PODCAST: Pope Francis Endorses Same-Sex Civil Unions (UCNN 10.23.20)

This is the Urban Christian News podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to the Associated Press, Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope while being interviewed for the feature-length documentary “Francesco,” which premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival. The papal thumbs-up came midway through the film that delves into issues Francis cares about most, including the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination. Francis said in one of his sit-down interviews for the film, “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.” While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as pope.

According to USA Today, All 12 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination Thursday, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote on her confirmation Monday. Democrats opted to boycott the hearing, leaving no one to oppose the nomination. Democrats had said they would not attend the hearing and vote, hoping to prevent the committee from establishing a quorum. Instead, Democrats held a press conference Thursday morning and placed pictures of people they said were beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act on their chairs in the committee meeting room. Republicans moved forward with the vote anyway, quickly approving Barrett just minutes into what was scheduled to be an hours-long hearing. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said after the panel finished voting on Barrett’s nomination, “Judge Barrett is going to the floor. I hope you look back at this time on the committee and say I was there when it mattered. And you were.” Sen. John Cornyn called it “surreal” for the panel to vote on Barrett’s nomination without Democrats there. He criticized the Democrats’ placement of pictures on their chairs as “theater.” The entire hearing was over in about an hour, and after the senators finished their votes, Republican lawmakers took turns criticizing Democrats for not showing up and responded to arguments Democrats raised during Barrett’s confirmation hearings.

According to CBN News, You know the holiday season is near when you see and hear those bell ringers from the Salvation Army outside local stores. This year, the charity kicked off an early mission to rescue Christmas as more families struggle due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Salvation Army National Commander Kenneth Hodder said, “People have come to us who used to be donors to the Salvation Army. Since the middle of March, we’ve served more than 100 million meals. We’ve provided 1 1/2 million more nights of shelter than we would in a normal year.” Hodder anticipates needs such as feeding families, paying bills and providing shelter to extend into Thanksgiving and Christmas. He explained, “We currently project an increase of about 155% over last year, which would mean about 6.6 million people will be coming to the Salvation Army for assistance this Christmas.” In response to the growing needs, the Salvation Army has launched an initiative called “Rescue Christmas,” to head off a potential 50% decrease in donations. Meanwhile, Hodder sees this holiday season as a greater opportunity to meet the spiritual needs of people affected by the challenges of this year. “It is precisely at this time of year and precisely at the moment when all of our human reliance on these things of this earth begins to crumble. We can turn to the source of our true strength, the source of truly rescuing Christmas in the person of Jesus Christ. And so, we’re anticipating a challenging Christmas season but ultimately one in which he will be glorified.”

According to NPR, One of the Louisville police officers involved in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor seven months ago said while her death was tragic, it is different than other high-profile killings of Black Americans this year. “It’s not a race thing like people try to make it to be,” said Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of the three officers who discharged their service weapons during the botched narcotics raid at Taylor’s home in the early hours of March 13. “This is not relatable to George Floyd, this is nothing like it. It’s not Ahmaud Arbery. It’s nothing like it,” Mattingly said in his first public comments since the incident in an interview with ABC News and Louisville’s Courier Journal. “These are two totally different type incidences. This is not us going, hunting somebody down, this is not kneeling on a neck. This is nothing like that,” he said. Taylor’s killing, along with that of Floyd, Arbery and others, sparked national protests calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality. Mattingly, who was shot in the leg by Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker after he entered the apartment, said he and his family were also victims in this case. “They have had to go into hiding, they have had death threats,” Mattingly said. Mattingly also vehemently denied that he is racist. None of the three officers face state charges directly over Taylor’s death. Last month, a grand jury did not announce charges against Mattingly or Myles Cosgrove, the other officer who fired into Taylor’s home.

According to the Christian Post, Moody Bible Institute is implementing a multi-step plan in response to allegations that Title IX claims and other incidents of sexual abuse and harassment were mishandled within the school, the administration announced Tuesday. During a Tuesday morning chapel service, MBI President Mark Jobe and Provost Dwight Perry addressed the students about the allegations that emerged over the weekend in a change.org petition, in which students and alumni detailed their experiences of being sexually assaulted and harassed and how their claims were not taken seriously. Jobe stressed that the allegations troubled him deeply as a father of three kids, one of whom is an MBI graduate. The steps Moody will be taking will in no way undermine their commitment to the historic Christian witness on marriage and sexuality, he added, and their goal is to ensure the safety of every student. Over the weekend, Perry and MBI leadership devised a multi-step action plan that Jobe has approved after first learning of the allegations on Saturday morning. In the coming months, Moody will engage a third-party firm that has specific Title IX expertise to review the office and processes as well as investigate the allegations listed in the online petition, he said. Potential firms will be interviewed this week and an investigation launched as soon as possible. The firm will be asked to determine if MBI’s response to the situations in the petition was appropriate. Moody will also be meeting with mental health professionals within the next few days to discuss how they can provide immediate support to those who are hurting and how such professionals will be integrated into the Title IX process, the provost explained.

According to Reuters, Lawyers and non-profit organizations seeking to reunite immigrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border by the Trump administration have not been able to locate the parents of 545 children so far. A federal judge ordered thousands of families separated at the border in 2017 and 2018 to be reunited after a 2018 lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. A court filing in the case this week said some parents deported without their children could not yet be located. “Arduous on-the-ground searches” for parents deported to their countries of origin – many in Central America – have been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the filing said. Republican U.S. President Donald Trump in May 2018 implemented a controversial “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute families caught crossing the border illegally and remove their children. Amid international outcry, Trump ended the policy just months after it was announced. Overall, the government has identified more than 4,200 children who could fall under Judge Dana Sabraw’s reunification order. A committee formed to locate family members focused on trying to reach families of children for whom the government provided phone numbers for a sponsor or parent. But as of Oct. 20, parents of 545 children could not be reached.

According to the Christian Post, Liberty University’s fall enrollment is up 10.5% from last year’s despite the sex scandal involving ex-President Jerry Falwell Jr. that erupted just as classes began. The school, founded in 1971 by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., now has 108,000 students online and 14,500 on its campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, school officials said. It is by far the largest university in the United States, based on student population, and the biggest Christian institution of higher education in the world. College and university enrollment in the U.S. overall fell 3.0% this semester from fall 2019, according to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which has data from just over half of the country’s institutions. “Liberty is a national draw, and soon after COVID-19 hit in March, we knew it might be beneficial to us, since we have a strong online enrollment,” Ron Kennedy, the university’s executive vice president of enrollment management and marketing, said. To work the Web side best this year, the university granted a transfer scholarship for students moving there from another institution. LU also used its own aid to replace those that ended from a state program, helping new, first-time online enrollees. This fall also marked the sixth consecutive year that LU had the same online tuition rate, with the freeze extended to on-campus students for the third year in a row. Kennedy said Liberty will keep the cost the same for at least another year for those studying at the Lynchburg campus.

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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!