January 2018

Senators, Trump address pro-life supporters

January 22 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Two United States senators urged those attending Evangelicals for Life Jan. 18 to practice honest, loving persuasion in the effort to defend human dignity.
Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Ben Sasse of Nebraska delivered keynote speeches on the first day of the third annual conference in the country’s capital. The three-day conference – hosted by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family – coincided with the annual March for Life Jan. 20.
Attendees of Evangelicals for Life (EFL) participated in the march with tens of thousands of others on the National Mall three days before the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Jan. 22, 1973 ruling by the Supreme Court that legalized abortion throughout the country.
At least two significant, pro-life actions took place on the day of the march:

  • President Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to address the March for Life rally by video. Trump spoke to the crowd via satellite from the White House Rose Garden. Some previous Republican presidents addressed the rally by phone or recorded message, according to USA Today. Vice President Mike Pence became the first holder of his office to address the rally when he spoke in person last year.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Born-alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in a 241-183 vote before the March for Life. The bill protects children born alive during an abortion procedure.

Lankford, a Republican, told the EFL audience he thinks “many people have flippantly chosen words like ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’ and have never really thought about the next step. And there is something valuable about having honest, caring dialogue.”

Photo by Rocket Republic
Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma (pictured) and Ben Sasse of Nebraska delivered keynote speeches Jan. 18 on the first day of the third annual Evangelicals for Life conference in the nation’s capital.

He often asks people, “Where is your boundary with where life begins?” Most people have never considered that question, he said. Those who identify as pro-choice typically say they believe life begins at birth. He asks them about abortions in which the child is born alive or late-term abortions in which the child could survive outside the womb, Lankford said.
The United States is among the tiny number of countries that permit late-term abortions, he told attendees. While 191 countries do not allow abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, only seven do, and just four of those permit abortion after 25 weeks, he said before naming them: China; North Korea; Vietnam; and the United States. “What an elite group we are in – the worst human rights violators in the world,” Lankford said.
“You see, I’ve found the more that I have honest dialogue with people and get past pro-choice, pro-life and actually begin to press on them and say, ‘I want you to think about this – What does this really mean?’ – the more we get into honest dialogue,” he said.
“You see, there’s something very powerful about just the simple act of conversation when you are right,” Lankford said, adding it must be done with love. “They are arguing about esoteric issues about a woman’s right or freedom of choice and things, and we’re arguing about the child.”
Sasse, also a Republican, said the center of the pro-life movement “is actually in affirming and celebrating a really basic truth, which is: ‘We believe in universal human dignity.’”
While laws need to be changed, “the fundamental thing we need to do is we need to change hearts and minds,” he said. “[W]e are winning in this movement by love, because love is compelling, love is persuasive and ultimately love is what’s really true here.”
“And be of good cheer that a movement based on love will ultimately win.”
Sasse reminded the EFL crowd the line between good and evil does not run between groups of people.
“[U]ltimately, as evangelicals, you know the line between good and evil runs through your heart, it runs through my heart,” he said. “So when I’m going to persuade somebody about the dignity of babies, I’m going to start by thinking about them as a whole person, not somebody who’s wearing a tribal jersey” for the other side.
ERLC President Russell Moore said he looks forward to the day when there is no need for EFL.
“I pray that our future children and grandchildren won’t have any idea why we’re here today,” he said. “I pray that when they look back and see Evangelicals for Life that they will say, ‘Well, what other kind of person is there?’ But until then, we stand and speak.”
Joni Eareckson Tada, the popular author and disability advocate, explained her view of human dignity as a quadriplegic for more than 50 years.
“When I get up in the morning, I remember in whose image I am made,” she told the audience. “As difficult as quadriplegia is, I recall and rehearse to myself time and again whose image I bear.
“I am [a God reflector], and all people with disabilities are God reflectors. And that’s what gives me human dignity.”
She said in her keynote speech, “I get up in the morning, and I live for God and I live for other people who live with disabilities who have yet to understand that they bear the image of God.”
The disability community “needs heart,” as well as help, and to know whose image they bear and that Jesus loves them, said Tada, founder and chief executive officer of Joni and Friends International Disability Center.
“Tell everyone that you know that as the moral fabric of our society grows, then no one is in more jeopardy than those who are too weak, too depressed, too small, too old or too medically fragile to speak for themselves,” she told the audience.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, encouraged EFL participants regarding foster care and adoption during his keynote address.
As a child who was in foster care, Daly said, “I was desperate. I was so desperate. Would somebody love me? I have felt that pain as a child. I cried myself to sleep into a pillow.
“I can’t express to you the depths of loneliness,” said Daly, who is caring with his wife for two children in foster care. “And I think when I peel it back, that’s why I have a heart for foster adoption. Because I know that pain of not having anybody at the end of the day to come home to [who would] say, ‘I love you, well done.’”
More than 100,000 children are waiting in the U.S. foster care system for adoption, according to Focus.
Daly encouraged attendees to speak to the clergy in their church about preaching more sermons on adoption. He also urged them to become a foster family or to help a foster family.
Several speakers offered reasons for encouragement to pro-life advocates:

  • Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, said states have enacted about 400 “life-affirming measures” since 2010 and the country has a president who has fulfilled his commitment to appoint judges who do not believe the Constitution grants a right to abortion. These developments help make “reversing Roe even more attainable,” she said. In addition, Waggoner said the abortion rate has fallen by 50 percent since 1980 and there are four pro-life pregnancy centers for every abortion clinic in the country.
  • Tim Goeglein, senior advisor to Daly and vice president for external relations at Focus, applied President Lincoln’s words about slavery to abortion: “It’s unjust, and it’s bad policy.” Speaking on a panel about pro-life legislation, he said his sense is “this generation and the one after it have the remarkable sense of justice and they’re fairly practical. They’ve determined it’s bad policy.”
  • Anne O’Connor, vice president of legal affairs with the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, said on a panel regarding pregnancy resource centers, “Roe versus Wade will be overturned. When Roe versus Wade is overturned, it’s not going to solve our problems, because there’s still going to be women in crisis pregnancies, there’s still going to be men who don’t know how to be partners.” She said, “Pregnancy centers are a beacon of hope. I’m not sure what our culture would be like if they didn’t exist.”

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the gospel of Jesus informs his pro-life passion in three specific areas:

  • The gospel reminds him “that all persons are worthy of value, worthy of dignity and worthy of importance.”
  • “Nationality and ethnicity are never an issue for how I should care for people or how I should treat people.”
  • “Socio-economic status [is] never to be an issue either.”

Eric Brown, a Nashville, Tenn., photographer and father of three children, spoke about his 5½-year-old daughter Pearl, who has an acute brain disorder, while photos of the family and her were displayed.
Pearl “was given these afflictions by the loving hand of her Creator, who knows her intimately and crafted Pearl for her good and His glory,” Brown told the audience. “God is with Pearl, and he has not left her to her own devices. ... He carries her as she bears His image, and she, like all of us, is completely helpless otherwise.”
Of the trials, Brown said, “It is better to have His presence by way of tremendous heartache than to have frivolity in the midst of spiritual oblivion.”
A panel about foster care and adoption closed the Jan. 18 sessions.
The conference will conclude the morning of Jan. 20.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/22/2018 9:28:59 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Moore: Salvation, not just winning, pro-life goal

January 22 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The goal of evangelical pro-life efforts is greater than winning, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said in the opening address of Evangelicals for Life (EFL) Jan. 18.

Photo by Rocket Republic
ERLC President Russell Moore urges participants at Evangelicals for Life Jan. 18 in Washington, D.C., to speak the truth about human dignity for all.

“We want abortion doctors to stop doing abortions, but that’s not enough. We want abortion doctors to find life in Jesus Christ,” the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) told attendees at the third annual conference in the country’s capital.
“We want white supremacists to stop oppressing minorities with hatred and bigotry, but that’s not all. We want to see Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ,” he continued. “We want to see jihadists around the world and repressive regimes stop killing people, but that’s not enough. We want to see jihadists and oppressors come to faith in Jesus Christ.”
Moore said, “[W]hen we stand up for human dignity from the unborn all the way through to natural death, we tell the truth about what’s right and what’s wrong; we tell the truth about coming judgment. But we never stop there. We tell the truth that the blood of Christ can wash away any sin.”
Moore’s keynote address came in a Thursday afternoon session that opened the three-day conference co-hosted by the ERLC and Focus on the Family. More than 50 speakers addressed the conference that coincides with the annual March for Life Jan. 19.
About the conference, Moore said he longs for the day when there is no need for EFL.
“I pray that our future children and grandchildren won’t have any idea why we’re here today,” he said. “I pray that when they look back and see Evangelicals for Life that they will say, ‘Well, what other kind of person is there?’ But until then, we stand and speak.”
Moore spoke on the Matthew 14 account of Herod having John the Baptist beheaded after the prophet had told him he should not have taken his brother’s wife as his own.
“If John had not told the truth about the situation as he saw it, he could never preach the gospel, because if I cannot trust you to tell me the truth about my own injustice, about my own sin, then how can I trust you to tell me how to be raised from the dead by the power of the gospel,” Moore said.
Followers of Christ “have to be the people who tell the truth,” he said.
“In a world that wants to say, ‘Embryos and fetuses and products of conception,’ [the people of God] have to be the people who say, ‘Children,’” Moore told the audience. “In a world that wants to say, ‘Nursing home populations,’ we have to be the people who say, ‘Our fathers, our mothers, our grandfathers, our grandmothers, our fellow human beings.’
“In a world that wants to say, ‘Those strip clubs over there,’ we have to be the people who say, ‘Women bearing the image of God who are being trafficked and abused.’ In a world that wants to say, ‘The problem people who are coming from somewhere else,’ we have to be the people who say, ‘Those created in the image of God and deeply loved by Him.’”
Evangelicals need to avoid any temptation to keep the vulnerable invisible, Moore said.
“In our culture right now, we often want to hide from ourselves the people who are the weakest and the most dependent upon us,” he said. “We don’t want to think about the child in the womb, the elderly in the bed, the refugee on the boat. We don’t want to think about those who need us, partly because we don’t want to give up anything and partly because in them we can see our own weakness and with that comes fear.”
Moore said, “The idea that the invisible are expendable for the sake of the goal, any goal, is exactly the mentality of Planned Parenthood, exactly the mentality of those persecuting vulnerable people around the world.”
He said, “If we are following Jesus Christ, then that means we care about everybody Jesus Christ cares about whether they’re popular at the moment, whether they’re popular in our crowd or not.”
Speaking of Matthew 14, Moore said the daughter of Herodias was used by Herod as an object. In reaction to her dancing, Herod demonstrated he was driven by his passions rather than bringing them under control, leading to the shedding of innocent blood, Moore explained.
“It doesn’t matter how many gains we make in the pro-life movement, and we must, a culture of life cannot coexist with a culture of porn, a culture of life cannot coexist with a culture of abuse,” he said. “The pro-life witness will never flourish where women are not prized and valued. Pro-life witness will never flourish where women” are seen as objects, not equals.
Moore addressed some in the audience who he said are pouring out their lives in a way similar to John, thinking they have nothing to give in serving women in crisis pregnancies, refugees and trafficked women.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us you give up your life in order to save it,” he said. “Caring for women in crisis is worth it. Caring for unborn children is worth it. Caring for orphaned little boys and little girls and those who are pinging back and forth in foster care are worth it. Caring for the elderly is worth it. Caring for the mentally disabled is worth it. Caring for the poor is worth it. Caring for the diseased is worth it.
“And in you all those cases you have to sacrifice your life in order to do it,” Moore told the audience. “And in sacrificing your life as you’re pouring out your time and energy ..., the weakness that you feel is not a sign that you should give up, because the weakness that you feel is not a sign that you have lost power. The weakness is where the power is.
“Let’s stand for life consistently, holistically and with the gospel that alone is the power of God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/22/2018 9:19:29 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

HHS: Religious liberty to be ‘vigorously’ enforced

January 19 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Donald Trump administration’s creation of an office to safeguard health care professionals’ religious liberty has drawn praise from evangelicals and derision from advocates of so-called abortion and transgender rights.
Meanwhile, Arkansas physician Steve Goss, who serves on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said new federal safeguards for religious freedom are not likely to change the practices of Christian health care providers or imperil the availability of medical services.
The administration announced Jan. 18 it will create a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights. An HHS press release stated the new division will “more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.”
The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division’s website specifically notes abortion and assisted suicide as procedures for which health care professionals may need conscience protection. Media reports speculated some doctors and nurses also may request protection against being forced to assist with gender transitions.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore called HHS’s action “a welcome and positive move.”
“Health care professionals do not put their consciences in a blind trust when they pursue medical training,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a press release. “... I am thankful that HHS recognizes how imperiled conscience rights have been in recent years in this arena and is actively working and leading to turn the tide in the other direction. Health care professionals should be freed up to care for the bodies and minds of their patients, not tied up by having their own consciences bound.”
The Washington Post noted a 2009 incident, in which a nurse and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York was forced to assist in an abortion or face disciplinary action.
David Stevens, a physician and president of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, said members of the organization he leads “have been discriminated against and some have even lost positions for speaking out” on matters of conscience.
“We are delighted that HHS has formed the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division,” Stevens said in a news release. “It is long overdue. There are already laws on the books. It will help address the injustices that laws were designed to prevent.”
Among pro-abortion and pro-transgender activists, the Human Rights Campaign’s Sarah Warbelow told The Post the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division seeks to “devalue the humanity of LGBTQ people.” Planned Parenthood vice president Dana Singiser said the division “will allow individuals and institutions to deny basic care for women and transgender people.”
Yet Goss, president of Mercy Clinic Northwest Arkansas Communities, a division of the Mercy health system with 200 health care providers, told Baptist Press patients need not worry that heightened conscience protection will limit access to medical care. The physicians Goss knows all provide care to anyone, even if they are engaged in a lifestyle the doctor regards as harmful or immoral, he said, using smoking and alcohol abuse as examples.
“For general, basic medical care,” Goss said, physicians “aren’t turning away smokers or those that abuse alcohol. They’re still going to take care of them. It’s just part of our oath, and I think they would do the same for most anyone else.”
Goss said he has never felt the need for heightened conscience protection in his own medical practice. But he appreciates HHS’s action because it “could be important for physicians” who decline for conscience reasons to perform procedures like abortion and gender transition, which they regard as “elective and perhaps even destructive.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/19/2018 1:40:42 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Home by home, Burmese hear church’s gospel appeal

January 19 2018 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Thirty people made professions of faith in Jesus during Agape Myanmar Mission’s home visits for its third annual Christmas outreach.

Submitted photo
Agape Myanmar Mission’s 23-day Christmas outreach led to 30 people making professions of faith in Jesus. It culminated with a Dec. 23 celebration in which children received age-appropriate Bibles and toys.

“And a lot of Burmese people hear the Good News for the first time,” pastor Silas Lian told Baptist Press. “Please keep praying for us and support us as we will follow them up and disciple our new believers.”
Not just locally in San Diego, but Lian is building a strategy for reaching Burmese throughout California, the United States and Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia.
Burmese is the largest of the tribal groups in the south Asian nation whose name was changed in 1989 to Myanmar to be more inclusive of all the groups, the pastor said.
Lian immigrated to the United States in 2014. That same year he started a church, which from its beginning has met at on College Avenue in San Diego, about a mile east of the City Heights neighborhood where most of the immigrants from Burma/Myanmar live.
In addition to growing the church to the 65 now attending its two-hour worship services – where 18 were baptized prior to the 2017 Christmas outreach – Lian’s ministry entails transportation, translation, interpretation, home visitation, praying for the sick and paperwork for the immigrants as well as home Bible studies every night of the week, “especially in the homes of Burmese who follow the Buddhist, Animist and Muslim religion,” Lian said.
“This is part of my mission strategy,” the pastor continued. “We worship together, sing together, study the Bible together. They are more open in their house.
“Daytime, I need to go to appointments – clinic, hospital, DMV office for driver’s license, welfare office and school office,” Lian said of his ministry. “By helping their physical needs, I can share the gospel and I can pray for them.”
Lian is a third-generation pastor. His grandfather, who lived in a mountain village near the India/Burma border, was the first Christian in his village. He was baptized in 1936 by a Baptist missionary. In time, he became a pastor; years later, his son and, still later, grandson became pastors.
“We are very thankful for Southern Baptists sending missionaries around the world,” Lian said. “Before the missionary came, my grandfather was very religious. They are tribal people who worship a big tree or big rock. They practice animal sacrifice.

Submitted photo
Members of Agape Myanmar Mission share a Burmese meal after their Sunday worship in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood.

“If someone sick in family, they have to kill and take animal blood and give it to [the object of their worship],” the pastor continued. “They believed by the blood of the animal they will be healed or forgiven.”
The missionary heard that and told the villagers that by the blood of Jesus, their sins could be forgiven and their sicknesses healed, Lian said. “He said, ‘Believe in Jesus and you do not need to sacrifice animal again and again.’”
When Lian responded to God’s call on his life, he went to Berean Baptist Bible Seminary in Bangalore, India, and Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary in Penang. After pastoring in Malaysia for more than 10 years, God opened the door for Lian and his family to move to the United States to plant churches in the Burmese community.
Agape Myanmar Mission’s third Christmas outreach took place from Dec. 11-23. That’s when the pastor’s team of between five and 15 members visited every Burmese home the pastor knew of in the City Heights neighborhood of south-central San Diego.
“I live in this area four years and I know where they live,” Lian said. “I really studied about my community – how many are new arrival, how many families are Buddhist, Animist and Muslim, what they need the most, and how many children they have, what are their problems.
“We are all very new to the U.S, so we can get to know each other more easily,” said Lian who with his wife, Tracy, and two sons (a third baby due in June), manage financially on God’s providence and support they receive from the North American Mission Board.
Lian first trained Agape Myanmar Mission’s outreach team “to share and pray and sing,” the pastor said. “We let the family know first we are coming. Some Muslim family doesn’t want us to come. Some Muslim family do and get Christmas presents.”
A California Southern Baptist Foundation grant was used to buy toys, school supplies, hygiene items and children’s Big Picture Bible Stories books. Small gifts were given in the homes during the outreach. Bigger toys and Bible story books were given during the Dec. 24 “Celebration of Christmas” attended by about 165 Burmese people, which ended with several Burmese dishes, including chicken soup, beef soup and sticky rice.
“We share the gospel with all these people – Muslim, Buddhist, Animist,” Lian said. “Then the people who choose to believe, they all stand together and we pray together to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.”
For Lian, a gospel presentation starts with Genesis 1. “There is a living God who created everything. ... Our life is given by God and belongs to God.” The pastor said he routinely uses the North American Mission Board’s 3 Circles presentation of the gospel.
“I want to make disciples of Burmese people, and [for] some of them go back to Burma, to Thailand, to where their family are, to plant a church,” Lian said. “Plant churches around U.S. and back to Asia.
“Our church vision statement is that by year of 2030, all the people groups in Burma – Myanmar – hear the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the pastor continued. “A lot of people groups, they never hear the gospel yet.”
That vision starts with San Diego.
“All the people who are coming to our church, we disciple them, how to share their faith, teach them how to testify of the goodness and faithfulness of God. Then [send them to] another city, another state and then back to Burma,” Lian said. “Only the gospel can change our lives and bring us to heaven.”
Material items have their place, though. Four times each Sunday, Lian drives the mile or more to and from City Heights in order to get all the people who want to be at church. He is praying for the gift of a vehicle large enough to carry several families at once.
Lian has a multi-point strategy for reaching Burmese people: Printing and distributing Myanmar gospel booklets and tracts as well as video items; personal and mass evangelism; Training for Trainers (T4T) discipleship program; celebration services; Encountering God and Creation Science seminars; organizing development projects; and planting churches among the Myanmar/Burmese people.
“Evangelism is an act of extending God’s blessing to others,” Lian said. “The gospel not only transform our life but bring us to heaven.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

1/19/2018 1:36:00 PM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Scientists’ gender findings said to confirm Bible

January 19 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Scientists’ claim that a researcher’s sex can affect the outcome of experiments has been cited as corroboration of biblical teaching on gender.
According to a Jan. 10 article in the journal Science Advances, volunteers for experiments as diverse as intelligence tests and pain sensitivity studies have been found to respond differently when they are dealing with a researcher of the opposite gender. At times, those gender-based differences have skewed the outcome of experiments, wrote a team of neuroscientists led by Colin Chapman.
Colin Smothers, executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, told Baptist Press, “While the world may be surprised that ‘a scientist’s gender can skew research results,’ Christians shouldn’t be.”
“The Bible clearly teaches that God’s design for humanity includes creating us male or female (Gen 1:27). Our gender – which in the biblical worldview cannot be separated from our biological sex – is not accidental, as if it is merely how we are,” Smothers said in written comments. “Instead, the Bible teaches that our gender is essential to who we are as divine image bearers.
“We are not unsexed souls trapped in sexed bodies – an ancient gnostic heresy. But instead Christian doctrine affirms that God creates us as a psychosomatic unity; we are both body and soul. And who we are as male and female has implications for how we are in the world – whether we are aware of it or not, as [Chapman’s research] so aptly demonstrates.”
Chapman told National Public Radio his own testing of a nasal spray to help curb appetite may have been affected by gender when airborne hormones produced by researchers and subjects interacted.
IQ tests also have been affected by gender, Chapmen said, noting, “If you have a female experimenter with a male student, for instance, you’re going to see higher IQ scores.” And in pain research, a heterosexual man generally reports more pain to a male researcher than to a female researcher, he said.
Speculating on the cause of this phenomenon, Chapman and his coauthors wrote in Science Advances that a person of the opposite gender provides valuable “feedback” on social and sexual attractiveness, which “generally cannot be obtained from same-gender interactions.” Even when no romantic relationship is being sought, the desire for and response to positive opposite-gender feedback affects research subjects’ minds, bodies and behaviors, the researchers theorized.
The journal article advocates “reporting and controlling for experimenter gender in future research.”
Smothers said scientists shouldn’t be surprised that gender affects social interaction because the New Testament drew the same conclusion 2,000 years ago.
“These gender-specific implications are one reason why, for instance, we find Paul giving gender-specific instructions to the church in 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 2,” Smothers said.
“While some of Paul’s instruction to men and women certainly overlaps – a reality that points to the fundamental equality and similarity of the sexes ... – the fact that Paul instructs men and women differently reveals that he recognized fundamental differences as well, differences that affect how men and women live in the world,” Smothers said.
“Insofar as we continue to downplay or try to erase these differences in society and in the church,” Smothers said, “we are chafing against God’s design as revealed in nature and in scripture.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/19/2018 1:33:47 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kentucky adoption czar Dan Dumas steps down

January 19 2018 by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today

A spokesman for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said the decision to terminate the contract of the state’s adoption czar was made because the administration “has decided to move in a different direction.”

Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today
Former Kentucky adoption czar Dan Dumas, shown here speaking with reporters last year, has had his company’s contract terminated.

Dan Dumas, an author and former professor of Christian ministry and leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, had been appointed in May to be the Republican governor’s point man on revamping the state’s adoption and foster care system under a $240,000-a-year contract. See related report.
“Gov. Bevin is appreciative of the work Dan Dumas did to advance improvements in Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system,” said Bevin press secretary Woody Maglinger in a written statement. “At this time, the administration has decided to move in a different direction as we continue progress on this vitally important issue.”
Bevin, an adoptive father, has made improving the state’s adoption and foster care system one of the cornerstones of his administration.
Dumas, who has two adopted sons, said when he was appointed he wanted to “make our adoption and foster care system faster, safer, more affordable and more accessible.”
Bevin heralded Dumas when he signed on as adoption czar.
“We have to rethink the way we do foster care in this state, and Dan Dumas is just the visionary to help lead that charge,” Bevin said at the time. “Dan is a servant leader, and his proven track record of excellence in innovation will help us cut through the red tape currently keeping 8,000 of Kentucky’s foster children from their forever families.”
Bevin was criticized for the $240,000-a-year contract, which was made with Dumas’ advising company, Red Buffalo Ventures. That contract made Dumas eligible to receive annual performance incentives by meeting specific goals.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Latek is the capitol correspondent for Kentucky Today, a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

1/19/2018 1:30:24 PM by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

University of Iowa, religious liberty in spotlight

January 19 2018 by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service

A Christian student group at the University of Iowa has filed suit against the school after losing its status as an official on-campus organization because it requires leaders to hold biblical beliefs about sexuality.
Oral argument took place Jan. 18 in federal district court in Davenport. A decision is expected sometime next week.

University of Iowa photo

Business Leaders in Christ launched in 2015 and has about 10 members. In February, the group denied member Marcus Miller a leadership role after he revealed he was gay. Miller filed a complaint with university administrators, who decided in November the group had violated the school’s nondiscrimination policy.
The school requires on-campus groups to guarantee “that equal opportunity and equal access to membership, programming, facilities and benefits shall be open to all persons,” according to spokeswoman Jeneane Beck.
But all groups should be allowed to ensure leaders share the same beliefs, whether religious or not, argued the group’s attorney, Eric Baxter, with the religious liberty firm Becket.
“Every organization to exist has to be able to select leaders who embrace its mission,” he said. “You would never ask an environmental group to have a climate denier as their leader. It’s the same thing here.”
Like most other campus Christian groups, Business Leaders in Christ allows all students to participate, regardless of belief. But leaders must affirm the group’s statement of faith, which upholds gender based on biology and marriage between one man and one woman: “Every other sexual relationship beyond this is outside of God’s design and is not in keeping with God’s original plan for humanity.”
Without recognition as an official student group, Business Leaders in Christ cannot reserve campus meeting space, participate in student recruitment fairs, access funds from student activity fees or use university-wide communication services. The group filed an emergency request for reinstatement before the spring member recruitment fairs on Jan. 24 and 25. The group calls the fairs “crucial to its existence.” A federal judge in Iowa was expected to consider the injunction request today.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 ruled against another campus Christian group, the Christian Legal Society, in a similar case involving statements of faith. In a 5-4 ruling, the court said the University of California’s Hastings Law School could require student groups to adhere to an “all-comers” policy that made them open to all members and leaders, regardless of belief. But the court didn’t rule on whether the school consistently applied its policy, leaving room for another legal challenge. At a large public college, which allows sports clubs, fraternities and sororities to restrict membership based on sex, administrators might have a much more difficult time arguing for the consistent application of an “all-comers” policy.
After the Hastings ruling, Christian campus groups faced increased attempts by universities to force them to submit to nondiscrimination policies. Most public colleges eventually backed away from a showdown, allowing groups to continue operating without interference. But Christians have found less freedom at private schools, which aren’t bound by constitutional religious liberty protections. In 2012, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., became the largest private school to enforce a nondiscrimination policy. Fifteen groups – including Baptist Collegiate Ministry – refused to comply and lost their official student group status.
Since then, the battle over religious liberty on campus has largely died down, but the Iowa case suggests it could be regaining momentum.
The case is BLinC v. University of Iowa.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Jones writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

1/19/2018 1:25:22 PM by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Lankford, Moore amplify separation of church & state

January 18 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Two Southern Baptists – one a U.S. senator and the other a convention entity head – said on Religious Freedom Day the idea of “separation of church and state” entails freedom – rather than limitations – to Americans in the practice of their faith.

Sen. James Lankford and Russell Moore

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, co-wrote “The Real Meaning of the Separation of Church and State” for the celebration Jan. 16 of the country’s heritage of religious freedom. Time magazine published the article online.
President Donald Trump declared Jan. 16 as Religious Freedom Day, saying in the proclamation that religious free exercise “is a source of personal and national stability, and its preservation is essential to protecting human dignity.”
In their article, Lankford and Moore said people sometimes have used “separation of church and state” to mean religious faith should not be brought into the public square.
Instead, they wrote, “The concept of a ‘separation of church and state’ reinforces the legal right of a free people to freely live their faith, even in public; without fear of government coercion. Free exercise means you may have a faith and you may live it.”
Congress established Religious Freedom Day on Jan. 16 because the Virginia General Assembly approved the Statute for Religious Freedom on that date in 1786. The law, written by Thomas Jefferson, is considered the forerunner of the First Amendment’s establishment of religion and free exercise of religion clauses.
The Virginia law “affirmed what we should recognize in every era: the right to practice any faith, or to have no faith, is a foundational freedom for all Americans,” Lankford and Moore wrote. “This right is also behind what Jefferson meant when he spoke of a ‘wall of separation’ between the church and the state.”
Jefferson used the phrase “wall of separation” in an 1801 letter to Connecticut Baptists who were concerned about their religious freedom, Lankford and Moore point out. In his letter, Jefferson told the Baptists that religious liberty “would be a key part of the American vision,” Lankford and Moore said. In explaining the establishment and free exercise clauses in the letter, Jefferson said the two built a “wall of separation of church and state.”
“Jefferson was not suggesting that religious people or religious motivations should be exiled from public debate,” Lankford and Moore wrote. “As a matter of fact, the [Baptists’] letter was from a religious people appealing to an elected official for their rights – an elected official who, by the way, attended church services during his administration inside the United States Capitol.”
The U.S. government, unlike many in the world, “is not prohibited from referencing or accommodating religion, nor is the government compelled to scrub all religious references from the public square,” they said. “Rather, the First Amendment ensures both that the government does not show preference to a certain religion and that the government does not take away an individual’s ability to exercise religion.”
This means, Lankford and Moore wrote, “the church should not rule over the state, and the state cannot rule over the church. Religion is too important to be a government program or a political pageant.”
Lankford and Moore cited recent Supreme Court opinions that have affirmed this understanding of the First Amendment.
The high court’s 2014 decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway, they wrote, held “it is an elemental First Amendment principle that government may not coerce its citizens to support or participate in any religion or its exercise.”
Last year in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, they said, the justices ruled that “denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion. ... The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”
Those opinions affirmed “separation of church and state,” Lankford and Moore wrote.
“Separation of church and state doesn’t shut down our debates over religion in the public square; it guarantees the freedom for us to respectfully have those debates.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

1/18/2018 9:28:45 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC 2018 Dallas theme: ‘Testify! Go. Stand. Speak’

January 18 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

“Testify! Go. Stand. Speak.” will be the theme for the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 12-13 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, SBC President Steve Gaines has announced.

Evangelism is the urgency of the theme anchored in Acts 5:20, Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, told Baptist Press (BP) Jan. 17.
“Fulfilling the Great Commission has always been at the heart of who Southern Baptists are,” Gaines said. “However, as research from [New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President] Chuck Kelley has shown, our baptisms are the lowest we have seen in 70 years. If we want to see that trend turn around, we must refocus our efforts on evangelism, telling a lost world about the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ.”
To accomplish the goal, Gaines said, Southern Baptists must be willing to go where God commands, to stand for gospel truth amid conflicting cultural trends and to audibly speak the gospel to the world.
“As my former evangelism professor Roy Fish always said, ‘You can’t serve Jesus with a zipped lip,’” Gaines told BP. “It is our prayer that Southern Baptists will be challenged to boldly testify of the work that Christ has done for us.”
Attending the meeting will offer spiritual and practical benefits, said Gaines, who completes his second year as SBC president in June.
“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 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.”
The meeting’s location is dear to Gaines, who wanted the 2018 SBC annual meeting logo to capture the state’s rugged atmosphere.
“Since we are meeting in Dallas, the logo had to look and feel like Texas,” he said. “I went to seminary, pastored my first church and became a father in Texas. You can’t meet in Texas and have it look any other way!”
A rugged cross is at the logo’s center.
“The cross at the center of the logo is meant to signify what we are testifying about,” Gaines said. “Our testimony is important, but at the end of the day, we need to preach ‘Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,’” he noted, referencing 1 Corinthians 2:2.
Additional annual meeting details are available at sbcannualmeeting.net.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

1/18/2018 9:26:41 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Study: Post-abortion ministry yields spiritual renewal

January 18 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Nearly 20 percent of post-abortive women who sought help from a crisis pregnancy center say their experience led them to a “deepened spiritual life,” with 7.5 percent saying abortion drove them to faith in Christ, according to a study published by the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.
“You often hear about how pregnancy centers are saving babies,” said Dean Inserra, a Florida pastor who serves on the board of A Women’s Pregnancy Center in Tallahassee. “... But maybe the most underrated thing they’re doing is the counseling of women who have had abortions.”
For the study, researchers at Bowling Green State University surveyed 987 women ages 20-72 who had experienced at least one abortion and were “as a group ... generally psychologically healthy before their first abortion.” Most respondents had contacted crisis pregnancy centers – pro-life ministries offering a variety of services for women with unplanned pregnancies – to inquire about post-abortion help.
Each woman surveyed was asked about the most significant positives and negatives that came from her decision to abort, according to a report in the winter 2017 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.
More than half of the women did not list any positive consequences of their decision, with 31.6 percent stating there were no positives and another 22 percent offering no response when asked for positives.
The second most common positive listed was a “deepened spiritual life” (17.5%). One anonymous respondent stated, “It has brought me to my end and brought me to my knees before God.”
Among other positives cited:

  • Commitment to crisis pregnancy center work (13.3%);
  • Sharing of the abortion experience in writing or orally (8.9%);
  • Commitment to helping other post-abortive women by sharing God’s forgiveness and love (8.2%); and
  • Conversion to Christianity (7.5%).

The negative most commonly noted was that the decision to abort took a life (23.7%). The women also reported depression (14.4%), guilt (14%), self-hatred (12.4%), regret (9.3%), addiction (9%) and self-destructive behavior (7.7%).
Inserra, pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, told Baptist Press (BP) crisis pregnancy centers never celebrate abortion yet recognize that post-abortive women are “probably in the most receptive state they will ever be in” to hear the gospel “because [of] the guilt and shame and heartache and regret and fear” they experience.
Diana Cahill, executive director of A Loving Choice pregnancy center in Shelbyville, Ky., said her experience corroborates the finding that post-abortive women often find healing through crisis pregnancy centers. But many women who have had abortions never seek help, she said.
Following an abortion, women tend to “live with guilt and shame,” Cahill, herself a post-abortive woman, told BP, noting some women keep their abortion a secret 40 years.
However, when women seek help from a crisis pregnancy center or other caring Christian ministry, Cahill said, “they go through a healing process and in that understand the forgiveness of Jesus.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/18/2018 9:26:17 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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