July 2012

Crisis pregnancy centers get big legal win

July 13 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – In the latest legal victory for pro-life crisis pregnancy centers nationwide, an appeals court has struck down a Baltimore, Md., law that would have required such facilities to post, in large print outside their doors, a sign saying they don’t provide abortions or refer clients to abortion providers.

Crisis pregnancy centers said the signs would have chased women away before they got the help they needed, and they also argued the signs were an unconstitutional violation of free speech.

In a 2-1 ruling June 27, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the centers, upholding an earlier decision by a lower court judge.

In a separate 2-1 decision the same day, the appeals court also struck down a Montgomery County, Md., law requiring that pregnancy centers post a sign with two disclosures: first, stating that a “licensed medical professional” is not on staff, and second, that the “Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider.” Baltimore resides in Montgomery County.

The Montgomery County law, the court said, “amounts to an impermissible
government control of speech.”

“The government-mandated statement, which must be posted ‘conspicuously’ on a pregnancy center’s wall, suggests to potential clients that the center is not to be trusted and that a pregnancy center’s services, like religious counseling or job placement assistance, will usually be inferior to those offered by medical professionals,” the majority ruled.

“To be sure, Montgomery County is entitled to believe that pregnancy is first and foremost a medical condition, but it may not compel unwilling speakers to express that view.”

Last year, a federal judge blocked enforcement of a New York City ordinance that would have required crisis pregnancy centers to post signs saying they don’t perform abortions or refer women to abortion providers.

Often supported by churches, crisis pregnancy centers are needed, supporters say, because Planned Parenthood – the nation’s largest abortion provider – is biased in its counseling and has a financial interest in guiding women to abortions.

The pro-life centers often provide such free services as pregnancy tests, ultrasound exams, prenatal care, childbirth classes, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, post-abortion counseling and material assistance. Abortion clinics typically do not provide many of these services.

The ultrasounds – which show a woman her unborn baby in detail – have been particularly helpful in deterring abortions.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a pro-life legal group, was involved with both cases and applauded the rulings.

“Pregnancy centers offer real help and hope to women. They should be free to share that message instead of being compelled to provide the government’s preferred message, which sends women elsewhere,” said ADF attorney Matt Bowman. “Pregnancy centers provide women with the emotional support and practical resources they need, giving them more choices. They should not be made to speak negatively about the important services they provide.”

The majority opinion was authored by Judge Paul Victor Niemeyer, who was nominated to the appeals court by President George H.W. Bush, and joined by Judge Steven Agee, who was nominated by President George W. Bush. Dissenting was Judge Robert Bruce King, who was nominated by President Clinton.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
7/13/2012 1:53:26 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Accounts of forced abortions in China only ‘tip of the iceberg’

July 13 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Recent reports of women undergoing late-term abortions against their will are “only the tip of the iceberg” of the forced procedures that occur daily in China, a Christian advocate for human rights has told a congressional panel.
The new accounts of forced abortions have brought China’s coercive, “one-child,” population control policy to the world’s attention in a way that is possibly unprecedented since it was instituted in 1979.

The story and photo of Feng Jianmei and her forcibly aborted daughter gained global attention online in June. Family planning officials kidnapped Feng, who was seven months pregnant but had no birth permit, June 2 in Shaanxi province and aborted her child when her family did not pay a fine. Authorities placed the body of her dead daughter next to her in bed. A Chinese dissident posted an account, plus a photo of the devastated mother and her dead daughter, online, and it went viral when the news broke June 12 in the West, according to testimony at a July 9 hearing before a House of Representatives subcommittee.

In written testimony for the panel, Bob Fu of the ChinaAid Association said Feng’s “tragedy is repeated hundreds and thousands of times each day in China.”

China’s population control program generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children. The policy has resulted in many reports of authorities carrying out forced abortions and sterilizations, as well as accounts of infanticide. It has helped produce a dramatic gender imbalance because of the Chinese preference for sons.

The Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights received accounts by Fu and Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, regarding other recently reported coerced abortions:

– Hu Jia’s baby was forcibly aborted at nearly eight months June 19 in Hubei province, according to a major Chinese newspaper, the Southern Metropolis Daily.

– Zhan Wen Fang, also of Hubei province, came forward to report her baby was forcibly aborted at nine months in 2008.

– Cao Ruyi of Hunan province was taken June 6 by family planning officials in an attempt to abort her five-month-old unborn child. International pressure helped bring about a reduction in the fine officials were seeking for her unpermitted pregnancy, enabling her to leave the hospital where her baby was to be aborted. Yet, the threat to her unborn child continues.

Another mother, Pan Chunyan of Fujian province, underwent a forced abortion April 6 when she was eight months pregnant, according to a report by BBC News based on an account in the South China Morning Post.

A victim of the coercive policy provided testimony to the subcommittee by phone from Thailand, according to The Washington Times. Speaking through an interpreter, Guo Yanling described the forced abortion she underwent eight months into her pregnancy in 1995 while living in Guangxi province. Her voice faded into sobs, and she was unable to complete her testimony, The Times reported.

The result of China’s population control policy is “a nightmarish ‘brave new world’ with no precedent in human history, where women are psychologically wounded, girls fall victim to sex-selective abortion (in some provinces 140 boys are born for every 100 girls), and most children grow up without brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles or cousins,” said subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith of New Jersey in written remarks for the hearing.

Critics inside and outside China have addressed the “one-child” policy in the days since the forced-abortion cases were reported, Littlejohn said in her testimony:

– Researchers with China’s government-affiliated Development Research Center and 15 high-profile Chinese scholars called for reform of the population control policy in statements published July 3 and 5, respectively.

– The European Parliament approved a resolution July 5 condemning Feng’s forced procedure, as well as coercive abortion and sterilization globally. It also called for assurances its funds do not support such programs.

– The U.S. State Department asked Beijing about the reports, a spokeswoman said in mid-June and reaffirmed the United States strongly opposes “all aspects of China’s coercive birth limitation policies.”

– Abortion-rights leader Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, criticized China’s forced abortion program as a violation of human rights in a July 4 letter to The New York Times.

Among Littlejohn and Fu’s policy recommendations to the subcommittee were: (1) Congressional approval of a resolution condemning forced abortion and sterilization in China and calling on the regime to end its coercive population control program; (2) enactment of a law authorizing the president to deny entry into this country to those who have participated in enforcement of the “one-child” program or other human rights abuses in China, and (3) cut funds for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation if they are found to be collaborating with China’s coercive program.

President Obama reinstituted support for the UNFPA in 2009 after President Bush withheld funding during the final seven years of his presidency because of his administration’s finding that the agency aided China’s program.

Xinhua, China’s government-operated news service, reported July 11 the township in which Feng lives reached an out-of-court settlement with her husband and her in the amount of about $11,000 in American money.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
7/13/2012 1:43:59 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Suit against Ky. children’s agency to proceed

July 13 2012 by Drew Nichter, Western Recorder

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – A federal judge has ruled that millions of dollars in state funding received by a Kentucky Baptist children’s agency can be challenged in court once again.

Judge Charles Simpson of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky wrote in a July 5 ruling that plaintiffs in the 12-year-old case against Sunrise Children’s Services can proceed in filing suit against the agency over allegations that it uses state funds to coerce children’s religious beliefs.

Sunrise, which changed its name from Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children in 2007, had fought to have the case rejected in federal district court after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear it last year.

The case stems from a 2000 lawsuit brought by Alicia Pedreira, a former KBHC employee who was fired in 1998 after it was discovered she is a lesbian. Pedreira claimed discrimination by the agency, an allegation that was rejected in 2001.

Despite the discrimination claim being thrown out, a second claim that Sunrise uses state funds to promote religion among the children it serves was allowed to proceed.

Sunrise President Bill Smithwick estimated that 70 percent of the agency’s $24 million annual budget comes from the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the form of reimbursement payments.

Smithwick said the contract between Sunrise and the state includes a provision that the agency address the spiritual needs of the children it serves without being coercive in doing so. Sunrise serves more than 2,000 children each year through its residential and foster-care programs.

“We are in compliance with our contract to the state to provide religious, spiritual opportunities to the kids. We do that,” Smithwick told the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “We’re not coercive. Faith, by definition, is a choice.”

Smithwick said Judge Simpson’s decision is “nothing new” for Sunrise, which has been battling the case for a dozen years. “This is just the case being revived again after it was denied a hearing at the Supreme Court,” he said.

In 2008, Simpson threw out the case against Sunrise, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision a year earlier in the Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation case. That ruling stated that taxpayers could not challenge religious-based activities, such as faith-based social services, that are funded on the federal level.

Seventeen months later, a federal appeals court overturned Simpson’s decision, stating that while federal taxpayers did not have standing to file suit, state taxpayers did.

Last year, Sunrise took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it declined to hear it, thus returning the case back to the U.S. District Court.

Smithwick acknowledged his disappointment in the decision but said he is confident Sunrise will ultimately claim victory in the prolonged case. As for when that will be, “I have no idea,” he said. “All I can say is it’s closer now to conclusion than it was 12 years ago.”

Three other individuals are listed as plaintiffs in the case along with Pedreira. Among them is Paul Simmons, a former faculty member at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who is president of the Louisville chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Drew Nichter is news director of the Western Recorder (www.westernecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
7/13/2012 1:34:32 PM by Drew Nichter, Western Recorder | with 0 comments

100 Christians killed in Nigeria massacre

July 13 2012 by Baptist Press, Open Doors News

JOS, Nigeria – Tensions in central Nigeria have run high all week between two Nigerian people groups after a massacre killing of some 100 members of the Church of Christ in Nigeria July 7.
The groups, located in the Plateau state of Nigeria, include ethnic Fulani, who are mainly Muslim, and ethnic Birom, who are mainly Christian. This incident was only the latest outbreak of anger in a decade-long cycle of aggression and reprisals.

But this time, anxiety ran high enough that about 50 members of the Church of Christ in Nigeria around the village of Maseh had fled their homes, taking refuge in the home of their pastor.

The gunmen came Saturday, entering the home and opening fire. Then they burned the house.

“Fifty of our church members were killed in the church building where they had fled to take refuge. They were killed alongside the wife of the pastor and children,” said Dachollom Datiri, vice president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, in a July 11 interview with Open Doors News at the church’s headquarters in Jos.

Church officials said that in all, about 100 Church of Christ members were killed in the weekend attacks in 12 villages: Maseh, Ninchah, Kakkuruk, Kuzen, Negon, Pwabiduk, Kai, Ngyo, Kura Falls, Dogo, Kufang, and Ruk.

“In these 12 villages, all the church buildings of our church were burnt by the Muslim attackers,” Datiri said.

Fulani spokesmen denied involvement. On Tuesday, the radical Islamic group Boko Haram said it was responsible for the attacks, and insisted all Christians abandon Christ and accept Islam or they “would never know peace again.”

The Church of Christ in Nigeria, more than a century old and claiming 3.5 million members in Nigeria and beyond, has suffered before. Some 40 church pastors have been killed in the past 10 years, Datiri said.

Even against such a violent backdrop, the killings on July 7 and 8 were especially traumatizing. The Nigerian government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the region. Still, survivors of the violence are fleeing their villages in search of safe places to stay, said Obed Dashan, general secretary of the Church of Christ in Nigeria.

“They are psychologically traumatized, and their productive economic activities are impeded,” Dashan told Open Doors News. “Most of them are peasant farmers and the attacks have not allowed them to go to their farms. Even those that have planted crops have had their crops destroyed by the Muslim attackers.”

The displaced farmers, Dashan said, “cannot go to their farms because they have to flee in order to save their lives. So, it is a war to starve Christians, and this is impacting on the church negatively as we have to feed or cater for our church members who are now displaced.”

As families have fled, they have taken their children with them.

“Children cannot go to school as they have to flee, thereby creating a generation of illiterates,” Dashan said.

The history of conflict between Nigerian Christians and Muslims has roots in land disputes, political opportunism, quarrels over national power sharing and other causes, but the Church of Christ leaders said the current situation is evidence of an institutionalized persecution of Christians.

“We’ve heard that the (Nigerian military) is here to provide protection to the weaker side in the conflict between Christians and Muslims,” Dashan said. “They have openly said they are here to protect Muslims. However, it is this same Muslims who are being protected that are attacking Christians and destroying our villages and church buildings. There is no single mosque that has been destroyed by Christians and we have never been on the offensive. So, why (are they) aiding Muslims to attack us?”

“It is outrageous,” Datiri said, “for the military to abandon peasant Christians who have no weapons to defend themselves and then claim that Muslims, who are the aggressors, are the weaker party and need to be protected.”

At the same time, Fulani representatives have told news agencies that Christians have attacked Muslim communities. Christian church leaders across Nigeria have urged believers to refrain from retaliation, though not all have paid heed.

“The whole thing is coming to a head,” Datiri said. “It’s been a long-term thing planned by the Boko Haram. This is a jihadist movement with the agenda to Islamize the country. It is a jihad, a religious war against Christians for refusing to embrace Islam. So, they are using terrorism as a weapon. That is the reason you see that the target of their attacks are Christians and our churches.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by Open Doors News (www.compassdirect.org), a news service based in Santa Ana, Calif., focusing on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used by permission.)
7/13/2012 1:28:00 PM by Baptist Press, Open Doors News | with 0 comments

Senator’s resolution applauds Luter election

July 12 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D.-La., has introduced a congressional resolution congratulating the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) for electing as president Fred Luter Jr., the first African American to hold the post.

Landrieu notes the historical significance of Luter’s election and honors the SBC’s commitment to ethnic inclusion. Luter is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

“Whereas the election of Reverend Luter brings great pride and honor to the membership of the Southern Baptist Convention,” the resolution reads in part, “be it resolved that the Senate congratulates the Southern Baptist Convention for electing Reverend Fred Luter, Jr., as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention; acknowledges Reverend Luter’s unique role as the first African-American leader of the Southern Baptist Convention; and honors the commitment of the Southern Baptist Convention to an inclusive faith-based community and society.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu

Landrieu notes the SBC’s 1978 resolution against racism and its 1995 resolution apologizing for slavery as well as Luter’s role in resurrecting Franklin Avenue Baptist Church from the destruction of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

The June 29 resolution, the full text of which follows, was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and does not require the approval of the House of Representatives.

Congratulating the Southern Baptist Convention for electing Reverend Fred Luter, Jr., as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, acknowledging Reverend Luter’s unique role as the first African-American leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, and honoring the commitment of the Southern Baptist Convention to an inclusive faith-based community and society.

Whereas the Southern Baptist Convention formed in 1845 in Augusta, Georgia, in opposition to the abolition of slavery;

Whereas the Southern Baptist Convention supported racial segregation for much of the twentieth century;

Whereas the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution stating that the Convention sought to purge itself and society of all racism in 1978;

Whereas the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution denouncing racism as a deplorable sin in 1995;

Whereas, in 2012, the Southern Baptist Convention is a cooperative of more than 45,000 churches that seek diligently to bring about greater racial and ethnic representation at every level of Southern Baptist institutional life;

Whereas Reverend Fred Luter, Jr., was born on November 11, 1956, in New Orleans, Louisiana;

Whereas Reverend Luter preached his first church sermon in 1983 at the Law Street Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana;

Whereas Reverend Luter became the pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in 1986;

Whereas, under the leadership of Reverend Luter, the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church community grew from 65 members in 1986 to more than 7,000 members in 2005;

Whereas the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina and lost approximately 2,000 members;

Whereas Reverend Luter, in cooperation with Reverend David Crosby, found a temporary home for Franklin Avenue Baptist Church during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina;

Whereas, continuing that spirit of cooperation, Reverend Crosby nominated Reverend Luter to become president of the Southern Baptist Convention;

Whereas Reverend Luter was elected to be the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 19, 2012; and

Whereas the election of Reverend Luter brings great pride and honor to the membership of the Southern Baptist Convention: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the Senate congratulates the Southern Baptist Convention for electing Reverend Fred Luter, Jr., as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention; acknowledges Reverend Luter’s unique role as the first African-American leader of the Southern Baptist Convention; and honors the commitment of the Southern Baptist Convention to an inclusive faith-based community and society.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler.)
7/12/2012 2:54:57 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Iranian pastor, facing death, passes 1,000th day in jail

July 12 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, arrested in 2009 and later handed a death sentence simply for being a Christian, has now been in prison 1,000 days.

Nadarkhani marked his 1,000th day in prison July 8, a marker that his supporters hope serves to keep his case in front of the international community. The Jerusalem Post ran a story on him marking the anniversary, and it quoted Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) as saying Nadarkhani’s next court date is scheduled for Sept. 8.

The U.S. State Department also released a statement marking Nadarkhani’s 1,000th day.

“Pastor Nadarkhani still faces the threat of execution for simply following his faith, and we repeat our call for Iranian authorities to release him immediately,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Pastor Nadarkhani is not alone in his suffering. The Iranian regime continues to deny and abuse the human rights of its citizens, in particular those of its many ethnic and religious minorities.”

Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

The State Department’s message mentioned several other Iranian cases, including the reported execution of four members of the Ahwazi Arab minority group.

“We call upon Iranian authorities to respect and protect the freedoms and dignity of all its citizens, and to uphold its own laws and international obligations which guarantee such rights to all Iranians, regardless of their religious or political beliefs,” Nuland said.

Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 while registering his church in Rasht, Iran, although he initially was arrested for protesting his children being taught Islam in school, ACLJ reported. He was charged with apostasy for supposedly abandoning Islam and later was given a death sentence.

Sekulow told The Post that while Nadarkhani’s next court date is Sept. 8, Sekulow does not know “the purpose of the appearance or the likelihood of new charges.” Nadarkhani’s supporters have said Iran could bring up false charges, knowing that an execution for supposed apostasy would lead to an international outcry.

“We want to dispel any rumors that his current apostasy charge, for which he was sentenced to death, has been removed,” Sekulow wrote. “Until the regime unconditionally exonerates and releases Pastor Youcef, his apostasy charge stands.”

Nadarkhani’s stance against Iranian officials has inspired Christians worldwide. In September, Nadarkhani was given four chances to recant his faith in court and refused each time. The American Center for Law and Justice reported one of his court exchanges.

“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” Nadarkhani asked.

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge reportedly replied.

“I cannot,” the pastor responded.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
7/12/2012 2:49:06 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Obamacare’ repeal passes House again

July 12 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives again has voted to repeal the 2010 health care reform law, and the Senate again is expected to reject the proposal.

The Republican-controlled House voted 244-185 July 11 to rescind the controversial measure for the second time in 18 months. The roll call was almost totally along party lines, with only five Democrats joining all Republicans in supporting the repeal.

The Democrat-controlled Senate undoubtedly will turn back the legislation. It did so in early 2011 shortly after the new GOP majority took over the House and approved repeal of a law that was enacted less than a year before. President Obama also is committed to vetoing the repeal effort.

Since January 2011, the House has voted more than 30 other times to strip funding from the law or repeal portions of the measure only to have the Senate refuse to approve those efforts.

Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land strongly supported the House’s vote for repeal.

“Our health-care system needs reform, but whatever the problems with our current health-care system are, Obamacare is not the answer to any of them,” Land said Wednesday. “We need to repeal Obamacare and start over with step-by-step measures to meet specific needs rather than continue with a more than 1,000-page law with countless regulations that no one fully understands.”

In a July 10 letter, Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), commended Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor for bringing repeal to the floor. On the same day, he urged ERLC constituents in an email alert to ask their representatives to vote for the bill.

The latest House vote for repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act came only two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law in a 5-4 vote. The high court ruled the law’s “individual mandate,” which requires almost all Americans to purchase health insurance, is a valid exercise of Congress’ power to tax.

The ERLC and other pro-life and religious freedom advocates oppose numerous aspects of the law and regulations issued to implement it, including:

– Its federal subsidies for abortion.

– An abortion/contraceptive mandate critics say violates religious liberty.

– A requirement that insurance plans in state exchanges refuse to disclose their abortion coverage until people are enrolled.

– A monthly “abortion surcharge” on each person enrolled in a plan that covers the procedure.

The abortion-contraceptive mandate – which requires all plans to cover contraceptives and sterilizations as preventive services without cost to employees – has been in the spotlight of criticism since a federal rule to that effect was announced in January. The mandate includes coverage of contraceptives that can cause abortions of tiny embryos. The rule regarding that mandate has a religious exemption critics find woefully inadequate and has elicited ardent opposition from church groups and religious freedom advocates.

The ERLC and GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention have protested those provisions and others. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has led a charge against the abortion/contraceptive mandate and the failure to protect freedom of conscience and has been joined by pro-life and religious liberty organizations. Multiple lawsuits challenging the abortion/contraceptive mandate have been filed in federal courts.

The ERLC posted on its website July 10 a fact sheet on the law titled “What Obamacare Means for You.” It may be accessed at http://erlc.com/article/what-obamacare-means-for-you.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
7/12/2012 2:44:09 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

James Nelson, former Montana exec, dies

July 12 2012 by Baptist Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – James W. Nelson, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Fellowship (now Montana Southern Baptist Convention) from 1985 until his retirement in 1994, died July 4 in Albuquerque, N.M. He was 88.

Nelson moved to Montana after serving with the then-Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) from 1975-82 as director of the associational missions division and, earlier, director of the rural-urban missions department.

Nelson and his wife, Annis, were missionaries in the Panama Canal Zone from 1960-63 and regional missionaries working with Native Americans in northwestern New Mexico from 1964-71. He then served with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico as director of the mission ministries division from 1971-75.

In 1979, Nelson was the coauthor of “Future Talk for Southern Baptists” with Don E. Hammer, director of the HMB’s then-metropolitan missions department.

James W. Nelson, former executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Fellowship

William G. Tanner, then-HMB president, wrote in the foreword, “It is my hope that these chapters will provide needed insights and encouragement to denominational strategists and church leaders as we endeavor to shape the future to His will.”

The book by Nelson and Hammer included chapters titled “A Theology of Change,” “Population Dynamics,” “Racial and Ethnic Diversity,” “Loyalty and Relationships” and “A Bold Mission Strategy for the Future.”

“Often, problems are compounded because we fail to deal with them before they reach the ‘runaway’ stage,” Nelson and Hammer wrote in the 1979 book. “A modest amount of thought and effort, if invested early, could make a difference in handling the careening change. The adages are still true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; or, a stitch in time saves nine. Yet, these old truths from the past are often forgotten in the busyness of making decisions in today’s world.”

The son of a farmer and homemaker in Albertville, Ala., Nelson earned a divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1959 and a bachelor’s degree from Howard College (now Samford University) in Alabama in 1953. He dated his conversion to faith in Christ to 1938 at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Albertville at the age of 14. He entered the ministry when he was a businessman and father of three in Pine Lake, Ga. The Nelsons later had three more children.

Also during his ministry, Nelson was a director of missions in Alabama and pastor of churches in Alabama and Mississippi.

Nelson served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-46.

Following his retirement as Montana’s executive director in 1994, Nelson and his wife returned to their native Alabama, where he pastored for three years. The couple then moved to Albuquerque, where he continued to assist churches in a variety of ways, serving more than three years as pastor of First Indian Baptist Church in Espanola and filling the pulpit at Indian Nations Baptist Church in Albuquerque.

Nelson is survived by his wife of 66 years and their six children.

A memorial service was held Saturday, July 7, at Highland Baptist Church in Albuquerque, where he was a member. Memorial contributions may be made to the Highland Food Pantry, Highland Baptist Church, 417 Palomas SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108 or Noon Day Ministries, P.O. Box 25451, Albuquerque, NM 87125.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by John Loudat, editor of the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, and Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.)
7/12/2012 2:36:19 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Man U chaplain to manage faith presence in Olympic Village

July 11 2012 by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press

MANCHESTER, England – John Boyers’ gig at the Summer Olympics might seem sensational until you see his normal digs.
His “office” – the home of the Manchester United football (soccer) club – is nicknamed the Theatre of Dreams. For 20 years, he’s rubbed shoulders with the thousands who pay $25 a head to tour Old Trafford, one of the world’s most visited stadiums. And that’s not counting game days, when 76,000 fans show up.
Boyers is a constant in a place of constant turnover, and he will tell you that’s just the way he likes it.
“Being sensitively present in people’s lives and being found trustworthy over time are so important,” said Boyers, chaplain for the 647 full-time staff members and players of Manchester United. “I come alongside people to be a supportive friend, providing spiritual and pastoral care when they need it.”

Chaplain John Boyers has spent 20 years giving pastoral care to the players and staff of the Manchester United football (soccer) team in England. This month, he’ll also provide it for the athletes at the Summer Olympics in London.

He doesn’t proselytize. He has his reasons.
“It’s different from being a chaplain in the United States,” Boyers said. “In English sports, a secular culture, people are suspicious of keen Christians.”
Opportunities for overt evangelism are very restricted, and a “hard sell” just doesn’t work well in England, he said.
“So chaplains are accepted by clubs as those who serve, offering pastoral and spiritual care sensitively to all people employed by a club,” Boyers said. “That’s the deal. If you don’t like the deal, don’t sign up.”
That means there are no organized prayer times before games or chapel services for players, but near Easter and Christmas he does lead Bible studies for Christian staff. As for his regular weekly work, Boyers said, “I pray that the Lord will go before me, be with me and direct me, causing people to ask the questions which produce significant conversations.”
And, he said, many days they do. A number of players and staff dealing with problems, crises and life questions seek him out to talk. Those who don’t still think of him as a “good guy,” shake his hand in the hallway and know he’s there if they ever did decide to chat.
“At the heart of UK sports chaplaincy is one concept: trusting relationships. When people get to know you and trust you, they open up to you, often when they need help,” Boyers said.
Boyers is invading their space on purpose – and the staff and players value that, he said.
“Chaplaincy is incarnational ministry – what Jesus did to identify with us,” he said. “The Church can’t hide behind its lovely windows and doors. It’s got to get out there into the wider world.”
“It’s messy work,” he said, “but if the incarnation of Jesus means anything to us, we have to identify with people as He did and meet them where they are.”
It was that truth that got Boyers out of the church and into chaplaincy in the first place. It’s the reason he agreed to pilot the nation’s chaplaincy program on behalf of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. The program now has 230 chaplains of different Christian denominations placed in professional sports from soccer to horse racing.
“I have known John Boyers for 25 years and honor him as the doyen of sports chaplains in the United Kingdom. He has a winsome way of opening doors that were previously closed,” said David Coffey, global ambassador for BMS World Mission and past president of Baptist World Alliance. “The fruitfulness of his ministry over the past 21 years is a testimony to God’s faithfulness and John’s persevering spirit. His considerable experience will be a great asset to the chaplaincy at the London Olympic Games.”
During the Olympics and Paralympics, Boyers will manage the deployment of 160 chaplains from the five major world religions – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism – into the athletes’ village.
Boyers and other Christian chaplains will hold optional services and lead Bible studies for athletes and others working in the village, as well as be available to talk or pray with anyone who requests it.
It’s the same deal as it is at Old Trafford – proselytizing is prohibited in Olympic areas. “But when people ask questions, we have every right to respond,” Boyers said.
So he keeps praying that same prayer – that God will prompt questions that allow him to tell how Jesus Christ changes lives. And whether those opportunities come or not, he said he’ll serve with love and compassion.
For more information about chaplaincy work in the UK, visit sportschaplaincy.org.uk. For more information about ministry efforts surrounding the Olympics, visit morethangold.org.uk.
(EDITOR’ S NOTE – Ava Thomas is a writer/editor for the International Mission Board based in Europe.)
7/11/2012 3:22:12 PM by Ava Thomas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Duke: immigration decisions show D.C. must act

July 11 2012 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Recent decisions by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the White House demonstrate anew the need for Congress to provide immigration reform, a Southern Baptist public policy specialist says.

The reiteration of a call for Congress to act on the controversial issue came from Barrett Duke of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) after:
– The Supreme Court struck down sections of an Arizona immigration law in its June 25 opinion but upheld a provision that requires a police officer to check the legal status in some cases of a person whom he detains or arrests before he is released.

– The Obama administration announced June 15 an executive action that will immediately permit illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to apply to be free from the threat of deportation and to seek authorization to work.
In its ruling, the high court voted 5-3 in favor of the federal government’s position by striking down sections of the 2010 Arizona law that: (1) outlaw the failure to carry proper immigration documents; (2) criminalize applying for or holding a job as an illegal immigrant, and (3) authorize a police officer to arrest without a warrant a person whom he believes has committed a crime that would cause him to be deported.

The June 15 White House order postpones action for two years against illegal immigrants who meet the requirements and provides the opportunity for them to renew that status. Among the criteria for eligibility, individuals must have been under the age of 16 when they came to the United States and not be older than 30 now. The order largely acts as a temporary fulfillment of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, legislation Congress has not passed.

The Supreme Court’s decision on the Arizona law “reaffirmed that immigration is a federal issue,” said Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research. “By doing so, it has emphasized the need for Congress and the White House to fix our nation’s broken immigration system with reforms that are workable and constitutional.”

The ERLC has called for comprehensive immigration reform for several years, but Congress has yet to approve such legislation.

The White House’s flawed action regarding young illegal immigrants again points to the need for a legislative remedy, Duke said.

“It’s astonishing that President Obama believes that he has the authority to tell our nation’s law enforcement arm which laws it should enforce and which ones it should not,” Duke said. “While I appreciate the president’s sentiment toward these young people, I am aghast at his lack of respect for the rule of law.

“We do not believe the children should be punished for the crimes of the parents,” he said. “Our nation should find a way for undocumented young adults who were brought here when they were children to obtain the education they desire and the legal status they need to fully contribute to our nation’s well-being and realize their full potential as well. This is a matter that Congress must resolve, not the White House through executive orders, and I hope it will do so soon.”

The ERLC has withheld support for the DREAM Act, but it has expressed a willingness to back a version of the proposal that meets certain criteria.

Last July, ERLC President Richard Land wrote two U.S. senators to say requirements for the entity’s support of such a bill would include:

– A program to make legal status possible should be available only to those who were brought into the country, likely by their parents, and did not enter as a result of their own decisions.

– The legal status gained by those in the program would not be transferred to family members or utilized to bring family members into the country.

– It would require those in the program to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces or attend college.

The program announced by the Department of Homeland Security June 15 includes the following conditions for individuals to qualify for the program:

– They must have graduated from high school, be attending school or be honorably discharged veterans of the military or Coast Guard.

– They must have been residents of the United States for at least five years.

– They cannot have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors, or be a threat to the public’s safety or national security.

The order will enable such individuals to apply for driver’s licenses and other privileges.

The executive action is a “temporary stopgap measure,” Obama said the day it was announced. He denied it is amnesty, immunity, a way to citizenship or a “permanent fix.”

As many as 1.4 million people may qualify for the new program, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization based in Washington, The New York Times reported.

The administration announced its order three days after a coalition of evangelical Christians released a statement calling for a “bipartisan solution” on immigration reform. The statement had 150 evangelical endorsers, including more than 20 Southern Baptists. Land and Bryant Wright, then-president of the Southern Baptist Convention, were among the signers.

Obama, as well as various evangelical leaders, also said the Supreme Court opinion on the Arizona law showed the need for Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform.

“A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem,” Obama said.
Messengers to the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., 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 holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials secure the borders, and with secure borders, establish “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.

Land has consistently called for comprehensive reform that includes a pathway to citizenship that would consist of such requirements as paying fines, undergoing a criminal background check, learning English, pledging allegiance to the American government, accepting a probationary period and going to the back of the line behind those seeking to enter the country legally.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
7/11/2012 3:01:48 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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