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 California Court of Appeals has agreed to reconsider a ruling by the Second District Court of Appeals under Justice H. Walter Croskey that said all parents whose children are not enrolled in regular or public schools but are home schooled are breaking the law. The earlier ruling stated that California parents "do not have a constitutional right to home-school their children."
An estimated 166,000 students in California are home schooled. The earlier ruling stemmed from a juvenile court case where one child in a family of home schooled children alleged she had been physically abused by her father, precipitating governmental review of the entire family & its parents' choices for their children. Civil libertarians & home schooling advocates immediately protested the ruling as completely outside the long-standing freedoms won & enjoyed for parents in California & across the nation, where an estimated 1.9 to 2.4 million children are home schooled.
The full appeals court will hear the case likely in June. According to home schooling advocacy groups, civil liberty groups, & particularly the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), there is ample legal , educational, & governmental support for home schooling & similar parental rights, & the February 28, 2008 ruling is isolated in its interpretation of the California State Constitution. Although the earlier ruling applied specifically only to this one case, it could be used as precedence & given legal weight in other cases.
ADF senior consel Gary McCaleb noted, "We're very pleased that this decision is going to be revisited by the court, & it's one that is deeply entrenched in the rights of parents. . . to control the education of their own children." ADF is representing the father in the family.
Cina Aid Association(CAA) has reported that persecution against Christian believers in Xinjiang province in China has intensified after the April 19 arrest of more than 30 major house church leaders after they met with 4 American Christians. After intensive international diplomacy efforts & media attention, the 4 Americans have been released & have returned to the US. Their interpreter, Mr. Jinhong Li, was also released & has returned to Beijing.
Two of the families who hosted the Americans have subsequently been raided. Their lands & other valuable household items such as their computers have been confiscated. Criminal detention papers listing 37 days of detention have been issued for 6 of those arrested: Pastor Xinglan Zhao, Pastor Xiurong Huang, Pastor Tianlu Yang, Pastor Chaoyi Wang, Pastor Chiling LI, & Pastor Sijun He. They are being held at Akesu City Detention Center.
CAA president Rev. Bob Fu commented, "We appeal to the international community to continue to intervene on behalf of these arrested Christian pastors. We urge the Chinese government to sincerely respect the spirit of the rule of law & religious freedom as a responsible 2008 Summer Olympic host.".
The re-evaluation comes more than 2 decades after their initial research & is far more commendatory than the initial observations made by the Passantinos & Martin. Although the Passantinos & Martin originally said the movement was not a non-Christian cult, & that at best Nee & especially Lee's writings were contradictory, they were strongly critical of the movement's theology as they understood it from examination of published materials. Although neither the Passantinos nor Martin wrote on the movement subsequent to 1981, for many years CRI offered a fact sheet on the movement that repeated the main criticisms from the Passantinos & Martin.
More than 3 years ago, Gretchen Passantino (who has directed AIA since her husband's death in 2003), Hank Hanegraaff (who has directed CRI since Martin's death in 1989), & Elliot Miller (who has edited the Journal since its inception), responded positively to a request by Living Stream Ministry, the publishing support for the movement, to begin a dialog & re-evaluation of its teachings & theology.
In the years since the initial critiques, the Passantinos, Miller, & Hanegraaff had increasingly appreciated the importance of understanding what people mean by their words through direct dialog, observation, & interaction, not merely or even sometimes best through their published words. Both CRI & AIA in recent years adopted policies mandating direct interaction with controversial individuals & groups as a pre-requisite to formal published criticisms. Passantino explains, "Our ground-breaking work in such areas as satanism & neo-paganism, as well as concurrent work with others in apologetics on the Worldwide Church of God and other movements & issues reinforced this principle & made us very open to re-evaluate this movement, whose written materials had always been problematic & open to divergent analysis among apologists."
Over the past 3 years, CRI & AIA have had unlimited access to the local churches’ written materials, hundreds of hours of direct dialog with leadership, and unrestricted access to rank-and-file members. CRI & AIA have also devoted hundreds of hours to theological analysis & research, including consultation with leading theologians & bible scholars from multiple graduate institutions. "Not only do we have a far better, more comprehensive understanding of the beliefs of the movement,” noted Passantino, “we also see clearly how our criticisms, even though they were among the mildest from the apologetics community, misunderstood & misrepresented its core of orthodoxy."
In the 1970s and early 1980s the Passantinos (in 2 small booklets) characterized Lee's teachings as at best contradictory & at worst heretical, & along with Martin (in The New Cults) strongly criticized their theology while stating they were not a non-Christian cult. Other researchers beginning in the 1970s branded the movement a cult & warned of psychological, sociological, & criminal errors attributed to the movement as well as charges of theological heresy. As recently as 1999 authors John Ankerberg & John Weldon included the movement among groups that were dangerous, destructive, & criminal in their behavior as well as heretical in their theology in their Encyclopedia of Cults & New Religions.
Since the movement had its origins & a strong contingent of believers in mainland China, the atheistic communist Chinese government made use of the negative reports as partial justification for criminal charges & convictions against Chinese Christians associated with the movement. The egregious charges made in Ankerberg & Weldon's book, echoing those made in earlier decades (such as in The God-men by Neil T. Duddy) have been seen by the movement as extremely dangerous for its members in mainland China, who continue to face government restriction, charges, & convictions for their church work. As part of countering this threat, key local church teachers (they reject a formal leadership hierarchy but obviously defer to certain members as especially important resources for leadership & teaching) approached a variety of apologetics leaders seeking dialog & reassessment. AIA & CRI welcomed the opportunity & joined together to pursue the process .
In recent years the churches & LSM have made progress in receiving recognition in wider Christian circles in America. Fuller Seminary conducted a similar dialog & examination to that of AIA & CRI & concluded, “the teachings and practices of the local churches and its members represent the genuine, historical, biblical Christian faith in every essential aspect” (Fuller Statement). LSM was accepted into full voting membership in the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).
In dialog with local church leaders & LSM, they & AIA & CRI agreed that the initial strongly critical evaluations of the earlier decades by the Passantinos & Martins were due to a combination of factors that did not include deliberate misrepresentation or sinful intention on either side. Rather, the inadequate criticisms had much more to do with factors such as the lack of direct interchange; the cultural, linguistic, & ecclesiological differences between Christianity in China & America; & the relatively immature status of analytical religious analysis on both sides.
“A good example,” Passantino offered, “is the similarities between some of Nee & Lee’s teachings & those of some of the early church fathers & some expressions of eastern orthodoxy today.” She continued, “Neither Nee nor Lee claimed that their teachings about personal sanctifying transformation came from a familiarity with or adoption of the patristic or eastern orthodox teachings of theosis. With the comprehensive knowledge I had in the 1970s about heretical teachings on the subject from western aberrational groups, it was far more likely that I would identify Nee & Lee’s teachings with those rather than with patristic & eastern orthodox theology with which I was far less conversant.”
Revisiting the controversial teachings after a hiatus of more than 2 decades, AIA & CRI were able to more fairly evaluate the pertinent passages in their wider context & in complementary comparison with a wider body of orthodox theology. “We concluded,” Passantino said, “that one of the reasons we repeatedly encountered what we thought of as contradictions in Nee & Lee’s teachings so long ago, was that they really did not mean the heretical view, but meant to be understood as well within orthodoxy.” Direct dialog was key to unlocking the conundrum. Passantino, Hanegraaff, & Miller knew after their first meeting that these representatives were their fellow Christians. “As they affirmed orthodox theology, rejected heresy, & explained to us their theology,” Passantino offered, “I knew direct interchange was essential to fairly evaluate them.”
AIA & CRI affirm that the essential doctrines of Nee, Lee, the local churches, & LSM are fully within orthodoxy. AIA & CRI are fully aware that there are a number of secondary teachings & practices that distinguish them from many American evangelical Christian churches.
After complaints that BBC programming repeatedly errs on the side of sensitivity to Islam & other minorities (religious or otherwise) & bias against Christianity (especially Roman Catholicism), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the United Kingdom government-controlled broadcasting agency, has admitted its guilt. A summit meeting of BBC officials culminated in admissions that "the BBC is not impartial or neutral," as BBC political editor Andew Marr put it.
The closed-door summit's conclusions were leaked to the British newspaper The Mail on Sunday. Executives discussed how they would react if the Bible & the Koran were thrown into a trash can on the program Room 101, which invites prominent people to offer their "pet hates" up for disposal. (The show derives its name from George Orwell's book 1984, in which Room 101 contains the most awful thing in existence.) According to the majority of the BBC executives in the discussion, the Bible could be trashed, but the Koran could not, for fear of offending Muslims. Executives also admitted they were more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than of Christians.
"It's a publicly funded urban organization with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities, & gay people," continued outspoken Marr. "It has a liberal bias -- not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias."
A Wisconsin pastor has decided to bring the water to the horse, so to speak, & he's hoping some will want to drink. Actually, he's bringing the gospel to 2 local bars, where he will be leading a 9 week Bible study/discussion group launching from an airing of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary, The Question of God, which looks at the question by investigating the radically opposing perspectives of the late Christian apologist C. S. Lewis & 19th century "father" of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud.
Pastor Perry Polnaszek, of Chippewa Falls, WI says, "This is our culture. Rather than trying to deny that this is where people are, we want to reach out to them." The bars are in Chippewa Falls & Eau Claire, WI.
Pastor Polnaszek & his wife are missionaries with the Minnesota/Wisconsin Baptist Convention (MWBC),stating a new church in the Chippewa Falls area with a small group of committed families from other churches who are supporting the MWBC church planting program to reach out to people who would not come in contact with church or the gospel in more traditional forums. A full program for Fellowship Church starts in September. Previously, the Polnaszeks worked with Touched Twice United ministry, offering free medical & vision screenings in needy neighborhoods, hosted by local congregations. Before entering the ministry, Perry was an optician & began the Twice Touched clinic concept by offering his services for free to needy individuals.
The bar Bible studies even have a sponsor, Guinness, which will promote its non-alcoholic beer, Kaliber.
While some people are uncomfortable with the concept of mixing bars & the gospel, Pastor Polnaszek is enthusiastic about his opportunity to reach people who would not otherwise go to a church. "We want to reach people wh normally wouldn't pass the threshold of a traditional church. . . . We believe the Gospel will stand above all comers."
While those who drop in for the Bible study are free to drink whatever they like, alcoholic or not, Polnaszek suggested, "We just don't want any binging or any fights."
Jeffrey Lundgren (56), convicted in 1989 of killing a family of 5 over their rebellion against his leadership in their aberrant religious group, received an execution date Thursday from the Supreme Court of Ohio. Barring further stays on appeals, Lundgren will be executed on October 10.
Lundgren had been a lay minister member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), since renamed the Community of Christ, until his expulsion for heresy in 1987. He founded his own small religious group which occupied a farm in Ohio. He was called "Dad" by the members, who believed he was the end-time prophet of the true church & that faithfulness to him & his teachings would ensure their survival at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which Lundgren said would soon occur at the RLDS temple in Kirtland, OH.
The group pooled its resources & labor on the farm, & Lundgren said he believed it was his duty to deal with the "spiritually unclean" among them. He invited one family, Dennis (49) & Cheryl(46) Avery & their 3 children (15, 13, & 7), to dinner in the farmhouse one evening in April of 1989, took them out to the barn, & murdered them all, saying he was "pruning the vineyard."
He was arrested around 8 months later when police found first Dennis's body, & then the rest. He was charged & convicted of 5 counts each of aggravated murder & kidnapping.
Protest is ramping up against Amnesty International (AI) by pro-life religious groups & other organizations since the issue came under discussion in August 2005 about whether AI should reconsider its neutral stance on abortion & instead advocate abortion within the context of women's rights. At last year's conference, AI regional offices were asked to discuss the issue among their own constituencies & be prepared for discussion & decision making over the following 2 years.
Amnesty International's current policy on abortion states: "AI takes no position on whether or not women have a right to choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies; there is no generally accepted right to abortion in international human rights law."
According to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in the United Kingdom, 4 options are being discussed: (1) Take no position at the 2007 international conference, but continue discussions & fact-finding; (2) that the AI Executive Committee develop a policy that would affirm the right to abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, & incest; (3) that AI internationally should affirm the general legal status, that is, decriminalizing abortion & allowing it in medically approved settings, circumstances, & procedures; or (4) that AI adopt the position that the right to terminate a preganancy is a fundamental right of all women & should not be restricted legally, morally, or financially for any & all women.
"This is completely inconsistent with what Amnesty has been all about," complained John-Henry Westen, a board member for the Campaign Life Coalition. Other pro-life groups warn that AI will lose a substantial amount of support & income if it changes its traditionally neutral stance on abortion.
Although Israel's first international celebration of homosexuality will still take place as scheduled to begin August 6, organizers of the Jerusalem WorldPride 2006 have cancelled a planned parade through the streets of Jerusalem.
The celebrations, designed for lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, & transgenders (LGBT), is expected to draw tens of thousands of LGBTs to the city. The government informed organizers this week that they could not insure a safe environment for the parade given the war & security issues in play right now. "We feel it would be neither responsible nor appropraite to hold the march until such time that circumstances allow for a safe & peaceful gathering for all," said Hagai El-Ad, WorldPride executive director. He continued, "This is not the time for celebrations, & the march, which would require extensive security, . . . will be held when the improvement of the security situation in the country" takes place.
This year's celebration was postponed entirely from last year amid tensions as Israel pulled out from the Gaza Strip.
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