July 2013

Post-DOMA, gay marriage backers target states

July 11 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – At least five states are facing legal battles over marriage definitions that could determine whether the tone set by the Defense of Marriage Act’s (DOMA) demise will resonate in individual states.

An Arkansas lesbian couple filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court that alleges the unconstitutionality of an Arkansas amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the Arkansas Baptist News said. 

According to the Detroit Free Press, another lesbian couple has pushed for the legalization of gay marriage in Michigan, another state with a marriage amendment.

Gay marriage advocates also have announced plans to try and overturn traditional marriage laws in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. 

The suits, if eventually taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, could result in gay marriage being legalized nationwide. The Senate and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts already are supporting an affirmation of same-sex couples’ rights to federal benefits no matter what state they live in, The New York Times reported.

Maggie Gallagher, author of Debating Same-Sex Marriage, said American political order shifted when the Supreme Court made its decision to overturn DOMA June 26, with traditional marriage supporters becoming a “disempowered and disfavored” minority.


Maggie Gallagher, author of Debating Same-Sex Marriage, said American political order shifted when the Supreme Court made its decision to overturn DOMA June 26, with traditional marriage supporters becoming a “disempowered and disfavored” minority.

“Marriage as an important cultural status is rooted in a shared belief that we need to bring together male and female to make and raise the next generation together, and that adults have a serious obligation to make serious sacrifices, including their sexual life, to make that happen,” Gallagher said to editor-at-large Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online.

“Marriage, after gay marriage, is an under-defined commitment to love and caretaking, whose public character and status is newly uncertain,” Gallagher added. “Why love? Why sex? Why just two? What does this have to do with parenting? What other relationships have an equal right to be counted as marriage?”

The Boston Globe said Indiana and Iowa could become the focal points for traditional marriage supporters trying to pass marriage amendments. 

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was not surprised the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, but he was startled by the justices’ reasoning, he said.

The majority “essentially said there’s no reason to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman exclusively except for hostility and animus toward persons, which we don’t believe is the case,” Moore said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” 

“I think [Associate Justice Antonin] Scalia is right [in his dissenting opinion], that it will be very difficult for the court now to allow states to state-by-state define marriage in the way that they currently do,” Moore said. “I think the language there is setting the court up for a Roe v. Wade type of decision in the future.”

Roe v. Wade was the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated all state restrictions on abortion.

Lawsuits against state bans on same-sex marriage were “nearly a given” after the DOMA decision, said Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith & Ethics Council. Gay marriage opponents may not have been expecting the lawsuits so quickly, he added, but same-sex marriage advocates are taking advantage of the shock waves created by the Court’s decision.

“What we are witnessing is the metamorphosis of the U.S. Supreme Court – it has ceased being a fair and impartial arbiter of legal disputes in which it interprets the law,” Page said. “[It] has transformed itself into a forum in which political correctness and the whims of popular opinion dictate its decisions, rather than the strict letter of the law or the will of the body politic as manifested in legitimate elections.”

Arkansas constitutional Amendment 83 bans same-sex marriage, which lesbian couple Kendall and Julia Wright said “violates their constitutional rights.” The Wrights were married in Iowa and are suing on behalf of 11 other homosexual couples in Arkansas.

Same-sex partners April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse have adopted children separately, according to the Detroit Free Press, but wish to legally marry and unite their families in Michigan. Bernard Friedman, a federal judge in Detroit, said the couple is “entitled to their day in court and they shall have it.”

But same-sex marriage supporters are not the only group reveling in the Court’s decisions, Religion Today reported. Polygamists also are celebrating the overturning of DOMA. Some say the decision could eventually provide equal rights to having multiple marriage partners.

“Proponents of ‘plural marriages’ are riding the homosexual movement’s wave of success all the way to legitimacy,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “They’re using the same playbook, the same sound bites. ... After all, who are we to say that two or three or nine consenting adults shouldn’t be able to make the same commitment? Love is love, right?”

Gallagher said she would like to see Congress pass an expanded DOMA that would include specific statements forbidding polygamous marriages.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Beth Byrd.)

7/11/2013 1:45:19 PM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Pro-life bill passes Texas House

July 11 2013 by Jerry Pierce, Baptist Press

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas House approved its version of a bill on Wednesday (July 10) that would forbid most abortions beyond 20 weeks, require ambulatory clinic standards for abortion facilities and require abortion doctors to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of their practices.

House Bill 2 now goes to the Texas Senate, which could vote on the Senate version, SB 1, as early as Friday. House Republicans, who have largely championed the bill, staved off attempts to amend it. 

Time ran out during the first special called session of the legislature on June 25 following a 10-hour Democrat-led filibuster and then procedural questions from opponents that aimed to derail a vote as well as crowd noise from abortion-rights protestors. That same week, Gov. Rick Perry, who has said he would sign the legislation, announced a second special session to take up the matter again.

Opponents have acknowledged it would be difficult to stop the heavily GOP Texas legislature from prevailing the second time. One Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, voted for the bill in the first session and gave an impassioned plea during the filibuster to his Democrat colleague Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who gained international headlines for her stand against the bill. Lucio is a Senate co-sponsor of SB 1.

Pro-choice advocates have charged that the ambulatory care requirements would cause 36 of the 42 Texas abortion clinics to close their doors, while pro-lifers have argued the same standards should apply to abortion that apply to other surgical procedures.

According to the Associated Press, lawmakers spent more than 10 hours on Tuesday debating the bill as pro-life and pro-choice activists tried to make their voices heard on the Capitol grounds and one day after an estimated 2,000 pro-life activists rallied in support of the legislation amid heckles from opponents.

During Monday’s rally, the slate of speakers, led by former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee, hit a common theme – the inherent value of human life – with several speakers making a point to state their Christian love for pro-choice activists, clad in orange, on the fringes of the crowd.

Huckabee followed Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is expected to seek the governor’s office after Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican, announced earlier in the day he would not seek another term.

Southern Baptists on the platform included Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), and Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pflugerville, both of whom prayed, and First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, who kicked off the rally with a fiery speech characterizing the abortion debate as being between “light and darkness, good and evil, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.”

Richards, who closed the rally in prayer, reminded the crowd that more than 2,400 SBTC churches stand with them in upholding the sanctity of human life as part of their confession of faith.

Huckabee, in his keynote address, said “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are not ordained by a government document but by God. He framed the abortion debate in the context of the Holocaust and slavery. The foundation for both lay in the poisonous concept that one person or group is better than another.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. TEXAN correspondent Bonnie Pritchett contributed to this report.)

7/11/2013 1:41:54 PM by Jerry Pierce, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lecrae speaks of hip-hop’s relevance

July 11 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Rap music, as hip-hop artist Lecrae Moore puts it, is a vocalized expression of hip-hop culture that permeates all ethnicities and racial boundaries. Christians should embrace being missionaries in today’s culture, Lecrae said, rather than isolating and creating an alternative subculture.

The Grammy Award-winning artist, ministry leader, producer and actor – who uses only his first name as his stage name – spoke about his art and ministry calling on “The Exchange,” a weekly LifeWay Christian Resources’ webcast. Eric Geiger, LifeWay’s vice president of church resources, interviewed Lecrae for the segment.

“The urban culture sees [hip hop] artists as modern-day philosophers – people they take their cues from, learn different things from,” Lecrae said.

Hip-hop is more influential today than ever and is “now the new pop music,” he said. It’s “in every commercial, sporting event. It has a special kind of residue to people who are really a part of hip-hop culture, [those] who are in that urban context. It really is the voice that is communicating their value system and their ideals. That makes it a powerful tool – for good or for bad.”

Lecrae, who lives in Atlanta with his wife and their three children, has released three studio albums and two remix albums as the leader of the rap group 116 Clique. He has received a Grammy Award and two Dove Awards. He also won 2010 Best Hip-Hop Music Video from the GMC Music Video Awards. In recent years he has appeared as an artist at Passion conferences led by Louie Giglio.

Despite his popularity within Christian circles, producing music that reaches secular culture is Lecrae’s aim. 

“I’m a big fan of looking at Paul in Acts and in the marketplace, but in the synagogue as well, mixing it up in the culture, and knowing who their modern-day poets were and speakers and philosophers and then being able to integrate their ideals and values in his talks as he’s trying to preach Christ to them,” Lecrae told Geiger in the late-May interview.


Lecrae says hip hop is “the new pop music” in interview with Eric Geiger on The Exchange webcast of LifeWay Christian Resources.

“What we see a lot in the United States is the residue of what we call Christendom, where we know Christian culture but we really don’t know the Christian Christ,” he said, adding that Christians, instead of embracing culture, tend to “become separatists and say ‘everything in the culture is bad.’ So we create a subculture, a bubble.

“So if a lot of Christians could have it their way we’d have Christian Starbucks, Christian tennis shoes, Christian everything, instead of transforming the culture we’re in,” Lecrae said. “I’m not saying that from a utopian perspective of ‘We’re going to make the world heaven,’ but we are fleshing out what God’s Kingdom will ultimately look like. We are demonstrating what it looks like to end violence, crime in communities, for people to see and benefit from what redemption has done in our lives.”

As an artist, Lecrae doesn’t shirk his Christian label but says “Christian is my faith, not my genre, [which] goes against the grain of cultural Christianity. We have to be careful with terms like Christian and gospel because those are bigger than genres of a book or CD. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. If you limit that to a genre of music, you do a disservice to what the gospel is. 

“Christianity is an identifying mark,” Lecrae said. “It says I associate myself with Christ. I’m a follower of Christ. To call my music Christian is really storefront Christianity. I’d rather not put the label of Christian on me because I say so; I’d rather it be tagged on me because my character demonstrates it because I’ve really been changed.”

Additionally, “The world has come to see that things titled Christian or gospel means ‘they’re excluding me,’” he said. “So to call it Christian rap must mean it’s for Christians. That’s a disservice to the missional work we are trying to do. I’m not mad at creating things that edify the church specifically, but as we’re being missional, we need to be careful about giving certain terminology and jargon to things.”

Lecrae became a Christian at 19 and says his influences have “been a series of people over the years,” including Tommy Nelson, John MacArthur and John Piper.

After much study, “I said, ‘Man, who is influencing these guys? Where are these guys getting this information?’ So I started to dig back and got into my D.O.G.’s – my dogs, my dead old guys. That’s when I started getting into the Spurgeons, the Calvins, and my personal hero, Francis Schaeffer. I think he just got it. He totally got being immersed in culture, affecting it, transforming it, but not losing sight of his convictions of who Jesus was.”

Through his music and ministry, Lecrae said he tries to encourage other artists, pastors and leaders to avoid the false dichotomy of secular versus sacred and to use their talents and craft to influence and impact culture.

“Part of the intentionality for pastors is to not train laymen to be elders,” he said. “Stop training them to be ‘you’ instead of training them to be missionaries in culture. Of course there are those who need to be trained up to be elders; you want them to be competent in the scriptures. You want to equip them biblically and spiritually for them to go out and affect the world that they exist in. [But] don’t replicate your role – help them wrestle with the tough questions they’re having in their field – actors, doctors.”

Teach people “how to be effective in culture and see every opportunity for ministry,” Lecrae said. “As Christians we have the unique ability to selflessly serve and push them to the gospel.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the communications staff of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. The online interview with Lacrae can be accessed at LifeWay.com/TheExchange.)

7/11/2013 1:34:41 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Opponents to Boy Scouts policy to launch alternative

July 10 2013 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

A fledgling organization that opposed the Boys Scouts of America’s (BSA) decision to accept openly gay Scouts announced July 9 it will launch an alternative group with a Christian worldview.
“It’s our vision to be the premiere national character development organization for young men which produces godly and responsible husbands, fathers and citizens,” announced Rob Green, interim executive director of the as-yet-unnamed organization.
“The organization’s membership policy will focus on sexual purity rather than sexual orientation,” Green said in a conference call with reporters.
John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.net, which opposed the BSA policy change, differentiated between the inclusiveness of the BSA and the new organization.
“The issue with Scouting is just that when you’re going to allow a young man to be in the program to be openly flaunting sexuality, that’s just inappropriate and parents do not think that’s a clean and safe environment for their kids,” he said.
In fact, the Boy Scouts also forbid sexual behavior by youth members.
About 50 leaders, including representatives of religious denominations and veteran Scout officials, gathered June 29 in Louisville, Ky., and decided to launch the group on Jan. 1, 2014, the day the BSA policy change becomes effective.
Green, a former BSA executive in Florida and South Carolina, said boys of any religion will be welcome but adult leaders will be required to adhere to a statement of faith. He said the group’s provisional faith statement mirrors that of American Heritage Girls, an independent faith-based organization that is viewed as an alternative to the Girl Scouts.
The BSA declined to comment specifically on the new group.
“It would be inappropriate for us to discuss other organizations,” said BSA spokesman Deron Smith. “We remain focused on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens.”

7/10/2013 3:09:36 PM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Jungle training camp teaches missionaries coping skills

July 10 2013 by Emily Pearson, Baptist Press

AMAZON BASIN – Eighteen International Mission Board (IMB) workers and their children watched with mixed emotions as the twin-prop plane took off from the jungle airstrip, headed back to the city. 

As they stood surrounded by wide rivers and miles of dense Amazon rain forest on all sides, reality began to sink in. They were on their own.


Photo by Rebecca Springer
Students at IMB’s jungle training camp, helped by some locals, pile into a canoe to head upriver. View photo gallery.

The group trudged through mud and stifling heat, loaded down with children, suitcases and boxes of supplies, before arriving at the camp – a row of simple wooden cabins beside a river – that would be home for the next month. 

The missionaries – some new, some veterans – were the first group to arrive at IMB’s new jungle training center, designed to help missionaries learn to live and work in tough rural places.

Donny Barger, an IMB missionary and trainer who helped start the camp, said the program will better prepare missionaries going to work among the nearly 230 unengaged, unreached people groups living in isolated places throughout the Americas. That’s 230 people groups that are less than 2 percent evangelical Christian and who have no one seeking to reach them with the gospel.

“One of the things we hear most often from missionaries after they complete their first term is, ‘I really wish someone would have helped me understand what it was really going to be like going into an indigenous area,’” said Barger, from Alabama. “And sometimes [lack of preparation] causes you to make big mistakes with your people group that takes you a long time to get out of.”

As the older kids set off to explore their new surroundings, the confused adults began learning how to set up a home in the jungle, asking basic questions such as “Where will we sleep?” “Is the river safe to swim in?” “What is for dinner?”

The learning process had begun.

Going in blind

Before arriving, the trainees had been given very limited information about the upcoming experience. They didn’t know what they’d eat or what they’d live in. Cooking options, bathroom facilities, sleeping arrangements and clean water sources were all mysteries.

One trainee, Lisa Williams*, had an even more pressing concern as she gazed warily at the river flowing directly beside her cabin. With four children between the ages of 1 and 6, such proximity to fast-moving water made her uneasy.

“I didn’t come in with a lot of expectations, because I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I didn’t know what our housing would be. I just had to be flexible and lower my expectations.”

Barger said going in unprepared was a planned part of the experience.

“If you tell them everything, it really isn’t as good a learning experience,” he explained. “Sometimes it’s good to not have all the answers and to think through how you’re going to respond. It’s good to let people discover that on their own.”

The tough stuff

For the next month, trainees lived in a closely packed community with few modern luxuries. There was no Internet or phone access. Generator-powered electricity was available only for a couple hours – most evenings. Food selection was limited to a hodge-podge of non-refrigerated goods from a small local store, accessible only by canoe every few days. Indoor running water was precious, and the nearby river served as the community bathtub, washing machine, food disposal and transportation route.

Despite the challenges, trainers emphasized that the goal was to teach, not torture.

For more than a decade, IMB missionary Jake Johnson* has lived in the Amazonian community where the camp was built. He and his wife Tanya* now use their expertise in jungle living to teach other missionaries how to thrive in difficult places.


Photo by Rebecca Springer
Participants in IMB’s new jungle training program wash clothes by hand in a river during their month-long stay in the Amazon. Learning to adapt to rustic living conditions is one emphasis of the experience. 

“This is not about roughing it,” Johnson told the trainees when they arrived. “This is to help you and your family figure out what needs you’re going to have to live comfortably in a remote setting. It’s about figuring out what you’re going to do in this situation. All the things we do out here, we want you to be able to reproduce that where you go, and give you ideas on how to build things and do things that are going to make it easier on you.”

The trainees soon learned how to collect rainwater in barrels and pump it into their homes. They – and their children – quickly discovered how to avoid the huge thorn trees that lurked beneath the muddy river water, waiting for a bare misplaced foot. 

Meat was scarce and a friendly competition soon arose over who could catch the biggest piranha or wolf fish for dinner. Killing scorpions and tarantulas became routine, and it was understood that privacy and silence didn’t exist during waking hours.

Learning what’s important

While braving the environment, the missionaries attended sessions on sharing the gospel with indigenous peoples. They also studied some of the most common obstacles missionaries face in rural cultures steeped in animism and witchcraft. Experienced missionaries gave tips on being a strong, godly family in isolated places.

The group practiced learning difficult, non-written languages. Participants learned to tell simple Bible stories to those who can’t read, and each family developed evangelism plans for their specific people group. 

Each day’s schedule also included times for personal devotion, reflection and prayer.

“We’re spending a lot of time focusing on personal devotions,” Barger said. “While we have people in a close community with no electricity, no Internet or phone, no television or anything, we’re able to disconnect them and give them some solitude.”

Amidst the chaos of parenting four small children in the jungle, Williams was able to break away for some one-on-one time with God. She said this habit strengthened her spiritual life throughout the training.

“Probably my biggest takeaway from the [training] has been in my prayer life,” she said. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing – knowing that as we’re leaving here and going to our people group, we need to be right with God. We need to be walking in the Spirit.”

Over the course of four weeks, the trainees fell into a practiced, if not necessarily comfortable, jungle routine. While the first day saw a group of nervous newbies, the group that sat by the airstrip a month later, laughing and joking about their unforgettable experience as they waited for their ride home, was dramatically different.

They were more creative cooks, better fishermen and semi-professional bug-killers. They were experts in navigating muddy terrain by touch and flashlight. More importantly, they were better Bible-storytellers, language learners and prayer warriors with established plans for reaching their people group with the gospel.

At this same remote location in the Amazon Basin, IMB leaders in the Americas will hold training sessions several times a year to prepare more missionaries for work among unreached people groups. 

*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Emily Pearson served as an IMB writer in the Americas. To find out how you can be involved in reaching the lost in the Americas and throughout the world, visit going.imb.org.) 


Related story:

‘Blessed’ to reach hard places for Christ
Photo gallery

7/10/2013 2:59:35 PM by Emily Pearson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Blessed’ to reach hard places for Christ

July 10 2013 by Emily Pearson, Baptist Press

AMAZON BASIN – Brad Connelly* watches thoughtfully as his daughter and sons splash around in the jungle river beside their small cabin. 

Oblivious to the rest of the world, the kids laugh and scream as they take turns flying off a rope-swing, plunging into the cool water and trying to swim against the current to a nearby rock. To them, the jungle is an exciting new adventure.

To Brad and his wife Carissa*, it’s the risky place where they’re about to move their family. Still, sitting on his cabin porch at the International Mission Board’s (IMB) new jungle training camp, Brad watches his children playing and knows it’s the right move. 

The month-long training program is the final step to prepare the Connellys and their three children – ages 4, 6 and 8 – to venture deep into the heart of the Amazon jungle and work among one of the nearly 230 unengaged, unreached indigenous people groups in the Americas. Their people group is less than 2 percent evangelical Christian and no one is currently trying to reach them with the gospel.


Photo by Rebecca Springer
At IMB’s new jungle training camp, missionaries discuss subjects ranging from language acquisition to basic first aid. View photo gallery.

The community they hope to work in is restricted and permission to enter is hard to obtain. For the moment, the Connellys live in a nearby city, praying that God will soon open doors for them to enter and begin work in the area. Once that happens, He’ll be all they have.

They’ll be the only missionaries in their area, nearly 15 hours away from the next closest IMB personnel. Electricity will be a luxury for about an hour a day – sometimes. Food options will be limited, and Internet and phone access will be nonexistent. The family will be up to eight hours away from the nearest decent medical care.

They suspected a lot of this when they asked for the job.

“When we were looking through available [IMB] jobs,” Brad recalls, “we specifically asked to look at the hardest ones, the ones no one else wanted. Some of these jobs had been on the books for four or five years because no one else wanted them.”

But moving their kids to a difficult and even dangerous environment wasn’t a decision the Connellys made easily.

“I was thinking a lot about my family and how this will work out,” Brad says. “One morning I was reading through the Bible about Abraham sacrificing Isaac. I was praying and I just felt like God asked me, ‘Would you do that and not ask any questions?’”

As a mother, Carissa had to come to terms with the threats she knows her children will face with this life.

“In the beginning, I felt like I’m dragging them away from everything and putting them in a place where there’s malaria and dengue and all these sicknesses and no doctors,” Carissa says. “But the Lord had to teach me, do I trust Him? Because He loves my kids more than we could ever love them. If He’s not big enough to take care of them, who can?

“It’s not just Brad’s call [to missions],” she continues. “It’s not just my call. It’s our family’s call. Sometimes the call to follow Jesus is painted as something very nice and pretty, but there’s a price. He says, ‘Pick up your cross and follow me, and you will suffer.’ That’s just part of it.”

The Connellys know that not all their stateside friends and family members understand their decision to move to a potentially dangerous place. But knowing God has called her family has kept Carissa confident in their direction.

“Will they miss out on some stuff? Probably,” she says. “Will they get sick? Absolutely. But our kids are really blessed to grow up in the ministry and to know God as their Healer, as their friend and their everything.”

Brad adds, “You know, if the Lord wants to protect my kids, He will. And we’re going to ask Him to do that. But if He wants me to lay them on an altar, ... to the American mind I know how that sounds, but I feel like that’s what He asked of us.”

In the face of uncertainty and risk, the Connellys look forward to sharing the gospel with people who currently live with no eternal hope, understanding that while God’s plan may not be the safest place, it is always the best place. 

“God is in control, and to me, everything else is fluff,” Brad says. “It’s like God just says, ‘There’s the rope. Are you willing to jump and hold on?’ And He’s going to swing it hard all over the place, and I’m going to get hurt and things are going to happen, but I just have to trust Him. He’s got this. And I feel like we’re going to have the opportunity to see God do some amazing things.”

*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Emily Pearson served as an IMB writer in the Americas.) 


Related story:

Jungle training camp teaches missionaries coping skills
Photo gallery

7/10/2013 2:54:28 PM by Emily Pearson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Washington now leads in assisted suicides

July 10 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Washington has become the No. 1 state for physician-assisted suicide.
At least 83 people in Washington died in 2012 after taking lethal doses of drugs prescribed by doctors, the State Department of Health reported June 20. That total pushed Washington beyond Oregon, which has had legalized assisted suicide 12 years longer and has always held the annual record for such deaths. Earlier this year, Oregon reported 77 assisted suicide deaths in 2012 for its highest total ever.

The increase in assisted suicides annually from 36 to 83 since 2009 prompted Southern Baptist bioethicist C. Ben Mitchell to say Washington’s “numbers are chilling.”

Washington, which legalized assisted suicide in 2009, has reported 240 such deaths in less than four years. Oregon has reported 673 deaths by assisted suicide since its Death With Dignity Act went into effect in 1997, according to the state’s Public Health Division.

Assisted suicide moved from the Pacific Northwest to New England in May when Vermont became the third state in the country to legalize the practice and the first state to enact such a measure legislatively. Oregon and Washington both approved assisted suicide in voter initiatives.

Mitchell took issue with the language used in the report, describing it as “surreal.”

Describing patients as “participants” in the law and lethal drugs as “medication” is “something right out of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World,” said Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and a biomedical and life issues consultant for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. 

“‘Medication’ comes from a Latin word which means ‘healing’ or ‘cure,’“ Mitchell said. “Physician-assisted suicide is neither. It represents the failure of doctors to exercise their professional responsibility never to harm patients.”

Washington’s latest report showed 121 people received lethal drug doses under the assisted suicide law in 2012. Of these, 104 had died by the end of the year – 83 after ingesting the drugs and 18 without doing so. It was uncertain whether three of those who died took the drugs.

Washington’s latest report included more evidence of what opponents say are major problems with legalizing assisted suicide:

  • Only three of the 121 people who obtained lethal prescriptions in 2012 received referrals for psychiatric or psychological evaluation.

  • Just five of the doctors who prescribed the drugs were present when the patients took the dosages.

  • The report is based on information provided by prescribing physicians, making it difficult to discover abuses.

As with previous reports from Washington and Oregon, Washington’s 2012 statistics showed the leading end-of-life concerns by those who died were “losing autonomy” (94 percent), being unable “to engage in activities making life enjoyable” (90 percent) and “loss of dignity” (84 percent).

Those who died in 2012 after receiving lethal drugs were between the ages of 35 and 95, according to the Washington Department of Health. More than 70 percent had cancer.

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

7/10/2013 2:51:27 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Texas capitol speakers urge pro-life bills

July 10 2013 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN & Baptist Press

AUSTIN, Texas – The eyes of America were on Texas on Monday night (July 8) as an estimated 2,000 pro-lifers rallied in support of bills moving through the legislature to stop most abortions beyond 20 weeks’ gestation as well as increase standards of care and require abortion doctors to have privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their practices.

The slate of speakers, led by former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee hit a common theme – the inherent value of human life – with several speakers making a point to state their Christian love for pro-choice orange-clad activists on the fringes of the crowd.

Huckabee followed Concerned Women for America Executive Director Penny Nance, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is expected to seek the governor’s office after Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican, announced earlier in the day he would not seek another term.

Southern Baptists on the platform included Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), and Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pflugerville, both of whom prayed, and First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, who kicked off the rally with a fiery speech characterizing the abortion debate as being between “light and darkness, good and evil, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.”


Photo by Jerry Pierce
An estimated 2,000 pro-life supporters rallied July 8 for Texas legislation to forbid most abortions after 20 weeks as well as improve standards of care in abortion clinics and require abortion doctors to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of their practice. Many in the crowd held signs and nearly everyone wore blue to contrast the orange worn by pro-choice activists, who stood on the perimeter of the gathering.  

Richards, who closed the rally in prayer, reminded the crowd that more than 2,400 SBTC churches stand with them in upholding the sanctity of human life as part of their confession of faith.

Huckabee, in his keynote address, said “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are not ordained by a government document but by God. He framed the abortion debate in the context of the Holocaust and slavery. The foundation for both lay in the poisonous concept that one person or group is better than another.

The gas chambers at Auschwitz were built on that foundation, Huckabee said. On a recent trip to the infamous camp, he said he was overwhelmed with the question of how such an atrocity could happen.

“Thank God it’s still there,” Huckabee said of the gas chamber, because the structure serves as a reminder “that somewhere some people believed they were better than others ... and they had to die.”

Huckabee said he would bet that most people in the crowd were raised to believe they are no better than anyone else and that others are no better than they are.

“We are all created equal. No life was deemed so insignificant that it was deemed disposable,” Huckabee said.

Reality television’s Michelle Duggar struck a similar note. Standing alongside husband Jim Bob Duggar and oldest son Josh, the mother of 19 children and co-star of “19 Kids and Counting” told the crowd their 3-year-old daughter Josie, held up by Josh, “could be the poster child for House Bill 2.”

Under current Texas law, Josie could have been aborted at the time she was born – 25 weeks of gestation. HB 2, due for a second vote in the Texas House this week, calls for tight restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. Texas law currently allows abortions into the 28th week despite polls indicating Americans overwhelming oppose late-term abortions. The Senate version of the bill is SB 1.

“In our nation a baby holocaust is taking place,” Duggar said, urging people of faith to run for office or support those who do.

Abbott, the attorney general, told the crowd, “I stand for life.

“I say that with the irony of someone who cannot stand,” Abbott said from his wheelchair. “But you don’t have to stand to fight for life or what is right.”

Abbott, who argued before the U.S. Supreme Court to end partial-birth abortion in Texas, enthusiastically defended HB 2.

Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor and another potential GOP gubernatorial candidate, addressed a growing crowd of pro-choice activists on the perimeter of the gathering.

“We love you,” Dewhurst said to cheers of approval from the pro-life crowd.

“As Christians we love you as much as we love that unborn baby.”

But, Dewhurst added in his remarks, his respect for their free speech rights and their toughness as Texans would not overrule his drive to pass pro-life legislation.

The crowd responded with chants of “Pass the bill!”

Kyleen Wright, executive director of Texans for Life, lauded Sen. Eddie Lucio, D.-Brownsville, the lone pro-life Democrat in the Senate and a co-sponsor of SB 1, the companion bill of HB 2.

Jonathan Saenz, director of Texas Values, read a letter from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R.-Texas, calling late-term abortion “indefensible.” Via Saenz, Cruz noted the tough abortion restrictions set by some European nations: “In Spain, Italy, Portugal and even France – that bastion of progressive thought – abortions are banned after 14 weeks.”

The lineup of speakers also included authors of the legislation, Rep. Jodi Laubenberg, R.-Murphy, and Sen. Glenn Hegar, R.-Katy; Marilyn Musgrave, vice president for government affairs for The Susan B. Anthony List; Jeanne Monahan, president of March for Life; and Missy Martinez, national director of Students for Life.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

7/10/2013 2:44:32 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN & Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pro-life bill slows; supporters remain hopeful

July 9 2013 by Christian Action League, BR staff

North Carolina pro-life advocates may have to wait a little longer for their “Christmas in July” after the state's public health regulators told lawmakers on Tuesday (July 9) that House Bill 695 left too many unanswered questions and needed a little more work.
The bill, also known as the Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act, passed the N.C. Senate July 3 after the bill was amended that day to include abortion restrictions. Initially a measure to prevent foreign law, such as Sharia law, from being applied in the state, the bill now includes protection of health care workers, limits on abortion funding, prohibitions for sex-selective abortion and a provision that requires doctors to be present during an entire abortion procedure or when abortifacients are administered.
Since approved by the Senate, the bill has drawn harsh criticism from abortion advocates, while large numbers of pro-life supporters wearing blue also have gathered at the state capitol in Raleigh. Lawmakers hope to work out concerns and move the bill to the governor’s desk this week so it can be signed into law.
Advocates continue to call on Christians to contact their representatives this week in support of the bill.
“We call it Christmas in July, but the gift won’t be completely wrapped until it’s passed by the House and signed by the governor,” Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, said after the bill passed the Senate.
“We urge Christians to let their representatives know that they support these measures that are bound to save lives,” he added. “They will certainly hear from abortion supporters, so we cannot afford to be silent.”
Last week, abortion supporters described the bill as an attack on women’s rights, while advocates of the bill said the goal was to make the procedure safer for women.
Senators Ellie Kinnaird, (D-Orange) and Angela Bryant (D-Halifax) argued that the state had enjoyed four decades of safe abortions, but Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Franklin) read a Charlotte Observer article detailing multiple problems at a Queen City abortion clinic that led to it being shut down twice in six years. He also cited problems at a Fayetteville facility.
Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke) pointed out the portion of the bill that would require clinics to operate under standards similar to those of ambulatory surgical centers was consistent with recommendations resulting from the Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic case in Pennsylvania. Gosnell, who ran an abortion clinic, was found guilty for the death of three infants outside the womb.
“We’re not here today taking away the rights of women,” Daniel said. “What we’re taking away is the rights of an industry to have substandard conditions.”
Opponents of the bill said abortion clinics are already highly regulated and that the bill would effectively shut down all but one clinic in the state and lead to “back alley abortions.”
Sen. Phil Berger (R-Guilford) said the bill was not an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, but it simply included a number of “common sense processes to protect women and to protect public health” and that anyone interested in safe abortions had nothing to fear from the bill.
“We can stick our heads in the sand and act like problems don’t exist,” he said. “We can pretend that everything is just hunky-dory out there, but it is not.
“We are being warned by the results of the Charlotte clinic and by the results in Fayetteville that there are problems out there. … We have an obligation to protect the health of the women that go to these clinics and make sure the rules and safety procedures are the best they can be.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – BR staff updated and edited this story.)

7/9/2013 9:15:10 PM by Christian Action League, BR staff | with 0 comments

Women’s conference to encourage spiritual legacy

July 9 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Esther Burroughs was 17 years old when a church camp speaker shared something with her that changed Burroughs’ life.
“She said, ‘Esther, God has something for you to do. And it’s something that no one else can do.’ I had never felt what I felt coming from this woman’s heart. There was so much joy in her teaching about Christ; she radiated,” Burroughs said. “She specifically looked into my eyes and spoke to my heart.”
That set in motion a lifetime of friendship and mentoring between Burroughs and the woman. Burroughs, 76, is one of the featured speakers for the “Leaving a Legacy” women’s prayer and evangelism conference hosted by Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). The Sept. 6-7 conference will be held at Ridgecrest Conference Center and will focus on Psalm 78:4, which encourages believers to tell of God’s great work from one generation to the next.
“I came from a generation when older women imparted wisdom to younger women,” Burroughs said.
“It wasn’t a program; they just did it. They modeled it. My passion is to call women my age to stand up and pour into younger women. We have life experience, and they want to know how to get there.”


Esther Burroughs Ministries photo
Esther Burroughs will be a speaker for “Leaving a Legacy” women’s prayer and evangelism conference in September.


Burroughs, who serves and directs Esther Burroughs Ministries, previously served the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) in missions and evangelism. She has also served as campus minister at Samford University.
Ashley Allen, Embrace director, shared that throughout her life, especially in college, God provided women to come alongside her and show her what it means to be devoted to leaving a legacy and investing in others.
“Women need to realize, and often they don’t, that their lives have impact and they can impact other lives,” said Allen, who will be one of the featured speakers. “Scripture is clear that we are to leave a godly legacy. We’re called to leave a legacy of faith.” 
“There were so many women who faithfully invested in me and taught me the things of God – how to pray, study Scripture and rely upon the Lord in both good and bad times,” she added. “Some had a college education and some did not; but they were faithful. They impacted my life greatly, and have in turn impacted those I minister to.”
Merrie Johnson, BSC student evangelism consultant, will join Burroughs and Allen as one of the featured speakers. Johnson has worked with youth for 27 years and leads the summer Youth Weeks at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell. Youth Weeks draws nearly 7,000 middle and high school students each year. Breakout sessions during the Embrace event will focus on topics such as prayer, spiritual mothering, evangelism from the home, the heritage of truth, and helping children avoid the pitfalls of life. A complete list of topics and speakers is available at www.ncbaptist.org/wpec.
Pam Blume, member of the conference planning team and wife of Biblical Recorder editor Allan Blume, will lead a session on recording a spiritual legacy. Blume will teach women practical ways to record their spiritual legacy, such as tying it in with their family tree.
Years ago when Blume helped her son with a fifth grade project related to their family tree, they learned not only about their heritage, but about the spiritual leaders in their family who had gone before them. From then on, recording their spiritual legacy became a “lifelong thing for us,” Blume said.
Blume encouraged women to attend the conference for an opportunity to learn from and be inspired by women of influence, such as Burroughs.
“When you think of legacy, you think Esther Burroughs,” Blume said. “She is such an encouragement to women in any stage of life.”
Blume challenged women to be intentional in reaching out to others, from their children to their peers to other women, and begin influencing them for Christ.
“You have your own sphere of influence,” she said. “God has you here for a purpose, and He wants to use you.”
The conference begins at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, with early bird breakout sessions at 3 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. To register, call Ridgecrest at (800) 588-7222.
For more information, call (800) 395-5102 ext. 5561, email embracenc@ncbaptist.org or visit www.ncbaptist.org/wpec; click “Registration” to register online.  

7/9/2013 2:46:55 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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