April 2019

BSC annual meeting features church planting commissioning

April 30 2019 by BSC Communications

With a focus on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, “God’s Great Work” is the theme for the 2019 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) annual meeting, which is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 11-12, at the Joseph H. Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.

This year’s meeting will feature a special church planting commissioning service on Monday evening, as well as an evangelistic emphasis during a Tuesday evening worship service related to the “Who’s Your One?” initiative within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Ronnie Floyd, newly elected president of the SBC’s executive committee, will preach during Tuesday evening’s service.
BSC President Steve Scoggins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, will highlight the significance of the connection between the Great Commission and the Great Commandment during his president’s address on Monday evening in conjunction with the church planting commissioning service. Scoggins plans to preach from Nehemiah 6:3.
The focus on “God’s Great Work” will continue throughout the annual meeting with worship, special presentations and ministry reports.
The meeting will also include business sessions, officer elections, breakout sessions, exhibits, resources for churches, pastors and church members, and more.
All sessions of the annual meeting are open to messengers from N.C. Baptist churches, as well as guests.
Larry Burns, chairman of the BSC’s Committee on Convention Meetings, which develops the theme and plans the schedule, encouraged all N.C. Baptists to attend this meeting and seek the Lord in prayer leading up to the event.
Burns serves as senior pastor of Mulberry Baptist Church in Gastonia.
N.C. Baptists are also invited to join in a 30-day prayer emphasis (ncbaptist.org/prayer-pray-for-30-days/) throughout October. Chris Schofield, director of the BSC’s Office of Prayer for Revival and Spiritual Awakening, is developing a devotional prayer guide for the prayer emphasis that will align with the theme. Prayer guides will be available by early fall. Additional details about the annual meeting, including the event schedule, hotel and travel information, will be available soon at ncannualmeeting.org.
The website will be updated with additional information such as the proposed 2020 Cooperative Program budget, breakout session descriptions, potential resolutions, business items and more leading up to the annual meeting.

4/30/2019 12:06:12 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Crowder devotes talents to ‘Jesus’ bride’

April 30 2019 by Maina Mwaura, Biblical Recorder

When David Crowder walks into a room, it is clear there is something different about him apart from his above-average height and manicured beard. It is the focus that he brings to everything he does, including his latest album, “I Know a Ghost.”

Baptist Press file photo by Bob Carey
Christian artist David Crowder sings “I’ll Fly Away” during Crossover Harvest America June 10, 2018, at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas. He also performed “All My Hope” and “I Saw the Light” to a crowd of 35,000.

Crowder, an award-winning Christian music artist, grew up in Texarkana, Texas.
He attended a Southern Baptist church on Sunday mornings and worshipped at a Pentecostal church with his parents on Sunday evenings, where he heard the term Holy Ghost quite often, he told the Biblical Recorder in an interview. For him, it was a unique experience. He looks back on those days with great fondness, recognizing how it shaped him as a praise and worship leader. Even after years of winning awards and accolades, he is comfortable leading praise and worship in a local church setting.
Remembering his upbringing with fondness, Crowder wanted his new album to reflect the heartbeat of Christians worshiping God freely, while at the same time helping them understand what they were claiming.
It wasn’t until the album was finished that he realized what the project’s title should communicate – that he had seen a ghost. He credited the name to his daily Bible reading. He noted how often the term Holy Ghost occurs in scripture.
One story that stood out to him was the story of the “prodigal son” in Luke 15:11-31, which is also one of the major themes in the album.
“I wanted people to walk away from the album being able to worship God freely,” he told the Recorder.
At the end of the day, Crowder is clear that he is not a performer, but a worship leader. It is what he feels created to do.
“I know that God has given me this gift,” said Crowder.
He views worship through the lens of the local church, which is why he believes God gives him the songs that he writes. He is clear that his music comes from God, and that it is intended for the local church, which he speaks about with affection.
Although Crowder has been leading worship for over two decades, it is still new for him to write and to perform worship music as a solo artist. After leading worship for many years with a group, Crowder was concerned he would not do well on his own.
“I didn’t know I was nervous about going solo until I had wrapped the album up,” he said. “I was terrified to be honest with you, but I think it’s good to feel uncomfortable at times.”
Although Crowder is currently touring, he remains passionate about his local church, Passion City Church in Atlanta, Ga. He believes being a part of a local church makes him a better worship leader. It is also where Crowder tries out new songs.
In a recent song release, “Red Letter,” Crowder wanted the music to reflect the word of God. Although he wants to serve listeners, he pays little attention to best-seller charts. According to Crowder, he has a deeper commitment to remain true to what God calls him to do. He wants to be known as one who loves Jesus and Jesus’ bride, the local church.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Maina Mwaura is a freelance journalist who lives in Atlanta, Ga., with his wife and daughter. They attend Johnson Ferry Baptist Church.)

4/30/2019 12:01:42 PM by Maina Mwaura, Biblical Recorder | with 0 comments

Mother’s Day Offering multiplies church’s ministry

April 30 2019 by Wake Forest Baptist Health

For attorney Bill Flowe, the recent Mother’s Day Offering at First Baptist Church in Liberty was all about being in the right place at the right time … and then, being intentional in connecting all the dots.

Screenshot from video
“This was our chance to be part of something bigger,” said Bill Flowe, a member of First Baptist Church in Liberty, N.C., about being part of the Mother’s Day Offering.

First there was the devastation of a church member after the death of a friend from cancer and the fundraiser to help the family pay off large medical bills. Second, Flowe learned the Mother’s Day Offering committee was all volunteers – laymen and ministers – who received no administrative costs and gave 100 percent of churches’ donated money directly to patients. The third was when a client approached Bill about honoring his deceased mother. It was divine intervention: Flowe told the client about his church’s Mother’s Day Offering and the client offered to match their contribution up to $1,000. 
First Baptist contributed $2240, more than doubling the anonymous challenge.
“This was our chance to be part of something bigger,” Flowe said. “A lot of folks in our church have mothers who have passed away, so they can’t give flowers or take Mom out to eat. What a great way to honor Mom in a meaningful way.”
Since 1924 North Carolina Baptists have given to the Mother’s Day Offering to “extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, especially to the needy.” Today, gifts continue that work to assist patients in financial need at Wake Forest Baptist Health.
First Baptist is no stranger to showing big love, says Interim Pastor Jim Wall. Members share meals with senior citizens at Liberty Village, help the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina buy a dental van, work with the church youth to cook and deliver food to those in need, transport people to appointments, and hope to grow a community garden.
“I think love is the bedrock of who we are and what we do as God’s people,” said Wall, a minister for 54 years who first gave to the Mother’s Day Offering as a child. ”This church is very loving, very giving. Jesus went into the world and ministered to a variety of people, not just one type. We try to live like that. We just try to glorify God.”
“God’s hand was in this,” Flowe said. “I was happy to be sitting at the intersection of these three things when He gave the gentle nudge.”

4/30/2019 11:52:15 AM by Wake Forest Baptist Health | with 0 comments

ERLC’s AI statement voices hope, concern

April 30 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) unveiled an evangelical Christian statement April 11 on artificial intelligence that expresses both hope and concern regarding the emerging technology.

ERLC photo
The ERLC hosted a panel discussion at the declaration’s release with, left to right, national security expert Megan Riess; Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy; ERLC President Russell Moore; and moderator Jason Thacker, ERLC creative director.

The ERLC issued the document – “Artificial Intelligence: An Evangelical Statement of Principles” – signed by nearly 70 Southern Baptist and other evangelical leaders during an event in Washington, D.C.
The statement comes at a time when artificial intelligence (AI) is growing in use with such products as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa to driverless cars and applications in such fields as business, finance, health care and the military. The new statement, a project of the ERLC’s Research Institute, is designed to help the church think about and engage AI from a biblical perspective. It affirms each human being is made in God’s image “with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation.” It also declares AI’s development “is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings.”
The statement acknowledges the risks involved if AI is used “without wisdom and care.” It says tools such as AI can “be designed and used in ways that dishonor God and devalue our fellow image-bearers.” The signers recognize, however, AI “will allow us to achieve unprecedented possibilities.”
ERLC President Russell Moore told those gathered for the declaration’s release, “What this statement does is to say artificial intelligence is an aspect of creativity and technology that will bring with it many, many good things and not simply in the economic arena.
“At the same time, we have very real and pressing moral and spiritual questions about the use of AI, the temptation to outsource moral decisions to algorithms, but also what happens when we lose a vision of what humanity actually is,” he said, adding the statement’s signers have “the deep conviction” that “human beings are not simply collections of data, that human beings are a mysterious and complex image-bearing of God Himself and that the incarnation of our God in the person of Jesus Christ ought to cause us to have a different way of seeing humanity and our fellow human beings.”
The statement – signed by pastors, ethicists, academics, and ministry and technology leaders – says, “Christians must not fear the future or any technological development because we know that God is, above all, sovereign over history, and that nothing will ever supplant the image of God in which human beings are created. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.”
Jason Thacker, the ERLC’s creative director and the project leader for the AI statement, said at the gathering AI “presents one of the greatest opportunities for human flourishing in our lifetime, but it also presents one of the greatest threats to human dignity that we’ll ever face.”
Technology such as AI is a tool God has given human beings to live out their callings, and “nowhere in scripture do you see the tool itself being condemned for being evil or bad,” Thacker said. “It is human beings that are evil and sinful and broken.”
Creating such tools “is good if it is used in the proper context of glorifying God and loving our neighbor,” he told the audience. The pursuit of AI must be driven “not from a place of fear or apathy but from a proper understanding of human dignity derived from the truth that every single human being is created in God’s image.”
The evangelical statement is “not a fearful document,” said Thacker, whose book on AI will be released in March 2020.
“It’s a document full of hope and looking forward and engaging with wisdom because we know the Author of all truth.”
At the event, Taylor Barkley, program officer for technology and innovation at the Charles Koch Institute, stressed the importance of focusing “on what AI really is rather than debate its fictional conceptions. But wisdom means looking at the potential benefits in light of known risks.”
The statement makes clear the distinction between humanity and AI, saying, “We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent.”
The document offers affirmations and denials in 12 articles, including on such categories as medicine, sexuality, work, privacy, security and war.
In addition to Moore and Thacker, the signers include SBC President J.D. Greear; Ronnie Floyd, president, SBC’s Executive Committee; Jim Daly, president, Focus on the Family; Darrell Bock, executive director for cultural engagement, Dallas Theological Seminary; Denny Burk, president, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; David Dockery, president, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Mark Galli, editor in chief, Christianity Today; Richard Land, president, Southern Evangelical Seminary; Samuel Oliver, president, Union University; Tripp Parker, senior manager, Amazon; Gabriel Salguero, president, National Latino Evangelical Coalition; pastors Matt Chandler, Fred Luter, James Merritt and Ray Ortlund; and speakers/authors Jackie Hill Perry and Trillia Newbell.

4/30/2019 11:46:36 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

IMB in Birmingham to inspire, show churches at work

April 29 2019 by IMB Staff

Every church has a role to play in reaching every nation with the gospel, the International Mission Board (IMB) urges. And during the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, the IMB will host an opportunity for Southern Baptists to help take the gospel to unreached people.

BP file photo by Matt Jones
Bandon Koro African Drum and Dance Ensemble performs at the International Mission Board's banquet at the 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

Nearly 3,000 languages still have no translation of scripture, IMB reports. At their exhibit, attendees can help fund a translation of the New Testament and pray for the 500,000 people in Southeast Asia who will have an opportunity to read the scriptures in their language for the first time. Visitors also will receive resources to help lead their churches to participate in international missions through going, praying and giving.
The annual meeting will feature a new missionary “Sending Celebration” Tuesday afternoon, June 11. Attendees will hear from current IMB missionaries, as well as new missionary appointees. Together, Southern Baptists will celebrate the cooperative sending of international missionaries. The IMB looks for this to be an “inspiring reminder of how God works through our churches as we work together to make disciples among unreached people.”
The IMB will host a dinner Monday night before the final session of the SBC Pastors’ Conference. The dinner will be in the Sheraton Hotel’s Birmingham Ballroom. Pre-ordered tickets can be picked up at IMB’s booth outside the Pastors’ Conference.
IMB partners with churches to “empower limitless missionary teams who are evangelizing, discipling, planting, and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.”

4/29/2019 12:02:37 PM by IMB Staff | with 0 comments

Sex abuse focus of ERLC at SBC meeting

April 29 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Sexual abuse will be in the spotlight for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting June 11-12 in Birmingham, Ala.

BP file photo by Matt Miller
Hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, panelists discuss “Gospel Sexuality in a #MeToo Culture,” at the 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas. Sexual abuse will be in the spotlight for the ERLC at this year’s convention in Birmingham.

On the eve of the SBC meeting, the ERLC will co-host with the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study a public conversation at 9 p.m. regarding the problem of sex abuse in Southern Baptist churches. SBC President J.D. Greear initiated the advisory study last year and is collaborating with the ERLC to help churches prevent sex abuse and minister to survivors of such abuse.
As a result of the partnership, a new curriculum – “Becoming a Church That Cares Well for the Abused” – will be unveiled at the SBC meeting. The material is designed to prepare pastors and other leaders to respond properly to initial abuse reports.
The ERLC’s work with the advisory study “is right at the heart of our assignment to assist churches in applying the moral and ethical teachings of scripture,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “Southern Baptists are determined for our churches to lead the way in protecting the vulnerable from predators.
“Much of our focus at this summer’s meeting in Birmingham follows up the charge the messengers entrusted to us last year in Dallas,” Moore said. “It is critical for all of us in this moment of SBC life to come together and provide the very best resources and recommendations possible to address this crisis in our communities.”
The June 10 conversation at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex – “Sexual Abuse and the Southern Baptist Convention” – will include Greear and Moore as panelists, as well as:

  • Rachael Denhollander, an attorney, advocate and abuse survivor who was the first gymnast to go public with charges against USA Gymnastics team doctor and serial abuser Larry Nassar, who is serving life in prison.

  • Beth Moore, a popular Bible teacher and survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

 Registration for the panel discussion is available at erlc.com/upcoming-events/sexual-abuse.
The free, video-based curriculum to be released at the SBC meeting will consist of four hours of training divided into 12 sessions. The 10-member team that is producing the curriculum includes Denhollander; Diane Langberg, a psychologist who is widely recognized for her 45 years of work with trauma and abuse victims; Mika Edmondson, pastor of New City Fellowship in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Andrea Munford, a lieutenant with the Michigan State University Police Department who was the lead investigator in the Nassar case; and Brad Hambrick, pastor of counseling at The Summit Church in the Raleigh/Durham, N.C., area. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church.
Sexual abuse and assault were significant issues before and during last June’s SBC meeting in Dallas. Two motions from messengers to address the problem were referred to the ERLC. In July, Greear announced the formation of the advisory study and the partnership with the ERLC in its work. Abuse survivors and their advocates, lawyers, pastors, law enforcement officials, counselors and denominational leaders – a majority of whom are women – are among those who have provided input in the study.
A report on the study to date is planned for this year’s SBC meeting.
In February, an investigative series by the Houston Chronicle, joined by the San Antonio Express-News, revealed some of the extent of the problem in the SBC. The investigation found 220 pastors and other leaders in Southern Baptist churches who had been convicted of or taken plea deals in sex crimes involving more than 700 victims.
In other ERLC-related developments at June’s SBC meeting:

– Updates on Psalm 139 Project placements will be provided at the ERLC’s exhibit and in Moore’s report to the convention. Psalm 139 is the ERLC’s ministry to help place ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers across the country.

– The new issue of Light magazine, which will focus on international religious liberty, will be available.

4/29/2019 11:57:28 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gospel focus for NAMB at SBC Birmingham

April 29 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

During the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) will emphasize how every aspect of its work involves sending the hope of the gospel throughout North America.

NAMB photo
During the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham, the North American Mission Board will emphasize how every aspect of its work involves sending the hope of the gospel throughout North America.

“Evangelism is at the heart of everything we do and drives our church planting and compassion ministry strategy,” said NAMB President Kevin Ezell. “It’s all about the gospel at the North American Mission Board.”
Crossover, the cooperative outreach initiative that takes place ahead of annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., will kick off on Wednesday, June 5 with a rally and training hosted by Johnny Hunt at The Church at Brook Hills. The Alabama Baptist Convention, local associations and churches will be mobilizing teams to go door-to-door on Saturday, June 8. (See related story.)
On Monday, June 10, NAMB will host its annual Send Luncheon in the concert hall at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex at 11:45 a.m.
“The main reason for our luncheon is to thank and encourage pastors,” Ezell said. “We hope they will walk away feeling blessed and appreciated.”
Attendance is free, but registration is required. Visit namb.net/events/send-luncheon-2019/ to register.
NAMB’s annual report to messengers at the annual meeting will take place on Tuesday morning, June 11. Ezell will share updates from NAMB’s evangelism and leadership ministry since the addition of Hunt as senior vice president. He will also report on the progress made by Send Network and Send Relief in the areas of church planting and compassion ministry.

NAMB photo
In the exhibit hall, NAMB will spotlight the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism campaign while also featuring its two ministry areas: Send Network and Send Relief.

The report will be followed by NAMB’s presentation, which will highlight some of the major ministry stories that have taken place over the last year and feature the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism initiative.
In the exhibit hall, NAMB will spotlight Who’s Your One? and collegiate mobilization, while also featuring its two ministry areas: Send Network and Send Relief. The exhibit will feature interactive opportunities to connect with NAMB’s ministries. Missionaries will also be available to discuss mobilization plans with pastors, churches and others to determine their next step for sending the gospel to North America.
At the Cooperative Program stage, NAMB leaders and missionaries will participate in panel discussions and conversations about how best to reach North America.

4/29/2019 11:50:01 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

Boy Scouts’ legal woes continue to mount

April 26 2019 by Kent Covington, WORLD Digital

The Boy Scouts of America could soon face more legal trouble over alleged sexual abuse. Several states are moving to adjust statute-of-limitations laws so more victims of past abuse can sue for damages.

New York passed a law allowing years-old lawsuits in August 2018, and New Jersey has one waiting for the governor’s signature. Similar bills are pending in Pennsylvania and California.
Attorney Tim Kosnoff, who has litigated sexual abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church, said April 23 that his team has signed up 189 clients from dozens of states for suits against the Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts began compiling “ineligible files” in the 1920s listing adult volunteers thought to pose a risk of child molestation. Anderson released a court deposition in New York this week stating that an expert hired by the Boy Scouts said she tallied nearly 8,000 individuals in the “ineligible files” as of January and more than 12,000 victims.
Abuse case settlements have already strained the Boy Scouts’ finances. The group said it’s exploring “all available options,” including Chapter 11 bankruptcy. See related Baptist Press report.

4/26/2019 1:44:56 PM by Kent Covington, WORLD Digital | with 0 comments

Judge dismisses suit against NAMB by ex-state exec

April 26 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

First Amendment legal precedent has been cited in a federal court’s dismissal of a lawsuit against the North American Mission Board (NAMB) by a former executive of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCDM).
Senior Judge Glen Davidson of the U.S. District Court Northern District of Mississippi ruled April 22 that a lawsuit by Will McRaney would require the court to determine religious elements in the case.
“That the Court cannot do,” Davidson wrote in a seven-page opinion.
Davidson, of the district court’s division in Aberdeen, Miss., addressed the three claims that McRaney made in his April 2017 lawsuit seeking unspecified punitive damages that NAMB had: defamed him and harmed his career with the Maryland/Delaware convention as executive director, leading to his termination in 2015; harmed his ministry by causing cancelation of a 2016 speaking engagement in Mississippi; and caused emotional distress by posting a photo of him at NAMB’s welcome desk describing him as an enemy of the mission board, which is based in Alpharetta, Ga.
Citing “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, rooted in the First Amendment’s free exercise clause,” Davidson wrote, “The Court dismisses this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”
The doctrine is “built out of numerous Supreme Court cases affirming that churches have the ‘power to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of such government as those of faith and doctrine,’” Davidson wrote, citing 1952 precedent from Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral of Russian Orthodox Church in N. Am.
Regarding McRaney’s claim that NAMB had defamed him and interfered with his employment, Davidson wrote, “Review of these claims will require the Court to determine why the BCMD fired McRaney – whether it was for a secular or religious purpose. It will require the Court to determine whether the NAMB’s actions were done ‘without right or justifiable cause’ – in other words, whether the NAMB had a valid religious reason for its actions. That the Court cannot do.”
Davidson noted the same issue with the canceled speaking engagement, stating, “That matter the Court cannot decide.”
Regarding McRaney’s claim of emotional distress from the photo and description as an enemy of NAMB, Davidson wrote, “Once again, to resolve these issues, the Court will need to make determinations about why the NAMB held these opinions of McRaney, and because the NAMB is a religious institution, the question will touch on matters of religious belief. The Court, therefore, finds that under the First Amendment it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate McRaney’s disputes.”
The state court where McRaney initially filed suit likewise would not be able to deliberate in such First Amendment matters, Davidson wrote. The case had been transferred to federal court under federal law permitting NAMB to make the request because the plaintiff and defendant were residents of different states.

4/26/2019 1:42:40 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Faith-based adoption agency loses appeal

April 26 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The struggle to protect the freedom of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies to practice their religious beliefs has suffered another setback.

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled April 22 the city of Philadelphia did not violate the religious freedom of Catholic Social Services (CSS) in deciding to halt referrals to the agency for foster homes licensed by CSS. The city took the action in 2018 because CSS does not place children with same-sex couples – as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals – based on its beliefs about marriage and sexuality.
In Michigan, meanwhile, Bethany Christian Services – a leading evangelical adoption and foster care agency – reversed a similar policy. It decided April 11 to abide by a recent state settlement and agreed to place children in LGBT homes. Bethany also changed its policy last year in Philadelphia to enable it to maintain its contract with the city.
In the Third Circuit case, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in support of CSS and foster parents who brought suit against the city.
ERLC President Russell Moore expressed his disappointment with the opinion and the trend of state and local governments penalizing faith-based providers that refuse to compromise their convictions.
“With the current state of adoption and foster care in our nation today, we need as many people working to facilitate these services as possible,” Moore told Baptist Press (BP) in a written statement. “The government should not appoint itself as evaluator of what constitutes acceptable theology for faith-based agencies.
“This concerted effort in the child welfare space to shut down service providers because they hold disfavored religious views is wrong,” he said. “As Americans, we need to come together, put aside politics and work to make sure as many children as possible are able to find loving homes.”
States appear evenly divided in the ongoing dispute between protecting the religious liberty of faith-based agencies or the rights of LGBT people.
In addition to Michigan, eight states and the District of Columbia have laws or policies that require child welfare agencies to place children with same-sex couples in adoption, foster care or both, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP). They are California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Nine states, MAP reports, have enacted measures that protect the right of agencies to abide by their religious or moral convictions in adoption and foster care: Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
CSS – which had worked with Philadelphia for more than 50 years to help provide foster care – filed suit last year when the city informed the agency it would no longer make referrals to the agency and would not renew its contract with the agency unless it changed its policy on LGBT placements. CSS’ stance violated Philadelphia’s non-discrimination policies, the city said.
In upholding a federal court’s ruling, the Third Circuit Court in Philadelphia declined to order the city to resume providing referrals to CSS. A three-judge panel rejected CSS’ contention the city had violated its rights under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise, Establishment and Free Speech clauses, as well as Pennsylvania’s Religious Freedom Protection Act.
“[T]he current record does not show religious persecution or bias,” the circuit court panel said. “Instead it shows so far the City’s good faith in its effort to enforce its laws against discrimination.”
Becket Senior Counsel Lori Windham called the Third Circuit’s decision “devastating to the hundreds of foster children who have been waiting for a family and to the dozens of parents working with Catholic Social Services who have been waiting to foster a child. We’re disappointed that the court decided to let the city place politics above the needs of kids and the rights of parents, but we will continue this fight.”
Becket represents CSS and the foster parents who brought the suit.
Bethany Christian Services shared the same policy on LGBT foster placements as CSS until Philadelphia threatened to end contracts with the agencies. In response, Bethany agreed to abide by the city’s non-discrimination requirement and place children in LGBT homes.
In Michigan, Bethany changed its policy in the wake of a controversial, lawsuit settlement disclosed March 22. State Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the settlement with two lesbian couples in their ACLU-represented lawsuit against Michigan as a result of the refusal of two state-contracted ministries – Bethany and St. Vincent Catholic Charities – to place children in their homes.
The settlement came despite a 2015 Michigan law that protects the rights of faith-based adoption agencies to decline to place children with same-sex couples because of their beliefs about marriage and the family.
At the time, the ERLC’s Moore said, “The egregiousness of the settlement is surpassed only by its short-sightedness. A state holding adoption agencies hostage will harm children who may now be denied loving homes.”
Bethany Christian Services’ national board of directors voted April 11 to change its policy as it applied to its contract in Michigan, not other states. Bethany said the change will not affect its private adoptions.
“We are disappointed with how this settlement agreement has been implemented by the state government,” Bethany said in a statement provided to BP. “The mission and beliefs of Bethany Christian Services have not changed. We are focused on demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by serving children in need, and we intend to continue doing so in Michigan.”
The ERLC has made a federal solution to the problem for faith-based agencies a priority in its legislative agenda. It worked for adoption of the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act last year, but the bill failed to gain passage. The ERLC is working again in this congressional session to gain support for the proposal, which would bar government discrimination against agencies that provide foster care and adoption services on the basis of their convictions.
MAP describes itself as a think tank that provides research to help hasten equality for LGBT people.

4/26/2019 1:39:40 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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