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News and Reporting

News and Reporting is a section of Christianity Today that compiles the most urgent and interesting news from around the world that you need to know.
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Former staff and elders criticize shuffling of funds and 50-mile noncompete clauses for former pastors.In an investigation published by World magazine yesterday, former Harvest Bible Chapel leaders raise concerns over the Chicago-area megachurch’s operations, including claims of shuffling funds between related ministries and efforts to restrict former staff through noncompete clauses and nondisclosure agreements.Harvest officials said in a statement to CT that the report “fails to uncover desired scandal” and represents “the opinions of a few disgruntled former members” rather than the views of the church’s current elders.In October, Harvest along with lead pastor James MacDonald filed a defamation lawsuit against the author of the World article, Julie Roys, for “asserting false allegations” during her eight-month investigation.In this week’s “Hard times at Harvest” article, Roys follows up with a trio of former Harvest elders who had a falling out with the church in 2013. MacDonald issued an apology over their “unbiblical discipline” in 2014.Leaders stated today that Harvest “has owned its mistakes and endured to become a happier and healthier church” since.“Subsequent to the most vocal departures, the Elders of [Harvest] designed a system of Elder government filled with meaningful accountability for staff and active involvement of volunteer Elders that exceeds in every way the former system filled with conflicts of interest and poor decision making,” they stated.However, the former elders continue to critique the financial and organizational structures at Harvest, which numbers 13,000 attendees across seven locations.World reports that Harvest shifted significant funds from MacDonald’s popular radio program, Walk ...Continue reading...
In the world's most bookish country, evangelicals are taking up the ministry of translation.In the pitch dark of Christmas Eve in Iceland, after family dinner and unwrapping presents, the lights stay aglow for another special tradition: reading. Not just reciting the Nativity story or The Night Before Christmas; book lovers in the tiny Nordic nation spend the night cracking into the shiny new hardbacks they received as gifts.Gunnar Ingi Gunnarsson, a pastor in Reykjavík, remembers his father staying awake until 6 a.m. on Christmas, curled up with a box of chocolates and whatever book he’d received that year.Even in the 21st century, the decades-old read-a-thon carries on. Bolstered by a cultural love for stories (dating back to the Viking sagas that chronicle the island’s history), Iceland now publishes and reads more books per capita each year than almost anywhere else.Though sales have dipped due to digital options, Iceland’s printing output has remained steady at about 1,500 books a year, according to government statistics. The bulk of the new titles come out in the months leading up to Christmas during Jólabókaflóð, or the “Yule Book Flood,” so they can be given as gifts and read during the holidays.For years, Gunnarsson has dreamed of his own three kids getting to unwrap one particular book: The Jesus Storybook Bible.Though the popular children’s Bible has sold 3.2 million copies in 38 languages, Icelandic wasn’t one of them. Few evangelical books at all make it to the overwhelmingly secular island, deemed the “most godless country in Europe.” And just one version of the Bible is available in print in the local language.But this year, Gunnarsson finally was able to give his kids—and hopefully thousands of others—an ...Continue reading...
Catholics celebrate the return of religious artifacts taken by US soldiers as spoils of war.After waiting more than a century for the United States to return a trio of church bells looted during the Philippine-American war, a Catholic parish on the Philippines island of Samar will finally be able to ring them again.The Balangiga bells were handed over to officials this week and will spend a few days on display at a national museum before making their way home to the Church of San Lorenzo de Martir (St. Lawrence the Martyr), where they originally hung before US forces took them as spoils of war following a 1901 massacre.The three metal bells, each between 23 inches and 30 inches tall, have taken on meaning as national symbols of freedom and resistance for Filipinos and Catholics, who have petitioned the government for their return since the 1950s.According to accounts of the Balangiga massacre, Filipino fighters snuck into San Lorenzo in a plot against American troops occupying the small town. They tolled the church bells to signal their attack, which left 48 Americans dead. In a retaliatory strike on the small town, US soldiers killed thousands and claimed the bells from the ruins of the church building.Those who defended US possession of the bells, including some descendents of servicemen who fought at Balangiga, saw them as instruments of war. They had been kept on military installations—two at a US Air Force base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and another at a US Army post in South Korea.Their return, two years after the military gave back another Philippine church bell that used to be on display at West Point, represents the US finally righting a longtime rift with the southeast Asian nation.“… Church bells belong in churches calling the faithful to worship. They don’t commemorate military deeds,” ...Continue reading...
(UPDATED) Beth Moore and other leading Christian survivors don't just want to take the church to task. They also believe it plays a key role in helping victims heal.[Editor’s note: This post has been updated with comments from afternoon speakers, including Max Lucado, Nancy Beach, Ed Stetzer, Jeanette Salguero, and Laurel Bunker.]“I am a survivor. My home was my unsafe place. My church was my harbor.”Growing up as a victim of abuse, Bible teacher Beth Moore was grateful that she could escape to her church. But in retrospect, she wished it could have done more.“I have often wondered what a difference it would have made if that same harbor had not only been a place to hide, but a place to heal,” Moore said during a summit held Thursday at Wheaton College to address the evangelical church’s response to abuse in the wake of the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements.The Southern Baptist ministry leader has repeatedly spoken out on the issue over the past year, joining a wave of evangelicals calling on churches to more explicitly condemn, prevent, and help the victims of sexism, harassment, and abuse.“What if I had heard my pastor or my teachers express what I was going through? Call it what it was? Tell me that I wasn’t to blame and not be ashamed? What if they shared a safe place I could go and tell what I endured? What if I had known I wasn’t alone? What if I had known that there was help? What if tens of thousands of us had?”Today, Moore joined major evangelical leaders—including Australian evangelist Christine Caine, bestselling author and San Antonio pastor Max Lucado, and Seattle pastor Eugene Cho—for a Billy Graham Center event called Reflections: A GC2 Summit on Responding to Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence.The event represents the largest inter-denominational response to sex abuse since #MeToo took off last ...Continue reading...
Investigation by Fort Worth Star-Telegram finds 400 allegations against 168 leaders spanning almost 200 churches and institutions.Hundreds of women and men have accused leaders of independent fundamental Baptist churches of sexual misconduct in a major investigative report published last weekend by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.The series uncovered 412 allegations of abuse across nearly 200 churches and institutions, which by definition exist apart from denominational affiliations and in contrast to more mainstream Baptist or evangelical bodies like the Southern Baptist Convention.“From Connecticut to California, the stories are tragically similar: A music minister molested a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina and moved to another church in Florida,” the Star-Telegram wrote. “Another girl’s parents stood in front of their Connecticut congregation to acknowledge their daughter’s ‘sin’ after she was abused by her youth pastor, beginning at 16. This year, four women accused a pastor in California of covering up sexual misconduct and shielding the abusers over almost 25 years.”In all, 168 leaders—including some of the most prominent pastors among the group’s thousands of US congregations—faced abuse accusations over incidents spanning from the 1970s to present-day.More than 130 of them have been found guilty of rape, kidnapping, sexual assault, and a litany of other crimes, with most victims being children and teens, according to a database compiled by the Star-Telegram. Dozens of abusive pastors had multiple victims—one raped 11 girls in his congregation—and several had abused children as young as 7 years old.Victims repeatedly cited deference to pastoral authority as a factor for why they initially trusted their abusers and why it became so difficult to bring their wrongdoing ...Continue reading...
Two Indian missions experts weigh in on how the young American's failed attempt will impact local efforts to reach Andaman tribes.John Chau first heard of North Sentinel Island about 10 years ago, when the Washington state native made it his calling to evangelize the residents of the remote island on the other side of the world. But evangelicals in mainland India have known about the indigenous tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands—territories under their country’s federal rule—for decades.Two Indian missiologists shared their perspectives with CT on the young American’s failed attempt to evangelize the Sentinelese and how the story of his death may impact future efforts to reach tribal groups in the islands.Even in India, Chau Raised Awareness of the SentineleseAtul Y. AghamkarIndia is a complex land with the most sophisticated, well-educated, urban, globalized, wealthy elites on the one hand, and—as recent news has reminded us—some of the most isolated people living in primitive conditions on the other.The Anthropological Survey of India has identified at least 4,635 distinct people groups, including a large tribal population of about 10 million people (7–8% of the country), often referred to as adivasis, meaning “original inhabitants,” or “scheduled tribes” in government records.The Andaman Islands are home to four “Negrito” tribes—the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa, and Sentinelese—believed to have arrived from Africa some 60,000 years ago. The neighboring Nicobar Islands are home to two “Mongoloid” tribes—the Shompen and Nicobarese—believed to have come from the Malay-Burma coast 1,000 years ago. The number of original inhabitants of these islands is slowly diminishing, and some are even on the verge of extinction.The Sentinelese—the ...Continue reading...
The Chicago musician begins his first sabbatical with a famous 80-year-old devotional.After years of referencing his Christian faith on social media and in his Grammy-winning hip hop albums, Chance the Rapper has set out on a sabbatical to study and meditate on God’s Word.He shared a glimpse of his morning devotions—a page from Scottish theologian John Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer—with 9.2 million followers on Instagram on Monday.The 25-year-old rapper posted a picture of the second day of the devotional, a prayer entitled “Continued Dependence Upon You” [full text below].A Diary of Private Prayer reflects the personal religious practices developed by Baillie—a longtime seminary professor and church leader in Edinburgh in the mid-20th century. He and his brother Donald were considered among the greatest mediating theologians of their day. The book has sold more than a million copies in 20 languages since it was released in 1937.Chance’s venture into Baillie’s best-known work comes a few days after the musician told fans he’d be traveling out of the country on his “first sabbatical” and would be dedicating the time away to studying Scripture.“I’m going away to learn the Word of God which I am admittedly very unfamiliar with. I’ve been brought up by my family to know Christ but I haven’t taken it upon myself to really just take a couple days and read my Bible,” he stated.“We all quote scripture and tell each other what God likes and doesn’t like but how much time do we spend as followers of Jesus to really just read and KNOW his Word. I’m definitely guilty of not devoting time to it.”Over the weekend, he also posted on his Instagram stories a picture of the cover of Tim Keller’s ...Continue reading...
For the first time in recent years, YouVersion and Bible Gateway users searched for and shared verses from Old Testament prophets the most.Do not fear.It’s a charge that extends back to the earliest parts of Scripture, gets repeated from the lips of Jesus, and resonates the modern world. It’s also the message of the most popular Bible verse of 2018 on YouVersion, the world’s most-downloaded Bible app.“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God,” reads the year’s top verse, Isaiah 41:10. “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”That exhortation from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah was shared, bookmarked, and highlighted more than any other passage by hundreds of millions of YouVersion users.The year’s top honor at Bible Gateway comes from another Old Testament prophet. The most-read verse on the Bible website was the familiar Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”On the leading Bible website, either Jeremiah 29:11 or John 3:16 have topped the annual list every year. (The oft-quoted line from Jeremiah has come to be considered one of the most frequently misinterpreted Bible verses.)The rest of Bible Gateway’s top 10 come from Psalm 23 (verses 1, 4, 6, and 6), Romans (Romans 8:28 and Romans 12:2), and Matthew (6:33).YouVersion’s top verse, Isaiah 41:10, ranked thirteenth on Bible Gateway. Bible Gateway’s top verse, Jeremiah 29:11, also spiked to No. 1 in several countries worldwide, according to the YouVersion data.The two Bible platforms’ lists end up being pretty different from one another each year, evidence that users tend to look up different verses online ...Continue reading...
Continuous worship brings together Christians in the Netherlands across denominational divides.A marathon worship service held by a church in the Netherlands to shield a family of asylum seekers has garnered worldwide attention. The feat has proved impressive for its longevity alone—now going on six weeks—but also represents a unique ecumenical moment among Christians in the tiny European nation.Dutch law generally prohibits officials from interrupting a religious service, so Bethel Church in The Hague has kept worship going non-stop in order to turn its church into a sanctuary for an Armenian family who face expulsion. The congregation—part of the Protestant Church of The Hague and the country’s largest denomination, the Protestant Church of The Netherlands (PKN)—could not pull off the almost 1,000 hours of worship on its own, so its leaders have tapped more than 500 pastors from across traditions to participate.“What this church asylum is teaching me in the first place is how enormously connecting and boundary-shattering the most basic compassion can be,” Axel Wicke, a pastor at Bethel, told CT.“Here in the Netherlands, we have a huge amount of different Christian confessions, some of which originating in very ugly theological or liturgical fights. However, here at the church asylum in Bethel, none of this matters and everyone is working together…,” he said. “Very often, one pastor hands over the service to another colleague, with whom he would never be able to share anything else, either theologically or liturgically.”The service has brought together not only PKN pastors—who, after a 2004 merger, represent most Reformed and Lutheran churches in the Netherlands and about 9 percent of the population overall—but also smaller denominations. ...Continue reading...
The CCM pioneer used to talk faith with George H. W. Bush and Billy Graham. This year, he performed at both of their memorial services.Michael W. Smith’s hit song “Friends” has been sung thousands of times over the decades, but never quite like today’s performance at the funeral service for President George H. W. Bush at the National Cathedral in Washington.Not only was Smith backed by a full orchestra and a 150-person choir, but he also sung it as a personal farewell to the leader who, to his surprise, became his longtime friend and fan. Bush died on Friday at age 94.“First and foremost, I hope the song is very honoring of the president because he loved the song,” Smith said in an interview with CT. “The last time I saw him, when we said goodbye, he gave me a hug, pointed his finger in the air, and with a twinkle in his eye, said, ‘Friends are friends forever.’”The contemporary Christian music (CCM) chart-topper first played for President Bush in the White House after a Christmas special in 1989. They struck up a friendship that led to regular visits to the late president’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine; relationships with the rest of the Bush family; and even travel together.“He’s just been an inspiration to me,” the three-time Grammy winner said. “We didn’t talk about politics much. But we did have a lot of conversations about God and faith.”“One thing that tied us together was his relationship with Billy Graham. There were times we would get Billy Graham on the phone and talk,” Smith said, remembering them standing on the deck conversing with the late evangelist, whose memorial service and funeral the singer performed at earlier this year.Bush requested “Friends,” his favorite song of Smith’s, for his funeral. Smith sang ...Continue reading...
Important developments in the church and the world (as they appeared in our October issue).Israel: Christians worry about official secondary statusIsrael’s legislature passed a special law this summer officially cementing the nation’s nature as a Jewish state. Most provisions aren’t controversial—they formally establish the flag, emblem, and anthem. But Palestinian Christians and some Messianic Jews, along with other religious minorities, object to statutes declaring Jewish settlement as a “national value” and downgrading Arabic from an official language to one with “special status.” “While the idea of the law is straightforward—it’s hard to argue that Israel isn’t a Jewish state—the actual provisions are controversial, discriminatory, and possibly racist,” said Jaime Cowen, a Messianic Jewish leader. Others like The Philos Project’s Robert Nicholson argue the law doesn’t change anything except sentiment. “The best critique of the law,” he said, “may be that it doesn’t really do anything besides stir up unnecessary trouble.”Canada: Christian college drops sex standards for studentsWeeks after Canada’s Supreme Court ruled against what would have been the country’s first Christian law school, Trinity Western University (TWU) dropped its student community covenant at the heart of the controversy. TWU’s law school quest had stalled in court for years after several provincial law societies refused to accredit would-be graduates, citing the covenant’s prohibition of sex outside of traditional marriage. TWU president Robert Kuhn said the school remained committed to its evangelical principles and mission, and the covenant will remain in effect for faculty and staff. The ...Continue reading...
Experts weighed in.John Piper needed “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” to match a sermon, so he wrote two new Reformed verses. Many of writer Thomas Chisholm’s fellow Methodists, who “sing their theology,” couldn’t sing along. Answers are arranged on a spectrum from “yes” answers at the top to “no” answers at the bottom.“Many gentlemen have done my brother and me . . . the honor to reprint many of our hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome so to do, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them; for they really are not able . . . to mend either the sense or the verse.”John Wesley, songwriter and evangelist, in Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodists (1780)“Hymns are theological statements. John and Charles Wesley convey Methodist ethos in and through hymns. Methodism embeds its theology in song: lyrical theology. To that end, and particularly for Methodism, hymns are not theologically neutral but carry theological distinctiveness.”Swee Hong Lim, sacred music program director, University of Toronto’s Emmanuel College“Taking a hymn in a new theological direction is far from novel in church history. (Calvinist George Whitefield altered Charles Wesley’s text “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and made it a smidgen less Wesleyan.) Was Piper wrong to transpose Chisholm’s hymn to a Reformed key? No. Is it always permissible? No. Is it always profitable? No. Is it always faithful? One can certainly hope so.”David Taylor, assistant professor of theology and culture, Fuller Seminary“It is more urgent for composers to be less concerned with the particulars of our ...Continue reading...
Most say the Bible doesn't ban booze, but they abstain anyway.Views on Christians drinking alcohol have stayed steady among Protestant churchgoers over the past decade, according to a new study.While 41 percent of Protestant churchgoers say they consume alcohol, 59 percent say they do not, according to a survey released today by Nashville-based LifeWay Research.In a 2007 phone survey, LifeWay found 39 percent of Protestant churchgoers said they consume alcohol while 61 percent said they do not.Gallup surveys over the last 75 years have typically shown that two-thirds of all American adults have occasion to drink alcoholic beverages, including 63 percent in 2018.“While alcohol consumption continues be seen as mainstream in the United States, churchgoers’ attitudes about drinking haven’t changed much in the past decade,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.Almost 9 in 10 of churchgoers (87%) agree that Scripture says people should never get drunk. That’s up from 82 percent in 2007.But when it comes to total abstinence, fewer than a quarter (23%) of Protestant churchgoers believe Scripture indicates people should never drink alcohol. A majority (71%) disagree.The share of churchgoers who say Scripture teaches against any kind of alcohol consumption has decreased six percentage points over the last decade. In 2007, 29 percent said Scripture directs people to never drink alcohol; 68 percent disagreed.When Christians drink socially, many churchgoers believe they could cause other believers to stumble or be confused. In 2017, 60 percent agree and 32 percent disagree. (The portion who say drinking socially could cause others to stumble dropped slightly from 63 percent in 2007.)Researchers also found slightly more than half of churchgoers ...Continue reading...
Chaldeans in Detroit celebrate the coming return of scores of community members facing deportation.About 130 Iraqi Christians detained last year and slated for deportation will be back home with their families in Detroit for Christmas.Last week, a federal district court in Michigan ruled that the government has a month to release the detainees still awaiting unlikely repatriation to Iraq.Many of them are members of the Chaldean Church who were taken into custody during US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in June 2017 and face persecution if returned to their homeland, where the small Christian community was nearly wiped out by ISIS.The Michigan federal judge presiding over the case, Mark Goldsmith, had previously halted deportations based on a nationwide preliminary injunction requested by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and ruled in January that the detainees had the legal right to bond hearings. About half of the detainees were released on bond, according to the ACLU, and the rest will be eligible to return home under the latest order.“The law is clear that the Federal Government cannot indefinitely detain foreign nationals while it seeks to repatriate them, when there is no significant likelihood of repatriation in the reasonably foreseeable future,” reads the Hamama v. Adducci court order, which condemns the extended jail time as unconstitutional.About 121,000 Chaldean Catholics live in Michigan, making it the faith tradition’s largest concentration of members outside of Iraq. More than 100 of them, who faced deportation due to criminal records dating back as far as three decades, were detained by ICE a year and a half ago, unsettling their families, communities, and churches.“Families have been shattered,” Goldsmith wrote in the order, blaming the government ...Continue reading...
Uncertainty and heresy are common in the UK, but evangelicals stand out for fidelity to orthodoxy.A third of people in the United Kingdom say they don’t know whether the Resurrection actually occurred, whether God counts a person righteous based on faith alone, or whether trust in Jesus alone leads to salvation.In Ligonier Ministries’ first-ever State of Theology survey conducted in the UK, “I don’t know” was the top response to numerous questions about Jesus, sin, the Bible, salvation, and other rudimentary theological concepts. (CT has covered the US version of the survey in 2014, 2016, and 2018.)Many Brits remain ambivalent on matters of faith. About a third were unsure about the nature of the Trinity (31%), Jesus’ bodily resurrection (33%), the existence of hell (30%), and Jesus’ return (31%). Even more, 36 percent, said they didn’t know whether to agree or disagree with the statement, “God counts a person as righteous not because of one’s own works but only because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ.”“It’s actually tragic when you look at the survey and you see so many saying ‘I don’t know,’” Stephen Nichols, chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries and president of Reformation Bible College, told Premier Christian Radio.“These aren’t just matters of life and death, these are matters of eternal life and eternal death. There can’t be any more consequential questions than the questions on this survey and so these ‘I don’t know’s are really troubling.”Heresies Among British ChristiansThe foundations of faith may be on sandy ground in the British Isles, where—like their American counterparts—a significant number of Christians ascribe to heretical beliefs.Half ...Continue reading...
He returned to the prohibited island even after being shot: “It's worth it to declare Jesus to these people.”A 26-year-old American missionary was killed on a remote island off the coast of India, where he attempted to share the gospel with the most isolated tribe in the world.All Nations, a Christian missions agency based in the US, confirmed that John Allen Chau traveled to North Sentinel Island after years of study and training to evangelize its small indigenous population, who remain almost entirely untouched by modern civilization.According to news reports based on Chau’s journal entries, the Oral Roberts University graduate shouted, “My name is John, and I love you and Jesus loves you,” to Sentinelese tribesmen armed with bows and arrows. He fled to a fishing boat when they shot at him during his initial visit, with one arrow piercing his Bible.The young missionary did not survive a follow-up trip on November 17.“You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people,” the native of Washington state wrote the day before in a letter to his parents obtained by the Daily Mail. “Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed.”Indian police have not retrieved the young missionary’s body and, since contact with the indigenous tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago is prohibited, cannot prosecute his murderers.The Sentinelese were known to refuse outside contact and attack anyone who stepped on their island.Some have declared Chau a martyr and compared him to Jim Elliot, who was famously killed at age 28 while attempting to evangelize an isolated indigenous group in Ecuador.“John was a gracious and sensitive ambassador of Jesus Christ who wanted others to know of God’s great love for them,” ...Continue reading...
Pew survey finds that a minority of Americans, even within the church, put faith first. Around Thanksgiving tables this week, Americans will offer thanks for what’s most important to them. For the bulk of US adults, family will top the list.In a Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday, twice as many Americans said that family was the most meaningful aspect of their lives (40%), compared to the second most popular choice, faith (20%).Among Christians, many obviously rely on their religious beliefs and community for a sense of meaning. More than half say their faith provides a “great deal” of meaning, and 29 percent identified religion as their most important source of meaning.Christians were also slightly more likely than Americans overall to list family in the top spot (42%).The research puts numbers around a recurring tension within the American church: how to champion biblical teachings on marriage, children, adoption, and family unity without letting family become a source of meaning and identity above Christ. In short, how can Christians keep from making family an idol?This notion of idolizing family recently came up when pastor and Reformed Theological Seminary professor Kevin DeYoung tweeted last week, “One of the acceptable idolatries among evangelical Christians is the idolatry of the family.”More than 1,600 people liked the tweet, and hundreds more responded. Many were frustrated with the suggestion that the church could care too much about family and spoke out in defense of Christian family values. But some agreed, echoing growing concerns that familial expectations in certain church settings isolate singles, widows, and childless couples.Focus on the Family shared DeYoung’s tweet, saying, “[God] can’t be second. So, if family is first in our hearts, ...Continue reading...
Manhattan DA's case involving the former heads of Newsweek and the Christian Post expands to include Olivet University.The case against the ex-publisher of the Christian Post and the affiliated Christian Media Corporation has expanded to an alleged $35 million money laundering scheme involving a California-based Bible college.The Manhattan District Attorney’s office on Thursday charged Olivet University with making up a fake accountant to make its financial standing look better than it actually was so it could obtain funding to support day-to-day operations. An indictment filed last month accused Christian Media Corporation and former Newsweek owner IBT Media of similar activity.The case naming Olivet—founded by controversial Korean pastor David Jang (not to be confused with Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois or Olivet College in Michigan) —brings about a dozen more charges against William C. Anderson, who led the Christian Post from 2010 until last summer, IBT CEO Etienne Uzac, and their companies. They were indicted by the DA on an initial $10 million fraud in October, as CT reported.Though all have denied the alleged wrongdoing and pled not guilty, the district attorney’s case legally brings together several entities suspected to be working together under the influence of Jang’s network, but have long denied any official or financial connection to one another.The defendants see the case as, essentially, a victimless crime, since the loans they allegedly obtained through fraudulent means have all been repaid.“Olivet University denies the charges announced [Thursday] by the District Attorney’s Office and will vigorously defend itself against these unsupported allegations — including the puzzling claim that lenders who have suffered no loss were somehow victimized,” Olivet spokesman ...Continue reading...
California pastor opens up about the most difficult sermon of his career—and the prospects for resurrecting ministry from the ashes.The wildfire that left Paradise, California, in grim, dusty ruins this week destroyed more than half of about two dozen houses of worship in the town, along with thousands of homes and other structures.From safer ground in nearby Chico, pastors have worked to coordinate physical and spiritual relief for their now far-flung congregants. They’ve also been tasked with delivering updates on their church buildings, as Paradise residents hope for any indication that their homes, schools, or sanctuaries may have been spared from the worst.“Though the physical attributes of our earthly Paradise are destroyed, the spirit of Paradise has spread across the country and around the world, as people are moved to volunteer resources to help,” wrote leaders from Paradise Adventist Church, whose building was burned in the Camp Fire, the deadliest in California history.In the community of around 27,000 people, most congregations lost buildings, including Our Savior Lutheran Church (LCMS), Ridge Presbyterian Church (PCA), Paradise Church of Christ, First Assembly of God, Craig Memorial Congregational Church, Paradise Foursquare, New Life Apostolic Church, Paradise Pentecostal Church of God, Community Church of the Brethren, and Hope Christian Church. A Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) meetinghouse and a Center for Spiritual Living were also destroyed.“Building was burnt down, but cross and rock still standing,” wrote Hope Christian’s lead pastor Stan Freitas. “The church is still alive.”Freitas and church members had constructed a new worship space just this year, building a tall wooden cross in front of the new structure. This week, he shared a picture of the hand-carved cross, ...Continue reading...
Update: After considering laws to halt training, foreign funding, and missionary outreach, the European nation eases its approach.Following an outcry from evangelicals and other faith groups, Bulgaria opted to revise a controversial proposal to restrict religious activity before putting it up for another parliamentary vote.The initial draft amendments to its Religious Denomination Act would have kept members of minority faiths, like Protestants, from operating seminaries, holding activities outside church, and obtaining legal status. It also regulated foreign missionaries and funding. (See CT’s initial reporting below.)The revised version adjusts the formula for state subsidies so that groups beyond the Bulgarian Orthodox and Muslims—which together comprise 95 percent of the population—are eligible, the Sofia Globereported. The adjustments follow a round of feedback from religious groups and discussion between two political parties in the legislature, after a November 16 deadline.The updated law also would allow greater freedom to foreign missionaries than the first proposal; they could preach in the country as short-term residents or as visitors coming with advance notification. The new amendment also does away with a ban on anonymous donations by foreign groups.As of Tuesday, the parliament had not yet voted on the restrictions, according to the Baptist Standard. Teodor Oprenov, a Sofia pastor and leader in the Baptist Union of Bulgaria, told the site that evangelicals expected “some softening” after the meetings.Thousands of Christians have been gathering before the parliament building each Sunday to protest and pray against the restrictions. They plan to continue rallying this Sunday, November 25, Oprenov said. -----Original post (November 16): A controversial new law before the Bulgarian Parliament would keep Protestants ...Continue reading...
With students safely returned, the church continues to pray for peace.Kidnappers released this week the last of more than 80 hostages taken from a Presbyterian school in Cameroon amid an escalating crisis in the Central African country’s English-speaking regions.Just over a week after being captured at gunpoint, the principal, dorm warden, and two remaining students were freed Monday, while the rest of the victims, students ages 11–17, were let go last week, Reuters reported.The Presbyterian-run boarding school in the region’s capital, Bamenda, has been forced to shut down since the captors threatened further attacks.The incident represents the latest of at least four school abductions over the past two months, and about a dozen over the past year, as unrest over disparities between Cameroon’s English-speaking North-West and South-West regions and the nation’s French-speaking majority turns increasingly violent. Another 11 boys had been taken from the same school the week before.And the kidnappings, as heart-wrenching as they are, represent just a small portion of the violence that has left the Anglophone region on the brink of civil war.An estimated 400 civilians have died in the dispute, including an American missionary caught in the crossfire last month, just weeks after moving to Cameroon. More than a quarter-million people have fled their homes and villages, and many who remain are desperate for security and resources.Cameroon’s churches, whose cry for peace has intensified over the past few months, have suffered in the separatist conflict, with four church buildings taken over by military forces and at least 50 Christian-run primary schools, secondary schools, and hospitals affected, according to Gustav Ebai, information and communication secretary ...Continue reading...
From Word Music to Baylor University, Christian composer leaves a legacy of hundreds of songs.Composer Kurt Kaiser, whose popular songs “Pass it On” and “Oh How He Loves You and Me” became staples at Christian camp sing-alongs and youth revivals, died Monday.The 83-year-old musician wrote more than 300 copyrighted tunes, released more than a dozen albums of his own, and accompanied the late George Beverley Shea on piano during Billy Graham’s crusades.Kaiser passed away in Waco, Texas, the city where he’d lived for 59 years and helped launch Word Music and Dayspring Baptist Church.“For more than five decades, Kurt Kaiser enriched the world with a Christian message of hope as a pioneer of modern church music,” said Baylor University president Linda A. Livingstone in a tribute this week.At Word Music, Kaiser had an ear for signing hit artists, moving up from director of artists to vice president. During his career, he went on to work with dozens of popular singers, ranging from Mahalia Jackson to Wayne Newton.Kaiser and fellow Word pioneer Ralph Carmichael—known as the father of contemporary Christian music—brought a pop sensibility to worship music for the sake of evangelism.Together, they “convinced evangelicals and fundamentalists that Christian pop music could draw youth to outreach events and revivals,” including through their 1969 musical “Tell It Like It Is,” which sold half a million copies worldwide, wrote researcher Wen Reagan, now a music and worship professor at Samford University. Reagan quoted Kaiser as saying, “Kids have been inundated with the same kinds of [rock music], and nowadays it's everywhere. I just think it's a very sensible way to reach kids. I can't imagine any evangelist who's interested ...Continue reading...
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