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Answers In Action NewsAnswers In Action is planning on starting up ministry again after a long hiatus. Gretchen Passantino-Coburn will be providing more details soon.

Home Schooling Rights Upheld in Key CA Appeal Case

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Politics and Government

In an expected 3-0 decision, the California Court of Appeals for the Second Appelate District reversed its earlier decision in a single case that any parent who home schooled their child(ren) must be a state certified teacher. The case arose out of an alleged child abuse charge made by a middle school age girl against her father. All the children in the family were home schooled.

"This is a great victory for homsechool freedom," declared Michael Farris, an attorney who helped argue the case. He is Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). HSLDA joined with the California Governor & Attorney General & other first amendment defense organizations in fighting the anomalous earlier ruling.

For the full story: Homeschoolers Win Landmark Case.

Anglican Convention Ends with Tentative Agreement on Change Moratorium

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Cults, Religions, and Faith Traditions

The Lambeth Conference, the international Anglican Communion's (AC) once-a-decade convention of international bishops guiding the 3rd largest Christian denomination, ended its 18 days of meetings, Bible studies, & prayer with a hope-filled message by Archbishop Rowan Williams (58) noting that it appears the meeting will promote creation of a loose agreement among the many international Anglican groups to remain united in worship & governance while respecting as much as possible the divergencies among the churches, ranging from the most traditional conservatives to the most changeable liberals.

The most traditional cling to the 450 year old original Anglican convenants, rejecting even ordination of women, as well as any approval of homosexuality, including the ordination of any active homosexuals, the consecration of any homosexuals as bishops, & church blessings or rites for same sex unions. The most liberal join the majority in affirming ordination of women, but go far beyond that step in actually pushing not only for the ordination of sexually practicing but monogamous homosexuals as priests, but also the consecration of the same as bishops, & formal same sex blessings or unions.

Archbishop Williams, the higest cleric in the AC, was joined by more than 650 bishops & archbishops for more than 2 weeks in an effort to prevent a formal breakup of the 80 million member denomination that is clustered in more than 44 regional & national churches in more than 160 countries worldwide. Only Roman Catholicism & Eastern Orthodoxy exceed membership worldwide. Anglicanism is not ruled by a heirarchy like the pope of Roman Catholicism, & is able to make changes in its administration, unlike the governance of Eastern Orthodoxy, which clings to the foundational confessions of the Christian church before it split formally into Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox in A.D. 1054. The Lambeth Conference is the opportunity for the leading bishops & archbishops to come to concensus on the major issues of faith & practice facing the Anglican churches worldwide.

The Anglican Communion is closer to a formal split now than at any time in its 450 year history because of 2 main changes in the last decade. First, worldwide Anglican membership has shifted its locus from the mostly developed, mostly white, mostly European & American churches of previous centuries to the mostly developming, mostly ethnic, mostly African, South American, & Asian churches, which are much more conservative than the others. Second, the Canadian (Anglican Church of Canada -- ACC) & American Anglican bodies in the last 10 years have begun ordaining sexually practicing but monogamous homosexuals, some churches have performed same sex union blessings as formal church ceremonies, & the American Anglicans, the Episcopal Church (ECUSA), in 2003 consecrated Gene Robinson, a homosexual Episcopal priest who divorced his wife to be with his long-time homosexual partner, to be the bishop of New Hampshire. Since that consecration, many congregations in the US & Canada have disassociated themselves from the ECUSA & the ACC, seeking international Anglican communion oversight from governing bodies in other countries.

The Lambeth Conference concluded Sunday, August 3, with worship (including a homily by Archbishop Williams), a press conference with Williams, & the release of a report on the conference. Williams & the report announced general agreement among the attendees to work toward a new pact among all parties to the disagreements that would avoid a formal split while respecting both the traditional & liberal commitments. Williams & the report both affirmed that there was widespread agreement for continuing a "moratoria" on ordination or consecration of sexually activie homosexuals & formal church same sex blessings while the covenant is negotiated over the next few years; & agreement that the churches disaffected from the ECUSA & ACC would stay under their respective national governances until the covenant is completed & adopted.

Archbishop Williams said he hoped leaders could agree on a draft version of the covenant within a year, but that re-drafting & approval would probably not be accomplished until 2013. That might give impetus for another Lambeth meeting in only 5 years instead of the traditional 10 years.

The 18 day conference was not held for the purpose of affirming, changing, or creating new regulations, but as an opportunity for the church's highest leaders to spend time to listen to each other, pray together, immerse themselves in study of scripture together, & discuss the divisions among them. This was accomplished by breaking the attendees into small group gatherings dubbed "indabas," after a Zulu term for tribal meetings on a village level that are called to settle disputes by discussion rather than force or autocratic power. No issues were set to a vote during the conference.

Bishop N. T. (Tom) Wright, one of the leading British Anglican bishops, Bishop of Durham, & a leader in the negotiations to prevent a formal split, has written a number of essays on the conference & the issues that are available on the N. T. Wright home page. Bishop Wright is a leading New Testament scholar & popular author whose conservative theology & pastoral commitment makes him one of the best known Anglicans in the wider evangelical Protestant world.

Church Attendees Seem to Have Better Marriages

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Answers In Action News

According to research from 3 surveys, married couples in the US who attend church together tend to be happier than couples who rarely or never attend services together, says sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox from the University of Virginia. Wilcox collated information from the General Social Survey (GSS), the National Survey of Families & Households (NSFH), & the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) & said the finding held true regardless of religious affiliation or racial profile.

Wilcox said the findings were not the same for couples with only one spouse regularly attending religious services.

Among the positive benefits Wilcox noted: "Churches supply moral norms like sexual fidelity & forgiveness, family-friendly social networks that lend support to couples facing the ordinary joys & challenges of married life, & a faith that helps couples make sense of the difficulties in their lives -- from unemployment to illness -- that can harm their marriages."

Wilcox warned, "At least in the marriage arena, faith alone doesn't work. You've got to combine faith & works to enjoy a happy & stable marriage. You need the consistent message, the ccountability, & the support a church community can provide to really benefit from religious faith."

The resulst of Wilcox's study is available in his research brief Is Religion an Answer? Marriage, Fatherhood, and the Male Problematic from the Institute of American Values.

For the full story: Church Attendance Beneficial to Marriage, Researcher Says.

Presbyterian (PCUSA) Body Approves Ordination of Gays

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Cults, Religions, and Faith Traditions

The Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) governing body, meeting in San Jose this last week, has overturned a long-standing ban against the ordination of gays & lesbians, although the decision is not expected to be ratified by the necessary majority of the nation's 173 regional presbyteries (are groupings of congregations) over the next year.

Lisa Larges, national co-ordinator for That All May Freely Serve, an organization supporting gay equality in the PCUSA, said, "I feel proud of my church today. I think a generational shift is what we are witnessing. There is a whole generation coming of age for whom acceptance is a given. The church is beginning to experience that sea change."

But not all PCUSA members & clergy feel the same. Rev. John Huffman of the 3,100 member St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church of Newport Beach, California, said, "Already, many of our strongest churches, including mine, are losing members who are disgusted with a political operation that is not Christ-oriented or Scripture-oriented."

For the full story: Presbyterian Leaders OK Gay Clergy.

TX Court Rules to Protect Church over Exorcism Liability

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Politics and Government

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday rejected a lower court's jury award in a civil suit brought by a young woman who said she suffered physical & emotional harm from an exorcism she underwent at the church when she was 17. The court ruled that the exorcism was a matter of church doctrine & subject to certain First Amendment rights such that the court could not rule on the issue without "unconstitutionally entangling" the court in matter of church doctrine.

A lower court had ruled that Pleasant Glade Assembly of God church in Colleyville, TX could be held liable for mental distress brought on by its "hyper-spiritualistic environment." The initial jury award of $300,000 had been reduced to $188,000.

Justice David Medina wrote for the majority that holding the church liable "would have an unconstitutional 'chilling effect' by compelling the church to abandon core principles of its religious beliefs."

Former parishioner Laura Schubert sued the church, claiming she was cut & bruised & later experienced hallucinations because of the exorcism. The church has said her psychological problems stemmed from her experience with her parents when they were missionaries in Africa.

For the full story: Texas Supreme Court Rejects Exoricism Lawsuit.

Pew Religion Report II Shows Changes in American Beliefs & Practices

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Cults, Religions, and Faith Traditions

Part 2 of the comprehensive religious survey of 35,000 Americans & their religious affiliations, beliefs, & practices was released June 26, 2008 by the Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life. Part 1, focusing on American religious affiliation, was released in February.

Part 2 shows that most Americans do not approach their faith dogmatically. A majority who affiliate themselves with a particular religion do not believe that their religion is the only way to salvation. About the same number believe that there is more than one way to interpret the major beliefs of their religion.

More than half of those surveyed said religion is a very important part of their lives. More than half attend religious services regularly & pray daily. Some readers may be surprised that a majority of respondents want their religion to preserve its traditional views & practices, not to adopt "modern" beliefs & practices. Most believe that there is a conflict between being a "devout person" & "living in a modern society."

The survey found that the most conservative a person was religiously, the more conservative he or she was on political & social issues such as homosexuality & abortion; but that political & social views on issues like the environment & foreign affairs were less affected by religious conservatism.

Although almost all those who identified with a particular religion believed in God, how they conceived of God differed. Among evangelical Protestants, only 13% believed God was "an impersonal force," but that percentage rose to 53% among Hindus & 50% among Jews. Even among those who said they were religiously "unaffiliated," 70% said they believed in God of some kind.

Both parts of the report are available on-line as the US Religious Landscape Survey.

For the full report of Part 2 see: Report 2: Religious Beliefs & Practices / Social & Political Views.

Presbyterians (USA) Lose more than 57,000 Members

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Cults, Religions, and Faith Traditions

The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), the lagest Presbyterian denomination in the United States, has lost more than 57,000 members in the last year, church leaders announced at their church's General Assembly in San Francisco over this last week. The 2.5% drop leaves the membership at 2.2 million at a time when the group is also discussing ordaining homosexuals in active relationships, affirming abortion choice, & declining to affirm that the Bible is wholly the inerrant Word of God. Over the last year, 12 congregations have switched to other denominations (including other Presbyterian groups), & 71 were dissolved. Additionally, about 130 congregations have threatened to leave the association because of disagreements about the leadership's stances on homosexuality & the Bible.

PCUSA outgoing stated clerk Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick noted, "While it is deeply painful to lose this many members for any reason, it is obvious that the vast majority of Presbyterians are committed to staying in the PCUSA & doing Christ's mission together."

For the full story: Presbyterians Record Biggest Drop in Nearly 30 Years.

Ancient Christian Worship Site in Jorndan Uncovered

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Cults, Religions, and Faith Traditions

Working in the northern Jordanian city of Rihab for 3 months, archaeologists from the Rihab Center for Archaeological Studies (RCAS) have uncovered an ancient catacomb (subterranean burial place) with evidence of early Christian rituals underneath the remains of an early Christian church dating to around AD 230.

The ancient church, named St. Gorgeous, is one of the oldest Christian churches yet discovered. The earliest Christians worshiped primarily in the great rooms or patios of private homes & worship in buildings dedicated entirely to worship did not become numerous until the 3rd century AD (the 200s).

The catacomb lies under St. Georgeous church. The dig is led by archaeologist Abdel-Qader Hassan, head of the RCAS. Hassan says his team believes the mention of 70 faithful followers in a mosaic in the floor of the St. Gorgeous church directly above the catacomb refers to the early Christian believers who worshiped underground during early Christian persecution. Hassan says there is evidence that worship took place in one part of the catacomb, & that believers lived together in another part.

For the full story: Ancient Catacomb found under one of Christianity's oldest churches in Jordan.

One Thing I Remember . . . .

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Thought for the Day

John Newton (1725-1807) was a former slave ship captain who became a devout Christian & pastor & who is best known for composing the hymn Amazing Grace, which was originally titled Faith's Review.

In the last year of his life, blind & ill, he said, "My memory is nearly gone, but there are two things I know in my life. I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior."

Other inspirational statements attributed to Newton are:

“God works powerfully, but for the most part gently and gradually.”

“So dress and conduct yourself so that people who have been in your company will not recall what you had on.”

“We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage”

"If two angels were sent down from heaven,--one to conduct an empire, and the other to sweep a street,--they would feel no inclination to change employments."

“Many have puzzled themselves about the origin of evil. I am content to observe that there is evil, and that there is a way to escape from it, and with this I begin and end.”

“We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday's burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it.”

For more information about John Newton: John Newton.

The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26