MH News December 19, 2019

The Religion News Service, the premiere religion interfaith news bureau in the country (and the primary service The Meetinghouse relies upon) has issued its list of important news stories of 2019. The top five are:

  1. An investigation by the Houston Chronicle reveals hundreds of victims of abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention, spurring calls for the SBC to investigate churches that cover up abuse and prompting a lament at the SBC’s annual meeting.
  2. A gunman kills 51 worshipers and wounds 39 at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. An Australian linked to anti-Muslim and white-supremacist statements faces charges. New Zealand quickly enacts new gun restrictions.
  3. A special meeting of the United Methodist Church’s General Conference strengthens a ban on LGBT clergy and same-sex marriage, rejecting a local-option plan recommended by bishops. Western Conference bishops declare a “safe harbor” for LGBT clergy.
  4. Scandal fallout in Catholic hierarchy: Ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick defrocked for abuse. Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone resigns over handling of abuse cases. A report finds financial, sexual wrongs by former Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Michael Bransfield.
  5. Notre-Dame de Paris, the medieval cathedral treasured as a Catholic shrine and an architectural wonder, is heavily damaged in an accidental fire that topples its spire. It is spared total destruction by firefighters’ heroics.


Salt Lake City
A former investment manager for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has turned informant to the Internal Revenue Service. He has submitted documents alleging that the Church has been funneling billions of dollars into an investment account rather than using it for charitable purposes, which would be a violation of its 501(c)3 status with the IRS. The money comes from surplus donations from Church members who receive tax credits for such gifts, with both the IRS and the donor assuming the money is used toward charitable purposes (which can range from funding soup kitchens to paying the light bill in Church property. The manager David A Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon, works for Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment division of the Church.


The Evangelical magazine Christianity Today has announced its selections for the Christian books of the year, in eight categories. They are: Apologetics & Evangelism: Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion, Rebecca McLaughlin (Crossway); Biblical Studies: Christobiography: Memory, History, and the Reliability of the Gospels, Craig Keener (Eerdmans); Children & YouthFar From Home: A Story of Loss, Refuge, and Hope, Sarah Parker Rubio (Tyndale Kids); Jesus and the Lions’ Den: A True Story about How Daniel Points Us to Jesus, Alison Mitchell (The Good Book Company); Christian Living & Discipleship: The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, Justin Whitmel Earley (InterVarsity Press) and Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, Latasha Morrison (WaterBrook); The Church & Pastoral Leadership: The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart, Harold Senkbeil (Lexham Press); CT Women: What Is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth About Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics, Rachael Denhollander (Tyndale Momentum); Arts and Culture: Write Better: A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality, Andrew Le Peau (InterVarsity Press); Fiction: Light from Distant Stars, Shawn Smucker (Revell).


Jersey City
Seven well-known Christian charities have made the list of Forbes top 25 charities for 2019, ranked according to total donations. These include Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Lutheran Services in America, Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision, Catholic Charites, and Catholic Medical Mission Board. Most of these gather money to help people with such things as food, clothing, shelter, and medical services; others, like Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) and Christian Broadcasting Network do mainly other sort of work, like evangelism (and there are five in this category in the list of 100. Many others, like some of these, have religious roots, such as St. Jude’s Hospital and Compassion International. The Forbes list includes total income for each of the 100 organizations, the amount of that spent on ministry versus administration and fund-raising, and the top compensation given an employee.  It is all very interesting and deserves some attention.


Opposition to a denominational plan to handle sexual abuse issues among the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention continues to gather strength. The plan was unveiled during their annual convention in June and was met with immediate resistance as being too little and too weak. The issues have continued to be a focus on research and reporting by the Houston Chronicle; and examples of abuse have continued to dominate denominational headlines—just last week a popular minister in Alabama was sentenced for convictions on 28 sexual abuse charges. Christa Brown, a retired appellate attorney and now active blogger and advocate for abuse victims, has gathered links to much of this resistance, even as she calls for an independent panel to handle the crisis.