Sunday, January 04, 2015

The 3 - January 4, 2015

This first edition of The 3 for 2015 includes a recent ruling from the Rhode Island Supreme Court against firefighters who had been forced to take part in an event that they believed violated their religious freedom.  Also, in this edition of my week-in-review feature, the first of 3 Passion events in the U.S. took place this weekend in Atlanta.  The top story involves the conclusion of an era, with the cessation of Mars Hill Church on Wednesday.

3 - Rhode Island Supreme Court: firefighters must march in gay pride parade

The news was released this past week, and reported on a number of sites, including, that the Supreme Court of Rhode Island has ruled that the religious rights of two firefighters were not violated when they were forced to participate in a “gay pride parade” a decade ago despite their objections.

Theodore Fabrizio and Stephen Deninno were assigned by city officials to drive a fire truck in the 2001 parade, but when the men asked if they could be reassigned as they do not agree with the homosexual lifestyle, they were refused. The men then carried out their assignment against their will, but state that they experienced sexual harassment, including sexual propositions and “at least 60 profanity-laced anonymous phone calls,” from parade attendees and their co-workers both during and after the event.

The report states that Fabrizio and Deninno asserted that their constitutional rights - namely their rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech - had been violated by being forced to participate in an event that conflicted with their convictions.

Litigation has been transpiring for more than a decade, and finally the state supreme court threw out the firefighters' lawsuit, saying that the city did not violate the men’s constitutional rights because the assignment was “legitimate.”

Justice William Robinson wrote, according to the report that the,“...appearance in the parade, solely as members of the Providence Fire Department, did not constitute a form of expression on their part...Rather, it was simply the accomplishing of a task assigned to an engine company of the Providence Fire Department, and the individuals chosen to carry out that assignment cannot be said to have engaged in personal speech by carrying out their work as public servants.”

The judge said that there was no case law that supported “the proposition that, in such specific circumstances, employees’ rights are violated if they happen to possess religious objections to the beliefs of the group with which an otherwise legitimate work assignment requires brief interaction.”

2 - First Passion conference of 2015 helps young adults kick off new year

Two years ago, the last Passion conference that was held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta drew over 60,000 people, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Last year, the Atlanta Passion event moved to another weekend and a smaller venue, and a Houston event was added.

This year, Passion is back on the week of New Year's in Atlanta's Philips Arena, and will present another Atlanta event in two weeks.  The Houston event is coming up the first week of February. The website is

According to a report on The Christian Post website:
Over 20,000 university students and leaders from around the world converged in downtown Atlanta Friday evening to kick off the Passion 2015 conference, the first of three, 3-day gatherings hosted by Passion this year focused on making Jesus famous while benefitting local communities and impacting the world.
Attendees at this first Passion 2015 gathering represent twenty-two nations and over 1,000 different universities. The majority of conference participants are students and young professionals ages 18-25, along with pastors and church leaders attending with their groups. In addition, over 1,000 volunteers – referred to as "Door Holders" – are assisting with various logistical needs throughout the conference.
According to the Post, Passion founder Giglio emphasized that the Gospel message is not simply one of forgiveness of sins, but also a call to surrender because of Christ's finished work on the cross.  He said, "We live in a 'me' and 'my' generation, but we are the Jesus generation united for His fame...We rally around the life and death of Jesus. We pray tonight that we will receive the Gospel and relinquish our lives in total surrender."

According to the Passion website, other scheduled speakers included John Piper and Francis Chan, with special music from the Passion worship band.

1 - Mars Hill Church comes to end, Warren speaks at last service

The conclusion of one of the top stories impacting the Christian community in 2014 took place on Wednesday, the date set for the dissolution of the Mars Hill Church congregations.  Mars Hill is based in Seattle.

Warren Throckmorton has chronicled the demise of Mars Hill and the circumstances leading up to the resignation of Mark Driscoll, and he points out on his blog at that:
Actually, the church doesn’t cease as an entity on December 31. There are buildings to sell and resources to distribute. There might be mediation or a lawsuit to settle. There will be donation statements to mail out. Speaking of money, there will be offerings to count and process.
Rick Warren of Saddleback Church delivered the final sermon via video. quotes the famous pastor as saying, "Now the fact is, in our broken world, sometimes everything seems to go wrong or fall apart all at once." It reports that the large, multi-site church will now dissolve into independent congregations.

Seattle television station KING5 reported that Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll "resigned earlier this year after months of controversy regarding his treatment of churchgoers and some of his financial decisions."  It said that Pastor Matthias Haeusel made some brief remarks to the congregation prior to Rick Warren's words and called the final service a bittersweet end.

He said, "Lot of people have been loved real well at this church. Lot of people have come to faith at this church...I talked to someone this morning who had been here for 14 years and actually had a radically different trajectory from when before they came here to after."

Haeusel said that he prays for Mark Driscoll often. Driscoll has not announced what his plans are yet. Despite some of the problems of the past year Haeusel said that he hopes people remember the good.

"God did great things even through broken people," Haeusel said. "If we look at scripture that is what God always does, because he is God not because we are great."

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