Archives For Hobby Lobby

Election 2016Since the big June meeting between Donald Trump and about 1,000 evangelical leaders, including a handful of Southern Baptist pastors, the political conversation involving conservative Christians has dropped off noticeably. Christians have grown quiet on politics. Even the Twitterverse is quiet right now.

One exception: an op/ed piece in USA Today by Hobby Lobby CEO David Green pointing to the pivotal nature of the U.S. Supreme Court. “Make no mistake, the vacancy left by Justice Scalia and the subsequent appointment to fill his seat makes this presidential election one of the most significant in modern times.”

Green’s company was at the center of a 2014 judgment that allowed his corporation to refuse to pay for abortion-inducing drugs as part of its health insurance plan because of religious objections, despite requirements under the Obama Affordable Health Care Act. The high court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby was 5-4. “It’s frightening to me to think that we—and all Americans—were just one vote away from losing our religious freedom,” Green wrote.

That’s the reason he gives for supporting Donald Trump. “(Hillary) Clinton has made no secret she believes government interests supersede the protection of religious liberty.”

Green’s concern for religious liberty is understandable and even commendable, but his essay serves to show that evangelicals are no longer a one-issue people.

Beginning with the emergence of the Moral Majority, evangelicals became a force and a voting bloc. Their anti-abortion theology drove evangelicals to candidates who were expressly pro-life. Fortunately, those candidates were often in agreement with conservative Christians on many other issues as well, so supporting them advanced a whole bundle of issues. It worked for 30 years.

Not so today.

Green’s commentary underscores that evangelicals are not all in agreement on the importance of any one issue any more than they support any one candidate. The world is too complex for a single-issue approach.

In this head-scratcher of election cycles, some evangelicals are valuing other issues as highly as pro-life and religious freedom: What about a candidate’s trustworthiness, honesty, temperament, and character? What is his or her history of relations with dangerous nations, prudence in peacetime or courage in war? What about the prospect of handling the nuclear codes?

Maybe many in the Christian community are relatively quiet on this presidential election because they’re still thinking about it.

And scratching their heads.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, deciding that the companies do not have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, deciding that the companies do not have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans.

COMMENTARY | Lisa Sergent

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case allows employers with religious objections to opt out of providing contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. On the surface, one could read that sentence and assume that Hobby Lobby will not provide any contraception coverage to its employees. In talking with friends who only get their news from mainstream media, I found this is what they actually believe.

I will admit that as a self-described “news junkie” I may be better informed on the issue than they are. I read the daily newspaper as an elementary school student, was an early viewer of CNN, read Time and Newsweek magazines in the school library, and became a fan of talk radio in college. The advent of the Internet opened up a whole new world of news for me, beyond the big three networks.

This exposure to a wider variety of news and opinions widened my worldview. As the years have passed, I’ve become less trusting of the old news sources and prefer to investigate more myself.

In this case, I knew from sources I trusted, including the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Baptist Press, that the Food and Drug Administration has approved 20 contraceptives that are required to be covered under the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate. Four of these are considered abortifacients. These four drugs are the only “contraceptives” Hobby Lobby was refusing to provide for its employees.

So, when the high court’s ruling was announced, I understood what it meant and explained it to a couple of friends in an animated discussion: Hobby Lobby and similar “closely held companies” would continue to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees, but would not pay for abortion-causing drugs.

My friends, who rely on the old guard media, were outraged by the ruling.

None of the mainstream media really explained what the ruling means, or that it is a victory for religious liberty. Instead, the Christians in these cases have been portrayed as bigots who want to deny women their rights and are surprisingly finding new allies in the male justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Is this inaccurate portrayal purposeful? I know what I think, but I’ll let you decide. In the meantime, I’m putting on my earbuds. I have a podcast to listen to.

Lisa Sergent is director of communications for IBSA and contributing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.


“…I learned many, many years ago that God is far too big for me to understand Him, but at the same time that His love for mankind is just as far beyond my comprehension,” Dr. Hannah Gay told Baptist Press. “So I trust Him even when I don’t understand.”

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The news that a child believed to be functionally cured of HIV once again has the virus growing inside her “felt like a punch to the gut,” the specialist who treated the child told CNN.

But Hannah Gay also said God is evident in the details of the case.

“For confidentiality reasons I cannot share any of those details publicly but there are many and they have helped to not just reaffirm my faith in God,” Gay told Baptist Press, “but to actually strengthen it.”

The associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Mississippi Medical Center was credited in March 2013 with achieving a “functional” cure of the child born with HIV, meaning the virus couldn’t be detected by standard clinical tests. But tests this month revealed the more than two-year remission is over.

Gay, who has credited God with the functional cure, said she’s learned to trust Him even when she doesn’t understand current circumstances. Read the full story at

Moore: Compassion needed at border
The church’s response to the border crisis “cannot be quick and easy,” wrote Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “But, for the people of God, our consciences must be informed by a Kingdom more ancient and more permanent than the United States.” Read his column at

LifeWay poll: 56% of Americans want more movies with Christian values
In a year where faith-based movies have seen success at the box office, LifeWay Research found a majority of Americans say they want more such films, although adults under 30 were the age group least likely to agree. In other movie news, 20th Century Fox has released the trailer for October’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

Pew defines ‘closely held’ corporations
Wondering what the Supreme Court meant by “closely held” businesses in their recent decision on Hobby Lobby? Pew Research released this explanation of the label.

Illinois students serving in Chicago, Oklahoma
The All-State Youth Choir is on tour this week, and heading to Oklahoma after a concert at Six Flags in St. Louis today. Follow them at

Pre-ruling panel discussion explores impact of Hobby Lobby case and threats to religious freedom

NEWS | Meredith Flynn

Pastors Rick Warren and David Platt (center and right) joined a panel discussion in June on Hobby Lobby and religious liberty. The panel was sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission during the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore.

Pastors Rick Warren and David Platt (center and right) joined a panel discussion in June on Hobby Lobby and religious liberty. The panel was sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission during the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore.

After the Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, many Christians celebrated the decision that opens the door for “closely held” companies to refuse to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health care plans.

“A great day for Religious Liberty!” tweeted Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, with the hashtag #hobbylobby.

“This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets with joy,” wrote Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Moore presented an award to the Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby stores, during the SBC Annual Meeting in June. The Greens filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services two years ago over what has become known as the abortion-contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

“… We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate,” CEO David Green said then.

The Hobby Lobby case has brought new visibility to religious liberty issues. But Texas pastor Robert Jeffress told Fox News “the victory will be short lived.”

“…People of faith are going to increasingly come into conflict with governmental mandates that violate their personal faith,” said Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, according to a report by The Christian Post.

Imperiled religious liberty was the focus of a panel discussion in Baltimore during the Southern Baptist Convention last month. Religious freedom is a critical issue for churches, panelists said, but it’s still flying under the radar for most of them.

Moore and the ERLC hosted the conversation that include pastors Rick Warren and David Platt, and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leaders Conference. The panel focused on the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case but also veered into other questions concerning religious freedom.

The panelists’ main point was clear: All church members must be aware of issues that threaten religious liberty, standing firmly in a Gospel that compels Christians to stand up for their religious freedoms, and for that of others.

Before the Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, Moore said the verdict would be one of the most significant decisions affecting religious liberty in years. The case and several others, like the Washington florist who was sued when she declined to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, have raised awareness about religious freedom and threats to it.

But religious liberty isn’t just tied to current events or cases. It has ancient roots.

“Before religious liberty is a political issue or a social issue, religious liberty is a Gospel issue,” Moore said during the panel discussion. People come to Christ when the Word of God addresses their conscience, he explained. An uncoerced conscience.

“We don’t believe that the Gospel goes forward by majority vote,” he said. “We believe that the Gospel goes forward by the new birth, and so we need freedom in order to do that.”

Refusing to fight for religious liberty now, Moore added, will be highly detrimental to future generations. “If we shrug this off, what we’re doing is consigning future generations, and we’re consigning people’s consciences, to a tyranny that we are going to be held accountable for.”

There are also ramifications for Christians living and working in contemporary society. Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., said during the panel discussion he felt convicted about how many of his church members are aware of how their freedoms could be threatened.

People in churches “need to know it’s coming,” Platt said. “It’s going to affect every person in every profession in the church. This is not just for certain groups.”

Costly faith

One lesson from the Hobby Lobby case, Moore said, is that threats can simmer under the surface for a long time before they bubble up. “Many people assume that religious liberty violations come with shock and awe, with tanks coming in. And religious liberty violations typically happen this way, with a bureaucrat’s pen…By the time the issue gets to you, you have not even seen how it has already advanced.”

Perhaps because so many flagrant violations of religious liberty happen in other countries, the issue can seem like what Moore termed “other people’s problems.” That’s why it’s key to champion freedom not just for Americans, or Christians, the panelists said. “If it’s them today, it’s us tomorrow,” Warren said of other religious groups facing threats to their freedom.

Concerning religious liberty in America, the panelists talked about voting as one area that can breed complacency. If you preach sanctity of life and biblical marriage and religious liberty on Sunday, Rodriguez said, but then vote in a way that runs counter to those things on Tuesday, isn’t that hypocrisy? “Our vote must be a reflection of my Christian worldview belief.”

One other cause for a lack of concern, Platt said, is a lack of urgency. Many church members aren’t taking risks for the Gospel, he said. Faith doesn’t cost anything for many of us. But, he said, “When you believe in a resurrected king, you speak about him all the time, and whatever he says you do, no matter what it costs you in the culture.”

Baptists almost ‘dance for joy’ over religious freedom ruling

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, deciding that the companies do not have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans.

The 5-4 decision sets an important precedent for “closely held” companies (those owned by individuals or families) that object to what has become known as the abortion-contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

In the opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that under the standard set by Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, “the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.”

The_BriefingSouthern Baptist leaders responded quickly to the ruling. “It is an absolute victory for the proponents of religious liberty,” said SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page. “I am thankful that both common sense and conscience have seen a victory in a day where such victories are rare.”

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the ruling an “exhilarating victory for religious freedom.” During the SBC Annual Meeting in Baltimore earlier this month, Moore presented an award to the Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby.

“As a Baptist, I am encouraged that our ancestors’ struggle for the First Amendment has been vindicated,” Moore said after the Court’s decision.

“This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets with joy.”


Court also rules on abortion clinic buffer zones
The Supreme Court struck down a 2007 Massachusetts law restricting pro-life advocates from congregating within 35-foot zones around abortion center entrances and driveways, Tom Strode of Baptist Press reports. Justices issued a 9-0 opinion on the matter, and Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the law “imposed serious burdens” on free speech.

Marriage in limbo in several Upper Midwest states
Indiana has joined a list of states in which the definition of marriage is pending an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling. After Judge Richard Young struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban June 25, a federal appeals court issued a stay two days later. Michigan and Wisconsin are in a similar situation, as seen in this map from USA Today (which doesn’t reflect the Indiana appeal). Same-sex marriage officially became legal in Illinois June 1, although some counties began issuing marriage licenses in the spring.

LifeWay survey: Domestic violence rarely preached about in church
Nearly three-fourths of Protestant pastors say domestic or sexual violence is a problem in their community, but 42% rarely or never preach on the topic. The survey, conducted by LifeWay Research and sponsored by Sojourners and IMA World Health, also found 74% of pastors know someone who has experienced domestic violence. Read more at

Thief-turned-pastor shares testimony
George Aguilar, once an enemy of churches in Oklahoma, is now a pastor in his home country of El Salvador. After robbing from and vandalizing 11 churches in the Tulsa area, Aguilar came to Christ after one of the churches he stole from took him in. Read his story from The Baptist Messenger.



Hobby_LobbyNEWS | The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties sometime this week. The case has been closely watched by religious liberty advocates who believe the Court’s ruling will have significant impact on the freedom Americans have to practice their religious convictions.

At issue is the businesses’ refusal to cover abortion-inducing drugs for its employees, a measure required of for-profit companies by the Obama administration’s healthcare plan.

“The United States Supreme Court is deciding whether or not in this country there is the freedom to dissent, and the freedom to accommodate these conscientious objections in the governing of people’s lives and in the running of their businesses,” Russell Moore told Southern Baptist pastors and leaders meeting in Baltimore. The president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission took part in a panel discussion about the case during the SBC’s annual meeting in June.

“It’s going to be a tremendously significant and important case for every single one of your churches and your ministries,” Moore said. “This will have everything to do with everything that your church does for the next 100 years.” In March, the ERLC issued a call to prayer for Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Several institutions have won their fight against the health care mandate, including Colorado Christian University just this week. But Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties’ status as Christian-owned, for-profit businesses is what makes their case different.

The Hobby Lobby case sparked an online discussion about what makes a business “Christian.” See today’s Briefing for more.

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Leading up to the Supreme Court’s expected ruling on a case involving Hobby Lobby, culture writer Jonathan Merritt took issue with calling the craft retailer a “Christian business” because of its dealings with China, one of the world’s worst offenders of human rights.

Hobby Lobby currently is fighting for an exemption to the government’s requirement that for-profit companies cover some abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health care plans. The Supreme Court’s ruling is expected this week.

The things Hobby Lobby claims to stand for, Merritt wrote for The Week magazine, including sanctity of life and religious liberty, are grossly undervalued in China.

“Hobby Lobby reminds us why for-profit businesses should resist calling themselves ‘Christian,’” he wrote. “The free market is messy and complicated and riddled with hypocrisy. Conducting business in today’s complex global economy almost ensures one will engage in behavior that is at least morally suspect from a Biblical standpoint.”

Merritt invited Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to respond to his article. Moore recently presented the Green family with the John Leland Award for Religious Liberty.

Forsaking business in China, Moore wrote, likely won’t help improve human rights there. Historically, he said, “open trade, in most cases, tends to help the development of political rights rather than hinder them.” If the Greens believed boycotting Chinese business would turn the nation’s government toward improved human rights, Moore said, they would.

But, “The Greens cannot control the decisions made by the Chinese government. They can, however, direct their own actions. And, as Americans, they can participate in a democratic republic in which the people are ultimately accountable for the decisions of their government.

“Buying products from companies that operate in a country that aborts children is not the same as being forced by the United States government to purchase directly insurance that does the same.”

Meriam Ibrahim released from prison, then rearrested
A 27-year-old mother of two imprisoned for her Christian faith was released June 23, but rearrested just hours later, The Christian Post reported this morning. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, a Sudanese doctor, had been imprisoned with her young son and newborn daughter after she was found guilty of apostasy and adultery. (Because Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is a Christian, their government does not recognize their marriage.) Her death sentence was to be carried out in two years. After Ibrahim was freed and her sentence commuted Monday, she was rearrested with her husband and children as they prepared to leave Sudan. Ibrahim’s case has drawn attention internationally and in the U.S., 38 members of Congress signed a letter asking the government to intervene on her behalf. Read more at

Benched basketball star says ‘I know God has a plan!’
Isaiah Austin, a center for the Baylor University basketball team, was expected to be a first-round pick in the June 26 NBA draft. Instead, a diagnosis of Marfan syndrome will end his career, reported The Christian Post. He sat down for an emotional interview with ESPN, but was hopeful on Twitter and Instagram, using social media to talk about his faith in God.

“I know God has a plan!” Austin posted as part of a message on Instagram, with the hashtag #NewBeginnings. “I would love to thank EVERYONE who has reached out to me,” he tweeted under the handle God’s Child. “Toughest days of my life. But not the last! Life goes on. GOD IS STILL GREAT!”

Mohler: PCUSA marriage vote helps establish ‘clear divide’
When the General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to allow pastors to conduct same-sex marriages, their decision set a dividing line in culture and in Christianity, said Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler.

“That very clear divide puts on one side those who stand with 2,000 years of Christian witness and on the very clear statements of Scripture, and, on the other side, those who stand with the moral revolution of the era…,” Mohler said on his daily podcast.

The Presbyterian denomination not only voted on the policy change for pastors, but also to amend their constitution to define marriage as between “two people” instead of “a man and a woman.” A majority of the PCUSA’s presbyteries must approve the amendment for it take effect, Baptist Press reported, but the departure of many conservative congregations makes the change a likely prospect.

Hobby_Lobby_prayerTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is calling Christians to pray for Hobby Lobby as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments this week in the government’s case against the craft retailer and another company, Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation.

At issue is the businesses’ refusal to cover abortion-inducing drugs for its employees, a measure required of for-profit companies by the Obama administration’s healthcare plan.

“This case will set the tone for the next hundred years of church/state jurisprudence in this country,” ERLC President Russell Moore wrote in a blog post March 23.
“One of the reasons we oppose this sort of incursion into free exercise is that we want neither to be oppressed nor to oppress others,” Moore wrote. “We do not ask the government to bless our doctrinal convictions, or to impose them on others. We simply ask the government not to set itself up as lord of our consciences.”
The ERLC has created a “Pray for Hobby Lobby” avatar for use on social media, and is asking Twitter users to post with the hashtag #PrayForHobbyLobby. Read the ERLC’s news release about the Hobby Lobby case here.
Other news:
Southern Baptist Convention First VP candidate named
North Carolina pastor Clint Pressley will be nominated for the office of first vice president at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting this June in Baltimore. Pressley pastors Charlotte’s Hickory Grove Baptist Church and currently is vice president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference.

“I love the Southern Baptist Convention,” Pressley told North Carolina’s Bibilical Recorder newspaper. “I’m thankful for the work of NAMB and IMB, and I want to keep supporting the convention. I want to see more younger guys getting excited about the work of our convention and how we do missions – whether it’s in North America or around the world.” Read the full story at

Westboro pastor Fred Phelps dies
Fred Phelps, whose Kansas church made headlines for years with their incendiary protests, died March 19. LifeWay’s Ed Stetzer suggests how Christians should respond to Phelps’ death, including taking the opportunity for some self-examination.

“Let’s be careful to avoid our own self-deception,” Stetzer wrote on his blog, The Exchange. “The Phelps family, and the Westboro clan they started, are full of people that need Jesus. Let’s not get Pharisaical here – the Phelps family and the people they lead in worship of a false god are sinners, but so are we. The people who spew the hateful words of Phelps’s hateful god need the love of Jesus just like you and me. Pray for them to find peace in Jesus and love as he has loved.”

Former Haitian prisoner tells his storyA Baptist volunteer recounts his experience in a Haitian jail four years ago in this story on “They were difficult and perplexing and complex days, but God ordained them,” Paul Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, told BP. In 2010, he and nine other Baptist volunteers were detained and charged with kidnapping after trying to move children to safety in post-earthquake Haiti.

Barna: Who’s watching what at the movies
Sequels were big in 2013, according to data compiled by Barna Research, although the average American only saw 3.3 movies at the theater. The study also found 11% of people saw a movie in the last two years that made them think seriously about religion or spirituality. Read more at

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources

THE BRIEFING | Posted by Meredith Flynn

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, shared his “broken heart” over the denomination’s loss of passion for people who don’t know Christ.

In an open letter at, the leader of the convention’s publishing arm asked, “Where is the passion in most of our churches to reach the lost? Where is the passion among our leaders, both in our churches and in our denomination?

“Jesus told those at the church at Ephesus that they had sound doctrine, that they hated evil (Revelation 2:1-7). But He also told them they had lost their first love. When we truly love Jesus with all of our hearts, we can’t help but tell others about Him. We can’t help but share the good news.”

Rainer’s letter echoed the theme of a resolution passed by messengers to the November 2013 annual meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association. The resolution on repentance and evangelism encouraged Illinois Baptists to repent of failure to share the Gospel regularly and faithfully, and to commit to do so.

As for Rainer’s letter, “I have no proposal. I have no new programs for now. I simply have a burden,” he wrote. And, he added, renewal must start with him. And with pastors.

“Evangelism must be as natural to me as breathing,” Rainer blogged.

“Pastors, will you join me in this plea? Will you be an evangelistic example for the churches God has called you to serve? Laypersons, will you pray for evangelistic hearts in your own lives? I must make that prayer a part of my life every day.

“Have we lost our first love? Is that love reflected in how we share the gospel of Christ every day?

“May God break me until I am all His, telling others about His Son every day.”

Read the full text of Rainer’s letter at

New podcast answers ethical questions
The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission launched a new podcast series this week to address ethical and cultural questions submitted by listeners. Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, hosted the first episode January 13. The inaugural “Questions and Ethics” podcast focused on the question: When should you ask your potential spouse about their sexual history and how much should you know?

“‘Questions & Ethics’ allows us to answer the more difficult moral and ethical questions of our day in a short, accessible format,” said Dan Darling, ERLC’s vice president for communications, in a written release. “This podcast allows Dr. Moore to answer a variety of questions people are asking or should be asking.'” Read more at and listen to the first episode of “Questions and Ethics” at

Hobby Lobby gets its day in court
The U.S. Supreme Court has set a date for oral arguments in a case pitting craft retailer Hobby Lobby against the Department of Health and Human Services. The Christian Post reports the high court will hear from Hobby Lobby on March 25, as the craft retailer argues business owners should be able to exercise religious freedom by objecting to the abortion/contraceptive mandate in President Obama’s healthcare reform package. Hobby Lobby has been one of the businesses at the center of the dispute over the mandate, which requires employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health care plans.

“This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution,” Hobby Lobby founder David Green said in a written release in November. “Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”


Pastors praying today for spiritual awakening

A group of Baptist pastors and leaders are meeting this week in Atlanta to pray together for revival and spiritual awakening. This is the second prayer meeting called by Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd. The gathering “is time for us to pray in an extraordinary way, to seek the God of heaven to revive His church and awaken our nation,” Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, told Baptist Press.

The meeting raises a question, says Illinois Baptist editor Eric Reed: What can believers do to bring spiritual awakening to a nation lulled to disinterest by its tolerance of sin? Read his feature story on the next great awakening in the current issue of the IB, and read more about the prayer meeting at

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The craft retailer has shifted the plan year for its employee health insurance, thereby avoiding for several months up to $1.3 million a day in federal fines. Hobby Lobby is being penalized for refusing to cover abortion-inducing drugs in its employee health care plans. “Hobby Lobby will continue to vigorously defend its religious liberty and oppose the mandate and any penalties,” said attorney Peter Dobelbower. Full story at

Weddings are Cathedral’s ‘next step’
Leaders of Washington’s National Cathedral announced this month the church will begin hosting same-sex weddings using a marriage rite developed by the Episcopal Church for same-sex couples. Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Cathedral, said offering the weddings is the “next logical step” in the church’s evolving teaching on marriage. Full story at CNN’s Belief blog.

Is homosexuality a sin?
That’s the question measured in a new survey by LifeWay Research, which found that fewer Americans now believe homosexual behavior is a sin that in 2011. The study found 37% of U.S. adults answered “yes,” down from 44% the previous year. LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer said the shift could be attributed to President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. “The president’s evolution on homosexuality probably impacted the evolution of cultural values – there is a real and substantive shift, surprisingly large for a one-year timeframe – though this was hardly a normal year on this issue.” Read more about the survey at

Warren tells ‘Oprah’ watchers: Read John
The Gospel of John got an unusual TV shout-out recently from Pastor Rick Warren. Appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s “Lifeclass,” Warren urged the audience to read the Bible book and also encouraged them to listen to God, instead of the world. “God says you’re valuable, you’re capable, you’re forgivable, you’re usable. You listen to the right thing, not the wrong thing.” Full story at

CP up 1.7% in 2012
Giving through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program in 2012 was 1.7% above the previous year. As of December 31, 2012, contributions to SBC national and international ministries and missions totaled $45,019,759. “After several years of serious financial difficulties, I am guardedly optimistic that the economic prospects of our people have begun to stabilize, said SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page. Full story at