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[Cfamily]Advice for Armenians and Azerbaijanis, from Israel-Palestine
« Reply #1824 on: November 15, 2020, 12:00:09 AM »

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Advice for Armenians and Azerbaijanis, from Israel-Palestine

After three decades of reconciliation work in Jerusalem, here’s what I’ve learned when protracted conflict involves religion, land, and history.

Editor’s note: CT’s complete coverage of Armenian Christians is here.

A brawl broke out last month between Armenian and Azeri groups in the middle of a highway leading to Jerusalem. Both factions were on their way to exhibit their support or opposition to Israel’s sales of arms to Azerbaijan.

The October 17 incident caught many Palestinians and Israelis by surprise, as Armenian and Azeri communities in the Holy Land are often forgotten or ignored. It also represented the heated reaction around the world by diaspora groups.

This made me reflect on our Palestinian-Israeli conflict in relation to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, where the two sides just announced a Russia-backed agreement to end the fighting.

Musalaha (reconciliation in Arabic), the Jerusalem-based organization I founded and currently serve as its director, has over 30 years of experience in the field of peace-building and reconciliation. We’ve developed a model that addresses obstacles for reconciliation through desert encounters, and have identified six stages in the process of reconciliation (detailed in a book released this month by Langham Publishing). Through our work, we have guided more than 200,000 Israeli and Palestinian men, women, and youth through more than 1,000 activities.

So I by no means claim to be an expert on the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan. But perhaps my experience and knowledge working for decades on reconciliation in Palestine-Israel may be helpful to Armenians and Azeris living in their respective countries or in the diaspora.

Here are four areas where I believe lessons we’ve learned from our work of reconciliation in our own conflict can apply to Nagorno-Karabakh:

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[Cfamily]Exclusive Interview: Just Who Are the People of Praise?
« Reply #1825 on: November 16, 2020, 12:00:13 AM »
Exclusive Interview: Just Who Are the People of Praise?

The first full on-the-record interview with the coordinator for People of Praise, in the news now due to Amy Coney Barrett.

Ed: Craig, you've been involved with the People of Praise for a long time and now coordinate the community. How would you respond to some of the ways the People of Praise were characterized during the confirmation hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett?

Craig: Well, in the Senate hearings themselves, opposition to Judge Barrett centered on her judicial philosophy. The press, however, focused a great deal on her reported association with People of Praise. Despite our best efforts to be honest, transparent and helpful with reporters, it became clear that we were going to be cast as the dark stain on her character that many hoped would be disqualifying.

Ed: As I understand it, the People of Praise was founded in the early 1970s, in a time many young people were part of the Jesus People Movement. A part of that larger movement was the charismatic renewal which touched many people across various Christian traditions. This included a charismatic renewal in the Catholic church at places like Duquesne and Notre Dame. Tell us about how the People of Praise started and your own experience.

The community was founded in 1971 when 29 people made a covenant commitment in South Bend, Indiana. Notable historical influences that helped shape the community include Vatican II and its focus on the laity, ecumenism, and scripture, the Cursillo movement and its emphasis on small-group meetings and evangelism, and of course the charismatic renewal.

My own experience with the charismatic renewal began when I was a college student in the 1970s. Though attending a campus Christian group, Bible studies, and small groups, I experienced my life as a Christian to be, as I would have said at the time, under-powered. When I was prayed with to be baptized ...

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[Cfamily]One-on-One with Beth Seversen on ‘Not Done Yet’
« Reply #1826 on: November 17, 2020, 12:00:10 AM »
One-on-One with Beth Seversen on ‘Not Done Yet’

How can the Church reach and keep unchurched emerging adults?

Ed: “Authenticity” seems to be a recurring theme throughout your book. Based on your research, how would you define the “authenticity” that emerging adults are seeking, as you assert in your book? How does this authenticity cross generational boundaries?

Beth: Young adults need to know that we’re for real. Believe it or not my research shows us they are on the outside looking in at us through our virtual windows checking our churches out. No matter the reason that draws them, they are peeking in at our webpages, watching our online services, and critiquing our message—both our silent and our spoken messages. They are evaluating if our Christian faith is real and if our Christian community—the church—is good. Just the fact that we’re a part of an institution for some causes their goodness radar to go off.

Young adults have moral compasses. They may not be set on the same “true north” as yours or mine, but they are skeptical of people who: suggest everyone vote the same way, or reject people based on their sexual identities, are trying to sell something, or who are immersed in consumerism, and say they’re not antiracist but are blind to their own racial bias. Some young adults go so far as to reject Christianity for being immoral for lots of good reasons.

By becoming friends with young adults across generational borders, myths and stereotypes can be deconstructed and what is true and real can be experienced through genuine Christian community, transparency, and authenticity.

Ed: In your book, you mention a psychological phenomenon called “identity procrastination,” in which isolation leads to delayed identity formation in young adults. How can ...

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Source: One-on-One with Beth Seversen on ‘Not Done Yet’

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[Cfamily]Sudan’s Partially Answered Prayers
« Reply #1827 on: November 18, 2020, 12:00:10 AM »
Sudan’s Partially Answered Prayers

An interview with Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo on religious freedom after Bashir, normalization with Israel, defamation of religions, and what to pray for next.

Sudan is rejoining the community of nations.

After 30 years of pariah status under former dictator Omar al-Bashir, the nation has established relations with Israel, taken steps to improve religious freedom, and ensured removal of its US designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo of Sudan has witnessed the entire history.

Born in 1957 in the Nuba Mountains region, he was ordained an Anglican priest at the age of 31. In 2003, he became bishop of the diocese of Khartoum, Sudan’s capital city.

In 2014, Kondo became archbishop of Sudan within overall administrative unity with South Sudan. And in 2017, he was enthroned as primate of the newly created Anglican Province of Sudan.

A critic of religious persecution under Bashir, Kondo has associated his church with the conservative Global South Movement in the Anglican Communion, as well as GAFCON, which seeks “to guard the unchanging, transforming gospel of Jesus Christ and to proclaim Him to the world.”

CT spoke with Kondo about justice for the Palestinians, the need for a blasphemy law, and his ranking of Sudan’s religious freedom progress on a 10-point scale:

Your country has begun a process of normalizing with Israel. Are you in favor of this process?

I do support it, for the good of Sudan. Normalizing will be a good thing for development in economy, agriculture, technology, and other areas. It will open doors for relations with other countries.

And spiritually, it will enable [Sudanese] Christians to visit the Holy Land.

Are there Sudanese Christians against normalization?

I don’t think there are any. Israelis are human beings. Christians know that other Arab countries have relations, like Israel’s neighbors, Jordan and Egypt. ...

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Source: Sudan’s Partially Answered Prayers

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Don’t Overstate the Rewards of Sexual Faithfulness. Don’t Understate Them Either.

The false promises of purity culture shouldn’t overshadow the true promises of God.

In his classic book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton described the surprising, even subversive, nature of truth: “Whenever we feel there is something odd in Christian theology, we shall generally find that there is something odd in the truth.”

He gave the example of celibacy as an illustration: “It is true,” Chesterton wrote, “that the historic Church has at once emphasized celibacy and emphasized the family; has at once … been fiercely for having children and fiercely for not having children. It has kept them side by side like two strong colors, red and white. … [The Church] has always had a healthy hatred of pink.”

Chesterton’s words serve to frame the helpful approach of Rachel Joy Welcher in her recent book, Talking Back to Purity Culture: Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality. Welcher registers substantial criticism against the evangelical movement that brought pledge cards, books, and rallies to sex-crazed American teenagers. But she does not deconstruct 2,000 years of orthodox teaching on Christian sexuality. Sexual purity matters, if not exactly in the way that purity culture defined it. “As with most earnest, human responses,” writes Welcher, “we didn’t get everything right.”

Good Intentions and Gross Errors

Welcher, a daughter of a pastor, was a high school student in 1997 when Joshua Harris’s book I Kissed Dating Goodbye “captured the attention of the evangelical world [and] inspired countless other books on dating and sexual purity,” she writes. She helpfully situates the movement in its context, reminding readers that purity culture grew up during a period of soaring rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs. Given ...

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[Cfamily]Sony’s Pure Flix Acquisition Could Raise the Bar for Christian Movies
« Reply #1829 on: November 20, 2020, 12:00:08 AM »
Sony’s Pure Flix Acquisition Could Raise the Bar for Christian Movies

As a major Hollywood studio invests in on-demand inspirational content, the question becomes how they’ll approach the sprawling offerings targeting the Christian market.

In a shakeup of the niche faith-based streaming market, Sony Pictures plans to acquire streaming service Pure Flix and its hundreds of thousands of subscribers committed to “clean entertainment” and “feel-good movies.”

Pure Flix, one of a half-dozen streaming platforms targeting Christian viewers, will be fully owned by Sony subsidiary Affirm Entertainment pending regulatory approval, the company announced last week.

Affirm already has a strong track record of what executives call “uplifting, inspirational content,” with popular titles aimed at Christian audiences: Miracles from Heaven starring Jennifer Garner, War Room from filmmaker brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, and The Star, an animated re-telling of the Nativity co-produced by DeVon Franklin and The Jim Henson Company.

Keith Le Goy, president of networks and distribution at Sony, said the acquisition allows Affirm to create and share more stories that are “both impactful and entertaining.”

Pure Flix CEO Michael Scott and chief content officer David A. R. White—who has starred in many Pure Flix releases himself—said they plan to stay on board, joining Affirm Entertainment after the deal is done to manage the service and help develop future programming. However, the independent studio Pure Flix Entertainment will remain a separate entity and retain its library of films—notably its God’s Not Dead trilogy, which collectively earned $96 million at the box office.

This move by a major studio reveals the value Hollywood places on reaching Christian consumers, particularly as most entertainment has been moving to in home and on demand.

“The shift to streaming has been a long time coming, with the pandemic ...

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Source: Sony’s Pure Flix Acquisition Could Raise the Bar for Christian Movies

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[Cfamily]No Pandemic Pause in Persecution, Says Poland Ministerial
« Reply #1830 on: November 21, 2020, 12:00:10 AM »
No Pandemic Pause in Persecution, Says Poland Ministerial

Third annual conference to promote international religious freedom, held virtually, highlights how governments have exploited COVID-19.

The cause of international religious freedom has gone more international.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the third Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief was hosted this week outside the United States for the first time—in Poland.

Next year it will take place in Brazil.

Launched in 2018 by the US State Department, the ministerial brings together the world’s top diplomats to ensure religious freedom remains an integral focus of international foreign policy.

The focus is necessary: 80 percent of the world’s population lives in nations that restrict religious freedom, according to the Pew Research Center.

And the pandemic has only increased persecution.

“Malign actors have tried to use COVID-19 to restrict religious freedom,” said Sam Brownback, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

“The need to expand religious freedoms and protect religious minorities has become a global priority.”

The novel coronavirus took center stage at the two-day conference, hosted virtually by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Gayle Manchin, chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said restrictions on religion began as early as March.

She cited several examples:

  • In Sri Lanka, authorities ignored Muslim objections to cremation, despite health assurances there could be no transmission from a cadaver.

  • In South Korea, the government moved against the Shincheonji Church of Jesus sect after it became the center of the nation’s initial outbreak.

  • In Iran, despite a widespread release of prisoners that included some Christians, officials transferred Sufi Muslim prisoners into wards with known cases of COVID-19.

  • Saudi Arabia restricted movement in its Shiite-majority eastern Qatif region, wary of early widespread infection in Iran.

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Source: No Pandemic Pause in Persecution, Says Poland Ministerial

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Pastors Launch Church-Planting Network for ‘Black and Brown Neighborhoods’

A new initiative led by Thabiti Anyabwile aims to support leaders serving in distressed urban areas. 

A team of pastors including Thabiti Anyabwile and John Onwuchekwa have launched a new network—The Crete Collective—to support church planters focused on black, Hispanic, and Asian American communities.

The network represents a move to bring more people of color into leadership for church-planting initiatives and to focus more missional attention toward poor and underserved urban areas with high concentrations of ethnic minorities.

“The Crete Collective would place at the center of its work the concerns, ideals, aspirations, frustrations, struggles, and realities of black and brown neighborhoods in all of their diversity,” said founding president Thabiti Anyabwile, a pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC.

“We would enthusiastically encourage the kind of holistic discipleship that sees gospel preaching and justice as siblings rather than as enemies. We’ve got a whole range of issues that we have to care about in our communities … immigration challenges, prison reform, hunger, homeownership.”

While major networks have worked for years to make church planting more diverse in the United States—a majority of Southern Baptist church plants, for example, are multiethnic or non-Anglo—the movement overall remains disproportionately white. It also tends to concentrate new churches in places with the most existing churches.

Len Tang, the director of church planting at Fuller Theological Seminary, called plans for a network led by and for black, Hispanic, and Asian American pastors “so timely and relevant.”

“Much of the modern church-planting movement has primarily been white and suburban and male. Over the last generation, there’s been—like ...

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Source: Pastors Launch Church-Planting Network for ‘Black and Brown Neighborhoods’

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