Denominations Advance Homosexuals' Agenda

Mid-June national meetings of the American Episcopalian Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) brought both denominations significantly closer to easier and more frequent ordination of practicing homosexuals.

The Episcopal Church, which three years ago ordained an openly homosexual bishop, chose a woman as its national leader-a move that observers predict could signal a major global split within the larger Anglican Communion.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, chosen as the new presiding bishop, promptly made it clear she doesn't think there is anything wrong with homosexual behavior. She claimed homosexuality is a "gift" from God. Schori said she had voted to confirm gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson in 2003.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a new authoritative interpretation of the church's constitution that would allow local churches and presbyteries to determine whether any ordination requirement is "essential." Observers said this change would greatly weaken the requirement that church officers shall "live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." If the presbyteries or churches deem the provision not to be "essential," then they could proceed to ordain persons in homosexual or other sexual relationships outside of marriage.

In another action, PCUSA's national assembly voted to "receive" a policy paper on gender-inclusive language for the Trinity, a step short of approving it. That means church officials can propose experimental liturgies with alternative phrasings for the Trinity, but congregations won't be required to use them. "Rock, Redeemer, Friend," and "Lover, Beloved, Love" were among suggested alternatives to "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

Based on reports from Baptist Press,, and the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

"Million-Dollar Bill" Tracts Seized by Feds

On June 2, U.S. Secret Service agents seized 8,300 gospel tracts designed to look like "million-dollar bills" on one side while presenting a salvation message on the reverse. Darrel Rudus, founder of Great News Network in Denton, Texas, said he was mystified by the seizure, especially since million-dollar bills don't exist in the U.S. and it was "impossible to counterfeit something that isn't real." He noted that his organization is not responsible for printing the bills. Living Waters Ministry, under the leadership of evangelist Ray Comfort in southern California, prints and distributes millions of the tracts each year. One person in North Carolina reportedly tried to deposit one of the tracts in a bank account. Comfort said he expects agents to visit his offices in California soon, but won't turn over copies of his best-selling tract so easily.

WorldNet Daily/Christian Newswire via MissionNet

More $Million-Tracts Printed After Raid

Following news of the U.S. Secret Service's seizure of 8,300 tracts designed to look like a "million-dollar bill," evangelist Ray Comfort's company sold a half a million tracts in one day. In response, Comfort's California-based company called Living Waters has printed more than 1.5 million tracts. Comfort says this is the largest printing ever and adds, "If the Secret Service does show up and seize them, we stand to lose millions." Tongue in cheek, he added, "But this is a Christian ministry, and we render to "seizures the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. We will then leave it to the courts to decide what belongs to whom." Comfort also noted the creation of another batch of 100,000 bills that comply with the new demands of federal officials. These bills, 1.5 times the size of a regular bill, have the words "Secret Service Version" on them. "I think they will sell like hotcakes as a collector's item," said Comfort.

Assist News Service via MissionNet

HIV/AIDS Blamed in Part for Decline of Russian Population

Russian Ministries workers partially attribute a population drop of more than 700,000 people each year to a growing HIV/AIDS problem within the nation. Worker Anita Deyneka says the crisis lies among the youth. "[In] most of the world, about 80% of those infected are over 35 years of age. In Russia, 80% of those infected are under 30 years of age," she noted. Russian Ministries holds youth rallies preaching HIV prevention, morality and healthy lifestyles while presenting the gospel, but Deyneka claims "it's a drop in the ocean considering the magnitude of the problem." The Associated Press reports a new study showing an estimated 1 million people infected-three times the number officially reported by the government.

Mission Network News/AP

16 Million "Official" Chinese Christians

At a ceremony celebrating the opening of the China Bible Exhibit in New York, Chinese religious officials spoke out about Christianity in China. Wang Zuoan, vice minister of the State Administration of Religious Affairs of the People's Republic of China, reported that Chinese Christians number more than 16 million. This number does not include the millions who are not a part of the officially recognized church, but are rather a part of the growing number of underground Christians. Charles C. West of the New York Committee for the Bible referred to these as the "quiet" Christian population, adding that their numbers are so broad that they are unknown. Wang admitted that Chinese officials have struggled to accept Christianity's growth with the perspective of "one more Christian, one less Chinese." However, Wang said Protestantism has a wide space to exert its positive influence, and if the Chinese church can find a constructive part in society, then it can grow as a healthy body.

Christian Post/Religion Today via MissionNet

Hollywood Says Movie Too Christian

The Motion Picture Association of America has assigned a "PG" rating-supposed to be a warning flag to parents-to a movie due out this fall, because it has "strong thematic elements that might disturb some parents." The "thematic element" that drew the warning is a decided evangelistic flavor in the film, Facing the Giants.

The film is described as a gentle low-budget movie about a burned-out, depressed football coach whose life-on and off the field-takes a miraculous turn for the better. Provident Films plans to open the film next fall in 380 theaters nationwide. The film was co-written and co-produced by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who are the "associate pastors of media" at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.

"It is kind of interesting that faith has joined that list of deadly sins that the MPAA board wants to warn parents to worry about," said Kris Fuhr, vice president for marketing at Provident Films.

Baptist Press

Atheist Loses Case, Doesn't Give Up

U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell, Jr., has rejected a lawsuit from atheist Michael Newdow, who asserted that the phrase "In God We Trust" on U.S. coins and dollar bills violated his First Amendment rights. The judge said the words merely amounted to a secular national slogan that did not trample on Newdow's "religious" views. Newdow claimed that the phrase "excludes people who don't believe in God," and said he would appeal the judge's ruling.

Newdow, a Sacramento doctor and lawyer, also continues to try to have the Pledge of Allegiance banned from public schools because it contains the words "under God." The case is currently pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Based on a report.

Brits Deny Visas for 14 Methodist Trainees

The British Home Office has barred a group of 14 U.S.-trained Methodist ministers from entering the U.K., citing anti-terror laws preventing unqualified religious leaders from entering the country. The U.S. Methodist Church has sent 14 probationary ministers to the U.K. each year for training. They have not been turned away before now. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate ruled that the Methodist trainees fall under 1994 legislation intended to bar unqualified Islamic students from entering the country which states ministers who are not ordained cannot obtain a work visa. Superintendent Methodist Minister Dr. Paul Glass stated, "You could not imagine somebody less like a terrorist than a young American Methodist minister."

WorldWide Religious News/London Times via MissionNet

MAF Moves to Boise To Save Big Bucks

After 60 years of being headquartered in Redlands, Calif., Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is transferring operations to Boise, Idaho. The $13-million project includes a new hanger and office buildings to be officially dedicated Sept. 23 after more than half the staff and the majority of the equipment is transferred. MAF President Kevin Swanson cites economic reasons as the motivation behind the move. "Unfortunately, the cost of living, the cost of doing business here in California has just increased to the place where we're saying, You know, it's just not good stewardship for us to continue to stay in such an expensive environment.'" MAF is predicting yearly savings between $800,000 to $1 million, allowing more resources for overseas ministry. "We could conceivably start one or two new MAF flight programs overseas with the first year savings," Swanson said.

Mission Network News

67-Year-Old Preacher Bludgeoned in India

The body of a 67-year-old preacher from the Church of South India was found June 8 in a forest in the country's southwestern Andhra Pradesh State. Pastor Prem Kumar's head was smashed beyond recognition with heavy stones. A young man had approached Kumar early the same morning, requesting he hold a prayer meeting in the village of Rampur Thanda later that day. Kumar agreed, but was suspicious enough to phone his son and request frequent calls to his cell phone to check on him. His phone went dead around 11 a.m. Authorities deny any religious motive while Kumar's son said his father had no enemies, while voicing suspicions that Hindu extremists are behind the murder. Andhra Pradesh State's head minister is a Christian who has been accused by Hindu extremists of giving undue preference to Christian missionaries. Religious tensions remain high.

Compass Direct via MissionNet

"Church Attendance Only Half of Previous Reports"

A new study by Episcopal Church researcher Kirk Hadaway and Samford University's Penny Marler contradicts the long-accepted church attendance numbers published by Gallup pollsters. Since 1939 Gallup pollsters have posed a standard church attendance question resulting in statistics indicating around 40% of Americans, or around 118 million people, attend church each Sunday. Hadaway and Marler's study estimated the total number of churches in the U.S. at around 331,000. Using other current research and mainline church attendance data they estimated average attendance on a given Sunday. The average church attendance was 161.9 people, translating to only a 20.4% attendance rate-about half the Gallup figure.

Agape Press/Christianity Today via MissionNet

Sex Selection Leaves China Short of Girls

The northern Chinese Province of Hebei has closed more than 200 clinics that were telling women the sex of their unborn children so they could have abortions of girl babies. The province is one of many rural ones that have significant gender balance issues because of a cultural preference for boys. The Shanghai Daily said there were 134 boys born for every 100 girls in Hebei compared to about 108 boys born in China for every 100 girls in the early 1980s. The state newspaper reported that officials found 848 cases of illegal sex-selection abortions occurring as a result of the clinics telling of the baby's gender.

China has banned the use of ultrasound for non-medical purposes to tell the gender of an unborn child because of the gender imbalance its forced abortion one-child population control policy has produced. In rural areas where boys are preferred to carry on the family name and run the family farm, sex-selection abortions and infanticide are common. The latest Chinese census, in April, shows 120 men for every 100 women in the Asian nation, up from 117 per 100 in the 2000 census.

Persecution Surrounds Rapes in India

In continued efforts to cover up the rape of two Christian women on May 28, the headmen of 12 villages in central India's Madhya Pradesh state, including the village of Nadia where the women were raped, have asked Christians to renounce their faith or leave the village. Nadia's village head, Pandya Patel, warned other villagers that anyone who spoke to police about the rapes would be expelled from the village regardless of their religious affiliation. The incident began after villagers assaulted Gokharya Barela, the husband of one of the victims, and forced him to appear in front of a village court that demanded he forsake Christianity. When he refused, the village head, Pandya Patel, forced him to drink wine and told villagers they were free to rape Christian women. Three men then gang-raped Barela's wife, and another woman was dragged from her home and raped by two men on the veranda. Both women attend local Indian Evangelical Team (IET) meetings. In an apparent attempt to insulate the perpetrators from investigation, the Hindu fundamentalist organization Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused Christian missionaries and IET members of "forced conversions" the morning after the attacks.

Compass Direct via MissionNet

Vietnamese Officials Attack Montagnards

Vietnamese officials attacked two Montagnard Degar Christian families in an attempt to force them to leave their land. Chemical mace was used in one attack and was sprayed on a young baby only a few months old. The Montagnard Foundation reported the May 1 attack on a Degar Montagnard named Kpa Ju involved five forestry officials who "beat and kicked him until he fell down, then they sprayed some kind of chemical liquid on his face and eyes. His wife saw the attack and ran toward him and the Vietnamese officials ran off. Kpa Ju was severely hurt and could not open his eyes." In another incident, Rmah Suan was attacked by the same five officials and beaten unconscious in his field. The five then entered Suan's home and attacked his wife and child, spraying mace in their faces and eyes. The predominantly Christian Montagnard Degars have been a target of Vietnamese racial and religious persecution for years.

Assist News Service via MissionNet

Christianity Grows in Iran Despite Pressure

Christians around the world remain concerned about Iran's threats against Christianity and continued oppression that has caused many believers to leave the country. However, Syrian Christian Sargon Daniali, who lived in Iran for a time, says despite the persecution church growth continues. Daniali says the growth is coming from radio, television, and internet evangelism as well as political protest. He says "Because [Iranians] are upset with Islam, they go on purpose and choose other religions; one of them [is] Christianity." He believes the government oppression continues under Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "They hate Christianity and they are committed to destroying Christianity-to stop Christianity in the country because Christianity is growing," Daniali says. Many Christian Iranians, who have fled their homeland are now actively involved in evangelism and church planting in other areas.

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