April 2012

ERLC: Military religious rights need safeguards

April 26 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has urged a key congressman to work for passage of legislation to protect the freedom of armed services members and chaplains in the wake of policy changes on homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” in the military.

Richard Land, ERLC president, asked Rep. Buck McKeon, R.-Calif., in an April 16 letter to maintain his vigilance in seeking to guard the conscience rights and religious freedom of military personnel. McKeon is chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.
The Southern Baptist church-state specialist encouraged McKeon to give special attention to approval of the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act, H.R. 3828, which is designed to provide safeguards for the liberties in question.

Policies enforced last year that overturned the ban on open homosexuality in the military and permitted same-sex “weddings” on bases and by chaplains “pose a severe threat to the religious freedom of our military’s chaplains and service members,” Land said in the letter. The religious beliefs of many in the armed forces run counter to the lifestyles of those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, he said.

“[T]here is growing evidence confirming that service members who hold these religious beliefs face discrimination and career penalties if they remain true to their consciences,” Land wrote. “Regrettably, the Pentagon’s policies actively pressure these brave men and women to choose between serving their country and holding true to their deeply-held religious faith. It is a disgrace that our federal government would promote such an untenable climate for any service member of any creed.”

The Pentagon announced Sept. 30 two new policies, one authorizing homosexual “weddings” on bases and another permitting chaplains to participate in such ceremonies. The announcements came only 10 days after the official lifting of the ban on open homosexuality in the military.

The memos regarding same-sex “marriage” violated the Defense of Marriage Act, Land said in his letter to McKeon. That law, signed by President Clinton in 1996, defines marriage federally as being between a man and a woman. It also empowers states to refuse to recognize another state’s gay “marriages.”

The ERLC and other opponents of rescinding Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – as the ban on open homosexuality was known – warned its repeal would result in infringements on the religious liberty of chaplains and other military personnel, as well as harm to the readiness, privacy and retention of service members.

The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, which consists of more than 2,000 largely evangelical Christian military chaplains, has said its members will not perform gay “weddings.” The Roman Catholic Archdiocese for Military Service also has said its members will not officiate at such ceremonies.

In addition to protecting the rights of chaplains and service members, the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act would prohibit same-sex ceremonies on military bases.

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R.-Kan., has 45 cosponsors.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
4/26/2012 1:55:23 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists declare ‘Glory to God!’ during annual missions event

April 25 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

Angie Yelverton remembers clearly the child that died in front of her eyes during a volunteer mission trip to Haiti last year.
Yelverton, of Northside Baptist Church in Wilmington, N.C., could barely speak as she shared before a crowd of nearly 1,200 Baptists about the father who carried his daughter to a clinic right before the girl died of malnutrition and malaria as Yelverton watched helplessly. Yelverton had never been on a mission trip outside the United States before that trip.

The experience she said, “changed [my] life.”
“Today I’m looking at you through different eyes,” Yelverton said during the 37th Annual North Carolina Baptist Missions Conference – presented by N.C. Baptist Men – April 13-14 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.
“My church is going back in August, and I’m going with them,” she said. “We’re all ordinary, but God can use us to do extraordinary things. Not everyone can serve everywhere, but someone can serve somewhere.”
Yelverton’s story was one of many that were told at the conference with the theme “Glory to God!” The crowd learned how men, women and students could get involved through N.C. Baptist Men efforts in a variety of places, such as India, the Appalachian coalfields, Honduras, Ukraine and more. Some other ministries going on across the state include Operation Inasmuch and a project to build wheelchair ramps through Rampin’ Up! For more information, go to baptistsonmission.org/Home.

BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

Dandee King, right, and Shirley Smith make sure participants in the North Carolina Baptist Men’s Missions Conference get a lunch and drink. Both are members of West Albemarle Baptist Church. Food preparation is a big component of Baptist Men’s disaster relief efforts. View photo gallery.

Throughout the conference, guest speakers shared messages about glorifying God through better relating to the culture, being more than simply ‘religious,’ and what it means to really reach a city for Christ.
‘A Google world’
Holding up his smart phone, Leonard Sweet, author, speaker and founder/president of Spirit Venture Ministries, challenged the crowd to explore new ways to share the story of Jesus Christ.
“I was born in a Gutenberg world … when this was the Bible,” He said while holding up a thick Bible with the other hand. “Now I’m in a Google world where this is the Bible,” said Sweet, referring to his smart phone.
“I call it a TGIF world, not ‘Thank God It’s Friday,’ … [but] Twitter, Google, iPhone, Facebook. This is as much the Bible as this. In fact, I’ve got 26 Bibles in [my phone], so if you asked me to swear on a stack of Bibles I can do it.”
A Christian’s lot in life is missions, Sweet said. While generations over the age of 50 focus on sharing words and verses from the Bible, Sweet contended that younger generations respond more to stories. Each year companies spend billions of dollars to sell their products through stories, he said. “It’s not tell me the verses of Jesus,” he said. “Tell me the stories.”
More than ‘religious activity’
And the culture is hungry for seeing the story of Christ being told and lived out in our day-to-day lives, said Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God and founder/president emeritus of Blackaby Ministries. “Would it not be tragic if the only thing they see in your life is faithful, religious activity,” said Blackaby to the crowd. “It is not adequate.”
Talents and abilities will only take you so far, he said, challenging the crowd to be more available to God.
“You may say, ‘Well I’m just an ordinary person,’” Blackaby said. “‘I don’t see how my talents and abilities can make a difference in my nation.’ 
“The world will not be changed because of what we are doing for God,” he added. “The world will be changed by what they see God doing when we are with Him, strategically in our world at this time.”
Reaching the city
Later that afternoon, David Nasser, author, speaker and lead pastor at Christ City Church in Birmingham, Ala., spoke to the crowd about what reaching “the world” or “the whole city” for Christ really means. “Anybody really want to start a church for the whole city?” Nasser asked the crowd. “It’s going to look really different.”
While most Christians would answer “yes,” Nasser explained how starting a ministry geared for an “entire city” is going to present challenges that might make most people in the pews feel uncomfortable. “Really want to be a part of a church where it looks like Revelation 5?” said Nasser, who was born in Iran. “That means black people, white people, in-between people all in the same pew.”
“Everybody is like … ‘We want that,’” he said. “But then you start connecting the dots even more. The banker is going to be sitting here, and the homeless guy is going to be sitting right next to him.”
“Anybody want to baptize 10,000 people?” Nasser then asked. 
“Not a bunch of white soccer moms and their kids named Brody and Britney,” he said. “It’s going to look like this: The guy who is super skinny, his veins are showing … he’s probably on heroin. And when he comes off that water, you’re going to be looking in the front row and you’re going to go, ‘Wow, there’s needle marks. That guy might have AIDS. My daughter is next. I wonder if you can get AIDS being in the same water.’”
Nasser asked the crowd again if they were ready to address the issues that are going to come with a church that is actually for the entire city. He acknowledged that not every church is called to that type of ministry. But all churches are called to be on mission. “Mission isn’t the arm of the church,” he said. “Mission is a function of a church.”
“Jesus said, ‘you’re going to be my church,’” he said. “You’re going to be on mission. You’re going to have trouble in mission.  Jesus said, ‘But take heart I have overcome the world.’”
4/25/2012 2:25:36 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

NYC church policy challenged in court filing

April 25 2012 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The New York City ban on religious worship in public schools violates both the free exercise of religion and the prohibition on government establishment of religion, a Southern Baptist entity and other groups contend in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in federal court.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined local and national religious organizations in the April 20 brief that urges a federal court in New York to invalidate a Board of Education policy that bars churches and other faith groups from meeting in schools. The brief, written by the Christian Legal Society, also calls on the court to permanently block the policy from being enforced.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the ban was constitutional, affecting dozens of churches, including seven Southern Baptist congregations, that used public schools for corporate worship. Some moved their meetings to other facilities.

Some have been able to continue meeting in school buildings because of a Feb. 24 ruling by federal judge Loretta Preska of the Southern District of New York, which blocked enforcement of the ban while the case proceeds. The Second Circuit upheld the injunction five days later. The appeals court, however, urged Preska to release a final ruling by mid-June.

New York City’s school policy infringes on the opening two clauses of the First Amendment, according to the brief signed onto by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other organizations. Those clauses say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The policy “is not one that feigns neutrality on its face, hiding an ulterior purpose to target religious exercise,” the brief says. “The Board’s policy openly and notoriously singles out ‘religious worship services’ for exclusion from the public space that is otherwise available for other social and civic functions.”

The brief contends a social function that includes the same attributes as a religious worship service – such as singing, praying and speaking on “moral” topics – would not violate the policy. “But once these activities are part of a religious event, they suddenly become outlawed,” according to the brief.

The school board rule transgresses the First Amendment’s establishment clause by trying to define religious worship, the brief says.

“The Board cannot get into the business of deciding what does and does not qualify as a ‘religious worship service’ without entangling itself in issues forbidden to its authority and without discriminating among religious organizations and beliefs,” according to the brief.

For the last 60 years, the U.S. Supreme Court “has repeatedly instructed that the state has no power whatsoever to determine what constitutes ‘religious worship’ and ‘religious worship services’ and what does not,” the brief says.

The brief also contends the use of public schools for worship does not constitute endorsement of religion when the Board of Education makes its facilities available to all groups. “The fact that more churches than mosques and synagogues use school facilities reflects simple demographics, not endorsement,” according to the brief.

The policy also contradicts a long-held practice in American life, the brief contends. By singling out religious groups among all community organizations, it “is inconsistent with historical practice and threatens the equal access of religious observance to public space still common in our country,” the brief says.

In addition to the ERLC, others signing on to the CLS brief are the National Association of Evangelicals, American Bible Society, National Council of Churches, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York, Council of Churches of the City of New York, Brooklyn Council of Churches and Queens Federation of Churches.

The case is Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
4/25/2012 2:21:23 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Obama site touts 40 accomplishments for gays

April 25 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Perhaps trying to send a message to gay activists who want him to do more, President Obama’s re-election website has posted a timeline of 40 specific accomplishments his administration has made for the gay community – a timeline that no doubt will be referenced both by his supporters and opponents in the coming months.

The rainbow-colored timeline begins in June 2009, when he ordered the federal government to extend some benefits to the partners of gay federal employees, and ends in March of this year, when he announced his opposition to a North Carolina constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. In between, the timeline touts some of his more well-known accomplishments for the gay community, led by the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and his legal opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act.

His re-election Twitter account sent out a Tweet April 20 with a link to the website and the message: “What three years of progress for the LGBT community looks like.”

Some gay activists are upset Obama has not publicly supported gay “marriage,” although many of them say he has taken positions and actions that leave little doubt where he stands. They were further upset when he did not sign an anti-discrimination executive order in April.

The campaign website states: “Together, we’ve fought for equal rights for LGBT Americans – and the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is just one example of the progress we’ve achieved since President Obama took office. Take a look at the timeline below, then share it with your friends.”

Following is the text from the timeline, which can be accessed online at https://my.barackobama.com/page/share/progress-for-lgbt-americans:

June 17 – “Ordered the federal government to extend key benefits to same–sex partners of federal employees.”

June 29 – “Hosted the first-ever White House LGBT Pride reception.”

Aug. 12 – “Awarded the highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, to Billie Jean King and Harvey Milk.”

Oct. 21 – “Created a National Resource Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders.”

Oct. 28 – “Signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.”

Jan. 1 – “Banned discrimination in federal workplaces based on gender identity.”

Jan. 4 – “Lifted the ban that prohibited people with HIV/AIDS from entering the United States.”

March 23 – “Enacted the Affordable Care Act, reforming health care in America by lowering costs, expanding choice, and improving health care quality.”

April 15 – “Ensured hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights for gay and lesbian patients.”

June 9 – “Allowed transgender Americans to receive true gender passports without surgery.”

June 22 – “Clarified the Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure family leave for LGBT employees.”

June 22 – “Released America’s first comprehensive plan to prevent and end homelessness, which includes homeless LGBT youth.”

Oct. 1 – “Awarded a grant to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center to work with LGBT foster youth.”

Oct. 21 – “Recorded ‘It Gets Better’ video to support LGBT youth experiencing bullying.”

Dec. 21 – “Led a United Nations measure to restore ‘sexual orientation’ to the definition of human rights.”

Dec. 22 – “Signed the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”

Feb. 23 – “Declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and announced the administration will no longer defend it in court.”

March 10 – “Hosted first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in America’s schools.”

March 31 – “Completed an Institute of Medicine study on LGBT health, the first of its kind.”

May 27 – “Issued guidance to foster safer working environments for transgender federal employees.”

July 19 – “Endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act, a legislative effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Aug. 18 – “Clarified the meaning of ‘family’ to include LGBT relationships, helping to protect bi-national families threatened by deportation.”

Aug. 19 – “Supported lesbian widow Edith Windsor in her suit against DOMA.”

Sept. 15 – “Ended the Social Security Administration’s gender ‘no–match’ letters.”

Sept. 20 – “Implemented the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”

Sept. 30 – “Permitted military chaplains to officiate same-sex marriages where legal.”

Oct. 1 – “Addressed the annual Human Rights Campaign dinner for the second time.”

Oct. 13 – “Alison Nathan becomes second openly gay appointee to be confirmed to the federal bench under President Obama’s nomination.”

Oct. 20 – “Awarded Citizens’ Medal to Janice Langbehn, lesbian mother whose story paved the way for hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples.”

Oct. 31 – “Included specific data on health needs of lesbian and bisexual women in the Health Resources and Services Administration’s ‘Women’s Health USA 2011’ federal report.”

Nov. 1 – “In his presidential proclamation of National Adoption Month, President Obama called for equal treatment for same-sex adoptive parents.”

Dec. 1 – “On World AIDS Day, recommitted the U.S. to creating an AIDS–free generation.”

Dec. 6 – “Created first-ever U.S. government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT persons abroad.”

Jan. 28 – “Announced HUD’s new rule protecting against housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Feb. 2 – “Announced White House LGBT Conference Series to address issues affecting LGBT Americans, including health, housing, and safety.”

Feb. 7 – “Promoted equal access to quality health care by enabling searches for health plans with same-sex partner benefits on Healthcare.gov.”

Feb. 13 – “Proposed a 2013 federal budget for an economy built to last, including providing security for the LGBT community.”

March (no specific date given) – “Ensured transgender veterans receive respectful care according to their true gender through the Veterans Health Administration.”

March 15 – “Michael Fitzgerald, fourth openly gay nominee under President Obama, is confirmed to the federal bench in California.”

March 16 – “Came out against North Carolina’s Amendment 1, which would prohibit same-sex marriage in the state.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
4/25/2012 2:01:54 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Young ‘Millennials’ losing faith in record numbers

April 25 2012 by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON – A growing tide of young Americans is drifting away from the religions of their childhood – and most of them are ending up in no religion at all.

One in four young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion, according to a new report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.

But most within this unaffiliated group – 55 percent – identified with a religious group when they were younger.
“These younger unaffiliated adults are very nonreligious,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI’s research director. “They demonstrate much lower levels of religiosity than we see in the general population,” including participation in religious rituals or worship services.
Some of them will return to their faiths as they age, “but there’s not a lot of evidence that most will come back,” added Cox, who said the trend away from organized religion dates back to the early 1990s.
The study of 2,013 Americans ages 18-24 focused on the younger end of the cohort commonly known as the “Millennials” or “Generation Y,” which generally includes young adults as old as 29. Interviews were conducted between March 7 and 20.
Across denominations, the net losses were uneven, with Catholics losing the highest proportion of childhood adherents – nearly 8 percent – followed by white mainline Protestant traditions, which lost 5 percent.
Among Catholics, whites were twice as likely as Hispanics to say they are no longer affiliated with the church.
White evangelical and black denominations fared better, with a net loss of about 1 percent. Non-Christian groups posted a modest 1 percent net increase in followers.
But the only group that saw significant growth between childhood and young adulthood was the unaffiliated – a jump from 11 percent to 25 percent.
The study also posed a wide range of questions to the group, from their views on the Tea Party to labor unions to same-sex marriage.
It also delved into more philosophical territory, questioning whether younger Millennials’ moral views are more universal (there is always a right and wrong) or contextual (it depends on the situation).
The researchers found a morally divided generation, with 50 percent of respondents placing themselves in the contextual category and 45 percent believing in universal rights and wrongs.
Answers to questions on the nature of morality varied widely depending on political party affiliation, education and religion, with the most dramatic differences correlating with religion.
An overwhelming majority of white evangelical Protestants (68 percent) said they believe that some things are always wrong, compared to 49 percent of black Protestants, 45 percent of Catholics and 35 percent of the unaffiliated.
More specifically, on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, younger Millennials hardly think as a group. “We see some really stark divides,” said Cox, which he said belies the conventional wisdom that bills this as the “Kumbaya” generation, in which everyone understands each other and gets along.
“It’s something to watch as these folks start moving through society and start to vote regularly,” he said.
– A sweeping majority of the religiously unaffiliated (82 percent) said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. More than two-thirds of religiously affiliated non-Christians agreed.
– White evangelical Protestants were most opposed to abortion, with nearly 9 in 10 (88 percent) saying it should be illegal in all or most cases. Among Latino Protestants, 71 percent shared this belief. Catholics were more divided, with 48 percent saying abortion should mostly be legal and 51 percent disagreeing.
– On same-sex marriage, nearly six in ten younger Millennials (59 percent) approved, with distinctions among religious groups generally mirroring those on abortion.
4/25/2012 1:58:36 PM by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Board of Visitors, Trustees visit Southeastern campus

April 24 2012 by SEBTS Staff

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest hosted the Board of Visitors and Trustees on its campus April 15-17.
From Sunday evening to Tuesday afternoon, the Southeastern Board of Visitors and Trustees discussed several matters taking place at the College at Southeastern and Southeastern Seminary since their last visit in the fall.
Daniel Akin, Southeastern’s president said in his address that the Lord has grown the school to roughly over 2,850 students and he expects the enrollment to hit the 3,000 in the next few semesters.
Akin said the Lord has been faithful to Southeastern, and in turn, they should seek to remain faithful to Him.
During the business session, the Board of Trustees elected Todd Borger as associate professor of Old
Testament and Hebrew.
Borger received his B.M. from the University of Redlands, his master of divinity from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and his doctorate degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been teaching at Southeastern since 2009.

SEBTS photo

James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., encouraged Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary students, faculty and guests to take a stand “on the risen Christ.” Merritt was speaking in chapel April 17 during the Board of Visitors and Trustees meeting on campus.

On April 17 James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., addressed the students, faculty, staff and Boards with the command, “When problems come into your life, don’t look for a place to run; find a place to stand and that place is on the risen Christ.”
The chapel recognized several families and individuals who are being commissioned to the foreign mission field in the fall.
Drawing from Acts 4, Merritt challenged these families and individuals to stand tall, stand tough and stand true in the gospel wherever the Lord takes them.
Merritt asked, “Do you wonder why the gospel is being preached in the 21st century? It is because of the fervency of the early disciples and the faithfulness of our Lord.”
Akin, closing the chapel, asked for all missionaries to gather so that the Boards of Visitors and Trustees, as well as other students, could pray over them.
“I thank God for these who answered his call, and I pray that he would fulfill completely his perfect will in their lives,” Akin said. 
“Being in God’s will is not always the safest, but it is the best place to be. The Lord is so good and may you be faithful in the mission field you have been placed until the day he calls you home.”

Related story
‘Black Hawk Down’ soldier shares story, enrolled at Southeastern
4/24/2012 7:12:43 PM by SEBTS Staff | with 0 comments

‘Black Hawk Down’ soldier shares story, enrolled at Southeastern

April 24 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

Jeff Struecker has escaped death on more than one occasion and watched many fellow soldiers die in combat during his 22 years of service with the United States Army. The movie “Black Hawk Down” featured his service in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. With a uniform full of medals, and hair-raising story after story, Struecker said one of the most “unsettling” moments of his life wasn’t on the battlefield.
It was in seminary more than a decade ago while he studied to become an Army chaplain. 
Struecker, who spoke April 16 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual spring banquet at Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville, shared how his professor at the time, Daniel Akin, had him doubting whether he was cut out to be a chaplain. Both Akin, now president of Southeastern, and Struecker were at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville at the time.
“I was so disgruntled and so upset that I went to Dr. Akin’s office,” Struecker told the crowd.
“I was wrestling with ‘maybe I don’t have it in me to preach the gospel,’” said Struecker, who added that the paper he had turned in was “bleeding red ink.”

BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

Jeff Struecker recounts stories from his time in the U.S. Army during a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary banquet.

His early experiences in seminary left Struecker with a respect for Akin and the Word of God. Struecker went on to get his master of divinity degree at Southern and served his final 10 years in the military as an Army chaplain before retiring in January 2011. He is associate pastor of ministry development at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga. He also is enrolled in Southeastern, pursuing a doctorate degree in Christian leadership. 
Struecker’s respect for Akin’s leadership helped “seal the deal” in his decision to enroll at Southeastern.

“Dr. Akin said to the student body, ‘I want to warn your parents and your grandparents don’t send them to Southeastern Seminary and think they’re going to go home and be good boys and girls and pastor a nice little country church.’” Struecker recalled Akin saying. “‘I want to encourage them to go to some of the most difficult and some of the most dangerous mission fields in the world.’”
Struecker shared how his faith kept him focused and grounded emotionally during some of his more scary moments in combat.
“There were moments I was convinced that I was going to die in the next city block,” he said of his 18–hour gun battle in the streets of Mogadishu. “But it didn’t concern me because my eternity was settled … I didn’t worry when the bullets were flying.”
It was Struecker’s confidence that also earned him many opportunities to share the gospel with “hard-headed Rangers” while both a Ranger, himself, and later as a chaplain.
“I could literally look men in the eyes and say, ‘I know exactly what you are going through because I’ve been there myself, and let me tell you who will get you through it,’” he said.
“God had given me the unique opportunity to see scores of Rangers bow their knee and turn their life over to Jesus Christ because they realized they needed something greater than themselves.”
During his final years with multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq as an Army chaplain, Struecker said his military career continued to take a toll on his marriage to wife, Dawn, and as a father of five children. It was that toll that led Struecker to leave the military. Now he begins a new battle here in the U.S.
The need in this country for Christian leaders with character and courage couldn’t be more dire, Struecker said.
According to the American Religious Identification Survey conducted in 2009, virtually every denomination is in decline. The study showed that, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, the largest single preference for religion that the average American will give is ‘no religion.’”
“As a nation, we are heading full steam in the same direction as Europe is today,” he said. “Europe is in a spiritual crisis, and it is because of weak preaching and weak pastors.”
Struecker told the crowd that if he was “the enemy” he would attack pastors. “The way I would undermine the men that are in the pulpit is I would start to erode away their confidence,” he said.
And with their confidence would go their courage, Struecker said. And as their courage goes, he added, so goes their conviction and ultimately their character.
“Pretty soon everyone that shows up to listen to the pulpit decides ‘I don’t need what they’re offering because it’s not going to make a difference in my life.’
“We need pastors, ministers, missionaries, men and women who love the gospel and are willing to do whatever it takes and suffer personally, financially in every means to advance the gospel .... [who] endure suffering like a good soldier.”

Related story
Board of Visitors, Trustees visit Southeastern campus
4/24/2012 7:04:07 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Jason Crabb wins top honors at Doves

April 24 2012 by Baptist Press

ATLANTA – Jason Crabb won top honors at the 43rd annual Gospel Music Association Dove Awards at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta April 19, taking home awards for Artist of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year.

The Dove Awards will air on GMC, formerly the Gospel Music Channel, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, followed by an encore at 10 p.m.
“When they said my name, I couldn’t believe it,” Crabb, who was nominated for eight Dove Awards, said, according to watchgmctv.com.

College student Jamie-Grace won New Artist of the Year, and as she accepted the award she noted how much her life had changed since she attended the Georgia Homeschool Prom in the same building four years ago, watchgmctv.com recounted. Industry veteran TobyMac signed Jamie-Grace to his Gotee Records after discovering her on YouTube, the Associated Press reported.

“Growin up lovin Gospel & Christian music & looking up to artists in the industry, I am blown away that I’m considered as an artist...,” Jamie-Grace tweeted after the win.

Natalie Grant won Female Artist of the Year for the fifth time in six years, and Grammy-winner Laura Story won Song of the Year for “Blessings” as well as two other awards.

NEEDTOBREATHE won three Doves, including Group of the Year, and Ed Cash was named Producer of the Year.

The awards show, hosted by comedian Chonda Pierce and actor David Mann, began with a choir dressed in red singing a spirited rendition of Dottie Rambo’s “I Go To the Rock” as a tribute to Whitney Houston, who sang the song in the movie “The Preacher’s Wife.”

Other performances included the contemporary gospel duo Mary Mary, hip-hopper Lecrae and worship artist Kari Jobe.

“This is an event that has a history of bringing together people who are not only giving us a new favorite song to sing but who are anointed with a heavenly message,” GMA Executive Director Jackie Patillo said.

For a complete list of award winners, visit gospelmusic.org.
4/24/2012 7:00:40 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, dies

April 23 2012 by press reports

Prison Fellowship Ministries founder Charles W. “Chuck” Colson died April 21 due to complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage.

BP photo

Chuck Colson

Colson, 80, was hospitalized March 30 after his speech became slurred during a conference. Other reports indicated Colson was dizzy as well. Doctors performed surgery March 31.
It was thought in the subsequent days after his surgery that his health was improving, but a statement April 18 from Jim Liske, CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries, said Colson’s health had seriously deteriorated.
Colson was a member of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla.
Colson was most known for his part in the Watergate scandal during Richard Nixon’s presidency.
He was special counsel to Nixon from 1969-1973 and became known as Nixon’s “hatchet man.”

His conversion to Christianity before his seven-month prison sentence was ridiculed in major newspapers. He went on to form Prison Fellowship, a nonprofit organization “to seek the transformation of prisoners and their reconciliation to God, family, and community through the power and truth of Jesus Christ.”
Donations can be made to the Charles Colson Legacy Fund at prisonfellowship.org,
or call (800) 206-9764.
Related story 
Guest column: Lessons from Chuck Colson, a transformer of culture
Guest column: Remembering Chuck Colson, the church member
4/23/2012 4:37:01 PM by press reports | with 0 comments

Mother’s Day Offering, prayer help family through ‘scary time’

April 23 2012 by North Carolina Baptist Hospital

Matt and Jennifer Keever, members of Mt. Herman Baptist Church in Taylorsville, know the impact of the North Carolina Baptist Hospital’s Mother’s Day Offering first hand.
Eight days after the Keever’s daughter, Raeghan, was born she was admitted to Baptist Hospital for heart surgery. 
“It was such a scary time in our lives,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer Keever is thankful for N.C. Baptists and the Mother’s Day Offering. Because of the offering the hospital bills for her daughter Raeghan have been paid in full.

“Seeing Raeghan on a ventilator, we could hardly believe it was happening,” Matt added.
Facing a potential nightmare, they held onto hope that God would spare their child’s life.
Through prayer and the staff at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Raeghan began to recover. Today, she is a healthy 1-year-old.
However, in the midst of the Keever’s gratitude, they were nearly overwhelmed by frightening waves of medical bills.  
“We both work, but the bills were coming in leaps and bounds,” Jennifer said. “We trusted that God wouldn’t let us sink, but it was very hard and easy to forget. The worry and stress were there every day.”
The Keever’s “fell between the cracks of assistance and had nowhere to turn,” said Paul Mullen, director of church and community relations at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. 
“They were under enormous pressure, with too much to qualify for Medicaid or charity care, but not enough to pay the balance of Raeghan’s hospital bill,” he said. “They are wonderful parents with great faith. They give to their church to help others, but now they needed help.
“I was privileged to write them a letter saying, ‘Your daughter’s hospital bill has been paid by compassionate and mission-minded North Carolina Baptists in the name of Jesus Christ and His love.’”
Through tears of joy Jennifer said, “When we received that letter, all we could do was cry and thank God.  This was God’s hand at work seeing us through the trials.” 
“This reminded us that God is in every situation,” Matt replied.
Jennifer added, “The Mother’s Day Offering had a great impact on our family. To see God at work, taking care of us, really touched our lives.
“We thank North Carolina Baptists with all our hearts.”
There are many more families whose lives can be changed by the Offering. 
“We plan to give and bring Jesus to the lives of others,” Jennifer said.
“It’s a wonderful way to put faith into action.”
The Mother’s Day Offering is an “awesome opportunity” to be a part of what God is doing, said Paul Schronce, pastor of the church where the Keever’s are members. 
“God is working, and He is using North Carolina Baptists to change hearts and lives.”
Schronce confirmed that some who are helped by the Mother’s Day Offering don’t even know God. 
“When they learn that North Carolina Baptists care about them, and Jesus cares about them, it opens the door for them to say, ‘God is real, and He does love me,’” he said. “Our gifts change the lives of people who are in need, and maybe even their eternity.”
Mullen added, “We are very grateful on behalf of hundreds of hurting patients and families.
“Our gifts, as North Carolina Baptists, draw them closer to Christ in life-changing gratitude. Please pray for God to be at work through the Mother’s Day Offering. Please give generously and be a messenger of His love.”
The Keever’s story can be seen at mothersdayoffering.org.
Mother’s Day Offering materials were mailed to every N.C. Baptist church. They can be obtained by calling (336) 716-3027 or email pmmullen@wakehealth.edu.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Milton A. Hollifield Jr., the executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, shares his view.)
4/23/2012 4:11:16 PM by North Carolina Baptist Hospital | with 0 comments

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