Mark I. Pinsky

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Joel Hunter to Step Down from Orlando Megachurch

by Mark I. Pinsky 08-03-2017

Image via AP Photo/John Raoux

The megachurch pastor who tried to lead the nation’s evangelicals toward moderate, center-right positions on issues like climate change and immigration is stepping down, declining to comment on the circumstances of his departure.

Can an Evangelical Progressive Democrat Succeed in Florida?

by Mark I. Pinsky 06-12-2017

Image via RNS/Sarah M. Brown

King is no latecomer on this issue. His views and his deep commitment to the LGBTQ community were shaped by his gay older brother’s suicide in the 1990s, an event that shook his family.

King’s sentiments were not unique, even for straight white believers like himself. What is unique is that they came from a candidate for governor of Florida who is running as both an evangelical Christian and a progressive Democrat.

Donald Trump's Favorite Televangelist to Deliver Inauguration Invocation

by Mark I. Pinsky 01-03-2017

Image via RNS/Sarah M. Brown

White, an early and enthusiastic Trump backer, organized national gatherings of evangelical leaders on his behalf, and spoke at a Trump rally on the campus of the University of Central Florida. She also delivered the benediction on the first night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

White will be only the second woman to pray at an inauguration. And, together with Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International, who will deliver another of the inaugural benedictions, she will be among the few outspoken advocates of the “prosperity gospel” to appear at an inaugural in recent memory.

How 'Moana' Expands Disney's Multicultural Gospel

by Mark I. Pinsky 12-12-2016

Image via RNS/Disney Studios

With its new full-length, animated feature Moana, Disney Studios expands the ethnic and religious diversity in its heroines, in this case with a spirited Polynesian girl, played by Auli’i Cravalho, who is a native Hawaiian. The film is the latest in the lucrative princess franchise that began in 1937, with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and was enhanced over the decades with films like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

Moana finished No. 1 at the box for the third weekend in a row, earning $145 million since opening over the Thanksgiving weekend.

A City Is Shaken, But Determined to Keep the Faith

by Mark I. Pinsky 06-13-2016

A woman prays in Seoul, South Korea. Image via REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji / RNS

We may be at the center of a metropolitan area 2 million strong, but this is still a small town. So the shooting deaths of 50 people early June 12 at a dance club is sending shock waves well beyond Central Florida’s gay community.

My friend, Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland, the area’s largest evangelical church, was one of the first from the religious community to react to the shootings.

Tim Chey's 'Final: The Rapture' Adapts 'Horror Movie' Label

by Mark I. Pinsky 02-21-2014

A scene from “Final: The Rapture,” a Christian horror movie. Photo courtesy of Final: The Rapture. Via RNS

The words “Christian” and “horror movie” rarely appear in the same sentence, much less in the same film’s promotional material.

Yet that’s exactly what Tim Chey, writer and director of “Final: The Rapture,” does to promote his picture in its city-by-city rollout.

As the movie’s poster promises: “When the Rapture strikes … all of hell will break loose.”

In an interview outside the Orlando, Fla., multiplex where his film is playing on a Sunday afternoon, Chey said he’s comfortable with the Christian horror movie label, or even “Christian disaster movie.”

War on Poverty Anniversary Recalls Religion's Role in Appalachia

by Mark I. Pinsky 01-08-2014
RNS photo by Don Rutledge

A mountain home with teenagers involved in work at the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board. RNS photo by Don Rutledge

HOT SPRINGS, N.C. — The 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty, which falls today, reminds us how intractable that effort can be, despite the hope and determined idealism when the legislation was signed.

Appalachia was one of the targets for the newly established Office of Economic Opportunity, utilizing programs such as Head Start and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). The anniversary also recalls how religion has motivated, shaped and sustained this effort, in many ways prefiguring the campaign, in both its successes and failures.

For more than two centuries, these Southern mountains have been a magnet for missionaries, both religious and secular, all determined to wipe out poverty, hunger, and ignorance — whether the region’s benighted folk wanted them to or not. Their too-common failing, local people say, is that the erstwhile do-gooders have not respected the strong beliefs and culture that already existed.

With the best intentions, altruists and uninvited agents of uplift have come with their social gospel of “fixing” local people. That is to wean them from violence and the debilitating use of alcohol, while bringing their brand of faith, along with education, nutrition, and improved living standards. Invariably well-meaning, these efforts have typically ended in disappointment and failure in places such as Madison County, N.C.

U.S. Nuns Strike a Positive Note on Vatican Investigation

by Mark I. Pinsky 08-19-2013
Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, LCWR’s apostolic delegate, is seen at the g

Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, LCWR’s apostolic delegate, is seen at the group’s annual assembly Aug. 13. Photo via RNS.

U.S. Catholic nuns — accused by Rome of “radical feminism” for advocating social justice at the expense of issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and euthanasia — responded to a Vatican knuckle rapping with a brief, conciliatory statement on Monday.

After its four-day annual assembly, the board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80 percent of the nation’s 57,000 sisters, emphasized the positive, and remained tight-lipped about negotiations to resolve the investigation.

Assemblies of God Dodges Trend of Denominational Decline

by Mark I. Pinsky 08-12-2013
Unlike many other denominations, the Assemblies of God is a fast-growing denomin

Unlike many other denominations, the Assemblies of God is a fast-growing denomination. Photo courtesy RNS/Assemblies of God

The Assemblies of God, a denomination rooted in rural and small town America, appears to have leaped into the 21st century with dramatic results.

At its General Council meeting last week, the denomination touted its formula for defying the seemingly irreversible decline of other religious groups: contemporary music, arts and high-tech quality communication, outreach to young people, immigrants and ethnic minorities.

The denomination reported a 1.8 percent increase in U.S. membership to 3 million adherents. Globally, the gain was 1.5 percent, to 66 million, making it the largest Pentecostal group in the world.

Why are the Assemblies of God defying the odds?

Joel Hunter Pays a Price for Political Activism

by Mark I. Pinsky 07-09-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

Trial pastors: (Left to right) Rev Robert K. Gregory, Jr., Rev. Lowman J. Oliver, III; Rev. Joel Hunter. Photo courtesy RNS.

There’s a price to pay for becoming the voice of moderate conservatism and coalition politics. Even more so for refusing to march in lockstep with the Republican Party.

Ask the Rev. Joel Hunter of Northland Church, Florida’s largest evangelical congregation. Hunter, 65, says his suburban megachurch may have lost as many as 1,500 members, or 10 percent of its membership, as a result of his ecumenical and political activism.

But the compact, upbeat, Midwesterner is sanguine — likening membership departures to separating the wheat from the chaff.

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