Dozens of Evangelical Leaders Meet to Discuss How Trump Era Has Unleashed “Grotesque Caricature” of Their Faithposted on April 16, 2018
The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports, “About 50 top leaders of major evangelical institutions will attend an invitation-only gathering this week to discuss the future and the ‘soul’ of evangelicalism at a time when many of them are concerned their faith group has become tainted by its association with divisive politics under President Trump.” The Rev. Tim Keller, one of the pastors attending the gathering, said, “It is a complete terrible reversal when [people believe] religion is about politics when it’s the other way around.” Organizers asserted that the purpose of the gathering is not meant to be anti-Trump, but to examine how the term “evangelical” could be restored to its original, faith-based meaning.
The Associated Press’s Mehmet Guzel reports that Andrew Craig Brunson, an American evangelical pastor and long-time Turkish resident, is on trial for charges that he spied against Turkey and had links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Brunson was the pastor of a small church in Izmir, Turkey, before being arrested after Turkey’s 2016 coup attempt. He denied all charges, saying in his defense statement, “I am a Christian pastor. I did not join an Islamic movement. Their aims and mine are different.” If convicted, Brunson could face up to 35 years in prison.
The Chicago Tribune’s Manya Brachear Pashman and Jeff Coen report that the Rev. Bill Hybels has stepped down from his position at the influential Willow Creek Community Church. They write, “His departure comes less than a month after a Chicago Tribune investigation disclosed that Hybels had been the subject of inquiries by church leaders into claims that he ran afoul of church teachings by engaging in inappropriate behavior with women in his congregation—including employees—allegedly spanning decades.” Vonda Dyer, a former church leader and one of Hybels’ accusers, said, “I believe the women who have come forward because our stories are so similar. For the sake of the other women and for the sake of the church, I cannot stay silent.”
Buzzfeed News’s Hannah Allam and Talal Ansari report that state and local Republican officials in 49 states have publicly attacked Islam with rhetoric and proposed legislation since 2015, facing few consequences. “In some states, the incident was a one-off from a local official in a rural, conservative district,” Allam and Ansari write, “But many others had multiple senior leaders attacking Islam in repeated incidents dating back years, with no punishment from either political parties or voters.” They add, “The anti-Muslim rhetoric in virtually every state reflects the general coarsening of political speech in the anything-goes era of President Donald Trump, who’s lashed out at Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, women, and other targets.”
Religion News Service’s Kimberly Winston reports on FaithLands, an interfaith movement that promotes local sustainability farming. Winston writes, “What’s new about FaithLands is that there is now a critical mass of people and groups who see farming as a religious imperative.” Some FaithLands participants believe that growing food can serve the purpose of cultivating stronger faith communities. Winston adds, “What’s good for the table is also good for organized religion, they suggested, especially at a time when congregations face falling numbers, crumbling buildings and aging membership.”
Pope Francis’s New Major Document: Caring for Migrants and the Poor Is Just as Important as Preventing Abortionposted on April 10, 2018
The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer reports that on Monday, Pope Francis published an apostolic exhortation, which provides guidance for the Catholic Church. “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life,” Pope Francis wrote, before affirming that it was equally holy and pressing for Christians to care for the poor and downtrodden. The Rev. James Bretzke at Boston College said, “It will not make liturgy traditionalists very happy.”
For The New York Times Magazine, Abe Streep reports on the Arlee Warriors basketball team, based on the Flathead Indian Reservation, which has suffered from high rates of suicide. After a player on an opposing team committed suicide a week before the divisional tournament, the team made a suicide prevention video that went viral. “The team hoped a few thousand people might view their video,” Streep writes. “But within 24 hours, it had been watched nearly 86,000 times.” The team prays to God before each game, not just for victory, but for also for the wellbeing and survival of the reservation’s youth.
Vox’s German Lopez reports that Anchorage, Alaska, voted on Friday against a proposition that would have required individuals in public spaces to use the bathroom according to their gender assigned at birth. Advocates for the bill had argued that it would prevent sexual assault. Lopez writes, “There’s also no evidence that nondiscrimination laws — and other policies that let trans people use the bathroom for their gender identity — lead to sexual assault in bathrooms and locker rooms.”
BBC News’s Owen Amos profiles Ralph Drollinger, an evangelical pastor who leads a White House Bible study group attended by Trump cabinet members, including Vice President Mike Pence. Drollinger is a founder of Capitol Ministries, which provides Bible studies for political leaders across the nation. Drollinger says, “I believe in institutional separation, but not influential separation. No matter what the institution is—the family, commerce, education—it needs the bulwark precepts of the word of God in order to function correctly.”
NPR’s Sarah McCammon reports, “As allegations continue to swirl about the president and a payout to a porn star to cover up a sexual encounter, evangelical leaders are organizing a sit-down with President Trump in June.” The meeting will be held at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on June 19. McCammon writes, “The meeting is part of an effort to rally and reassure conservative voters, especially white evangelicals who fueled Trump’s run to the White House, ahead of this year’s midterms.”