Two weeks ago the presidents of the six Southern Baptist seminaries denounced Critical Race Theory as a way of understanding racism in America. Reaction has been swift and decisive. Influential pastor Ralph West of the Church Without Walls in Houston announced that he was withdrawing from the doctoral program at Southwestern Seminary and cutting ties with the denomination. Other prominent SBC black pastors have followed suit. The Southwestern Seminary president Adam Greenway issued a statement defending the original declaration and explaining that the presidents did not need to consult the experiences and attitudes of their black ministerial brothers before making their statement. It is a mess.
The Reverend Doctor David Stancil, minister extraordinaire, officially retired from the pastorate of the Columbia Baptist Fellowship in Columbia, Maryland. Dr. Stancil followed his ministerial calling as a Navy chaplain, minister of pastoral care, seminary professor of pastoral care, and finally as pastor of churches in Bristol, Virginia and Columbia, Maryland. I bring your attention to this, in some ways a common occurrence, because Dr. Stancil is my close friend and was my college roommate back at Georgetown College many years ago. I salute his effective, faithful, and impressive ministry and give thanks to God that he has been my friend and my colleague in gospel work.
The Public Religion Research Institute reports that three in four of both white evangelical Protestants (77%) and white Roman Catholics (74%) report that their place of worship is currently holding in-person indoor services. Less than half of Hispanic Catholics (49%) and white mainline Protestants (47%) and only about three in ten Black Protestants (28%) report the same. The COVID virus is named as the top concern of religious people in the United States. When broken down by tradition into nine religion categories, six put the virus as the number one concern. The only other concern named in the top three in a majority of groups was the fairness of the presidential elections.
COVID claims the lives of many religious leaders; that is the number one religion story of the year, according to Religion News Service of Columbia, Missouri. Protests for racial justice, a Catholic elected president and another one confirmed to the Supreme Court, and Trump posing with the Bible in front of a church round out the top five stories. The second five include conservative Christians voting overwhelmingly for Trump in the presidential elections, China persecuting Muslim Uighurs, the Vatican investigating ex-cardinal McCarrick, pandemic limiting worship services, and Jerry Falwell resigning from Liberty University. Nine of these were reported here in The Meetinghouse.
Bethlehem and Elsewhere
A very rare celestial sight appeared in the sky this past Monday night and many are calling it the Bethlehem star. The planets Saturn and Jupiter crossed paths and appeared from earth to merge into one bright light in the sky, just minutes after the winter solstice on December 21. The last time this occurred and was visible from earth was 1228. While the planets appear close together, they are actually still millions of miles apart; but the appearance reminds people of the famous star that led the Magi to the manager after the birth of Jesus, as reported in the gospel of Matthew.