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An unprecedented ruling asserts practicing and promoting Christianity at home is not a national security threat. Yet advocates debate whether it will be heeded or ignored.

Currently at least 20 Christians are jailed in Iran because their faith was deemed a threat to the Islamic republic’s national security. Of the more than 100 Iranian believers imprisoned since 2012, all have faced similar charges.

But a recent decision by a Supreme Court justice gives hope to them all.

“Merely preaching Christianity … through family gatherings [house churches] is not a manifestation of gathering and collusion to disrupt the security of the country, whether internally or externally,” stated Seyed-Ali Eizadpanah.

“The promotion of Christianity and the formation of a house church is not criminalized in law.”

Two years ago, nine converts from the non-Trinitarian Church of Iran in Rasht, 200 miles northeast of Tehran near the Caspian Sea, were arrested in raids on their homes and church.

Sentenced to a five-year prison term in October 2019, Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, Shahrooz Eslamdoust, Behnam Akhlaghi, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, and Mohammad Vafadar are now eligible for release.

Eizadpanah’s ruling, announced November 24, is “unprecedented,” according to multiple Iranian Christians and international advocates.

“The judge’s main argument is what we have been saying for years,” said Mansour Borji, advocacy director for Article 18, a UK-based organization promoting freedom of religion in Iran that tallied the cases noted above from available public records.

“But it astonished us to hear it at such a high level.”

It also cuts against the grain of international understanding. The US State Department’s latest religious freedom report on Iran described proselytization and conversion ...

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A journalist pieces together the messy lives of Norma McCorvey, her family, and other central figures from the case.

The life of “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade was not what it seemed.

When Norma McCorvey, using the alias “Jane Roe,” sued Dallas district attorney Henry Wade for the right to an abortion that Texas law prohibited, she won plaudits from pro-choice feminists throughout the nation. Years later, in the late 1980s, McCorvey abandoned the anonymity of her alias and became a public advocate of abortion rights and a sought-out speaker on the pro-choice lecture circuit.

But in 1995, McCorvey took an action that made her a hero to a very different group of people: pro-life Christians. She renounced most of her earlier support for abortion rights and converted to evangelical Christianity. A photo that was widely reprinted in many evangelical publications showed an ecstatic Flip Benham—the director of Operation Rescue and the pastor of a Free Methodist church—baptizing a beaming McCorvey. Three years later, McCorvey converted to Catholicism, an action that may have linked her even more strongly to the pro-life cause. Yet in the last two years of her life, McCorvey distanced herself from organized religion, said that she supported abortion rights in at least the first trimester, and told a documentary filmmaker that her work for the pro-life movement had merely been an act.

So, which version of McCorvey was the real one? What does her complicated story tell us about the 50-year political battle over abortion rights in America? And what does it tell us about the Christians who have been caught up in that struggle?

Joshua Prager’s The Family Roe: An American Story is a masterpiece of journalistic research that uncovers the story not only of McCorvey but also her entire family, as well as a number of other ...

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The latest Supreme Court case over public funding for sectarian education challenges distinctions between religious identity and religious purpose.

The latest Supreme Court case over public funding for religious schooling examines a policy in Maine, a state dotted with small towns too tiny to run their own public schools. Over half of the state’s school districts (officially called “school administrative units” or SAUs for short) contract with and pay tuition costs to another nearby school of the parents’ choice—public or private.

And that’s where the hangup lies. By law, Maine mandates that partnering private schools be “nonsectarian in nature, in accordance with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution” to receive the funding, and three Christian families in the state are challenging the requirement.

The Supreme Court will hear their case, Carson vs. Makin, this week. The decision could set further precedent in defining the distance between church and state and the approach to religious freedom itself, as it makes a distinction between barring public funding due to religious identity of the recipient and barring funding to the religious purpose it would be used to advance.

The families in the case argue that the requirement violates their free exercise of religion since the state bars them “from using their SAUs’ tuition assistance to send their children to religious schools.”

Two of the families, the Carsons and the Gillises, send their children to Bangor Christian School, a primary school whose philosophy is based on educating children “with a biblical worldview.” The other family, the Nelsons, would like to send their daughter to Temple Academy, another Christian school that integrates academic studies with the “truths of Scripture.”

Neither family had actually applied ...

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Orthodox edict puts holiday unity in the Holy Land—where Christians in Jordan and Israel have long agreed to observe Western Christmas and Eastern Easter dates—in doubt.

AMMAN, Jordan — The Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, whose authority extends over some 130,000 Middle Eastern Christians, has posted a memo on the patriarchate website that appears to overturn a 45-year-old agreement with Western Christian churches to unify the celebration of Christian holidays.

Since 1975, Western and Eastern Christians in Jordan, the Palestinian territories (with the exception of Jerusalem and Bethlehem), and Israel have publicly celebrated Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar, on December 25, and Easter according to the older Julian calendar, which the Eastern Orthodox Church still abides by to determine feast days.

On the Julian calendar, Christmas falls on January 7, while Easter is typically a week later than in the West.

In Muslim-majority Jordan, the 25th of December is a national holiday, while Easter is not. Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Christmas is also celebrated publicly in Palestinian cities in Israel such as Nazareth.

The patriarch’s memo, which appeared on Saturday (November 27), calls for abstaining from any Christian carols on December 25, which in the Eastern church is the feast of St. Spyridon. The memo says the liturgy for the day should observe the service of “Saints Spyridon, Bishop of Trimythus the wonderworker,” and “not the service of Christmas day of 25th December.”

The patriarch goes on to say: “During this day, after the observed service of the feast of Saint Spyridon, the members of the Greek Orthodox flock may proceed to demonstrations of a social but not ecclesiastical character.” The memo ends with the call for total observance of the memo, saying, “Expecting your conformity.”

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Una breve guía sobre el movimiento exevangélico

Deconstrucción es una palabra de moda en estos días. El término exevangélico ha surgido como un marcador de identidad y como un movimiento activista [enlace en inglés]. Las historias de fe de las personas, así como las historias de su «pérdida de la fe», a menudo son emotivas y vulnerables. Nacen de su vida y de sus experiencias, y los cristianos que luchan con la fe necesitan amor y un oído atento, no meros argumentos.

Con todo, como iglesia tenemos la responsabilidad de incluir serias y más amplias conversaciones culturales en torno a la deconstrucción. Jesús es la verdad que nos libera. Hacer preguntas difíciles sobre la fe es normal; es una parte necesaria de la madurez cristiana. Pero existen formas mejores y peores de evaluar críticamente las expresiones que afirman tener la verdad. Tome en cuenta lo siguiente como pautas útiles:

Primero, distinga entre deconstrucción y reforma. La iglesia es una institución creada por Cristo, pero también es una institución pecaminosa. Siempre necesita reformas. Si la frustración de una persona con la iglesia surge de la visión bíblica de la comunidad, no es deconstrucción. Es un llamado a la iglesia a volver al Evangelio.

Siempre ha habido reformadores en la iglesia, pero nunca antes los llamamos deconstructores. No se trata de mera semántica. Llamar a reformar algo (en lugar de simplemente destruirlo) es reconocer implícitamente la integridad de su diseño original.

Por ejemplo, a menudo me desalienta la misoginia que veo en la iglesia. Pero también reconozco que la noción de dignidad intrínseca ...

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Here are our favorite new releases by Christian artists, including The Porter’s Gate, Chris Tomlin, and more.

Last year at this time, my family was weighing decisions about whether to have Christmas gatherings. This year, we started celebrating earlier than usual, like we’re making up for lost holiday cheer. We have already decorated Christmas cookies and put the tree up before Thanksgiving. My Christmas 2021 playlist has been in the works since mid-October.

Perhaps, like me, you have an annual Christmas playlist that is populated almost entirely with nostalgic favorites. Mine always includes Amy Grant’s Christmas albums and a collection of wintery orchestral pieces that my mom has played on repeat every November and December for as long as I can remember. It takes a lot for a new song or album to break into my Christmas rotation.

This year, there are plenty of new Christmas releases with tracks that have already landed in my 2021 holiday playlist. Here are six fresh albums to accompany the season as you move through moments of joy, solemnity, excitement, solitude, and celebration.

Advent Songs by The Porter’s Gate

Advent Songs captures the somber hopefulness of the season in beautifully arranged originals that invite meditation and repose as we observe a period of waiting. I love festive, upbeat Christmas songs, but this year, The Porter’s Gate offers a welcome call to rest and seek quiet in the relentless holiday going and doing. Songs like “The Reign of Mercy” and “Isaiah (O Come)” reflect on the cosmic reality of the Word becoming flesh. Others, like “Mary’s Lullaby (Black Haired Boy)” and “Simeon’s Song,” are human and intimate, coaxing the listener to think about earthy, fleshly details of the Advent story.

At Christmas by Brian Courtney Wilson

Grammy-nominated ...

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Same-sex attracted believers pay the cost of discipleship every day. Our witness needs to be heard.

After a recent conference, a gay friend reached out to me with a heartbroken message: “I thought the yoke of Jesus was supposed to be light.” Some leaders responding to the event, he said, were “making it sound like faithfulness to Jesus either means Jesus changing something that he hasn’t changed yet” or “God really [wanting] me to lie to people and just say that I’m not gay anymore.” He felt like crying, he said.

My friend’s story is just one example of the sometimes-tense relationship between the evangelical church and the LGBT community. He and I and others involved in the Revoice community are part of a growing minority of Christians who desire to be honest about both our experiences of attraction and also our steadfast commitment to live in obedience to the sexual ethic presented in the Bible as God’s design for all people, regardless of attractions or orientations.

The conversation about gay identity is not new, but it has become much more acerbic of late. Following the Nashville Statement a few years ago, an increasing number of denominations have released their own declarations concerning marriage and sexuality.

The Presbyterian Church in America, the Anglican Church in North America, and the Church of the Nazarene have all published committee reports or position papers concerning the use of identification language among sexual minorities who are church members. Meanwhile the United Methodist Church is looking to disunify at their next gathering over affirmation of gay unions by some congregations.

All of this is quite personal to me. Friends to the theological left and right of me have attempted to interact with and understand me ...

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Intercessory Prayer:  Sunday – Tuesday & Thursday – Friday 5:00 a.m.

Wednesday – 12:00 Noon & 6:00 p.m.

Saturday – 9:00 a.m.

    Abounding Love Ministries
    7076 Hooper Road
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana  70811
    Office Telephone:  (225)  356-4441 • Fax:  (225) 356-4454
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