Religion Today Summaries -- May 21, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries -- May 21, 2003

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

  • Survey: Far Fewer American Households Tithing to Church
  • Australian Missionary Beheaded in Solomon Islands
  • Officials Continue Campaign Against Underground Church
  • 'Purpose-Driven Life' Among 5 Book-of-the-Year Nominees

Survey: Far Fewer American Households Tithing to Church

Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

The portion of American households that tithe, or give one-tenth of their income, to their church dropped from 8 percent in 2001 to 3 percent in 2002, Barna Research Group reports. The Ventura, Calif.-based marketing research firm found that groups with the highest proportion of tithers were people ages 55 or older, college graduates, Republicans, Southerners, conservatives, middle-income individuals, evangelicals, and those who attend mainline Protestant churches. Those least likely to tithe included Hispanics, liberals, Catholics, parents who home-school their children, Midwesterners, those not registered to vote or registered as independents, and households earning less than $20,000 and without a head of household who graduated from college. George Barna, president of Barna Research Group, attributed the 62 percent drop in the proportion of tithers to a range of reasons. "For some, the soft economy has either diminished their household income or led to concerns about their financial security," he said in a statement. "For others the nation's political condition, in terms of terrorism and the war in ...
Iraq, has raised their level of caution. The scandals involving Catholic priests last year reduced some people's confidence in church leaders and, consequently, reduced their giving as well." The data are based on a nationwide telephone survey of 1,010 adults in late January and early February, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Australian Missionary Beheaded in Solomon Islands
Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

A leading
Australian Seventh-day Adventist Church missionary has been beheaded in the volatile Solomon Islands, ASSIST News Service monitored Tuesday, May 20. The Adventist News Network (ANN) said Lance Gersbach (60), business manager at Atoifi Adventist Hospital, "was murdered (Sunday) May 18" in Atoifi, located on Malaita, 80 miles east of the Solomon Islands' capital Honiara. Police investigators said the attack took place not far from the hospital but down a steep slope hidden from view. Nobody claimed responsibility for the murder of Gersbach, who moved to Atoifi, home to about 3,000 Seventh Day Adventists, for a year with his wife and two young daughters. This is the second time a Seventh Day Adventist Church worker has been beheaded in the Solomon Islands in less than a year, The New Zealand Herald reported. Last September, a deacon in his early 40s, Martin Reuben, was reportedly found by his wife decapitated on a beach. "The church is in a state of shock," said Barry Oliver, general secretary for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific. "To family, colleagues and staff at Atoifi Hospital, we pledge ourselves at this time to give all that is needed. They are in our prayers," he told ANN.


Officials Continue Campaign Against UndergroundChurch

Compass Direct


The SARS virus has not distracted Chinese officials from their campaign against unregistered churches. At least 52 key house church leaders have been arrested in recent months. In a March 25 raid on a house church meeting in southern Henan province, police arrested at least 20 people, including a Dutch citizen. On April 2, senior house church leader, Elder Chen, was arrested in Anhui province along with his son, 17. One of the “most wanted” house church leaders in China, Chen has evaded capture for years, moving from house to house and meeting with his family only on rare occasions. Ordinary Christians are usually questioned, beaten, fined and released, but the main targets of the raids are leaders of the house church movement. The growth of the underground church has enraged Chinese authorities. During the National People’s Congress in March 2003, officials agreed to continue the “Strike Hard” campaign against all unauthorized groups. Unregistered churches are included in the list of “illegal cults.”


'Purpose-Driven Life' Among 5 Book-of-the-Year Nominees
Jon Walker, Baptist Press


"The Purpose-Driven Life" by Rick Warren is a finalist for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association's Christian Book of the Year Award. The award is based upon nominations by Christian retailers. The five books nominated are:


-- "The Purpose-Driven Life" by Rick Warren (Zondervan)
-- "Let's Roll!" by Lisa Beamer (Tyndale House Publishers)
-- "The Power of a Praying Wife" by Stormie Omartian (Harvest House Publishers)

-- "Safely Home" by Randy Alcorn (Tyndale House Publishers)
-- "Wild at Heart" by John Eldredge (Thomas Nelson Publishers)

The Power of a Praying Wife, Safely Home and Wild at Heart also were finalists last year. The award for Christian Book of the Year Award will be presented at the 26th Annual Gold Medallion Banquet on July 12 at the Christian Booksellers Association International Convention in
Orlando, Fla.  The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association is comprised of 280 member companies worldwide. Founded in 1974, it is an international not-for-profit trade organization serving its industry by promoting excellence, professionalism, sharing relevant data, stimulating Christian fellowship, raising the effectiveness of member publishing houses and equipping them to meet the needs of the changing marketplace.