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from: The Telegraph

Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov (28 Nov.) Authorities will investigate an anti-semitic theory that the 1918 killing of Tsar Nicholas II was a "ritual murder" following comments by a bishop close to Vladimir Putin. Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, who is heading a Russian Orthodox Church commission investigating the execution of the Romanov family by firing squad in Yekaterinburg, said at a conference on Monday that many members of the commission believe it was a ritual murder that held special significance for Bolshevik commander Yakov Yurovsky and his men.

"Ritual murder" has in the past referred to a theory that the last emperor was the victim of a Jewish conspiracy, as Mr Yurovsky was of Jewish heritage. Russia's investigative committee said it would look into the claim by Bishop Shevkunov, who is reputed to be Mr Putin's confessor. The announcement drew an outcry from Jewish groups. Rabbi Boruch Gorin, a spokesman for the federation of Jewish communities, told Interfax news agency that this ritual murder investigation was a "shocking" example of "medieval ignorance," noting that the myth of Jews ritually killing people to extract their blood for matzo bread has figured in anti-semitic propaganda for many decades.

The controversy comes before Mr Putin for the first time takes part in the church's annual bishops council on Wednesday. Speaking at the conference, patriarch Kirill said he had "hard questions" about the tsarist murder investigation, which they re-opened in 2015, and called on the authorities not to rush it. Yekaterinburg news agency Ura.ru quoted a source close to the church leadership as saying the patriarch feared that the ritual murder allegations could "provoke uncontrollable outbursts of ultranationalism." [read more...]



by Felix Corley: Forum 18 News Service

Forum18 News Service (29 Nov.) Kazakhstan's draft Amending Law proposing many wide-ranging changes to the 2011 Religion Law, Administrative Code and many other laws is now with the Prime Minister for approval before being sent to parliament. A senior official of the Religion and Civil Society Ministry's Religious Affairs Committee told Forum 18 she expects Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev to approve the draft Law "soon" and send it to the lower house of Parliament, the Majilis.

The Religious Affairs Committee official refused to explain why the Amending Law does not remove restrictions in the existing Law which violate Kazakhstan's international human rights obligations and why it adds further restrictions. The Religion and Civil Society Ministry, which prepared the draft Amending Law, completed work on it on 17 November. Government agencies have already given their approval to the draft Law, including the Justice Ministry, Interior Ministry and National Security Committee (KNB) secret police, Aliya Abeldinova, deputy chair of the Religious Affairs Committee, told Forum 18 from the capital Astana on 29 November.

The final text, unlike earlier drafts, will require all registered non-Muslim and non-Russian Orthodox religious organisations to bring their statutes into line with the new provisions and to re-register with the Justice Ministry. Local Russian Orthodox communities will also be required to re-register. The draft gives no timescale for compulsory re-registration. [read more...]



from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine

new status for UOC-MP (30 Nov.) Today, at the Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, following the speech of Metropolitan Onufry (Berezovsky) of Kyiv, a unanimous decision was taken to amend the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church in the provisions regulating the status of the UOC. A number of mass media immediately burst out with victorious messages about the great victory and the provision of some new status to the UOC, independence and autonomy.

But in reality, everything is not so rosy. Ilya Bey, the Master of Theology and a lecturer of Kyiv Theological Academy, analyzed all the clauses relating to the status of the UOC and offers his conclusions:

"Moscow wants to blur the eyes of Kyivan authorities. It is precisely for this purpose that the updated article of the ROC include paragraph 4: 'The church bodies of governance and administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are its Council and Synod, chaired by its Primate, bearing the title "His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine." The center of governance of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is located in Kyiv.' Obviously, the ROC wants to circumvent the requirements of draft law No. 5309 (on the names of religious organizations which make part of a religious organization having the governing center in a state recognized as an aggressor state)." [read more...]



from: Moscow Times

Russian priest blesses satellite that crashes (29 Nov.) A debate is raging within the Russian Orthodox Church over whether a priest’s blessing caused a satellite to crash into the Atlantic this week. The rocket carrying the Meteor-M satellite and 18 smaller satellites plunged into the ocean shortly after liftoff from a cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East on Tuesday. A space agency official later said that the satellite was still in space despite not reaching its designated orbit, the NVK Sakha broadcasting company reported on Wednesday.

The popular theologian Andrei Kurayev said on Tuesday that the archbishop who blessed the satellite before its launch should be held accountable for its fate. "It is very strange that the church seemingly offers services but is never held liable for the quality of these services," he said in an interview with the Govorit Moskva radio station. Kurayev previously criticized the Amur diocese for delays in Vostochny’s first launch in April 2016.

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin dismissed the theologian’s accusations as "quasi-Christian paganism," the Nation News website reported Tuesday. Another regional priest said the Russian Orthodox Church does not perform miracles and cannot be blamed for the incident. "Let’s put it this way: if you bless a car that has an empty gas tank, it won’t start," he told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency. [read more...]



from: Interfax-Religion

Interfax Religion (1 Dec.) The Kiev Patriarchate is ready to engage in dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church on its autocephaly, but will resolve this issue with Constantinople if Moscow refuses, Patriarch Filaret Denisenko of the Kiev Patriarchate said.

"We did not initiate this dialogue [with the Russian Orthodox Church]. Moscow initiated it. And we are in dialogue on autocephaly with the Eucumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Because they [Moscow] offered us reconciliation and paths to reconciliation, we took that step [of writing the letter]," he told a press conference in Kyiv on Friday.

The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate said he believes the story with the letter will not complicate negotiations between the Kiev Patriarchate and Constantinople. The Constantinople patriarch claims that Ukraine is a canonical territory of Constantinople, he said.

"If Moscow does not want to conduct negotiations with us as an autocephalous church, we will have negotiations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople on that autocephaly. Autocephaly is our goal," Filaret said. [read more...]



by Mushfig Bayram: Forum 18 News Service

Forum18 News Service (2 Nov.) On 29 October the Sunday morning meeting for worship of Baptists in Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan's Pavlodar Region was raided by police. Twenty Church members were between 2 and 13 November fined by police, and told that they "should not meet for worship until they register". But Baptist Pastor Andrei Asetov commented that Church members are still meeting for worship.

Meetings for worship by New Life Church in Oskemen in East Kazakhstan Region remain banned until 19 December, after church members, relatives and friends sang religious songs without state permission at a holiday camp in August. Timur Zhigitayev, Deputy Head of East Kazakhstan Religious Affairs Department (DRA), asked why football fans don't need permission to sing songs in public but religious believers do, said this is "because it is a religious ritual". But he could not identify any law which defines singing religious songs as a ritual.

But an Astana DRA attempt to punish an Astana Seventh-day Adventist Pastor because a child attended one meeting for worship with his father against the (unknown to the Pastor) objections of the boy's mother has failed. Judge Nurzhan Kayirbek on 18 October dismissed the case due to "the absence of an administrative violation."

Almazbek Mambetov, Chief Legal Expert of Astana DRA, claimed to Forum 18 that he did not open the case on his own initiative, but because there was a complaint. When Forum 18 asked him to explain why as a "legal expert" he opened the case, when both the Judge found there was no case to answer and he already knew that the Pastor had no responsibility for the father's actions, Mambetov claimed: "My duty was to bring the issue to Court." [read more...]




Balkan Insight

Religious Information Service of Ukraine

Mission Network News


Religious Information Service of Ukraine

Religiia i Pravo

Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

Mission Eurasia

Orthodox Christianity





FOCUS-Trauma-Response-Team Cheryl has gone through training for the FOCUS Trauma Response Team (TRT), and if you click the pic, you can read the newspaper article about FOCUS's converted recreational vehicle (RV) and the team. Before Thanksgiving the team had a practice run and by now they've already gone on two "live" runs. The RV provides a place where people traumatized by a shooting, a terrible car accident, sexual assault, or some other disaster, can come for a warm shelter, a bathroom, coffee, tea, hot noodles, snack bars, and most of all counseling to recover from the trauma of such an event.

In Pittsburgh's poor neighborhoods such as "the Hill District" where FOCUS is located, people tend to resort to violence as a way to relieve their frustration and anger at their life situations. Often this results in fights and shootings, sometimes killing innocent bystanders including children. Because of this, many in the whole neighborhood experience shock and trauma, which in turn disables them from functioning normally in society: how can you go to your job and work eight hours a day, forty hours a week, just as if everything was normal, when your neighbor's daughter, a beautiful six-year-old little girl, was accidentally shot and killed? When people are traumatized like this over and over again, as with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it becomes very difficult to lead a normal life and hold down a regular job.

Which brings us to... Getting A Job! In spite of life's traumas, people need jobs, so I've just made some big changes to our FOCUS Homes & Jobs web-page: it's much easier now for people to download and create their goal sheet, cover letter, references, resume, and (new!) employer contact list. Then we save these docs in our FOCUS Google account and link them to our clients' Google account so they can edit them, print them, or download them simply by logging on to their Google account at any computer. This way, all changes they make are automatically recorded in our FOCUS account. Next, they click on item #4 on the left menu and start applying for jobs, keeping track of their applications on the employer contact list.

Our leading news article RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH SUGGESTS TSAR'S DEATH WAS A JEWISH 'RITUAL MURDER' paints a rather lurid picture of Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov. But this same person is portrayed in quite a positive light in our news headline BISHOP TIKHON SHEVKUNOV’S INTERVIEW WITH RADIO LIBERTY: he's the author of the much-read book Everyday Saints and Other Stories, as well as a confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Several of our news articles and headlines deal with the ongoing tensions between the Russian Orthodox Church-MP (Moscow Patriarchate), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-MP, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-KP (Kyiv Patriarchate). It's a tangled web of who-said-what and what-does-it-mean: I encourage you to read carefully all those articles, especially the last paragraph of ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW CALLS TO STOP THE WAR AND AGGRESSION IN EASTERN UKRAINE where it sounds like the Ecumenical Patriarch is shifting his support toward Kyiv.



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Dec. 1, 2017 - Big First Amendment Case Heads to SCOTUS Next Week

Nov. 29, 2017 - The truth behind 'transgender' deaths

Nov. 27, 2017 - This Food Stamp Bill Would Result in More Americans Working

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The Seven Last Words of the Church

7 last words of the churchWhat do church people often say when someone meekly suggests - "Maybe we should try to be real disciples, you know, like the early Christians"? The likely reply is - "We've never done it that way before!" These are infamously known as "The Seven Last Words of the Church." Why the "last words"? Because it's a sure sign that the church in question is stuck in the "same-old, same-old" habitual rut of culture-accomodating Christianity that's leading down the slippery slope to extinction. In reality, we actually have done it that way before: all Christians in the Early Church were real disciples.

Most of the "seeker-friendly" new techniques in mega-churches are pretty much hot air that will collapse when the emotional-high bubble bursts. To quote a source that I'm not going to identify because you might say - "Oh, well, that's not my flavor of Christianity!" (but if you ask real nice, I'll send you the link) - "It's premised on the assumption that basically 'all is well' inside the Church, and we just need to 'invite' and 'welcome' people to 'share' the love feast with us. As [one of their beloved leaders] once said, it’s the dead burying the dead and calling it renewal." This source continues (slightly edited to keep it anonymous) -

"The Church, and individual [Christians] in it, are supposed to be mustard seeds and leaven in this world. Or, as some prefer to say, 'salt and light.' We have a missionary imperative from Christ to convert the world. But there are at least five serious obstacles to evangelizing today, any one of which would already deal a serious blow to the endeavor.
* First, the privatization of religion.
* Second, the rejection of original sin and the assumption of universal salvation.
* Third, the widespread doctrinal and moral confusion in the Church.
* Fourth, the banality and irreverence of mainstream [Christian] worship.
* Fifth, the utter lack of ascetical demands.

When you put all these together, you get [Christians] who don’t think they should bother other people about religion, who assume that most people are already fine, who are not even quite sure they know what they believe, have nothing especially attractive to invite people to, and are not living and promoting a way of life that would respond to the needs of any serious searcher.

[We must do] The stuff the saints used to do. The reason they converted the entire world to the Faith once upon a time. That’s what we have to do today: real worship, real doctrine, real morals, real demands. Then the Lord will give us real results. We can't expect any knights in shining armor to ride in to our aid. We’ve got to do the Lord’s work or no one will. And there's no time to waste."

Now and then I've referred to Rod Dreher's new book The Benedict Option. If I were to write a book like his, I'd probably title it The Discipleship Imperative because it's not just for monastics like St. Benedict and his followers and it's not at all an option. It's imperative: all Christians are called to discipleship! In Acts 11:19-27 we read how the Gospel was spread to Andioch by ordinary believers. This passage closes with the words - "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." So the question we should ask is - "What were they before they were called Christians?" The answer is obvious, it's right there in the text: they were disciples. All real, true, genuine believers in and followers of Christ are disciples. And so, if you're not a disciple, you're not a real, true, genuine believer in and follower of Christ.

This collides head-on with our "liberal, democratic" cultural assumptions that you can have your own religion if you keep it to yourself and everyone else should keep their religion to themselves too; you and everyone else can believe whatever you want and behave however you want as long as you're not directly harming others. These are the assumptions that undergird the first three points above.

Real discipleship will result in a "sifting and winnowing" of the Church: the tares will be shaken out so that only the wheat will remain. As the prophet Daniel wrote - "Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves clean, and be refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but those who are wise will understand" (Daniel 12:10). He was referring to a time of persecution, which results in purification.

This "sifting and winnowing" is a costly, painful process of refining by fire. The prophet Zechariah described it thusly - "'Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,' says the Lord of hosts. 'Strike the shepherd that the sheep may be scattered... In the whole land, says the Lord, two thirds will be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. I will bring this third through the fire, and refine them as silver is refined, and I will test them as gold is tested. They shall call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'They are my people'; and they will say, 'The Lord is my God'" (Zechariah 13:7-9). Two thirds will fall away and perish. Only one third will remain.

The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, also foretold this refining process - "For behold, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that is coming shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, leaving them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings" (Malachi 4:1-2). The "wings of healing" are not for everyone, there's no such thing as universal salvation where everyone will get to heaven eventually. Only those who reverence the name of Christ, the Messiah, and live righteously will experience this healing and wholeness.

We are right now living in a time of purging and refining from the sexual immorality that has been foisted upon us for several decades by "Hornywood, Calipornia." Women have been treated as sex objects far too long, so now they are finally coming out and exposing the phoniness of entertainment, business, and political "leaders." Here's what the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostle John -

"To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: 'The Son of God, who has his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like burnished brass, says these things: I know your works, your love, faith, service, patient endurance, and that your last works are more than the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. She teaches and seduces my servants to commit sexual immorality, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great oppression, unless they repent of her works. I will kill her children with Death, and all the churches will know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts. I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But to you I say, to the rest who are in Thyatira, as many as don't have this teaching, who don't know what some call "the deep things of Satan," to you I say, I am not putting any other burden on you. Nevertheless, hold firmly that which you have, until I come'" (Revelation 3:18-25).

The time has now come for those who call themselves "Christians" to take a stand as real, true, genuine believers in and followers of Christ, as His disciples. It's time to get back to the basics, the traditions that have been handed down to us from the Apostles and the Early Church: "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thessalonians 2: 15). It's back to the basics!

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Prayer and Praise:   For a daily reminder to pray for the items below, go to My Daily Prayer Guide and click on the "H-N pr." link! For our Daily News & Views, click HERE!

Sun. - Pray that the investigation into the deaths of the last Russian Tsar and his family won't lead to ultranationalism and unrest.
Mon. - Uphold in prayer Christians in Kazakhstan who must go through the tedious, costly, and risky re-registration of their churches.
Tue. - Ask the Lord that the word game of pretending the UOC-MP is governed in Kyiv will be recognized as the sham that it really is.
Wed. - Pray that the joking about Russian Orthodox priests blessing rockets, satellites, ships, and submarines will come to an end.
Thu. - Thank God that talks between Kyiv, Moscow and Constantinople about autocephaly for Ukrainian Orthodox believers is progressing.
Fri. - Pray for Christians in Kazakhstan who are experiencing raids, fines and banning for meeting and singing religious songs in public.
Sat. - Ask God that Christians everywhere will realize that we all are called to discipleship, not just pastors, priests and monks.

Who Are We?   Please remember to pray for Christians in socialist countries, and for...

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

  p.s. No armor? Unclean life? Then don't mess with dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.


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