Weekly briefing: Pastor leaves pulpit; Christian leaders question candidates; school bans Christian club

Weekly briefing: Pastor leaves pulpit; Christian leaders question candidates; school bans Christian club

Unsplash/Jussara Romão

We've compiled the top stories of the week. Here's what you need to know:

Pastor steps away from pulpit because he feels far from God, tired in soul

The Rev. Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, surprised his congregation with an announcement that he is stepping away from his ministry for a season because he feels far from God, tired in his soul, and needs to recuperate mentally and physically.

Before he made the announcement to his 10,000-member congregation ahead of his three-month sabbatical, Wesley, who has led the 216-year-old church since 2008, preached on the value of rest in his sermon, called “Selah.”

“You can’t pour out of an empty cup. It is very dangerous for your pastor to be on empty. … I’m tired. And I’m tired in a way that one night of sleep ain’t gon’ fix. I’m tired in my soul.” — Rev. Howard-John Wesley

2020 presidential candidates answer Christian leaders' question about poverty

Seven 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have responded to a request from 50 Christian leaders asking them to make a short video explaining what they would do as president to offer assistance and opportunities for those less fortunate around the world. 

Each election cycle a coalition of faith leaders called The Circle of Protection asks presidential candidates to speak for a few minutes about what they would do to fight hunger and poverty. 

“I believe the Scripture that teaches us that 'whoever oppresses the poor taunts his Maker.' I believe in faith that instructs us to attend to the words ‘I was hungry and you fed me. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’” — Mayor Pete Buttigieg

New York public school rejects student Christian club, OKs LGBT Pride Club

A New York school district violated federal law when it rejected a Christian student's request to start an on-campus Christian club, according to a nonprofit legal group representing the student.

The First Liberty Institute sent a letter to Wappingers Central School District on Wednesday demanding that it approve a freshman student’s application to form the “OMG! Christian Club” at Roy C. Ketcham High School. 

“Ketcham school officials blatantly ignored the plain text of the Equal Access Act of 1984 by rejecting [the student’s] Christian club because of its religious speech.” — First Liberty Institute counsel Keisha Russell  

Christian sailor who died saving others in mass shooting recently rekindled faith

One of the three heroic sailors who died protecting others during a mass shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola on the morning of Dec. 6 had only recently rekindled his faith.

Anthony Snead, who coached Airman Mohammad Sameh Haitham in track and cross-country at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Florida, said Haitham, who graduated in 2018, recently rekindled his Christian faith and had been attending church with a classmate.

“The sorrow from the tragic event on NAS Pensacola will have a lasting impact on our installation and community. We feel the loss profoundly and grieve with the family and friends of the deceased.  The Sailors that lost their lives in the line of duty and showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil.” — Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer at NAS Pensacola

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