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January 29, 2015

Pastor Saeed Writes Letter Thanking President Obama for “Standing Up” for the “Persecuted”

American Pastor Saeed Abedini has written a letter from his Iranian jail cell to President Obama thanking him for meeting with his wife and kids. Last week, President Obama met with Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, and their two children, Rebekka and Jacob, and promised to make Pastor Saeed’s freedom a “top priority,” even telling Jacob that he “will try” to work to get Pastor Saeed home by Jacob’s birthday in March. Yesterday, Pastor Saeed told a family member in Iran who was able to visit him that President Obama’s willingness to take the time to meet with his wife and kids greatly encouraged him.

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January 21, 2015

Scores of Churches Destroyed by Charlie Hebdo Protests in Niger

Less than a week after Niger's president marched alongside dozens of world leaders in Paris following the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Muslim protests in Niger have claimed the lives of 10 people and destroyed more than 70 Christian churches in the desert nation's two largest cities. Niger, long praised for its secular government and relative tolerance towards Christians (more than 98 percent of its population are Muslim), has seen growing radicalization in recent years. In 2012, several churches in the country’s second-largest city, Zinder, were vandalized by mobs in response to a provocative video, The Innocence of Muslims. This led Open Doors to add Niger to its 2013 ranking of the 50 countries where it's most difficult to be a Christian. (Niger was removed from this year's World Watch List, although persecution levels remain virtually the same.) The weekend protests started in Zinder on Friday (Jan. 16) and spread to surrounding areas before reaching the capital, Niamey, on Saturday.

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January 15, 2015

After Saying Yes, Duke Nixes Muslim Call To Prayer From Chapel Bell Tower

Duke University announced this week it would allow the traditional Muslim call to prayer from the Duke Chapel bell tower. The reaction from some Christian groups was angry, and today the private university in Durham, N.C., reversed course. "Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students," Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in a statement. "However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect." Traditional Muslim Friday prayers, which are currently held in the Duke Chapel's basement, will now take place in the quadrangle outside the chapel, the statement said. The location is used for interfaith programs and activities. More than 700 of the university 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students identify as Muslim.

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January 09, 2015

350 YWAM Missionaries Fear Forced Exit from United Kingdom After License Suspended

The England and Wales office of YWAM (Youth With A Mission) may lose more than 350 missionaries and their families by April in the wake of British immigration officials suspending the ministry's visa sponsor status. “Whilst we recognize and support the [UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) office's] legitimate right to concern over compliance to the rules, we do not feel that the issues raised in the letter from the UKVI justify such a draconian outcome as losing our license would produce,” wrote YWAM Harpenden in an "urgent request" sent Friday and highlighted by the Evangelical Alliance UK (EAUK). Following a September audit related to the UK's attempt to reduce immigration numbers, UKVI officials found that YWAM had erred in two out of the seven areas audited. While the missions organization says it “immediately” submitted a corrective action plan to the government, the UKVI warned that YWAM could be downgraded, limited in its visa sponsorship capacity, or lose its license over the errors.

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December 29, 2014

The Spiritual Openness of the Younger Unchurched

There's an idea that Christianity in America is dying. No serious researcher—not one—thinks that. However, I still am surprised that some people think this. Facts are our friends, in this and in every situation, and what do the facts really show about the situation? A few years ago, LifeWay Research did some significant research on the faith of young adults to see where they stood. Here are a few stats from that study: 73% of unchurched 20- to 29-year old Americans consider themselves “spiritual” because they want to know more about “God or a higher supreme being.”; 89% of unchurched young adults say they would listen to what someone believes about Christianity.; 63% of young adults said they would attend church if it presented truth to them in an understandable way “that relates to my life now.”; 58% of 20-somethings would be more likely to attend if people at the church “cared for them as a person.”

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December 16, 2014

Christian Colleges vs. Hookup Culture

American college campuses are dangerous places. On our campuses, women are sexually assaulted in alarming numbers. Men are being hauled before campus sex tribunals, many of which lack any semblance of due process. United Educators, an insurance company owned by 1,160 member colleges and universities, reported that between 2006 and 2010, student-perpetrated sexual assault cases cost $36 million in losses to its member schools. Accusing students and accused students sue their schools in almost equal numbers.

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December 11, 2014

Wheaton’s ‘gay celibate Christian’

Three months ago Wheaton College, one of America’s leading evangelical undergraduate institutions, hired Julie Rodgers to provide spiritual care for students. Not surprising in some ways: She has a master’s degree in English, has mentored inner-city youth, and speaks at Christian churches and conferences. One surprise: She openly identifies as homosexual. “The best way I can describe my experience of ‘being gay,’” Rodgers, 28, wrote on her blog, “is that with certain women I feel the ‘it’ factor: that sense of chemistry that longs to share life with them. … Most women feel that chemistry or longing for other men … while I usually feel like ‘bros’ with men.” Wheaton, located just west of Chicago, sees homosexual behavior as sin. Rodgers, though, is a “gay celibate Christian”—someone who identifies as homosexual but does not act on her same-sex desires because she also believes such behavior is sinful.

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December 10, 2014

College president sorry for saying ‘All lives matter’

The president of prestigious Smith College is red-faced and apologetic Tuesday for telling students on the Northampton, Mass., campus that "all lives matter." Kathleen McCartney wrote the phrase in the subject line of an e-mail to students at the school, whose alumni include feminists Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, former First Lady Nancy Reagan and celebrity chef Julia Child. McCartney was attempting to show support for students protesting racially charged grand jury decisions in which police in Missouri and New York were not charged in the deaths of unarmed black men. Protesters have adopted several slogans in connection with the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, including "Black Lives Matter." McCartney's more inclusive version of the refrain was seen as an affront that diminished the focus on black lives and racism, according to emails obtained by FoxNews.com. “We are united in our insistence that all lives matter,” read the e-mail,in which she made clear she was strongly behind the protests, writing that the grand jury decisions had “led to a shared fury… We gather in vigil, we raise our voices in protest.”

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December 05, 2014

Court Stops Execution of Mentally Ill Man Defended by Many Evangelicals

More than 50 evangelical leaders often at odds recently united, asking Texas to commute the death sentence of a mentally ill inmate who believes he is being persecuted for preaching the gospel. Scott Panetti's execution was scheduled for today. This morning, an appeals court delayed his death with just hours to spare. Shane Claiborne, David Gushee, Lynne Hybels, Joel Hunter, Sam Rodriguez, Jay Sekulow, and other conservatives and progressives signed the letter, which states that Christians are called to protect the most vulnerable and that Panetti, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia since the 1970s and murdered his in-laws to “get rid of the devil” inside them, falls into that category.

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December 03, 2014

What ever happened to Rob Bell, the pastor who questioned the gates of hell?

(RNS) Rob Bell was once the evangelical It Boy, the hipster pastor with the thick-rimmed glasses and the skinny jeans whose best-selling theology was captured in books with names such as “Velvet Elvis” and “Sex God.” By 2006, the Chicago Sun-Times wondered aloud whether the Michigan megachurch pastor could be the next Billy Graham. And then he went to hell. In 2011, his book “Love Wins” pushed the evangelical envelope on the nature of heaven, hell and salvation. Many dismissed him as a modern-day heretic, unwilling to embrace traditional evangelicals beliefs about the hereafter. While evangelicalism has always wrestled with the pull of its fundamentalist roots and a desire for a modern-day openness within certain boundaries, for many Bell had gone too far. “Farewell, Rob Bell,” retired megachurch pastor John Piper famously tweeted. Now, the man who built a church of an estimated 10,000 people isn’t even attending an organized church. Instead, he surfs the waves near Hollywood and has teamed up with the goddess of pop theology, Oprah Winfrey.

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November 25, 2014

Why You Should Still Care about Ferguson DESPITE the Facts

The grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri has decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson following the death of Michael Brown. Last night, after the grand jury's announcement, peaceful protests quickly turned into violence, arson, and looting. It breaks my heart to see. As the family of Michael Brown and the President of the United States ask for peace and change and this is what we see. However, it is important to note that this does not mean most African Americans are involved in the looting. Not at all. Yet, the looting itself is repugnant in more than one way. It will cause many to lose property and some may lose their lives. However, it may also cause many to say, “See, this is what happens with those people.” Even more, we need to be careful about our discussion of "facts." Bryan Loritts says, "Facts are a first and last resort in a court of law, but when it comes to human relationships, let us first stop and feel before we go to facts." The point is not to ignore or devalue facts in a specific instance, but to recognize that, in all relationships, there are other issues to also consider.

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November 18, 2014

Court to Decide if Catholic Midwives Can Refuse to Perform Abortions

The United Kingdom’s highest court will decide by next year whether Catholic midwives can refuse to perform abortions according to their religious objections to the practice. The same judge threw out the midwives’ case in 2012, concluding that they weren’t sufficiently involved with the abortion procedure to claim standing. The Scottish midwives maintain that any involvement with abortions violates their consciences and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow commended the women for their “courage and determination in standing up to an unjust requirement of the employer that they be involved.”

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November 17, 2014

Couple fined for refusing to host same-sex wedding on their farm

Cynthia and Robert Gifford, the upstate New York couple who refused to host a same-sex wedding ceremony at their farm, have been ordered by a judge to pay $13,000. The fine comes after the Giffords lost their discrimination case against a lesbian couple who had hoped to rent the Christian couple’s property for their wedding, and covers what their attorney called “mental anguish” on the part of the two women. “This is scary,” Cynthia Gifford said. “It’s scary for all Americans.”

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November 07, 2014

For First Time, State Bans on Same-Sex Marriage Upheld by Appeals Court

An Ohio court has given the US Supreme Court an offer on same-sex marriage that the high court likely can't refuse. After the Supreme Court sidestepped the issue of a national right to same-sex marriage in 2013, experts on both sides predicted the court would intervene in October. The high court had several promising cases to choose from, but decided to stay on the sidelines. All pending appeals were rejected without explanation. Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati became the likely game changer. In a 2-1 split decision hailed by the National Organization for Marriage as a "tremendous victory," the Sixth Circuit ruled that states do have the authority to set rules for marriage in several areas. All six statutory and constitutional provisions were upheld relating to: same-sex marriage bans, refusing recognition of out-of-state marriages, denying adoption, and not allowing two same-gender spouses on birth and death certificates.

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November 04, 2014

British Parliament Votes 181-1 to Declare Sex-Selection Abortions Illegal

Members of the British Parliament today voted 181-1 to declare sex-selection abortions illegal. The vote came on a motion brought forward by a cross-party alliance of MPs to end questions about whether doctors can be criminally prosecuted for doing an abortion on the grounds of the sex of the unborn baby. The confusion came when much-criticized prosecutor Sir Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, refused to bring charges against two doctors caught in an undercover investigation okaying abortions for sex-selective purposes. Starmer said the law does not expressly prohibit sex-selection abortions.

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October 31, 2014

Goodbye, Mars Hill: Mark Driscoll’s Multisite Empire Will Sell Prop

Home > Archives > 2014 > October Goodbye, Mars Hill: Mark Driscoll's Multisite Empire Will Sell Properties and Dissolve Come New Year's Day, 13 churches will go their separate ways or shut down. Morgan Lee [ POSTED 10/31/2014 03:35PM ] Goodbye, Mars Hill: Mark Driscoll's Multisite Empire Will Sell Properties and DissolveSCREENSHOT OF MARS HILL CHURCH LOCATION MAP Mars Hill's Seattle-area campuses Marking its own Reformation Day of sorts, Mars Hill Church will dissolve Mark Driscoll's multisite network and let each of its remaining 13 churches go their own way. Founded in 1996, the Seattle-based megachurch planted 15 satellite sites across five states, its passion for creating new churches further evidenced by Driscoll founding the Acts 29 network. By New Year's Day, the multisite organization will be no more. "Rather than remaining a centralized multi-site church with video-led teaching distributed to multiple locations, the best future for each of our existing local churches is for them to become autonomous self-governed entities," Dave Bruskas, primary teaching pastor, announced today to the Mars Hill family. "This means that each of our locations has an opportunity to become a new church, rooted in the best of what Mars Hill has been in the past, and independently led and run by its own local elder teams."

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October 23, 2014

Millennials and the Bible: 3 Surprising Insights

In a recent study among Millennials, conducted in partnership with American Bible Society and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Barna Group sought to discover how changing ideas about Christianity might be affecting perceptions of the Bible. This study—the largest Barna Group has ever done on a single generation's view of the Bible—looked at Millennials' beliefs, perceptions and practices surrounding Scripture. Three significant—and surprising—insights emerged. 1) Practicing Christian young adults maintain a traditional, high view of Scripture. 2) In contrast, non-Christian Millennials hold ambivalent and sometimes extremely negative perceptions of the Bible and of those who read it. 3) And while the screen age has impacted Bible engagement, print remains Millennials' favored format for Bible reading.

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October 17, 2014

Focus on the Family denounces broadcaster’s Ebola comments

A Focus on the Family official said comments made this week by a Christian radio broadcaster about Ebola were off the mark and astray of views Christians ought to take in light of the outbreak. "Our first response as Christians to tragedies such as Ebola ought to be one of concern and compassion," Ron Reno, the worldwide ministry's vice president of orthodoxy, said in a statement Wednesday. "Since suffering and misery have been part of the human experience throughout recorded history, publicly speculating on God's motives in allowing specific outbreaks of disease is both unwise and unhelpful," Reno said in the statement. Broadcaster Rick Wiles said on his "Trunews" program that the Ebola outbreak, which has killed thousands of people, primarily in West Africa, "may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming."

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October 14, 2014

You Can Now Hold 1,000 Bible Translations in the Palm of Your Hand

Today 7 out of 10 of the world's inhabitants can read the Bible in their own language on a digital device, thanks to partnerships between YouVersion and more than 150 Bible publishers and translation agencies. The YouVersion Bible App, downloaded more than 150 million times, now offers 1,000 translations of the Bible. And Spanish is far from the second-most used language after English. YouVersion broke the quadruple-digit threshold after Wycliffe Bible Translators provided access to its Bible translation for about 5,000 Hdi speakers, who predominantly reside in the mountains of Cameroon and in parts of neighboring Nigeria. Other rare languages reached through YouVersion’s app include Huilliche (2,000 speakers in Chile), Samoan (1,140 speakers in Fiji), and Ama (480 speakers in Papua New Guinea).

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October 09, 2014

The Same-Sex Marriage Fight Is Over

Many on the left are hailing the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear any same-sex marriage cases this session as a victory for LGBT activists. “By refusing to take a stand on lower-court decisions, the justices have effectively settled the fight — in favor of gays and lesbians who want to marry.” The decisions of lower courts overturning several states’ marriage amendments now take full effect, opening up five more states for legal “same-sex marriages.”

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