Archives For Politics

Pastor’s death by suicide renews calls for help for hurting leaders
California pastor Jarrid Wilson died by suicide Sept. 9 after preaching that day at the funeral of a woman who had taken her own life. Wilson was an advocate for mental health and had encouraged the Church to care for people who are struggling. The news of his death started numerous conversations about the depression and isolation often connected to church leadership.

“Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people,” wrote Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship where Wilson served as associate pastor. “We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not.”

Related: Depression often goes unshared in isolating vocation

Liberty students protest after Falwell aides speak out
A recent Politico story on Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. resulted in a protest attended by around 200 students Sept. 13. Around 60 of those were there to demand an investigation of the president, Religion News Service reported. Falwell’s leadership and management of the Virginia university founded by his father were called into question by the Politico article, which relied on information from several current and former staffers.

Duke rejects ministry over policy on sexuality
Young Life was denied official status as a student organization on campus at Duke University after the student senate unanimously rejected the ministry for its policy on LGBTQ volunteers and staff. “We do not in any way wish to exclude persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of ministry of God’s grace and mercy as expressed in Jesus Christ,” Young Life’s policy states. “We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.”

California lawmakers call on pastors to change treatment of LGBTQ people
The California Legislature passed a non-binding resolution Sept. 4 blaming religious groups and others for “disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBTQ and questioning individuals.” The resolution calls religious leaders to “counsel on LGBTQ matters from a place of love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy.”

Wednesday night is still a church night for most
An overwhelming majority of Protestant pastors say their churches host some type of activity on Wednesday evening, with adult small group Bible study and gatherings for youth and kids atop the list. “Church leaders frequently discuss the difficulty of getting people to participate in church activities multiple days each week,” said Scott McConnell of LifeWay Research. “Yet the vast majority of churches are still open and active on Wednesday nights.”

Sources: Christianity Today, USA Today, Illinois Baptist, Religion News Service, Christian Post, LifeWay Research

Tug-of-war intensifies over freedom of conviction
Both the Democratic Party and superstar Taylor Swift spoke out last week against “religious liberty,” or at least how it’s generally defined by Christians and conservative voters. First, the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution Aug. 24 acknowledging that religiously unaffiliated people “overwhelmingly share the Democratic Party’s values.” The resolution also takes aim at “misplaced claims of ‘religious liberty’” used to “justify public policy that has threatened the civil rights and liberties of many Americans.”

Swift echoed the resolution’s message during her acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards, where her LGBTQ rights-themed song “You Need to Calm Down” won video of the year. (The video includes performers connected to LGBTQ causes, as well as a small group of protestors holding misspelled signs opposing LGBTQ rights.)

“You voting for this video means that you want a world where we’re all treated equally under the law, regardless of who we love, regardless of how we identify,” Swift told viewers, also urging them to sign her online petition in support of the Equality Act, which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of classes protected under federal civil rights law. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act in May, but the measure hasn’t been approved by the Republican-majority Senate.

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the cases of three employees who claim they were discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief stating non-discrimination protections in federal workplace law do not cover orientation or identity.

Disaster Relief volunteers brace for Dorian response
On Monday, news reports detailed Hurricane Dorian’s devastation in the Bahamas, while Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders in Florida stood ready to respond to needs in the storm’s aftermath.

Baptist church mourns father killed in Texas mass shooting
Joseph Griffith, 40, was one of seven people killed in Texas’ Permian Basin Aug. 31 when a gunman began shooting at random following a traffic stop. Griffith, a father of two, attended First Baptist Church in Odessa with his family. “We all feel a sense of being violated,” Pastor Byron McWilliams said during the church’s worship service the next day. “Every single one of us does because all of a sudden what we hear about from far, far away has come close to home.”

Village Church answers sexual abuse lawsuit
A Southern Baptist church in Texas said it is not liable for damages suffered by a woman who alleges she was sexually abused in 2012 at a camp sponsored by the church. A $1 million lawsuit claims The Village Church acted with “conscious indifference or reckless disregard” for a woman referred to as Jane Doe. In a response filed Aug. 23, the church “generally denies each and every allegation in Plaintiff’s Original Petition and demands strict proof by a preponderance of the credible evidence.”

Students face doubts, questions at evangelical colleges
A new study finds students at evangelical colleges and universities are more likely to feel spiritually unsettled, unsure, or disillusioned than their counterparts at secular schools and mainline institutions. Many school administrators are aware of the dynamics, Christianity Today reports, and working to help students through the struggle.

Sources: Christian Post, Baptist Press, Odessa American, Christianity Today

Fired deputy sues employer over ‘Billy Graham Rule’
Former North Carolina sherriff’s deputy Manuel Torres claims the Lee County Sherriff’s Office terminated his employment in 2017, after he declined to significant periods of time alone with a female coworker. Torres is suing his former employer in one of several cases that pits religious freedom against “non-discrimination norms,” law professor Howard Friedman told Christianity Today.

“This is a public official who is invoking religious free exercise to avoid carrying out a part of his employment duties,” Friedman said. He compared the case to that of Kim Davis, the former Kentucky court clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Davis can still be sued for her actions in 2015, even though she lost her reelection bid last year.

Legal victory for videographers, while printer’s case pending in Kentucky
Carl and Angel Larsen are seeking an injunction against a Minnesota statute that officials say would require them to film same-sex wedding ceremonies, despite their religious convictions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of the Larsens and their company Aug. 23, overturning a lower court ruling against them and sending their request for an injunction against the Minnesota Human Rights Act back to the district court level, The Christian Post reports.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Blaine Adamson, a print shop owner who refused to print T-shirts for Lexington’s 2012 Pride Festival.

Chronicle continues coverage of sexual abuse in the SBC
While former Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson faces a lawsuit alleging he mishandled accusations of sexual assault at the seminary, the Houston Chronicle has released a new report outlining Patterson’s mentorship of Darrell Gilyard, who pastored and preached in SBC churches in the late 1980s and early 90s and was viewed as a rising star in the denomination. Gilyard was convicted of sex crimes in 2008.

Related: Abuse survivor Susan Codone shared her story in an Aug. 26 letter to the The Washington Post. Codone will be part of October’s Caring Well conference sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Sutherland Springs pastor to run for state office
Pastor Frank Pomeroy will seek election to the Texas legislature in 2020. The pastor of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs lost his daughter Nov. 5, 2017, in the state’s deadliest mass shooting. “I felt like something needed to be brought to the conversation, like civility and real intelligent discourse,” Pomeroy said, according to Associated Press. The outlet also reported: “Pomeroy said that owning guns is not the problem that has led to mass shootings and the focus should be on issues such as mental illness.”

Sources: Christianity Today, The Christian Post, Baptist Press, Houston Chronicle, Washington Post, Associated Press

Christian rocker calls leaders to value truth over feeling
In a post that has since been shared nearly 40,000 times, John Cooper, frontman for Christian rock band Skillet, responded to Christian leaders who have announced they’re walking away from the faith. Author Joshua Harris and Hillsong writer Marty Sampson both made public statements recently, with Harris saying outright “I am no longer a Christian.”

Cooper, who founded the band in 1996, also called Christians—those who lead worship and those who are led in it—to a higher standard than what is relevant or trendy in the moment. Rather than lift up current influencers as ultimate truth-tellers, he posted, rely on the Word of God.  “…we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20-year-old worship singers as our source of truth,” Cooper said. “We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word.”

>Related: Russell Moore on what to do when someone you admire abandons the faith

>Related: The roles endurance and environment play in a Christian’s ability to press on

Illinois parents weigh options ahead of 2020 curriculum change
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature on a bill that will require LGBT history in public schools has sent some Christian parents looking for education alternatives, while others are resolved to keep their kids in the school system.

“We are very aware that times are changing and more liberal views are entering the classroom,” said one Springfield mother of three. “We feel that the changes that are happening in the classroom and throughout the world right now are opportunities to share Christ and his message.”

Methodists mull denominational split
Religion News Service reports a group of conservative United Methodists met this summer to discuss how the denomination can go forward amid growing divisions over its policies toward the LGBTQ community and same-sex marriage. One plan under consideration would keep the UMC denomination as a centrist/liberal organization, while creating a new entity for traditionalists.

In February, delegates to the denomination’s General Conference voted narrowly not to lift bans on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage.

MacDonald indicates return to ministry
James MacDonald, former pastor of Chicagoland’s Harvest Bible Chapel, posted online last week that he’ll “be back soon with fresh messages from God’s Word.” MacDonald was fired in February amid charges of financial mismanagement and poor leadership.

Trade war won’t affect Bibles
Bibles and other religious literature were initially on a list of items that would be subject to a 10% tax hike on goods imported from China, Baptist Press reported. But Christian leaders were relieved last week when the U.S. Trade Ambassador indicated a “Bible tax” will be avoided.

Sources: Facebook, Christian Post, RussellMoore.com, Christianity Today, Illinois Baptist, Religion News Service, USA Today, Baptist Press

Report: State loses 313 people every day
Capitol news site The Center Square reported last week that Census data shows Illinois lost 114,000 people to other states between July 2017 and July 2018, for an average of 313 a day. About 40 of those move north to Wisconsin. “The state’s outmigration crisis is due to primarily working-age residents between the ages of 25 and 54 looking for work elsewhere,” the news outlet reported.

After Title X changes, Pritzker pledges to fund abortions with state money
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced last week the state will turn down $2.4 million in federal funding because of a new policy that restricts clinics that receive the funding from making abortion referrals. Instead, the Illinois Department of Public Health will provide the funding, Pritzker tweeted July 18.

House chaplain casts out ‘spirits of darkness’
Two days after members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to condemn as racist President Donald Trump’s tweets against four Congresswomen, Rev. Patrick Conroy prayed God would “anoint your servants here in the House with a healing balm to comfort and renew the souls of all in this assembly.” The House chaplain continued, “May your spirit of wisdom and patience descend upon all so that any spirit of darkness might have no place in our midst.”

Conroy later said what he witnessed during the contentious vote inspired his prayer, CNN reported. “It felt like there was something going on beyond just political disagreement. The energy of the House was very off.”

Baptist university urged to clarify faith statement
A committee charged with assessing theology at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., reported this month that the school hasn’t clearly implemented its statement of faith, Baptist Press reported. SBU President Eric Turner said his school is “currently working to clarify, boldly articulate and implement our Statement of Faith that will further align and strengthen our Baptist identity and Christian faith.”

The theology review at the university, which is affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention, followed the firing of a professor who had expressed concern over some faculty members’ theological views.

Americans believe hate speech has increased
A new study by Barna found 70% of U.S. adults say hate speech and hate crime has increased over the last five years, and many blame politicians and social media.

Sources: The Center Square, WLS-TV, Baptist Press, Twitter, CNN, The Christian Post, Barna

Political leaders say current division isn’t as bad as what country has overcome
Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias convened leaders in government, education, media, and business in Washington for a forum aimed at bringing people together. “At the Table,” a new project from Zacharias’s ministry, launched July 10 with a panel discussion that challenged the idea that current divisions are the worst the country has ever seen.

“I’m startled many times when I hear news people pontificating about how terrible things are,” said U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black. “And I’m [wondering], ‘Is this an alternative universe that I’m looking at?’ Because I know what bad looks like and this is not as bad as it’s been.”

Joni shares cancer-free news
Author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada shared a positive report after being diagnosed with breast cancer a second time last year. “For now, we have been spared of more cancer battles,” said Tada, best known for ministering in the disability community. “We humbly realize that may well change in the future; but for today, for now, we are rejoicing in those wonderful words from my medical oncologist: ‘all clear!’ Onward and upward…”

Christian bookseller changes logo to avoid cannabis confusion
Christian Book Distributors, online at ChristianBook.com, will drop the initials “CBD” from its logo, Christianity Today reports. CBD is commonly used to refer to cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana and used increasingly to treat a variety of ailments.

The cost of closing on Sunday
Chick-Fil-A may lose more than $1 billion in annual revenue by its company-wide policy of closing on Sunday, 24/7 Wall Street reports. The chicken chain has been closed on Sundays since founder Truett Cathy opened his first restaurant in 1946. “It’s not about being closed,” Chick-Fil-A says on its website. “It’s about how we use that time.”

Baptists aid border ministry
The Catholic Church has traditionally dominated border outreach in Texas, Religion News Service reports, but Baptists and other evangelicals are stepping up their efforts to help migrants from Central America.

Christian Post (2), Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Christianity Today, 24/7 Wall Street, Chick-Fil-A, Religion News Service

Only about a third read the Word daily, according to a new survey by Lifeway Research.

Former IMB missionary pleads guilty to assault
Mark Aderholt, a former missionary with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and staff member of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, pleaded guilty July 2 in a plea deal related to the sexual assault of a minor two decades ago. Aderholt’s case was one of several allegations of sexual abuse uncovered in Southern Baptist life prior to February’s extensive report in the Houston Chronicle.

Meeting in Birmingham in June, the SBC condemned sexual abuse and previous lack of care for survivors.

Restriction on wedding officiants blocked by judge—for now
A new law in Tennessee that forbids people ordained online from performing wedding ceremonies was challenged July 3 by a judge who questioned its constitutionality. Federal Judge Waverly Crenshaw said the state’s law, which was set to go into effect July 1, has “serious constitutional issues” and should be considered at a trial before the end of 2019. For now, wedding officiants ordained online can continue to help couples say “I do” in Tennessee.

Liberty professors’ new book presents perspectives on 9 contemporary issues
A book released today presents differing views on topics ranging from sexuality and gender roles to politics and war. “Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues” was edited by Karen Swallow Prior and Joshua Chatraw, both professors at evangelical Liberty University. Prior spoke to The Christian Post about why it was important to present varying viewpoints (all by people who profess to be Christians), and which of the essays she disagrees with.

Christians weigh in on slavery’s ongoing impact
Barna found half of practicing Christians say the effects of slavery continue to be felt today. That’s slightly higher than the percentage of all U.S. adults—46%—who agree.

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

Evangelicals divided on border fix
The recent response of Christian leaders to the situation at the U.S./Mexico border points to significant divides on the immigration issue.

Following media reports of harrowing conditions at a Texas border station, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted, “The reports of the conditions for migrant children at the border should shock all of our consciences. Those created in the image of God should be treated with dignity and compassion, especially those seeking refuge from violence back home. We can do better than this.”

Others, including Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Texas pastor Jack Graham, took issue with Moore’s tweet. Graham defended the work of border agents and churches ministering at the border and invited Moore to visit the border with him. He also added, “Just to clarify…reasonable people know we have a humanitarian crisis at/border but to suggest that immigrants are not treated with dignity & respect is wrong & plays to secular press who blame America for the problem. We r all very concerned and many of us are trying to help.”

‘We could no longer look away’
Southern Baptist pastor Alan Cross reflects on how a graphic photo of a father and daughter who drowned while trying to cross from Mexico into Texas “jolted the nation awake.” Editor’s note: Link includes disturbing images.

‘Every effort at reform has been overridden or ignored’
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson describes horrifying conditions at the border and blames Democrat lawmakers for impeding President Trump’s efforts to improve the situation. “The border could be fixed, but there are very few in authority who seem to care,” Dobson said.

‘Like we have never seen before’
Speaking to a group of conservative Christian activists, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed the reality of a crisis at the border but advocated different policies than those espoused by Democratic candidates for president. “Those who would advocate open borders, free health care for illegal immigrants and making illegal immigration legal are making it easier for human traffickers to mistreat poor and vulnerable families,” Pence said.

‘We want to look away. But let’s not.’
Five Christian leaders, including author and Texas pastor Max Lucado, lament the conditions at the border and the suffering of children and families.

Sources: Associated Press, Christian Post, Religion News Service, Christianity Today

Mandrell to be voted on June 28 as next president of Southern Baptist publisher
Ben Mandrell, a native of Tampico, Ill., preached an emotional message at his Colorado church June 23–two days after his nomination to lead LifeWay Christian Resources was announced. Mandrell, 42, is a native of Tampico, Ill.

“All through Scripture, we learn that God is a calling God,” Mandrell (pictured above with his family) said in his sermon. “He dials our number and we have to answer. We have to take his calls.” When considering the decision to leave his church and relocate his family to Nashville, Mandrell said he had “a wrestling match with God like I have never experienced before.”

High court keeps cross
A memorial to World War I soldiers can stay standing in Bladensburg, Md., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 20. The American Humanist Association asked that the cross be removed in 2012, sparking a legal battle that has bounced around the courts since then.

>Related: Christian Post writer Curtis Schube says the Supreme Court’s reasoning behind its ruling won’t necessarily protect other religious monuments.

How one ‘heartbeat bill’ sparked a national trend
The series of abortion restrictions passed in several states this year is the result of a years-long push based on a fetal heartbeat bill authored in Ohio years ago, according to analysis by USA Today. The paper’s analysis of so-called “copycat” legislation—when a bill is copied and modified for its new context—found the Ohio bill was proposed 26 times until similar legislation passed in multiple states this year.

Refugee crisis grows as U.S. welcomes fewer people
A record number of people were displaced around the world last year, while the U.S. continued to receive far fewer refugees from “countries of concern” identified by the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.

Americans critical of current state of political debate
People in the U.S. overwhelmingly say public discourse in the country has become more negative and less respectful over the past several years. And 78% say elected officials using heated or aggressive language to talk about certain people or groups makes violence against those groups more likely.

Sources: Baptist Press, Storyline Fellowship, Christian Post, USA Today, Christianity Today, Pew Research

Ahead of Birmingham meeting, Executive Committee may also reword proposed amendment
The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee will meet prior to the denomination’s annual meeting this month to consider new measures to combat sexual abuse. One potential option: A standing committee to assess claims of church misconduct brought at annual meetings and at other times during the year for alleged departures from Southern Baptist polity, doctrine, or practice.

“Over the last year,” SBC President J.D. Greear told Baptist Press, “it has become clear the SBC needs a clearer process for responding to abuse, as well as qualified individuals speaking into the process who ensure that we are a convention of churches who adhere to the legal standards of reporting abuse.

“This standing credentials committee is an important step in that direction.”

Trump makes impromptu visit to Virginia church
President Donald Trump was prayed for by Pastor David Platt Sunday during a surprise visit to McLean Bible Church. The visit coincided with evangelist Franklin Graham’s call to pray for the President on Sunday, June 2. After criticism, Platt shed light on the President’s visit and the prayer in a letter to his congregation.

Illinois lawmakers approve expanded abortion, legal pot, and sports betting
Over the last few days of their spring session, the Illinois legislature moved forward on several high-profile issues of concern to conservative and Christian voters, including the Reproductive Health Acts, which pro-life advocates have called one of the nation’s most extreme abortion laws.

More state leaders sign laws to restrict abortion
Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed legislation last week to ban abortion early in pregnancy, joining five other states who approved similar laws this year.

Millennial non-Christians show more spiritual curiosity than older adults
Barna reports that young non-Christians have more conversations about faith than do older non-believers, and they are more interested in learning what Christianity could mean for their lives.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, McLean Bible Church, Illinois Baptist, Barna Research