Category: The Church

One church, two popes: why Catholicism is in crisis this Easter

Peter Stanford

Pope Francis the reformer is being challenged by his conservative predecessor – who now has a far-right backing including Steve Bannon

Sat 20 Apr 2019 03.00 EDT Last modified on Sat 20 Apr 2019 03.37 EDT

In his pre-Easter address to pilgrims gathering in Rome, Pope Francis highlighted Jesus’s words as he died on the cross on the first Good Friday: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” We all, the Argentinian pontiff stressed, need to find the courage to forgive those who have wronged us.

Those remarks sparked speculation about who exactly Francis was struggling to forgive. Top of most lists in Rome this Easter is his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who decided in 2013 to break with 600 years of work-unto-death papal tradition and retire. This opened Catholicism’s door to the breath of fresh air that is Francis. And, for the past six years, as the winds of change have blown through the church, Benedict has by and large kept a respectful silence, ignoring the ever louder pleas of traditionalist Catholics who want the 92-year-old to join them in opposing Francis’s reform agenda.

That changed earlier this month, when Benedict published a 6,000-word article in a German magazine. It made headlines by blaming the clerical abuse scandal on the moral relativism of the 1960s sexual revolution, and the “homosexual cliques” that allowed this “lawlessness” to infect seminaries. It is a line of argument that directly – and, conservative cardinals insist, pointedly – contradicts all Francis’s efforts (including a summit of world bishops in the Vatican in February) to tackle the damage done by paedophile priests by pointing the finger at a dominant culture within the church; a culture that encourages priests and bishops to operate as if they are above the moral guidelines they preach, and regard themselves as beyond the sanction of civil courts.

Neither explanation has convinced some lifelong Catholics who, as a result this Easter, will stay away from church services. The Francis version at least has the virtue of not flying in the face of all contemporary research, which doesn’t conflate sexual attraction between consenting adults of the same gender with the brutal and systematic violation of children.

But what Benedict’s intervention – and apparent rebuke of his successor – mostly lays bare is how hard it is proving for an absolute monarchy like the Catholic church to operate when it has not one, but two living popes. Indeed it explains why, for six centuries, papal retirement was regarded as not an option.

Perhaps if Francis and Benedict were of like mind, it might just work, but for all their posing as good neighbours (the emeritus pope lives within the grounds of the Vatican), the two of them represent opposite poles of Catholicism. Where Francis wants to work with the modern world, Benedict sees the church as immovable. Where Francis was a pastoral figure and “outsider” throughout his clerical career before his election, Benedict was a dusty academic and Vatican “insider”. And where Francis believes he inherited a church in crisis (and not just over clerical abuse), Benedict is convinced that he and his predecessor John Paul II had settled all the outstanding questions about its future in perpetuity (eg restating the ban on female priests).

That chasm between the two popes is not just an administrative matter for them to manage with as good a grace as possible (and the normally relaxed Francis was looking pretty on edge when he paid a birthday visit to Benedict earlier this month). There is a small but vocal minority of ultra-conservative Catholics who are doing their damnedest to tempt Benedict out of purdah so he can lead their attack on Francis.

These traditionalist figures, who congregate round retired cardinal Raymond Burke, (sacked from his Vatican job by Francis), have their own websites and journals, especially in the United States. They look on in horror, and not just at Francis’s drive to relegate sexual morality down the list of priorities for his church. Their social conservatism is matched by political concerns. Where Francis is prophetically pro-refugee, pro-environment and pro-global cooperation, this wing of the church most emphatically is not.

The ramifications go far beyond the fraught politics of Catholicism. There are two more prominent figures the pope might have had in mind when he was recommending forgiveness this Easter: former Donald Trump right-hand man Steve Bannon, and Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini. Both men are cradle Catholics, so much so that Salvini recently tried to pass legislation to put crucifixes in all public spaces in Italy. The Vatican fiercely resisted this suggestion, believing it to be a transparent ruse to turn a religious symbol into a party political vote-winner.

Bannon has long made plain that he regards the current leader of his church as akin to an enemy. “He’s the administrator of the church, and he’s also a politician,” he tells NBC in a broadcast interview this Easter. “This is the problem … He’s constantly putting all the faults in the world on the populist nationalist movement.”

Populism and nationalism, the pope has warned, is what brought the continent Adolf Hitler. “Fear can drive you crazy,” he said on a recent trip to Panama.

“But you can go round Europe and it’s [populism] catching fire,” objects Bannon on NBC. “The pope is just wrong.”

There is a profound irony here, because Bannon is the sort of ultra-traditionalist Catholic who, when Benedict John Paul II was in charge of the show, was fond of telling more liberal Catholics (who every survey shows represent the majority of Church members in the developed world) to stop their complaining and do as they were told by the successor of Saint Peter, who Jesus handpicked for leadership. Under Francis, though, Bannon is getting a dose of his own medicine. And spitting it out.

No longer welcome in the White House, Bannon has come to Europe to stir up the far right. And that includes Catholic traditionalists, whom he courts through his links with the Dignitatis Humanae religious institute outside Rome, of which he is patron and Cardinal Burke the president.

Salvini is one of Bannon’s closest allies and is leading the Italian government’s clampdown on migrants. So strongly does he object to Francis’s championing of the rights and human dignity of the same migrants, that Salvini has even appeared in public brandishing a T-shirt with the slogan, “Benedict is my Pope”.

This is a new take on the “birther” slur that Bannon and Trump directed at Barack Obama, making up tales of him not being born in the US to claim he wasn’t really the president. Now Francis’s legitimacy is being undermined by the suggestion that Benedict didn’t have the right to retire and so remains the true pope.

Knowing that such nonsense is being pedalled publicly, you cannot help but speculate what Benedict intended by publishing his letter earlier this month. Was he signalling that he was throwing his lot in with the Francis-haters as they have been urging him to do? Or was it rather the small conservative circle around this frail, elderly, ailing pontiff who were using his name to fight their own battles?

Whatever the truth, no one can be in any doubt this Easter that there are two rival camps, if not yet rival popes, fighting it out for ultimate power at God’s business address on Earth.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9759

Sri Lanka on edge after local Islamic militant group blamed for Easter Sunday attacks: report

By Bradford Betz | Fox News

Sri Lanka took drastic steps Monday to crack down on new potential terror threats by blocking social media and arresting more than a dozen after a series of suicide bombings allegedly carried out by a domestic radical Islamic group ripped through its capital on Easter Sunday.

The country’s health minister said the attacks, which killed at least 290 and injured more than 500, were carried out by seven suicide bombers from a local militant group named National Thowheek Jaamath. Experts cited by The New York Times said the group promotes an Islamic terrorist ideology. Police said 13 suspects in connection with the bombings have been arrested.

“These attacks appear to be quite different and look as if they came right out of the ISIS, Al Qaeda, global militant jihadist playbook, as these are attacks fomenting religious hatred by attacking multiple churches on a high religious holiday,” Anne Speckhard, the director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, told the Times.

All of the bombers were Sri Lankan citizens, but authorities suspect foreign links, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said at a news conference.

Six nearly simultaneous blasts took place in the morning at the shrine and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels in Colombo, as well as at two churches outside Colombo. Two more blasts occurred a few hours later outside Colombo — one at a guesthouse, the other near an overpass.

A government forensic crime investigator said an analysis of the attacker’s body parts indicated they were suicide bombers. He said a single bomber carried out most of the attacks, with two at Colombo’s Shangri-La Hotel.

Officials on Monday said that Sri Lankan police investigating the bombings are examining reports that intelligence agencies had warnings of possible attacks. Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the international agencies warned of the attacks several times starting April 4.

Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando tweeted, “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence. Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.” He added that his father had heard of a possible attack and had warned him not to enter popular churches.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to take action against those responsible.

Authorities on Monday lifted a curfew that had been imposed but kept social media block so as to curtail the spread of false information and ease tension in the country of more than 22 million people.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9744

Secret Underground Church Started By James The Half-Brother Of Jesus Discovered In Jerusalem On Mount Zion

The 21st century keepers of this 2,000-year old church are certain it was started by the half-brother of Jesus, James. Jewish Christians were under heavy persecution from the Roman Empire in the days before Rome created the Catholic Church. The other early Christian church from around 300 AD has tile mosaics on the floors illustrating scenes from the book of Revelation.

by Geoffrey Grider March 18, 2019

There are two notable men named James we read about in the New Testament. There was James Zebedee, the brother of John, who the Bible refers to as the “sons of thunder”. The ‘other’ James is the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Himself.

Recently, I came across these amazing videos of archaeological discoveries dating back to the First Century AD, showing what is purported to be perhaps the very first Christian church in Jerusalem, one that was started by James, the half-brother of Jesus. Not to be confused with James, the brother of John, who wrote the book of James that bears his name.

“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” Galatians 1:18,19 (KJV)

I present these videos to you for your viewing pleasure, and hope that you will all check them out by comparing them with scripture to see if they match up with the biblical timeline. I am by no means a biblical archaeologist, but I have watched them many times and remain fascinated by what they show.

Secret Church From First Century Discovered On Mt. Zion

The 21st century keepers of this 2,000-year old church are certain it was started by the half-brother of Jesus, James. Jewish Christians were under heavy persecution from the Roman Empire in the days before Rome created the Catholic Church

Amazing Discovery Shows Scenes From Book Of Revelation

This one really sent chills down my spine, an early Christian church from around 300 AD that has tile mosaics on the floors illustrating scenes from the book of Revelation. 

The Two Men Named James

FUN FACTS: There are two notable men named James we read about in the New Testament. There was James Zebedee, the brother of John, that the Bible refers to as the “sons of thunder”. Along with the apostle Peter, this trio was blessed to be allowed to witness some amazing things.

“And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:” Mark 3:17 (KJV)

Peter, James and John were there in the ‘inner circle’ in Matthew 17 where they witnessed the miracle on the Mount of Transfiguration, and listened in rapturous wonder as Jesus told them of the last days and the end of the world in Mark 13 and Matthew 24.

“And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” Galatians 2:9 (KJV)

The ‘other’ James is the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Himself, and he was used mightily as well. James was personally acquainted with and sought out by the apostle Paul at the start of his ministry as recorded in Galatians, and later was the chair of the Council At Jerusalem in Acts 15 where Paul’s gospel of the grace of God was formally adopted by the church leaders.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9695

Another Kind of Religious Leader Must Arise

Shane Idleman | Contributor to ChristianHeadlines.com | Tuesday, February 26, 2019

As I’ve stated before: With rapid-fire changes within a culture saturated by political correctness and relativism, we are inclined to ask if there is any hope for America. If we continue down this slippery slope, there is little hope. Apart from a national spiritual awakening, it will be difficult to turn the Titanic around—the vessel has been struck; what’s inside is spilling out. But if God brings revival…if we once again set our hearts and minds on Him…there is tremendous hope. Revival means to awaken, restore, renew, or repair. In churches across America, crowd appeal and pleasing the masses tends to be the goal rather than calling out destructive lifestyles, which can result in revival and renewal.

A.W. Tozer in an article entitled, Prophetic Preaching, hit the nail on the head when he wrote this, decades ago: “If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation, it must be by other means than any now being used. If the Church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher.”

Tozer also said, “The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.”

He concludes, “Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many), he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt-spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.”

Those who have been called to preach, much like the prophets in the Old Testament, will confront compromise, condemn moral digression, and powerfully denounce sin in the hope of reconciling man to God—they speak the truth in love. The world, and carnal Christians, despise them because they challenge the sin they enjoy.

Preachers will ruffle feathers and step on toes from time-to-time, but it should be the result of the truth being spoken in love verses the preacher having an arrogant and judgmental heart. In a sense, a preacher is called to break the heart, a pastor to mend it; one concentrates on repentance, the other restoration. Although there can be a mixture of both preacher and teacher in a person, there is often a clear difference. Pastors (and teachers) aim for the mind; preachers aim for the heart, will, and emotions—to stir and to convict. Often…

The pastor builds—the preacher tears.

The pastor counsels—the preacher convicts.

The pastor rejoices—the preacher weeps.

The pastor plants—the preacher uproots.

The pastor teaches—the preacher preaches.

The pastor mends—the preacher breaks.

The pastor is full of hope—the preacher is full of fire.

The pastor loves to listen—the preacher needs to speak.

The pastor sees the good in others—the preacher sees the depravity in man.

The pastor desires to be among the people—the preacher desires to be alone with God.

As the famous Puritan Richard Baxter said, “I preach as a dying man to dying men”… as a dying man to a dying nation. The church, and our nation, desperately needs to hear “the voice crying in the wilderness” to awaken, convict, and restore.

All pastors should ask, “Does the world love the way we ‘do church’?” Do they appreciate that your church never challenges, or calls things into question? Do they like the fact that your church never makes them feel uncomfortable or offended? Are they grateful that you never discuss controversial issues? If so, you may want to reconsider Jesus’ words that true disciples will be hated by the world because they speak the truth, not because they avoid it.

Leonard Ravenhill, in Why Revival Tarries, wrote, “God has always had His specialists whose chief concern has been the moral breakdown of the nation and the church. Such men were Elijah, Jeremiah, Malachi, and others of their kind who appeared at critical moments in history to reprove, rebuke, and exhort in the name of God and righteousness. Such a man is likely to be drastic and radical; the curious crowd that gathers to watch him will soon brand him as extreme, fanatical, and negative…and, in a sense, they are right…for he cannot turn off the burden of the Holy Ghost.”

I pray that God would raise up many humble preachers—men who allow God to shape their sermons and penetrate their hearts to bring America, and the world, to her knees.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9683

Pope Francis Hold Unprecedented Closed-Door End Times Meeting With Head Of The Mormon Church, Prophet President Russell M. Nelson

A visit between a pope and the man considered a prophet by millions of Latter-day Saints would have been unimaginable to leaders and members in both churches 50 years ago. Clandestine olive branches and decades of détente were necessary, according to sources from both faiths interviewed for this story. That is exactly what has happened. In fact, today’s meeting is a culmination of a web of deepening and expanding alliances between the Latter-day Saints and the Roman Catholic Church and its many sister organizations.

by Geoffrey Grider March 9, 2019

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Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church and Prophet President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met today at the Vatican in the first-ever face-to-face discussion between the heads of the two global churches.

During his reign as both king of Vatican City and as the pope of the Catholic Church, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been widening his tent and making preparations for the coming One World Religion of Antichrist. From seducing gullible pawns like Rick Warren who gushingly calls  him ‘our pope’,  all the way up to signing a ‘Universal Peace Document‘ with a high-ranking leader of Islam, Pope Francis is a man on an end times mission.

“For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Revelation 18:3,4 (KJV)

Now a secret, closed-door meeting with the head ‘prophet’ of the Mormon Church, Russell Nelson, reveals the expansion of another end times partnership as the Vatican adds more pieces to their end times chessboard. The Roman harlot is on the move, and trading in the souls in men.

Pope Francis meets with Mormon President Nelson in the Vatican

FROM THE DESERET NEWS: “The differences in doctrine are real and they’re important,” President Nelson said afterward as he stood just outside St. Peter’s Square, “but they’re not nearly as important as the things we have in common — our concern for human suffering, the importance of religious liberty for all of society, and the importance of building bridges of friendship instead of building walls of segregation.”

The two world religious leaders shared a belief that faith in God brings morality and stability to society. “If we have a godless society, we have a rudderless ship,” President Nelson said.

The pope extended the invitation for a private audience to the Latter-day Saint leader in conjunction with President Nelson’s trip this weekend to Italy, where he will dedicate thehistory-making new Rome Italy Temple.

The two men met for 30-35 minutes and also discussed their mutual concern for the youth in their churches, their concern about secularization and the desire for people to worship God, President Nelson said.

President M. Russell Ballard, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, joined President Nelson in the meeting, along with Elder Massimo De Feo, a General Authority Seventy, and Elder Alessandro Dini Ciacci, an Area Seventy. President Nelson’s executive secretary, Mark Woodruff, also attended.

The pope presented President Nelson with two gifts, his declarations on the family and on the Islamic faith. President Nelson gave the pope a Lladro figurine of the Christus statue and a copy of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

After the meeting, the Latter-day Saint leaders smiled as they walked arm in arm down Via della Conciliazione — the Road of the Conciliation — to address a large media contingent with the iconic St. Peter’s Basilica in the background.

The most senior Latter-day Saint leader to meet with a pope before today was President Henry B. Eyring, who was greeted by Pope Francis in November 2014 when both spoke at an international marriage summit at the Vatican. President Eyring then was the first counselor in the First Presidency.

A visit between a pope and the man considered a prophet by millions of Latter-day Saints would have been unimaginable to leaders and members in both churches 50 years ago. Clandestine olive branches and decades of détente were necessary, according to sources from both faiths interviewed for this story. That is exactly what has happened. In fact, today’s meeting is a culmination of a web of deepening and expanding alliances between the Latter-day Saints and the Roman Catholic Church and its many sister organizations.

That growing relationship has intensified during the past decade, resulting in collaborations that now have the two churches working side-by-side all over the world on projects vast and tiny.

The Deseret News conducted more than 20 interviews with people from both faiths around the world, from Bosnia to Rome and from Salt Lake City to Norway, to provide a definitive look at how the churches’ combined efforts are not only helping to resolve differences between their own members but delivering emergency humanitarian aid to some of the world’s most vulnerable people — including many at the U.S.-Mexico border — as well as working to defend religious liberty and to bolster families.

“We explained to His Holiness that we work side by side, that we have projects with Catholic Relief Services all over the world, in over 43 countries,” President Ballard said. “We’ve been shoulder-to-shoulder as partners, and try to relieve suffering, trying to help people that are struggling. He was very interested in that and was very cordial , very kind to us.”

Rome and Salt Lake City

On Thursday, Catholics and Latter-day Saints indeed worked side-by-side to help the homeless and refugees in their respective headquarters, Rome and Salt Lake City.

That appeared impossible in the 1950s when, fearing their own congregations would be scandalized if church members knew they were meeting, the leader of the Latter-day Saints came to Salt Lake City’s Holy Cross Hospital for conversations with the head of the Salt Lake City Catholic diocese.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9676

United Methodist Church Splits Right Down The Middle As Conservatives Vote ‘No’ On LGBTQP ‘One Church Plan’

This was a surprise: The denomination’s bishops, its top clergy, pushed hard for a resolution that would have allowed local congregations, conferences, and clergy to make their own choices about conducting same-sex marriages and ordaining LGBTQ pastors. This proposal, called the “One Church Plan,” was designed to keep the denomination together. Methodist delegates rejected its recommendations, instead choosing the so-called Traditional Plan, which affirmed the denomination’s teachings against homosexuality.

by Geoffrey Grider February 27, 2019

The United Methodist Church voted on Tuesday to toughen its teachings against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and LGBTQ clergy. It must now decide whether it will stay together.

The United Methodist Church pulled off a surprise, no, make that a shocking upset over the forces of spiritual darkness by voting NO on the proposed pro-LGBTQP ‘One Church Plan‘ at meetings that lasted over the weekend and into the past few days. But that victory, tenuous as it may be, comes at the cost of a huge church split right down the middle. Watchers on both sides are predicting a mass exodus of pro-LGBTQP people by the time all the dust from this battle settles.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:3-5 (KJV)

Now granted, the UMC has not been, since the days of John Wesley, anything remotely resembling a real Bible believing church. Their own Book of Discipline says that the “United Methodist Church is part of the holy catholic church…”. But even so, this vote was very, very surprising. Especially to the forces of the LGBTQP who thought for sure this would be a slam-dunk for their agenda.

If you would have said to me 28 years ago when I first got saved, that I would live to see the day where the homosexual and transsexual movement would battle for control of the heart and soul of the professing Christian church, I would have said you were nuts. Stark raving mad. This is still the Church Age, after all, not even the Tribulation! But boy, oh boy, are we being pressed right up against that edge. That can only mean one thing as I see it.

Flight #777 on Titus213 Airlines now boarding…time to go Home.

Conservative Christians Just Retook the United Methodist Church

FROM THE ATLANTIC: At a special conference in St. Louis this week, convened specifically to address divisions over LGBTQ issues, members voted to toughen prohibitions on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.This was a surprise: The denomination’s bishops, its top clergy, pushed hard for a resolution that would have allowed local congregations, conferences, and clergy to make their own choices about conducting same-sex marriages and ordaining LGBTQ pastors. This proposal, called the “One Church Plan,” was designed to keep the denomination together. Methodist delegates rejected its recommendations, instead choosing the so-called Traditional Plan, which affirmed the denomination’s teachings against homosexuality.

This is a consequential vote for the future of the United Methodist Church: Many progressive churches will now almost certainly consider leaving the denomination. It’s also a reminder that many Christian denominations, including mainline groups such as the UMC, are still deeply divided over questions of sexuality and gender identity. While the UMC in the United States is roughly evenly divided between those who identify as traditionalists and those who identify as moderates and liberals, it is also a global organization. Many of the growing communities in the Philippines or countries in Africa are committed to theological teachings against same-sex relationships and marriages.

Self-described traditionalists in the United Methodist Church got the outcome they’ve been fighting for. Still, “I think there’s a lot of grief on all sides,” said Keith Boyette, the head of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and a main proponent of the Traditional Plan, in an interview on Tuesday. Methodists are in mourning for a United Methodist Church that might be on the brink of a mass exodus.

For years, LGBTQ Methodists, clergy, and their supporters have argued that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities should be fully included in the denomination as leaders, and that their families should be recognized. “As someone who has grown up in our Church, as someone who is gay and goes to one of the least religious colleges in the U.S., my evangelism on campus has grown,” said J. J. Warren, a senior at Sarah Lawrence College who hopes to become a Methodist pastor, during the conference on Tuesday. “We have brought people to Jesus … They did not know God could love them, because their churches said God didn’t … If we could be a Church that brings Jesus to people who are told can’t be loved, that’s what I want our Church to be.”

Others in the denomination, however, see LGBTQ issues as a proxy for bigger divisions over biblical teachings. “This is not a political or social kind of difference. It is primarily, for us, a theological difference, and the truth that the Church has been raised up to share,” Boyette said. “When a Church begins to fracture around its compliance with its doctrine and ethics and discipline, it becomes a house divided. It becomes dysfunctional.”

According to its Book of Discipline, the denomination’s collection of laws and doctrines, Methodist pastors are not allowed to conduct same-sex weddings, and “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” cannot be ordained. In practice, however, a number of Methodist clergy and churches have made clear that they disagree with this teaching, at times openly defying it. A lesbian pastor, Karen Oliveto, was even elected a bishop in the Church, a position she still holds even though the denomination’s judicial council later ruled that her marriage to a woman violated Church doctrine. At the same time, other churches remain deeply committed to UMC teachings against same-sex marriage and relationships.

The United Methodist Church, which was formed in a 1968 merger between two denominations, has known for a long time that it would eventually have to address these deeply felt disagreements over LGBTQ issues. At the denomination’s 2016 General Conference, delegates asked UMC bishops to produce recommendations for how the Church should resolve divisions over LGBTQ issues. Over the next three years, Methodist leaders developed the One Church Plan, which would have allowed local pastors and regional conferences to make their own decisions, keeping the denomination together but allowing for diversity in its ranks.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9652

Barna Group Shock Poll Reveals That 47% Of All Christian Millennials Believe That Witnessing The Gospel And Evangelizing Is Wrong

In a study entitled “Reviving Evangelism” the Barna Group, a research center that tracks faith and spirituality in American life, reported that 94% of practicing American Christian agreed that “the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to know Jesus.” On the other hand, the same study found that 47% of Christian millennials believe that evangelism is wrong.

by Geoffrey Grider February 17, 2019

The vast majority of practicing Christian millennials believe that knowing Jesus is “the best thing that could happen to someone,” while nearly half believe evangelizing is wrong, a study conducted by the Barna Group reported.

The command of our apostle Paul, rightly divided and dispensationally correct, is that all born again Christian are to preach, teach and otherwise share the gospel of the grace of God with as many people as is humanly possible. It is a theme and a subject he touches on over, and over and over again. However, your average Laodicean end times church spends precious little time on the doctrines that Jesus and the Holy Spirit gave to Paul during those three and a half years of his “christian college” education in the Damascus wilderness.

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (KJV)

But here at NTEB, we are not confused about the Bible’s crystal-clear command to preach the gospel while breath remains within us. We preach the gospel of the grace of God 24 hours a day everyday through this site, as well as preaching on the streets and in the jails. If you are waiting for the oft-promised ‘end times revival’, you might be waiting quite a long time. But guess what? You can have your very own personal revival that can begin right here and right now! Order yourself a box of our gospel tracts at the bottom of the article, and start evangelising the lost you come in contact with on a daily basis.

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24 (KJV)

Only one life, ’twill soon be past. And only what’s done for Christ will last. Get busy, Christian, and be about the Father’s business. For the night is coming when no man can work.

EVANGELIZING IS WRONG, SAY NEARLY HALF OF CHRISTIAN MILLENNIALS

FROM THE JERUSALEM POST: In a study entitled “Reviving Evangelism” the Barna Group, a research center that tracks faith and spirituality in American life, reported that 94% of practicing American Christian agreed that “the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to know Jesus.”

On the other hand, the same study found that 47% of Christian millennials believe that evangelism is wrong.

Almost half of Millennials (47%) agree at least somewhat that it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith. This is compared to a little over one-quarter of Gen X (27%), and one in five Boomers (19%) and Elders (20%). (Though Gen Z teens were not included in this study, their thoroughly post-Christian posture will likely amplify this stance toward evangelism.) source

Specifically, they believe that it’s “wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes they will one day share the same faith.”  Part of their unwillingness to share their faith, a different Barna study called “Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age” reported, seems to be that the generation entitled millennials believe that people are more likely now to be offended by someone who shares their faith

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9625

United Methodist Church Next In Line To Fall As General Assembly Set To Unveil The ‘One Church Plan’ To Include Unrepentant LGBTQ Members

It’s no secret that the United Methodist Church has been apostate for years. They do not stand on the Scriptures as their authority nor do they hold to an orthodox view of Christ–to them God is a sin-affirming God who accepts people just how they are without repentance. However, officially, the United Methodist Church currently does not allow the ordination of openly LGBTQ clergy–but that appears to be about to change.

by Geoffrey Grider January 25, 2019

February 23 marks the date for a special session of the General Assembly of the United Methodist Church, a gathering of denominational leaders, bishops, and clergy to deliberate the issue of homosexuality and other sexual perversions present in the church.

One by one, we are watching all the Christian denominations bow to the pressure of the LGBTQ Movement. The Presbyterians have already fallen, most of the non-denominationals are lukewarm already, and even some of the Baptist branches are beginning to experience trouble with their Pilot Light. The gospel is just too hard, it offends too many people, and church just cannot grow by preaching Biblical truth. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He gave this Revelation prophecy regarding the professing church to John back in 96 AD about the coming Church of Laodicea. It’s here.

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” Revelation 3:14-18 (KJV)

The end times are indeed upon us, and no, praying for it to “go away” will not work. The current rising darkness is what the Bible says would happen in the last days before the Pretribulation of the Church. Why do you think the Church is taken out? One reason is it has ceased to be salt and light, and therefore has no use any longer. But you can still be on fire for God,  you can still witness and see souls get saved. Get busy, the Master approaches!

United Methodist Church Gearing Up For Full and Official Affirmation And Inclusion of LGBTQ Members And Same-Sex Weddings

FROM REFORMATION CHARLOTTE: A Council of Bishops was asked by the General Assembly in 2016 to begin putting together an LGBTQ inclusion plan for the denomination and in 2018, the One Church Plan was unveiled and has the majority support of the denomination’s bishops. Next month, the plan will officially be voted on and is expected to pass nearly unanimously.

It’s no secret that the United Methodist Church has been apostate for years. They do not stand on the Scriptures as their authority nor do they hold to an orthodox view of Christ–to them God is a sin-affirming God who accepts people just how they are without repentance.

However, officially, the United Methodist Church currently does not allow the ordination of openly LGBTQ clergy–but that appears to be about to change.

The one church plan, touted as “supported by the majority of bishops,” includes several key affirmations of homosexuality and other sexually deviant behaviors as acceptable and normal within the church. According to the website,

This plan, preferred by a majority of the Council of Bishops, would remove restrictive language from the Book of Discipline that prohibits same-gender weddings in UMC properties and ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” It would add language to protect churches and pastors who choose not to allow same-gender marriages.

While there may be some individual local churches who choose not to fully apostatize on the LGBTQ issue, the issue here is a removal of the biblical restriction of sin-infested clergy in the church. In other words, you may be in open rebellion to God and still be fully included and accepted as a leader–both at the local level and the denominational level–so long as your congregation is cool with it. And let’s just be real, if you’re in the UMC, you’re most likely cool with it.

The justification for calling the special assembly lies in their faulty theological understanding of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness.

We are aware that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) persons exist in every nation and every culture in the world, with varying degrees of openness, acceptance, and freedom […] There are, and have been, LGBTQ persons serving at all levels of leadership in the UMC, as laity and clergy. Currently they suffer as they are unable to live into God’s calling on their lives to ordination or to lay leadership.”

The idea is that homosexuals “suffer” when they’re not allowed ordination as clergy. But the Scriptures clearly teach that sexual immorality is the judgment of God and not necessarily the cause (Romans 1). The reason they suffer isn’t because they can’t be ordained, it’s because they are in open rebellion to God and God has given them over to a debased mind.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9591

A Global Religious Shift Underway? What It Means for Christians and Israel

01-02-2019

Christian Ellis

A strong voice for evangelicals around the world says Christians should expect some big changes in the world’s religious landscape this year.

Rev. Johnnie Moore has worked behind the scenes with the US administration and other world leaders, including recent meetings with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and other leaders in Muslim countries.

He tells the Religion News Service we’ll see changes in America’s intersections with faith, along with some global transitions, dynamic alliances, and evangelical growth

For example, Moore pointed out a few days ago on Twitter that persecuted Christians in Egypt are beginning to see some positive signs from the government there. 

Moore, who’s been called “a modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” serves as a commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, president of the Congress of Christian Leaders and an informal spokesperson for the evangelicals who advise the Trump administration. He is the founder of the KAIROS Company, a media relations company representing many influential Christian leaders and organizations.

In his interview with RNS, Moore highlighted the transition of power taking place in multiple historic institutions. Whether politically, academically, or theologically, Moore recognizes the power dynamic shift as “many older millennials will jump their Generation X siblings in being selected for those positions.” 
 
He even feels historic institutions no longer carry the level of dominance they once had, citing the “digital age” as the cause for the major shifts.
 
“The organizations will continue to hold major sway but a different type of sway, which will largely be determined by how they adapt,” Moore said.
 
The digital age – fueled more and more by the proliferation of mobile devices and other forms of technology – is catapulting the world to another dimension of independent thinking and expression. Of course, social media has played a significant role in institutions such as religion and politics. 
 
With individuals having access to more knowledge and methods of expressing their own views, Moore sees a growth in dynamic alliances as many move outside of cultural and institutional norms.
 
Moore cited the recent bipartisan agreement of conservative evangelical advisers to President Trump and liberal CNN host Van Jones about the First Step Act as an example of dynamic alliances taking place.
 
“More practically speaking, in light of the unprecedented bipartisan efforts (and success) of the First Step Act, there will be other such efforts because there is now a bipartisan playbook for our divided moment,” Moore said. “The First Step Act, a justice reform bill, was actually only the most public of several of these successes made possible by certain Democrats who believe ‘resistance’ is un-American and of center-right evangelicals who believe in what the late theologians Carl F.H. Henry and Francis Schaefer called ‘co-belligerency.'” 
 
Moore believes the dynamic alliances will carry over to religion as global interfaith efforts are gradually growing.

He’s expecting increased interfaith exchanges between Christians, Muslims and Jews, and even the Hindu community, stating efforts may even include “the very real possibility that 2019 will likely be the year one or more majority-Muslim, and even Arab, countries — while remaining ever supportive of a Palestinian state — will decide that a resolution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict is not a mandatory prerequisite for detente if not full-on diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.”
 
Other predictions include evangelicalism becoming the second largest stream of global Christianity and Trump utilizing his Senate Republican majority “to stack the courts in the United States with originalist judges.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9553

Survey Reveals Many Christians Deeply Confused About Biblical Theology

By PNW Staff December 05, 2018

Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research has published their most recent State of Theology study, and the results show a confused collection of beliefs held by American Christians and especially evangelicals.

The study consisted of interviews with 3,000 adult Christians and follows similar surveys given in 2014 and 2016. Startlingly high percentages of respondents again revealed clearly heretical beliefs when they were asked about the nature of God and belief, their opinions on certain sins and the role of the Bible.

How much of this heretical belief is the result of poor education in Christian theology and how much indicates the influence of external cultural factors that are slowly warping what millions of Christians across the country believe? That remains to be answered, but the results of these questions show several interesting trends in belief following the previous surveys as well as demographic trends among generations.

To give an example of how the survey exposed heretical beliefs held by the majority of the Christians interviewed, 52% responded that most people are basically good, 51% believe that God accepts the worship of all religions and 78% subscribe to the Arian Heresy, which teaches that Jesus was the first and great being created by God the Father. In fact, Jesus is not a created being; He is God the Son.

Ligonier concluded that “Overall, US adults appear to have a superficial attachment to well-known Christian beliefs. For example, a majority agreed that Jesus died on the cross for sin and that He rose from the dead.” When examining issues of theology that go deeper than these basic Christian beliefs or ask the interviewed Christians to wrestle with difficult ethical issues, their reliance on popular opinion and cultural relativism became clear.

A majority of 59% stated that the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being, and most shocking of all, the survey showed that 62% of American Christians surveyed believe that “religious belief is a matter of personal opinion and not of objective truth.”

A majority still believes that salvation comes through faith rather than good works and although they believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, they also hold contradictory beliefs that put Jesus outside of the Trinity. The belief that Jesus was a created being is a heresy refuted and condemned at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and also at the Council of Constantinople in 381. This belief was held by 71% of Christians in 2016 and rose to78% in 2018, even though it has not been taught in any American church.

Only 52% of Christians identified abortion as a sin and as many as 38% declared it not to be a sin (others were unsure). Likewise, 41% of Christians interviewed believe that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality does not apply today. The effects of cultural relativism are clearly visible here across the spectrum of beliefs.

Christians who classify themselves as evangelical claim they see the Bible as the highest authority, but on other survey questions clear contradictions emerge as 30% of Evangelicals admit that the Bible is open for each individual to interpret as he chooses and as society changes.

In the end, whereas some questions seem to indicate increasingly heretical beliefs and others reflect more orthodox Christian theology, the majority of the survey exposes a deep confusion about Biblical theology in general. As Christians interviewed were easily swayed by changes in question phrasing or the inclusion of certain popular “catchphrases” a general lack of theological knowledge was apparent.

Clearly, there is more work to be done not only to identify as Christian but truly to engage with what that means; to educate ourselves not just on a few theological touchstones or fixate on a few words, but to really understand the Bible as the Word of God.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9491