Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, survivors keep counting blessings


‘God allowed us to make it through’ (reporting from New Orleans): At the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Christians who survived keep counting their blessings.

NEW ORLEANS — Ten years after Hurricane Katrina waged war on the Gulf Coast, Christians in hard-hit New Orleans are looking back — and ahead.

Frank J. Harden, an elder of the Louisa Street Church of Christ, recalls fleeing 260 miles west to Beaumont, Texas, as the “storm of the century” raged toward the Crescent City.

“The Lord was with us, trust me,” Harden said. “I mean, every move we made was the right move.”

In the Lone Star State, the Harden family — Frank, wife Annastasia and daughters Jennifer and Frankie, then 13 and 11 — found fellow Christians willing and eager to help them and other Louisa Street members.

“All of the Churches of Christ got together to help us,” Harden said, specifically mentioning Beaumont’s Ridgewood, South Park and Westgate congregations. “Oh, man, they really, really, really took care of us. I mean, we didn’t want for anything.”

Flooding during Katrina claimed the home of Yolanda White, then a member of the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ.

White and her family escaped to Grand Prairie, Texas, where they showed up the Sunday after the storm at the Freetown Road Church of Christ.

Related column: The vivid faces of Hurricane Katrina.

These stories appear in the September 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

In the heat of the pennant race, it’s nice to be back ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’

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“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

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By Bobby Ross Jr.

ARLINGTON, Texas — If you’re a regular reader of my MLB ballparks blog (I love you, Mom!), you know how much I enjoyed my first-ever visit to Detroit’s Comerica Park last weekend.

But Friday night, my Rangers were back home at Globe Life Park in Arlington — and my sons Brady and Keaton and I made a quick trip down from Oklahoma City to see the game.

We had great seats along the first-base line and got to see a masterful pitching performance —  just one run and two hits allowed over eight innings by new Texas ace Cole Hamels — as the Rangers defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 4-1.

The Rangers maintained a half-game lead over the Minnesota Twins for the AL’s second wild card and moved within four games of the Houston Astros in the AL West.

A few pictures from the game:

Continue reading “In the heat of the pennant race, it’s nice to be back ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’”

Online wars over doctrine spark concern


Online wars over doctrine spark concern (reporting from New Orleans): Amid heated talk on social media, two-day symposium brings together leaders for face-to-face dialogue. 

NEW ORLEANS — And they’ll know we are Christians by our … vitriol on Facebook?

Scriptural and responsible use of the Internet was a key point of discussion as more than 100 ministers and church leaders gathered for the recent “We Be Brethren Symposium.”

Organizers described the two-day event — hosted by the Elysian Fields Church of Christ in the heart of the Big Easy — as an effort to foster unity and face-to-face dialogue on doctrinal issues sparking heated debate online.

“All of us can become victims of Facebook bullying,” said Herman Wesley III, minister for the NorthPointe Church of Christ in Montgomery, Ala. “Facebook is not the proper forum to expose people’s sins, and Facebook is not the proper forum to correct people’s sins.”

Tim Anderson, minister for the Southside Church of Christ in Montgomery, said younger Christians wonder, “How is this the church that Jesus died for when we kill each other on social media?”

This story appears in the September 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Rangers and Tigers and baseball, oh my! Joyfully checking Comerica Park off my bucket list

Not a bad view of today's #Rangers-#Tigers game.

A photo posted by Bobby Ross Jr. (@bobbyrossjr) on

• • •

“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

• • •

By Bobby Ross Jr.

DETROIT — Comerica Park did not disappoint.

On a reporting trip to the Motor City — timed to coincide with my beloved Texas Rangers playing the Detroit Tigers in a four-game series — I was able to see three games.

Comerica — No. 3 on my bucket list of ballparks I had yet to experience — definitely lived up to the rave reviews of diehard Tigers fans such as my friend Ron Hadfield.

The tiger statues out front, the postcard-perfect downtown skyline beyond the outfield walls, the raucous fans totally committed to (and occasionally, totally frustrated with) the hometown heroes with the Old English “D” on their caps — all of these things add to the ambience of this 15-year-old baseball shrine.

Continue reading “Rangers and Tigers and baseball, oh my! Joyfully checking Comerica Park off my bucket list”

5Q+1 interview: Melissa Binder on the thriving Godbeat in America’s least-religious city


5Q+1 interview: Melissa Binder on the thriving Godbeat in America’s least-religious city

Melissa Binder is rocking the Godbeat in one of the unlikeliest of places – Portland, Ore.

“Who else is going to tell you what religion in the rest of the United States might look like in 50 years?” The Oregonian writer responds when asked about covering faith and values in America’s least-religious city.

Binder’s journalism talents earned her prestigious national awards even before her graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. Besides gaining photography, writing and digital news experience on campus, she interned for major news organizations such as the CNN Wire, the Charlotte Observer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

After graduation, she joined The Oregonian as a neighborhood news reporter covering parts of Portland before transitioning to the newspaper’s newly revived religion beat less than a year ago.

This interview appears online at GetReligion.org.

Love the preacher who left? You won’t like the new one


Love the preacher who left? You won’t like the new one (reporting from Wichita, Kan.): Instead of hiring a ‘sacrificial lamb,’ interim ministry advocates urge a process of reflection and discernment.

WICHITA, Kan. — Mark Frost drives a Ford Focus.

His other vehicle, he quips, is a Cessna.

“So I feel like I’m coming home,” Frost jokes as he introduces himself to the RiverWalk Church of Christ — in the home city of Cessna Aircraft Co.

The Detroit-area resident flies his Cessna Skyhawk mostly for recreation.

But for the next six to 18 months, he’ll commute each weekend via Delta Airlines — a 1,600-mile round trip — and fill the pulpit of this downtown church.

Frost is one of a growing contingent of “interim ministers” who help Churches of Christ make the transition from one preacher to the next.

This story appears in the August 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

August 2015: GetReligion


Ghostbusters: Solving faith mystery of CEO who cut his $1 million salary to pay employees more. Published Aug. 3.

Hard-hitting journalism on Baptist church’s acceptance of same-sex marriage? Not exactly. Published Aug. 4.

Hey, enjoy some pretend journalism on ‘a fake church in a real church.’ Published Aug. 5.

Mennonite husband and wife say they have no hatred toward gays; media say they’re ‘anti-gay.’ Published Aug. 6.

An out atheist in holy NFL? ESPN and the long, long ‘Confession of Arian Foster.’ Published Aug. 10.

Franklin Graham’s $880,000 annual compensation: Charlotte Observer asks how much is too much. Published Aug. 11.

Is the pope Catholic?: The best tweets about that viral correction from The Times of London. Published Aug. 12.

Close shave: Dallas Morning News clips crucial religion content from prison beards story. Published Aug. 13.

Icing on the cake: This time, Associated Press more properly frames same-sex wedding dispute. Published Aug. 18.

Media org wants to cover Bible Belt ‘culture’ better, so it lays off religion writer — huh!? Published Aug. 19.

5Q+1 interview: Melissa Binder on the thriving Godbeat in America’s least-religious city. Published Aug. 20.

AP produces a nice feature on Episcopal monks’ ‘silent sanctuary,’ but not without a few ghosts. Published Aug. 21.

Battling cancer, Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school — but do news reports reflect actual content of his lesson? Published Aug. 24.

About that disputed removal of Jesus picture from Kansas school — what was the legal reason? Published Aug. 25.

Ten years after Katrina, looking for God in the anniversary news coverage. Published Aug. 26.

Concerning Mormons sticking with Boy Scouts, a little creativity goes a long way. Published Aug. 27.

#RNA2015: Yes, Peter Smith wins again as Religion Newswriters Association honors best of the Godbeat. Published Aug. 31.

Same-sex marriage legalized — now what?


Same-sex marriage legalized — now what?: Landmark ruling alarms Christians who view marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman.

“If Caesar gives it, he can take it away.”

So warns minister and lawyer Melvin Otey in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 5-4 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Despite declarations of support for religious freedom by President Barack Obama and the high court’s majority, Christians “definitely should be concerned,” Otey said.

“I believe churches and Christian institutions will be significantly affected by the larger movement that has ushered in the acceptance of same-sex unions,” said the former U.S. Justice Department attorney, now an associate professor of law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala.

“It is at least possible that churches and organizations that speak against homosexuality, for example, will lose their tax-exempt status because the exemption is a benefit bestowed by the government,” added Otey, who preached for the Georgia Avenue Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., for eight years.

For members of Churches of Christ — most of whom believe God ordained marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman — the ruling has sparked myriad questions and concerns:

This story appears in the August 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Wedding has a ring to it — hopefully

brady annd mary

Wedding has a ring to it — hopefully: Expect the unexpected — even the wacky — on the couple’s big day. 

If you’ve seen the movie “Father of the Bride” (with Spencer Tracy or Steve Martin), you know how crazy wedding planning can be.

Fortunately, I’m the father of the groom. So I bought a bow tie, agreed to read a Scripture at the ceremony and set a calendar reminder so I won’t forget to show up.

Seriously, I couldn’t be more excited about my oldest son, Brady, marrying Mary Simpson, whom he met at Oklahoma Christian University.

Brady, 22, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in preaching ministry. He’s pursuing a master of divinity degree at Oklahoma Christian while working with the youth ministry at the Edmond Church of Christ.

Mary, 21, is majoring in family studies/child development with a minor in Bible. She’s a member of Oklahoma Christian’s Summer Singers, a group of seven that performs at camps, youth rallies and other special events.

On their first date, Brady and Mary ate pizza, shared hopes and dreams and — as their wedding planning website describes it — “gazed into each other’s eyes.”

Their first kiss came later.

This column appears in the August 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.