Sunday, February 14, 2016

The 3 - February 14, 2016

As I begin this edition of The 3, I do want to say a word about the death of U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who died in his sleep over the weekend.   There are two elements that I will be exploring here in the week to come:

1) the incredible legacy of this man, a man who held to conviction, shaped by his faith, and to the Constitution, which he held in high regard, and

2) what happens next - President Obama has already indicated that he would be appointing a nominee, and the Senate would be then charged with confirming that nomination.   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already says that the next President should make the selection.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel said this: “Our prayers are with the family of Justice Scalia..." He added:

“With the passing of Justice Scalia, the future of the High Court and the future of America is hanging in the balance. The Senate must not confirm any nominee to the Supreme Court from President Obama. The Senate must hold off any confirmation until the next President is seated. Unfortunately the presidential debates have been more theater and less substance about the real issues surrounding the Supreme Court. The election of the next President has now taken on even greater importance. The future of the Supreme Court and America now depends on the Senate blocking any nominee by President Obama and the people electing the right person to occupy the White House."

In this week's installment, there are new developments concerning the Wheaton College professor who said Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  Also, a major Christian evangelist stepped in to play a key role in ending the standoff in Oregon.  And, the news emerged that a major Christian pastor in China has been arrested, presumably for speaking out on the removal of crosses from church buildings.

3 - Wheaton College, professor agree to separate, scholarship established in professor's name

The professor at Wheaton College in Illinois who had ignited a controversy over her contention that Christians and Muslims worship the same God has reached a settlement under which she would leave the university, according to a report on the website from the WORLD News Service.  Leaders at the school this week announced at a news conference that an endowed scholarship, named for professor Larycia Hawkins, will be established for interns working on peace and conflict projects.

University president Phillip Ryken, noting that Wheaton and Hawkins are moving forward in "genuine" friendship, said: “We want to learn everything that we can from this situation,” adding, "We hope to become a better, stronger community with a shared understanding of academic freedom in the context of Christian convictions.”

On Feb. 6, the day that the agreement was announced, Ryken said he had asked the school’s board of trustees to conduct a review of the process for addressing faculty and personnel issues in the future, especially when it comes to possible violations of the school’s statement of faith.

2 - Franklin Graham plays role in ending Oregon standoff

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that, "Blessed are the peacemakers."  This week, Franklin Graham put that into practice in attempting to resolve the standoff at an Oregon federal wildlife refuge. Religion News Service reports that Mr. Graham played a role in the negotiations with the final four protestors who were challenging federal land-use policies.

On his Facebook page, Graham wrote:

This is a complicated controversy with the government that has roots going back many years. Praying that now their grievances will be heard and addressed through the right channels. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the law enforcement–FBI, State Police, Sheriff's Department, and other agencies for all they have done.

He also wrote on Facebook that:

I had been asked by the FBI to help in the negotiation process and had been talking with the hold-outs by phone every day for about a week, encouraging them to do the right thing. We continually pleaded with them to just listen and do what they were told. At the end of the day, I can’t tell you how thankful I was that Jeff Banta, Sean and Sandy Anderson, and David Fry did just that and came out safely. They did the right thing by surrendering and coming out with their hands up. We’ve seen too many unnecessary shootings in this country. I believe that some of these, though not all, could be avoided if people would only listen and obey law enforcement.

He had also posted that he had been on the phone with the protesters for several hours on Wednesday night and was able to have prayer with them.  They said that they would come out the following day, which did happen.

Also, this week, Franklin Graham was involved in 2 Decision America prayer meetings at state capitols in Georgia and South Carolina. reports that almost 14,000 people came out to the two meetings.   Graham is planning to visit all 50 states, and he will be in Alabama on April 14.

1 - Chinese megachurch pastor faces charges, another Christian pastor released

The news emerged this week that the pastor of China's largest government-sanctioned church has been removed from his post.  The China Aid website posted a report from the Guardian, reporting that authorities in Zhejiang province arrested the Rev. Gu Yuese on February 6, according to government documents. He had been detained in late January, accused of embezzling funds. The pastor's supporters said that the government had arrested him on trumped-up charges and was punishing him for publicly opposing the removal of church crucifixes. Authorities have taken down hundreds of crosses in Zheijiang, a province on the east coast often described as China’s bible belt.

China Aid director Bob Fu was quoted in the piece, saying: "They want to send a message that if you show disloyalty to the party’s religious policy, this is what is going to happen." Fu claimed that the arrest was a violation of religious freedom and rule of law.

Worthy News reports that Chinese authorities have again resumed removing crosses from churches in Zhejiang province. The report says that:

According to ucanews, in addition to the more than 1,500 crosses removed from Protestant and Catholic churches in Zhejiang since the end of 2013, 13 more crosses were forcefully removed last week. To facilitate these removals, the Communist government has tried to stop congregations from even discussing its anti-cross campaign during Mass.
This refers to a time period during the first week of February.

There is some good news regarding a Chinese pastor.  Christianity Daily reported that a Chinese pastor who was arrested for protesting against removal of crosses in Zhejiang province has been released from 'black jail', according to China Aid. Pastor Huang Yizi had organized a prayer vigil against demolitions of crosses in China's eastern province. He was denied access to a lawyer, but was allowed to return home last week after about five months behind the bars.

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