Archives For Trayvon Martin

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago held a prayer vigil last Wednesday evening after a drive-by shooting at the corner of Sheridan Rd. and Wilson Ave. rocked their neighborhood two days before. The church was in the middle of a prayer service when the shots were fired from a passing car, seriously wounding five men. One victim has since died.

Police believe the violence is gang-related.

“Just left the prayer vigil @ ubc tonight,” Pastor Michael Allen tweeted last Wednesday. “Great night. Proud of the Chicago Bride of Christ. We cried, sang, quoted Bible, prayed, hugged…”

Allen also shared through social media that six people were baptized Sunday at Wilson Ave. beach: “‘Out of the ashes we rise…there’s non like You’ Oh God!”

The Chicago Tribune interviewed Allen about his neighborhood shortly after the shooting. Read it here.

Other news:

Christian photographers fined for refusing to photograph same-sex ceremonyA New Mexico court ruled against Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, photographers who declined an assignment to shoot a same-sex commitment ceremony in 2006. Fox News reports the Huguenins turned down the “because their Christian beliefs were in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony.” New Mexico has no statute for or against same-sex marriage; the court ruled the photographers were in violation of the state’s Human Rights Act. Read Fox News reporter Todd Starnes’ full story here.

Florida pastors take message of racial reconciliation on the road
The pastors who helped keep the peace in Sanford, Fl., during George Zimmerman’s trial and following his acquittal are on a multi-city tour to help other leaders deal with race issues in their communities. (Zimmerman was on trial for the murder of African American teen Trayvon Martin.) Christianity Today reports the pastors, who took turns sitting through Zimmerman’s trial in a show of unity with one another, were in Detroit last week and will soon visit Toledo, Charlotte, New York, Denver and Minneapolis. Read more at

Abedini denied reprieve from Iranian court
Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran since 2012, still faces the remainder of his eight year sentence, even as Abedini’s attorneys and others from the international community fought on his behalf. “The decision is deeply troubling and underscores Iran’s continued violation of principles of freedom of religion, association, peaceful assembly, and expression,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice. The Christian Post reports prayer vigils are planned for Abedini around the world on September 26. The pastor, an Iranian-American, is charged with threatening national security, but his representatives believe his imprisonment is more a result of his Christian faith. Read the The Christian Post’s full story here.

Survey measures American norms a decade after 9/11Americans report being less committed to getting ahead in life, more concerned about the future, lonelier and more stressed out in the years since September 11, 2001. Barna’s fascinating survey looks at how the last decade has changed us.

pull quote_LUTERHard questions remain for nation still affected by racial tensions

COMMENTARY | From Baptist Press

After a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, Southern Baptist leaders called for active love and respect for justice. They also acknowledged very real questions raised by the case, including the validity of state laws like Florida’s “stand your ground” statute, and the prevalence of racial tension and discrimination in the United States.

Zimmerman, a 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, shot and killed Martin, 17, last February in Sanford, Fla. The case ignited a firestorm of controversy about race and gun laws across the country.

Churches had the trial on their minds as they met Sunday, July 13, after the not-guilty verdict was announced Saturday evening. Kevin Cosby, pastor of St. Stephen Church in Louisville, Ky., tweeted: “The black community is engulfed in grief. Service today was like attending a funeral. Despair!”

This is a perfect time for the church to be a “healing balm” for the country, Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter said. “Some people are upset, angry and frustrated, while others are in full support of the verdict, so where does the church fit in?” Luter asked in comments to Baptist Press.

“The church should be there to pray for both families, the city of Sanford, and our nation. We are to intercede and stand in the gap by showing the love of God to all those who have strong feelings about this case.”

Amidst the call to love and to pray, leaders also urged Christians to stand for what’s right. “This is our season as the body of Christ to heed the call of the minor prophet Micah to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8),” said Philadelphia pastor K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the African American Advisory Council of the SBC Executive Committee.

“The world needs to see God’s people of all races stand up not just on issues of morality but issues of race and social justice…”

Some leaders voiced questions about laws that enable discrimination against particular ethnic groups. San Diego pastor A.B. Vines noted while Zimmerman used Florida’s “stand your ground” law as a successful defense, Jacksonville mother Marissa Alexander was sentenced last year to 20 years in prison for firing a gun in the air – even though she injured no one – because of a state law that predetermines the sentence for firing a gun in public.

Alexander had secured a restraining order against a husband based on physical abuse. Comparing her case to Zimmerman’s, Vines said, “…Those are the issues I think Southern Baptists need to address … the disparity of the law and how certain laws affect certain ethnic groups differently than other ethnic groups.”

Russell Moore, president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also referenced a disparity in the justice various ethnic groups receive.

“This…ought to remind us of the blighted history of our country, when it comes to racial injustice. Despite all the progress we’ve made, we live in a culture where too often African American persons are suspected of a crime just for existing.”

Kevin Smith, an assistant professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., referenced that hard truth in a tweet the day after the verdict: “Revisiting ‘the talk’ with my rising senior (UK honor student) about where he hangs out – unique duty to parents of black males.”

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Military members ranked the highest in Pew Research’s study of how much various professions contribute to society. Pew found 78% of Americans believe military personnel contribute “a lot,” followed by teachers (72%) and doctors (66%). Clergy members didn’t fare quite as well, with 37% of respondents saying they contribute a lot to society, and 36% that they contribute some. Read more at

Other news:

‘We all lost’ in George Zimmerman verdict, pastor says
In a Christianity Today essay about Saturday’s verdict, Pastor Victor Montalvo shares his perspective as the leader of a church in Sanford, Fla., the eye of the storm since teenager Trayvon Martin was killed in February 2012. Montalvo writes, “A young man is dead. Another man’s life is ruined. A city struggling with an undercurrent of racial tension for decades has another gaping wound.” Read Montalvo’s essay, including his charge for the Church, at

Baptist named new president of The King’s College
Greg Thornbury, a vice president and dean at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., has been named the new president of The King’s College in New York City. Located just around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange in Lower Manhattan, the Christian college is in an extremely strategic place, Thornbury said. “There is one freestanding Christian college in that city, and it must succeed… We need an institution of higher education that is articulating the cause of God and truth in the greatest city in the world.” Read the full story at Baptist Press.

Illinois Supreme Court clears way for parental notice law
The Illinois Supreme Court acted on the Parental Notice of Abortion Act last week, breathing new life into a law that is nearly 20 years old, but has never taken effect in the state. The Associated Press reports the court upheld the dismissal of a suit against the law, ending years of legal challenges and requiring doctors to notify the parents of any girl 17 or under 48 hours before she undergoes an abortion. The law is scheduled to go into effect in mid-August. Read the full AP story at

Churches investigate Boy Scouts alternatives
More churches are investigating Royal Ambassadors, a Southern Baptist missions education program for boys, in the wake of Boy Scouts decision to allow self-identifying gay members. Julie Walters leads corporate communications for Woman’s Missionary Union, the organization that directs RA’s.

“The first week following the [Boy Scout] vote we received more than 25 requests via Facebook and email from churches and individuals interested in beginning an RA program,” Walters told Baptist Press. “This is an increase from the typical number we receive on a weekly basis.” Read more at


Marriage_mapTHE BRIEFING | Illinois Baptist staff

While bells were ringing at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court decisions advancing same sex marriage, Christians elsewhere were lamenting the actions. And in Illinois, people on both sides of the issue were considering the impact of the high court’s rulings on the push to legalize same-sex marriage in our state.

The Court ruled against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, effectively giving married same-sex couples financial benefits previously reserved for heterosexual couples. And the justices’ non-action on California’s Proposition 8 allows a lower court’s ruling against it to stand, meaning same-sex marriages could begin in the state very soon. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

The rulings do not change the law in Illinois. But favorable response from the Court does signal renewed momentum in efforts to pass SB10, the state’s gay marriage bill, proponents say.

And those defending traditional marriage are taking the court’s actions as a call to redouble their efforts to stop same-sex marriage in Illinois.

“The ruling doesn’t change what’s required of us,” said Ron Knox, pastor of FBC Royalton, Ill. “We must stand for the truth and proclaim the truth. That’s what we’re called to do.”

A shift in momentum?

The Court’s rulings energized supporters of same-sex marriage in Illinois, who are still waiting for SB10 to be called for a vote in the State House.

“Today the Supreme Court took a historic step by providing equal access to more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits for same-sex couples,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement immediately after the court’s announcement. “Members of the Illinois House now have more than 1,100 new reasons to make marriage equality the law in Illinois.”

Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the chief sponsor of SB10 in the Illinois Senate, also urged the Illinois House to pass SB10. “The time is right for Illinois to join the 13 other states (counting California) with equal marriage. When the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act becomes law, the legal rights and responsibilities associated with marriage under both state and federal law will apply to committed, same-sex Illinois couples. … Now it’s time for Illinois to take a stand for fairness.”

But even with the momentum, some opponents of same-sex marriage don’t believe the House will take up again as early as they could, during a special session called by Quinn to handle the state’s pension crisis. It is more likely the House would revisit the bill during the fall veto session, which begins Oct. 22. And because the bill wasn’t passed during the regular spring session, it would need a 3/5 majority, or 71 votes, to make it to Quinn’s desk this fall.

The African-American Clergy Coalition based in Chicago, a major force in slowing SB10’s momentum, showed no signs of giving up after the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The people of Illinois…still have the right to determine if gay marriage should become law…” the group said in a statement.

Marriage defenders continue to put their trust in God regarding SB10. “The victory we had in the spring was because churches prayed for God’s mercy and stood up and spoke out,” said David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute. “We need to continue to be diligent in praying for and speaking to our elected officials.”

Some have expressed discouragement after the ruling. Smith understands, “It’s easy to get discouraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling. We need to double our resolve and stand on faith. Churches need to teach why God designed the institution of marriage. It’s vitally important we stand by it.

David Howard, Capitol City Association director of missions, also remains hopeful. “There’s no question Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost and we need to that as well. We need to be salt to continue to preserve what is good, and light to illuminate what is bad. The light will overcome the darkness. Ultimately we will win.”

Reported by Lisa Sergent. Read more in the July 8 issue of the Illinois Baptist, online this Friday at

Other news:

Gay marriage support makes headlines
Leading up to the Supreme Court’s anticipated rulings on marriage, Pew Research found the majority of media coverage focused on support for same-sex marriage. Between March 18 and May 12, 47% of news stories focused on pro-same-sex marriage views, while 9% emphasized the opposite view. Pew found 44% of news stories were mixed or neutral. Read more at Pew’s website.

Producers plan The Bible, part 2
The team behind this spring’s “The Bible” miniseries have signed on to produce a sequel that will focus on what happened after Christ’s death. Spouses Mark Burnett and Roma Downey will produce the series, which has the working title “AD: Beyond the Bible,” for NBC. The network’s chairman of entertainment, Bob Greenblatt, said in a statement that after following the development of the original miniseries, he “knew that the story was far from over after Christ’s crucifixion. In fact, what happened in the aftermath – which is essentially the beginning of Christianity – is utterly fascinating.” Read the full Associated Press story at

Ministers bring peace to trial
A ministerial alliance in Sanford, Fla., is tackling the challenge of keeping peace in their community in the midst of a controversial court case, CNN reports. “Sanford Pastors Connecting” rotates religious leaders in and out of the courtroom during the trial of George Zimmerman, charged with the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin.  The pastors have a “ministry of presence” in the courtroom, and are charged with reporting developments to the crowds outside and to their congregations.

“Regardless of what the verdict is, we can avoid the violence,” Rev. Robert K. Gregory Jr., of the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry in Sanford, told CNN. “If we work together, trust can be built.” Read more at CNN’s Belief blog. 

Wallenda prays during long walk
Viewers tuning in to watch Nik Wallenda’s death-defying tightrope walk across a gorge near the Grand Canyon likely heard him praying aloud throughout much of the stunt. Before the walk, Wallenda told The Christian Post he often prays while on the wire. “I find that peaceful and relaxing and He’s the only one up there listening to me.” Read more at The Christian Post.