Court Stops Execution of Mentally Ill Man Defended by Many Evangelicals

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Pastor ‘Boldly’ Opposes Execution

That Scott Panetti killed his in-laws with a hunting rifle is indisputable. So is the fact that Texas plans next month to execute the man with a lengthy history of schizophrenia who defended himself at his 1995 trial dressed in cowboy togs and summoned John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ to testify.

Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, joined over 50 evangelical leaders who signed a letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry decrying Panetti’s execution. In an email interview, Hunter told the Editorial Board why he got involved. Read more…

Guest column: Evangelical clergy say addressing climate change is pro-life

Guest column: Evangelical clergy say addressing climate change is pro-life
Posted: October 13, 2014 – 11:18am
JView this story on the All-Access Members site
For us, being pro-life includes not only defending our unborn children but also the biblical mandate to care for all life.
While the threats may be different, the injunction to protect life is the same.
We are called to protect this seamless garment of life.
Toxins and other pollutants foul our water, air and soil, impacting the purity of life God intends.
FLORIDA IS GROUND ZERO
Children are especially vulnerable to many of these pollutants because their small bodies are still developing.
A few years ago, pro-life evangelicals spoke out on the impact of mercury on the unborn.
One in six children in the U.S. was born with too high levels of mercury in their blood.
Because of the efforts of pro-life evangelicals, the United States is taking a leadership role in reducing the impact of mercury on the unborn.
Another important issue is water.
As a recent USA Today op-ed put it, if you care about life, pay attention to what’s happening with water.
We believe climate change to be a profound pro-life issue.
And Florida is ground zero when it comes to climate change.
Cities across the state are already spending millions in taxpayer dollars to install new sea level pumps, bolster sea walls and protect from salt water intrusion.
While it is good to respond to current challenges, it is even more cost effective to spend funds ahead of time to prepare for present changes in the climate, including extreme weather events.
Let’s upgrade Florida’s water pumps and building codes today before we have to clean up a bigger mess tomorrow.
WE MUST BE GOOD STEWARDS
Given the dollars already being spent and the scale of the cost, if you care about taxpayer money and limited government, you should care about climate change.
We are also concerned about worsening air pollution under climate change.
Duval County alone has almost 18,000 cases of pediatric asthma.
That number would be dramatically lower if we were better stewards of God’s world.
When we see the present impacts, our pro-life ethic kicks in.
Let’s empower individuals to take the lead when it comes to entrepreneurial business solutions that create a cleaner environment.
We need to see climate not as an issue about politics or partisanship but as a moral concern.
God has given us all the tools to be good stewards of God’s creation.
TIME FOR A REAL PLAN
It’s time for Florida to come together to come up with a plan to address climate change.
The church in Florida is already starting to take the lead.
As the church starts to take on climate change more directly, it’s also time for clean businesses to take the lead.
The cost of solar has plummeted, yet Florida is still well behind where it could be when it comes to clean energy.
We need to do what we can to transition away from expensive fossil fuels and toward cheaper and healthier technologies.
These actions should include putting together a plan to play Florida’s part in achieving the Clean Power Plan.
And finding conservative solutions to addressing carbon pollution.
Our poor stewardship of God’s world is a reflection of how seriously we take God’s teaching.
That’s why creation-care remains integral to being pro-life.
■ The Rev. Joel Hunter is senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, Longwood, FL.
■ The Rev. Mitch Hescox is CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.
■ Alexei Laushkin is vice president of the Evangelical Environmental Network.

Faith leaders: Exempt religious groups from order barring LGBT bias in hiring

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Pastor Saeed’s Case Raised in Iran

‘We Have Something In Common’ — Obama’s Spiritual Adviser On Iran Trip Read more…

Christians and Climate Change

Dr. Joel C. Hunter talks about the visible impacts of climate change with Dr. Scott C. Hagen, director of CHAMPS Lab and professor at the University of Central Florida, and Rev. Mitch Hescox, president of The Evangelical Environmental Network.

The Cost of Homelessness: Central Florida Commission on Homeless Cost Analysis

Living on the streets isn’t cheap: Each chronically homeless person in Central Florida costs the community roughly $31,000 a year, a new analysis being released Thursday shows.

The price tag covers the salaries of law-enforcement officers to arrest and transport homeless individuals — largely for nonviolent offenses such as trespassing, public intoxication or sleeping in parks — as well as the cost of jail stays, emergency-room visits and hospitalization for medical and psychiatric issues.

In contrast, providing the chronically homeless with permanent housing and case managers to supervise them would run about $10,000 per person per year, saving taxpayers millions of dollars during the next decade, the report concludes. Read more…

Evangelicals in Florida turn to climate change and call on Gov. Scott to act

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Joel Hunter launches multi-faith effort on climate change

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Obama Welcomes Christian leaders to White House for Easter Prayer Breakfast

Hunter Obama Easter Prayer Breakfast 2014

Pastor Joel C. Hunter offered the opening prayer at the fifth annual Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House.

Evangelicals At The Crossroads

The Jewish Week

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Orlando Sentinel: Interfaith prayer service honors Joel Hunter

Interfaith prayer service honors Joel Hunter

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Barack Obama’s Church Attendance: An Interview with Dr. Gary Smith

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Editor’s note: The “V&V Q&A” is an e-publication from The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. In this latest edition, Dr. Paul Kengor, the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values, interviews Dr. Gary Scott Smith, Grove City College professor and author of the acclaimed, Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush, published by Oxford University Press.

Kengor: Dr. Smith, you are one of the country’s leading experts on faith and the presidency. Reporters frequently come to you for comment. In that spirit, the New York Times interviewed you last week on the notable fact that President Obama didn’t attend religious services this past Christmas. That’s quite unusual for a president, isn’t it?

Smith: Yes, it is.

Kengor: Do you know of any other president skipping Read more…

POLITICO: President and Faith Leaders Working to “Raise The Moral Imperative for Immigration Reform”

President Barack Obama gave immigration reform advocates a simple message Wednesday: Don’t let Obamacare get you down.

In an Oval Office meeting with eight Christian faith leaders, the president said he remains engaged on immigration legislation and hopes the reform effort can get a fair hearing despite his other political problems, several faith leaders told POLITICO.

“He said he doesn’t want other debates that are going on to hurt this,” said Jim Wallis, the president and CEO of the Christian social justice agency Sojourners. “He doesn’t want all the other debates going on to prevent this from passing. It’s caught up in all the other debates and he wants this to be looked at on his own merits.” Read more…

Son of “Orlando’s Favorite Pastor” Named “Orlando’s Best Eye Surgeon”

Father and son honored by readers of Orlando Business Journal and Orlando magazine.

ORLANDO, Fla. (OCT. 18, 2013) — Like father like son … readers of Orlando Business Journal have named the son and namesake of nationally known pastor Rev. Joel C. Hunter as “Orlando’s Best Eye Surgeon.” Rev. Hunter was recently honored as “Orlando’s Favorite Pastor” by Orlando magazine.

Joel Hunter, M.D. opened the area’s most-advanced LASIK facility back in 2010 at the RDV Sportsplex—offering state-of-the art, bladeless laser vision correction and laser cataract surgery. This year, Hunter Vision expanded its services to include general eye care.

As a distinguished fellow at the most prestigious refractive surgery center in the world, Dr. Hunter had his choice of jobs, but chose instead to create a new and better kind of medical practice in his hometown of Orlando.

Using a new generation of diagnostic and surgical equipment, Dr. Hunter is able to perform some of the finest and most-precise vision correction procedures in the field, including 3D LASIK and laser cataract surgery—a procedure he is helping to pioneer at Hunter Vision.

Dr. Hunter concludes, “My family has been grateful to serve the central Florida community for nearly 30 years. Hunter Vision is committed to continuing that tradition.”

MegaChange: 10 Trends Reshaping the American Megachurch

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Today, megachurches (with attendance of 2,000 or more) are not only growing, they are growing in certain notable ways. To start, they are getting younger and more ethnically diverse, and they’re attracting more singles.

Not only are they growing numerically, but the combined number of them in America is growing as well; from 150 in 1980, 350 in 1990, 600 in 2000 and about 1,600 today. Fifty percent of churchgoers attend one, though megachurches account for only 10 percent of American congregations. The latest research by The Hartford Institute and Leadership Network reports that “the stated average attendance for these churches grew from 2,604 in 2005 to 3,597 in 2010.” Big churches are getting even bigger. Read more…

Northland Film Builds Bridge Between Evangelicals and Environmentalists

SOURCE: Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel

It’s not easy turning an evangelical into an environmentalist.

But a new documentary from Northland, A Church Distributed aims to do just that by focusing on Scripture instead of science, faith instead of logic.

In “Our Father’s World,” Northland pastor Joel Hunter makes the argument to conservative Christians that saving energy, recycling waste and reducing your carbon footprint are all based on Scripture.

“The Bible provides a direct mandate to be caretakers of the garden,” Hunter says in the documentary. “While creation still belongs to God, he has graciously entrusted it to our care and stewardship.” Read more…

Crowds recall the faith that animated MLK’s unfinished dream

Joel Hunter at MLK 50th Anniversary

WASHINGTON (RNS) Fifty years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. knocked on the nation’s conscience with his dream, religious leaders gathered in a historic church to remind the nation that he was fueled by faith.

Later, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial where King thundered about America’s unmet promises, King’s children joined the likes of President Obama and Oprah Winfrey to rekindle what Obama called a “coalition of conscience.” Read more…

Can Sanford Pastors’ Success Work in Other Cities?

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A diverse group of 40 pastors gathered in a Detroit hotel today to hear a remarkable tale: how the pastors of Sanford, Florida, spared their city from the racially charged protests that erupted nationwide last month after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murdering Trayvon Martin.

Sanford could have understandably been the epicenter of outrage over the controversial July verdict, which inspired significant protests—some marred by vandalism and violence—from New York to Los Angeles. Instead, this commuter suburb of Orlando weathered the aftermath so successfully that its pastors are now on a mission to spread the progress they’ve made toward calm and reconciliation to urban centers nationwide. Read more…

WASHINGTON POST: “Report Argues for Lifting Ban on Politics From the Pulpit”

Even as polls show Americans broadly oppose electioneering from the pulpit, a new report by a group of faith leaders working closely with Capitol Hill argues for ending the decades-old ban on explicit clergy endorsements.

The report being given Wednesday to Sen. Charles E. Grassley — the Iowa Republican whose office for years has been probing potential abuses by tax-exempt groups — comes as the ban has become a culture-war flashpoint.

More than 1,100 mostly conservative Christian pastors for the past few springs have been explicitly preaching politics — they call the annual event “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” — in an effort to lure the Internal Revenue Service into a court showdown. Meanwhile, groups that favor Read more…

Sanford Pastors Commit to ‘Seize the Moment’

More than 15 months ago, pastors from around the country gathered near Sanford, Fla., for a historic meeting to attack the spiritual darkness of racism exacerbated by the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. Wednesday, pastors and national church leaders returned to the area to continue the battle less than three weeks after the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

Several local pastors who have been working behind the scenes to tackle the issue of race relations in Sanford were present in the offices of Charisma Media along with Promise Keepers President and CEO Dr. Raleigh Washington and Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church and a leader of the High Impact Coalition. Pastors from Ohio, California and Georgia also attended the meeting to help start a racial reconciliation initiative.

Washington said the task of bringing racial harmony and unity to Sanford has only begun, and he reiterated his challenge to spiritual leaders to Read more…

CNN: Pastors aim to keep peace at Zimmerman trial

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SANFORD, Florida (CNN) – As opening arguments begin, courtroom seats are at a premium at the trial of George Zimmerman, charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

But in an unusual arrangement, four seats in the second row, just steps from the jury box, have been assigned to a group called “Sanford Pastors Connecting.”

The multi-racial ministerial association has pledged to bear witness to the high-profile proceedings during the trial and to keep the peace afterward. Read more…

First Baptist Orlando Helps Lead Faith-Based Support for Immigration Reform

Rev. David Uth of First Baptist Orlando is taking the lead among evangelical ministers advocating for immigration reform as faith-based organizations ramp up for the debate in Congress scheduled for next week.

The endorsement of evangelicals brings near-unanimity among religious organizations lining up in support of immigration reform, said Sister Simone Campbell, whose Nuns on the Bus tour came through Central Florida this week in support of immigrants seeking citizenship.

“Once the evangelicals came on, it was huge,” Campbell said.

Uth, pastor of the 15,000-member First Baptist, is featured in a series of radio ads being broadcast for 92 days in 13 states, including Florida. The ads are sponsored by the Evangelical Immigration Table, a group that includes Lynne Hybels, co-founder of the nondenominational megachurch Willow Creek Church in Illinois.

Uth said his interest in meaningful immigration reform comes from his reading of the Scripture and his personal experience with immigrants seeking citizenship.

“All people matter to God,” said Uth, 56. “Our church is a very compassionate church, and it’s only natural we would get involved in this.”

Pastor Joel Hunter of Longwood’s Northland, A Church Distributed said he has seen a transformation take place within Read more…

Orlando Sentinel: Dr. Joel C. Hunter Is a “Different Breed of Evangelical”

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The paper reports: “Hunter has established himself as a different breed of evangelical. He works with leaders from other faiths. He advocates for environmental stewardship, help for the poor and assistance during natural disasters rather than focusing on abortion and gay marriage. His church, Northland, a Church Distributed, plays a prominent role in most every issue confronting Central Florida from the shooting of Trayvon Martin to homeless schoolchildren. Hunter gained national prominence by becoming the spiritual adviser to President Barack Obama but asserts his leadership locally by providing a reasoned, compassionate voice that resonates across religious, economic and racial lines.” View the Sentinel’s complete list of “Orlando’s Power Brokers.”