Sunday, August 10, 2014

The 3 - August 10, 2014

This week here in my week-in-review feature, "The 3," news from a Federal courtroom in Montgomery, where a judge struck down legislation that would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.   Also, a major church in the Northwest has continued to make headlines within the Christian community, and has been removed from membership in a church-planting organization that its pastor founded.  And, the top story involved the continued progression of the militant organization, ISIS, through Iraq, including the conquest of several Christian towns.

3 - Alabama abortion clinic bill struck down by Federal judge

A Federal judge has struck down a law, passed by the Alabama Legislature, that would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.  It had been reported that, as the result of the bill's provision, three out of the five abortion clinics in the state would have had to close because they could not meet this minimum standard.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued his ruling on Monday in a 172-page decision, which said, in part, according to, “The resulting unavailability of abortion in these three cities would impose significant obstacles, burdens, and costs for women across Alabama...The evidence compellingly demonstrates that the requirement would have the striking result of closing three of Alabama’s five abortion clinics, clinics which perform only early abortions, long before viability.”

Governor Robert Bentley was quoted as saying, "...This law ensures that if a complication arises there is continuity of treatment between doctor and patient. This ruling significantly diminishes those important protections. I will always fight for the rights of the unborn, and support an appeal of today’s decision.”

The bill would be appealed to the 11th Circuit.   The 5th Circuit has already issued two decisions concerning similar bills.  A three-judge panel upheld a Texas law requiring that abortionists have admitting privileges, while another three-judge panel of the same circuit rejected a Mississippi requirement.

2 - Acts 29 church planting network removes church, pastor from membership

Acts 29 is a network of churches who are devoted to planting other churches.   Its website says that, "Over the last ten years Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to over 500 churches around the world. We want to allow a unifying, uncommon movement of God to happen through Acts 29. Centered on the Gospel, we desire to advance the mission of Jesus through obediently planting church-planting churches. It is our hope to see this leading to millions of lives changed by the power of the Spirit for the glory of God."

The network was founded and led for most of those ten years by an unconventional pastor from Seattle by the name of Mark Driscoll - he is the pastor of Mars Hill Church.  It was announced this week that Pastor Driscoll and Mars Hill Church have been removed from membership in the network.  The website says that:
...Mark and the Elders of Mars Hill have been informed of the decision, along with the reasons for removal. It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network. In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored.
On the WORLD News Group website, Warren Cole Smith reports that a letter was sent to Driscoll by the Board of Directors, which includes Matt Chandler, who became Board Chair after Driscoll stepped down several years ago. Other board members include: Darrin Patrick, Steve Timmis, Eric Mason, John Bryson, Bruce Wesley, and Leonce Crump.  WORLD reports that the board said it wrote the letter “in sadness and hope” and only after waiting to see what Driscoll and the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) would do to resolve what the letter called “countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you.”

But the Acts 29 board’s letter added, “We no longer believe the BOAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming. We now have to take another course of action.”

Just 2 weeks ago, Warren reported in a piece on the WORLD website that:
Last year, a plagiarism controversy forced Driscoll and his publisher Tyndale House to issue a joint statement admitting “mistakes were made.” This year, WORLD reported Mars Hill Church spent a quarter-million dollars in church funds to put his book Real Marriage on The New York Times bestseller list. Former staff members have increasingly taken to the internet to voice their grievances with what some have called Driscoll’s overbearing management style.
He went on to write that:
These controversies came to a head in March, when Driscoll made a remarkable public apology. In a letter to his congregation that received national coverage, he said his “angry-young-prophet days are over” and he would take steps to become “a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father.” Among the steps Driscoll planned to take included refraining from posting on social media until “at least the end of the year” and to doing few, if any, media interviews.
Apparently, this public apology was not enough, and more information about Driscoll and his activities has continued to come to light.

On his website, Warren Throckmorton, who has been a vocal critic of Driscoll, quoted one of the Mars Hill ex-pastors who has been initiating mediation with the church, Kyle Firstenberg, who had this reaction to Acts 29′s announcement.
I have been greatly discouraged with the response from the BOAA in the charges that both I and others have brought. Years have gone by with what appears as only damage control and not any clear act of love for Mark in holding him accountable as brothers in the faith should.
This action from Matt Chandler and the other members of the board of A29 is one of the most loving acts I have seen in leadership in the Church world in recent years.
Throckmorton does point out that the BOAA did respond to the letter announcing that Mars Hill was being removed.  It was signed by Chairman Michael Van Skaik and Board Member Larry Osborne, saying that, "...I told the lead pastors at the recent annual retreat that we are making real progress in addressing the serious reconciliation and unhealthy culture issues that have been a part of Mars Hill Church for way too long. And we are. I also told them that more opposition would undoubtedly be coming, and it has. Friendly fire always hurts the most."   Van Skaik took the A29 leadership to task for not speaking directly to the Board or Mark Driscoll prior to the announcement.

According to Throckmorton, a group of over 75 members and ex-members have chosen to delay the filing of 53 new charges against the pastor and his Executive Elders.  Apparently, you have had a number of people in the Mars Hill culture who have been involved in the process of confrontation, with the hope of restoration.   Perhaps this A29 action can be a catalyst for healing within a church body that has had and continues to have a real opportunity to impact the world.

1 - ISIS continues conquests, takes over large Christian town

This week, the world's attention has been refocused on the upheaval in the nation of Iraq, where the ISIS army (also known as the Islamic State) continues to make inroads.   This week, American airstrikes against ISIS militants were carried out, and relief supplies were dropped to those fleeing the onslaught.

Religious cleansing and genocide have become the mode of operation for ISIS.  Reports of the brutal treatment of Christians in Mosul have been widely circulated, and this week, the Christian Today website
said that militants pushed back Kurdish troops and then moved in overnight to take over four Christian-majority towns, including Qaraqosh which is home to Iraq's largest Christian community.

The story quotes Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, Joseph Thomas, who confirmed to AFP, "I now know that the towns of Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants. He said, "It's a catastrophe, a tragic situation. We call on the UN Security Council to immediately intervene," and noted, "Tens of thousands of terrified people are being displaced as we speak, it cannot be described."

Qaraqosh and the surrounding towns are said to have contained at least a quarter of Iraq's historic Christian population before the insurgents moved in.

In 2003, there were around 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq. There are now thought to be less than 200,000.

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