America’s largest remaining Christian retail chain, Southern Baptist–run LifeWay Stores, announced in March plans to close all 170 locations and end its brick-and-mortar business in 2019 after a decade of financial losses. Competition from Amazon has accelerated challenges for the industry, with Family Christian Resources closing its 240 stores after bankruptcy in 2017. Outgoing LifeWay president and CEO Thom Rainer said the ministry did “all we could” to save stores. The company will continue to sell materials on LifeWay.com.
After the United Methodist Church (UMC) voted to maintain its official position against same-sex marriage and non-celibate gay clergy during a special session of its General Conference in February, its judicial body planned to meet this spring to address the implications for clergy who violate those positions and churches that leave as a result. America’s largest mainline group has long been divided on LGBT issues, and this year’s decision split the delegation, with 53 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed. The denomination’s growing international membership holds more conservative views on sexuality.
Gospel for Asia (GFA) will refund $37 million to 200,000 past supporters in order to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that the missions organization applied just 13 percent of donations to fieldwork. A ministry spokesman stated that GFA “did not act fraudulently, and all the donations they received made it to the field.” GFA also shifted seats on its board and added a subcommittee to file reports to the court. Unclaimed funds will go to ...1