Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
'Community Marriage Policies' Catching on, Reducing Divorce Rates
A story in the Baptist Press says that since Modesto, CA, launched its marriage-saving emphasis in 1986, the divorce rate there has decreased 57 percent, according to Michael McManus, creator of Community Marriage Policies (CMPs). On Jan. 20, Albuquerque, NM became the 200th city to join the movement when pastors there signed CMPs with the goal of radically reducing the divorce rate in their local churches. Austin and El Paso, TX, Kansas City, KS, Salem, OR, and Modesto have all slashed divorce rates by 48 percent or more since signing CMPs. Statistics indicate that among the first 114 cities to sign the policy, divorce rates in those cities fell by 17.5 percent over seven years, which is nearly double the 9.4 percent decline in similar cities that did not sign the policy, enough to save 50,000 marriages. In addition, the cohabitation rate fell by 33 percent more in marriage policy cities than in similar cities from 1990-2000. When pastors gather to agree upon a CMP, they adopt six particular reforms for their congregations.
In Africa, Islam and Christianity Are Growing - and Blending
Worshipers at "The True Message of God Mission" in Lagos, Nigeria, say it's entirely natural for Christianity and Islam to coexist, even overlap, according to an ABC News story. They worship by praying at the Jesus alcove and then "running their deliverance" - sprinting laps around the mosque's courtyard, praying to the one God for forgiveness and help in a manner they say is akin to Israelites circling the walls of Jericho and Muslims swirling around the Ka'ba shrine in Mecca. This group - originally called "Chris-lam-herb" for its mix-and-match approach to Christianity, Islam, and traditional medicine - could become models for Muslim-Christian unity worldwide, though others claim they're uniquely African. Either way, they are "part of a trend," says Dana Robert, a Boston University religion professor. Amid intense sectarian violence in Nigeria, these groups serve as tolerant peacemakers in a place where people are seeking practical, profitable religion more than rigid doctrine. "You in the West are satisfied with one hour of church on Sunday," says Kamaldeen Balogun, an Islamic studies professor at Olabisi Onabanjo University in southeastern Nigeria. But for people in Africa, "This is about a practical way of life," about a willingness to combine Christianity or Islam with their own traditions to "see if they can make something new" - something that will help. Worshipers at the "True Message" mission say unifying the two theologies has made a major difference in their lives.
Christian Union at
University Banned, Accounts Frozen
Birmingham University's Christian Union has been banned from using Student Union Guild rooms and facilities, and has had its bank accounts frozen by Guild authorities after refusing to make politically-correct changes to their charitable constitution on religious grounds. According to a press release issued on behalf of the Students Union and obtained by ASSIST News Service, the Students Union at Birmingham University wanted to impose one of their own leaders onto the CU executive, open membership to people of all faiths, and instruct the Christian fellowship to change its constitution from "men and women" to "people" to make it more inclusive for transsexual/transgender persons. When members of the CU tried to book rooms with the Guild after the summer break for normal CU activities, they were told the Guild couldn't accommodate them because the CU was involved in too many evangelistic activities. It states: "Then, when Christians in Sport attempted to book a room in the CU's name, the Guild insisted on checking the CU's constitution. The Guild objected to many clauses, even though the constitution has been consistent for many years, and its polices are not a new issue for the Guild. The CU has been operating at Birmingham University for the past 76 years.
Christians Ponder their Future as Palestinian Votes are Tallied
Thousands of Palestinians streamed into more than 1,000 polling stations Wednesday in the first parliamentary election in a decade. It was the secular Fatah Party that brought the Palestinian Authority in being against the Islamic Hamas, which endorses suicide bombings and other attacks as a way of dealing with Israel. E3 Partners’ Tom Doyle has work in the region. He has been concerned about Hamas winning the election because, "I would predict a war with Israel just because their charter is to destroy the nation of Israel. With the groups coming in; al Qaeda, all of them are kind of organizing right now in the Gaza Strip. Boy, I can't imagine there would be anything else." Since the evacuations of Jewish Settlements, Doyle says terrorism is up 300 percent in the area. While many nominal Christians have left the area, Doyle says many believers are still living in these regions and for one very good reason. "They don't want to see this just go into a sea of terrorism. They want to see people saved. They want to see the churches filled. And, some of these new believers in these Palestinian churches are former terrorists."