Religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine, Critical Race Theory and uproars involving the Southern Baptist Convention were among the leading topics of most-read Baptist News Global news stories in 2021.
They ranged from SBC pastors calling U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris a “Jezebel” and controversy surrounding the denomination’s president to reports that most denominations are not providing exemptions from vaccine mandates and Rick Warren declaring churches are not being persecuted in the pandemic — while also ordaining three women as ministers. Stories about sexual identity and Baptist women in ministry also received high readership.
Presented here is BNG’s list of the Top 15 most-read news stories for 2021.
- “SBC pastor calls Vice President Kamala Harris a ‘Jezebel’ two days after inauguration,” Jan. 25, 2021 — The minister’s racist trope was delivered through Twitter and drew swift condemnation, especially from women and men of color.
- “Looking for a religious exemption to a COVID vaccine mandate? Most denominations won’t help you,” Sept. 16, 2021 — Research shows that few denominations, including Baptists, have a history of objecting to vaccines.
- “How did an openly queer artist climb to No. 1 on the Christian music charts?” Sept. 27, 2021 — A long and challenging road to faith and self-acceptance leads Semler to musical achievement.
- “Largest church in SBC ordains three women as pastors,” May 10, 2021 — Rick Warren and wife Kay announce “historic night” of ordinations at Saddleback Church in California, which set off intense criticism from some in the SBC — despite Saddleback being the largest church in the SBC.
- “Have you heard the one about empathy being a sin?” Aug. 24, 2021 — C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters format was used by Calvinist pastor to warn about the dangers of empathy, and many non-Calvinists were not empathetic with his viewpoint.
- “A second SBC pastor in Texas called Vice President Kamala Harris ‘Jezebel’,” Jan. 29, 2021 — Another Texas minister preaches sermon labeling the VP as “Jezebel Harris” amid Critical Race Theory controversies.
- “Georgia Baptists eliminate retiree benefits, citing budget concerns,” Nov. 1, 2021 — Retirees complain the state organization was cold and impersonal in notifying them the promised benefits were ending.
- “Rick Warren: Churches aren’t being persecuted by COVID restrictions,” Dec. 28, 2020 — The Saddleback pastor said the pandemic has revealed some churches’ sole focus on worship, compelling them to oppose measures preventing in-person gatherings.
- “Pastors respond to unbelievable events at Capitol on Epiphany 2021,” Jan. 7, 2021 — Social media erupted over the attempted insurrection on Capitol Hill, with ministers lamenting that the timing coincided with a sacred season.
- “How Dave Ramsey responded to a story about being a bully by bullying the reporter who wrote it,” Jan. 25, 2021 — Christian financial guru makes it personal with a journalist who reported employee dissatisfaction with COVID-19 policies and other bullying practices.
- “Neither democracy nor religious freedom are biblical concepts, John MacArthur declares,” Feb. 1, 2021 — Conservative pastor claims his church is targeted by local government for refusing to close during the pandemic and that America is “going the way of Satan.”
- “4 in 10 Americans don’t see getting vaccinated as a way to love your neighbor,” April 23, 2021 — Research found a direct connection between willingness to be vaccinated and seeing vaccination as a way to be considerate of others as Jesus taught.
- “Evangelist dies of COVID just 25 days after preaching at a huge Baptist youth camp,” Aug. 4, 2021 — Parents complained that their teens had come home with COVID infections from Falls Creek Assembly, the same Oklahoma camp where Wade Morris preached shortly before his death.
- “Could newly elected SBC president be forced to resign over sermon plagiarism?“ July 7, 2021 — Ed Litton faced calls for his resignation after acknowledging he borrowed sermon material from immediate past president J.D. Greear with permission.
- “There’s controversy again, and more people are attending the SBC annual meeting,” June 1, 2021 — The Southern Baptist Convention recorded more than 13,000 in attendance at its June annual meeting in Nashville — the first time that number had been reached since 1996.
Tomorrow: BNG’s Top 10 analysis pieces for 2021