Southern Religion

Faith-based activism that works

State of Belief’s Ari Geller writes:

The Washington Post has a very interesting story today about a house of worship in DC focused on faith-based activism. They provide everything from help finding jobs, to affordable housing and medical services for the homeless. It’s a good reminder that faith-based groups do just fine providing these services without the financial support – or interference – of government.

In that story the Post’s Michelle Boorstein writes:

The Church of the Saviour was never a conventional church. It has no pews, no Sunday school, not even a Christmas service. Instead, for 60 years this small, unusual group based in Northwest Washington has quietly fueled a revolution in faith-based activism.

Thousands of people are served by dozens of organizations started by the church, part of the intense social justice work mandatory for members. One of its programs found jobs for 800 people last year. Another provided 325 units of affordable housing. There’s Columbia Road Health Services. Christ House medical services for the homeless. Miriam’s House for women with AIDS. And on and on.

Read the entire story of faith-based activism without federal largesse here.

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , | Comments Off on Faith-based activism that works

Making sense of the Gaza Strip

Adam Hamilton, pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., helps us make sense of the Gaza Strip:

After all, these missiles have no guidance systems and virtually never hit a real target. They stand no chance of winning a military battle against Israel. These missiles have killed as many Palestinians (as they occasionally fall back into Gaza) as they have Israelis. And the launching of them was almost guaranteed to bring an Israeli attack that would kill large numbers of Palestinians—making their launching of these missiles suicidal.

So, I continued to ask, “Why?”

He explores historic, religious and philosophical issues at Ethics Daily, and the piece is well worth reading.

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , | Comments Off on Making sense of the Gaza Strip

Religion in the Declaration of Independence?

American Creation, a blog whose central focus is “promote discussion, debate and insight into the religious history of America’s founding,” says of Thomas Jefferson’s best-known prose work:

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson lists 27 specific grievances against Great Britain. And since the DOI can be considered the official “note of divorce” from the Mother Country, it is natural for us to assume that these grievances lie at the very heart of the Revolution. After all, the DOI was accepted by the Continental Congress as THE official document in which facts were “submitted to a candid world.”

Reviewing the DOI grievance by grievance, American Creation found exactly none about religion and no plain references to Christianity.

Please read it all.

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Religion in the Declaration of Independence?

IMB numbers game

Tony Cartledge of Baptists Today analyzes The IMB numbers game:


Former IMB trustee Wade Burleson began the new year by suggesting that the IMB make a resolution to put some integrity into its numbers. On its website, the IMB cites statistical reports claiming that in 2007, IMB mission efforts resulted in 609,968 baptisms and 25,497 new church starts.

Burleson points out that such numbers would require that each of the IMB’s 5,500 or so missionaries would have to be responsible for five new church starts and about 120 baptisms, and George Frink picked up on that discussion, pointing to an Ethics Daily post from 2005 that cited several international Baptists who dispute the way the IMB takes credit for baptisms and church starts that are unrelated to its work.

Please read it all here.

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on IMB numbers game

Rick Warren: Domestic violence != divorce

Right Wing Watch is being a little unfair to Rick Warren.

Their criticism is based on an Associated Baptist Press story which says:

In audio clips on his Saddleback Church website, the Purpose Driven Life author says the Bible condones divorce for only two reasons — adultery and abandonment.

“I wish there were a third in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse,” Warren said. “There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, ‘If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.'”

That means in essence that Warren runs a doctrinaire conservative Southern Baptist church (the woods are full of them around here). And he’s almost inevitably the kind of pastor Mary Gruben wrote about in the Abilene, Texas, newspaper:

I was married to a violent and abusive man. When I talked to my pastor about the physical abuse, he asked me if I was “willing to give my life for my husband.” When I could no longer follow that kind of warped thinking, I got a divorce. I began to realize that the God I know and serve loved my children and me more than that. After the divorce, I was told I should have tried harder and prayed harder.

She’s an inerrantist, according to well-known, Oklahoma Southern Baptist pastor Wade Burleson, and nonetheless goes on to say:

Our Southern Baptist system sets women and children up to be abused. The “prominent” Southern Baptist thinkers have no idea the jeopardy their view places women and children in. They have given husbands carte blanche to do what they want to. It also gives the impression that the men are perfect and the women are flawed. It is a closed system when it comes to the woman’s place at home and in ministry.

Her view is the exception among Southern Baptists, as she makes clear.

Whereas Saddleback Church pastor Warren’s is commonplace in his denomination.

So let’s be fair.

Gruben is right — it’s a doctrine which puts women and children in danger. And should in the name of simple humanity be abandoned.

But not a view about which to affect outraged surprise when Warren’s church uses Web-delivered audio files to teach it.

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bottom line for a slipping Southern Baptist Convention?

Annual % change in SBC membership

Annual % change in SBC membership

David Waters may have poked some Southern Baptists in the eye with his Dec. 12 critique and market-based analysis of denominational decline.

Writing for the Washtington Post/Newsweek, Waters attributed the tanking baptism numbers to:

  1. Loss of product appeal: Most Americans no longer agree that Christ is the only way.
  2. Loss of brand appeal: Three decades of denominational infighting that was part of the conservative takeover and is now part of a kind of internal inquisition, plus the church’s clear alliance with the Republican Party, freighted the term “Southern Baptist” with negatives.
  3. Market change: “Nearly all predominantly white Christian denominations” are in decline.

He drew blood, however, when he closed by criticizing the very use of the numbers with which the Southern Baptist Convention has been preoccupied:

Shouldn’t the church find more faithful ways of measuring its success? Mercy instead of membership? Forgiveness instead of financial contributions? Baptisms lived in the world instead of baptisms recorded in a book? Justice instead of just stats?

When it comes to being the church, the bottom line is not ‘the bottom line.’

Malcolm B. Yarnell III , director of the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, responded Wednesday with a pointed defense.

Yarnell preaches something of a sermon which answers Waters’ concluding remarks, not his entire piece. It proceeds like a piece of clockwork, and defies summary. But take a look.

Yarnell concludes that “God does not call a Christian to forsake church activity. And human activity can be measured through statistics, can it not?”

So, an apparent preoccupation with falling baptism, membership and other numbers is ok?

Or might Yarnell have done well to address the issues on which Waters was actually focused? Namely, the causes of the decline, a confrontation with which might reveal a solution, if there is one for the Southern Baptist Convention.

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on Bottom line for a slipping Southern Baptist Convention?