July 2013

Cardinals remove cross from pitcher’s mound

July 15 2013 by Elizabeth Matthews, Religion News Service

ST. LOUIS – There’s controversy at the mound at Busch Stadium, and it has nothing to do with who’s pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Last month fans started seeing a cross etched into the pitcher’s mound at the stadium. Since then, the club has asked that the etchings stop.

“It is not club policy to put religious symbols of any type on the field or in the ballpark. When we became aware of this practice, we asked that it stop so that it would not be confused as an official expression of the club,” the Cardinals organization said in a statement.

“We have fans of all faiths and various beliefs. We strive to provide a welcoming environment for all fans to enjoy baseball, regardless of their faith, politics, race, financial status or any other factor.”
The team’s general manager, John Mozeliak, said he learned of the images from media reports and immediately asked the grounds crew to halt the practice.
“I didn’t ask for the reason behind it,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “I just asked for it to stop.”
Pictures show a small cross etched into the pitcher’s mound, along with a No. 6 to honor Cardinals slugger Stan Musial. That caught the attention of one Cardinals fan watching from his home in New York City.
“I thought that ownership should take it down, I didn’t make any demand; that was my opinion,” said Michael Vines.
“For a baseball team that represents an entire community that brings the entire community together to be part of something that is much bigger than themselves individually and in that way it’s much like religion. Religion does the same thing, but there are places for each and this is the public sphere.”
After seeing it for the first time last month, Vines went back and studied other games.
“I went back and I reviewed previous games and I went to random games it was on all of them and I went to opening day when Jaime Garcia was on the mound and it was there too,” he said.
Other Cards fans disagree, saying it’s OK to have the cross.
“As a Christian, I loved that someone could express themselves and not worry about necessarily being politically correct,” said Cardinals fan Todd Hannaford.
“If the players would like to have that there then I think they should be able to,” said David Zdvorak, also a fan.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri said the Cardinals, “as a private organization … enjoy the constitutionally protected freedom to choose to display a symbol of religious faith on their private property, or to choose not to.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Elizabeth Matthews writes for KSDK and USA Today.)
7/15/2013 2:28:41 PM by Elizabeth Matthews, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Sportsman’s banquet, graduation highlight revival in Cuba

July 15 2013 by Keith Collier, SWBTS

HAVANA, Cuba – A partnership formed eight years ago between Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Western Cuba Baptist Theological Seminary in Havana continues to produce fruit, as pastors and church planters receive theological training and the gospel spreads throughout the Caribbean island country. More than 78 students received diplomas, July 5-6, at two graduation ceremonies presided over by Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson and missions professor Daniel Sanchez.

“The interesting thing is that this is more graduates than they had students when we first started helping them, and this does not count all the (graduates) from the extension centers,” said Sanchez.

“They were rejoicing over not only the quantity but the quality of students that they have who are graduating, all of them active in churches throughout the convention.”

The Cuban seminary, which was on the brink of extinction a decade ago, has flourished under its partnership with Southwestern.

“Our commitment has been to help them any way we can,” Sanchez said, adding that when the partnership began, “they asked us to go to Havana and teach courses so their professors could get master’s degrees.”

“We did that, and now their professors are doing an outstanding job teaching, so we’ve not had to go back and teach those courses to their students because they are the ones doing the teaching.

“With Dr. and Mrs. Patterson going to Cuba, it shows commitment at the very top level of our seminary. This doesn't go unnoticed with them. They realize that we are serious about helping them, and that’s one of the things that has been so encouraging for them.”


Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson preaches at Calvario Baptist Church in Havana, Cuba.

Patterson expressed joy over the explosion of churches that have been planted on the island and the number of pastors being trained.

“The Cuban Baptists are amazing,” Patterson said. “They have succeeded in generating a genuine church planting movement, which has produced thousands of churches and baptized tens of thousands of converts. After traveling in 120-plus countries, I know of nothing quite like it.”

Patterson, who shares the gospel at sportsmen’s banquets across the United States, also had the opportunity to speak at a game banquet hosted by the Cuban seminary during their visit. The event drew more than 50 people, as pastors from the area brought lost people with them to hear Patterson speak. Twenty-six men made professions of faith, all of whom will be discipled by these pastors. One of the new converts, a man who had never set foot in an evangelical church before, is the head of a local hunting club and asked Patterson to stay in contact so they could discuss ways to reach sportsmen in Cuba with the gospel.

Hermes Soto, president of the seminary in Havana, was astonished to discover that there are more hunters in Cuba than he ever imagined. The son of a hunter himself, Soto said that this banquet has opened up an entirely new area of ministry that he will personally engage in from now on.

In addition to the professions of faith at the game banquet, Patterson and Sanchez witnessed more than 25 come to faith in Christ through their preaching at two local Baptist churches and through personal evangelism.

Sanchez said he looks forward to the ongoing partnership between the two seminaries.

“Southwestern has played a crucial role in helping them to continue their ministry. And as a matter of fact, they are expanding their ministry,” Sanchez said.

“They are very grateful that Southwestern Seminary has stood by them all these years. They said they didn’t know what they would have done without this partnership during very difficult times.”

Thirteen professors from the Cuban seminary will fly to Fort Worth in August to participate in Southwestern’s Latin America Summit, an event designed to connect and equip theological seminaries throughout the Americas.

“They are very excited about the idea that we can help them form a consortium of Latin American seminaries that can be a channel through which they can share information, resources, professors, courses and mutual recognition of their degree programs,” Sanchez said. More than 60 representatives from Baptist seminaries in Latin America and Spain will be participating in this historic meeting.

After the summit, the participants from Cuba as well as those from Guatemala will remain on campus for another week to take classes taught by Southwestern Seminary professors on subjects such as youth ministry, evangelism, missions, theology and Christian education.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)

7/15/2013 2:23:14 PM by Keith Collier, SWBTS | with 0 comments

Budget cuts, sale of Hollifield Center OK'd by Executive Committee

July 12 2013 by Shawn Hendricks | BR Managing Editor

As Cooperative Program (CP) dollars lag more than 15 percent behind this year’s budget in North Carolina, the Executive Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) approved a 10 percent decrease to the 2014 CP budget during their July 11 meeting.
The committee also accepted an offer on the Hollifield Leadership Center in Hickory for $2.5 million. BSC leadership announced a new hire involving collegiate ministry, and the committee approved the new title of Brian Davis, who is now associate executive director-treasurer of the BSC.
The Executive Committee approved a decrease in the 2014 CP budget from $33.5 million to $30 million. In addition, the committee voted to continue increasing the allocation of CP gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention by .5 percent, which they have done the last 8 years. This raises the proposed allocation to 36.5 percent.
The budget will go before the Board of Directors for approval in September.
In addition to adjusting to the $3.5 million decrease in the 2014 budget, N.C. Baptist organizations will receive a slightly lower percentage of CP dollars than what was originally budgeted for them next year.
“It’s not exactly the same percentage [as this year],” said John Butler, BSC’s executive leader for business services. “It’s a little less, but close.”
The reduction would also mean no cost-of-living increases for BSC staff in the coming year, said Rob Roberts, chairman of the budget committee.
“We’re trying to be realistic in terms of what we feel like we can do as a budget,” Roberts said. “We’re just trying to bite the bullet.”
Other committee members asked if any relief could come soon from the 1% Challenge for CP, a Southern Baptist Convention initiative that encourages churches to increase their CP giving by one percent.
Though some N.C. churches have begun implementing the challenge, many of them won’t start until their budget for next year begins, Butler said. Even then, the increase may not be easy to see.
“The problem is … [church] income has been down,” Butler said. “We hope that we’ll see an increase. We need it – no question about that.”
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC’s executive director-treasurer, thanked churches for what they’re already giving to CP.
“Churches in the Convention … have been growing in their contribution,” Hollifield said.
“It’s because of [those] increases that we are able to be where we are financially,” he added. “If it was not for that, the picture would be more grim than what it is.”
Hollifield Leadership Center
The Executive Committee accepted a $2.5 million offer on the Hollifield Leadership Center. Butler said the BSC agreed to finance the sale, and it will be paid off with a $250,000 down payment and remaining payments over a five-year period.
After years of financial challenges, the center ceased weekly operations at the end of 2012, but has remained available for weekend retreats up until now.
At an annual cost of $50,000 to maintain, Butler pointed out a down payment of $250,000 alone will cover five years of what it would cost to hang on to the facility.
The BSC purchased the center for about $3 million in 2000 to use for retreats and training by churches, para-church ministries and other non-profit organizations. One full-time employee has remained on staff at the center this year to help take care of the property until it sold.
Proceeds from the sale will go toward the New Beginnings capital campaign at Caraway Conference and Camp near Asheboro. 
New positions
The Executive Committee approved Brian Davis’ new job description as associate executive director-treasurer. His new responsibilities, which have been expanded to include the new BSC structure and strategy that was approved by the committee in April, are now in effect.
For the past seven years, Davis has served as the BSC’s executive leader of administration and convention relations.

“I think you all have observed his work and would understand why I feel there is much value in doing this,” Hollifield said.
“I do try to stay in the field a lot to be with our churches, … [and] there has to be a person in responsibility to answer questions and make decisions, especially when I’m away from the building. …  Brian has that responsibility, and in reality, what I’m asking you to approve is much of what he has been doing … for some time but with a different title.”
Executive Committee members also learned Jonathan Yarboro, campus minister at Appalachian State University in Boone, has been hired as the campus ministry consultant for the Western region.
Under the new structure, Yarboro will join Collegiate Partnerships with team leader Rick Trexler. The team includes: Sammy Joo, a consultant for international students in the Triangle area, and Tom Knight, a consultant for international students in Charlotte. The position for the Central region remains open.
In other business, the Executive Committee approved the following Committee on Committee recommendations for the Board of Directors:
– Herman W. “Buddy” Pigg Jr., pastor of Mount Harmony Baptist Church, Matthews (Union Association), will fill the 2016 unexpired term of Terry Casino in Region 6.
– Vernon Eller, pastor of Union Baptist Church, Zionville (Three Forks Association), will fill the 2014 unexpired term of Matthew Grindstaff in Region 7. 
– John Compton, pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church, Hickory (Catawba Valley Association), will fill the 2014 unexpired term of Kevin Purcell in Region 8.
– Don Warren, member of Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia (Greater Gaston Association), will fill the 2015 unexpired term of Scott Hardin in Region 8.
The next Executive Committee meeting is scheduled for Aug. 15.  
7/12/2013 4:47:38 PM by Shawn Hendricks | BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Gay marriage: Does it harm anyone?

July 12 2013 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – In a discussion that moderator J.D. Greear said needs to happen in local churches, ethicist Russell D. Moore and pastor Voddie Baucham addressed how homosexuality can be wrong if it “doesn’t harm anyone.”

To answer that question, Moore said, the purpose of sexuality must be established.

“It’s not just an individual matter. It’s something that has to do with binding those two together in connection with future generations and with the generations that have come before,” Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in a video posted to The Gospel Coalition blog July 3.

Some gays and lesbians, Moore said, wrongly assume that Christians want to restrict marriage and not allow homosexuals to enjoy it.

“What we’re saying is not, ‘We don’t want you to be able to get married.’ We’re saying that same-sex marriage is impossible based upon what sexuality and what marriage is,” Moore said. 

“So it’s not that we’re trying to disappoint our neighbors. We’re saying this is for the good of human flourishing. And we love you – that’s the reason why not only do we say that we think there’s some restrictions for you, there’s some restrictions on us in terms of what this looks like,” Moore said.

Baucham, pastor of preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, took issue with homosexual activists who say, “It’s not harming anybody. It’s me in my bedroom.”

Voddie Baucham, left, pastor of preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, discussed the argument that homosexuality can’t be wrong because it “doesn’t harm anyone” with J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., and Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a video posted to The Gospel Coalition blog.

“Well, the current debate about marriage explodes that myth. This is not private. This is pressing upon culture as a whole,” Baucham said in the video.

Because activists have framed the debate in civil rights language, Baucham said, it’s “the greatest farce ever” for them to say, “You can go ahead and practice your religion. This has nothing to do with you practicing your religion.

“If this is a civil rights issue, and if us not doing weddings for homosexuals or not hiring homosexuals becomes violating civil rights, then it is not conceivable that the church will be unharmed by this,” Baucham, who is African American, said.

Baucham also made the point that legal decisions are based on principles and established precedent, and “right now the principle is sort of the Beatles’ mentality: ‘All you need is love.’”

“Well, if that’s the case, if marriage is based on popular opinion and who loves each other, [it applies to] the 50-year-old man and the 12-year-old boy, the man and his daughter, so on and so forth,” Baucham said.

Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., said Christians should challenge the principle that just because something doesn’t harm it can be removed from the realm of morality.

“If you cheat on your wife and she never finds out about it and you lie about it, is it wrong? I think most people would say yes because lying is inherently wrong,” Greear said. 

Harm does not always reveal itself immediately, Greear said, urging people to consider the long-term effects of gay marriage.

“For as long as there has been human history, the sanctuary into which families have been brought forward has been a monogamous relationship between two opposite genders when they learn to love the other, and that is what the Creator called marriage,” Greear said.

Moore said the language that is being used in the gay marriage debate is something to which Christians have already surrendered.

“One of the reasons why this is such a confusing thing for a lot of evangelical teenagers is because we have been talking as though marriage is an individual matter between two people,” Moore said.

In wedding ceremonies, couples are writing their own vows, dictating the terms and focusing on their big day, Moore said. “That’s not what marriage is in a Christian context.”

For a long time in churches, people have advised newly married Christian couples to wait a while before having children so that they’re able to enjoy one another “as though you can’t enjoy one another raising up children together,” Moore said.

“You’re already surrendering to the terms and the rest of the culture says, ‘Well, if that’s what marriage is, is celebrating a relationship between two people, we have a relationship, why shouldn’t we do this?’ So I think we’ve got to back up and reclaim in our own churches a longer, bigger definition of what marriage is and start grounding that back in Ephesians 5 rather than the ways that we’ve accommodated,” Moore said.

The church must be involved in the gay marriage debate, Baucham said, because “we don’t take the truth and hide it under a bushel.” 

“We are the light of the world. We are the salt that preserves. So it’s unconceivable that we would not speak to this issue,” Baucham said.

Moore mentioned critics who say the church should just let the world redefine marriage while the church maintains Christian marriage within its walls. That attempt was made with the divorce culture, he said, and it transformed the nature of the church.

Also, such a passive response is unloving toward neighbors, Moore said. “Divorce hurts kids, hurts families, hurts the entire social fabric. So does the expanding out of marriage to where marriage doesn’t mean anything anymore,” he said.

Regarding why the state even needs to be involved in marriage, Moore said the state “doesn’t have anything to do with registering people as friends,” but it does have an interest in male/female marriage “because male/female marriage can lead to something very dangerous for the state, and that is children.” The state has a responsibility, Moore said, to determine who is accountable for an abandoned child.

Baucham said, and Moore agreed, that the state doesn’t have the authority to define marriage but it does have to acknowledge the definition.

Greear referenced John the Baptist, who was beheaded for saying King Herod should not have been sleeping with his brother’s wife. 

“You can hear the critics today who say, ‘Well, see, that’s what you’re going to get for messing around in politics. Of course Herod’s going to sleep with his brother’s wife ‘cause they’re the world and we’ve got to let the world be the world,’” Greear said.

The spirit of John the Baptist’s enemies is at work in the world today, Greear said, but the successors of John the Baptist too often are silent.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.) 
7/12/2013 12:41:54 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

Platt: In ‘sex-crazed culture,’ Bible makes ‘no exceptions’

July 12 2013 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Be careful about shaking your head at same-sex marriage, warned David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and author of the best-selling book Radical.
Christians should grieve the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal ban on same-sex marriage, but believers should also be “careful not to be guilty of selective moral outrage when it comes to the issue of homosexuality,” Platt said.

Everyone, each individual, is bent toward sexual sin, Platt said.

“This is something that every sinful heart is prone to struggle with in some way or another,” said Platt, who preached in late June on the subject of the cross and sexuality. His two-part sermon series on 1 Corinthians 6 book-ended the week of the Supreme Court’s two rulings June 26 supporting gay marriage.
“If we roll our eyes and shake our heads when we see the Supreme Court ruling on this case, yet we turn the channels on our TVs to watch the trivialization of sex on shows and advertisements, to surf the Internet to find images in order to satisfy our lusts, to go to movies that glamorize sex ... and entertain sexual thoughts and desires outside of our own marriage, then we have missed the entire point,” Platt said.

Sins shouldn’t be acceptable just because they are the sins of the majority, he said. The church needs to declare war on every sexual sin that plagues Christians in order to show the world sexual purity and godly marriage.

“All throughout the Bible from cover to cover, sex is only celebrated ... in the context of exclusive covenant relationship between a husband and wife. Period. There are no exceptions to that,” Platt said.


Photo source: www.radical.net
Alabama pastor and author David Platt preaches on the cross and sexuality in a two-part sermon drawn from 1 Corinthians 6, book-ending the week of the Supreme Court’s two rulings June 26 supporting gay marriage.

There’s no exception for homosexuality but there’s also no exception for adultery, promiscuity, pornography or masturbation, he said.

What’s happening in “our sex-crazed culture” today is essentially sex worship – the idea that “I would be happy if I had the freedom to express myself sexually,” Platt said.

“According to [secular culture], we’re not human if we can’t please our bodies however we desire, so any attempts to limit sexual expression are seen as oppressive and inhumane,” he said. “We set our minds on the things of the flesh, which is hostile to God, and we exchange God’s Word for our experience.”

So often the Bible is twisted to fit preference – as with the argument for homosexuality – or its supposed silence is interpreted as liberty, Platt said. For instance, he said, when he was a teenager he and others would ask the question, “How far is too far?”

“I never once heard a well-reasoned, objective answer based on scripture,” he said, explaining that instead leaders would tell youth to pray, set boundaries and decide what they thought was right, because the Bible didn’t spell it out. So when he and other guys would talk about it, they would “do what teenage boys do” – set the standards as low as they could.

“I found myself in this dangerous gray area that led to guilt and failure,” Platt said, noting that even though he and his wife, Heather, didn’t have sex with each other or anyone else before their marriage, “that doesn’t mean we glorified God with our bodies.”

Platt urged unmarried men and women to consider that the reason God has no explicit instructions for sexual behavior between unmarried people in relationships is because God didn’t intend for them to engage in any at all.

“God in His Word has no category for two people who aren’t married but kinda sorta act like they are. It’s not mentioned one place,” he said. “That’s because they are your brother or sister in Christ and likely to be someone else’s spouse some day. If you say, ‘Well, I think I’m going to marry her,’ then marry her.

“Looking for a guideline? Don’t do anything with a brother or sister in Christ that you wouldn’t do with your brother or sister, or with someone else’s wife or husband.”

That also goes for how married people relate to people other than their spouse, he said, as well as in the case of pornography. Pornography isn’t at all relational as God intended for sexual activity to be, and in no way emulates the character of Christ.

“Men, these women are someone’s daughter – they aren’t objects, they are souls,” Platt said. “They need you to point them to Christ, not fuel their exploitation.”

Platt said he’s convinced the reason the mission field is dominated by so many single women is because pornography has such a grip on men that they are too weak to follow Christ’s call. Men need to fight the battle for the sake of unreached people worldwide and for the sake of God’s glory, he said.

“So much of the power of sin is found in its secrecy,” Platt said, urging Christians to be intentional about having accountability in place. “Guard yourself with godly friendships and Gospel accountability.”

And don’t give in to the desires of the flesh outside of marriage, even in masturbation, he said.

“God designed sex to be relational; masturbation is lustful,” Platt said. “It teaches people to satisfy themselves” and is isolating, noncommittal and self-centered. Masturbation “goes against the design of God” just as homosexuality does, he said.

“Let us give ourselves to His design and reclaim godly marriages” for the sake of Christ, families, the church and the world, he said.

Platt said he’s convinced that “living as a Christ follower is going to be harder, not easier, in the coming days” and that the Supreme Court decision will “have ramifications on religious liberty.”

But “marriage is a union that represents our union with Christ in heaven, and it will not go away,” Platt said. “It is wise to be confident in the resiliency of marriage, in the opportunity for the gospel and in the sovereignty of our God.”

“Flee sexual sin and run to Christ,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. To watch or listen to the sermons, visit www.brookhills.org.)

7/12/2013 12:34:29 PM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ohio budget includes pro-life measures

July 12 2013 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The state of Ohio’s two-year $62 billion budget is much more than that to both sides of the abortion debate.

When Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation June 30, he not only reduced the state income tax by $2.6 billion but also enacted a series of pro-life measures. As reported by The Columbus Dispatch, the budget:
  • Eliminates $1.4 million in family planning funds for Planned Parenthood through a new priority system that places the abortion provider at the bottom of the list.
  • Prohibits public hospitals from having transfer agreements for patients with abortion clinics.
  • Mandates an abortion doctor perform an ultrasound and to inform a woman seeking an abortion if he finds a heartbeat for the unborn child.
  • Provides funding for pregnancy help centers, which provide alternatives to abortion, as well as material support, for women considering abortion.
Pro-life advocates applauded inclusion of the pro-life measures in the budget bill.

“It took great compassion and courage for our governor and pro-life legislature to stand up to the abortion industry that blatantly pressured them,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life.

Meanwhile, abortion rights supporter Stephanie Kight, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, criticized the pro-life provisions, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, as “part of an orchestrated effort to roll back women’s rights and access to health care in Ohio.”

The law could force many of Ohio’s 12 abortion clinics to shut down, according to NARAL Pro-choice Ohio.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode, with reporting by WORLD News Service.)
7/12/2013 12:31:01 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

King’s College, NY, names Southern Baptist as president

July 12 2013 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Greg Thornbury, dean of Union University’s theology school, was named Thursday (July 11) as the new president of The King’s College, a New York City evangelical school whose previous leader resigned in controversy.
Thornbury, 42, succeeds conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza, who last year acknowledged a relationship with a woman who was not his wife.
The new president, a Southern Baptist living in Jackson, Tenn., will start his post on Aug. 1. The King’s College enrolled 564 full-time students last fall.
“We think that his vision for the future of the college is exactly what the Lord has intended,” Alice Handley, a board and search committee member, said during the live-streamed announcement.
Thornbury, bespectacled and wearing a bow tie, said the school’s location in the world’s center of culture and finance is important — a goal evangelical leaders such as Billy Graham and Carl F.H. Henry dreamed of but did not attain.


Photo courtesy Greg Thornbury
Greg Thornbury, pictured here with his family, dean of Union University’s theology school, was named Thursday (July 11) as the new president of The King’s College, a New York City evangelical school whose previous leader resigned in controversy.


“This is historic Christianity’s last and best shot to lead from the center of culture with Christ at the center,” said Thornbury, who recently authored the book, Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry.
Thornbury’s appointment relieved some leaders worried about the future of the urban institution as a model of Christian higher education.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Thornbury’s leadership will clarify the school’s commitment to an evangelical Christian worldview, which was less clear under D’Souza, in part because he had a Catholic background.
“Its cultural engagement, I think, will change under Greg — a very eager and winsome cultural engagement that will include political analysis but go far beyond it,” said Mohler, who supervised Thornbury when he was a doctoral student at his seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Evangelical author and speaker Eric Metaxas said his friend will be able to bridge the Christian college realm and the city life of the media capital.
“I think that he’s somebody that understands both worlds very, very well,” said Metaxas.
The King’s College was founded in New Jersey in 1938, closed in the 1990s amid financial troubles, and was revived with the help of the late Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright in 1999 when it began leasing space at the Empire State Building. D’Souza moved the school to the financial district of lower Manhattan, overlooking the New York Stock Exchange.
Thornbury is described by colleagues as a guitar-playing public intellectual.
His contemporary Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, compared Thornbury to an 18th-century theologian, tweeting that he “is Jonathan Edwards meets Rolling Stone magazine.”
In an interview, Thornbury said he would like to partner with evangelical Christian and Catholic colleges as well as “Christian thought and life institutions” such as Gabe Lyons’ Q Ideas.
He also will continue a working partnership with Kimberly, his wife of 20 years, who has been dean of students at Union. She will be a paid special assistant to the president for strategic planning at The King’s College.
“She’s really the Mickey Mantle of policies and systems so I need her on the team,” he said. “Even if she wasn’t my wife, I’d definitely want her on the team.”

7/12/2013 12:25:26 PM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Canada’s religious freedom office in place

July 12 2013 by Baptist Press, WORLD News Service

NEW YORK – Canada’s fledgling Office of Religious Freedom is joining the United States as the only other major diplomatic-level office fighting religious freedom violations around the world.

The office opened in February in Canada’s Foreign Ministry, so its new ambassador of religious freedom, Andrew Bennett, is in the early stages of traveling to countries with religious freedom violations.

Bennett also is traveling from Ottawa to the United States to brainstorm with U.S. officials and advocates on the issue. Bennett met in mid-June in New York with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that lobby the United Nations on that issue.

In an interview with WORLD News Service, Bennett stated his definition of religious freedom: It is not merely the “freedom to worship,” he said, noting that religious freedom encompasses all of life, including the freedom to express one’s religion, the freedom to conduct missionary activities, the freedom to convert and the freedom not to believe. 

Religious freedom advocates had criticized former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for using the narrower term “freedom of worship” instead of “religious freedom” early in her tenure. As time went on, she used the term “religious freedom.”

Perhaps the most significant among Bennett’s plans: His office will be training Canadian diplomatic staff around the world on the issue of religious freedom. The idea is to equip foreign service officers on the ground to be able to recognize and handle religious freedom violations. The U.S. State Department’s religious freedom office also trains American foreign service officers.

Bennett said there is a general dearth of knowledge about religious freedom. 

“We push religion so far into the private sphere that we forget to engage in the public sphere on matters of religion and faith,” he said. “My goal is that Canadian diplomats abroad are the go-to people on religious freedom issues.”

This year the Canadian religious freedom office has directed foreign service officers to sit in court proceedings for individuals facing charges related to their beliefs.

“It’s amazing how the presence of a Canadian diplomat in court can change how the procedure is carried out,” Bennett said. 

Bennett was an interesting choice for the ambassadorship. A Ukrainian Greek Catholic (he calls himself an “orthodox Christian” to be simpler), he continues to serve as the dean of a small Christian university where he teaches a course on the history of Christianity.

He has an academic background in political science and history and has worked in various arms of government at different points. 

In this new role Bennett is constrained by a paltry $5 million budget and four staff members.

“We’re small but mighty,” he said with a smile. 

Bennett acknowledged his office doesn’t have the resources of the U.S. State Department’s religious freedom office and would not be able to produce the sort of detailed annual reports that the State Department and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom provide. But he doesn’t want to duplicate work the United States already is doing well, he said, pointing out his office will do new sorts of projects, like profiles of religious communities around the world. Bennett also isn’t sure whether Canada will create a list of the most egregious religious freedom violators around the world like the U.S. “countries of particular concern” (CPC) list. The CPC list has been a source of diplomatic tension for the United States with countries like China. 

The Canadian office already has spoken sharply on violations around the world, like the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Bennett keeps photos of two Syrian archbishops who were kidnapped in April taped to his computer. The office has regularly spoken out on behalf of religions besides Christianity, defending a Muslim leader who was arrested in Sri Lanka. But Bennett reminded the NGOs in New York repeatedly of the limitations of a five-person staff in addressing every case that arises. 

Canada may be able to speak more openly on the issue than the eggshell-walking American diplomatic corps. Bennett was diplomatic on that point, but he said Canada would play the role of the “honest broker” on religious freedom violations. Last year Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird was more pointed about the office, saying Canada is “no longer a country that simply goes along to get along.” 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine.) 
7/12/2013 12:20:42 PM by Baptist Press, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Chaperone charged with sex crimes at Caswell

July 11 2013 by BR staff

Brunswick County Sheriff’s deputies arrested an Albemarle man for sex crimes that occurred at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, Oak Island.
Clyde Wesley Way, 68, faces 24 charges of molesting young boys at Caswell, which is owned and operated by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). While not an employee of Caswell or the BSC, convention officials say Way was a chaperone with a church group visiting the facility.
According to news reports, the crimes involved four boys between the ages of 10 and 13 in late June. The boys were with their church June 24-29 as part of Youth Weeks, which are sponsored by the BSC.
Charges include 16 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, four counts of employing or permitting a minor to assist in an offense involving a lewd act, and four counts of indecent liberties with a child.
“The safety of participants in the summer camps sponsored by the [BSC] is of utmost importance,” according to an official statement released by the convention.
“The [BSC] requires that all employees undergo criminal background checks. In addition, every church is required to conduct background checks on all chaperones accompanying its youth and children attending the [BSC] camps and to give evidence that these checks have been conducted.”  
Way is being held in the Stanly County Detention Facility under a $350,000 bond.
“We have been cooperating, and will continue to fully cooperate, with law enforcement as their investigation of this chaperone continues,” BSC said in the statement.
Every summer, Youth Weeks at Caswell hosts thousands of middle and high school students.
“Hundreds of young people respond to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, with many participants expressing their desire to invest their lives in missionary and ministry endeavors,” the statement said. “We pray for all the young people attending our camps this summer, but especially the young people, their families and the church involved in this situation.”

7/11/2013 2:52:05 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Conservatives say religious freedom ‘under attack’ in military

July 11 2013 by Corrie Mitchell, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON – Republican lawmakers and conservative activists concerned that religious expression in the military is “under attack” are rallying behind a measure to provide greater protection for religious “actions and speech” in the armed forces.
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Fleming, R-La., would specify in the military spending bill that, “Except in cases of military necessity, the Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs, actions, and speech” of service members.
Previous spending bills protected the “beliefs” of service members and chaplains, but the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act would expand protections to include religious “actions and speech.”
That move has already drawn opposition from the White House, which says the change would impact commanders’ ability to address conflicts within the ranks.
Members of Congress and a coalition led by the Washington-based Family Research Council (FRC) released a report Tuesday (July 9) that documented a number of “discrete events” that reflect “a larger picture of the threat to religious liberty that now exists in America’s armed forces.”
“There is a growing list of cases and incidents that point to the fact that religious liberty in our nation’s military is under attack,” FRC President Tony Perkins said.
Incidents in the report include the removal of a painting that included a Bible verse from the dining hall of Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, and an Air Force officer who was told to remove a Bible from his desk.
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, a member of the coalition, is distributing “Religious Liberty Palm Cards” to educate chaplains and service members of their religious rights, with guidance on how to request a “reasonable accommodation for your sincerely held religious beliefs.” 
The coalition also created a website for service members to report violations against their religious liberties and request legal aid.
“Political correctness has absolutely destroyed the whole concept of being able to live your faith, which is what religious liberty is,” said retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council.
Boykin has come under fire for previous statements about Islam, including that the post-9/11 “war on terror” was a spiritual battle between Muslims and “Christian America” and referring to the God of Islam as “an idol.”
Fleming’s amendment has already passed the House, and a similar amendment by Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has passed the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Fleming hopes the Obama administration will leave it intact after saying the amendment “would have a significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment.”

“We know the president is very uncomfortable with your religious liberty,” Fleming said.

Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an outspoken critic of proselytism in the military, called the amendment “egregious” and “vile.” Weinstein said that he would immediately sue if the amendment passes, calling it “completely unconstitutional.”
“They’re nothing more than theocrats attempting to put into law the right for military members to bully, abuse, oppress, marginalize and dehumanize subordinates who cannot fight back,” Weinstein said, noting that service members face pressure to follow superiors’ orders.
Members of the coalition said that the language of the amendment does not allow for coercion of rank-and-file service members.
“If this administration is going to continue to tolerate this kind of intolerance, they’re going to lose members of the military that cannot serve if their First Amendment rights are not going to be protected with regard to religion,” Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said.
7/11/2013 1:51:16 PM by Corrie Mitchell, Religion News Service | with 1 comments

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