Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at RNS.
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White House Joins Faith Leaders in Call to Rein in Payday Lenders
White House officials have joined faith leaders in endorsing an end to payday lending abuses that often charge triple-digit interest rates. Valerie Jarrett, Cecilia Munoz, and Jeff Zients, all top aides to President Obama, met April 14 with religious leaders from across the country who described “heart-wrenching stories” of congregants whose lives had been ravaged by payday loans.
Faith Leaders Ask Candidates to Give Poor 'Living Wage'
On the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., dozens of faith leaders are calling for the U.S. presidential candidates to include a “living wage” for low-income workers in their political agendas.
'Moral Mondays' Leader Starts 'Moral Revolution' Tour
The leader of the “Moral Mondays” movement and a prominent New York minister are joining forces for a 15-state “moral revolution” tour to counter the nation’s conservative voices.
“Way too much of our national discourse has been poisoned by hateful language and policies,” said the Rev. William J. Barber II, who brought thousands to weekly protests at the North Carolina General Assembly, in an announcement.
Boy Scouts, Unitarian Universalists Renew Agreement
The Boy Scouts of America and the Unitarian Universalist Association signed a new agreement March 24 after the two organizations had previously been divided over gay rights.
“BSA Scout Law defines a Scout by qualities that Unitarian Universalists also lift up,” reads the memorandum of understanding signed by Scouting and Unitarian Universalist officials at the BSA headquarters in Irving, Texas.
Knight of Columbus Report: ISIS Committing 'Genocide' Against Christians
The Knights of Columbus has issued a 280-page report declaring that the Islamic State group is committing “genocide” against Christians and other religious groups in the Middle East and urging the U.S. State Department to use that term to describe its actions. Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson said his Catholic fraternal organization, working in partnership with the group In Defense of Christians, does not contend Christians alone are facing genocide from the group known as ISIS but it believes the State Department must include them.
Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards to Speak at Georgetown University
As word of the planned event circulated on social media it was even criticized by South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, who tweeted that it reflects “the disjuncture” between the call to teach the gospel and the “obsession” to be fair about moral issues. “Georgetown’s hosting Cecile Richards is an obvious case!” he said.
The Lecture Fund noted on its website that the event will be for members of the university community. “The event is not open to the public and only those with a Georgetown University ID will be allowed to attend,” it said.
Black Clergy Demand Senate Consider Obama Supreme Court Nominee
Black clergy from across the country are expressing moral outrage about the Republican-led Senate’s vow to block any nominee President Obama picks to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, saying it reflects racism and disrespect. The Rev. Freddy Haynes of Dallas said on March 4 that Senate Republicans have condemned statements about racism by the leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump but he said they need to act on those words.
Former Wheaton Professor Larycia Hawkins Gets New Post at UVA
Larycia Hawkins, who left Wheaton College in the wake of controversy over her statement that Christians and Muslims worship one God, has a new gig: a fellowship named for a Muslim military hero.
The University of Virginia announced March 3 that she will join its Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture as the “Abd el-Kader Visiting Faculty Fellow,” named for a 19th-century Algerian leader who was committed to intercultural dialogue.
Nearly 1,000 Southern Baptist Foreign Missionaries Will Leave Posts
One out of five Southern Baptist missionaries overseas — or nearly 1,000 total — have volunteered to leave their posts to help the denomination’s mission board deal with its financial straits. That’s in addition to the departure of a third of the staff of the International Mission Board, also mostly through a voluntary program.
South Carolina Bill Worries Immigration Advocates
Evangelical advocates for immigration reform are concerned that proposed South Carolina legislation will make it more difficult for faith groups to help refugees in the Palmetto State. The bill, which passed a state Senate committee in late January, could make organizations that sponsor refugees liable if the new residents should later commit a terroristic act or other crime.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: Anglican Leaders Did Not 'Vote Us Off the Island'
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is describing the recent censure of his church over allowing clergy to perform same-sex marriages as a “fair” move by the wider Anglican Communion. Anglican primates voted last month in Canterbury, England, to remove the Episcopal Church from votes on doctrine and to ban it from representing the communion in ambassadorial relationships for three years.
Obama at Prayer Breakfast: ‘Jesus Is a Good Cure for Fear’
Speaking slowly at times as he talked about how he is comforted by Scripture and the faith of others, Obama said he has lately focused on a Bible verse from 2 Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
He said now is the best period to have that scriptural assurance.
“What better time in these changing and tumultuous times to have Jesus standing beside us, steadying our minds, cleansing our hearts, pointing us towards what matters,” he said.
Obama Nominates New Faith Leaders to Advise White House
The White House has announced plans to add an evangelical-turned-Episcopal blogger, a Ferguson, Mo., activist, and a Methodist megachurch pastor to President Obama’s list of faith-based advisers.
Religious Voices Respond to State of the Union
In his last State of the Union address, President Obama made an impassioned case against religious bigotry and cast other key issues in moral terms.
He rejected “any politics that targets people because of race or religion.”
“This is not a matter of political correctness,” he said. “This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.”
Franklin Graham Starts Cross-Country Rallies: ‘America Needs the Christian Vote’
Evangelist Franklin Graham kicked off a “Decision America Tour” on Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa, urging evangelical Christians to pray about the upcoming election and vote for candidates of any party who agree with their biblical values.
“Our moral walls and gates are down,” said Graham, standing before 2,600 people at the state’s gold-domed Capitol. “Any type of wicked thought and activity can come and go and our educators and our politicians and our churches seem many times to be more concerned about political correctness than God’s truth and his righteousness.”
Black Church Group Holds First-Ever Cross-Racial Gathering to Tackle Racism
The massacre of nine African-American worshippers during a Bible study at a church in Charleston, S.C., earlier this year has led black and white churches to come together in an effort to improve race relations.
On Dec. 15, the Conference of National Black Churches, a decades-old black church organization, hosts the latest such interracial religious gathering in the city where the shooting occurred in June.
More than 300 clergy and community leaders are expected to attend the three-day (Dec. 15-17) conference. It will include a worship service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the place where the Bible study was being held. Dylann Roof, the white suspect in the killings, who had hoped to “start a race war,” has been charged with federal hate crimes.
Churches Settling Refugees Against Governors' Wishes
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist megachurch north of Atlanta, has helped resettle a Syrian family, despite an order from Gov. Nathan Deal that the state would not accept Syrian refugees.
Bryant Wright, the church’s pastor and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told CNN Dec. 9 he understands the governor is “concerned about the security of the citizens of the state. But as Christians and as a church, we want to reach out with the love of Christ to these folks.”
He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his church had been planning to help the family before the recent attacks in France.
Bishop Michael Curry Recovering From Surgery
The presiding bishop released a video Dec. 6 from his hospital bed, from which he asked a nurse to explain his condition. The nurse said that because of the subdural hematoma, Curry had some “word-finding difficulty” but should be in “great shape” as soon as the end of the week.
The medical setback for the church’s leader comes as the 1.9 million-member faith group released new statistics indicating its continuing slide in membership and participation.
There has been an almost 20 percent drop in active members in the last 10 years and a 25 percent drop in the average Sunday attendance in that same period. More than half of Episcopal parishes — 53 percent — have seen a decline in average Sunday attendance of at least 10 percent in the last five years.
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
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.