Who Makes the Bible Go Viral

Last year, 2.6 million Twitter users shared Bible verses 43 million times. After filtering out spambots, OpenBible.info calculated the top sharers and how many verses circulated thanks to them:

InterVarsity firing bolsters parachurch rights

Good news for parachurch organizations: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ministries can hire or fire employees based on religious criteria, just like churches can. A divorcing employee sued InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) for sex discrimination after she was fired for “failing to reconcile her marriage.” But the court ruled that since IVCF is a religious group, its “ministerial employees” can’t challenge their termination under federal or state employment discrimination laws. It didn’t matter that the employee was a “spiritual director” and not a “minister,” since the title conveys a religious meaning, the court said.

Bible society (ironically) moves to Philadelphia

Two centuries ago, the Philadelphia Bible Society was the leading opponent when America’s dozens of societies merged into a national group. The American Bible Society (ABS) formed in 1816 and was headquartered in Manhattan. This year, ABS made the “heart-wrenching” decision to leave its 12-story building on Broadway in favor of the lower cost of living in the City of Brotherly Love. abs will help displaced ministries—including Young Life and the Museum of Biblical Art—relocate, and hopes to move in before Pope Francis visits Philadelphia in September.

United Kingdom: Barnabas Fund founder resigns after conviction

The founder and director of one of the world’s largest advocates for persecuted Christians has been convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in his office. Patrick Sookhdeo, 67, led Barnabas Aid International, which focuses primarily on supporting Christians living in the Muslim world. The charity investigated the incident prior to the British jury verdict and expressed “full support” for its founder. Sookhdeo denies the victim’s accusation that he groped her, saying he accidentally touched her breast while pulling away from a hug. He was also convicted on two counts of intimidating witnesses. The charity’s work in 60 countries “is in no way impacted,” a Barnabas trustee told CT. “The work is much bigger than one man.”

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Canada: First Christian law school can set sex standards

A law society can’t deny graduates of Canada’s first Christian law school the right to practice because of the college’s position on sexuality, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice ruled. Last spring, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society offered Trinity Western University (TWU) law graduates recognition—but only if the school struck its rules against “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” Asking TWU to change its community covenant is akin to dictating that professors should be offered tenure or setting admissions policies, justice Jamie Campbell wrote. Half of Canada’s 10 provincial law societies have approved the law school, which had hoped to open in 2016. But the school is still waiting on approval from the minister of advanced education and from provincial law societies in Ontario and British Columbia.

Christian hip-hop changes how Billboard ranks music

After the wild success of Lecrae and other Christian hip-hop artists on the Billboard gospel charts in recent years—Lecrae won four top spots in gospel categories last year, including No. 1 gospel artist of the year—Billboard said most Christian rap and hip-hop titles will no longer count as “gospel” music. They’ll still qualify for Christian, rap, and overall sales charts. Lecrae’s Reach Records label supports the change, and some industry experts wonder if Christian rap should become its own category. “Christian and gospel are not musical genres, rather labels that let a consumer know that the content in the lyrics are Christian-based,” wrote Chad Horton, cofounder of Rapzilla, a Christian rap site. Billboard should roll gospel music into the Christian charts too, he said.

Turkey: Muslim nation gets first Christian TV channel

Turkey’s Christian population has dwindled to less than 200,000, but their voice just got louder. For the first time, a Christian television channel is now broadcasting on Turkey’s government-regulated satellite, which reaches more than 50 million viewers. Produced by Turkish Christians, the channel SAT-7 TÜRK streamed online for 360 hours last year; it’s expecting to expand its airtime significantly under the new deal. “So many things have miraculously fallen into place over the past few months that it is impossible to miss the hand of God,” said Terence Ascott, founder and chief executive officer of SAT-7. Open Doors put Turkey back on its 2015 list of countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian. But in January, prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu approved the building of the first Christian church in Istanbul in 100 years.

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Laos: Pastors punished for failing to heal sick woman

When five Christians prayed for a sick woman who later died, a Laotian provincial court imprisoned and fined them for being “illegal doctors.” The woman who died asked for prayer from local Christian leaders after unsuccessful treatments from healers and doctors, Morning Star News reported. The Christians were arrested following a dispute over her burial. The case is an example of Buddhist-majority Laos targeting minority faiths, said Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson. “If this group of five is charged and convicted for doing nothing more than praying at a dying woman’s side, then this could mark a new nadir for religious freedom in the country.”

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