The Common Good

Blog Posts By Adelle M. Banks

Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 25 weeks ago
Secretary of State John Kerry is calling for the release of an Iranian-American minister from a Tehran prison, a welcome step for advocates who had accused the State Department of being “AWOL” on the case.“I am deeply concerned about the fate of U.S citizen Saeed Abedini, who has been detained for nearly six months and was sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs,” Kerry said in a statement released on March 22.“I am disturbed by reports that Mr. Abedini has suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison, and that his condition has become increasingly dire.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 26 weeks ago
Religious freedom activists scolded the U.S. State Department for not appearing at a hearing Friday on Iran’s treatment of religious minorities, and called for greater government action to secure the release of people imprisoned there for their faith.“The State Department is AWOL — they are absent without leave,” complained Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative law firm that represents the wife of Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American minister in Tehran’s Evin prison. “They act as if they are embarrassed about Mr. Abedini’s faith.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 27 weeks ago
Church-state expert Melissa Rogers will be the new director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.“I’m honored to be able to serve President Obama by forging and promoting a wide range of effective partnerships with faith-based and secular nonprofits that help people in need,” Rogers said in a statement on Wednesday. Rogers succeeds Joshua DuBois, who left the office in February after serving throughout President Obama’s first term.Rogers is already well-acquainted with the office she will direct. She chaired the office’s first advisory council and spearheaded its work to reform the office. In 2010, President Obama signed an executive order reflecting recommendations from the council that called for greater transparency and clearer rules for religious groups that receive federal grants.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 29 weeks ago
WASHINGTON — A bronze statue of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks was unveiled at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, a day for members of her African Methodist Episcopal Church to celebrate one of their own.President Barack Obama, capping an hourlong ceremony in Statuary Hall, recalled the desegregation of public buses in Montgomery, Ala., after a yearlong boycott that was sparked by Parks’ simple act of defiance: refusing to move to the back of the bus.“And with that victory, the entire edifice of segregation, like the ancient walls of Jericho, began to slowly come tumbling down,” he said before hundreds gathered just outside the Capitol Rotunda.As Parks was hailed for her civil rights achievements, members and leaders of her African Methodist Episcopal Church celebrated Parks taking her place among the monuments to American icons from every state and walk of life.Parks was a stewardess, who helped with Communion and baptisms in her local AME congregation in Detroit, and also a deaconess, the highest position for a laywoman in the denomination. She died in 2005 at age 92.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 32 weeks ago
WASHINGTON — Standing before the throngs at the March for Life on Jan. 25, Ryan Bomberger admitted that he was the poster child for one of the most difficult aspects of the abortion debate: his mother had been raped.“I’m the fringe case that even pro-lifers have a hard time embracing,” said Bomberger, an anti-abortion activist whose mother chose to continue the pregnancy and put him up for adoption.Forty years after the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion, children who were conceived through rape — and women who were raped and chose to end the pregnancy — are speaking out, opening a new front in the often-fraught discussions of a decades-old culture war.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 34 weeks ago
WASHINGTON — President Obama started his second term with a traditional worship service and a challenge to help heal the nation’s divides.“We find ourselves desperately longing to find common ground, to find a common vision, to be one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for everyone,” said the Rev. Adam Hamilton, the Kansas City pastor chosen to preach Tuesday at the National Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral. “In this city and in this room, are the people who can help.”The inaugural service carried that theme for more than an hour, presenting the nation’s rainbow of faiths and cultures with a bilingual welcome and reading from the Gospel of Matthew, and an imam and Christian and Jewish cantors taking turns calling the congregation to prayer.The service of petitions and patriotism included a Sikh woman calling for “concern for our neighbors” and a Catholic layman urging a remembrance of Americans’ interdependence. The red, white, and blue theme extended to the altar flowers and a worshipper’s flag-festooned headscarf.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 35 weeks ago
WASHINGTON — Each January in the four decades since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, Nellie Gray marshaled tens of thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators for the March for Life rally.Now, after Gray’s death in August at age 88, a woman less than half her age will take up the cause to lead marchers from the National Mall to the Supreme Court on Jan. 25 to protest the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.“On one hand, it’s a very somber time for me every year,” said Jeanne Monahan, the new president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. “I’m always a little saddened. And on the other hand, there is a youthful sort of energy and enthusiasm that’s there.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 36 weeks ago
As the nation marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, PBS premieres “The Abolitionists,” a three-part series, on Tuesday.Documentarian Rob Rapley, the writer and director of the series, talked with Religion News Service about the role religion played in the lives of the abolitionists.The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 40 weeks ago
Gabrielle Douglas, who walked away with the gymnastic gold at the London Olympics, is out with her first book: Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith. Douglas, who turns 17 on New Year’s Eve, talked with Religion News Service about her prayer life, her love of matzo ball soup and overcoming homesickness to make it to the Olympics.The interview has been edited for length and clarity.Q: Everyone knows you as a gold medal Olympic gymnast, but how do you define yourself as a young woman of faith?A: Faith plays a very big role in my life. I don’t know where I would be without it today. I’ve always been praying for everything. And my mom always exposed me and my siblings to being a Christian and the Bible. I was watching back and looking at the Olympics and my mouth is moving — and that’s me praying.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 41 weeks ago
A special commission created by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has called for clearer IRS guidance and greater involvement among donors to address “outliers” among congregations and other nonprofits that are not being financially accountable.Its 91-page report was a response to a request for recommendations from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, after he concluded a three-year investigation into alleged lavish spending by six prominent broadcast ministries in 2011.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 42 weeks ago
Ask Kelley Taylor, a Southern Baptist college student, if she's opened the steamy pages of Fifty Shades of Grey, and she has a ready response."Some of my friends have read it but I decided not to because I just heard about the content and didn't think it was something I should be reading," said the North Carolina State University senior, who is majoring in wildlife biology. "I think that it's kind of contrary to what the Bible says about fleeing from sexual lust and temptation."Taylor is not alone. Many evangelical women say they wouldn't touch the best-selling book, often described as "mommy porn" because of its escapist appeal to working mothers and suburban housewives. But evangelical leaders also realize that some members of their churches and Bible studies can't resist.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 44 weeks ago
When Staff Sgt. Brandon Hill came home from his third tour in Iraq last year, he expected his wife and young daughters at the welcoming ceremony. What he didn't expect were the pastors, secretaries and members of their Assemblies of God church to be there, too.“It was awesome -- the fact that they would give up their time to come see us back,” said Hill, who is stationed at Fort Sill, an Army installation in Lawton, Okla. “It really shows that they really care.”As Veterans Day approaches, denominational leaders and chaplains with years of military service are calling on more churches to find ways to minister to the men and women who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.Chaplain Keith Ethridge, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Chaplain Center, said about 1 million military members have returned to civilian life -- with some continuing in Guard or Reserve forces -- after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.While some churches, especially those near military installations, might advertise themselves as being “military friendly,” Ethridge and other leaders are trying to expand that universe to other American congregations.“What we try to do is encourage, in general, a supportive atmosphere,” said Ethridge, whose center is in Hampton, Va. “We want our clergy and our churches at large to be aware of how they can make referrals when they have friends or loved ones in need of support.”In recent years, the VA has ramped up training, including in rural areas, for clergy to learn more about veterans’ issues and how they can refer former military members facing physical and spiritual health challenges. It held eight training events for rural clergy in 2012, and more are planned for 2013.As part of his new work as a chaplaincy executive with the Southern Baptist Convention, retired Army Chief of Chaplains Douglas Carver is urging congregations to be places where veterans can turn as they make the transition home.Carver knows the challenges firsthand: “I retired a year ago, and one of the hardest things for me to do is to transition back to a community.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 48 weeks ago
Leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Tuesday said recent decisions by two regional bodies to allow ordained female pastors were "serious mistakes," and women who are ordained won't be recognized — at least for now.“They directly challenge two world Church decisions on the matter of ordination,” reads a statement, passed by a 264-25 vote during the Annual Council meeting in Silver Spring, Md. “They create doubts about the importance of collective decision-making as a basic feature of denominational life.”The decisions by the Maryland-based Columbia Union Conference and the California-based Pacific Union Conference came as the worldwide church is in the midst of a broad study of the “theology of ordination” that is expected to be considered at the denomination’s 2015 General Conference Session.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 48 weeks ago
WASHINGTON — A coalition of evangelicals is calling on fellow Christians to support access to family planning across the world, saying it does not conflict with evangelical opposition to abortion.The centrist New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good released a 15-page document on Monday calling for “common ground” support of family planning and the health of mothers and children.“We affirm that the use of contraceptives is a responsible and morally acceptable means to greater control over the number and timing of births, and to improve the overall developing and flourishing of women and children,” said the Rev. Jennifer Crumpton, one of the advisers to the evangelical group.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 49 weeks ago
Eileen Guenther, the national president of the American Guild of Organists, reveals behind-the-scenes church struggles in her new book, Rivals or a Team?: Clergy-Musician Relationships in the Twenty-First Century.Guenther, an associate professor of church music at Washington’s Wesley Theological Seminary and the former organist at Foundry United Methodist Church, talked with Religion News Service about her findings and advice. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.Q: You titled your book Rivals or a Team? From your research, which is a better description of most clergy-musician relationships?A: I would say that rivals may well be the most prevalent, but team is our aspiration.Q: Why is it so difficult for musicians and ministers to sometimes get along and not have an intense rivalry?A:. Part of it is lack of understanding of roles. Part of it is control. Each of us is used to kind of being in control in our area, but sometimes if the roles haven’t been clarified, then the control issues become simply that, rather than sorting out, 'OK, who’s going to choose the hymn?' That’s one of the really big issues.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 51 weeks ago
Can Tim Tebow do no wrong?Michael Butterworth of Bowling Green State University has turned his attention to sports media coverage of Tebow, an evangelical Christian and New York Jets quarterback. The author of a forthcoming article in the journal of the National Communication Association, Butterworth talked about how Tebow coverage seldom treads beyond a “nice guy” image to delve into his faith.Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 3 days ago
Prolific author Max Lucado talked to Religion News Service about grace, the topic of his 29th book, and answered a range of questions from people who follow RNS on Twitter. Lucado, 57, is the minister of preaching at Oak Hills Church, a nondenominational congregation in San Antonio.The interview has been edited for length and clarity.Q: You write that people don’t have a deep understanding of grace. What’s the difference between grace and mercy?A: My hunch is that most people have settled for a wimpy grace. It’s something that doesn’t change their lives. There is a difference between grace and mercy. Mercy is the decision of God not to punish us. But grace is the decision of God to save and bless us.Q: @tunde_ogunyinka wants to know: What is the one thing you can’t do without each day?A. I think the one thing that I cannot do without each day is hope. If you put me in a position where you took all my hope away, I’m not sure I could make it through the day.Q: @kaykay_ayodeji asked: Which book or writer has inspired your style of writing?A: Early in my writing I was influenced by a man named Frederick Buechner. Back in the ‘90s I read many of his books and it really influenced my thinking and my writing. He has a slight irreverence that I thought was refreshing but it’s not an irreverence that’s unbiblical. It’s just real appreciation for God’s greatness. It’s like it released him to be a happy writer.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 1 week ago
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Sept. 12 that conservative Christians are growing more enthusiastic about GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and predicted they would show up at the polls in record numbers in November."When it comes to the values of family, values of faith, values of freedom, Mitt Romney is a clear choice, I think, for value voters across this country," Perkins said at a National Press Club luncheon two days before his organization kicks off its annual Values Voter Summit in Washington.Perkins, a Southern Baptist, said evangelical Christians have "significant theological differences" with Romney, a Mormon, but he said the GOP nominee, if elected, would not be asked to head a national church."We don't want a national church. We want religious freedom," he said. "I think someone who has been a part of a persecuted religion is going to be even more sensitive to the issue of religious freedom."
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 1 week ago
More than two dozen Christian conservatives are trying to put theological debates about presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormonism to rest by focusing on the policies outlined in the GOP's new national platform.In a letter delivered Sept. 7 to Romney the leaders acknowledged that some conservatives have “tempered their enthusiasm for sound governing principles by their concern over differences in a candidate’s theological doctrine.”But, the leaders said, "it is time to remind ourselves that civil government is not about a particular theology but rather about public policy."Signatories of the letter include the two sons of the late Jerry Falwell, leading Catholic anti-abortion activist Rev. Frank Pavone, and GOP strategist Ralph Reed. Polls repeatedly show that, while most social conservatives favor Romney, nearly a quarter still express discomfort with his Mormon faith. 
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 1 week ago
Religious rights activists are hailing the release over the weekend of an Iranian pastor accused of apostasy and a Pakistani girl who was charged with blasphemy.Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released on Saturday after a six-hour hearing, reported the American Center for Law and Justice, which worked to garner American support for the minister’s release. The Christian convert had faced possible execution.“Your prayers, your advocacy, and your voice has been heard,” read an online announcement from ACLJ.The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom welcomed Nadarkhani’s release “after being unjustly imprisoned for three years because of his faith,” said its chair, Katrina Lantos Swett.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 2 weeks ago
African-American clergy are joining forces with civil rights groups to push for increased voter registration ahead of the November election, spurred on by new voter laws they say restrict opportunities for minorities to enter the voting booth."We must vote because we must counteract the corrupt and diabolical strategies of those who are trying to take away our vote by passing laws to suppress and diminish our voting rights," said the Rev. Julius Scruggs, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, at a news conference Wednesday (Sept. 5) during his denomination's Annual Session in Atlanta.    Scruggs, leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and top officials of four other black Baptist groups gathered to rally against the new laws and continue longtime efforts to get blacks registered to vote.    More than two dozen new voter laws have passed in 19 states since 2011, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Some have been overturned but others remain on the books, such as a voter ID law in New Hampshire and proof of citizenship requirements in Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee. Proponents say they prevent fraud, while opponents say they are reducing access to the polling booth.    The voting laws — through which some states have reduced early voting or required government-issued identification to enter the polls—  have changed some of the clergy's voter education initiatives.  
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 2 weeks ago
Two U.S. regional groups of the Seventh-day Adventist Church have recently approved the ordination of women pastors, moving faster than the worldwide church’s study of the issue.The Pacific Union Conference, which includes California and four other Western states, voted 79 percent to 21 percent at a special session on Aug. 19 to “approve ordinations to the gospel ministry without regard to gender.” Weeks earlier, the Maryland-based Columbia Union Conference, which includes eight Mid-Atlantic states, adopted a similar change in its policy, with 80 percent in favor.World leaders of the church – who appealed for unity before the votes were cast – said they were disappointed with the conferences’ actions. They said the Columbia Union’s July 29 action was “not in harmony” with the general policy of the church, and said the Pacific Union would “preempt the collective decisions of the world church regarding ordination.’’Leaders of the Maryland-based Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is best known for observing the Sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday, are in the midst of studying the “theology of ordination” for possible consideration at their 2015 General Conference Session.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 3 weeks ago
The economy continues to weigh on pastors, with a new survey showing that nearly two-thirds say it has affected their churches negatively.LifeWay Research asked 1,000 pastors about the economy’s effect on their churches and found that 56 percent described it somewhat negatively and 8 percent very negatively. Nine percent reported a positive effect on their churches and one-quarter said the economy was having “no impact on my church.”“Pastor views on the economy are similar to many economic outlook surveys,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. “We weren’t surprised the current perspective of economic impact on churches is predominantly negative.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 4 weeks ago
Spike Lee is not about to give up filmmaking but – at least for a moment or two – he sounded a bit like an expert on the challenges facing the church as he promoted his new movie Red Hook Summer.“Any church whose members are senior citizens and there’s no youth coming behind, they’re going to die out,” Lee said in a roundtable discussion with reporters.“Now that goes for synagogues, mosques, temples too — any institution,” Lee continued. “You got to always try to have that infusion of youth. They might not be as smart but youth has energy.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 4 weeks ago
The number of congregations that host worship services at more than one physical location has grown to more than 5,000 in the last decade, according to a new report.Researchers say these "multisite" churches, which may share worshippers across town or many miles apart, are growing at a much larger pace than traditional megachurches.Without the burden of additional expensive buildings, congregations find they grow faster in new places, said Warren Bird, research director of Leadership Network, who announced his conclusions on Tuesday.“It’s a combination of both evangelism and saying, `People may not come to this particular building. How can we take where we are to where they are?'” he told Religion News Service.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 4 weeks ago
A professor who was fired in July by the Interdenominational Theological Center says the Atlanta consortium of black seminaries discriminated against his conservative Christian views.The Rev. Jamal-Dominique Hopkins, an African-American expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July. He accused ITC administrators of harassment that included “disagreeing with my conservative religious ideals, intimidating me, slandering my character, giving me poor evaluations, and changing student grades from failing to passing with no merit.’’Hopkins, 42, told Religion News Service that tensions arose after a speaker from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship addressed an informal session he organized in February. During the session, attendees were offered a book that declared homosexuality was a sin.He said his department chair, the Rev. Margaret Aymer, questioned the distribution of the book and threatened his job.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 5 weeks ago
In his new book, “The Whitney I Knew,” gospel artist BeBe Winans describes his 28-year friendship with singer Whitney Houston. Winans, 49, and his sister CeCe, performed with Houston, and sang at her funeral in February. His older brother, Marvin, gave the eulogy for Houston at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J.In an interview, Winans talked about the faith of the woman known just as “Whitney,” and why he won’t rush to see her in “Sparkle,” the movie that opens Friday (Aug. 17).
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 5 weeks ago
Nellie Gray, the longtime leader of the annual March for Life, which protests the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, has died at age 88.The March for Life website said on Tuesday that Gray died “over the weekend.”“Until the very last moment of her life, Nellie pressed for unity in the prolife movement,” the website states. “She firmly believed that not a single preborn life should be sacrificed for any reason.”The Rev. Frank Pavone, a high-profile anti-abortion activist and national director of Priests for Life, has been a march participant since 1976.“Every year since 1974, Nellie Gray has mobilized a diverse and energetic army for life,”  he said. “Her own commitment to the cause never wavered. She was a tireless warrior for the unborn and her motto was 'no exceptions.’”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 7 weeks ago
Richard Land, the man who became the public face of the Southern Baptist Convention on ethical and political issues for nearly 25 years, has announced plans to retire in 2013 after a rough-and-tumble spring.The decision comes months after Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, made controversial comments about the Trayvon Martin case that resulted in a reprimand and the loss of his radio talk show for the racial tension they caused.Land, 65, said in a Tuesday letter announcing his retirement that he has no intention of ending his role as a culture warrior.“I believe the ‘culture war’ is a titanic spiritual struggle for our nation’s soul and as a minister of Christ’s Gospel, I have no right to retire from that struggle,” Land wrote in a two-page letter to the acting chairman of his commission.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 7 weeks ago
Americans cheered when Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass., won a gold medal on Tuesday in the women’s all-around gymnastics competition, but at least some American Jews likely cheered a little louder.“For people who are part of a minority, to see one of your own have this international recognition gives you enormous satisfaction and pride,” said Rabbi Keith Stern of Temple Beth Avodah in Newton Centre, Mass., where Raisman has worshipped since childhood. “It lets you say, ‘Look at what we’ve managed to do.’”Members of minority faiths in the U.S. — Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs — are rooting for U.S. Olympians and also saving a few extra cheers for their co-religionists, both Americans and athletes from other teams. Before they go to bed or when they wake up, they scan lists of medal winners and competition results, looking for names that might sound Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Sikh.But why?In a sense, religion isn't supposed to matter in who a fan roots for, said Harold U. Ribalow, author of three books about Jewish athletes, trying to answer that question. But, he added, the evidence was overwhelming that people like to see those from their own groups do well, especially in the root-for-the-underdog world of sports.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 7 weeks ago
It could get pretty crowded at Chick-fil-A this week — and not because of the fast-food restaurant's famous waffle fries. Supporters and opponents of gay marriage plan to appear at Chick-fil-A locations nationwide after the company's president strongly denounced same-sex relationships.The restaurant chain with Christian roots — “closed Sunday,” it proudly proclaims — is run by owners with conservative values. Now company President and CEO Dan Cathy has sparked a nationwide food fight by saying he is "guilty as charged" for supporting traditional marriage."We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives," Cathy told the Biblical Recorder newspaper. The article was reprinted by Baptist Press on July 16.Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has spearheaded “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day’’ and, as of Tuesday, more than 500,000 people had pledged on its Facebook page to show up or give support to the restaurant via social media on Wednesday. [Editor's Note: As of 9:30 a.m. EST Wednesday, 853,482 people had said they were "attending" or "maybe attending" Huckabee's event at the fast-food chain.)
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 7 weeks ago
Religious minorities continue to suffer loss of their rights across the globe, the State Department reported on Monday, with a rise in blasphemy laws and restrictions on faith practices.Almost half of the world's governments "either abuse religious minorities or did not intervene in cases of societal abuse," said Ambassador-at-Large Suzan Johnson Cook at a State Department briefing on the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report."It takes all of us — governments, faith communities, civil society working together to ensure that all people have the right to believe or not to believe," she said.Christians in Egypt, Tibetan Buddhists in China and Baha'is in Iran are among those without religious rights, the report states.In Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, people have been killed, imprisoned or detained because they violated or criticized blasphemy laws. In Indonesia, a Christian was sentenced to prison for five years for distributing books that were considered “offensive to Islam.”These statutes, the U.S. government says, silence people in countries that claim to be “protecting religion.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 7 weeks ago
Planners of a Bible museum in Washington, D.C., closed a $50 million deal late last week on a building two blocks from the National Mall.The Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit group planning the, as yet, unnamed museum, announced it will be housed at 300 D Street, SW, in what is now the Washington Design Center, a series of showrooms of luxury home furnishings.“Our intent is for this museum to showcase both the Old and New Testaments, arguably the world’s most significant pieces of literature, through a non-sectarian, scholarly approach that makes the history, scholarship and impact of the Bible on virtually every facet of society accessible to everyone,” said Mark DeMoss, a member of the Bible museum's board.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 8 weeks ago
A federal appeals court has upheld Georgia’s ban on bringing guns into places of worship.The Rev. Jonathan Wilkins, a Baptist pastor, and a gun-rights group had argued that church members should have the right to carry guns into worship services to protect the congregation.But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on July 20 that a Georgia law adopted in 2010 does not violate the Thomaston congregation’s First and Second Amendment rights.Gun-rights advocates might want a weapon for self-defense, but that is a “personal preference, motivated by a secular purpose,” the court ruled.Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.org, said the minister and his organization are mulling an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 9 weeks ago
Stephen Mansfield, an evangelical author who has written widely about the faith of politicians, turns his attention to Mormons in his latest book, The Mormonizing of America.He talked with Religion News Service about how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — including GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney — has progressed from persecution to prominence.The interview has been edited for length and clarity.Q: You’ve written “The Faith of George W. Bush” and The Faith of Barack Obama. Why did you write “The Mormonizing of America” instead of “The Faith of Mitt Romney”?A: I thought that the story of Bush at the time was bigger than the story of evangelicals and the religious right at that time. I thought the story of Obama personally was bigger then the story of the religious left that he was sort of the champion of. But in this case I think that the story of the Mormon moment or this Mormon ascent is a bigger story than Mitt Romney. There’s something broader going on and he’s not so much the champion of the movement, maybe just at the vanguard of it....
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 11 weeks ago
Leaders of Christian Churches Together in the USA, a 10-year-old network aimed at promoting interchurch collaboration, have chosen a Presbyterian ecumenical associate as their new executive director.The Rev. Carlos Malave, who worked for the Presbyterian Church (USA) for 11 years, said CCT is trying to adapt in the challenging realm of ecumenical relations.The National Council of Churches and Churches Uniting in Christ, two decades-old groups focused on church unity, have been dealing with financial and leadership woes. While scholars, such as those who gathered in April in Assisi, Italy, have grappled with what they consider an "ecumenical winter," Malave says CCT is successfully using new methods as the church adjusts to post-modernism.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 14 weeks ago
With the Southern Baptist Convention poised to elect its first African-American president at its meeting next week in New Orleans, the mostly black congregation at Colonial Baptist Church is equal parts excited and astonished.“The denomination has come from 180 degrees,” said Vernon T. Gaskins, 83, after the Sunday morning service at the church outside Baltimore. “I am quite shocked to see it, but I’m glad to see it.”The small band of black members in the overwhelmingly white denomination isn't expecting wholesale changes in the expected election of New Orleans pastor Fred Luter next Tuesday (June 19). And Luter, for his part, is also trying to keep expectations low.“I don’t think it will change drastically but I do think there will be a change, where African-Americans who really never considered being part of the SBC will now look at it,” Luter, 55, said in a phone interview from his Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 14 weeks ago
WASHINGTON – A former staffer of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has filed suit against the watchdog agency, saying that it rescinded a job offer because she is Muslim and had worked for a Muslim advocacy group.In the suit filed Thursday (June 7) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Safiya Ghori-Ahmad charges that USCIRF staffers recommended her to be a South Asia policy analyst in 2009, but some commissioners pushed to retract the job offer after learning she worked for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.According to the suit, Ghori-Ahmad was told after her initial hire that she could “limit the negative impression her beliefs and her background would create with members of the Commission’’ by calling in sick on days commissioners were expected to be in the office and by downplaying her religious affiliation.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 15 weeks ago
In a building swap, the Crystal Cathedral has announced it will move its congregation to a smaller Roman Catholic church after the iconic Protestant megachurch was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif.The cathedral, plagued by huge debt and squabbles among family members of founder Robert H. Schuller, will move to a space with less than half of its current seating capacity. Sheila Schuller Coleman, Schuller’s daughter and the recent pastor at the cathedral, started a new church nearby in March.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 16 weeks ago
Attorney General Eric Holder and other legal experts strategized with black religious leaders May 30 about new restrictive state voting laws that could affect their congregants by reducing early voting and requiring identification.“I would argue that of all the freedoms we have today, none is more important or more sacred than the right to vote,” Holder told about 200 people gathered for a meeting of the Conference of National Black Churches and the Congressional Black Caucus.He acknowledged concerns about new voting laws and said his department has launched more than 100 investigations about racially discriminatory voting practices.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 16 weeks ago
A Southern Baptist leader who works on gay outreach has criticized recent anti-gay comments by two Baptist pastors in North Carolina, saying they “show a complete lack of understanding of how to minister to those struggling with this particular temptation.”Though the Southern Baptist Convention has long condemned homosexuality, Bob Stith, the SBC’s national strategist for gender issues, said the remarks – made by pastors who are not affiliated with his denomination – lacked compassion.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 18 weeks ago
Prison Fellowship founder and former Nixon aide Chuck Colson was memorialized Wednesday (May 16) at Washington National Cathedral in a service steeped in Scripture and prayers about prison and redemption.Colson, who died April 21 at the age of 80 after a brief illness, was known as Nixon's "hatchet man" and served seven months in prison on Watergate-related charges. But at the 90-minute service, he was recalled as a transformed "friend of sinners."“Chuck was not perfect, but he was forgiven,” said the Rev. Timothy George, the homilist and dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 19 weeks ago
When the Supreme Court ruled that a Christian student group could only be recognized at a small public law school if it accepted non-Christians and gays as potential leaders, some lawyers and campus advocates grew nervous.While the 5-4 decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez was primarily aimed at public colleges and universities, some conservatives say the decision has upended university religious life, with both public and private schools reconsidering nondiscrimination rules.Now, nearly two years after the decision involving the University of California's Hastings College of the Law, the case is causing strife across U.S. college campuses.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 20 weeks ago
In a move that will give bishops more flexibility to remove ineffective pastors, the United Methodist Church voted on Tuesday (May 1) to end guaranteed clergy appointments.Clergy appointments have been guaranteed since the 1950s, when they were instituted to protect ministers from discrimination or arbitrary abuse, supporters say. But critics say those original goals have helped mediocre clergy retain their posts. A commission studying the appointments said a more "nimble" process was necessary.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 20 weeks ago
A new White House report that offers guidance on public/private partnerships between the government and faith-based groups leaves critical questions unanswered and does not resolve the issue of religious groups' ability to discriminate in hiring and firing, church-state watchdogs said.The 50-page report, issued Friday (April 28), comes 18 months after President Obama issued an executive order calling for more transparency as faith-based groups work with the government to meet social needs.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 21 weeks ago
Prison Fellowship founder and Watergate figure Chuck Colson will be buried privately with full military honors at Quantico National Cemetery, with a public memorial service expected later at Washington National Cathedral.Colson, who died Saturday (April 21) at age 80 after a brief illness, served as a captain in the Marines.Michelle Farmer, a spokeswoman for Prison Fellowship, said Tuesday the family graveside service at the Virginia cemetery will occur “in the coming days.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 22 weeks ago
 Southern Baptist leaders will investigate whether their top ethicist and public policy director plagiarized racially charged remarks about the Trayvon Martin case that many say set back the denomination's efforts on racial reconciliation.Richard Land, who leads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, was accused of lifting remarks for his radio show that accused Democrats and civil rights leaders of exploiting the case of the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot and killed by a volunteer neighborhood watchman.Even though Land has apologized for both the remarks and not attributing their source, the commission's executive committee said it was obligated “to ensure no stone is left unturned.”  An investigatory committee will "recommend appropriate action" to church leaders.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 22 weeks ago
The statistics, some evangelicals say, can no longer be ignored.Eighty percent of young evangelicals have engaged in premarital sex, according to a new video from the National Association of Evangelicals. and almost a third of evangelicals’ unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.It’s time to speak honestly about sex because abstinence campaigns and anti-abortion crusades often aren't resonating in their own pews, evangelical leaders say.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 22 weeks ago
The Southern Baptist Convention's top public policy official has apologized for controversial comments he made about the Trayvon Martin case, and the New Orleans pastor who's widely expected to be named the Southern Baptists' first black president has accepted his apology.Richard Land, who leads the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote to SBC president Bryant Wright to express his “deep regret for any hurt or misunderstanding"  his comments may have caused.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 years 25 weeks ago
An umbrella group of Christian denominations committed to combating racism is urging churches to use the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin as a "teachable moment" to speak out against racial stereotypes."It is a time to understand the burden that some of us have to live always facing the stereotypes of others and the danger that these stereotypes might cost us our lives," wrote the 10 leaders of Churches Uniting in Christ in a statement released Wednesday (March 28). "In humility, we invite the Body of Christ to join in serious self-examination about how our communities by our silence support racial profiling and stereotyping."