* Harold Lindsell, 84, a former editor of Christianity Today and author of The Battle for the Bible, died Jan. 15 in Lake Forest, Calif., after a long illness. His book, in which he argued that the Bible is without error even in matters of history and science, became a catalyst for the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention from biblical moderates.
* Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, widely known in the ecumenical movement, died Jan. 30 at the age of 88. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister by the Church of Scotland, he was a member of the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom at the time of death. He served posts in the World Council of Churches.
* The number of Lutherans worldwide increased by 100,000 to more than 61 million in 1997. The 7.5 million-member Church of Sweden is the largest Lutheran body followed by the ELCA with nearly 5.2 million. The most significant growth was in Nigeria, where the number of Lutherans reached 655,000, a 36 percent increase since 1996.
* More than $2 million worth of Lutheran World Relief quilts were sent to the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan, two countries still recovering from war with each other. The 180,000 quilts are being distributed by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
* Promise Keepers, an evangelical men's ministry that usually discourages females from attending meetings, invited women to its 1998 regional clergy conferences. "We learned that 13 percent of our churches are pastored by ladies," said Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney. "We need pastors who will turn their churches into training camps for men."
* The Church of Scientology paid the U.S. government $12.5 million as part of a 1993 settlement with the Internal Revenue Service establishing the group's tax-exempt status. The settlement ended a dispute that began in 1967 when the government argued that Scientology should lose tax-exempt status because it was a for-profit business.
* The International Center of Bethlehem, sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, Bethlehem, received the TODO!96 International Award for Socially Responsible Tourism. Selected from 24 organizations representing 17 countries, the center offers a guest hostel, lectures on Middle East topics and the opportunity to become acquainted with Palestinians.
* A sharp divide exists between the country's leading counseling professions — psychology and the ministry — according to a survey of professional psychology journals. The survey showed that just .02 percent of the articles addressed the role of clergy in mental health even though 40 percent of Americans seek assistance from clergy during times of personal distress. "Research has repeatedly established the importance of religion in mental health," said David Larson, president of the National Institute for Healthcare Research and the study's co-author. "It's imperative those of us in the mental health community begin working more closely with the clergy." There is hope for improvement, Larson said, citing recent surveys showing that one-third of psychologists report a strong interest in religion while between 70 percent and 90 percent of clergy indicate a desire to receive more mental health training.
* The National Council of Churches raised the $500,000 needed to receive a matching gift from New York real estate owner Leona Helmsley for the NCC Burned Churches Fund. Helmsley gave $1 million last year with the promise of a future matching grant. Her contribution is the largest the fund has received from an individual donor. The fund received $8.4 million and an additional $2.65 million in goods. Of the churches the NCC is helping to rebuild, 44 have been completed and 54 are under construction.
* Five months of heavy rains in Kenya along the Tana River have left thousands homeless and crops several feet under water. Action by Churches Together, the National Council of Churches of Kenya and the Lutheran World Federation mounted a $239,000 relief and rehabilitation program. Homeless and hungry people started approaching their churches for help last December. "We had some drought relief food left over and were able to give them that," said Anglican minister Japhet Komora Dhadho. "But that is finished. In the area of the camps you can find very hungry people and the children are in a bad way."
* ACT-Amity Foundation sent two relief workers to the Hebei in Northern China where an earthquake killed 50, injured 10,000 and left thousands of mud and brick houses in rubble. ACT made $60,000 available for rapid purchase of relief items and Church World Service donated $50,000. The economic loss so far is estimated at $300 million. Due to the necessity for the ACT Rapid Response Fund in the last 12 months, ACT is seeking contributions to build the fund up to $500,000 so it can continue responding quickly to those in need.
* Recent months have marked an upswing in violence in Rwanda, Burundi and some eastern parts of Congo-DRC. Despite difficulties in delivering humanitarian assistance, ACT members are continuing to assist vulnerable groups with seeds, tools and shelter materials and to work with farm rehabilitation programs in Burundi and Congo. For its members in Rwanda, ACT is mounting a $3 million appeal for continued emergency work. ACT has assisted at least 800,000 people in Burundi, Congo and Rwanda. In addition, ACT issued a $2 million appeal for relief and rehabilitation for Sierra Leone.
* Pope John Paul II ordered Roman Catholics to stop counseling women seeking abortions, saying their services could be misconstrued as advocating the procedure. But in Germany, bishops contend that Catholics are needed in clinics to counsel against abortion. They hope to change the system and will continue to participate in counseling for now. German law permits women to have abortions in the first trimester if they have obtained written certification of having received counseling. The Catholic Church operates about 25 percent of the 1,500 counseling clinics in Germany and many others are staffed by Catholics.
* A survey of Southern Baptist teens shows that while 95 percent of them pray regularly, about 25 percent said they have considered committing suicide. "It's shocking to know that some of the same kids who think about killing themselves may pray either daily or weekly," said Clyde Hall, manager of the Baptist Sunday School board's youth discipline section. The survey also showed that three-fourths of the teens have trouble controlling their tempers and almost half cheat on tests. But 83 percent of those surveyed said they don't take drugs and 78 percent don't drink.
* The Roman Catholic Church, calling the shortage of clergy in Western Europe a crisis, has acknowledged failing to grapple with the growing resistance to religious service among young people. But the church's evaluation of the problem didn't mention the most frequently cited reasons given by Europeans for leaving the church-widespread sexual misconduct among clergy and the church's refusal to address modern-day concerns.
* Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has called for using the millennium as a time to "remove the chains of indebtedness" that continue to enslave Africa. "We draw attention to the fact [of poverty] loudly and clearly, for even if there is reason for optimism in the long term ... it is still wrong that, in the short term, those who suffer most should bear even greater burdens." Carey has joined several religious leaders who are urging that the year 2000 be marked as a "jubilee" year, a reference to the Old Testament vision that every 50 years debts were forgiven, mortgaged land returned and slaves freed.
* Presbyterians are voting on proposals to soften the sexual misconduct standard of the denomination's ordained officials, and early indications are the proposal is likely to be defeated. At presstime voting on the "fidelity and integrity" amendment sent to 172 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for consideration is 16-14 against. The amendment says that among standards of those holding ordained offices are those requiring them to demonstrate fidelity and integrity in marriage or singleness and in all relationships of life. If approved it would replace the current language requiring ordained officers to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.
* ACT International is launching a $2 million appeal for food and medical assistance to more than 120,000 Iraqis. Distribution will be done in cooperation with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society.
* A controversial Bible history class based on the Old Testament was introduced in Lee County, Fla., public high schools following a ruling by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich. But the judge questioned whether a second course, which includes New Testament teachings on miracles and the Resurrection, can be taught as secular history. She continued an injunction blocking the course, scheduled to begin in March.
* A Pew Research Center poll reported that 71 percent of those responding said they never doubt the existence of God, up 11 percent from 1987. The poll also found that 61 percent of Americans believe miracles come from the power of God and 53 percent believe prayer is important to daily life, both an increase of 14 percent from a decade ago.
* Bread from Galilee: Straight from Exodus to your cupboard, it's Bible Bread. Manufactured by Galilee Splendor in Israel, this crunchy crisp bread is modeled after the unleavened bread of the Old Testament, although the modern version comes in onion, poppy, honey, garlic and five whole grain varieties. The company began marketing Bible Bread in the United States last year after American Christian tourists in Israel began to order the product to take home.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers