NEW YORK — Brian Houston, senior pastor of Australia-based Hillsong Church, was hit with a series of critical questions during a press conference in New York City on Thursday, just hours before he was to take the stage at Madison Square Garden to preach before more than 5,000 Hillsong Conference attendees.
Houston, 60, appeared visibly nervous as he sat alongside his wife and Hillsong Church co-pastor Bobbie Houston and his son and Hillsong United frontman Joel Houston, who also pastors at Hillsong NYC with Carl Lentz. Lentz rounded out the quartet of church representatives at the press conference, where the group welcomed local media to probe them about the conference kicking off that night and issues related to their ministry work through the multi-city megachurch.
Once the floor was opened up for questions, however, it became clear that some members of the press were more interested in hearing about the sex abuse committed by Brian Houston's father in the 1970s, how Hillsong Church spends its money, and how the senior pastor handles cultural relevancy, specifically when it comes to issues of sexuality. more >>
The Madison County School Board in Georgia unanimously voted Tuesday to remove two Bible verses from a monument donated to its high school football team, fearing a lawsuit from a Washington, D.C.-based secular organization.
The board made its decision after hearing from Cory Kirby, the school district's attorney, who explained that the monument's Bible verses would likely not pass a legal challenge.
"Kirby told board members, in part, that the monument presented some legal problems in connection with the 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman. The case produced the so-called 'Lemon test,'" reported Jim Thompson of the Athens Banner-Herald. more >>
It's hard to believe that a young woman growing up in America's Deep South would choose to convert to Islam because she is a feminist. With bad news focusing on ISIS' enslavement and torture of women, Hamas' use of women and children as human shields, and Boko Haram kidnapping young Christian girls from their schoolyards all with the common quest to implement Sharia Law, Islam just isn't the religion that comes to mind when I think of women's rights and equality.
Still, in her CNN op-ed Islamic feminist Theresa Corbin expressed, "Surprisingly, Islam turned out to be the religion that appealed to my feminist ideals." she continued, "I came to realize Islam is a world religion that teaches tolerance, justice and honor and promotes patience, modesty and balance." The only problem, however, is that this feminist's writings focus on her emotions, Islam's cultural appeals (which apparently include arranged marriages), and not its faith teachings.
It is the same emotional, reductive argument that recently triggered Ben Affleck and Bill Maher's fiery debate over whether Islamists' conquests of oppression and destruction in the name of the Caliphate is a core tenant of the faith. Essentially, Bill Maher said look at the text and Ben Affleck said look at the people. more >>
A Satanic Temple group is petitioning Florida's State Capitol to include a display depicting the angel Lucifer descending into hell among other holiday stands. Florida denied the group's same request last year, deeming it "grossly offensive."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent the letter Wednesday on the Satanic Temple's behalf, arguing that the group deserves representation under the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
"Members of the religious majority are sometimes offended by the beliefs of religious minorities, and vice/versa," the letter states. "But the Satanic Temple is not required to censor itself in order to take advantage of a forum supposedly open to all." more >>
The story sounds like something you'd read on a crazed e-mail forward — the city of Houston demands to see the contents of pastors' sermons on the topic of homosexuality, gender identity, and . . . restroom access. In fact, when I first heard the story from a parent at my kids' school, I didn't believe it.
But, yes, it's true. In fact, the reality is even worse than the reports. Houston — as part of its litigation strategy opposing a voter lawsuit filed after the city rejected voter petitions to repeal a law that allows members of the opposite sex into bathrooms — has issued subpoenas that don't just demand pastors' sermons on the topics of "equal rights, civil rights, homosexuality, or gender identity," (and, of course, "restroom access"), they also demand all documents including "emails, instant messages, and text messages" on those same topics.
So, if a pastor is engaged in a theological discussion with a fellow pastor on the covered topics, that will have to be produced. If a pastor texts a friend his position on "restroom access," that has to be produced. more >>
Recent events have brought the debate on so-called "death with dignity" and assisted suicide into the spotlight again. And yet, the argument is not really a new one. No less a light than William Shakespeare extensively dealt with the subject in his writing.
"Death with dignity" is essentially a code word for suicide, sometimes in the face of a terminal illness. As one humanist put it, he wants to kill himself on his own terms rather than die from some disease. He said it would be like telling God, "You can't fire me---I quit."
In the Netherlands, they accepted the basic concept of doctor-assisted suicide ("death with dignity") many years ago. But they have now reached the point where the level of involuntary deaths has exceeded the number of voluntary deaths. more >>