January 2017

SBC 2017 Phoenix registration opens Feb. 1

January 30 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Registration opens Feb. 1 for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) 2017 Annual Meeting June 13-14 at the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. 3rd St. in Phoenix.

Registration will be available around the clock at SBCAnnualMeeting.net for messengers and guests.
Through online messenger registration at the SBCAnnualMeeting.net tab, each messenger will receive an eight-digit registration code to present at the annual meeting’s Express Registration lane in Phoenix. The code will be entered into a computer at the SBC registration area and a nametag will be printed. The appropriate church-authorized representative must complete all online messenger registrations.
SBC President Steve Gaines has urged Southern Baptists to attend.
“Just like we want people to attend our church meetings, we should want to attend the gathering of the SBC,” Gaines has said. “We come together to learn what God is doing through the various SBC entities, but we also gather to pray for our nation and be encouraged.”
Each cooperating church that contributes to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year of the annual meeting qualifies for two messengers. Additionally, the convention will recognize up to 10 additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the following options:
– One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the convention’s Executive Committee for convention causes, and/or to any convention entity.
– One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the normative combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.
“Pray for Such a Time as This” is this year’s theme, based on Esther 4:14 and Luke 11:1. The meeting will not only cover business, Gaines has said, but will also provide spiritual edification.
“It’s a great time to see godly brothers and sisters and be reacquainted with them. Most importantly, it’s a time to worship the Lord and be recharged so that you can go back to your place of service to be a better leader for the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said in the Winter 2016 issue of the SBC journal SBC LIFE. “We will devote our Tuesday evening session again this year to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening.”
Hotel registration has been available since October and continues through May 17, online at SBCAnnualMeeting.net. While online housing reservations are preferred, housing may also be reserved by phone from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday at 1-800-967-8852 or toll-free or 1-847-996-5832.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

1/30/2017 9:15:07 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Apologetics on display at Defend 2017 conference

January 27 2017 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

Abdu Murray was a devout Muslim who rarely encountered Christians who could defend their faith. His journey from Islam to faith in Christ began after meeting the few “annoying” Christians who could.

Photo by Travis Milner
Rhyne Putman, New Orleans Seminary professor and director of the Defend 2017 apologetics conference, discusses Christ-like responses to the LGBT community while maintaining a commitment to biblical truth.

Murray, North American director for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, told of his nine-year journey at Defend 2017, an annual apologetics conference sponsored by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s (NOBTS) Institute for Christian Apologetics. The Jan. 2-6 conference, with 250 participants, brought together noted apologists to address issues and worldviews prevalent in today’s culture.
“Truth always has a cost,” Murray said. “A lot of Muslims know there are issues with Islam and they know there is a beauty to the gospel, but they don’t want it because of the price.”
Other plenary speakers included Sean McDowell, author of 18 books on apologetics including several coauthored with his father Josh McDowell; Braxton Hunter, former president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists; Craig Hazen, author and apologist at Biola University; Robert Bowman Jr. of the Institute for Religious Research; and Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason Ministries.
More than 75 breakout sessions on topics of theology, philosophy, culture and ethics were led by leading apologetic speakers and Southern Baptist seminary and Baptist college professors.
Leaving one’s worldview behind to embrace Christ, Murray said, is hard to do.
Once an ardent defender of Islam, Murray said he picked up a Gideon’s New Testament to search for contradictions and to deflect the efforts of two “annoying Christians” – Dave and Pete – who returned week after week to befriend him and answer his questions.
Then, Murray found Luke 3:7-8, conveying John the Baptist’s warning to repent rather than stay entrenched in their Jewish heritage.
The passage disturbed him, Murray recounted, because he realized he had clung to tradition rather than viewing his own faith objectively, something he had often accused Christians of doing. Murray said he was drawn to Christ.
“It was the person of Christ Himself,” Murray said. “That was the attraction and that’s the attraction for many Muslims when they come to faith.“
Murray, formerly a 16-year trial lawyer, is the author of Grand Central Question: Answering the Critical Concerns of Major Worldviews and host of an apologetics radio show in Detroit and online.

The church’s calling

Andrew Walker, the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s director of policy studies, said in a breakout session that while Christians live under the rule of state, Jesus is the ultimate authority for believers. Early Christians understood they made “a direct assault on the powers of that day” when they declared “Jesus is Lord,” Walker noted.
Because Jesus is Lord and because each human bears the image of God, the church is called to address culture, speak truth to the state and stand up for those in need, Walker said.
“A Christianity that has nothing to say to the affairs of the world and the challenges facing the world is nothing but safe, middle-class, bourgeois religion. ...”
Walker pointed to a quote from Carl F. H. Henry, calling it one of the “most impactful” of his life regarding the church’s responsibility in the public square: “If the church fails to apply the central truths of Christianity to social problems correctly, someone else will do so incorrectly.“

‘Fruitful’ for evangelism

Braxton Hunter, apologetics professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Ind., said in the opening plenary session he picked up his first apologetics resource after a close friend became antagonistic to the Christian faith.
“I wanted to say more than I knew how to say,” Hunter said. “I didn’t know how to engage with him and that was deeply frustrating.“
Hunter, author of the forthcoming Evangelistic Apologetics, pointed to the “fruitfulness” of integrating apologetics into both proclamation evangelism and personal evangelism, urging listeners to use apologetics to lead people to faith in Christ rather than simply win arguments.
“Apologetics is not evangelism,” Hunter said. “But … apologetics can open a door to evangelism, can serve as pre-evangelism, or in some other way, aid in evangelism.”
Rhyne Putman, Defend 2017 director and NOBTS assistant professor of theology and culture, said the purpose of the NOBTS apologetics conference was to equip believers to meet challenges.
“A significant portion of those who attend our conferences are college students who are facing critical challenges to their faith on an almost daily basis,” Putman said. “We seek to equip them so that they will not only flourish in their own faith but also effectively counter the challenges to evangelism and discipleship on their campuses.“
Robert Stewart, director of the seminary’s Institute for Christian Apologetics, said next year’s conference will include a track for urban apologetics with significant time devoted to addressing apologetic issues relevant in an urban context.
“Many people of color and others living in urban communities are increasingly facing challenges from groups like the so-called Black Hebrew Israelites and claims like ‘Christianity is a white man’s religion’ that most apologists as well as most books on apologetics, to say nothing of apologetics conferences, fail to address,” Stewart said. “It would be irresponsible not to address these new challenges.”
This year’s plenary and breakout sessions topics included the reliability of the New Testament, the Trinity, the dating of scripture, evidence for the resurrection, arguments for God’s existence, the problem of evil, Islam, science and creation, the theology of counter-Christian groups such as Scientology and Mormonism and responding to LGBT activism.
Video recordings of the plenary sessions are available online at nobtsapologetics.com/defend.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

1/27/2017 10:27:16 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments

European court rules Russian adoption ban discriminatory

January 27 2017 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

Europe’s top human rights court on Jan. 17 condemned a 2013 Russian law banning all adoptions by Americans and ordered the government to pay damages. While Moscow denounced the ruling, officials appear ready to reconsider the policy.
Forty-five Americans representing 27 Russian children, many with serious health conditions, filed suit at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after the law halted their near-complete adoptions.
The seven-judge panel, including one Russian, unanimously found the law discriminatory and a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Many of the applicant families had already traveled to Russia, met the children, and formed bonds with them. The court ordered Russia to pay each couple 3,000 euros ($3,190) in damages and $600 in legal fees.
Russia initially denounced the ruling, saying the court decision ignored “numerous arguments of the Russian side, substantiated by concrete evidence” of adopted Russian children being abused in U.S. homes, said Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian foreign ministry’s envoy for human rights.
But on Jan. 18, a Russian legislator said Moscow was willing to open discussions about ending the ban on American adoptions.
“We are ready for dialogue,” said upper house speaker Valentina Matvienko, noting the United States would have to ensure the welfare of Russian adoptees. She maintained the human rights court ruling was unfounded and not international law.  
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the ban into law in December 2012 after lawmakers pushed it through parliament. Many advocates called the move political retaliation for U.S. sanctions on Russians accused of human rights violations. The Russian government maintained that reported abuse of Russian adoptees by U.S. families triggered the ban.
Americans adopted about 60,000 Russian children in the two decades leading up to the ban. Experts estimate about 20 of those children died from abuse, neglect, or other causes while in U.S. homes. At the time of the ban, UNICEF estimated 740,000 Russian children did not live with their parents, with only 18,000 Russian families waiting to adopt a child.
More than 200 U.S. families were finalizing adoptions when the ban became law on Jan. 1, 2013. Experts estimate more than 1,000 families were at some point in the adoption process.
“The alternate for most of those children was a life in an institution, and aging out,” said Becky Weichhand, executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Children who “age out” of an institution experience high levels of suicide, trafficking and other tragedies, she noted. Weichhand called the 2013 law a “response that put politics above the human capital of a child’s life and need for a family.”
Although the court’s ruling is a “step forward in the conversation,” it can’t make up for the loss experienced by the children waiting for new homes, Weichhand said.
Daniel Nehrbass, president of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, found the court’s ruling of discrimination encouraging but would rather have seen the judges focus on the children. The court declared complaints filed on behalf of the children inadmissible, and ruled only on the parents’ complaints.
“It’s not about discrimination,” Nehrbass said. “It’s more about basic human rights.”
Nightlight facilitated more than 1,000 Russian adoptions before 2013 and had about 100 families in the process of adopting when the law took effect. Fifteen families were in the final stages of the process. Nehrbass estimates Nightlight would have done another 150 adoptions since 2013, providing permanent homes for 150 Russian children.
As to the possibility of doors opening between the United States and Russia moving forward, Nehrbass said he hopes Moscow will reverse the ban and the situation will improve: “How could it get worse?”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

1/27/2017 10:25:15 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

The deadly link between organ donation and assisted suicide

January 27 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

Canadian ethicists have recommended organ harvesting from patients who choose physician-assisted suicide, raising alarms that people with terminal illness could be pressured into taking their lives.
In an article published in the December issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics, bioethicists Julie Allard and Marie-Chantal Fortin said Canada’s medical aid in dying (MAID) law “has the potential to provide additional organs for transplantation.”
“Organ donation after MAID would be ethically acceptable if the patient who has offered to donate is competent and not under any external pressure to choose MAID or organ donation,” they wrote.
Since its legalization in June, physician-assisted suicide has claimed the lives of at least 744 people, according to Canadian television network CTV News.
Linking organ harvesting with assisted suicide is already common in Belgium and the Netherlands. Allard and Fortin suggest patients seeking assisted suicide be given the chance to donate their organs voluntarily.
But David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, said the connection is part of a worldwide push for “imminent death organ donation.”
Harvesting organs while the human heart is still beating has been proposed in Belgium and the United States as a way to decrease the shortage of organs available for transplants. It’s already legal in the Netherlands, where the patient must be suffering “irreversible loss of brain functions,” and death must be deemed imminent.
“It’s really no different from doing it with lethal injections, but they’re killing with organ transplantation,” Stevens said.
Organs are healthier and more likely to graft well in the recipient, proponents of imminent death organ donation say, if harvested before the heart stops beating.
Allard and Fortin, though not necessarily proposing beating-heart donations, do admit that combining assisted suicide and organ donation raises ethical concerns.
“It will be difficult to disentangle patients’ motivations for requesting MAID, but the complete separation of the two decisional processes should help to ensure that the MAID request is motivated by unbearable suffering, as required by law, and not by the feeling that one’s value is limited to one’s organs,” they said.
But people seeking assisted suicide often feel their lives have lost all meaning, Stevens said, and asking them if they’d like to donate their organs could offer another reason to take their lives: “This gives a noble reason to do it. Once you say there’s a life not worthy to be lived, then people begin to do things like you’re seeing with this.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

1/27/2017 10:23:11 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Nigerian fighter jet bombs refugee camp

January 27 2017 by Onize Ohikere, WORLD News Service

A Nigerian fighter jet on Jan. 17 accidentally bombed a camp in northeastern Nigeria, killing more than 50 refugees and aid workers, Nigeria’s military said. Some first responders put the death toll at more than 100 people.
Security officials said the accidental strike happened while the military was searching for Boko Haram extremists.
The bomb landed on a government-run camp in the town of Rann, near the border with Cameroon and Chad. The camp houses about 25,000 refugees displaced by Boko Haram’s insurgency.
The International Red Cross said the bombing killed six Nigerian Red Cross members and injured 13 others. The humanitarian group in a statement said the workers were part of a team that brought in food for the refugees.
Doctors without Borders confirmed the casualties and warned the death toll could rise. Pictures from the scene showed several injured persons sprawled on mats on the floor in a tent clinic, while blankets covered some of the dead lying on mats outside.
“The team is completely overwhelmed, since more than 200 people are injured,” said Hughes Robert, the program manager for Nigeria.  “They are now trying to stabilize the victims who need the most care.”
Doctors without Borders in Cameroon and Chad have said they are willing to treat some of the wounded.
The bombing is the first time Nigeria’s government has admitted to mistakenly striking civilians in the fight against Boko Haram, but communities have in the past reported civilian deaths in military airstrikes.
Maj. Gen Lucky Irabor, commander of military operations in the northeast, confirmed the bombing also injured two soldiers. Irabor said he ordered the mission based on information claiming Boko Haram insurgents were in the area and geographic coordinates of their supposed location. An investigation is underway, he said, adding the air force would not deliberately target civilians.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said he received the news with regret and expressed his condolences to the affected families.
“The federal government will fully support the Borno state government in dealing with the situation and attending to the victims,” Buhari posted on Twitter.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Onize Ohikere writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)


1/27/2017 10:19:38 AM by Onize Ohikere, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Tennessee pastor resigns as IMB trustee

January 26 2017 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector

A Tennessee Baptist pastor has resigned as a trustee of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB) in response to an action taken by IMB leadership last summer. He had another year to serve on his present term.

Dean Haun

Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., told the Baptist and Reflector (B&R) his resignation was in response to the IMB’s May 2016 decision to sign an amicus brief in support of a mosque to be built in New Jersey. 
“I love our IMB leadership and our missionaries and their work across the globe. I am not a rabble rouser, and my heart is not to take down the IMB,” he stressed, adding, however, that he has to stand up for his convictions that he feels are based upon scripture.
In the meantime, the church’s members are praying about their long-term response to the IMB’s decision. The church is currently escrowing its Cooperative Program (CP) funds to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in response to the action taken by the IMB and the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commissions (ERLC).
Haun said the church is continuing to send funds to the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board for missions and ministries in Tennessee.
First Baptist, Morristown, gives 11 percent of its gifts to the church through the Cooperative Program.
In March, the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, N.J., filed a federal lawsuit because they had been denied a building permit to build a mosque on land owned by the Islamic Society. In May an amicus brief was filed in court by 20 different faith-based organizations arguing and agreeing that the mosque project should be approved. Among the signers of the brief were the SBC’s ERLC and the IMB.
After the two SBC entities’ actions were made public and featured in a story posted on a satire and parody website called The End Times, Haun received questions about the IMB’s decision.
Haun, who chaired the Northern Africa and the Middle Eastern Peoples Committee of the IMB for two years, said he received dozens of phone calls and e-mails from pastors across the state. “I had to tell them I knew nothing about the IMB joining in this amicus brief because we (IMB trustees) were not informed about its signing at our early May meeting,” he said.
Haun contacted the office of IMB President David Platt and was referred to the IMB’s public relations specialist, Julie McGowan, who then referred him to several websites discussing religious liberty issues.
“I understand religious liberty implications but I do not understand why the IMB felt it necessary to jump into the fray,” Haun said. “When I look at our IMB mission and purpose statements, I cannot see how this action meshes with them.”
Haun also called the ERLC and listened to an explanation of the entity’s rationale for signing the amicus brief. He noted that after a lengthy conversation with Daniel Darling, public relations leader for the ERLC, they ended the call by, “agreeing to disagree.”
In mid-July, Haun e-mailed Scott Harris, of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn., and chairman of the IMB trustees, and Platt. He informed them a number of pastors had contacted him about the IMB action. “David promised me that at our August trustee meeting he would address the mosque issue and why the IMB signed the amicus brief along with the ERLC.”
Haun said Platt kept his promise and addressed the issue.
Haun said, “Brother David [Platt] read a statement that is now on the [Frequently Asked Questions] section of the IMB website.” According to the statement: “IMB supports freedom of religion for all people both in the United States and around the world. IMB signing the amicus brief regarding the New Jersey mosque is an agreement that all people deserve religious liberty, but it does not in any way support the mosque financially or with human resources.”
But Haun asked, “Are CP dollars not used to pay the salaries of our legal team who filed the brief?”
Haun shared with Platt that “as a trustee it was my responsibility to protect our organization and that I saw all kinds of danger in this action for our future.”
Haun said the pastors who contacted him were having a difficult time understanding why the ERLC would sign the brief but an even more difficult time understanding why the IMB chose to do so. Haun said he had spoken with a trustee of the North American Mission Board who told him that NAMB “would not touch it.”
In regard to supporting the mosque, Haun asked, “If we defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship are we not helping them speed down the highway to hell? I want no part in supporting a false religion even if it is in the name of religious freedom,” he said. “Our Baptist institutions’ names will be on this brief setting legal precedent and supporting the right of mosques to be built all over our nation for years to come.” Haun said he believes Islam does not deserve to be protected like other religions in America because it is not a religion. “In my opinion Islam, which means to ‘submit,’ is a geo-political movement that seeks to replace our values and even our faith with Sharia law.  I doubt if the situation were reversed if the Muslims would stand up for our religious liberty.”
Haun stressed that the greater principle to him is not religious liberty but an ungodly scriptural alliance forbidden by 2 Corinthians 6:14-15. “While I love the IMB and have been grateful to serve for the past six years I personally cannot be a party to our action.

“By all means, let’s stand for religious liberty in America. But first and foremost let us stand on our firm convictions that our alliance with God is paramount, that He will accomplish His ends without the necessity of evil alliances.”
Haun said he does not want to hurt the International Mission Board. He intentionally did not publicly announce his decision to resign during December when Southern Baptist churches were collecting the 2016 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. “We promoted and took up our annual LMCO this year because we did not want to injure our great missionaries.  They had nothing to do with this decision,” Haun said.

Haun said he would have gladly rescinded his resignation and continued serving as a trustee if the IMB had taken action to remove the entity from the amicus brief.
“While we believe the Cooperative Program is the tried and proven method of supporting missions and ministries worldwide, we respect the autonomy of every Southern Baptist church,” said Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. “I personally know Dean Haun and have the utmost respect for his convictions,” Davis said.
A former pastor at First Baptist, Morristown, Davis said he also is very familiar with the “heart and make up of the church. I have the highest respect for their leadership and members.”

He added that their church is “made up of people that are global in their focus and sacrificially generous in their financial giving for missions. They are among the leaders in Tennessee of Great Commission financial support.”
Davis expressed hope that leaders of First Baptist and the IMB can come to a greater understanding of the issues involved and that there will be a “day of reconciliation.”
Platt expressed gratitude for Haun’s service to the IMB. “He has contributed much to Southern Baptists’ cooperative work around the world,” Platt said in a written statement to the Baptist and Reflector. “While our desire was to see him complete his term as a trustee, we respect his decision to resign.”
Platt also wrote, “In light of The Baptist Faith and Message, we continue to affirm that everyone should be able to freely worship according to their religious convictions. At the same time, our primary purpose as an organization is ‘to partner with churches to empower missionary teams who are evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.’ IMB leaders are committed in the days ahead to speak only into situations that are directly tied to this mission.”
Trustee chair Scott Harris, missions minister at Brentwood Baptist also issued a statement to the B&R. “One challenge as an IMB trustee is to represent, with wisdom and discernment, a wide variety of perspectives from God-honoring people in the many issues that affect Southern Baptists’ global missions endeavor.
“While we have heard Dean Haun’s perspective on why he feels compelled to resign as a trustee, we cannot comment on the extensive discussions and varied opinions that took place during IMB trustee forum on this particular topic. IMB trustees commit to respecting that IMB trustee forums are closed, confidential, non-public sessions, and I’m committed to maintaining the confidence of those discussions, in accordance with the policy for current and former IMB trustees.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of Baptist and Reflector, Tennessee’s Baptist news journal.)

1/26/2017 10:59:06 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector | with 4 comments

‘Gray divorce’ named among senior adult challenges

January 26 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Increasing rates of divorce and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among some populations over 50 could raise challenges for pastors ministering to senior adults in the coming years.
In December, England’s chief medical officer Sally Davies reported a 38 percent increase in STIs among Britons ages 50-70, The Telegraph reported. Meanwhile, U.S. researchers at Bowling Green State University say the divorce rate for Americans 50 and older has doubled since 1990 even though the overall divorce rate remained essentially unchanged.
Kenneth Long, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sun City, Ariz. – a retirement community with a minimum age of 55 – told Baptist Press (BP) the “biggest challenge” in his ministry field among both professing Christians and nonbelievers is “senior adults’ living together without being married.”
Senior adult cohabitation seems to occur “because of loneliness and financial needs,” Long said. “One [partner] or the other has retirement [funding] they might lose if they remarried. So they’re choosing to [cohabitate] for financial reasons rather than getting married for spiritual reasons.”
Davies’ 2016 chief medical officer report on public health noted that in the United Kingdom, there were 15,726 new STI diagnoses in 2014 among adults ages 50-70 compared with 11,366 in 2010.
Rising divorce rates lead to older adults’ “re-partnering and potentially having sex with new partners,” Davies’ report stated according to The Telegraph. Some likely engage in unprotected sexual activity because they believe pregnancy is not a risk.
Although “society’s prevailing view still considers that older people are not particularly sexually active,” the report stated, the rise in STIs likely is fueled by “changing social and behavioral patterns” among those who reached adulthood in the 1960s.
Mark Regnerus, a University of Texas sociologist, told BP U.S. rates of some STIs “are increasing among older folks, sometimes quite dramatically.” Still, the raw number of older adults with STIs is relatively small. “And always the baseline rates and frequencies are much lower than [with] younger people.”
A more significant trend among older Americans, Regnerus said, is a “major comparative uptick” in so-called “gray divorce.”
“I think there are a combination of things that created” the rise in divorce among older Americans, Regnerus said in an email. There is “more wealth among this era of senior citizens (or at least people over 50) than in earlier generations, yet with social scripts that: (1) raise expectations for long-term marital satisfaction (2) and have made divorce more accepted socially (and religiously).
“Also,” he added, “corrosive effects of social media [aid] in fostering discontent as well as building social support for decisions people have made to leave.”
A 2013 research paper by Bowling Green State professors Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin noted a “gray divorce revolution” in America. Brown is co-director of the university’s National Center for Family & Marriage Research.
Between 1990 and 2010, the divorce rate for Americans 50-64 increased from 6.9 to 13.1 divorced persons per 1,000 married persons, Brown and Lin wrote. The increase for those 65 and older was 1.8 to 4.8.
In 1990, fewer than 1 in 10 divorced people were over 50, Brown and Lin wrote. Today more than 1 in 4 divorcees are over 50. If the divorce rate holds, more than 828,000 Americans over 50 will be divorced by 2030. In 2010, the number was reported to be about 643,000.
While “the causes underlying the rapid rise in divorce among middle-aged and older adults are difficult if not impossible to establish,” Brown and Lin wrote, the “primary factor” likely is the increasing number of remarriages among older adults, which statistically are more likely to end in divorce.
Brown told BP current data suggests the gray divorce rate is “essentially unchanged” from 2010.
Long, the Arizona pastor, said the solution to older adults’ struggles with marriage and sexuality is the same as the solution for younger adults.
“One man and one woman for life is God’s ideal situation,” Long said. “And that’s what I continue to preach and advise.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/26/2017 10:35:45 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

ERLC deploys online effort for PPFA defunding

January 26 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission unveiled just prior to the second Evangelicals for Life conference a groundbreaking initiative in the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.

The ERLC announced Jan. 24 an online advertising campaign to rally support for the congressional drive to cut federal dollars for the country’s No. 1 abortion provider. The effort is the first of its kind by the ERLC and includes a digital petition that makes it possible for the commission to deliver the list of signers to congressional leaders.
The announcement came as final preparations were in process for Evangelicals for Life, a three-day meeting in Washington, D.C., co-hosted by the ERLC and Focus on the Family. The Jan. 26-28 conference is wrapped around the annual March for Life, the Jan. 27 event attended by tens of thousands of pro-life Americans.
Support for defunding Planned Parenthood has grown in recent years amid a string of scandals that have plagued the organization. The latest was unveiled in 2015, when a series of undercover videos appeared to provide evidence Planned Parenthood was trading in body parts from aborted babies. The secretly recorded videos allegedly showed executives discussing their sale of fetal parts, as well as their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use.
Advocates for defunding Planned Parenthood have an advantage they did not have last year. Unlike President Obama, new President Donald Trump has promised to end federal funds for the abortion rights organization.
In the last congressional session, both the Senate and House of Representatives approved legislation to cut funding for Planned Parenthood by about 90 percent and direct it to federally qualified health centers that do not perform abortions. Obama vetoed the measure, however.
This year, supporters of defunding Planned Parenthood are using what is known as the reconciliation process – as they did in the last session – to pass a budget bill. The House should easily pass the measure, and reconciliation will enable the Senate to pass a budget-related measure by a simple majority and without the need for 60 votes to overcome a filibuster attempt.
ERLC President Russell Moore said in a written release announcing the online initiative, “For years, many of us have called on government leaders to see to it that no taxpayer funds, of any kind, go to Planned Parenthood.
“The last two years alone have amply demonstrated that the organization is engaged in some of the most ghoulish forms of for-profit human trafficking in our culture,” he said. “No cent of public funding should support that.”
Moore urged the president and Congress to act quickly so “taxpayer money can support institutions that promote and care for life, instead of exploiting it.”
Defunding Planned Parenthood is one of the priorities in the ERLC’s 2017 legislative agenda.
The letter the ERLC intends to deliver to congressional leaders on behalf of the signers says:
“Planned Parenthood uses my tax dollars to fund and grow the abortion business, not provide women’s health services. This violates my conscience. Therefore, I ask you to support the budget resolution that defunds Planned Parenthood and redirects funding to federally qualified health centers.”
The petition is available for signing at erlc.com/initiatives/defund-planned-parenthood.
In addition to the online mobilization effort, the ERLC said it plans to offer pro-life resources to churches; provide relevant, pro-life content; and continue to visit congressional offices to promote the protection of life.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements in the organization’s latest financial year, 2014-15. Planned Parenthood’s affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent reporting year for which statistics are available.
On Jan. 24, Live Action – a pro-life organization – released the first in a new series of investigative videos it says refutes Planned Parenthood’s claim it provides prenatal care as a primary service. Live Action reported its special investigators requesting prenatal care were turned away by 92 of the 97 Planned Parenthood centers they contacted.
In a final report issued Jan. 3, a special House investigative panel recommended Congress eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood and certify such federal funds go to comprehensive health-care providers that do not perform abortions.
Evangelicals for Life will open the afternoon of Jan. 26 with an address by Moore on human dignity and the gospel. More than 50 speakers will address not only abortion but such issues as adoption, end-of-life care, ministry to those with special needs, human trafficking, service to immigrants and refugees and the development of a pro-life worldview.
Among the speakers will be R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Jackie Hill Perry, a poet and artist with Humble Beast Records; Eugene Cho, lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle; and Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/26/2017 10:33:23 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Abortion funding ban passes House, goes to Senate

January 26 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. House of Representatives took the first step Jan. 24 toward a permanent, government-wide ban on federal funds for abortions.
The House voted 238-183 for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act (H.R. 7). If it becomes law, the proposal would standardize prohibitions that now exist in various U.S. programs, in addition to blocking federal money for abortion coverage under the 2010 health care law and guaranteeing full disclosure of abortion funding by health insurance plans that are part of the controversial arrangement.
The Hyde Amendment – which bars Medicaid funding of abortion and became the general label for such bans on health programs – has saved the lives of more than 2 million unborn babies, the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute estimated on the law’s 40th anniversary in September.
The new legislation must still gain approval in the Senate, which failed to act on the ban in the last session after the House passed it. New President Donald Trump has pledged his support for a permanent prohibition on federal abortion funding.
Supporters of such a ban rejoiced at the action, while opponents – such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice America – decried it.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore expressed his gratitude to the House and its speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
“The Hyde Amendment represents a bipartisan consensus that taxpayers should not have to violate their consciences through subsidized abortion,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “Codifying this consensus through the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is the right decision for the unborn, families and communities.
“Along with Baptists and other believers around the country, I urge the Senate to take up their form of this bill and get it to the president’s desk,” he said in written comments for Baptist Press.
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said in a written release, “Over two million Americans are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment. With today’s vote, we are one step closer to getting the federal government out of the business of paying for abortion once and for all.”
NARAL President Ilyse Hogue slammed the legislation as “anti-choice overreach – mistaking an electoral win for a mandate.”
“This is classic obsessive behavior by Congressional Republicans, who prioritize these draconian measures in a country hungry for genuine economic progress and committed to expanding personal freedom,” she said in a written statement.
Congress approved the Hyde Amendment initially in 1976, three years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the country. Legislators, however, have had to pass it and similar bans in other federal health programs each year as part of spending measures. The measure is named after its sponsor, the late Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois.
Bipartisan support for prohibiting federal funding of abortion has declined dramatically through the years as the number of pro-life Democrats in Congress has fallen. In the latest roll call, no Republicans opposed H.R. 7, while only three Democrats supported it. The sole Democrats to vote for the ban were Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas, Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Collin Peterson of Minnesota.
During the debate that preceded the roll-call vote, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a Southern Baptist, said it is certain someday “we as a society will look back and we will recognize the humanity of these little children of God and the inhumanity of what was being done to them. And we will regret these days. Until then, at least, can’t we get together and say that we shouldn’t force taxpayers to pay for the killing of innocent, little, human beings. I pray that we can open our eyes to that truth.”
A Marist Poll released Jan. 23 reported 61 percent of Americans oppose or strongly oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, including 40 percent of pro-choice citizens and 41 percent of Democrats. The Roman Catholic Knights of Columbus sponsored the survey.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., is the sponsor of the House bill. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a Southern Baptist, introduced the Senate version of the ban, S. 184, Jan. 20 with 38 cosponsors.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

1/26/2017 10:31:20 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Porn ‘health hazard’ resolutions considered

January 26 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Tennessee and Virginia would become the latest states in the U.S. to declare pornography a public health hazard under resolutions introduced in the states’ legislatures.
Tennessee Senate Joint Resolution 35, which was filed in the state Senate Jan. 24, urges the state to “recognize pornography as a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.” The resolution acknowledges the need for “education, prevention, research and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the epidemic” harming the state and nation.
Republican Sen. Mae Beavers from Mt. Juliet reintroduced the bill after it passed the Senate in April 2016, but was not voted on in the House.
Her resolution follows a comparable measure introduced in December 2016 by Virginia Republican Del. Robert G. Marshall and assigned Jan. 17 to a Virginia House subcommittee, according to the state’s General Assembly website. Marshall’s measure urges “the need for education, prevention, research and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of the commonwealth and the nation.”
Last year, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a similar resolution.
In announcing the Tennessee measure, Beavers said what was previously considered hardcore pornography has now become mainstream, and with technology, the average age of exposure to pornography is 11 to 12. She cited Washington State studies showing that as recently as 2004, 24.7 percent of convicted murderers in that state said pornography served as a trigger for their crimes.
Pornography is potentially biologically addictive, the resolution states, is detrimental to families, discourages young men from marriage and leads to marital dissatisfaction and infidelity.
Pornography treats women as “objects and commodities for the viewer’s use,” “normalizes violence and abuse of women and children,” “increases the demand for sex trafficking, prostitution and ... child pornography,” and may cause emotional, mental and medical illnesses, Beavers’ resolution reads.
The Utah resolution, sponsored by Republican Todd Weiler, includes much of the same verbiage as Beavers’ and Marshall’s documents. Gov. Herbert signed it in March, 2016, about the same time Beavers first introduced the Tennessee measure.
“We are sounding a voice of warning,” Herbert said with his signature. “There are real health risks that are associated with viewing pornography.” Utah also passed a law making it a misdemeanor offense if computer technicians fail to report child pornography to law enforcement officials.
Utah’s actions were met with praise, including affirmations from Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore and Internet safety advocate Donna Rice Hughes.
Utah was “exactly right” to say pornography is creating a “public health crisis,” a crisis that exists inside, as well as outside, the church, said Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “It’s an epidemic not just in American culture but in evangelical churches too.”
Hughes, president of the Internet safety advocacy group Enough Is Enough (EIE), called the resolution “part of a concerted effort to begin framing the issue as not merely a ‘moral’ issue, but a social issue with enormous costs that negatively impacts individuals and societies,” Hughes said. “For over two decades, the Internet pornography industry has been able to succeed on the myth that pornography is just harmless fun.”
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has passed nearly 25 resolutions that address pornography either directly or indirectly, beginning as early as 1959 and recurring as recently as 2015. The latest resolution “On Pornography and Sexual Purity” recognizes pornography’s harm to men, women and children, and recommends several measures to end its proliferation.
“We commend the good news that Christ is fully able to deliver and restore those who have fallen in sexual sin who look to Him in faith and repentance,” the latest SBC resolution reads, “and call our churches to foster a culture of grace, mercy, and restoration.”
President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign season signed EIE’s Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge.
Trump pledged to, among other measures, “aggressively enforce existing federal laws to prevent the sexual exploitation of children online, including the federal obscenity laws, child pornography laws, sexual predation laws and the sex trafficking laws.” He pledged to appoint an attorney general who will make the prosecution of such laws a top priority, and to provide the intelligence community and law enforcement with necessary resources and tools to investigate and prosecute Internet crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children.
Much of pornography is protected by the First Amendment, according to the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, but pornography that falls into the categories of obscenity and child pornography are against the law.
Half of teenagers and nearly three-quarters of young adults come across pornography at least monthly, and both groups on average consider viewing pornographic images less immoral than failing to recycle, a 2016 study by Josh McDowell Ministry and the Barna Group found.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

1/26/2017 10:30:45 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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