The last few weeks have seen a lot of commentary on pastors leading the same-sex "affirmation movement." Church leaders like the infamous unorthodox author and speaker Rob Bell, evangelicals Stan Mitchell of Gracepointe Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and Danny Cortez of New Heart Community Church of La Mirada, California are just a few of the movement's leading affirmation pastors.
So when a pastor takes a public stand to say, "I have a deep pastoral concern that Christians and churches are flinching all across our culture" it makes us ooh and aah a bit in wonder and admiration. This was the reaction to Dr. David' Platt's keynote address at the annual National Religious Broadcaster's Convention held in Nashville, Tennessee last week. What should be the norm for Christian leadership is increasingly becoming the exception.
Platt, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board and author of the books Radical and A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture, began his address by pointing out the hypocrisy of Christians who advocate for less controversial social issues while avoiding others like life, morality and marriage altogether. "We are passionate against poverty and slavery, injustice that we should stand against, but issues that don't bring us into conflict with culture around us. Yet on issues like abortion or so-called same-sex marriage, issues that are much more contentious in the culture around us, instead of being passionate, we are strangely passive." more >>
As a child growing up in a Southern Baptist church, I learned my place in American culture through rapture movies. These films—based on a pop-dispensationalist reading of prophecy—pictured a time when the church would be suddenly ripped from the earth, sailing through the air to be with the invisible (to the viewer) Jesus Christ. These films would always then picture the panic of those who were "left behind" and depict the societal chaos that would emerge once the "salt and light" of the culture had disappeared. We never considered that if such a rapture were to happen, American culture might be relieved to be rid of us.
Historian Rick Perlstein notes the "culture wars" that ignited in the 1960s and 1970s were really about dueling secular prophecy charts. "What one side saw as liberation, the other side saw as apocalypse," and vice-versa, he writes. It's hard to argue with his thesis. The scenes of LSD-intoxicated college students frolicking nude in the mud of the Woodstock Festival in New York would seem horrifying to the salt-of-the-earth folk in Middle America for whom "the dawning of the Age of Aquarius" would seem like a threat. At the same time, Merle Haggard's counter-revolutionary anthem would have the same effect, in reverse. The words, "We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee," must seem like hell, if you're in Woodstock.
From Majority to Minority more >>
Baptists have long been champions of religious freedom, recounted mega church pastor Rick Warren and Southern Baptist spokesman Russell Moore, in a panel moderated by Judge Ken Starr, president of Baptist affiliated Baylor University.
Last week's symposium on "Proselytism and Development" was hosted by Georgetown University's Berkley Center, whose Religious Freedom Project is directed by IRD board member Thomas Farr.
Early champions of religious liberty included Rhode Island colony founder Roger Williams and Baptist clergy like John Leland who influenced Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. more >>
Southern Baptist Convention President, Ronnie Floyd, sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Sunday, asking him to "lead forward" in the fight against the Islamic State and "take necessary actions now" to bring an end to the suffering of millions who've been displaced, abused and killed as a result of ISIS' uprising.
The letter, which was also signed and supported by 16 former presidents of the convention, assured Obama that he has the "unequivocal support of the vast majority" of America's largest Protestant denomination in getting the United States more actively involved in ending ISIS' reign and the persecution of what the Scripture calls "the least of these."
"Since ISIS is a continuing threat to world peace in a way unknown to us since the Nazis of World War II, we humbly call upon you to use the influence and power of your distinguished office to take the necessary actions now in this urgent hour to bring an end to these human atrocities," Floyd's letter to Obama states. "The abuse, brutalization and murder of children, women, and men that is occurring before the world calls our country to lead forward to bring this to an end." more >>
Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas megachurch in Texas, says Jesus Christ would be outraged by President Obama's audacity when he compared the Crusades and Inquisition to the mass slaughter being committed by the Islamic State terror group.
Jeffress joins a multitude of conservative Christian voices — the Revs. Franklin Graham, Samuel Rodriguez, The Catholic League's Bill Donohue and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins — in condemning Obama for comparing Christianity to the atrocities being committed by ISIS.
" … [L]est we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. … So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith," Obama said during his speech at the 63rd annual National Prayer Breakfast, just one day after he met with Muslim leaders whose names White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday wouldn't be release to the press at this time. more >>
Just when you thought Rev. Danny Cortez would be busy avoiding controversy after he and his congregation were dismissed by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2014 for adopting a "third way" affirming same-sex unions, he has landed himself in hot water again.
This time, dissension arose during an interview between the "third way" pastor and another gay-affirming minister who finds holes in Cortez's logic on sexuality, Scripture, and polyamory. The host of the interview is Rev. Jeff Hood, who describes himself as "a Southerner, Queer, and Christian, I am a committed activist, visionary writer and radical prophetic voice to a closed society."
At the beginning of the interview Hood simply asks whether or not Cortez believes the Bible makes room for polyamory. Cortez starts off firmly rejecting polyamory relationships saying, "I don't see polyamory spoken of positively at all in scripture. When polyamory is mentioned, it is not approved or valued." Hood presses on, at one point even insinuating Jesus and His twelve disciples engaged in a polyamorous relationship. Again, Cortez denies polyamory and the idea that Jesus engaged in sexual relationships with His disciples. more >>