New network launched for church planters of color

The Crete Collective, a new initiative led by black and Hispanic pastors, aims to plant a half dozen churches in distressed “black and brown neighborhoods” in major cities in 2021 and 2022. Washington, DC, pastor Thabiti Anyabwile said he launched the new network to foster biblical preaching and address justice issues in poor urban areas, which have been underserved by the church planting movement in the US. The Crete Collective was formed in the wake of conversations around the unique pressures and expectations minority pastors face in white-led multiethnic settings.

Pro-life women surge in Congress

While the incoming Biden administration pledges to reverse some abortion restrictions put in place under President Donald Trump, the US legislature saw an influx in pro-life Christian congresswomen taking office in 2021. The number of Republican women opposed to the legalization of abortion doubled in the House of Representatives, with at least 16 winning in November, including seven who flipped Democratic seats, according to the Susan B. Anthony List. Abortion rates are at record lows and have trended downward through the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

Effort to stop constitutional amendment fails

Christian opposition failed to stop the Sri Lankan parliament from amending the constitution to give the president expansive new powers. Baptist, Pentecostal, charismatic, holiness, Methodist, Reformed, and Catholic churches all objected to the legal change, which rolls back democratic reforms put in place in 2015. The 20th Amendment gives President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sole discretion in appointing judges, as well as other key government posts, including those overseeing elections and preventing corruption. The amendment passed parliament in late October. Public opposition was limited by COVID-19 restrictions, but Christian groups organized prayer and social media awareness campaigns.

COGIC bishop meets opposition

Counter-missionaries are demanding an investigation of the Church of God in Christ’s first bishop of Israel. They say Glenn Plummer and his wife, Pauline, are planning to convert Jews in the Jewish homeland, citing a spliced-together YouTube video showing the Pentecostal leaders discussing evangelism, baptism, and their move to the Holy Land. Proselytizing is not illegal but is considered offensive. Plummer says he does not intend to convert Jews but wants to promote better relations between Israel and African Americans.

Missionary killed by terrorists

Swiss missionary Beatrice Stöckli was killed four years after being kidnapped by an Islamist terrorist organization affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Stöckli’s death was confirmed by a French aid worker who was released by the kidnappers as part of a prisoner exchange. The missionary first went to Africa in 2000 with an evangelical organization based in Germany, but then she became independent. She was kidnapped from her home in Timbuktu in 2012 and released after 10 days. Her mother and brother urged her to return to Switzerland, but she reportedly said, “It’s Timbuktu or nothing.” She was kidnapped the second time in 2016.

Government bulldozes church

State police demolished an Assemblies of God church in Santiago de Cuba and arrested the pastor of another church who broadcast the destruction on Facebook Live. Cuban officials say they were making way for train tracks, but the church is the only building in the area that was torn down. There was a previous attempt to destroy the building in 2015, but the bulldozer operators stopped when church members stayed in the building singing worship songs. The Assemblies of God is one of the largest religious groups in Cuba and is legally recognized by the Communist government.

Mennonites accused of harming Amazon forest

The Peruvian government is investigating Mennonite farmers in the Amazon who have been accused of large-scale deforestation. Satellite imagery shows more than 5,000 acres of trees have been razed to create farmland since 2017, when the Christian community emigrated from Bolivia. The law requires sustainable use of the forests and special permission for any dramatic changes in land use. The Amazon is the world’s largest river basin and believed to be home to 1 out of every 10 species on earth. According to current projections by environmental groups, more than 25 percent of it will be deforested in the next decade.

Denomination head apologizes to pastor’s victims

The leader of the Assemblies of God Fiji sought forgiveness from two women who were raped and one who was assaulted by a Pentecostal minister. The senior pastor, Waisake Tulavu, told the women the sexual misconduct was part of a deliverance ritual. He has been found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison. General Superintendent Mosese Cakau told the court the denomination does not condone the pastor’s abuse, but the denomination is nonetheless responsible for placing the abuser in a position of trust.

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Excavation reveals mysterious marks

Archaeologists are debating the meaning of graffiti etched in the stone of a medieval church being excavated outside Oxford. The marks look like a wagon wheel, with a central hole and spokes radiating outward in a circle. Similar markings at other historic churches have been dubbed “scratch dials,” and were thought to be used to tell the time for morning, noonday, and evening prayers. These marks were not well situated to catch the sun, however. Another theory is they are “witch marks,” created to ward off evil spirits.

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