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How a quiet, bookish kid came to faith while living among rageaholics.Some days are like a hot iron, searing their events into your memory. This was one of them­—sun shining, birds chirping, and me playing on the front porch of our cracker-box rental house in North Denver.To my five-year-old self, it was a perfect afternoon. No gunshots, no gang-filled cars creeping by looking for trouble as they often did in our neighborhood, where my family was no stranger to violence. (We were often at the center of it.)Everything was good that day—at least until a shiny, new car pulled up and the driver began staring in my direction. It was Paul, one of the men my Ma had married. He had up and left us without warning, and we hadn’t heard from him in months.Ma caught sight of him out the kitchen window. Cursing like a sailor, she hunted down our baseball bat. Charging out of the house, cigarette hanging from her lips, she dared Paul to get out of the car. As he considered her offer, she started swinging at the headlights and the windshield.Paul made the tactical mistake of getting out. Not missing a beat, Ma stopped smashing the car and started smashing him instead. When he finally limped back to the driver’s seat and peeled off, I knew we’d never see him again.Instantly, I realized two things: One, I would never disobey Ma again. And two, something had ignited a rage in her that consistently led to incidents like this. Years later, my grandma told me what that something was.All the rageMa was a partier, and I was a result of one of the parties, where she had met a guy named Toney. She got pregnant. He got transferred (he was in the Army). Instead of facing her conservative Baptist parents, Ma drove from Denver to Boston, under the pretense of visiting my uncle Tommy and ...Continue reading...
Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said it is working with the US embassy and praying the gang members responsible would come to repentance.A group of 17 missionaries including children was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident.The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage, according to a message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries.“This is a special prayer alert,” the one-minute message said. “Pray that the gang members would come to repentance.”The message says the mission’s field director is working with the US Embassy, and that the field director’s family and one other unidentified man stayed at the ministry’s base while everyone else visited the orphanage.No other details were immediately available.A US government spokesperson said they were aware of the reports on the kidnapping.“The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the spokesperson said, declining further comment.Meanwhile, a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is in touch with Haitian authorities to try to resolve the case.According to its member profile with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Christian Aid Ministries works mostly with Amish and Mennonite volunteers in relief efforts. A post on the Christian Aid Ministries site last week described its sponsor-a-child school program in Haiti, which it says supports 8,600 children.Haiti is once again struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings that had diminished after President Jovenel Moïse was fatally shot at his private residence on July 7, and following a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck southwest Haiti ...Continue reading...
Christian health workers and pastors navigate stigma at Apostolic, evangelical, and Methodist congregations.Yvonne Binda stands in front of the congregation, all dressed in pristine white robes, and tells them not to believe what they’ve heard about COVID-19 vaccines.“The vaccine is not linked to Satanism,” she says. The worshipers, members of a Christian Apostolic church in Zimbabwe, are unmoved. But when Binda, a vaccine campaigner and member of an Apostolic church herself, promises them soap, buckets, and masks, there are enthusiastic shouts of “Amen!”Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into Pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical in the southern African nation when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, with an already strong mistrust of modern medicine. Many followers put faith in prayer, holy water, and anointed stones to ward off disease or cure illnesses.The worshipers Binda addressed in the rural area of Seke sang about being protected by the Holy Spirit, but have at least acknowledged soap and masks as a defense against the coronavirus. Binda is trying to convince them to also get vaccinated—and that’s a tough sell.Congregation leader Kudzanayi Mudzoki had to work hard to persuade his flock just to stay and listen to Binda speak about vaccines.“They usually run away,” he said. “Some would hide in the bushes.”There has been little detailed research on Apostolic churches in Zimbabwe, but UNICEF studies estimate it is the largest religious denomination with around 2.5 million followers in a country of 15 million. The conservative groups adhere to a doctrine demanding that followers avoid medicines and medical care and instead seek healing through their faith.Integrated into the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHCD) in 1993, the Apostolic ...Continue reading...
Some Copts cheer Sisi's stance and new five-year reform strategy, while others focus on absence of attention to problematic ID cards and reconciliation committees.Committing Egypt to a five-year program of human rights reform, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did not mince words about religion.“If someone tells me they are neither Muslim nor Christian nor a Jew, or that he or she does not believe in religion, I will tell them, ‘You are free to choose,’” he said. “But will a society that has been conditioned to think in a certain way for the last 90 years accept this?”The comment sent shockwaves through Egyptian society.“Listening to him, I thought he was so brave,” said Samira Luka, senior director for dialogue at the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services. “Sisi is fighting not only a culture, but a dogma.”Last month, the government released its first-ever National Human Rights Strategy after studying the path of improvement in 30 other nations, including New Zealand, South Korea, and Finland. The head of the UN Human Rights Council praised the 70-page document as a “key tool” with “concrete steps.”Egypt’s constitution guarantees freedom of belief and worship and gives international treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the force of law. But Article 98 of the Middle Eastern nation’s penal code stipulates up to five years in prison for blasphemy and has been used against atheists and Christians alike.Will Sisi’s words signal a change?Since his election in 2014, Egypt’s head of state has consistently spoken about the need to “renew religious discourse,” issuing a challenge to Muslim clerics. And prior to the launch of the new strategy, his comments even hinted at a broader application than atheism.“We are all born Muslims and ...Continue reading...
The EC president and CEO says he “will not and cannot” lead after its vote to waive attorney-client privilege. Ronnie Floyd is the latest to leave the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee (EC) over its decision to hand over privileged documents in an upcoming abuse investigation.Floyd, the president and CEO of the EC, announced in an email Thursday night that he could no longer serve in the role, which he has held for two years. His resignation is effective October 31.In the past couple weeks, more than ten members of the EC left around the much-debated vote on attorney-client privilege, and the EC’s longtime attorneys, James Guenther and James Jordan, withdrew their legal services.In his resignation letter, Floyd repeated his commitment to the outside review of the EC, but continued to emphasize the potential risks and liability of waiving privilege.“The decisions made on Tuesday afternoon, October 5, in response to the 2021 Convention now place our missionary enterprise as Southern Baptists into uncertain, unknown, unprecedented and uncharted waters,” he wrote.“Due to my personal integrity and the leadership responsibility entrusted to me, I will not and cannot any longer fulfill the duties placed upon me as the leader of the executive, fiscal, and fiduciary entity of the SBC. In the midst of deep disappointment and discouragement, we have to make this decision by our own choice and do so willingly, because there is no other decision for me to make.”Rolland Slade, EC chairman, told Baptist Press, “I am saddened by his resignation. He’s had a tremendous ministry for years and years. I know he loves Southern Baptists. I know it was his intention to come to Nashville to serve Southern Baptists well and I believe he’s fulfilled that to the best of his ability. However, ...Continue reading...
There are clear, pro-life reasons why mothers and fathers need time with new babies.When our twins were born in 2019, I took six weeks off work. My husband did too—thanks to his then-employer’s family leave plan, offered equally to new mothers and fathers alike—and it’s impossible to overstate how indispensable his leave became.It wasn’t that I had a difficult physical recovery. Mercifully, I didn’t, especially by the standard of multiples pregnancies. But I found I couldn’t set myself up for tandem nursing alone, which meant that without my husband’s help, I would have been nursing 50 percent of my hours every day—not my waking hours, all my hours. And if each twin took a full hour to eat, every two hours, nursing would’ve occupied 100 percent of my days and nights. I literally could not have done it by myself.I’ve been thinking about the importance of paid family leave again recently, both because of personal circumstance—we’ve had some childcare disruptions, and once again my husband’s job made it possible for him to shoulder that task—and because it’s the subject of increasing political attention.The Biden administration’s American Families Plan, introduced in April, would eventually provide 12 weeks of family leave per year, paid at up to $4,000 per month, should it become law.Paid family leave is financially messy in the United States, where many of our benefits come through our employers. Some smaller businesses and organizations truly wouldn’t be able to comply with a mandate to provide lengthy leave, unless it were subsidized at a high enough level to pay both a new hire and the person on leave.If employers of any size believe they can’t afford to comply, they might respond by refusing ...Continue reading...
With dozens of congregations already on their way out, the Reformed Church in America anticipates “difficult decisions” at its postponed General Synod this week. This week, North America’s oldest denomination will confront its gridlock over LGBTQ ordination and same-sex marriage. Votes cast in Tucson at the Reformed Church in America’s General Synod—delayed 16 months due to the pandemic—will chart the course for the already-splintering denomination.In the past year, conservative factions have broken ties with the RCA, with other churches threatening to follow. Delegates to the synod, which starts Thursday and will continue through Tuesday, will determine how the denomination might restructure to entice congregations to stay, if the church will establish an external mission organization and whether departing congregations can plan on taking their church buildings with them.“At General Synod, delegates come from across the RCA to discern the mind of Christ together,” said Christina Tazelaar, RCA director of communications. “There are difficult decisions on the agenda, along with many things to celebrate, and we’re praying that the Holy Spirit guides every decision.”The RCA is a historically Dutch Reformed denomination dating back to the 1620s, when New York was known as New Amsterdam. Today, the RCA has fewer than 200,000 members and 1,000 churches. While in theory RCA churches are united by their polity, history, and Reformed convictions, they hold a range of political and theological beliefs.The RCA isn’t the only Protestant denomination facing division over views on sexuality. Next year, the United Methodist Church is expected to vote on a proposal to split the denomination over the inclusion of LGBTQ members, and the RCA’s sister denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, will grapple with its contentious human ...Continue reading...
Q&A with Mission Aviation Fellowship President David Holsten on the challenges of reaching the most isolated villages in the world.In a remote village on the side of a mountain in Papua, a man has been writing letters.“I’ve written so many letters asking for teachers to come,” he says. “I’ve written so many letters, my pens have all run out of ink. I don’t have any more pens to write with. But then all of the sudden I heard you guys were coming. I was so happy hearing that I could not sleep at all last night.”A new documentary tells the story of that arrival and the missionary pilots who support the work of Bible translators, church planters, and Christian teachers in the remotest mountain villages. Ends of the Earth will be playing in about 700 theaters across the US on Monday, October 18, and Thursday, October 21. It is also available to churches.CT talked to Mission Aviation Fellowship President and CEO David Holsten about the importance of the documentary, his theology of missions, and the challenges of flying small planes in and out of mountain villages like Puluk, where it took the people 15 years to build a runway with picks, shovels, and crowbars. What are your hopes for this documentary?We want people to see with clarity how the gospel can bring lasting change to somebody living in great isolation—isolation that isn’t just geographical. They are spiritually isolated, linguistically isolated, ethnically isolated. In some of these villages, infant mortality is 80 percent, women and children are abused, and there’s constant war. It’s pretty horrific.Liku, a Wano Bible teacher, says this in the documentary: “People in America might think we live in a pristine, beautiful place, but they haven’t seen for themselves what it is really like here.”The gospel and the values ...Continue reading...
The world's most famous list of rules is grounded in something deeper than ethical principles.Considering they are among the most influential words ever written, there are a number of curious things about the Ten Commandments. To start, there are two versions, with subtly different wording (Ex. 20:1–17; Deut. 5:6–21). No one knows how they were divided into two tablets. The first statement (“I am the Lord your God …”) is not really a command.Most awkwardly, there appear to be more than ten. The phrase “you shall” appears 12 times, and that does not include commands to “remember the Sabbath” or “honor your father and mother.” The Orthodox Church and most Protestants solve this problem by combining all the commands on coveting into one. Roman Catholics address it by grouping the prohibitions on idolatry: Augustine argued that the first commandment (no other gods) includes what many would consider the second (no graven images).Many would concede that the precise commandment count doesn’t really matter, so long as we obey them all. I agree. But another curious feature of the Ten Commandments that does matter, and which frequently goes unnoticed, is the fact that there are ten theological affirmations—ten attributes of God, if you like—woven through them. If the text tells us who we should be, it also tells us who God is. Revelation sits alongside regulation.We have already noted the affirmation. God’s words to Israel begin not with a commandment, but with the name of God: “I am the Lord your God …” (Ex. 20:2, ESV throughout). In other words, I am Yahweh, the God who made a covenant with Abraham. You know my name because I revealed it to you. This relationship does not begin with your commitment to me (as important ...Continue reading...
Survey of almost 19,000 adults in 17 nations examines societal conflict between different religions, political parties, races and ethnicities, and urban and rural communities.“Conflict” is a troublesome word to describe a society. But increasingly across advanced global economies—and particularly the United States—their societies believe it is the correct label.If there is any good news, religious conflict lags behind.The Pew Research Center surveyed almost 19,000 people in 17 North American, European, and Asia-Pacific nations this past spring about their perception of conflict across four categories: between political parties, between different races and ethnicities, between different religions, and between urban and rural communities.The US ranked top or high in each.A global median of 50 percent see political conflict, 48 percent see racial conflict, 36 percent see religious conflict, and 23 percent see urban-rural conflict.But in the US, 9 in 10 viewed political conflict as “serious” or “very serious.”Asian nations varied considerably. South Korea matched the US at 90 percent seeing serious political polarization, with Taiwan third at 69 percent. Singapore was lowest overall at 33 percent, while Japan was 39 percent.France (65%), Italy (64%), Spain (58%), and Germany (56%) followed Taiwan.In terms of race, the US ranked first again, with 71 percent seeing serious conflict. France was second at 64 percent, and South Korea and Italy third at 57 percent. Singapore again ranked lowest, at 25 percent.South Korea had the highest perception of religious conflict, at 61 percent. France followed at 56 percent, and the US at 49 percent. Germany and Belgium registered 46 percent each. Taiwan was lowest, at 12 percent.Nearly 1 in 4 French (23%) saw religious conflict as “very serious.”Age plays a role in perception. Pew noted that adults under ...Continue reading...
We don't need a better guidebook or a different set of rules. We need to change the way we approach the conversation.I wish I still had my copies of the popular sexuality and dating books from my youth so I could see which quotes I highlighted as a 15-year-old. I’m sure there is a list somewhere in my handwriting titled “What I Want in a Future Husband” (though, to be honest, it was probably pretty short: Jonathan Taylor Thomas).While writing Talking Back to Purity Culture, I reread fresh copies of those books. As I revisited the words that had so shaped me and my peers, I felt the glass cracking under the weight of my internalized beliefs. I felt embarrassed realizing that so much of what I had accepted as true had nothing to do with biblical sexuality or the grace of God.Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally depicts a woman’s heart as a chocolate cake. If someone eats a piece before the party (i.e., marriage), the cake, and consequently her relational worth, is no longer whole. In the introduction to Every Young Woman’s Battle, Stephen Arterburn warns female readers that every time a man has sex with a woman, he takes “a piece of her soul.”Alongside these unbiblical messages about human worth that fly squarely in the face of the theology of the imago Dei were the false promises of marriage, great sex, and children for anyone who practiced premarital celibacy. But it was, perhaps, the overarching message that women were responsible for the sexual purity of both genders that burdened me the most as a teenager growing up in the church.In their book, For Young Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice report that “teenage guys are conflicted by their powerful physical urges” and “many guys don’t feel the ability or responsibility to stop the sexual progression.” ...Continue reading...
Old-school evangelical leaders once knew the value of “care” over “cure.”“You know, Mike, I used to be gay,” I said.Mike stopped moving his paintbrush as the words fell clumsily from my mouth. He was painting the St. Louis apartment I called home in the summer of 1997 as I began working toward my PhD in historical theology.He’d asked me about my schooling, and we got to talking about faith. Mike had explained to me how he felt he could never go to church because he was gay.“I know they say that’s not supposed to happen,” I went on, after dropping the bombshell. “But that’s my story.” Mike stared at me with interest as he set the paint can down, gently balancing his brush on its edge.Looking back on this encounter, I can see that it had all the trappings of what became known as the ex-gay movement, of which I was once an eager proponent. Most notable is my use of the ex-gay script: “I used to be gay.” The phrase implied that I wasn’t gay anymore. I had a testimony, a story to tell about leaving homosexuality behind.To be clear, my sexual attractions at that moment were drawn as exclusively to other men as ever. I was still at the top of the Kinsey scale that researchers since the 1940s have used to classify sexual orientation. What made me ex-gay was that I used the ex-gay script. I was trying to convince myself that I was a straight man with a disease—a curable one—called homosexuality. A condition that was being healed.My terminological maneuver was an integral component of conversion therapy. Alan Medinger, the first executive director of Exodus International, described it as “a change in self-perception in which the individual no longer identifies him- or herself as homosexual.” It was all about ...Continue reading...
After decades away from church, the Canadian folk rocker joined a congregation in San Francisco—without mentioning his musical fame. Bruce Cockburn, the Canadian singer-songwriter, had not attended church regularly in more than 40 years when he walked into the Lighthouse Church in San Francisco three years ago.He’d come at the request of his wife, M. J., whose spiritual quest, impelled by the death of a friend, led her to the church. Even then, “I told her, ‘I’m not going,’” he said. “I said I was past that. I wasn’t a churchgoing person.”But M. J. persevered. One Sunday, Cockburn relented and was “completely blown away.”“I didn’t know any of these people, and they didn’t know me, but love filled the room,” he said of the small non-denominational congregation. “It felt like the church I was waiting for.”Known for a string of moody folk-rock Billboard 100 hits from the 1980s (“Wondering Where the Lions Are,” “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” “If I Had a Rocket Launcher”) and his stints playing with The Grateful Dead (“Waiting for a Miracle”), Cockburn had always incorporated Christian theology and imagery into his songs.Still, Cockburn, 76, didn’t see a reason to mention his musical career, even after he was invited to play in the church’s worship band. “Nobody knew who I was” when they extended the invitation to play, he said. “They needed a guitar player, so they were foolish enough to ask me.”If, three years later, no one had figured out that the house guitarist has 35 albums and 13 Junos—the Canadian Grammys—to his name, they likely realized it in May, when Cockburn released four songs he’d written as a fundraiser for the church’s programs to assist ...Continue reading...
Even during crisis of COVID-19, few are finding ways to share their faith, study finds. If Canadians have been longing for meaning in their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that anyone has told them about Jesus.According to a recent survey conducted by Alpha Canada and the Flourishing Congregations Institute, 65 percent of church leaders say that evangelism hasn’t been a priority for their congregations over the last several years. Fifty-five percent say their congregations do not equip Christians to share their faith.Shaila Visser, national director of Alpha Canada, said she was somewhat surprised by the numbers because she sees so many opportunities for Christians to share their faith. The pandemic, in particular, has caused people to ask significant questions about the meaning and purpose of their lives.“The opportunity before the church in Canada is to meet them and their questions with the person of Jesus,” she said, “to show them that Jesus is very good.”The survey asked Canadian leaders across Christian denominations, “As you think about your local congregation/parish over the last several years, to what extent would you say your congregation/parish has given priority (or not) to evangelism?”More than 2,700 church leaders responded between May and July 2021.About 20 percent said evangelism was a moderate concern. Only 9 percent said it was a high priority for members of their congregation to share their faith.Respondents included a few leaders from the mainline United Church of Canada and just over 20 percent from the Roman Catholic Church. The majority, though, came from evangelical traditions, including leaders from Baptist churches, Pentecostal churches, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Evangelical Free Church, the Church of the ...Continue reading...
Two experts on intercultural evangelism explore the challenge of sharing Christ in a climate of growing indifference.Christian evangelism entails a conversation with people of different beliefs. But those conversations are also often between people of different cultures. That’s where Effective Intercultural Evangelism, a new book from missiologists W. Jay Moon and W. Bud Simon, steps into the discussion. They want to help Christians share the good news of Jesus in a world of diverse cultural perspectives.Readers might assume such a resource would be aimed at those in cross-cultural missionary contexts. But the authors want us to realize that when we talk with the average non-Christian in our communities, they don’t just believe differently than we do. They often think, process, feel, appreciate, and evaluate differently than we do. They come to the conversation with different worldviews.Consider, for example, the category of human desires. The authors encourage believers to ask their friends, “If you could receive any one of the following four things, which would it be? Deliverance, restoration, forgiveness, or belonging?” It’s a helpful question. Is deliverance more appealing to you? What about restoration? Do you ultimately seek forgiveness and cleansing? Or does discovering a sense of belonging and a longing for home more accurately describe your desires?Moon and Simon believe that a person’s greatest desire is shaped by their worldview. The aim of their book is to help readers “discern various worldviews and how to continue God conversations that are relevant to each of these worldviews.” In other words, they want to equip evangelists to tap into the needs, desires, values, and assumptions of those around them. As Christians better understand the perspectives of their conversation partners, ...Continue reading...
After yet another military overthrow of a democratically elected leader in West Africa, minority evangelicals debate the role of faith in politics.In its 63 years of independence, Guinea has had three presidents. Last month, the West African nation suffered its third coup d’etat.This time, says the local Christian minority, their Francophone country might just get it right.“Alpha Conde cannot return,” said Etienne Leno, a Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) pastor. “We are praying that the new military authorities—who we find to be wise and intelligent—will be led by God.”On September 5, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, head of the Guinean special forces, ousted the 83-year-old president. Once an imprisoned opposition leader, Conde became the nation’s first democratically elected head of state in 2010 and won a second term in 2015.Leno originally found much hope in Conde’s mandate, which was ushered in after the international community aided domestic forces to remove the military junta that violently seized power in 2008. Conde improved the business, tourism, and energy sectors, restoring Guinea’s global reputation.Local infrastructure was neglected, however, and the Oregon-sized nation lagged in domestic development. One-third of the economy was linked to the mining of bauxite, the primary resource for aluminum. Guinea boasts the world’s largest reserves, but foreign companies dominate the extraction.Despite 7 percent annual growth, nearly 50 percent of the 13 million population lived in poverty. And by late 2019, 36 percent of the country believed Guinea was moving in the wrong direction.And then Conde made his power grab. He pushed through a March 2020 referendum for constitutional changes to reset his term limits and in October won reelection again. Both votes were challenged by violently suppressed ...Continue reading...
For 19 days, two staffers told unaccompanied minors that God is a good father.Young Life leaders Eric Collins and Felix Chavez were thrilled to find a group of students eager to hear God’s Word.But there was a catch.The young people were inside Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, behind two security checkpoints and any number of locked doors. They were unaccompanied minors seeking refuge from violence in Central America, held in the custody of the United States government.In April and May 2021, the Office of Refugee Resettlement temporarily housed 1,500 boys ages 13–17 on the grounds of the sporting arena, just two miles from the school where Collins and Chavez had been struggling to start a Young Life club in the midst of a pandemic. The boys were being kept at the coliseum until their stateside contacts made arrangements to receive them, or they were transferred to another, longer-term facility. When minors cross the border without their parents—whether those parents are ahead of or behind them—they must remain in the care of someone. That someone, for many, is the US government.The facility became a lightning rod for outrage in San Antonio, with immigrant rights groups, community leaders, government officials, and politicians quarreling about the underage immigration crisis, the right way to deal with it, and who to blame for the problem.For the Young Life team, the politics were not a deterrent. Freeman Coliseum was in the right place, and the boys arrived at the right time.“I saw that as our side of town,” Collins said. “God called us to it.”After a long school year complicated by COVID-19, they were ready to just sit down and talk about Jesus with some teenagers. Chavez, a 59-year-old immigrant from Mexico, felt he was uniquely equipped to care for ...Continue reading...
ShareWord will continue to distribute Scripture, but emphasize church partnerships and equipping Christians for evangelism.Say “Gideons,” and the vision that comes to mind for most people is Bibles in hotel nightstands and pocket-sized Scriptures passed out to students. It’s a recognized brand, with a well-publicized purpose, but it’s getting a new moniker in Canada.Gideons International in Canada will now be known as ShareWord Global.“God has called us to expand our evangelistic efforts internationally and come alongside our brothers and sisters across the world with tools, resources, and inspiration to be faithful—not just to a brand name, but to Jesus himself, who instructed us to ‘go and make disciples of all the nations,'” said Alan Anderson, ShareWord president, in the announcement.This new name comes a decade after the Canadian branch of Gideons International distinguishing itself from its mother organization, The Gideons International, which is headquartered in Nashville.There were several reasons for creating an autonomous Canadian organization, Anderson told CT. One had to do with the Canada Revenue Agency’s requirements for reporting money that was being sent overseas. But there were also some ideological differences. The Gideons in Canada wanted to open the organization to women; in the US it remains a men-only ministry.“Sometimes the methods get confused with the purpose,” Anderson said. “We took a step a back and asked ourselves, ‘What are we trying to accomplish?’”The Canadian organization also removed the vocational requirement that members be businessmen or professionals and took steps to work more directly with churches.“We were able to invest far more heavily in partnership, especially partnership with the local church,” ...Continue reading...
Christian ministries are concerned about the Biden administration's efforts to expand a Trump program of scanning letters.Pastor Frank Switzer has written thousands of letters to men in prison. During his first tentative years as a young pastor, a woman in his congregation in Phoenix approached the pulpit one Sunday and asked him to write to her son, who had just been sentenced to five years.Switzer’s yes turned into a long list of correspondents spanning more than two decades of letter writing. But a new policy at the Federal Bureau of Prisons could change how Switzer and other Christian prison pen pals across the country encourage and evangelize those behind bars.In 2020, the Donald Trump administration piloted a program that converted all incoming physical mail at two federal prisons into electronic scans. Smart Communications, the government contractor tasked with scanning the letters, says its MailGuard service “finally eliminates one of corrections’ longest-running problems and security loopholes—contraband and secret communications in inmate postal mail.” Several state prisons across the country have adopted similar practices.There are no publicly available statistics showing how often contraband is smuggled into US prisons in the mail. In one year in Virginia, prison officials discovered drugs in about 12 of the 1.4 million letters sent to incarcerated people. In Texas, just over one half of one percent of letters were flagged for suspicious content in 2019. It is unknown how often suspicions were confirmed.Under the scan policy, rather than getting to hold the physical items sent to them—handwritten letters, photos, kids’ drawings, brochures, and even Bible study materials—those in prison can only see their mail haul on a screen. President Joe Biden’s administration has indicated ...Continue reading...
An excerpt from the best-selling author's memoir, “Where the Light Fell.”At a vulnerable time in my spiritual development, I found myself at a Bible college with a 66-page rule book and little emphasis on grace. Other students seemed quite content in the controlled environment. In me, however, the campus culture encouraged more cynicism than faith.My cynicism gradually softened over the course of my sopho­more year. I found some relief in a new Christian Service assign­ment: “university work.” Four of us male students started visiting a nearby state university every Saturday night with the goal of engaging students in conver­sations about faith.On our first visit I am dazzled by the plush dorms and student lounges, so different from the utilitarian buildings at the Bible col­lege. Entranced, I study the bulletin boards covered with splashy posters announcing concerts, plays, and other student activities. I want to be one of these people more than I want to convert them.Strolling through the campus, I notice a group of athletes sitting on a patio. “Where are you guys from?” I ask.“We’re with the Yale baseball team. How about you?”“Um, I attend a Bible college down the road, and we came over here to see if anyone wants to talk about spiritual things.” They ex­change smirks. I continue, “You see, in God’s economy …”“That’s funny,” one of the athletes interrupts. “I didn’t know God had an economy.” His teammates laugh, and blood rushes to my face. I head toward the student center to watch TV.“Don’t worry, Philip,” my fellow students reassure me when I re­port on my botched attempt at witnessing. “At least you sowed the seed. God’s ...Continue reading...
As Erbil Christians finally get to govern themselves, Chaldean Catholic archbishop Bashar Warda explains to CT how ISIS freed Christians from the centuries-old understanding that they are second-class citizens.This week, the Christian enclave of Ankawa in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan, was designated by the autonomous region’s prime minister as an official district with administrative autonomy. Starting next week, Christians will directly elect their own mayor and be in charge of security, among other matters.Prime Minister Masrour Barzani called Ankawa a home for “religious and social coexistence, and a place for peace.”Archbishop Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Erbil, called it an “important” and “strategic” decision.“Our confidence in the future of Kurdistan makes us encourage Christians not only to stay,” he told Kurdistan 24, “but also to invest in this region.”Ordained a priest in 1993, Warda was consecrated in his current position in 2010. With Iraq’s hemorrhaging of Christians since the 2003 US invasion, Warda’s bishopric in the autonomous Kurdish region soon became a providential band-aid.Beginning in 2014, ISIS drove Christians from Mosul and their traditional homeland in the Nineveh Plains, and thousands took refuge in Erbil and other cities in the secure northeast. From 1.5 million Christians in 2003, the Chaldean Catholic church now estimates a population of fewer than 275,000 Christians.Warda has long been investing to turn the tide.In 2015, he established the Catholic University of Erbil, and has coordinated relief aid from governments and charities alike. The situation stabilized following ISIS’s defeat in 2017.But freedom does not come from politics alone. Two years ago, Christians endorsed widespread popular uprisings against the political class. Violently suppressed, the ...Continue reading...
The Virginia congregation, began by free and enslaved Blacks, dates back to 1776.Archaeologists believe they have discovered the foundation of the original building of the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, one of the nation’s oldest Black churches.The announcement, shared first with descendants of First Baptist Church members, was officially made on Thursday by Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which runs the well-known outdoor living museum and historic district in Williamsburg.“The early history of our congregation, beginning with enslaved and free Blacks gathering outdoors in secret in 1776, has always been a part of who we are as a community,” said the Rev. Reginald F. Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church, in a statement.“To see it unearthed—to see the actual bricks of that original foundation and the outline of the place our ancestors worshipped—brings that history to life and makes that piece of our identity tangible.”The discovery of the first permanent structure of the church—which is set to celebrate its 245th anniversary on the weekend of October 9-10—comes after a year of excavation at the site.Archaeologists located a 16 X 20-foot brick foundation atop a layer of soil that has been dated to the early 1800s. It sits beside brick paving under which was found an 1817 coin.Tax records have indicated that the congregation was worshipping on the site by 1818 in a building called the Baptist Meeting House, which was likely the congregation’s first permanent home.Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of archaeology, said he considers these finds to be just the start of continuing research.“We always hoped this is what we’d find,” he said in a statement. “Now we can ...Continue reading...
Inconsistent and insincere appeals for exemptions to public health rules are undermining important freedoms.If you believe in religious liberty only when it’s good for society, then you really don’t believe in it. A sincere commitment to religious liberty requires support for exemptions that allow people to do things you might disagree with, whether that’s Mennonites refusing to serve in the military, Catholics declining to work with same-sex foster parents, or Native Americans doing drugs.So supporters of religious liberty and robust religious exemptions might feel conflicted about a court ruling in Pennsylvania that rejected religious exemptions to mask mandates in schools. On the one hand, the best information from public health experts says masks are a good, simple way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. On the other, shouldn’t we support the rights of people we think are wrong?Religious liberty is too important to let it get misused. It’s not a waiver to avoid all inconveniences in life or, worse, a tool to make political statements. For religious liberty to survive political and legal scrutiny in the future, we must safeguard exemptions against abuse. We can’t let appeals to shared faith or shared “enemies” mask bad faith arguments that undermine our religious liberty.At the height of World War II, West Virginia schools required students to begin their day by saluting the flag and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. For Jehovah’s Witnesses these requirements amounted to idolatry, violating their deeply held convictions. They refused, at significant personal cost.Eventually, the US Supreme Court ruled that these students should not be coerced to participate, famously declaring, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, ...Continue reading...
The reasons worship services should be offline are all too human.Every week, in the front lobby, the secretary of the church I attended in kindergarten updated the archive of sermon recordings. This was in the early 1990s, so the archive was a spice rack of cassette tapes, with maybe two or three copies for each sermon, in case multiple homebound church members wanted to listen simultaneously.That sort of care for those who can’t make it to church on Sunday—whether occasionally or long-term, due to old age, chronic illness, or disability—is uncontroversial. Most churches have long since moved past cassettes to a podcast format or YouTube or CDs, but the basic idea of using technology to bring at least the sermon to those who can’t worship in person is here to stay, and so it should be. Though not a sufficient fulfilment of our duties on its own, it’s easily defensible as an outworking of the Christian responsibility to care for the sick (Matt. 25:36), “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2), and “look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27).But what about conducting church—or, at least, its group worship and teaching—on Facebook? Many congregations tried this or something similar for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic.Facebook reported that the week of Easter 2020, when pandemic shutdowns were just becoming widespread was, “the biggest for group video calls on Messenger and the most popular week of Facebook Live broadcasts from spiritual Pages, ever.” People seemed to take quickly to its ways of connecting when separated by COVID-19.On Facebook, churches can form “groups” or “pages.” They can host chats and post memes that members and followers will see and respond to. ...Continue reading...
The philosopher and theologian ventures a new hypothesis on Genesis, human origins, and the historical Adam.As head of the ministry Reasonable Faith and a prolific writer on topics of philosophy and theology, William Lane Craig has spent decades staking out sophisticated positions on the toughest questions of Christian faith. But for a long time, his beliefs on one controversial topic—the place of Adam and Eve in biblical and biological history—have remained unsettled. Craig considers this matter at length in his latest book, In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration. Science and religion scholar Melissa Cain Travis spoke with Craig about his views on Genesis, human origins, and the historical Adam.You describe Genesis 1–11 as “mytho-history,” arguing that an ancient-Near-Eastern audience would not have understood this text as a literal historical narrative. How do you define mytho-history, and how does it function in divine revelation?I’m not using the word myth in the popular sense of a falsehood, but rather in the folklorist’s sense of a traditional, sacred narrative explaining how the world and humanity came to be in their present form. History is a narrative concerning real people and events, and so a mytho-history would be a sort of fusion of the two: a narrative concerning real people and events told in the language of myth in order to ground a culture’s identity and institutions in events of the primordial past.One reason you support the mytho-history classification is the presence of what you call “fantastic elements” in the text. What are these, and how do they differ from supernatural elements?I define “fantastic elements” as those which, if taken literally, are so extraordinary as to be palpably false. Myths are typically ...Continue reading...

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