Graham’s Grandson: Why has America soured toward Evangelicals?

July 22, 2014 by admin  
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EvangelicalAmerica, July 18, 2014: The negative view held by Non-Evangelicals about Evangelicals, as reflected in a recent poll, is because believers have lost sight of the Gospel’s core message, said Billy Graham’s grandson and Florida pastor Tullian Tchividjian.

“The core message of the Christian faith has been lost in the public sector because what we are primarily known for is our political ideology or opinion,” Tchividjian told The Christian Post.

Over the last 30 years, the Religious Right has replaced Christianity’s foremost message of the Gospel with that of a political movement, argued the current pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

“We’re well known for saying things, ‘We exist to reclaim America for Jesus,’ and stuff like that and in the process what has been lost, is the message which I trumpet in [my book] One Way Love, which is God’s inexhaustible grace for exhausted sinners like you and me,” said Tchividjian.

Tchividjian’s claims came in response to a new Pew Research study poll which suggests that only 30 percent of non-Evangelical Americans feel warmly about this religious group. The survey, which measures the country’s religious groups’ feelings towards one another, also showed that 42 percent of non-Evangelical Americans gave responses in the “middle” towards this group, while the sentiments of 27 percent could be described as cold.

“Specifically the reason why Evangelicals in America are unliked by non-Evangelicals is because we’ve branded ourselves as a political movement. It’s not like Christians don’t have opinions about what’s going in our world and what’s happening in our culture; I think that we do, I do, we all do, but when the primary message that the world hears from us is, “We need to fix the world…We need to stamp out all of the bad stuff,” they don’t hear the message that Jesus has entrusted in us,” continued Tchividjian.

What is the message Tchividjian believes that Evangelicals ought to be sharing?

“In Luke 4, Jesus about says himself, “I have come to set the captives free. I’ve come to liberate the oppressed. I have come to save broken people,” said Tchividjian.

For Christians who claimed that their negative image was a consequence of them speaking an unpopular truth, Tchividjian cautioned against automatically arriving at this conclusion.

“If people are going to stumble over what we say, it’s going to be because we’re called to speak the Gospel which Paul says is a stumbling block. But I can’t go out there and be a jerk and align myself with a political party or a candidate and get crucified on either the right or the left and just say “I’m just a martyr for the truth.” No, you’re not even speaking the truth that God has called you to speak first and foremost.”

Tchividjian also noted that it was problematic that not all Evangelicals felt positively towards those who did not share their faith. Pew’s study revealed that while white Evangelicals rated one another on average an 82 (with zero the coldest and 100 the highest,) only Jews and Catholics received a score over 60. Buddhists were scored a 39, Hindus a 38, Atheists a 25, and Muslims a 30.

“Where there is a lack of love for others on the other side of the aisle, there in that moment we are not accurately representing the Christian faith,” said Tchividjian.

Tchividjian suggested that Evangelicals wishing to positively respond to the negative feedback of the survey might emulate his grandfather.

“He has told me that the biggest mistakes he made early on his ministry, in the ’50s and early ’60s, was speaking too much about cultural and political issues at his evangelistic crusades. He says that’s one of his big regrets from his early years in ministry,” said Tchividjian.

The turning point for Graham came after the Watergate scandal, noted Tchividjian.

“He had sort of had, an a-hah moment when he realized ‘I have particular calling as an evangelist and that is to preach the Gospel to human beings, regardless of whether they’re red, yellow, black, white, rich, poor, Democrat, Republican, gay, straight, didn’t matter. My job is to preach the Gospel to humans.’”

After his realization, Graham “stopped endorsing particular candidates publicly because he knew the moment he endorsed the candidate of one particular party that the people on the other side of the aisle wouldn’t listen to what he had to say. He wanted very much to be a bridge builder and the way he did that was to stay above the fray and sticking to his calling.”

- cp

Pope Francis to visit Pentecostal Church in Italy

July 19, 2014 by admin  
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Giovanni Traettino & Pope FrancisItaly, July 16, 2014: Pope Francis will pay a brief “private visit” to the Italian church of a Pentecostal pastor he knew from Argentina, a Vatican spokesman has said.

The visit to the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation in Caserta, about 130 miles south of Rome, “is under study and likely would take place July 26″, said Fr Federico Lombardi.

Fr Lombardi said the Pope knew the church’s pastor, Giovanni Traettino, from Buenos Aires, where the Pentecostal pastor participated in ecumenical events with Catholics, especially Catholics belonging to the charismatic renewal movement. The then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, along with Traettino and Capuchin Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, headlined a large ecumenical charismatic gathering in Buenos Aires in 2006.

Pope Francis mentioned his plan to make a Sunday visit to a Pentecostal church in late June when he met a group of evangelical pastors and televangelists at his Vatican residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Brian Stiller of the World Evangelical Alliance, who was present at the meeting, wrote about the encounter on his Facebook page and on a blog.

“We talked about Christians marginalised, pressed under the weight of government power or the majority presence of other faiths,” Stiller wrote. “He listened and then told a remarkable story. In his years in and out of Rome, he became friends with the pastor of a Pentecostal church in Rome. In time he came to learn that the church and pastor felt the power and presence of the Catholic Church, with its weighty presence, obstructing their desire to grow and be a witness. ‘So,’ he said, ‘this July I will preach in his church on a Sunday and offer an apology from my Church for the hurt it has brought to their congregation.’”

Fr Lombardi said the Pentecostal friend the Pope was referring to was Mr Traettino. The spokesman did not comment on the rest of Mr Stiller’s account, other than to say the expected visit to Caserta would be “extremely simple and quick – just for the morning”.

The meeting with the Pentecostal leaders took place June 24 and also included Kenneth Copeland, James and Betty Robison and Bishop Tony Palmer of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches. Bishop Palmer, who also knew the Pope from Buenos Aires, had a private meeting with him in January and used his iPhone to record a video message from the Pope to evangelicals.

“Pray to the Lord that he will unite us all,” the Pope said in the video. “Let’s move forward, we are brothers; let us give each other that spiritual embrace and allow the Lord to complete the work he has begun. Because this is a miracle; the miracle of unity has begun.”

Since 1972 the Vatican has co-sponsored an official dialogue with Pentecostal Christians, mainly focused on promoting mutual understanding and clarifying points of shared faith. In many parts of the world, Catholic leaders have complained about Pentecostals using harshly anti-Catholic rhetoric and questionable methods of proselytism to entice the faithful.

- catholic herald

9 Questions you should ask before leading a Church revitalization

July 17, 2014 by admin  
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Church revitalizationJuly 13, 2014: I am excited about the increased interest in church revitalization. I am heartened to hear from a number of Millennials who are sensing God’s call in this direction. As this emphasis grows alongside the great interest in church planting, I have more reasons to remain an obnoxious optimist about our congregations.

But let me state the obvious. Leading a church revitalization is difficult. Indeed, it can’t be done outside of God’s power. While I wish to discourage no one from moving forward in this direction, we must do so with our eyes wide open.

With that in mind I offer a checklist to consider. Here are nine questions you should ask before leading a church revitalization.

1. Will I pray daily for my church and my leadership? I know. The question seems so obvious. But many leaders get so busy doing the work, they fail to take time to pray for God’s strength and wisdom to do the work.

2. Will I see this opportunity as a mission field? In the recent past, leading an established church was typically leading a culture that aligned well with the leader. No more. Many churches in need of revitalization are acting like they live in the culture of 1985. Moving them to present realities is a culture shock to many of the congregants. Thus both the church and the community are mission fields. We need to approach these opportunities much like an international missionary in his or her new culture.

3. Will I make a commitment for the long haul? While we can’t presume upon God’s timing in our lives, we do not need to enter the leadership of church revitalization as a stepping stone assignment. Change is often painfully slow, three steps forward and two steps backward. Some of the fruit of change often does not manifest until after the leader has been on the field for five years or more.

4. Will I love my critics? Genuine leaders of churches in need of revitalization will have their critics. Let me say it again: you will be criticized. But how will you respond to those critics? Will you respond with the love of Christ? Will you pray for your critics?

5. Will I be persistent? Leading a church to revitalization is difficult work. Sometimes, the only thing you know to do is to get out of bed and go to work each day. Because progress is not always noticeable on a day-by-day basis, it is easy to get discouraged. Stay with it. Stay the course. Be faithful.

6. Will I be an incarnational example in my community? Will I be present and involved in the community where the church is located? Will I show my love to those in the community? Will I demonstrate Christ in deed and words in my community? Will I be an example for the church members to follow?

7. Will I be a continuous learner about church revitalization? I am so encouraged about the new information coming forth about church revitalization every month. It reminds me of earlier years when we were getting good data and case studies of new church plants. You now have an opportunity to be a continuous learner in this field. Though I am certainly not the only source of information, I am committed to providing you ongoing information on church revitalization at this site.

8. Will I be content? The Apostle Paul learned to be content in all situations, including shipwrecks and prisons. Will you be content in the Lord to move forward with church revitalization?

9. Will I be a positive example and encourager for my family? If you are taking a family with you on this journey, they will need your support and encouragement too. Will you be there for them?

We may be entering a new era of church revitalization. Some of the signs are certainly positive.

- christianpost

US Cardinal Dolan slams anti-Catholic NY Times ad

July 14, 2014 by admin  
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NY Times AdNew York, July 08, 2014: A New York Times ad criticizing Catholic Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s religious freedom case is part of a long history of anti-Catholic bigotry in the U.S., Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has said.

“In keeping with a long, shadowy, legacy of antipathy, justices who happen to be Catholics… are branded and bullied by a group who only succeed in providing the latest example of a prejudice that has haunted us for centuries,” Cardinal Dolan said in his July 3 column for Catholic New York.

The cardinal facetiously thanked the Freedom from Religion Foundation for giving him “yet another handout” for his talks on anti-Catholic bigotry in the U.S.

The secularist foundation’s full page ad, headlined “Dogma should not trump our civil liberties,” ran July 3 on page 10 in the New York Times’ front section.

The ad claimed that the “all-male, all-Roman Catholic majority” on the Supreme Court “puts religious wrongs over women’s rights.”

It claimed that the Supreme Court majority in the Hobby Lobby case was an “ultra-conservative, Roman Catholic majority” that sided with “zealous fundamentalists.”

The ad reacted to the Supreme Court’s June 30 5-4 ruling that the Obama administration violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in attempting to mandate that closely held corporations provide employees with insurance coverage for possible abortifacient drugs.

The legal cases concerned Hobby Lobby, a craft store giant owned by a Protestant family, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, which is owned by a Mennonite family. Both employers objected that they could not provide some of the required drugs without violating their religious beliefs.

The five justices who ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor are Catholic; one remaining Catholic justice, Sonia Sotomayor, sided with the Obama administration, as did the court’s three Jewish justices.

Cardinal Dolan said the Freedom From Religion Foundation ad did not provide a “robust examination” of the decision in a way that attacked ideas and viewpoints.

Rather, its arguments attacked persons, “the weakest and most vicious of arguments.”

He said the ad “attacks the people on the court, and implies that their Catholic faith makes it impossible for them to protect the cherished Constitution they have sworn on a Bible to uphold.”

The cardinal said that the decision was not surprising, citing White House sources who said they knew the mandate would not pass constitutional muster.

“Scholars, journalists, and thoughtful commentators have elsewhere convincingly defended the unsurprising and long-predicted Supreme Court defense of ‘our first and most cherished freedom,’ religious liberty, from the hyperbolic over-reaction of the ideologues who claim that there is a ‘war on women’,” the cardinal said.

He also noted that Catholic Supreme Court justices have made “frequent votes” that are not in accord with Catholic teaching.

Cardinal Dolan described the Freedom From Religion Foundation as “notoriously anti-Catholic.” He said that the foundation would not take out an ad, and a newspaper would not publish an ad, questioning Jewish, Baptist, or Mormon public figures on the grounds of their religious affiliation.

He claimed that the ad was part of a long line of bigotry against Catholics dating back centuries, to New England Puritans, to the anti-Catholic nativists and Know-Nothings of the 19th century, and the Ku Klux Klan and other groups which included Catholics among the objects of their hate in the 20th century.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which had filed an amicus brief against Hobby Lobby, claimed that the Hobby Lobby ruling allows employers “to decide what birth control an employee can use,” charging that this is not an “exercise of religion,” but “of tyranny.”

The foundation’s ad called for the repeal of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law passed by overwhelming majorities and signed into law by Democratic president Bill Clinton in response to Supreme Court decisions which weakened religious freedom protections.

Its ad follows similar attacks targeting the Hobby Lobby decision on the basis of the Catholic affiliation of the justices in the majority.

On June 30, Huffington Post blog contributor Ronald A. Lindsay, head of the secular humanist Center for Inquiry, asked “Is it appropriate to have six Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court?”

Lindsay claimed that the majority in the Hobby Lobby case “may now be resurrecting concerns about the compatibility between being a Catholic and being a good citizen, or at least between being a good Catholic and an impartial judge.”

The National Organization for Women has also grouped many Catholic organizations, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, EWTN, the University of Notre Dame and several Catholic dioceses, as the “Dirty 100” because they are plaintiffs in cases challenging the federal mandate on religious freedom grounds.

- cna

Miracle baby survives abortion pill, twin’s miscarriage

July 11, 2014 by admin  
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Miracle Baby MeganIreland, July 10, 2014: Michelle Hui was thrilled to learn she and husband Ross were pregnant again after having two other children. But that joy soon turned to grief when she had a miscarriage six weeks into her pregnancy; amazingly, doctors did not realize that she was actually pregnant with twins and that one had survived the miscarriage. Now the family is rejoicing in their daughter’s miraculous birth and health.

According to Michelle, she had a miscarriage at six weeks and was given an abortion pill to make sure nothing was left in her uterus. When doctors performed a final ultrasound before cleaning the uterus, they detected a heartbeat. What they didn’t know at the time was that Michelle was actually pregnant with twins. One of the babies survived both the miscarriage and the abortion pill.

Baby Megan was born 18 weeks ago and is completely healthy, with no side effects from her ordeal.

“The miscarriage and abortion were absolutely horrific,” Michelle told the Daily Mirror. “The 10 days between the miscarriage and going back to the hospital were just a blur. To find out I had to go in for another procedure, I was devastated. But then I saw this little heartbeat, but I thought it couldn’t be right. After all we had been through, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.”

Hui Family“The doctor went out and came back in with a more senior doctor and he did the scan again and he said, ‘You are not going to believe it – we’ve got a heartbeat.’ It was the best feeling ever. Now Megan is fine. She’s healthy and she is just a big healthy pudding of a baby. The doctors said it was a blessing. They have never heard of anything like it. Someone had been looking over us,” Michelle said.

The family is rejoicing in their “miracle” baby, as Michelle calls her. She added that the whole ordeal has “made us stronger. I wouldn’t have been able to get through it all if it had not been for my husband and my two children.”

Doctors could not offer any explanation as to why or how Megan survived but are just amazed at her story.

- christian post

Court rules against seal of confession

July 9, 2014 by admin  
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Act of ConfessionUSA, July 08, 2014: Bill Donohue of the US Catholic League comments on a ruling made by the Supreme Court of Louisiana:

In 2008, a fourteen-year-old girl alleges that she told her parish priest that she was being abused by a now-deceased lay member of their parish. The girl alleges the disclosures came during the Sacrament of Confession. Now her parents are suing the priest, and the Diocese of Baton Rouge, for failing to report the alleged abuse. The State’s Supreme Court has ruled that the priest, Fr. Jeff Bayhi, may be compelled to testify as to whether the Confessions took place, and if so, what the contents of any such Confessions were.

Confession is one of the most sacred rites in the Church. The Sacrament is based on a belief that the seal of the confessional is absolute and inviolable. A priest is never permitted to disclose the contents of any Confession, or even allowed to disclose that an individual did seek the Sacrament. A priest who violates that seal suffers automatic excommunication from the Church.

As a result of this ruling Fr. Bayhi may now have to choose between violating his sacred duty as a priest and being excommunicated from the Church, or refusing to testify and risk going to prison. The Diocese said Fr. Bayhi would not testify.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the free exercise of religion. Just as government cannot compel anyone to follow a particular religion, it likewise cannot prevent anyone from exercising the tenets of  his faith. By deciding that Fr. Bayhi must choose between his faith and his freedom, the Louisiana Supreme Court has endangered the religious liberty of all Americans.

The Catholic League supports Fr. Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge in their quest for a reversal of this ruling, and a recognition that clergy cannot be forced to violate their faith.

Iraq: 2 nuns kidnapped from ISIS-held Mosul as bishops plead

July 8, 2014 by admin  
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IsisIraq, July 07, 2014: Two nuns are among five Assyrians believed to have been kidnapped while visiting a girls’ orphanage in northern Iraq in an area now controlled by the Islamic State.

Sisters Miskintah and Utoor Joseph, part of the Chaldean Daughters of Mary Order that ran an all-girl orphanage in Mosul, had returned to inspect it after the area fell to the Isis terrorist group two weeks ago. They have not been heard from since.

The sisters, along with three other Assyrians they were travelling with, Hala Salim, Sarah Khoshaba and Aram Sabah, are believed to have been kidnapped by Isis.

Last week the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul appealed to international politicians and organisations to “save us!”

He asked them “to intervene immediately to put a stop to the deterioration of the situation, working not only at a humanitarian level, but also politically and diplomatically”.

Archbishop Yohanna Petros Moshe of Mosul was speaking as Qaraqosh, the Christian majority town in northern Iraq, 25 miles from Mosul, that became “almost a ghost town” after 10,000 people fled when it was attacked with mortar shells on 27 June.

Archbishop Moshe reported that people had “fled from their homes in a few hours, taking with them only the clothes they were wearing”. Syriac Catholic priest Nizar Semaan, who works with Archbishop Moshe, underlined that “the archbishop does not ask to resolve the situation by sending more weapons to the Middle East”.

“Inaction becomes complicity with crime and abuse of power. The world cannot turn a blind eye to the tragedy,” Archbishop Moshe said.

The archbishop’s attempts to mediate between the opposing forces in order to preserve the historic city from being destroyed appear to be in vain. Sunni insurgents led by the jihadists of Isis, and the Kurdish Peshmerga militias that oppose their advance, look set to clash head on there.

“Qaraqosh and the other cities of the Nineveh Plain have been for a long time places of peace and coexistence,” reported the archbishop. “We just want to live in peace, work with everyone and respect everyone.”

Isis, now calling itself Islamic State in line with its ambitions to establish a caliphate under its terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, now controls approximately one-third of Iraq and one-quarter of Syria.

An estimated 1,300 of those who have fled their homes since Isis seized power last month have taken refuge at the Khazer camp near Irbil.

- tablet

Vatican gives official backing to exorcists

July 4, 2014 by admin  
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Pope Francis was seen placing his hands on a man supposedly possessedVatican City, July 02, 2014: Exorcists now have an extra weapon in their fight against evil – the official backing of the Catholic church. The Vatican has formally recognised the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who liberate the faithful from demons.

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported this week that the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy had approved the organisation’s statutes and recognised the group under canon law.

More than his predecessors, Pope Francis speaks frequently about the devil, and last year was seen placing his hands on the head of a man supposedly possessed by four demons in what exorcists said was a prayer of liberation from Satan.

The head of the association, the Rev Francesco Bamonte, said the Vatican approval was cause for joy. “Exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer,” he told L’Osservatore.

- the guardian,

Pop icon Elton John calls Pope Francis “wonderful”

July 2, 2014 by admin  
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Elton John and husband David FurnishLondon, June 29, 2014: British musician Elton John described Pope Francis as “wonderful” in an interview on Sunday in which he said Jesus would support gay marriage.

A top-selling pop star and one of the world’s most prominent gay celebrities, John said the leader of the Catholic Church was a sign of hope.

“He’s excited me so much by his humanity and taking everything down to the humility of faith…it’s all basically about love and taking everybody in inclusiveness,” John told Sky News.

Francis has appeared to strike a more conciliatory tone towards homosexuals than his predecessors since his election last year.

John said that gay members of the clergy should be able to wed and that he believed Jesus Christ would be in favour of gay marriage, which became legal in Britain in March.

“If Jesus Christ was alive today, I cannot see him… saying this could not happen,” the pop star said.

“He was all about love and compassion and forgiveness and trying to bring people together and that is what the Church should be about.”

John plans to marry his partner David Furnish next year in a “quiet” ceremony. The couple have two children together.

The entertainer, who has used his position as a prominent celebrity to speak out in support of gay rights, said he hoped to meet with President Vladimir Putin to discuss the issue on a trip to Russia later this year.

Putin earlier this year said that millions of Russians loved John “despite his orientation” in an attempt to defuse criticism over a law banning the dissemination of so-called “gay propaganda” to minors.

“I may not achieve anything but I have to try. There are so many people out there living a life of hell,” John said. “As long as I’m alive I will fight for people’s rights.”

- afp

Pope finds parallels between Christianity and communism

July 1, 2014 by admin  
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Pope FrancisNew Delhi, July 1, 2014: Pope Francis while stressing Christian poverty has claimed that Communists have appropriated the Gospel’s central message of poverty.

The leader of the Catholic Church, whose uninhibited criticisms of capitalism have seen him labelled a Marxist, said in an interview published on Sunday that communists had “stolen” the flag of Christianity.

The 77-year-old pontiff spoke to Rome’s local newspaper, Il Messaggero, to mark the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. He said: “I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the centre of the Gospel.”

He made the comments after being asked about a blog post in the Economist magazine that said he sounded like a Leninist when he criticized capitalism and called for radical economic reform.

Citing Biblical passages about the need to help the poor, the sick and the needy, the Pope said: “Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: ‘but then you are Christian’.”

In the same interview, Francis criticized global politics, which he said had been “devalued, ruined by corruption, by the phenomenon of bribery”.

And he talked about the “moral decay” present in society as a whole, saying that Europe’s low birth rate was both the result of the current economic crisis and a “cultural drift marked by selfishness and hedonism”.

But he added that he hoped people would not lose their “joy, hope, confidence, despite difficulties”.

Since his election in March 2013, Francis has often attacked the global economic system as being insensitive to the poor and not doing enough to share wealth with those who need it most.

Earlier this month, he criticized the wealth made from financial speculation as intolerable and said speculation on commodities was a scandal that compromised the poor’s access to food.

The Pope has suffered from a series of health problems in recent weeks On Sunday he held his first major public ceremony after a spate of cancelled appointments, presiding over a 90-minute mass in St Peter’s Basilica.

- toi

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