Why the silence on Christian elimination?

Sep 1, 2014

by Sheila Liaugminas, MercatorNet:

Pope, patriarchs and prelates are crying out for intervention. Where are the eliminationpresidents and prime ministers?

I’ve known Maronite leader Monsignor Sharbel Maroun for many years, talked with him on radio in 2006 after Telelumiere was nearly destroyed in the Lebanon War that summer, and many times before and after then about the ongoing work of unity and mutual respect of Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. He just returned from Lebanon recently, we talked again this week, and he is despondent. What he said is captured well here.

Catholics in the Middle East are being persecuted and slaughtered while the world watches and remains silent, said the leader of an Eastern rite Catholic community.

“It is a very heartbreaking situation, affecting everybody but mainly Christians,” said Msgr. Sharbel Maroun, pastor of St. Maron Maronite Parish in Minneapolis. “The Middle East is an erupting volcano, causing so many people to be wounded, displaced, injured and killed. There is a wave of persecution — I think it is a systematic persecution — that the church hasn’t seen since the early ages.”…

“It is devastating that the international community is just watching, doing nothing,” Msgr. Maroun said.

Several weeks ago, Christians were told to get out or be killed, and the international community said nothing and did nothing.

“I am talking about the international community in general, including the super powers,” he said. “By not doing anything, you are as guilty as those who are killing Christians. This is plain English.”

Msgr. Maroun said it is similar to the silence of the world when Jews were persecuted, rounded up and murdered wholesale in Nazi Germany.

“The Christians have been appealing, crying, begging the world to do something about this situation in the Middle East,” Msgr. Maroun said.

Those three statements tie together some important pleas by other leaders and leading voices.

Consider them in reverse order.

Pope Francis, other Vatican representatives and several Patriarchs have appealed to the United Nations and the international community to intervene in the most dangerous places for minorities, in what is clearly a sweep of maniacal genocide.

Some Jewish leaders see with clarity history repeating itself, and have cried out about the silence as it unfolds in sheer, graphic, and now widely known brutality. Like Ronald Lauder in the New York Times, asking Who Will Stand Up for the Christians?

Read here

latest report, dated August 30, 2014, on the situation in North Iraq.

Assyrian refugees in Ankawa, Iraq.

Assyrian refugees in Ankawa, Iraq.

 

(AINA) — The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization

A joint delegation representing the Ministry of Human Rights in the federal government and the Hammurabi Organization succeeded in recording many of the abuses suffered by refugees from of Mosul, the Nineveh Plain and Sinjar, and who are now Arbel.

The delegation was briefed on the situation and the needs of the refugees, who have called for immediate liberalization of their villages from ISIS, the immediate delivery of wages and and social benefits of employees, the reissuing of lost identification cards and official documents, and financial compensation for material and other losses.

The delegation included Mr. Mujeeb Abdullah, head of monitoring at the Ministry of Human Rights and Ghazwan Yahya, Rafidh Nazim, Azhar Hamed Elias, the delegation included Hammurabi Organization Louis Marcus Vice President of the Organization and William Warda, Public Relations Officer.

Mosul

  • Most homes of university professors who fled Mosul are completely controlled by ISIS and were looted of all valuables, including furniture.
  • New families are appearing in many of Mosul’s neighborhoods. ISIS are bringing Iraqi and non-Iraqi families from other cities and towns and placing them in the empty homes of the Christians, Yazidis, Shabaks and Turkoman.
  • There is a transfer of bodies in open cars every morning in Mosul, indicating a campaign to cleanse certain groups from the city. There is a high probability of the existence of mass graves for the bodies of citizens who are executed.
  • A large, crowded market has sprung up, and it is cynically called “Daash Market.” There is much furniture and household items for sale, as well antiques, old cultural heritage goods and a large selection of mobile phones. All of the merchandise is stolen from homes abandoned by fleeing residents.
  • Families continue to suffer from lack of official documents after ISIS stripped them of everything. HHRO has appealed to the government to facilitate the issuance of new documents.
  • Concern is escalating among the refugees that they will not return to their homes before winter. Nearly all of the refugees do not have winter clothing to protect them from the cold and snow.
  • A number of women and girls who had been sold by ISIS were able to escape and some of them have arrived in the city of Dohuk. ISIS has abducted hundreds of women and girls and sold them in Mosul and in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
  • Many suicides have been recorded among the refugees, especially among the ones who were stranded in remote areas and who lacked food, water and shelter. HHRO confirmed the suicide of a Yazidi in Dohuk on August 29.

See all HHRO reports.

* The Hammurabi Human Rights Organization (HHRO), an NGO based in Baghdad, Iraq, monitors the human rights situation in Iraq, particularly of minorities such as Assyrians, Turkmen, Yazidis and Shabak. Founded in 2005, HHRO works for human rights observation and documentation, in addition to implementation of humanitarian relief in Iraq.

HHRO works with various Iraqi and international institutions on variety of issues.

HHRO publishes annual reports on Human Rights situations focusing on Minorities. In 2013, HHRO was recognized and awarded as the best NGO by the United States State Department for its major achievements in the most difficult situations for the year 2012 in Baghdad.

© 2014 Assyrian International News Agency.

How to Shrink Your Church in One Easy Step

http://juicyecumenism.com/

By now, we’ve all heard the refrain that U.S. churches need to liberalize their teachings on sexuality and homosexuality or rapidly decline. The logic behind the argument is simple: more and more Americans are embracing homosexuality and same-sex marriage, including growing numbers of religious Millennials. So long as churches remain the face of opposition to gay marriage, those churches will shrink into irrelevancy when gay marriage (inevitably, we are told) becomes a settled political issue.

These arguments often see church acceptance of homosexuality as a carrot as well as a stick. It isn’t so much that denouncing homosexuality will drive people away from church, but that embracing it will also lead people into church. LGBT individuals and their supporters, many of whom hold a dim view of religion after a decades-long culture war, will reconsider church if denominations remove their restrictions on gay marriage and ordination.

But a number of Christian denominations have already taken significant steps towards liberalizing their stances on homosexuality and marriage, and the evidence so far seems to indicate that affirming homosexuality is hardly a cure for membership woes. On the contrary, every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization of sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.

The Episcopal Church

In 2003, Gene Robinson became the first openly gay, noncelibate man to be consecrated as a bishop of the Episcopal Church. In the wake of his consecration, entire dioceses severed ties with the Episcopal Church, eventually creating the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). But the Episcopal Church continued to liberalize its sexual teachings, lifting a moratorium on any more gay bishops and creating a “blessing ceremony” for gay couples in 2009.

In 2002, the number of baptized US members of the Episcopal Church stood at 2.32 million. By 2012, that number had fallen to 1.89 million, a decline of 18.4 percent. Meanwhile, attendance has fallen even more steeply. Average Sunday attendance in its U.S. churches was 846,000 in 2002, but had fallen 24.4 percent by 2012 to only 640,000. Other signs of congregational liveliness have fallen even further. Baptisms have fallen by 39.6 percent, and marriages have fallen by 44.9 percent.

As for the ACNA? It’s seen its membership rise by 13 percent and its Sunday attendance rise by 16 percent in the past five years. Since 2009, the ACNA has planted 488 new congregations. In 2012, the entire Episcopal Church managed to plant four new churches.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) was formed in 1987, when three Lutheran denominations merged to create the largest Lutheran church in America. For most of its history, gay men and women were permitted to be pastors, so long as they remained celibate. But in a narrow vote at its 2009 Churchwide Assembly, ordination was extended to gay men and women in “committed monogamous relationships.” In addition, the Assembly passed an amendment allowing churches “to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

From ELCA’s formation in 1987 to 2009, the average decrease in membership each year was only 0.62 percent. But after the liberalization of the ELCA’s stance on sexuality, membership declined a whopping 5.95 percent in 2010 and 4.98 percent in 2011. Since 2009, more than 600 congregations abandoned the denomination, with almost two-thirds joining conservative Lutheran denominations like the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. By the end of 2012, ELCA had lost 12.3 percent of its members in three years–nearly 600,000 people. If the present rate of defections holds steady, ELCA will cease to exist in less than two decades.

The United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ (UCC) has long had a reputation for unfettered liberalism, sometimes bordering on the radical. In 2008, for example, the pastor of the largest UCC congregations in the country was one Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The UCC’s tendency for pushing traditional boundaries has led to unquestionably positive developments (such as the first African-American pastor as early as 1785) and the unquestionably silly (such as the first hymnal that refuses to call Jesus male). Needless to say, in 2005 UCC became the first U.S. mainline Protestant denomination to support same-sex marriage, and has been an outspoken voice in the gay marriage debate ever since.

While UCC has been bleeding members for decades, its decline rapidly acceleratedafter the gay marriage vote. Since 2005, UCC has lost 250,000 members, a decline of 20.4 percent over seven years. While an average of 39 congregations left UCC annually from 1990 to 2004, more than 350 congregations departed in the following three years. The UCC’s own pension board called the 2000’s decline “the worst decade among 25 reporting Protestant denominations,” and admitted that “…the rate of decline is accelerating.”

2013 marked a particularly grim milestone for the denomination, as membership finally fell below one million. If the post-2005 rate in membership losses doesn’t taper out, the denomination will cease to exist in 30 years.

The Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA) was flirting with loosening its sexual standards as early as its 2006 General Assembly, when it voted to allow ordination boards to essentially overlook clergy marriage standards if a candidate “adhere[s] to the essentials of the Reformed faith.” By 2010, the General Assembly had passed an amendment to remove all clerical standards of sexual behavior entirely. This year’s General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to change their Book of Order to redefine marriage as a civil contract between “two people” and to allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages where legal.

Hopefully by now, you can see where this is all headed. In 2006, 2.2 million people were members of PCUSA, a number that dropped 22.4 percent to 1.85 million by 2013. PCUSA’s decline accelerated significantly after approving the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy in mid-2011, which led to the creation of an alternative denomination in 2012 called ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. Over 100,000 members left the PCUSA in 2012 alone.
Once again, if post-2006 trends continue, the denomination will cease to exist by 2037.

Meanwhile, in Conservative Churches…

The familiar answer from liberal mainline Christians is to protest that church attendance and religiosity is on the decline across-the-board, not just in denominations that embrace homosexuality. But this excuse fails to account for conservative denominations like the Assemblies of God, which has been consistently and rapidly growing for more than 40 years. Despite much of the hand-wringing over the Catholic Church’s highly visible public advocacy against gay marriage, it has been consistently growing in the United States. Lord knows the Mormons haven’t had any trouble growing. Even theologically conservative denominations that are declining, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, began declining much later and much less drastically than other denominations. The Southern Baptist Convention has only declined by 3 percent since its peak in 2007–an average of less than 1 percent annually–and has actually been adding congregations.

In the end, Christian supporters of gay marriage will likely view its effects on church membership as a side issue. Christians have a responsibility to grow their churches, but also a responsibility to promote what they believe is just in God’s eyes. But for some strange reason, it seems like conservative Christians never have to sacrifice one responsibility to fulfill the other.

Alexander Griswold writes for IRD. The following article originally was published on The Federalist and is cross-posted here with permission

Editorial: The Two Faces of Islam

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund

Last month I was in Damascus. I had the great privilege of meeting Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria. He is a man of peace who pleads repeatedly for equal and harmonious relations between Muslims, Christians and followers of all religions as members of one human family. Because of this stance, he has endured great abuse and criticism from some of his fellow Muslims and was targeted for assassination by the Saudis. Knowing that he would have good security and protection, the group of Islamist hit-men were instructed that, if they could not kill the Grand Mufti himself, they should kill one of his sons instead. In due course they murdered his teenage son. After some months, two of the perpetrators were caught and imprisoned. The Grand Mufti asked to see them and they were brought to him blindfolded. He instructed their blindfolds to be removed, and the two young men, discovering themselves face to face with the head of Sunni Islam in Syria and the father of their victim, shook with fear. But, to their astonishment, the Grand Mufti gently reached out his hands to them and told them not to be afraid. He said that he did not want their mothers to weep as his own bereaved wife had wept for her son, and therefore he forgave them.

Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria
Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria

Last week I was in northern Iraq and came face to face with the stark reality of another face of Islam, that of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now calling itself simply the Islamic State). The sheer brutality of this face of Islam cannot be comprehended. It kills men, women and children, the elderly, the poor and the weak. It cuts in half little children and commits acts of ethnic cleansing that border on genocide. This behaviour is pure barbarism reminiscent of the early Assyrians and later Babylonians who once inhabited this region and were known for their immense cruelty.

Islamic apocalyptic dimension

ISIS has started to produce a magazine, in English and other European languages, called Dabiq. The name is actually a town not far from Aleppo in northern Syria, which is important in Islamic history because it was the site of a major battle between the Ottomans and the Mamluks in 1516. But, more significantly, Dabiq is mentioned in a hadith (tradition recording the words and actions of Muhammad) that prophesies that a great battle will be fought there in the End Times, in which the Muslims will be victorious over the Christian forces, and which will be the first step in the Muslim conquest of the whole world. In Islamic eschatology, Jesus, whom Muslims call Isa, will descend via a minaret of the Great Mosque in Damascus, and from there he will lead his armies to victory. “Victory” means destroying every cross, killing every Jew and pagan, and either converting every Christian to Islam or killing them. This apocalyptic dimension is now shaping ISIS as it sees itself fighting an End Time battle.

ISIS militants
ISIS militants

In the first issue of Dabiq, ISIS addressed the “return of the Khalifah”, arguing that Islam is now in its final stages as it achieves at last its goal of re-establishing the Caliphate. The Ottoman Caliphate, which collapsed in 1922-23 as the Republic of Turkey was established, is now being reborn in a new Caliphate, represented by the Islamic State.

In the second issue, Dabiq looks at Noah and the flood. An article entitled “It’s either the Islamic state or the flood” begins with the “polluted ideologies that have afflicted people the entire world over” and condemns the idea of leaving people to choose peacefully for themselves what to believe. The only solution, says Dabiq, is to eradicate the principle of free choice and to implement God’s will. Any who oppose this will be punished both on earth and in the hereafter as those who scoffed against Noah were punished by flood and hellfire.

This face of Islam, based as it is on Islamic sources including the Quran and hadith, is as authentic as the peaceful tradition of the Grand Mufti of Syria. Both have existed throughout Islamic history. The Grand Mufti of Damascus has not only been ridiculed and vilified by his co-religionists but also told that he he is not a true Muslim. When he visited the UK some ten years ago, and preached at the Regent’s Park mosque in London and at other mosques, he afterwards had to be protected from Muslim leaders who disagreed with his theology. Today, he cannot return to the UK, being unable to get a visa and opposed by Muslim leaders.

Many “Islams”

The question therefore is: what is true Islam? The reality is that there are now many “Islams” depending on one’s interpretation of the texts and of the history. All can validly claim to be theologically based on the same Islamic source texts. Thankfully the peaceful traditions continue to live on, shaping the minds and hearts of countless millions of Muslims across the world. These are the Muslims who seek only a better future for themselves and their children and grandchildren, many of whom have also a deep desire to live at peace with all humanity, as well as with their co-religionists.

But equally, there is the undeniable rise of radical Islam with an ideology that is propagated by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, funded by their vast oil resources, and now effectively reshaping Islam. This face of Islam brings extremists to the forefront and gives birth to movements like ISIS. ISIS has been publicly disowned by Muslim and Western leaders alike, including key political leaders in Britain and other Western countries, who assert that it does not represent Islam. In fact some would go so far as saying that ISIS is not Islamic in any way. But however much one may want to dismiss ISIS as a temporary phenomenon that will soon disappear, or that can be easily defeated, or that is un-Islamic and therefore can be rejected, these concepts may well prove to be nothing more than pie in the sky. Even if these extreme forms were to cease to exist, the ideological underpinning that has produced movements such as these will continue so long as nations like Saudi Arabia, as well as countless individual Islamic clerics and Muslim leaders, continue to use a literalist interpretation of Islam’s source texts. This remains true whether or not Western governments recognise the theological basis of such movements.

How can Christians survive?

Displaced Iraqi Christian children in Dohuk
Displaced Iraqi Christian children in Dohuk

For Christians it is now impossible to survive within the territory controlled by the so-called Islamic State. For those in bordering areas, such as northern Iraq, Baghdad, Damascus, certain other parts of Syria, and Lebanon, the future is filled with terror. Hope seems to be fast disappearing as they see an international community without the will to defeat such an extreme force.

For many the only apparent solution that enables them to retain their faith and protect their families and communities is to leave – to leave their homes and their homelands in search of survival. Countries such as the UK have shown a reluctance either to address ISIS or to protect Christians and welcome them into our land.

Calling for a concerted effort

Before I took my leave of the Grand Mufti, he commented on his last visit to the UK, a decade ago, when he had predicted that there would come a day when many British mosques would become radicalised and where some of their members would become prey to extremist beliefs and go on to do horrible things. Sadly, that day has now come. He asked me whether I could enable him to get a visa to visit the UK again and to teach a peaceful Islam based on tolerance and a common humanity.

If courageous Muslims like him do not come to the UK and other countries, if mosques do not open their doors to him, if the minds of the young do not receive his teachings and are not enlightened by his knowledge and wisdom, then the future of this land and others is increasingly uncertain. Christians in the Middle East, and now farther afield, see a rapidly approaching terror; the same terror may face us in the West before long.

The fearsome Assassins were a ferocious Ismaili Islamic sect that came into being in the late eleventh century and instituted a reign of terror, which lasted for some 200 years. The Assassins were eventually destroyed only when Christians and Muslims joined forces to work together against a group that threatened everyone. Unless a concerted effort is made by governments in the region and internationally too, ISIS will continue to grow and threaten us all.

Daughters and Their Dads: The Vital Relationship

CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

With over a half century of solid social science research now in, we know quite clearly that children do best by every measure when raised by their own biological parents, preferably cemented by marriage. Not only is the evidence for all this overwhelming, but we also know that each individual parent – the mother and the father – plays a vital and unique role in the well-being of children. Each one contributes greatly to the rearing and raising of children.

Mothers and fathers are different, in other words, and each has a key role in shaping and developing the child. Let me look in more detail at just one aspect of this: the vital role of the father in his daughter’s life. There are now thousands of studies on the importance of fathers in general, with full-length books also discussing this. In particular, a dad brings unique and vitally important input into a daughter’s life, and when dad is absent, the daughter suffers in many ways.

dad-and-daighterAs already stated, the research on this is voluminous, so only a few highlights can here be offered. Father presence, input and affirmation all correlate with better outcomes for daughters. Many studies for example have shown a close connection between “the relationship between fatherly affirmation and a woman’s self-esteem, fear of intimacy, comfort with womanhood and comfort with sexuality” as one study puts it.

A researcher from Wake Forest University in America found that “fathers generally have as much or more influence than mothers on many aspects of their daughters’ lives. For example, the father has the greater impact on the daughter’s ability to trust, enjoy and relate well to the males in her life … well-fathered daughters are usually more self-confident, more self-reliant, and more successful in school and in their careers than poorly-fathered daughters… Daughters with good relationships with their father are also less likely to develop eating disorders.”

Another study found that “there were statistically significant relationships between engagement and accessibility with the daughters’ self-esteem and life satisfaction” and father involvement. And a further study from the US found a “relationship between father-daughter relationship quality and daughters’ stress response”.

Another study made this claim: “Research has shown that daughters who are dissatisfied with their communication interactions with their fathers are more likely to be involved with bad peer relationships, have unpleasant romantic endeavors, and make poor or life-threatening decisions compared to daughters who are satisfied with their communication interactions with their fathers.”

The research also finds a host of issues surrounding sexual problems. When dads are absent, daughters get into all sorts of trouble in this area. Here are some of the findings. Studies from many different cultures have found that girls raised without fathers are more likely to be sexually active, and to start early sexual activity. Father-deprived girls “show precocious sexual interest, derogation of masculinity and males, and poor ability to maintain sexual and emotional adjustment with one male”.

A US study found that girls who grow up without fathers were “53 percent more likely to marry as teenagers, 111 percent more likely to have children as teenagers, 164 percent more likely to have a premarital birth, and 92 percent more likely to dissolve their own marriages.”

Another US study found that “father engagement seems to have differential effects on desirable outcomes by reducing the frequency of behavioural problems in boys and psychological problems in young women”.

New Zealand research has found that the absence of a father is a major factor in the early onset of puberty and teenage pregnancy. Dr Bruce Ellis, Psychologist in Sexual Development at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch found that one of the most important factors in determining early menarche is the father: “There seems to be something special about the role of fathers in regulating daughters’ sexual development”.

A British study found that girls brought up by lone parents were twice as likely to leave home by the age of 18 as the daughters of intact homes; were three times as likely to be cohabiting by the age of 20; and almost three times as likely to have a birth out of wedlock.

Physical problems also can be noted when fathers are absent. A recent Australian study showed that obesity among girls in single-parent households continues to be a major problem. Deakin University health researchers studied nearly 9000 children aged between four and nine and found higher rates of overweight and obesity in girls from single-parent families than those in two-parent families.

Brain development can even be impacted by fatherlessness. Dr Gabriella Gobbi carried out research on this at McGill University in Canada. A summary of her findings says this: “Growing up without a father could permanently alter the structure of the brain and produce children who are more aggressive and angry, scientists have warned. Children brought up only by a single mother have a higher risk of developing ‘deviant behaviour’, including drug abuse, new research suggests. It is also feared that growing up in a fatherless household could have a greater impact on daughters than on sons.”

Also, the likelihood of girls getting involved in antisocial and harmful behaviour is also increased because of father absence. As sociologist David Blankenhorn puts it, “If the evidence suggests that fatherless boys tend toward disorderly and violent behavior, it just as clearly suggests that fatherless girls tend toward personally and socially destructive relationships with men, including precocious sexual activity and unmarried motherhood.” Here again a raft of studies can be appealed to.

And as already noted, even something like one’s hormones can be influenced by the presence or absence of fathers. As science writer Paul Raeburn, author of Do Fathers Matter? (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), states, “Girls who grow up with an engaged, involved father have a reduced risk of early puberty, risky sexual behavior, and teen pregnancy. The explanation could be that fathers’ scent alters the hormonal activity in their daughters.”

And a host of studies show that girls are far more at risk of sexual abuse when the father is not present. As but one example, a Finnish study of nearly 4,000 ninth-grade girls found that “stepfather-daughter incest was about 15 times as common as father-daughter incest”.

By way of summary, one author lists a number of reasons why fathers are so important to their daughters. These include:
-fathers shape their daughters’ self esteem
-fathers influence their daughters’ body image
-a father helps develop behavioural traits in his daughter
-fathers impact social traits in their daughters
-fathers help define future romantic relationships for their daughters
-fathers also help define non-romantic relationships

There is so much research now out on this that entire volumes have been penned examining the data. Let me highlight just two such books. The first is Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by American paediatrician Dr. Meg Meeker (Ballantine Books 2007). In it she demonstrates how vitally important a girl’s relationship with her father is to her mental, physical and social development.

The second book is by Bruce Robinson. Daughters and Their Dads (Macsis Publishing, 2008) also focuses on this vital relationship. As Robinson states in his opening chapter, “There is an incredible power in the father-daughter relationship, a power which strongly influences a woman’s future for good or bad. Girls long for affection and affirmation from their fathers. The influence that fathers have on their daughters is profound and lasts for the whole of their lives and it creates a hole in their lives if it is absent…. Many published studies have confirmed the powerful effect that fathers have on daughters with few dissenting voices.”

The evidence is clear: girls need their dads, and they suffer greatly in many respects when their biological father is absent.

The Gospel is Under Assault

 

Not everything claiming to be benign actually is…

 

This week, I’d like to share about two areas where the Gospel is particularly under assault.

 

The first is in the Church. There is nowhere in the Church where there is more vulnerability for the Gospel to be undermined than in the Anglican Communion. Certainly, there are other churches and denominations where the historic faith has been more fully and formally abandoned by the official decisions of institutional leadership, but the current vulnerability in the Anglican Communion is that the historic faith and Gospel commitment which has driven missionary zeal and Biblical fidelity for centuries is being de-emphasized in order to “get along.”

 

Right now, there are countless initiatives at the institutional level to attempt to convince people that the “cut-glass crystal punch bowl” is so beautiful that when it is polished, preserved, and appreciated the recipe of the punch it contains is unimportant. The challenge, however, is how much adulteration to the punch is acceptable. I addressed the House of Bishops in one of our Anglican Provinces and pointed out that the soup that was being made (to switch metaphors) has lovely carrots, beautiful potatoes, succulent chicken, and tasty broth. “How much manure can be added to the soup before you no longer can consume it and stay healthy?” I asked them. Not surprisingly, they did not want to have any manure added to the soup, and yet, quite a number of them were participating in conferences sponsored by liberal entities that completely undermined the Gospel, replacing it with institutional focus and uncritical acceptance of sin.

 

While I was tremendously excited at the selection of Justin Welby as the Archbishop of Canterbury, and had hoped and prayed for his selection believing that he was the best of the available candidates, I have been concerned at what appears to be a perspective that everything can be reconciled with everything else. While most relational disruptions can be reconciled, theological positions are another matter. It is impossible, for example, for the position “Jesus is Lord of all” to be reconciled with “Jesus is not Lord of all.” While theological disagreements may not seem to be that stark, it is precisely that revelation that is at stake in the Anglican Communion. The Lordship of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture, and how He viewed Scriptural authority is very much in play.

 

While it is admirable to have loving welcomes for all people, everyone needs to be welcomed to come into a relationship with the Savior. The current plan by senior leaders in the Church of England to bless relationships of same-sex sexual intimacy may seem to be a wonderful welcome so that people can then later be won to Christ, but what is the character of the Christ that is being presented? When Jesus validated Scriptural authority (every jot and tittle), He certainly could have excepted some things of moral law had He chosen to do so, but He did not. He certainly dismantled tenets of the ceremonial law. He could have made changes to moral law as well. Instead, He called us to a higher standard. Same-sex sexual intimacy is proscribed by Scripture because it is incompatible with Godly living. The spiritual and physical health consequences are terrible. Sadly, virtually everyone overlooks the truth that there are Biblically proscribed behaviors that have devastating consequences to people’s bodies—as well as to their souls and spirits.

 

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

I heard with my own ears Archbishop Welby describe the plan to allow for blessing of some same-sex relationships while “holding the line against same-sex marriage.” That is no comfort. In a marriage, the Church does not “marry” the people. The people marry each other. In fact, the bride and groom are the ministers of the sacrament. The role of the priest is to evaluate the circumstances of the union and if it conforms to the teaching of the church, pronounce blessing over the union. Pronouncing a blessing over that which God does not bless is no blessing at all. It is a fantasy that leaves people on a dangerous path spiritually and even physically. The Archbishop is in many, many, respects a wonderful man. On this point, I believe he is tragically wrong.

 

What we need to do is recapture the majesty of the Gospel. Rightly lived and proclaimed, it should offer a lavish welcome to sinners, because that’s what we all are. The Gospel then embraces us for Christ’s sake so magnificently that we are fundamentally changed. We actually get a new nature and begin to be able to become like Him who saves us. We are not “stuck” with the way we were. Our new horizons are the horizons of Jesus. What is possible for us is what He deems possible. It is to His values and horizons that He draws us. Granted we have far to go, but we cannot proceed while shackled in a false, ungodly belief that thinks we get to choose which part of our lives to submit to Christ. The fallacy that we get to decide what is good and what is evil is not only the same mistake that wrecked things in the Garden, it still burdens lives and robs freedom, leaving people stuck in “less than” lives. We should love them better. The dialogue that is being promoted and advanced among Anglicans is not an honest one. The “Continuing Indaba” project is an utterly corrupt process of manipulation designed only to advance the liberal agenda. That kind of conversation can never bear godly fruit. We need a different kind of conversation where the Gospel can be plainly, lovingly, and powerfully demonstrated and then spoken about. Only then can there be resolution.

 

The second great vulnerability is in our lack of engagement with Islam. 

 

Wake up and smell the sulphur…

 

Look at this recent map of the holdings of ISIS (also known as ISIL).

 

 

The “Islamic State” group(s) want to establish a stateless caliphate in which Sharia Law rules. Qānūn-e Islāmī (قانون اسلامی ), Islamic law, means “the moral code,” but it would be better understood to be an Islamic worldview imposed everywhere. Remember that “Islam” means “submission.” That is the heart difference between Islam and the Christian faith. When we come to Christ, He sets us free. In Islam, the law is imposed upon us. The militants who are advancing militarily believe that states need to be toppled and people need to:

 

(1) convert to Islam,

(2) pay dhimmi-unbeliever’s tax (which is crushing second class citizenship),

(3) Flee, or

(4) die.

 

That is what they are imposing on the Yazidi and Christians in the Mosul area, and will, everywhere they get the chance.

 

The gravity and strategic significance of the map above is revealed when one overlays the road system of Iraq on it. Notice how virtually every road is dominated by ISIS troops. These are not just the major roads, in most cases they are the only roads. That means that they can completely control the area if they can control the ground transportation, especially in the absence of US air power.

Apart from the Ramadi-Rutba Road, all of northern Iraq is under ISIS control, save Kurdistan. A tiny number of troops are utterly controlling vast areas of territory, and inflicting horrible violence on the population. This absolutely requires a strategic response. Not only must we respond in this location, we need to engage with Islam in other areas as well.

 

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to meet with one of the very top Islamic leaders in another nation. He was quite engaging and our conversation had a lot of favor on it. Things went so well, that we decided to proceed from our meeting to lunch. Much to the amazement of the “aides” who were along, I took the opportunity to respond to what I believed to be an inner prompting of the Holy Spirit (please note, I am not advocating adopting this as a wholesale strategy for Islamic engagement. I believe, though, that it was the right thing for this time.)

I was not sure where things would lead when I said to him, “Most of the time, all our interfaith conversations are limited to topics around which we can find agreement. Things like weather and superficial topics. Would you like to invest our lunch-time conversation in identifying the areas about which we completely disagree?”

He replied, “Yes,” that it would be an “interesting conversation.”

We went on to discuss the central difference of the understanding of who Jesus is. He came from the perspective of Jesus being a holy prophet. I came from the orthodox position that He is God and man—two natures in one person––fully God and fully man. The conversation was lively and quite animated, but very congenial. Neither was really expecting to change the mind of the other. Eventually the conversation took an interesting turn. To this point we had communicated well with good will. Even though there was disagreement, we were developing friendship. We had talked about the extremists with whom he had to deal, and I was able to speak sincerely about some Christians who say and do things that are not helpful. With the relational equity that was developing, we were able to even talk about atonement—the concept of how we who are separated from God by sin can be “at-one” with Him.

 

I have found that a wonderful way to engage in cross-cultural conversation is to ask a question, but it must be one genuinely framed. I said, “Could I ask something about atonement – how we become one with God—or you may say ‘closer to God?”

He replied, “Yes, of course.”

I asked, “For Christians, we become one with God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. In keeping with the sacrificial system of the Pentateuch (which Muslims accept to be authoritative), Jesus Christ, Who is both God and sinless man, freely offered Himself as a sacrifice fulfilling the demands of the Old Testament sacrificial system, pouring his life-blood into our curse of separation and death so that we can be restored to intimacy with God the Father from whom we have been estranged. Isn’t there a parallel with radical Muslims who believe that they must shed their own blood in order to inherit Paradise? Aren’t they relying on shed blood, too?”

“Yes,” he said. “Though many of us would not agree with them. Some, perhaps many, are doing that.”

“Would that blood sacrifice be sufficient to bring a person into intimacy with God as Father?” I asked.

“We would not think in those terms—Paradise for us is different from that,” he replied.

“What if God Himself were to shed His own blood? What could that win? What could that produce?” I asked.

“I will have to think on that,” he said. “Perhaps for another conversation.”

Please understand, I am NOT suggesting such a line of conversation with Muslims you might meet. I do think that we must engage Muslims with meaningful dialogue. We have been so disappointed with the fruit (or lack of it) from dialogue in our own tribe, we may well be hesitant to engage in it with Muslims. We must rethink that. At least some of us need to become equipped to have those conversations. All of us need to be mobilized to pray as a matter of urgency that the Lord will anoint substantive conversations. I firmly believe that when the Gospel is given a level playing field in conversation and life experience, it will win the day.

Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America has called us to pray diligently for the situation in Iraq and Syria and other places where Christians are under assault from radical Islam. To fail to do so will be devastating for the Christians who live in those regions. It will also be at our own peril. If not stopped now, it will march until it is next door. Now, in addition to looking for the right places for conversation with Muslims, I pray for my new friend. I also pray that the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ will visit him in his dreams and experiences. I can hardly wait until we get to speak again.

August , 2014

 

The Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood is Bishop an American Anglican Council contributing author and Bishop of the Anglican Church in North America’s International Diocese.

 

WCF Versus the Haters, Bigots and Tolerance Brigade

CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg’s commentary on issues of the day…

Those who scream the loudest about tolerance and acceptance are again proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that they refuse to tolerate and accept anyone other than themselves. Indeed, if we did not already have proof positive of how great the hate, and how deep the diabolical savagery of these folks can be, we have certainly witnessed it lately.

A pro-family conference is being “tolerated” by bullies and thugs who are intent on shutting it down. So much for free speech. The regional conference of the World Congress of Families is due to be held this Saturday somewhere in Melbourne.

wcfBut the jackboots of political correctness and hate are doing all they can to shut down freedom of speech and democracy. Of course the hate brigade has been saying for quite some time how they intended to show tolerance, acceptance and diversity. Consider this for example from the Green/Left site:

Victoria police are vetting registrants and scouting venues to try to provide security for the besieged World Congress of Families in Melbourne on August 30. The final venue for the event remains unclear as they try to avoid clashes with widespread community opposition.
Activists are already causing chaos for conference organisers Babette Francis of the Endeavour Forum (formerly Women Who Want to be Women) and John Brennan of the conservative Catholic men’s group Knights of the Southern Cross.
Notorious bigot-baiter Pauline Pantsdown has encouraged her thousands of followers to register for the extreme-right, anti-feminist and homophobic conference. Pantsdown’s Facebook page is awash with hilarious correspondence between activists and Francis. Francis openly admits that police are vetting all registrants, even to the point of checking the addresses provided.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex activists, feminists, First Nations people, unionists, pro-refugee and anti-racist activists, and atheist and religious people against bigotry are organising a disruptive “Unwelcome Ceremony”, Equal Love demonstration and family-friendly “Block Party against Hate” wherever the congress tries to meet. Police have told organisers that the venue is unlikely to be either of the two advertised by the congress.

The Coalition to Beat Back the Far-Right put out this Media Release well before the conference:

Activists are pleased to announce an entire day of subversive activity against the upcoming gathering of rightwingers and bigots, the World Congress of Families, to be held in Melbourne on August 30th. Beginning at 8am with a “welcome they deserve,” the day will feature a protest hosted by Equal Love at 11am and a Block Party against Hate in the afternoon.

And they even admit that they will seek to trash this peaceful conference and take away freedoms of ordinary Australians:

Meet the people disrupting the extremist World Congress of Families
Kerrie Davies (Council of Single Mothers and their Children)
Gaye Demanuele (Reproductive Justice Activist, Radical Women)
First Nations spokesperson (TBA)
Louise O’Shea (Equal Love)
Mohammad Ali Baqiri (Former child refugee from Afghanistan detained on Nauru, Refugee Rights Activist)
Marisa Sposaro (Disability rights and prison activist)
Naomi Farmer (National Union of Students)
Anonymous (Public sector worker and unionist)

If that is not clear enough, consider this threat: “Naomi Farmer, National Queer Officer for the National Union of Students and Demonstrator Organiser, told MCV they were expecting over 100 people to protest the event. ‘They key thing we want to do is actually stop the event from happening, so we do intend on blockading the gates in the morning,’ she said.”

And Debbie Brennan, the head of the socialist feminist organisation Radical Women, said “We will exercise our free speech right to make it as hard as we can for people to get into the congress. Certainly, we will be out there in force and having loud things to say.”

So very typical: in the name of tolerance and acceptance, they will not tolerate those with opposing ideas, and they will not accept anyone who dares to differ. They will disrupt and carry on like the fascists of old to shut down public debate. In the name of freedom of speech they will do all they can to strip freedom of speech away from those they disagree with. Go figure.

And they talk all the time about “hate”. The whole world can see where all the hate is coming from. And it is not coming from those who celebrate love, life, marriage and family. It is coming from the rent-a-crowd of the radical secular left who always roll up to shut down and shout down any event not to their liking.

World Congress of Families leader Larry Jacobs had to weigh into the debate, offering some truth about the whole affair:

World Congress of Families Managing Director Larry Jacobs praised those leaders who signed an International Pro-Family Leadership Open Letter to the People of Australia in support of the August 30th “Life, Family and Freedom Conference” in Melbourne.
“We are thankful and humbled by the support of the 80 leaders from Romania, Italy, the Czech Republic, Spain, Venezuela, the Philippines, Canada, France, South Africa, the Republic of Georgia, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Russia, Poland, Colombia, Jamaica, Trinidad, the Netherlands, Chile, Serbia, and the United States for standing with us against attacks on the Melbourne Conference and the international pro-family movement,” Jacobs declared.
The petition notes that sexual radicals and extremists have launched a smear campaign alleging that to promote positive ideas regarding the natural family somehow “shames” others, including single-parent families, the divorced and homosexual couples.
“That’s absurd,” Jacobs countered, “As a child raised in a loving home by divorced, single parents, I would never advocate for policies that would promote hate or shame mothers and fathers. The real truth is that our natural family solutions to the social crisis help all parents and children by reducing poverty, improving education, maximizing mental and physical health, and saving lives. A wealth of social science data demonstrates conclusively and unequivocally that children do best in married families with a mother and a father in the home. To state that simple truth does not demonstrate a lack of compassions for those in different circumstances. Just as saying that marriage is a social good doesn’t ‘stigmatize’ or ‘shame’ the unmarried.”
The Petition/Open Letter notes: “The natural-family philosophy was set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, which observes that ‘men and women of full age… have the right to marry and found a family’ and that the family is ‘the natural and fundamental group unit of society’ and, as such, is ‘entitled to protection by society and the state.’ This language is repeated in the constitutions of more than 100 nations around the world.”
Moreover: “For the past 3,000 years, in every culture, this definition of the family (a man and woman united by faith and tradition, raising their children in a loving environment) has been considered beyond dispute. Only in the past few decades have competing ‘models’ of the family been offered as the new norm. The natural family is also affirmed by every major religion.”
Jacobs said: “Attacks on proponents of the natural family and marriage are part of a cynical campaign by sexual radicals to avoid an honest discussion by labeling those who disagree with them ‘hateful.’”
Jacobs concluded: “If you want to see ‘hate’ in action, look at efforts to deconstruct human dignity, re-define marriage, and marginalize the natural family which, if successful, will result in untold human suffering especially for children.”

Former US Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is also a signatory to this open letter, and was also featured in a newspaper article here:

“Sexual radicals have launched a smear campaign to discredit the Melbourne conference, which misrepresents the international pro-family movement and the positions of the World Congress of Families,” says the open letter, which has been signed by 80 people. The letter says criticism of the group’s support for a traditional family is unfair because “social science data shows clearly and unequivocally that children do best in families with a mother and father”.
The letter cites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says “men and women of full age … have the right to marry and found a family”. The group writes: “The goal of sexual radicals is to deconstruct marriage and marginalise the family, and thus to transform society into something unrecognisable to generations past. Like all social experiments that attempt to create a ‘new man’, these are doomed to failure.”

All this commotion – pro and con – has been taking place long before the actual day of the conference. If the conference does in fact go ahead – no thanks to these fascists who are seeking to shut it down and stifle free speech, all in the name of tolerance of course – then I will be there, and I will certainly write up what takes place. So stay tuned for episode two.

The Wrong Kind of Christian

The Wrong Kind of Christian
Image: KEVIN VANDIVIER / GENESIS

I thought I was an acceptable kind of evangelical.

I’m not a fundamentalist. My friends and I enjoy art, alcohol, and cultural engagement.
We avoid spiritual clichés and buzzwords. We value authenticity, study, racial reconciliation, and social and environmental justice.

Being a Christian made me somewhat weird in my urban, progressive context, but despite some clear differences, I held a lot in common with unbelieving friends. We could disagree about truth, spirituality, and morality, and remain on the best of terms. The failures of the church often made me more uncomfortable than those in the broader culture.

Then, two years ago, the student organization I worked for at Vanderbilt University got kicked off campus for being the wrong kind of Christians.

In May 2011, Vanderbilt’s director of religious life told me that the group I’d helped lead for two years, Graduate Christian Fellowship—a chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship—was on probation. We had to drop the requirement that student leaders affirm our doctrinal and purpose statement, or we would lose our status as a registered student organization.

I met with him to understand the change. During the previous school year, a Christian fraternity had expelled several students for violating their behavior policy. One student said he was ousted because he is gay. Vanderbilt responded by forbidding any belief standards for those wanting to join or lead any campus group.

In writing, the new policy refers only to constitutionally protected classes (race, religion, sexual identity, and so on), but Vanderbilt publicly adopted an “all comers policy,” which meant that no student could be excluded from a leadership …

Johns Hopkins Psychiatrist: Transgender is ‘Mental Disorder;’ Sex Change ‘Biologically Impossible’

mchugh

Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry. (Photo: Johns Hopkins Medicine)

(CNSNews.com) –  Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, said that transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that merits treatment, that sex change is “biologically impossible,” and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.

Dr. McHugh, the author of six books and at least 125 peer-reviewed medical articles, made his remarks in a recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal, where he explained that transgender surgery is not the solution for people who suffer a “disorder of ‘assumption’” – the notion that their maleness or femaleness is different than what nature assigned to them biologically.

He also reported on a new study showing that the suicide rate among transgendered people who had reassignment surgery is 20 times higher than the suicide rate among non-transgender people. Dr. McHugh further noted studies from Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic of children who had expressed transgender feelings but for whom, over time, 70%-80% “spontaneously lost those feelings.”

While the Obama administration, Hollywood, and major media such as Time magazine promote transgenderism as normal, said Dr. McHugh, these “policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention.”

“This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken – it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.”

The transgendered person’s disorder, said Dr. McHugh, is in the person’s “assumption” that they are different than the physical reality of their body, their maleness or femaleness, as assigned by nature. It is a disorder similar to a “dangerously thin” person suffering anorexia who looks in the mirror and thinks they are “overweight,” said McHugh.

This assumption, that one’s gender is only in the mind regardless of anatomical reality, has led some transgendered people to push for social acceptance and affirmation of their own subjective “personal truth,” said Dr. McHugh. As a result, some states – California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts – have passed laws barring psychiatrists, “even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor,” he said.

The pro-transgender advocates do not want to know, said McHugh, that studies show between 70% and 80% of children who express transgender feelings “spontaneously lose those feelings” over time. Also, for those who had sexual reassignment surgery, most said they were “satisfied” with the operation “but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery.”

Johns Hopkins Psychiatrist: Transgender is a ‘Mental Disorder’ – Sex Change is ‘Biologically Impossible’

Pro-transgender activists. The Obama administration announced in May that Medicare will now cover transgender surgical procedures. (AP)

“And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs,” said Dr. McHugh.

The former Johns Hopkins chief of psychiatry also warned against enabling or encouraging certain subgroups of the transgendered, such as young people “susceptible to suggestion from ‘everything is normal’ sex education,” and the schools’ “diversity counselors” who, like “cult leaders,” may “encourage these young people to distance themselves from their families and offer advice on rebutting arguments against having transgender surgery.”

Dr. McHugh also reported that there are “misguided doctors” who, working with very young children who seem to imitate the opposite sex, will administer “puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous – even though the drugs stunt the children’s growth and risk causing sterility.”

Such action comes “close to child abuse,” said Dr. McHugh, given that close to 80% of those kids will “abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated ….”

“’Sex change’ is biologically impossible,” said McHugh. “People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”

Gafcon in talks with New Zealand parish

Author: George Conger

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is in talks to offer alternative episcopal oversight to a breakaway New Zealand congregation, The Church of England Newspaper has learned.  The Rev. Michael Hewat, (pictured) the former vicar of West Hamilton Anglican Church in Dinsdale, New Zealand reports that “following communications from FCA-affiliated leaders from 3 overseas provinces, our Vestry decided on [8 Aug 2014] to make exploration of a relationship with FCA its priority –ahead of Wesleyan Methodist, Baptist or anyone else.” In a letter published last month in the Waikato Times, Mr. Hewat said he was withdrawing from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia as a consequence of the May vote by General Synod to begin the process towards authorizing gay marriage. Motion 30 approved by synod set in place a two year process towards finding a theological rationale for revising the church’s doctrine on marriage. Approximately 95 per cent of the congregation has followed Mr. Hewat out of the church. A spokesman for the GAFCON secretariat in Sydney confirmed there had been “initial contact” with the parish leaders. “The story of this congregation is repeated around the world. Time and again we see congregations alienated from their home province because of decisions those provinces have made to distance themselves from biblical teaching,” the FCA/GAFCON spokesman said. Mr. Hewat noted the parish decided to pursue alternative Anglican oversight “from our own preference to retain links with orthodox Anglicans, and a sense of responsibility to fellow evangelicals in NZ who have yet to go through what we’ve been through.”

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