Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Total U.S. Churches No Longer in Decline, Researchers Say
- Hunger for Bibles 'Growing' in China
- Peaceful Elections a Sign of Hope in War-Torn Sudan
- Pope Calls Abortion, Gay Marriage 'Insidious Threats'
Total U.S. Churches No Longer in Decline, Researchers Say
The Christian Post reports that America is not bleeding churches as fast as previously thought. According to Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research, more churches are now planted in the U.S. than close each year. "[C]hurch planting is on the mind of North American Christians at unprecedented levels," Stetzer wrote with researcher Warren Bird. Stetzer called church planting the "it" thing right now after decades of church decline. In "Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers," Stetzer and Warren encouraged Christians to move past the "don't we already have enough churches?" mentality to a "passionate pursuit of the lost." Other Christian leaders agreed. "The only way to increase the number of Christians in a city is to plant thousands of new churches," said Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.
Hunger for Bibles 'Growing' in China
Christian Today reports that China's increasing openness has not diminished the need to import Bibles into the country. The head of Bible Society's China Partnership program, Kua Wee Seng, said yesterday that China's only government-approved Bible printer simply cannot keep up with demand. Amity Printing Press, which printed four million Bibles last year, still fell short of the need. Kua cited estimates that 500,000 people in China come to faith in Christ each year, and access to Bible can vary widely from province to province. He urged Christians in the West to support Bible Society's 2010 campaign to raise funds for a new printing press to increase the number of Bibles being printed for the Chinese market to 12 million.
Peaceful Elections a Sign of Hope in War-Torn Sudan
Mission News Network reports that southern Sudan has reason to hope a referendum for independence will have a peaceful vote. Last month's president elections, which returned President Omar al-Bashir to power, concluded peacefully even though allegations of fraud tainted the vote. "This conduct of the recent election does provide some reason to hope it (the referendum vote) may go better than many had feared it would," said Lee DeYoung with Words of Hope. "That sense of national unity has its best hope of solidifying through a common senses of connectedness through shared faith in Jesus Christ." Al-Bashir has delayed forming a commission to oversee the vote, throwing some doubt on the January deadline. Ministries say that the vote, which would give the semi-autonomous southern half of the country its independence, has the potential to bring lasting peace or push the country back into a Muslim vs. Christian civil war.
Pope Calls Abortion, Gay Marriage 'Insidious Threats'
Religion News Service reports that Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday (May 13) singled out abortion, divorce and same-sex marriage as "some of today's most insidious and dangerous threats." The pope made his remarks in an address to social workers at the Portuguese shrine of Fatima, on the third of a four-day visit to Portugal. "Initiatives aimed at protecting the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today's most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good," Benedict said. Portugal's parliament voted in February to give same-sex couples many of the rights of marriage, a policy that Benedict has in the past called "gravely unjust" and the "legalization of evil." Portugal's President Anibal Cavaco Silva, a practicing Catholic, has yet to sign the bill into law.