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Giving increases, but not for churches

A new report finds charitable giving to social service and church groups, which tends to depend on middle class donors, is flat while institutions like universities, hospitals and the arts are swimming in cash from their usually wealthy benefactors.
The Giving USA report says Americans gave more than $335 billion to charity in 2013, up 3 percent from 2012 after adjusting for inflation.
Religious organizations received more donations than any other sector in 2013, with $105 billion in gifts. But Giving USA said the 31 percent share for church groups was their lowest portion of total giving in four decades. Adjusted for inflation, giving to religious groups declined by 1.6 percent last year.
The research firm Empty Tomb, which tracks religious giving trends, says church members are giving less of their income to their churches than they used to.
But Giving USA board member Rick Dunham says much of the giving to social service groups and Christian schools also arises from religious motives.
— AP

School prayer bill ratified
The N.C. Senate gave final legislative approval Monday in a 48-1 vote to a measure explaining how schools should comply with federal law and guidance on constitutionally protected prayer.
The measure says students may share religious views and distribute religious literature, with reasonable restrictions. It says they can pray silently or aloud to the same extent students meditate or speak on non-religious matters. The bill also says school personnel and coaches involved in extracurricular activities “may adopt a respectful posture” during voluntary student-led prayer.
The bill was prompted after a McDowell County student was told to remove a reference to God in a poem for a Veterans Day observance.
— The News & Observer

Cross training: Christians embrace Daniel Plan’s mind-body-spirit diet
When Jim Black leads people on a robust walk three times a week on the grounds of the 120-acre Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, he’s got powerful company: God.
The several dozen people who join him have shown up with the same hopes that anyone brings to an exercise plan: They mean to lose weight, ditch inhalers, get stronger.
After two months on “The Daniel Plan,” Black gave up his diabetes medication. He has given up wheat, dairy and sugar. He recently bought a bicycle. In a year, he lost 90 pounds; his wife lost 40.
Despite a multibillion-dollar industry of programs and books and diet meals and meetings, the secular world has done a fairly lousy job at getting people to lose weight and get fit.
So why not turn to a higher power?
— Los Angeles Times

Arizona break-in highlights gun-possessing clergy
PHOENIX — A deadly burglary at an Arizona church is raising questions about the wisdom of clergy possessing weapons, no matter how dangerous their mission.
Authorities say a Roman Catholic priest responding to a break-in last week at his downtown Phoenix church grabbed a handgun that ended up in the burglar’s hands — and was then used to kill a fellow priest who tried to help.
Many American Catholic leaders have argued that church teaching compels them to advocate for greater limits on guns, but self-defense is also part of Catholic theology, and Catholics have different views of the issue.
Concern about security at churches has grown in the last decade or so in the wake of several high-profile shootings.
— AP

Penny for your … wait a second
A guy said to God, “God, is it true that to you a billion years is like a second?”
God said yes.
The guy said, “God, is it true that to you a billion dollars is like a penny?”
God said yes.
The guy said, “God, can I have a penny?”
God said, “Sure, just a second.”
— Mark DeBolt

Quote
“When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.”
— Pope Francis

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