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The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING |  The murder of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church prayer meeting “should shock the conscience of every person,” a group of Southern Baptist leaders said in a joint statement after the June 17 shooting.

“There is hardly a more vivid picture of unmasked evil than the murder of those in prayer,” said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; K. Marshall Williams, president of the SBC National African American Fellowship; and A.B. Vines, NAAF’s immediate past president.

Dylann Roof, 21, sat through the Wednesday evening prayer meeting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, and then opened fire in what police have called a hate crime, Baptist Press reports.

“This act of bloodshed is wicked and more than wicked,” the leaders’ statement continues. “It is literally satanic, as our Lord taught us that the devil is a ‘murderer from the beginning’ (John 8:44).”

Read the full story at BPNews.net.


InterVarsity welcome again at Cal State campuses
Christianity Today reports that after being “derecognized” on all 23 campuses of the California State University system, InterVarsity is back in business as a recognized student organization. InterVarsity’s leadership policy, which requires that leaders affirm Christian doctrines, was previously found to be in conflict with a Cal State rule that requires recognized student groups to accept all students as potential leaders.

“Cal State has not changed the language of their ‘all comers’ policy,” InterVarsity’s Greg Jao told CT. “They have clarified that the policy only requires that (a) we allow all students to become members, which we have always done, and (b) we allow all students to apply for leadership positions.”


Southern Baptist ethics entity will open office in the Middle East
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention announced last week it will open a Mideast office for international religious freedom. “We must contend for religious freedom for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for everyone else wherever they are on the globe,” ERLC President Russell Moore said at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio, according to reporting by Baptist Press. “We will not stand idly by while those with whom we will share eternity are being led to the slaughter.”


How can Christians pray for Muslims during Ramadan?
Former International Mission Board president Jerry Rankin encourages Christians to use the traditional Muslim month of fasting and prayer (which begins this Thursday) to pray for spiritual awakening among Muslims. “Rather than hardening our hearts and dismissing their lostness to the judgment of God as something they deserve,” Rankin writes for ChristianityToday.com, “we should plead for their hearts to be open to God revealing himself.”


‘Inside Out’ puts emotions on the big screen
It’s official: The latest Disney/Pixar movie is a hit (although even it couldn’t defeat the dinosaurs of “Jurassic World” at the box office). In his review of “Inside Out” for PluggedIn.com, Paul Asay writes that the team behind the PG-rated film are communicating “a message that feels truly countercultural: Happiness isn’t everything.”

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | The U.S. State Department released its International Religious Freedom Report on Monday, citing 2013 as a year when “the world witnessed the largest displacement of members of religious communities in recent memory.”

The report also listed nations where religious freedom is severely threatened and violated. Those “countries of particular concern” are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented the report, President Barack Obama announced his nominee for the country’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Rabbi David Saperstein would be the first non-Christian to hold the post, reports Christianity Today. He is director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, an attorney, and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Saperstein’s nomination requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

“Rabbi Saperstein is a respected thinker and leader who brings gravity to this important task,” said Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “He has my prayers and my pledge of full cooperation. The downgrade of religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities around the world must end.”

Other news:

Texas church ministers with blankets, BIbles, coloring books at the border
De Dorman first felt a burden for families stranded at the U.S./Mexico border when she herself was stuck in an airport for three days in June. Dorman, a member of First Baptist Church in McAllen, Texas, went back home and organized a group of volunteers from her church to help out at an immigrant processing center in their town. Part of their ministry is giving out blankets to children who aren’t used to constant air conditioning, along with bilingual Bibles and Gospel-themed coloring books. “We tell them wherever you journey, the Lord wants to go with you,” Dorman told the Southern Baptist Texan. “We do our best, as God opens the doors, to speak to them and to set resources into their hands for that long bus ride.”

Pastor preaches forgiveness after hate crime
A church in Clarksville, Tenn., has forgiven whoever burned a cross outside their building, said Pastor Vernon Hooks of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. “Whoever did it, we forgive them,” Hooks said after the cross was discovered on the grounds of his mostly African American church early on July 22. “That’s the message, that we are a forgiving church and we’ll let the police do their job.” Police have classified the incident as a hate crime and are still investigating. Read the full story from the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle.

The Bible, re-designed?
A project aimed at making the Bible more readable for more people has earned more than $1.4 million in support on the fundraising site Kickstarter.com. “Bibliotheca,” an idea from book designer Adam Lewis Greene, organizes the Bible into four volumes designed like modern books. The text is in one column, and there are no verse or chapter notations. A video on Greene’s Kickstarter page explains  the inspiration behind the project.

Barna survey measures Americans’ dietary worries
Healthier eating habits may be on trend these days, but nearly half of all Americans are worried they eat too much. And 63% say they’re concerned about not eating enough fresh produce. The new research from Barna also found 55% of Americans experience some kind of “food guilt.” Read more at Barna.org.