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The Briefing

Imprisoned pastor freed
After two years of detention in Turkey, Andrew Brunson touched down on U.S. soil Oct. 13. Brunson was released after a 2- year incarceration stemming from disputed charges that could have led to life imprisonment. Although Turkey did not proclaim the North Carolina native innocent, a court in Aliaga released Brunson Oct. 12.

On his way home to North Carolina, Brunson stopped in Washington, D.C., where he met with President Donald Trump and prayed for him, The Christian Post reported.

Hurricane Michael hits churches ‘like a bomb’
Hurricane Michael damaged at least 50 Southern Baptist church buildings in Florida and Georgia, according to initial estimates. Despite the carnage, churches in Panama City and beyond held Sunday morning services just four days after Michael made landfall. In addition, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams from nearby states set up a kitchen and began serving meals to the community over the weekend in partnership with American Red Cross.

Message author enters hospice care
Eugene Peterson, the theologian and author best known for The Message translation of the Bible, is receiving hospice care, his family shared over the weekend. Many Christian leaders responded to the announcement by remembering Peterson’s influence and asking for prayer on his behalf. “Let’s everyone of us who have benefited much from this great man’s writing all stop and pray for him right now,” Ethics and Religious Liberty President Russell Moore said on Twitter. “And then let’s thank God for the model of a long obedience in the right direction.”

Canada considers euthanizing children
Doctors from a Toronto children’s hospital recently published policies on physician-assisted suicide for children. The policy, written at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, outlines the hospital’s decisions on which children would be euthanized under Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) law. The policy also reveals that in some cases, parents won’t be notified until after the child has died.

Seven traits of a healthy church leader
Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, lists embracing change as one seven traits exhibited by healthy church leaders.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Christianity Today

 

The Briefing

China to rewrite Bible, force churches to sing Communist anthems
The Chinese government is supervising a 5-year plan to make Christianity more compatible with socialism. These plans include a “rewrite” of the Bible, singing Communist songs before worship in churches, and including pictures of Communist leaders inside church buildings. China’s crackdown on religion has seen many house churches demolished and represents the highest degree of persecution for independent faith groups the country has seen in decades, The Christian Post reports.

Bible translators complete 1,000th translation
Wycliffe Bible Translators completed its 1,000th full translation of the Bible in South Sudan. The major milestone was achieved in August, though accounts for only 10% of the world’s languages. Some of the remaining 90% have incomplete translated Bibles at various stages, but an ambitious project hopes to have Bible translation efforts underway in every language of the world by 2025.

IMB transitions from Platt to Meador
International Mission Board trustees heard a final address from outgoing president David Platt and approved Clyde Meador as interim president during their Sept. 26-27 meeting near Richmond, Va. Trustees also appointed 66 new fully funded personnel to take the gospel to unreached people and places.

Black men reverse gender split on religion
A study by the Pew Research Center released Sept. 26 found that while black men are less religious than black women, they are more religious than white women and white men. Hispanic women are equally as likely as African-American men to be what Pew considers “highly religious,” followed by white women, then Hispanic men. White men trail in last place with less than half being “highly religious.”

New Jersey schools usurp parents on guidelines for transgender students
New Jersey’s Department of Education has instructed schools to use the preferred names and pronouns of transgender students without the need for parental consent. In keeping with a state policy signed into law last year, schools must also give students access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers that match their gender identity, not their sex. 

Sources: Christian Post (3), Baptist Press, Religion News

 

The Briefing

Disaster Relief ramps up as Florence floodwater rises
As Hurricane Florence crashed ashore in North Carolina, rising floodwaters have cut off the supply chains of some Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts. Still, Southern Baptists have begun relief ministries and the Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief itself has 1,700 volunteers on standby who are specially trained to provide relief during times like these. As of Sept. 17, the storm dumped more than 30 inches of rain in some regions, resulting it at least 23 deaths and is moving northeast into Virginia.

Platt to step down from IMB; Meador named interim
IMB president, Dr. David Platt’s resignation is to be effective at the Sept. 27, 2018, trustee meeting. As such, the Executive Committee of the board of trustees of the International Mission Board voted in a special meeting Sept. 13 to approve Dr. Clyde Meador as interim president starting Sept. 27, subject to full board approval. Platt has served as president of the IMB since Aug. 27, 2014.

China: Bibles burning, churches closing
China’s government is ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing. In several provinces crosses have been destroyed, Bibles burned, churches shut down and followers ordered to sign papers renouncing their faith. The campaign corresponds with a drive to “Sinicize” religion by demanding loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party and eliminating any challenge to its power over people’s lives. 

NYC to issue 3rd gender on birth certificates
New York City is the most recent city to allow a third gender option on birth certificates for persons who do not identify as male or female. The third gender marker on birth certificates will become effective Jan. 1, 2019 and will be classified as gender X. The new policy will no longer require persons who identify as such to provide a note from a doctor or a health care provider’s affidavit in order to make such a change. 

CO schools end sex ed program exposing porn
A Colorado school district has agreed to discontinue using products in their sex education program from a company parents say exposed their children to porn images. For two years, the Thomas More Society has assisted concerned parents in an effort to stop the Cherry Creek School District from using these products which were used by children in 55,000 elementary schools, middle schools and high schools across the United States.

Sources: Baptist Press, Illinois Baptist, News Channel 20, Religion News, Christian Post (2)

Pastor salaries not keeping pace with inflation
Compensation for full-time Southern Baptist pastors and church staff has lagged behind the growth in the cost-of-living over the past two years. Health insurance coverage also remains low, according to the 2018 SBC Church Compensation Study. Pastors of smaller churches were especially found to be compensated less than larger churches’ staff.

Many pastors lack a will, survey finds
More than half of Southern Baptist pastors do not have a will of any kind or a durable power of attorney with health care directives. LifeWay Research’s Scott McConnell said the survey shows pastors’ lack of awareness about estate planning and related laws.

McCain’s Baptist ‘church home’ hosts funeral
The late Sen. John McCain called North Phoenix Baptist Church his “church home” – despite never joining it. The Southern Baptist congregation in Arizona hosted McCain’s memorial service August 30. The two-time presidential candidate attended North Phoenix for more than 25 years; his wife was baptized there.

McCain died Aug. 25 at age 81, a year after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

TN Baptist on cereal boxes for tutoring efforts
It’s not often a Southern Baptist is highlighted on a cereal box. But for Neal Buchanan, he was recently featured on two brands of Kellogg’s cereal boxes – Fruit Loops and Frosted Flakes. Buchanan, an 82-year-old member of Lincoya Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, was chosen for his devotion to education and his passion for childhood literacy.

CA approves abortion drug bill
California legislators have approved a bill requiring state-run university health centers to give students abortion-inducing drugs. The state legislature passed Senate Bill 320 last week and now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

Sources: Baptist Press (4), World Magazine

The Briefing

Greear: Catholic abuse report requires ‘bold steps’
A Pennsylvania grand jury’s report alleging unprecedented levels of sexual abuse and cover-up by Roman Catholic clergy has drawn reaction from Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, who said Southern Baptists should respond to the report by taking “bold steps” to eradicate sexual abuse “from within our community.”

Christian college drops sex standards in law school bid
Trinity Western University (TWU) dropped its controversial community covenant after Canada’s Supreme Court ruled against what would have been the country’s first Christian law school. TWU’s quest to open a law school stalled in court for years after several law societies refused to accredit would-be graduates due to TWU’s covenant prohibiting sex outside of traditional marriage. On August 16, TWU’s board of governors decided to drop the covenant altogether.

White House rejects trade offer to release Brunson
The Trump administration has rejected an offer by Turkey to release U.S. pastor, Andrew Brunson, in exchange for the United States’ forgiveness of billions of dollars of fines. Turkey offered to release Brunson if the U.S. drops its investigation in Halkbank (formerly known as Turkiye Halk Bankasi), which faces fines for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Poll: Leave animals how God designed – except mosquitoes
A new survey released by the Pew Research Center finds seven in 10 Americans support genetically engineering mosquitoes to limit their reproduction. Evangelicals were equally supportive (69%). But when it came to using biotechnology on other animals, they were more reluctant than the general public.

Tim Tebow to produce upcoming film
Tim Tebow—the Heisman Trophy winner, football and baseball player, and television broadcaster—is now adding movie producer to his list of resumes. Tebow and his brother Robby are executive producers of an upcoming faith-based film, “Run the Race.” The fictional story tells of two brothers and high school athletes who see their relationship tested when they seek different paths. A release date has not yet been set for the film, which is in post-production.

Sources: Baptist Press (2), Christianity Today (2), Christian Post

The Briefing

Southern Baptists to launch sexual abuse advisory panel
J. D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, announced July 26 the formation of a Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group. The working group will consider how Southern Baptists can take discernible action to respond swiftly and compassionately to incidents of abuse. It will also make recommendations for creating safe environments in churches and institutions.

Turkey moves Andrew Brunson to house arrest
Wednesday, a Turkish court ruled that Brunson should be moved from Kiriklar prison to house arrest at his home in Turkey. Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina has lived in Turkey for 23 years, pastoring a church in Izmir. He has been on trial for terrorism and spying charges and was detained nearly two years ago.

Sessions announces religious liberty task force
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced July 30 the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force to ensure the Department of Justice implements the Trump administration’s approach to religious liberty. Sessions said the goal of the task force will be protecting religious groups from persecution. 

Study: US churches unwelcoming to autism, ADD/ADHD
America’s religious communities are failing children with chronic health conditions such as autism, learning disabilities, depression, and conduct disorders. The odds of a child with autism never attending religious services were nearly twice as high as compared to children with no chronic health conditions. The odds of never attending for children with developmental delays, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavior disorders were just as high. 

Churches may have to pay taxes
Some in Congress want to tweak a portion tax bills that will now force nonprofits, including churches, to pay a 21% tax on the value of certain employee benefits. But most others downplay the problem or deny it needs to be addressed.

Sources: ERLC, Christianity Today (2), Religion News Service, McClatchy