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Puerto Rico Convention’s annual meeting highlights new churches
Southern Baptists in Puerto Rico celebrated nine new churches gained in the year since Hurricane Maria at their annual meeting in November. The meeting of the Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico (Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico) was the first since 2016. Last year, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath cut church attendance in Puerto Rico by one-third, Baptist Press reported.

With the new churches, there are now about 80 Southern Baptist congregations in Puerto Rico. Illinois Baptists will work with church planters in the U.S. territory through two mission trips planned for 2019.

SBC President issues Lottie Moon challenge
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear pledged to perform a stunt if the 2018 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions reaches $170 million. So far, suggestions on social media include wearing a mullet at the 2019 SBC annual meeting, or arm wrestling newly elected International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood.

At Liberty University, First Lady addresses opioid crisis
First Lady Melania Trump spoke at Liberty University in Virginia Nov. 28 about the country’s opioid crisis. “I know college is a time to build your independence, experience things on your own terms and make decisions on your own behalf,” Trump told students at the Baptist university. “I am here to remind you that some of those decisions, though they may seem minor at the time, could negatively impact you for the rest of your lives.”

Chau assisted by American evangelicals, officials say
New details have emerged in the death of John Allen Chau, the missionary who died last month while trying to share the gospel with people on North Sentinel island in the Bay of Bengal. The Christian Post reports Indian police now say they believe two American evangelicals helped Chau reach the island, where he is believed to have been shot to death by arrows Nov. 17.

Majority of Protestant churchgoers don’t drink, but the number who do is rising
LifeWay Research found 41% of Protestant churchgoers drink alcohol, up from 39% in 2007. And while the vast majority say the Bible teaches against drunkenness, more than half also say Scripture indicates all beverages, including alcohol, can be consumed without sin.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, LifeWay Research

Resolution calls for eradication of racism
At their annual meeting this month, the churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention approved a resolution denouncing the 1857 Supreme Court ruling that Dred Scott, a slave living in a free state, was not an American citizen and therefore couldn’t file suit in a court of law. (Scott was appealing to the court for his freedom.)

The resolution at the Missouri Baptist Convention meeting called on the state’s legislature to denounce the ruling and urged “our churches to continue to reach out to all persons regardless of ethnicity showing mercy to all for whom Christ died, and look forward to the day that we will gather as a diverse assembly in heaven.”

Related: At the Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association, IBSA President Adron Robinson called for an end to divisions in the church. Watch his message here.

Chitwood unanimously elected to lead IMB
New International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood said Southern Baptists’ global missions force can grow in number again, but it will require “greater generosity and a greater willingness to sacrifice.”

ERLC, other religious agencies oppose tax law
Opponents to a provision in federal tax laws say it “will hopelessly entangle the [Internal Revenue Service] with houses of worship.” Plus, churches will face a 21% tax on employee benefits like parking and transportation.

Offerings up in 2018, pastors say
A new LifeWay Research survey found 42% of Protestant pastors say their church’s offerings are up over the previous year, and 45% say the current economy is positively impacting their church.

‘An opportunity to be human’: Seminary training transforms life in prison
Religion News Service reports on Christian education programs inside prisons, and how they’re training students to be “field ministers” to fellow inmates.

Sources: The Pathway, Baptist Press (2), LifeWay Research, Religion News Service

Asia Bibi released from Pakistan’s death row
The release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman imprisoned for almost nine years on blasphemy charges, was cause for celebration and caution among religious freedom advocates worldwide. “She cannot be released openly,” said an attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice. “If she is, there’s no doubt, no question about it, that her life will be in jeopardy.”

‘Stand for Life’ becomes ERLC initiative
An online group promoting the sanctity of every human life will become part of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Stand for Life, which began with a post by founder Jess Barfield of her infant son, has as its mission to promote human dignity through storytelling.

Sessions faces criticism from some in his denomination
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under fire from some Methodist ministers who oppose his role in policies that separate families at the border. In a letter sent to Sessions last summer, United Methodist Church leaders urged a “reconciling process that will help this long-time member of our connection [Sessions] step back from his harmful actions and work to repair the damage he is currently causing to immigrants, particularly children and families.”

Charleston church shooting is subject of documentary
The 2015 shooting at a Charleston, S.C. church is the subject of “Emanuel,” a documentary executive produced by actress Viola Davis and Golden State Warrior Steph Curry.

Midterm election: Evangelicals in the spotlight
As voters cast their ballots in today’s midterm election, slow shifts in the evangelical voting bloc are unlikely to result in gains for progressive candidates, USA Today reports.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, USA Today

“Pioneering Spirit” is the theme of the 2018 IBSA Annual Meeting, kicking off Nov. 7 at First Baptist Church in Maryville. The meeting will highlight the four challenges put before churches at last year’s meeting: go new places, engage new people, make new sacrifices, and develop new leaders.

Visitors to the meeting will also be invited on a virtual prayer tour where they can intercede for ministries across the state, all from inside FBC Maryville. The life-size log cabin from last year’s meeting will also return, featuring visual displays about Illinois’ mission field.

Fritz Klein, a renowned Abraham Lincoln interpreter, will join IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams for the Wednesday evening session. Worship band Sixteen Cities will lead music during the meeting.

Prior to the Annual Meeting, the IBSA Pastors’ Conference will focus on “Blazing New Trails” with messages from urban church planting strategist Darryl Gaddy, St. Louis pastor Noah Oldham, and Illinois leaders Matt Crain and Ted Max. IBSA ministers’ wives will meet Wednesday morning for their annual conference, and there are also meetings planned for young leaders, church planters and sponsoring churches, and associational leaders.

For more information about the meetings, schedules, and meals, go to IBSAannualmeeting.org. And follow along here for news and updates from Maryville.

Most white evangelical voters plan to vote Republican in Tuesday’s midterm elections, according to research by PRRI, including many of those 18-29 years old. But the voting bloc is changing, researchers say.

“White evangelical protestants have certainly been a powerful force in American politics for a couple of generations since the ‘80s and (Ronald) Reagan, but their clout in the general population is waning over the last 10 years,” PRRI CEO Robert Jones told USA Today. “There’s been a bigger loss at the younger end of the spectrum.”

According to PRRI, white evangelicals comprise 15% of the U.S. population, down from nearly a quarter in 2008. And the median age is 56. Younger evangelicals tend to think differently about certain issues than their parents, like same-sex marriage and the environment. (The New York Times recently interviewed young evangelicals about faith in the current political climate.)

The differences in ideology could eventually show up at the ballot box, but probably not this year, University of North Carolina professor Molly Worthen told USA Today.

“The religious right, as a network of very savvy political institutions, will continue to punch above its weight politically for decades,” Worthen said. “Even as we see that secularizing trend persist, it will not likely immediately translate to a huge turnout of votes for progressive political candidates.”

Race also plays a role in how evangelicals vote, according to a recent study by LifeWay Research and Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center. The research found 77% of white voters with evangelical beliefs voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, while 86% of African-American voters with evangelical beliefs voted for Hillary Clinton.

Most evangelicals haven’t changed their minds since 2016, according to the research. Nine in ten said they felt strong support for their preferred candidate then, and today, 88% say they still do.

Letter urges genocide designation in Myanmar
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear joined a coalition of leaders asking U.S. officials to label persecution in Myanmar “genocide.” In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, more than 70 humanitarian and faith leaders said Myanmar’s military-led campaign against Rohingya Muslims and other religious minorities qualifies as genocide and “crimes against humanity.” The group wrote, “We urgently encourage you to take immediate action by articulating a moral, political, and policy designation respecting the dignity and safety of victimized Burmese individuals.”

> Related: Christianity Today reports Christians in Myanmar also are in danger, although their plight is less well-documented and hasn’t received much response from the global church.

Officials pledge more aid for Iraqi Christians
The Trump administration has pledged $178 million to help religious minorities in Iraq, bringing the fiscal year total to nearly $300 million in aid for Christians and others persecuted by ISIS in the country.

Five statistics on global hunger
The Southern Baptist Convention designates one Sunday each October as Global Hunger Sunday, an opportunity to pray for and give to ministries that help relieve hunger, a global problem that affects around 795 million people worldwide.

Judge dismisses sexual abuse charges against Pressler
A Texas court has dismissed charges of sexual abuse, conspiracy, and negligence against Paul Pressler, who helped lead the Southern Baptist Convention’s return to conservative theology in the 1980s and 90s. The Southern Baptist Convention also had been named in a lawsuit filed by plaintiff Gerald Duane Rollins, but Judge R.K. Sandhill’s Oct. 15 order dismissed the charges against the SBC because the statute of limitations has run out, Baptist Press reported.

Study details America’s shifting theology
While more than half of Americans believe only those who trust in Jesus alone as Savior receive eternal salvation, a new survey by LifeWay Research found, an even larger percentage believe most people are good by nature.

Sources: Christian Post, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, LifeWay Research

 

 

 

 

Baptist volunteers still serving in Carolinas
The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response to Hurricane Florence has resulted in 1.1 million meals served, Baptist Press reports, and more than 1,000 clean-up projects at homes damaged by wind and flooding. More than 100 people have professed faith in Christ through the ministry of Disaster Relief, the country’s third-largest relief organization.

Illinois volunteers joined the multi-state response just days after Florence made landfall in North Carolina.

Refugee cap unsettles some Christian leaders
Evangelical leaders have expressed concern over a new limit on refugees who will be allowed to resettle in the U.S. during the next fiscal year. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Sept. 17 the cap will be set at 30,000, down from 45,000 during the current fiscal year and 70,000 over the last three decades.

Christian doctor awarded Nobel Peace Prize
Congolese physician Denis Mukwege was named a co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to help rape victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mukwege founded a hospital where he has treated thousands of women harmed during war in their country.

Mohler celebrates 25 years at Southern Seminary
Celebrating his 25th anniversary as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert S. Mohler addressed what he says is the most pressing issue facing the church today. “Among the many challenges the church will face in the present and coming generations,” Mohler said in Table Talk magazine, “few will equal the challenge of maintaining a steadfast commitment to biblical Christianity in the midst of an increasingly hostile environment.”

Mission offering for North America sets new record
Southern Baptists’ two major missions offerings reached record or near-record levels in 2017, according to entity leaders. North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell reported last week that Southern Baptists gave $61.1 million through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering—marking the first time the offering has exceeded $60 million.

The International Mission Board also reported Southern Baptists gave $158.9 million through the 2017 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering—the second-highest Lottie Moon Offering ever received.

Research finds connection between youth church attendance and later mental health
Research by Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that church attendance and certain religious practices during adolescence tend to result in better mental health in adulthood. People who attended religious services at least once a week as kids or teens were about 18% more likely to be happier in their 20s, Forbes magazine reported on the research. Weekly attendance is associated with the development of character strengths, including greater volunteering, a greater sense of mission, and more forgiveness.

Related: In September, thousands of students around the country gathered for See You at the Pole prayer meetings on their campuses.