December 2015

SBU upholds professor's firing, affirms BF&M

January 25 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Trustees at Southwest Baptist University (SBU) have affirmed both the firing of a former SBU theology professor and the trustee board’s commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).

Photo from SBU
Trustees at Southwest Baptist University have affirmed both the firing of a former SBU theology professor and the trustee board's commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message.

The board’s actions were announced in a series of SBU news releases Jan. 22-24. The BF&M affirmation occurred during a Jan. 22 special called trustee meeting on SBU’s Bolivar, Mo., campus. The professor’s firing was affirmed prior to the meeting by a trustee subcommittee and announced via a university news release Jan. 23.
During the special called meeting, trustees also censured and excluded one trustee from the board because fellow trustees “felt our trust had been violated by the board member’s actions.” Neither the board member’s name nor the actions in question were specified in a news release announcing the decision.
Clint Bass, the terminated theology professor at issue, had appealed his Nov. 28 firing to the board, whose five-member Educational Policies and Personnel Committee met with him Dec. 21. An online petition supporting Bass claims he ran afoul of SBU administrators after informing the administration “of his concerns about the doctrinal instability” of SBU’s Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry.
Bass told Baptist Press Jan. 24 in a statement, “As there is nothing impossible with our God, I had high hopes going into the [appeal] ‘hearing’ [with trustees]. I had prayed earnestly that the subcommittee would consider the evidence with seriousness. It soon became clear that they had not digested” evidence “corroborating my claims that there is a lack of doctrinal alignment between some faculty at Redford College and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”
SBU President Eric Turner has accused Bass, among other violations of faculty policy, of “collecting evidence and ascribing views to [faculty colleagues] without personal interaction” and “use of non-credible information to formulate accusations against fellow faculty members.”
The petition supporting Bass contains links to documents claiming to provide evidence of deviations by SBU faculty from the biblical doctrines of scripture, hell and justification by faith among other points of Baptist theology.
According to the Jan. 23 SBU news release, Bass’s dismissal was upheld by unanimous vote of the Educational Policies and Personnel Committee. “The dismissal is based upon conduct that was in violation of the Faculty Handbook,” the release stated. “Employee dismissals always are carefully considered and conducted in accordance with University policies and procedures.”
A Jan. 24 SBU release stated the full board “voted to affirm its longstanding commitment to traditional Baptist theology, including the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.” All Redford College faculty previously made an “affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” according to the release.
In addition, the board “voted to formally accept” the commissioning of an external Peer Assessment Committee chaired by Trinity International University President David Dockery, the release stated. The university announced the external committee earlier this month and said it would conduct “evaluations regarding orthodoxy” at SBU.
Trustee vice chair Ryan Palmer said in a Jan. 24 release, “We want to reassure Missouri Baptists that our board stands for the same core Biblical values that we all believe and share. We are all committed Missouri Baptists.”
Regarding the excluded trustee, board chair Mark Rains stated in a Jan. 22 release, “Serving on the Board of Trustees is a serious responsibility, and trustees cannot have divided loyalties. The SBU Board of Trustees Conflict of Interest Policy states, ‘Any member who has a conflict of interest, actual or perceived, shall be disqualified from service as a trustee.’ We felt our trust had been violated by the board member’s actions.”
SBU is affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention.

1/25/2019 1:51:03 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Waggoner at EFL: Pro-lifers can be optimistic

January 25 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Pro-life Americans have cause to be encouraged because of God’s nature and developments in state legislatures, federal courts and the culture, said leading life and liberty lawyer Kristen Waggoner.

Photo submitted
The ERLC presented its annual John Leland Religious Liberty Award to Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the United States legal division of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Waggoner offered her assessment of the pro-life cause Jan. 17 during the fourth annual Evangelicals for Life conference sponsored by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The two-day conference was held Jan. 16-17 at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.
The ERLC took the occasion to present its annual John Leland Religious Liberty Award to Waggoner, senior vice president of the United States legal division of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
“I don’t know how you couldn’t be optimistic,” Waggoner told attendees during an interview conducted by Travis Wussow, the ERLC’s general counsel and vice president for public policy. “There’s just a whole lot of reasons to be optimistic about where the movement is going and that hopefully we’ll not just get to a place where the law says abortion is wrong but where we have a pro-life culture where it’s unthinkable.”
She provided the following among reasons for pro-life optimism:

  • “First of all, we serve a God that knows man from the beginning, and it’s His desire to protect” human beings.

  • Public opinion surveys show millennials are more pro-life than their parents, and “that trend will continue as technology advances with 4D ultrasound.”

  • More states realize “the harm that abortion causes” and want to provide protection from such harms.

  • Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court the past two years, appear to be originalists – judges who interpret the Constitution based on its initial meaning.

During the last two years, the U.S. Senate also has approved 30 circuit court judges and 53 district court judges whom pro-lifers can be hopeful about.
 “So we’re filled with resilience; we’re filled with joy,” Waggoner said. “[N]o matter what circumstances look like, we’re people of hope.”
The November election provided “a mixed result,” she acknowledged. “Those who advocate for abortion definitely made some significant in-roads in this last election, but I think we do want to remember that pro-life lawmakers still hold a majority of states.”
It is still possible for states to pass “meaningful legislation that protects women and children, and that’s encouraging,” Waggoner told the audience.
Pro-life opportunities in Congress are not as hopeful, she admitted. Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress in the previous session, but Democrats, who are committed as a party to abortion rights, won a majority in the House of Representatives in November.
“It is disheartening,” Waggoner said. “We had an opportunity that I think in some ways passed, but we also ... don’t know around the corner what God will provide. But we do know it will be difficult for pro-life legislation to get through the Congress this year.”
A goal of the pro-life movement is the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court opinion that struck down state abortion bans and legalized the procedure throughout the country.
“In terms of strategy, we need to have Roe overturned,” Waggoner told the audience. “Roe constitutionalized a right to abortion.
“We also at the same time need to be protecting religious freedom and protecting free speech,” she said, adding it will be difficult to advocate for the pro-life view if “we can’t speak about it.”
The Supreme Court has the opportunity this year, Waggoner said, to review three pro-life state laws that have been challenged: (1) An Indiana prohibition on abortions for reasons of sex or disability; (2) an Indiana requirement of an ultrasound test for the mother at least 18 hours before an abortion; and (3) an Alabama ban on “dismemberment” abortions.
ERLC President Russell Moore told the audience Waggoner was an “obvious choice” this year for the entity’s annual Religious Liberty Award.
During the last year, she “has been tireless and relentless in advocating for religious freedom,” Moore said in presenting Waggoner with a plaque. “She won a case that was not only significant for the people that she represented and for the people who were standing with them, [but] also important ultimately for the people who were upset about it and protesting it.”
In the Supreme Court’s most recent term, Waggoner argued before the justices on behalf of Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop in an important religious freedom case. The justices ruled in a 7-2 decision the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the religious free exercise clause of the First Amendment by penalizing Phillips for declining to design and decorate a cake for the wedding of two men.
Leland – whom the ERLC’s Religious Liberty Award is named in honor of – was a Baptist pastor in Colonial America who was instrumental in helping secure religious freedom in the Constitution’s First Amendment.

1/25/2019 1:50:46 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gateway hosts first Jonathan Edwards conference

January 25 2019 by Gateway Communications

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary hosted its inaugural conference Jan. 15-16 at the Ontario, Calif., campus.

Photo submitted
A panel of scholars discusses the vision for the new Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary, from left, Adriaan Neele, director of the JEC South Africa; Mark Rogers, pastor of Fellowship in the Pass Church in Beaumont, Calif.; Robert Caldwell, associate professor of church history at Southwestern Seminary; Ken Minkema, executive director of JEC at Yale University; and Oliver Crisp, professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Rogers, Caldwell, Minkema and Crisp serve on Gateway Seminary's JEC advisory board.

The conference theme was “Regeneration, Revival and Creation: Religious Experience and the Purposes of God in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards.”
The gathering included a dinner and panel discussion on Jan. 15 and three plenary sessions and 10 breakout session options on Jan. 16.
Topics and speakers for the three plenary sessions were:
– “The Most Important Thing in the World: Jonathan Edwards on Rebirth and Its Implications for Christian Life and Thought,” presented by Douglas Sweeney, distinguished professor of church history and the history of Christian thought and director of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s Jonathan Edwards Center.
– “The Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom in the World: Jonathan Edwards and the Concert of Prayer for Revival: Origins and Legacy,” presented by Michael Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality and director of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.
– “Jonathan Edwards on Creation and Divine Ideas,” presented by Oliver Crisp, professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and a professorial fellow at the University of St. Andrews’ Institute for Analytic and Exegetical Theology.
Gateway announced its affiliation with Yale University in October 2017 to create its Jonathan Edwards Center (JEC) because of increased interest from scholars on the West Coast. Located in the seminary’s library, it is one of 10 globally – with three in the U.S. – to offer resources for Edwardsean study. Chris Chun, Gateway’s chair of history and theological studies and associate professor of church history, serves as director of the seminary’s JEC.
Chun noted that each center has its own emphasis, with the focus of the JEC at Gateway – since it is a Baptist institution – on Jonathan Edwards and Baptist tradition.
“I have a number of Ph.D. students working with me on Edwards and Edwardsean Baptists such as Andrew Fuller, William Carey, Charles Spurgeon and Adoniram and Ann Judson,” Chun said. “But our goal is not to serve just Baptists but to serve scholars on the West Coast in general in this important area of study.”
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a pastor, revivalist, Christian philosopher, missionary and president of what is now Princeton University. Widely regarded as one of America’s greatest theologians, he is the subject of scholarly interest because of his effect on the country’s religious, political and intellectual landscapes.
“I view the Edwards study efforts as a fellowship,” said Ken Minkema, executive director of JEC at Yale University. “It is a concerted effort. It is very much an assortment and a collection of people passionate about Edwards and related topics about his legacy.”
Chun said he believes Gateway’s JEC will benefit the seminary in general, explaining, “We hope to strengthen our doctoral program as well as our visiting scholar program through networking with this community.”
The conference marked the official opening of the JEC on Gateway’s campus. John Shouse, professor of Christian theology, donated much of its furnishings and was honored during a brief ceremony. An acrylic painting of Edwards by Oliver Crisp, commissioned by the JEC at Gateway, was unveiled, which Shouse said is the showpiece of the room.
Essays from conference presentations will be collected and published in a book co-edited by Chun and Kyle Strobel, associate professor of spiritual theology at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. The painting of Edwards will be pictured on the cover.

1/25/2019 1:50:19 PM by Gateway Communications | with 0 comments

‘Cordial’ meeting: Patterson, SEBTS divide documents

January 24 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

After two days of meetings, representatives of Paige Patterson and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary say they have determined, with no disagreements, the rightful ownership of 89 boxes of documents related to Patterson’s 1992-2003 presidency at Southeastern.

BP file photo by Matt Miller
Paige Patterson, pictured here reporting to SBC messengers in 2015, has reached an agreement with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary regarding proper ownership of documents related to this 1992-2003 presidency there.

Southeastern said it recovered “student” and “personnel” records from Patterson. Patterson’s representatives said he maintained all but about one-third of a box out of the documents at issue. Both sides agreed the meetings – held Jan. 7-8 on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary – were cordial.
The meetings occurred seven months after Patterson was terminated by Southwestern following nearly 15 years as president there. Less than a week following Patterson’s termination from Southwestern, Southeastern released a statement claiming it was “not in possession of documents” from Patterson’s Southeastern presidency that were “deemed as being owned by the seminary.” Official documents likely were not removed “maliciously,” Southeastern stated, but because of “a misunderstanding on the part of the Pattersons.”
Some of the documents, Southeastern stated, likely were needed for internal review of an alleged 2003 sexual assault on the SEBTS campus that became public amid Patterson’s tumultuous final days at Southwestern.
Patterson’s attorney Shelby Sharpe said in June, Patterson “flatly denies that SEBTS archives were ever stolen.”
Following this month’s meeting, both sides declined to identify the specific documents they maintained. But they agreed the meetings ended with no disputed documents.
Southeastern executive vice president Ryan Hutchinson, who represented Southeastern at the meetings along with legal counsel George Harvey, told Baptist Press (BP) in a statement, “Representatives from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and the Pattersons met in Fort Worth on January 7th and 8th to review the documents related to Dr. Patterson’s tenure at SEBTS.
“SEBTS and the Pattersons entered into the review under an agreed-upon system of evaluation. SEBTS was able to recover the documents that would be classified as either student or personnel records. Both groups examined the remaining documents and then categorized them as being either of historical significance to SEBTS or of a personal nature related to the Pattersons. The time was productive and collegial. SEBTS believes the matter is closed,” Hutchinson said.
Patterson told BP in written comments, “Ryan Hutchinson and George Harvey were the consummate Christian gentlemen that I have always experienced them to be. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary remains fortunate and blessed of God to have them as a part of their team.”
Patterson’s representatives at the meeting were his wife Dorothy, former Southwestern professor Candi Finch and Patterson assistant Scott Colter. Patterson was not present.
Colter told BP via email, “Even with the few documents [Southeastern] retained, there was no charge of wrongdoing – they were mostly letters on which Dr. Patterson was copied that he filed along with all of the other mail he received and nothing that we felt strongly we needed to maintain.”
Colter stated, “From our perspective, the two most significant points are that it was a very cordial and amenable meeting, with no difficulties arising, and actually no documents that were even in dispute.... The Pattersons were glad to release to SEBTS what they felt they needed – approximately one-third of a box if my memory serves correctly. There were also several items the Pattersons had collected of historical significance (newspaper clippings, letters from dignitaries, event programs, invitations, etc.). SEBTS requested copies of some of these items for their institutional history archive to record the story of Dr. Patterson’s time there as president.”
A meeting has been scheduled for late February, Colter said, at which Patterson’s representatives will sort through documents from his Southwestern presidency with Southwestern representatives.

1/24/2019 12:25:53 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chitwood to be installed as IMB president Feb. 6

January 24 2019 by Julie McGowan, IMB

The International Mission Board (IMB) will install Paul Chitwood formally as its 13th president on Feb. 6 at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.

IMB photo
The International Mission Board will install Paul Chitwood formally as its 13th president on Feb. 6 at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond.

The public is invited to attend the installation service, which will include a Sending Celebration honoring the appointment of 19 new Southern Baptist international missionaries.
The IMB’s board of trustees unanimously elected Chitwood, 48, as president of the organization on Nov. 15 in Richmond. Chitwood, who previously served as executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, took office immediately as president of the 173-year-old entity, the largest denominational missionary-sending body among American evangelicals. More than 3,600 Southern Baptist international missionaries serve worldwide.
The special service will include a charge to the new president and the new missionaries by Tom Elliff, former IMB president, who served in the role from 2011-2014.
Other notable guests who will participate in the service include IMB President Emeritus Jerry Rankin, who served as IMB president from 1993-2010; J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.; Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director/treasurer of the Woman’s Missionary Union in Birmingham, Ala.; Chuck Pourciau, chairman of the trustee presidential search committee and senior pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, La.; and Clyde Meador, IMB’s interim executive vice president.
Dozens of Southern Baptist leaders endorsed Chitwood as the IMB’s next president.
“I have had the privilege of witnessing first-hand the quiet grace, genuine humility and incredible effectiveness with which Dr. Chitwood has carried out his many roles as husband and father, teacher, pastor, IMB board chairman, and executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention,” Elliff said. “As many ... will testify, Paul Chitwood is eminently qualified to serve in this new role. It will be a privilege to pray for him faithfully as he assumes leadership in this new era of advance in global missions.”
The service will be broadcast via Livestream on Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is public relations manager for the International Mission Board.)

1/24/2019 12:25:42 PM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments

‘Death is necessary for life,’ Platt charges students at Spring 2019 convocation

January 24 2019 by Lauren Pratt, SBTS

On Jan. 22, David Platt gave a challenging message to students during spring convocation in which he addressed the paradoxical truth that in order to have life, the Christian must be willing to die.

SBTS Photo
David Platt, pastor of McLean Bible Church in the metro-Washington, D.C. area, delivered a challenging message to students during spring convocation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“To live in the next world, you die in this world,” said Platt, pastor of McLean Bible Church in the metro-Washington, D.C. area.
Wedding a story of the church in South Korea and the truth spoken by Jesus in John 12:24-26, Platt noted that Christians are called to die to sin, to self and to the ways of the world.
Robert Thomas, missionary to China who had a heart for Koreans, attempted to reach Korea by boat. However, foreigners were not welcome. On his second attempt to get to the country, his boat was attacked, and he was later captured and killed. Yet, while being attacked, he threw Bibles overboard to shore, shouting, “Jesus! Jesus!” to the people as he desperately wanted them to know Christ.
In 1884, Christian Koreans were granted freedom to share the gospel, allowing missionaries to also come to Korea. However, in 1900 there were less than one percent of Korean Christians. Growth began to happen in 1907 with the Pyongyang Revival, bringing an unprecedented growth in Christianity to the formerly closed-off country. During this Bible conference, starting with preachers who were overwhelmed with their sin, the audience, in turn, began confessing their sin to God and each other while praying fervently to God to do a work in them and their country.
Multiple consecutive nights of prayer, Bible study and confession continued, and Christianity began spreading into other towns and villages. The Korean church has grown from less than one percent to more than 10 million believers in 2000. Today, South Korea – a country whose population is similar to California and Florida combined – is the second largest sending country behind the United States, Platt noted.
“In one century, South Korea went from having hardly any Christians to being a global center of Christianity,” said Platt, who noted that Pyongyang in North Korea at one point was referred to as “the Jerusalem of the East.” “How does that happen? John 12:24.”
Platt, who was deeply moved on his recent trip to South Korea, told of some of the missionaries to Korea who gave their lives for the cause of Christ and are honored at a cemetery preserved by the Korean church.
“Jesus died so that we might live,” said Platt. “This is the gospel that brings us together: the reality that death precedes life.” It was this realization that the Korean church had, he later explained.
Platt said he believes that the Lord can do this kind of work in North American churches and unreached countries around the globe.
“I long for that not just to be the story of the church in South Korea; I long for that to be the story of the churches we lead,” said Platt.

1/24/2019 12:25:29 PM by Lauren Pratt, SBTS | with 0 comments

Breaking down walls, Detroit Baptists honor MLK

January 24 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Not far from Eight Mile Road, a historic racial dividing line in Detroit, more than 100 diverse Southern Baptist pastors, state leaders and laypersons worshipped together on Martin Luther King Jr. day.

Photo from Roland Caldwell
Tim Patterson, far right, executive director and treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, praises God at a Jan. 21 worship service in Detroit commemorating the late Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 7 p.m. service marked a milestone for 78-year-old African American pastor Robert Coverson, the event’s preacher, who marched in Detroit with King during the civil rights movement. Many suburban residents are afraid to cross Eight Mile Road and venture into the deep inner city during the day, Coverson said, let alone after dark.
“I saw last night God touching the hearts of people and I saw walls falling,” Coverson told Baptist Press (BP) the next morning. “I saw hearts being tenderized for the idea of we are our brother’s keeper. I saw a new love relationship starting. It was awesome.”
Pastor Roland Caldwell, vice moderator of the Detroit Baptist Association, hosted the event at Burnette Baptist Church. Mathew Vroman, a white pastor who leads the predominantly black Eastside Community Church (SBC) in Eastpointe, organized the event with Caldwell to help unify the community.
“Everything in Detroit breeds race,” Vroman told BP, referencing Eight Mile Road, racial riots of the 1960s, and racism that continues. “It was important to remember things that happened and proclaim Christ.”
The event emphasized unity in Christ, spotlighted the church’s efforts to plant diverse churches and proclaimed Christ while remembering King.
“I think it was one of the most significant things I have seen in Southern Baptist life,” Vroman said. “Not just talking about it with resolutions, but doing something that matters to the community, as far as making a statement to the African American community.”
Tim Patterson, executive director and treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan (BSCM), attended the service.
“It was extremely important for our denomination to see all of our pastors come together in a common cause for someone who did so much for so many,” Patterson said. “It was a great time of celebration and a great time of remembering the legacy of Dr. King, and it’s a great time for us to look forward to in our future and see what we can do together.”
In 2020, the BSCM plans to host a King celebration at a larger venue allowing statewide participation, he told BP. The BSCM had hoped to host an event this year.
“God’s called us to be one big family and I believe as we work together,” Patterson said, “we can do more together.”
Such events are vital in displaying Southern Baptist unity and repentance from a slave-holding past, Coverson said, despite SBC resolutions promoting racial reconciliation and repenting of racial sins.
The SBC “has plateaued in the South and if it’s going to grow, it has to go to the north,” Coverson told BP. “And if it doesn’t deal with this issue of confirming through their fruit that they’re no longer the organization that historically discriminated against people of color, then people of color will not trust them or want to be a part of what they’re doing.
“And it hinders the spread of the Word of God in the north.”
Coverson, pastor of Meditation Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit, served as the first African American president of BSCM in 2003.
During Coverson’s presidency, he encouraged the BSCM and state Baptist associations to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday for employees, which would allow greater denominational participation in such events.
“For the first time in the history of our convention, we came together to celebrate a hero, Dr. King, in a way that broke down some walls,” Coverson said of the Jan. 22 worship. “We didn’t know each other on a personal level. We didn’t know each other’s story. And last night gave us an opportunity to tell the story. And God’s Spirit permeated the place and we’ll not be the same anymore.”
More than 100 people attended the event, Caldwell said.
“My dream and vision is that the pastors and churches in the suburbs, and the pastors and the churches here in the inner city will come together and begin to work towards the goal of love,” Caldwell said. “The church and Christ are under attack (by the world). They’re coming after the church, and that’s because we’re separated.”
Caldwell recalled King’s statement that 11 a.m. on Sunday marks the most segregated hour in the nation.
“Whites stay in their church and the blacks stay in their church,” Caldwell said. “Jesus said that by this all men shall know you are my disciples, that you love one another. Love is action.
“The reason I joined Southern Baptists,” he said, “is because I believe that we have to become one in order to win this battle.”

1/24/2019 12:25:13 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Southern Baptists march for life in Washington

January 23 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists joined tens of thousands of other Americans in demonstrating their pro-life convictions during the annual March for Life Jan. 18 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Karen McCutcheon
Coleman Philley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Katy, Texas, and his wife Jennifer and son Josiah were among Southern Baptists participating in the March for Life Jan. 18.

A contingent of those who participated in the Evangelicals for Life (EFL) conference Jan. 16-17 took part in the march and the rally that preceded it on the National Mall. Many attendees and staff of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which sponsored the EFL conference at McLean Bible Church in suburban Washington, carried signs that said, “All people are created in the image of God.”
The March for Life has been held every year since 1974, one year after the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the country in the Roe v. Wade decision Jan. 22, 1973.
The rally included addresses from President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen, legislators, a former abortion doctor and an ex-Planned Parenthood clinic director.
After Mike Pence introduced Trump, the president announced in a video message his commitment to maintain federal pro-life policies after the Democrats gained the majority in the House of Representatives in the November election. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the same day, Trump pledged to veto “any legislation that weakens current pro-life Federal policies and laws, or that encourages the destruction of innocent human life at any stage.”
The president told the massive crowd that the pro-life movement is “founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life.”
“We know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting,” he said. “As president, I will always defend the first right in our Declaration of Independence – the right to life.”
Trump’s letter came three days after 49 senators and 169 representatives sent letters thanking him for the pro-life policies of his administration and asking him to pledge publicly to veto any bill that undermines federal law on abortion or abortion funding.
Some Southern Baptists explained to Baptist Press during the March for Life why they participated.
Coleman Philley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Katy, Texas, said the march “provides an opportunity to support a holistic, biblical view from birth all the way to the last seasons of life.”
While local churches may wonder how they can contribute to the pro-life cause, “coming out here gives a tangible sense” so Christians can return to their local churches and “be re-motivated to stay true” and support the sanctity of human life.
Kaitlyn Wester, a member of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, said, “[E]very human life is important.”
“I think [the march] is a really important thing to be a part of and wanted to show my support,” she said of her first time to attend the event.
Evan Lenow, associate professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said of his first time at the march, “I think it’s important to me to be able to go back to my students and say, ‘This is what is happening in our world around us. This is how people are trying to influence their elected officials.’
“And hopefully in the future maybe we can have some more students come up here and participate,” Lenow said. “Or maybe even as they go and lead their churches after they graduate from Southwestern, they bring people from their congregations up here.”
It is important for evangelical Christians to participate in the March for Life, he said. EFL started in 2016 as an effort to help increase awareness among evangelical Christians about the March for Life and motivate them to participate in it.
“If you look around the march, it’s heavily Catholic, and it historically has been,” Lenow said. “And so I think it’s important for us to join with groups like the Catholic Church in a situation like this where we can say, ‘Listen, we’re on board. We’re cobelligerents ... to try to make a difference and try to stem the tide of abortion.”
Members of Congress, as well as a state legislator, addressed the pre-march rally.
Katrina Jackson, a Democratic state representative in Louisiana, said she is asked by people in her state, “Why are you – a black, female Democrat – fighting for life?”
“I say, ‘Because I’m a Christian first,’” Jackson told the crowd. “And then I tell them that Proverbs [says] God hates the shedding of innocent blood.”
Two former participants in the abortion business spoke to those attending the rally.
Kathi Aultman of Jacksonville, Fla., shared the story of her conversion from abortion doctor to pro-life advocate. She told the crowd, “Thank you for protecting those who cannot protect themselves, those who wouldn’t have a chance to live if you did nothing.”
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director in Bryan, Texas, said the organization she founded – And Then There Were None – has helped facilitate the conversion of almost 500 abortion workers. “Let’s work to make abortion unthinkable in our nation,” she said.
After the rally, the crowd marched on Constitution Avenue from a site on the national mall to the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill.

1/23/2019 11:08:29 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

KBC’s Woods to chair 2019 SBC Resolutions Committee

January 23 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Kentucky Baptist leader Curtis Woods has been named chairman of the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions Committee, SBC President J.D. Greear announced Jan. 22.

BP file photo
Curtis Woods

Greear also announced his appointment of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary vice president Keith Whitfield as vice chairman.
Woods, who served on the 2018 SBC Resolutions Committee, will be only the second African American to chair the committee, according to Baptist Press’ (BP) review of SBC records. Norris Sydnor, an African American, chaired the committee in 1982.
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., told BP, “Southern Baptists must continue to bring new voices and new faces to the table that better represent both who we are and who we want to reach. We must be able to say to all Southern Baptists not just ‘you are represented in the process’ but ‘you are involved in the process.’”
Woods, co-interim executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) since November, has served as KBC associate executive director for convention relations since 2012. Before that, he was Baptist campus minister at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Ky., and served five years on staff at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, where speaker and author Tony Evans is pastor.
Woods holds a doctor of philosophy degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as assistant professor of applied theology and biblical spirituality. He was on the six-member committee that released in December a report on the institution’s history of slavery and racism.
When Greear’s nomination for SBC president was announced last year, he wrote in a blog post that “cultural and racial diversity” would be among his emphases if elected.
Woods said in written comments, “I am absolutely humbled by this opportunity to lead the 2019 SBC Resolutions Committee. President Greear continues to make good on his promise to pursue diverse leaders throughout the SBC. God has providentially selected a wonderful group of lucid thinkers who will interrogate each resolution through the lens of the gospel.”
Whitfield is Southeastern’s vice president for academic administration and dean of graduate studies. He also serves as associate professor of theology. He has served in various pastoral leadership roles at churches in Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
Greear’s other appointments to the Resolutions Committee will be announced next week. He said resolutions proposed by the committee in June at the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., will “aim to reflect the collective voice of Southern Baptists.”

1/23/2019 11:08:17 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SCOTUS: Trump’s ban on transgender military service stands

January 23 2019 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

The Supreme Court ruled Jan. 22 to allow the enforcement of President Trump’s ban on transgender military service, a ban previously frozen by lower court injunctions.
The policy immediately stops transgender persons from entering the military except “under certain limited circumstances,” according to media reports. It was first announced by Trump via Twitter in July 2017 and then tweaked in March 2018 to help it pass through lower courts attempting to block it. See related Biblical Recorder report.
In the time since, the military has continued to operate under the old policy. But in December, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to uphold the ban, and on Tuesday, justices ruled 5-4 to do that provisionally while the lower courts worked it out.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco reportedly argued that the lower court injunctions restricted the military to an old policy that “posed too great a risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a February 2018 memo that a Pentagon study showed reasons to reverse the Obama Administration policy allowing transgender service. The reasons included the “high rates of suicide ideation, attempts, and contemplation,” with attempts documented at 41 percent compared to 4.6 percent for the general population.
The study also noted that as the military’s “sex-based standards are based on legitimate biological differences between males and females, it follows that a person’s physical biology should dictate which standards apply.”
The new policy sets forth these three guidelines:

  • Transgender persons diagnosed with gender dysphoria (“the experience of discomfort with their biological sex, resulting in significant distress or difficulty functioning”) “are disqualified from military service.” The military will make exceptions, the policy states, for individuals who “have been stable for 36 months in their biological sex” prior to entering the service; military members diagnosed with gender dysphoria after entering the service “if they do not require a change of gender and remain deployable”; and service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria since the Obama administration permitted open transgender service in 2016.

  • “Transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified from military service.”

  • Transgender persons “without a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria” may “serve, like all other service members, in their biological sex.”

Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec noted that they will continue to defend the new policy in the lower courts – the Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t address the legality of the ban, only stays the lower court rulings until the legal process plays out. Two current cases that brought court injunctions – Trump v. Karnoski and Trump v. Stockman – are working their way through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Another injunction was overturned in early January by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.)

1/23/2019 11:08:01 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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