CHRISTIAN TODAY DIGEST - AUTUMN 2010

From:-
TORCH TRUST, Torch House, Torch Way, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HL, U.K.
Telephone: +44 (0)1858 438260, Fax: +44 (0)1858 438275, email: info@torchtrust.org
Charity Number 1095904.

Contents

[This magazine has been jointly edited by Christian Today and Torch Trust for the Blind. All the articles were first published on the Christian Today website www.christiantoday.com over the last three months.]

Welcome!

Thank you once again for all your encouraging comments about Christian Today Digest. Do keep them coming - good or otherwise!

October 23rd is the day for this year's Torch Thanksgiving. We're at Brighton Road Baptist Church, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 5BD. The thanksgiving Celebration meeting is from 2:00 to 3:30 pm, followed by refreshments and plenty of time to chat to people from Torch, browse our books, Christmas cards, calendars and lots more. We hope you'll be able to join us.

Talking of books, we're busy preparing some Christmas reading for you.

For advent, we have A Handful of Light, by Michael Mitton, published by Bible Reading Fellowship. It's available to borrow or buy in DAISY, giant print or braille at £7.99. And here's a snapshot of the book: Advent and Christmas fall during the dark winter months in the northern hemisphere, when days are short, temperatures low and the prospect of spring remote. Taking the theme of "hope" and interweaving it with the themes of light and darkness found throughout the Bible, Michael Mitton has written readings for every day of the season, from 1 December to 6 January.

Also, to buy or borrow, we have Advent Hope, by Joel Edwards, published by Crusade For World Revival and available in DAISY, giant print and braille at £6.99. In this Advent guide, Joel Edwards takes us on a journey of hope through the pages of Scripture. The Bible overflows with hope. During the season of Advent particularly, we can focus on the hope brought to the world through the coming of Christ, and how His life in us can help us deal with past disappointments, choose to take hold of God's hope today and go out into the world to bring hope to others.

For Christmas itself, this year we're offering Carol, by Bob Hartman, a Lion book. A modern retelling of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Jack O'Malley hates shopping, snow and even Christmas. All three at once is Jack's idea of a very bad day. When he runs into someone very mysterious, Jack's in for a shock ... Carol is available to buy or borrow in DAISY, giant print and braille at £5.99.

Karen Kingsbury is a much-loved author in the Torch Library. This year we've produced her book of true stories, A Treasury Of Christmas Miracles, to buy at £6.99 or to borrow. It's available in DAISY, giant print and braille.

Y Christmas, by Jeff Lucas, is a free booklet on audio CD, giant print and braille. This is an ideal booklet to give to blind or partially sighted people who may not know what Christmas is really all about. We throw ourselves into Christmas, usually without asking Why. What's it all about? What's the reason for the season? Please do ask us for as many copies as you can use.

And if you're at a loose end over Christmas and would rather not be alone, why not book for our holiday at High Leigh, a beautiful old house in the heart of Hertfordshire. Christmas dinner in the splendid old banqueting hall, surrounded by everyone celebrating Jesus our saviour's birth, is quite some experience. Isn't it good to be a member of God's world-wide family! To book or enquire, call Gail on 01273 832282 or email holidays@torchtrust.org.

Sheila and the editorial team.

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500 days of prayer for the nation

Several hundreds of Christians from across the globe gathered at the Emmanuel Christian Centre in central London on August 1 for the launch of an historic prayer chain.

Organised by Celebration for the Nations and Global Day of Prayer (GDOP) London, believers from South Korea, Spain, South America, Africa and the UK came together for a powerful evening as GDOP London began 500 days of non-stop prayer and fasting for the nation.

Celebration for the Nations coordinator Gail Dixon and the Team are very excited about this season of non-stop prayer.

"We have already taken a day to pray 24 hours and we will be mobilising hundreds if not thousands of South Koreans to pray during these 500 days for Great Britain," a Korean spokesperson said.

GDOP London has been working with as many different national and denominational groups of Christians to mobilise prayer across the land in preparation for a mighty move of God.

"This chain of non-stop prayer, day and night, up to and including a national day of prayer at Wembley Stadium in September 2011 and beyond is of tremendous significance for the future of this nation," said GDOP London Convener Jonathan Oloyede who was thrilled with the large and enthusiastic turn out at Sunday night's event.

As this non-stop prayer was mobilised, Oloyede led the whole assembly in a great shout to the Lord, followed by fervent prayers that the gospel would be unleashed to every school, every village, every hamlet, every community, every town and every city in Great Britain.

Oloyede has been travelling up and down the country in the lead up to this launch, mobilising an army of intercessors to sign up for this 500 days of prayer as momentum builds towards next year's historic day of prayer at the country's national stadium. Already a number of Christian organisations and denominations are getting behind this prayer chain including the Evangelical Alliance.

"There is tremendous power when the church comes together to seek God. The social and spiritual transformation of our nation will happen as churches unite in prayer and action," said Evangelical Alliance General Director Steve Clifford.

Dr Jonathan Oloyede: "Right now all over the country, prayer is exploding in so many vibrant and creative ways. I love the idea of churches of all sizes and expressions, committing themselves to be a part of the 500 day prayer challenge - the possibilities are without limit and I encourage churches to get involved in this initiative."

GDOP London is urging Christians from all denominations and ethnic backgrounds to sign up their churches to take part in this prayer chain and be part of seeing revival renewal and transformation in the UK.

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Bible translation work in Tanzania

This Bible Sunday on October 24 will see churches across the UK find out more about vital Bible translation work taking place in Tanzania.

Christians are being asked to support the Bible Society's translation work there, which includes the first ever translation of the New Testament into the Kikagulu language, spoken by hundreds of thousands of Tanzanians.

Prayers for Bible Sunday will feature 33-year-old farmer Josephine Mkala-Mungi, a member of the Kikagulu tribe who until now had to use a Bible written in the national language, Swahili.

She said: "It feels as if God is my best friend because he is now speaking to me directly. I read how to keep my faith and how to forgive others. I didn't understand these things before."

Josephine was one of the luckier ones. Fifty-six per cent of the Kikagulu tribe cannot speak Swahili, meaning that the Bible has virtually been a closed book for them until now.

Translator Michael Nhonya has spent four years working on the new Kikagulu Bible.

He said: "This is great. To finally hear and read it feels like I'm in heaven. It feels like Jesus is speaking in the synagogue, only he's speaking here. It means that Christianity will grow here."

The theme for Bible Sunday 2010 is "Free to go", emphasising the way in which translating God's Word into native languages sets people free as believers. It takes as its inspiration Luke 4:16-21, the scene where Jesus stands up and reads from Isaiah in the synagogue, declaring that he has come to set the captives free.

Lindsay Shaw, who is overseeing this year's Bible Sunday, said: "In Tanzania the Bible has set people like Josephine Mkala-Mungi Free to Go as believers, with a new understanding of God's Word. This Bible Sunday we are encouraging Christians here to read and understand the Bible, and to let its message set them 'Free to Go' beyond church into every moment of their lives."

He cautioned, however, that not all colleagues may be happy about having the Bible brought into the workplace. He said, "Of course, you'll want to bear in mind your conditions of employment when deciding whether to take your Bible to work and please be considerate towards others who may not share your views."

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Call for prayers for aid workers in Afghanistan

Release International is calling on Christians to pray for aid workers in Afghanistan following the murder of ten aid workers there.

Release CEO Andy Dipper said the deadly attack on workers for International Assistance Mission, including British doctor Karen Woo, was evidence of a growing danger to Christian relief workers in the country, as well as Afghan converts to the Christian faith.

"Christians living and working in Afghanistan face the added risk of being accused of proselytism, in addition to practising their own faith privately and in community," said Dipper, who worked in disaster management in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2005.

The Afghan government recognises only one church, the Community Christian Church of Kabul, while most Christians gather in homes.

Dipper continued: "What risk do Christians pose to the Taliban? The Christian community have a vital part to play in the building of the nation, inspired by God to serve, driven with passion to love, and selflessly focused on those more needy than themselves."

Dipper fears the latest killings will only make it harder to deliver aid to people in need in Afghanistan.

"The whole climate for aid workers in Afghanistan has changed," he said. "Humanitarian workers are in a very vulnerable position, even more so because of the very recent tragic incident. Hundreds of humanitarian aid workers are striving under incredible pressure to deliver assistance to where it is most needed, and to build community infrastructure. They are empowering Afghans to build a future for their country - one where they have hope."

Dipper called on Christians to pray for the protection of Christians continuing to serve in Afghanistan in spite of the dangers.

Through its international network of missions, Release supports Christians imprisoned for their faith and their families in 30 nations. It supports church workers, pastors and their families, and provides training, Bibles, Christian literature and broadcasts.

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Campaign group calls on governments to cancel Pakistan's debt

Jubilee Debt Campaign is calling on governments and international institutions to freeze Pakistan's debt.

The group, whose members include the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Evangelical Alliance and Christian Aid, fears the country's annual $3 billion debt may dwarf the levels of emergency aid being committed to the country in the wake of devastating floods. Vast areas of Pakistan have been deluged by heavy monsoon rains in a disaster that has been compared to the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and the massive earthquake that struck Haiti in January.

The Jubilee Debt Campaign expressed concerns over the World Bank's decision to give Pakistan nearly $3 billion in new loans to cope with the disaster, rather than provide grant-aid.

The UN said it had so far raised 70 per cent of the $460 million funds needed to help Pakistan but the Jubilee Debt Campaign said that even this sum may be dwarfed by debt repayments "unless serious relief is instituted".

The group is calling on the British Government specifically to repudiate its loans to Pakistan on the grounds of a "state of necessity" and call on bilateral and multilateral creditors to institute a two year moratorium on all debt service payments from Pakistan. It also wants to see the British Government lead efforts towards the establishment of up-front funding for disaster preparation related to climate change.

Nick Dearden, Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said it was "criminal" that Pakistan was being made to repay borrowers who had extended "unjust loans" to military governments over decades.

"It is vital that desperately needed emergency aid is not effectively swallowed up in debt repayments and a freeze on such payments must be called immediately," he said. "But the international community also needs to accept responsibility for the poverty of Pakistan. If Pakistan is to build up the infrastructure to withstand such appalling disasters in future it must be freed from its debt trap."

He called for a debt audit on Pakistan and for the immediate cancellation of any debts found to be "unjust and unbeneficial". He added: "Most certainly supposedly anti-poverty institutions like the World Bank should not be making Pakistan's debts even worse."

Unicef's director of emergency operations, Louis-George Arsenault, expressed his dismay at the lack of international support being shown to Pakistan despite millions experiencing hunger and homelessness. Arsenault said it was the worst humanitarian crisis he had seen in decades.

"Right now, our level of needs in terms of funding is huge compared to what we've been receiving," said Arsenault.

The Disasters Emergency Committee in the UK renewed its appeal as it warned that the scale of destruction caused by the floods was on a par with Haiti and the Asian tsunami. The British public's donations to the DEC's emergency appeal have topped £29 million.

The floods have killed at least 1,600 people and left millions homeless, prompting fears from Christians in Pakistan that Islamic extremists may win more converts through the distribution of aid. One Pakistani Christian overseeing the aid efforts of Barnabas Fund said: "The Islamists are helping people in areas where even the government has failed to reach.

"In the time of need, the government's slow response has given them [the extremists] the opportunity to win the hearts of the affected people."

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Christendom is over in the West

The new principal of the International Christian College says the end of Christendom is the biggest challenge facing the church in the West.

Richard Tiplady started in his new role as principal of ICC this month after departing from European Christian Mission, where he had been British Director for the last six years. He spoke of the need to re-think church in a post-Christendom and increasingly plural context.

"The biggest challenge we have to face in the West in our mission is to accept that Christendom is over; that we are no longer in a privileged position of power in society and that we do ourselves no service - we do the gospel no service - to clamour to bring it back.

"I think that means we need to think again about how we live as Christians, the purpose of Church, discipleship, and the function of church leadership," he said.

Tiplady spoke of his passion to see a new generation of Christians released and growing in ministry and even more lives transformed by the gospel.

"The heartbeat of my Christian life and of my spirituality is mission ... the gospel is good news and I want to see more lives turned around. So it doesn't matter where I am or what job I do, it's that sense of mission that will drive me in any ministry, or in anything." He continued: "We need to be training Christian leaders who are going to be able to navigate that environment, able to lead God's people to be comfortable with it and faithful to God in a new landscape. We have a fantastic opportunity and an enormous privilege and a huge responsibility to do that as a college."

Speaking of his vision for ICC, Tiplady said he wanted to see the college develop a stronger missional tone "so that when students leave here they know who they are in Christ and what he has equipped them to do".

He outlined his plan to hold a consultation with staff to define what "missional" would mean for the college.

"I suspect it is a very diverse expression," he said. "For me, the core meaning is that of 'being sent'. As Christ was sent by the Father so he sends us. That is fundamental to our Christian identity, to be sent into the world, all the worlds that we inhabit - because there are many worlds that we are part of and should be part of."

Tiplady said that another challenge lay in reducing the "psychological distance" between Scotland and England and bringing more attention to ICC.

He succeeds Tony Sargent, who retired as principal of ICC last year after 11 years in the post.

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Films can help church reach the unchurched

A young pastor who has planted a new church in South London says films can help the church reach the people beyond its walls.

Michael Kosmas, 23, has just planted Kingdom Assembly in Deptford. One of its first ministries is the KA Film Club, which will invite members of the local community to come and watch a movie each month for free. The films screened promise to be family friendly and contain a spiritual theme.

Kosmas believes that movies are a good way of sharing the Christian faith in a culture relevant to the community. He said he hoped the film club could help people to think about the role of spirituality in their lives and the positive benefits of a relationship with God.

"Films are a very popular art form and as well as being a great form of entertainment, they give people the opportunity to explore different worlds from the comfort of their armchairs and also introduce them to new life-changing perspectives," he said.

The film screenings will be followed by an audience discussion to give people the opportunity to reflect on the spiritual themes.

The first movie to be screened is The Blind Side, which tells the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless teenager who was taken in by a Christian family and went on to become a professional footballer. "It demonstrates how through love and support, a young disadvantaged man is able to utilise his God given talent and make a success of his life," said Kosmas. "All the films screened will be family films, so we are hoping different generations of family will attend KA Film club screenings, so they'll learn about God and also build stronger relationships with each other."

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Love thy neighbour to beat poverty in London

Poverty is one of the most significant issues facing the capital, says the Bishop of London.

The Rt Rev Richard Chartres was writing in London's Evening Standard in support of the newspaper's campaign to raise £1 million for hard-up Londoners. He said much progress had been made since the 1800s, when the dreadful living conditions of London's working classes earned the capital the nickname "the city of dreadful night".

"Looking back can reinforce hope that real improvement can be made with the right kind of passion and wisdom," he said.

The bishop warned that the disparities between the wealthy and deprived areas in London were "stark". Poverty was, he said, inhibiting social mobility and stifling the ambitions of many of the capital's young people.

Around 650,000 people attend worship at one of the 4,000 churches in Greater London. Many churches provide facilities for the most deprived people in their communities, including healthy eating programmes, debt counselling and free childcare.

Bishop Chartres said the thousands of churches were a "massive potential asset as the capital faces hard times". He said the eradication of poverty required "the resources that only governments can provide" but added that long-term change would only be sustainable if communities were strong and "given the means and the vision to seek local solutions".

"If we start to build 'the small society' the transforming effect, especially in our wired-up world, could be immense," he said.

He paid tribute to Christians serving in their communities and encouraged Londoners to love their neighbours.

"Love for God is not an emotion but costly self giving of the kind Christians see in the cross of Jesus Christ," he said. "It has become unfashionable to own up to such a motivation but whatever our personal motives it is undeniable that if we all loved our neighbour within our small slice of society then we could all glimpse something more like the heavenly Jerusalem in London town."

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Over 23 million Christians in China

Christians in China now number just over 23 million, according to the results of the communist country's first official faith survey.

Although that figure amounts to only 1.8% of the total population, it represents 73 per cent of China's religious population.

The figures were contained in the newly published Blue Book on China Religions, compiled by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, an academic unit under the control of the Chinese government, according to China Daily.

The academy looked at the responses of over 60,000 questionnaires carried out in more than 300 locations across China. Among the Christians interviewed, 69% of them said that they had converted to Christianity because they or their family members had fallen ill. A staggering 70% of those describing themselves as Christian were female and 67% of all Christians surveyed said they had been baptised.

The academy attributed the growth to societal reform over the last three decades, with 73% of Chinese Christians having joined the church after 1993, and only 18% having joined the church between 1982 and 1992.

Fu Xianwei, who heads the body that ensures churches follow state interests, was quoted as saying by China Daily: "These statistics clearly indicate that the 30-year period of reform and opening up has been a period of rapid development for both Chinese society and the Chinese church."

Researchers noted a change in church demographics, with more young people, intellectuals and professionals joining the church in recent years. To cope with the increase in number, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of churches in China, which now number more than 55,000.

Researchers noted that although the church had grown, Christian communities are still marginalised in society. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said on its website that Christianity mainly attracts people with low social status, including the poor, the women and older people.

It said that while 50% of Christians had completed their primary education, only 2.6% of them attained college education or higher.

There are different estimates on the total number of Christians in China when attendance at unregistered churches is taken into account, with figures ranging from 40 million to 130 million.

The Blue Book also touched on figures for Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism. It said that the number of Catholics in China was 5.7 million.

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BBC's religious literacy

The Church of England has called upon the BBC to appoint a Religion Editor to improve religious literacy within its news and current affairs sector.

The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, the Bishop of Manchester and the Church of England's chief spokesman on communications, said that the post of BBC Religion Editor could cover radio, TV and online output. He argued that there was "no logical distinction between the genre of arts, science and business and that of religion, the landscape of which likewise demands a 'trusted guide' for both internal and external stakeholders. We urge the Trust and Executive to give serious consideration to this proposal; one that is intended as much for the benefit of people of no particular faith as for those of faith."

His comments were made as part of the Church of England's submission to a consultation being held by the BBC Trust as part of its review of Radio 3, Radio 4 and Radio 7. The submission singles out Radio 4 for praise, noting that it transmitted more than the required number of hours of religious programming. It goes on to commend the BBC for its commitment to high quality radio that explores ethical and religious themes.

"The BBC stations under review broadcast an unparalleled range and depth of religious programming which deserves grateful acknowledgement by all those concerned with increasing mutual understanding between people of all faiths and none," it states.

The submission praises programmes such as Daily Service, Choral Evensong, Sunday, Moral Maze and Something Understood, as well as award-winning one-off documentaries like Twin Sisters, Two Faith.

It said such programmes helped to present "an authentic portrayal of Christian worship alongside in-depth discussions and explorations of religious and ethical themes".

The Church's submission also suggests that the future for a rebranded BBC Radio 7 relies on a clear identity as an enhancement of Radio 4's output.

"We could envisage, and we would welcome, a station that included extended interviews with key public figures, and that had more freedom to experiment with the opportunities for interaction with audiences afforded by new media," it states. "Religious content would form a natural ingredient in a fresh station devoted to 'going deeper' into the nation's psyche."

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Salvation before politics

The Assemblies of God may not be on the frontlines, broadcasting their positions on political issues, but that's a calculative move, according to the head of the denomination.

"We've never wanted our political position to become a barrier to first and fundamentally reaching people with the saving news of Jesus Christ. So we've been careful not to elevate our political message above the salvific message," said General Superintendent Dr George O Wood.

Wood was responding to a question during a recent live online Q&A session which asked him why it was that other denominations often seem to step forward to share their positions on political issues well before the Assemblies of God.

While the Pentecostal Church does issue statements on issues like abortion and immigration, Wood believes caution is a good thing, especially when their mission is to reach unchurched people. If a visitor walked into a church where there were sign-up tables for political causes, the visitor may first see the church's political stance and never sit down to hear the gospel message, he said.

"The political cause turns them away from an opportunity to first reach their heart and soul and their eternal destiny," he explained. "We are concerned first with the eternal destiny of people because we believe there is salvation in no one other than in Jesus Christ. We don't want to put up any roadblocks that hinder us getting that message out that Jesus Christ came to save us from our sins and to give us eternal life."

Moreover, once a person becomes a follower of Jesus, as the new believer studies the Bible, that will inform their political and personal opinions, he noted.

The Assemblies of God is one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the country with over 1.7 million members and 2.9 million adherents. In contrast to what mainline Protestant denominations have been facing for decades, the Pentecostal body has continued to grow in numbers.

During a recent "Ask the Superintendent" webcast, Wood addressed a number of hot topics, including homosexuality, speaking in tongues and the prosperity gospel. The act of homosexuality represents an offense against God and morality, he said, and that "permanently disqualifies a person from holding ministerial credentials". The church body "may have some latitude if a person has come out of homosexuality and has had an enduring or continuing record of morality in their life," Wood added, with districts - or regional governing bodies - free to look at that on a case by case basis.

Regarding the Assemblies of God's doctrine on "speaking with other tongues", Wood reaffirmed the act as the initial physical evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Just as "the initial physical evidence of being baptised in water is that you are wet, the initial physical evidence of being baptised in the Holy Spirit is speaking in other tongues," Wood said. "This is in the DNA of the Pentecostal movement. It's in our DNA," he said. "One of the aspects of returning to first love and remembering first love is that we go back to the purity of the experience of the Holy Spirit that our forefathers had."

The superintendent encouraged pastors and churches to preach on such spiritual gifts in order to see an increase in spirit baptisms.

"Where something is not preached, where it's not emphasised, where it's not taught, it doesn't happen," he said.

He insisted that the "focus on the Holy Spirit is so that we might enhance the personality and the power and presence of Jesus Christ in our lives and in our churches."

Turning to the prosperity gospel, Wood rejected the notion that believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith.

"There are so many gimmicks in the body of Christ, so many charlatans that are out there in the Christian media that are basically saying 'send me $100 and watch God bless you'. This is just nonsense," he asserted. "If the money that has been wasted by Christians on these people who live the lifestyle of kings and queens and do little to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ had been spent instead on mission and on Christian higher education and upon this generation, we would be a lot further down the road than we are and these people are going to answer to God."

Wood elaborated on Scripture passages that mention blessings.

"We have to take the truth of Scripture - the Lord loves a cheerful giver; what you sow, you reap, some 30 fold, some 60 fold, etc. But that also has to be measured against the motive for giving. The motive for giving is not give in order to get. The motive for giving is to bless God, bless his work and bless other people," he explained.

As he set out his vision for the future, Wood said the focus should be on evangelism, discipleship, compassion and worship. Worldwide, the Assemblies of God counts over 64 million members and it hopes to reach 100 million by the year 2020. If the body reaches its goal, it would be among the three largest recognised Christian communities in the world.

"It's not a matter of competition," he said. "We just need to reach unreached people."

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"Scaremongering" over faith schools

The Chief Education Officer for the Church of England has dismissed a TV documentary by prominent atheist Richard Dawkins in which he challenges the place of faith schools within the education system.

In Faith Schools Menace?, which aired on More4 on August 18, Dawkins asserted that faith schools were discriminatory because they admitted pupils on the basis of faith, and that they lead to segregated communities that "throw stones at each other".

He said: "Isn't it time for our society to rethink what is best for children? I want to explore the balance of rights between a parent's rights to educate a child in their own faith and the children's rights to determine their own beliefs and approach the world with a genuinely open mind."

Dawkins, an Oxford University Professor and author of The God Delusion, said that the faith element should be "abolished" from schools altogether. He also expressed his opposition to faith schools being funded by the Government.

"Today we taxpayers fund the running of these schools and also pay up to 90% of the cost of building them. But the problem is that the churches have held on to the special powers in their schools," he said.

There are just under 7,000 schools in England with a religious affiliation, most of them Church of England or Roman Catholic.

Writing on the Church Mouse blog in an article published today, the Rev Janina Ainsworth said Dawkins' documentary was more about "scaremongering" than showing "what actually happens" in faith schools. She said it was an "entirely reasonable approach" to prioritise children from families which support the school's faith designation where it was impossible to offer a place to every child that applied.

She maintained that voluntary-aided schools, which are allowed an element of faith-based criteria in their admissions, "rarely" fill all of their places with applications from Christian families and that voluntary-controlled church schools, which make up more than half of all Church of England schools, admit children solely on the grounds of distance to school.

She argued that there was no evidence in England that faith schools segregated communities and dismissed Dawkins' assertion that faith schools were guilty of indoctrinating students because their RE lessons are not inspected by Ofsted.

"The rising popularity of A level RE shows that pupils' interest in religions and faith is not being stifled by being told there is only one answer," she wrote. "Today's exam syllabuses demand a high level of critical thinking, and the success of pupils in church schools at A level and GCSE shows that's a lesson they have learned well."

She went on to defend the right of parents to have their children educated in line with their religious beliefs and rejected Dawkins' assertion that faith schools should not be paid for by taxpayers' money.

She said: "In a liberal democracy, taxpayers of all faiths and none should be able to see their taxes being used to provide high quality education in a context that reflects their own religious, moral or philosophical commitments."

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Tutu tells South Africa to combat social evils ...

South Africa should combat its social problems with the same spirit it hosted the football World Cup, say church leaders.

The World Cup was wonderful, but it doesn't rule out the fact that the majority of South Africans don't have houses, schools, clinics, running water and many others, Tutu said.

"If we were able to deliver such a project in just six years, imagine what we could have achieved in 20 years," he said.

Some 3.18 million fans attended the 64 matches of the FIFA 2010 World Cup. It turned out to be the most-watched television event in history.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Durban, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said the sporting event had given the country an opportunity to work together. He said it proved South Africa is a nation full of capable people.

"We must use our considerable skill and learning to tackle the most pressing issues in our country: education, healthcare, and criminality and service delivery," he said recently, according to Ecumenical News international.

A survey compiled by the United Nations showed that South Africa was ranked second in the world for murder and first for assaults and rapes per capita.

Official statistics show that 52 people are murdered every day in South Africa. The reported number of rapes per year is 55,000.

In addition to that, an estimated 5.7 million people were living with HIV and AIDS in 2009.

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Workaholics to make time for God and rest

The Bishop of Shrewsbury has advised Britain's exhausted workers to take some time out of their busy schedules and recharge their spiritual batteries.

In a letter to churches in the diocese in August, the Rt Rev Mark Rylands said the British made a virtue out of unceasing work and tended to rely on being busy as a way of feeling important.

"We feel guilty when we're not working and we're suspicious of anyone who lifts their nose from the grindstone too long," he said.

He compared Britain with France, which has more national holidays per year and an annual shutdown in August, when most people head to the beach or mountains for their holidays.

Despite working more hours, he said it was debatable whether Britain was any more productive than its neighbour across the Channel, pointing to the fact that British workers have one of the highest records in Europe for taking days off work due to illness.

"In our fast paced world, tales of emotional exhaustion and spiritual bankruptcy are not uncommon and stress is a recognised illness. People feel stretched and overloaded - indeed it is expected of them!" he said. "We were not, however, designed to be forever on the go. Fast paced lifestyles and little sleep rob us not only of energy but also of relationships."

The bishop said this was a particular danger for the Church "where it is all too easy for work and ministry to become the other woman or man in a marriage". He said society needed to relearn the art of resting and making time for God, and that the church in particular needed to model a healthy rhythm of work and rest. He also said that Jesus, although working long hours teaching and healing, knew how to step away from the demands laid upon him and take time to reconnect with God.

"Exhaustion is a fact of life," he said. "The prophet Isaiah reminds us that even young people grow tired and become weary. He tells us that the remedy for weariness is rest, waiting on God, waiting to be filled with his strength. So if the prophets recognised the need for spiritual refuelling and Jesus prioritised time alone with his father, how much more do we need it?"

Bishop Rylands spoke of his concern for the young and old who "seek oblivion" in alcohol, and the commonplace use of anti-depressants among Brits.

"People are yearning for real rest as the lie of consumerisms' ability to satisfy in any meaningful way is being exposed," he said. "This deep recession gives us an opportunity and a choice. It could mean that we go on blindly working harder and harder to obtain the things we have grown used to possessing; or it could mean a time to take stock and count our blessings for what we enjoy."

He concluded his letter by calling upon the church "as a creator of community" to model the true worth of human beings as men and women made in the image of God.

He said: "Making room for the marginalised and the newcomer, providing opportunities for people to meet, relax, play together and strengthen friendships, is a wonderful way to help people belong and feel cherished."

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