Federal Judge Rules Clergy Tax-Free Housing Allowance Is Not Constitutional

From Religion News Service:

A federal judge has ruled that clergy’s exemption from paying taxes on housing is not constitutional, an exemption currently applied to an estimated 44,000 ministers, priests rabbis, imams and others. If the ruling stands, some clergy members could experience an estimated 5 to 10 percent cut in take-home pay.

U.S. District Court’s Judge Barbara Crabb ruled on Friday (Nov. 22) in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, saying the exemption violates the establishment clause because it “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”

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Harvest Crusade’s Invite to ‘Crossover’ Band Who Dressed Like Women Questioned

Greg Laurie’s recent Harvest Crusade, which was held at the Wells Fargo Center stadium in Philadelphia, attracted over 27,000 attendees. Some Christians are concerned, however, with the invitation and inclusion of the self-proclaimed Christian band, NEEDTOBREATHE. Christian News Network shares more details:

Questions are being raised over the decision by Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusade to invite a band whose members dressed as women for Halloween to perform at their city-wide evangelistic event this past weekend.

NEEDTOBREATHE is a multiple Dove Award-winning band from South Carolina, and is comprised of brothers Bear and Bo Rinehart, who grew up in the church as preacher’s kids. While initially overtly Christian, the group now considers themselves a crossover band, meaning that they sing for both the Church and the secular world, keeping their lyrics non-religious for the most part.

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Resting in the Immutability of God

The attributes of God are innumerable. One could ponder for days the omniscience, the holiness or the sovereignty of the Lord. Yet an attribute of the King of the universe that often is overlooked is His immutability. The Lord God does not change, and that is a reality in which the Christian can and must rest. View article →

Children of Homeschooling Family Seized in Raid

The Home School Legal Defense Association reports:

At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 29, 2013, in what has been called a “brutal and vicious act,” a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, forcibly removing all four of the family’s children (ages 7-14). The sole grounds for removal were that the parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were taken to unknown locations. Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children “anytime soon.”

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Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church

In an age of iPads and iPhones, it is not uncommon to see a pastor preaching strictly from his electronic tablet, with no actual Bible in sight. Writing at The Gospel Coalition, Matthew Barrett, editor of Credo Magazine, encourages pastors to continue to use a physical Bible while preaching. He writes:

To clarify, I am not against pastors using a tablet in the pulpit for, say, sermon notes. Rather, I’m concerned about replacing the physical Bible with a tablet in the pulpit. As the pastor enters the pulpit to bring the Word of God to the people of God, no hard copy of the Bible is to be found in his hand, gracing the top of the podium, visible to the entire congregation as the book at the center of attention. Instead, the congregation sees a tablet. While this may seem harmless enough, I believe there are several potential dangers this subtle shift generates.

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God Speaks, but How?

Does God still speak today? Yes. How does He speak? Is it through voices, visions, dreams and prophecies? Should Christians expect personal, special revelation from God that must by necessity be added to the back of their Bibles? Do Not Be Surprised turns to Scripture to answer these questions. View article →

ELCA Elects First Female Presiding Bishop

Religion News Service reports on the latest example of compromise within the visible church as the ELCA appoints the denomination’s first female presiding bishop.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Wednesday (Aug. 14) elected the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton as the denomination’s first female presiding bishop. Eaton received 600 votes against incumbent Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who received 287.

Eaton, the current ELCA bishop of the Cleveland-based Northeast Ohio Synod, is married to the Rev. Conrad Selnick, an Episcopal priest. Like Hanson, she is considered a moderate who supported the denomination’s decision to allow partnered gay clergy while allowing room for churches to disagree, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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The Intolerance of the Tolerant: Pastor Receives Angry Backlash for Article Calling Homosexuality Sin

It epitomizes irony to watch the reaction of those who cry, “Tolerance! Peace! Love! Unity!” when they are faced with the truth about sin, condemnation and the wrath of a holy God. Not too long ago, Do Not Be Surprised ran a guest post by Pastor Patrick Slyman of Pigeon Cove Chapel in Rockport, MA. The post, entitled “Shaking Your Fist in the Face of God,” was also to run in The Gloucester Times, a local newspaper. It finally did run in the Times on July 3, and the response has been predictable but noteworthy. View article →

Wisconsin Planned Parenthood Will Sue to Stop Women from Seeing Ultrasound

LifeNews reports:

The Planned Parenthood abortion business in Wisconsin is so concerned about a new law that will allow women to see an ultrasound of their unborn child before an abortion that it says it will file a lawsuit to stop it.

The state legislature approved the measure, Senate Bill 206 (Sonya’s Law), which is legislation that provides a baby with the opportunity for his mother to see him through ultrasound before his mother makes a choice about how to proceed with her pregnancy. The woman can choose the type of ultrasound after all options are explained to her. The ultrasound helps to determine the age of the baby.

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Evangelist Tony Miano Arrested in London for Preaching Homosexuality Is a Sin

The Christian Post reports:

Tony Miano, a retired deputy sheriff from Los Angeles County, Calif., was arrested in London, England, earlier this week for preaching on abstaining from sexual immorality, both heterosexual and homosexual, in downtown Wimbledon. He was found to be in violation of Public Order Act Section 5, for “using homophobic speech that could cause people anxiety, distress, alarm or insult,” Miano said in a YouTube video posted on Wednesday.

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Shaking Your Fist in the Face of God

Earlier this month, Mayor Carolyn Kirk of Gloucester, MA, proudly raised the rainbow flag to fly under the American flag in the city square. According to Kirk, this gesture was to convey that “We’re a welcoming community, and everyone is welcome in our city.”

One local pastor, however, sees things differently. Pastor Patrick Slyman of Pigeon Cove Chapel reminds that the rainbow originally was meant as a symbol of God’s grace, and that the world has distorted this original intent, turning it instead into a symbol of the very thing God abhors: sin. Writes Slyman:

It is frightening to think, but on June 1 Mayor Kirk (representing the town of Gloucester) actually shook her fist in the face of God—supposing that God’s hatred of sin has dissipated, presuming that God’s grace will always be upon this town, thinking that God’s hatred against sin has changed. In effect, it was a mocking of the holiness of God—taking the very symbol of His grace and flying it proudly in the exaltation of sin—the very reason why God judged the earth previously.

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Petition Filed on White House Website to Ban the Teaching of Creation in U.S. Schools

Christian News Network reports:

A petition urging the Obama administration to ban the teaching of creation and intelligent design in U.S. schools was recently filed on the White House website.

“[Creationism and intelligent design] have no basis in scientific fact,” the petition claims, “and have absolutely zero evidence pointing towards these conjectures. These types of loopholes in our education are partially to blame for our dangerously low student performances in math and science. Therefore, we petition the Obama Adminstration [sic] to ban the teachings of these conjectures that contradict evolution.”

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Following Apology to Gay Community, Exodus International Announces It Will Shut Down

Exodus International, “the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality,” announced late Wednesday, 19 June, that it is closing its doors. The announcement came just hours after the group’s president, Alan Chambers, issued a formal apology to members of the LGBTQ community who “have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message.”

The formal press release states that, “The Board of Directors reached a decision after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture.” It continues with this quote from Chambers:

From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered. Source

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Blogger Alleges Ergun Caner’s Attorney Trying to Scrub Videos from Internet

In 2009, Christian blogger Jason Smathers published a series of posts on his Witnesses Unto Me blog that revealed discrepancies in the testimony and stories told by popular evangelical speaker Ergun Caner. In his public speaking engagements, Caner declared that he was raised overseas and was trained in jihad before moving to America as a teenager and coming to Christ at 18. Smathers, however, discovered evidence to the contrary. Associated Baptist Press (ABP) reports:

Smathers tracked down legal documents showing that Caner, author of books including Unveiling Islam who told the conversion story in numerous venues including the Southern Baptist Convention, emigrated to the United States with his family at age 2 and grew up in Ohio in custody of his Lutheran mother after his parents’ divorce. . . .

Court documents copied and posted online by Witnesses Unto Me indicate that Caner’s parents were married in Sweden and had lived in Ohio six years by the time Caner was 8. A 1978 divorce decree awarded custody of their three minor children to the mother and visitation rights to the father.


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Wiccan Academy Teaches Pagan Witchcraft in Downtown New York City

Christian News Network reports:

A small academy in Manhattan is teaching students as young as five years old how to practice witchcraft and become full-fledged Wiccan sorcerers.

The Wiccan Family Temple Academy of Pagan Studies (WFTAPS), founded six years ago, is the first school of its kind in the New York City area, and offers a three-year witchcraft program. Topics covered in the academy’s biweekly classes include “Moon Magick,” “Pagan Parenting,” “Psychic Self-Defense,” and “Becoming a Wealthy Witch.”

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