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The Briefing

Illinois family killed in ISIS attack in Egypt
An Illinois man and several of his relatives, including two sons and a grandchild, were among 29 killed during an ISIS attack on a church bus in Egypt. Family members say the bus was full of Christians on their way to a remote Egyptian monastery when they were attacked by members of the Islamic state.

Illinois House approves transgender ID change bill
The Illinois House has endorsed a plan to make it easier for transgender people to change their birth certificates. The bill would allow transgender citizens to change their gender designation with authorization from a medical professional confirming they have undergone medically appropriate treatment. Current law requires proof of a surgical operation.

Evidence against Planned Parenthood disappears from YouTube
Last week, lawyers for The Center for Medical Progress released more footage of abortionists discussing late-term abortions at National Abortion Federation conventions. The video, along with other footage under temporary injunction after a civil suit filed by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and Planned Parenthood, disappeared from YouTube after U.S. District Judge William Orrick ordered it taken down.

TX governor signs bill to ‘shield’ pastors’ sermons
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed legislation that prohibits Texas government agencies from subpoenaing the sermons of religious leaders. Four of the five Houston pastors whose sermons became the target of a sweeping 2014 subpoena “fishing expedition” by City of Houston attorneys and then-Mayor Annise Parker joined the signing ceremony.

Christian school bans pregnant teen from graduation
Despite a public outcry and growing pressure from national antiabortion groups to reconsider, Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland says that senior Maddi Runkles broke the school’s rules by engaging in intimate sexual activity. In a letter to parents Tuesday evening, school principal David R. Hobbs said that Runkles is being disciplined, “not because she is pregnant but because she was immoral. … The best way to love her right now is to hold her accountable for her morality that began this situation.”

Sources: News Channel 20, US News, Baptist Press, World Magazine, Washington Post

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 BriefingNew outlook for high court cases under Trump?
Several Obama administration executive actions are currently in litigation and may disappear if Donald Trump’s administration undoes his predecessor’s policies. But many question marks remain about what executive actions Trump will take. One of the major cases at the Supreme Court this term, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., addresses the matter of transgender restroom use in public schools.

Texas association may expel churches for LGBTQ views
Two Texas Baptist churches may be expelled from the Baptist General Convention of Texas for their welcoming open-door policies toward LGBTQ people, reports say. Wilshire Baptist in Dallas and First Baptist in Austin received letters from BGCT officials stating that because the churches had affirmed themselves with the LGBTQ people, they were “no longer being in harmonious cooperation with the BGCT.”

People donating to Planned Parenthood as Mike Pence
Some Americans unhappy with the election results have found a new way to protest. They’re sending donations to Planned Parenthood in the name of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who has called for cutting off federal funds to the organization and — as governor of Indiana — imposed tougher restrictions on abortion for women in his state.

Muslim attacks on Egyptian Christians rising
The Christian and Muslim villagers grew up together, played on the same soccer fields as kids, and attended the same schools. But that didn’t matter on a recent day: An argument between boys sparked clashes between neighbors, with Muslims torching shops owned by Christians. A Christian farmer ran into the melee to protect his two sons. Someone in the crowd hit him with a stick. Others jumped in, striking him repeatedly until he fell to the ground with blood seeping from his head.

LifeWay won’t sell Amy Grant Christmas album
LifeWay Christian Resources will not be selling Amy Grant’s new Christmas album this year, and the manager for the Nashville-based singer says it’s because it’s not Christian enough for the Southern Baptist retailer.

Sources: World Magazine, Houston Chronicle, CNN, Washington Post, The Tennessean

EgyptHEARTLAND | Charles Braddix, on Baptist Press 

Christians and churches in Egypt need prayer this week, as violent protests continue in the country in response to the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi.

Egypt’s government cracked down on protestors last week; so far, nearly 700 people have died and 3,700 more are injured. And nearly 70 churches, Christian institutions and businesses have been attacked, burned or destroyed.

Beni Mazar Baptist Church in Minya, a city of 250,000 people 150 miles south of Cairo, was burned last week. No casualties or injuries were reported, although the pastor and his family live on the premises.

Months earlier, John Amin*, pastor of the Beni Mazar church, had said, “We live here at the church, so if someone attacks our church, they attack our home. The kids are afraid.”

Many in the community around the church are afraid, Amin said, but he still had a vision to see the church packed with those seeking Christ. “We want the community to see us and come and grow the church,” he said.

Minya reported the country’s highest number of attacks against churches, totaling 14. One of Egypt’s oldest Coptic Christian churches, the fourth-century Church of the Virgin Mary there, was torched and burned Wednesday.

In addition, the Egypt Bible Society bookstore in Minya was destroyed.

“Fear is a part of life in Egypt,” said a Christian worker who serves in the region. He encourages believers in Egypt not to give in to fear. “The enemy is strong here. He makes people afraid.”

Spiritual oppression is real, the worker said, stressing that boldness to share the Gospel, especially in difficult times, must come from the Holy Spirit.

*Names changed.

For Charles Braddix’ full story, go to BPNews.net.

While Tom Goble is on a six-month deployment with the U.S. Air Force, his wife, Jackie, and sons, Jacob and Evan, are buoyed by the support of Towerview Baptist Church in Shiloh.

While Tom Goble is on a six-month deployment with the U.S. Air Force, his wife, Jackie, and sons, Jacob and Evan, are buoyed by the support of Towerview Baptist Church in Shiloh.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Shiloh | By the time Jackie Goble’s husband, Tom, returns from a deployment in Africa, the couple’s one-year-old son will probably be able to string a few words together and have a little conversation with his dad.

Evan had already started walking and saying “Dad” when Tom, a captain in the U.S. Air Force, left in June. That first week, Jackie says Evan would toddle into their bedroom calling for his dad. But it will be almost six months until they’re reunited, and it’s up to Jackie to hold down the fort for Evan and his older brother Jacob until then.

“Dad’s gone and we’re trying to rely on God, and point to God,” she says, recounting how she encourages her boys, and herself. “God’s taking care of us, God’s taking care of Dad. When we’re sad and we miss him, we just need to turn to God and pray and ask for protection for both us and Daddy.”

It’s a heavy load, one shared by many military families in Illinois and around the country. The Gobles have found support, though, at Towerview Baptist Church, a church uniquely located to serve their family and many others going through a deployment or navigating the specific challenges of being a military family. Read more in the newest edition of the Illinois Baptist, online here.

Other news:

Disaster Relief volunteers serve during memorial service for Arizona firefighters
The spring and summer months have been busy for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers working across the country, from storm cleanup in Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas, to wildfire recovery in Colorado, and now caring for people in Prescott, Arizona, after the deaths of 19 firefighters last week. Disaster Relief chaplains in the state were called out to minister in Prescott last week, and a new message on the Arizona Disaster Relief website asks for trained volunteers to help serve during a memorial service today. Read more Disaster Relief updates at NAMB.net/DR.

 

Believers in Egypt look for opportunities to share hope
Christian workers in Egypt say political unrest in the country is an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus, reports the International Mission Board. “It’s not just riots and chaos, this is opportunity,” says one worker. “For the first time in hundreds of years people are questioning everything. This is the greatest opportunity we have had in a long time in a city that is promised to the Lord.” Read the full story here.

Survey: On Twitter, Christians are happier
A new study from the University of Illinois compares the Tweets of people who follow five religious leaders (Pope Benedict XVI, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Dinesh D’Souza and Joyce Meyer), with the messages posted by Twitter users who follow five atheist leaders. The results, CNN reports, indicate Christians use more positive words and express more happiness through the social media tool. Read more on CNN’s Belief blog.