Friday, June 20, 2008

NEWS OF NOTE: (Interesting religion news I've compiled from stuff sent to me.) This is the down & dirty posting. Will make it look better and include more links over weekend if I get a break from CLEANING!I love cleaning (she says with heavy sarcasm).

Gospels Approved for China Olympics
The Christian Post reports that although Chinese authorities had earlier said Olympic tourists would not be allowed to bring Bibles for "distribution or propaganda," officials are allowing the printing of 50,000 Gospel booklets for athletes, printers recently announced. In addition to the booklets, Amity Printing Press in Nanjing - the world's largest Bible production factory - is working in conjunction with the Bible Society to publish 30,000 Chinese-English New Testaments and 10,000 Chinese-English entire Bibles. "This great sporting event presents a unique opportunity to make the life-changing message of the Bible available to thousands of athletes and visitors from all over China -- and all over the world," said James Catford, chief executive of Bible Society, in a statement. An estimated two million visitors and 16,000 athletes and officials will attend the Beijing Olympics, which begin Aug. 8.

Record Fuel Prices Slam Charities

Record fuel prices have hit Christian ministry and charity organizations doubly hard this summer, reports the Christian Post. "We're finding the price of food is going up due to transportation costs, and production costs are going up as well. When those two things are put together, then all of a sudden the amount of money you had available for food is strained even more. There's just less available," Gary Zander, communications coordinator for Food for the Hungry, told Mission News Network. "We could serve 100,000 people two years ago, now we're only able to help 66,000 people," said Bruce Whitmire of Living Water International, whose organization supplies clean water for thousands of people around the globe. Higher fuel costs make it more difficult to conduct daily operations, he said. At the same time, many look to the current situation as an opportunity to trust God. "God still supplies our needs according to His riches and not according to ours," said Al Joslyn of Bible Pathway Ministries.

Vatican Bans 'Da Vinci' Prequel from Churches

According to the London Times, filmmakers for a prequel to the 'Da Vinci Code" must recreate several churches in the Vatican and Rome after the Vatican forbid them from filming crucial scenes on church grounds. 'Angels and Demons,' a Dan Brown novel turned movie, has been called "an offense against God" by the Vatican. Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, the head of the Vatican's Prefecture for Economic Affairs, said that Brown had "turned the gospels upside down to poison the faith". He continued, "It would be unacceptable to transform churches into film sets so that his blasphemous novels can be made into films in the name of business." Father Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for the Diocese of Rome, said: "Normally we read the script but this time it was not necessary. The name Dan Brown was enough."

More than 1,400 Churches Aim for Becoming 'One Church'
According to the Christian Post, Life Church pastor Craig Groeschel has launched a month-long series called "One Prayer" in partnership with more than 1,400 churches with more than 800,000 attendees around the world, all sharing sermons via video and a prayer to "make us one." "I wonder if God ever looks at all of His churches, all the Christian churches all over the world, and asks, 'Why can't you guys come together? Why are you so divided when my Son Jesus prayed 'Father, make them one,'" said Groeschel. The series was born more out of repentance than a passion for unity, Groeschel explained. It was his desire not to be competitive against other believers and to instead be united. Unity depends on recognizing the real "one enemy" - Satan - and not other churches, he continued.

Teens Flocking to Summer Missions

The Modesto Bee reports that thousands of teens will participate in short-term mission trips in the next weeks, and religion scholars estimate that about three million 13- to 17-year-old young Christians nationwide will serve on mission team this year. Youth mission trips have only become common in the last 10-20 years. While some are encouraged by this new phenomenon, however, others question the true impact of these trips. Lakewood Church youth pastor Tom Elmore, who will lead a group of about 50 to Honduras, says, "That's where they get their first taste" of evangelism and being the hands and feet of Jesus. In contrast, David Livermore, author of "Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence," say these trips have become a rite of passage, benefiting team members more than the community they're supposed to be serving.

Christian Groups Respond to Midwest Flooding

After weekend downpours of up to 10 inches, severe flooding in several Midwest states has crippled many communities as relief begins to trickle in, the Christian Post reports. Bob Babcock, the South Indiana Annual (regional) Conference's disaster response coordinator, told the United Methodist News Service on Tuesday that by his estimates only five percent of residents affected had flood insurance. The United Methodists in Indiana have received $10,000 in emergency grants from the United Methodist Committee on Relief this week to help residents, and other Indiana churches have volunteered to serve as a clothing site and an emergency responder post, and many are working closely with the Red Cross. Christian relief group Feed the Hungry sent a semi truck full of canned food, dry soup cups, noodles, crackers, cookies, and other eatable items.

Gospel for Asia Touches Burma

Even as U.S. Navy ships were forced to leave without delivering tons of aid, Gospel for Asia is succeeding in bringing relief - and hope - to cyclone survivors in Myanmar, according to the Christian Post. Up to 2.4 million people are still struggling to rebuild their lives without homes or an adequate supply of basics, including food, water and medicine. GFA said that aid workers in its Compassion Services have found "incredible openness" to the Gospel in the largely Buddhist country. One aid worker quoted a survivor as saying, "Buddha might be sleeping, for he is doing nothing for us, but Christians are everywhere, sharing from whatever they have." The worker continued, "Our providing food and supplying drinking water to different affected areas was a tremendous testimony among both Christians and unbelievers."

Environmental Campaign Launches with Goal to be Biblical, Factual

Through a new "We Get It!" campaign, the Southern Baptist Convention's ethics entity is partnering with other organizations to demonstrate that evangelical Christians support what they describe as a more biblical, fact-based approach to global warming, Baptist Press reports. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) was among the supporting organizations introduced at a May 15 news conference in Washington to unveil the campaign -- an effort to gain the endorsement of a million evangelicals to a brief document that espouses biblical responsibility for the environment and the poor. The effort, spearheaded by the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, serves as a further response to the efforts of the Evangelical Climate Initiative. ECI contends that human beings are the primary cause of global warming, which it says will have the greatest impact on those in poverty. The declaration may be found online at

NEA's Cizik among Time's 100 Most Influential People
The Rev. Richard Cizik, the face of the green evangelical movement, was named among Time magazine's top 100 most influential people in the world for 2008, ASSIST News Service reports. Cizik, an ordained Evangelical Presbyterian minister and head of the Office of Government Affairs for the US National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), was honored alongside environmental partner Dr. Eric Chivian, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "The bringing together of the scientists and the Evangelical Christians is a rather unusual event, since these two groups have really been at odds for a very long time," Chivian said. Cizik commented: "Science without religion loses its ethical guide, and religion without science lacks the means and resources to understand the world. Science enables us to better understand what creation is telling us about itself and its Maker. You can't separate either these principles... taking care of the earth and the sanctity of life -- they overlap."

"Evangelical Manifesto" Calls for Reform

According to a report on the World on the Web website, 80 evangelical leaders are signing an "Evangelical Manifesto" that rebukes both liberal and conservative evangelicals for diminishing the Gospel to fight the culture wars. The Manifesto, due out Wednesday May 7, encourages political engagement, but says evangelicals have sometimes spoken "truth without love" and calls on evangelicals to "reform our own behavior." It's not without its critics. Warner Todd Huston calls the manifesto "another attempt by the political left to undermine the devotion of Christians to the political right," and asks why the project "studiously excluded so many prominent conservative Christians." Names known to be attached to the Manifesto include: Os Guinness, academic and author; Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary; Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School; and Rick Warren.

Bible College Housing Cyclone Survivors in Myanmar

According to Christian Newswire, a Gospel for Asia Bible college in Yangon, Myanmar is now a makeshift shelter for those devastated by Cyclone Nargis. "One of our correspondents was at the Bible college in Rangoon when the storm hit. He was able to obtain information and get on one of the only flights out of the country to deliver a report and photos of the devastation," said GFA President K.P. Yohannan. "The people in Burma live in clusters of small communities in simple bamboo structures. These villages are not made of concrete. I imagine that literally hundreds of these simple structures were just blown away." More than 80 people -- along with 70 children from a nearby orphanage -- made their way to the Bible college campus. Buddhist monks are also at the college, seeking assistance.

New Messianic Jewish Center in Jerusalem Drawing Angry Protests

ASSIST News Service reports that a story from ICEJ News indicates Jerusalem planning authorities have approved the renovation of a house in the capital's secular Rehavia neighborhood to serve as a worship and activity center for the Messianic Jewish organization Netiviah. But some religious elements have vowed to stop the building project even if it means rioting or appealing the High Court of Justice. "This center will be erected over our dead bodies," declared one opponent of the project. Another threatened "an all-out war" if the renovations start as planned. "We don't care if a mosque or a church [is] built here, but we won't tolerate the presence of missionary Messianic Jews," he said, reported Ynetnews.

Colson Diagnoses 'Heart' of Church Problem at Preaching Conference

The Christian Post reports that during Tuesday's session of the 19th Annual National Conference on Preaching, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson said that while healthy churches breed a healthy culture, church problems can lead to social woes. Colson sought to identify the root of current church problems during his address on "Preaching and the Public Square." "Of course we care about the world. Of course we care about everything happening in society, including politics, but we better get our own house in order because what we see in the cultural collapse of America around us today and in the Western world is exactly on our doorstep," argued Colson. "I think that is at the heart of the problem of the church -- we replaced truth with therapy. Most people are basically ignorant." The three-day conference in Washington D.C., running under the theme "Where Do Pulpit and Culture Meet?" has been exploring the role of preaching in addressing cultural, social, and political issues. It concludes Wednesday.

Poll: Bible is America's Favorite Book

According to the results of a new survey reported by Reuters, when it comes to literary pursuits in the U.S., most people agree on at least one thing: the most popular book is the Bible. A Harris Poll of nearly 2,513 adults ranked the Bible number one, but the second choice was not as clear. "The Bible is number one among each of the different demographic groups," Harris said in a statement. The following demographics ranked these different books as their No. 2 favorite behind the Bible: men - J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings;" women - Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind;" 18-31-year-olds - J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series; 32-43-year-olds - Stephen King's "The Stand" and Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons."

Conference Emphasizes 'Renewal' for Christian Doctors

OneNewsNow reports that physicians will get help with "Balancing Faith, Family, and Practice" at a three-day conference in Colorado Springs that begins Thursday. Focus on the Family, which is sponsoring the conference, says it hopes to provide a spiritual retreat. The idea is that doctors of faith live a lifestyle filled with pressure without an outlet among their peers, neighbors, or even fellow churchgoers. "It is a valuable conference because it gives doctors a chance to come together with colleagues who have like interests, like stresses," says Dr. Gene Rudd, senior vice president of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. Rudd says because of their situation in the community and the need to keep certain things confidential, doctors tend not to open up as much. "We need to come out from the world's paradigm right now in terms of how healthcare is given," Rudd emphasizes. "It's moving very much into just a business."

Renee O'Connor is featured in a new article in NEXT, a magazine from New Zealand. You can read about the former star of "Xena: Warrior Princess," at this wonderful fan site.