January 2017

Pew: Trump deemed good for conservative Christians

January 20 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Conservative Christians will gain influence under President-elect Donald Trump’s term, more than half of respondents polled in a Pew Research study believe.

Graphic from Pew Research Center

Conversely, Hispanics, the poor and gays and lesbians will lose influence under Trump, a majority of those polled told Pew. Nearly half of respondents said African Americans and women are poised to lose.
“The public’s assessments of the groups that will gain and lose influence in Trump’s presidency are sharply different than before Barack Obama took office eight years ago,” Pew said in its findings released Jan. 18. “In many cases, they mirror views of expected ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ under George W. Bush before he took office in January 2001.”
In the survey conducted Jan. 4-9 among 1,502 adults, both Democrats and Republicans viewed Trump’s presidency as a win for conservative Christians, with 55 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans agreeing on the point. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning adults polled, only 10 percent predicted conservative Christians will lose influence, while 34 percent said they expect things to remain the same for the demographic group. Similarly among Democrats and Democrat-leaning adults polled, 17 percent said conservative Christians will lose influence; 25 percent said the demographic’s circumstances won’t change.
A majority of respondents, 56 percent, said Hispanics will lose under Trump; 55 percent said Trump is a loss for the poor, and 54 percent reached the same conclusion for gays and lesbians. Nearly half of respondents, 48 percent, said African Americans would lose ground under Trump, Pew said, while 19 percent said the racial group would gain influence, and 27 percent said the group would not be affected. Regarding women, 46 percent of respondents said the gender will lose influence, 23 percent said the group will gain influence, and 29 percent said women won’t be affected.
Comparatively, 51 percent of respondents said whites will fare better under Trump, while 35 percent said whites won’t be affected. Fifty-one percent said men will prosper under Trump, compared to 39 percent who believe circumstances won’t change for the gender. Trump’s term will prosper the wealthy, 65 percent of respondents said, while 27 percent said the wealthy won’t be affected. Only 8 percent of respondents said Trump is bad news for whites, men and the wealthy, with remaining respondents saying they don’t know how a Trump presidency will affect the demographic groups.
Partisan differences also emerged when respondents were questioned about Hispanics, the poor and gays and lesbians, Pew said.
When considering the plight of Hispanics, 78 percent of Democrats said Hispanics will lose influence under Trump, while only 32 percent of Republicans said the same, according to Pew. Many Republicans considered Trump a win for the poor, with 43 percent saying the poor will fare better under the president-elect, 29 percent saying the demographic will not be affected either way, and 26 percent saying the group will lose ground. A preponderance of Democrats, 81 percent, said the poor will lose influence under Trump; only 8 percent of Democrats perceived Trump a win for the poor.
Regarding gays and lesbians, 74 percent of Democrats deemed Trump a loss for homosexuals, with only 33 percent of Republicans thinking the same.
Republicans and Democrats both viewed the prospects favorably under Trump for men, whites and the wealthy. Among Republicans, 92 percent said whites would either gain influence or not be affected, 92 percent said the same for men, and 84 percent reached that conclusion regarding the wealthy. Among Democrats, 86 percent said whites will gain ground or not be affected, 89 percent said the same for men, and 97 percent said the same for the wealthy.
In Pew research conducted before President Obama’s first term in office, 21 percent of respondents thought conservative Christians would gain ground under Obama, Pew said, compared to 51 percent who had a similar perception when Bush took office in 2001.
Of the 1,502 adults interviewed for the latest study, 376 were interviewed on landline telephones; 1,126 were interviewed on cell phones, including 674 who had no landline telephone, Pew said. The study is available at pewresearch.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

1/20/2017 11:44:01 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Convict’s release raises questions of pro-LGBT bias

January 19 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The commutation of a former U.S. soldier’s espionage sentence has caused some to ask whether the reduced prison term is related to the inmate’s transgender identity.

Screen capture from USA Today

“It made sense to commute a part of” Bradley Manning’s prison sentence, President Obama said Jan. 18.
The commutation also prompted Douglas Carver, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) executive director of chaplaincy, to underscore the need for U.S. military chaplains “to engage all people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, regardless of their gender identity.”
President Obama announced Jan. 17 that Bradley Manning’s sentence would be commuted from 35 years to the seven years he has already served. He is slated for release May 17, The New York Times reported.
Manning, then a low-level Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, was arrested in 2010 and pled guilty in 2013 to 10 charges related to releasing classified information through the WikiLeaks organization.
After sentencing, Manning announced he was transgender and stated he wanted to be called Chelsea, The Times reported. Held in a men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Manning has been provided with cross-sex hormones and allowed to wear women’s undergarments and light cosmetics.
The military has not permitted Manning to see a surgeon about gender reassignment surgery, according to The Times.
“Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence,” Obama said according to USA Today. “Given she went to trial and due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received – and that she had served a significant amount of time – it made sense to commute a part of her sentence.”
Ron Crews, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, told Baptist Press (BP) the commutation is “extremely disappointing on several levels.
Chaplain Alliance is an organization of chaplain endorsers that counts NAMB among its “allied organizations.”
Manning’s alleged crime resulted in “lives ... put at risk by the releasing of secret information,” said Crews, who served 28 years as a U.S. Army chaplain.
While Crews doesn’t know whether Manning’s transgenderism “played into this decision,” he said the commutation seems consistent with the administration’s promotion of “radical social agendas in the military.”
“This administration has been using the military as a pawn to promote” lifestyles like transgenderism, Crews said. “I don’t know if [gender identity] played a role in this decision, but I would not be surprised.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the Family Research Council’s executive vice president, said Obama “chose political correctness over our national security” in commuting Manning’s sentence.
The president’s action was “unjust,” Boykin said, and Manning’s gender transition an illegitimate expense to cover with tax dollars.
“Since his imprisonment, Manning has demanded the U.S. Army force taxpayers to pay for his gender transition – even as veterans report finding it difficult to obtain medical services at VA clinics,” Boykin said in a statement. “What a sad commentary on this administration when an act of treason entitles you to better care than most of the men and women who have honorably served this country.”
Carver, retired U.S. Army chief of chaplains, told BP “today’s increasingly secular culture” necessitates readiness by Christian pastors and chaplains to apply biblical teaching to a range of struggles among military personnel.
“Individuals who struggle with their gender identity or sexual orientation often seek counsel from a trusted chaplain or pastor, especially if they know they will be treated with dignity and kindness,” Carver said in written comments. “When Southern Baptist chaplains and pastors provide pastoral care to transgenders, they are not condoning or approving of an individual’s sexual orientation, behavior or lifestyle that contradicts biblical teachings.
“Rather, they are simply engaging in a conversational relationship in order to understand a person’s religious or spiritual needs and either to provide a Christian perspective on gender identity issues, or refer the person to an appropriate helping agency,” Carver said.
NAMB “expects all endorsed Southern Baptist chaplains to treat everyone with Christ-centered dignity, honor and respect while advising their institutional leadership in its responsibility to ensure the free exercise of religion of every individual under their supervisory care.”
A 2016 study by the Rand Corporation concluded that 1,320-6,630 of America’s 1.3 million military service members are transgender, Carver noted.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said compassion for such individuals should not obscure the need for justice in criminal sentencing.
“Major media reported two suicide attempts in recent months by Manning,” Mohler said Jan. 18 in his podcast The Briefing, “and of course that should lead to our sympathy and concern and the realization that ... we are dealing with someone here who is horribly troubled.
“But that does not add up to the president’s commutation of the sentence,” Mohler said. “The reason for that is quite simple. In a sane and adequate system of justice, crimes are punished because of the moral action that is taken” by a convicted criminal.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/19/2017 10:23:32 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

ERLC focuses on life, liberty in policy agenda

January 19 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Protecting human life and religious freedom stand atop the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) Legislative and Policy Agenda for 2017.

The ERLC unveiled its agenda Jan. 18 for a new Congress, as well as a new administration that will begin governing when President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated Jan. 20.
“This new year brings great opportunity to advance legislative issues of critical importance to Southern Baptists, and as an organization the ERLC will be tireless in our witness and in our advocacy,” ERLC President Russell Moore said in written comments.
“The last several years have given rise to unprecedented legislative assaults on religious freedom, human dignity, family stability and other important issues, and I’m excited to engage on these issues with our team to help reverse this trend in the year ahead,” Moore said.
Republican control of both the White House and Congress provides hope some of the ERLC’s agenda items will have an opportunity for enactment this year. The entity acknowledged, however, the Senate requirement of 60 votes for passage of most bills could prevent such success. During the election campaign, Trump pledged his support of some of the pro-life legislation included in the ERLC’s agenda.
In an article accompanying the agenda, the ERLC reported, “We are already hard at work pressing this agenda forward. We have had productive meetings with President-elect Trump’s transition team, as well as leadership in the House [of Representatives] and Senate.”
In the agenda, Moore and Travis Wussow – vice president for public policy, as well as general counsel – said the ERLC has previously worked on some of the issues. The agenda also includes new issues for the commission, they said.
Among the agenda initiatives are:

  • Selection of a pro-life Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
  • Repeal of the abortion/contraception mandate, the rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services that requires employers to provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives with mechanisms that can potentially induce abortions and that can be overturned by the Trump administration without congressional action.
  • Defunding of Planned Parenthood, the scandal-ridden abortion provider that received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements and performed nearly 324,000 abortions, according to its most recent annual reports.
  • Enactment of the Conscience Protection Act and other measures to keep pro-life health-care workers from being coerced into participating in abortions and other procedures to which they object.
  • Passage 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.
  • Approval of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would bar the federal government from penalizing an individual or institution for believing – and acting on the belief – marriage is only between a man and a woman.
  • Enactment of the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.
  • Passage of the Civil Rights Uniformity Act, which would require congressional approval before “gender identity” is classified as a protected category in federal law or policy – something the Departments of Education and Justice did in a 2016 guidance.
  • Appointment in quick fashion of an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom in the wake of the Trump administration’s removal of all ambassadors.
  • Approval of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would approach the reduction of some mandatory minimum sentences in a targeted way while also directing the Department of Justice to partner with non-profit and faith-based organizations to expand programs for recidivism reduction.

The ERLC’s agenda may be accessed at d1nwfrzxhi18dp.cloudfront.net/uploads/resource_library/attachment/file/75/2017_Legislative_Agenda.pdf.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/19/2017 10:18:17 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The sanctity of human life & tough choices

January 19 2017 by Robert Jackson, The Baptist Courier

I opened the paper chart, saw the positive pregnancy test, gritted my teeth, and breathed a silent prayer as I opened the door to exam room 2. I was immediately aware of the suffocating atmosphere in the room, where my patient, a lovely blonde with striking blue eyes, was perched on the table.

Contributed photo
Dr. Robert Jackson with a young patient at his Spartanburg, S.C., practice.

A high school cheerleader, church youth leader, and academic leader in her school, she had already been accepted at several colleges with multiple scholarships. She sat nervously, looking more like the 5-year-old girl who used to sit there in her patent leather shoes, bobby socks and ponytail, waiting for her dreaded immunization. Her mother sat rigidly in a chair between the door and the lavatory, not saying a word, staring at the floor. With difficulty, I reported, “Your pregnancy test is positive.”
She and I wept together as her mother sat beside her, stone-faced, offering no solace. Slowly, I began to encourage her by saying, “You know, this changes dramatically the direction of your life, but it doesn’t ruin your life, because God is a sovereign God who will give you grace. You will be a good mother. You will raise this child to be a God-fearing child of the King.”
When I finished, her mother, who’d had all she could take, exploded. She declared emphatically, “She is not going to have this child! Tomorrow we are going to the abortion clinic, where she will abort this child.”
The daughter began to weep. I pleaded, “Mama, you can’t do that! It would violate all of your deepest personal convictions.”
Without another word, the mother stormed out of the exam room. I looked at this precious young girl and said, “You need to go home with your mama.” I encouraged her to also appeal to her daddy. I knew the family well. Her father was a deacon, and her mother taught Sunday school.
What happened in that room that day?
What happened that day is what happens to many of us when we are caught in difficult social dilemmas. We allow our circumstances to dictate our theology rather than allowing our theology to dictate our response to difficult circumstances. We become victims of situational ethics.
When this episode happened in the late 1980s, abortions were peaking in South Carolina, with 14,133 abortions in six clinics in 1988, according to DHEC statistics. In 2015, as a consequence of pro-life legislation, the emergence of 20-plus crisis pregnancy centers, and years of heartfelt praying on behalf of the unborn and their mothers, the number of abortions occurring within South Carolina was 5,778 at three abortion clinics.
Planned Parenthood is the single largest provider of abortion services in America, providing 323,999 abortions in 2014, with 43 percent of its budget coming from “payments from Medicaid managed care plans,” per their own annual report. That’s taxpayers’ money. That’s you and me. However, their image has been seriously tarnished lately, and we keep praying government funding for that organization will be eliminated.
Although abortions have declined, the use of drugs, often called “human pesticides,” to induce abortions, has increased to 22.6 percent of all abortions since the FDA approved RU-486 in 2000. Even though the number of abortion clinics has declined, the number of providers of these drugs has increased, counting doctors and other “health clinics.”
As late as June 28, 2016, the Supreme Court set a dangerous precedent by refusing to hear an appeal from pro-life pharmacists in Washington State who challenged a state law forcing them to dispense these drugs against their conscience rather than referring clients to other pharmacies.
Despite all this, there are things we can do:

  • Keep praying that God will end abortion in America. God’s ear is not so dull that He cannot hear.
  • Keep lobbying. Our politicians don’t see the light until they feel the heat.
  • Keep supporting your local crisis pregnancy center. They are on the front lines every day.
  • Promote adoption and foster care. God adopted us into His family. Why shouldn’t we do the same for those most vulnerable?
  • Give to a pro-life organization. Put your money where your mouth is!

The rest of the story
I am happy to report that the young woman’s story I related earlier did not end that day in my exam room. Years later, she returned to the exact same room with her 17-year-old son for his sports physical. It happened to be his birthday. He was 6-foot-2, big and strapping, even at his age.
He was all knees and elbows with a big lantern jaw. I could tell he would be one of those men who would have to shave twice a day.
His mama did not go to medical school, nor did her academic dreams come true. However, I could tell she was extremely proud of her son. After I examined him, she came back into the room, looked at me with tears in her eyes, and asked, “Dr. Jackson, do you remember ...” whereupon we both began to weep. I immediately recalled the titanic spiritual battle that took place in that room for the life of her now-teenage son.
“Dr. Jackson, thank you,” she said. “Thank you for helping me stand up to my mama, and thank you for helping me do what was right. All of my dreams did not come true, but my dream of being a mama one day – that did come true. I am so proud of my boy! And I’ll tell you one other thing: His grandmother loves him to death!”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Robert Jackson is a family practice physician in Spartanburg, S.C. This article first appeared in The Baptist Courier, baptistcourier.com, the news magazine of the churches of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

1/19/2017 10:14:31 AM by Robert Jackson, The Baptist Courier | with 1 comments

Illusionist catches attention for gospel sharing

January 19 2017 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

Some believers might cringe at the idea of a “Christian magician,” but Bart Glatt has seen many people come to faith in Jesus as he has used the art of illusion to catch attention and disarm people before a gospel presentation.

Bart Glatt

Glatt is pastor of volunteer ministries at First Baptist Church in Muskogee, Okla., and he also is a professional illusionist, photographer, videographer and voiceover artist. He has traveled the world using illusions to share Christ and illustrate biblical principles.
“There are things that you can do with [illusions] that you can’t do any other way visually in such a short time to help explain things,” Glatt told Baptist Press (BP).
His fascination with performing staged tricks or illusions began in the 7th grade when his English teacher told the class to learn to do something they had never done before by going to the library and choosing a book on the subject. Glatt had recently watched the 1953 drama “Houdini” starring Tony Curtis and was inspired to learn more about how to be an illusionist.
But learning these types of skills from a book “is next to impossible,” Glatt said. “I was trying to make my hands look like the illustrations, and a friend of my father’s walked up and said, ‘You’re holding the cards wrong.’ … It turns out he had been a professional magician. I never knew that, and I begged him to teach me.”
The man said he would teach Glatt one trick, and if he could master that one he would teach him another.
“That went on for several years,” Glatt noted. “He used to always tell me, ‘This will open up doors for you that you couldn’t enter any other way.’”
One day the man left Glatt’s house, returned home and died of a massive heart attack.
“It dawned on me, out of all the times we’d spent together and the number of times he told me, ‘This will open up doors for you,’ I had never taken 10 minutes to share with him how to open up the door to heaven,” Glatt said. “So I decided at that point to take the talent that he had given me and use it to share the gospel.”
Glatt said his use of illusions, juggling, puppets, comedy and other tools is a way to gain an audience’s attention before sharing the Good News.
“Jesus used things to startle people,” Glatt said. “All of a sudden, He had their attention.”
An example of something Glatt has done is to hang upside down in a straitjacket 100 feet in the air, held by a crane over a festival in Louisiana. There was no safety net, but there was a spotlight, and “the entire fairgrounds came to a halt,” Glatt said.
“I told them, ‘If I get down from this, I will explain to you all how to perform the escape that Houdini never mastered,’” Glatt said. “When I got down, everybody was listening, and I said, ‘If anybody could escape from death, Houdini would do it. Tonight I’m going to tell you how you can escape from eternal death to eternal life.’”
That stunt went over so well at the notoriously raucous festival that Glatt was invited back – and paid – to perform for the next 18 years, he said.
Another time, he was witnessing door-to-door in Salt Lake City and came upon a rough-looking motorcycle gang. Glatt used his illusionist skills to disarm the gang members.
“I told them, ‘People have tried looking to cards for answers to their problems. Some people have tried gambling, figuring that if they got enough money it would solve their problems. Some people have tried fortune telling with decks of cards, but there’s nothing there that will solve any problem that you’ve got. These two cards that you’ve picked are different.’
“I turned the first one over and said, ‘Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you were to die today you’d go to heaven?’”
The gang leader told Glatt not to turn over the second card because he knew it would change his life. He asked Glatt to come back later so he could gather up some others to listen. When Glatt returned that Friday night, the man had moved furniture from his apartment to accommodate a crowd for Glatt’s tricks and gospel presentation, Glatt said. Several people accepted Christ that night, including the gang leader.
Glatt’s skills have opened doors for him to share Jesus in prisons and in countries where it is dangerous to evangelize.
“It appeals to all ages,” he said, adding that he is careful to explain that what he is doing is an illusion, not real magic.
On Wednesday nights at First Baptist Muskogee, Glatt teaches a class for people who plan to go on mission trips and want to learn “magic” tricks as icebreakers. He also teaches these tricks to a group of homeschoolers because he believes it’s important to share with the next generation – just as his father’s friend shared knowledge of illusion with him – so they can have an opening to share the gospel with people who are searching.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville.)

1/19/2017 9:53:51 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Agape House empowering women with truth about life

January 19 2017 by Rebecca Wolford, SBC

When a woman walks into the medical clinic operated by Agape House in northwest Tennessee, she won’t find evangelism tracts or Bibles in the waiting room. While she waits nervously to have an ultrasound to confirm her pregnancy, she won’t be judged regardless of her circumstances. And if she tells the clinic staff that she’s considering having an abortion, she will be given all the information she needs about her child, but won’t be pressured into a decision.
“If someone tries to talk a woman out of a decision to abort” before her heart is ready to accept it, “then someone else can easily talk her back into it after she leaves,” said Linda DeBoard, CEO of Agape House and member of First Baptist Church in Martin, Tenn. “When ladies come to our clinic, our mission is to empower them with the truth about life so that they can make the best choice for themselves. We know that’s a choice for life, but she has to come to that realization after she has been given all the truth.”
Agape House is one of thousands of pro-life organizations throughout the country on the front lines of elevating the sanctity of human life.
Pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics such as the one operated by Agape House offer various services to support women and men faced with pregnancy decisions.
Some centers minister to those who need assistance throughout a pregnancy in the form of training classes, counseling, or material goods such as diapers. These types of centers may or may not operate as medical clinics and offer services such as pregnancy testing and ultrasounds. Others, like Agape House’s clinic, focus on reaching women who are at risk for abortion, offering medical services and informing them of their pregnancy options.
Everyone on staff with Agape House is a member of a Southern Baptist church in northwest Tennessee or Kentucky, said DeBoard. Many of their volunteers come from Southern Baptist churches in the area, and all volunteers are required to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and be committed to a biblical understanding of the sanctity of human life.
The ministry is entirely funded by churches, individuals, businesses, and civic groups; more than 60 Southern Baptist churches, as well as other churches who embrace a pro-life ethic, contributed financially in 2016.
In addition to their medical clinic, Agape House has an educational arm and offers a Bible study for women who have previously had abortions, to carry out their mission statement of “upholding the sanctity of human life through education, medical services and spiritual restoration.”


The ministry has developed G.R.O.W. (Great Relationships Open ur World) as a sexual risk avoidance program taught in schools. “Your” is intentionally spelled “ur” to grab the attention of the student audience. The age-appropriate program encourages students to make healthy choices in relationships and abstain from sex until marriage. Though they cannot overtly talk about spiritual things in the public school setting, they can still share truths that reflect biblical values with the students, DeBoard said.
They have taught in every school in the two counties they primarily serve, as well as some outlying counties, DeBoard said. The ministry’s October newsletter reported that 1,355 students had attended the program between January and September 2016. She believes the program has contributed to the overall drop in teen pregnancies in the counties they serve.

Medical Services

The ministry’s sexual health medical clinic aims to serve women physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The clinic provides pregnancy options information as well as pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. Ultrasounds help confirm the pregnancy and the fetal age of the child. It also offers testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted infections (STI). For women considering abortion, these same services are necessary, DeBoard said, since the fetal age of the child affects the type of abortion procedure the woman could expect to undergo. And women with an STI may experience complications during the procedure. Staff and volunteers make it clear that the clinic does not offer or refer for abortions.
Our culture has lied to women about abortion, telling them that it is a “quick fix” and that their lives will return to normal afterward, DeBoard said. Agape House is committed to providing truthful information about all pregnancy options – including parenting, adoption, and what abortion is and how the procedures work – and offering a safe space where women can process the information, she said.
DeBoard said that by offering their services this way, they have the opportunity to reach women who would never go to a church for help.
“A woman in our area who is wanting to have an abortion, and has already made the decision to have an abortion, is not going to church to tell you that she wants an abortion. She’s not,” DeBoard said. “She’s running from the church.”
A 2015 study from LifeWay Research supports that assertion.
In a survey of women who have had abortions, 59 percent of respondents said that they received or expected to receive a judgmental or condemning attitude from a local church as they considered their decision to abort. Twenty-nine percent said they received or expected to receive a loving or caring response. And 54 percent of women would not recommend to someone close to them that they discuss their decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy with someone at a local church, while only 25 percent would recommend it.
Their clinic strives to treat their clients the way Jesus would, DeBoard said, by showing them love, presenting them with the truth about life, allowing them to make their own decisions, and loving them no matter what they choose.
Clinic staff and volunteers may ask clients whether they have a faith that might influence their pregnancy decision. This often leads to opportunities to share the gospel or to encourage women in their relationship with Jesus.
DeBoard encourages pastors and anyone interested in supporting a pro-life ministry to take a tour of their local center or clinic and learn more about their ministry. Since there are two distinct types of pregnancy centers – those focused on providing support throughout a pregnancy and those focused on preventing abortions – it’s good to gain hands-on experience to make sure you understand the specific work that you’re supporting, she said.

Spiritual restoration

Agape House also offers a Bible study program for women who have previously had abortions. The study focuses on healing and forgiveness – learning to forgive themselves and accepting forgiveness from God.
“There’s no sin too great that God won’t forgive us and set us free and use our mistakes for His glory,” DeBoard said.
She also reminds pastors that their pews may be filled with women who have abortions in their past. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization with ties to Planned Parenthood, approximately 30 percent of women will have had an abortion by age 45. About half of the women who have an abortion in a given year have previously had at least one.
“What abortion is and does needs to be told and spoken and preached,” DeBoard said, but with sensitivity to the women who are hurting from their own abortion experiences.

Mission field

When missionaries begin their assignments overseas, they have platforms that help them gain access into closed countries and build relationships in their communities. They go as teachers or businesspeople with the intention of building relationships and sharing the gospel. The same is becoming necessary in America, DeBoard said.
“Unfortunately, we are at that place in our own country, in our own homeland,” she said, “to where we must have occupations that bring others in and then share truth with them. And that’s really what’s happening through Agape House. ...
“We are sharing truth with those that we’re serving, but we’re not known as missionaries through the two venues that we’re operating under,” DeBoard noted.
By providing a neutral environment for women who are seeking a solution for an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, “we’re able to share the truth with them. And I think that’s where we’ve got to go in our country, if we’re going to turn our country back to God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rebecca Wolford is communications specialist for the SBC Executive Committee. This story first ran in the Winter issue of SBC LIFE. Jan. 22 is Sanctity of Life Sunday on the Southern Baptist Convention.)

1/19/2017 9:39:54 AM by Rebecca Wolford, SBC | with 0 comments

Report: Abortion rate hits all-time low

January 18 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The abortion rate in the United States declined to an all-time low, while the number of lethal procedures dropped below a million for the first time since 1975, according to a new report.
The Guttmacher Institute reported Jan. 17 the rate fell to 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women 15 to 44 years old in 2014, which is a decline of 14 percent since its most recent survey in 2011. In its census of all known abortion providers in the country, Guttmacher found abortions totaled 958,700 in 2013 and 926,190 in 2014.
The abortion rate reached its zenith at 29.3 in 1980 and ’81, and the total number of abortions peaked at more than 1.6 million in 1990, according to Guttmacher.
Pro-life advocates welcomed the report and pointed to the work of pro-life citizens and legislators as a reason for the dramatic decline in abortions and their rate.
“The falling abortion number is due to the ceaseless advocacy and ministry of the pro-life community in neighborhoods all around this country,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “The pro-life movement advances by calling out to consciences with the truth of what unborn human life is and matching that call with real ministry to women in crisis.
“While a lower rate is undoubtedly good news, the violent taking of the life of even one unborn child ought to cause us to weep and redouble our efforts to protect every human life and contend against the predatory abortion industry,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.
Americans United for Life (AUL), the country’s leader in helping state legislators pass pro-life laws, cited such policies, as well as technology, in explaining the trend.
“Research has shown that life-affirming laws do have an impact on lowering the number of abortions, and with all the life-affirming laws passed since 2010, we have a reason to celebrate the number of lives saved and women protected as legislators worked to defend them from a predatory and rarely accountable abortion industry,” AUL Acting President Clark Forsythe said in a written statement.
“But another factor in lower[ing] the number of abortions is the power of beautiful pictures of life inside the womb, through ultrasound,” he said. “Such pictures are worth more than a thousand words when it comes to helping people understand whose lives are on the line.”
In 2016, 43 states considered more than 360 abortion-related measures, according to AUL’s annual report released Jan 10. The bills introduced included such measures as bans on government funding of abortion, restrictions on late-term abortions, ultrasound requirements and prohibitions on abortions based on sex, race or genetic abnormality.
The Guttmacher Institute, which is affiliated with the abortion rights movement, suggested the improved use of contraceptives attributed to the falling rate and total, but it also acknowledged state regulations and the declining number of abortion clinics may have contributed.
“Abortion restrictions and clinic closures mean that patients may need to travel greater distances to access services,” said Rachel Jones, lead author of the study, in a written release. “The majority of abortion patients – 75% – are poor or low-income, and nearly two-thirds are already parents. It can be very difficult for them to arrange for time off from work, transportation and child care. While many find ways to access care despite these obstacles, some of the abortion rate decline is likely attributable to women who were prevented from accessing needed services.”
The good news for pro-lifers came only five days before the anniversary of Roe v. Wade – the Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973, decision that legalized abortion nationwide – and the observance of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the Southern Baptist Convention calendar.
It also arrived shortly before the second annual Evangelicals for Life conference Jan 26-28 in Washington, D.C. The conference – cohosted by the ERLC and Focus on the Family – features more than 50 speakers addressing not only abortion but such issues as adoption, end-of-life care, ministry to those with special needs, human trafficking, service to immigrants and refugees and the development of a pro-life worldview. Conference attendees will be able to participate in the Jan. 27 March for Life.
The Guttmacher report also included the following information:

  • Nearly half – 45 percent – of all abortions in the first nine weeks of gestation were performed using pills, and the percentage of such nonhospital abortions increased from 24 percent in 2011 to 31 percent in 2014.
  • The abortion rate declined between 2011 and 2014 in all but six states and the District of Columbia. 
  • Ninety percent of all U.S. counties in 2014 contained no abortion clinic. 
  • Five states – Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming – had only one abortion clinic apiece in 2014. 
  • The number of abortion clinics fell by 17 percent from 2011 to 2014
  • Abortion clinics made up 16 percent of all abortion facilities in 2014 but provided 59 percent of all abortions.

The Guttmacher Institute acknowledged its report has limitations. For instance, it reported only 58 percent of facilities it believes provided abortions in 2014 responded to the survey. Guttmacher used state health department information for 20 percent of facilities and made estimates on another 17 percent.
While the Guttmacher report is based partly on estimates, it covers all 50 states. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also reported a decline in abortions in its December announcement, does not require states to provide information on abortions. Three states – California, Maryland and New Hampshire – did not provide data to the CDC.
Forsythe said the country needs “a more complete picture of the impact of abortion on women, through verifiable tracking.”
In its annual report, AUL named these as the 10 best states for protecting life in 2016: (1) Oklahoma; (2) Kansas; (3) Louisiana; (4) Arkansas; (5) Arizona; (6) South Dakota; (7) Mississippi; (8) Georgia; (9) Michigan; (10) Pennsylvania;
The 10 least protective states were: (1) Washington, for the eighth straight year; (2) California; (3) Vermont; (4) New Jersey; (5) Oregon; (6) Nevada; (7) New York; (8) Connecticut; (9) Massachusetts; (10) Hawaii.
The ERLC has offered six pro-life priorities for action by President-elect Trump and Congress in 2017, including the nomination and confirmation of a pro-life successor to the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, a permanent ban on all federal funding of abortion and the defunding of Planned Parenthood, the country’s No. 1 abortion provider.
The Guttmacher report is available at guttmacher.org/journals/psrh/2017/01/abortion-incidence-and-service-availability-united-states-2014.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/18/2017 9:13:31 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kentucky Baptist to perform at Trump's inauguration

January 18 2017 by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today

A petite, young Kentucky Southern Baptist with a big voice will take perhaps her grandest stage yet when she performs at the presidential inaugural concert.

Photo by Joshua Ball, Ashland Daily Independent
Eastern Kentucky resident Marlana VanHoose will perform at the presidential inaugural concert in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Last July, she wowed delegates at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

“Whoo! I'm excited,” said Marlana VanHoose, who is a member of Liberty Baptist Church near Paintsville.
At little more than 4-feet-tall, VanHoose has led tens of thousands of sports fans at lots of venues in singing the national anthem since she first appeared center court at a University of Kentucky women's basketball game in 2012.
From NBA games to trackside at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, VanHoose appears to wow crowds wherever she goes. Her rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” received thunderous applause from delegates at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland last July.
“They just loved her,” said her mother, Teresa VanHoose.
VanHoose, 21, plans to switch things up a bit for the concert on Jan. 19 by singing “America the Beautiful.” Her stage this time will be the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Her audience: the world.
“I always tell people to never give up and always dream big,” VanHoose said, which can be particularly inspiring when people learn of her physical difficulties.
“I was born blind, but it doesn't stop me. God has blessed me beyond measure in every part of my life,” said VanHoose, who also is limited in her mobility by cerebral palsy.
“I have the Holy Spirit, and He takes care of me every single day,” she said.
Teresa VanHoose said she believes her daughter has a special anointing from God to be able to do what she does.
“We've been all over the United States and everywhere she goes she will talk about God,” she said. “It doesn't matter who it is or whether she's got a microphone or not.”
VanHoose, who could hum “Jesus Loves Me” before she could talk, began singing hymns at 3. Now, she plays piano, arranges and composes music.
“God has blessed her not only with a musical talent, but a willing heart,” said Clay Wheeler, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church. “Marlana has so much faith it just bubbles up and spills out.”
VanHoose said she's not sure she will have the opportunity to share her faith on Thursday's national stage other than singing the verse, “America! America! God shed his grace on thee.” But she plans to talk about God to anyone who will listen.
“My big dream is to travel all over the world and inspire people and encourage people and lead them to Jesus,” VanHoose said, “because people need help.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Robin Cornetet is the managing editor of Kentucky Today, a news website of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

1/18/2017 9:13:06 AM by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Women’s March on Washington drops feminist pro-life group

January 18 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A self-described pro-life feminist group has been removed as one of hundreds of partners of the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington, but many pro-life advocates are still expected to participate in the event.
New Wave Feminists were removed from the march’s list of partners after leading feminists complained on social media, the Texas Tribune reported Jan. 16. Women from across the U.S. are expected to rally and march in Washington, D.C., for women’s rights the day after president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. Hundreds of similar, local demonstrations are scheduled nationally.
“The Women’s March’s platform is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one,” the Texas Tribune quoted a written statement from March on Washington organizers. “We want to assure all of our partners, as well as participants, that we are pro-choice as clearly stated in our Unity Principles. … The anti-choice organization is not a partner of the Women’s March on Washington. We apologize for the error.”
But New Wave Feminists will still participate in the march, though not as an official partner, New Wave president Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa of Dallas told the Tribune.
“It’s not like we’re trying to take abortion away,” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “We’re trying to get out there and help women. … Because it’s not pro-choice when a woman goes into an abortion clinic because she feels like she has no other choice.”
Controversy arose among event participants after a Jan. 15 article in The Atlantic included statements from event organizers welcoming pro-life groups to the march and listing New Wave Feminists as an event partner.
The Women’s March on Washington is billed as “a grassroots effort comprised of dozens of independent coordinators at the state level,” on the event website. “The effort is helmed by four national co-chairs and a national coordinating committee who are working around the clock to pull it all together.”
Organizers say the march is intended to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and the world, that women’s rights are human rights.”
The rally will begin at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Third Street, will feature nationally recognized advocates, artists, entertainers, entrepreneurs and others and will end with a 1:15 p.m. march, according to the website.
Among some 400 diverse march partners listed on the website are Planned Parenthood, the AFL-CIO, People for the American Way, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Capitol Hill, Amnesty International and American Atheists.
The march occurs a week before the Jan. 27 March for Life, held annually near the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the U.S. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Focus on the Family will also be hosting Evangelicals for Life events, evangelicals.life, Jan. 26-28.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

1/18/2017 9:12:24 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New ADF president sees ‘light’ for religious liberty

January 18 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

New Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) President Michael Farris says he wants to make ADF larger than the American Civil Liberties Union and secure religious liberty in America for generations to come.

Michael Farris

Farris, a founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Patrick Henry College, began his duties with ADF Jan. 10. He also serves as CEO and general counsel at ADF, a legal organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom.
“I hope that Alliance Defending Freedom grows and prospers and becomes bigger and better in a lot of ways,” Farris said in a video on ADF’s website. But “my real goal is to win. I want to see religious freedom robustly protected from the doubt and the cloud that’s hanging over that issue right now.”
Co-chairman of a coalition that successfully lobbied Congress for passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the early 1990s, Farris has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts of appeals and the highest courts in 13 states, according to an ADF news release.
He holds a juris doctor degree from Gonzaga University, a master of laws from the University of London and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Western Washington State College.
Farris drew praise from Ethics & Religious Liberty President Russell Moore.
“Michael Farris has earned a reputation of high caliber leadership and godly wisdom,” Moore told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “No one knows the issues better than he does, and few articulate a Christian viewpoint with as much skill and conviction.
“I am thrilled,” Moore said, “that ADF will continue to have the strength of leadership that we have seen in the amazing Alan Sears,” who founded ADF and led it for 23 years. “I look forward to working with Michael Farris on these important issues of life and family and religious freedom.”
Farris co-founded HSLDA in 1983 with J. Michael Smith and served as the organization’s full-time president from 1986-2000. His legal victories with HSLDA, according to the group’s website, include reversing the 1985 conviction of a Michigan couple for homeschooling their children without being certified teachers. He also successfully defended a North Carolina family’s right to refuse a social worker’s demand to enter their home and interview each child alone without the mother.
More recently, Farris represented the German Romeike family, which requested asylum in the U.S. and claimed persecution by the German government for homeschooling. The Romeikes lost their court battle, but in 2014 the Department of Homeland Security granted them “indefinite deferred action status,” allowing them to remain in the U.S.
Farris continues to serve on the HSLDA board, according to an HSLDA release.
Patrick Henry College was founded in 2000, with Farris as president, on the “twin pillars” of “commitment to biblical truth” and “the classic liberal arts,” ADF reported. He continues to serve as chancellor emeritus.
Mike Whitehead, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney who has served on the staffs of two Southern Baptist Convention entities, told BP the skills Farris developed through his leadership of Patrick Henry will serve him well at ADF.
Farris “has done fund-raising and friend-raising to accelerate [the college’s] success,” Whitehead said in written comments. “ADF’s educational initiatives among law students and other collegians will benefit from these skills, as will ADF’s religious liberty defense efforts which require consistent financial support, especially for the volunteer attorneys in the field.”
Whitehead, who has worked with Farris, added, “For such a time as this, Mike Farris brings a unique set of skills and experiences to the leadership team at ADF.”
Farris said he hopes his success defending families’ right to educate their children according to biblical values translates to success in defending religious liberty more broadly.
“The days look pretty dark if you look objectively around us right now,” Farris said according to HSLDA. “But they looked really, really dark in the first days of the homeschooling movement.
I’ve been privileged to walk through those dark days and come out on the other side and see the light of day shining brightly and consistently. And that’s what I want to see in the other areas of life that ADF is going to be involved in.“
Farris and his wife Vickie have 10 children and 19 grandchildren.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/18/2017 9:11:57 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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