Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- The Presbyterian Church USA Severs Ties With Messianic Jewish Congregation
- Many Teens View God As 'Private Butler'
- “Anti-Christian Spirit” Spreading Through Europe
- Laos: Rural Christians Flee District Authorities
The Presbyterian Church USA Severs Ties With Messianic Jewish Congregation
The Presbyterian Church USA has severed its ties to a Messianic Jewish congregation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Congregation Avodat Yisrael, which had received Presbyterian support since 2002, consists of Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah of scriptural prophecy. Presbyterian News Service quotes a PC(USA) official as saying the decision stemmed from the Jewish congregation's failure to meet certain goals for membership and attendance in its funding application. According to PNS, Avodat Yisrael is not the first Messianic congregation sponsored by the PC(USA), but the issue of such sponsorship -- especially with regard to that particular congregation -- gained attention in the wake of a move by last year's 216th General Assembly, which requested a study to "examine and strengthen the relationship between Christians and Jews and the implications of this relationship for our evangelism and new-church development." Philadelphia Presbytery voted last month to end its relationship with Avodat Yisrael, but a General Assembly spokesman noted that the PC(USA)'s relationship with the Jewish congregation has "prompted an important conversation for us as a denomination." Church commissioners voted down a proposal to suspend national funding for any other Messianic Jewish new-church development projects.
Many Teens View God As 'Private Butler'
Erin Curry, Baptist Press
American teenagers have combined the concept of Christianity with principles of postmodernism and the ideology of individualism to create what a recent study terms "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism," where God is there to solve their problems but stays at a safe distance when they don't want Him around. Researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have released a book titled, "Soul Searching," after interviewing more than 3,000 American adolescents about their religious beliefs. R. Albert Mohler Jr. addressed the study saying teenagers' proclivity to dismiss religious absolutes with a casual "whatever" is a substitute for serious and responsible thinking and a verbal cover for an embrace of relativism. Mohler said Moralistic Therapeutic Deism reflects the culture as a whole, which through subtle shifts has "produced a context in which belief in such an undemanding deity makes sense." Such a transformation replaces the sovereignty of God with the sovereignty of the self, Mohler said, making self-improvement the one great moral imperative to which all are accountable. "We must now look at the United States of America as missiologists once viewed nations that had never heard the Gospel. Indeed, our missiological challenge may be even greater than the confrontation with paganism, for we face a succession of generations who have transformed Christianity into something that bears no resemblance to the faith revealed in the Bible," Mohler said.
“Anti-Christian Spirit” Spreading Through Europe
Wolfgang Polzer, ASSIST News Service
An “anti-Christian spirit” is spreading throughout Europe, according to one of Germany’s best-known evangelical theologians. Prof. Peter Beyerhaus regards the proposed anti-discrimination laws in several European countries as only one example for such “threatening tendencies”. The missiologist was speaking at the Theological Convention of the Conference of Confessing Churches that took place in Neuendettelsau near Nuremberg earlier this month. In his view a “mild form of persecution” is taking place in the European Union (EU). One of the victims was the Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione. The Catholic philosopher was nominated last year as EU commissioner, but Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals in the European Parliament rejected him because of his ethical and religious convictions. Buttiglione called homosexuality a sin. But he emphasized that this was his personal conviction as a Christian and that he would respect European law and not discriminate against homosexuals. Beyerhaus: “That goes to show that today attitude and not action is the determining factor for the assessment of an individual.”
Laos: Rural Christians Flee District Authorities
In the wake of a series of arrests that left 17 Christians from Savannakhet province in prison and one tortured into signing a document renouncing Christ, at least a dozen believers in rural Laos have fled their villages for a major city. They are seeking refuge there until they are guaranteed safety in their home villages to practice the Christian faith. These refugees come from Phin district, the site of late March arrests conducted by local authorities. As of the latest updates received by Christian Aid, all of the 17 imprisoned Christians remain in jail. An eighteenth prisoner is now free after being made, through beatings and intimidation, to sign a document claiming he was no longer a Christian. Many Christian brothers and sisters in Laos have been forced through torture to sign such documents and consequently suffer from intense guilt and shame. Please pray for this recently released brother as he seeks guidance from Christian leaders as how to restore his faith after such a traumatic experience. One of the 17 who was arrested on March 27 faces especially severe treatment since he was a former communist party member in Hueyhoy village. When he accepted Christ last year, he was fired from his post.