MH News October 10, 2019

More than 2500 people gathered in Denver at the “Evolving Faith” conference to listen to popular speakers and discuss ways to find new expressions of their Christian faith. The event follows upon the first one in 2018 which came at the initiative of two Christian authors and bloggers, Sarah Bessey and the late Rachel Held Evans. It was promoted as opportunity for “wanderers, wonderers, and spiritual refugees” to explore their faith. Most came from white Evangelical backgrounds. Special attention was given to the absent Evans, and her widower took the platform and confessed that he had become agnostic about the hope of heaven and reunion with his famous wife.


The trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger had significant religious components, one factor in attracting the attention of religious people in the region and around the country. The victim, Botham Jean, was a 2016 graduate of Harding University in Arkansas, a Christian school affiliated with the Church of Christ. There, and later in Dallas at the Dallas West Church of Christ, was active as a musician and youth leader. Shortly after the sentencing, Guyger was embraced by Jean’s brother, who also pronounced his forgiveness of her. In addition, the judge embraced the woman after handing her a Bible and the victim’s mother call for more attention to social justice issues. Ministers around the country have offered commentary on the religious elements of this trial and the behavior of these various participants.


The American Academy of Religion issued guidelines of what they think all college students should know about religion. At the invitation of the Author Vining Davis Foundation (and with their funding), the Academy spent three years developing guidelines for those who graduate from colleges and universities. They recommend that students be able to discern accurate and credible knowledge about diverse religious traditions and expressions; recognize the internal diversity within religious traditions; understand how religions have shaped—and are shaped by—the experiences and histories of individuals, communities, nations, and regions; interpret how religious expressions make use of cultural symbols and artistic representations of their times and contexts; and distinguish confessional or prescriptive statements made by religions from descriptive or analytical statements.


Private, Evangelical Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, (just north of Boston) received a $75.5 million cash gift to its endowment. Only four other Evangelical universities in the United States have received a gift over $70 million: Westmont, Liberty, Oral Roberts, and Regent. With just shy of 2,000 students (in both undergraduate and graduate programs) Gordon is the largest Evangelical enclave in the increasingly secular Northeast. “We’re, respectfully, a city on a hill in this part of the world,” said school president Michael Lindsey. The current gift comes on the front end of a recently announced campaign to raise $130 million. In 2007, the school received a $60 million gift and earlier this year received a $10 million gift.


Jews celebrate the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Southern Baptists gather in Dallas to discuss sexual abuse. Lawyers in Washington DC argue sexual orientation and religious freedom before the Supreme Court. Mormons hold their annual General Conference in Salt Lake City and expand opportunities for women. Evangelical leaders push back on President Trump’s withdraw of American troops from Syria.