Archives For Chicago

City tried to limit building use

An IBSA church has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago, which is enforcing a zoning ordinance that won’t allow the church to purchase its building near the University of Illinois-Chicago campus.

“Agonizing” is how Nathan Carter, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, described the decision to either seek other meeting space or file the lawsuit. His congregation has met in its current location since 2011, and was set to close on the purchase of the building last summer, when city officials blocked the sale because they determined Immanuel had not established legal use.

70320Immanuel BC

The main issue is parking; the Chicago Zoning Ordinance requires religious assemblies to have a certain number of parking spaces based on how many people they’re able to seat. Immanuel needs 19 spaces to comply with the ordinance, but like many organizations in their neighborhood, the church utilizes street parking. Immanuel and the law firm representing them, Mauck & Baker, are arguing that the ordinance violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by requiring stricter standards of religious assemblies than for other organizations.

The space at 1443 W. Roosevelt had been rented by another church previously. Churches are a permitted use in the zoning, and the City’s building department gave Immanuel an occupancy permit in 2011. City officials assured Carter the sale wouldn’t be blocked despite the church’s use of street parking. But the City returned a different verdict in July 2016, informing Carter “the church still needed to meet the city’s parking requirements and that the city must determine if a religious assembly use is something it wants to promote on a commercial corridor such as Roosevelt Road,” according to a press release from Mauck & Baker.

The church’s ensuing lawsuit was a “last resort,” said the pastor. “We’ve been courteous and kind throughout the process and not adversarial, seeking to bend over backwards to meet their demands. We have our alderman’s support.”

Plus, Carter continued, “We have many of the same goals for the neighborhood as the City does. We’ve communicated that if they don’t fight it, then we won’t seek damages or fees. [The suit is] framed in such a way that they can admit they are bound by the letter of a current zoning ordinance, but then point out how that zoning ordinance is federally illegal (because of RLUIPA) by requiring more parking spots for religious assembly than it does for non-religious assembly uses that courts have determined are comparable.”

Carter referred to a sign on the door of his local library, which clearly states the library has no parking and patrons are to park on the street. City ordinances also state “live theater venues” with fewer than 150 seats need no parking, nor do libraries or cultural exhibits within the first 4,000 feet. Mauck & Baker is arguing Immanuel meets both of these requirements: their building seats 146 people and has less than 4,000 square feet.

Carter said the church is praying they can settle the suit within the next month, but if the City decides to continue to fight the purchase, the process could be a lengthy one.

Still, he said, the church sensed the Lord leading in this direction, albeit a somewhat frightening one. “Since 2005 our church has had a vision for being a long-term, stable gospel presence in our specific area of the city—a cluster of neighborhoods that surround the University of Illinois at Chicago,” Carter said. After meeting in four rented locations over the years and doing an exhaustive search of their community for other spaces, the purchase of their current building seems like a strategic decision.

“If the Lord closes this door, we have no doubt that he will open up another one,” Carter said. “But at the moment this was the only one that was cracked open, and there are scary lights coming from behind it, but we sensed the Lord wanted us to knock.”

-Meredith Flynn

The BriefingTrump admin. policy change on transgender students
The Trump administration signaled Feb. 10 that it was changing course on the previous administration’s efforts to expand transgender rights. The administration will no longer defend transgender students use of restrooms that do not match their anatomical gender identity. The move by the Justice Department does not change the situation for the nation’s public schools; a federal judge had already put a temporary hold on the guidance as a lawsuit by a dozen states moved through the courts.

Pregnancy resource centers sue Gov. Rauner
Eighteen Illinois women’s health organizations have sued Gov. Bruce Rauner over a law requiring pregnancy centers to tell patients about the benefits of abortion despite conscience-based objections. The measure requiring the dispensing of abortion information changed a 1977 law allowing health care professionals to refuse services they consider morally objectionable. The centers say the law violates the First Amendment.

Chicago restaurants’ Planned Parenthood bake sale
A baker’s dozen of Chicago’s upscale restaurants and bakeries are hosting a cookie sale to benefit Planned Parenthood. Supporters can purchase a box with one cookie each from the 13 restaurants for $75 with 100% of the proceeds directly benefit Planned Parenthood Illinois.

DeVos confirmation leaves Baptists hopeful
With the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. secretary of education, some Southern Baptists hope that emphases at the Department of Education will parallel themes expressed in Southern Baptist Convention resolutions on education adopted in 2014 and 2006. David Dykes, chairman of the 2014 SBC Resolutions Committee, noted he is “very encouraged by President Trump’s choice of people [for cabinet posts] who are outside the circle of politicians and the status quo for these positions. I think he really wants to shake things up, and I’m in favor of doing that.”

Strobel’s ‘The Case for Christ’ now a movie
Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel’s 1998 best-selling book The Case for Christ heads to the screen April 7, with its first trailer revealed on usatoday.com. Mike Vogel plays Strobel as a Chicago Tribune investigative reporter in 1980, when Strobel begins to investigate Christianity, compelled by his wife Leslie’s (Erika Christensen) newfound faith.

 Sources: Washington Post, News Channel 20, Chicago Tribune, Baptist Press, USA Today

The BriefingStudy: Christians most persecuted
According to the Director of the Centre for Studies on New Religions (Cesnur), Massimo Introvigne, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, with over 90,000 Christians killed in 2016 alone. Introvigne said there are nearly half a billion Christians who are unable to express or practice fully their Christian faith.

Chicago ends 2016 with 762 homicides
An argument between two men at an Uptown bar in the early hours of Jan. 1 ended with the two shooting at one another, leaving both dead. Their deaths ushered in the new year, marking the first and second homicides of 2017 and keeping up 2016’s soaring pace of violence.

Chicago priest puts a ‘bounty’ on killers
The violence on Chicago’s South Side is so pervasive that Father Michael Pfleger, a priest with the largest Catholic congregation in the area, isn’t waiting for a savior — he’s taking it upon himself to find murderers by offering rewards for information leading to an arrest. Pfleger says he’s given out 24 rewards over the last 10 years.

Judge rules against sex change coverage
Doctors and healthcare providers do not have to break with their consciences to perform sex change operations under a preliminary injunction against an Obama administration mandate. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas ruled in favor of eight states and three Christian healthcare groups by blocking a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule set to go into effect Jan. 1.

Turkey denies appeal for U.S. pastor
A Turkish court has denied the appeal of a Christian pastor from North Carolina, who was imprisoned last month in Turkey on a false terrorism charge because of his Christian faith, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.  Andrew Brunson was imprisoned Dec. 9 after being charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”

Sources: Fox News, Chicago Tribune, CBS News, World Magazine, Christian Post

The BriefingCastro death unlikely to halt revival or spur liberty
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who died at age 90, is being remembered as both an unwitting catalyst of revival and an opponent of religious liberty. His death, said Southern Baptists with ties to Cuba, is unlikely to yield significant increases in religious liberty for the island nation until the fall of the communist government he inaugurated 57 years ago.

3 dead, 5 sickened after church’s Thanksgiving dinner
Three people have died and five more were sickened after eating Thanksgiving dinner at an event organized by a church in the San Francisco Bay Area, health officials said. Sutter Delta Medical Center said it received eight patients with probable symptoms of foodborne illness Friday and Saturday. Three of the patients died, four patients were treated and released and one remains hospitalized. It remains unclear exactly what caused the illness.

Violent Thanksgiving weekend in Chicago
Chicago saw one its most violent Thanksgiving holidays in years, with eight people killed and 62 others wounded. The toll towers over the number of shootings in the previous two Thanksgiving holiday weekends, according to data kept by the Tribune.

Why Jerry Falwell Jr. turned down Trump’s Cabinet position
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. believes that Donald Trump “will become America’s greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.” But that wasn’t enough to persuade him to accept Trump’s offer to become secretary of education. Falwell told RNS the decision was due to concerns for the health of his family and the university he leads.

Pope challenged by conservative cardinals
Four senior Catholic cardinals went public with a private letter they sent to Pope Francis, asking him to state plainly whether he is liberalizing Church practice on divorced, remarried Catholics. The letter also questions whether the Pope is relaxing traditional and biblical standards on morality in general. Francis refused to respond so, the cardinals published their letter on various Catholic news sites.

Sources: Baptist Press, Fox News, Chicago Tribune, Religion News, CNN

Missions opportunities to highlight gathering in Metro Chicago

Final preparations are under way for the 110th IBSA Annual Meeting November 2-3. The event at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in metro Chicago will focus on cross-culture ministry opportunities in Illinois. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary of the SBC, called Golden Gate Seminary prior to its relocation from the San Francisco Bay Area to metro Los Angeles this year.

“Dr. Iorg is among the most compelling, thoughtful, and missional voices in Southern Baptist life today, especially when it comes to understanding post-Christian culture in America,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “I’m so grateful that he is leading our West Coast seminary into the future, where pastors and leaders will engage values and cultures that are already very different from those of the past century.”

I hope this year’s Annual Meeting will bring to all of us a new vision and higher level of commitment to ‘cross culture’ with the gospel.

Iorg is a former church planter and state convention executive director in the Pacific Northwest. As a leader of Southern Baptist work on the West Coast, Iorg has addressed many of the cultural challenges now facing evangelicals in the Midwest. He has written frequently on theological and biblical perspectives on marriage, sexuality, and gender. His book “Building Antioch” shows from the New Testament how an ordinary believing congregation can become a transformational community.

“Illinois Baptists will come away from Dr. Iorg’s messages challenged and transformed, I’m sure,” Adams said.

The Wednesday evening session, including Iorg, will focus on a four-phase process for engaging ministry across cultural barriers. Adams will outline the plan and share testimonies and videos of Illinois churches carrying the gospel to people unlike themselves.

“My own recent trips to Chicago have reminded me again how diverse our churches are, and even more so how varied and challenging are the cultures that our churches need to reach,” Adams said. “I hope this year’s Annual Meeting will bring to all of us a new vision and higher level of commitment to ‘cross culture’ with the gospel.”

IBSA President Kevin Carrothers, pastor of Rochester First Baptist Church and Vice President Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, will also bring messages.

In addition to the session on the variety of ministry opportunities in Illinois, the meeting will include two business sessions on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. Vision tours of Chicago-area ministry opportunities are available. Seating is limited, so online registration is encouraged.

Visit www.IBSAAnnualMeeting.org to learn more.

Which church are you?

ib2newseditor —  October 26, 2016


By Adron Robinson

Editor’s note: This post is one in a series on cross-cultural ministry, taken from a round table discussion between four Illinois pastors and leaders. Click here to read more from their conversation, published in the September 29 issue of the Illinois Baptist newspaper. 

adron-robinsonAdron Robinson is pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and vice president of IBSA. He will deliver the annual sermon on Thursday, Nov. 3, during the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Annual Meeting at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Chicagoland. The theme of the meeting is “Cross-Culture.”

On finding an identity
Every church is going to be “that” church. People are going to say that’s the church that does this, or that church does that. As leaders, we need to get out front in defining what our church is going to be known for. John 13:35 just comes to mind: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Your church needs to be known for showing your community God’s love in some way.

Your church needs to be known for showing your community God’s love in some way.

I grew up next door to a church. The church’s driveway was right in between it and the house where I was raised. Growing up, I thought the driveway was ours because we never saw church people until Sunday. On Sunday, they would come in and park on the street and fill up the driveway. They would be in the building all day and you would hear the music, but the rest of the week, the building was empty.

The church was just “that” church next door. When they came around on Sunday, they were “those” church people.  The complaint among the neighbors was that they took up all our parking. Other than that, they had no interaction whatsoever with the block, not to mention the rest of the community.

On engaging your community
Churches can do a great service to their community just by being good neighbors, and engaging people around them. Go be a coach, or just be a parent watching your kids play on a local sports team. Let people see the love of Christ in you. You don’t have to always be carrying a big Bible around, but just get to know people and start the relationships and let your love for the Lord be seen amid those interactions. You do much more for the gospel that way.

I think we try to reinvent the wheel too much. The community is already gathering together; go to those areas and take the gospel with you.

With the IBSA Annual Meeting just weeks away, pastors and church members who plan to serve as messengers at the Nov. 2-3 meeting are encouraged to make preparations now. See the checklist below for a step-by-step plan of how to get ready for Chicago.

The meeting at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church is preceded by the annual IBSA Pastors’ Conference, which begins Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. and will feature preachers H.B. Charles, Fred Luter, Scott Nichols, and Jonathan Peters. The Pastors’ Conference also will include breakout sessions on cross-culture ministry and evangelism.

“Cross-Culture” is the theme of the Annual Meeting, which begins at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, will help interpret the meeting’s theme throughout the sessions, and will join IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams and other guests for Mission Illinois: “Cross-
Culture” on Wednesday evening.

The meeting also will feature preaching by Kevin Carrothers, IBSA president and pastor of Rochester First Baptist Church, and Adron Robinson, IBSA vice president and pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills.

Meeting attenders will have an opportunity to see Chicago missions and ministry sites on vision tours planned for Nov. 1 and Nov. 3. Space is limited; go to IBSA
annualmeeting.org to sign up and choose your route (Northside, Southside, Westside, Suburban, or a Chicago sampling).

IBSA also will offer dine-in meal opportunities during the Pastors’ Conference and Annual Meeting. See details below and order meal tickets at IBSAannualmeeting.org/meal-tickets.

Check the website, IBSAannualmeeting.org, for all other meeting details, including information about travel, parking, and hotel accommodations. And take note of the other meetings also scheduled Nov. 1-3:

Young Leaders Network
When: Tuesday, Nov. 1, 9:30 p.m.
Where: Broadview Baptist Church
Menu: Wings ‘n things

Pastors’ Wives Luncheon
When: Wednesday, Nov. 2, 9 a.m. to noon
(Coffee fellowship begins at 8:30 a.m.)
Where: Broadview Fellowship Hall
Cost: $15; send check made out to IBSA Pastors Wives to Stevi Smith, 1302 W. Robinson St., Harrisburg, IL 62946
RSVP: Pre-registration is not required, but strongly recommended by Monday, Oct. 24. E-mail Lindsay McDonald at lmcdonald_31@hotmail.com.

Church Planters Breakfast
When: Thursday, Nov. 3, 7 a.m.
Where: Broadview Fellowship Hall
Cost: This is a free breakfast for planters and spouses, but pre-registration is appreciated.
RSVP: RachelCarter@IBSA.org, (217) 391-3101

Directors of Missions/Moderators Breakfast
When: Thursday, Nov. 3, 7 a.m.
Where: Broadview Fellowship Hall
RSVP: If you have received an invitation, please RSVP to LindaDarden@IBSA.org or (217) 391-3137.

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