Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 23, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Oct. 23, 2008

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

  • Few Christians Return to Mosul Despite Support
  • Atheist Bus Campaign Gets off to a Flying Start
  • United Methodists Begin Effort to Plant 400 Churches
  • Bishop Urges Use of Pop Songs in Church

Few Christians Return to Mosul Despite Support

The Associated Press reports that most Christians who fled Mosul don't seem to believe government promises of financial support and physical protection. Of the nearly 10,000 who fled, very few have returned, officials said. Lt. Gen. Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq, the Iraqi military commander for Ninevah province, said the government was fulfilling its responsibility to "give protection to every family that returns home," as well as providing 1 million Iraqi dinars (US $865) for each returning family. It is believed that Sunni insurgents are behind more than a dozen murders and neighborhood-wide threats that drove out the entrenched Christian community. "We urge other families to come back," Tawfiq said. "We will ensure their protection." The third-largest city in Iraq now lacks almost half of its population.

Atheist Bus Campaign Gets off to a Flying Start

The UK Guardian reports that initial fundraising for an atheist advertising campaign on the buses of London raised nearly nine times the amount needed in less than 24 hours. The bendy buses will display posters saying "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" on 30 buses for four weeks. Prominent atheist and biologist Richard Dawkins will donate another £5,500 to the £47,900 already raised. According to the AP, British Churches have actually encouraged the campaign, with the Methodist church thanking Dawkins for "continued interest" in God and encouraging people to think about the issue. A spokesman for the Church of England said it supports the promotion of any religious position through appropriate channels. A spokesman added: "Christian belief is not about worrying or not enjoying life. Quite the opposite: our faith liberates us to put this life into a proper perspective.

United Methodists Begin Effort to Plant 400 Churches

Christian Post reports that the United Methodist Church has launched an initiative to plant 400 new churches over the next four years. The first donation from a former pastor's Wife, Mary Watson, of $400,000 will go towards international church planting. "I am excited by the thought of 400 new churches and what God can do with 400 new churches," said Watson, who along with her husband, the Rev. Ralph Watson, have been involved in mission fields around the world, especially in Russia, Estonia and Brazil. The 400 Fund will be used to support clergy training, develop Christian education resources and provide worship facilities for new churches in Asia, West Africa, Eastern Europe and Central America.

Bishop Urges Use of Pop Songs in Church

UK Telegraph reports that one bishop is encouraging churches to expand their horizons and use pop hits -- in their services. In a new book, the Rt. Rev. Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon, speaks of the influence of many pop music writers to convey spiritual yearning and even truth to the younger generation, asking churches to go a step beyond guitar praise-and-worship styles. "For many people the language of the Bible has become inaccessible and yet pop song writers can make a connection with people because their language is fresh," he said. ""The Bible is an amazing collection of books that we've allowed to become banal. For many people it is a closed book and asking them to read it is a lost cause, which is a tragedy." The Archbishop of Canterbury has endorsed Baines' book.