This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to Religion News Service, Hong Kong’s incoming Roman Catholic bishop Stephen Chow called for respect for different views as he prepares to lead a diocese that has been polarized by the city’s deteriorating political situation. Chow said while he had “no big plan” on how to unify a Catholic community divided since months of anti-government protests in 2019, he believed that God wanted them to be united. “Unity is not the same as uniformity,” Chow said at a news conference Tuesday, one day after Pope Francis named him to head the Hong Kong diocese. “One thing I’ve always mentioned recently in schools is unity is plurality. “We need to respect plurality,” he said. Chow, whose appointment won’t be effective until Dec. 4, will replace Bishop Michael Yeung, who died in 2019. A Hong Kong native, the 62-year-old Chow was educated in the U.S. and Ireland and is a school supervisor at the city’s Wah Yan College. The Catholic community in Hong Kong comprises about 404,000 people, or about 5.3% of the city’s population. The Catholic community is split between those who see Beijing’s control over Hong Kong as an attack on the city’s freedoms, and pro-establishment figures who prefer a less confrontational approach. Hong Kong’s largely pro-Beijing chief executive, Carrie Lam, is also a Roman Catholic.
According to Baptist Press, The International Mission Board is collaborating with Nik Ripken Ministries to raise awareness about current religious persecution through the Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. This SBC-wide initiative will be observed June 6. It is a call for Southern Baptists to increase their awareness of and pray fervently for the global persecuted church. In 2020, more than 340 million Christians experienced high levels of persecution and discrimination. Also last year, 4,761 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons, and 4,277 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned. In addition, 4,488 churches and Christian buildings were attacked, according to data from the World Watch List.
According to Religion News Service, When Pope Francis decided to cut the pay of Vatican employees, lay and religious, in late March, it was mostly welcomed as a positive effort to rein in the institution’s struggling finances. But in an unprecedented letter to the pope, some employees said the measures are disproportionate and aggravate already existing systems of privileges. “How much more will we have to sacrifice to pay for a budget deficit that certainly does not derive from our misdeeds?” some Vatican employees wrote in the letter, published this week by Italian media outlets. According to the Vatican’s budget for 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has put further strain on its finances, risking a deficit of $60 million. Mismanagement and corruption have undercut the Vatican’s financial stability and reputation worldwide for decades. Pope Francis’ reform efforts have attempted to reduce the economic hemorrhage, compounded by dwindling donations from the faithful and months of closure for the institution’s biggest money maker, the Vatican Museums. The papal decree March 24 cut the pay of Vatican cardinals by 10% and decreased salaries for the heads of Vatican departments and secretaries by 8%, “according to criteria of proportionality and progressivity.” Also, all seniority-linked salary raises have been blocked until 2023.
According to the Daily Mail, Hillsong founder Brian Houston said cheating pastor Carl Lentz was ‘narcissistic’ but admits he created a culture in the church where there is ‘one rule for celebrities’ and one for everyone else. Houston spoke to Savannah Guthrie for the Today show on Wednesday in his first interview since a wave of scandals hit the celebrity-adored megachurch. Among them are Carl’s affair with a Brooklyn woman and a series of claims from former staffers and parishioners that the church fostered an environment where they were bullied and exploited. Houston said on Wednesday that he feels ‘a lot of disappointment’ over the series of scandals, but that he ultimately believes Hillsong is a ‘good church’.
According to faithwire, Famed atheist thought leader Richard Dawkins said recently it is “wise and sensible” to abort babies with Down syndrome. The “God Delusion” author made the comments to radio host Brendan O’Connor, who has a child with Down syndrome and asked Dawkins why he believes it would be “immoral” not to abort such a child. O’Connor was referencing a tweet Dawkins posted in 2014, when he suggested it would be “immoral” to go through with a pregnancy if a mother knows her unborn child will likely have Down syndrome. Backed into a corner, the atheist’s morality argument fell apart and he told O’Connor he put it “a bit too strongly” seven years ago and took back his words. O’Connor pressed Dawkins a few times for real data to support his claims. Dawkins, who admitted he doesn’t have any relationships with anyone with Down syndrome, also admitted he has no “direct evidence” to back up his claim that aborting babies with disabilities would “increase the amount of happiness in the world.” Instead, he said it seems “plausible.” “It seems to me to be plausible that … if a child has any kind of disability, then you probably would increase the amount of happiness in the world more by having another child instead,” Dawkins argued. “I think it would be wise and sensible to abort a child which had a serious disability.”
According to Faithwire, A law student at Abertay University in Scotland is under investigation after she said during a seminar that only women have female anatomy and that males are the physically stronger sex. Lisa Keogh, 29, is now facing disciplinary action in the final year of her studies at the college, according to The Times. The lecturer leading the video seminar reportedly muted Keogh after she raised concerns about transgender females — biological males — participating on women’s sports teams. She pointed out that a transgender female “would be genetically stronger than your average woman,” because of natural testosterone levels. When she first received an email about the investigation over her comments, Keogh said she thought “it was a joke.” As it turns out, some of her classmates reported her for suggesting women are the “weaker sex.” “I thought there was no way that the university would pursue me for utilizing my legal right to freedom of speech,” Keogh said.
According to CBN, The largest Christian denomination in Sweden has announced in an open letter that it is “trans.” Summit News reports the Church of Sweden, which is Europe’s largest Lutheran denomination, posted the letter titled “Personal Letter to You Who are Trans” on the Västerås diocese’s official website. It is signed by a huge list of priests, deacons, church staff, and more. “We write to you from a church that is also trans. A church is made up of people. People are different. We have confirmees, employees, churchwardens, elected representatives, non-profits, and other parishioners who define themselves as trans people. The church also consists of trans people. Therefore, the church could be described as trans,” the letter said. The church’s letter then slammed efforts by feminists and others who are trying to keep biological men out of women’s and girls’ sports and changing rooms. “This contributes to the normalization of trans hate,” the letter claims. “We believe in a church and a God who welcome people beyond power, national boundaries, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex, and gender identity. A humanity in all the colours of the rainbow, absolutely amazing and infinite in its diversity. We are different and that is good. And God saw that it was good.” The letter has drawn much criticism.
In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!