Sunday, April 30, 2017

The 3 - April 30, 2017

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, I point to a new report on religious freedom issued by a commission affiliated with the State Department.  Also, an assortment of pro-life groups placed thousands of socks on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol building to call attention to the huge numbers of children who lost their lives in an abortion just last year.  Plus, a committee of the United Methodist Church has ruled against a lesbian bishop, but she gets to keep her position.

3 - New religious freedom reports highlights puts Russia in top tier of concerning countries

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an arm of the State Department which reports on countries that violate religious freedom, has released its annual report, according to Christianity Today.  And, among the 16 countries who are considered Tier 1 "Countries of Particular Concern," Russia has made the list for the first time in the almost 20-year history of the Commission.

The article states that...
The report dedicated seven pages to its problematic policies, from the “persecution of religious minorities in the occupied areas of Crimea and Donbas” to recent moves against non-Orthodox Christians in its heartland.
And, the article points out that, "Last week, Russia’s Supreme Court officially banned Jehovah’s Witnesses nationwide after several years of blacklisting their materials and shutting down regional centers."  The CT piece also says that...
...the commission wants to see more pressure put on Russian officials over repressive application of other laws, including its “foreign agents” law—which restricts missionary activity—and a 2016 anti-evangelism regulation (known as the “Yarovaya law”)—which keeps non-Orthodox Russians from sharing their faith outside official church buildings.
According to the article:
The full list of Tier 1 countries of particular concern includes: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, with the addition of Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam this year.
The countries on the Tier 2 list are: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey.
2 - Pro-life group displays socks on U.S. Capitol grounds

Nearly 200,000 baby socks were displayed on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol recently, a demonstration led by Students for Life for America, according to a WORLD Magazine piece. Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, stated, “These socks represent all the women betrayed by the abortion industry and their preborn babies who will never be able to wear the baby socks because of Planned Parenthood,” and added, “This generation wants to defund Planned Parenthood. They expect our elected officials to keep the promises they made during the election.”

The article reported that Planned Parenthood aborted almost 324,000 babies just last year. Students for Life had set out to collect enough socks to represent each of those babies, and once they exceeded half their goal, the socks were transported via moving trucks.  The article also points out that Planned Parenthood "receives around $500 million of annual federal funding."

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, along with representatives of pro-life groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List and Americans United for Life, were there for the event. The Senator, referring to the number of abortions performed by Planned Parenthood, said: "It’s just a devastatingly large number, and we need to have images like this so that people start to reflect on the magnitude of the suffering that’s happening out there.”

1 - United Methodist body finds lesbian bishop breaks church rules, but allows her to stay in position

Last year, the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church ordained a lesbian bishop, and this week, the denomination's Judicial Council ruled that the consecration of Karen Oliveto as a bishop violated church law, according to an article on the website.

However, the council did not remove Oliveto from her position. The article states that, "the bishop 'remains in good standing,' the Judicial Council said until an administrative or judicial process is completed."  The article reported that:
The court – which decided against her by 6-3 – declined to remove her as a bishop, sending that decision back to the jurisdiction that elected her. However, it said that an openly homosexual and partnered bishop may be charged with disobedience to church law, along with other bishops and clergy who consecrated her.
Jeff Lomperis of the Institute on Religion and Democracy reported on the Juicy Ecumenism blog that in separate decisions, "the Council invalidated a resolution from the Northeastern Jurisdiction promoting disobedience to the church’s sexuality standards and ruled that the even liberal-leaning regional conferences like New York and Northern Illinois must make 'full examination' of ordination candidates to screen out those unwilling to abstain from homosexual practice, adultery, or pre-marital sex."

Lomperis stated, "I celebrate that these landmark rulings should now make it significantly easier to bring accountability for pastors who choose to violate biblical standards for sexual self-control. We are slowly but increasingly strengthening biblical accountability in our church." But, he added he was disappointed that Oliveto was not removed from her position.

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