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Comedian cancels tour after harassment allegations
Netflix has postponed a special by Christian comedian John Crist in the aftermath of accusations of sexual harassment and manipulation by several women. Crist, who canceled his upcoming tour dates, responded to the allegations published by Charisma magazine. “While I am not guilty of everything I’ve been accused of, I confess to being guilty of this—I have treated relationships with women far too casually, in some cases even recklessly. My behavior has been destructive and sinful.”

Former Illinois pastor on administrative leave following accusations of pastoral abuse
A Tennessee church is no longer considering Wes Feltner for its senior pastor role, after the former pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur, Ill., was accused of pastoral abuse by two women who were students in his former youth ministry in Indiana.

Feltner is taking an administrative leave from a church he pastors in Minnesota, Baptist Press reports.

>Related: Longtime Chicago pastor resigns; sexual abuse prior to ministry among reasons

GLAAD pushes for more LGBTQ representation on TV
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) called on the television industry to ensure that 20% of series regular characters on primetime scripted series are LGBTQ by the year 2025. GLAAD cited an online survey indicating that one-fifth of Americans ages 18-34 identify as LGBT or other non-heterosexual, non-biological gender categories, The Christian Post reported. However, 2017 polling data by Gallup found about 8% of Millennials identify as LGBT.

Christian clinics to offer contraceptives to singles
A network of Christian women’s health centers in Texas will begin providing contraceptives to single women, according to the network’s Southern Baptist CEO.

“We have all come to the conclusion that the decision that is most in line with ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ is to give women a tool, education, and counseling that will help reduce unplanned pregnancies, therefore reduce abortions,” said Andy Schoonover, CEO of a group of clinics known as The Source. The clinics will offer contraceptive measures to married and single women, Baptist Press reports, but not abortifacients or abortions.

Sources: Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Illinois Baptist, Christian Post

Seminary president commits to lead toward unity if elected
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., will be nominated next June to serve as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Pastor H.B. Charles of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., announced he will nominate Mohler when the SBC meets June 9-10 in Orlando.

“All my life, I have sought to serve whenever asked by my denomination,” Mohler told Baptist Press, “and I would hope, if elected, to serve in a way that would unite Southern Baptists, strengthen our work together, add energy to our evangelism, and keep our hearts set on taking the gospel to the nations.”

Print shop owner prevails in court
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Oct. 31 in favor of Blaine Adamson, a print shop owner who was sued after refusing to print T-shirts for a gay pride festival.

In 2014, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission charged Adamson with violating the city’s fairness ordinance for refusing to print shirts requested by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO). The state’s Supreme Court ruled last week GLSO didn’t have standing to bring the challenge against Adamson’s Hands On Originals shop, giving the printer his third legal victory.

White appointed to oversee Trump administration’s faith outreach
Florida televangelist Paula White has been named to an official White House position, Christianity Today reports. White, often associated with the prosperity gospel, has been an influential and controversial figure in President Trump’s group of evangelical advisors.

MacDonald disqualified by elders at his former church
The elders of Harvest Bible Chapel formally disqualified founding pastor James MacDonald from ministry Nov. 3, stating that his actions do not meet Scriptural requirements to be an elder. MacDonald was terminated from the church in February, but the elders said they wanted to give clarity to members of the church and people familiar with MacDonald’s teaching ministry.

The elders noted MacDonald’s “pattern of improperly exercising his positional and spiritual authority over others to his own advantage,” as well as “behavior and language [which] indicated that he thought of himself more highly than he should as evidenced by his pattern of insulting, belittling, and verbally bullying others.”

Most young adults say society is in a leadership crisis
Barna reports 82% of young adults say there aren’t enough good leaders right now, leading to a crisis of leadership. And half say the biggest obstacle to leadership in society today is that everyone is too busy and distracted.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Christian Post, Barna

17% of Americans describe their religion as ‘nothing in particular’
Pew Forum reports a majority of Americans still call themselves Christians, but the number has decreased 12 percentage points over the last decade. And while the number of both Protestants and Catholics decreased, those unaffiliated with a religion grew as a share of the population—up from 12% in 2009 to 17% now.

Pew also reported worship attendance is down. The number of Americans who attend religious services at least twice a month fell 7 percentage points over the last decade, while the number who say they attend less often rose by the same amount.

Metro East abortion clinic opening met with protests
Pro-life advocates held signs, prayed, and sang “Amazing Grace” during an Oct. 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Planned Parenthood facility in Fairview Heights, Ill. The clinic expects to serve as many as 11,000 clients a year and could serve as a regional center for abortion, as neighboring states tighten restrictions on abortion.

Liberty professor to join Baptist seminary faculty
Karen Swallow Prior will move from Liberty University to Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., next fall. The author and English professor, who has also been an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, will become Southeastern’s research professor of English and Christianity & Culture. Southeastern President Danny Akin called Prior “a gifted teacher in the field of English and literature who loves Christ, the gospel and the Great Commission.”

Sheriff posts signs to protect kids on Halloween
Georgia sheriff Gary Long went to court Oct. 24 to defend his decision to post signs outside the homes of sex offenders warning potential trick-or-treaters not to approach. Long posted the signs last Halloween, and is trying to do so again this year, amid a legal challenge from three registered sex offenders. “Regardless of the Judge’s ruling this Thursday,” Long posted on Facebook, “I WILL do everything within the letter of the law to protect the children of this community.”

Barna: Screen time far outpaces spiritual content
A typical 15- to 23-year-old spends 153 hours a year taking in spiritual content, Barna reports, and the number rises to 291 hours for churchgoers. But both figures are dwarfed by the amount of time young people spend using screen media—2,767 hours a year, or about 7.5 a day. The numbers have ramifications for pastors, parents, and young people, said Barna president David Kinnaman.

“If we want to follow Jesus with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, all of us in modern exile must consider the total input and output of our faith,” Kinnaman said. The input can’t simply be a few hundred hours of passive church attendance in a year.”

Sources: Pew Forum, Illinois Baptist, The New York Times, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Barna Research

John MacArthur tells Beth Moore to ‘go home’
At an event celebrating his 50 years in ministry, California pastor John MacArthur jabbed at Bible teacher Beth Moore and others, igniting a Twitter firestorm and continuing the debate on gender roles in church leadership. “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion,” MacArthur said during a word association game in which he was asked to respond to the phrase “Beth Moore.” MacArthur’s first response was also two words: “Go home.”

Many Christian leaders came to Moore’s defense on Twitter, while others expressed support for MacArthur’s position. Moore appeared to respond with a pair of tweets Oct. 21. “Here’s the beautiful thing about it & I mean this with absolute respect,” she wrote. “You don’t have to let me serve you. That gets to be your choice. Whether or not I serve Jesus is not up to you. Whether I serve you certainly is. One way or the other, I esteem you as my sibling in Christ.”

Mohler: Complementarianism ‘can and has’ led to abuse
Southern Seminary President Al Mohler acknowledged in a chapel address that complementarian theology—the view that men and women have different but complementary roles in church and family life—can lead to abuse of women and girls, and has done so at times. “Sinful men will use anything in vanity and in anger, in sin of every form,” Mohler said Oct. 15. “Sinful men will distort anything and will take advantage of any argument that seems to their advantage, even to the abuse of women.”

  • Related: Southern Baptist church leaders met this month in Dallas for the Caring Well Conference, an event designed to train churches to prevent sexual abuse and care well for survivors.

California requires state schools to provide medical abortions to students
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Oct. 11 that will require the 34 schools in the University of California and California State University systems to provide access to prescription pills that induce miscarriage within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, the Los Angeles Times reported. The cost of the new initiative is likely to exceed what has been raised through private donations, WORLD magazine reported, meaning taxpayers and students could underwrite the remaining costs.

Lon Allison remembered for commitment to evangelism
Pastor Lon Allison, former executive director of Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center, died Oct. 20 after a nearly 2-year battle with cancer. Allison also served as teaching pastor at Wheaton Bible Church. “Lon reflected God’s (and Mr. Graham’s) heart for our world,” wrote current Graham Center Executive Director Ed Stetzer, “and continually reminded all of us that we too are part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world.”

Young adults are connected, but still seeking meaningful relationships
A survey of 18—35-year-olds around the world found young adults feel connected to global events, but are less sure that the people around them care for and believe in them. Barna’s survey found only 33% of young adults often feel deeply cared for by those around them, and 23% sometimes feel lonely or isolated. The numbers are slightly more encouraging for young adults who belong to a religious tradition.

Sources: Religion News Service, Twitter, Christian Post, Illinois Baptist, Los Angeles Times, WORLD, Christianity Today, Barna

O’Rourke: Opposing same-sex marriage should mean losing tax-exempt status
“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for any institution or organization in America that denies the full human rights and full civil rights of every single one of us,” Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said at a forum hosted by CNN and gay rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. O’Rourke’s controversial position has been rejected by some of his fellow candidates, but Religion News Service reports the candidates’ liberal theology on orientation and gender is now the norm for most of the country.

Conflict in Syria endangers Christianity in the Middle East
The United States’ decision to withdraw troops from a Kurdish-controlled region of Syria “could lead to the extinction of Christianity from the region,” said one evangelical leader. President Donald Trump announced last week he would hand over control to the Turkish government, a move many say will allow ISIS to continue their assault on religious minorities, including Christians.

Brunson’s book details discouragement, suicidal thoughts in prison
Missionary Andrew Brunson contemplated taking his own life while imprisoned in Turkey, he writes in a new book released Oct. 14. In “God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance,” Brunson writes at one point, all he heard from God was silence. He was released last October after more than two years in prison. Since his release, he and his wife, Norine, have shared their story at various events, including at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference.

Man baptized after Arkansas church offers forgiveness
Brenton Winn destroyed $100,000 of property at Central Baptist Church in Conway, Ark., in February 2019. Six months later, Winn was baptized after accepting Christ through a recovery program the church helped him enter. “As I’m starting to understand how God works, I’ve realized I didn’t pick the church that night. God picked me,” he said. “If it had been any other church, I think I’d be sitting in prison right now.”

Are our pastors our friends?
One-fifth of Christians say they regularly meet with or talk to the lead pastor of their church outside of weekly church services and events, according to Barna Research. Still, “friend” leads the list of words that best describe a Christian’s relationship with his or her pastor, followed by mentor, counselor, and teacher.

Sources: Religion News Service, Christianity Today, ERLC.com, Christian Post, Baptist Press, Barna Research

Opponents say Planned Parenthood facility is more about money than women
Planned Parenthood (PP) expects to open a large clinic this month in Metro East Illinois that will serve 11,000 patients a year. A Planned Parenthood press release called the new Fairview Heights clinic a “regional haven for abortion access,” as Illinois’ neighbor states have enacted stricter abortion laws.

The new clinic is 13 miles from St. Louis, where Missouri officials have threatened to close the state’s last remaining abortion provider for violations of state code.

‘Caring Well’ conference urges better measures for abuse prevention
“How and where you and I exercise our power, particularly with vulnerable human beings, shines a light on who we are.” Dr. Diane Langberg, a Christian psychologist and trauma expert, was one of dozens of voices at the “Caring Well” conference, a three-day meeting of Southern Baptists designed to help churches navigate the sexual abuse crisis. Langberg and fellow speakers urged churches and ministries toward more effective prevention measures and better care for abuse survivors. Read Meredith Flynn’s reports from Dallas.

Tennessee governor plans statewide day of prayer and fasting
Gov. Bill Lee, who was elected last November, introduced the Oct. 10 day of prayer as an opportunity “to offer prayers of healing, prayers for forgiveness, prayers of thanksgiving, and prayers of hope for our state and for the 6.7 million who call Tennessee home.”

Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, told Baptist Press he gladly joins Lee in the statewide effort. “One thing is crystal clear: politics will not heal us, and government will not fix us,” Floyd said. “We need a massive prayer movement that will lead us back to God and bring healing to our land.”

President Trump says Christians are ‘electrified’ in his defense
As campaigning heats up ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Christians are revisiting the differences that divided them in 2016. “I got a call the other night from pastors, the biggest pastors, evangelical Christians. They said that they have never seen our religion or any religion so electrified,” President Donald Trump said Oct. 3, referencing their defense of him against his political rivals and the media. Some evangelical leaders affirmed their support of the president, while others called for distance between faith and politics.

InterVarsity reinstated on Iowa campus
A federal judge ruled in September that InterVarsity Christian Fellowship can remain on campus at the University of Iowa, even if the ministry requires leaders to sign its statement of faith. Judge Stephanie M. Rose also said campus officials will have to pay any damages awarded to InterVarsity at a trial currently set for January.

Sources: Illinois Baptist, USA Today, Baptist Press, Associated Press, Christian Post, Christianity Today

Report promotes civility in public discourse
The Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm released a report Sept. 26 on how Christians can help heal the country’s political divides. “Faith and Healthy Democracy,” released by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and based on interviews with nearly 50 evangelical leaders, found that “toxic” was the most common adjective used to describe today’s public discourse.

Ahead of election, evangelicals report surprising priorities
A LifeWay Research survey in conjunction with the ERLC report found evangelicals are more likely to say healthcare, the economy, national security, and immigration are the public policy concerns most important to them, rather than religious liberty, abortion, providing for the needy, or addressing racial division. Only 8% say they are single-issue voters.

Pastor condemns impeachment effort
Following the announcement of an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, one of the President’s most vocal evangelical supporters said the country could be headed for a “Civil War-like fracture” should Trump be removed from office. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, also said of fellow evangelicals: “…I have never seen them more angry over any issue than this attempt to illegitimately remove this president from office, overturn the 2016 election and negate the votes of millions of evangelicals in the process.”

2020 will see 40% decrease in refugees resettled in U.S.
Christian leaders decried the Trump administration’s announcement last week that the U.S. will resettle only 18,000 refugees in the 2020 fiscal year. Christianity Today reported the ceiling for resettling refugees hadn’t dropped below 70,000 for 30 years before it dropped to 45,000 in 2018, then 30,000 the next year.

SBC President opens U.S. House session with prayer
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear prayed Sept. 25 before the U.S. House of Representatives, asking God to “grant that this body rule in a way that directs the men, women and children of this country toward your goodness, and enables them to respond in thankfulness to you.” Baptist Press reported Greear’s visit to the Capitol also included meetings with several legislators.

Sources: Baptist Press, LifeWay Research, Times Record News, Christianity Today