July 2012

18 dead in twin church attacks in Kenya

July 3 2012 by Baptist Press, Open Doors USA

SANTA ANA, Calif. – At least 18 people died while 66 were wounded in Kenya’s northeastern town of Garissa on July 1 when assailants burst into the Africa Inland Church (AIC) and Catholic Church, shooting at worshipers with firearms and detonating grenades. Two policemen guarding the AIC churches were among those killed. Four of the injured are in critical condition in Nairobi hospitals.

Details are still emerging, but eyewitnesses told Open Doors in telephone interviews that the attackers approached the AIC church, shot the two policemen guarding the church at point blank range, took their guns and started shooting at worshippers. As the churchgoers realized what was going on, they tried to flee. Many were shot dead as they attempted to escape.

The attackers threw at least four grenades into the church. Two detonated while two were found intact.

At the Catholic Church the attackers apparently jumped over a fence and started shooting at people standing near the church. Three church members were killed before the attackers fled.

“These brazen attacks on innocent Christian worshippers are horrific,” said Open Doors USA President/CEO Carl Moeller. “The area near the border of Somalia and Kenya is becoming a killing field as well as a place where many aid workers are being kidnapped. While attacks on churches in Nigeria have held our attention over the last few months, attacks on Christians have increased in the Somalia/Kenya border area. Please pray for the families of the victims.”

Eyewitnesses were shocked by the attacks.

“We heard something like stones being thrown on top of the roof. Then we realized that we were being shot at,” said Dennis Nzioki, who was attending the AIC worship service at the time of the attack.

Police said they have identified suspects in the attacks.

“No arrests have been made but we have reports that five suspects were involved in the AIC attack while two suspects were involved in the Catholic Church attack,” said Deputy Regional Police Chief Philip Ndolo.

There is speculation about the attackers being linked to the Somali rebel militant group al-Shabaab. Kenya has suffered a number of abductions and gun, grenade and bomb attacks since October 2011 when the government sent troops into southern Somalia to target al-Shabaab, which is fighting its UN-backed government. The atmosphere in areas close to the Somalia border, such as Garissa, has been particularly tense. However, some observers suspect that radical Islamists are using the tense atmosphere in these regions to rid Christian presence in these Somali-dominated border regions.

Chairman Abdulghafur El-Busaidy of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims condemned Sunday’s church attacks: “All places of worship must be respected. We want to send our condolences, and we are sad that no arrests have been made yet.”

Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka also condemned the attacks. “Places of worship should be respected,” he said.

Open Doors USA is planning to visit the churches in the next few days to encourage believers and to determine the need for further support.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Written by staff of Open Doors USA (OpenDoorsUSA.org), which advocates on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world. On July 1 Open Doors assumed direction of the Compass Direct News service.)
7/3/2012 1:26:29 PM by Baptist Press, Open Doors USA | with 0 comments

‘Guilty as charged,’ Dan Cathy says of Chick-fil-A’s stand on faith

July 2 2012 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Dan Cathy oversees one of the country’s most successful businesses. As president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, Cathy leads a business with 1,608 restaurants that had sales of more than $4 billion dollars last year. They sell chicken and train employees to focus on values rooted in the Bible.
His father, S. Truett Cathy started the business in 1946, when he and his brother, Ben, opened an Atlanta diner known as The Dwarf Grill (later renamed The Dwarf House). In 1967, his father opened the first Chick-fil-A restaurant in Atlanta. Today, they are the second largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the United States based on annual system-wide sales.
Cathy’s success has not erased the biblical values he learned as a child in a Baptist church. He is a warm, common man who is deeply committed to being a faithful Christian witness. And he is fully involved in New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga. He drives Chick-fil-A’s efforts to provide genuine hospitality, ensuring that customers have an exceptional dining experience in a Chick-fil-A restaurant. Based on Matthew 5:41, Cathy is on a mission to provide customers with “second-mile” service – exceeding even the highest expectations of a typical fast-food restaurant.

Photo from Chick-fil-A

Dan Cathy, in a promotional photo from Chick-fil-A, says the company’s business model of being open six days a week makes more money than most do when open seven.

In a recent visit to North Carolina, Cathy said, “We don’t claim to be a Christian business.” He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, “There is no such thing as a Christian business.” 
“That got my attention,” Cathy said. Roach went on to say, “Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me.”
“In that spirit ... [Christianity] is about a personal relationship. Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are.” Cathy added.
“But as an organization we can operate on biblical principles. So that is what we claim to be. [We are] based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us.”
Rather than leading from his corporate office in Atlanta, Cathy chooses to spend the majority of his time traveling to the chain’s growing family of restaurants and interacting with Chick-fil-A’s committed team members. His actions stem from a belief that working in the field provides a clearer understanding of the needs of Chick-fil-A customers. Leading from the front line also enables him to personally convey his servant spirit to the chain’s 61,000-plus employees.
Cathy believes strongly that Christians are missionaries in the workplace. “Jesus had a lot of things to say about people who work and live in the business community,” he said. His goal in the workplace is “to take biblical truth and put skin on it. ... We’re talking about how our performance in the workplace should be the focus of how we build respect, rapport and relationships with others that opens the gateway to interest people in knowing God.
“All throughout the New Testament there is an evangelism strategy related to our performance in the workplace. ... Our work should be an act of worship. Our work should be our mission field. As long as we are stateside, let’s don’t think we have to go on mission trips by getting a passport. ... If you’re obedient to God you are going to be evangelistic in the quality of the work you do, using that as a portal to share [Christ],” he said.
When asked if Chick-fil-A’s success is attributed to biblical values, Cathy quickly said, “I think they’re inseparable. God wants to give us wisdom to make good decisions and choices.” Quoting James 1:5, he spoke of how often he asks God for wisdom.
“Frequently Jesus challenged us to just ask ... we’re simply not asking as often as we should. We need to be more faithful to depend on a God who does love us and wants to have a relationship with us, and wants to give us the desires of our hearts.”
There is another success story attributed to Cathy’s organization. They have a positive influence in the world of Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Southeastern Conference (SEC) football.
There was a time when the bowl game that is now named after Chick-fil-A was called the Peach Bowl. The bowl features teams from the ACC and the SEC. It struggled for a long time. Then 15 years ago the Chick-fil-A organization got involved. It was rebranded as the Chick-fil-A Bowl and has been incredibly successful, second only to the BCS championship.
“We are the only bowl that has an invocation. It’s in our agreement that if Chick-fil-A is associated in this, there’s going to be an invocation. Also, we don’t have our bowl on Sunday, either,” Cathy pointed out.
Cathy excitedly pointed out that the 2012 college football season will feature a first-ever opening with marquee games sponsored by Chick-fi-A on consecutive days at one venue. (See story.)
“That’s never been done before,” he said.
The pair of Chick-fil-A kickoff games is expected to generate more than $60 million in economic impact. The bowl website describes the event as “a college football celebration of epic proportions.”
When questioned about Chick-Fil-A’s “Closed on Sunday” policy Cathy responded, “It was not an issue in 1946 when we opened up our first restaurant. But as living standards changed and lifestyles changed, people came to be more active on Sundays.”
The policy has not changed over the years as malls began changing their policies by opening on Sundays. Cathy said,
“We’ve always put in our lease that we will be closed on Sundays. We’ve had a track record that we were generating more business in six days than the other tenants were generating in seven [days].”
“While developers had no identity whatsoever with our corporate purpose to ‘glorify God and be a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and have a positive influence on all that come in contact with Chick-fil-A,’ they did identify with the rent checks that we wrote to the mall, that were based on our sales.
“So, they would make an exception for Chick-fil-A when they wouldn’t make an exception for anybody else, simply because they knew we would pay them more in rent than any other tenant would that was open even seven days a week.”
The company invests in Christian growth and ministry through their WinShape Foundation (WinShape.com). The name comes from the idea of shaping people to be winners.
It began as a college scholarship and expanded to a foster care program, an international ministry, and a conference and retreat center modeled after the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove.
“That morphed into a marriage program in conjunction with national marriage ministries,” Cathy added. 
Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about this opposition.
“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.
“We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families – some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized.
“We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

Related stories
Guest Column: Dan Cathy’s views are in the majority
Chick-fil-A interview with BR triggers media storm
Editor ‘recounts’ positive Chick-fil-A story; some reports ‘distorted’
7/2/2012 3:55:14 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 7 comments

NYC churches can meet in schools, judge rules

July 2 2012 by Baptist Press

NEW YORK – A federal judge ruled June 29 that churches and other faith groups can continue to meet in New York City public school buildings for worship services.

Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the churches a permanent injunction against the New York City Department of Education, determining that the city’s policy of prohibiting worship violates the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The city, the court said, is permanently forbidden from denying churches’ applications to rent space in public schools for meetings that include religious worship. The city is expected to appeal.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which led the fight on behalf of churches, said congregations meeting in New York schools have fed the poor, helped rehabilitate drug addicts, worked toward the restoration of families and provided for the disabled.

Churches also have painted the interiors of inner-city schools and donated computers, musical instruments and air conditioners as well as provided effective after-school programs, ADF said.

“There is no reason to exclude worship services from these empty school buildings, especially when the school allows all other community groups to meet,” Jordan Lorence, ADF’s senior counsel who argued before the court June 1, said. “Why exclude churches that are helping their neighbors in so many significant ways?”

The latest development is part of a 17-year legal battle in Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York.

In February, Preska issued a preliminary injunction, blocking enforcement of the ban while the case proceeded. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction five days later but urged Preska to release a final ruling by mid-June.

“If a rule is unconstitutional, it is unconstitutional as to all similarly-situated parties,” Preska wrote in February.

An earlier round of decisions that went against NYC churches were based on an examination of the Free Speech and Establishment Clauses, not the Free Exercise Clause. That earlier round of cases ended in 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to get involved. It appeared churches had reached the end of the legal road until Preska sided with the congregations.

“A law is not neutral if its object is to infringe upon or restrict practices because of their religious motivation,” she wrote.

In April, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined local and national religious organizations in a friend-of-the-court brief that urged the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals to invalidate the education department’s policy. The brief, written by the Christian Legal Society, also called on the court to permanently block the policy from being enforced.

New York City’s school policy infringes on the opening two clauses of the First Amendment, the brief signed by the ERLC said. Those clauses say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The policy “is not one that feigns neutrality on its face, hiding an ulterior purpose to target religious exercise,” the friend-of-the-court brief said. “The Board’s policy openly and notoriously singles out ‘religious worship services’ for exclusion from the public space that is otherwise available for other social and civic functions.”

Read Preska’s June 29 decision online at http://www.adfmedia.org/files/BronxPermanentInjunction.pdf.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
7/2/2012 3:51:19 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC President Fred Luter’s mother dies

July 2 2012 by Frank Michael McCormack, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – Viola Blayton Brooks, 82, the mother of newly elected Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter Jr., died June 27.

A life-long resident of New Orleans, Brooks was one of two daughters born to Joseph and Winnie Blayton, who preceded her in death. She grew up in New Orleans’ Third Ward neighborhood and later moved to the city’s Lower Ninth Ward.

As a single parent, Brooks worked multiple jobs, including as a seamstress and an assistant surgical technician, to provide for her five children. Luter has said his mother worked extremely hard to make ends meet or to get them “close enough to wave at each other.”

“She sacrificed a lot for me to be where I am today, and where all the siblings are today,” Luter said. “She worked hard to provide for us a life. I just thank God for all the sacrifices she made for us through the years.”

Viola Blayton Brooks, 82, the mother of newly elected Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter Jr., died June 27.

In raising her children, Brooks made sure they attended church. Luter said she was the one who planted the seed of faith in his life.

“Yes indeed, she was the one,” he said.

Because of her failing health, Brooks was not able to attend Luter’s nomination and election June 19 to the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention, but she was able to watch via the Internet.

“She was excited; she told me she cried,” Luter said. “I went to see her the next day in between sessions, and she just told me how proud she was of me. She always did say that, though. She always did.”

Luter said that, typically, when he would visit his mother, she would greet him with “Well, look at my pastor” when he’d walk through the door.

“But that day when I came in, she said, ‘Well, look at my president,’” he said. “So it was pretty neat.”

Brooks was also preceded in death by her eldest son, Shelby Neveaux. She is survived by her sister, Evelyn Taplin; her children Yolanda Keeler, Fred Luter, Keith Luter and Felicia Blayton, and by 13 grandchildren, who called her “Dear.”

Funeral arrangements are to be finalized this weekend.

“The condolences of all the convention go out to Dr. Fred Luter in the loss of his mother,” said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. “This occurrence should encourage all of us to pray more for Dr. Luter. I believe that the evil one targets persons in positions like this. We need to pray one for another.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank Michael McCormack is New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s assistant director of public relations.)
7/2/2012 3:42:51 PM by Frank Michael McCormack, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Messengers pass resolutions on ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’ gay marriage

July 2 2012 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Messsengers to the Southern Baptist Convention approved resolutions June 20 reaffirming their convictions regarding the means of salvation and the inerrancy of scripture while indicating their intention to continue cooperating in the Great Commission despite some theological differences.
Among the nine resolutions passed in two sessions were ones:
• Identifying what is frequently described as a “sinner’s prayer” as a biblical way of expressing repentance and faith while providing some careful descriptions of what that means;
• Reaffirming the belief the Bible is without error and attesting to the direct creation and historicity of Adam and Eve;
• Agreeing to continue to work together to spread the gospel with an understanding that the Baptist Faith and Message, the convention’s confession of faith, sets “sufficient parameters for understanding the doctrine of salvation” among Southern Baptists.
The resolution on cooperation addressed some pre-convention “verbal sparring” between non-Calvinists and Calvinists, Resolutions Committee Chairman Jimmy Scroggins acknowledged afterward.
Messengers also approved resolutions:
• Opposing efforts to use the rhetoric of the African American civil rights movement in the attempt to legalize same-sex marriage;
• Protesting President Obama administration’s attempts to subvert religious freedom in such arenas as health care, marriage and the military;
• Acknowledging and expressing gratitude for the role of African Americans in Baptist work in the United States;
• Affirming community and human needs ministries by churches;
• Celebrating the 200th anniversary this year of Baptist ministry in Louisiana;
• Expressing appreciation to God and all those who helped with this year’s annual meeting.
Messengers approved the resolution on a “sinner’s prayer” with what appeared to be at least an 80 percent majority. The other measures gained passage in unanimous or nearly unanimous votes.
The committee sought to emphasize cooperation, said Scroggins, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.
That seemed obvious in the resolutions on a “sinner’s prayer” and cooperation between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.
The explicit intention “from the time our committee started meeting was to try to present resolutions in a way that we could be winsome, that we could say strong things in a winsome way and do it in a way that promoted unity among Southern Baptists,” Scroggins said at a news conference after the completion of the resolutions reports.
The way the committee put it was it “wanted to ‘demilitarize’ the resolutions process,” he told reporters.
“We just felt like we wanted to affirm our commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message as our unifying confession of faith,” he told reporters.
“Southern Baptists are going to have to agree on the essentials. We’re going to have to disagree on certain things, but what we really want to do is lock arms and fight the darkness.
“We want to lock arms and cooperate to win the nations to Christ, to win our communities, to make a difference for Jesus, to push back the darkness with the light of Jesus. And that’s really what we think most Southern Baptists would like to focus on.”
The resolution on cooperation and the doctrine of salvation gained approval without any verbal opposition expressed from the floor, but debate on the measure on a “sinner’s prayer” consumed much of the 30 minutes allotted for the morning report, necessitating an afternoon report.
The resolution, which survived two amendment efforts, affirmed the concept of a “sinner’s prayer” while reiterating the belief that “repentance from sin and personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are necessary for salvation.”
It said such a “crying out for mercy and a calling on the Lord,” which constitute what is often described as a “sinner’s prayer,” are a “biblical expression of repentance and faith.”
The resolution also said “a ‘sinner’s prayer’ is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the gospel.”
It also urged Southern Baptists to continue to take the gospel to sinners of “every tribe, tongue, and language.”
Two African-American pastors – Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and Eric Redmond of Reformation Alive Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Md. – submitted the resolution objecting to misappropriating civil rights language in the cause of legalizing same-sex marriage.
The resolution provides encouragement to black pastors, said Kevin Smith, an African American who was a member of the committee.
Smith is pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“During this season, black pastors will have to speak about this issue in a way that white pastors won’t,” Smith said at the news conference.
Referring to President Obama’s recently announced support for gay marriage, Smith said, “They’ll speak against the first black president and his personal views on marriage while affirming biblical authority.”
Black pastors already are taking a clear stand on the issue, but “it’s just good to have the affirmation of your brothers and sisters” in the denomination, Smith said.
The resolution on the use of civil rights rhetoric on the same-sex marriage issue was “beautifully crafted,” Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land told reporters.
“I think it’s important that the largest Protestant denomination in the country made it clear where they stand on this issue.”
Part of the resolution on religious freedom urged Obama to tell his administration to back down from its requirement that health plans cover contraceptives, including ones that can cause abortions, and sterilizations.
It also called for a sufficient exemption for all people and organizations with a religious objection.
It “is so important that our people understand and that the country understand that this debate is not about reproductive freedom. This is about religious freedom,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “It’s about all people of faith and whether or not the government can coerce them to pay for that which they find unconscionable.”
Seventeen resolutions were submitted to the committee for consideration.
In addition to Scroggins and Smith, other members of the Resolutions Committee were: Stephen Farish, senior pastor of Crossroads Church, Grayslake, Ill.; Cheri Jimenez, pastor’s wife and member of Taylors First Baptist Church, Greer, S.C.; Manpoong Dennis Kim, pastor of Global Mission Church, Silver Spring, Md.; Gary Lowe, member of Alta Canyon Baptist Church, Sandy, Utah; Tim Ohls, senior pastor of Believers Southern Baptist Church, Wichita, Kan.; Kevin Ueckert, senior pastor of South Side Baptist Church, Abilene, Texas; Stephen Douglas Wilson, member of First Baptist Church, Lone Oak, Ky., and dean emeritus and chair of the social studies/history department at Mid-Continent University, Mayfield, Ky., and Joe Wright, director of missions for Dyer Baptist Association, Dyersburg, Tenn.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
7/2/2012 3:37:56 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Bryant Wright exhorts traditionalists & Calvinists

July 2 2012 by J. Gerald Harris, Baptist Press

The “elephant in the room” in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the tension between “traditional” Southern Baptists and “Calvinists,” Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright said in his message to the SBC annual meeting June 19 in New Orleans.
Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., for over 30 years, said church planting was not “cool” back then and traditional worship was “the only game in town.”
“It was also the time when there was an intensity of conflict within our denomination over the inerrancy of the Word of God,” Wright said.
“Thankfully,” he continued, “Southern Baptist Christians led this convention to do something no other denomination had ever done before – return to biblical orthodoxy after there had been a wayward turn to the left. And for that we are still forever grateful and must be ever vigilant.”
Several decades ago a Pentecostal or charismatic movement also impacted many churches in the convention, Wright said.
That too, after some time, “eventually died away.”

Photo by Matt Miller

Bryant Wright Jr., pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention, gives the president’s address June 19 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Then came the “worship wars” that continue to plague many churches, Wright said. “The fact is that all kinds of worship styles are very appropriate as long as they are Christ-centered and biblically based,” he said. “Today the tension has to do with Calvinism or Reformed theology. Months ago ... the Holy Spirit convicted me that I needed to address this elephant in the room. Little did I know that it would be such a hot topic today.”
Wright said he is concerned that Christ-centered, Bible-believing Southern Baptists will be so engaged in correcting one another’s theological views when it comes to election and salvation that they will be detracted from their mission of rescuing captives who need to be liberated by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“These two views on election and salvation can co-exist as long as we stay Christ-centered and biblically based in our theology,” Wright said. “So a word to these two groups: To our Calvinist friends, a bit of humility would be most welcome. Anytime there is spiritual pride or intellectual pride or theological pride – it is always a sin. And an attitude of superiority ... is never going to build up the church of Jesus Christ. A little humility would be appreciated.
“To those who call themselves traditional Southern Baptists, the time for being judgmental is over, because judgmentalism quickly moves into slander. And to lump all those who have a strong biblically based theology that is a more Reformed theology into hyper-Calvinism is not only misguided, but it ends up causing you to break the ninth commandment on false witness. It is time to show some respect to those who have differing views when it comes to election and when it comes to salvation.”
The central focus of the Old Testament and the New Testament, Wright said, is Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. Those who are more committed to their theological position than to Jesus Christ are guilty of “theological idolatry,” he said. The idolatry of materialism, technology, theology, denominationalism and family are major deterrents to Kingdom growth – reaching the neighborhoods and the nations of this world for Christ, Wright said in referencing this year’s convention theme.
In contrast, Wright said he is encouraged when he sees a passion for church planting among the 16,000 students enrolled in Southern Baptist seminaries.
“Many of them have a passion for going to a place where a church does not exist,” he said. “That is incredibly encouraging to see.”
Wright also noted that 1,300 churches have made a commitment to connect to an unreached people group somewhere in the world. Still, Southern Baptists will never reach their neighborhoods or the nations without the power of the Holy Spirit, he said, adding that nothing is more futile than doing the work of Christ in the flesh. “As we join with other Great Commission Christians all around the world we may have the privilege of being part of the final generation in completing the work of the church,” Wright said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
7/2/2012 3:26:56 PM by J. Gerald Harris, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Displaying results 81-86 (of 86)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 >  >|