February 2017

‘Night to Shine’ elevates special needs royalty

February 15 2017 by Brandy Crase, Kentucky Today

More than 100 people with special needs attended the Night to Shine in Owensboro, Ky., an event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation the weekend before Valentine’s Day.

Photo provided by Life Community Church
Honored guests walk down the red carpet at Night to Shine amid pops of camera flashes and cheers. Night to Shine, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, was hosted by Life Community Church in Owensboro, Ky.


The ladies were adorned in sparkling dresses and the men were decked out in tuxedos as the evening they had been awaiting with great anticipation came to fruition. Flashes of photography and cheers from the crowd created a wave of excitement as the honored guests, each accompanied by a volunteer “buddy,” strolled the red carpet Feb. 10.
 
Honored guests received the royal treatment during the evening with hair and makeup stations, a shoe-shining area, corsages and boutonnieres. Limousine rides, catered food, karaoke and, of course, a dance floor also were part of the gathering.
 
The evening of glamour, music and elegant attire, although exciting for all who came, also was a stage for members at Life Community to showcase the unconditional love of God.
 
“We got to show tonight, the entire city, that Jesus loves them,” said Life Community Church pastor Kenny Rager said.
 
The congregation saw the Night to Shine as an opportunity to host a great experience for people with special needs, as well as for the hundreds of caregivers, volunteers and donors.
 
“We were able to minister to over 100 attendees, their families and the volunteers,” Rager said. “The entire community came together to make the night possible, with many people donating time, space, services, attire and funding.”
 
Life Community Church was one of about 200 churches around the world to host a Night to Shine event for people 14 and older with special needs, giving the opportunity for churches, volunteers and guests and, most importantly, God to shine.
 
Rager said Life Community Church has an ongoing ministry to residents at the Wendell Foster Center, a residence for people with special needs. He said when the congregation learned about Night to Shine, they decided it would be yet another way to show love.
 
“Our church is honored to be able to reach out to people with special needs because people with special needs are people who still need Jesus,” Rager said.
 
The pastor said his role for the evening included visiting various places within the event to share the gospel. More than half of the 300-plus volunteers had indicated they don’t have a home church, which Rager said provides an opportunity to share the love of Christ in a loving atmosphere.
 
The memorable evening came to a meaningful close as each honored guest was crowned King or Queen of the Prom as a reminder that they are each royalty in the eyes of God.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandy Crase writes for Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
 

2/15/2017 8:14:38 AM by Brandy Crase, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments



Anti-Planned Parenthood rallies call for defunding

February 14 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Pro-life demonstrators held rallies Feb. 11 at more than 220 Planned Parenthood clinics in 45 states to advocate withdrawing government funds from America’s largest abortion provider.

Photo from Instagram.
A pro-life rally in Columbia, Mo., drew some 100 demonstrators, including college students.


Meanwhile, a petition drive led by Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has garnered nearly 8,000 signatures on a letter asking Congress “to support the budget resolution that defunds Planned Parenthood and redirects funding to federally qualified health centers.”
 
Federally qualified health centers, which meet women’s health care needs without providing abortions, outnumber Planned Parenthood centers in America by a 13 to 1 margin, according to Protestpp.com, the official website of Saturday’s rallies.
 
The rallies – sponsored by a coalition of pro-life groups under the banner of #ProtestPP – included prayer and speakers.
 
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, chair of the House Select Investigative Panel that recommended defunding Planned Parenthood in December, told Baptist Press (BP) “it’s encouraging to see so many people coming out to support the pro-life cause.”
 
“The American taxpayer has made it clear time and time again: taxpayer money should not be spent on abortions,” Blackburn, R-Tenn., said in a statement. “Defunding Planned Parenthood is not about stripping health care from women, but protecting our most basic right. The right to life. It’s about continuing the process to protect our most vulnerable and doing what taxpayers sent us to Washington to do.”
 
In some locations, pro-life demonstrators drew even larger counter-demonstrations in support of Planned Parenthood, according to media reports.
 
Bonnie Lee, a Southern Baptist nurse who was among speakers at a Columbia, Mo., rally, told BP counter-protests unwittingly helped the demonstrations by drawing more media attention.

Photo courtesy of Kathy Forck.
Bonnie Lee was among the speakers at a Feb. 11 rally outside the Planned Parenthood center in Columbia, Mo.


Approximately 100 pro-life demonstrators in Columba were met by some 150 Planned Parenthood supporters, she said.
 
Protestpp.com includes a link to 99 separate press reports on the rallies compiled by Google News and notes “outstanding media coverage throughout the United States.”
 
Lee noted, “Our purpose in sponsoring the rally was to encourage the defunding of Planned Parenthood with our tax monies because they are abortion providers. Their main business is abortion.
 
... Our taxes should not go to them to support the business in any way.”
 
The $553 million that Planned Parenthood receives from state and federal governments annually represents 43 percent of the organization’s budget, according to Protestpp.com. Of that amount, $430 million comes from the federal government.
 
Though no federal funds directly subsidize abortions, Lee said tax dollars help make abortions possible.
 
“What you don’t use on one thing, you use for something else,” Lee said. “So if you put tax money in, it frees up other money to go to these other projects that help provide abortion.”
 
Planned Parenthood’s oft-repeated claim that only 3 percent of its business is abortion is misleading, Lee said, because various services rendered to support abortion are counted separately.
 
If, for example, a woman receives a pregnancy test, an ultrasound, a test for sexually transmitted disease, an abortion and a post-abortion follow-up – all of which are medically necessary to perform an abortion – Planned Parenthood counts her as having received four services other than abortion, according to Lee’s explanation.
 
One of every eight women to visit a Planned Parenthood clinic gets an abortion there, Protestpp.com stated.
 
Lee said she and other demonstrators are concerned that Planned Parenthood clinics harm women in addition to ending the lives of unborn children.
 
A longtime pro-life advocate and counselor outside the Columbia Planned Parenthood center, Lee alleged the center once refused to see a post-abortive woman for her follow-up appointment because she stopped to talk with pro-life demonstrators on the way in.
 
On another occasion, Lee said, she accompanied a post-abortive woman with potentially life-threatening complications to an OB/GYN because the Planned Parenthood clinic would not provide adequate care.
 
“I don’t want my tax money going to a place that does not give care,” Lee said.
 
The ERLC’s petition drive ends March 1 and is accessible through erlc.com.
 
In 2008, a Southern Baptist Convention resolution called Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

2/14/2017 10:50:39 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



William Carey reopens amid campus tornado recovery

February 14 2017 by Mia Anderson Overton, WCU

Students will return to William Carey University on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18 and 19, with spring classes slated to begin Monday, Feb. 20, following an EF3 tornado that tore through the campus Jan. 21.

Photo by Mia Anderson Overton, WCU
Demolition the Johnson Hall dormitory has begun at William Carey University – one of five buildings rendered a total loss by a Jan. 21 tornado.


Valerie Bridgeforth, director of student services, toured the various dormitories slated to reopen and was impressed with the progress that has been made. “It really does look and feel amazing,” she said Feb. 9 in a university news release.
 
Bridgeforth said students should continue to check their emails for updates on moving back to the Hattiesburg, Miss., campus. Students will be assigned times for moving back to help alleviate traffic problems and congestion since construction will be ongoing in some areas of the campus.
 
The following dorms will be open: Bass, Braswell, Bryant, Byrd, Davis, Futral, Polk and the Penton Street apartments. New dorms will be built near the Byrd-Braswell and Futral-Davis dorms.
 
Demolition of the Johnson Hall dormitory began during the week of Feb. 6, with the Tatum Court administration building and Ross Hall next slated for demolition; already razed are an anatomy lab and an art gallery/apartment building.
 
In order to complete the winter trimester after the tornado, many classes were moved into an online format, and face-to-face classes were held at the University of Southern Mississippi and local churches.
 
Garry Breland, vice president for academic affairs, said the goal is to move as many classes as possible back to Carey for the spring trimester. New classroom assignments will be posted on the university website and students will receive an email with updates.
 
The following classroom buildings will be ready for classes on Feb. 20: Fairchild and Smith halls (School of Education), the School of Nursing, College of Osteopathic Medicine 1, Mary Ross Hall, Thomas Building (physical therapy), Lawrence Hall, the new biology building, a portion of Green Science Hall, the art studio on Cherry Street and the library. McMillan Hall and Wilkes Hall will be open as well as the Student Center, the new volleyball facility and Common Grounds (the coffee shop on campus).

Photo by Mia Anderson Overton, WCU
Renovation has begun on the Thomas Fine Arts Building, one of nearly 30 buildings damaged and five destroyed by a Jan. 21 tornado at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss.


The College of Osteopathic Medicine and the doctor of physical therapy program will continue to conduct classes at USM through the spring. Music classes will be held at Hardy Street Baptist Church while repair work continues on the Thomas Fine Arts Building. With the med school and PT programs staying at USM for the spring, their spaces on campus will be used temporarily for other classes.
 
Workers will begin moving furniture and equipment back into the dorms, classrooms and faculty and staff offices during the week of Feb. 13. Everyone returning to campus is advised there are many construction zones remaining and these areas will be fenced to ensure safety.
 
Spring registration for new students will be on Thursday, Feb. 16 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the School of Nursing building on William Carey Parkway. For more information about registering, call the Admissions Office at 601-318-6103.
 
Among the ministries and individuals who have come to the aid of the university, the Mississippi Baptist Foundation has contributed $25,000 to its tornado recovery efforts. Financial aid also has been received from the Mississippi Baptist Convention and the national Woman’s Missionary Union.
 
William Carey is affiliated with the state convention and has campuses in Hattiesburg and Biloxi.
 
The January tornado, less than a month ago, left seven students injured and damaged nearly all of the 30 buildings the campus with five a total loss.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mia Anderson Overton is the media relations and marketing coordinator for William Carey University.)
 

2/14/2017 10:45:52 AM by Mia Anderson Overton, WCU | with 0 comments



TRUSTEES: New Bible, building top LifeWay reports

February 14 2017 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay

LifeWay Christian Resources is looking ahead to a newly revised Bible translation and a new corporate headquarters, leaders told trustees this week.

Photo by Aaron Earls
Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, addresses LifeWay trustees during their meeting Feb. 6-7.


At their semiannual meeting Feb. 6-7, trustees received copies of LifeWay’s new Christian Standard Bible (CSB), which is online now and will be available at LifeWay Stores and other retail outlets in March.
 
“We’re honored to have a Bible translation our own denomination is a part of stewarding,” said Eric Geiger, vice president of LifeWay’s Resources Division. Southern Baptist scholars Tom Schreiner and David Allen led the multi-denominational translation oversight committee.
 
The CSB, a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, focuses on both accuracy and ease of reading, Geiger said. “You don’t have to choose between the two.” See related story.
 
In his report to trustees, LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer highlighted progress toward a new corporate headquarters. LifeWay sold its current site in downtown Nashville in late 2015 and is building a more modern facility in nearby Capitol View, a mixed-use urban development that will include apartments, retail, offices, a hotel and a park.
 
“This is the cutting edge of downtown Nashville,” Rainer said. LifeWay expects to move 1,100 employees to the new building before the end of the year.
 
Though the building will be new, it preserves LifeWay’s history and values, Rainer said. He pointed out details on architectural renderings: “Those stained-glass windows are coming directly from our chapel, to remind us of the heritage we had in Van Ness Auditorium for so many years. Right above those steps, you see John 14:6. There will be historically significant items throughout these floors, and there will be scripture prominent everywhere.”

Artist’s rendering of LifeWay Christian Resources’ proposed new building near Nashville’s central business district.


The new building will also include a LifeWay Christian Store, with street frontage and an entrance from the lobby. LifeWay’s previous store in downtown Nashville closed after the property was sold.
 
Jerry Rhyne, CFO and vice president of finance and business services, reported a solid financial performance for 2016. Geiger noted the popularity of War Room the movie and its accompanying Bible study by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, and strong results in 2016 for Fuge Camps, B&H Academic and global markets.
 
Rainer emphasized LifeWay’s need to adapt quickly in a fast-changing world. He traced the history of LifeWay, noting how church practices continue to change and how technology is evolving.
 
“The pace of LifeWay is fast,” he told the trustees. “Urgency is our constant theme. We cannot at all afford complacency.”
 
He pledged LifeWay will learn from churches and serve them with excellence while refusing to compromise God’s truth.
 
“These are challenging times, but they are also times of greatest opportunity yet,” Rainer said. “And so we move into the future with confidence.”
 
In other action, the trustees:

  • Nominated Ron Edmondson, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., to fill a vacancy on the board.
  • Learned LifeWay has received a “clean audit” from outside auditor LBMC. The audits covered LifeWay’s operations, pension plan and post-retirement benefits plan. LifeWay also received a clean PCI (Payment Card Industry) audit for its handling of customers’ bank credit card activity.
  • Discussed and approved responses to two motions referred to LifeWay by the Southern Baptist Convention during last summer’s meeting. The responses, regarding news coverage of trustee meetings and preservation of Southern Baptist Convention history, will be reported to the 2017 SBC meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix.
  • Recognized five trustees who are ending their board service in June. They are Beth Guffin, of Birmingham, Ala.; Alan Hayes, of Mt. Juliet, Tenn.; David Horner, of Raleigh, N.C.; Blake Lindley, of Norman, Okla.; and Peter MacMaster, of Healy, Alaska.
  • Heard reports from each of LifeWay’s vice presidents regarding progress and plans for ministry advance.

 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)
 

2/14/2017 10:36:32 AM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay | with 0 comments



‘Church ladies’ stir adult club owner to faith

February 14 2017 by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN

Teresa’s Club was a staple along Highway 80 for 25 years until the owner, Teresa Fears, met Jesus Christ through friendships with members of Mobberly Baptist Church.

Contributed photo
Members of Mobberly Baptist Church join in a night of worship at the former Teresa’s Club, which closed after owner Teresa Fears turned to Christ.


Afterward, it was Fears’ idea to close down her adult club in Longview, Texas.
 
The Mobberly “church ladies,” as Teresa calls them, have changed her life. And she has changed their lives in sharing the gospel.
 
Mobberly’s involvement with Fears began more than three years ago when worship team member Laney Wootten began praying about the club.
 
“The Lord made it clear that I was not just to pray but to do something,” Wootten said. She searched the club’s Facebook page and was surprised that the owner was a woman with a passion for helping special needs children.
 
Fears accepted Wootten’s friend request and the two began messaging on Facebook. Wooten, the parent of an autistic son, found common ground with Fears, who regularly volunteered at the Truman W. Smith Children’s Care Center for medically fragile children and youth in nearby Gladewater.
 
“We talked online for two weeks,” Wootten recounted. “I knew we needed to come into the club to really reach her.”
 
Fears was initially reluctant after visits from groups from other churches. Since she also regularly fed homeless people from the club, she asked for help with that instead.
 
“We said yes,” Wootten said. “We wanted Teresa to know we were validating what she was doing to help others and wanted to support her.” Wootten talked to Mobberly pastors and invited children’s minister Sharon Brooks to accompany her to Teresa’s.

Photo by Alyssa Rummel.
Former adult dance club owner Teresa Fears arrives at the moment of her baptism by Gregg Zackary, associate pastor of Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview, Texas.


“They got to be my friends,” said Fears, who has been “on her own” since age 14. “They did not automatically try to shove anything in my face.”
 
Wootten and Brooks began visiting Teresa’s and continued sending her messages. On Mother’s Day weekend, Fears proved unreachable on Facebook.
 
“We knew she was depressed and in chronic pain,” Brooks said. Armed with beans, cornbread, flowers and a book, Wootten and Brooks went to Fears’ home for what Brooks called “our first truly meaningful spiritual conversation.”
 
“Teresa said later the tangible things we brought to meet her physical needs spoke to her and the fact that we went to the trouble to track her down because we were concerned,” Wootten said.
 
That day Fears asked why God allowed bad things to happen to children, giving Wootten an “open door” to share both the gospel and her son’s struggles with autism.
 
Mobberly associate pastor Gregg Zackary and his wife Tina also were instrumental in reaching Teresa. Zackary had formerly struggled with depression, so Brooks and Wootten thought he could minister to Fears alongside their outreach, which had extended to providing meals for her and the ladies who worked there before the club opened Saturday evenings.
 
“Before I went, I thought and prayed about it seriously.” He consulted accountability partners and other Mobberly pastors asking for prayer.
 
“We didn’t want anything to happen that would not glorify the Lord,” Zackary said. “My wife and I went to the club. I shared my testimony. We listened to Teresa and were heartbroken over the pain she had endured. We prayed for her.”
 
Wootten called Zackary’s visit “a huge turning point,” the first time a pastor had come through Teresa’s doors to offer help. The Zackarys also began messaging Fears with scripture and biblically based questions.
 
The Zackarys went twice to the club before Fears started attending church at Mobberly’s satellite in Marshall and later at the Longview campus. She brought friends to church including homeless people and club workers, and was welcomed by members who had ministered to her at the club.
 
Fears trusted Christ after meeting with Mobberly staff in August including Zackary, pastor Glynn Stone and two women’s ministry leaders.
 
“We listened to Teresa and invited her to share the things on her heart,” Zackary said. “Pastor Glynn and I had a chance to explain the gospel to her.“
 
When Fears said her religion was “kindness,” Zackary noted that it is a character trait of God, exhibited through people controlled by His Spirit. And they discussed repentance with Zackary sharing Romans 2:4 that God’s “kindness leads us to repentance.”
 
“Pastor Glynn asked if Teresa was willing to be ‘all in,’” Zackary said. “That was the day she surrendered to Jesus.”
 
When Fears left the meeting, she posted on Facebook that she was closing the club.
 
“Her perspective changed totally, and she saw it as evil, not honoring to the Lord,” Zachary said. “She was not pressured. It was the Holy Spirit who convicted her.”
 
Fears has since donated the club’s furniture to a nonprofit. The “church ladies” remain her friends. Wootten’s mother teaches a Bible study in Teresa’s home, attended by many veterans of the sex industry.
 
Fears was baptized Dec. 4, and three women who accompanied her to the service placed their trust in Christ that day, Zackary said.
 
Wootten, Brooks and Zackary agree that Fears has taught them much about reaching the lost and has yielded a network of supporters of more than 30 women.
 
Zackary said the church’s mission for the next 10 years is Engage 10K – “to engage 10,000 households with the gospel of Jesus Christ, mobilizing the entire body of Christ to have relationships with people outside the walls of the church and to get to know their households.
 
“For Teresa, her household was really her club, the people she did life with,” Zackary said.
 
“We realized we had to go into the club expecting absolutely nothing,” Wootten said. “Not keeping any sort of tab on the good we were doing. We learned to come in with literally zero strings attached, out of our love for Christ. We never pressured them to make changes. We allowed the Holy Spirit to do that. We came in with truth. We looked for opportunities to speak the truth as God opened doors for us. We had to allow the Lord to work. He did more than we could have asked.”
 
“God led Laney to Teresa at the start of our church’s gospel challenge,” Brooks added. “It has changed the way our church perceives evangelism.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

2/14/2017 10:28:35 AM by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



Judge postpones hearing in Kentucky abortion lawsuit

February 14 2017 by Kentucky Today, BP & Western Recorder staff

A federal judge has postponed a hearing on whether to grant a temporary restraining order to block enforcement of a new law in Kentucky requiring expectant mothers considering abortions to first undergo ultrasounds.
 
U.S. Magistrate Judge Colin Lindsay rescheduled the hearing for March 23 at the request of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the law passed by the Kentucky General Assembly on Jan. 7. The hearing had originally been set for Feb. 16.
 
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed the law along with a ban on late-term abortions the same day, and both took effect immediately.
 
The ACLU filed suit two days later on behalf of the state’s only abortion provider, EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, claiming the law violates First Amendment rights.
 
The ultrasound measure requires that abortion providers display the ultrasound images so that expectant mothers can see them. They can avert their eyes if they choose to. Physicians face a $100,000 fine for a first offense and a $250,000 fine for subsequent offenses.
 
Defendants in the case are Attorney General Andy Beshear, Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson and Michael Rodman with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure. The attorney general’s office has filed motions asking the judge to dismiss Beshear and Rodman as defendants. Beshear’s office is not representing Glisson.
 
The late-term abortion law, meanwhile, bans the procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger. Physicians who violate the measure could have their medical licenses revoked and be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
 
Abortions at Planned Parenthood in Louisville and EMW in Lexington were suspended last year after the Bevin administration filed suit that they lacked proper state licensure. Those cases have not yet been resolved in court.
 
In February 2016, Bevin signed a bill amending the state’s informed consent law to give women patients and doctors the option of consulting in person or by video conferencing before an abortion – the first pro-life measure enacted in Kentucky in 12 years.
 
Since 1998, Kentucky law had required women to meet with a doctor or a doctor-designated representative, but some physicians purportedly had been circumventing the rule by using pre-recorded phone messages. The 2016 measure requires women seeking abortions to be personally informed of medical risks and benefits at least 24 hours prior to consenting to a procedure.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press staff from reports by Kentucky Today and the Western Recorder. Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention; the Western Recorder, westernrecorder.org, is the convention’s newsjournal.)
 

2/14/2017 10:13:22 AM by Kentucky Today, BP & Western Recorder staff | with 0 comments



Pastor in discrimination case to collect $225,000

February 13 2017 by Scott Barkley, Christian Index

A Georgia pastor fired from his government job over sermons alleged to be discriminatory will instead receive a $225,000 settlement from the state based on his own discrimination lawsuit.

Photo by Gerald Harris, Christian Index
Jeremy Dys, center, an attorney with First Liberty Institute, speaks in defense of Dr. Eric Walsh, left of Dys, at a press conference at the Georgia Capitol building on Oct. 26, 2016. On Feb. 9 the State of Georgia agreed to pay Walsh $225,000 in a settlement over the lay pastor’s discrimination lawsuit.


In 2014 the State of Georgia’s Department of Public Health (DPH) hired Eric Walsh, a lay minister, to serve as a district health director. Walsh accepted the offer but not long thereafter state officials requested samples of Walsh’s sermons and searched online for others. Days later Walsh received a voice message from the officials requesting to speak with him about the position. Unintentionally, Walsh later noted, he learned of his firing when the callers mistakenly thought the call had ended and could be heard laughing and using phrases such as “you’re out” on the voicemail.
 
First Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit April 20, 2016, on Walsh’s behalf, contending the state fired him because of the content of sermons he delivered as an ordained lay minister. See related story.
 
Feb. 9, First Liberty Institute announced the settlement on behalf of their client.
 
“I am grateful this trial has finally ended,” Walsh said. “It’s been a long, difficult journey, but it’s worth it to have my name cleared and to ensure that all Georgia government employees know they have religious liberty.”
 

Overreach of government

Last October Walsh’s attorney, Jeremy Dys, held a press conference at the Georgia state capitol extolling Walsh’s capabilities as a doctor and announcing no sermons would be handed over to state officials despite legal papers requiring him to do so.
 
“No one in this country should be fired from their job for something that was said in a church from a pulpit during a sermon,” Dys, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute, said at the press conference last fall. “If the government is allowed to fire someone over what he said in his sermons, they can come after any of us for our beliefs on anything. The state has no business snooping around in a pastor’s study looking for sermons.”
 
Prior to losing his position, Walsh had been considered an ideal candidate for working with the Department of Health. During a lengthy interview process in early 2014, DPH officials said in emails the lay pastor was their “favorite” candidate for the position and called him “bright, engaging and [having] a great personality.” Toward the end of the email the writer expressed “we will not be seeing a more qualified candidate.”
 

Seen before in the case of Kelvin Cochran

Walsh’s case echoed that of former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran.
 
Both had served honorably elsewhere – Walsh with the City of Pasadena and Cochran as the first African American fire chief of Shreveport, La. – before coming to Georgia. Each also received high commendations from the Obama administration – Walsh being appointed to the then-president’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and Cochran named U.S. Fire Administrator in July 2009. On Jan. 6, 2015, Cochran was terminated by the city due to a section in a self-published book addressing homosexuality.
 
Regarding the settlement in the Walsh case, Dys commented in a press release by First Liberty that “this is a clear and resounding victory for religious freedom. We always knew the law was on our side, so we are pleased the State of Georgia agreed to settle this case and clear Dr. Walsh’s good name.”
 
Walsh currently serves as a lay minister in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
 
“We are grateful that the State of Georgia agreed to settle the case and acknowledge the right of their employees to express their religious beliefs,” Dys noted. “No one should be fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is web content developer for The Christian Index, christianindex.org, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
 

2/13/2017 10:41:59 AM by Scott Barkley, Christian Index | with 0 comments



Gov. Bevin honored by Kentucky Baptists

February 13 2017 by Roger Alford, Kentucky Today

Gov. Matt Bevin has been honored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) for his leadership in getting laws passed to protect the state’s children, including the unborn.

Photo by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today
Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood, right, presents Gov. Matt Bevin the Guardian of Life Award at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.


Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member KBC, presented Bevin the “Guardian of Life Award” at a rally in the Capitol Rotunda on the afternoon of Feb. 8.
 
Last month, Bevin signed two major pro-life bills into law – one that requires women to undergo ultrasounds before having abortions and another that bans late-term abortions.
 
“To Gov. Bevin, I offer deep appreciation for his leadership and influence that helped bring these bills into law,” Chitwood said. “But in addition to Governor Bevin’s advocacy for life in the womb, we thank God that He has given us a governor to advocate for life in the cradle, the classroom, in a career and in dignified care until natural death.”
 
Bevin said Feb. 8 that some people had questioned whether he should press for pro-life legislation, because, they said, it would be controversial.
 
“Controversy is sometimes needed to do the right thing,” he told hundreds of people gathered inside the Capitol.
 
Chitwood also offered his gratitude to the lawmakers who overwhelmingly voted to pass the new laws in the first week of this year’s legislative session.
 
“On behalf of hundreds of thousands of pro-life Southern Baptists in Kentucky, I say thank you to every member of the House and Senate who voted for these new laws to protect the unborn in Kentucky,” he said.
 
“And I say thank you to every church and every Kentuckian who has hoped, worked, and prayed for decades for legislation that would curb and hopefully someday eliminate murder of the unborn.“
 
The late-term abortion bill bans the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the point at which many babies can survive outside the womb.
 
The ultrasound law, which already faces a court challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union, requires physicians to display the ultrasound images so that expectant mothers can see them. However, they would have the option to avert their eyes.
 
Chitwood said the Guardian of Life Award recognizes Bevin’s gallant efforts to protect the unborn and his advocacy for the life of every person in the state.
 
“Our governor is ‘whole-life pro-life,’ welcoming the orphan into his own home and family, and working every day to see that life is better for every Kentuckian,” Chitwood said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger Alford is editor of Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
 

2/13/2017 10:35:04 AM by Roger Alford, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments



DeVos confirmation leaves Baptists hopeful for schools

February 13 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

With the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. secretary of education, some Southern Baptists hope that emphases at the Department of Education will parallel themes expressed in Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolutions on education.

Screen capture from C-SPAN
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos faced questions about school choice and intelligent design at her Senate confirmation hearing last month.


DeVos, a Michigan businesswoman long active in conservative politics, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Feb. 7 by a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. Her confirmation marked the first time a vice president has been called upon to break a tie regarding a cabinet nomination.
 
Much of the opposition to DeVos, according to media reports, stemmed from her support of educational choice, including charter schools and school vouchers. The New York Times noted that neither DeVos nor any of her four children attended public schools though she is now charged with guiding America’s public education system.
 
DeVos also has drawn criticism for supporting pro-family organizations like Focus on the Family and the Acton Institute for the Study of Religious Liberty and having ties to critics of Darwinian evolution.
 
Some of DeVos’ policy views appear to align with sentiments expressed in Southern Baptist Convention resolutions on education adopted in 2014 and 2006.
 
David Dykes, chairman of the 2014 SBC Resolutions Committee, said he could not comment specifically on DeVos but noted he is “very encouraged by President Trump’s choice of people [for cabinet posts] who are outside the circle of politicians and the status quo for these positions. I think he really wants to shake things up, and I’m in favor of doing that.”
 
The 2014 SBC resolution “on the importance of Christ-centered education” encouraged lawmakers “to enact policies and legislation that maximize parental choice and best serve the educational needs and desires of families.”
 
When the resolution was adopted, Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, told reporters he did not interpret the statement’s language to support vouchers for Christian schools. The committee, he said, intentionally used “ambiguous language.”
 
Dykes said the 2014 Resolutions Committee sought to reflect the general sentiments of Southern Baptists by endorsing “both private Christian education [and] public education as well.”
 
The “mood of the Resolutions Committee and the convention that approved [the resolution] was a feeling of giving parents a good choice.”
 
Regarding science instruction on the universe’s origin, Dykes said he would “be much in favor” of any action by DeVos and other Department of Education leaders encouraging schools to present Darwinian evolution “as a scientific theory that is one of several alternatives.”
 
DeVos has not stated publically her views on the universe’s origin, according to media reports. But her husband Dick DeVos said while running for governor of Michigan in 2006 he would like to see students exposed to “the ideas of intelligent design” – a theory which argues the universe is the product of intelligence rather than chance.
 
At Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing in January, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., noted organizations with ties to DeVos that allegedly support the intelligent design movement. Then Whitehouse asked, “If school districts around the country try to teach students junk science, will the Department of Education be with the students or with the political entities trying to force the junk science into the science programs?”
 
DeVos responded, “I support the teaching of great science and especially science that allows students to exercise critical thinking.”
 
Michigan State University professor Robert Pennock told the news website Propublica that DeVos’ use of the phrase “critical thinking” was a code “that signaled her willingness to open the door to intelligent design creationism.”
 
In an email to Propublica, John West, vice president of the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute, said such a suggestion was “ludicrous.” He added that “critical thinking is a pretty foundational idea supported by lots of people, not just us.” Critical thinking “should apply to discussions of evolution.”
 
The 2006 SBC resolution “on the direction of the public school system” referenced “government schools indoctrinating children with dogmatic Darwinism ... which radically influences their view of origins.”
 
The resolution also cited public school “curricula and policies teaching that the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable.”
 
T.C. French, chairman of the 2006 Resolutions Committee, told Baptist Press that DeVos and her family appear to have a “background” of improving “the educational program of the United States” from “the direction that the secularists have been able to carry the program.”
 
The 2006 resolution encouraged Southern Baptist churches “to solicit individuals from their membership to engage the culture of our public school systems nationwide by ... exerting their godly influence upon these school systems.”
 
French, pastor emeritus of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., said DeVos, who is not Southern Baptist, seems to have potential for exercising such influence.
 
Leadership “can change things,” French said. “I think one of the things President Trump wants to do to is change directions of some of the agencies of the federal government and make them better.”
 
Since 1960, SBC resolutions have referenced public schools more than 40 times, with multiple exhortations for believers to exert godly influence on America’s schools.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

2/13/2017 10:34:39 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Dead Sea Scrolls: New cave joins the saga

February 13 2017 by Art Toalston & Rob Collingsworth

A major discovery related to the Dead Sea Scrolls has been announced – a cave where some of the ancient scrolls once were placed.

Photo courtesy of Lamar Cooper
Israeli and U.S. excavation team members work at what is now called the 12th cave related to the Dead Sea Scrolls.


Archaeologists previously had listed 11 caves where Dead Sea Scrolls texts had been found. Now there’s a 12th cave, according to an excavation led by Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Liberty University in Virginia – though the cave had been looted during the mid-20th century and its scrolls taken.
 
The Liberty University contingent was led by Randall Price, distinguished research professor at Liberty and curator of the Liberty Biblical Museum at the campus in Lynchburg.
 
Lamar Cooper, senior professor of Old Testament and archaeology at Criswell College in Dallas, was among the excavation participants. Cooper, who was on site from Dec. 28 through Jan. 13, helped catalog artifacts found in the cave.
 
Oren Gutfeld, a researcher at Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, told The Washington Post after the Feb. 8 announcement, “It is the first time in 60 years we have the first evidence of a new scroll cave.”
 
Although no new scrolls were found, the cave abounded with other artifacts.
 
“Thank God they took only the scrolls,” Gutfeld told The Post. “They left behind all the evidence that the scrolls were there.”
 
Based on the contents of the cave in the Qumran region northwest of the Dead Sea, the excavation team determined that local Bedouins looted it for any scrolls and other antiquities. However, the team did discover broken jars and lids, fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that had been part of a scroll.

Photo courtesy of Lamar Cooper
Joining excavation team leader Oren Gutfeld, left, of Hebrew University at the site of a 12th cave where Dead Sea Scrolls once were placed are Lamar Cooper, center, distinguished professor of Old Testament and archaeology at Criswell College, and David Graves, a Liberty University online faculty member.


Cooper participated in his first excavation in Israel in 1969 and began working on Qumran excavations in 2006 at the invitation of Price at Liberty University.
 
“When I went through seminary, I listened to all of the things that were told me by scholars – some of whom didn’t hold scripture in very high regard,” Cooper said. “When I got to Israel, all of [the discoveries] showed me that what is in the Bible is true, because what we were bringing out of the ground were things that relate to the Bible.”
 
In addition to the monumental step in Dead Sea scrolls research, Cooper noted its significance for a college like Criswell that was founded on the primacy and inerrancy of scripture.
 
“Because we stand strong on the Bible – the authenticity of scripture – it’s been a thrill for me to be associated with everybody who works here because we all believe that the Bible is the Word of God. … [E]very dig that I’ve gone to tells me more and more that everything that happened at that place is what the Bible says,” said Cooper, who has served as Criswell’s dean of graduate studies, vice president for academic affairs, executive vice president and provost and two separate tenures as interim president.
 
The Dead Sea Scrolls, according to Liberty University’s divinity school website, are “the greatest manuscript discovery of all time. They include the oldest copy of the biblical text and sectarian writings that inform us of religious life and practice in the time before and during the life of Jesus.”
 
“One significance of the Dead Sea scrolls is that they demonstrate how accurately the Bible was transmitted over time by the Jewish scribes (there is better than a 95% agreement between the Hebrew words of the Great Isaiah Scroll and the Hebrew Masoretic Text, from which our Old Testament was translated),” the divinity school description noted.
 
According to scholars, a Jewish sect known as the Essenes around the time of Jesus hid their scrolls in the desert caves in cliffs along the Dead Sea near Qumran in the West Bank. The first of the caves was entered in the late 1940s by Bedouin goat-herders.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press; Rob Collingsworth is director of communications for Criswell College.)
 

2/13/2017 10:34:06 AM by Art Toalston & Rob Collingsworth | with 0 comments



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