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Religion Today Summaries - March 21, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 21, 2011

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Mainline Churches Benched by Growing Periphery Groups
  • In Ethiopia, Muslims Burn 69 Churches
  • Situation Deteriorates for Iranian Christians
  • Unhealthy Dependence on Foreign Resources Hurts Native Groups


Mainline Churches Benched by Growing Periphery Groups

WORLD News Service reports that mainline denominations continued their declines in membership this year, but many evangelical denominations are on the rise. According to the 2011 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, released in February, the five biggest drops occurred in mainline churches, including the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Meanwhile, Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists both saw increases above four percent. Rounding out the top 25 are mostly Baptist, African-American, and Pentecostal denominations. Sociologist Rodney Start says mainline churches have been declining in their "share" of the American religious marketplace for at least 50 years. “The periphery is the mainline” now, Stark said, “and the mainline is the sideline.”

In Ethiopia, Muslims Burn 69 Churches

Baptist Press reports that damage surveys following recent anti-Christian violence in Ethiopia showed at least 69 churches were burned. Another 30 Christian homes, a Bible school, a Christian orphanage and a church office were also burned. The anti-Christian attacks started March 2 after Muslims allegedly accused Christians of desecrating the Quran, the Islamic holy book. Violence continues to affect residents of the area. During the initial days of the attacks 3,000 Christians were displaced; International Christian Concern reports those numbers now have climbed to 10,000. Although Ethiopian Orthodox churches are predominant throughout the country, at least the first 55 churches burned belong to evangelical denominations, according to one anonymous Christian worker who served in Ethiopia from 2007 until 2010.

Situation Deteriorates for Iranian Christians 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling on Christians worldwide to pray for believers in Iran, who face increasing pressure from authorities. On March 8, five Iranian Christians were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for “crimes against the Islamic order" by the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz. The group was arrested last June and spent almost eight months in prison before a temporary release in February. Concern also remains high for another Church of Iran leader, Pastor Yousef Nadakharni, who was sentenced to death for apostasy, and whose appeal is pending at the Supreme Court. At least 282 Christians have been arrested in more than 30 Iranian cities since June 2010, though many were released. Christians in the country say the situation has deteriorated quickly since Dec. 26, 2010, when authorities began a fresh wave of arrests.

Unhealthy Dependence on Foreign Resources Hurts Native Groups

Ministries have long offered valuable resources to people in developing countries as a way to open the door to the Gospel. But sometimes, that plan can backfire and "helping hurts," as ministries discussed at a recent symposium dedicated to issues surrounding financial dependency in developing countries. Christian Newswire reports that Christian ministries TWR International and HCJB Global sponsored the event. “Unhealthy dependence has been the ‘elephant in the room’ far too long,” said Brett Elder, director of collaborative initiatives for Acton Institute of Grand Rapids, Mich. “It is important to learn alongside others who share a passion for the global church – those not simply acting on good intentions, but committed to apply sound economic and biblical principles that foster health and flourishing of the church around the world.”