Archives For Briefing

The Briefing

W.V. Bible class faces legal challenge
For decades Mercer County’s public schools have offered a weekly Bible class during the school day — 30 minutes at the elementary level and 45 minutes in middle school. The program is not mandatory, but almost every child in the district attends. And there is widespread support for the classes: Parents and community members help raise nearly $500,000 a year to pay for the Bible in the Schools program. Now, two county residents with school-age children argue in a lawsuit that the program violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment and the West Virginia constitution.

Baptist Baylor picks first female president
Linda Livingstone succeeds Baylor University’s first non-Baptist president, Kenneth Starr, who was fired last year over the Texas institution’s bungled response to ongoing reports of rape on campus. Livingstone, a former faculty member of Baylor and Pepperdine University, leaves her position as business school dean at George Washington University to become the Waco school’s first female president in its 172-year history.

Porn deemed public health crisis in 5 states
At least five states have officially declared pornography a public health crisis or harmful to the public, and at least one other is considering a similar measure, according to bill updates filed on state legislature websites.

Saudi Arabia elected to UN women’s rights commission
Saudi Arabia was elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The addition of the Gulf nation was first flagged by UN Watch, a nongovernmental body that monitors the United Nations. The Commission on the Status of Women’s executive director slammed the election. “Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” Hillel Neuer said.

‘John 3:16’ NFL suicide mystery
It wasn’t a suicide note that former NFL star Aaron Hernandez left in his prison cell when he reportedly hanged himself. Instead, the Massachusetts corrections officers who discovered his body Wednesday morning saw “John 3:16” written across Hernandez’s forehead in red ink. A Bible in the cell lay open to the same verse.

Sources: Washington Post, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, The Hill, STL Today

The Briefing

Has Trump found religion in the Oval Office?
President Donald Trump has increasingly infused references to God into his prepared remarks — calling on God to bless all the world after launching strikes in Syria, asking God to bless the newest Supreme Court justice, invoking the Lord to argue in favor of a war on opioids. Language like that has the Christian conservatives who helped lift Trump to the White House nodding their heads in approval. But others who have long followed Trump are skeptical that the president has found religion in the Oval Office.

Study: Evangelicals left churches over Trump
A number of Christians left their churches following last November’s election won by President Trump, including 10% of evangelicals who reported leaving their houses of worship before last December, a new study has found. The study found those most likely to leave their churches were Trump supporters who felt their clergy didn’t support him and those who opposed Trump and believed their church leaders strongly supported the billionaire real estate mogul.

Sounding the alarm on transgender regret
Robert Wenman was four years into being a “full-time” transgender woman in Ontario, Canada, when a police officer asked him: “You got all your legal rights by now. Why don’t you just enjoy life as a woman?” The question left the then-LGBT activist stuttering: Here he was, training a group of law enforcers on transgender rights, yet he couldn’t answer a basic question: Why? Why was he still campaigning, still fighting?

‘Bible Answer Man’ converts to Orthodoxy
On Palm Sunday, Hank Hanegraaff and his wife entered into Orthodox Christianity at St. Niktarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC. The former Protestant is well known among evangelicals as the Bible Answer Man. Since 1989, Hanegraaff has been answering questions on Christianity, denominations, and the Bible on a nationally syndicated radio broadcast.

Anticipation growing for SBC Phoenix 2017
Apparent interest in the Southern Baptist Convention’s upcoming annual meeting has necessitated an increase in hotel room availability for attendees the second consecutive year. The SBC Executive Committee has reserved an additional 500 rooms for the 2017 meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix. The previously reserved block of rooms was fully booked as early as March.

Sources: Politico, The Christian Post, World Magazine, Christianity Today, Baptist Press

The BriefingCoptic Christians pray, persevere after Egypt church bombings
As Coptic Christians bury an estimated 44 killed in terrorist bombings during Palm Sunday services in Egypt, the oldest Coptic church in the U.S. is praying for both the families of the Christian “martyrs” and the Islamic State (IS) that has claimed responsibility for the deaths. The attacks at St. George’s Church in Tanta and at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria also wounded more than 125 worshippers.

Uproar after Britain drops ‘Easter’ from egg hunt
A move in Britain to rebrand a national Easter egg hunt as simply an “egg hunt” to appeal to non-Christian children has drawn condemnation from the Church of England and Prime Minister Theresa May. “This marketing campaign … highlights the folly in airbrushing faith from Easter,” said a statement from the Church of England sent to The Washington Post. A church spokeswoman told The Post that senior church leaders vehemently opposed the change.

Strike on Syria called ‘just,’ prayer urged
Following a U.S. missile strike against Syria, Southern Baptists pledged prayer and claimed the action was appropriate retribution for deadly chemical attacks allegedly carried out by the Syrian military. Former U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains Douglas Carver said the strike “met the ‘just war’ criteria for military actions.” Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore said the Syrian regime’s “murderous terrorism … threatens to further unravel the already precarious situation in the Middle East.”

Muslim birthrate to outpace Christian by 2035
More babies were born to Christian mothers than to members of any other religion in recent years, reflecting Christianity’s continued status as the world’s largest religious group. But this is unlikely to be the case for much longer: Less than 20 years from now, the number of babies born to Muslims is expected to modestly exceed births to Christians, according to new Pew Research Center demographic estimates.

Vatican & US church officials back gay-friendly book
The Vatican’s point man on family issues and a U.S. cardinal who is close to Pope Francis have both blurbed a new book by a Jesuit priest and popular author that calls on the Catholic Church to be more respectful and compassionate toward gay people. They called it “brave, prophetic, and inspiring” and a “much-needed book.”

Sources: Baptist Press, Washington Post, Baptist Press, Pew Forum, Religion News Service

The BriefingSenate lets states defund Planned Parenthood
For more than 40 years, the federal government has made funds available through Title X grants for organizations that provide family planning services. Through this program, the federal government can fund healthcare organizations directly or award grants to states, which choose money recipients. Days before President Barack Obama left office, he ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to block 13 conservative states from denying Planned Parenthood Title X funding. The Senate voted to rescind that order March 30.

VP Pence’s ‘Billy Graham Rule’ angers Internet
One line from a Washington Post profile of Second Lady Karen Pence is garnering reactions from many on social media. Ashley Parker’s profile of Indiana’s former First Lady cites a 2002 Mike Pence interview with The Hill. In it, the former Indiana congressman and governor said he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife, Karen. Pence also said he wouldn’t attend an event where alcohol would be served without her by his side.

Reprimand of Air Force colonel sparks protest
U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Madrid was reprimanded in 2016 for his Christian religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality. The Air Force originally cleared him in 2014 of charges that he made unsubstantiated derogatory comments against homosexuality to an openly gay airman. But when Madrid was placed under the command of Maj. Gen. John E. McCoy two years after the case was closed, McCoy accused Madrid of having lied during the investigation and disciplined him without any new evidence.

Judge grants man right to become genderless
A 27-year-old video game designer has become the first American to gain legal designation as “genderless” following a ruling by an Oregon judge. The game designer known as Patrick Abbatiello who is now legally designated agender, also got legal approval to become mononymous — meaning only having one name instead of a given name and a surname — and is going by the name “Patch.”

Polar bear ‘prays’ next to cross
Jessica Andrews was scanning through dozens of photos she took of a polar bear roaming around her backyard when she came across one that stopped her in her tracks. The large animal was squatting beneath a white cross, its paws together and raised skyward as it looked up in a seemingly reverential pose.

 Sources: World Magazine, Indy Star, Baptist Press, NBC News, Toronto Sun

The BriefingBill would to legalize marijuana
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Chicago, filed an amendment to House Bill 2353 on March 22 that revises the state’s Cannabis Control Act, making a number of sweeping changes “[i]n the interest of allowing law enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, generating revenue for education and other purposes, and individual freedom.” These changes allowing the recreational use of marijuana include regulating it the same as alcohol and  legalizing the possession of 28 grams of the substance.

Bill would simplify changing gender on birth certificates
A proposal that would make it easier for transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity has cleared an initial hurdle. House Bill 1785 approved by the House Human Services Committee, says a birth certificate could be changed if a medical or mental health provider confirms someone has received “clinically appropriate” treatment. Current Illinois law says transgender people can only change the sex listed on their birth certificates if a doctor transition surgery has been performed.

Student sues school over girl in boys’ locker room
A high school junior is suing his Boyertown, Pa., school district after administrators told him he could either “tolerate” having a biological female share his locker room or withdraw and be homeschooled. The lawsuit filed in federal court calls on the district to rescind its secretly implemented policy granting transgender students access to the private facilities of their choice.

Princeton Seminary reverses decision to honor Keller
Princeton Seminary, the flagship institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), had announced Tim Keller, bestselling author and pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, as the recipient of its Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness, a $10,000 award. But in a March 22 letter to the seminary community, President Craig Barnes said the decision had been reversed in order to “not imply any endorsement” of Keller’s “belief that women and [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] persons should not be ordained.”

President Trump to give commencement address at Liberty University
President Donald Trump will give his first commencement address as president at Liberty University, the evangelical college led Jerry Falwell Jr. Falwell, the son of the prominent televangelist, was one of Trump’s most vocal supporters among evangelical Protestant leaders during the 2016 presidential campaign. At Liberty, student reaction to the announcement was mixed.

Sources: Illinois Policy, Chicago Tribune, World Magazine, Baptist Press, Washington Post

The BriefingSB 912 raises religious liberty concerns for Illinois clergy
A bill working its way through the Illinois Senate that proposes mandatory training for clergy to recognize signs of child abuse is causing concern among religious liberty advocates. An amendment added to SB 912 Abused Child-Reporter Training, which specifically targets clergy is the cause for concern.

Moore, ERLC trustees issue ‘Seeking Unity’ statement
An extended statement, “Seeking Unity in the Southern Baptist Convention,” has been issued by Russell Moore and the executive committee of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Moore, in a 1,691-word portion of the March 20 statement, clarified criticism he had leveled at Christians who supported Donald Trump for president in the November 2016 election.

Divide over Gorsuch on display
The Senate Judiciary Committee began the latest hearings in what has been an often stridently contentious process for the last three decades with a day of opening statements — first from the 20 members of the panel, then from the nominee. Sixty national and state pro-life organizations weighed in on Gorsuch, urging senators in a letter to confirm him. The pro-life leaders cited his “keen understanding and respect” for religious freedom.

Coming solar eclipse: Act of God?
On Monday, Aug. 21, in the middle of the day, the sky will go dark. The temperature will suddenly get several degrees colder. The total solar eclipse that will cross America— an event that last happened 99 years ago — will be an important moment for scientific observers and a massive nationwide spectator event. It will also, for many people of faith, be evidence of God’s majesty — and even, to a few, a harbinger of the coming end of the world.

Christians respond to “Benedict Option”
More than a dozen Christian thinkers recently shared their thoughts on Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option.” The Benedict Option is essentially responding to western cultural change by pulling away from the culture building up the local church, creating counter-cultural schools based on the classical tradition, rebuilding family life, thickening communal bonds, and developing survival strategies for doctors, teachers, and others on the front lines of persecution.

Sources: Ilga.gov, Baptist Press (2), Washington Post, Breakpoint

The BriefingClash of worldviews on defunding Planned Parenthood
Evangelicals have long advocated for the end of government funding of Planned Parenthood. President Trump recently offered to keep the funding in place if Planned Parenthood would agree to stop performing abortions.  Here are two different views on the subject:
– Trump to Planned Parenthood: Halt abortions, receive funds
– Abortion ‘vital’ to Planned Parenthood mission; Southern Baptist leaders respond

Church sued after baptism made public
After a Syrian Muslim man converted to Christianity, he asked to be baptized by First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa. The man said the church promised to keep his baptism quiet, since shari‘ah law demands that converts from Islam be executed. He flew to Syria almost immediately after his baptism to marry his fiancée. A few weeks later, while still in Syria, he was kidnapped by Islamist extremists who said they learned about his conversion from the church’s website.

Married lesbian Baptist co-pastors say all ‘beloved’
Rev. Maria Swearingen stood in the pulpit for the first time as the lesbian co-pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., her wife and fellow co-pastor, the Rev. Sally Sarratt, smiling over her left shoulder as they began their new joint roles. Raised in Southern Baptist households, at one point in their lives they thought the best path for ministry might be to become pastor’s wives. “The spirit works in mysterious ways,” said Swearingen.

How many Americans have a Biblical worldview?
Millions of Americans call themselves Christians, but how does their faith shape their worldview? A new Barna Group study says, “not so much.” Researchers asked American Christians about their views on issues like lying, cheating, the nature of God, and sin. They found that while more than seven out of 10 Americans call themselves Christians, just one out of every 10 were able to answer basic questions about the Bible and the faith.

Islam largest religion by 2070
Pew Research analyzed demographic change among the world’s major religions and found that the world’s population of Muslims will grow by 73% between 2010 and 2050, compared to 35% for Christians, the next fastest-growing faith. The world’s population will grow by 37% over the same period. If those rates of growth continue past 2050, Muslims will outnumber Christians by 2070, the report found.

Sources: Fox News, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Religion News Service, CBN, The Telegraph (U.K.)