Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 2, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 2, 2007

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

  • China Partner's Research Estimates 39 Million Christians in China
  • Christian Law Firm: Muslims Benefiting from Double Standard
  • Missing Pastor's Wife Found in New York
  • Ministry Seeks to Distribute Bibles with Newspapers

China Partners' Research Estimates 39 Million Christians in China

According to Mission Network News, for years, various groups have attempted to estimate the number of Christians living in China. Since no claims could be supported with research, estimates spanned a wide range, from 20 million to 100 million. Now, however, China Partners has conducted a study, asking a select group of people to travel into every province, municipality and autonomous region in China, except Tibet. Werner Burklin, founder of China Partners, said, "We polled 5,340 people. And we came up with a number of 39 million. We found out that it's very, very easy to talk about religion. The minute we found someone who was a Christian, a smile came across their face, and they rejoiced in the fact that they could tell us they were Christians. Most of the people we found were Buddhists, more so than even [communist] party members." Burklin notes that in 1950 there were only 750,000 Christians in China, so the spread of Christianity there is amazing.

Christian Law Firm: Muslims Benefiting from Double Standard reports that the chief counsel of a Christian law firm says it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a double standard when it comes to accommodating religious practices at public schools and universities. While USA Today reports that some public schools are granting Muslims' requests for prayer times, prayer rooms, and ritual footbaths, Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, says, "The Supreme Court of the United States -- in case after case [over] the last 50 years -- has forbidden those kinds of activities for Christians." Thompson says at San Diego's Carver Elementary School officials created an extra recess to accommodate Islamic prayers. And yet, in a different San Diego district, a veteran teacher of 30 years was ordered last May to remove from his classroom walls banners that promoted a "Judeo-Christian" viewpoint.

Missing Pastor's Wife Found in New York

Baptist Press reports that an Alabama Baptist pastor's wife missing since March has turned up working at a fast food restaurant in New York state, according to Bossier City, La., police. Mary Byrne "Beth" Smith, whose husband, Jason, is pastor of First Baptist Church in Summerdale, Ala., disappeared four months ago from a Beth Moore conference in the Louisiana city. Authorities learned recently that Smith pawned her wedding ring at a shop near the convention center and paid $169 for a one-way Greyhound ticket to New York City. Once found, Smith expressed remorse to detectives and said she "might" contact her husband and two children, a 10-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. But she also asked that her exact location not be revealed. She faces no charges. In the time since Smith's disappearance, her family, friends and fellow church members have been praying and pleading for her safe return.

Ministry Seeks to Distribute Bibles with Newspapers

A story by the Associated Press says the International Bible Society-Send the Light wants to deliver custom-designed Bibles to newspaper subscribers around the U.S. as part of an effort to find innovative ways to spread a Christian message. But not everyone thinks it's a good idea. The ministry would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to distribute New Testaments with 11 newspapers during 2007 and 2008, packaging them in pouches on the outside of newspapers, much like sample products. "Do you have any idea how blatantly offensive this boneheaded move is to the thinking public?" wrote one Fort Worth Star-Telegram subscriber who received a Bible with his paper. That type of reaction is to be expected, but Christians have actually been among the more vocal detractors of the idea. Bob Ray Sanders, the Star-Telegram's vice president and associate editor, said some worried that the Bibles would be thrown away. Many people in the U.S. already own one, and the free Bibles - rather than being tossed in the trash - could be put to better use around the world.