Sunday, October 30, 2016

The 3 - October 30, 2016

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, a major Christian retailer has pulled resources by a famous author due to her stated beliefs on so-called "same-sex marriage."  Also, the U.S. Supreme Court will be getting involved in a case involving transgender rights.  And, a lay minister in Georgia who lost his job in the state health department is refusing to give up sermons that have been requested in connection to his lawsuit after his firing.

3 - Major Christian retailer pulls author's books due to her stance on gay marriage

One would think just a short time ago that author Jen Hatmaker was on her way to quite the elevated status among Christian Bible teachers.  Her book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, was a bestseller, and her family has been featured HGTV reality series, My Big Family Renovation. She was one of the featured speakers on the national tour called, Belong.

But, her view of tolerating those in the LGBT lifestyle has now resulted in her resources being pulled from LifeWay stores.  According to Baptist Press, LifeWay spokesperson Marty King said, "In a recent interview, [Hatmaker] voiced significant changes in her theology of human sexuality and the meaning and definition of marriage -- changes which contradict LifeWay's doctrinal guidelines," adding, "As a result, LifeWay has discontinued selling her resources."  The 7 book was published by B&H, which is a publishing arm of LifeWay.

This removal apparently stems from an interview with Hatmaker published at Religion News Service, which was conducted by Jonathan Merritt. The Baptist Press article reports:
In an Oct. 25 Religion News Service (RNS) article, Hatmaker said she affirms gay marriage from both civil and spiritual perspectives, and advised the church to embrace members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who profess Christianity.

"Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ," Hatmaker said in the RNS question and answer column. "They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn't treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better."
When asked whether an LGBT relationship can be "holy," she replied:
"I do (believe an LGBT relationship can be holy). And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it's hard to nail down in one sitting," she said. "I've seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here."
2 - High court agrees to hear case of school district's restroom policy

The transgender bathroom issue has become quite a visible one, and the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that it will enter the fray.  The high court announced this week, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, that it would hear a case out of Virginia, involving a "school district’s policy of maintaining separate restrooms for members of each sex while providing individual, private facilities for students uncomfortable with using a facility that corresponds to their sex."

According to a report by Emily Belz at WORLD Magazine...
...the case began when Gavin Grimm (“G.G.” in court documents), who was born female but now identifies as male, sued the school board after requesting access to the boys’ restrooms and locker rooms. Fielding parental complaints, the board declined Grimm’s request, but offered to build unisex restrooms instead. Grimm considered that response discrimination.
A Federal District Court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the school board, but the Supreme Court issued a stay on those rulings, allowing the school's restroom and locker room policy to continue until resolved by the Supreme Court.

And, according to WORLD, the Federal directive to schools throughout America concerning transgender bathroom usage will come into play. The story says, "In January 2015, a Department of Education official sent a letter telling the Gloucester County School Board that under Title IX the board must treat transgender students 'consistent with their gender identity' in locker rooms and restrooms. The agency sent a directive similar to the Gloucester County letter to all federally funded schools in May."

1 - Former GA health official and lay minister, who had filed suit because of religious discrimination, refuses to release sermons

The case of a public health director in Georgia who was a lay minister has raised concerns over the government's authority over church-related matters.  According to the website of First Liberty Institute, Dr. Eric Walsh was hired in 2014 by the State of Georgia. The website says, "...when the state found out that Walsh was also a lay minister and preached sermons on the weekends, they obtained copies of his some of his sermons, divided them among state officials, reviewed the sermons, and then fired Walsh­—informing him of the termination via voicemail."

First Liberty says that even though the state claims its abrupt termination of Walsh was not related to his religious beliefs, "evidence would suggest otherwise."

In April of this year, First Liberty filed a lawsuit on behalf of Walsh. In September, the Georgia state government issued a Request for Production of Documents. As First Liberty points out: "Fulfilling the request would force Walsh to produce all his previous sermons, sermon notes and transcripts for government review and investigation."

Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel for First Liberty stated, "The government wants a pastor to hand over copies of all of his sermons, including notes and transcripts, with absolutely zero limitations,” adding, "This is an excessive display of government overreaching its authority.”

A press conference, including Dr. Walsh, was held in Atlanta Wednesday. Pastor Dave Welch from Houston was there - he was one of the "Houston Five" whose communication had been subpoenaed in the lawsuit there involving an ordinance involving sexual orientation and gender identity, said:
"This is worse than the Houston Five for multiple reasons. This is coming from a whole state—the Georgia attorney general—not one city. And they are demanding more material: sermons, sermon notes, all documents. It could even include margin notes in this pastor’s preaching Bible. It’s almost as if they are ransacking the pastor’s study. This sweeping demand is unacceptable in America, and is a warning to every pastor, every church, every denomination, and every American."
First Liberty also pointed out that last year, Governor Nathan Deal, under intense pressure from corporate interests, vetoed a mild religious protection bill that would have protected pastors.

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