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Prominent Southern Baptists Are Dropping “Southern” Name Amid Racial Unrest

posted on September 15, 2020

The Washington Post‘s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports, “Leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention are increasingly dropping the ‘Southern’ part of their Baptist name, calling it a potentially painful reminder of the convention’s historic role in support of slavery.” There is a push to adopt the name “Great Commission Baptists,” and SBC President J.D. Greear “says hundreds of church leaders in several Southern states have committed to using the alternate name.” Some critics are concerned that the name change could paper over the convention’s history on race without truly dealing with it. Author Jemar Tisby said, “I don’t know the denomination as a whole has done a good job of teaching its sordid history. Changing the name now might make that even harder.”

Read at The Washington Post

Liberty Announces Investigation into Falwell’s Tenure

posted on September 2, 2020

The Associated Press’s Sarah Rankin and Elana Schor report, “Liberty University is opening an independent investigation into Jerry Falwell Jr.’s tenure as president, a wide-ranging inquiry that will include financial, real estate and legal matters, the evangelical school’s board announced Monday.” They write, “He officially resigned on Tuesday, after a confusing day of back-and-forths about whether he would be leaving.” Falwell was already on leave, but his resignation came after a Reuters report in which a young man alleged he had an affair with Becki Falwell, and that “Jerry Falwell participated in some of the liaisons as a voyeur.”

Read at The Associated Press

Business Partner of Falwells Says Affair with Evangelical Power Couple Spanned Seven Years

posted on August 24, 2020

Reuters’ Aram Roston reports, “Giancarlo Granda says he was 20 when he met Jerry and Becki Falwell while working as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in March 2012. Starting that month and continuing into 2018, Granda told Reuters that the relationship involved him having sex with Becki Falwell while Jerry Falwell looked on.” The article builds on previous reporting that noted Granda and the Falwells had a business relationship after opening a hostel in Miami. Falwell, who is on leave from Liberty University, issued a statement to the Washington Examiner on Sunday night, “in which he said that his wife had had an affair with Granda and that Granda had been trying to extort money from the couple over the matter. Granda denies any such intent, saying he was seeking to negotiate a buyout from a business arrangement he says he had with the couple.”


Read at Reuters

QAnon: The Alternative Religion That’s Coming to Your Church

posted on August 24, 2020

For Religion News Service, Katelyn Beaty examines how QAnon conspiracy theories are now infiltrating churches. She writes, “Named after ‘Q,’ who posts anonymously on the online bulletin board 4chan, QAnon alleges that President Donald Trump and military officials are working to expose a ‘deep state’ pedophile ring with links to Hollywood, the media and the Democratic Party.” Beaty speaks to pastors who have noticed an uptick in the number of their members posting about QAnon on social media. One nondenominational pastor conveyed that “in conversations with other members, he’s realized many more are open to conspiracy theories than those who post.”

Read at Religion News Service

Joe Biden’s Catholic Faith on Display at Democratic Convention’s Final Night

posted on August 21, 2020

America‘s Michael O’Loughlin reports that Joe Biden’s Catholic faith was highlighted during the last night of the Democratic National Convention. Sen. Chris Coons, who is a divinity school graduate and holds Biden’s former Senate seat, told the audience, “People, Joe believes, were made in the image of God. Joe learned that from his parents and the nuns and priests right here in Delaware, who taught him and inspired in him a passion for justice.” Two Catholic leaders, Sister Simone Campbell of the progressive group Network and Father James Martin of America, also prayed at the convention. O’Loughlin writes, “If Mr. Biden wins in November, he will be just the second Catholic elected president.”

Read at America Magazine

Kamala Harris Is More Than Her Gender and Race. She Is Also the Future of American Religion.

posted on August 13, 2020

Religion News Service’s Yonat Shimron reports that Kamala Harris’s religious background “embodies the future of American religion.” Harris, as the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, grew up practicing Christianity and Hinduism. She is now married to a Jewish man, and she identifies as a Black Baptist. Shimron writes, “In a time of expanding religious pluralism, the country’s younger generation, many of them children and grandchildren of immigrants, will recognize in Harris a kind of multifaith and spiritual belonging unfamiliar to the mostly white Christian majority of past decades.”

Read at Religion News Service

“Christianity Will Have Power”

posted on August 10, 2020

The New York Times‘ Elizabeth Dias travels to Sioux Center, Iowa, to report on white evangelicals’ allegiance to President Trump. During his 2016 campaign, Trump had also visited Sioux Center to speak at Dordt University, a Christian college, promising those who gathered that he would give white conservative Christians like them protection and power. “Evangelicals did not support Mr. Trump in spite of who he is,” Dias writes. “They supported him because of who he is, and because of who they are. He is their protector, the bully who is on their side, the one who offered safety amid their fears that their country as they know it, and their place in it, is changing, and changing quickly.”

Read at The New York Times

Jerry Falwell Jr. Takes Leave of Absence from Liberty

posted on August 7, 2020

Christianity Today‘s Kate Shellnutt reports, “Jerry Falwell Jr. has agreed to take an indefinite leave of absence from Liberty University, the evangelical school he has led since 2007 as president and chancellor.” Liberty’s board of trustees, which includes Falwell, announced the decision in a brief statement. Shellnutt writes, “The announcement did not indicate the reason for Falwell’s leave. However, this week, a wave of Liberty alumni and supporters spoke out against his leadership after a recent photo circulated of him posing with a woman at a party with their zippers down and midsections exposed.” Falwell has been one of President Trump’s most vocal evangelical supporters, and he has weathered other scandals at the institution in recent years.

Read at Christianity Today

“Never Trump” Republicans Team with Progressives to Convert the President’s Religious Base

posted on August 5, 2020

POLITICO’S Gabby Orr reports that the Never Trump Republicans behind the Lincoln Project are teaming up with the progressive organization Vote Common Good in hopes of mobilizing “faith voters to reject Trump on Election Day.” Orr writes, “The initiative will focus on courting white evangelicals and white Catholics—two demographics Trump won by significant margins in 2016—who have lost patience with the president’s behavior or been disappointed with his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protest movement against racism.” Doug Pagitt, the progressive evangelical pastor who founded Vote Common Good, said, “I respect the fact that many people feel they’ve been conservatives or Republicans their whole lives … But for them to hear from the Lincoln Project, which is a bunch of Republicans saying they are going to vote for Joe Biden because of their faith, that can be powerful and convincing.”


Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation

posted on July 30, 2020

For The New York Times, Rep. John Lewis wrote an opinion piece shortly before his death, and it was to be published on the day of his funeral. He writes to the people continuing his civil rights work. “That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington,” he writes, “though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.” He writes of listening to Martin Luther King’s call to nonviolent activism when he was a young person. He writes, “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”

Read at The New York Times