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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

Drug czar congratulates Teen Challenge (11/16/03)

Christian fiction no long back-shelf item (10/19/03)

DREAM3 benefits churches (10/19/03)

Youth rise to DC03 challenge (10/12/03)

Ministry uses drama, music to touch city for Christ (9/28/03)

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs (9/21/03)

Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography (8/31/03)

Economic slump doesn't always derail giving (8/24/03)

Ruling threatens family, Christian leaders say (8/17/03)

Anti-aging options require balanced approach to health, beauty (8/10/03)

Convoy of Hope reaches out to inner-city neighborhood (7/27/03)

Fight for the flag moves to nation’s schools (7/20/03)

Drama speaks volumes to alienated veterans (7/13/03)

Church's integrity well received following nightmarish ordeal (6/29/03)

Tornadoes cut wide swath across nation's midsection (6/22/03)

Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don't (6/15/03)

Checking out your horoscope? God advises you to skip it (6/8/03)

Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success (5/25/03)

Intervention is key to preventing suicide (5/18/03)

Adoption often right decision for young expectant mothers (5/11/03)

Dallas-based ministry keeps inmates out of jail (4/27/03)

Medical analysis of Jesus' death generates interest (4/20/03)

Small-town church reaches community (4/13/03)

Young married couples lulled by false sense of security (3/30/03)

Virtual gambling days may be numbered (3/23/03)

Contemporary Christian music copes with its continuing success (3/16/03)

A/G prayer event set for gathering in nation's capital (3/9/03)

Volunteers give church voice in community (2/23/02)

Federal law protects churches in zoning battles (2/16/03)

Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven (2/9/03)

Predators often plan strategies long in advance (1/19/03)

The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later (1/12/03)

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2002 PE Report stories

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Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven

By Katy Attanasi (February 9, 2003)

A year ago Brianna*, 29, signed up for an Internet dating service, mostly out of curiosity. She wanted to meet new people, and thought she would give the Internet a try. That was the beginning of a year-long “cyber-romance” with a man she may one day marry.

Brianna’s story is becoming more common. People of varying ages and backgrounds go online looking for love. Sociologists claim some are frustrated by the lack of dating options within their immediate social circle; others are drawn to Internet dating services by the adventure of the unknown.

But while the Internet dating business may be booming, critics remain concerned. Accounts of heartbreak raise the question: Is the unlikely boon worth the risk?

Assemblies of God Single Adult Ministries Director Dennis Franck in Springfield, Mo., sees the popularity of Internet dating as an indication of a serious problem in Christian churches. “The church is falling down on the job because we are so marriage- and family-focused,” he says. “Christian singles are looking to Internet dating because most churches in their community don’t have healthy fellowship groups for single adults to meet each other.”

There is no shortage of both Christian and secular dating services. Some Web sites allow users to enter a virtual café and search for individuals with compatible profiles. While the actual identity of the user is protected for safety reasons, singles can e-mail individuals with eye-catching profiles based on their photograph, age, geographic location, interests and reason for being on the site (ranging from “just curious” to “marriage minded”). Other companies do the matching for users, putting online psychological profiles into practice to generate lists of potential matches. But even sites that claim to be “Christian” are not failsafe, experts say.

Franck has multiple concerns with Internet dating services. “There are many single adults who aren’t ready for a relationship. They’re coming out of a marriage or a dating relationship, or are not spiritually or emotionally mature,” Franck says. “By having dozens of secular and Christian matchmaking opportunities around them, the emphasis is on relationships with the opposite sex, and people tend to think they have to have a relationship. But not every single adult actually needs a romantic relationship at the time they think they do.”

Other concerns include the possibility of misrepresentation, the lack of criminal background checks and the financial fees for joining the services. “I’d rather have a man and woman have a chance to meet each other in a healthy group that churches provide, in that social and spiritual setting,” Franck says.

Sam Moorcroft, president of a Christian Internet dating service, says his company does not suggest matches, instead encouraging clients to mix, mingle and start conversations with people whose profiles are of interest. Moorcroft says the company had more than 500 new registrants each day during the holiday season and has 50,000 active registrants.

However not all Internet dating results in genuinely happy marriages. Some relationships may end in — or encourage — divorce. Stan* met a woman in a chat room while he was married. When his marriage ended in divorce, he moved to Florida where he married his online girlfriend five months later. Seven months into their marriage, the couple separated. Nearly 11 months into the separation, Stan met another woman online in a Christian chat room. Two months later, when the second divorce was final, Stan moved to Indiana and married this woman the next week. After 58 days of marriage, Stan was convinced that the woman was not the person that she had claimed to be, and the couple separated and eventually divorced.

Since then, Stan has stayed away from chat rooms and from forming emotionally intimate relationships with women online. “I have no [reason] anymore to be in chat rooms,” he says. “The time and resources that I was sowing into these relationships, I [should have been] sowing into other areas.”

Stan resorted to using Internet relationships to alleviate his loneliness. “People are starving for fellowship, and the Internet satisfies that need, but only on a counterfeit level,” he says.

Heidi * signed up for an Internet dating service because she moved across the country and wanted to meet new people in her area. Though she received close to 150 responses to her posted profile, when she narrowed it down to one guy, the relationship came with unexpected problems.

“Internet dating is a sand trap,” she says. “It is a complete fantasy. It seemed safe, but I didn’t establish any sense of boundaries. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone about my ‘Internet boyfriend.’ So I began living a double life. I had no reality or accountability in these relationships.”

Singles pastor Scott Nelson of First Assembly of God in Fort Wayne, Ind., echoes Franck’s concerns. “It’s really hard to determine character and verify facts when you’re dealing with an Internet relationship.”

* Name has been changed


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