February 2017

One-third of Colorado hospitals opt out of assisted suicide

February 3 2017 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

Nearly one-third of Colorado hospitals say they will not allow doctors at their facilities to kill patients under the state’s new physician-assisted suicide law. Recently, two of the state’s largest hospital systems, both faith-based, released statements saying they plan to “opt out” of a state law approved by voters in November legalizing the prescription of life-ending medication to terminally ill patients.

Now that they’ve taken a stand, the hospitals likely will be forced to defend it in court.
The two systems, Centura Health and SCL Health, both associated with Catholic Health Initiatives, say the new Colorado statute contains conscience provisions that protect their right to opt out. But assisted-suicide advocates are pushing back, saying a legal challenge is a “distinct possibility.”
At issue is whether a system of hospitals can dictate for all its facilities and staff how to handle physician-assisted suicide.
“From what we’ve seen, it appears that Centura’s and SCL’s policies go beyond what is allowed under the law,” said Kat West, national director of policy and programs for Compassion & Choices, the country’s largest assisted-suicide advocacy organization, in an interview with STATNews.
But religious liberty experts disagree.
“A hospital that has a physician on staff is responsible for what that physician does,” said Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. The Christian legal organization currently represents a group of Vermont doctors suing state officials for forcing them to counsel patients on physician-assisted suicide.
Aden insisted a hospital system can establish pro-life policy for all its staff, pointing to both constitutional and state-level protections for faith-based providers and hospitals.
The Catholic Church’s strong opposition to assisted suicide is significant, not only because it provides financial support for anti-legalization efforts – the Archdiocese of Denver was the largest donor, at $1.6 million, toward the campaign opposing Colorado’s law – but also because nearly a third of acute care hospital beds in the state are in Catholic-owned or affiliated facilities, according to a 2016 report.
Centura Health is Colorado’s largest hospital system, with 15 hospitals and more than 100 physician practices and clinics. SCL Health is the state’s second largest Catholic system, with seven hospitals and dozens of clinics.
“Centura Health has a long tradition of believing in the sanctity of life, extending compassionate care and relieving suffering. … As permitted by the statute, Centura Health has opted out of participating in the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act,” reads a statement on the system’s website.
SCL Health posted a similar statement: “We believe we can provide compassionate care and comfort to our patients so they can live with dignity until the time of natural death, and we have therefore opted out of participation.” SCL notes that any patient requesting life-ending medication will be offered the opportunity to transfer to another facility.
Colorado became the sixth state in the nation to legalize assisted suicide when nearly 65 percent of voters in November approved the measure allowing terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the right to access a physician-prescribed lethal drug.
The state’s larger cities have several hospital systems that plan to cooperate with the new law, including UCHealth and Kaiser Permanente. But critics say the refusal of Catholic hospitals to participate denies some Colorado citizens in smaller towns access to assisted suicide if they only have one hospital or hospice center available.
Aden maintains the hospitals have a right to their decision and should be protected from requirements to participate in “death dealing” practices: “I think it is one of the most significant religious liberty fights we’ll see in the next 10 or 20 years.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

2/3/2017 10:51:57 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Pig embryos with human cells deemed ‘problematic’

February 3 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The first successful growth of human cells in a pig embryo has drawn mixed reviews from pro-life bioethicists.
Biologists at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., announced Jan. 26 that they generated stem cells from human skin, then injected them into a pig embryo and allowed the embryo to grow four weeks in a sow’s uterus.
After four weeks, human cells “were distributed randomly across the chimera,” The Washington Post reported, referencing the resultant embryos with a term from Greek mythology describing creatures said to be part goat, part snake and part lion.
The study, published in the journal Cell, represents an early step in efforts to grow human organs in animals and then transplant them to humans, according to media reports.
A study published Jan. 25 in the journal Nature represented a separate step toward that goal, reporting the successful cultivation of a mouse pancreas in a rat embryo. An international team of scientists then treated diabetic mice by transplanting the cultivated pancreas tissue.
Still, there is “a long way to go” before scientists will be ready for attempts to grow human organs in animals, The New York Times reported.
Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte of the Salk Institute told The Post, “We were just trying to answer the yes or no question of, can human cells contribute at all” in a pig embryo. “And the answer to that question is yes.”
But Joy Riley, a physician and executive director of the Tennessee Center for Bioethics and Culture, told Baptist Press (BP) the pig embryos with human calls are “morally problematic.”
“From more than 1,400 embryos containing pig and human cells, 186 were harvested between day 21 and day 28 of development,” Riley said in written comments. “What were these embryos? How does one classify these beings? How many cells does it take in order for the being to be human?”
Riley, coauthor of Christian Bioethics with Union University provost C. Ben Mitchell, referenced fears among some scientists that an animal with human cells incorporated into its brain could develop human characteristics such as intelligence, consciousness or speech. She also referenced concerns that animals with human reproductive cells could produce offspring with human characteristics.
“Does the fact that these beings are ‘harvested’ before they are fully developed assuage our consciences? Until at least some of these questions are answered, it seems morally problematic to go forward with such research,” Riley said.
Roman Catholic bioethicists quoted by LifeSiteNews seemed more approving of the research, noting human embryos apparently were not destroyed in the experiment.
Moira Queen, director of the Canadian Catholic Bishops Institute, told LifeSiteNews, “As long are the stem cells aren’t embryonic stem cells ... and you’re not duplicating the brain and as long as it has nothing to do with the genitals, you’re not doing anything morally wrong.”
Edward Furton of the National Catholic Bioethics Center expressed similar sentiments, arguing human “neuro-cells” and reproductive tissues “are seen as special areas unique to human identity” and should never be implanted in animals.
According to The Post, “a few” human stem cells in the Salk Institute experiment “developed into the precursors of neurons.”
Charles Patrick, a former biomedical researcher and a current vice president at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP for a previous news story the Bible “is clear in Genesis that God created man distinct from animals and gave man authority over animals. It would seem prudent to be very careful with technologies that potentially blur the distinction in God’s created order.”
Patrick’s comments came in August 2016, when the National Institutes of Health proposed lifting a ban on using government funds to insert human cells into animal embryos. The ban remains in force.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/3/2017 10:47:53 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

National CP 3.11% ahead of projection

February 3 2017 by Baptist Press staff

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are 3.11 percent above the year-to-date budgeted projection through the first four months of the convention’s fiscal year, and are 1.48 percent below contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page.

The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2016-17 SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget.
As of January 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget totaled $64,960,566.62, or 103.11 percent of the $63,000,000.00 year-to-date budgeted amount to support Southern Baptist Convention ministries globally and across North America. The total is $978,135.12 less than the $65,938,701.74 received through the end of January 2016.
The Convention-adopted budget is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board, 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget, and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
According to the budget adopted by the SBC at its June 2016 annual meeting in St. Louis, if the Convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $189 million, IMB’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.
Meanwhile, designated giving of $37,230,995.51 for the same year-to-date period is 11.88 percent, or $5,019,535.40, below gifts of $42,250,530.91 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.
The Cooperative Program is a program of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the various ministries of its state convention and to the various missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution.
January’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $19,178,374.20. Designated gifts received last month, meanwhile, amounted to $26,345,202.95.
State and regional Baptist conventions serve as collecting entities for Cooperative Program contributions. They retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist Convention national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.
The end-of-month total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of each month. Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions and the timing of when state conventions forward the national portion of their CP contributions to the Executive Committee.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state offices, to the denominational papers and are posted online at cpmissions.net/CPReports.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Baptist Press reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.)

2/3/2017 10:42:07 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Trump spotlights religious liberty at prayer breakfast

February 3 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Trump administration “will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty,” President Donald Trump said Feb. 2 at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

Screen capture from Fox News
President Donald Trump told faith leaders gathered at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington Feb. 2, “We will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or fear of violence.”

Among steps he proposed to safeguard religious liberty was a promise to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment,” a 1954 law that bars churches and other tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates. The promise drew attention within hours from major media outlets and echoed statements Trump made during the 2016 presidential campaign.
America should repeal the Johnson Amendment and “allow our representatives of faith to speak freely without fear of retribution,” Trump said at the prayer breakfast.
Among Southern Baptists in attendance were former Southern Baptist Convention Presidents Jack Graham and Ronnie Floyd; Wendell Estep, pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C.; Student Leadership University President Jay Strack; former Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land; and Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in the Los Angeles area.
The breakfast included a keynote address by U.S. Senate chaplain Barry Black, music by Christian recording artist Bart Millard of Mercy Me and prayer led by World Series MVP Ben Zobrist. Members of Congress from both parties also offered remarks and prayers.
Trump said his high regard for religious liberty motivates his opposition to the Johnson Amendment as well as his immigration policy and his fight against radical Islamic terrorism.
“We will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or fear of violence,” Trump said. “America will flourish as long as our liberty, and in particular our religious liberty, is allowed to flourish.”
Immigration policy, Trump said, must secure America’s borders against “those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle.”
Trump called terrorism “a fundamental threat to religious freedom.”
“It must be stopped and it will be stopped,” Trump said, noting persecution around the world of “peace-loving Muslims,” Jews and Christians.
The president also spoke briefly of his personal faith and said, “The quality of our lives is not defined by our material success but by our spiritual success.”
Five words “that never fail to touch my heart,” Trump said, are “I am praying for you.” He expressed appreciation to the many Americans who assure him of their prayers.
Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, told Baptist Press (BP) he appreciated the president’s comments on religious liberty and the “acclaim for Jesus” expressed at various junctures in the program.
“It was one of the best National Prayer Breakfasts I’ve attended” out of 10-12, Graham said, reflecting on the time of prayer and music. “My wife Deb and I came away feeling we had been to church and that we truly had prayed.”
Floyd, another member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board and pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, told BP “the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast was very strong.”
“The message by the chaplain of the United States Senate, Chaplain Black, was outstanding,” Floyd said in an email. “President Donald Trump’s words were personal, relating to his deepest appreciation for people praying for him, and his remarks affirmed his great vision for religious freedom. Mercy Me also led in meaningful moments of worship. Overall, from all the years my wife Jeana and I have attended, we believe this year was the strongest of all.”
Estep told BP in written comments, “It seemed that President Trump was well received. The keynote speaker brought the audience to its feet with his powerful message of Jesus Christ and His redemption of man. Those attendees I spoke with were very positive concerning the messages delivered.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/3/2017 10:37:08 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Falcon’s injury fails to sour Super Bowl trip

February 3 2017 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

The Atlanta Falcons squared off against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 30 in what proved to be a preview of this year’s NFC championship game. Atlanta tight end Jacob Tamme caught a 13-yard pass on the first drive of the game.

Photo by Tim Ellsworth
Atlanta Falcons’ tight end Jacob Tamme talks to the media during Super Bowl Opening Night events Jan. 31 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

“When I got tackled, a second guy hit me right as I went to the ground,” Tamme said. “Twice in my career I’ve known that something bad had happened. The first time was [when] I broke my femur in high school. The second time was that one.”
Tamme left the game with a shoulder injury. He didn’t return for the rest of the season. When his Falcons teammates face the New England Patriots on Feb. 5 in the Super Bowl, Tamme will be cheering them from the sidelines.
Not the most ideal place for a competitive guy like Tamme who has played in two Super Bowls previously, with Indianapolis in 2010 and with Denver in 2014. Still, Tamme’s faith in God has allowed him to approach his season-ending injury with perspective and grace.
“I believe that there’s a foolproof plan that (God) has for my life and that this is a part of it,” Tamme told Baptist Press and other reporters during Super Bowl Opening Night events Jan. 31 at Minute Maid Park in Houston. “That makes it a little easier when you trust in that. He’s been so faithful to me and guided me this far, and I know that ultimately He’s in control.”
Growing up in Danville, Ky., Tamme was raised in a Christian home going to church regularly. He says early in his career as an Indianapolis Colt, several men had a big impact on him – especially Eric Simpson, the Colts’ chaplain – and helped him to mature as a believer.
He gradually learned, for one thing, that God is intimately involved in every facet of life, including football. As a youngster, Tamme said it was easy to believe that God didn’t care about football and had more important things to do.
“Sometimes we have that mindset, and it’s kind of prevalent, still,” Tamme said. “God’s bigger than we think He is. God can handle everything that He needs to handle, and I believe that God has a hand in everything we do, both on and off the field.
“God doesn’t just shut off when we go on the field. It’s something that I do for Him.”
Tamme and his wife Allison attend Calvary Baptist Church in Danville. Brent Rowe, the church’s pastor, said they are faithful attenders when they are not traveling. Allison has been a member of the church since she was a girl.
“He is a very strong man of faith,” Rowe said of Tamme. “He takes his relationship with the Lord very seriously, as well as his leadership of his family in terms of their faith.
“His faith is something that is very important to him and something that he is unashamed of and is glad to talk about and proclaim.”

‘Sweet to be here’

Despite his positive outlook, Tamme’s injury in October wasn’t one he could shake off. He had reconstructive surgery on his shoulder shortly after getting hurt. And while he still has a ways to go, he said his rehab is going well.
He acknowledges he hates not being able to play in the Super Bowl, but he takes seriously his role of encouraging and supporting his teammates.
“It’s really awesome to get to be a part of a group like this that can lug you on their back all the way here,” he said. “I’m hoping they take me across the finish line on Sunday.
“Obviously it stinks not to be able to be out there. A lot of people ask me if it’s bittersweet. I tell them, ‘No, it’s mostly sweet.’ The competitor in you always wants to be there, but it’s not bittersweet. It’s sweet to be here and be a part of this.”
The nine-year NFL veteran noted he’s thankful for ways God has blessed him and allowed him to play football at the highest level.
“I do my part to do everything I can with the opportunities I’m given, and this year I got hurt midway through and had to miss the rest,” Tamme said. “I know there’s a purpose for that, so I’m trying to live out whatever that purpose is.”
For Tamme, his Twitter bio sums up what he’s all about: “Christian, husband, dad, football player. Imperfect at each. Trusting in a perfect God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth writes for Baptist Press and is an associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

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2/3/2017 10:28:06 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

DR leaders mark 50 years of ministry, eye future

February 2 2017 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders throughout North America met for their annual “Round Table” meeting and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of SBDR.

Photo by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders celebrated the ministry’s 50th anniversary during their annual conference, Jan. 23-27.

Representatives from nearly all the state Baptist conventions participated in the Jan. 23-27 event at Camp Copass in Denton, Texas. Portions of the week focused on celebrating five decades of ministry efforts, looking at the present state of the ministry and preparing for the future.
“Fifty years represents a significant event for us,” said Mickey Caison, the executive director of SBDR at the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
“Over those 50 years, we’ve responded to thousands of disasters, both domestically and internationally,” he noted. “As part of that, we’ve seen thousands of people come to Christ out of that environment of damage and destruction. As we move through that process, we’re able to see people come to faith. Because there were no Southern Baptist churches in their community, there was an opportunity for our associations and state conventions to start churches.”
On Jan. 23, the group heard from Bob Dixon and John Lanoue, who participated in the first SBDR response following Hurricane Beulah in 1967. Using campcraft skills from the Royal Ambassadors ministry, the men turned one-gallon cans into miniature stoves (called “Buddy Burners”) to prepare hot meals for people impacted by that year’s most intense hurricane.
“It’s a great reminder of the faithfulness of those who started the work and the faithfulness of those who have continued the work for a very long time,” said Gaylon Moss, the disaster relief coordinator for North Carolina Baptists.

Photo by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN
NAMB President Kevin Ezell speaks to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders during a conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the denomination’s DR work.

Roundtable participants also spent significant time debriefing the past year’s major deployments, including two major flood events in Louisiana and last fall’s response following Hurricane Matthew. NAMB and state leaders discussed how responses can improve from those experiences.
The group also discussed ways to involve more Southern Baptists in training events.
“We looked at the need for more online training and ‘just-in-time’ training,’” Caison said. “Not a lot of volunteers are willing to give you a whole weekend to get away and be a part of a training event. If they’re not going to do it that way, how are we going to get the training material, safety material and those kinds of things in their hands?”
Sam Porter, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s state disaster relief director, said SBDR has left a legacy among Southern Baptists in mobilizing a wide variety of volunteers for gospel work.
“It is a unique vehicle for people with Christ in their hearts and a passion to serve others that is set on ‘go’ whenever the world falls apart in some place,” Porter said. “It especially gives opportunities to those who may not feel confidence about their knowledge of the Bible or they don’t do well singing. Even though we all know they do, they may not feel like they have something to give. When they get to use their God-given gifts or their learned talents in disaster relief tasks, like using a chainsaw or cooking, they realize those abilities can be used greatly to impact the world for Christ and set up the opportunity for someone to hear the gospel.”

Photo by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN
Southern Baptist disaster relief workers gather for prayer around NAMB President Kevin Ezell and Send Relief VP David Melber.

Yet Porter and other SBDR leaders acknowledged that for the ministry to be most effective, Southern Baptists must mobilize new generations of leaders. Roundtable participants spent much of their meeting time discussing ways to get more Generation X and Millennial volunteers involved.
“The volunteer pool we have is beginning to age out,” Caison said. “Medically and physically they are not able to go and do the kind of work that they’ve done in the past. We’re looking at how we better engage Gen X and Millennials in the ministry.”
New volunteers are particularly needed because Caison says SBDR’s ministry success has brought with it much responsibility. SBDR’s national partners spoke at the roundtable about the need for Southern Baptists to be prepared to deploy faster and with more volunteers. Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and the Salvation Army all sent representatives to the roundtable.
“While they all affirmed us and encouraged us in our ministry, they did remind us that we have great responsibility,” Caison said. “Red Cross reminded us that it is incumbent on us to be responsive and available. Because of our partnership with them, they can’t do their job without us. They wanted us to continue to strive for stronger, faster responses, as well as longer sustainability in those responses.”
Don Gann, who leads disaster relief efforts for Mississippi Baptists, remains hopeful about the ministry’s next 50 years.
“I hope we can be flexible enough to continue to mobilize Southern Baptists to reach people, and at the same time, do it in a way that will meet the needs of the people who have been affected and also reach a new generation of Southern Baptists,” said Gann, who led the steering committee for the roundtable but couldn’t make the event because of the heavy storms that hit Mississippi the prior week.
“It’s a great challenge – but it’s a good one. I can’t wait for it!”
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state Disaster Relief ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained Disaster Relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

2/2/2017 10:48:41 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments

Gorsuch nomination lauded by life, liberty advocates

February 2 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Religious liberty and pro-life advocates warmly welcomed President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court as the Senate prepares for what is expected to be a hard-fought confirmation battle.

Neil Gorsuch

Trump announced his selection of Gorsuch, 49, a federal appeals court judge, during prime-time television Tuesday evening, Jan. 31, to fill the seat created by the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia last February.
In Gorsuch, Trump nominated a judge who – like Scalia – has a philosophy and record of interpreting the Constitution and laws based on its original meaning and their text, respectively.
A judge for the last 10 years on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Gorsuch agreed with others on the court that the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate violated the free exercise of religion rights of Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor among other religious groups.
Although he apparently has not ruled on abortion rights, Gorsuch wrote a 2006 book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia before becoming a judge, arguing against legalization of the end-of-life practices. Based on his judicial philosophy, however, Gorsuch has pledged to apply the law rather than his beliefs.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore called Gorsuch “an exceptional choice.”
“I heartily support President Trump’s excellent appointment,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a written statement. “[Gorsuch] is a brilliant and articulate defender of Constitutional originalism in the mold of the man he will replace: Justice Antonin Scalia. His career is one that exemplifies the very best of intellectually robust conservatism, judicial restraint and faithfulness to the Constitution.
“I look forward to Judge Gorsuch’s voice on the Court for decades to come and pray that he will be an articulate and stalwart advocate for religious liberty and human dignity at all its stages,” Moore said. “Along with Baptists and other believers around the country, I urge the Senate to confirm Judge Gorsuch without delay.”
Gorsuch’s confirmation to the high court seemingly will be a battle, based on the response of Senate Democratic leadership to his nomination.
Sen. Charles Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said he has “very serious doubts about Judge Gorsuch’s ability” to be independent and non-ideological, “preserve our democracy, protect fundamental rights” and stand up to Trump.
According to The Hill, the New York senator said Democrats will “require an exhaustive, robust, and comprehensive debate on Judge Gorsuch’s fitness” for the court.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R.-Neb., cited the Senate’s confirmation of Gorsuch to the 10th Circuit without opposition and defended his record as distinguished and “rooted in respect for the law.”
“Senator Schumer is about to tell Americans that Judge Gorsuch kicks puppies and heckles piano recitals. That’s hogwash,” Sasse said.
In announcing Gorsuch’s nomination from the White House, Trump said the judge’s qualifications “are beyond dispute” and urged Republican and Democratic senators to come together for the country’s good.
Republicans have only a 52-48 majority in the Senate, with 60 votes needed to stop a Democrat filibuster or another parliamentary maneuver for Gorsuch’s nomination to move forward.
The division over Gorsuch was obvious in comments from both sides of the legal and cultural divide.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, described Gorsuch as “a remarkably qualified nominee with a conservative judicial philosophy and a commitment to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution. He is decidedly pro-life and understands what it means to protect the constitutional freedoms afforded to all Americans.”
Michael Farris, new president of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said the organization “does not take a position on the merits of Supreme Court nominees,” but it is “hopeful that Judge Gorsuch will continue to interpret the Constitution faithfully and according to the intent of the Founders.”
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said, “All too often, our efforts to protect unborn children and other vulnerable humans have been overridden by judges who believe they have a right to impose their own policy preferences. We are heartened that Judge Gorsuch appears to share Justice Scalia’s view that federal judges are constrained to enforce the text and original intent of constitutional provisions, and on all other matters should defer to democratically elected lawmakers.”
Liberal organizations, however, called for the Senate to reject Gorsuch.
Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-choice America, called the nominee “a direct threat to Roe v. Wade [the 1973 decision that legalized abortion] and the promise it holds for women’s equality.”
“Gorsuch represents an existential threat to legal abortion in the United States and must never wear the robes of a Supreme Court justice,” Hogue said.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest political organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, said Gorsuch has an “anti-equality record” that makes him “unfit to sit on the nation’s highest court. We cannot afford a justice who will roll back our rights, or who will be a rubber stamp for Donald Trump’s unconstitutional actions.”
Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Trump “nominated the rubber stamp he wants on the Supreme Court.”
Gorsuch, in his remarks after Trump introduced him and his wife Louise, said putting on robes doesn’t make judges “any smarter,” but it does provide a reminder of what is expected of them: “Impartiality and independence, collegiality and courage.”
The role of judges is “to apply, not alter the work of the people’s representatives,” Gorsuch said. “A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge, stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands.”
If confirmed, Gorsuch – who is Episcopalian – would be the only Protestant on the court. The other eight justices are either Jewish or Roman Catholic.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/2/2017 10:47:34 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

ERLC-organized coalition endorses Gorsuch for confirmation

February 2 2017 by Baptist Press staff

More than 50 Southern Baptist and other evangelical leaders have endorsed the confirmation of new Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch in a letter sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

The Southern Baptist Convention entity released the letter Feb. 1, a day after President Trump announced his nomination of Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge the last 10 years. If confirmed, Gorsuch would fill the seat on the nine-person high court left vacant by the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia last February.
The letter’s signers included the current Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president and some former ones, as well as heads of some of the convention’s entities and seminaries. Also signing, among others, were pastors, university presidents and evangelical institutional leaders.
The ERLC plans to send the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings as part of what could be a contentious confirmation process.
A judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Gorsuch espouses the judicial philosophy for which Scalia was famous during his 30 years as a justice – one marked by interpreting the Constitution based on its original meaning and laws according to their text.
In their letter, the Southern Baptists and other evangelicals said they believe Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy meets the thresholds of their “core social principles.” Those precepts include in the Supreme Court’s purview “the protection of the unborn, the strengthening of religious liberty and a dedication to human flourishing – which we believe can only be accomplished by a biblical definition of marriage and family.”
“As evangelical leaders, we support President Trump’s nomination and pray for a quick confirmation process,” they wrote, urging the Senate to “work diligently to confirm his appointment without obstruction.”
ERLC President Russell Moore said in a statement announcing the letter, “Few presidential decisions are as consequential and lasting as Supreme Court appointments, and Neil Gorsuch is an outstanding choice. He is a brilliant and articulate defender of constitutional originalism in the mold of [Scalia].
“I’m overjoyed to be joined on this statement by convictional leaders from across the evangelical spectrum who support President Trump’s nomination and who believe that Judge Gorsuch represents exactly the kind of judge our country needs on the Supreme Court,” Moore said. “We stand together in support of his appointment and pray for a quick confirmation process.”
Among the letter’s signers in addition to Moore were:

  • SBC President Steve Gaines;
  • Former convention presidents Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham, Johnny Hunt and Frank S. Page (now SBC Executive Committee president and CEO);
  • SBC seminary presidents Daniel Akin of Southeastern, Jason Allen of Midwestern, Jeff Iorg of Gateway, R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern and Paige Patterson (also a former convention president) of Southwestern;
  • Convention entity heads O.S. Hawkins of GuideStone Financial Resources and Thom Rainer of LifeWay Christian Resources;
  • Pastors Alistair Begg, J.D. Greear, D.A. Horton, Greg Laurie, Gregg Matte, Tommy Nelson, Ray Ortlund, Jimmy Scroggins, A.B. Vines and Afshin Ziafat;
  • Denominational/organizational heads Denny Burk of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, D.A. Carson of The Gospel Coalition, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Roland Warren of Care Net and George Wood of the Assemblies of God;
  • University or seminary presidents David Dockery of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School, Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary, Samuel (Dub) Oliver of Union University, Thomas White of Cedarville University and David Whitlock of Oklahoma Baptist University.

Also signing was former U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf.
During his decade on the 10th Circuit Court, Gorsuch found the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate to be a violation of the religious freedom of non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses. While he wrote a book opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide before he became a judge, Gorsuch has reportedly not ruled on abortion rights.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/2/2017 10:47:07 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Patriots’ Solder shares lessons from son’s cancer battle

February 2 2017 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

Nate Solder remembers the most painful car ride of his life. It took place after a radiologist had first looked at scans from Solder’s 3-month-old son Hudson.

Photo by Tim Ellsworth
Nate Solder, a tackle for the New England Patriots, responds to questions during Super Bowl Opening Night events on Jan. 31 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

“They directed us to the children’s hospital, and they didn’t give us a whole lot of direction of what that meant,” said Solder, a tackle for the New England Patriots. “So we’re driving Hudson to the hospital, and he’s laughing and being playful in his car seat as we’re driving, and my wife and I cried the entire way.
“The thought that was on my mind the whole time was that I had somehow [hurt] this poor innocent child and I’d messed up,” Solder told Baptist Press (BP) during Super Bowl Opening Night events on Jan. 31 at Minute Maid Park in Houston. “That was a difficult moment for me, and it was a very difficult moment for our family.”
As Solder and his wife Lexi feared, Hudson was diagnosed with cancer – specifically a Wilms tumor on his kidney. Over the next year of cancer treatments, Solder learned a great deal about God and His care for His people.
“I felt a glimpse of the pain that God sacrificed for us when He gave up His one and only son,” Solder said. “That was a very big moment in my faith journey to see that, for Him to show us that. We’re so thankful that He’s carried us through all of that.”
Solder was no stranger to cancer prior to Hudson’s diagnosis after his own bout with testicular cancer in 2014. He didn’t miss any time on the field. During his career with the Patriots, Solder has proven himself as a key protector of New England’s quarterback Tom Brady.
Hudson is doing better now. A few days ago, doctors removed the port that they used to administer chemo. They’ll continue to monitor Hudson in the days ahead. The long-term outlook for Wilms tumor patients is positive, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Solder’s New England teammates recently selected him as the team’s recipient for the Ed Block Courage Award, given to a player from each NFL team for his sportsmanship and courage.
For Solder, who will play in his third Super Bowl on Feb. 5, the trial with Hudson seems to have put a new lens on life.
“We get caught up in our own personal issues, our own personal pains and sufferings, and we forget that there’s a lot of other people out there that are suffering,” he told BP. “We have an opportunity to help those people and not to get lost in our own pain.”
Zach Hummer, the student pastor at Church of Emmanuel in Foxboro, Mass., where the Solders attend, can affirm how they’ve used Hudson’s sickness as a means of ministering to others.
“They’ve seen it as a way to tell people about how good God is and how He provides, to show people that in the midst of suffering, they can still trust in God,” Hummer said.
Hummer cited Romans 8:16-17: “The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ – seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
The Solders embody a lot of what that last line is about, Hummer noted. “It’s not just about suffering well in your own life,” he said. “It’s about entering into other people’s suffering, just as Christ would.”
Solder is using his influence as a high-profile athlete, Hummer said, to show people what that looks like.
“I think that gives Nate a lot of credit,” he said. “It breaks down a lot of barriers, and I think that’s afforded him some stage to talk about what he really believes.”
Even through the scariest moments of his life, Solder saw the Lord’s hand at work. He injured his bicep just days before Hudson’s diagnosis. The injury required surgery, and though it sidelined him from football for a while, the relatively minor injury freed him to focus on his family instead of football.
“I think it was totally in the providence of God, as all things are,” he said.
Solder said after they came out publicly about Hudson’s condition, he heard from several parents who resonated with his story.
“That was just one of the many ways that God’s used Hudson’s issue to touch other people’s lives,” Solder said. “I don’t know why God does all of the things that He does, but it’s been an eye-opening experience, for sure.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth writes for Baptist Press and is an associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

2/2/2017 10:46:45 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

First baby girl born with three parents

February 2 2017 by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service

In early January, a mother in Ukraine gave birth to a baby girl with DNA from three parents – two women and one man. She is the second baby known to be born from modern mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), but her birth is a first in several other ways.
Proponents initially touted MRT as a remedy to allow women with serious mitochondrial disease – genetic defects in the mitochondrial DNA that are passed down to their children – to have healthy babies. But this is the first use of MRT as a fertility treatment for a couple without any known genetic disease. A Ukrainian doctor used the procedure after conventional in vitro fertilization had not been successful.
This is also the first time this particular type of MRT, called pronuclear transfer, has successfully produced a baby. In this procedure, doctors remove the nucleus from two embryos, one from the parents and one from a donor egg that has been fertilized with the father's sperm. They then transfer the nucleus from the parent’s embryo into the de-nucleated donor embryo and implant it in the mother.
Even among proponents of MRT, this particular birth has stirred controversy because of the baby’s gender. Researchers previously recommended that MRT be used only to create boy babies. Boys are much less likely to pass on any genetic modifications to their offspring. Once the sperm and egg come together to form an embryo, the mitochondria from the father dies, leaving only the mother’s mitochondria.
But the recent procedure in Ukraine did not produce a “suitable male embryo,” Valery Zukin, the doctor who performed the procedure, told CNN. With the approval of the parents and a medical review board, he decided to implant a female embryo.
When scientists first developed MRT, some ethicists warned that if it became legal it would soon be used for everything from treating infertility to creating designer babies, not just for cases of mothers with mitochondrial disease. It appears they were right.
“We are accelerating down a slippery slope now when we are going to manufacture children in the laboratory to specific genetic characteristics,” said David Prentice, a bioethicist and the vice president and research director at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
But even if doctors confine the use of MRT to only cases of genetic diseases, the ethical concerns don’t disappear. This technique is not easy to do, Prentice said: “It’s a matter of trial and error. Likely many embryos were destroyed in the process before this little girl made it to birth.”
MRT also carries inherent health risks for the child, said Arina Grossu, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity. “Scientists also don’t know yet what kind of irreparable impact tinkering with the human genome will have on this child and future generations. It is contrary to human dignity to treat the creation and destruction of human life as a science experiment,” she said.
Researchers recently discovered MRT cannot guarantee mitochondrial disease will not be passed on to the baby. The procedure does not eliminate every single bit of the mother’s mitochondria, and a small amount is transferred to the donor embryo. A recent study published in the journal Nature showed that even a tiny amount of the mother’s mitochondria can replicate faster than the donor’s mitochondria and can become dominant, potentially spreading the disease to the child.
Despite the risks and ethical concerns, doctors are likely to move forward with the technique. Zukin told CNN he has a second patient in a similar situation who is expecting to give birth in early March. Although no three-parent babies have yet been born in Britain, the United Kingdom has approved the procedure for women with mitochondrial disease. MRT has not been approved in the United States, but last year a U.S. physician traveled to Mexico, where the procedure is legal, and used a type of MRT to produce a baby boy.
Prentice is thankful there is at least a temporary prohibition in the United States but said he thinks “this needs to be made a permanent, and frankly global, prohibition.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Borg writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)


2/2/2017 10:46:22 AM by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

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