The Common Good

Blog Posts By Adelle M. Banks

Posted by Adelle M. Banks 4 days 21 hours ago
President Obama on Monday called for people of all faiths to deter gun violence and anti-Semitism, one day after a gunman killed three people at Jewish centers in suburban Kansas City.“That this occurred now — as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday — makes this tragedy all the more painful,” the president said at his annual Easter Prayer Breakfast.The president noted that synagogues and Jewish community centers are now taking precautions by adding security measures.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 4 days 21 hours ago
Brian Murphy attended Catholic Mass regularly, both before and after he took 12 bullets while trying to defend a Sikh temple in Wisconsin from a gunman in 2012.But he says the principles he’s learned from the Sikh temple have helped his recovery.Now, a Maryland-based Sikh organization has honored the retired police officer for his service when a gunman killed six worshippers at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.The Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, a Maryland-based Sikh advocacy organization, honored Murphy on Sunday — on Vaisakhi Day, a Sikh holy day — with a Sewa (service) Award, given annually to someone who has contributed to the Sikh community.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 4 weeks 1 day ago
On one Friday earlier this month, more than 11,000 Muslims in mosques across the country heard a sermon about the Affordable Care Act.Hindu and National Baptist groups, meanwhile, are posting online announcements about the White House’s “Faith and Community ACA Days of Action” this weekend.Jewish women’s groups have visited college campuses to get students who think they’re “invincible” to sign up for health insurance.As the national March 31 deadline for health insurance enrollment looms and with President Obama’s encouragement, organizations across a range of faiths are working to sign up uninsured Americans for coverage under Obamacare.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 5 weeks 3 days ago
The vast majority of multisite churches are growing, according to a new study, and they are seeing more involvement from lay people and newcomers after they open an additional location.Nearly one in 10 U.S. Protestants attends a congregation with multiple campuses, according to findings released Tuesday in the “Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard.”The report cites new data from the National Congregations Study, which found there were 8,000 multisite churches in the U.S. in 2012 — up from 5,000 in 2010 — including churches with more than one gathering on the same campus. Churches that have created worship space in a separate setting now exist in almost every state, several Canadian provinces, and dozens of other countries.Multisite churches typically operate with a main campus headed by the senior minister and one or more satellite locations. In some settings, attendees at the satellite location watch the same sermon that’s beamed in from the central location but have their own dedicated on-site pastor, music, or small group meetings.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 6 weeks 3 days ago
Countering the notion that Mormons believe they will someday inherit their own planets, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued a new statement on “Becoming Like God” that tries to put distance between official church teaching and the age-old notion.The article, which was posted on the church’s website last week, attempts to explain complex theology that church officials believe has been overly simplified into inaccurate “caricatures.”Just as heaven is often depicted as people sitting on clouds strumming harps, “Latter-day Saints’ doctrine of exaltation is often similarly reduced in media to a cartoonish image of people receiving their own planets,” the statement says.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 7 weeks 22 hours ago
At Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, members and neighbors buy fruits and vegetables from a black farmers market and work in an organic garden named after botanist George Washington Carver.They recycle their church bulletins, plan to renovate their building with a “green” roof and have purchased 27 acres for a community project that will include an urban farm.“By any greens necessary,”  the Rev. Otis Moss III, the church’s pastor, likes to say.When it comes to African-American churches and a focus on the environment, Moss and his congregation are the exception rather than the rule.Moss said many of his black clergy colleagues are less interested in conservation and tell him: “That’s your thing.”Black congregations have tended to focus on their members’ basic needs — getting jobs, rearing children, pursuing higher education.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 8 weeks 2 days ago
When he was a boy, the Rev. Thomas Barclay noticed a difference between the worshippers of his small Pentecostal denomination and churches he visited of the larger Assemblies of God.“Why are they all white and we’re all black?” he asked his father.After a racial divide that lasted for nearly a century, the two denominations, the Assemblies of God and the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God, have agreed to a new partnership.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 11 weeks 2 days ago
Lawmakers peppered Pentagon officials on Wednesday about claims that military chaplains have faced discrimination for their beliefs, and time and again, chaplains and personnel officials said they were unaware of any bias.Virginia Penrod, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, told the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel that she could not cite specific instances where chaplains had to preach a sermon or oversee a ceremony that conflicted with their beliefs.“There’s absolutely nothing in policy or code that prohibits a chaplain from praying according to the dictates of their faith,” she said.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 13 weeks 1 day ago
The nation will mark the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday with speeches, prayers, and volunteer service.But for decades, retired United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White has marked the holiday in a more personal way: He writes a “birthday letter” to the civil rights leader who was killed in 1968.“It was a way to get kind of a year’s assessment on what the nation was accomplishing and not accomplishing in the area of race,” said White, a bishop-in-residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology for the last decade.“I did it because, frankly, I needed to have perspective. I needed to not get discouraged, and I needed it to be affirming of progress in race which had taken place over the course of a year.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 15 weeks 22 hours ago
The wheelbarrow outside the sanctuary was overflowing with vegetable scraps; decomposing matter filled the baptismal font; and a pile of rich brown soil replaced the Communion table.Ashley Goff, minister for spiritual formation at Church of the Pilgrims, wanted to convey a message about the cycle of nature this fall, and she could think of no better analogy than the congregation’s growing enchantment with compost.“I wanted them to see the process of life and death and change,” she said of her Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation of 70. “It’s a dying and a rising, where new life begins.”Across the country in the past decade, hundreds of houses of worship have started composting, relating it to theological concepts of resurrection and stewardship.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 25 weeks 3 days ago
President Obama may not attend church most Sundays, but a new book reveals the Bible verses and prayers that he reads every morning.The President’s Devotional, released Tuesday by Pentecostal minister turned political aide Joshua DuBois, is a compilation of 365 of the more than 1,500 meditations DuBois has sent the president since he started working for him in the U.S. Senate.DuBois, who left his White House post in February, spent his weekends reading and praying over what he would send to Obama’s Blackberry the next week. He drew from the words of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the songs of Nina Simone and Bob Dylan, and the activism of Fannie Lou Hamer and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Posted by Kevin Eckstrom, Cathy Lynn Grossman, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, David Gibson, Adelle M. Banks, Katherine Burgess 27 weeks 3 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 Adelle M. Banks 27 weeks 3 days ago
At an interfaith summer camp in northern New Jersey, two dozen children explored a swamp to learn how creatures depend on safe water.In Southern California, a Unitarian Universalist congregation installed a dry well so water from its church rooftops drains into underground pipes to replenish the water table.In Vermont, members of a Lutheran church removed cars and appliances that had been dumped in a nearby stream and restored its banks with local willows and oaks.Across the country, water has become more than a ritual element used in Christian baptismal rites or in Jewish and Muslim cleansing ceremonies. It has become a focus for worshippers seeking to go beyond water’s ritual symbolism and think more deeply about their relationship to this life-giving resource.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 31 weeks 3 days ago
They were among the youngest martyrs of the civil rights movement, four young black girls — three 14-year-olds and one 11-year-old — whose deaths in a church basement horrified a nation already torn apart by segregation.This week, 50 years after the Ku Klux Klan bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., shook hopes for a colorblind country, the four girls are getting their due.Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair were posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on Tuesday (Sept. 10), a day after a piece of shattered stained glass from the church was donated to the Smithsonian.
Posted by Lauren Markoe, Adelle M. Banks 33 weeks 2 days ago
WASHINGTON — Fifty years to the day after Martin Luther King, Jr., knocked on the nation’s conscience with his dream, religious leaders gathered in a historic church to remind the nation that he was fueled by faith.Later, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial where King thundered about America’s unmet promises, King’s children joined the likes of President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey to rekindle what Obama called a “coalition of conscience.”At Shiloh Baptist Church, where King preached three years before his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh clergy summoned King’s prophetic spirit to help reignite the religious fires of the civil rights movement.King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice A. King, said at the service that her father was a freedom fighter and a civil rights leader, but his essence was something else.“He was a pastor,” said King, who was 5 when her father electrified the nation in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “He was a prophet. He was a faith leader.”
Posted by Yonat Shimron, Adelle M. Banks 33 weeks 5 days ago
It may be the most famous speech of the 20th century.Millions of American schoolchildren who never experienced Jim Crow or whites-only water fountains know the phrase “I have a dream.”And many American adults can recite from memory certain phrases: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s use of the prophet Amos’ vision of justice rolling down “like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” or the line about children being judged not by “the color of their skin but the content of their character.”To many in this country, “I have a dream” has a place of honor next to the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. It celebrates the lofty ideals of freedom.But scholars say it would be a mistake to celebrate the speech without also acknowledging its profound critique of American values. 
Posted by Adelle M. Banks, Corrie Mitchell 33 weeks 5 days ago
Don Cash had graduated from high school in June 1963 and decided on the spur of the moment to join the March on Washington when he finished his work shift at a nearby warehouse. The Baptist layman is the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union’s Minority Coalition and a board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP. “I think we got a long ways to go but I do think that there’s been a lot of changes. I don’t think you’ll ever see what Martin Luther King dreamed in reality, in total. I think we’ll always have to strive for perfection. The dream that he had is a perfect world and I think that in order to be perfect, you have to continue to work at it.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 35 weeks 2 days ago
Eugene Allen served eight presidents as a White House butler, and his legendary career is the inspiration for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a film starring Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, and a host of A-list Hollywood talent.But members of The Greater First Baptist Church knew the man who died in 2010 by other titles: usher, trustee, and a humble man of quiet faith.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 38 weeks 3 days ago
More than 1,200 people have signed an online petition decrying the “silence” and “inattention” of evangelical leaders to sexual abuse in their churches.The statement was prompted by recent child abuse allegations against Sovereign Grace Ministries, an umbrella group of 80 Reformed evangelical churches based in Louisville, Ky.“Recent allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up within a well known international ministry and subsequent public statements by several evangelical leaders have angered and distressed many, both inside and outside of the Church,” reads the three-page statement spearheaded by GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment).“These events expose the troubling reality that, far too often, the Church’s instincts are no different than from those of many other institutions, responding to such allegations by moving to protect her structures rather than her children.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 40 weeks 3 days ago
A fledgling organization that opposed the Boys Scouts of America’s decision to accept openly gay Scouts announced Tuesday it will launch an alternative group with a Christian worldview.“It’s our vision to be the premiere national character development organization for young men which produces godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens,” announced Rob Green, interim executive director of the as-yet-unnamed organization.“The organization’s membership policy will focus on sexual purity rather than sexual orientation,” Green said in a conference call with reporters.John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.net, which opposed the BSA policy change, differentiated between the inclusiveness of the BSA and the new organization.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 41 weeks 3 days ago
WASHINGTON — Just days after the Obama administration issued final rules to religious groups for its contraception mandate, a broad coalition spearheaded by Catholic and Southern Baptist leaders is pushing back, saying the rules threaten religious liberty for people of all faiths.In an open letter titled “Standing Together for Religious Freedom,” the group says the final rules from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services violate their freedom of conscience.“We simply ask the government not to set itself up as lord of our consciences,’’ said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He was joined by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore at a news conference at the National Press Club.“HHS is forcing Citizen A, against his or her moral convictions, to purchase a product for Citizen B,” reads the open letter signed by dozens of leaders from evangelical, Orthodox, Mormon and Hare Krishna groups. “The HHS policy is coercive and puts the administration in the position of defining — or casting aside — religious doctrine. This should trouble every American.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 41 weeks 3 days ago
As friends and families reel from the news that 19 elite firefighters died battling an Arizona wildfire Sunday, the work of some of their spiritual comrades has just begun. Fire chaplains are stepping up to support the grieving, just as they did after 9/11 and the recent fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.“What we do is we come alongside the survivors,” said Chaplain Jimmie Duncan, president of the Texas Corps of Fire Chaplains. “Sometimes we’re quiet. Sometimes we hug them. Sometimes we pray. … We just stand there with them and try to meet their needs and walk alongside them through the darkest part of their lives.”Duncan is the associate director of the South Central Region of the 700-member Federation of Fire Chaplains. About half of the chaplains in the federation are ministers, and half are firefighters who have trained to become chaplains. Their everyday duties are similar to that of other pastors — visiting sick firefighters, providing basic counseling and praying at civic events and fire department ceremonies.But officially notifying a loved one who just lost a firefighter is “absolutely one of the toughest things we ever do,” said Duncan, who spoke at the April memorial service for the West firefighters and sat next to first lady Michelle Obama.“Not only do we have to tell them that their loved one was dead but we weren’t able to do anything to prevent that. It’s very tough for us as firefighters to have that to do,” he said.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 43 weeks 4 days ago
Gay Americans are much less religious than the general U.S. population, and about 3-in-10 of them say they have felt unwelcome in a house of worship, a new study shows.The Pew Research Center’s study, released Thursday, details how gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans view many of the country’s prominent faiths: in a word, unfriendly.The vast majority said Islam (84 percent); the Mormon church (83 percent); the Roman Catholic Church (79 percent); and evangelical churches (73 percent) were unfriendly. Jews and nonevangelical Protestants drew a more mixed reaction, with more than 40 percent considering them either unfriendly or neutral about gays and lesbians.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 44 weeks 2 days ago
Southern Baptists overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to stand with churches and families that drop ties with the Boy Scouts of America over its decision to allow openly gay Scouts, and urged the BSA to remove leaders who supported the change in policy.Members of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, gathered on the final day of their annual meeting in Houston, also acknowledged the right of churches to remain in Scouting, urging them to “seek to impact as many boys as possible with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.”While expected, the Baptists’ resolution stopped far short of calling for an all-out boycott, as they did in 1997 with the Walt Disney Co. to combat what they saw as the company’s gay-friendly policies. That boycott was ended in 2005.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 44 weeks 4 days ago
Fred Luter had a lot of firsts in the last year: first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention; first time chairing the denomination’s annual meeting, this week, in Houston; and recently, first-time missionary.“It was inspirational, but also very humbling in a lot of instances, just to see how some people are living,” Luter said, days after returning from Ethiopia and Uganda.Struck by the poor living without running water and by missionaries willing to “leave the comforts that we have here in America,” Luter wants more members ofhis New Orleans congregation — as well as more of the nation’s 16 million Southern Baptists — to take overseas missions seriously.In particular, he wants more of his denomination’s relatively small black population to serve as missionaries.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 46 weeks 3 days ago
Now that Boy Scout delegates have taken their long-awaited vote and permitted openly gay Scouts, will there be a mass exodus by religious groups?It depends on who you ask.The Assemblies of God is certain there will be. 
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 48 weeks 2 days ago
Evangelist Franklin Graham blasted the Internal Revenue Service probe of conservative nonprofit groups as “un-American,” saying both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the relief group Samaritan’s Purse were audited by the IRS.In a Tuesday letter to President Obama, Graham said the two organizations he leads were notified last September that the IRS would review their records for the 2010 tax year.The IRS inquiry, he noted, occurred months after the BGEA ran ads in April 2012 supporting a North Carolina amendment that banned same-sex marriage, which passed in May. The BGEA also ran ads last fall urging voters to consider candidates who make decisions based on “biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 48 weeks 3 days ago
Two years ago, radio evangelist Harold Camping was predicting the end of the world. Now, longtime aides say his false predictions are likely to result in the end of his California-based Family Radio ministry.The Contra Costa Times reported that the ministry has sold its prominent stations and laid off veteran staffers, with net assets dropping from $135 million in 2007 to $29.2 million in 2011, according to tax records.The newspaper said Family Radio has sold its three largest radio stations, and saw its cash on hand drop from $1.5 million to $282,880 in 2011. Since the incorrect prediction, donations have dropped 70 percent, ministry insiders told the newspaper. Records indicate the network took out a loan to keep going.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 48 weeks 4 days ago
They have pledges. They have merit badges. And they may go camping.But they’re not the Boy Scouts.Across the country, there are decades-old religious alternatives with names like Pathfinders (Seventh-day Adventist), Royal Ambassadors (Southern Baptist), and Royal Rangers (Assemblies of God).And as the Boy Scouts of America considers whether to change its membership policy to admit gay members (but continue its ban on gay leaders), some of these groups are fielding inquiries from people concerned about the action the BSA may take.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 48 weeks 4 days ago
 The Washington National Cathedral, still recovering from a rare 2011 East Coast earthquake, has won $100,000 in preservation funding after being the top vote-getter in the “Partners in Preservation” campaign.The cathedral will receive all the money it requested from the campaign sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It will help pay for inspection and repair of its nave’s vaults following the quake that hit the Washington area.“We are overjoyed by this vote of support for our restoration efforts,” said the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, which sustained $20 million in damage.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 50 weeks 5 days ago
Pastor Greg Laurie knows a thing or two about prayer in tough times.The honorary chairman of this year’s National Day of Prayer (May 2) says prayer was the only thing that got him through his son’s death five years ago. When fellow megachurch pastor Rick Warren lost his son Matthew to suicide, Laurie was the man he most wanted to hear from.Laurie, 60, who leads the evangelical Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., talked about prayer, grief, and what not to say when a friend’s loved one dies. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 51 weeks 2 days ago
WASHINGTON — Black clergy have launched a new coalition to fight gun violence, saying they are undeterred by the recent failure of legislation on Capitol Hill and all too aware of the problem of gun violence.At meetings held Tuesday in Washington and Los Angeles, supporters of the African-American Church Gun Control Coalition called gun violence “both a sin and a public health crisis” and committed to a three-year action plan of advocacy, education and legislative responses.“As people of God and as faithful members we have the obligation to stir the world’s conscience and to call on our nation’s decision makers to do what is just and right,” said the Rev. Carroll Baltimore, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, which convened the coalition.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 51 weeks 2 days ago
Conservative and liberal religious leaders may not agree on much, but both are expressing displeasure with the Boy Scouts’ proposal to accept gay members but reject gay leaders.The Boy Scouts of America released its draft proposal on April 19 that will be voted on at its annual meeting in May.“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” reads the proposed resolution, which also notes that the Scouts “will maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders of the Boy Scouts of America.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 51 weeks 3 days ago
The Rev. Bob Edgar, a Democratic congressman and United Methodist minister who went on to lead the National Council of Churches through a painful series of restructuring, died suddenly Tuesday at age 69.The man religious leaders remembered as a “bridge builder,” suffered a heart attack and had been exercising on a treadmill in his home in Burke, Va., said Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for Common Cause. Edgar became president of the Washington-based nonpartisan advocacy group in 2007 after serving two terms as the general secretary of the NCC.“He was a man of great capacity who understood the importance of cross-cultural and religious dynamics,” said the Rev. Carroll Baltimore, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, who recalled traveling in a Common Cause interfaith delegation Edgar led to Vietnam in 2010 to learn about continuing effects of Agent Orange.Baltimore said Edgar brought together Christians, Buddhists, Confucians, and political leaders.“He was able to link all of those pieces together and just remind us that we’re all made from the same cloth,” he said.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 1 day ago
George Beverly Shea, whose signature baritone voice was a standard feature of Billy Graham crusades for more than half a century, died Tuesday at age 104.He died after a brief illness, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association announced.Shea, who was 10 years older than Graham, met the famous evangelist seven decades ago when he was working at Chicago’s WMBI, a Moody Bible Institute radio station. The evangelist heard him singing on the program “Hymns from the Chapel” and asked Shea to sing on his new radio program.“I’ve been listening to Bev Shea sing for more than 70 years, and I would still rather hear him sing than anyone else I know,” the ailing Graham said in a statement. “I have lost one of the best friends I have ever had, but he and I look forward to seeing each other in Heaven relatively soon.”Shea, who lived about a mile from Graham in Montreat, N.C., sang before Graham preached as they traveled the globe, often “I’d Rather Have Jesus” or “Victory in Jesus.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 4 days ago
Fifty years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged white church leaders to confront racism, an ecumenical network has responded to his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”“We proclaim that, while our context today is different, the call is the same as in 1963 — for followers of Christ to stand together, to work together, and to struggle together for justice,” declared Christian Churches Together in the USA in a 20-page document.The statement, which is linked to an April 14-15 ecumenical gathering in Birmingham, Ala., includes confessions from church bodies about their silence and slow pace in addressing racial injustice.“The church must lead rather than follow in the march toward justice,” it says.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 1 week ago
 WASHINGTON — A White House advisory council of religious leaders called for a global fund to address human trafficking and urged a new labeling system to help identify consumer goods that were not created with slave labor.With a 36-page report released Wednesday, the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships hopes to build awareness of the estimated 21 million people worldwide who are subjected to sexual exploitation or forced labor.“Abraham Lincoln said if slavery is not wrong then nothing is wrong, and we know that sadly 150 years later slavery still exists,” said Susan K. Stern, chair of the council and an adviser to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. “Today with this report we say, ‘Enough.’”The 15-member council made 10 recommendations to the White House, saying what they’ve learned about the scope of trafficking has driven them to galvanize national action.One recommendation calls for a “Global Fund to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery,” modeled on a fund that combated AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 year 3 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 4 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 5 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 7 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 10 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 12 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 13 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 14 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 18 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 19 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 19 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 22 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 26 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.