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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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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...
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...
The third-party inquiry, though, critiques lack of transparency by pastor John Ortberg, who resigned last year.A third-party investigation at one of northern California’s most prominent megachurches that consumed its congregation and former pastor’s fractious family ended this week with a report that found no evidence the pastor’s adult child had acted on his confessed attraction to minors.“After interviewing 104 witnesses and reviewing or analyzing more than 500,000 documents, Zero Abuse Project did not find any disclosure or other direct evidence the volunteer in question sexually abused a child,” said the report by the firm hired by Menlo Church near San Francisco to study its handling of the confession.In 2018, one of Pastor John Ortberg’s offspring, referred to only as “Individual A” in the report, but identified in earlier news reports as Johnny Ortberg, confessed to having long been sexually attracted to children.John Ortberg, a bestselling author who played a role in exposing misconduct by former Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels, did not report the confession to church staff or other leaders. Nor did he remove Individual A from volunteering with children at the church or insist the volunteer stop coaching as a youth sports team.The matter remained secret until another Ortberg family member, Daniel Lavery, informed church leaders. The pastor was suspended in late 2019 and was allowed to return, but the congregation was not told about the family connection between Individual A and their pastor.“… Zero Abuse concludes that the decision of the Senior Pastor not to disclose to church leaders or others the conversation he had with the volunteer, as well as the decision of the church Elders not to be fully transparent about this situation, caused significant damage to the ...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...
Plus, regular attendees trust their pastor's vaccine advice more than almost any other source.A year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, most churchgoers think it’s finally safe to be back in the pews.And despite prominent clashes over COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine exemptions, regular attendees largely agree with their congregations’ reopening plans and trust their church leaders’ advice on whether to get the shot, according to a survey released today by the Pew Research Center.Those who go to church at least once a month were as likely to trust their church’s guidance as they were public health officials, the survey found. The only group they deemed more trustworthy was their own doctor.“Overall, more Americans who attend religious services at least monthly express trust in their clergy and religious leaders to provide vaccine guidance than say the same about their state elected officials, their local elected officials or the news media,” the researchers wrote.The findings back up the strategies of faith-based vaccine campaigns, which continue to urge leaders to share resources or speak about their decision to get the shot, whether from the pulpit or in one-on-one conversations with congregants.Across traditions, US churchgoers were far more likely to say their pastors encouraged (39%) rather than discouraged the vaccine (5%). But the majority said their pastors didn’t say much either way.Black Protestants were most likely to hear pro-vaccine messages from church leaders; about two thirds say their church promoted vaccination. The topic came up the least among evangelical Protestants, with around three-quarters saying their pastors didn’t really weigh in about vaccination.A previous report from Pew found that 83 percent of US congregations heard their pastor ...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...
(UPDATED) Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries is praying members of 400 Mawozo would come to repentance and release 16 American and one Canadian adults and children.PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A notorious Haitian gang known for brazen kidnappings and killings was accused by police Sunday of abducting 17 missionaries from a US-based organization. Five children were believed to be among those kidnapped, including a 2-year-old.The 400 Mawozo gang kidnapped the group in Ganthier, a community that lies east of the capital of Port-au-Prince, Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told The Associated Press. The gang was blamed for kidnapping five priests and two nuns earlier this year in Haiti.The gang, whose name roughly translates to 400 “inexperienced men," controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area that includes Ganthier, where they carry out kidnappings and carjackings and extort business owners, according to authorities.Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) requested “urgent prayer” for the kidnapped group, which consisted of 16 US citizens and one Canadian for a total of five children, seven women, and five men. The organization said they were on a trip to visit an orphanage.“Join us in praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers, and the families, friends, and churches of those affected,” CAM said in a statement. “As an organization, we commit this situation to God and trust him to see us through. May the Lord Jesus be magnified and many more people come to know His love and salvation.”The statement cited verses from Psalm 91: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust … For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”A member ...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...
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...
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...
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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...
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...
More leaders and state conventions are putting pressure on the Executive Committee ahead of this week's meeting.As controversy escalates surrounding an investigation into mishandlings of sexual abuse by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee (EC), pastors and state conventions are calling on the committee to finally vote to waive attorney-client privilege at its upcoming meeting.In official statements and social media threads, Southern Baptists condemned trustees’ failure to heed the directive of the messengers in the EC’s two previous meetings, and many threatened to withdraw giving or redirect monies.“Should the Executive Committee fail to comply, we will lead our churches to consider how to reallocate funds away from the Executive Committee while continuing to fund the cooperative mission and education endeavors that have always made Southern Baptists great,” read a statement from South Carolina pastors. Among its signatories were two Executive Committee trustees and a member of the task force overseeing the investigation.David Sons, one of the trustees who signed the statement, told CT that it was born out of a concern for the “egregious nature of the accusations” and worries that Southern Baptist polity is being violated.“The EC has a responsibility to carry out, to the best of our ability, the will of the messengers,” Sons said. “Not to tell the messengers why we can’t, or won’t, comply.”Withholding or reallocating funds “shouldn’t be used as a threat,” he added, “but [it] can be done as a last resort to express to an entity that they have violated the trust of the messengers.”In June, 15,000 convention messengers overwhelmingly approved a motion to launch the investigation, conducted by a third-party and ...Continue reading...
After months of leading the school and holding Zoom calls with isolated students, Debra Schwinn will finally celebrate her inauguration.At 5 p.m. every day, students in quarantine at Palm Beach Atlantic (PBA) University get a Zoom call.The face that pops up on the screen is their school’s new president, Debra Schwinn, checking in on them.The calls, which ran the entire 2020–2021 school year and have continued this fall, last about 20 minutes. Schwinn chats with the students about how they are doing, prays with them, and offers bits of motherly advice.For Tom St. Antoine, the faculty representative on the committee that chose Schwinn to be the new leader of the university back in January 2020, it’s a perfect example of the personal approach she has taken since becoming president at the start of the pandemic.“That just sends such a statement for the president to take time to build relationships and to get to know those students one by one,” he said.Schwinn’s inauguration was delayed by COVID-19. The ceremony will be held on October 8, but she’s already spent more than a year and a half demonstrating her leadership in trying times at the Florida university with about 2,100 traditional undergraduates, 400 masters students, 350 professional students, and 200 adult students who take evening classes.Schwinn was not planning to be a pandemic president, but when she thinks about how everything happened, she can’t help but see God’s hand in bringing her to the school: “I think God’s timing was perfect.”The call to Palm Beach came before COVID-19 was even being talked about.Schwinn was working as the associate vice president for medical affairs and professor of anesthesiology, pharmacology and biochemistry at the University of Iowa when she got the job offer. She and her husband, Bob, went to a ...Continue reading...
Executive Committee decision comes after weeks of heated debate and division. It took three weeks of scheduled meetings, at least three law firms, dozens of statements, hours of closed-door briefings, and extensive back-and-forth debates across boardooms, social media, and Zoom calls for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee (EC) to agree to the terms of a third-party investigation into its response to abuse. But on Tuesday, it did.The EC voted 44–31 on in favor of waiving attorney-client privilege in the investigation, after a half dozen members resigned and several switched their position in favor of the waiver. For a moment, it felt like the conclusion of a long and heated process, though the decision is only the start of a long investigative process.EC chairman Rolland Slade, who oversaw the proceedings, expressed his relief after the tally was announced. Then he remarked, “I want to express sorrow over the conduct we have displayed as Southern Baptists.”For the EC—the denominational body tasked with Southern Baptist business outside the annual meeting—the debate pitted the desire to open fully to the investigation against concerns that such transparency would threaten its financial solvency, insurance coverage, and other fiduciary duties to protect the entity.As the clash played out, Southern Baptist voices including seminary presidents, state convention leaders, and thousands of pastors spoke out to put pressure on the EC to comply with the requirement to waive attorney-client privilege, which had been approved when the denomination called for the investigation at its annual meeting in June.“Taking steps towards honesty, transparency, repentance, those are great things. Those are worthy of celebration,” said Georgia pastor Griffin ...Continue reading...
Brian Houston will go to court in Sydney over alleged child abuse by his late father. Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston will plead not guilty to illegally concealing alleged child abuse by his father, his lawyer told a court on Tuesday.Houston did not appear at Sydney’s Downing Center Local Court when his charge was mentioned before a registrar for the first time. His lawyer told the court Houston would be pleading not guilty to the charge of concealing a serious indictable offense of another person, his late preacher father Frank Houston.The case will next be before the court on November 23.Police will allege that Frank Houston indecently assaulted a young male in 1970.Court documents allege that Brian Houston believed his father had committed the crime. Police will allege that the younger Houston failed to disclose information to police that could help secure the prosecution of his father.Since being charged, Houston has stepped down from the board of Hillsong, the church he founded with wife Bobbie in Sydney in 1983. Now a global empire, the church says 150,000 people in 30 countries attend its services and 50 million people sing its songs each week.Houston, 64, was in the United States in August when detectives served his Sydney lawyers with a notice for him to appear in court.He said in a statement at the time he welcomed the “opportunity to set the record straight.”Houston returned to Sydney last month and was released from 14 days’ hotel quarantine last week.An Australian government inquiry into institutional responses to allegations of child sex abuse found in 2015 that Houston did not tell police that his father was a child sex abuser.The inquiry found that Houston became aware of allegations against his father in 1999 and allowed him to retire quietly rather report him ...Continue reading...
East German student of Karl Barth and Martin Heidegger believed “God has become speakable.”Eberhard Jüngel, the leading Protestant theologian to emerge out of Stalinist East Germany, died on Tuesday at age 86.Jüngel’s work was never popularized, and he was overshadowed in some ways by his peers and colleagues—notably Jürgen Moltmann, Hans Küng, and the future Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger. As a philosophical theologian, his scholarship could seem “out of joint,” one scholar noted, with contemporary concerns and popular trends.But the theologians who did discover Jüngel were often drawn in by his dense arguments and intense focus on God’s self-revelation, the centrality of the Trinity in understanding God, and the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith.“God’s being-as-object,” Jüngel wrote, “consists in the fact that God as God has become speakable. And the knowledge of God consists in the fact that the God who as God has become speakable comes to speech in that ‘he is considered and conceived by men.’ This event, in which the God who as God has become speakable comes to speech in human words, is faith.”His passing was mourned by his former students in Germany, including the Protestant bishop and popular religion columnist Petra Bahr.“Scholars of heaven, brace yourselves,” Bahr wrote on Twitter. “There will be long nights.”Jüngel was born in December 1934 in Magdeburg, about halfway between Hanover and Berlin, immediately after Adolf Hitler consolidated power. Jüngel’s childhood was dominated by World War II. Then in 1945, Magdeburg was liberated by US soldiers. When the Allied ...Continue reading...
Countries with religion-related terrorist activity at a record low of 49 after five consecutive years of decline. Yet 28 nations still suffered more than 50 people injured or killed.Government restrictions on religion are at a global high.Social hostility toward religion, however, is at its lowest level worldwide since ISIS.So says data analyzed by the Pew Research Center in its 12th annual measurement of the extent to which 198 nations and territories—and their citizens—impinge on religious belief and practice.The 2021 report, released today, draws primarily from more than a dozen UN, US, European, and civil society sources, and reflects pre-pandemic conditions from 2019, the latest year with available data.Matching a peak from 2012, 57 nations (29%) record “very high” or “high” levels of government restrictions—an uptick of one nation from 2018. The global median on Pew’s 10-point scale held steady at 2.9, after a steady rise since the baseline of 1.8 in 2007, the report’s first year measured.Regional differences are apparent: The Middle East and North Africa scored 6.0; Asia-Pacific scored 4.1; Europe scored 2.9; Sub-Saharan Africa scored 2.6; and the Americas scored 2.0.But across the globe, restrictions are present.Most common, according to Pew, is “government harassment of religious groups.” More than 9 in 10 nations (180 total) tallied at least one incident. Also common is “government interference in worship.” More than 8 in 10 nations (163 total) recorded incidents.And nearly half (48%) of all nations used force against religious groups. China, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Sudan, and Syria tallied over 10,000 incidents each.For example, Pew noted: “Renewed fighting between the military and armed ethnic organizations in the [Myanmar] states of Kachin and northern Shan ‘deeply impacted’ Christians, ...Continue reading...
The outspoken host and pioneering Christian broadcaster has been the face of CBN since its founding 60 years ago. After decades of offering Christian viewers his commentary on natural disasters, 9/11, AIDS, pot, divorce, diplomacy, plastic surgery, homosexuality, Islam, secular colleges, the end of the world, critical race theory, and a range of other moral issues, Pat Robertson has signed off as host of The 700 Club.On the 60th anniversary of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), its 91-year-old founder announced that he would be stepping down and that his son, Gordon Robertson, would take over as full-time host of its flagship talk show.Robertson, also the founder of Regent University and the Christian Coalition, has been a pioneer in evangelical broadcasting. He launched CBN as the country’s first Christian network in 1960, and CBN has grown to air in 174 countries and 70 languages. It added a 24-7 news channel in 2018.At the helm of the Virginia-based network, Robertson was ambitious and creative, believing that CBN could grow to a place alongside major channels and thus have a greater impact for the kingdom.As CT reported in 1982, “CBN began replacing pulpits and King James English with Johnny Carson-style sofas and soap-opera vernacular. Its anchor show, The 700 Club, assumed an upbeat, magazine format, complete with news spots from Washington, D.C. Other programs resemble familiar TV Guide lineups, with a top-quality soap opera, early morning news and chatter, a miniseries on pornography, Wall Street analyses, and entertainment for children.”But particularly in the past couple decades, the long-running host became known for controversial declarations on politics and prophesy, which stirred even fellow evangelicals.When Robertson called on the US to assassinate Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez 15 years ago, ...Continue reading...
Top denominations and thousands of churches are reconsidering whether to keep hosting scout units. Amid the Boy Scouts of America’s complex bankruptcy case, there is worsening friction between the BSA and the major religious groups that help it run thousands of scout units. At issue: the churches’ fears that an eventual settlement—while protecting the BSA from future sex-abuse lawsuits—could leave many churches unprotected.The Boy Scouts sought bankruptcy protection in February 2020 in an effort to halt individual lawsuits and create a huge compensation fund for thousands of men who say they were molested as youngsters by scoutmasters or other leaders. At the time, the national organization estimated it might face 5,000 cases; it now faces 82,500.In July, the BSA proposed an $850 million deal that would bar further lawsuits against it and its local councils. The deal did not cover the more than 40,000 organizations that have charters with the BSA to sponsor scout units, including many churches from major religious denominations that are now questioning their future involvement in scouting.The United Methodist Church—which says up to 5,000 of its US congregations could be affected by future lawsuits—recently advised those churches not to extend their charters with the BSA beyond the end of this year. The UMC said these congregations were “disappointed and very concerned” that they weren’t included in the July deal.Everett Cygal, a lawyer for Catholic churches monitoring the case, said it is unfair that parishes now face liability “solely as a result of misconduct by Boy Scout troop leaders who frequently had no connection to the parish.”“Scouting can only be delivered with help of their chartered organizations,” Cygal told The Associated Press. ...Continue reading...
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Naturalistic explanation for biblical miracle doesn't resolve questions of chronology at Tall el-Hammam excavation in Jordan.A fireball exploded over the northern shore of the Dead Sea around 1650 BC, according to the findings of a multidiscipline team of 21 scientists. The explosion laid waste to the entire lower Jordan River Valley, sowing Dead Sea saltiness that ruined agriculture for several hundred years.The huge 100-acre city located at what is today called Tall el-Hammam east of the Jordan River was destroyed, along with a dozen other smaller cities and multiple small villages. They were abandoned and uninhabited for hundreds of years.The highly technical report—published this week in Scientific Reports, an online peer-reviewed journal, and already accessed more than 100,000 times—noted in conclusion the similarity to the biblical account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: “There are no known ancient writings or books of the Bible, other than Genesis, that describe what could be construed as the destruction of a city by an airburst/impact event.”However, amid the wave of headlines, the unofficial peer reviews on social media from a number of archaeologists with varying degrees of familiarity with the Tall el-Hammam excavation were highly skeptical. As Christianity Today reported seven years ago, few archaeologists outside of those working on the excavation team believe that Tall el-Hammam is Sodom.“In my opinion, this is an example of evidence being marshaled to support the identification of the site as Sodom, as opposed to letting the site speak for itself and then—if the evidence supports it—put forth a proposal of it as Sodom," archaeologist Robert Mullins told CT. Chair of the Department of Biblical Studies at Azusa Pacific University, he currently codirects the excavation at Abel ...Continue reading...
Evangelicals join Anglicans, Catholics, and Presbyterians in restricting campaigning during worship services.Some churches in Kenya have barred politicians from addressing their congregations, saying campaigning during services disrespects the sanctity of worship.The national Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and evangelical churches have all issued bans, as many politicians have begun early stumping for next year’s general elections and as COVID-19 public health measures have restricted how and where campaigning can take place.The Methodists, however, are keeping the church doors open for all.Joseph Ntombura, presiding bishop of the Methodist Church in Kenya, has said his church is not dissenting from the effort, but is taking a different approach. The bishop said shutting the doors to politicians would mean discriminating against some of its members.“The church is for all people,” Ntombura told RNS in a telephone interview. “Human beings are political, so there is nothing wrong with inviting the politicians in church.”According to the bishop, congregations need to hear the views of politicians on issues of national interest, such as the sharing of resources. In the past, Ntombura said, the church has invited other experts to speak to congregations on important matters, and politicians are no different.“Some of the politicians are our pastors,” said Ntombura.Kenya is about 85 percent Christian. About 33 percent of that group are from historic Protestant denominations and about 21 percent are Catholic. The rest belong to evangelical, Pentecostal, and African denominations. Muslims make up 11 percent of the population.In issuing the bans on politicking in church, denominations have said they feared that church services would become campaign rallies and that candidates would use language ...Continue reading...
Faced with political division and government oversight, the church began to develop richer and wider-reaching online public theology.This month marks the seventh anniversary of the Umbrella Movement and the second anniversary of the Hong Kong government’s official withdrawal of its controversial extradition bill.For many Hong Kongese, these are bittersweet memories. On the one hand, the series of pro-democratic movements since 2014 show the Hong Kongese’s urge for a better society that goes beyond the capitalistic ethos of the city; on the other, those movements became a Pandora’s box of civil unrest. Two years ago, 2 million people protested against the extradition law in June, and the implementation of the national security law the year after led to mass arrests and a crackdown on democratic parties.Hong Kong Christians famously took to the streets in prayer and in song as part of the demonstrations. But what international audiences may have not seen is how the political developments in Hong Kong launched the church into the digital public sphere too. Facing tighter religious freedoms, Christian leaders have grown their presence online and on social media.Even as the Hong Kong diaspora has scattered across the globe, leaders have taken to the digital space as a platform to show solidarity to the persecuted and to instruct followers to persevere through difficult times. The digital public theology they’ve developed over the past seven years has grown into a witness for the global church.Writing on the Mid-Autumn Festival, the day Hong Kong families tend to reunite (tuan yuan) to see the full moon (yue yuan, a play on words for “reunion”), I think of the persistent prayers for our brothers and sisters are suffering on the other side of the world and our compassion for those who cannot see their families due to exile ...Continue reading...

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