Last week’s newsletter included a story on the referendum in Ireland which resulted in the approval for same-sex marriage to be legalised in that country. The story was completely accurate, however the headline to the story was not, stating as it did that it was Northern Ireland which had approved same-sex marriage. We apologise for this error which was missed in our editing process.
SCHOOL TRANSFORMED THROUGH GOD’S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
A new documentary relates the tale of an evangelical church in largely unchurched, liberal Portland, Oregon, uniting with a secular, public high school. “Undivided” documents how suburban SouthLake Church laid down its right to preach so it could serve with a whole heart, students in one of Portland’s most troubled areas. Steve Duin, a columnist for The Oregonian, has been writing about Roosevelt High School for years. “Roosevelt is largely a collection of the kids who’ve been left behind,” he says in the documentary. When gangs began moving in to Portland, they clustered and recruited in neighbourhoods around Roosevelt. Students already hampered by poverty were now dragged into the middle of turf wars and gang violence.
But things began to turn around when hundreds of churches in Portland united for a Day of Service in 2008. It was a way for the churches to fill in some of the gaps left when budget shortfalls made it hard for the city to continue the level of services it had offered. One of the most impressive acts of service during that day occurred when some 1,500 SouthLake Church members showed up to spruce and clean up rundown Roosevelt High. School custodian Phyllis Dean knew better than most how much work the cash-strapped school needed. She was stunned by how much the church people did in just a few hours. In the documentary she says “They’ve come in, painted, cleaned all our furniture and our walls, did all our windows inside and out.”
Both school officials and SouthLake were so impressed with how much was accomplished in a day, all agreed an ongoing involvement of the church in the life of Roosevelt could have powerful positive results. “Undivided” documents how the last few years have seen numerous efforts by SouthLake congregants to serve the students and help turn their lives around. “It’s really been about meeting needs, filling gaps, and expressing the good news of God in a way that really has made a difference,” SouthLake Pastor Kip Jacob said. “It’s just making a difference in the culture.” Some secular Portlanders however began to worry that church members would begin to preach and evangelise inside the school in an effort to get all their kids and staff saved.
Roosevelt High Principal Charlene Williams said. “So the congregation promised to keep quiet when it came to witnessing with words. Then, they had to show they meant it.” “The best way to convince people that you don’t have an agenda is to not have an agenda,” SouthLake staffer Kristine Sommer says in the documentary. That led the church and its allies to see the Gospel really is about so much more than words. “The world has heard the Church as a mouth,” Sommer said. “Now they need to see our hands and feet moving.” “Evangelism usually connotes words. And so this is more about works,” Pastor Jacob explained. “Rather than proclamation, it’s more about demonstrating good news, which we think ultimately is what changes people’s lives.”
Individuals from SouthLake have come again and again to help Roosevelt, its students, and staff. “I liken it to locusts because they come and they work so hard.” Dean, the school custodian said. Principal Williams expressed both awe and gratitude for the help and attitude of SouthLake’s people. “SouthLake’s approach is more of ‘let me show you through my works and actions, what love really is,” she says in the film. Church staffer Kristine Sommer agreed. “We can stop talking for a while and just serve because that’s what’s been lacking,” Sommer said. As an idealistic youth, Sommer spent less time at her desk at SouthLake Church and more and more helping at Roosevelt. She began to wish out loud that she could just work inside the school full-time.
Interestingly, Roosevelt High’s principal proposed that’s just what should happen. The principal said to Kristine, ‘You should just have your office here.'” Both sides agreed and SouthLake began to pay Sommer to be at the school rather than at the church. “I thought, ‘Well now, that’s interesting. Is that separation of church and state?’ I wasn’t sure if it was an issue,” she said of her initial reaction. “It’s unusual for sure,” Pastor Jacob said. “But the needs are so great. Our public schools are searching for solutions and really open to community partnerships, including with faith communities.” “Roosevelt needed somebody there to coordinate volunteerism and so they asked us to do that,” he said.
Sommer moved into the school with the same attitude of servant hood that characterized all of SouthLake’s interactions with Roosevelt High. “We’re just here to fill holes,” she told the filmmakers. “That really was my strategy from the start: where are the holes in support? What can we do to fill them?”Columnist Duin describes in the film about one of Sommer’s main initiatives. “She began a clothes closet where people could donate clothes. And every morning kids could come in and basically take what they needed,” he said. Suddenly, students who’d shivered through winters had thick coats. Teenagers who’d been wearing shoes riddled with holes now had good, solid footwear.
In the documentary, Sommer is seen talking to the filmmakers after living through a moment that shows what an impact generosity and giving can have as she watched a teenager eye a fancy coat. “The coat was originally $270,” Sommer said. “This kid was trying it on and he sees the tag and goes, ‘I can’t believe some dude thinks that I’m worth $270.'” In the film, custodian Dean looks all around the school at the many improvements made by SouthLake’s volunteers and sums it up in a few short words. “It’s beautiful. I just can’t liken it to anything else,” he said. “We are there to do the work,” Pastor Jacob says in the documentary. “Because the kids are worth it and the need is there.”
People talk all the time about the need for the separation of church and state. But “Undivided” documents how the Church can do so much good for students in public schools. It suggests, in this case, that the divide between church and state should be bridged. That is now the nationwide goal of SouthLake and its Portland partners, along with the producers of “Undivided.” “We have a big dream and that’s to inspire churches all over the country,” Pastor Jacob told CBN News. “There are 300,000 churches in America and 100,000 public schools. So, what if the Church could really seize this opportunity to demonstrate good news, meeting needs of kids? And that’s what we hope to do.”
They’ve launched a campaign to team up churches with schools in long-term serving partnerships. More than 16,000 people have responded online. Williams says. “If we can do this at Roosevelt it can be done anywhere.” Christian Swain became the School’s football coach about the time SouthLake began serving the school. SouthLake member and former NBA quarterback Neil Lomax felt to volunteer to help Swain out with the team. “Undivided” portrays how they spent many hours of sweat, concern, and love on what was once a demoralized, defeated bunch of players. Swain and Lomax soon turned them into a group of often-winning sports warriors. “Undivided” is available through iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, VUDU, XBOX and PlayStation.
NEW POLL SHOWS MAJORITY OF AMERICANS OPPOSE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
A majority of Americans oppose same-sex marriage and also want the courts out of the issue, according to a recent survey conducted by the Family Research Council (FRC). The FRC and a coalition of pro-family organizations commissioned the national survey which was conducted by WPA Opinion Research. It showed that 61% of Americans agree that “states and citizens should remain free to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and the Supreme Court should not force all 50 states to redefine marriage.” The survey also found that 53% of Americans agree that marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman.
An overwhelming majority (81%) of Americans agree that government should “leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage in their daily lives and in the way they run their businesses.” The survey was released only days after Aaron and Melissa Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes in Gresham, Oregon, were told by the state of Oregon that they face fines of up to $150,000 for declining to bake a same-sex “wedding” cake. In Washington state, Barronelle Stutzman, who is a florist, is being threatened with the loss of her home, her family business, and her life savings at the hands of the state because she declined to participate in a same-sex “wedding” ceremony.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said: “American people will not accept marriage redefinition by judicial fiat. Americans have not reached a ‘broad consensus’ on the redefinition of marriage. Unless they do, judges should not impose on them something that will only cause deep social division. “We don’t have to look far into history to see what happens when the Court pre-empts broad social consensus as it did four decades ago when the Supreme Court imposed abortion on demand on all 50 states, declaring the issue ‘resolved.’ The Supreme Court failed to silence the debate over abortion then and the Court will fail again now should it redefine marriage.
“The marriage debate will only intensify as the American people realize they will be required to surrender their fundamental right to live their lives according to their beliefs. The evidence will mount as families are driven from their businesses and even homes as the result of crippling government imposed fines designed to force them to deny their faith. “Cultural elites may succeed in convincing judges to strip away the livelihoods of people, but the elites face a losing battle in the court of public opinion. But 81% of the American people stand with those who want to live freely in accordance with their moral beliefs, and not with a government threatening to fine and punish them,” concluded Perkins.
Source: Press release from Family Research Council
BRITAIN FIRST NATION TO LEGALISE THREE-PARENT BABIES
Although the techniques are still in the research stage, now that legal hurdles have been overcome, Britain’s first 3-parent baby could be born as early as 2016. Britain will become the first nation to legalize a “three-parent” IVF technique which doctors say can prevent some inherited incurable diseases but which critics fear will effectively lead to “designer babies”. After three hours of debate, parliament’s upper house voted for a change in the law to allow the treatments, echoing a positive vote in the lower house earlier. The treatment, called mitochondrial transfer, is known as “three-parent” in vitro fertilization (IVF) because the babies, born from genetically modified embryos, would have DNA from a mother, a father and from a female donor.
Mitochondrial transfer involves intervening in the fertilization process to remove faulty mitochondrial DNA, which can cause inherited conditions such as heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness and muscular dystrophy. Mitochondria act as tiny energy-generating batteries inside cells, and around 1 in 6,000 babies around the world are born with serious mitochondrial disorders. Responding to the vote, Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust medical charity commended lawmakers for a “considered and compassionate decision”. “Families who know what it is like to care for a child with a devastating disease are the people best placed to decide whether mitochondrial donation is the right option,” he said.
Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, hailed “a great day for U.K. science” and said the landmark decision “will ensure mothers who carry faulty mitochondria can have healthy children free from the devastating conditions.” But Marcy Darnovsky, director of The Centre for Genetics and Society, called the move a “historic mistake” which turns children into biological experiments.” “The techniques are relatively crude and will not themselves create so-called designer babies,” she said. “However, they will result in children with DNA from three different people in every cell of their bodies, which will impact a large range of traits in unknowable ways and introduce genetic changes that will be passed down to future generations.”
India’s upper house of parliament was briefly adjourned after opposition members denounced comments by the leader of a Hindu group who said Roman Catholic missionary Mother Teresa had tried to convert people to Christianity. Religious conversion has become a highly emotive issue in India recently, with debate whipped up by some supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who see India as a Hindu-first nation. Members of the upper house criticized Mohan Bhagwat, head of the country’s most powerful Hindu organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who said Mother Teresa helped the poor to make them “obligated so that they become Christian.”
Political opponents of Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which the RSS supports, said right-wing Hindu groups were fanning religious tension in a country where violence between members of different religion has been common for decades. “First, they’re trying to de-iconize Mahatma Gandhi,” said P. Rajeev, a member of parliament belonging to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), referring to comments by a BJP lawmaker that described Gandhi’s Hindu-nationalist assassin as a patriot. “Now, they are trying to de-iconize Mother Teresa,” Rajeev said. Bhagwat’s comments came days after Modi made a long-awaited speech on religious tolerance, vowing to protect all minorities.
Sunil Lucas, a communication director for the Archdiocese of Calcutta (Kolkata), told Reuters it was “terrible” that Bhagwat’s comments came so soon after Modi’s assurances. Mother Teresa “acted in faith and responded to the call of Jesus, but the outcome was social good and uplift of people,” Lucas said. This week, senior BJP member Meenakshi Lekhi sought to distance her party from the controversy, telling reporters the government had nothing to do with what Bhagwat said. However, Lekhi also defended the comments, saying Mother Teresa herself had said her job was to spread Christianity, the Indian Express newspaper reported.
POPE FRANCIS CALLS HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA ‘IDEOLOGICAL COLONIZATION’.
Pope Francis has used very strong language to condemn the gender theory, one of the intellectual underpinnings of the ‘LGBT’ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Tran-sexual) agenda. In his statement Pope Francis spoke of the “ideological colonization” of families seen throughout Europe and the West. “It colonizes the people with an idea that wants to change a mentality or a structure.” This ideological colonization, he added, “is not new, the dictators of the last century did the same. Think of The Fascist Youth under Mussolini, think of the Hitler youth.” Pope Francis’ condemnations of gender theory follows that of Pope Benedict XVI who explained the “profound falsehood” of gender theory and the “anthropological revolution contained within it.”
Benedict described the gender theory as people disputing “the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity that serves as a defining element of the human being.” Rather than acknowledging that God created people male and female, the theory contends that these are societal constructs and we now may decide for ourselves. “When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being,” Benedict concluded. “The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears.”
650 people gave their lives to Jesus during a week of 24-7 prayer in South Africa which culminated earlier this year. And that was just the beginning of an incredible period for Peter Sekhonyane who mobilises prayer in giant tents around the South African townships. “Speak about the power of prayer,” he says. A few days later they launched three nights of prayer in Johannesburg, and these continued for two weeks! “Out of that time of prayer we ended up with 812 conversions and no single shop was attacked,” says Peter. Such stories demonstrate, once again, the powerful transformational relationship between prayer, mission and justice.