Well-known gospel soloist George Beverly Shea, 104, died Tuesday evening following a brief illness, reports The Christian Post. Shea preceded in song Billy Graham’s messages in every crusade for 60 years. Graham said he first met Shea while in Chicago when he was on Moody Radio. Since Shea first sang for him in 1943 during the radio hymn program Songs in the Night, Shea carried the gospel in song to every continent and every state in the U.S. The booming baritone received 10 Grammy nominations, a Grammy Award in 1965, and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Grammy organization in 2011. He was a member of the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame (1978), was inducted into the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame in February 1996, and was inducted into the inaugural class of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ “Hall of Faith” in 2008. Born in Winchester, Ontario, Canada, where his father was a Wesleyan Methodist minister, Shea’s first public singing was in the choir of his father’s church. Between Billy Graham crusade, radio, and television dates in many countries, he sang at hundreds of concerts and recorded more than 70 albums of sacred music. At age 23, he composed the music to one of his best known solos, “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” He was also known for his rendition of “How Great Thou Art” and his inspirational “The Wonder of It All.” “Even though Bev was 10 years older than my father, he never acted his age,” said Graham’s son, Franklin Graham. “He was absolute fun to be with. Bev was one of the most gracious and unassuming men I have known. He was always encouraging and supportive, a man of deep faith and strong commitment to Jesus Christ.” Shea is survived by his wife, Karlene, and his children from his first marriage, Ronald and Elaine. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Erma, who died in 1976.
- Trans World Radio is saying that within less than two years they will be able to deliver Christian content to nearly 60 percent of the people in the world in their own language by integrating its broadcast capabilities through radio, Internet, and smartphone technology. “If you can imagine a Web portal with hundreds of ministries coming to one location to have their Christian content (audio, text, or video) available,” Ralf Stores, U.S. Director of Media Development and Services, told The Christian Post recently. “Not only the content of hundreds of ministries, but have that content available in every one of the major languages of the world.” Stores said that TWR is currently the largest radio media ministry in the world. Through their broadcast stations and outlets placed in strategic parts of the world, the 60-year-old ministry’s primary method of delivering Christian programming is through AM, medium and short wave radio stations. In many instances, TWR is reaching into countries that are considered closed to Christianity or dominated by a religion such as Islam or Hindu. “We have a potential reach of 3.8 billion listeners. That’s an incredible responsibility,” he said. “In addition to that we also translate, adapt, and contextualize content into the heart language of an end user in over 230 languages and in over 160 countries.” The single web portal concept with language translations is Stores’ idea and is called TRW 360. A beta version is planned for launch in June and will include five languages. He gives an example of how it will be used. “They’ll go literally from listening in Russian on their radio station to being able to see a fully translated site that has resources from literally hundreds of ministries available,” Stores said. “We will be launching it in five initial languages—English, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, and Russian. Through those five languages alone we’ll be able to reach 28 percent of the world’s population in their first language. By the end of the first year, we will have an additional 12 languages.”
- President Barack Obama’s decision not to attend or dispatch high-ranking members of his administration to the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Wednesday was criticized in the United States as well as the United Kingdom, The Christian Post reports. Given that the White House sent an official delegation to the funeral of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, a “tyrannical socialist dictator,” Obama’s treatment of the funeral of the “Iron Lady” was an “amazing snub,” said the website of the Tea Party News Network. George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, who both served as Secretary of State while Thatcher was in power, represented Obama’s official delegation. Former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger were also present. Under the dome of the 17th-century St. Paul’s Cathedral, hundreds of relatives, friends, and world dignitaries listened to hymns selected for the memorial by Thatcher, 87, a grocer’s daughter from a Methodist home who died April 8, USA Today reported. Queen Elizabeth II, current and former prime ministers, and representatives from 170 countries were among the mourners. “It is standard operating procedure for the Vice President or First Lady or, at a minimum the Secretary of State, to attend funerals of foreign leaders, even those from lesser nations,” Fox National Security Analyst Kathleen Troia “K.T.” McFarland wrote. “Shame on you, Mr. President. You and your administration look cheap, small and petty.” Could it be that Thatcher was a Tory? McFarland asked. “That she battled British Trade Unionists and won? That she worked hand-in-hand with Ronald Reagan, the incarnation of evil for many left-wing Democrats?”
- A leading Democrat, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), warned that he sees a “huge train wreck coming down” with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, breitbart.com reports. The candid comments came during a Wednesday hearing with Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “I’m very concerned that not enough is being done so far—very concerned,” said Baucus. “Small businesses have no idea what to do, what to expect.” Baucus appeared frustrated with Sebelius’s unresponsiveness in supplying the senator with information designed to educate and assist citizens with understanding the massively complex healthcare overhaul. “You need data,” Baucus said to Sebelius. “Do you have any data? You’ve never given me data. You only give me concepts, frankly.” Baucus’s comments echo those made last week by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), one of Obamacare’s chief architects, who called Obamacare “probably the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress.” Meanwhile, Human Events reports that the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers has broken ranks to join the growing movement that demands complete repeal of Obamacare, saying their “concerns over certain provisions in the [Affordable Care Act] have not been addressed, or in some instances, totally ignored.” That doesn’t really bode well for the level of customer service the rest of us can expect, does it? the report asked.
- Gov. Sam Brownback has signed a bill into law declaring that the federal government has no power to regulate guns manufactured, sold, and kept only in Kansas, cowboybyte.com reports. The legislation signed Tuesday also applies to ammunition made, sold, and kept in the state. The new law takes effect by the end of next week and makes it a felony for a federal agent to enforce any law, regulation, order, or treaty regulating such items.
- The gun control compromise fashioned by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) was defeated in the Senate on Wednesday in the first major vote of a marathon session, reports washingtonpost.com. The amendment, which would have required background checks on all commercial sales of guns, got the support of 54 members and was opposed by 46. It needed 60 votes to move forward. The bill, which was expected to come up short, lost the support of four Democrats on Wednesday: Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Mark Pryor (Ark.). All
but Heitkamp were said to face difficult reelections in 2014, and all come from rural states with strong gun cultures. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voted against the amendment for procedural reasons.
- Iranian officials have denied medical treatment for Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini as he suffers from internal bleeding from beatings by prison guards, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, worldmag.com reports. Abedini’s family members, who visited him at the prison, said he was taken to the hospital last week. When the doctor did not show up, he was sent back to prison. Later that day, interrogators beat him unconscious, adding to his injuries. His health has deteriorated in Evin prison, and he experiences frequent fainting, constant abdominal pain, and blood in his stool, family members say. “We know the authorities said it’ll be two months before he’s treated, but we believe that with the severity of his injuries, he may not survive the two months,” said Tiffany Barrans, ACLJ’s international legal director. ACLJ is representing Abedini’s family in the United States and helping coordinate efforts to gain his release. Abedini has been in prison since September for his role in leading the house churches in Iran. He became a U.S. citizen after marrying an Iranian-American in 2004, and was arrested when he went back to Iran to work on a non-sectarian orphanage. Beyond the medical issues, Abedini also told family members some men have moved into his cell who seem to know a lot about him and his wife, possibly because they are connected to the intelligence police. They have threatened to kill him in the middle of the night and make it look like an accident. Barrans said they may have been planted to cause more psychological and physical torture. While international pressure has ramped up with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling for his release, Iran has not eased its stance on Abedini. But with the increased media attention on his imprisonment, news of the American pastor has spread to Iranians on the street through newspapers and magazines independent of government control. Barrans hopes that as more Iranians hear about the situation, the government will realize it is not worth creating instability, especially with the upcoming elections in June. Abedini turns 33 on May 7, and the ACLJ has organized a birthday message campaign, asking supporters to write notes of encouragement. ACLJ plans to send all the messages to Evin prison in hopes of showing the government how many people support Abedini and are watching what happens to him. So far, ACLJ has collected more than 20,000 messages. News of Abedini’s latest troubles hit his wife, Naghmeh, the hardest. She lives in Idaho with their two young children and is unable to visit or call him. While she has continued to lobby the international community about his case and hopes others will see the testimony of their lives, she said these past few days have been extremely difficult. “She shared with me this morning she fears people don’t recognize the family on the other end of the story—that it’s personal,” Barrans said. “They live this out every day; for her and her kids hearing about your father and dad dying is excruciating.”
- The Federal Communications Commission has received over 56,000 comments in opposition to their proposal to loosen their standards regarding graphic content on television and radio. According to the American Family Association, the large number of comments given to the FCC took place over the span of only one week. “It is apparent that Americans have an extremely high interest in what is allowed over the airwaves and what their children and grandchildren are watching and listening to on television and radio,” the group said. AFA is one of many conservative and media content watchdog groups advocating for the maintaining of the FCC’s “standards of decency” for language and sexual content. Patrick Trueman, president and CEO of Morality in Media, told The Christian Post that while the large number of comments was “a very encouraging response,” he was doubtful that the volume of responses would affect the FCC’s direction. “Given that the FCC has for years totally ignored the American public, as well as the will of Congress, on TV indecency, I am not optimistic. The FCC notice of the change indicates that it is already implementing the proposed policy,” said Trueman. “Our hope is in the Congress and we are working with both House and Senate Members to make sure that the FCC is prevented from changing its policy.”
- British archaeologists have discovered a massive complex in southern Iraq that Southern Baptist archaeologists say may shed new light on the life and times of the Biblical patriarch Abraham. The structure, believed to be 4,000 years old, is about the size of a football field and may have been an administrative center for the ancient Sumerian city of Ur, believed to be located about 12 miles away and at the height of its power before the time of Abraham. The new find, announced in early April, includes a complex of rooms around a large courtyard, according to the Associated Press. An “Ur” is mentioned in Genesis. “The find is significant for Mesopotamian archaeology and history,” Steve Andrews, professor of Old Testament, archaeology, and Hebrew at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., told Baptist Press. “As a result of its excavation and the study of its ruins and artifacts—especially if inscribed clay tablets are unearthed—students of Mesopotamia will understand more about the society and culture that flourished there.”