Evangelical Campus Ministry (InterVarsityUSA) Decides Employees Should Hold Evangelical Beliefs on Marriage

By Ed Stetzer, The Exchange.

InterVarsity is an Evangelical Christian organization, and people who work at InterVarsity are, not surprisingly, expected to hold evangelical beliefs.

Or, you could state it as Elisabeth Dias of TIME Magazine did:

One of the largest evangelical organizations on college campuses nationwide has told its 1,300 staff members that will be fired if they personally support gay marriage or otherwise disagree with its newly detailed positions on sexuality starting on Nov. 11.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA says that it will start a process for “involuntary terminations” for any staffer who comes forward to disagree with its positions on human sexuality, which holds that any sexual activity outside of a husband and wife is immoral.

In other words, InterVarsity now has the same policy of most evangelical churches.

Furthermore, InferVarsity provided a statement explaining:

The Time article buries the most relevant info, which is that this was a four-year process that was telegraphed and communicated to staff. No one was caught flat-footed or surprised. Recognizing that some staff felt this was theologically contested ground, we opened up a time of 18 months for them to research and discern their convictions on this issue, as well as learn about our convictions. The goal was to clarify our position while also providing ample time for those whose convictions differed to seek out better-fitting ministry opportunities.
Parts of this process were hard and painful, but it was not abrupt, or a shock.

So, why is this news? Well, the Internet is abuzz with outrage and now stories are hitting the mainstream media.

But why is it news that Evangelicals think their ministry staff should hold mainstream evangelical beliefs?

It’s becuase there is a new orthodoxy, and the old one just won’t do for many.

The New Orthdoxy

The new orthodoxy says that you have to bend your beliefs to fit it.

But InterVarsity has a different view—the mainsteam evangelical view. And, such views do cost you today.

And, ultimately, every organization with the beliefs of old orthodoxy will face a moment like this.


Related link: InterVarsity’s Fidelity to Orthodoxy Deserves our Appreciation

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The State of the Church 2016

The Barna Group.

The Christian church has been a cornerstone of American life for centuries, but much has changed in the last 30 years. Americans are attending church less, and more people are experiencing and practicing their faith outside of its four walls. Millennials in particular are coming of age at a time of great skepticism and cynicism toward institutions—particularly the church. Add to this the broader secularizing trend in American culture, and a growing antagonism toward faith claims, and these are uncertain times for the U.S. church. Based on a large pool of data collected over the course of this year, Barna conducted an analysis on the state of the church, looking closely at affiliation, attendance and practice to determine the overall health of Christ’s Body in America.

Most Americans Identify as Christian

Debates continue to rage over whether the United States is a “Christian” nation. Some believe the Constitution gives special treatment or preference to Christianity, but others make their claims based on sheer numbers—and they have a point: Most people in this country identify as Christian. Almost three-quarters of Americans (73%) say they are a Christian, while only one-fifth (20%) claim no faith at all (that includes atheists and agnostics). A fraction (6%) identify with faiths like Islam, Buddhism, Judaism or Hinduism, and 1 percent are unsure. Not only do most Americans identify as Christian, but a similar percentage (73%) also agree that religious faith is very important in their life (52% strongly agree + 21% somewhat agree).

Attending Church Is a Good Indicator of Faith Practice

Even though a majority of Americans identify as Christian and say religious faith is very important in their life, these huge proportions belie the much smaller number of Americans who regularly practice their faith. When a variable like church attendance is added to the mix, a majority becomes the minority. When a self-identified Christian attends a religious service at least once a month and says their faith is very important in their life, Barna considers that person a “practicing Christian.” After applying this triangulation of affiliation, self-identification and practice, the numbers drop to around one in three U.S. adults (31%) who fall under this classification. Barna researchers argue this represents a more accurate picture of Christian faith in America, one that reflects the reality of a secularizing nation.



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When the Term Oxymoron Is Generous: Atheist Clergy

Judges who lack judgement, clergy who lack faith and doctors who kill. The term oxymoron seems generous.

To say we live in an age of confusion seems so patently obvious and yet the confusion is so thorough we need to point it out. Case in point: openly atheist clergy who are ordained and paid by historically Christian denominations.

The latest heretic seeking to retain her credentials is Gretta Vosper. She says she’s not alone but in fact, “This story is about that group of people, because clergy who don’t believe are all over the place, they just don’t have a community that allows them to speak honestly about their beliefs.” How is it possible this statement was not deemed too nonsensical for The Toronto Star to print?


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How Can The Church Thrive In A Non-Christian World?

If our churches have to be a little more uncomfortable to us insiders in order to reach even one lost soul for Christ, that’s a sacrifice we should all be willing to make.

By Ed Stetzer, The Exchange.

73011As we all know, it’s election season. This isn’t ever a rosy time for America, filled with rainbows and warm hugs. But if the political season of 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that the United States is culturally confused. Competing narratives vie for attention, as we’re trying to figure out just who we are as a country. There was a time in our history when it seemed like everyone was a Christian. Now, depending on where in America you live, it can seem like no one is a Christian.

Are we losing our Christian heritage? Were we ever a Christian nation to begin with? And how should churches respond to all of this?

However you read our country’s history, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we have reached a cultural tipping point. Our society no longer assumes the gospel, which means the Church often stands at odds with the rest of society. That may make us uncomfortable and frightened. We like being in the majority.

But the gospel is always clearer in an age when it is not culturally assumed. The Early Church thrived in the midst of a hostile non-Christian world—not because they were more numerous or more powerful, but because they were both .


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The Counter-Intuitive Appeal of Christian orality in a 21st Century World

Right Way, Wrong Way Green Road Sign with Copy Room Over The Dramatic Clouds and Sky.Unless Christianity updates its doctrine and adapts to a changing world, it’s destined for irrelevancy!

A century ago, many church leaders made this sort of claim about God’s supernatural intervention in human affairs. The Bible’s miracle stories were simply unbelievable for modern people in a world steeped in the discoveries of science.

As a result, some churches jettisoned Christian teaching about miracles, while others downplayed the importance of these events in favor of more palatable interpretations. (One of my favorites: the feeding of the five thousand is the “miracle” of people sharing their food, not Jesus providing bread from heaven.)

Strangely, the churches that chose to deny or downplay the miraculous are now more irrelevant than the “fundamentalists” they opposed. And the fastest-growing wing of Christianity in the last century–the Pentecostals and charismatics–has insisted on supernatural signs and wonders as a mark of Christian experience in the present.

Naturalistic philosophy hasn’t won over the world. In fact, some would say that the secular worldview has created a hunger for mystery and spirituality. Whatever the case, a century later, biblical miracles can no longer be labeled as the most controversial aspects of our faith.

Keep reading…

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As Goes the Mainline, So Goes the Nation

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2016-04-07 11:25:24Z | |

The next President of the United States will likely be a self-identified mainline Christian.

Hillary Clinton is a member of the United Methodist Church and Donald Trump continues to assert that he is a Presbyterian. However, Clinton does not align with the UMC on the exclusivity of Christianity, LGBTQ issues or abortion. Trump’s self-avowed denomination openly disavows him. The fact that Clinton and Trump claim affiliation with mainline denominations with whose theology and corporate witness they do not align, illustrates the big tent, diluted, nondescript relativistic Christianity of today’s mainlines.

Culturally, we have arrived at a time and place that should surprise no one and yet seems to surprise many Christians every day. Many Americans wake up every day and wonder how, as a “Christian nation,” we got to a place where college students cannot think, political leaders cannot talk to one another, and the God-created male-female complementarian design bows to fluid self-declared gender identity.

Those who have been students of mainline Christianity for the past 50 years have already watched a moral and theological revolution. The foundation of the faith has been eroded from the inside the mainline which in turn, has had profound influences on our culture at large. This is a call to heed the lessons of history and pray for a future of revival.

As the “robes” of mainline churches have given up on basic Christian beliefs like the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the evangelical mission migrated toward social justice devoid of redemptive power. The trajectory away from a shared faith expressed in and through Jesus Christ as the way of salvation, the truth of God’s Word and the life of discipleship gave way to moralistic therapeutic deism.

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Research: Unchurched Will Talk about Faith, not Interested in Going to Church

By Bob Smietana, LifeWay.

Americans who don’t go to church are happy to talk about religion and often think about the meaning of life.

They’re open to taking part in community service events hosted at a church or going to a church concert.

But only about a third say they’d go to a worship service, if invited by a friend. Few think about what happens after they die.

Those are among the findings of a new online survey of 2,000 unchurched Americans from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The survey, conducted in partnership with the Wheaton, Illinois-based Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, found more than half of Americans who don’t go to church identify as Christians.

But they are mostly indifferent to organized religion, says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“Unchurched Americans aren’t hostile to faith,” he says. “They just don’t think church is for them.”

Talking about faith isn’t taboo

For this survey, “unchurched” means those who have not attended a worship service in the last six months, outside of a holiday or special occasion like a wedding.

Among their characteristics:

  • Two-thirds (67 percent) are white
  • Just over half (53 percent) are male
  • About half (47 percent) have a high school diploma or less
  • Almost two-thirds (62 percent) went to church regularly as a child
  • About a third (32 percent) consider themselves nonreligious
  • One in 5 identifies as Protestant, 1 in 4 as Catholic

Few are turned off by conversations about faith, says McConnell.


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In Egyptian Village, Attack on Christian Grandmother Fuels Anger

By Ahmed Aboulenein and Omar Fahmy, Reuters.

A photo released on Thursday by Diocese of Minya and Abu Qirqas showing the woman who was a victim of the mob attack on Friday meeting with the Priests of the Diocese (Photo: Diocese of Minay and Abu Qirqas)

A photo released on Thursday by Diocese of Minya and Abu Qirqas showing the woman who was a victim of the mob attack on Friday meeting with the Priests of the Diocese (Photo: Diocese of Minay and Abu Qirqas)

Soad Thabet’s house no longer has a door. Inside, its walls are blackened with soot and a television lies shattered on the floor. The remains of a red nightgown stand out among the ashes.

Thabet, 70, describes being dragged outside by Muslim villagers and stripped naked in the dirt roads of Alkarm, the Egyptian village where she spent her most of her adult life.

Her crime? Her son, a married Christian, was rumored to have had an affair with a married Muslim woman. The woman has since denied the affair took place on national television.

“They burned the house and went in and dragged me out, threw me in front of the house and ripped my clothes. I was just as my mother gave birth to me, screaming and crying,” Thabet told Reuters a week after the attack.

Orthodox Copts like Thabet, who make up about a tenth of Egypt’s 90 million population, are the Middle East’s largest Christian community. They have long complained of discrimination in the majority-Muslim country.

Sectarian attacks occur so frequently in Egypt that they rarely attract wide publicity. But Thabet’s ordeal, the public humiliation of an elderly woman, prompted an outcry among Copts and led to the case becoming national news.

“If it were just a burning we could handle it, but what can we do about what happened to the woman? How can you compensate for this insult?” Ishak William, Thabet’s neighbor and relative, told Reuters at his house in Alkarm.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has denounced the Alkarm attack, which underlines that Copts remain vulnerable three years after he took power and pledged to unite the country following years of political turmoil.

Sectarian violence often erupts on the back of rumors about inter-faith romances or suspicions that Christians are building churches without the required official permission.

Homes are burned, crops are razed, churches are attacked and, occasionally, Copts are forced to leave their villages, say human rights groups and residents of the southern province of Minya, home to Egypt’s largest Christian community.


Related articles:

Five more arrested for Egypt’s Minya sectarian attacks on Christians

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Christian Congregation in Syria Defies ISIS by Continuing Church Services Amid Persecution

A Christian congregation in Syria is defying the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by continuing to hold church services amidst the threat of violence and death.

By Lorraine Caballero, Christian Daily.


Pastor Edward Awabdeh and his wife, Rana, say they are called to remain in Syria (Photo from Open Doors.)

While many Christians fled Syria after ISIS razed the war-torn region, Pastor Edward Awabdeh and his congregation stayed and supported each other through the crisis. At one point, a bomb fell on the pastor’s house but fortunately did not explode, the Express relays.

In February last year, ISIS attacked 35 Christian villages and kidnapped more than 250 people along the way. Their atrocities drove 3,000 more to flee their homeland.

“Really it’s very important and meaningful for us as Middle Eastern to see the church with its roots deep back in history stay there and just stay to do the work of Christ there,” said Pastor Awabdeh. “Not just to keep a name but to keep a name with a power and life and really making a difference in the lives of people and in the country, like a light in the darkness at that part of the world,” he continued.

Together with his wife Rana and Christian charity Open Doors, Pastor Awabdeh helps 2,000 families in Syria. They strive to create a sense of normality for the children by providing post-traumatic support, counseling, and engaging them in art activities. Aside from pasturing his flock at the Alliance Church in Damascus, he also oversees 20 other churches in the country, Christian Today details.

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Transgender Bathroom Mandates: Churches Should Step Into the Chaos

education-blogThe outrage over the public school gender identity accommodation mandate is vociferous. But if it’s all sound and fury that comes to nothing then a significant opportunity will have been missed.

Instead of stepping away, what might it look for the Church to step intentionally into the chaos and restore order through a renewed commitment to education as ministry?

Literacy, primary, secondary and higher education were undeniable catalysts in the birth and development of Western Civilization and it was the Christian Church that influenced — and provided — those educational opportunities.

Education and the Church

The Greeks and Romans only educated the elites. The Christian Church, valuing every human being equally, sought to educate everyone.

The first Church champion of education was Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo (AD 354-430). The philosophy of education in the West is founded on Augustine’s teachings that:

1. God is a rational being

2. Not only the human soul but also the human mind are made in the image of God

3. God created humanity to be able to understand and govern creation

Upon these foundations of faith in God, the West built a cohesive culture based on logic, language and rational knowledge.

And as part of the Reformation, Martin Luther — who we must remember was a priest — called for the overhaul of education that had, of necessity during the Dark Ages, become sheltered in monasteries.

In 1520 Luther made an impassioned plea to the German aristocracy.

His “open letter to the Christian nobility,” said, “I believe that there is no work more worthy of pope or emperor than a thorough reform of the universities.”

Others, including John Knox and John Amos Comenius, joined Luther in universalizing education with the goal of an educated civil society. It was the Church, through educational ministry, that united Europe under one worldview and produced history’s first educated continent.

It was this culture of people, educated by the Church, that established the foundations of the nation-state, parliaments, democracy, commerce, banking, and higher education. It was Friars who founded Oxford and Cambridge. And in nascent America, the first 123 colleges and universities — including Harvard, Princeton and Yale — were founded, funded and flourished as educational ministries of the Christian church.

Stepping into Today’s Chaos

Leap forward 380 years to today. The Church has basically forfeited its influence in education and been relegated to the margins. Last week’s letter from the Obama Administration threatened funding if localities and states do not comply with their “guidance.” The Administration is promoting chaos where we need order.



Want more on this? Listen to The Reconnect on this topic from May 17:

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