Evangelist Luis Palau has been admitted to hospice care, after almost four years of treatment for lung cancer. Originally from Argentina, Palau relocated to the United States after embracing a call to evangelism under the influence of Billy Graham; he has spent fifty years traveling the world as a Christian preacher. He estimated he had preached to more than one billion people, including through his radio ministry. Palau is 86 years old, has four children and numerous grandchildren. When asked in an interview last year about his health, he said, “I’m ready to go. I have the peace of the Lord.”
Bethany Christian Services is the nation’s largest Protestant organization managing foster care and adoption for families in 32 states. Its board of directors has approved a policy allowing the company to serve LGBTQ people and families. The change in policy was more than a decade in the making, as the board (like the country at large) struggled with the issue. In making its decision, Bethany commissioned Barna Group to assess the feelings of Christians nationwide about the matter. Barna reported that 55% of Christians said that sexual preference should not determine who can foster or adopt children, or that it was better for children to be in an LGBTQ home than in foster care. The survey also found that 76% of self-identified Christians agree, at least somewhat, that it would be better for Christian agencies to comply with government requirements pertaining to the LGBTQ community rather than shut down.
United Methodists have, again, postponed their annual Conference, thus putting off yet again the decision about splitting up the denomination and dividing its enormous assets. COVID is the culprit as UMC leadership announced their meeting will now be held in Minneapolis in September of 2022. The conservative (or traditionalist) wing of the church responded with its own intent to form what it will call the Global Methodist Church. This comes out of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, an internal movement and organization that has fought to keep traditional or conservative policies regarding gender identity and orientation (among others). Earlier, a liberal or progressive group called Liberation Methodist Connection organized, inviting Methodists (and other Christians) to participate in their action-oriented strategy for addressing social issues.
John Baker, founder of Celebrate Recovery, died suddenly this week; he was 72 years old. Baker entered Alcoholics Anonymous for his own recovery from addiction and, as part of the 12-step journey, re-connected with his wife and began attending the famed Saddleback Church led by Rick Warren. Later, in 1990, he presented to Warren a plan to create a Christian version of the program. That led to the establishment of the ministry which, under Baker’s leadership, spread to 35,000 churches and has impacted the lives of more than seven million people seeking help with addiction. Baker is survived by his wife, two children, and several grandchildren.
Christians around the country and the globe are participating in the annual disciplines associated with the season of Lent. These include prayer, reflection, and self-denial. But the pandemic has created some interesting adjustments. For instance, #ashtag—not the more common hash tag but #ashtag. Clever, isn’t it? It is an app that digitally places the ash-like sign of the cross on the forehead of a submitted photo; so in lieu of going to a church and kneeling to receive the sign of the cross smudged onto your forehead with the burnt ashes of the palm leaves, many went on-line, submitted a photo, and then presented themselves on Facebook and such with the same sign of the cross. Faith in the modern world, I suppose.