Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at RNS.

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Bread for the World Says Hunger Costs U.S. $160 Billion in Health Care

Hunger and food insecurity are so widespread in the United States they add $160 billion to national health care spending, according to a Christian advocacy group.

The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said on Nov. 23 that hunger was a key factor in the U.S. having the worst infant mortality rate among developed countries.

“It is like a massive terrorist attack,” he said at the presentation of the group’s annual Hunger Report.

'Black Lives Matter' Signs at Churches Vandalized

Image via River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation / RNS

Banners posted at predominantly white churches across the country in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement have been vandalized — some of them more than once.

Since the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution last summer affirming the movement, 17 of more than 50 congregations that have posted signs have seen them vandalized or stolen.

The Rev. Neal Anderson, senior minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada in Reno, said his largely white congregation posted its fourth sign after the third one was stolen on Halloween weekend. The first banner was vandalized in August.

“For me the vandalism was sort of this physical and visible sign of white supremacy,” he said of the first act of vandalism.

'Chaplains' Documentary Follows Nontraditional Faith Companions to Battlefield, Prison

Image via Journey Films / RNS 

They can be found on the battlefield, at a chicken-processing plant, and behind the locked gates of a prison.

They are chaplains, and as a two-hour, two-part documentary airing on PBS stations beginning Nov. 3 points out, they minister to people of all religions and none in places where they work and live.

“Their ministry really does bring them into some of the most extraordinary places where people are in crisis and need,” said Journey Films producer/director Martin Doblmeier in an interview.

Anti-Abortion Activist Rob Schenck Now Opposed to Christians Owning Guns

Image via Jeff Hutchens / Fork Films / RNS

Schenck, the Washington-based leader of the Faith and Action ministry, has been known for his anti-abortion work for three decades. In the new documentary The Armor of Light, which releases Oct. 30 in more than 20 cities nationwide, he is first seen as many know him: carrying a preserved fetus in his hands at a rally in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1992.

But after personally seeing the bodies of the Amish schoolchildren prepared for a funeral after being gunned down in 2006, he began to realize he needed to care more about life outside the womb, too.

Schenck, 57, credits two other catalysts that led him to devote half his time to the issue of gun violence. He lives in the neighborhood of the Washington Navy Yard, where a shooter killed 12 people in 2013. And he was encouraged by Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, an unarmed black Florida teen killed in 2012, to speak out.

Fighting Perceptions, Evangelicals and Muslims Commit to Oppose Religious Bigotry

Pastor Bob Roberts at the National Cathedral. Image via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

A majority of evangelical pastors consider Islam to be “spiritually evil,” according to one just-released poll, but on Oct. 23 an evangelical pastor and an imam took turns talking about their friendship and mutual respect.

Texas Pastor Bob Roberts and Virginia Imam Mohamed Magid joined dozens of other religious leaders in prayer at the Washington National Cathedral before signing a pledge to denounce religious bigotry and asking elected officials and presidential candidates to join them.

“I love Muslims as much as I love Christians,” said Pastor Bob Roberts, of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, before leading a prayer at the “Beyond Tolerance” event.

“Jesus, when you get hold of us, there’s nobody we don’t love.”

Male Adventist Pastors Forgo Ordination Credentials in Solidarity With Unordained Women

Image via /

Some male pastors of the Seventh-day Adventist Church have changed their credentials in an act of solidarity with women who are not allowed to be ordained in the denomination.

The protest has occurred in several states across the U.S. after the global denomination voted in July not to allow regional church bodies to ordain women pastors.

Despite a worldwide ban, several U.S. conferences of Adventists have ordained women in recent years. But usually women may only hold a “commissioned” credential without being formally ordained.

Farrakhan Rally Unites Diverse Group, Including 'Black Lives Matter' Activists

Image via James Lawler Duggan / REUTERS / RNS

Facing throngs of people on the National Mall, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan called for justice Oct. 10 as he rallied African-Americans, Latinos, and others during an anniversary protest at the U.S. Capitol.

In a speech that lasted more than two hours, Farrakhan said the United States was hypocritical for insisting other nations were violating human rights, all the while describing its own misconduct as something that causes Americans “dissatisfaction.”

His “Justice or Else!” event came 20 years after hundreds of thousands of black men came to the same stretch of lawn between the Capitol and the Washington Monument to rededicate themselves to being better fathers, sons, and citizens.

U.S., Canadian Denominations to Sign Mutual Recognition Pact

Image via United Church of Canada / RNS

Two of North America’s most liberal Protestant church groups have teamed up and agreed to recognize each other’s members, ministers, and sacraments.

The United Church of Christ and the United Church of Canada will celebrate their full communion agreement on Oct. 17 at a church in Niagara Falls. Leaders from the two denominations will sign the agreement during the service.

Full communion means the two denominations will recognize each other’s members, ordained ministers, and sacraments.

Obama Names 18 New Faith-Based Council Advisers

The Rev. Carroll Baltimore. Image via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

President Obama on Sept. 24 announced the names of 18 people who will serve on his third advisory council on faith-based issues.

They include leaders of religious groups and nonprofits — from a former president of a historic black denomination to the head of an anti-hunger group to an executive of a Sikh organization.

'Selma' and 'Captive' Star David Oyelowo: 'For Me, Jesus Is My Denomination'

Kate Mara and David Oyelowo in "Captive." Image via Paramount Pictures/RNS

Actor David Oyelowo, who played the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, turns to a dramatically different role in Captive, where he portrays Atlanta murderer and kidnapper Brian Nichols. In the movie, which premieres Sept. 18 and is based on a true story, Nichols’ captive reads him portions of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life.

Oyelowo, 39, a British-born son of Nigerian parents, talked to Religion News Service about his Christian faith and his varied acting roles.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You spoke of feeling called to portray the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. How do you compare saying yes to that role and accepting the role of murderer and kidnapper Brian Nichols?

A: One is a man who is about peace and who is about justice. The other is about a man who has committed a heinous injustice against other people. But the reason I felt called to both is that both films, both characters in a sense, show the power of the grace of God. In terms of Dr. King, this is a man who professed love in the face of hatred, and in terms of Brian Nichols, this is a man that, even though he operates in a very dark way, God still used him, especially in the life of Ashley Smith, who partly attributes her salvation from drugs and a very dark life to Brian Nichols, who took her hostage that night.