Services raided in Kyrgyzstan, warnings of ‘illegal’ activity

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (TAB, F18) — Several state agencies recently raided the Russian Orthodox cathedral in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, seemingly part of a series of raids and inspections on religious communities between January and April. The “campaign” warned of “illegal” religious activity to at least one individual in the capital’s Sverdlovsk District. According to Protestants in the area, the secret police warned churches to reduce their activity and stop handing out religious literature. One Russian Orthodox church member told Forum 18 News, “The authorities are using these inspections to try to bring religious affairs under greater control.”
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Hagee misinterprets lunar eclipses, Baptist professors say

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Two Southern Baptist professors have challenged John Hagee’s “blood moon” interpretation. Hagee predicted that a “world shaking event” will occur after four consecutive complete lunar eclipses (known as a tetrad) finish in September. Ben Merkle, associate professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., said televangelist Hagee’s predication ignores “apocalyptic literature” — Scripture portions that use a figure of speech not meant to be interpreted in a “literalistic manner.” Bruce Gordon, associate professor of the history and philosophy of science at Houston Baptist University, said in an interview with Baptist Press, “The whole business of discerning ‘signs in the heavens’ related to human affairs smacks either of astrology or pointless speculation about eschatological prophecies in Scripture.”
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To read more, see an upcoming issue of The Alabama Baptist.

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‘Devastating milestone’ reached amid Syrian refugee crisis

BEIRUT, Lebanon (TAB, BP) — The Syrian refugee crisis has grown to vast proportions, and Southern Baptists are among those falling behind in providing resources because of the crisis’ great demand.
Lebanon now holds nearly half of the 2.5 million registered refugees who have fled from Syria to five neighboring countries: Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan and Iraq.
As relief agencies are struggling to keep up with the enormous need — the U.N. Food Programme has since cut its food aid to Syrians by a fifth because of lack of funds — the agencies and other non-governmental entities are determining ways to meet the needs of Syrians in Lebanon and Christian workers are developing new strategies to reach hurting people.
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To read more, visit www.thealabamabaptist.org.

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Housing allowance: ERLC, IMB, GuideStone urge court to uphold ministerial provision

Washington (TAB, BP) — The ministerial housing allowance — the “most important tax benefit available to ministers,” according to GuideStone Financial Resources — is getting legal support from three Southern Baptist Convention entities.
A judge ruled in late 2013 that the allowance violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on government establishment of religion but blocked enforcement of her opinion until the appeals process is complete.
Now the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the International Mission Board and GuideStone have all signed on to friend-of-the court briefs in support of the allowance.
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To read more, visit www.thealabamabaptist.org.

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Did you see this week’s cartoon in The Alabama Baptist?

Thanks to Joe McKeever for providing a weekly cartoon for the paper.

Thanks to Joe McKeever for providing a weekly cartoon for the paper.

Tell us which cartoon is your favorite so far! Comment below.

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Two Pastors in Bhutan Jailed without Charges

THIMPHU, Bhutan (Morning Star News, TAB) — Bhutanese authorities arrested pastors M.B. Thapa and Tandin Wangyal March 5. They have spent more than a month in jail and have not yet been formally charged with a crime. Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs Damcho Dorji said that the two pastors were trying to coercively “proselytize” and had not obtained permission to hold a public gathering, though area police chief Pema Wangdi reportedly ruled out a proselytizing charge. “We found no evidence to show they were [forcibly] converting,”Wangdi said, adding that the only basis for their arrest was alleged failure to procure prior approval to conduct a gathering in the village. 
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Percentage of people who view the Bible as sacred has dropped, survey finds

The statistics are sobering, and they point to a significant change in just a few years time — the number of people considered skeptics of the Bible who say it’s just a book of stories and advice is rising.
In findings from the recently released State of the Bible survey, conducted annually by Barna, the percentage of people who view the Bible as sacred dropped to 79 percent, down 7 percentage points since 2011.
Millennials, those ages 18–29, lead in the count of skeptics, with just 35 percent believing the Bible offers “everything a person needs to know to lead a meaningful life.”
The study is based on 2,036 interviews with U.S. adults in January and February.
For the full story, see the April 24 issue of The Alabama Baptist.

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