Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 6 days 15 hours ago
How do you get kids to read one of the world’s oldest books? Ask Sally Lloyd-Jones, whose The Jesus Storybook Bible recently passed the critical mark of one million copies sold.The British ex-pat and now proud New Yorker has never married or had children of her own, yet aims to retell the Bible to something that comes alive for young people.One of her editors told her once that there are two types of children’s books authors: the ones who are around children, and the ones who are children inside.“It kind of freed me, because I think I know I’m that second one,” she said. “And I can still write from that place, because my childhood is so vivid.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 1 week 6 days ago
A federal judge has ruled that an Internal Revenue Service exemption that allows clergy to shield a portion of their salary from federal income taxes is unconstitutional.The clergy housing exemption applies to an estimated 44,000 ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, and others. If the ruling stands, some clergy members could experience an estimated 5 to 10 percent cut in take-home pay.The suit was filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation on grounds that the housing allowance violates the separation of church and state and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The group’s founders have said that if tax-exempt religious groups are allowed a housing subsidy, other tax-exempt groups, such as FFRF, should get one, too.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 4 weeks 3 days ago
The president of Southern Baptist retailer LifeWay Christian Resources has apologized for publishing Vacation Bible School material nearly 10 years ago that “used racial stereotypes that offended many in the Asian American community.”Thom Rainer, who became president and CEO in 2006, said Wednesday in a video message at the Mosaix conference in Long Beach, Calif., that the “Rickshaw Rally” curriculum is “still a point of hurt for some.”“I am sincerely sorry stereotypes were used in our materials, and I apologize for the pain they caused,” Rainer said.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 4 weeks 4 days ago
A group of leading evangelicals is expressing concern over the recent dismissal of the American Bible Society‘s new president after just six months on the job.At nearly 200 years old with headquarters in Manhattan, ABS is a nonprofit that aims to provide tools to people to read the Bible. In 2012, it reported nearly $500 million in assets, receiving nearly $40 million in donations.Doug Birdsall became president and CEO of ABS in March after leading a global gathering of evangelicals for the Lausanne Movement’s Cape Town 2010 meeting. Weeks before his Nov. 8 inauguration ceremony at ABS, he was dismissed by the board, which cited significant differences in how to achieve the organization’s goals.“Obviously it was a deep blow,” Birdsall said on Wednesday. “It’s a bit of a mystery.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 4 weeks 6 days ago
The ubiquitous praise song “Shout to the Lord” can be found in many churches across the U.S. on any given Sunday. What fewer people realize is that it comes from a church in the outskirts of Sydney, with a Hillsong brand that is spreading across the globe.Hillsong Church has combined Christian rock, charismatic energy, and Australian accents to create a winning combination in major cities across the globe. On Sunday at their main campus just outside of Sydney, children and adults swarmed a petting zoo for children and coffee stations outside the glass entrance as volunteers gave out balloons celebrating the 30th anniversary of one of the most globally influential churches.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 6 weeks 4 days ago
Studios and filmmakers are rediscovering a classic text as source material for upcoming mainstream films: the Bible.Nearly 10 years after the blockbuster success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which earned $611.9 million worldwide, studios are looking to the Good Book for good material.Alongside the string of upcoming Bible-related films, producers from the History channel’s “The Bible” miniseries just announced that the series’ film adaptation “Son of God” will be released in theaters nationwide in February with 20th Century Fox.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 7 weeks 3 days ago
A campaign to arrest an African warlord generated awareness in more ways than the effort’s co-founder Jason Russell could have ever imagined.The “Kony 2012″ campaign captured widespread attention for its push to arrest Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which abducts and forces children to become soldiers. For a grass-roots video project that suddenly went viral, it was a phenomenal success.Two weeks after the group Invisible Children released the video last year, Russell, the group’s co-founder, was detained and hospitalized for erratic behavior after he was found running naked and cursing the devil in the streets of San Diego.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 7 weeks 6 days ago
Asian-American Christians are voicing concerns over how they’re depicted by white evangelicals, most recently at a conference hosted by Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California.Saddleback recently hosted a conference by Exponential, a church-planting group, and a video last Tuesday left some Asian-Americans offended.It’s the second dust-up in as many months involving Asian-Americans and Warren, who spoke at the Exponential conference. Last month he received backlash from Asian-American Christians after he posted a Facebook photo depicting the Red Guard during China’s Cultural Revolution. “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day,” the caption read on Sept. 23.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 8 weeks 2 days ago
As online worship becomes more common in some churches, leaders within the United Methodist Church are debating whether the denomination should condone online Communion.About 30 denominational leaders met last week after Central United Methodist Church in Concord, N.C., announced plans to launch an online campus that potentially would offer online Communion. Some nondenominational churches already offer online Communion, according to United Methodist News Service, but leaders urged the denomination’s bishops to call for a moratorium on the practice and do further study of online ministries.The majority of the leaders agreed with the statement that Communion “entails the actual tactile sharing of bread and wine in a service that involves people corporeally together in the same place.” Not everyone, however, agreed that congregants must be in the same place.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 8 weeks 4 days ago
Author Malcolm Gladwell may not be known for writing on religion. His New York Times best-selling books “The Tipping Point,” “Outliers,” “Blink” and “What the Dog Saw” deal with the unexpected twists in social science research. But his newest book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” also includes underlying faith-related themes, and not just in the title.Gladwell said that while researching the book, he began rediscovering his own faith after having drifted away. Here, he speaks with RNS about his Mennonite family, how Jesus perfectly illustrates the point in his new book and how Gladwell’s return to faith changed the way he wrote the book.
Posted by Kevin Eckstrom, Cathy Lynn Grossman, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Gibson, Adelle M. Banks, Katherine Burgess 8 weeks 5 days ago
As the government shutdown enters its second week, some religious groups are starting to feel the pinch, and they’re also finding ways to reach out.More than 90 Catholic, evangelical, and Protestant leaders have signed a statement rebuking “pro-life” lawmakers for the shutdown, saying they are “appalled that elected officials are pursuing an extreme ideological agenda at the expense of the working poor and vulnerable families” who won’t receive government benefits.Starting Wednesday, evangelical, Catholic, and mainline Protestant leaders will hold a daily “Faithful Filibuster” on Capitol Hill with Bible verses on the poor “to remind Congress that its dysfunction hurts struggling families and low-income people.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 10 weeks 3 days ago
The Christian mission field “is a magnet” for sex abusers, Boz Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor who investigates abuse said Thursday to a room of journalists.While comparing evangelicals to Catholics on abuse response, ”I think we are worse,” he said at the Religion Newswriters Association conference. But it’s harder to track.“Protestants can be very arrogant when pointing to Catholics,” said Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham and executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), which has investigated sex abuse allegations.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 10 weeks 5 days ago
A California Christian university has asked a professor who was once its chair of theology and philosophy to leave after he came out as transgender.Heather Clements taught theology at Azusa Pacific University for 15 years, but this past year, he began referring to himself as H. Adam Ackley. “This year has been a transition from being a mentally ill woman to being a sane, transgendered man,” he said.Ackley, who is in his third year of a five-year contract at a school that does not use the tenure system, said university policies seem to be silent about transgender issues, except that “Humans were created as gendered beings.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 10 weeks 6 days ago
Federal officials have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the government mandate that private companies offer employees birth control coverage despite the business owner’s moral objections, with the company at the center of the suit owned by billionaire evangelical Christians.Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit has been one of the most high profile of 60-some cases involving the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. The arts and crafts chain was founded by David Green, whom Forbes called “the biblical billionaire backing the evangelical movement.”In June, the Obama administration issued final rules for the mandate that requires most employers to provide contraception at no cost. While there are exemptions for religious groups and affiliated institutions, there are no carve-outs for private businesses with religious owners.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 12 weeks 2 days ago
Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against apartheid in South Africa, continues to speak around the globe on justice and peace. Butler University and neighboring Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis announced Thursday that they would name a center for the 81-year-old icon.Just before the announcement of the new center, Tutu spoke with Religion News Service about faith and justice, Israel and Palestine and Pope Francis’ recent selfie and lifestyle choices. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 13 weeks 4 days ago
As the Obama administration considers a strike in response to recent chemical attacks, the head of a global evangelical group said Wednesday that Christians in the Middle East oppose military intervention in Syria.“There is major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention would have a detrimental effect … on Christians in Syria,” wrote Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general/CEO of World Evangelical Alliance, in a letter to the State Department, the White House and the United Nation’s Security Council.
Posted by Yonat Shimron, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Gibson, Lauren Markoe 14 weeks 3 days ago
As the Obama administration readies for a probable military strike against Syria, Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Would the “Just War” doctrine justify U.S. military action, and what is America’s moral responsibility? Here are their responses, which have been edited for clarity.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 14 weeks 4 days ago
Christian conservatives who think Satan is using communism and Islam to bring down America can add a new “adversary” to the list: the Emergent Church movement.A portion of the upcoming Values Voter Summit in Washington will stray from its usual focus on politics and consider the Emergent Church as one of three “channels the adversary is using to bring America down.” Art Ally, president of The Timothy Plan, a Florida-based mutual fund company devoted to “biblically responsible investing,” will lead the breakout session.“Why would Satan use Communism? It’s a godless form of government,” said Ally. “Why would Satan use Islam? Same reason. It’s not a religion. It’s a movement to dominate the world under the guise of religion. The Emergent Church plays right into that by weakening further our church community.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 16 weeks 3 days ago
A commission of religious leaders has called for clarity in churches’ ability to endorse candidates and issues from the pulpit without fear of losing their tax-exempt status.In a report sent Wednesday to Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has spent years investigating the finances of high-profile televangelists, the commission called the regulation of speech of religious organizations “disturbing and chilling.”“The IRS guidelines are very vague, so ministers and nonprofit leaders are afraid of the [appropriate] line,” said Michael Batts, the independent commission’s chairman. “We think it can be fixed without creating a monster of unintended consequences.”The Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations grew out of Grassley’s probe of ministry finances and makes recommendations for greater transparency and reform. It is overseen by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which was founded in 1979 as a watchdog on ethical and financial wrongdoing.In Wednesday’s report, the commission recommended that members of the clergy should be able to say “whatever they believe is appropriate” from the pulpit without fear of IRS reprisal. Since 1954, IRS regulations allow clergy to speak out on issues but they must refrain from endorsing specific candidates.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 16 weeks 4 days ago
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Wednesday elected the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton as the denomination’s first female presiding bishop. Eaton received 600 votes against incumbent Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who received 287.Eaton, the current ELCA bishop of Cleveland, is married to the Rev. Conrad Selnick, an Episcopal priest. Like Hanson, she is considered a moderate who supported the denomination’s decision to allow partnered gay clergy while allowing room for churches to disagree, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.A native of Cleveland, she received a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School.“We are a church that is overwhelmingly European in a culture that is increasingly pluralistic,” Eaton told the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh shortly after the election.“We need to welcome the gifts of those who come from different places, that is a conversation we need to have as a church.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 16 weeks 5 days ago
Christian ethicist Jean Bethke Elshtain, a scholar who shaped national conversations on war and peace from her perch at the University of Chicago, died Sunday at age 72.She had two heart attacks in 2012 and, according to the school, she had another “cardiac incident” earlier this summer that led to her death.The widely admired political philosopher regularly wrote and lectured on ethics, politics, and religion. She defended American military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan using “just war theory,” a position that suggests there are times when it is necessary and perhaps right to go to war.When a hundred scholars and ethicists signed a petition that read, “As Christian ethicists, we share a common moral presumption against a preemptive war on Iraq by the United States,” Elshtain argued the opposite, publishing the book Just War Against Terror in 2003.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 17 weeks 2 days ago
An effort to tweak President Obama’s health care reform bill to fill a gap for church health insurance plans could fail because of Republicans’ insistence on repealing the law.Without a fix, United Methodist Church leaders say some of their churches could drop current coverage for employees once “Obamacare” takes full effect next year, according to Colette Nies, spokeswoman for the UMC’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits.Under Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, more than 50 percent of UMC clergy would qualify for tax credits available to lower- and middle-class families to purchase insurance. But because of the way the law was written, those tax credits cannot be used toward insurance plans churches can offer through government-run exchanges.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 17 weeks 6 days ago
In some African countries, tribes have shunned circumcision because it was seen as a Muslim practice or was simply considered primitive. “We thought they were born differently and had to reconfigure the way they were,” said African Chief Jonathan Eshiloni Mumena. So the tribal chief was not prepared for his son’s declaration that he wanted to get circumcised.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 23 weeks 20 min ago
The Obama administration on Friday issued final rules for religious groups for its controversial contraception mandate, maintaining its position on who qualifies for religious exemption and allowing no carve-outs for private business owners.More than 60 lawsuits have been filed over the mandate, a part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that requires most employers to provide contraception at no cost to employees.Just as when the draft rules were first unveiled in February, conservatives denounced them as an unconstitutional violation of religious freedom that forces religious organizations and the religious owners of private businesses to offer services they find morally abhorrent.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 23 weeks 6 days ago
U2 frontman Bono exchanged Bible references and bantered about music, theology, and evangelicals’ role in AIDS activism in a recent radio interview with Focus on the Family President Jim Daly.Growing up in Ireland with a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, Bono imitated C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, where Lewis argued that Jesus was a lunatic, liar or Lord.“When people say ‘Good teacher,’ ‘Prophet,’ ‘Really nice guy,’ … this is not how Jesus thought of himself,” Bono said. “So, you’re left with a challenge in that, which is either Jesus was who he said he was or a complete and utter nut case.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 24 weeks 1 hour ago
Ryan Anderson has planted himself on arguably the most unpopular stance for his generation: opposing gay marriage.At 31, Anderson has become one of the leading voices in the“millennial” generation against the legalization of gay marriage. With the upcoming Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, his ideas have been circulated in conservative circles, giving him an influence beyond his years.“Debating marriage is probably not what I would have chosen,” said Anderson, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. “It’s the question that most likely gets you kicked out of your law firm.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 24 weeks 4 days ago
Exodus International, a group that bills itself as “the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality,” announced late Wednesday that it’s shutting its doors.Exodus’s board unanimously agreed to close the ministry and begin a separate one, though details about the new ministry were unavailable at the time of the organization’s press release.The announcement came just after Exodus president Alan Chambers released a statement apologizing to the gay community for many actions, including the organization’s promotion of efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 25 weeks 3 days ago
The vast majority of evangelicals have voted with the GOP in recent elections. In fact, despite some qualms about his Mormon faith, 79 percent of evangelicals voted for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, the same percentage that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004.So why would the party hire its former South Carolina chairman to lead engagement to a group that for a generation or more has been the reliable anchor of the party faithful? Here are four reasons.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 25 weeks 6 days ago
Now that the trial for abortion provider Kermit Gosnell has ended with a conviction, many are asking what public officials in Philadelphia plan to do with the 47 bodies from the case.After Gosnell’s arrest in 2011, then-Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali asked the district attorney’s office for the bodies of the aborted fetuses. The bodies were being retained for the trial, but after it ended and Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison, his successor, Archbishop Charles Chaput, has renewed the request to bury the bodies.Francis Maier, special assistant to Chaput, said that he doesn’t know whether or not a service would include a Catholic Mass, but he said it would be quiet and dignified.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 26 weeks 3 days ago
Bishops in the Church of England, who had strenuously opposed a bid to allow same-sex marriage, signaled that they won’t try to derail the bill after an overwhelming vote of support in the House of Lords.Church of England spokesman Steve Jenkins said that in the same way the church will eventually allow women bishops, England will eventually allow same-sex marriage.“It doesn’t mean the Church of England is happy, but that’s where our government is going,” Jenkins said. “Now it’s about safeguarding people’s right to hold religious beliefs.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 26 weeks 5 days ago
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has elected its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. R. Guy Erwin, to oversee churches in Southern California, four years after the church allowed openly gay men and lesbians to serve as clergy.Following a wider trend within other mainline Protestant denominations to appoint gays and lesbians to leadership positions, the ELCA’s five-county Southwest California Synod elected Erwin on Friday (May 31) to a six-year term.“It’s historic and a turning point, as was the ordination of women,” said Martin Marty, the dean of American church historians at the University of Chicago and a member of the ELCA. “This is just one of many indications that the culture has shifted.”
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 27 weeks 5 days ago
Several leading evangelical pastors and authors have come to the defense of a pastor accused in a lawsuit for covering up sexual abuse of children.C. J. Mahaney was named as a defendant in a lawsuit, which charged that he and other leaders of Sovereign Grace Ministries permitted the abuse of children to occur in churches that formed part of the group. Sovereign Grace, an association of 80 Reformed evangelical churches, is based in Louisville, Ky.Maryland Judge Sharon V. Burrell dismissed the lawsuit ruling that nine of 11 plaintiffs waited too long to sue under the statute of limitations. Their attorney plans to appeal the judge’s decision.
Posted by Sarah Pulliam Bailey 28 weeks 2 days ago
Oklahoma’s devastating tornado stirred up a theological debate that was set off from a series of deleted tweets referencing the Book of Job.Popular evangelical author and speaker John Piper regularly tweets Bible verses, but two verses he tweeted after the tornado struck some as at best insensitive and at worst bad theology:“Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead.” Job 1:19“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.” Job 1:20In the Book of Job, God allows Satan to afflict “blameless” Job, killing his 10 children, livestock and servants. While Piper’s tweets didn’t mention the tornado by name, critics said it was too close, and inappropriate.Piper, who recently retired from the pulpit of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, is a leading theologian of the neo-Calvinist movement that’s sweeping many evangelical churches. In essence, Desiring God staffer Tony Reinke wrote, Piper was highlighting God’s sovereignty and that he is still worthy of worship in the midst of suffering and tragedy.