The Texas officials’ letter follows a Sept. 4 lawsuit filed by three churches in the state that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey. They are challenging the current FEMA policy, which “explicitly denies equal access to FEMA disaster relief grants for houses of worship solely because of their religious status,” according to the lawsuit.
Enough of the church voted for a president that made such a decision among others, and those same churches, those same Christians, still uphold those decisions. As people who wish for a better America, we are called to remind one another that we belong to each other, no matter what race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
What now? Where do churches go from here? Here are five initial thoughts I would like to share, knowing the answer isn’t simple — it will take our collective discernment from the whole diversity of our churches to continue addressing our post-Charlottesville way forward.
“As a leader in my religious community, I am strongly opposed to any effort to repeal or weaken current law that protects houses of worship from becoming centers of partisan politics,” reads the letter faith leaders who support church-state separation delivered to Congress on Wednesday.
The bill cuts funding for the IRS by $149 million from fiscal year 2017, and the IRS wouldn’t be able to use any funding it receives to investigate a church for making such endorsements, according to the bill. It would have to get the consent of the IRS commissioner, who then would report to Congress on the investigation.
Do churches and religious organizations have a positive impact on the way things are going in the United States?
Americans are divided on that point, according to a Pew Research Center survey released on July 10 that shows they align along predictable party lines.
The Trump administration’s hard-line stance on undocumented immigrants is polarizing: People have responded with either “throw the bums out” or “have a heart.” But the question of whether faith communities can legally offer the undocumented physical sanctuary — sheltering them in churches, synagogues, and mosques to keep them from immigration authorities — is not so cut and dry.
The neighborhood has long been home to numerous historic and not-so-historic houses of worship of nearly every size and type. Here you can find congregations of Muslims, Hebrew Israelites, AMEs, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and everything else in between.
So who cares if a few churches have to be razed to make Harlem “great again,” right?
A survey released last week by the Pew Research Center suggested a very different view of the presidential actions, especially among white Protestant Christians.
There was strong support among white evangelical Protestants, with more than three-quarters (76 percent) saying they approve of the policies outlined in Trump’s order. Among white mainline Protestants, 50 percent approved.
Many Christians now are asking the question Helena Leffingwell of Arlington, Texas – not a pastor or ministry leader, just a regular member of Gateway Church, a nondenominational megachurch – put into words: “How can we see things so differently?”
“The practices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement right now are not in line with who we say we are as a government and a country,” Kumpf said. “What they did was legally on the line of violating the Sensitive Locations Memo. That’s extraordinarily morally reprehensible.”
Drafted in 2011, the Sensitive Locations Memo places restrictions on ICE enforcement in sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship, and hospitals. Many at the gathering felt that the sensitive lines of sanctuary were crossed on the morning of the Feb 8.
First came the mayors of New York, Chicago, and Seattle declaring their cities “sanctuaries”, and saying they will protect undocumented immigrants from President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to deport them.
Then thousands of students, professors, alumni, and others at elite universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Brown, signed petitions, asking their schools to protect undocumented students from any executive order.
Now, religious congregations, including churches and synagogues, are declaring themselves “sanctuaries” for immigrants fleeing deportation.
We write to you on All Saints Day to update you on the situation in Iraq. Remembering the Christians who were killed in 2009 while attending Mass at Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad. That was the beginning of harder times to all Christians in Iraq.
It has been two years and four months since we left Nineveh Plain. It has been long time of displacement, of humiliation, of exile. However, people always lived in hope of God’s mercy to return and go back home. We believed that God will not fail us.
Pope Francis leaves on Monday, Oct. 31 for an overnight trip to Sweden, a historically Protestant country that today is one of the most secular in the world.
The visit is to mark the start of observances of next year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which traditionally dates from Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of a German cathedral.
New research from Pew suggests that Americans have become less likely to believe that religious institutions can play an important role in confronting social problems.
And while some of the decline in trust in religious congregations likely originates in the “rise of the nones,” or the religiously unaffiliated, that alone does not explain this crisis of confidence. This is not really a story about secularization. After all, between 2008 and 2016, both Protestants and Catholics showed double digit declines in percentage of people who believe houses of worship contribute to social reform. The percentage decline was only slightly higher among the religiously unaffiliated.
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.
Faith-based agencies that resettle refugees in America stand to gain more than a clear conscience if the United States — after what is expected to be a fierce debate in Congress — accepts a proposed 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.
More refugees also means more revenue for the agencies’ little-known debt collection operations, which bring in upwards of $5 million a year in commissions as resettled refugees repay loans for their travel costs. All nine resettlement agencies charge the same going rate as private-sector debt collectors: 25 percent of all they recoup for the government.
This debt collection practice is coming under increased scrutiny as agencies occupy a growing stage in the public square, where they argue America has a moral obligation to resettle thousands of at-risk Syrian refugees. Some observers say the call to moral action rings hollow when these agencies stand to benefit financially.
On the north side of Indianapolis, the historic First Presbyterian Church is now the Harrison Center for the Arts. Its owner, the upstart Redeemer Presbyterian Church, is landlord to two dozen artist studios, three apartments, four galleries, an annual music festival, and the Indiana office of VSA, the John F. Kennedy Center’s nationwide arts program for people with disabilities.
Redeemer is among a host of churches that own old buildings and have embraced the arts as a way of enlivening hallowed spaces, breaking down barriers with neighbors, and paying the heating bills.
It was the sixth annual Blessing of the Bikes at the downtown church — a type of local event that has become more common as a growing number of churches consider the idea that protecting the environment is not just a scientific or political debate, but a spiritual one.
The movement has grown in the past decade and crosses denominations. An “Evangelical Climate Initiative” issued in 2006 has been signed by hundreds of religious leaders, and the Vatican held a one-day summit in late April to “elevate the debate on the moral dimensions of protecting the environment.” Pope Francis is preparing this summer to issue an encyclical — one of the most authoritative church documents — framing climate change action as a moral and religious imperative.
It would be God’s incarnate presence in human life. Not the only presence, but one that many people could enter into. Not so much an institution with structures, rules, and layers of leadership, but rather a dynamic, ever-shifting community that gathered in various ways, ranging from small circles of friends to mass assemblies for special purposes.
It would look outward, unlike other human institutions that look inward. It would see people wanting to draw closer to God. It would see human needs such as grief and tragedy, hunger and hopelessness. It would see key moments in people’s lives, such as partnering and parenting. It would see the ways people hurt each other and the tendency of injustice to become systemic.
Let’s be clear: The much-heralded “decline of Christianity in America” isn’t about God losing faith in humankind.
It isn’t about losing our moral compass thanks to whatever you happen to loathe. It isn’t about fickle millennials. It isn’t about zigging trendy or zagging traditional.
In fact, I would argue that Christianity isn’t in trouble at all. Churches are in trouble. Denominations are in trouble. Religious institutions like seminaries are in trouble. Professional church leaders are in trouble.
But churches can’t hold God hostage.