MH News February 20, 2020

Rev. Dr. Robert M. Grant Jr., senior pastor of The Father’s Way Church, was invited to give the opening prayer for the Virginia House of Delegates, meeting in Richmond, Virginia. He prefaced his prayer with a short opening remark then launched into a six-minute prayer, calling upon the elected delegates to protect biblical values such as the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and racial equality. If Virginia did not protect these values, he said, the state would incur the wrath of God. Some delegates voiced opposition to the prayer and others walked out. Eventually, the speaker Eileen Filler-Corn gaveled the prayer to an end and began to recite the pledge of allegiance. Pastor Grant had not submitted the text of his prayer for advance vetting.


Less than eight miles separate two mega-churches on the suburban edge of Chicago that have endured public scandal involving pastoral leaders. Harvest Bible Chapel (and its influential pastor James MacDonald) and Willow Creek Community Church (with its equally famous pastor Bill Hybels) have stayed in the religious news for almost two years as lay and interim professional leadership have struggled to manage very large congregations after the disgrace of their respective pastors (for offenses including sexual impropriety, financial mismanagement, and deception). Falling attendance and declining contributions have plagued both congregations, even as they remain very large churches (Willow Creek, especially, with more than 15,000 people attending each week at one of their various locations).


Once again, the Southern Baptist Convention is moving toward internal division and struggle, much as it did in the years between 1979 and 1993 when fundamentalist elements took control of the organization and its agencies and turned it hard toward the theological and political right. The Executive Committee has recently taken these actions: appointed a committee to examine the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and its Executive Director Russell Moore and directed the Pastors Conference to remove from their annual program a woman scheduled to speak. A new conservative organization or network has been launched, led by a pastor in Louisiana, designed to resist recent moderating moves among SBC leaders and affirm a more hard line stance on issues like women in ministry. These developments come on the heels of a major, national sex abuse expose and on-going tensions about the influence of Calvinism in the denomination.


Score one for persistent atheism! Ben Hart moved to Kentucky and applied for a vanity license plate that read, “IM GOD”.  He was turned down by the state department of transportation, although he had secured that message on his license plate in Ohio. The eighty-year-old man sued in federal court, claiming his right of free speech had been abridged. And this week Federal Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove not only ruled in his favor but directed the state to pay the lawyer’s fees for Hart, totaling $150,000. As a result, Hart picked up his license plate this week, saying to others who were waiting in line, “You’re looking at the world’s most famous license plate.” Plates with specialized messages, called vanity plates, have been available in some states since 1931 and have been used as a revenue stream by states.


A Roman Catholic bishop has announced “Policy 650” requiring all employees of the diocese to be identified and addressed in accordance with their birth gender, thus taking a strong public stand against the transgender movement in the United States. Rev. Thomas Paprocki had already banned Catholics in same-sex marriages from receiving communion, becoming godparents, and reading Scripture lessons at mass. The new regulations ban transgender students from using their preferred pronouns and bans safe locker rooms or medications needed by transgender students. He is even demanding that Catholics refrain from supporting their LGBTQ family members.


St Simons Island 
And this: my new radio show launches officially on Thursday afternoon, 1 pm EST, April 2, 2020.  It will broadcast on local stations 97.5 FM and 94.5 FB and also webstream on my Facebook page. It will then be archived and available on my YouTube channel (Dwight A. Moody). It will contain  much of the material on my weekly email but will also include live guests (and a few recorded interviews).  I am eager to start and, in fact, will actually be on the air the previous four week–what I am calling my preseason shows!–beginning Thursday, March 5, at 1 pm. I hope you can catch one of these shows and give me some feedback.