January 2017

Baptists mobilize after weekend storms in Southeast

January 24 2017 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists throughout the Southeast have started responding to a deadly storm system that reportedly claimed the lives of at least 19 people from Georgia to Mississippi over a two-day period.

Fox News screen capture

Severe weather, which lasted Jan. 20-22 in the region, extended into South Carolina and north Florida. According to the Associated Press, 39 possible tornadoes were reported in the Southeast.
Georgia Baptist Mission Board disaster relief leader Stuart Lang says chaplains headed into the impacted regions of the state Jan. 23 as Georgia Baptists begin the process of assessing needs. At least seven people died in tiny Adel, Ga., alone. More lost their lives when a twister hit near Albany.
“There’s really not much we can do now because counties are still in search-and-rescue mode,” Lang said. “They’re still trying to catch their breath and figure out what happened yesterday.”
Lang says the first unit will likely not arrive in the area until Tuesday at the earliest. He expects that first unit will probably serve in Albany. It will be several days before the volunteers will be able to serve in Adel, one of the hardest-hit locations in the state, because they must wait for approval by the county government. Currently, there is a curfew in the town.
Lang noted chaplaincy will play a large role in Georgia Baptist’s response to the disaster. At least 14 of those who were killed throughout the region were in the state. It will be a wind-damage cleanup, Lang said, which usually means debris cleanup and tree removal.
“Right now we’re assessing, we’re praying, we’re encouraging, we’re waiting,” he said.
Lang asks Southern Baptists to pray for Georgia residents who have lost loved ones and homes in the storms.
“Pray for opportunities for our disaster relief volunteers to not only help restore order but to share their faith and win people to Jesus,” Lang said. “Pray that our churches will be lighthouses in the midst of a dark storm in South Georgia.”
Mississippi Southern Baptists have set up a base of operations at Petal Baptist Church in Petal, Miss., outside of Hattiesburg. Forty volunteers are on the ground already providing hope and healing for the region. Mississippi feeding teams are supporting Red Cross efforts and serving through Petal Baptist for a total of 2,500 to 3,000 meals per day.
Don Gann, who directs disaster relief efforts for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, expects Mississippi Baptists to provide meals throughout the week. A team of Louisiana Baptists is also on the way to an impacted region of the state.
Gann noted that William Carey University, a Mississippi Baptist school in Hattiesburg, was hit hard by the storm. Nearly all of its 30 buildings were reported to be damaged. He said that disaster relief teams were available to help the college if needed as well.
“We certainly hope that those impacted by these storms see that Mississippi Baptists and Southern Baptists care about them, are willing to get dirty with them and try to help them out,” Gann said.
Mark Wakefield, who directs Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief, says his state wasn’t impacted as much as Georgia or Mississippi by the storms, but there still are pockets of damage throughout the state. He has heard a report of a retired director of missions in the state whose home was destroyed by the storms.
Disaster relief teams from Alabama’s Elmore Baptist Association and the Tuskegee Lee Baptist Association began serving this weekend in local impacted areas.
Wakefield says Alabama Baptist volunteers are standing by and prepared to help if needed by other state Baptist conventions in the region.
Later this week Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders will celebrate 50 years of ministry at a special event in Denton, Texas.
The North American Mission Board coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

1/24/2017 9:05:01 AM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pro-life evangelicals to gather in nation’s capital

January 23 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) partnered with Focus on the Family to host their second annual Evangelicals for Life Conference Jan. 26-28 in conjunction with the 2017 March for Life in Washington D.C.

The conference features more than 50 speakers and panelists, including ERLC President Russell Moore; Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; Matt Chandler, teaching pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and president of church planting network Acts 29; Jennifer Marshall, vice president of The Heritage Foundation; and many more.
Speaker and panel session topics will include legislative and judicial issues, human trafficking, foster care, adoption, crisis pregnancy ministry, pro-life church leadership and others.
The event schedule reserves a block of time for attendees to participate in the 44th Annual March for Life on Jan. 27. Organizers encourage participants to join tens of thousands of pro-life advocates for a rally near the Washington Monument at noon, followed by a march along the National Mall to the steps of the United States Supreme Court.
To offer a snapshot of the conference, the Biblical Recorder interviewed event speaker John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Below is the lightly edited transcript.
Q: Why does the Colson Center exist?

A: To help Christians think clearly about culture and act in a way that helps to restore the culture. This is one of the legacies of Chuck Colson. After spending so many years in prison, [the former special counsel to President Richard Nixon] wanted to start focusing on what was happening in the culture that was creating an alarming spike in the prison population. We carry on that part of his legacy, helping to bring clarity to the church on what’s happening in the culture through the lens of a Christian worldview.
Q: The title of your talk at the 2017 Evangelicals for Life conference is “Respecting human dignity through civil discourse.” When life or death issues like abortion and euthanasia are part of the current cultural conversation, is civility really that important?
A: The reason we care about these issues is because of what we believe to be true. The reason we ought to be civil is because of what we believe to be true. In other words, it’s not a strategy, it is a requirement because every person we meet is made in the image and likeness of God.
That’s not a negotiable fact in the Christian worldview. It’s central. It’s one of the central questions of any worldview – “Who are we? What is a human person?”
Every single person, as C.S. Lewis observed, is someone eternal who reflects the image of God, who bears inherent dignity of being an image bearer. So, civility is not an option. It’s not a strategy.
We need to understand, too, that when you start talking about the darker cultural moments throughout church history, and even some of the issues we’re dealing with today, you can be as civil as you want and it’s not going to work. There are few people more civil than Baronelle Stutzman, the florist grandmother [who was sued for refusing to make floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding], and yet she’s still called a bigot, intolerant and hateful.
Civility doesn’t win the day. You’re civil because of what is true about human people.

Submitted photo
John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview

Q: Why do you think people are tempted to become uncivil in public discourse?
A: The mediums of communication we use lend themselves to incivility, or either a lack of caring about civility. For example, Twitter allows us to be anonymous. We feel like we’re talking to a handle instead of a real person. We say things on social media that we would never say to someone’s face. It’s mainly because of that illusion of anonymity. So, at some level, it’s the mechanics of what we use.
Another thing is that the cultural conversation has lacked civility for so long, we think it’s the rules of the game. We’re not thinking differently on how to engage the public square.
The public square is an uncivil place in many ways. That’s why the proverb, “A soft answer turns away wrath,” is one of the most familiar yet neglected. I mean, who does that? “A soft answer” – that’s a revolutionary thing to say.
In reality, most of what we do is respond with the same attitude as the person who is challenging us. The idea of offering a soft answer doesn’t even occur to us many times because of our human nature.
We’re now in a culture-wide discourse that lacks civility.
The third thing is understanding that we’re not just dealing with disagreements about specifics. We’re dealing with disagreements about universals. We’re not just talking about the color of a building’s paint job. We’re talking about the building’s foundation, to use that metaphor.
When we disagree on who gets into which bathroom or the definition of marriage, these are surface level indications that we’re disagreeing on the most important questions in human history – questions about the meaning of life, the purpose of our existence, morality and norms. These aren’t just small disagreements.
The public discourse right now is divided by opinions on the most important questions of any culture. We’re dealing with very deep rifts. And we’re dealing with them in a culture in which the discourse has already gotten out of hand, and we’re using tools that are inadequate to treat people well. What could possibly go wrong?
Q: Can you offer any practical tips on how to sustain civil discourse when we disagree passionately with someone over pro-life issues?
A: We don’t want to pretend like those deep rifts don’t exist. The answer is not just, “Well, be nice.” We’re dealing with issues in which there is an awful lot at stake, including human destiny, human value, dignity and so on. To pretend like there is really no disagreement is foolish.
We need to be clear. The level of clarity that we need is as great as ever. Part of that clarity, then, is understanding the difference between those things that are political divides and those that are theological essentials.
In an age in which the discourse has become so uncivil and politically divisive, it’s kind of all-or-nothing. There’s no room for people who agree on certain things but not on the whole package – the whole Republican package or Democratic package. Christians need to be clearer than that.
We can’t just go down the party line because that’s where the platform is. We need to have the ability to discern and distinguish between those things that are essential and those that aren’t.
The other thing is there’s just no substitute for relational capital. If you tend to know someone and know the names of their children, you’re probably less apt to send out a tweet that is uncivil.
We need to get past the devices that separate us into places where we can actually look each other in the eyeball and know each other’s name and think about what’s best for each other.
In our culture, there’s not always the opportunity to get to know people with whom you deeply disagree. We need to be razor sharp and laser clear on this idea that every single person is made in the image and likeness of God.
Now is the time for clarity, courage and conviction – and that should lead us to compassion. We’ve got to have it now, because the issues that we’re debating are so important.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Visit evangelicals.life/simulcast/ to register for a free simulcast.)
1/23/2017 2:18:58 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Danny Akin reminds students to ‘be doers of the Word’

January 23 2017 by Harper McKay, SEBTS

Faculty and staff of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and The College at Southeastern welcomed students to a new spring semester at the Jan. 19 convocation service. President Danny Akin delivered the convocation address, speaking from Matthew 7 about obedience to God’s Word.

SEBTS photo
“It is not enough just to hear the Word, just to study the Word,” said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, to students at the convocation service Jan. 19. “If all you are is a collector of knowledge, you are a fool.”

“Every one of us in this room today has a source of authority that shapes our worldview,” said Akin, adding that these sources of authority come from four main categories, including reason, experience, tradition and revelation.
“Revelation is that which affirms that I think the way I think because God’s word says so,” he said. “This is the only reliable source of authority and the only place we gain knowledge and wisdom.”
Akin offered his definition of wisdom as the ability to look at life as God sees life and then to respond accordingly.
Turning to the familiar parable of the house on the sand in Matthew 7, Akin warned against amassing knowledge of God’s word without applying it to one’s life.
“It is not enough just to hear the Word, just to study the Word,” he said. “If all you are is a collector of knowledge, you are a fool.”
Fitting for the beginning of a semester, Akin told students to keep in mind they could earn all the degrees in seminary and still be far away from God.
“On the surface initially, there doesn’t seem to be any difference between the two men who built the houses,” he said. “What then is the difference? Their foundation and obedience to the word.”
In his final encouragements, Akin added, “I plead with you my brothers and sisters, as you enter into your studies, don’t just be a hearer of the word. Be a hearer and a doer, and let the Lord bless you in your work.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Harper McKay is a news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

1/23/2017 1:33:47 PM by Harper McKay, SEBTS | with 0 comments

God & inaugurations: Baptists continue tradition

January 23 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The participation of at least five Southern Baptist pastors in inaugural activities for President Donald Trump continues a tradition of prayer, scripture and references to God surrounding presidential inaugurations dating back to George Washington.

Screen capture from Fox News
Evangelist Franklin Graham read from 1 Timothy 1 and 2 at President Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress preached Jan. 20 at a private worship service for the families of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at St. John’s Church near the White House. The service is a pre-inauguration tradition dating back to the 1933 inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt, according to the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.
A Jan. 21 National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington featured Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, Texas pastors Jack Graham and Ramiro Peña and California pastor David Jeremiah. The National Prayer Service tradition also dates to at least 1933, according to a press release from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
The inauguration ceremony itself featured prayers, a scripture reading by evangelist Franklin Graham, two Bibles used for Trump’s oath of office and a continuation of the tradition of presidents’ invoking God in their inaugural addresses.
“This is a time of change for America and the world,” pastor Jack Graham said in a statement. “At moments, it has felt as if so much hangs in the balance. Yet, I believe we can approach this new era of our nation’s history with hope, for one thing hasn’t changed – we remain ‘One Nation Under God.’”
Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, preached from the biblical book of Nehemiah. His sermon was titled “When God Chooses a Leader,” according to Jeffress’ Twitter account.
“I told you that you would be the 45th president of the United States long before the first primary vote,” Jeffress told Trump in the sermon according to a tweet by Trump social media and senior advisor Dan Scavino.
At the National Prayer Service, Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, will lead in prayer “for those who serve,” according to the Inaugural Committee. Peña, pastor of Christ the King Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, will lead in The Lord’s Prayer. Scripture readings will be presented by Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, and Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.
Jeffress, Jack Graham, Floyd and Jeremiah all serve on Trump’s 25-member Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.
Franklin Graham’s appearance at the inauguration was the sixth at a presidential inauguration by either Graham or his father, evangelist Billy Graham, according to media reports. Richard Nixon’s 1969 inauguration was the first time Billy Graham offered an inaugural prayer.
Trump set a record with six total invocations and benedictions, inauguration historian Jim Bendat told Baptist Press in an email. The tradition of prayers at presidential inaugurations dates back to Franklin Roosevelt, The Hill reported.
To take his oath of office, Trump placed his hand on two Bibles: one used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 and again by President Obama at both of his inaugurations, and another given to Trump by his mother in 1955.
Though the tradition of using a Bible for the oath of office is not a legal requirement, the custom dates back to Washington’s first inauguration in 1789, Bendat wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. Washington’s Bible was used by four subsequent presidents: Warren Harding, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.
“Records from 1793, 1797 and most of the first half of the 19th century are silent on whether a Bible was used, and in 1825, John Quincy Adams placed his hand on a book of constitutional law instead,” Bendat wrote.
Private inaugural ceremonies with no Bible, Bendat stated, were conducted for Rutherford Hays (1877), Chester Arthur (1881), Theodore Roosevelt (1901), Calvin Coolidge (1923) and Obama in 2009 after Chief Justice John Roberts incorrectly recited the oath of office during the public ceremony.
The Museum of the Bible, set to open in Washington later this year, posted a series of videos on social media about Bibles used by various presidents for the oath. Among the historical facts noted:
– Harry Truman took his oaths in 1945 and 1949 on a Bible opened to The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. In 1949, he also used a copy of the Guttenberg Bible opened to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17.
– Lyndon Johnson took his 1965 oath on a Bible given to him by his mother, opened to 2 Chronicles 1:10. Johnson was the first president whose wife held the Bible during his oath.
– Carter took his 1977 oath with Washington’s Bible and a Bible given to Carter by his mother, opened to Micah 6:8.
– Ronald Reagan took his 1981 and 1985 oaths on his mother’s King James Bible opened to 2 Chronicles 7:14.
With Trump’s mentions of God in his inaugural address, including a quotation of Psalm 133:1, every U.S. president to be inaugurated has referenced prayer or the Bible in his inaugural address.
Though some counts of divine references in inaugural addresses exclude Hays and Theodore Roosevelt – for example, a 2013 assessment by NPR – Hays referenced “guidance of that Divine Hand” in 1877 and Roosevelt referenced “gratitude to the Giver of Good” in 1905.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/23/2017 10:10:18 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

What should churches do to protect human life?

January 23 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Churches must be intentional in protecting the lives of the unborn and caring for the most vulnerable among us, leaders across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) said as the SBC observed Sanctity of Human Life Sunday Jan. 22.
John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and SBC recording secretary, expressed hope for the reversal of elective abortion rights when he called churches to action in a blogpost on the MBC website.
“Science has corrupted the rationale that the Supreme Court used to decriminalize elective abortions and eventually the infamous decision will be overturned,” he said, citing scientific findings that a baby’s heart begins to beat on the 16th day in utero. “However, more than ever before, people need our help and love to walk through the tough dilemmas of life. As a child of the King of kings, you can be a voice in your workplace, schoolhouse and community for the voiceless innocents.”
J. Chris Schofield, director of the Office of Prayer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said churches can be successful in ministry to protect the lives of the most vulnerable by intentionally praying for them.
“We move toward the things we pray toward,” Schofield, who also leads the PrayerLink ministry to Southern Baptists, told Baptist Press. “If we pray for them, we’ll want to come alongside them” in relationship and ministry.
Daniel Darling, vice president of communications for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, encouraged Southern Baptists to “inform, educate, and build a culture where human dignity is championed.”
“Do what you can for life,” Darling wrote in the January issue of Mature Living Magazine, a LifeWay Christian Resources publication. “It’s important for Christians to be pro-life, not simply on the issue of abortion but to see the image of God in every human being.”
From Darling come several recommendations to that end. Among them:
– Develop a pregnancy care ministry or partner with pregnancy care ministries already active in the community.
“The reality is that in your community today, there are vulnerable young women who are contemplating what to do with their unexpected pregnancy,” Darling said. “Each one is scared to tell loved ones and unsure of how she will be able to raise a child. The one place in the community where she should find hope is the church.”
– “Read and study the issue.” Darling points Southern Baptists to Genesis 1:26, which proclaims God made humans in His image, and Psalm 139, which states that God knits new life in the mother’s womb. He recommends the books Why Pro-Life? by Randy Alcorn, The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf, and Women on Life by Trillia Newbell; as well as the websites erlc.com and focusonthefamily.com.
Yeats also employs scripture in encouraging families to instill in their children from an early age the value of human life.
“Explain to [children] the uniqueness of God’s creation of people and His purpose for every person, no matter who they are or what they might have done or what their ethnicity,” Yeats said. “Use Psalm 139 as a primer to help them understand God’s purposefulness. Remind children that all people matter to God, and it doesn’t matter if the person is in ‘Mommy’s tummy’ or in a wheelchair at a nursing facility.”
Yeats also suggests:

  • Encouraging, facilitating and celebrating adoptive and foster families within the local church; 
  • Volunteering in a local crisis pregnancy center, and 
  • Taking time to “mourn the loss of millions of little children and face up to the circumstances their mothers must have faced that drove them to such a horrific decision.”

Schofield offered three key areas of prayer in sanctity of life ministry:

  • Pray that people involved in decisions related to human life, including mothers and medical personnel, would “draw near to the Lord,” as James 4:28 encourages. A personal relationship with Jesus would enable people to view the value of life from the Lord’s perspective, Schofield said.
  • Pray for churches to get involved in pregnancy crisis centers and the lives of individuals on a level that goes deeper than the surface;
  • Pray for the restoration of those who’ve had abortions.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

1/23/2017 10:07:39 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Trump pledges ‘America first’ in inaugural speech

January 23 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Americans will once again come first in their own country, Donald Trump said Jan. 20 after being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Screen capture from CNN.com
In his 16-minute inaugural speech, Donald Trump told the crowd, “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first. Every decision ... will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”

In his 16-minute inaugural speech, Trump told the crowd gathered on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol and the national mall, “What truly matters is not which party controls the government but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20, 2017, will be known as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.”
He said, “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first. Every decision ... will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
Trump – the billionaire businessman who shocked many observers by defeating a crowded field of Republican opponents before upsetting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton – took the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts and succeeded Barack Obama, who served eight years as the first African-American president.
His victory in November concluded a rancorous political campaign that featured not only a deep division among Americans but a clear difference of opinion among Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians regarding his candidacy.
In his speech, Trump sought to appeal to all citizens, saying, “We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.
“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”
Trump said of citizens who desire good schools and jobs, plus safe neighborhoods, “These are just and reasonable demands of a righteous people and a righteous republic.”
He seemed to equate America with the people of God on one or more occasions.
Trump cited Psalm 133:1 in saying, “The Bible tells us, ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’”
He also said, “We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.”
America is plagued by poverty, closed factories and a failed education system, Trump said. “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
“I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down,” he said. “America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.”
Trump signaled an apparently different approach to international relations, saying, “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.”
And regarding the threat to America’s security, he said the United States would “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.”
Evangelicals and other social conservatives are hopeful Trump will help advance policies protecting the sanctity of human life and religious liberty. He is expected to issue some executive orders reversing those instituted by Obama. Trump can overturn the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate without congressional action. That regulation from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires employers to provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives with mechanisms that can potentially induce abortions.
During the election campaign, some Southern Baptists and other evangelicals made clear their intention to vote for Trump because of his promises to nominate conservative justices to the Supreme Court and to support pro-life measures. Others declared they could vote for neither Trump nor Clinton because of character and/or policy issues.
On Election Day, 81 percent of voters who identified themselves as “white evangelical or white born-again Christians” said in exit polls they chose Trump.
Before Trump received the oath of office, Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas swore in the new vice president, Mike Pence.
Protests, sometimes violent, took place at several events before and after the inauguration. On Friday morning, protesters blocked some security checkpoints to the National Mall in an effort to prevent people from attending the inauguration, according to The Washington Post. In addition, nearly 70 Democrats in the House of Representatives boycotted the inaugural ceremony, the newspaper reported.
Reading Bible passages during the inaugural ceremony were Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.
Offering prayers were Paula White-Cain, a televangelist and Florida pastor; Marvin Hier, a Jewish rabbi and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and Wayne Jackson, a Detroit pastor.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/23/2017 9:56:11 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Trump cabinet picks draw Baptist prayer support

January 20 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

When U.S. Rep. Tom Price and Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt faced Senate confirmation hearings Jan. 18, they were supported by prayers of the Southern Baptist churches they attend.

Contributed photo
Pastor Nick Garland, right, and Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt pray during a worship service at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., the Sunday before Pruitt’s Senate confirmation hearing.

The two cabinet nominees of President-elect Donald Trump also appeared at their confirmation hearings with endorsements from some evangelicals who did not support Trump in the presidential election.
Price, a regular attendee at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., has been nominated as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Pruitt, a member of Tulsa-area First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., has been nominated as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt also is a trustee at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Another Southern Baptist, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, was announced Jan. 18 as Trump’s choice for agriculture secretary.
Johnson Ferry pastor Bryant Wright, a former Southern Baptist Convention president, told Baptist Press (BP) his “conscience would not allow [him] to support Trump” in the presidential election “for a multitude of” reasons. But he “could not be more pleased with his cabinet appointments.”

Tom Price

Price attends Johnson Ferry when he is in the Atlanta area, Wright said, noting the congressman “is greatly respected in our congregation and in our district.” Wright noted church members responded with enthusiasm when he extended a call via Twitter to pray for Price during his confirmation hearing.
Last year, Price was the speaker at Johnson Ferry’s July patriotic service and explained “the importance of exercising our faith in the public sphere – and faith in Christ very specifically,” Wright said. “He didn’t mince any words about that.”
Wright characterized Price as “totally pro-life,” “very much for religious liberty” and a man of “absolute integrity.”
CNN reported that Price, an orthopedic surgeon and chair of the House Budget Committee, has voted to defund Planned Parenthood and opposes embryo-destructive stem cell research.
During Price’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Democrats raised ethical questions about his investments in health care companies that allegedly could have benefitted from legislation he authored, Politico reported. Price denied any wrongdoing.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., criticized Price’s support of defunding Planned Parenthood and said she has “serious concerns” about his “understanding of women’s need for basic health care,” according to Politico.
Price told senators, “Our approaches to policies may differ, but there surely exists a common commitment to public service and compassion for those we serve,” according to a written copy of his testimony.

Scott Pruitt

The Sunday preceding Pruitt’s confirmation hearings, First Baptist Broken Arrow devoted 15-20 minutes in each of its two morning worship services to pray for him and his family, pastor Nick Garland told BP.
In addition, a small group of Christian men from around Oklahoma has gathered with Pruitt to pray multiple times since his nomination to lead the EPA was announced, said Garland, a member of the prayer group. At Pruitt’s request, the group has prayed for him regularly since his election as state attorney general in 2010.
“When we meet for prayer,” Garland said, “I’m always amazed at a fresh word he’s gotten from God’s Word in a personal devotional time.”
During Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee accused him “of ignorance of climate science, a disregard for millions of Americans whose health is being harmed by air pollution and an inappropriately cozy relationship with big energy companies,” The Los Angeles Times reported.
Despite claims by critics that Pruitt denies climate change, NPR reported Jan. 19 it has “not found an example of Pruitt explicitly saying he doesn’t believe in climate change.”
Pruitt told Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., “I do not believe climate change is a hoax,” according to media reports. Later, Pruitt told Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., “I believe the ability to measure, with precision, the degree of human activity’s impact on the climate is subject to more debate than whether the climate is changing or whether human activity contributes to it.”
Pruitt, who has sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma’s attorney general, told senators, according to his written testimony, he believes the agency has at times overstepped its legal boundaries and that states should “remain our nation’s frontline environmental implementers and enforcers” in partnership with the EPA.
Garland said Pruitt has “maintained his Christian witness” through an at times contentious confirmation process.
“He doesn’t get wrinkled or riled up easily,” Garland said. “He’s a very calm, cool and collected individual.”
Pruitt drew support in December from a coalition of 48 evangelical leaders, including Wright, who sent a letter to Trump backing his choice for EPA administrator.
Among the letter’s signatories, some who did not support Trump during his presidential campaign, were 12 former Southern Baptist Convention presidents; current SBC President Steve Gaines; 14 current and former SBC entity heads, including all six current SBC seminary presidents; and 17 state Baptist convention executive directors.
Price and Pruitt both are expected to receive Senate votes within a week of Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration, Fox News reported.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/20/2017 12:28:54 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Seminary professor reflects on pleas to flip vote

January 20 2017 by Marilyn Stewart, Baptist Press

A raucous presidential election year turned personal for Lloyd Harsch, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) history professor, when his seminary inbox filled with more than 90,000 emails from distraught voters.

Contributed photo
Lloyd Harsch, a member of this year’s Electoral College, received phone calls, a fax, 90,000 emails and about 2,000 letters from distraught voters following a volatile presidential election. Harsch is also a history professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Harsch is a member of this year’s Electoral College.
As Harsch, with wife Jill, travel this week to attend the presidential inauguration and ceremony festivities in Washington, D.C., emails and letters continue to come in. The nature of the emails gave Harsch pause.
“I had to evaluate [voters’] concerns about the purpose of the Electoral College,” Harsch said. “I had to ask, ‘What was it designed to do?’ and ‘What is my actual responsibility?’”
Most expressed genuine concern, Harsch said, and the few veiled in innuendo or threat were passed on to authorities.
Louisiana is one of 21 states whose electors are “unbound,” meaning they are not constrained legally to vote for their party’s nominee, the winner of the state’s popular vote.
Phone calls, a fax, and about 2,000 letters – nearly all from voters out of state – were received by Harsch who was elected last June by a Republican party caucus to represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes the heavily Democratic Orleans Parish.
The Louisiana GOP posted a statement on its website calling the targeting of the state’s eight electors “unprecedented harassment.”
As a professor and director of the NOBTS Institute for Faith and the Public Square, Harsch’s seminary contact information is readily available online, yet letters arrived at Harsch’s home address as well.
Harsch said the emails and letters – some severe – expressed concern regarding President-elect Donald Trump’s fitness for office, a fear of foreign interference, and Trump’s loss in the national popular poll. Harsch fashioned his response by looking to the Federalist Paper No. 68.
“I determined the Electoral College was never designed to be a ‘redo’ of the election,” Harsch said.
From the nation’s beginnings, Harsch noted, electors were chosen based on their alignment with a particular candidate and that going against the voters’ wishes would require “extraordinary” circumstances.
Prior to casting his vote for Trump at the Dec. 19 Louisiana Electoral College convening in Baton Rouge, Harsch read a statement thanking those who voiced their concerns and explaining his decision: “... I have examined the options before me carefully. I have determined to have the courage of my convictions. I will heed the voices of the majority of voters ... in Louisiana.”

Lloyd Harsch

‘Significant issues’ at stake

Harsch said he supported the Republican candidate because there were “significant issues” surrounding the Democratic nominee and that deeper concerns were at stake.
“In essence, I voted for the integrity of the Supreme Court,” Harsch said. “For me, it was issues of life and religious liberty.”
Religious liberty concerns intensified for many pro-life voters when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s statements at the sixth annual Women in the World Summit, April 23, 2015, came to light.
Clinton stated, “Yes, we’ve cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth. ... Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will, and deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”
In the same speech, Clinton criticized Hobby Lobby despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that forcing a family-owned and operated business to provide four abortion-inducing drugs was a violation of the owners’ religious freedom. Clinton said, “America moves forward when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby.”
Harsch distinguished between what a believer’s participation in the public square can do and what it can’t do.
“We need Christians in the public realm so that a biblical worldview has a voice,” Harsch said. “It is a trap to think that politics is the means of establishing a biblical worldview.”

Connecting needs to solutions

Harsch’s first connection with politics came when he realized he shared a birthday with President Richard Nixon. And religious liberty caught his interest when a deacon at his home church in North Dakota ran for the U.S. Senate. Harsch, as a youth, mistakenly thought that separation of church and state meant he could not openly support the family friend.
While a Ph.D. student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Harsch served as an election judge for his precinct, working with both parties. In New Orleans, Harsch serves on the Republican State Central Committee and is currently filling his fourth term on the Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee, an elected position.
While the executive committee includes 14 positions, Harsch said there never have been enough candidates running to fill all slots. “I’m a small fish in an even smaller pond,” Harsch quipped.
Harsch said he sees his involvement in politics as a means of helping connect those with needs to those who have solutions. Though he once attended the Republican National Convention as an alternate delegate, his invitation to the inauguration is, for him, a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

1/20/2017 12:14:33 PM by Marilyn Stewart, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

LifeWay releases new Christian Standard Bible

January 20 2017 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay

LifeWay Christian Resources released its newly revised Bible translation this week. The full text of the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is available at CSBible.com, with print versions releasing in early March.

As a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the CSB balances linguistic precision to the original languages and readability in contemporary English.
“We believe this is a translation that combines accuracy and readability without compromise,” said Trevin Wax, Bible and reference publisher at B&H Publishing Group, part of LifeWay Christian Resources.
Independent research from the Global Bible Initiative reported the CSB had the best combination of adherence to the original text and readability for a modern audience.
“With the CSB, Bible readers and teachers can rest assured they have a translation that communicates ancient truths to a contemporary audience as faithfully and clearly as possible,” Wax said.
More than 100 Bible scholars from 17 denominations translated the HCSB from the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.
The CSB revision and oversight committee, a team of top biblical scholars, incorporated advances in biblical scholarship since the original translation, as well as input from Bible scholars, pastors and readers to provide an accurate and readable translation.
“This team has delivered a translation that hits the sweet spot between fidelity and readability,” Wax said.
Tom Schreiner, professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and David Allen, dean and professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, co-chaired the multi-denominational committee.
LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer said he was excited about the release of the CSB. “We know millions of pastors, teachers and Bible readers have a commitment to God’s Word. At LifeWay, we share that commitment.
“Because God’s Word is faithful and true, we wanted to provide a translation that is faithful to the original text, while being highly readable,” Rainer said. “I believe the CSB will engage more people in reading and sharing God’s Word.”
Already, the CSB has been endorsed by numerous pastors including Tony Evans, Robby Gallaty, Eric Mason and Derwin Gray, as well as Bible teachers Kelly Minter, Lisa Harper and the team behind the popular women’s Bible study, She Reads Truth.
For Wax, who also serves as a teaching pastor, the CSB makes an easy transition from the pastor’s study to the pulpit. “As a pastor, I’ve grown more confident in the CSB’s accuracy and precision,” he said. “It is a text I can use for sermon preparation and serious Bible study.”
He also believes the new revision makes discipleship and evangelism easier. “Because it is clear and easy to read, I can share it with people who are new to the Word of God as well as those who are already regular Bible readers.”
A full version of the CSB is available at Read.CSBible.com. Beginning this month, the translation will be available through other Bible apps and website. CSB Bibles will be available at LifeWay Stores in March.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer at LifeWay Christian Resources.)

1/20/2017 11:57:58 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay | with 0 comments

ERLC names 73-member Leadership Council

January 20 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) announced Jan. 19 its 73-member Leadership Council for 2017.

The council’s 73 pastors and leaders receive training from the ERLC through events and conference calls to help them and their churches apply the gospel of Jesus to all areas of life. Council members also provide counsel to commission staff and sometimes write for the ERLC’s website.
The ERLC inaugurated the council in 2014, seven months after Russell Moore became president. Each January, the commission unveils a new list of council members, who typically serve for one year.
“Churches around the country are on the front lines of engaging some of the most difficult cultural and societal questions imaginable, ones that our parents and grandparents often never had to consider,” Moore said in a written release announcing the latest council members.
“With our Leadership Council, I’m thrilled to be able to partner with a new group of leaders from around the country who are eager to address these issues with a gospel focus both in the life of their churches and in the public square,” Moore said.
Among the members of this year’s Leadership Council, which includes women for the first time, are:
– H.B. Charles, pastor-teacher of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Fla.
– James Merritt, lead pastor of Cross Pointe Church in the north metro Atlanta area and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
– Jen Wilkin, author and Bible teacher, member of The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
– Byron Day, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., and president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC.
– Matt Chandler, lead pastor of teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
– Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.
– Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
– Jimmy Scroggins, lead pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.
– Bart Barber, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas.
– Willy Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., and a former president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference.
Other North Carolina pastors among the leaders of this year’s Leadership Council are Andy Davis, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Durham; Matt Kendrick, next generation pastor of Biltmore Church, Asheville; and Jeff Long, senior pastor of Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia.

In written comments provided by the ERLC, Merritt said he is part of the Leadership Council because of his deep interest “in the political and social issues which have spiritual ramifications for the church and culture today” and his “confidence in the ERLC leadership in its engagement with these issues.”
Day said, “The current cultural climate in America demands a Christian worldview response,” adding the ERLC “is essential to equipping the followers of Jesus to stand in grace and godliness in an ungodly society.”
Wilkin said she is “looking forward to learning from the other members and gaining exposure to new ideas.”
For Pressley, “There is not another organization, like the ERLC, that helps evangelical Christians think through the pressing issues with a genuinely Christian framework. To be a small part of such a great organization is a rare privilege.”
The entire list of council members is available at erlc.com/about/leadership-council.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

1/20/2017 11:50:49 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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