Archives For Marriage

Kick-off includes new blog, podcast tailored to Baptist women
Connection is the main goal of the newly launched Southern Baptist Women’s Leadership Network (WLN). “Historically in SBC life men have had multiple options to connect in this way,” said WLN steering committee member Kathy Ferguson Litton. “Women have had very few environments where we could organically relate, mentor, and collaborate across all the domains in which we lead. It is time to change that.”

The network includes a podcast, blog, and Facebook page, and will hold its first meeting June 11 during the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham.

Congress yet to act on church tax law
A coalition of religious leaders is still pursuing action by U.S. lawmakers they say will relieve churches of a costly tax burden. Current law requires churches to file tax returns, some as early as this spring. The U.S. House of Representatives voted late last year to reverse the provision—Section 512(a)(7) of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017—but the Senate didn’t have the votes to approve the reversal, Baptist Press reported.

“Uncle Sam is welcome in our churches,” said Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, one of the leaders calling for repeal of the provision. “But we don’t work for him. And Congress should end this deeply un-American tax on churches immediately.”

Baptists choose ‘proven leader’ to helm Executive Committee
Arkansas pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd was elected April 2 to lead the denomination’s Executive Committee, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn. Floyd, 63, will be a key part of the SBC’s response to current challenges, including helping churches prevent sexual abuse and care for survivors of abuse.

Mormon Church softens stance on same-sex marriage
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced April 4 that members in same-sex marriages will no longer be designated apostates to their faith. “While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline,” the church said. “Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”

The change in policy also will allow children of LGBT members to be baptized in the church, Religion News Service reported.

Iraqi Christians could face deportation
An appeals court declined April 2 to hear further arguments from 1,400 Iraqi natives detained in immigration raids in 2017. The group includes more than 100 Detroit-area Chaldean Christians, Christianity Today reports, who would face returning to one of the world’s most dangerous countries for Christians.

Sources: Baptist Press (2), Illinois Baptist, Religion News Service, Christianity Today

 

 

 

The Briefing

Court rules against bakers
Sweet Cakes by Melissa shut down after a heavy fine was levied against its owners for not participating in a same-sex wedding ceremony. Aaron and Melissa Klein took their case to court, but on Dec. 29, the bakers lost in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Former fire chief gets partial court victory
Kelvin Cochran, the former Atlanta fire chief terminated for writing a devotional book in which he advocated a biblical view of marriage and sexuality, won a partial victory in court Dec. 20, when a judge decided the city rules under which he was fired are unconstitutional. In other religious liberty issues related to the case, however, the judge ruled against Cochran, Baptist Press reports.

Kasich approves Down syndrome abortion ban
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a law Dec. 22 prohibiting abortions in cases where prenatal tests reveal Down syndrome or if there’s “any other reason to believe” the genetic condition exists. North Dakota and Indiana have similar laws, although the Indiana measure has been blocked by a federal judge, CNN reports.

New data explores evangelical diversity
One in three people who identify as evangelical is nonwhite, according to 2017 research. The numbers rises to four in 10 of those who are evangelical by belief, reports Christianity Today in its analysis of research on diversity and the church.

The year’s most popular passages
The most popular Bible verse around the world in 2017 was a command to be strong and courageous, according to Bible app YouVersion. Joshua 1:9 was the most shared, bookmarked, and highlighted verse by the global YouVersion community, The Christian Post reports, while in the U.S., Romans 8:28 topped the list.

Supreme Court will hear pregnancy center case
The Supreme Court announced this month it will rule on a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to inform clients of abortion options available elsewhere.

The FACT Act, passed in 2015, shares some similarities with an Illinois law that requires pregnancy centers and pro-life physicians to discuss abortion as a legal treatment option and, if asked, to refer clients to abortion providers. Multiple pregnancy centers in Illinois sued Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier this year over the law, and were granted a preliminary injunction.

Dockery elected to lead theologian group
The annual meeting of the Evangelical Theology Society focused on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The group also elected David Dockery, a Southern Baptist and president of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, as president.

Zimbabwe’s Christian leaders see unrest as ‘opportunity’
The conflict between Zimbabwe’s president and its military could be resolved by a “winner-takes-all-mentality,” many of the country’s religious leaders wrote in a letter following President Robert Mugabe’s military arrest. But it doesn’t have to, they said, calling the the situation an opportunity for “permanent healing” in Zimbabwe.

Hillsong pastor won’t change marriage views, despite Australian vote
While Australian voters decided in November to legalize same-sex marriage, Brian Houston, who pastors Sydney megachurch Hillsong, said his view of marriage as between a man and a woman “will not change.”

Coming to the big screen: Apostle Paul
A silver screen version of Paul’s life is set for release next Easter. “Paul, Apostle of Christ” tells the story of a persecutor of Christians who became the world’s most famous missionary and martyr. James Faulkner stars as Paul, and “Passion of the Christ” actor Jim Caviezel is Gospel-writer Luke.

The Briefing

IBDR flood response teams activated
The heavy rains that fell in late April and early May leaving behind several inches rain have caused major flooding in Southern Illinois and the St. Louis Metro area. Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) has been monitoring the situation and called assessors. Now, multiple IBDR flood response teams are on the ground in Williamson and Franklin Counties in Illinois.

Samford U considers pro-LGBT student group
A recommendation by Samford University’s faculty to approve a pro-homosexual student group could have “serious implications … for the relationship” between the university and the Alabama Baptist State Convention, according to a joint statement by the convention’s president and the executive director of its State Board of Missions.

Americans view of morality studied
Most older Americans say right and wrong never change. Younger Americans — not so much, according to a new study released May 9. The study by LifeWay Research found a significant generation gap in how Americans view morality. More than 6 in 10 of those older than 45 say right and wrong do not change. For those 35 and younger, fewer than 4 in 10 make that claim.

Religious liberty order doesn’t answer evangelicals’ prayers
In his biggest religious liberty push since taking office, President Donald Trump officially laid out in an executive order some of the protections he has promised faithful supporters for months. The move came on the same day that evangelical leaders gathered in Washington for the annual National Day of Prayer. One problem: This is not the executive order many evangelicals had been praying for.

Army secretary nominee bows out over marriage views
President Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of the Army has withdrawn from consideration amid criticism of his positions on marriage and gender. Mark Green, a state senator from Tennessee, said in a statement that false and misleading attacks against him made his nomination a distraction.

Sources: Illinois Baptist, Florida Baptist Witness, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, World Magazine

The BriefingNY Times asks: What does it mean to be evangelical?
Donald Trump’s popularity with evangelicals has led some church leaders to break with the term. The New York Times Opinion Page asked four evangelical writers to share what it mean to be an evangelical today.

Gary Smalley passes away
Best-selling author and world-renowned marriage and relationship expert Gary Smalley has died at age 75. Smalley passed away March 6 after a lengthy illness, his family announced on Facebook March 7.

Christianity Today apologizes for ‘son-in-law’ job posting
The flagship evangelical magazine Christianity Today has tweeted an apology after publishing a job listing for a son-in-law that raised some eyebrows on social media. The ad, which ran in the March edition, was bought by an unnamed Chicagoland church elder who is based in Wheaton, Ill., the magazine’s longtime home.

Millennials increasingly view the church negatively
Since 2010, millennials’ view of churches and other religious organizations as having a positive effect on the country has fallen 18 percentage points, according to Pew Research. In 2015, 55% of young adults believed churches have a positive impact on the country compared with 73% five years ago.

Florist who refused gay wedding gets appeal
The highest court in Washington state has agreed to hear the appeal of florist Barronelle Stutzman found guilty of violating state laws and the constitutional rights of a gay couple when she refused to arrange flowers for their wedding, citing religious beliefs.

Bible translators split over Trinity description
Wycliffe Associates (WA) is leaving Wycliffe Global Alliance (WGA), a partnership of more than 100 Bible translation agencies around the globe. WA cited several reasons for its decision, starting with controversy over the language used to describe Jesus. In some Bible translations, the language of Jesus’ relationship to God the Father (e.g. “Son of God”) is softened to stem confusion and anger from Muslims.

Sources: BPnews.net, Christianity Today, Facts and Trends, Focus on the Family, Religion News Service, New York Times

NEWS | As the country marked the one-month anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, religious institutions continued to wrestle with the possible implications.

“The Supreme Court left unresolved what rights faith-based universities will have in regard to their religious liberty,” Gene Crume, president of Judson University in Elgin, Ill., told the Illinois Baptist. “The federal government controls financial aid for students, so there is a very real possibility that there could be restrictions to federal financial aid for faith-based institutions if they do not recognize same-sex relationships.”

Crume also noted that since the Court’s ruling, some leaders have favored protecting the tax-exempt status of faith-based universities that oppose same-sex unions, while others have called to do away with the protection for those institutions.
That particular concern arose during oral arguments heard by the Court prior to their decision, when Justice Samuel Alito asked if institutions like religious schools could lose their tax-exempt status if they opposed same-sex unions. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli responded that “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) told The Weekly Standard in July that he had no “quick answer” about the “challenging area” presented by schools and their religious liberty concerns.

“There’s no question this was an historic decision, and now we’re going to go through a series of suggestions for new laws to implement it,” Durbin said. “I can’t predict how this will end. But from the beginning we have said that when it comes to marriage, religions can decide what their standards will be.”

The Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service testified before a Senate committee in July that Christian schools will not lose their tax-exempt status if their policies oppose same-sex marriage, The Christian Post reported. But Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) was skeptical of Commissioner John Koskinen’s use of the phrase “at this time” in explaining the IRS’ position.

Lee told media, “While I greatly appreciate Commissioner Koskinen’s word that he will not target religious institutions for their religious beliefs, it worries me and it should worry every American that the IRS does not absolutely disavow the power to target religious institutions based on their religious beliefs, even if the current IRS commissioner has committed not to use that power for the time being.”

SBC entity appeals mandate
GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention announced last month it had filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court against a health care mandate that requires some companies it works with to provide abortion-inducing drugs.

While GuideStone and churches are exempt and will not have to pay penalties for refusing to cover drugs like the morning-after pill, the federal government has argued that other religious employers are protected by an accommodation in the mandate.

In a report on the Baptist Press website, GuideStone General Counsel Harold R. Loftin Jr., said the Southern Baptist entity “has, from the filing of our case, objected to the so-called ‘accommodation’ because the government is attempting to rewrite the terms of GuideStone’s plan” to use the plan “to provide access to drugs and devices GuideStone believes to be impermissible.”

GuideStone officials said they are optimistic that the Supreme Court will accept its appeal by the end of September, but regardless of the outcome, President O.S. Hawkins said the organization remains committed to the ministries potentially affected by the mandate if the Supreme Court upholds it.

With reporting from Baptist Press, BPNews.net

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The_BriefingTwo men who were shot in the July 16 attacks on Tennessee military facilities were connected to Southern Baptist churches. Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, 21, was killed by Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez at a Navy support center in Chattanooga. Three other Marines also were killed, and a Navy petty officer later died from injuries sustained in the attack.

The Sunday following the shootings, Wells’ one-time church, First Baptist of Woodstock, Ga., placed a Marine flag at the seat he occupied as a clarinetist in the church orchestra, Baptist Press reported.

In Harrison, Tenn., near Chattanooga, members of Bayside Baptist Church prayed for the families of the victims and for Dennis Pedigo, a church member and police officer injured during the attacks. Pedigo, whose name was released after this Baptist Press story was published, is expected to make a full recovery.


Former Planned Parenthood clinic director reaches out to exec caught on video
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now has a ministry dedicated to helping abortion workers find a way out of the industry, has written an open letter to Deborah Nucatola, the subject of a video made by an anti-abortion organization in which she discusses the sale of body parts gained through abortion.

“We want you to find peace,” wrote Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas. “We want you to find true happiness. We know that won’t happen as long as you are involved in Planned Parenthood.” More from Johnson’s letter, published by LifeSiteNews, can be read at BPNews.net, with this warning: The letter contains some graphic details that are difficult to read.


Christian colleges could hire staff in same-sex marriages
Two Christian colleges have added “sexual orientation” to their non-discrimination policies, said Christianity Today, meaning they could hire faculty and staff members who are in same-sex marriages. Both schools–Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., and Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., are affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA, which voted in July to reaffirm same-sex marriage as a sin, but also to allow churches to perform same-sex marriages if their regional conferences allow it.


GuideStone loses case against health care mandate
“Today was a setback. It is not the final outcome,” said GuideStone Financial Services President O.S. Hawkins after a federal appeals court ruled it must comply with a mandate requiring employers to cover the cost of contraceptives–including some that can potentially cause abortions. GuideStone, the Southern Baptist entity responsible for health and financial benefits, is considering an appeal of the ruling, according to a statement on the organization’s website.


Americans rooted in their communities, Barna finds
59% of Americans aren’t sure they’ll move from the place they currently live, or never plan to, according to a Barna survey on why people put down roots in a particular place. Among the findings: The largest share of Americans–45%–describe their community as suburban, and 24% currently live in the city or town where they were born. Among those who don’t, family ranked as the most popular reason they moved to their current location.