Civil rights activist and U S Congressman John Lewis died in Atlanta. An effort is underway to rename the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, for him. A children’s book about his early life is named, “Preaching to the Chickens”. But he is not the only loss this week. Well-known preacher and activist C. T. Vivian also died this week at age 95, also in Atlanta. And I report the death of the British-born but Canadian-resident, the popular-in-America Evangelical scholar J. I. Packer, at the age of 93. His book, Knowing God, sold one and a half million copies.
Ventura (Los Angeles)
California-based Barna Group, a Christian research organization, has released new information about how Christians have responded to the COVID crisis, at least in relation to Sunday morning worship practices. More than half of monthly worship attenders report continuing worship through the digital offerings of their own congregation. More than a third report streaming the services of a church other then their own regular place of attendance. And finally, almost one third of these worshipping Christians have not participated in on-line or in-person worship during the pandemic. As many as 18% are viewing worship services from multiple churches each month.
The new movement toward racial solidarity has brought new attention to segregation in church life. A movement to counter that began in 2000 in Dallas with the publication of the book Divided by Faith (and four years later with the sequel, United by Faith), both by Michael Emerson and still in print. But after 20 years, the results are in. “All the growth in multiracial churches has been people of color moving into white churches”, Emerson now says, then explains: leadership in multiracial churches is almost always white. Research shows that once a multiracial church becomes less than 50% white, the white members leave.
A Southern Baptist minister in Texas stopped to assist a motorist in distress and ended up a victim of another accident. A truck-car collision north of Houston resulted in a fire, and John Powell stopped his own car to assist. While giving aid, Powell was struck by a large truck and killed. He leaves behind a wife and four young children. Powell was described by one of his Louisville seminary professors as a person who “loved Christ, preached Christ, trusted Christ”. A GoFundMe account has raised at least $135,000.
Popular Christian author Matthew Paul Turner has announced that he is gay and is divorcing his wife of 17 years, fellow author Jessica Turner. A graduate of Nashville’s Belmont University, Turner had won praise for his series of children’s books, especially his 2019 book “When I Pray for You” which has sold more than 100,000 copies. “I have lived many days overwhelmed by fear, shame, and self-hatred”, he wrote. “For the first time in my life…I can say with confidence that I’m ready to embrace freedom, hope, and God as a gay man.” The couple have three children and continue to be cooperating parents.