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Religion Today Summaries - July 1, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - July 1, 2008

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

  • LifeWay Study Adds Doubts to Pew Poll’s Results
  • Uzbekistan: Persecution Increasing
  • Episcopal Church Dissidents Win Court Ruling
  • Columbia: Threats Drive Pastor Away

LifeWay Study Adds Doubts to Pew Poll’s Results

In a partial release of a new poll, LifeWay Research's findings about evangelicals' beliefs regarding the exclusivity of Christ differed from the recently published results from a Pew poll, Baptist Press reports. The Pew survey indicated 57 percent of those attending evangelical churches agree that many religions can lead to eternal life. The LifeWay study used more specific wording than Pew's use of "religion" which can be confused as meaning "denominational affiliation." Asking Protestant churchgoers whether a person can obtain eternal life through "religions other than Christianity," LifeWay found only 31 percent agreed "strongly" or "somewhat." The LifeWay Research finding adds quantifiable data to growing criticisms that the Pew survey was flawed in how it asked its question and that poor wording caused the Pew's counterintuitive conclusions. The study will be featured in The Shape of Faith to Come, a fall 2008 book by B&H Publishing Group.

Uzbekistan: Persecution Increasing

Mission News Network reports that Christians in Uzbekistan are increasingly charged with "promoting terrorist activity" in their evangelism. Vice President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba says, "Recently the state launched programs using state-owned media describing Christians as terrorists supported by western terrorist organizations, [saying] that pastors are there just to make money and that's why they do all these outreach programs." He continued, "We just received a letter from our coordinator there with a prayer request that several pastors were arrested. Their computers were seized, their information was carefully evaluated. And some of them are still in prison today." Rakhuba says active faith is persecuted, but the church is continuing to grow underground.

Episcopal Church Dissidents Win Court Ruling

A Virginia judge ruled last week that 11 churches which broke from the larger denomination may keep their church property, according to Reuters. Eleven conservative congregations in Virginia broke from the Episcopal Church in America as part of the increasing controversy in the Anglican Communion worldwide. Judge Randy Bellows of the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled that the Virginia law under which the congregations want to keep the property is constitutional, which says that any "church or religious society" that "divides" remains under the control of the majority, as does any property entrusted to it. Further appeals seem likely. The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia believes the "regrettable" ruling on the law violates the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.

Columbia: Threats Drive Pastor Away

Compass Direct News reports that a series of death threats against a pastor in a working-class Medellín neighborhood prompted him to abandon his home and ministry last month and flee with his family to Colombia’s capital. For three years, 31-year-old Wilmer Ribón pastored Rios de Agua Viva (Rivers of Living Water), a church in a paramilitary-controlled neighborhood with many displaced persons and high violent crime rate. During his tenure as pastor, Ribón had launched several public outreach programs, including a sports club and a project that offered food, medical and economic help to the needy. In 2006 Ribón began half-hour weekly evangelistic impactos on the sidewalks. During Holy Week, when a two-month series of death threats began. “You ratted on me and told the paramilitaries, and now they’re looking to get me,” a caller told him, “so I warn you that if something happens to me, something will happen to you as well.” Ribón and his family now live in a cold, windowless half-finished warehouse they share with another family.