As 2018 draws to a close — and we look forward to 2019, in which we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of National Religious Broadcasters — we have collected here the most important stories for NRB this year, along with some links to coverage at NRB.org. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the list. And, we pray God’s richest blessings on our members as they seek to exalt the Lord and extend God’s kingdom during 2019.
1. Billy Graham, world-renowned evangelist and longtime NRB member, dies at age 99
On February 21, the world mourned the loss of famed evangelist Billy Graham, who went to be with the Lord on this day at the age of 99. NRB honored its best-known member of all time at Proclaim 18, the association’s International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 2, the day of his funeral and burial in Charlotte, North Carolina, which NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson attended, as did many NRB members. At the start of the Convention, the NRB Board of Directors adopted a resolution honoring the great evangelist, which noted Graham’s long association with NRB and summarized his awards, including induction into the NRB Hall of Fame in 1981. “NRB honors the powerful life and legacy of Evangelist Billy Graham and praises God for Mr. Graham’s century in this world as a truly good and faithful servant to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” it concluded. In his last will and testament, Graham did what he had done for more than eight decades: called upon people to trust in Jesus.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke during Proclaim 18, NRB’s 75th annual Convention on February 27 in Nashville, Tennessee. In a time plagued by evil, Americans need the ministry and message provided by Christian communicators, the Vice President said. In introducing Pence, NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson described Pence as a longtime “champion for life and liberty” who had his own radio program before being elected to Congress in 2000. Pence – who served as a congressman for 12 years and as Indiana’s governor for four – received NRB’s Faith and Freedom Award in 2009.
National Religious Broadcasters has been drawing attention to the censorship of Christian and conservative speech online by tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple through a new initiative, Internet Freedom Watch, which it officially launched during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on December 7, 2017. In the intervening year, the concerns about censorship of Christian and conservative viewpoints have only grown, and so has NRB’s timeline documenting examples of such censorship – which we believe is only the “tip of the iceberg.” In launching Internet Freedom Watch, NRB called for Silicon Valley leaders to adopt a free speech charter that “utilizes the wisdom of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.” NRB has renewed its request to Silicon Valley executives to implement their own free speech charter governing their content moderation, and said that if the tech companies don’t act this year, then it will ask Congress to review the “Good Samaritan” legal protection the social media giants enjoy. Johnson said the Internet Freedom Watch initiative represents a return to the evangelical association’s roots to protect freedom of religion and speech in a digital age.
Pastor Andrew Brunson, a North Carolina native, had suffered for his faith in prison and then house arrest at the hands of Turkey, America’s NATO ally, since October 2016. He was accused, without compelling evidence, of being a member of a terrorist group and indicted by Turkish prosecutors, who sought a 35-year sentence for the American pastor. After several court appearances, appeals, U.S. sanctions, international pressure, and repeated calls for his release by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and other U.S. government officials, a Turkish court ordered his release on October 12. Aaron Mercer, NRB’s vice president of government relations, discussed the importance of this religious freedom victory on CBN’s Faith Nation.
5. State Department holds first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, drawing praise from NRB members
In July, members of the National Religious Broadcasters joined government officials, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and civil society organizations from around the world as they gathered for the U.S. Department of State’s first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The three-day event was hailed by participants as a major breakthrough for religious freedom and a testament to the current administration’s commitment to the issue. More than 175 civil society representatives and more than 100 religious leaders representing every corner of the world were invited to participate in this historic gathering. Before the commencement of the summit, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president & CEO of NRB, thanked U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his leadership and pledged the association’s support, stating in a letter, “I am particularly grateful that you have chosen America’s first freedom – religious freedom – to be the focus of your first formal ministerial.”
The United States moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14 – the day before the 70th anniversary of the modern state of Israel. In a resolution on “Celebrating and Supporting Israel,” adopted on February 27, NRB’s Board of Directors praised President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem. The resolution also celebrated the 70th anniversary of the modern state of Israel, urged NRB members to pray for the nation, and urged the United States government “to stand steadfastly by Israel.” Desiring to convey National Religious Broadcasters’ unwavering support of Israel, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, NRB’s president & CEO, presented to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin copies of resolutions adopted by the NRB Board of Directors over the last three years during an address at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on October 16. The address was given during the Christian Media Summit, a conference sponsored by Israel’s Government Press Office in which about 180 Christian media representatives from some 40 nations participated.
Joni Eareckson Tada underwent surgery on November 26 to remove a small cancerous tumor that was recently found. And earlier this year, in January, Luis Palau was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, for which he completed eight weeks immunotherapy treatment following two rounds of chemotherapy treatment. Meanwhile, Anne Graham Lotz was expected to face many weeks of chemotherapy after her doctors in October discovered her case of breast cancer is more advanced than they first thought. Lotz, daughter of the late Billy Graham, revealed in early September that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
More than 100 evangelical pastors and leaders from across the nation gathered on August 27 for a special dinner event at the White House. NRB’s president & CEO, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, was among those in attendance, and said, “It was my honor to represent National Religious Broadcasters at a White House dinner graciously hosted by President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for the purpose of recognizing the contributions of evangelicals to American society.” Vice President Mike Pence hosted a similar gathering in January for faith leaders at the Naval Observatory to review what President Trump has done to protect life and people of faith, and to thank them for everything they do for their communities. Pence later hosted Dr. Satish Kumar and other NRB friends at the White House for a meeting on May 8 that he called “inspiring.” Not long after, during NRB’s 2018 Capitol Hill Media Summit, members of the NRB President’s Council participated in a briefing at the White House that included Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President; Mercedes Schlapp, White House Director of Strategic Communications; Jennifer Korn, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director for the Office of Public Liaison; and Katy French Talento, White House Special Assistant to the President on the Domestic Policy Council. During the summit, President’s Council members also heard from Neomi Rao, Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, who was nominated last month by President Donald Trump for the seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that was recently vacated by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
A delegation of American Evangelical Christian leaders led by Joel C. Rosenberg had four days of open dialogue and discussion in October with senior government officials and religious leaders in the United Arab Emirates – both Muslim and Christian – including His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Following the visit, the delegation met with His Royal Highness Mohammed Bin Salman, Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as the Saudi Foreign Minister; the Minister of Education; the Minister of Islamic Affairs; the Secretary General of “Etidal,” The Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology; and the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League. Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president & CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, commented on the evangelical delegation’s trip to Saudi Arabia in this report by CBN News.
10. Mohler decries collision between religious liberty and sexual liberty at NRB First Amendment Lunch
NRB hosted its fifth annual First Amendment Lunch in Washington, D.C., on May 3 – the National Day of Prayer – and had as the keynote speaker Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Speaking to specially invited guests who were in Washington for events related to the National Day of Prayer, Mohler shared how religious liberty “becomes fragile in a secular age,” as do many traditional liberties. Religious liberty, he said, is viewed today by some as “problematic and out-of-date” and “injurious to human freedom, sexual liberty, transgender liberation, and a host of new imperatives.” Notably, the month before, The New Yorker ran an article titled “Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City,” in response to the restaurant chain’s arrival in New York, stating that it “feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.” And in August, ads promoting evangelist Greg Laurie’s upcoming SoCal Harvest event were taken down from the Fashion Island mall in Southern California after the company that posted them claimed the ads generated multiple complaints. The ads showed Laurie holding up a Bible, and featured the names and pictures of the musical artists who were to perform at the SoCal Harvest, along with the dates, location, and website for the event. In response, Laurie encouraged Christians to #StandWithTheBible.