Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Some Megachurches Closing for Christmas
Even though Christmas falls this year on a Sunday, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a ‘family day.’ Critics within the evangelical community are stunned by the shutdown. Opponents of the closures are accusing congregations of bowing to secular culture. "This is a consumer mentality at work: ‘Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,'" said professor David Wells of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. "I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing." Evangelical churches normally do not hold Christmas Day services, preferring instead to mark the holiday in the days and night before, particularly on Christmas Eve. Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL, said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up, Parkinson said, remarking that unchurched individuals aren’t likely to attend on a Christmas morning. Among the megachurches closing on Christmas Day are Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, KY; Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX; and North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA.
Teaming Up for Prayer
There are signs of faith and prayer everywhere you look in sports these days. Players kneeling in prayer on the field after NFL games. Fingers pointed skyward after home runs, touchdowns and victories. Signs for chapel services in baseball clubhouses. Bible study and Christian fellowship groups at high school and college campuses. "I don't think a relationship with the Lord only occurs in church or only in your own private lives," says University of Washington basketball coach Lorenzo Romar. But not everyone is comfortable getting God into the game, and the question of who can pray together -- and how -- is far from settled. A New Jersey high school football coach filed suit against his district two weeks ago, asking for the right to pray with his team before games. The family of a former New Mexico State football player plans to file a federal lawsuit citing discrimination because he is Muslim. MuAmmar Ali says he was criticized for reciting a prayer from the Koran instead of the Lord's Prayer that the rest of the team was saying, and later was questioned about al Qaeda. Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry was told last year to remove a banner from the locker room that displayed the "Competitor's Creed," including the lines, "I am a Christian first and last." "A lot of these issues are manifestations of things that are good," says Richard Garnett, an associate professor of constitutional law at Notre Dame. "We are committed to two different values: government neutrality and the freedom of speech. I wouldn't want to give up one for the other."
Donor Network Right to Refuse Organs from Homosexual, Says Christian Doc
Friends and family of a Tucson man are crying discrimination after the homosexual man's organs were rejected by the Donor Network of Arizona. However, a Kansas surgeon who works in organ transplantation says the decision was a good one. Albert Soto, 51, intended to donate his eyes and other tissues after death, but a spokesman from the Network says the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has established guidelines allowing centers to reject donations from men who have had sex with men in the last five years. Dr. David Pauls, a spokesman for the Christian Medical Association, says those guidelines are needed even if the donor is HIV negative, as in Soto's case, because, "HIV in early stages cannot be detected on testing; it takes a little bit [of time]. But even if he's HIV negative, there's other infectious diseases that are fairly common within the homosexual population -- particularly hepatitis, and that sometimes also can be missed by screening." In Soto's case, Pauls says the man's risky sexual behavior makes using his organs a high risk for the recipient. "If I as a physician am going to be doing a transplant, I'm want to do everything I can to make sure that the organs or the tissue that I'm transplanting is safe and is not going to cause other problems or other diseases in that patient." Transplant patients, Pauls says, obviously should have the same concerns. Meanwhile, Soto's family is petitioning officials in Tucson to change the CDC guidelines.
Muslims, Christians Foster Peace Efforts in the Philippines
ASSIST News Service
Muslims and Christians belonging to various groups advocating tranquility and harmony recently observed “Mindanao Peace Week” urging all to help peace in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. Pastors, Catholic priests, imams, Arabic teachers, government employees, military and police officials, students, local officials, indigenous people and housewives trooped to the streets and open fields in observance of the peace week that started Nov 29. For last 40 years there has been constant strife between Christians and Muslims. So, church leaders from various denominations have been making concerted efforts to foster and maintain peace in the region. There are about eight million Muslims in the country, which is Asia’s largest per-capita Christian nation. General Santos City Mayor Pedro B. Acharon Jr., started the celebration on Nov 29 with a parade in the city and simple program during which speakers underscored the need for peace as the “mother of requirements” in bringing development to Mindanao. In his welcome address, Acharon exhorted his people to continue their vigilance to help keep peace in the region. The city has been facing security threats from a number of groups. Bombings have also rocked the city. Meanwhile, governmental officials are also doing their best to ascertain peace measures in the region.