Saturday, June 22, 2013

The 3 - June 23, 2013

This week's edition of "The 3" includes news regarding the closure a noted Christian organization that has been involved in helping people exit the homosexual lifestyle and overcome unwanted same-sex attractions.  There's also some encouraging news out of the U.S. House that would provide protection for a number of pre-born children.  And, developments in Iran top the news, as Christians are trying to determine what to make of the election of a new President there.

3 - Exodus International exits

It was a piece of news that came suddenly, but not unexpectedly. Exodus International, a ministry that began nearly 40 years ago to help people who struggle with same-sex attractions find freedom through Jesus Christ, announced that it would be ceasing its operation, the same day that Alan Chambers, its president, announced he would be stepping down and gave an apology to the gay community.. According to CitizenLink, some people previously affiliated with the group say its president, Alan Chambers, changed the organization’s message over the last couple of years.

For example, Andy Comiskey, founder of Desert Stream Ministries, is quoted as saying, “It has undergone significant change...(Chambers) became unusually sensitive to those critical of Exodus. He began to take up their case as more important than transformation.”

Joe Dallas, who served as president of Exodus International from 1991 to 1993 and now leads Genesis Counseling in California, was sad to hear of the organization’s closure. "When we come to Christ we can overcome these (temptations),” he said. “I do think if people repent, they have the ability to resist the temptation to homosexuality and have the capacity for heterosexual response.”

Focus on the Family President Jim Daly made a statement, which included these words: “Exodus’ closing is being hailed by some as a victory and indication that Christians are abandoning long-held convictions that living with God’s design for sexuality is possible through the power of Jesus Christ – that change is possible.

“The reality is that while Exodus will no longer exist, there are numerous Christian ministries that continue to provide excellent help to those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction, including the Restored Hope Network, Desert Stream Ministries, and Katharos Integrity Alliance.

“We understand God’s original intent was for marriage to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman, with children as a natural result. But we also realize that all of us sin in many ways.

“We believe there is hope for those who struggle sexually. Be it a struggle with lust, adultery, pornography addiction, pre-marital sex, same-sex attractions or issues related to identity – there is hope. The hope of a Christian is that our behavior becomes more in line with God and God’s will. He wants us to drink from His full cup of grace and truth – because it’s through Him we can overcome lifelong struggles with sin.”

Stuart Shepard's conversation with me on The Meeting House recently, which included some analysis and commentary on the Exodus situation, can be accessed here.

Baptist Press also covered the story, and quoted Chambers' apology: "I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn't change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents...I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart."

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said it became clear last year -- when Chambers suggested that people can persist in homosexual behavior and still receive the salvation that Jesus offers -- that Chambers and Exodus International were rethinking their understanding of a Christian approach to homosexuality.

"Sadly, it appears that this rethinking has resulted in something like a surrender to the cultural currents of the day," Mohler told Baptist Press.

Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, shared that, "Increasingly churches are addressing persons with same-sex attractions the same way they address everyone else: in terms of the Gospel and a lifelong call to take up one's cross and follow Christ..This means the Christian grappling with same-sex attractions needs to hear that the Gospel addresses him or her, and that this person needs the whole body of Christ, in community, not just an accountability group of those who are defined by the same temptations."

So, there are several factors at work here: We do need to show compassion to those who are trapped in a variety of areas of sin.   And, it's important to recognize that change can occur through trusting in the power of Christ.  Although Alan Chambers may have shifted his view on the possibility of gay people changing their behavior through sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories, the Bible is clear that homosexuality and the temptation of same-sex attraction are contrary to God's standards, and that there is hope to overcome any sin or temptation through the power of the cross.

2 - U.S. House approves ban on most abortions after 20 weeks
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would ban abortions from after 20-weeks of pregnancy, a point of gestation at which scientific evidence has shown that an unborn child feels pain.

According to, the vote for the bill broke down on mostly partisan lines with Republicans supporting the ban on late-term abortions and Democrats opposing it. The House approved the bill on a 228-196 vote with 6 Democrats voting for the bill and 6 Republicans voting against it.

One leading expert in the field of fetal pain, Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand at the University of Tennessee, stated in an expert report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, “It is my opinion that the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or older children.”

During a Congressional hearing, a former abortion practitioner, Anthony Levatino told members about the gruesome details of his former abortion practice and how he became pro-life following the tragic automobile accident of his child.

Another bombshell dropped during the hearing came from Dr. Maureen Condic, who is Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She testified that the unborn child is capable of reacting to pain as early as 8-10 weeks. This is when most abortions in America take place.

Mat Staver of pro-family legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel responded by saying, “The blinders are being lifted, and even pro-abortion Americans want restrictions on aborting children who experience pain...The Kermit Gosnell trial and the closure of abortion clinics around the country for unsanitary, unsafe conditions have created a public awareness of the violence against women and children disguised by such names as ‘women’s health clinics,’ ‘family planning,’ and ‘reproductive healthcare.’”

The bill now goes on to the Senate, where it is predicted to be defeated, if a vote is allowed.  Majority Leader Harry Reid is being encouraged to allow the bill to be voted upon.   The President has already threatened to veto the legislation.   But, if the Senate votes, it will get lawmakers on record regarding their viewpoint on late-term abortion, just as the 196 House members that opposed this legislation now have recorded votes on the matter.

1 - Christians not comforted by election of new leader in Iran, more Iranian arrests announced

Christians in America have followed closely the plight of pastors in Iran, such as Youcef Nadarkhani and Saaed Abedini, who were placed in jail as a result of their practice of the Christian faith.  We continue to made aware of persecution of Iranian believers, especially those who have converted from Islam to Christianity.   Religion Today had a piece just this week about six Iranian converts to Christianity who were convicted of crimes related to their membership in a house church, according to World Watch Monitor.  Mohabat News, which reports on news of Christians inside Iran, published a report on June 16 claiming that four men, a woman and her teenaged son were convicted by a Revolutionary Court in Shiraz, in southwestern Iran. The four men were found guilty of attending a house church, spreading Christianity, having contact with foreign ministries, propaganda against the Iranian regime and disrupting national security, Mohabat reported.

Religion Today also relates that, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, 33-year-old Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini told his family his health appears to have improved. However, the ACLJ also said that since Iran's presidential election last week, prison guards had threatened to move
Abedini to a more remote prison. Such a move would make it nearly impossible for his family to visit him.

Open Doors reports that even though Hassan Rouhani won Iran’s presidential election last weekend and he is being portrayed by some as a “moderate” Iranian cleric, because of his loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Open Doors contacts from the region don’t expect positive changes.

“The Christians I recently spoke with seemed rather apathetic about the elections,” says an Open Doors fieldworker in response to the election of the new president. “They don’t seem to expect significant changes in Iran’s policies against Christians.”

This is corroborated by an Iranian believer who told Open Doors last week, “In your Western media, the candidates are divided into conservatives and reformers, as if there is a choice, but let me tell you this: there is no choice. All of the candidates are from Ayatollah Khamenei’s team.”

Christians, as well as minorities such as Baha’i and Dervishes, have seen an intensification of religious persecution in Iran since 2005, when former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected for the first time.
The fieldworker also stated that, “The question is can Rouhani make a change? At least he is an intellectual, who graduated in the United Kingdom and has called for less confrontational relations with the West. I guess we just have to see in order to know, according to Iranian standards, how moderate he is.”

So while change in leadership could provide a source of inspiration for Christians, the current climate that has been fostered by the governing religious authorities indicates that there could be little improvement concerning the religious freedom of Christian believers in Iran.   That is why prayers are very important for these persecuted believers.

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