Archives For persecuted church

The Briefing

Here’s where evangelicals are giving the most and least
Giving continues to rise for many categories of ministry, according to new research released today by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). An analysis of the finances of more than 1,800 of its accredited members found a 2.2% rise in cash contributions from 2015 to 2016. This group also saw a 3.6% rise in non-cash giving, which includes income such as government grants or real estate. That adds up to $16.2 billion of giving—$12.6 billion in cash and $3.6 billion in non-cash—to evangelical ministries in 2016.

It’s official: Evangelicals appreciate Chick-fil-A the most
You could say Chick-fil-A is one of those fast-food restaurants with a cult following. But in this case, the closed-on-Sunday chicken sandwich chain clearly has a church following. Evangelicals and fellow Christians have the most positive view of the Chick-fil-A brand, according to Morning Consult’s 2017 Community Impact Ratings. In breakout poll results provided to CT, 62 percent of evangelicals considered Chick-fil-A to have a positive impact on their community, compared to 48 percent of Americans on average.

Former fire chief Cochran’s rights aired in court
A federal court is weighing not only former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran’s right to express his beliefs but the right of others as well, religious liberty advocates say. A federal judge heard arguments Nov. 17 in Atlanta regarding the city’s 2015 firing of Cochran. The city terminated Cochran, now a staff member of a Southern Baptist church, after he wrote a men’s devotional book that advocated in a brief section the biblical view of marriage and sexuality, including that homosexual behavior is immoral.

Iraqi Archbishop pleads with Trump to save 20,000 Christians
The Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, is urging President Donald Trump to help 20,000 Iraqi Christian families that have been driven out of their homes following attacks and dangers from Islamic extremists. Warda said in an interview that 20,000 Iraqi Christian families, or around 100,000 people, still need vital assistance following years of attacks by Islamic radicals and other conflicts.

Church of Sweden to stop using ‘he’ and ‘Lord’
The Church of Sweden has urged its clergy to use more gender-neutral language when referring to God and to avoid referring to the deity as “Lord” or “he”. The move is one of many made by the national Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is in the process of updating a 31-year-old handbook, which outlines how services should be conducted in terms of language, hymns and other aspects.

Sources: Christianity Today (2), Baptist Press, The Christian Post, The Independent

The BriefingStudy: Christians most persecuted
According to the Director of the Centre for Studies on New Religions (Cesnur), Massimo Introvigne, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, with over 90,000 Christians killed in 2016 alone. Introvigne said there are nearly half a billion Christians who are unable to express or practice fully their Christian faith.

Chicago ends 2016 with 762 homicides
An argument between two men at an Uptown bar in the early hours of Jan. 1 ended with the two shooting at one another, leaving both dead. Their deaths ushered in the new year, marking the first and second homicides of 2017 and keeping up 2016’s soaring pace of violence.

Chicago priest puts a ‘bounty’ on killers
The violence on Chicago’s South Side is so pervasive that Father Michael Pfleger, a priest with the largest Catholic congregation in the area, isn’t waiting for a savior — he’s taking it upon himself to find murderers by offering rewards for information leading to an arrest. Pfleger says he’s given out 24 rewards over the last 10 years.

Judge rules against sex change coverage
Doctors and healthcare providers do not have to break with their consciences to perform sex change operations under a preliminary injunction against an Obama administration mandate. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas ruled in favor of eight states and three Christian healthcare groups by blocking a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule set to go into effect Jan. 1.

Turkey denies appeal for U.S. pastor
A Turkish court has denied the appeal of a Christian pastor from North Carolina, who was imprisoned last month in Turkey on a false terrorism charge because of his Christian faith, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.  Andrew Brunson was imprisoned Dec. 9 after being charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”

Sources: Fox News, Chicago Tribune, CBS News, World Magazine, Christian Post

Worth the risk

ib2newseditor —  May 2, 2016
A whirl of color – The Illinois mission team tries on pieces of the sari indigenous to the culture.

A whirl of color – The Illinois mission team tries on pieces of the sari indigenous to the culture.

As Carmen Halsey walked the roads of this South Asian country, she challenged herself to a game of sorts. “I’m a make eye contact, smile kind of person,” said IBSA’s director of women’s ministry and missions. Halsey tried to lock eyes with women she passed and see if she could get them to smile. But it never happened.

“I’ve never seen the face of oppression like what I saw there,” Halsey said, remembering how she tired of the multiple calls to prayer at the mosque, ringing out daily and reminding her mission team of how many people are walking in spiritual darkness.

Halsey’s trip to South Asia was actually years in the making. When she joined the IBSA staff in 2013, she mobilized women in the state around awareness and prevention of human trafficking—a focus started by National Woman’s Missionary Union.

In Illinois, Halsey has continued that emphasis, putting in place a task force to study the issue, create resources for churches, and facilitate mission trips in North America and internationally to be involved in rescuing victims of trafficking. The trafficking focus is how Halsey met Kimberly Sowell and Bangladesh: For Faith and Freedom.

The April trip, led by Sowell, gave Halsey and Illinois women an opportunity to see up-close trafficking prevention and rescue at the Light of Hope Center. But they also saw the importance of encouraging national Christians—South Asian women who have come to Christ and are now risking persecution to reach others with the gospel.

During their trip, the Illinois women saw in a new, real way the threats Christians face in other parts of the world. The awareness that believers in South Asia could lose their lives for their faith spurred the team on, Halsey said, and inspired “intense, beautiful” prayer. It also left Halsey wrestling with a bigger question: As Christians in the U.S., most of us don’t have a target on our backs. Why then are we not sharing here?

As the team ministered in a village one day, they were asked to pray for people who were sick. One woman went to get her son, a Muslim, so Halsey could pray for him. Halsey describes what happened next as her boldest moment. “I looked at him and said, ‘I will pray for you. But I have got to be clear: There is only one name I’ll pray to.”

In this place, where people are in desperate need of hope, only one Name can deliver it: Jesus.

For more information about IBSA mission opportunities, contact Carmen Halsey at (217) 391-3138 or CarmenHalsey@IBSA.org.

– Meredith Flynn

The_BriefingHere’s where America’s Christian refugees come from
As the refugee debate continues, the United States has resettled 338,441 Christian refugees from more than a dozen denominations since 2003, according to the latest data from the Refugee Processing Center. Most Baptist refugees (23,247) hail from Myanmar (5,980) and Ukraine (5,937). Moldova is third, with 4,043.


ISIS releases 10 Assyrian Christian hostages; over 150 remain captured
The Islamic State terror group released 10 Assyrian Christian hostages Nov. 24 in the Tel Temir town in Hasakah province, northeastern Syria, but over 150 remain captured and threatened with death. The Assyrians are part of a large group, originally numbering 230, who were kidnapped by the Islamic militants from villages in the Khabur river valley back in February.


The most (and least) evangelical states
A recent Pew Research has found most people in every state of the union identify as Christian, religious affiliation swings wildly depending on the region. Mainline Protestants cluster around the upper Midwest. Evangelicals are the largest religious affiliation throughout the South, but only one state –Tennessee – has a clear evangelical majority of the population.


LifeWay completes sale of downtown Nashville campus
LifeWay has completed the sale of its 14.5-acre campus in downtown Nashville. “Although this momentous event is cause for thanksgiving, it is also bittersweet,” Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, wrote in an email to the Southern Baptist entity’s trustees and employees Nov. 24 after the sale was announced.


Hit video game encourages players to put others first
Fallout 4 is the biggest video game release of the year selling more than 12 million units and earning more than $750 million in its first 24 hours of release. According to WORLD Magazine, the post-apocalyptic game features a relational morality system which “requires players to think about the impact their actions have on those closest to them, giving them an incentive to be good.”

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Christianity Today, Facts and Trends, WORLD Magazine

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

In the wake of Saturday’s massive earthquake near Kathmandu, Nepal, Christian workers asked for prayer for the devastated country:

• Pray for basic shelter, water and food. These necessities are a high priority right now since no one is allowed back in their homes.

• Pray for God’s people to deeply know His comfort and peace during this time. Pray they will share Him with people around them.

• Pray for people in Nepal and surrounding areas during the continuing aftershocks and aftermath of this disaster. Southern Baptist assessment teams will began the damage Monday to find the best ways to respond.


Potential presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson will not address the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference this summer as scheduled, Baptist Press reports. Several Baptists, including the Baptist 21 group of younger SBC leaders and pastors, had expressed concern about Carson’s membership in a Seventh-day Adventist Church, and that his appearance at the conference could look like a political endorsement.


Three years after the death of Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson, Russell Moore reflects on media coverage surrounding the Watergate conspirator’s life and eventual conversion to Christianity. For those who were cynical about Colson’s transformation, writes the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, “…we shouldn’t be angered by those who don’t get the full measure of the man. We should instead hear in some of this cynicism the cry of every human heart, a disbelief that there can be any such thing as final and total forgiveness of sin.”


Zondervan announced last week Charles Colson’s last book, “My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues that Matter Most,” will be released Aug. 4. Topics in the collection of writings will include “the rise of Islam, same-sex marriage, the persecution of Christians, crime and punishment, and natural law,” The Christian Post reports.


Atlanta-area pastor Andy Stanley says local churches should be the “safest place on the planet for students to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.”

“We just need to decide, regardless of what you think about this topic–no more students are going to feel like they have to leave the local church because they’re same-sex attracted or because they’re gay,” said Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, at the Catalyst West conference April 17. Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.

A controversial Houston ordinance is now in effect, following a judge’s ruling on a petition drive led in part by some pastors in the city. HERO, or Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, made headlines last year when the city subpoenaed the sermons and other communications of five pastors who were against the ordinance. (The subpoenas were later withdrawn.)


Religious leaders are encouraging President Barack Obama to appoint a special envoy to monitor religious freedom in the Middle East and parts of Asia. The special envoy position has been vacant since it was created last year in the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act, Baptist Press reports.


Are you one of the many football fans bent out of shape since Tim Tebow’s exit from the NFL? Good news: A Philadelphia pretzel company has created a way to celebrate his return. The “Tebowing” pretzel, shaped like the quarterback kneeling in his famous praying pose, started as a publicity stunt but soon went viral. The New York Daily News reports the Philly Pretzel Factory plans to donate proceeds from the pretzels to a charity involving Tebow, who has signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

Image from a May 2012 YouTube video Saeed Abedini made before his imprisonment.

Image from a May 2012 YouTube video Saeed Abedini made before his imprisonment.

THE BRIEFING | At a meeting last week with the wife and children of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, President Barack Obama said securing his release is a top priority, according to a release from the American Center for Law and Justice.

“The President was focused and gracious – showing concern to me and my children,” said Naghmeh Abedini. “I know that this meeting could not have occurred without prayer and I am grateful to the many people around the country and world who continue to pray for Saeed’s release.”

Obama reportedly told the Abedinis’ young son that he would try to have his father home by the boy’s birthday in March. The pastor, an American citizen, was arrested in Iran in 2012 and charged with “undermining national security,” Christianity Today reports. Last June, he was awarded a religious liberty award by the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which his wife accepted on his behalf.


Jury selection started yesterday in the trial over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, spearheaded by a coalition of ministers who collected petitions to repeal the ordinance passed by the City Council last May. (The city disqualified many of the 50,000 signatures collected.) The complicated case also included an effort to subpoena communications and sermons by five Houston ministers; the subpoenas were eventually dropped.

Opponents of the Houston ordinance recently aided Plano residents in collecting signatures to stop a similar ordinance in their city, Baptist Press reported.


A rumored protest by Westboro Baptist Church didn’t come to fruition at a Quad Cities-area Illinois Baptist church, but representatives of the infamous Kansas congregation (which is not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention) did visit some churches in the area, and were met with counter-protestors. Prior to Sunday, January 25, Westboro protestors were scheduled to be at Northcrest Calvary, an Illinois Baptist State Association church in Rock Island.


Alabama is the most recent state to face a challenge to its ban on same-sex marriage, Baptist Press reports. Judge Callie V.S. Granade ruled the ban unconstitutional Jan. 23, in a case involving a lesbian couple who married in California but were denied adoption rights in Alabama. The state’s association of probate judges–who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses–said Granade’s ruling doesn’t impact anyone not named in the case.


The struggle continues between New York City public schools and churches that want to rent their space for Sunday worship, Christianity Today reports. The most recent development is an apparent change of heart by Mayor Bill de Blasio.


George Perdikis, who co-founded The Newsboys in the 1980s, has officially renounced his Christian faith, The Christian Post reports. The musician wrote in a recent post on Patheos.com: “I always felt uncomfortable with the strict rules imposed by Christianity. All I wanted to do was play rock and roll.”


Where does your city rank when it comes to “Bible-mindedness?” Barna and the American Bible Society released their annual list of the most Bible-minded cities in the U.S. Four Illinois cities landed in the top 50; see which ones at Barna.com.