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Interview: Study: Where Are the Women Leading Evangelical Organizations?

That's the mystery the Gender Parity Project, whose results debut this weekend, sets out to solve.

One striking finding of the Gender Parity Project—the largest study to date of women leading evangelical organizations (nonprofits, not churches)—is that the men in such organizations identify as egalitarians. At least when it comes to women leading in society, writ large. Janel Curry, provost of Gordon College, and Amy Reynolds, professor of sociology at Wheaton College, found in their two-year study (funded by the Imago Dei Fund) that 93 percent of the men surveyed agreed with the statement, “Men and women have freedom to pursue their gifts and callings without regard to gender roles. Men and women should share leadership roles within society.”

So why do women hold 21 percent of board positions, 21 percent of paid leadership positions, and 16 percent of CEO positions in the evangelical organizations surveyed (about half the number of women leading nonprofits broadly)? Curry and Reynolds posit that, while a few organizations explicitly say they want only male leaders, or belong to denominations that do, the problem may be that most organizations say nothing at all. “At one point we tried to look at mission statements and strategic plans . . . and it was amazing how few clearly state whether leadership positions are open to both men and women,” says Reynolds. “Given the different views in the evangelical world on this, we found that fairly troubling, that you could not find that information out.”

Still, Curry and Reynolds say that most nonprofits surveyed want more women leaders, if for pragmatic rather than theological reasons. “When we went to the Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) conference, there was really no defensiveness about this issue,” says Curry. ...

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A Sobering Mercy

The second time I surrendered to Christ, I was on a dirt road with no memory of how I had arrived there.

One of the advantages of growing older is the perspective it provides. From a vantage point of more than seven decades, I increasingly marvel at the sovereignty and love of God. Only the passage of time enabled me to see that my salvation has been God-initiated.

Two events separated by more than two decades bring into focus an unbroken chain of God’s grace. At the time, they seemed to be singular and unrelated situations coming from a God with whom I had no relationship.

For many years, I believed my initial encounter with God came a few months after my 15th birthday. My parents and I were living in Birmingham, having recently moved there from Kansas City, Missouri. Despite having been baptized and confirmed in a Lutheran church, I never understood why it was important to have a relationship with Jesus. My parents must have had similar thoughts, since we attended church sporadically.

Our family’s relationship with the Lord changed greatly one hot Alabama night. Walking home from a summer job, I took a shortcut through the campus of Howard College (now Samford University) and came upon a sight totally foreign to me. A large tent adorned the football field. Inside, a dynamic preacher paced across an elevated platform.

Later I learned that I had come upon a Baptist revival meeting. The magnetic preacher, Eddie Martin, spoke on the Prodigal Son, applying the parable to the congregation gathered. He declared there were some prodigals inside the tent and that they needed to “come home.”

I was not a particularly errant lad, but I knew I was one of those prodigals. I was not inside the tent, however, and when the invitation came, I was not sure I would be welcome. You see, in the 1950s my family ...

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Do Christian Schools Produce Good Citizens? The Evidence Says Yes.

Christian private school graduates are just as engaged in their communities as their public school peers—if not more.

According to their critics, private Christian schools foster an attitude of isolation and withdrawal from society. And according to their boosters, public schools provide a unique and essential preparation for citizenship in a diverse nation. For the past five years, my colleagues and I at Cardus have been studying these claims, and last week, we released a new study that shows just how little data exists to support them.

Do private schools (whether religious or not) foster social isolation? Do public schools uniquely help to create the “social capital” that comes from diverse friendships and working relationships? Based on the data we released last week, the answer seems to be no on both counts. Adult graduates of Evangelical Protestant, Catholic, non-religious private, and public schools were all as likely to have a close friend who was an atheist or of a different race. The only statistically significant difference we found was that Evangelical Protestants were marginally less likely to have a close gay or lesbian friend—about 57 percent of evangelical Protestant graduates, compared to 69 percent of public school graduates, report a friend or relative who is gay or lesbian.

The Cardus survey, collected in March 2014 and analyzed by the team at the Cardus Religious Schools Initiative at the University of Notre Dame, was designed to give a comprehensive account of how different kinds of high schools contribute to the academic achievement, cultural engagement, and spiritual formation of their graduates.

The results of this survey were mostly consistent with a similar survey we conducted in 2011. While it’s inevitably most interesting to look at the differences among graduates of these different ...

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Why Can't Men Be Friends?

Men and women alike increasingly say they are lonely. It doesn't have to be this way.

In January 1944, several months after he had been imprisoned by the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a letter to his friend Eberhard Bethge. In it, he reflected on what their relationship meant to each of them. Bonhoeffer wrote that, in contrast to marriage and kinship, friendship "has no generally recognized rights, and therefore depends entirely on its own inherent quality."

As he penned those lines, Bonhoeffer must have had his fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer, in mind. With Maria, Bonhoeffer knew where he stood. They were pledged to be married, and all their family and acquaintances recognized their love and were prepared to witness their wedding ceremony, provided Bonhoeffer was released. With Eberhard, on the other hand, Bonhoeffer admitted there wasn't a similarly public recognition. That led to a question: What were Eberhard and Dietrich to one another, and how might their love be preserved and sustained?

Years later, Eberhard addressed an audience member who had come to hear him speak about his friendship with Bonhoeffer (one explored in depth by Charles Marsh in the acclaimed biography Strange Glory). Surely, the questioner said, theirs "must [have been] a homosexual partnership." What else could Bonhoeffer's impassioned letters to Eberhard have signaled?

Bonhoeffer was aware that his friendship with Eberhard was breakable—that no public ceremony or vow kept them tied. That awareness that friendship is fragile has grown more pronounced since Bonhoeffer wrote his letters from prison. Words like suspicion, unsettledness, and doubt best describe our instincts about friendship. We are uncertain about it—perhaps especially between people of the same sex. And, like ...

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I Didn’t Marry My Best Friend

Couples need more than just each other.

At many weddings these days, whether on picturesque hillsides or at funky warehouses or in swanky ballrooms, newly minted husbands and wives proudly declare to friends and family, “I married my best friend.”

If you attended a wedding this summer, you likely heard the phrase, now so standard in romantic rhetoric that we forget it’s not part of the traditional ceremony. “I married my best friend” appears in vows, program dedications, toasts, and other aww-inducing moments (not to mention the cards, frames, cufflinks, wine glasses, and other Etsy-inspired wares that attend modern weddings).

The sentiment, repeated in Facebook posts on anniversaries, is shorthand for the special relationship with someone we are comfortable with, who listens, loves, and encourages. From secular folks to Christians who firmly believe that God sent them the one, nearly all the married people I know are “so blessed” (or “lucky”) to get to spend their lives wedded to their best friends.

Even if couples don’t announce that they’re marrying their best friend, many newlyweds live out this philosophy, dropping out of the friend-making game once they have a ring on their finger. Sociologists find that these days, we typically form our most meaningful friendships prior to age 28. Not coincidentally, that’s also the average age we get married.

Marrying your best friend is enough of a cultural expectation that if I admit I didn’t, people might pity me. But here’s the secret: I’m actually the lucky one. I have a husband who isn’t my best friend. And I have a best friend whom I’m not married to. They play different roles in my life, and I need them ...

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Table Manners: Why We Take Communion Every Week

It's a meal that often divides us. It needn't be that way.

I attended church twice a week growing up. I had no choice. It’s not that I disliked church. But like many children, I struggled to understand much of what went on. Easily growing bored, I found ways to entertain myself. I doodled on the bulletin and occasionally timed the pastor’s sermon. I counted the overhead lights, wall panels, and segments in the stained glass windows. While I occupied myself with trivial activities, two details caught my attention: the baptismal pool situated above the choir loft behind the pulpit, and the white table at the center-front of the sanctuary, etched with the words, do this in remembrance of me. Something about the white table got me thinking: Why do we eat bread and wine at the table every few months? And who can eat it?

My church celebrated the Lord’s Supper (also known as Communion or the Eucharist) four times a year. I remember asking why we celebrated it so infrequently. The answer I got never satisfied, and it still doesn’t: “If we do this very often, it will lose its meaning.” Precociously I thought, It doesn’t seem to mean much to us anyway, so why worry about it losing any more meaning? As I grew older, I discovered some churches took the meal weekly. I was then even more dissatisfied with the answer I had received.

Whether you’ve been a Christian since childhood or accepted Christ just recently, you likely have a story about the Lord’s Supper. Your story might include questions or frustrations, maybe even doubts. Our stories explain a great deal, not only about us as Christians but also about how important we think Communion is to our faith and practice.

Christians throughout history have traced their practice of ...

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Ladies, Put Down That Pink Bible

Jen Wilkin equips women to study Scripture more deeply.

I have a confession: I knew I would like Jen Wilkin’s new book, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds (Crossway), before I read it. Having become familiar with Wilkin after finding her blog, I was struck by how she proclaims difficult truths without alienating readers. Her teaching—on display as a leader at the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas—is saturated in scriptural insights and demands serious attention.

There is an increasing number of Bible resources for women rooted in sound theology, thanks to teachers like Beth Moore and Kay Arthur. Women of the Word goes further in equipping women with the tools to study Scripture rightly.

Wilkin identifies two significant problems among Christian resources for women: They tend to be emotion-driven and human-centered. Too often, women approach Scripture asking not “Who is God?” but “Who am I?” The latter question certainly has its place, but, as Wilkin objects, “Any study of the Bible that seeks to establish our identity without first proclaiming God’s identity will render partial and limited help.”

She warns against a list of mistaken approaches, such as the “Xanax Approach,” which “treats the Bible as if it exists to make us feel better,” and the “Magic 8 Ball Approach,” which demands that “the Bible tell us what to do rather than who to be.”

Wilkin then offers a five-step primer for studying Scripture, which she calls the “Five Ps”: Study with Purpose, Perspective, Patience, Process, and Prayer. The goal is to help women grow in Bible literacy. Although the approach is rigorous, Wilkin is quick to extend ...

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The Streaming Roundup

Veggie Tales, quirky romance, artistic Polish films, and more.

A diverse array of new watchables was added to video on demand this week. For starters, Netflix brought on the third season of “that girl” (that New Girl) in sync with the Season 4 premiere of the series on FOX. Also on Netflix is the 2013 documentary Evergreen, about the legalization of marijuana in Washington. Indiewire called it a momentary “victory lap” here.

For a somewhat less controversial movie experience, you can now see Silver Linings Playbook on Netflix and read the CT Her.meneutics opinion here. In the same vein of lighthearted love stories, stay tuned for the Netflix-produced series, Love. Two seasons are set to stream in 2016, but the Huffington Post gives the full story here and now. For the girls who like to be crossed in love now and again, or any other Jane Austin fans, the 1990’s TV miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice is available on Amazon Prime.

If you like to curl up with your kids and a good VeggieTales story, then Hulu is the streaming site for you. Recently added to the long list of Hulu’s veggie tales is Robin Good and His Not-So-Merry Men—“a lesson in handling hurt.”

The second best reviewed movie on Indiewire’s Criticwire site, Ida, is now on video on demand. The indie drama follows the story of an orphan whose parents were killed in the Holocaust. Indiewire’s review says the film tackles religion and anti-Semitism head on; Alissa Wilkinson also reviewed it for CT, noting the film’s exploration of incarnation. I suggest saving this emotional experience for after VeggieTales (when the kids are asleep) and before a binge-catch-up with Jess.

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The News Roundup

Another 'Mockingjay' trailer, 'Ben-Hur' casting news, and more.

After months of teasers, Mockingjay: Part 1 finally has a full length trailer! The much-anticipated third installment of The Hunger Games series is set to be even darker and more suspenseful than its predecessors as the story hurtles towards its intense conclusion. You can watch the trailer, titled “The Mockingjay Lives,” here.

Also big news in YA movies this week is the casting of model Cara Delevingne in the adaptation of John Green’s Paper Towns. Delevingne will star opposite Nat Wolf, who starred in Green’s first book-to-movie adaptation, this summer’s The Fault in Our Stars. You can read more about Paper Towns and Delevingne in The Guardian’s article here.

Ben-Hur fans can get excited as the remake slated for 2016 moves steadily forward with the announcement of its lead this week. Boardwalk Empire actor Jack Huston landed the titular role and will star alongside Morgan Freeman as Ildarin and possibly Fantastic Four actor Toby Kebbell as the villain Messala. Yahoo! Movies gives a short profile on Huston and sum up of the casting news here.

The indie film Band of Robbers wrapped production this week, though its release date has not been announced. Kyle Gallner and Adam Nee star in this modernized adaptation of Mark Twain’s most beloved characters, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. You can read about some of the details of this imaginative comedy thriller from Variety here.

The Toronto International Film Festival ended this past weekend and Indiewire has a comprehensive list of the good, the bad, and the disappointing for your perusal here. (And check out Ken Morefield’s list of the best performances!)

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The Critics Roundup: 'The Remaining' and 'No Good Deed'

Two thrillers that don’t quite hit the mark.

“Un-scary, un-sure of its theology, in-consistent in its methods” are the words Crosswalk’s Shawn McEvoy uses to describe the newest Christian thriller/suspense The Remaining. The film is an alternative to the upcoming Left Behind reboot coming out next month. McEvoy sums the film as one that “hopes to offer a ‘Christian horror’ thrill with a message via another take on the Rapture and those it, um, leaves behind.” Despite its decision to tell a familiar story without changing much of the story, McEvoy believes the movie’s biggest problem is its struggle between pleasing horror film lovers and Christian moviegoers. The film teeters between the two audiences and makes a major (in McEvoy’s mind, bad) decision not to show the monsters it hypes up: “This film may have the weight of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions behind it, but a big budget it does not.” The WashingtonPost’s Mark Jenkins agrees with McEvoy completely, saying The Remaining is “a low-budget, low-impact attempt to rewrite the Book of Revelation as a horror flick.” Interestingly enough, Jenkins believes the “fundamental problem” with the film is the actual story. He notes, “The movie relies on the instinctual human fear of death, but its message is that dying is a promotion.”

Fans of Idris Elba (most famously known for the BBC’s Luther) and Think Like A Man’s Taraji P. Henson might have been looking forward to No Good Deed, but Crosswalk’s Christa Banister wonders why the talented actors “would sign up for something so dreadful.” Even though the average horror story causes audiences to roll their eyes at the protagonist’s ...

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Raising Our Standards

It's time to improve education in America.

In the Book of Isaiah, we read, “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him” (59:19). What a blessing to think that God himself becomes a standard-bearer against our enemy! Military history tells us that not just any person was chosen to be a standard bearer, the one chosen to carry the flag to inspire all the soldiers in battle. In fact, at times the Prince or Commander himself would carry the flag into battle.

The phrase “standard-bearer” now means “a leading figure in a cause or movement.” In a real sense, we are all standard-bearers for Christ, raising a banner for his kingdom wherever we go and in whatever we do. Yet, many standards are slipping in America today. Moral standards are fading. Standards of marriage are falling away. Even certain standards of dress are obsolete in our changing society.

For the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, our focus turns to educational standards. In 1983, a now-famous report was released, entitled A Nation at Risk. One of the most shocking statements in that report said, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” That was over 30 years ago. You would think that this report would have inspired us to regain our educational standards in America, but they have not improved at all. America was once the standard-bearer for the world in education. We once ranked first in the world in math and reading skills, but no longer. Today, we rank 31st in math, below the global average. Chinese students were rated at two grade levels above their American ...

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Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones

A potentially great Liam Neeson vehicle gets marred by some very poor taste.

mpaa rating:R (For strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity.)

Genre:Action, Crime Thriller

Directed By: Scott Frank

Run Time: 1 hour 54 minutes

Cast: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Boyd Holbrook, Sebastian Roché

Theatre Release:September 19, 2014 by Universal Pictures

A Walk Among the Tombstones, the sophomore directorial outing of veteran screenwriter Scott Frank, is almost a good movie. It’s got a sense of humor and suspense. It’s aware. It’s intelligent.

It also takes a few bizarre turns, some in damningly poor taste.

Tombstones, adapted from the novel by Lawrence Bock, begins in the New York City of 1991. NYPD Detective Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is enjoying the breakfast of champions: a cup of coffee and two shots of whiskey. An odd beige sweater and wispy, writhing facial hair complete this portrait of a troubled man. Suddenly some gangsters walk in and start shooting. He shoots back.

Cut to New York City, 1999. Private Detective Scudder has shaved. He’s in AA now, and slices his steak with the side of his fork. It’s a nice routine—until he gets an unusual case. Millennial drug trafficker and Nabokov-reader Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens) says that someone murdered his wife, and needs Scudder’s help getting revenge. Scudder at first doubts the quest—he’s unlicensed, he’s no angel, but killing? For a drug dealer? Not at his age. But when Kristo reveals the total depravity of the crimes committed by men we will come to know as Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam David Thompson), Scudder can’t refuse to help.

The movie well-crafted: bullets fly with a crisp cacophony; the music is vintage, pleasantly mysterious. There’s some great dialogue (“What gave me away?” “Everything. You’re weird, Jonas.”) Also, Frank is making strong choices from the director’s chair. There has been an undeniable trend in recent years—perhaps because so many directors cut their teeth on commercials ...

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Review: The Song

A film that re-imagines the story of Solomon with uncommon artistic integrity.

mpaa rating:PG-13 (For thematic elements including some substance abuse, smoking and rude references.)

Genre:Drama

Directed By: Richard Ramsey

Run Time: 1 hour 56 minutes

Cast: Alan Powell, Ali Faulkner, Caitlin Nicol-Thomas, Danny Vinson

Theatre Release:September 26, 2014 by Samuel Goldwyn Films in association with City On a Hill Studio

Sandwiched between two major studio productions about biblical legends (Noah and Exodus) is an independent film about the rise and fall of the ancient Hebrew king, Solomon. While The Song lacks the artistic depth of Noah and the presumably jaw-dropping special effects of Exodus, it may have more heart and real-world value than either one.

Also unlike its “Year of the Bible” counterparts, TheSong recasts its characters in modern context. Solomon is reimagined as a modern-day singer-songwriter named Jed King (Alan Powell) who struggles to make a name for himself apart from being the progeny of his famous father, a renowned country music star (aptly named “David King”). In the midst of an identity crisis, Jed stumbles into a romance, courtship, and marriage to Rose (Ali Faulkner), a vineyard owner’s daughter.

The young couple has a “perfect” wedding night and storybook start—complete with poetic voice-overs drawn from the Song of Solomon. But after Jed writes a hit song for his new bride and is catapulted into the national spotlight, things get all Ecclesiastes. The pursuit of his thriving career leaves Jed wanting more. And the more he finds fame and success, the more he loses himself and his true love.

One of the glaring weaknesses of this film is the absence of even a single A-lister. In a year when biblical films feature a pile of notables, this film risks being overlooked. This gamble is apparent in a few awkward “rookie moments,” but is tucked away in mostly authentic, emotional performances. Overall, what the film lacks in pedigree it makes up for in honesty.

From drug and alcohol abuse to an extramarital affair with a sultry fellow performer (Caitlin ...

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Memoir in the Me-Generation

How social media helps us tell our stories.

Among Christian writers and bloggers, we all likely know someone whose book proposal—whose personal story of struggle and second chances—has been rejected by publishers. We’ve seen their disappointment and frustration from the lack of interest.

As a friend, I try to offer words of encouragement. That it might not be the right time. That if it is supposed to get published, it will. I remind her there are a myriad of reasons a book might not find a publisher.

But as someone who sifts through book ideas and book proposals on a frequent basis, I’ve come to believe memoirs are a somewhat dubious venture. (This is not to say they can’t be beautifully and successfully done.)

For one, there aren’t very many memoirists—people who write repeated memoirs. Of course, there are the Donald Millers and Anne Lamotts, the splendid exceptions. But how many of us live interesting enough lives to write more than one memoir? (I’d argue that even celebrities don’t. It’s uncanny that someone like Justin Bieber could write two memoirs before the age of 18.)

Additionally, some Christian publishing insiders think memoirs can be—but not always—hard to sell. Is this because they don’t have a good place on the bookshelf? Or because Christian book-buyers tend to prefer Bible studies and non-fiction?

These personal curiosities jostled when I read Dani Shapiro’s article “A Memoir is Not a Status Update” in The New Yorker. In the piece, Shapiro, author of multiple books (three of which are memoirs), laments the effects of social media and today’s me-culture on the memoir.

She describes how the slow-drip of 140 character tweets and status ...

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Why I Don't Like Being Called Religious

And how I'm learning to embrace it anyway.

We moved to Connecticut two years ago. It took nearly as long for people to start telling me that I am “religious.” It usually comes as an explanation for why I won’t like something or why I wouldn’t know about some local gossip. It almost always seems to mean that I am an outsider by choice.

Ours is a quintessential New England town—lots of old white houses with black shutters, lots of tall maple trees, a town green complete with an old white Congregational church whose bells chime the hours. Most people don’t attend that church, or any other, on Sunday mornings. They get some sleep and walk the dog and watch the kids play soccer or take a walk in one of the local land preserves. The fact that our family gets dressed up and heads to a sanctuary every Sunday morning puts us in an unusual category around here, and when we add my writing and the worship CD’s that are often playing in the car, we mark ourselves as particularly odd. It makes good sense that other people would look in upon our lives and call us religious.

It makes sense, and yet I don’t like it. First of all, I have often repeated the line I heard years ago that “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship with God.” I still believe this statement—at its core, being a Christian is not about showing up in my nice jeans on Sunday morning or even about praying in the minivan on the way to school. It’s about getting to know God through Jesus. And yet over the years, I’ve also come to realize that the way countless thousands of people have been able to maintain that relationship with God is through religion—through showing up at church week after week, through ...

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What Evangelicals Think About Scotland's Independence Vote

(UPDATED) After narrow "No" vote, Scottish evangelicals say churches will take lead in building the 'new Scotland.'

Update (Sept 19): A narrow majority of Scottish voters (55%) voted no Thursday on independence from the United Kingdom. In the wake of the contentious referendum—which saw more than 80 percent of voters participate—the Evangelical Alliance Scotland called for Scots to "unite and build a new Scotland with Christian values at the heart."

"The Christian gospel provides the catalyst for reconciliation, and as Christians we recognise our responsibility to model grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation to our fellow citizens," said national director Fred Drummond in a statement. "During this campaign all Scots have rallied around a flag. But as Christians our identity is not based on a flag or a national boundary but on the radical grace of being adopted into God's family."

Drummond also exhorted the referendum’s victors to graciously embrace Scottish nationalists and challenge themselves to "love our neighbour."

"As Scots now consider what kind of nation will now emerge from this campaign, the church must lead—and be allowed to lead—the way to ensure the new Scotland is one that reflects God's values in the economy, the family, our communities and our environment,” he stated. “As Christians we passionately believe that these values will shape our nation for good."

The Evangelical Alliance Scotland's full reaction statement is at bottom.

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As Scotland votes today on independence from the United Kingdom, Christians lack consensus on whether Yes or No is the way to go.

A survey released last month by the UK’s Evangelical Alliance suggested that British evangelicals at large would disapprove of Scotland’s ...

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