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Introduction:

 

Tolerance is the buzz word ricocheting around politically correct circles over the past few years. What that really means is that all political, philosophical and theologically correct viewpoints must be tolerated, and any other viewpoints must be mercilessly squelched. The bottom line of this whole rhetoric is that the Christian viewpoint is hateful and must be silenced.


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]

 

 

**ENEWS ARTICLES**
 Bible Literacy and Home Bible Studies July 16, 2013

Understanding the Emergent Church March 26, 2013

As Bound With The Persecuted Church February 19, 2013

The Last Pope February 12, 2013

Epiphany and the Magi January 01, 2013


**K-HOUSE ARTICLES**
Exo-Vaticana The Vatican’s Savior? by Thomas Horn

The Last Pope? by Steve Elwart

The Lure of the Occult by Chuck Missler

Global Religion: Spirit Guides: Coming to a Church Near You? by Leisa Garcia, Director of Issachar Studies

Strategic Trends Update: Coming to America: Tony Blair Faith Foundation by Leisa Garcia, IDB Folio Specialist

 


**ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTS AND LINKS**
Note: These links are provided for your further research and education. Koinonia House does not necessarily agree with the information on these sites or support the specific organizations.

Documents

Who stole Harry Potter's phoenix? -

Related Sites

Message To Buddhists For The Feast Of Vesakh 2001 - An example of efforts to bring Buddhists and Christians together.
Earth Charter Completed--Global Religion Not Far Away -
Bah' Faith - The second most global religion -
Eagle Forum - Keep up to date with education in politics
Voice of the Martyrs - Updates on persecuted Christians worldwide.

News Sources

 
Pope Francis reaches out to atheists and agnostics - The Pope has struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone towards atheists and agnostics, saying that God will “forgive” them as long as they behave morally and live according to their consciences. The unprecedented gesture came as his incoming number two, the Vatican’s newly-nominated secretary of state, said that the rule that priests should be celibate was not “a dogma of the Church” and could be open for discussion.
Pope Admits ‘Gay Lobby’ Exists in Vatican - Pope Francis has acknowledged the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and says he is consulting advisers on what to do about it. Speaking informally to a confederation of religious groups from Latin America and the Caribbean, he said: “In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people.” But, he added: “There also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true… The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there… We need to see what we can do.”
Successor of the Apostle Peter - Pope Francis became absorbed in prayer and repeated with a loud voice the three professions of Peter: “Lord, You are the Christ, Son of the Living God”; “Lord, to whom do we go? You have the words of eternal life”; “Lord, You know all things! You know that I love you!” At that moment, we had the distinct impression that the life of Peter rose out of centuries past and became present and living in the current Successor of the Apostle Peter.
Pope Benedict Will Live Last Years At Vatican - Pope Benedict's decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say. In 2010, for example, Benedict was named as a defendant in a law suit alleging that he failed to take action as a cardinal in 1995 when he was allegedly told about a priest who had abused boys at a U.S. school for the deaf decades earlier. The lawyers withdrew the case last year.
Pastor Imprisoned in Iran Needs Support - The American pastor sentenced to eight years in Iran's Evin Prison after being persecuted for his faith questions whether enough is being done to help free him. Saeed Abedini mentioned his doubt during a visit with relatives on Monday. It was a second time he was allowed to see members of his extended family since he was convicted. Abedini expressed apprehension and concern to his relatives about his fate and openly asked if there were international efforts to secure his freedom, according to advocacy group American Center for Law and Justice. It is believed that Abedini's downtrodden spirit is due to abuse and brain-washing techniques used by officials at Evin Prison. Please pray for his freedom and for God's power and love to work in him and his fellow prisoners during his time at Evin.

View the Complete Library of Links
 

TRUE RELIGION

 

 

    

 

Alone Yet Not Alone (Song) Performed by Joni Eareckson Tada

 

 

 

Chapel: Joni Eareckson-Tada, Jan. 14, 2013

 

 

Hal Lindsey Report: 2/14/2014
2/14/2014 | 27.30

Goodwill And Warships

Terror at Home.

Alone yet not Alone

 

 

***Brand New Release***

 

Beginning of Wisdom

by

 Dr. Chuck Missler

“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10

But how do we balance the awesome majesty due to the Creator and Ruler of the universe with the gracious family intimacy that is now available to us through the completed work of Christ?

What does His Holiness demand of us, personally?

What are the hazards of failing to render the Almighty His due, while availing ourselves the riches committed to us of the precious promises in His Word?

How do we deal with these paramount issues facing us daily in practical challenges?

Chuck Missler grapples with these wildly misunderstood tensions with down-to-earth frankness and Biblically-based candor.
 

Price R 179

 
 

NEW BRIEFING PACKAGE

The Fulcrum of the Entire Universe

 

 

Price R 179.00

 

 

Isaiah 53 describes the astonishing personal sacrifice that is the fulcrum—the pivot—of the entire cosmic drama. However, it is the personal aspect of this passage that grips our soul.

The Fulcrum of the Universe. The Pivot of All History. These sound like rather fanciful labels, don’t they? We are talking about Isaiah 53, often called the “Holy of Holies of the Old Testament.” In just 12 verses, it summarizes the entire New Testament as the clarion of the Old.

 

The Scope of the Passage

 

The surprising scope of this passage includes the entire universe. The Crucifixion of Christ involved more than just our personal redemption: it involved the entire creation. This shouldn’t surprise us: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament shows His handiwork.

 

However, “the creation was subjected to entropy, not by consent, but on account of the one who subjected it so as to involve hope.” Paul’s epistle goes on to remind us, “Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption [entropy] into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”3 This is a result of God’s declaration of war in Genesis 3.

So this is the Divine Conflict: We know that Satan fell and took a host of angels with him. History’s primary plot is Satan’s opposition to God. Amazingly, the central role in the divine conflict is humankind’s. Notice the universal language with which God’s specific covenant with Israel is recorded:

For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?5

This covenant is unique to the Earth, exclusive to humans, and universally unprecedented. It follows that the incarnation of Jesus Christ as our Savior, delivered via Israel, is also universal. The most compelling argument for the uniqueness of terrestrial life on the Planet Earth is the Incarnation of the Creator Himself,6 who became an everlasting member of the human race.

 

The Frustration of Astrobiology

 

Incidentally, there continues to be nothing but bad news for the “astrobiologists.” Science is the study of evidence; however, astrobiology hasn’t found any evidence to study. Despite extensive searching, there is no evidence of life beyond the Earth. (Don’t confuse wishful thinking with evidence. And don’t be surprised if astrobiology also develops the same ethics as has characterized paleontology or climatology.) This “science” has yet to demonstrate that its subject matter exists. (To even pursue its search is a denial of the conspicuous mathematical requirements for life to exist.) This isn’t science: it is priesthood.

The “Anthropic Principle” has catalogued over 140 quantifiable characteristics, each of which must fall within extremely narrow ranges for physical life to exist. There are over 400 quantifiable characteristics for advanced life to exist.8 When you recognize that many of these factors individually require a precision of less than one part per million, their composite effect constitutes a very good definition of a “miracle.”

 

This Pivotal Passage

 

Isaiah 53 describes the astonishing personal sacrifice that is the fulcrum—the pivot—of the entire cosmic drama. This passage was so disturbing to the Ashkenazi Jews that they took it out of their Bible. (However, the Sephardic Jews kept it in theirs.) The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 included a complete copy of Isaiah, and there was Chapter 53, right there in the middle.

The Book of Isaiah is in 66 chapters, in two groups: Chapters 1 though 39, and Chapters 40 through 66. Both the style and the theme are demonstrably intensified in the second section, and Isaiah 53 is precisely in the middle: 13 chapters on either side. Written in 700 B.C., Isaiah 53 is mentioned in all four gospels.10 (Those who don’t know that the same Isaiah wrote the entire book haven’t read John 12. The “same Isaiah” quotes from Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 53.11 That insight can save a student many hours of boring library research chasing erroneous speculations.)

It was this very passage that had the Ethiopian Treasurer confused on his way home, and which the Lord had Philip (supernaturally) clarify for him. The passage details the Crucifixion, which is particularly remarkable since this was recorded seven centuries before crucifixion was invented: the official form of execution in the Old Testament was stoning—not crucifixion.13

The rabbis say when the Messiah comes He will interpret the words, the letters… even the spaces between the letters! And there are some astonishing surprises hidden in this text.

However, it is the personal aspect of this passage that grips our soul: it is the substitutionary emphasis that is the very centroid of the Messianic achievement:

  • He was born of a woman so that we could be born of God;
  • He humbled Himself so that we could be lifted up;
  • He became a servant so we could be made joint heirs with Him!
  • He suffered rejection so that we could become His friends;
  • He denied Himself so that we could freely receive all things;
  • He gave Himself so that He could bless us in every way.

The Eschatological Rebuttal

 

The Second Coming itself is a rebuttal to any eschatological role for any life beyond the Planet Earth. (There is even a real sense in which Isaiah 53 is predictive of events which have yet to happen when Israel ultimately recognizes her Messiah.)

There are critics who will argue that we have exaggerated the scope of this passage to include the entire creation. However, there is now forthcoming a grand cosmic delusion in the offing that Jesus (and Paul) warned us about.14 So effective that if it were possible it would deceive the very elect. That specific (gigantic, elegant) lie may now be emerging on our near horizon: Why is the Vatican preparing to receive an “alien” visitor? That’s a subject for another article… Stay tuned…

Isaiah 53 is, of course, a key element of our Expositional Commentary on Isaiah, but we are also publishing our exploration of Chapter 53 as a separate two-part product: Part 1 is devotional; Part 2 focuses on it as an apologetic. (There are aspects that are demonstrably supernatural.)

 

The Great Commission

by Ron Matsen

 

DVD

 

Price R 179.00

 

 

Description


The last commandment of Jesus before His ascension was for His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” The apostle Paul tells us, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

• How seriously should we personally take this command today?
• Is this command somehow only limited to those who feel they have the gift of evangelism?
• What needs to be said, understood, and believed for a person to be born-again?

Join Ron Matsen in the Executive Briefing Room of the River Lodge, New Zealand as he explores the subject of “The Great Commission” and gives practical insight into this calling to every Christian. After all, it’s a matter of LIFE and DEATH to those waiting to hear your message of reconciliation.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:
•1 Disc
•2 M4A Files
•1 PDF Notes File
•Color, Fullscreen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region 0 encoding (.This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)

 

 

Homosexuality

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

 

All Your Queeries from Wikipedia

 

 

IN STOCK

 

Drawing upon over forty years of collecting, Chuck highlights in this study many of the precious nuggets that have become characteristic of his popular Bible studies around the world.

 

Price R179.00

DVD

 

For the novice as well as the sophisticate, this DVD is full of surprises. It includes subtle discoveries lying just “beneath” the text -- hidden messages, encryptions, deliberate misspellings and other amendments to the text -- that present implications beyond the immediate context, demonstrating a skillful design that has its origin from outside our space and time. Drawing upon over forty years of collecting, Chuck highlights in this study many of the precious nuggets that have become characteristic of his popular Bible studies around the world.
It is guaranteed to stimulate, prove, and, hopefully, disturb. It will confound the skeptic and encourage the believer. It is a "must" for every thinking seeker of truth and serious inquirer of reality.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:

  • 1 Disc
  • 2 M4A Files
  • 1 PDF Notes File
  • Color, Fullscreen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.

***Brand New Release ***

 

 

Price R159.00

 

 

 

Redesigning the Church for the Age to Come;

 is a charge to believing Christians to reignite their passion for serving Jesus.

Many know the truth of the Scriptures but the power of God resides in the application of these truths.

Living in an age where it is growing more and more dark, we, as Believers, must trim our wicks and brighten our intensity in order to illuminate the world by letting our lights so shine! I believe there will be one last great revival and it will be led by everyday Believers who are following as close to Jesus as they possible can! Join with those who once again want the Church to have the reputation as "those who are turning the world upside down!"

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

Available in the following formats

DVD:

1 Disc

2 M4A Files

Color, Fullscreen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  encoding This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)

M4A Audio Download With Embedded Slideshow:

2 M4A Files

2 MP3 Files

PDF Notes File

Files play in itunes and any IOS player (iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch)

Audio will play on most digital audio players and many MP3 players

Includes embedded slideshow Presentations and 1 PDF Notes file

 

***Brand New Release ***

 

 

 

Price R159.00

 

Description

Just who is Jesus Christ? What did Jesus actually accomplish? Jesus Christ is not “a concept,” an “idea,” or a “useful traditional value.” He is an actual living person who
came to accomplish a specific purpose that prevails over everything else: His achievement continues to impact you and me, and determines our eternal destiny.

He is the fulfillment of a pervasive promise made before the foundation of the world and the very standard by which the entire universe, and everything in it, will be judged!

Join Dr. Chuck Missler from the Executive Briefing Room of The River Lodge,
New Zealand as he explores who Jesus really is.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:

1 Disc

2 M4A Files

Color, Fullscreen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, All Region encoding  This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)

M4A  With Embedded Slideshow:

2 M4A Files

2 MP3 Files

PDF Notes File

Files play in itunes and any IOS player (iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch)

Audio will play on most digital audio players and many MP3 players

Includes embedded slideshow

 

*** IN STOCK***

 

DVD

Price R 159.00

 

 

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:

1 Disc
2 M4A Files
Colour, Full screen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  encoding .This DVD will be viewable in other countries.
 

***IN STOCK***

 

DVD

Price R 159.00

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:

1 Disc
2 M4A Files
Colour, Full screen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  encoding .This DVD will be viewable in other countries.
 

 

Description


What are Christians called to do during these turbulent times? How can you make a difference in your family, among your friends, and within your community?

This follows the wonderful success of the “Weathering the Coming Storm” series where Dr. Chuck Missler and Ron Matsen dealt with global, national, and personal issues impacting all of our lives today. “Church in the End Times” serves as the NEXT STEP in equipping ourselves with the tools and insights we need to be a guiding light to a world coping in the Last Days darkness of chaos and deceit.

Join Dr. Chuck Missler as he explores this timely topic.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

© Copyright 2013

Available in the following formats

DVD:

1 Disc
2 M4A Files
Colour, Full screen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  encoding .This DVD will be viewable in other countries.
 

 

Beth Croft - Kingdom Come (acoustic version)

 

 

 DVD Bible Commentary

 

Price R 799.00

 

 

Description


"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16

Because of its emphasis on "the Love of God" and Jesus' being the incarnation of that Love, many believe this gospel is the most important for new and old Christians alike to take to heart. Written by the "disciple whom Jesus loved", the book of John is organized around seven miracles, seven discourses and seven "I AM" statements. This study is so deep "an elephant can bathe in it, and yet an infant can wade in it."

This study contains 20 hours of verse by verse teachings


Available in the following formats:

DVD:

10 DVD Set
1 CD-Rom with 20 MP3 files and 1 PDF Notes file
Colour, Full screen 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region  This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)
 

 

Marx, Engels and Francis

‎29 ‎November ‎2013, ‏‎10:28:02 PM | -NO AUTHOR-Go to full article

'I will curse those who curse thee'

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎05:50:17 AM | Focus on IsraelGo to full article
“Historically, peoples and nations that fought and opposed the people and land of Israel were destroyed. Tyrants like Hitler or Stalin and others came to terrible ends!” states Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum, president of Azamra in Jerusalem.

In Genesis 12:3, God states his blessing for those who bless His people and His land as well as the curse for those who go against His people. This curse has played out through time from the extinct Philistines to the destruction of Nazi Germany.

Focus on Israel asks, if America demands Israel give up land for peace, will it suffer the same curse as previous empires who have done so?

In this revealing episode, host Laurie Cardoza-Moore dissects the powerful “Genesis Curse” through ancient history to today. Is it mere coincidence that some of the most horrific disasters in U.S. history – such as the “Perfect Storm” of 1991, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the deadly tornados of 2011 – occurred as American foreign policy turned against Israel? By pushing Israel toward a suicidal “two-state solution,” America has betrayed Israel and the Jewish people.

Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum comments from Jerusalem, “In the book of Genesis, God is teaching humanity that those who are associated with the mission of Abraham to bring the knowledge of God to all humanity through the ways of peace and hospitality and loving kindness will receive the blessing of Abraham. And those who don’t will be in a dark place.”

Mike Moore a successful international businessman further states, “If there’s a God in heaven that actually controls life on this planet, He has made some pretty bold statements about His people! God is not finished with the nation of Israel. God made some promises to them.”

As individuals, we are also given the choice to curse or bless Israel and the Jewish people. Learn more about the “The Genesis Curse” in this episode:

 

Israel and America historically tied

 
‎24 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎07:13:29 AM | Focus on IsraelGo to full article
“Israel is the embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization,” said Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States.

In this episode of Focus on Israel, host Laurie Cardoza-Moore sheds light on America and Israel’s shared Judeo-Christian values and relationship. Additionally, this episode highlights Israel’s unparalleled pro-American voting support at the United Nations and parallel foreign policy in the war on terror.

This episode includes interviews with experts such as Yoram Ettinger, former Israeli ambassador, and Arieh Eldad, former Knesset member.

“Israelis are knee-jerk pro-American! We realize that that which unites us with the U.S. is unparalleled to any other relationship in the world. And Israel is a reliable and stable and capable and non-conditional ally of America,” comments Yoram Ettinger.

Ettinger also quotes Alexander Haig, former secretary of State, who said, “Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier which does not require a single American person on board, which can never be sunk, which is the most battle tested, the most cost-effective, and is deployed station permanently in a very critical area for dire American economic and national security interests.”

Arieh Eldad states, “Politics is more than sheer interests; it must be based on moral issues, on shared values. It’s not to work only on immediate political interests, but something that will be more deeply rooted on the moral basis of decision. You cannot run your political decisions based on tomorrow’s interests, but you must do it according to the moral basis of a nation like the American nation.”

In this episode, you will be surprised to learn some of the unique and unfamiliar historical connections between America and Israel:

 

 

 

How to Clean a Rabbit Hutch

 

Religion News Headlines - Yahoo! News
 

Pope poses for 'selfies' after Palm Sunday homily

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:17:18 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis poses for pictures with faithful at the end of a Palm Sunday service in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, April 13, 2014. Pope Francis, marking Palm Sunday in a packed St. Peter's Square, ignored his prepared homily and spoke entirely off-the-cuff in a remarkable departure from practice. Later, he hopped off his popemobile to pose for "selfies" with young people in the crowd. In his homily, Francis called on people, himself included, to look into their own hearts to see how they are living their lives. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis, marking Palm Sunday in a packed St. Peter's Square, ignored his prepared homily and spoke entirely off-the-cuff in a remarkable departure from practice. Later, he hopped off his popemobile to pose for "selfies" with young people in the crowd.
 
 

Pope leads Palm Sunday procession at Vatican

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:39:22 AMGo to full article
Pope Francis, background center, walks in procession as he celebrates a Palm Sunday mass in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, April 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)VATICAN CITY (AP) — Tens of thousands of Romans, tourists and pilgrims have joined Pope Francis in a solemn Palm Sunday service in St. Peter's Square.
 
 

Catholic diocese says late bishop guilty of abuse

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:17:07 PMGo to full article
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A former Dutch Catholic bishop, who died last year, was guilty of sexual abuse decades ago when he was a chaplain and teacher in the southern Netherlands, his diocese has acknowledged, in the latest abuse scandal to hit the church.
 

Deceased Dutch Catholic bishop was child molester: commission

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:18:03 PMGo to full article
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor PARIS (Reuters) - The Dutch Catholic Church, in a rare admission of guilt among senior clergy, has confirmed that a bishop who died last year had sexually abused two boys decades earlier. The diocese of Roermond said a Church commission had found that accusations against former bishop Johannes Gijsen, dating back to his time as chaplain at a minor seminary from 1958 to 1961, were "well founded". Mea Culpa, a Dutch group supporting abuse victims, welcomed the Roermond statement. Bishop Frans Wiertz, current head of Roermond diocese, said he accepted the commission's findings and "regrets the abuse and suffering inflicted on the victims".
 

Pope names British woman to head academy

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:42:55 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has named a British sociologist to run a pontifical academy, marking the highest-ranking appointment of a woman in his papacy.
 

Christian vigilantes trap 14,000 Muslims in C.Africa town

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:47:13 AMGo to full article
French soldiers from the 13th Alpine Hunters Battalion (13th BCA) control anti-balaka members as they patrol near the northwestern Central African Republic city of Boda on April 7, 2014Boda (Central African Republic) (AFP) - Stifled by the heat inside a barn in the Central African Republic town of Boda, dozens of emaciated and often sick displaced people subsist in fear of the vigilantes who surround them. The group, members of an extended family, fled to Boda from the village of Danga 25 kilometres (15 miles) away, seeking shelter from the anti-balaka -- or "anti-machete", mainly-Christian militia groups that have been hunting and killing members of the crisis-torn country's Muslim minority. But days after the family arrived in Boda, fierce clashes broke out between the anti-balaka and local Muslims, ending with the Christian militia forces encircling the southwestern diamond-mining town. More than 14,000 Muslims, including the displaced family from Danga, are now trapped inside with no way out and very limited supplies.
 
 

Vatican clears Puerto Rico bishop in abuse case

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:25:10 AMGo to full article
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The Apostolic Delegation of Puerto Rico announced Friday that the Vatican found no basis for sexual abuse accusations made against a well-known bishop in the U.S. territory.
 

India election chief bans rallies by Modi aide over religious hatred

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:31:19 PMGo to full article
Shah, a leader of India's main opposition BJP attends his party's national council meeting in New DelhiBy Frank Jack Daniel NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Narendra Modi, widely tipped to become India's next prime minister, suffered a setback on Friday when his closest aide was banned from election rallies and meetings after a series of speeches deemed to have stoked tensions with Muslims. Modi, 63, a pro-business Hindu nationalist, is the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which hopes to oust the ruling Congress Party of Rahul Gandhi with its promises of jobs and new infrastructure. The aide, Amit Shah, who faces murder charges dating to his time serving under Modi in the state government of Gujarat, runs Modi's campaign in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which has a population larger than Brazil's and holds the keys to national power. It was not immediately clear what impact a possibly disruptive ban on meetings in Uttar Pradesh by such a high profile figure would have on Modi's campaign in the state.
 
 

Chicago archbishop: Church to seek successor

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:15:04 PMGo to full article
Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during a news conference Friday, April 11, 2013, in Chicago. The 77-year-old spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago's more than 2 million Roman Catholics Chicago's said the Roman Catholic Church has told him it will begin searching for his successor because of his "uncertain" health as he undergoes chemotherapy. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)CHICAGO (AP) — Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago who is being treated for cancer, said Friday that the Roman Catholic Church has agreed to begin formally searching for his successor as head of the nation's third-largest diocese.
 

Pope assumes responsibility for priest sex abuse

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:19:39 PMGo to full article
In this photo released by Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis delivers his blessing during a meeting with the Italian pro-life movement, at the Vatican Friday, April 11, 2014. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis said Friday he took personal responsibility for the "evil" of priests who raped and molested children, asking forgiveness from victims and saying the church must be even bolder in its efforts to protect the young. It was the first time a pope has taken personal responsibility for the sex crimes of his priests and begged forgiveness.
 
 

Pope asks forgiveness for 'evil' of child abuse by priests

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:04:29 PMGo to full article
By Naomi O'Leary VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis made his first public plea for forgiveness on Friday for the "evil" committed by priests who molested children, using some of his strongest words yet on the Roman Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis. The Argentine-born pontiff said the Church, which last month named a high-level group on the scandal including an abuse victim, had to take an stronger stand on a scandal that has haunted it for more than two decades, and indicated there would be repercussions for perpetrators. "I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil that some priests - quite a few in number, (although) obviously not compared to the number of all priests - to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children," he told members of the International Catholic Child Bureau. Because you cannot interfere with children," Francis said in unscripted comments as he addressed the children's rights body.
 

Pope asks forgiveness for child sex abuse by priests

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:06:55 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis speaks during a meeting with the Pontifical Gregorian University at Paul VI audience hall on April 10, 2014 at the VaticanPope Francis on Friday personally asked forgiveness for thousands of child sex abuses carried out by priests and promised more action following accusations of cover-ups and excessive leniency by the Vatican. "I feel compelled... to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children," the pope said at a meeting with members of a children's charity, Vatican Radio reported. Francis was meeting with members of International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), which works to protect the rights and dignity of children worldwide. Thousands of cases of abuse by priests have come to light over the past decade and the Catholic Church is regularly accused of trying to cover up the crimes.
 
 

Pope Francis Asks Forgiveness For Catholic Clergy Child Abuse

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:55:55 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis Asks Forgiveness For Catholic Clergy Child AbusePope Francis gave some unusually direct comments on the Catholic Church's decades-long clergy abuse epidemic on Friday. Francis "personally ask[ed] for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children" in a short speech on Friday to a Catholic children's NGO. The remarks, according to the Vatican Radio write-up, were at least partially off script.  Although he has taken some steps to address the scandal, and the calls for church reform that it created, Francis has faced criticism from victim advocates for failing to fully address the child abuse epidemic in his first year as pope.
 
 

Polish pope still a rock star, not just at home

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:22:29 PMGo to full article
Pope John Paul II blesses on October 6, 1986 a baby in Ars, FranceBefore selfie-snapping Francis, there was John Paul II, the charismatic Polish pope who made a name for himself by circling the globe and talking to anyone and everyone. He sometimes wandered off when he felt like it," Warsaw sociologist Pawel Boryszewski said of the soon-to-be saint who died in 2005. Over the years the former Karol Wojtyla built up a loyal following that is still alive and kicking, first and foremost at home but also in other Catholic countries where fans are finding special ways to mark his canonisation. A Polish marathoner is running to Rome in time for the April 27 mass that will make saints of John Paul II and John XXIII, an event expected to draw up to five million people from across the world.
 
 

Pope asks pardon for sex abuse by priests

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:31:28 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis asked for forgiveness Friday from people who were sexually abused by priests, and vowed that there will be no going back in the church's fight to protect children.
 

Pope Francis urges on Venezuelan crisis talks

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:49:10 AMGo to full article
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, top center, looks toward leaders of the opposition at the start of a meeting at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 10, 2014. The Vatican is sponsoring the first talks aimed at reconciliation since protests began in early February. Maduro's opponents blame his government for destroying the oil-rich economy and stamping out dissent, while Maduro claims he's the target of U.S.-backed coup attempt. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Pope Francis is urging Venezuelans on both sides to put aside their political differences and demonstrate the necessary courage to reach an agreement that avoids more bloodshed after weeks of violent protests.
 
 

Ethiopia Christian group to stage anti-gay demo

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:08:17 PMGo to full article
Ethiopian Christians during a festival in Gondar on January 19, 2014An Ethiopian religious group on Thursday announced plans to stage an anti-gay rally this month to protest what it called "rising incidents" of homosexuality in the conservative Horn of Africa nation. The initiative comes after Uganda and Nigeria recently passed tough anti-gay laws, although Ethiopian authorities said they were "indifferent" to the demonstration. "The country has seen an increase in gay-related activities and this has reached an alarming stage," said Dereje Negash, the head of a Christian Association, Woyniye Abune Teklehaimanot. The demonstration is set to take place in the Ethiopian capital on April 26, the first mass rally against homosexual rights in the country.
 
 

Vatican leads fight against human trafficking 'scourge'

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:36:03 PMGo to full article
This handout picture released on April 10, 21014 by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis during a meeting with the community of the Pontifical Gregorian University, at Paul VI audience hall on April 10, 2014 at the VaticanPolice chiefs and clergymen from over a dozen countries agreed Thursday to set up a global task group to fight human trafficking, a scourge Pope Francis called a "crime against humanity". At the end of two-day conference hosted by the pontiff, London's Metropolitan police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said attendees, including top cops from the FBI and Interpol, had agreed to meet regularly to fight the ravages of modern slavery. Human trafficking is a broad term covering the sex trade in women and children, but also illegal immigration networks, sweatshops and forced domestic labour. At the meeting, Francis said the church and police must work hand-in-hand to fight "this crime against humanity": the police to offer the "rigour of the law" and the clergy to provide "compassion".
 
 

Murdoch editor 'a man I would trust', ex-archbishop tells UK hacking trial

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:58:43 PMGo to full article
Stuart Kuttner, the former managing editor of the News of the World arrives at the Old Bailey courthouse in LondonA former Archbishop of Canterbury took to the witness stand in Britain's phone-hacking trial on Thursday to tell a jury the ex-managing editor of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid was "a man I would trust". George Carey, the head of the Anglican church for 11 years until 2002, appeared as a character witness at London's Old Bailey court and said Stuart Kuttner was a man of integrity. Kuttner, 74, who was managing editor of the downmarket weekly tabloid for 22 years until 2009, is on trial with the paper's former editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson accused of conspiracy to intercept voicemails on mobile phones. Brooks, Coulson and the News of the World's former royal editor Clive Goodman, also face charges over illegal payments to public officials, which they deny.
 
 

John Paul II: beloved pope who left reformists cold

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:11:42 PMGo to full article
Pope John Paul II kisses the ground upon his arrival in Auckland on November 22, 1986Vatican City (AFP) - Pope John Paul II, who will be made a saint on April 27 along with John XXIII, was an inspirational figure who helped topple communism but alienated many with his conservative views.
 
 

Pope meets ex-sex slaves, denounces trafficking

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:57:58 PMGo to full article
In this photo released by Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano Pope Francis poses for a photo with participants in a conference about the human trafficking, at the Vatican, Thursday, April 10, 2014. Pope Francis has denounced human trafficking as a crime against humanity after meeting with four women who were forced into prostitution. Francis attended a Vatican conference Thursday of church workers, charity representatives and police chiefs from 20 nations, who pledged greater cooperation to encourage victims of trafficking and slavery to come forward. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis denounced human trafficking as a crime against humanity Thursday after meeting with four women who were trafficked and forced into prostitution.
 
 

As riot-hit Indian region votes, religious divide favors Hindu leader

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:27:51 PMGo to full article
Muslim women leave a polling station after casting their votes for the general election at Shahpur, in Muzaffarnagar districtBy Frank Jack Daniel and Manoj Kumar MUZAFFARNAGAR, India (Reuters) - Manoj Balyan wants Narendra Modi to become India's next prime minister when results of a general election are released next month, and not because of the pro-business opposition leader's record as a credible economic manager. Instead, the property broker and village chieftain is drawn to Modi's Hindu nationalist side, believing the candidate will strip privileges from India's minority Muslim population. "With Modi taking office, Muslims will automatically feel the pressure. They will not dare to raise their voice," said Balyan, 42, to nods of approval from a group of friends.
 
 

Va historic area explores religion at April events

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:21:27 PMGo to full article
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — Colonial Williamsburg is exploring the role of religion in the creation of America.
 

Pope says 'enough' to human trafficking, calls it crime against humanity

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:34:49 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis waves as he leaves the general audience in Saint Peter's square at the VaticanBy Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis said "enough" to human trafficking on Thursday, denouncing it as a crime against humanity as police leaders and religious groups from around the world pledged to work together to combat it. Francis addressed the final session of a two-day Vatican-sponsored international conference on human trafficking attended by top law enforcement officials, politicians and representatives of religions. "Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity," he said.
 
 

Pope meets sex trafficking victims

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:25:08 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has denounced human trafficking as a crime against humanity after meeting with four women who were forced into prostitution.
 

Francis looks to heal Church with two pope saints

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:45:05 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis tries to catch a white rose thrown by a pilgrim as he arrives for his general audience at St Peter's square on March 26, 2014 at the VaticanPope Francis aims to unite conservative and reformist strands of Catholicism with the first canonisation of two popes this month -- an impressive masterstroke that has already stirred dissent in some quarters. Conferring sainthood on John XXIII and John Paul II means bringing together two distinct schools of thought on what a pope should be -- a humble parish priest figure or a globetrotting, charismatic superstar. John Allen, a Vatican affairs expert at the Boston Globe in the United States, has written that the joint canonisation shows Francis's "inclusive spirit". "Francis is speaking not just to the outside world but to rival camps within the Catholic fold who see John XXIII and John Paul II as their heroes -- meaning liberals and conservatives, respectively," he said.
 
 

Ecuador motivated by death of Christian Benitez

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:48:07 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2013 file photo, Ecuador national team poses prior to the start the 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match between Ecuador and Uruguay in Quito, Ecuador. Foreground from left: Jefferson Montero, Juan Carlos Paredes, Antonio Valencia, Enner Valencia and Walter Ayovi. Background from left: Segundo Castillo, Frickson Erazo, Alexander Dominguez, Jorge Guagua, Cristhian Noboa, and Felipe Caicedo. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa, File)QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuador's achievement of reaching its third World Cup was overshadowed by the death of striker Christian Benitez midway through qualifying, and filling the void he left will be the team's biggest challenge in Brazil.
 
 

Venezuela reaches out to Vatican No. 2 to mediate crisis

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:32:04 PMGo to full article
Newly elected cardinal and Vatican State Secretary Pietro Parolin of Italy arrives to receive guests in the Apostolic palace at the VaticanBy Andrew Cawthorne and Diego Ore CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's government formally invited Vatican No. 2 Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Wednesday to mediate talks with the opposition in hopes of stemming violence that has killed dozens in the nation's worst unrest in a decade. In a letter, President Nicolas Maduro's government asked that Parolin, a former envoy to Venezuela who is now the Vatican's secretary of state, be named a "good faith witness" to a dialogue agreed after two months of protests. A Vatican spokesman confirmed the Roman Catholic Church's willingness to mediate, but gave no details. Venezuela's opposition coalition had indicated that current Vatican envoy, Aldo Giordano, would be attending the first formal talks, which are to start on Thursday in Caracas.
 
 

Catholic weekly in April Fools' prank on Vatican hawk

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:53:47 PMGo to full article
Children release white doves next to Pope Francis from the window of his private apartments during his Sunday Angelus prayer at St Peter's square on January 26, 2014 at the VaticanThe Catholic weekly Credere (Believe) has been caught in a delayed April Fools' prank about the Vatican recruiting a hawk to protect the pope's doves after two were killed by a crow and a seagull. The publication said a bird of prey named "Sylvia", who was specially trained for the task in northern Italy, has been taken on by the Swiss Guards following the incident in January. But a Vatican official told AFP the report, which was due to appear in the Italian weekly's Thursday edition and was relayed by other newspapers, was an "April Fools' they picked up".
 
 

Venezuela asks Vatican official to witness crisis talks

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:27:35 PMGo to full article
Demonstrators take part in a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on April 6, 2014Venezuela said Wednesday it had formally invited the Vatican's secretary of state to be a "good faith witness" to talks on ending two months of deadly anti-government protests. President Nicolas Maduro and opposition coalition representatives had agreed the night before to the talks, which are tentatively set to begin Thursday under the oversight of UNASUR, a regional South American grouping, and the Vatican. "We want to convey the invitation of President Nicolas Maduro to His Holiness, Pope Francis," for the Vatican official, Pietro Parolin, to act "as a good faith witness," said a letter sent by Venezuela's foreign minister.
 
 

Venezuela reaches out to Vatican No. 2 to mediate crisis

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:38 PMGo to full article
Vatican's newly appointed Secretary of State Monsignor Pietro Parolin speaks during an interview in CaracasBy Andrew Cawthorne CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's government formally invited Vatican No. 2 Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Wednesday to mediate talks with the opposition in hopes of stemming violence that has killed dozens in the nation's worst unrest in a decade. In a letter, President Nicolas Maduro's government asked that Parolin, a former envoy to Venezuela who is now the Vatican's Secretary of State, be named a "good faith witness" to a dialogue finally agreed after two months of protests. A Vatican spokesman confirmed the Roman Catholic Church's willingness to mediate, but gave no more details. Venezuela's opposition coalition had indicated that current Vatican envoy, Aldo Giordano, would be attending the first formal talks, which are to start on Thursday in Caracas.
 
 

Pope blesses cross made from migrant boats

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:52:07 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis gives his thumbs up as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has blessed a wooden cross made from the boats of migrants who have come ashore at the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.
 
 

Pope denounces slaying of Dutch Jesuit in Syria

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:40:09 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has denounced the "brutal slaying" of an elderly Jesuit priest in Syria and called for an end to the violence.
 

Pope expresses 'profound pain' at killing of priest in Syria

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:41:23 AMGo to full article
Pope Francis talks to the faithful at the end of a visit to parish San Gregorio Magno in RomePope Francis spoke on Wednesday of his deep grief over the assassination of a 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit priest in Syria and made a renewed appeal for an end to the violence. Frans van der Lugt had been living in Syria since the 1970s and had become widely known for his refusal to leave Christians who remained in the rebel-held city of Homs as it was blockaded by government forces. "His brutal killing filled me with profound pain and made me think again of the many people who suffer and die in that tortured country, my beloved Syria, which has already for far too long been gripped by bloody conflict, which continues to mete out death and destruction," Francis told a weekly audience. "From my heart, I ask you all to join with my prayer for peace in Syria and in the region, and I send a concerned call to those responsible in Syria and to the international community: put down your arms, end the violence! No more war! No more destruction!" Francis urged that human rights be respected in Syria and that those in need be given humanitarian assistance.
 
 

Venezuela government and foes talk; Vatican to mediate

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:06:33 AMGo to full article
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters after his meeting with representatives of the Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties Mesa de la Unidad and UNASUR foreign ministers in CaracasBy Diego Ore and Andrew Cawthorne CARACAS (Reuters) - President Nicolas Maduro's government and Venezuela's main opposition group agreed on Tuesday to begin talks intended to halt the nation's worst political unrest in a decade. Representatives of the Vatican and South American regional bloc Unasur will mediate, both sides said. Clashes between security forces and pro-government militants on one side, and hooded opposition demonstrators blocking streets on the other, have killed 39 people since mid-February, according to official figures. The dead have included government supporters, opponents, and members of the security forces.
 
 

Church of Norway rejects same-sex marriage

 
‎08 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:11:00 PMGo to full article
The protestant Church of Norway on Tuesday rejected a proposal for religious same-sex marriage, even though it had the support of most of the country's bishopsThe protestant Church of Norway on Tuesday rejected a proposal for religious same-sex marriage, even though it had the support of most of the country's bishops. Norway was among the first countries in Europe to grant homosexuals full rights, including marriage and adoption in 2009, but the Church does not marry same-sex couples. Eight of Norway's 12 bishops said in October they favoured such a move, but on Tuesday the Church's highest decision-making body the synod rejected the proposal. "We are disappointed," said Baard Nylund from a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group.
 
 

Oscar winner plans TV drama about Italian-American pope

 
‎08 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:08:14 AMGo to full article
Italian director Paolo Sorrentino receives honorary citizenship of Rome, on March 14, 2014 at the Campidoglio in RomeItaly's Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino plans to make a debut television series entitled "The Young Pope" about Lenny Belardo -- a fictional first-ever Italian American pontiff, an Italian daily reported on Tuesday. The name of the actor who will play the Catholic leader in the eight-part 50-minute series has not been revealed but the plot will reportedly play out in the Vatican, as well as Africa, Italy and the United States. Sorrentino won the Oscar for best foreign film this year for "The Great Beauty" (La Grande Bellezza), a magical romp through a Roman dreamscape and a tribute to Italian master Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita". "Paolo Sorrentino has chosen us for his first television story," Andrea Scrosati, Sky's vice president for cinema, entertainment and news, was quoted by the Corriere della Sera as saying.
 
 

Christian Values Congressman Vance McAllister Was Caught on Video Kissing a Staffer

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:51:00 PMGo to full article
Christian Values Congressman Vance McAllister Was Caught on Video Kissing a StafferRep. Vance McAllister, who ran on a "faith, family, and country" platform for his freshman term in the House, was caught on video kissing a member of his staff. McAllister, a married Republican from Louisiana, was elected to replace Rep. Rodney Alexander in a special election last November. The video was first posted to the the Ouachita Citizen's website on Monday. Later on Monday, McAllister released a statement "asking for forgiveness."  The blurry video — which was seems to be recorded from security footage of McAllister's district office in Monroe, Louisiana on December 23 — shows the Congressman embracing and kissing a woman who has been identified by the paper as one of his aides.
 
 

Vatican ex-sex crimes prosecutor heads to Scotland

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:26:18 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is sending its former sex crimes prosecutor to Scotland this week to investigate "recent serious allegations of misconduct" surrounding disgraced Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who resigned last year after admitting to sexual misdeeds.
 

Pope, Jordan's king have tea ahead of Mideast trip

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:54:19 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis and King Abdullah II of Jordan held talks over tea at the Vatican with an eye to the pontiff's upcoming visit.
 

Vatican bank gets pope's blessing to keep going

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:14:15 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis gave his backing Monday to the scandal-tainted Vatican Bank to carry on provided it presses ahead with efforts to bring its banking practices up to international standards.
 

Church wants Wal-Mart investor vote on gun sales

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:06:46 PMGo to full article
Attorneys for a church in Manhattan are asking a federal judge in Delaware to prohibit Wal-Mart from sending its annual proxy statement to shareholders because it doesn't include its proposal for a shareholder ...
 

Pope presses anti-AIDS chastity strategy in Africa

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:28:55 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has praised church workers in Africa who promote chastity as a key way to prevent the spread of HIV.
 

Vatican ex sex crimes prosecutor eyes Scotland

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:50:53 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is sending its former sex crimes prosecutor to Scotland this week to investigate allegations of misconduct stemming from disgraced Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien's admission of sexual misdeeds.
 

Pope backs scandal-plagued Vatican Bank to operate

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎01:31:04 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis has given his backing to the Vatican Bank to keep operating as it strives to improve compliance with international best banking practices. The bank, which has been caught up in money-laundering ...
 

Pope rules Vatican bank to stay operative, approves reforms

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎12:19:11 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis talks to the faithful at the end of a visit to parish San Gregorio Magno in RomeBy Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis has approved a reform proposal keeping the Vatican bank operative, ending a year of speculation over whether the pontiff would close the institution that has embarrassed the Church for decades. "The IOR will continue to serve with prudence and provide specialized financial services to the Catholic Church worldwide," the Vatican said on Monday in a statement announcing that Francis had approved recommendations for the future of the bank, known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR). Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a former senior Vatican accountant who had close ties to the IOR, is currently on trial accused of plotting to smuggle millions of dollars into Italy from Switzerland as part of a scheme to help rich friends avoid taxes. Scarano has also been indicted on separate charges of laundering millions of euros through the IOR.
 
 

Near Fort Hood, church service honors fallen

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:17:03 AMGo to full article
Kathy Abad, a military wife, prays for the victims and families affected by the Fort Hood shooting during a memorial service at the Tabernacle Baptist Church on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Killeen, Texas. On April 2, 2014, three people were killed and 16 were wounded when a gunman opened fire before taking his own life at the Fort Hood military base. (AP Photo/ Tamir Kalifa)KILLEEN, Texas (AP) — The church program pictured an empty road being enveloped by the dark clouds of a sweeping thunderstorm, and the service's lesson was from Isaiah 35:4, "Be strong, fear not." The preacher implored those gathered Sunday that they would find hope in God, but also acknowledged the question on everyone's mind: Why Fort Hood — again?
 
 

India's Gandhi warns of religious trouble on election eve

 
‎06 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:52:00 PMGo to full article
A file picture from April 19, 2004 shows Indian election officials loading electronic voting machines on a elephant leaving for polling stations in Guwahati constituency in Nortap, Assam stateRahul Gandhi, frontman for India's ruling Congress party, warned Sunday on the eve of the world's biggest election that the country faces religious turmoil if the opposition Hindu nationalist party wins power. Gandhi said majority Hindus would be pitted against minority Muslims if hardliner Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) clinched power -- as widely predicted -- during the marathon six-week ballot starting on Monday. "Wherever these people (BJP) go they create fights. We walk with people from all communities, castes, religions and regions and that is our politics," said Gandhi, the 43-year-old scion of India's famous political dynasty.
 
 

Pope treats faithful to copies of the Gospels

 
‎06 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:26:17 PMGo to full article
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Tens of thousands of faithful in St. Peter's Square have been treated to gifts from Pope Francis — pocket-sized copies of the Gospels which he hopes they'll keep handy and read daily.

 

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What Happens When we Turn (For Real) To God

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:00:42 PM | Amy Julia BeckerGo to full article

This Lent, I've learned again that He runs to meet us and welcome us home

Repent sounds like such a religious word, like street preachers shouting, like moralists wagging fingers. But I learned a long time ago that the literal translation of "repent" is to turn around. "Hey, buddy, you're headed in the wrong direction"—that sounds like a helpful, kind word, not a scathing correction. I think it's this type of encouraging word that Jesus himself offers when he begins his ministry with a proclamation: "The kingdom of God is among you. Repent, and believe the good news."

If to repent is to turn around, to turn towards God and start walking with God instead of on my own away from God, then confession is a starting point on the road to the kingdom.

Confession is the starting point on the road to the kingdom.

Try to envision it with me—imagine yourself walking towards something you want, even though you have a nagging sense that the something you want might not be good for you, might not be best for you, might even hurt someone else. That something might be very obvious, like you decide to emulate Walter White (of Breaking Bad fame) and become a crystal-meth kingpin. Or it might be more domestic in nature, like you find yourself snapping at your kids and feeling gross about your body and saying something mean about your sister to your other sister and drinking three glasses of wine that night and knowing that you wish everything didn't feel quite so saturated with self-pity and complaints.

On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten anticipation of Easter, I decide to reflect on each day and confess one thing. One of the many things I've realized over the course of the past few weeks of confession is that when I pay attention to ...

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Four Powerful Ways to Solve the Crisis in Orphan Care

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:36:51 PM | Timothy C. MorganGo to full article

Despite fraud and scandal, resourceful evangelicals are meeting an urgent need.

Journalist Kathryn Joyce caused a stir this year with her book The Child Catchers, a sweeping indictment of the evangelical overseas adoption movement. Joyce claimed that much faith-based adoption is corrupted by trafficking, patriarchy, and bad theology. On top of her report, covered on The New York Times's front page, the number of adoptions by Americans has declined by 62 percent since 2004, even while UNICEF reports there are still at least 13 million children worldwide who have lost both parents.

Evangelical Christians are an adoption-happy bunch, because we were adopted once too. A family that welcomes needy children into a loving home provides a potent symbol of the in-grafting gospel. Yet we know all too well the gap between how things should be and how things are. Orphanage horror stories are sickeningly common. In 2010, 10 U.S. missionaries were charged with trafficking 33 Haitian children into the Dominican Republic. One of the world's largest sex abuse scandals took place at a Canadian orphanage run by the Christian Brothers until the late 1980s. Then there's the case of the vanishing orphanage: In a Kenyan village, a Christian orphanage hosted church leaders from Colorado. On an unannounced follow-up visit, one leader discovered the orphanage was a "highly sophisticated web of lies" that used fake staff and "rented" children.

Further, some government leaders and researchers believe orphanages don't address the systemic issues underlying orphan care. Rwanda, for example, had one of the largest concentrations of orphans—about 1 million—after the 1994 genocide. Since then, tens of thousands of Rwandan children have successfully moved into extended family and foster ...

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March Madness Won't End Monday, Thanks to Lent

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:36:51 PM | Kevin P. EmmertGo to full article

Saints facing single-elimination in Lent Madness tournament include many names evangelicals will recognize.

March Madness may be coming to a close. But single-elimination competition won't end with Monday's NCAA men's national championship—thanks to Lent.

Or rather, Lent Madness. Launched in 2010 by a Massachusetts pastor, Tim Schenck, the bracket offers a unique Lenten devotion that combines his love for church history and sports.

"We put 32 saints in a basketball-type bracket, and they go at it," said Schenck, rector of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, told NPR. Each day's match-up features two saints, and readers vote for their favorite to determine who advances to the next round.

The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get more interesting in the subsequent rounds as the bloggers expose quirks, explore legends, and even "move into the area of saintly kitsch." On April 16, a winner will be declared and crowned with the coveted Golden Halo.

The 2014 bracket includes several names many evangelicals will recognize: Joseph of Arimathaea, brothers John and Charles Wesley, composer J. S. Bach, and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Other names some evangelicals may recognize are Lydia of Thyatira, Antony of the Desert, Basil the Great, John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena, and Thomas Merton.

Still, others—like Phillips Brooks, Harriet Bedell, and Alfred the Great—are more likely to be recognized by Christians from mainline traditions or Roman Catholicism.

Schenck wants to make church history, particularly hagiography (the biographies of saints), fun and engaging for ordinary people. And he wants these saints to come alive in readers' imaginations.

"So often we stick saints in stained glass ...

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Morning Roundup 3/18/14

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:36:51 PM | Ed StetzerGo to full article

Mormons in the American Mind; Church Absence; Diocese Guilty of Antigay Bias

Mormons in the American MindNeil J. Young

Fascinating article on how Mormons are perceived. I've written on Mormonism before, pointing out that it is seeking to be seen more like a denomination, but is seen by pastors as a different religion (distinct from biblical Christianity) (here, here, here, and here).

Why don't people go to church?Selma Wilson

Selma Wilson has a great article about church. I opined a bit on this after Donald Miller indicated he was not going to church.

Worcester Diocese is guilty of antigay bias, Coakley saysLisa Wangsness

Once again, the legal issues on gay marriage surface. LifeWay Research did some research on this recently.

Jenni Catron joined me in studio to discuss leadership principles from her book Clout.

Most recently she served for nine years as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tenn., where she led the staff and oversaw the ministry of its five campuses. Prior to joining the staff of Cross Point, she worked in Artist Development in the Christian music industry. Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

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Obamacare's Bump: More Christians Now Sharing Health Care Costs

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:31:52 PM | Kate Shellnutt and Kate TracyGo to full article

Christian alternatives to traditional insurance see surge in enrollments.

The Obama administration's health care push didn't just lead 7.1 million Americans to sign up for insurance coverage through government-run exchanges. Christian cost-sharing ministries—exempt from Affordable Care Act requirements—also saw a bump in enrollments.

In the months leading up to the March 31 deadline, tens of thousands of Christians opted for faith-based insurance alternatives, where believers contribute a monthly share toward paying for each others' health care costs.

Month-over-month enrollments doubled and tripled throughout the year at Samaritan Ministries—one of the country's biggest health care sharing ministries, which now has about 113,000 members, 43 percent more than it did a year ago.

Another major program, Medi-Share, reported an average of 500 inquiries a day over the open enrollment period starting in October. Medi-Share saw membership jump to more than 82,000 members nationwide, with a 7 percent increase in March alone.

Last month, Katie Lamb, a self-employed photographer in Houston, ditched her traditional insurance plan for a cost-sharing program through Christian Healthcare Ministries. At 28, Lamb didn't have regular medical bills to pay but liked the idea of having insurance just in case.

By choosing Christian Healthcare Ministries, Lamb said, the money she'd usually pay to an insurance company now goes to helping the body of Christ. "I love that they send out newsletters of other members to pray for and also to give an opportunity to send additional money to these people in great need if you feel called to do so."

This unique structure, which relies on the faith and funds of fellow believers, allows medical cost-sharing ministries ...

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Israel Separates Christian and Muslim Arabs (Legally) for the First Time

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:31:52 PM | Dale Gavlak and Kate TracyGo to full article

(UPDATED) But Israeli Baptist leader says most Arab Christians will refuse unprecedented offer of special minority representation.

Update (Feb. 27): Arab Christians will largely disregard the unprecedented special minority representation granted them by Israel's legislature, predicts the chairman of the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel.

"I believe most Arabs will refuse this decision," Munther Na'um told CT of the controversial bill passed earlier this week. It distinguishes between Israel's Muslim and Christian Arab communities for the first time and recognizes Christians as a separate minority.

"It's meant to separate the whole family [Israeli Arabs] in political decisions," Na'um said, speaking from his base in the northern Israeli town of Shafr Amr. Palestinians living in Israel are referred to as Israeli Arabs.

"It's not good for Arabs, whether Christians or Muslims, or the Jews," he said. Na'um believes that some Israeli politicians are "trying to separate us by religious status and create a political situation from that."

"It will not be effective," he added.

The bill was approved by a 31-6 vote in its third and final reading in the Knesset Monday. The legislation will also increase employment representation for Christian Arabs in Israel's government by adding an Israeli Christian Arab to the panel of the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity.

The evanglical leader downplayed the move by Israeli politicians in the Knesset which has angered fellow Arab lawmakers.

...

"We are in the villages and cities in Israel and in these same places you also find Muslims and Druze. They are making more and more tension between people in these places."

...

"It's a political issue to serve in the Israeli army and we cannot agree ...

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Can Churches Separate Mental Illness and Shame?

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎08:15:18 PM | Christine A. SchellerGo to full article

Rick Warren confronts one more "last taboo."

The thing about a conference called "The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church" is that most people there have been touched by mental illness. And most people at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, on March 28, probably felt like they were hearing their family's story preached from the pulpit.

I just didn't expect to hear my family's story literally discussed.

The conference was held on the sixth anniversary of my son Gabriel's death by suicide. One of its key speakers was Aaron Kheriaty, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Calfiornia, Irvine. He had delivered a beautiful, hope-filled homily at Gabriel's funeral in 2008 and dedicated his 2013 book, The Catholic Guide to Depression, to Gabe.

Hearing him mention that history in his plenary talk in front of a 3,300-person live audience, with another 6,000 watching via webcast, was surprising. But I also didn't envision my surviving son, whose church experiences have been marred by pain, would drive from the Pacific Northwest to sit through hours of talks about mental illness. Anticipating the day, I was filled with a mixture of hope and dread.

Faith-filled and Free

"I'm not okay, you're not okay, but that's okay because God's okay," said Rick Warren, Saddleback's senior pastor and founder in the opening plenary. Warren admitted having suffered a debilitating, year-long depression soon after he and his wife, Kay, launched Saddleback.

Like HIV/AIDS and orphan care, mental health is now one of the Saddleback's signature issues, said Warren. "We're going to be known for this whether or not anybody else does it," he said.

Kevin Vann, bishop ...

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News: The Second Coming Christ Controversy: Company with Ties to David Jang Buys 'Newsweek'

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:03:57 PM | Ted OlsenGo to full article

Media group that bought the weekly took part in regular Internet chats with Jang to discuss business.

Journalism websites are abuzz today with news that IAC/InterActiveCorp sold the once-iconic Newsweek title to IBT Media, publisher of the website International Business Times. Most media coverage focuses on the history of the magazine, including the death of its print publication in December and IAC chairman Barry Diller's comment that his buying it had been a "mistake."

But few sites are noting that IBT has significant ties to David Jang, the Korean pastor hailed by some of his followers as a messianic figure, a "Second Coming Christ."

Christianity Today published two major articles on Jang last year, quoting multiple sources who described an international network with Jang as its spiritual—and sometimes even operational—leader.

Jang has been a controversial figure in Asia since 2008, when a committee of Hong Kong theologians and church leaders "unanimously expressed its serious apprehensions and concerns." His views and influence continue to be debated in South Korea and in the U.S. And last year, the National Association of Evangelicals appointed a committee to determine "theological compatibility" between the Jang-founded Olivet University and the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay Christian Resources. The findings of that committee have not been publicly released, but after reviewing the committee's report LifeWay officials withdrew from plans to sell a 2,100-acre New Mexico conference center to the school.

IBTimes has no public or formal ties to Jang. According to CT sources, IBTimes CEO Etienne Uzac owns 55 percent of the company and chief content officer Johnathan Davis owns 45 percent. Jang does not appear on the company's "leadership" ...

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Moving to Missional Part II: Why Structure is Essential

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:03:57 PM | Ed StetzerGo to full article

Having a simple structure in your church can aid the development of a missional culture.

Previously, we talked about the three steps needed to develop a missional culture. But that is not all you need. Culture can be a motivating factor, but if the structure you have in place doesn't affirm and encourage your culture, you may be stuck trying to restart the culture again down the road.

I've written before about how church planting movements benefit from a simple structure that encourages reproducibility. This follows in the structural model Paul set up for the churches he planted. The goal and culture of church planting is one of reproducing the next generation of churches, pastors and planters. To accomplish this, churches and organizations must be intentional to establish structures that mesh with the culture.

The structure you have in place should be an aid to the culture you are trying to produce, not a hindrance. So, how can that happen in your church? How can you implement a structure that affirms the missional culture you want to establish? Look to provide a simple way for people to progress to the next step of service.

The Simple Structure of the Purpose Driven Church

At one point in American history, one out of every 10 churches identified themselves as Purpose Driven by participating as part of that network.

Despite there being fewer "Purpose Driven churches," they provided us with a brilliant, but simple idea. They created the baseball diamond to show there are four things that every Christian should know: evangelism, fellowship, discipleship and ministry. It was an easy and effective way to demonstrate the sequential process of discipleship. At our church we talk about begin, connect, thrive, and engage. The names have changed and perhaps the way it is applied, but the ...

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Christian Baseball Star Relinquishes Right to 'Play Hard, Pray Harder'

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:03:57 PM | Abby StockerGo to full article

Josh Hamilton 'turns the other cheek' in lawsuit from Christian sports-apparel start-up over shared slogan.

In somewhat of a David vs. Goliath scenario, a small Christian clothing company took Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton to court over a slogan used by both parties on sports apparel.

Josh Eckel and Tyler Mileger, founders of Dallas-based Play Hard Pray Harder (also known as P2), filed suit after discovering that Hamilton had also been promoting the "Play Hard Pray Harder" slogan on clothing sold by Scripture Art, co-founded by the baseball giant's wife.

Hamilton, who has publicly acknowledged his reliance on his Christian faith in struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, used the phrase on clothing as early as April 2012. P2 formed the previous January.

The suit was ultimately settled in P2's favor because the small start-up sold merchandise across state lines before Hamilton, who agreed not to pursue trademark rights in the future.

"For something like this to work, I couldn't just give half my effort, I knew I needed to give all of my effort and so that meant all my savings, and all the energy, and all the free time that I had," Eckel told KDFW Fox 4. The company's lawyer later told the Associated Press that his clients "were extremely disappointed that the issue had to be extensively litigated for Hamilton to do the right thing."

Hamilton stated he was "happy to have this distraction resolved," citing Matthew 5:39-40: "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well."

CT profiled Hamilton during his recovery from addiction and rise to baseball stardom. CT has also covered other ...

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Vietnam Is Getting Better, and Worse

 
‎28 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎08:17:58 PM | Sarah Eekhoff ZylstraGo to full article

Some see small signs of freedom even as the country moves up the list of top persecutors.

Secretary of State John Kerry's December trip to Vietnam was meant to improve relations and urge greater protection of human rights in a country that climbed three spots on a list of the world's worst persecutors of Christians.

Kerry attended Mass in Ho Chi Minh City, a move faith-based adviser Shaun Casey called a step "beyond rhetoric to highlight religious freedom."

Life Without Limbs evangelist Nick Vujicic's visit seven months earlier was even more notable, said Reg Reimer, former missionary and longtime advocate for religious freedom in Vietnam.

Vujicic took the stage before more than 60,000 Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, sparking hope that the Communist country may be easing its religious restrictions.

"Nick's visit was a bright spot in Vietnam's long, dreary, turn toward a better way of treating religions," Reimer said.

The visit indicated that some in the Vietnamese government are comfortable with foreigners publicly sharing their faith, said Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) president Chris Seiple. "It is also in Vietnam's self-interest to be known as open to such things."

It is encouragement sorely needed. Vietnam's Decree 92, which went into effect in January 2013 and was meant to clarify earlier laws, allows religious groups to legally register. But before they can preach, perform sacraments, or choose their own leaders, they must have worshiped for 20 years without disturbing the government.

The 2014 World Watch List, a ranking from Open Doors of the countries that most persecute Christians, put Vietnam at No. 18, up from No. 21 last year. Meanwhile, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) again ...

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Review: Noah

 
‎28 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:07:02 PM | Alissa WilkinsonGo to full article

After a flood of reviews and controversy, it's finally here. So should you see it?

mpaa rating:PG-13 (For violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content.)

Genre:Epics

Directed By: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman, Russell Crowe

Theatre Release:March 28, 2014 by Paramount Pictures

Here's my take: Christianity Today reader, you should see Noah.

I can't promise you'll like Noah. Nor would I suggest that if you don't, it indicates that something is necessarily wrong with you.

But as I struggled to write about this film this week—in the wake of dozens of other excellent pieces from both mainstream and Christian sources—that's what it all came down to. So yes, if you're wondering: Noah is worth your time and your ticket price.

Reason 1: Noah is a good movie made by good filmmakers who pursue important questions and think of movies as art.

Darren Aronofsky directed the film (read our interview with him and co-writer Ari Handel), and what ties Aronofsky's body of work together is a deep concern for and interest in the most basic building blocks of human-ness.

His films stylistically swing between the mind-bendingly surreal and the uncomfortably, grittily real, but this is at the core of each one. Requiem for a Dream looked at humans as the kinds of beings who are driven by a desire for fulfillment and the good life, no matter how delusional. The Wrestler and Black Swan both explored embodiment, and painfully, graphically exposed what happens when we objectify and abstract bodies (male and female) from their connection to the rest of the human. The Fountain grappled with death and life after death.

I generally like Aronofsky's films, but I was especially captured by the weird, moody, enigmatic Fountain, which starred Hugh Jackman as, by turns, some kind of ancient wanderer, a doctor, and a futuristic enlightened consciousness, all in three stories that spanned a millennium. Lots of people didn't like the movie, which I understand. But I thought ...

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Evangelicals Back Peace Pact with Islamic Rebels in Philippines

 
‎28 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎03:57:12 PM | Timothy C. MorganGo to full article

President Aquino, Moro leader Ebrahim end decades of bloody conflict.

Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Islamic leaders in the Philippines are hailing today's signing of historic peace accords to end decades of conflict between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Among the dignitaries at the event was Bishop Efraim Tendero, head of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, which came out in favor of the peace accords. MILF forces will surrender their weapons in order to gain political autonomy in areas of southern Philippines with large Muslim populations.

The conflict dates to the 1960s, and by some estimates 120,000 people have died. In 2011, MILF gave up its aspiration to achieve nation-state status for the region of southern Mindanao. Instead, this autonomous area will remain under the national government.

In remarks at Malacanang Palace, President Aquino said:

"This agreement stands as a testament to how far trust and earnestness can move humanity forward," he said. "It shows how righteousness, reason and goodwill are the mightiest of instruments in ending conflict. It proves that the search for common ground is infinitely more productive than hegemonic ambition."

Despite the goodwill, insurgent groups remain active. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as recently as seven months ago slaughtered hundreds of people in the mostly Christian city of Zamboanga. Christian hostages were used as human shields in the outbreak of violence.

A top Roman Catholic leader, Bishop Villegas, called for the government to create peace agreements with MNLF and other smaller rebel groups.

[Villegas] called on the government to pursue a path of peace that includes broad-based "consultations and an honest, open and trusting ...

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News: World Vision Reverses Decision To Hire Christians in Same-Sex Marriages

 
‎27 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:50:12 PM | Celeste Gracey and Jeremy WeberGo to full article

(UPDATED) President Richard Stearns: 'Certain beliefs are so core to our Trinitarian faith that we must take a strong stand on those beliefs.'

[Updated 10:45 a.m. Thursday with additional reactions.]

Only two days after announcing it would hire Christians in same-sex marriages, World Vision U.S. has reversed its ground-breaking decision after weathering intense criticism from evangelical leaders.

"The last couple of days have been painful," president Richard Stearns told reporters this evening. "We feel pain and a broken heart for the confusion we caused for many friends who saw this policy change as a strong reversal of World Vision's commitment to biblical authority, which it was not intended to be."

"Rather than creating more unity [among Christians], we created more division, and that was not the intent," said Stearns. "Our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake … and we believe that [World Vision supporters] helped us to see that with more clarity … and we're asking you to forgive us for that mistake."

"We listened to [our] friends, we listened to their counsel. They tried to point out in loving ways that the conduct policy change was simply not consistent … with the authority of Scripture and how we apply Scripture to our lives," said Stearns. "We did inadequate consultation with our supporters. If I could have a do-over on one thing, I would have done much more consultation with Christian leaders."

"What we are affirming today is there are certain beliefs that are so core to our Trinitarian faith that we must take a strong stand on those beliefs," said Stearns. "We cannot defer to a small minority of churches and denominations that have taken a different position."

"Yes, we will certainly defer on many ...

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Commentary: The Genesis of 'Noah'

 
‎27 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎05:44:48 PM | Peter ChattawayGo to full article

Darren Aronofsky's blockbuster is hardly the first big-screen adaptation of the story. How does it compare to the others?

The story of Noah and the Flood is one of the most easily recognized stories in the world, but it hasn't had a whole lot of attention on the big screen—until now, thanks to Darren Aronofsky's Noah, which may be the first feature-length film made for the big screen that devotes its entire running time to Noah's story. (Here's my interview with director Darren Aronofsky and his co-writer Ari Handel.)

The biblical version of the story is fairly brief, so filmmakers who have tackled it in the past have tended to do so either as part of a larger treatment of the early chapters of Genesis, or by pairing it with a completely modern story. They have also tended to pad the story out with elements borrowed from other parts of the Bible.

Filmmakers have turned to the Bible for source material since the earliest days of the silent era, back in the late 19th century. The films they made were usually quite short and often reflected the religious iconography that was popular at the time. Little emphasis was placed on turning the stories into theatrical dramas, per se, let alone on making things "realistic."

Towards the end of this period—just as Hollywood was making the transition from silent films to sound—Warner Brothers produced a film called Noah's Ark (1928).

Based on a script by Daryl F. Zanuck, and plagued by rumours that a few of the extras died while shooting the Flood sequences, it was one of the first American films directed by a Hungarian named Michael Curtiz, who would go on to become famous as the director of films like Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood and the Elvis-starring King Creole.

Like a number of silent films—such as D.W. Griffith's Intolerance ...

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Morning Roundup 3/27/14

 
‎27 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎04:31:04 PM | Ed StetzerGo to full article

U.S. Moderately Restricts Religious Freedom; Transformational Church Book Review; Anglican Catechism

The U.S. Puts 'Moderate' Restrictions on Religious FreedomEmma Green

Tough to hear, but increasingly important to realize.

Book Review – Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for CongregationsDave Jenkins

Thanks, Dave Jenkins, for this review on Transformational Church.

To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism—Anglican Church in North America

My friends at the ACNA have a new catechism.

Download this week's edition of The Exchange Podcast with Beth Moore.

Anglican pastor and movie reviewer Thomas McKenzie discusses the film industry's influence with me on this episode of The Exchange. McKenzie reviews movies at oneminutereview.com. Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

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The View from the Religious Middle

 
‎26 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:19:12 AM | Halee Gray ScottGo to full article

How can we oppose injustice without acting like the sky is falling?

Outside the University Union Building at the University of North Texas, a small stone marked one of six "free speech areas" on campus. In the early 2000s, when I was a student there, these designated areas were used mostly by Christians to proclaim hellfire and damnation upon "whoremongers, atheists, homosexuals, and church gossips," among many others. As an agnostic at the time, I marveled at how ineffectively they used the precious little real estate they had to talk about their faith.

Though policies have since changed at UNT, more Christians today tend feel like those students did: that our place in the cultural conversation is shrinking, and we need to shout louder to have our voices heard. A report by Lifeway Research found full 70 percent of pastors (and just over half of the general public) believe that religious liberty is declining in America, and 59 percent believe that Christians are losing the culture wars.

Lifeway Research president Ed Stetzer attributes this unease to "shifts in American culture and church practice" as well as a decline in the number of American Protestants. In the 1960s, Christians made up two-thirds of the population, but today, they make up less than half.

Since Lifeway's research only measured perceptions, it doesn't tell us if Christians really are losing their religious liberty and if so, to what extent. But it isn't hard to get a good read of the situation from the headlines: the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act (being argued in the Supreme Court this week); the veto of controversial SB1062, which would allow Arizona businesses to refuse services to gay weddings; the rights of businesses to terminate individuals based ...

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Interview: Darren Aronofsky Talks to CT about 'Noah'

 
‎25 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎05:01:05 PM | Interview by Peter T. ChattawayGo to full article

Raised culturally Jewish, the independent filmmaker has created a midrash for the big screen.

Screenwriter, director, and producer Darren Aronofsky is known for dark, edgy independent films that center on characters with obsessive and self-destructive personalities: the drug addicts in Requiem for a Dream, for example, or the ballet dancer in Black Swan, the latter of which earned Aronofsky an Oscar nomination (and an actual win for the film's star, Natalie Portman).

But Aronofsky has also explored religious themes in films like Pi and The Fountain, which played on Jewish mysticism and Edenic imagery, respectively. Now the director, who was raised culturally Jewish, has made a full-fledged biblical epic with Noah, a $125 million-budget film that puts an unorthodox spin on one of the most familiar stories from Scripture. While Noah and the animals on the Ark have often been played for laughs on the big screen (e.g. Evan Almighty), Aronofsky considers the Flood "the first apocalypse story," and his film underscores the psychological toll it takes on Noah (played by Russell Crowe) and his family (Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins, among others). Aronofsky sees his interpretation of the Genesis story as part of the midrash tradition, in which Jewish teachers create stories meant to explain the deeper truths of the Tanakh.

Aronofsky and co-writer and -producer Ari Handel spoke with Christianity Today at a screening room in New York City a few weeks before the film's release date. The following is an edited version of their conversation with Peter Chattaway, who has a forthcoming CT print essay on 2014 Bible movies.

I was struck by how your film addresses justice and mercy.

Darren Aronofsky: That was a big part of the movie for us. When Ari and I started working on the project ...

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Religious Freedom, Hobby Lobby, Some Pertinent Research, and a Prayer

 
‎25 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎03:55:55 PM | Ed StetzerGo to full article

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood take their case against mandated contraception to the Supreme Court today.

Today, the Supreme Court is hearing the oral arguments on "Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius." The case pits the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) against a claim of religious liberty infringement. It will be a busy news day—every comment from every Justice will be dissected and analyzed, and the news will be filled with coverage, some of it confusing and some of it agenda-driven.

Needless to say, this is a highly anticipated case for Christians and non-Christians alike as it will likely set a precedent for similar cases to follow in the future in matters of religious liberty and the relationship between church and state. The New York Times calls it "Crying Wolf on Religious Liberty," yet many Catholics, Evangelicals, and others have a different view.

Below are some helpful articles and blogs to help you understand the case and why it matters to many of us.

  • First, I provide an overview of the case from the Washington Post.
  • Then, a response from Rick Warren (and, for full disclosure, I share Rick's view and support Hobby Lobby.) Rick and I talked about it in a recent interview which I've also included.
  • Finally, our LifeWay Research data, which shows that the majority of Americans actually do not agree with Hobby Lobby's (or my) view.

Here's what you need to know about the Hobby Lobby caseJaime Fuller

If the contraceptive mandate passes, it will ruin a core U.S. ideologyRick Warren

About a year ago, I hosted Rick Warren on The Exchange to talk about a number of topics, one of which was the matter of religious liberty. Below is a clip from our discussion that pertains to the Hobby Lobby case:

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They Will Know Us By Our Angry Blogs

 
‎31 ‎May ‎2013, ‏‎04:30:00 PM | Karen Swallow PriorGo to full article

It’s time for Christians to tone down the controversy and show some love.

It's hard to believe that not so long ago, I didn't know my Mark Driscoll from my Donald Miller, had never heard of Rachel Held Evans, and didn't know what a Patheos was. Tucked snugly within the ivory tower, I had never set virtual foot inside the Christian blogosphere. But all that has changed and because of the online realm of Christian blogging, my world has been made bigger, and for the most part, richer.

Despite the connections made and lessons learned online, controversy remains the lifeblood of the blogosphere. Indeed, polemics have a long, grand tradition within church history. But when Martin Luther called heretics "asses," his motive of upholding doctrine wasn't mingled with the side benefit of driving traffic to his site through sensationalist headlines and reader outrage.

Now, centuries after Luther, the disembodied, instantaneous nature of today's Internet communication cultivates and rewards acrimony where there should be love. To this point, Alastair Roberts observed in response to a recent blogosphere brush-up an "almost pathological need to take offence" that prevails. Compound such a pathology with the celebrity culture (yes, even among Christians) and the tribalism that dominate our media-saturated world, and there's no wonder that something as quiet as love gets left in the virtual dust.

Not that love means lack of disagreement. To the contrary, the biblical admonition to speak the truth in love assumes error and therefore disagreement. Yet, despite these disagreements, I remember it being said somewhere that the world will know we are Christians, not by being right, but by our love for one another.

I love that I learn so much from my brothers and ...

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How to Date Jesus' Wife

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:03:15 AMGo to full article
 
 

Chinese Communist Officials Deny "Demolition Campaign" of Christian Churches

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:07:57 PMGo to full article
Last week, crowds of Christians formed a human shield to protect the Sanjiang church from threatened demolition, but Communist authorities in China say that they are not campaigning to destroy churches.
 

Harvard Professor Claims “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” Papyrus Fragment Authentic

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:20:00 PMGo to full article
Karen King maintains her research wasn’t focused on proving Jesus was married, but to confirm his view of women.
 

Is the Internet Bad for Religion?

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:05:00 PMGo to full article
Is surfing the web causing people to drop out of church? Kimberly Winston of Religion News Network compared a few opinions on the subject.
 

Is the Internet Bad for Religion?

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:05:00 PMGo to full article
Is surfing the web causing people to drop out of church? Kimberly Winston of Religion News Network compared a few opinions on the subject.
 

30 Dead in Central African Republic

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:43:32 PMGo to full article
Violence between Christians and Muslims has claimed the lives of at least 30 people in the Central African Republic, CBN News Reports.
 

Pope Francis Denounces Human Trafficking as "Crime against Humanity"

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:27:01 PMGo to full article
Four women who were forced into sex slavery and later freed met with the pope at the Vatican on Thursday at an international conference on human trafficking.
 

After World Vision, Evangelicals Debate Boundaries Over Sexuality

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:39:34 PMGo to full article
At its core, the World Vision decision and reversal raised a stark question: Can you be an evangelical and support same-sex marriage?
 

Naghmed Abedini Campaigns for Husband's Prison Release with Faith at Core

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:21:55 PMGo to full article
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of the imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini has remained strong in her faith, despite setbacks in the case.
 

Islamic Cleric Suggests Physical Education Classes Leads 'Infidelity and Prostitution'

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:38:41 PMGo to full article
Girls in Saudi Arabian schools do not currently have access to physical education classes, but the possibility of adding sports instruction to the curriculum is under discussion.
 

New Study Claims Churchgoers Have Better Love Lives

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:21:07 PMGo to full article
A new study reveals regular churchgoers have a better love life than non-church attenders.
 

New Study Claims Churchgoers Have Better Love Lives

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:21:07 PMGo to full article
A new study reveals regular churchgoers have a better love life than non-church attenders.
 

New Survey Says 25 Percent of Kids Have Viewed Porn by 12

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:04 PMGo to full article
In a recent study, researchers found that 25 percents of children under the age of 12 have viewed internet pornography.
 

Chick-fil-A Wings in New Direction After Gay Flap

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:04:28 PMGo to full article
Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy has backed away from public pronouncements that mix personal opinion on social issues with corporate policy.
 

Is Support for Israel Waning Among Evangelicals?

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:53:16 PMGo to full article
Evangelicals have shifted within the last decade and are no longer considered automatic supporters of Israel.
 

Transgender Student Denied On-Campus Male Housing at Christian University

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:37:31 PMGo to full article
A transgender college sophomore has filed a complaint against a Christian university in Oregon after school officials said he couldn’t live with other men on campus during the forthcoming school year.
 

Focus on the Family's "Irreplaceable" Film Facing Censorship, Resistance

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:46 PMGo to full article
Focus on the Family’s one-day movie event “Irreplaceable” has gained wide public attention recently, though most of the publicity seems to be negative.
 

Study: Seminary Graduates in Record Debt

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:01 PMGo to full article
According to recent research by the The Center for the Study of Theological Education at Auburn Seminary, seminary graduates face suffocating debt.
 

Four Pakistani Christians now on death row

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:57:24 AMGo to full article
 
 

Obamas Attend Fort Hood Memorial Services

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:52:53 AMGo to full article
 
 

Ohio Representative Moves to Impeach Judge for Pro-Gay Rulings

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:12:45 PMGo to full article
Representative John Becker of Ohio has called to impeach a federal judge due to his recent rulings involving gay marriage.

 

world

 

Kim Jong-un Orders 33 Christians Executed

 
‎09 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:30:00 PMGo to full article
 

 

 

UK churches pray for peace in Ukraine

 
‎30 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎04:40:47 AMGo to full article
 
 
 
 
 

Humanitarian crisis in Nigeria

 
‎15 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎04:41:17 AMGo to full article
 

 

persecution

 

More Christian News

 

Top 25 Topics

 

 

The Beautiful Side of Evil -

Johanna Michaelsen

 


1.06.47

 

 

history

 

How to Date Jesus' Wife

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:03:15 AMGo to full article
 
 

 

 

Does Archaeology Disprove the Bible?

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:38:10 PMGo to full article
Archaeological finds that claim to de-bunk the Bible are sure to make headlines. But what about all the other archaeological evidence? Stay tuned to BreakPoint.
 

Christian Martyrs Found in Mass Grave?

 
‎05 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎04:57:18 AMGo to full article
 
 

Near St. Peter’s, An Ancient Burial Site Opens to the Public

 
‎30 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎06:10:13 PMGo to full article
In the first century B.C., a grassy hillside just north of what is now St. Peter’s Square was used as a burial place for local Romans.
 

 

gay marriage

After World Vision, Evangelicals Debate Boundaries Over Sexuality

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:39:34 PMGo to full article
At its core, the World Vision decision and reversal raised a stark question: Can you be an evangelical and support same-sex marriage?
 

Nobody Expects the Rainbow Inquisition

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
When a high-tech CEO was forced to resign because he supported traditional marriage, there was a backlash. But not from the folks you would have expected.
 

Ohio Representative Moves to Impeach Judge for Pro-Gay Rulings

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:12:45 PMGo to full article
Representative John Becker of Ohio has called to impeach a federal judge due to his recent rulings involving gay marriage.
 

Supreme Court Opts Not to Hear Gay Wedding Photography Case

 
‎08 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:13:02 PMGo to full article
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a New Mexico photographer’s case where studio owners refused to provide services for a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony.
 

World Vision Board Member Resigns in Response to Organization's Gay Policy

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:53:06 PMGo to full article
Jacquelline Fuller, member of the World Vision board, has resigned after the policy changes that occurred within the organization last week.
 

Mozilla CEO Steps Down After Employees Attack Traditional Marriage Beliefs

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:53:57 PMGo to full article
Co-founder of Mozilla Brendan Eich has stepped down from his position as CEO. Eich was attacked by employees of the company for his personal views on gay marriage.
 

World Vision President Deals with Aftermath of Same-Sex Marriage Decisions

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:14:35 PMGo to full article
World Vision went back and forth last week about hiring gay, married Christians. President Rich Stearns speaks out about the organization's final decision.
 

How Will Your Church Deal with Same-Sex Marriage

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:44:29 PMGo to full article
Can we learn anything from last week’s drama surrounding World Vision and same-sex marriage? I think so. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.
 

Critics Urge Grace After World Vision Reversal

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎05:36:09 PMGo to full article
Christians expressed confusion and concerns over the judgment of World Vision's leaders in the wake of the decision, but should be willing to take an apology.
 

 

 

World Vision Board Member Resigns in Response to Organization's Gay Policy

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎05:53:06 PMGo to full article
Jacquelline Fuller, member of the World Vision board, has resigned after the policy changes that occurred within the organization last week.
 

Mozilla CEO Steps Down After Employees Attack Traditional Marriage Beliefs

 
‎04 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:53:57 PMGo to full article
Co-founder of Mozilla Brendan Eich has stepped down from his position as CEO. Eich was attacked by employees of the company for his personal views on gay marriage.
 

World Vision President Deals with Aftermath of Same-Sex Marriage Decisions

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:14:35 PMGo to full article
World Vision went back and forth last week about hiring gay, married Christians. President Rich Stearns speaks out about the organization's final decision.
 

How Will Your Church Deal with Same-Sex Marriage

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎02:44:29 PMGo to full article
Can we learn anything from last week’s drama surrounding World Vision and same-sex marriage? I think so. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.
 

Critics Urge Grace After World Vision Reversal

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎05:36:09 PMGo to full article
Christians expressed confusion and concerns over the judgment of World Vision's leaders in the wake of the decision, but should be willing to take an apology.
 

World Vision's Gay Marriage Flip-Flop Reflects Evangelical Angst as Culture Shifts

 
‎28 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎07:51:19 PMGo to full article
The evangelical relief group World Vision announced this week that it would allow employees who are in same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, the $1 billion Christian organization reversed course.
 

World Vision Reverses Decision to Hire Christians in Same-Sex Marriages

 
‎26 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎10:36:56 PMGo to full article
Two days after the announcement that Christians in same-sex marriages could be hired at World Vision, the Christian relief organization reversed its decision.
 

World Vision to Recognize Employees' Same-Sex Marriages

 
‎26 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:51:26 PMGo to full article
Christian relief organization World Vision will now recognize same-sex marriage as being within the norms of “abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage.”
 

 

sex trafficking

 

Mrs. Smith Goes to Ottawa: Ending Sex Trafficking in Canada

 
‎25 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎02:41:16 PMGo to full article
A Christian legislator is committed to ending sex slavery in Canada. To hear more about this modern-day William Wilberforce, Stay tuned to BreakPoint.
 

What Would You Do If Someone Tried to Sell You His Baby?

 
‎27 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎05:50:10 PMGo to full article
Today is "Shine a Light on Slavery Day" in America. What can we do to help?
 

What It Takes to Free a Sex Slave

 
‎03 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎06:20:25 AMGo to full article
 
 

Things You May Not Know about the Super Bowl

 
‎31 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎08:10:00 AMGo to full article
Some facts related to the big game are fun. Others are more troubling.
 

Could Your Daughter Be Trafficked?

 
‎30 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎08:52:09 PMGo to full article
 
 

What You Can Do to Stop Human Trafficking at the Super Bowl and Beyond

 
‎29 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎10:55:52 PMGo to full article
Though it might seem like a social issue too large to solve, there’s a lot you can do to stop trafficking. Here are just a few ideas.
 

Chinese Doctor Guilty of Selling Babies to Human Traffickers

 
‎15 ‎January ‎2014, ‏‎04:31:15 PMGo to full article
A Chinese obstetrician has been found guilty of lying to parents and selling babies to human traffickers.
 

 

 

iBelieve.com

 

The hottest thing I've done for my marriage

 
‎13 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
On attraction, surprises and the truth that the hottest things don't come in little pink bags
 

Stranger Danger Tips Every Mom Should Know

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:57:19 PMGo to full article
This information could literally save your child's life. Learn how God can use parental instruction to protect children from strangers.
 

Transformation Garden - April 12, 2014

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
 
 

Why I am watching more sunsets

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
My husband said, “God does enough.” I asked him what he meant. “Well, my throat has been so sore and today this break has helped it heal. God did enough to make this easier for me.”
 

On Monkeys, Adam, Eve and Jesus

 
‎12 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
Nicole Unice shared a guest post on my blog that has something for all of us
 

5 Ways to Help Our Daughters to Love God’s Word!

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:50:21 PMGo to full article
The Bible is the best book our kids will ever read, so how do you encourage them to read it for themselves?
 

Are We Really United?

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎03:12:15 PMGo to full article
How the Gospel defines diversity
 

For Those of Us Feeling a Little Bit Squirrely

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎06:45:53 PMGo to full article
By allowing ourselves to be dissatisfied, we're taking advantage of God's goodness and the miracles we've waited for.
 

Naming the daughter we never met; and how she is changing us

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:14:49 PMGo to full article
A couple thoughts on how we are being changed through grief and loss
 

The Big If

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:00:00 AMGo to full article
Encouragement & Give-Away for those facing infertility
 

In which I question whether platform building can hold hands with Christianity

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:14:05 PMGo to full article
Does personal platform building gel with biblical truth?
 

The Reliability of the Scriptures Part 1

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:39:16 AMGo to full article
A look at the historicity of the Bible.
 

We Are One: A Lesson on Unity in the Body of Christ

 
‎08 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎09:55:21 PMGo to full article
Learn how to really work together to accomplish God's plan! It's time! Check out this week's post and share it with others!
 

Keep Moving Forward

 
‎08 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:40:15 PMGo to full article
Have you ever felt the heavy weight of condemnation and wanted to know how to get rid it, so you can keep moving forward? If so, then don't miss this week's post!
 

For When Life is Disappointing

 
‎08 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎04:00:00 PMGo to full article
We shouldn't be surprised when things don't work out, when we face trials, or when life is chaotic and unmanageable.

 

Worthy Christian News

 

Florida AFB Removes Controversial 'Missing Man Table'

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:29 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

american-christianityWASHINGTON, D.C. (Worthy News)– Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Fla., has recently removed a display honoring missing airmen from a base dining facility, according to International Christian Concern.

The "Missing Man Table" was intended to honor service personnel who didn't return from combat. The table displayed an inverted glass, a single red rose, a yellow ribbon, a candle, a plate with lemon and salt and a Bible.

According to the Air Force Chiefs website, the presence of the Bible was to represent "the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God". But according to Florida Today, a controversy about including a Bible in the display at the base's Riverside Dining Facility led to the removal of the entire table.

In a prepared statement, base authorities told Today that the table would return to the dining facility, but it was unclear if the Bible would still be part of the display.

"The 45th Space Wing deeply desires to honor America's Prisoners and War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) personnel. Unfortunately, the Bible's presence or absence on the table at the Riverside Dining Facility ignited controversy and division, distracting from the table's primary purpose of honoring POWs/MIAs.

"Consequently, we temporarily replaced the table with the POW/MIA flag in an effort to show our continued support of these heroes while seeking an acceptable solution to the controversy. After consultation with several relevant organizations, we now intend to re-introduce the POW/MIA table in a manner inclusive of all POWs/MIAs as well as Americans everywhere."

Although the "several relevant organizations" aren't identified, the inference that the presence of the Bible is contrary to inclusivity leaves little doubt as to who is behind this latest controversy.

 

Accord Formally Ends Conflict in Philippines

 
‎11 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:24:12 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

philippines-mapMANILA, PHILIPPINES (Worthy News)– The Philippine government signed a peace accord with that country's largest Islamist group in the hopes of ending decades of violence that killed more than 120,000, according to International Christian Concern.

More than 1,000 Filipinos had gathered at Manila's presidential palace to witness the signing of a comprehensive agreement between government negotiators and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. During the signing ceremony, President Benigno Aquino hailed the agreement as a "path that can lead to a permanent change in Muslim Mindanao."

"This agreement stands as a testament to how far trust and earnestness can move humanity forward," he said. "It shows how righteousness, reason and goodwill are the mightiest of instruments in ending conflict … those who wish to sow divisiveness for self-interest and those who continue to wield arms to pursue their own agendas — so many people have suffered for so long, so many of our stakeholders have worked so hard to arrive at this point: I will not let peace be snatched from my people."

Aquino's remark about "those who continue to wield arms to pursue their own agendas" was a thinly veiled reference to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, an MILF splinter cell that has rejected the accord.

MILF pledged to give up its weapons in exchange for greater political autonomy in the mainly Muslim areas of the southern Mindanao region.

 

Russian Authorities Target Christian-Run Projects

 
‎10 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎11:15:53 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

russia-mapPETERSBURG, RUSSIA (Worthy News)– Christian organizations in Russia that teach secular education may face harassment from government officials, according to Barnabas Aid.

Last month, Russia's Supreme Court upheld a previous ruling that determined the St. Petersburg's Harvest Pentecostal Church wasn't licensed to teach non-religious education. The decision meant that the church had lost the right to own or rent property, but it intends to appeal the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights.

Charges were first brought against Harvest Pentecostal because its building contained classrooms with desks. The St. Petersburg City Court later ruled that the church was running an eksternat: an external home schooling program.

However, the church claimed that it merely allowed its building to be used as an eksternat and that it wasn't involved in any instruction given by a children's pastor and her assistant on their own time.

 

Egypt: Killed for a Cross

 
‎09 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:15:13 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

egypt_mapCAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)– On a Friday afternoon late last month, a young woman was killed over a cross after she drove to the Ain Shams neighborhood of Cairo to deliver food and medicine to the elderly, according to International Christian Concern.

Mary Sameh George — a 24-year-old lawyer who was to be engaged in May — was one of four people killed by Muslim protestors in Ain Shams on March 28.

According to ICC sources, the Muslim Brotherhood holds a weekly protest march in Ain Shams every Friday after prayers, but on this particular afternoon, Brotherhood supporters clashed with Egyptian security forces because 529 supporters of the Brotherhood had all been given death sentences for their participation in widespread violence across Egypt.

George had parked within sight of the Brotherhood demonstration and when its supporters saw a cross hanging in her car they violently removed her from the vehicle and viciously attacked her while shouting "Allahu Akbar".

After killing George, they set her car on fire, but this violence has become commonplace in Ain Shams.

"Here in Ain Shams, we know that every Friday is a day of death," a local told Coptic Solidarity.

George Farid, a lawyer for the George family, told MidEast Christian News that although relatives have filed a police report, no one has been arrested for Mary's murder.

 

Chinese Christians Form Human Shield to Protect Church

 
‎08 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:49:12 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

china map christiansBEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News)– Thousands of Christians formed a human shield around the newly-constructed Sanjiang Christian Church in Zhejiang Province after several hundred police officers with bulldozers threatened to demolish it, according to International Christian Concern.

The standoff at the church reportedly began after a visiting Communist Party secretary said the church was too large.

"When the Party secretary Xia Baolong visited the local areas, he found the cross on top of the church very conspicuous. So he ordered that it be demolished," church leader Zheng Leguo told ChinaAid.

The standoff was unusual in that Sanjiang Church is part of China's Three-Self Patriotic Movement and that its congregation was officially sanctioned by the Communist state.

"We call on the authorities in Zhejiang Province to immediately rescind their orders for the demolition of Sanjiang Christian Church," said Ryan Morgan, International Christian Concern's Regional Manager for East Asia. "This church was legally constructed and has every right to exist in a nation which strongly claims, at least in the international community, to respect the religious freedom of its citizens. No one of any faith should have to place their life between a bulldozer and their house of worship. ICC stands with the Christians of Zhejiang Province as they take this courageous stand to protect their rights."

 

Pakistani Christian Couple Sentenced to Death for 'Blasphemy'

 
‎07 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:44:23 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro

pakistan-map2ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)– A Christian couple in Pakistan's Punjab Province was sentenced to death Friday for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages, according to Morning Star News.

The sentencing of Shafqat and Shugufta Emmanuel came only one week after a court in Lahore had sentenced Sawan Masih to death for allegedly insulting Islam's prophet during a drunken conversation with a Muslim friend. All three Christians join Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who was sentenced to death for an alleged blasphemy back in November 2010, yet still remains on death row.

Emmanuel and his wife were both accused of sending blasphemous text messages last June from a number allegedly registered in his name. The Gojra City Police in Punjab charged the couple with blasphemy under Sections 295-B: insulting the Koran, which is punishable by life imprisonment and 295-C: insulting Muhammad, which is punishable by death.

The Emmanuel's lawyer, Nadeem Hassan, said that in order to appease the mobs led by Islamist clerics, police forced Shafqat Emmanuel — who is confined to a wheelchair from a spinal injury — to confess to having sentt the blasphemous messages.

"The police tortured Shafqat to confess before a judicial magistrate, but the crippled man retracted his statement when we requested the session judge to record his statement again," he said.

Hassan — who had told the court that his clients couldn't possibly have written the alleged texts written in Roman Urdu as they couldn't read or write proper Urdu — said he would challenge the verdict in High Court.

Farrukh Harrison, of the Christian advocacy group World Vision in Progress, told Morning Star News that his group had protested the court’s bias from the trial's beginning.

"Judge Habib simply refused to accept our submissions regarding insufficient evidence presented by the prosecution," Harrison said.

Harrison also questioned why the judge had given the death sentence to both the husband and wife even though they had forced a confession from only Shafqat.

 

Use of blasphemy laws increases

 
‎03 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎10:32:28 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

islamic-statesWASHINGTON D.C. (Worthy News)– An increasing number of Muslim majority nations are strictly enforcing Islamic blasphemy laws in order to penalize Christians and other religious minorities, according to Barnabas Aid.

All blasphemy laws are incompatible with international human rights standards, according to a recent report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"This trend of greater usage of blasphemy laws will surely lead to increased violations of the freedoms of religion and expression," said Knox Thames, USCIRF director of policy and research. "Governments will jail people and extremists may kill others in the defense of undefined notions of religious sentiment."

The USCIRF report revealed that wherever authoritarian governments supported official religious creeds, blasphemy accusations were used to silence its critics and any political rivals, all under the guise of piety.

Pakistan was cited as the most egregious example of the increasing misuse of blasphemy laws: 14 Pakistanis are currently on death row and 19 others are serving life sentences. There was a similar increase in Egypt after the Arab Spring. From 2011 to 2012, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights recorded a total of 36 blasphemy cases involving 63 people; of these, 59 percent were lodged against Muslims and 41 percent against Christians who comprise less than 10 percent of Egypt's population.

Other countries that misuse blasphemy laws include: Indonesia, where more than 120 people have been detained since 2003; Iran, where any criticism of the Islamic republic is an offence; Saudi Arabia, a kingdom that can lodge blasphemy charges against any of its subjects who dare to advocate social reforms and Sudan, where blasphemy accusations are used against anyone opposing the current regime.

Since 1998, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — composed of 57 nations with large Muslim populations — had unsuccessfully lobbied the UN for an international blasphemy law. But in 2011, a general resolution prohibiting religious intolerance was passed unanimously.

 

Islamic Nigerian Militants Kill 1,500 this Year

 
‎02 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎08:14:21 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

nigeriaABUJA, NIGERIA (Worthy News)– Islamic uprisings in Nigeria have caused at least 1,500 deaths this year alone as attacks on unarmed civilians become more commonplace, according to CBN News.

"The international community cannot continue to look the other way in the face of extra-judicial executions, attacks on civilians, and other crimes under international law being committed on a mass scale," said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International director for Africa.

The Associated Press reported that the number of killings since the start of 2014 equaled the total killed from 2010 to the middle of 2013. The latest attack killed three police officers and two soldiers as Islamists burned military barracks to the ground and destroyed a cell tower in Yobe state Sunday.

Residents fled the area on the following morning.

 

Pakistan: Rights Groups Decry Death Sentence for Christian

 
‎01 ‎April ‎2014, ‏‎07:33:12 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

pakistan-map2ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)– Rights groups have decried the death sentence handed down to one Christian man after more than 100 Muslims who destroyed his neighborhood were freed on bail.

Sawan Masih was sentenced Thursday for blasphemy by the Lahore District Judge at the Kot Lakhpath Jail. Initial Islamic outrage against Masih's alleged blasphemy resulted in the destruction of 180 Christian-owned homes and shops in Lahore's Joseph Colony in March 2013, but a court later freed 133 Muslim suspects despite damning video evidence against them, according to Morning Star News.

Masih, a father of three, was accused of insulting Islam's prophet during a drunken conversation with a Muslim friend in the Colony back on March 8, 2013. Pakistan's Statute 295-C forbids defaming Muhammad, which is punishable by death and/or a fine, but the First Information Report initially didn't include any blasphemous remarks made by Masih, according to Naeem Shakir, Masih's lead counsel. The blasphemy accusation was added through a supplementary statement by the complainant eight days after the FIR was registered.

Tahir Bashir, another lawyer on Masih's defense team, told Morning Star News that he believed the court had convicted his client under immense pressure from local Muslim political and religious groups.

"In most cases involving blasphemy, it has been observed that the trial court judges are pressured by religious zealots to hand the maximum sentence to an accused," he said.

In his court statement, Masih said he didn't commit blasphemy and accused Shahid Imran, the complainant, of involving him in a fake case as part of a plot by local businessmen to drive Christians from Joseph Colony so that they could seize the property for industrial use.

"They hatched a conspiracy to push out the residents of the colony," Masih told the court. "They contrived a case and got it filed by a person who was close to me. I am innocent."

On March 9, 2013, hundreds of protesters attacked the Joseph Colony, setting two church buildings ablaze along with shops and homes. An FIR under the Anti-Terrorism Act was registered against 83 protestors accused of arson and a supplementary statement named 50 more. The case is still pending while most of the accused have been freed on bail.

"Why haven't the courts moved against the people involved in burning down Joseph Colony and desecrating the churches with the same vigor displayed while deciding Sawan Masih's fate?" Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Allama Tahir Ashrafi told Morning Star News.

Amnesty International said Pakistan should immediately release Masih and reverse his conviction.

"This is a travesty of justice," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia Pacific Director. "There are serious concerns about the fairness of his trial, and an argument between two friends is not a basis for sending anyone to the gallows. Sawan Masih must be released immediately and unconditionally."

 

Syrian Islamists Kill 80 Christians, Displace Thousands More

 
‎31 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎11:55:50 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

syriaDAMASCUS, SYRIA (Worthy News)– Eighty Christians were killed and thousands more displaced after Islamic militants attacked the strategic Syrian town of Kessab near the Turkish border on March 21, according to Barnabas Aid.

About 2,000 Armenian Christians fled Kessab as their homes were looted and their churches desecrated. Barnabas Aid partners are providing food, clothing and other essentials since many hurriedly left their homes empty-handed.

Following the Islamist takeover of the town, Syria launched a counter-offensive to regain control of the region. But national tensions increased after the Turkish military shot down a Syrian jet that had strayed over the border during a mission over Kessab.

Turkey has sided with the Islamist rebels in the Syrian civil war, providing them with supplies and allowing hundreds of rebels to freely cross its borders.

The Armenian National Committee of America has written President Barack Obama calling on him to stop Turkey — a member of NATO — from facilitating attacks by foreign fighters associated with US-designated terrorist groups.

The ANCA said Turkey's actions were a bitter reminder of the Armenian genocide (1894 to 1923) when Turks killed more than 1.5 million Armenian and Assyrian Christians.

 
 

Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

 
‎26 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎12:18:20 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

iran-christianGENEVA, SWITZERLAND (Worthy News)– During a press conference in Geneva this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran released his latest report, according to Barnabas Aid.

"I report with deep regret that despite overtures and announcements emanating from the newly elected Iranian government, and perhaps even in spite of modest attempts to take steps towards reform, the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran remains of serious concern," said Ahmed Shaheed.

According to the report, at least 49 Iranian Christians were detained in 2013; at least 42 were arrested and of those, 35 were given from one to 10 years' imprisonment for their participation in house churches and other Christian activities. The Christians most prosecuted were converts from Islam and those who evangelized, or otherwise ministered to Iranian Muslims.

The report was also critical of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's proposed charter of citizens' rights that has failed to address laws that discriminate against religious minorities. Rouhani's charter also failed to curb the use of cruel and inhumane punishments, including flogging, hanging, stoning and amputation as well as the use of capital punishment.

After his election in 2013, Rouhani promised to uphold justice and civil rights and to release political prisoners. Although 80 such prisoners were freed prior to his address at the UN General Assembly in September, hundreds more continue to languish in Iranian jails.

 

Four Killed in Attack on Kenyan Church

 
‎25 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎11:58:37 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

kenyaLIKONI, KENYA (Worthy News)– During Sunday morning service, two gunmen fired into the crowded congregation of Joy Jesus Church in Likoni, Kenya, killing two parishioners, according to International Christian Concern.

Another two parishioners later died from gunshot wounds while 17 others remain hospitalized, most in need of blood transfusions, according to the Kenyan Red Cross.

Likoni Police Chief Robert Mureithi told Reuters that the large amount of spent cartridges recovered from the scene indicated that the gunmen were armed with automatic weapons.

"This has all the indicators of a terrorist attack," said Mureithi, "because the attackers did not steal anything and appeared focused on killing."

After the shooting, the assailants also tried to attack the nearby Redeemed Gospel Church, but armed guards prevented them from gaining entry into the building.

Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting, Kenya has endured many such attacks from the Somali-based Islamic terrorist group Al Shabaab as it exacts Islamic revenge for Kenya's anti-terrorist operations in neighboring Somalia.

"The ruthless attack on a church, as men, women, and children were gathered simply to worship God, reveals the hatefulness and emptiness of the ideology that motivates these terrorist groups," said Todd Daniels, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East. "The Kenyan military and security forces must continue their efforts to root out terrorist groups and provide protection to their civilians."

 

Nigerian Christians in the Crosshairs of Muslims

 
‎24 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎11:52:27 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

nigeriaABUJA, NIGERIA (Worthy News)– Muslims have once again targeted Christians in Nigeria, killing more than 100 over the past weekend.

Attacks by Boko Haram — the militant Islamist group that continues to attack Christians with impunity despite a declared state of emergency — burned down homes and churches. Last month alone, more than 400 Christians were killed by Haram's Islamists in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.

Other assaults came from gunmen believed to be ethnic Fulani Muslim herdsmen who have had a long-standing "beef" with Christian farmers over grazing rights. But instead of fighting over land and water, the herdsmen are now deliberately destroying Christian villages; Barnabas Aid reported that attacks on three villages in Kaduna state, Northern Nigeria, killed more than 100 Christians as their homes and churches were set afire.

"This ugly situation is unacceptable," said Kaduna Governor Mukhtar Yero. "We pray that God would expose the people that are causing this problem. We pray that God would touch their hearts to stop such dastardly acts or destroy their evil machinations."

 

Turkey: Confessed Killers of Christians Freed on Bail

 
‎21 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎10:41:00 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

turkey-mapANKARA, TURKEY (Worthy News)– Under a new Turkish law, five confessed Christian killers slated to be released on bail will instead remain under house arrest, according to Morning Star News.

A new law reducing the period of pretrial detention has allowed five Muslims — who were arrested for the Zirve Publishing House massacre in Malatya — to be released from jail after years of delays by their defense teams. But because of public pressure, authorities have now placed them under house arrest by electronic monitoring.

Back on April 18, 2007, five Muslims entered the third-story office of the Zirve Publishing House and forcefully bound Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske. According to court testimony, the Muslims then tortured and interrogated the three about their Christian activities. When the police arrived, they slit their captive's throats, but were all apprehended as they fled from the scene of the crime.

Under questioning, the Muslims confessed that they killed the Christians out of defense of their country and their religion.

The trial was often delayed as the prosecution pursued various false leads; there were also numerous postponements when many of the prosecution's witnesses failed to appear to testify.

The next hearing is scheduled for April.

 

Belarus: Christian-run Homeless Shelter Closed

 
‎18 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎11:13:32 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

belarus-mapMINSK, BELARUS (Worthy News)– A private homeless shelter run by a Christian in Belarus has been legally stripped of its license to operate, according to Barnabas Aid.

Back in December 2011, healthcare worker Aleksei Shchedrov turned his own home in Aleksandrovka into a shelter for the homeless. But last year, Shchedrov was charged with having an unregistered religious organization for simply having a prayer room at the shelter.

Shchedrov protested that he was running a charity and not a religious organization. After he registered his shelter as a social care institution in August, charges against him were dropped. But after a series of relentless inspections by local officials, the shelter lost its registration last month.

Shchedrov said that he was constantly being pressured by police as they tried to find violations in the three homes that comprised the shelter.

Today, Shchedrov is on his own as he continues to care for the shelter's remaining residents.

 

California Residents Protest Cross Removal with More Crosses

 
‎18 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎11:09:54 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

american-christianityLOS ANGELES (Worthy News)– California citizens are protesting the removal of a large memorial cross by publicly displaying smaller crosses bearing messages for the atheists whose complaints caused the memorial to be taken down, according to International Christian Concern.

"Ever heard the phrase 'to each his own'? Does this bother you? Look the other way!" read one cross.

The small wooden crosses have replaced the large white Latin cross that served as a memorial for 19-year-old Anthony Devaney who was fatally struck by a car while crossing Lake Street in Lake Elsinore last May.

Anthony's mother, Annmarie Devaney, removed the memorial cross to her son last Thursday to avoid any further conflicts with the American Humanist Association; the AHA had complained to the city that a memorial cross on public property was a violation of the so-called separation of church and state.

"It hurts," Devaney said. "It's like reliving the moment again, it's like losing my son again … I want to do what's right and I don't want to make it a big deal or cause a scene … I think they're just looking for something to complain about, really, and I think that it's petty. The cross is there because my son's Christian, and not for any other reason. I don't know why they're doing this, but it makes me sad."

Yet despite that sadness, the Humanist group — that by definition is composed of members "concerned with the interests and welfare of humans" — said it was pleased with the removal of the Latin cross from city property.

 

North Koreans Face Execution for Contact with Missionary

 
‎10 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎12:04:08 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

north-korea-mapPYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (Worthy News)– Thirty-three Koreans could be executed by the North's State Security Department Sunday for allegedly accepting funds to overthrow Kim Jong-un's regime, according to Chosun Media.

Last year, Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook was arrested in the North for allegedly recruiting the 33 in an attempt to establish an underground network of house churches to help topple the totalitarian state of Jong-un's "hermit kingdom".

In a televised press conference late last month, North Korean authorities aired interviews of five of its citizens who had "confessed" to having met with the South Korean missionary and receiving money from him. But many believe that the North coerced these confessions as part of its campaign to expose any clandestine churches and arrest its members.

In footage broadcast on South Korean television, Jung-wook gave credence to the North's claim that underground churches are seditious cells funded by South Korea's National Intelligence Service, according to UCA News.

"I thought that the (North's) current regime should be brought down and acted … under directions from the National Intelligence Service," Jung-wook said. "I met with North Koreans and introduced them to the NIS … I also vilified and insulted the North's leadership with extremely colorful language."

Kim Eui-do, a spokesman for South Korea's ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs, said: "It is hard to understand how (North Korea) calls our national(Jung-wook )– who is doing purely religious activities — an anti-state criminal."

Jung-wook supposedly said that statues in honor of the North's Kim dynasty should be smashed and churches built in their place, but foreigners arrested in North Korea are often required to make outrageous public confessions to help expedite their release.

South Korea urged the North to quickly release Jung-wook and guarantee his safety before his repatriation.

 

Religious Freedom Act stalled in US Senate

 
‎10 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎12:00:25 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

us-congressWASHINGTON, D.C. (Worthy News)– Legislation to help protect persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East has been stalled in the Senate, according to International Christian Concern.

Senators Mike Lee and Tom Coburn have put a hold on the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2013 (S. 653), thereby stopping the legislative process. Both senators said the proposed bill duplicates the duties of the current Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

If passed into law, the Religious Freedom Act would have created a special envoy to protect religious minorities living in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. The special envoy would have been responsible for promoting the rights of religious minorities and recommending any appropriate responses if those rights are violated.

After leaving the position vacant after his 2009 inauguration, President Obama appointed Suzanne Johnson Cook as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, but Cook suddenly resigned the position late last year.

 

Sri Lanka: Pastor and Wife Attacked for Defending Right to Worship

 
‎06 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎11:18:38 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

sri-lankaASGIRIYA, SRI LANKA (Worthy News)– Eleven monks from the nationalist Buddhist Strength Force lobby led a violent mob of 250 villagers who physically assaulted the family of the pastor of Holy Family Church in Asgiriya, Sri Lanka, on Feb. 16, according to Christian Today Australia.

The monks demanded that both the pastor and his wife stop holding worship services, but when the couple protested, they were forced outside and assaulted. After the attack, a BBS leader gathered villagers together near the pastor's home where he promised the same ill treatment for anyone participating in Christian worship services.

Ultra nationalist Buddhist monks have also threatened worshippers in Warakapola and Sabaragamuwa provinces who were attending the Church of Grace. Signatories of a petition drafted by the pastor defending their right to freely worship have been threatened as well.

 

Kenya: Gang Raids Bamburi Church, Injures Three

 
‎05 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎12:07:17 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

kenyaMOMBASA, KENYA (Worthy News)– Three people were injured after a mob of about 10 assailants attacked worshipers at a church in Bamburi, Mombasa last week, according to All Africa Global Media.

The gang gained entry into the Bride of the Lamb International Ministries compound after they cut through an iron fence; after the assault, they fled to the adjacent Tower of Faith Church where they injured four others.

Bride of the Lamb International Ministries Chairman Michael Peter said that the attacks were intended to target the clergy.

"This is not the first time our ministry has been attacked," said Peter. "Over the past few weeks we have had attacks on our churches across the country including our residence here."

Peter said the ministry had reported the attacks numerous times to the Bamburi police station, but to date no action has been taken.

 

Sudan Arrests Pastor During Sermon, Threatens Him

 
‎05 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎12:04:25 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

sudan mapKHARTOUM, SUDAN (Worthy News)– Two Sundays ago, Sudanese authorities arrested a pastor in Omdurman while he was still preaching, according to Morning Star News.

Agents from Sudan's Criminal Investigation Department entered the Omdurman Evangelical Church compound and arrested the Rev. Yahya Abdelrahim Nalu. Authorities held him at the Central Khartoum Police Station without charge until Feb. 24.

Last June, plain-clothes police raided the offices of Nalu's denomination, the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Omdurman in what church leaders described as a bid to take control of its property. But though the government's latest attempt to seize church property is a civil matter, officials treated Nalu as a criminal.

"They arrested me in a very shameful way and threw me in the car," Nalu told Morning Star News.

Authorities told Nalu that if he did not relinquish his position to a government-appointed committee, he would "face justice" in court.

Following the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, Sudan has bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. On Feb. 17, bulldozers accompanied by local police destroyed the Sudanese Church of Christ in the Ombada area of Omdurman without warning.

Harassment and persecution of Sudan's Christians have increased since President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of Islamic law.

 

North Korea Releases Australian Missionary

 
‎04 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎06:32:26 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
by Emmitt Barry, Worthy News Correspondent

north-korea-mapWASHINGTON, D.C. (Worthy News)– John Short, an 75-year-old Australian Christian, was released from detention in Pyongyang, North Korea yesterday. The missionary, based in Hong Kong, had been arrested and charged with attempting to overthrow the government on February 16th by authorities in North Korea.

John Short was distributing tracts from the Bible at a Buddist Temple in Pyongyang on the country's late leader Kim Jong iI's birthday, which led to his arrest.

“I deeply apologize for what I have done by spreading my Bible tracts on February 16th the birthday of his Excellency Kim Jong II,” Short said in a confession released by the government-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Missionary work is illegal in North Korea and Short had been facing the possibly of years in jail. People who have fled the country have reported the distribution of Bibles and underground church involvement can mean exile to labor camps, and in some cases execution.

UN REPORT

On February 17, the United Nations published a report which condemned North Korea for “crimes against humanity”, and called for the nation to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The U.N.'s 372-page-report was based on satellite imagery and harrowing testimony gathered from more than 80 victims and witnesses over the past 11 months, which included many who survived after being sent to one of the North Korean prison camps. The report covered a broad range of crimes, which included charges of “extermination,” forced abortions, rape, and widespread abductions.

North Korea is widely regarded as one of the world's worst persecutor of Christians, with as many as 50,000 North Korean Christians believed to be imprisoned in concentration type camps around the country.

 

Calls for Investigation After Churches Bombed in Zanzibar

 
‎03 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎12:04:26 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

zanzibar-mapZANZIBAR CITY, ZANZIBAR (Worthy News)– A bomb exploded at the main entrance of Christ Church Cathedral in Zanzibar's Stone Town last week. According to Christianity Today, eyewitnesses said the bomb was detonated remotely.

Mervyn Thomas of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said the use of a remote detonator indicated that the instigators of religious violence in Zanzibar were "attaining new levels of sophistication and planning".

Two weeks ago, another bomb had exploded towards the end of a Sunday worship service at the Evangelistic Assemblies of God. Altogether, at least 20 churches have been looted, set afire, or otherwise damaged by mobs, but to date no one has been convicted of these crimes.

Zanzibar has seen an increase in violence against clergy and other church leaders; in February of last year, assailants murdered a Protestant pastor and a Catholic priest, and in September another priest was severely wounded in an acid attack.

 

India: Hindus Must Stop Conversions, or Become a Minority

 
‎03 ‎March ‎2014, ‏‎12:01:22 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

india mapNEW DELHI, INDIA (Worthy News)– The leader of the ultra-nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad group decried the conversions of Hindus to other faiths at a rally in Bhopal last Saturday, according to AsiaNews.

"We must immediately stop conversions, or soon Hindus will be a minority in India," said Ashok Singhal, whose fundamentalist organization is inspired by Hindutva, a nationalist ideology whose aim is the establishment of a Hindu nation.

In addition to stopping conversions, Singhal asked Hindu families to raise at least five children to prevent Christians and Muslims from outnumbering them.

Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told AsiaNews that we must "condemn in no uncertain terms the fascism of groups like the VHP, which endanger Indian democracy and secularism".

"Christians in India just want to enjoy their constitutional guarantees, in particular Article 25 of the Charter, which enshrines freedom of worship, practice and dissemination of their faith," he said. "Religious freedom is a basic human right and the VHP wants to intimidate and persecute Christians by raising the bogeyman of conversions to instil Hindutva ideas in the population."

In theory, anti-conversion laws prohibit conversions either by force or by bribe, but in practice, they are often used to persecute newly converted religious minorities.

 

Indonesia: Islamists Block Construction of Church

 
‎27 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎12:32:19 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

indonesiaJAKARTA, INDONESIA (Worthy News)– On Friday, hundreds of armed Islamists led by local Muslim leaders forcibly occupied a two-acre plot owned by the Indonesian Christian community of Huria Kristen Batak in the village of Talang Kelapa, South Sumatra, according to Asia News.

The illegal Islamist occupation was in response to the building of a church. Some local residents had even protested the ceremony of laying the first stone.

The process for constructing a church in Indonesia can be complicated and lengthy, taking a congregation up to ten years to obtain all the permits required by law. If the building is a place of Christian worship, permission must also be obtained from 60 area residents and the local Group for Interfaith Dialogue. But even when permission is granted, construction cam be stopped by local authorities at any moment for "unspecified reasons".

The world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia has seen a sharp rise in the number of attacks against its minorities, especially Christians. Although the Indonesian constitution provides for freedom of religion, minority communities have been the victims of violence and abuse; in December alone, at least five Christian places of worship had to shut down due to pressure from local Islamists.

 

Boko Haram Butchers Students

 
‎27 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎12:29:17 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

nigeriaBUNI YADI, NIGERIA (Worthy News)– Tuesday the terrorist group Boko Haram attacked a college in the town of Buni Yadi in Yobe state, northern Nigeria, murdering as many students as possible, according to Threat Matrix.

As of press time, at least 43 people had died during the attack.

Eyewitnesses told The Daily Mail that Boko Haram militants trapped students in buildings that were set ablaze; the militants then brutally killed anyone attempting to escape.

Students who couldn't escape the flames were burned alive.

Other Islamists reportedly threw grenades into dorms; they then sprayed the rooms with automatic fire and hacked any survivors to death.

Tuesday's attack was the latest in a series of raids by Haram's infamous Islamists. And as Boko Haram has intensified its Islamic insurgency, President Goodluck Jonathan has urged it to lay down its weapons and talk peace with him. But Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, vowed to continue his attacks into southern Nigeria, killing anyone deemed to be an "infidel".

"The reason why I will kill you is you are infidels. You follow democracy. Whoever follows democracy is an infidel".

Boko Haram loosely translates as "Western ways are evil".

 

Egyptian Christians Killed in Libya

 
‎27 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎12:26:32 PM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

libya-mapBENGHAZI, LIBYA (Worthy News)– The bodies of seven Egyptian Christians who were working in Libya were discovered Monday morning in a suburb east of Benghazi. The bodies were found with their hands bound and Morning Star News reported that each man had been shot in the head, strongly suggesting that they had all been executed.

According to International Christian Concern's sources in Egypt, on Sunday evening masked gunmen broke into a building housing Egyptian workers; the gunmen then demanded to know whether the residents were Muslims, or Christians. Upon discovering that eight men were indeed Christians, they forced them outside and loaded them into a vehicle.

However, one of the men, Kareem Rizk, managed to escape and then made his way to the Egyptian embassy where he reported the abduction.

Since the impromptu execution of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Islamists have been free to carry out religious cleansing through kidnapping and execution, Ashraf Ramelah, President of Voice of the Copts, told ICC.

"Even though democracy was the stated goal of Gaddafi's toppling, it was not the goal of his murder in the street by Islamists," he said.

Hal Meawad, spokesman for Coptic Solidarity, told ICC that the execution of seven Copts in Libya was a sign of the suffering of Christians in the Middle East for the whole world to see.

"We don't need tears and mourning of the dead," said Meawad. "We need action to preserve lives and alleviate the suffering of the innocent before it is too late."

 

Nigeria: Boko Haram Attacks Village Again

 
‎27 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎11:33:08 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro

nigeria-map2ABUJA, NIGERIA (Worthy News)– During the weekend, gunmen believed to be members of the Boko Haram Islamist sect had once again attacked the northeastern Nigeria village of Izghe in Borno state.

A villager told the British Broadcasting Corp. that four people were killed during the raid, but just a week earlier, 106 Christians in Izghe were killed by Haram's militant Muslims during five frenzied hours of mass murder.

Last year President Goodluck Jonathan had declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states that gave Nigeria's security forces extraordinary powers to help fight Boko Haram. But Borno state Senator Ali Ndume told the BBC that if the state of emergency was intended to end Haram's Islamic insurgency it obviously wasn't working after more than 500 people had been killed in his state alone during the last two months.

Ndume said the army hasn't taken any further measures to end the violence. In fact, after the army failed to deploy troops to Izghe after the first attack, it gave Boko Haram the opportunity to once again attack the village with impunity. Although many of Izghe's villagers fled after the first attack, some elderly residents remained and unfortunately four of them died for that decision.

Despite the repeated attacks, the Nigerian government has claimed that it was winning the war against Haram's Islamist militants who are fighting to establish a strict Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram — whose name roughly translates as "Western ways are evil" — has killed thousands of Christians and hundreds of Muslims since it began an uprising in 2009.

 

Kenyan Pastors Protest Pay-to-Preach Laws

 
‎25 ‎February ‎2014, ‏‎11:56:42 AM | George WhittenGo to full article
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

kenyaNAIROBI, KENYA (Worthy News)– Hundreds of Central Kenyan pastors marched to the Nyeri County governor's office last week to protest a proposed bill that would charge clergy for the privilege of preaching in public outside of their own churches, according to World Watch Monitor.

The bill, which is yet to be approved by the governor, stipulates that clergy must pay approximately $117 (US) per day to preach inside a stadium, $93 outside of a stadium and $58 in more rural areas.

Charles Muchiri, a priest at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Ruiru, said that without more funds, the proposed bill would prevent clergy from preaching beyond their own churches.

"The services rendered by the church to the people are free and such a high tax