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Rwanda 20 years later
April 13th, 2014
07:25 AM ET

Forgiving the unforgivable in Rwanda

By Tim Townsend, special to CNN

(CNN) - When the killing began in earnest, Steven Gahigi fled his home in the Bugesera district of Rwanda to neighboring Burundi.

By the time he returned the next year, 52 members of his family were dead. Most of them, including his sister, were slaughtered in the first week of the 20th century’s final genocide.

This week, Rwanda began commemorating the 20 years that have passed since the mass murder of Tutsis and moderate Hutus, which continued for 100 days and left at least 800,000 dead.

Gathering in a packed soccer stadium in Kigali, Rwandans re-enacted the horrific events of 1994. President Paul Kagame said his country had “a reason to celebrate the normal moments of life, that are easy for others to take for granted."

When Gahigi returned to Rwanda after the genocide, he had nothing: no family, no home. Eventually, he moved past his anger and entered a Christian seminary.

In 1999, he began visiting Rilima Prison in Bugesera, the new home to thousands of the génocidaires, the men who wielded the machetes. In Rilima he met the band of 15 who killed his sister.

At first, the prisoners thought he had been sent by the government – a spy in a clerical collar – to investigate their crimes. Even when they were satisfied that Gahigi wasn’t a spy, they were skeptical of his motives. Why would this man come to their prison to preach when he knew what they had done?

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Christianity • Crime • Death • Discrimination • Pastors • Prejudice • Rwanda • Violence

Westboro Baptist Church founder near death
Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, has been a controversial figure in American Christianity.
March 17th, 2014
10:05 AM ET

Westboro Baptist Church founder near death

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) – Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas congregation known for picketing funerals with anti-gay signs, called reports that its founder, Fred Phelps, is near death "speculative."

"Fred Phelps has health issues," the church said in a statement Sunday, "but the idea that someone would suggest that he is near death, is not only highly speculative, but foolish considering that all such matters are the sole prerogative of God."

Nathan Phelps, the estranged son of Fred Phelps, posted a Facebook message Sunday saying his father was "at the edge of death" at a hospice in Topeka, Kansas, where Westboro Baptist Church has long been a controversial presence.

Nathan Phelps also said his father had been excommunicated from the church. "I'm not sure how I feel about this," he added. "Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made."

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Pastors

April 10th, 2013
06:43 AM ET

Social media embraces, attacks Warren family

By Dorrine Mendoza, CNN

(CNN) - In the hours after learning the Rev. Rick Warren's son had killed himself, Beth Moore says she was swept with conflicting waves of emotion.

Moore didn't know Warren or his wife, Kay, personally. But as someone who had ministered to women on Warren's Saddleback Church campus several years ago, she felt a strong connection to the couple.

In a post on her Living Proof Ministries blog about Matthew Warren's suicide, Moore first explained her anger at the "satanic force" that would prey on weak children. Then she walks her readers through her struggle to understand suicide.

But most compelling is her frustration in trying to understand "trash talk" on social media from Christians attacking the Warrens, in addition to hateful posts from non-Christians. FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Homosexuality • Leaders • Pastors

April 9th, 2013
11:20 AM ET

Elaborate hoax: No, Joel Osteen has not renounced his faith

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Joel Osteen, the popular megachurch pastor from Houston, is the target of an Internet hoax that falsely reported the Christian leader was leaving his church and renouncing his faith.

On a website designed to mimic Osteen’s official website, the pranksters posted “A special message from Pastor Joel.” The post describes the Bible as “a fallible, flawed, highly inconsistent history book that has been altered hundreds of times” and announces that Osteen plans to leave his Lakewood Church.

Osteen and church staff  labeled the website a fraud and said the idea that he was leaving the faith was a "false rumor."

According to the website's registration, Lucas Skass with BMG Enterprises LLC, who lists his residence in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, purchased the domain name on April 1 of this year – April Fools Day.

Calls to the number listed for Skass, as well as people associated with BMG Enterprises LLC, have gone unanswered.

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Pastors

Rick Warren's son lost in 'wave of despair'
April 7th, 2013
06:43 PM ET

Rick Warren's son lost in 'wave of despair'

By Alan Duke, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) - The weekend's sermon at Saddleback Church was "Surviving Tough Times," a theme Pastor Rick Warren planned before his youngest son killed himself with a gun Friday.

Matthew Warren, 27, committed suicide "in a momentary wave of despair" at the end of a lifetime struggle "with mental illness, dark holes of depression and even suicidal thoughts," the pastor wrote to the staff of his Southern California megachurch.

"Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many," a statement from the church said. "Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled, and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life."

Friend Mike Constantz told CNN he had a "playful spirit."

"There are the days where he was just this bubbly, outgoing, effervescent, reaching out to people," Constantz said. "And there were the days where he just didn't want to be around people. Just the pain, the excruciating pain, was just too much."

FULL STORY
- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Pastors

November 29th, 2012
12:40 PM ET

Short Takes: Gauging the impact of 'Purpose Driven Life,' 10 years on

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the best-selling hardback book in American history: Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life."

We reached out to scholars, religion experts and Warren's wife, Kay, to ask about the book's impact after a decade.

Here's what they told us:

Kay Warren is an author, speaker and co-founder of Saddleback Church.

I knew when I was reading the unfinished manuscript of “The Purpose Driven Life” that I was holding a treasure in my hands, but I was clueless as to how deeply the book would strike a nerve in the souls of millions of people around the globe.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Books • Leaders • Opinion • Pastors

The churches of Charles and Andy Stanley
November 19th, 2012
11:44 AM ET

Two preaching giants and the 'betrayal' that tore them apart

By John Blake, CNN

Alpharetta, Georgia (CNN) – Andy Stanley walked into his pastor's office, filled with dread.

The minister sat in a massive chair behind an enormous desk. He spread his arms across the desk as if he were bracing for battle. His secretary scurried out of the office when she saw Andy coming.

The pastor had baptized Andy when he was 6, and groomed him to be his successor. But a private trauma had gone public. And Andy felt compelled to speak.

The minister stared in silence as Andy gave him the news. The "unspoken dream" both men shared was over.

After Andy finished, the pastor looked at him as tears welled up.

"Andy," he said, "you have joined my enemies, and I'm your father."

Read the full story on Charles and Andy Stanley
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Georgia • Leaders • Pastors

July 31st, 2012
04:15 PM ET

Black pastors group launches anti-Obama campaign around gay marriage

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – A group of conservative black pastors are responding to President Barack Obama’s support of same-sex marriage with what they say will be a national campaign aimed at rallying black Americans to rethink their overwhelming support of the President, though the group’s leader is offering few specifics about the effort.

The Rev. Williams Owens, who is president and founder of the Coalition of African-Americans Pastors and the leader of the campaign, has highlighted opposition to same-sex marriage among African-Americans. He calls this campaign “an effort to save the family.”

“The time has come for a broad-based assault against the powers that be that want to change our culture to one of men marrying men and women marrying women,” said Owens, in an interview Tuesday after the launch event at the National Press Club. “I am ashamed that the first black president chose this road, a disgraceful road.”

At the press conference, Owens was joined by five other black regional pastors and said there were 3,742 African-American pastors on board for the anti-Obama campaign.

When asked at the press conference for specifics about the campaign – funding, planned events and goals – Owens said only that the group’s first fundraiser will be on August 16 in Memphis, Tennessee. But Owens insisted that “we are going to go nationwide with our agenda just like the president has gone to Hollywood.”

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Black issues • Obama • Pastors • Politics • Race • Same-sex marriage

June 10th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Pastor risks church for his principles

By David Mattingly, CNN

St. Paul, Minnesota (CNN)–Before Sunday morning services, the Rev. Oliver White looked at the rows of empty pews in his tiny St. Paul, Minnesota, church without regret.

"If this was a mistake," White said, "then I will make the mistake all over again."

In 2005, White made a costly decision.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Church • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Minnesota • Pastors • Same-sex marriage

Opinion: Eddie Long still has more apologizing to do
Bishop Eddie Long has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League over an incident in which he was wrapped in a Torah scroll.
February 6th, 2012
09:38 PM ET

Opinion: Eddie Long still has more apologizing to do

Editor’s note: Carolyn Edgar is a lawyer and writer in New York City. She writes about social issues, parenting and relationships on her blog, Carolyn Edgar.

By Carolyn Edgar, Special to CNN

Now that Bishop Eddie Long has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for a service at his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church that purported to crown him a “king,” one has to wonder what Long was thinking.

With all the scandal that has surrounded him recently, Long and the New Birth leadership should have anticipated that the video of the New Birth service would attract a great deal of attention, including from Jewish groups. Even if Long were unfamiliar with Jewish rituals and traditions, he might have guessed that having himself wrapped up in a Torah scroll might be considered controversial. Long rightly apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for misusing the holy Hebrew scriptures and Jewish rituals in his “coronation” ceremony.

However, Long still owes some apologies.

FULL STORY
- Dan Merica

Filed under: Christianity • Content Partner • Judaism • Leaders • Pastors • Torah

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.

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