- newLeap of faith in the NFL? Colts coach is an ordained minister; his QB is a strong believer
Here is a trivia question for (the few) GetReligion readers who follow sports, and professional football in particular.Name the only head coach in the National Football League who is a (a) former pro quarterback, (b) an ordained minister and (c) the former head of a seminary?Yes, I am not making up that last detail. The answer? That would be (the Rev.) Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts.Now, there is another reason that I brought up Reich and his unique resume (see this Baptist Press piece by Tim Ellsworth, one of my former students in Washington, D.C.), including his service as president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.The big NFL story, these days, is the unusually high number of big name quarterbacks who are either on the move or asking (or hinting) that they would like to move to other teams. The first big domino to fall in this story was Carson Wentz moving from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Colts.Wentz should be in the prime of his career, but had an epic slump in 2020, a collapse that was clearly mental and emotional, as well as physical. As many pundits and journalists noted, Wentz hadn’t really been at the top of his game since he lost the quarterback coach — that would be Reich — who helped him become a potential superstar.ESPN noted that the Colts are: … banking on their present -- and future -- with Wentz to solve what has unfortunately been a revolving door at quarterback in Indianapolis over the past few years. … The person responsible for ensuring Wentz is the answer for the Colts? Reich. The coach is putting his reputation on the line by believing he can get Wentz, who was his quarterback when he was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, back to the level when he was considered an MVP contender before a season-ending knee injury in 2017. …
- 4 hours ago 24 Feb 21, 8:00pm -
- newUnited Methodists on the clock: Will 2021 see America's biggest church split since Civil War?
The United Methodist Church is on the brink of America's biggest religious schism since the Civil War, with the conflict centering on sexual morality, biblical authority and theological liberalism.At stake is an empire with 6.7 million U.S. members and 31,000 congregations located across most American counties, 6.5 million members overseas and $6.3 billion in annual donations (though there's now a severe money crunch). Many of those churches sit on prime urban and suburban real estate.But when? The 2020 General Conference to settle matters was postponed until this coming Aug. 29- Sept. 7 in Minneapolis, a city that currently limits meetings to 150 people. News calendars are iffy until the imminent UMC decision on whether it can meet then, or must delay a second time or whether it's possible to manage such a complex international meeting online.Whenever and however delegates assemble, by most accounts they're prepared to adopt some version of the 33-page "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation" (.pdf here) hashed out last year via professional mediation among representatives of various factions.One breakaway has occurred prematurely. Online worship last Nov. 29 established the hard left "Liberation Methodist Connection." The new denomination is intended for Methodist exiles to live out their "God-given identities" regardless of not only same-sex identity but e.g. gender expression, sexual non-monogamy, immigration status, piercings, body art or drug use.However, the main event involves who inherits the UMC's name, logo, endowments, properties and structures. In U.S. Methodism, liberals and centrists combined have political power to install a laissez-faire LGBT policy, while the evangelical wing dissents alongside millions of Methodists in Africa and the Philippines. (This structure is unusual. Most "mainline" denominations that have legislated full LGBT inclusion are U.S.-only.)The Wesleyan Covenant Association figures conservative congregations and pastors will happily leave behind UMC assets, schools and agencies and is busily preparing a new breakaway denomination under "Protocol" terms that would merge Americans and booming churches overseas.
- 10 hours ago 24 Feb 21, 2:00pm -
- What's new about Joe Biden's White House faith office and why this story bears watching
Not to anyone’s huge surprise, President Biden has resurrected a faith-based office as the religious face of the Biden White House.Don’t yawn yet. There are some intriguing differences between what President Obama’s faith-based office was like and what Biden is proposing. The office’s most recent incarnation includes discussion about race, Covid, pluralism and “constitutional guarantees.” From Religion News Service: President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Sunday (Feb. 14) reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, undoing former President Donald Trump’s efforts to reshape an agency that went largely unstaffed for most of his tenure.I do need to take some issue with the top paragraph. Trump did have a faith-based office called the Faith and Opportunity Initiative, and it was headed up by Paula White-Cain, a Florida-based televangelist with no government experience.However, her connections among evangelicals and charismatics were second to none, and those were the folks who Trump saw as essential to his surprise 2016 victory. They got well-publicized visits to the White House and photo ops in the Oval Office. What’s not as well known is there were Jewish groups who also had access through White-Cain; something I learned when I was researching this 2017 profile on Paula. In a statement accompanying the announcement of the executive order, Biden echoed his recent remarks to the National Prayer Breakfast, bemoaning widespread physical and economic suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic, racism and climate change. He added that those struggling “are fellow Americans” and are deserving of aid. “This is not a nation that can, or will, simply stand by and watch the suffering around us. That is not who we are. That is not what faith calls us to be,” he said. “That is why I’m reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to work with leaders of different faiths and backgrounds who are the frontlines of their communities in crisis and who can help us heal, unite, and rebuild.”I still think White-Cain let in more folks than most people knew but she got no credit for it. The White House announced the appointment of Melissa Rogers, a First Amendment lawyer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, to oversee the office, as she did in former President Barack Obama’s second term. Rogers will also serve as senior director for faith and public policy in the White House Domestic Policy Council.I interviewed Rogers for my Paula piece and she was helpful and knowledgeable. She was also accessible to the press and not above taking a few pot shots with how the Trump administration was running its faith-based office in recent years. Clearly, White-Cain either didn’t read or didn’t listen to Rogers’ critiques.
- 1 day ago 23 Feb 21, 4:30pm -
- Reader asks: How can news consumers decide if Ethiopian massacre reports are true?
While Americans focused on the dramatic conclusion of 2020 White House race, reports began circulating in the overseas press claiming that a sickening massacre had taken place in a famous church — a pilgrimage site for the Ethiopian Orthodox.How famous? For centuries, church officials have claimed that the Church of St. Mary of Zion in Axum contains the Ark of the Covenant.This was, from the start, a journalism horror story — since Ethiopian officials were preventing foreign journalists from reaching the site of the alleged massacre. At the same time, activists on both sides of the stunningly complex conflict appeared to be working hard to shape the coverage that was taking place.The other day, a frustrated reader sent me this note, after seeing materials posted online attempting to undercut claims that this massacre of 700-plus believers took place. “I’ve trusted you and your sources for about five years now so I’m hoping you can help get to the bottom of this,” the reader said.I told the reader that, to me, it appeared that this was a case in which — at this point — certainty was impossible. A careful reader would note that some journalists were saying that claims about the massacre could not be verified — either way. “Human rights activists on left and right are concerned about the report and believe the attack COULD have taken place. But there has been no verification that has been locked down certain,” I said.If you want to see what we’re talking about, check out these early reports from Catholic News Agency (“Hundreds reportedly dead after massacre at Oriental Orthodox church in Ethiopia”) and The Church Times (“Massacre ‘of 750’ reported in Aksum church complex, Tigray, Ethiopia”).This is, of course, an argument about the attribution of truth claims. When journalists cannot (for a variety of reasons) do on-site reporting to seek evidence, they frequently are forced to seek the best sources that are available to them (often via telephone or other forms of technology) and report what they can. Here is the crucial point: Journalists have to clearly identify the identity of the sources and let readers know what kind of access they would or would not have to the information.This leads us to a recent Associated Press story with a headline stating, “ ‘Horrible’: Witnesses recall massacre in Ethiopian holy city.”The key word is, of course, “witnesses.”
- 2 days ago 22 Feb 21, 6:40pm -
- Behind the headlines: As winter storm cripples Texas power grid, people of faith rally to help
Texans like to brag that they live in “a whole other country.”I don’t suppose, though, that whoever came up with that slogan had Siberia in mind.As a severe winter storm crippled the state’s energy grid this week, my parents were among 4 million residents who lost electricity. Mom and Dad endured a really chilly night before going to stay at my sister’s house for a few days.Heroes (think “Mattress Mack”) and villains (#FlyingTed) have emerged, while people of faith — as they tend to do during disasters — rally to help.Here at Religion Unplugged, Jillian Cheney tells the inspiring story of a church that partnered with a Jeep club to rescue snowed-in families.Houses of worship losing power themselves hampered some efforts to provide reliable sanctuary, but “leaders are doing all they can to connect and comfort their communities,” Christianity Today’s Kate Shellnutt reports.Churches and other faith groups teamed up to help open an emergency warming center for the homeless at a Dallas convention center, Religion News Service’s Bob Smietana notes.Catholic churches in San Antonio and Fort Worth opened their doors, according to the Catholic News Agency’s Jonah McKeown.Among others mobilizing to help: Southern Baptists, Churches of Christ and Episcopalians.Power Up: The Week’s Best Reads1. A congregation of avatars: A few pastors minister “to the wild universe of virtual reality, or VR for short,” this fascinating feature by World magazine’s Juliana Chan Erikson explains.
- 2 days ago 22 Feb 21, 2:00pm -