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 Meet to Combat Plummeting Membership
outhern Baptists opened their annual meeting June 23 with calls to turn around plummeting baptism rates, even as researchers warned that the nation's largest Protestant body could lose half its size by mid-century.
"I really do believe that we need revival in the Southern Baptist Convention," said SBC President Johnny Hunt, a pastor from Woodstock, Georgia. "I believe we need revival in the hearts of our leaders, starting with your president."
With one eye focused on a new vision for the future, the denomination nonetheless kept one eye on past battles with an overwhelming vote to break ties with a gay-friendly church in Fort Worth, Texas. The decision to expel Broadway Baptist Church came with no discussion from the more than 8,000 Baptists attending the meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.
What got more attention was a new report from the denomination's LifeWay Research, which concluded that SBC membership could drop by close to 50 percent by 2050 if it doesn't do more to reverse its image as an aging and mostly white religious body. "We're aging," Hunt acknowledged in his presidential address. "One of the reasons--and it is a true reason--is we need to really join with our brothers of ethnicity in this convention."
He chastised his fellow Baptists for being "professional" rather than passionate about their faith. He noted how many Americans didn't know the term "Laodicean" when it was the winning word in the National Spelling Bee championship last month. The word, which means lukewarm, refers to a church mentioned in the book of Revelation that is bemoaned as "neither cold nor hot."
"Ladies and gentleman, America has not heard of the word `Laodicean,' but I'm afraid that the church has not perceived it," said Hunt. "We challenge the people and go home and forget what we preach just as quickly as they do."
Hunt, who was re-elected Tuesday to a second one-year term, has co-authored a "Great Commission Resurgence" declaration, which he hopes will recharge Southern Baptists by urging them to reconsider how they evangelize and how the denomination is structured. Delegates are expected to take possible action on the declaration later in the meeting.
Study: Jehovah's Witnesses More Likely to Die in Childbirth
Pregnant women who are Jehovah's Witnesses are six times more likely to die during childbirth and three times more likely to have serious complications than the general population, according to a new study by Dutch researchers.
All of the cases of death examined by the researchers were caused by major obstetric hemorrhage, according to the study, and the refusal of red blood transfusions by the women was found to be "an important factor'' in the deaths.
"Jehovah's Witnesses, by refusing blood transfusion, expose themselves to a serious risk during childbirth," said Jos van Roosmalen, supervisor of the research and chairman of the National Maternal Mortality Committee of the Netherlands Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Most Jehovah's Witnesses refuse many types of blood transfusions, believing that the Bible warns against ingesting blood. Individual members, though, may differ from church teachings or use other medical means, such as receiving their own blood back in transfusions.
The Dutch report, published this month in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, examined all cases of maternal mortality in the Netherlands between 1983 and 2006, and all cases of serious maternal morbidity between 2004 and 2006. "Any hospital treating Jehovah's Witnesses should have a clear protocol for obstetric care, and ensure training for staff in the management of obstetric hemorrhage in these patients," said Philip Steer, BJOG's editor-in-chief.
The Jehovah's Witnesses' U.S. office did not respond immediately for a request for comment.
France Considers Dissolving Church of Scientology
In a groundbreaking case, a Paris court will decide for the first time whether to dissolve the Church of Scientology in France, which is facing charges of organized fraud.
The demand was made by French prosecutors on June 15 as they wrapped up their case against the church's Paris headquarters and bookshop. If found guilty, the institutions may also face a nearly $6 million fine.
Six members of the church are also on trial, and may also face heavy fines along with prison sentences if convicted. The plaintiffs, two former Scientologists, claim the church conned them into spending tens of thousands of dollars in bogus products in the 1990s, including an "electrometer" that the church says can measure energy levels.
But the church, which claims a membership of 45,000 in France, rejects the accusations and claims it is being persecuted. The plaintiffs, are "apostates who ... want to criticize their ex-religion," Fabio Amicarelli, a European Scientology representative, told French media recently.
While the charges pose the most serious challenge to the French church to date, they are only the latest clash in a nearly two-decade long battle against Scientology. Several fraud cases have already been judged and several members convicted of embezzlement in France, where Scientology is viewed with deep suspicion.
The French government lists Scientology as a sect, reflecting an official intolerance of unorthodox religions. A government report published in May said the number of religious sects had tripled in France over the past 15 years to at least 600 different movements.
Israeli Company Launches Kosher Search Engine
A new Internet search engine is making it possible for ultra-Orthodox Jews who use computers to obtain information online--but not on the Sabbath, when the site shuts down.
Dubbed Koogle (a cross between Google and kugel, the name of a Jewish noodle pudding), the Hebrew-language search engine is being touted as a kosher portal for devout Jews who almost universally shun the Internet because many online sites are religiously inappropriate.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews, known as haredim, live according to the strictest interpretation of the Torah as interpreted by their respective rabbis. They usually live in insular communities where access to secular culture is severely restricted. TVs are banned while computers and the Internet are tolerated strictly for work purposes.
In their mission statement, Koogle administrators said the site's goal is to "filter the appropriate information from different Web sites that are relevant to our target audience in a way that does not contradict the values of our traditional Jewish audience."
Koogle is not a filter for surfers who want to access secular Web sites. Rather, it is a compilation of Israeli resources deemed inoffensive by the administrators. It includes news, business directories and links to realtors, kosher restaurants, hotels as well as mohels, or ritual circumcisers, and rehab centers. While many listings include both contact information and a link to the business' Web site, the one for lingerie provides only addresses and phone numbers.
In keeping with the norms of the haredi community, no photos of women--no matter how modestly attired -- are permitted on Koogle. Nor are there ads for TVs, DVD players or other "unkosher" products. Koogle does not operate on the Jewish Sabbath, which begins on Friday night at sundown and ends 25 hours later.