12 Days of Giveaways - Spin & Win! Sign up before Dec. 25th to win daily prizes and a $250 Amazon.com Gift Card. Find out details.

Europe, One Court Decides in Favor of Religion & more

Europe, One Court Decides in Favor of Religion & more

In Today's Edition:
  • Christianity is Rapidly Losing Ground in Europe
  • Court: State can't deny aid to theology students
  • Catholics Vow to Break Bishops' Grip on Finances
  • IMB Criticized by Bangladesh Baptists
  • "The Narrow Road" Awarded Prestigious Gold Medallion

Christianity is Rapidly Losing Ground in Europe ...  (idea)-- The Christian world will change dramatically within the next decades, according to a report from idea news agency. While Christianity is losing ground in the West, it is making fast progress in the Southern hemisphere. As the dean of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Paul Rajashekar, pointed out in a lecture at the University of Leipzig (Germany), Europe, previously known as the "Christian Occident," is turning into a post-Christian society.

One hundred years ago, more than half of the world's Christians lived in Europe, today only a quarter. By comparison, Africa and Latin America constituted only 12 percent of Christianity around the turn of the 20th century. Today they make up 40 percent of the two billion or so Christians. In the year 2025, Europe will account for one fifth of the worlds Christians, Africa and Latin America for more than half.

Rajashekar believes one of the main reasons for this development is the difference in understanding the Bible. While Western theology had removed the mystery from the "Book of Books," Christians in Africa and Latin America did not simply see it as a historic document but as God's living word. They have no problems with miracles or apocalyptic statements in the Bible.

Court: State can't deny aid to theology students ... A federal appeals court ruled July 17 that Washington state cannot deny financial aid to college students who study religion, "because to do so violates the First and 14th amendments," reports the Seattle Times. The 2-1 decision by a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals surprised many of the state's higher-education administrators and constitutional lawyers. According to the Seattle Times, they now are trying to determine how the ruling will impact the state constitution's provision for separation of church and state, and whether it will "open the way for private-school vouchers."

The appeals panel ruled that the state violated the religious rights of Joshua Davey when it revoked his state scholarship three years ago after he decided to study theology at Northwest College in Kirkland. The state Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB), which oversees many state scholarship programs, took away his scholarship money, citing a state provision that no "aid shall be awarded to any student who is pursuing a degree in theology."

According to the Seattle Times, the court said Washington had violated Davey's rights under the First Amendment - free exercise of religion - and 14th Amendment - equal protection under the law. "The state constitution strictly defines the separation of church and state, and in the past, judges in Washington have blocked public dollars from going to religious causes or institutions," several constitutional-law experts said. The 9th Circuit ruling may now change the way judges in Washington interpret separation of church and state, several law professors said.

Catholics Vow to Break Bishops' Grip on Finances ... According to Reuters news service, close to 4,000 Roman Catholics recently traveled to Boston "to hear speeches and devise strategy in the largest organized move to break the grip of U.S. bishops on church finances and power." The one-day event was hosted by Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic lay group.

"We have to gain financial power in this church," said Jim Muller, a founder of the group. "We're 99.9 percent of the church and 100 percent of the money." The group handed out envelopes with a goal of raising $500,000 to add paid staff to its organization. Group leaders also are looking at ways "to bypass traditional church fund-raising so parish collections don't go straight to U.S. bishops," said Reuters.

Voice of the Faithful used the Internet to build a following, and now counts nearly 20,000 members throughout the United States and in several countries. The group aims to "bring democracy to church operations, which rely heavily on everyday Catholics to fund such things as charity programs and parish schools," according to Reuters.

One man, who was abused as a boy by his uncle, a Catholic priest, said he went to the convention to heal. Part of Voice of the Faithful's mission statement is to support the sexually abused.

IMB Criticized by Bangladesh Baptists ... According to a report in Associated Baptist Press, a member of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) berated International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries during a recent BWA General Council meeting, a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) official said. Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said in a statement released to Baptist Press that the BWA member made the comments during public discussion at the BWA meeting. He did not elaborate.

Wendy Ryan, BWA communications director, said Samson Chowdhury, a member of the General Council from the Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship (BBF), made comments about problems with SBC missionaries and policy. According to her, Chowdhury said Bangladesh Baptists had held meetings with IMB officials over the issue.

IMB spokesman Mark Kelly said the comments at the meeting do not represent the official position or attitude of Baptists in Bangladesh, who have a "very cooperative partnership" with the IMB. "The issue is centered around the fact that in the past the IMB provided large financial subsidies to the BBF, including support of pastors, evangelists and social projects," Kelly said in a written response to questions about the comments. "Much of that has been phased out as the BBF has grown stronger and is able to appropriately assume responsibility for their own work. This individual represents those who want our missionaries to come and work for the BBF and totally under their supervision to serve their churches and convention programs." The comments came during a discussion about the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's application for admission in the BWA. SBC officials oppose the application.

The Narrow Road" Awarded Prestigious Gold Medallion ... (ANS) -- "The Narrow Road" was given the 2002 Gold Medallion in the youth category at the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) banquet in Anaheim, Calif. during the annual Christian Booksellers Association Convention. Each year, publishers submit hundreds of entries spanning 20 categories. Those selected were not based upon sales, but rather a rigorous evaluation of four factors: content, literary quality, design and significance of contribution.

"The Narrow Road," which has sold almost 70,000 copies since its release in October 2001, is a joint effort of Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors - a ministry to the Persecuted Church around the world - and Jars of Clay - a Grammy award-winning Christian band. "The Narrow Road" was inspired after Jars of Clay took a trip with Open Doors to Vietnam to meet and witness first hand what persecuted Christians experience on a daily basis. Dan Haseltine, lead singer for Jars of Clay, wrote the foreword for "The Narrow Road." The band has also offered their song "This Road" as an anthem of solidarity for Christians worldwide. A CD-ROM of the song is found in back of the book.

"The Narrow Road" features the original text of "God's Smuggler," the best-selling Christian classic written by Brother Andrew in 1967, which has sold over 10 million copies to date. The autobiography chronicles Brother Andrews' remarkable story of smuggling Bibles and encouraging Christians in countries with "closed" borders. "The Narrow Road" also includes information about the Persecuted Church today, country profiles and quotes from Christians in underground churches. "The Narrow Road" is published by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House, and co-written by John and Elizabeth Sherrill.