January 2017

Former Tennessee GOP executive director joins ERLC

January 26 2017 by Baptist Press staff and ERLC

Former Tennessee GOP Executive Director Brent Leatherwood has been appointed as the new director of strategic partnerships for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

Brent Leatherwood


In this role, Leatherwood will work to further the organization’s reach in the public square through coalition building and mobilizing, and by serving as an advisor on both state-level and national policy goals.
 
“Brent Leatherwood is the perfect fit to serve as our director of strategic partnerships,” said ERLC President Russell Moore.
 
“He comes to this role with far-reaching political and organizing experience, deep concern for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a unique ability to join these together on issues in the public square. I can’t wait to unleash his skill on our task of equipping churches and advancing issues critical to Southern Baptists around the country.”
 
Leatherwood is a deacon at The Church at Avenue South, a Nashville church plant of Brentwood Baptist Church. He has served as the executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party from December 2012 to December 2016. There, he managed the organization’s campaign apparatus at the federal, state and local levels. Under his guidance, the Tennessee GOP helped elect more than 800 candidates, including several statewide offices – believed to be the most in any four-year timeframe in the organization’s history.
 
Leatherwood also has worked on Capitol Hill as a senior legislative aide to former Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla. In that role, he guided the domestic priorities for the Congressman on the House Budget Committee and the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
 
Leatherwood noted, “It’s an honor to join the talented team Dr. Moore has put together.”
 
“For years, I’ve worked in the political arena alongside some very good men and women. But I’ve come to realize that politics flows downstream from culture,” he said. “So, if I truly want to make a difference, I have to be active upstream. That means engaging the culture with gospel principles and Christian conviction. I’m grateful for this opportunity.”
 
Leatherwood and his wife Meredith have three children. He will serve the ERLC from its Nashville office.
 
Among Republicans who welcomed the news were:
 
– Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
 
“I cannot think of a better pairing than Brent Leatherwood and the ERLC,” Corker said. “He’s an articulate young man who builds bridges and makes a difference. I look forward to continuing to work with Brent and the ERLC,” he said.
 
Diane Black, R-Tenn., interim House Budget Committee chairman
 
“The ERLC is an important voice in the American debate and an agent of healing for our broken world,” she said. “That’s why I am so excited that a young conservative Tennessean like Brent Leatherwood is joining this important mission and I look forward to working with ERLC in the years ahead.”
 
Matt Pinnell, the national state party director of the Republican National Committee
 
“In his four years as the executive director of the Tennessee GOP, Brent proved to be an invaluable asset,” he said. “Whether it was his stewardship of the party or his ability to build relationships with peers across the nation, Leatherwood is the consummate professional. His addition to the ERLC shows Dr. Moore is serious about raising the profile of this organization and engaging on the issues that matter.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press from a report released by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission communications team.)
 

1/26/2017 9:52:06 AM by Baptist Press staff and ERLC | with 0 comments



Bible course in public elementary school under fire

January 25 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Bible courses offered as electives in U.S. public schools are being tested after the parent of a kindergarten student filed suit to halt such classes in Mercer County, W.Va.
 
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) lawsuit on behalf of an atheist identified as “Jane Doe” seeks to block Mercer County Public Schools (MCPS) from offering the course in the fall of 2017-2018, when her daughter “Jamie” would enter first grade.
 
“This program advances and endorses one religion, improperly entangles public schools in religious affairs, and violates the personal consciences of nonreligious and non-Christian parents and students,” FFRF said in a complaint filed Jan. 18 in U.S. District Court in southern West Virginia. “Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the ‘Bible in the Schools’ program violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and Article III, Section 15 of the West Virginia Constitution. ...”
 
MCPS Superintendent Deborah S. Akers, named as a defendant in the lawsuit, chose not to comment on the lawsuit to Baptist Press.
 
“We were served with the lawsuit January 23,” she told Baptist Press. “We will not answer questions about the program or provide information to the media until we have an opportunity to review the lawsuit with the Board and with counsel.”
 
Teresa Russell, an MCPS administrator, acknowledged the existence of the course in comments to the Associated Press (AP).
 
“I can verify that we do have a Bible in the Schools program,” she told AP. “I can verify that we do supervise that particular program. It is an elective course that students opt to take.”
 
The course has been offered for 75 years in MCPS and is available at 19 elementary and middle schools, the FFRF said in its lawsuit. The course was revised in 1986 after parents of eight students filed complaints, the FFRF said.
 
The FFRF described the course as unusual. “Something like this is extremely rare,” FFRF staff attorney Patrick Eliot told AP. “It’s not something most school districts do.”
 
It is legal for U.S. public schools to teach the Bible, but offering the course “is a difficult undertaking for public schools” because they would need “to include non-biblical sources from a variety of scholarly perspectives,” according to the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, a nonpartisan research and advocacy group offering educational resources on First Amendment rights.
 
The Supreme Court has held that such courses must be “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education,” according to “The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide” published by the Society for Biblical Literature.
 
“A relatively small number of lower court decisions have dealt directly with the constitutionality of Bible classes in public schools,” according to the guide. “These rulings show that the constitutionality of such classes is highly dependent on such factors as how the class is taught, who teaches it, and which instructional materials and lessons are used.”
 
The FFRF lawsuit said Jane Doe received information on the course from MCPS.
 
“Jane Doe does not wish for Jamie to participate in any school [Bible] courses or to be ostracized by other students or staff because of Jamie’s nonparticipation,” according to the lawsuit.
 
About 9,000 students are enrolled in MCPS, according to the school system’s website.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

1/25/2017 10:25:26 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Tornadoes: 2 Georgia Baptists killed; cleanup begins

January 25 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As the Southeast recovers from a deadly storm system that swept the region Jan. 21-23, Georgia Baptists are mourning the deaths of an elderly couple who were members of First Baptist Church in Nashville, Ga.

William Carey University photo
Following a Jan. 21 tornado at William Carey University, cleanup included the removal of some 100 totaled vehicles from campus.


Meanwhile, the president of William Carey University – a Mississippi Baptist Convention-affiliated school in Hattiesburg, Miss. – said the campus “looks a lot better” following initial cleanup efforts.
 
The Georgia couple, Russell and Ann Nix, died early Jan. 22 when a tree crashed through their home, according to Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index. They were among 15 people who lost their lives in south Georgia as a result of tornadoes.
 
In all, 20 deaths and 34 tornadoes have been confirmed in the Southeast Jan. 21-23, Weather.com reported.
 
Keith Stewart, pastor of First Baptist Church in Nashville, said deaths within the congregation were “sad and shocking.” Funeral services for the Nixes are scheduled Jan. 25 at First Baptist.
 
“You just don’t expect to lose members like that,” Stewart told the Index. In addition, “three or four of our members’ homes” sustained “significant damage” and “will most likely need to be bulldozed.”
 
First Baptist Church in Adel has been serving as a shelter following the storm, the Index reported. At least 20 of 96 homes in a mobile home park there were destroyed.
 
Joey Taylor, pastor of Springhead Baptist Church in Adel, said he “grew up in south Georgia” but “never experienced anything like this.”
 
“It’s unreal to see huge pine trees snapped in two like twigs,” Taylor, second vice president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, told the Index. “There is debris everywhere. To be standing inside ground zero is unbelievable.”
 
At least two Georgia Baptist disaster relief chaplains are ministering in Adel and nearby Albany, according to the Index.
 
Local officials are expected to request additional Baptist disaster relief workers after they conclude search and rescue operations, the Index told Baptist Press in an email.
 

William Carey

At William Carey, where only two buildings were spared from major damage in a Jan. 21 tornado, power has been restored and cleanup has started, the Hattiesburg American reported.
 
Workers began laying new roofs on damaged buildings Jan. 23, and towing companies cleared damaged student automobiles. Some 100 vehicles likely will “be completely totaled,” university president Tommy King told the American.
 
Some buildings initially thought to be ruined “might be salvageable,” King said following a Jan. 23 facilities review.
 
The university’s least damaged dormitories could reopen in a month, though repairs to other buildings are expected to take longer.
 
Historic Tatum Court, which houses the university’s administration, has a flooded basement and a demolished second floor, the American reported. A science building lost one wall, and another building lost its roof.
 
A schedule on William Carey’s website invites students to pick up vehicles and other possessions from campus Jan. 25-28.
 
Among other items damaged at the university were paintings on display at a gallery and archived documents and photos. All damaged paintings likely will be restored, according to the American. Archival materials were transported to nearby University of Southern Mississippi, where employees are working to restore them.
 
Some 35 cadavers were removed from the William Carey medical school in a refrigerated truck and stored in a local morgue.
 
Medical school classes have been moved to the Southern Mississippi campus and may begin Jan. 25. Other courses could resume online the same day, the American stated.
 
King said enduring Hurricane Katrina in 2005 helped William Carey prepare for subsequent disasters.
 
“We are blessed,” King said. “We have been through Katrina. We sort of know what to do. We’re looking good.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

Related articles:
Baptists mobilize after weekend storms in Southeast
Mississippi tornado damages William Carey University
 

1/25/2017 10:22:09 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Talk radio provides outlet for Christian worldview

January 25 2017 by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist

Just a few days after getting out of an airplane seat on a long-haul flight back from Egypt, a Baptist pastor found himself sitting in a different cozy seat across the table from radio host Greg Davis.

Photo by Neisha Roberts
Greg Davis, host of Priority Talk Radio, said he “could’ve never fathomed” that the idea he had for a talk radio show about ministry would become an almost daily experience he’s had for the past five years.


Some might call it the hot seat, that little leather chair in the radio studio of WXJC in Birmingham, Ala. But the way Davis sees it, it’s just a good place for a friendly discussion. On the day Davis talked with pastor Paul Brasher, the two spoke about the persecuted church in Egypt. Brasher shared about his opportunity to visit with a growing church that met in a garbage dump.
 
“The church over there, it’s vibrant, it’s growing,” said Brasher, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, Pell City, Ala.
 
That’s encouraging, Davis said. And that’s exactly the kind of thing the radio host wants listeners of his talk show, Priority Talk, to get to hear about.
 
Davis, who also leads a student ministry called First Priority of Alabama, sits at that table five days a week and talks with pastors, authors, actors, musicians and many others. And he invites anyone who is interested to listen in.
 
Desirable landing spot
“We try to bring the biblical or Christian worldview to whatever we talk about, no matter what kind of issue or topic it is,” he said.
 
That plus the fact that it’s a strong, 50,000-watt signal on FM radio makes his talk show a desirable landing spot for guests – some of whom are household names in many Christian homes – to be on the air, Davis said.
 
From Kirk Cameron to Squire Parsons, Mac Powell to James Dobson and pretty much every Southern Baptist Convention president from the past several years, Davis said he enjoys the variety of people he gets to talk to.
 
He also loves to feature Alabama pastors like Brasher.
 
“We’ve got a national reach and nationally known names in here pretty often, but we are also definitely local. That sets us apart,” Davis said. “If you’re looking to hear about what’s going on in the world from a different perspective than anywhere else, you’d enjoy listening to our program.”
 
Davis, a member of Beechwood Baptist Church, Mount Olive, Ala., first had the idea for the program more than five years ago when he was a regular guest on several of Crawford Broadcasting’s stations.
 
“I went on there a lot at the time to promote First Priority, and I got to thinking that I was sad that there wasn’t a place for authors, pastors and others to talk about ministry,” Davis said.
 
He mentioned that to them a few times.
 
Then one day, they decided he had a good point.
 
“The general manager was in town and they set me up to meet with her,” he said. “She said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do that show, and we want you to host it.’”
 
Davis wasn’t too sure about that at first. But he agreed to get together with some of his buddies and do it for a little while and see how it went.
 
“I thought it would be fun to do for a few months,” he said. “I could’ve never fathomed that more than five years later, we’d still be doing it.”
 
It’s been an amazing experience, he said.
 
“I get to sit down and have conversations with people and ask any question I want to ask,” he said. “It’s been really valuable for me personally, not just a fun job. We don’t think there’s any reason to waste our time talking about it unless it’s got something to help with building the Kingdom.”
 
And Priority Talk is a live radio show that takes phone calls, so Davis never knows exactly where a conversation will go, he said.
 
“But where most talk radio is driven by controversy, ours isn’t that way,” Davis said.
 
“We talk about hard issues,” he noted, “but we also have fun while we do it.”
 
Daily shows
Priority Talk airs weekdays from 2-4 p.m. and Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. on 92.5 FM or 850 AM in the Birmingham area (or you can listen live online from anywhere) and Sundays from 9-11 a.m. on WYDE (101.1 FM).
 
It also is available in podcast form on iTunes or on the show’s website.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist, thealabamabaptist.org, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)
 

1/25/2017 10:17:04 AM by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments



Couple with ‘no training’ reaches international students

January 25 2017 by Lisa Falknor, Arkansas Baptist News

He remembers thinking they did not have much time. Most Japanese exchange students attending Arkansas State University in Jonesboro stay at least a year; but this girl would be here a short six months.

Contributed photo
For 17 years, international students have been welcomed into the home of Ross and Jane Burton, members of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ark. The couple has used American culture to share Christ through the church’s adopt-a-college student ministry.


Ross Burton and his wife Jane hoped for time enough to use their everyday life in America as an inroad to share the gospel. It worked.
 
Burton baptized the student Dec. 4 at First Baptist Church Jonesboro, a place where members and college students connect through an adopt-a-college student ministry. Ross has been a part of this ministry for 17 years.
 
“It’s not in my job description, and I have no training in international ministry,” said Burton, church administrator.
 
The Burtons switched from adopting American students to adopting international students four years ago. That decision led to a two-week vacation in Japan last summer, a trip where he and his wife had to depend solely on four of their ex-adopted students and their families to navigate the language and to maneuver one of the busiest train stations in the world.
 
“If we had tried that trip on our own, we would’ve been lost and not seen much at all,” he said. “We never would’ve attempted visiting a country other than one where they speak English except for these kids we know.”
 
Like his adopted “kids,” the Burtons finally understood how it felt to be in a foreign country and how valuable a host family providing practical assistance can be. “I’ve taught them to drive; I’ve taken them to Sam’s Club,” he said. He even shares his hunting spoils. “Yesterday, I sent out a message: ‘Anyone who wants to try deer meat for the first time, come to our house.’ I cooked up some very, very fresh venison.”

Jane and Ross Burton


The short-term Japanese student who got baptized recently took Burton up on his offer to hear a brief lesson on an American favorite pastime: football. Burton told her he’d watch a TV football game with her, pause it when she had questions and explain the sport play-by-play.
 
After the football lesson, Burton used the drive back to her home to bring up Christianity.
 
“You’ve been coming to Sunday school and you have a Bible, do you have any questions I can answer?” he asked. She had also attended weekly English speaking classes sponsored by the Arkansas State University Baptist College Ministry.
 
“Actually, I’ve decided to become a follower of Jesus,” she said.
 
“Really?” Burton said. He was so excited he couldn’t even drive and had to stop the car.
 
This international student represents one of 6,507 in Arkansas, said Teresa “Bit” Stephens, Metro Baptist college minister in Little Rock, quoting the latest statistics beginning in December last year.
 
“The church is in a position to reach the nations with the gospel right here in Arkansas, right now,” Stephens said. “Students come from very close-knit families. For Americans to have internationals in their homes is prime opportunity for the hearts of internationals to be softened to the love of God they see and experience in the home. Ross Burton is a prime example of this.”
 
Missions Consultant for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention College & Young Leaders Team Lynn Loyd agrees.
 
“Within the next 25 years the United States population will shift to being a majority of minorities,” she said. “Cross-cultural life will be the new norm. Reaching international college students now is a great way to prepare our churches to be the church of the future.”
 
When Americans reach international students, those converted new believers take the gospel around the world, as this new Japanese believer’s itinerary shows.
 
“After school is over, she goes to Europe and then Germany and then India for six weeks to help with a school there,” Burton said. And, finally, she returns back home to start another semester at a university right where she started: Japan.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Falknor writes for the College & Young Leaders Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and is a correspondent for the Arkansas Baptist News, newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, where this article first appeared.)
 

1/25/2017 10:09:15 AM by Lisa Falknor, Arkansas Baptist News | with 0 comments



Myanmar’s military accused of abducting Baptist pastors

January 25 2017 by Anna K. Poole, WORLD News Service

Myanmar’s religious climate isn’t getting any warmer. As violence mounts in the Buddhist-majority nation, formerly known as Burma, the country’s military is increasingly under fire for human rights abuses, most recently the forced disappearance of two Baptist church leaders.  
 
In November, two men connected to the Kachin Baptist Convention, youth pastor Langjaw Gam Seng and associate pastor Dumdaw Nawng Lat, reportedly agreed to take journalists to see and photograph the rubble of a Catholic church. The building was hit by airstrikes in a clash between Myanmar’s military and the Brotherhood of the Northern Alliance, an ethnic insurgent group. A few weeks later, the Burmese army summoned the men to a military base in northern Shan state, a rural region pocked with guerrilla fighting.
 
The two pastors disappeared after the meeting, and according to Amnesty International, they “may have been detained by Myanmar authorities for their role in organizing a visit by journalists [to the church].”
 
The pastors were last seen on Christmas Eve, and the timing is not lost on local church leaders, who call the incident an example of unabashed religious oppression.
 
“There is this phenomenon called a ‘Christmas truce’ where two warring parties temporarily and unofficially halt their fire. But for the Burmese army, it is their way of insulting and undermining our Christian faith,” Rev. Hkalam Samson, chairman of the Kachin Baptist Convention, told The Irawaddy.
 
The Burmese army denies involvement in the disappearance of the two pastors, but government officials will not respond to questions from human rights groups or the men’s families.
 
“The apparent enforced disappearance of these two Christian leaders has created a climate of fear and terror in Northern Shan State,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of Fortify Rights.
 
The term “enforced disappearance” refers to a deliberately concealed abduction not acknowledged by government officials. The official denial of responsibility places victims at significant risk.
 
“Enforced disappearances violate various rights protected under international law, including prohibitions against arbitrary arrest and detention; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and extrajudicial execution,” according to Human Rights Watch.
 
This isn’t the first crime report against Myanmar’s army. Civil society organizations “have documented unlawful killings, torture, rape, forced labor and other abuses committed by Burmese military forces against civilians in Northern Shan and Kachin States,” according to a recent joint statement from Human Rights Watch and Fortify Rights.
 
The Kachin Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Christian denomination. While the population remains overwhelmingly Buddhist, like the rest of the nation, almost 10 percent of the state’s residents claim Christianity.
 
In 2015, two young women serving as volunteer teachers with the convention were brutally raped and murdered in Shan state. Locals immediately blamed the Burmese army, and called for an investigation. Two years later, the case remains unsolved, with no charges brought against the military.
 
Since November, northern Myanmar has erupted with clashes between the Burmese military and ethnic guerrilla fighters, triggering the flight of at least 3,000 civilians across the northern border into China. To the west, persecuted Rohingya Muslims have staged an armed resistance against Burmese security forces, but the backlash has driven at least 65,000 Rohingya refugees into neighboring Bangladesh.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Anna K. Poole writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

1/25/2017 9:59:13 AM by Anna K. Poole, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Mississippi tornado damages William Carey University

January 24 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

An EF3 tornado that ripped through southern Mississippi Jan. 21 in the wee hours of the morning damaged nearly all of the 30 buildings on William Carey University's Hattiesburg campus and left seven students injured.

William Carey University photo
Most of the vehicles and buildings on William Carey University’s Hattiesburg, Miss., campus were damaged by a Jan. 21 tornado.


William Carey is affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention and has campuses in Hattiesburg and Biloxi.
 
“The outpouring of support from not only here in Hattiesburg but also around the state and out of state has just been tremendous,” university spokeswoman Mia Overton told Baptist Press, adding, “Although the William Carey University campus is closed, the university is open and we are doing everything we can to continue operations.”
 
The tornado was among a line of storms to hit the Southeast Saturday and Sunday, killing at least 19 people and leaving damage from Mississippi to Georgia, according to media reports.
 
Four people died in southern Mississippi, CNN reported.
 
While there were no deaths on the William Carey campus, the injured included a member of the women's soccer team who lost three fingers when a door slammed on them, Overton said. A separate group of students was returning to campus as the storm struck, and it picked their car off the ground.
 
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported that three first-year medical students studying in the Medical Arts Building found themselves “surrounded by rubble.” In another building, a professor was in his third-floor office when much of the roof detached.

William Carey University photo
Medical school facilities were among the buildings to sustain damage from a Jan. 21 tornado at William Carey University.


Four buildings may have to be demolished and replaced, including Tatum Court, the “iconic building in the center of campus” erected in 1914, Overton said. The university “would like to try to save” Tatum Court “if at all possible. But we don't know if that's going to be feasible.”
 
Also facing potential demolition are two dormitories and the building housing William Carey's School of Business, Overton said. The Clarion-Ledger reported damage to most vehicles on campus and a “gaping hole” in Green Science Hall.
 
Of William Carey's approximately 4,400 students, 800 live on the Hattiesburg campus, Overton said, noting many had gone home for the weekend. There is no estimate how many people were on campus when the storm hit.
 
Campus residents who were unable to go home have been moved to temporary housing at the nearby University of Southern Mississippi.
 
In an effort to complete the winter trimester, online classes are continuing as scheduled and many traditional classes will move online, Overton said. Courses that cannot move online, like science labs, may meet at the University of Southern Mississippi or Pearl River Community College.
 
Students' immediate physical needs have been met, Overton said. Continuing relief efforts will focus on repairing the campus and helping students with expenses like lost textbooks and computers.
 
“The safety of our students and faculty and staff remains the top priority,” Overton said.
 
Jim Futral, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, wrote in the Baptist Record newsjournal that touring William Carey's campus made him realize “the school is not going to be able to open for weeks, or months, or maybe a year.”
 
Still, Futral wrote, “We will not fear and with the strength of God, the love and help of His people, the families all around ... Hattiesburg, and the large family at William Carey University that has come there from the four corners of the world, we will realize God is with us and He will be our deliverer.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)
 

1/24/2017 11:18:35 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Trump restores funding ban on foreign abortion groups

January 24 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

President Trump reinstated Jan. 23 a ban on federal funds for organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas in one of what is expected to be a series of executive orders overturning current policies.

CBS News screen capture


The order was among three the new president signed on his third day in office as part of his administration’s plan to make policy changes in such areas as health care, immigration, trade and the environment. On Monday, Trump also signed executive orders revoking a trade agreement with Asia known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and instituting a hiring freeze for federal government posts other than those in the military.
 
Acting the day after the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion, Trump signed an order restoring what is known as the Mexico City Policy, which President Obama had rescinded three days after he was inaugurated in 2009. The rule – first implemented by President Reagan at a 1984 conference in Mexico City – prohibits international family planning organizations from receiving federal funds unless they agree not to perform or counsel for abortions or lobby in order to liberalize the pro-life policies of foreign governments.
 
Pro-life advocates applauded Trump’s action.
 
“This decision will save lives, will encourage the hundreds of thousands of men and women who will march on Washington this week [at the Jan. 27 March for Life] for the rights of unborn children, along with millions more around the country who believe that foreign aid should promote life, not end it,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
 
“This is a welcome step in the right direction, and my hope is that the president will continue to defend human dignity and hold the predatory abortion industry accountable,” Moore said in a written release.
 
Rep. Diane Black, R.-Tenn., said in a written statement, “With this compassionate executive order, President Trump has turned the page from a sad chapter in his predecessor’s legacy and has already started to make good on his promises to the millions of pro-life Americans that helped him ascend to this office.”
 
She praised Trump “for protecting the conscience rights of American taxpayers and prioritizing federal funding for organizations that protect life over those that take it away.”
 
The Mexico City Policy has been on a political seesaw for more than three decades. After Reagan’s action, it remained in force until 1993, when President Clinton rescinded it. President George W. Bush reinstated it eight years later, only to see it overturned by Obama.
 
Only two organizations – the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International – had refused to abide by the Mexico City Policy in the years just prior to Obama’s repeal and consequently were refused the funds, Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) reported at the time. There were 650 organizations that accepted federal money under the restrictions, according to DFLA.
 
The ERLC and other pro-life organizations have urged Trump also to act with his executive authority to overturn the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate. That regulation from the Department of Health and Human Services helping implement the 2010 health-care law requires employers to provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives with mechanisms that can potentially induce abortions.
 
On the day of his inauguration, Trump issued his first executive order – one seeking to ease the impact of the 2010 health-care law. His order indicated his administration’s intent to repeal the controversial law and directed all federal departments and agencies to waive or delay provisions that would cause financial or regulatory burdens for states, individuals, health-care providers or insurance companies.
 
Shortly before the November election, Trump released a 100-day plan he described as his “Contract With the American Voter.” He included among his actions for immediate pursuit:
 

  • Renegotiation of or withdrawal from the North American Fair Trade Agreement;
  • Choosing a replacement for the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia from his list of 20 judges;
  • Removal from the country of more than two million illegal immigrants who are criminals;
  • Discontinuing immigration from “terror-prone regions;“
  • Elimination of billions of dollars in payments to United Nations climate-change programs.


Trump also committed to work with Congress to repeal and replace the health-care law, to divert education funds to school-choice programs and to stop illegal immigration by funding the construction of a wall on the Mexican border and other provisions.
 
The ERLC has also released agenda for 2017. Released Jan. 18, its Legislative and Policy Agenda includes:

  • Selection of a pro-life Supreme Court nominee to replace Scalia;
  • Defunding of Planned Parenthood, the country’s No. 1 abortion provider;
  • Appointment in quick fashion of an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom;
  • Passage of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would bar the federal government from penalizing an individual or institution for believing marriage is only between a man and a woman.
  • Enactment of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, which would institute a permanent, government-wide ban on federal funding of abortion.

 
The House of Representatives reportedly will vote Jan. 24 on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.
 
Travis Wussow, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy, told Baptist Press in written comments Trump’s “presidency creates many opportunities, including a pro-life Supreme Court justice, defunding Planned Parenthood and the repeal of the HHS mandate. We are praying for President Trump and Vice President [Mike] Pence, and we look forward to working with the new administration in these next crucial months.”
 
On the day of the inauguration, the ERLC’s Moore called for Christians to pray for Trump’s presidency to be “a great and good one” whether or not they voted for him.
 
In praying for Trump, Christians should request physical safety and wisdom, Moore wrote in an opinion piece for The Washington Post. They also should pray for him to lead the world toward peace and “to model what it means for an often-divided nation to live in peace and civility with one another, even when we disagree,” he said.
 
Moore urged Christians not to “undermine the legitimacy of our new president.”
 
“Evangelical believers can and often do publicly disagree with our elected officials over important issues, and holding those in power accountable is part of our duty,” Moore wrote. “But that accountability does not entail proclamations of ‘Not my president.’ Such statements were wrong and irresponsible when some said them during the last administration, and they are still wrong and irresponsible now applied to the new administration.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

1/24/2017 11:13:49 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Planned Parenthood wins 1st round of Title X funding fight

January 24 2017 by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service

A federal judge on Jan. 19 blocked an effort by the state of Texas to strip Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funding.
 
State officials announced plans last month to cut $3 million in funding, the final step in a long process to pull all government money from the nation’s largest abortion provider. In 2010, Planned Parenthood centers in Texas received $27 million in state funding.
 
Texas launched its final defunding effort after the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of undercover videos that allegedly showed Planned Parenthood executives and abortionists discussing methods for procuring aborted baby body parts for companies that sell them to researchers. A subsequent congressional investigation reportedly showed tissue providers made massive profits from body parts collected at Planned Parenthood centers.
 
“Your willingness to engage in these practices violates generally accepted medical standards, and thus you are not qualified to provide medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner,” Texas Health and Human Services Commission Inspector General Stuart Bowen wrote in a letter to Planned Parenthood last month.
 
But U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks chastised state lawyers for relying so heavily on the CMP videos as evidence. He called the videos “baloney” in regard to the Medicaid question, ordering attorneys to provide more information about the types of services Planned Parenthood provides in exchange for Medicaid money.
 
Although the abortion giant has yet to face prosecution for its role in the fetal tissue industry, the U.S. House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives referred Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast to the Texas attorney general for criminal prosecution earlier this month.
 
Texas is not the only state to see its defunding efforts halted by the courts. Similar measures in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi all ended in legal challenges. The Obama administration also fought to block state efforts to shrink Planned Parenthood’s income from taxpayers.
 
But pro-life advocates expect a drastic change under the new Trump administration and the new Republican-controlled Congress. In 2015, lawmakers passed a measure to reallocate Planned Parenthood funding to federally qualified health centers that don’t perform abortions. Former President Barack Obama vetoed it, but President Donald Trump has said he would support a similar bill.
 
The Texas defunding effort was set to go into effect this month. Sparks postponed it until Feb. 21, but he likely will rule on the legality of the measure before then.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Jones writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. WNS noted The Associated Press contributed to this report. Used by permission.)
 

1/24/2017 11:07:26 AM by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Siblings combine for 140 years of praise music

January 24 2017 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Tempted to skip choir practice? Maybe you should think about Mallory Carrick and his sister, Katy Palmer.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Katy Palmer, left, along with her brother, Mallory Carrick, right, were recognized by their church, Mountain View Baptist Church near Lexington, led by Pastor Tim Miller, center.


Carrick led the choir at Mountain View Baptist Church near Lexington from about 1945 to just a couple of years ago – about 73 years. He’s now 88 years old.
 
His sister, Katy Palmer, has played piano and organ at Mountain View for about 67 years. She’s now 82 years old, still playing on Sundays.
 
Between them, that’s 140 years of commitment to praising God through music nearly every Sunday.
Music wasn’t all they had done in their church. “They’ve done everything – Vacation Bible School, kids ministry, deacon, missions. Their lives have existed in and around the church. We just love them. They are precious people,” said Tim Miller, Mountain View pastor who’s a relative newcomer with his 11 years of service there.
 
That precious label is seconded by Mountain View member Bonnie Carrick, a distant cousin of Mallory and Katy through her husband.
 
“Mallory and Katy have always been available for everything – weddings or funerals. They would take time off work when needed. Mallory would always put his heart into whatever music he chose, and he would come up with appropriate music to sing. His love for missions has been overwhelming,” she said.

Besides music, Katy has always loved missions, whether overseas or home, Carrick said. “They’re always there for whatever.” Carrick has been a member of Mountain View for 56 years, and yes, Mallory and Katy were already serving when she joined the church.
 
Larry Phillips agrees with Carrick. He got to know Mallory and Katy between 1969-1973 as he served as pastor of Mountain View, his first pastorate. “I have known and observed Mallory and Katy for some 47 years. Since leaving Mountain View in the summer of 1973, we have maintained a close, personal relationship with the folks there. So much of who I am is what I learned from Mallory and Katy over these years. I will always cherish and value their touch upon my life and ministry,” he said.
 
It was Katy who encouraged Phillips to have a world missions conference at the church, and a Southern Baptist missionary from Africa wound up staying a week in the Phillips’ home. Phillips said that visit was the beginning of a missions journey for him and his wife, Kathy.
 
After he served at one other North Carolina church, they went on to serve as Southern Baptist missionaries in Peru for 20 years. Of late, Phillips uses the Spanish he learned in Peru to serve as immigrant ministries strategist for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina; he has ministered with the state’s Spanish speakers in several capacities for the convention over the years.
 
Phillips recalled how Mallory was able to “calm and encourage” his young and inexperienced pastor’s heart. “I knew him at his sock factory in Denton, at the local ball field, in his home, in the community, at the beach. In all those times and places, he has always been himself – one of the few Christian statesmen we still have with us,” he said.
 
Katy Palmer said it was in 1949 that Mountain View’s previous pianist had to quit for maternity leave. “So I started playing then,” she recalled. “I’d hate to hear what it sounded like,” she said with a grin.
 
She took piano lessons only during during grades five through seven. After that, it was mostly practice that honed her skills. She took on playing the organ after one was given to the church around 1970.

Mountain View presented Mallory and Katy with plaques of appreciation in a special service Nov. 6, 2016.
 
“It was real nice for people to come out and to be appreciated in that way,” Mallory said. “Of course, the work that has been done over the years was accomplished by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We don’t take any credit for it. It has been a real honor and privilege that the Lord let me be here these many years.”
 
He has missed a few Sundays of late because of his wife’s heart attack, but said, “I’m 88 years old and still coming to church.”
 
These days, Mallory is careful when he walks but is still firm of voice and handshake – and still drives his Chevy Impala to and from church.
 
He graduated from the local high school in 1945 and began his music ministry about then. “I love to hear a choir join together and sing praises. It’s just something that always built me up and helped me to worship. It was a blessing to me, and I think it’s good for people to sing,” he said.
 
He has stayed with hymns in the Baptist Hymnal over the years and is not overly fond of the changes he has seen creep in over the years. He gives “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” as an example of a good, solid hymn.
 
Mountain View has been a presence in the surrounding Southmont Community near Lexington for many years. It’s a rural area, but development around nearby High Rock Lake has brought in new people.
 
Some of the newcomers from other states come looking for a spiritual home and find a warm welcome at Mountain View.
 
Miller said the church averages around 100 in attendance on Sundays, way up from the 30 or so in church when he began serving as pastor. The lively church is growing, and he praised the spirit of unity he sees. There is no hint of decline or plateau in Mountain View; a children’s church time each Sunday morning is a key part of the service.
 
He is especially pleased with the church’s outreach ministry to children. The ministry uses two vehicles to collect 15 to 30 children around the community on Sunday morning and evening and bring them to services. The church provides them with lunch  and dinner as well as Bible teaching and other activities.
 
“If we’re late, they’ll call the church and ask if we’re coming to get them today,” Miller said.
 
The church also supports missions beyond the local community by contributing through the Cooperative Program and the Southern Baptist mission offerings.
 
On Miller’s office wall are an architect’s sketches for a multi-purpose building he would like to see the church construct one day; it would house several community-focused ministries and be built onto the present building, which originally was a one-room schoolhouse built in 1939.
 
Just as that modern new building will be added onto an earlier foundation, Mountain View’s present and future growth in membership and faith will be added to the foundational ministry of members like Katy and Mallory and their long-time commitment to the gospel.
 

1/24/2017 9:06:48 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



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