G.K. Chesterton wrote, “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” I don’t have to tell you that 2015 is a year filled with horrific news. Yet, even through all the darkness God’s goodness and mercy still shines bright. For this alone, we can be thankful.
Chesterton is right. Our human nature grants us a choice between appreciation and underestimation of God’s goodness. As in 2013 and 2014, this Juicy Ecumenism blog entry offers gratitude for at least 10 things for which Evangelicals can see God’s glory throughout 2015.
(1.) Planned Parenthood’s Fetal Trafficking Exposed
In July 2015, The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released its first under-cover video documenting Planned Parenthood’s involvement in harvest and trafficking of unborn baby parts. Since July, ten more exposé videos were released as a result of a three-year investigation by CMP.
Thank God for CMP’s courage to expose Planned Parenthood’s hidden evils. We can also be grateful for the public backlash over Planned Parenthood’s violent killing and trafficking of baby parts that ignited nationwide protests against the abortion giant. According to World Magazine, 40,000 citizens lined sidewalks and streets to demonstrate their disapproval. While Planned Parenthood continues to receive tax-payer funding, this protest does demonstrate steps in the right direction. We can also thank God that the U.S. House Judiciary Committee launched an investigation of Planned Parenthood in September. The House then voted for a select investigative panel to further examine Planned Parenthood’s illegal activities.
(2.) Evangelicals for Life Launched
Every January, the annual March for Life draws an estimated 400,000 people willing to weather Washington D.C.’s bitter cold to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It’s no secret the majority of marchers are our Catholic brothers and sisters. Evangelical leaders are hoping to add to that growing number. In January 2015, prominent Evangelical influencers gathered before the March for Life to strategize new ways to engage Evangelicals. The leaders included Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Kelly Rosati, Vice President of Community Outreach at Focus on the Family. The result was the announcement of an annual a major pro-life conference called Evangelicals For Life that will take place in conjunction with the 2016 March for Life.
We thank God for these pro-life men and women’s commitment to encourage more Evangelicals to peacefully demonstrate on behalf of the sanctity of life. For more information on the upcoming Evangelicals for Life event January 21-22, please visit ERLC.org.
(3.) Little Sisters of the Poor will get their Day in Court
At the start of November, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear the Little Sisters of the Poor’s lawsuit filed against the Obama Administration. In 2011, the Catholic order of nuns declined to pay for insurance plans covering contraception and abortion-inducing emergency contraception as dictated by the U.S. Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act.
We give thanks for the Little Sisters of the Poor and for their mission to “serve the elderly poor in over 30 countries around the world.” We are grateful for the sisters’ courage to challenge the federal government’s overreach. Also, thank God for the Court’s willingness to hear the Little Sisters of the Poor’s case. However, we commit to pray that our nine Supreme Court Justices rule to uphold non-profits’ constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion.
(4.) Evangelical Denominations Report Growth
The Assemblies of God (AG) denomination continues to experience rapid growth and diversity globally, yet the Pentecostal fellowship is not the only Evangelical denomination on the rise in 2015. The Southern Baptist Convention remains the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Although the total number of members has declined, new Southern Baptist church plants grew 1 percent over the last year to 46,449 churches, as reported by Christianity Today. These new churches are expanding the denomination’s “surface area” and reaching communities that did not previously have an SBC presence, laying the foundation for future growth.
In addition, the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s (IRD) Jeffrey Walton reported growth within the Wesleyan Church in North America. A reported 234,427 worshipers attending weekend service is a record-number attendance for the evangelical denomination.
The Wesleyan Church, Assemblies of God, and Southern Baptists are all biblically conservative denominations with a faithful loyalty to traditional Christian teaching. We praise God for the continued growth of denominations faithful to Biblical teachings.
(5.) Christian Campus Ministry Reinstated in California
Campus chapters of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), arguably the largest Christian campus ministry in the nation, were “de-recognized” and stripped of official recognition by Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, Bowdoin College, SUNY Buffalo, Tufts University and Rutgers, while 23 chapters on 19 campuses in the California State University system were dismissed. The justification for revoking the groups’ status was due to the student-led organization’s requirement to appoint campus leaders who affirm traditional Christian doctrine.Praise God for good news in California: in June, InterVarsity announced its chapters would be reinstated on the 19 California State University campuses. “We support CSU in its commitment to serve the diversity of students on its campuses. In fact, InterVarsity communities are some of the most diverse groups on Cal State’s campuses,” wrote InterVarsity president Jim Ludgren in an official press release. “At the same time, we maintain our commitment to provide campus communities that are clearly Christian, where all students can experience and learn more about Christian community, theology, and practice.”
(6.) U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Lives Another Day
Back in December 2014, IRD’s Religious Liberty Director, Faith McDonnell, called on Christians to help ensure the federal appropriations bill included funding for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). McDonnell wrote, “Every year there seems to be a battle to keep funding the Commission that was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which is Public Law.”
Thank God USCIRF will survive another year to help protect religious liberty abroad. At the end of the government’s fiscal year this past October, Senate Bill 2078, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and sent to President Obama for his signature. McDonnell reports, “The passage of this bill demonstrates the power of advocacy in shaping U.S. policy.”
To get involved and advocate on behalf of the Persecuted Church, visit IRD’s International Religious Freedom program here.
(7.) Arrests Made in Murder of Indianapolis Pastor’s Wife
News broke early this month of violent murder of Amanda Blackburn, wife of a local Indianapolis pastor. Amanda and her husband, Davey, moved to Indianapolis to serve in leadership at Resonate Church. Sadly, perpetrators broke into her home while her husband was at the gym and shot Amanda while her baby son slept in his crib upstairs. Amanda succumbed to her injury the next day. Even among the brutal details, there is news for which to give God thanks.
Praise God, two men have been arrested and charged with Amanda’s murder. After receiving news of the arrests Pastor Blackburn responded, “Though it does not undo the pain we are feeling, I was extremely relieved to get the news of the arrest made last night of Amanda’s killer.” He continued, “The family and I couldn’t be more thankful for the level of compassion and professionalism the IMPD and investigators have shown us through the last couple of weeks.” We continue to pray for God’s justice throughout the trials.
(8.) African Bishops Defend Biblical Marriage and Sexuality
At their business meeting on September 7-11 in Zimbabwe, the United Methodist Bishops of the Central Conferences of Africa took a strong stance for marriage amidst liberal efforts to undermine Scriptural authority among their denomination. The Bishop’s acknowledged, “that the Holy Bible, our primary authority for faith and the practice of Christian living, and our Book of Discipline are being grossly ignored by some members and leaders of our Church in favor of social and cultural practices that have no scriptural basis for acceptance in Christian worship and conduct.”
Praise God for the Bishops to speak up on behalf of biblical authority and also for their remarkable recommendations to the General Counsel that calls for “daily prayer for the return of our denomination to Biblical teachings.” The Bishops added, “As leaders of the Church in Africa, we call upon all United Methodists, Bishops, clergy, and Laity, to an unreserved commitment to the Holy Bible, as the primary authority for faith and practice in the church.”
(9.) Operation Christmas Child Continues to Spread Joy to Needy Children
Operation Christmas Child, a project of the international Evangelical relief ministry Samaritan’s Purse, continues to send gifts alongside the gospel to needy children in impoverished countries via shoeboxes. A seemingly small ministry, the gift-filled shoeboxes make a remarkable differences in the lives of millions of children worldwide. According to Samaritan’s Purse, since 1993 over 124 million shoe-boxes have been delivered to 150 countries. In 2015, Samaritan’s Purse expects to deliver shoebox gifts to 11 million needy children.
Despite past lawsuits and participants kicked off public school grounds, the gospel-centered shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts will still reach millions of children in 2015. For Operation Blessings’ continued success, we give God glory.
To participate in Operation Christmas Child, please click here.
(10.) IRD Launches Providence Magazine to Counter Evangelical Pacifism
On November 6 the IRD, alongside the Philos Project, successfully launched our new journal examining foreign policy from a Christian perspective. The journal, Providence, will help equip the rising generation of Evangelicals to grasp a deeper theological understanding of subject matters including war, genocide, tyranny, extreme poverty, and oppression. In a press release, IRD’s President Mark Tooley explained, “Young Evangelicals are prone to a neo-Libertarian isolationism, pessimistic that America has any major constructive role in sustaining global order.”
We rejoice in God’s providence and express our gratitude for the resources and contributors necessary to establish IRD’s foreign policy journal. We also thank God for the ability to educate and equip America’s future leaders. As Tooley shared, “Providence seeks to foster Christian conversation about our moral duties as Americans in this place and time to seek, promote, and preserve an approximate justice with liberty for as many as possible, to include above all the liberty to hear and proclaim the Gospel around the world.”
To learn more about Providence Magazine, please visit ProvidenceMag.com.