Religion Today Summaries - March 24, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 24, 2005

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

  • Rice Makes Religious Freedom Statement Abroad

  • Florida Evangelist’s ‘Live Prayer’ Web Site Wins Souls Online

  • Costa Rican Congressman Protests Church Closings

  • 2004 Was A Year Of Increases For The Persecuted Church Worldwide

Rice Makes Religious Freedom Statement Abroad
Erin Curry, Baptist Press

During her recent trip to Asia Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized the importance of freedom of religion by going out of her way to attend Palm Sunday services at a church in communist China. The daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Rice worshiped at Gangwashi Protestant Church, one of China's few state-sanctioned churches, the evening of March 20 rather than attending one of the many Protestant churches in Seoul, South Korea, where she spent the morning and afternoon, The New York Times reported. China allows Gangwashi to function openly if the church uses only hymns and Scripture approved by the government. Rice sat on the front row during the service and wore headphones to hear a translation of the minister's message, The Times said. As the 500 congregants sang the hymn "Constantly Abiding" in Chinese, Rice sang along in English. Observers say the secretary of state's visit to a church in China sent a message to the country's leaders that the United States takes religious freedom seriously and expects other nations to do the same.

Florida Evangelist’s ‘Live Prayer’ Web Site Wins Souls Online
Charisma News Service

A businessman-turned-preacher is winning souls one click at a time. Bill Keller's is one of the most successful examples. It finished up its 64th month online at the end of 2004 with 100,000 reported decisions for Christ, a daily devotional subscriber list of roughly 2 million and more than 40,000 prayer requests sent in every day. A volunteer team of more than 700 retired pastors responds personally to each request. Keller believes that mainstream television and the Internet are the ways to reach lost souls today. Keller is not the only one using new millennium media to reach the masses. The Internet Evangelism Coalition, a consortium of several outreach ministries, has designated April 24 as "Internet Evangelism (IE) Day." (  The organizing team hopes "IE Day" will inspire churches to use their Web pages for more than just making announcements to their members. A 2001 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that roughly 25 percent of adult Internet users -- around 28 million people -- had gone online to get religious and spiritual material. In addition to the IE Day efforts, a conference dealing with Internet evangelism for the 21st century also is scheduled in April at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.

Costa Rican Congressman Protests Church Closings
Kenneth D. MacHarg, Compass Direct

Last week, Carlos Avendaño, a leading evangelical member of Costa Rica’s Congress, climbed the country’s principal monument and spent several hours on the statue in one of San José’s main parks to protest the closing of dozens of evangelical churches. Government officials say that 37 churches have been closed because they lack restrooms or the noise from their services exceeds legal limits. Avendaño, a former Pentecostal pastor, claims the number is closer to 80. Typical is the case of the Holy Seed Church in San Isidro, closed since December following a neighbor’s complaint about noise. The town’s mayor recommended that the church be reopened because of their “excellent social-spiritual work” with drug addicts, prostitutes and alcoholics, but health officials refused to reconsider the case. Avendaño’s protest prompted Delia Villalobos, Costa Rica’s vice-minister for health, to agree to negotiate the issue with evangelical officials.

2004 Was A Year Of Increases For The Persecuted Church Worldwide
Agape Press

A ministry that focuses on the persecuted Church worldwide reports that 2004 was a year of increases.  Open Doors USA, celebrating its Golden Anniversary this year, says last year it increased literature distribution by 25 percent, pastor and leader training by 9 percent, and support of community development and literacy projects by 30 percent -- all despite the increased danger believers face in countries like Vietnam, China, and Columbia.  The ministry distributed almost five million Bibles and scriptural books to persecuted Christians in such "hot spots" around the world in 2004.  In addition, more than 138,000 Christian leaders were trained through pastoral education or seminars geared toward improving leadership skills.  And the ministry says the development and literacy efforts are critical for persecuted Christians as they try to stand firm against oppression that often takes the form of job and educational discrimination.  Open Doors USA president Dr. Carl Moeller says none of these efforts would be possible without the support and prayers of Christian churches and believers across America.