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US must support safe haven for persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Great suffering is occurring in Iraq and Syria. The region is ravaged by terror. Millions have been forced from their homes. Christians and other ethno-religious minorities have suffered genocide at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS).

The shutting down of U.S. military operations in Iraq created political instability that left a power vacuum filled by terror groups bent on destroying Western civilization. ISIS has forced millions of Iraqis and Syrians from their homes destabilizing the surrounding nations and exporting the problems of the Middle East to Europe.

In March, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously that the Islamic State’s slaughter of Christians in Iraq and Syria amounted to genocide. And under extreme pressure, Sec. of State John Kerry joined Congress in the genocide declaration.

The U.S. State Department has brought thousands of Muslim refugees into the country, intentionally overlooking the plight of Christians. Out of 10,000 Syrians refugees permitted into the U.S., only 56 were Christian. And yet Christians make up 10 percent of Syria’s population.

ISIS is targeting Iraqi Christians specifically because they are Christian. They stand in the way of its goal to establish a pure Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and beyond.

We must stand to protect our Christian Arab brothers and sisters suffering from this terrible genocide in Muslim countries. Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), has said, “It’s time for the church to help create a firewall of protection against the persecution of Arab Christians.”

Solutions are already being proposed for this effort.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced a resolution that provides American support for the establishment of a safe haven province in the Nineveh Plains region of Northern Iraq. “This genocide has been recognized by the full weight and moral authority of the United States and many international entities, and it provides a gateway for further policy considerations,” Fortenberry said, while introducing the resolution. “One next step must be the resecuritization and revitalization of the Nineveh Plain, allowing the repatriation of those who had to flee.”

The Nineveh safe haven would provide protection for religious minorities, allowing them to rebuild their homes and restore their cultures without fear of death, torture or destruction.
Robert Nicholson, executive director of the Philos Project, which promotes positive Christian engagement in the Middle East, said, “As indigenous people, they have a right to stay. They need protection, especially in places where they were targeted for genocidal elimination. The Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional Government have recognized the need for the Nineveh Plain Province. It’s time for United States to do the same.”

A protected, semi-autonomous region would help decentralize the Iraqi government, which is crucial to maintaining stability in a post-Islamic State power vacuum.

“If we don’t decentralize, the country will disintegrate,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abad said in April 2015. “To me, there are no limitations to decentralization.”

As Christian refugees look to return to their abandoned homes in Iraq, they need safety assurances. The province proposed in Nineveh would be a solid foothold in the preservation and restoration of Christianity in the Middle East.

“This safe haven is the last chance we have,” said Rabee Mano, an Assyrian Christian refuge from the Iraqi town of Qaraqosh, “or Christianity will be finished in Iraq.”

As Christians, we support the Fortenberry resolution, H.Con.Res. 152, and hope all Americans will join us in doing so as well.

Mario Bramnick, a pastor and attorney, is president of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC), the largest pro-Israel International Latino Christian organization in America and around the world. HILC is subsidiary of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Original post can be read here: http://www.jns.org/latest-articles/2016/10/17/us-must-support-safe-haven-for-persecuted-christians-in-the-middle-east

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Donald Trump Reveals Evangelical Rifts That Could Shape Politics for Years

When Jen Hatmaker speaks to stadiums full of Christian women, she regales them with stories about her five children and her garden back in Austin, Tex. — and stays away from politics. But recently she took to Facebook and Instagram toblast Donald J. Trump as a “national disgrace,” and remind her legions of followers that there are other names on the ballot in November.

“Trump has consistently normalized violence, sexual deviance, bigotry and hate speech,” she said in an email interview. “I wouldn’t accept this from my seventh-grade son, much less from a potential leader of the free world.”

In the nearly four decades since Jerry Falwell Sr. founded a group called the Moral Majority, evangelical Christians have been the Republican Party’s most unified and reliable voting bloc in November presidential elections. The leaders of what came to be known as the religious right were kingmakers and household names, like Pat Robertson, James C. Dobson, Ralph Reed.

But this year, Ms. Hatmaker’s outraged post was one small sign of the splintering of the evangelical bloc and a possible portent of the changes ahead. While most of the religious right’s aging old guard has chosen to stand by Mr. Trump, its judgment and authority are being challenged by an increasingly assertive crop of younger leaders, minorities and women such as Ms. Hatmaker.

“Those men have never spoken for me or, frankly, anyone I know,” said Ms. Hatmaker, the author of popular inspirational Christian books. “The fracture within our own Christian family may be irreparable.”

The fault lines among evangelicals that the election of 2016 has exposed — among generations, ethnic groups and sexes — are likely to reshape national politics for years to come, conservative Christian leaders and analysts said last week in interviews. Arguments that were once private are now public, and agendas are no longer clear.

The audience at Ms. Hatmaker’s event in Tampa. Credit Loren Elliott for The New York Times

“The idea of a monolithic evangelical voting constituency is no longer applicable in the American electorate,” said Samuel Rodriguez Jr., the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who represents about 40,000 congregations and declined to join his friends and allies on Mr. Trump’s evangelical advisory board.

The big names who sit atop organizations that function largely as lobbying groups and mobilization squads for the Republican Party have stuck with Mr. Trump despite the lewd comments he made in a 2005 recording, even though he was never their preferred candidate. He wooed them and convinced them that he would appoint Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia, the conservative who died in February. To these pragmatic players, the election boiled down to only two issues, both that could be solved with Supreme Court appointments: stopping abortion and ensuring legal protections for religious conservatives who object to same-sex marriage.

But the evangelicals now challenging the old guard tend to have a broader agenda. They see it as a Christian imperative to care for immigrants and refugees, the poor, the environment and victims of sex trafficking and sexual abuse. Many support criminal justice reform and the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement. While ardently opposed to abortion, some are inclined to be more accepting of same-sex marriage.

“The next generation of evangelicals craves a less partisan, less divisive and more racially inclusive expression of political engagement that addresses concern on a range of issues, not just abortion and gay marriage,” said Jonathan Merritt, a young evangelical who writes on politics and culture.

The religious right’s machinery is still primed to turn out evangelical voters for Mr. Trump, said Johnnie Moore, a publicist for many Christian leaders and groups, who serves on Mr. Trump’s advisory board. But he doubts that the machinery will produce as it has in the past.

“I do not think there’s any way to get evangelical women in any force to show up for Donald Trump at this point,” Mr. Moore said.

Wyatt Drake, a Liberty University student, registering to vote. Students at the evangelical university in Lynchburg, Va., have a started a petition criticizing the university’s president for backing Donald J. Trump. Credit Chet Strange for The New York Times

Several polls show that Mr. Trump is underperforming among evangelicals compared with previous Republican nominees, who commanded about 80 percent of the white evangelical vote. Mr. Trump received 65 percent to 70 percent of white evangelical support, recent polls show. A new poll from LifeWay Research, which specializes in surveys of churches and Christians, found that nonwhite evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump, 62 percent to 15 percent.

Significant opposition to Mr. Trump has also come from evangelical leaders who are white and baby boomers or older. Many younger evangelicals said they took note when Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention and Erick Erickson, a conservative writer and radio host, rejected Mr. Trump early in the campaign. Last week, both Christianity Today and World magazine ran editorials rejecting Mr. Trump.

Kate Shellnutt, 30, the online editor of Christianity Today and editor of the CT Women section, said she had observed that “the millennial generation has a lot less patience for Trump.” Of the 33 influential millennial evangelicals she profiled for a cover story two years ago, she says she can now find only one, Lila Rose, who is pro-Trump, and even she has been publicly critical of him. Several have been using the hashtag #NeverTrump, Ms. Shellnutt said.

Students at Liberty University in Virginia, which was founded by Mr. Falwell, started a petition on Wednesday criticizing the university’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr. (the founder’s son), for endorsing a candidate who is “actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose,” and tarnishing the school in the process, the petition said.

“Liberty University is not Trump University,” said Dustin Wahl, a junior majoring in politics and policy, who wrote the petition. “We don’t stand with our president on Donald Trump. It’s embarrassing because most people here realize that Trump is a joke.”

Mr. Wahl said that more than 2,500 people had signed the petition in two days, including more than 1,100 who used email addresses affiliated with Liberty University. There are about 15,000 resident students at Liberty, and an additional 90,000 online.

Dustin Wahl, a student at Liberty University, has criticized the university’s president for his support of Donald J. Trump. “We don’t stand with our president on Donald Trump,” he said. “It’s embarrassing because most people here realize that Trump is a joke.” Credit Chet Strange for The New York Times

Mr. Falwell, Mr. Reed and Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, who have all stood by Mr. Trump, did not respond to interview requests. However, Mr. Falwell issued a response to the students’ petition, saying that it represented the views of only a “few students,” and that he had endorsed Mr. Trump as an individual, not on behalf of the university.

The student body president, Jack Heaphy, as well as some students interviewed on campus, defended Mr. Falwell and Mr. Trump.

“I believe the vast majority of students on campus will be voting for Mr. Trump on Nov. 8 — not because he’s the perfect candidate, but because his policies align most with the viewpoints of students,” Mr. Heaphy said.

While evangelicals on both sides are alarmed at the vitriol and division, not everyone agrees that it signifies a long-term split. Some maintain that the dissenters will return to the Republican Party post-Trump, and those who supported him will be forgiven.

“I don’t think it is permanent,” said Mr. Moore, the publicist who sits on Mr. Trump’s advisory board.

But the petition is one sign that the traditional reverence among evangelicals for authority figures has fallen by the wayside. On social media, there are calls for Mr. Perkins to step down for continuing to back Mr. Trump.

“It’s inconceivable that someone could run an organization named the Family Research Council and support a man like Donald Trump for president,” said Matthew Lee Anderson, 34, the author of several books and the blog Mere Orthodoxy.

Four years ago, he spoke on a young leaders’ panel at the Values Voter Summit, which is sponsored by Mr. Perkins’s organization. Now, he said, “I don’t have any trust in his judgment any longer. And that’s the sort of loss of trust that lots of younger evangelicals are experiencing toward people like Tony Perkins, and it will not be rebuilt quickly.”

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Paula White, Michele Bachmann, Samuel Rodriguez Join Letter Denouncing Clinton Campaign’s ‘Christophobic’ Behavior

Florida Pastor Paula White, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez are among the signatories of an open letter demanding that Hillary Clinton apologize for the “Christophobic” rhetoric found in emails among campaign staffers.


(Photo: NDCC)Paula White, senior pastor at New Destiny Christian Center in Florida, speaks on October 7, 2012.

Earlier this month Wikileaks posted a large number of Clinton campaign emails, which among other things showed staff members of the campaign talking disparagingly about Catholics and evangelicals.

An advanced copy of the letter was sent to The Christian Post earlier this week and on Thursday a copy was sent that included a list of signatories.

“As Christian leaders, Catholic and Evangelical, we collectively express our outrage at the demeaning and troubling rhetoric used by those within Clinton campaign — and those associated with the campaign — to describe our communities,” stated the letter.

(Photo: The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair)John Podesta (L) chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign listens as Rev. Omarosa Manigault (R) addresses the National Action Network convention in New York City on Wednesday April 13, 2016.

“It is especially alarming that the Chairman of the Clinton Campaign, John Podesta, was copied on these emails between Jennifer Palmieri, now director of communications for the Clinton campaign, and a fellow at Podesta’s Center for American Progress. Podesta’s refusal to raise any objection makes him equally party to this bigotry. It is inexcusable. It is shameful. It is un-American.”

In addition to White, Bachmann and Rodriguez, other notable names attached to the letter demanding an apology included Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson, Texas megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress, Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver, and former Southern Baptist Convention president Ronnie Floyd.

“Historically, Evangelicals and Catholics have had significant theological differences, dating back to the Protestant Reformation. In spite of those differences there has been a mutual respect for one another and an ability to work together on important issues of mutual concern,” continued the letter.

“The WikiLeaks emails reveal a contempt for all conservative Christians, and we are — Catholic and Evangelical — united in our outrage and united in our call for Mrs. Clinton to immediately apologize for the Christophobic behavior of her associates.”

This is not the first time that Clinton has had the allegation of “Christophobia” directed towards her. Last month, Christian author and humanitarian Johnnie Moore labeled Clinton and President Barack Obama “Christophobic” for various reasons, including their response to growing persecution of Christians abroad.

“They have repeatedly — and willfully — embraced Christophobic policies around the world that have enabled the further persecution, suffering or marginalization of Christian minorities when they could have made different decisions,” said Moore in an interview with The Christian Post in September.

“They’ve repeatedly tried to downplay, diminish, and dilute the significant and escalating persecution of Christians around the world. They’ve also sometimes characterized those who speak up for Christian rights as Islamophobic when often times those advocating for Christians are also deeply immersed in refugee-related humanitarian work on behalf of the Islamic community as well.”

Original post can be read here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/paula-white-michele-bachmann-samuel-rodriguez-letter-denouncing-clinton-campaigns-christophobic-behavior-170810/

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Influencers Conference 2016 October 20-22

Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to encounter God for you and your family in 2016 with world-class teaching, inspiring worship and a fun, relevant kids program. We are so excited to have Ravi Zacharias, Sammy Rodriguez, Dharius Daniels and Mike Maiden joining us this year as well as our very own Influencers Music, Ashley Evans, Jane Evans and Mark Evans. We’ll be making room for the prophetic, seeking His presence together and allowing space for the Holy Spirit to breathe. Come expectant and see Him exceed it as we go deeper together. http://influencersconference.org/

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America’s Most Prominent Latino Evangelical Leader On How To Fight Political Darkness

Reverend Samuel Rodriguez is the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference with over half a million churches as members. He is also a sophisticated political analyst and a self-described ‘math nerd’. His new book,Be Light, came as the result of a personal crisis in which he realized that he had been spending too much time thinking, preaching about darkness. According to Pastor Sam, God led him to shift the emphasis of his life from a darkness focus to a light focus for the remainder of his days.

Exposing darkness is honorable, and yet at the same time toxic, work. Peter Thiel says that if you must have enemies it’s important to choose your enemies well because you’re going to spend a lot of time with them. What you spend time with, even in opposition, you become like. I think Pastor Sam is right that my tribe and his, religious conservatives, are spending far too much time peering into the social, cultural, political, and economic darkness. Never in the history of the world has darkness ever been stared out of existence. No one has ever uncast a shadow by talking about how bad shadows are. The only thing which ever has, or ever could, dispel darkness is light. Before light comes, darkness is literally nothing. There is no void or vacuum which cannot be defeated by being filled with something. Darkness is absence and as St. Augustine said, evil is not a new or different kind of being, it is a privation of being. Evil is not a thing, it is a non-thing where a thing should be.

The evil which Pastor Sam sees now is the evil of fragmentation. Rich vs. Poor. Black and brown vs. white. Young vs. old. This is, as Pastor Sam says, ‘darkness’ M.O.’. And it seems to be getting worse, like it was, say, in the late ’60s and ’70s. Economic stagnation frays the social fabric. Violent clashes between police and protesters send out a signal of a culture, or at least parts of it, which are in a state of dissolution. Surprisingly, to Pastor Sam all of these things are reasons for hope. According to him, the problems of the ’70s became the catalyst which launched two great movements for renewal: the modern evangelical movement which came out of the Jesus People brought spiritual renewal to tens of millions, and the Reagan Revolution (which rode alongside that revival) brought political and then consequently economic renewal.

When darkness grows, people naturally get frightened. Terrorism, authoritarian progressive and nationalist ideologies, decline in the rule of law in high places of government and down at street level as well, a lack of respect for religious as well as economic freedom – all of these things tend to grow well together. Like noxious bacteria, they thrive in the dark.

Pastor Sam thinks it’s time to turn on the lights. I think so too.

I spent an hour with Pastor Sam recently via Skype. You can listen to the complete interview here, or read a partial transcript below. Both are edited for clarity.

BOWYER: I’m talking today with Pastor Samuel Rodriguez.

Pastor Samuel (Pastor Sam as he’s known to his parishioners) is an extremely important leader in the religious community in America, in the Evangelical Christian community, and in the Latino community at the same time.

He’s president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which is an organization of more than 500,000 evangelical churches. He is a frequent commentator on CNN, Fox News, Telemundo, NBC, and many other media outlets. He is the husband of Eva, father of three children, author of many books. His current book is entitled simply Be Light.

Pastor Sam, thanks for being with us today.

PASTOR SAM: Thank you for having me.

BOWYER: You know, it’s interesting, your new book is titled Be Light. That’s probably the first phrase that God ever spoke in the Bible. But I’ve never seen anyone write a book about something that is so fundamental, so chronologically prior, so spiritually prior to anything else in the world. It’s almost surprising that this book hasn’t been written hundreds of years before now.

So what got you here, what got you to the point where you wanted to write a book about just simply the idea of being light?

PASTOR SAM: Two dynamics. One on the personal level, I found myself writing, contributing, speaking, addressing, preaching on issues of darkness a bit too much.

In the past few years what I call the dark canopy that fully encompasses, if not the entire world, the vast majority of at least western civilization. The reality is things are becoming darker, culturally, politically, socially, economically, morally. We’re living in a darker world, arguably, than ever before. And I found myself writing, and somehow inundated by this dynamic of darkness that I had my moment of Zen in the words of Jon Stewart, or I had my Road to Damascus encounter in the words of Dr. Malcolm X.

I’ve had an encounter. And my encounter took place in my living room, where I really felt something in my heart and in my communion with God. I felt something telling me, Samuel, you’re focusing on the darkness instead of focusing on the light. You could either spend the rest of your life condemning the darkness, writing about darkness, whining about darkness, getting depressed and anxious about darkness, but what if we flip it and we turn on the light, because every single time light stands next to darkness light always wins.

And then I was led to Matthew Chapter 5 verses 14 through 16, “You are the light of the world”, you, Samuel SAM, you church, you Christ followers, you are the light of the world. And a city and hill cannot be hidden. And that right there was my moment of it’s time to be light.

One of the most compelling parts of the books, or better yet coming out of scripture, is this idea is found in Revelation, but also found in the spirit of the prayer that Jesus made in John, Chapter 17 ‑‑ “Let them be one as you and I are one.” This aspect of unity.

So Jerry, we find ourselves in a very ‑‑ let’s just say fragmented society, particularly here in America. I mean, we are polarized, we’re divided on issues of politics. And now this reemergence of conversations on race, and socio-economic reality. We are divided, we’re back to 1967 and ’68, ’69, ’70.

BOWYER: Yeah, we are.

PASTOR SAM: We are divided once again. And we ask ourselves so why should we be united? What’s the power behind this concept of unity besides some sort of utopia or Pollyannaish world view?

Well, here it is, the most powerful light is actually the convergence of all of the colors of the visible spectrum.

I mean all that ‑‑ in laymen’s terms, all the colors of the rainbow, when they come together they actually produce the brightest light. Imagine that. And in the book I write about the power of unity, what would happen if black, white, yellow and brown would come together in America and around the world. And we come together and coalesce around truth, and love, and hope, and faith, we would release power and energy and light that would do nothing other than push back darkness like we’ve never seen before.

So it’s the power of unity all from a simple physics or scientific principle stemming out the reality of light.

BOWYER: You said you were a nerd, so I’m going to test your kind of nerd credentials.

Are you a Lord of the Rings nerd at all?

PASTOR SAM: I am. I am. I am a Lord of the Rings nerd, indeed.

BOWYER: Okay. We have Saruman, who is the white wizard, right?


BOWYER: And we have Gandalf the Grey. And the moment that Gandalf knows that Saruman has fallen into evil is when Saruman says, I’m no longer Saruman the white, now I’m Saruman of many colors. And he shows his magic cloak, and it’s all these different colors.

And I don’t remember exactly what Gandalf says, but he says, he who breaks a thing into its parts in order to know it better, has left the path of wisdom.

And that’s kind of what you’re talking about. That God is almost like a reverse prism. He takes all our different wavelengths and puts them together as a brighter light. But the reverse of that is you break the light apart. You play young against old. You play black against white. You play brown against black. You play man against woman.

PASTOR SAM: It’s the modus operandi of darkness. It really is. It’s fragmentation. If we can somehow deconstruct what God has constructed, if we can deconstruct that prism that you alluded to the spectrum, and if we can play one group against the other group, that’s how darkness ‑‑ that’s the strategy of darkness, that’s the strategy of evil. And we find ourselves once again within our American reality confronting that truth: there are those that gain great, be it monetary, be it advantages politically, whatever it may be, they live off fragmentation and discord and strife. But that truth, it requires us, the children of the light ‑‑ in the words of Paul in Ephesians — it requires us, who were once in darkens that are now children of the light, for us to stand up. It requires us, according to Matthew Chapter 5 verses 14 through 16, not hide our light in complacency or acquiescence to fear. We can’t hide it. If we have it, we have to put on the stand and we let it shine.

BOWYER: During most of my life what I’ve seen is American politics had a certain unity to it, and sometimes it fell into fragmentation, or use of wedge for political purposes, or what the anthropologist, Rene Girard, calls mimetic rivalry. It falls into this division. But it feels to me like we’ve hit a tipping point now where the wedging, the fragmentation, is now not something that our politicians sometimes use when they reach into the bottom part of their toolbox, but that fragmentation is now the dominant political dynamic in America. Am I overstating that, or do you see the same thing?

PASTOR SAM: Not at all. As a matter of fact, and you can quantify this however you want to look at it, the legislative initiatives and bills that were passed, the differences between Republicans and Democrats twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years ago, would arguably best be described as de minimis. It was de minimis. The rest of the world would look at Republicans versus Democrats. And they would say it’s just not that far of a difference. I mean you had little nuances as it pertains to foreign policy. I think the bigger difference was our social economic reality after the New Deal in 1932, and FDR. But things were more ‑‑ even FDR on foreign policy and the core values, the differences were de minimis.

BOWYER: Right.

PASTOR SAM: All of a sudden today, instead of de minimis, the wedge is ginormous. It’s just extremism and it’s the polar ‑‑ it’s completely contrary. It’s a dichotomy politically, ideologically as it pertains to presentation of parties, and constructs, and systems. I mean, Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore. We’ve never been down this road before.

What’s the answer? The answer is for people to be light. If we are light, and we come together, and we reflect that light, and we shine that light, darkness will have no other choice but to fell. We must turn the light on.

BOWYER: Yes. And there’s the wedge between the parties, and also even the wedges between the factions within the parties. I’m a Republican. Sometimes lately I don’t necessarily always feel so comfortable with that label. But what I see is division between say base and establishment, and even divisions within the base. You know people go from zero to a hundred in hostility now in seconds. It’s automatic ‑‑ you look at social media, the hatred kicks in really early now. Reagan was in some degree in conflict with the moderate wing of the party, but there wasn’t this level of hatred and darkness, at least I don’t remember it.

PASTOR SAM: No, no, no. I was a child that grew up in the ’80s, so I was inspired by Ronald Reagan indeed. I remember one time being interviewed by Bill Moyers, and he asked me who inspired you above all politically. I told him spiritually it was Billy Graham and Dr. King. He asked me politically, you’re very involved so who inspired you. And I went to two people, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy.

And he asked how in the world can you reconcile them both. I said believe it or not ideologically they were not that too far apart. But, you know, it is true.

BOWYER: No, ideologically they were very close together. Both cold war people, both tax cutters.

PASTOR SAM: But we’re not there anymore. It’s a new reality politically and culturally and socially. And we find ourselves asking what in the world do we do? And with my family I’m thinking what am I going to leave behind.


PASTOR SAM: You know where are they going to grow up, in what kind of reality? And so I’m compelled more than ever before to be light in my personal life and my community, and what I do in ministry in preaching the gospel of Christ of course. And what I do ‑‑ and even in all aspects of culture and society, how can I be light, how can I best turn on the light in any given situation? And that’s my commitment for the rest of my days: being light in the midst of darkness.

Original post can be read here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jerrybowyer/2016/10/12/americas-most-prominent-latino-evangelical-leader-on-how-to-fight-political-darkness/print/

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National Hispanic Education Summit to be Held Oct. 18 at Baylor

Baylor University will serve as host of the 7th annual National Hispanic Education Summit on Tuesday, Oct. 18, in the Bill Daniel Student Center on the Baylor campus.

The daylong event – presented by the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), the Faith and Education Coalition-NHCLC, and the Alliance for Hispanic Christian Education – addresses education challenges as well as strategies and solutions for increasing Latino college recruitment and graduation rates. Attendees will include leaders from Christian universities and colleges, various denominations and local churches, who are committed to Hispanic student success.

The summit will feature special guest speakers Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education, and Dr. Ruth López-Turley, professor of sociology at Rice University. Press passes are available. (MEDIA: Please contact Pamela McClure at 615-294-5073 or pamela@mmpublicrelations.com for more information about covering the summit.)

This year, the summit will be followed by an evening College Fair, which is open to the public. Local students and parents can explore options for quality higher education, and a $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to one student attending the College Fair.

Registration for the summit is free and includes a luncheon session, afternoon workshops and the evening College Fair. The summit runs 10:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Bill Daniel Student Center, 1311 S. Fifth St. The College Fair will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the same location.

“It is our prayer that this unique platform serves to form and nurture meaningful relationships to be between Hispanic evangelical leaders and university leadership. Hispanic students – and those they reach through their respective callings – will be the ultimate beneficiaries of these Kingdom-minded relationships,” said Dr. Andrea Ramirez, executive director of the Faith and Education Coalition-NHCLC, who oversees key education initiatives for the NHCLC throughout the U.S.

“We are honored to host this year’s Hispanic Higher Education Summit and welcome outstanding speakers and leaders from local churches and fellow Christian colleges and universities to discuss the importance of education and access to Hispanic students,” said Baylor Interim President David E. Garland. “The summit will help equip pastors, church leaders and parents to better understand the challenges and opportunities faced by the next generation of Latino students while encouraging and empowering academic achievement.”

The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which values Education as one of its core directives, advocates for Hispanic student success including education equity and high academic standards for all students. The NHCLC serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals worldwide assembled in the U.S. and throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

2016 Schedule
National Hispanic Education Summit, hosted by Baylor University
October 18, 2016

Location: Bill Daniel Student Center, Baylor campus

Doors open: 10 a.m.

General Session: 10:45-11:45 a.m.

  • Dr. Shirley Hoogstra, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities: Rationale for Hispanic Recruitment and Graduation

Lunch Program: Noon-1:35 p.m.

  • Sarita Brown, President, Excelencia in Education: Proven Examples of Excelencia: What it takes to recruit and graduate Latino students
  • Dr. Ruth Lopez-Turley, Professor, Rice University: Factors that Impact Where Latinos Choose to Go to College and Determinants of Students’ Success in Higher-Education

Workshops offered during Two Breakout Sessions: 1:50 – 3:45pm

Workshop #1: Mom Panel: Latino Parents Want You to Know…

  • Moderator: Rev. Rigo Mendez, Elder, The Potter’s House of Denver
  • Parent Panelists: Elda Rojas, Chief Education Consultant, Elda Rojas Educational Services (ERES), and Leticia L. Reyes, Doctoral Candidate, Dallas Baptist University

Workshop #2: Retention through Graduation: Best Practices

  • Presenter: Rev. Dr. Joanne Solis-Walker, Director of Education for Latinos & Adjunct Professor, Seminario Wesley at Indiana Wesleyan University

Workshop #3: Overcoming Challenges to Recruiting Latino Students

  • Moderator: Dr. Tony Celelli, President, South Texas School of Christian Studies
  • University Leader Panelists: Rev. Greg Dyson, Director of Intercultural Leadership, Cedarville University; Dr. Cory Hines, Vice President for Advancement and Graduate Affairs, Dallas Baptist University; Bobby Soto, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Dallas Baptist University; and Patty Villarreal, Development Director, Latina Leadership Institute

Workshop #4: Transforming Families in Public Schools and Communities Through Raising Highly Capable Kids

  • Presenters: Gabriel Cortes, Director, Hispanic Education Initiative, and Mike Haley, National Program Director, Rezilient Kidz

Workshop #5: 10 Pasos para Crear un Ambiente de Crecimiento en Tu Iglesia

  • Presenter: Rolando Rodriguez, Director of Hispanic Ministries, Texas Baptists

Closing Session: 4-5 p.m.

  • Dr. Dennis Hollinger, President, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary: Biblical Foundation for Academic Success

College Fair: 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Second Floor, Barfield Drawing Room, Bill Daniel Student Center

Original post can be read here: http://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=173730

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Hispanic Evangelicals Emerging as New Powerhouse of Israel Support

WASHINGTON – When Hispanic-American pastors from around the country met in the nation’s capital last week, the main issue on their agenda was not immigration or health care – it was Israel.

The pastors represented evangelical congregations from Connecticut to Oklahoma. This rapidly-growing portion of the U.S. Latino electorate could have a significant impact on American policy toward Israel in the years ahead.

The mobilization in Washington was the work of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC), an arm of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which represents 40,118 Hispanic evangelical congregations across the country.

HILC president Pastor Mario Bramnick told JNS.org the purpose of the all-day gathering was to “pray together, to consult with our Israeli and Jewish friends, and to strategize practical ways to help the Jewish state.”

Building bridges

An estimated 160 pastors took part in a morning session Oct. 5 at the Israeli Embassy, where they met privately with Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer. Bramnick, the spiritual leader of the New Wine Ministries Church in Cooper City, Florida, said they discussed “ways to engage the Hispanic-American community and build bridges between Hispanic Americans and Israel.” He said, “[Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and Amb. Dermer clearly understand the importance of reaching out to Hispanics.”

In the afternoon, several dozen of the pastors and other Hispanic evangelical activists held strategy sessions at a hotel in suburban Silver Spring, Maryland.

Pastor Mario Bramnick, head of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition. (Pictigar.com)
Pastor Mario Bramnick, head of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition. (Pictigar.com)

Among the speakers was Pastor Ruben Mendez, of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. He focused his remarks on the importance of encouraging pastors to become educated about Israel by visiting “and witnessing for themselves the great miracles that God has wrought, just as the Bible promised.”

Bramnick then discussed the HILC’s recent political action initiatives, saying that Christians have a moral obligation to serve as “Daniels, Josephs, and Esthers,” by speaking out for Israel. He cited the HILC’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, its successful lobbying to strengthen the Israel plank of the Republican Party’s platform, and its campaigns against Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) efforts in Florida and California.

Bramnick told JNS.org he and his followers “strongly condemn” the recent resolutions adopted by mainline Protestant denominations, such as the Lutherans and the Presbyterians, calling for divestment from Israel and a cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel.

Bramnick sees a connection between those denominations’ liberal positions on social issues and their turn against Israel. “Just as they have strayed from what the Bible says about family and social matters, so too are they disregarding what God says about the Land of Israel belonging to the Jewish people,” Bramnick said. “Once you reject God’s word on some issues, it’s only a matter of time before you do the same on other issues.”

Jesse Rojo, of the Philos Project, which educates young Hispanics about the Middle East, said that “some young Latinos are confused about Israel as a result of what they hear from the media or on campus.” Nonetheless, he added, “young Hispanics are naturally predisposed to being pro-Israel, because you can’t read the Bible and not see that God wants us to support Israel.”

Several Jewish organizations are working closely with the Hispanic pro-Israel activists. Among the speakers at the strategy session were Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress-North America; Jorge Diener, Hadassah’s director of special projects, and Sammy Eppel of B’nai B’rith-Venezuela, who co-chairs the Latin America division of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism.

Growing political power

Demographic trends suggest that Hispanic evangelicals will enjoy increasing political and social influence in the years ahead. According to Bramnick, that bodes well for Israel, “because the number of Hispanic evangelical voters is growing quickly, and for many of them, Israel is an important issue on Election Day.”

Evangelical Protestants are the largest single bloc of Christians in the United States, about 26 percent of the national population. Catholics make up 21 percent, and mainline Protestants constitute approximately 14 percent. While the evangelicals have maintained their percentage of the population in recent years, the number of mainline Protestants has been decreasing.

Among evangelicals, Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority group. About 11 percent of evangelicals are Latino and 6 percent are African-American. By comparison, among mainline Protestants, only 6 percent are Hispanic and 3 percent are black. Evangelicals as a whole are becoming more ethnically diverse: 24 percent of evangelicals were members of ethnic minorities in 2014, up from 19 percent in 2007.

Although the majority of Hispanic Americans are Catholic, their numbers have been diminishing rapidly. In 2010, 67 percent of U.S. Latinos were Catholic, but by 2013 that slid to 55 percent. By contrast, Protestants – most of them evangelicals – were just 12 percent of America’s Hispanics in 2010, but reached 22 percent by 2013, according to the Pew Research Center, which tracks and analyzes religious trends in the U.S.

Hispanic adults are an increasingly potent force in American politics. California has the largest percentage of Latinos–more than one-third of its residents–which in presidential races almost always backs the Democrat candidate. But a number of presidential battleground states also have significant Latino populations. In Arizona, they constitute 21.5 percent of eligible voters. In Nevada, 17 percent, in Florida, 18 percent and in Colorado 14.5 percent.

Original post can be read here: http://www.breakingisraelnews.com/76997/hispanic-evangelicals-emerging-new-powerhouse-israel-support/#XRI4rlhEbjbQ7OvX.97

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Why Trump Tape Caused Only One Evangelical Leader to Abandon Him

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Two days after The Washington Post released a video of Donald Trump candidly bragging about his aggressive groping and kissing of women, there has been little public movement among his leading evangelical supporters and detractors.

While Republicans in Congress—most notably John McCain—scrambled todistance themselves from Trump this weekend, many of his evangelical backersdug in. Conversely, many of his evangelical opponents amped up their criticism of both Trump and their Christian counterparts.

The bigger question: How will the Trump tape affect the plurality of evangelical pastors (44%) who remain undecided on Trump vs. Clinton? Those undecided pastors told LifeWay Research last month that the top characteristic for getting their vote in 2016 is personal character (36%), while likely Supreme Court nominees (14%) ranked second by a more than 2 to 1 margin.

One of the most notable reactions to Trump’s lewd comments came from Harvest Bible Chapel pastor James MacDonald, a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory council . Over the weekend, MacDonald denounced Trump’s “misogynistic trash that reveals a man to be lecherous and worthless,” according to email excerpts published with MacDonald’s permission by CT blogger Ed Stetzer.

“I cannot and will not offer help to a man who believes this kind of talk a minor error,” wrote MacDonald. He later noted, “No more defending Mr. Trump as simply foolish or loose lipped.” (The Exchange blog offers more details as well as Stetzer’s reaction.)

The other most notable reaction came from Wayne Grudem, a respected evangelical theologian who drew much attention for his July argument that Trump was a “morally good choice” for president. Yesterday, the Phoenix Seminary professor and co-founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood pulled his endorsement from Trump, writing, “I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election.”

“Some may criticize me for not discovering this material earlier, and I think they are right,” Grudem continued. “I did not take the time to investigate earlier allegations in detail, and I now wish I had done so. If I had read or heard some of these materials earlier, I would not have written as positively as I did about Donald Trump.”

Grudem then laid out the conundrum that has caused many evangelicals to still support Trump: “Hillary Clinton is no better.”

Indeed, those who are sticking by Trump say it isn’t because of his character, but because of the issues they hope he will advance.

James Dobson, founder of Family Talk and one of Trump’s religious advisers, stated that Trump’s comments “were deplorable and I condemn them entirely. I also find Hillary Clinton’s support of partial birth abortion criminal and her opinion of evangelicals to be bigoted. There really is only one difference between the two. Mr. Trump promises to support religious liberty and the dignity of the unborn. Mrs. Clinton promises she will not.”

Ralph Reed, who heads Trump’s religious advisory board, told the Post that “people of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, grow the economy, appoint conservative judges and oppose the Iran nuclear deal.”

Franklin Graham wrote on Facebook that Trump’s comments “cannot be defended,” and reiterated that he was “not endorsing any candidates.” But Graham called the Supreme Court appointment “the most important issue of this election is the Supreme Court.”

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins told the Post that his support of Trump was not “based upon shared values rather it was built upon shared concerns.” And Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and one of Trump’s earliest supporters, said the “lewd, offensive, and indefensible” comments weren’t enough “to make me vote for Hillary Clinton.”

Sam Rodriguez, the leader of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, hasn’t endorsed Trump, though his executive vice president, Tony Suarez, is on Trump’s religious advisory board. Rodriguez told The Wall Street Journal that Trump’s situation was “redeemable” if the candidate would apologize, explain how he is different than he was in 2005, and emphasize that God uses “broken people to accomplish great things.”

For evangelicals who oppose Trump, the lack of stronger reaction to his latest scandal is sounding a death knell for the Religious Right.

“[Trump] reaffirmed who he is over and over again, even during this campaign—from misogynistic statements to racist invective to crazed conspiracy theorizing,” wrote Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore for the Post. “And yet here stands the old-guard Religious Right establishment. Some are defending or waving this away, with the same old tropes they’ve used throughout this campaign.”

He pointed to the embarrassment that televangelists in the 1980s caused the church, and added that “the damage done to gospel witness this year will take longer to recover from than those 1980s televangelist scandals.”

“Younger evangelicals and former evangelicals have taken note,” wrote Collin Hansen, editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, in an opinion piece for thePost. “An aspiring president of the United States can brag about sexually assaulting women and still claim the backing of many if not most of the older stalwarts in the Religious Right.”

Hansen called the election “the last spasm of energy from the Religious Right before its overdue death.”

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that while evangelicals are “not wrong” to see the danger in another Clinton administration, the popular “we’re electing a president, not a pastor” argument collapsed with the release of the video.

“Donald Trump is not just disqualified from being a Sunday school teacher,” hewrote in the Post. “Honest evangelicals would not want him as a next-door neighbor.”

A recent poll by Barna Group showed Trump doing better than Clinton among American Christians, but by narrower margins than past Republican-Democrat matchups:

That includes evangelicals (among whom he holds a 55% to 2% lead over Clinton); non-evangelical born again Christians (he has a 49% to 31% lead among them); those who attend a Protestant church (47% to 32% lead); adults who claim to have a biblical worldview (57% to 30% margin); people who believe that absolute moral truth exists (48% to 37% preference for Trump); and those who consider themselves to be theologically conservative (60% for Trump, 28% for Clinton).

More than 4 out of 10 evangelicals told Barna that they refuse to vote for either of the candidates. “Nearly 3 out of 10 are presently undecided, making them the largest block of undecided votes still up for grabs,” stated George Barna. “One out of 8 evangelicals plan to protest the quality of the major party candidates by voting for a third-party or independent candidate.”

If the election were to be held today, the evangelical vote would be at least 20 percentage points lower than that of evangelicals for the Republican candidate in each of the last five elections, Barna reported.

Evangelical pastors are no different. A plurality (44%) told LifeWay Research last month that they are undecided in who to vote for. Almost 4 in 10 plan to vote for Trump (38%), while about 1 in 10 plans to vote for Hillary Clinton (9%). Four percent support Gary Johnson. Two percent do not plan to vote.

While evangelical pastors believe American Christians have a biblical responsibility to vote (94%), most don’t think Christians who follow their conscience will end up voting the same way (59%) or that Christians are obligated to vote for someone who has a reasonable chance of winning (63%).

LifeWay also broke down which characteristics pastors are basing their votes on:

American pastors voting for Trump are more likely to cite Supreme Court nominees (36%) and abortion (17%) and less likely to say personal character matters most (10%). Pastors voting for Clinton are more likely to cite personal character (28%) and immigration (7%) and less likely to cite abortion (less than 1%).

Baptist pastors care most about potential Supreme Court nominees (28%). Presbyterian/Reformed (36%), Methodist (34%), and Holiness pastors (34%) care most about personal character, and Pentecostal pastors (30%) care most about religious freedom.

In June, CT profiled the 25 figureheads on Trump’s “tremendous” born-again advisory board. Not everyone on the board endorsed Trump—but they agreed to consult with him as he reached out to an evangelical movement solidly splitbetween the already on-board, the hesitant, and the decidedly #NeverTrump. The breadth of his list served as a reminder of the wide reach of American evangelicalism, and a sign of who was most eager to influence the theology of Trump.

Today CT’s executive editor, Andy Crouch, explained the importance of speaking truth to Trump.

Original post can be read here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/october/why-trump-tape-cause-evangelical-leader-switch-wayne-grudem.html

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Pastor Sam at “The Gathering 2016” [VIDEO]

Pastor Sam had the privilege and honor to be one of the featured speakers at “The Gathering 2016” at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas September 21st, 2016. The Gathering has one purpose: to unite the Body of Christ in America – all believers, regardless of race, age, or denomination – in prayer for forgiveness, wisdom, and provision for our nation.

You can watch both his morning session and evening session here:

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