Archives For faith and culture

The Briefing

Protestors target Chicago church for stand on marriage
Demonstrators flocked to one of Chicago’s South Side’s largest churches Sunday morning after its pastor removed a woman from the congregation because of her same-sex wedding. The situation renewed a long-standing debate in churches around the country, pitting tolerance and acceptance against tradition and teaching. There has been a massive culture shift over the last decade on gay marriage, but the Apostolic Church of God is staying put, saying it’s defending faith and family.

New reason churches end up in court
For more than a decade, sexual abuse of a minor was the No. 1 legal matter involving US congregations. It made up more than 1 in 9 of all church lawsuits, according to Church Law & Tax. But last year, the top reason for church litigation became a different problem: property disputes. More churches went to court in 2016 due to their building itself rather than any abuse that occurred inside of it.

Targeted for marriage beliefs, judge appeals to high court
A longtime municipal judge and circuit court magistrate is seeking relief from the U.S. Supreme Court after the state of Wyoming fired her for telling a reporter she believes marriage is between a man and a woman. Judge Ruth Neely petitioned the Supreme Court Aug. 4 to hear her case after the Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics forced her to stop solemnizing marriages, ending her career as a part-time magistrate.

President’s evangelical advisers request papal meeting
President Trump’s evangelical Christian advisers are requesting a meeting with Pope Francis after a Vatican-approved magazine published a piece condemning the way some American evangelicals and Roman Catholics mix religion and politics. That request came in an Aug. 3 letter to the pontiff from Johnnie Moore, an evangelical author, activist, and public relations consultant. Moore asked Francis for a meeting of Catholic and evangelical leaders — and quickly.

People assume serial killers are atheists
A new study published in Nature Human Behaviour found that people around the world are predisposed to believe that atheists are more likely to be serial killers than religious believers — a bias even held by atheists themselves. The study included 3,256 participants across 13 diverse countries that included highly secular nations like Finland and the Netherlands as well as highly religious ones like the United Arab Emirates and India.

Sources: WGN, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Religion News, Axios

The Briefing

NY Times op-ed spurs discussion of race & the SBC
A black Oklahoma minister’s New York Times op-ed “renouncing [his] ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention” has drawn responses from a range of African Americans who say they will continue to cooperate with the convention as it pursues racial reconciliation. Meanwhile, the op-ed’s author, Lawrence Ware, explained his views in an interview with Baptist Press, noting he does not believe Southern Baptists by and large are intentionally racist. He also said he likely would have “softened” some of his language against the SBC if given an opportunity to rewrite the op-ed.

Bible studies at the White House
Some of the most powerful people in America have been gathering weekly to learn more about God’s Word, and this Trump Cabinet Bible study is making history. They’ve been called the most evangelical Cabinet in history – men and women who don’t mince words when it comes to where they stand on God and the Bible. They’re all handpicked by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Democrat boss says no abortion litmus test
Democrats will not withhold campaign funds from pro-life candidates running for elected office, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., chairman of the Democrats’ House campaign arm, told The Hill. “There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” Luján said. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”

Toy makers blurring gender line
Like wildfire, the transgender revolution appears to be consuming, changing and confusing everything in life as people used to know it. Now the confusion has extended to the choice of toys for children. Hasbro, one of the biggest U.S. toy-makers, has announced that it has changed its thinking regarding certain toys being geared toward particular genders. In a recent interview, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner said his company has found that a significant percentage of boys are interested in My Little Pony, traditionally more popular with girls. Conversely, girls are taking a liking for Star Wars products marketed more at boys.

Christians & non-Christians Agree: College is about getting a job
Despite the abundance of Christian learning institutions and campus ministries in the U.S., American Christian adults, including evangelicals, are no more likely than the religiously unaffiliated — or religious “nones” — to list spiritual growth as one of the reasons for going to college (9%). And evangelicals are less likely than both religious “nones” and the general population to include moral character development among the reasons for seeking a postsecondary education (10% vs. roughly 14%).

Sources: Baptist Press, CBN, World Magazine, Christian Post, Influence Magazine

The Briefing

Charlie Gard’s parents end fight for treatment
Charlie Gard’s parents ended their bid to get an experimental treatment for their 11-month-old son after doctors determined he had irreversible muscular damage. Lawyer Grant Armstrong blamed the long delay in treating Charlie for ending his chance at life: “It’s too late for Charlie. The damage has been done.”

Supreme Court asked to hear Baptist florist’s appeal
Less than one month after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would review the case of a Colorado baker who declined to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding celebration because of his religious beliefs about marriage, lawyers asked the high court to combine it with a similar case involving Barronelle Stutzman, a Southern Baptist and owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington.

‘Message’ author retracts support for same-sex marriage
Eugene Peterson, author of over 30 best-selling books — including a paraphrasing of the Bible, “The Message” — is reversing on comments he had previously made that seemed to support same-sex marriage. The 84-year-old caused a controversy in the evangelical community when he said during an interview with Religious News Service that he would perform a same-sex marriage if he were still working as a pastor.

Ole Miss coach resigns amid scandal, requests prayer
The forced resignation of Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze — an outspoken follower of Jesus — amid what the university described as “moral turpitude” has left believers disappointed and expressing hope for repentance. Freeze, a regular speaker at churches and conferences, resigned after the university discovered a “pattern of personal misconduct inconsistent with the standards we expect from the leader of our football team.”

Americans feelings mixed on sex, religion
Americans love to fight about sex and religion; but when faith and sexuality clash, which side should prevail? Americans can’t decide. About half of Americans (48%) say religious freedom is more important in such conflicts when faith and sexuality clash, according to a new study. A quarter say sexual freedom is more important and a quarter aren’t sure.

Sources: World Magazine, The Daily Signal, People, Baptist Press, LifeWay Research

The Briefing

High court backs church in public benefits case
The U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow June 26 for the freedom of churches to participate in government programs with secular purposes. Seven of nine justices agreed the state of Missouri violated a church’s right to exercise its faith freely by barring it from participating in a government-run, playground-resurfacing program. In its opinion, the court said excluding Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia “from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious” to the U.S. Constitution.

Muslim converts breathe life into struggling churches
A soaring number of Muslims, many of them refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, are converting to Christianity, breathing new life into Europe’s once floundering Christian churches. The Muslims are flocking to various Christian denominations, experts said, including becoming Protestants, evangelical, or Catholic.

Case of gay couple’s wedding cake heads to Supreme Court
A Colorado clash between gay rights and religion started as an angry Facebook posting about a wedding cake but now has big implications for anti-discrimination laws in 22 states. Baker Jack Phillips is challenging a Colorado law that says he was wrong to have turned away a same-sex couple who wanted a cake to celebrate their 2012 wedding.

New York sues pro-life protesters
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit last week against several pro-life sidewalk counselors, seeking to stop their activities and enact a 16-foot buffer zone around an abortion center. The suit claims sidewalk counselors “repeatedly harassed, threatened, and menaced patients, families, escorts, and clinic staff at the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens.”

Judge halts deportations of Detroit Christians to Iraq
More than 100 Iraqi Christians arrested in immigration raids earlier this month will get to stay in the United States—at least for another two weeks, according to an order issued yesterday by a federal judge in Detroit. The written order follows outcry from the Detroit area’s Chaldean Christians, who were shocked when officials detained scores of them on June 11.

Sources: Baptist Press, Fox News, ABC News, World Magazine, Christianity Today

The Briefing

Crossover & Harvest America share timeless Gospel message
More than 700 voices worshiped at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Ariz. on Friday, June 9, kicking off the weekend’s Crossover Arizona and Harvest America events. NAMB’s Crossover Arizona and Greg Laurie’s Harvest America joined forces to host a three-day evangelistic outreach involving training, street evangelism and service projects before culminating in Harvest America’s Sunday night crusade. By the end of that evening, Harvest reported 2,904 salvation decisions at the event with another 494 indicating decisions online.

100s of new churches not enough to satisfy Southern Baptists
Southern Baptists gained almost 500 churches last year, while taking in more than $11 billion. Such statistics would have most US denominations praising the Lord. But because of declines in other metrics that matter more—including their namesake, baptisms—leaders say members should offer lament instead.

Delaware legalizes abortion through all 9 months
Delaware gave pro-abortion advocates a rare but big win last week when Gov. John Carney signed a bill making it legal to kill unborn babies through all nine months of pregnancy. Proponents of the bill drafted it out of fear the Supreme Court might someday overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Trump: ‘It’s time to put a stop to attacks on religion’
President Trump told his political base of evangelical Christians that he would continue to restore the religious liberty many of them feel they’ve lost. “It is time to put a stop to the attacks on religion,” Trump said in a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

McDonald’s introduces gay pride fries in rainbow boxes
McDonald’s is serving its signature fries in cheerful rainbow-colored boxes at participating locations throughout the greater California Bay Area, as well as at some D.C. locations. The rainbow fries will be available throughout the month of June.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, World Magazine, Religion News, Houston Chronicle

AZ Republic Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 1.22.47 PM copy

Screenshot from AZCentral.com.

A planned protest by LGBT representatives at the site of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting hasn’t materialized yet. A small group of people carrying rainbow placards reading “Dissent is patriotic” walked in the main entrance to the Phoenix Convention Center, down the hallway through the food court, and out the exit at the far end. Almost no one noticed.

“They probably won’t get in during the meeting,” one attendant at the information desk said waving a messenger’s badge, “not without one of the these.”

An homosexual advocacy group called Faith in America (FIA) sought to meet with Southern Baptist Convention leaders during the Annual Meeting June 13-14. FIA said a half dozen of their representatives will be in Phoenix. They seek to have homosexuality and transgenderism “removed from the sin list.” An FIA news release said a doctor, clergy member, and gay country singer will try to engage messengers in conversation about LGBT issues. The group said they will “politely disrupt” the SBC meeting.

SBC leaders offered at an alternate meeting in Nashville after the Phoenix convention.

The small group that walked through the Food Court on Sunday night talked quietly among themselves. They were joined later by a few more people outside the convention center as the evening session of the SBC Pastors Conference dismissed and attenders filed out.

Earlier in the day in another section of Phoenix, LGBT supporters staged a rally holding the same “Dissent” placards. The Phoenix rally was one of 100 planned across the U.S. on the one-year anniversary of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shootings that left 49 people dead. A year ago, the SBC opened with prayer for the victims’ families and survivors.

The protest may come as the Annual Meeting opens on Tuesday.

–Eric Reed in Phoenix

The Briefing

Pro-LGBT group plans protest at SBC 2017
The advocacy group Faith in America (FIA) has announced plans to “politely disrupt” the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix. The group hopes to persuade the nation’s largest Protestant denomination to change its interpretation of Scripture, FIA said in a press release accusing the SBC of marginalizing and harming lesbian, gay, homosexual and transgender (LGBT) children in particular by discouraging sexual sin.

Illinois forces foster parents to support gender transition
The state of Illinois’ social services policies now bar social workers from employment and foster families from caring for children if they refuse to facilitate a child’s gender transition. The director of the Department of Children and Family Services approved “enhanced department procedures” that established “mandatory minimum standards for LGBTQ children under its authority.” These state standards, reportedly drafted with the assistance of the ACLU, “will not tolerate exposing LGBTQ children and youth to staff/providers who are not supportive of children and youths’ right to self-determination of sexual/gender identity.”

Planned Parenthood reports abortion increase
Despite a significant decrease in clients, decrease in contraceptive services, and increase in the number of abortions it performs, Planned Parenthood still claims abortions make up only 3% of its overall business. According to the abortion giant’s annual report, released last week, it performed 328,348 abortions and 9,494,977 total services. The report came out about six months later than normal, prompting speculation about what it might contain.

Christian hospitals win Supreme Court case
In a decision that has religiously affiliated hospitals cheering, the Supreme Court ruled federal pension rules don’t apply to them. The 8-0 ruling reverses lower court decisions that sided with hospital workers who argued that the exemption from pension laws should not extend to hospitals affiliated with churches.

DoD wants fewer generic Christians
The general categories of “Protestant, no denominational preference” and “Protestant, other churches” have been removed from the Department of Defense (DoD) list of recognized religions as the US military seeks out more detailed designations for its 1.3 million service members. This spring, the DoD doubled the religious identities that military personnel can declare on official paperwork and dog tags. The list now totals 216 different affiliations, including 30 types of Baptists.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, World Magazine, Religion News Service, Christianity Today