Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 days 16 hours 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 6 days 20 hours 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 1 week 1 day 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 3 weeks 1 day 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 4 weeks 6 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 5 weeks 1 day 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 5 weeks 1 day 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 5 weeks 2 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 7 weeks 2 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 7 weeks 6 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 8 weeks 15 hours 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 8 weeks 1 day 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 9 weeks 14 hours 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 9 weeks 2 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 9 weeks 6 days 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 12 weeks 22 hours 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 13 weeks 2 days 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 13 weeks 6 days 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 15 weeks 6 days 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 19 weeks 1 day 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 21 weeks 18 hours 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 22 weeks 15 hours 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 23 weeks 2 days 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 27 weeks 1 day 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 27 weeks 6 days 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 28 weeks 5 days 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 31 weeks 3 days 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 34 weeks 5 days 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 35 weeks 1 day 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 35 weeks 6 days 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 38 weeks 21 hours 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 39 weeks 15 hours 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 39 weeks 6 days 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 40 weeks 22 hours 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 40 weeks 2 days 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 40 weeks 5 days 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 41 weeks 1 day 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 42 weeks 23 hours 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 42 weeks 6 days 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 43 weeks 22 hours 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 43 weeks 1 day 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 44 weeks 20 hours 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 44 weeks 1 day 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 45 weeks 6 days 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 45 weeks 6 days 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 46 weeks 21 hours 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 46 weeks 2 days 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 46 weeks 2 days 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 47 weeks 1 day 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 48 weeks 23 hours 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....