Take Me to Church

LifeWay Research recently surveyed 2,000 Americans who do not attend church on what would draw them to one. Among the findings:

Russia: Christians pray evangelism ban isn’t enforced

Protestant leaders pray that Russia’s September elections will usher in lawmakers who will challenge sweeping restrictions on church gatherings and missionary activity that were passed in a package of anti-terrorism surveillance laws in July. Christians outside the Russian Orthodox Church anticipated that the new law—which bans evangelism in homes, online, and anywhere but registered church buildings—would be enforced inconsistently. Still, they remain concerned. Russian evangelicals will soon be “behind a new ‘Iron Curtain,’ ” stated Mission Eurasia president Sergey Rakhuba. Violators face fines, detention, and loss of government permits; foreign missionaries could be deported. Lawyers also plan to appeal to Russia’s Constitutional Court, arguing the law contradicts existing rights to religious observance.

Perry Noble’s firing renews attention to alcohol abuse

The founder of NewSpring Church insisted that fellow pastors did the right thing when they removed him from leadership July 1 due to alcohol abuse over the past year. “This was a spiritual and moral mistake on my part as I began to depend on alcohol for my refuge instead of Jesus and others,” said Perry Noble, who led the 30,000-member South Carolina church for 16 years. Noble numbers among the 17 percent of pastors who say they struggle with addiction to alcohol or prescription drugs, according to a 2015 survey by Barna Group and Pepperdine University. The pastors surveyed were split on whether to take their struggles public: 41 percent said such honesty enriched their ministry, while 46 percent said it would have a negative impact.

Biggest distributor of Christian products closes

Send the Light, the largest US distributor of Christian products, announced plans to shut down in September due to competition from online retailers. The 42-year-old company used to ship more than 25,000 Bibles a day to independent Christian bookstores, many now struggling to keep up with Amazon. “They’re being put out of business left and right,” said Glenn Bailey, Send the Light CEO. “Many of our best customers are no longer what they once were.” Additionally, the Tennessee-based distributor lost about half a million dollars when Family Christian Stores, a major client, went bankrupt last year.

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United Kingdom Report: Bible trivia does not measure real faith

Christian converts from Islam who apply for asylum in the United Kingdom get asked questions like, “How many books are in the Bible?”; “What is the date of Pentecost?”; and even “What color is the cover of the Bible?” to test the sincerity of their new faith. Wrong answers can lead to deportation. Such questioning is unfair and misguided, according to a report released this summer by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Asylum Advocacy Group. They argued that case workers don’t always understand the beliefs they’re asking about and that Bible trivia is “too simplistic a way to judge if an individual is...a genuine convert.”

PCA will consider women’s ordination

A new Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) committee will examine the role of the deacon, currently an office the 370,000-member denomination reserves for men, and issue a report at its 2017 annual gathering suggesting potential changes. Several seminary leaders and pastors protested the committee, saying the issues of female deacons and women’s ordination “have already been studied, explored, and settled.” Forty-three years ago, the PCA split from what is now the Presbyterian Church (USA) partly over disagreement on women’s roles in church leadership.

Erskine Seminary starts split from college

Last year’s budget cuts at Erskine College hit its seminary so hard that it’s ready to break off on its own. After layoffs and slashed salaries still left the tiny Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church seminary in a deficit, faculty asked to separate Erskine Seminary’s $1 million budget and some 60 students from the South Carolina college. Most cash-strapped seminaries have made the opposite move. The proportion of members of the Association of Theological Schools that partner with larger institutions to save money has doubled in the past 30 years.

United Kingdom: Christian fired for forgiveness wins in court

A British appeals court judge sided with an Anglican teacher who lost her job when she refused to divorce her husband following his arrest for voyeurism and downloading indecent pictures of children. The school stated her decision to stick with him made her “not suitable to be a teacher;” she argued that her faith and her belief that he was sorry made divorce not an option. The judge held that the school’s stance placed “an additional burden; a particular disadvantage” on people whose faith discourages or restricts divorce.

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Pakistan: Dating site designed to help persecuted Christians

At Shaadi4Christians.com, single Christians—and their parents, who still often arrange marriages for their children—can find romantic matches across the South Asian diaspora. The British Pakistani Christian Association launched the site as a way to use matchmaking and marriage to give members of Pakistan’s Christian minority a way out of the violence and oppression they face in their homeland. “It could provide a romantic pathway to escape from persecution, bringing hope and love to a dire situation,” said chairman Wilson Chowdhry. Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs, meanwhile, said they prefer to see Christians work to improve conditions in their own countries rather than escape.

Grove City apologizes to professor 53 years later

A Christian college in Pennsylvania is finally in good standing with a national professional association after apologizing to a left-leaning faculty member it fired during the Cold War. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) took Grove City College off its censure list this summer, a half-century after the incident. The former history and political science professor, Larry Gara, is now 94. Several other evangelical schools have run into trouble with the AAUP over academic freedom and faculty tenure. Due to religious requirements and institutional traditions, about a third of schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) do not grant tenure. Neither does Grove City (which is not a CCCU member). But president Paul McNulty explained that spending 53 years—an AAUP record—on the censure list “doesn’t reflect our long-standing commitment to fairness and respect for our employees.” Another record: Grove City was the first school in the AAUP’s 101-year history to ever offer an apology for an incident that lead to censure.

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