Since 1998, WORLD magazine has selected a “Daniel of the Year,” one Christian from the millions around the world who have put their faith in God and gained the strength to stand up against ungodly trends. This year WORLD has selected Alan Chambers, 39-year-old president of Exodus International, a leading Christian organization that helps homosexuals leave their lifestyle. WORLD says that with victories for gay-rights groups at high tide and marriage being redefined, Chambers was picked for the honor. Critics say that Alan Chambers, a former homosexual who helps others struggling with same-sex attraction, is denying what comes naturally to him. Chambers wholeheartedly agrees. “For Christians, every day we’re called to a life of biblical self-denial,” he maintains. “We take up our cross and follow Christ, and we deny what comes naturally.” But he says denial isn’t without reward: “Those who reject the concept of self-denial haven’t reaped the joys that come with it.” Self-denial isn’t a new concept to Chambers. He grew up in a Christian home but embraced homosexuality as a teenager. But through years of an active gay lifestyle, Chambers couldn’t shake the Biblical conviction that what came naturally to him was also sinful. He didn’t want to be gay. Eventually, he embraced the Biblical teaching that Christ could change his heart and his sinful patterns, including homosexuality. It didn’t happen quickly. “I didn’t get a magic wand or a lightening bolt,” says Chambers. “I got a very difficult, painful, blood-sweat-and-tears journey—and a Jesus who never left me along the way.” That journey began 20 years ago this past September in a Florida chapter of Exodus International, where Chambers first sought help. Ten years later, Chambers became president of the organization that is one of the largest Christian ministries to homosexuals in the country. In a year that has brought the legalization of gay marriage in New York, the repeal of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and a decision by the Presbyterian Church USA to allow the ordination of homosexuals, Chambers has continued to champion publicly a historic Christian teaching: Christ can change the life of anyone who seeks Him—including a homosexual. Meanwhile, Chambers has issued an urgent call to evangelical Christians: Make churches places where anyone can find compassionate help—including homosexuals.
- Setting off a new round in his dispute with gay rights activists, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has issued a statement defending his recent comparison of the gay rights movement to the Ku Klux Klan, reports The Chicago Tribune. George’s initial comments came in connection with a controversy over whether next summer’s gay pride parade would interrupt morning services at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in the Lakeview neighborhood. That dispute was resolved last week, but the cardinal’s KKK comparison—and his new explanation of those comments—brought the controversy back to boil. “Organizers (of the pride parade) invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church,” the cardinal said in a statement issued Tuesday. “One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.” Gay rights groups on Wednesday said George was expressing “bigotry” and needs to apologize and resign. As it happens, George is expected to submit a resignation letter to the Vatican next month because he is turning 75, the age at which all bishops are expected to offer to retire. However, popes generally do not accept such resignations when first submitted. In October, the route and time of the pride parade were changed to accommodate larger crowds. The start was changed from noon to 10 a.m., and the new route went past Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Church officials later objected, arguing that the parade would interrupt morning services. Last Wednesday, an agreement was reached to move the start time back to noon. Meanwhile, George was interviewed by the Fox Chicago TV station. He said, “You know, you don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism. So I think if that’s what’s happening, and I don’t know that it is, but I would respect the local pastor’s, you know, position on that.”
- Project Defending Life has confirmed that abortionist Bruce Ferguson is retiring on Dec. 30 and will no longer be performing abortions, reports ChristianNewsWire. His Albuquerque abortion clinic will also close. According to his website, he has been performing abortions for 30 years. In a phone call, Ferguson told an undercover investigator that he was retiring due to his health, the health of his family, and his own his “sanity.” He stated, “Someone else needs to carry the burden now.” Ferguson also mentioned as a reason for his retirement a steady decline in abortion patients each year, which is a trend that is being seen nationally. “Abortion is not good for anyone, not for babies, not for women, and according to Bruce Ferguson, someone who would know, abortion is not good for the doctors performing them,” stated Bud Shaver, spokesperson for Project Defending Life. “We are happy to learn that our efforts to inform women of the dangers of abortion are having an impact and that fewer women are aborting their babies.” Operation Rescue learned earlier this year that Ferguson had been seeking out-of-state employment as a part-time abortionist. “As abortionists like Ferguson quit, retire, or are stripped of their licenses, they are not being replaced,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “It sounds like Ferguson has called it quits, but we need to remain vigilant because, with the shortage of abortionists, Ferguson could turn up somewhere else. Given his apparent emotional state, that would be dangerous for women.”
- Taxpayers in Los Angeles will have to fork out roughly $2.3 million for the Occupy movement’s encampment outside the Los Angeles City Hall, an additional burden to the already cash-strapped city, which has a $72 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, reports onenewsnow.com. Police collected overtime and were paid time-and-a-half for working extra hours to monitor the movement’s extended protests. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa permitted protesters to pitch their tents overnight and did not ban people from sleeping in public parks. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana told the Los Angeles Times that although the sum is “manageable,” it places another weight on the city’s budget. Meanwhile, Frank Pereyda, a former candidate for Los Angeles City Council, suggests Villaraigosa is only courting voters. “I think he’s just pandering for votes once again—photo ops to try and keep himself politically relevant for whatever office he’s going to seek next once he’s termed out,” Pereyda contends. Police arrested around 300 individuals at an Occupy encampment Nov. 30, costing the city $1.2 million for extended pay. And according to the LA Times, the overtime of police in the General Services Department also cost the city in excess of $300,000. But the former city council contender believes the Occupy movement’s costly protests do not produce a clear message—and in turn, wreak havoc. “It just seemed to be almost like a social gathering or a place to be rather than a message to get across to the people,” he concludes.
- The Obama administration cleared the way for U.S. states to legalize Internet poker and certain other online betting in a switch that may help them reap billions in tax revenue and spur web-based gambling, reports Reuters and Yahoo News. A Justice Department opinion dated September and made public on Friday reversed decades of previous policy that included civil and criminal charges against operators of some of the most popular online poker sites. Until now, the department held that online gambling in all forms was illegal under the Wire Act of 1961, which bars wagers via telecommunications that cross state lines or international borders. The new interpretation, by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, said the Wire Act applies only to bets on a “sporting event or contest,” not to a state’s use of the Internet to sell lottery tickets to adults within its borders or abroad.
- Half of the Americans who do not attend church also do not wonder if there is an ultimate purpose for their lives or the possibility that God has a plan for them, according to a recent survey, notes The Christian Post. The study by LifeWay Research, which surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults, also found that people with even a slight curiosity about a higher purpose to life are more likely to participate in worship services. About 75 percent of the adults surveyed indicated that they either agree or strongly agree with the statement, “There is an ultimate purpose and plan for every person’s life.” However, 50 percent of respondents who never attend worship services disagree with the statement. Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, said in a statement that the study results have significant implications for churches. “It is no wonder that many of the unchurched are unengaged in church activity when they don’t believe an exclusive purpose exists for their own lives,” McConnell said. “In other words, why go to church to learn about God’s plan if you don’t think there is one?” Researchers at LifeWay indicate that the survey is also reflected in previous studies done on young adults ranging from 18- to 29-year-olds. The most positive news appears to be about people’s willingness to hear about another person’s faith. In his book, Lost and Found, LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer found that 89 percent of unchurched young adults agreed when asked, “If someone wanted to tell me what she or he believed about Christianity, I would be willing to listen.” “The spirituality of Americans is clear,” McConnell said. “Even the slightest connection to church attendance corresponds to more consideration of possibilities beyond themselves, beyond physical and social realities. . . . Our previous research has shown that the unchurched are willing to discuss spiritual topics, so Christians should not shy away from sharing the purpose in life and salvation that Jesus Christ provides, but it helps us to know where they are to start that conversation,” McConnell concluded.
- If parents and student leaders think their teens aren’t sending naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriends and girlfriends, they need to think again, says Chrisma News. Teens ages 12–17 are using their mobile phones as portable pornography devices. There’s a name for this: sexting. Mandy Crow, editor of EC, a student devotional magazine published by LifeWay, said church kids are not immune. “We talk with teens and student leaders often,” she said. “We hear this everywhere. It’s happening with church kids just like unchurched kids. They seem to think it’s flirty or funny,” Crow said. “They just don’t see the long-term consequences.” A panel of girls’ ministry leaders talked about sexting during a large group session at the 2011 Girls’ Ministry Forum. LifeWay’s Girls Ministry Director Pam Gibbs acknowledged it’s a conversation church leaders must be involved in. “These young girls are sometimes naive,” Gibbs said. “Often, they are good kids and just want to be popular. They don’t get it that this is something that can follow them for the rest of their lives.” The panel agreed that sexting is happening with church kids. It often comes out of peer pressure or boyfriend/girlfriend insistence. “Bottom line,” says Crow, “it’s child pornography. Student leaders need to help parents know what to do and how to talk to their teenagers about sexting. Parents need to be empowered to speak out. The issue isn’t going away.” While laws vary from state to state, the person creating and sending the image is possibly looking at charges of child pornography and sexual exploitation of a minor. Being convicted of those charges can carry up to 20 years in prison. Crow said, “Helping students understand that once they hit ‘send’ they have lost all control of where that photo or video goes is a place to begin the conversation.”
- A new Vacation Bible School curriculum is getting real with kids. Instead of lighthearted subject matter, The Voice of the Martyrs, a nonprofit that works with the persecuted church worldwide, developed a VBS curriculum that focuses on teaching children about persecution. The Kids of Courage VBS program also helps children learn about forgiveness, courage, and perseverance—all through stories of persecuted Christians in China, Egypt, India, Nigeria, and North Korea. Todd Nettleton, director of Media for VOM, told The Christian Post that the basic question the curriculum asks kids is, “How much is my faith in Christ worth to me?” It explores the Christian faith of those in other countries like North Korea or China, where religious freedom is very limited. The materials give children the chance to grapple with the idea of their own faith, how much it means to them, and whether or not they would suffer to stay true to Jesus. “I don’t think you are ever too young to start thinking about those types of questions,” Nettleton said.
- Sudan’s militant Islamic regime again is terrorizing its own people based on religion and ethnicity, driving about 280,000 people from their homes and producing another humanitarian crisis, according to a United States watchdog for religious liberty and Baptist Press. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported military and paramilitary forces controlled by the government in Khartoum (the capital) have targeted Sudanese in two southern states based on their religious belief, political affiliation, and ethnicity. The result has been the internal displacement of about 230,000 people in Southern Kordofan, with many living in mountain caves, and the flight of another 50,000 from the two states to other countries. USCIRF and members of Congress called on the Obama administration to lead an international effort to put an end to the attacks and to provide humanitarian assistance. The only way to halt the Sudanese government’s actions is by strong international pressure, USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “Unfortunately, the world has been silent, and that silence must end.”