January 2018

Mothers headed to abortion get baby-saving compassion

January 30 2018 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

In a dumpster.
 
Harvey says his infant twins likely would have been discarded there by the abortion clinic, if not for James Carr standing out in the parking lot in the strip mall that also houses a Family Dollar.

Photo submitted
Harvey, left, and Harmony are among three dozen children born after their mothers turned from abortion through the ministry of ONElife Church in Flint, Mich. Their parents, Harvey and Shante, subsequently learned they would be having twins.


Except for one day a week when other volunteers relieve Carr, he’s pitched his red tent across from the abortion clinic in Flint, Mich., pleading all day with the clinic’s clients to have a conversation about saving their baby.
 
Carr says he’s not a protester. His signs simply say, “God knows the child inside your womb” and “We will adopt,” and he has local church members ready to back that up.
 
That’s what he told Harvey that day when his wife Shante went into the clinic to put down a deposit on an abortion.
 
“We will do whatever it takes to bring that baby to full term,” said Carr, a full-time missionary with ONElife for Life, a ministry of ONElife Church in Flint.
 
If Shante decided to keep her baby rather than choose to place him or her with an adoptive family, “we have resources that will pay for that child for the first three years of its life,” Carr said. That includes medical care, clothing, diapers, formula and whatever else is needed.
 
He gave Harvey a bag with a onesie, a diaper, a Bible and some other resources. Harvey said thank you and walked away.
 
“We just assumed that they had gotten the abortion,” Carr said.
 
But two months later, Harvey pulled into the parking lot and said he just had to say thanks.
 
When Shante came back for her abortion appointment, as she laid on the table, all she could think about was the onesie Carr had given Harvey. She got dressed, rushed out to the waiting room and told Harvey she couldn’t go through with it. They later found out she was expecting twins.
 
“When I saw James standing here today, I had to do a U-turn,” Harvey said. “James, you’re not standing here for no reason.”
 
When the twins – Harvey and Harmony – were born, Carr and volunteer Justin Phillips were able to visit the family at the hospital.
 
“I’ve had three boys of my own, and one of them is about to have a son that I can’t wait to hold,” Carr said. “But I’m going to tell you, there’s nothing like holding one of these babies that’s been rescued out of this place.”
 

A whole-church ministry

Those twins and 33 other babies are alive today, thanks to the ministry of ONElife for Life, which started in May 2016.

Photo submitted
Snow doesn’t deter the witness of Justin Phillips, one of the volunteers with ONElife Church in Flint, Mich. Whenever the abortion clinic across the parking lot is open, a ONElife representative is there to offer women an option to let their babies live.


Carr has been the face of the ministry, but the one who got it started was Eric Stewart, lead pastor of ONElife Church.
 
“I’ve been burdened as a pastor for several years that the gospel has implications for injustices in our cultures,” Stewart said. “I’ve always supported pregnancy centers and done everything I thought I could, but I felt like more needed to be done.”
 
So he began to pray about how ONElife – a three-year-old church plant with 150 people – could support a full-time ministry to help save the unborn.
 
They soon cobbled together a network of crisis pregnancy centers, potential adoptive families, gift bag packers and parking lot volunteers. Phillips, for instance, works a full-time job but still volunteers at the site 20 to 25 hours a week.
 
“A good percentage of our church is involved,” said Stewart, who also serves at the tent on a regular basis. “For example, the women in our church are ready and available when we need someone to make friends with some of these moms.”
 
And someone is onsite at the tent every hour the clinic is open.
 
“We consider it crisis intervention,” Stewart said. “If they will cross the parking lot and talk to us, we are able to engage them with the gospel there. What we have found is that 98 percent of them know it is murder and the reason they are afraid is finances [for raising a child].”
 
Carr agreed. “Many of them are just looking for someone to tell them it’s OK not to get an abortion,” he said.
 
For those women, ONElife for Life offers any resources they might need to choose life for their baby. The ministry also is working to acquire property next to the abortion clinic to give their efforts even more legitimacy, Stewart said.
 
“We have a big vision,” he said, “and we hope what we are developing is a prototype that can be replicated all over” – a ministry that shows the redemptive love of Christ to expectant mothers near every abortion clinic.
 
“We believe that we can’t wait for [Roe v. Wade] to be overturned,” Stewart said of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. “We’ve been waiting 45 years for that.

Photo submitted
Justin Phillips holds Harmony, a twin born to Harvey and Shante after they turned away from abortion. James Carr, full-time missionary for ONElife Church’s ministry near an abortion clinic, looks on.


“At a grassroots level, we believe that’s the way to end it – take the gospel to abortion clinics and witness that gospel onsite for those babies,” Stewart said.
 
Tony Lynn, director of missions for Baptist State Convention of Michigan, said he’s been amazed to see the way the ministry of ONElife Church has transformed the community.
 
“Mothers approached in just the right manner and at just the right time have turned away from the doors of an abortion clinic into the arms of the grace of Jesus Christ because Eric Stewart and his young church plant saw the need in Flint,” Lynn said.
 
When Stewart shared his burden with the church, they responded with readiness – and to top it off, God called Carr alongside them to help, Lynn said.
 
Carr said, for him, it’s been an amazing blessing to serve alongside Stewart and others in this way, and he only prays for God to call out more.
 
He said the need haunts him.
 
“We had one lady come up to our tent just after we began the ministry [in May 2016] and she was angry,” Carr recounted. “She said, ‘I was here in February, and I had an abortion, and I’ve regretted it every day since then.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, we need to ask for forgiveness. The church should’ve been here for you.’”
 
For more information about ONElife for Life, visit onelifeforlife.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.)
 

1/30/2018 11:56:59 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Greear to be SBC president nominee

January 29 2018 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

(Updated Jan. 29, 3:50 p.m.)

North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at this year’s annual meeting, Florida pastor Ken Whitten announced today (Jan. 29).
 
“I believe in J.D. Greear as a pastor and as a person, but I also believe in his vision for Southern Baptists,” said Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.
 

Photo by Bill Bangham
J.D. Greear

The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., where Greear is pastor, has been applauded for its evangelistic and church planting emphasis.
 
“J.D. walks the walk and talks the talk when it comes to evangelism and missions,” Whitten told the Biblical Recorder. “The tongue in his mouth and the tongue in his shoe go the same direction.”
 
The Summit has led North Carolina churches for the past two years in Cooperative Program (CP) giving, contributing more than half a million dollars each year, according to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
 
The church allocated nearly 20 percent ($3.8 million) of its 2017 budget for Great Commission Giving to SBC missions and ministries, including $275,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions and $100,000 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions.
 
During Greear’s 16-year tenure, the church has grown from a few hundred attendees to more than 10,000 across multiple campuses. It began as Homestead Heights Baptist Church in 1962, and started a revitalization process in 2002, the year after Greear was called as pastor. The Summit has started 248 churches, including 208 outside the United States. More than 630 people were baptized last year at The Summit.
 
In addition, 158 Summit members currently serve as International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries, with 17 participants in the “limitless pathways” initiative, meaning those missionaries continue to work in professional careers while partnering voluntarily with an IMB team. Greear previously served as an IMB missionary in Southeast Asia.
 
The church has sent nearly 1,000 people to do mission work over the years, both domestically and internationally, and committed in 2014 to give $500,000 over a five year period to help fund an endowed chair at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C.
 
The Summit also values diversity, with nearly 17 percent of its congregants being non-white, including Spanish and Mandarin speaking campuses.
 
Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said, “I hope J.D. is elected as our new SBC president. He is an inspiration for us all as pastor of [The] Summit Church in the amazing number of people that are baptized there; in the awesome number of new campuses and church plants they have begun; and in the astounding number of people being sent out from Summit in international missions. I really believe he is God’s man for this day to lead Southern Baptist Christians into the future.”
 
Greear previously ran for SBC president in 2016, along with current president Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., and Louisiana pastor David Crosby. He withdrew from the race in an effort to promote unity across the convention after two close votes failed to settle the election.

The Recorder reported last year that Gaines offered in 2016 to nominate Greear for SBC president in 2018 upon hearing that Greear would withdraw from the election. Gaines told the Recorder Jan. 29 that, after discussing the matter, they both agreed a nomination by a sitting president would establish an unhealthy precedent for the convention. Gaines said he did not want to play "kingmaker."
 
Relating Greear’s upcoming nomination to the 2016 election and Gaines’s subsequent two-term presidency, Whitten said, “I believe God has been orchestrating that what Southern Baptists needed to do was focus on revival and prayer before anything else. I do not see [Greear’s vision for the SBC] competing with Pastor Steve Gaines's vision, or any presidents prior, but I think it is a continuation and a deepening of where we need to go and where we need to be as Southern Baptists.”
 
In a forthcoming blog post, seen by the Recorder, Greear said, “after a lot of prayer, encouragement and counsel, with the consent of our leadership team and Veronica my wife,” he will accept the nomination, adding the emphases “God laid on my heart” for the SBC haven’t changed since 2016:

  • “Gospel above all”
  • “Cultural and racial diversity”
  • “Intentional, personal evangelism”
  • “Church planting”
  • “College mobilization”
  • “Engaging the next generation in cooperative mission.”

Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, said Greear is “well known for his commitment to send believers into the world to plant churches and fulfill the Great Commission – and his congregation models that mission heart.
 
“He is wise, gifted and qualified at every level to lead Southern Baptists. I am personally grateful for J.D.’s willingness to serve and represent our convention of churches.”
 
James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., echoed that sentiment, “I am so excited to hear that my dear friend, J.D. Greear, is going to be nominated to be the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I truly believe that he has come to the Kingdom for such a time as this. The racial, generational and denominational vision he would bring to this position is exactly what the doctor has ordered for where we are today. J.D. will build on the great leadership of our current president has given, and I am honored to give him my personal endorsement.”
 
Greear, 44,  has four children, and is a two-time SEBTS graduate, with master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees. He has authored multiple books, including Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart, Gaining by Losing and the forthcoming Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems.

The SBC annual meeting is June 12-13 in Dallas, Texas.

1/29/2018 2:35:57 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 1 comments



Varied reactions greet White House immigration plan

January 29 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The White House’s immigration reform plan – which would provide a pathway to citizenship for about 1.8 million undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children – garnered a wide range of reactions after its main planks were unveiled Jan. 25.
 
The proposal includes not only a solution for the immigrant category known as Dreamers but $25 billion for a wall on the country’s southern border and other border security measures, as well as an end to extended-family chain migration.
 
The administration announced the legislative framework for reforming the immigration system would be released Jan. 29 and called for the U.S. Senate to bring the proposal to the floor.
 
Reactions to the plan varied from hopefulness to fierce opposition.
 
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said he was pleased the White House is offering a plan for Dreamers but acknowledged it was a beginning to a process.
 
“I’m especially glad [the framework] outlines a path to citizenship [for Dreamers],” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in a news release. “This is a good starting point for Congress to get to work. Our immigration system has been broken for too long, and it’s well past time to pass a permanent solution.”
 
Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said in written remarks, “[B]oth sides of the immigration debate must be willing to make a compromise to get the job done. While there are certainly aspects of this proposal either party may disagree on, there is also much they can celebrate. Let us accomplish a bold and lasting solution for childhood arrivals, and yes, let us deliver enhanced border security too.”
 
The differences over the White House proposal could be seen in Southern Baptists in the Republican caucus.
 
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., applauded the White House for presenting “a solid framework” for reform and urged Congress quickly to begin a debate “focused on solutions, not partisanship.”
 
“This framework provides certainty for families, enacts common-sense reforms to nuclear family sponsorship policy, and protects our nation,” Lankford said in a written statement. “Ignoring our many immigration problems is a form of amnesty that must end.”
 
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, balked at citizenship for Dreamers. “I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally,” he said, according to The Hill newspaper. “Doing so is inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.”
 
Mike Needham, chief executive officer of the conservative Heritage Action for America, described the proposal on Dreamers as amnesty, saying, “If any amnesty negotiations are to take place, they should remain extremely limited in scope so as not to encourage further illegal immigration.”
 
Democrats, meanwhile, criticized such proposals as funding for the border wall and the limitation of family sponsorships to immediate family members.
 
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., a leader in bipartisan Senate negotiations on the issue, said in a written statement, “Dreamers should not be held hostage to President [Donald] Trump’s crusade to tear families apart and waste billions of American tax dollars on an ineffective wall. ... [H]is plan would put the Administration’s entire hardline immigration agenda ... on the backs of these young people.”
 
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called the White House plan “shameful.”
 
The four pillars, as the White House describes them, of the framework are:

  • Securing the border through, among other proposals, a $25 billion trust fund for a southern border wall system and improvements on the northern border, as well as increased removal of some in the country illegally;
  • A 10- to 12-year path to citizenship for Dreamers who meet work, education and character requirements;
  • Restricting family sponsorships to spouses and minor children;
  • Eliminating the visa lottery for countries with low rates of immigration to this country.

 
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed hope members of the Senate from both parties “will look to this framework for guidance as they work towards an agreement.”
 
A solution for Dreamers, a label that stems from the name of a bill introduced to protect this category of immigrants, is nearing a March 5 deadline set by Trump. The administration announced Sept. 5 it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program but also instituted a six-month delay for Congress to act.
 
President Barack Obama established the program in question by executive order in 2012 to protect undocumented immigrants who arrived in this country before their 16th birthday. DACA has provided relief for deportation for about 800,000 people. The order to protect Dreamers came after Congress failed for more than a decade to pass proposals to address the issue.
 
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 congressional efforts to enact a comprehensive measure have failed.
 
In early October, the ERLC’s Moore brought together 51 evangelical leaders – including four former Southern Baptist Convention (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 have 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.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

1/29/2018 10:48:34 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LGBT acceptance decreasing, GLAAD poll claims

January 29 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A survey claiming a decrease in Americans’ comfort level with homosexual acts and individuals has met skepticism from two Christians who study sexuality and culture. But if the survey accurately reflects public sentiment, they say, it could indicate the Bible’s lingering influence on society.
 
The pro-homosexual advocacy group GLAAD released data Jan. 25 indicating Americans’ comfort level with a variety of situations involving lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) individuals – including learning a family member is homosexual and having a child placed in a class with an LGBT teacher.
 
For the first time since GLAAD began releasing such data in 2014, levels of reported comfort decreased, according to a GLAAD news release.
 
“Theologically, I believe there are good reasons for people to feel a level of discomfort in certain situations because the comfort desired by the GLAAD survey entails full acceptance,” said Evan Lenow, associate professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
“God created us in his image and he created us male and female,” Lenow told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “In Genesis 1-2, we see that God had a very specific design for the sexual relationship – between one man and one woman in a marriage designed to endure for a lifetime. Therefore, our theological convictions should lead us to a certain level of discomfort when the LGBTQ agenda is being pushed upon us.”
 
Among the survey’s findings:

  • 26 percent of Americans say they would be very or somewhat uncomfortable “having LGBT members at my place of worship,” up from 24 percent in 2014.
  • 32 percent say they would be very or somewhat uncomfortable “learning a family member is LGBT,” up from 30 percent in 2014.
  • 36 percent say they would be very or somewhat uncomfortable “seeing a same-sex couple holding hands,” up from 31 percent in 2014.
  • 30 percent say they would be very or somewhat uncomfortable having their “child placed in a class with an LGBT teacher,” down from 31 percent in 2014 but up from 29 percent in 2016.

 
Still, GLAAD’s survey of 2,160 adults found 79 percent of non-LGBT Americans say they “support equal rights for the LGBT community.” Only 14 percent of the non-LGBT population is considered “resisters” of the pro-homosexual and pro-transgender agenda by GLAAD’s measure.
 
GLAAD CEO Sarah Ellis called the decrease in reported comfort levels with homosexuality “a dangerous repercussion in the tenor of discourse and experience over the last year.” She mentioned specifically President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender people entering the U.S. military and “confirmation of a Supreme Court justice [Neil Gorsuch] opposed to marriage equality.”
 
Lenow noted that asking people their “comfort” level seems an “imperfect measure of people’s feelings.” But if there truly is shrinking acceptance of homosexual behavior, it could be a reaction against acceptance of same-sex marriage being “forced on those who have conscientious objections” – like bakers and florists – or against stories of gender-transitioning children “being used to promote transgenderism.”
 
Bob Stith, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former national strategist for gender issues, said he is “not sure” the poll is “showing as significant a difference” in American attitudes as GLAAD claims. He added that “given the statistical variation of polls, I don’t think either side can draw accurate conclusions as to the long-term significance.”
 
Still, “it is possible that the results could signify that the onrush of gay activism is beginning to reach the sea wall of Bible believing Christians,” said Stith, founder of Family and Gender Issues Ministries in Trophy Club, Texas.
 
“For those of us who are fully committed to [s]cripture, acceptance of what God calls sin simply can’t happen. That is a bridge we cannot cross,” Stith told BP in written comments.
 
“It is my hope that the church will continue to take seriously its responsibility to train our members how to stand with both compassion and biblical fidelity,” Stith said. “The church is filled with people who at one time were filled with anger toward the things the church stood for but through the loving faithfulness of believers they came to be a part of that great army of the redeemed.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

1/29/2018 10:34:25 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



How one pastor, church serve those who serve, protect

January 29 2018 by Jennifer Deibel, Baptist Press

Facing shootings, domestic violence, car accidents, drownings and more, police officers and first responders experience gruesome things on a daily basis. It can be difficult for first responders to process what they experience in healthy ways.
 
As a chaplain, Jim Stansberry, pastor of Porter Mountain Fellowship in Lakeside, Ariz., ministers to police officers, firefighters and other public servants. But he’s quick to point out he couldn’t do it without his church’s help.

Photo by Jennifer Deibel
Porter Mountain Fellowship, Lakeside, Ariz., considers Pastor Jim Stansberry’s ministry as a chaplain part of the church’s ministry.


When asked how he can both effectively pastor a church and minister to the law enforcement community, Stansberry said, “There’s no way I could do this on my own. The church family at Porter Mountain supports me fully.”
 
Many in the area expressed their appreciation for Stanberry’s availability. Show Low Police Chief Joe Shelley said his officers could not do their jobs as well without him.
 
“Our police chaplain can be the difference in someone returning to work with the right mindset of being the community servant-warrior we signed up to be,” Chief Shelley said. “I’m afraid without Jim, the situation and lasting effects would eat at [them], which then starts the downward spiral of emotions and disdain for the great work we do.”
 
David Sargent, chief of police for the Pinetop-Lakeside Police Department, also values Stansberry’s presence.
 
“Jim always picks up the phone and many times has arrived at the department ... before other responding resources do,” Sargent said. “Chaplain Stansberry always seems to go the extra mile ... and has often stopped by the department, just to see how everyone is doing.”
 
The pastor, who works out of his Jeep rather than the church building, is constantly meeting with officers and firemen for coffee, meals and just to say hi.
 
“The church has never expected, or even asked me, to office out of the church,” Stansberry noted. “They are all about the community, and that’s what they expect of me as well.”
 
Longtime Porter Mountain member Mike Desmond noted there was never a question that the church would be involved in the chaplaincy ministry.
 
“God has called Pastor to this chaplaincy,” Desmond said. “So we do whatever we can to make it so that when God opens the doors, Pastor can crash through them without obstacle.”
 
One of the most beloved ministries for the church is operation “Shielding the Badge.” Members were each given the names of two firefighters and one police officer, and they committed to pray daily for “their” officers and firemen. After a year of praying, they hosted a picnic for the officers, firemen and their families.
 
“It was so neat to put a face to those names and tell them, ‘I’ve been praying for you!’” member Kimberly Wallace said. “It creates such a neat bond.”
 
Porter Mountain members are also quick to point out the chaplaincy is not just Stansberry’s ministry.
 
“We are serving alongside Pastor,” Angie Desmond explained. Whether hosting picnics for first responder families, entertaining the children of fire evacuees or holding a fancy thank-you dinner, the members of Porter Mountain Fellowship are passionate about getting out of the four walls of the church and serving the community.
 
“It’s a church full of service-minded people,” Stansberry said. “We have retired teachers, retired policemen and firefighters, young families and older men and women. They just love to serve.”
 
Stansberry earned his doctor of ministry degree with an emphasis in chaplaincy from Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention in December 2016 thanks to the church – which has about 100 members – funding his schooling. He also earned a master of divinity degree from Gateway (then called Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) in May 2011.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jennifer Deibel, a freelance writer living in Glendale, is a member of Mountain Ridge Church, Glendale. She blogs at thisgalsjourney.com.)
 

1/29/2018 10:26:23 AM by Jennifer Deibel, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Cold temps open doors to minister to homeless

January 29 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A homeless man lay frozen to death within eyesight of Cornerstone Baptist Church in South Dallas, Texas, as record-breaking cold temperatures befell much of the U.S.
 
Hot meals and warm beds are among the services Southern Baptist churches are providing to homeless Americans as the nation suffers record-breaking cold temperatures.
 
Just like a wheelchair-bound homeless woman who froze the same Jan. 16 night half a mile away at a bus station, the man refused to abandon familiar surroundings to accept the warm bed that could have saved his life, Cornerstone pastor Chris Simmons told Baptist Press (BP) a week after the deaths.
 
In partnership with other churches and ministries, Cornerstone uses its facilities to serve the homeless 10,000 hot meals a month; provide clothing and showers to 1,000 different individuals a month; and serve 200 individuals a month in weekly vision, dental and medical clinics. The church refers the homeless to housing sites maintained by other ministries, Simmons said, and also builds relationships with the homeless and provides spiritual support.
 
The help Cornerstone, numerous Southern Baptist churches, community agencies and others provide the homeless is more crucial when the country freezes. Flu season also increases the need for help, Simmons said.
 
Just 16 miles south in Irving, Texas, Bear Creek Community Church has provided emergency shelter to the homeless at least two consecutive weeks in this season’s cold temperatures, pastor Dennis Webb told BP.
 
The help continued even as fire destroyed the church’s sanctuary Dec. 28, Webb said.
 
“Despite the challenge of the fire, we continued to house the homeless since that day. We now use several classrooms in an upstairs wing for that purpose. It’s not ideal but we have been able to make it work,” Webb said. “We lost the entire sanctuary. We renovated the fellowship hall normally used to house the homeless as a main sanctuary.”
 
Texas is among five states where half of the nation’s homeless population lives, Forbes reported in November 2016, along with New York, Florida, California and Washington. Varying statistics place the national homeless count between 575,000, according to Forbes’ 2016 numbers, and 1.75 million, according to 2017 research by the Statistic Brain Research Institute.
 
Bear Creek Community Church launched its Neighbor Feeding Neighbor homeless ministry four years ago, providing not only an inclement weather shelter, but hot meals, snack bags, food, clothing, toiletries, Bible study and transportation to the church.
 
“A Bible study is held before each meal (Tuesday evenings),” Webb said. “The homeless are required to attend. The focus has become friendship evangelism. We focus on developing relationships and utilize every opportunity to share the message of the gospel.”
 
The church’s inclement weather shelter provides mats, cots, blankets, pillows and other necessities to 15 to 20 individuals on average, Webb said, but has housed as many as 30 or more.
 
“A safe and warm place to stay is vital to the health, safety and welfare of all humans. No one should have to sleep outside in cold, damp weather,” Webb said. “Most homeless have no financial means to care for themselves. Many we serve can’t afford a simple meal.
 
“The mental condition of some of the homeless population makes them dependent on others for the basic necessities of life,” Webb said. “Without ministries and people helping the homeless, they will suffer with little to no hope.”
 
Among Southern Baptists helping the homeless survive this winter are all five sites of Grafitti Church in New York City and at least five congregations partnering with the Arundel House of Hope in greater Baltimore.
 
Kareem Goubran, Grafitti’s minister to adults, said the cold weather provides ministry opportunities to the homeless that don’t necessarily exist during warmer months.
 
“This act of care for the homeless especially during the winter months has been the way we have met people who have then built relationship with us and have often come to know the Lord at a later time,” Goubran said. “Many people who were once homeless are now leading our ministries to the homeless. We met the need first, and then they have come to know Jesus, gotten baptized and are now leaders at Graffiti church.”
 
The population is considered difficult to effectively serve. The life of the homeless man who froze to death in Dallas might have been spared, Simmons told BP.
 
“The problem is I think well-meaning people end up hurting the homeless” by placing items directly in the hands of those in need, rather than giving donations to agencies trained to help, Simmons said. “People would drive by and leave him food, leave him money,” Simmons said of the man who froze to death in Dallas. “So I guess in his mind, if I leave this corner, nobody’s going to drop me off financial donations, food donations, clothing donations ... blankets and things like that.
 
“Where if they would not give those items, then it would force people to seek assistance at other places,” Simmons said. While neither of the victims has been identified, Simmons said the woman who froze to death refused even to take blankets as temperatures dipped into the teens with single-digit wind chills. And while the man had blankets, he slept on the cold ground.
 
“We do all we can to try to move people towards shelters,” Simmons said, but agencies and churches cannot force the homeless to accept shelter.
 
Webb encourages all churches to help the homeless by partnering with others to overcome limited resources in any one congregation.
 
“Adopt the mindset that the homeless problem is not a government responsibility only,” Webb said. “There are so many resources (facilities, people) in the body of Christ today. Understand the homeless population is a mission field waiting for the body of Christ to infiltrate.”
 
Pastors must make homeless ministries a priority to ensure ministry success, Webb said.
 
“The pastor sets the atmosphere for how a homeless ministry goes,” he said. “Develop collaborations amongst churches in a particular area to use the strength of each church to reach the homeless in that vicinity.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

1/29/2018 10:13:11 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Wisconsin school drops appeal, transgender fight continues

January 29 2018 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

For two years, the U.S. Supreme Court has been able to avoid the inevitable, but the justices will be asked, most likely this year, to define the meaning of “sex” in Title IX.
 
Transgender schoolchildren and their attorneys argue gender identity is a protected class under the federal education nondiscrimination law, and judges mostly have agreed. A confluence of cases is headed to appeals courts across the country, pitting transgender students’ demands for access to the restrooms and locker rooms of their choice against schools’ attempts to maintain privacy for all students.
 
The high court agreed in 2016 to hear a Virginia case but returned it to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after President Donald Trump rescinded an Obama administration guidance letter claiming Title IX includes protections for gender identity.
 
Until recently, the most likely candidate for Supreme Court review this year came from Wisconsin. Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 had appealed a 7th Circuit decision applying gender identity to Title IX. But in the face of mounting legal bills at taxpayer expense, the district settled the lawsuit Jan. 9.
 
In dropping its Supreme Court appeal, the Kenosha board of trustees left in place the appeals court interpretation of sex, which now applies to all public schools in the 7th Circuit’s jurisdiction: Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois.
 
“The school district tried to protect privacy for all students, but ultimately yielded to the demands of gender activists. Once that happens, private facilities are opened to the opposite sex,” Gary McCaleb, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney, said. ADF is representing parents and schools in several other similar cases.
 
In Palatine, Ill., parents lost their appeal last month for an injunction against Township High School District 211 over a policy that allows students to use sex-segregated facilities based on their gender identity, not biological sex. In his Dec. 29 decision, U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso cited the Kenosha case and an unrelated Title VII lawsuit – also out of the 7th Circuit – in upholding the district’s policy.
 
Alonso dismissed privacy concerns, saying “protections against sex discrimination are substantially broader than based only on genitalia or chromosomes.”
 
Palatine parents plan to appeal to the 7th Circuit because, although the lawsuit was directed at one campus, the policy covers the entire district – a fact Alonso also dismissed, McCaleb said.
 
A second transgender student filed a lawsuit against the school district in December. Students and Parents for Privacy, a group representing 51 families, filed a motion Jan. 12 to intervene.
 
McCaleb said courtroom arguments are complicated by attorneys who redefine or refuse to use terms that distinguish between the sexes. During proceedings in Ohio involving a fifth-grade boy who identifies as a girl, the judge asked the child’s attorney whether the student had male genitalia. The lawyer responded that it was “inappropriate to label any part [of the student’s] body as male,” McCaleb said.
 
That tactic forms a major part of the strategy transgender activists use to skirt the Title IX exemption that allows schools to create sex-segregated private facilities: Self-perception, not biology, determines a student’s sex.
 
“Language is supposed to be common among us. It shouldn’t be privatized and turned into an advocacy thing,” McCaleb said. “Then it becomes a weapon instead of a communication channel by which we learn to live together and settle our differences.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

1/29/2018 9:39:47 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Brownback confirmed on Pence tie-breaker

January 26 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The United States once again has an ambassador at large for religious freedom but only by the slimmest of margins.
 
The Senate confirmed Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to the post Jan. 24 by virtue of Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote. As the presiding officer of the chamber, Pence cast the deciding vote to snap a 49-49 tie along party lines.

Sam Brownback


All the votes against confirmation came from Democrats, even though Brownback was a colleague to some of them during his 14 years in the Senate. Two Republicans – Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John McCain of Arizona – were absent, resulting in the opportunity for a tie-breaker by Pence.
 
Religious liberty advocates hailed Brownback’s confirmation.
 
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, described Brownback as “an outstanding choice” and said, “I am delighted to see the Senate confirm him to serve in this critical post.”
 
“This ambassadorship is a key piece in our nation’s responsibility to act on behalf of the persecuted around the world, one that requires a seasoned, respected leader who brings conviction and gravity to the work of this crucial post,” Moore said in written comments for Baptist Press. “Governor Brownback is exactly this kind of leader. He will be an exceptional ambassador.”
 
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said, “[T]he basic human right of religious freedom is under attack all around the world, and religious minorities are being oppressed and killed.
 
“The United States must not become numb to these violations of a fundamental human right. Instead, we must act,” Lankford said in written remarks, adding Brownback’s confirmation “sends a message to the world that religious freedom is a priority of the United States government.”
 
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) – its nine members appointed by both Democrat and Republican leaders in Congress, as well as the president – welcomed the Senate action.
 
Brownback’s confirmation “could not have come soon enough,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark in a written statement. “We are witnessing immense challenges to religious freedom around the globe. We need to utilize every resource available to confront these challenges, including the office of the ambassador-at-large.”
 
Gay and transgender rights organizations appeared to lead the opposition to Brownback. They criticized him for his record on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) rights, especially as Kansas’ governor.
 
In one action, Brownback rescinded in 2015 an executive order providing state government employees with job protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At the time, Brownback said, “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through [executive order].”
 
David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said Brownback’s “extremist, anti-LGBTQ actions should disqualify him from representing the people of the United States.”
 
HRC is the country’s largest political organization for LGBTQ rights.
 
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the first openly gay member of the Senate, tweeted, “America has always been about freedom, fairness and opportunity for all. That should be our message to the rest of the world but Sam Brownback won’t deliver it and advance the cause of #LGBTQ equality.”
 
The Democrats’ unanimous opposition to Brownback stood in contrast to the divided response by GOP members to David Saperstein, the previous ambassador at large for religious freedom under President Barack Obama. In 2014, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to confirm Saperstein in a 62-35 vote.
 
Saperstein had been a long-time advocate for religious freedom, serving as an original USCIRF commissioner. But he also promoted abortion and gay rights as director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for more than three decades. Religious liberty advocates praised his two years of service as ambassador.
 
When President Donald Trump nominated Brownback in July, Saperstein called it “a very strong appointment.” Brownback “knows the issue very well,” he said.
 
Brownback advocated strongly for religious freedom during his time in the Senate and two years in the House of Representatives.
 
Trump renominated Brownback Jan. 8 after the Senate failed to act on the nomination last year.
 
The ambassador at large oversees the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, which monitors religious liberty conditions overseas, proposes policies in different regions or countries and establishes programs to further freedom of belief.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

1/26/2018 10:36:04 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Hugh & Jill Freeze speak of God’s grace at Liberty U.

January 26 2018 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Hugh Freeze made his first public appearance Wednesday since resigning as Ole Miss head football coach last year in a scandal involving phone calls to an escort service.
 
Freeze spoke during an hour-long convocation at Liberty University Jan. 24 along with his wife Jill and his pastor, Chip Henderson of Pinelake Church, a five-site Southern Baptist congregation in Mississippi.

Screen capture Liberty University, YouTube
Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze listens as his wife Jill speaks of forgiveness during a Liberty University convocation Jan. 24.


Freeze said it was “really the first day I can tell the faith family, ‘I am sorry, please forgive me.’” Known on Twitter as a coach with a fervent faith, Freeze said he had admitted the moral impropriety to his wife in 2016 before it became public last summer.
 
He wrote on Twitter Wednesday, “We are humbled to be here” at Liberty. “Hopeful our story can help someone!!”
 
The Liberty visit also followed the Dec. 1 report of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rulings regarding Ole Miss football infractions. The NCAA did not delve into Freeze’s personal conduct; however, for supervisory issues at Ole Miss he received a two-game suspension if he is hired as head coach by another university but no penalties if he assumes a lesser position.
 
Freeze told a convocation crowd of 13,000, “Failures are not final. ... “You can move forward by the grace of God. ... You can have the mental toughness [to say], you know what, ‘I am going to get up today and surrender again [to God]. And surrender again.’
 
“I cannot control what people say, what people think, nor can you,” Freeze, 48, continued. “But I can make up my mind and my mind is set. It is settled, my eyes are clear. My heart is full. My feet are pointed forward and I am looking forward with thanksgiving to what God has for me and my family next because of His great love and His great forgiveness.”
 
He told the collegians that with God “you can do the same in 2018.”
 
Freeze spoke of one of his three daughters being angry over what she had seen in social media and online media outlets.
 
“I tell her ‘Baby, your dad did something wrong and he has to be accountable.’”
 
When his wife spoke after Freeze’s 20-minutes of comments, a reporter for the SEC Country website noticed that Freeze teared up.
 
“I can remember that moment of just screaming in my head,” Jill Freeze said in recounting her husband’s 2016 confession of his marital sin. “My prayer was this very eloquent prayer – ‘God, help me.’ That was it. And immediately it was like, are you going to focus on your hurt or are you going to focus on your healing? And I was like, ‘I want healing.’
 
“Immediately in that I was able to see him. His heart. I mean, I’ve lived with [Hugh] for 25 years. This man is the godliest man that I have ever known. I am who I am in Christ because of this man and the impact and influence he has had on me. ... I know he’s going to do what it takes to get right with God. And so for that, it was easy enough in that moment to say, ‘I forgive you.’ Like, immediately,” Jill Freeze said.
 
“That was the beginning of my healing and it was instant forgiveness for him. It led me to ‘I can see that he had some bad traits. You know? He had some bad traits.’ And God, in His greatness, instead of me focusing on [Hugh’s] bad traits He said ‘Jill, what are your bad traits?’ I’ve got a whole lot of bad traits, and [Hugh’s] forgiven me a whole lot more than I’ve had to forgive him over 25 years.”
 
She noted, “I want [God’s] power. I want His peace. I want His provision. I want His protection. But the only thing I need is His presence. There are times when I’m seeking His presence, and I feel God, the angel armies, and I am ready to go. ... And there are times I am broken on the floor. And He is picking me up, and He is putting me in His father-lap, and He is rubbing my hair, and He is pouring His love over me and singing over me in His presence. And I walk out of there with peace and rest.”
 
Henderson told the convocation audience that in the valley of brokenness, it is important to show people they are loved.
 
“There is going to be a moment in your life where you need the grace of God to be tangible and real,” Henderson said. “Because a lot of people who are your best friends when everything is great will walk smooth out on you whenever stuff starts hitting the fan.”
 
It is also important that “the fullness of what brokenness really looks like” is realized.
 
“The win is to shepherd [Freeze] through this valley,” Henderson said. “To really keep bringing him back to the core values of his faith, his love for Jesus, true to himself, love for his wife, honoring his family. ... Whatever God may or may not do, it will rise and fall on the genuine repentance and brokenness and walk that he has with Jesus.”
 
Freeze coached Ole Miss to a 39-25 record during five seasons, 2012-2016, including three bowl wins in four appearances and two regular season wins over Alabama. The 2015 victory was Alabama’s only loss in its drive to the national championship. In mid-January, Freeze was in the media limelight over the possibility of joining Alabama coach Nick Saban’s staff but no announcement had been made as of Jan. 25.
 
His overall coaching record is 69-32, including a 10-2 record at Arkansas State University in 2011 and a 20-5 record at the former Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., in 2008 and 2009. He also coached at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis from 1992-2004, including nine seasons as head coach, winning state championships in 2002 and 2004.
 
In the NCAA investigation of Ole Miss, apart from Freeze, the university was accused of lack of “institutional control” over 15 infractions, placed on probation for three years and banned from 2018 postseason play, among other penalties.
 
“Off the field, [Freeze] promoted an atmosphere of compliance and expected his staff to abide by the rules,” the NCAA stated. “However, throughout his tenure, the head coach also violated NCAA head coach responsibility legislation because he failed to monitor his program’s activities surrounding the recruitment of prospects. Members of his staff knowingly committed recruiting violations, submitted false information on recruiting paperwork and failed to report known violations.”
 
Freeze has been on Twitter only sporadically in recent months, but on Jan. 7 he took note of that day’s sermon at Pinelake Church, tweeting, “I need corporate worship today to remind me there is a great Savior whose grace has the power to rescue the lost, rebels, the proud, the weak, the weary and the foolish from themselves.”
 
Video of the Liberty University convocation service can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=T4zq1KO7qII.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. With reporting by Drew Menard of Liberty University News Service.)
 

1/26/2018 10:29:44 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Cloned monkeys spur warnings against human cloning

January 26 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The first-ever primates cloned through a technique that produced Dolly the sheep have been cited by Christian bioethicists as a potentially valuable development in animal research. But they warned that two monkeys engineered by Chinese researchers must not become a step toward cloning humans.
 
The cloning method used by the Chinese scientists “should not become a test case for the perfection of human cloning techniques,” said Raymond Johnson, a Pennsylvania pastor who received a financial award from Trinity International University last year to help him study the relationship between Christianity and science.
 
“While lauded as a valuable scientific breakthrough,” Johnson, pastor of The Journey Church in West Chester, Pa., told Baptist Press (BP), “even a quiet inference fortified by this experiment that human life is merely the result of cellular manipulation brings our culture ever closer to the slippery slope of crucial ethical and eugenic dilemmas.”
 
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Neuroscience announced in a Jan. 24 article for the journal Cell that they produced two genetically-identical long-tailed macaque monkeys using a scientific technique known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
 
The technique – which produced Dolly, the world’s first cloned mammal, in 1996 – involves removing an egg’s nucleus and replacing it with a nucleus from another cell, replete with genetic material. The egg then is stimulated to develop into an embryo and implanted in a surrogate mother.
 
Using a tweaked version of SCNT, the Chinese team discovered cells from aborted monkey fetuses worked better than adult cells for providing genetic material.
 
Some 181 embryos cloned from adult monkey cells were implanted in 42 surrogates, yielding two live births, neither of which survived beyond 30 hours, the researchers wrote. However, 79 embryos cloned using fetal cells were implanted into 21 surrogate mothers and yielded two live births. Both infant monkeys seemed to develop normally.
 
They were named Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong – derived, according to CNN, from the Chinese word Zhonghua, meaning “Chinese nation.”
 
Union University bioethicist C. Ben Mitchell told BP attempts to clone humans using the version of SCNT pioneered by the Chinese team would violate biblical standards by, among other sins, destroying unborn humans in the cloning process.
 
“Human cloning cannot pass ethical muster,” said Mitchell, editor of the journal Ethics & Medicine. “The potential risks to unborn human life cannot be justified.”
 
In addition, health problems experienced by previous animal clones should yield caution in future cloning experiments, Mitchell said.
 
Dolly died at age 6 in 2003 with signs of advanced aging despite being well shy of the 11- to 12-year lifespan some sheep experience, BP reported at the time.
 
“Dolly was not a healthy sheep,” Mitchell said in written comments. “She had a number of anomalies that made her life less than ideal.”
 
Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong seem to be developing normally and will continue to be evaluated as they age, CNN reported.
 
The Chinese team said it has no intention of cloning humans, according to USA Today.
 
The researchers wrote in Cell that cloned primates “are ideal animal models for studying physiological functions unique to primates and for developing therapeutic treatments of human diseases.”
 
Yet even with animal experimentation, Mitchell said, there are ethical limits.
 
“Animal cloning is subject to the same ethical standards as other animal experimentation,” Mitchell said. “There is no need to inflict unnecessary suffering on animals.”
 
Including Dolly, 23 species of mammals have been cloned using SCNT, the Chinese researchers noted. Primates have been cloned previously using a simpler method, according to media reports.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/26/2018 10:27:35 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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