January 25, 2007

World News

African Church Leader Warns of
`Disease' of Pentecostalism

                                                                                            ©2007 Religion News Service
capThe president of the All Africa Council of Churches, a fellowship of mainline Protestant, Orthodox and indigenous Christians, said Pentecostalism is a "disease" spreading across Africa, according to an AACC news release.

Speaking at the Ecumenical Platform of the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, the Rev. Nyansako-ni-Nku seemed to direct his remarks at a type of Pentecostal prosperity preacher who "gets richer and the congregation gets poorer."

The AACC news release also said that Nyansako, who is moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, exhorted "mainline churches (to) wake up to the challenge and provide direction; otherwise many people will follow these Pentecostal churches."

Pentecostalism has become an increasingly prominent force in African life, according to a recent study by the Pew Forum  on Religion & Public Life. The movement's growth has been dramatic since decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s, according to Pew, rising from 5 percent of the population in 1970 to 12 percent in 2005.

Pentecostals play a large role in politics, particularly in Kenya and Nigeria, and control numerous radio and television stations, according to Pew.

Nyansako said mainline pastors at the pulpit are "becoming bashful and instead of naming the demon which harasses people by name, they are willing to socialize with the mighty and the powerful to the detriment of the people who have placed their trust in them."

The AACC is a fellowship of 169 churches and Christian councils in 39 African nations.


Catholic Bishops Urge Parishes to Tighten Financial Oversight


BY DANIEL BURKE                                                                              ©2007 Religion News Service
The nation's 19,000-odd Roman Catholic parishes should tighten internal controls to protect against financial improprieties, according to a committee of experts that advises the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The lay-led committee, which recommended keeping a closer eye on the collection plate and "effective oversight by the bishop," has been discussing its proposals for a year, said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops' conference.

Eighty-five percent of Catholic dioceses responding to a recent survey experienced embezzlement during the past five years, according to a Villanova University report. Eleven percent reported internal thefts of more than $500,000 each.

A Virginia priest appeared in court  on January 18 to face charges of felony embezzlement after the Richmond, Va., diocese accused him of stealing more than $600,000 from two Virginia churches. The USCCB's Accounting Practices Committee recommends parishes send an annual letter to their bishop, detailing the names and professional titles of parish finance council members, dates of meetings and a copy of published financial statements and budgets.

Parish finance council members should undergo thorough training and dioceses should establish policies to cover conflicts of interest, fraud and whistle-blower protections, according to the committee.

The committee also said seminarians should be given financial training. Bishop Dennis Schnurr of Duluth, Minn., rejected that suggestion, according to a statement from the USCCB. "Seminary days are jampacked enough, and I am not certain that finances should be added to the schedule," Schnurr said. "Members of the laity who have expertise and experience with administration and finance should be encouraged to consider a stewardship of their talents."

Virginia Bishop Says He Will Fight for Church Property in Court
BY DANIEL BURKE                                                                           ©2007 Religion News Service
The Episcopal Bishop of Virginia said his diocese has tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with dissident parishes for years and will now seek to settle differences over church property in civil courts. Eleven conservative Virginia churches--including two large, historic parishes--have voted to leave the 2.2-million member denomination over differences on homosexuality and the authority of Scripture.

Bishop Peter Lee said in a letter on January 18 that diocesan officials now consider those churches' property "abandoned" and will seek to recover them in court. "I have tried to find a way forward in our dispute over property that would keep us from having to resort to civil courts," Lee wrote. "No longer am I convinced that such an outcome is possible, nor do I believe that such a move at this time is dishonorable."

The value of the property of two churches--Truro Church and The Falls Church--has been estimated at $25 million. The two churches have joined a missionary branch of the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

Jim Pierobon, a member of Falls Church and a spokesman for the two parishes, told The Associated Press that all 11 congregations will fight for the property. "We intend to protect our churches' property rights to  he fullest extent of the law," Pierobon said.

Under the laws of the Episcopal Church, individual church property is held in trust by the diocese and the denomination. The breakaway parishes will argue in civil court that denominational trusts are not valid in the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to Pierobon.

Super Bowl Coaches Dungy, Smith
Known for Christian Testimony
BY ART STRCKLIN                                                                                ©2007 Baptist Press
The following story was published by Baptist Press. What do you think of this story?
Does God work in this way?

Super Bowl XLI will feature two teams making their first super game appearance in two-plus decades, two Midwestern teams separated by only a couple hundred miles, but most importantly two coaches who are strong believers in Jesus Christ.

Head coaches Tony Dungy of Indianapolis and close friend and fellow Christian Lovie Smith of Chicago gave credit to God following their respective teams' victories in the conference championships January 21.

The Lord set this up in a way that no one would believe it,” Dungy said following the Colts' win over New England. “The Lord tested us a lot this year, but He set this up to get all the glory.”

The news that two witnesses for their personal faith in Jesus Christ would have a two-week international spotlight for their beliefs thrilled Christian leader William Pugh, executive director of sports ministry Athletes in Action, a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ.

We are so excited to see the Bears and Colts in the Super Bowl,” Pugh, a close friend of both head coaches, said. “We could not have picked two better coaches to represent all that is good about sports.”

For the complete story, click here.

Did God bring two long-time Christian friends to the Super Bowl? On February 4, both coaches will be praying for victory in the game. Does God care who wins? Share your thoughts with us.