Monthly Archives: March 2016

Are Bible Translators Making the Scriptures More Acceptable to Appease Muslims?

What should Christians do when they find that the gospel of Jesus Christ, or certain aspects of it, may cause offense to those to whom it is preached? One approach is to stick to delivering the Bible message without compromise, knowing that this approach is the only way to ensure a genuine choice between the truth and falsehood.

Another alternative would be to water down the message in order to make it palatable to its audience even at the cost of distorting and misrepresenting central doctrines of the true gospel such as the divine nature of Jesus, His virgin birth, His place in the Holy Trinity and how He was able to become incarnate as both the Son of God and the Son of man.

Such is the dilemma reportedly being faced by some Bible translators today.

Billy Hallowell of The Blaze recently reported that Wycliffe Associates (WA), a group based in Orlando, Florida, has announced that it would not be renewing its affiliation with Wycliffe Global Alliance (WGA), an international cohort of more than 100 translators that was formed back in 1991.

Bruce Smith, president of Wycliffe Associates, told staff and the public via a press release that there are a number of reasons why the translator has chosen to split from the group.

The first reason is the ongoing debate over the language used to describe Jesus and God. For Wycliffe Associates, literal translation of Father and Son of God is not negotiable, said Smith.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

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Church of England Rocked by ‘Deeply Disturbing’ Sex Abuse Report

The Church of England has been rocked by an independent report that found major failures within the church body when it comes to dealing with child sex abuse cases, prompting Anglican leaders to promise to implement changes.

“I was horrified to hear and read of the abuse suffered by the survivor in this case. It has clearly devastated his life. I apologize profusely for the failings of the Church towards him, and for the horrific abuse he suffered,” the Bishop of Crediton, Sarah Mullally, responded to news of the Elliott Review on Tuesday.

“It has taken him years of heartache and distress to get his story heard and believed by those in authority and it is clear he has been failed in many ways over a long period of time. We should have been swifter to listen, to believe and to act. This report is deeply uncomfortable for the Church of England.”

Ian Elliott, the safeguarding expert who released the report, detailed the “deeply disturbing” failure of three bishops and a senior clergyman later ordained as a bishop to protect a survivor from abuse for almost four decades.

The Guardian reported on the case of the survivor, identified only as “Joe,” who as a 15-year-old was subjected to a “sadistic” assault in 1976 by a leading church figure.

Joe reportedly made numerous disclosures about the abuse to several CofE officials for a period of almost 40 years, but later the same senior figures claimed they had no memory of such conversations.

“What is surprising about this is that [Joe] would be speaking about a serious and sadistic sexual assault allegedly perpetrated by a senior member of the hierarchy. The fact that these conversations could be forgotten about is hard to accept,” the report states.

Mullally further said that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, thinks “the situation is embarrassing and uncomfortable for the church.”

The Bishop of Crediton added about Joe: “I can only begin to imagine what it has cost him. We owe it to him and other survivors to get this right. This should never have happened.”

Joe, who responded to the report, revealed that CofE officials told him that not much can be done about officials who claim they have “no recollection” of the abuse he talked to them about, though he said he rejects such excuses.

He said that the church “has run out of time, but let’s hope they take ownership of painful questions and really show a willingness to change their culture and make their structure safe for survivors. I hope Welby is now wide awake.”

The Rt Revd. Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, vowed that the Church will take the recommendations of the report very seriously, and will seek to implement changes.

“As a church we will be offering full cooperation and are committed to working in an open and transparent way, with a survivor-informed response,” Butler said in a statement.

“The true cost of child abuse and the abuse of adults at risk is far higher than any of us have ever been prepared to acknowledge in terms of the mental, emotional, social and physical health and well-being of very large numbers of our population,” he added.


Supreme Court Weighs Why Abortion Clinics Are Closing at Record Rates

Supreme Court Weighs Why Abortion Clinics Are Closing at Record RatesDelcia Lopez / AP/The Monitor

The first abortion case to reach the US Supreme Court in nearly a decade stands to impact the fate of most clinics in Texas—and possibly clinics in states with similar restrictions that have led to years of record closures.

Opening arguments begin Wednesday for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a challenge to a 2013 Texas law requiring clinics to adhere to stricter medical standards. It passed the same year as Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s life sentence for grisly practices uncovered at his Philadelphia office.

“The central purpose of the law in Texas and other states is to protect the health of women, and pro-lifers should see that as critical,” said Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life.

The case reflects recent shifts in pro-life activism, including a greater emphasis onwomen’s voices, leadership, and wellbeing. While abortion opponents remain concerned with the life of the unborn baby, they also highlight the physical and emotional risks posed to its mother. The women rising in the pro-life movement since the ‘90s “actually believed pretty deeply that abortion hurts women,” law professor Mary Ziegler told The Washington Post for its examination of how the nation’s highest court will test this new strategy.

Texas’s law insists that doctors performing abortions have patient-admitting privileges for nearby hospitals in case of emergencies, as well as that the facilities meet the same building codes as other outpatient surgical clinics. These requirements proved too costly or logistically impossible for all but 8 of the Lone Star State’s 40 clinics, about half of which have closed already, Reuters reports.

In the past five years, more than 150 US abortion providers shut down; America’s abortion rate dropped to its lowest since Roe v. Wade, and in both the most pro-choice and most pro-life states; and states passed more than 300 new restrictions on abortions. Bloomberg notes that five states have just one abortion clinic left. This dramatic pro-life wave followed the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a partial-birth abortion ban in 2007, the last time it ruled on the issue.

That Gonzales v. Carhart ruling paved the way for states to propose abortion restrictions of their own without much concern that they would be struck down by the court, said Forsythe. A decision in favor of Texas would send a similar message; clinics in Louisiana are pushing to wait to see what the justices say before their state enacts its own version of the Texas law. Across the country, 8 other states have introduced similar restrictions, and 23 states signed a brief sent to the Supreme Court in support of the regulations.

This case will be one of the first high-profile issues to be heard following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month, which leaves an even number on the court. The most likely outcome—a 4–4 tie—would defer to the lower court’s ruling in favor of Texas, “but it would not send a nationwide signal” about abortion policy, Forsythe said.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is left as the deciding vote. The New York Times reportsthat the case has amassed hundreds of personal abortion testimonies filed within supporting briefs, including personal stories from lawyers who say their abortions changed the course of their lives for the better, and a statement signed by thousands of women who say they suffered decades of “trauma and emotional injury” as a result.

Pro-choice activists, along with medical professionals including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have sided against the Texas law. They state that abortion is consistently a safe and complication-free procedure; therefore, state regulations are really efforts to force these providers to close—placing an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that the abortion rights lobby fights legislation that creates accountability for surgeons and clinics. The abortion industry has always operated at the expense of women and families,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “My prayer is that the Supreme Court will act in defense of the lives of women and the unborn in empowering states to cut through the political armor of the abortion industry.”

Presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio signed onto the congressional brief filed on behalf of the Texas law, and both have released statements in support.

CT previously noted the record clinic closures, and examined why 50 may be the best the pro-life movement can hope for. CT also noted how January’s March for Life was the most “catholic” one yet.

Pope Francis Quiet on Catholic Persecution of Protestants in Mexico

Update (Feb. 23): Four days after Pope Francis visited Chiapas, local officials agreed to restore water and electricity to 27 Protestant families. Two years ago, the utilities were turned off when the families refused to participate in or donate money to Catholic celebrations.

The agreement brokered with authorities “includes respect for beliefs, as well as the obligations of villagers, as long as these do not include participation in or contributions to religious festivals,” a local advocate told Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

But in another Chiapas village, Catholic officials refused last week to allow an elderly Protestant man to be buried there. The man was part of 12 Protestant families who were expelled from the village for their faith in 2012, and have been living in a homeless shelter in nearby San Cristóbal de las Casas. The city is where Francis led Mass and denounced Mexico’s treatment of its indigenous peoples.

John L. Allen Jr., associate editor of Crux, called the pope’s silence on Catholic persecution of Protestants “a striking omission.”

“Particularly with a pope who has spoken multiple times about how anti-Christian persecution is creating an ‘ecumenism of blood,’ evangelicals were hoping that he would make a point of denouncing that persecution when it comes from elements of his own flock,” he wrote in his analysis of Francis’s Mexico trip.


During Pope Francis’s tour of Mexico this week, he visited the southern state of Chiapas in an attempt to bolster sliding Catholic numbers in the indigenous region.

Of the 90 percent of Mexican adults who were raised as Catholic, 81 percent are still Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center. In Chiapas, just 58 percent are Catholic, according to the 2010 census.

All across Latin America, Catholics are losing converts to Protestants, according to Pew’s tally of record low levels of Catholicism across 19 countries and territories. At the same time, the region’s Protestant minority has grown steadily for the past 40 years.

Chiapas borders Guatemala, where half the population is Catholic and 41 percent are Protestant, according to Pew. Numbers are similar in nearby Honduras (46% Catholic, 41% Protestant) and El Salvador (50% Catholic, 36% Protestant). (The Chiapas-Guatemala border is the frontline of a battle to prevent the illegal immigration of Central Americans to the United States.)

The Roman Catholicism practiced in southern Mexico is combined with indigenous religions. The resulting practice made the Catholic hierarchy so uncomfortable that in 2002, the Vatican under Pope John Paul II asked the diocese in Chiapas to stop ordaining deacons.

Francis, who restarted the ordinations in 2014, took a strong stand for the indigenous Catholics this week.

“Today’s world, ravaged as it is by a throwaway culture, needs you!” he told them, denouncing the “systemic and organized way your people have been misunderstood and excluded from society.”

He didn’t address the persecution that indigenous Catholics have leveled against Protestants in Chiapas.

In what Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) calls “a marginalized community within a larger marginalized community,” Chiapas Protestants have been banished fromtheir homes and land. Sometimes after having their utilities cut off. Sometimes after threats of lynching. The day before Francis’s visit, one evangelical church wasbroken into and burned down.

The expulsions and occasional physical violence have largely been ignored by the state and federal government. While the Mexican constitution guarantees the freedom of religion, that right often conflicts with the Law of Uses and Customs, which grants local and regional autonomy in parts of the country with large indigenous populations like Chiapas. The laws are meant to preserve their culture.

“Typically in such cases, the local authorities proclaim their village or municipality to be exclusive to one particular religion, prohibit the entry of members of other faiths, make participation in activities related to the ‘official’ religion compulsory, and attempt to force inhabitants who practice other faiths to convert to the declared ‘official’ religion,” a 2015 CSW report stated.

Chiapas, which has the largest number of religious freedom violations in the country, has 30 unresolved cases of displaced Protestant families.

“Serious violations of religious freedom targeting religious minorities have occurred on a widespread basis in Chiapas and Hidalgo since the 1970s,” the CSW report said. “Almost 40 years on, it is impossible to justify the government’s failure to address the issue in any comprehensive way. Instead, expulsions continue, religious tensions continue to be exploited for political and economic interests, and social instability continues to grow.”

CT has covered the growing pressure US officials and religious freedom advocates are placing on Mexico to stop Protestant persecution, the steady swing of Latin Americans away from Catholicism and into Protestantism, and what those Protestants actually believe and practice.