January 2018

Continued work for immigration remedy urged

January 17 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore and some other evangelical Christian leaders are urging the federal government to continue to work toward a long-term solution for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children in the wake of reported comments by President Donald Trump that have embroiled the effort.
 
Trump made critical comments – allegedly marked by obscene language – about African countries in a White House meeting Jan. 11 with legislators. The controversial remarks came two days after Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), and the other evangelicals had called for Congress to prioritize a remedy for Dreamers, a label that stems from the name of a bill introduced to protect this category of immigrants.
 
Reports of the president’s negative reaction to a bipartisan legislative proposal have appeared to further jeopardize congressional attempts to act before an early March deadline to save a program that has given about 800,000 people relief from deportation. Congress also faces the threat of a federal government shutdown Jan. 20 that has become complicated by the furor.
 
In a Jan. 14 statement, Moore and other leaders of the organizations that make up the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) expressed the hope Trump would “join the good-faith efforts” by senators from both political parties to permit Dreamers “to continue to work lawfully and contribute in the United States while also improving border security.”
 
The president’s reported remarks are opposed to “core biblical and American values,” such as the doctrine each person “is made in the image of God” and the conviction “all people are created equal,” they said.
 
“Jesus emerged from the despised and disregarded town of Nazareth, a reminder that we ought never pre-judge any person based on his or her community of origin,” the EIT statement said.
 
Acknowledging Trump has denied some language attributed to him, the signers said, “We would hope that nothing approaching what was reported would ever be said by an American leader.”
 
In a Jan. 11 tweet, Moore said, “The church of Jesus Christ is led by, among others, our brothers and sisters from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. They are us.”
 
President Barack Obama established the program in question – known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – by executive order in 2012 to protect undocumented immigrants who arrived in this country before their 16th birthday. The order to protect Dreamers came after Congress failed for more than a decade to pass proposals to address the issue.
 
The Trump administration announced Sept. 5 it would end DACA but also instituted a six-month delay for Congress to act.
 
The Washington Post and other news media reported the president used the term “s***hole countries” in the Jan. 11 meeting to describe African nations. He also disparaged Haiti in criticizing the immigration proposal, according to reports.
 
Trump denied the use of the obscenity in a tweet the next day, and some participants denied he used the word or said they did not hear it. The Post reported Jan. 16 the president used the obscene word, saying its report was based on interviews with more than a dozen administration officials, congressional aides and legislators.
 
Ronnie Floyd, an evangelical adviser during the Trump campaign, criticized the alleged remarks in a Jan. 12 article of The Post. Floyd, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), said: “I would not agree with those comments at all. We need to see that every person is made in the image of God.”
 
Floyd said there’s a difficult balance between the primary responsibility of the government of securing the nation and the value of human life. “Anytime we devalue a person it’s not good,” Floyd said. “Regardless of their skin or ethnicity, we need to honor one another.”
 
Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia attended the Jan. 11 meeting and said in a joint statement the next day they did not recall Trump “saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest.”
 
In a Jan. 11 tweet, the president said, “The Democrats seem intent on having people and drugs pour into our country from the Southern Border, risking thousands of lives in the process. It is my duty to protect the lives and safety of all Americans. We must build a Great Wall, think Merit and end Lottery & Chain. USA!”
 
Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the lead Democrat on the bipartisan proposal, tweeted Jan. 12, “Our deal is a genuine compromise – it addresses all the areas outlined by the President and represents honest concessions on both sides. That is the nature of compromise.”
 
The effort to provide a solution for Dreamers is only one of many issues involved in reforming America’s immigration system. An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are in the United States, but efforts to enact a comprehensive measure have failed.
 
In early October, Moore brought together 51 evangelical leaders – including four former SBC presidents – in a statement endorsing “the underlying policy aim” of DACA “because we believe this is a special category of immigrants who are not legally culpable, who in most cases have no home other than the United States, and who are a blessing to their communities and to their churches.”
 
Those who have taken part in DACA have pursued education, worked and paid taxes, served in the military and refused to become involved in crime, according to the statement. “A solution for Dreamers rightly excludes those convicted of felonies or multiple misdemeanors,” the signers said.
 
Messengers to the 2011 SBC meeting in Phoenix approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the Gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and hold businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials establish after securing the borders “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.
 
The resolution acknowledged immigration reform “has prompted often-rancorous debate in the American public square.” Southern Baptists also have various views on how to address the immigration problem. During consideration of the resolution, an amendment to remove the paragraph regarding establishment of a “path to legal status” failed in a ballot vote of 51-48 percent.
 
At least seven months could be required to implement long-term relief for Dreamers if and when Congress approves a measure, the National Immigration Forum and the Niskanen Center reported. Beginning March 5, about 1,000 people a day will lose their protection from deportation, according to their report.
 
In 2001, members of Congress proposed for the first time the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act – hence the name Dreamers for those in this category of undocumented immigrants. The measure gained reintroduction several times thereafter without passing before Obama acted.
 
In addition to the ERLC, the organizations in EIT’s leadership consist of the National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, World Relief, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, The Wesleyan Church and Faith and Community Empowerment.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

1/17/2018 9:36:15 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Floyd voices call for racial unity at Arkansas capitol

January 17 2018 by Tim Yarbrough, Arkansas Baptist News

Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, who also serves as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, issued “A Call to Racial Unity” Jan. 15 at the inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Exclusive on the steps of the Arkansas capitol.

Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Baptist News
Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, who also serves as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, speaks Jan. 15 at the inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Exclusive on the steps of the Arkansas capitol.


Floyd, the event’s keynote speaker, told pastors and other leaders that “racism is Satan’s tool” for dividing the church.
 
“Pastors and churches must be the prophetic voice of not just doom and gloom, but the voice for hope and future,” Floyd, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, noted.
 
“The life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is that he paid the price to make sure America had this long overdue conversation about racial unity,” Floyd said.
 
Racism is “completely opposite of the gospel and reconciliation,” he said. “We are here today to notify Satan and his demonic forces [of this]: The power of God is greater than the power of evil, the power of sin and even greater than the power of racism.”
 
Every day Christians “must call out to God and ask Him for the next Great Awakening, the next spiritual awakening to begin right here in your city of Little Rock and our state, Arkansas,” Floyd said. “Each Sunday in your churches, call out to God for the next Great Awakening in America to occur right here in our state of Arkansas.”
 
The Jan. 15 event marked nearly 50 years since the death of King in April 1968 as well as the first year that Arkansas has celebrated its first exclusive King federal holiday.
 
Previously, Arkansas celebrated Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee on the same day as Martin Luther King Jr. A new Arkansas law designates the King holiday as the third Monday of January, akin to its federal observance; Lee will now be commemorated in a state holiday on the second Saturday of October.
 
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson attended the statehouse gathering, along with Dale Charles, president of the Arkansas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and event organizer Arthur L. Hunt Jr., senior pastor of the Hunt Cathedral of Faith in Dumas.
 
Floyd, in his message, stated: “This I know: Silence is not the answer [to racism] and passivity is not our prescription for healing.
 
“From pastors to politicians, from business leaders to Bubba and the boys, we must not be silent any longer. Hope is not a strategy. You cannot just hope it goes away and it does. Nor can you sit passively in the church pew believing this is enough. Passivity has never been nor ever will be a prescription for healing.”
 
Christians must “rise like never before in our generation resolving that the sin of racism will stop now and not be forwarded to generations in the future,” Floyd said.
 
“We are not black churches. We are not white churches. We are not Latino churches. We are not Asian churches. We are not Native American churches. We are the church of Jesus Christ. We are members of the same body. You are my brother. You are my sister. Let the church rise. In the true church of Jesus Christ, the walls of racism and injustice come down. We are one church serving one Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
The full text of Floyd’s message can be accessed at the Arkansas Baptist News: arkansasbaptist.org/read/floyd-issues-a-call-to-racial-unity-at-arkansas-capitol-on-mlk-day.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News, arkansasbaptist.org, news journal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.)
 

1/17/2018 9:31:06 AM by Tim Yarbrough, Arkansas Baptist News | with 0 comments



Hawaii missile alert spurred witness, goodbyes to family

January 17 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Praying, sharing the gospel and contacting loved ones were among Hawaii Baptists’ reactions when a mistaken alert message Jan. 13 said a ballistic missile could strike them within minutes.

Image courtesy of Craig Webb
Cell phones in Hawaii received a false alert Jan. 13 of an “inbound” “ballistic missile threat.” The alert was canceled 38 minutes later.


Shortly after 8 a.m. local time, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent an alert to cell phones on the islands stating, “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.” A television banner added, “A missile may impact on land or sea within minutes.”
 
State government officials revoked the alert after 38 minutes, according to media reports, and later said the message went out because of human error. But amid heightened tension with North Korea, some Hawaiians and tourists thought their lives could end within the hour.
 
At the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, students living in dormitories went to the nearby house of Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) director Arjay Gruspe when they received the alert. He led them to take shelter in the BCM offices, which are partially underground, until the all-clear was given.
 
BCM associate director John Allison told Baptist Press (BP) his first thought was to call his parents in Oklahoma. Then he thought of a Japanese friend who had agreed the previous day to start studying the Bible but had not received Christ as Lord and Savior.
 
“I was praying, ‘Lord, don’t let [him] die so he can still hear about Jesus,’” Allison said. “I had shared the gospel with him before, but [the missile threat] made it so immediately real.”
 
Craig Webb, assistant executive director of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention (HPBC), had just finished washing his car when a neighbor relayed the alert. Webb called the family of an HPBC colleague, who was out of the state, to check on them and pray with them. He said he felt “a peace” and didn’t realize until later “how upset everybody else was.”

Image courtesy of Hershael York
Tanya York, a Kentucky pastor’s wife vacationing in Hawaii, texted a potential goodbye message to her sons and their families after she received what proved to be a false ballistic missile alert.


Hiking with international students later that day, Webb used his experience to give a gospel witness.
 
“I shared with them my experience about the peace I had,” Webb said, “knowing that should we really be vaporized or killed somehow, because of the blood Jesus shed and by receiving the free gift of His salvation, we would spend eternity with Him.”
 
Andrew Large, pastor of Waikiki Baptist Church in Honolulu, told BP he had an intuition shortly after receiving the alert that it could be a false alarm. When church members contacted him for counsel, he told them to stay where they were rather than rushing to what they perceived as safer locations.
 
One Waikiki Baptist member was on the phone with her sister on the mainland after the alert sounded. When the call dropped, her sister feared she had been killed, Large said. However, they reconnected minutes later.
 
Large plans to use the false alarm as an evangelistic opportunity in the days ahead.
 
“It has given us a cool way of being able to talk about, ‘What would have happened to you if you were in the impact zone and you died?’ Everybody is talking about it. So in the course of the discussion, it gives us a way of bringing Christ up,” Large said.
 
Kentucky pastor and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Hershael York was vacationing with his wife and 85-year-old mother on the Big Island when the alert came.
 
“Each of us responded to it differently,” York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., told BP via email. “My mother just kept putting on her makeup, less concerned than if she had received notice that it might rain.” York reasoned through the what might happen in the coming minutes with “complete confidence in the Lord that He would be with us no matter what.”
 
York’s wife Tanya also “had an incredible calm and serenity, but it occurred to her that in a matter of moments we might see Jesus,” York said. So she sent a text message to their sons and their sons’ families stating, “We just got an inbound ballistic missile threat to Hawaii ... should it be real ... love you guys intensely and be faithful and I’ll see you in Heaven!”
 
Allison, of the University of Hawaii BCM, said he wanted to contact many loved ones during the moments he thought could be his last but didn’t have time.
 
“It made me realize that I want to be telling people I care about them and love them every day,” Allison said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

1/17/2018 9:27:04 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



China bombs megachurch in drive to silence Christianity

January 17 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The bombing demolition of a megachurch in China is indicative of a rush to silence Christianity under new laws that will heighten religious persecution, according to human rights group ChinaAid.

Screen capture from BBC
As the Chinese government bombed the mega Golden Lampstand Church in Shanxi, China Jan. 9, a passerby caught captured the explosion on a cellphone, BBC reported. The church was home to 50,000 worshippers.


The Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, Shanxi, was home to some 50,000 worshippers before the Chinese government bombed and demolished the church Jan. 9, according to news reports.
 
Religious persecution is at its harshest in communist China in perhaps 50 years, ChinaAid President Bob Fu told BBC News Jan. 11.
 
The bombing shows “the increasingly deteriorating situation of religious freedom and rule of law in China” under President Xi Jinping, “which many suggest is the worst since the end of the cultural revolution,” Fu told the BBC Jan. 11. “I mean, all the leaders of this church were arrested since this church was built in 2009, and they were sentenced from one to seven years’ imprisonment for building this church, and many of them were even tortured.
 
“And China is now imprisoning more prisoners of conscience than the number combined by the rest of the world,” Fu told the BBC.
 
Military police directed by the highest government officials detonated explosives in underground worship halls beneath the church and proceeded to demolished the above-ground building, ChinaAid said.
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., in his Jan. 16 podcast “The Briefing,” called the bombing an admission of fear and weakness in a war the communist nation can never win.
 
“With 20 centuries of church history behind us, we can now assure the communist authorities in China that if they thought they could extinguish the gospel of Jesus Christ by blowing up a building, they’ve deluded themselves,” said Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “But we should also note that if the Chinese party in China thought that it was making a statement of its power by excluding this church, it was actually demonstrating its weakness and its paranoia.”
 
Stringent government control of churches, ministerial activities and religious education is delineated in the Religious Affairs Regulations 2017 law, which takes effect Feb. 1, according to ChinaAid. The Chinese government also destroyed a Catholic church in 2017, adding to fears of an established pattern as state control tightens.
 
The Golden Lampstand Church is among many Protestant congregations not registered under the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) that places congregations under total government control. Among the new guidelines, all churches or religious groups must register “their establishment, modification or deregistration ... in accordance with the relevant State provisions on the management of social groups,” according to a translation of the law provided by ChinaAid.
 
Churches which register with TSPM forego freedoms associated with Christianity, including evangelism beyond the church walls, the ability to baptize anyone under the age of 18 and the ability to choose church leaders without governmental oversight, Fu told BBC.
 
Jinzing, in power since 2013, has increasingly persecuted not only unregistered churches, but also congregations registered with the TSPM, Fu said. Notably, the crosses of more than 2,000 churches have been destroyed in the past three years, Fu said, referencing a so-called governmental beautification campaign that was widely reported.
 
The U.S. State Department designates China as a “country of particular concern” regarding violations of religious freedom. Religious watchdog group Open Doors lists China as number 43 on its World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is hardest for Christians to live.
 
While religious freedom is a concern in the U.S., Mohler noted, the subject in China concerns “something a good deal more deadly and a good deal more urgent.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

1/17/2018 9:22:25 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Puerto Rican evacuees aided by Florida Baptists

January 17 2018 by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Witness

More than 200,000 hurricane survivors from Puerto Rico have trekked to Florida for refuge, with several Baptist churches in central Florida at the forefront of ministering to their needs.

Screen capture from the Orlando Sentinel
With thousands of hurricane survivors from Puerto Rico seeking refuge through immigration clearances in Florida, Baptist churches in central Florida are at the forefront of ministering to their needs.


“The Florida Baptist Convention is excited to partner with the churches in the central Florida region as they respond to the needs of the Puerto Rican community moving into the area,” said Tommy Green, the convention’s executive director.
 
Another 100,000 Puerto Ricans are projected to arrive in Florida in the coming months as a result of catastrophic damage from Hurricanes Maria and Irma last September across the U.S. territory.
 
Most of the influx is happening through the Orlando International Airport, which means that most Puerto Rican evacuees currently are settling in central Florida.
 
Myles Dowdy, director of the Florida convention’s missions and ministry group, is leading the Baptist response by coming alongside churches as they reach out to new the arrivals.
 
“We are helping churches by giving them resources to help set up ministries of assistance to the Puerto Ricans,” Dowdy said. All contributions to the convention earmarked for the Puerto Rico effort will go directly to Florida Baptist churches as they respond to the refugees’ needs.
 
The state convention also is working in conjunction with the Greater Orlando Baptist Association and the North American Mission Board in the response effort.
 
“This is a result of a crisis, but I see it as an opportunity,” Dowdy said. “God is the only one that can make good come out of something like this.”
 
“People movements are gospel movements,” said Emanuel Roque, Hispanic church ministry catalyst for the state convention. If churches can reach just 10 percent of the total number of Puerto Ricans for Christ, he noted, it would be a significant number of new believers at a time when so many are overwhelmed and in the midst of a major life transition.

Florida Baptist Witness photo
Several staff members from First Baptist Church in Kissimmee, Fla., deliver plastic bags loaded with wrapped Christmas gifts to one of the nearby schools that has received an influx of students from Puerto Rico arriving in central Florida with their families seeking refugee from the ravages of Hurricanes Maria and Irma.


At Iglesia Casa de Bendicion, where David Pérez is pastor, relatives of church members have started coming to worship services while other churches like Templo Biblico Bautista, pastored by Jose Cardona, are responding to the needs of the new arrivals by donating clothing.
 
Hispanic churches will play a key role, Dowdy and Rogue said, as they are poised to make cultural connections. But other non-Hispanic churches already are positioned to help like First Baptist Church (FBC) in Kissimmee and First Baptist Church in Orlando which are both offering Spanish-language worship and Sunday School classes.
 
First Baptist in Kissimmee also is seeking to connect with the new Puerto Rican families through the local schools, pastor Tim Wilder reported.
 
Approximately 2,000 new students have enrolled in the Osceola County School District and another 1,000 are expected in the next couple of months.
 
The schools receiving the most new students are near the church, which already has a close relationship with them.
 
“We received 400 names of evacuees from the schools, and our church families each picked a name and bought them a Christmas present,” Wilder said. Church volunteers also are mentoring the new students after school through tutoring and counseling.
 
And the church plans to start English classes for foreign language speakers to help the parents of the children assimilate in their new environment.
 
First Baptist Orlando, like FBC Kissimmee, is translating Sunday morning worship services to accommodate Spanish speakers, wanting to help families to worship together, pastor David Uth said. Spanish speakers can utilize a special phone number to call for instant translation of the preaching.
 
The church’s food pantry also has been able to provide needed relief to evacuees.
 
Dover Shores Baptist Church is using its food pantry ministry to aid the Puerto Rican evacuees in addition to partnering with other local organizations to help the newcomers find jobs, housing, ID cards and driver’s licenses.
 
Through the Grace Resource and Training Center located within the Dover Shores facility and staffed by church volunteers, English classes are being provided for Spanish speakers – and Spanish classes for English speakers – to help overcome language barriers.
 
“We are just really getting started,” lead pastor Jack Parrott said. “We will be doing a lot more.”
 
Churches that want to get involved can contact Miles Dowdy at mdowdy@flbaptist.org or Emanuel Roque at erogue@flbaptist.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keila Diaz writes for the Florida Baptist Witness, flbaptist.org.)
 

1/17/2018 9:18:20 AM by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Witness | with 0 comments



Christian persecutors largely unchanged, Open Doors reports

January 16 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The most dangerous countries for Christians, led again by North Korea, remain largely the same, according to the 2018 list compiled by a leading advocate for the persecuted church.
 
Open Doors USA released its annual World Watch List Jan. 10, two days after President Donald Trump renominated Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback as ambassador at large for international religious freedom in a move welcomed by supporters of people of faith overseas.
 
For the 17th consecutive year, North Korea – a communist country that enforces worship of its leader, Kim Jong-un – was ranked as the worst country for followers of Jesus Christ. Christians are “the number one enemy of the state in North Korea,” Open Doors President David Curry said.
 
Meanwhile, Muslim extremism remained the primary force driving persecution, with Islamic oppression the source in eight of the top 10 countries and 33 of the 50 countries on the list, Open Doors reported. Nine of the top 10 countries were the same as the previous year.
 
Religious freedom advocates called for the church to pray for and speak out for persecuted Christians.
 
“The church should see this list as an urgent call to prayer,” said Travis Wussow of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) in written comments for Baptist Press. “We appeal to a perfectly righteous King, so let us pray for the freedom of our brothers and sisters in Christ in these 50 countries.
 
“As advocates for religious freedom, we are thankful that Open Doors shines a light on persecution with its World Watch List,” said Wussow, the ERLC’s general counsel and vice president for public policy.
 
Speaking at a Jan. 10 news conference in Washington, D.C., Curry said the list “should be a rallying cry for the body of Christ for the people who call themselves by the name of Jesus to know that [these are] not individual incidents but this is happening around the world on a massive level.”
 
“[U]ntil the voice and heart of the American church [are] heard on this subject, I don’t think much will be done,” Curry said.
 
Open Doors – which measures violence against and pressure on Christians in compiling its list – reported about 215 million followers of Jesus experience high levels of persecution in the countries on its list. While the list includes 50 countries, Open Doors said Christian persecution occurs in more than 65 countries.
 
According to Open Doors, the 10 most dangerous countries for Christians and their totals on a 100-point system are: (1) North Korea, 94 points; (2) Afghanistan, 93; (3) Somalia, 91; (4) Sudan, 87; (5) Pakistan (the most violent), 86; (6) Eritrea, 86; (7) Libya, 86; (8) Iraq, 86; (9) Yemen, 85; (10) Iran, 85.
 
Only Libya was not in the top 10 last year. Syria, which was No. 6 on last year’s list, fell to 15th.
 
India – where persecution is motivated largely by Hindu nationalism – reached its highest ranking ever at No. 11 with 81 points. Christians in the top 11 countries undergo “extreme persecution,” while those in the countries ranked from Nos. 12 to 35 suffer “very high persecution” and those in Nos. 36 to 50 are subject to “high persecution,” according to the list.
 
In its report, Open Doors cited three major trends in Christian persecution: (1) The expansion of radical Islam in Africa and Asia; (2) the increase in religious nationalism, such as Hindu forms in India and Nepal and Buddhist ones in Burma (Myanmar) and Sri Lanka; (3) the rise of persecution in Central Asian countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
 
Another trend is the increased persecution of female believers, Curry told reporters.
 
“The data [seem] to prove that Christian women are the most vulnerable population in the world today, with sexual harassment, rape and forced marriage being prime tactics of extremists” throughout the world, Curry said.
 
Trump renominated Brownback, a strong religious liberty advocate during his 17 years in Congress, after the Senate failed to act on the nomination last year.
 
When Brownback was originally nominated in July, ERLC President Russell Moore described him as “a seasoned, respected leader who brings conviction and gravity to the work of this crucial post.”
 
At the Open Doors news conference, Curry called the ambassadorship “critical to raising awareness and to synthesizing and bringing together the efforts of the United States government around religious freedom” and supporting persecuted Christians.
 
In its research to compile the World Watch List, Open Doors measures the freedom of Christians in five areas of life – private, family, community, national and church. Its researchers also gauge the degree of violence.
 
The full report of the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List is available at opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/.
 
The State Department announced its “countries of particular concern” Jan. 4. The category, reserved for especially severe violators of religious liberty, consisted of the same 10 countries designated in 2016: Burma; China; Eritrea; Iran; North Korea; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; and Uzbekistan.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

1/16/2018 11:02:21 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



No charges in New Mexico fetal tissue case

January 16 2018 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced last week he will not prosecute the University of New Mexico and the Southwestern Women’s Options abortion center for their alleged fetal tissue trade, but the university has launched its own internal investigation into the transactions.
 
In a letter sent Jan. 4 to the U.S. House of Representatives Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, Balderas said he found no violation of state law in the transfer of dead babies and their body parts from the abortion facility to the university. His letter came a year after the congressional panel referred the two entities for criminal investigation.
 
Profiting from fetal tissue transfer violates state law, but Balderas’ letter stated “there is no evidence that any of the donated fetal tissue was used for any purpose other than research and education.”
 
New Mexico Alliance for Life director Elisa Martinez said in a statement it “is shameful and disgusting that [Balderas] isn’t prosecuting the law on behalf of New Mexico women, and by not even bothering to contact the victims he chose to trust the lawbreakers over trusting women.”
 
Meanwhile, the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is investigating faculty member Robin Ohls for her alleged transfer of fetal tissue from Southwestern Women’s Options to Michigan research company Zietchick Research Institute LLC.
 
University officials suspended Ohls’ research in October and locked her out of her lab, according to internal documents released to the Albuquerque Journal.
 
The concealment of its own internal investigation, Martinez said, shows the university “misled the public and protected the lawbreakers in the midst of systemic violations of laws and regulations.” She urged the FBI to “take immediate steps to obtain all documents and investigate the ongoing multiple violations” between the university and the abortion center.
 
At least one woman has sued Southwestern Women’s Options for concealing its relationship with researchers at the University of New Mexico.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

1/16/2018 10:55:57 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



SBTS’ Trentham to lead Christian education profs society

January 16 2018 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) professor John David Trentham is the new president of the Society of Professors in Christian Education (SPCE), an organization for evangelical academicians in the educational disciplines, which include Christian formation, leadership and discipleship.

John David Trentham


Trentham is assistant professor of leadership and discipleship at SBTS, chair of the department of leadership and discipleship within the seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry and editor of the Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry.
 
“It is truly humbling to be the youngest to serve in this role,” said Trentham, 35, who will serve a two-year term, according to an SPCE news release Dec. 23.
 
The SPCE, online at spceonline.org, was established and has been led for generations “by giants in the field of Christian education,” Trentham said. “I am primarily a recipient of wisdom in this field, both from my predecessors and my peers. As such, I view my ascendancy as having been lifted up and supported on the shoulders of others rather than as having accomplished a singular recognition or status on the basis of personal achievement.”
 
“Alongside the organization’s board members, my primary responsibility and overarching goal as president is to harness the resources and energy of academicians in the field of Christian education in a redemptive way, so that its members are enriched and better equipped to lead with excellence and virtue and mission,” Trentham said.
 
The field of Christian education, he noted, entails “the organized effort of the church in creating opportunities for people to engage and flourish in an authentic relationship with the God of the Bible.” Within the broad field of Christian education, the society helps connect evangelical scholars with evangelical leaders who are training and discipling in the local church and other Christian organizations. The society encompasses people professionally committed to training those involved in age group ministry, parachurch ministry, administration and higher education.
 
Trentham added that he hopes to oversee growth in racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in Christian education, with the goal of better serving the global Christian church. He also hopes to inspire a new generation of evangelical scholarship, further expanding evangelicalism’s influence in both the church and the academic world.
 
Trentham holds master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees from SBTS and an undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee.
 
“John David Trentham is one of the rising leaders in the field of Christian education and discipleship, and his election as president of the Society of Professors of Christian Education is a great honor and worthy recognition,” said Adam W. Greenway, dean of the Billy Graham School. “His important work this year with SPCE will be a natural complement to his teaching and writing ministry as a professor in the Billy Graham School, and Southern Seminary is blessed to have someone like Dr. Trentham working to equip future pastors and disciple-makers for more faithful service.”
 
Trentham and his wife Brittany, have two children. He is an elder with Christ Fellowship Church in Louisville, Ky.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston from reporting by Andrew J.W. Smith of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

1/16/2018 10:53:07 AM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



Planned Parenthood reports more money, fewer services

January 16 2018 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

Abortion giant Planned Parenthood raised more money in fiscal year 2016 but provided fewer services, including abortions, according to the annual report it released last week. The report struck a tone of defiance against recent pro-life efforts but offered no explanation for the drop in assistance for women not seeking abortions, services political activists claim are vital to the organization’s mission.
 
Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins likened the report to “crocodile tears,” saying in a statement that Planned Parenthood leaders “claim to be under attack, but their profits from the rising number of abortions and from the hard-working taxpayers are up again. Making money from ending lives is big business at Planned Parenthood.”
 
Planned Parenthood performed 321,384 abortions in 2016, down slightly from the previous year and down by more than 12,000 compared to 2011. It also reported an 18 percent drop in prenatal care over the previous year, as well as a 4 percent drop in pap tests and a slight drop in pregnancy tests. Still claiming abortion makes up only 3 percent of its total services, Planned Parenthood reported that it provided more than 9.5 million services to 2.4 million individuals. That’s slightly more services than the previous year but 1.3 million fewer services given to 600,000 fewer people when compared to 2011.
 
Abby Johnson, a former manager of a Planned Parenthood facility, called the total service number a “joke.”
 
“Every time they hand out a pack of birth control pills, they consider that a patient service,” she told me. “And so for one patient, if she’s on birth control pills, she automatically is going to have 12-plus visits per year for her. It’s just ridiculous how they come to these numbers.”
 
Despite offering fewer services, Planned Parenthood brought in $1.5 billion in revenue in 2016, up by more than $155 million from the previous year and by more than $260 million in 2011. Government funding accounted for 37 percent of that revenue – down by 4 percentage points from the previous year.
 
Private contributions took a greater share of the revenue – up 10 percentage points from five years ago – and the report touts the success of the Women’s March, legal victories and its growing support base. The report claims 1.3 million new supporters, more than 700,000 new donors and 156,000 young people engaged in pro-abortion activism.
 
But Hawkins sees the abortion giant’s reported growth as a “silver lining” in an otherwise grim outlook, noting the pro-life movement’s growing strength on the ground. She compared Planned Parenthood’s 50 new campus groups and 750 trained activists to Students for Life’s 120 new groups and 11,000 trained pro-life advocates.
 
“We can see that more students are responding to the human rights interests of the preborn than to the business interests of Planned Parenthood,” Hawkins said.
 
Planned Parenthood’s report outlined its political and legislative battlegrounds but mentioned very little about improving women’s health. Johnson noted the money Planned Parenthood spends on events like the Women’s March or “movement building” could go toward patient services like mammograms and prenatal care.
 
Johnson, now a pro-life activist, said her And Then There Were None organization has helped more than 400 workers leave Planned Parenthood. The loss of workers, the closure of abortion centers across the country, and the decrease in services for women has contributed to what Johnson called a “desperate pull of support.”
 
“I think they are just trying to keep quiet and keep convincing people that they are still relevant among young people, that they are still needed,” she said. “The way to do that is just to talk about, oh all the wonderful things we are doing across the country, instead of really focusing on patient services, because they really don’t have that much to brag about when it comes to patient services.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

1/16/2018 10:47:47 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



One man’s kindness spurs a city’s change of heart

January 16 2018 by Rob Holmes, WORLD News Service

City officials last week ordered an Elgin, Ill., man to stop using his home to host “slumber parties” for the homeless. But this week, the city wants Greg Schiller’s help to find new ways to fill gaps in services for the homeless.
 
Though his suburban Chicago home remains off-limits as a temporary shelter, Schiller said the city’s new attitude about how to house people on cold nights is “like an answered prayer,” according to WMAQ-TV in Chicago.
 
Schiller had defended welcoming the homeless into his home as a compassionate outreach: “I would stay up all night with them and give them coffee and stuff and feed them.” He insisted he never allowed drugs or alcohol inside his residence on the freezing nights he invited the homeless in. His kindness included a cot in the warm, dorm-style basement, plus hot drinks and movies.
 
And Schiller came to the work with experience. He previously co-founded Matthew 25:40 Ministry, a homeless shelter outreach program at Elgin First United Methodist Church. After his resignation in 2016, Schiller began to minister to the homeless, first in his garage and this year in his better-equipped basement.
 
But city officials in Elgin said Schiller’s basement didn’t meet its “sleeping regulations” code. When police officers inspected and shut down the basement “party” space last week, they cited the ceiling height as too low and the windows as too high and small to be used as an egress.
 
Schiller said he decided to open his basement when the wind chill factor dipped below 15 degrees and area shelters did not open. Despite his attempts to protect people in dangerously low temperatures, officials said they would refer Schiller’s house to be condemned if he resisted the order to stop hosting the homeless, which included removal of a portable toilet set up for them.
 
“While we appreciate those who volunteer to provide additional resources in the community, Mr. Schiller’s house does not comply with codes and regulations that guard against potential dangers such as carbon monoxide poisoning, inadequate light and ventilation and insufficient exits in the event of a fire,” city spokeswoman Molly Center said in a statement last week.
 
After the showdown at Schiller’s home, the city is now helping lead the creation of new shelters and has even offered the police department lobby for people with nowhere to go, including those who have a criminal record that keeps them out of shelters.
 
Schiller got to know many of the city’s approximately 100 homeless people by offering them a place to stay. Although he’s stopped hosting the “slumber parties,” as he calls them, he will join forces with the city to help care for those who don’t have a home of their own.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rob Holmes writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

1/16/2018 10:44:32 AM by Rob Holmes, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



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