Detroit paper ducks Bible when female Baptist bishop quits

I haven’t been around that many Baptists of late, but one of the first things that struck me in The Detroit Free Press story about Bishop Allyson Nelson Abrams and her departure from the pastorate of Zion Progress Baptist Church was that “bishop” title.

The leaders of free-church congregations, Baptists included, are free to call their clergy whatever they wish. But how common is that “bishop” title? Maybe a bit of explanation? A sentence at least?

Then, of course, there is the reason for Abrams’ resignation:

Facing a backlash from conservatives in her congregation, a noted Christian leader in Detroit resigned Friday from her church after announcing earlier this month she had married a woman.

Bishop Allyson D. Nelson Abrams stepped down from Zion Progress Baptist Church, where she had served for five years as its first female pastor. Her announcement from the pulpit earlier this month that she had married a woman stunned many local Baptists.

Abrams’ resignation comes just days after the U.S. District Court in Michigan took up a challenge to the Michigan Marriage Act that bans same sex marriage.

Abrams, 43, used to be married to a man, but she told congregants Oct. 6 she was in love with Diana Williams, a bishop emeritus with the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington, D.C., a church that broke off from the Catholic Church. The two married in March in Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal.

Given the conservative views of many Baptists on the issue of homosexuality and female pastors, Abrams’ announcement caused an intense debate among local Christians. She said many supported her decision to come out while others opposed her gay marriage. Some urged her to stay with the church, but Abrams said she resigned because she didn’t want to further create division. Some in the congregation had found out about her same-sex marriage before she made her Oct. 6 announcement and were making it an issue that was dividing the church.

You don’t say?

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Hey Mr. DJ, put some praise music on

As a famous religious figure once said, “Ask and you shall receive.” Sometimes even we media critics get what we ask for. Last month I asked for more – and deeper – coverage of hipster churches, and then this week veteran Godbeat reporter Michelle Boorstein fulfills my request (at least partially).

Last Sunday the Church at Clarendon, a self-professed “diverse urban church” in Washington, D.C. held an “experimental service called Church Remixed, which featured music by a DJ rather than live musicians” and Boorstein was on hand to report for the Washington Post. The superb story begins with a wonderfully obscure, hipster-friendly headline: Deuteronomy meets Deadmau5 as church DJs seek exaltation*

When you’re DJing a Baptist church service, is it more appropriate to mix electronic music by Daft Punk and Fatboy Slim as congregants are being ushered in or as they exit?

Such were the choreographic and theological questions at play Sunday at the 104-year-old high-steepled Church at Clarendon, which for the day replaced its usual eight-piece band and singers on the pulpit with an Atlanta wedding DJ who has hipster glasses, a table of music-mixing technology and a tendency to fist-pump while playing.

“Okay, let’s get going!” said Hans Daniels (whose DJ handle is Hans Solo) after being introduced at the start of the service, cranking up the beat — and volume — and eliciting a whoop that filled the bright, airy sanctuary. “Blessed Be Your Name” quickly became “B-B-Blessed Be Your Name,” and congregants started cha-cha dancing in their seats.

Boorstein does an excellent job of finding sources that help put this “experiment” in historical context. For example,

Tony Lee, pastor at the 3,000-member Community of Hope, noted that what we now call classic gospel — practically the soundtrack of contemporary black Christianity — came out of jazz and originally was seen as “too worldly” for church. Thirty years ago, drums were seen as outrageous, and then liturgical dance. Of course, there are still some faith communities that forbid music during worship or the sounds of women singing.

I’d have preferred to hear which faith communities “forbid music during worship or the sounds of women singing” but that’s a minor quibble.

In providing the counter-perspective, Boorstein sought out a source that helpfully frames the concerns many Christians might have about a church DJ:

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More vague evangelicals jump on immigration bandwagon

Last week, I complained about a front-page Tampa Bay Times story filled with broad generalizations about vague evangelicals advocating immigration reform.

This, of course, wasn’t the first time I raised concerns about media treatment of this subject.

Unfortunately, The Dallas Morning News did not get my memo.

The Texas newspaper — duplicating the sketchy Florida report in a way that only Xerox could top — splashed this main headline and kicker across the top of Page 1A on Thursday:

Applying Bible to U.S. borders

Evangelical Christians calling for path citizenship

Once again, we have a major newspaper story making sweeping statements about a largely undefined group of Christians who — at least according to those pushing the story — suddenly have changed their position on immigration reform.

Let’s start from the top of the Dallas Morning News story:

AUSTIN — After years of silence and even hostility to modifying immigration laws, conservative evangelical Christians have become unlikely allies in pressing for a path to citizenship for those here illegally because, they say, the Bible told them so.

A coalition of religious leaders in Texas and elsewhere, many with strong credentials as social conservatives, is engaging congregations in a coordinated call for Congress and the White House to deal with 11 million illegal immigrants.

“Circumstances culturally and politically have thrown evangelicals back on their biblical authority to ask, ‘What does the Bible really say about this?’” said George Mason, senior pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas. “There may be lots of political positions that differ on how we accomplish it, but they want to be on the side of God in their minds.”

While moderate and liberal religious groups have long been a part of the immigration debate, the increasingly active involvement of conservative evangelicals marks what Mason called “a sea change” by an important group that could help move Washington toward political consensus.

By now, GetReligion readers should be familiar with that storyline (did I already mention this post and this one?).

The vagueness in the Dallas story extends to the hard data (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) used to back up the thesis:

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