China: Government targets house churches, online ministries

Authorities closed one of Beijing’s largest house churches, Zion, after it refused to install surveillance cameras with facial recognition. Meanwhile, more than 250 Chinese church leaders signed an open letter protesting the erosion of their religious freedoms in real life and online. The latest: a proposed ban on the online sharing of prayer, Bible reading, baptism, communion, and other religious activities. If the draft rules are finalized as expected, religious websites will have six months to comply.

Evangelicals argue against refugee reduction

A maximum of 30,000 refugees will be allowed to resettle in the United States next fiscal year. The new ceiling imposed by the Trump administration marks a dramatic decrease from the current 45,000-person cap. The Evangelical Immigration Table—including the presidents of the National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention—challenged the reduction, stating: “Cuts to our refugee admission program affect all persecuted religious minorities, but these cuts significantly impact our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.” The number of persecuted Christians who made it into America fell this year by more than 30 percent.

Reparative therapy ban unexpectedly dropped

This spring, California assemblyman Evan Low introduced legislation that would have designated paid “conversion therapy” services as a fraudulent business practice. Low’s measure seemed set to pass after it moved through both of the Golden State’s legislative chambers. But at the last minute, Low quashed his own bill after meeting with Christian leaders who expressed concerns about how it might affect their ability to minister to the LGBT community. One was Kevin Mannoia, a former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who wrote an op-ed opposing the bill—and reparative therapy. Low dropped it the next day. The two sides will work together on a better bill.

Indonesia: Christians get second chance at US asylum

Nearly four dozen Indonesian Christians set to be deported after living in the United States for two decades will now have their asylum cases reopened. They represent only a tiny fraction of the roughly 2,000 ethnic Chinese minority who fled violence two decades ago, most on tourist visas long overstayed. The community had been legally protected since 2010 by a now-defunct humanitarian program. Last year, however, while attending regular check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Indonesians learned of their impending deportation. Indonesia ranks No. 38 on Open Doors’ World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.

MacArthur college put on probation

The Master’s University and Seminary in southern California, founded by pastor John MacArthur, has been placed on probation. Its West Coast accreditor has four concerns: board independence; a “climate of fear, intimidation, and bullying;” conflict of interest between MacArthur’s son-in-law, his jurisdiction over financial aid, and friends and relatives; and ignorance among the administration of laws related to campus safety. MacArthur addressed the report indirectly at chapel and suggested the Santa Clarita school is being targeted for its faith. “Scripture says all who are godly in this present age will suffer persecution, and that kind of goes along with it,” he said, according to the local radio station. He concluded: “We’re just seeing this as a way that the Lord is helping us do what we do better than in the past.”

Confederate memorial hosts multiracial worship

Thousands of Christians recently convened to pray, worship, and take communion at an unusual destination—Stone Mountain, a massive monument outside Atlanta honoring three Confederate heroes. The OneRace Movement gathered 560 Atlanta-area pastors from all racial backgrounds in pursuit of reconciliation and revival. Leaders hope to spark attendees to action; among their four objectives are “to inspire 100,000 cross-cultural relationships and 1,000,000 acts of kindness.” The event “wasn’t about the carving, but rather the unaddressed history,” said Billy Humphrey, co-director of OneRace. “Where church leaders led people into the sin of racism, church leaders have now repented of that sin and set a new narrative in place.”

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