Church of England takes major step towards women bishops

The Church of England’s ruling body has said that women bishops should be allowed, paving the way for their ordination despite objections from traditionalists.

Members of the Church’s national assembly, the General Synod, rejected calls on Monday for further delays in the progress of a draft law following a marathon 12-hour debating session.

Local Church of England assemblies will now consider a scheme where women bishops would be able to make arrangements for objectors.

Providing most approve the idea, the legislation would return to the General Synod in 2012 for further drafting and final approval.

“We have decided to send to the dioceses a number of suggestions, proposals, by way of draft legislation about which the feelings of many people in this hall are still very mixed,” said Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

At the meeting in York, northern England, the head of the Church of England conceded the issue was divisive, saying that “holding together” was proving “desperately difficult”.

Christina Rees, a leading campaigner in favour of women bishops, described the decision to press ahead with the legislation as a “wonderful outcome”.

“In one sense I am not surprised but I am delighted, it is very, very good news,” she said.

But the Reverend Prebendary David Houlding said: “The more this goes on in this manner, the more it seems as if the door is shutting.

“The scope for remaining in the Church of England is getting more and more narrow and the options are rapidly closing.”

Archaeologists Uncover Goliath’s Hometown

An ongoing archaeological excavation in Tel Tzafit continues to unearth the ruins of what was once the city of Gat – described in the Bible as the hometown of Goliath. Professor Aren Maeir, who is directing the dig, spoke to Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew-language news service to discuss the latest finds.

Recent finds from the Tel Tzafit excavation are “fascinating,” Maeir said. The site, inhabited at times by Canaanites and at other times by Philistines, has remnants from many periods of history. “We are focusing on the Canaanite period, the Philistine period, and the Israelite period, and for now we’re primarily in the Philistine period,” he said.

One of the most interesting finds was a piece of writing containing, among other things, Philistine names, some of which were similar to the name “Goliath.”

“We’ve found a rich variety of artifacts” showing that Gat was a major city at that time, he continued. “We are now discovering remnants from metal craft and bronze, and from the destruction of the city at the hands of King Chazel of Aram as described in the second books of Kings.”

Findings show that Chazel and his army laid siege to the city until its residents had exhausted their food supply, then attacked. Dozens of buildings were found that were demolished by the invading army.

Other buildings appear to have collapsed in an earthquake, possibly the one mentioned at the beginning of the book of Amos, he said.

The relationship between the nation of Israel and the Philistines was more complex than people tend to assume, Maeir revealed. “The Philistines… were often more than just enemies. We can see this in the Bible as well, for instance, in the fact that Samson married a Philistine woman,” he said. There appears to have been crossover between the two cultures – for example, findings show that elements of Philistine cooking became common among the Israelites as well.

NEPAL: PASTOR BEATEN BY MAOISTS

On June 13, Maoist rebels in Nepal attacked Christians at an evening prayer meeting.The rebels ordered them to stop the meeting and then assaulted the pastor and believers when they refused.

Before the attack, the pastor had asked the Maoists to leave and return the next day to talk with him, but the rebels instead began to beat him with sticks. When church members, including the pastor’s father and women in the church, tried to defend the pastor, the Maoists attacked them, too. The rebels also burned Bibles and hymnals during the attack.

The following day, local villagers accused the Christians of not paying the “temple tax” and of “converting the local people to Christianity.” Each family was ordered to pay the exorbitant tax, and Christians have been warned that they will be expelled from the village if they do not pay. Some believers have voluntarily left the village, and those remaining risk losing their homes.

Pray that God will heal the pastor and others who were beaten during this attack. Pray that they will look to Christ for strength and direction and that their testimonies will draw non-believers into fellowship with Christ.

More women lured to pornography addiction

Researchers have long known that the Internet has contributed to pornography addiction by making it so easily accessible — no need to go out in a raincoat, pull a hat down over the face, and sneak furtively into the red-light district.

But that ease of access also has leveled the playing field between the sexes — men are known as the sexual risk-takers, after all — and psychologists and researchers have seen an increasing number of women becoming addicted to pornography on the Internet over the past 10 years.

In 2003, Today’s Christian Woman found in a survey that one out of every six women, including Christians, acknowledged struggling with the same addiction.

A 2006 survey released by Internet Filter Review showed that 17 percent of women said they struggled with pornography addiction and that one in three visitors to pornography sites were women. About 30 percent of Internet pornography consumers are women, according to the 2008 Internet Pornography Statistics.

Psychologists and researchers attribute the increase to the Internet’s anonymity and safety. Now a woman needn’t sneak into the places good girls avoid.

“Women can still become addicted to pornography in the same way that men do,” said Douglas Weiss, a licensed psychologist and executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs. “I do think that the partial reason for this is women becoming more intelligent about usage of the Internet — going online and chatting, developing relationships and acting out sexually.”

Studies have shown that women find it easier to click a few buttons on the Internet to search for sexually alluring material. In the absence of a social context, pornography is more appealing to women because there are no social repercussions for using it.

A 2006 Internet Filter Review poll found that 9.4 million women access adult websites each month, and 13 percent of women admit to accessing pornography at work.

Cyber Terror: Defusing the Timebomb

Pastor banished from capitol over Jesus prayer

A North Carolina pastor was relieved of his duties as an honorary chaplain of the state house of representatives after he closed a prayer by invoking the name of Jesus.

“I got fired,” said Ron Baity, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. He had been invited to lead prayer for an entire week but his tenure was cut short when he refused to remove the name Jesus from his invocation.

Baity’s troubles began during the week of May 31. He said a House clerk asked to see his prayer. The invocation including prayers for our military, state lawmakers and a petition to God asking him to bless North Carolina.”

“When I handed it to the lady, I watched her eyes and they immediately went right to the bottom of the page and the word Jesus,” he told FOX News Radio. “She said ‘We would prefer that you not use the name Jesus. We have some people here that can be offended.’”

When Baity protested, she brought the matter to the attention of House Speaker Joe Hackney.

“I told her I was highly offended when she asked me not to pray in the name of Jesus because that does constitute my faith,” Baity said. “My faith requires that I pray in His name. The Bible is very clear.”

When the clerk returned, Baity said he was told that he would be allowed to deliver the day’s prayer – but after that – his services would no longer be needed.

NKorean killed for spreading Gospel

Like most North Koreans, Son Jong Nam knew next to nothing about Christianity when he fled to neighboring China in 1998.

Eleven years later, he died back in North Korea in prison, reportedly tortured to death for trying to spread the Gospel in his native land, armed with 20 bibles and 10 cassette tapes of hymns. He was 50.

His story, pieced together by his younger brother, a defector who lives in South Korea, sheds light on a little-discussed practice: the sending back of North Korean converts to evangelize in their home country — a risky move, but one of the few ways to penetrate a country that bars most citizens from outside TV or radio and the Internet.

Little is known about the practice, believed to have started in the late 1990s. Missionaries won’t say how many defectors they have sent back, citing their safety and that of the defectors.

“It’s their country, where people speak the same language. They know where to go and where to escape,” says the Rev. Isaac Lee, a Korean-American missionary in Seoul who has dedicated his life to spreading Christianity in the North. “But I agonize a lot whenever I have to send defectors to the North as I know what kind of punishment they would get if arrested.”

Officially, North Korea guarantees freedom of religion for its 24 million people. In practice, authorities crack down on Christians, who are seen as a Western-influenced threat to the government. The distribution of bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labor camp or execution, defectors say.

A Look at Religious Freedom Amid Israeli Arrests

Indian Christians feel unwelcome in U.K. churches

Indian—origin Christians who feel unwelcome in mainstream churches in Britain are forming their own small churches where they sing and pray in Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil and Punjabi to the accompaniment of ‘dhol’ and other instruments.

Ram Gidoomal, a prominent member of the Asian community and chairman of the South Asia Forum, told PTI that there were at least 200 such small churches founded by disenchanted Christians across Britain as a response to feeling of rejection.

He said there were nearly 75,000 Christians with origins in the Indian sub—continent in Britain, and many of them felt unwelcome in mainstream churches.

New migrants add to the congregations, particularly those from Kerala.

“It is important that mainstream churches welcome those who come from different cultures. There are churches who allow a song or two in Hindi or Tamil, but there are many Asian Christians who feel unwelcome,” Mr. Gidoomal, who unsuccessfully contested the London mayor election in 2000 on a Christian People’s Alliance ticket, said.

11 small churches in Wolverhampton alone

In Wolverhampton alone, there were 11 such small churches catering to Christians who did not find the right atmosphere and welcome in churches of the Church of England and other denominations.

For example, the congregation in one ‘Tamil church’ in east London grew from about 20 members to over 1,000 recently, Mr. Gidoomal said and added that often priests and church representatives from India are invited by these congregations.

He said: “We are saying that Asian Christians do exist and they are not a small number. The South Asia Forum has been set up to connect different Asian Christian groups and to represent them in interaction with the government and the mainstream churches.”

Atheist Mayor in UK bans traditional Christian prayers before council meetings.

An atheist lord mayor has ended the tradition of Christian prayers before council meetings less than a month after he took up the chains of office.

Labour councillor Colin Hall was condemned by the local diocese as well as Christian groups after boasting of his ‘delight’ at being able to end the tradition as mayor of his home city.

Announcing the decision in a secularist group’s monthly newsletter, Mr Hall said prayers were ‘outdated, unnecessary and intrusive’ and added they would no longer be said before meetings at Leicester Town Hall.

The ban comes days after he refused to attend a service at Leicester Cathedral welcoming him to his role as the city’s new lord mayor.

He later told his 123 followers on the Twitter networking site that he was mayor for ‘all the people of Leicester and not just those from the Church of England’.

The East Midlands city is regarded as the most multi-faith and multi-ethnic outside London, with 36 per cent of residents from ethnic minorities, according to the 2001 census.

Writing in the Leicester Secularist Society’s publication, the mayor said: ‘I am delighted to confirm that I will be exercising my discretion as lord mayor to abolish this outdated, unnecessary and intrusive practice.

‘I consider that religion, in whatever shape or form, has no role to play at all in the conduct of council business.

‘This particularly applies in Leicester, where the majority of council members, myself included, do not regularly attend any particular faith service.’