July 2013

Glorieta 2.0 enhances leaseholder options

July 17 2013 by John Loudat, Baptist Press

GLORIETA, N.M. – The Christian ministry buying Glorieta Conference Center from LifeWay Christian Resources has increased options available to those who lease property for residential homes and small group facilities.

LifeWay Christian Resources announced its trustees’ approval to sell the Glorieta conference center in New Mexico on June 13, emphasizing that one of the most important requirements of the sale was “that the new owners provide options that are fair, reasonable and prudent for individuals and churches that lease land at Glorieta.”

When the options were announced in late June, a number of leaseholders questioned how “fair, reasonable and prudent” they were.

On Tuesday evening, July 9, concerned leaseholders met for nearly four hours with Anthony Scott, executive director/CEO of Glorieta 2.0 (the new owner); David Weekley, a Houston homebuilder and Glorieta 2.0’s board chairman; and Jerry Rhyne, LifeWay’s chief financial officer. Moderating the discussion was Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, a division of LifeWay.

One leaseholder, who spoke with the Baptist New Mexican newsjournal on the condition he not be named, said from his perspective that Stetzer did a good job moderating the meeting and clarifying all the points made during the lengthy discussion.

The leaseholder said Stetzer began the meeting by setting ground rules, which included that the discussion would be civil and Christ-like and that everyone would be allowed to speak without interruption.

Ron Warren, minister of spiritual development and leadership at First Baptist Church in Plainview, Texas, which owns a cabin at the conference center, said he learned some things he had not been aware of before, that good communication took place and that Glorieta 2.0 seemed to listen to the concerns voiced.

Scott, in a statement sent to the Baptist New Mexican after the meeting, said, “We had a good opportunity to explain our situation and the current options in more detail and to answer questions about them. Leaseholders had a lot of questions, which we answered openly and straightforward.

“I don’t know that everyone agreed on every point, but we certainly understand each other’s points of views better, and we see who the lessees are,” Scott said.

About 60 churches and individuals own structures on lots at Glorieta but do not own the land. In the 1950s and ’60s, leases for the properties were for 25 years, but for the past several years have been renewed annually. Most of the current leases expire this fall and, if not renewed, require leaseholders to vacate the properties.

Glorieta 2.0 sent leaseholders letters last month explaining three options to expiration but some expressed concerns in local news reports over fairness of the options. LifeWay said the new owners of Glorieta are offering leaseholders generous alternatives to expiration of their leases.

The initial three options were:
  • a one-time $40,000 buyout
  • a new 12-year lease that doesn’t provide any compensation but imposes new restrictions on the use of conference center facilities.
  • an invitation to leaseholders to donate their homes to Glorieta 2.0 as a charitable contribution.
Following the meeting with leaseholders, Glorieta 2.0 delivered a new letter that describes enhancements to the first two options including compensation payments based on size of each structure, ranging from a minimum of $40,000 to a maximum of $100,000.

The new options also allow those who sign a new 12-year lease, but decide later they no longer want to lease at Glorieta, to be paid the agreed upon amount for improvements on a pro-rata basis. For example, after six years, a leaseholder would receive half of the compensation.

The enhanced options also allow those who are permanent residents or missionaries to stay at Glorieta as long as they are physically able to reside on the property.

Some longtime leaseholders voiced concern about new restrictions included in the 12-year lease. It bars residents and their guests from conference center facilities during planned events unless they are registered for the event. It also prohibits the use of all-terrain vehicles on Glorieta property and requires leaseholders to submit to criminal background checks and complete child-safety training. Scott told the Baptist Standard newsjournal those restrictions simply reflect a desire to protect children and youths.

The new letter to leaseholders also states, “This is a stretch for us and as far as we can go and still be able to have resources needed to revitalize Glorieta as we all desire. It includes many of the things you requested like dealing with values differently, providing more money to the lessees, providing a new plan for permanent residents and more.”

Leaseholders have until Sept. 1 to choose one of the options.

During the July 9 discussion, leaseholders expressed their gratitude for Glorieta 2.0’s ministry and a desire to be able to remain at Glorieta to help the new ministry achieve its objectives, the unnamed leaseholder said.

Glorieta Baptist Assembly opened as Southern Baptists’ second national conference center in 1952 and has been operated since then by LifeWay, formerly known as the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention until 1998.

Glorieta 2.0 was formed by a group of Christian businessmen and camping professionals associated with Camp Eagle, a Christian camp located near Rocksprings, Texas.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Ken Camp, managing editor of the Baptist Standard of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and Marty King, LifeWay communications director, contributed to this story.)
7/17/2013 4:03:54 PM by John Loudat, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Internet freedom called vital facet of global religious freedom

July 17 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Internet freedom is vital to religious freedom, and the United States should make greater efforts to breach the firewalls of repressive regimes, in the view of Baptist public policy specialist Barrett Duke.

Speaking at a religious liberty conference, Duke said the federal agency that oversees international media – the Broadcasting Board of Governors – should dramatically increase its support of technology to breach Internet firewalls established by authoritarian governments. 

Oppressive states are using a variety of methods – including connection disruptions, content blocking and violence against bloggers – to restrict online speech, according to a 2012 report that identified the countries with the worst Internet freedom records as Iran, Cuba and China.

The Internet is “the new public square,” but “too many countries today are actively engaged in preventing people of faith from accessing this electronic public square,” Duke told an audience of religious liberty advocates and congressional staff members. Duke is vice president for public policy and research of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Duke cited seven reasons Internet freedom is critical to religious freedom:

  • “Minority faiths need connection for encouragement and protection.”

  • Religious leaders with little opportunity for formal theological instruction need access to the Internet.

  • “New faith groups need connection to more mature groups to encourage them and assist them” in faithful growth.

  • Cults produced by erroneous theology are “less likely when errant interpretations of Scripture can be thoroughly investigated.”

  • “Fellowship and communion” are key parts of expressing religious faith.

  • “Religious freedom involves the freedom to seek God,” which includes the liberty to ask others about God.

  • Collective worship online is a vital part of religious expression.

Freedom House, a Washington-based organization that promotes liberty globally, reported in September that threats to online freedom are becoming more diverse. “As authoritarian rulers see that blocked websites and high-profile arrests draw local and international condemnation, they are turning to murkier – but no less dangerous – methods for controlling online conversations,” said Freedom House's Sanja Kelly, the report's director. 

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Illustration by Andy Beachum


The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) should do more to combat such restrictions, Duke told participants at the June 27 conference sponsored by the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable. BBG – an independent federal agency that supervises all federally supported, non-military media in promotion of freedom – funds Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and other networks.

Though the BBG has listed overcoming Internet censorship as one of its 12 “key tactical steps,” it has committed only 2 percent of its $720 million budget toward that effort, Duke said.

Instead, the BBG should spend more “to investigate and implement proven Internet firewall-breaching technologies,” Duke said. That will enable “the faithful to access the Internet and, through it, likeminded” religious groups, he told the audience.

Duke endorsed an April letter from Sen. Roy Blunt, R.-Mo., and Rep. Frank Wolf, R.-Va., that urged the BBG to use at least 10 percent of its budget on firewall-breaching technology. Duke also encouraged religious liberty advocates to call for Congress to demand 10 percent of the BBG's budget be a starting point for such an effort.

ERLC President Russell D. Moore joined others in supporting the recommendations by Blunt and Wolf in a June letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders. Among others signing onto the letter were representatives of the National Association of Evangelicals, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Evangelicals for Social Action and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Freedom House's 2012 report on Internet and digital media pointed to the following among the various government efforts to limit online freedom:

  • Paying commentators to exploit Internet discussions.

  • Increasing surveillance of regime critics.

  • Enacting policies that “either restrict online speech, violate user privacy, or punish individuals who post content deemed objectionable or undesirable.”

The report showed 20 of the 47 countries examined had recorded a negative trajectory in Internet freedom since January 2011. Fourteen countries had demonstrated a positive trajectory, according to the report.

Freedom House named the following countries among those that are “not free” when it comes to the Internet: Burma, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Vietnam. China has the most Internet users but also “the most advanced system of controls,” according to the report.

The IRF Roundtable is an informal collection of representatives of non-governmental organizations that meets periodically on Capitol Hill to discuss religious liberty issues. The June 27 meeting at a House of Representatives office building included addresses from members of Congress, the State Department and non-governmental organizations.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington burean chief for Baptist Press.)

7/17/2013 3:58:42 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Prop. 8 case: Calif. high court refuses stay

July 17 2013 by Baptist Press

SAN FRANCISCO – A California Supreme Court case regarding Proposition 8 will continue into August after the court refused to grant a stay July 15 as it considers whether the state’s county clerks are legally issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“This has become more than just a fight over marriage,” Andrew Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, Proposition 8’s official proponents, said. “The authority of local government officials, and the future of the initiative process itself, is put at grave risk if state officials are allowed to nullify a proposition by executive order, backed by no binding legal precedent.

“Now it is up to California’s highest court to breathe life back into the people’s power of initiative,” Pugno said, referring in part to the 7 million California voters who approved Proposition 8 as a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

ProtectMarriage.com, along with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed a petition with the California Supreme Court July 12 asking the court to enforce Proposition 8, which has not been struck down by a qualified court despite publicity surrounding a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“Although we would have preferred for the California Supreme Court to issue a stay so that the state’s marriage amendment would be respected sooner rather than later, the proponents of Proposition 8 will continue to urge the court to uphold the rule of law,” Austin Nimocks, senior counsel for ADF, said.

“We remain hopeful that the court will recognize that Proposition 8 remains the law of the land in California and that county clerks must continue to enforce it,” Nimocks said in a July 15 news release.

Kellie Fiedorek, ADF’s litigation counsel, wrote in a blog post Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that supporters of Proposition 8 did not have legal standing to defend the amendment in federal court did not impact the validity of the marriage law.

“The only direct effect that the Court’s decision has on marriage in California is to permit the four plaintiffs in that case, and them alone, to seek and receive marriage licenses,” Fiedorek wrote. “The district court’s ruling extends no further than to these four individuals.”

ADF’s lawsuit contends that at least 56 of 58 county clerks must continue to follow Proposition 8 because they were not involved in the recent case against it.

“It is simply not true that one unelected district court judge has overturned this voter-approved ballot initiative,” Fiedorek wrote.

When the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against Proposition 8, no legal precedent was left declaring the amendment unconstitutional statewide, ProtectMarriage.com said.

“California’s constitution requires public officials to enforce any voter-passed initiative until an appellate court declares it to be unconstitutional statewide,” ProtectMarriage.com said.

Pugno compared the current case to former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s attempt to order the county clerk to disregard the man-woman legal definition of marriage. In this case, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris ordered county clerks statewide to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Mayor Newsom had no authority to instruct the county clerk to defy state law, and today we contend that the governor and attorney general don’t have that authority either,” Pugno said.

“With so much at stake,” ADF’s Fiedorek wrote, “we owe the citizens of California – and future generations of Americans – nothing less than every ounce of our efforts to seek justice in this matter.”

The state Supreme Court has given both sides until early August to file all their legal arguments.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)

7/17/2013 3:55:42 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Band played on amid pro-choice protestors

July 17 2013 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press

AUSTIN, Texas – The spiritual and ideological chasm in the Texas abortion debate was evident at the close of a pro-life rally July 8 that drew an estimated 2,000 pro-lifers and, by one media account, about 1,000 pro-choice activists.

The sprawling pro-life crowd, mostly dressed in blue to signify their pro-life stance, gathered near the south steps of the Texas Capitol where former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee headlined a group of pro-life activists, politicians and pastors.

The rally lasted an hour and a half, ending around 8:30 p.m. After the closing prayer, led by Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, many in the crowd headed for nearby buses while others spread out around the Capitol grounds to talk or take in the moment. A smaller group gathered near the Capitol steps to hear the praise band from Bannockburn Baptist Church in Austin. Some bystanders raised their hands in praise or dropped their heads in worship.

But once the blue shirts spread out, an orange sea of pro-choice activists pressed toward the front of the crowd, only stopping at a barrier erected by Department of Public Safety troopers.

Based on the climate at the Capitol in recent weeks over abortion legislation that finally passed the legislature on July 12, Joseph Bolin – Bannockburn Baptist’s worship pastor – thought pro-choice activists may make an appearance at the pro-lifers’ rally. He had even planned for it.

Bolin said he intentionally chose songs such as “Mighty to Save” that speak of God’s love, power and ability to change situations, knowing the clash of blue and orange was probable.
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Photo by Bonnie Pritchett/Southern Baptist TEXAN


Several weeks before, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told a National Right to Life convention in Dallas: “We’re not exactly in a polite conversation with our opponents who don’t believe in the sanctity of life. Instead, we’re in the midst of an epic struggle for the very future of this state, this nation and our civilization.”

The moments following the rally gave validity to Dewhurst’s statement.

The pro-choicers’ chants and signs – some with vulgar slogans – defied the affirmations of the pro-life messages that evening. But the band played according to plan.

“Everyone needs compassion,” the band sang, “love that’s never failing; let mercy fall on me.”

The blue-clad pro-life activists, many of them with signs citing Scripture and mentions of God, tried to focus on the music as the orange-clad activists pressed for attention.

The pro-lifers sang loud, their hands raised in worship, while the pro-choicers shouted in vain to drown out the Bannockburn band, who played on, fighting through the tense moments with a redeeming message.

“Everyone needs forgiveness, the kindness of a Savior; the Hope of nations,” the band continued.

As the blue shirts sang, abortion activists took it up a notch.

A cart appeared out of the orange sea that was wired with a range of colored lights and its own reverberating speakers and thumping bass.

For a few moments, the flashing cart became the grand marshal for an impromptu parade of pro-choice demonstrators who were forming behind it. What was emanating from the speakers was indistinguishable over the sound of the praise band and worshippers’ singing. But the sign atop the structure – raised on a stand above everyone’s heads – was clearly visible.

“This machine kills fascists!” was the handwritten message in black on a white background.

As Bolin watched two worlds collide, he noted the demeanor of both.

“I was proud of our people,” the worship pastor said. “There was a lot of hatred that seemed to be spewing from the pro-choice group. [The worshippers] did not engage in the heckling.

“It was a salient moment of spiritual warfare,” Bolin added. “It was very illustrative of the cultural divide in our nation and the spiritual divide as well.”

Huckabee and the pro-life speakers repeatedly had addressed the inherent value of all humanity, explicitly noting the worth of abortion-rights advocates who were skirting the edges of the rally.

Dewhurst spoke directly to the pro-choice activists who were shouting occasional taunts.

“We love you,” he said to cheers from the pro-life crowd. “As Christians we love you as much as we love that unborn baby.”

The messages seemed lost on the pro-choice advocates, as their passion for abortion rights spilled into contempt for pro-life activists and the God they represented.

“Not the church. Not the state. Women must decide our fate!” the angry faction shouted.

The signs also declared their defiance.

“My body. My choice,” some read. Others were obviously meant to shock the “churchy” crowd, as many signs were sexually explicit or otherwise obscene.

The pro-choicers continued to push forward; their chants of “We won’t go back” became a counter melody to the band’s worship music.

But their attempts to drown out the singing with shouts and chants failed.

“Our goal was to send [God’s] message to whoever was listening,” Bolin said. “God’s Word does not return void.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
7/17/2013 3:50:39 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pastor from South Asia reaches out to North Carolina

July 16 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Matek* ministered and shared the gospel in Pakistan for many years before the country he loved so dearly forced him out.
 
Raised in a Christian home in a country that is about 96 percent Muslim, Matek came to faith in Jesus Christ as a teenager and followed in his father’s footsteps of full-time ministry. From open-air crusades to festivals and seminars, they shared the gospel and saw people come to faith in Christ.
 
“In our country it is really dangerous,” Matek said. “That was very risky ministry.”
 
A few years ago members of his family had to leave the country because of their ministry. In one village alone, nearly 150 Christians were killed.
 
Not long after, Matek was forced to flee the country and sent into hiding. Yet, despite risk of persecution and even death, he experienced much joy ministering in his home country.
 
“If we don’t reach the Muslim people, who will? I loved living in Pakistan,” he said. “We were satisfied with our ministry and work.”
 
About nine months ago he and his wife, Miriam*, came to live in High Point, N.C., which is home to about 1,300 Muslims from Pakistan. Matek is working to start the first Pakistani Baptist church in North Carolina.

 

Journey of faith

After fleeing Pakistan in 2010, Matek served in other countries, determined to still spread the gospel.
 
Once he received his visa everything fell into place for him to move to New York City to be with Miriam, who had been traveling back and forth between New York and Pakistan since they were married in 2009.
 
Miriam, who was living and working in New York, met Matek while in Pakistan visiting her family.
 
They had an arranged marriage, and they were married about one month after meeting.
 
Miriam said she really came to know God while living in New York.
 
“When you are alone, you feel empty. But God told me who He is. He is my Father; He is my everything.”
 
After Matek joined Miriam in New York they prayed for God to show them where to go next.
 
While in California speaking at a conference they met Ralph Garay, a church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). Garay previously pastored a Filipino-American church in San Diego.
 
Garay shared with Matek and Miriam the great need for a Pakistani church in North Carolina.
 
“Life was easy in New York,” Matek said. “Miriam had a good job. We had no contacts in North Carolina.”
 
Before even leaving New York they realized God was paving their way to North Carolina.

 

Answer to prayer

A few days before leaving New York Matek earned his driver’s license, but did not have a car. When Mark Gray, BSC church planting team leader, learned that Matek and Miriam were coming to North Carolina he shared their need with his church, Epoch Church, and the group provided a van for them to use.
 
When Larry Doyle, director of missions for Piedmont Baptist Association, heard about Matek and Miriam he connected them with Darryl Love, pastor of Crossover Community Church in High Point. A friend of Love’s provided a home for Matek and Miriam and the church furnished it.

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BSC photo
Matek,* left, prays with Darryl Love, senior pastor of Crossover Community Church in High Point. A native of Pakistan, Matek is here in North Carolina planting a church.

 

“God was attaching us to people and we had never even met them,” Matek said. For two years Love and Crossover Community prayed for God to help them reach the Pakistani people in their community. “You can’t get to our church in any direction without passing the home of a Pakistani. At one time, everyone looked like us. Now, we’re a minority,” Love said.
 
Love and Crossover Community are partnering with Matek as they see an answer to prayer unfold – someone to help them reach Pakistanis with the gospel.
 
“They have been accepted as family,” Love said. “They have become part of our lives. We are helping them build relationships with the community.”
 
Gray said Matek’s journey helps remind him of God’s sovereignty.
 
“To think that God would bring him here on that incredible journey, to get him here, is phenomenal. The need was great to have a missionary who could come here to reach the Pakistanis in their culture and context,” he said.
 

Sharing in love

“We came here with just our luggage,” Matek said. “We came here to start a church; we came here to work.”
 
Matek is not afraid of working hard, nor is he afraid of challenges and even persecution.
 
“Persecution is the sign of revival,” he said. “It’s the Spirit of God who encourages us to face that. They are more blessed who face persecution than those who don’t face persecution.”
 
Matek and Miriam are focusing on meeting Pakistanis and Muslims in their community, building relationships and sharing the gospel.
 
“The first thing we need to do is love Muslims,” Matek said. “Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. The second key thing is to pray for them. In our minds we often think that all Muslims are bad. We need to change our mindset. Never think it cannot be possible to reach a soul.”
 
Matek encouraged believers who want to reach people from other religious backgrounds and cultures to be intentional in meeting them. Every visit to a restaurant, store or gas station is an opportunity to meet someone.
 
“We can’t win souls if we don’t use the small opportunities. If we want to do something big, we can’t miss the small opportunities,” he said. “We can’t develop our church like other churches; it takes time to build relationships. One salvation response may take years. But we trust in God and He will make a way. He will do it.”
 
Matek cautioned against moving too quickly with Muslims and encouraged believers to be patient and faithful.
 
“Don’t go very fast,” he said. “But go every day. Go again and again and again.”
 
The North Carolina Missions Offering helps support church plants such as the Pakistani church. To learn more, please visit www.ncmissionsoffering.org.
 
*Name changed

7/16/2013 11:19:45 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Not guilty verdict stirs yearnings for love & justice

July 16 2013 by Diana Chandler & Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Southern Baptist leaders voiced a call for active love and respect for justice in response to George Zimmerman’s exoneration in the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. And they voiced remorse for the racially charged history that continues to affect the nation.

Christians should respond to the turmoil by modeling the love of Christ, Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter said.

“I would love for Southern Baptists to take advantage of this very public case by being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ when our nation is in desperate need for people to show love and grace,” Luter said. “It is a perfect time for the body of Christ to come together to be that healing balm in a troubled nation.

“Some people are upset, angry and frustrated, while others are in full support of the verdict, so where does the church fit in? The church should be there to pray for both families, the city of Sanford, and our nation,” said Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. “We are to intercede and stand in the gap by showing the love of God to all those who have strong feelings about this case.”

Southern Baptists must continue in love while working to create a more just society, leaders told Baptist Press. Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and A.B. Vines, president of the National African American Fellowship, both called for justice in all of society.

“Overcoming racial injustice takes churches working intentionally to model the Kingdom of God in calling persons together in loving communities, shaped not by a common ethnicity but by a common Spirit. We are a long way off from that, but the Spirit is at work,” Moore told Baptist Press. “The ultimate answer to racial injustice is to see the Godness of God over our idolatries of self. Racial hatred isn’t just mean and ignorant; it’s satanic and blasphemous.”

Southern Baptists need to tackle a legal system that discriminates among various ethnic groups, said Vines, who leads a racially diverse congregation in California.

“We need to look at our American justice system and how laws seem to work at certain times for certain ethnic groups versus others. That’s what we need to understand,” Vines said.


Examine state laws 

While Zimmerman used Florida’s “stand your ground” law as a successful defense, Vines said, a similarly situated African American woman in Florida was sentenced last year to 20 years in prison for firing a gun in the air – even though she injured no one – because of a state law that predetermines the sentence for firing a gun in public.

“She’s facing 20 years in prison because of mandatory state laws. These state laws … are more detrimental to our cause as African American as far as seeking justice. The judge said ‘there’s nothing I can do. You got 20 years, period.’” Vines said, comparing the Zimmerman case to that of Jacksonville mother Marissa Alexander who had secured a restraining order against a husband based on physical abuse.

“Zimmerman gets free and he fires and kills someone,” Vines said. “Those are the issues I think Southern Baptists need to address … the disparity of the law and how certain laws affect certain ethnic groups differently than other ethnic groups.”

Moore also referenced a disparity in the justice various ethnic groups receive.

“This … ought to remind us of the blighted history of our country, when it comes to racial injustice. Despite all the progress we’ve made, we live in a culture where too often African American persons are suspected of a crime just for existing,” Moore said. “We also have disproportionate numbers of African American men in prison and on death row, and this just isn’t right.”

Leaders also encouraged prayer for all affected.

“They will know us by our love, if we love the brethren,” Vines said. “We need to cry out with 2 Chronicles 7:14 and humble ourselves in seeking God’s face, and cry out with the words of Paul and become spiritual reconcilers in this moment of tragedy and explosive anger over justice, whether flawed or true,” he said. “We still need to be agents of reconciliation to our nation.”

Philadelphia pastor K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the African American Advisory Council of the Executive Committee, expressed heartache and prayer for the Martin family, calling on the SBC to lead the nation in love.

“This is our season as the body of Christ to heed the call of the minor prophet Micah to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8),” Williams told Baptist Press. “The world needs to see God’s people of all races stand up not just on issues of morality but issues of race and social justice, letting the light of our glorious Gospel shine through a unified passionate pursuit of an ocular demonstration and a pictorial illustration of the love of God for all to see who come from one blood!

“We need to beseech the throne of God for our nation when it comes to issues of racism and justice. My heart is aching for the Trayvon Martin family as I am holding them up in prayer,” Williams said.

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said in a statement to Baptist Press, “A young man is dead. That is a tremendous tragedy. The hatred and racial animosity that divide our country breaks the heart of God. It ought to break ours as well. The effects of sin always result in brokenness and division. Only God’s grace can heal the brokenhearted and bind people together who otherwise would be enemies. God help us be a people who work for and promote healing and unity through Jesus Christ!”


Twitter lights up

On Twitter, many Baptist leaders voiced compassion and called for further reconciliation of the races. 

Moore tweeted several comments, including, “Defense attorney’s post-trial comments horrifying to me, given a young man’s death, a family’s grief, and our country’s history.” 

Moore tweeted a link to what he called a “gospel-centered take on the Zimmerman verdict,” a Gospel Coalition blog post by Trillia Newbell, who urged Christians to mourn with Martin’s parents in the loss of their son, to pray for Zimmerman’s salvation and safety, and to pray for race relations in America.

O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, also tweeted the Newbell blog post, along with the words, “Have Trayvon Martin’s mom & dad on my mind and in my prayers today.”

Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., tweeted, “I am praying for my dear African American pastor friends this morning. I am trusting God’s grace is greater.”

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted several times regarding the trial’s outcome. He shared LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer’s blog post “The Verdict Is In ... and We All Lost,” noting the post was “perceptive & helpful.” 

Akin said he prayed for both the Martin and Zimmerman families in church Sunday, and he agreed with pastor Kevin Cosby’s suggestion via Twitter that every pastor should have special prayer for the Martin family.

Cosby, an African American pastor of St. Stephen Church in Louisville, Ky., tweeted several comments that were retweeted by Akin, including, “Why [are] white evangelical Christians so pro-life [except] as it relates to the sacredness of black male life? Where is the Christian outrage?”

Cosby also tweeted, and Akin retweeted, “If the evangelicals ever wake up and rally with African Americans [for] justice a coalition will be built that could change [the United States].”

Cosby tweeted, “the black community is engulfed in grief. Service today was like attending a funeral. Despair!” 

Eric Redmond, executive pastoral assistant at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and a former SBC second vice president, tweeted that his heart “goes out to Martin’s family.”

“My wife just leaned over and said for me to tell my sons, again, how hard it is to be a young African American man in America. So true,” Redmond tweeted. 

In a comment retweeted by Moore, Redmond wrote, “I am determined to hold my children even closer. It is hard to think of them being gone in an instance by accident or murder.”

Kevin Smith, assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted, “Revisiting ‘the talk’ with my rising senior (UK honor student) about where he hangs out – unique duty to parents of black males.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer; Erin Roach is BP’s assistant editor.)

7/16/2013 11:15:28 AM by Diana Chandler & Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Texas gov’s signature will enact abortion law

July 16 2013 by Bonnie Pritchett, Baptist Press

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Senate late July 12 passed sweeping abortion restrictions almost entirely along party lines following weeks of protests, lobbying and debate from both sides in the abortion debate.

House Bill 2, identical to its Senate companion bill, awaits the promised signature of Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who called a second special legislative session to deal with the matter after opponents successfully stalled it as time expired in the first special session on June 25.

The bill, passed 19-11 with one Democrat voting for it, is a compilation of legislation proposed in the regular session of the 83rd Legislature that ended in May. It will ban most abortions after 20 weeks “post-fertilization,” require ambulatory care standards for abortion facilities and require abortion doctors to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of their practices.

HB 2 also will require abortion doctors to be present when any abortion-inducing drug, including RU-486, is administered.

Texas becomes the latest state to enact strict abortion regulations, despite efforts by abortion-rights activists to shut down or slow the legislative process. Their large and loud demonstrations at the Texas Capitol in recent weeks punctuated the debate but their efforts were countered by an influx of pro-life supporters days before the final vote.

“I am proud of our lawmakers and citizens who tirelessly defended our smallest and most vulnerable,” Perry said in a prepared statement.

Critics and many news reports claimed the increased requirements would force the majority of Texas abortion clinics to close, while proponents countered that abortion clinics should be held to the same standards of care as other surgical centers. Numerous media outlets have reported that only six or seven of the 42 Texas abortion clinics meet the standards of ambulatory care.

According to the bill’s text, clinics have until Sept. 1, 2014, to comply with the ambulatory care requirement.

Pro-life senators, including Republican Donna Campbell, an emergency room physician, have said the evidence suggests that babies can feel pain at 20 weeks.

The vote came just before midnight – more than 10 hours into debate and more than two weeks after a 10-plus-hour filibuster, procedural stalling and a raucous crowd of protestors at the end of the first special session succeeded in keeping the Republican majority from prevailing with the bill.

Pro-choice senators proposed 20 amendments without success and stated their strong disagreement with the bill in closing arguments. During debate, occasional outbursts from pro-choice activists in the Senate gallery could be heard.

As promised by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, the rules of decorum were strictly enforced and violators were quickly escorted from the chamber.

On July 12, Twitter feeds reported Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers – called out in force to the Capitol at the outset of protests in late June – checked all purses and bags before allowing spectators into the Senate gallery. Reports of possible disruptions by the bill’s opponents spurred troopers to confiscate tampons and other miscellaneous items. The DPS released a statement that jars of feces, urine and paint also were seized but pro-choice activists disputed that report, charging the DPS with playing politics under pressure from the GOP-controlled legislature, the Texas Tribune online newspaper reported.

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Photo by Bonnie Pritchett/Southern Baptist TEXAN
Demonstrators on both sides of the abortion debate gather at the Texas Capitol July 8 among a series of contentious exchanges that preceded the Texas Senate’s passage of sweeping abortion restrictions just shy of midnight Friday, July 12. 

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D.-Fort Worth, became a pop icon among pro-choice advocates following her 11-hour filibuster against the legislation in the first special session. Since then she has campaigned against the pro-life bill at Planned Parenthood-sponsored rallies. On Friday during debate she praised the protestors who disrupted the earlier proceedings.

Protestors continued their rally against the bill on July 13, vowing legal challenges.

“There are people in charge here who want this bill to move very quickly so they won’t be delayed in their climb up a political ladder, so they will not be further embarrassed by the noisy, messy, beautiful public outcry that is part and parcel of our beloved democracy,” Davis said in her closing argument against HB 2.

But Sen. Eddie Lucio, D.-Brownsville, the lone Democrat to vote for HB 2, called the legislation a victory for the fight against “the war on children.” He admonished his peers on both sides of the aisle for not giving their support to legislation that champions life at all stages.

Both sides invoked God as a source for their guiding principles during the debate. Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D.-Laredo, said she was pro-life and supported Planned Parenthood for the health care services it provides. She said she supported the 20-week ban on abortion but not the other requirements. The other provisions, she and other Democrats argued, restrict access to health care for poor women.

Sen. John Whitmire, D.-Houston, rebuked Sen. Dan Patrick, R.-Houston, for implying that anyone opposed to HB 2 lacked faith in God. Whitmire noted the day in 1956 when he was baptized after proclaiming “Jesus as my Lord and Savior” at a Baptist church in Pasadena, Texas. He then went on to recount how he helped pay for a co-worker’s trip to New York for an abortion in 1972 when they were still illegal in Texas.

But Lucio, a Catholic, called out his peers.

“If you are a person of faith there is no way to justify abortion by pointing to God,” he said.

Other pro-life senators said science supports their arguments for the 20-week ban and their faith compelled them to treat all life with dignity.

Pro-life and conservative organizations, whose absence from the Capitol had grown increasingly conspicuous in contrast to the pro-choice demonstrations, rallied to the Capitol Monday, July 8, in a show of support for the legislation. Many stayed through the final passage late Friday.

Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life, tweeted, “A good day for Texas. A good day to be Texan. God bless Texas and thank you David Dewhurst.”

In a statement retweeted by state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R.-Katy, author of the Senate companion bill, Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life stated, “This new law adds a critical protection for a new class of citizens, preborn children.”

The 20-week abortion ban is based on “post-fertilization” age of a pre-born child based on the estimate of a physician, who must then file the information with the state when an abortion is performed, the bill says.

The ban will not apply to abortions deemed “necessary to avert the death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman or abortions that are performed on unborn children with severe fetal abnormalities.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. With additional reporting by TEXAN managing editor Jerry Pierce.)

7/16/2013 11:08:33 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Bill Cutrer, professor & doctor, dies suddenly

July 16 2013 by Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – William R. Cutrer, a current professor and former staff physician at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died July 13 from cardiac-related complications.

According to his wife, Cutrer, 62, left his home for a bicycle ride around 7 a.m. and not long after, fellow cyclists found him tipped over on his bicycle. The cyclists and emergency responders tried to revive Cutrer without success.

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. informed the seminary community of Cutrer’s death early Saturday afternoon. 

“Bill Cutrer was known to many as ‘William Cutrer, M.D.’ For many years he was a prominent obstetrician in Dallas, Texas. He delivered thousands of babies, including some of our own students,” Mohler wrote. 

“Later, Dr. Cutrer trained for the ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. He came to us as a member of the faculty more than a decade ago, teaching in the areas of ministry, medical ethics, marriage and family and personal discipleship,” Mohler wrote. “He was also known to the Southern Seminary family as a trusted doctor in the clinic.”
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Photo courtesy of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Bill Cutrer


Cutrer became the first medical doctor to join Southern’s faculty following his successful career as an obstetrician and gynecologist in Texas. In 1999, he assumed an endowed professorship as C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Ministry. 

He also was director of the Gheens Center for Family Ministry. For several years during his tenure at the seminary, he served as staff physician of the school’s Hagan Clinic, an on-campus limited health maintenance service staffed by a charge nurse and physician.

Mohler wrote about “first-hand” knowledge of Cutrer’s medical expertise in his letter, referencing his own major surgery and ensuing complications. 

“Dr. Cutrer cared for me and supervised my recovery and months of subsequent testing,” Mohler wrote. “I know what a trusted physician he was, and I know what a friend he was to so many on the Southern Seminary campus. 

“Bill Cutrer spent years helping thousands of babies to be born before helping scores of young Christians to be born as ministers. He was a remarkable man, and he lived a remarkable life,” Mohler wrote. “He touched and influenced thousands of lives and he leaves a great legacy. He died all too soon, from our perspective. We will miss him greatly.”

In addition to his duties at the seminary, Cutrer was an active pro-life advocate and practitioner in the Louisville, Ky., community. For many years, he was the medical director for A Woman’s Choice Resource Center, a nonprofit special health clinic that provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds and other services for crisis pregnancies and post-abortion support.

In a 2006 article, a reporter for The New York Times quoted Cutrer about his work with the center. Noting the variety of needs and interests that attracted women to the center, Cutrer told the reporter that the center provided ultrasounds primarily for “persuasive, not diagnostic” reasons. 

“The primary purpose is to show [women who come into the clinic] that [their pregnancy is] not a clump of tissues but a human being,” Cutrer told The Times.

Cutrer spoke at conferences on topics such as marriage enrichment, bioethics and wellness lifestyles and was the author or co-author of several books, including Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, The Infertility Companion, The Contraception Guidebook and The Church Leader’s Handbook: a Guide to Counseling Families and Individuals in Crisis

He also performed missionary work in several countries and contexts. 

Cutrer held a medical degree from the University of Kentucky and a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. 

Following announcements of Cutrer’s death, his former colleagues, students and friends filled social media with appreciation and thanksgiving for Cutrer’s ministries, along with sympathy and support for his family. 

Athanasios Bardis, an alumnus from Australia, expressed his appreciation for Cutrer, writing, “In introducing himself [Cutrer] told us he was a living time bomb and could die at any moment with a condition he had in his heart.” 

“This did not stop him, make him fret, or cause anxiety,” Bardis recounted. “He lived all out there for Jesus, pursued and continued to serve students till his last breath. His godly counsel, his living example of his life and marriage has impacted and influenced our marriage like no other.”

Cutrer is survived by his wife Jane Curry Cutrer and three children, William Jr., Robert and Jennifer Snow, and six grandchildren. Cutrer was a member of Crestwood Baptist Church in the Louisville area.

Mohler also wrote, “I know you join with me in praying for Jane Cutrer and the entire family. ... Let us praise God for the gift of Dr. Bill Cutrer and pray for God’s grace and mercy to be very real to the Cutrer family at this time.”

Visitation was scheduled for July 15 at Highlands Funeral Home in Louisville and a funeral service will be July 16 at Crestwood Baptist Church, with burial at Louisville Memorial East Cemetery.

The Cutrer family requested that expressions of sympathy be made to the Gheens Center for Family Ministry at Southern Seminary or to A Woman’s Choice Resource Center.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by the communications staff of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
7/16/2013 11:02:06 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Calif. high court asked to enforce Prop. 8

July 16 2013 by Baptist Press

SAN FRANCISCO – Proponents of Proposition 8 asked the California Supreme Court on July 12 to order the state’s county clerks to enforce the state’s marriage amendment by ceasing the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in its June decision, did not rule on Proposition 8’s constitutionality, and there’s a 15-county jurisdiction limit of the trial court that originally ruled against the voter-approved amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

“Everyone on all sides of the marriage debate should agree that the legal process must be followed,” Austin Nimocks, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said.

ADF filed the petition with the California Supreme Court, along with the general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com, Proposition 8’s official defenders.

SaveCalifornia.com, also supporters of traditional marriage, explained that the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court that ruled against Proposition 8 only extends to 15 counties, in the San Francisco Bay Area and along the Northern California coast.

“Therefore, homosexual ‘marriages’ are unlawful in at least 43 California counties,” SaveCalifornia.com said.

After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its stay of the district court order June 28, ADF said the California state registrar ordered all county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses. 

“Even though the registrar does not have the authority to issue such orders to county clerks, California Attorney General Kamala Harris publicly stated that she will take legal action against any clerk who declines to follow the registrar’s directive,” ADF said.

The district court’s 2010 injunction against Proposition 8 does not bind all county clerks, ADF said in its petition, and the state Supreme Court’s case law requires officials to execute their duties regardless of their views about the constitutionality of the laws.

ADF also noted that California’s constitution “prohibits government agencies and officials from declaring state law unenforceable, or declining to enforce state law, on the basis that the law is unconstitutional, unless an appellate court has first made that determination.”

The Ninth Circuit’s decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry has been vacated, ADF said, so there is no appellate decision holding that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

“Petitioners are thus entitled to a writ of mandate requiring Respondents to comply with state law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” ADF’s petition said. 

ADF and ProtectMarriage.com earlier filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the Ninth Circuit lifted its stay prematurely, after saying the stay would remain in place “until the final disposition by the Supreme Court.” 

Under Supreme Court rules, the losing side in a legal dispute has 25 days to request a rehearing, and the court said it would not finalize its judgment in the Proposition 8 case until after that waiting period elapsed. 

But Justice Anthony Kennedy denied that emergency request to halt the issuing of same-sex marriage licenses in California.

“The more than 7 million Californians that approved Proposition 8 have a right to see the rule of law – and the constitutional initiatives that the people enact – respected,” ADF’s Nimocks said.

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “Christians mistakenly may see this as simply more culture-war legal back-and-forth, of little import to anyone but television pundits. They’re wrong.

“We’re in the midst of a massive shift, culturally, politically and legally,” Moore told Baptist Press in June. “Churches must be ready to speak, with convictional kindness, why we believe the Christian vision of marriage and sexuality is right. And we must root ourselves in the wisdom of our Baptist forebears to learn how to articulate the natural right of religious liberty and soul freedom.”

Without California’s marriage amendment, 29 states remain with constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.) 
7/16/2013 10:54:40 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘A dark day in American history,’ says N.C. pastor; others join concerns on marriage ruling

July 15 2013 by BR staff

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage June 26, many North Carolina Baptist leaders haven’t shied away from voicing their disappointment on the controversial issue. They’ve also addressed how Christians should move forward. 
 
The following is a series of quotes from N.C. Baptist pastors and seminary professors who shared their thoughts on the High Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In another case, the Court also essentially allowed to stand a federal judge’s invalidation of a California amendment that limited marriage to heterosexual couples. Though the Supreme Court stopped short of legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country, many N.C. Baptists remain uneasy about the future of the nation and the Church.
 

John Attaway

“A dark day in American history,” is how John Attaway, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in State Road, described the Supreme Court’s handling of the issue.
 
“I believe this ruling shows the depth of America’s rebellion against God and what He defines as moral and right,” Attaway said. “As a nation, we continue our headlong march toward total rejection of God’s truth and law. Like Israel, we refuse to do what is right in the sight of the Lord. The church, more than ever, must stand on God’s Word without wavering. We must proclaim it and live it unapologetically. It comes down to a question of authority and truth, and the church must uphold both as found in the Bible. We can expect opposition, even persecution, for doing so. We will be marginalized, criticized, and demonized for proclaiming ‘thus saith the Lord,’ but say it we must!  These are ‘Noah days’ and perilous times, and we must remember that God is faithful, and will not abandon His people!”  
 

Bobby Blanton

“The Supreme Court’s recent ruling has been attributed to the shift in public opinion,” said Bobby Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville.
 
“Why wouldn’t public opinion be changing on this issue? You can’t watch a sitcom on television without seeing a character who is portrayed as a nice, friendly, normal, caring, responsible, funny person who just happens to be homosexual. Homosexuals are held with the highest of respect and admiration and even called ‘heroes’ when they ‘come out.’ 
 
“At the same time, Bible-believing Christians are portrayed as mean-spirited, narrow-minded homophobes. When we have been fed a steady diet of this propaganda from Hollywood – and Washington – for the last 20 to 30 years, it is no mystery why public opinion, particularly among our younger generations, have been largely won over to the homosexual agenda. 
 
“There is a growing softness of this issue from within the church,” he added. “The softness toward same-sex marriage has come from many parents who have seen their children drift into this lifestyle as well as their own lack of biblical foundation. Sadly, many church members gain their perspective and insight more from the media than from God’s Word. … The recent High Court’s ruling should be a reality check for the church for the days ahead.  … There has never been a time in our nation’s history for a greater need of holiness and cross-bearing from within the church. The church will either be a catalysts for spiritual renewal across our nation, or one of the sad reasons for its downward spiral.” 
 

Nathan Finn   

“As our culture becomes increasingly comfortable with homosexual marriage, the church must consistently and winsomely proclaim two complementary messages,” said Nathan Finn, associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
 
“On the one hand, we need to communicate the biblical vision of marriage as a lifelong, covenantal commitment between one man and one woman. This view of marriage is a picture of the gospel itself (Ephesians 5:22-33), so we must not retreat, even if our views seem bizarre or even insulting to many in our culture. America, like much of the West, is in a moral free fall. The church must be salt and light. 
 
“On the other hand, we need to be diligent in applying the gospel to three types of people affected by this issue. Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction need to be reminded that no temptation is too great for them to bear with God’s help and the support of other believers (1 Corinthians 10:13). Believers who have engaged in same-sex sin at some point need to be reminded that all those who are in Christ have been forgiven of their sins, cleansed by the blood of Christ, and need not be haunted by the past (Colossians 2:13-14). Those who identify as homosexuals and pursue that lifestyle should be urged to repent of their sins and look to Christ for their salvation because homosexuality is unacceptable to God and leads to spiritual death (Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
 

Daniel Heimbach

“In the land of the free and home of the brave, disagreement over something so fundamental as marriage should be left to the people as instructed by conscience, tradition and faith,” said Daniel R. Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
 
“But what the Supreme Court majority has done is enshrine into the Constitution a radical redefinition of marriage under which sexual difference makes no difference.
 
“This is a tragedy that exalts private desires over the public good and sentiment over God’s ordering of creation. … The DOMA decision brands faithful Christians as un-American bigots driven, not by faith or even reason, but by nothing more than ‘bare … desire to harm.’ Such aspersion is not only completely false but demonstrates deeply rooted animus toward those who cling to faith in the wisdom and power of God.”    
 

Marty Jacumin

“It serves as a reminder of our fallen world but it also reminds us of our God-given task,” said Marty Jacumin, pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh.
 
“Our gospel message has not changed, and we must continue to proclaim that message with conviction and purpose. It will be the gospel that changes hearts, not legislation.”
 

Ryan Pack

“When I think of the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, one word comes to mind … opportunity,” said Ryan Pack, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville. “… When darkness gets darker, light shines brighter. Remember that the New Testament church grew and multiplied under some of the worse sexual perversions in history. This is an opportunity for the church to expand. Secondly, I believe this is an opportunity for revival. The American church is asleep and needs to wake up. Could this be our wake-up call to repent of our sins, fix our marriages and set a better example to a watching world? May God send revival!”
 

Joel Stephens

“The recent decisions by the Supreme Court and the reaction of the American people to them should serve as a wake-up call to the church in America,” said Joel Stephens, pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in Westfield.
 
“We cannot afford to live in denial anymore. Biblically-based morality is the minority opinion, and its ranks are shrinking exponentially. But this is not a time for despair. As the darkness deepens, the Light of Christ shines more brilliantly.
 
“Perhaps at no point in our nation’s brief history has the church been so needed as now. It’s time to rise up and be the church Christ desires – ‘a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but … holy and without blemish.’ America doesn’t know it, but she desperately needs a revived Church. But there will be no revival in the Church unless there is first an emphasis on holiness.”
 

Rit Varriale

“The decision of [the Supreme Court] was discouraging,” said Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby.
 
“Yet, the general apathy and cowardliness of the church in America is even more discouraging,” he added. “If we want revival in America, then we need the courage to obey God before we obey the government. When that happens, we’ll have revival” (Acts 5:29-32). 

7/15/2013 2:31:36 PM by BR staff | with 1 comments



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