Archives For Politics

Trump administration announces initiatives to protect religious freedom
President Donald Trump said Jan. 16 his administration is taking “historic steps” to protect the right to pray in public schools. On National Religious Freedom Day, the administration released new guidance for school prayer for that will require state departments of education to report public charges of religious discrimination to the U.S. Department of Education, CNN reported.

The new guidelines also add a section on the Equal Access Act, which denies federal funds to public schools that prohibit student meetings based on religious, political, or philosophical content.

Illinois lawmaker urges churches to pray for Springfield
State Rep. Dave Severin says Illinois lawmakers need prayer. So, he’s urging churches to sign up and sit in the House gallery when the legislature is in session. The Republican from Marion has launched a Pray for Springfield Facebook page, which links to a calendar that shows dates the House is in session and if a church group is scheduled to be in the gallery.

Pastoral politics mostly a mystery, survey says
Most Americans who attend religious services at least a few times a year say the sermons they hear have about the right amount of political discussion, and they generally agree with clergy about politics. But 45% also say they’re not sure if their clergy members are Republicans or Democrats, according to research by Pew Forum.

Church planter facing deportation
A Southern Baptist church planter in California will likely return to England at the end of this month, leaving behind a growing church. Obed Brefo and his wife, Elena, are planting King’s Cross Church in one of the least churched neighborhoods in San Diego. The pastor, who hopes his family can return to California early next year, will utilize guest speakers and video messages during his absence, Baptist Press reports.

Multiracial congregations on the rise
The share of multiracial churches in the U.S. has grown from 6% in 1998, to 16% in 2019, according to Religion News Service. The number of black, Hispanic, and Asian clergy leading multiracial congregations has also increased, RNS reports, while fewer white clergy members are leading multiracial churches.

Sources: CNN, Pew Forum, Illinois Baptist, Baptist Press, Religion News Service

Home ownership tops list of goals for young Americans
More than half of current 18-35-year-olds hope to own a home in the next 10 years, according to a Barna survey of what the researcher calls “the connected generation.” The surveyed group, comprised of both Millennials and members of Generation Z, also puts marriage (41%) and parenthood (33%) in their top five goals.

Baptist Press debunks George Soros/ERLC claims
The Southern Baptist Convention’s news service published an Jan. 9 explainer about rumors linking the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission with progressive billionaire George Soros. A Breitbart.com article Dec. 11 linked Soros with the Evangelical Immigration Table, a nonpartisan coalition of which the ERLC is a part. But the evangelical group has never received funding from Soros, BP reports.

Most states willing to accept refugees
President Donald Trump’s new policy on refugees requires state and local governments to opt-in to continue to receive refugees, and many have done so, Christianity Today reports. Forty-one states and 86 local governments have filed letters of consent with the federal government, while Texas became the first state to reject resettlement. CT reports the Evangelical Immigration Table played a pivotal role in lobbying states to receive refugees.

Former students sue seminary over marriage policy
Two former Fuller Theological Seminary students are suing the school for what they say is a violation of anti-discrimination. Fuller, located in Pasadena, Calif., holds marriage to be a “covenant union between one man and one woman,” according to its Sexual Standards policy. Former students Nathan Brittsan and Joanna Maxon say they were expelled for being in same-sex marriages.

‘Jeopardy’ answer sparks Israel/Palestine debate
A contestant’s answer about Jesus’ birthplace was ruled incorrect on a recent episode of “Jeopardy.” But the fallout was more than the $200 Katie Needle lost for answering “Palestine” as the site of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

After Needle’s answer was rejected, a fellow contestant rang in and answered “Israel,” which was credited as the correct answer. The show may have fixed the mistake (Needle’s score was increased by $200 when Jeopardy returned from a commercial break), but the debate is still going online, with many commenters noting the Church of the Nativity is located in the West Bank.

Sources: Barna, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, CBS News, Christian Post

United Methodists divide over LGBT marriage and ordination
The media has largely focused on LGBT issues in reporting on the United Methodist Church split, writes evangelical columnist David French, but, “The true fracturing point between mainline and evangelical churches is over the authority and interpretation of Scripture.”

An 8-page statement titled the “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” likely will govern the divide of the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination. The plan, which will need approval from the UMC’s legislative body this spring, gives $25 million to conservative congregations toward the formation of a new denomination that opposes gay marriage and ordaining LGBT clergy.

>Related: “If the new denomination takes its orthodoxy on mission,” missiologist Ed Stetzer wrote, the Methodist traditionalist group “may create new paths we all can learn from.”

President rallies evangelical voters amid deepening divides
At the inaugural “Evangelicals for Trump” rally Jan. 3 at a Miami megachurch, President Donald Trump sought to shore up support from Christian voters after a Christian magazine editorial supported his impeachment. “Evangelicals and Christians of every denomination and believers of every faith have never had a greater champion…in the White House than you have right now,” Trump said at the rally at El Ray Jesus Church.

The event and the President’s “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition were announced the day after now-retired Christianity Today editor Mark Galli wrote that Trump should be removed from office.

7 key abortion stories from the last decade
Just ahead of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has released its list of seven of the most important abortion stories from 2010-2019. Leading the list: the trial of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, whose eventual conviction on first-degree murder charges received almost no national media coverage.

As church membership declines, churches use tech to connect with new audiences
At a time when just half of all Americans belong to a house of worship, more and more churches are using online resources to gather people and address spiritual needs, USA Today reports. “In the beginning, a lot of churches thought the internet would hurt and keep people from coming,” said an online campus pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. “But it’s actually one of the best ways to reach new people.”

Sources: French Press, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Christian Post, ERLC, USA Today

 

Christianity Today editorial highlights fractures in evangelicalism
Evangelical leaders across the country continue to debate a Dec. 19 online column by Christianity Today editor in chief Mark Galli calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office. On Dec. 18, Trump became only the third U.S. President in history to be impeached.

“Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election—that is a matter of prudential judgment,” Galli wrote. “That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.”

Several evangelical supporters of President Trump spoke out publicly against the column, including Franklin Graham, son of CT founder Billy Graham. The younger Graham posted on Facebook that his father would have been disappointed by the piece, and also said Billy Graham voted for Trump in 2016.

CT President Timothy Dalrymple discussed the whirlwind surrounding the column in a statement supporting the editorial and calling for further conversation between evangelicals. Meanwhile, Christian Post reports, nearly 200 evangelical leaders told Dalrymple in an open letter that the column “offensively questioned the spiritual integrity and Christian witness of tens of millions of believers who take seriously their civic and moral obligations.”

California church defends prayer for 2-year-old’s resurrection
Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., is planning a memorial service for a 2-year-old girl after praying several days that she would be resurrected from the dead. Olive Heiligenthal, daughter of Bethel Music’s Kalley Heiligenthal, was pronounced dead by doctors Dec. 14 after she suddenly stopped breathing. Using the hashtag #wakeupolive, the church spread word online about the prayer campaign.

Church leaders cheer repeal of parking tax requirement
Lawmakers have effectively rescinded a measure that would have cost churches and other nonprofits more than $1.7 billion over the next decade. A section of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would have required houses of worship and other nonprofits to pay a 21% tax on employee benefits including parking and transportation. Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives approved legislation in December that repealed the requirement.

Supreme Court to review ‘ministerial exception’ rulings
Religious liberty advocates cheered the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether churches and other religious organizations can make employment decisions without government interference. The high court will review opinions by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that found two Roman Catholic schools in California do not have the right to fire teachers for the purpose of the “ministerial exception” recognized by the high court in a 2012 opinion. In that unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled a “ministerial exception” exists that enables churches and other religious groups to hire and fire based on their beliefs.

Religious freedom commission reauthorized
President Donald Trump signed an omnibus bill Dec. 20 that has as one result the reauthorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The agency, created in 1998, is now reauthorized until Sept. 30, 2022, and will receive funding of $3.5 million a year, Religion News Service reports.

Sources: Christianity Today, Facebook, Christian Post, ERLC, Baptist Press, Religion News Service

‘Fairness for All’ proposed to increasingly polarized lawmakers
A Utah Congressman introduced the Fairness for All Act Dec. 6, which would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation, but also exempt churches, religious groups, and some small businesses from the anti-discrimination laws.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Stewart faces an uphill battle in Congress, Christianity Today reports, and also among LGBT advocates who oppose the exemptions. Some religious liberty advocates also disagree with the bill. In 2017, a group of evangelical leaders, including Southern Baptists Russell Moore and Albert Mohler, signed a statement opposing any law that would protect gender identity and sexual orientation because such measures “threaten fundamental freedoms.”

Ultrasound law survives legal challenge
The U.S. Supreme Court declined Dec. 9 to hear an appeal of a Kentucky law that requires doctors to perform ultrasounds before abortions. The law, passed in 2017, also requires physicians to show fetal images to patients, and to play an audible heartbeat. In upholding the law earlier this year, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said it provides “relevant information.” Judge John Bush, an appointee of President Donald Trump, wrote, “The information conveyed by an ultrasound image, its description and the audible beating fetal heart gives a patient a greater knowledge of the unborn life inside her.”

The Supreme Court’s refusal to review the lower court’s decision, USA Today reported, leaves the measure in place.

California church stages controversial nativity scene
Claremont United Methodist Church near Los Angeles is making headlines with a nativity display depicting Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as a refugee family made to stay in separate cages. The church’s lead pastor, Karen Clark Ristine, told a local news station one goal of the display is to spark conversation. Ristine’s Facebook post about the scene garnered more than 11,000 comments in two days.

China recognizes church of Baptist pioneer Lottie Moon
Wulin Shenghui Church of Penglai, attended by Southern Baptist missionary Lottie Moon for much of her time in China, has been designated by the country as a protected historical and cultural site. One religious freedom watchdog noted the designation comes at a time of heightened government restrictions on churches. “It’s surely easier to honor a dead evangelist than to grant basic liberties to the living ones,” Massimo Introvigne told Christianity Today.

Year’s most popular Bible verse focused on worry—again
The Bible app YouVersion announced its most shared, highlighted, and bookmarked verse of 2019 is Philippians 4:6. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (NLT). It marks the third consecutive year that worry was the theme of the year’s most popular passage.

Sources: Christianity Today, USA Today, CNN

Survey says conservatism is group’s top defining characteristic
New research from Barna found only 30% of Americans have a positive opinion of evangelicals, while 25% have a negative perception and 46% are neutral. When Barna asked respondents to identify adjectives that describe the evangelical community, the most commonly selected terms were “religiously conservative” and “politically conservative.” Those terms topped positive descriptors like caring, hopeful, and friendly, but also edged out adjectives like narrow-minded, homophobic, and puritanical.

Scripture on the campaign trail
Eight of the top 12 Democratic candidates for president have quoted the Bible while campaigning, Christianity Today reports, employing Scripture in their discussion of economic reform, welfare policy, and LGBT rights. The New International Version and New Revised Standard Version are the most quoted translations, but passages from the King James Version and New Living Translation also have been referenced in candidates’ talking points.

Jury sides with Planned Parenthood in undercover video case
Planned Parenthood was awarded $2.28 million Nov. 15 after a federal jury said pro-life investigators were guilty of fraud, trespassing, illegal recording, racketeering and breach of contract. The investigators secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing their sell of fetal body parts, Baptist Press reported. “Whatever questions some may have about the legality of the recordings,” said Ethics & Religious Liberty President Russell Moore, “we should not forget what the recordings revealed: The cruelty, dishonesty, and lawlessness of Planned Parenthood.”

Opioid crisis hits churches
Just over half of Protestant pastors in the U.S. say a member of their congregation has personally been affected by opioid abuse, according to new data from LifeWay Research. “The drug epidemic has infiltrated our churches and neighborhoods,” said Robby Gallaty, author of a new book about his past struggles with addiction. “It is not localized to a particular region or socio-economic class. Addiction is no respecter of persons.”

‘Work was his ministry,’ says Mr. Rogers’s wife
Currently portrayed in the new film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” children’s television pioneer Fred Rogers was an evangelist to the people watching from home, his wife, Joanne, told The Christian Post. “That work was his ministry. There was never a time that he ever forgot that.”

>Related: Christian movie critic Phil Boatwright calls Rogers film ‘desperately needed for our times’

Sources: Barna, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, LifeWay Research, Christian Post

Restaurant chain announces plans to suspend giving to FCA, Salvation Army
Chick-Fil-A will no longer include Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Salvation Army in its charitable giving, President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told the website Bisnow Nov. 18. The change in strategy comes as the chain has been blocked from two U.S. airports for past giving to organizations with a biblical view of sexuality and marriage.

Beginning in 2020, the Chick-fil-A Foundation will focus on giving to a smaller number of organizations dedicated to education, combating youth homelessness, and reducing hunger. Tassopoulos, the current president and COO, told Bisnow that the foundation will be open to partnering with faith-based charities in the future, but that “none of the organizations have anti-LGBT positions.”

Conservative and Christian leaders expressed disappointment over Chick-Fil-A’s decision, including Wheaton College’s Ed Stetzer, who tweeted, “Biblical orthodoxy matters—and biblical orthodoxy increasingly has a cost in #America2019.”

Pastoral candidate withdraws name amid allegations of racism
Marcus Hayes, a candidate for the pastorate of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., withdrew his name from consideration after the church narrowly voted not to call him—the result, some church leaders have said, of a campaign motivated by racial prejudice. Hayes, an African American, just failed to receive the 85% vote needed to call him as pastor.

Christianity Today reports the church’s executive pastor wrote in an open letter to the Southern Baptist Convention that there were “racial prejudices” behind the vote, and that the church had already begun “to make sure that this sinful cancer is dealt with.” First Baptist’s deacons have voted to remove from membership at least 18 people as an act of church discipline.

Letter: Patterson feared theological slide after historic election
A recently uncovered letter from former seminary president Paige Patterson reveals his doubts following the election of the Southern Baptist Convention’s first African American president. Religion News Service reports Patterson feared Fred Luter would fail to nominate future leaders of denominational boards and agencies who would continue the SBC’s conservative resurgence, a movement steered in part by Patterson.

>Related: Current Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd on diversity and inerrancy in the SBC

Evans is first African American to publish study Bible and commentary
With the release of the Tony Evans Study Bible this month, the pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas became the first African American to have both a study Bible and a full-Bible commentary with his name. Evans talked to Religion News Service about the commentary and issues of race and faith, including African presence in the Bible.

“What I want to say to African-Americans is if you see what’s really in the Bible, you can find yourself there,” he said. “You don’t have to lose yourself to believe in Jesus. In fact, much of who we are is in Jesus.”

Most Americans want religion out of politics
While a majority of Americans say churches and religious organizations do more good than harm in society, more than three-quarters say they’re losing influence in American life, according to Pew Research. And despite their positive influence, most Americans think churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters, and shouldn’t come out in favor of one candidate over another.

Sources: Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Religion News Service, Pew Research Center