Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Church Disaffiliated from Baptist Convention for Welcoming Gays
The Houston Voice reports that Pastor Randy Haney, founder of Faith Harbour Church in Baytown, TX, said he allowed an upstart group that welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals to use his church’s facility as a personal favor to a friend. But as a result of Haney’s decision, Faith Harbour was disaffiliated this week from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention by the organization’s executive board. “I found out about it from a friend and read the article [on the Baptist Press website],” Haney said, noting that nobody from the Convention had contacted him even after the executive board voted unanimously Tuesday to disaffiliate the church. At issue: Haney allowed a group called Eklektos, founded by his friend Wendy Bailey, an ordained Presbyterian minister, to use the church’s storefront facility to meet. Bailey said her goal is to offer a safe place for gay people to learn about God. Haney doesn’t agree with homosexuality, “but I’m not going to cast someone out just because I don’t believe in it,” he said. Joe Stewart, board chair and pastor of FBC Littlefield, told the convention news service, “One cannot be presenting the life-changing Gospel to homosexuals and at the same time affirm the lifestyle. Although we want to reach out to people caught in sin, at the same time we can’t affirm the lifestyle.” Haney’s response: “How dare we defile the sanctuary by inviting sinners to come and be a part of hearing the message of Christ.”
Dissatisfied Jews, Christians Share Ideas on 'Emergent' Faith
An AP news story reports that frustrated Rabbi Dov Gartenberg and 15 other Jewish leaders met recently with evangelical Christians who set out on a similar path of forsakenness a decade ago and sparked a mini-revolution in the process. Over two days, representatives from Jewish and Christian worship groups talked about abandoning traditional worship in search of a more personal connection with God – one they believe can't be found in temple or church. Gartenberg said he became discouraged when he would see bored faces among the worshippers and wonder how long he could hold their interest. He quit his congregation two years ago and opened a nonprofit for Jews who felt as he did. "We've got to learn from what our Christian colleagues are doing," said Shawn Landres of Synagogue 3000, a progressive Jewish think tank that set up the meeting. "We told them, 'You guys are maybe five to 10 years ahead of us, and we want to know what you did right and what you did wrong.'" Speakers at the conference said both faiths are struggling to stay relevant – particularly to young people – in a culture that is increasingly fast-paced and global. They also shared their vision with more traditional Jewish leaders who hope this new "emergent Judaism" might help bring young Jews back at least to some style of worship.
Eight House Churches Shut Down in West Java, Indonesia
Government officials in Bandung, West Java, ordered eight house churches in the Rancaekek Kencana housing complex to cease meeting in private homes starting last Sunday January 15, a Compass Direct release reports. Each church received the order by letter last Friday, following a meeting on January 12 attended by local government officials, police, the commander of the local military, and the leader of a local Muslim forum. Several of the churches in the complex met for worship on Sunday anyway, saying they had no alternative venue. The churches first applied for permits in 1993 but were rejected. Under a ministerial decree issued in 1969, all religious groups must apply for permits – and since neighbors must give their approval before a permit is granted, the decree is a huge obstacle for churches meeting in majority-Muslim communities.
Studies Suggest Link between Abortion, Mental Health for Women
Recent research from Norway and New Zealand has reported an association between abortion and subsequent mental health problems, the Baptist Press reports. The Norwegian study compared the experiences of women who had miscarriages with those who had abortions. Six months after pregnancy termination, women who had a miscarriage were more distressed than women who had abortions. However, after five years, women who had abortions were more likely to suffer anxiety and intrusive thoughts of the event than women who miscarried. The New Zealand study found that problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts were more likely to occur among women who had an abortion than women who had never been pregnant or pregnant women who did not terminate a pregnancy. The study concluded, “Abortion in young women may be associated with increased risks of mental health problems.”