Religion Today Summaries - January 20, 2012

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - January 20, 2012

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

In today's edition:

  • Sudan Threatens to Arrest Church Leaders
  • Muslim Brotherhood: Ultimate Goal 'Mastership of the World'
  • New Presbyterian Denomination Formed
  • Christians Report Lowest Growth Rate in Israel


Sudan Threatens to Arrest Church Leaders

Sudan's Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments has threatened to arrest church leaders if they carry out evangelistic activities and do not comply with an order for churches to provide their names and contact information, Compass Direct News reports. The warning in a Jan. 3 letter to leaders of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) arrived just days after Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, announced that the country's constitution would be more deeply entrenched in sharia (Islamic law). "We will take legal procedures against pastors who are involved in preaching or evangelistic activities," wrote Hamid Yousif Adam of the Ministry of Guidance to the church leaders. "We have all legal rights to take them to court." Sources said the order was aimed at oppressing Christians amid growing hostility toward Christianity. "This is a critical situation faced by our church in Sudan," said the Rev. Yousif Matar, secretary general of SPEC.

Muslim Brotherhood: Ultimate Goal 'Mastership of the World'

Earlier this week, Egypt's newly elected parliament announced that the extremist Muslim Brotherhood would hold a leadership role as speaker of the Islamic-majority governing body that is expected to be seated by the end of Feburary. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Muslim Brotherhood's supreme leader, Dr. Muhammad Badi, said: "The Brotherhood is getting closer to achieving its greatest goal. ... This will be accomplished by establishing a righteous and fair ruling system [based on Islamic sharia], with all its institutions and associations, including a government evolving into a rightly guided caliphate and mastership of the world." Badi defined the long-term goal of the Brotherhood as "utilizing events, waiting, making appropriate preparations and prior designs, and a comprehensive and total reform of all aspects of life."

New Presbyterian Denomination Formed

According to Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research, a new Presbyterian denomination called The Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO) has been launched at the Fellowship of Presbyterians Covenanting Conference in Orlando. "ECO is a denominational entity under the umbrella of The Fellowship of Presbyterians that is committed to growing and planting flourishing churches and nurturing leaders," Stetzer said. "The distinctives of ECO include an emphasis on connecting leaders in accountable relationships, peer review systems for churches, leadership training and a flatter polity system than the PC(USA)." The convention and the new denomination arose from a growing dissatisfaction by conservative Presbyterian churches with the more liberal-leaning PC(USA), which has approved the ordination of gay ministers. Presbyterian churches will have the option to leave the PC(USA) for ECO, or affiliate with the new denomination without leaving the larger church.

Christians Report Lowest Growth Rate in Israel

According to a recent report from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, Christians have the lowest growth rate among the Israeli population, the Religion News Service reports. The Christian growth rate, 0.9 percent, ranks behind the Jewish rate of 1.7 percent and the Muslim rate of 2.7 percent. About 154,000 Christians live in Israel, about 2 percent of the population -- a percentage which has remained relatively stable since the mid-1980s. The estimated birth rate for Christian women is also the lowest among the religious groups; the average number of children born to a Christian woman is 2.1, compared to a Jewish woman (3.0) and a Muslim woman (3.8).

Publication date: January 20, 2012