Friday, August 22, 2014

Cruz, Huckabee to headline 'Star Spangled Sunday' at CLT's First Baptist


Two possible contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination – Senator Ted Cruz and former Gov. Mike Huckabee – are scheduled to be in Charlotte on Sept. 14 to headline “Star Spangled Sunday,” a live national webcast from First Baptist Church of Charlotte.





The Rev. Mark Harris, who pastors First Baptist, said the event celebrating the 200th anniversary of the National Anthem, a.k.a. “The Star Spangled Banner,” is also set to include some other speakers popular with conservative Christians.

Namely Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, the national chain of craft stores, and the Benham brothers – David and Jason – of Concord.

Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act led to a narrow U.S. Supreme Court ruling this year saying corporations with religious owners cannot be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraceptives. And the twin Benham brothers made national headlines when HGTV canceled their house-flipping show before it aired because of David Benham’s past comments on gay marriage and abortion.

Harris said churches all over the country will simulcast the event, which he said will enlighten Americans about “how God used ordinary Christians in the War of 1812 to do extraordinary things.” Witnessing the bombarding of Fort McHenry during that war -- on the night of Sept. 13-14, 1814 --  lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics of what became the National Anthem.

Sponsored by the Family Research Council, “Star Spangled Sunday” will start at 7 p.m. at the church, 301 S. Davidson St.

Asked whether the inclusion of Cruz of Texas and Huckabee of Fox News made the upcoming event look and sound a lot like a GOP rally, Harris said no way.


“The Family Research Council has spent a great deal of time reaching across party lines,” said Harris, who ran unsuccessfully this year for the Republican Senate nomination in North Carolina. “It’s less interested in party labels than it is in standing up for the principles we hold dear.”

-- Tim Funk

Catholic Mass in Polish set for Sunday


The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte’s third annual Polish language Mass will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Sunday (August 24) at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 1400 Suther Road.

The Rev. Matt Nycz of Buffalo, N.Y., will preside at the Mass, to be said in honor of Our Lady of Czestochowa, a revered icon of the Virgin Mary.

Confessions in Polish and English will be heard at 1 p.m. After Mass, churchgoers can venerate a relic of Pope John Paul II, a newly canonized saint (from Poland) in the Catholic Church. It is a drop of blood on a piece of the cassock he wore the day he was shot in 1981.

There will also be a reception with Polish food.

For more information, call Mary Witulski at 704-290-6012.

-- Tim Funk

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Interfaith group to host talk on mental health, suicide


In the wake of entertainer Robin Williams’ suicide, Mecklenburg Ministries will sponsor a discussion Thursday (August 21) on how faith communities and their leaders can better understand and prevent mental health crises and suicide.

Kathryn Falbo-Woodson will facilitate the discussion at 11:45 a.m. at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1000 E. Morehead St. She is the former director of advocacy and outreach at the Mental Health Association of Central Carolinas.


The event is part of Mecklenburg Ministries’ “Food for Thought” luncheon series. Lunch for $7 will be available. Register here.

-- Tim Funk


Friday, August 15, 2014

Coming to town: Anne Lamott, Jason Alexander and more


What a lineup...

That’s all I can say about the big names and brains coming to town, thanks to Chalotte’s religious community.

I’m talking Anne Lamott and Joan Chittister and Joni Eareckson Tada and Barbara Brown Taylor and Jason Alexander, aka George Costanza, Jerry’s balding buddy on TV’s “Seinfeld.”

Got your calendars? The details:


  • Jason Alexander, a Tony Award winner and multiple Emmy nominee, will headline a one-man show Sept. 21 at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s Belk Theater. Although it’s a fundraiser – for Levine Jewish Community Center, Temple Israel and Temple Beth El – the event is open to the public.

“An Evening with Jason Alexander … and his Hair,” featuring comedy, music and audience participation, is set for 7 p.m. Tickets are $50-$180 at 704-372-1000 and here.





  • Author-blogger Anne Lamott will return to Christ Episcopal Church at 7 p.m. Nov. 20. Her 15 books (including “Bird by Bird,” “Traveling Mercies” and “Help. Thanks. Wow: The Three Essential Prayers”) are about life, God and writing.

She packed the church’s All Saints Hall last November. So register early here for this evening of conversation and book signings. Tickets are $25, which will include a copy of her new book, “Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace.” If the church runs out of seats, it will sell Standing Room Only tickets for $20. Details: 704-714-6945.




  • Christ Episcopal will also host Catholic author-activist Joan Chittister at 10 a.m. Oct. 12. A Benedictine sister and co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, Chittister has also authored books on contemporary spirituality and the need for change in the Catholic Church. Among them: “Following the Path – The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose and Joy.”

She’ll talk with the Rev. Chip Edens, the church’s rector, in All Saints Hall about “Faith Purpose and the Second Half of Life.” Free. More details here.




  • Best-selling Christian author and disabilities advocate Joni Eareckson Tada will speak and sign copies of her books at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Billy Graham Library. Her newest is “Beside Bethesda: 31 Days Toward Deeper Healing,” which will be available for purchase at the library. Guests can bring their own copies, too, though there’s a limit of two signed items.

A 1967 diving accident left Tada, then 17, a quadriplegic. She later learned to paint with the brush between her teeth. More details about her library event here. here.




  • Myers Park Baptist Church will host the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor for three days in October. A professor of religion in Georgia, her latest book – “Learning to Walk in the Dark” – was the subject of a Time magazine cover story in April.

She’ll be the church’s speaker for its continuing “Jesus in the 21st Century” lecture series. At 7 p.m., Oct. 17, Taylor will speak on “The Wedding of Heaven and Earth.” Free. On Oct. 18, she’ll conduct a workshop on “Lunar Spirituality for the 21st Century” (Admission $60). And on Oct. 19, she’ll give the sermon (“The Treasures of Darkness”) at the 11 a.m. service. Details and registration form for workshop here.





-- Tim Funk

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Grahams reflecting on heaven and hell


Heaven and hell are in the news again, thanks pretty much to one North Carolina family:

  • Billy Graham will offer a message about heaven in a new film set to air in November, when the Charlotte-born evangelist turns 96. The never-before-seen footage was filmed at his Montreat home last year. His thoughts about the hereafter will be part of a DVD called “My Hope 2014 with Billy Graham.”
  • Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, a Raleigh-based evangelist, has just released an updated version of her 2001 book, “Heaven: My Father’s House.”
  • And Franklin Graham, head of the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, begins his article in the current edition of BGEA's  Decision magazine this way: “Heaven is not for cowards!”
  • That brings us to hell: The cover of the July/August edition of Decision features a picture of what looks like a sea of lava and this headline: “COWARDS Destined For The Lake of Fire.”
  • Speaking of hell, there’s no word about Billy Graham's next book, which – as we reported in March – will be about hell. “He’s not able to work on it,” Franklin Graham told me then. “But he gave us the outlines of what he wanted.”


Last November, on his 95th birthday, Billy Graham talked about the cross of Jesus in a DVD called “My Hope 2013 with Billy Graham.” It was aired on FOX News, at Graham's celebrity-studded birthday party at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, and in homes and churches around the country.

In the free-of-charge sequel, which will also be used as an evangelizing tool, the elder Graham will talk about heaven.

“Because he will turn 96 on November 7, his thoughts are constantly on Heaven,” Franklin Graham wrote recently. “And we have captured these in a video. ... It’s a powerful evangelistic film that weaves this new message from my father around several real-life stories of how the Gospel changes hearts.”

There’s a full-page ad for “My Hope 2014 with Billy Graham” in that current edition of “Decision.”

Several pages later, there’s an article by Anne Graham Lotz that cites biblical quotes about heaven.

 “I’ve been thinking a lot about Heaven lately,” she writes. “My father seems to be in transition from his home here to our Father’s house. … My mother has already gone on ahead.”

And the edition’s cover article is Franklin Graham's, about the fate he says is waiting for cowards.

 His magazine piece is based on a controversial speech he gave in May at a Washington gathering of the Family Research Council.

In his remarks, he referred to a passage in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation that lists eight groups of people that will end up “in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.”


Leading the list: cowards – a group, Graham suggested, that includes Christians who don’t speak out against abortion and homosexuality.

-- Tim Funk

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Methodist Women leader to speak at Pfeiffer University


Harriett Olson, CEO of the 800,000-member United Methodist Women, will give two commencement addresses Saturday (August 9) at Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer in Stanly County.

 She will speak at ceremonies scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The school will also hold “An Evening with Harriett Olson” on Friday (August 8), 6:30 p.m. at Stokes Student Center.

 United Methodist Women gives $15 million annually for work with women and children. The group also participates in the United Methodist Church's global ministries and holds Mission U weeks around the country to explore spiritual and social justice issues.

Details on the Pfeiffer events: 704-463-3073.

-- Tim Funk

Friday, July 11, 2014

Signs I'd like to see at next protest blocking buses of immigrant children


“U-S-A! U-S-A!”

My heart swelled when I heard this communal roar of support last week from fans of the U.S. soccer team.

Then, the same week, I heard the very same chant from flag-waving protesters in Murietta, Calif. They turned “U-S-A! U-S-A!” into an angry taunt, directed at 140 women and children from Central America.

This time, my heart sank.

As these protesters illegally blocked U.S. Border Patrol buses, they insisted the undocumented immigrants on board were lawbreakers.

Maybe so, though many were fleeing such dangerous conditions in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras that they may yet qualify as refugees.

Do we have a broken immigration system that needs fixing? Absolutely.

But whatever the legal issues, the protesters’ rush to dehumanize these vulnerable women and children struck this faith and values reporter as a violation of the one rule – the Golden Rule – enshrined by all the world’s great religions.

Watching the protesters on TV and on YouTube, I didn’t see “Love your neighbor” on any of their signs. I did hear one woman, wearing an American flag blouse, chant “Not Our Kids, Not Our Problem.”

Most of the country’s religious leaders have not forgotten that their holy books teach that immigrants, documented or otherwise, are their brothers and sisters. So there’s now a broad faith coalition – including evangelical preachers, Catholic bishops, rabbis and mainline Protestant pastors – that has been lobbying, so far to no avail, for comprehensive immigration reform.

But apparently some in the pews, including the protesters in Murietta, remain unconvinced.

Perhaps, I thought, some competing signs at the next bus-blocking protest could get them to reconsider. Or at least tone down the hostility.

So, to answer “Go Back Home!” how about this sign: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself. – Leviticus 19: 34.”

To compete with “Save Our Children from Disease” and “Agents: Secure Our Borders, Not Change Diapers,” I’d suggest this: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. – Matthew, 25:35.”

And to counter “Deport Illegals!” and "America is Being Invaded," here’s a sign-worthy sentiment that many seem to have forgotten: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. – The Statue of Liberty.”

-- Tim Funk