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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2021  (Read 329 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - October 2021
« on: October 02, 2021, 08:04:59 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/october/for-shame-gregg-ten-elshof-virtue-maligned-emotion.html








Shame Is Often Toxic and Harmful. Sometimes, It's Just What We Deserve.






A Christian philosopher pushes back on attempts to rid ourselves of this unloved emotion.


As a schoolmaster at an English prep school in 1933, the American poet W. H. Auden was sitting with three fellow teachers when, out of nowhere, he found himself overwhelmed by the sense that their existence somehow had infinite value.

In a dramatic way, Auden was recognizing a truth that even most non-Christians affirm: Human beings possess an inherent dignity that can’t be reduced to dollars and cents. In a Christian understanding, human life has a pricelessness. People are made in the image of a God who loves them infinitely.

Yet to say that we have intrinsic moral worth is not to say that we are morally good. Malcolm Muggeridge once observed that human depravity is at once the most empirically verifiable and intellectually resisted reality. The Christian apologist Clay Jones has written that all of us, in the right circumstances, are “Auschwitz-enabled.” We feel guilty for our wrongdoing, and objectively speaking we are guilty, all of us being sinners who habitually fall short of God’s glory.

The history of moral apologetics includes many analyses of human guilt—this feeling of transgressing a moral standard or law, something each of us does with disappointing regularity. Closely related to guilt is its often-neglected sibling shame, whose dynamics Biola University philosopher Gregg Ten Elshof explores in his latest book, For Shame: Rediscovering the Virtues of a Maligned Emotion.

While guilt arises from what we have done, shame arises from who we are (or who we perceive ourselves to be). Guilt can fuel a sense of shame, but so can any number of things unrelated to moral failure, like physical incapacities, social disadvantages, or mistreatment by others. Wherever shame comes from, it can pose a serious threat to the belief that God loves us. It can lead us to doubt whether we are valuable and worthwhile in the eyes of God or other people. If we become convinced that we are useless, that our lives are pointless, we’ll struggle to see ourselves as creations of God with infinite dignity, value, and worth. For just such reasons, many end up thinking that all shame is bad—nothing but a toxic emotion.

This is especially true when it comes to undeserved shame. Ours is sadly a society in which certain people—those who have been sexually abused, say, or those with visible disabilities—carry a stigma. Through no fault of their own, they are often riddled with a sense of shame. In cases like these, Elshof argues, the solution has to be communal: It takes the form of someone with social capital to spare deliberately conferring honor on someone who lacks it.

For a powerful example, watch a 1981 YouTube clip of Fred Rogers hosting Jeffrey Erlanger, a 10-year-old boy who used a motorized wheelchair, whom the PBS star had met five years earlier. Rogers would later say that this unscripted ten-minute visit was his most memorable moment on television.

A major part of the magic of this scene is that it’s a microcosm of the divine love that reaches down to broken and marginalized people and, in the process, exalts them, replacing shame with honor and making beauty out of ashes. Actions like these serve to make goodness attractive, which is an important part of our job description as Christians.

Erlanger—who was on stage years later at the Emmys as Rogers received his Lifetime Achievement Award—likely experienced undeserved shame. But Elshof insists that we leave room for the category of deserved shame as well. If I do something shameful, I should feel shame. This isn’t to suggest that I let this feeling decimate my sense of self-worth or brand me as unredeemable. Nor does the fact of justified shame license habits of self-righteous shaming meant to bar every offender from polite society. That would be incompatible with an ethic of loving our neighbors as ourselves. But if we don’t feel at least some shame after doing something genuinely shameful, then we are being shame less.

Surveying the history of philosophy and theology, Elshof underscores a perspective held by figures like Aristotle, Aquinas, and countless others: The capacity to feel shame is a virtue, and the loss of that ability a vice. Only recently have we, as a society, started to think otherwise, casting shame as categorically toxic and attempting to dispense with it altogether.

Scripture is replete with narratives of honor and shame. The Prodigal Son, for example, is a young man who did shameworthy things. He felt shame, as he deserved to, and he couldn’t fix it on his own. He needed someone to confer on him the honor he had lost, as his father did, and as our heavenly Father does.

As Elshof beautifully puts it, “The maker of heaven and earth is in a full sprint—robes and all—to embrace you, kiss you, put a ring on your finger, and throw a feast in your honor. Whatever the opinion of the company you keep, you are of immeasurable value to the One who matters most. You are so valuable that the God of the universe suffered the indignity of limited human form, betrayal, public humiliation, and naked crucifixion to rescue you not just from guilt, but also from the shame of your condition, all to enjoy an eternal life of friendship and communion with you.”

Elshof exhibits a good philosophy teacher’s knack for thick, apt, and telling illustrations. His book draws careful distinctions and wise conclusions, steering deftly between the extremes of paralyzing shame and amoral shamelessness. For Shame is countercultural, courageous, and compelling.






David Baggett is professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Moral Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. He is a coauthor of The Moral Argument: A History.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2021
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2021, 08:10:17 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/october-web-only/joel-rosenberg-enemies-allies-middle-east-christian-mbs-mbz.html








How a Jewish Evangelical Won Trust with Arab Muslim Leaders





Apocalyptic fiction writer Joel Rosenberg’s new book describes his behind-the-scenes interactions with crown princes and presidents in search of peace and religious freedom.


Fans of Joel Rosenberg’s Middle East apocalyptic fiction can now read his real-time account of real-world peace.

Through behind-the-scenes meetings with kings, princes, and presidents, the Jewish evangelical and New York Times bestselling author had an inside scoop on the Abraham Accords.

For two years, he sat on it.

His new nonfiction book, Enemies and Allies: An Unforgettable Journey inside the Fast-Moving & Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East, released one year after the signing of the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), finally tells the story.

During an evangelical delegation of dialogue to the Gulf nation in 2018, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), told Rosenberg of his groundbreaking and controversial plans—and trusted the author to keep the secret.

Named after the biblical patriarch, the accords were Israel’s first peace deal in 20 years. In the five months that followed, similar agreements were signed with Bahrain, Sudan, Kosovo, and Morocco.

Might Saudi Arabia be next? Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) comments to Rosenberg remain off the record. But asked if his reforms might include building the kingdom’s first church, the crown prince described where religious freedom falls in his order of priorities.

Enemies and Allies provides never-before-published accounts of Rosenberg’s interactions with these leaders, in addition to Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah. Included also are exchanges with former president Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence.

CT interviewed Rosenberg about navigating politics and praying in palaces and about whether he would be willing to lead similar evangelical delegations to Turkey or Iran:

You describe your relationships, especially with the UAE’s MBZ, as ones of “trust.” How did you nurture that? Did you sense it was different than their official diplomatic connections?

I’m not sure I have a good answer for that. Why would Arab Muslim leaders trust a Jewish evangelical US-Israeli citizen?

In the case of King Abdullah, he had read my novel and decided to invite me to his palace rather than ban me from his kingdom forever. The book was about ISIS trying to kill him and blow up his palace. In our first meeting, we spent five days together, and it was not on the record. We were building trust.

I didn’t have that with any of the others. In every case, we were invited rather than us going and knocking on the door. With the case of [MBZ], his ambassador Yousef Al Oteiba had seen the coverage of our Egypt and Jordan trips. He has very good relations with these countries and was able to get the backstory, asking, “Who is this guy Rosenberg? How did it go? Should we do the same?”

I think it has much more to do with being a follower of Jesus Christ. They didn’t know me, but they seemed to trust that followers of Christ who call themselves evangelicals would be trustworthy. That we are genuinely interested in peace, in security in the region, and in a US alliance with the Arab world. And in terms of the expansion of religious freedom, all of them wanted to talk about these things.

They were making a bet that the evangelical community in the United States, while being deeply—though not uniformly—pro-Israel, still has a deep interest in peace and assessing their countries and their reforms fairly. It was the sincerity of our faith that led to trust.

But you still had to nurture trust. How?

I’m sure they vetted me, and in reading my work, they saw I have a deep respect for Muslims. I’m not infected with Islamophobia. I’ve traveled from Morocco to Afghanistan. And I’ve done what I can to strengthen Christian communities in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

I’m not your classic high-profile Christian Zionist who tends to speak of Israel almost exclusively. But in the end, it is sitting there and the type of questions we ask and the tone of our conversation. In John 12:49, Jesus says that the Father commands him what to say and how to say it. Substance is important, but so is style.

You speak of opportunities to pray with different Muslim leaders and even how your delegation explained the gospel to MBS of Saudi Arabia. How do you measure the spiritual impact your efforts had in their lives and nations?

I don’t think it is possible to assess this. We were there to be witnesses for Christ.

In the case of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, if you were accused of proselytizing the future king, it might be a capital offense. But in asking him if the term evangelical is used much in the kingdom, he laughed. We told him we had an ordained pastor in our delegation and asked if we could take a moment to explain what we believe. This was having a respectful conversation, not proselytizing. But it was beautiful.

You could argue there’s not a church built yet in Saudi Arabia, so it wasn’t a huge success. But the fact that he invited us back for a second, longer trip, completely off the record, suggested that we were building trust and that he wanted to go deeper.

Each of these leaders, including MBS, told us some very sensitive things about what they think about peacemaking with Israel. And in the case of MBZ, the biggest fruit is nothing that we take credit for, but the decision of the UAE to make peace with Israel is an answer to decades of people praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

He told us he would do it, and we didn’t leak that. He took a big risk. Why? I think he was trying to build trust with us.

But trust goes both ways. By not leaking it, it created a sense of safety. He could judge that these people are sitting on a massive headline but they have self-restraint to care more about the relationship.

In Egypt and Jordan, you involved the local Coptic and evangelical communities in your meetings. Have your visits resulted in any tangible gains?

I would defer this to their local leadership. The Christian leaders in some of these countries were rather anxious when they learned this evangelical delegation would be led by a Jewish Israeli American. I was not the poster child for whom they might expect to help them expand relations with their governments. Ironically, the Muslim leaders of their countries were far more secure in reaching out to me than they were—understandably, as they are in charge.

In Egypt, President Sisi, a devout Muslim, met with me five times and invited us to a second visit. This may have provided more confidence for Coptic and evangelical leadership to say this is okay. And in the protocol photo, it was Andrea Zaki who was next to Sisi, while I was out on the edge.

Later, Zaki told me that this was the first meeting he had with Sisi and evangelicals only. This was Sisi honoring them.

I don’t want to overstate this, but it was part of our core values to ask how we could strengthen the local Christian community rather than work around them.

So there may not have been tangible gains, but there were intangible.

To have a photo on the front page of every newspaper in Cairo with the president next to the head of the Protestant community—in his distinctive purple shirt—sent a positive message that our voice is being listened to.

Egypt has a lot of systemic and institutional problems in its relations with Christians. The fact that Sisi honors them and sees them as part of the Egyptian family is important—but it is not sufficient. The question is: How deep will it go? Will every judge, mayor, and policeman also treat Christians respectfully? This is going to take time. Our meetings are not going to solve 1,400 years of troubles.

Your book contains many references to foreign intelligence. A retired CIA station chief helped set up your first meetings with MBZ. How did you navigate such waters? Did you ever feel you were being used for political purposes?

We navigate by being willing to speak with whoever wants to talk to us. Let’s be crystal clear: These Arab leaders have objectives. Their prime objective with us was for their leadership and reforms to be seen positively by the American people—not just in the White House, the National Security Council, the State Department, or the Pentagon.

They realize that Israel has a deep cultural connection to America, such that even amid disagreements the relationship will not break. I think these Arab leaders are concerned—20 years after 9/11—that they have built strong relationships with Washington on the executive level but sometimes not so strong with Congress and almost not at all with the culture or the people.

So how would they do this? [They reasoned:] If there are 60 million evangelicals in the US, maybe we should start meeting some of their leaders. They seem to be peacefully minded and fair. If we get to know them, maybe they will be impressed by our reforms and start thinking about us differently.

I don’t mind this objective. I don’t feel like we’re being used, because we have our own objectives, and they are being mutually achieved. Our objective is to sit in the room with the people who make decisions that affect Christians on the ground in their countries.

And in every case, we were told we were coming off the record, very quietly, just to build a relationship. We said, “That’s good; that’s what we want. We’re not here to get on the front page of your newspapers.” And in every case, at the last moment, they changed that.

Had they always intended that? Maybe, but our motive was to have the relationship and be able to talk not just once but over time.

Were you also a backchannel, expected to take off-the-record comments to American officials?

I don’t think there was any expectation; they have direct channels already. No one asked me to bring a specific type of leader in these delegations. I chose a range, some of whom had close ties with Trump and some who did not—myself included. Some who had good relationships with Congress and some who stayed clear of politics at every level.

I would say we briefed US leaders (and I briefed Israeli leaders) at very senior levels, even about things that were off the record—just so they were aware. I figured in terms of the American and Israeli intelligence services, they probably already knew anyway, but I never got the sense that what I told them they hadn’t heard before.

I did get the sense that they were intrigued how things they knew had been told to us. It suggested not only a level of trust but also a desire to have a more public posture. They weren’t aware the Emiratis or Saudis were willing to do this.

I don’t think they needed a backchannel. They needed a channel to the American evangelical community—to make their case that they are working very hard on sweeping social, economic, and even religious freedom reforms.

Your goal was to build “long-term friendships.” Since the election of President Joe Biden, have Arab leaders continued to reach out to you even as evangelicals are no longer central to the administration?

Yes. Bahrain’s king has invited me to bring a delegation early next year. We will probably also go to the UAE on this trip. I am keeping very close relations with these leaders and their inner circles.

You make a sympathetic case for why we should support these regional leaders, but you also deal with criticisms of their human rights records. How do you keep the balance or decide what to speak about privately as opposed to reporting about on your websites?

The baseline for religious freedom in most of these countries is miserable. I think Jordan is the best; Bahrain is probably second best. The UAE is actually pretty good. If you go back 1,400 years, it’s bad for Christians, and in the last 100 years, it’s been very challenging. But there has been a lot of positive movement. In the UAE, there are 700 freely operating churches, compared to none in Saudi Arabia.

But let’s go to Egypt. They have had a terrible human rights record for centuries, and during [the presidency of former President Hosni] Mubarak, it was terrible. Is it getting better at all? But my baseline is not Mubarak; it is [former President] Mohamed Morsi.

The question is not whether Sisi is doing better than King Abdullah or MBZ. It is: Has Sisi liberated 100 million Muslims from the reign of terror of the Muslim Brotherhood? Yes. Has he rebuilt all the churches burned down or damaged during their era? Yes. Did he build the largest church in the Middle East and give it to Christians on Christmas Eve as a gift? Yes.

He is encouraging religious pluralism and moderation. These are human rights issues, all of them. I think he gets very high marks compared to Morsi and Mubarak.

That being said, is it enough? No. Is he jailing human rights activists and journalists unfairly? Yes, and I say that in the book. There is an overreaction in the Sisi government to ever letting the Muslim Brotherhood emerge again. They have to dial it back.

But I would compare it to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. If you don’t have a state, there are no human rights. And the very existence of the state of Egypt was very much in doubt over the last decade. Lincoln arrested journalists and suspended habeas corpus. But we have to understand the context in which he did it. And a lot of my Coptic Orthodox friends are not giving the Egyptian government enough credit.

You spoke to leaders of your theological commitment to the state of Israel that goes beyond politics. Is there a distinction between your efforts of seeking peace with Israel specifically and regional peace in general?

Religious freedom was far and away our No. 1 objective. Certainly, advancing Arab-Israeli peacemaking was a high objective for us all. Whether a reader of Christianity Today sees current Israel as the beginning of the fulfillment of Bible prophecies or not, I think every reader would want to see it as a secure country living in peace with the other countries of the region, just as they would for Brazil or Ghana.

In a post-Holocaust, post multiple Arab-Israeli war era, advancing peace is a good thing, biblical, and certainly one of our important objectives. Helping advance it is a very important human rights objective—and a Christian virtue.

What about peace with Iran? Several evangelicals took hope in the nuclear deal, but in your book you are critical and clear about the threat. You also mention frequently the challenges posed by Turkey’s President Erdogan. Would you make yourself available to these leaders also to bring an evangelical delegation?

I picture a ticket to Tehran as one-way. I see no scenario where I can picture me personally sitting down with the supreme leader of Iran. If there are other Christian leaders who get an invitation and get to go and be a witness for Christ and talk about these issues, I would strongly support it. But as an Israeli Jewish evangelical, there are certain roles in the body of Christ that I can play and certain ones I can’t.

In terms of Erdogan, I probably would go and meet with him, and I am encouraged that leaders in the Jewish community have met with him. But you’re right; I am very critical and am very concerned. I love the nation of Turkey, and I think he is leading it to the dark side. When I look at Andrew Brunson, basically I see Erdogan as someone who took a hostage. It took two years of the president of the United States imposing sanctions to get him out. This is telling us something diabolical about Erdogan.

I’m grateful for the doors that have opened, but I don’t believe I’m the one to lead every delegation to every country. There are real risks. But the apostle Paul believed he was supposed to go to Rome and meet with Nero. He was in chains, and he knew he probably wasn’t going to get out. And he was right. But he wanted to do it, the Holy Spirit wanted him to do it, and it happened.

We need to be willing as followers of Christ to meet with any leader God tells us to and be a witness for him regardless of the consequence—because we serve a King higher than these leaders.

Your conclusion states, “I cannot fully explain why doors to such intriguing leaders have opened for me.” From your first invitation by King Abdullah through the signing of the Abraham Accords, how do you interpret the role God has given you in the Middle East?

Psalm 119:46 says that we will be God’s witness to kings. Most of Christianity is about day-to-day life, ministering to ordinary people in their struggles. And so much of the Scriptures is about showing particular concern for the poor, vulnerable, and powerless. But sometimes we forget that kings and governors also have to have a friend who knows Jesus and speaks of him with love and respect. Paul was given a mission to speak to leaders, not just to the lost.

A lot of it is checking your own motive. Am I there for a photo op or to be a witness? Or did God open a door, and now it would be sinful not to go through it? I’m not saying it is easy, but these leaders need to be engaged. We’ve met with senior Muslim clerics and spoken about our faith. These are very rare moments.

Yes, people will ask how we could sit down with MBS, a man accused of such a heinous murder [of journalist Jamal Khashoggi]. I’ll say: How could Paul meet with Nero? Even if MBS isn’t Nero—but especially if he is—why shouldn’t I meet with him? Interacting with the government is not verboten in the Christian world.

Justice [Louis] Brandeis used to say that sunlight is the best disinfectant. This book will allow people to look at what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and maybe some people will have constructive criticism. And maybe God will raise up someone to learn from it and speak with the supreme leader of Iran. Or Turkey. Or China. There are a lot of countries that are not going in the right direction.

[But] I find in some Christian circles a resistance, sometimes even a revulsion, to spend time with high officials out of a feeling that it is courting power and ingratiating yourself for your own ambition or vanity. That we should avoid such contact and remain devoutly nonpolitical. But this runs the risk of missing the mission: Everybody in the world needs a friend who loves Jesus. And God changes the hearts of leaders.
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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2021
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2021, 07:06:53 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/october/black-church-williamsburg-virginia-uncovered-building-first.html








Archaeologists Uncover One of America’s Oldest Black Church Buildings






The Virginia congregation, began by free and enslaved Blacks, dates back to 1776.


Archaeologists believe they have discovered the foundation of the original building of the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, one of the nation’s oldest Black churches.

The announcement, shared first with descendants of First Baptist Church members, was officially made on Thursday by Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which runs the well-known outdoor living museum and historic district in Williamsburg.

“The early history of our congregation, beginning with enslaved and free Blacks gathering outdoors in secret in 1776, has always been a part of who we are as a community,” said the Rev. Reginald F. Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church, in a statement.

“To see it unearthed—to see the actual bricks of that original foundation and the outline of the place our ancestors worshipped—brings that history to life and makes that piece of our identity tangible.”

The discovery of the first permanent structure of the church—which is set to celebrate its 245th anniversary on the weekend of October 9-10—comes after a year of excavation at the site.


Archaeologists located a 16 X 20-foot brick foundation atop a layer of soil that has been dated to the early 1800s. It sits beside brick paving under which was found an 1817 coin.

Tax records have indicated that the congregation was worshipping on the site by 1818 in a building called the Baptist Meeting House, which was likely the congregation’s first permanent home.

Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of archaeology, said he considers these finds to be just the start of continuing research.

“We always hoped this is what we’d find,” he said in a statement. “Now we can move forward to better understand the footprint of the building. Is it the only structure on the site? What else was around it? What did it look like? How was it being used?”

During their search, which started in September 2020, archaeologists also have found evidence of at least 25 human burials at the location.

What remained of the church’s original structure had been covered up by the foundation of a brick church built in 1856 after the first structure was felled by a tornado. Later, it was paved over in the construction of a parking lot. Negotiations between the church and Colonial Williamsburg have brought the church’s history into the open in the last five years.

First Baptist relocated to Scotland Street in 1956. The excavation work at the former site near Nassau and Francis streets will continue as archaeologists seek to learn more about the first permanent structure, pinpoint burial sites and learn more about the spiritual practices of the early worshippers.

The church was started in 1776 by enslaved and free Blacks, defying laws forbidding African Americans to congregate. They started in a brush arbor—a clearing in the woods surrounded by posts and covered with branches—where they met secretly to pray and sing on a Williamsburg plantation. They relocated to a rural area outside Williamsburg before moving to the site where the recent discoveries were made.

Colonial Williamsburg acquired the land on South Nassau Street in 1956 from what became known as First Baptist Church. The foundation razed the building and paid for the construction and land costs for the congregation’s current building, which opened the next year.

“Colonial Williamsburg is committed to telling a more complete and inclusive story of the men and women who lived, worked and worshipped here during our country’s formative years,” said Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, in a statement.

patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2021
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2021, 07:11:11 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/october/hillsong-church-brian-houston-frank-abuse-coverup-court.html








Hillsong Founder to Plead Not Guilty to Abuse Coverup







Brian Houston will go to court in Sydney over alleged child abuse by his late father.


Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston will plead not guilty to illegally concealing alleged child abuse by his father, his lawyer told a court on Tuesday.

Houston did not appear at Sydney’s Downing Center Local Court when his charge was mentioned before a registrar for the first time. His lawyer told the court Houston would be pleading not guilty to the charge of concealing a serious indictable offense of another person, his late preacher father Frank Houston.

The case will next be before the court on November 23.

Police will allege that Frank Houston indecently assaulted a young male in 1970.

Court documents allege that Brian Houston believed his father had committed the crime. Police will allege that the younger Houston failed to disclose information to police that could help secure the prosecution of his father.

Since being charged, Houston has stepped down from the board of Hillsong, the church he founded with wife Bobbie in Sydney in 1983. Now a global empire, the church says 150,000 people in 30 countries attend its services and 50 million people sing its songs each week.

Houston, 64, was in the United States in August when detectives served his Sydney lawyers with a notice for him to appear in court.

He said in a statement at the time he welcomed the “opportunity to set the record straight.”

Houston returned to Sydney last month and was released from 14 days’ hotel quarantine last week.

An Australian government inquiry into institutional responses to allegations of child sex abuse found in 2015 that Houston did not tell police that his father was a child sex abuser.

The inquiry found that Houston became aware of allegations against his father in 1999 and allowed him to retire quietly rather report him to police. His father confessed to the abuse before he died in 2004 at age 82.

Hillsong Church has said repeatedly that it has not been involved in this matter, as Frank Houston never worked for the church, and has defended Brian Houston’s response.

“Upon being told of his father’s actions, Brian Houston confronted his father, reported the matter to the National Executive Assemblies of God in Australia, relayed the matter to the governing board of Sydney Christian Life Centre, and subsequently made a public announcement to the church. Brian sought to honor the victim’s multiple requests not to inform the police,” the church said in a statement in July.

“As a recent development, charges have officially been filed against Brian Houston,” the church said at the time. “We are disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged, and ask that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process as is his right. He has advised us that he will defend this and looks forward to clearing his name.”

Hillsong, known for chart-topping worship music and megachurches across the globe, became its own denomination in 2018. Last year, Brian Houston announced an investigation of its New York City campus, where pastor Carl Lentz had stepped down over infidelity.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2021
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2021, 09:44:00 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/october/guinea-coup-christians-muslims-alpha-conde-mamady-doumbouya.html








Christians Welcome Coup in Guinea








After yet another military overthrow of a democratically elected leader in West Africa, minority evangelicals debate the role of faith in politics.


In its 63 years of independence, Guinea has had three presidents. Last month, the West African nation suffered its third coup d’etat.

This time, says the local Christian minority, their Francophone country might just get it right.

“Alpha Conde cannot return,” said Etienne Leno, a Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) pastor. “We are praying that the new military authorities—who we find to be wise and intelligent—will be led by God.”

On September 5, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, head of the Guinean special forces, ousted the 83-year-old president. Once an imprisoned opposition leader, Conde became the nation’s first democratically elected head of state in 2010 and won a second term in 2015.

Leno originally found much hope in Conde’s mandate, which was ushered in after the international community aided domestic forces to remove the military junta that violently seized power in 2008. Conde improved the business, tourism, and energy sectors, restoring Guinea’s global reputation.

Local infrastructure was neglected, however, and the Oregon-sized nation lagged in domestic development. One-third of the economy was linked to the mining of bauxite, the primary resource for aluminum. Guinea boasts the world’s largest reserves, but foreign companies dominate the extraction.

Despite 7 percent annual growth, nearly 50 percent of the 13 million population lived in poverty. And by late 2019, 36 percent of the country believed Guinea was moving in the wrong direction.

And then Conde made his power grab. He pushed through a March 2020 referendum for constitutional changes to reset his term limits and in October won reelection again. Both votes were challenged by violently suppressed protests.

Almost a year later, Doumbouya had had enough.

He promised no political witch hunt as he “made love to Guinea,” but it was nonetheless clear that opposition would not be tolerated. As the colonel—sworn in on October 1 as Guinea’s interim president—assembled a national dialogue, protests in support filled the streets and Christians noted the surprising calm.

Five days after the coup, the Association of Evangelical Churches and Missions of Guinea (AEMEG)—affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance—issued a televised statement recognizing the new authorities. Catholic and Muslim groups made similar announcements.

“Relations are good in general,” Leno told CT. “Our message is for peace and national unity.”

One aspect of the takeover may have helped ensure it: Doumbouya shares the same Malinke ethnicity as Conde. Representing one-third of Guineans, the Malinke are second in population to the Fulbe people (41%), more widely known across West Africa as Fulani. Both groups are Muslim, as is the third-largest ethnic group, the Soussu (12%).

The Ministry of Religious Affairs counts Christians as 8 percent of the population, with the remaining 7 percent belonging to traditional religions. Christians are generally from the Kpelle and other smaller ethnic groups, though conversions have taken place among all tribes.

“We are grateful to God for our religious freedom, in this moment of crisis,” said Emmanuel Ouamouno, an Assemblies of God (AG) pastor and head of the evangelical radio ministry IBRA. ”We pray for our various religious leaders to serve together in advancing the principles of God’s kingdom.”

It will be essential. While only 52 percent of Guineans trust the military, 79 percent trust their spiritual guides.

Ouamouno is staying neutral.

“If the army takes on the needs of the population, it will be difficult to take power out of their hands,” he toldEvangelical Focus. “Everything will depend on how the army behaves.”

Immediately after the coup, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued sanctions on junta leaders. Already dealing with supposedly transitional military leadership in Mali and Chad, the regional body called for elections within six months.

Early signs may be encouraging.

Though no timeline was given, Doumbouya promised neither he nor any transitional official will run for office. A national council of 81 people will be established, consisting of politicians, trade unions, businessmen, youth, and security members, with 30 percent female representation. Serving as the legislature, they will draft a new constitution and prepare for local, regional, and national elections.

And on October 7, Doumbouya fulfilled his pledge to appoint a civilian prime minister, choosing a respected diplomat and economic development expert.

Though the coup appears to be popular, support for democracy is strong, favored by 77 percent of Guineans. The same percentage rejects military rule. And 76 percent support term limits—the issue that upended Conde’s presidency.

“We should all participate in the restoration of democracy, in prayer and if necessary, in demonstrations,” said Tamba Kondiano, an AG pastor. “We are not officially taking a position, but we remain vigilant and are ready to accompany the new authorities.”

Guineans once welcomed Conde as a “sign of relief,” he said, and urged caution. The former president still commands 90 percent support among his ethnic group, he estimated. Among Christians, however, it has dropped to single digits.

Violence was severe in Nzerekore, a predominantly Christian city in the southeastern forested region, where Muslim supporters of Conde clashed with Christians and animists over the referendum. Mosques and churches were damaged in the melee, which killed 30 people and injured 70.

In 2013, a similar conflict in the city, Guinea’s second largest, killed 54.

Ethnic politics characterizes the nation, multiple Guinean sources told CT, and elections predictably consist of two rounds.

In the first round, the Fulbe candidate wins a plurality but falls short of the 51 percent necessary for victory. In the runoff, the Malinke and Soussu—whose ethnic groups share more similarities—team up to defeat the “outsiders,” whose 18th-century jihad conquered the area. Christians, who are concentrated in the cities, the southern coast, and the forested areas, tend to join the other minorities.

Before Conde, the second president was Soussu. The first president was Malinke. Many Fulbe believe it is now their tribe’s turn. Their leading politician, Cellou Diallo, was among the first to endorse the coup.

Doumbouya has not appealed to ethnic interests, instead framing the overthrow as the will of the people. Both Leno and Kondiano called on ECOWAS to support Guinea in the military-led return to democratic legitimacy.

But for much of Guinea’s history, Christians have stayed on the sidelines. The first president, Sekou Toure, expelled foreign missionaries in 1967, hindering the church from developing mature theological reflection.

“These realities ended up convincing us that a good Christian could not do politics,” said Leno. “But today, there is a new generation of evangelical youth.”

These believers tend to be less attached to ethnicity and are strongly pro-democracy. The National Front for the Defense of the Constitution, formed in response to Conde’s referendum, is headed by a Fulbe and assisted by an influential Baptist.

The former head of parliament was a Christian, though few have risen to the level of ministers, governors, and prefects. AEMEG, however, serves as an effective liaison between state and church, said Kondiano.

In addition to hosting a yearly “March for Jesus,” the evangelical association conducts a yearly prayer meeting in the legislature, to which it invites leading politicians. Most recently, Diallo was in attendance.

Some Christians believe this shift is a mistake.

“Young people should be very careful with politics,” said Ouamouno. “Once our brothers make friends with politicians, we lose them.”

Rather than serving the church through their positions of influence, he said, they become corrupt mouthpieces for their party. It can polarize a congregation, he said, which instead should be united around Jesus.

While divided in opinion about politics, Guinean sources agreed: Denominational division must be overcome. Kondiano has sought to complement the work of AEMEG by cofounding the “Christians of Guinea” Facebook page. He is currently seeking to expand cooperation with the nation’s Catholic churches.

The Holy Ghost Fathers first evangelized the area in 1877, and the CMA started work in 1919. Today, the evangelical denomination counts 437 churches and an additional 154 unofficial fellowships. Christians have influence beyond their share of population through a network of schools and hospitals.

Though the days of Toure’s persecution have long passed, Guinean Christians still view their religious freedom as incomplete. Sources told CT they want government funding for theological education, as is provided for Muslim imams. There should be more Christians in the administration—especially the deputy position in the Ministry for Religious Affairs. And they said discrimination exists against Christians in housing, making it difficult to rent in the larger cities.

Some Muslim converts to Christianity fear family reaction but are not harassed by the state. On both government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion, the Pew Research Center ranks Guinea moderately low—scoring between 2 and 3 on a 10-point scale.

Churches have been planted in all regions of Guinea, though most in attendance are Christians originally from the forested region. But the IBRA radio station operates freely in a Muslim region, and the constitution guarantees the right of individuals to choose and profess their religion.

“The evangelical church is like a wounded panther, regaining its strength,” said Ouamouno. “Our main challenge is to return to the unity of the body of Christ.”

And though the AG pastor distrusts politics, he longs for national leaders like David, Ezra, and Daniel. Until Christians can play that role—and some are already trying—these hopes must be directed to the junta.

“Pray for the new authorities in our transition,” Ouamouno said, “that the Eternal One will illumine their path, toward peace in Guinea.”

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2021
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2021, 09:49:10 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/october/canada-evangelism-church-study.html







Evangelism Not a Priority in Canadian Churches







Even during crisis of COVID-19, few are finding ways to share their faith, study finds.


If Canadians have been longing for meaning in their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unlikely that anyone has told them about Jesus.

According to a recent survey conducted by Alpha Canada and the Flourishing Congregations Institute, 65 percent of church leaders say that evangelism hasn’t been a priority for their congregations over the last several years. Fifty-five percent say their congregations do not equip Christians to share their faith.

Shaila Visser, national director of Alpha Canada, said she was somewhat surprised by the numbers because she sees so many opportunities for Christians to share their faith. The pandemic, in particular, has caused people to ask significant questions about the meaning and purpose of their lives.

“The opportunity before the church in Canada is to meet them and their questions with the person of Jesus,” she said, “to show them that Jesus is very good.”

The survey asked Canadian leaders across Christian denominations, “As you think about your local congregation/parish over the last several years, to what extent would you say your congregation/parish has given priority (or not) to evangelism?”

More than 2,700 church leaders responded between May and July 2021.

About 20 percent said evangelism was a moderate concern. Only 9 percent said it was a high priority for members of their congregation to share their faith.

Respondents included a few leaders from the mainline United Church of Canada and just over 20 percent from the Roman Catholic Church. The majority, though, came from evangelical traditions, including leaders from Baptist churches, Pentecostal churches, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Evangelical Free Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Foursquare Church, and the Salvation Army. The tendency not to emphasize evangelism appears to be widespread.

Steven Jones, president of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada, said he was “deeply concerned” by the numbers. He notes they reflect the continued decline of evangelical Christianity in Canada.

Historically, about 10 percent of Canadians have considered themselves evangelical. Today, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s quadrennial census, only 6 percent of Canadians are evangelical. These are the lowest numbers on record.

Christianity has increasingly been viewed in a negative light in secular Canadian culture, particularly in the wake of sexual abuse scandals and light being shed on the role churches played for decades in residential schools for Indigenous people in Canada. Dozens of churches were spray-painted, vandalized, and burned following the discovery of mass graves at several residential schools this summer.

That negative view was clearly seen in the responses to the Alpha survey. The number one challenge to evangelism, leaders said, was “perceived antagonism toward Christian values and the Christian church.”

According to David Koop, pastor of Coastal Church, a large urban congregation in Vancouver, British Columbia, a lot of younger Christians have accepted the secular Canadian criticisms of the faith.

“The next generation has a really different narrative that they’re listening to,” he said.

Because secular society views church as a problem, he said, many Christians seem to shy away from sharing their faith. At the very least, they’re more averse to traditional methods of evangelism. For much of the 20th century, evangelism meant passing out tracts or knocking on people’s doors. Today, Koop said, there’s more emphasis on relationships and showing people how you live out your faith.

When the survey participants were asked to list the three most common methods of evangelism encouraged among their congregation/parish, the most common answer was “showing one’s faith through their actions.”

In some ways, Koop thinks that’s a positive shift.

“I think the most effective way is still just to do what Jesus said in Luke 10,” Koop said. “Go to people’s homes. Get to know them. Live in a community relationship. Pray for them.”

He’s found the pandemic has created roadblocks in that effort with many churches looking inward rather than focusing on evangelism.

“There’s a weariness,” he said. “There’s a sense I need to keep my own fences mended and stay strong.”

Jeff Eastwood, who lives and pastors a church on the opposite end of the country in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, sees the same thing. Broad cultural changes have made it more difficult to speak about faith when antireligious rhetoric abounds.

“When the majority—or it seems like the majority—are giving assent to this ideology, it becomes more difficult for Christians to speak into that, especially in a nuanced way,” said Eastwood, who pastors Grace Baptist Church.

Eastwood encourages Christians to do what Jesus did, though, and connect with people where they are, engaging them and speaking to their specific situations.

“The best evangelism comes out of relationships,” he said.

The survey was done during widespread lockdowns in Canada because of the pandemic. Christian leaders say they’re not clear what effect COVID-19 has had on evangelism.

It may have exacerbated the problem and made evangelism harder. Outreach became more difficult, with gatherings prohibited and many people limiting contact to a small “bubble” of people. Eastwood’s church, for example, had to cancel its Vacation Bible Study.

Plus, church leaders who were already working as hard as they could were overwhelmed trying to adapt to changing conditions. It became easier for churches to focus on themselves and not the broader community.

“COVID has given a great excuse to be very selfish," said Vijay Krishnan, who pastors The Well, a church in the suburbs of Toronto.

Krishnan believes that this tendency is something that believers have struggled with since the New Testament period. The early church was content to stay in Jerusalem rather than carry out the Great Commission. It took persecution, he said, to scatter them to the ends of the world as Jesus had commanded.

At the same time, Krishnan said, the pandemic has created opportunities for people to be more open about their struggles. Most people have been impacted in some way by the pandemic, and that shared cultural experience can open doors to talk about more personal matters.

When people share their struggles, he doesn’t just tell them he’ll pray for them but prays for them at the moment.

“It’s like you’re inviting them to a spiritual encounter with a God you know,” Krishnan said.

Visser has also had opportunities to pray with people because of COVID-19.

“What it provides is an encounter between two people with God in the middle, regardless of what they believe,” she said.

The best way to share your faith is to listen to people, she said, and then “run toward their pain and meet them in the messiness of their lives or in the beauty of their lives.”

In a time when many are suffering from loneliness, providing opportunities for human interaction can be a powerful form of evangelism.

“The world is longing for in-person connection around meaningful conversations, and inviting them into spaces where they can have that connection and encounter God is increasingly important,” Visser said. “It’s more important than it was before the pandemic.”

In a pandemic, though, that may mean going online. Visser ran an Alpha program on Zoom for friends spread across Canada. She said she probably wouldn’t have done that before COVID-19.

“We have never met in person as a group, and we have formed some of the deepest, most wonderful supportive community opportunities you could even imagine,” she said. “All on Zoom.”

Jones said a lot of evangelical churches are embracing online opportunities and looking for opportunities they wouldn’t have before.

“I think all our churches need to be live streaming because we are reaching people who would never go through the door of a church or facility, but they will go to your website,” he said. “It’s a good first place.”

And the need is urgent. Canadians are looking for meaning and purpose, struggling with loneliness, and dealing with the tragedies brought by COVID-19.

“People are hurting, and they’re confused,” Eastwood said. “We have an opportunity to speak into that in a real way.”

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2021
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2021, 07:29:53 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/october/lgbt-homosexual-identity-what-comes-after-ex-gay-movement.html








What Comes After the Ex-Gay Movement? The Same Thing That Came Before.






Old-school evangelical leaders once knew the value of “care” over “cure.”


“You know, Mike, I used to be gay,” I said.

Mike stopped moving his paintbrush as the words fell clumsily from my mouth. He was painting the St. Louis apartment I called home in the summer of 1997 as I began working toward my PhD in historical theology.

He’d asked me about my schooling, and we got to talking about faith. Mike had explained to me how he felt he could never go to church because he was gay.

“I know they say that’s not supposed to happen,” I went on, after dropping the bombshell. “But that’s my story.” Mike stared at me with interest as he set the paint can down, gently balancing his brush on its edge.

Looking back on this encounter, I can see that it had all the trappings of what became known as the ex-gay movement, of which I was once an eager proponent. Most notable is my use of the ex-gay script: “I used to be gay.” The phrase implied that I wasn’t gay anymore. I had a testimony, a story to tell about leaving homosexuality behind.

To be clear, my sexual attractions at that moment were drawn as exclusively to other men as ever. I was still at the top of the Kinsey scale that researchers since the 1940s have used to classify sexual orientation. What made me ex-gay was that I used the ex-gay script. I was trying to convince myself that I was a straight man with a disease—a curable one—called homosexuality. A condition that was being healed.

My terminological maneuver was an integral component of conversion therapy. Alan Medinger, the first executive director of Exodus International, described it as “a change in self-perception in which the individual no longer identifies him- or herself as homosexual.” It was all about identity. The testimony made the man. And, within my ex-gay framework, I wasn’t lying; I was claiming my new reality.

I was an ex-gay.

The emergence of Exodus International in 1976 had set evangelicals on a hopeful path toward curing homosexuality. Founder Frank Worthen explained, “When we started Exodus, the premise was that God could change you from gay to straight.” What followed was a decades-long experiment on hundreds of thousands of human test subjects. The movement collapsed after Exodus president Alan Chambers’s 2012 statement that more than 99 percent of Exodus clients had not experienced a change in their sexual orientation.

Although the paradigm of cure failed, it still walks undead among us, as some within major denominations try to institutionalize its approach. Recent debates among conservative Anglicans and Presbyterians over whether someone can claim a “gay identity” are only the latest round of similar disputes that have echoed in church corridors for years. After all, renouncing a homosexual self-perception was an essential first step in conversion therapy.

One effect of this approach was that it mandated that non-straight believers hide behind a mask, pretending to be anything but gay. It was part of the reparative process.

But this theological innovation was a relatively recent development. Before there was an ex-gay paradigm of cure, there was an older orthodoxy that included a Christian paradigm of caring for believers who aren’t straight.

I’ve wondered whether Henri Nouwen had his own homosexuality in mind when he wrote of the difference between care and cure. In the biography Wounded Prophet, Michael Ford documents how Nouwen discussed his experience as a celibate gay man with his close circle of friends. Nouwen had tried psychological and religious methods of orientation change, but to no avail. He knew that out of obedience to God, he couldn’t let himself engage in sexual relationships. But his path was filled with loneliness and unfulfilled longings and many tears.

In Bread for the Journey, he wrote, “Care is being with, crying out with, suffering with, feeling with. Care is compassion. It is claiming the truth that the other person is my brother or sister, human, mortal, vulnerable, like I am.”

“Often we are not able to cure,” he insisted, “but we are always able to care.”

Evangelical leaders, including John Stott, helped lay a foundation for a pastoral paradigm of care. Stott—the theologian and writer labeled the “Protestant Pope” by the BBC—argued that sexual orientation remains a part of one’s constitution. As Stott wrote in Issues Facing Christians Today back in 1982, “In every discussion about homosexuality we must be rigorous in differentiating between this ‘being’ and ‘doing,’ that is, between a person’s identity and activity, sexual preference and sexual practice, constitution and conduct.”

For Stott, a homosexual orientation was part of the believer’s identity—a fallen part, but one that the gospel doesn’t erase so much as it humbles.

This posture runs even further back than Stott. C. S. Lewis spoke in a 1954 letter to Sheldon Vanauken of a “pious male homosexual” with no apparent contradiction. Lewis’s lifelong best friend Arthur Greeves was gay. Lewis called him his “first friend” and made it clear to him that his sexual orientation never would be an issue in their friendship. They vacationed together. The compilation of letters Lewis sent to Greeves, collected under the title They Stand Together, reaches 592 pages.

In the United States, as the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York announced the birth of the gay rights movement, orthodox Protestants were already asking what positive vision Scripture gives for people who are gay. The 1970 pseudonymous InterVarsity Press book The Returns of Love: Letters of a Christian Homosexual mapped out a path of care and was promoted by Stott. The book’s celibate gay Anglican author explained that he was still a virgin at the time he wrote it.

Evangelicalism’s leaders knew there was a history of abuse with which to reckon. In a 1968 letter to a European pastor, Francis Schaeffer lamented the church’s complicity in marginalizing gay people. The pastor had seen no fewer than six gay people commit suicide, and he sought Schaeffer’s counsel. “The homophile tends to be pushed out of human life (and especially orthodox church life) even if he does not practice homosexuality,” lamented Schaeffer. “This, I believe, is both cruel and wrong.” Indeed, Schaeffer’s ministry became a magnet for gay people wrestling with Christianity.

Such leaders saved their disgust for abusive religious leaders. When Jerry Falwell Sr. brought up the challenge of gay people with Schaeffer in private, Schaeffer commented that the issue was complicated. As Schaeffer’s son, Frank, recounted in an interview with NPR and also in his book Crazy for God, Falwell then shot back a rejoinder: “If I had a dog that did what they do, I’d shoot it.” There was no humor in Falwell’s voice.

Afterward, Francis Schaeffer said to his son, “That man is really disgusting.”

“Sexual sins are not the only sins,” Stott wrote in Issues, “nor even necessarily the most sinful; pride and hypocrisy are surely worse.”

In 1980, Stott convened a gathering of Anglican evangelicals to map out a pastoral approach to homosexuality. They led with public repentance for their own sins against gay people. In a statement, these leaders declared, “We repent of the crippling ‘homophobia’ … which has coloured the attitudes toward homosexual people of all too many of us, and call our fellow Christians to similar repentance.”

It was a staggering confession at a time when popular opinion was still biased strongly against gay people. This was not the 21st century, when many Christian leaders repent in order to look relevant and inclusive in a culture that celebrates all things fabulous. Stott and these evangelical leaders must have been truly grieved for the ways they had injured their neighbors and siblings in Christ. The statement called specifically for qualified nonpracticing gay people to be received as candidates for ordination to ministry.

Five years earlier, many were shocked by Billy Graham’s similar comments in a news conference, some of which were reported in 1975 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Graham had been asked whether he would support the ordination of gay men to the Christian ministry. Graham had replied that they “should be considered on individual merit” based on certain qualifications. Specifically, the article mentioned “turning away from their sins, receiving Christ, offering themselves to Christ and the ministry after repentance, and obtaining the proper training for the job.”

The gospel of Jesus Christ offers a positive vision for gay people. “In homosexuality,” Lewis explained to Vanauken, “as in every other tribulation, [the works of God] can be made manifest.” He continued: “Every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will ‘turn the necessity to glorious gain.’ ”

Lewis asked, “What should the positive life of the homosexual be?” That’s the question any gay person who comes to faith in Jesus will ask.

Too often the answer we hear is simply “No.”

No sex. No dating. No relationships. Often, no leadership roles.

That leaves people like me hearing that we have, as Eve Tushnet explained in a 2012 piece in The American Conservative, a “vocation of No.”

What is a calling of “Yes”? What is the positive Christian vision the gospel gives for gay people?

When I look at the lives and ministries of Lewis, Schaeffer, Graham, and Stott, what stands out most clearly is that they bring a vision of Jesus: Jesus, in his saving power. Jesus, who washes us and makes us clean. Jesus, who brings us into God’s family. Jesus, who covers shame and forgives sin. Jesus, who calls us by name. Jesus, who sees us all the way down and still wants to be in relationship with us. Jesus, who suffers with and for us. Jesus, who challenges us to live for his kingdom. Jesus, who gives new life with all its joy. Jesus, who is that treasure in a field for which we sold everything. Jesus, who is that treasure that can never be taken from us.

This is Jesus, whose inbreaking kingdom sweeps us up into something he is doing in the cosmos, something larger than ourselves. In Christ, we find ourselves in a larger narrative.

This is not Jesus as a means to an end of heterosexual functioning and comfortable family life. This is God himself as the end for which we were made. With this real God, the locus of hope is found not in this life with heterosexuality, but in the coming age, when we shall stand before our Savior.

Without that relationship with a Savior, there is no point in speaking of a biblical sexual ethic, either to straight or gay people. No gay people are going to embrace such an ethic unless they fall in love with Jesus. A heart smitten by grace is not only willing but also eager to follow the one who died for us.

Schaeffer, Stott, and Graham all stated on occasion their shared belief that some people are born gay. All of these Christian leaders also held to the historical understanding of the biblical sexual ethic. This certainly meant committing to a life in line with God’s creational pattern—his design. Not one of them supported sexual unions for believers outside of a monogamous marriage between two people of different sexes. But they approached gay people from a posture of humility.

Their vision did not flatten people into our unwanted sexual urges. Instead, they recognized that a same-sex-oriented believer’s biggest struggle may be not with sexual sin but with the ability to give and receive love. So they emphasized the need for the community of the church; for deep, long-term friendships; for brotherhood, to be known even in celibacy.

Stott, himself celibate, explained: “At the heart of the homosexual condition is a deep and natural hunger for mutual love, a search for identity and a longing for completeness. If gay people cannot find these things in the local ‘church family,’ we have no business to go on using that expression.”

Lewis, Schaeffer, Graham, and Stott also viewed the homosexual condition as an unchosen orientation with no reliable expectation of a change in this life. They showed great concern for the emotional and relational needs of gay people. Schaeffer insisted in his 1968 letter that the church needed to be the church and help “the individual in every way possible.”

In his NPR interview, Frank Schaeffer described his father’s Swiss ministry, L’Abri, as a place “where homosexuals—both lesbians and gay men—are welcomed.” He added: “No one’s telling them they’ve got to change or that they’re horrible people. And they go away, you know, having found my father wonderfully compassionate and Christlike to them.”

Schaeffer foresaw significant cultural changes when, in 1978, an Orthodox Presbyterian Church congregation in San Francisco found itself sued for releasing a gay employee who had violated the church’s code of conduct. In The Great Evangelical Disaster, Schaeffer said it would be silly for other churches to think they might not face the same challenge.

Still, Schaeffer and Graham didn’t recommend us-verses-them approaches. Just weeks before the 1964 presidential election, a gay sex scandal rocked the nation. President Lyndon Johnson’s top adviser, Walter Jenkins, was arrested a second time for having gay sex in a YMCA restroom. Graham called the White House to intercede for Jenkins.

In the recorded phone call, Graham charged Johnson to show compassion to Jenkins.

Asked about homosexuality at a 1997 San Francisco crusade, Graham remarked to reporters, “There are other sins. Why do we jump on that sin as though it’s the greatest sin?” He added, “I have so many gay friends, and we remain friends.” Speaking to a crowd of 10,000 that night in the Cow Palace, Graham declared, “Whatever your background, whatever your sexual orientation, we welcome you tonight.”

As Stott emphasized so passionately in Issues, the gay person who follows Jesus must live by faith, hope, and love: Faith in both God’s grace and in his standards. Hope to look beyond this present life of struggle to our future glory. But the love by which we must live, he explained, is the love we must receive from Christ’s spiritual family, the church. We must depend upon love from the very churches that have historically failed to give it to people like us.

Church historian Richard Lovelace’s 1978 book Homosexuality and the Church garnered hearty endorsements from evangelical luminaries Ken Kantzer (a former CT editor), Elisabeth Elliot, Chuck Colson, Harold Ockenga, and Carl F. H. Henry. The book might seem radical in today’s climate, but in the 1970s it represented a transatlantic neoevangelical vision. In contrast to homophobia on the right and sexual compromise on the left, Lovelace laid out the gospel challenge:

There is another approach to homosexuality which would be healthier both for the church and for gay believers, and which could be a very significant witness to the world. This approach requires a double repentance, a repentance both for the church and for its gay membership. First, it would require professing Christians who are gay to have the courage both to avow [acknowledge] their orientation openly and to obey the Bible’s clear injunction to turn away from the active homosexual life-style. … Second, it would require the church to accept, honor, and nurture nonpracticing gay believers in its membership, and ordain these to positions of leadership for ministry.

The church’s sponsorship of openly avowed but repentant homosexuals in leadership positions would be a profound witness to the world concerning the power of the Gospel to free the church from homophobia and the homosexual from guilt and bondage.

Only the gospel can open up the humility for such a dual repentance. Yet this was the Christian vision of Lovelace and Henry, Ockenga and Elliot, Kantzer and Colson, Lewis and Graham, Schaeffer and Stott, and a young gay evangelical Anglican who felt too afraid to use his own name, even though he was still a virgin.

Christian fathers and mothers like these had it right. Tragically, I write this as a lament for a road not traveled on this side of the Atlantic.

Already by the late 1970s, a hard shift had begun. As ex-gay ministries in North America multiplied with their expectation of orientation change, they shifted the locus of hope to this life. As the AIDS crisis devastated gay communities in the 1980s, evangelicals embraced the promise of heterosexuality. The secular reparative therapists added a semblance of clinical respectability. The new path to cure pushed out the older path to care.

And then the conservative side in a culture war discovered that we ex-gays were useful. We were proof that gay people could choose to become straight if they really wanted to. And if we could become straight, then there really wasn’t so much need for the church to repent of its homophobia. It just required people like me to maintain the illusion that we had changed.

In the aftermath of that lost culture war that radically transformed the sexual mores of the West, there is much for Christians to grieve. Transactional relationships. Disposable marriages. Vastly changed assumptions about sexuality and gender.

But the conservative church’s hesitancy to repent has not dissipated. As I watch evangelical churches and denominations fumble their way through discussions of sexual orientation and identity, often enforcing the language and categories of a failed ex-gay movement, we’re missing the real battle: The surrounding culture has convinced the world that Christians hate gay people.

Our calling is to prove them wrong.

The world is watching. Our children and grandchildren are watching. They are already second-guessing their faith because they hear all around them that Christians hate gay people, and they can’t point to anyone in their congregation who is gay, is faithful, and is loved and accepted as such. Maybe they can point to someone who uses the language of same-sex attraction. But even that is rare. It’s still not safe to do so.

I am not saying we are at risk of losing Christians who are attracted to members of the same sex; that’s a given.

I am saying we are at risk of losing the next generation.

For those who are listening, an older generation of Christians is still willing and able to help us understand.






Greg Johnson is lead pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis and author of Still Time to Care: What We Can Learn from the Church’s Failed Attempt to Cure Homosexuality.

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - October 2021
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2021, 08:02:46 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/october/haiti-missionaries-kidnapped-cam-gang-1-million-ransom.html








Haiti Negotiates with Gang over $1 Million Ransom for Each Kidnapped Missionary








Christian Aid Ministries requests prayer for 17 captive Christians, including five children ages 15 to 8 months.


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Negotiations stretched into a fifth day seeking the return of 17 members of a US-based missionary group kidnapped over the weekend by a violent gang that is demanding $1 million ransom per person.

The group includes five children whose ages range from 8 months to 15 years, although authorities were not clear whether the ransom amount included them, a top Haitian official said Tuesday. Sixteen of the abductees are Americans and one Canadian.

The abduction is one of at least 119 kidnappings recorded in Haiti for the first half of October, according to the Center of Analysis and Research of Human Rights, a local nonprofit group. It said a Haitian driver was abducted along with the missionaries, bringing the total to 18 people taken by the gang.

The Haitian official, who was not authorized to speak to the press, told The Associated Press that someone from the 400 Mawozo gang made the ransom demand Saturday in a call to a leader of the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) shortly after the abduction.

“This group of workers has been committed to minister throughout poverty-stricken Haiti,” the Ohio group said, adding that the missionaries—who were returning from visiting an orphanage when they were abducted—worked most recently on a project to help rebuild homes lost in a magnitude-7.2 earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti on August 14.




Yesterday, CAM asked for prayer, stating:

Today, we again commit our workers to God’s care. “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). Pray that our workers could respond to hatred with Jesus’ love, overcome the spirit of fear with faith, and face violence with a genuine desire to bless their oppressors.

We request prayers for the Haitian and American civil authorities who are working to resolve this situation. We believe the command of the Bible in I Timothy 2:2-3—“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”

Responding to the recent wave of kidnappings, workers staged a protest strike that shuttered businesses, schools, and public transportation starting Monday. The work stoppage was a new blow to Haiti’s anemic economy. Unions and other groups vowed to continue the shutdown indefinitely.

In a peaceful demonstration Tuesday north of Port-au-Prince, dozens of people walked through the streets of Titanyen demanding the release of the missionaries. Some carried signs that read “Free the Americans” and “No to Kidnapping!” and explained that the missionaries helped pay bills and build roads and schools.

“They do a lot for us,” said Beatrice Jean.

Meanwhile, the country’s fuel shortage worsened, with businesses blaming gangs for blocking roads and gas distribution terminals.

Hundreds of motorcycles zoomed through the streets of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday as the drivers yelled, “If there’s no fuel, we’re going to burn it all down!”

One protest took place near the prime minister’s residence, where police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd demanding fuel.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the FBI was “part of a coordinated US government effort” to free the missionaries. The US Embassy in Port-au-Prince was coordinating with local officials and the hostages’ families.

“We know these groups target US citizens who they assume have the resources and finances to pay ransoms, even if that is not the case,” Psaki said, noting that the government has urged US citizens not to visit Haiti.

It is longstanding US policy not to negotiate with hostage takers, and Psaki declined to discuss details of the operation.

The kidnapping was the largest of its kind reported in recent years. Haitian gangs have grown more brazen as the country tries to recover from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and the earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people.

Christian Aid Ministries said the kidnapped group included six women, six men, and five children. “Their heart-felt desire is to share the love of Jesus,” it stated. “Before the kidnapping, their work throughout Haiti included supporting thousands of needy school children, distributing Bibles and Christian literature, supplying medicines for numerous clinics, teaching Haitian pastors, and providing food for the elderly and vulnerable.”

A sign on the door at the organization’s headquarters in Berlin, Ohio, said it was closed due to the kidnapping situation.

News of the kidnappings spread swiftly in and around Holmes County, Ohio, hub of one of the largest populations of Amish and conservative Mennonites in the United States, said Marcus Yoder, executive director of the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in nearby Millersburg, Ohio.

Christian Aid Ministries is supported by conservative Mennonite, Amish, and related groups that are part of the Anabaptist tradition.

The organization was founded in the early 1980s and began working in Haiti later that decade, said Steven Nolt, professor of history and Anabaptist studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. The group has year-round mission staff in Haiti and several countries, he said, and it ships religious, school and medical supplies throughout the world.

“We greatly appreciate the prayers of believers around the world, including our many Amish and Mennonite supporters,” said CAM. “The Bible says, ‘The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much’ (James 5:16).

It continued:

Join us in prayer that God’s grace would sustain the men, women, and children who are being held hostage. In a world where violence and force are seen as the solution to problems, we believe in God’s call to Christians to “…not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Pray that those being held hostage could find strength to demonstrate God’s love. The kidnappers, like all people, are created in the image of God and can be changed if they turn to Him. While we desire the safe release of our workers, we also desire that the kidnappers be transformed by the love of Jesus, the only true source of peace, joy, and forgiveness.






Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Associated Press journalists Matías Delacroix in Port-au-Prince, Matthew Lee in Washington, Peter Smith in Pittsburgh, John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, and Julie Carr Smyth in Berlin, Ohio, contributed to this report. Additional reporting by CT.


 

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