Religion Today Summaries - March 28, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 28, 2006

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

  • Afghan Court Drops Case Against Christian

  • A Year after Pope Benedict's Election, World Sees New Style of Papacy

  • Boom in African Christianity Spills over to America

  • Survey Reveals Significant Growth in Born Again Population

Afghan Court Drops Case Against Christian

A story in The Christian Post reports that an Afghan court on Sunday dismissed a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity because of a lack of evidence and he will be released soon. The announcement came as U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai faced mounting foreign pressure to free Abdul Rahman, a move that risked angering Muslim clerics who have called for him to be killed. An official closely involved with the case told the AP that it had been returned to the prosecutors for more investigation, but that in the meantime, Rahman would be released. "The court dismissed today the case against Abdul Rahman for a lack of information and a lot of legal gaps in the case," the official said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. "The decision about his release will be taken possibly tomorrow. They don't have to keep him in jail while the attorney general is looking into the case." Rahman, meanwhile, said he was fully aware of his choice and was ready to die for it, according to an interview published Sunday in an Italian newspaper La Repubblica. "Somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us," he added.

A Year after Pope Benedict's Election, World Sees New Style of Papacy

In April, the church marks the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI, Catholic News Service reports. As his sainthood cause gathers momentum, Pope John Paul remains in people's hearts. Meanwhile, Pope Benedict has used a simple and direct approach to win over the record crowds that are flocking to his appearances. In more than 200 sermons and speeches, he has engaged the faithful and the wider society on the fundamental issues of truth, freedom, faith and human dignity. The papal transition has needed this whole year to absorb the legacy of John Paul's long pontificate and for Benedict's papacy to come into focus. Pope Benedict has tackled contemporary social and political issues by emphasizing that human rights rest on human dignity, that people come before profits, that the right to life is an ancient measure of humanity and not just a Catholic teaching, and that efforts to exclude God from civil affairs are corroding modern society.

Boom in African Christianity Spills over to America

The Redeemed Christian Church of God was founded in Lagos, Nigeria by men and women who were once the target of missionary work themselves, according to an Associated Press report. Now, Redeemed Church has become one of the most aggressive evangelizers to emerge from the advance of Christianity across Africa. Jacob Olupona, a professor at the University of California-Davis, has found hundreds of examples in cities large and small. “Anyone who writes about Christianity in America in the 21st century,” Olupona said, “will have to write about African churches.” Over the last century, Christians in Nigeria have swelled from a tiny minority to nearly half the population, and Nigerian pastors have shown an exceptional talent for winning believers abroad. In the U.S., the Redeemed Church has opened more than 200 parishes in just over a decade, and is training pastors of all ethnicities to reach beyond the church's base in the African immigrant community. One of its largest congregations, Victory Temple in Bowie, Md., claims 2,000 members. Fifty miles north of Dallas, the church is building a multimillion-dollar national headquarters and conference complex on more than 600 acres of farm land. The Redeemed Church is Pentecostal and, through evangelism, has become the fastest-growing wing of Christianity worldwide.

Survey Reveals Significant Growth in Born Again Population

In The Barna Group's latest study, in which 1003 lower-48 American adults were interviewed, the proportion of adults who can be classified as “born again Christians” based upon their beliefs was the highest ever measured in the quarter century that Barna has been tracking that measure. The new research found that 45% of all adults meet the criteria that The Barna Group uses to classify people as “born again.” That number is up from 31% in 1983. The increase is largely attributable to a 16-point rise among Baby Boomers since the beginning of the 1990s. With 53% of Boomers currently meeting the born again criteria used by The Barna Group, that generation has now surpassed the percentage of born again adults within the preceding pair of generations. Slightly more than one-third of the younger generations – the Baby Busters and Mosaics – fit the criteria. Other demographic comparisons: women are 16% more likely than men to be born again; African-Americans are the ethnic group most likely to be born again (59%); Hispanics the least likely (32%). The South is 57% born again, while the West (33%) and Northeast (37%) have fewer born again Christians.