Archives For sexual abuse

Comedian cancels tour after harassment allegations
Netflix has postponed a special by Christian comedian John Crist in the aftermath of accusations of sexual harassment and manipulation by several women. Crist, who canceled his upcoming tour dates, responded to the allegations published by Charisma magazine. “While I am not guilty of everything I’ve been accused of, I confess to being guilty of this—I have treated relationships with women far too casually, in some cases even recklessly. My behavior has been destructive and sinful.”

Former Illinois pastor on administrative leave following accusations of pastoral abuse
A Tennessee church is no longer considering Wes Feltner for its senior pastor role, after the former pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur, Ill., was accused of pastoral abuse by two women who were students in his former youth ministry in Indiana.

Feltner is taking an administrative leave from a church he pastors in Minnesota, Baptist Press reports.

>Related: Longtime Chicago pastor resigns; sexual abuse prior to ministry among reasons

GLAAD pushes for more LGBTQ representation on TV
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) called on the television industry to ensure that 20% of series regular characters on primetime scripted series are LGBTQ by the year 2025. GLAAD cited an online survey indicating that one-fifth of Americans ages 18-34 identify as LGBT or other non-heterosexual, non-biological gender categories, The Christian Post reported. However, 2017 polling data by Gallup found about 8% of Millennials identify as LGBT.

Christian clinics to offer contraceptives to singles
A network of Christian women’s health centers in Texas will begin providing contraceptives to single women, according to the network’s Southern Baptist CEO.

“We have all come to the conclusion that the decision that is most in line with ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ is to give women a tool, education, and counseling that will help reduce unplanned pregnancies, therefore reduce abortions,” said Andy Schoonover, CEO of a group of clinics known as The Source. The clinics will offer contraceptive measures to married and single women, Baptist Press reports, but not abortifacients or abortions.

Sources: Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Illinois Baptist, Christian Post

17% of Americans describe their religion as ‘nothing in particular’
Pew Forum reports a majority of Americans still call themselves Christians, but the number has decreased 12 percentage points over the last decade. And while the number of both Protestants and Catholics decreased, those unaffiliated with a religion grew as a share of the population—up from 12% in 2009 to 17% now.

Pew also reported worship attendance is down. The number of Americans who attend religious services at least twice a month fell 7 percentage points over the last decade, while the number who say they attend less often rose by the same amount.

Metro East abortion clinic opening met with protests
Pro-life advocates held signs, prayed, and sang “Amazing Grace” during an Oct. 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Planned Parenthood facility in Fairview Heights, Ill. The clinic expects to serve as many as 11,000 clients a year and could serve as a regional center for abortion, as neighboring states tighten restrictions on abortion.

Liberty professor to join Baptist seminary faculty
Karen Swallow Prior will move from Liberty University to Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., next fall. The author and English professor, who has also been an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, will become Southeastern’s research professor of English and Christianity & Culture. Southeastern President Danny Akin called Prior “a gifted teacher in the field of English and literature who loves Christ, the gospel and the Great Commission.”

Sheriff posts signs to protect kids on Halloween
Georgia sheriff Gary Long went to court Oct. 24 to defend his decision to post signs outside the homes of sex offenders warning potential trick-or-treaters not to approach. Long posted the signs last Halloween, and is trying to do so again this year, amid a legal challenge from three registered sex offenders. “Regardless of the Judge’s ruling this Thursday,” Long posted on Facebook, “I WILL do everything within the letter of the law to protect the children of this community.”

Barna: Screen time far outpaces spiritual content
A typical 15- to 23-year-old spends 153 hours a year taking in spiritual content, Barna reports, and the number rises to 291 hours for churchgoers. But both figures are dwarfed by the amount of time young people spend using screen media—2,767 hours a year, or about 7.5 a day. The numbers have ramifications for pastors, parents, and young people, said Barna president David Kinnaman.

“If we want to follow Jesus with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, all of us in modern exile must consider the total input and output of our faith,” Kinnaman said. The input can’t simply be a few hundred hours of passive church attendance in a year.”

Sources: Pew Forum, Illinois Baptist, The New York Times, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Barna Research

John MacArthur tells Beth Moore to ‘go home’
At an event celebrating his 50 years in ministry, California pastor John MacArthur jabbed at Bible teacher Beth Moore and others, igniting a Twitter firestorm and continuing the debate on gender roles in church leadership. “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion,” MacArthur said during a word association game in which he was asked to respond to the phrase “Beth Moore.” MacArthur’s first response was also two words: “Go home.”

Many Christian leaders came to Moore’s defense on Twitter, while others expressed support for MacArthur’s position. Moore appeared to respond with a pair of tweets Oct. 21. “Here’s the beautiful thing about it & I mean this with absolute respect,” she wrote. “You don’t have to let me serve you. That gets to be your choice. Whether or not I serve Jesus is not up to you. Whether I serve you certainly is. One way or the other, I esteem you as my sibling in Christ.”

Mohler: Complementarianism ‘can and has’ led to abuse
Southern Seminary President Al Mohler acknowledged in a chapel address that complementarian theology—the view that men and women have different but complementary roles in church and family life—can lead to abuse of women and girls, and has done so at times. “Sinful men will use anything in vanity and in anger, in sin of every form,” Mohler said Oct. 15. “Sinful men will distort anything and will take advantage of any argument that seems to their advantage, even to the abuse of women.”

  • Related: Southern Baptist church leaders met this month in Dallas for the Caring Well Conference, an event designed to train churches to prevent sexual abuse and care well for survivors.

California requires state schools to provide medical abortions to students
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Oct. 11 that will require the 34 schools in the University of California and California State University systems to provide access to prescription pills that induce miscarriage within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, the Los Angeles Times reported. The cost of the new initiative is likely to exceed what has been raised through private donations, WORLD magazine reported, meaning taxpayers and students could underwrite the remaining costs.

Lon Allison remembered for commitment to evangelism
Pastor Lon Allison, former executive director of Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center, died Oct. 20 after a nearly 2-year battle with cancer. Allison also served as teaching pastor at Wheaton Bible Church. “Lon reflected God’s (and Mr. Graham’s) heart for our world,” wrote current Graham Center Executive Director Ed Stetzer, “and continually reminded all of us that we too are part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world.”

Young adults are connected, but still seeking meaningful relationships
A survey of 18—35-year-olds around the world found young adults feel connected to global events, but are less sure that the people around them care for and believe in them. Barna’s survey found only 33% of young adults often feel deeply cared for by those around them, and 23% sometimes feel lonely or isolated. The numbers are slightly more encouraging for young adults who belong to a religious tradition.

Sources: Religion News Service, Twitter, Christian Post, Illinois Baptist, Los Angeles Times, WORLD, Christianity Today, Barna

Opponents say Planned Parenthood facility is more about money than women
Planned Parenthood (PP) expects to open a large clinic this month in Metro East Illinois that will serve 11,000 patients a year. A Planned Parenthood press release called the new Fairview Heights clinic a “regional haven for abortion access,” as Illinois’ neighbor states have enacted stricter abortion laws.

The new clinic is 13 miles from St. Louis, where Missouri officials have threatened to close the state’s last remaining abortion provider for violations of state code.

‘Caring Well’ conference urges better measures for abuse prevention
“How and where you and I exercise our power, particularly with vulnerable human beings, shines a light on who we are.” Dr. Diane Langberg, a Christian psychologist and trauma expert, was one of dozens of voices at the “Caring Well” conference, a three-day meeting of Southern Baptists designed to help churches navigate the sexual abuse crisis. Langberg and fellow speakers urged churches and ministries toward more effective prevention measures and better care for abuse survivors. Read Meredith Flynn’s reports from Dallas.

Tennessee governor plans statewide day of prayer and fasting
Gov. Bill Lee, who was elected last November, introduced the Oct. 10 day of prayer as an opportunity “to offer prayers of healing, prayers for forgiveness, prayers of thanksgiving, and prayers of hope for our state and for the 6.7 million who call Tennessee home.”

Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, told Baptist Press he gladly joins Lee in the statewide effort. “One thing is crystal clear: politics will not heal us, and government will not fix us,” Floyd said. “We need a massive prayer movement that will lead us back to God and bring healing to our land.”

President Trump says Christians are ‘electrified’ in his defense
As campaigning heats up ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Christians are revisiting the differences that divided them in 2016. “I got a call the other night from pastors, the biggest pastors, evangelical Christians. They said that they have never seen our religion or any religion so electrified,” President Donald Trump said Oct. 3, referencing their defense of him against his political rivals and the media. Some evangelical leaders affirmed their support of the president, while others called for distance between faith and politics.

InterVarsity reinstated on Iowa campus
A federal judge ruled in September that InterVarsity Christian Fellowship can remain on campus at the University of Iowa, even if the ministry requires leaders to sign its statement of faith. Judge Stephanie M. Rose also said campus officials will have to pay any damages awarded to InterVarsity at a trial currently set for January.

Sources: Illinois Baptist, USA Today, Baptist Press, Associated Press, Christian Post, Christianity Today

Relief agencies respond to urgent needs after storm
Hundreds of people are still missing in the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which did massive damage in the island nation as it crawled toward the U.S. coast. At least 44 people died in the storm, local officials have said. Samaritan’s Purse is among the ministry organizations on the scene, assisting with medical care, emergency shelters, and water filtration, The Christian Post reports.

Baptist Global Response also is coordinating aid in the Bahamas, supplying food, blankets, and hygiene kits to families in need.

Newspaper reports on Baptist church autonomy
The Houston Chronicle continues its coverage of Southern Baptist response to sexual abuse in the denomination with a new story on the doctrine of church autonomy. A new lawsuit filed in Virginia claims local, state, and national Southern Baptist leaders were negligent after eight boys were abused by a youth minister. The suit, the Chronicle reports, is rare in that it names the SBC as a defendant. And some leaders new policies adopted by the SBC could make the denomination vulnerable to future lawsuits.

Southern Baptists celebrate ‘Baptism Sunday’
Churches across the Southern Baptist Convention held baptism services Sept. 8 as part of a denomination-wide focus on the ordinance. “I was encouraged to see so many churches issue an intentional call to embrace the Lordship of Christ and express that through baptism!” SBC President J.D. Greear told Baptist Press. “May God give these churches grace to ensure these are not just converts but disciples.”

Read stories from Baptism Sunday here.

College’s social media policy sparks free speech debate
Lousiana College’s social media policy requires certain students to give administrators access to their personal accounts and requires all students to report inappropriate information posted by classmates, Christianity Today reports. A former professor says the policy “seems designed to silence criticism from students, faculty, and staff,” but the Southern Baptist school says it’s meant to protect the institution and its students.

Church exodus continues, but Barna finds ‘resilient disciples’
Barna says 64% of people 18-29 years old who grew up in church have withdrawn as an adult after having been active as a child or teen. About one-in-ten young Christians, though, run counter to the trends, Barna reports. Among several markers, these “resilient disciples” are involved in a faith community beyond worship attendance and strongly affirm the Bible is inspired by God and contains truth about the world.

Sources: Christian Post, Baptist Global Response, Houston Chronicle, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Barna Research

Photo: Baptist Global Response

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