April 2017

School choice trouble in Texas

April 20 2017 by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service

Texas is one of 19 states considering legislation to create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) this year. Stephanie Matthews, senior education policy adviser for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, started the current legislative session optimistic over the chances of passing a universal ESA program, one open to all students. Now, though, entrenched political infighting has obliterated much of that hope.
On April 6, House lawmakers voted 103-44 to block any effort to use state education funds to pay for private schools. The vote, part of an amendment to the state budget, dealt a severe blow to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has made school choice one of his top priorities. The Senate passed a slimmed down version of a universal ESA bill in late March, but it appears to stand no chance in the House, where public school support remains strong.
Only a united conservative front could beat lobbying by the National Education Association against school choice measures, but unity has been fleeting. William Estrada, director of federal relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), strongly opposed the measure. He says homeschoolers’ educational freedom will disappear if they take government money: It only takes one instance of abuse for a lawmaker to insist homeschoolers need more regulation and government oversight, all in the name of protecting the public purse.
The Texas legislative session, held only once every two years, won’t end until May 29, so ESA supporters aren’t yet out of time to win over opponents.
But that won’t be easy, the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke acknowledges. New support for school choice from the Trump administration seems to have galvanized teachers unions and others who insist public schools need more money, not more competition. Burke believes school choice advocates can make inroads with public school supporters by emphasizing ESAs as a different way to deliver education funding, not a method for siphoning it away from local classrooms. Teachers might reconsider their opposition once they realize ESA funds could open opportunities for them to teach classes online, supplementing their income.
As for claims ESAs lack accountability, Burke notes decades of attempts to hold public school systems accountable have done nothing to improve outcomes or hold educators responsible for student success. Nor has more money made much difference. Since the 1970s, U.S. education spending has risen by nearly 200 percent while scores in reading and math have remained flat.
“If only public schools were as accountable as private schools, where parents who are dissatisfied can leave,” Burke lamented.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Jones writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

4/20/2017 11:48:16 AM by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Chibok parents praying, ‘groaning’ 3 years later

April 20 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Parents of the nearly 200 missing Chibok schoolgirls continue to pray with hope three years after Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped the girls from a government boarding school in Chibok.

BP file photo
Yakubu Nkiki Maina, right, shows a newspaper spread of the missing girls to Open Doors USA advocacy director Kristin Wright, who met with him in September 2015. Other Chibok fathers are in the background.

Of the 276 girls kidnapped in an overnight raid in the mostly Christian town, an estimated 195 remain missing after the April 14, 2014 attack on the Government Girls Secondary School. Some of the missing are feared dead; others have been forced to birth children of Boko Haram fighters believed hiding deep in the Sambisa Forest in Borno.
The Nigerian government has made progress in freeing some of the girls, negotiating the release of 21 in October of 2016. But parents and advocates say the remaining girls have been missing too long.
“Only a few parents got their daughters back,” Yana Galang, a parent of three missing girls, was quoted by CNN. “Over 100, including myself and my husband, are still groaning for … those who were not found.”
The 81 who have gained freedom are an increase over the 58 who had gained release by the time parents noted the second anniversary of the kidnapping in April, 2016. Since then, two additional girls have been found by the Nigerian army and 21 others have been freed through government negotiations.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim that Boko Haram has been weakened has done little to combat fear among parents and families of the missing, World Watch Monitor reported on the eve of the anniversary, noting a new wave of Boko Haram attacks near Chibok. About 23 parents have died of heart disease and many are sick from stress-related conditions, World Watch said.
“We feel deceived by the government,” Yakubu Nkeki Maina, a parent whose 18-year-old daughter is still missing, told World Watch. “Promises are made publicly but nothing is done to make this promise a reality. We are subjected to sleepless nights and pain [in our] hearts, which increases by the day. We feel cheated.
“It seems that we cannot count on the government,” Maina said. “We look up to God, Who is able to come to our rescue.”
Nigerian military troops are stationed in Chibok and 13 of the town’s schools have partially reopened, according to World Watch.
In one of his latest statements, Buhari said April 13 that “the government is in constant touch through negotiations, through local intelligence, to secure the release of the remaining girls and other abducted persons unharmed. … My appeal is that we must not lose hope on the return of our remaining schoolgirls.”
Buhari claimed in late 2016 a “technical defeat” of Boko Haram, saying the terrorists’ tactics had been reduced to sporadic suicide attacks, rather than having the military power to overtake towns and set up illegal caliphates that at one point covered 20,000 square miles. But Boko Haram continues to strike, with the towns of Mifah, Kautikari, Makalama and Balakle among its latest targets, World Watch said. The attacks displaced “scores of families” to Mbalala three miles from Chibok, World Watch said.
About a week after the October 2016 negotiated release of 21 Chibok schoolgirls, Boko Haram attacked a military base in northeast Nigeria and destroyed Goptari village, just six miles from Chibok.
Boko Haram has killed between 20,000 and 25,000 people since 2009, according to official estimates, and has displaced about 2.6 million others, creating a multifaceted humanitarian crisis in the region that has been termed the gravest in the world.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

4/20/2017 11:47:55 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Bible Answer Man’ embraces Eastern Orthodoxy

April 19 2017 by Ben Hawkins, The Pathway

“Bible Answer Man” Hank Hanegraaff has answered evangelicals’ questions about scripture and Christianity for nearly three decades in his nationally syndicated broadcast, but his recent decision to join the Orthodox church has left some Southern Baptists with more questions than answers.

Hank Hanegraaff

Among those assessing Hanegraaff’s decision are leaders of the Bott Radio Network (BRN), which has broadcast the “Bible Answer Man” since the 1980s – in fact, since before Hanegraaff joined the show in 1989.
“We want to make sure that our listeners know that the programming that we have on Bott Radio Network is thoroughly biblical,” said BRN President Richard P. Bott II, a member of Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan.
In a weekend email announcement, Bott said that beginning April 17 BRN would be removing the Bible Answer Man from its programming to accommodate a new late-afternoon lineup, featuring pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; David Barton, founder of Wallbuilders; pastor Chip Ingram of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, Calif.; Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee chairman Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla.; and pastor Charles Stanley of First Baptist Church in Atlanta.
“We live in strategic times,” Bott told Baptist Press (BP), adding that BRN is excited to offer a new lineup that he hopes will ultimately foster revival in this nation. BRN is striving to provide solid, biblical programs to encourage and challenge listeners, he said.
Hanegraaff, 67, and his wife Kathy became members of St. Niktarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, April 9, where they had attended services more than two years.
The following day, he confirmed online reports about his conversion to Orthodoxy during his radio broadcast, while also claiming that his teachings remain unchanged and faithful to scripture.
“I am as deeply committed to championing ‘mere Christianity’ and the essentials of the historic Christian faith as I have ever been,” Hanegraaff said during his April 10 broadcast.
“People are posting this notion that somehow or other I’ve walked away from the faith and am no longer a Christian,” he added during his April 11 broadcast. “Look, my views have been codified in 20 books, and my views have not changed.”
Despite his claims, news of Hanegraaff’s conversion “has raised a number of eyebrows, concerns and questions in the evangelical world,” said R. Philip Roberts, director for international theological education with the Global Ministries Foundation in Tennessee, who also teaches adjunctively at Truett-McConnell College in Georgia.
“Of course, the roots of Eastern Orthodox theology go back centuries – even to the ancient creeds, councils and church theologians,” Roberts said. “The problem is what has happened since then in terms of revisions and interpretations in Eastern Orthodox thinking by eastern mystical thinkers” involving “the biblical doctrines of God, Adam, humankind, sin and salvation.”
Orthodox Christians, nevertheless, have made much of their aura of antiquity.
For example, after thousands of evangelicals followed Campus Crusade staff member Peter Gillquist into Orthodoxy in the 1970s and ’80s, Metropolitan Philip Saliba – then head of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America – called Americans to “come home to the faith of Peter and Paul.”
Likewise, after news of Hanegraaff’s conversion, New York Times best-selling author Rod Dreher of The Benedict Option – himself a convert to Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism – congratulated him with these words: “What astounding news! Many evangelicals seek the early church; well, here it is, in Orthodoxy.”
Roberts and others doubt Orthodoxy’s claim to be the “early church” and to represent “the faith of Peter and Paul.”
“The problem is that Orthodoxy is, in most senses, not ancient enough. It is not based on sola scriptura – the Bible alone,” Roberts said. In reality, while Orthodoxy has roots in the ancient church, its particular ceremonies and theology developed gradually throughout the centuries. In 1054 A.D., a long history of linguistic, cultural, political and theological differences led to the “Great Schism” between Western, Latin-speaking Christianity – which would develop into the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions – and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Roberts and Paul Negrut, president of Emanuel Baptist University and Seminary in Oradea, Romania, point out that Orthodoxy isn’t actually a uniform brand of Christianity.
“The Orthodox world is not monolithic, and one cannot become Orthodox in general,” Negrut wrote in a 1998 article in the Christian Research Journal, a publication of Hanegraaff’s own Christian Research Institute. The one Orthodox church is actually several autonomous, though related, branches of Christianity: for example, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and what Negrut called the “Orthodox diaspora” – those Orthodox churches in Western Europe, the Americas, Africa, Japan, China and Australia. Moreover, within these branches of Orthodoxy, there exist theological and cultural divisions – thus breaking up the “romanticized, idealized [Orthodox] church” of western imagination, Negrut wrote.
According to Negrut, Orthodox theologians also suggest that church tradition – that is, decisions of church councils and the teachings of the Church Fathers – stands alongside scripture as a religious authority. In Orthodoxy, tradition completes scripture and vice versa, Negrut wrote.
Nevertheless, Hanegraaff told listeners that he believes in the supremacy of scripture during the same radio broadcast, April 10, in which he confirmed his conversion to Orthodoxy.
“In terms of sola scriptura, I’ve always been committed to the Bible as the infallible guide for faith and practice,” Hanegraaff said. “I think that’s what it means. It means that the Bible is infallible.
It was inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
Yet, he added, Christians “also have church history. And church history is very, very important because the practices of the early Christian church have been passed down to us. ... Men are not infallible. It is only scripture that ultimately is infallible. But we have a guide, an oral tradition that we are blessed to be able to follow as well.”
According to Roberts, Hanegraaff likely has accepted a Western version of Orthodoxy, interpreted through an evangelical lens. Whatever Hanegraaff’s understanding of Orthodoxy, Roberts said he can’t understand how Hanegraaff can endorse a branch of Christianity that currently teaches unbiblical doctrines and ceremonies, while in some places also persecuting evangelicals in Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe as well as the Mideast.
This, Roberts added, is a question that only the “Bible Answer Man” himself can answer.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ben Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

4/19/2017 9:08:04 AM by Ben Hawkins, The Pathway | with 3 comments

World’s oldest person: an ‘extra-precious’ Baptist

April 19 2017 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

What has the world’s oldest person, Violet Mosse-Brown, age 117, done nearly all her life?

Contributed photo
Violet Mosse-Brown, 117, a Jamaican Baptist, is now the world’s oldest person.

She has been a faithful, industrious church member, according to the Jamaica Baptist Reporter of the Jamaica Baptist Union.

Mosse-Brown, baptized at age 13, became the world’s oldest person after the April 15 death of Emma Morano of Italy, also 117. Morano was born on Nov. 29, 1899 and was the last living person born during the 1800s prior to her death. Mosse-Brown was born on March 30, 1900, in Duanvale in northwest Jamaica, 47 kilometers east of Montego Bay.
“I live by the grace of God and I am proud of my age!” Mosse-Brown told columnist Jean Lowrie Chin of the Jamaica Observer during a May 2016 visit in the home where the mother of six children has lived all her life.
Mosse-Brown’s 96-year-old son, Harold Fairweather, lives in the house as well, “widely believed to be the oldest person with a living parent,” Chin wrote.
“I love the church,” Mosse-Brown told The Gleaner, another Jamaican publication, in 2010, having made decades of “staunch contribution” at Trittonville Baptist Church in Duanvale.
The Waldensia-Trittonville Circuit of Baptist Churches honored Mosse-Brown as “their extra-precious super-centenarian whom they affectionately call Sister Vie or Sister Brown” during a celebration of her then-116 years of life, according to the January 2017 edition of the Jamaica Baptist Reporter.
“[T]he guest of honor was lauded and cited as a person of exemplary character and an ardent, dedicated and faithful servant of God, who served her church for more than 80 years in varying capacities,” the Baptist publication noted.
“She was also hailed as a mentor, historian, disciplinarian, business woman, outstanding church and community leader.”
The Jamaica Baptist Reporter article listed still more accolades, noting that participants at the celebration credited Mosse-Brown “for giving herself fully to the music and Christian education ministries of the church,” serving as its organist and choir director “for many years” and as a Sunday School teacher and deacon. (An article amplifying the Jamaica Baptist Union’s view of the deaconate also is in the January 2017 edition.)
Jamaican pastor Hariff Allison told the gathering, “She was instrumental in changing the roof of the church and adding an overnight facility for pastors. Back in the old days, the church had only visiting pastors and they would have to sleep in the church if they wanted to stay overnight or for a few days.” Mosse-Brown, the pastor said, “changed that situation by spearheading the people to build an adjoining room on to the church for accommodating visiting pastors.”

Photo courtesy of the Windsor Research Centre
Trittonville Baptist Church in Jamaica has been the recipient of Violet Mosse-Brown’s passion over the course of 117 years of life that make her the world’s oldest person.

Mosse-Brown may have been a Methodist for part of her life, an article in The Jamaica Online Star suggested 10 years ago, reporting that she met her husband Augustus, who died in 1978, when they were members of Fraserville Methodist Church in Duanvale.
Chin, of the Jamaica Observer, wrote that Mosse-Brown and her husband worked as cane farmers, and later she assisted him as the caretaker for a neighboring cemetery, keeping records in “beautiful handwriting [that] is a testament to the pride she took in her work.”
“Really and truly,” Mosse-Brown told The Gleaner, “when people ask what me eat and drink to live so long, I say to them that I eat everything, except pork and chicken, and I don’t drink rum and dem tings.”
Duanvale, incidentally, is in the same Jamaican parish, or district, Trelawny, where Olympian gold medalist Usain Bolt is from.
Trelawny is an inland region “which, from the air, looks lush with conical mountains and ferocious waterfalls,” travel writer Richard Moore of The Guardian of London recounted in 2015. “Up close it is even more spectacular, the roads narrow and [are] heavily potholed as they weave through the mogul-like hills and dense forest. ...”
The region’s coastal capital, Falmouth, 16 kilometers to the north of Duanvale, “with its dusty roads, crumbling buildings and hand-painted signs above shops – it is as if the clock stopped in 1810, when the town was in its colonial pomp,” Moore wrote.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/19/2017 8:55:32 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chonda Pierce’s ‘Enough’ in theaters April 25 only

April 19 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christian comedian Chonda Pierce likes to borrow a line from Lucille Ball, who proclaimed “I’m not funny; I’m brave.” Pierce considers herself brave enough to share the savory and unsavory aspects of her life in humor that heals the heart.

The touring comedy artist continues her transparency during the one-night-only documentary Enough on April 25 in 850 theaters in the U.S.
“We are still in a culture where thousands of women are trying to identify themselves with something, either to have a man, or to get the job they want, to be the size that culture is telling them they have to be,” Pierce told Baptist Press (BP). “So women are bombarded with this thought that I am not enough. I am less than.”
Pierce has only turned the corner in the last few months herself, she told BP, on her journey to thrive after the 2014 death of her husband David, who battled alcohol addiction during their 31-year marriage and died during surgery to treat a stroke.
You realize “that you’re breathing again and laughing again,” she said two weeks before the film’s release. “You just have to walk the road. There’s no easy way around it,” said Pierce, who has suffered abuse, depression, rejection and loss in her journey of 57 years.
“God is always faithful, and you have to stay faithful to Him, and you start breathing again.”
Pierce hopes the 90-minute film, continuing her story after the 2015 Laughing in the Dark documentary on her depression and other struggles, will help women see they are enough to live the life God has for them.
“I think that the feeding ground for Satan to grow into the mind of a woman is that you’re never going to measure up, when you and I both know that the great, beautiful, merciful side of Jesus is that we are now heirs to the King,” Pierce said. “We are a princess in His eyes. Our Daddy is the Big Daddy, the Mac Daddy.”
The film includes commentary from a circle of Pierce’s closest friends, her struggles and joys as a “widow” – a word used for “spiders and old ladies” – and a pre-recorded question-and-answer segment led by fellow comedian Mark Lowry.
Pierce’s struggles have taught her the source of her strength, whether she’s single, married or widowed.
“It has empowered me as a woman to know where my strength comes from when my lonely nights are here,” Pierce said. “He’s capable of being a comfort, and in that, it has taught me that I am enough to traverse life with someone, or without someone.“
Pierce, who has toured successfully for nearly 20 years of her 25-year career, finds it hard to believe that she was named in 2013 by the Recording Industry Association of America as the top-selling female comedian in history, including Christian and secular artists.
“We comedians, if we do our jobs well, we make it look like it’s so easy that anybody could do it,” she said. “But the truth of the matter is, it can sometimes be a difficult task. Clean comics and Christian comics, we don’t run to the well of bad words to shock our audience.
“We truly have to come up with a great storyline and a punchline and do it to the best of our ability. It takes some work,” she said. “And my hat’s off to anybody who’s been brave enough to especially make the body of Christ laugh.”
Tickets to Enough are available across the U.S. at chondamovie.com, with tickets to shows at the 115 former Carmike family of theaters in the South expected to be available closer to the viewing date, according to chondamovie.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Christian comedian Chonda Pierce’s second documentary film, “Enough,” will show for one night only on April 25 in more than 800 theaters in the U.S.)

4/19/2017 8:45:00 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

The sky is this summer’s biggest attraction

April 19 2017 by Sandy Barwick, WORLD News Service

Eclipse chasers around the world know where they’ll be on August 21, 2017.
On that day, the continental United States will experience a coast-to-coast total solar eclipse, starting in Oregon, through Wyoming, Missouri to South Carolina. The central path runs through a dozen states, though every continental state will see at least a partial eclipse. At the point of greatest duration in rural Illinois, the total eclipse will last 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
The last coast-to-coast total solar eclipse occurred in 1918. Court Priday, the proprietor of a Madras, Ore. inn, said it has been booked solid since 2012: “There isn’t a hotel vacancy within a three-hour radius.” Kayce Telles, a hotel representative in St. Joseph, Mo., received the first room request for eclipse weekend in 2013. She has taken calls from as far away as France, Italy and Japan.To boost tourism, savvy city chambers of commerce located along the path are promoting the eclipse on their websites, advertising eclipse-themed festivals and events with a countdown clock to August 21.
Sleeping under the stars is another popular – and economical – option for eclipse weekend.
Malou Watson manages a KOA campground near Murphy, N.C., in Nantahala National Forest that has been fully booked for eclipse weekend since January. “Hotels nearby have been calling us to see if we have any cabins available for overflow guests,” she said.
Casper, Wyo., a town of 60,000, is expected to swell to over 100,000 people on eclipse weekend. Morris Carter, who leads a wagon train tour, warns August tourists, “They’re going to have a tough time if they don’t get on it soon.” Jay Ryan, a former astronomy teacher and avid sky watcher, has been anticipating this event for 47 years, since as a young boy he missed seeing the solar eclipse that skirted the eastern United States in March 1970.
He’s arranged to travel eight hours to a Tennessee farm to have the best view within the narrow path of totality. While there, he will lead an educational program for a group of homeschool families.
Ryan hopes that many will come to know Christ after witnessing God’s invisible power in such a visible way. “Only the Lord can stir the individual heart,” he says, “but a total solar eclipse is known to be a personal, emotional event.” Author James Fenimore Cooper in 1806 wrote after experiencing a total solar eclipse, “Never have I beheld any spectacle which so plainly manifested the majesty of the Creator.”
Eclipse watchers should book accommodations if necessary, leave early – traffic is expected to be heavy on interstates – and don’t forget protective eyewear to prevent retina damage during the partial stages of the eclipse.
Ryan suggests, “If you’re in the path, invite someone over.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sandy Barwick writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

4/19/2017 8:35:31 AM by Sandy Barwick, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

German family continues fight to homeschool

April 19 2017 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

A German family punished for homeschooling their children has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Photo by ADF/International

Dirk and Petra Wunderlich submitted a final appeal last week asking the ECHR to protect their right to homeschool their four children. Home education has been banned in Germany since 1918 and carries criminal penalties.
In August 2013, a police squad used a battering ram to break into the Wunderlich home as the family started their first day of homeschool classes for the year. A group of more than 20 police officers and social workers forcefully took the four Wunderlich children, ages 7 to 14, out of the home without letting their parents say goodbye. The parents’ only offense was homeschooling.
Dirk and Petra afterwards asked authorities if they could leave Germany for France, where homeschooling is allowed, but were denied. When officials returned their children, they required them to attend a government-approved school. The family is now homeschooling again without backlash but remains in legal uncertainty.
“Children deserve the loving care and protection of their parents. It is a serious thing for a country to interfere with the parent-child bond, so it should only do so where there is a real risk of serious harm,” said Robert Clarke, director of European advocacy for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International and lead counsel for the family. “Petra and Dirk Wunderlich simply exercised their parental right to raise their children in line with their philosophical and religious convictions – something they believe they can do better in the home environment.”
Clarke noted that Germany was a signatory to major human rights treaties supporting the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children: “Germany has signed on to these treaties and yet continues to ignore its obligations with devastating consequences.”
The ECHR recently agreed to review the family’s case, Wunderlich v. Germany, specifically examining whether German authorities’ actions breached the “right to family life” protected in Article 8 of the European Convention on Family Rights.
The German government submitted replies to the ECHR in late January, claiming the children’s seizure was justified to force them to attend local school so they would learn how to deal with people who think differently. Previous court rulings in Germany have supported the ban on homeschooling, arguing education is a state function and the government has a compelling interest in preventing religious or ideological “parallel societies.”
In a similar case (see related story), the Romeike family had claimed persecution by the German government for homeschooling and requested asylum in the U.S. The Romeikes lost their court battle, but in 2014 the Department of Homeland Security granted them “indefinite deferred action status.” This allowed them to remain in the U.S. where they had relocated.
Homeschooling supporters and some legal experts continue to disagree with Germany’s stance on this issue.
“Children are born to parents, not governments, and Germany’s homeschooling policy is completely out of step with other free democracies that allow home education as part of their free and civil societies,” said Mike Donnelly, director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is also defending the Wunderlich family. “Human rights experts at the UN and scholars worldwide have found that home education is a natural, fundamental and protected human right. The court must hold Germany accountable to respect this.”
A decision in favor of the family would have wider implications for the parental rights of 800 million Europeans subject to ECHR rulings.
Supporters hope a victory will pressure Germany to align its legislation with the court ruling as well as spark public discourse to trigger change from within. Because the ECHR is a court of last resort, a defeat would likely mean the end of the Wunderlich’s fight for legal homeschooling in Germany.
“I sincerely hope the European Court of Human Rights will reaffirm that the state has no right to abduct children from their family just because they are being homeschooled,” said Dirk Wunderlich in a statement. “We chose to educate our children at home because we believe this to be the best environment for them to learn and thrive.”
The Wunderlichs hope to hear from the ECHR before the end of the year. A decision could come in as soon as a few weeks.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used with permission.)

4/19/2017 8:25:14 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 2 comments

Hemphill named director of N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell

April 18 2017 by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications

Brian Hemphill, longtime staff member and the current assistant director of the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, will assume the role of the assembly’s director effective June 1.

BSC photo
Rick Holbrook, left, is leaving the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell in Brian Hemphill’s hands. “Brian understands what makes Fort Caswell unique and why it is a special place for North Carolina Baptists,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s executive director-treasurer.

The staff change will take place following the retirement of Rick Holbrook, who has served as Caswell’s director for the past 32 years. Holbrook is retiring May 31.
Hemphill’s promotion follows 24 years of full-time service in various roles at Fort Caswell. During his time at Caswell, Hemphill has served as a summer staffer, summer staff coordinator, director of guest services and programs and, most recently, assistant director.
“I am extremely honored and excited to be offered this opportunity,” Hemphill said. “Fort Caswell has been such a special place to me and my entire family. Over the years and through each of my experiences here, one thing has remained true – God works in and through the lives of groups and individuals who come through these gates.”
Caswell has always played a significant role in Hemphill’s life, even before he became a staff member. Hemphill’s father and grandfather both came to Caswell regularly, and Hemphill remembers making his first trip to Caswell with his family as a young boy.
Hemphill has witnessed first-hand how God has moved in his life and the lives of others through Caswell’s ministries. He grew up seeing the lives of the youth in his church transformed after visiting Caswell, and Caswell is where Hemphill answered a call to full-time ministry.
Those experiences with his family, church and staff members have prepared him to follow in Holbrook’s footsteps as director, Hemphill said.
“Rick has been a great mentor and example for me during all my years at Caswell,” Hemphill said. “The joy and passion he has for working in the ministry of Fort Caswell is contagious. He has always been supportive and encouraging of new ideas and programs that has allowed the ministry here to grow.”
John Butler, executive leader for business services at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) whose office oversees Caswell and the BSC’s other camps and conference centers, said Hemphill was a natural choice to succeed Holbrook.
“Brian is passionate about Caswell, and he is more than prepared to take on the task of serving as the assembly’s director,” Butler said. “It is our joy to see Brian continue the work that God has set out for him through this new role.”
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, shared Butler’s sentiments.
“Church leaders who have taken groups to Caswell through the years will recognize Brian’s ability to help create an atmosphere and an environment for God to work in the lives of all who attend ministry events there,” Hollifield said. “Brian understands what makes Fort Caswell unique and why it is a special place for North Carolina Baptists. Brian’s experience in all aspects of Caswell’s operations along with his strong passion for ministry make him well prepared to assume this new leadership role.”
Hemphill is a native of Thomasville, and with his wife, Heather, they have three sons. The Hemphills are active members of Beach Road Baptist Church in Southport.

4/18/2017 9:10:24 AM by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

WMU-NC reaches out ‘By Any Means’

April 18 2017 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Being raised in the church, Ruth Ripken decided at age 8 that she would be a missionary when she grew up. At age 12, she presented a term paper about going to Africa and began writing an annual letter to the International Mission Board (Foreign Mission Board at the time) about her desire and availability to go.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Ruth Ripken, veteran missionary, was among the speakers at the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina’s March 24-25 meeting. See BRnow.org/Photo-Gallery for more photos.

“It wasn’t that I was weird, I was wanting to do what God wanted me to do,” she said.
For its 126th annual meeting, also known as Missions Extravaganza, the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) talked about the persecuted church and featured Ripken, who, along with her husband, Nik, participated in “The Insanity of God” documentary and book with the same name. Nik Ripken also authored The Insanity of Obedience. Nik and Ruth were originally scheduled together but he had to have surgery.
The Ripkens have been to 72 countries and interviewed more than 600 people who have been persecuted on various levels. Some of those discussions made their way into the books and the documentary.
Highlighting the theme “By Any Means,” the two-day conference March 24-25, which was hosted by First Baptist Church in Greensboro, drew on 1 Corinthians 9:22b-23 – “… I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
With 585 registered, participants also heard from Linda Cooper, National WMU president from Kentucky; Lottie Moon, portrayed by Rosalie Hunt; WMU-NC leaders and missionaries. Cindy Johnson and Stage 2 Ministries led the music.
It was women in WMU that taught Ruth as a GA and an Acteen about missions.
The Ripkens’ first assignment was in Malawi. They saw God do amazing things. “We were seeing people baptized every weekend,” she said. “Every week a church was being planted. Every time we drove down the road, we had new opportunity to share about Christ.”
When their entire family was struck with malaria, the doctors told the family they would have to leave. Ruth had always been called to Africa. Malawi was that answer to her childhood prayer.
“I was struggling,” while Nik was ready for the next adventure, she said. “I needed to be in Malawi so I could see how fruit grew and churches started.”
The next assignment – South Africa – brought Ruth to another realization. “I needed to go to South Africa because I needed to see what racism does when it takes over a whole country, and I needed to realize that racism is the greatest hindrance to the gospel, and it’s time for us to grasp that, and that’s why God took us to South Africa during apartheid,” she said.
Somalia was next. “Each morning as we worked in Somalia, we buried 20 babies who had died in the night of starvation,” said Ruth. “The urgency of the gospel is a reality, and we have the greatest news in all the world.”
The Good News Christians have is for “anyone and everyone,” she emphasized.
The body of Christ is connected around the world, she said. “When you smash the finger, your whole body hurts,” she said. “When part of my hand is hurting, we should all be hurting. We are not the body of Christ in freedom and a body of Christ in persecution. We are just the body of Christ. At all times we are persecuted, and at all times we are victorious.”
She reminded the women that it’s about obedience. She shared four things that every body of Christ needs that she learned from Al Gilbert, former North Carolina pastor and executive director of church mobilization at the North American Mission Board:

  • Those who go.
  • Those who send.
  • Those who help those who want to go to go.
  • Those who welcome the nations in our midst.

She added another item to Gilbert’s list: those who pray. “I want to thank you on behalf of them,” she said of the persecuted believers. “They cannot believe they have not been forgotten. Every believer falls down; you know that, but every believer in persecution gets knocked down.
“Even Jesus could not carry that cross all the way to Calvary.”

‘By Any Means’

Quoting Matthew 28:19-20, Cooper said the Great Commission is “not the great suggestion. [Jesus] said to go.”
As a dental hygienist, Cooper is able to share Jesus with her patients.
Wielding sharp tools, Cooper joked that she had a captive audience in her dental chair. After all, “the lost are not knocking down our church doors to get in,” said Cooper. “Yes, there is vast lostness in our world, and it can be overwhelming, but each one of us can make difference in the ones who God puts in our path every day.”
“We must ask the hard questions,” she said, “Are we willing to do whatever it takes, by all means, to see lost people come to faith in Christ?’ Will you be faithful to His call on your life? Will you say, ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some?’”
All any believer really needs to know, Cooper said, is what they can learn from preschoolers being taught in churches:

  • God loves me.
  • God loves all the people of the world.
  • Some people don’t know that God loves them, so God wants me to tell them.

She recounted a trip to a nursing home. As Cooper would begin quoting a scripture, one of the residents would finish the verse. She didn’t seem cognizant of what was really going on, but with the scripture Cooper quoted, that woman’s memory was triggered, remembering the verses she learned as a Girl in Action (GA).
“What we do in WMU really does matter, and it matters for eternity,” she stressed. “We are most like Jesus when we allow His love to flow from us to the people He puts in our path every day.”
Most believers “must focus on sharing or serving the gospel where we are with the people we know or with those in our community whom we are intentionally trying to reach,” she said. “God wants you to share with those He puts in your path.”


Ladies voted to move the dates of the 2018 and 2019 annual meeting and set dates for 2020 during its business meeting March 25.
The annual meeting is generally planned near the Baptists on Mission and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina meetings, but Amy Pardue Boone, WMU-NC executive director-treasurer, made a motion to move the 2018 and 2019 meetings to the last weekend in April.
For 2018, the meeting will be April 27-28, and the 2019 meeting will be April 26-27. WMU-NC is required to vote on the annual meeting dates three years in advance. The 2020 dates are set for April 24-25.
“We believe our date coming between those two dates makes it very difficult for you to go to two or three events,” said Boone.
Dee Dee Moody, WMU-NC president, was re-elected, along with fellow officers: Deborah Taylor, vice president; Mary Ellen Bowman, vice president of development; Barbara Hill, recording secretary; and Beth McDonald, assistant recording secretary.
Women elected to the WMU-NC board include: Jeanette Tinkham and Frances Baker, Region 1; Beverly Butler, Region 2; Jessica Hatcher, Region 4; Julia “Cookie” Hamilton, Kim Bounds and Carole Lowman, Region 5; Sandy Page, Region 6; Sharon Poindexter, Region 7; and Angie Fowler Reid, Region 9.

Mary Ellen Bowman highlighted the many ways women can give to the organization and pointed people to the website to use videos to share with their churches.
Beth McDonald led a time of recognition for Bob and Julie Navey who have served at Camp Mundo Vista in Sophia. They celebrate 25 years of service this year.
In her executive director-treasurer report, Boone, introduced the WMU-NC staff and highlighted some of the many ministries, including a large Bible study library that is available for churches to borrow as well as Missions Carolina, a family-oriented day- or weeklong camp held this year at Camp Mundo Vista in June. The camp will celebrate 50 years in 2018.
She thanked WMU for giving around $10,000 to Hurricane Matthew relief efforts.
“We know that is a drop in the bucket when you have to replace everything that you own, but it is a start,” she said.
An offering raised $6,500 for ministries of WMU-NC.
Visit wmunc.org.

4/18/2017 9:04:51 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Brad Graves to be Pastors’ Conference nominee

April 18 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Brad Graves, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ada, Okla., will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference, according to an announcement by Missouri pastor Malachi O’Brien.

Brad Graves

O’Brien, SBC second vice president and pastor of prayer and church revitalization at First Baptist Church in Raytown, Mo., stated in an April 13 announcement to Baptist Press (BP) Graves “is a leader that God is using mightily.”
“Just recently, First Baptist Church of Ada experienced the presence of God in historic measure,” O’Brien said. “During the Ada Awakening, they saw 200 people come to faith in Christ and more people baptized in a few short weeks than their church had seen in the last two and a half years combined. They saw several hundred students gather to worship, and the revival has made an impact across that community.”
BP reported in March that a multi-day event in February called “Awaken Ada” yielded more than 65 baptisms. The congregation told BP April 17 it has recorded 103 baptisms thus far in 2017 – up from 29 during the entire preceding year, according to data from the SBC’s Annual Church Profile (ACP). The congregation’s reported average attendance of 550 in 2016 has increased to approximately 700, the church said.
A former North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planter in California, Graves served in 2005-06 as director of new church plants for NAMB’s Strategic Focus City initiative in Cleveland. He has pastored or served on staff at churches in Missouri, Arkansas, New Hampshire and Virginia.
Graves’ pastorate at Calvary Baptist Church in Joplin, Mo., coincided with an EF5 tornado that struck the city in 2011, killing 158 people. In response, Graves “led his church to be a major contributor to restoring his broken city,” O’Brien said.
The Pastors’ Conference, which features messages from key leaders and inspirational music and worship, will be June 11-12 at the Phoenix Convention Center preceding the SBC’s June 13-14 annual meeting there.
Dallas will be the site of next year’s Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting.
O’Brien said Graves “is highly relatable. He is a leader. He is a rebuilder. He has the heart of a pastor. He has the heart of a church planter. He understands the needs of pastors of large and small churches, missionaries and denomination[al] employees. He has a spectrum of experience that leads him to identify with all the diversity within our denomination.”
First Baptist gave 12 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program in 2016, according to ACP data confirmed by the church.
Graves earned a bachelor of arts degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s undergraduate college and is pursuing a master of divinity at Southeastern.
He and his wife Becky have four children. The death of a fifth child prompted Becky Graves to start a ministry for families who have experienced the loss of an infant or unborn child.
Graves’ nomination is the first to be announced for the SBC Pastors’ Conference.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/18/2017 8:54:24 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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