Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Churchgoers, Pastors Struggle to Define Spiritual Maturity
The Barna Group reports that many people in the pews have no idea what "spiritual maturity" actually means - possibly because their pastors can't define it either. A new Barna study found that half of churchgoers cannot describe how their church defines a "healthy, spiritually mature follower of Jesus," including those that call themselves "born again Christians." The most common answers included "trying hard to follow the rules described in the Bible," even among Christians who say that good works are not a prerequisite for salvation. Born again Christians were more likely to point to "a relationship with Jesus" as a sign of spiritual maturity, but more than half said following the rules translates into spiritual maturity. Pastors also struggled to point out specific Bible passages describing the measure for spiritual maturity - one third simply said "the whole Bible."
Pope Visits Jerusalem's Western Wall, Dome of the Rock
Religion News Service reports that Pope Benedict XVI continued his visit to Israel Tuesday, stopping at two controversial sites. The pontiff prayed at the Western Wall and visited the nearby Dome of the Rock, two disputed pieces of holy ground that are sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Benedict paused in prayer after he inserted a written prayer, known as a "kvitel," in the cracks of the wall that is the last surviving piece of the Jewish Temple. "I bring with you the joys, the hopes and the aspirations, the trials, the suffering and the pain of all your people throughout the world," a portion of the prayer said. "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful, the bereft." The pope focused on areas of common ground between Catholicism and the two major religions.
Anglicans Emerge from Meeting with More Hope for Unified Future
The Christian Post reports that a 12-day meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council brings renewed hope for the future of the Communion. "We believe that whatever has happened in the course of our decisions, from this point forward God has a perfect plan for his Church to remain the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church," said delegates from the Global South in a statement. Still, questions of homosexuality and biblical authority loom large. "The question is of course what that future will look like," said Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, the spiritual head 77 million-member Communion. Williams suggested that further "scapegoating and rejection" would detract from the credibility of Christianity.
Pastors Win IRS Ruling over Policy Conferences
Christians News Wire reports that the Internal Revenue Service found that pastors who gathered in 2006 for a series of public policy conferences had every right to do so and that the organizers of the events did not violate any tax laws that govern non-profit organizations. "There is now a clear IRS statement outlining these pastors' events and approving them as valid under the law," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute which represented event organizers. The IRS began its investigation in January 2008, questioning whether six conferences by the Niemoller Foundation violated non-profit rules. The conferences called pastors to stand up for moral issues and to encourage their congregants to get involved in the political process.