When Australian Bible Society executive Daniel Willis visited the weekly Thursday morning Bible study at Dongguan Protestant Church in Shenyang, northeast China, he was greeted by 82-year-old senior pastor Lu Zhi Bin and 5,000 mostly retirees from among her church's 30,000 members. Leaders told him the church, founded by Church of Scotland missionary John Ross in 1866, baptizes 1,000 people each year. Willis was in the area to help organize greater Bible distribution efforts. (He said there are 55,000 Bible distribution points across the country.)
Although Amity Printing Company in Nanjing, a joint partnership between United Bible Societies and Chinese firms, has printed and distributed 40 million Bibles and New Testaments throughout China over the past 20 years, Chinese churches are growing so rapidly there's still a severe shortage, he said. Amity is building a new printing plant that should be operating by year's end, with a new $4 million high-speed printing press from Britain. It will produce 1 million Bibles a month, he said.
Under pressure from critics after booting six evangelical student ministries off campus nine months ago (see "Hoya crackdown," Sept. 16, 2006, and "Singled out," Oct. 14, 2006), officials at Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., reinstated them in May for the fall semester. They include InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Chi Alpha (Assemblies of God).
The ouster occurred after the school's reputedly anemic Protestant chaplaincy office decided to bring the ministries under its own programs and policies, and the ministry leaders balked. University officials blamed a "communications problem." The evangelical groups will now be part of their own self-governing Council of Affiliated Protestant Ministries, working closely with the chaplaincy and each other to ensure students' faith needs are met. They must agree not to use "coercive techniques or manipulative appeals" in campus witness efforts.
In April, InterVarsity settled its lawsuit against the University of Wisconsin. UW-Superior campus administrators had warned they would "derecognize" the ministry's student chapter there because InterVarsity requires student officers to affirm a statement of faith. UW officials claimed the requirement violated nondiscrimination policies. IV sued. When shown case law on First Amendment issues, the officials backed off.
InterVarsity has 843 student chapters on 573 U.S. college and university campuses.
ADVOCACY: Bob Edgar, Methodist minister and former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, announced he will not seek a third four-year term as general secretary of the National Council of Churches, a post he has held since 2000. Instead, he will head the national liberal advocacy group, Common Cause, where he long has been a governing board member. Edgar rescued the NCC from near financial collapse, and since then has led the ecumenical council in issuing statements mirroring liberal positions on social issues and criticizing the Bush administration. On paper, the NCC has 35 member denominations and other faith groups, many of them relatively inactive in NCC affairs.
POLITICS: GOP presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee withdrew as a speaker from former president Jimmy Carter's Jan. 2008 Baptist convocation. Carter aims to use the event to unite North American Baptists and polish their public image in a more moderate gloss than seen among many Southern Baptists. Critics dismiss the effort as politically motivated. Huckabee canceled after Carter in an Arkansas newspaper interview bashed the Bush administration as "the worst in history."