always operated a research division. But NAMB’s new Center for Missional Research (CMR) has revamped and expanded its operations in Alpharetta, Ga., over the last year to become more interactive and proactive in providing research data to the Southern Baptist Convention’s 43,000-plus churches, Baptist Press reports. “In addition to being the keeper of information, we also wanted to develop research to make churches more effective in evangelism, church planting and in sending missionaries,” Ed Stetzer, CMR director and missiologist, said. “CMR’s focus is on serving our churches, pastors and Christian leaders throughout the Southern Baptist Convention,” Stetzer said. “We want our leaders to be able to make strategic missional decisions because of the CMR’s enhanced ability to research North American cultures, analyze ministry effectiveness of churches and understand the communities where churches minister.”