Michael Cromartie, The Church and Hurricane Harvey, and International Religious Liberty Developments

SIGNS AND WONDERS

Michael Cromartie Passes. Michael Cromartie was a brilliant and kind man who helped both the media elite and Washington power brokers understand evangelicals, and vice versa. He died of cancer on Monday, at the age of 67. Those of us at the Colson Center feel acutely the sting of his passing. Fresh out of Covenant College, Mike traveled with Chuck Colson for several years before beginning what became a 30-year tenure at the influential Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC). Mike remained close to Chuck until Chuck’s death five years ago. He also maintained a close relationship with the Colson Center. The last time many of us saw him was at our Wilberforce Weekend conference in May. Mike would often leave us in stitches with stories of Chuck Colson’s often elaborate practical jokes—many of them with Mike himself as the “victim.” Michael Cromartie’s accomplishments are too many to recount here, but I recommend this obituary from Christianity Today, which includes a few comments from Colson Center President John Stonestreet, as well as this moving tribute to Mike from his EPPC colleague Peter Wehner.

The Church in Houston. Houston’s Joel Osteen and his Lakewood Church took some serious heat on social media when a few tweets accused the church of not responding to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I’m no fan of Osteen, but I feel the need to point out that the accusations appear to be false. Lakewood Church did cancel some of its services, but the church—which itself experienced some flooding—has remained available for food distribution and other services. And the churches in Houston and the surrounding region—not to mention parachurch ministries from elsewhere—appear to be responding magnificently to the disaster there. Samaritan’s Purse sent a relief team. The Southern Baptist Church, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and one with a huge presence in the region, is also mobilizing. You might not find stories about these efforts in the mainstream media, but, to borrow from Mark Twain, rumors about the demise of the church are exaggerated.

Religious Liberty Portfolio Expands. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is cutting many State Department jobs, but one office is expanding: the office that oversees religious liberty. Tillerson has moved quickly to expand efforts to protect religious liberty overseas. Sam Brownback was named ambassador-at-large for religious liberty several weeks ago (though he is still waiting Senate confirmation). Tillerson also released the International Religious Freedom Report for 2016.” In releasing the report last week, Tillerson said he was removing “any ambiguity from previous statements or reports by the State Department.” He added that ISIS “is clearly responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims in areas it controls or has controlled,” Tillerson said. “ISIS is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups, and in some cases against Sunni Muslims, Kurds and other minorities.”

Image courtesy of EPPC. Illustration designed by Heidi Allums.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.


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  • Mourning Warbler

    Why the need to say, “I’m no fan of Osteen, but…”? Could maybe say, “I don’t attend Osteen’s church, but…” Or, “I’m not terribly familiar with Osteen, but…” Ouch! Christians are so divided.