Archives For persecution

The Briefing

Happy Reformation Day! As Christians around the world celebrate the movement’s 500th birthday, go to IllinoisBaptist.org for our coverage of the anniversary, including:

  • Baptists’ roots in the Reformation,
  • the continuing theological debate, and
  • a list of the ‘new Reformers.’

Pence promises help for persecuted Christians
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in October that the federal government will shift funds away from United Nations programs and toward faith-based and private organizations to better aid persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

“We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups,” Pence said at the annual summit for the group In Defense of Christians. Critics of the U.N. projects have said they have not been effective in helping Christians in the region who have been displaced due to war and the rise of ISIS.

Ahead of rallies, Baptists denounce racism
Counter-protestors far outnumbered white supremacists at two “White Lives Matter” rallies in Tennessee on Oct. 28. Prior to the protests, Southern Baptists in Tennessee joined other faith groups to take a public stand against racism and the white supremacy movement.

Church removes historical markers
A church in Alexandria, Va., is removing plaques that mark where President George Washington and Confederate General Robert E. Lee sat when they attended services there. “For some, Lee symbolizes the attempt to overthrow the Union and to preserve slavery,” reads a letter from the Christ Church board. “Today our country is trying once again to come to grips with the history of slavery and the subsequent disenfranchisement of people of color.”

The church initially considered taking out only Lee’s plaque, but later added Washington because he owned slaves, reports The Christian Post.

House of prayer
A federal judge reaffirmed the constitutionality of legislative prayer with her Oct. 11 ruling against an atheist who filed suit against the U.S. House of Representatives and its chaplain when he wasn’t allowed to deliver a secular invocation.

Major league visibility
With the Houston Astros still in the hunt for a World Series Championship, the city’s First Baptist Church is gaining notice for its prominent sign in right field.

Illinois Baptist, Christianity Today, The Tennessean, Baptist Press, The Christian Post

The BriefingIllinois House urged to reject taxpayer-funded abortions
SpeakOut Illinois, a coalition of pro-life and pro-family organizations across the state,  urged lawmakers in the Illinois House to reject legislation allowing taxpayer money to be used for abortions. House Bill 4013 lifts the current prohibition on state workers’ health insurance plans from paying for elective abortions, as well as the prohibition on using public money to pay for elective abortions for Medicaid patients. The piece of legislation could be called up for a vote as early as this week.

How many Christians are in the new Congress?
Pew’s Religion & Public Life found that 90.7% of the 115th Congress identify as Christian, a statistic that has changed little in over a half century of keeping record. “The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s,” noted Pew. Of the 91% Christian majority, 31.4% are Catholic, 13.5% are Baptist, 8.5% are Methodist, 6.5% are Anglican or Episcopal, and another 6.5% are Presbyterian.

Multi-faith network rescuing women from Isis
A secret underground network operating in Iraq and Syria has reportedly freed more than 3,000 Yazidi women held captive in sexual slavery by Isis. Kurdish and Christian civilians make up the group, along with other ethnic minorities and families of the victims, NGO Yazda has claimed. Rescues are carried out through word of mouth, driven by Yazidis who have escaped capture or whose loved ones are still being held in Isis territory.

Gay couple to pastor historic DC Baptist church
Calvary Baptist Church, a progressive Baptist landmark in the heart of downtown Washington, has named a gay couple as co-pastors. Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen were presented to the congregation during worship services Jan. 8 and will begin their new jobs on Feb. 26. The 150-year-old church severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012.

S. Baptists lead Congressional Prayer Caucus
Rep. Mark Walker, R.-N.C., will be the new House of Representatives co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, it was announced Jan. 9. Sen. James Lankford, R.-Okla., the other co-chairman of the prayer caucus, and former Rep. Randy Forbes, R.-Va., made the announcement. All three are members of Southern Baptist churches.

Sources: Illinois Family Institute, Christian Post, Independent, Religion News Service, Baptist Press

The BriefingStudy: Christians most persecuted
According to the Director of the Centre for Studies on New Religions (Cesnur), Massimo Introvigne, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, with over 90,000 Christians killed in 2016 alone. Introvigne said there are nearly half a billion Christians who are unable to express or practice fully their Christian faith.

Chicago ends 2016 with 762 homicides
An argument between two men at an Uptown bar in the early hours of Jan. 1 ended with the two shooting at one another, leaving both dead. Their deaths ushered in the new year, marking the first and second homicides of 2017 and keeping up 2016’s soaring pace of violence.

Chicago priest puts a ‘bounty’ on killers
The violence on Chicago’s South Side is so pervasive that Father Michael Pfleger, a priest with the largest Catholic congregation in the area, isn’t waiting for a savior — he’s taking it upon himself to find murderers by offering rewards for information leading to an arrest. Pfleger says he’s given out 24 rewards over the last 10 years.

Judge rules against sex change coverage
Doctors and healthcare providers do not have to break with their consciences to perform sex change operations under a preliminary injunction against an Obama administration mandate. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas ruled in favor of eight states and three Christian healthcare groups by blocking a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule set to go into effect Jan. 1.

Turkey denies appeal for U.S. pastor
A Turkish court has denied the appeal of a Christian pastor from North Carolina, who was imprisoned last month in Turkey on a false terrorism charge because of his Christian faith, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.  Andrew Brunson was imprisoned Dec. 9 after being charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”

Sources: Fox News, Chicago Tribune, CBS News, World Magazine, Christian Post

The BriefingGenocide of Middle East Christians ignored
Nearly six months after Secretary of State John Kerry declared the murder of Christians in the Middle East a “genocide,” Westerners are doing little to stop the killings, said activists gathered for a convention on the victims’ plight. Religious freedom advocate Katrina Lantos Swett called the crisis “perhaps the great moral challenge of our time right now.”

Transgender bill applied to churches
A Massachusetts government commission is claiming churches may be subject to the state’s transgender restroom bill. At issue is a document stating, “Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public. All persons, regardless of gender identity, shall have the right to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of any place of public accommodation.”

Kaine predicts change in Catholic view of same-sex marriage
Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine spoke about his evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage, and predicted that the Catholic Church would eventually change its views on the matter. “But I think that’s going to change, too … And I think it’s going to change because my church also teaches me about a creator in the first chapter of Genesis who surveys the entire world including mankind and said it is very good, it is very good,” he said.

ESV becomes ‘unchanging’ Word of God
The English Standard Version (ESV) received its final update this summer, 17 years after it was first authorized by Crossway, its publisher. The translation oversight committee changed just 52 words across 29 verses—out of more than 775,000 words across more than 31,000 verses—for the final “permanent text” edition. The board then voted, unanimously, to make the text “unchanged forever, in perpetuity.

Cross Point’s Pete Wilson resigns
Citing his exhaustion and personal brokenness, Pete Wilson, senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and author of Plan B, shocked his congregation when he announced his resignation from the church he founded. As the church celebrated its 14th anniversary and America remembered the terror attacks of September 11, Wilson told his congregation that he was no longer fit to lead.

Sources: Religion News, Baptist Press, NBC News, Christianity Today, Christian Post

The BriefingSouthern Baptists called to prayer
On June 14, the entire Tuesday evening session of the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis will be committed to praying for spiritual leaders, our churches, nation, and world. Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd issued the call stating, “the critical need of the hour in America, the state of our churches, the needs of our pastors, the status of our evangelism or lack of it, and the exponential lostness of the world while we are bringing home hundreds of our missionaries… it is time to pray.”

New churches outpace dying ones
America is launching new Protestant churches faster than it loses old ones, attracting many people who previously didn’t attend church anywhere, new LifeWay Research studies show. More than 4,000 new churches opened their doors in 2014, outpacing the 3,700 that closed, according to estimates from 34 denominational statisticians.

Christian women most persecuted
A survey of 192 countries has demonstrated scientifically what many have long known anecdotally to be true: Christian women are more religious than Christian men. The lesser known fact: those women bear the brunt of persecution in the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian.

Tax-exemptions for churches questioned
Massachusetts authorities have challenged the tax-exempt status of a Catholic shrine and retreat center. The center offers daily Masses, religious conferences, a soup kitchen for the hungry, and a Christmas festival of lights. The case which has gone to the state’s supreme court, begs a deeper question: Do religious organizations decide for themselves what they require for their devotional and educational missions, or do municipal tax authorities decide for them?

Porn labeled ‘public health hazard’
The effort to reverse the spread of sexually explicit material and its effects received a boost when Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a resolution saying pornography is establishing “a public health crisis.” The first-of-its-kind resolution, which National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) helped craft and the state legislature approved unanimously, recognizes “the need for education, prevention, research, and policy change” to confront “the pornography epidemic.”

Sources: IB2news, Facts & Trends, Christianity Today, Boston Globe, BPnews.net

The year of orange

Lisa Misner Sergent —  January 14, 2016

Larycia Hawkins, a Wheaton College professor, announced she would wear a Muslim headscarf throughout Advent as a way of showing solidarity with Muslims. In a Facebook post, the professor explained she’d wear a hijab to work, class, and church.

In particular, Hawkins, a Christian, said she wishes to express support for Muslim women. “I don’t love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American. I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity,” Hawkins wrote. “I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay.”

For some observers, her demonstration missed the mark. In 2015 we saw many Christians trying to identify with people in need: Some identified with Muslims in general as the American political rhetoric turned against them. Some identified with Syrian refugees, including Muslims and Christians, fleeing persecution. And for some American evangelicals, the fashion statement of the year was not a headscarf, but a jumpsuit.

As the Illinois Baptist editors discussed the images that characterized 2015, there was a strong case to be made for that grainy video freeze-frame we saw in February: 21 Coptic Christians in orange jumpsuits, kneeling on a Libyan beach with knives held to their throats by ISIS-rebel captors. Gratefully, the image from just seconds later was not widely distributed by news services: 21 Christians beheaded.

This may have been the most horrific image any of us have ever seen.

It proved what we have heard all our lives. Christians will face persecution for our faith and some may be martyred. But not in our lifetimes has martyrdom seemed so possible, or even probable. No longer is it that Christians may be martyred. Christians will be martyred. The mass shooting in San Bernardino by a radicalized Islamic couple proves it can happen even here in the United States.

If we’re looking for someone to identify with, let’s consider again those men in orange jumpsuits. Their lives—and deaths—force us to confront the strength of our own faith. Jesus told us to lay down our lives and take up the cross.

In contemporary terms, are we ready to wear orange?

Editor’s note: Hawkins is on paid leave after her comments on social media about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God.  Wheaton administrators have recommended her termination from the college.

– DER

 

The BriefingTHE BRIEFING | As Pope Francis visits the U.S., Southern Baptist leaders say they stand with his statements of biblical morality but urge Catholics to reject the Vatican’s official teaching on salvation in favor of a personal relationship with Christ by faith alone.

“I hope the pope speaks with clarity about the dignity of all human life, including that of the unborn; the stability of the family, including the necessity of mothers and fathers for children; and religious liberty for all,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press. “I also hope he speaks directly as he has before to our responsibility for the most vulnerable among us, the poor, the prisoner, the immigrant and the orphan.” Read what others are saying at BPnews.net.


ISIS using churches as torture chambers

Christian Freedom International, a Virginia-based aid organization, reports captured church buildings into torture chambers that are being used to coerce Iraqi Christians into renouncing Christ and converting to its brand of radical Islam. The organization also estimates more Christians have been martyred in the 20th and 21st centuries than in the previous 19 centuries combined.


House OKs PPFA defunding, abortion survivors’ bills

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Sept. 18 to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of the release of undercover videos providing evidence the organization trades in baby body parts. That same day, the House also approved legislation to protect babies who survive abortions.

Representatives voted 241-187 for the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, H.R. 3134. The bill would place a one-year moratorium on federal money for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates while Congress investigates the organization.


Gay rights group opens office in Springfield

Equality Illinois, the state’s largest LGBT rights group, has open its first office outside Chicagoland in Springfield. The group is seeking to expand its strategy statewide and hopes to open offices in the southern and western parts of the state.


The Muppets return to TV a bit worse for wear

The new Muppets primetime television show isn’t the show Gen Xers remember from their childhood. A reviewer for The Guardian, a British newspaper, calls the new show for ABC a “spoof documentary” in the style of reality television.

According to the paper, “In one scene, Animal laments his consequence-free promiscuity. In another, Zoot from The Electric Mayhem is outed as an alcoholic. And then, most heartbreakingly of all, there’s Kermit…This Kermit badmouths fellow celebrities, openly discusses his sex life and, at one point, describes his life as ‘a living hell.’”

Say it isn’t so Kermit.