Saturday, May 17, 2008

Church Festival Shooting

A man opened fire at a church festival in Los Angeles this morning, putting his ex-wife and two bystanders in the hospital. The annual event was being set up at the St. John Baptist de la Salle Roman Catholic parish when he showed up with a semiautomatic rifle. The suspect was reloading the weapon when festival-goers wrestled him to the ground and held the man until police arrived.

Soft Opening for Narnia Film

Prince Caspian didn’t bring in as much money in its first day on the big screen as the first film in The Narnia Chronicles series, The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe. Prince earned $18 million at the box office while Lion took in $23 million. It’s estimated that the sequel will wind up with just over $50 million by the end of the weekend. That would be more than a forth less than the first Narnia installment. The next film, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is already in production and should be out in two years.

Southern Baptist Church is Dying

“The Southern Baptist Convention is dying rapidly, and resistance to change could kill more than half the denomination’s churches by 2030.” Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page in a conference call with pastors

Journey to Narnia

If you’re inspired by the new film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian you might want to get a closer look at the live of CS Lewis on whose writings the movie is based. You could read his classic series of seven books on Narnia, of course. But you also could take a trip to his old stomping grounds. One option is GlobusChristian England & The World of CS Lewis, a 10-day tour includes visits to Oxford’s Magdalen College, where Lewis was elected a fellow in 1925, and Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry, where he is buried.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sex Sting Arrest

A minister at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas has been caught in an Internet sex sting. Police in Bryan, Texas say Joe Barron faces charges of soliciting a minor. An investigator posing as a 13-year-old girl had sexually explicit conversations with the megachurch minister. Barron was arrested when he went to meet the teen in person.

Iran Makes Movie about Jesus

A new Iranian film called Jesus, the Spirit of God tells the story of Christ without the death and resurrection described in the gospels. In the $5 million movie, funded by Iranian state broadcasting, Judas Iscariot is crucified in his place. The plot is based on the Koran and the Gospel of Barnabas, a book not included in the Christian Bible and in which the prophet Muhammad appears. Few Iranians went to see it at theaters. It’s now being broken up for a run on national television as a series.

Judas in Arkansas

The name of one of Jesus’ disciples is being invoked in an Arkansas political race. Mark Haroda is trying to unseat incumbent Tracy Pennartz for a seat in the state house. Haroda has mailed out flyers that show a photo of his opponent and the line Judas! Betrayed With A Kiss. The charge stems from Pennartz’s alleged support for raising the cost of gas and electric rates.

Steven Curtis Chapman

Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman is in China with his band to promote international efforts to help orphaned children. He raised more than $340,000 in the last six months for Shaohannah's Hope through the Change for Orphans campaign. Families in need of financial aid to adopt a child will benefit from the funds.

Caspian Hits the Big Screen

It may be standing room only for today's opening of Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The film is likely to be one of the summer's top earners because of the success of the franchise's first film and relatively weak competition this weekend. Exhibitor Relations predicts the movie could top $750 million in worldwide ticket sales. Critics have been generally positive about the film, though some Christian writers say some spiritual aspects of the book have been cut out - including a lessor role for the lion Aslan who represents Christ.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Einstein's Letter

A letter written by Albert Einstein has sold for $330,000 at a London auction. Written in the year before he died (1954) to philosopher Eric Gutkind, Einstein said, "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. For me, the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions." The Nobel prize-winning physicist offered several conflicting views on faith and religion over his lifetime, suggesting he believed that some intelligence was working its way through nature but not a conventional Christian or Judaic religious view.

Petition Against Bush

More than 200 students and faculty members at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolinastatement opposing President Bush’s visit to the school over the war in Iraq. He’s due to give the graduation speech on May 31. It would be the first visit to the University by a sitting president. The school has historic ties with Baptists.

Georgia Baptists

Southern Baptists are on the decline in Georgia. The number of residents who say they belong to a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention has dropped from 20% in 1970 to just 10% in 2007. During the same period, Georgia’s population has exploded – especially around Atlanta.

Same-Sex Marriage Ban Overturned

The California state Supreme Court has overturned a ban on same-sex marriage. The vote was 4-3. Voters have already rejected the idea and will have a chance to do so again in November. Concerned that the court may rule this way, pro-family groups gathered more than a million signatures to get an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot. That vote will supersede today’s ruling which goes into effect in 30 days. The Liberty Counsel plans to ask justices to hold off until after November. Otherwise, county courthouses are likely to be flooded with requests from couples that could be rendered invalid after the November vote. Under state law, gays and lesbians in California are already entitled to equal treatment in every legal area except marriage. Massachusetts is the only other state where the Supreme Court has ruled that the state's constitution gives gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

Online Dating Services

Online dating service has been targeting in a recent ad campaign. The marketing strategy criticizes eHarmony for refusing to match people of the same gender. It also goes after the Evangelical beliefs of founder Neil Warren, who's had several books published by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. A year ago, Chemistry ran a set of ads called Rejected by eHarmony. Chemistry’s 7 million registered users are dwarfed by eHarmony’s 17 million. eHarmony dismisses Chemistry as only a casual dating site and not in the business of fostering lasting relationships. Warren has said he personally believes premarital sex can increase the likelihood of one’s marrying the wrong person.

False Papers Used to Sell Church?

New York’s Free Mission Action Movement Church is fighting over its property with a developer who claims the church sold the land to him. But the pastor says the deal was cut with a con man who posed as a member and used fake deeds to make the $50,000 deal. The Brooklyn Supreme Court will take up the matter soon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Give Project

The pastor of the Lifehouse Church East in Hagerstown, Maryland decided to give to his congregation the money he had saved for a car. Patrick Grach handed out the $6000 in various amounts and asked members to do something good with it. You can read stories of what they’ve done online.

Pastor Threatened over Flag Removal

The pastor of the First Baptist Church in DeLand, Florida is taking a leave of absence to get away from threats he’s been getting. Sean Oliver removed the American Flag and Christian flag from the church sanctuary a few months after he came to church. Some church members objected to the change.

Lutheran Gay Clergy

A Canadian Lutheran church plans to move forward on the ordination of a non-celibate gay man on Friday over objections from the Bishop of the Eastern Synod in Canada. Pastor Dawn Hutchings says she expects dozens of clergy from across the country to join her at the ordination of Lionel Ketola at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket, Ontario. Although the Evangelical Lutheran church require that gay ministers remain celibate – the denomination also has told bishops in the church not to fire anyone who violates the rule.

Free Gas

The First Baptist Church of Snellville, Georgia is giving away gas. One catch, however. You have to attend a revival led by Ronnie Hill where you are given a raffle ticket for a chance to win a $500 gas card. The north Atlanta megachurch is getting so many calls about the offer, an extra phone line has been installed to deal with the flood of inquiries.

In Search of the Ark

A group of German archaeologists claim they’ve found what’s left of the palace of the Queen of Sheba – where many believe the Ark of the Covenant is located. The chest once held the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were etched. A professor from the University of Hamburg is supervising a dig in northern Ethiopia that started more than ten years ago. They believe the Ark was taken by the Queen from Jerusalem in the 10th century BC. The quest to find the lost ark was the inspiration for the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark. The latest sequel in that film series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, conveniently hits the big screen May 22.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Billionaire Behind Prince Caspian

Philip Anschutz says he was tired of seeing violence, sex and vulgarity in movies, so the billionaire decided to do something about it. He created Walden Media and started producing films like Bridge to Terabithia and Hoot. His latest effort hits the big screen this Friday. Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is a sequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Made for about $180 million, the 2005 release raked in $745 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Price Caspian is expecting similar results. Here are some other Anschutz facts:
· Worth - more than $7 billion
· Home - Denver
· Church Affiliation - Evangelical Presbyterian Church
· Finances - A billionaire, he found a billion-barrel pocket of oil on a Utah farm, founded Qwest, owns the Staples Center in Los Angeles, controls the nation's largest cinema chain, Regal, co-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and owns 5 Major League Soccer teams
· Accessibility - Hasn't sat for an interview with a reporter since 1974
· Politics - major contributor to Republican candidates
· Moviemaking - His Walden Media made the Ray Charles biography Ray and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe adapted from C.S. Lewis's books

Hagee Apologizes

Televangelist John Hagee is apologizing to Catholics for referring to the Roman Catholic Church as "the great whore" and calling it "the apostate church." John McCain caught criticism from some Catholic leaders for his association with Hagee after the pastor endorced the presidential bid of the Arizona Senator. Catholic League President Bill Donohue says he accepts the apology and considers the matter closed. Hagee has been meeting with Catholic leaders and is promising to offer a more balanced portrayal of the Catholic Church.

What Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses Really Believe

I have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and believe that when I die I will go to heaven because I have confessed my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my savior.
Mormons - 31%
Jehovah’s Witnesses – 7%

God is the omnipotent and all-knowing creator and ruler of the universe:
Born again Christians – 90%
Mormons – 83%
Jehovah’s Witnesses – 76%

Satan Exists:
Jehovah’s Witnesses – 61%
Mormons – 60%
Born again Christians – 42%

Jesus lived a sinless life on earth:
Jehovah’s Witnesses – 77%
Mormons – 66%
Born again Christians – 63%

Sharing my faith with other people is a personal responsibility:
Jehovah’s Witnesses - 74%
Mormons – 64%
Born again Christians – 54%

The Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches:
Jehovah’s Witnesses - 88%
Born again Christians – 71%
Mormons – 32%

I read the Bible each week:
Jehovah’s Witnesses - 83%
Born again Christians – 54%
Mormons – 27%

I do NOT attend a church regularly:
Jehovah’s Witnesses - 28%
Born again Christians – 14%

I am registered to vote:
Born again Christians – 87%
Jehovah’s Witnesses - 29%

Source: The Barna Group

Spicing Up the Bible

Geri Halliwell, better know as Ginger Spice, reportedly made some changes to the text from the Bible read at her child's baptism. The Spice Girl told friends her version read better. Geri, 35, recently launched her first children’s book Eugenia Lavender. Her daughter, named Bluebell, just reached her second birthday.

Armed Robbery during Church Service

A man interrupted services at the Hyannis Foursquare Portuguese Church Sunday in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, wearing a mask and threatening parishioners. He has a lighter shaped like a gun and demanded the collection box. But the would-be robber was stopped when churchgoers tackled him and held him down until police arrived. The man was arrested and is being held on $200,000 bail.

Switchfoot on Leno

The Christian rock band Switchfoot will perform on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight. They will play the song This Is Home from the film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The song will be heard in the film and over the end credits and will appear on the movie soundtrack.

JI Packer Leaving Church

JI Packer is leaving the Anglican Church over the issue of homosexuality. While the governing body of the Anglican Church in Canada narrowly defeated a motion approving same-sex blessings last year, Packer objects to his diocese and others voting in favor of them. The prominent evangelical theologian is best known for writing Knowing God, a book that has sold more than three million copies. Packer left Britain some 30 years ago to teach at Vancouver's Regent College.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Graham in China

Franklin Graham is in China this week, meeting with church leaders and government officials. On Sunday, he preached before nearly 12,000 people at Chong Yi Church in Hangzhou. It's China's largest Christian church. More than 1200 people responded to the invitation. The church is offering a course as a follow-up for those who want to learn more about Christianity.

Gospel Dream 2008

The Gospel Music Channel is teaming with Royal Caribbean cruise lines for sponsorship tie-ins with the TV network's American Idol-like music contest. Gospel Dream 2008 will run for 5 episodes and give the winner a cruise and recording contract.

Bible Club Ban

The Deer Valley School District in Phoenix, Arizona must allow the events planned by a Christian student club to be announced over the school's PA system as it does other clubs. That’s the ruling of a federal judge while he considers a lawsuit filed by the students. They're going to court because the district has prevented them from announcing a prayer meeting during off-school hours.

Huckabee Denies Report

Mike Huckabee says a column by Bob Novak is “total and absolute nonsense.” Novak claims an anonymous source involved in “Christian politics” told him that Huckabee had “embraced the concept that an Obama presidency might be what the American people deserve. That fits what has largely been a fringe position among evangelicals: that the pain of an Obama presidency is in keeping with the Bible's prophecy.”

Pornography Connection to Christian Website

The same company that runs a Christian dating web site produces pornography. says it will help you meet "People who share the same spiritual beliefs". What it doesn't tell you is that its
corporate parent is Penthouse Media Group. Founder Bob Guccione sold Penthouse Magazine and its associated businesses three years ago to a group of investors. In December, the company acquired social-network focused Various, Inc. for a price tag of $500 million in cash and stock. Part of that buy included

Online Video Site is now valued at nearly $150 million by The YouTube–like site launched last August and offers sermons, debates, Christian muisc videos and skits - along with an on-screen Bible and a prayer wall. All the content is filtered for offensive material. It attracts 1.7 million unique visitors a month, according to comScore. As we reported last week, the site picked up a $30 million investment from a large London hedge fund.

A Bible for Every Newspaper

The International Bible Society is working to put a quarter of a million custom-designed New Testaments into the homes of people living in Pittsburgh. The plan is for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to add the Bibles to the newspapers delivered to subscribers in Allegheny County on September 7th. CityReachers Pittsburgh, an arm of the IBS, already distributed 140,000 New Testaments to the Philadelphia area during April. Another 260,000 will go out in Montgomery, Bucks and Delaware counties in November. The Pittsburgh edition will show the city's Golden Triangle on the cover. On the back will be a photo of Steelers football players kneeling in prayer along with testimonies from well-known people in the city. CityReachers Pittsburgh has raised a little more than half of what’s needed to complete the project by the printing deadline.

Church Reverses Votes

A Nashville church has reversed itself and decided to expel 71 members. Two Rivers Baptist Church voted to oust the dissenters yesterday after voting last week to let them remain members – by just four votes. The group is suing pastor Jerry Sutton and the megachurch for allegedly mishandling the congregation’s money. The move to dismiss them was put forth by Sutton himself.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dottie Rambo Remembered

Here is a video of Dottie Rambo singing her song We Shall Behold Him. Details of her death are below.

Chuck Norris at Graduation

“It’s like the Holy Spirit hit me and said, ‘Chuck it’s time to come home. I was hot for the Lord, and I still am to this day. I hope that you’ll let him direct your steps because if you do, you can’t go wrong.” - Actor Chuck Norris speaking at Liberty University’s commencement

Christian Songwriter Killed in Accident

Christian singer and songwriter Dottie Rambo died early this morning in an accident near Mount Vernon, Missouri. The 74-year-old was riding in a bus that ran off a road and struck an embankment. Some people in the accident were hospitalized but no one else was killed. Rambo was headed to a Mother's Day performance at Fountain of Life Church in North Richland Hills, Texas. Named to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007, Rambo wrote the 1982 Gospel Music Association Song of the Year We Shall Behold Him which was made popular by Sandi Patty and He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need.

Clinton in Church

Hillary Clinton went to church on Mother's Day with her daughter Chelsea at the First United Methodist Church in Huntington, West Virginia. Pastor Paul Russell read the story of Pentecost from Acts and told the congregation, “Maybe you've been a comma at some time in your life (but) you and I are not commas to God." Clinton did not speak at the service.

Socially Responsible Mutual Funds

• Faith-Based Investors control $110 billion in assets
• $2.2 trillion is invested under socially responsible investing principles
• The 30 or so religion-oriented mutual funds control about $3 Billion
• Research firm Morningstar tracks 86 Socially Responsible Investing Fund

Here are some of those mutual funds and what they do for investors:

Aquinas Funds
Roman Catholic values

Ave Maria Catholic Values
Roman Catholic values

Catholic Equity Funds
Avoids abortion-related services

Cavert Funds
Favor companies paying for contraception
and that support Planned Parenthood

Citizens Core Growth
avoid tobacco and defense stocks

Citizens Funds
Favors same-sex friendly companies

Domini Funds
Favor companies paying for contraception and that support Planned Parenthood

Domini Social 400
Widely followed indexes

Domini Social Equity
Nonreligious fund avoids making money from alcohol, tobacco guns or gambling

New Covenant Funds

Noah Funds
Conservative Christian

Parnassus Fund
avoid tobacco and defense stocks

Patriot Fund
Off-shoot of Timothy Fund

Timothy Plan
Conservative Christian

Source: Smart Money