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Fairness for All: Evangelicals Explore Truce on LGBT and Religious Rights

It worked in Utah. But national effort by the CCCU and NAE will be more complicated.

Among the many unanswered questions going into a new year and new government led by Donald Trump, American evangelicals await the prospects for the tense back-and-forth between religious liberty and LGBT rights.

The conflict took on new urgency in 2016, with a wave of state-level religious freedom and antidiscrimination bills amid the ongoing fallout from the US Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

In one case, panic over an earlier version of California’s antidiscrimination law, then known as Senate Bill 1146, woke up evangelical leaders to worst-case fears: that faith-based colleges could be targeted and penalized for standard practices like hiring faculty within their faith tradition or requiring students to agree to a moral behavior code.

“SB 1146 gained national attention and media interest because it was unprecedented and because California is seen by many as a bellwether state that often inspires similar legislation elsewhere,” wrote Biola University president Barry H. Corey in a letter to fellow members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). “This is not the last bill but just the first one, and future legislation could reach beyond California and beyond higher education institutions.”

In recent months, the CCCU and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) have discreetly led the charge to get evangelical institutions to think through potential legal options to safeguard their Christian distinctives as they look ahead to 2017. They met with more than 200 leaders in 9 cities to discuss Fairness for All, an approach that would bring together religious liberty defenders and LGBT activists to lay out federal legislation to secure rights for both.

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Hispanic Evangelicals & Politics Today: My Interview with Gabriel Salguero

Rev. Salguero is the founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) and a pastor in Orlando, FL

Ed: Recently, a PBS prime-time special (The New Deciders) and the NY Times Opinion page (The Evangelicalism of Old White Men Is Dead) highlighted the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) as a new kind of Evangelical electorate. What do you think they mean by this?

Gabriel: First, many are recognizing that the close to six million Hispanic Evangelicals are a growing constituency that has both similarities and differences with their Anglo Evangelical counterparts.

In many ways, it is a gift to U.S. evangelicalism that elected officials and news outlets are taking note that Evangelicals are not a monolith. The diversity of evangelicalism is part of its richness. Latinos, African-Americans, Africans, and Asians are somewhat reflective of global evangelicalism. That being said, I think there is a real need for a multicultural and multiracial Evangelical conversation on a holistic gospel-centered public policy agenda. If there have been any learnings from the last two Presidential election cycles, it is that U.S. evangelicalism is increasingly diversifying and broadening.

Ed: Given this growing diversity and the recent elections, where would you place Hispanic Evangelicals in the national political conversation?

Gabriel: I'd begin by saying that the term ‘Evangelical’ cannot be reduced to a political definition. Evangelicalism is first and foremost tied together by three strong convictions: A strong belief in salvation through Jesus Christ alone, a high view of the authority of scripture in faith and Christian practice, and a commitment to sharing our faith and discipling people.

Nevertheless, convictions have implications for the public sphere. While Hispanic Evangelicals are not a monolith, and no one speaks ...

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The Narrative of Fear Surrounding Refugees: Preparing Ourselves for the Conversation

If we are pro-life, we are pro-refugee.

In this country fear has become a defining narrative, even among Evangelicals. It comes in many forms: fear of unemployment, fear of the unknown, fear of the infringement of rights—all concerning. But one in particular—fear of terrorism—has caused a unique problem when it comes to community and love of neighbor.

This fear has played a significant role in how we view ‘the other.’ Our fear of terrorism, and often of Muslims in general, has been perpetuated and exacerbated by the recent election. This includes the narrative of the incoming President-elect’s campaign, and even now, his appointment of several people to key positions of leadership.

A year ago, World Relief launched it’s ‘We Welcome Refugees’ campaign. A year ago, the Billy Graham Center hosted the GC2 Refugee Leadership Meeting and Summit. A year ago, caring for refugees was a key value for many Evangelicals.

And yet, less than 365 days later, 81% of White Evangelicals voted for a candidate who often advocated the rejection of refugees in favor of safety and consistency. And many people responded by listening to their fears.

But at the core of who we are as followers of Christ is a commitment to care for the vulnerable, the marginalized, the abused, the wanderer. It’s Advent and we look back to the time thousands of years ago when a husband and wife couldn’t find a welcome home to stay. Today, millions of people are in a similar position, having had to flee home, safety, family, and livelihood due to violence or poverty.

What is an Evangelical to do? We are to hold to the critical pro-life issues that we have always held to. And we must remind ourselves that being pro-life is about all of life from conception ...

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Jo Saxton Q+A: What's Holding Women Back?

Why shes passionate about empowering female leaders.

Jo Saxton is passionate about leadership. A Londoner of Nigerian descent who now lives in the Twin Cities, Saxton is a church planter, leadership coach, and the author of More Than Enchanting. A sought-after speaker, Saxton also serves as chair of the board for 3DM, a global discipleship ministry. Saxton’s latest endeavor is “Lead Stories,” a podcast with co-host Steph Williams, in which they discuss themes like soul care; the “behind the scenes” life of leaders; and assessing leaders’ physical, relational, and mental health. We connected with Saxton to get her take on the unique experiences of women in leadership.

Why are you so devoted to equipping women for leadership?

In the Great Commission, we are all called, as men and as women, to be involved in what God is doing. He designed us to know him and make him known in the world around us. We need to be equipped and empowered to do that, and I don’t think we can do that with just 50 percent of the global population. We want to see 100 percent—both men and women—empowered to play our part in what God is doing in the world.

What do you see as some of the most common barriers that may be holding women back from taking on leadership opportunities?

The internal barriers women battle are huge. Most women leaders I know are quite skilled, but they may still lack confidence. They may wonder, Is this okay? Do I have permission to do this? Marian Wright Edelman said, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” When you don’t see people like you—who act like you, who have a life like you—you’ll tend to second guess and doubt yourself. That can create an internal barrier: a lack of confidence. ...

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Christians Win Nepal's First Anti-Evangelism Case

Court frees grief counselors charged under former Hindu kingdom's new constitution.

A court in Nepal has dropped a case against eight Christians, the first religious freedom dispute since the country's new constitution was implemented last year.

The seven men and one woman had been charged with proselytizing after giving out a pamphlet about Jesus in a Christian school while helping children through the trauma following the 2015 earthquake. Anything perceived as evangelism is outlawed under the new constitution.

Five are staff of the Christian teacher-training program Teach Nepal, while two others are school principals. They were arrested in June, and the pastor of Charikot Christian Church, Shakti Pakhrin, was detained a few days later. Nepali Christian leaders have welcomed their acquittal.

Barnabas Shrestha, chairman of Teach Nepal, says they were "invited by a pastor to do the counseling in the school.” While it is a Christian school, not all pupils are Christians.

Shrestha denies the counselors were trying to convert children. The police making the arrests "wanted our people to say yes, they have preached the gospel... which is not true.”

The freedom of Nepal’s Christians is increasingly under threat. Last week, according to one missionary, the government announced to leaders of Christian orphanages and boarding schools in Kathmandu that it would impose huge fines, close them down, and confiscate possessions should they find just one Christian booklet in their institution.

The government also announced that praying with children or letting them attend a Bible club is prohibited.

Another Christian Nepali contact, who wants to remain anonymous, told World Watch Monitor that the social welfare council, which approves foreign aid used to conduct programs, has stopped granting approval ...

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Opposition to Assisted Suicide Dies Out

Most Americans, including 4 in 10 evangelicals, want doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives.

The American Medical Association has described physician-assisted suicide as a serious risk to society and “fundamentally incompatible with a physician’s role as healer.”

Millions of Americans disagree.

Two-thirds say it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their doctors for help in ending their lives, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. A similar number says doctors should be able to help terminally ill patients die.

Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, says Americans want more say over how they die. That’s especially true if facing a painful, terminal illness, he says.

“If they are facing a slow, painful death, Americans want options,” he says. “Many believe that asking for help in dying is a moral option. They don’t believe that suffering until they die of natural causes is the only way out.”

Widespread support

Physician-assisted suicide first became legal in the US in 1997 under Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law. Since then, 991 patients in Oregon have ended their lives using medications prescribed by a doctor under the law, according to that state’s reports.

Today six states allow physician-assisted suicide. The latest is Colorado, where voters approved Proposition 106, which allows a terminally ill patient to request a fatal dose of sleeping medication, by a two-to-one margin in November. Washington, California, Vermont, and Montana also allow physician-assisted suicide. The city council in the District of Columbia recently approved a measure allowing the practice—a decision that must be reviewed by Congress.

In LifeWay Research’s survey, 67 percent of Americans agree ...

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Arrivals Terrifying Vision of a Global Unfriending

Although caused by aliens, the breakdown in communication in Arrival feels all too familiar.

Reader, I confess: I clicked “unfriend” last month. Several times.

Understand, I wasn’t ending friendships. I was respecting them—by refusing to let Facebook’s limitations do them further harm. It troubled me to see conversations we might have enjoyed in person go so horribly awry on social media. And anyway, our heated arguments attracted other angry voices, voices that overwhelmed our debate with snark, hostility, bullying, even hatred. I had to shut things down.

Nevertheless, I lose sleep at night over that “unfriending.” It feels like unforgiveness. It feels like despair.

So Arrival, the new science-fiction feature from director Denis Villeneuve, kicked me where I already hurt.

Arrival, based on Ted Chang’s novella The Story of Your Life, is the kind of mind-bending science fiction that cannot be discussed very thoroughly without revealing the movie’s huge surprises. But I promise to proceed with caution here, so that you can discover its challenging, rewarding, and—for some—confounding revelations for yourself.

Louise (played by Amy Adams) is a linguist who previously worked for the US government. In a time of crisis, she is called upon to help translate strange messages from alien visitors. Twelve spaceships—they look like stylish tower speakers in an extremely expensive 12.1 surround sound system—have come to hover just above the ground at locations all around the world. Where have they come from? What is their purpose here? Is this an act of war or an invitation to a meaningful relationship?

When Louise comes face-to-face with the aliens—quite literally through a glass darkly—she is braver than others in her company. While they remain ...

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Four Consistent Conversations We Must Have with Ourselves

As it turns out, talking to ourselves may not be so crazy.

Here’s a confession for you. I talk to myself. A lot. Yes, I do mean out loud. I have regular conversations with myself: at work, at home, in the car … everywhere! Sometimes my family overhears me and it solidifies their belief that I’m just a little bit crazy. Do you ever talk to yourself? Some experts say that the smartest people talk to themselves. If that is the case, I must be brilliant! How about you? As it turns out, talking to ourselves may not be so crazy. In fact, I would actually suggest that all of us need to have consistent conversations with ourselves regarding certain areas of our lives.

As we prepare for the New Year, there are things we need to be thinking about and conversations we need to be having. Self-assessment, self-awareness, and repentance are all necessary in becoming who God wants us to be. Some of the most important conversations we can have are with ourselves. These conversations allow God to examine our hearts, motives, and actions. Here are four consistent conversations we need to have with ourselves:

“Me” Conversations

The most difficult person I will ever lead is myself. These days few of us slow down long enough to ask ourselves: “How am I doing? Really? Am I healthy? Am I disciplined? Am I focused? Am I learning? Am I growing? Am I at peace? Am I closer to God than I was a year ago?” I should not feel guilty about planning time to work on me. I actually need to lead myself first. I must be relentless about blocking off time to work on my own personal spiritual, leadership, and even physical growth and health.

“Them” Conversations

Everyone needs a “Them.” We need others and we need close, intimate relationships with other people ...

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Interview: Why One Standing Rock Pastor Won't Preach About the Pipeline

Tonya White Mountain lives out the Christian call to be a peacemaker.

Assemblies of God pastor Tonya White Mountain regularly makes the nearly two-hour drive from her home on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation to Bismarck, North Dakota, the closest place to shop at Walmart and get medical checkups.

During a recent trip, a truck tried to drive her off the road. After her twin sister recounted several incidents of aggression toward Native American drivers and cars with bumper stickers opposing the planned Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), she realized it might not have been a random case of road rage.

For locals like White Mountain, the contentious pipeline debate isn’t constrained to the protest sites covered on the news. The tension spills over to the roadways, the hair salons, and even the church pews.

“It’s been divisive, plain and simple,” said White Mountain, who has lived on the reservation since 1991 and served for two decades with the tribal housing authority. “Over the years, I thought this whole race issue, this ‘us and them’ attitude, was decreasing. With this whole DAPL business, it has resurfaced with a vengeance.”

The greatest challenge for churches like hers, Good News Assembly of God Church in McLaughlin, South Dakota, is being a faithful witness amid political and racial polarization.

Despite the rush of mostly mainline denominations that rallied alongside Native Americans protesting the pipeline, local Christians are a minority. White Mountain’s small congregation draws about 20 to 40 people to worship in their gray building each Sunday, surrounded by neighbors whose kids mostly “only know Jesus as a swear word.” (Among all Native Americans, about 5 percent identify as born-again.)

“We represent Christ,” ...

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A Journey as Old as Humanity Itself

Whats behind our timeless fascination with religious pilgrimage?

Years ago, Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree contrasted two ways of being in the evolving Western world. One, epitomized by the “olive tree,” is rooted, in place, stable, stationary. The other, the “Lexus,” was the emerging vision of the modern individual: a life distinguished by movement, displacement, and “being on the road.” The first was being. The second was going. The Lexus, Friedman argued, was quickly replacing the olive tree.

At the time I read Friedman’s book, I felt freed, the way you feel freed when someone puts into words what you hadn’t found yet. Friedman was describing the church I saw in America—olive-tree Christians were being replaced by Lexus Christians. Less and less, I was discovering, were people content simply being where they were, settling down, rooting themselves, and embracing mundane Christianity. Ours was becoming a church addicted to movement. Everything had to be radical. Why?

We’ve grown bored of our freedom.

Truth is, Christians are “pilgrims” (1 Pet. 2:11). This isn’t our home. We’re simply passing through. Thus the theme of James Harpur’s latest book, The Pilgrim’s Journey: A History of Pilgrimage in the Western World, a lucid and expansive study of the place of pilgrimage in Western Christianity. The book is by no means a theological treatise. Harpur generally sidesteps any sort of confessional, spiritual, or doctrinal conversations. This is history at its finest.

The What, How, and Why

What Harpur does seek to offer is a breathtaking exploration of the trek itself—the what, how, and why of Christian pilgrimage. In reading the book, readers will find themselves edified by ...

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