MH News February 25, 2021

Ursuline Sister Dianna Ortiz died of cancer at the age of 62. In 1989 while working with indigenous people in Guatemala, Ortiz was abducted by government forces and incarcerated, raped and tortured. Her 2002 book “The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth” described her ordeal and brought her to public attention. She later was deputy director of the organization, Pax Christi USA, and worked in Washington DC, where she died. She was a native of New Mexico but came to the Ursuline Convent and attended their school, now called Brecia University, both in Owensboro, Kentucky.


Will “Souls to the Polls” be ruled out of favor? Maybe so, at least in Georgia. “Souls to the Polls” is a long-standing get-out-the-vote strategy for black congregations that organize church members to vote on the Sunday before election day, often leaving from churches on buses secured for the purpose. Because most of these voters vote blue, Republican legislators in Georgia have introduced a bill to ban early voting on the Sunday before election day. They, of course, are trying to rebound from their triple loss in November of 2020: governor and two senators. We will track the movement of that proposal—and a host of others—in the state where I vote.


Los Vegas
After a 40-year career in Christian music, the artist known by the single name Carman died in Los Vegas due to complications from surgery. He was 65. The youngest of three children in an Italian American family in Trenton, New Jersey, he began performing Christian music in 1985 and before it was over had won seven Dove Awards. He was nominated for four Grammys, named Billboard’s Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year in 1990 and 1992, and sold more than 10 million albums. Six of his 13 albums tracked #1 on the gospel charts of Billboard.


Pew Research Center describes its new 176-page report, based on a survey of 8,660 Black adults, as its “most comprehensive, in-depth attempt to explore religion among Black Americans.” Among its findings are: 99% believe in God and 59% say religion is very important; 38% of those who attend church during a year attend a multi-racial or white church with black Catholics most likely to attend such a church; 44% of Black Americans approve of ministers performing same sex marriages; 21% are agnostic or unaffiliated; and finally, when seeking a new church, what ranks as important to African Americans are a warm welcome and a good sermon.


Today is a good day to stack one upon another all of the issues facing the Southern Baptist Convention this spring, things that threaten the cohesion and cooperation of America’s largest denomination. One, popular SBC public theologian Russell Moore is on shaky ground with the preachers because he does not fall in lock-step with the Trumpian tsunami that has swept through the denomination. Two, non-southern state conventions in the SBC network are rebelling against their long-time partner, the North American Mission Board, because the Board is now working around them instead of through them. Three, Houston Pastor Ralph West has led an exodus of black ministers and churches from the SBC in response to the failure of SBC institutions and organization to address systemic racism. Four, an organization called Conservative Baptist Network is calling out what they see as liberalism in the SBC institutions, threatening a repeat of the fundamentalist takeover of 1979-1993. Five, just below the surface of SBC life is the long-simmering resentment toward the increased dominance of Calvinistic theology which in recent years has spread from Southern Seminary in Louisville to all aspects of SBC organizational life. And six, Southern Baptists are still unsettled by the #MeToo wave that hit the denomination two years ago, led by popular bible teacher Beth Moore of Houston.  All of this comes in the midst of a decades-long decline of membership, including 2019 which registered the largest decline in the history of the denomination. Lot’s going on as they prepare for the annual convention in June in Nashville.