December 2016

Pray for Aleppo, Southern Baptist leaders urge

December 16 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist leaders are exhorting Christians to pray for Aleppo, Syria, a city being destroyed in civil war between the Syrian government and rebels including the Islamic State.
 
The latest call for prayer follows the desperate pleas of residents who believed their death was imminent as the Syrian government reportedly made significant progress in overtaking and evacuating rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo. The United Nations received multiple reports of execution-style killings – although it was not clear whether the perpetrators were government or rebel forces – and as many as 6,000 men who had tried to evacuate eastern Aleppo have been forced to fight for the Syrian government, the New York Times reported Dec. 13.

AFP screen capture
Portions of Aleppo were destroyed as Syrian government-led forces progressed into rebel-held territories, reportedly offering to evacuate civilians trapped there.


If the Syrian government aided by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah can successfully evacuate eastern Aleppo, the New York Times said, it would be a major turning point in the nearly six-year civil war that has killed about 450,000 civilians and forced the evacuations of millions more.
 
David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, tweeted Dec. 14, “Would you pause for a moment right now and plead for the peace, justice, and mercy of Christ to be made known in Aleppo?”
 
Social media posts and audio reports from Aleppo relayed residents’ dilemma, with one audio message from an accountant for a medical office in Aleppo saying Dec. 10, “We are about to die or be arrested.”
 
Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, expressed prayer and sympathy especially for innocent children.
 
“Our prayers go out to the civilians, especially children, of Aleppo and all of Syria,” Page told Baptist Press. “In geopolitical conflicts such as this, there are many complex issues involved. However, the bottom line is that civilians become the greatest casualties and the children are innocent.
 
“God help Syria,” Page prayed. “God bless those who are ministering in this very difficult context.”
 
Aleppo was once the largest city in Syria and was home to as many as 200,000 Christians in the mostly Islamic nation, but as few as 33,000 Christians remained in the city as recently as November, the World Watch Monitor reported.
 
The independent, non-governmental Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has identified seven main factions whose strategic war initiatives have led to the deaths of civilians in Syria, namely the Syrian government, Russian forces, Islamic State (IS), armed opposition factions, international coalition forces, unidentified groups and Kurdish forces.
 
In November alone in Syria, the SNHR reported, civilian death tolls during the strategic initiatives of each faction were 741 by the Syrian government, 358 by Russian forces, 70 by IS, 104 by armed opposition factions, 69 by international coalition forces, 43 by unidentified groups and 17 by Kurdish forces, for a combined total of 1,402. More than half of those, 724, occurred in Aleppo.
 
Open Doors USA ranked Syria at number five on its 2016 World Watch List of the countries where Christians suffer the most persecution, ranking persecution in the country as extreme. The civil war is believed especially complicated for Christians.
 
“The Syrian opposition is increasingly ‘Islamizing’ and the civil war is more and more taking on the form of a jihad against the Syrian government,” Open Doors reported in its watch list. “In the conflict, all Syrians are suffering greatly, but some groups are in a more vulnerable position than others.
 
“One of the main features of Syria’s Christian population is its combined ethnic and religious identity,” Open Doors wrote. “The geographical concentration of Christians in strategic areas of the country that are vital to both the government and the opposition’s war efforts is an important factor in their vulnerability, as is their alleged support for the government.”
 
More the 7.6 million Christians have been displaced in Syria since the war began in 2011, and perhaps 170,000 Christians remain in the country of between 17 million and 23 million, according to Open Doors.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

12/16/2016 10:24:58 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Fed rate hike: long-term view advised by analysts

December 16 2016 by Roy Hayhurst, Guidestone

The Federal Open Market Committee's decision on Dec. 14 to raise the target the Federal Reserve's Fed Funds rate will mean little for long-term investors, according to analysts for GuideStone Financial Resources, the financial services arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
The committee's decision reportedly confirmed analyst and market expectations by voting to raise the target Fed Funds rate by 0.25 percent, bringing it to a range between 0.50 and 0.75 percent. Citing improvements in the economy since 2008, the Fed indicated it will make future rate increases gradually and that three rate hikes are likely in 2017. While the decision will have an impact on individuals with variable interest rate debt as well as short-term and institutional investors, it means little for long-term investors, such as those investing for retirement, GuideStone Chief Strategic Investment Officer David S. Spika said.
 
Federal Reserve governors were unanimous in this decision to increase the Fed Funds rate. Prior to Wednesday's announcement, the rate had sat in a range between 0.25 and 0.50 percent since last December. This is only the second rate hike in a decade.
 
Rising interest rates are normal at this point during an economic cycle, Spika said.
 
“Because this rate hike was fully expected by investors, and it appears as if the economy is strong enough to support it at this time, we do not anticipate it having a material impact on the financial markets in the near term,” he said. “The real focus for investors now should be on proposed fiscal stimulus coming out of the Trump administration and the potential impact of future Fed rate hikes, especially if they occur more frequently than expected.”
 
While the increase in interest rates shows confidence in economic growth, retirement investors should focus on their long-term goals and make investment decisions consistent with their objectives, time horizon and risk tolerance, noted GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins.
 
“As we remind our participants anytime there is significant news, the performance of your retirement account moving forward will be determined based on results of the financial markets in the future, not the past,” Hawkins said. “It's easy in a 24/7 news cycle to get caught up in the headlines and emotions of the moment. It's important to always remember markets are cyclical and historically have rewarded those with long-term perspectives.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 
 

12/16/2016 10:24:08 AM by Roy Hayhurst, Guidestone | with 0 comments



Study: Most churches open for worship on Christmas

December 16 2016 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

More than half of Americans plan to go to church at Christmastime. And most Protestant pastors will keep the doors open for them, a new study shows.
 
Nearly 9 out of 10 Protestant senior pastors say their churches plan to hold services on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, as both fall on a Sunday, according to a recent survey from LifeWay Research.


More than 7 in 10 Protestant senior pastors say their churches plan to hold Christmas Eve services. And more than a few will be open on New Year’s Eve.
 
“Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year especially at churches, with many churches having extra Christmas Eve services and special programs,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “If Christmas falls on Monday through Saturday, churches might be closed on Dec. 25 – but almost never on a Sunday.”
 
The Christmas season has become a major outreach focus for many churches, with more than half of Americans saying they visit church for Christmas.
 
Many of those who don’t attend church regularly are open to an invitation during the holidays, according to previous LifeWay Research studies.
 
At some influential megachurches, thousands of visitors will flock to special Christmas events. In the past, that’s led some to cancel worship when Christmas falls on a Sunday.
 
But few pastors seem to follow their example, according to LifeWay Research’s phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors. Eighty-nine percent say their church will hold services on Christmas Day.
 
Leaders of Lutheran (94 percent), Church of Christ (93 percent), Baptist (91 percent), Presbyterian/Reformed (91 percent) and Holiness (92 percent) churches are most likely to say their church will hold Christmas Day services. Pentecostals (79 percent) are less likely.
 
Small churches and large churches are slightly less likely to be open for Christmas.
 
Eighty-four percent of pastors whose churches have fewer than 50 attenders say their church will hold services on Christmas. So do 85 percent of pastors with more than 250 attenders. Among pastors of mid-size churches – those with 100 to 249 attenders – 92 percent say their church will hold Christmas Day services.
 
Pastors in the Midwest (92 percent) and South (89 percent) are more likely to say their church will be open on Christmas. Pastors in the West (83 percent) are less likely.
 
Most senior pastors (85 percent) also say their church will hold Sunday worship services on New Year’s Day. Leaders of Presbyterian/Reformed (92 percent) and Church of Christ (95 percent) congregations are more likely to say their churches will be open. Lutheran (81 percent), Holiness (75 percent) and Pentecostal (72 percent) pastors are less likely.
 
LifeWay did find some demographic differences in attitudes among pastors. White pastors (86 percent) are more likely to say their church will worship on New Year’s Day. African-American pastors (65 percent) are less likely.
 
By contrast, nearly half of African-American pastors (47 percent) say their church will hold services on New Year’s Eve. Overall, only a quarter of pastors say their church will be open on New Year’s Eve.
 
New Year’s Eve services, known as Watch Night, began with the Moravians in the 1700s and were later picked up by Methodists. African-American churches trace their tradition of holding services on New Year’s Eve to “Freedom’s Eve” in 1862, when congregations counted down until the Emancipation Proclamation took effect with the start of a new year.
 
African-American pastors are also less likely to say their church will hold services on Christmas Eve (50 percent). By contrast, 71 percent of all pastors say their church will hold Christmas Eve services.
 
Pastors of larger churches – those with 250 or more attenders – are more likely to say their church will have Christmas Eve services than pastors of small churches (64 percent) with fewer than 50 attenders.
 
Christmas Eve services are more popular with pastors in the Northeast (86 percent) than with pastors in the Midwest (77 percent), West (71 percent) or South (63 percent).
 
Lutheran (93 percent), Methodist (90 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed (85 percent) churches are more likely to have a Christmas Eve service, according to their pastors. Baptist (65 percent), Holiness (62 percent), Pentecostal (54 percent) and Church of Christ (46 percent) congregations are less likely.
 
Among other findings:

  • Two-thirds (63 percent) of Protestant churches will have services on both Christmas and Christmas Eve.
  • A quarter of churches will have only a Christmas Day service.
  • Eight percent of churches will have only a Christmas Eve service.
  • One church in 5 will have services on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
  • Two-thirds (65 percent) of churches will have only a Sunday worship service on New Year’s Day.
  • Five percent of churches will have only a New Year’s Eve service.
  • Almost 1 church in 10 (9 percent) will have neither.

 
Previous LifeWay Research found nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans say churchgoing should be part of Christmas. About 6 in 10 say they usually show up for a church service for Christmas. Among those who skip church at Christmas, 57 percent would accept an invitation to attend a service.
 
McConnell said the Christmas story remains a symbol of hope for many people, even those who don’t regularly go to church. The story keeps drawing people back, he said, because it helps them connect with the core message of the Christian faith.
 
“The incarnation of Jesus is one of the greatest celebrations of hope that Christian churches observe,” McConnell said. “It is amazing enough that God himself would become a man. But because Jesus paid the ransom for people’s sin, His arrival became the birth of hope for all mankind.“
 
For more information on the survey, visit LifeWayResearch.com.
 
Methodology
 
The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted Aug. 22 to Sept. 16, 2016. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population.
 
The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends.)

12/16/2016 10:23:12 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments



Congress passes 1st bill devoted to fighting Boko Haram

December 16 2016 by Onize Ohikere, WORLD News Service

The United States House of Representatives on Dec. 8 unanimously approved a bipartisan bill to help counter Boko Haram’s insurgency in northeast Nigeria and other affected African countries. The bill is awaiting the president’s signature to become a law.

Channels TV screen capture
An Aug. 14,2014, video released by Boko Haram shows dozens of girls said to be among the nearly 220 kidnapped girls still missing from the boarding school in the mostly Christian town of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria.


The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, passed in the Senate in September 2015. The pending bill would require the U.S. secretaries of state and defense to develop a five-year strategy to combat the Islamic terror group. The strategy would involve offering assistance to the Nigerian government and the regional joint task force fighting the group, as well as responding to the growing humanitarian crisis in the region.
 
The bipartisan approval of the bill shows Congress’ commitment to pursuing and ending Boko Haram’s terror, Collins said.
 
“I urge the president to immediately sign this bill into law and send an international signal that we will never forget the girls of Nigeria who were targeted simply because they chose to pursue an education,” Collins said.
 
Boko Haram has existed since 2002, but the extremist group’s insurgency fully began in 2011 when it started staging mass attacks on civilians, police buildings and even the United Nations building in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. The extremist group has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced more than 2 million others in Nigeria and neighboring countries. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013 designated Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization after his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, failed to do so two years earlier. The delayed designation hindered chances of military surveillance or financial tracking that could have stemmed the group’s growth.
 
Boko Haram’s mass abduction of more than 270 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014 drew international attention to the crisis. By May 2015, Nigeria and its neighbors Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin set up an 8,700-member, multinational task force to combat the terror group. But the insurgency continues. IBM Intelligence, a security analysis group, said Boko Haram has killed more than 240 civilians in Nigeria’s Northeast this year, though many attacks go unreported. Last week, the UN said nearly 7 million people in the region are in need of basic services.
 
“If the world does not act and come to Nigeria’s aid, the trickledown effect on the rest of the continent and other parts of the world could cause a level of damage that will take years to repair,” Wilson said. “More important, it is simply the right thing to do.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Onize Ohikere writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

12/16/2016 10:22:07 AM by Onize Ohikere, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Former astronaut John Glenn dies

December 16 2016 by Leigh Jones and Ryan McKinnon

John Glenn, former astronaut and U.S. senator, died Dec. 8 in Columbus, Ohio. He was 95.
 
Glenn was born July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio, and grew up in New Concord, Ohio, with the nickname “Bud.” His love of flight was lifelong; his father spoke of the many summer evenings he arrived home to find his son running around the yard with outstretched arms, pretending he was piloting a plane. Last June, at a ceremony renaming the Columbus airport for him, Glenn remembered imploring his parents to take him to that airport to look at planes whenever they passed through the city.

John Glenn


He served as a fighter pilot in two wars – World War II and Korea. He also did a stint as a test pilot, setting a transcontinental speed record.
 
In 1959, Glenn told Life magazine he was ready for a new adventure.
 
“Space travel is at the frontier of my profession,” he wrote. “It is going to be accomplished, and I want to be in on it. There is also an element of simple duty involved. I am convinced that I have something to give this project.”
 
In 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth, doing three laps around the planet. He quickly became known for a lifestyle unlike that of his fellow astronauts: They drove Corvettes; he drove a beat-up Peugeot. They partied and drag raced on the beach; he worked out, attended church, and snubbed the press. (Reporters desperate for a story followed him to Riverside Presbyterian Church in Cocoa Beach, Fla.)
 
His time in space left Glenn in awe of the universe.
 
“I don't know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets,” he said. He returned to a ticker-tape parade in New York City, then ran for public office.
 
He became a U.S. senator in 1974 and served four terms as a Democrat from Ohio. In 1998, Glenn entered space for a second time and became the oldest astronaut to do so.
 
The city of Perth, Australia, honored Glenn in both 1962 and 1998 by turning on all the lights of the city as he passed over them while in orbit.
 
He was the last survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts.
 
Glenn is survived by his wife Annie, whom he married in 1943.
 
“I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of great experiences in my life and I’m thankful for them,” he said in 2012.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Jones and Ryan McKinnon write for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

12/16/2016 9:36:41 AM by Leigh Jones and Ryan McKinnon | with 0 comments



PPFA prosecution could have ‘cooling effect’

December 15 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s decision to refer the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and several affiliates for potential federal prosecution has drawn praise from a pastor who helped draft a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolution rebuking America’s largest abortion provider.
 
Prosecution “would have a cooling effect on the abortion industry,” said Darrell Orman, chairman of the 2008 SBC Resolutions Committee, which recommended a resolution adopted by messengers “on Planned Parenthood.”


The resolution “decr[ied] the immoral actions of Planned Parenthood clinics across America.”
 
Though allegations of criminal activity had not arisen in 2008, Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla., told Baptist Press he “would definitely be for” criminal prosecution given more recent developments.
 
Grassley’s criminal referral is the second targeting Planned Parenthood affiliate organizations this month. It follows a referral of Houston’s Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Dec. 1 by the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.
 
Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter Dec. 13 to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey referring PPFA, four affiliate organizations and three private companies for potential prosecution. The letter cited “substantial evidence” the organizations “may have violated the law.”
 
An accompanying 547-page report based on 20,000 pages of information supplied by the organizations under investigation suggested prosecution could center on “buying and selling of fetal tissue in violation of” the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993, which prohibits transferring fetal tissue “for valuable consideration” beyond the costs of doing business.
 
The report charges, for example, that a company called Advanced Bioscience Research (ABR) obtained four aborted fetuses in June 2014 for a total of $240 and then sold various organs from the babies the same day for a total of $6,825 plus various fees.
 
Total costs incurred by ABR for the transactions were estimated by the report at just over $300, including the $240 paid to obtain the specimens.
 
The report additionally alleges PPFA “had policies in place to ensure its affiliates with paid fetal tissue program were not breaking the law,” but “the affiliates did not follow these policies. When PPFA learned of this fact in 2011, it curtailed its oversight of affiliates’ paid fetal tissue programs rather than exercise oversight to bring the affiliates back into compliance.”
 
Videos released in 2015 by the Center for Medical Progress allegedly showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of baby parts “were the impetus for the Committee’s investigation,” according to the report. “However, the Committee’s analyses and findings do not rely on the CMP videos ... Accordingly, criticism of the CMP videos or of the techniques CMP used to create them are generally irrelevant to this report.”
 
Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, criticized Grassley’s referral as “a relentless partisan effort to attack and defund a women’s health provider that millions of women across this country depend on each year for basic medical services.”
 
Leahy said in a statement, “Over a year after Republicans began pouring taxpayer dollars into five separate congressional investigations, there has been no credible finding – including in the Republican Staff Report issued today – that Planned Parenthood broke the law.
 
“While we do not know the total cost to taxpayers for these five duplicative Republican-led investigations,” Leahy said, “we do know that just one of the House investigations alone has cost the American people more than $1.5 million.”
 
Orman told Baptist Press “merchandising a human being is a critical ethical issue.”
 
The practice is “dehumanizing” and “turns the human body into an inventory of parts,” Orman said. “That definitely is a departure from the imago dei,” a Latin phrase meaning “image of God” and referencing God’s creation of humanity in His own image.
 
The organizations referred for potential prosecution are: PPFA; Planned Parenthood of Mar Monte (Calif.); Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles; Planned Parenthood of Northern California; Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest (Calif.); StemExpress, LLC; Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc.; and Novogenix Laboratories, LLC.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

12/15/2016 10:00:47 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Thomas Oden, ‘hero of orthodox conviction,’ dies

December 15 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Thomas C. Oden, a prolific Methodist theologian whose midlife turn from theological liberalism inspired a generation of Southern Baptist scholars, died Dec. 8. He was 85.
 
Among those to cite Oden’s influence on their lives are Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Provost Jason Duesing, Beeson Divinity School Dean Timothy George, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School President David S. Dockery and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore.

Photo courtesy of ivpress.com
Thomas C. Oden


Raised in a traditional Protestant home, Oden became “interested in exploring things that [he] didn’t know” as a college student, he told Mohler in a 2015 interview, and soon found himself studying “socialist ideology” as well as the theology of “existentialist” thinkers like Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Tillich, both of whom denied the complete truthfulness of scripture.
 
“I loved the fantasies and I loved the revolutionary illusions,” Oden said. “I truly loved them. I loved heresy.”
 
After earning a doctor of philosophy degree at Yale University, Oden began teaching at Drew University in Madison, N.J., where a conservative Jewish colleague told him in the 1970s, “You will never be a theologian until you dig deep into the classical Christian tradition,” Oden recounted to Mohler.
 
Oden took his colleague’s admonition to heart, reading the works of ancient Christians like Athanasius of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo. In the process, Oden said, “I met God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.”
 
Following that experience, Oden began defending traditional, orthodox Christianity, including the reliability of scripture and the historicity of Christ’s resurrection.
 
Along with this spiritual epiphany, Oden experienced a conversion of political views, including a shift from countenancing abortion to being pro-life.
 
Among those to challenge him preceding his change of mind, Oden remembered “a gentle admonition” in the 1960s by then-Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Robert Naylor, who, following a lecture by Oden at Southwestern, “very deftly took almost every point that I had made” and refuted it.
 
The four decades of Oden’s life following his shift from liberalism saw him author a three-volume systematic theology and a 2014 memoir called A Change of Heart among other works. He also served as general editor of the 29-volume Ancient Christian Commentary on scripture, which compiles comments on various books of the Bible by theologians and pastors from the second through eighth centuries.
 
Additionally, Oden collaborated with Christianity Today, First Things, the Evangelical Theological Society and groups attempting to bring theological renewal to the United Methodist Church.
 
Oden’s story, Mohler wrote in a Dec. 9 blog post, “is one of the greatest theological testimonies of our age,” and A Change of Heart is “one of the most moving Christian autobiographies I have ever read.”
 
George told Baptist Press (BP) Oden “had a great influence on an entire generation of Southern Baptist theologians.”
 
“In a time when liberalism reigned supreme in many circles,” George said in written comments, Oden “showed how a robust engagement with the classic sources of the Christian faith could bring renewal to the whole church. He spoke at [Samford University’s] Beeson Divinity School on many occasions and served as a member of our Board of Advisors.”
 
Dockery called Oden “a friend and encourager” in a BP column, adding, “The Christian community has lost a giant ... A friend and source of encouragement to many, we join with numerous others to offer thanks to God for the life, ministry, influential writings and convictional commitments of Thomas C. Oden.”
 
Duesing wrote in a Dec. 9 blog post of meeting Oden “in person only once 11 years ago” but being “trained and influenced ... by those he influenced.”
 
Moore tweeted, “What a loss to us all is the death of Methodist theologian Thomas Oden. He is a hero of orthodox conviction.”
 
On multiple occasions, Oden recounted a dream following his turn to orthodoxy in which he saw an inscription on his own tombstone stating, “He made no new contribution to theology.”
 
“In the dream I was extremely pleased,” Oden told Christianity Today in 1990, “for I realized I was learning ... not to invent new doctrine.”
 
Oden was preceded in death by his wife Edrita.
 
(EDITOR'S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

12/15/2016 9:32:28 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



2017 SBC theme: ‘Pray! For such a time as this’

December 15 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

“Pray! For such a time as this” is the theme for the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 13–14 in Phoenix, anchored by Esther 4:14 and Luke 11:1, SBC President Steve Gaines has announced.
 
Prayer should be the top priority of every Christian, Gaines said in an interview outlining his choice.


“The Southern Baptist Convention needs to be a people of prayer,” Gaines said in the interview with SBC LIFE, journal of the SBC. “Only then will God send the power we need to fulfill the Great Commission.”
 
He described the accompanying scripture choices as both personal and divine.
 
“Esther 4 is the text God used to allow my name to be presented as a candidate for SBC president,” said Gaines, elected to the post at the 2016 annual meeting in St. Louis. “Luke 11 records the only thing Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them – how to pray.”
 
Prayer seeking revival and spiritual awakening will be the focus of the June 13 evening session of the annual meeting, Gaines said.
 
“I want to encourage all of us to pray for spiritual awakening across the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. “I also want to pray that we will be a soul-winning denomination – to really tell people about Jesus Christ.”
 
The annual meeting artwork, incorporating prayer and an hourglass, hones the urgency of prayer.
 
“God’s timeline is running out, and I believe man’s time is running out,” Gaines said. “Jesus Christ is coming back, and I personally believe He could come back at any moment.” Jesus’ pending return to earth should urge us to pray that lost souls be saved from hell, he said.
 
“People are dying and they’re entering eternity. If they don’t have Jesus, they’re going to hell,” he said. “That motivates me to be about my Father’s business – to pray, tell people about Jesus, win people to Christ, and help them become solid disciples.”
 
Gaines encouraged all Southern Baptists to attend the annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. More information is available at sbcannualmeeting.net.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

12/15/2016 9:31:42 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Macy’s ends Planned Parenthood contributions

December 15 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Macy’s Inc. has reportedly discontinued contributions to Planned Parenthood after customers complained of the chain’s support of the abortion provider.
 
Macy’s Inc.’s latest 990 tax form verifies that the retail giant no longer includes the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in its community contributions, the research group 2ndVote said, describing the news as the latest “Miracle on 34th Street.”


“We’re constantly updating our research to portray companies in the fairest possible light,” 2ndVote Executive Director Lance Wray said in a Dec. 7 press release that has been carried by Fox News and other media outlets. “Last week, Macy’s confirmed with us that the company no longer gives and no longer matches gifts to Planned Parenthood.”
 
2ndVote, which bills itself as a conservative watchdog for corporate activism, developed a Planned Parenthood Resource Page in 2015 which said Macy’s gave donations to Planned Parenthood and was among 41 companies with a direct financial relationship with the abortion provider.
 
“We developed the list of Planned Parenthood’s corporate supporters so conservatives could engage these companies and, if necessary, use their shopping decisions to send a message,” Wray said. “It’s apparent that conservatives are using 2ndVote’s research to positively influence what companies like Macy’s are funding.”
 
Founded in 2013 by Nashville forensic toxicologist David L. Black, 2ndVote exposes corporations and organizations funding liberal advocacy, it said, and encourages such entities to remain neutral.
 
2ndVote describes Macy’s as a corporate partner of The Salvation Army, a pro-life organization; but also reports that Macy’s is a corporate partner to the United Nations Human Rights Campaign, which 2ndVote describes as “the nation’s largest opponent to religious liberty.”
 
Macy’s Inc. contributed $71 million to nonprofit community groups in 2015, the retailer said on its website macysinc.com, including corporate giving, contributions through workplace giving campaigns and Macy’s signature giving programs. The corporate office gave to 5,200 nonprofit organizations in 2015, the retailer said, including the areas of arts and culture, education, HIV/AIDS and issues of special interest to women – predominantly women’s health and domestic violence prevention.
 
“Macy’s, Inc. believes in giving back to our local communities,” the retailer said on its website, but did not respond to Baptist Press’ request for information. “Our contributions, leadership and volunteer efforts help create stronger, healthier places for our customers and associates to work and live.”
 
Macy’s operates about 870 stores in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico under the names of Macy’s, Macy’s Backstage, Bloomingdale’s, Bloomingdale’s Outlet and Bluemercury, as well as the macys.com, bloomingdales.com and bluemercury.com websites, according to MacysInc.com.
 
Planned Parenthood performed 323,999 abortions in 2014, according to its latest annual report, released Dec. 22, 2015. Updated figures will be released this month. The abortions accounted for 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services, according to the report, which divided services at 45 percent for sexually transmitted illnesses/sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, 31 percent for contraception, 7 percent for cancer screening, 13 percent for other women’s health services and 1 percent for other services.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

12/15/2016 9:31:11 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Call to Prayer’ begins 2017 for Southern Baptists

December 15 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The month-long prayer focus “In All Things Pray” will kick off the new year across the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
Acts 1:8 and 2 Chronicles 7:14 steer the focus of the prayer emphasis to individual families, communities, churches, the United States and the World, according to the webpage InAllThingsPray.net, established as a prayer resource and guide on the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) website.


“The resources and links on this page are created by prayer teams of PrayerLink members and are directly related to the ministries of a state Baptist convention or an SBC entity,” according to the site. “These are made available to the wider Southern Baptist family with the hope and prayer that they will help spur a movement of God as we prayer together for the lost, for our nation, and for the world.” PrayerLink is a network of state convention and SBC entity prayer leaders.
 
The page offers a prayer format opening with 10 minutes of scripture reading, public leadership and worship; continuing with 20 minutes of receiving and voicing prayer concerns, and closing with 30 minutes of guided and conversational prayer individually, in groups and corporately.
 
An official event on the SBC calendar, the “Call to Prayer” gained momentum from the 2010 Great Commission Task Force report adopted by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., and has been an annual focus of the calendar since 2012.
 

Prayer Guide

The In All Things Pray prayer guide opens the first emphasis, “Myself and My Family,” on Jan. 1, 2017.
 
The first week encourages Southern Baptists to be willing volunteers in evangelism, to pray daily for family members, and to solicit names of unchurched and lost family members from congregations to allow the names to be lifted up corporately.
 
Jan. 8 opens the second emphasis of “My Community and Friends,” and draws from the CrossRoads Prayer Evangelism ministry resource at InAllThingsPray.net.
 
In praying for “My Church Ministries,” the week of Jan. 15, churches are encouraged to pray for their evangelistic outreaches scheduled through June, such as Vacation Bible School, and to pray by name for church ministry teams and committees.
 
The week of Jan. 22 focuses on “My Country and its Peoples,” standing on 1 Timothy 2:1-6, interceding for the nation and elected leaders, praying for the Lord to send workers to the harvest, praying for racial reconciliation, and praying for the diverse populations in the nation.
 
“My World and its People Groups” is the month’s last emphasis beginning Jan. 29 and asking the Lord to call out international missionaries from the congregation, to give divine wisdom and guidance to International Mission Board trustees in guiding international ministry, and to extend mercy and wisdom to missionaries in the field.
 
Additional resources are available at InAllThingsPray.net.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

12/15/2016 9:30:17 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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