Archives For Rick Warren

Pre-ruling panel discussion explores impact of Hobby Lobby case and threats to religious freedom

NEWS | Meredith Flynn

Pastors Rick Warren and David Platt (center and right) joined a panel discussion in June on Hobby Lobby and religious liberty. The panel was sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission during the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore.

Pastors Rick Warren and David Platt (center and right) joined a panel discussion in June on Hobby Lobby and religious liberty. The panel was sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission during the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore.

After the Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, many Christians celebrated the decision that opens the door for “closely held” companies to refuse to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health care plans.

“A great day for Religious Liberty!” tweeted Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, with the hashtag #hobbylobby.

“This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets with joy,” wrote Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Moore presented an award to the Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby stores, during the SBC Annual Meeting in June. The Greens filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services two years ago over what has become known as the abortion-contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

“… We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate,” CEO David Green said then.

The Hobby Lobby case has brought new visibility to religious liberty issues. But Texas pastor Robert Jeffress told Fox News “the victory will be short lived.”

“…People of faith are going to increasingly come into conflict with governmental mandates that violate their personal faith,” said Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, according to a report by The Christian Post.

Imperiled religious liberty was the focus of a panel discussion in Baltimore during the Southern Baptist Convention last month. Religious freedom is a critical issue for churches, panelists said, but it’s still flying under the radar for most of them.

Moore and the ERLC hosted the conversation that include pastors Rick Warren and David Platt, and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leaders Conference. The panel focused on the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case but also veered into other questions concerning religious freedom.

The panelists’ main point was clear: All church members must be aware of issues that threaten religious liberty, standing firmly in a Gospel that compels Christians to stand up for their religious freedoms, and for that of others.

Before the Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, Moore said the verdict would be one of the most significant decisions affecting religious liberty in years. The case and several others, like the Washington florist who was sued when she declined to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, have raised awareness about religious freedom and threats to it.

But religious liberty isn’t just tied to current events or cases. It has ancient roots.

“Before religious liberty is a political issue or a social issue, religious liberty is a Gospel issue,” Moore said during the panel discussion. People come to Christ when the Word of God addresses their conscience, he explained. An uncoerced conscience.

“We don’t believe that the Gospel goes forward by majority vote,” he said. “We believe that the Gospel goes forward by the new birth, and so we need freedom in order to do that.”

Refusing to fight for religious liberty now, Moore added, will be highly detrimental to future generations. “If we shrug this off, what we’re doing is consigning future generations, and we’re consigning people’s consciences, to a tyranny that we are going to be held accountable for.”

There are also ramifications for Christians living and working in contemporary society. Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., said during the panel discussion he felt convicted about how many of his church members are aware of how their freedoms could be threatened.

People in churches “need to know it’s coming,” Platt said. “It’s going to affect every person in every profession in the church. This is not just for certain groups.”

Costly faith

One lesson from the Hobby Lobby case, Moore said, is that threats can simmer under the surface for a long time before they bubble up. “Many people assume that religious liberty violations come with shock and awe, with tanks coming in. And religious liberty violations typically happen this way, with a bureaucrat’s pen…By the time the issue gets to you, you have not even seen how it has already advanced.”

Perhaps because so many flagrant violations of religious liberty happen in other countries, the issue can seem like what Moore termed “other people’s problems.” That’s why it’s key to champion freedom not just for Americans, or Christians, the panelists said. “If it’s them today, it’s us tomorrow,” Warren said of other religious groups facing threats to their freedom.

Concerning religious liberty in America, the panelists talked about voting as one area that can breed complacency. If you preach sanctity of life and biblical marriage and religious liberty on Sunday, Rodriguez said, but then vote in a way that runs counter to those things on Tuesday, isn’t that hypocrisy? “Our vote must be a reflection of my Christian worldview belief.”

One other cause for a lack of concern, Platt said, is a lack of urgency. Many church members aren’t taking risks for the Gospel, he said. Faith doesn’t cost anything for many of us. But, he said, “When you believe in a resurrected king, you speak about him all the time, and whatever he says you do, no matter what it costs you in the culture.”

Rick_Warren“I’m kind of glad that cultural Christianity is dying. If you know anything about history…the church is never strongest when it’s in the majority. Has never been, never, ever been. It is always when it is in the salt and light mode.”

Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Ca., joined Samuel Rodriguez, David Platt and Russell Moore in a panel discussion about “Hobby Lobby and the Future of Religious Liberty.”

Noah_movie_posterTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Director Darren Aranofsky’s controversial “Noah” movie (rated PG-13) grabbed the top spot at the box office over the weekend, grossing $44 million in the U.S. and Canada and almost $100 million worldwide. Many Christians voiced objections to the movie’s content prior to its release, and the debate continued over social media as people went to the theater to see what all the fuss was about. The verdict: Christians are still divided on the film’s value.

“This is not a ‘buy up a block of tickets’ moment for churches…,” National Religious Broadcasters President Jerry Johnson blogged at before the film’s release. “Noah, the film, may be inspired by the biblical character and events – but it is not a straightforward retelling of that story. Churches who are looking for that kind of movie will not find it here.

“However, many people will go to this film and enjoy it. The main events from the Noah story are depicted in a powerful way on the big screen by name brand actors and quality production. Christians should be ready to engage moviegoers in conversation about biblical and cultural themes that are portrayed in this movie.”

Your turn: Have you seen “Noah”? What did you think? Leave us a comment below.

Other news:

Saddleback, Warrens host conference on the church and mental health
Nearly a year after their son, Matthew, committed suicide, Rick and Kay Warren invited experts in the field of mental health to a one-day conference at Saddleback Church. More than 3,300 people attended the meeting March 28, which featured workshops for people and families struggling through mental illness, as well as church leaders who want to be better equipped to handle mental health issues in their churches and communities. “We do this in honor and memory of our son and others lost to mental illness, realizing there is hope for others dealing with this condition,” Kay Warren said, according to a report by The Christian Post.

Judge makes Michigan latest state to take up same-sex marriage issue
Judge Bernard Friedman overturned Michigan’s ban on gay marriage last week, and about 300 couples were married after his decision. The ruling was stayed, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has said the state will not recognize those marriages as of now. But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the government will offer federal benefits to the married couples, mirroring the action it took in Utah earlier this year. Click here to read about action in other states and to view the updated marriage map.

Barna researches why 64% of Americans aren’t regular church attenders
Author Donald Miller sparked controversy recently with a blog about why he doesn’t attend church (he feels more connected to God through his work than through a worship service). Research from Barna indicates many people feel the same way. Of the 64% of Americans who don’t attend church regularly, 40% say they find God elsewhere, and 35% say church is not relevant to them personally. Read more, including details about church attendance for the millenial generation, at

Faith, family more important than mirror ball trophy for former ‘Full House’ star
Candace Cameron Bure, who came to fame as DJ Tanner on 90’s TV series “Full House,” is also a contestant on this season of “Dancing with the Stars.” During a recent episode, she explained the modest choices she made when planning her rumba with professional partner Mark Ballas: “My life revolves around my relationship with Jesus Christ so with the overall tone of the dance or the costumes, it’s not going to take a backseat.”

Bure told host Erin Andrews after the dance: “I want to reserve some things for my husband so I think we did the best that we could with the rumba that I still felt comfortable doing.” Read more at


calendar_blog copyThe web is bursting today with lists that highlight the year’s biggest stories, like this one compiled by the Religion Newswriters Association. The group chose the selection of Pope Francis as the top religion news story of 2013, followed by Pope Benedict’s resignation as #2.

Also on the list: The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (#3), the death of Nelson Mandela (#6), and controversial action taken by the Boy Scouts of America (#9). Rounding out the top 10: Muslims and other people of faith react to the Boston Marathon bombings.

And check out these lists:


  • The staff of the Illinois Baptist has published our list of the year’s biggest stories, led by the debate over same-sex marriage in Illinois. For the full list, go to, click on Archives and search for December 16.
  • The Christian Post introduced its list of most-read stories with a sad disclaimer: “A year of heartbreaking personal tragedies suffered by Christian leaders appeared all too often as the main news at The Christian Post and the Church & Ministry section in 2013.” The website’s most read story was about the suicide of Matthew Warren, son of Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren.



What are your favorite year-end lists so far? What stories and trends would you add to these?

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Ronnie SmithAn American killed in Libya Dec. 5 once served on staff at a Southern Baptist church, Baptist Press reports. Ronnie Smith, who was shot while on a morning run in Benghazi, worked from 2009 to 2011 as director of equipping and resources at The Austin Stone Community Church, affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Smith, 33, moved to Libya 18 months ago with his wife, Anita, and their young son to teach high school chemistry at the International School Benghazi. It’s still unknown why Smith was killed and who is responsible.

“Ronnie was a brother in Christ and a faithful servant of this church for many years,” reads a statement on Austin Stone’s website. “Although we grieve because we have lost a friend, a husband, and a father, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has a greater purpose than we can imagine right now.”

Go to for more information, or to order a copy of Smith’s book “The History of Redemption.” Proceeds will support his family.

Warren stands firm on marriage
Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren told CNN’s Piers Morgan that he doesn’t see a day in the future when he will espouse same-sex marriage.

“I fear the disapproval of God more than I fear your disapproval or the disapproval of society,” Warren said in front of a studio audience, a few of whom applauded.

The pastor of Saddleback Church also talked about tolerance in the Dec. 6 interview, saying the word “used to mean we treat each other with mutual respect even if we have major disagreements.

“Today, tolerance has been changed to mean all ideas are equally valid. Well, that’s nonsense.”

Morgan told Warren they would keep talking about the topic for years to come and, “eventually, I’ll beat you down,” the host said with a smile.

Warren laughed and replied, “Oh, ye of little faith.”

Watch the video at

Satanists want capitol statue
An ongoing dispute over a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma state capitol got a new wrinkle this month, when a group called the Temple of Satan lobbied to get their own statue. “We feel like the Satanic Temple has a very strong argument to say that, if the state allows one religious monument, you have to allow others,” Brady Henderson of the American Civil Liberty Union told CNN. The ACLU currently is fighting for the removal of the Ten Commandments monument approved by Oklahoma lawmakers in 2009. Read more on CNN’s Belief blog.

Rice to keynote Judson forum
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will speak at Judson University’s 2014 World Leaders Forum. The event March 19 is the fourth in a series that has featured George W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev and Tony Blair. Read more at

One in five Americans reported experiencing a mental illness in a single year; one in 10 takes an antidepressant.

One in five Americans reported experiencing a mental illness in a single year; one in 10 takes an antidepressant.

“…The day that I’d prayed would never happen, happened.”

In an interview last month with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Rick Warren recalled standing with his wife, Kay, in their son’s driveway in April, waiting for police to confirm their worst fears – Matthew, 27, had committed suicide after a long struggle with mental illness.

“We were sobbing. We were just sobbing,” Warren said.

The interview was the Warrens’ first since their son’s death, but the couple has been vocal on social media and from Saddleback’s pulpit about Matthew’s life and their grief. They’re also speaking out about the long-held stigma against mental illness in the church.

“It’s amazing to me that any other organ in your body can break down and there’s no shame and stigma to it,” Warren said in his first sermon back at Saddleback after a leave of absence. “But if your brain breaks down, you’re supposed to keep it a secret. …If your brain doesn’t work right, why should you be ashamed of that?”

Following Matthew Warren’s death, his parents created a fund in his name, in part to help develop resources for churches to use as they reach out to struggling families in the community and in the congregation.

There are many people in churches suffering from mental health issues, says Hal Trovillion, a former counselor and current pastor of First Baptist Church in Manteno, Ill. “The thing is that those people tend to feel as though others look at them badly, because of whatever their situation,” he says.

“The church needs to just turn that around. What many of them need is simply love and acceptance and a welcoming heart and help to deal with the issues at hand.”

Read the full cover story from latest issue of the Illinois Baptist and access the e-reader edition here.

Wife of Amish schoolhouse shooter shares hope in new book

Marie Monville’s quiet life crumbled violently in 2006, when her husband shot 10 young girls in an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Her new book, “One Light Still Shines,” tells her story since that day, with a focus on how God sustained her family.

“Within the eye of the storm, the presence of God came and settled upon me,” Monville writes on her blog, “Although I ‘knew’ God all my life, this moment of desperation propelled me to now KNOW him like never before.”

“One Light Still Shines” was released Monday, September 30, by Zondervan. Read more about on CNN’s Belief blog.

Missionary family trapped in Kenyan mall during terrorist attack

When terrorists seized a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 21, a Southern Baptist missionary couple and their five children were inside. Baptist Press reports International Mission Board missionaries Chris and Jamie Suel and their kids had walked into Westgate Shopping Mall shortly before the terrorists. The Suels separated to shop before the attack began, and were reunited after five harrowing hours. The seige lasted three days and resulted in as many as 200 deaths. Read more at

Jewish prayer book believed to be oldest ever found

The Green Collection, a biblical archive headed by Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, has identified what their scholars say is likely “the oldest Jewish prayer book ever found.” The manuscript is dated circa 840 C.E. and is in its original binding, the Green Collection reported in a press release. The prayer book will eventually be displayed at a Bible museum in Washington, D.C., scheduled to open in 2017. Read more at


Are you religious, spiritual or secular? College students weigh in

A new study found college students are pretty evenly divided on how they describe themselves spiritually, reports. The email survey was conducted by the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College (Hartford, Conn.), whose researchers asked: “In general, would you describe yourself more as a religious, spiritual or secular person?” 32.4% answered “spiritual;” 31.8% said “religious;” and 28.2% identified themselves as “secular.”

The research is based on the responses of 1,873 students representing 27 states and 38 colleges. Read the full story at

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

A majority of Americans don’t want to be centenarians (plus 20 years), but they think their neighbors might, according to a new study by Pew Research. The survey of 2,012 American adults found 56% of them said they wouldn’t choose to undergo medical treatments in order to live to 120. But 68% expected most people would.

According to the survey, 69% of people place their ideal life span in the 79-100 range.

Pew also asked leaders from a variety of religious groups about their views on radical life extension. Jeffrey Riley, a professor at the Southern Baptist seminary in New Orleans, said evangelicals’ acceptance of life-extending technology and methods would depend on how those strategies are framed.

“If this was being advertised as never dying, I think a lot of people and the leadership of my church would be opposed,” Riley said in an article on Pew’s website. “However, if this was incremental and was seen as a way for people to continue flourishing, my church would more readily accept it.”

To read more about religious leaders’ responses and the study itself, go to

Other news:

Judge orders new name for baby “Messiah”
A judge in Tennessee has ordered the parents of 7-month-old Messiah DeShawn Martin to change his first name because, “The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.”

According to, Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew first met the parents when they appeared in her courtroom to argue over the child’s last name. Judge Ballew helped settle that dispute, but may find herself in the middle of another, as the baby’s mother plans to appeal her ruling. Christian Post reports more than 700 babies were named Messiah last year in the U.S., making it the 387th most popular baby name.

Read the full story at

Warren returns to pulpit after son’s death
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Ca., stood in his church’s pulpit July 27 for the first time in 16 weeks. Warren, the author of the bestseller “The Purpose Drive Life,” took a leave of absence after his son, Matthew, committed suicide in April following a long struggle with mental illness.

Warren received a standing ovation that Saturday evening, and thanked Saddleback staff, members, his family and local pastors who supported him. Then, with comments from his wife, Kay, he shared the first message in a series titled, “How to Get Through What You’re Going Through.”

Read writer John Evans’ full story on

Carmen Halsey to lead IBSA mobilization, WMU
Carmen Halsey will serve as the Illinois Baptist State Association’s new director of Missions Mobilization beginning this month. As part of the role, she also will give IBSA staff leadership to Illinois Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), and serve on the national WMU board along with Illinois WMU President Gail Miller.

Read more in the new issue of the Illinois Baptist, online now at