Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 18, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 18, 2006

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

  • Illinois Parish Asks for Oversight from Different Episcopalian Bishop
  • U.S. Population Growing Faster than the Church, Research Shows
  • 38 Muslim Scholars and Leaders Write Open Letter to the Pope
  • Nigerian Teacher on Trial after Punishing Muslim Student

Illinois Parish Asks for Oversight from Different Episcopalian Bishop

At a special congregational meeting on October 8, the vestry of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edwardsville, Illinois, announced that the parish will request Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) and seek a relationship with a bishop other than Springfield Bishop Peter Beckwith, Episcopal News Service reports. Senior Warden Donna Ireland said the vestry made the decision "after much prayer, thought and consultation with others," according to a news release from the parish's rector, the Rev. Virginia Bennett. "This decision is the result of a strained relationship between Bishop Beckwith and the parish and its Rector, the Rev. Virginia Bennett, over the past three years," the news release said. "We need a shepherd for this parish," Ireland said. Members of the congregation attending the meeting fully supported the vestry's action. Beckwith has criticized Bennett and the congregation since the 2003 General Convention when she voted in favor of confirming the election of outwardly-gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

U.S. Population Growing Faster than the Church, Research Shows

The Christian Post reports that new research based on a database of over 300,000 churches across America indicated that overall the population is growing faster than the church. The director of the American Church Research Project, Dave Olson, who has been working for years to record actual attendance of churches across the country, said that overall church attendance is virtually unchanged from 15 years ago despite the fact the U.S. population has grown by 52 million people. According to his research, the northeastern part of the country is the only region where the church is growing faster than the population while no state has seen a net increase in the percentage of church attendance in the last five years, "The evangelical church is becoming suburban, affluent, and educated," Olson said. "The Christian community needs a restoration of its understanding of the message and mission of Jesus. It needs to be less self-righteous, individualistic, and materialistic. It needs to be more biblical, Christo-centric, and holistic."

38 Muslim Scholars and Leaders Write Open Letter to the Pope

According to a Religion News Service releace, an open letter signed by 38 top Muslim religious scholars and leaders around the world was sent to Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 12, 2006. All the eight schools of thought and jurisprudence in Islam are represented by the signatories, including a woman scholar. In this respect the letter is unique in the history of interfaith relations. The letter was sent, in a spirit of goodwill, to respond to some of the remarks made by the Pope during his lecture at the University of Regensburg on Sept. 12, 2006. The letter tackles the main substantive issues raised in his treatment of a debate between the medieval Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an “educated Persian”, including reason and faith; forced conversion; “jihad” vs. “holy war”; and the relationship between Christianity and Islam. The Muslim signatories appreciate the Pope's personal expression of sorrow at the Muslim reaction and his assurance that the words of the Byzantine emperor he quoted did not reflect his personal opinion. The official and full English version of the letter's text along with the complete list of signatories is available on the Islamica Magazine website.

Nigerian Teacher on Trial after Punishing Muslim Student

A Christian high school teacher at Government College in Keffi, in the northern state of Nasarawa, is on trial for blasphemy after he disciplined a Muslim student, Compass Direct News reports. English and history teacher Joshua Lai is standing trial at a Magistrate Court 2 in the state capital of Lafia on charges of blasphemy against the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and for “public incitement, rioting, and mischief.” Following the June 12 incident, Muslim students attacked Christian students and teachers and burned four houses, including Lai’s home. Alerted by Christian students of a plan by Muslim students to kill him that night, the teacher and his son fled their home. Police caught up with Lai in Abuja, where he had taken refuge after learning that the Muslim attackers intended to behead him, and held him at the Keffi police station. He was remanded to prison custody for eight days on orders of Gov. Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu before being released on bail.