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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - March 2020  (Read 2741 times)

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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - March 2020
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2020, 10:41:02 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/march/will-covid-19-lead-to-long-term-shift-in-church-attendance.html







Will COVID-19 Lead to a Long-term Shift in Church Attendance?



This coming weekend may represent the fewest people engaging in corporate worship in the last two millennia.


We are entering truly unprecedented times for people of faith. Churches, synagogues, and mosques around the world have suspended regular worship services for an indefinite period of time. This coming weekend may represent the fewest people engaging in corporate worship in the last two millennia.

This is uncharted waters for those in church leadership. Many pastors and denominational leaders have struggled with questions related to the immediate concerns facing the church. Issues like: How do we take our service online? or How do we take care of the elderly and vulnerable members of our faith community? While it’s key that pastors do their best to tackle these immediate concerns, at some point thoughts may begin to drift further out.

It’s crucial that pastors begin to think about the long term. Specifically , is COVID-19 going to lead to a long-term shift in church attendance?

Survey data related to an event like this doesn’t exist. In order to take an educated guess at what the future may hold, we can work with the next best thing—panel data. A panel survey asks the same people the same series of questions over a long period of time as a means to detect how behavior shifts and to identify the possible causes of those changes. I have panel data that was collected in 2010, 2012, 2014. It offers an illuminating glimpse into how church attendance changes over time.



The first impression from the graph is that there is a lot of shifting in church attendance in just two-year periods. Many people changed their frequency of church attendance from 2010 to 2012 and then changed their behavior again by 2014. There are portions of the population that are more consistent, however.

The thick blue bands on the right side of the graph indicate the lack of movement among people who never attend church services. When people are out of church, they are unlikely to return. Note also that the size of the never attenders increased over a four-year period of time.

There are also thicker bands of movement among those who attend church weekly or more than once a week. That indicates a general sense of stability—frequent attenders don’t alter their behavior, either.




The overall shifts come into starker relief when just observing the changes from 2010 to 2014. The rows going down the left side of the above graph are individuals’ self-reported church attendance in 2010 and the size of the bars going left and right indicate where those groups ended up in 2014.

Starting at the top of graph, 82.4 percent of people who never attended church in 2010 were still never attenders in 2014. Added to that the fact that 13 percent said that their attendance has shifted to “seldom”; it becomes clear that this group is not radically changing its attendance pattern.

But that’s also true on the high end of the spectrum as well. Nearly 94 percent of people who said that they attended church more than once a week in 2010 were still attending weekly in 2014.

The middle of the spectrum is where a lot of movement occurs. While 60 percent of weekly attenders still attend once a week four years later, another 15 percent increased their attendance to more than once a week.

However, that also means a quarter of them are attending less.

The monthly and yearly categories indicate some points of concern. For those monthly attenders, a quarter were attending more four years later but 38 percent were attending less. For yearly attenders, the situation is even bleaker. Just 18.2 percent said that their attendance had increased, while 44.6 percent said attendance had gone down.

If pastors are thinking about ways to ensure that their church attendance does not suffer permanently from the effects of COVID-19, the data points to good places to begin making connections. It’s clear that the most faithful members will likely stay that way, and people who have never attended church won’t be coming to church in large numbers after the lockdown is over.

Instead, a good place to start would be to touch base with infrequent attenders in their congregation.

Pastoral teams should identify people who show up once every four or six weeks. The data indicates that the people in the middle of the attendance seem to be much more open to encouragement.

A quick email, a short phone call, or a private message on social media may be enough to keep them feeling connected to their church and their pastor.

And it’s always a good idea to publicize ways in which the church is still serving the community by posting pictures and updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Even people who have fallen away from a regular church may be looking for a social outlet when the pandemic has begun to fade and frequent posts may be enough to plant a seed in their mind when things have blown over.












Ryan P. Burge is an instructor of political science at Eastern Illinois University. His research appears on the site Religion in Public, and he tweets at @ryanburge.

The Exchange is a part of CT's Blog Forum. Support the work of CT. Subscribe and get one year free.
The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - March 2020
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2020, 08:21:41 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/march/state-exemptions-church-covid-19-essential-services.html






Are Church Services Considered ‘Essential’? Depends Where You Live




Several states are offering religious exemptions to restrictions around public gatherings.


As multiple governors issue orders to curb large gatherings and implore residents to stay home in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, at least a half-dozen states have exempted some level of religious activity.

The divergent treatment of faith in some states’ pandemic-fighting orders comes as a few houses of worship across the nation continue to greet people in person, despite federal public health guidance to avoid gatherings larger than 10 people and decisions by most religious leaders to shift services online. While the pandemic has heightened political tensions, the states including religious exceptions in their orders designed to combat the pandemic are led by governors in both parties.

In Michigan, for instance, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a stay-at-home order on Monday that banned all gatherings outside of individual households. Guidance on the order noted that “a place of religious worship, when used for religious worship, is not subject to penalty” for violating it, a standard that the state had applied to its previous order curbing gatherings.

In Tennessee, where Republican Gov. Bill Lee issued a Sunday order limiting gatherings to 10 people, Pastor Greg Locke said he plans to keep having service at Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet. Locke said that he plans to be in touch with attorneys about remaining open, and that he is providing essential services to locals still recovering from tornadoes that slammed the state earlier this month.

“I don’t think a church staying open in days of chaos, when people need hope—I don’t think that should be controversial,” said Locke, describing himself as “shocked” by the degree of public pushback he received for continuing to hold services.

Religious gatherings were exempted from Ohio’s stay-at-home order, issued Sunday by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. Solid Rock, an Ohio megachurch whose Cincinnati location hosted an event for evangelical supporters of President Donald Trump last month, held an in-person service on Sunday and said on its website that it would exert a constitutional right to continue meeting.

“We do believe that it is important for our doors to remain open for whomever to come to worship and pray during this time of great challenge in our country,” the church stated, noting that it wants to “help keep people safe.”

DeWine posted a Sunday warning on his Twitter account, asking “religious leaders to think about their congregations” as they weigh state guidelines crafted for public health reasons.

“We did not order religious organizations to close, but my message to EVERYONE is that this is serious. When you are coming together, whether in a church or wherever - this is dangerous,” DeWine tweeted.

Another pastor who took heat for holding in-person service on Sunday, Tom Walters of Pennsylvania’s Word of Life Church, posted an apology on the church’s Facebook page and said he would move to online-only worship amid the virus.

“Please believe me when I say that it was not out of arrogance or defiance” that the church met, Walters wrote, “but solely for the purpose of praying for our churches, communities, and nation.”

Other states declining to force closures of places of worship include Pennsylvania, where the list of essential businesses permitted to keep operating includes “religious organizations,” and New York, where all nonessential businesses across the state were ordered closed as of Sunday night. Guidance accompanying that order said that “houses of worship are not ordered closed,” but “it is strongly recommended no congregate services be held and social distance maintained.”

Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and a member of President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board during the 2016 campaign, tweeted on Tuesday that he was “thankful” to see the number of states “listing churches as ‘essential services’.”

States that did not exempt religious activity in their pandemic-related shutdown orders include Oregon, whose Democratic governor moved to prohibit nonessential gatherings on Monday, and Maryland, whose Republican governor’s list of activities limited to 10 people on Monday included the “spiritual (and) religious.”

California’s stay-at-home order, by contrast, classified ”faith based services that are provided through streaming or other technology” as an essential function.

Frederick Gedicks, a Brigham Young University professor who specializes in religion and the law, said arguments exist for both accepting and rejecting exemptions for worship.

On the one hand, Gedicks said, religion could be considered “especially important during a national emergency”—but from another perspective, “it’s not singling out or targeting religion” to constrain worship at a time when most secular activity is also getting reined in.

Gedicks added that states’ divergent approaches during the current pandemic are no more problematic than they’ve been on other issues: “What we’re discovering now is the limitations of federalism in a time of national crisis.”

Columbia University law professor Katherine Franke said that since “the overwhelming majority of at least Christian congregations are meeting online,” state officials may have issued the exemptions in the hopes the impact would be minimal, assuming “most people will do the right thing.”

Indeed, many faith leaders have gone to creative lengths to continue delivering spiritual support during the pandemic. In states such as Utah, where a mass gathering to welcome back returning Mormon missionaries sparked criticism from the state’s GOP leaders, Catholic priests have offered to hear drive-up confessions that heed social distancing rules crafted to stop the virus.

But a handful of other houses of worship continued to meet. One Louisiana pastor reportedly welcomed hundreds to his church on Sunday, flouting public health restrictions for the second straight week and earning a rebuke from Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Edwards exempted travel “to and from an individual’s place of worship” in his state’s most recent stay-at-home order, which restricts gatherings larger than 10 people.

Next-door in Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has not ordered business closures or limits on social behavior. During a Sunday prayer session he led on Facebook, Reeves asked that residents have “the wisdom to do what’s right, not only for themselves but what’s right for all of their fellow Mississippians.”

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.











Associated Press writer Emily Wagster Pettus contributed from Jackson, Mississippi.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - March 2020
« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2020, 02:58:23 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/easter-without-church.html







An Easter Without Going To Church





The pandemic has laid an egg on our worship


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a formal recommendation that public gatherings be postponed or canceled for the next eight weeks. For organizations that serve high-risk populations, the threshold is 10 people, though most churches aren’t even doing that. Easter worship (April 12) as we’ve known it is doomed. Early on, many pastors probably presumed that preaching to cameras rather than congregations wasn’t going to encompass a whole season.

Events are moving quickly from bad to worse. No doubt pastors worry that two months of canceled worship services will provide the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back of congregational decline. For years we preachers told our congregations how “coming to church doesn’t make you a Christian” (usually followed by the tread bare analogy about how being in a garage doesn’t make you a car). We never really meant to be taken seriously. Fewer and fewer adults already report attending church in America. What’s going to happen when this last remnant gets used to spending Sundays at home? Like everything in this anxious moment, it’s too soon to tell.

The first Easter found the most faithful huddled away from their congregations, hiding out with a different fear. Instead of a pandemic, the disciples were afraid of the religious and political authorities who’d crucified Jesus and were likely coming after them too. Perhaps they also feared Jesus. After all, they’d sworn never to deny or disown him, but when everything went south, they’d scrambled and fled, leaving a small group of women to keep the faith afloat. And now Jesus was loose! The disciples’ socially-distant hideout proved a bad barrier. Jesus appeared in their midst (John 20:19–21) to forgive and to bless and, a few weeks hence, to empower with his very Spirit.

It is this same Holy Spirit who has empowered Christians to serve and to love through every crisis—from pandemics to natural disasters and world wars. Researcher Lyman Stone reminds us how Christians historically sacrificed for others during epidemics and plagues. Christians built the first hospitals where caring for the sick could happen safely. Their courageous conviction to love and care for the least and the poor bore witness to the Spirit’s power. The result was more an expanding than diminishing church and the spread of the gospel.

Controversially, Stone goes on to advocate for congregational worship for the sake of community. To be the body of Christ on earth requires we meet together as physical bodies. Stone adds that seeing one another in gathered space is not only a matter of supporting one another but a way to keep tabs on each other’s well-being.

However, even if we do practice stringent hygiene and social distancing, coming together as congregations in the face of this pandemic actually mars our witness. Rather than looking courageous and faithful, we come off looking callous and even foolish, not unlike the snake handlers who insisted on playing with poison as a proof of true faith. Better the recent encouragement from Wheaton College’s Esau McCaulley: “The church’s absence, its literal emptying, can function as a symbol of its trust in God’s ability to meet us regardless of the location. The church remains the church whether gathered or scattered.”

The church remains the church online, too. During a season of illness when I couldn’t attend church in person, I benefited from what theologian Deanna Thompson calls “the virtual body of Christ.” Relying on digital church during her own deadly illness, Thompson writes, “I received a prayer shawl from my local church community on the day I was diagnosed, [but] through the spreading of my story digitally, five more prayer shawls arrived in the mail from church communities across the country. It’s possible to read this as a (most wonderful) digital extension of the local church.”

In northeast Minneapolis at the beginning of the pandemic, pastor Stephanie O’Brien reported that her congregation designed a flyer to distribute throughout the neighborhood offering childcare help, transportation, grocery shopping, or anything else to love their neighbors. Though not coming together as a large group to worship, they can, assisted by social media and virtual reality, provide physical hands and feet to people in critical need. This is happening all across the country.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we might expect other unexpected blessings during this pandemonious Lent: extra alms to donate to the poor, time to meditate and to pray, and a growing concern for the needs of the world and even the planet, the imposition of self-denial and silence.

Turn to the Easter story proper and you find remarkable silence, the greatest in all Scripture. Nowhere does the Bible offer a description of the Resurrection itself, no language telling us how exactly how it happened, no speculation as to what went on in the tomb that first Easter morning.

Instead, the risen Jesus simply and shockingly shows up to his disciples huddled in fear. In time, this merry band of uneducated fishermen, outcasts, and losers upended the Empire. Salvation arrived for all believing humanity. Read to the end of the New Testament, and this same gospel redeems the entire cosmos. All of this emanates out of a glorious emptiness we celebrate Easter morning, whether gathered or scattered.











Daniel Harrell is Christianity Today’s editor in chief.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - March 2020
« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2020, 10:48:51 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/pandemic-prison-coronavirus-mass-incarceration-covid-19.html







The Pandemic in Prison




You can’t lock it up without letting it loose.


The advice to slow and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus is by now familiar: Practice social distancing. Don’t congregate in large groups. And always, always wash your hands.

But what if you live with another person—or two or three—in a 6-by-8 foot cell, and you eat every meal in a cafeteria that seats dozens, and you have no soap?

That’s the situation facing around 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons in America and another 700,000 in local jails. As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates, detention facilities risk becoming “superspreader” sites, rapidly overloading inmates’ medical resources. The United States has the largest prison population and highest known incarceration rate in the world, and incarcerated people are uniquely at risk in this pandemic.

As Christians, we are called to their aid. Jesus listed “proclaim[ing] freedom for the prisoners” among the Spirit’s purposes for his ministry (Luke 4:14-21), and he described care for those in prison as an identifying mark of his followers, connecting those imprisoned to himself (Matthew 25:31-46). Scripture is replete with stories of the wrongfully detained—Joseph, Daniel, Peter, Paul, and Christ, for a night—yet it never makes innocence a condition of our call to care. Rather, as in Hebrews 13:1-3, we are simply exhorted to “remember those in prison as if [we] were together with them in prison,” to treat them as we would hope to be treated were we, but for the grace of God, in their place.

Polling commissioned by Prison Fellowship finds Christians—and especially evangelicals—are more likely than most Americans to want “safe and humane” detention conditions. COVID-19 creates a desperate need to put our faith into action (James 2:14-18).

The single best and most achievable way to do that is to get people out of jail. Most people held in American jails are in pre-trial detention, meaning they’re presumed innocent and haven’t been convicted of their alleged crimes. Thanks to changes in pre-trial procedures, jail populations have exploded in the last three decades, leaving many facilities dangerously overcrowded. This isn’t about public safety: Three in four jail inmates are low-level offenders accused of nonviolent infractions, and many have been cleared for pre-trial release. They remain locked up only because they can’t afford bail.

Some jurisdictions, including Los Angeles County, Ohio’s Cuyahoga County (which includes Cleveland), and Saint Paul, Minnesota, where I live, are evaluating their jail populations to release low-risk inmates to reduce the risks of infection.

There are two ways individual Christians and congregations can help. One is advocacy. Your city or county jail’s policies are significantly controlled by local government: judges, the police chief or sheriff, and the mayor or city council. You can contact these officials (make sure to call, not email) and ask them to release all jail inmates eligible for bail.

If advocacy doesn’t work, the other option is contributing to a bail fund. Bail funds have their roots in the black church’s fight against slavery and Jim Crow, when congregations pooled their money to buy their loved ones’ freedom. Most modern bail funds—like the state-based funds listed in the National Bail Fund Network or local branches of The Bail Project—don’t have a church affiliation. However, you may be able to find a church-connected bail fund where you live.

Look for something like Restoring Justice, a Christian legal aid nonprofit in Houston which partners with area churches as well as Baylor University. Restoring Justice operates a community bail fund, and it is “making emergency, research-based compassion bond motions and arguments” in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - March 2020
« Reply #17 on: March 29, 2020, 06:15:38 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/march/bible-museum-dead-sea-scrolls-fakes-forgery-exhibit.html






Fake Dead Sea Scrolls Displayed at Museum of the Bible




Updated exhibit will focus on forgery.


The Museum of the Bible displays 16 fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls—and all of them are fake, according to an independent analysis contracted by the museum. The forgeries will remain on display, with an updated exhibit that attempts to use the embarrassing situation as an educational opportunity.

“Our goal is to educate the public about these items, educate the public about the academic process, and make a contribution to the field,” said Jeffrey Kloha, the museum’s chief curatorial officer. “We are currently developing content for updating our exhibit.”

The Museum of the Bible purchased the forged fragments in four different lots from four different antiquities dealers between 2009 and 2014. The Dead Sea Scrolls were one of most important discoveries in biblical archaeology in the 20th century. It was felt that a museum dedicated to the history of the Bible had to have examples of them, if they were available.

The ancient scrolls were discovered by Bedouins in 1947. A cobbler in Bethlehem named Khalil Eskander Shahin and known as Kando served as an intermediary between the Bedouins and the institutions that wanted to buy them. The Kando family kept some of the fragments, as an investment.

When a number of scroll fragments began to come on the market in 2002, some were directly connected to the Kando family, and few questions were raised about their authenticity. Before the Bible museum opened, however, a group of scholars examined the fragments while writing a book about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Questions began to surface about five of the 16.

When the museum opened, the Dead Sea Scrolls were displayed with signs acknowledging the questions about their authenticity.

“Some scholars insisted they were authentic, some insisted they were not,” Kloha said. “We felt as a museum it was important to help the public understand that these are challenging questions.”

Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and chairman of the Museum of the Bible, was also fined $3 million and forced to return 5,500 ancient cuneiform tablets and seals in 2017, after a federal investigation determined they were from war-torn Iraq and not Turkey or Israel as customs forms had claimed.

Faced with some strong criticism and increased suspicion about the museum’s exhibits, the organization decided to hire an outside firm to independently examine all 16 of the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments. The Museum of the Bible contracted with Colette Loll, of Art Fraud Insights, who specializes in detecting forged artwork. Loll assembled a team of experts and launched a nine-month investigation.

The investigation revealed that most of the fragments were leather, rather than the parchment typical of the Dead Sea Scrolls. To the naked eye the materials look very similar. Under a microscope, the difference was obvious. More evidence of forgery mounted.

“We saw things like ink waterfalling off the edges, ink going into cracks, ink going over thick surface deposits,” she said. That would mean that when the text was written “this material was already decomposing,” Loll said, which provided more physical evidence of forgery.

Investigation Reveals Deliberate Forgeries
When the experts finished, Loll’s team had no trouble drawing a conclusion.

“After an exhaustive review of all the imaging and scientific analysis results, it is the unanimous conclusion of the advisory team that none of the textual fragments in the Museum of the Bible’s Dead Sea Scroll collection are authentic. Moreover, each exhibits characteristics that suggest they are deliberate forgeries created in the 20th century with the intent to mimic authentic Dead Sea Scroll fragments.”

The investigative report, which was paid for by the museum and is now available on the museum’s website, includes videos and images which will help people understand the forgery.

The museum hosted an academic symposium on March 13 to report the results of the investigation. A panel of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars were responded, including Christopher Rollston, professor of Semitic languages at George Washington University; Sidnie White Crawford, professor emerita of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judiasm at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; and Lawrence Schiffman, professor of Judaic studies at New York University. All three praised the museum. Even though the fragments were one of the museum’s most prized possession, it did the right thing, funding an investigation and publicizing the results.

“They didn't have to fund these tests,” Rollston told CT. “Many other museums have not come clean like this. I think the museum deserves some credit for that.”

The three scholars also called for an inquiry into the fake artifacts, to figure out who perpetrated the fraud. “We need a full-scale criminal investigation,” Schiffman said.

Rollston hopes an investigative journalist will go to work on the scandal and find the perpetrator. He suspects it may be someone he knows, someone in the community of Dead Sea Scrolls experts, a trained scholar who perverted professional expertise to engage in criminal activity.

“I believe forgers do great harm to the field,” he said. “They prey on the hopes and desires of good people. I would love to see this person exposed and prosecuted.”

Other Scroll Fragments may be Suspect
There are about 70 other Dead Sea Scrolls fragments in other collections around the world that may be forgeries as well. The Museum of the Bible is encouraging the owners of those fragments to launch their own investigations.

“We hope to set a benchmark here for other collections and hopefully uncover the truth about all of these fragments,” Kloha said. “The ultimate goal is to have the truth and to be able to present it accurately and make it available to the world.”

He added: “We’ve learned a lot more about how forgers go about their methods. We have also learned that documentation from dealers can’t always be trusted.”

The news of the fakes may have damaged the credibility of the museum, but Rollston said he would not hesitate to visit with family members and friends who come to Washington, DC. “The serious blunders of the museum, these breeches of ethics and law, are part of the past,” he said.

Rollston recommends visiting the Israel Antiquities Authority room on the sixth floor, one of the largest exhibits of material excavated in Israel on display outside of Israel. And the changes that are coming in its Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit will make the museum even better.

“It will be really fabulous to put together an exhibit focusing on modern forgeries,” Rollston said. “It’s a useful thing for the public, a way to make lemonade out of lemons.”
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - March 2020
« Reply #18 on: March 30, 2020, 08:46:58 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/march/tampa-megachurch-pastor-rodney-howard-browne-arrested-covid.html






Florida Pastor First to Be Arrested for Defying Coronavirus Order




Misdemeanor charges against Rodney Howard-Browne set up legal battle over right to worship in a pandemic.


Florida officials have arrested a megachurch pastor who allegedly held two Sunday services with hundreds of people in violation of a safer-at-home order in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Rodney Howard-Browne turned himself in to authorities in Hernando County where he lives on Monday afternoon, according to jail records. He was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order. The two misdemeanors carry a possible maximum sentence of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Hillsborough Coutry Sheriff Chad Chronister said his command staff met with leaders at The River at Tampa Bay Church about the danger they are putting themselves—and their congregation—in by not maintaining appropriate social distancing. The Sheriff's Office also placed a digital sign on the road near the church driveway that said “practice social distancing.” But Howard-Browne held the services anyway, according to sheriff’s office detectives.

“Shame on this pastor, their legal staff, and the leaders of this staff for forcing us to do our job. That's not what we wanted to do during a declared state of emergency,” Chronister said. “We are hopeful that this will be a wakeup call.”

Several churches across the country have boldly violated gathering restrictions and stay-at-home orders to continue in-person worship, but Howard-Browne at The River is the first to face punishment for doing so. Recent research shows 1 in 10 Americans say their house of worship is continuing to gather in person, according to data reported last weekend by Deseret News.

The church has said it sanitized the building, and the pastor said on Twitter that the church is an essential business. Howard-Browne defended the church’s right to gather for worship and attacked the media for “religious bigotry and hate.”

Howard-Browne is a controversial Charismatic preacher associated with the prosperity gospel and known for promoting uncontrolled laughter—called “holy laughter”—as a manifestation of the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is originally from South Africa, and is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump.

Howard-Browne has also preached a number of conspiracy theories, claiming without evidence that the CIA trains ISIS fighters in the United States, and that vaccines are part of a secret plot to sterilize people, and that there was a secret assassination attempt on President Trump. He has also promoted wild theories about forces controlling the coronavirus.

Emergency rules instituted by county and state government ban all meetings of 10 or more people, including those held by faith-based groups. Health officials say this will help limit the spread of COVID-19. A live stream of Sunday's three-and-a-half-hour church service showed scores of congregants at The River.

On March 18, the church called its ministry an essential service, just like police and firefighters, and said it would keep its doors open.

In a Facebook video Sunday, Howard-Browne said “it looks like we're going to have to go to court over this because the church is encroached from every side.”

“This is really about your voice. The voice of the body of Christ,” he said. As recently as last year, Howard-Browne's church hosted an event with Paula White Cain, who was named an advisor leading President Donald Trump's Faith and Opportunity Initiative. She's also an unofficial spiritual advisor to the president.

Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - March 2020
« Reply #19 on: March 31, 2020, 08:18:44 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/march/caring-for-your-churchs-finance-through-cares-act.html






The CARES Act & Your Church Staff: What You Need to Know & 4 Steps to Take Now





The new stimulus bill includes churches and has implication for church staff. Please learn more before making any staff decisions.


We are in unprecedented times, and (for most of us) the health crisis is just weeks away. However, for all of us, the financial crisis is here.

There are roughly 350,000 churches in the United States. Most are small and have a single (often part time) staff member. Some employ thousands. However, Warren Bird of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability estimates that there are 1 million people on the payroll of US churches, the majority of whom are part-time, often working other jobs.

Thus, the Congress and the President included them in the most recent stimulus bill, The CARES Act (and the Paycheck Protection Program), as part of a plan to avoid sudden and vast unemployment.

While this is a fluid situation, we are committed to learning more about the CARES Act in the hours and days to come.

One particular trusted resource that we want to note is Richard Hammar’s overview posted at Christianity Today. Hammar, senior editor at Church Law and Tax, notes the following about the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program):

The Act establishes a new US Small Business Administration loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program for small employers (including nonprofits and churches) with 500 or fewer employees to help prevent workers from losing their jobs and small businesses from failing due to economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program provides federally guaranteed loans to cover payroll and other operating expenses.
To be eligible, the small employer must have been harmed by the pandemic between February 15, 2020, and June 30, 2020. The Act requires eligible borrowers to make a good-faith certification that (1) the loan is necessary due to the current economic conditions caused by COVID-19; (2) the funds will be used to retain workers and maintain payroll, lease, and utility payments; and (3) they are not receiving duplicative funds for the same uses from another SBA program.

Principal amounts on the loan for the first eight-week period from the time the loan was made may be forgiven if used to pay:
compensation under $100,000 (per employee)
payment of interest on any obligation
rent
utilities
The amount of loan forgiveness is reduced based on an employer’s decline in workers or wages (declines between February 15, 2020, and April 26, 2020, do not reduce the amount of loan forgiveness but only if the employer returns to pre-decline levels by June 30, 2020).
Any portion of a loan not forgiven is carried forward as an ongoing loan with a term of ten years at four percent interest.
The program is retroactive to February 15, 2020, to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back onto payrolls. The loan period ends on June 30, 2020.
What is Covered?

In addition, our friends at Vanderbloemen have provided some helpful resources about how the loan funds can be used to cover payroll costs, group health insurance benefits, paid sick leave, medical and insurance premiums, mortgage or rent payments, and utilities.

Furthermore, payroll costs can include:

Salary or wages, payments of a cash tip
Vacation, parental, family, medical and sick leave
Health benefits
Retirement benefits
State and local taxes
Limited up to $100k annual Salary/wage for each employee
What You Need to Do Now

Therefore, in light of what we do know, here are four things you need to be doing now with regard to thinking and praying through your church’s finances in this crisis.

#1 Decide if this provision is right for your church

Yes, there are many factors for pastors and church leaders to consider in applying for this loan. For some, there may be an overall principle that your church doesn’t believe in acquiring debt. For others, there may be hesitation taking any money from the local government.

Maybe, there are others, you are wondering about specific details.

Here’s what we know regarding the details. Again, a big thanks to our friends at Vanderbloemen in laying this out:

Lenders will most likely be your current banker
No loan payments under this program will be due for a year
No fees are included in the loan
Interest rate will be less than 4%
You will need to certify the loan will be used for supporting ongoing operations, retaining workers, maintaining payroll, or making mortgage, lease, and utility payments
No collateral or personal guarantees will be required
If you sense your church might not make it out of this crisis, or if you expect to be laying off staff or taking significant pay cuts during this crisis, you might want to consider this option. You should contact your bank and your accountant, as both will be needed in this process.

Some experts are saying you should do this quickly, though others are reassuring that additional funds will be made available as needed, so there is some uncertainty about the timing.

#2 Contact your local bank and let them know you want to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program from the CARES Act

This action is pretty straightforward. However, there is a possibility that your bank isn’t a participant of the CARES Act. In that case you will want to contact a larger regional bank in your area to start that conversation and process.

#3 Begin working on your spreadsheet to calculate your average payroll cost

The way this program works takes your average payroll cost for the last 12 months (March 2019–March 2020)—and multiplies it by 2.5.

Keep in mind, this not only includes full-time and part-time staff, it can also include 1099 employees such as off-duty police officers, interns, and other monthly costs related to outsourcing to run the church.

After you’ve tallied up your average payroll for the year, and multiply it by 2.5, you will have the loan amount for which you will apply.

You should contact your accountant who is also receiving guidance about this act.

But you need to be working on that now as the bank will want to see how you’ve arrived at that number.

#4 Tell your staff that you are working on a plan

We know these are uncertain times that bring upon a heightened sense of panic and anxiety. While we know that Jesus is our ultimate hope, it still brings your staff a practical level of comfort knowing that you are working on a plan to help sustain your church (and staff) financially during this crisis.

Let me encourage you to listen to the podcast with Slingshot Group (about staff issues) and with William Vanderbloemen about staff and stimulus bill issues.

Stay tuned, as we will continue to keep you updated on this stimulus package and how it relates to church finances.

Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College, and a co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Seminary.









For other resources, check out:

OVERALL LOAN INFO: https://www.uschamber.com/co/start/strategy/federal-small-business-stimulus-aid-programs-guide /https://www.uschamber.com/sites/default/files/023595_comm_corona_virus_smallbiz_loan_final.pdf (PDF doc - including graphics)

Loans available: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources#section-header-2(including Paycheck Protection Program)

Loan forgiveness/interest rates/etc: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19

Loan FAQ: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Home/Questions / https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Declarations

Paycheck Protection Program overview, eligibility: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/paycheck-protection-program#section-header-4

Here is the site: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources









Here is a recent Q&A with Guidestone Financial Services with regards to how churches, pastors are eligible for relief in the stimulus package. https://www.guidestone.org/NewsRoom/NewsReleases/2020/2020_03_27-COVID-Pandemic-Phase-III-Stimulus-Package#Q&A
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - March 2020
« Reply #20 on: March 31, 2020, 11:57:57 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/coronavirus-ethics-healthcare-carol-powers-david-stevens.html






Playing God: Pandemic Brings Moral Dilemmas to US Hospitals




Two Christian bioethicists on life or death issues that American doctors may soon face.


Medical professionals across the US are preparing COVID-19 units in a suspenseful quiet, while others in places like New York are already overwhelmed with patients. The city has ordered hospitals to increase capacity by 50 percent, and they are looking at ways to use temporary facilities, including a recently arrived Navy hospital ship, hastily built field hospitals, and even hotels.

In the midst of all this, doctors and nurses are preparing to face agonizing ethical decisions as their Italian counterparts have already in recent weeks. According to some estimates, the number of projected coronavirus patients needing ventilation in the US could reach anywhere between 1.4 and 31 patients per available ventilator.

There are three main ethical concerns that medical professionals are now facing, according to the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity: protecting the vulnerable by not overwhelming health care systems, allocating insufficient medical supplies, and keeping medical workers safe who lack the proper protective equipment against the virus. The questions are very real: Who should receive medical care when there aren’t enough resources to go around?

Two ethicists aiding US medical workers with these dilemmas are Carol L. Powers, a lawyer and the co-founder and chair of the Community Ethics Committee out of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics in Boston; and David Stevens, a physician and CEO emeritus of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations in Bristol, Tennessee who spent 11 years on the front lines of the HIV/AIDS and malaria epidemics in Africa.

CT spoke to Powers and Stevens about how Christians should approach issues of life or death.

How does the relationship between the physician and patient change during a public health crisis like a pandemic?

Powers: In the normal course, the physician-patient relationship is shaped by two different “spheres of decision-making.” Typically, the patient is charged with articulating their individual goals of care based upon their personal values and preferences. The physician then responds with various treatment options that would accomplish those individual goals of care.

In a public health crisis where health-care resources become limited, the physician-patient relationship changes drastically. The weight accorded to an individual patient’s goals of care diminishes in light of the community’s increased need for health care resources. Rather than focusing solely on the patient in the bed, the physician must now consider the many patients in many beds. Treatment options available to both the physician and the patient become necessarily limited.

Critical care resources—an isolation unit or an ICU bed or a ventilator or dialysis—may not be a treatment option offered or it may even be withdrawn. In the case of non-critical medical needs, surgeries or treatments may be delayed or become completely unavailable. Resource allocation questions force a shift in the physician-patient relationship so that the patient’s desires for specialized medical treatments cannot be accommodated and the physician reluctantly becomes a gatekeeper for access to any care at all. Medical care that was once assumed to be available may become limited or completely unavailable.

For the physician, an uncomfortable shift occurs from providing patient care supported by evidence-based medical standards offering a full panoply of treatment choices to operating under crisis standards of care providing limited treatment options in an attempt to save as many people in jeopardy as possible.

Whenever the question arises “what should we do?” then you are in the arena of ethics. The focus of decision-making in ethics often centers upon balancing benefits and burdens of competing “good or right answers.” In our pre-March 2020 world, a patient was able to exercise a good deal of decision-making authority about what treatment options they wanted based upon an ethical decision-making principle of autonomy. In our post-March 2020 world, the ethical principle of justice asserts itself and physicians must find ways to allocate limited resources in ways that are fair and do the most people the most good. For years, we have stayed away from talking about rationing health care and now, because of a crisis beyond our control, we are being forced to ask hard resource allocation questions.

How are medical professionals making decisions about who to prioritize for care?

Stevens: The four basic principles of ethics [include] beneficence, which is doing good; non-malfeasance, which is doing no harm, justice, [and autonomy], and all those things are impacted by an epidemic.

You have the ethical quandary of, do I take care of the sickest folks or do I take care of the most folks? You focus on those in the middle. You have those that aren’t very sick, you tell them to stay home. And then you have people who are desperately sick and when there are not enough respirators, there’s going to be a decision-making situation where you’re going to say, this person is so sick, I’m just going to sedate them or give them something for pain or air hunger, but I don’t have the resources nor the time to focus on this person to the detriment of 15 others who are moderately sick who I can save. That is what we call competing goods. Both of those are good things but you can’t do both.

I remember as a young missionary, we had a lot of premature births—some of the highest in the world because we had the highest multiple births—that one out of every 28 deliveries was a set of twins. So we had a lot of preemies. We didn’t have 24-hour electricity. We had a little generator we could use to run one isolette. You can put three premies in an isolette, but what do you do when the fourth one comes? I had to make this decision many times and say, Okay, great, this one’s doing better. I think we can take it out and put this one in. But other times you looked, and all of them were doing bad and you think, this one is so bad in the middle, I’m going to take that one out and just give it comfort care and give it back to its mother and I’m going to take this other one that was just born and is doing better and put it in.

Well, that’s not fair. You can’t be fair in these types of resource-depleted situations. And you get into what we call utilitarian ethics of doing the best you can to save the most people when you can’t save them all. You do that while not violating any moral absolutes.

Powers: There are several different ways to allocate scarce medical resources. One could argue for a first-come, first-served system or even a lottery. What most hospitals are instituting are crisis standards of care that are that trying to maximize the most life years. What that means on a practical basis is a patient with COVID-19 whose health is already compromised by other life-threatening medical conditions may not receive as much intensive medical support as someone whose health is not medically compromised.

Doctors are trying to assess who will benefit the most for the longest when they offer access to scarce medical resources. It means hard choices are inevitable, especially because we have come to rely on the physician acting as an advocate for their individual patients. In order to keep that relationship intact as far as possible, hospitals are now putting into place triage teams—clinicians who are not directly providing care to a patient—who evaluate the test results and determine who will be most likely to benefit the most.

Article continues below
Stevens: One of the premises of medicine is you do no harm. We are taught in health care in this country that you never do anything you’re not trained to do, that you’re not competent to do. We’re already moving past that in New York because you’re going to have people that haven’t practiced medicine in years coming back to help out. This is a place where you have to do that. There’s a place when you’ve got a moral duty to help people, but you have a conflict. And you've got to set priorities and you have to allocate limited resources. All these things play into it and make it a very difficult situation, especially here in the US where people haven't had to deal with these things.

How are these policies formed? Who is involved in making decisions?

Powers: Because these policies are being formulated under duress in exigent circumstances, the opportunity for community review is limited. Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics has provided some resources to a Community Ethics Committee which I have overseen for the last 13 years. It is a diverse group of community members that provides review and comment on hospital policies. We were asked to comment upon a draft policy promulgated by some of the hospitals within the Harvard system and we are working on drafting informational materials to help the public navigate these turbulent health-care waters. A sister group at Yale called the Community Ethics Forum has also been looking at this topic.

Stevens: At a hospital level, there are ethics committees, there are administrators, there are chief of staff, physicians, and others. But often ethics committees have the time to do this. The trouble in these types of epidemics is that you don't have that time as things get worse. You have to essentially trust your doctor. It gets as basic as that.

Powers: Even if we were able to provide robust community input, the problem lies in the fact that incredibly difficult medical decisions will have to be made at the bedside with limited time and limited knowledge of the patient’s life and values. The volume of patients needing intensive care could potentially require a total reliance upon a team of clinicians deciding access to critical care resources based on the results of medical tests and nothing more.

Each community member can be involved in their own health care by educating themselves about advance care directives. Health care proxies should be signed and personal values that inform choices for medical care should be discussed with family members. Proactively, each one of us should reach out and mend broken ties to the extent we can. We need to tell our loved ones how important they are to us. And goodbyes should be said now. That sounds like a drastic recommendation but given the prohibition of hospital visitors, we need to do now what we may not be able to do later.

Do people have a right to palliative care in the event that there is not enough equipment? If that isn’t possible, how are medical professionals thinking through dignity at the end of life?

Powers: The dignity each of us experiences at the end of life is provided not by who is at our bedside or what medical treatments have been made available to us. The dignity each life has is based upon the image of God bestowed upon each of us—with our first breath given to us at our births to the last breath taken at our deaths, our dignity is based upon our relationships with each other and our God. Because our God will never leave us or forsake us, he will be with each one of us as we die. It is our loved ones who will need that sense of dignity—a sacramental leave-taking —that may be missing in this world of isolated dying. To my point above, we all should spend this time in closing accounts—communicating our love and showing our respect and giving our blessing —with those we love. Therein lies our dignity.

Article continues below
Stevens: You always want to provide comfort even when you cannot provide a cure. That's not difficult. It doesn’t mean people have to physically suffer, as long as the medications last. You always want to show compassion as best you can.

How should Christians think about these ethical dilemmas?

Stevens: For Christians in health care in particular, you’ve really got to dig into God’s Word. One of the verses that really helped me as I dealt with these things for 11 years [in Africa] was 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God had not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.”

It means you pray for wisdom and help [patients] with compassion. People care less that their doctor can cure than that they really care. If they know they care, they know they’re doing the best that they can.

For centuries, Christians have not run away in situations like this in a crisis—they’ve run to them. I think this is a tremendous opportunity for Christian health-care professionals—and of course, I deal with 35,000 of them—it’s a great opportunity to demonstrate Christ, not just in word, but in deed. That's the good news—that we don't have to fear. God is still in control. I didn't walk home in the middle of an epidemic [in Africa] afraid to death for my wife or kids. I took reasonable precautions and then trusted God. I realized he was in control. He called me there and this wasn’t a job. This was a calling.









Kara Bettis is an associate features editor at Christianity Today.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - March 2020
« Reply #21 on: September 25, 2020, 10:51:24 am »
Pandemic
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


Copyright Disclaimer: All audio and music belongs to the owner/creator. This is a non-profit. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

 

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