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

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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.

Same-sex marriage legalized — now what?

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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

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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.

5Q+1 interview: Pulitzer winner on the Godbeat, the Charleston shooting and black church fires

5Q+1 interview: Pulitzer winner Jennifer Berry Hawes on the Godbeat, the Charleston shooting and black church fires

Just a few months ago, veteran religion writer Jennifer Berry Hawes celebrated winning the Pulitzer Prize.

Hawes, a projects writer for the The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., worked on the team that produced “Till Death Do Us Part,” a project on domestic violence that earned journalism’s top prize. (She discusses the Pulitzer in the video above.)

About 10 years ago, Hawes and her colleague Doug Pardue proposed creating the Post and Courier’s Faith & Values section “because religion and values-based coverage was so important to our readership, yet we weren’t writing about it as much as needed,” she recalled.

“I covered religion on and off after that until joining our projects teams about six months ago,” Hawes told GetReligion. “The beat was one of the most difficult and rewarding ones I have tackled because people care so much about it, yet for that reason I dealt with some extremely thin-skinned people who really struggled to understand why we would present faiths and views that weren’t ‘right’ in their minds.

“It honestly made me question my own faith at times to see how human the church is with infighting and backstabbing,” added Hawes, a former winner of the Religion Newswriters Association’s Cornell Reporter of the Year Award and a finalist again this year. “On the other side, I also met the most incredibly inspirational people of faith in our community who demonstrated the beauty of the human spirit and the strength of what faith could achieve.”

In a 5Q+1 interview (that’s five questions plus a bonus question) with GetReligion, Hawes reflected on her ongoing coverage of the June 17 shooting massacre that claimed nine lives at a historic black church in Charleston.

This interview appears online at GetReligion.org.

Walking (with God) in Memphis

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Walking (with God) in Memphis (reporting from Memphis, Tenn.): In the nation’s poorest metro area, a Christian ministry trains former inmates to succeed at work — and life.

MEMPHIS, Tenn.  — In a room at the Midtown Church of Christ, a dozen men bow to pray each weekday morning.

Then they drop to the ground and do 10 to 15 pushups.

“It’s just something I added to relieve a little physical stress,” teacher Antonio Owens — known to his students as “Tough Love Tony” — said of the exercise regimen.

These men — most convicted felons who spent years behind bars — know a little something about stress, as do the women studying down the hall with senior teacher and counselor Laura Harrison.

“I’m trying to get myself headed in a brand-new direction,” said Joshua Banks, a repeat offender who served nine years in prison. “I know I can’t start over, but I can make this a new beginning.”

Banks credits his chance for a new beginning to HopeWorks, a Memphis job-training ministry associated with Churches of Christ.

The program, which traces its roots to Christians who came together in the late 1980s to fight homelessness, has graduated more than 1,000 students since 1998.

HopeWorks’ success in helping former inmates was highlighted during the recent 42nd annual National Jail and Prison Ministry Workshop, hosted by the Highland Church of Christ in Cordova, Tenn., east of Memphis.

Related column: Out of prison, into hope (reporting from Kansas City, Kan.)

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

July 2015: GetReligion

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For journalists, three crucial things to consider linked to #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches. Published July 1.

5Q+1 interview: Pulitzer winner Jennifer Berry Hawes on the Godbeat, the Charleston shooting and black church fires. Published July 2.

Religion vs. history? Something’s missing in coverage of that banned Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma. Published July 3.

Louisville Courier-Journal offers a case study in biased media coverage of same-sex marriage. Published July 7.

‘God is my gun,’ says woman quoted in superficial Reuters story on church security. Published July 8.

Thank you, Los Angeles Times, for delving deeper into that Ten Commandments case in Oklahoma. Published July 9.

A reader asks: Where can I find unbiased journalism? Here’s my answer … Published July 12.

Concerning Hispanic evangelicals and the death penalty: Dig a little deeper, please. Published July 14.

Aborted baby parts for sale: Did journalists drag their feet on Planned Parenthood story? Published July 15.

Religious freedom buffet: Los Angeles Times scattershoots on same-sex marriage decision. Published July 16.

In Chattanooga, journalists ask the obvious question: What role did gunman’s religion play? Published July 17.

No ghosts here: Powerful, insightful profile of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley a must read. July 21.

Paranoia and outrage over a proposed Muslim cemetery in Texas: What are the facts? Published July 22.

A trend worth reporting: Philadelphia Inquirer explores multisite churches. Published July 23.

‘Modest’ bathing suits featured on Wall Street Journal’s front page — what’s religion got to do with it? Published July 24.

B-I-B-L-E with a lowercase ‘b': Hey Wall Street Journal, what’s up with that? Published July 27.

Boy Scouts, church-based troops and the threat of lawsuits — about that big vote on gay leaders. Published July 28.

‘Book of Mormon’ opens in Salt Lake City to a sold-out crowd and fair coverage by AP. Published July 29.