01: Gospel brunches are attracting a growing clientele to their blending of church and entertainment functions. These brunches are booming in Washington, DC, where the gatherings are hosted by nightclubs and theatres, because they offer both the musical offerings of area choirs and soul food. The brunches are clearly viewed by these venues as a way to drum up business, and the events draw a cross-section of secular and religious people. Some brunchers see their involvement as a substitute for church, at least on an occasional basis, even though no preaching is included in the performances. The concept of the gospel brunch was first popularized by the House of Blues nightclub chain, but Washington has become a center of the phenomenon.
(Source: Washington Post, Sept. 28)
02: David Jang has emerged as one of the most controversial figures in Asian and non-Asian evangelical circles for his alleged claim to be a messianic figure. In the last five years, Jang has gained wide influence in American and global evangelical ministries through the several institutions he has founded, including the San Francisco-based Olivet University, such popular online publications as The Christian Post, and the campus ministry known as Apostolos Missions.
In his and his associates’ teaching ministry it is reported that Jang revealed that he is a messianic figure who will foreshadow the return of Christ, which he calls the “Second Coming Christ.” These allegations have been serious enough for a number of mainstream evangelical organizations in Korea and China to sever ties with Jang. American evangelicals have been more divided about whether Jang actually holds this teaching. Former members claim that the core members of Jang’s ministries believe he is the Second Coming Christ, although even critics acknowledge that the Korean-born church leader has backed down from his claim in recent years.
Because Jang is in negotiation with the Southern Baptist Convention to take over one of its prominent conference centers in New Mexico, he is undergoing new scrutiny by the National Association of Evangelicals.
(Source: Christianity Today, September)
03: The Aramaic Maronite Center in Israel is a small, yet prominent voice in seeking to revitalize Aramaic, the ancient language spoken by Jesus, as a way to unite and mobilize Christians in the Middle East as “one nation” and prevent further emigration of this population from Israel. Aramaic has been preserved in the vernacular in parts of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, while Aramaic prayers are still used in the liturgy of the Maronite Church in much of the Middle East. But the language has come close to extinction in Israel, which has several thousand Maronite Christians.
The center is led by Shadi Khalloul, a teacher in the village of Jish, who has led the way in making the language an approved part of the formal school curriculum by Israel’s Ministry of Education. Interestingly, textbooks are imported from the Netherlands and Sweden, which has the strongest Aramaic teaching program and receives government support. (Source: The Jerusalem Post, September 12)4) The founding of the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) represents the first time reporters covering religion from around the world have banded together as a group. The IARJ, which has already grown to 400 members in 2012, was founded to give support to journalists in parts of the world where religious, press, and political freedoms are in jeopardy, as well as to foster knowledgeable and objective reporting on religion when it is often dismissed or seen as to controversial.
The association sees the growth of interest in religion reporting as stemming from the critical role that faith plays in people’s around the world. The IARJ is entering into partnership with the Association of Religion Data Archives, a database of survey research on religion, to give journalists access to up-to-date in-formation on world religion. A corresponding IARJ website in Arabic will be introduced soon. The association’s 17-member steering committee includes representatives from six continents.
(Source: Ahead of the Trend, http:/www.The ARDA.com)