Former megachurch Pastor Rob Bell tells Oprah the church is ‘Moments Away’ from embracing gay marriage

February 22, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Kristen Bell (L), Oprah Winfrey and former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor and best-selling author Rob Bell (R)U.S, February 17, 2015: Former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor and best-selling author Rob Bell told media mogul Oprah Winfrey on Sunday that the American church is “moments away” from embracing gay marriage and thinks “it’s inevitable.”

Bell made the statement during a Valentine’s weekend episode of Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday” television show where he appeared with his wife, Kristen, to discuss marriage and their new book, The ZimZum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage.

The same-sex marriage discussion portion of the episode, which can be viewed below, starts at around the 29-minute mark where Kristen begins reading an excerpt from the book.

“Marriage, gay and straight, is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, devotion and sacrifice,” she noted.

Winfrey then tells the couple that she thought it was great that they made a conscious choice to include gay marriage in the book, and asked them why?

“One of the oldest aches in the bones of humanity is loneliness,” replied Rob Bell. “Loneliness is not good for the world. Whoever you are, gay or straight, it is totally normal, natural and healthy to want someone to go through life with. It’s central to our humanity. We want someone to go on the journey with.”

His response then prompted Winfrey to ask: “When is the church going to get that?”

“We’re close,” he began, answering slowly before his wife interjected “I think it’s evolving.”

He then added: “Lots of people are already there. We think it’s inevitable and we’re moments away from the church accepting it.”

Bell warned that if the church keeps resisting same-sex marriage it would “continue to be even more irrelevant.”

“I think culture is already there and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense, when you have in front of you flesh-and-blood people who are your brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and co-workers and neighbors, and they love each other and just want to go through life,” he said.

“There are churches who are moving forward and there are churches who are almost regressing and making it more of a battle,” added his wife.

– christian post

Cardinal Zen demands truth over fate of Chinese bishop

February 22, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

China, February 17, 2015: Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun led protests outside the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong on Saturday demanding official confirmation of the death of detained Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang, reports Ucanews.

Cardinal Zen holding Bishop Shi's image“The news of his death had been circulating for two weeks. The government should give us an answer. Is he really dead? When and where did it happen? Will they return the remains to his family,” said Cardinal Zen after the protest.

Family members said they had been informed by Hebei provincial officials in January that the bishop had died, but other local officials have subsequently denied knowing anything about the Bishop’s whereabouts or indeed whether he was dead or alive, according to a Church source.

“One official told the family later that the official who informed them of the news was drunk, while another one said the family had misunderstood, saying that the official approached the family to ask if they knew the recent situation of the Bishop,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

“Isn’t it ridiculous that the officials asked information from the family when it was the government who detained him?” he said.

Bishop Shi, who has spent the best part of the last 60 years in various Chinese prisons and labour camps after refusing to denounce his loyalty to the Catholic Church, would turn 94 this month.

There has been no official confirmation by Chinese authorities of his whereabouts or whether he is dead or alive.

– cathnews

Libya: Francis condemns ISIS executions of Christians

February 22, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

ISIS executions of ChristiansLibya, February 17, 2015: Pope Francis has denounced the brutal slayings of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by militants linked to the Islamic State, saying “they were assassinated just for being Christian,” reports the Religion News Service.

“The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out,” Francis said in off-the-cuff remarks during an audience with an ecumenical delegation from the Church of Scotland.

The Pope, switching to his native Spanish, noted that those killed said only “Jesus help me.”

“Be they Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it doesn’t matter: They’re Christian! The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ,” Francis said. He said their deaths bore witness to “an ecumenism of blood” that should unite Christians, a phrase he has used repeatedly as the Islamic State continues its bloody march.

The Pope telephoned the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, to show his profound solidarity in the sorrow of the Coptic Church for the barbaric assassination by Islamic fundamentalists. He assured him of his prayers and also said  he would unite himself spiritually with the prayers of the Coptic Church at his morning Mass Tuesday (Feb. 17) when the men are to be buried.

The Islamic State militants released a video late Sunday (Feb. 15) purporting to show the mass beheading of the Christian hostages, who had been held for several weeks.

In the video, one of the militants points northward toward Italy, some 500 miles across the Mediterranean, and says, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.”

Nerves were already on edge in Europe following the terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris last months and over the weekend in Copenhagen.

– catnews

Don’t fight temptation. Flee it!

February 22, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

“Be alert. Continue strong in the faith.
Have courage, and be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NCV)

temptations

Many people are intimidated by the fact that they are tempted,
like they shouldn’t even be in that situation or that they should be able to control it.
But you shouldn’t feel guilty about temptation.

It’s not a sin to be tempted.
It’s a sin to give in to temptation.

The Bible says that Jesus experienced every temptation known to man, but he didn’t sin.
Temptation is not a sin.
It’s how you respond to it that matters.

be alert

The Bible says we need to flee temptation:
“Be alert. Continue strong in the faith.
Have courage, and be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NCV).
To “be alert” means to know what tempts you so that you can stay away from it.

There are two things you need to stay away from:
tempting situations (circumstances)
and tempting associations (people who tempt you).

stay away

John Baker, says,
“You hang around the barber shop long enough, you’re going to get a haircut.”
It’s true!
If you have a problem with alcohol, you don’t go to the bar to eat a sandwich.
You stay away from it.

You need to know
what tempts you,
when it tempts you,
where it tempts you,
who tempts you, and then just stay away from those situations and people.

If you get tempted in airport bookstores, don’t go to airport bookstores.
If you get tempted by a certain channel, don’t have that channel on your TV.

We have parental block on our TV, and the youngest person in our house is my wife, Kay.

temptation

We don’t have kids at home any more,
but I don’t want to even risk going through channels
and stumbling upon something I don’t need to see.

You also need to avoid tempting associations.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:33,
“Do not be fooled. ‘Bad companions ruin good character’” (TEV).

bad company

There are some people you need to stop relating to.
There may be some friends who maybe should not be your friends,
because it’s always easier for them to pull you down than for you to pull them up.

If they’re leading you away from Christ, they’re not friends.
Bad company corrupts good character.

So what should you do if you try to avoid those tempting circumstances
and people but still find yourself in a sticky situation?

Get out! Don’t just walk away — run!
You don’t fight it; you flee it.
And you go after the good stuff in life instead.

– fwd: v c mathews

The most frequent burdens Pastors face

February 20, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

pastorIn my years of church consulting, I have spent hours talking to local church pastors. Much of the conversation revolves around church structure, vision, etc., but seldom does the conversation stay at that level. Pastors, it seems, long for someone to listen to them. They want someone to share their burdens, even if only for a few minutes.

Listen to the topics of pain I often hear, and take a minute to pray for your church leaders.

1. Declining church growth – No pastor I know wants his congregation to be plateaued or in decline; however, the majority of churches in North America are in that state. A pastor may put a hopeful veneer on that truth publicly, but I’ve wept with pastors who grieve privately over their church’s decline.

2. Losing the support of friends – Losing the backing of a Christian brother or sister is a unique pain. God-centered relationships are a miraculous gift, the melding of hearts at a level the world cannot understand. When those bonds are severed, particularly over matters that are seldom eternally significant, the anguish is deep.

3. Grieving a fall – Pastoral love is not a guarantee against failure. In fact, even Jesus had close followers who fell into sin and rebellion. When our pastoral calls for repentance go unheeded, it’s difficult not to take that rejection personally.

4. Sensing that the sermon went nowhere – For many of us, our ministry is centered around the Sunday sermon. Ideally, hours of preparation end in focused exposition that leads to life transformation—but that result doesn’t always happen. Few pastors have a safe place to express candid concerns about their own preaching.

5. Losing vision – A pastor who has lost his vision for the church is leading on fumes. To admit that condition, though, is risky. Not to admit that reality is even more dangerous. Little will change until that pastor can honestly share his lack of focus.

6. Being lonely – Pastors bear others’ burdens, but they do so confidentially. They share both the struggles and the joys of life, from birth to death. Sometimes, previous pain has made it difficult for them to open up to others. Consequently, they carry the weight of many on the shoulders of one.

7. Dealing with unsupportive staff – Facing contrary members weekly is hard enough, but facing unsupportive staff every day is an ongoing angst. Correction is difficult, and firing can be agonizing. Some pastors simply hope for change while not knowing the best next steps to take.

8. Remembering failures – Not many of us easily forget that disorganized sermon, that rotten counseling advice, that disruptive team meeting, or that hasty staff hire. Perhaps we can laugh at some of yesterday’s failures, but others still haunt us because we never want to fail God or His people.

9. Dealing with death recurrently – Few responsibilities are as serious as officiating at a funeral. Even when burying a believer, pastors, too, grieve the loss of friends. Burying someone who was apparently not a believer is even more gut wrenching. Ministry amid such pain without becoming calloused is difficult indeed.

10. Facing personal jealousies – I wish no pastor dealt with personal or professional jealousies, but I know better – both because of my own sinfulness and my pastoral conversations. Coming to grips with the rawness of our depravity is never easy.

11. Balancing family and ministry priorities – No pastor sets out to lose his family. Few leap into the inattentiveness that often precedes adultery; instead, they almost imperceptibly slide into sin. One reason for that failure is their lack of mentors and colleagues who help them prioritize family while fulfilling ministry responsibilities.

12. Responding to criticism – Continual criticism is wearying. Learning how to hear any sliver of truth in criticism while not growing angry is challenging. We can indeed be better ministers through healthy criticism, but few of us learn that truth in the midst of controversy.

I love pastors. I have been a pastor. I would return to the pastorate with excitement if the Lord so called me. Accordingly, I challenge us to pray for pastors today.

– christian post

Christian council welcomes Modi’s speech

February 20, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

ModiHyderabad, February 18, 2015: In a meeting of All India Christian Council leaders in Hyderabad, Most Rev Dr. Joseph D’souza, the President of the All India Christian Council welcomed the recent strong and clear statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to religious freedom and the United Nations article on religious freedom.

He has rightly said that the Indian tradition for centuries has been about religious tolerance. It is only in recent decades that violent religious extremism has come into play and there is a serious attempt to divide the Indian nation along religious lines.

Further the All India Christian Council supports the Prime Minister’s commitment to development which is the need of the hour. No one can ignore the great needs of hundreds of millions of people for food, jobs, quality education and equal opportunity.

Rev Dr. G. Samuel the executive secretary of the Baptist Churches and the All India Christian Council national vice-President stated that Indian Christians are against any forced or fraudulent conversions and that when there is violation of the same, the present laws under IPC are sufficient to take action against the guilty. Talks and announcements of some anti-conversion laws are attempt to divide and polarize Indians and demonize Indian Christians. All that Christians ask is for the peaceful belief and practice and propagation of their faith as demanded by their faith and also as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Bishop Dr D’souza stated that Christians must keep peace and harmony with all faiths and all protests should be peaceful and under the law when their communities are targeted by extremist groups. It appears that some extremist groups are intent on polarizing the religious communities and also working hard on scuttling the Government’s development agenda and vision.

Many young Christians have voted for the development agenda of the present Government as their future looks bleak without dramatic change in India’s economic sector and opportunities for education and employment. Thus the assurance from the Home Minister Rajnath Singh on protection is very welcome.

Rev K. B. Edison, the member of the Pentecostal Synod of Tamil Nadu stated that the Christian Council now expects actions from the government against the culprits who are attacking religious places and wants to know who is behind the attacks in New Delhi and other places. These are not accidental attacks but suggest an agenda.

He further stated that it should be clear that Indian Christians will not be hostage to any political party and should work with and support parties that in action stand for religious freedom, development of the lives of the poor and downtrodden, and communal peace.  Once political parties come to power they completely ignore these commitments that are important for Christians.

– press release

The platinum jubilee of the Diocese of Lucknow

February 20, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Diocese of LucknowThe Catholic Diocese of Lucknow celebrated with great joy the Platinum Jubilee of its Foundation on 17 February 2015. The grand celebration was attended by the Chief Minister of U.P. Shri Akhilesh Singh Yadavji, Vatican Ambassador to India Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Cabinet Minister Shri Rajendra Chowdhary Singhji, the Mayor of Lucknow Shri Dinesh Sharmaji, several Bishops from the various parts of U.P. and over 3,000 members of the Christian Community and many friends and well wishers.

On 17th February 2015, there was a Divine Service of Thanksgiving in the morning after which there was a Civic Reception during which 5 couples who celebrated the Golden Jubilee of their wedding as well as 11 priests who completed 75 years in their priestly life were felicitated. All the honoured guests were presented with Mementos. Shri Akhilesh Singh Yadavji also released a ‘SPECIAL COVER’ issued by the postal department to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee in recognition of the contribution of the Diocese, during the past 75 years, through various services towards the important task of nation building in the service of the people in the State of Uttar Pradesh.

It was joyous occasion for the Catholic Christian Community in the city and in the 10 central and North-Eastern districts of the U.P. State (Districts of Shravasti, Balrampur, Gonda, Bahraich, Barabanki, Lucknow, Unnao, Hardoi, Sitapur and Lakhimpur), who are serving the people in various educational, health-care, social developmental and other special institutions.

An Exhibition showing the history and work of each Mission Station or Church, a video film on the same and a thematic puppet show were shown to various school children and others in the days prior to the celebration. An Inter-Religious Meeting with the Religious Gurus of various Faiths was held at the Cathedral Hall on 14th February 2015 as a mark of inter-Religious cooperation and friendship among the adherents of the different Religions in the city of Lucknow and beyond.

In their speeches on the occasion both the Chief Minister and the Lucknow Mayor commended and appreciated the service of the Church of Lucknow to the people in Uttar Pradesh during the past 75 years, especially the recognition given to the couples who were completing 50 years of their married life and recognition of the elderly priests of the diocese.

At the end of the celebrations, the Bishop of Lucknow, Bishop Gerald J. Mathias expressed his gratitude to God and said: “We thank God Almighty for the past 75 years and we pledge ourselves anew to serve out brothers and sisters in the diocese in the coming years”.

– rev. dr. donald h. r. de souza

Tribal Mundari begin Lent with a pilgrimage to India’s ‘Black Lady’

February 20, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Dhori MathaMumbai, February 18, 2015: Tribal Mundari from the Blessed Mother Teresa Parish in Siadih (Diocese of Jamshedpur, Jharkhand) plan to go on a pilgrimage tomorrow to celebrate the beginning of Lent.

Their pastor, Pilar missionary Fr Lino Fernandes SFX, will lead them on the 300 km journey to the Dhori Matha (Black Lady) Shrine in Bokaro District, where they will pray to Mother Mary and ask for her intercession for this liturgical period.

Located near the Church of Saint Anthony, the shrine houses a 60 cm statue of the Our Lady in black wood. “The artefact was found in 1956 in a coal mine by a Hindu worker named Rupa, whilst she was digging,” Fr Fernandes told AsiaNews. “Locals wanted to build a shrine in her honour, and place the statue in it. They called it Dhori Matha, which means Black Lady.

Since then, “hundreds of people have come to pay tribute and ask for blessings, regardless of caste and creed. Miners consider her their patron. The shrine is surrounded by coal mines and the whole area is covered by a thick layer of black dust.”

In one of his trips to India, Saint John Paul II blessed the statue.

“Tribal Mundari have each raised money (700 rupees or about US$ 13) to pay for the pilgrimage, using their earnings from work or selling some of their livestock,” the priest said.

“They cannot wait to go to pray to the Dhori Matha, which was found in the dirt of the earth. Suffering, poverty and the daily travails of these people find resonance in the colour of this Madonna, which for them represents liberation from existential and spiritual slavery.”

The pilgrimage will begin with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and will continue with the recitation of the Rosary.

“For this community,” the missionary said, “it is very important to get out from the villages and make the pilgrimage, just as Mary did by taking part in her son’s journey.”

“Mary is our hope,” Fr Fernandes explained. “She accompanies us through our journey of suffering. Without Her, there would be no Jesus Christ; without the Church, we could not go on.”

Most of the congregation of the Blessed Mother Teresa Parish in Siadih are ethnic Mundari, some 45 families living in 25 villages, 10 of which live about 15-20 km from the church.

– asianews

Baghdad patriarch: Lent prayers for peace in Iraq and Chaldean unity

February 20, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

People PrayingBaghdad, February 18, 2015: In a message sent to AsiaNews for the start of Lent, His Beatitude Mar Raphael I Louis Sako calls on fellow Chaldeans to work for the unity of the Church, and for peace in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. In it, he also urges his “Muslim brothers and sisters” to take part in the fast for “a few days” during this privileged period of reflection and prayer.

For the Chaldean Patriarch, the time before Easter is a “suitable time for repentance, conversion and reconciliation” with God and others. In view of the difficult conditions affecting people displaced from Mosul and villages in the Nineveh Plain as a result of the violence perpetrated by the Islamic State group, His Beatitude calls for the “Promotion of brotherhood,” [. . .] giving priority to forgiveness [. . .] while refraining from fanaticism”.

Finally, he urges his fellow Iraqis to “love our country as we love our mother and father” and “love our Church” in this period of great renewal.

The Chaldean patriarch’s message to AsiaNews follows:

This Monday we will begin Lent, which is the suitable time for repentance, conversion and reconciliation with oneself, with the Lord, and with others. Let us profit from this time for prayer, reflection, self-appraisal, evaluation, and also to restore harmony, as division is a sin. As responsible persons we are accountable to all what we say and all what we do.

I solicit you to fast as much as you can, for example, the first week, in the middle and in the last week, as I invite also our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters to fast with us for a few days:

To achieve peace stability and decent life as soon as possible in our country and in the Middle East. The life conditions are very difficult in our country, especially for the displaced families.

Promotion of brotherhood, cooperation and coexistence by building a good relationship with everyone, and giving priority to forgiveness, reconciliation and the common good while refraining from fanaticism and conflicts that create discomforts.

To uphold moral values and ideals such as honesty, sacrifice, and helping those in need, “the brother who helps his brother is a fortified city” (Proverbs18:19).

To love our country as we love our mother and father. Belonging to our land is very important because our identity depends on it. We should renew our commitment, and strengthen our unity in diversity rather than sectarianism. Diversity is God’s design. Many common things unite us.

To love our Church and to participate intensely in her renewal. To go back to her pure sources and to recover her unity that she can be a spiritual, cultural and moral authority in order to realize her vocation and mission in the society. Therefore, we should consolidate the Christian presence in Iraq and in the Middle East. We, Christians are testimonies of hope, carrying a history, a civilization and a message.

We went through tougher situations than now, to remember, the massacres of Safarberlik a century ago, so we have to hold on and not to give up, and to renew our trust in the future.

– asianews

Pope offers Mass for murdered Coptic Christians, hails them as ‘martyrs’

February 20, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Murdered Coptic ChristiansVatican City, February 17, 2015: Pope Francis offered his Tuesday morning Mass for the repose of the souls of the 21 Egyptian Christians killed by ISIS militants, praying that man learn to reject his evil temptations, and choose what is good.

The Pope Feb. 17 prayed for “our brother Copts, whose throats were slit for the sole reason of being Christian, that the Lord welcome them as martyrs, for their families, (and) for my brother Tawadros, who is suffering greatly.”

His comments came after the Islamic state released a video Sunday purporting to show the grisly beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt. Yesterday Francis called Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria Tawadros II to offer his condolences and solidarity.

Pope Francis’ morning liturgy is a sign of union with the Coptic Church, who is holding funeral celebrations for the victims today.

His personal secretary, Abuna Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, is also a Coptic Catholic, and was present for the Pope’s Mass in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse.

Francis initiated his reflections by turning to the Bible passage in Genesis that speaks of God’s wrath in the face of man’s wickedness before the great flood. He lamented that man often seems more powerful than God due to his capacity to destroy what God has created.

The Bible itself provides examples, such as Sodom and Gomorrah and the Tower of Babel, which prove there is “an evil that lurks in the depths of the heart.”

Although saying this might seem a bit negative, the Pope stressed that “this is the truth,” and referred to how Cain killed his brother Abel, thus destroying fraternity.

“This is where wars begin. Jealousy, envy, so much greed for power. Yes, this sounds negative, but it is realistic,” he said, noting one only needs to pick up a newspaper to see the evidence, since “more than 90 percent of the news is of destruction.”

Jesus, the Pope said, reminds us that there is evil in the human heart, and that man has the tendency to think he can do whatever he wants.

“We are capable of destruction, that’s the problem,” Francis said, and spoke of the arms trade, noting that there are countries who sell weapons, wage war and continue to sell to the country they are warring with, so the fighting continues.

While some might claim they are just doing business, the Pope asked that if this is the case, is their business one “of death?”

The evil we see around us doesn’t come from outside, but from inside of ourselves, he said, and warned that gossip and slander are also forms of evil aimed at destroying another.

However, despite man’s capacity to do evil and to destroy, he has the Holy Spirit to help him choose what is good in the little things, Francis noted.

Mother Theresa is a modern example of man’s ability to do good, he said, explaining that we all are capable of choosing either good or evil within our own families and parish communities.

Because families are even capable of destroying their own children and can often prevent them from maturing or growing in freedom, the Pope stressed the need to meditate, pray and discuss things with one another, so as not to fall into “this evil that destroys everything.”

Jesus gives us the strength to do this, he said, explaining that the Lord today wants to tell us “Remember. Remember Me, I shed my blood for you; remember Me, I have saved you, I have saved you all.”

“I have the strength to accompany you on the journey of life, not on the path of evil, but on the path of goodness, of doing good to others; not the path of destruction, but the path that builds,” the Pope said, noting that these are Jesus’ words to us.

He concluded his homily by praying that before beginning the liturgical season of Lent, which begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday, the Lord give us the grace to always choose the “right path,” and help us not to be misled by temptations to destroy.

– cna

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