News relevant to the church and faith.
New Zealanders have offered a range of views regarding homosexual unions to a church-commissioned advisory group.
Nearly 200 submissions have been made to a Commission set up by the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to look at whether it should bless same-sex relationships, and whether it should ordain people in such relationships.
The Ma Whea? Commission on Same-Gender Relationships, Ordination and Blessing was established in 2011 by the Church's General Synod. The group consists of five prominent New Zealanders, tasked with offering the Church some guidance on the divisive issue, which became especially topical with the passing of legislation redefining marriage.
Ma Whea members include former Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, Judith Potter, and Tamati Reedy. Commission spokesman, Sir Anand, says they have been received with warmth and cooperation, and hopes that that will continue as the group seeks to generate a resolution through open discussion or "talking things out... in the Pacific way".
Public feedback closed on 1 June 2013, and in a video update Sir Anand confirmed nearly 200 submissions from across New Zealand provide a variety of opinions for the Commission to consider. He acknowledged that the Commission's lack of "long-term connections with the upper levels of the Anglican Church" may be seen as a drawback, but was confident regular consultation with the reference group would resolve any issues.
Sir Anand says the Commission will ultimately not make firm recommendations for the Anglican Church of New Zealand, but will offer suggested "pathways".
The Ma Whea Commission will present its final report to the General Synod when it meets next year.
- Newstalk ZB/ RBG News
"The only thing that can change Kisumu forever… is God." - Will Graham, evangelist
"The only thing that can change Kisumu forever… is God."
- Will Graham, evangelist
Hundreds of Kenyans have answered God's call on their hearts anew.
The western city of Kisumu was the scene of a joyous occasion of Gospel sharing, attended by thousands - both Christian and non-Christian. Around 300 churches collaborated for the three-day rally, led by an American evangelist.
Will Graham's Celebration of Peace last weekend was held at the Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground - a thoroughfare and thus instrumental in the Good News reaching a wide audience. There have been accounts of many curious passers-by who did not know about the event returning for more teachings the next day. Youngsters who had dropped out of school and happened to be at the venue felt moved to give their hearts to Christ and attend a follow-up youth programme.
The Graham family is no stranger to Kisumu - evangelist Billy Graham preached there in 1960. More than half a century later, his grandson was again sharing the Gospel in Kenyan city.
Before Will Graham took the stage last weekend, Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma asked for prayer for his city, and that hearts would be open to God’s word. And open hearts God did.
Mr Graham spoke of the Father's love despite our sinfulness, especially relevant for a city that his blog noted is regarded by the rest of the country as a den of evil.
"For these three days, that area was holy ground where people repented of their sins and claimed a new life – an everlasting hope – in Christ Jesus."
- BGEA/ RBG News
The Whangarei bed and breakfast owners accused of acting illegally after offering a lesbian couple twin beds, want the outcome of the Human Rights Commission complaint made public.
Jane Collison and her fiancée Paula Knight were declined the use of a room with a king-size bed at the Pilgrim Planet Lodge in Whangarei, by owners Mike and Karen Ruskin, as their relationship is against the owners' religious beliefs.
The lodge did not turn away the engaged women, but wanted to change their guests' room booking or separate the king-size bed. This particular incident ended with the lodge owner suggesting, "...best you find accommodation elsewhere," as the change did not suit the couple.
Pilgrim Planet's owners say that because the lodge is not just their business but also their home, the Human Rights Act allows them to restrict accommodation options and choose which room any of their guests use based on their personal convictions.
Mike and Karen Ruskin say if the outcome over mediation next month is kept private, it will be because the complainant, Ms Collinson, will not allow it to be shared. They say Ms Collinson's fiancee Paula Knight has now pulled out of the Human Rights complaint process.
The Ruskin family say it's farcical for her to now raise privacy concerns especially when Ms Collinson had no initial qualms about raising the matter publicly.
The Ruskins say the result of the worldwide coverage that followed meant anyone with an internet was able to judge, slander and personally attack the family and their business, all while no wrong-doing had been proven.
- RBG NEWS/Newstalk ZB
Eight Auckland women with beautiful long hair are cutting it all off for charity this Friday.
The eight women are from three different generations, and will all be cutting at least eight inches off to be donated to wigs for chemotherapy patients.
There will the hair cutting, and entertainment for all ages from 7pm at Te Atatu Baptist church with super provided.
The organizer John Edward has invited all to dig deep and give generously to a wonderful cause.
John himself has had five of his family members to have passed away from cancer, so this cause is particularly close to his heart.
All Proceeds go to the cancer foundation, and you can choose specifically if your donation goes to help Hospice, Child Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Breast Cancer and Canteen.
For tickets go to www.4cancer.org.nz
- RBG NEWS
The epic miniseries, THE BIBLE, will be made into a feature length movie.
The series producers have revealed that the new edited version of the Bible series will be two hours and 13 minutes long, and will focus more closely on the New Testament and the story of Christ, portrayed by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado.
THE BIBLE series continues its unprecedented success with its home entertainment launch and quickly became the biggest selling TV on DVD in the last five years and the biggest miniseries of all time on Blu-ray™, Digital HD™ and DVD in its first week of release. THE BIBLE series is flying off store shelves in the USA with 525,000 units sold.
There has been unparalleled praise from notable spiritual leaders as T.D. Jakes, Samuel Rodriguez, Cardinal Wuerl and Rick Warren.
THE BIBLE Series has ignited discussion across the country about the greatest story ever told.
"We are humbled by the overwhelming response from audiences to THE BIBLE miniseries,” said co-executive producers, husband and wife team Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. “
We feel incredibly blessed that we were able to bring this amazing love story to life on the screen.
It is our hope that folks everywhere will continue to be touched by the message of the Bible and cherish these stories at home with their families for years to come. This is just the beginning."
THE BIBLE is an epic 10-part miniseries which retells the stories of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
- RBG News
An American student has recited the Lord’s Prayer at his public high school graduation ceremony as a protest against efforts to remove prayer from schools.
Liberty High School Valedictorian Roy Costner reportedly abandoned his pre-approved speech in favour of a spontaneous address that included the Lord’s Prayer on June 1.
The speech was met with outbursts of applause from the audience, while an online video of the event has attracted over 730,000 views.
Costner told The Christian Post his actions were prompted by efforts from watchdog groups to remove prayers from local school events.
“The complaints came from a Wisconsin organization and the ACLU also tried to make things difficult, even though this was not a local problem and no one from our county had complained about public prayer," said Costner.
Although Costner enjoyed strong support from his audience, he has been heavily criticised by anti-prayer lobby groups, with some calling his actions “selfish”.
“The valedictorian who so insensitively inflicted Christian prayer on a captive audience at a secular graduation ceremony is a product of a school district which itself has set an unconstitutional example by hosting school board prayer," read a statement from the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation.
While some say prayer in public schools is unconstitutional, others have pointed to its importance as the debate rages on.
The Father of Columbine shooting victim Rachel Scott is among those who support the idea.
In an address to the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee earlier this year, Darrell Scott highlighted the need for prayer in schools in response to increasing levels of school violence.
“Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit.
“When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc,” said Scott.
Although public schools are banned from endorsing religious activities, they cannot restrict individuals voicing their own religious beliefs.
The Bible Society New Zealand is fuelling more Kiwi youth with a passion for bringing the Bible to the those who need it.
Two Auckland students recently returned from a trip to Southeast Asia, where they encountered people who had had their lives transformed by the Gospel. And in turn those encounters have touched their own lives in a special way.
Jasmine Thornton and Adam Tamariki were chosen from over 1,000 candidates for a two-week Mission Adventure in Cambodia and Vietnam, where the average wage can be as little as a dollar a day. As part of their project to raise awareness of the urgent need for Bibles in that part of the world, Bible Society took the two Auckland youth to visit and help with projects supported by New Zealand donors and to see first-hand the impact of Bible work.
18-year-old Jasmine and 27-year-old Adam joined local Bible Society staff and affiliate The Vietnam Partnership in distributing more than 1,750 Bibles, Scripture portions and school packs, and visited literacy classes, translation projects and Bible distribution centres. They also got to meet local Christian leaders, Bible Society project administrators and people whose lives have been changed because of the Bible.
Adam described meeting many insirational people who "give so much of themselves and are really passionate about the Bible work they do, especially those... who dedicate years to making Bibles available in different languages."
Jasmine and Adam also spent time in remote villages attending church services and learning how the various ethnic groups live and express their faith. Both Mission Adventurers agreed that Vietnamese youth appear to have a stronger hunger for the scriptures than young Kiwis, and Adam admitted that was an encouraging reminder for him personally.
"I’ll definitely be getting into my Bible more, now that I’m home."
- Bible Society NZ/ RBG News
A range of religious groups is calling on the United States Congress to reform immigration laws.
The activists includes conservatives who in the past have opposed plans for reforms; as well an increasingly popular lobby group, Nuns on the Bus. The Nuns recently gained attention last year when they campaigned against a restrictive Republican budget plan, as a tangible expression of the Church's strong emphasis on social justice.
Now, the Catholic Sisters of Nuns on the Bus are urging the US Congress to legislate for 'common sense' immigration reform that would allow the United States' diverse society to thrive. And they are striving to endorse that reform by "driving for faith, family, and citizenship," taking their campaign on the road. A statement on their parent 'Network' website outlines their trip schedule over 6,500 miles through 15 states, staging 53 events in 40 cities.
"Immigration policies that reflect our values, not our fears."
Their exhortations to Congress echo President Barack Obama's, who says he wants to fix a 'broken' immigration system that has resulted in around 11 million people living undocumented in the US. It is hoped the Senate will pass legislation providing a clear and direct pathway to citizenship for those illegal immigrants.
The Obama administration's proposed immigration reforms are based on four principles: boosting border security, streamlining legal immigration processes, the concept of earned citizenship, and stricter handling of employers who hire undocumented workers.
- RBG News
A British group called ‘The Fair Admissions Campaign’ wants to force all state-funded schools to eliminate religious selection in state-funded faith schools.
The group says the current system is “grossly unfair” and only ‘fuels the faith and ethnic divisions that already permeate society.”
The group says segregating children on religious and ethnic grounds is bad for community cohesion, which is vital for harmony in a plural society.
"Dividing and segregating children on religious grounds in schools means they grow up more, rather than less, removed from those of different backgrounds. Instead of promoting harmony, segregation promotes misunderstanding and allows mistrust of ‘The Other’ to more readily grow.”
Professor Ted Cantle, author of ‘The Cantle Report’ - commissioned by the Home Office and published in 2001 after race riots in Bradford, Leeds, Oldham and Burnley - commented on how riots had not arisen in diverse areas, such as Southall and Leicester, where pupils learnt about different religions and cultures in local schools.
He expressed concern that some faith schools appeared to be “operating discriminatory policies where religious affiliations protect cultural and ethnic divisions” – however “we know that mixed schooling has a positive effect upon the growth of mutual understanding.”
Cantle said faith schools with religious admission requirements were “automatically a source of division” in the town.
Cantle went on to say “…some faith schools justify religiously selective admissions because their mission is to assist parents to pass their faith on to their children, so they are open about wanting to exclude children from other backgrounds. But this ignores the fact that these schools are entirely, or almost entirely, paid for by society at large, even though they are usually owned by a religious group or a trust. Organisers say the campaign is solely focused.”
According to The Fair Admissions Campaign, religious discrimination by faith based schools is “unfair, divisive and an abuse of privilege…and out of step with public opinion.”
It is also out of step with our international competitors, they say.
"Our own research has reinforced this finding: Very few developed countries, apart from the UK, have religiously selective state funded schools.”
And…“It is out of step with historic advances for the freedom of religion.”
The Fair Admissions Campaign says their supporters “derive inspiration for their beliefs from different sources…but are united by common values.”
The group says their campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations, including the British Humanist Association, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the Liberal Democrat Education Association and the Hindu Academy.
- RBG News
Reconciliation within the Anglican Communion was the tone of the meeting between members of four Melanesian religious orders and the head of the Anglican Church.
Last Thursday, Archbishop Justin Welby welcomed a group composed of Brothers and Sisters from the Franciscan Brothers, the Sisters of the Church, the Sisters of Melanesia, and the Melanesian Brotherhood - which has houses in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. The visit was part of the Melanesian Religious Orders' five-diocese trip to the UK.
The visitors spent the evening at Lambeth Palace in prayer and Melanesian song. They also spoke with Archbishop Justin about the Orders' focal points, such as prayerful living, mission, environmental issues, and reconciliation.
On behalf of the four orders, Franciscan Brother Clark presented the Archbishop of Canterbury with a cross hand-carved by Novices from the Melanesian Brotherhood, which he said symbolised "a pledge...to work for peace and reconciliation in the Anglican Communion and to help deepen spirituality and prayer life wherever we go."
The orders faced persecution as recently as April 2003, when seven Melanesian Brothers were martyred while carrying out reconciliation work during the Solomon Islands' civil unrest.
- RBG News/ Lambeth Palace