The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
Southern Baptists Report Lowest
Baptism Rate in a Decade
he number of baptisms in Southern Baptist churches--considered a key measure of vitality and evangelism--dropped to its lowest level in a decade last year, the denomination announced.
The nation's largest Protestant denomination has highlighted its need to increase baptisms in recent years, with special emphases at annual meetings and a nationwide tour by a past president. But data gathered by the convention's LifeWay Christian Resources show that baptisms have declined for the third straight year.
In 2007, baptisms decreased by 5 percent to 345,941, compared to 364,826 in 2006. "This report is truly disheartening," said Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, announcing the findings on April 23. "... We are a denomination that, for the most part, has lost its evangelistic passion."
Southern Baptists also saw a drop of almost 40,000 in membership from 16,306,246 in 2006 to 16,266,920 in 2007. Despite fewer members and baptisms, the denomination's churches saw an increase in attendees, with worship attendance increasing slightly to 6.15 million. The number of churches also grew to 44,696 in 2007, an increase of 1 percent from 44,223 in 2006.
LifeWay produces its Annual Church Profile by compiling information from state conventions affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. It reported that 1,300 fewer churches submitted data for the 2007 profile than participated in 2006.
Episcopal Church Sues Breakaway Bishop
for Control of Money, Property
The Episcopal Church is suing a breakaway conservative bishop to gain control of property and assets in dispute since his California diocese seceded from the national church last year.
Bishop John-David Schofield, of the Diocese of San Joaquin, Calif., was removed from ministry in March for leading about 30 congregations to leave the Episcopal Church and align with a South American Anglican church instead. He remains in control of diocesan property and bank accounts.
In a lawsuit filed on April 24, Episcopal leaders demanded that Schofield vacate diocesan offices and cede control of financial accounts.
Bishop Jerry Lamb, appointed to lead the 18 or so congregations in the Fresno-based diocese that remain loyal to the Episcopal Church, called the lawsuit "regrettable" but "necessary."
"The diocese and the Episcopal Church have no other viable option but to seek the intervention of the court to recover the property and assets of the diocese," he said in a statement. Schofield said the suit's contents "contain no surprises."
"In spite of the claims of the Episcopal Church, nothing in their current constitution and canons prohibits a diocese from leaving one province and moving to another," he said in a statement.
Like many conservatives, Schofield has long lamented the leftward drift of the Episcopal Church. His concerns reached a breaking point when Episcopalians elected an openly gay bishop in 2003, and three years later, a woman, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, as presiding bishop. Schofield does not ordain female clergy.
Vatican Study: Americans More Versed
in the Bible Than Europeans
Americans are more likely than Europeans to own and read a Bible, but Poles are most likely to have a basic knowledge of Scripture, the Vatican reported on April 28.
The statistics are among preliminary findings of a study of Bible reading in the U.S. and eight European countries. An Italian market research firm produced the survey in preparation for an international synod of Catholic bishops to be held this October in Rome.
More than 90 percent of American households contain at least one copy of the Bible, the highest level among the countries studied, according to the study, which targeted 13,000 interviewees.
Three out of four Americans had read at least one passage of Scripture over the previous year, compared to only one out of four Spaniards, who ranked last in that respect. Americans were also most likely to read the Bible directly, rather than rely on preachers and other interpreters for knowledge of its contents.
Not surprisingly, exposure paid off in familiarity with the book. When asked seven basic questions about the Bible's contents and authorship, 17 percent of Americans were able to answer all correctly, compared to an average of 15 percent in all the countries studied.
Poles took the prize for biblical knowledge, with 20 percent earning perfect scores on the test. The lowest rank went to the Russians, only 7 percent of whom were able to answer all the questions right.
Wisconsin Couple Charged After Death of Daughter
A Wisconsin mother and father have been charged with second-degree reckless homicide after their 11-year-old daughter died of untreated diabetes when they prayed for her but did not take her to a doctor.
Dale and Leilani Neumann of Weston, Wisconsin, were charged on April 28 in the March 23 death of their daughter, Madeline Neumann, the Associated Press (AP) reported. They face 25 years each in prison if convicted. "It was very surprising, shocking that she wasn't allowed medical intervention,' said Jill Falstad, district attorney of Marathon County, Wisconsin. "Her death could have been prevented."
Although friends and family had urged the couple to get medical assistance for their daughter, her mother didn't consider it because she thought the child was under a "spiritual attack" and the father called the illness "a test of faith," said the criminal complaint.
Madeline, who was called Kara by her parents, died on Easter Sunday in their rural home. Her parents were told her body would be taken the next day to Madison for an autopsy.
"They responded, `You won't need to that. She will be alive by then,'" the medical examiner wrote in a report.
The parents did not immediately return messages from the AP.