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A group of Episcopalians and Methodists has released its proposal for full communion between the two denominations. The Episcopal Church General Convention and the United Methodist Church General Conference must approve the agreement, which culminates 15 years of exploration and more
than 50 years of formal dialogue between the two churches. The 10-page proposal, titled “A Gift to the World, Co-Laborers for the Healing of Brokenness,” says it “is an effort to bring our churches into closer partnership in the mission and witness to the love of God and thus labor together for the healing of divisions among Christians and for the well-being of all.” — Episcopal News Service, 5/18/2017

The first-ever study Bible developed exclusively by African scholars and ministers containing thousands of study notes by 350 contributors from over 50 countries was launched in Chicago by the Moody Institute and Tyndale House Publishers.
The African social and economic contexts “are far closer to the biblical context than what we have in the West,” said Paul Nyquist, president of Moody Bible Institute. “And yet all they read are study Bibles that have a very modern first-world experience so this new one brings the Bible down to their
experience in a way that nothing else does” he said,
highlighting that the church is growing rapidly in Africa, with around 20,000 becoming believers in Jesus every day. For example, throughout the whole of Scripture, witchcraft and polygamy are mentioned as part of the culture, and those are realities with which Africans are very familiar. By contrast,
Westerners largely do not have a frame of reference for those things. And Africa’s approximately 400 million Christians are extraordinarily diverse geographically, ethnically, socially and economically.— Christian Post, 6/21/2017

Protestant megachurches have increased from 600 at the turn of the century to more than 1,600 today. And the South has almost as many as the rest of the U.S. combined. The megachurches database from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research
includes 1,642 American congregations with sustained attendance of at least 2,000 persons in its worship services. Of those, 810 are in the South, giving the region 49 percent of the nation’s largest churches. In all, five of the six states with the most megachurches are in the South — Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. — Facts & Trends, 6/9/2017

According to Census 2016, the results of which were published last April, 63,400 of the 4,761,865 population of Ireland declared their religion as Islam. A total of 3.7 million declared themselves as Roman Catholic and 126,400 as Church of Ireland. After these two religions, Islam was the third most
popular religion in Ireland. Last year’s Census also marked a rise of 29% in the number of people registering themselves as a Muslim. In Census 2011, 49,200 people declared themselves Muslim. Islam is now listed by the CSO as being one of the fastest growing religions in Ireland. This growth has occurred
in a very short period of time, considering the Islamic Foundation of Ireland (IFI) was only formed in 1959. — Irish Examiner, 6/7/2017

The Old Testament is dying. A book by the same name argues that many contemporary Christians have lost biblical fluency and can no longer speak the language of more than half their sacred Scripture. Heard in many churches each Sunday morning, the Revised Common Lectionary omits seven
books of the Old Testament and severely underrepresents
13 others. As more Christians and Jews abandon sanctuaries to join the swelling ranks of the unaffiliated — now about 23 percent of the U.S. population — Scripture fluency may be fading. A popular 2010 quiz by the Pew Forum found that Americans correctly answered 16 of 32 basic religious knowledge questions. Among the findings:
Only a slim majority (55 percent) knew that the Golden Rule is not one of the Ten Commandments.
Religious News Service, 5/18/2017

China may be experiencing one of the great religious revivals of our time. Across China, hundreds of temples, mosques and churches open each year, attracting millions of new worshippers. Once officially atheist, China has roared with growth since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. A 2015 WIN/
Gallup poll found China to be the least religious country in the world, with atheists making up 61 percent of the population, but a 2005 survey conducted by a Chinese university found that 31 percent of the population — about 300 million people
— are religious. Two-thirds of those are Buddhists, Daoists or members of other folk religions, while 40 million people said they are Christian. — Religious News Service, 5/17/2017

The secularization of Britain has been thrown into sharp focus by new research showing that for every person brought up in a non-religious household who becomes a churchgoer, 26 people raised as Christians now identify as non-believers. Analysis of
data from the annual British Social Attitudes survey and the biennial European Social Survey showed that the avowedly non-religious – sometimes known as “nones” — now make up 48.6% of the British population. Between 1983 and 2015, the proportion of Britons who identify as Christian fell from 55%
to 43%, while members of non-Christian religions — principally Muslims and Hindus — quadrupled. — The Guardian, 5/14/2017

Social

In 2015, 163,000 asylum-seekers, mostly Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, entered Sweden. Relative to Sweden’s population of 10 million, this was the largest influx ever recorded by the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries. Not all will stay; last year two-fifths of asylum claims were rejected. But the rest will need homes, schools and jobs. Fully 95% of new jobs in Sweden require at least a secondary education; one-third of recent refugees, most of them women, have less than nine years’ schooling. A new law obliges all 290 of Sweden’s municipalities to accept refugees. — The Economist, 5/18/2017

In Africa, grassland fires are extremely common. That used to be true of the Great Plains in the U.S. as well, but in the past century, wildfire suppression techniques had largely eradicated them from the region. Recently, however, the average number
of large Great Plain wildfires grew from 33 per year to 117 per year, and the area burned in these wildfires increased by 400 percent, according to the journal Geophysical Research Letters. In 2011, Great Plains wildfires accounted for half of the total
acreage burned in the U.S. that year. Guido van der Werf, a scientist at VU Amsterdam who studies global forest fires and was not involved with the recent study, said it was difficult to attribute causes for this uptick. Although some environmental scientists attribute it to global warming, others suspect that the increase in wildfires is caused by changing human behavior referred to as “wildland-urban interface,” in which more and more people are living in proximity to areas conducive to burning. — Washington Post, 6/18/2017

A high-rise fire in London in which at least 30 residents died outraged the public because of complaints being ignored when contractors installed cheaper, less flame-resistant type of exterior paneling on the renovated 24-story. It is not known how many were in the building at the time. — AP, 6/16/2017

The World Health Organization (WHO) published its main report on the health statistics of the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries, according to which Israel’s average life expectancy places it at the top of its
member states, both among men and women. According to the report, the average life expectancy in Israel (average between men and women) is 82.5 years, and it places Israel eighth in the world, based on data relating to population mortality in 2015. The life expectancy of men in Israel is 80.6 years, which ranks fourth in the world, after Ireland, Switzerland and Iceland. The life expectancy of women in Israel is eighth in the world and stands at 84.3 years. — Bridges for Peace, 5/18/2017

Political

World’s 10 most dangerous countries: (10) Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, (9) Pakistan, (8) Democratic Republic of Congo, (7) Central African Republic, (6) Sudan, (5) Somalia, (4) Iraq, (3) South Sudan, (2) Afghanistan, (1) Syria. — Global
Peace Index, 1/18/2017

Operation Car Wash is believed to be the largest corruption case in modern history. And, it could force the resignation of Brazilian President Michel Temer, who’s been fingered repeatedly for allegedly orchestrating and receiving millions
of dollars in bribes. The head of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies,
Eduardo da Cunha — who hid some of the $40 million in bribes
he pocketed in a religious shell company called Jesus.com — was convicted in March and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Hundreds more legislators, governors, mayors, political bosses, and business executives are caught up in Lava Jato (named for a Brasília gas station where some of the payoff cash was laundered). They are part of an epic network of bribes, kickbacks, hush money, and money laundering focused
mainly on Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petrobras. Since the scheme was detected three years ago, prosecutors have yet to reach bottom in their investigation — and the total sum of payoffs may exceed $5 billion. — Bloomberg News, 5/25/2017

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan sought Israel’s advice to “find new ways to protect ourselves” after a series of terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom. “My office has been in contact with not only Tel Aviv but other places as well,” Khan said, adding
they had learned “lots of things, things like putting in place the barriers we have done in London. There are other things and we are using the advice we receive.” Terrorist atrocities that are low-tech in nature — such as car rammings and knife attacks
— are a relatively new occurrence in Europe, but a phenomenon Israel has been dealing with for years. Khan also revealed that hate crime in London has risen sharply in the wake of the attacks, including crimes of an anti-Semitic nature. Police are taking a “zero tolerance” approach to all incidents of hate
crime. “No hate crime will be regarded as too trivial to report,” Khan promised. The mayor pledged to fight anti-Semitism, saying it was “unacceptable in London in 2017 and I’m determined to stamp it out.” — The Tower, 6/14/2017

Syria has fallen apart. Major cities in Iraq have fallen to al-Qa’eda. Egypt may have stabilized slightly after a counter-coup. But Lebanon is starting once again to fragment. Beneath all these facts — beneath all the explosions, exhortations and blood — certain themes are emerging.

The Middle East is not simply falling apart. It is taking a different shape, along very clear lines — far older ones than those the western powers rudely imposed on the region nearly a century ago. Across the whole continent those borders are in the process of cracking and breaking. There are those who think that the region as a whole may be starting to go through something similar to what Europe went through in the early
17th century during the Thirty Years’ War, when Protestant and Catholic states battled it out. This is a conflict which will re-align not only the Middle East, but the religion of Islam. The war between Saudi and Iran has been devastatingly fought out
across Syria’s wasted land. In a region replete with bitter rivalries and irreconcilable ambitions, it will be this battle that will bring perhaps the ultimate clarification. — The Spectator, 6/7/2017

Financial

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is testing a program that sends store employees to deliver online orders at the end of their shifts, a new push by the world’s biggest retailer to use its large physical footprint to match Amazon.com Inc.’s convenient options for web purchases. Workers can opt in to earn extra money by making deliveries using their own cars. Online spending will increase by 16 percent this year
— more than four times the pace of overall retail
— to reach $462 billion, according to EMarketer Inc. About 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Wal-Mart. — Bloomberg News, 6/1/2017

Founded by a New Haven, Conn., priest 135 years ago to help the widows and orphans of Catholic immigrants with direct aid and insurance, the Knights of Columbus is now a multibillion-dollar philanthropy-cum-insurance company. In 2015, the last
available reporting year, it had revenues of $2.2 billion, of which it gave away $175 million. In 2014, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson pulled down $2.29 million — a figure that dropped by nearly $1 million in 2015. Meanwhile, five other group officials
have been earning well north of $500,000 a year. — Religious News Service, 5/16/2017

Amazon, the giant on-line retailer, agreed to buy Whole Foods, a retailer that focuses on organic and natural foods. Amazon already offers grocery-delivery services in five markets, but the Whole Foods purchase would let it expand to many more. It will
also allow a greater distribution of perishable foods. The deal could be “transformative” said Wall Street analysts. Groceries are already a fiercely competitive business, with low-cost rivals putting pressure on traditional supermarket chains. Walmart, which entered the grocery business in the 2000’s, currently
commands over a 30 percent share of the market. — AP, 6/16/2017

Israel

Dozens of Israeli and American fighter jets concluded the joint annual Juniper Falcon exercise during which they simulated different operational scenarios. The main objective for the fighter jets training over southern Israel was to destroy mobile
enemy targets (such as anti-aircraft missiles). The Israeli and American pilots also practiced evading advanced aerial defense measures and enemy fighter jets that were trying to disrupt the mission. The exercise lasted two weeks. It constitutes part of a
series of joint training exercises between the two nations’ air forces in recent years. — Ynet News, 5/21/2017

Israel Meteorological Service data indicate that the country has entered a drought year, showing that the annual rainfall stands at only about 71% of the cross-year average. — Ynet News, 5/4/2017

For many American Jewish millennials the notion of tikkun olam — the idea that one must “repair the world” through social justice — is eclipsing Zionism as the glue that binds a community together. That is not to say this demographic does not support Israel — it does. However, in recent years the
unconditional support so prevalent in their grandparents’
and parents’ generations has begun to take a back seat to involvement in distinctly domestic social issues. The reasons for this perceived shift away from Israel as the great unifier are multifaceted, said Elliot Abrams, senior fellow for Middle
Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York City-based think tank.

Abrams said this is partly because non-Orthodox Jews between the ages of 18 through 32 no longer view Israel’s existence as a miracle. In addition, he said, the Israel-Palestine conflict has become a lightning rod for many American Jews — only 43
percent of millennials sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians. According to a massive 2013 Pew Research Center study, younger Jews are less likely than older Jews to consider Israel an essential part of what being Jewish means to them. Where 32% of Jewish adults under 30 say caring about Israel
is vital to their Jewish identity, more than 50% of Jews 65 and older feel that way.. — The Times of Israel, 6/21/2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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