It claims 100,000 members. It owns and operates an evangelical television channel, two schools, the first and only private prison in Korea, and hospitals in Korea and Ethiopia. Forty years ago, Myungsung Presbyterian Church in Korea was founded by Kim Sam-whan, its now pastor emeritus. But the church is currently involved in a crisis over who will be its next pastor.
Kim Sam-whan gave his senior pastor position to his son in 2017. But the Presbyterian denomination to which it belongs says that it violated part of the denomination’s constitution, which prohibits the transference of pastor or elder positions to family members. According to CT’s reporting:
“Defenders argue that Kim Ha-na was elected in accordance with Myungsung’s laws, and the denomination that Kim Sam-whan once headed should not meddle in the megachurch’s affairs. Critics argue that the denomination’s flagship church is flouting the corporate laws it must heed.”
Because the first wave of megachurches started in South Korea, church leaders in that country have been thinking about the proper procedures for succession for several years now, says Warren Bird, the vice president of research and equipping for the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. But this issue is something that churches have been wrestling with for years.
“Nepotism came from a church context, nephew-ism. It was where certain priests had certain sons and certain nephews that they wanted to position well in the responsibilities and hierarchies of the church,” he said. “Of course the question was: Did they really father the child?”
Bird joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss how the Bible handles succession, how it affected the church’s rules about celibacy, and when women are bequeathed the ministry.
Last week, CT published a piece about the “First Century Mark Saga.” It’s a complicated, nearly decade-old situation that reveals much about the world of ancient biblical manuscripts.
Many Christians may be inclined to primarily connect biblical manuscripts with apologetics or Bible translations, but the ecosystem they inhabit is far more complex, says Christian Askeland, a former Museum of the Bible employee and professor of Christian origins.
“With the Gospel of Mark controversy, there's a lot of stuff going on there,” said Askeland. “There is the paleography issue—the New Testament was written in the first century, so just the basic idea that we could have a first century manuscript, that one of those would survive and we would have it. Then there’s the issue of acquiring the artifact—what museums have the right to buy this kind of ancient material culture. And then there's the scholarly issue—how do professionals, specifically Christian scholars look when they are trying to buy this manuscript.”
Askeland joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli this week on Quick to Listen to discuss what’s at stake in the ‘First-Century Mark’ saga and illuminate the larger world of ancient biblical manuscripts.
China is home to some of the worst religious repression in the world. But it also prints more Bibles than any country, thanks to the Nanjing-based Amity Press, which has printed almost 200 million Bibles since 1988 in partnership with the United Bible Societies.
So when the Trump administration recently announced that the latest round of tariffs would include books, Christian publishers were alarmed. Last week, several leaders in the industry made their case before trade representatives to exempt Bibles from these proposed economic measures.
But how did an industry that just decades ago was operating like a family business become a global one? And what makes China uniquely capable of printing millions of Bibles and other Christian books?
Stan Jantz, the executive director of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss how globalization transformed the Christian publishing industry, why China is such a crucial place for Christian publishing, and why he hopes his testimony can help the book industry overall.
How God is working through the Windrush generation and beyond.
The number of churches continues to drop in the UK. As CT reported last month, there are only 39,000 congregations left in the country, a quarter drop from 20 years ago.
But despite churches increasingly closing their doors and the number of people attending church falling, this bad news isn’t across the board. For Black Majority Churches, the numbers actually look a lot healthier.
These congregations began in the wake of World War II, when immigrants began arriving in the UK from the Caribbean, sparking a generation that became known as the Windrush generation, named after the boat that the inaugural group took.
“They came over to help the UK,” said Chine McDonald, the media, content, and PR lead at Christian Aid.
McDonald’s family came over from Nigeria several decades later, though they didn’t always face a warm welcome from the local congregations.
“I remember when we would go to predominantly white churches. We would arrive on a Sunday and were told, ‘What made you choose this church as opposed to a black church that was down the road?’” said McDonald. “...These white majority churches weren’t used to see black people in their congregations, weren’t used to having black friends or black neighbors.”
Nigeria is actually responsible for one of the country’s most robust denominations, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which has more than 800 churches in the UK.
McDonald joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the growth of African and West Indian Christianity and how it is changing the UK.
In August 2010, CT published a cover story on Beth Moore, “Why Women Want Moore: Homespun, savvy, and with a relentless focus on Jesus, Beth Moore has become the most popular Bible teacher in America.” Intensely popular among evangelical women when the story was published nearly a decade ago, Moore, a Southern Baptist, has increasingly drawn the attention of American Christians at large.
More recently, Moore has also begun speaking out on politics, sexual abuse, and the misogyny that she has experienced in the church. Her preferred platform has been Twitter, where she has nearly a million followers. Earlier this year, she tweeted that in 2016, for the first time, she was able to confront the abuses and misuses of power she had seen and experienced in the Southern Baptist denomination. Earlier this month she also provoked another controversy with some Southern Baptist leaders when discussing how she would be preaching at an upcoming church.
Yet her influence shows no sign of waning.
“I think a lot of evangelical women look to her for shaping their theological views, for understanding how to study the Bible, but then also just in general,” said Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a religion reporter for the Washington Post who wrote the Moore cover story. “She's funny and she's charismatic and quick. … She doesn't have just Southern Baptist fans; it stretches far beyond that. And if she were to somehow shift in her views, it would be a big deal. So I think she has a big voice [among Southern Baptists], but she's not just dependent on the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Pulliam Bailey joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss how Beth Moore came to hold this platform, when she began to speak out on more controversial topics, and what this means for communities she’s part of.
Popular Southern Baptist pastor David Platt learned that President Donald Trump was on the way to his church in the middle of the service, as he prepared to take communion. When the president arrived, Platt put his arm around Trump and prayed:
“We pray that he would look to you; that he would trust in you; that he would lean on you; that he would govern and make decisions in ways that are good for justice, good for righteousness, good for equity, every good path. Lord, we pray that you would give him all the grace he needs to govern in ways that we just saw in 1 Timothy 2 that lead to peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way.”
Last year, Vice President Mike Pence visited Metropolitan Baptist Church several days after Trump reportedly referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.” At the service, Maurice Watson, the senior pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, pushed back on that characterization.
"I stand today as your pastor to vehemently denounce and reject such characterizations of the nation’s (inaudible) and of our brothers and sisters in Haiti and I further say whoever made such a statement and whoever used such a visceral and disrespectful, dehumanizing adjective to characterize the nations of Africa,” Watson said. “Do you hear me, church? Whoever said it is wrong and they ought to be held accountable.”
Watson’s actions came out of Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4 to speak the truth in love.
“It literally means truthing in love, and sometimes truthing in love means that one has to do as Pastor Platt did, and that is to pray for someone even if that person is someone with whom one disagrees,” said Watson. “But also truthing in love is what I believe I did, to speak in a very measured, in a very respectful way, to say if someone made those remarks about these people groups, whoever that person may be, is wrong.”
Watson joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and managing editor Andy Olsen discuss what it’s like to have the executive branch show up in your congregation, the challenges of pastoring in DC, and what happens after you push back against the Trump administration while the VP is in the house.
In April, nine Hong Kong activists were convicted for participating in the pro-democracy Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement protests. One of those was a Baptist pastor, Chu Yiu-Ming.
In the courtroom, he painted a vivid picture of the faith that had transformed his life and inspired his activism: “We have no regrets. We hold no grudges, no anger, no grievances. We do not give up,” he said, speaking on behalf of fellow activists striving to bring universal voting rights to Hong Kong. “In the words of Jesus, ‘Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!’” (Matt. 5:10)
Our coverage of Chu’s sermon was one of CT’s most popular news stories of the year so far, with many on social media praising his bravery.
Chu was not the only leader known for his faith. Earlier this month, Joshua Wong, a 22-year-old Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, was returned to prison. Earlier he told World Magazine:
As Christians, we are not only responsible for preaching the gospel and then waiting to go to heaven when we die. We need to be bringing heaven down to earth. That seems like a totally idealistic dream, but if we want that dream to come true, how should we let people know that as Christians we don’t focus only on trying to increase our salaries and better our careers? We ask, how can we do more for the people around us?”
The Umbrella Movement and Occupy Central Protests have not been welcomed by all Christians. Several years ago, Archbishop Paul Kwong at the Anglican St. John’s Cathedral angered many Hong Kong Christians after saying that pro-democracy activists should remain silent, as Jesus did while being crucified more than 2,000 years ago.
“I would like to ask for Christians in the world to pray for Hong Kong—especially for Hong Kong church and Christians—for hearts of love and peace, because I think in the division, we have a lot of hatred and anger in ourselves,” said Wai Luen “Andrew” Kwok, associate professor in the department of religion and philosophy at Hong Kong Baptist University.
This week on Quick to Listen we’ll explore what’s at stake in the Umbrella Movement, how Christians have influenced it, but also why it’s divided the church.
On Thursday, Indians will learn the results of their country’s massive national elections. For the past five years, the country has been governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Despite Modi’s popularity among much of the country’s Hindu population, his tenure in office has proved difficult for India’s religious minorities. The Hindutva movement—which is made up of extremists who believe that all Indians must be Hindu—have gone after Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious minorities.
“Christians in India are not the only ones facing the brunt of nationalism,” Vijayesh Lal, the general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India. “We know about Muslims being lynched. … That would also be the Communists, who actually subscribe to no religion at all. That would also be the Dalits, or the untouchables.”
Since 2014, India has risen 11 spots on Open Doors’ World Watch List, and last year the advocacy group said that more than 12,000 Christians were attacked.
Lal joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and theology editor Caleb Lindgren to discuss why he is not optimistic about the election results, regardless of the victor, why the government denies Christians and Muslims affirmative action, and why conversion is complicated.
Last week, the Canadian Catholic leader Jean Vanier died at the age of 90. Born into a privileged family, Vanier’s life took an unexpected turn when he founded L’Arche, an international network of communities for people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.
As Bethany McKinney Fox, the founding pastor of a church inspired by L’Arche wrote for CT:
“While many ministries involving people with intellectual disabilities began with a clear separation between those being helped and those doing the helping, slowly the paradigm has shifted toward Vanier’s approach at L’Arche, where all are called to share their gifts as members of one body of Christ, doing the work of the gospel together.”
In addition to his legacy of work with intentional communities, Vanier was also a prolific author.
“The themes that constitute those books—peace, peacemaking, community, community building, communion—are pretty consistent,” said Michael Higgins, the author of Jean Vanier: Logician of the Heart. “They undergo various kind of elaborations if you like, various more sophisticated iterations, but they are fundamentally the same themes built on the radical simplicity of the gospel that calls for us to live lives for others.”
Higgins joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the counterculturally private personal life of Jean Vanier, his relationship with Henri Nouwen, and what evangelicals should learn from this deeply Catholic intellectual and practioner.