At Christianity Today, we’re constantly tracking important developments in the church and the world. Often we use our network of reporters around the world (and for that, visit our main site). But we also monitor other news outlets, bloggers, newsmakers’ social media feeds, and countless other information streams. Gleanings compiles the most urgent and interesting items we’ve found, explains why you need to know about them, and gives you the background you need to understand them. It’s our snapshot of what God is doing in the world, hour by hour.
Ninth Circuit strikes down Arizona's ban on the procedure after 20 weeks.
As abortion laws in states such as North Dakota, Alabama, Arkansas, and Kansas have become more restrictive, critics have taken the new "fetal pain" restrictions to court.
In one of the first rulings by a federal appeals court on such bans, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has struck down Arizona's restrictive ban on the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The court cited "40 years of Supreme Court precedents that allow a woman to terminate her pregnancy if the fetus is not yet viable," notes the San Francisco Chronicle.
Mother: "I told God, 'You can have him, but it had better be good. It had better be something big."
Zach Sobiech, the Christian teen whose song "Clouds" recently reached 3 million YouTube views, died yesterday surrounded by family at his home in Lakeland, Minnesota. He was 18.
Sobiech was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer at age 14. In 2012, after being told he had months to live, he recorded and released his song about facing death, which caught the attention of People, a New York record label, and Soul Pancake, Office actor Rainn Wilson's YouTube channel. Earlier this month, Wilson led a group of celebrities in a lip-synching tribute.
"I want to be remembered as a kid who went down fighting and didn't really lose," says Sobiech in a short documentary, "My Last Days," produced this month by Soul Pancake. "You don't have to find out you're dying to start living."
"It is with heavy heart that we announce the passing of our son Zachary David Sobiech," his family said in a statement yesterday. "Our family has been blessed not only by his amazing presence in our lives, but also by the love and support of our family and friends and by so many people in the community. In particular we'd like to thank those people who listened with their hearts and helped Zach bring his message and his music to the world."
Tributes have poured in from Japanese high schoolers and the PS22 Chorus, and digital sales of "Clouds" and Sobiech's other songs have raised more than $100,000 for the Children's Cancer Research Fund.
According to an extended profile in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the Sobiechs are devout Catholics. "When Zach was first diagnosed, I remember thinking: 'God can see us. We're not just plugging along, living our lives,' " mother Laura Sobiech told the Pioneer Press. "I told God, 'You can have him, but it had better be good. It had better be something big.' "
“It’s been a gut-wrenching and heart-breaking walk, but you know, so was Christ’s life. I have just really tried to hang on to how Christ showed us to suffer and just meditate on that….and continually pray for God’s grace. And I know that’s what it is. It’s all of these prayers of people out there holding us up.”
“Please go to the police. Please get help,” he tells fellow victims.
Following Friday’s news that a Maryland judge dismissed most of the civil lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), attorney Susan Burke promised to appeal the dismissal.
“We (the victims and the lawyers) all knew about the statute issue at the outset,” Burke said in a statement posted at The Wartburg Watch, a site critical of SGM. Maryland’s statute of limitations requires that victims file their lawsuits within three years of turning 18. “But fighting for justice means doing so even against known obstacles. We had a conspiracy theory to overcome the statute, but the court rejected it. … [W]e think the court erred, and will be appealing her ruling.”
(UPDATED) The 2012 International Religious Freedom Report highlights continued rise of anti-conversion laws as noteworthy, 'worrying trend.'
Update (May 22): RNS examines whether the IRF report "needs more teeth" by including an updated list of Countries of Particular Concern.
Among the most worrisome themes in international religious freedom this year? The use—and proliferation—of blasphemy and apostasy laws.
So says the U.S. Department of State in its 2012 International Religious Freedom Report, which was released today. The report reveals widespread "negative trends [that] often cut across national and regional boundaries," including the use of anti-conversion laws.
State university's physics department says debate reveals nothing that faculty didn't already know about the reading list.
One science course at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, is under scrutiny for its syllabus and reading list.
According to Inside Higher Ed (IHE), Ball State school officials say they have agreed to investigate the school's "Boundaries of Science" course, which investigates the intersection of religion and science, after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a complaint with the school earlier this week. FFRF and other bloggers say the course endorses creationism and Christianity.
Texas Conference of United Methodists is proposing new age guidelines that encourage recruiting younger clergy.
Update (May 21): Houston-area Methodist minister Josh Hale has written a blog post clarifying some of the ageism claims regarding the Texas Conference's proposed changes for the age of clergy.
The overall average age of retirement is creeping slowly upward, but one regional United Methodist conference is promoting changes that would limit ordination opportunities for anyone over the age of 45.