In an unprecedented move for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, all large-capacity mobile kitchens in the fleet east of the Rocky Mountains have been asked to mobilize in response to Hurricane Sandy, reports Baptist Press. The goal is to begin preparing a minimum of 400,000 meals a day by Monday, Nov. 5. “As we worked through the planning and continued to receive reports about the need, the conviction came on me that Southern Baptists need to step out in faith and mobilize now,” said North American Mission Board Disaster Relief executive director Fritz Wilson. “I contacted [NAMB] president Kevin Ezell and shared the conviction of our area command team and he agreed.” On Thursday NAMB trustees authorized the entity to cover the travel expense for state conventions that needed the assistance in mobilizing their DR teams to the region. During the height of SBDR response to Hurricane Katrina, volunteers prepared 425,000 meals per day. On Thursday SBDR volunteers from Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina were serving in New York and New Jersey, along with volunteers from the affected states. SBDR volunteers from those states and the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, Maryland-Delaware, New England, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, and West Virginia were preparing up to 150,000 meals and were working with chainsaw and recovery units.
- Pastor Joseph Lowery, a civil rights movement hero who delivered the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration, said that he is shocked that any Black Americans would stay home with Obama on the ballot and suggested that all or most White people would go to Hell, reports washingtonexaminer.com. Obama awarded Lowery the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. In other news, Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, who holds a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, says that Vice President Joe Biden should know that he ought not to receive Communion, reports cnsnews.com
- California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law this year banning use of “conversion therapies” for minors—an assault on their own validity, some ex-gay men feel. Many ex-gays have continued to seek help from such therapists and men’s retreats, saying their own experience is proof enough that the treatment can work. Aaron Bitzer, 35, was so angered by the California ban, which will take effect on Jan. 1, that he went public and became a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the law as unconstitutional, reports nytimes.com. To those who call the therapy dangerous, Bitzer reverses the argument: “If I’d known about these therapies as a teen I could have avoided a lot of depression, self-hatred and suicidal thoughts,” he said at his apartment in Los Angeles.
- The Rev. Robert H. Schuller started a church with an investment of $500 and turned it into a worldwide institution: the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. Millions viewed his sermons on his Hour of Power television show. Now, after decades of service and leadership, he finds himself in court fighting the very church he created, reports ocregister.com. Schuller and his wife, Arvella, seek more than $5 million. Meanwhile, the outcome of the trial will affect creditors who have been waiting to be paid since the Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Starting in late 2008, as the ministry faced an economic downturn and a decline in donations, the Schullers were paid less. When the ministry filed for bankruptcy, all payments stopped. And in the reorganization plan, the agreement with the Schullers was rejected. Payments also stopped to Carol and Tim Milner. Carol Milner was employed for $10,000 a month to do work related to her father’s intellectual property. Tim Milner worked as an independent contractor on various services, including fund-raising and arranging Schuller’s speaking engagements. Their claims total approximately $272,000, according to court documents. The elder Schullers have been criticized for using their power and influence over the years to give themselves and their children generous salaries, housing allowances, and other benefits, even after the church began to struggle financially. The church has undergone much turmoil since Schuller stepped down as pastor in 2005. First, his son Robert A. Schuller took over. Then, he was pushed out and his sister, Sheila Schuller Coleman, took the helm. Milner said she and her husband were fired from their jobs in May 2011. Her sister and husband were fired from their roles with the cathedral and Hour of Power in March, along with Jim Coleman, Sheila Schuller’s husband. Within a week, the elder Schullers resigned from the board of directors, and Sheila Schuller Coleman made a surprise announcement that she, too, was leaving to start a new church. Meanwhile, the congregation is planning to leave its home in Garden Grove next summer and move to a nearby Catholic church under an agreement with the Catholic Diocese of Orange, which bought the cathedral in a court-ordered sale.
- Homosexual advocates in Brazil have been joined by a coalition of United Nations groups in an effort to pressure the nation to criminalize homophobia under the guise that such “prejudices” are a hindrance to AIDS prevention programs, reports WorldNetDaily. According to a report from Julio Severo, who runs the Last Days Watchman, a new letter addressed to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and other officials explains that Brazil’s homosexual community has been plagued by AIDS rates of “more than 10 percent,” even though the AIDS “epidemic” sweeping the nation is affecting only 0.6 percent of the general population. The letter claims that the “main culprit of the high HIV prevalence among homosexuals is the high violence against them.” The letter also says “prejudices against homosexuality” are a strong hindrance to AIDS prevention programs.
- A Christian college in Arizona is turning down an offer for a free campus in Massachusetts. The Christian owners of the historic 217-acre campus offered to give it to Grand Canyon University, reports cbn.com. The unoccupied campus was once the home of a school founded by 19th century evangelist D. L. Moody. The family that owns the retail chain Hobby Lobby bought the property a few years ago and restored it. Their goal was to find a Christian college willing to use the campus for God’s glory. But Grand Canyon said it can no longer afford to accept the gift, citing an estimated $30 million in unanticipated infrastructure upgrades. Meanwhile, the Obama administration told a federal court today that Hobby Lobby must obey the HHS mandate that forces religious companies to pay for drugs for women that may cause abortions, reports lifenews.com. The privately held retail chain with more than 500 arts and crafts stores in 41 states filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The company says it would face $1.3 million in fines on a daily basis starting in January if it fails to comply with the mandate, which requires religious employers to pay for or refer women for abortion-cause drugs that violate their conscience or religious beliefs. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma and the business says it is opposing the Health and Human Services “preventive services” mandate, which it says forces the Christian-owned-and-operated business to provide, without co-pay, the “morning after pill” and “week after pill” in their health insurance plan, or face crippling fines up to 1.3 million dollars per day.
- The word “homosexual” was rarely uttered in public when Louise Pardee was growing up, but now the 81-year-old is dialing up fellow Minnesota senior citizens, trying to convince them that gay relationships are nothing to fear. “Often I find myself saying, ‘I know this isn’t an easy thing to talk about’,” Mrs. Pardee said, between calls at a phone bank in suburban St. Paul set up to fight a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage. Minnesota is one of four states, including Maryland, with gay marriage on the November ballot, and gay rights supporters hope this is the year they finally get a win after defeats in 32 previous state votes on the definition of marriage. They are encouraged by national polls showing increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage by younger generations. But the outcome may depend on winning over some senior citizens, who vote in high numbers and have been a key factor in the decisions in the other states, including socially liberal ones like California, reports washingtontimes.com. Recent polls have showed a tight race on Minnesota’s gay marriage question.
- A Wisconsin state senator says his adult son was attacked in the early-morning hours on Friday by two men after he confronted them as they removed a Romney-Ryan sign outside his home, reports Fox News. State Sen. Neal Kedzie says his son, Sean, was wrestled to the ground by the two and stuck repeatedly on the head and face. A neighbor heard the commotion and managed to scare the attackers, a press release from the state senator’s office said. Sean Kedzie was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was treated for various bruises to his face, the statement said. Sean was released from the hospital the same day. The Whitewater Police Department described the suspects as two white males, both about 6 feet tall. The incident is under investigation.
- Iowa on Wednesday became the second state to warn international election observers to stay away from its polling sites or face arrest, following Texas, reports thehill.com. The 56-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is planning on sending 150 election observers to monitor polls across the country, as it has since 2002. Their presence has become a flashpoint this year, however, as Republicans accuse Democrats of voter fraud while Democrats counter that GOP-inspired voter ID laws aim to disenfranchise minority voters. “My office met with two delegation representatives last week to discuss Iowa’s election process and it was explained to them that they are not permitted at the polls,” Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a Republican, said in a statement. “Iowa law is very specific about who is permitted at polling places, and there is no exception for members of this group.”