Welcome to G3 Weekly—a summary of this week’s top news stories on Christianity and the public square.
This week, the Southern Baptist Convention saw its largest year-over-year membership decline in more than a century. A homeless man in New York City was charged with multiple hate crimes after allegedly defacing rainbow pride flags even as officials decrease enforcement for violent offenses. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security based a domestic terrorism and radicalization training exercise on the scenario of an avidly rural pro-life mother.
Southern Baptist Membership Witnesses Historic Decline
“How the faithful city has become a harlot, she who was full of justice!” (Isaiah 1:21).
Church members left the Southern Baptist Convention at one of the highest rates in history last year, a phenomenon which occurs as many attendees never returned after nationwide lockdowns and some congregations choose to depart amid the denomination’s leftward drift.
Southern Baptist churches reported 13.2 million members as of 2021, a sharp decline from the 13.7 million members reported in 2022, which marks the most severe membership decrease in more than a century, according to data unveiled by Lifeway Research. The nation’s largest Protestant denomination has now lost 3% of its members every year for the past three years.
“Much of the downward movement we are seeing in membership reflects people who stopped participating in an individual congregation years ago and the record keeping is finally catching up,” Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell commented in a press release. “Membership totals for a congregation immediately reflect additions as well as subtractions due to death or someone removing themselves from membership. But many congregations are slow to remove others who no longer are participating.”
Lifeway Research also found that there were some 400 fewer churches in the denomination between 2021 and 2022. Even as some congregations and church plants shutter due to broader declines in church attendance, the data may also capture the departure of churches concerned with denominational leadership’s failure to disfellowship churches which ordain female ministers, endorse critical race theory and the social justice movement, or otherwise assent to theologically liberal views.
New York City Homeless Man Faces Penalties for Defacing Pride Flag
“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands” (Psalm 135:15).
Fred Innocent, a homeless man in New York City who allegedly defecated on a pride flag, was arrested and hit with multiple hate crime charges even as prosecutors decrease enforcement for violent offenses.
Innocent allegedly relieved himself on a rainbow pride flag outside of a bar in Manhattan last month and cleaned his backside with another rainbow pride flag, according to a report from the New York Post. The homeless man was subsequently charged with burglary, harassment, and trespassing, all as hate crimes, according to another report from the New York Daily News.
The suspect was also arrested earlier this year for burglary after he stole a purse from a hotel; he committed grand larceny at the end of last year and has two felony assault charges on his record from 2007 and 1998. The most recent arrest and the police attention toward the pride flag incident comes as district attorneys in New York City face criticism for decreasing prosecution rates and moving to eliminate cash bail for violent offenders.
News of the incident also comes as Daniel Penny, a former Marine who placed homeless man Jordan Neely in a chokehold after he allegedly acted erratically and threatened to kill fellow subway passengers, is expected to face criminal charges in New York City.
Federal Anti-Terrorism Exercise Uses Example of Pro-Life Mother
“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).
Officials in the Department of Homeland Security completed a domestic terrorism prevention exercise centered on the example of a pro-life mother.
Documents uncovered by a public records request from America First Legal contained hypothetical “radicalization” scenarios which allowed agents to practice terrorism prevention. One of the fictional characters in the documents was a “middle-aged pro-life advocate” named Ann who is active in church groups and “increasingly more concerned about the welfare of other children including the unborn.”
Department of Homeland Security officials said in the documents that “when casting, we would like to share diverse race, gender, cultural individuals that align to the same distribution of the United States based on the breakdown of the most recent census.” Revelation of the exercise, however, comes after many pro-abortion activists committed acts of violence against pregnancy resource centers in reaction to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the opinion which asserted that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right to procure abortions.