Archives For Summer Olympics

The BriefingPastors sue Illinois over gay conversion therapy ban
A group of pastors is suing Illinois over a law that bars therapists and counselors from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation, saying the prohibition violates free speech and religious rights. The federal lawsuit seeks to exclude clergy from the ban that took effect Jan. 1, arguing that homosexuality is “contrary to God’s purpose” and a disorder that “can be resisted or overcome by those who seek to be faithful to God and His Word.”

Olympics wrap-up: God praised by athletes in triumph, defeat
The images and memories of the 2016 Olympics will endure for much longer than the torch’s flame. Several athletes who are professing Christians joined in the medal haul. Helen Maroulis won the first gold medal ever for the United States in women’s wrestling, and said that throughout her competition she repeated to herself the mantra, “Christ in me, I am enough.”

Judge blocks transgender restroom order
A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s directive forcing schools to allow transgender students to use restroom and locker room facilities based on gender identity, rather than their biological sex. District Judge Reed O’Connor said the departments of Education and Justice failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires advanced notice and a public comment period before issuing such guidelines.

Judge under fire for praying in courtroom
A Texas judge could be sued for starting every court session with a short prayer. The Freedom From Religion Foundation alleges that Judge Wayne Mack’s invocation is “unconstitutional,” and the organization is currently considering a lawsuit. Mack pointed out that both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas Supreme Court start their opening sessions with an invocation, and he’s just “following in their footsteps.”

Lutherans recognize agreement with Catholic Church
Nearly 500 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. has approved a declaration recognizing “there are no longer church-dividing issues” on many points with the Roman Catholic Church. The “Declaration on the Way” was approved 931-9 by the 2016 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans.

Sources: Big Story AP, Baptist Press, World Magazine, Fox News, Religion News Service

The BriefingWhen it rains, it pours for weary south Louisiana
For the second time in five months, historic flooding has left widespread devastation and suffering through south Louisiana. As of Sunday afternoon, four people have been killed in the flooding, thousands have been displaced and thousands of homes, businesses and churches have been affected by the flooding. Louisiana Southern Baptist churches are responding amid the devastation.

Five Christian gold medalist Olympians at Rio 2016
Athletes from across the globe have gathered in search of gold at the 2016 Olympic Games, and five Christian sportspeople have managed to overcome obstacles to earn the top honor. Simone Manuel, Caeleb Dressel, Laurie Hernandez, Osea Kolinisau, and Anna Van Der Breggen are five Olympians whose Christian faith has helped them prevail when stumbling blocks could have prevented them from winning gold medals in Rio De Janeiro.

Egyptian sent home from Rio for refusing to shake Israeli’s hand
An Egyptian athlete who refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after their judo bout has been reprimanded and sent home from the Rio Olympics. When Sasson extended his hand, El Shehaby backed away, shaking his head. The referee called the 34-year-old El Shehaby back to the mat and obliged to him to bow; he gave a quick nod and was loudly booed as he exited.

Russia’s ban on evangelism is now in effect
Last month, Russia’s new anti-terrorism laws restricting Christians from evangelizing outside of their churches, went into effect. The “Yarovaya package” requires missionaries to have permits, makes house churches illegal, and limits religious activity to registered church buildings, among other restrictions. Individuals who disobey could be fined up to $780, while organizations could be fined more than $15,000. Many are wondering how strictly will it be enforced.

Countries make Christian charity harder to give and receive
Nearly 20% of the world’s population could lose access to the ministry efforts of Western Christians next year. In April, China banned foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from engaging in or funding religious activities. The measure could expel Christian groups that are doing medical, developmental, or educational work in the world’s largest country by population, with 1.4 billion people.

Sources: Louisiana Baptist Message, Christian Post, Christianity Today, Christianity Today

The Briefing50+ Olympians connected to Illinois to watch in Rio
The Tribune is tracking more than 50 Olympic athletes with Illinois connections competing in Rio. The great majority, 67%, are competing for Team USA, with Canada, Jamaica and Nigeria each represented by two athletes with local ties. Twenty of the athletes are competing in track and field events, eight in swimming, seven in basketball and five in gymnastics.

Religious accommodations at the Rio Olympics
At the Rio Olympics, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism are each represented by four chaplains, while four Roman Catholic chaplains and four Protestant chaplains are present to serve the needs of Christian athletes. Each of the religions has their own worship space able to hold roughly 50 people at any time, with different spaces available for Muslim men and women, who frequently pray separately.

Pew: More sermons endorse Clinton
According to a new Pew Research survey, candidates come up most often in sermons at black churches, where 28% have heard their pastors praise Hillary Clinton and 20% have heard them oppose Donald Trump. Presidential talk was reported far less among white evangelical Protestants, 78% of whom say they’ll be voting for Trump in the fall. Just 2% of evangelicals heard a sermon endorsing him.

Human-animal chimera studies coming soon
The National Institutes of Health says that it will lift the ban that prevented researchers from creating human-animal chimeras with stem cells. It will put in place a review process that would require two types of chimera studies to get further review.

World Vision staffer accused of giving millions to Hamas
The manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision was charged by Israeli authorities with funneling millions of dollars to Hamas instead of to Palestinian children in need. Mohammad El Halabi, who has directed World Vision’s operations in the Gaza Strip since 2010, is accused of listing Hamas members as farmers with disabled children so they could receive assistance.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Christianity Today, Time, Christianity Today,

Ready for Rio

ib2newseditor —  August 5, 2016

Rio_2016_crop.jpgWith the Olympic Games set to kick off Aug. 5, Southern Baptist volunteers will be in South America to share the gospel both with local residents and with the thousands of visitors from across the globe.

“There exists no greater opportunity to reach people from over 200 nations in 30 days than the Olympic Games,” said John Crocker, a missions pastor from Alabama who is leading a mission team to Rio. Crocker’s team will engage Rio residents with the gospel through evangelistic block parties and Olympic pin trading.

“There is an openness by people to talk with one another and to talk about spiritual things,” said Sid Hopkins a retired director of missions from Georgia who ministers at the Games by distributing pins made especially for the Olympics that tell the story of Jesus.

“We have seen many people who come to the Olympic Games open to listen to the gospel because the atmosphere created is one of friendship on a global level. Ministry during the Olympics is simply electric.”

Pre-event publicity for the Olympics has been largely negative, due to concerns over the Zika virus, Brazil’s economic struggles, the fitness of Rio’s water supply, the Russian doping scandal, and other issues. But Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup proved to be successful, and Olympic organizers are banking on a repeat of that success in Rio.

Journalist Tim Ellsworth, former editor of the Illinois Baptist, will cover the Games for Baptist Press, focusing largely on Christian athletes who are competing, including diver David Boudia. He won gold in the 10-meter platform competition in 2012 and is looking to add to his medal count in both that event and the men’s 10-meter synchro competition with his partner Steele Johnson. Both men gave strong testimonies of their faith in Christ following the Olympic trials this summer.

“This is not what my identity is going to be in the rest of my life,” Johnson said. “Yeah, I’m Steele Johnson the Olympian, but at the same time, I’m here to love and serve Christ. My identity is rooted in Christ and not in the flips we’re doing.”

The Illinois Baptist blog, iB2news.org, will have more stories from Rio during the Olympic Games.

– From Baptist Press