In This Issue
- Featured Story: God-friendly Buddhists seek to engage Muslims
- Polling problems pose new challenges in understanding today’s religion
- New women-based prayer rituals gain pan-Jewish popularity in Israel and beyond
- Current Research: August 2015
- Prospects for future successor to the Dalai Lama uncertain given Chinese-Tibetan relations
- Reformed Christianity finds growing appeal in China
- Megachurches’ future may be brightest outside US
- Homosexuality raises controversy for the New Apostolic Church
- ‘Back to Judaism’ in Indonesia
- Findings & Footnotes: August 2015
- On/File: August 2015
A new approach in Buddhist-Muslim relations and dialogue is for the Buddhist participants to discuss their equivalent of God in order to relate to Islam on a doctrinal level, writes Kieko Obuse in the journal Numen (62). The trend is not coming from those societies facing Muslim-Buddhist conflict and even violence, such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia, but rather from a group of Buddhist thinkers and leaders who have extensive international careers and are concerned with enhancing interreligious harmony and mutual understanding on a global scale. The absence of a belief among Buddhists in a deity who creates and governs the universe has been seen as an obstacle to dialogue with Muslims. But a group of contemporary Buddhist scholars in the Theravada, Tibetan, and Japanese Pure Land traditions have sought to “overcome the psychological gap between Buddhists and Muslims created by perceived doctrinal remoteness between the two traditions, by drawing parallels between the Islamic concept of God and Buddhist notions of the ultimate reality…” Obuse writes. Such Buddhist notions of emptiness and Amida Buddha as a personified God taking many forms have been put to use by key thinkers as Bhikkhu Beddhadasa, Alexander Berzin and Rikyu Kono to create common ground between Buddhism and Islam.
Berzin, a Tibetan Buddhist scholar associated with the Dalai Lama, has been particularly active in adopting ideas conducive to fostering peaceful relations between the two religions. He has sought to develop such concepts as Buddhists as “People of the Book,” and Buddha as being one of the prophets in the Islamic tradition (and thus also viewing Muhammad as one of the historical emanations from the Adi Buddha). These thinkers tend to embrace “parallelism,” which seeks to equate and draw connections between the two views of God — a minority position among most Buddhist theologians. Thus, they claim that the Buddhist view of God as formless and an abstract creating principle can relate to Islam’s view that Allah is not personified (though downplaying Allah’s personal attributes). Obuse concludes that there’s a personal and grassroots dimension to these theological innovations, as suggested by Kono’s work as a Jodo-shin monk who works with both Muslims and Buddhists on interfaith relations, as well as a concern to “communicate potentially conflict-resolving, peace-building perspectives in order to promote interreligious harmony and world peace.”
Religious polling is facing the same loss of confidence from the public and other problems as polling in general, but surveys on religion may face particular challenges, writes sociologist Robert Wuthnow in First Things magazine (Aug./Sept.). In an article adapted from his forthcoming book on religion and polling, Wuthnow writes that religion polling’s use of a single method rather than multiple methods without extensive knowledge of religion itself has plagued the enterprise from its beginnings in the 1940s. There has been growing distrust of polling results, with public approval dropping from 80 percent in the 1980s to 34 percent in 2006. In a similar way, the response rates in polling have decreased significantly — from the 65 to 75 percent range in the 1980s to about 10 percent today. This is especially problematic since religion polling does not have the benchmarks used by political polling provided by election results. Wuthnow notes that those who tend to respond to surveys are also more likely to volunteer for other things as well.
Such responders are also more likely to attend religious services, to be evangelical Protestant, and to regard themselves as personally religious. This flaw in polling can cause serious inaccuracies in estimating church attendance. Gallup polls and similar surveys that have estimated attendance around 40 percent (100 million attendees) stand in contrast to academic surveys with good response rates, which find that the estimates are by about 30 million. When national surveys are inaccurate, regional polls are likely to be off the mark also. “Reporting that the population of one state is more religiously active than the population of another state, for example, is meaningless unless the bias from low response rates in the two states is known to be equal,” Wuthnow writes. Even the polling results about the growth of the non-affiliated may be missing a more important development: “The responses particular individuals give when pollsters call do not hold steady apart from minor incremental changes associated with aging or marriage…Between a third and a half of pollees give different responses a year later even to relatively straightforward questions about religious preferences and attendance.”
(First Things, 35 E. 21st St., Sixth Fl., New York, NY 10010)
Rituals known as “amen ceremonies,” which involve group prayer and sharing of personal stories, needs and alleged miracles, have caught on among both observant and non-observant women in Israel and more recently Europe and the U.S., writes Rivka Neriya-Ben Shahar in the journal Contemporary Jewry (July). Amen ceremonies consist of women sitting in a circle, sharing food and praying, specifically in the form of each woman asking for a blessings related to a particular food group and the others responding “amen.” For example, the blessing for baked goods is related to earning a livelihood; wine is related to marriage and fruit to children. This leads into a period when women recite the names of people who require prayer and assistance and share their own problems. The ritual is based on biblical and Talmudic injunctions to recite 100 blessings daily.
The ceremonies were originally designed for children but young women and then their parents gradually participated. Today, the amen-meals “industry” includes at least five rabbis who work throughout Israel and many others who conduct local ceremonies on a national and international level. Most participants in Israel are from Sephardic communities and show diverse levels of observance. Ben Shahar, who observed the ceremonies and interviewed 53 participants, writes that women who get involved in these groups feel a strong sense of spiritual connection to God and with one another, but they also believe their prayers have the ability to change reality and offer practical help to people. The author concludes that even if participants are not feminists, these rituals “offer a space that enables the women to experience a sense of empowerment and self-realization” apart from men that counters their marginality in many other aspects of Jewish life.
(Contemporary Jewry, http://link.springer.com/journal/12397
01: There is still a Presbyterian (or Calvinist) difference at work in the way that these Christians show high levels of optimism, volunteering, happiness and generalized trust, writes William Weston in the social science journal Society (July/August). Weston analyzes recent data from the Presbyterian Panel comparing them with the results of the General Social Survey and the Baylor Religion Survey, and he finds that while mainline Protestant identity is associated with higher community volunteering and other “civic virtues,” the rate is more robust among Presbyterians on several measures. He finds that Presbyterians have held on to higher levels of trust than has the population as a whole. On the value of “trusting optimism,” Weston compared figures from the baseline of the 1972 American National Election Survey with 2014 Presbyterian Panel results and finds that 35 percent of the former were trusting optimists compared with 74 percent of the Presbyterians (though the Presbyterian Panel did not offer an “optimistic” or pessimistic” option). In comparing the larger population with Presbyterians, specifically members of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Weston finds that the latter scores higher. When focusing on Presbyterian elders, the differences are even greater: The general population was 30 percent very happy, 54 percent pretty happy, and 16 percent not too happy while the elders were 40 percent very happy, 54 percent pretty happy, and 6 percent not too happy.
02: A new study shows that Latinos make up more than half of all families in the Catholic Church in the U.S. The study, conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, finds that 54 percent of young couples in the 25 to 45-year-old age range said they were Latino or Hispanic. This is in comparison with the 32 percent of the overall adult Latino/Hispanic Catholic population. While many of these young Hispanic families may speak English, they are culturally Latino. The study, which is based on a 2014 CARA survey of 1,104 young families, found that 22 percent of respondents attend Mass weekly, which is similar to the overall Catholic adult population. Parents with a teenager at home were more likely to attend Mass weekly than those with an infant (26 percent to 18 percent). The survey also found that only 42 percent of weekly Mass-goers have a child enrolled in religious education programs, compared to 27 percent of monthly attendees.
03: Religion is one of several factors that make a difference in shaping one’s ethics regarding tax evasion, with Buddhists showing the most opposition to the practice and members of the Baha’i showing the least, according to an international study in the online Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies (Summer). The study, conducted by Serkan Benk (Inonu University, Turkey), Robert McGhee (Fayetteville State University), and Bahadir Yusbasi (Inonu University), is based on Wave 6 (2010-2014) of the World Values Survey asking about attitudes on tax evasion and such religious variables as attendance at religious services, rate of belief in God, importance of religion and frequency of the practice of prayer, as well as control variables on socio-economic conditions, social bonds and general views on society.
Following Buddhists, those least likely to justify cheating on taxes were Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians and Baha’i. The authors note the anomaly that the Baha’i faith is emphatic that tax evasion is never justified, with the sole exception being cases of religious persecution. “Apparently, the members of the Baha’i faith have views that differ from that of their official religious literature.” Along with the religious variables, the control variables of happiness, the importance of democracy, and being on the left side of the political spectrum increased respondents’ opposition to cheating on taxes.
(Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, http://www.jsri.ro/)
04: Catholics have been given a boost in their numbers in Britain from the significant influx of Polish immigrants in recent years, according to figures reported in The Tablet magazine (June 27). A report from the Office for National Statistics and the Home office finds that the 2011 census showed that almost half of the foreign-born population identified with a white ethnic group, and of these a sizeable minority (528,000) were from Poland. The census report also shows that of the foreign-born population in England and Wales nearly half (48 percent) identified as Christian, and a fifth identified as Muslim, with only one in seven having no religion.
As the Dalai Lama reached the age of 80 on July 6, the question of his succession seems to be more than ever clouded with uncertainties related to the situation of Chinese-Tibetan relations. It’s unclear due to tensions between the Tibetan exile government seeking a diplomatic solution with the Chinese and Tibetans (especially the Tibetan Youth Congress) who continue to seek full independence for their country, writes journalist and Tibet expert Klemens Ludwig in the journal Materialdienst der Evangelischen Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen (July). After the Dalai Lama retired from his political position on behalf of the Tibetan community in 2011, he stated that there might not be a 15th Dalai Lama after him. If there is one, the current Dalai Lama has already ruled out that it could take place on territory under Chinese control. On the opposite side, not only does the Chinese Communist government want to see a reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, but Chinese officials also claim that their government holds the ultimate authority for deciding such issues. As early as 2007, the agency in charge of religious affairs in China decreed that tulkus could only be recognized if they would be found on territory controlled by China.
From a communist viewpoint, maintaining such institutions is important because they allow for potential of control in the religious field; without central institutions, this could prove much more difficult. While a communist Dalai Lama would find no acceptance among Tibetans, such a successor might still have some international impact at a time when so many countries are courting China for economic reasons. The institution of the Dalai Lama was born in the 16th century and assumed both religious and political power in the 17th century. While the Dalai Lama leaves open the issue of a successor — who would probably never be able to enter his country — or ending the institution, recent research conducted among exile Tibetans shows that a huge majority of them consider the continuation of the institution of the Dalai Lama as very important. On the other hand, they see the role of the Dalai Lama as having evolved: it is no longer limited to Tibet, and the Dalai Lama now has a worldwide mission, something emphasized by the Nobel Peace Prize he received, in their view. Thus a role for the promotion of global peace is now attributed to the Dalai Lama by his followers.
(Materialdienst der EZW, Auguststrasse 80, 10117 Berlin, Germany – www.ezw-berlin.de
Both Reformed (or Calvinistic) theology and church practice are finding growing appeal among Christians in China, reports Paul Peng in China Source (June 26), an online evangelical Chinese newsletter. Peng writes that Reformed thought has becoming increasingly influential among Chinese Christians, largely due to the translation of Reformed literature into Chinese and the evangelistic and teaching ministries of such church leaders as Pastors Stephen Tong and Samuel Ling. More recently, these Calvinistic currents of thought have been translated into church practices and church planting. Peng writes that churches are formalizing their confessions and church bylaws based on classic Reformed documents, such as the Westminster Standards.
Presbyterian forms of church government are also being implemented to connect churches that share the same confession, as well as to create a broader structure to enforce doctrinal authority. A similar structure is developing among a network of Reformed Baptist churches. The growth of Christian schooling is also related to this trend, as a large percentage of these fledgling institutions in China have a Reformed background, seeking to teach a “holistic, biblical worldview.” The practice of Christian disciplines prominent among the Reformed, such as holding family worship, pastoral care, and other spiritual disciplines has also proved attractive. Spreading these practices and structures are several Reformed church planting initiatives that are informed by what Peng calls a “kingdom theology” that has broken “away from tribalism” and is strongly outreach-oriented.
(China Source, http://www. Chinasource.org)
Megachurches abroad now have the higher average attendance in the world, even though the vast majority of megachurches are still in the United States, reports the Washington Post (July 24). While there are 230 to 500 such churches elsewhere in the world, the Hartford Institute estimates that there are about three times more megachurches in the United States. In America, the median weekly attendance is about 2,750, while the median weekly in world megachurches is nearly 6,000. One factor behind the larger church sizes on other continents is a lack of alternatives for believers. “Outside the United States, it takes a large amount of charisma and capital to create a megachurch,” said Scott Thumma of the Hartford Institute. In the United States, however, competition among megachurches is more intense because it is easier to establish such communities. “It is harder to be massive here in U.S.,” Thumma adds, citing zoning laws, safety inspections, construction and property costs.
Attendance is particularly high in western and eastern Africa: At least 25 of the region’s churches are in Nigeria. The country’s population is set to reach about 900 million by 2100, likely contributing to a further evangelical growth. In demographically shrinking European countries, Protestant megachurches already seem to be fairly absent from the south of the continent where Catholicism still holds sway. Those in Africa, Asia and South America dwarf the sizes of northern European megachurches. “The spread of the megachurch model will continue in the developing regions of the globe,” Thumma says. “I expect the most rapid growth to be in Asian countries as they continue to develop and populations concentrate in massive urban areas from rural communities.” Such developments could be especially groundbreaking in China, which has so far restricted the growth of religious assemblies or communities.
Jean-Luc Schneider, the Chief Apostle of the 10 million-strong New Apostolic Church (NAC), has recently spoken in favor of a more liberal ethical approach toward homosexuality during a March trip to Canada. However, it remains to be seen how African faithful — who now make 80 percent of the worldwide membership of the German-born movement — will react toward such moves, writes Protestant theologian Kai Funkschmidt in the journal Materialdienst der Evangelischen Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen, (July). Schneider put into question a focus on homosexuality as sin because it is not a topic either in the Ten Commandments or in Jesus’ message. True, the Chief Apostle said it is condemned in the Old Testament (along with the consumption of pork) and in the New Testament (along with drinking or power-hungry attitudes). This cannot be ignored, but ethical obsession with sexuality should be seen as a legacy of Roman Catholicism, with its gradation of sins. Schneider emphasized that greed for money is much worse than homosexuality.
There is an ongoing dialogue between church authorities and Rainbow-NAC since 2003, with annual meetings. A group for homosexual, bisexual and transsexual Christians in the New Apostolic Church, Rainbow-NAC is allowed to have a display table at the International Church Convention. While ministerial duties are not accessible currently to people living in a homosexual partnerships, the possibility to bless (or pray for) homosexual partnerships has existed since 2009 in the New Apostolic Church; however, the use of such blessings varies from one area to another, including Europe. Some NAC ministers acting cautiously invoke the impact it might have in places such as Russia and, most of all, Africa. In the NAC as in other denominations, the divide between a relatively liberal approach toward homosexuality in the West and a much more conservative one in Africa and some other places of the world will continue to be a source of potential tensions and controversies, with Africans resenting any suspected primacy of Western concerns.
Beside a handful of native-born Jews residing in Indonesia, seventy-seven Indonesians have officially converted, while 200 more are on their way to conversion, reports photographer Anna Clare Spelman, who documents Jewish migration to Asia, in Jerusalem Report (July 13). Scattered around islands of Indonesia, there are reported to be people of Jewish-Dutch heritage — since Dutch rule lasted from the 17th to the mid-20th century. Dutch settlers with Jewish roots are said to have often disguised their identity; they intermarried with Indonesian women, sometimes keeping a Jewish surname, but affiliating either with Christianity or with Islam.
A rediscovery of Jewish roots is often said to have been the starting point leading to conversion; in some cases, the knowledge of a Jewish legacy was reportedly transmitted within the family. But most of the new Indonesian Jews “found their path to Judaism by the way of the church,” writes Spelman. Messianic congregations allow members to combine Jewish tradition and ethnicity and faith in Jesus. Some felt, however, that this was going only half way, and decided to fully embrace Judaism. The United Indonesian Jewish Community (UJIC), which claims to welcome Jews of any background from Orthodox to Humanist, makes it very clear that it’s completely separate from Christianity and has severed links with groups suspected of still associating with Christian beliefs. The young and small community is experiencing divisions on various issues of religious practice. The Internet (especially Facebook and YouTube) is playing an important role for gaining knowledge on Judaism.
(The Jerusalem Report, P.O. Box 1805, Jerusalem 91017, Israel; http://www.jerusalemreport.com)
01: The current issue of the online journal Science, Religion & Culture (June) is devoted to atheism as both a philosophy and worldview and in its various organizational expressions. The introduction goes over the familiar territory of defining atheism, non-religion and religion, looking specifically how secularism and faith is related to human betterment. An article on the relation between individual atheists and secularist organizations suggests a continuing disinterest of a large majority in such “belonging” while non-believing. Another article offers a projection of secularist growth based on General Social Surveys (GSS) from 1973 to 2012. The authors produce a forecast range of between 26 and 47 percent of the U.S. population being nonreligious by the year 2042. For access to this issue, visit: http://smithandfranklin.com/current-issues/
02: As a transnational Islamic movement encompassing a wide range of issues, Salafism is also affected by its local environments, writes Tere Østebø (University of Florida) in the introductory article to the current issue of Islamic Africa (Vol. 6) on “African Salafism.” This school of Islam is not a neatly delineated phenomenon, but is shaped by African realities and containing local varieties. It is also important, the author stresses, to be aware that it is not merely an import. The role of African students returning from Saudi institutions (the “new ulama”) since the 1960s and of migrant workers who stayed in the Arabian Peninsula should not be underestimated. But this development also involves locally constructed ideas, related to longing for religious reforms (cleansing Islam of cultural practices) and building partly upon previous purist orientations, with “a certain degree of ideological independence.” The impact of Islamic NGOs has been more significant in terms of funding than direct organization; there have been missionaries, but Africans themselves have played a crucial role.
An article by Ousman Murzik Kobo (Ohio State University) on Salafism in Ghana makes it clear that Salafism cannot be approached as homogeneous; it did not start as a single organization, but rather as “a loose network of independent organizations whose leaders cooperated in promoting their common agendas while competing for financial assistance from the Arab world.” Case studies indicate that Salafism does not follow “an inevitable linear trajectory.” In some countries, certain Salafi movements have come to adopt less uncompromising views toward their Sufi adversaries and have moved to more accommodating attitudes. Thus Salafism does not always and only mean radicalization. An instance of transforming Salafism partly due to generational dynamics is provided by Abdoulaye Sounaye’s contribution (Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin) on recent trends in youth Salafism in Niger. Some young Salafis there appropriate the discourse of previous Salafi organizations, but do no give much importance to anti-Sufism (or anti-Shia), and do not emphasize constantly what is forbidden (less rigid and more inclusive).
The development of Salafism has had an impact in these countries. For instance, in an article on Salafism in Tanzania, independent scholar Søren Gilsaa explains how all major cities in Tanzania now host at least one organization of Ansar Sunna (defenders of the Sunna) propagating Salafi thought; their existence challenges the existing Muslim and political establishment. The majority of Tanzanian Salafis encourage voting for Muslim candidates, while a few ask Muslims not to vote. Despite tensions and friction, they are slowly becoming part of the religious landscape. For more information on this issue, visit: http://www.islamicafricajournal.org/
03: Emerging Adulthood and Faith (Calvin College Press, $6.99), by sociologist Jonathan Hill, is a small book (84 pages) about a big subject that tends to loom larger with every survey finding an uptick in the growth of non-affiliation among young adults. Through concise summaries and analysis of survey research on this trend, Hill recognizes the losses but argues that scenarios of dire defections from congregations (made by both secularist and religious leaders and observers) are overblown. He notes the unpublicized statistic that roughly the same percentages of young people are sitting in the pews of Protestant churches today as they did in the 1970s (about 12-13 percent weekly). The reason defection appears more widespread today is that the occasional attendees (those attending once or twice a year) began to decline starting in the late 1980s; at the same time, those who never attend doubled in size (from 15-30 percent).
Similar patterns can be seen for young adults who occasionally pray (the numbers decline drastically around 2000, along with a sharp increase of those never praying) and for those with weak identification with a Protestant faith (they are only half of what they used to be, while those who have no religious identity have more than doubled). Hill does note that the Catholic Church has seen a greater overall loss of commitment and identity, though this development is complicated by Hispanic immigration. So while the growth of the “nones” is not necessarily taking place at the expense of the committed, Hill acknowledges that the cultural importance of identifying with the Protestant churches has declined, especially for infrequent attendees and others on the margins. Other chapters look at the influence of science and education on non-affiliation and religious dropouts—both more lackluster than robust— and address how church leaders can do a better job in attracting and keeping the Millennial generation in the fold.
04: Sam Reimer and Michael Wilkinson bring together a good deal of qualitative and quantitative data on Canada’s evangelicals and how they fit into the increasingly secular landscape of their nation in the new book A Culture of Faith (McGill-Queens University Press, $32.95 CAD). The authors note that in comparison to the sharp losses registered by Canada’s mainline Protestantism and Catholicism in the Province of Quebec, evangelicals have done pretty well in keeping their members (continuing to hold about 8 percent of the population), though not necessarily growing by much and plateauing for many denominations. By focusing on evangelical congregations rather than survey snapshots of individual evangelicals, the authors seek to explain how these churches have retained vitality in a milieu of declining institutional religion.
As the first multi-denominational study of Canadian evangelicals, Reimer and Wilkinson base most of their analysis on interviews with over 600 pastors and other church professionals in their Canadian Evangelical Churches Study. They trace much of the resilience of evangelical congregations to the high rate of volunteering both time and other resources. But it is also the case that the way evangelical congregations are organized as part of a subculture of believers with strong network ties to each other sets these churches apart from the others. Rather than gaining members through conversion, most growth takes place through the “circulation of the saints,” with transient evangelicals and the children of evangelicals comprising most of the new members, although there is also growth among new immigrants.
05: Religious Identity and Social Change (Routledge, $140) may sound very generic but the book actually addresses a very specific and timely topic—the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. In this case, author David Radford focuses on Christian conversion in the largely Islamic region of Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, using both quantitative and ethnographic methods to study this change. The political independence of Kyrgyzstan from the former Soviet Union in 1991 opened a new “religious market,” first for various forms of Islam, including both orthodox (Sunni) and popular Islamic forms, but also since the 1990s for Protestant Christian and new religious movements, such as Pentecostalism, Bahai’s and Jehovah’s Witnesses. By the early 2000s, more than 20,000 Muslim Kyrgyz had become Protestant, with one Protestant group claiming 3,000 adherents (with similar growth reported among other Central Asian Muslims and non-Muslims, such as the Kazakhs and the Uzbeks).
Radford finds that the influence of foreign missionaries has been less central to the conversion process than that of Kyrgyz Christians themselves as they seek to broaden the Kyrgyz ethnic identity to include Christianity as well as Islam. But conversion has community-wide repercussions, with converts being subject to threats and accused of bringing a curse upon their families. Converts can be refused burial rites, which in effect cuts off a person from the Kyrgyz community. The author finds that Christians negotiate their identity by maintaining some continuity with their Islamic past. For instance, claiming that their conversions make them “true Muslims,” and even claiming to find the roots of their beliefs in the Koran. The coverts’ claim that Christians are “better Muslims” and “more Kyrgyz” than their Muslim neighbors is seen in the former’s total rejection of alcohol while the latter regularly imbibes on vodka, and is thus accused of being “Russian.” Radford concludes that the outcome of such negotiations and whether or not Christianity gains more mainstream acceptance may be further shaped by Kyrgyzstan’s government, as it has (as recently as 2014) tightened religious restrictions against Christianity and other religious groups. As it is, however, the movement of Kyrgyz Christian converts is one of the most successful in the Islamic world.
A cell-based approach to parish life, borrowed from Korean Pentecostal churches, is spreading in world Catholicism. The Parish Evangelization Cell System, known as “Pecs,” was first adopted by St. Eustorgio’s parish in Milan, Italy, turning it from a moribund inner-city church with fewer than 100 Mass attenders to a community of 1,000 people involved in 150 weekly cell meetings, with a multitude of outreach programs. The Pecs program is different than other small parish groups in that they are built into the structure of the parish, with cell leaders sharing in the pastoral ministry with the parish priest. “Each cell, which operates for the member like an extended family, creates a sense of belonging. Here prayer, practical help and evangelization are encouraged through the personal witness of the cell members,” according to writer Kristina Cooper. Teaching is provided via a fortnightly input on CD by the parish priest. Though modeled on Korean cell churches, Pecs has added Catholic practices to this structure; the introduction of the program in the UK last year included adoration of the Eucharist as a frequent devotion. The Pecs method is now formally recognized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, with the cell-based approach to parish life “now established on five continents and there are many thousands of evangelization cells in Catholic parishes across the world,” Cooper writes. (Source: The Tablet, July 4).