February 2017

William Carey University tornado cleanup draws Baptist support

February 9 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

William Carey University will move students back to its Hattiesburg, Miss., campus and begin the spring trimester less than a month after an EF-3 tornado damaged nearly all of its 30 buildings Jan. 21.

William Carey University photo
A building at William Carey University that housed an art gallery and apartments was one of five campus structures slated for demolition following a Jan. 21 tornado.

Five buildings will have to be demolished, according to a Feb. 6 university news release, but “several classroom buildings” and housing for 739 students will open Feb. 20.
Amid the cleanup and rebuilding effort, 12 other colleges and universities either have made or plan to make financial donations to William Carey, the university told Baptist Press (BP) in an email. Six of those institutions are affiliated with Baptist state conventions that partner with the Southern Baptist Convention.
William Carey is affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
“The support of sister institutions is a source of strength and encouragement to come back stronger,” William Carey President Tommy King told BP in written comments. “Prayer support, as well as financial and student assistance will make a huge difference. I have heard from many other institutions that plan to send support.”
Among the institutions contributing is Union University in Jackson, Tenn., which suffered massive tornado damage of its own in 2008.
Union will collect financial donations for William Carey at all remaining home basketball games this season and on least three other occasions, Union told BP in an email. Union President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver will visit William Carey in March and present the university with a check.
“From the moment we heard about the tornado at William Carey, we began praying,” Oliver told BP in written comments. “Having experienced the devastation of a storm such as this, all of us in the Union University community immediately began reaching out to colleagues there.
“We have shared information and ideas, answered questions and been available should there be any need for further assistance. And, we will work shoulder to shoulder with them as they rebuild,” Oliver said.
Anderson University in Anderson, S.C., has made William Carey a campus prayer emphasis, is collecting donations for the rebuilding effort and plans to send a disaster relief team to help.
Wes Brashier, Anderson’s vice president for Christian life, told BP, “We at Anderson University realize that our Christian community is part of a much larger Christian community of believers. We want to be the kind of people who reach out to our brothers and sisters in a time of need because we believe that’s what the Lord would have us to do.”
Other Southern Baptist-related institutions to assist include Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Miss.; Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.; Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss.; and the University of Mobile in Mobile, Ala.
The Mississippi Baptist Convention sent William Carey “an immediate significant gift to assist the international students and missionary kids,” the university told BP. National Woman’s Missionary Union “sent a significant gift for student support.”
King told the Hattiesburg American that William Carey will not accept any federal funds during its rebuild in order to speed the process and avoid any restriction of Christ-centered programs that could accompany acceptance of government money.
Of the five buildings designated for demolition, two already have been razed – an anatomy lab building associated with the College of Osteopathic Medicine and an art gallery/apartment building. Two dormitories and the administration building are slated for demolition.
Courses for the spring trimester will proceed as planned, with many classes on campus, some moving online and some at alternate locations in the Hattiesburg area. All winter trimester classes are being completed online or in alternate locations.
More than 700 pieces of artwork from the campus have been saved with help from the Lauren Rodgers Museum of Art in Laurel, Miss., local ABC and NBC affiliate WDAM reported. Some of the same pieces were saved in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/9/2017 10:30:29 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Trump’s potential impact on markets sparks discussion

February 9 2017 by Roy Hayhurst, Guidestone

As the era of President Trump begins to unfold, his potential impact on financial markets prompted analysis in the first of a new video series released by GuideStone Financial Resources, the financial services arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Joy Roberts and David S. Spika of GuideStone Financial Resources discuss the potential impact of the Trump administration on financial markets in the first of a new video series called “Conversations with GuideStone.”

In the series entitled “Conversations with GuideStone,” Chief Strategic Investment Officer David S. Spika will periodically offer insights for investors about current events and what they can expect in 2017. Regarding the possible impact of proposals from the Trump administration, Spika noted the expectation of “higher economic stimulus.”
“That would include pro-growth tax policies, pro-growth regulatory policies, things that will encourage investors and institutions to spend more,” Spika said. “Institutions and individuals don’t spend if they’re not confident. These sorts of policies should improve confidence, should increase spending, and that will drive economic growth and will drive the market higher over time.”
A significant question for all investors is the speed with which the policies can and will be implemented, Spika acknowledged.
“The market had a significant rally post-election, and what it was pricing in was the best-case scenario for all of these pro-growth policies occurring,” he said. “To the extent that they don’t and they don’t occur as timely as the market would expect, there’s likely to be some volatility. Our belief is that it’s very unlikely that everything gets passed as quickly or as fully as the market expects.”
Spika noted rising interest rates, which the Federal Reserve has indicated will happen throughout 2017, will also have an impact on investors.

Understanding the markets

GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins indicated that the new video series is one resource to assist investors and retirement plan participants in their understanding of the markets and the way they respond to current events. But for retirement plan participants, efforts to try to time the market may undermine their long-term financial strategies.
“The performance of your retirement account is based on results of the financial markets in the future, not in the past,” Hawkins said.
“GuideStone offers this information to help educate our participants and investors about the factors that cause the cyclical nature of the markets. It’s important though, whatever the headlines and emotions of the moment, to remember that the markets have historically rewarded those with long-term perspectives.”
Watch the video:


(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/9/2017 10:10:20 AM by Roy Hayhurst, Guidestone | with 0 comments

Danny Akin signs letter calling Trump to support refugees

February 8 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, joined dozens of evangelical leaders from around the nation in a letter saying they are “deeply concerned” about President Donald Trump’s suspension of refugee resettlement to the United States.
The statement took the form of a full-page advertisement in the The Washington Post, sponsored by refugee resettlement agency World Relief.

SEBTS photo
Danny Akin said, "I signed the statement to stand with many of my brothers and sisters in asking this administration to consider the needs of those who are displaced and desperately hurting."
The ad featured signatures from evangelical leaders in all 50 states, including Akin and fellow Southern Baptists Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., and Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and former Southern Baptist Convention president.
“We live in a dangerous world and affirm the crucial role of government in protecting us from harm and in setting the terms on refugee admissions,” the ad said. “However, compassion and security can coexist, as they have for decades. For the persecuted and suffering, every day matters; every delay is a crushing blow to hope.”

President Trump issued an executive order Jan. 27 without warning that placed a 120-day moratorium on the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, suspended immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and banned Syrian immigrants indefinitely. The order also decreased the potential number of admitted refugees in 2017 to 50,000.
“I respect the president and support his concern for safe and secure borders,” Akin said in a statement to the Biblical Recorder. “I simply believe the policy laid out in his executive order on January 27, as it specifically pertains to our refugee resettlement program, is not the best approach.
“I signed the statement to stand with many of my brothers and sisters in asking this administration to consider the needs of those who are displaced and desperately hurting. I continue to pray for President Trump and Vice President Pence and am thankful to live in a country where we can petition our leaders on these types of matters.”
Stetzer told the The Post, “This is not the usual list of left-leaning, social justice-oriented, religious leaders. This is a surprising list of prominent evangelicals who care enough about this issue to use their leadership platform to speak out, even when many evangelicals have deep fears and concerns about refugees entering this country.”
An expanded version of the letter, including signatures from 500 evangelical pastors and ministry leaders, will be delivered to President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
View The Washington Post advertisement here.
2/8/2017 3:43:25 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Send Conference urges redefining moment

February 8 2017 by Josie Rabbitt, NAMB

“Redefine” was the charge and challenge at the Send Conference – a joint event of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB).

NAMB photo
Send Conference attendees worship to the music of the Austin Stone Band. The focus of the conference was to encourage a movement of people from within the Church to live out the mission of God in North America and the world.

The sold-out conference in Long Beach, Calif., drew nearly 4,000 attendees Feb. 3-4 from a variety of backgrounds. Church planters, college students, pastors, missionaries, moms and dads, sons and daughters, California natives, world travelers, road-trippers and frequent flyers came together to redefine their lives for Christ.
“I’m not a risk-taker,” Caroline McGibbon, daughter of Canadian church planters, Jason and Kimberley McGibbon, said. “I like to stay in my comfort zone. This is my first conference ever, so I guess that’s a start!”
Thirty-two speakers shared biblical insights and first-person experiences around the theme, Redefine. They encouraged attendees to discover and decide what needs to be redefined in their lives, so every part of their lives could reflect God’s glory.
Tony Giordano brought 50 members of his church, The Way Family Church in Murrietta, Calif., 80 miles to see Phil Wickham, a Christian singer and songwriter from San Diego. Austin Stone Band and Rend Collective also led worship.
“The speakers were great,” Giordano said. “And the music? It was sick!”
Renaissance Baptist Church members Sam Ernst, Eva Arias and Cynthia Lopez – who traveled from Las Vegas, more than 300 miles to attend – wanted to hear how “redefining” their lives allowed them to live on mission.
“Redefine ... I thought it meant improving,” said Ernst as he looked at his fellow church members. “I learned that it really means understanding we are not slaves to sin but to God. It’s Him we serve.”
Arias added, “It’s doing something because you know it’s not for you, it’s for your Father – God.”

NAMB photo
“The first place you should go is to your pastor and your church to determine where your next step on mission is,” North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell tells a sold-out auditorium at the Send Conference in Long Beach, Calif., during one of the conference’s last sessions.

“And when you do it for Him, it’s not about being ‘right’ but about being righteous in motivation,” Lopez chimed in. “Is this for Him? Then you’ve just taken one thing you did for yourself and redefined it for Him.”
Church planters Steven and Lauren Kimbrell of Grace City Church in Irvine, Calif., shared about their “redefining moment” when they left their friends and family and moved across the country to plant Grace City Church.
“The biggest redefining moment of our lives was planting our church,” Steven said. “We uprooted from North Carolina to California. God just put Southern California on our hearts, and we chose to obey – to go. We’re five months old now, and it’s been the scariest, best adventure.”
The couple attended the Send Conference to dig deeper into life on mission through breakout sessions addressing topics that included how to reach Muslims and how to break out of Christian subculture.
NAMB president Kevin Ezell expressed special thanks to pastors who brought groups to the event.
“I am grateful for the pastors who worked so hard to bring people to the Southern California Send Conference. Thanks to their efforts this was the largest SBC [Southern Baptist Convention] event in California in 36 years,” Ezell said. “It was even more incredible to see such a diversity of ethnicity and age. Ultimately, we hope many will hear and respond to God’s call to leave the familiar and serve Him on mission across North America and around the world.”
IMB president David Platt, a mainstage speaker at the event, said his hope is that momentum from the conference will have a long-lasting impact for God’s Kingdom.
“God is opening Southern Baptists’ eyes to the reality that each of us has been sent by Him to proclaim His gospel wherever we live right now and wherever He leads us in the future,” Platt said. “I’m praying that the ripple effects of these two days will reach far and wide as God uses the men and women sent out from this conference to lead people and people groups to Christ in the days ahead. I’m deeply grateful for this coalition of churches we have in the [Southern Baptist Convention] that makes a conference like this possible.”
John Bilti brought a group to the Send Conference in Nashville, Tenn., in 2015. And he decided to return with another group to this year’s conference in California. Since the 2015 Send Conference, Bilti has taken on more ministry and missional roles at his church and in his life.
“I tell you, it’s been good,” Bilti said. “Our young folks are having the best time. The Send Conference definitely helped mobilize and motivate me to be used for God more in my life, you know? I can’t wait for what’s next.”
The Send Conference comes to the Dallas-area May 19-20 and to Orlando July 25-26. For more information or to register, visit sendconference.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Josie Rabbitt is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)

2/8/2017 9:18:05 AM by Josie Rabbitt, NAMB | with 0 comments

Assisted suicide: New Mexico, Hawaii bills push envelope

February 8 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Legislators in 15 U.S. states are considering proposals to legalize assisted suicide, with a leading patients’ rights group flagging bills in New Mexico and Hawaii as particularly concerning.
The other 13 states considering assisted suicide are Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming, according to the Patients Rights Council (PRC), a group that opposes assisted suicide legislation.
The number of states with assisted suicide proposals on the table is up from 13 last year but down from 25 in 2015. In all, 36 states and the District of Columbia have considered assisted suicide bills since 1994, according to PRC data.
Physician-assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state.
In New Mexico, the “End of Life Options Act” (House Bill 171) would allow doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to diagnose terminal illness and prescribe life-ending medication the same day with no second opinion.
Five assisted suicide bills have been introduced by Hawaii legislators, with one (Senate Bill 357) not requiring a second opinion to confirm a terminal illness diagnosis before life-ending drugs are prescribed.
PRC executive director Rita Marker told Baptist Press (BP) that “no other state has proposed a bill seriously like” the one under consideration in New Mexico. Hawaii’s proposal to do away with second opinions likewise is “just absolutely incredible.”
Also “new this year,” Marker said, assisted suicide proponents are beginning to claim that “safeguards” used to gain public support for previous legislation “are just barriers” to quality medical care and should be abolished.
As an example, the PRC website cites a Dec. 15 commentary by Kathryn Tucker in the online legal news service Jurist arguing a 15-day waiting period for assisted suicide is “unreasonably long” and that requirements of written consent and second opinions are overly burdensome. Tucker is executive director of the End of Life Liberty Project.
Marker said “those who favor [assisted suicide] and those who promote it are now kind of coming out of the closet and letting their real views be known.”

New Mexico

Under the New Mexico bill, a person who dies by assisted suicide would have his or her cause of death listed as “the individual’s underlying terminal illness” rather than suicide.
A PRC analysis of the bill notes provision of life-ending drugs would be classified as a “medical treatment.”
“This would give insurance programs the opportunity to cut costs by denying payment of more expensive treatments while approving coverage for the less costly lethal drug prescription,” the analysis states. “If the bill is approved, will health insurance programs do the right thing – or the cheap thing?”
Jay McCollum, chairman of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s Christian Life Committee, told BP assisted suicide proposals reflect “a lack of respect for the dignity of life” in the state – a lack of respect also reflected by permissive late-term abortion laws.
“The Bible teaches that life is a gift from God. We are knitted together in our mother’s womb, and God tells us that He numbers our days,” said McCollum, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gallup, N.M. “... There comes a point in time when a person does die. But that is on God’s timetable and should not be left to legislators or individuals who may be mentally deranged [in their terminal illness] and physicians.”
If an assisted suicide bill passes the state legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, McCollum believes Republican Gov. Susana Martinez will veto it.


Hawaii’s S.B. 357 would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs the same day a patient is diagnosed as terminally ill. A PRC analysis argues “‘terminally ill’ is so broadly defined that a very frail individual or a severely disabled individual could be given a lethal prescription.”
“Unlike other laws and proposals, ‘terminally ill’ is defined as ‘the final stage of an incurable or irreversible medical condition that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, result in death within six months,’” the PRC analysis noted. “There is no requirement that the patient have a terminal disease or illness – only that the condition is incurable or irreversible. Furthermore, there is no reference to the fact that the six months’ prognosis be with or without medical treatment.”
Andrew Large, pastor of Waikiki Baptist Church in Honolulu, told BP an interdenominational group of Hawaii pastors is coordinating opposition to assisted suicide bills. He called such legislation “another step down a bad path.”
“God is the author of life and death,” Large said. “I leave those decisions up to God to say when people go. I see the other side of the argument,” but “God is still God and He is sovereign.”
Large added, “We don’t always understand what it is God is trying to do by keeping somebody alive a little bit longer than what we, in our human nature, would say.”
Because neither Hawaii S.B. 357 nor New Mexico H.B. 171 limits assisted suicide to state residents, the PRC has expressed concern those states could become suicide destinations.
A LifeWay Research survey last year found 67 percent of Americans believe it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their doctors for help in ending their lives.
At least four Southern Baptist Convention resolutions have opposed assisted suicide since 1992. Most recently, a 2015 resolution “on the sanctity of human life” noted the legalization of “physician-assisted suicide in several states” and “affirm[ed] the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/8/2017 9:17:42 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christian charged with blasphemy, 106 Muslims acquitted

February 8 2017 by Morning Star News staff

A 70-year-old Christian in Pakistan was jailed on blasphemy charges on the same day 106 Muslims accused in a 2013 attack on a Christian colony were acquitted.

Photo from Morning Star News, M. Ali
Muslim mobs attack a Christian area of Lahore in 2013 after blasphemy allegation.

A mosque leader in the Lambanwali area north of Gujranwala, Punjab Province, on Jan. 28 accused Mukhtar Masih of writing two letters containing derogatory remarks about the Koran and Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, police records show. He was charged with allegedly carrying out deliberate and malicious acts intending to outrage religious feelings, which carries a sentence of 10 years in prison and/or a fine. He also was charged with allegedly making derogatory remarks against “holy personages,” punishable by three years’ imprisonment and/or fine.
Police raided Masih’s house on Jan. 28 and took his entire family into custody, an area source told Morning Star News.
“The police took with them Masih, his son, daughter, and three children,” he said. “The family was later released on the intervention of rights outfits, but Masih was detained under blasphemy charges.”
The source said the charges against Masih were fabricated by local Muslims seeking to seize his property. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal scores, according to the source, and Islamist groups and lawyers advocating the harshest punishments often apply pressure for convictions on police and courts.
Mosque leader Qari Shahbaz Hussain alleges in the First Information Report (FIR) that area residents on Jan. 26 notified him about two letters containing the alleged blasphemous comments. He stated that an investigation by a local committee he headed revealed the letters were written by Masih.
Hussain claimed in the FIR that the committee had found Masih guilty and sought his prosecution under blasphemy charges. Hussain and other accusers were unavailable for comment, and Masih’s relatives have gone into hiding and were also unavailable.
The investigating officer refused repeated requests for comment, citing orders from his superiors.
Also on Jan. 28, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore acquitted 106 Muslims accused of a massive attack on Joseph Colony, sparked by a blasphemy accusation in March 2013, after prosecution witnesses said they did not recognize any of the accused assailants.
More than 80 prosecution witnesses, 63 of them with statements recorded about the attack that destroyed more than 150 homes, said they did not recognize the accused. The 106 suspects, who were released on bail the day they were accused, appeared before Judge Muhammad Azam.
On March 9, 2013, thousands of rioters armed with sticks, clubs and stones besieged Joseph Colony and torched the houses in the predominantly Christian neighborhood following allegations of blasphemy against a Christian, Sawan Masih.
The mob also torched three church buildings, several shops and a number of vehicles. Police later arrested both the alleged rioters and the blasphemy suspect, who was charged with making derogatory remarks about Muhammad, which mandates the death penalty.
Sawan Masih was sentenced to death on March 28, 2014. His appeal against the conviction is pending in the Lahore High Court.
Witnesses and police said the enraged mob ransacked and burned the entire locality a day after all Christian families left the area, as police apparently had alerted them about the possibility of an attack. The affected people, however, also accused police of doing nothing to stop the attack and plunder.

Blasphemy suspect released on bail

Separately, a Christian facing the death penalty on blasphemy charges was granted bail by the Supreme Court on Feb 1 because of gaps in the investigation of his case, sources said.
Evangelist Adnan Prince had been in prison since Nov. 6, 2013, after he sought to correct misconceptions about Christianity in a Muslim book. He was charged with outraging religious feelings, defiling the Koran and derogatory remarks against Muhammad of Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy laws. He denied having written anything against Islam or Muhammad when he scribbled in a Muslim book he found in a glassworks shop where his brother worked.
The accused’s lead counsel, Asma Jahangir, indicated that deficiencies in the case against Prince led to his release on bail. She told reporters that there were no direct eyewitnesses, and all forensic evidence failed to link the accused in the case against her client.
She added that the case should have been decided within two years. Prince was jailed on Nov. 9, 2013. Jahangir said the case was not decided within two years due to lawyers’ strikes and prosecution delay tactics. She added that legal formalities were not fulfilled when investigating the matter.
“According to guidelines passed by the Supreme Court, a police officer not below the rank of a superintendent should have conducted the probe,” she reportedly said.
Attorney Nadeem Anthony, another member of Prince’s defense team, said that on the court’s directions, two charges have been dropped, and the evangelist is facing a charge of making derogatory remarks against Muhammad, punishable by death.
Blasphemy suspects have long been targeted by Islamist vigilantes in Pakistan. At least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media.
A three-member bench headed by Justice Dost Muhammad Khan on Feb. 1 ordered Prince’s release on bail.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morning Star News is a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide.)

2/8/2017 9:16:21 AM by Morning Star News staff | with 0 comments

Trump’s stance on LGBT order stuns religious liberty advocates

February 8 2017 by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service

The White House confirmed on Jan. 31 President Donald Trump will not overturn the Obama administration’s 2014 LGBT executive order for federal contractors that limits how religious groups that do not approve of homosexuality can work in government.
“The president is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression,” according to a White House statement released Jan. 31. “The executive order signed in 2014, which protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors, will remain intact at the direction of President Donald J. Trump.”
President Barack Obama signed the order in the summer of 2014 and received praise from progressives and LGBT supporters. The order told all federal contractors they could not consider sexuality and gender identity when making hiring decisions. Obama packaged it as an anti-discrimination order, but the action forced those with biblical beliefs on gender and sexuality either to violate their consciences or forgo their federal contracts. The Trump administration’s decision to keep it did not sit well with religious liberty advocates.
Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act last summer that would have circumvented Obama’s order and allowed faith-based ministries to serve the Defense Department without violating their beliefs.
But Russell’s amendment lacked support to make it into the final version of the spending bill.
Russell told me in November that wasn’t a total loss because he had “positive signs” from Trump’s transition team that they would work with him to get rid of the executive order after Inauguration Day.
Today’s announcement was a reversal of those positive signs.
“I cannot understand why the president would prevent people of faith to continue to contract with the military,” Russell said in an emailed statement.
Last year, Ron Crews, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, was one of the strongest proponents of Russell’s amendment. Crews previously spent 28 years as an Army chaplain and said men and women in uniform depend on ministries to serve them through federal contracts.
Crews told me today the White House announcement was the exact opposite of what he expected from the Trump administration.
“This is like a kick in the gut,” Crews said. “I was assured this would be taken care of.”
In December, Crews had a meeting with several senior members of Congress who told him lawmakers wouldn’t need to draft legislation on the matter because Trump’s transition team would overturn the executive order.
Crews said he never had a guarantee from Trump’s staff directly, but he gave the transition team a briefing on why they needed to overturn the executive order – which garnered a positive response.
He added he would now begin contacting the lawmakers who gave him assurances and find out what they can do going forward.
LGBT supporters had a mixed reaction to the White House announcement.
“Actions speak louder than words,” said James Esseks, American Civil Liberties Union LGBT project director in a statement. “President Trump has surrounded himself with a vice president and Cabinet members who have repeatedly sought to sanction discrimination against LGBT people in the name of religion, and nothing in the White House’s statement makes clear that these efforts are behind us.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Wilt writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

2/8/2017 9:15:37 AM by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Football prayer complaint leads to employee training

February 8 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A public school system has agreed to update employees on applicable constitutional law after a special interest group complained of a Southern Baptist pastor’s impromptu prayer over an injured player at a high school football game.

WRCB-TV screen capture
The Freedom From Religion Foundation complained that students’ rights were violated when Eric Dill, student pastor of Bayside Baptist Church in Harrison, Tenn., prayed over an injured student at a September 2016 high school football game in Chattanooga, Tenn. The student has since made a full recovery.

The Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) will “provide additional training to its employees on the application of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in public schools,” HCDE attorney D. Scott Bennett told the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) Jan. 30.
The FFRF complained Jan. 27 that students’ constitutional rights were violated at a Sept. 9, 2016 football game because of a prayer by Eric Dill, student pastor of Bayside Baptist Church in Harrison, Tenn. While the school system will initiate additional training, Bennett said no laws were broken when Dill prayed over a Central High School football player who appeared temporarily paralyzed after a tackle during the game against East Ridge High School.
“During these tense minutes, a local youth pastor was asked to pray for the young man,” Bennett said in a Jan. 30 letter to the FFRF. “During the prayers, a number of students circled around the pastor. Out of respect for the injured player and the young men who were praying, many coaches and officials also bowed their heads. No coaches led any prayer.
“Rather than being an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” Bennett wrote, “this was human compassion at its finest.” The injured student has since made a full recovery.
Dill, a 1999 Central High School graduate and former quarterback, said the injured player himself and members of both teams requested prayer. Dill described the injured player as motionless for nearly 30 minutes after a tackle, crying uncontrollably and unable to move his legs.
“If a student asks me, ‘Eric pray for this,’ especially in something like this, I’m going to pray,” Dill told NBC affiliate WRCB-TV. “If I believe in a God who answers prayers, how bad do I have to hate the kid who’s injured or the player who asked, or the players who are hurting not to pray?”
The coaching staff bowed their heads during the prayer out of respect for the injured students, Dill said, not as an encouragement to other students to pray.
“Those coaches would never do anything to jeopardize their influence or care over those students. They would never do anything intentional to do that,” Dill told WRCB. “They’re not perfect and I’m not a perfect person, but they care for and love those players as much as they can.”
A game attendee complained anonymously to the FFRF, which in turn filed the complaint from its Madison, Wis., office. The FFRF contended that coaches or other school employees led the prayer.
“While it is laudable for students and coaches to express concern over an injured player, coaches may not use an injury as an opportunity to engage students in a religious exercise,” the FFRF complained. “Certainly, the coaches represent the school and the team when they act in their official roles as head coaches of the high school teams. ... We trust that this was a unique situation given the circumstances of the night and that coaches are not regularly leading their teams in prayer, or participating in team prayer circles initiated by students.”
The FFRF requested that football program participants be reminded next football season “of their obligations with respect to religion.”
Dill said he doesn’t fault the complainant, but would only like the person to know the grace and truth of Jesus stated in John 1:14.
“What I believe is these people need Christ, and we as believers have a responsibility to show them Christ,” Dill told Baptist Press Feb. 7. “No one who has ever received Christ’s love deserved it; not one person, ever. And I think we as Christians ... [may] forget that.”
Since the complaint was voiced anonymously, Dill is not able to personally share God’s Word with the complainant.
“What I want them to know is the truth, that God’s love has changed me,” Dill said. “I was spiritually dead and my heart, in and of itself, is wicked and evil. But God’s love has transformed me, and I want them to know the same love and the same God that I know and love.”
The complainant is “someone Jesus died for, and I want to treat them as such.”
The HCDE oversees about 80 schools serving 42,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to the HCDE website.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

2/8/2017 9:15:17 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

BSC expands discipleship strategy, celebrates record year in giving

February 7 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications & BR staff

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) will expand its focus of engaging high concentrations of non-Christians across North Carolina in 2017 as part of the convention’s “impacting lostness through disciple-making” strategy. These high concentrations of non-Christians are referred to as “pockets of lostness.”
Speaking to members of the convention’s Board of Directors at the group’s first meeting of the year, BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. said staff will be working with associations, congregations, pastors and church leaders in the coming year to develop local partnerships and strategies designed to reach and disciple unbelievers located in 250 identified pockets of lostness across the state.
Hollifield’s report to the board reflects an expansion of the convention’s strategy adopted in 2013 that initially focused on 100 concentrated pockets of lostness in and around eight large population centers.
The next 150 pockets expand into the rural communities of the state.
Prior to Hollifield’s address, Michael Sowers, BSC strategy coordinator for the Triad, gave board members an overview of the process used to engage a pocket of lostness.

BR photo by K. Allan Blume
Marc Francis, left, pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham, was elected as president for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Board of Directors. John Mark Harrison, right, pastor of Apex Baptist Church, was elected vice president.

“We have to work together,” he said. “We have to work together with our associations, we have to work together as churches and we have to work together as people all throughout the spectrum of our churches coming together, developing a strategy so that we can impact lostness through disciple-making.”
Sowers explained that pockets of lostness are geographic regions ranging from a half-mile to 2 miles in radius where up to 70 percent of the population do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In the eight population centers, pockets are often marked by high degrees of ethnic and cultural diversity.
Following Sowers’ presentation, board members divided into smaller groups with each of the convention’s eight strategy coordinators to learn more about pockets of lostness in areas where they live and how they can lead the effort to impact lostness.
“As we identify population segments that need to be reached in all of our pockets of lostness, we are asking God to raise up leaders who are called to reach them and build strong disciples,” Hollifield said. “The strategy is working.”
Hollifield reminded board members of the convention’s vision statement: “To become the strongest force in the history of this convention for reaching people with the message of the gospel.”
Hollfield described the vision as “bold” and “audacious,” but also attainable through humble dependence upon the Lord.
“What we do in kingdom advancement, we do it for Him because we love Christ, and we want to please Him,” Hollifield said. “In 2017, will you as a group commit to becoming a board of directors that is filled with disciples who are making disciples?”

Board elects new officers

In other business, the board elected new officers for 2017. Marc Francis, pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham, was elected as president for 2017.
Francis served as the board’s vice president in 2016 and was nominated for the post by Mike Motley, pastor of Trading Ford Baptist Church in Salisbury.
“Thank you for your confidence,” Francis said to members of the board following his election. “I really believe we’re at a turning point for building on the foundation we have and going forward into where God is leading us. I’m very excited to be a part of this.”
John Mark Harrison, pastor of Apex Baptist Church, was elected vice president. Harrison had served as chairman of the Evangelism and Discipleship Committee and on the Executive Committee. He chaired the Board of Directors Meetings Evaluation Task Force that recommended changes to the board’s meeting schedule. Harrison was nominated by Jeff Isenhour, pastor of Arran Lake Baptist Church in Fayetteville.
Ginger Brown was re-elected as secretary.
All three officers ran unopposed.
Board members also elected four new members to the Executive Committee and approved nominations of individuals to serve on the convention’s Committee on Nominations and the board’s Business Services Special Committee. Various committees of the board also met and elected their respective chairmen for the coming year.
Four individuals were elected to serve as at-large members of the Executive Committee: Ken Jones, retired minister who is currently serving as interim pastor of Middle Cross Baptist Church in Crouse; Michael Owens, pastor of Gate City Baptist Church in Jamestown; David Spray, pastor of Pisgah Forest Baptist Church; and Melanie Wallace, a member of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell.
At-large members serve one-year terms on the Executive Committee, which conducts regular convention business on behalf of the board between the three annual meetings of the full Board of Directors.
Board members also approved five nominations to the convention’s Committee on Nominations.
Recommendations for service on the Committee on Nominations are presented to the board by the BSC president and two vice presidents. Elected members of the Committee on Nominations serve three-year terms. The Committee on Nominations is a standing committee of the convention with the primary responsibility of nominating individuals to serve on the Board of Directors, other BSC committees and as trustees and directors of agencies and institutions of the convention.
BSC officers recommend six individuals to serve on the Committee on Nominations each year.
The 2017 recommendations for the Committee on Nominations were Ben Curfman, minster at Barberville Baptist Church in Waynesville in the Haywood Association; Michael Davis, minister at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Charlotte in the Metrolina Association; Mark Golden, minister at Calvary Road Baptist Church in Waynesville in the Haywood Association; David Helms, layperson at Galatia Baptist Church in Seaboard in the West Chowan Association; and James Keku, layperson at Immanuel Baptist Church in Greensboro in the Piedmont Association. The board authorized the Executive Committee to approve a sixth appointee.
The board also approved two new nominations to the board’s Business Services Special Committee: Harvey Brown Sr. and Walter Mills, both of First Baptist Church of Charlotte in the Metrolina Baptist Association.
Each board member also serves one of six board committees, which met and elected new chairmen for 2017: David Duarte, pastor of Daystar Church in Greensboro (Communications Committee); Lawrence Clapp, pastor of South Elm Street Baptist Church in Greensboro (Church Planting and Missions Partnerships Committee); Mike Moore, a retired pastor and director of missions who is now a member of Kure Beach Baptist Church (Business Services Special Committee);  Boyce Porter, pastor of Geneva Baptist Church in Camden (Christian Social Services Special Committee); Earl Roach, pastor of Hopkins Chapel Baptist Church in Zebulon (Christian Life and Public Affairs Special Committee); and Ed Rose, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Wendell (Evangelism and Discipleship Committee).
Each committee chair serves on the board’s Executive Committee.

Record year in missions giving

Hollifield also provided a financial report for 2016. Although Cooperative Program (CP) receipts were slightly below budget for 2016, the BSC finished the year in the black while sending more to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) missions and ministry causes than any year in the history of the convention.
Cooperative Program giving from N.C. Baptist churches totaled slightly less than $28.8 million in 2016, which was approximately 2.4 percent ($720,000) less than the annual $29.5 million budget.
When compared with 2015, total receipts for 2016 were less than 1 percent behind 2015, when giving slightly exceeded the $29 million budget. Receipts for 2015 totaled $29.07 million.
Despite the 2016 budget shortfall, the convention finished the year with a surplus of about $200,000 by holding the line on expenses and sent a record $30.5 million to the SBC for missions through the CP and special missions offerings.
“It is encouraging that we still managed to send more through the Cooperative Program and through our special missions offerings to Southern Baptist causes than in any year in the history of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina,” said Hollifield. “That helps us to impact lostness in North Carolina, North America and around the world.”
In 2016, 40 percent of the BSC budget was allocated for CP, which totaled more than $11.5 million. N.C. Baptists also gave more than $6 million to the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and nearly $13 million to the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions during the 2016 calendar year.
Through the first nine months of 2016, CP giving was on pace to meet or potentially exceed the $29.5 million budget until Hurricane Matthew struck eastern North Carolina in early October.
The aftermath of the storm resulted in an uptick in designated giving to disaster relief efforts, including those coordinated by N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission.
Beverly Volz, BSC’s director of accounting services, said more than $1.8 million in designated gifts was given for Hurricane Matthew relief efforts through convention ministries.
Hollifield praised the generosity of all North Carolinians.
“Hurricane Matthew had a significant effect on receipts from many churches because compassionate N.C. Baptists and others poured out their hearts financially and designated millions of dollars for that great need to help individuals, businesses, families and churches devastated by the flooding and wind damage,” Hollifield said. “We praise God for that compassion of North Carolina people who would be willing to give to help hurting people.
“I never cease to be amazed at the spirit of people from North Carolina.”
Brian Davis, BSC associate executive director-treasure, reported that giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) totaled more than $1.88 million in 2016.
The NCMO supports the 17 different ministries of Baptists on Mission, which includes disaster relief, as well as church planting, missions mobilization projects and associational missions projects.
Missions mobilization consultant Paul Langston said that through Hurricane Matthew relief and recovery efforts coordinated though Baptists on Mission, individuals have logged more than 18,100 volunteer days, provided 455,000 meals and completed 1,400 recovery jobs. Those efforts have resulted in 64 new professions of faith in Christ, Langston said.
Hollifield said missions giving through the Cooperative Program is off to a strong start in 2017, adding that he and convention leaders are hopeful this will be a year of growth.
The BSC’s budget for 2017 that messengers approved at the 2016 annual meeting is $30.375 million with a 40.5 percent CP allocation to SBC missions and ministry efforts.
The next board meeting is scheduled for May 22-23 at the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell. 

2/7/2017 1:33:00 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications & BR staff | with 0 comments

Trump immigration order sparks biblical analysis

February 7 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

With President Trump’s travel ban from seven predominantly-Muslim countries on hold at least temporarily, some Christians are evaluating biblical teaching on immigration and refugees.

Photo by Jedediah Smith, IMB
President Trump’s executive order on immigration has provoked biblical reflections from believers across the spectrum of the immigration debate.

On one side of the debate, the National Association of Evangelicals’ World Relief arm is helping to draft a letter signed by hundreds of pastors asking Trump to rethink the travel ban. Other Christians have emphasized the need for stringent border security along with compassion toward immigrants and refugees.
Trump’s order was temporarily blocked Feb. 3 in a ruling by U.S. district judge James Robart, who held that a lawsuit seeking to overturn the order by Washington state and Minnesota was likely to succeed. Failing to halt the order immediately, Robart wrote, could cause “significant and ongoing” harm to “the States’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel.”
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied an initial request by the administration to set aside Robart’s ruling, according to media reports. As the appeals process unfolded, Trump criticized Robart, an appointee of George W. Bush, via Twitter.

‘Welcoming the stranger’

World Relief’s Matthew Soerens told NPR Feb. 6 a coalition of evangelicals, including “hundreds of pastors ... from every one of the 50 states,” will send a letter to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence later this week urging them “to reconsider” both the travel ban and an overall reduction of refugees permitted to enter the U.S.
America’s longstanding refugee-vetting process “is working,” Soerens said. “We’ve had about 3 million refugees who have been admitted and welcomed to the United States since 1980. Since that time, we’ve had a grand total of zero deaths of American citizens as a result of terrorist attacks perpetrated by someone who came through that refugee resettlement program.”
The 9/11 hijackers entered the U.S. legally through programs other than refugee resettlement.
Soerens asserted biblical support for generous immigration policies in his 2009 book Welcoming the Stranger, coauthored by World Relief’s Jenny Hwang.
Abraham, Joseph, the nation of Israel, Ruth and Nehemiah were among immigrants and refugees in the Old Testament, Soerens and Hwang wrote. They added that New Testament immigrants and refugees included Jesus and persecuted Christians.
The Old Testament’s repeated commands to love immigrates set Israel’s law apart from legal codes in other ancient near eastern societies, Soerens and Hwang wrote, noting a divine principle of compassion toward immigrants.
Christians “might remember the grace that we have received on a cosmic scale and, corporately, seek appropriate ways to extend to those who seek it the much smaller grace of being allowed to pursue citizenship in the United States,” they wrote.
M. Daniel Carroll R.’s 2008 book Christians at the Border similarly noted examples of immigration in scripture as well as Old Testament laws mandating compassion toward immigrants in Israel.
The “inclination” of scripture, Carroll wrote, “is to be gracious to the immigrant in the name of God and Christ.” At times, in response to unjustly restrictive immigration policies, Christians “might declare with the apostles Peter and John: ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey [governmental authorities] rather than God’ (Acts 4:19).”
Carroll noted he was “not advocating civil disobedience on a large scale.”

Border control in scripture

Old Testament scholar James Hoffmeier, author of The Immigration Crisis, cited scripture to support rigorous vetting of those who claim refugee status.
“One might note that Joshua failed to properly vet the Gibeonites in Joshua 10,” Hoffmeier told Baptist Press in an email. “They lied about who they were and where they came from.” Because of Israel’s failure to verify the Gibeonites’ story, God’s people “violated an order regarding the people of the land which God had commanded.”
In the U.S., “people keep saying our immigration system is broken and needs [to be] overhauled,” said Hoffmeier, professor of Old Testament and ancient near eastern history and archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. “When you need to repair a car, you have to turn off the engine and check out the problem. Pragmatically, that is what Mr. Trump is doing with his pause for people coming from certain troubled nations who cannot help with vetting because the government is dysfunctional or the nation (e.g., Iran) has vowed to destroy us.”
In The Immigration Crisis, Hoffmeier noted multiple Hebrew words that reference immigrants in the Old Testament. He argued scripture distinguishes between treatment that should be afforded to legal immigrants and those who are passing through a nation without legal status.
Hebrew words derived from the verb gwr – often its noun form ger – occur more than 160 times in the Old Testament and tend to reference “a person who entered Israel and followed legal procedures to obtain recognized standing as a resident alien,” Hoffmeier wrote.
In contrast, the Hebrew words nekhar and zar reference “foreigners ... who are passing through the land with no intention of taking residence, or perhaps they would be temporarily or seasonally employed,” Hoffmeier wrote.
“Resident aliens” were afforded more legal rights than “foreigners” in Israel, Hoffmeier wrote. For example, there was no interest on loans to “resident aliens” (Leviticus 25:35-37), but “foreigners” could be charged interest (Deuteronomy 15:3).
Hoffmeier also claimed scripture gives examples of border control (as when Pharaoh granted permission for Joseph’s family to enter Egypt in Genesis 45:16-20) and deportation (as when Abram was removed from Egypt after lying about his relationship with Sarai in Genesis 12:20).
“Countries since biblical times have had the right to clearly established secure borders that they controlled and were recognized by surrounding governments, traveling tribes, and individuals,” Hoffmeier wrote. “Furthermore, nations, including Israel of the Bible, had the right to determine who entered their land and under what circumstances, and they could confer resident or alien status to foreigners should it be mutually beneficial. The same is true today, I maintain.”

Southern Baptists on immigration

Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, argued in a Jan. 30 blog post that scripture teaches both the responsibility of governments to protect their citizens and the responsibility of the church to “love the refugee and serve them compassionately.”
Christians “must understand the tension that occurs because our government has a responsibility it is mandated to fill,” wrote Floyd, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.
Floyd noted a 2016 SBC resolution “on refugee ministry” that called for “the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection process.” The resolution also “encourage[d] Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His throne.”
SBC resolutions referenced immigration at least 10 times between 1846 and 2016, consistently advocating compassionate ministry (as in an 1846 call to regard a “mighty tide” of immigrants “with solemn interest”) and national security (as in a 1949 admonition for the government to observe “due care” in admitting “individuals friendly to our form of government and likely to become good citizens”).
Since 1935, SBC Annuals have reported on ministries to refugees, displaced people or immigrants in all but three or four years, according to research by the SBC Executive Committee.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/7/2017 11:41:36 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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