Thinking Out Loud

January 22, 2020

Wednesday Connect

If you really want to reach unreached people through television, don’t buy time on Sunday mornings; purchase the half hour immediately following Saturday Night Live in selected NBC-TV markets. This month, Andy Stanley ups his game: Instead of re-edited sermon videos, they’ve produced a series just for the Your Move audience.

Note: This blog uses cookies to keep the writer awake after 11:00 PM. 

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #87 (aka Wednesday Link List #487.) So you know what this means, right? Exactly. Next week will be Wednesday Connect #88. 

Don’t forget that WedCon is always happening, 24/7 on my Twitter. Join the select, elite few!

■ Lament for a nation on fire: Michael frost writes,

Friends have told me they can’t sleep, they feel continual low-level sadness. Some speak about feeling helpless or angry. There’s grief about the loss of life, and anxiety about the loss of native animals and livestock. There’s deep concern about the future of our nation. It feels like we’ve all experienced a kind of collective trauma because of the devastation that has occurred to our country. In times of hardship Aussies often say things like, “no worries” or “she’ll be right.” But no one is saying that this time.

Was the fire the pouring out of God’s wrath on Australia?

■ Parenting Place: From a mainstream website, ten “things to look out for this year as you raise kids in a hypersexualized porn culture;” along with practical steps parents can take to protect their kids from the effects of each.

Televangelist Jack Van Impe has died. He repeatedly accused Rick Warren of trying to promote a fusion of Christianity and Islam called ‘Chrislam’ but the charges didn’t stick.

■ The Wartburg Watch looks at author and influencer Dale Partridge.

■ Analogies in the Skywalker movie:  [May contain spoilers] “…the film’s examination of Rey’s identity evokes the good news of God’s adoption of us in Christ. Though humanity’s spiritual lineage is of Adam, though our nature and choices are trapped under sin, still God in Christ desires to graciously embrace us with a new identity: that of redeemed sons and daughters.”

■ Essay of the Week: Alex MacFarland on getting Millennials to church:

The quest to make youth ministry and discipleship ever easier and more accessible and not just ‘study and reflection’ – but actually ‘make it fun’ and ‘make it exciting’?” he questions. “[That] made many churches more about what I would call infotainment and less about imparting the rock-solid truths of scripture.”

And when parents lost the foundations of the faith, the apologist laments, there was less to pass on to their Millennial children.

In a way, McFarland says the horse is already out of the barn. “The majority of Millennials would not come back to a church that they were never a part of in the first place. They need to be evangelized,” he emphasizes.

■ Three new phrases for (some of) you: (1) Dominical sacraments, (2) apostolic charge, (3) liturgical formularies. Now then, read why Anglicans believe that communion (Eucharist) can’t properly happen unless (a) the right person is in charge, and (b) the right words are spoken

■ …so then what do you do with this story from an historic moment in 1969?

Commander Buzz Aldrin had stashed a communion wafer, a capsule of wine, and a tiny silver chalice onboard the Columbia, and smuggled it into space with him. Before his historic walkabout, Aldrin requested a brief radio silence… His actions were at first kept secret because NASA was embroiled in a lawsuit with an atheist who was suing them for broadcasting a public reading of the Bible by the crew of Apollo 8…

The problem is that, according to this author (for different reasons than listed in the previous item) what Aldrin did doesn’t qualify as communion.

■ Digging Deeper: “The apocalyptic logic is made especially clear in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. Jesus must reign at the right hand of God, in keeping with the narrative of Psalm 110, until all his enemies have been overpowered and destroyed, including the last enemy death. Then he will give the authority or kingdom which he received as the faithful Son of Man back to the Father, so that ‘God may be all in all’—effectively bringing Trinitarianism to an end.” Check out the article, How Powerful is Jesus? (For those on a higher pay grade than I, what does this do wiith Jesus sitting at the right hand of God?)

■ What do complementarians believe about women who find themselves in ministry contexts in another part of the world? Do the rules about women in church leadership differ from New York to New Delhi?

■ The Connected Generation: Barna Research Group “spent much of last year researching and learning more about… the 18–35-year-olds—comprised of both Gen Z and Millennials—who are the future of our world.” They were asked both what they already feel they’ve accomplished, and what they are still hoping to accomplish.

■ Before the UMC split happens: “They may wear uniforms, ring bells at Christmas time, and look traditional….but they are anything but. In fact, they are the most progressive people I’ve ever met – I’ve encountered more interracial couples in The Salvation Army than I have in any other church or nonprofit organization I’ve been involved with. Did you know women preach in their churches? That SA fights human trafficking around the world?” What the United Methodists can learn from the Salvation Army. …

■ … For those who don’t click: A link to a piece referred to in the previous item, You Probably Have it Wrong about The Salvation Army. “Every time I hear Lauren Daigle’s song ‘Rescue’ and she sings ‘I will send out an Army to find you in the middle of the darkness‘ I know she’s singing about the Army. The Salvation Army.

■ Yes, the Christian school is Louisville, Kentucky dismissed Kayla Kennedy; and no, it wasn’t because of the rainbow cake. It was because of all the things. The real question that needs to be examined is: How did she get admitted to the school in the first place?

■ Parenting Place (again): Does your local school have a Satan Club? “Atheists using the name “Satanic Temple” attempt to intimidate schools, parents, and the organization (Child Evangelism Fellowship) which holds Bible clubs in schools around the country. Because CEF won a Supreme Court ruling allowing the free exercise of religious clubs in schools, atheists try to get CEF’s flagship program, Good News Club, out of schools by starting Satan Clubs. They hope parents and school boards will panic, and all religious clubs will be expelled.”

■ This was all over Twitter on Tuesday, but if you missed it, a church in a suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul is shutting down in June and then doing a ‘reset’ opening in November in the hopes of starting out fresh with a younger demographic. Hence the headline: “Cottage Grove church to usher out gray-haired members in effort to attract more young parishioners.” (A “planting pastor” at the church said later there are some inaccuracies in the story.)

Canada Corner: Not exactly news, but a new study confirms that Canada is not a Christian nation. Not by any means. The survey looked at both belief and church attendance.

■ Mentioned this last week, but now have a link for you: The Jesus Creed blog (Scot McKnight) now has a new home at Christianity Today. (Complete with a back catalog of previous articles.)

■ As of April 14th, gamblers in the UK won’t be able to use credit cards to do so.

■ New Music: Matt Redman – Official Live Video for “We Praise You” Featuring Brandon Lake  ♫

■ Post-surgery, he discovered he didn’t fit the category of gender disphoria, but was truly suffering from PTSD.

■ In North Carolina, you can carry a concealed weapon to church, but not if the church meets in a school.

■ The Jeremy Camp-inspired movie I Still Believe, releasing in March has been named by Seventeen magazine as the #1 Romantic film of 2020.

■ Sorry, but there’s something deeply disturbing about this music video, and if you watch the visual images, it should be rather apparent what it is. In Chinese, with English subtitles, check out the song God Has Predestined the Paths Man Must Walk. (From the website, “Gospel of the Descent of the Kingdom.”)

■ Time for Summer Camp! “A new generation is about to be introduced to such classic Christian hits as Michael W. Smith’s “Place in This World,” Amy Grant’s “Baby, Baby” and Steven Curtis Chapman’s “The Great Adventure” courtesy of the new film A Week Away.” The movie also contains original songs. ♫

■ Facts of Life star Lisa Welchel on why she never made another album, Christian or otherwise. ♫

■ An article about Justin Bieber leading worship at Judah Smith’s church in Beverly Hills contains a 21-minute segment of one (yes, just one) song. His stage posture there is certainly one of humility. ♫

■ An Atlanta Church has hired a psychic medium. I guess all the cool churches are doing it.

■ Matthew Pierce strikes again: “Is Beth Moore Behind the Baseball Cheating Scandal?” (Parental Discretion Advised.)


Found this in a pile of old papers. It’s a ministry partner letter from Walk in the Word, signed by James MacDonald from July, 2011. The middle paragraph reads, “You’re never gonna discover some secret about me or be disappointed with my private life. You’re never gonna unveil some upsetting news about our business practices behind the scenes…”

Digging a Little Deeper

From the creator of Thinking Out Loud, check out Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free, faith-focused blogging with fresh posts every day at 5:35 PM EST. www.Christianity201.wordpress.com

Just in time for the impeachment hearings: This advertisement appeared in the Saturday edition of The Toronto Star. I cropped out the time and date for the event, but the ad was placed by moodystax.com.

 

January 21, 2020

Getting Rich from the Gospel

Quickly scanning a list of of the highest paid Christian ministry executives released a few days ago by Ministry Watch, I couldn’t help but notice the irony of seeing this the day after the book review I published yesterday.

The article noted, “We are not calling this list the ’50 Highest Paid Christian Ministry Executives’ because we know that many pastors and other church leaders who might make more are not on this list, because churches are not required to make their Form 990s available to the public.”

This would include Focus on the Family. which, as we noted a few days back, is willing to perform all manner of legal contortions in order the have itself classified as a church. Guess they don’t want their key people to turn up on lists like this one. 

If there is a ‘crime in progress’ here, it would be concerning The Inspiration Networks. No less than ten execs from The Inspiration Networks appear on the list, including the #1 spot, but those numbers are, frankly speaking, too heartbreaking to reiterate here. (Don’t want to raise your blood pressure, but the top spot, belonging to David Cerullo, is well over $3.5M and the #2 on the list from the same organization is their General Counsel at $1,521,741.) Moving forward, this is an organization worthy of far greater scrutiny from the media; both Christian media and the mainstream press. The compensation packages in total are just obscene.

But it wasn’t the only organization listed more than once. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice was #3 at $1,421,188, while “spokesperson” Kim Sekulow was #5 with $1,053,432, and Gary Sekulow, CEO/COO was #7 at $985,847. (And their ‘Senior Counsel’ was also on the list at #21.) (All figures U.S. dollars.) 

Also in the top ten was Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, at $1,018,527.

Curriculum Publisher David. C. Cook’s CEO Chris Doornbos is listed as having CEO salary and other compensation totaling $361,532. While that places him in position #50 on the list, it fails to provide context since we don’t know executive salaries at other Christian publishers such as Zondervan, Tyndale, Baker, etc. Additionally, David C. Cook COO Scott Miller received $336,760.

For the groups that do relief and development charity, it also failed to provide the overall income of the organizations in question, which provides necessary context. For example, I had never heard of Food for the Poor, but its senior exec received $469,654, money which, the cynic in me noted, could have been spent on food for the poor. Since I was unfamiliar with their work, I wondered what the total compensation was as a percentage of the total income.

Richard Stearns of World Vision was listed at $534,505, while at Compassion, Mark Hanlon was last on the top sixty list at $302,481.

Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries was listed at $375,672, while Philip Bowen, the CEO was listed at $371,140. (Here’s an organization that really could list itself as a church and avoid public declaration, but they chose not to.)

On the entertainment front, Ryan Durham of Integrity Music was listed at $312,619, position #57. Michael Novak of the Educational Media Foundation, which operates radio station K-LOVE, ranked #17 at $580,628.

Also, “This information comes from the most recent Form 990 available on Guidestar.org. For some ministries the most recent year available was 2016. For most years, the most recent year available was 2017…”

Again, you may read the list for yourself at this link. An article like this can’t replace the impact you get when you look at the list as a whole.

January 20, 2020

Renouncing Both a Doctrine and a Lavish Lifestyle

Review: God, Greed and the Prosperity Doctrine: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies

Many years ago the church which provided space for my Christian music retail, distributing and manufacturing business was also home to a daycare, a Christian newspaper, a radio ministry and a concert ministry. Among other things. And, oh yes, it was also rented by a faith healer of local renown who drew a modest crowd of about 250 people on Monday nights.

When the guy who had the radio and concert ministry got married, some of the other ‘tenants’ in the building got some rather last minute invitations, and I ended up going solo as did the faith healer. And that’s the 100% true story of how I found myself in a brief, one-on-one, subdued and superficial conversation with Benny Hinn as we both waited for the doors to open to the reception.

It was our only direct contact, but suffice it to say that every time his name was mentioned — and in the years that followed it would be mentioned frequently — I had something more than a passing interest. By the time Benny Hinn relocated to Florida, he was, depending on the values behind your metrics, a major success in the world of miracle crusade evangelism.

So I watched with interest in 2017 when word leaked out that his nephew Costi, the son of Vancouver pastor Sam Hinn, had renounced the prosperity doctrine. When the book God, Greed and the (Prosperity) Gospel was released late last year by Zondervan, I missed out on the opportunity for a pre-publication review copy, but after actually holding a copy in my hands and reading a single chapter just a few days ago, I knew I wanted to process the entire story.

I read most of the book in a single afternoon, completing it in the early evening.

The story exposes the excesses and the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the Benny Hinn Crusade team. The private jet. The luxurious food. The $25,000/night hotel. These things were paid for by the sacrificial donations of people who could ill afford to part with the money, many times in the belief that a blessing was just around the corner if they would give.

The irony, to put it mildly, was not lost on young Costi. On a trip to India, his conscience was pricked and it set in motion a chain of events that ended with his separating himself from the family business. He studied at a Baptist seminary and now serves as Executive Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona and also heads a resource ministry, For The Gospel.

The book chronicles his jet-setting adventures, his choice to pursue academic study to equip himself for ministry, and his meeting the woman (now his wife) who would be part of re-orienting his thinking on many doctrinal issues. The book is roughly two-thirds narrative and one-third teaching on what he now regards as error in prosperity teaching.

He now quotes Charles Spurgeon and John MacArthur. Yes, that John MacArthur who has castigated charismatics for decades. It’s like he’s gone from one extreme to the other, out of the fire and into the frying pan, if you like.

With one exception. He’s still continuationist in his doctrine. He still believes that Jesus heals supernaturally. I’m not sure MacArthur, who is a cessationist, is fully engaged on that topic.

There’s a Q-and-A section in the back of the book which spells out his current relationship to Hinn family members. I’m betting Thanksgiving and Christmas may have some awkward moments. But he states in the introduction that he is not interested in having his book be seen as an exposé, but rather, he’s simply telling his own story.

Since the book was published, I understand that Benny Hinn has recanted at least some or all of the prosperity teaching, but we’ve seen Benny do this before (such as the idea that each member of the Godhead is itself triune) and then retract the retraction in later writing.

My devouring of the book reflects my personal interest, but I think it’s worthy of a recommendation. But maybe not for anyone who gave money to Benny Hinn. For those, reading it would be rather painful.


Book page at Zondervan: Click here

Once again, thanks to Mark at HarperCollins Christian Publications Canada for getting a copy to me so quickly!

January 17, 2020

Helping Churches Navigate Uncharted LGBT+ Waters

Filed under: Christianity, Church, issues, reviews, theology — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:08 am

Towards the end of the summer I happened on an edition of the Unseminary podcast where Rich Birch was interviewing Texas pastor Bruce B. Miller, author of a book I was unfamiliar with, Leading a Church In a Time Sexual Questioning: Grace-filled Wisdom for Day-to-day Ministry.(Zondervan) I obtained a copy of the book but only this week completely finished reading it.

The thing I remember from the interview that day was the tremendous accommodation his church is making for visitors and regular attenders in a world of many different gender labels and complexities.

I really looked forward to reading the book but found that, in the perspective of the podcast I’d heard, it didn’t really hit its stride or have the same bite until about halfway through. I think there are a couple of reasons for that.

First of all there are things that you can quickly get into in a verbal interview that bypass laying the scriptural foundation for a particular view on issues related to LGBT+ people. He wants to begin with a theology of sexuality.

Secondly, I think it was important to the author to make clear his own position which is a traditional interpretation of key scripture passages.

But that said, especially the second point, only serves to show the tremendous grace that he and his leaders have offered to those who might be coming to his church for the first time or might be considering attending on a regular basis. The book is an excellent template for any church that is navigating these uncharted waters.

Miller draws largely from the writing of Preston Sprinkle (who wrote the foreword), Andrew Marin, Nate Collins and many others. (Lots and lots of footnotes for those who want do dig deeper.)

So how does the grace-filled response enter?

…[G]ay people are crystal clear on our church’s teaching that gay sex is wrong. In fact they go much further and imagine that we think being gay is the worst sin imaginable and that we hate them. Therefore, we have to go to great lengths to share what they do not know: that we love them and welcome them just as they are, as Jesus does. We have to say over and over that we want them here in our church family…(p.120)

And of course there’s two sides to this and so I also appreciated this quote from Kyle Idleman

“The church should not be known for outrage towards people outside of our community who need grace; we should be outraged by people inside our community who refuse to give grace.” (p.121)

Which tied in directly to this earlier statement,

We need as much grace for church people who struggle with gay people as we do for gay people who struggle with the church. (p.111)

So who it is that we’re dealing with?

…86 percent of people in the LGBT+ community reported a significant level of church involvement at some point in their childhood or teenage years. (p.118)

I also appreciated the way that he’s looking forward into the possibilities that can arise 10 or 20 years down the road from the position where are we now find ourselves. For example this comment about what happens as the gay population ages. Quoting Marin,

“What will churches do with the eighty-year-old gay man who has committed himself not only to the church but to celibacy as a theological conviction? He doesn’t have children to support him or to serve as next of kin or as power of attorney for his medical care. He doesn’t have descendants to listen to his stories or pictures of grandchildren to share with his peers. Who will be his advocate, his family, his community? It’s a reality that theologically conservative churches need to start planning for…” (p. 155)

In addition to discussion questions at the end of each chapter one feature of the book which I need to mention is found in chapter 10: A liturgy for sexual healing. This could be the basis of an entire service on this topic and there is content here that can be adapted by non liturgical churches.

I recommended this book to several people not because there aren’t other books on this topic in the market and others being written as I type this, but rather because it is written from a strong Church leadership perspective and as this issue becomes more front of mind in our churches it is the type of resource which, if I were a pastor, I would want to put in the hands of all of my key leaders and board members.


I wanted to include a section from the book on my devotional blog, Christianity 201, but that blog deliberately avoids topical issues so I found a general section which you’ll find at this link.


One more time, if you want to catch the podcast, click here.


I’ve used LGBT+ as that’s what this book uses. The author is clear at the outset that the focus is on gay and lesbian people, not transgender or “other sexual minorities.”


This was my first attempt at dictating an entire blog post into my phone. I think I caught the spelling and syntax issues, but you can let me know!

January 15, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Greg Boyd’s new tattoo. No, seriously, it is. “I always said that I would tattoo the Logical Hexagon on my back if I ever became convinced it was valid. Thanks to the excellent work of Elijah Hess… I am now convinced!” Sourced at this tweet.


This is the symphony
That Schubert wrote and never fin

…There is nothing I could do to get this done this week. So think of it as the Unfinished Symphony edition of Wednesday Connect. But a huge thanks to all of you who turned out to read last week’s Back-To-Work edition. I think we set a record for items clicked, so if you missed it, click here.

■ Shannon Dingle’s pain is so real, and her loss so great, after her husband was swept out by a rogue wave. But then, out of nowhere, a mention of it pops up on the TV show Party of Five. Despite the utter shock, Shannon demonstrates incredible grace to the program’s writers and producers. (See also the comments and follow-up tweets.)

■ Are you watching Jeopardy’s Greatest of All Time special series? The show doesn’t always get it right. A contestant was ruled incorrect for saying that Bethlehem is in Palestine. Then, to make matters worse, “Sony Pictures Television, producer of Jeopardy!, admitted the mistake and clarified that an uncorrected version of the game was broadcast due to a ‘human error in post-production.'” (We found this story on Aljazeera, no less!) (Watch the replacement clue which was never broadcast.)

■ It was not a great year. Most of us who blog can access a list of our top posts of 2019; something I found out recently. But Julie Roys’ list is more of a Hall of Shame, a sad commentary on revelations involving several personalities and churches, but one in particular.

■ It was one of the most-asked questions to John Piper’s podcast, but for seven years he kept brushing it off. Finally, an answer to the question on how to avoid sexual dreams.

■ Representatives from the black church have signed an open letter in support of Christianity Today’s article regarding Donald Trump, and have rebuked the pastors who criticized CT for publishing the piece by Mark Galli…

■ …speaking of which, this flashback to January, 2018. It turns out this was not Mark Galli’s first rodeo.

■ The last post: Scot McKnight leaves Patheos with a short but glowing review of Does God Really Love Me by Cyd Holsclaw and Geoff Holsclaw. “Something happened in the 1990s and 2000s: the old-fashioned gospel of the four spiritual laws or the bridge fell apart in the hands of the next generation. I don’t know if that collapse occurred because of generational shifts in that the language no longer worked, or if it collapsed because biblical studies were unveiling a more profound and more accurate gospel.” (Look for McKnight’s blog Jesus Creed at Christianity Today in just a few days.)

■ A progressive Jewish magazine did a piece on self-inducing abortion. “Just like building IKEA furniture.” (In fairness, the full quote was, “Just like building IKEA furniture, managing your abortion is easier and safer with a friend.”) The procedure is not without risk, and as pro-lifers will tell you (but the article won’t) it’s not without years of emotional scarring.

■ An Iowa (US) journalist who struggled with gambling addiction in writing his own obituary, credits his “faith in Jesus Christ” for transforming his life. (Read the obit here.)

■ Leadership Lessons: Your new word for 2020, Conversermon. “Sermons aren’t everything,” is the theme of this article which invites you to lead an alternative or experiential worship service or find other ways to engage the Word without a weekend sermon.

■ Why does it seem like there’s a disproportionate number of pastors from Chicago in the headlines for doing things they shouldn’t do? (If you click through to the Trib, it shows the area where he ministered. Poverty. Then he buys a $142K car.)

Essay of the Week: Christ and Pop Culture’s Top 25 of 2019.

■ It was an honor just to be nominated asked. Except this time, the conference invitation was to an event which didn’t exist. (And lots of speakers received them.)

■ Collision course? Apparently, Eric Metaxas has a few things he doesn’t like about the U.S. Constitution. (If it includes procedures for removing a certain President from a certain White House.)

■ Whatever happened to the parsonage? Real estate realities in the world of short-term pastorates.

■ Finally, it can now be said officially. Dog owners attend church more faithfully than cat owners. (Includes an interview with the research study’s author, and his dog, Lucy.)


news stories compiled this week with a little help from DISRN
opinion pieces compiled with help from Eric and Michael at LINKATHON


■ I can almost guarantee you haven’t heard this story before:


Last week’s top clicks:

1. Julie Roys on Chicago churches
2. C.S. Lewis daily account on Twitter: What happened>
3. Andy Stanley sermon teaser
4. Olson’s childhood church
5. The Bee: Surprise! It’s satire!
6. UMC Split
7. People who died in 2019
8. Francis Chan’s Catholic leanings?
9. G Boyd’s new book

Click here to read these and more.

January 12, 2020

Service Cancelled Due to the Weather

Filed under: Church, Christianity, weather — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:48 pm

“Father MacKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear…”
– The Beatles

Perhaps the lyric was on my mind as we recently watched the movie Yesterday. Twice actually.

On our own yesterday we had to make a run to Emergency as I was in great agony with a pain in my foot which was diagnosed as a tear in the Achilles tendon. Or something like that. I was more concerned with the care and the prognosis than the particular title the injury received.

Mrs. W. was in the waiting room, working on her laptop on a sermon outline that had been percolating for awhile, in case it was needed the next day. The pastor is in Montreal with family, and the scheduled speaker, who would have needed to drive a significant distance, had done the prudent thing and cancelled ahead of time.

So my wife had offered to be the back-up speaker for the other back-up speaker.

As it turned out, the church cancelled their service. About half of the Evangelical churches that are active on Facebook did the same, and another half did not. The Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches had nothing on social media (if they have it at all) so we assume they went ahead.

Hence The Beatles quotation above. Poor Father MacKenzie. Did no one come to the service?

We saw this happen a few years ago. A priest in Boston was going through all of the forms for the 5:00 PM mass in an empty sanctuary. Empty, but for the two tourists peeking through a back door, on whom his dedication had a significant impact; so perhaps it wasn’t all for naught.

I have no memories of church services being cancelled when I was young. It was a large church in a big city, and maybe the roads were kept cleared enough that people could arrive without incident. We probably had a few rural members and adherents, but for the most part, this was an urban church, transplanted from a downtown location that made it even more urban. As long as public transit was operating, people could attend.

Some of that may also be due to the changing weather patterns we are experiencing. I’ve written about that five years ago. On the 6:30 U.S. network newscasts I’ve watched for as long as we’ve been married, the last seven or eight years have almost always included a breaking weather-related story among the opening headlines.

I’ve run the picture below, with the same caption, previously on the blog. It’s not always about the weather, but the extremes of weather we experience.

In the meantime, we’ve missed this week’s opportunity for fellowship, teaching and worship. My wife’s earlier attempt to watch a live stream of the church where she grew up failed due to unusually slow internet speeds. We went to different rooms and read different books. I had downloaded a sermon last night, and will probably choose another one (or more) before the day is over.

I hope that both Father MacKenzie and my wife get to deliver their sermons to some actual people. And perhaps one of the ladies in the church will step up and offer to darn the priest’s socks so he doesn’t have to do this himself.

On New Year's Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer is showing that we’re heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That's 101 degrees F difference. That day I was asking,

On New Year’s Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer was showing that we were heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That’s 101 degrees F difference. That day I was asking, “Are we even on the same planet?” (The left picture was actually Bondi Beach.) Where I live, houses, cars and our collection of clothing has to withstand wind chill factors as low as -50 C (which was reached in Winnipeg several times that year, almost not needing the chill factor) and humidity index temps higher than +40 C.


We plough the fields, and scatter
the good seed on the land;
But it is fed and watered
by God’s almighty hand.
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft, refreshing rain. 1

… He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matt 5:45)


1Classic hymn based on a poem published in 1782 and set to music in 1800; also the basis of the song All Good Gifts from the musical Godspell; section cited based on Psalm 147:16.

January 10, 2020

The Tragedy That Never Happened

Filed under: Christianity — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:36 am

Tourist boats moving through European canals tend to move at slower speeds than are permitted on North American lakes.

The headline might have looked like this:

40 Seniors Dead as Tour Boat Flips in Lake

followed by the subheading:

Witnesses Say 12-year old Was Driving

I was that 12-year-old. My mother was escorting a group of seniors in a tour around a lake in Ontario’s vacation country. At least it might have been that. Or it could have been that both my parents were there with a church-related group they belonged to.

I never asked later.

I never thought it about later.

And the events are now probably more dramatic in my mind than they were at the time.  Strange how childhood memories come back.

Someone thought it would nice to let the kid try steering the boat.

I remember taking a turn particularly hard. Probably just added a little excitement as these things tend to move through the water at slow speeds.

I remember being relieved of command rather swiftly.

The rest of the tour was uneventful.

Had something happened, there would have been many questions. Whether anyone was capable of being flipped out of the vessel at that speed might be doubtful. But had something happened, it would have been something I’d have to live with.

Would a pre-teen be allowed to drive the boat today?

Who knows. I like to think people are more cautious now and regulations are more stringent.

And the boats are probably more often glass-enclosed, not open-air like the one I drove, the type of which is pictured above.

 

January 8, 2020

Wednesday Connect

Is this what your church will look like in 2040? See article below.

It’s fiction, so it can choose to be or not be about Christianity. Nonetheless the program won’t be streamed in the country where it was filmed. See stories below.

With three weeks of catching up to do, this is a slightly longer list. I hope you’ll not rush through this, but take time to click on a half-dozen or more items.

■ Essay of the Week: I’m staring at a completely blank screen as I type this but this open letter to blogger Julie Roys is undoubtedly this week’s must-read piece. “[I]t can still be fairly observed that anyone who tried to pastor a church in the Chicago area in the past 30 years felt the influence of Willow Creek and Harvest like the manager of a Mom-and-Pop store feels the influence of Walmart and Amazon. Two near-orbiting energy-draining black holes.”

■ If you were following a Twitter account called C. S. Lewis Daily, what would you expect to see? I’m guessing quotations by C. S. Lewis, right? But on the weekend more people started noticing that the items have nothing to do with Lewis, there seems to be an agenda, and perhaps even the account has been hijacked. Check out the comments on this one, for example. (Update: Apparently we weren’t the first to notice this.)

■ UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his Christmas speech to remind everyone of the persecution faced by Christians worldwide. “As Prime Minister, that’s something I want to change. We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and we will defend your right to practice your faith.”  ­

■ If they didn’t like the message of Andy Stanley’s Irresistible, they might not be too happy with Greg Boyd’s take on a similar subject. Check out his weekend sermon introducing his book Inspired Imperfection.

■ An Australian reflects on the bush fires consuming such a large amount of acreage in his country:

  • Each year, there is a bushfire season in Australia, but this year it started weeks earlier and they are now the largest in living memory. The bottom line is that over 10 million hectares have been burned (that is an area the size of Scotland and Wales combined), hundreds of homes have been destroyed, at least 20 lives lost, and almost 500 million animals and birds destroyed (including an estimated third of the koalas in northern New South Wales).
  • These fires are not new. This afternoon I was reading about the impact of the 1851 Black Thursday bushfires that burnt a quarter of Victoria, killed 12 humans and over a million sheep.
  • The Indian Ocean Dipole is the main reason for both the extreme heat and drought in Australia. This is an effect where the western half of the ocean is warmer than that of the eastern. Added to this is the problem of the winds. Normally the strong southerlies blow several hundred kilometres to the south but for some unknown reason they are much closer to Australia.
  • If Australia were to destroy its own economy (and impoverish many poor people even more) and reduce its emissions from 1.3% to 1% of global emissions, the new power stations being planned in China would make up for that within a year.
  • 13% of bushfires are natural; 87% are human and of these at least 40% are believed to be arson. The situation is so serious that today it was reported that NSW police are to set up a taskforce to investigate how many of the fires were caused deliberately…

He then asks readers to pray for rain.

■ Memoir of the Week: Though he doesn’t pin any dates or locations to the article, Roger Olsen reminisces on growing up in a conservative Christian home along with the many services attended and behavioral codes adhered to. He wonders aloud what happened to that lifestyle.

■ Not everyone has a Damascus Road experience. “A study done among a group of 500 churchgoers in England who had come to faith in the previous twelve months found that almost seventy percent of them described their conversions as a gradual experience that took an average of four years. Only twenty percent described their salvation experience as dramatic or radical.” 

■ In one of his latest messages, Francis Chan bends slightly Roman Catholic. Or not so slightly. “500 hundred years ago, someone put a pulpit at the front of the gathering. This is when we shifted from communion as both the physical center and most important element of the service to ‘one guy and his pulpit.'”

■ Quotation of the Week: How to Stay in Church, A Field Guide

Maybe I’m not the best person to talk about this; after all, I’ve left. I don’t go to church these days. I’m an outsider. Maybe that disqualifies me from talking about how to remain. But I will tell you this: I still love the church. I’m always captivated by the idea of community and togetherness. And I believe in the mission of the church as I understand it. I believe the church was called to be a place where people come together to follow Jesus by loving their neighbors. For all my cynicism, I still believe in the power of the Holy Ghost flowing through the local church.

Even though I love the church, I’m by no means blind to the hurt it causes. And if you’re going to stay, you are going to get hurt. You must prepare to triage yourself and other people because the church is going to hurt you. There are going to be people who wound you, some doctrine that crushes, and unwillingness to change that is going to be like smashing your face against a brick wall. Theology will be wielded as a weapon and the pulpit will give up its authority for the sake of political power. It’s going to hurt to stay. If you want to stay, you must brace yourself for the hurt.”

■ Another denomination, the United Methodist Church, is splitting later this year over the gay marriage issue.

■ Significant Archeological News: “The Israel Antiquities Authority believes it may have found a 2,000-year-old market next to the recently discovered Pilgrimage Road in Jerusalem that Jesus and other Jews once walked on to get to the Second Temple.”

■ Having to do funerals for people he’d never met convinced this pastor of these five tips the dead can teach the living for 2020.

■ Decade in Review: Religion News Service on those whose influence rose and those whose stature fell.

■ Christmas, one more time: The 41-minute series kick off sermon from December 1 by Andy Stanley to his congregation makes good back-tracking for anyone in your sphere of influence unclear as to what the last month was all about.

■ Seven local church concerns. Thom Rainer reports on feedback from church consultants noting seven trends. Sample: #5 – “The issue of deferred maintenance is a crisis in many churches. Our consultants are reporting a number of churches that simply don’t have the funds to maintain their deteriorating facilities.”

■ A really, really good article from October, 2017 we wish we’d seen. The Bible’s world provides us with so many natural and agrarian metaphors. But we live in cities. Is there a way our worship songs can better reflect this?

■ White Supremacy: Publisher’s Weekly reports, “In this trenchant analysis of the roots of white supremacy in American culture, blogger and preacher [Mark] Charles (Reflections from the Hogan) and religion professor [Soong-Chan] Rah (The Prophetic Lament) team up to examine the insidious legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, a set of 15th-century legal principles based on Catholic papal decrees.” This title released in November from IVP.

■ Thousands attended as “Reinhard Bonnke, the German evangelist known as ‘The Billy Graham of Africa,’ was lauded at a Saturday (Jan. 4) memorial service as ‘a giant and a general in the army of God.'”

■ New website(s) to know about with resources for the whole family: Minno Life (for adults) and Minno Kids (which is also the new home for Jelly Telly.)

■ To bolster attendance at their Kentucky attractions, Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter and Creation Museum will both offer free admission to children 10 and under in 2020.

A season of predictions. The holographic worship leader pictured above is one of several items on a list of ways the church will look different in 2040.

■ Provocative (but not exactly inaccurate) Headline of the Week: “Actress Michelle William Celebrates Abortion During Golden Globes, ‘Thank God’ We Can Kill Babies.

■ Opinion: The CT article by Mark Galli in reference to President Trump was nothing more than journalists doing what journalists do. ” Journalists serve the public… Journalism shares a lot of the same values as Christianity. They both privilege truth. They both are concerned with the interests of others.”

Messiah: Will he convert you or con you? That’s the question asked in a new series on Netflix. Like the CBS series God Friended Me, the brush strokes painted are wider than Christianity, but in much of that network series, Christianity seems to be most dominantly in view. Messiah offers “an ambiguous Christ-like man claiming to be sent by God.” “Packed with several solid teachings and the resounding message that sin brings punishment, season 1 of Messiah ends with the implication that Al-Masih might be either a hoaxer, a magician or a radical terrorist.” (Note: “The series is rated TV-MA (for mature audiences only), because it contains foul language and graphic sex scenes.”)  …

 … However, “The Royal Film Commission [in late December] officially asked Netflix not to stream the TV series Messiah in Jordan after supporting its shoot in the country… ‘The story is purely fictional and so are the characters,’ the commission said. ‘Yet, the RFC deems that the content of the series could be largely perceived or interpreted as infringing on the sanctity of religion, thus possibly contravening the laws in the country.'”

■ A single brand: Discovery House Publishing is now Our Daily Bread Publishing. (The organization has been moving toward a single brand identification dating back to it’s ‘Radio Bible Class’ days.)

■ Russell Moore begins by telling his 2009 self that “Donald Trump is president, Twitter is still around, Kanye West is a Christian, and Joshua Harris is not” and then goes on to name his Top Books of the Decade.

■ Old Music: The Getty’s have just covered a hymn belonging to a writer born in 1894: Thou Who Was Rich Beyond All Splendor.

■ New Music: Mandisa has covered one of our favorite songs: Way Maker

■ Mainstream Music (article): “Coldplay gives us a vision of everyday life in which people acknowledge each other’s hurt, individuals dissolve as drops into the same sea, and we all sing a mournful, joyful hallelujah together.” This analysis leaves me wishing the author had written a few songs of his own.

■ ICYMI: Our summary of the top Canadian-interest faith-related stories of 2019 which appeared here at Wednesday Connect.

■ Babylon Bee articles look like the real thing. And they’re quite funny. So they get shared. A lot. And people read them who don’t know it’s satire. Why that’s a problem for them, for the people referenced in their stories, and for all of us.  

■ Just east of Syracuse, New York, three of the four town councilors decided they’d rather swear on a book of town codes than on a Bible.

■ An article about a movie about the making of faith-based movies got 10,000 comments; all from people who haven’t yet seen the film. Watch the teaser trailer for Faith Based. (Film festival opening January 18th.)

Best sermon series teaser ever.

■ Finally, a Lent course based on Mary Poppins. (see image below) “Where The Lost Things Go is a ‘practically perfect’ Lent course for small group study – or for reading on one’s own – based on the popular film Mary Poppins Returns. Poet and minister Lucy Berry skilfully (sic) draws out some of the themes of the Oscar-nominated movie (which stars Emily Blunt, Ben Whishaw and Lin-Manuel Miranda) and shows how we can consider them more deeply alongside passages from the Bible.”


If you missed the Holy Post Podcast where Phil Vischer and Skye Jethani (and Christian Taylor) responded to the CT article by Mark Galli, it contained a history lesson on the differences between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Josh Alves illustrated this on Twitter.

■ Postscript: If you already heard the Holy Post Podcast referred to in the above graphic, this article by Roger Olson is a good fit.

January 6, 2020

Evangelicals in a Nation of Tax Loopholes

Note to readers in countries outside the United States: What follows is not fiction. What is described below is believed to be an accurate recounting of the statements issued by an Evangelical organization which has already been a trusted brand in ministry.

Wade Mullen is my new hero. His exposé on one of the charity sector’s most unusual accountability loopholes published as a Twitter thread last week. It took time and research to write. It took courage to print. But then I shouldn’t be surprised. As his “about” page on his website notes:

I earned a PhD researching the ways in which organizations seek to escape a scandal with their legitimacy in tact. My dissertation is titled: “Impression Management Strategies Used by Evangelical Organizations in the Wake of an Image-threatening Event.” You and can download it for free HERE.

(Warning: That dissertation is 279 pages!)

The gist of the thread is summed up thus:

Focus on the Family received approval from the IRS to be reclassified as a church in 2016.

For many of my readers here, that may seem a little strange, but it doesn’t appear to be a world-shaking observation. But as most of my American readers know, the difference is in the responsibility for transparency. The site The Balance Small Business notes:

In other words, churches, to be considered 501(c)(3) charities, must act like other charities. If they do so, they may qualify for tax-exemption.

But, unlike other charities, Churches do not have to register with the IRS by submitting Form 1023. However, many do file to make their status clear to their donors and supporters. Churches that do officially register as charitable organizations are included on the IRS list of registered charities.

Churches that do not register with the IRS do not have to file yearly 990s, the tax document that all other charities must submit yearly. If the church has registered as a 501(c)(3), it does have to file a 990.

Okay, so far so good. A church is a church is a church, right? Not exactly. In the years since the end of World War II, we’ve seen a massive explosion of we insiders call parachurch organizations. The website continues:

Religious groups [organizations] are not places of worship. They do not usually belong to a particular denomination. They often try to bridge particular belief systems, although they can also be groups that study or promote a particular religion.

To be considered tax-exempt, a religious organization must register as a 501(c)(3) charity. That means filing Form 1023 (groups with income below $5000 annually are not required to file although they may wish to). Once registered, the organization must file an annual 990.

The last few years have shown that the leadership of both churches and parachurch organizations is fallible. Have a sex scandal and the IRS isn’t particular interested, unless money changes hands. But be guilty of financial impropriety and donors, potential donors, watchdog organizations and the IRS will investigate. So if you can hide behind the idea of being a church you can escape many of those watching eyes.

Wade Mullen then went through each of the IRS criteria of Church, criterion by criterion and Focus on the Family’s response. I’m not going to reproduce each of the accompanying images here, but this is well documented; in fact, I would suggest if you have Twitter (and even if you don’t) skipping what follows and reading this starting with this Tweet. However, I’m reproducing the text here because Twitter and blogs are often an entirely different audience, and this deserves, in my humble opinion, wider exposure. [Note: Bold face type added.]

Wade Mullen
[photo: Lancaster Bible College]

A church needs an established congregation.
According to FoF, their personnel make up their 594-member congregation overseen by the elders (aka Board of Directors) and deacons/deaconesses (aka Executive Cabinet). Radio listeners are their mission field.

A church needs a place of worship.
According to FoF, their dining hall doubles as a worship auditorium. They call it a “chapelteria.”

A church needs a process for membership.
According to FoF, their “congregants” become members when they go through the employee or volunteer hiring process.

Churches give their members certain rights.
According to FoF, their “congregation” are encouraged to “participate in the religious functions of Focus on the Family,” like Monday prayer meetings and devotional opportunities.
As expected, this “congregation” does not vote.

Members of one local church typically don’t become members of another local church.
According to FoF, however, it’s normal for people to be members of more than one church.

Churches usually conduct baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.
According to FoF, their “congregation” participates in communion every Easter during a chapel service. All other functions (baptisms, weddings, funerals) are supposedly conducted by the “congregant’s” other church.

Churches should have a school for the religious instruction of the young.
According to FoF, their radio programs, like Adventures in Odyssey, constitute their religious instruction for the young members of their “congregation.”

A church typically has ordained or licensed ministers.
According to FoF, they refer to the leadership team as deacons/deaconesses and the board of directors as elders. Jim Daly, President/CEO, is the head elder and they follow the “model of an elder-led church.”

Churches typically required their ministers to receive formal preparation culminating in ordination, licensing, or commissioning.
According to FoF, they do not find such requirements necessary for their “church.” Elders (BoD) are selected from the “congregation.”

Churches are sometimes affiliated with other churches.
According to FoF, the offices they have in 13 other countries are the “churches” they affiliate with.

A church should primarily function as a church, with most activity being religious.
According to FoF, their “daily work is worship.” This is one of their strongest claims throughout the application.
They view all employee activity as religious activity.

A church usually has a religious history.
According to FoF, their organization has been evolving into a church in the same way that John Wesley started his “Holy Club” that evolved into Methodism, and is beginning to resemble other churches as it continues to institutionalize.

A church usually has a creed.
According to FoF, their statement of faith and “Six Pillars” are their creed and one of their distinctive is the belief in “work as worship.”

Churches should have both an equipping and service role.
But according to FoF, they are one of two blades in a pair of scissors. FoF is the “service and mission” blade and the “congregant’s” other church is the “teaching and equipping” blade. Together they comprise the Church.

■ When the IRS brought up the fact their employees attend other churches on Sundays, FoF claimed not all churches have services on Sundays, like the Seventh-day Adventist, and that “it has been quite common for believers to be involved in more than one church body…concurrently.”

■ When the IRS asked about membership being tied to employment, FoF claimed that since they invite visitors and volunteers to join their “services,” then membership is not “in fact contingent on employment.”

■ When the IRS asked about religious leadership being the same as directing business operations, FoF claimed that “nearly all congregational churches…have a board of directors that doubles as a board of elders or board of deacons”

■ When the IRS suggested there was nothing distinctive that would cause “a group of believers to coalesce around you,” FoF chided them for their “ecclesiastical judgment” and argued their group of believers are among the largest in the world – 5.5 million nationwide.

■ When the IRS pointed out that these congregational activities appear to be incidental to the business operations, FoF argued their church activities are fundamental to their operations and that thinking of church as a building to gather to hear a sermon on Sundays is antiquated.

■ Finally, when the IRS questioned their real purpose for using facilities for “some religious activity in the course of their work day,” FoF chided them again for their “ecclesiastical judgment” and argued their members engage in “religious activity, all day, every day.”

My take:
This is an incredible twisting of the biblical view of the nature and purpose of a local church for the apparent purpose of forcing one’s ecclesiology into IRS codes.
Not surprisingly, others like BGEA, Samaritan’s Purse, and RZIM have followed.

■ If Focus on the Family truly believes it is a church, its employees and volunteers are its congregants, their executives are their pastors and elders, and their listeners are their mission field, then they should immediately stop requesting donations from their 6m+ listeners.

■ The lawyer offering these answers is Stuart Mendelsohn, legal counsel to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (EFCA), a group that offers accreditation for ministries and churches.

■ Here is the letter FoF sent to the IRS requesting the reclassification from a 509(a)(2) to a 509(a)(1), stating “Focus on the Family was established and has been historically operated as a church.” [Attaches link to this 125-page .pdf file]

[end thread]

Here are some responses Wade received:

► From Rachel: “This is bananas. This is also why some people are anti-tax exemption for churches. It’s not because they want to blur the line between Church and State; it’s because of ethically dubious loopholes that religious orgs take advantage of.”

► Diane quoted N.T. Wright: “When you pretend evil is not there you merely give it more space to operate.”

► Albert noted: “…PLOT TWIST, they used the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a tiny part of their justification.”

► Bill wrote: “Focus on the Family is not a church. And claiming that it is for tax purposes is lying. A “Christian” ministry shouldn’t be lying for financial gain.”

► Julia asks: “It is such a tragedy that churches are becoming more secretive while secular non-profits are demonstrating transparency. Why are these “churches” considered Godly?”

► Hannah reasoned: “When anything with a vaguely religious cast can be a “church,” then nothing is.”

► Craig wrote: “I’m embarrassed reading the arguments. This is incredibly dishonest.”

► Rachel aptly notes: “I’m here thinking the fact that the IRS has a “church” designation in the first place is a bit unsettling.”

► Lucrezia wrote: “I look forward to FoF ceasing all political activity since it is apparently a church.”

[end responses]

And those are just the ones Wade retweeted. I’m sure there were hundreds more. To me this is every bit as scandalous as many of the other scandals of 2019. It brings me no pleasure to share this, but having discovered it, I felt there should be some additional recognition and highlighting of all these things that were made available to Twitter account holders last week.

Something is seriously wrong and as I said at the outset, Focus on the Family has long been a respected brand in Evangelicalism, and ought feel shamed by the responses it made to the IRS. 

Ask yourself, who benefits by all this?

 

January 1, 2020

Faith in Canada: Top Stories of 2019

Top 15 Canadian Items from the 2019 Blog Year

🇨🇦 In my view, Canada’s top faith-based story of the year, in terms of what we followed personally and what consumed our attention, wasn’t in the strictest sense faith-based at all, though it involved a couple who pastor a church in British Columbia.

An overseas adoption, which should have taken days on the ground once months of paperwork had been established, ended up taking months, and the Canadian government seemed unable or unwilling to speed up the process.

More recently, that story was summarized in the first 22 minutes of this Canadian television program:

Other stories of interest in 2019 were:

🇨🇦 In January, the controversial “attestation” in the federal government’s summer job grant program was removed for 2019. (Having to agree to the statement prevented many churches and Christian organizations from receiving the grant in 2018.) The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada reported on the changes in this 6-page .pdf article.

🇨🇦 LGBTQ and Faith: “Eight months after declining to ban conversion therapy, the Liberal party is promising to do just that if re-elected in October…In its platform released [late September], the Liberal party said it will criminalize the practice.”

🇨🇦 Quebec’s Bill 21: The article called it “Quebec’s strict secularism bill,” noting, “A new law in Quebec prohibits the wearing of religious symbols or clothing by some government employees, including public school teachers, state lawyers, judges and police officers…Quebec’s majority government passed the bill, 75-35, using closure June 16 after long hours of deliberation. Some last-minute amendments concerning surveillance provisions made the law more stringent than anticipated…Bill 21 includes a notwithstanding clause overriding some parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” More recently, four parts of the bill are being challenged in four separate lawsuits.

🇨🇦 In what many viewed as an upset, the Anglican Church of Canada did not ratify same sex marriage. The vote would have required a two-thirds majority from three constituencies consisting of lay-delegates, clergy and bishops. It was the bishops who failed to reach the two-thirds, coming close at 62.2%. So the rank-and-file parishioners are at odds with the leadership.

🇨🇦 The same denomination is facing extinction, “‘Projections from our data indicate that there will be no members, attenders or givers in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040,’ said the Rev. Neil Elliot…” The historic denomination is a counterpart to the Episcopal church in the U.S. “Membership in the Anglican Church fell from a high of 1.3 million in 1961 in membership to 357,123 in 2017.” (But wait, didn’t we hear this before, ten years ago?)

🇨🇦 And it goes beyond Anglicanism: Or maybe it’s common to other countries in Western Europe and North America. “A national charity that works to save old buildings estimates that 9,000 religious spaces in Canada will be lost in the next decade, roughly a third of all faith-owned buildings in the country. National Trust for Canada regeneration project leader Robert Pajot says every community in the country is going to see old church buildings shuttered, sold off or demolished.”

🇨🇦 For one couple, belief appeared to cost them an adoption entirely. The Christian Post reported: In the week of April 30-May 4 of last year, they met with a Child Services social worker. The social worker asked the couple, one of whom is a pastor, if they “still” believe “in some of the more outdated parts of the Bible” and if they considered homosexuality a sin. Last October, the couple received a letter from Child Services declining their application, stating that “the policies of our agency do not appear to fit with your values and beliefs.”

🇨🇦 Although the same percentage of people in the U.S. and Canada claim no religious affiliation — referred to as ‘the nones’ — it’s easier to be unaffiliated in Canada. “With religion playing a less important role in Canadian public life, Canadians don’t view their country as a “Christian nation.” That also makes it increasingly easier for Canadians to say they don’t belong to any religious group.” The difference is the subject of a forthcoming book.

🇨🇦 The landscape for Christian book distribution in Canada changed suddenly and dramatically on December 1st as two of the country’s largest distributors — Foundation and Anchor/Word Alive — merged distribution and operations.

🇨🇦 From August, was this guy running ahead of the law? “After 20 years leading Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Alex Schadenberg is unsurprised by news a B.C. doctor has been exonerated for sneaking into an Orthodox Jewish nursing home and terminating an elderly resident.

🇨🇦 In His Majesty’s Secret Service, A Canadian author’s story of Bible Smuggling in Romania took 23 years to be published, but surfaced early in 2019.

🇨🇦 In December, the federal court in Canada decided that the Church of Atheism doesn’t qualify as a church, nor qualify for tax exempt status.

🇨🇦 Though not Canadian-focused, a very powerful article released in August by Canada’s Tim Challies on the influence that Amazon now has on the Christian publishing market in The Power Over Christian Publishing We’ve Given To Amazon.

🇨🇦 Here on the blog we ran a series on four of Canada’s best charity secrets of which two which are able to issue U.S. tax receipts, and of the other two, the orphanage is in such dire need I would hope some in the U.S. would want to give irrespective of tax advantages.

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