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Religion Today Summaries - July 4, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - July 4, 2008

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

  • Sudan: Window of Opportunity
  • Megachurch Speaks Out on Shifted Focus
  • Venezuela: Pro-Chavez Church Opens
  • Church's Aim: Save Priest's Career

Sudan: Window of Opportunity

Sudan remains a human rights nightmare, with the more than 5-year-old conflict in Darfur unresolved and fighting in the oil-rich Abyei region continuing, but the church in south Sudan is growing despite its situation, Mission News Network reports. "We started a Bible school to train pastors and leaders and give them some more sound doctrinal training and really encourage them to plant new churches," E3 Partners Sudan Strategic Coordinator Mike Congrove said. Finding and raising has proven extremely difficult because of warfare, which has eliminated many men between age 30 to 65. The national church is stepping up and has begun three new churches recently. Congrove has also worked to bring short-term teams from North America into Sudan to share the gospel at private homes. "After years of war, you have a traumatized people, and absolutely when they get to hear the hope that comes from Jesus Christ, it's powerful," he said.

Megachurch Speaks Out on Shifted Focus

The Christian Post reports that leaders of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill. are speaking openly about a recent study that called the church's seeker-friendly focus into question. The study, published in Reveal: Where Are You?, found that long-time and fully devoted attendees were not growing in their faith or as satisfied as those new to the Christian faith. These findings prompted the church to change its midweek services into a variety of classes for "baby Christians" and mature believers wanting to study theology and Scripture. "If the most shocking confession to come out of Willow in 32 years is that we did research and came out with tools to help people toward full devotion to Christ, I feel really good about our church,” said Senior Pastor Bill Hybels, according to a statement. “I don’t call it shocking; I call it honest. We have never wanted to play church here; we have always wanted to be the real deal."

Venezuela: Pro-Chavez Church Opens

The new Reformist Catholic Church in Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela is breaking with the former Catholic response to President Hugo Chavez, openly supporting his socialist policies as a complement to Christianity's commitment to helping the poor. "We don't side with any political banner, but we cannot fail to recognize and support the socialist achievements of this government," Enrique Albornoz, a former Lutheran minister who helped start the church, said in a telephone interview on Monday. "We back the social programs of this revolutionary government." The church started several years ago by a group of dissident Catholic priests, Lutherans and Anglicans and now has five locations in the country and about 2,000 attendees." Jesus Christ's true church is spreading the word and the gift of Christ to the whole world, separately from political issues and party affiliation, Venezuelan Cardinal JorgeUrosa Savino said in a statement on Sunday.

Church's Aim: Save Priest's Career

The Denver Post reports that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver not only had knowledge of priest Harold Robert White's "boy troubles," but determined to save his career in spite of it. White was accused in 30 cases of sex abuse against children between 1960 and 1981, according to internal documents released the victims' attorneys Wednesday. The archdiocese did not report White to law enforcement and instead moved him form parish to parish when rumors grew too large. White worked in 10 different parishes in two decades, and died in 2006 before ever testifying in court. The archbishops during the period of 1960-81 were Urban John Vehr and James Vincent Casey. Both are deceased.