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Joel Taylor, who directed the popular label since the beginning, has resigned.

Millions of Christians would not be gathering to “Raise a Hallelujah” had it not been for Joel Taylor, the producer and executive who helped to lead Bethel Music from a worship ministry to a major label.

Taylor announced last week that he was resigning “after 13 wonderful and challenging years” as CEO of Bethel Music. During that time, the organization captivated Christian listeners with long, spontaneous worship sets and harnessed its digital brand with high-quality music videos.

“When we founded the label, we knew God was going to use us to build something special,” Taylor wrote on Instagram. “But God’s plan was even bigger than our dreams … and we had big dreams.”

The launch of Bethel Music under Taylor in 2010—when the label was cofounded by worship pastors Brian and Jenn Johnson—coincided with a notable rise in the popularity of worship music for consumption via radio, streaming, and live performance.

“They didn’t play worship on the radio back then, and they told us we wouldn’t ever be on the radio. When we wanted to bring worship to the world on tour, we were told people wouldn’t host us,” Taylor wrote. “We had to listen to God and believe in our hearts the ‘impossible’ could happen.”

Bethel Music began as an extension of the music ministry at the Redding, California, charismatic megachurch. Within the first couple years, the budding label had released worship hits like “Love Came Down” and “One Thing Remains.” From 2014 to today, its singles have consistently landed on the Christian charts, with six songs reaching ...

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Blasphemy killing of Sokoto student and ISWAP execution video are latest examples of sectarian tensions in Africa's largest nation.

Thousands of churches across Nigeria demanded an end to sectarian killings on Sunday, horrified by the mob assault on a female university student accused of blasphemy. But fearful of more violence, their approach differed significantly—by geography.

“The overwhelming majority of our churches in the south participated, many going to the streets in peaceful protest,” said Testimony Onifade, senior special assistant to the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). “Gathering together, we condemned this gruesome act and demanded the government identify, arrest, and prosecute the culprits.”

But in the north, where Muslims represent the majority of Nigerians, John Hayab described 20 minutes set aside to pray for divine intervention. The president of CAN’s Kaduna state chapter lauded the “solemn” ceremony observed by all northern denominations, amid a ban on protests by local authorities as some Muslims had threatened counterdemonstrations.

Instead, a select group of 120 Christian leaders gathered in a Kaduna city church, guarded by police and security agencies.

There was good reason for caution.

Two weeks ago, in Nigeria’s northwestern-most state of Sokoto, Deborah Samuel was beaten to death and set on fire by fellow students at Shehu Shagari College of Education. Officials and police intervened in vain.

Two students were arrested. Protesting for their release, Muslim supporters proceeded to destroy an additional 11 buildings, descended on Christian shops in the city, and besieged the palace of the sultan of Sokoto who had condemned the May 12 murder.

According to her friend Rakia, Samuel’s last words were, “What do you hope to achieve with this?”

After ...

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More change needed, survivors say, but new lawyers bring signs of hope.

Days after a bombshell investigative report, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee (EC) decided to do what previous leaders refused to for 15 years: release a list of pastors who had been credibly accused of abuse.

Sitting on either side of interim EC president Willie McLaurin during a meeting over Zoom on Tuesday, a new pair of lawyers discussed the EC’s initial response. They proposed immediately issuing a statement repudiating the dismissive stance EC leaders had taken toward victims in the past and making public a list of 700 alleged abusers that former leaders kept in secret.

The quick moves contrast with the historic approach captured in the investigative report and in last year’s meetings, where ascending liability was a common talking point and lawyers defaulted to closed-door session to advise the trustees.

“We have become too familiar with using techniques to slow processes down,” said SBC president Ed Litton. “We need to be very mindful that the world is watching, and they don’t need to see business as usual… we have to do this right.”

The two lawyers from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP—Gene Besen and Scarlett Singleton Nokes—began as outside legal counsel at the start of the year. They spoke openly in the meeting, with Nokes reflecting on her faith and the need for the fruit of “gentleness” to drive the EC’s work on this issue going forward.

On Twitter, survivor Jennifer Lyell called them “the most positive consequential thing to happen in the @sbcexeccomm in the past 20 years.”

It’s the first time in a generation the EC has been represented by attorneys other than Jim Guenther and Jaime Jordan. ...

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In England, some rally to restore aging and emptying Anglican sites, while diverse congregations look beyond traditional sanctuaries.

A survey released by evangelical organizations in the United Kingdom last month found that, while around half of the country’s population identify as Christian, only 6 percent are “practicing” and active enough in their faith to attend church at least once a month.

The attendance decline is one reason over 2,000 churches have closed during the last decade. Communities are grappling with whether or how to save the historic buildings as new expressions emerge through church planting.

“If you were running a commercial organization, and you had a branch on every single High Street in the country but dwindling numbers of people visiting them, you would go bust if you didn’t close some branches,” said Theos senior fellow Nick Spencer. “That is the reality facing the church.”

The number of churches in the UK fell from 42,000 to 39,800 in a ten-year span, according to a 2021 report from the Brierley Research Consultancy.

“If you have churches in rural areas, and there are fewer people going into them, and indeed fewer people living in rural areas, and you don’t have the money to keep churches going, then they’re likely to close,” Spencer said.

A recent report from the Church of England found that up to 368 churches could be at risk for closure in the next two to five years, though the church said the rate of closure is slowing. These numbers of course don’t take other denominations into account, but many of the buildings belong to the Anglican Church.

Declines in attendance—and, in turn, involvement and giving—have left churches with fewer resources to maintain their aging buildings. Even churches with a fairly large worshiping ...

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64 scholars sign document they hope will ground more Christians in holiness doctrines.

Sixty-four scholars and theologians have signed on to a “Wesleyan witness,” a six-part, 62-page document they hope will shape the future of Methodism, define orthodox Wesleyanism, and ground more Christians in the story of sanctification and restoration through grace.

“This is classic, orthodox Wesleyan theology,” said Asbury University New Testament professor Suzanne Nicholson, who is one of the authors. “The power of the Holy Spirit is greater than the power of sin. It doesn’t matter your class, your race, your gender, God is at work among the faithful, and that leads us to a full-orbed devotion to who God is.”

“The Faith Once Delivered” was first drafted in January at a summit for “The Next Methodism.” Scholars allied with the evangelical wing of the United Methodist Church, as well as holiness and Pentecostal denominations, came together, formed five working groups, and co-wrote statements on five theological topics: the nature of God, Creation, revelation, salvation, and the church. A sixth section on eschatology or “the fullness of time” was added later.

Three editors—Wesleyan scholars Ryan Danker, Jonathan Powers, and Kevin Watson—revised the final document. It was published online by the John Wesley Institute on Monday.

Danker, who is director of the institute, told CT the document is not intended to be polemical, or even really original. The hope is to offer “a constructive voice” that clearly articulates the Wesleyan understanding of Christian orthodoxy.

“These are faithful Wesleyan scholars who are committed to the faith once delivered, to Nicene Christianity,” he said. “Methodism is entering a period ...

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(UPDATED) Traditionalist minority worry disagreement on the issue will make it harder to work together on mission.

Update (May 23): Church of Scotland ministers are now permitted to perform same-sex marriages if they choose.

The church’s General Assembly approved an overture that allows parish ministers and deacons to apply for authorization to marry same-sex couples. It passed on Monday by a 274-136 vote.

The Presbyterian denomination is preparing new suggested liturgy to bless same-sex marriages as well as guidance for the change in church law.

Those in favor of same-sex marriage have celebrated the move as welcoming, but others in the church fear that even though they would not be forced to participate, the move puts pastors who oppose same-sex marriage in a more difficult position.

“When asked, ‘Can you marry us?’, the answer will have to be, ‘No, because I choose not to,’ rather than, ‘No, that’s something that I cannot do,’” Ben Thorpe, a minister at Sandyford Henderson Memorial Church in Glasgow told The Independent, “and that creates pastoral difficulties as well for everyone on both sides of the debate.”

The moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, Iain Greenshields, acknowledged the diversity of beliefs on the issue among the church, which has debated the move for years, as well as the pastoral implications.

He advised that “all celebrants would be expected to take account of the peace and unity and pastoral needs of the congregation and any parish or other grouping of which it is a part while considering to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony."


Original post (April 29): The Church of Scotland—the largest Protestant church in the country—is another step closer to allowing its ministers to officiate same-sex weddings. ...

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Even if the pills and procedures seem similar to elective abortion, doctors know the difference between treatment when a pregnancy ends and treatment to end a pregnancy.

Roughly 10 percent to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, and one in 50 pregnancies will be diagnosed as ectopic pregnancies, a potentially fatal condition in which an embryo develops outside the mother’s uterus.

Both miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy can be physically and emotionally painful. For Christians who believe human life begins at conception, losing a baby even early in pregnancy is a singular kind of grief. There are ministries for families suffering miscarriages, and many churches hold funerals or memorial services for babies who have died before they were born.

But pregnancy losses aren’t merely a spiritual matter. They also have a clinical term: abortion. Miscarriages are described in medical language as “spontaneous abortions.”

That can lead to confusion as Americans debate abortion policy after a leaked draft opinion from the US Supreme Court signaled the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade. Outside of a medical context, “abortion” is used colloquially to describe “elective abortion,” or the intentional killing of a healthy and growing preborn child.

In the aftermath of the leaked opinion, some abortion advocates have suggested that new abortion restrictions enacted could endanger health care for pregnant women. They worry that pregnancies that end through miscarriages or as a result of ectopic pregnancies will be wrapped into the new state laws.

But many Christian ob-gyns, including those at major antiabortion institutions, such as the Charlotte Lozier Institute and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) say restrictions on elective abortions have nothing to do with miscarriage care.

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Investigation: SBC Executive Committee staff saw advocates’ cries for help as a distraction from evangelism and a legal liability, stonewalling their reports and resisting calls for reform.

Armed with a secret list of more than 700 abusive pastors, Southern Baptist leaders chose to protect the denomination from lawsuits rather than protect the people in their churches from further abuse.

Survivors, advocates, and some Southern Baptists themselves spent more than 15 years calling for ways to keep sexual predators from moving quietly from one flock to another. The men who controlled the Executive Committee (EC)—which runs day-to-day operations of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)—knew the scope of the problem. But, working closely with their lawyers, they maligned the people who wanted to do something about abuse and repeatedly rejected pleas for help and reform.

“Behind the curtain, the lawyers were advising to say nothing and do nothing, even when the callers were identifying predators still in SBC pulpits,” according to a massive third-party investigative report released Sunday.

The investigation centers responsibility on members of the EC staff and their attorneys and says the hundreds of elected EC trustees were largely kept in the dark. EC general counsel Augie Boto and longtime attorney Jim Guenther advised the past three EC presidents—Ronnie Floyd, Frank Page, and Morris Chapman—that taking action on abuse would pose a risk to SBC liability and polity, leading the presidents to challenge proposed abuse reforms.

As renewed calls for action emerged with the #ChurchToo and #SBCToo movements, Boto referred to advocacy for abuse survivors as “a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism.”

Survivors, in turn, described the soul-crushing effects of not only their abuse, but the stonewalling, insulting responses from leaders at the EC for 15-plus years. ...

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“Shy” creator drew stories of sin and salvation seen by millions.

His name did not appear on his art. Most of the millions who have seen it do not know who he is.

But Fred Carter’s art is unforgettable.

He drew bodies that were heavy—weighted with humanity and the possibility of redemption. He painted biblical characters who seemed real enough that their struggles and stories could be the viewers’ own. He depicted sin so that it was tempting; salvation so it mattered.

And his art was reproduced by the millions. It was distributed across the country and around the world while he remained in anonymity.

Carter—an African American artist who drew gospel tracts, evangelical comic books, and Black Sunday school curricula—died on May 9 at the age of 83.

He was the close collaborator of Jack Chick, pioneer of the popular evangelistic cartoons known as Chick Tracts. According to Christian Comics International, more than half of Chick Tracts were drawn by Carter.

Carter worked with Chick for eight years before Chick acknowledged the partnership, despite the obvious, dramatic difference between the men’s two art styles. Some suspected Chick was trying to hide Carter’s contributions, perhaps out of a desire to claim all the credit or out of fear the presence of a Black man would spark controversy.

Chick, for his part, said the decision was Carter’s.

“Fred is rather shy and declines to put his name on the art,” he said.

Carter appears to have only given one interview in his 49-year career, speaking briefly to a Los Angeles Times reporter in Rancho Cucamonga, California, in 2003. His statements were simple and straightforward.

About his calling: “It’s almost not like a job. It’s like a ministry I always wanted ...

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The chief concert technician for Steinway & Sons gave Bibles to the world’s greatest pianists and told them about Jesus.

Franz Mohr, former chief concert technician at Steinway & Sons in New York, has died at 94.

He was, in his own assessment, “just a piano tuner who loves the Lord.”

But Mohr’s expertise and backstage support was valued by the world’s most famous concert pianists, including Van Cliburn, Vladimir Horowitz, Artur Rubinstein, Glenn Gould, Rudolf Serkin, and Emil Gilels. They relied on his deep musical knowledge and technical skill.

He traveled around the world with them, protecting and servicing their concert-grade grand pianos, each of which was built by 200 Steinway & Sons artisans and cost more than $200,000. Mohr prepared the pianos with tuning, voicing, and adjustments for optimal performance to the artist’s particular liking. Between concerts, he could be found in Steinway Hall’s basement in Manhattan, doing regular, meticulous maintenance.

His true passion, however, was unashamedly proclaiming the love and hope of Christ to this niche community.

“He was like a magnet drawing them in,” said Tom Carpino, Franz’s pastor at The Bridge (Nazarene) Church, in Malverne, New York, “and bringing the Bible’s message to whomever he could.”

Franz was a member of The Bridge for more than 40 years and served for many years as an elder. He also regularly spoke to Christian groups and worked with Crescendo International, a Cru ministry.

“With my little tuning hammer I have shared the Lord in unbelievable places,” he said.

He died at home on March 28 from complications related to COVID-19.

Mohr was born in Nörvenich, Germany, on September 17, 1927. He was the second of three sons in a musical family in which Mendelssohn, Mozart, and Beethoven were as ...

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