January 2018

Gaines, Greear united in nomination announcement

January 31 2018 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Steve Gaines, current president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and J.D. Greear, whose forthcoming nomination for the office was announced Jan. 29, came to a mutual agreement in recent weeks that Gaines should not nominate Greear, as he offered to do in 2016, because of potentially negative influences on future elections.
“We agreed that it would not be a good precedent for sitting presidents to get in the habit of nominating the next president,” Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, told the Biblical Recorder.

J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., left, and Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., right.

Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., said after they discussed the matter, he thought such a move would be “imprudent” and “potentially dangerous.”
Greear emphasized that Gaines was not breaking a pledge or official commitment from 2016.
Both men had intended to drop out of the race in attempts to curb potential division caused by the election, which had produced two close, indecisive votes. After some discussion, Greear decided to withdraw, and in response, Gaines expressed willingness to nominate Greear for SBC president two years later.
Greear told the Recorder that Gaines’s impromptu comment “ought to be classified as a statement of support rather than some well thought out promise to nominate.”
Both men highlighted the importance of unity in the SBC.
“Steve is a personal friend and great leader in our convention, and one I was happy to follow,” said Greear. “He emphasized two vital things in the life of our convention – the importance of prayer and the primacy of personal evangelism. Both were timely and prophetic calls, and both are great foundations we must continue to build on.”
Gaines said, “I will never forget our time together at the SBC [annual meeting] in St. Louis in 2016. J.D. was so supportive of me then, and has continued to be supportive and encouraging to me over the past year and a half as I have served as president.”
Greear said, “There are not really two sides in this convention ... we want to go forward together.”
Gaines added that Greear would enjoy his “full support” if elected president at the 2018 annual meeting June 12-13 in Dallas, Texas.
“He is a wonderful pastor and preacher,” Gaines said of Greear. “He has preached for us at Bellevue and our people loved him. He is extremely evangelistic. The church he leads is growing and baptizing hundreds every year. I believe J.D. is a magnanimous, gifted leader who would seek to be a unifier among all the various groups within the SBC.”
Gaines also told the Recorder that, if Greear is elected this year and decided in due course to bid for a second term, he would be willing to nominate Greear for re-election in 2019.

1/31/2018 4:11:56 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Late-term abortion ban fails in Senate

January 31 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Senate rejected an effort to prohibit late-term abortions Jan. 29, assuring the United States would maintain for now one of the world’s most radical policies on the procedure.
Senators voted 51-46 to bring the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S. 2311, to the floor but fell short of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture, as it is known, and proceed to a roll call on passage. The bill would ban 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.
In October, the House of Representatives approved its version of the legislation, and the White House issued a statement saying it “strongly supports” the proposal.
The demise of the bill – which the Senate also rejected in 2015 after House passage – means the United States remains among the seven countries in the world that permit elective abortions after 20 weeks. The other six from among 198 countries are Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore and Vietnam, according to the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute.
Pro-life advocates again grieved the Senate’s refusal to protect unborn children in the last half of pregnancy but vowed to continue the fight for the sanctity of human life.
“The fact that a vote over whether or not it should be legal to snuff out the lives of 20-week-old babies could not even pass a procedural hurdle in the United States Senate should be shocking to the conscience,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“What some members of Congress who would vote against such a measure have been wrong to assume is that Americans will, given enough time, simply get over their convictions about abortion,” Moore told Baptist Press (BP) in a written statement. “That is not going to happen. Not only that, but the church of Jesus Christ always has stood and always will stand for life at every stage. The reborn will stand for the unborn, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, said in a tweet, “Tonight may not be our night but we look forward to the day America once again sets the tone worldwide when it comes to defending women and unborn children from the horrors of later-term abortion.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the bill’s sponsor and a Southern Baptist, said after his measure failed, “[W]hile today was a small setback, I have no doubt that we will eventually be victorious.
“The more we discuss this matter, the more support we get from the American people.”
A Marist Poll survey conducted in December showed 63 percent of Americans, including 56 percent of both Democrats and pro-choice citizens, support the late-term ban. That is an increase from 59 percent overall and 49 percent for Democrats in last January’s poll.
Abortion-right supporters welcomed the bill’s failure.
Calling it a waste of “time and taxpayer money,” NARAL Pro-choice America President Ilyse Hogue said the Republicans’ effort “reveals their true priorities: to punish women, ban abortion and try to score an ideological win to appeal to their fringe base.”
Three Democrats – Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – joined nearly all of the Republicans in voting to bring the ban to the floor. Two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined most of the Democrats in opposition.
More than 15,000 abortions are performed each year in the United States after 20 weeks, the Centers for Disease Control estimated in a 2008 study. At least 275 clinics perform abortions past 20 weeks, according to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
Abortion doctors often use a technique known as dismemberment or “dilation and extraction” abortion from about 14 weeks of pregnancy into the third trimester, according to NRLC. In the method, a doctor uses instruments such as forceps, tongs, clamps or scissors to cut off or rip off parts of an unborn baby or crush the child’s body.
While efforts at the federal level have been unsuccessful, 16 states have enacted pain-capable abortion bans, according to NRLC. They are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated Idaho’s law in 2015.
Ohio also has enacted, along with Tennessee, an abortion ban for any unborn baby who is determined to be able to survive outside the womb with or without medical assistance. The measure requires a viability test beginning at the 20th week of pregnancy and establishes a state presumption of viability at 24 weeks since the mother’s last menstrual period.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/31/2018 10:59:40 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC 2018 Dallas registration opens Feb. 1

January 31 2018 by BP staff

Registration opens Feb. 1 for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) 2018 annual meeting June 12-13 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.
Registration will be available around the clock at sbcannualmeeting.net for messengers and invited guests. The annual meeting is a private religious gathering open to registered messengers, invited guests of messengers, program participants and approved exhibitors.
Through online messenger registration at the designated sbcannualmeeting.net tab, each messenger will receive an eight-digit registration code to present at the annual meeting’s Express Registration lane in Dallas. The code will be entered into a computer at the SBC registration area and a nametag will be printed. The appropriate church-authorized representative must complete all online messenger registrations.
SBC President Steve Gaines has urged Southern Baptists to attend.
“As we meet we will conduct business and hear from each of our entities, but most importantly we are going to come together to cry out to the Lord,” Gaines has said. “Our country needs a spiritual awakening, and if we humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our sins, God will hear us and will forgive our sin and heal our land.”
Each cooperating church that contributes to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year of the annual meeting qualifies for two messengers. The convention will recognize up to 10 additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the following options:
– One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the convention’s Executive Committee for convention causes, and/or to any convention entity.
– One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the normative combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.
“Testify! Go. Stand. Speak” is this year’s theme, based on Acts 5:20. The meeting will not only cover business, Gaines has said, but will also provide spiritual edification.
“It is our prayer that Southern Baptists will be challenged [in Dallas] to boldly testify of the work that Christ has done for us,” Gaines said when the annual meeting logo was released in mid-January.
Hotel registration has been available since October and continues through May 14, online at sbcannualmeeting.net. While online housing reservations are preferred, housing may also be reserved by phone from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday toll-free at 800-967-8852.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/31/2018 10:55:09 AM by BP staff | with 0 comments

SBC child care, children, youth reg. opens Feb. 1

January 31 2018 by BP staff

Registration opens Feb. 1 for preschool child care, Giant Cow Children’s Ministries and Youth on Mission in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference June 10-11 and the SBC’s June 12-13 annual meeting.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) child care volunteers will care for preschoolers while Giant Cow Children’s Ministries will lead the 5-12 year olds and Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) will guide the Youth on Mission curricula and activities.

thegiantcow.com graphic

All activities for children and youth will be housed at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, the annual meeting site. Youth who have completed grades 7-12 will begin their days at the convention center with worship each morning before going into the community for hands-on mission projects.
Pre-registration is required and will be handled online at sbcannualmeeting.net under the “children/youth” tab. The deadline for registration is May 11 for most programs, or when the space limitation of 125 children is reached. There will be no on-site registration.

Preschool child care

SBDR child care volunteers will offer child care for newborns through 4-year-olds June 10-13, encompassing the SBC Pastors’ Conference June 10-11 and the annual meeting. Preschool child care is $25 per child for the Pastors’ Conference and an additional $25 per child for the annual meeting. There is also a $10 non-refundable registration fee per child.
Lunch for preschoolers will be available for $6 per day June 11-13. Parents should pay all related fees when registering to insure their child’s participation. The SBC will verify registrations with an emailed confirmation packet including a parent’s handbook.

Giant Cow Ministries

“Legends of the Feast: A Story of Love That Never Stops” is the theme for this year’s Giant Cow Children’s Ministries events, including high-energy worship, impactful object lessons, scripture memorization, games and activities. WMU will provide missions education as part of the curriculum.
Giant Cow Ministries will be offered for staggered fees: $65 for June 10-13, $55 for June 11-13, $45 for June 10-11 or June 12-13 and $25 for each individual day. The registration deadline is May 25 or until spaces are sold.
Registration is available at sbcannualmeeting.net or thegiantcow.com/sbc-dallas-2018-pre.

Youth on Mission

Youth on Mission will engage students in hands-on mission projects June 12-13 for $55 per youth plus a nonrefundable registration fee of $10 per youth. Lunch and snacks will be provided both days.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Lynn Richmond of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s office of convention finance.)

1/31/2018 10:32:42 AM by BP staff | with 0 comments

SUPER BOWL: Eagles coach embraces unique resume

January 31 2018 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

Among the list of men who have coached in a Super Bowl, Frank Reich may have a resume that’s unique.
It’s not the “former NFL quarterback” component that qualifies him for that distinction. It’s the combination of “former NFL quarterback” and “former seminary president” that gives Reich, the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the most unusual paths to football’s pinnacle.

Photo by Tim Ellsworth
Frank Reich, a former NFL quarterback and seminary president, is part of a group of Christians on the Philadelphia Eagles who have seen God move in a special way along their journey to the Super Bowl.

“I would think so,” Reich, former president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., said Monday night about whether he’s the first former seminary leader ever to coach in the Super Bowl.
As offensive coordinator, Reich has played a major role in the Eagles’ success this season. Philadelphia has ranked among the top offenses in the league all year, and their 38-7 drubbing of the Minnesota Vikings in the National Football Conference championship game shows they haven’t slowed down.
But while Reich relishes that offensive performance, he also cherishes the role he plays as a Christian brother to many of the believers on the team.
“We have a lot of fun,” Reich said at the Super Bowl LII Opening Night event at the Xcel Energy Center. “We’re football coaches and players, but we’re also human beings. Part of a coach is understanding the person, and you relate to people on different levels.
“For the guys who are Christians on the team and who believe those things, that’s a very exciting and fun opportunity for me – who believes those same things and who walked in those same shoes – to be able to help understand what it means to be a Christian athlete and how to live that out as a professional athlete.”
Reich is no stranger to the Super Bowl. As the backup quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, Reich made the trip to the Super Bowl four times from 1991-1994 but never won a ring.
He forever earned a spot in NFL history when he did the impossible, leading the Buffalo Bills to the biggest come-from-behind win ever in a playoff game against the Houston Oilers in 1993. Houston led Buffalo 35-3 in the third quarter when Reich, who had started the game because Jim Kelly was injured, engineered an unbelievable scoring frenzy.
Buffalo’s Kenneth Davis rushed for a 1-yard touchdown to open the gates. Then Reich connected for four straight touchdown passes to put the Bills in front 38-35 before they eventually won 41-38 in overtime.
After a 13-year NFL career, Reich completed his master of divinity degree from Reformed Theological Seminary before taking over as the seminary’s president in 2003 and later pastoring a Presbyterian church. He began his coaching career in 2006. His theological background makes him a valuable resource for the Christians on the team.
“It’s cool to be able to go to him for questions,” said Trey Burton, a tight end for the Eagles. “Right before the game, we’re out for pre-game warm-up. Almost every single game, he and I have had a moment where I’ve either given him something I’ve been reading, or he’s given me something he’s been reading, just to get our mind off the game and back on the Lord.”
The Eagles have a strong contingent of players who are Christians, including starting quarterback Carson Wentz, backup quarterback Nick Foles, safety Chris Maragos, wide receiver Torrey Smith and others.
They’ve seen teammates come to know Christ and be baptized this year.
Reich said that influence is one reason for the team’s success.
Understanding what it means to be a Christian athlete, Reich said, means that these players respect their teammates more and want to serve them more – which in turn makes them better teammates and better players.
“It’s been an exciting time, not only on the field but off the field as well for how guys have grown in every area of their life,” Reich said. “I think that’s good for them personally. It’s good for the community of faith of believers who are on the team. But I think it’s been good for the team.”
Reich has enjoyed the Eagles’ path to the Super Bowl this season, and he’s enjoyed what he has seen the Lord doing on the team.
“It’s really fun to have some very personal conversation with guys,” he said. “As much as we all love football, there are other things other than football. To be able to have a personal dynamic with some of these players on that level, personally, it doesn’t get any better.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

1/31/2018 10:29:50 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Members of 117 churches urged to ‘rise up, build’

January 31 2018 by Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message

Nearly 700 members of the Northwest Louisiana Baptist Association’s 117 churches came together to cry out to God to bring revival during the local fellowship’s third annual “Call to Prayer.”
Hosted by Cypress Baptist Church, Benton, the Jan. 28 gathering brought together Christians of various ages and ethnicities to pray for law enforcement, the persecuted church, missionaries serving around the world, pastors and other church leaders.

Brian Blackwell photo
Prayer was the focus of a gathering of the Northwest Louisiana Baptist Associations churches Jan. 28, 2018.

Just like the previous gatherings at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, and Summer Grove Baptist Church, Shreveport, this event was marked by prayer from the worship center stage, in small groups around the room and by individuals who pleaded with God for revival in their community, state and nation.

Urgency to seek God

During opening remarks, Lane Moore, the association’s director of missions, said that without God there is no hope, and he emphasized how great movements of God have followed focused times of prayer by His people.
“When scripture talks about crying out to God, it is indicative of desperation,” Moore said. “This gathering tonight is about all of us by the hundreds calling out to God.
“We are living in a country that is desperate,” he said. “They may not know what they’re desperate for, but they are desperate.”
John Fream, Cypress Baptist Church, said just one tragedy or crisis often draws people to their knees.
“There’s an urgency to pray,” he said. “But the greatest urgency is to seek God.”

Repentance and renewal

Brent Shoalmire, pastor of Oak Hill Baptist Church, Plain Dealing, told the crowd for any real revival to sweep through Louisiana Baptist churches and for any great awakening to occur in the communities, the Holy Spirit must first move in the hearts of believers.
Shoalmire then challenged each person to pray the words “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” from Psalm 51:10.
“We need to kneel,” he said. “We need to pray personally.
“For real revival to happen, we need to repent,” he said. “For real revival to happen, we need to seek personal lasting deep genuine renewal.”

Rise up, church

Gregory Shyne, pastor of United Outreach Church, Shreveport, said the world is burdened with disturbing news, much like what Nehemiah encountered when he learned the walls around Jerusalem were in need of repair.

Brian Blackwell photo
Members of law enforcement and first responders are joined on stage by pastors during a special time of prayer.

Citing Nehemiah 2:18, Nehemiah called on his fellow Jews to “rise up and build” the walls of the city. Likewise, the church today must do the same by rising up and building an awareness of Christ.
“The world is wallowing in abject hopelessness because of the deadly consequences of sin,” Shyne said. “It behooves all Christians to rise up and build a keen awareness of Christ and His cross to those who are struggling and stumbling in the depths of sin. It’s time for the church to rise up and build up souls upon the safety and sure foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Shyne said the church must develop the same kind of singleness of heart displayed by the workers who rebuilt the walls.
“There is always good progress and value in joint cooperation in any worthy cause, especially when the whole purpose is directed to the glory of God,” he said.
For too long, Shyne noted, the church has ignored the evil that has taken place in the world. He said now is the time for the church to awaken and rebuild those things that have fallen by the wayside.
“This project embodies the cause of Christ, the cross of Christ and a commitment to Christ,” he said. “In every good and noble endeavor, may we be found always to say ’Let us rise up and build.’”

Calling for revival

Collin Wimberly, pastor of Trinity Heights Baptist Church, Shreveport, said the time has come for a great spiritual awakening in a country suffering from moral decay.
Wimberly said the United States is at the point of spiritual darkness, where many forms of heresy and dark spiritual forces are influencing young people. Referencing Romans 13:11-12, Wimberly said it is past time for the church to awaken and push back the darkness.
“If there is anybody in here who needs revival, it’s me,” Wimberly said. “It’s not just the church, but me. And I hope you feel the same way.
“This is the greatest day of opportunity that we have ever seen in our nation,” he said. “People have had everything, but they are still searching. They need the gospel and we have the answer.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message, baptistmessage.com, news journal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

1/31/2018 10:24:50 AM by Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message | with 0 comments

SEBTS convocation: Endure opposition through scripture

January 30 2018 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

The only way to endure opposition to the gospel is through God’s Word, Provost Bruce Ashford of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) said in the spring semester convocation at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus.

SEBTS photo
Provost Bruce Ashford of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) addresses the spring semester convocation at SEBTS.

Ashford examined observations the apostle Paul made in regard to enduring opposition, drawing from 2 Timothy 3:10-16. (Verse 16 is Southeastern’s theme verse, which notes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” [ESV]).
“We should embrace the moment [of opposition] instead of resenting it,” Ashford told SEBTS students, as they will find themselves in a variety of ministry contexts that bring varying forms of opposition.
Opposition to the gospel can come from within the church from those who are not truly followers of Christ, Ashford said of such moments that can be shocking but are to be expected.
“There are going to be people who seem to be inside of the circle of faith and they will try to come against you and defeat you,” he said.
Ashford reminded students that the words they read in scripture are the words of God Himself. Being saturated in scripture, he said, is vital to enduring pushback in the Christian faith.
“If you want to be sustained, nourish yourself with Christian scripture,” he said. “Soak yourself in it so that the narrative of the Bible is the master narrative that governs your life.”
Through Christ and the power of scripture, believers can face opposition, Ashford said, closing his Jan. 23 address underscoring God’s empowering of His people. “Our God, in His goodness, took our name, ‘Evil One’ or ‘Imposter,’ on His shoulders on the cross and in exchange gave us His name, ‘Righteous One.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston from reporting by Lauren Pratt of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

1/30/2018 11:59:38 AM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments

Virgin Islands pastor: Baptists’ concern ‘genuine’

January 30 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The “genuine” love and concern of fellow Southern Baptists are what U.S. Virgin Islands pastor Lawrence Turnbull cites as perhaps his greatest appreciation while recovering from two devastating hurricanes of 2017.

Submitted photo
“There’s a love and a concern that [Southern Baptists] show that [is] genuine,” U.S. Virgin Islands pastor Lawrence Turnbull told Baptist Press after attending an appreciation dinner Southern Baptist leaders hosted for pastors on the islands Jan. 27.

“There’s a love and a concern that the folks show that [is] genuine,” Turnbull told Baptist Press (BP) after attending an appreciation dinner Southern Baptist leaders hosted for pastors on the islands Jan. 27.
“One of the things that I really appreciate about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and the people that are there as representatives of SBC, is their concern and love, and their genuine concern for the people of the Virgin Islands,” said Turnbull, pastor of the St. Paul Baptist Church on St. Thomas and one of about 10 Southern Baptist pastors among the three islands.
“Those guys for the most part, especially Dr. (Ken) Weathersby [SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement], if he promises something, he’s going to make it work, make it happen,” Turnbull said.
Southern Baptist leaders from the SBC Executive Committee (EC), the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the Florida Baptist Convention (FBC) and LifeWay Christian Resources hosted the dinner at a St. Thomas restaurant for the pastors and wives.
Mark Croston, LifeWay Christian Resources national director of black church partnerships, gifted pastors with educational and leadership resources. Dennis Mitchell, executive director of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, also attended.
Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee CEO and president, initiated the EC’s participation in the dinner, Weathersby said.
“Dr. Page and the EC wanted to assure the pastors and people of the U.S. Virgin Islands that Southern Baptists have not forgotten about their needs,” Weathersby told BP. “We are also grateful for the Florida Baptist Convention, NAMB and members of the Southern Baptist Convention for responding to the pastors’ needs.”
Jeffery Singletary, an FBC regional catalyst, told pastors the FBC is “right beside” them, echoing the FBC motto. The U.S. Virgin Island churches comprise the Baptist Association of the Virgin Islands and are cooperating churches of the FBC.
“This dinner is to celebrate and appreciate the good work, hard work and noble work these pastors are doing throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Singletary said. “We want to honor them and their wives in a tangible way. Love is a verb, therefore we want to demonstrate our love for them in words, actions and deeds.”
Myles Dowdy, who oversees the FBC relationship with the pastors, told BC the FBC is “excited and blessed” to have Virgin Island churches as members of the Florida Baptist family.
“As a family, we are present for the celebrations and also the hardships that occur in life and ministry. I believe we have been able to come alongside the churches in the Virgin Islands and give a word of encouragement and hope,” Dowdy said. “We also have been able to give a helping hand in coming beside churches as they have ministered to their communities following the hurricanes.”
At first glance, the islands have largely recovered from the devastation of the 2017 hurricane season, Turnbull told BP Jan. 29. Electricity has been restored to as much as 97 percent of the island, homes are patched with blue tarp awaiting permanent repairs, the government is working, hospitals are open and commerce is active, Turnbull said.
He and his wife Evette are staying in one of four bedrooms he maintains at his church for mission outreaches, he said, while his home is being repaired.
God has used the hurricanes to help spread the gospel, Turnbull said, noting baptisms and salvations in his congregation of about 100 worshipers on an average Sunday.
As evidence of Southern Baptists’ genuine love, Turnbull pointed to packs of supplies NAMB sent to pastors there this fall.
“It was a package that contained basically everything that we would need to make life kind of normal, and it was really honestly appreciated,” Turnbull said, noting generators, chainsaws, extension cords, food and cooking supplies that enabled the leaders to help their congregations as well as community members.
“And we look at the appreciation dinner that was held last weekend, we are really grateful,” Turnbull told BP. “They showed us their appreciation, but we honestly appreciate what NAMB, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Florida Baptist Convention and all the folks have done for us.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

1/30/2018 11:59:14 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Same-sex couples fight citizenship battle

January 30 2018 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

Two same-sex couples filed lawsuits last week against the U.S. State Department, arguing it unlawfully discriminated against them by denying their children U.S. citizenship.
The cases join a host of others involving reproductive technology and same-sex parenting working their way through the U.S. court system. Since the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right, LGBT advocates have been pushing back against laws that uphold the biological reality that every child is the genetic offspring of just one man and one woman and that a biological connection carries weight.
A State Department policy about foreign-born children does just that by requiring that a child be biologically, not just legally, related to a U.S. citizen to gain citizenship.
That requirement posed a problem for Elad and Andrew Dvash-Banks, married in Canada in 2010. Elad is an Israeli citizen; Andrew is an American. In 2016, they hired a gestational surrogate in Canada to carry two embryos conceived from donor eggs and each of their sperm. In September 2016, the surrogate delivered two boys: Ethan, who is biologically related to Elad, and Aiden, who is biologically related to Andrew.
Shortly after the boys’ birth, the couple decided to move to Los Angeles. But when they brought the babies to the U.S. Consulate in Toronto to apply for passports, officials told them they needed to undergo DNA testing to determine the biological relationship of each boy to Andrew, the U.S. citizen.
State Department regulations allow a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen and an alien to attain citizenship only if the U.S. citizen is the “genetic or the gestational parent” of the child.
The couple submitted DNA test results, and soon after the State Department issued a passport to Aiden but not Ethan.
In the lawsuit filed on Monday, the couple argued the State Department unlawfully discriminated against them and their toddler, because they were a same-sex couple.
“If a mother and father walk into a consulate and have a marriage certificate and birth certificate, they’re never asked any questions about the biology of the child,” said Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, the LGBT immigrant advocacy group that filed both lawsuits. Morris and the Dvash-Bankses believe the State Department should treat the children of same-sex couples the same as the children of opposite-sex couples with no questions asked.
But that is asking the State Department to ignore biology, noted Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.
“The position of this couple, and this argument, seems to be that the law can and should redefine biological reality,” he said. Opposite-sex married couples are assumed to be the biological parents of their child because it is very likely the biological truth. But it is impossible for a child of a married same-sex couple to be biologically related to both parents.
Sprigg argued that the current State Department rules consistently – and without discrimination – limit citizenship to children who have either a blood relationship or an adoptive relationship to a parent who is a U.S. citizen: “It’s not a question of discrimination; it’s a question of is there a biological relationship or is there not?”
The legalization of same-sex marriage should not influence that question, he said, though Sprigg noted this is one of the reasons why he and others opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage – because marriage, in addition to being God-ordained, is a social institution rooted in biological complementarity.
The other case, filed in Washington, D.C., involves a married lesbian couple in London – one U.S. citizen and one Italian citizen – who have two children but only one related to the U.S. citizen.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

1/30/2018 11:58:22 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Persecuted in Pakistan, now pastoring in Vancouver

January 30 2018 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

Pastor Gavaha* received the alarming news while he was visiting South Korea for a leadership conference. A group of men, claiming to have come to deliver a magazine at his family’s home in Pakistan, had forced their way past an armed security guard and taken Gavaha’s wife and four children hostage.
A few weeks earlier, Gavaha had led Christian mission teams into areas in Pakistan that had been severely impacted by floods in 2010 and 2011. He and his team brought both flood relief and the gospel message of Jesus.

BP file photo by Matt Miller
Among the many nationalities in Vancouver, a Pakistani pastor who was persecuted in his South Asia homeland is planting a church among Punjabi-speaking people he had been reaching in Pakistan.

“We had been calling those places ‘target areas,’ and then the floods affected them badly,” Gavaha said. “We were able to show the love of Christ through our service, our lives and our prayers.”
As they helped clean and rebuild homes, Gavaha’s team also started to see lives transformed and remade by the power of the gospel.
Gavaha and his co-laborers brought a pair of these new believers back with them after finishing the recovery work. They trained them and sent them back to help believers grow in their faith.
One day, as Gavaha was baptizing people outside a village, a reporter noticed that some of the people being baptized were Muslim, which was not allowed in Pakistan. The Christians were eventually forced to leave.
“Reporters started spreading the news,” Gavaha recounted, “and they realized that Christian organizations were converting people as they were conducting their relief activities.”
Some odd things started to happen around their organization’s headquarters where Gavaha and his family lived. Six men came to his home late one evening, asking to see Gavaha. The guard checked with Gavaha’s wife and went then back to tell the men to come back the next day, but they had left.
“We didn’t think someone was trying to do anything to us,” he said.
Then, weeks later, the group – presumably Islamic extremists – broke into Gavaha’s home. They tied up his family and held them at gunpoint, including his 2-year-old daughter, until they received confirmation that Gavaha was out of the country. Then, they let the family go and left the home.
While they were there, the attackers stole Gavaha’s laptop, jewelry and money. They did not cover their faces. They showed no fear, no shame.
When he heard the news, Gavaha canceled a planned trip to Toronto for another conference and started the trek of more than 3,000 miles back to Pakistan. “That day, my kids, by God’s grace, were spared, but next time maybe they would not be,” Gavaha said. “We worried about them going to school.”
Returning home, Gavaha took more security measures and moved to another house, but since he was leading the ministry, extremists continued looking for him and he could no longer move around freely. Gavaha and his family discussed what they should do with their ministry’s leadership. Since extremists were making threats on his life, everybody suggested that he leave. So, he packed up and headed for Toronto where a friend of his would allow him to stay.
“Everything was going smoothly. My kids were studying in Pakistan, and ministry was flourishing and going well,” Gavaha said. “I was feeling that I was in my comfort zone when everything changed in one day.”
Gavaha had to leave his family behind because traveling with them would have raised suspicion. In February 2012, they moved to a different city in Pakistan and tried to live a low-profile life while he flew to Canada, surrendered his passport at the refugee office and quickly became an official asylum seeker.
The process, however, would not be so smooth for his family. It would be more than four years before Gavaha’s wife, daughter and three sons finally landed in Toronto.
During those four years, Gavaha worked days and nights, sending money back to his family. Then a church that he occasionally visited asked for help and he started preaching on Saturdays and Sundays while continuing his other job.
As he started making friends and developing connections in Toronto, he was introduced to the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and heard about church planting.
“I was in Toronto for more than four years. ... I was building relationships and feeling a little bit settled when God directed me to plant a church.”
As Gavaha talked through the process with NAMB leadership, he learned that a significant population of Punjabi-speaking people, people he had been reaching in Pakistan, lived in the Vancouver area. “Many of them did not have a church, and there was a need,” Gavaha said.
Once his family had joined him in Toronto, the pressure associated with making a major move made Gavaha anxious. His family had just come to Toronto from Pakistan. Now, the call to plant a church in Vancouver had them contemplating a 2,700-mile journey across Canada.
“We said that if God wanted us to move, we would move,” Gavaha said. “When I was visiting Vancouver, God showed me the need.”
Ultimately, they stepped out in faith as God’s call became clear to him and his family. After completing the application process with NAMB, Gavaha called Ray Woodard, NAMB’s Send City missionary in Vancouver, to say they were moving.
Even when some of the financial details had not yet been squared away, Gavaha responded simply, “We are coming. Since God is calling us to plant a church there, He will provide everything.”
Gavaha and his family left Toronto on June 25, 2016, and on July 1, they moved into a basement suite in Vancouver. God proved faithful and provided for their needs. They initially expected to spend a year settling into the community and preparing to plant, but “in the first three months, God did miraculous things,” he said.
His church had their first meeting on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016, with 34 people in attendance.
“Their obedience to God’s calling led them to sacrifice,” Woodard said, “and that obedience resulted in five baptisms [last] fall for a congregation of about 30. In difficult times, [Gavaha’s story] encourages my heart to persevere another day.”
Gavaha’s entire family helps serve the church. The kids are involved, and his wife interacts with the women of the church.
“God is bringing people to Christ,” Gavaha said. “Wherever God wants us to minister, we will go. My boy asked me on our way to Vancouver from Toronto, ‘How long will we stay here?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. We will stay as long as God wants us to stay.’”
*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)

1/30/2018 11:57:29 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

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