Prayer fuel: News from around the world

Here are a handful of news-bites from around the world included in the March issue of EN. May these encourage us as well as spur us on to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world facing severe persecution.

China: persecution up
ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian nonprofit organisation that monitors religious freedom in China, said in its 2012 annual report in early February that the Chinese government continues its increase of persecution against Christians for the seventh consecutive year. The report examined 132 persecution cases involving 4,919 people and found that persecution incidences rose 41.9% from 2011. Additionally, the number of people sentenced in cases relating to religious persecution jumped 125% from 2011.
Religion Today

Cuba: at last!
Former prisoner of conscience, Pastor Omar Gude Perez, his wife Kenia Denis and their two children arrived in the US as refugees on January 31. They were finally granted permission by Cuban emigration authorities to leave the island, following an 18-month wait for the appropriate paperwork.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Iraq: two killed
On January 8, a car bomb killed Ayyoub Fauzi Auyyoub Al Sheikh, a Christian medical student, near the university in Mosul, while the explosion also injured dozens of others. In another incident, the body of Shdha Elias, a 54-year-old Christian teacher, was found on January 7 in an area of Mosul where attacks on Christians had taken place in the past.
Barnabas Fund

For more news and prayer fuel from around the world, subscribe to EN for monthly updates.

Anglican update: Freedom is the issue

Michael Nazir AliMaria Miller, the Culture Secretary, said that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill provides for overseas marriages in consulates or on armed forces bases. One can imagine expatriates coming to ‘marry’ nationals in consulates in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya, against their laws and on their turf with significant consequences for their churches and governments.

This Bill, with such international implications, is put forward to expand equality, diversity and freedom. But Matthew Franck writes: ‘A future in which same-sex marriage is enshrined in the law is a future without meaningful religious liberty, freedom of speech, or economic freedom for millions. Yes, they can “privatise” their view, and go about their business incognito, as it were. But that is a surrender of their freedom, not a preservation of it’.*

Emotions and law

The claim is that feelings of being discriminated against for homosexual behaviour must determine societal norms. The law and the power of culture must suppress the established understanding of marriage which makes homosexual people feel ‘excluded’. Any alternative views are prejudiced, stigmatise others, and are the source of unhappiness and searches for ‘change’. Such stigmatisation has to be banished from society by the state. Even holding such an opinion causes offence and must be eliminated.

Equality of outcome

This position is based on a view of the common good of equality defined as equality of outcome (no one must be given any reason for feeling ‘unequal’ to anyone else). The common good is determined here by majority opinion (which is why opinion polls and ‘the changing culture’ feature so strongly). Such a notion of equality trumps everything. There is no place for a ‘bill of rights’, ‘rights of conscience’ or ‘freedom of belief ’. The state then uses the law to enforce the common good.
Peter Tatchell in a Commons Committee Room on January 30 argued that same-sex attraction is innate as a matter of science. Religion, morals and conscience have no place. Unwanted same-sex attraction is due to the stigma and prejudice in society. Any attempt to provide counselling to be free from it is unacceptable. Education is needed for homosexuality to be as acceptable as heterosexuality.

No accommodation
State employed or regulated doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, marriage counsellors, marriage registrars and youth workers will be denied ‘reasonable accommodation’ to opt out. Teachers will have to explain, though not endorse, same-sex marriage to children. The last government allowed no ‘reasonable accommodation’ to Roman Catholic adoption agencies. They therefore closed down. Any protections for ‘dissenting’ religious institutions, including schools, and caring institutions, not just to preach but also to have charitable status and accreditation from the government would imply that acceptance of same-sex unions is not as obligatory as heterosexual unions.

Where persecution begins

Speaking on the Freedom of Belief and the Persecution of Christians in the Houses of Parliament on February 5, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali said: ‘Persecution begins with exclusion and marginalisation from community and public life. It begins with loss of employment’.
The alternative view is that equality is equality of opportunity. Liberty encourages the ‘little republics’ of the family, community organisations, civic organisations and civil society, among which are the churches to promote the common good. It limits the state’s role of enforcement.
Dr. Nazir-Ali noted that, in the ‘Arab Spring’, democracy was being shown not to be enough. Without a bill of rights, it can become the tyranny of the majority. Article 18 of the UN Declaration enshrines a right to believe, and to manifest that belief in behaviour and action. Behind that lies the statement of Magna Carta that the English church shall be free — that is to teach, promote and practise biblical values and morality without government interference.

Chris Sugden,

Anglican Mainstream


This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

Prayer fuel: News in the UK

Here are a handful of news-bites from around the UK included in the March issue of EN. May these spur us on to pray for our country and issues we all are facing.

Giving thanks for ‘Chappo’
A Memorial Service for the much-loved Australian evangelist, John Chapman, will be held at St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate.
The service will take place at 3.00 pm on March 1. Anyone wishing to find out more should phone 020 7283 2231.
Gareth Lewis

23-week twins survive
The mother of twins who survived after being born at just 23 weeks — a week earlier than the current legal abortion limit — has criticised the law, it was reported at the end of January.
Pam Glover, their mother, said: ‘For us now, the idea that it’s possible to abort a child up to 24 weeks — older than our twins — just doesn’t bear thinking about. The abortion limit should be lower’.
The Christian Institute

Removing God
The Air Cadet Organisation has announced its intention to provide an alternative ‘non-religious’ oath for new members, it was reported in January.
Girlguiding UK and the Scout Association are also considering similar changes to their respective promises, following pressure from secularist campaign groups. The former has an online survey considering the change, with a deadline of March 3.
Christian Concern

For more news and prayer fuel from around the UK, subscribe to EN for monthly updates.

Editors commentary: Death-bed conversion

As a pastor, sometimes there are meetings with people which you dread. Not long ago I was contemplating such a meeting. Years previously a couple had left the church as their marriage was on the brink of breaking up.
We had never really known where Jason stood spiritually. His wife Naomi was a good solid Christian, who had stuck with Jason through sporadic infidelities but had understandably come to the end of her tether with a new affair. There were some pretty tense, not to say bruising, counselling sessions. We elders, who don’t always manage to get everything right, had done our best to remonstrate with Jason but to no avail. We saw no option but for church discipline for him and, in the aftermath, the family had left us.

Phone call
But that was not the end of the story. Just as we were about to go away for some holiday, Jason phoned. Could he come and talk to us? ‘Oh no’, we thought. We had not had contact with him for years. Were we going to be reproached for some kind of pastoral failure from the past? What was this all about? We arranged for him to come and see us after our time away. In the interim the whole thing played on our minds.
Eventually the night of the meeting came. We had prayed much, but my stomach churned as the door-bell rang.
There was Jason. But there was no frown. He seemed relaxed and calm. He came in and sat down and over a pot of tea his story came tumbling out to the glory of God.
His marriage had broken up and his wife had moved to another town. In a backslidden state Jason had drifted right away from the Lord and from church. There had been a divorce. But he and Naomi had stayed in touch. After all the years, and the ups and downs of their marriage, somehow they were still friends and would seek to help and look out for each other when they could.

The peace of God
Then Naomi’s mother, a wonderful old Christian lady, was ill and it became clear that it would not be too long before she died. Jason felt it would be right to visit his ex-mother-in-law. This visit turned out to be quietly momentous. He entered the room where she was. She smiled and her obvious peace in the face of death through her trust in the Lord Jesus Christ was simply overwhelming. Jason did not tell us what was said, but the palpable sense of this Christian lady’s joy in God as she lay on her deathbed impacted him deeply. He could not get it out of his mind. ‘As I left I knew that this was real’, he said, ‘and all these years I had simply been running away from God.’
So it was that later he was led to get down on his knees and with all his heart repent and turn back to Christ. And he had certainly changed. It was not the old Jason we had before us in our sitting room, but a new man. The peace of Christ which he had encountered at his mother-in-law’s deathbed was now clearly in him too. He was now committed to fellowship at another church and he just felt it was right to come and see us and apologise for all the difficulty he had caused us in the past.
Sometimes the Lord surprises us in glorious ways. What I had imagined would be a most difficult evening turned out to be one of the most joyous and spiritually uplifting times we could imagine.

John Benton

This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

10 ways to support the unemployed… and some other great links.

Enjoy the following links!

A Faith to live by – Has facebook reached it’s peak? (An excerpt from Tim Chester’s book ‘Will you be my Facebook Friend’ features in the March issue of EN. You can also read a summary of the blog post series here).

The Good Book Company – 10 ways your church can support the unemployed

Gospel Coalition – The life of a devotional mother

Reformation 21 – Any place for the God of Job?

Bible Mesh – Have you heard of Bible Mesh? How could you use this on-line learning tool?

What’s coming up in the March issue of EN

March2013 highlightsA few highlights to look forward to in the March issue of EN! It’s scheduled to arrive from the printers on Friday (February 22). Of course you can always e-mail as well if you’d like a complimentary copy or if you’d like to subscribe!