Saturday, May 29, 2010

Unplugged and Recruiting

*Sounds like a cult to me

Unplugged Christians living off the grid

Summer Lake, Oregon (CNN) -- As the sun rises, cool blues and grays begin their slow transition to glowing golds and ambers. Like a child's pop-up book, dimension is added and a valley is transformed.

To look upon this beauty in the western U.S. state of Oregon is to understand what people mean when they say this is God's country, and that's exactly why Brother Gregory lives here.

He is part of a wider movement of conservative Christians who are choosing to live their lives on the edge of society, unplugged from civilization as much as they can, living under basic biblical principles.

Brother Gregory -- the "Brother" is more of a nickname than an occupational title -- ministers from the Oregon desert where he lives with his wife, some of his grown children and grandchildren.

Like other conservative Christians in this growing movement, Brother Gregory believes that Christianity has strayed too far from its roots, and has given its role in people's lives over to the government -- as with welfare programs or health care.

"We are not living off the grid as much as we are creating a new grid, a more wholesome grid," he said.

"We are following a different path that we think is healthier, promotes better families, and better communities."

He doesn't believe a church needs four walls and a roof. Rather, a church is people who believe in taking care of each other -- living under the biblical principles of faith, hope and charity.
Making the government an idol is the problem.

"Christians should be looking for a way to take care of one another without forcing their neighbor to contribute to their welfare. In essence that's coveting your neighbor's goods through the agency of the governments you create."

And that is a sin.

Brother Gregory runs the web site for "His Holy Church," and he explains that he is not what you would typically think of as a minister. He doesn't regularly get up and speak before a congregation, for example.

"'His Holy Church' is a phrase. It's 'His', meaning Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ established the Church 2,000 years ago. It's 'Holy' because it's separate. It's separate from the world. It's in the world but not of the world. And it's a 'Church', which actually comes from the Greek 'ekklesia', meaning 'called out'. They're called out to do the will of Jesus Christ and the Father in Heaven."

Brother Gregory, a shepherd in the literal sense at his ranch in Summer Lake, Oregon, sees echoes of that in his religious life as a minister.

"Sheep teach the shepherd to be a good shepherd," he says, "and in that sense, that's what people need. They need a good shepherd who's not going to rule over them but guide them in the good ways, the ways of life."

There are others with similar views to Brother Gregory. But while Brother Gregory is content spreading his gospel over the internet and simply living out his life on his ranch in Oregon, these Christians take things a step further.

There is a group called Christian Exodus, and while they too believe modern Christianity is corrupt, they are a little more fired up about the role government plays. Mainly, that it shouldn't have any role at all.

Keith Humphrey is the executive director of Christian Exodus. His long Amish-style beard gives a very visible clue to his beliefs. He would love to live in simpler times, when government was virtually non-existent.

"Making the government an idol is the problem. That's what stands in the way of Christian sanctification," Humphrey says. "It's hands off mainly things like our family, our children, our bodies, our health, and even our money, the fruits of our labor. These don't belong to government."

Christian Exodus considers itself a movement. In 2004, it tried to get its members -- some 1,500 or so who have signed up online -- to move together to South Carolina, form a community and secede from the United States.

"We originally anticipated thousands and thousands of people overwhelming these smaller counties," Humphrey says. "We had people moving, that were moving, but they were kind of putting the cart before the horse, because they weren't living independently. They were just showing up and saying 'Okay, where's my house and where's my job?' We're like, 'Uh, no, it doesn't work like that. '"

When the idea didn't work out, Christian Exodus then started trying to pull members together into micro-communities, through social networking, and encouraging its members to live through what it calls 'personal secession'.

"Personal secession are things like homeschooling, house churches, home gardening, home-based economics, just regaining privacy and a sense of community rather than worrying about what's going on in Washington, D.C... What's the latest thing from the Supreme Court?

"You know, who cares? I don't care about what they're saying in D.C. because they don't represent me hardly more than Pyongyang."

His Holy Church and Christian Exodus each say it is hard to track how many followers they may have, because many people who believe in their movements also don't like to be tracked.

They live "off the grid" in every aspect. But each group has thousands of members signed up online, and each says many more could be unregistered followers. They exist on the edge of society, living as they believe Christians did in the beginning.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Worldwide Death Rates Drop For Children

Global Death Rates Drop for Children 5 or Younger
The New York Times
By Denise Grady

Death rates in children under 5 are dropping in many countries at a surprisingly fast pace, according to a new report based on data from 187 countries from 1970 to 2010.

Worldwide, 7.7 million children are expected to die this year — still an enormous number, but a vast improvement over the 1990 figure of 11.9 million.

On average, death rates have dropped by about 2 percent a year from 1990 to 2010, and in many regions, even some of the poorest in Africa, the declines have started to accelerate, according to the report, which is being published online Sunday by The Lancet, a medical journal. Some parts of Latin America, north Africa and the Middle East have had declines as steep as 6 percent a year.

Other reports in recent years have found similar trends, but the new article, based on more detailed information and what its authors say are improved statistical methods, paints the most optimistic picture yet. Health experts say the figures mean that global efforts to save children’s lives have started working, better and faster than expected.

Vaccines, AIDS medicines, vitamin A supplements, better treatment of diarrhea and pneumonia, insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria and more education for women are among the factors that have helped lower death rates, said Dr. Christopher J. L. Murray, an author of the report and the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, in Seattle. He said the improvements in Africa were especially encouraging. “The very slow progress in Africa has led some people in global health to argue there should be more emphasis on tackling child mortality outside of Africa, especially India,” Dr. Murray said in an interview. “We think it’s important to call out this accelerated progress. The last thing we’d like to see, when at last something is happening, is to pull the plug and move elsewhere.”

The United Nations has set a goal of reducing death rates in children under 5 by two-thirds from 1990 to 2015, but not many countries seem to be on track to reach it.

A third of all deaths in children occur in south Asia, and half in sub-Saharan Africa. Newborns account for 41 percent of those who die. The lowest death rates, per 1,000 births, are in Singapore (2.5) and Iceland (2.6); the highest are in Equatorial Guinea (180.1) and Chad (168.7). In rich countries, some of the worst rates are in the United States (6.7) and Britain (5.3).

Dr. Mickey Chopra, the chief of health for Unicef, said countries with governments that had “fully supported child survival and primary care” had improved quickly, and he cited Malawi, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda. In addition, he said Botswana had scaled up treatment for H.I.V. and for preventing mother-to-child transmission, and was seeing child mortality rates decline as a result. Zambia also had significant declines, he said, because 75 percent of families had received bed nets to prevent malaria.

But he said the improvements could easily be reversed, because the underlying poverty in many countries had not changed. “If we don’t continue to do these interventions and fund these interventions, we’ll start to see an increase again,” Dr. Chopra warned.

In addition, he said, “There are places where we’re very worried because of conflict, such as Chad, where the immunization rates are too low, less than 20 percent, and also parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Dr. Flavia Bustreo, director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, a group administered by the World Health Organization, said that an important factor in the improvements was “reduced fertility” — women having fewer children, and leaving more than two years between pregnancies, which both increase their children’s odds for survival. Dr. Bustreo noted that nearly a million babies a year died from asphyxia at birth, for lack of simple, routine resuscitation measures. Focusing on those techniques could save many lives, she said.

Dr. Murray’s report was based on official birth and death records, census data and information from detailed surveys in many countries. The research was paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ministry Stashes Weapons

*Article below was first spotted on Religion News Blog

Police hunt religious leaders over weapon stash
By Jason Om

Police are hunting three leaders of an international religious group after raids in Adelaide uncovered a stash of guns, detonators and ammunition.

South Australian fraud investigators are also examining payments from members who gave money to Agape Ministries International.

Police say there is no evidence the group is a doomsday cult but allege the group was amassing weapons and planning to move to a Pacific island.

Twelve properties linked to the group have been raided, including one at Mount Magnificent south of Adelaide.

Four men from South Australia have been charged with firearms offences and will appear in court at a later date.

Detective Superintendent Jim Jeffery from the South Australia Police's Commercial and Electronic Crime Branch says it is unknown why the group was stockpiling weapons.

"We know that there's suggestions and by the looks of the shipping container they were having plans to relocate overseas, but of course we don't know the reasons for stockpiling weapons or why they were secreting ammunition inside those containers," he said.

"Located within a shipping container on that property was prohibited weapons - extendable batons, slow burning fuses, detonators and detonator cords.

"There was also about 20,000 rounds of ammunition, some of which is high-powered and that ammunition was hidden within the steel frames of some bed heads."

Police say the group was also amassing money, collected from more than 50 of its members.

"The ministry's built up a substantial amount of funds and those funds have been obviously provided by its membership or by its followers by selling up their properties or by pledging funds to that church," Detective Superintendent Jeffery said.

"Obviously the aspect of the inquiry now is to ascertain whether those funds have been used by the ministry as per the expectations of the people who have given them the money."

George Kruszewski runs a student hostel opposite the Agape headquarters and has watched people gathering for regular Sunday services over the past nine years.

He says he used to talk to the group's leader, Rocco Leo, and has attended one of Mr Leo's services.

"He was putting himself up as being a person who's a great healer and a person who's got authority and all that sort of thing," he said.

"It didn't attract me. It was all sort of getting people in there and making them feel like as if this guy's got all the answers."

There has been strong speculation about the nature of the group. At a media conference this afternoon, Detective Superintendent Jeffery was asked if the group was a cult preparing for the end of the world.

"That would be more speculative. As I said, we've got no concrete evidence of that," he said.

"Yes, we've located the ammunition, we've located some breaches of the firearms act with some of the firearms that were in existence, we're still looking for some other firearms.

"But there's no direct proof or direct links to say that they are going along the lines [of world domination]."

Police are now looking for the group's key leadership group, which they say could be interstate or overseas.

Agape Ministries International is listed on the Australian Business Register as a charitable institution.

The ABC has tried to call the Agape Ministries centres listed in South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia but was unable to contact anyone.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


2 Timothy 2:1-4
1) Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2) And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses,
the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
3) Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4) No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this
life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

Persecution comes in many forms. It could be happening in your work place right now. You may be a preacher in a hostile political environment, perhaps in a place where Christians are a minority--and you fear for your very life. Some people into the occult will deliberately target Christians and harass them--it happens more often than a lot of people think. Persecution can arise even from members of your on family.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

The scripture above is such a good verse to dwell on and remember. God can withstand any foe, any enemy which comes our way. But He will allow persecution to come against us, and it will come in different forms. Take comfort that the Greater One is on our side, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Ephesians 6:10-18
10) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11) Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13) Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14) Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15) And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16) Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18) Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

You know, at times it seems some of us lose the war, and we see the brethren fall from a particular battle. We will not always get what we desire; and things may not turn out in a way which makes sense to our natural minds. But if you have received salvation through Jesus Christ, you will never truly lose.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Minister Resigns In The Midst of Controversy

Anti-gay activist, Christian minister George Rekers caught in gay escort scandal resigns from NARTH

By Michael Sheridan

A Baptist minister who campaigned against gay rights, only to be snared in a scandal after taking a trip through Europe with a gay hooker, has resigned from a group dedicated to helping those "who struggle with unwanted homosexuality."

George Rekers announced his resignation with a statement posted to the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality's Web site.

"I am immediately resigning my membership in NARTH to allow myself the time necessary to fight the false media reports that have been made against me," the statement said. "I will fight these false reports because I have not engaged in any homosexual behavior whatsoever. I am not gay and never have been."

NARTH, a group which suggests on its Web site that homosexuality is directly associated with pedophilia and can offer a cure for homosexuals, has also removed the minister's writings from its site.

Rekers was spotted leaving Miami International Airport on April 13 with a 20-year-old he allegedly met on a gay escort Web site, the Miami New Times reported.

Contacted by the newspaper, Rekers claimed he was ignorant of his traveling companion's profession when he hired him for a 10-day European vacation.

"I had surgery," Rekers told the newspaper, "and I can't lift luggage. That's why I hired him."

Rekers has slammed the Miami New Times' reporting as "slanderous," and full of "misleading innuendo."

Last week, the newspaper featured an interview with Rekers' escort, "Lucien," in which he claimed the minister liked daily nude body rubs.

The Family Research Council, which Rekers helped co-found in 1983, has also distanced itself from the beleaguered minister.

"FRC has had no contact with Dr. Rekers or knowledge of his activities in over a decade," the organization stated on its Web site.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Evangelist Murdered In India

Evangelist brutally murdered in India's Bihar state

An evangelist who helped screen the "JESUS" film in eastern India's Bihar state was brutally murdered May 2, reports Baptist Press.

Reported details of the murder vary. The International Christian Concern human rights group reported May 5 that Ravi Murmu and members of his team had completed the screening and started their journeys home. Along the way, the evangelist separated from the rest of the team to take a shortcut home. When he failed to arrive by late evening, a search was organized and his body was found with his right hand severed and deep cuts on his neck and other parts of his body.

The All India Christian Council, however, reported that the team's generator developed problems during the screening and the evangelist went to fix the problem but did not return.

Robbery apparently was not the motive because the attackers in the incident, which occurred in Laxmanpur, didn't take any of the evangelist's belongings, including his motor bike, cell phone and watch.

Police took the body to a hospital for a post mortem exam, after which the family was able to take the body, ICC reported.

Murmu (listed as age 28 by ICC, 30 by the Indian council) is survived by his wife Rinku, an 8-year-old daughter Celesty and his widowed mother.

Murmu's brother Shailendra, who also is an evangelist, was asked how the family is coping with the murder and answered, "The peace of God still reigns in this house and in this family," ICC reported.

Ravi Murmu was an evangelist working with Brethren Church, according to the All India Christian Council's website. Two people reportedly have been detained by police in connection with the murder.

India's website says Bihar's 83 million people are 84 percent Hindu, 16.5 percent Muslim and .06 percent Christian. Religious violence, which often is connected to Hinduism's traditional caste system, is a chronic problem in the state.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Baptist Preacher Arrested For Preaching

*This article was published on the Religion News Blog recently. Clicking on the link will bring you to the article, which also offers a video (I have not seen as I am on dialup.)

Christian preacher arrested for saying homosexuality is a sin

Dale McAlpine was charged with causing “harassment, alarm or distress” after a homosexual police community support officer (PCSO) overheard him reciting a number of “sins” referred to in the Bible, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships.

The 42-year-old Baptist, who has preached Christianity in Wokington, Cumbria for years, said he did not mention homosexuality while delivering a sermon from the top of a stepladder, but admitted telling a passing shopper that he believed it went against the word of God.

Police officers are alleging that he made the remark in a voice loud enough to be overheard by others and have charged him with using abusive or insulting language, contrary to the Public Order Act.
Christian campaigners have expressed alarm that the Public Order Act, introduced in 1986 to tackle violent rioters and football hooligans, is being used to curb religious free speech.

Mr McAlpine was handing out leaflets explaining the Ten Commandments or offering a “ticket to heaven” with a church colleague on April 20, when a woman came up and engaged him in a debate about his faith.

During the exchange, he says he quietly listed homosexuality among a number of sins referred to in 1 Corinthians, including blasphemy, fornication, adultery and drunkenness.

After the woman walked away, she was approached by a PCSO who spoke with her briefly and then walked over to Mr McAlpine and told him a complaint had been made, and that he could be arrested for using racist or homophobic language.

The street preacher said he told the PCSO: “I am not homophobic but sometimes I do say that the Bible says homosexuality is a crime against the Creator”.

He claims that the PCSO then said he was homosexual and identified himself as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaison officer for Cumbria police. Mr McAlpine replied: “It’s still a sin.”

The preacher then began a 20 minute sermon, in which he says he mentioned drunkenness and adultery, but not homosexuality. Three regular uniformed police officers arrived during the address, arrested Mr McAlpine and put him in the back of a police van.

He was later interviewed, charged under Sections 5 (1) and (6) of the Public Order Act and released on bail on the condition that he did not preach in public.

Mr McAlpine pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing on Friday at Wokingham magistrates court and is now awaiting a trial date.

The Public Order Act, which outlaws the unreasonable use of abusive language likely to cause distress, has been used to arrest religious people in a number of similar cases.

*Click here to read more:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Survey On Young People & Faith

Survey: 72% of Millennials 'More Spiritual Than Religious'
By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

Most young adults today don't pray, don't worship and don't read the Bible, a major survey by a Christian research firm shows.

If the trends continue, "the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships," says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. In the group's survey of 1,200 18- to 29-year-olds, 72% say they're "really more spiritual than religious."

Among the 65% who call themselves Christian, "many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only," Rainer says. "Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith."

Key findings in the phone survey, conducted in August and released today:

•65% rarely or never pray with others, and 38% almost never pray by themselves either.

•65% rarely or never attend worship services.

•67% don't read the Bible or sacred texts.

Many are unsure Jesus is the only path to heaven: Half say yes, half no.

"We have dumbed down what it means to be part of the church so much that it means almost nothing, even to people who already say they are part of the church," Rainer says.

The findings, which document a steady drift away from church life, dovetail with a LifeWay survey of teenagers in 2007 who drop out of church and a study in February by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which compared the beliefs of Millennials with those of earlier generations of young people.

The new survey has a margin of error of +/-2.8 percentage points.

Even among those in the survey who "believe they will go to heaven because they have accepted Jesus Christ as savior":

•68% did not mention faith, religion or spirituality when asked what was "really important in life."

•50% do not attend church at least weekly.

•36% rarely or never read the Bible.

Neither are these young Christians evangelical in the original meaning of the term — eager to share the Gospel. Just 40% say this is their responsibility.

Even so, Rainer is encouraged by the roughly 15% who, he says, appear to be "deeply committed" Christians in study, prayer, worship and action.

Collin Hansen, 29, author of Young, Restless, Reformed, about a thriving minority of traditionalist Christians, agrees. "I'm not going to say these numbers aren't true and aren't grim, but they also drive people like me to build new, passionately Christian dynamic churches," says Hansen, who is studying for the ministry. He sees many in his generation veering to "moralistic therapeutic deism — 'God wants you to be happy and do good things.' ... I would not call that Christianity, however."

The 2007 LifeWay study found seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30, both evangelical and mainline, who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23. And 34% of those had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30.

The Pew survey found young people today were significantly more likely than those in earlier generations to say they didn't identify with any religious group. Neither are Millennials any more likely than earlier generations to turn toward a faith affiliation as they grow older.