Religion in the News Editor
More good news from Sudan
For decades Christians have suffered violent persecution in the country, but a new government has come to power and it’s promising changes. That government has now announced the formation of an independent national commission for religious freedom. Two Christians have also been appointed to cabinet positions and last December believers were allowed to publicly celebrate Christmas for the first time. Christians make up a small minority in Sudan. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
Who attends worship services the most?
A study cited by Religion In Public indicates that only five percent of Mormons say they NEVER show up for services — the smallest percentage of any faith group in this country. Just six percent of non-white Evangelical Christians skip corporate worship as do nine percent of White Evangelicals. By contrast, 15% of America’s Catholics say they never go to church and 23% of Jews do the same. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
Will your church survive the corona virus?
According to a new poll by the Barna Group, 95% of America’s pastors say they are confident that their congregation will weather the pandemic and eventually come back together as it did before. Half of those clergymen also believe that they will be back hosting in-person worship services in some form before the end of June. 17% of pastors say it’ll probably be July or August before their congregations start getting together again. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
A pastor wins “The Voice”
Todd Tilghman, who leads Cornerstone Church in Meridian was crowned the winner of the popular TV talent show this week, singing “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me in the finale. In a tweet following his victory the pastor said “I wish I knew how to say thank you. And I wish you all knew how much I respect and admire my new friends and fellow contestants on The Voice.” He was coached by country music superstar Blake Shelton on the show. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
Most churches are not holding in-person services. SRN’s Michael Harrington reports.
Despite some widely publicized stories of congregations ignoring state lock orders, the vast majority of Christians have been staying home during the virus outbreak. A new poll conducted by Life Way Research finds only six percent of Protestant pastors held in-person services the last Sunday of April and the percentage has been about that low ever since the last Sunday in March. A lot of congregations are now meeting in cyberspace, though some churches plan to reopen soon.Listen Download
A troubling new report about America’s churches and their finances. SRN’s Michael Harrington has more.
According to research done by Indiana University, 39 percent of the country’s congregations don’t have enough money saved to cover three months’ worth of expenses. That’s a real problem these days, with the corona virus lock-down cutting sharply into most church finances. Rural congregations appear generally better able to withstand a short-term loss of funds than those in cities and suburbs. Experts say some churches may have to shut their doors permanently.Listen Download
Something new for Christians in the app store. SRN’s Michael Harrington reports.
Meditation and mindfulness apps have boomed in the last decade. Now apps for believers such as Pray, One Minute Pause and Hallow have entered the scene, adding prayer and Scripture to the digital meditation landscape. Several of those Christian apps have reported spikes in searches on such topics as anxiety since the virus outbreak began. Bobby Gruenewald of Life Church, which produces the You Version Bible app, says “It’s really exploding right now.”Listen Download
A pastor is running for governor of Vermont. SRN’s Michael Harrington reports.
Republican John Klar, who has also worked in farming and as an attorney, is challenging incumbent and fellow Republican Phil Scott in the August primary. Klar works with a ministry called “Children In Need – Uganda” which recently opened a school for 300 orphans. He is particularly concerned about the spending that’s being done by the state legislature, saying “Exotic spending for fantastical utopian fantasies — however well-intentioned — is unsustainable.”Listen Download
An investigation turns up trouble in Pakistan. SRN’s Michael Harrington reports.
An investigation by The Associated Press has found numerous police reports alleging sexual harassment, rape and physical abuse by Islamic clerics teaching in religious schools throughout the country. There are more than 22,000 registered Islamic schools in Pakistan, teaching more than two million children. But there are many more religious schools that are unregistered. Despite the reports, no Muslim cleric has ever been convicted of sexual abuse.Listen Download
Some advice on how churches can disciple young Christians. SRN’s Michael Harrington reports.
Authors Mark Matlock and David Kinnaman have been studying the problem for a long while and they conclude that it takes more than a Sunday sermon to truly make teens and 20-somethings into effective followers of Christ. In an article pubished by the Barna Group, they say “We also need other structures of learning: courses, programs, mentoring, field-based experiences, mission trips and more.” Most polls show younger people falling away from Christianity these days.
Persecution of Christians in India is ramping up
Ramesh Kumar is a pastor who leads about a dozen house churches in villages outside of Uttar Pradesh. He tells International Christian Concern that persecution is virtually constant, saying “Almost daily, I encounter a situation where I am asked to stop preaching the Gospel and recant my faith in Jesus. Some days, it is only a mild warning, other times a physical assault.” Hindu radicals are responsible for most of the attacks. They vow to make India a Hindu-only country. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
The gospel is spreading amidst the virus outbreak
A crisis inevitably turns peoples thoughts to questions of eternity. Global Media Outreach, which focuses on digital evangelism, says there’s been a surge in questions about faith and conversions since the outbreak. Spokesman Walt Wilson tells the Christian Post “What we’re seeing is millions of people open to talking about faith in the face of fear, and we’re ramping up to be available for them.” GMO is reaching out via the web, cell phones and secure messages. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
Finally, some good news from Nigeria
The Anglican Church reports that the wife of a bishop and a church secretary have been set free by gunmen who kidnapped them in Kano State earlier this month. It’s unclear who their abductors were, but the Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram has been carrying out kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria for years. The terrorists have also killed thousands of believers in the northern part of the country there the government seems powerless to intervene. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
Churches will remain open in Michigan
Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has bar all gatherings of 50 or more people, but houses of worship are exempt. She tells Fox News “That’s an area that we don’t have the ability to directly enforce and control”, pointing to her understanding of church-state separation. The governor is still urging congregations to consider calling off worship services until the crisis has ended and many of them are doing just that — albeit voluntarily. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
A message from the Vice President to America’s Christians
He is urging believers to be in prayer for the nation as the virus outbreak continues and he’s also calling on them to keep tithing to their churches and ministries, even if they are currently closed. Pence says that even if Christians can’t be in the pews on Sunday, “It’s still a good idea, if you can, to go ahead and make that donation. All the ministries are continuing to play a vital role in our communities and we encourage your continued support.” Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
A Christian poll-taker has a new mission
George Barna — founder of the Barna Group — is joining up with Arizona Christian University to launch a new entity. Barna tells the Christian Post that the Cultural Research Center at ACU will be tasked with restoring a Biblical worldview to American culture. Barna says “The Center is going to help leader focus on what the people say matters, while providing those same people with a yardstick for measuring how well they are being served by their leaders.” Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
Religious Americans weigh-in on immigration
The poll question from the Public Religion Research Institute is simple: Should illegal immigrants be granted a pathway to U.S. citizenship? 55% of white Evangelical Protestants say YES as do 68% of white Mainline Protestants. Amongst other faith groups, 54% of white Catholics also believe that illegal immigrants should have a chance to earn citizenship as do 77% of Hispanic Catholics and 71% of black Protestants. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
A Christian poll-taker reflects on young people and technology
David Kinnaman is president of the Barna Group, which has done a lot of reporting on how Millennial Christians are more apt to read the Bible and practice their faith in the digital realm than are their parents and grandparents. Barna says “Church leaders can respond by providing thoughtful integration of digital tools, strategies and content into their spiritual development efforts. Young Christians are telling us that they are comfortable with the tools, whether church leaders are or not.” Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
Christian ministries are being branded as hate groups — again
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual listing is out and it contains, as always, several well-known Evangelical organizations — simply because they do not accept same-sex marriage or the LGBT agenda. On the SPLC’s latest hate group list are the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, D. James Kennedy Ministries and several churches. The hate list is often used by corporations and foundations to determine where their charitable dollars go. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
Do you fact-check your pastor’s sermons?
The Barna Group has been asking Christians what they are actually doing during Sunday services. The vast majority of believers in all age groups say they’re mostly just sitting their and listening. But some are actually putting the pastor to the test in real time, fact-checking his sermon — usually with a digital device. And as you might imagine, given their tech skills, Millennial Christians are the most likely to fact-check during services. Baby Boomers the LEAST likely. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
Another pro-life bill advances at the state level
The Mississippi House has approved legislation that would bar women from having abortions on the basis of the unborn baby’s race, sex or potential genetic abnormalities. Pro-life advocates are cheering. Sue Liebel of the Susan B. Anthony List says “Abortions carried out because of potential disability, such as Down syndrome, is no less than modern-day eugenics.” A number of states are considering similar measures to limit abortion. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
Another battle over religious freedom on campus
The University of Iowa has kicked Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship out because it will not agree to allow non-believers to serve in leadership positions. A district court ruled the school was out of line, but Iowa officials have taken the case to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Inter Varsity, says “No group should be forced to accept leaders who don’t even agree with the group’s mission.” Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
A pro-life victory in Maryland
Lawmakers in the state Senate have opted to withdraw a bill that was designed to enshrine abortion in the Maryland constitution. Several states have been working on similar legislation as abortion advocates try to protect the procedure from a possible repeal of Roe versus Wade by the Supreme Court one day. Democrat Susan Lee, the sponsor of the Maryland measure, says she pulled it because she feared “a long debate that strays from the underlying intent of the bill.” Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download
The Family Research Council wants more pro-life legislation
The ministry is pointing out that very few places have laws that protect babies who manage to survive an abortion attempt. Comprehensive born-alive laws have only been adopted by 16 states, though legislation is pending in Ohio, Wyoming and Kentucky. However, the FRC points out that a comprehensive federal born-alive law is unlikely to pass because Democrats control the House of Representatives. Repeated attempts — including one this year — have failed. Michael Harrington, SRN News.Listen Download