December 2017

Sierra Baptist splits firewood to build God’s kingdom

December 29 2017 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Beetles attacking 150-foot ponderosa pines in the heavily-forested Sierra Nevada mountains provide a ministry opportunity for Sierra Baptist Church, where Eugene “Gene” Overstreet has been pastor for 22 years.

Photo submitted by church
About 100 people participate in Sunday morning worship at Sierra Baptist Church in Pioneer, Calif.


Downed trees that had died in a matter of weeks from a drought-induced bark beetle infestation caught the eyes of Sierra Baptist men, who saw the potential for ministry. After the infested trees were professionally felled, Sierra Baptist’s men cut the timber into 16-inch sections, split the sections into stove-sized firewood, and loaded it on pickup trucks to give to the needy.
 
A tree 150 feet high and “a good size around” might yield three cords of wood, Overstreet said. Many people in the Pioneer, Calif., area only have a wood stove for heat, and typically need a cord of wood a month or more to heat their homes in the winter, “depending on the stove.”
 
In an area with limited employment and an abundance of senior citizens, the church’s firewood ministry is for some a survival need, the pastor said. Men and boys between the ages of 10 and 91 participate.
 
It’s a picture of the Cooperative Program at work, Overstreet told Baptist Press.
 
“The men work together, each doing something that leads to a shared goal: bringing God’s love to those who need to hear of it, and in this case, to feel it,” Overstreet said, referring to the warmth of the fire as well as the warmth of God’s love. “That’s what the Cooperative Program does. It supports the whole program of what Southern Baptists are doing throughout the world, and we do it together.”
 
The Cooperative Program is the way the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) more than 47,000 churches work together to fund missions and ministries in the U.S. and globally.
 
“I believe the Cooperative Program is the best way to do our work,” the pastor said. “It supports all our missions work rather than dividing it up, and we do it together.”

Photo submitted by church
Eugene “Gene” Overstreet


Overstreet teaches Sierra Baptist about missions through videos and guest speakers, some of whom stay at the church’s missionary house. As a result, church members have learned to live missionally.
 
“They come and speak, and our people get to know them. This and the videos we show [help] with missionary support and with the knowledge of what missionaries do,” he said. “We try to share Jesus with the people around us. We need to be involved in our community, to be a witness for the Lord and hopefully reach people for Christ.”
 
Through its support of the Cooperative Program, the church of about 100 Sunday worshipers adds international outreaches to its local ministries.
 
A major local outreach is the church’s annual community Fourth of July Carnival in the local park. The church provides free hot dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, popcorn and snow cones to about 400 people each year. Bounce houses, a water slide, a dunk tank, face painting and other games are provided. Other attractions are watermelon-eating and donut-eating contests and a fire department engine for children to explore.
 
“We feel this is an opportunity to touch many in our community,” the pastor noted. “Vacation Bible [School] is another way. Each year about 100 children are touched for Jesus by about 50 workers.”
 
The church gives a monthly donation to and conducts an annual fundraiser for the local pregnancy center.
 
In other community outreaches, members volunteer at the pregnancy center, retirement homes and the church’s onsite food bank distribution ministry twice a month. When people come home from the hospital and when there is a death in the family, members are quick to respond with meals. Several church members are trained SBC Disaster Relief volunteers. Two of them recently returned from the Houston area where they helped with hurricane recovery.
 
The church provides meeting space to weight-loss and Narcotics Anonymous groups, serves as a Red Cross disaster shelter and is an official election polling place.

Photo submitted by church
The men's ministry at Sierra Baptist Church in Pioneer, Calif., saw professionally-felled timber into sixteen-inch sections, split the sections into stove-size firewood and load it onto pickup trucks to be given to the needy.


It’s a way to reach out to the community,” Overstreet said of the community’s regular use of the two-story wooden church. “As they become comfortable coming to the church for another reason, they’re more open to worshiping here on Sunday.”
 
Reaching beyond its community, Sierra Baptist gives 14.5 percent of undesignated income to missions through the Cooperative Program, plus 5 percent to Mother Lode Baptist Association.
 
Other financial outreaches include an annual 2.5 percent donation – plus $3,000 for road maintenance – to the Jenness Park Christian Camp retreat center of the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC).
 
Sierra Baptist sends $4,200 a year to mission outreaches in Latvia in partnership with the CSBC. Over the last 12 months the church has also given a total of $30,409 to Southern Baptist seasonal missions offerings: $13,144 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; $7,728 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and $8,083 for the California State Missions Offering.
 
“I’m amazed a church our size does all that,” Overstreet said. “It’s way beyond the ordinary. It’s been that way since I’ve been here.
 
“One of the reasons we continue to do well, I believe, is because when we give, God blesses and He brings more people here because we’re willing to give and to share,” the pastor noted. “That’s very important, I think.”
 
Overstreet wants the church “to grow people and to reach people.” The importance of a church’s health became vividly clear to Overstreet when he recently injured his finger.
 
“The Lord used that to remind me of the importance of the health of the whole body,” Overstreet said. “The healthier the individual parts are, the healthier the whole body can be and the better the body can function.
 
“I can get by without my finger. I can do stuff without it, but not as well. The Lord reminded me how important each individual body part is, and that we can do better ministry when we’re all healthy.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)
 

12/29/2017 9:37:56 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Supreme Court passes on a case redefining ‘sex’

December 29 2017 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal last week to hear a case seeking to expand the definition of “sex” in federal employment law to include sexual orientation only delays the inevitable court battle in the war on words. Similar cases are making their way through the lower courts with mixed results, which will force the high court or Congress to step in eventually.
 
For decades, LGBT advocates have lobbied unsuccessfully to enact federal legislation barring workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. What they have not attained by the protracted legislative process, they hope to get through federal agency edicts and judicial fiat, conservative court observers contend. Although sexual orientation is not a protected class under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, homosexuals have sued their employers, claiming it is. And federal judges are lending credence to that argument.
 
It is the role of the court, not federal agencies, to determine “what the law is,” said Carl Esbeck, University of Missouri professor of law. To presume the 1964 Congress intended “sex” to mean sexual orientation misinterprets the statute, he said.
 
But federal judges are increasingly deferring to government agencies’ interpretation of their own policies, instead of deciding the constitutionality of the regulations themselves, noted Elizabeth Slattery, a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Constitutional Government.
 
Case in point: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has declared sex to mean “gender identity, including transgender status, [and] sexual orientation.”
 
The Obama administration gave tacit approval of federal agencies’ redefinition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation,” Esbeck told WORLD News Service.  With the expanded interpretation, the EEOC began prosecuting violators.
 
With the EEOC’s blessing, Jameka K. Evans, a former security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital, sued in April 2015 claiming she was harassed and passed over for promotion by her employer because she is a lesbian. Evans filed the lawsuit herself.
 
Sloppy legal paperwork, not the merits of the lawsuit, most likely prompted the courts to refuse to hear Evans’ case, court-watchers said.
 
Gregory Nevins, an attorney for the pro-LGBT Lambda Legal, told the Los Angeles Times the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Evans’ case is a “not yet” that merely delays the inevitable. The organization drafted Evans’ appeal to the high court where it garnered support from 76 businesses and other pro-LGBT advocates before getting denied a review.
 
Attorneys representing gay and lesbian clients in Indiana and New York have not made the same mistake as Evans. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals effectively codified the EEOC sex discrimination policy in April when it ruled 8-3 for Kimberly Hively, who claimed she, like Evans, endured workplace discrimination because she is a lesbian. Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin are under the 7th Circuit’s jurisdiction and must adopt the newly expanded definition of sex.
 
Court-watchers expect the 2nd Circuit to rule soon in Zarda v. Altitude Express after hearing arguments in September. Daniel Zarda claimed he was fired for being gay. He died in 2014 but his estate continued the lawsuit.
 
The Zarda case illustrates the conflict within the government over who has the constitutional role of interpreting words in a policy: the Department of Justice and the EEOC argued against each other.
 
“Agency regulations have the force of law, and judges – not federal bureaucrats – have the duty to say what the law is,” Slattery said. “Judges should interpret regulations in the light of what their text says, not by the intentions of agency officials who created them.”
 
If LGBT advocates win the war of words, employers can expect more lawsuits, Esbeck said. Compliance exemptions based on religious convictions are very narrowly drafted and will provide little legal protection to employers who fail to conform.
 
But the Supreme Court does not have the final say on the matter, Esbeck said. Unlike the court’s ruling on gay marriage, which dealt with a constitutional matter of law, Title VII is a legislative statute and Congress has the final word. Even if the high court rules to expand the definition of “sex” in Title VII, Congress can – and currently has legislation pending – give meaning to the words that courts cannot redefine.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

12/29/2017 9:35:10 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



New research shows increased risks of same-sex parenting

December 29 2017 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

Contrary to the narrative pushed by academia and the mainstream media, there is increasing evidence that same-sex parenting has negative effects on children.
 
An article published last month by Catholic University of America sociology professor Paul Sullins found children with same-sex parents suffer emotional problems two to three times as often as children raised by opposite-sex parents.
 
Sullins’ latest article joins other research, most notably published by himself and University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus, showing children raised by same-sex parents have increased risks of certain harms, including emotional problems, depression and sexual abuse. Despite this, the American Psychological Association has dogmatically endorsed a “no difference” theory – namely, that there is no difference between children raised by same-sex parents and opposite-sex parents – since 2004.
 
The article, published in the December issue of the journal Demography, critiqued an October 2016 article in the same journal titled “Family Structure and Child Health: Does the Sex Composition of Parents Matter?” Based on data from the National Health Interview Survey, which is administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, that study concluded there were no major differences between children raised by same-sex and opposite-sex parents.
 
Sullins’ rebuttal pointed to data errors the CDC had previously acknowledged and documented regarding the designation of same-sex and opposite-sex partners. In short, the data collection method used from 2004 to 2007 created confusion for respondents so that up to 40 percent of couples designated as same-sex were opposite-sex. The errors flattened the data so the authors of the 2016 study found no variance between the sample sets.
 
As a part of his critique, Sullins reran the study without the compromised years and found that, far from a “no difference” result, outcomes for children with same-sex parents were significantly worse. Looking at 1.5 million cases from 2008 to 2016, Sullins found the percentage of parents reporting serious emotional problems in their children jumped from 4.6 percent for children of married, opposite-sex parents to 17.6 percent for children of married, same-sex parents.
 
Even more importantly, Sullins told WORLD News Service, the authors of the original study also published an article alongside his and acknowledged the corrected data do show disadvantages for children raised by same-sex couples. Although the authors suggested there were other explanations for the difference – rates of adoption, minority stress – Sullins said it was the first time “mainstream” social scientists acknowledged the truth of the evidence showing less positive outcomes for children with same-sex parents.
 
Sullins believes that well-conducted studies will continue to show harms and that people will be forced to grapple with the data and come to a recognition of the truth: Namely, that God designed children for relationship with their married biological mother and father.
 
But he doesn’t think that will happen anytime soon.
 
In the meantime, in the spirit of Augustine, who taught that all truth is God’s truth, Sullins had Demography publish his dataset along with his latest article so that others can examine his data and conclusions for themselves.
 
“I invite anybody to take a look at any of the evidence we have about children with same-sex parents,” Sullins said. “Living with two men or two women is harmful for children. The experience of complementary parenting is important for their development into full human personhood.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

12/29/2017 9:32:43 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Wave of homelessness crashes over West Coast

December 29 2017 by Rob Holmes, WORLD News Service

Crowded encampments have sprung up along transportation corridors, rivers and sidewalks up and down the West Coast following a surge in homelessness, according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released this month.
 
Though the national total of homeless people grew by just 1 percent a year ago, to 554,000, California, Oregon and Washington state battled a 14 percent increase in their homeless populations. Los Angeles County numbers alone skew the homelessness rates. Excluding that region, the nation would boast of a decline in total homelessness of 1.5 percent since last year.
 
A quarter of those counted are “unsheltered” homeless people sleeping outside.
 
Ten city or county governments have declared states of emergency on homelessness since 2015. The designation helps officials relax or bypass regulations that prohibit use of churches or public spaces for shelter. The Los Angeles (LA) city council made the declaration in tandem with a $100 million commitment to confront its homelessness epidemic. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti pins part of the blame for his region’s crisis on the lack of affordable housing.
 
“The city of Los Angeles is making progress in our efforts – housing more than 9,000 people in 2016 alone,” Garcetti said. “But … we still face a historic shortage of affordable housing, a staggering mental health crisis, insufficient support for veterans and foster youth and inadequate resources to help formerly incarcerated Angelenos turn their lives around.”
 
Everett, Wash., population 110,000, lies north of Seattle, about 80 miles from the Canadian border. The seat of Snohomish County, it saw a 65 percent increase in unsheltered living over the past two years. Besides a reported high cost of living, the city has a high rate of opioid addiction. The severity of the problem has led the city of Everett to file suit against Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin painkillers.
 
Another prong in the city’s attack on homelessness is a Catholic Housing Services permanent housing project. The 65-unit “Safe Streets Supportive Housing” is part of a bigger program offering mental health and addiction recovery services. It mimics programs in other states where permanent housing has been the first and most important step in reducing homelessness – ahead of tackling substance abuse or mental and family problems.
 
In urban areas along the West Coast, a booming economy leads to higher rents, especially as millennials eschew their parents’ suburban lifestyles, driving up demand for city housing. In 2015, Portland, Ore., used $61 million of mostly federal money to build affordable housing under the condition that developers not allow the rents to float to market levels for 60 years.
 
Nationally, the news is better. Overall, homelessness has dropped by 13 percent since 2010, with homelessness in families with children declining by 5 percent. The number of veterans who are homeless also continues to drop, down nearly 50 percent since 2010. Some areas that made headway include Atlanta, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia and Hawaii, following a 2015 state of emergency declaration statewide.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rob Holmes writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

12/29/2017 9:27:47 AM by Rob Holmes, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Ireland wants to send back Soros’ pro-abortion money

December 29 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

American billionaire George Soros’ money has helped abortion advocacy groups in Ireland, but the nation’s government has demanded the groups return his donations.
 
The Irish Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) demanded that Amnesty International in Ireland return the Soros-funded Open Society Foundation’s 137,000 euro ($160,964) donation for its “My Body My Rights” campaign to repeal the country’s abortion ban.
 
Ireland’s finance laws bar foreign donors from giving to groups that seek to sway elections or public policy. Amnesty International executive director Colm O’Gorman said the order is flawed and his organization “will consider every opportunity to challenge this decision.”
 
The Irish Family Planning Association and Abortion Rights Campaign also received money from the Open Society Foundation. The Abortion Rights Campaign has already returned its donation, while SIPO is discussing a $150,000 gift the Irish Family Planning Association received.
 
International funding has played a role in recent pro-abortion efforts to legalize the procedure in Ireland, where abortion is illegal under the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution. A parliamentary committee voted last Wednesday 14-6 to recommend repealing the abortion ban, and Parliament will later decide whether to hold a referendum in the spring.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

12/29/2017 9:21:10 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 1 comments



10 most viewed stories of 2017 at BRnow.org

December 28 2017 by Biblical Recorder staff

1. Anne Graham Lotz issues call to pray
In 2016, Anne Graham Lotz stepped into the role of National Day of Prayer Task Force chairman. Known for having similar mannerisms to her father, Billy Graham, Lotz expressed her desire for believers to pray like never before for a country divided. “God has promised to hear us, forgive us and heal us on the condition that we pray,” she said. “Therefore prayer is ... not an option; it is a necessity.”
 
2. Prayerlink expresses its mission in logo’s redesign
The Prayerlink team settled on four key words – pray, connect, resource and serve – in its effort to refocus on prayer. The logo redesign incorporates those verbs, and the group stressed the need to focus on Great Commission prayer mindset within the Southern Baptist Convention, state conventions, and local associations and churches.
 
3. ERLC Academy provides equipping on ethics
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) offered a two-day crash course in Christian ethics in May. ERLC President Russell Moore addressed such issues as sanctity of human life, gender identity, religious liberty, marriage, artificial reproductive technology, capital punishment and poverty. The event was followed by a three-day doctoral seminar for students from four of the six Southern Baptist seminaries.
 
4. Morganton church merger fuels missions
Summit Community Church in Morganton is the product of a church merger. Calvary Baptist Church and Journey Church combined their members and their talents to form a new church. Ninety percent of the new attendees are unchurched, according to the pastor, Mike Chandler. The church is not only committed to reaching its neighbors but is also in a partnership in Guatemala.
 
5. Baptist leaders ask Trump to protect dreamers
Several Southern Baptist leaders are among a group of evangelicals who urged President Donald Trump and the United States Congress to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country by their parents. The advocates sent letters as part of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of Christian advocates for immigration reform.
 
6. Florida pastor Jose Abella to be 2nd VP nominee
Jose Abella, pastor of Providence Road Church in Miami, was nominated and won the office of the second vice president during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June in Arizona. He also preached during the Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference prior to the meeting. His congregation in Miaim is bilingual and has planted another congregation in town.
 
7. Texas governor signs bill to ‘shield’ pastors’ sermons
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation May 21 that prohibits Texas government agencies from subpoenaing the sermons of religious leaders. Four of the five Houston pastors whose sermons were targeted in 2014 joined the signing ceremony at Grace Church in Woodlands, Texas. The controversy sparked a national debate over religious liberty.
 
8. Russell Moore: ‘Parenting is hard’
Parenting is both timeless and urgent, Russell Moore said in May prior to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission national conference on parenting, which was in August. Moore, who serves as ERLC president, said parenting issues should be addressed as part of discipleship: “but we need to speak definitively where scripture speaks definitively and not speak definitively where scripture does not.”
 
9. Timmy Blair to nominate Lee Pigg for BSC president
Timmy Blair, pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, nominated Lee Pigg, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe, as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). The nomination was made at the November annual meeting. Pigg was unopposed and elected by acclamation. Cameron McGill, previous BSC president, had announced earlier in the year that he would not run for re-election.
 
10. Kentucky Baptist to perform at Trump’s inauguration
Marlana VanHoose, a Southern Baptist from Kentucky, performed at President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January. The member of Liberty Baptist Church near Paintsville, Ky., said the Holy Spirit “takes care of me every single day.” The 21-year-old was born blind but has used her platform to sing at numerous events.
 

12/28/2017 11:18:23 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



North Carolina Baptists who made news in 2017

December 28 2017 by Biblical Recorder staff

Walter Strickland 
Walter Strickland was elected as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the 2017 annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. He was also promoted to associate vice president of Kingdom Diversity Initiatives at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C. Strickland was formerly the special advisor to the president for diversity. Strickland also transitioned from an instructor of theology to assistant professor of systematic theology at SEBTS. In June, he received a research doctoral degree from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and previously received graduate degrees from SEBTS. He was also active, along with other SBC leaders, in calling U.S. lawmakers to provide a long-term, legislative solution for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

 

Rick Holbrook 
Rick Holbrook, longtime director of the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, retired at the end of May after 32 years of service. Holbrook helped transform the coastal retreat and conference center from what was primarily a seasonal summer facility to a year-round destination. Under Holbrook’s leadership, Fort Caswell experienced unprecedented growth in both facilities and number of guests. Holbrook also helped expand the number and types of camps, conferences, retreats and activities hosted at Caswell. Throughout his tenure, Holbrook kept Caswell focused on ministry opportunities. Since 2003, more than 6,000 individuals have made first-time professions of faith during the annual summer youth weeks held at Caswell, and thousands more have surrendered to full-time vocational ministry. One of those who answered a call to ministry at Caswell as a youth was Brian Hemphill, who succeeded Holbrook as the facility’s director on June 1. Prior to Holbrook’s retirement, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina announced that a central section of Caswell property that houses a cottage and other residential buildings would be named Holbrook Village to honor his legacy.

 

Young Pastors Network leaders 
The Young Pastors Network, led by Matt Capps, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex; John Mark Harrison, pastor of Apex Baptist Church; and Clay Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Matthews; and others, held its second annual dinner during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting in Greensboro. More than 125 young church leaders shared a meal, discussed ministry challenges and received encouragement to join the cooperative work of the convention. The network’s leaders addressed important issues for North Carolina Baptists throughout the year in interviews with the Biblical Recorder. Capps and Harrison encouraged the next generation of church leaders to build relationships, share resources, learn from one another and talk about how to “steward our future together.” Smith called attention to a looming generational crisis noted in a Barna Group study that showed only about 14 percent of Protestant clergy are under age 40, and the number of church leaders over 65 has tripled in the last 25 years.

 

Lee Pigg
Lee Pigg, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe, was elected as the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) president for 2018. Pigg ran unopposed at the 2017 annual meeting and was nominated by Timmy Blair, pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier. Blair served two terms as president of BSC in 2015-2016. Pigg agreed to the nomination after Cameron McGill, pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church, announced he would not run for a second term as BSC president. Pigg also served four years on the Biblical Recorder’s board of directors and as president of the board in 2017.

 

J.D. Greear
In an informal meeting in 2016, Steve Gaines, who was then-candidate for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president, offered to nominate his contender, J.D. Greear, for the presidency in 2018 after Greear offered to withdraw from the 2016 election. Greear, who serves as pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., had both considered withdrawing from the race due to concerns about division in the convention. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), recounted the exchange in a panel discussion hosted by Baptist 21 at the 2017 SBC annual meeting. Gaines was elected by acclamation in both 2016 and 2017. The Biblical Recorder asked Greear whether he would run in 2018 if nominated. He said, “When it comes time for 2018 presidential nominations, I’ll be open to whatever God wants. But I believe it most honors God to consider things in their own time.” Greear also took part in multiple events throughout the year, such as the Reaching the Nations Conference in October at SEBTS in Wake Forest.

12/28/2017 11:03:05 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



10 most significant cultural issues in 2017

December 28 2017 by Biblical Recorder staff

Neal Gorsuch appointed to High court

(Baptist Press) More than 50 Southern Baptist and other evangelical leaders endorsed the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch in a letter sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The Southern Baptist Convention entity released the statement Feb. 1, a day after President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Gorsuch, who served as a federal appeals court judge for 10 years. The Senate voted 54-45 on April 7 to confirm Gorsuch, filling a seat on the high court that had remained vacant since the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
 

Baptists respond to trump administration’s refugee policies

Hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 27 to temporarily close the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, five Christian leaders took the stage at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) Evangelicals for Life conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss how churches and individuals can respond to the complex issues surrounding refugee and immigrant ministry. Among the panelists were Travis Wussow, ERLC vice president for public policy, and Bryant Wright, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. The following month Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, joined dozens of evangelical leaders from around the nation in a letter saying they were “deeply concerned” about the program’s temporary closure. The president’s order and subsequent executive actions to limit or suspend refugee resettlement were challenged in court multiple times in 2017, leading to partial implementation of the Trump administration’s policies to date.
 

Deaths of despair rising among middle-aged whites

A pair of Princeton University researchers released a report in March that reveals an alarming increase in the number of “deaths of despair” among white, middle-aged, blue-collar Americans. While mortality rates are decreasing in large sectors of the global population, the study says deaths caused by drug overdoses, alcohol related liver diseases and suicides are increasing in “extraordinary” and “unanticipated” ways among white Americans ages 50-54 with a high school diploma or less. The statistics are concerning, said Brian Upshaw, Disciple-Making Team Leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, but churches can offer hope to the hopeless.
 

Baptists aid ‘dreamers’

In early 2017, two Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) staffers began helping churches discover how to serve people in their communities with immigration-related needs through education, raising awareness of missions opportunities and referrals to legal advocates for adjustment of citizenship status issues. Hispanic Christian communities in North Carolina pulled together in support of young undocumented immigrants as they dealt with uncertainty caused by the Trump administration’s announcement Sept. 5 that it would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA program relied on White House administrative discretion to allow 800,000 young adults – often called “Dreamers” – to live and work in the United States, since they were brought into the country illegally as children, through no fault of their own. A six-month delay was included in the phase-out process to keep protections in place for DACA recipients while lawmakers develop replacement legislation. Some Southern Baptist leaders, including Walter Strickland, first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Travis Wussow, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission vice president for public policy, urged Congress Nov. 29 to act soon to provide a long-term remedy for Dreamers.
 

‘Nashville statement’ on sexuality released

A coalition of evangelical leaders, including about 70 Southern Baptists, issued a statement on biblical sexuality countering the idea that Christians “should agree to disagree” in their views of homosexual practice and transgenderism. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) announced Aug. 29 the release of The Nashville Statement, which consists of 14 affirmations and denials consistent with the church’s long-held teaching on human sexuality. The document gained its name from a meeting CBMW convened Aug. 25 in Nashville at which a coalition of scholars, pastors and other evangelical leaders discussed and endorsed the document. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission hosted the meeting during its national conference and in conjunction with its Research Institute meeting.
 

Reformation anniversary celebrated

(Baptist Press, BR staff) European study tours, conferences, publications and confessions of Protestant unity are among the ways Southern Baptists celebrated the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary during the past year. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Historical Committee sponsored a panel discussion on the Reformation that included Stephen Eccher, assistant professor of church history and Reformation studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), along with Catholic and Reformed theologians. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) theology professor Gregg Allison coauthored The Unfinished Reformation, a book clarifying what unites and divides Catholics and Protestants. LifeWay Christian Resources published both the six-session Bible study Echoes of the Reformation and Reformation 500, a multi-author book exploring how the Reformation has shaped the world. SBTS and SEBTS both offered study tours of key Reformation sites this summer.
 

LifeWay research finds evangelical label, beliefs at odds

(Facts & Trends) Fewer than half of those who identify as evangelicals (45 percent) strongly agree with core evangelical beliefs, according to a survey by LifeWay Research released Dec. 5. And a significant number of evangelical believers reject the term “evangelical.” Only two-thirds (69 percent) of evangelicals by belief self-identify as evangelicals. In this survey, LifeWay used a set of four questions about the Bible, Jesus, salvation and evangelism developed in partnership with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Those who strongly agree with all four are considered to be evangelicals by belief. Fifteen percent of Americans are evangelicals by belief, according to LifeWay Research. By contrast, 24 percent of Americans self-identify as evangelicals.
 

SCOTUS takes up cake artist’s liberty

(Baptist Press) The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Dec. 5 in a major free-speech and free-exercise-of-religion case at the center of the contentious debate between religious liberty and sexual liberty. Jack Phillips, who is a Christian and owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, declined to design and decorate a cake for the wedding of two men because of his belief that marriage is between only a male and a female. He told the couple, however, he would make and sell them all other baked items. After the men filed a complaint with the state, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered Phillips to create custom cakes for same-sex ceremonies or quit designing wedding cakes. He stopped designing wedding cakes. The commission also ordered him to re-educate his employees on complying with the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act, which includes sexual orientation as a protected class, which the panel found Phillips had violated. When Phillips appealed, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the commission’s order, and the Colorado Supreme Court declined in 2016 to review the decision. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision – which is expected before its term ends in late June or early July 2018 – could be pivotal in determining how much liberty is possessed by Christians and others in the face of governmental requirements that they believe violate their consciences.
 

Trump restores ban on foreign abortion funding

(WORLD News) President Donald Trump reinstated a ban Jan. 23 on federal funds for organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas. The action restored a Reagan-era rule known as the Mexico City Policy, which had been rescinded under the Obama administration. The policy was expanded in May to include all foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It previously applied only to family planning groups such as International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International. About $8.8 billion in U.S. funds will fall under the expanded rule, called “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” according to a senior Trump administration official.
 

‘Must-see’ Bible museum opens

The Museum of the Bible, a more-than-$500-million structure located blocks from Capitol Hill, opened to the general public on Nov. 18. Religious leaders from the U.S. and Israel joined board chairman Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and a Southern Baptist, to dedicate the eight-story attraction. Admission is free, but timed tickets are required and entry is restricted to 15-minute intervals. The museum offers a wide array of attractions, including walkthrough theatrical exhibits immersing visitors in Bible stories, Bible history displays comprising 600 artifacts and 50 media programs, a 472-seat World Stage Theater, a 3,000-square-foot biblical garden and a café offering Bible-inspired fare. Smithsonian.com described the venue as one of nine “must-see” museums that opened in 2017.
 

12/28/2017 10:58:35 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



Top 10 most shared social media posts in 2017

December 28 2017 by Biblical Recorder staff

Top Facebook posts

1. Anne Graham Lotz issues call to pray 

 
2. UNC student uses ‘wish’ for eternal impact

 
3. What is the prosperity gospel?                                

 
4. Tebow thanks N.C. Baptist DR 

 
5. Lottie Moon offering nears $153 million

 

Top Twitter posts

1. Anne Graham Lotz issues call to pray 

2. UNC student uses ‘wish’ for eternal impact

 

3. Baptist leaders ask Trump to protect ‘Dreamers’

 

4. Floyd named National Day of Prayer president 

5. Moore, Castellanos, Perkins to tackle tough topics in Rocky Mount

12/28/2017 10:24:48 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



Staff Picks: 2017 Guest Columns

December 27 2017 by Biblical Recorder staff

“Lesson from a generous widow” by H.B. Charles Jr.

EXCERPT: “This woman did not have twenty dollars to spare. Yet she believed there was a divine call on my life, and she wanted to support me through that love offering. ... Pastors should not be flashy, showing off their affluence. Both within the pulpit and outside of it, we must shun worldliness for the glory of God, the message of the gospel and the members whose freewill offerings pay our salaries.”

 

“Baptisms – more than numbers” by Nathan A. Finn

EXCERPT: “Increasing our number of baptisms isn’t about improving our statistics, or breaking previous records, or reversing recent trends. It’s about reaching men, women and children who are created in God’s image, whom Christ died for, and whom God loves and wants to save.”

 

“Labor Day: Your work matters” by Michael Kelley

EXCERPT: “One of the most practical ways we can seek the good of the community around us is by doing good, hard work that others benefit from. Whether you are teaching a class, collecting garbage or plumbing a toilet, you are one of the means of God for the public welfare. That means your work matters.”

 

“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future” by J.D. Greear

EXCERPT: “Christians know they need to read the Bible – even if they don’t do it. They know that they should believe certain things about God. But somehow they forget that they’re social creatures, shaped by the people closest to them. ... Our future is shaped less by our dreams and ambitions of what we’ll do for God and more by the company we choose to keep in the present.”

 

“Have you ever met a real Magi?” by George Braswell

EXCERPT: “He poked another piece of sandalwood into the flames, its incense refreshing the air. I felt calm, cool and collected around him. I told him the story of the Jesus I knew who grew up from that manger scene with the Magi and taught such beautiful lessons for the living of our days, the one who was crucified on the cross and was resurrected from the tomb. I told this Magi that I called Jesus Savior and Lord.”

12/27/2017 8:52:35 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



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