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Religion Today Summaries, February 26, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, February 26, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • AME Zion Fastest-Growing Church, Yearbook Says
  • Muslim Cleric Faces Possible Life Imprisonment for Terrorism
  • Robertson Returns to Work a Week After Prostate Cancer Surgery
  • Two-Thirds of Americans Believe in Devil, Gallup Finds

AME Zion Fastest-Growing Church, Yearbook Says
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) Roman Catholics, Mormons, Pentecostals and a historically black denomination are the fastest-growing churches in the United States, according to the 2003 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.  The annual report of church membership figures, compiled by the National Council of Churches, found more than 159 million adherents in some 216 different denominations in 2001, the latest year for which figures are available.  The fastest-growing church, according to self-reported numbers, is the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, with 11.67 percent growth.  Catholics followed with 2.49 percent growth, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) at 1.95 percent, and the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination, at 1.92 percent.  The list of 10 largest U.S. churches gained a new member, the National Baptist Convention USA. The historically black denomination has not been included in the Yearbook since 1998 because of unreliable figures. The new church estimate of 5 million members puts the church in the No. 7 spot.  three of the 10 largest churches -- and six of the top 15 – are historically black churches.

Muslim Cleric Faces Possible Life Imprisonment for Terrorism
Al Webb

(RNS) The first Muslim cleric to go on trial in a British criminal court has been convicted of soliciting the murders of "unbelievers," including Jews, Hindus and Americans, with chemical weapons and faces the possibility of life in prison.  A jury in London also found Abdullah el-Faisal -- a self-styled "sheikh" born 39 years ago in Jamaica as plain William Forest -- guilty of preaching racial hatred in a series of videotaped recordings.  It marked the first time in more than 100 years that anyone had been charged under Britain's 1861 Offenses Against the Persons Act of soliciting murder without a specific victim -- a crime that can mean life imprisonment when he is sentenced March 7.  During his trial, videotapes were played showing el-Faisal preaching that "every Muslim hates the unbeliever," that "we want to see their extermination" -- and he singled out Americans, Jews and Hindus.  "One of the truths about Islam," the bearded cleric said, "is that Allah said, `Kill them.' You can use anything -- even chemical weapons."

Robertson Returns to Work a Week After Prostate Cancer Surgery
Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson reappeared as host of "The 700 Club" on his Christian Broadcasting Network on Monday (Feb. 24), one week after having surgery for prostate cancer.  Robertson, 72, underwent surgery to remove a cancerous prostate on Feb. 17 and returned to work a week later.  "I am profoundly grateful and touched by the thousands of prayers and expressions of goodwill that were made on my behalf by people all across the United States," he said. "I hope that my example will serve as a reminder to men over 50 to be diligent in early screening for this silent and deadly killer that is affecting hundreds of thousands of men."  In a statement, the Virginia Beach, Va.-based ministry reported that the cancer had spread to the edge of the prostate but not to neighboring tissues, so Robertson was declared to be cancer-free after the surgery.

Two-Thirds of Americans Believe in Devil, Gallup Finds
Kevin Eckstrom

(RNS) Belief in the lord of the underworld roughly mirrors the country's general religious profile, yet the devil transcends categories that typically determine religious attitudes, such as age, religiosity and education.  A full 68 percent of Americans believe in the devil, while 20 percent do not and 12 percent are unsure, according to the poll that was released Tuesday (Feb. 25). In 1999, 85.5 percent of Americans told Gallup they believe in God.  Seventy percent of Catholics believe in the devil, compared to 79 percent of Protestants and 83 percent of self-identified conservative Christians.  Republicans, at 79 percent, are the most likely to believe in the devil, compared with 67 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents.  Across age and education, however, belief in the devil varies less.  Seventy percent of adults ages 30-64 said the devil is real, along with 66 percent of adults ages 18-19. Similarly, 70 percent of high school graduates say the devil is real, along with 68 percent of college graduates.  Fifty-five percent of people with postgraduate degrees also believe.