Black Church leaders have made a joint call to the next Conservative leader to overturn the ‘hostile environment’ legislation that led to the Windrush scandal.
The Tory leadership contest is down to the last two candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.
Boris Johnson’s successor will be chosen by 160,000 Conservative members, with the winner due to be announced on 5 September.
In a video by the National Church Leaders Forum, Bishop Joe Aldred asks the winning candidate, “Do you promise that if you become Prime Minister, you will repeal the ‘hostile environment’ legislations that were brought in from 2012 to 2016?”
Rev Celia Apeagyei-Collins adds, “Creating a hostile environment was a political act that led directly to the Windrush scandal.
“To truly right the wrongs they’ve caused, repeal those laws.”
COLUMBUS, Ohio (RNS) — Watching backstage as more than 800 Lutherans sang hymns on the floor of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton mused, “We haven’t been singing like this for a long time together.
“It’s really powerful.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America gathered this week in Columbus for its first Churchwide Assembly since COVID-19 upended churches across the country in 2020.
The triennial gathering brings together members from all corners of the ELCA to hold elections, make declarations and consider legislation guiding the country’s largest Lutheran denomination. Their work continued unabated in Eaton’s absence Friday (Aug. 12) after the presiding bishop tested positive for COVID despite masking and vaccine requirements.
Here are some of the actions the ELCA Churchwide Assembly took.
Apology to Santa María Peregrina
Four representatives from Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina in Stockton, California, traveled to Columbus to receive a public apology from Eaton during the Churchwide Assembly.
The former bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod was forced to resign after their abrupt removal of the Latino congregation’s pastor on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe sparked outcry across the denomination. Eaton’s response afterward — appointing a listening team months later, then failing to immediately act on their recommendations — also drew criticism.
Eaton said the congregation’s response was “very gracious,” even if it was hard to hear.
“I think it was a healthy thing to do, and I’m touched by the courage of those four to stand up in front of all these people and say, ‘This is how this affected us,’” she said.
Eaton said she plans to visit Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina later this month and will work with the congregation, the synod and churchwide leadership to respond to requests the congregation has made.
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, left, addresses representatives of Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller
First Asian American vice president elected
The ELCA elected Imran Siddiqui as vice president of the denomination, making him the first Asian American elected to the highest office a layperson can hold.
“This is surreal,” Siddiqui said after the final tally was announced.
The incoming vice president is a senior investigator for the U.S. Department of Labor and current vice president of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA, which spans Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. He grew up Muslim and became Lutheran in 2011.
Siddiqui said it was “fantastic” that the top three candidates for vice president were all people of color. They included Roberto Lara Aranda, president of Asociación Luterana de Ministerios Latinos ELCA, and Tracey Beasley, a member of Reformation Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. (Travel guru Rick Steves, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood, Washington, also received one vote on an earlier ballot.)
But, Siddiqui said, “That doesn’t mean we have solved racism yet. We have a lot of work to do, church.”
Voting members considered a memorial urging support for the #Landback movement.
In the end, they approved a memorial encouraging ELCA members and entities to support “creative programs of restorative justice in partnership with Indigenous peoples.” That can include returning land to the appropriate Native American nations when selling or transferring property.
The memorial also encourages ELCA members and entities to explore making land acknowledgements a part of their public gatherings, to educate themselves about the Indigenous peoples whose land they inhabit and to deepen relationships with Indigenous peoples and tribal nations.
The memorial comes as the denomination announced its Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to American Indian and Alaska Native People for the first time in person at Churchwide Assembly. The assembly also hosted a worship service designed and led by Indigenous Lutherans and an address by National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp.
Indigenous Lutherans lead a worship service during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, Aug. 10, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller
Revisions to Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust
A lot has changed since 2009.
That’s when the ELCA adopted its social statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” which allowed Lutherans to hold differing views about same-sex relationships and opened the door for LGBTQ clergy.
Social statements are the denomination’s teaching and policy documents.
A memorial authorized a narrow review of the social statement about sexuality to make sure its wording “reflects current church understanding, church policy, civil law, and public acceptance of same-gender and gender non-conforming couples.”
A later motion asked that the denomination in particular consider the four positions of “bound conscience” expressed in the social statement. The statement allows that “on the basis of conscience-bound belief,” Lutherans may have different views about sexuality and marriage, including the view that same-sex relationships are “sinful.”
Revisions could be considered as early as the 2025 Churchwide Assembly.
Restructure the governance of the ELCA
Is it time for another Reformation?
Eaton said she thought the idea was “brilliant” when she first heard of plans to consider restructuring the governance of the ELCA, which was formed 35 years ago by a merger of three Lutheran denominations.
“Things are very different from 1980s America,” she said.
Voting members seemed to think so, too. They approved a memorial directing the ELCA Church Council to establish a Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church to reconsider the principles of the denomination’s organizational structure and the statements of purpose for its churches, synods and the churchwide organization. The memorial instructs the commission to be “particularly attentive to our shared commitment to dismantle racism.”
The commission will present its findings and recommendations to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly in preparation for a reconstituting convention.
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton speaks during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. Photo by Janine Truppay, courtesy ELCA
CENTRAL ASIA (BP) – Daily conversations hold possibilities for sharing the Gospel, and International Mission Board missionary Josh Oakes is looking for each opportunity.
Small talk about the weather? Oakes will introduce God as the Creator and Sustainer of life.
A comment about politics? Oakes sees an open door to talk about the fallenness of man and our need for a Savior.
Day to day Oakes uses what he calls “Gospel hooks” to start spiritual conversations. Turning quickly to deeper topics, he listens to discern whether someone is searching for truth or closed and uninterested. In this way, he is using the Gospel as a filter to determine where God is working in people’s hearts.
Gospel hooks vary depending on cultures. Missionaries who live and serve among the lost learn the culture and develop long-term relationships with the people. This presence leads to an understanding of how the Gospel can best be shared to a particular people group.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BP) – As a kid, Asleigh Wilson certainly had no plans to work in missions, but through Calvary Baptist Church and the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) at Middle Tennessee State University, God captured this first-generation college student’s heart for Him. Now graduated, she plans to spend her life telling others about Him.
Wilson was born and raised in Murfreesboro, but her family didn’t have a belief system. In fourth grade, she and her brothers started taking the bus to some local churches. For a while, Wilson and her brothers thought only of Jesus as made-up stories.
“That’s what we assumed they were,” she said.
Eventually, they started attending the Fortress youth group at Calvary Baptist Church. The volunteers stayed consistent and even came to the schools to eat lunch with the youth.
By the time Wilson entered high school, she had been saved and baptized and was being poured into by women at Calvary.
DALLAS (BP) – For Johnnie Bradley, pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church for the past 16 years, the struggles of the pandemic meant increased opportunities to share the Gospel by expanding the church’s longtime Messiah Ministry outreach.
Messiah Ministry was part of Shiloh even before Bradley and deacon James Smith, current outreach director, arrived at the church. For years, deacon John Lemons, former outreach director, and church volunteers regularly brought men from the Dallas Life Foundation and Union Gospel Mission to Shiloh on Sundays for worship, a meal and a visit to the church clothes closet and food pantry.
“I just provided a little more structure when I came,” Bradley said. “The more organized you are, the more people you can help.”
In this case, organization included integrating the men more smoothly into the church service, so their presence became natural and not distracting. Trips to the clothes closet were moved to after the worship service when men might also pick up toiletries and nonperishable food items.
Even before the pandemic, Bradley saw the need to expand the ministry beyond the homeless.
GRANGER, Ind. (AP) – Political leaders on Thursday honored Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana as a determined advocate for her beliefs during a funeral after she and three other people were killed in a highway crash last week.
Numerous members of Congress were among several hundred mourners for the nearly two-hour service at Granger Community Church near Walorski’s northern Indiana home.
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke about Walorski’s work as a Christian missionary in Romania with her husband, as the director of a local humane society and as a television news reporter before entering politics.
“Tell you the truth, Jackie never had a job. She always had a purpose and a mission,” McCarthy said.
Walorski, 58, was in an SUV with two members of her congressional staff on Aug. 3 when it crossed the median of a northern Indiana highway for unknown reasons and collided with an oncoming vehicle, according to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office.
A prominent pro-life activist and former NFL player is chiding Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams for a new ad that ties abortion to her faith and implies that God supports abortion.
Benjamin Watson, a Super Bowl-winning player and former tight end for the New England Patriots, posted comments on social media this week criticizing the ad from Abrams, who has become more outspoken in recent days in discussing her faith in relation to abortion.
Abrams is the Democratic nominee in Georgia for governor.
The 60-second ad shows CNN’s Dana Bash asking Abrams, “You are a Christian. You are the daughter of two retired United Methodist pastors. I’m just wondering how you think about your faith with regard to this policy?”
Abrams, in the ad, explains how her faith led her to change her beliefs on abortion.
“I’ve thought about my faith a great deal. In fact, I was anti-abortion until I went to college. And there I met a friend who had my shared faith values,” she says in the ad. “But we started having conversations about what reproductive care and abortion care really is. And when I talked about that it was an experience that I had because she was able to give me a different perspective.
“And over the course of the next few years, I really started thinking about what role should the legislature play – what role should government play? This is health care. This is about a woman’s right to control her body. This is about a woman’s right to experience and determine her future. And that, for me, as a matter of faith, is I don’t impose those value systems on others. More importantly, I protect her rights. I protect her humanity, and that should be my responsibility.”
Watson, the host and executive producer of the 2020 film Divided Hearts of America, said Abrams was misrepresenting Christianity.
“Respectfully if you identify as a Christian your authority is the Word of God not the opinion of a friend who shares your faith,” he wrote.
The ad, he said, “conveys empathy but it also conveys baseless compromise.”
“If your holy scripture sanctions abortion as it does love/justice/charity explain how,” he wrote.
Contemporary Christian music group Maverick City Music and gospel singer Kirk Franklin recently teamed up with the non-profit Los Angeles Mission to combat severe poverty in the Skid Row community.
In a recent interview with CBN News, Los Angeles Mission President Troy Vaughn explained that the collaboration is the fulfillment of a dream he believes God gave him several years ago.
“About five years or so ago, God gave me a vision called Music Matters. Music Matters stands for Maintaining Universal Strategic Investment In Community. And we can have, as the backdrop, bring music back to our heart,” Vaughn told the outlet. “Music is a universal language, and everybody understands music, right? And then we can use that as the backdrop of community transformation.”
“What would that look like?” he went on to ask. “And so what we’re going to do is launch it today, right? Today is ground zero,” he continued. “And, you know, God brought me back full circle here because I think it’s really important for us to understand that homelessness, at least here in Los Angeles, we understand homelessness with a clear association with Skid Row. And so we come back today to send a message.”
Maverick City Music and Kirk Franklin, who recently made an album together, held a Benefit concert on the streets of Skid Row, Los Angeles, on July 25. Other artists in attendance included MAJOR and Gospel singer Judith Christie McAllister.
Founder of Living Faith Church Worldwide, Bishop David Oyedepo has concurred with people making the news of him being the richest pastor in the world, saying that he has met all the criteria used in accessing the richest person.
Speaking during the Day 4 of International Youth Alive Convention 2022 tagged “Destined for Dominion” at Faith Tabernacle Canaanland, Oyedepo said that the last time he collected a salary in ministry was 1987, yet God is sustaining him.
“December 1987 was the last time I earned my last pay in this ministry. Nobody heard it from my mouth until 1996 at a minister’s conference and the Church for the first time in 2007. I wasn’t an object of pity; I already had my own financial system running without taking a penny from your Church money.
“We have our books now being published in different languages around the world at no charge to us and yet they send us royalties. Have I ever taken a dime from books in my life? Never! To be blessed is the purpose. And yet it sells in millions and multimillions every year.
“All these corner corner life is not the way to live. And yet they say the richest pastor in the world is this short man and they are not lying because somebody never borrowed, never begged, and never lacked. Then what does it mean to be rich? Never one day announcement that gets people jittery? And always giving and giving? Then who is a wealthy man? You better wake up!
The hits keep coming for the Tennessee megachurch pastor accused of having an affair with a church employee.
As The Daily Beast reported earlier this week, Venue Church in Chattanooga is due to go up for auction at the end of the month, after defaulting on its $2.8 million mortgage. Now, embattled Pastor Tavner Smith is facing a lawsuit from his ex-wife, who claims the church missed its payments to her, too.
Smith and his wife, Danielle Smith, divorced last year as rumors swirled that the pastor was secretly sleeping with his female worship leader. Danielle, who co-founded the church with her husband and served as co-lead pastor and director of the women’s ministry, signed an exit agreement with Venue around the same time, according to a civil complaint filed in Hamilton County court on July 25.
According to the filing, the church agreed to make an initial payment to Danielle by Jan. 1 of this year and would continue to make monthly payments to her for “a specified period of time.” It also allegedly agreed to transfer the title of her car to her name only.
The suit claims the church failed to pay Smith the initial payment, as well as the monthly payments for May, June, and July. It also claims Smith sent Venue a demand letter on July 1 and a request for mediation on July 11, and that the church responded to neither.
A lawyer for Danielle Smith declined to comment. Venue Church did not respond to an email seeking comment.