||FIRST, THE NEWS:
ROMANIAN PRIESTS PUSH FOR GAY MARRIAGE BAN
from - Balkan Insight
(08 Jan) The days following Christmas have been a good opportunity for Orthodox priests across Romania to encourage parishioners to back a campaign for a change to the constitution outlawing same-sex marriage. Dozens of people on Wednesday attending the Epiphany Day service at the cathedral in Timisoara, in western Romania, queued to sign the initiative, after their Bishop, or Metropolitan, encouraged them to do so during the Christmas mass.
Priests in the Iasi region in the east of the country, while blessing people’s houses for the Epiphany Day – a common tradition in Romania – used the occasion to ask them to back amendments to the fundamental law, according to media reports. Clergy want to gather at least 500,000 signatures in order to organise a referendum proposing that the constitution describe marriage as a consensual relationship between a man and a woman alone. Currently, the constitutional article use only the words “between spouses” when referring to the marriage partners.
While priests are busy campaining for the change, senior representatives of the Orthodox Church have not yet officially expressed support for the initiative. However, Church leader Patriarch Daniel, in a message released on Tuesday, said that Orthodox believers “must support the Church’s effort to protect the natural, traditional and universal family, and resist some new family models that consider the natural woman-man union only one model among others.”
Analysts say the issue is sensitive and will likely be debated more in the following months. “Romania is not yet ready to encourage marriage between same-sex persons and in my opinion this topic came up in public too early,” sociologist Tudor Pitulac said. "But the Church is wrong if it tries to force a change to the constitution, as the topic has to be debated more,” he added. [read more...]
CRIMEA: PAYING FINES "WOULD BE TO ADMIT THAT THEY DID SOMETHING WRONG"
by Felix Corley, - Forum 18 News Service
(05 Jan) Three of eight Baptists from Saki in western Crimea who refused to pay fines for holding a public religious meeting were sentenced to 20 hours' community service each in October 2015. Five fines were imposed by Judge Irina Shevchenko without a formal court hearing. A fine of about six weeks' average local wages has been ordered to be automatically deducted from the wages of another Baptist. Items from the homes of four others have been identified for possible seizure. Council of Churches Baptists refuse to pay fines imposed for exercising their freedom of religion or belief. "They didn't pay the fines as to do so would be to admit that they did something wrong," a church member told Forum 18 News Service.
Meanwhile, the extended deadline for all religious communities - which had state registration under Ukrainian law before the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and who wished to retain it - to re-register with the Russian Justice Ministry expired on 1 January 2016. Only about 400 religious organisations have been able to gain re-registration in the Republic of Crimea and in the city of Sevastopol (an administratively separate territory) since the annexation. Forum 18 notes that more than 1,100 religious communities which had legal status under Ukrainian law are thus no longer recognised as legal entities under Russian law. [read more...]
ARCHPRIEST VSEVOLOD CHAPLIN DISMISSED FROM POST OF DEPUTY HEAD OF WORLD RUSSIAN PEOPLE'S COUNCIL
from - Interfax-Religion
(30 Dec) The World Russian People's Assembly, which convened in Moscow on Tuesday, made a unanimous decision to dismiss Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin from his post of deputy head of this international organization, meeting participants told Interfax-Religion. The World Russian People's Assembly was created in 1993. It is headed by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. Representatives of all branches of power, public associations, law enforcement agencies, top clergy of the traditional religions of Russia, students and university faculty members, scientists and culture figures take part in its sessions. In 2005, the World Russian People's Assembly was granted consultative status in the UN.
The priest told presidium members that the attempt to make him leave the World Russian People's Assembly is connected to the attempt to deprive him of a nationwide public and church tribune. "I disagree with such an approach and I believe I have the right to contest it," he said. The priest said the distance between the head of the World Russian People's Assembly and the events taking place in the Assembly "has become very large," discussing World Russian People's Assembly issues with its head "has become almost impossible" and a situation arose at some point "in which any critical decisions were either taken off the agenda or drew a very strange reaction."
He said he has shared his ideas in reports to the patriarch and "spoken about the lack of a system in the World Russian People's Assembly decision-making process, about problems of church and state relations" and the need for direct criticism of the authorities' actions, naming names, but he "was not heard and only received a very tough response." The World Russian People's Assembly presidium bureau, for its part, said that it was "surprised and saddened by the words of Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin making unjust accusations" against Patriarch Kirill, who heads the World Russian People's Assembly. [read more...]
KAZAKHSTAN: TWO YEARS' IMPRISONMENT FOR ASTANA ADVENTIST
by Felix Corley, - Forum 18 News Service
(28 Dec) Seventh-Day Adventist Yklas Kabduakasov was arrested by officers of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) secret police in the courtroom today (28 December) as the Prosecutor succeeded in having his punishment of seven years' restricted freedom changed into a prison term. The City Court in the capital Astana increased the sentence to two years' imprisonment in a general regime labour camp, those attending the appeal hearing told Forum 18 News Service. The 12 weeks Kabduakasov spent in pre-trial detention will count towards his two year prison term.
Prisoner of conscience Kabduakasov, who is 54, denies the allegations of inciting religious hatred on which he was convicted on 9 November. The charges were initiated by the KNB secret police, who spent more than a year seeking to punish him. The KNB secret police had been tracking Adventist Kabduakasov for a year as he spoke to others about his faith. The KNB appear to have rented the flat to which four university students invited him for religious discussions, appear to have organised the secret filming of the meetings with at least two hidden cameras, and prepared the prosecution case.
Meanwhile, a court-ordered three month ban on Transfiguration Church, a Baptist congregation in a village in West Kazakhstan Region, ended in mid-December. The church has not paid a large fine handed down in September to punish it for running a children's camp as it does not have the money. Trouble began on 6 and 7 July for Transfiguration Baptist Church in the village of Darinskoe in Zelenov District of West Kazakhstan Region on the country's northern border with Russia. The Church organised a summer camp for children in the home of a church member in the nearby village of Yanvartsevo. The Church invited fellow Baptists from Russia and the United States to help with the camp.
Adil Nurmukhanov of the Regional Religious Affairs Department accused the Church of conducting religious activity away from its registered legal address without having gained the Department's permission as required in law. However, the church's pastor Viktor Demyashev insisted in subsequent court hearings that its statute defines the area of its activity as West Kazakhstan Region. Nurmukhanov also accused the Church of involving children without their parents' consent. Pastor Demyashev similarly denied this in court. Prosecutors then brought a case against the Church to court under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1, Point 1. This punishes "violation of procedures established in law for conducting rites, ceremonies and meetings" with a fine for legal organisations of 200 Monthly Financial Indicators and a three-month ban on their activity. [read more...]
(06 Jan) All Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, most Ukrainian Evangelical Christians and Jerusalem, Russian, Serbian, and Georgian Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on January 7. This day is an official public holiday in Ukraine. The decision to celebrate Christmas on December 25 was made at Ephesus (Third Ecumenical) Church Council in the year 431. A key role in implementing a separate Christmas celebration in the East was played by three Eastern Church Fathers: St. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. Under the influence of St. Gregory the Theologian this feast was introduced in Constantinople. In Jerusalem, Christmas was celebrated with Epiphany (the Baptism of Christ) up to 634.
In Ukraine, Eastern rite Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, December 25 according to the Julian calendar — the official date of birth of Jesus. The integral feature of the celebration of Christmas in Ukraine is carol singing, which glorifies the newborn Christ. Carolers go from house to house, proclaiming the Good News — the birth of Christ. In all the churches festive Christmas Liturgies are celebrated. The whole family gathers at the holiday table. The greeting words during the Christmas season are "Christ is Born! Glorify Him!" [read more...]
UKRAINE DEBATES CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS TWICE OVER CRIMEA
from - Christianity Today
(08 Jan) Some countries have banned Christmas. Ukraine is debating celebrating it twice. Following the lead of the Russian Orthodox Church, Ukraine celebrates Christmas on January 7. But after the annexation of Crimea in February 2014, relations have been fraying between the Russian Orthodox Church — known in Ukraine as the Moscow Patriarchate — and the Ukrainian faithful. Now two controversial petitions to add December 25 as an officially recognized holiday are circulating, a change that would bring Ukraine more in line with the West and take another step back from Russia.
The Moscow Patriarchate is losing favor with Ukrainians who want the church to clearly oppose Russia’s actions. For example, four months after the Crimea annexation, the church officially accepted it. Meanwhile, the Kiev Patriarchate—the Moscow Patriarchate’s Orthodox competition—sent military chaplains to the front, declared that Putin was under Satan’s influence, and lobbied US senators for support, reported the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). So Ukrainians have been switching loyalties, even though the Kiev Patriarchate isn’t officially recognized by other Orthodox churches.
About a quarter of Ukrainians (26%) belonged to the Moscow Patriarchate in 2011; that number dropped to 21 percent in 2015, the WSJ reported. About 31 percent were part of the Kiev Patriarchate in 2011, rising to 44 percent in 2015. Two petitions asking for the second Christmas date are posted on the presidential website. If enough signatures are gathered, President Petro Poroshenko and then parliament would consider the matter, reported Reuters. Evangelical Focus notes that one prominent evangelical, the secretary of Ukraine’s security council, supports the idea. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
THE PROPOSAL TO MOVE CELEBRATION OF CHRISTMAS TO DECEMBER 25 IS AN ATTEMPT TO SPLIT UKRAINIAN SOCIETY, UOC(MP) ARCHBISHOP LUKA SAYS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
IT’S TIME FOR CHRISTMAS – AN ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS
from Mission Network News
MOSCOW ORTHODOX PATRIARCH MAKES "JUST WAR" CASE FOR RUSSIA'S BOMBING IN SYRIA
from RIA Novosti
ORTHODOX SCHOLAR ALEXANDER SHCHIPKOV TO BE IN CHARGE OF CHURCH, SOCIETY RELATIONS INSTEAD OF ARCHPRIEST VSEVOLOD CHAPLIN
TOUGH LOVE IS NEEDED FOR INTER-CONFESSIONAL RELATIONS BETWEEN CHRISTIANS IN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
UNWRAPPING CHRISTMAS IN RUSSIAN LITERATURE
from Russia Beyond the Headlines - Religion
BAN ON UKRAINIAN LANGUAGE TO BACKFIRE AGAINST PRO-MOSCOW PRIESTS
from Zik News
See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
The big brouhaha over Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin's public statements as he was forced out of two high-level positions in the Russian Orthodox Church seems to be ongoing, as you read in the article ARCHPRIEST VSEVOLOD CHAPLIN DISMISSED FROM POST OF DEPUTY HEAD OF WORLD RUSSIAN PEOPLE'S COUNCIL. It appears that Patriarch Kirill has decided to clamp down on this outspoken priest who was not afraid to publicly voice his concerns about the direction in which the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian society are heading.
Last year there was another Orthodox priest who publicly expressed his concerns about unseemly things going on in the Church: we heard about him for a few weeks, then he faded from the scene. I predict the same will happen with Fr. Chaplin - hopefully nothing worse than that, if he tones down his rhetoric a bit, but he keeps posting his opinions on Facebook. Too many outspoken critics of Russian society have been met in the doorway to their apartment buildings by hired assassins.
Our last two news articles and our first "other news headline" all bring up the question of when to celebrate Christmas. For centuries all Christendom celebrated the Birth of Christ on the same day by using the Julian calendar. But in February of 1582, Pope Gregory XIII accepted the advice of astronomers who proved to him that the Julian calendar was off by several days because it didn't properly account for the short fraction of one day that doesn't get adjusted for by adding February 29 every four years. They advised the Pope to roll the calendar forward by eight days and omit February 29 in the century rollover year.
So Pope Gregory agreed to adopt a corrected calendar that bumped the dates ahead and dropped February 29 every 100 years. But because the Eastern Orthodox Churches do not recognize the Roman pope's authority, they rejected the new "Gregorian calendar" and have stuck with the old Julian calendar. And ever since then, this short fraction of one day remains unaccounted for under the Julian calendar, so by now that Julian-Gregorian gap has widened to 13 days.
It should be obvious to all, even the most conservative Orthodox Christians, that those astronomers were correct and that Pope Gregory was simply recognizing the objective facts, it should not be framed as a religious issue at all. So I've often suggested that in order to work toward the reunification of all Christianity, the Orthodox Patriarchs should agree (if they can ever agree on anything) to suggest a compromise with the Roman Pope as follows:
"We will agree to accept the corrected, so-called Gregorian calendar and adjust our Church calendars and celebration of holy days accordingly, in return for the Roman Church agreeing to abandon the erroneous doctrines of Papal Infallibility, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the 'Filioque' it added to the Nicene Creed, and the celibate priesthood." Do you think the Roman Pope would agree to such a proposal in order to bring about Christian unity? Not a chance!
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DOES GOD GIVE US A SECOND CHANCE?
The famous author C. S. Lewis once wrote - "At the final Judgment there will be just two kinds of people: those who said to God, 'Your will be done'; and those to whom God says, 'May your will be done.'" How many, many people there are who have heard the Gospel but think they can outsmart God, they can do whatever their stubborn, self-indulgent will decides, and then at the point in life when they no longer are driven by the passions of lust, gluttony, laziness, hate, etc., they can repent "at a more convenient time" and just barely squeak into heaven.
Does God give a "Second Chance" to such people? What about those who have never heard the Gospel? Is there a "Second Chance" for them after they die? Or is life just one big lottery, with just a few destined to win big, and the rest destined to lose the little they've wagered, even though they had hoped and believed they would win the bet? Tens of millions of people buy PowerBall tickets, firmly believing they will be the big winner. Fate or Freedom? The age-old question of predestination versus free will, with all its twists and turns, comes into play here.
Many people believe in predestination, especially if they believe they're among the "winners" who have "made a decision for Christ" and thus have eternal security - guaranteed eternal life that can never be taken away from them, all without ever paying for a ticket. It's sort of like winning the Publisher's Clearing House "Forever" Prize of $10,000 a week for as long as you live (which is not quite forever!). You have a greater chance of being hit by a meteor than of winning the sweepstakes. Of course, you'd never believe that you'll be struck by a meteor, so why believe that you'll win such a cosmic lottery?
But how many, many people have deceived themselves, fully believing they are saved forever just because they said the sinner's prayer, or were baptized, or take communion once or twice a year ...but later on in life they yielded to the passions and denied Christ? Predestinationists would say that such people were never truly saved in the first place. But that "true believer" was certain he was saved ...until he renounced his faith! Only God knows who are predestined to be saved: as for us finite human beings, we must live with our free will to choose to believe in Christ and follow Him for the rest of our lives. We've all heard of or even known first-hand great evangelists, missionaries and pastors who fell into grievous sin and denied their former faith. Will they get a "Second Chance" in eternity?
From the earliest times in Christianity, from the Apostles and their immediate successors the Apostolic Fathers and onward, we have the teaching that immediately after Christ died on the Cross, He descended into Hades and preached to all those in the realm of the dead. St. Peter wrote -
Continue reading in our Hosken-News Blog.
Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. The greatest advantage of speaking the truth is that you don't have to remember what you said.