Archives For violence

Asia Bibi released from Pakistan’s death row
The release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman imprisoned for almost nine years on blasphemy charges, was cause for celebration and caution among religious freedom advocates worldwide. “She cannot be released openly,” said an attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice. “If she is, there’s no doubt, no question about it, that her life will be in jeopardy.”

‘Stand for Life’ becomes ERLC initiative
An online group promoting the sanctity of every human life will become part of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Stand for Life, which began with a post by founder Jess Barfield of her infant son, has as its mission to promote human dignity through storytelling.

Sessions faces criticism from some in his denomination
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under fire from some Methodist ministers who oppose his role in policies that separate families at the border. In a letter sent to Sessions last summer, United Methodist Church leaders urged a “reconciling process that will help this long-time member of our connection [Sessions] step back from his harmful actions and work to repair the damage he is currently causing to immigrants, particularly children and families.”

Charleston church shooting is subject of documentary
The 2015 shooting at a Charleston, S.C. church is the subject of “Emanuel,” a documentary executive produced by actress Viola Davis and Golden State Warrior Steph Curry.

Midterm election: Evangelicals in the spotlight
As voters cast their ballots in today’s midterm election, slow shifts in the evangelical voting bloc are unlikely to result in gains for progressive candidates, USA Today reports.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, USA Today

The Briefing

Charlottesville violence: SBC leaders urge prayer
Southern Baptist pastors and leaders denounced racism and called for prayer in the wake of white nationalist protests that turned into violence and death in Charlottesville, Va. Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), described the rally as “a gathering of hate, ignorance and bigotry. “

Pro-life billboard reaches Chicago’s South Side
The Illinois Family Institute has rented a large billboard on the south side of Chicago with the message: “Abortion Takes Human Life.” It’s located at 59th and Wentworth, overlooking the Dan Ryan expressway (I-90/I-94), just 3 miles south of the White Sox Stadium, west of The University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry. The message will be seen 3.86 million times during the month of August, reaching residents all around Chicago’s south side.

Stericycle cancels contracts with abortion centers
The nation’s leading medical waste disposal company has cut ties with hundreds of abortion centers, according to a pro-life activist group. Stericycle, which has a record of hauling aborted fetal waste despite a company policy against doing so, recently reiterated its policy against taking fetal remains and told the group Created Equal that it has “canceled hundreds of contracts with women’s clinics” over the past few years.

Iranian youths mass converting to Christianity
The massive rise of Christianity in Iran, especially among youths, continues despite the Islamic government’s efforts to suppress the faith. Even Islamic leaders admitted that more and more young people are choosing to follow Christ. According to Mohabat News, which reports on the persecution and state of Christianity in Iran, the “exponential rate” of Christian growth has been a factor for the last couple of decades.

Two-thirds of Americans say they’re sinners
Two-thirds of Americans (67%) say they are sinners, according to a new study from LifeWay Research. Most people aren’t too happy about it—only 5% say they’re fine with being sinners. As America becomes more secular, the idea of sin still rings true, said Scott McConnell, executive director of the Nashville-based group. “Almost nobody wants to be a sinner.”

Sources: Baptist Press, Illinois Family, World Magazine, Christian Post, Christianity Today

The BriefingStudy: Christians most persecuted
According to the Director of the Centre for Studies on New Religions (Cesnur), Massimo Introvigne, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, with over 90,000 Christians killed in 2016 alone. Introvigne said there are nearly half a billion Christians who are unable to express or practice fully their Christian faith.

Chicago ends 2016 with 762 homicides
An argument between two men at an Uptown bar in the early hours of Jan. 1 ended with the two shooting at one another, leaving both dead. Their deaths ushered in the new year, marking the first and second homicides of 2017 and keeping up 2016’s soaring pace of violence.

Chicago priest puts a ‘bounty’ on killers
The violence on Chicago’s South Side is so pervasive that Father Michael Pfleger, a priest with the largest Catholic congregation in the area, isn’t waiting for a savior — he’s taking it upon himself to find murderers by offering rewards for information leading to an arrest. Pfleger says he’s given out 24 rewards over the last 10 years.

Judge rules against sex change coverage
Doctors and healthcare providers do not have to break with their consciences to perform sex change operations under a preliminary injunction against an Obama administration mandate. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas ruled in favor of eight states and three Christian healthcare groups by blocking a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule set to go into effect Jan. 1.

Turkey denies appeal for U.S. pastor
A Turkish court has denied the appeal of a Christian pastor from North Carolina, who was imprisoned last month in Turkey on a false terrorism charge because of his Christian faith, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.  Andrew Brunson was imprisoned Dec. 9 after being charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”

Sources: Fox News, Chicago Tribune, CBS News, World Magazine, Christian Post

Pastor combats violence

Lisa Misner —  March 24, 2016

Takes to airwaves to save kids and streets

An IBSA pastor appeared on the “Steve Harvey Show” last month to bring attention to rampant gun violence in his city. Corey Brooks, who pastors New Beginnings Church on Chicago’s South Side, was part of a four-person panel on Harvey’s Feb. 15 episode, the whole of which was dedicated to violence in Chicago.

Chicago pastor Corey Brooks (right)

Chicago pastor Corey Brooks (far right), “The thing that will change and solve the problem of violence is the gospel.”

It’s a problem Brooks has been fighting for years, most notably during his 2011 campaign on the roof of a motel across the street from his church. “I was just tired of it,” Brooks said of the crime that riddled the motel. With only a tent to protect him from the Chicago winter, Brooks spent 94 days on the roof, until he had raised $555,000—enough money to buy the hotel and tear it down. His church is now raising money to build a community center in its place.

In 2015, Chicago had 468 homicides, the Chicago Tribune reported, the most of any U.S. city. More than 2,900 people were shot. Already in 2016, there have been 467 shooting victims in Chicago.

Brooks’s church sits in a neighborhood that one newspaper labeled in 2014 the city’s most dangerous. But when New Beginnings moved in to the location, they were looking for a place they could make a difference.

“We wanted an area that really needed the gospel, an area that really needed a lot of help,” Brooks told the Illinois Baptist. “God has really been good to us, and we’re doing the best we can do in that area. It’s difficult, but we’re working really hard.”

The church started a non-profit called “Project HOOD” that focuses on mentoring initiatives. It was Brooks’s time on the motel roof that first introduced him to talk show host Steve Harvey, who gave the pastor his Best Community Leader Award in 2012. Harvey’s foundation has since partnered with Project HOOD.

On the Feb. 15 episode of Harvey’s show, which tapes in Chicago, Brooks’s fellow panelists—a former school principal, a journalist, and a Catholic priest—came from very different walks of life than his own. But to solve the problem of gun violence, Brooks said, people are going to have to work together.

In fact, that’s why his church affiliated with the Illinois Baptist State Association in 2015. “I realized that this issue is a lot bigger than what an independent church can handle,” Brooks said. “You need to be aligned and partnering and collaborating with other groups that believe what you believe” so that you can bring needed resources into communities, he said.

“The thing that will change and solve the problem of violence is the gospel.”

Meredith Flynn is an editorial contributor to the Illinois Baptist.

The BriefingPrayer shaming after San Bernardino attack
Victims of the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino called for prayer in text messages during the attack. Presidential candidates and members of the public tweeted their “thoughts and prayers” were with the victims, but others in the media, government and public disagreed leading to a social media debate over “prayer shaming.”


‘God isn’t fixing this’ story draws Christian response
Southern Baptist leaders are decrying the headline “God isn’t fixing this” that dominated the Dec. 3 cover of the New York Daily News. Images of tweets from Republican leaders surrounded the headline, displaying sympathetic “thoughts and prayers” for the people affected by a Dec. 2 mass shooting.


Falwell’s concealed-permit comments enter gun debate
Jerry Falwell Jr. sparked debate after revealing he carries a concealed weapon and urges students (age 21 and up) to do the same at Liberty University, where he is president. In the Dec. 4 convocation, Falwell referenced “Muslims” and the terrorist attack that left 14 people dead in San Bernardino, Calif.


Ireland revokes protections for religious freedom in education
Last week, the Dáil (lower house of the Irish legislature) voted unanimously to repeal Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act. Section 37 granted specific exemptions for “religious, educational or medical institutions” when it came to gay rights, allowing them “to maintain the religious ethos of the institution.” According to one LGBT rights leader, the repeal “will allow LGBT people to be themselves, get married and have a family without a threat to their job if they work in a religious run institution.”


Megachurches seeing drop in weekly attendance, study finds
A new study that focuses on trends and shifts among megachurches in the United States has found that although more Americans than ever are attending megachurches, megachurch worshipers are attending church less frequently.

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

THE BRIEFING | “It’s business as usual” at First Baptist Church of Ferguson.

“We had a very normal Sunday, a fairly normal size crowd for worship, without any disruptions,” said Ron Beckner, the church’s associate pastor.

Nearly a week after violence erupted in the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, the church continues to go about the business of Gospel ministry.

The_BriefingWhile there are protests ongoing, Beckner said they have been “largely peaceful” following the Thanksgiving holiday. “We’re taking things one-step at a time and are hopeful the violent reaction has faded.”

Pastor Stoney Shaw led the church in prayer for the community, its residents, and leaders Sunday morning. Beckner said Shaw reminded the church that this Christmas and throughout the year, “Jesus is the harbinger of peace.”

The church will continue with its regular Wednesday evening programming this week which includes AWANAs, youth group, and prayer meeting. “We want to be as normal as we can be,” Beckner said. “We want to function as normally as possible unless we can’t.

“We’re continuing to do what we’re planted here to do. We’ll change and adapt as needed to minister to our community.”

Reported by Lisa Sergent. Click here for more on how to pray for Ferguson.


A Ferguson-focused Facebook post by football player Benjamin Watson garnered nearly 825,000 “likes” and more than 450,000 shares in the week after the New Orleans Saint published his thoughts on the verdict. “…[U]ltimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem,” Watson wrote. “…BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind.”


Long-time Baptist leader and pastor Jim Burton writes about how the church must deal with disability in this Baptist Press column. Burton’s own experience in “the blue zone” (noting the color of handicapped parking signs) began with a 2013 diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.


58% of Protestant senior pastors support immigration reform “that includes a path to citizenship for those who are currently in the country illegally,” according to a pre-election survey by LifeWay Research. While 87% of responders said the U.S. government has a responsibility to halt illegal immigration, 79% said Christians should assist immigrants, even those who are in the U.S. illegally.


Bob, Larry, and all their veggie friends are now streaming on demand in a brand-new Netflix series. The first five episodes of “VeggieTales in the House” debuted Nov. 26. “It’s been clear that if we want the characters and the ministry to stay alive, then they need to keep moving as kids move to viewing media in different ways, VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer told Baptist Press.

 

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Christian leaders are engaged in debate over an Arizona bill that would allow businesses to deny services to same-sex couples for religious reasons.

As the bill awaits signature by Gov. Jan Brewer, writers Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt have written an article for The Daily Beast taking issue with the bill and with Christians who say they should be allowed to refuse services – such as wedding photography or cake baking – because they adhere to a biblical definition of marriage.

Powers and Merritt said the logic behind the Arizona bill only works if Christian photographers or bakers or florists examine every wedding they provide services for to make sure that it meets biblical qualifications. They also called into question advice given by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to a Christian photographer who didn’t want to affirm a same-sex wedding by agreeing to film the ceremony.

In a post on his website, Moore responded to Powers and Merritt: “…The question at hand was one of pastoral counsel. How should a Christian think about his own decision about whether to use his creative gifts in a way that might, he believes, celebrate something he believes will result in eternal harm to others.

“…It’s of no harm to anyone else if Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt (both of whom I love) think me to be a hypocrite. It’s fine for the Daily Beast to ridicule the sexual ethic of the historic Christian church, represented confessionally across the divide of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. It’s quite another thing for the state to coerce persons through fines and penalties and licenses to use their creative gifts to support weddings they believe to be sinful.”

Read Moore’s full response at RussellMoore.com.

Other news:

Shoring up hope in the Philippines
A team of six Illinois volunteers spent a week on Gibitngil Island in the Philippines this month, helping repair a school damaged during Typhoon Haiyan. Read about their trip here.

Parents jailed for son’s death
A Philadelphia couple was sentenced to at least three years in prison after their son died from a treatable condition, Christianity Today online reports. Herbert and Catherine Schaible, who believe in faith healing, had already lost their son, Kent, to bacterial pneumonia in 2009. His younger brother, Brandon, died last year with the same ailment. “You’ve killed two of your children,” Judge Benjamin Lerner told the Schaibles. “…Not God. Not your church. Not religious devotion. You.” Read the full story at ChristianityToday.com.

Barna: Americans link violent behavior with violent entertainment
Recent research says 57% of all adults (and 69% of practicing Christians) believe violent action is connected to playing violent videogames, according to Barna. The percentages are slightly lower for movies (51% and 67%) and song lyrics (47% and 61%). Read more at Barna.org.

Worship and hockey: ‘Only in Canada’
The Olympic gold medal hockey game was broadcast on a Sunday morning in Canada. But that didn’t stop one church in Nova Scotia from cheering on the home team, The Christian Post reported. Bedford United Church streamed the game, a 3-0 victory for Canada, in its sanctuary, causing one Twitter user to post: “That’s an ‘only in Canada’ moment!” Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.