Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 2, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Mar. 2, 2009

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

  • Dobson Resigns as Chairman of Focus on the Family
  • Charges Filed against Pakistani Kidnappers of Young Sisters
  • Largest Christian Groups Report Membership Decline
  • Court Sides with Montana Church over Free Speech

Dobson Resigns as Chairman of Focus on the Family

The Associated Press reports Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, 72, has relinquished his position as chairman in the organization. The arrangement excuses him from administrative duties while letting him continue hosting his radio program and speaking on moral issues. "One of the common errors of founder-presidents is to hold to the reins of leadership too long, thereby preventing the next generation from being prepared for executive authority," Dobson said in a statement. "... Though letting go is difficult after three decades of intensive labor, it is the wise thing to do." On political matters, Dobson "will continue to speak out as he always has - a private citizen and not a representative of the organization he founded," said Gary Schneeberger, a Focus on the Family spokesman.

Charges Filed against Pakistani Kidnappers of Young Sisters

Compass Direct News reports that after months of legal deadlock, lawyers in Pakistan said they have new hope they can restore to her family a 13-year-old Christian girl who was kidnapped and forced to marry a Muslim. Saba Masih might be returned to her family, the lawyers said, if they can legally maneuver around Pakistani policemen who have stonewalled their attempts to pursue a kidnapping case. On Feb. 21 a Pakistani judge charged the suspects with kidnapping for the first time in the seven-month legal ordeal. Chawk Munda village police still have not followed through with by arresting the three Muslims. The decision to file kidnapping charges marks a major shift of momentum in the case. In previous hearings judges have nearly always sided with the kidnappers – based on either dubious evidence or threats from local Islamists – in the Muslims’ legal battle to retain custody of Saba.

Largest Christian Groups Report Membership Decline

The Christian Post reports that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and Roman Catholic Church joined dozens of other mainline denominations this year in reporting membership losses. The SBC and Roman Catholic Church are the two largest Christian communions in the country, the Post reports, and both lost less than 1 percent of membership after years of growth. According to Eileen W. Linder, editor of the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, the membership drops seem to be generational. "Many churches are feeling the impact of the lifestyles of younger generations of church-goers – the 'Gen X'ers' or 'Millenials' in their 20s and 30s who attend and support local congregations but resist joining them," Lindner states in the report, released this week. "A slowing of the rate of growth of some churches and the decline of membership of others ought to be the focus of continued research and thoughtful inquiry."

Court Sides with Montana Church over Free Speech

Religion News Service reports that the free speech rights of a Montana church were violated when it was told to register as a political committee after hosting an anti-gay marriage event in 2004, an appeals court ruled Wednesday (Feb. 25). The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals about Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in East Helena, Mont., overturned a lower court decision. The church participated in a "Battle for Marriage" satellite simulcast in 2004 and distributed petitions in support of a successful initiative to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman in Montana's constitution. "We conclude that, by applying its disclosure provisions to the church's (minor) in-kind contributions in the context of a state ballot initiative, the commission violated the church's First Amendment rights," wrote Judge William C. Canby Jr.