Saturday, January 2, 2010

Warren: Goal Reached

Rick Warren says his church got what it needed. The mega-church leader had issued an urgent call for donations to his Southern California church, saying there was a $900,000 shortage in collections. More than 46,000 attended Christmas services at Saddleback Church.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Faith-based Investing

There are now several faith-based exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Recently launched: FaithShares Baptist Values (trading symbol: FZB), Lutheran Values (FKL), FaithShares Catholic Values Fund (FCV), Methodist Values (FMV) and Christian Values (FOC) funds. Each follow the investment guidelines of each denomination, typically avoiding pharmaceutical or hospital stocks (to stay away from abortion and contraceptives), alcohol stocks and the the pornography industry.

The largest Catholic values mutual fund is Ave Maria Catholic Values with $166 million in assets. It's up 37% this past year (the average midcap blend fund is up 36%).

There is also Dow Jones Islamic Market International Index Fund (JVS) which tries to be consistent with Islamic religious laws. With more than $14 million in assets, JVS is up more than 16% since it started this summer which is slightly behind the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.

Atheism Under Fire

An Asheville City Councilman is under fire because he doesn't believe in God. Opponents say they may try to invoke an 1868 North Carolina law requiring public office holders to profess the Almighty. But Cecil Bothwell says his religious views are not relevant to the public office. When Bothwell took office last month, he used an oath that did not require swearing on a Bible or reference God. Raised a Presbyterian, he is now a member of the Unitarian Universalist church. Conservatives were already riled at Bothwell's book, The Prince of War, which is critical of Billy Graham, who lives in the area. Several other states have similar laws on the books including Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Maryland and Pennsylvania, though they go unenforced.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

More on Dobson's New Show

We told you about James Dobson's new show in an earlier post. Here is some more of the details about the radio program. It will hit the airwaves in March and will be supported, not through Focus on the Family, but a new nonprofit organization. Dobson estimates it will cost about $2 million to keep it going during the first-year operation. Dobson will co-host the program with his 39-year-old son, Ryan. There is speculation that Dobson was forced out of Focus because of conflicts between him and current CEO and president Jim Daly but both Dobson and Daly deny these rumors. Focus’ budget dropped more than $20 million this year. There are some 600 fewer people working at the Colorado-based organization than there was in 2002.

Kidnapped at Church

Police in Statesville, North Carolina are searching for an armed man who kidnapped two women from a church and forced them to withdraw money from an ATM. He walked into the Broad Street United Methodist Church this afternoon, forced them into the car of one of the kidnap victims and later released them at a different place in town. The car was found on fire. If you have any information, call the Statesville police at 704-878-3406.

Oral Roberts

The Economist offers this profile of Oral Roberts, who passed away December 15th at the age of 91.

Dobson's New Show

James Dobson is starting a new radio show. On his Facebook page, the Focus on the Family founder says the show will be called James Dobson on the Family. He'll discuss religion, politics and family issues. Dobson officially leaves Focus on the Family and its flagship radio broadcast at the end of February. Some reports say Dobson has had conflicts with his successor, Jim Daly. The new radio show will involved his son, Ryan Dobson, who heads KOR World Ministries and has never worked for Focus on the Family.

Porn and Bribes

A lawsuit filed against Feed the Children founder Larry Jones claims he took bribes and kept hard-core pornographic magazines among other things. The suit comes in response to Jones wrongful-termination lawsuit against Feed The Children. The board fired him after he admitting placing hidden microphones around the office. Jones denies the charges made in the countersuit and says the pornography was for research.

Purpose Driven Fundraiser

Rick Warren is trying to raise nearly $1 million in two days. The Southern California mega-pastor is trying to make up for a shortfall in donations. In a letter to the Saddleback congregation, Warren says the church is $900,000 in the red for the year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 10 News Stories of the Decade

Christianity Today's Top 10 News Stories of the Decade

January 2001: President Bush launches his faith-based initiative.

September 2001: NYC terror attacks prompt intense reflection on Christian-Muslim relations.

March 2003: U.S. invasion of Iraq prompts debate on just war and Muslim extremists' retaliation against Mideast Christians.

August 2003: Gene Robinson, who is in a same-sex relationship, is confirmed as an Episcopal bishop.

February 2004: Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ shocks observers by earning more than $600 million.

November 2004: "Values voter" analysis draws more attention to U.S. evangelicals as a voting bloc.

December 2004: A Southeast Asian tsunami, followed by Hurricane Katrina, mobilizes unprecedented compassion efforts.

April 2005: Rick Warren launches PEACE Plan, targeting global poverty, HIV/AIDS, and other ills.

April 2007: Supreme Court upholds partial-birth abortion ban, the first national restriction since Roe v. Wade.

August 2007: Taliban takes Korean missionaries hostage, igniting debate on short-term missions.

Birth Mom Must Give Up Child

A Vermont judge has ordered a mother of a 7-year-old girl to give custody of the child to the woman's former lesbian partner. Lisa Miller of Winchester, Virginia must turn over her daughter to Janet Jenkins. The two where joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000 but the couple ended their relationship in 2003 and Miller became an evangelical, renouncing her past lesbian associations. The judge gave custody to Jenkins when Miller refused to allow Jenkins access to the child.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 10 News Stories of 2009

Christianity Today's Top 10 News Stories of 2009.

1. The Great Recession reduces missionary sending and closes hundreds of Christian schools as layoffs hit World Vision, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Focus on the Family, Asbury Seminary, CT, and many other ministries.

2. Orthodox Anglicans launch a North American province as the Episcopal Church drops its moratoria on gay clergy and same-sex unions. The ELCA narrowly approves clergy in same-sex relationships, prompting conservative Lutherans to create a rival body. Methodistsand Presbyterians maintain their bans.

3. Religious groups agitate for health-care reform. Pro-life Democrats and Republicans in the House surprisingly succeed at adding a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions to the House reform bill, largely thanks to Catholic clergy's lobbying.

4. The Obama administration permits federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research and overseas groups that promote abortion, while cutting funds for abstinence-only education.

5. Deadly Gojra riots in August prompt a government examination, and fresh international criticism, of Pakistan's notoriously abused blasphemy laws.

6. Swine flu causes Christian churches worldwide to modify services. Egypt slaughters all pigs, devastating the livelihood of its Christian minority.

7. Multisite churches and video-venue campuses evolve from megachurch experiment to near-default option as large congregations expand.

8. Zondervan discontinues the controversial TNIV and announces that an updated NIV translation will debut in 2011.

9. Gaza war hinders reconciliation efforts between Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians. Believers continue to flee Iraq; Somalia's Christians almost entirely vanish.

10. Hispanic evangelical leaders debate boycotting the 2010 Census as a way to call attention to immigration reform. Meanwhile, the National Association of Evangelicals and other groups prepare for the immigration debate to reignite in 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are coming to Milwaukee. WTMJ-TV reports.

Chuck Smith Hospitalized

Chuck Smith has suffered a stroke and has been hospitalized. The 82-year-old senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California is expected to recover, as medical officials call it a "minor" stroke.

Church Fight

KOAT-TV reports on an altercation at a church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

No Church for Obamas

The First Family did not to attend Christmas Eve church services. And it is not clear where they would have gone if they had decided to join a congregation for the evening. They have attended three churches so far this year without joining any of them. This includes St. John's Episcopal Church close to the White House, the predominantly African-American 19th Street Baptist Church, and Evergreen Chapel, the nondenominational (and private) church at Camp David. The Bush family spent eight straight Christmases at Camp David while the Clintons often took in midnight mass at the Washington National Cathedral.

As a child, Obama occasionally attended Sunday school classes at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, where his family held a memorial service for his grandmother.