Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes for Religion News Service.
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Evangelicals and Catholics Together Marks 20 Years
When evangelicals and Catholics set aside centuries of mutual suspicion 20 years ago, the idea was fairly simple: Even if we can’t always work together, at least let’s not work against each other.
Now, two decades after the launch of the group Evangelicals and Catholics Together , relations between the two groups appear stronger than ever, forged by shared battles over abortion, same-sex marriage, religious freedom, and immigration.
A new pope is finding crossover appeal among evangelicals who share Pope Francis’ emphasis on evangelism and his distaste for the fancier trappings and authoritarianism of the papacy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal to Keynote Liberty University's Commencement Ceremony
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, widely considered a rising star in the Republican Party and a possible 2016 presidential candidate, will be the commencement speaker at Liberty University on May 10.
In an interview, Falwell was hesitant to give his personal opinion of Jindal since the two men have never met. Instead, he deferred to Liberty’s law school dean, Mat Staver.
“He’s a committed Christian,” Falwell said. “Mat Staver said he heard him speak and he sounded like a Baptist preacher.”
'Blood Moon' Sets Off Apocalyptic Debate Among Some Christians
Could a series of “blood moon” events be connected to Jesus’ return? Some Christians think so.
A string of books have been published surrounding the event, with authors referring to a Bible passage that refers to the moon turning into blood. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord,” Joel 2:31 says.
After World Vision, Evangelicals Debate Boundaries Over Sexuality
World Vision found itself testing the evangelical boundaries in March when it announced it would recognize employees’ same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, it reversed itself.
At its core, the reversal raised a stark question: Can you be an evangelical and support same-sex marriage?
Reverberations from the policy flip-flop continue to unfold. Last week, Jacquelline Fuller, director of corporate giving at Google, resigned from the international relief organization’s board. Faithful America, an online Christian community focused on social justice, had gathered 16,000 signatures calling for Fuller and John Park, another Google employee who sits on the World Vision board, to step down.
Pastor of Florida Megachurch Resigns Over 'Moral Failure'
Florida megachurch pastor Bob Coy has resigned from his 20,000-member Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale congregation over a “moral failing.”
A statement on the church’s website reported the news: "On April 3, 2014, Bob Coy resigned as Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, effective immediately, after confessing to a moral failing in his life which disqualifies him from continuing his leadership role at the church he has led since its founding in 1985."
A call to Coy on Sunday was not returned. But it appears extra-marital affairs may have been one reason.
Hobby Lobby's Green Family Meets with Pope Francis
Days after discussing the U.S. Catholic bishops’ fight over contraception with President Obama, Pope Francis met Monday with members of the Green family, the Oklahoma billionaires whose company, Hobby Lobby, took their challenge to Obama’s contraception mandate to the Supreme Court last week.
The pope met with Obama on Thursday for the first time, touching on some hot-button disputes between the White House and U.S. Catholic bishops.
World Vision's Gay Marriage Flip-Flop Reflects Evangelical Angst as Culture Shifts
Nearly two years ago, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan T. Cathy caused a backlash when he said he supported marriage between a man and a woman. Gay groups announced boycotts, and Christian consumers rallied around the fast-food chain’s chicken sandwiches.
In a recent interview, however, Cathy said that while he still holds the same position, he regrets “making the company a symbol in the marriage debate.”
Similarly, when Phil Robertson was suspended from his popular reality TV show Duck Dynasty for making controversial comments about homosexuality to GQ magazine, gay groups cheered the decision as evangelical fans swamped the A&E network with complaints. Within a week, Robertson was reinstated.
So it was much the same this week when the evangelical relief group World Vision announced that it would allow employees who are in same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, the $1 billion Christian organization reversed course, saying on Wednesday that it had made a mistake.
Q&A: World Vision President Rich Stearns on Sponsors, Staff Lost Over Same-Sex Marriage Announcements
In an attempt to create unity, World Vision managed to create a hornet’s nest around the issue of same-sex marriage. Its president Rich Stearns openly acknowledges the mistakes the relief organization made while flip-flopping on the issue.
Earlier this week, the World Vision announced that it would allow employees to be in same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, the $1 billion Christian organization reversed course, saying on Wednesday that it had made a mistake. The backlash illustrated how evangelicals will continue to wrestle with a growing cultural acceptance of same-sex marriage.
In an interview with RNS on Thursday, Stearns suggested that the number of sponsors lost was under but around 5,000. Those who sponsor a child pay $35 each month, so the loss could have tallied up to $2.1 million a year.
Stearns also spoke with RNS on how the decision and its reversal has impacted the organization, the number of staff who have resigned and the regret he has had this week. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
World Vision Reverses Decision on Same-Sex Marriage, Calls It 'A Mistake'
Christian relief organization World Vision has reversed its decision after announcing this week that it will no longer define marriage as between a man and a woman in its employee conduct manual.
The earlier decision was a groundbreaking change for the Christian institution that came with heavy criticism from evangelicals. After its initial announcement, the Assemblies of God had urged its members to consider dropping support.
Ryan Reed tweeted on Wednesday (March 26), “My wife works for WV. In today’s staff meeting Stearns announced that so far 2000 kids dropped.”
World Vision’s child sponsorships are $35 a month, which means the organization could have lost at least $840,000 in revenue over the longterm.
About $567 million of World Vision’s $1 billion budget comes from private contributions, according to the 2012 annual report, according to Christianity Today.
“We’ve listened,” World Vision president Stearns told reporter, to supporters who were concerned about the conduct change in policy. “We believe we made a mistake. We’re asking them to forgive and understand our poor judgement in the original decision.”
World Vision to Recognize Employees' Same-Sex Marriages
Christian relief organization World Vision has announced that it will no longer define marriage as between a man and a woman in its employee conduct manual, a groundbreaking change for an evangelical institution and a signal that gay marriage continues to affect religious organizations.
The organization’s U.S. branch will recognize same-sex marriage as being within the norms of “abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage” as part of its employee conduct code.
“I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue,” said World Vision’s U.S. President Rich Stearns in a letter to employees .
World Vision is the second-largest organization listed with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, behind Salvation Army. It also ranks among America’s top 10 charities, with revenue around $1 billion.
Q&A: 'Noah' Director Darren Aronofsky on Justice vs. Mercy
The Noah epic releasing in theaters this Friday promises to be controversial, with director Darren Aronofsky calling it “the least biblical biblical film ever made.” As the story of Noah remains near and dear to people of many faith traditions, the film has already unleashed a flood of criticism.
In an interview, Aronofsky described where he got the idea for the film, how he plans to respond to critics, and why he focuses the film on themes of justice vs. mercy.
Pastor Mark Driscoll Apologizes for Missteps, Quits Social Media
Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll has written a letter to his congregation to explain recent controversies, including the marketing campaign intended to place the book, Real Marriage, on The New York Times best-seller list.
In recent months, however, reports have emerged that Driscoll plagiarized some of the material in his books. And earlier this month, World magazine reported that Driscoll hired a firm to buy copies of the book he penned with his wife, Grace, so that it would top the best-seller lists.
In a letter posted on Reddit on Saturday, Driscoll apologized for using the marketing strategy.
Court Hears Atheists' Challenge to Ground Zero Cross
Atheists are challenging plans to include a 17-foot, cross-shaped beam that became a famous symbol of Ground Zero after 9/11 in a display at the national memorial museum that is scheduled to open this spring.
Last year, a lower court rejected a lawsuit filed in 2011 by the New Jersey-based American Atheists that said the cross was an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
In his appeal, Kagin said his organization is seeking a similar object to be displayed at the museum, something like a plaque that would say “atheists died here, too.”
U.S. Evangelicals on the Defense Over Uganda’s New Anti-Homosexuality Act
American evangelicals are denouncing a new Uganda law that criminalizes homosexuality, reiterating a position that many have held for years but which has nonetheless drawn scrutiny and skepticism from critics.
Since 2009, several American pastors and leaders have condemned legislation in Uganda that in its initial version imposed the death penalty for some offenders. Under the revised law signed recently by President Yoweri Museveni, the death penalty was removed and replaced with life in prison in some cases.
Now, American evangelicals who insist they never supported either version of the law nonetheless find themselves playing defense, saying their statements against homosexuality at home are being twisted as an endorsement of harsh penalties against gays and lesbians abroad.
Supreme Court Rejects Asylum Bid for German Home-schooling Family
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from a family seeking asylum in the United States because home schooling is not allowed in their native Germany.
The case involves Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, Christians who believe German schools would have a bad influence on their six children. The family’s case became a rallying point for many American Christians.
As is their custom, the justices on the high court declined to give a reason for not hearing the case.
Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association that represents the family, said the group would pursue legislation in Congress to allow the family to stay. But the Romeikes will likely face deportation.
Conservative Leader Bill Gothard on Leave Following Abuse Allegations
Bill Gothard, an Illinois-based advocate for home schooling and conservative dress and who warned against rock music and debt, has been placed on administrative leave after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at his ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.
Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles was once a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting. Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among devotees of the Quiverfull movement, who promote large families and eschew birth control.
He’s also rubbed shoulders with Republican luminaries. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were photographed at a campaign lunch together; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke at one of Gothard’s conferences; and Sarah Palin, when she was a small town mayor in Alaska, attended his International Association of Character Cities conferences and declared Wasilla among Gothard’s “Cities of Character.”
Update: Bob Jones University Rehires Firm Hired to Investigate Sex Abuse
After firing an independent watchdog group to investigate allegations of sexual abuse on campus, Bob Jones University has rehired the same group, one month before the findings from a 13-month review were scheduled to be released.
The university had contracted with Lynchburg, Va.-based GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) in November 2012 but suspended the contract on Jan. 27. The university met with GRACE officials Feb. 18-19 to discuss the review.
“GRACE satisfactorily addressed the University’s concerns and Bob Jones University is confident the review can be completed in a timely and professional manner,” the university said in a press release.
Kansas, Arizona Bills Reflect National Fight Over Gay Rights vs. Religious Liberty
Gay rights are colliding with religious rights in states like Arizona and Kansas as the national debate over gay marriage morphs into a fight over the dividing line between religious liberty and anti-gay discrimination.
More broadly, the fight mirrors the national debate on whether the religious rights of business owners also extend to their for-profit companies. Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether companies like Hobby Lobby must provide contraceptive services that their owners consider immoral.
The Arizona bill, which is headed to Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk for her signature, would allow people who object to same-sex marriage to use their religious beliefs as a defense in a discrimination lawsuit.
Dumpster Diving As an Act of Faith
As a musician barely scraping by, Gio Andollo looks to trash bins as a way of life.
On a recent outing, he carefully untied bags outside a supermarket next to Columbia University. He likes this market because it uses clear plastic bags, making it easier to spot bread, fruits, vegetables, and other treasures.
“We can use our instincts about these things and usually they’re OK,” he said. “You can always clean it well and cook it. You can make sure you’ll at least survive.”
Rick Warren, Others, Rent Theaters for Premiere of 'Son of God'
Christian leaders, including megachurch pastor Rick Warren, plan to rent every screen in numerous multiplex theaters across 10 cities for the premiere of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s upcoming Jesus film Son of God, on Feb. 27.
The unusual move reflects the confidence Christian leaders have in Burnett and Downey’s work in the wake of The Bible, a hit miniseries on the History channel.
The Son of God, an adaption from The Bible series, opens in theaters nationwide Feb. 28.