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The Briefing

Chaplains comfort Florida families
Hours after last week’s school shooting in Florida, chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association arrived to minister to students and families. The team and others like it have traditionally been called to help after natural disasters, Christianity Today reports, but more and more of their deployments are now in response to manmade violence.

Baptists in Florida gathered to grieve and pray in the aftermath of the shooting.

T-shirts at center of conscience freedom case
A Kentucky T-shirt printer is facing a legal challenge over his refusal to print shirts for a gay pride festival. “All we are asking for is that the government not force us to promote messages against our convictions, said Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals apparel company in Lexington. “Everyone should have that freedom.”

Going offline for Lent
Social networking topped the list of what people are giving up for Lent this year, according to a list generated from posts on Twitter. Since 2009, social media has made at least one appearance in the top five every year. Filling out this year’s top five: Twitter, alcohol, chocolate, and swearing.

Headlines from the Winter Games
The Winter Games are in their second week in Pyeongchang. Former Illinois Baptist editor Tim Ellsworth is covering the Olympics for Baptist Press, including:

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Church leaders from 13 Midwestern states gathered in Springfield, Ill., this week to share success stories and struggles—and to encourage each other through both—at the Midwest Leadership Summit, a meeting organized every three years by Southern Baptist state conventions in the region.

“We share the same love for our communities and vision to see people come to Christ,” said Missouri pastor Tim Burgess, “and getting together is a great reminder that we are not working at this alone.”

Watch the Midwest Leadership Summit recap video.

Over three days at Springfield’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, around 1,000 people heard from their Midwestern neighbors on a wide range of topics: collegiate church planting, urban ministry, church revitalization, women’s ministry, and a host of others presented in more than 90 breakouts.

In large-group sessions, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell interviewed four Midwestern church planters who have seen God grow their congregations from as few as one, into churches that welcome hundreds of worshipers each week. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, spoke on advancing the gospel in the current culture. And church planting specialist Darryl Gaddy shared from his experience in Detroit, calling leaders to be agents of change.

IMG_5013“Being a change agent means you have to give up your rights to someone else,” said Gaddy (right). “That someone else is Jesus Christ.”

At a luncheon for Illinois leaders following the summit, participants reflected on the most helpful, encouraging, and challenging things they heard.

Gary West, pastor of North Benton Baptist Church and director of missions for Franklin Baptist Association, said he gained new insight into how to extend the gospel to Millennials, the generation generally categorized as people born between 1981 and 2000.

“I’m re-looking at the dynamics of church and the things you used to do that don’t work anymore,” West said. “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationships.”

Look for more from the Midwest Leadership Summit in the Feb. 5 issue of the Illinois Baptist, online at ibonline.IBSA.org.

The Midwest Leadership Summit Recap (2018) from IL Baptist State Association on Vimeo.

 

 

The Briefing

HHS division created to guard right of conscience
A new division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is earning praise from religious liberty advocates. The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will “more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights,” the Trump administration announced Jan. 18.

“I am thankful that HHS recognizes how imperiled conscience rights have been in recent years in this arena and is actively working and leading to turn the tide in the other direction,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Health care professionals should be freed up to care for the bodies and minds of their patients, not tied up by having their own consciences bound.”

Christian student organization takes university to court
A student organization deregistered by the University of Iowa is fighting the school’s decision in court. Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) was deregistered in November after a former member said he was not allowed to become a leader in the organization because he is gay.

Evangelist Palau shares cancer diagnosis
International evangelist Luis Palau announced last week he is fighting stage 4 lung cancer. Acknowledging healing “would literally take a miracle,” Palau also said he is “completely at peace.”

Parenting research: More kids, not enough time
Two recent Pew Research studies measure current family dynamics, both for moms, who are having more children now than a decade ago; and dads, who say they spend too little time with their kids.

Midwest Baptist leaders meet in Illinois
The Midwest Leadership Summit begins today, drawing Southern Baptist leaders from 13 states to Springfield, Ill., for plenary sessions and breakouts facilitated by ministry leaders in a variety of specialties. Follow along on Twitter with #mwadvance.

The Briefing

Court rules against bakers
Sweet Cakes by Melissa shut down after a heavy fine was levied against its owners for not participating in a same-sex wedding ceremony. Aaron and Melissa Klein took their case to court, but on Dec. 29, the bakers lost in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Former fire chief gets partial court victory
Kelvin Cochran, the former Atlanta fire chief terminated for writing a devotional book in which he advocated a biblical view of marriage and sexuality, won a partial victory in court Dec. 20, when a judge decided the city rules under which he was fired are unconstitutional. In other religious liberty issues related to the case, however, the judge ruled against Cochran, Baptist Press reports.

Kasich approves Down syndrome abortion ban
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a law Dec. 22 prohibiting abortions in cases where prenatal tests reveal Down syndrome or if there’s “any other reason to believe” the genetic condition exists. North Dakota and Indiana have similar laws, although the Indiana measure has been blocked by a federal judge, CNN reports.

New data explores evangelical diversity
One in three people who identify as evangelical is nonwhite, according to 2017 research. The numbers rises to four in 10 of those who are evangelical by belief, reports Christianity Today in its analysis of research on diversity and the church.

The year’s most popular passages
The most popular Bible verse around the world in 2017 was a command to be strong and courageous, according to Bible app YouVersion. Joshua 1:9 was the most shared, bookmarked, and highlighted verse by the global YouVersion community, The Christian Post reports, while in the U.S., Romans 8:28 topped the list.

The Briefing

Christians divided on Jerusalem decision
President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was met with strong reactions from Christians on both sides of the issue. While some applauded the Dec. 6 announcement, others worried it could increase hostilities in the Middle East. Trump also announced the U.S. will being the process of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Generation gap on support for Israel
While a majority of Americans with evangelical beliefs express at least some measure of positivity about Israel, many younger evangelicals are indifferent in their support for the country. According to a new survey by LifeWay Research, 77% of evangelicals 65 and older say they support the existence, security, and prosperity of Israel, but the number drops to 58% among those 18 to 34. And 41% have no strong views about Israel.

Baker gets High Court hearing
The Supreme Court will likely rule next year in the case of Jack Phillips, the Colorado cake artist who refused to design a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding celebration. During oral arguments Dec. 5, comments and questions from Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy were encouraging to lawyers supporting Phillips, Baptist Press reported.

Texas churches turned down for FEMA assistance
A judge ruled against three churches seeking federal aid after Hurricane Harvey, citing a policy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that denies grants to facilities primarily used for religious activities. The Texas churches, who argue that FEMA’s policy is unconstitutional, have filed an appeal.

What we say vs. who we are
LifeWay Research found 24% of Americans self-identify as evangelicals, but only 15% are evangelical by belief. The survey also measured the percentage of people in each U.S. region who fall into the two categories.

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Springfield | Ten years ago, the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee sponsored a privately funded display depicting the birth of Jesus Christ at the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol. The first display of its kind in any state Capitol, the nativity scene has become a Springfield tradition in the decade since, and has been followed by similar displays in 15 other states.

Julie Zanoza, Chair Woman of the SNSC, opened this year’s ceremony Nov. 28 by reminding the audience of the two-fold purpose of SNSC’s mission: “We want to be able to celebrate the birth of Jesus, as well as demonstrate the constitutional right we have to publicly meet and celebrate his birth.”

Several other guests spoke at the dedication, representing the Thomas More Society, a law firm specializing in religious liberty issues; the Catholic Diocese of Springfield; and Hope Chapel, a Nazarene congregation in Lincoln. State Senator Sam McCann (R-Plainview) also addressed the hour-long gathering attended by around 50 people.

Greg Wooten, pastor of Hope Chapel, described the manger scene as too small for a savior. But, he said, “In a weirdly wonderful point of view, God made that small little stable big enough for the whole world to come to Jesus.”

Bernie Lutchmann, president of Business Men in Christ of Springfield, opened the gathering in prayer after reading the biblical account of John the Baptist’s birth in Luke 1.

“We had very good attendance this year,” Lutchmann said after the ceremony, “But we’re even more excited that 15 other states have adopted our idea too….And we hope that someday, the nativity scene will be displayed in all 50 of our U.S. State Capitols.”

-Story and photos by Andrew Woodrow

Supreme Court will hear pregnancy center case
The Supreme Court announced this month it will rule on a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to inform clients of abortion options available elsewhere.

The FACT Act, passed in 2015, shares some similarities with an Illinois law that requires pregnancy centers and pro-life physicians to discuss abortion as a legal treatment option and, if asked, to refer clients to abortion providers. Multiple pregnancy centers in Illinois sued Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier this year over the law, and were granted a preliminary injunction.

Dockery elected to lead theologian group
The annual meeting of the Evangelical Theology Society focused on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The group also elected David Dockery, a Southern Baptist and president of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, as president.

Zimbabwe’s Christian leaders see unrest as ‘opportunity’
The conflict between Zimbabwe’s president and its military could be resolved by a “winner-takes-all-mentality,” many of the country’s religious leaders wrote in a letter following President Robert Mugabe’s military arrest. But it doesn’t have to, they said, calling the the situation an opportunity for “permanent healing” in Zimbabwe.

Hillsong pastor won’t change marriage views, despite Australian vote
While Australian voters decided in November to legalize same-sex marriage, Brian Houston, who pastors Sydney megachurch Hillsong, said his view of marriage as between a man and a woman “will not change.”

Coming to the big screen: Apostle Paul
A silver screen version of Paul’s life is set for release next Easter. “Paul, Apostle of Christ” tells the story of a persecutor of Christians who became the world’s most famous missionary and martyr. James Faulkner stars as Paul, and “Passion of the Christ” actor Jim Caviezel is Gospel-writer Luke.