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World-famous Oberammergau Passion Play prepares for post-pandemic return.Bavarians rushed to get their hair cut last week as Germany eased some of its toughest coronavirus restrictions and opened barbershops and salons for the first time since December. But Frederik Mayet didn’t join the newly shorn and shaven throngs.In fact, Mayet plans to keep growing his hair and beard for another year, so he can be more like Jesus.“With the hair growing,” he explained, “you start to grow into your role as well.”Mayet will play the starring role of the Savior in the 42nd Oberammergau Passion Play season in 2022, after a two-year pandemic postponement.The village, about an hour south of Munich, has put on the theatrical reenactment of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection every 10 years since 1633, when the town was famously spared from the bubonic plague. In the intervening years, it’s only been canceled a few times: once for the Franco-Prussian War, once for each of the World Wars, and last year, because of COVID-19.Mayet and more than 2,000 other locals spent months preparing for the 2020 performance, before it—like much of the rest of the world—was unceremoniously canceled by the pandemic.“We worked really great together as a village being on stage for half a year before the lockdown, and then suddenly, from one day to the next, you don’t see anyone for weeks and months,” Mayet told Christianity Today. “I’m really looking forward to see people coming together again.”The passion play is now set to run May 14 to October 2 next year. The actors of the village formally began to prepare last month on Ash Wednesday, when director Christian Stückl put out an official “hair and beard decree.”The decree ...Continue reading...
The third and final post of Dr. Sawyer's thoughts and concerns on CRT.In this third and final article in our three-part series on critical race theory, I want to offer three more cautions regarding CRT, a salient concluding point, and a final exhortation.Caution 6) CRT Tenets 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 14 alongside applications of standpoint theory (knowledge is situated; the marginalized see more clearly) can lead one to believe that white pastors need to essentially ‘sit down and shut up’ when it comes to offering and contributing insight regarding racial issues and solutions. It can lead one (falsely) to believe the following category of persons doesn’t exist: non-racist (no apologies to antiracism discourse), white, male pastors who are fully equipped by the Holy Spirit to lead their ethnically diverse congregation on matters of race as well as make meaningful and notable contributions about race to the Church and society. While wisdom will dictate that those who have more direct experience of racism will be sought ought out for their particular insight and understanding, it does not follow that a lack of a certain experience of racism, or worse, a lack of melanin, disqualifies one for speaking into issues of race. It is the quality of the idea versus the quality of the identity of the person offering the idea that should dictate the counsel honored and the course of action taken. Duly called pastors have authority in the churches they oversee, regardless of their ethnicity or the ethnic make-up of their members, and are empowered to speak to any matter the Scriptures speak to (Acts 20:27; 1 Timothy 3:2-5; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Moreover, the Church is diverse (Revelation 5:9; 7:9) and consequently local churches are expected to reflect the diversity of the communities in which ...Continue reading...
Historic papal trip seeks peace between Christians and Muslims. Unregistered evangelicals say peace between Iraq's Christians is needed first. Pope Francis traveled to war-torn Iraq today “as a pilgrim of peace, seeking fraternity [and] reconciliation.”The trip’s official logo, written in three languages, comes from Matthew 23: “You are all brothers.” Iraq’s evangelicals, therefore, have asked for the pope’s help.“The other churches don’t want us, and accuse us of everything,” said Maher Dawoud, head of the General Society for Iraqi National Evangelical Churches (GSINEC).“But we are churches present throughout the world. Why shouldn’t the government give us our rights?”Dawoud sent a letter to the Vatican, asking Francis to intercede—on behalf of evangelical Christians—with the Catholic church in Iraq, and ultimately with the government in Baghdad.The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) had gone straight to the United Nations, long before.One year ago, the WEA filed a report with the UN Human Rights Committee, protesting the denial of legal recognition for Iraqi evangelicals. Fourteen other denominations are currently counted within the Christian, Yazidi, and Sabaean-Mandaean Religions Diwan (Bureau).Now estimated at less than 250,000 people, Christians are a small minority of Iraq’s 40 million population, 97 percent of which is Muslim. Evangelical numbers are even smaller.The Chaldean Catholic Church represents 80 percent of the nation’s Christians, with 110 churches throughout the country. Syriacs, both Catholic and Orthodox, constitute another 10 percent, with 82 churches. Assyrians, primarily through the Church of the East, have a 5 percent share, and Armenians, 3 percent. (Other estimates count 67 percent for the Chaldeans, and 20 percent for the Assyrians. Their ...Continue reading...
How our senses can point the way to God's presence.Taste and see that the Lord is good.” For Joel Clarkson, a composer and Berklee College of Music graduate, words like these (from Psalm 34:8) offer much more than a metaphor. In Sensing God: Experiencing the Divine in Nature, Food, Music, and Beauty, Clarkson, now pursuing a theology PhD at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, shows how our physical senses can point the way to a larger understanding of our Creator and his workmanship. Recording artist and record producer Charlie Peacock spoke with Clarkson about the many touch points between Christian faith and everyday life.What does it look like to cultivate a theology of the senses?We live in a world of experience, and this is a core aspect of our faith. It’s not that faith is on one side, with everyday experiences on the other. These actually go together. Within our daily lives, there are many touch points: the food we eat, the music we listen to, the people we meet, and the nature we encounter.I hope my book conveys the idea that the world, and our lives within it, are crammed with heaven. Heavenly activity doesn’t just occur during transcendent moments, like seeing the northern lights or hearing a beautiful concert. Even amid the mundane, we can encounter God’s presence. And this isn’t a matter of doing something new so much as changing our perspective within the space we already occupy.Enjoying God through our senses opens up a larger experience of the world and life in Christ. Scripture is full of the language of desire, and we are called to worship the Lord in the beauty of his holiness. Our intellect and senses work together toward the end of loving God with our whole hearts.In the book, I argue that we love and desire beauty ...Continue reading...
World-famous Oberammergau Passion Play prepares for post-pandemic return.Bavarians rushed to get their hair cut last week as Germany eased some of its toughest coronavirus restrictions and opened barbershops and salons for the first time since December. But Frederik Mayet didn’t join the newly shorn and shaven throngs.In fact, Mayet plans to keep growing his hair and beard for another year, so he can be more like Jesus.“With the hair growing,” he explained, “you start to grow into your role as well.”Mayet will play the starring role of the Savior in the 42nd Oberammergau Passion Play season in 2022, after a two-year pandemic postponement.The village, about an hour south of Munich, has put on the theatrical reenactment of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection every 10 years since 1633, when the town was famously spared from the bubonic plague. In the intervening years, it’s only been canceled a few times: once for the Franco-Prussian War, once each for each of the World Wars, and last year, because of COVID-19.Mayet and more than 2,000 other locals spent months preparing for the 2020 performance, before it—like much of the rest of the world—was unceremoniously canceled by the pandemic.“We worked really great together as a village being on stage for half a year before the lockdown, and then suddenly, from one day to the next, you don’t see anyone for weeks and months,” Mayet told Christianity Today. “I’m really looking forward to see people coming together again.”The passion play is now set to run May 14 to October 2 next year. The actors of the village formally began to prepare last month on Ash Wednesday, when director Christian Stückl put out an official “hair and beard decree.”The ...Continue reading...
COVID-19 accelerates ministry moves and shifts work arrangements. The sizable suburban Washington, DC, campus that headquartered Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship will soon belong to another evangelical nonprofit: the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The ministries announced plans Friday to sell the 11.3-acre property in Lansdowne, Virginia.Back in 2005, Colson’s ministry—which then included Prison Fellowship, BreakPoint, and the Colson Center—built the campus for around $19 million, including a three-story office building, a two-story hospitality center for conference guests, recording studios, and event space.Of Prison Fellowship’s 245-person staff, 70 percent worked remotely before the pandemic, a part of an organizational strategy to move its workforce into the field. During COVID-19, the rest adjusted to work from home, with just around a dozen coming into the 90,000-square-foot office.Meanwhile, the Arizona-based religious liberty advocacy group ADF has been expanding and praying for years about adding another office, wanting to prioritize in-person collaboration for the sake of fellowship and the physical proximity required for its legal work.“When ADF came along, the heart of the board, if you will, leapt,” said Prison Fellowship president and CEO James J. Ackerman. “They thought, ‘This would be so awesome if God’s work could continue on the land dedicated to the Lord’s work by Chuck Colson himself.’”Ackerman declined to share the terms of the sale, but said that ADF made an offer within the range of the property’s appraisal value. Demand for commercial space—particularly for medical facilities—is growing in the Lansdowne area, about an hour outside DC.In advocating for conservative ...Continue reading...
Author of ‘Effective Biblical Counseling,' ‘Inside Out,' ‘Shattered Dreams,' and ‘SoulTalk' taught that aching souls long for the Triune God.Larry Crabb, a popular Christian counselor who went looking for a deeper approach to spiritual care, died on February 28 at the age of 77.Crabb was a clinical psychologist who turned to biblical counseling and then to spiritual direction. He authored more than 25 books in the process, writing the popular textbook Effective Biblical Counseling and then more than a dozen titles, including Inside Out, Shattered Dreams, Pressure’s Off, and SoulTalk, teaching people to see their own brokenness as a longing for God and new creation.“An aching soul is evidence not of neurosis or spiritual immaturity but of realism,” Crabb wrote. “Beneath the surface of everyone’s life, especially the more mature, is an ache that will not go away. It can be ignored, disguised, mislabeled, or submerged by a torrent of activity, but it will not disappear. And for good reason. We were designed to enjoy a better world than this.”Crabb popularized biblical counseling and then introduced many evangelicals to spiritual direction through his organization NewWay Ministries, weeklong summer seminars, and his extensive tenure at Colorado Christian University (CCU).“To know Larry Crabb was to know a man who wrestled honestly and often in messy ways with his interior world, and the world around him,” wrote Jim Cress, a Christian counselor mentored by Crabb. “He never knew what it meant to merely settle personally and professionally. … His calling, passion, integrity, and vision would not tolerate a shampoo bottle philosophy of ‘Wash. Rinse. Repeat.’”Continue reading...
The second of three posts on Dr. Sawyer's thoughts and concerns about CRT.In this second article of our three-part series, I want to offer five of eight cautions regarding critical race theory. As we get into concerns about CRT, we must understand that the postmodern nature of CRT allows for the receiver of the CRT text to partly determine how he or she wants to interpret and embrace the CRT text. To put it another way, the authority of determining what a particular CRT tenet means lies to some extent with the one reading and receiving the tenet and not exclusively with the one authoring and offering the tenet. While it is certainly the case that one could interpret a CRT idea in a way that is ultimately ‘wrong’ and diametrically against the spirit of the knowledge area, it is still nevertheless true that the knowledge area is a reflexive, and to some degree, contested space that makes room for diverse interpretations and applications that are still considered within the realm of CRT.With that said, what follows are concerns that are rooted in a legitimate understanding and application of CRT. This does not mean that everyone will have these identical takeaways when engaging the ideas of CRT, but it does mean that these takeaways are not only genuinely possible but are in fact happening with a number of people who name the name of Christ in various quarters of the larger Church. Again, it is possible to understand aspects of some of these tenets in ways that are not opposed to biblical Christianity, but my concern is the ways in which these tenets can possibly lead people into false societal and cultural viewpoints and, most importantly, into heterodoxy. As I unpack the following cautions, bear in mind that the individual tenet associated with each caution may only have a minor or ...Continue reading...
Lessons from a year without corporate worship.One year ago, my husband and I were still learning how to get out the door on Sunday morning for church with a two-year-old and a five-month-old during the coldest weeks of the Iowa winter. Now, like so many others, we enjoy slower Sunday mornings “attending” church over Zoom, usually sitting on the couch or floor with our restless toddlers.I sometimes enjoy the conveniences of our new Sunday morning routine, but there are pangs of sadness every week when my daughter hears music, turns to the screen, and almost immediately loses interest. I recall how engaged she was in the sounds, sights, and vibrations of congregational worship during the “before times.” I recall how much more engaged I was, too.“Worship isn’t about you” is a cliché that sums up the idea that we sing as an act of worship and sacrifice for God alone. I’ve seen this sentiment newly animated over the past year as worship leaders seek to help their congregations learn to worship as part of a body that they can’t hear or see.Brooke Ligertwood writes in a blog post for Hillsong, “Who is worship for? Spoiler alert: worship is not for people. It’s for the Lord.” Similarly, Justin Rizzo of International House of Prayer tells worship leaders, “God alone will be present at your worship times. You will have no choice but to actually minister before an audience of one . That one alone is worthy of your worship. Worship has always been about Him.”It’s understandable that worship leaders would encourage us to focus on God over gathering at a time when we cannot be together. The emphasis on a personal form of worship—one on one with God—is in some ways beneficial ...Continue reading...
New study examines how your race and view of Scripture shape your answer.Speaking this week on behalf of an Oklahoma death row inmate who claims he did not commit the murder for which he’s served 20 years in prison, pastor T. D. Jakes said, “If Jesus acquitted the guilty, then surely he would advocate for the innocent.”Jakes is among a group of Christian leaders, including Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, who are advocating for clemency for Julius Jones.A December study found that both race and views of the Bible may impact how Christians approach mistakes made by the justice system.White Americans who believe the Bible should be read literally are most likely to see acquitting guilty people as a greater injustice than convicting the innocent, according to sociologists Samuel Perry and Andrew Whitehead, the authors of the study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.Meanwhile, black Americans, regardless of their view of the Bible, agree that convicting innocent people is the worse of the two mistakes.A majority of both white evangelicals (59%) and black Protestants (63%) in the General Social Survey—the basis for the recent analysis—were biblical literalists, but the white Americans who held that position were twice as likely as black Americans to prefer wrongful conviction over letting a criminal go free.Of those surveyed, 21 percent said letting the guilty go free is worse, 64 percent said condemning the innocent, 13 percent couldn’t choose and almost 2 percent did not answer. The justice question, along with the one on biblical literalism, have been asked in four different years of the General Social Survey between 1985-2016. There is no difference over time.“It was fascinating to us to see how punitive attitudes were so strongly ...Continue reading...
A shared faith isn't sufficient in preventing ethnic violence.In 2019, prime minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize. The committee noted that he had given amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinued media censorship, fought against corruption, and legalized previously outlawed opposition groups. Ahmed also received attention for his religious reconciliation work which included mending a split in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and bringing together Christians and Muslims. The son of a Muslim father and Orthodox mother, Abiy is a Protestant Pentecostal, or “Pentay,” like many Ethiopian politicians.But, as of late, things have been tense. Last November, CNN reported that scores of people were murdered by whom survivors believe are soldiers from nearby Eritrea, whose presence they blame on the Ethiopian government. The massacre occurred in the Tigray region, the northern part of the country and one which shares a border with Eritrea. It came just weeks after the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front attacked Ethiopian military forces and the central government responded violently in return.Ethiopia has a long and extensive Christian history. The second country in the world to officially adopt Christianity, for 15 centuries, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has survived estrangement from Rome, the spread of Islam, and repeated colonialization attempts. There’s also millions of people, like Abiy, who identify as Protestant.Desta Heliso was born and raised in Ethiopia and has served as lecturer and director of the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology. He currently resides in London but continues to coordinate the Centre for Ancient Christianity and Ethiopian Studies at EGST in Addis Ababa. He is also a fellow of the Center for Early African ...Continue reading...
The Golden Globe nominee shows us what happens when “the Way” really isn't.The galaxy can be a complicated place.Din Djarin, the title character of the Disney+ show The Mandalorian, learns this quickly. Played by Pedro Pascal, the stoic gunslinger has led Star Wars fans into unexplored corners of the much-loved franchise and become the world’s favorite foster dad.As Din travels to various planets tracking down the mysterious alien child Grogu (better known as Baby Yoda) and eventually seeking a good home for him, he meets people whose beliefs severely challenge his own. Din’s soul-searching becomes the heart of the show, and his willingness to question his worldview makes a good example for us as well.Trained as a bounty hunter by a secretive religious community of Mandalorians on a backwater planet, Din thinks he knows everything about his culture and his personal convictions. His people even have a mantra to remind them to hold fast to their beliefs: “This is the Way.”But what, exactly, is the Way? Is it protecting the Mandalorians’ covert on the planet Nevarro at all costs? Is it keeping his face hidden from even his own people? Is it caring for foundlings, orphans who are rescued and reared to preserve Mandalorian culture? What if fulfilling one of these tenets jeopardizes another? Worse, what if some of them aren’t essential for a Mandalorian to follow?Suddenly, Din feels pretty relatable. As Christians, we may be confident in our convictions until a leader we admire is exposed as not the role model we knew them to be. Or until we meet people who challenge our private stereotypes. Or until a community we belong to starts expressing values we don’t hold. We find ourselves feeling pulled in two directions, torn between beliefs that no longer agree or ...Continue reading...
These 40 days of self-denial might seem painful during a pandemic. But the habits of “tedious love” are just what we need right now.After the world shuttered last March, I turned to my kitchen. I made cinnamon rolls and blueberry muffins. I fried doughnuts and braided Finnish coffee bread. For many, bread-baking was our collective, cloistered privilege. We had time to watch something rise.But those days, dusted in flour, now seem remote. Hundreds of thousands have since died. Businesses have closed, never to reopen. Many children have never returned to school. Many churches, including my own, have never re-opened for corporate worship. Our pandemic year, while experienced differently, has whittled all of us down and apprenticed us in losses of many forms.It begs the question: How can we rouse the will to practice Lent—its deprivations, its renunciations—after a long Lenten year?On the surface, these 40 days of self-denial might seem like the very last thing we need. And yet I would argue the opposite. Our pandemic lives have brought us face to face with the same temptation that plagued the monks centuries ago—the sin of acedia. It’s the inability to “rouse yourself to give a damn” as Kathleen Norris writes in Acedia & Me. In that context, the structure of Lent offers us not a millstone but a lifeline. It provides a way out of the dark waters of acedia.During the fourth century, Evagrius of Pontus identified the first formal list of eight deadly vices that were common to the desert hermetic. Among that list of recognizable sins—gluttony, lust, greed, pride—Evagrius also included sadness and sloth, which centuries later came to be understood together as acedia.Rebecca DeYoung explains in Glittering Vices that acedia is not laziness as we might traditionally conceive of it. It comes in twin forms. It’s ...Continue reading...
The first of three posts on Dr. Sawyer's thoughts and concerns about CRT. As a faculty member in the social sciences in a state institution, critical social theory (CST) is the water I swim in, the air I breathe. As an academic and conscientious Christian, justice concerns drive much of my scholarship and all of my praxis (activism). Consequently, critical race theory (CRT), a prominent critical social theory concerned about racial justice, has a place in my teaching, scholarship, and praxis. I say this to underscore that while this series will be net critical of CRT, that doesn’t mean that CRT has nothing to offer to social analysis and that some of its insights aren’t genuinely instructive when it comes to our racial history in the U.S and our current racial zeitgeist. Indeed, some aspects of CRT are notably discerning and percipient. It is an injustice to truth to deny this or act otherwise. Please keep this in mind as you move through my analysis.In this article I want to give an overview of CRT and mention some of its unifying ideas. In the second article, I’ll offer five important cautions relative to how its claims can be received and embraced. In the final article, I’ll offer three more cautions, a salient concluding point, and a final exhortation.Before I move into an overview of CRT, I want to make a final point by way of introduction. Where there is disagreement about CRT in the professed Church, we should make every effort to ensure there is no hateful speech, no ad hominem attacks, and no slander. The nuance and care needed with this topic should underscore the importance of sticking close to Christ’s commands regarding our speech and how we communicate with one another (Matt 12:36-37; Eph 4:15, 29-31; Col 4:6; 2Tim 2:24-25). In many respects, the Enemy ...Continue reading...
Nonprofit licenses revoked, leaving millions without help.For Christians trying to care for the poor in India, there is always a need for more prayer, more hands, and more money. Much of that money comes from donors in other countries. Recently, though, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has tightened regulations on foreign funding to nonprofits, including Christian groups that feed orphans, run hospitals, and educate children.Since Modi took office in 2014, the Indian government has revoked permission for more than 16,000 nongovernmental organizations to receive foreign funding, using the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).“It is deliberately an assault against the nonprofit sector,” said Vijayesh Lal, the general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, “and that includes the churches.”In one recent round of revocations, six nonprofits lost the license allowing them to receive money from abroad. Four of those were Christian organizations. A search of the FCRA website reveals more than 450 revocations from 2011-2019 of groups with the word church in their name alone.While the FCRA is not designed specifically to target Christian groups, experts say its cumbersome regulations have been used by the ruling parties in India to stifle political and religious dissidents since the law’s adoption in 1976.“It has always been used as a tool,” Lal said. “The thought behind it is very clear. They don’t want to encourage dissent. They don’t want to encourage empowerment.”The law was first passed in a period of Indian history called “the Emergency.” In the midst of economic crisis, suspicions of political corruption, strikes, student protests, and calls for revolution, Prime Minister ...Continue reading...
Introducing a new series on Critical Race Theory: its merits, flaws, and how (or even if) Christians should engage.It’s likely you’ve heard the term “Critical Race Theory,” or “CRT” for short, more than a few times in the last couple of months, to say the least. CRT has been brought to the front stage of American culture after a summer of racial turmoil, and because former President Trump issued an executive order banning federal contracts from including the framework in diversity and inclusion training in September 2020. Though the theory has been in existence since the 80s, and its intellectual forefathers in existence since the 70s, we now see an extraordinary amount of interest, and controversy, surrounding CRT.White Evangelical Christians have been at the center of much of the controversy around CRT. Despite this continued interest, there seems to be a woeful lack of understanding around what CRT even means, and why it may be incompatible with the Christian faith. In consideration of its immense popularity and controversy that The Exchange is hosting a series on Critical Race Theory, similar to other conversations on the book “White Fragility” and on PhDs. We have invited several authors of varying backgrounds and views on CRT to discuss its merits, flaws, and to offer their thoughts on how Christians should engage with the popular school of thought.However, before we hear from our contributors, it is helpful to at least try and delineate a framework for understanding Critical Race Theory as a whole. Since its beginning, CRT has grown far beyond its original conceit, and co-opted by movements which might expand, or simply not align with, its original tenets. CRT is vast, at times convoluted, and I cannot hope to fully explain it in a 1,000-word article today. Furthermore, it may be ...Continue reading...
A discussion on identity, faith, and the pursuit of justice.Last year, CT’s “Race Set Before Us” series helped challenge and inform Christians during a season of reckoning, lament, and heightened interest around issues of racial justice. Join moderator Vincent E. Bacote, along with guest speakers from the original series Walter Kim, Michelle Reyes, Jamal-Dominique Hopkins, and Sheila Caldwell as they discuss how we can pursue racial justice within our theology, churches, and society.Our Speakers:Vincent E. BacoteVincent E. Bacote, PhD, is associate professor of theology and director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College. A theology adviser for CT, his books include The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life and his latest, Reckoning with Race and Performing the Good News: In Search of a Better Evangelical Theology.Walter KimWalter Kim became the president of the National Association of Evangelicals in January 2020. He also serves pastor for leadership at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, after ministering for 15 years at Boston’s historic Park Street Church. Kim received his PhD from Harvard University in Near Eastern languages and civilizations, his MDiv from Regent College in Vancouver, and his BA from Northwestern University. He regularly speaks at college campuses, churches, retreats, and symposia, particularly in the areas of biblical theology and cultural issues.Jamal-Dominique HopkinsJamal-Dominique Hopkins is currently dean and associate professor of Religion and Theology at Dickerson-Green Theological Seminary at Allen University. He also is a Senior Fellow at the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies and a Pedagogy Fellow at Yale University’s Center for Faith and Culture, ...Continue reading...
East African nation has no plans in place to accept COVID-19 vaccines.Tanzania’s president is finally acknowledging that his country has a coronavirus problem after claiming for months that the disease had been defeated by prayer.Populist President John Magufuli on February 21 urged citizens of the East African country to take precautions and even wear face masks—but only locally made ones. Over the course of the pandemic he has expressed wariness about foreign-made goods, including COVID-19 vaccines.Last month, the president called on his 60 million citizens for three days of prayer to defeat unnamed “respiratory diseases” amid warnings that the country is seeing a deadly resurgence in infections.“Maybe we have wronged God somewhere,” Magufuli told mourners at a funeral for his chief secretary, John Kijazi, on February 19. “Let us all repent.”Though the East African nation in late February announced public health rules similar to other nation’s COVID-19 measures, Magufuli has repeatedly claimed that Tanzania defeated COVID-19 with God’s help. The government has not updated its official number of coronavirus cases since April, and the health ministry has promoted unproven herbal remedies.But the local Catholic church, the US Embassy, and others have openly warned of a resurgence in cases. On February 20, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, added his voice to growing calls for Tanzania to acknowledge COVID-19 for the good of its citizens, neighboring countries, and the world, especially after a number of countries reported that visitors arriving from Tanzania tested positive for the virus.And the death last month of the vice president of the semi-autonomous island region of Zanzibar, ...Continue reading...
At legal aid clinics, attorneys ask “Who would Jesus represent in court?”Ken Liu reads the Bible like an attorney. When Proverbs 31:9 says to “defend the rights of the poor and needy” and Psalm 82:3 says to “uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed,” he hears the Scriptures addressing lawyers like him.“God really calls us attorneys specifically to serve the poor,” said Liu, director of Christian Legal Aid, a branch of the Christian Legal Society. “So many of the causes of poverty are legal issues…. In this country, lawyers have a monopoly on providing legal services. If we don’t help, no one else can.”Liu is one of hundreds of lawyers in more than 60 clinics across the country who are motivated by their belief in Jesus and their understanding of the Bible to give their time and skill to minister in the justice system.The clinics in the Christian Legal Aid network represent people who cannot afford market-rate legal representation, which averages $100–$400 per hour in the US. The Christian lawyers offer pro bono or “low bono” help, often with sliding-scale fees determined by what a client can afford.Some of the clinics focus on helping immigrants and refugees. Vineyard Immigrant Counseling Service outside Columbus, Ohio, for example, focuses on defending people seeking asylum and immigrants who were brought to the US as children. Immigrant Hope, in Clifton, New Jersey, helps with naturalization, petitions, permanent resident card applications, and renewals, providing legal services in Spanish, Turkish, Arabic, Albanian, and Portuguese.But the crisis that Christian legal aid clinics were bracing for at the start of 2021 was the eviction of poor people from their homes, as pandemic-related moratoriums protecting struggling ...Continue reading...
The new Global Methodist Church will leave the UMC regardless of the General Conference decision, which has been delayed until 2022. Conservative United Methodists have chosen a name for the denomination they plan to form if a proposal to split the United Methodist Church is successful: The Global Methodist Church.The Global Methodist Church unveiled its new name, logo, and website on Monday, days after the United Methodist Church announced it was once again postponing the May 2020 meeting that was set to consider the proposal to split.That puts the likely launch of the planned denomination at least a year and a half away.“Over the past year the council members, and hundreds of people who have informed their work, have faithfully and thoughtfully arrived at this point,” the Rev. Keith Boyette, president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chair of the Transitional Leadership Council that is guiding the creation of the Global Methodist Church, said in a post on the WCA website.“They are happy to share with others a wealth of information about a church they believe will be steeped in the lifegiving confessions of the Christian faith.”The United Methodist Church’s General Conference, its global decision-making body, is now scheduled to meet August 29 to September 6, 2022, at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis.Delegates are expected to take up a proposal to split the denomination called the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.The proposal, negotiated by 16 United Methodist bishops and advocacy group leaders from across theological divides, would create a new conservative “traditionalist” Methodist denomination—that’s the Global Methodist Church—that would receive $25 million over the next four years. Individual churches and annual conferences ...Continue reading...
It took Aramaic speakers 1,500 years to agree on Christology, now their main debate is over Assyrian identity. Could Pope Francis' visit to Iraq encourage unity?Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Iraq in March is bound to attract attention to the nation’s peculiar Christian minorities. These fascinating groups have a uniquely Middle Eastern history that is far too little known and appreciated in the West, even though they are now present in sizable diaspora communities in North America, Europe, and Australia.When over 20,000 Iraqi asylum seekers came to my home country, Finland, in 2015, I realized that as a half-Iraqi theologian it was finally time for me to find out about my roots. I knew they went deep and had something to do with Arameans, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs—but who was who, and what was the difference?Welcome to the heated debate over the identity of the Christians who still speak the language of Jesus.Assyrian continuity and churchesWho are the Assyrians? There is no country called Assyria on today’s map, but from Old Testament history we remember the Assyrian Empire. Its capital city, Nineveh, was destroyed in 612 B.C., and its ruins lie in modern-day Mosul, in northern Iraq.Could it really be the case that Assyrians have existed since then and converted to Christianity?Indeed, average Assyrian Christians see themselves as belonging to the people that once ruled one of the greatest empires of the Middle East, which repented at the preaching of Jonah. According to this narrative, the Assyrians survived under the Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, as well as in small kingdoms of their own like Osrhoene in northern Mesopotamia.According to tradition, Osrhoene’s king, Abgar V, exchanged letters with Jesus and converted to the new faith following a later visit from one of the 70 disciples. Assyrians therefore consider themselves to be ...Continue reading...
The largest Christian adoption agency is now calling on “Christians with diverse beliefs” as it aims to serve more children under a new inclusion policy. Bethany Christian Services, the largest Christian adoption agency in the United States, has changed a longstanding policy and will now place children with LGBT parents for foster care and adoption across its operations in 32 states.The news was announced today in a ministry-wide email and first reported in The New York Times. President Chris Pulasky told employees that “Bethany remains steadfast in its Christian faith,” and that the new practices will allow the organization to further its mission “to provide safe, loving, and stable homes to as many vulnerable children as possible.”The change comes two years after Bethany opted to allow LGBT placements in its home state of Michigan. Pulasky was “disappointed” with the outcome of a lawsuit there, but at the time said if Bethany didn’t comply with state requirements it would miss out on serving thousands of children in foster care.As legal fights over religious convictions on family and LGBT rights have continued to make their way through the courts and Congress, Bethany Christian decided to incorporate the move toward LGBT inclusion across the organization.“We will now offer services with the love and compassion of Jesus to the many types of families who exist in our world today,” Palusky said. “We’re taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach where all are welcome.”Robin Fretwell Wilson, a legal expert and an adoptee, applauded the move as an example of a Christian organization finding a way forward in the culture wars.“I was pleased to see them talk about this as ‘all hands on deck’,” said Wilson, who directs University of Illinois’s Institute of Government and ...Continue reading...
On our new podcast, Daniel Harrell and Clarissa Moll discuss how sudden loss shapes the grief experience and influences the spiritual lives of those left behind.When the phone rings in the night, when the chaplain arrives at your doorstep, how do you respond? Sudden loss inflicts unique pain on those who endure it, forcing them to encounter the darkness of grief without warning. Quite literally, in catastrophic loss, grief takes us by surprise.On this episode of Surprised by Grief, Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief Daniel Harrell and author Clarissa Moll discuss the sudden loss of Clarissa’s husband, former CT editor Rob Moll. They discuss boundaries in grief, the trauma that often follows sudden loss, and the relentless pull of new life after death. Tune in for an honest look at how grief shapes us and how acknowledging its companionship offers a path to flourishing. Special guest Erik Reed, pastor of The Journey Church, Nashville, TN, shares his story of losing his young son to medical complications.Rob Moll’s book, The Art of Dying, will be released this spring as an expanded edition with Clarissa’s new afterword. Her book on grief is forthcoming from Tyndale in 2022.Surprised by Grief is a production of Christianity Today.Produced by Mike Cosper Written by Daniel Harrell and Clarissa Moll Edited and mixed by Mark Owens Music by The Porters GateContinue reading...
Elaine Howard Ecklund examines curiosity, shalom and other virtues that scientists and Christians share.In the midst of a global pandemic, some Christian approaches to science have received attention for their mistrust of COVID-19 vaccines or opposition to mask wearing. The struggle isn’t new. Over the years, national surveys have tracked a more pronounced mistrust of science among Christians on human-caused global warming, evolution, and other issues, often leading to public attention on conflict areas. Yet many Christians have not only found a harmony of faith and science but also followed a calling that lives in that tension.Seeking to address the need for more cooperation and collaboration between scientific and faith communities, Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund wants to highlight the commonalities, instead of the conflicts, as a way forward.Ecklund has spent more than a decade reporting on what scientists believe about religion and what religious people—especially Christians—believe about science. Despite the fact that nearly 50 percent of scientists consider themselves religious, much distrust remains between Christians and scientists, with each side often viewing the other as a threat.In her most recent book, Why Science and Faith Need Each Other: Eight Shared Values That Move Us Beyond Fear, Ecklund proposes that Christians and scientists can find common ground around eight virtues that play a vital role in both faith and the practice of science: curiosity, doubt, humility, creativity, healing, awe, shalom, and gratitude.Christopher Reese spoke with Ecklund about the book and some of the challenging issues surrounding the relationship between Christianity and science.Why is it important for Christianity and science to find common ground?Research shows that the views people hold about ...Continue reading...
Ten years after Pakistan's highest Christian official was martyred, religious freedom advocates apply his life's lessons.“Shahbaz is dead.” I received the shocking news 10 years ago this week, as I stared out my kitchen window into a cold March morning. Shahbaz Bhatti was known worldwide as a courageous Christian voice for religious freedom in Pakistan. And I knew him as my friend.Shahbaz lived an exemplary life, daily demonstrating heroic love of neighbor, speaking out for victimized religious groups in his home country. The only Christian in the Pakistani prime minister’s cabinet, he did not shy away from denouncing persecution. For this, the forces of darkness assassinated him on March 2, 2011, hoping to silence him and terrify others.The question for those of us who remain: “How do we carry on his legacy?”Pakistan was and is a dangerous country for Christians and other religious minorities. Government laws victimize, and violent religious extremists strike with impunity. Open Doors ranks it the fifth worst country in the world for Christians. Ten years ago, it was equally dismal.Yet Shahbaz tirelessly advocated for the persecuted, be they his fellow Christians or members of other communities such as Hindus, Ahmadi Muslims, Shia Muslims, atheists, or Sunni Muslims standing up to extremists. He was fearless, speaking out on their behalf, carrying his small candle into dark places to shine a light.Politically savvy, Shahbaz was appointed by then-President Ali Zardari to his cabinet, making him the only Christian federal official at the time. When Asia Bibi was sentenced to death in November 2010 over bogus blasphemy charges, Shahbaz threw himself into her cause. Advocating at every level for her release, he also worked with officials from around the world. I and others like Rep. Frank Wolf connected him with ...Continue reading...

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