Craig Reynolds, the founder of a company offering a Christian alternative to health insurance, has pleaded guilty to fraud. Medical Cost Sharing spent only about 3 percent of its $8 million revenue on covering medical expenses, according to the FBI, while Reynolds and business partner James McGinnis spent $5 million on themselves.

Roughly 1.5 million Americans use health share ministries, which are not federally regulated nor required to pay members’ medical expenses.

Nicaragua: President suppresses evangelical groups

At least 250 evangelical organizations have been shut down by the Nicaraguan government as president Daniel Ortega has increased his control over the country. The former Sandinista leader won Christian support for his political comeback in the early 2000 but since 2018 has suppressed political opponents, media, and religious groups.

United Kingdom: Compromise on same-sex blessing won’t settle dispute

The Church of England’s House of Bishops voted 24-11 to approve a prayer to bless same-sex couples. After eight years of debate, the Prayers of Love and Faith are offered as a compromise between progressives who want the church to fully affirm same-sex marriage and conservatives who say marriage is between a man and a woman. The vote seems unlikely to end the debate, however.

“We are in for very stormy times,” Peter Ould, an evangelical Anglican priest, told Premier Christian News. “I think you’ll see a whole series of churches across the traditional spectrum begin to look for alternative Episcopal sort of structures.”

The same-sex blessing may be used in regularly scheduled services, but church leaders are also considering a separate proposal for same-sex wedding services.

Ghana: Witchcraft accusation bill not signed into law

Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has refused to sign a bill criminalizing witchcraft accusations. Christian leaders, including the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, advocated for the new law, which would protect widowed women from the cultural practice of expelling them from their communities rather than caring for them. Currently, around 2,000 older women live in “witch camps.”

“We are a people who do not take responsibility for our actions,” Emmanuel Anukun-Dabson, executive director of Christian Outreach Fellowship, told CT. “Rather, we find scapegoats, and women are the targets.”

Parliament passed the bill unanimously in July, but the president said it did not follow proper procedure.

Algeria: Pastor sentenced for meeting

Youssef Ourahmane, vice president of Église Protestante d’Algérie (the Algerian Protestant Church), has been sentenced to one year in prison for holding a religious service without government permission. Nearly 50 other churches have been threatened with closure, and 10 pastors are facing charges.

China: Zoom use quietly restricted

Chinese Christians report that their Zoom use has been restricted, though the company’s website states it is operational in the country. Nine church leaders and ministry workers told CT that the service, which is considered to be relatively safe from government surveillance, stopped working in the fall. The company was also blocked in 2019, but service resumed after the CEO pledged to do more to monitor “anti-government speech.” Some unregistered churches are trying to find ways around restrictions to continue to meet online. Others have switched back to entirely in-person services.

Australia: Wesleyans call for ban on gambling ads

Wesleyans are calling for a ban on TV ads for online sports betting. According to the most recent figures available, Australians bet $724.1 million (about $485 million USD) on the Melbourne Cup horse races in November.

“There’ll be many hundreds of people for whom this is their first foray into gambling,” said Jim Wackett, head of the Wesley Mission, “and it’s a foray that will set them on a trajectory that will be life-destroying.”

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