Displaying items by tag: Religion
Just one of the Christian prisoners in China is Pastor John Cao (60), serving a seven-year prison sentence for ‘organising illegal border crossings’ between China and Myanmar. He made many trips from America to his native China to establish schools and work among the poor before expanding his humanitarian work into Myanmar. He was detained in 2017 while returning to China from Myanmar and sentenced a year later. His defence lawyer and his mother asked prison authorities to deliver a Bible to him. They refused. His mother writes Bible verses in each letter she sends. Please ask God to bless Pastor John and keep his faith strong, and pray for healing from his various health problems. Pray that he will be released early. Pray for his witness to prisoners and guards, and that others would continue his ministry to the poor.
Government proposals to ban all forms of conversion therapy for LGBT people could ‘restrict individual freedom’ and ‘criminalise Christians and common church activities’, said Peter Lynas, director of the Evangelical Alliance. A public petition to make the practice illegal in the UK, which gained more than 250,000 signatures, was debated in the House of Commons last week. The equalities minister said that the Government was committed to outlawing the ‘abhorrent’ practice, and would shortly be bringing forward plans to do so. Mr Lynas argues that, while electro-shock treatment and corrective rape should be ended, the lack of a clear definition of conversion therapy by the Government was challenging: ‘Many lobbying for change are seeking an expansive definition that we could not support.’ Current proposals could restrict individual freedom and impinge on essential religious liberty, potentially criminalising Christians and common church activities.
As Church of England cathedrals and parishes prepare to mark the first anniversary of lockdown with a National Day of Reflection on 23 March, they released findings from a survey of over 2,000. Seven in ten wanted to attend a funeral but were unable to do so. 89% had not been able to say goodbye properly while 84% said they had not been able to fulfil the funeral wishes of the person who died. The majority of those surveyed said they believed the CofE should provide both outdoor and indoor spaces for quiet reflection and prayer for those coping with death, dying and grief. The chair of the Churches Funeral Group said, ‘The Day of Reflection will prompt us to remember and reflect on so much that’s happened in the past year. Nothing will be more poignant and heartfelt than our treasured memories of those who have died during the year.’
Concerns have been raised over new laws being proposed in Denmark to monitor all foreign- language sermons. Under the draft legislation, all sermons in languages other than Danish will have to be translated and submitted to the authorities for inspection. The Danish government says it wants to curb Islamic extremism, but a number of Christian denominations have warned that it poses a threat to religious freedom. Dr Albert Mohler, president of one of the largest evangelical Bible colleges in the USA, described the proposed law as something that was almost ‘unprecedented in modern church history’.
As the church’s global growth continues, leaders must disentangle its ‘health message’ from views on salvation. Many Seventh-day Adventists believe you must be vegan to be saved. While Adventists around the world have heeded their co-founder’s teachings on eating a plant-based diet, for some of them veganism has risen to a place next to godliness. Researchers found that many members in South Asia believe salvation is ensured two ways: through Jesus Christ (92%), and through giving up meat, animal products, alcohol, and tobacco (80%). Within the denomination’s East-Central Africa division - which has the second-most vegan or vegetarian members (42%) - 74% of members maintain that dietary choices contribute to salvation. Adherents in North America and Europe were far less likely to believe their healthy lifestyle contributes to salvation. While over half of Adventists in North American are vegetarian or vegan - more than any other region of the church - just 4% see the diet as necessary for salvation.
Archbishop Justin Welby has declined to comment on the claim that he officiated over Harry and Meghan's vows three days before their royal wedding at Windsor Castle. According to the Duchess of Sussex, the secret ceremony took place in the couple's garden with only Welby in attendance. The details were revealed in the couple's interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired at the weekend. ‘You know, three days before our wedding, we got married’, Meghan explained. ‘We called the archbishop, and we just said, 'Look, this thing, this spectacle is for the world, but we want our union between us. ‘However, some have pointed out that the couple were not technically wedded at the alleged ceremony, as the CofE stipulates that weddings must take place in the presence of at least two witnesses. In addition, wedding ceremonies are not allowed to take place in outdoor venues such as gardens, though this limitation is under review.
There is refreshing news of Covid infections decreasing, and talk of a financial recovery as affluent households are ready to spend again. However, families on the very lowest incomes have been more impacted and will face even more hardships in 2021. The Body of Christ plays a vital role in ministering to those around us in distress and shining the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This challenge will be discussed at a free London City Mission webinar, ‘Hope for those in financial distress’, on 25 March. It will be a chance to put questions to a panel of missionaries and a training director. They will discuss how churches can build new connections with people, and opportunities to develop a culture of loving, committed gospel outreach.
With his life and freedom on the line as he challenged Russia's dictatorial regime, opposition leader Alexei Navalny reached out to Christian leaders in a search for ‘eternal values’. Sergey Rakhuba of Mission Eurasia says Navalny found God as he was facing great challenges and ‘fighting for his life’. Navalny proclaimed that he abandoned atheism and professed faith in God at a court hearing in January. ‘I believe he pronounced the most powerful sermon out of that cage in the courtroom,’ Rakhuba said. ‘He referred to the Bible as an ancient book that the world should adopt and build their rules on for daily living. I think it was the most powerful presentation of the Gospel.’ Navalny quoted Matthew, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled’.
Conservatives within the United Methodist Church have announced their plans to form a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church, with a doctrine that does not allow for LGBTQ and same-sex marriage. The move is expected to hasten the long-anticipated split of the nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination. The conference at which such a split would be debated has now been postponed to August 2022. ‘The church is basically stalemated right now,’ said Rev Keith Boyette, chair of the Transitional Leadership Council, which is guiding the creation of the Global Methodist Church. Another member of the council said, ‘I am convinced the Global Methodist Church will be a vibrant, vital expression of Methodism in terms of its teachings and ethics’.
Christian MPs have shared their views on the Chancellor's economic plan. Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said, ‘What are we going to do to help 16-24 yr olds who have not even gone into the labour market yet? I didn't hear enough on that. I don't think there was any mention of the NHS or social care; nor of teachers and schools, when we have this massive educational challenge ahead of us. I felt it wasn't looking long-term enough.’ Conservative MP Sir Desmond Swayne said Mr Sunak's timetable was ‘masterful’, adding, ‘We will have to pay for it, and that was an important message to have got across’. Former Labour politician and Christian peer Frank Field said it was the best budget he had seen in his 42 years in politics, saying it met current needs and set out a plan for the future. For many more Christian insights, click the 'More' button.