Archives For Uncategorized

Baptists authored bill now before Texas Senate
Southern Baptists initiated a measure they hope the Texas Senate will vote to approve before the May 27 end of their current session. The bill, Baptist Press reported, would protect charitable organizations, their volunteers, and independent contractors from liability when disclosing credible sexual abuse allegations to prospective employers, even when no criminal charges have been filed against the accused.

The Texas House of Representatives unanimously approved the bill May 8.

Harvest pulls MacDonald’s sermons
Three months after firing Pastor James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicagoland has removed audio and video versions of his sermons from their online channels. The church also won’t move forward with plans to distribute MacDonald’s “Walk in the Word” digitally, Christianity Today reported.

Freed woman’s attorney takes up another blasphemy case in Pakistan
The attorney for Asia Bibi, who was imprisoned for years on charges of blasphemy, said he will help the woman who now occupies her prison cell.

States consider Bible classes in public schools
Several states are now offering elective Bible and religion classes for public school students. The Washington Post explains how it works in two school districts in Kentucky, and how advocates are working to pass similar legislation in more states.

Survey: Growing diversity has advantages and challenges, Americans say
Americans have complicated views about the country’s growing diversity, Pew Research reports. Among the findings of a new survey: three-quarters of people say it’s important to promote diversity in the workplace, but only 24% believe companies should take race and ethnicity into account along with qualifications when it comes to decisions about hiring and promotions.

-Baptist Press, Christianity Today (2), USA Today, The Washington Post, Pew Research

Disaster Relief teams respond in Iowa, Nebraska
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders are working with a critical timeframe in the Midwest, where flooding has damaged homes and displaced residents. With tornado season looming and warmer temperatures on the way, responding to more than 1,400 requests for help is urgent, said Sam Porter, national director for SBDR at the North American Mission Board.

Illinois teams are currently serving in Glenwood, Iowa, and are scheduled to be there through May. For more information, go to IBSA.org/DR.

Prolific Warren Wiersbe remembered for writing gift
“I’m not an athlete, I’m not a mechanic,” said writer and pastor Warren Wiersbe. “I can’t do so many of the things that successful men can do. But I can read and study and think and teach. This is a beautiful, wonderful gift from God.”

Wiersbe authored more than 150 books, including the “Be” commentaries, a 50-volume series on the Old and New Testaments. Wiersbe died May 2 at the age of 89.

Fellow leaders mourn Rachel Held Evans
Progressive Christian writer and speaker Rachel Held Evans died May 4 after a brief illness. She was 37. Christian leaders from across the theological spectrum grieved for Evans’ husband and young children, and lauded her unique style, despite disagreements they may have had.

Church membership down, anxiety up nationwide
Gallup reported last month that 50% of Americans are church members, a decline of 20 percentage points since 1999. Another study from the researcher reports Americans were more stressed, worried, and angry in 2018 than at most other times in the last decade.

Floyd calls church to unity on National Day of Prayer
“…Government cannot fix us. Politics cannot heal us. But loving one another can change the world,” said Southern Baptist leader Ronnie Floyd on the National Day of Prayer observance in the U.S. Capitol. Floyd, National Day of Prayer Task Force chairman and president-election of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, said, “A divided church cannot call a divided nation to unity. Love is the better way.”

-Baptist Press (2), Christianity Today, ChristianPost.com, Gallup.com

Supreme Court will hear funeral home case
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will consider whether the country’s job discrimination laws apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. One case they’ll hear concerns a Michigan funeral home sued after firing a transgender employee.

Easter marked by mourning in Sri Lanka
Almost 300 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a series of suicide bombings in Sri Lankan churches and hotels. While no group has yet taken responsibility for the attacks, officials were warned churches could be targeted by a radical Islamist group, Christianity Today reported.

The nation of 21 million people is on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List, which profiles the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians.

Sovereign Grace responds to renewed calls for investigation
A network of churches headquartered in Louisville, Ky., said last week that an outside investigation into whether church leaders covered up sexual abuse would represent a “theological capitulation” that “would ultimately dishonor Christ and harm the cause of the gospel.”

Sovereign Grace Louisville, one of 72 churches in the evangelical network, was referenced by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear in a February report in which he called on the SBC Executive Committee to consider whether 10 churches had dealt appropriately with allegations of sexual abuse. The bylaws workgroup of the Executive Committee later reported that the Sovereign Grace matter merited further inquiry.

Two Southern Baptist seminary presidents have apologized for their support of C.J. Mahaney, former president of the network and current lead pastor of Sovereign Grace Lousiville.

Church membership down nationwide
Half of American adults are members of a church, according to new data from Gallup. The percentage is 20 points lower than it was 20 years ago, and mirrors the trend toward non-affiliation with a religion. Twenty years ago, 8% of Americans said they had no religion, Gallup reported, but the current share is 19%.

Annual study details Americans’ relationship with the Bible
More U.S. adults are engaged with the Word of God, but fewer are Bible-centered, according to Barna’s 2019 State of the Bible survey. While 59% believe the message of the Bible has transformed their lives, 35% of adults report never using it.

Sources: USA Today, The Christian Post, Christianity Today (2), Open Doors USA, Gallup, Barna

Briefing

ERLC voices hope and concern in AI statement
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission unveiled April 11 an evangelical Christian statement on artificial intelligence, expressing both hope and concern regarding the emerging technology. The new statement is designed to help the church think about and engage AI from a biblical perspective. ERLC President Russell Moore said, “What this statement does is to say artificial intelligence is an aspect of creativity and technology that will bring with it many, many good things…. At the same time, we have very real and pressing moral and spiritual questions about the use of AI, the temptation to outsource moral decisions to algorithms, but also what happens when we lose a vision of what humanity actually is.” The statement is available here.

Ohio governor signs heartbeat bill
On April 11, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law a bill protecting unborn babies from abortion from the moment they have a detectable heartbeat – usually around six weeks of gestation. The law passed in both the House and Senate and penalizes anyone performing an abortion on an unborn baby with a detectable heartbeat. North Dakota and Arkansas have also passed heartbeat bills, but federal courts ruled them unconstitutional.

Korea legalizes abortion
In South Korea, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled April 11 that abortion must be legalized by 2020. This comes after a 65-year-old ban the country had on abortion. The ban will remain until the new law is passed. Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, lamented the ruling as the adoption of an erroneous “Western Neo-colonialist notion” that abortion is a woman’s right. “It is a setback for human rights, and a tragedy for those South Koreans whose lives will be lost,” Foster said

Hong Kong pastor facing prison, preaches to courtroom
A Baptist pastor in Hong Kong turned the stands of a Hong Kong courtroom into his pulpit. Chu Yiu-ming, pastor of Chai Wan Baptist Church, quoted Scripture and called for justice in the name of God, after he and eight other activists were convicted April 9 for crimes related to their involvement with pro-democracy protests. “In the words of Jesus, ‘Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!’” Chu said.

Intercountry adoption hits a new low
The number of foreign children adopted by U.S. families plunged again last year, according to an annual report by the U.S. State Department released in March. Intercountry adoptions declined by 14 percent, from 4,714 children in 2017 to 4,059 in 2018. The 2018 number is down 82 percent from a high of more than 22,000 in 2004.

Sources: Baptist Press (3), Christianity Today, World

Kick-off includes new blog, podcast tailored to Baptist women
Connection is the main goal of the newly launched Southern Baptist Women’s Leadership Network (WLN). “Historically in SBC life men have had multiple options to connect in this way,” said WLN steering committee member Kathy Ferguson Litton. “Women have had very few environments where we could organically relate, mentor, and collaborate across all the domains in which we lead. It is time to change that.”

The network includes a podcast, blog, and Facebook page, and will hold its first meeting June 11 during the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham.

Congress yet to act on church tax law
A coalition of religious leaders is still pursuing action by U.S. lawmakers they say will relieve churches of a costly tax burden. Current law requires churches to file tax returns, some as early as this spring. The U.S. House of Representatives voted late last year to reverse the provision—Section 512(a)(7) of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017—but the Senate didn’t have the votes to approve the reversal, Baptist Press reported.

“Uncle Sam is welcome in our churches,” said Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, one of the leaders calling for repeal of the provision. “But we don’t work for him. And Congress should end this deeply un-American tax on churches immediately.”

Baptists choose ‘proven leader’ to helm Executive Committee
Arkansas pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd was elected April 2 to lead the denomination’s Executive Committee, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn. Floyd, 63, will be a key part of the SBC’s response to current challenges, including helping churches prevent sexual abuse and care for survivors of abuse.

Mormon Church softens stance on same-sex marriage
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced April 4 that members in same-sex marriages will no longer be designated apostates to their faith. “While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline,” the church said. “Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”

The change in policy also will allow children of LGBT members to be baptized in the church, Religion News Service reported.

Iraqi Christians could face deportation
An appeals court declined April 2 to hear further arguments from 1,400 Iraqi natives detained in immigration raids in 2017. The group includes more than 100 Detroit-area Chaldean Christians, Christianity Today reports, who would face returning to one of the world’s most dangerous countries for Christians.

Sources: Baptist Press (2), Illinois Baptist, Religion News Service, Christianity Today

 

 

 

Briefing

IL. abortion bill stalled
A bill to expand abortion practices in Illinois is stalled in committee, due in part to a large pro-life rally at the Capitol rotunda. A March 20 pro-life rally and march at the Illinois Capitol protested The Reproductive Health Act, SB 1942 and HB 2495, which would repeal the 1975 Illinois Abortion Law, the state’s partial birth abortion ban, and regulations banning anyone other than physicians from performing abortions.

China closes fourth major underground church
A prominent house church in Beijing was shut down after government and police officials raided Bible classes at two of the church’s locations. The officials changed the locks and banned the congregants from gathering to worship. Shouwang Church, which draws more than 1,000 attendees, is the fourth major underground congregation shut down by the Communist government over the past several months.

8 yr. old chess champion gives back to God
A young immigrant from Nigeria is giving credit to God for lifting his family out of poverty. After Tanitoluwa Adewumi, a third grader, won a New York State chess championship in his age bracket, a GoFundMe campaign was set up to help remove the family from their homeless shelter in New York. Of the $246,000 raised, Adewumi’s family has vowed to sow ten percent back into their local church and use the rest to benefit other African immigrants settling in the United States. “To whom much is given, much is required,” Tanitoluwa’s dad wrote in an update on the page.

Survey: moms more influential than dads in child’s faith
Christians are far more likely to say their mothers had a bigger influence on their faith than did their fathers, according to a new Barna study. The study, which examines the roles that moms and dads play in the development of children, found that 68 percent of U.S. Christians who grew up with someone who influenced their faith say their mother’s faith impacted them. That was followed by the father (46 percent) and a grandparent (37 percent).

‘Unplanned’ movie receives backlash from media
A new pro-life movie, “Unplanned,” is receiving backlash from media on the film’s depiction of abortion. The movie, produced by Pure Flix, tells the true story of a Planned Parenthood clinic director’s subsequent conversion to pro-life views. Many cable networks refused to air commercials for the movie and many other channels declined to advertise it due to its “sensitive nature,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. The movie began airing in theaters March 29.

Sources: Illinois Baptist, Christian Post, CBN, Christian Headlines, Baptist Press

By Andrew Woodrow

Chatham bakers

Volunteers serving in Chatham baked cookies for first responders.

Hundreds of young volunteers scattered across Illinois March 9 for a day of hands-on mission projects. IBSA’s annual Children’s Mission Day sent kids around the state to serve by baking cookies for first responders, visiting with residents at assisted living facilities, helping at local food banks, and dozens more projects.

At Chatham Baptist Church, nearly 70 children from six different churches gathered before heading to their project sites. Missy Doyle has organized Children’s Mission Day in the Springfield area for the past two years. As a former missionary, its value goes beyond helping children serve for one day. It’s about teaching the children the value and purpose of ministry.

“Missions is very close to my heart,” said Doyle, who serves as president-elect of Illinois Woman’s Missionary Union and is the wife of IBSA’s Dwayne Doyle. “And while what these kids do may seem small on a grand scale, it can spark a greater ministry. If we can get these kids to start thinking about missions at an early age, I’m all for it.”

That vision is why Woodland Baptist Church in Peoria has participated in Children’s Mission Day for the past five years. “Our church values missions,” said volunteer Laura Lee. “And it’s important for us to teach our kids to learn about it too—to learn about serving others, and getting a chance to see others who have different challenges than what they experience in their own lives.”

When they’re given a chance to serve others, kids enjoy it, said Jerry Weber, associate pastor at Chatham Baptist. “This gives the kids an opportunity to see life a little differently.”

After they finished their projects, the kids came back to the church and had an opportunity to share with each other what the day meant to them. Many said it taught them how to be kind, how to show Jesus’ love, and how to help others. Others said they discovered that people appreciated their service.

Doyle said she even heard people talking about taking Children’s Missions Day back home. “If we can drive an hour to do this here, then we can certainly do this in our own community as well,” one volunteer said.

“One baby step at a time,” Doyle said. “What we want these kids to see here is that they can emulate similar ministries in their own city or neighborhood. It builds from there. And the vision grows over the years to the point that they can share the gospel with whomever they meet.”

For more information about resources and events for children, go to IBSA.org/Kids.

Children’s Mission Day, March 2019 from IL Baptist State Association on Vimeo.