Religion Today Summaries - November 9, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - November 9, 2005

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


In today’s edition:



Rapid Increase in Alternative Forms of Church Are Changing the Religious Landscape

The Barna Group


A growing number of Americans no longer view a local church as their primary religious meeting place. A study by The Barna Group shows that new forms of religious experience and expression - such as house churches, marketplace ministries, and cyberchurches - are becoming the norm for millions of people. The U.S. has more than 300,000 Protestant congregations and some 20,000 Catholic parishes that have been the primary gathering place for Americans for most of the past century, but the new research shows that more than fifty million adults now practice their faith through a variety of divergent faith models. Barna discovered that discontent with congregational churches, changes in lifestyles, and a burgeoning desire to get closer to God have caused many people to seek new ways of being in community with God and other God-seeking people. In 2000, most of the nation’s organized religious activity took place at or through local churches. Today, the action is shifting to newer forms of corporate religious commitment. The Internet serves as the foundation for interactive faith experiences for more than one out of every ten adults, although most of them currently use it in tandem with another form of corporate religious experience.


Pope Says Catholics, Lutherans Must Keep Dialogue Focused on Christ

Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service


The Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) must remain committed to patient dialogue and keep their work focused on Christ, Pope Benedict XVI said. "We should intensify our efforts to understand more deeply what we have in common and what divides us, as well as the gifts we have to offer each other," the pope told Bishop Mark S. Hanson, LWF president. Bishop Hanson thanked the pope for making clear that Christian unity would be a priority in his pontificate. In 1999, Catholics and Lutherans compiled a "Joint Declaration on Justification" which said the two groups agree that justification and salvation are free gifts of God and cannot be earned by performing good works, but rather are reflected in good works. "We are comforted by the fact that our search for unity is guided by the presence of the risen Lord and by the inexhaustible power of His spirit,” the pope said, adding that Catholics and Lutherans must build on the agreement, tackling related questions and remaining disagreements, including "the ways in which God's grace is communicated in and through the church."


Wisconsin UniversityBans Bible Study

Steve Jordahl, Family News in Focus


Lance Steiger, a Resident Assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, wanted to hold a Bible Study. But when school officials found out about the gathering, they threatened disciplinary action, ranging from letter of reprimand to dismissal or loss of scholarhip. “They’re prohibited from leading or organizing those events in their rooms or in their residency halls where they have supervisory authority over other students,” university spokesman Mike Rindo said. “Does he have to give up his religious rights in order to be an RA?” asked Jeremy Tedesco of the Alliance Defense Fund. “He can’t ever hold a Bible study in his own dorm room, he can’t potentially pray with another student in his dorm room. I don’t know where this ends.” Campus ministries are watching the situation with interest and trusting God to use it for his purposes. Wisconsin Congressman and Eau-Claire alum Mark Green stated, “If we don’t get satisfactory answers soon, I think we’ll have no choice to at least have hearings to take a look at what the rights of students are.” Already the ACLU and Americans United have lined up behind the university.


Saudi Arabia Still Persecuting People for Their Faith

Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews


Just days before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to visit Saudi Arabia, the State Department will name the Islamic kingdom as one of eight violators of religious freedom around the globe. For the second consecutive year, the department's annual report will designate Saudi Arabia as a "country of particular concern" (CPC) because of its restrictions on the freedom to worship. Home to Islam's two most revered sites - Mecca and Medina - Saudi Arabia views itself as guardian of the faith. "Freedom of religion does not exist," the State Department said in its last annual report. “Basic religious freedoms are denied to all but those who adhere to the state-sanctioned version of Sunni Islam." Reported violations include torture, degrading treatment, detention without trial, and abuses by police. The department said Rice would "consult with the Saudis on a variety of issues including support for democracy reform and counter terrorism." Along with Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Eritrea were named CPCs for the first time last year, joining CPCs of longer standing: China, Iran, Burma, North Korea and Sudan. The Commission for International Religious Freedom has also been urging the department to add Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the list.