PODCAST: Southern Baptist Convention elects Ed Litton as new president (UCNN 06.17.21)

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According to the Associated Press, The Southern Baptist Convention tamped down a push from the right at its largest meeting in decades on Tuesday, electing a new president who has worked to bridge racial divides in the church and defeating an effort to make an issue of critical race theory. The more than 15,000 delegates in attendance picked as their next leader Ed Litton, a white pastor from Alabama who was nominated by Fred Luter, the only Black pastor to serve as president of the United States’ largest Protestant denomination. Luter praised Litton’s commitment to racial reconciliation and said he has dealt compassionately with the issue of sexual abuse within SBC churches, another hot-button subject at the gathering. In the second round of voting, Litton defeated Mike Stone, a Georgia pastor backed by a new group called the Conservative Baptist Network, which encouraged supporters to come to the meeting as voting delegates. Stone had campaigned aggressively, including speaking at churches across the country and even appearing on Fox & Friends on Tuesday before the vote. In the end the message that Stone — who supported a motion to repudiate critical race theory — was a divisive choice, seemed to resonate with voters.

According to USA Today, The U.S. Senate passed a bill Tuesday to recognize June 19, or Juneteenth, as an official holiday. It passed with unanimous consent without a roll call vote or objections from the chamber. The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act heads to the House for approval. If it passes and President Joe Biden signs it into law, every federal employee will be granted a day off to commemorate June 19, 1865, the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, discovered President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved African Americans in rebel states 2½ years earlier. The day is also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, reintroduced the bill in February to designate Juneteenth a federal holiday.

According to Reuters, The U.S. Supreme Court embraced religious rights over LGBT rights on Thursday by ruling in favor of a Catholic Church-affiliated agency that sued after Philadelphia refused to place children for foster care with the organization because it barred same-sex couples from applying to become foster parents. The 9-0 ruling, written by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, was a victory for Catholic Social Services, part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and represented the latest instance of the Supreme Court taking an expansive view of religious rights under the U.S. Constitution. The justices decided that Philadelphia’s refusal to use Catholic Social Services for foster care services unless it agreed to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violated the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of the free exercise of religion. Catholic Social Services argued that Philadelphia had penalized it for its religious views and for following church teachings on marriage. Conservative and religious advocacy rights groups cheered the decision – and the fact that the court’s three liberal members joined the six conservative justices – saying it will have a major impact on future legal disputes involving religious beliefs.

According to the Associated Press, Delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to create a task force to oversee an independent investigation into the denomination’s handling of sexual abuse. The measure calls for the newly elected SBC president, Alabama pastor Ed Litton, to appoint the task force, which will head up a review of allegations that the denomination’s Executive Committee mishandled abuse cases, intimidated victims and advocates, and resisted reforms. It also would investigate the work of a credentials committee that was created in 2019 with a mandate to identify congregations that fail to respond to sex abuse cases. It was a sharp turn of events for the SBC’s largest gathering in decades. The SBC’s business committee had planned to refer the proposal to its Executive Committee — the same entity alleged to have failed in its response to abuse cases — but church representatives voted in the morning to put the matter before the convention floor and then approved it against minimal opposition. The task force was proposed by Tennessee pastor Grant Gaines following leaked letters and secret recordings purporting to show some leaders tried to slow-walk accountability efforts and intimidate and retaliate against those who advocated on the issue. Rachael Denhollander of Louisville, Kentucky, a prominent advocate for survivors of abuse in the SBC, applauded the move toward a more independent probe: “No one should ever fear the truth and wise counsel,” she tweeted. “The truth is never in opposition to sound theology.” The vote is the latest action in response to a landmark 2019 report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News documenting hundreds of cases of abuse in Southern Baptist churches, with several alleged perpetrators remaining in ministry.

According to PEOPLE magazine, Onovughakpor “Onovu” Otitigbe is living out her wildest dreams – and leaving her mark along the way. At 18 years old, Onovu will graduate at the top of her class from Albany High School, becoming the school’s first Black valedictorian in its 152-year history. Her near-perfect GPA, combined with her impressive list of extracurriculars, helped pave Onovu’s path to Harvard University, where this fall she’ll study biomedical engineering and neuroscience on a pre-med track. Onovu said, “I had a very strong foundation [growing up] of watching Black men and women who were academically excellent succeed in whatever field they were passionate about. So I never had a question in my mind that it was possible for me. An image really does speak realities into existence. Going to Harvard after 12 years of school sometimes feels like an out-of-body experience. But I think it’s really important to develop a mindset early on that whatever you want to achieve, it’s possible.” Onovu knows dreams can be intimidating and don’t pan out exactly as people envision, “but with the right support systems and the right positivity, it’s definitely possible,” she says. “There’s no dream too big.”

According to Reuters, Texas’s embattled electrical grid operator warned residents to cut electricity use “as much as possible” for the rest of this week, as several days of heat over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, combined with generation outages, could strain the grid even before summer officially starts. Monday’s warning from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas comes after the state endured several days of blackouts during an unusual cold spell that left millions without power throughout the state in February. The freeze underscored the difficulty electric grids can have when confronted with unexpected weather patterns. California on Monday also urged residents to prepare for the possibility of conserving energy in coming days due to the heat. ERCOT came under heavy criticism amid the freeze for the design of its grid, which does not pay operators to keep power generation ready in an emergency. The grid’s board resigned due to public pressure following the blackouts, even after several board members defended the grid’s performance. Parts of Texas are expected to see the temperature cross 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the week before the official start of summer on June 20.

According to NBC Los Angeles, Artist-producer-entrepreneur Andre “Dr. Dre” Young and music producer and entrepreneur Jimmy Iovine joined Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner Monday to announce a joint effort to launch a new high school in South Los Angeles. A release from the LAUSD said the school’s curriculum will build on USC Iovine and Young Academy’s groundbreaking approach — which combines design, business and technology with hands-on, real-world learning to help develop young leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs. The school, known as Regional High School #1 until the official naming process is completed, will be co-located on the Audubon Middle School campus and serve up to 124 students when it opens in Fall 2022, the LAUSD said. School capacity will expand over time to accommodate 250 students. Beutner said, “This new partnership with Jimmy, Dr. Dre and the USC Iovine and Young Academy will help open the doors of opportunity for students, in particular Black and Latino children, from communities which have been historically underserved. Much like the work of the Academy, this effort will help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.”

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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!