Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 7, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 7, 2006

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

  • Dr. Ted W. Engstrom, Past World Vision President and Christian Leader, Dies
  • Evangelical Lutherans Report Membership Decline
  • Human Rights Group Welcomes Legislation to Combat Slavery in Sudan
  • Afghanistan Deports Hundreds of South Korean Christians

Dr. Ted W. Engstrom, Past World Vision President and Christian Leader, Dies

Dr. Ted W. Engstrom, president emeritus of World Vision International, past president of Youth for Christ International and an influential American evangelical leader, died on July 14. He was 90. A gifted preacher, manager and the author of more than 50 books, Engstrom was a giant in American evangelical circles for more than half a century, ASSIST News Service reports. As executive vice president and later president and CEO of World Vision, he helped turn a small Christian agency focused on war orphans into one of the world’s largest and most extensive relief and development organizations. He served as vice president for 19 years and president for two, retiring in 1987. Engstrom was known for being decisive and unwavering. He said he took his life verse from Psalms 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should walk, give you counsel and watch over you.” He and his wife, Dorothy, were members of Pasadena’s Lake Avenue Congregational Church, where he also chaired the board, for more than 40 years. Engstrom is survived by his three children, Gordon, Don and Jo Ann.

Evangelical Lutherans Report Membership Decline

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) says its membership dropped 1.6 percent, to 4.85 million, last year, according to AgapePress. The denomination blames the membership decline on the disbanding of 31 of its congregations, an update of membership lists in many churches, and a decrease in new members. Over the past 15 years, the baptized membership of the denomination has fallen by about 390,000, with half of that decline occurring between 2002 and 2005. The ELCA is among many mainline Protestant denominations that have seen their membership plummet in recent years amid divisions over homosexuality.

Human Rights Group Welcomes Legislation to Combat Slavery in Sudan

Legislation introduced last week by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) to combat slavery in Sudan was welcomed by human rights group Christian Solidarity International (CSI), ASSIST News Service reports. If it becomes law, Smith's bill -- The Eradication of Slavery in Sudan Act of 2006 (H.R. 5911) -- will create a commission of independent persons to investigate progress in the eradication of slavery in Sudan and make policy recommendations to the U.S. government. In a news release from CSI, the group’s U.S. Executive Director Dr. John Eibner said, “CSI congratulates Congressman Chris Smith on launching this important anti-slavery legislative initiative and urges both Houses of Congress to present it quickly to President Bush for signing. This legislation will enhance the prospects of freedom for all Black African slaves in Sudan, and of peace for all peoples of that war-torn country."

Afghanistan Deports Hundreds of South Korean Christians

A story in The Christian Post says Afghanistan has ordered hundreds of South Korean Christians to leave the country, accusing them Thursday of seeking to undermine its Islamic culture. The 1,200 South Koreans, who had gathered in Afghanistan for relief work and a cultural festival, deny taking part in any religious activities, according to their leader, Choi Han-woo. Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Yousef Stanezai said the Koreans entered the country with tourist visas, but their activities showed they had a different agenda. "The program was against the Islamic culture and customs of Afghans," he said, adding that the South Koreans had been told to leave the country as soon as possible. Representatives of the group and the ministry were negotiating Thursday over the schedule for their deportation.