Archives For Illinois

The Briefing

Legislation would require Illinois schools to teach LGBT history
Legislation pending in Springfield would require a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender section be added to history classes and have school districts ensure textbooks “portray the diversity of our society.” Supporters say the state already has similar rules requiring lessons on African-Americans and other groups. They say a dedicated LGBT history unit would give students greater perspective on instrumental Americans whose stories often go untold.

Illinois Senate approves federal Equal Rights Amendment
The Illinois Senate voted April 11 to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, renewing a push from decades ago. The vote came about 36 years after the amendment appeared to die after just 35 states ratified it, three short of what was needed by the 1982 deadline. Still, advocates have pushed for a “three-state solution,” contending Congress can extend the deadline and the amendment should go into effect if three additional states vote in favor.

Sutherland Springs expresses accountability to donors
Donors supporting First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after the mass murder of 26 worshippers there can be assured of the church’s integrity in handling donations, the church said in an April 12 open letter. The statement comes after concerns related to the use of funds for victim relief have been raised, a spokesman for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) confirmed to Baptist Press on April 13.

Tyndale sued by boy who didn’t come back from heaven
After growing up and retracting his controversial account of “coming back from heaven,” 20-year-old Alex Malarkey is now suing the Christian publisher who made his story famous. Malarkey, who was left paralyzed and spent two weeks in a coma after a 2004 car accident, filed a lawsuit against Christian publisher Tyndale House for associating his name with the controversial book coauthored with his father, “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,” and not paying him for the story.

Is Chick-fil-A a front for a Christian invasion of New York City?
Apparently, Chick-fil-A’s delicious chicken sandwiches and friendly service are all part of an insidious plot to infiltrate New York City on behalf of “Christian traditionalism.” Or at least that’s what a piece published April 13 by The New Yorker seems to argue.

Sources: Chicago Tribune (2), Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Facts and Trends

Some events from last year offer insight on issues facing evangelicals and church leaders

If evangelicalism is having an identity crisis, as some religious and cultural observers posit, the issue is whether “evangelical” means a person’s theological beliefs and practice, or is it adherence to a conservative political movement. It has at times meant both, and at points in 2017 we saw the movement struggling with itself over which is “the main thing.”

In this short collection of news stories from last year, we see how evangelicals balanced belief and practice. We witnessed the thumb-wrestling of “Big-E Evangelicalism,” inheritors of the socially conservative political force Moral Majority and keepers of its dwindling flame, and “little-e evangelicalism,” the smaller group who are not merely self-identified evangelicals, but whose core-group of beliefs about Scripture, Jesus, and their relationship to him directly affect their behaviors and drive their moral decision-making.

Donald Trump would not be president without evangelicals, more specifically Big-E Evangelicals, and the presence of some in his administration serves as a reminder of that. There is a group of cabinet leaders and others who meet weekly for Bible study. Spokeswoman (and preacher’s daughter) Sarah Huckabee Sanders is possibly the most visible Evangelical in the White House through her daily televised press briefings.

Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court as a hoped-for advocate for religious freedoms was hailed by church leaders. And Southern Baptists were present on several occasions in 2017 when President Trump signed legislation affecting religious liberty.

But the December loss of a U.S. Senate seat by Republican Judge Roy Moore, Alabama’s Ten Commandments champion, to a pro-abortion Democrat has caused some pundits to wonder if the Big-E political/Republican alliance has weakened, and what that might mean for President Trump in the future. Given the special circumstances in that Senate race, moral accusations against Moore, another conclusion is that the biblical beliefs of little-e evangelicals trumped the Big-E political machine in the privacy of the voting booth.

Similarly, a Democrat easily won the governor’s race in Virginia, whose considerable Evangelical population had previously supported a string of GOP governors. Conservative analyst Stephen Mansfield wrote in a new book that the loss can be attributed partly to the disaffection of evangelicals.

“The young, probably in reaction to Trump and to some of the machinations on the Right, went strongly for the Democrat. I think that is an indication of future trends,” Mansfield said in an interview. “It will probably settle down, but I think that the social consciences of the young are raising some important questions.”

But can those assumptions be applied to the President himself, who a year ago got 81% of the white, evangelical vote? “He’s had about a 10-15% drop-off in support from the evangelical community since taking office,” Mansfield summarized. “So while there may be a sort of exaggerated self-reporting around the time when an evangelical casts a vote, there is some indication that there was never really that depth of devotion. I don’t think their support was ever very deep, and it seems to be weakening quickly.”

One conclusion is that little-e evangelicalism—personal, biblical belief and practice—is being separated from its Big-E political counterpart in this generation.

“Many have analyzed the weaknesses of the current iteration of this movement,” writes conservative Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller. “The desire by mid-twentieth-century leaders to foster more widespread cooperation between evangelicals and downplay denominational differences cut believers off from the past, some religion scholars have found…. This has made present-day evangelicals more vulnerable to political movements that appeal to their self-interest, even in contradiction to biblical teachings, for example, about welcoming the immigrant and lifting up the poor. However, evangelicalism is much more resilient than any one form of itself. The newer forms that are emerging are more concerned with theological and historic roots, and are more resistant to modern individualism than older, white Evangelicalism.”

Issues in Illinois
Governor’s race: Evangelicals disappointed by Gov. Rauner’s support for HB 40, which allows state-funding of abortions involving state employees and aid recipients, will be looking for a gubernatorial candidate to support in 2018.

Pro-life advocate Jeanne Ives of Wheaton said she would run against Rauner in part because of his signature allowing the abortion legislation. Ives handily won a January straw poll against Rauner among Chicago-area Republican leaders, but she faces an uphill climb against the well-funded incumbent. Seven Democrats are on the March 20 ballot with J.B. Pritzker the apparent leader.

The general election is in November.

Social issues: After successfully moving legalization of same-sex marriage through the Illinois General Assembly, State Senator Heather Steans and some other representatives are preparing to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana use in Illinois. Steans is using economic growth as an argument for legalization, citing a prediction that 250,000 jobs will be created in the “cannabis industry” by 2020. “As many of you may have heard, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week that he was rescinding an Obama-era policy that discouraged U.S. attorneys from prosecuting operations in states that legalized marijuana,” Steans wrote to supporters. “This change will not diminish our efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois.”

A public hearing is scheduled for late January.

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Peter Breen, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society, talks to reporters after the Dec. 6 court hearing.

A law firm representing religious liberty concerns has filed a lawsuit to stop the implementation of taxpayer-funded abortions through House Bill 40 (HB40) in Illinois on Jan. 1.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society suit argue that the General Assembly has not set aside funds in the state’s budget to pay for the abortions and remain within the Balanced Budget requirements of the Illinois Constitution. It also contends, according to the Thomas More Society, that the law cannot become effective until June 1 because it missed a May 31 cut-off date for General Assembly action.

“We’ve got $1.7 billion more appropriations than we’ve got revenue coming in,” said Peter Breen, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society. “I don’t see how we’re going to find the money to pay for these elective abortions.”

Initial arguments were heard in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court December 6 at the Sangamon County Courthouse in Springfield. Breen asked when the state planned to implement HB40. Attorney’s representing the state replied they were not prepared to answer the question.

Associate Judge Jennifer Ascher set the next hearing for Dec. 28. If the state does not intend to implement HB40 on January 1, the Dec. 28 hearing will most likely be rescheduled due to the upcoming holidays.

The suit is being brought by numerous state legislators, pro-life organizations and the Diocese of Springfield.

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A screen at the Sangamon County County Court Complex in Springfield lists assigned courtroom and the defendants and plantiffs in Springfield Right to Life, et al v Felicia Norwood, et al.

Following the hearing, Breen, who is also a state representative (R-Lombard), was asked about the projected cost of implementing HB40. “Based on numbers from the Health and Family Services Department, it costs $750-$1,000 per abortion you’re looking at between 20-30,000 abortions [being performed].” He stated that would bring the total cost to $15-$30 million, funds not reimbursed by federal Medicaid.

Breen later said, “We’re always talking about how our children are our future. So how can you argue that somehow aborting more children is going to bring more value to the State of Illinois?”

When asked about the religious liberty aspects of HB40, Breen said, “This lawsuit is very specifically about public funds…We don’t have moral argument in court. We’re just looking at the misuse of public funds.”

The suit was filed on behalf of several legislators and pro-life groups who are opposing HB40, which would provide coverage for abortions through Medicaid and state employees’ health insurance plans.

In November, messengers to the IBSA Annual Meeting passed a resolution calling for the repeal of HB40, pledging support for “the rights of the unborn,” and claiming, “all human life is God-given and sacred, and should be protected by moral and righteous government.”

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner originally pledged to veto the HB40 if it came to his desk, but signed it into law Sept. 28—to the dismay of Christians and pro-life advocates. State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) is working to get on the Republican primary ballot against Rauner in March.

“He lied to us,” Ives said in an Associated Press article last month. “None of us trust him anymore.”

– Lisa Misner Sergent

The Briefing

Supreme Court: Christian baker vs gay weddings
The case of a Christian baker in Colorado who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding gets its big day in court December 5. Advocates on both sides anticipate the case will set a nationwide precedent for whether the government can require businesses, organizations, and individuals to act against their own sincerely held religious beliefs—particularly following the legalization of same-sex marriage and equal rights granted to LGBT Americans.

Canadian Christian law school pleads case to court
The Canadian Supreme Court began hearing a high-profile religious freedom case on December 5 that will determine the fate of an evangelical law school in suburban Vancouver. Trinity Western University’s plans to launch a law program—a first for a Christian institution in Canada—were stalled for four years, as the school faced legal challenges over its campus covenant, which bars sexual activity outside of traditional marriage.

Fight not over to stop taxpayer-funded abortions in Illinois
Opponents of Illinois law HB40, which would allow state funding of abortion on demand for state employees and Medicaid recipients, have filed suit on behalf of pro-life organizations. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the law earlier this year, and the Thomas More Society filed suit last week.

Pence, Iraqi archbishop discuss aid to Christians
Vice President Mike Pence met with a leading Chaldean Archbishop to discuss how the U.S. government can best help the Iraqi Christian community in the aftermath of attackes by the Islamic State. Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil Bashar Warda oversees the archdiocese that has sheltered and aided thousands of Christians forced to flee their home three years ago. Iraqi Christians have been begging for funding to not only provide humanitarian assistance but also reconstruction aid. There are as many as 20,000 Christian families still in need of help to return home.

Egypt churches get permission to build after 20 years
Authorities in southern Egypt have allowed 21 churches to expand and rebuild, after a wait of about two decades. Some attribute this gesture to Vice President’s Mike Pence scheduled visit to the country later this month. The Minya Governor has approved 21 applications of churches in rural Minya governorate over the last six months. A local source was quoted as saying that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is keen to “show the U.S. that Egypt is standing with the Christians and that there is no persecution in Minya governorate.”

Sources: Christianity Today (2), World Magazine, IB2news,  The Christian Post (2)

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A log cabin stood in the exhibit hall at the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, surrounded by displays showing the current challenges of taking the gospel to people in Illinois.

Decatur, Ill. | Illinois Baptists were urged to remember their pioneering ancestors as they take the gospel to the more than 8 million people in the state who don’t know Christ.

One year before Illinois’ bicentennial celebration, the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association focused on “Pioneering Spirit” and asked churches to make four commitments: go new places, engage new people, make new sacrifices, and develop new leaders.

Kevin Carrothers web“We can’t be satisfied with the status quo, because the status quo is decline,” said IBSA President Kevin Carrothers (left) during his president’s message. The commitments are designed to help churches on the “uphill climb” to get the gospel to more people.

Preaching from the book of Numbers, Carrothers said no one remembers the names of the naysaying Israelites who didn’t want to go into the Promised Land. Instead, the real legacy of pioneering spirit was left by Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who trusted God to provide.

“They recognized the will of God was more important to obey than the whims and the desire of men, even if the majority won,” Carrothers said.

During a Wednesday evening worship service, church leaders put commitment cards on the altar—a symbol of their decision to take the gospel to new places, or to engage new people with the Good News, or to make new sacrifices of their resources, or to invest in new ways in the next generation of pastors, church planters, and missionaries.

The urgent need to get the gospel to more people was a driving theme of the meeting and Pastors’ Conference that preceded it, which started two days after a mass shooting at a Texas church. Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines was slated to speak during both the Pastors’ Conference and Annual Meeting, but instead traveled to Sutherland Springs, Texas, to minister to the church that lost 26 people in the attack.

Tom Hufty webTom Hufty (right), pastor of First Baptist Church, Maryville, Ill., filled in for Gaines at the Annual Meeting, outlining the 8-year journey his church has been on since Pastor Fred Winters was shot and killed in his pulpit in March of 2009.

“These tragedies remind us there’s an urgency to share the gospel,” Hufty said. The pastor told meeting attenders he remembers exactly where he was and what he thought when he heard the news about Winters: What must it be like to have been in that building that day, and how difficult it would be to lead the church through the aftermath.

“Even in that shape,” Hufty said, speaking of churches that have endured tragedy, “the church is still the heartthrob of the bridegroom”–of Christ. Ministry isn’t rocket science, Hufty said. “It’s loving God. It’s loving people. It’s making disciples.”

Sammy Simmons webIn the meeting’s final session Thursday morning, Pastor Sammy Simmons (right) offered encouragement for those who are weary from a difficult season of life and ministry. Rely on the Lord, said the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton. And keep taking bold steps for the sake of the gospel.

“The conditions are too rough, the lostness is too great, for us to continue to do business as normal,” Simmons preached. “The cause of the gospel causes us to make bold sacrifices for King Jesus.

“I’m all in for this pioneering spirit. Oh, how much our church needs it. Oh, how much I need it. Oh, how much our state needs it.”

Counting to 200

ib2newseditor —  November 6, 2017

illinois coat of arms

Illinois became a state on December 3, 1818. And so soon, those who pay attention to such things will begin the one-year countdown to our state’s bicentennial.

Because Illinois is our state mission field, the “Judea” in our churches’ Acts 1:8 missions responsibility, IBSA will be joining the bicentennial celebration with a countdown of our own. Launching at the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, and continuing through next year’s Annual Meeting, we are challenging IBSA churches to consider “counting to 200” in four very special ways.

First, we have identified 200 places or people groups in Illinois where a new church is desperately needed. We are inviting churches to adopt one or more of those 200 by praying, or partnering with resources or volunteers, or actually sponsoring the plant as the mother church.

Second, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will seek to become more frequently baptizing churches, by setting annual baptism goals and equipping their members to intentionally have gospel conversations and participate in evangelistic events and mission trips. We are praying for churches that will set their sights on baptizing at least once a month, or more than their previous three-year average.

Third, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit a percentage of their annual budgets to Cooperative Program missions, and then seek to increase that percentage annually toward 10% or more.

Potential for true mission advance is through churches that embrace pioneering spirit commitments.

And finally, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit to intentional leadership development processes—not only for the pastor and current leaders, but also for future pastors, planters, and missionaries.

Of course, some churches are fulfilling one or more of these challenges already. But for the overwhelming majority of IBSA churches, these challenges will be a major stretch. In fact, as our 2017 Annual Meeting theme suggests, moving beyond our status quo into these types of commitments will take a true “pioneering spirit.” It’s the kind of spirit that brought Baptist pioneers to Illinois more than 200 years ago.

That’s why we at IBSA are asking churches to register their “pioneering spirit” commitments, either now or in the coming months. Not only do we want to celebrate those commitments between the 2017 and 2018 IBSA Annual Meetings, but we also want to give those churches our focused, priority attention as an IBSA staff.

Certainly we will continue to be responsive to the requests and needs of all IBSA churches, and to provide services, resources, consultations, and events throughout the busy year. But we believe that the greatest potential for true mission advance in Illinois will be through churches that embrace these pioneering spirit commitments, and we want to come alongside them in special ways, and give them our priority assistance. We also want to network these churches together, so that they can benefit from one another’s experiences and ministry strategies.

The second verse of our Illinois state song begins, “Eighteen-eighteen saw your founding, Illinois, Illinois, and your progress is unbounding, Illinois, Illinois.” It goes on to remind us of the origin of that unbounding progress. “Pioneers once cleared the lands where great industries now stand. World renown you do command, Illinois, Illinois.”

When you see things like great industries and world renown, it’s usually because a few pioneers paved the way for them. And if we are to see great churches and world impact coming from Illinois Baptists, it will be because a few pioneers sacrificially pave the way. Will your church be one of those first 200 that brings a much-needed pioneering spirit to our state’s bicentennial, and to our mission of seeking and saving the lost here in Illinois?

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org. Read more at IBSA.org/pioneering.

The Briefing

TX churches sue FEMA over Harvey relief funds
Three small churches damaged by Hurricane Harvey and made its way through the Houston area sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency in federal court, seeking access to relief funds for nonprofit groups. The lawsuit filed on behalf of the Rockport First Assembly of God in Aransas County, Harvest Family Church in Harris County and Hi-Way Tabernacle in Liberty County claims the government’s disaster relief policy violates the Constitution by denying faith groups the right to apply for funds.

Free abortions offered to women affected by Hurricane Harvey
Whole Woman’s Health, a reproductive health care organization, in collaboration with other groups, is offering free abortions to women affected by Hurricane Harvey. At least 74 women have already taken the organization up on the offer, or have scheduled an appointment for the procedure. The price will be fully covered, as will the cost of transportation and accommodations, the group said.

Illinois abortion bill still in limbo
The bill, known as HB 40, that would extend the availability of taxpayer-subsidized abortions to state workers and Medicaid recipients, still has not been sent to Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk. Lawmakers approved the legislation back in May.

Protestant unity is new confession’s focus
A confession of faith aimed at expressing “interdenominational unity” among Protestants on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has drawn endorsement from professors at all six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and staff members at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The “Reforming Catholic Confession” also has been signed by professors from at least eight colleges affiliated with state Baptist conventions and by Southern Baptist pastors including Matt Chandler, J.D. Greear, and James MacDonald.

Gaines: Memphis Confederate monument should be moved
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines is among about a dozen Southern Baptist signatories of a letter requesting that a Memphis statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest be moved from a public park “to a more historically appropriate site.” In all, 169 clergy members representing 95 congregations and other institutions signed a Sept. 13 letter to the Tennessee Historical Commission in support of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s request to move the statue.

Sources: Houston Chronicle, Fox News, Springfield News Channel 20, Baptist Press (2)