April 2015

Ariz. abortionists face new consent requirement

April 10 2015 by Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service

Arizona’s governor has signed into law a bill that prohibits abortion insurance from being purchased through Obamacare’s taxpayer-subsidized insurance program. The bill also requires abortionists to inform women that two-step chemical abortions can be reversed.
 
Both legislative houses passed the bill, signed into law March 30, along party lines after a House committee amended it to include the informed consent requirement. The abortion insurance prohibition prevents women from buying taxpayer subsidized abortion insurance except in cases of rape, incest or threats to the health of the mother.

 
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“The American people overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer funding of abortions, and it’s no different in Arizona, where we have long-standing policy against subsidizing them with public dollars,” pro-life Gov. Doug Ducey said. “This legislation provides clarity to state law.”
 
The informed consent requirement is the first law of its kind to pass in the United States. The law’s critics, including Kathleen Morrell, an abortionist with Physicians for Reproductive Health, said no scientific evidence supports the bill and the reversal process isn’t well researched.
 
But pro-life doctor Allan Sawyer said he recently reversed a chemical abortion at 10 weeks. A young woman reached Sawyer through the website AbortionPillReversal.com after Planned Parenthood staff workers said her abortion couldn’t be stopped.
 
In a chemical abortion, a woman takes two pills. The first contains mifepristone, a drug that detaches the embryo from the uterus. The second drug, misoprostol induces contractions. But if the woman has only taken the first pill, a high dosage of progesterone can stop the process. The practice isn’t well known, but some pro-life groups like Culture of Life Family Services (CLFS) are working to promote it.
 
So far, 230 physicians can reverse abortions, and some organizations want to place an “Emergency Abortion Pill Reversal Kit” in emergency rooms and urgent care clinics across the United States, WORLD reported in February. Between May 2012 and December 2014, the few physicians who do reverse abortions saved 78 babies with 51 still unborn. More than 40 women per month call CLFS’s hotline.
 
While Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona President Bryan Howard said the new law interferes with women’s medical decisions, pro-life advocates in Arizona view the law as a victory for women.
 
“Countless more lives will be saved, and women spared a lifetime of regret,” Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy told Reuters.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Courtney Crandell writes for WORLD News Service, an affiliate of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com.)

4/10/2015 10:50:48 AM by Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



MBTS unveils new ‘OnlineYou’

April 10 2015 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS Communications

Midwestern Seminary introduced “a new way of doing online education,” as it unveiled its latest online education initiative, “OnlineYou,” on April 9.
 
Seminary President Jason Allen said the ultimate focus of OnlineYou is to provide students a customized online education experience.
 
“In establishing OnlineYou, we have customized our online education program making it personalized to every student, to their specific calling of ministry, and to gear their online experience directly toward what God has called them to do,” Allen said. “At Midwestern Seminary, we are very proud of the fact that we have been on the cutting edge of online education for more than a decade. We feel like this new initiative positions us, once again, on the very forefront of theological education with our online delivery systems.”
 

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Four key areas within the program, according to Midwestern Seminary Provost Jason Duesing, are what sets OnlineYou apart from more traditional online formats.
 
“The thing that I’m really most excited about within OnlineYou is the customizable tracts,” he said. “We’ve embedded into our online experience, strategic, contextualized assignments that allow students who are engaged in ministry to apply information learned in class while implementing skills learned in day-to-day ministry. On certain assignments, students can choose to apply class material as a pastor, teacher or scholar would.
 
“For example, if a student has identified that he is called to be a senior pastor or preacher, he’s going to find assignments facing him that are tailored to that task.  If he is preparing for a teaching ministry, then he is going to find assignments tailored to training him for scholarship in a teaching ministry. There is really nothing like it out there today. It is online education designed for the millennial generation and beyond.”
 
Secondly, there will be a practicum component involved, where assignments within the online instruction will integrate and encourage one-on-one meetings between students and local church pastors. Duesing said this will afford a “for the Church component to every online class.”
 
Another key feature of the new initiative is “Online Connect,” in which professors from Midwestern Seminary’s campus, who are teaching online classes, will provide regular opportunities for students to meet with them one-on-one or in a small group setting – affording many online students a much more personalized experience.
 
The final key difference is that there will be opportunities for students to visit Midwestern Seminary’s Kansas City-based campus as part of their required assignments.
 
“We see them doing that through attending symposiums that are held in conjunction with our regular on-campus events here, like our For the Church Conference that will be held on Aug. 31-Sept. 1, and various other lecture series’ and occasions held throughout the academic year,” he said.
 
Allen added that the new online education format will ultimately be of immense benefit to students who aren’t able to uproot from their current station in life and ministry and relocate to campus.
 
“I think this style of learning is a game changer in online education. If you know anything about Midwestern Seminary, you know we exist for the Church, but if there was one cut-line underneath that it might be that we also exist for the student.
 
“This is proof-positive of our determination to serve the local church and to prepare our students in a way that is affordable, is accessible, and that now is personable ultimately to them in their context of learning. I pray that students will join us and be part of what God is doing here at Midwestern Seminary as we train pastors, ministers, and evangelists for the church.”
 
Visit www.mbts.edu/onlineyou.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson serves at Midwestern Seminary as Executive Assistant to the President.)

4/10/2015 10:45:24 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS Communications | with 0 comments



1975: Vietnam orphans ‘miracle’ journey

April 10 2015 by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press

Pastor Nguyen Xuan Ha relayed the message to the children and workers of the Cam Ranh City Orphanage that the South Vietnamese army could not stop the communist juggernaut.
 
The last Americans had been evacuated from Saigon, and North Vietnamese tanks had crashed the gates of the presidential palace. The iron curtain had descended over Vietnam. It was April 30, 1975.
 
It was time to set sail. A once-sunken boat that Ha and some of the older orphan boys had patched up hardly seemed seaworthy, but it would have to do.
 
They had been on the run since April 2. They fled south from Cam Ranh Bay to Phan Thiet, dodging firefights along the way. From Phan Thiet, they made their way to Saigon, and from Saigon to Rach Gia on the southern coast.
 
“When I look back on my journey, it reminds me of the movie ‘The 10 Commandments’ when Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt,” said Thomas Ho, who was one of the oldest children in the orphanage, built in 1967 by American servicemen, Vietnamese Christians and Southern Baptist missionaries.
 
“In the modern world, God is still in control. He still performs miracles around us every day,” Ho said. “In 1975, pastor Nguyen Xuan Ha led 69 orphans and more out of Vietnam to the U.S., the land of opportunity, safely. I believe God took great care of us.” Also on the 35-foot-long boat, which had been refashioned with three decks, were 13 workers from the orphanage and 13 of their children.

 
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Photo courtesy of Cam Rahn Orphans
Nearly 70 orphans boarded a patched-up boat on the southern coast of Vietnam on April 30, 1975, to begin a journey to freedom that brought them to the U.S.

Ho, now an air conditioning repairman and member of the Vietnamese Baptist Church of Garland, Texas, can close his eyes and smell the sea, hear the sound of children singing on the boat, and remember the prayers he and others prayed for deliverance.

 

A journey begins

Ho’s journey to America began with his arrival at the Cam Ranh City Orphanage after the death of his parents. His mother died when he was two months old. His father, who fought in the South Vietnamese army, was killed in 1967. Ho’s aunt also was killed when their town was shelled in the middle of the night.
 
He still remembers the sight.
 
When an artillery shell landed near their shelter, Ho’s aunt told him to go to the bunker next door while his uncle treated a cousin’s leg wound. His aunt pledged to follow but was cut down by an explosion.
 
“I looked back and saw my aunt with her right hand holding her stomach. Every organ was exposed, but she still called out to me asking if I was safe. She died a few hours later,” Ho recounted.
 
Ho made his way to Cam Ranh city, where he saw a bus full of orphan children handing out toys for other children. He knew an orphanage would offer him clothes, food and an education, so he asked to be placed under the care of the new facility.
 
At the orphanage, Ho met Southern Baptist missionaries Walter Routh Jr. and Jim and Margaret Gayle. Routh and the Gayles were career missionaries and had already seen the horrors of the war. They did what they could to make life bearable for the children.
 
“The earliest memory that I have of the orphanage is that the place was full of life, happiness, and everyone cared for each other,” Ho said. “I also couldn’t wait until Wednesdays and Saturdays because we would receive gifts, toys, go on picnics and play with the Marines [at a nearby military base].”
 
Routh left Vietnam, but the Gayles stayed on until they were furloughed in 1974. They planned to return to Vietnam, but the collapse of the South Vietnamese government removed that possibility. It also left the Gayles wondering what happened to the orphans for whom they cared so much.

 

Rescue at sea

Two days into the escape in 1975, the orphans’ boat ran out of fuel, leaving them adrift far off the coast of South Vietnam with no food and little water. And then, God provided an answer to their prayers.
 
A Taiwanese freighter appeared on the horizon. Pastor Ha pleaded for help but the ship refused to tow the orphans’ boat. Everyone on board prayed again for deliverance.
 
Ho, then a teenager, said the freighter slowly turned around. The ship’s sailors secured a tow line and the orphans were towed toward Singapore.
 
Southern Baptist missionaries in Singapore worked with the U.S. State Department to transfer the orphans to America. When their plane landed at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas a month later, missionary Jim Gayle was the first person to walk into the plane to greet them.
 
“We were so happy. I thought I would never see him again after he left Vietnam,” Ho said. “But seeing him again, all my worry left ... I felt like I was witnessing a miracle.”
 
The Cam Ranh orphans eventually were taken in by the Buckner Children’s Home in Dallas. After being assessed for their educational needs, the children were placed in adoptive homes. Today, they are doctors and businessmen, fathers and mothers – and American citizens.
 
But Vietnam still tugs at their hearts, Ho said.
 
“I miss Vietnam. It’s the country of my birth and where I was raised. I do pray for both the people of Vietnam and the government,” he said. “In Vietnam today, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. There is no freedom of speech or religion.”
 
Many of the Cam Ranh orphans returned to Vietnam in 2010 for the first time with Jim and Margaret Gayle. The group plans to return again later this year, but this time without Jim Gayle. After suffering through a long battle with cancer, Gayle died in 2014.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gregory Tomlin is a writer in Fort Worth, Texas.)

4/10/2015 10:38:14 AM by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Midwestern named among fastest-growing seminaries

April 10 2015 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS Communications

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary ranks among the fastest growing seminaries in North America, according to report published by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).
 
The article by ATS, an accrediting agency, expounded upon “Why 100 Member Schools have Grown,” saying 37-percent of its 273 institutions have grown over the past five years – with 12 of the 100 schools experiencing growth of at least 50 percent. Among these 12 schools in the March 31 report is Midwestern Seminary.
 
“The closer one evaluates this ATS report, the better the news gets for Midwestern Seminary,” said Jason Allen, president of the seminary. “Among seminaries with enrollments totaling 500 or more students, Midwestern Seminary is recognized as the fastest growing institution in North America.
 
“While the ATS report is quite encouraging,” he said, “it only tells half the story. Our growth has managed to accelerate during our current academic year at a clip that is absolutely unprecedented, far surpassing even the robust growth we’ve experienced the past couple years. Thankfully, early indicators point toward robust growth for 2015/16 as well.”

 
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One of the article’s authors noted that the range of growth Midwestern Seminary has experienced over the past five years is quite remarkable.
 
“Of the 34 schools that have grown more than 25 percent during the past five years, MBTS is the only one that built upon a 2009 enrollment of more than 500 students,” said Eliza Smith Brown, director of Communications and External Relations at ATS. “To have achieved 51 percent growth from that starting point required incremental growth of more than 270 students – an extraordinary feat.”
 
Allen said, “Under God’s kind providence, our growth has been a team effort, with our Enrollment Management Office leading the way, and with everyone else here leaning into the effort with them.
 
“We’ve been able to build an institutional culture where every employee – faculty, administration, and staff – has bought into our vision of existing for the Church and are giving their very best efforts to this end. For all of this, I am so very grateful to God.”
 
The article also attempted to pinpoint specific reasons for these institutions’ marked growth, finding, “While there is no single factor accounting for this sustained growth, given the diverse universe of ATS schools, some factors are worth noting.”
 
Included in these reasons for growth is that “size is not necessarily a factor,” “new degree programs and delivery systems can make a difference,” and that there are a number of factors unique to individual institutions – such as convenience of learning platforms and distinctive course structure models – that play a role.
 
Particular to Midwestern Seminary, ATS’s executive director Daniel O. Aleshire said, “The seminaries supported by American denominations are all unique in different ways. Southern Baptist seminaries are unique in that, with the exception of Southwestern, they rim the primary population base of the SBC: southern Louisiana, eastern North Carolina, northern Kentucky, Kansas City, and California. The seminaries of every other denomination are located in the heart of the population area of the denomination.
 
“Southern Baptists, in their location of seminaries founded after World War II,” he said, “demonstrated a perspective that tied theological education to missions. Seminaries were located on frontiers. Midwestern has always needed to search for its students, and it has found an effective search engine in its mission, commitment to constituency and carefully developed educational programming.”
 
Allen agreed with this supposition saying, “I believe the most important steps we’ve taken are convictional and missiological. We have repurposed the institution to give its very best energies to serving the local Southern Baptist church. Hence, our motto, “for the Church.” Missiologically, it’s spot on, and it has the added value of appealing to our primary constituency, Southern Baptists.
 
“Both our doctrinal convictions and our missiological clarity have accelerated our growth because everyone knows precisely who we are, what our theological convictions are, and what we see as our chief ambition – to train pastors, ministers, and evangelists for the church.”
 
Other steps Allen attributes to the seminary’s significant growth include: implementing aggressive enrollment goals; expanding Midwestern Seminary’s reach through its online master’s and undergraduate degree offerings; building the student body with robust numbers of Korean, Hispanic, and African American students; fundamentally rebuilding the school’s student recruiting, retention and institutional communication and marketing efforts; continuing to “fly our evangelical colors boldly,” and being a confessional institution that is committed to historic Christianity and Baptist distinctives.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is the executive assistant to the president at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

4/10/2015 10:29:24 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Ohio pastor Chad Keck to be 2nd VP nominee

April 9 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Ohio pastor Chad Keck will be nominated for second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in June, a fellow Ohio pastor announced April 7.
 
Keck has been senior pastor of the Dayton-area First Baptist Church of Kettering since December 2010, having earlier served churches in Florida, Texas and Tennessee during 14 years in the ministry. He also is a former collegiate ministry event coordinator for LifeWay Christian Resources.

 
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Chad Keck

David Starry, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Vandalia, Ohio, also in the Dayton area, said in relaying the nomination announcement that Keck “has a deep love for the local church, a Great Commission mindset and a strong commitment to personal evangelism.”
 
Keck “knows firsthand what many churches in our convention are experiencing and trying to understand: How to revitalize a church which is declining or is in a state of plateau,” Starry noted. Keck accepted the call to First Baptist in Kettering “during a difficult season in the life of the church,” when it had been without a pastor for a significant time “and both attendance and giving had fallen sharply,” Starry said. “The church owed almost $9 million in debt and had cut Cooperative Program giving to less than one percent in order to pay bills and keep the doors open.”
 
The Kettering church has since “experienced significant growth; the debt level is coming down; but most importantly, the excitement and passion for the gospel is up,” Starry wrote in an open letter. “This year, under Chad’s leadership, FBC Kettering will give over four percent to the Cooperative Program, and he has put in place a plan to continue to significantly increase this percentage over the next few years. FBC Kettering is truly a case study on what a turnaround church can look like in our convention.”
 
Keck holds a doctorate in educational ministry from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.; a master of arts in biblical studies/theology from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville; and an undergraduate degree from Oklahoma Baptist University, where he sensed a call to ministry as a college senior. He is the author of two books, Ordinarily Faithful, Life Lessons from the Judges: Gideon and Vital Skills: How to be a Campus Missionary.
 
Keck and his wife Candace, married for 14 years, have two children and are in the process of adopting two more children from China, Starry reported.
 
Starry, in his nomination announcement, said the turnaround at First Baptist Kettering “is no doubt due to the work of God, which began as a result of the church’s renewed outward focus facilitated by prayer. Chad knows that without the power of God being poured out, nothing of eternal significance will happen.
 
“The prayers of FBC Kettering led them outward with a strong Great Commission focus,” Starry wrote. The church adopted the unreached Ci people group in Benin, West Africa, in 2012 and is supporting a pastors’ training school and planting seven churches there. In 2013 First Baptist became involved with the North American Mission Board’s Send North America church planting strategy in key cities, supporting Encounter Church in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in the Montreal area.
 
Keck is the first announced nominee for any of the SBC officer positions to be elected during the convention’s June 16-17 annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/9/2015 1:20:06 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Students in Kenya to hold day of prayer

April 9 2015 by Toni Braddix, IMB Communications

NAIROBI, Kenya – In an attempt to counter the fear, suspicion and anxiety that followed the April 2 terrorist attack at Garissa University in eastern Kenya, Christian students at the University of Nairobi are organizing a day of fasting and prayer on their campus.
 
A Christian worker in Kenya shared his belief that even terrorists can be reconciled to God. “The only way to stop terrorism is by the gospel transforming the would-be attackers,” he said. “As in the case of Paul the Apostle, these men once transformed could turn the world of terror upside down for the glory of God.”

 
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Screen capture from CBS News
The Al-Shabaab attack at Garissa University in northeastern Kenya, April 2, left 147 people dead and dozens wounded. In response to the attack, Christian students at the University of Nairobi plan to hold a day of fasting and prayer April 9 on their campus.

The Christian worker said Campus Baptist Fellowship, a new church plant at the University of Nairobi, is hosting the special day of prayer April 9. Fellowship leaders believe a war on terror requires unconventional tactics: fasting, prayer and evangelistic witness.
 
The Al-Shabaab attack last week that targeted Christians at Garissa University left 147 people dead and dozens wounded. The university, located 90 miles from the Somali border, is in an area of Kenya that has seen frequent Al-Shabaab attacks. The Somalia-based Islamist group has often targeted westerners, both tourists and expatriate residents, and the U.S. Embassy has had travel warnings for that part of Kenya in effect for more than two years.
 
The terrorist group claimed responsibility for the September 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, in which 67 people, including four terrorists, were killed. The mall plans to reopen in May.
 
The Christian worker said some of the students he knows around Kenya “claim to be living in fear, because no one can protect them.”
 
One student told the worker, “Anyone can just walk in off the street,” voicing a fear of many students that there are limitations in the security measures at universities around the country. The worker said the fear is compounded by many students’ belief that terrorists might have inside help from members of the student body.
 
One particular group, Kenyan Somalis, is being held in suspicion by other students because of their ethnic and religious ties to members of Al-Shabaab, the worker said. On April 3 after the Garissa attack, a mob of students formed on the University of Nairobi campus to voice what some might consider to be hate speech against Somali students.
 
No violence occurred, but the worker said the environment is dangerous for students of Somali descent. He said Campus Baptist Fellowship plans to double its efforts in reaching out to Somali students on the campus.
 
During the day of prayer, small prayer groups plan to fast and meet in dormitory rooms and off-campus housing, and a larger group will gather later in the day to pray.
 

Pray

Please join the students in praying for fellow students and others to find true peace that can only be found in Christ and for terror to be turned upside down by the gospel.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Toni Braddix writes for the London Bureau of Baptist Press.)

4/9/2015 12:37:00 PM by Toni Braddix, IMB Communications | with 0 comments



‘Pray for Marriage’ ERLC urges for Supreme Court

April 9 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is inviting Christians to pray regarding what might be a landmark decision on marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
The ERLC launched its Pray for Marriage initiative April 7, three weeks before the high court’s April 28 oral arguments involving same-sex marriage. The justices are expected to issue an opinion by late June or early July.
 
In asking Southern Baptists and others to pray, the ERLC pointed in a post on its website to the importance of the high court’s decision: “Before the Court is an up or down vote to redefine marriage. ... [W]hat the Supreme Court decides regarding whether to redefine marriage will be on the same historic level” as the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion, which legalized abortion throughout the country.
 
“The outcome of this decision will shape the landscape of the church’s ministry in the United States for generations to come,” according to the ERLC, “and it will have significant consequences on the future of religious liberty.”

 
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The ERLC and its president, Russell Moore, have signed on to friend-of-the-court briefs urging the justices to uphold the authority of states to limit marriage to a man and a woman. In its invitation to pray, the ERLC provided a sample prayer guide based on various biblical passages. In it, the entity asked Christians to:

  • “Pray that all people, including governing authorities, would honor the institution of marriage.

  • “Pray for the Supreme Court justices, that they would be receptive to the arguments being made passionately before them.

  • “Pray for lead attorneys who will be arguing on behalf of the states seeking to uphold marriage. Ask God to give them clarity and wisdom, for their arguments to be persuasive, and for God to give them favor before the justices.

  • “Pray for those who disagree with us, that God would help them understand and respect the opinions of those whose definition of marriage is grounded in the biblical witness.

  • “[P]ray and hope for the best but plan for [an adverse ruling]. Even in the event of a bad decision, marriage will always be what marriage truly is.”

At its website, the ERLC urged prayer by churches and organizations specifically on April 28 at 10 a.m. EDT, when the oral arguments begin. The entity also encouraged the use of a new avatar provided on its website for social media accounts and the inclusion of the hashtag #PrayForMarriage with posts. (The ERLC post and avatar are available at Pray for Marriage.)

The ERLC and Moore called for prayer not only for the preservation of biblical marriage by the Supreme Court but for the strengthening of the institution.
 
“[W]e need to pray that marriage will not be treated as if it were a tattered house standing in the way of government construction – there to be plowed out of the way in the name of progress,” Moore wrote in an April 7 blog post. “And yet, on the other hand, we must pray and ask God to give us wisdom so that moving forward we would be able to spell out with convictional kindness why marriage matters” in light of the gospel and of the difference in the sexes.
 
Moore also urged prayer for Jesus to “overcome the atrophy that we’ve allowed our own marriages and families to fall [into] for too long. The belief in our churches that culture was enough to keep marriages intact has been exposed as a disastrous folly.”
 
Most importantly, Moore said, Christians “must pray that, regardless of whether our land’s highest court recognizes the unchangeable or not, we will hold steadfast. We must love our neighbors enough to have the confidence of people who have heard a word from God and the compassion of a people who are on mission with God.”
 
The Supreme Court’s oral arguments will come in a case from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which became in November the first federal appellate court to rule that states have the authority to define marriage as only a heterosexual union. Five other appeals courts have invalidated state laws that prohibited gay marriage. The opinion by the Sixth Circuit Court, based in Cincinnati, took place in challenges to laws in the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
 
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 37 states, nearly tripling the 13 states where it was legal in mid-2013. It also is legal in the District of Columbia. Court rulings have produced legal gay marriage in more than two-thirds of those states.
 
The expansion of same-sex marriage has resulted in a growing clash between the rights of gay couples and the religious freedom of individuals and organizations. Florists, bakers, photographers and other business owners who have conscientious objections to providing their services for same-sex ceremonies have been penalized or are facing penalties for their refusal.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/9/2015 10:19:55 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



150 years after Appomattox: A redemptive surrender

April 9 2015 by Stephen Douglas Wilson, Baptist Press

Gen. Robert E. Lee arrived at the McLean House near Appomattox, Va., On April 9, 1865, to meet with Union commander Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant).
 
Nearly surrounded and with an undernourished army, Lee sought generous surrender terms from the Union army leader whose wartime nickname was “Unconditional Surrender Grant.” Both men knew that what they decided on here would set the tone for the nation after the grueling four-year Civil War.
 
The two men grew up in a United States that embraced a strong Christian worldview.
 
General Lee was a practicing Christian for most of his life and was confirmed in his Episcopal faith. He carried around a worn-out prayer book during the Civil War that was only replaced when he could no longer read the small print. He had freed his own slaves long before the war, retaining one of his freed slaves as his paid servant and confidant. Lee’s personal compassion for others as both a private citizen and an army commander was legendary. In addition, he later confessed to other Southerners after the war that he had prayed for his enemies during the conflict.

 
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Photo via Wikimedia Commons
A painting at the Appomattox Courthouse, now a national park, depicts Lee signing the surrender documents.

The faith of General Grant is harder to discern. At West Point, a youthful Grant revealed to others that he disliked attending chapel services. He was not a regular churchgoer, but did so occasionally at the request of his devout wife. Grant never publicly made his faith convictions known, although the Methodist pastor of his wife said that Grant had confessed Christ before his death. Grant eventually confessed to resigning his military commission prior to the Civil War in part because of drinking too much. After returning to the Army, his wartime record never included incidents of alcohol impacting his military performance, although the pre-war charge of insobriety resurfaced among his critics. Nevertheless, his memoirs reveal his Christian worldview and a desire to live a moral life. After the war when Grant was president, he signed the bill that made Christmas an official federal holiday.
 
Lee, dressed in his best uniform, arrived at the McLean residence first and waited for Grant to arrive. In a previous correspondence, Grant magnanimously told Lee to pick the meeting place and that he would meet him there. Grant entered the house in a mud-spattered field uniform that revealed his haste to get there. The two men exchanged pleasantries and discussed their common military service in the Mexican War.
 
Surprisingly, Grant could not bear to bring up the subject of surrender. He later related he was genuinely saddened by the plight of his Confederate enemies. It was Lee who gently nudged the Union general into that discussion.
 
In what must be described as one of the most Christ-like moments in American history, Grant then proceeded to propose a very gentle settlement for his enemies of the last four years.
 
Grant offered to parole Lee’s enlisted men only on their word not to take up arms against the United States ever again. Officers would have to sign a written parole vouching for their men. Enlisted men would have to give up their arms, but officers could keep their sidearms, horses and private property. Then the Union commander said each man could return home without fear of being imprisoned or prosecuted for treason.
 
In a brief discussion, Lee convinced Grant to let enlisted men keep the horses and mules they possessed to assist them in planting crops for that spring. Arrangements also were made for the hungry Confederates to be fed from Union storehouses. Lee, who realized that Grant’s terms were better than he had expected, conveyed his gratitude by saying to Grant, “This will have a very happy effect among the men and do much toward reconciling the country.”
 
Both men then shook hands and left. Lee rode back to Confederate lines; when Grant emerged from the McLean residence, Union troops began cheering, but the general rebuked them. “The Confederates are now our countrymen, and we do not want to exult over their downfall.”
 
Three days later, Lee’s entire army formally surrendered without incident. Each army showed the proper respect to each other; there is no record of a single Union soldier cheering for their victory or jeering their Confederate counterparts. Within two-and-a-half months, all other Confederate armies would surrender in like fashion. The Civil War was over.
 
For the rest of their lives, both Lee and Grant possessed a great respect for each other. Grant never spoke ill of Lee and later prevented federal authorities from charging Lee with treason as that would have violated the letter and spirit of the Appomattox peace.
 
Lee long remembered Grant’s generosity at Appomattox. Years later when a college faculty member at Washington College where Lee was the president spoke ill of Grant within hearing distance, Lee interjected, “Sir, if you dare presume to speak anything disrespectful of General Grant in my presence again, either you or I will sever your connection with this university.”
 
The spirit of Christ certainly had prevailed on that April day at Appomattox. It was on a Palm Sunday. As noted by an American historian, the men of both armies would all live to see Easter.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Stephen Douglas Wilson is an adjunct professor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College and a former member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.)

4/9/2015 10:08:57 AM by Stephen Douglas Wilson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptist colleges make mark on N.C. economy

April 8 2015 by BR staff & press releases

Baptist colleges help put more than $14 billion into the North Carolina economy and create more than 219,000 jobs.
 
Campbell, Chowan, Gardner-Webb, Mars Hill and Wingate universities, all affiliated with North Carolina Baptists, were part of the study of the 36 North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI).
 
Data collection covers the fiscal year 2012-2013. The study was commissioned by NCICU, the University of North Carolina System and the North Carolina Community College System.
 
“While the true contribution of Gardner-Webb University (GWU) is the positive impact on people’s lives, it is gratifying to know that the university makes a significant economic contribution to our region as well,” said GWU President Frank Bonner in a story on the school’s website.
 
“I suspect that many people will be pleasantly surprised both by the magnitude of this contribution and the various forms that it takes.”
 
Kristin Reese serves as executive director of the Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership (CCEDP) in Shelby, N.C., and believes GWU has also advanced the local economy in ways that were not measured by the study.
 
“GWU has been intimately involved in our regional, state and local economic development initiatives,” Reese shared in a report on GWU’s website.
 
“The university directly contributes to our CCEDP financial incentive packages by offering tuition credits to new and expanding companies. I’m unaware of any other private university that is contributing to economic development in this manner, and the tuition credits have brought significant value to our business recruitment efforts.”
 
The economic impact study examined numerous categories – employee data, revenues, expense and students – to assess the influence of the campuses at various independent colleges.
 
The study did not include state universities. The research breaks down the types of jobs created by the colleges and the students the schools educate as well as the incomes for various education levels.
 
It is the first multi-sector analysis of higher education’s impact on the state’s economy, and one of the most comprehensive reports of its kind ever done for a single state.
 
There are a number of variables that contributed to the study and its results. Researchers at each university helped track information for EMSI.
 
“Campbell University is one of the largest private employers in Harnett County,” said Campbell President Jerry Wallace in a story on the university’s website.
 
“With more than 700 full-time employees, 6,000 students on our campuses, and nearly 30,000 alumni in North Carolina, we knew we had an impact, but this study validates our value locally and across the state.”
 
During the 2012-13 fiscal year, Campbell had an impact of $452.4 million in the seven counties in central North Carolina it most directly serves: Harnett, Wake, Johnston, Cumberland, Lee, Durham and Chatham.
 
That impact includes payroll, operations, the purchase of goods and services, start-up companies, and spending generated by students and alumni. Campbell’s total impact is the equivalent of creating 7,055 new jobs, Campbell reported on its website.
 
“The economic benefits of a Campbell degree to our graduates represent the ability to lead a productive and self-sufficient life,” Wallace said.
 
“Over 80 percent of our students and alumni call North Carolina home, and Campbell offers programs in the health sciences, business, law, medicine, pharmacy, education, divinity and other disciplines that consumers demand and our state needs.”
 
With all 36 members of NCICU, the schools enrolled almost 90,000 students from around the world and generated a combined $14.2 billion in added state income. This includes more than $4 billion in payroll and benefits for 66,309 full-time and part-time employees and $6.8 billion on goods and services to carry out their day-to-day operations, research and clinical activities.
 
The rest comes from construction and the spending of their students, visitors, start-up companies, and alumni, which in turn creates more spending and employment across the
state.
 
The added state income, or additional gross state product, of $14.2 billion created by NCICU’s institutions is equal to approximately 3.2 percent of the total gross state product of North Carolina, and is equivalent to creating 219,590 new jobs. The findings are available at ncicu.org.

4/8/2015 12:14:57 PM by BR staff & press releases | with 0 comments



Moore: ‘Steep’ price for getting marriage wrong

April 8 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Supreme Court’s long-awaited decision on marriage is vital enough to call for two friend-of-the-court briefs, Southern Baptists’ lead ethics and religious freedom specialist decided.
 
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), led the entity to join other religious organizations in a brief in support of the biblical, traditional definition of marriage. He also signed on as an individual with other scholars to a brief defending the historic view of the institution.
 
The high court will hear oral arguments regarding same-sex marriage April 28. It is expected the justices will issue an opinion before they adjourn this summer. If so, gay marriage could be legal throughout the country by the end of June or states could maintain their authority to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
 
Moore acknowledged the enormity of the Supreme Court’s action.
 
“The stakes are high,” he told Baptist Press in a written statement. “The price of getting marriage wrong is steep, and as in the rest of the Sexual Revolution, children will foot much of the bill. It matters tremendously to our nation and to future generations that we agree with God on this.”
 
In the briefs, Moore said, the parties “are standing together for a truth as old as human civilization itself. The state did not create the family and cannot re-create it. We appeal to the Supreme Court to recognize and to stay within the limits of its authority. Marriage matters because marriage is about more than registering relationships at a courthouse. Marriage is about the common good and flourishing of society.”
 
It is even more than that for Christians, Moore said. “I believe with Jesus and the apostles that marriage points beyond creation to the gospel union of Christ and his church.”

 
twobriefs4-8-15.jpg

Russell Moore

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 37 states, nearly tripling the 13 states where it was legal in mid-2013. It also is legal in the District of Columbia. Court rulings have produced legal gay marriage in more than two-thirds of those states.
 
The high court’s April 28 oral arguments will come in a case from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which became in November the first federal appellate court to rule states have the authority to limit marriage to the union of a man and a woman. Five other appeals courts have invalidated state laws that prohibited gay marriage.
 
In their friend-of-the-court brief filed April 2, the ERLC and 18 other organizations contend a ruling by the justices mandating states recognize gay marriage “would generate church-state conflicts that will imperil vital religious liberties.” The U.S. Constitution does not require such an action by states, the brief says.
 
Their support of male-female marriage is not based on hostility or ignorance but “concern, conviction, and love,” the organizations say. The accusation that they and millions of other religious Americans defend traditional marriage out of religious bigotry against gays and lesbians is a slander that seeks “to intimidate and suppress public conversation on a complex issue by equating disagreement with hatred,” their brief contends.
 
“Laws reserving marriage for the union of a man and a woman were the universal rule in this country until a decade ago. They are not tokens of ignorance and bigotry now,” the organizations say in their brief.
 
Mandating gay marriage on the basis of hostility by objectors would not only erode religious liberty but would harm the constitutional rights of religious individuals and organizations, according to the brief. The religious free-exercise rights of voters and organizations that support traditional marriage laws “would be hollow if millions of religious persons were made second-class citizens because their basic beliefs and motivations – and thus any laws they support – are deemed tainted by animus,” the brief says.
 
Though they have theological disagreements, the organizations believe traditional marriage “is indispensable to the welfare of the American family and society.”
 
In addition to the ERLC, other organizations joining in the brief include the National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Assemblies of God, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Christian Legal Society, Brethren Church, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Wesleyan Church and Church of God, Cleveland, Tenn.
 
Moore signed onto a brief by Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, and Sherif Girgis, a co-author with George of What Is Marriage?, a book defending traditional marriage.
 
In the brief, the scholars argue the states in question that have restricted marriage to a male and a female have appropriately addressed “the equal dignity of self-identified members of sexual minority groups, a child’s entitlement to a mother and father, and a democratic polity’s right to self-determination” without producing conflicts.
 
Such marriage laws do not deny the “equal dignity” of each person, their brief says. Challengers to the Sixth Circuit opinion falsely believe the Constitution requires the government “to change its institutions expressly to affirm sexual minorities” and also misunderstand “the social purpose of marriage law, which never has functioned – and could never function – as a mechanism for affirming adults’ individual worth by recognizing any consensual bond of their choice,” according to the brief. “Accepting this view would have absurd logical implications and harmful effects.”
 
A Supreme Court ruling that strikes down traditional marriage laws could provide the basis for expanding the institution further, the scholars’ brief says. “If marriage law violates people’s dignity by leaving out the loving bond of their choice, no principled basis remains for limiting marriage to two-person or permanently committed bonds, or for limiting institutional recognition of sexual minority groups to gays and lesbians,” according to the brief.
 
The result would be harm to children, the brief contends. “[D]issolving the links between marriage and any historic marital norm besides consent ... could also spread the dignitary harms that children often suffer when deprived of the sense of identity and self-worth that can come from a stable bond to their own mother and father,” it says.
 
In addition to Moore, others among the 45 scholars signing onto the George-Girgis brief are Micah Watson, associate professor of political science at Union University; Francis Beckwith, professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Baylor University; J. Budziszewski, professor of government and philosophy at the University of Texas; Leon Kass, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago; Hadley Arkes, professor of jurisprudence at Amherst College; and Eugene Rivers, chief policy adviser to the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ.
 
Southern Baptist leaders joined in another friend-of-the-court brief defending male-female marriage, this one filed by the Liberty Institute. Among the signers were R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas; and Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
 
The Sixth Circuit’s opinion came in challenges to laws in the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Voters in those four states approved constitutional amendments between 2004 and 2006 that limited marriage to a man and a woman.
 
The Supreme Court has consolidated the four cases and limited consideration to two questions: (1) Does the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution require a state “to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” and (2) Does the 14th Amendment require a state “to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”
 
The court set the time for oral arguments on the first question at 90 minutes. It allotted one hour for arguments on the second question. Normally, oral arguments in a case are only an hour in length.
 
Courts have overwhelmingly issued opinions in favor of gay marriage since the Supreme Court struck down a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, saying it violated “equal protection” under the Constitution by refusing to recognize same-sex marriages. Though the high court refused to say states could not limit marriage to heterosexual couples, most courts have used the decision as a basis for striking down state laws that define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
 
The expansion of same-sex marriage has resulted in a growing clash between the rights of gay couples and the religious freedom of individuals and organizations. Florists, bakers, photographers and other business owners who have conscientious objections to providing their services for same-sex ceremonies have been penalized or are facing penalties for their refusal.
 
The case is Obergefell v. Hodges.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

Related Story:

Baptists sign SCOTUS gay marriage case brief

4/8/2015 12:05:13 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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