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Oscar Siwali is mobilizing conflict mediators as the country goes to the polls. He only wishes his organization could train more.

Oscar Siwali remembers watching Nelson Mandela’s triumphant walk as he left prison after 27 years. In 1990, as the young pastor of a Baptist church, Siwali saw himself as an evangelical focused on winning souls and tending to his flock’s spiritual needs, not needing to prioritize political concerns. Nonetheless, he shared the pride of his people’s successful anti-apartheid activism that demanded “Free South Africa Now,” an outcry that inspired worldwide solidarity.

But just three years later, a far-right white nationalist assassinated Chris Hani, the charismatic leader of the African National Congress (ANC)—an attack that threatened to derail South Africa’s transition from the oppressive white-minority rule to a democratic government that represented the entire country.

When Hani’s murder threatened to unleash a civil war that South Africans had labored so many decades to avoid, Siwali, like fellow Christian leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu, realized his faith compelled him to action. He began to preach peace in his sermons and to talk to those who had taken to the streets.

“I saw a different way of the work that I was called into, where I wasn’t just in service from the pulpit,” Siwali said. “That was truly my first revelation in seeing the importance of the clergy being out there, engaging with people … and [figuratively] taking that pulpit and placing it in the center of a community.”

In 2013, Siwali founded SADRA, a faith-based organization that trains people of all ages and backgrounds to be conflict mediators in their communities. It also has special programs for local church leaders, whom SADRA believes can be most effective in areas prone ...

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Federal appeals courts are starting to wrestle with how nondiscrimination laws apply to religious organizations when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity.

After sustaining a court defeat in November, this week Christian humanitarian aid organization World Vision appealed an employment discrimination case to the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. A lower federal judge had set damages at $120,000 in the case earlier this month after ruling that the organization discriminated when it decided not to hire a job candidate in a gay marriage.

The case shows that gears are beginning to turn in federal appeals courts on the unresolved issue of how federal nondiscrimination law applies to religious organizations when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. World Vision’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit follows a ruling this month from the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in favor of a Catholic high school in a similar situation.

The courts are specifically considering the implications of the 2020 US Supreme Court ruling Bostock v. Clayton County. In that case, the high court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to gender identity and sexual orientation. The question for appeals courts now: What is the balance between religious liberty and those new Title VII protections against discrimination?

A federal district court judge ruled in November 2023 that World Vision had violated Title VII when it rescinded a job offer for a customer service position from a woman, Aubry McMahon, after learning about her same-sex marriage. World Vision had argued that the employment decision was justified because it has written standards of conduct that marriage is between a man and a woman. The judge had earlier ruled in favor of World Vision and then reversed his own ruling with a 47-page order.

Lawyers CT interviewed at the time said ...

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Gospel music is soaring in popularity in Brazil, leading artists with little Christian background to release worship songs and pastors to mull motives.

“Dwell in me, Jesus,” sings Ana Castela in “Agradeço” (I Thank You), a single the 20-year-old Brazilian pop star released in December. The lyrics resemble words that evangelical congregations sing in contemporary church services across the country: I surrender, I trust, I accept, and I thank you.

Castela emerged on Brazil’s music scene two years ago and is also known as “the Boiadeira” (Cowgirl), the title of her first hit, which features lyrics like, “She gave up wine for beer, the preppy girl became a cowgirl.” The majority of her music focuses on relationships, betrayals, and drinking (themes common in sertanejo, a local genre that somewhat resembles American country music).

Though she grew up Catholic and occasionally sang at evangelical youth services as a teenager, Castela broke into the industry as a mainstream pop star. “Agradeço” is her first Christian single as a solo artist. (It also marked the debut of Agropraise, a Christianized branch of the sertanejo label Agromusic.)

The Boiadeira is one of an increasing number of mainstream artists crossing into the Christian market and debuting gospel and worship tracks over the past decade. In 2022, Simone, from the sertanejo duo Simone and Simaria, sang “Sobre as Águas” (Over the Water) with Christian contemporary artist Davi Sacer. In 2021, forró singer Wesley Safadão performed with the band Casa Worship in “Deus tem um plano” (God Has a Plan). In 2018, pop singer Luan Santana and the sertanejo duo Marcos & Belutti recorded versions of well-known gospel songs.

Since 2015, Brazilian gospel music—gospel referring in this context to a generalized ...

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Furiosa begins with a retelling of the biblical Fall. After its apocalypse comes something new.

One of the first lines of dialogue in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a question: “As the world falls around us, how must we brave its cruelties?”

Across its 148-minute running time, Furiosa offers various responses to that inquiry, presenting a post-apocalyptic set of scenarios bound in blood, gasoline, and bullets. Ultimately, the film settles on hope—however foolish it may seem—as the only way forward. The desolation of what’s old, it insists, can make a way for ‘all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

George Miller returns to direct this spinoff and prequel to his thunderous 2015 epic, Mad Max: Fury Road. That film took place over the course of three days and two nights; Furiosa occurs over almost two decades, told in five pulse-pounding chapters. Miller takes his time exploring the transformation of an innocent young girl into the liberation warrior we find in Fury Road.

We first meet an adolescent Furiosa (Alyla Browne) with her mother (Charlee Fraser) in their home, the Green Place of Many Mothers. The rest of the world is a barren wasteland, ravaged by the compounding effects of climate change and nonstop warfare. The Green Place, by contrast, is a literal Garden of Eden, rife with foliage, wildlife, and fresh water. In a playful riff on the Genesis story, Furiosa opens the film by picking a ripe peach from a tree.

All too soon, paradise is lost. Marauders kidnap Furiosa, seeking to bring knowledge of the Green Place to their leader, Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), a cruel and histrionic warlord who dreams of plundering the abundance for himself. Unable to save her daughter, Furiosa’s mother gives her a peach pit to remember home by and urges her to find her way back. From the moment Furiosa ...

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I should have invited Ruth to our wedding—to acknowledge how much our ordinary moments point to the story of Christ.

This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

On Monday of next week, my wife, Maria, and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. As I think about those two kids standing at the altar, I would want to say “I do” all over again to everything. One of the very few exceptions would be one decision that had to do with the wedding, not with the marriage. After 30 years, I’ve changed my mind about the biblical text I wouldn’t let us read.

Somebody suggested that we read at the ceremony a passage from the Old Testament book of Ruth, one that we heard read or sung at almost every wedding at the time. In the King James Version (which was what people almost always used), the text reads, “Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (1:16). It’s about the young widow Ruth from Moab, pledging to her dead husband’s mother, Naomi, that she would go with her to Naomi’s homeland of Israel.

I believed then, and still do, that all Scripture is inspired and “profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16, ESV throughout), but I didn’t think that particular Scripture was appropriate for a wedding.

“It’s not about marriage,” I said. “It’s about someone taking a trip with her mother-in-law.” I wanted something about the mystery of Christ in Ephesians 5 or about love from Song of Songs or about Jesus at the wedding at Cana. I could even have lived, I said, with 1 Corinthians 13. Of all of the things about the wedding ceremony, I only insisted on two—that we use the traditional vows and that we read some other text than that one. You could say that I was ...

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Believers in the diaspora reference Daniel and the “writing on the wall” as many mull if helicopter accident portends more changes to come.

Iranian Christians in the diaspora shed few tears over the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, killed in a helicopter crash along with the foreign minister and six others in the northwest mountains of Iran.

The leadership vacuum will be filled within 50 days by a new election. But it comes at a tumultuous time for the Islamic Republic, which last month launched an unprecedented missile attack against Israel. Coming in the context of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Iran’s other proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen have harassed the Jewish state and its Western allies.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared five days of mourning, assuring there would be no change in the nation’s direction.

Raisi’s term in office was beset by internal protests over religious repression, alongside discontent with an inflationary economy. But while he oversaw restoration of diplomatic ties with rival Saudi Arabia, relations with the West severely deteriorated due to strengthening ties with Russia and China, as Iran enriched its uranium supply in suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

“Countless thousands of Christians are specifically praying for God’s will in Iran,” said Lana Silk, CEO of Transform Iran, which oversees a network of churches in the nation. “I believe his hand is on all these key events.”

She advised the Western church to pray for new God-fearing leadership.

Of the now deceased leader, Christians expressed a diverse emotional response.

“From all of my contacts, the reaction among educated and socially engaged Iranians is joy,” said Shirin Taber, executive director of Empower Women Media, dedicated to the promotion of international religious freedom. “With the ...

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On praying past the end of silver linings to a God who often does not answer as I hope.

Around the bonfire at church camp on the Oregon coast, we sang “River of Life” to get warmed up, and then, to mellow the mood for the gospel presentation, “Seek Ye First.” A haunting descant rose over the melody, swelling my 12-year-old heart with grateful longing. I walked forward to accept Jesus into my heart, and a counselor prayed for me, shadows from the flames flickering across our faces.

Back home again, I needed to learn how to pray. I thought it was weird for the Lord to expect me, gangly and grappling with my fleshly nature, to carry on what felt like a nonreciprocal relationship with an invisible, inscrutable, and ineffable God—but I was willing to give it a shot.

Only I couldn’t tell if I was doing it right. “God is not a vending machine,” our youth minister told us. “You have to pray according to his will.” So I began by asking for help in various areas of self-improvement: I should be nice to my brother. I should have a cheerful attitude when vacuuming with the heavy canister Electrolux and not slam my bedroom door when I got mad. I needed to avoid Judy Blume books that celebrated masturbation and stop sneaking the M&Ms my mom hid in the freezer. God, please help me to be better.

My self-examination concluded, I tendered other requests, like to make the premier soccer team and for a boy to return a crush. When those things didn’t happen, I swallowed a slight doubt. Perhaps James 4:3 was at play here: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Maybe I had bad motives.

Much else went unasked because I didn’t know how to say ...

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Rebecca McLaughlin takes care to filter their legitimate claims from their flawed assumptions.

Maybe you believe that the Bible opposes same-sex sexual relationships. Where in the Bible would you begin to explain your view? Maybe you doubt that the Bible opposes same-sex sexual relationships. Where in the Bible would you begin to build an argument for affirmation? Or maybe you are unsure whether the Bible affirms or opposes same-sex sexual relationships. Where in the Bible would you begin to inquire about the matter?

Whichever position you might find yourself in, Rebecca McLaughlin’s new book will point you to precisely the place in the Bible where you should begin—with the gospel and Jesus. More about that in a bit.

The book, Does the Bible Affirm Same-Sex Sexual Relationships? Examining 10 Claims about Scripture and Sexuality, brings together two recent trends of books by evangelical writers.

One trend is believers who experience same-sex sexual attraction, or self-identify as “gay,” writing first-person accounts about their journeys of faith and sexuality. This trend includes: Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting (2010); Christopher Yuan’s Out of a Far Country (2011); Rosaria Butterfield’s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (2012); Gregory Coles’s Single, Gay, Christian (2017); Jackie Hill Perry’s Gay Girl, Good God (2018); David Bennett’s A War of Loves (2018); and Rachel Gilson’s Born Again This Way (2020).

These writers, each in their own style, recount their calling to be followers of Jesus and consider how to live and love faithfully and fruitfully according to the gospel. Together, they set forth a spiritual vision of holiness and righteousness that is relevant for every believer and the whole church.

Another trend is scholars and pastors writing ...

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While the ACNA hasn’t offered public updates on a trial for Stewart Ruch’s abuse response, Todd Atkinson, a bishop appointed to assist him, has been deposed over inappropriate relationships.

Nearly three years ago, Bishop Stewart Ruch of the Anglican Church in North America’s Diocese of the Upper Midwest admitted “regrettable errors” in handling sexual abuse allegations against a lay minister, before taking a leave of absence. An acting bishop took over the diocese and another ACNA bishop, Todd Atkinson, was tapped to assist him.

But Ruch’s absence hasn’t quelled the simmering controversy in the diocese, a sliver of the small, theologically conservative denomination that split from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada in 2009 over those two denominations’ acceptance of LGBTQ clergy and marriage for same-sex couples.

On Monday, a group of ACNA clergy published an open letter expressing concern that there have not been public updates about a promised church trial for Ruch since November 2023. The letter pushes for regular updates on the trial’s progress and for information about why Ruch has not been inhibited, or limited in his duties, because of his alleged laxity in the past.

On the same day, Atkinson, the assisting bishop, was removed from ordained ministry after a church trial found he had engaged in inappropriate relationships with women and interactions with minors.

Atkinson’s misconduct dates back to at least 2012, six years before he joined ACNA, according to the church court’s order. In 2014, Atkinson began overseeing a Canadian church planting initiative called Via Apostolica that was later grafted into ACNA’s Diocese of the Upper Midwest in 2020. The church court found Monday that Atkinson repeatedly fostered exploitative relationships with multiple women under the guise of being their “spiritual father.”

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Her final work was continually revised but never finished. Can we know what she was aiming to achieve?

Flannery O’Connor was an inveterate rewriter, working, reworking, and deleting episodes from her stories and novels. Her archives, collected at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, bulge with deleted scenes and alternate versions of characters scarcely recognizable as the people who inhabit the published versions of her stories.

O’Connor spent five years crafting Wise Blood, her first novel. It took her seven years to complete a draft of her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away—and it was only 45,000 words long! (In her defense, she was simultaneously producing some of the best short stories ever written.)

When O’Connor died in 1964 at the age of 39, she left behind scraps and pieces of a third novel called Why Do the Heathen Rage?—a dozen or so episodes repetitively, even obsessively rewritten. In the early 1980s, the scholar Marian Burns described these literary oddments as “an untidy jumble of ideas and abortive starts, full scenes written and rewritten many times, several extraneous images, and one fully developed character.”

In the intervening decades, Why Do the Heathen Rage? has been mostly ignored. But in the last few years, author and Pepperdine University professor Jessica Hooten Wilson has dived into that untidy jumble, hoping to make sense of it for the rest of us. The result is Flannery O’Connor’s “Why Do the Heathen Rage?”: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at a Work in Progress, a book that alternates between Wilson’s explanatory essays and scenes from the novel that might have been.

Editorial choices

The manuscripts from O’Connor’s archives totaled 378 typed pages dispersed over 20 file folders, in no particular order. ...

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Hosanna AME Church
2418 Castleton Road
Darlington, MD 21034
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The mission of our church is to minister to the spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, and environmental needs of all people by spreading the good news of Christ's redeeming gospel through the preached word and outreach ministries and activities. Christ has called us to seek and to save all those who will believe and call on the name of Jesus and accept Him as Savior and Lord!

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Lasted updated 10/14/2023

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