3 - High court examines prayer before government meetings
This past Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments in a case involving a city in New York state that had routinely had area clergy come in and deliver an opening prayer before its council meetings. Because of the demographic makeup of the city of Greece, New York, Christian clergy were the ones delivering the prayers, which apparently "offended" 2 ladies, who filed suit against the city. The town had even gone to the extent of soliciting representatives of other religions, including Wicca, to say the opening prayers. A lower court had sided with the town; however, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the plaintiffs and the case ended up at the high court.
Brett Harvey of the Alliance Defending Freedom offered some analysis of the proceedings in the courtroom on Wednesday in the case Town of Greece v. Galloway. He writes that:
The core questions are whether the Constitution permits meetings to open with an invocation for Divine guidance; if so, do individuals retain the liberty to choose for themselves how to pray; or must the government censor prayers, or exclude the devout whose faith calls for specific types of prayers?Harvey relates that attorneys arguing on behalf of the town's policy, including a representative of the Solicitor General of the United States, made their presentation first:
Allied Attorney Tom Hungar... stepped up first to defend the town. The Justices peppered Tom with questions about where the prayers were taking place and the whether the constitutional line depends on the type of government meetings taking place or the manner in which people pray. Next, a representative of the Solicitor’s General office made it clear to the court that the U.S. government believes that prayer givers must be given the freedom to determine how they pray.Harvey goes on to say that University of Virginia Professor Doug Laycock, representing the challengers, faced questions from several justices, including Justice Alito, who requested an example of a prayer that would be acceptable to people of all faiths, which he did not answer. In response to a question from Chief Justice Roberts, the challengers admitted that a governmental official should tell clergy how to pray, according to Harvey, who also stated that, "Justice Kennedy repeatedly expressed concern over government officials censoring prayers."
You can hear a conversation with ADF Vice-President for Religious Liberty Kevin Theriot here.
Harvey says that a ruling in the six-year battle is expected from the high court in the spring.
2 - Churches reflect, pray about persecuted church
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is historically observed during November each year, and interestingly enough, this year, there are some organizations that have chosen the traditional date, the second Sunday of November, as well others who have commemorated the day on the first Sunday of the month. The IDOP.org website designates November 10th as the day, and it states that:
IDOP is a time set apart for us to remember thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who suffer persecution, simply because they confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
Also, on the site, it reminds us that:
Believers in countries such as Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam face violence, imprisonment and even death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. There are other places in the world such as North Korea where acts of persecution take place, but we don’t see or hear of it. Brother Andrew of Open Doors once said: 'Our heroes are not with us simply because they are in prison.'Godfrey Yogarajah, Executive Director of the Religious Liberty Commission of World Evangelical Alliance, writes:
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) gives us the privilege of joining together with over half a million churches in 150 countries to pray for the suffering church. It plays a vital role in encouraging and strengthening the persecuted church and also awakening churches in places where there is no persecution.Open Doors, which is an advocacy organization on behalf of persecuted Christians worldwide, encouraged people through its OneWithThem.com website to observe the Day of Prayer on November 3rd. No matter when churches and ministries chose to observe the day, it underscores the importance of remembering and standing with fellow believers who are experiencing persecution around the world - and that should not be limited to one day a year, for certain.
Let us unite in prayer for the persecuted church, in the spirit of oneness that Christ commanded: 'For, if one suffers, we all suffer.'
1 - Billy Graham celebrates 95th Birthday, "My Hope" initiative spreads nationwide
The stories are beginning to come in to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association about its latest evangelistic initiative, "My Hope America with Billy Graham", which rolled out last week. And, a massive "My Hope" event in Asheville, North Carolina, close to where Dr. Graham resides, featured some 800 people who gathered to celebrate his 95th birthday on Thursday, November 7. "My Hope" events commonly have a host, also known as a "Matthew" who invites people into homes or churches, and on this occasion, the "Matthew" was Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham and President and CEO of the BGEA. And, just like the smaller events that are being sponsored by some 25,000 churches nationwide, the video featuring Dr. Graham, "The Cross", was shown.
According to BillyGraham.org:
And on a day where all eyes were on his 95th birthday and his new message was airing in primetime on FOX News, Mr. Graham wanted his celebration focused on one thing:
“He’s the most humble man you’ll ever know,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said. "He knows it’s not about him. It’s about the cross.”The website reports that the evening program wrapped up with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin sharing about her mother making a decision to follow Jesus through a televised Billy Graham Crusade, which impacted her entire family for Christ.
Gov. Palin is quoted as saying that, “Billy Graham has been able to articulate this message more than anyone else...He reminds us that Jesus is the only answer.”
Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae and lead singer of the Christian rock band Flyleaf, Lacey Sturm, who shared a portion of their stories on "The Cross" video, were present and were invited to be part of a "Happy Birthday" group singing, along with Michael W. Smith, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Ricky Skaggs.
Mr. Graham addressed the crowd twice at the end of the program. First, to thank his ministry partner and dear friend, Cliff Barrows, “for all that you have meant to me through all these years.” The second, to recognize his grandson, Edward Graham, an Army Major. “We’re so proud of you,” he said.
Even though some media reports characterize the message, "The Cross", as perhaps Billy Graham's last message, we can be reminded of the incredible longevity of this man of God and the tremendous determination he has to be used of the Lord. God's definitely not finished with Billy Graham, and when he leaves this world, his ministry will certainly be far from finished - he has left a strong impact that the BGEA is devoted to carrying on and expanding upon - in fact, the "My Hope" initiative is described as the largest yet for the organization.