Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 31, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 31, 2007

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

  • Bono's Songs Replacing Hymnals in Churches
  • Arrest for Street Preaching Leads to Lawsuit
  • Illinois Christians Issue Friendly Challenge to U.S. Churches: 'Increase Missions and We'll Match It!'
  • FCA Wins Discrimination Case in Kansas

Bono's Songs Replacing Hymnals in Churches

The Christian Post reports that U2's songs have found a new score of fans – Christian clergy in the U.K. The U.S. church phenomenon "U2-charist" is now hitting the Church of England for the country's first Holy Communion service using U2's best-selling songs. Already, 150 churches in 15 U.S. states and seven countries have had or plan to have U2 Eucharists. The service stems from an Episcopal church in York Harbor, Maine, where the Rev. Paige Blair displayed U2's lyrics next to the altar in the summer of 2005. Blair said much of U2's songs are explicitly Christian and perfectly suitable for worship service. "U2 is good at the art, using language like a poet would, like the classic hymn language," said the Rev. Christian Scharen, director of the Faith as a Way of Life Project at Yale Divinity School and author of One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God. U2-charist in England comes closely after the Archbishop of Canterbury announced a push towards engaging new generation believers. A report in the London Telegraph quoted supporters as saying that in their days, Bach and Handel had a hard time getting played in church, but are now standards, and that U2-charist does not "praise" Bono any more than singing a hymn praises its author.

Arrest for Street Preaching Leads to Lawsuit

Members of a group of Christian evangelists have filed suit against the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, for being silenced by police officers while witnessing in a public park, AgapePress reports. Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney Randall Wenger says he has filed suit for David Ickes and the other members of the Worldwide Street Preachers' Fellowship, stemming from a September 2006 incident in which they were attempting to speak during the Pagan Pride Festival in Richmond Hills Park. According to a press release issued by ADF, the group used no amplification equipment as they spoke from a wooden platform. Nevertheless, says Wenger, city police officers "shut down" Ickes' speech because the group had no permit for their activities and, as claimed by one police officer, they were disturbing the peace. Wenger says the suit alleges violation his client's constitutionally guaranteed free-speech rights. The lawsuit also contains a motion for preliminary injunction, asking that the Preachers' Fellowship be allowed to continue preaching at Richmond Hills Park while the case moves forward.

Illinois Christians Issue Friendly Challenge to U.S. Churches: 'Increase Missions and We'll Match It!'

Church members and congregations in Champaign County, Illinois, are issuing a friendly challenge to churches across the U.S.: 'Increase Missions and We'll Match It!' According to a Religion News Service release, these folks are putting their money where their challenge is. Individuals and congregations have been building a fund to match new missions spending by congregations nationally. Mission Match®, a project of empty tomb®, inc., currently has $63,000 available to match new mission spending by congregations. The first match was in 2002. As of 2006, Mission Match has distributed a total of $62,000 to match $106,609 in 'new mission money' raised for 47 congregational projects. Now Christians in Champaign County, IL, want to step up the pace. Funds have been contributed by individuals and congregations have also contributed to the fund.  To date, congregations have received Mission Match funds for a variety of projects including: the building of a pastor-training center in Cambodia; a water system for a village in Haiti (sponsored by a youth group); a self-esteem program for low-income youth in Ohio; and educating women in Tanzania. Projects have been located in 21 countries, in addition to eight projects in the U.S.

FCA Wins Discrimination Case in Kansas

A federal court has told officials at a Kansas public school district they cannot discriminate against an FCA club. According to AgapePress, recently, the school board and superintendent of the Pleasanton Unified School District stripped a campus chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) of official status and refused to recognize them as a school club. School officials informed the club two years ago it could meet on campus, but without privileges given to other clubs -- such as free use of facilities for special events, use of school vehicles for trips, fundraising on campus, and inclusion in the school yearbook. The ADF filed a lawsuit (McKee v. Pleasanton Unified School District), and as senior legal counsel Joel Oster explains, a judge has now granted a preliminary injunction in the case, which allows the FCA club to be treated the same as other clubs. He calls it a "huge victory" for all Christians, but especially for Christian students