News Briefs

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) announced TOPIC (Trainers of Pastors International Coalition) as its new global partner to work closely together for their common commitment to pastoral ministry. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, head of WEA, welcomed TOPIC and explained the meaning this new partnership holds. “The local church is God's instrument of transformation in a community,” said Tunnicliffe. “Obviously, pastors are the key in helping churches fulfill this vision. Training is needed but not often times available. That is why I am thrilled that TOPIC has become a global partner of WEA. Their creative delivery for training is made available to thousands of pastors who would not otherwise receive the equipping they need.” TOPIC is an international coalition of pastoral training organizations accelerating pastoral training where the Church is growing. (World Evangelical Alliance)

AUSTRALIA: Highest Court of Anglican Church Clears Way for Women Bishops
A decision by the highest court of the Anglican Church of Australia clearing the way for women to become bishops has been welcomed by supporters of the measure, but criticized by opponents as being potentially divisive. “The innovation will inevitably create ongoing difficulties around the Church for decades to come,” Sydney's Anglican archbishop, Peter Jensen, shared in a statement in which he predicted that some parishes and churches would object to a woman serving as their bishop. But Muriel Porter, who leads the group of Anglicans who raised the question of women bishops, said, “Women can now take their rightful place in leadership in the Church and I look forward with great excitement to the day when the first women are consecrated.” (Ecumenical News International)

CHINA: Survey Shows Fewer Protestant Christians than Previously Thought
According to a recent survey done by China Partner, there are likely fewer Protestant Christians in China then previously thought—thirty-nine million compared to the often used “100-130 million.” The idea for surveying began when Dr. Werner Burklin, founder of China Partner, former executive with Youth for Christ and former director of several Billy Graham conferences, began to wonder about the guesstimates being used by mainline Christian media. China Partner sent teams to all but one of the thirty-one provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China. Over a 13-month period, the teams interviewed 5,430 people ranging in age from 16-92 from a wide variety of occupations. The surveys took place in parks, markets, subways, buses, on the streets and in other locales. Burklin estimates roughly half of the thirty-nine million (three percent margin of error) are in the underground church; the other half are in government-approved churches. Burklin’s findings met resistance from some Christian leaders in the United States. Another survey done at about the same time as Burklin's confirms his results. Professor Liu Zhongyu from East China Normal University in Shanghai surveyed 4,500 people in every province in China over a 12-month period during 2006 and 2007. His survey found forty million Protestant Christians and roughly fourteen million Catholics, with about ten million Catholics worshipping in underground churches and the remainder in government-approved churches. (Assist News Service)

DENMARK: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark Enters Second Life
The Copenhagen diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark has taken the denomination into cyberspace through the web-based virtual world called “Second Life.” On this site, the online church can be found on the island of “Danmark.” Its priest, an “avatar” (online 3D representation) called Pellegrina, is a priest in real life as well, the denomination said on its own website. “The business world discovered the possibilities of Second Life a long time ago, and now government departments, companies, banks and relief organizations have their place here. Now the national Church has caught up with the times,” the church noted. (Ecumenical News International)

GAZA STRIP: Prominent Christian Murdered
Rami Khader Ayyad, director of the Gaza Strip's only all-Christian bookstore, was found stabbed to death 7 October 2007 in what appears to have been an act of Muslim aggression. For months, Ayyad had been receiving death threats from local Muslims who accused him of spreading the gospel. Ayyad ran the Teacher's Bookshop, a ministry of the Palestinian Bible Society (PBS) and the Gaza Baptist Church. Medical officials in the Hamas-controlled territory said he had been stabbed and shot. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh condemned the killing and said the Islamist movement “would not allow anyone to sabotage” Muslim-Christian relations. Gaza's 2,500 Christians, who live among 1.5 million Muslims, have increasingly become a target of Muslim aggression since Hamas gained control of Gaza in June 2007. Even prior to the Hamas coup, Ayyad's bookstore and the PBS headquarters were the targets of frequent attacks, including a bombing earlier this year that severely damaged the Bible Society. (Assist News Service; for more, click here.)

IRAQ: WCC Warns of Christian Exodus in Iraq
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has warned of an exodus by the small Christian community of Iraq and said the country's leaders and foreign governments need to install the rule of law and restore a multi-cultural balance in society. “The flight of Christians from Iraq is a sign of the failure of policies that were purported to bring stability and peace to Iraq and even the region,” stated the WCC, which opposed the US-led military action that brought down Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. (Ecumenical News International)

LATIN AMERICA: LAM Appoints Interim President
Veteran missionary Jack Voelkel has been appointed interim president of Latin America Mission (LAM). Voelkel began his tenure 1 October 2007. He replaces David R. Befus, who served as president since 1999. Befus and his wife have relocated to Colombia where they will be serving as missionaries with LAM. Voelkel served with LAM from 1965 to 2000 before moving to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to help with the Urbana Student Mission Conventions. Voelkel will be working to continue various projects of LAM throughout Latin America and representing the mission before churches and agencies in North America. Latin America Mission works in partnership with churches and Christian agencies throughout Latin America and supports missionaries and projects in many Latin countries as well as in Spain. (Assist News Service)

NORTH AMERICA: IFMA Changes Its Name to CrossGlobal Link
The Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association of North America (IFMA) has changed its name to CrossGlobal Link. “This is more than just a cosmetic change to the association,” stated Dr. Marvin Newell, CrossGlobal Link executive director. “This is a change in function and direction for the association, intended to keep it in pace with the changing world of missions.” CrossGlobal Link will no longer be exclusively interdenominational as in the past; and it opens the door to churches and mission pastors joining as associate members. It also signals a stronger intent to be involved on the greater global mission scene. The identity slogan of CrossGlobal Link, “Connecting in Mission,” is descriptive of these relationships. IFMA was founded in 1917 with the coming together of seven “faith missions.” Today, there are eighty-six mission corporations in the US and Canada that together field over 15,500 North American missionaries around the globe. (IFMA news release)

NORTH AMERICA: EFMA Changes Its Name to The Mission Exchange
The Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies (EFMA) is has changed its name to The Mission Exchange. “Our new identity is the outgrowth of prayerful thought and strategic reflection,” said Steve Moore, president and CEO of The Mission Exchange. “But the phrase ‘formerly EFMA’ does not suggest that we are turning our back on our heritage but that we are turning a new page, entering a new and exciting season.” EFMA was formed in 1946 out of the National Association of Evangelicals to foster greater collaboration between mission agencies. The Mission Exchange’s goal is to help mission organizations be more effective. To accomplish that goal, the ministry focuses on initiatives designed to add value to leaders and stimulate partnerships in the missions community. “Our motive for adapting the name is for greater relevance and increased effectiveness,” said Moore. “We believe The Mission Exchange is a name that captures the sense of dynamic, interactive relationships between churches and mission organizations and their leaders that is at the heart of our identity and vision. In The Mission Exchange, we are cultivating a community where leaders can exchange ideas, expand their capacity, broaden perspectives, share burdens and form partnerships, just to mention a few of the possibilities.” (The Mission Exchange)

NORTH KOREA: Historical Samaritan’s Purse Aid
Samaritan’s Purse recently flew USD$8 million worth of medicine and other emergency supplies to North Korea, which recently endured the worst floods in decades. Hundreds of people have died and nearly a million people are suffering after the floods destroyed or damaged nearly 240,000 homes. North Korea has no diplomatic relations with the United States or most of the world. This trip is the first time an American-flagged plane has flown directly from the US to Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea) since the Korean War. The airlift carried nearly eighty tons of supplies, including antibiotics, vaccines, other medicines, water filtration equipment, blankets, tools and one thousand rolls of heavy-duty plastic—enough to build emergency shelters for seven thousand families. (Samaritan’s Purse)

NORTH KOREA: Great Persecution and Great Perseverance for Christians
Estimates say that one in five Christians in North Korea is in a prison camp, and that as many as four hundred Christians are executed in a year. Despite these statistics, God is growing his Church in this land. In 1989 there were an estimated eleven thousand Christians in the country. By 2004 this number had risen to as many as 100,000. By 2006 the estimate was somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians. For many of these Christians, five principles of faith are daily recited: (1) our persecution and suffering are our joy and honor, (2) we want to accept ridicule, scorn and disadvantages with joy in Jesus’ name, (3) as Christians, we want to wipe others’ tears away and comfort the suffering, (4) we want to be ready to risk our life because of our love for our neighbor, so that they also become Christians and (5) we want to live our lives according to the standards set in God’s Word. (Barnabas Fund)

PERU: IBS-STL Ships Scripture Materials and Blankets to Earthquake Survivors
IBS-STL has shipped thousands of printed scripture materials and blankets to provide hope and comfort to earthquake survivors in Peru. The 15 August 2007 quake registered 8.0 on the Richter scale. It was prolonged, shaking the ground for about two minutes. Hundreds died, thousands were injured and hundreds of thousands can no longer live in their destroyed or damaged homes. IBS-STL assistant director for South America Enrique Balden said, “The suffering is immense. God gives the Peruvian people hope for a new life. Today, more than ever before, the inhabitants of the zones affected by this tragedy need God's Word.” The cargo container from IBS-STL includes 40,668 Spanish scriptures (more than half are for children) and 14,500 blankets. International Bible Society (IBS) and Send The Light (STL) merged as IBS-STL Global on 1 March 2007. The combined organization delivers more Bibles into the hands of more people, in more countries, more efficiently, than either could individually. (International Bible Society)

SIERRA LEONE: Wesleyan Ernest Bai Koroma Elected President
Ernest Bai Koroma, a third generation member of The Wesleyan Church, was elected president of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 17 September 2007. A former insurance executive and minority leader in parliament, he has been called the “hope of the future” by many in his country. However, his government faces a sea of challenges, says Michael J. Carter in a story released by the Inter Press Service in Johannesburg, South Africa. Korona’s term is five years. According to Carter, Koroma “faces a mammoth challenge in improving life for the five million citizens of Sierra Leone where jobs are scarce and many social services almost as hard to come by—and where the shadow of a decade-long civil war still looms large.” (Assist News Service)

SOUTH AFRICA: Sexual Purity Promoted at True Love Waits Summit
True Love Waits International officially launched its initiative to expand its abstinence-until-marriage message throughout Africa during an August summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, attended by representatives from eight African countries. The summit's forty-three participants were guided through a comprehensive True Love Waits International training manual with follow-up lessons. They also heard from leaders in Uganda and Kenya about successes in how the True Love Waits message has been implemented; most of the work True Love Waits has done on the continent has been in these two countries. The common thread that brought the group together was a shared desire to see a movement of God among the youth of their countries through young people committing themselves to God's plan for their sex lives. True Love Waits has been a part of mission strategy for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention for many years. In addition to Uganda and Kenya, True Love Waits is being used in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Swaziland and Mozambique, with a number of missionaries directly involved in the ministry. (Baptist Press)

UNITED KINGDOM: Clergy Should Remove Clerical Collars When Off-Duty
A British Christian group has warned that Catholic and Anglican clergy should remove their clerical collars when off-duty so that they will not be singled-out for attack. National Churchwatch, established in 1998 to advise churches and church workers on security and protection, has said that criminals often target clergymen because they believe they will have money. In 2001, a study by the University of London found that seventy percent of clergy had experienced some form of violence against them over the two-year period between 1997 and 1999, according to Nick Tolson, head of National Churchwatch. (Christian Today)

UNITED STATES: S. Kent Parks Named International Director for MUP
Mission to Unreached Peoples (MUP), an interdenominational agency with mission personnel around the world, will establish another office in Dallas, Texas, USA, under the direction of S. Kent Parks, a veteran of twenty years of Baptist mission service in Southeast Asia. Parks became international director of MUP on 1 November 2007. He will establish the Dallas office and work in cooperation with MUP’s US office in Seattle and Canadian office in Abbotsford, B.C. The 25-year-old MUP agency focuses on spiritual and physical ministries to unreached peoples around the world, and currently has three hundred personnel who raise their own support and serve a number of people groups in twenty-two countries. As MUP’s international director, Parks will focus on helping stimulate a global movement to raise up thousands of strategy teams to reach the almost two billion people who are from the least evangelized people groups. (Mission to Unreached Peoples)

UNITED STATES: John Boyd Named President and CEO of MAF
Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), a faith-based, non-profit ministry that serves missions and isolated people around the world with aviation, communications and learning technologies, has named John Boyd as its new president and chief executive officer, succeeding Kevin Swanson. Boyd, a native of Scotland who grew up in Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, has served with MAF for fifteen years. His varied experience with the ministry includes the roles of pilot, CEO of MAF South Africa and vice president for ministry advancement. Boyd's fields of service have included Zaire/Congo, Haiti, Lesotho and South Africa. Founded in 1945, MAF stations some two hundred missionary families in the remotest regions of twenty-six countries on five continents. MAF serves more than six hundred Christian and humanitarian organizations. The ministry's pilots fly approximately forty thousand flights a year, transporting missionaries, medical personnel, medicines and relief supplies, as well as conducting thousands of emergency medical evacuations. MAF also provides telecommunications services, such as satellite Internet access, high-frequency radios, electronic mail and other wireless systems, in isolated areas. (Mission Aviation Fellowship)

UNITED STATES: Aglow International Opens Chapters in Iraq and Azerbaijan
“Iran, we're coming for you!” said Jane Hansen, president of the global Christian women's organization Aglow International. Hansen made the remarks recently at Aglow's fortieth anniversary conference in Seattle, Washington, USA, after announcing the organization had just opened chapters in Iraq and Azerbaijan. More than five thousand constituents from 138 nations where Aglow operates attended the conference. Aglow International is an organization of Christian women with more than four thousand local groups in nearly 170 countries. It is one of the largest international women's groups, consisting of more than 1,100 local groups in the US alone. An estimated twenty-one thousand Aglow leaders minister in their communities and countries to an estimated seventeen million people each year. (Aglow International)

ZIMBABWE: Country in Rapid Decline, in Need of Help
Christian aid agency Tearfund reports that Zimbabwe is in an increasingly desperate situation, with little food due to drought and poor harvests, and the collapse of civil infrastructure, meaning basic services are no longer available to the majority of Zimbabweans. According to Tearfund international director Peter Grant, “People are dying. It's the very young, the very old, and those with AIDS who are the most vulnerable….As the year goes on with the continuing food shortages, we can expect the situation to get worse, and more people to die.” The crisis has engulfed the cities, where food distributions were rarely seen previously. Middle income school teachers told Tearfund they cannot even afford to buy sugar. HIV and AIDS related illnesses have compounded the suffering, leaving many unable to work in fear and isolation. Unemployment is over eighty percent and those who can find casual work often do so for small amounts of food. Pastor Promise Manceda leads a church in Bulawayo and sees the stark reality: “If the middle classes consider themselves poor, then the most marginalized people in society are hit so much harder. We have to help them—and it is only with God's strength that we are still able to.” (Ekklesia)