Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- China Vows to Ordain Bishops without Vatican's OK
- Churches' Dilemma: 80 Percent of Flock Is Inactive
- Egypt: Muslims Torch Christian Homes on Church Rumors
- Uzbek Christians Suffer as Regime Tightens Noose
China Vows to Ordain Bishops without Vatican's OK
China's state-run Catholic church announced on Thursday that it may soon ordain more than 40 bishops without the approval of Pope Benedict XVI. Religion News Service reports that the move is likely to aggravate tensions with the Vatican. For more than half a century, China's 12 million to 15 million Catholics have been divided between the state-run CPCA and an "underground" church of Catholics loyal to the pope. In recent years, the Vatican and Beijing have tacitly agreed on a number of bishops acceptable to both sides. But last November, Joseph Guo Jincai was ordained the bishop of Chengde without papal approval, an event the Vatican called a "sad episode." Earlier this month, the Vatican reiterated that bishops who consecrate other bishops without a papal mandate incur automatic excommunication. At the same time, the Vatican's statement allowed for "mitigating circumstances," such as participation "coerced by grave fear."
Churches' Dilemma: 80 Percent of Flock Is Inactive
A recent survey shows that 80/20 principle is a fact of church life in most congregations -- only 20 percent are heavily involved, while 80 percent are minimally involved and attend infrequently at best. For example, a National Congregation Survey shows the Southern Baptist Convention had a membership of 16,160,088 people in 2008, but a yearly attendance rate of 38 percent. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had a membership of 4,542,868 in 2009, but the yearly attendance rated rested at 28 percent. According to The Christian Post, researcher Scott Thumma said, "So many pastors that I've talked to recognize the problem, don't know what to do about it and then instead of trying to tackle it, they kind of put it aside." Thumma and fellow researcher Warren Bird recorded their findings in the book "The Other 80 Percent."
Egypt: Muslims Torch Christian Homes on Church Rumors
Nearly 200 Salafist Muslims and teenage boys descended on a Christian man and his family after rumors circulated that his home would be used as a church. Assyrian International News Agency reports that Saturday's attacks in the Upper Egyptian village of Awlad Khalaf began when a Christian man greatly extended the construction of his home onto 350 square meters of agricultural land he owns. City Council ordered the man, Wahib Halim Attia, to reduce the building to the permitted size of 95 square meters. He refused, leading the Muslim faction to attack the construction site. The mob also burned seven other houses belonging to Attia's extended family and two other Coptic Christians. The police arrived three hours after the looting and torching had ended. Many of the teenagers involved have been arrested, but police have yet to arrest any of the adults.
Uzbek Christians Suffer as Regime Tightens Noose
ASSIST News Service reports that Christians in the former Soviet country of Uzbekistan faced multiple instances of persecution in the last week. According to a report by Fernando Perez for the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, one Christian woman was beaten and suffered a concussion. Another woman was fined $1,465 by a court for giving the New Testament to a child. One Christian man was threatened with axe attack by a police official and another man was assaulted by police. Perez says the spurt can be linked to renewed attempts to maintain hold on power and the communist legacy by its president, Islam Karimov. The president has remained in office through controversial referendums since 1991.