Religion Today Summaries - June 19, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - June 19, 2007

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

  • Israeli Authorities Ask Jerusalem's Christians to Help Care for Sudanese Refugees
  • Is the Church of England Racist?
  • Iraqi Church Secures Kidnapped Priest's Release
  • PC(USA) Membership in Decline

Israeli Authorities Ask Jerusalem's Christians to Help Care for Sudanese Refugees

According to ASSIST News Service, Israeli humanitarian authorities have brought to the attention of Christians in Israel the urgent need concerning Sudanese refugees entering Israel and have asked for their immediate assistance. Late Thursday evening June 14, a group of 31 Sudanese Christians (17 children, 14 adults) with UN refugee status entered Israel near Eilat with assistance from local Bedouins. They stayed in Bedoiun tents for the weekend. On Sunday, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was asked by Israeli authorities to assume responsibility over their housing and care for two weeks, until they can be accommodated among several Israeli kibbutzim. "Today, we committed to meeting this request without the funds in hand, out of a sense of compassion for fellow Christians and because the radical Islamic Movement in Israel was also offering to take custody of them," said Malcolm Hedding, Executive Director, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Is the Church of England Racist?

A report in The Christian Post states that Black and Asian clergy members are unlikely to reach high office in the Church of England and minorities are sometimes marginalized in parish churches. Apparently, that's what an internal review will show, according to the London Sunday Telegraph. The report, commissioned by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, says little has been done to confront "institutional racism." The study will be completed ahead of the church's General Synod next month. "Parish clergy are part of the problem," the Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the chair of the committee that produced the report, said. "Whether consciously or unconsciously, they are not encouraging black people who are in their churches to come forward. Our report shows there are some who are aware of the issue and acting to improve the situation, but the church is still a long way from reaching an acceptable level of equality."

Iraqi Church Secures Kidnapped Priest's Release

An Iraqi Chaldean priest kidnapped almost two weeks ago in Baghdad was released Sunday, a church leader said. Father Hani Abdel Ahad was released June 17 at 1:30 p.m. in Baghdad, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni told Compass Direct News from Baghdad. The bishop declined to comment on whether the church had paid a ransom but confirmed that the motive for the priest’s kidnapping was a mix of religious and financial considerations. “They asked for money because we are Christians and we must pay jizya [a tax on non-Muslims living under Islamic rule],” Warduni said.

PC(USA) Membership in Decline

According to The Church Report, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is seeing decreasing numbers in membership. Numbers declined again last year, the denomination reports, and dropped by more than 46,000 in 2006. The number of congregations is falling as well, down 56 to 10,903. Baptisms in the same period also have declined – by 946 for adults to 8,297, and by 234 for children to 30,493. These recent drops in numbers come during a time in which the denomination is divided over interpretations of Scripture. Chief among the conflict is over whether the Bible bars gay relationships.