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Religion Today Summaries - April 10, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 10, 2006

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

  • Long-Lost Gospel of Judas Recasts 'Traitor'
  • Assemblies of God Fastest Growing Faith
  • Bible Set Ablaze in Pakistan
  • Colombian Churches Commit to Peace

Long-Lost Gospel of Judas Recasts 'Traitor'

Lost for centuries, the so-called gospel of Judas was unveiled by scholars Thursday, says a story in USA Today. 13 papyrus sheets bound in leather were found in a cave in Egypt. The text tells of the last days of Jesus' life from the viewpoint of Judas, one of His 12 disciples. The Bible teaches that Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, but in this story, he is Jesus' most trusted disciple and the only one who knows He's the son of God. "We're confident this is genuine ancient Christian literature," said religious scholar Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina. That doesn't make it God-inspired scripture, however. Rev. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, dismissed the gospel of Judas as "an ancient manuscript that tells an interesting story" which "has no bearing whatsoever on (the Easter) story, much less on the faith of the Christian church." Stephen Emmel of Germany's University of Munster said the gospel "is an intriguing alternative view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas." In it, Jesus relates a new creation myth and account of humankind's origins which suggests God didn't create the world. The key passage, according to Emmel, has Jesus telling Judas "'you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.'" That passage reflects the view that material things and the body are traps for the inner soul and also suggests a form of mysticism found in some early Jewish thought, said team adviser Marvin Meyer of Chapman University. Emmel acknowledges that the Judas gospel is probably a copy of a heretical text denounced by a Christian bishop around A.D. 180.

Assemblies of God Fastest Growing Faith

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Assemblies of God, the Mormon church and the Roman Catholic Church were the fastest-growing denominations in the United States last year, according to the 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. The pentecostal Assemblies of God grew 1.81 percent to just under 2.8 million members. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints increased 1.74 percent to nearly 6 million people. And the Catholic Church, by far the largest denomination in the United States, grew .83 percent to 67.8 million. Only three mainline Protestant churches remain among the 10 biggest U.S. denominations - the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. The Southern Baptist Convention remains the largest U.S. Protestant group and second-largest denomination in the country with 16.3 million members.

Bible Set Ablaze in Pakistan

The burning of a Bible and other sacred texts by four Muslim men in the Tibba Shomali area of Tehsil Mian Channu has prompted over 1,500 Christians to stage a protest against the incident that occurred on Tuesday evening, April 4. Four men were caught while burning the Bible, calendars carrying the picture of Jesus and other Christian booklets, reports the Pakistan-based Daily Times. “We caught four people -- Hafiz Islam, Hafiz Abid, Rana Abdul Ghaffar and Rana Abdul Jabbar -- burning our sacred books and literature on a heap of garbage on Tuesday evening,” the Daily Times quoted Pakistan Christian Writers Guild president, AD Sahil, as saying. An enraged Christian mob tried to attack the accused but elders intervened. A former district councilor condemned the incident but asked the Christians of the area not to take law into their hands. The fresh incident of setting the Bible on fire disputes the recent claim by the minister for local bodies, Raja Basharat, that there existed complete harmony between Muslims and Christians in the province of Punjab.

Colombian Churches Commit to Peace

Leading Protestant Christians in Colombia have issued a statement committing the church to the just resolution of a conflict which has claimed countless lives. At their annual meeting at the end of March, The Colombian Evangelical Council of Churches (CEDECOL) formally adopted the statement, which calls on all parties to the conflict, including the government, to "heed society's cry for an end to the armed struggle" and for those armed groups involved in peace dialogues to "continue their efforts in an honest and genuine desire to build a lasting peace in Colombia." Ricardo Esquivia, the national director of the Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace at CEDECOL said that "the document marks the beginning of the Evangelical Church’s new position in its commitment to peace in Colombia." Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says this statement "comes at a particularly difficult period for Colombian Christians, who in March, saw two pastors brutally assassinated in separate cases in the town of Buenaventura. The latest stage of the conflict that devastates Colombia has gone on for nearly sixty years. Some 25,000 to 30,000 people are killed each year in the violence. Christians, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, and especially those involved with peace initiatives or helping those who would flee the violence, are particularly at risk."