Rev. Charles Stanley announced his retirement as pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta. The 87-year-old minister came to the church staff in 1969, rising to the pastorate two years later. In 1977, he founded In Touch Ministries, which now broadcasts around the world; Stanley will remain active and on air through these broadcasts. Stanley was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1984 and again 1985 and played a crucial role in turning the denomination in a fundamentalist and politically active direction. The church, which relocated from downtown Atlanta to the Dunwoody area in 1997 counts 12,000 members. Current Associate Pastor Anthony George will assume the position of senior pastor.
Two stories out of Nashville this week: leaders of the nation’s largest protestant denomination are promoting a name change; they want the 15-million member network to surrender Southern Baptist Convention and adopt Great Commission Baptists. The organization has tried a name change before, always unsuccessfully. And the Academy of Preachers has announced their first event since moving to a new home at Belmont University. November 14 will be a virtual festival of young preachers, using the theme “The Stories of Jesus in Our Lives: Sharing the Good News for Today.” They have announced Rev. Joseph T. Howard, AoP’12, of Atlanta, as the new Executive Director.
COVID-related controversy continues to swirl around Rev. John MacArthur and his Grace Community Church in the metro Los Angeles area. A California Superior Court judge ruled last week that public health directives from the state prohibiting large indoor gatherings were legal and that the church, which had brought the suit, was required to obey them. But Sunday morning came, and MacArthur preached to thousands of people packed into the sanctuary. Thousands returned in the evening to listen as MacArthur discussed the situation with another minister. MacArthur discounts both the seriousness of the health situation and the authority of any secular agency to tell any church it cannot gather for worship.
Former editor of the influential Evangelical magazine Christianity Today Mark Galli was received into the Roman Catholic Church this past week at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet, Illinois. His road to Roman Catholicism began long ago as a Presbyterian; he then joined the Episcopal Church before moving into its conservative breakaway movement known as the Anglican Church of North America. For forty years he has been a writer and editor with the Christianity Today publishing empire. Last December, for his last editorial, he wrote a scathing rebuttal of President Trump and calling for his impeachment. He retired in January of 2020, largely because of his impending conversion to Catholicism.
Jews around the country are preparing for the annual High Holy Days, which begin this weekend with the Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah, marking the year 5,871 on the Jewish calendar. The High Holy Days will conclude after ten days with the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. COVID-19 has pushed many of the celebrations from the temples and synagogues into homes. Earlier this month, rabbis in the Conservative movement, the second-largest American Jewish group, issued a 41-page Rosh Hashanah manual. It includes the traditional Torah passages read on Rosh Hashana, in addition to prayers, songs and discussion prompts on the theme of starting over, all designed for use in the home without the assistance of a rabbi