December 2016

U.S. psychiatrists speak out against euthanasia

December 30 2016 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

The largest organization of psychiatrists in the world has rejected its members’ involvement in euthanasia for non-terminally ill patients.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) assembly and board of trustees approved a position statement in December for the organization’s 25,000 member psychiatrists, stating, “A psychiatrist should not prescribe or administer any intervention to a non-terminally ill person for the purpose of causing death.”
Although euthanasia, where a doctor administers a life-ending drug, is not legal in the United States, five states have laws allowing physician-assisted suicide, where a doctor prescribes a lethal drug for patients to take themselves. And although those states currently require the patient have a terminal illness, critics argue the path to providing assisted suicide to those with mental illness or “unbearable suffering” is a slippery slope.
“So far, no other country that has implemented physician-assisted suicide has been able to constrain its application solely to the terminally ill, eventually including nonterminal patients as legally eligible, as well,” said Mark Komrad, a member of the APA Ethics Committee, according to reporting by BioEdge. “This is when psychiatric patients start to be included.”
Canada legalized euthanasia in June and initiated a review of extending the law to minors and “requests made by individuals with mental illness as their sole underlying condition.”
In Belgium, which has the most liberal euthanasia laws in the world, it is now commonplace for doctors to euthanize people with mental illness, including depression and dementia. From 2014 to 2015, doctors euthanized 124 patients with “mental or behavioral disorder,” 3.1 percent of the 3,950 cases in those two years.
The practice of euthanizing people with no terminal illness has come under scrutiny, especially in the psychiatric community. Karl Benzio, a psychiatrist and member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association, said the APA’s statement doesn’t go far enough. Benzio is the founder and clinical director of Lighthouse Network, a Christian addiction and mental health helpline.
Benzio said the APA statement was a “passive endorsement” of physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients – something he called a “diplomatic straddling of the fence.”
“We are here to heal,” said Benzio. “When someone is suicidal, we are going to help them.”
He agreed it is only a matter of time before the standard for who qualifies for physician-assisted suicide in the United States expands to someone with “unbearable suffering.”
“It is dangerous to give anyone the right or power to kill another person, especially when that criteria of what defines the victim keeps changing. The physician is often the last voice protecting the vulnerable population,” Benzio said.
If the APA does not expand its position to include all patients, Benzio would at least like it to attempt to influence legislation in the United States to mandate a required psychiatric evaluation before any patient is allowed to commit physician-assisted suicide.
“We are the suicidologists,” said Benzio. He argued it would be malpractice not to call a cardiologist for a patient with a heart attack. Why, then, can a doctor in the United States prescribe life-ending drugs to a person wishing to die without consulting a psychiatrist?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

12/30/2016 10:28:18 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 1 comments

First Gateway Seminary grads honored

December 30 2016 by Tyler Sanders, Gateway Seminary

Relatives and friends celebrated with Gateway Seminary’s first graduating class on Dec. 17 in the chapel of the new Los Angeles-area campus.

Submitted photo
President Jeff Iorg presents Max Stabenow of California with the William Crews Leadership Award.

Thirty graduates received degrees, including 16 doctoral students. The seminary dedicated its new main campus in Ontario, Calif., in October.
Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, reminded graduates that God chose to use some unexpected people in the Bible such as David, who is included in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew chapter one.
“Birth order meant a great deal, and for seven to be passed over and one to be taken says something strongly to us about God’s intentionality of choosing and using this man in the genealogy of Jesus,” Iorg said.
David described his own call to ministry when he was a young man from a small town who didn’t attend church until his teen years.
“Yet God chose me and has used me. He will do the same to every one of you graduates this morning.”
Iorg told graduates of GateWay Seminary that God also used people with morally questionable backgrounds.
“You have been chosen for the purity God will demonstrate through you, not the perfection you have already attained,” Iorg said. “He wants to use you despite what is in your past, to make of you the person He wants you to be in the present and what He can use you to accomplish going forward.”
“God is in the business of forgiving, forgetting and moving people onto a better life than they ever claimed to have had before.”
Iorg said God also calls anonymous people.
“There are names in the passage that aren’t really described in scripture … not much is known about any one of them except that they made it into the genealogy of Jesus.”
He continued by telling graduates they may never write a famous book or preach to tens of thousands of people, but they will still be making a “dramatic and significant impact.”
“The people around you where you live and work, to them you are the most important spiritual leader alive. They are depending on you.”
Chris Carter, a master of divinity graduate from Florida, gave the student testimony about Gateway Seminary’s impact on his life and ministry.
“(My wife and I) have always felt called to those slightly off the beaten path; to those postmoderns outside of the Bible belt,” he said. “It made sense that we ended up at a seminary outside the Bible belt.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of the teaching and the instruction we receive in the classroom at Gateway,” he said. “But we cannot forget that our lives outside of the classroom, when the rubber meets the road, when we see God’s leaders become His hands and feet and operate the way He intended the church to operate, these are the moments that we carry with us.”
Iorg presented the William Crews Leadership Award to Max Stabenow of California, who received a master of theology degree.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tyler Sanders serves as web content specialist at Gateway Seminary.)

12/30/2016 10:22:35 AM by Tyler Sanders, Gateway Seminary | with 0 comments

Federal judge puts baby burial rule on hold

December 30 2016 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

Texas abortion centers can continue disposing of aborted baby body parts in sewer systems and landfills, due to a federal judge’s ruling Thursday.
A law set to go into effect Dec. 19 would have required abortion centers and abortion-providing hospitals to bury or cremate the remains of aborted babies.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks delayed the law until Jan. 6 and will hear further arguments from Texas Assistant Attorney General John Langley and the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed suit against the law last week.
Sparks said he hopes both sides will put “their best feet forward” for the hearings on Jan. 3-4.
The Center for Reproductive Rights said the law would “restrict a woman’s right to access safe and legal abortion by increasing both the cost of reproductive healthcare services and the shame and stigma surrounding abortion and pregnancy loss.”
But Langley argued the cost would remain the same, since abortion centers and hospitals that perform abortions already spend money on disposing of dead babies.
“These regulations in no way, in any way, shape or form, regulate women,” he added. “They only regulate health care facilities.”
The Texas Catholic Conference announced last week it was crafting plans to bury miscarried or aborted babies for free in its cemeteries.
“To bury the dead is a work of mercy,” executive director Jennifer Carr Allmon said.
Sparks is expected to make a final decision by Jan. 6.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

12/30/2016 10:20:40 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Berlin terror suspect killed in Milan

December 30 2016 by Lynde Langdon, WORLD News Service

Police in Milan killed the suspect in the Berlin terror attack after stumbling upon him in a routine stop early on Dec. 23.
“The person killed, without a shadow of a doubt, is Anis Amri, the suspect of the Berlin terrorist attack,” Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said. His body was identified with the help of fingerprints supplied by Germany.
Amri, a Tunisian, had spent time in prison in Italy before. He was stopped by two local officers and pulled a gun from his backpack after being asked for identification. Police killed him in ensuing shootout. One officer was injured.
German authorities said Amri’s fingerprints were in the cab of a truck used to attack a Christmas market in Berlin on Monday. Twelve people died and another 50 suffered injuries when the truck plowed into tables, chairs, and market stalls at the popular holiday shopping spot outside Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin. Islamic State (ISIS) claimed Amri “carried out the attack in response to calls for targeting citizens of the crusader coalition.”
Germany’s chief federal prosecutor, Peter Frank, said his office is working with Italian authorities to establish the route Amri took from Berlin to Milan.
“It is now of great significance for us to establish whether the suspect had a network of supporters or helpers in preparing and carrying out the crime and in fleeing; whether there were accessories or helpers,” Frank said.
Prosecutors also want to know whether the gun Amri was carrying in Milan was the same one used to shoot the Polish driver of the truck he hijacked for the attack, Frank added. The driver was found dead in the vehicle’s cab.
Amri spent time in Italy after leaving Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. He served 3 1/2 years in prison for setting a fire at a refugee center and making threats. He was repeatedly transferred among Sicilian prisons for bad conduct, with prison records saying he bullied inmates and tried to spark insurrections.
Authorities in Germany deemed him a potential threat and even kept him under covert surveillance for six months this year. They rejected his asylum application and had been trying to deport him, but he lacked valid identity papers and Tunisia initially denied he was a citizen. Authorities say Amri has used at least six different names and three nationalities in his travels around Europe.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lynde Langdon writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

12/30/2016 10:17:45 AM by Lynde Langdon, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Church’s Christmas story undaunted by hurricane

December 30 2016 by Lee Weeks, Baptist Press

Michael Arnold and his family were among hundreds of St. Augustine residents who fled their homes two months ago as Hurricane Matthew trailed close behind.

Photo courtesy of Anastasia Baptist Church
Mike Arnold, left, and Wynne Toler play innkeepers in Anastasia Baptist Church’s Christmas musical, which moved forward despite Hurricane Matthew’s onslaught on St. Augustine, Fla., in mid-October.

And while St. Augustine, known as the nation’s oldest city, didn’t take a direct hit from the hurricane, coastal flooding from its storm surge and near-hurricane-force winds wreaked havoc and destruction for many who call it home.
When the bridges reopened and Arnold returned home after a three-day mandatory evacuation, he discovered his garage had been flooded and roof would need to be replaced, while residents just one street away experienced catastrophic damage. “We’re living in our house,” Arnold said thankfully.
The first weekend of December marked another homecoming of sorts for Arnold as he and more than 200 members of Anastasia Baptist Church debuted their Christmas musical, “The Innkeeper Presents – We Call Him Savior.”
The play, which chronicles the life of Christ from His birth to His crucifixion, resurrection and expectant return, was written and produced by church members Donna and Ray Garner.
For Arnold, who played a minor role in the church’s Christmas musical two years ago, the opportunity to play the role of Jacob, a modern-day innkeeper, is symbolic of his real-life discovery of Jesus as his personal Savior.
“I’m a new man,” Arnold, a 46-year-old language arts teacher, said of his spiritual rebirth in mid-life. “I’m completely different than I was just two years ago.”
Ray Garner, 68, a financial planner and former church planter/music minister, said that’s “the number one purpose” of the script his wife wrote to go along with the 19-song arrangement, which also includes several original lyrical and musical compositions written by church members.
The one-hour and 40-minute production featured a 40-member adult choir, 27-member orchestra and nearly 30-member children’s ensemble including six classical ballet dancers.

Photo courtesy of Anastasia Baptist Church
“The Innkeeper Presents – We Call Him Savior” overcame Hurricane Matthew’s tumult across St. Augustine, Fla., to draw 1,500 attendees for two performances in early December.

“Our purpose is to equate the baby in the manger with the God-man who went to the cross and was crucified and resurrected,” Garner said. “He had to die so that we could live.”
David Elder, Anastasia Baptist’s worship pastor since 2005, said that since the church’s first production of “The Innkeeper” in 2009, new characters, plot developments and musical compositions were added in 2010 and with each subsequent production every two years.
Elder said some “creative license” was employed again this year to present Jesus’ life, miracles and teachings by juxtaposing the biblical-historical characters with 21st-century contemporaries as well as adding fictional characters such as Jesus’ childhood friend and neighbor named Isaac.
“We wanted to show [that] what happened then impacts today,” Elder said.
In one scene, for example, one side of the stage shows Jesus and His disciples sharing their last supper while on the other side of the stage a group of modern-day Christians share communion.
Among other scenes, an older couple recalls Jesus’ first recorded miracle of turning water to wine at their wedding at Cana. Meanwhile, a modern-day older couple recounts the blessings of putting Christ first throughout their long-lasting marriage.
In another scene, the musical featured a monologue of the adulteress who is forgiven by Jesus, as well as a scripted testimonial from a woman in the audience about her own infidelity and Christ’s forgiveness and reconciling power in her marriage.
“They need to know in their brokenness that there is a Savior who forgives,” Garner said.
Wynne Toler, a 55-year-old draftsman for a steel fabrication company, has portrayed the first-century innkeeper named Yacob since 2009. In a church that averages about 1,500 people for weekly worship, Toler still isn’t sure how he landed the role but he’s glad for it.
Toler said the story of societal skepticism surrounding Jesus’ virgin birth and King Herod’s decreed slaughter of Jewish boys age 2 and younger dispels the “antiseptic Christmas card version” so often depicted.
“It certainly wasn’t peaceful when Christ was born,” Toler said. “There was way more going on than we think about in this story.”
Having narrated five different renditions of The Innkeeper over the last seven years, Toler began studying his revised 15-plus-page script in late May. Often recognized by strangers nearly everywhere he goes throughout St. Augustine, Toler said he appreciates the importance of his Christian witness both on and off stage.
“It reminds me a lot that I may be the only Jesus that they see,” he said. “We preach the entire time we’re up there [on stage] but it doesn’t sound like preaching.”
And when Hurricane Matthew left a swath of destruction across the barrier island south of Jacksonville, Toler said, there was never a doubt that the church’s Christmas musical would still happen.
“The message is way too important,” he said. “Sometimes God sends us challenges to find out how really committed we are to Him.”
Since Hurricane Matthew’s onslaught in mid-October, church volunteers have helped about 130 families, more than half of whom aren’t members of Anastasia Baptist, with recovery efforts.
For about a week after the storm, dozens of church volunteers provided hundreds of hot meals prepared in the church’s kitchen and delivered donations of clothes, canned food and bottled water. Anastasia Baptist’s multi-campus church sustained minor damage on its Island campus when a tree fell on the roof of the church’s missions & evangelism office.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from around the state as well as Alabama have also helped repair flood and wind-ravaged homes.
“There are going to be hurting people for weeks and months to come,” said Neill Robins, coordinator of the church’s storm recovery outreach efforts. “It’s like a war zone on some parts of the island.”
Meanwhile, about 1,500 people attended the church’s Christmas musical on Dec. 2 and 4 in the Christian Life Center on the Island campus, though the outdoor Bethlehem Village had to be scaled back because church volunteers have been focused on storm recovery outreach efforts.
Back on stage, Arnold said the opportunity to pray alongside his mother and 11- and 14-year-old daughters after dropping to his knees while carrying a cross during the musical scene portraying Christ’s crucifixion was life imitating art at its best.
“It’s a pretty realistic depiction of what my family has done for me,” Arnold said. “I’m looking forward to knowing that people will come to Christ because of what we’ve done.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lee Weeks is a writer based in the Atlanta area.)

12/30/2016 10:10:01 AM by Lee Weeks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. refusal to repeal restroom law draws support

December 29 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist leaders welcomed the North Carolina legislature’s refusal to repeal its hotly debated restroom privacy law.
The state Senate defeated in a 32-16 vote Dec. 21 a proposal to rescind the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, the controversial bill known as H.B. 2 that requires individuals in government buildings to use the restrooms of the sex on their birth certificates rather than of their gender identity. The House of Representatives took no action during a day-long special session.
The special session came in response to the Charlotte City Council’s Dec. 19 vote to overturn its ordinance that prompted the enactment of H.B. 2, which invalidated the action by the legislative body of the state’s largest city. The council vote – and a second vote for the ordinance’s full repeal Wednesday – occurred with the expectation that the General Assembly would repeal H.B. 2.
The legislature failed to find agreement on a repeal measure, however, leaving the Republican majority in the legislature trading charges with Governor-elect Roy Cooper, Democratic legislators and the Democrat-controlled Charlotte council.
Southern Baptist leaders expressed their belief the General Assembly acted properly to protect citizens.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said he was glad to see “a common-sense approach that protects individuals as well as conscience” kept in place.
“The government should not obstruct the rights of those who dissent from the demands of the sexual revolution,” Moore said in written remarks for Baptist Press. “At the same time, as Christians the church must redouble our efforts to teach and model God’s good creation design of male and female and offer gospel hope to those in our communities who struggle.”
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a written statement, “We are thankful for the members of the General Assembly who stood up for what is right, and represented the will of voters by stopping the move to cower and cave-in to the City of Charlotte and the Human Rights Campaign.”
The Human Rights Campaign, which backed the Charlotte ordinance and the repeal of H.B. 2, is the country’s largest political organization advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.
Fitzgerald, an ERLC trustee, noted, “We continue to encourage our leaders to never sacrifice the privacy, safety or freedom of young girls by forcing them to use the bathroom, shower or change clothes with grown men just to satisfy the demands of greedy businesses, immoral sports organizations or angry mobs.”
“Nor should they sacrifice the freedom of everyone to live and work according to their beliefs,” she said.
Mark Harris, senior pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, held a news conference with other pastors on the eve of the special session.
“We urged the legislature to stay strong,” he told Baptist Press (BP) in a phone interview. “They did not have to do this.”
He believes Cooper, who defeated incumbent Republican Pat McCrory in November, and the Charlotte City Council were “operating at the behest of the Human Rights Campaign,” Harris said.
The “real tipping point that blew the whole thing up,” he said, came when LGBT rights leaders who were backing the reversal of H.B. 2 said publicly they had been assured repeal would mean Charlotte and other cities would have an “open door” to provide “even broader protections” for the LGBT community.
“It was obvious that once this was repealed that they planned to have every city in North Carolina to be able to pass these ordinances much like what Charlotte had,” Harris told BP.
At Tuesday’s news conference, Harris and the other pastors urged the General Assembly – regardless of the decisions made the next day – to maintain as “a supreme priority the protections and privacy of all citizens, particularly women and children.” They also urged future sexual orientation and gender identity proposals be decided in statewide public referenda, Harris said.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, and the City Council had twice before during 2016 refused to rescind their ordinance in trade for an offer for the legislature to repeal H.B. 2 before they suddenly reversed course Dec. 19, according to The Charlotte Observer. Cooper announced the same day he had assurances from GOP leaders in the General Assembly they would have a special session to overturn H.B. 2.
In the Dec. 21 special session, Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger offered a bill to repeal H.B. 2 that included a temporary moratorium on local ordinances like the one passed by the Charlotte council, The Observer reported. Democrats refused to back it with the moratorium.
The controversy over H.B. 2 prompted boycotts of North Carolina by such high-profile artists as Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam, as well as decisions by corporations not to expand their operations in the state. In addition, the National Basketball Association, National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Atlantic Coast Conference canceled events scheduled in North Carolina.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on transgender rights in schools next year. The justices announced in late October they will review a lower court opinion regarding the right of a student to use the public school restroom that matches her gender identity rather than her biological sex.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled in April a school board in the state violated federal law by refusing to permit a transgender student to use the restroom of her choosing, finding the ban on sex discrimination in the Title IX education amendments encompasses gender identity.
In May, the Obama administration issued a sweeping directive on transgender rights that told public school districts, as well as colleges and universities, to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity. The guidance was not legally binding, but it implied noncompliance could result in the loss of federal aid.
Messengers to the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution regarding transgender identity that “affirm[ed] God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” The resolution “regard[ed] our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn[ed] acts of abuse or bullying committed against them.“
The resolution also said, “We invite all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the gospel.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

12/29/2016 9:32:46 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

ERLC promotes 6 pro-life priorities for Trump, Congress

December 29 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity has called on President Trump and Congress to act quickly in the new year to protect unborn children.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission recommended six pro-life priorities to the new administration and legislators in a Dec. 20 post at the entity’s website. The items offered by Russell Moore, the ERLC’s president, and Travis Wussow, the recently named vice president for public policy, included: Making the Hyde Amendment ban on federal funding of abortion permanent; nominating a pro-life replacement on the Supreme Court for the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia; rescinding the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate; and prohibiting federal money for Planned Parenthood.
“The pro-life community will be looking for 2017 to be a year in which protecting unborn human life is a top priority,” Moore said in written comments for Baptist Press. “Real gains are achievable, ones that will save lives and serve vulnerable women in the crosshairs of a predatory abortion industry.
“My prayer is that both Congress and the Trump administration will actively pursue these pro-life priorities for the good of women and unborn children in communities around the country.”
Moore and Wussow urged Trump to reverse the abortion/contraception mandate on his first day as president. The rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the 2010 health-care law does not require congressional action for its repeal. The regulation requires employers to provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives with mechanisms that can potentially induce abortions and contains what critics describe as inadequate freedom of conscience protections for those who object.
“[B]ecause the HHS Mandate was created by an administrative rule and not statute, the process to reverse it can begin immediately after President Trump takes office,” they wrote. “We urge President Trump to do so on his first day in the White House.”
Here are the other pro-life recommendations with comments from Moore and Wussow:

Making permanent the Hyde Amendment

The amendment, first enacted 40 years ago, bars funds for abortion in various federal programs and is estimated to have saved more than two million lives. It has to be approved each year, however. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act would ban all federal money for abortion permanently.
“The Hyde Amendment is a recognition that millions of Americans strongly object to allowing their taxes to be spent on what they believe to be the taking of a life,” Moore and Wussow said. “It is time, once and for all, for the consciences of millions of Americans to be protected by the force of permanent statute: federal funds should not be used for abortions.”

Selecting a pro-life successor to Scalia

The new president “must do more than simply appoint another pro-life vote to the Court; his task is to maintain the intellectual balance of power on the issue,” they wrote. “Justice Scalia’s influence on the American judicial system will be felt for decades. We should hope that his replacement would accomplish the same during his or her tenure on the Court.”

Eliminating all funds for Planned Parenthood

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates, which constitute the country’s No. 1 abortion provider, received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements and performed nearly 324,000 abortions, according to the most recent annual reports.
Congress approved a year ago a measure that would have cut about 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s federal funds, but President Obama vetoed it in January. A special panel in the House of Representatives has been investigating the organization’s trade in aborted baby body parts this year and announced 15 criminal and regulatory referrals Dec. 21. Two involved Planned Parenthood clinics.
Moore and Wussow said the ERLC will continue to support the investigative panel’s work and the defunding effort.

Enacting the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act

The Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act would prohibit abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.

Approving the Born-alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

The proposal would require a health-care professional to provide the same standard of care for a child born alive after a failed abortion as a baby born prematurely.
Moore and Wussow encouraged Christians to seek to influence lawmakers to support such policies but said it is not the only way they can exhibit their pro-life commitments.
“Whether through support of adoption, participation in the foster care system, or providing counseling to expectant and new mothers through pregnancy resource centers, pro-life advocates need to not only communicate the truth of the God-given dignity of humanity, but live it out in our local communities,” they wrote.
The ERLC will partner in January with Focus on the Family to co-host again Evangelicals for Life. This second conference on advocating for the dignity of all human life will be held Jan. 26-28 in Washington, D.C.
Wussow, who has been serving as the ERLC’s director of international justice and religious liberty, will begin his service in January as vice president for public policy, as well as general counsel, in the entity’s Washington office.
The post is available at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

12/29/2016 9:31:07 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. pastors discuss church planting, sending culture

December 29 2016 by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications

On Nov. 15 at the Annual Meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, three pastors met to discuss church planting and what it means to embrace a “sending” culture.
While that terminology is common among Southern Baptist pastors, these three pastors were uniquely qualified to discuss it.

BSC screenshot
J.D. Greear, from left, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, Andrew Hopper, lead pastor of Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, and Spence Shelton, lead pastor of Mercy Church in Charlotte, discuss church planting with Mike Pittman, pastor of Vertical Church in Lumberton.

J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham; Andrew Hopper, pastor of Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro; and Spence Shelton, pastor of Mercy Church in Charlotte have all experienced sending culture in a way that not many have.
Originally, Hopper and Shelton were a part of The Summit Church. In 2012, The Summit sent a church plant to Greensboro, and Hopper became the pastor at the new Mercy Hill Church. But in 2015, a quarter of Mercy Hill’s start-up staff left the church. The Summit had sent another church plant to Charlotte – Mercy Church, pastored by Shelton – and many of the staff at Mercy Hill felt called to that campus.
“(This process was) painful and blessed at the same time,” Greear said.
To Greear, having a church with a true sending culture involves some sacrifice, but he believes that God is glorified through the process. Before The Summit planted Mercy Hill and Mercy, Greear said he could sense God had been raising up Hopper and Shelton to pastor their own churches.
Although some Summit staff left with both pastors to join the church plants, Greear said that this loss is part of his church’s goal.
“A church is not mature until it hits puberty and starts reproducing and sending people out into the world for the gospel,” he said.
“If you plant three churches a year at an 80 percent success rate, and if those churches plant at least one church every five years, by year 30-something we’ll be at 1,000 churches. The church must be planting churches from the very beginning.”
Hopper explained that his church’s commitment to missions and church planting extended beyond monetary giving, which ultimately helped when Mercy Church came onto the scene.
“(When Mercy was planted), the church was small, but your commitment can’t be small.” Hopper said.
“By year three, we weren’t just sending money and teams but actually sending people to go help Mercy.”
At the time, congregants at Mercy Hill Church were already accustomed to sending money, churches and small groups, Hopper said. Embracing the sending culture had become a natural way of life within their church.
“So,” Hopper said, “Why wouldn’t we send a campus?”
A full version of this interview is available at under the title “Church Planter Interview with J.D. Greear, Andrew Hopper and Spence Shelton.” For more information, please visit

12/29/2016 9:30:29 AM by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Retired pastors, widows thankful for Mission:Dignity

December 29 2016 by John Ambra, Guidestone

Hard work was nothing new for bi-vocational pastor L.C. Jones. After decades of laboring in sewing factories, he was accustomed to sweating it out for the sake of his family.

Submitted photo
Retired pastor L.C. Jones and his late wife Jerry.

“I’ve worked all summer – mowing yards, trying to save enough money to fix my wife’s teeth,” he said. “I plan to work next summer to finish paying for her teeth.”
The blazing Texas heat wasn’t going to hold him back from earning enough so that Jerry could get her teeth, even though the retired pastor was then 86 years old. That was in 2012.
L.C. and his wife, Jerry, were married in March 1947. Four years later, they would come to faith in Christ and then answer a call to ministry in 1952. Prairie Grove was their first church, and it had only 30 members. Greenwood, with an average attendance of 75, was probably the largest in their 43 years of service.
“Most of my pastorates were bi-vocational,” L.C. recalled. “Some churches could hardly pay a small amount and none of them could contribute to a retirement plan. I never pastored any church – never considered any church – based on what money they paid. I just took what they offered and that satisfied me.
“Moving from one place to another, I had to take whatever work I could find to support my family,” he said. “That was just a fact. Most of the time, I worked in sewing factories as a maintenance man. In those days, no matter what town you went to, there was a sewing factory.”
But by 2012, there were no more pastorates for the Joneses. No more sewing factories. And no extra money available for dental work – except for what L.C. earned that summer mowing yards. That’s what prompted him to share his story with Mission:Dignity, GuideStone Financial Resources’ ministry to supplement the incomes of retired pastors and their widows.
Mission:Dignity responded with an emergency grant that helped provide for her dental work and other medical bills. It was in addition to the regular monthly assistance they had been receiving since 1999. L.C. remembered how their grant started.

Submitted photo
Retired Southern Baptist pastor L.C. Jones is shown outside his first of many pastorates, Prairie Grove Baptist Church, which averaged 30 members. With only Social Security when he retired in 1997, Jones has received help from GuideStone Financial Resources’ Mission:Dignity since 1999.

“My wife saw an article in our state Baptist paper years ago about help for pastors like me. We applied and started receiving help,” he said. “That made a lot of difference in our lives. We could stop at Dairy Queen and get a hamburger occasionally.“
The extra resources still make a difference for L.C. since Jerry’s death two years ago.
“I get a $913 Social Security check, and it’s hard to live on that,” he said. “Sometimes you have different occasions come up when you’d like to go out and eat or something, but you can’t do that on $913 a month.”
Mission:Dignity assists more than 1,800 retired Southern Baptist ministers, workers or their widows in need. Individuals who meet guidelines for income, assets and years of paid Southern Baptist service are eligible for $225 per month; couples receive $300. The amounts are $450 and $600 for the neediest persons, like the Joneses, with at least 25 years of Southern Baptist Convention ministry.
For some, Mission:Dignity means being able to get much-needed medical care they might not otherwise obtain. For others, it covers the cost of groceries, utilities or other necessities – even a hamburger once in awhile. The ministry is an expression of the care and compassion of their Southern Baptist family whom recipients served in decades past.
“I’m more thankful for the opportunity to pastor than I am for the help I receive,” L.C. said. “It was a privilege to be the pastor for these people. I may not remember all of them, but I haven’t forgotten pastoring them.”
For more information, go to
(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Ambra is director of development for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

12/29/2016 9:29:47 AM by John Ambra, Guidestone | with 0 comments

Transgender child on National Geographic cover

December 29 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A 9-year-old boy who considers himself female is featured on the cover of the January 2017 National Geographic. The entire issue is dedicated to subjective gender identity primarily through the eyes of children while excluding biblical authority.

National Geographic photo
Two different covers of the Jan. 2017 issue of National Geographic feature several children and young adults said to be classified under a range of descriptors related to the two genders.

But the idea of transgenderism or gender fluidity is itself a fallacy void not only of scripture but also of science, Christian commentators told Baptist Press (BP).
Glenn Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and apologist Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis (AiG), said the idea of gender fluidity is based in part on a person’s flawed mental state. One Million Moms (1MM), an advocacy group aimed at protecting children from exploitation, has started a petition against the National Geographic issue.
National Geographic’s special “Gender Revolution” issue pictures the transgender child on the cover of the subscription copy available online since Dec. 19. The newsstand copy, available since Dec. 27, has the same inside content as the subscription edition, but features a group of seven youth on its cover who identify with such descriptors as “intersex nonbinary,” “transgender female, “androgynous” and “bi-gender.”
“It’s just simply absolutely false and pure ideology that gender is fluid,” Stanton said. “Across human culture and history there are males and females. ... There is no science whatsoever that has determined a 3rd or 4th or 5th gender.”
Nearly all pre-adolescent kids who are “gender dysphoric” or confused about their gender revert back to their biological sex by puberty, Stanton said, citing the statistic of 75 percent to 98 percent, based on studies. Clinicians recommend that parents do not facilitate the transition of pre-adolescent children to the other gender, said Stanton, who has written and spoken extensively on gender identity.
Ham said he’s not surprised National Geographic does not explore God’s Word in the magazine.
“They’re really not out to discuss all the different views and to put in what the biblical view is,” Ham told BP, “because they really want to impose a particular view on the culture, and the particular view they want to impose is you can be anything you want, and ... nobody can tell you that it’s definitely male and female. ... What they’re really saying is we’re going to tell you you can be anything you want to be.”
1MM condemns National Geographic’s use of children in promoting a belief in gender fluidity.
“Advocates for sexual confusion have quickly moved from using adults to promote their agenda to exploiting children as the face of their cause,” 1MM said in a Dec. 21 press release. “Susan Goldberg, the National Geographic editor, should be ashamed of herself for using a young child in such an abusive manner. The overwhelming majority of doctors and psychiatrists label what this child is going through as ‘gender dysphoria’ and National Geographic is praising it as ‘beautiful.’”
National Geographic has received numerous comments about the issue, Goldberg said on the magazine’s website.
“Since we shared photos of the cover of our special issue on gender on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, tens of thousands of people have weighed in with opinions, from expressions of pride and gratitude to utter fury,” Goldberg said. “More than a few have vowed to cancel their subscriptions.”
Goldberg describes the biological boy on the cover as having “lived as an openly transgender girl since age 5” and having “captured the complexity of the conversation around gender. ... Today, we’re not only talking about gender roles for boys and girls – we’re talking about our evolving understanding of people on the gender spectrum.” The magazine promotes its special issue as looking at the “cultural, social, biological and personal aspects of gender,” and includes interviews with children in 80 homes on four continents, according to a Dec. 15 press release.
Ham said the growing acceptance of gender fluidity is a symptom of a culture that has taken the Bible out of public schools and promoted the theory of evolution, and also the result of the church being lax in teaching the truth of creation.
“The devil knows if you can get the education system,” you can lead astray generations of children who are by nature susceptible and impressionable.
“I believe what we’re seeing is as a whole, the culture has abandoned God’s Word. God is turning this culture over to judgment and unfortunately there are tremendous consequences,” Ham said. “Romans 1 makes it very, very clear that a sign God is turning a culture over to judgment is this increasing rejection of your fundamental sexual nature and not even just a rejection of it, but basically a celebration of [that rejection] because Romans 1 says they approve of these things.”
1MM’s online petition is at
National Geographic television will air a two-hour documentary Feb. 6, 2017, at 8 p.m. Central Time, titled “Gender Revolution: A Journey With Katie Couric,” the magazine said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

12/29/2016 9:18:10 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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