3 - United Methodists keep language on homosexuality the same
At its General Conference, held every 4 years, the United Methodist Church voted to basically re-affirm what it has traditionally held regarding homosexual behavior and the ordination of gays into the ministry. The Conference was held in Tampa this year, and there were a host of resolutions that dealt with sexuality, many specifically attempting to loosen the church's stance on homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching". In the end, by about a 60-40% margin, the delegates voted to keep the current language.
CitizenLink offered this report.
It has been largely held that if the denomination were to reject changes in its position on homosexuality, that the strength to do so would come from the African delegates, which represent some 30% of the denomination's membership. The Church in general has about 40% of its membership in overseas countries, where members generally hold to a more conservative view of the Scriptures.
“Thanks to its global membership, United Methodism uniquely is growing in members and rejecting liberal accommodation of secular Western culture, unlike declining U.S. mainline Protestant denominations,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, quoted by CitizenLink.
According to church reports, membership in the U.S. fell by 100,000 last year, while African Methodist churches grew by 200,000.
Several other denominational churches have previously changed doctrine to accept homosexuality, including the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the U.S. Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ. All those denominations ordain openly homosexual clergy members; the United Church of Christ also condones same-sex marriage.
2 - Chinese dissident who escaped prison apparently headed to America
He's reportedly not a Christian, but he has championed a cause that is of great concern to Christians in China, as well as those who are outside the large nation who are trying to help. Blind attorney Chen Guangcheng, who has been outspoken in his opposition to China's brutal one-child policy, which includes forced abortion and sterilization, for years has been a thorn in the side of the Chinese government, and has been arrested and reportedly tortured. About two weeks ago, he decided he'd had enough, and crafted an intricate escape plan from so-called "house arrest". He sought protection in the U.S. Embassy around the time that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Time Geithner were due in the nation for high-level talks. Both countries were trying to avoid embarrassment, and ultimately, Chen, who had initially said he would like to stay in China, will apparently leave the nation and study in the United States.
Bob Fu of the Christian organization ChinaAid, stood with Chen and actually reached him by cellphone so he could talk to members of a U.S. House subcommittee this week. And, members of the underground church are supportive of Chen's actions, according to a piece in the Christian Post:
"Chen Guangcheng isn't a Christian, but we Chinese Christians pray for all those in pursuit of the truth," Zhang Mingxuan, a house church pastor from central province of Henan, stated, according to the news agency. Activist and lawyer Chen's case, the pastor added, "has been a blow for China's legal and government officials."The Chinese have been called into question for their human rights record, and there are fears that a crackdown on house churches is underway and may intensify in light of the situation. And, while U.S. officials stress that they call attention to human rights abuses and religious freedom issues in their conversations with the Chinese, our government, which has borrowed over a trillion dollars from China, has lost leverage to speak to those topics. So, Chinese Christians continue to suffer, but they continue to thrive and explode numerically. And, while the Chinese government doesn't want their oppressive tactics on people of faith or their forced abortion policy to be part of the international consciousness, the case of Chen Guangcheng has served to expose the policies of China and its leaders.
1 - National Day of Prayer encourages Christians to seek God
Thursday, May 3rd was the 61st annual observance of the National Day of Prayer since Congress passed legislation making it an annual event, and directing the President to make a proclamation of it. The day was cemented on the first Thursday of May during the Reagan administration. Observances took place from sea to shining sea, as Christians gathered at state capitols, at city halls and county courthouses, and at churches across the land. A national prayer event took place at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC on Thursday morning, and it was streamed live on the Internet. That evening, Christian radio stations across America, led by 2 large, influential networks, broadcast a concert of prayer, called the "One Cry Prayer Summit", which featured a variety of Christian leaders offering prayers for our nation and encouraging believers to unite their hearts in seeking God for spiritual awakening in our land.
And, the work of organizations such as One Cry and the National Day of Prayer Task Force continues, as their desire is for prayer for our nation to be more than a one-day event, but a consistent focus for believers across the nation. Shirley Dobson continues to lead the Task Force, and the Honorary Chairman this year was Dr. David Jeremiah, Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego and speaker on the Turning Point radio and television broadcasts. More information on the observance of the National day of Prayer can be obtained at www.nationaldayofprayer.org or www.onecry.com.