The Common Good

Blog Posts By Adelle M. Banks

Posted by Adelle M. Banks 17 hours 11 min ago
When megachurch pastor Max Lucado greeted his successor at his San Antonio church, the two stood onstage and tried to put on each other’s shoes. They couldn’t.The problem? Randy Frazee, Lucado’s successor, was six inches shorter.The point, say co-authors William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird in their new book about pastoral succession, came through loud and clear: No leader can stay forever. And none will be exactly like the one who came before.For congregations that haven’t thought about who will succeed their current pastor, the authors of the new book “Next: Pastoral Succession That Works” have words of warning: Be prepared.Churches may not know the day or the hour when they need to have an interim or permanent replacement for the senior pastor.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 1 week 6 days ago
With minority students now making up a majority of public school enrollments, a national group of Hispanic evangelicals is calling for strong ties between churches and schools to encourage better academic results.The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which includes 40,000 U.S. churches, has launched a website with resources and a bilingual parental toolkit that its officials hope will bridge an “opportunity gap” between Hispanic and other students.“We say that pastors and principals should meet,” said Carlos Campo, chair of the NHCLC’s Hispanic Education Alliance, at a recent National Press Club news conference. “We say that parents and professors should meet so that we no longer have these false dichotomies, these barriers that keep us apart.”Ahead of his organization’s annual observance of National Hispanic Education Sunday on Sept. 7, Campo introduced other new programs, including “Becas and Bibles,” which encourages churches to give children Bibles and seed money for scholarships when they are baptized or christened. (“Beca” is the Spanish word for “scholarship.”) 
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 2 weeks 5 days ago
Chicago. New York. Washington, D.C. In quick succession this year, three women have been chosen to lead historic tall-steeple churches in all these cities.In May, the Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner became the first woman solo senior pastor at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church. In June, the Rev. Amy Butler was elected senior pastor of New York City’s Riverside Church. And finally, in July, the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli began leading Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.“For women to speak in those pulpits and speak boldly as public voices in these very public buildings is very powerful,” said the Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, who recently hosted a dinner party with some of New York’s movers and shakers to welcome Butler to town.It’s been 40 years since the Episcopal Church first ordained women, and other denominations have long included women in their clergy ranks. But these new advances are occurring sooner in the lives of these three women than some of their older counterparts. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research reports that women clergy are much more likely to serve in smaller congregations.Scholar Diana Butler Bass hailed the arrival of these women — all in their 40s and leading large, urban, neo-Gothic churches — but also wondered if they reflect the “General Motors phenomenon.”“Are women coming into leadership only as the institutions are collapsing?” asked Bass, author of Christianity After Religion.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 3 weeks 5 days ago
As the Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner collected signatures for a statement by leaders of African-American church groups about the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of Michael Brown, she found more people wanted to join in.The general secretary of the National Council of Churches wanted to add his name; an Asian-American evangelical leader, too.What started out as a “Joint Statement of Heads of Historic African American Church Denominations” has become an interracial cry for justice.“It’s touching hearts of people who have sons and who know that their sons would not be treated this way,” said Williams-Skinner, co-chair of the National African-American Clergy Network, on Thursday. “They know it’s wrong. They know it’s wrong before God. And they are responding on a human level.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 6 weeks 5 days ago
The issues sound like they belong on the therapist’s couch:The couple that hasn’t had sex eight months into their marriage.The parents who can’t deal with their son’s homosexuality.The male teen who wants to be called by a girl’s name.But they’re also the kinds of topics that frequently crowd the inbox of Russell Moore, who recently marked his first anniversary as the Southern Baptist Convention’s top public policy expert.Though he often grapples with contentious political issues — the Hobby Lobby case, religious persecution, and, most recently, the immigrant border crisis — Moore has spent much of his first year at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission writing blog posts on Christian sexual ethics.“Probably day to day I’m dealing with more church issues of how do we deal with these tough ethical issues,” he said recently.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 8 weeks 19 hours ago
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Rhonda Rowe and her team gathered around a diagram of the nursing home’s floor plan and determined how to split up to avoid praying with anyone twice.Rowe made her way to a room where a 93-year-old woman lay in her bed while her 87-year-old roommate sat in a wheelchair. Rowe knelt between them and went through her “Nursing Home Gospel Soul-Winning Script.”“Fill me with your Holy Spirit and fire of God,” the 93-year-old repeated. “I’m on my way to heaven. I have Jesus in my heart.”Rowe was soon off to the next room, but before she left, acknowledged that she might never see them again on earth. “I’ll see you girls in heaven!” she chirped.Welcome to the world of nursing home evangelism, where teams of lay evangelists target senior citizens for one last chance in this life for glory in the next.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 9 weeks 5 days ago
The Evangelical Immigration Table commissioned the documentary “The Stranger” to foster evangelical support for immigration reform. Linda Midgett, a graduate of evangelical Wheaton College who produced the 40-minute film, told Religion News Service she hopes ongoing screenings across the country will build a groundswell of support for legislation. On Wednesday, President Obama urged Congress to quickly approve increased funding to deal with the crisis of immigrant children flooding across the border.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 12 weeks 17 hours ago
Yoruba Richen’s documentary “The New Black” airs this month online and on television through the PBS series “Independent Lens.” The film, which explores the intersection of race, religion, and sexuality, also has been screened at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ and New York’s Union Theological Seminary. An African-American lesbian, Richen talked to Religion News Service about the new openness she sees in black churches around the issue of same-sex marriage.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 14 weeks 16 hours ago
Southern Baptists prayed Wednesday that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of the Green family, the evangelical owners of the Hobby Lobby craft chain that challenged the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.“God, we ask for a favorable, favorable ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States for the cause of religious liberty,” prayed the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, incoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention.Historians said the prayer from the podium during the SBC’s annual meeting about a pending court decision was noteworthy, though Southern Baptists have preached and issued statements for years on current events.“I think it’s unusual for it to happen at a convention event,” said Bill Sumners, director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 14 weeks 1 day ago
Sharing how he has coped after his son’s suicide last year, megachurch pastor Rick Warren, urged Southern Baptist pastors to let their times of suffering be acts of ministry.“Behind every publicly successful ministry, there is private pain,” Warren said at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastors’ Conference. “Pain is God’s megaphone. There is no testimony without a test. There is no message without a mess. There is no impact without criticism.”Warren’s son, Matthew, 27, who suffered from mental illness, killed himself five days after Easter in 2013.“If your brain doesn’t work right and you take a pill, why are you supposed to be ashamed of that?” Warren asked. “It’s just an organ, and we have to remove that stigma.”
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 15 weeks 19 hours ago
For Southern Baptists, it’s happened again: Another annual report shows the denomination is losing members and baptizing fewer people.The Rev. Fred Luter, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention, thinks old-time methods to spread the gospel have met a culture that’s younger, more diverse, and doesn’t necessarily see the pew — or even sin — as a priority.“Our society is just not what it used to be,” said Luter, who admitted he’s discouraged by the reports. “When I grew up there was a challenge by parents in the home that our sons and daughters would be in church. It was a given. … That day and time is gone.”Luter said he and others will address the issue at this year’s annual meeting, which takes place June 10-11 in Baltimore. But beyond calls for reversing the trend, there’s little sign of agreement on a way forward.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 20 weeks 22 hours ago
WASHINGTON — Trying yet again with new voices, more than 250 evangelical pastors came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to push for immigration reform.“I didn’t want people to think this was only a Hispanic issue,” said Eugene Cho, pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, at a news conference before meeting with dozens of mostly Republican members of Congress. “This is impacting a lot of people, including Asian-Americans.”Cho, who is of Korean descent, was among the new faces demonstrating support for immigration reform across racial and ethnic groups and denominations. He pointed out that one out of five Korean-Americans are undocumented.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 21 weeks 18 hours ago
More than two years after first making his request, Army Maj. Ray Bradley can now be known as exactly what he is: a humanist in the U.S. military.“I’m able to self-identity the belief system that governs my life, and I’ve never been able to do that before,” said Bradley, who is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and works on supporting readiness of the Army Reserve’s medical staff.Lt. Col. Sunset R. Belinsky, an Army spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the “preference code for humanist” became effective April 12 for all members of the Army.
Posted by Adelle M. Banks 22 weeks 2 days 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 22 weeks 2 days 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 25 weeks 6 days 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 27 weeks 1 day 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 28 weeks 1 day 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 28 weeks 5 days 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 30 weeks 19 hours 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 32 weeks 6 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 34 weeks 6 days 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 36 weeks 5 days 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 47 weeks 1 day 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 49 weeks 1 day 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 49 weeks 1 day 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 1 year 1 week 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 1 year 2 weeks 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 1 year 3 weeks 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 1 year 3 weeks 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 1 year 4 weeks 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 1 year 7 weeks 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 1 year 10 weeks 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 1 year 11 weeks 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 1 year 11 weeks 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 1 year 13 weeks 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 1 year 13 weeks 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 year 14 weeks 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 1 year 16 weeks 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 1 year 17 weeks 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 1 year 18 weeks 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 1 year 18 weeks 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 1 year 18 weeks 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 1 year 20 weeks 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 1 year 20 weeks 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 1 year 20 weeks 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 1 year 21 weeks 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 21 weeks 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 22 weeks 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 22 weeks 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.