News Update

Two Episcopal Dioceses Move Toward Split
Two conservative Episcopal dioceses have approved measures that could lead to a formal split from the national denomination. The Pittsburgh Diocese approved an amendment which allows it to ignore national policies "contrary to the historical faith and order of the one holy catholic and apostolic church." Similarly, the Fort Worth, Texas, Diocese passed a resolution repudiating the appointment of V. Gene Robinson, an openly-gay priest, as bishop in New Hampshire.
Jack Iker, Fort Worth bishop, said: "The only thing holding us together now is we have the same name." He added, however, that he doesn't know what the next step will be. From an Associated Press report
UK's Anglican Clergy: Believe It or Not?
Amid the growing schism in the Anglican church comes a survey of Church of England clergy, commissioned last year by an Anglican think-tank, "Cost of Conscience." The percentages reflect those who believed the following doctrines without question: God the Father: 82%, The death of Jesus Christ: 77%, The Trinity: 77%, The empowering Holy Spirit: 75%, Resurrection of Jesus: 66%, Virgin birth: 56%, Uniqueness of Jesus Christ: 51%. On moral questions, 68% were opposed to euthanasia and the average level of support for ordaining practicing homosexuals was 31%. Opposition to abortion ranged from 90% from conservatives, to under 50% from others. Evangelicals Now via MissionNet
Meanwhile, Methodist Lesbian Is Under Fire
The United Methodist Church's highest court has overruled investigative committees' dismissive findings and ordered a new hearing for Karen Dammann, interim pastor of a UMC church in Ellensburg, Wash. The 9-member Judicial Council stated that when church law is violated, "it is an egregious (glaringly bad) error not to bring charges." If any committee members are unwilling to uphold the Discipline, "such members must step aside." A similar case in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ended differently in Baltimore, however, when the presbytery's court concluded there is no basis for a trial of Donald Stroud, a homosexual who has declared he will not abide by the fidelity-chastity ordination standard in the church constitution. Based on a World magazine report
Meteor Foils Persecution Attack in India
Missionaries with an indigenous church-planting ministry had won to Christ and discipled 15 families in a certain village in Orissa State. So, in early September, the ministry sent builders to construct a church building on a piece of land donated by one of the local believers.
Suddenly, on the third day of construction, about 50 Hindus gathered and announced that someone had dreamed they should construct a Hindu temple there.
The next morning about 300 people gathered at the site and attacked the laborers working on the church building. When the pastor and the president of the church arrived to see what the trouble was they, too, were attacked. The next day, two missionaries with the church planting ministry arrived at the site and they, too, were beaten but managed to escape by motorbike. Then the tide began to turn.
That night, one of the villagers who had forcibly taken four bags of cement died. Two days later a meteor streaked across the sky, spreading flaming fragments as it went. Witnesses said the meteor lit up the night sky and others reported hearing a deafening roar. It crashed into a house and news reports said at least 20 people were injured. Local citizens were terrified.
After this, the leaders of the militant Hindus apologized to the Christians and said they wanted to return the materials they had taken away. "The police authorities were not helpful at all, but the situation is under control," the leader told Christian Aid. Mission Insider via MissionNet
Europe's Muslim Population Tops 52 Million
Europe has 727 million inhabitants, with 269 million Catholics and 107 million Protestants. It also has more than 52 million Muslims, reports the Central Islam Institute in Soest, Germany. Some 25 million live in Russia and the southeastern part of the continent.
Owing to migration from North Africa, Turkey and the Middle East there are 11.8 million Muslims in Western Europe. This includes 5 million in France, 3.1 million in Germany, 2 million in the UK, and the rest in other countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The institute added that 1.7 million Muslims live in southern Europe and 152,000 in Scandinavia. The number of Muslims in Germany dropped by 338,000 last year because many refugees returned to Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina. Idea via MissionNet
Condition of Needy Children in Russia Called Catastrophic
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the situation of Russia's neediest young people a "national catastrophe and social priority No 1." Vera Lekareva, a member of Russia's parliament lamented, "Criminals, sexual predators, and drug dealers have opened an insolent and merciless hunt on our children."
With at least 3 million of the nation's children homeless, 3% living in under-funded childcare institutions run by the state, and 120,000 children serving time behind bars, the plight of Russia's children and youth is cause for grave concern, says Russian Ministries Vice President Sergey Rakhuba. The ministry expects to train 1,875 to 2,500 young leaders who will then be challenged to enlist and train five other youths within their region during a two-year period. Assist News Service via MissionNet "Religious Homophobic Upbringing" Ban Appealed
A former lesbian who converted to Christianity has appealed a judge's order prohibiting her from teaching her 8-year-old daughter that homosexuality is wrong. Denver physician Cheryl Clark, who left a homosexual relationship in 2000, filed her appeal after a decision by Judge John Coughlin, who wanted to "make sure there is nothing in the religious upbringing [of her childthat can be considered homophobic." Her former companion, Elsey McLeod, was awarded joint custody of the child, who is Clark's daughter by adoption. Charisma News Service via
Big Pastors' Conference in January
More than 70 noted Christian pastors and teachers will share their ideas and experiences on church leadership and pastoring at one of the largest interdenominational conferences in the United States. The Beyond All Limits 2 conference will be held in Orlando January 21-23, and is expected to attract thousands of Christian leaders across the denominational spectrum. Sponsored by the Global Pastors Network (GPN), the three-day conference centers on the theme "Seven Steps to Maximizing Your Ministry," with how-to sessions including: "Commit to Your Master," "Cultivate Your Marriage," "Connect to Your Marketplace," "Carry Out Your Mission," "Confirm Your Ministry," "Communicate Your Message," and "Choose Your Methods." In addition, attendees will view Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ, marking the largest audience to see the film to date.
For more information about the conference, visit www.BeyondAllLimits.org or call toll-free 1-888-295-4518. Global Pastors Network
Ancient Memorial Bears Verse From New Testament
A 60-foot-high monument in Jerusalem memorializing "Simon"-believed to be the Simon who recognized the baby Jesus as the longed-for Messiah-has been found to have a New Testament verse inscribed on it, according to findings reported at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Atlanta in late November.
The discovery was reported by Joe Zias, a physical anthropologist, who worked with Emile Puech, an inscriptions expert.
The pair found six lines of inscription, most of it consisting of Luke 2:25: "And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him" KJV). The previously-invisible inscription was brought to light by use of a "squeeze"-in which papier-mché is applied to the surface and later lifted off.
Earlier, Zias and Puech had found a dedication to Zachariah on the same monument, lending credence to a Byzantine-era belief that Simon, Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, and James, brother of Jesus, all shared the same tomb. Encouraged by the latest finding, the researchers are continuing to study the monument, looking for a memorial to James. Based on an Associated Press report
Conversion of Children Alarms Algerians
An article written recently in the Algerian Milat Horizons newspaper expressed concern about the number of Algerian children that are converting to Christianity from Islam. Many school-aged children are watching the program, As Sanabel, which is aired daily by SAT-7, an Arabic Christian television network. Sources say a "considerable number of children" are confessing their new faith and then getting free Bibles and Christian tapes. Some conducted surveys with area children to find that most have watched the programming on SAT-7 without being aware of the Christian influences. Some Muslim adults are concerned about what may happen if the conversions continue. Mission Network News Persecution Heightens Need for Bibles in China
As persecution against underground believers in China continues, World Help wants to assist Christians who don't believe they can worship freely as a registered congregation. "Everything you hear about oppression in China is true," says World Help's Eric Vess. "You can have provinces where Christians operate openly with the knowledge of the government-officials simply ignore them. But in other places in China Christians are being arrested, beaten and even killed, and buildings are being burned down by authorities. This is all happening at the same time." World Help is raising funds to provide 1 million Bibles for Chinese believers. He calls this a "drop in the bucket" as China has between 60 and 100 million Christians, and most do not own a Bible. Mission Network News India's Missions Not Intimidated by Hindu Radicals
A veteran missions observer says India's mission groups are not intimidated by the present wave of violence, and are forging ahead to bring the gospel to every people group. On a recent visit to the USA, Christian Aid's missions surveyor in India, whose name is withheld for security reasons, said mission organizations in his country are not letting attacks from radical militant Hindu groups keep them from fulfilling their God-given assignment to bring the gospel to every creature.
"Christian preachers are accustomed to suffering from an anti-Christian government," the individual said. "They are pulling out all the stops and are deliberately proceeding into communities where the gospel has not been preached." He said mission groups in his country continue to boldly preach Christ-not to confront the anti-Christian government but simply because the Bible says they should do so and India's constitution guarantees freedom of religion. They are just exercising their rights.
He believes that militant Hindus compose less than 1% of the population. "The rest of the people are quite happy with what Christians are doing," he said, "but that 1% shakes the whole country." Missions Insider Threats from Nepal Maoist Rebels Put Christians on Alert
The U.S. State Department is urging Americans in Nepal to maintain a low profile after recent threats were made by communist rebels against U.S.-linked organizations. An embassy notice warned of possible attacks despite assurances from the top rebel leader that his forces would leave Americans alone unless they were connected to Nepal's military. For ministries such as Grand Rapids-based Inter-National Needs Network (INN), the threat is less severe, since the teams consist of nationals. However, in many areas, Christianity is seen as a "Western religion," and therefore, linked to Americans. INN's Rody Rodeheaver says he's more concerned about the rise in persecution. "The reports that I get from our people are that there is more persecution on the part of the Maoists against the church, meaning that they're not allowing some of our house churches to function and our evangelists are not able to go out and minister and share the gospel," he says. "The interesting thing is that when God is involved...there are ways that the Christians are able to continue to minister, and a lot of those ways are by becoming involved in community development." Mission Network News
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