Items of interest from various sources of religious news and opinion, in print and on the web.
Bleak View of the Ministry in America. Recent research by the Barna group and Pastor Glenn Packiam indicates that only one in five Americans thinks of a pastor as very influential in the community. About the same number (21%) consider pastors to be “very credible” on the “important issues of our day.” Even among self-identified Christians, nearly half do not see their pastors as being an authoritative voice for navigating current trends in society. Only 31% of Christians see their pastors as “a trustworthy source of wisdom.” Among non-Christians, of course, it’s much worse — a mere 4% see pastors as a trustworthy source of wisdom. Packiam, Glenn. “As Pastoral Credibility Erodes, How Can We Respond?” Leadership. ChristianityToday.com, Spring 2022. Web. 29 Apr., 2022.
Senate Bill Fails to Codify Roe v. Wade. Ahead of an anticipated Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, a bill that sought to codify the so-called “right” to an abortion in federal law was defeated on May 11th in the US Senate. S. 4132 aimed to “protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.” None of the fifty Republicans in the Senate voted in favor of the legislation, and all but one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., voted for it. The 49 to 51 vote was expected, falling far short of the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster. Clark, Heather. “Attempt to codify ‘right’ to abortion in federal law defeated in US Senate.” Law and Government. Christiannews.net, 17 May, 2022. Web. 6 Jun., 2022.
Artificial Intelligence a Risk to Religion? In an article for Deseret News, two Purdue University professors note the growing danger of authoritarian governments using AI and “big data” to undermine religious freedom and human rights. “What happens,” they ask, “when an authoritarian regime determines that a specific type of faith or religious adherence is a ‘threat to society’? Data and artificial intelligence can be deployed to target individuals and faith groups. Facial recognition technology, enabled by AI, can identify people entering or exiting houses of worship, which might later be used against them to bolster unjust charges of sedition.” The authors say that communist China has already developed sophisticated facial recognition software and used it to target and imprison minority Uyghur Muslims. In Venezuela, where the Catholic church has been government’s biggest critic, there is evidence that the government has imported this technology from China in order to undermine the church and keep tabs on activist priests. Could it happen under a democratic government? “It’s no secret that many governments, including democracies like the United States, use big data and artificial intelligence under the banner of national security.” Glick, Bonnie, and Lee, Kennedy. “The dark side of AI.” Perspective. Deseret.com, 26 Apr. 2022. Web. 30 Apr. 2022.
The Pacific Coast Pastoral Conference met in Lynnwood, Washington, May 10-12, 2022
Attendees at the Great Lakes Delegate Conference held in Saginaw, Michigan, June 6-7
In accord with our usage and order, Luke Willitz, who was called by Living Savior Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, to be its pastor, was installed on May 1, 2022. Also participating in the service were Pastors George Dummann, Nathan Pfeiffer, Nathanael Mayhew, John Hein, David Ude, Jonathan Schnose, and Joseph Naumann, as well as Pas- tors Emeritus John Schierenbeck, David Schierenbeck and Daniel Fleischer.