Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Forces Reshaping Christianity around World
The forces reshaping Christianity come with many names. In Nigeria, the Mountain of Fire and Miracles congregation holds huge all-night revivals. Across Asia, the True Jesus Church preaches biblical interpretations that include shunning Christmas as a pagan-tainted holiday. In Brazil, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God says rewards - spiritual and material - may await those who give to its fast-expanding empire. Such ways of worship that challenge the dominance of Christianity's mainline denominations on every continent will be high on the agenda this week as envoys from the faith's main branches gather in Brazil for their most ambitious conference in eight years. The World Council of Churches hopes to leave its assembly in Porto Alegre with a clearer vision of how to address the sharp growth of Pentecostal, charismatic and evangelical groups around the globe. The head of the council, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, will urge delegates to fully recognize the spiritual shifts and begin serious dialogue with Pentecostal and other groups, who have often regarded the WCC as a threat to their independence, fundraising methods and animated worship style. "We need a fresh look at global Christianity," Kobia told The Associated Press.
Pope Says Science and Religion are Compatible
Pope Benedict says science and religion are not opposed to each other and Christians should not be afraid to try to understand how they compliment each other in explaining the mystery of life on Earth, according to the Vatican's doctrinal department. All Headline News reports the Pope made his comments at a time of heated debate about intelligent design arguments challenging evolution. A Pennsylvania court ruled in December that intelligent design could not be taught as science in school. Intelligent design supporters have been trying to get it taught as science in biology classes alongside Darwin's theory of evolution, which some Christian conservatives oppose. Its opponents rejected this as having no scientific basis at all. The dialogue between religion and science would actually help the faithful see "the logic of faith in God," said the Pope, speaking to members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Scientific discoveries sometimes came so rapidly "that it becomes very complicated to recognize how they are compatible with the truth revealed by God about man and the world," says the German-born Pontiff.
Judge Shelves Case over Jesus' Existence
An Italian atheist lost his legal crusade against the Catholic Church on Thursday when a judge rejected his attempts to sue a priest for saying that Jesus existed 2,000 years ago, the priest's lawyer said. Luigi Cascioli, 72, had argued his hometown priest and former schoolmate had effectively broken an Italian law meant to protect the public from being conned. But instead of granting Cascioli his request to bring the case to court, the judge recommended magistrates investigate him for slandering priest Enrico Righi, Righi's lawyer, Bruno Severo said. The 76-year-old priest said he was delighted by the news. "Thank God it's over," Righi told Reuters. "I'm glad it has ended like this, because imagine if it had gone on and on." Cascioli, author of a book called "The Fable of Christ," said the court had not yet informed him of the ruling. But he was not surprised, and said he would appeal to Italy's highest court, and then to The Hague. Asked about the possibility he would be tried for slander, Cascioli chuckled, saying that to prove he lied, prosecutors would have to prove that Jesus existed. "They don't have any proof," he said.
Air Force Eases Rules on Religion
The Air Force, under pressure from evangelical Christian groups and members of Congress, softened its guidelines on religious expression Thursday, the Washington Post reports. The changes emphasize that superior officers may discuss their faith with subordinates and that chaplains will not be required to offer nonsectarian prayers. "This does affirm every airman's right, even the commanders' right, to free exercise of religion, and that means sharing your faith," said Maj. Gen. Charles C. Baldwin, the Air Force's chief of chaplains. The guidelines were first issued in late August after allegations that evangelical Christian commanders, coaches and cadets at the Air Force Academy had pressured cadets of other faiths. The original wording sought to tamp down religious fervor and to foster tolerance throughout the Air Force. It discouraged public prayers at routine events and warned superior officers that personal expressions of faith could be misunderstood as official statements. But evangelical groups saw the guidelines as overly restrictive. Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, an Albuquerque lawyer who is suing the Air Force over its policy on religion, questioned the sentence allowing commanders to share their faith when it is "reasonably clear" that they are speaking personally, not officially. "Reasonably clear from whose perspective, the superior's or the subordinate's?" asked Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy graduate. "When a senior member of your chain of command wants to speak to you 'reasonably' about religion, saying 'Get out of my face, sir!' is not an option."