Blue Flower

DUBAI BUCKS CHURCH DECLINE TREND

A double ordination at a church in Dubai has highlighted how the oil-rich city is bucking a trend of congregation decline seen in other developed countries. Two clergy members were welcomed into new ministry positions at Christ Church in Jebal Ali during a service also said to confirm "warm" ties between authorities and the Anglican Church. Charlotte Lloyd-Evans and Hin Lai Ching were ordained as a deacon and a priest respectively, in the presence of Minister of State for Tolerance, Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi. Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf Rt Rev Michael Lewis told the Anglican Communion News Service the presence of Sheikha Lubna "is further evidence of, the warm relationship and mutual respect that exists between the authorities in the UAE and the Anglican church."

Church leaders say the growing clergy team at Christ Church reflects expansion of the Church throughout the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. The growth comes as believers in Syria and other parts of the Arab world continue to face extreme persecution for their faith, and church attendance across many parts of the Western world has been in a state of stagnation or decline. Opened in 2002, Christ Church in Jebel Ali has seen weekly attendance grow from approximately 40 people to more than 200. More than 40 different congregations worshiping in 16 different languages use the site. A message on its website says: "We are open to new ideas and want to witness to the saving grace of God which we have found through Jesus Christ."

"We want to be part of the fabric of what makes Dubai good, drawing people closer to God and helping them to live well, alive to the Spirit of God." The double ordination service comes as the construction of a giant new Anglican cathedral in nearby Abu Dhabi enters its final months. The All Saints Anglican Church will have room for 4,200 worshippers following its completion, expected in December this year.

Source: Premier News Service

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BARNABAS FUND WELCOMES UN COMMITMENT TO INVESTIGATE GENOCIDE IN IRAQ

Christian charity Barnabas Fund has commended the United Nations for its decision to investigate genocide in Iraq. The UN Security Council has unanimously agreed to set up an investigation to collect evidence of crimes against humanity and possible genocide committed by Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. The inquiry includes crimes "motivated by religious or ethnic grounds." According to Barnabas Fund, although the Security Council resolution does not specifically name any ethnic or religious group, it has been widely recognised that Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims have been specifically targeted, with US Secretary of State John Kerry last year specifically referring to this as "genocide." The charity said the decision for an inquiry is a "major feat of diplomacy" due to fears that Russia and China would veto any such resolution in case it led to other resolutions scrutinising their own human rights record.

The organisation said the agreement appears to have been reached on the basis that the evidence collected would be used to try those responsible in the Iraqi national courts, rather than the International Criminal Court. The charity said in a statement: "After years of calling for justice to be done to the victims of genocide in Iraq, the UN has at last heard a plea for the forgotten minorities such as Christians and Yazidis who have been erased from their homelands. We and other agencies have maintained that Christians have been systematically targeted by Islamists. We welcome the resolution and hope that it will bring about justice for minorities and ensure that the needs of Christians are prioritised after years of neglect." While Barnabas Fund is grateful for the new development, it said there is still a long way to go. It said: "Let us remember that it is not just in Iraq but also in Syria and the broader region where IS have specifically targeted Christians. Nor is it just IS's victims, but also victims of other jihadists that we must continue to seek justice for."

Source: Barnabas Fund

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MOST MILLENNIALS WANT CHEAP EDUCATION AND CENSORING OF POLITICAL VIEWS

A recent report by GenForward, a University of Chicago national survey of 18-34 year olds, found that many millennials support publicly funded vouchers that help cover low-income students' tuition at private schools. The idea earned support from large majorities of millennials: 79% of African-American respondents, 76% of Asian Americans, 77% of Latinos and 66% of whites. The survey shows most millennials also support vouchers for all students, regardless of income. Sixty nine percent of African Americans support this proposal, along with 60% of Asian Americans, and 66% of Latinos. Whites are evenly divided as to vouchers for all students, with 49% of whites on either side, according to the report. While millennials seem to disagree with teachers unions about the need for school choice, the data shows many seem to believe that money, rather than parents, can fix the problems plaguing public schools.

Respondents of all races cited increasing school funding, improving teacher training, and increasing teacher pay as the best ways of improving education in schools.  Vast majorities of millennials think "free" college is a good idea, with support from 86% of blacks, 84% of Asians, 85% of Latinos, and 73% of whites. As for freedom of speech, "majorities of all millennials support limiting language that is intentionally offensive to certain groups.". A whopping 88% of Latino millennials think suppressing free speech is warranted under certain circumstances, followed by 81% of Asians, blacks and whites. That support for censorship extends to political views that upset certain groups. Sixty percent of blacks, 73% of Asians, 71% of Latinos and 61% of whites surveyed support school officials limiting political speech in either all or "extreme" circumstances.

Source: EAG News

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FIGURES EXPOSE NUMBER OF WELSH CHURCH CLOSURES

New figures reveal more than ten Anglican churches are closing in Wales each year, equating to 115 over a ten-year period. Eight per cent shut their doors for good during the decade covered, the Church in Wales statistics show. The decline leaves 1,319 Anglican churches in Wales still open. The Church said one way of tackling the long-term decline has been to encourage congregations to work more closely together. Head of property, Alex Glanville was quoted by the BBC as saying: "We're grouping a lot more parishes and congregations together, about ten-15 churches in an area, and thinking which ones can we sustain." The Church in Wales says the loss of congregations is a "significant issue" and, while the rate of churches being put up for sale has been steady, it is unlikely to slowdown.

According to the National Churches Trust, the rate of church closures in Wales is relatively higher than in England when differences in population size are taken into consideration. It is believed 20 Anglican churches are closing in England annually. In a recent survey, it concluded attracting new worshippers amid falling attendance was the biggest issue facing Welsh churches. The Trust said offering new facilities was crucial in helping reverse the trend. Head of communications, Eddie Tulasiewicz told the BBC: "The thing is to think about what can be done with these buildings over and above their religious purpose. They can hold meetings; concerts can take place. "The other thing is history and tourism. A lot of churches and chapels are exceedingly beautiful and people do want to visit them."

Source: Premier News Service

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IRELAND TO HOLD ABORTION VOTE BEFORE PAPAL VISIT

Ireland is to hold a referendum next summer on abortion rights months before a planned visit to the country by Pope Francis. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the vote on changing the Republic's Constitution would be held in May or June 2018, before the pope stages an international event celebrating marriage and family life. The ballot will ask whether the Eighth Amendment, which states a mother and her unborn baby have an equal right to life, should be retained. The amendment has long been highly contentious in Ireland, with pro-life campaigners wanting it preserved and pro-choice supporters saying it should be abolished.

The wording of the referendum question will be determined after a parliamentary committee issues its findings of a report conducted by an assembly of Irish citizens on the issue. The referendum on abortion is one of several votes announced by the Irish leader on the country's constitutional framework. In June 2019, citizens will be asked whether Irish people living abroad should be allowed to vote in presidential elections. In the same month, ballots will also be held on divorce laws and a proposal to allow 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote. Ireland, which retains a strong Catholic influence, was chosen by Pope Francis to stage the 2018 World Meeting of Families, a gathering held once every three years.

Source: Premier News Service

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NUMBER TRAINING FOR THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND MINISTRY HIGHEST IN DECADES

This academic year, 544 men and women will be starting their training for ordination in the Church of England, the highest figure for 10 years. The number of ordinands under 32, rose by 40%. The Church of England has stepped up its efforts to encourage people into serving the church full time and aim to increase the number of candidates for ordination by 50% by 2020. The programme aims to increase the diversity and number of future clergy. 274 of the 544 are women, an increase of 19% on last year's intake. The increase in those wanting to be formally ordained is set to counter-balance the fall in clergy through retirement. The number of serving clergy fell from 20,020 to 19,550 between 2013-2016. The number of clergy in paid positions also fell by 4%. Those attending theological colleges do not have to be training for Church of England ordination, those who are has increased by 14%.

Source: Premier News Service

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