New Jersey Court Grants "Equality" to Gay Couples 

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that the state's constitution gives gay and lesbian couples all the rights of married heterosexual couples-though whether the relationship will be called "marriages" or "civil unions" will be up to the state legislature to decide.

The ruling follows an identical ruling made in 1999 by Vermont's high court-which was followed by Vermont's legislature deciding the homosexual relationships should be called "civil unions." Lawyers for the seven gay couples had argued that "total equality" called for their relationship to be called "marriage."

"This is a repeat of what happened in Vermont," said Matt Daniels of Alliance for Marriage, which supports a federal constitutional amendment barring marriages between people of the same sex.

Based in a CNN report

Darfur Refugee Crisis

With millions of people displaced and impoverished in the Darfur region of western Sudan, the United Nations has termed the situation, the "world's worst humanitarian crisis." Operation Blessing is partnering with Humedica International, a humanitarian, non-governmental organization based in Germany, to expand their medical and educational operations to reach the 10,000-person Al Salaam refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan. The immediate goals of the project are to build a permanent medical clinic in Al Salaam, hire a medical staff, and obtain a mobile medical unit to reach those in surrounding areas with no access to medical care. In response to the camp's poor sanitation, the medical clinic will include a waiting room where patients will be educated in hygiene issues while waiting to be seen by doctors. Operation Blessing's involvement in the region is paving the way for future projects at the Al Salaam refugee camp, such as providing relief packages for families and establishing a school.

Religion Today Summaries

Just 60% of Churches Open in New Orleans

An ongoing study by Bill Day at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary revealed that only 60% of all the greater New Orleans-area churches are open and functioning, one year after Hurricane Katrina.

Only 905 of the 1,508 churches that existed in the five parishes that represent the New Orleans metro area-Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany-before Katrina are functioning one year after the storm.

Many churches that have been deemed "functioning" are not meeting in their own building. Some are renting, others are meeting in loaned space. Churches that are not meeting, or have moved outside of the five-parish area are considered "non-functioning" in the study.

The goal of the research, Day said, is to determine which churches will close their doors because of the storm, which churches will survive and which churches will actually see growth.

Day has identified five contextual variables that he believes will influence the viability of churches in the area. These variables are the maximum wind speed at the church location, the maximum water depth at the location, community repopulation, denominational affiliation of a church, and the health of the congregation.

Baptist Press

"Renewalists" One Fourth Of World's Christians

A recent survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life showed the results of a 10-country survey of Pentecostal and charismatic Christians. Survey numbers show that a least a quarter of the world's 2 billion Christians are thought to be "renewalists" (an umbrella term that includes both Pentecostals and charismatics as a group). Luis Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum said, "This survey demonstrates that Pentecostal beliefs and practices are literally reshaping the face of Christianity throughout the developing world."  In an effort to understand what this means, other survey questions addressed the renewalist views on religious, political and civic issues.  Notable results point to an intensity of belief that leads a majority of renewalists in eight out of ten countries to say they share their faith with non-believers at least once a week.  In nine out of ten countries, at least half of the renewalists surveyed indicate that religious groups should express their views on day-to-day social and political questions. Countries included in the survey included the United States, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, the Philippines, and South Korea.

Pew Forum via MissionNet

Gay Groups Contest Parental Shield Right

National gay-activist groups have joined a legal battle over whether Massachusetts parents have a right to shield their children from exposure to homosexual propaganda in the classroom, according to The groups jointly filed a brief that attacks the parents' right to file suit.

David Parker-who had been arrested and jailed after the school refused his request to notify him when objectionable material was being covered in his 6-year-old son's classroom-was joined by two other parents in filing a federal civil rights lawsuit in April against school officials .

The brief argues the state has a legal obligation to teach students about homosexuality and that parents do not have the right to remove their children or be notified.

Based on a report by Focus on the Family's CitizenLink

Uncertainty in Japan Sparks Gospel Interest

Uncertainty in Japan caused by North Korea's aggressive displays of its new nuclear capability has created fertile ground for evangelism. The JESUS Film Project plans to send a team to Japan in December. Jacqueline Celum of the JESUS Film Project says the Japanese people are among the world's least-reached people groups with just 0.07 percent putting faith in Christ. Despite the needs, Celum says DVDs of the JESUS film have helped spur interest in Christianity. "The Japanese people really like black gospel music," says Celum. "I don't know why, but in the DVDs we hand out, not only is there the JESUS film on it, but it's more interactive, and it includes black gospel choirs and singers."

Mission Network News

Marriage Rates Lowest Ever in America

A new U.S. Census Bureau report shows that for the first time ever traditional marriage has ceased to be the preferred living arrangement in the United States. Seventy-five years ago, married couples accounted for 84% of American households.  Now the rate is just under half. Out of roughly 111 million family households, more than 14 million were headed by single women, another five million by single men, and 36.7 million belonged to a category described as "non-family households." This term applies primarily to homosexual or heterosexual couples cohabiting out of formal wedlock.

Douglas Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute says it is difficult for the traditional family to emerge unscathed after three-and-a-half decades of divorce rates reaching 50% , and five decades of out-of-wedlock births. Besharov predicts the social landscape is moving toward cohabitation and temporary relationships. He also sees a move towards a "much more individualistic society" over time. "[W]hat I see is a situation in which people-especially children-will be much more isolated, because not only will their parents both be working, but they'll have fewer siblings, fewer cousins, fewer aunts and uncles," he says.

Agape Press via MissionNet

Stem Cell Conference Focuses on False Hopes

The Catholic Church held a conference on stem cell research recently at the Vatican. At the forum, a leading bioethics watchdog for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told the audience that embryonic stem cell research continues to pose ethical problems and that political activists are misleading the public about its potential. Richard Doerflinger, the interim director of pro-life activities for the U.S. bishops, said the recent scandal involving Advanced Cell Technology, the biotech firm that claimed it had obtained stem cells from human embryos without harming them, is "the latest in a series of deceptions" by those promoting embryonic stem cells.

"Many speeches, news stories, and advertisements have declared that these cells offer a cure for Alzheimer's
disease-despite the nearly universal scientific consensus that they do not," he said. "We need the truth," Doerflinger added. "But a fairy tale is what we are sometimes getting-not only from politicians and entrepreneurs but from respected scientific journals."

Teens Handle Pregnancy Better Than Abortion

A new study finds that teenage girls are better able to handle an unplanned pregnancy than an abortion. Published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2006), the study found that adolescent girls who have an abortion are 5 times more likely to seek help for psychological and emotional problems than those who keep their babies. And they are 9 times more likely to report subsequent marijuana use. They are also 3 times more likely to report subsequent trouble sleeping. Dr. Priscilla Coleman, a research psychologist and the study's leader, said: "The scientific evidence is now strong and compelling. Abortion poses more risks to women than giving birth."

Life in Oregon

Ethnic Minorities Slow English Church Decline

A recent survey by British think tank Christian Research shows that a long-term decline in church attendance in England has been slowed by people from ethnic minorities. Statistics show that up to one-third of churches are growing, especially those with predominantly black congregations. Worshipers from black communities now outnumber white churchgoers in London. While the growth of black churches has been recognized for some time, the figures show that it has been significant enough to affect overall church attendance in the U.K. Church attendance in England has been in decline since the 1950s and an estimated 1 million people gave up regular church attendance in the 1990s alone. The overall number of people attending church on Sundays has still dropped considerably since the last comparable research in 1998, but the decline has slowed as Britain becomes more ethnically diverse. Only 6.3% of England's total population attends church.

WorldWide Religious News/BBC
via MissionNet

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