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Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 21, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 21, 2008

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

  • Opponents of Pakistan President Win Elections
  • Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons Fastest-Growing 'Churches' in U.S.
  • Billy Graham Home after Hospitalization
  • Minister Chosen by L.A. Mayor to Tackle Gang Violence

Opponents of Pakistan President Win Elections

In what was being billed as a referendum on Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf's rule, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the party of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, have won the election as voters spurned Musharraf's former ruling Party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q. ASSIST News Service reported that unofficial results for 261 seats showed Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) had won 87 and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) had 67. The pro-Musharraf PML trailed with 38. Small parties and independents shared the others. The PPP has won the largest number of seats in the national assembly due to sympathy vote it got after killing of Ms. Bhutto but it failed to get as many seats as it was expected to bag which some believe is because of halting of the election campaign by the PPP to mourn her death.

Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons Fastest-Growing 'Churches' in U.S.

The Christian Post reports that Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported the largest membership increases in a year, according to an annual yearbook of churches. The two groups are largely considered to be cults by evangelical Christians but they are currently the fastest-growing church bodies in the United States and Canada, the National Council of Churches' 2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches showed. Although Jehovah's Witnesses currently rank 25th in size with over 1.06 million members, they reported a 2.25 percent increase in membership since the publication of the 2007 Yearbook. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – also known as Mormons – grew 1.56 percent and is the fourth largest church body.

Billy Graham Home after Hospitalization

ASSIST News Service reports that Dr. Billy Graham returned to his mountain home in Montreat, North Carolina following discharge from Mission Hospitals in nearby Asheville, where he underwent an elective procedure to replace the valve in his brain shunt on February 13. The 89-year-old evangelist is recovering well from the valve replacement, and physicians are pleased with his progress. Subsequent CT scans have confirmed that the new device is functioning properly in maintaining optimal pressure within his brain. According to Mr. Graham’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Ralph C. Loomis, the externally-programmable valve will be further calibrated at his home over the next several days, for maximum benefit. During his hospitalization, Mr. Graham continued with his regular regimen of multiple walks each day and physical therapy to maintain strength.

Minister Chosen by L.A. Mayor to Tackle Gang Violence

An article in the Los Angeles Times tells the story of how Jeff Carr, a 44-year-old minister with a degree in religion and philosophy from Northwest Nazarene University, was chosen by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last year to bring a fresh eye to the city's gang problems. Carr perviously developed youth programs for the Bresee Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, for 17 years. In an interview with the Times, Carr talked about what his philsophy and the job thus far: "The truth of the matter is, I don't care if you live in West L.A., the San Fernando Valley, the South Side, in East L.A., everybody has to have skin in the game, or we're just not going to make progress." When asked, "Do you think gang members look at you differently because you're a minister?" Carr said, "I don't know. Maybe some of them do... In my past, the thing that was most abrupt to people is that I'm a white guy... When they see that I'm very comfortable and at ease in those situations [with gang members in a diverse community], it sort of takes people off guard... After they find out I'm a minister to boot, then that really throws them off guard." Asked what he was doing to bring the religious community into thes conversation, Carr replied: "I talk to any of them that I can. I've been invited to preach a couple of services, to try to talk [about], in my mind, what the faith community ought to do... The problem is, if you look at some of the toughest neighborhoods that have some of the biggest challenges, unfortunately there is a church on every corner. But those churches are largely shuttered except for brief times on Sunday and maybe once or twice during the week. And frankly, the church ought to be right in the thick of things, right in the middle of trying to transform these neighborhoods. If they're not engaged in the relevant issues of these communities... I don't think they're living out their mission."