Southern Baptists become first to require vaccines as agencies navigate health requirements and travel restrictions.
COVID-19 vaccine refusal rates may be high among white evangelical Christians, but the International Mission Board—which deploys thousands of missionaries—is not hesitant about the shot.
The global agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest evangelical Protestant denomination in the US, announced this month it is requiring vaccinations for missionaries they’re sending into the field amid the pandemic.
The IMB may be the first US missionary agency known to have such a mandate, according to leaders in the field, as other faith groups approach the issue in a variety of ways including limiting where people can serve and making considerations for uneven global access to the vaccines.
“This is a very common-sense decision,” said Ed Stetzer, a Southern Baptist who is dean of mission, ministry and leadership at Wheaton College. “Mission-sending agencies from the United States have the real opportunity to be vaccinated, and they’re going to places around the world that don’t.”
The IMB policy applies to both current and future missionaries as well as some staff members. Among the reasons it cited for the measure are health concerns and the fact that increasing numbers of countries are implementing their own vaccine requirements—some field personnel have reported needing to show proof to board airplanes and subways or enter restaurants and malls.
In a statement announcing the policy, IMB leaders acknowledged that it could be a deal-breaker for some people considering missionary work or currently serving with the organization.
Allen Nelson IV, a pastor who leads a Southern Baptist congregation in Arkansas, said he is not against vaccines but is completely opposed to mandates ...
Even during a pandemic, we have a duty to anticipate God’s goodness.
The first thing to go was the trip she’d earned to Boston. Then it was her summer internship at the local theater company, followed by the business course she wanted to take for college credit. Eighteen months of disappointments finally spilled over last week as my 17-year-old and I were discussing a potential graduation trip. “Mom,” she interrupted, her voice quavering ever so slightly, “I can’t talk about this. I can’t handle getting excited. It just hurts too much when things get canceled.”
My daughter’s comments reminded me of the pandemic’s collateral damage: the ability to dream, plan, and hope for the future.
As Christians, we believe hope is an important part of our shared faith as well as our personal walk. But Scripture suggests something more radical: Hope is not the privilege of the naturally optimistic; it is the responsibility of all who believe. Hope is the means by which we align not simply our plans but also ourselves with God. It is how we move toward the future he is preparing for us in order to join him there.
Perhaps the most-often quoted (and most misunderstood) passage about looking to the future with hope is Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Christians often interpret this as a blanket promise that “good things are right around the corner.” If we just keep a positive mental outlook, we can know that God has #blessings in store.
But contextually, this promise is given to the Jews recently exiled to Babylon. The faithful remnant had heeded Jeremiah’s warnings to submit to ...
Leaders are still debating whether to hand over privileged materials as survivors and the majority of their own denomination have requested.
Months after the Southern Baptist Convention voted for a third-party investigation into how its Executive Committee responded to abuse allegations, leaders failed to adopt the convention’s terms for the process, deferring to ongoing negotiations between leaders and a sexual abuse task force.
The two-day proceedings in Nashville highlighted growing turmoil in the nation’s largest Protestant body and disappointed victims who had held out hope the convention would adopt a thorough outside review to address its missteps.
Still up for debate is whether the Executive Committee (EC) will comply with the convention’s directive to waive attorney-client privilege to allow investigators to obtain relevant documents from EC members and staff.
The majority of the EC voted against doing so, with several citing the “fiduciary duty” to protect the entity and the denomination as a whole.
“We grieve yesterday’s vote by the Executive Committee, who in unprecedented fashion prohibited the will of the messengers for an open and transparent investigation,” a dozen EC members—including Jared Wellman, an outspoken advocate for victims, and Rolland Slade, the EC chairman—said in a statement. “It is our opinion that the failed vote only justifies the need for an open investigation.”
After consulting with additional legal counsel who reportedly advised against waiving privilege, the EC voted to take another week to negotiate on access to privileged information. However, the group also agreed to fully fund the upcoming investigation up to $1.6 million.
“Not a win, but a step,” tweeted Florida pastor and EC member Dean Inserra, who was among the minority of EC leaders who ...
What pop culture gets wrong about charismatic women, and what “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” gets right.
In 1998, just over a decade after the scandal that landed Tammy Faye Bakker’s husband, Jim, in prison and crashed the couple’s ministry empire, Tammy Faye was a guest on Roseanne Barr’s daytime show. Roseanne’s opening line of questions quickly turned obnoxious, even cruel: “I want to know what in the heck is the makeup a metaphor for? What does it really mean? Because you know it’s really extreme.”
Tammy Faye, obviously stung, tried to deflect the insult. Roseanne persisted: “No, your makeup is extreme. It’s very extreme. … What does it mean to you? … Are you protecting yourself? You’re putting so much stuff on your face; you’re, like, hiding.”
Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Searchlight, 2021), a film based on Fenton Bailey’s and Randy Barbato’s 2000 documentary of the same name, is no less interested in what her “look” meant and means. Jessica Chastain’s performance, however, affords Tammy Faye a dignity Roseanne’s interview did not. Hopefully, this difference signals a long-needed shift in how Pentecostals—and Pentecostal women, in particular—are represented in mass media and popular culture.
Broadly speaking, Pentecostals found Tammy Faye’s look especially troubling and dismissed her as a “cruisematic” clown, while evangelicals feared her willingness to engage with gay people and her sympathy for those dying with AIDS. The culture at large, insofar as it noticed her at all, laughed her off as a tongue-talking, Bible-thumping pseudocelebrity.
When I was young (I’m the same age as Jay, Tammy Faye’s son), reared by my parents and grandparents in ...
Once a hub for Reformed thought and a waystation for immigrants, a New York City congregation finds itself at the center of a property dispute.
Queens Christian Reformed Church—one of the first Chinese American churches in the Reformed tradition established in the United States—is waiting with bated breath to find out what the future holds.
Some are worried the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) is going to evict the congregation and sell the Briarwood, Queens, property to developers—in the process erasing an important part of Chinese American church history in New York City.
Others say they don’t know what will happen to Queens Christian Reformed Church (QCRC), but they hope there is a way the denomination and the congregation can come together to support continued ministry to Chinese Americans and other Christians in Queens who want to worship in the Reformed tradition.
“Our future is always in God’s hands,” said David Lowe, who has served as an elder at the church since 1984, “and we want to put our hope and trust in him in all things.”
Classis Hudson, the regional governing body of the CRCNA, will vote on Tuesday on whether to authorize an interim committee to figure out the future of the congregation. The Queens church officially has only 27 members, according to the denomination’s website, and no full-time CRC pastor. The church’s founder, Paul C. H. Szto, led the church until he died in 2019 at the age of 95.
According to the denomination, the church does not have a functioning church council, complicating the congregation’s role in determining its future. A council is required by CRCNA bylaws to facilitate a congregation’s exit from the denomination.
There are other complications as well. In an official statement to CT, the denomination described the situation as “extremely ...
American democracy and democratized Christianity face a similar crisis of disunity.
Several years ago, my eyes stopped on a two-panel cartoon that made me both laugh and grimace. The first had a typical Jordan River scene of a familiar bearded figure in camel’s hair dipping someone under the water, with the caption “John the Baptist.” The second depicted a similar scene, but the penitent was held under the water, thrashing about for life, while bubbles indicated drowning. That one was captioned “John the Southern Baptist.”
Once upon a time, the old cartoon could have prompted smugness in Christians of other denominations, but not anymore. In one respect, we are all Southern Baptists now.
Years ago, historian Martin Marty spoke of the “Baptistification” of American religion—by which he meant that the individualistic creedalism, the entrepreneurial drive, and the voluntary-society model of the church were so consistent with the American ethos that almost every Christian communion—regardless of polity or theology—was starting to reflect it.
For Baptists, this would seem consistent with the talking point for generations that the sort of polity practiced in Baptist churches was the model for the kind of democracy to which America aspired.
Increasingly, though, American democracy is starting to look more and more like a Baptist congregational business meeting. The theory of “the priesthood of the believer” and every voice counting is giving way to the darker reality of knife fights, splits between factions, and the social Darwinism of the way the meanest and most aggressive people can dictate the terms of debate. Whether those fights are over the color of the carpet in the vestibule or how to end a global pandemic, the so-called elites are in ...
“This Present Darkness” and other bestsellers show us the history of evangelicalism—and how it could be different.
Danyell didn’t like This Present Darkness. In fact, she hated it.
The 1986 novel by Frank Peretti tells the story of demons invading a classic American small town until the local Christians are roused to prayer. The book was wildly popular when it came out, and after more than 30 years, it still sells about 8,000 new copies annually. There are a lot of readers who really love This Present Darkness.
For some, it’s changed the way they pray. It has shaped their understanding of how they should live out their faith in their daily lives.
For others, they’ve long forgotten the plot but can still recall with delight the way Peretti describes the demons in vivid, visceral terms: slimy and slippery, horned and heaving, creeping, crackly, and carbuncled.
But not Danyell. She didn’t like any part of the novel, even a little bit.
Danyell read This Present Darkness in 2008 and, on the book-centric social site Goodreads, she wrote an exquisitely scathing, single-sentence review: “I found this book on the train in Ft. Lauderdale and honestly considered throwing myself on the tracks.”
I don’t know if Mark Noll, the eminent evangelical historian, ever rode a Fort Lauderdale train, but he also had a strong negative reaction to This Present Darkness. In his classic 1994 study, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, he holds up Peretti’s novel as an example of what he doesn’t like about contemporary American Christianity. It is evidence of the scandal of the evangelical mind—which is that there is no evangelical mind.
Jesus-loving, Bible-reading, born-again Christians have abandoned complexity and nuance and depth, Noll says, and embraced cheap, mass-market fiction.
As a seminary professor, I’m requiring the physical book in class. Church should do the same.
As I prepare to begin my tenth year as a seminary professor, I’m going to begin the biblical capstone class I’ll be teaching by recommending that my students consider taking up a habit they’re likely unfamiliar with: bringing an actual, physical, printed-and-bound Bible to class.
My reason for the recommendation isn’t just about nostalgia, though I did grow up carrying a Bible to church each Sunday. The first Bible I recall as being “my Bible” (the possessive pronoun being a piece of Christian-speak that seems to have burrowed its way into the instinctive vocabulary of the faithful) was the Youthwalk edition of the New International Version, given to me by my parents while I was still in middle school.
I liked the swath of deep purple that stood out on the cover, but I don’t recall reading it much, aside from thumbing through it to find isolated verses, old favorites that I had already memorized or gathered that I ought to have memorized.
It wasn’t until I was in high school, when I acquired a faux-leather-bound study edition of the New King James Version, that I started reading larger chunks of Scripture, often while sitting at church when I grew bored with the sermon. That’s how I learned my way around the Bible, stringing the verse-pearls I already knew onto a more extensive narrative, historical, and theological thread.
It was while reading that study edition—which featured those little half-moon indentations at the start of each biblical book, facilitating the easy flipping back and forth between books for cross-referencing—that I first began to get an inkling of why Alan Jacobs has called the codex—the form of a published Bible that the early church ...
Tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees are coming to the US without special status or government funding for resettlement, putting more responsibility on Christian donors and volunteers.
Eileen Wilson pulled up to work at the Hope Center for refugees and immigrants in Cleveland, only to find Afghan families from the surrounding area and beyond standing in line at its entrance and waiting in cars in the parking lot. Some had driven hours, even from out of state.
The crowds were a spillover from an emergency legal clinic held earlier that week in partnership with Catholic Charities. They were there to get help for their family members trapped in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
Every day for weeks, Afghans have showed up at the Hope Center. They’re placed on a waiting list to be assigned a pro bono lawyer to help them file immigration paperwork for up to three family members back home.
“I think we’ve met most of the Afghan people in Cleveland,” said Wilson, who directs the nonprofit.
A founding member of the Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland, the Hope Center is the only evangelical organization in Ohio providing specialized services for refugees, including a full-time attorney on staff, after World Relief Akron shut down in 2019.
Within four days, the center was able to exceed its fundraising goal and collect over $66,000 from donors, enough to file applications for over a hundred family members under the provisions of a designated immigration status called humanitarian parole.
With 18,000 Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applications already backlogged and the lengthy timeline of the traditional refugee route, parolee status—once rarely used—is now being encouraged by the government as a stopgap legal measure to get as many Afghans into and through the immigration pipeline as quickly as possible, once their application is approved.
Respected leader with ACIERA, CONELA, and the Luis Palau Association is the latest of hundreds of pastors in Argentina to die from COVID-19.
Death, even if we wait for it, always surprises us. The death of Rubén Proietti on the morning of September 9, at age 74, not only affected his family and friends but also touched the church across the Hispanic world.
The organizer of Latin America’s greatest evangelistic events, the mobilizer of crowds, the creator of bridges, passionate about evangelization and a paladin of unity, he is now in the heavenly homeland.
Rubén became the latest of more than 400 pastors in Argentina to die from COVID-19.
But he was much more than that. This is why, in the wake of the news, his family and the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches of Argentina (ACIERA) received messages of condolence from all the World Evangelical Alliance chapters of Latin America, Spain’s former minister of religious affairs, politicians across the continent, the former and current presidents of Argentina, the embassy of Israel, and even a handwritten personal note from Pope Francis (the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, whom Argentine evangelicals knew as a friend).
Rubén belonged to a generation of evangelicals who, at around 30 years of age, in the late ’70s dreamed and committed themselves to the unity of the church and to evangelization. During the organizing of Juventud 77, an evangelistic campaign held in Buenos Aires, the team of Luis Palau, who passed away in March, met Rubén and invited him to join their ranks.
Soon Rubén became the face of the Luis Palau Association in Latin America and served as its key man throughout the continent. He began to weave relations between the most adverse groups, building bridges and carrying out feats of unity never before imagined.
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