Episcopalians approved a churchwide ceremony Tuesday to bless same-sex couples, the latest decisive step toward accepting homosexuality by a denomination that nine years ago elected the first openly gay bishop, reports AP. At the Episcopal General Convention, which is divided into two voting bodies, about 80 percent of the House of Deputies voted to authorize a provisional rite for same-sex unions for the next three years. A day earlier, the House of Bishops approved the rites 111–41 with three abstentions during the church meeting in Indianapolis. Commenting in BeliefNet on the “near collapse” of the denomination, senior editor Rob Kerby remarked, “The headlines coming out of the Episcopal Church’s annual U.S. convention are stunning—endorsement of cross-dressing clergy, blessing same-sex marriage, the sale of their headquarters since they can’t afford to maintain it. The American branch of the Church of England, founded when the Vatican balked at permitting King Henry VIII to continue annulling marriages to any wife who failed to bear him sons, is in trouble. Somehow slipping out of the headlines is a harsh reality that the denomination has been deserted in droves by an angry or ambivalent membership. Six prominent bishops are ready to take their large dioceses out of the American church and align with conservative Anglican groups in Africa and South America.”

Other news:

  • Alliance Defending Freedom, previously the Alliance Defense Fund, has filed suit in federal court against Planned Parenthood of Iowa. The lawsuit claims repeated false, fraudulent, or ineligible claims for reimbursements to Medicaid and suggests Planned Parenthood Iowa failed to meet acceptable standards of medical practice. Michael Norton, senior Alliance counsel and a former U.S. attorney, told OneNewsNow his group is representing former Planned Parenthood clinic director Sue Thayer. “Americans deserve to know if their hard-earned tax money is being funneled to groups that are misusing it,” Norton asserts. “People may hold different views about abortion, but everyone can agree that Planned Parenthood should play by the same rules as everyone else. It certainly isn’t entitled to any public funds, especially if it is defrauding Medicaid and the American taxpayer.” Thayer, former manager of clinics in Storm Lake and LeMars, sued under whistleblower laws, alleging that Planned Parenthood knowingly committed Medicaid fraud by improperly seeking reimbursements for products and services not legally reimbursable. The lawsuit contends nearly a half-million false claims were filed with Medicaid, resulting in Planned Parenthood of Iowa retaining nearly $28 million.
  • Recent reports of women undergoing late-term abortions against their will are “only the tip of the iceberg” of the forced procedures that occur daily in China, a Christian advocate for human rights has told a congressional panel, reports Baptist Press. The story and photo of Feng Jianmei and her forcibly aborted daughter gained global attention online in June. Family planning officials kidnapped Feng, who was seven months pregnant but had no birth permit, June 2 in Shaanxi province and aborted her child when her family did not pay a fine. Authorities placed the body of her dead daughter next to her in bed. A Chinese dissident posted an account, plus a photo of the devastated mother and her dead daughter, online, and it went viral when the news broke June 12 in the West, according to testimony at a July 9 hearing before a House of Representatives subcommittee. In written testimony for the panel, Bob Fu of the ChinaAid Association said Feng’s “tragedy is repeated hundreds and thousands of times each day in China.” China’s population control program generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children. The policy has resulted in many reports of authorities carrying out forced abortions and sterilizations, as well as accounts of infanticide. It has helped produce a dramatic gender imbalance because of the Chinese preference for sons.
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign office said that it is Romney’s policy that “young” illegal aliens who join the U.S. military should be able to remain in the United States and attain legal permanent residency status, but that Romney is otherwise sticking by his previously stated position that all illegal aliens must return to their home countries, reports cnsnews.com. Andrea Saul, the campaign’s press secretary, said in a July 6 e-mail: “Governor Romney wants to protect and strengthen legal immigration by ending illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner. While President Obama has broken his promise and failed to offer any plan on immigration reform during his years in office, Governor Romney has announced a strategy for bipartisan and long-term immigration reform.”
  • The head of a national group representing Christians in the medical field isn’t surprised that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is refusing to implement key elements of ObamaCare, reports onenewsnow.com. Perry joins GOP governors from Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Florida in rejecting Medicaid expansion or health insurance exchange and saying “no” to implementing changes under the healthcare law. Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association, notes that the governor referenced in his decision the fact that fewer and fewer doctors are accepting Medicaid because reimbursement rates are so low. “If it’s costing you money out of your own pocket, out of your own practice every time you see a Medicaid patient, increasingly doctors are going to drop out of it,” he explains. “That’s what happened in Texas. It’s gone from 67 percent of doctors accepting Medicaid in the year 2000 to 31 percent this year. So that’s an enormous problem.” Stevens told OneNewsNow the main problem with healthcare is the cost. But ObamaCare, he argues, fails to address that issue, instead focusing on access. “We missed what we should have been shooting for,” the CMA spokesman said. “What we did was give discounted tickets on the Titanic to people as it heads towards the ice flow of uncontrollable healthcare costs. We’ve got to address that issue.”
  • The relationship between the Jewish community and the Church of England has taken a downward turn following its decision to strengthen ties with an anti-Israel group. The Jerusalem Post has learned that the Board of Deputies of British Jews has pulled out of meetings this week with Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the archbishop of Canterbury. A motion is also set to be raised at the board’s monthly meeting in which the deputies will call on the organization to sever all ties to the Church of England. At its General Synod in York on Monday, the Church’s highest legislative body voted overwhelmingly to strengthen ties with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel, a group that supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against Israel and stands accused of having an anti-Israel stance and harboring a “one-sided” narrative.
  • A civil war between the Makers and the Takers is coming, warns a report in Fox News. “On one side are those who create wealth, America’s private sector—the very ones targeted by President Obama’s tax hikes announced Monday. On the other are the public employee unions; left-leaning intelligentsia who see the growth of government as index of progress; and the millions of Americans now dependent on government through a growing network of government transfer payments, from Medicaid and Social Security to college loans and corporate bailouts and handouts (think GM and Solyndra). Over the past century America’s private sector has been the source of productivity, innovation, creativity, and growth—and gave us the iPhone and iPad. The public sector has been the engine of entitlement, stagnation, and decline—and gave us Detroit and the South Bronx. The private sector built the strongest economy in the world. It armed the free world in World War Two, and then in the three decades after the war turned America into the most prosperous society history had ever seen.  It revived America in the  Reagan and Clinton years, and thanks to the Bush tax cuts brought this country back from economic collapse after 9/11. In those same years a growing public sector, by contrast, turned Europe into a cesspool of debt, stalled economies, and chronic social dysfunction that’s set the streets of Athens—and perhaps other European capitals–on fire. That’s where we’re headed, too, more rapidly than we like to think. That public sector–state, local, and federal—now consumes 40% of GDP, compared to 33% just twelve years ago. It’s brought us to the point where 48% of Americans are now on some form of government handout, from 44% when Obama took office—almost a fifth more than during the Reagan years. And too many of them have been programmed to believe they have no future unless the government takes more from the Makers—precisely what Obama promised on Monday.”
  • FBI interviews of dozens of friends, coworkers, and neighbors of George Zimmerman found no evidence that the accused murderer of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was a racist, according to new documents released on Thursday, reports newsmax.com. The reports from the FBI were among a new collection of evidence, including crime scene photos, bank surveillance videos, and other documents, that were released by Florida’s state attorney’s office in the racially charged case. Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Hispanic white man, is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting death of Martin, a 17-year-old black teen. Zimmerman claims he killed Martin in self-defense after the unarmed Martin attacked him and slammed his head into the sidewalk during a confrontation in a gated community in the central Florida city of Sanford. He is currently living in an undisclosed safe house after being released on $1 million bail last week.
  • A large-scale Bible museum will open in Washington, D.C., within four years, say planners who have been touring the world with portions of their collection, reports Christianity Today. Cary Summers, chief operating officer of The Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit umbrella group for the collection of the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma, said they considered Washington, Dallas, and New York but decided the nation’s capital was the best location. The final name of the museum and its exact location have not been disclosed, but planners hope to confirm a location later this summer. Research they commissioned found that the general population was more willing to travel to the nation’s capital for a Bible-focused museum than the other two cities, Summers said. Steve Green, president of the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain and a Southern Baptist, said the museum will feature the history, contents, and influence of the Bible but will leave it up to visitors to decide whether to believe the holy Book. “When we present the evidence, I think it’s going to be compelling for somebody to say, `Wow, this is a compelling book. I might want to consider what it has to say,'” he said.
  • Prudhomme Lost Cajun Kitchen in Columbia, Pa., has been offering a 10 percent discount on Sundays to anyone who brings in that day’s bulletin from their church. They started this discount a little more than a year ago, but have offered various other discounts over the years to help generate business, but no one has ever complained about not being able to take advantage of them until now. John Wolff, an atheist, believes that is an unfair and discriminatory practice because he does not attend a church so is not eligible to receive the discount. Consequently, he has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, who is now forced to investigate the restaurant and its owners, reports godfatherpolitics.com. Independent Law Center Chief Counsel Randall Wenger is representing the restaurant’s owners before the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and commented about the lawsuit, saying, “I think we’re so incensed at this point that . . . religion and particularly Christianity [are] being treated as something toxic and poisonous and undeserving to be in the closet. It’s one thing when government does it—that’s bad enough. But now, for government to be forcing, or trying to force, a private restaurant owner to treat religion as something toxic, I think just has a lot of people upset. The agency should have looked at this thing and just thrown it out from the get-go because they’re not supposed to investigate claims that are frivolous. Here you’ve got somebody who’s basically just saying, ‘Hey—church attendance is a good thing, and anybody who brings in a church bulletin, we’re going to give a ten-percent discount on Sundays.’ Think about it, many businesses give discounts if you purchase their products over the Internet, but not everyone has the Internet, so are those without online access being discriminated against? What about the coupons in the Sunday newspaper? People who don’t get the newspaper don’t get the coupons so they can’t take advantage of the discounts either.”