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postheadericon Christian Church growing in North Korea despite persecution

Christian Church growing in North Korea despite strong persecution

Christianity is growing in the despotic state of North Korea despite the horrendous persecution of dissenters, sources on the ground say.

A North Korean defector who works with the country’s underground church said that people “no longer respect Kim Jong-un” and are refusing to worship the Kim family, as they were told to do in the past.

The anonymous defector, a member of the Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea, told The Telegraph that, people “are looking for something else to sustain their faith”.

Church growth

He said: “In some places, that has led to the emergence of shamens, but the Christian church is also growing and deepening its roots there”.

The man’s testimony coincides with an annual report on global religious freedoms by the US State Department, released yesterday.

It found that: “An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, were believed to beheld in the political prison camp system in remote areas under horrific conditions”.

In some cases, the report added, the persecution of religious dissenters can be as extreme as execution, torture and imprisonment.

Open Doors

In its 2017 World Watch List, Christian charity Open Doors classified North Korea as “the most difficult” place in the world to be a Christian.

Open Doors also believes that the number of Christians killed or imprisoned is increasing, estimating that around 70,000 are in labour camps.

The World Watch List also revealed that in neighbouring China, persecution of Christians is receding, and the church has doubled in size from 50 million Christians in the 1980s to nearly 100 million today.

Christian Institute – 16th August 2017

postheadericon Bishops declare ‘No biblical support for changing stance on marriage’

The Church of England’s decision against ‘taking note’ of a report on sexuality (15th February 2017) will result in ‘increasing division’, according to two bishops, The Bishops of Maidstone and Blackburn have called for a ‘rediscovery and reintroduction of the Bible’ after the General Synod voted against the report which both backed the biblical definition of marriage and called for “maximum freedom” for homosexual people,

Following the vote, The Archbishops of Canterbury and York released a joint letter which called for “radical new Christian inclusion in the Church” and “a proper 21 st century understanding of being human and of being sexual”,

The Rt Revd Rod Thomas and the Rt Revd Julian Henderson have responded to Archbishops’ letter by saying they are “completely unpersuaded that there is any Biblical warrant for the Church to change its doctrine of marriage”,

In a letter to the Church of England Newspaper, the two bishops expressed their concerns that “the recent General Synod debate will generate the development of pastoral practice that is completely at odds with Scripture and we plead with the proponents of change not to impair their communion with those who support the Church’s current teaching”,

Their letter also said: “In this year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we do well to recall the rediscovery and reintroduction of the Bible in the sixteenth century to the beliefs and practices of the Church, re-forming the people of God according to His Word,”

Bishop Thomas has previously highlighted that a number of bishops have called for the C of E “to be more affirming” of same-sex relationships following the General Synod,

He said that these bishops view the Church “as being on a trajectory towards change,” But Bishop Thomas believes that: “Evangelicals in the Church of England are on a different trajectory,” He went on to say that “loving friendships between people of the same sex are given great value” in scripture, but added that “sexual intimacy is only ever commended in the context of marriage between a man
and a woman”,

Bishop Thomas warned that the Church cannot “sit loose to what the Bible teaches and then expect its mission to thrive”,

The C of E’s stance has also been criticlsed by a group of conservative Anglicans who said it was “very distressing to see such confusion” within the Church,

GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) warned that there is a “great gulf between the morality of the Bible and the neo-pagan sexual morality that is now dominant in the West”,

GAFCON Chairman Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said in a statement: “We need to be as clear today as the apostles were to the churches of the New Testament that new life in Christ means a radical break with the practices and lifestyle of the world,”

Christian Institute, 14th March 2017

 

postheadericon Academic claims that traditional marriage vows should be replaced

Traditional marriage vows would be better replaced by a fixed-term contract, an author and academic has claimed.

Jeanette Winterson entered a same-sex marriage in 2015, despite previously being “unsure about gay marriage”. Writing in The Guardian, Professor Winterson claimed that a lifelong commitment is “too long for most of us” and “that needs to be recognised”. “I want to stay with Susie, and I hope I can, but I would have preferred to sign up for 10 years because ‘for ever’ makes me panic”, she wrote.

Campaign group Coalition for Marriage said it had always warned that, “once marriage was redefined for same-sex couples, there would be further redefinitions down the line”. “We need to continue speaking out for the true definition of marriage – the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. The concept of a ‘fixed-term marriage’ must be firmly resisted. Marriage requires total commitment, not temporary assent”, the group stated.

Under the headline: “Jeanette Winterson: we need to be more imaginative about modern marriage”, the professor also attacked organised religion. “If we are to reform marriage, the first and most important step is to nullify the power of religion to dictate the rights of individuals over their own bodies. And over their own hearts.”

She added: “We are all living longer, and not all of us can stay with that same one person for ever. Marriage has always been a contract, so why not discuss fixed-term contracts? “A fixed term might allow both parents to feel less pressure and more responsibility”, she said, questioning whether traditional vows amount to “liberation or a life sentence”.

In 2015, a columnist at The Herald newspaper praised marriage as best for children and individuals. Colette Douglas Home said that the “social experiment” of raising children in different arrangements had shown that marriage is best for all.

Christian Institute – 19th April 2017

postheadericon It’s time for the Church of England to lay down the law on marriage

It’s time for the Church of England to lay down the law on marriage

Wednesday’s [15th February 2017] vote in Synod was not a victory for the LGBT lobby. In whatever way that vote in synod is spun, the real issue is not about same-sex marriage but about the authority of the Bible in the Church of England. The effect of the vote is that there is no change in doctrine or practice. Marriage remains, as it has for all Christendom, a lifelong union between a man and a woman. This moment presents a great opportunity for the House of Bishops to embrace that truth and to act to uphold it firmly within the Church, disciplining those who would seek to abandon the authority of the Bible, and whose actions will eventually bring down the Church by actively denying that truth.

The Bishops’ Report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships was in danger of weakening the Church’s teaching. It sought to hold together two positions that are irreconcilable – the orthodox position holding to the teaching of Jesus Christ, and the alternative which seeks to revise his teaching by insisting on acceptance of same-sex marriage.

People in society expect the Church to believe and teach the Bible. What other authority can the Church have? Moreover, God’s people are called to be “set apart” and clergy are supposed to be examples to their people. Today, however, a crucial faultline has opened up in the Church of England because it has permitted those who openly defy the teaching of Jesus into positions of authority and influence. Male clergy who declare to Synod their “marriages” to other men are applauded, despite the fact that this is directly contrary to the Church’s own teaching. The Bishop or Liverpool, and active LGBT campaigner, took to the floor of Synod this week and pleaded with members tacitly to back the report by voting to “take note” of its findings, because the language within it affirmed homosexual relationships. “Our explanation of maximum freedom will take us to places where we have not previously gone,” the bishop said, clearly indicating the direction of travel he intended to take. Such a position runs directly contrary to the teachings of the Church. Yet the Bishop is not even reprimanded.

I wrestled long and hard about whether to vote “take note” of the report. As debate progressed, however, I realised that the LGBT lobby would not stop until it had got full approval in the Church. But the undeniable truth is that the Church can’t give its blessing to same-sex marriages when its sole source of authority does not. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself is clearly wrestling with this contradiction. “To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward,” he said, “we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual … the way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.” Of course, it is right to recognise that we are made in the image of God. But we are left with the question what does radical inclusion mean?

Christians are people who believe that Jesus is Lord and that he knows what is best for us. I believe today is a great moment of opportunity for the Church of England. The schism has been laid bare. It is time for the bishops to lead with clarity and authority. The Church of England has a cherished place in the life of our nation and its duty is to speak to government and people of the hope that is found in following Jesus and his words. Either it will flourish by doing so, or it will wither and die, because it capitulates and seeks the approval of the world more than the love of God. Providentially this vote means that the Church’s teaching on marriage is secure. The House of Bishops declared there to be no appetite among them for changing the Church’s official view. Now all we need is for them to follow through by upholding the teaching and, ultimately, disciplining those that brazenly seek to defy it. Jesus Christ proclaimed that marriage is between a man and a woman. It is Him we follow.

Andrea Minichiello Williams is CEO of Christian Concern

 

postheadericon A Christian View: ‘Better outcomes from marriage’

A Christian View: ‘Better outcomes from marriage’

If I had not become a Christian and had remained a votary of secular liberalism, I would now have to concede that the heterosexually married family is the best: environment for most children to grow up in. I would also have to concede that sex should be confined to marriage. Both propositions make sense. The British politician who has done a great deal through his Centre for Social Justice to demonstrate the vital importance of the institution of marriage is lain Duncan Smith. In 2012, when he was Work and Pensons Secretary, he went public with solid statistical evidence that children raised in married families were achieving better outcomes. Mr Duncan Smith’s pro-marriage declaration was made before same-sex couples could get married legally in England and Wales and in Scotland, so at that point marriage in Britain was exclusively heterosexual.

Since the Marriage (Same-Sex) Couples Act came into force in 2014 in England and Wales, around 15,000 same-sex couples have entered civil marriages, a small proportion out of the 240,000 or so marriages annually and a tiny proportion of the overall number of married couples in Britain. So, marriage remains overwhelmingly heterosexual in our country with the complementary nature of fatherhood and motherhood providing an intrinsic benefit for children.

What is the evidence for the contention that children generally do best with a man and a woman actively involved in their upbringing? It is the fact that such an arrangement, albeit to varying degrees of commitment depending on the parents, attaches to the domestic environment, namely the heterosexually married family, in which children are generally achieving the best educational and psycho-emotional outcomes.

What about the proposition that sex should be confined to marriage? The widespread acceptance of that ethic among British people before the 1960s was a major factor in encouraging young men and women to get married in the first place, thus enabling many millions of children across the social spectrum to get the benefit. Added to this, there was a plethora of moral, social, and legal factors encouraging couples to stay married and to work through or find a way of enduring the inevitable imperfectlons and challenges in every marriage.

I know a bit about this from personal experience because in 20 years of Anglican parish ministry I have met a range of men and women with a pre-permissive attitude towards marriage and family life and have been privi!eged to take funeral services for their spouses. ‘We had our ups and downs but .. .’ is a line I have often heard. It is surely no co-incidence that the marriage rates in our country have fallen significantly since sex outside marriage became socially acceptable, down by around 100.000 in England and Wales, from 343,000 in 1960, and that the number of children born without married parents is increasing.

For the follower of Jesus Christ commitment to a marriage once entered is a matter of biblical conviction and so transcends considerations of ‘compatibility’. For the Christian, the ‘right person’, except in dire circumstances such as marital infidelity or’ domestic abuse, is the member of the opposite sex to whom they made the promise of life-long commitment in the presence of God.

Comparing the broad state of British society now with the conditions across the social classes before the permissive society kicked in, along a range of indices from mental health to drug and alcohol abuse to crime and educational performance, is it really surprising to find that a society that honours marriage tends to work better for children!

Julian Mann is Vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge

 

postheadericon Justin Welby: I’m an extremist, according to the Govt’s definition

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the Government has a seriously flawed view of extremism that places Christians alongside extreme Muslim groups. Criticising ministers and civil servants for “religious illiteracy”, Justin Welby said many assume conservative Christian believers are “a bit bonkers”. The Archbishop also recounted a conversation where he told a politician that he was an “extremist” because he believed the “kingdom of God outweighs everything else”.

‘Trying to catch up’

He made the comments to leaders of Church of England schools as he considered the challenges they face. “The Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, our Government generally, is desperately trying to catch up, to understand a world in which they have no grip on what it is to be religious at all”, he said. The Archbishop added that the atmosphere in Whitehall is one “where religious illiteracy is prevalent” and where people fail to see “the difference between an extremist Muslim group like the Muslim Brotherhood and a sort of conservative evangelical group in a Church of England church”. “They assume they’re a bit bonkers”, he said.

Faith

He then described a conversation with a politician who questioned what could be wrong with the Government’s British values drive. The “very senior politician” said, “are you seriously going to tell me that I don’t call someone an extremist if they say that their faith is more important than the rule of law?” He responded: “So I took a deep breath and said ‘Well, you’ve got a real problem here because for me personally my faith is more important than the rule of law so you’ve got an extremist sitting in here with you.” He explained: “We do not believe as Christians that the rule of law outweighs everything else, we believe that the kingdom of God outweighs everything else.”

State-imposed orthodoxy

In 2015, Sir Edward Leigh MP warned that faith schools were “under attack from the forces of intolerance”, as he highlighted the treatment from Ofsted against several schools. Sir Edward argued that the schools’ regulator “appears to be guilty of trying to enforce a kind of state-imposed orthodoxy on certain moral and religious questions”. Ofsted came under fire after the introduction of new British values rules in 2014.

 

Christian Institute 9th November 2016

 

postheadericon TV historian admits that he was wrong about Christianity

Tom Holland, the TV and radio historian and author of the prize-winning Rubicon, says he had the completely wrong idea about Christianity. Holland realised that his false ideas about God had been cultivated in him by the works of Edward Gibbon and other writers of the Enlightenment. He now sees Christianity as a revolutionary idea which has changed the world, and calls it the “principal reason” behind many of our most deeply-held values.

‘Christ crucified’

Central to the changes in his thinking were the Apostle Paul’s words: “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (I Corinthians I :23). In his article for the New Statesman, Holland wrote: “Nothing could have run more counter’ to the most profoundly held assumptions of Paul’s contemporaries – Jews, or Greeks, or Romans. “The notion that a god might have suffered torture and death on a cross was so shocking as to appear repulsive.” “In the ancient world, it was the role of gods who laid claim to ruling the universe to uphold its order by inflicting punishment – not to suffer it themselves.”

Egoism

Holland writes that he had a Christian upbringing and attended Sunday school, but eventually turned his back on Christianity, preferring to explore his fascination with dinosaurs and ancient empires. He was drawn into what he saw as the glamour of the Greek and Roman gods, preferring their ideology of egoism to biblical values. “If they were vain, selfish and cruel, that only served to endow them with the allure of rock stars”, he explained.

Value of life

But eventually he came to realise that these societies invariably promoted cruelty and dominance. He highlighted the Spartan practice of murderous eugenics, and Caesar’s slaughter and enslavement of the Gauls. “It was not just the extremes of callousness I came to find shocking, but the lack of a sense that the poor or weak might have any intrinsic value”, he said.

Revolution

Holland concluded that countries once part of Christendom “continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents”. He calls it the “principal reason” that such societies take for granted that “it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering”.

The Christian Institute 19th September 2016

postheadericon Christians should be able to share their faith at work

Theresa May has said Christians should be able to speak about their faith in the workplace.

Responding to a question in Parliament today, the Prime Minister said the UK has a “very strong tradition” of “religious tolerance and freedom of speech”, and added that our “Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of’.

Fiona Bruce MP had raised concerns that many Christians are worried “about mentioning their faith in public”, after a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) hit out at organisations which suppress Christianity for fear of causing offence.

The Prime Minister agreed that the ability to ‘speak’ freely, respectfully and responsibly about one’s religion’ should be a ‘jealously guarded principle’.

She went on to say: “I am sure we would all want to ensure that people’ at work do feel able to speak about their faith, and feel able to speak quite freely about Christmas”.

The EHRC’s report, due to be published this week. hits out at organisations which discipline Christians or drop references to Christianity.

According to The Mail on Sunday, it references several cases where believers were treated unjustly, including that of Institute client Adrian Smith. Mr Smith was demoted for writing that gay marriage was ‘an equality too far’ on his private Facebook page,

One section is reported as saying: “There is no right in Britain not to be offended and. in our view, respect for people’s right to express beliefs with which others might disagree. is the mark of a democratic society.”

Deputy Director for Public Affairs at the Institute. Simon Calvert, responded to the report saying: “Christians have certainly felt that their fundamental freedoms have been set aside by the human rights and equality industry in recent years.

“It’s a relief to see the Commission stand up for freedom of religion as a fundamental right and recognise that it should not be suppressed through fear of offending.

But Mr Calvert insisted that the current law needs to be amended.

“We have long argued that equality law needs rebalancing so that courts have to take time to weigh up competing rights to see if both sides can be reasonably accommodated.

“Too often the courts come down strongly in favour of the secular liberal side of the argument.”

Christian Institute

 

postheadericon Chief Constable warns of extremism mix-up

Chief Constable warns of extremism mix-up

ln the fight against extremism, there is a danger that ‘we get mixed up between religious conservatism and terrorism’, the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police has warned. Chris Sims said that there needs to be a “very strong gap” between the two issues.

This week, The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart and the Executive Director of the National Secular Society (N38), Keith Porteous Wood, highlighted the dangers of introducing overly broad extremism legislation using vague definitions. Chief Constable Sims told the BBC: “I think there is a danger in tackling extremism that we get mixed up between religious conservatism and violent extremism-terrorism. “And to me it is very clear there needs to be a very strong gap between those two issues.” He said it would be “utterly wrong” to “just label everything as extremism”, because the police need the support of the “great majority of the population who want normal lives“.

In a rare joint statement this week, The Christian Institute and the NSS warned that the “writing may be on the wall” for free speech if Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) are introduced next year. They warned that the plans could inadvertently turn millions of ordinary citizens into potential ‘extremists’ virtually overnight. The statement reads: “The vital importance of free speech is an issue on which both our organisations have always agreed. “We have previously been able to see off an attempt to make it illegal to be ‘annoying’ in public. We have prevented prosecutions for mere ‘insults’ by helping to secure changes to Section 5 of the Public Order Act. “EDOs are as bad as anything we have seen in the past — probably worse. it is another attempt by a Government to clamp down on free speech in the guise of combating extremism. “If they are brought in, the writing may be on the wall for free speech in this country.”

The campaign group Defend Free Speech was launched in October to oppose the Government’s plans for EDOs. The group is supported by The Christian institute, the National Secular Society, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, Big Brother Watch, Index on Censorship and Green MP Caroline Lucas. The website defendfreespeech.org.uk gives up-to-date information about the campaign, and helps people to contact their MP about the proposals.

Christian Institute -23rd December 2015

postheadericon Uplifting pro-life ad backed by watchdog

Uplifting pro-life ad backed by watchdog after complaints are investigated

An advert highlighting the estimated 100,000 lives saved under Northern Ireland’s abortion law has been cleared of ‘misleading the public’. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) undertook a thorough investigation after receiving 14 complaints, but today say the number is legitimate.

Pro-life group Both Lives Matter created the advert for billboards in Northern Ireland, and says it is “delighted” with the result. At the time, the group said: “Whatever your view on abortion, there are 100,000 reasons to pause and ask some big questions about where our culture is going.”

Unlike in England, Scotland and Wales – where abortion is widespread – in Northern Ireland abortion is not allowed, except to preserve the life of the mother. Dawn McAvoy, of the pro-life group, said campaigners now want to work for better crisis pregnancy care, safeguard the current law and “create a life-affirming culture”.

The row broke out after Both Lives Matter produced a 20-page report estimating the number of people alive today because of Northern Ireland’s law. An advert in January this year featured the claim and a link to the group’s website. But the ASA investigated after receiving complaints. Over five months, and with the help of expert statisticians, it considered whether the figure was accurate.

In its report, published today, the Authority said: “On balance, we concluded that the evidence indicated that there was a reasonable probability that around 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland today who would have otherwise been aborted had it been legal to do so.” McAvoy said: “We are delighted with this result. Our opponents said we could not substantiate the claim despite us producing a robust report. The ASA have examined our calculations and backed our figure.”

Over the summer. the Westminster Government said it will to pay for abortions for women from Northern Ireland. In a letter from equalities minister Justine Greening to fellow MPs, she said: “At present women from Northern Ireland are asked for payment, and from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen.” But The Christian Institute’s Head of Communications, Ciaran Kelly, said: “The Equalities Office clearly doesn’t believe in equal treatment for unborn children.” He added, “our political leaders in Westminster should follow Northern Ireland’s lead and protect the most vulnerable people in society”.

Christian Institute 2nd August 2017

Regular services

Sundays
8.15: Holy Communion
10:30: Family Worship, communion twice a month
6:00: Evening Service, communion twice a month

Thursday
10.00: Holy Communion