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Culture Ministry News Philanthropy Weekly Review

WEEKLY REVIEW: Religious Liberty, Ministry Credibility, Christianity Today, and Praying for a Resurrection

What Can Christian Schools Teach?  Last week the Supreme Court said it would hear two cases that could decide whether church schools or the government decides who teaches religion classes.  Both cases began in 2015 when teachers who had been fired decided to sue their former employers, California Catholic schools. The schools claim the teachers were not teaching in accordance with the doctrines of the church.   Federal district court judges sided with the schools. However, a divided 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned both Catholic school decisions, saying the teachers’ responsibilities were not religious enough to invoke First Amendment protection.  “Do we really want judges, juries, or bureaucrats deciding who ought to teach Catholicism at a parish school, or Judaism at a Jewish day school?” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, the religious liberty law firm representing the schools. “Religion teachers play a vital role in the ecosystem of faith. We are confident that the Supreme Court will recognize that under our Constitution, government officials cannot control who teaches kids what to believe.”

Ministry Credibility Suffering.  Non-profits, Christian non profits in particular, have long had public trust and confidence.  That appears to be changing.  But in recent years, according to the Non-Profit Law Blog, that trust has been eroding.  “While the nonprofit sector continues to be more trusted than (for-profit) business, government, and media, the public trust issue is a serious one that needs to be addressed to preserve a strong and vibrant nonprofit sector.”  According to the Edelman Trust Barometers, the trust percentage in nonprofits dropped from 58 percent in 2017 to 49 percent in 2018 before moving slightly back up to 52 percent in 2019.  Among the reasons for this slip in trust: “A few bad actors who lead nonprofits to provide themselves with undeserved and/or unlawful benefits.”  Among the blog’s recommendation to restore credibility are many advocated by MinistryWatch, including:  “Completing and filing Forms 990 with sufficient detail and professionalism (as they may be reviewed by major donors, grantmakers, media, charity review organizations, philanthropic advisors, allies, and opponents).”  I recommend the entire article to you.  You can find it here.

Speaking of Credibility.  Mark Galli’s editorial in Christianity Today has highlighted the divide among evangelicals.  He is attempting to call the evangelical church to stand for those who promote “the good, the true, and the beautiful” instead of those who will give us political power.  He says a failure to do so will damage the long-term credibility of the church.  However, investigative journalist Julie Roys says Galli and CT have credibility problems of their own because of their handling of a major scandal right in their own back yard, the long-unfolding saga of James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel.  To read Roys’ story, “The Selective Outrage of Mark Galli and Christianity Today,” click here.

Praying For A Resurrection.  A Northern California church that had gathered to pray for the resurrection of one of its parishioners announced Dec. 20 that it would be moving on with memorial services for the two-year-old child, who died a week ago. “Here is where we are: Olive hasn’t been raised. The breakthrough we have sought hasn’t come,” Bethel Church said in the statement. “And so, we are moving towards a memorial service and celebration of her life.  The joy of our faith is that, though we haven’t seen the miracle of Olive being raised, she is alive in the presence of God.” Kalley Heiligenthal, a worship leader and songwriter for Bethel Music, announced on social media Dec. 15 that her daughter, Olive Alayne, had stopped breathing and been pronounced dead. She publicly called for people to pray that her girl be resurrected.  A GoFundMe page was set up to help the Heiligenthal family. As of Monday afternoon, nearly $63,000 was raised.  Christian apologist Lee Strobel believes in miracles, as do 38 percent of the American people (including those of us here at MinistryWatch).  However, we are also aware that charlatans have often claimed to be miracle-workers when they are not.  To listen to Strobel’s insights into this situation, and how and why miracles occurred in Scripture, check out his recent interview with Christianity Today, which you can find here.

Ministry Updates.  MinistryWatch has added information on the following ministries to its database:  Marriage Today (3 Stars), Romanian Missionary Society (3 Stars), Stand To Reason (3 Stars), Tentmakers (1 Star), Trinity Broadcasting Network (2 Stars), World Evangelistic Enterprise Corporation (1 Star), YMCA (3 Stars), and Answers in Genesis (2 Stars).


Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.