Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 18, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 18, 2009

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

  • China: 400 Officials Attack Sleeping Church Members
  • Biggest U.S. Churches Evangelical, Multi-Site
  • Religious Liberty Violations Rise Sharply in Cuba
  • Nigerians Elect New Anglican Primate

China: 400 Officials Attack Sleeping Church Members

Mission News Network reports that Christians sleeping at a new church site were surprised and brutally attacked by 400 Chinese officials on Sunday. Several believers were left unconscious with severe bleeding and injuries. Fellow Christians who took them to the local hospital discovered that hospital staff had been ordered not to treat them. The building stands on property owned by a Christian factory, preventing officials from refusing authorization as they would normally. "They called it a worship center. It's a part of the factory owned by the Christians, and the government regarded it as a church, so that's why they started attacking," explains ChinaAid Association President Bob Fu. The building was destroyed in the attack. About 80,000 believers of an underground network hoped to use the worship building at different times.

Biggest U.S. Churches Evangelical, Multi-Site

USA Today reports that the fastest-growing churches in America are embracing a new model of multiple sites, paired with contemporary, evangelical-style worship. According to Outreach magazine, Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church is still the largest church in the country, with 43,500 people attending each week. However, "Multiple sites are the new normal for fast-growing and large churches. Lakewood is the exception. The next 10 all have multiple sites," says Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay, which gathered the statistics for Outreach's report. "They're contemporary, aggressively evangelistic and evangelical and they're moving beyond the 'big box' megachurch model." But attendance in most congregations is growing imperceptibly, if at all. Less than half (48%) of U.S. congregations could report at least 2% growth in worship attendance, down from 58% in 2005.

Religious Liberty Violations Rise Sharply in Cuba

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that pressure on religious leaders in Cuba has increased significantly over the past year according to a new CSW report. Comprehensive evidence within the document details a sharp rise in religious liberty violations there. Independent church leaders from the fast growing Apostolic Movement have been particularly targeted for harassment, detentions and court summons by the government. Last week Pastor Mario Alvarez, the Havana based leader of a church affiliated with Apostolic Movement, was informed by government officials that he is to be evicted from his home. Two other leaders from the Apostolic Movement are currently in prison. Alexi Perez, a leader in Pastor Alvarez's church, has now been in prison for almost two months, while Pastor Omar Gude Perez was sentenced to six years in prison in July. This follows the detention of at least sixty pastors and leaders linked to the Apostolic Movement in May and June alone.

Nigerians Elect New Anglican Primate

Religion News Service reports that a retired Army lieutenant colonel-turned-priest has been elected the new primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, one of the largest provinces in the Anglican Communion. The Rev. Nicholas Orogbodo Okoh, 57, will lead Nigeria's 20 million Anglicans following next year's retirement of Archbishop Peter Akinola, who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Episcopal Church's acceptance of homosexuality. Okoh was elected on Tuesday (Sept. 15) by the country's Anglican bishops, and is expected to follow Akinola's strong opposition to the ordination of women and homosexuals. "I am grateful to God and to the Church of Nigeria, particularly our laymen, clergy and House of Bishops, for thinking that I can do it,"Okoh said in his acceptance speech. "It is a lot of confidence reposed in me, and I pray to God not to allow me to fail."