Michael Jordan and Jamie Foxx star in the new film “Just Mercy” which opened on Christmas Day. The film follows the story of the book by the same name, a first person account of lawyer Bryan Stevenson who took on the racist criminal justice system of rural Alabama, especially as it pertained to capital cases and death sentences. Stevenson is a graduate of the Christian university in Philadelphia, Eastern, and Harvard Law School. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery which has rescued more than 125 men from death row and in 2018 opened the National Lynching Memorial. His TED talk has been viewed more than six million times.
A diverse group of United Methodist leaders has offered a plan for peaceful separation of UMC conferences and congregations as the nation’s second largest protestant denomination faces conflict over how to handle LGBTQ people—whether to marry them, ordained them, and empower them within the denomination. The plan calls for those against such affirmation to pull out of the United Methodist Church and form a new denomination, for the UMC to gift to the new denomination a grant of $25 million, and for all congregations and conferences that do pull out to take with them their property (which is technically owned by the denomination). The proposal may be voted on at a General Conference in June in Minneapolis.
Phoenix and Atlanta
Large crowds of Christian students gathered around New Year in Phoenix and Atlanta to celebrate Jesus Christ and attend seminars designed to motivate and equip them to be better witnesses for Christ. In Phoenix, 17,000 Roman Catholics gathered for their annual FOCUS, and in Atlanta, 60,000 Evangelicals were together for their annual PASSION event. Fr. John Parks, AoP’10 of the Phoenix diocese served as local host; and Rev Louie Giglio of Passion Church in Atlanta was once again the primary host and sponsor of the Evangelicals. For the first time in ten years, there was no National Festival of Young Preachers (which has been postponed until March).
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), based at the University of Chicago, issued a report based on their annual American Values Survey shows that support for President Trump among white Evangelical votes continues at unusually high numbers (71%) while support for Trump among all voters has declined (35%). Forty percent of white Evangelicals and 33% of all voters say there is virtually nothing the President could do that would undermine their support. The report summarizes: “Less than half (46%) of white evangelical Protestants, compared to 73% of all Americans, say they wish Trump’s speech and behavior were more consistent with previous presidents.”
Famed German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke was celebrated in a three-hour funeral at the Faith Assembly of God in Orlando. As Africa was the focus of his 40 year ministry, the congregation and platform were well represented by African people and leaders. American Pentecostal leaders such as T D Jakes, Paula White, and Benny Hinn spoke to the audience via pre-recorded video messages. Bonnke’s ministry, Christ for All Nations, is based in Orlando; it claims Bonnke preached in 51 African countries and recorded 79 million Christian conversions. He patterned his large crusades after those of Billy Graham. Bonnke was criticized for not publicly opposing apartheid in South Africa and for advertising miracles, including raising from the dead one African minister.