Move on Marriage

The Uniting Church in Australia’s key national governance body has recommended a change in church policy to allow same-sex marriage. The church’s Assembly Standing Committee has endorsed an internal report that recommended changing its policy statement on marriage from being the union of “a man and a woman”, to being between “two people”.

It could pave the way for the Uniting Church to become the first major Christian denomination in Australia to perform same-sex marriages.

One of the reasons for the change, according to the report, is that “scientific research generally supports the view that people who are attracted to someone of the same gender were born that way”.


Nigerian Christians Slaughtered

In a 60-hour killing spree in late June, about 200 Christians were slaughtered in Plateau State even as the US Ambassador at Large for religious freedom was departing Nigeria.

Ambassador Sam Brownback’s one-week visit was pockmarked with six suicide bombings by Boko Haram in one day (the largest single day detonations), deadly Shiite clashes with the police, altercations between local Muslims and a community and continuing killings by Muslim Fulani herdsmen. The grand finale of this perfect storm of violence was the triple-digit massacre in Plateau.

Some of the communities attacked this weekend were attacked previously. In fact one of them was part of the notorious 2010 Dogo Na Hawa massacre in which 500 Christians were killed. It is disconcerting that a small Muslim minority can so terrorise Christian majorities in Benue and Plateau state because of their monopoly of violence. The great danger is if Christians choose not to take it anymore.


Church Charges Jeff Sessions

United Methodists in the US have filed formal charges against Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his role in separating the children of illegal immigrants from their families, and for saying that the practice is “biblical” by citing Romans 13. 

Sessions is an active Methodist, but he could be expelled from the denomination. Such charges are almost never levelled at laypeople, but they are possible under the Methodist Book of Discipline.

More than 600 Methodist clergy and church members are bringing formal church charges against Sessions of child abuse, immorality, racial discrimination and the dissemination of false doctrine.

Sessions is an active member of the United Methodist Church and has served both as a Sunday school teacher and as a church delegate to the annual Methodist General Conference. He has frequently invoked his Christian faith in support of the Trump administration and its policies.


Syrian Christians in Danger

Two thousand years of Christianity in Syria could be wiped out by the very forces Western governments are supporting, an Anglican vicar has claimed. Rev. Andrew Ashdown, who has made 10 trips to Syria since 2014 and is studying for a PhD in relations between Christians and Muslims there, also accused Western nations and Western church leaders of neglecting Syrian Christians.

Addressing an audience at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Ashdown said many Syrians viewed Christians as vital for maintaining the balance in Syria’s pluralist society. He quoted a Muslim writer in Damascus, who had told him: “I speak to you as a Muslim. Go back to your country and tell your country not to worry about us Muslims, but tell your country to worry about the Christians, because if your country gets rid of Assad and militants win this conflict, Christians will be destroyed in Syria. And Syria will be destroyed. And next will be Europe.”

World Watch Monitor

Plea to Egypt President

Release International, a UK-based charity, has urged Egypt’s re-elected president Abdel Fattah al–Sisi to begin his second term in office by demonstrating a clear commitment to protect Egypt’s persecuted Christian minority and safeguarding freedom of religion in the country.

The charity stated that Egypt has the largest remaining Christian community in the Middle East, despite continuing persecution, which Christians often call “the pressure”. That “pressure”, it says, stems from long-term cultural discrimination, affecting the job prospects of Christians, their access to public life and their ability to build and even repair their churches. The charity said that the harshest persecution has come at the hands of Islamists, who have launched terror attacks on churches, burnt down Christian places of worship, businesses and homes and driven Christians out of Upper Egypt and Sinai.


PCUSA Rejects Divesting

For the third time in a row, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly decided against divesting from companies invested in fossil fuels. Instead, delegates passed a resolution at the biennial meeting of the PCUSA last week in St. Louis asking the denomination’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee to continue engaging with corporations that produce or heavily consume fossil fuels.

The resolution also included guidelines for measuring companies’ progress that could lead to selective divestment at the 2020 General Assembly. And the denomination recently joined a five-year initiative called Climate Action 100+ led by investors to pressure companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve financial disclosures and governance related to climate change.

The denomination has about $150 million invested in companies regarded as large producers and consumers of fossil fuels.

Religion News Service

Democracy Needs Religious Freedom

A wealth of research shows that a society’s level of religious freedom is linked to its levels of critical social indicators, such as prosperity, stability and peace, the chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom told British parliamentarians in May.

Dr Daniel Mark, chairman of USCIRF, an independent, bipartisan federal commission of the US Government, told Britain’s all party Parliamentary group on international religious freedom at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament that religious freedom was therefore “a prerequisite for democracy, rather than the other way around”.

He added: “We are at a critical junction in our fight for freedom of religion or belief around the world. Not only is there data to back up the importance of religious freedom, there is also “growth, beyond NGOs, of national and international organisations committed to this issue”, he said.

World Watch Monitor