The Houston Chronicle in collaboration with the San Antonio Express-News published a three-part series reporting on their six-month investigation of sexual abuse cases in churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. According to records available to them, more than 380 church leaders have faced charges of sexual misconduct with at least 250 charged with crimes. These actions left behind more than 700 victims. Southern Baptist leaders routinely explained that a Baptist conviction known as “autonomy of the local church” prevented them from taking any action. Attention was drawn by the newspapers to the Second Baptist Church of Houston, home to fundamentalist crusader Paul Pressler, and also to churches in Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. In response, some state organizations have publicized the names of people in their state named in the articles as predators.
The Academy of Preachers announced the resignation of president Ernest A. Brooks, AoP’11 due to financial constraints on the ten-year-old organization. The AoP is a national, trans-denominational network of individuals, institutions, and organizations pursuing a mission to “identify, network, support, and inspire young people in the call to gospel preaching. The AoP Board of Directors announced a six-month dialogue with stakeholders about its mission and programs. A Transition Leadership Team (of four persons, located remotely in Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, and Georgia) was empowered to lead this dialogue, plan the 2020 National Festival of Young Preachers (Nashville, January 2-4, 2020), and raise funds.
The National Prayer Breakfast was held this week in the nation’s capital, continuing a tradition begun by president Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, shortly after his election to the high office. The event is actually a collection of meetings, luncheons, and dinners, hosted by the Hilton Hotel and managed by a secret organization known as The Fellowship or The Family. It is run by Douglas Coe and is strongly oriented toward the Evangelical side of American Christianity. The Prayer Breakfast is attended by 3,500 persons including many in powerful political positions in the United States and around the world. The President of the United States generally is one of the speakers; and this year President Donald Trump made headlines when he mispronounced a word in his attempt at a roll-call of national achievements: “Since the founding of our nation, many of our greatest strides—from gaining our independence to abolition of civil rights to extending the vote for women—have been led by people of faith” (substituting the word “of” for the word “to” between “abolition” and “civil rights.”
Preparations are under way for a critical gathering of leaders of the United Methodist Church on February 23-26 in St. Louis, Missouri. The special session of the General Conference was called by the bishops to respond to a special report known as the Commission on a Way Forward. That commission was appointed to recommend how the UMC might respond to the divisions within its ranks about homosexuality, specifically, gay marriage and gay ordination (both of which are already being practiced by some United Methodists in violation of the church’s Book of Discipline). The Commission presented the bishops three options, including an affirmation of the current policy resisting homosexuality, a revised policy that affirms homosexuality, and a third option, call the One Church Plan, which leaves such decisions up to local congregations and conferences. Opponents of allowing homosexuality into the church are organized under the banner of the “Confessing” movement, and extensive plans have been announced to depart the United Methodist Church if the vote in St. Louis goes against them.
Former U.S. President and life-long Sunday School teacher Jimmy Carter was awarded a Grammy this week at the annual awards ceremony in California. He was awarded his third Grammy for his new book Faith: A Journey for All; he had won in previous years for his books Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis, in 2001, and A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, in 2014. Carter was nominated in the Spoken Word category for the 10th time, including for earlier books such as We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, Sunday Morning in Plains, and Living Faith. All ten of his nominations were audio recordings of these books. Presidents Clinton and Obama also won Grammys for audio records of their writings. Tory Kelly won two Grammys in the Best Gospel Album and Best Gospel Song categories and Lauren Daigle won twice for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performer/Song and Best Contemporary Christian Music Album.