December 2016

Boyce College adds communications program

January 18 2019 by The Southern Baptist Seminary Staff

Boyce College has announced a new bachelor of science (B.S.) degree in communication, extending the mission of the school to new academic territory, said Matthew J. Hall, dean of Boyce College.
 

Boyce is the undergraduate school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
“As we explored the next stage of Boyce College’s academic development, the degree program that immediately came to the fore was something in the field of communication,” Hall said, noting that the college extensively researched the program’s viability in both general demand for students with skills related to the field of communication and employment outlook for such graduates.
 
“The program seemed to be immediately and naturally consistent with our institutional mission and philosophy of education,” Hall said. “We are hopeful that the major will continue the vision that we’ve had for all of our degree programs – that students would have expanded opportunities to discern their vocation and to be well-equipped for wherever God would send them in the world.”
 
The program will take an interdisciplinary approach to studying influential communication techniques and concepts, with 42 hours in their major and 30 hours of biblical training. Students with this degree will be equipped for a number of fields in a diverse and complex world: Christian ministry, business, public relations, marketing, sales and government service. The curriculum will include a series of communication courses including mass media, intercultural communication and communication theory. The program also will include a concentration in “strategic communication,” which focuses on the business side of communications.
 
“I really cannot think of a degree better suited to meet the needs of the 21st century, to help to give a rising generation of young Christians critical skills in very important dimensions of communication,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary and Boyce College. “In the secular world, in the international arena, in the church and everywhere you look, skills in communication are becoming more and more necessary. This degree program is going to equip a new generation of Christians to be effective and faithful communicators in a world that desperately needs not only skills in communication, but needs to hear the gospel, biblical truth, communicated.”
 
The B.S. in communication is a continuation of Boyce’s mission, Hall said. All degree programs at Boyce – including business, education, philosophy, politics and economics – offer students an extensive education in biblical and theological studies.
 
Students who graduate from the communications program will get a premier classical theological education, Hall said. “It’s the same core curriculum that’s in every one of our majors, but they’ll also get with that a cutting-edge education in the field of communication studies that will allow them to take timeless truth and apply it to the 21st century wherever God takes them.”
 
Leading the program will be Jason Leverett, who will be associate professor of communication and program coordinator.
 
Leverett joins the college after nearly a decade of teaching experience in the field, most recently as assistant professor of strategic communication at Liberty University in Virginia. He holds a doctor of philosophy and master of arts in communication from Regent College in Virginia Beach, Va., and an undergraduate degree from Liberty. Leverett and his wife Heather have four boys.
 
“As we explored what this program should look like and the way it would best serve our mission and our students, it became exceptionally clear early in the process that the Lord was leading us to Jason Leverett,” Hall said. “Dr. Leverett is a proven teacher with ample experience. His research and scholarship in the field is highly respected, and he brings a unique awareness of what this major needs to look like in the 21st century for a school like Boyce College. He’s an innovative thinker, a passionate teacher, and he’s a gracious and kind Christian gentleman with a wonderful family.”
 
The announcement of Boyce’s communications degree comes shortly after its business program added multiple new emphases: financial and accounting management; nonprofit management; and entrepreneurial management. The communication program will launch in the fall 2019 term. More information is available at boycecollege.com/academics. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Spurgeon College also is launching a communications degree. See bachelor-of-arts-in-communications-degree.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the communications office of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this digest.)

1/18/2019 1:33:26 PM by The Southern Baptist Seminary Staff | with 0 comments



Christian women targets for persecution: Open Doors

January 18 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Targeted Christian persecution tailored to hurt women is trending globally, Open Doors reported in its 2019 World Watch List of 50 countries most dangerous for Christians to practice their faith.
 

IMB file photo
Targeted Christian persecution tailored to hurt women is trending globally, Open Doors reported in its 2019 World Watch List of 50 countries most dangerous for Christians to practice their faith.

“The data proves conclusively that Christian women are the most exploited group on the face of the earth today,” Open Doors President David Curry said in a Jan. 16 press conference in Washington announcing the list. “While not minimizing the incredible violence against men, women are doubly persecuted. They’re exploited for their vulnerability as females, and also for their faith.
 
“And the shame culture within many of these regions of the world,” Curry said, “makes sexual violence victims very cautious of how they rebuild their lives within these shame cultures.”
 
In Nigeria, the 12th country on the persecution list, Boko Haram captured 15-year-old Esther, killed her father and raped her repeatedly for a year because she refused to denounce her faith. The captors released her to her home when she gave birth to a girl.
 
“What does the future hold for Esther in northern Nigeria? What does the future hold for her daughter?” Curry posed. “I also wonder if she were your daughter or your sister, what you would be willing to fight for.”
 
Esther’s release was not happenstance, said Helene Fisher, global gender persecution specialist for Open Doors International.
 
“She was returned because actually there is more damage in having her return and having to live with that shame, having her family have to live with that perceived shame,” Fisher said. “There is a generational impact and it is intentional. This is not a byproduct that nobody thought of.”
 
Elisha, a persecuted Christian from India whom Open Doors introduced at its press conference, spoke with Baptist Press (BP) by telephone in advance of the Washington event. She fled India with her daughter for safety in 2017, but returns months at a time to help her husband operate a secret ministry to educate and empower women. In India, the 10th most dangerous country for Christians, most women are denied an education and are left to learn only what their husbands tell them at home.
 
Christian men in India are more insulated from attacks than Christian women, Elisha told BP, because cultural customs make a woman’s religion more obvious.
 
“Not only the community throws her out, but even she also falls from the family,” Elisha said in broken English. “And for the children – if they are living in the community, they are also discriminated [against].”
 
Sexual attacks, forced marriage, domestic abuse, denial of inheritance and murder, all with impunity, were noted especially in the top five countries of persecution, Open Doors said, naming North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan.
 
In North Korea, sexual violence against all women has become so commonplace it’s considered a part of everyday life, Human Rights Watch has reported. But Christian women and girls are particularly subject to such abuse, Open Doors said.
 
Persecution varies among the 50 countries on the watch list but is widespread and increasing.
 
“Religious persecution is not gender blind. Religious persecution is firmly gender specific,” Fisher said. “It is the easiest and most effective means of religious persecution.... There will not be a court case. There will not be another post in the #MeToo campaign. It will be accepted and understood.”
 
Open Doors provides education, trauma care and micro loans to help survivors rebuild their lives, and encourages churches to become active in relief efforts.
 
“We’ve been called to inform ourselves. We’ve been called to pray. We’ve been called to say this is part of who we are and this ought not to be done,” Fisher said. “Because when an individual is targeted, it is not done just to hurt an individual, but it is done to destroy a community.”
 
While women are targeted sexually, men are targeted economically and are not immune to sexual harassment.
 
“Persecution targeting minority Christian men and boys in the five worst 2019 (World Watch List) countries is characterized by severe physical violence and socio-economic ostracism,” Fisher wrote in a report supplemental to the list. “Analysis of the situations in Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan exposes the use of physical violence, including torture and death, against minority Christian men after their faith is discovered.”
 
Read Biblical Recorder’s Jan. 17 story on the World Watch List here and BP’s story here. Fisher’s report is available at OpenDoorsUSA.org.

1/18/2019 1:33:06 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Prohibition and Baptists 100 years later

January 18 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Jan. 16 marked the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which outlawed “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.”)

When the 18th Amendment was ratified 100 years ago and prohibition became law of the land, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) called it “the greatest victory for moral reform in America since the Declaration of Independence.”
 
The convention’s jubilance came in part because Southern Baptists had worked at least three decades to secure legal prohibition. They saw the 18th Amendment as a culmination of their labor. They also had come to view prohibition advocacy as a defining mark of Baptist identity.
 
Still, Southern Baptists wondered whether the anti-alcohol effort that helped bring about prohibition would persist.
 

A ‘sin against God’

 
Prominent Southern Baptists led state and national campaigns for prohibition since at least the 1880s. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary founder B.H. Carroll headed an 1887 Texas campaign for prohibition. In 1896, Baptist layman Joshua Levering – who chaired Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustee board – was nominated by the Prohibition Party for president of the United States.
 
Beginning in 1890, the SBC “supported prohibition at every annual meeting” until it became law, wrote Bill Sumners, retired director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, in a 1975 master’s thesis. The convention also appointed a permanent Committee on Temperance in 1910.
 
Greg Wills, professor of church history at The Southern Seminary, said “a Christian duty to avoid consumption of alcohol” was “the fundamental issue” for Baptists, “not whether our states and municipalities would prohibit [alcohol’s] manufacture, sale and consumption.” Southern Baptists “believed you would be hard pressed to identify any other single factor that caused so much widespread suffering, injury and damage as the widespread abuse of alcohol.”
 
One of the SBC’s strongest statements against alcohol came in 1896, when it called “the policy of issuing government licenses” for “the liquor traffic” a “sin against God and a dishonor to our people.”
 
“We furthermore announce it as our conviction that we should by all legitimate means oppose the liquor traffic in municipality, county, State, and nation,” the convention stated. “Furthermore, we announce it as the sense of this body that no person should be retained in the fellowship of a Baptist church who engages in the manufacture or sale of alcoholic liquors.”
 
North Greenville University history professor Brendan Payne wrote in his 2017 doctoral dissertation, “With this official declaration, prohibition advocacy had become a defining issue of Baptist identity.”
 
At its first annual meeting following the 18th Amendment’s ratification, the SBC adopted a report stating, “Thus dawns the date for which we have labored and prayed.... It is the greatest victory for moral reform in America since the Declaration of Independence.”
 
The report also asked whether Baptists could “now cease or slacken our efforts” to combat alcohol. The answer was “an emphatic negative.”
 

‘A total failure’?

 
Nonetheless, prohibition was repealed in 1933. Some historians came to view it as a ludicrous public policy. Church historian Martin Marty told The World and Everything in It podcast Jan. 16, “Total prohibition was a total failure.”
 
But Don Cole, president of the Kentucky Ethics League, a partner organization with the Kentucky Baptist Convention that opposes alcohol, said prohibition helped America by initiating regulation of the alcohol industry.
 
“Everybody says prohibition didn’t work, but it did,” Cole said. “The advantage of prohibition was that we got regulations on alcohol.” The continuing regulation of alcohol begun by prohibition “saved many lives” and “has kept people from being injured.”
 
The SBC’s Social Service Commission noted in 1934 that “motor car accidents” and resultant fatalities decreased during prohibition. The commission presented tables and statistics to support that claim and said “economic sanity and moral welfare” took a “backward step” with the repeal.
 
Despite prohibition’s repeal, the SBC reaffirmed in 1934 “its unchanging devotion to the principle of total abstinence from all alcoholic beverages as the only safe and sane course of conduct for the individual and to the principle of prohibition of the manufacture, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages by the government as the only economic and righteous policy.”
 
Baptists recognized the difficulty of enforcing prohibition, Wills said. But they “remained committed to seeking all helpful means to reducing the consumption of alcohol.”
 
Since 1934, the SBC has adopted at least 35 statements opposing alcohol, the latest in 2006.
 
Yet some wonder if concern about alcohol abuse is waning among Southern Baptists. They cite the lifting of alcohol bans at schools friendly to the SBC and statements by some Southern Baptist pastors indicating they consume alcohol.
 
Barrett Duke, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention, wonders if Baptists’ thinking on recreational marijuana use could follow a similar trajectory as their thinking on alcohol.
 
“In this day of antinomian attitudes in some evangelical circles, the idea of prohibition is frowned on, but ... the record reveals that prohibition was generally good for the average American,” said Duke, a former public policy vice president at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
 
“We’re seeing a similar thing occur today with marijuana. Those who want to smoke it can find it. Many politicians are deciding that they might as well legalize it and try to wrest it away from the criminals,” Duke said in written comments. “Taking it out of the hands of criminals is a good idea, but we are already seeing communities that legalized marijuana reeling from the impact. Crime and health problems are increasing in communities with legalized marijuana. In addition, with the stigma of marijuana erased, we will see more people use it who otherwise would have left it alone.
 
“Marijuana should remain illegal, but I’m afraid that train has left the station,” he noted. “America will loosen its laws against marijuana even more before it realizes the price we’re paying for it.”

1/18/2019 1:32:11 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay to reduce ‘brick-and-mortar channel’

January 17 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In light of “an accelerated rate of erosion” at “brick-and-mortar” stores, LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer has announced that some LifeWay stores will be closing. The number of stores to close and the timing of those closures has not been announced.
 

Rainer wrote in a Jan. 15 email to all LifeWay employees, “We prayed and hoped that our investments in and commitments to the LifeWay stores would prove fruitful. That just has not been the case. To the contrary, we not only continue to see an erosion in the brick-and-mortar channel, we have seen an accelerated rate of erosion in recent months. It was our hope that greater traffic would result in greater sales, and that with our expense reductions and product cost savings, we would be able to offset sales declines. That hope has not been realized with the declines we have seen since September.
 
“In simple terms, a strategic shift is required for moving more and more of our resources to a dynamic digital strategy,” Rainer wrote. “We will be transitioning many of those resources from our LifeWay stores to digital channels. The good news is that we will be better prepared to meet the future. The challenging news is that some of our stores will have to close.”
 
LifeWay operated 174 stores in 2017, according to the latest figures published in Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annuals. In 2018, LifeWay launched a new vision for its stores, seeking to make them places where people could “connect, learn and grow,” Baptist Press reported in February 2018.
 
The last time LifeWay’s sales exceeded its total operating expenses was 2009, when LifeWay reported a $3 million increase in “unrestricted net assets from operations,” according to financial reports published in SBC Annuals. Since then, total operating expenses exceeded sales each year. The margin by which operating expenses exceeded sales grew from $2.3 million in 2010 to $35.5 million in 2017.
 
Still, LifeWay’s total assets increased over the same period, from $407 million in 2009 to $452 million in 2017. During that timeframe, LifeWay sold its Glorieta Conference Center in 2013 and its 14.5-acre Nashville campus in 2015. LifeWay financial statements show $20 million of net cash provided by operating activities in 2017. That resulted in a $44 million increase in unrestricted net assets for 2017.
 
LifeWay’s financial report for 2018 has not yet been released.
 
Amid the growth of online booksellers, other Christian and secular bookstores have had to close as well. Two years ago, Family Christian Stores – which called itself “the world’s largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise” – announced the closure of 240 stores across 36 states.
 
“Our strategy for the future,” Rainer, who announced plans to retire from LifeWay in August 2018, wrote, “will be a greater investment in digital channels and in events and services. We will have a smaller footprint for our brick-and-mortar stores. At this point, we are evaluating all our stores, so we cannot say how many stores will remain in this new era.”
 
While “these challenges can bring pain and disruption,” he wrote, changes at LifeWay “also introduce tremendous opportunities and hope. The world is flat and everyone is connected. It is an incredible time for LifeWay to get the message of the gospel to the world and continue to offer biblical solutions for life.”

1/17/2019 9:37:33 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Abortion defunding effort resumes in Congress

January 17 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Pro-life advocates in Congress have not given up on extracting the federal government from the abortion business.
 
Members of the Senate and House of Representatives already have introduced legislation in the new congressional session, which began Jan. 3, to end funding for abortions and abortion providers. Their efforts to gain passage, however, face what appear to be insurmountable odds in a House now controlled by Democrats, who support abortion rights nearly across the board.
 
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., introduced Jan. 10 the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act (S. 109), which would create a permanent, government-wide ban on funds for abortions by standardizing the prohibitions that now exist in various federal programs. The bill – introduced by Wicker in partnership with Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan. – also would block federal money for abortion coverage under the 2010 health-care law and guarantee full disclosure of abortion funding by health insurance plans that are part of the controversial arrangement.
 
On Jan. 9, Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., introduced the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, which would establish a one-year moratorium on federal money for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates unless they stop performing elective abortions. The proposal also would increase funds for community healthcare centers that provide comprehensive care for women and their babies but do not perform abortions.
 
In the other chamber, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced companion legislation, the Protect Funding for Women’s Health Care Act, Wednesday (Jan. 16).
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) listed both policy goals in its 2019 legislative agenda announced Jan. 16.
 
“The abortion industry is both predatory and profit-driven,” ERLC President Russell Moore said in written comments for Baptist Press. “Their ability to fund death with taxpayer funds must not stand. Americans ought not be compelled to fund the destruction of the most vulnerable among us under the false pretense of health care.”
 
Previous attempts to pass such funding prohibitions have failed. For instance, the Republican-controlled House voted 238-183 for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act in January 2017. Only three Democrats voted for the bill, while no Republicans opposed it. The GOP-controlled Senate failed to vote on the proposal in the last Congress, though President Trump supported it.
 
Banning government funding of abortion has proven effective in saving the lives of unborn children since the Hyde Amendment was enacted in 1976. That provision, which bars Medicaid funding of abortion and became the general label for such bans on health programs, has saved the lives of more than two million unborn babies, the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute estimated on Hyde’s 40th anniversary in 2016.
 
Congress, however, has had to pass the Hyde Amendment and similar bans in other federal health programs each year as part of spending measures. The measure is named after its sponsor, the late Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois.
 
In a written statement, Wicker said of his bill, “Millions of Americans oppose the use of federal dollars to support abortion.... [I]t is well-past time Congress passed a comprehensive solution to the patchwork of regulations prohibiting federal funding for abortion services.”
 
Lankford said in written comments, “We must continue to take steps to move our nation and our culture closer to holding all human lives sacred regardless of a person’s size or degree of dependency. This bill brings us closer to that goal.”
 
Wicker and Lankford are both members of Southern Baptist churches.
 
Thirty-nine senators, all Republicans, joined Wicker in co-sponsoring his legislation.
 
Democrats in the House, meanwhile, pledged Jan. 15 to rescind the ban on abortion funding.
 
“We are going to end the Hyde Amendment,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., co-chairwoman of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, according to The Hill news website. “We intend to fight aggressively to reverse the terrible decisions by the Trump administration, and frankly previous administrations, going back 40 years.”
 
In a Jan. 15 release, the annual Marist Poll on attitudes about abortion showed a majority of all Americans oppose any taxpayer funding of abortion by 54 to 39 percent.
 
Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider, collected $543.7 million in government grants and reimbursements in the financial year that closed June 30, 2017. PPFA’s clinics performed 321,384 abortions in the 2015-16 year, according to its latest report.
 
Hartzler said in a written statement, “Taxpayers should not have to pay for Planned Parenthood’s abortion industry. Abortion is not healthcare, yet it is the foundation of Planned Parenthood’s mission.
 
“We should be investing in women’s healthcare, not abortion.”
 
Twenty states have enacted restrictions limiting funds in some form for Planned Parenthood, according to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). Courts have blocked such laws in at least nine of those states, NRLC reported.
 
Messengers to past Southern Baptist Convention meetings have adopted resolutions calling for government defunding of abortion and of Planned Parenthood.

1/17/2019 9:37:01 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Open Doors: Christian persecution up 14% worldwide

January 17 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The number of Christians suffering high to extremely high persecution is 14 percent more in 2019, Open Doors reported, counting 245 million individuals globally.
 
Persecution driven by Islamic extremism and Communist authoritarianism in the world’s two most populous countries, India and China, marked the increase, Open Doors said Jan. 16 in releasing its 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries with the most extreme Christian persecution.
 
“Islamic radicalism continues to dominate and influence all spheres of life for Christians, and we are watching China and India very closely,” Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry said in releasing the latest findings. “The distressing impact of billions of people living in an environment in which the government oppresses freedom of religion is unraveling day by day as millions of Christians are being attacked, imprisoned or killed.”
 
Life without religious freedom is no freedom at all, Curry said at a Washington press conference announcing the findings.
 
“Religious freedom is the first freedom,” he said. “If you don’t have the right to make up your own mind, are you really free at all?”
 
China climbed to 27th on the list from 43rd in 2018. India ranked as the 10th most persecuted country this year, its first time in the top 10 in the rankings’ 27-year history. India outpaces China in persecution, despite the rampant closure of house churches and the widespread arrest of Christians.
 
“India has a large population of Christians,” Curry said, “and the radical agenda of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata) Party has created an environment – and I can’t repeat this enough because it needs to be understood – that India’s not a safe place for Christians. Because the government has looked the other way when mobs have attacked churches, and then they have tacitly approved the arrest of pastors. Christians of all kinds are under pressure in India.”
 
North Korea, an authoritarian regime mandating worship of President Kim Jong-un, maintains its first place for the 18th consecutive year. Others in the top 10, in descending order are Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen and Iran.
 
Russia, which had not placed in the top 50 countries of persecution since 2011, entered the 2019 list at No. 41.
 
Globally, persecution against women and the spread of radical Islam across sub-Saharan Africa join authoritarianism as notable trends driving persecution. Africa is a major epicenter of violence against Christians, with groups loyal to the Islamic State growing in sub-Saharan Africa. Open Doors noted a splinter group of Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP.
 
Numerically, the 245 million persecuted Christians counted this year are more than the 215 million counted in 2018. Globally, one in nine Christians is highly persecuted – an increase from one in 12 last year. Each day of 2018, 11 Christians were killed, totaling 4,136 by year’s end. Most of the killings – 3,731 – were in Nigeria, which ranks 12th on the list, Open Doors said. Pakistan and the Central African Republic round out the three countries where Christians experience the most physical violence.
 
“Open Doors continues to see ominous persecution trends against Christians,” Curry said. “Open Doors will continue to walk alongside these Christians and advocate on their behalf for human rights we take for granted in America.”
 
Among few improvements for Christians in 2019, Iraq ranked number 13 this year after an eighth-place spot in 2018, evidence of the territorial defeat of ISIS. Malaysia improved from 23rd to 42nd, where the electoral victory of the Pakatan Harapan political coalition has reportedly given hope to persecuted minorities. North Korea, despite its first-place rank, freed three imprisoned Korean American Christians in 2018, including a pastor convicted erroneously as a spy.
 
Open Doors markets its list as the “only comprehensive, annual survey of the state of religious liberty for Christians around the world.”
 
Interviews and research conducted November 2017 through October 2018 measures Christians’ ability to practice faith in five spheres of life, namely private, family, community, national and church. Each category is measured with numerical points, with the total score determining a country’s ranking.
 
For instance, North Korea garnered 94 out of 100 points, with India accumulating 83.
 
Ranking 11-50 on the list are, in descending order, Syria, Nigeria, Iraq, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Central African Republic, Algeria, Turkmenistan, Mali, Mauritania, Turkey, China, Ethiopia, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Jordan, Nepal, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Brunei, Tunisia, Qatar, Mexico, Kenya, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Bangladesh, the Palestinian Territories and Azerbaijan.
 
The full list and accompanying resources are available at opendoorsusa.org. Open Doors has worked for more than 60 years to help Christians living in countries the organization deems the world’s most oppressive and restrictive for believers.

1/17/2019 9:33:50 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



DeMoss to close PR firm

January 16 2019 by Biblical Recorder Staff

Mark DeMoss, founder of DeMoss, a public relations firm known for its high-profile, faith-based clientele, plans to shutter the Atlanta-based organization March 29. In a letter to friends dated Jan. 15, DeMoss said he was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, but tests now show he is cancer-free.
 

“In addition to the gift of God’s presence and physical healing during this journey, the experience motivated a season of reflection ultimately leading to both clarity and affirmation of this important decision for me,” the letter said.
 
He explained that many public relations organizations have been “reinventing themselves” and changing their business models, but DeMoss said he is “not wired” to do that with his firm.
 
Founded in 1991 as The DeMoss Group, the firm managed clients such as the Southern Baptist Convention, Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Chick-fil-A, Museum of the Bible, American Bible Society, Hobby Lobby, Cru (formerly Campus Crusade), the American Center for Law and Justice and dozens more.
 
DeMoss planned and coordinated media relations for memorial services and other events surrounding the death of North Carolina evangelist Billy Graham, which received worldwide news coverage last year. He also served as an advisor for Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.
 
DeMoss’s 20 employees were notified Jan. 11 of the company’s forthcoming closure. Clients were then informed about the decision. Their website calls DeMoss “the nation’s largest PR agency serving faith-based organizations and causes.”

Mark DeMoss is also the author of The Little Red Book of Wisdom.

1/16/2019 11:06:24 AM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments



Church dropout rate among young adults studied

January 16 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Church pews may be full of teenagers, but a study released Jan. 15 suggests college students might be a much rarer sight on Sunday mornings.
 
Two-thirds (66 percent) of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22, according to a study from LifeWay Research. Thirty-four percent say they continued to attend twice a month or more.
 

While the 66 percent may be troubling for many church leaders, the numbers may appear more hopeful when compared to a 2007 study from LifeWay Research. A decade earlier, 70 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds left church for at least one year.


“The good news for Christian leaders is that churches don’t seem to be losing more students than they were 10 years ago. However, the difference in the dropout rate now and then is not large enough statistically to say it has actually improved,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
 
“The reality is that Protestant churches continue to see the new generation walk away as young adults. Regardless of any external factors, the Protestant church is slowly shrinking from within.”
 

When they drop out

 
The dropout rate for young adults accelerates with age, according to the latest survey conducted Sept. 15–Oct. 13, 2017.
 
While 69 percent say they were attending at age 17, that fell to 58 percent at age 18 and 40 percent at age 19. Once they reach their 20s, around 1 in 3 say they were attending church regularly.
 
“Overall, Protestant churches see many teenagers attending regularly only for a season. Many families just don’t attend that often,” McConnell said.
 
“As those teenagers reach their late teen years, even those with a history of regular church attendance are pulled away as they get increased independence, a driver’s license or a job. The question becomes: will they become like older adults who have all those things and still attend or will students choose to stay away longer than a year.”
 
Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at LifeWay, said those numbers speak to the issue at hand. “We are seeing teenagers drop out of the church as they make the transition out of high school and student ministry,” he said. “This moment of transition is often too late to act for churches.”
 

Why they drop out

 
Virtually all of those who dropped out (96 percent) listed a change in their life situation as a reason for their dropping out. Fewer say it was related to the church or pastor (73 percent); religious, ethical or political beliefs (70 percent); or the student ministry (63 percent).
 
The five most frequently chosen specific reasons for dropping out were: moving to college and no longer attending (34 percent); church members seeming judgmental or hypocritical (32 percent); no longer feeling connected to people in their church (29 percent); disagreeing with the church’s stance on political or social issues (25 percent); and work responsibilities (24 percent).
 
Nearly half (47 percent) of those who dropped out and attended college say moving to college played a role in their no longer attending church for at least a year.
 
“Most of the reasons young adults leave the church reflect shifting personal priorities and changes in their own habits,” McConnell said. “Even when churches have faithfully communicated their beliefs through words and actions, not every teenager who attends embraces or prioritizes those beliefs.”
 
Among all those who dropped out, 29 percent say they planned on taking a break from church once they graduated high school. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say their leaving wasn’t an intentional decision.
 
“For the most part, people aren’t leaving the church out of bitterness, the influence of college atheists or a renunciation of their faith,” Trueblood said.
 
“What the research tells us may be even more concerning for Protestant churches: there was nothing about the church experience or faith foundation of those teenagers that caused them to seek out a connection to a local church once they entered a new phase of life. The time they spent with activity in church was simply replaced by something else.”
 

Where are they now?

 
Not all teenagers leave church as a young adult. A third (34 percent) say they consistently attended twice a month or more through the age of 22.
 
Those who stayed saw the church as an important part of their entire life. When asked why they stayed in church, more than half say the church was a vital part of their relationship with God (56 percent) and that they wanted the church to help guide their decisions in everyday life (54 percent).
 
Around 4 in 10 (43 percent) say they wanted to follow the example of a parent or other family member.
 
Similar numbers say they continued to attend because church activities were a big part of their life (39 percent), they felt church was helping them become a better person (39 percent) or they were committed to the purpose and work of the church (37 percent).
 
Among all young adults who attended church regularly at least one year as a teenager, nearly half (45 percent) currently attend at least twice a month, including more than a quarter (27 percent) who attend once a week or more.
 
Another 8 percent say they attend once a month, while 25 percent say they attend a few times a year. Twenty-two percent of those who attended regularly at least one year as a teenager now say they do not currently attend at all.
 
Among those who dropped out for at least a year, 31 percent are currently attending twice or month or more.
 
“On some level, we can be encouraged that some return,” said Trueblood, “while at the same time, we should recognize that when someone drops out in these years there is a 69 percent chance they will stay gone.”
 
He advised churches to begin by working to lower the number who leave in the first place. “There are steps we can begin taking with those currently in student ministry that will keep them connected from the beginning of these years.”
 
Trueblood also asserted churches should have a strategic focus on individuals during those traditional college years.
 
“In many places this is a forgotten, under-resourced ministry area,” he said. “Focus is placed on children, students, and then not again until someone enters the ‘young family’ stage. This needs to change.”
 
Among those who attended a Protestant church as teenager, 7 in 10 say they’re Protestant now. Another 10 percent identify as Catholic. Few say they are agnostic (4 percent) or atheist (3 percent).
 
“While some young adults who leave church are rejecting their childhood faith, most are choosing to keep many of the beliefs they had, but with a smaller dose of church,” McConnell said.
 

Methodology

 
A demographically balanced online panel was used for interviewing American adults between the ages of 23 and 30 years old. The study was sponsored by LifeWay Students. 

The survey was conducted Sept. 15–Oct. 13, 2017. Slight weights were used to balance gender, ethnicity, education, and region. The sample was screened to only include those who attended a Protestant church regularly (twice a month or more) for at least a year in high school. The completed sample is 2,002 surveys.
 
The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from the online panel does not exceed plus or minus 2.4 percent. This margin of error accounts for the effect of weighting. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
 
Comparisons are made to a LifeWay Research online survey of 1,023 young adults ages 18-30 in April-May 2007.
 
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
 
For more information on the study, visit LifeWayResearch.com or view the complete report. A graphic video of the information is available at LifeWay’s YouTube page.

1/16/2019 10:29:47 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



New book, Within Reach, relays insight for student ministry

January 16 2019 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources

Today’s high school graduate is faced with an abundance of choices. Go to college or enter the workforce? Dorm life, apartment life or mom and dad’s basement? But no decision may be as important as whether to continue attending church.
 

A study from LifeWay Research and LifeWay Students, released Jan. l5, reveals that two out of three young adults who attend a Protestant church for at least a year in high school will stop attending church regularly for at least a year between ages 18-22.
 
Within Reach:  The Power of Small Changes in Keeping Students Connected, a new book by Ben Trueblood, explores the research and the differences between young people who dropped out of church and those who stayed.
 
“One of the first things that jumped out at us was the decline in the percentage of dropouts from a decade earlier,” said Trueblood, LifeWay’s director of student ministry. In 2007, LifeWay Research found 70 percent of teens who were active in church during their high school years dropped out of the church during their college years, compared to 66 percent in 2017.
 
“While 66 percent is still a significant share of teens dropping out of church, we didn’t want to overlook the slight decrease,” he said.
 
Trueblood also noted another data point that jumped out from the research. Of the 66 percent who left the church during their college years, 71 percent didn’t intend on doing so.
 
“It’s important to note that the majority of dropouts never plan on leaving; it just happens,” Trueblood said. “Young adults aren’t walking away from church because they’re bitter at the church or have lost their faith. Instead, things come up – work, school projects, extracurricular activities – and many young adults simply fall out of the habit of going to church.”
 
Within Reach presents the 10 strongest predictors of young adults staying or dropping out of church after high school, which includes parental influence, regular Bible reading and the investment of adults.
 
“One of the most influential aspects of a student’s spiritual development is the investment of multiple adults speaking into their lives,” Trueblood said. “Since that’s the case, church leaders need to make an intentional effort to regularly train the volunteers who work with students. Equipping adults to serve in student ministry is vital to the spiritual health of students.”
 
In the book, Trueblood unpacks each of the predictors and offers insight on how churches can capitalize on those things that influence church attendance among young adults.
 
“I pray church leaders will be willing to spend time digesting what is and isn’t working in student ministry, according to the research, and make adjustments that will keep students grounded in their faith and committed to the church,” Trueblood said.
 
To order a copy of Within Reach, visit LifeWay.com.

1/16/2019 10:29:33 AM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Judges block rules on abortion mandate

January 16 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Federal conscience protections for American employers who object to the abortion/contraception mandate are on hold.
 
Federal judges in California and Pennsylvania blocked Jan. 13 and Jan. 14, respectively, implementation of final rules from the Trump administration that provided exemptions for employers with religious or moral objections to the 2011 requirement instituted under President Obama.
 
The opinions prevented rules issued in November by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from taking effect Monday while challenges proceed in the courts. The ruling in Pennsylvania was a preliminary injunction for the entire country, while the decision in California affected the 13 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have sued HHS.
 
The court actions are the latest shots in a seven-year battle over a controversial regulation that helped implement the 2010 health-care reform law. The rule required employers to provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives, including those with mechanisms that can potentially induce abortions, or face potentially devastating fines. It elicited legal challenges from more than 90 religious nonprofit organizations, including GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and at least seven Baptist universities.
 
One of the new regulations issued Nov. 7 exempts entities and individuals from the mandate based on their religious beliefs, while the other rule protects individuals, nonprofit organizations and small businesses on the basis of a moral conviction apart from a specific religious belief.
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which advocated for an exemption to the mandate for GuideStone and other religious or moral objectors, expressed continued support for the new HHS rules.
 
“The contraceptive mandate revealed the audacity of a state that believed it could annex the human conscience,” ERLC President Russell Moore said in written comments for Baptist Press. “This government overreach asks citizens to choose between obedience to God and compliance with the regulatory state.
 
“The Little Sisters of the Poor victory at the Supreme Court and the HHS religious and moral exemptions were crucial achievements in the preservation of religious liberty and must be defended.”
 
The final HHS rules issued in November came more than two years after the U.S. Supreme Court nullified multiple federal appeals court decisions against GuideStone and other religious institutions and more than four years following the justices’ decision in favor of Hobby Lobby’s conscience-based challenge to the mandate.
 
In a statement published by The Washington Post, Kelly Laco of the Department of Justice said, “As we’ve said before, religious organizations should not be forced to violate their mission and deeply-held beliefs. In this case and others, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously defending religious liberty.”
 
GuideStone and two of the ministries it represents – as well as some other objecting organizations – already have gained final, favorable verdicts in court, but some have not.
 
The new court decisions in California and Pennsylvania came in cases involving state challenges to exemptions for the Little Sisters of the Poor. Lawsuits by those states will continue as a result of the federal court injunctions. The Little Sisters of the Poor is a Roman Catholic order that serves the poverty-stricken elderly and became the face of the institutions objecting to the mandate.
 
Mark Rienzi – president of the religious freedom legal organization Becket and lead lawyer for the Little Sisters – said, “Government bureaucrats should not be allowed to threaten the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor to serve according to their Catholic beliefs. Now the nuns are forced to keep fighting this unnecessary lawsuit to protect their ability to focus on caring for the poor.
 
In a written statement, Rienzi expressed confidence the decisions would be overturned.
 
A leading abortion rights organization praised the nationwide injunction against the HHS rules.
 
“This rule would have given employers a license to discriminate against their employees, and we applaud the court recognizing that employers have no place in making decisions about the healthcare of their employees,” said Ilyse Hoge, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in written comments.
 
In her opinion out of federal court in Pennsylvania, Wendy Beetlestone said HHS’ final rules regarding the mandate sweep “further than [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] would require.” That 1993 law requires the government to have a compelling interest and use the narrowest possible means in burdening free exercise of religion.
 
In issuing a nation-wide exemption, Beetlestone cited these as harms if the HHS rules are implemented – “numerous citizens losing contraceptive coverage, resulting in ‘significant, direct and proprietary harm’ to the States in the form of increased use of state-funded contraceptive services, as well as increase costs associated with unintended pregnancies.”
 
In May 2016, the Supreme Court invalidated multiple federal appeals court decisions against the religious institutions and blocked the Obama administration from imposing fines on them. The justices told the appeals courts involved to give the parties an opportunity to reach a solution “that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.” No agreement was reached before Obama left office in January 2017.
 
When it issued the controversial rule in 2011, HHS provided an exemption for churches and their auxiliaries but did not extend it to non-church-related, nonprofit organizations that object. HHS proposed nearly 10 accommodations for the objecting institutions, but none proved satisfactory to their conscience concerns.
 
The federally approved contraceptives for which coverage is required by the mandate include the intrauterine device (IUD) and such drugs as Plan B, the “morning-after” pill. Both the IUD and “morning-after” pill possess post-fertilization mechanisms that potentially can cause abortions by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella,” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can act even after implantation to end the life of the child.
 
GuideStone, the SBC’s health and financial benefits entity, was exempt from the mandate, but it serves ministries that are required to obey it.
 
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the abortion/contraception mandate. In its 5-4 opinion in that case, the justices upheld objections to the requirement by “closely held,” for-profit companies, such as family owned businesses.
 
Messengers to the 2012 SBC meeting adopted a resolution calling for an exemption from the mandate for “all religious organizations and people of faith ... who declare a religious objection to such coverage.”

1/16/2019 10:29:22 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Displaying results 11-20 (of 10000)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10  >  >|