July 2014

SBC’s homosexuality stance reinforced by 1992 amendment

July 22 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

When a retired Air Force general’s concern over homosexuality prompted an amendment to the Southern Baptist Convention’s constitution two decades ago, few observers realized that his impulse to defend biblical morality would prove instrumental in helping the convention resist pressure to legitimize same-sex relationships for years to come.

“Homosexuality was being promoted and was making progress ... and we wanted to protect the Southern Baptist Convention from [a] nickel and dime whittling away of standards and promoting acceptance of homosexuality,” said T.C. Pinckney, 84, a former member of the SBC Executive Committee (EC) who at a 1992 EC meeting proposed amending the SBC constitution to declare churches that condone homosexuality “not in friendly cooperation” with the convention.

Two generations later, young SBC leaders say stands for biblical morality like Pinckney’s are the “confessional bedrock” that has prevented the convention from capitulating to the push for sexual license.

God particularly blesses “confessional movements,” Christian groups that make formal statements of their beliefs and hold themselves accountable to abide by those beliefs, Owen Strachan, 32, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, told Baptist Press. Confessional denominations “are driven by a rich, rock-ribbed statement of biblical theology and gospel teaching. I don’t have a lot of confidence in this day and age for churches whose identity is not grounded in a strong statement of what they believe.”

The SBC’s most recent statement of its beliefs regarding human sexuality is a resolution on “transgender identity” adopted at its annual meeting in Baltimore in June. The resolution opposes “efforts to alter one’s bodily identity ... to refashion it to conform with one’s perceived gender identity,” opposes “all cultural efforts to validate claims to transgender identity” and invites “all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the gospel.”

In recent months Baptists inside and outside the SBC have made pushes to normalize homosexuality. Within the convention, a California pastor announced that he no longer views all homosexual acts as sinful. The SBC Executive Committee could consider action related to his church at its September meeting.


SBHLA photo
T.C. Pinckney (left), pictured in 1993 with fellow Executive Committee officers Fred Wolfe (right) and Eldridge Miller, made a motion at a 1992 EC meeting that led to the SBC’s constitutional amendment regarding churches that “affirm, approve, or endorse” homosexuality.

Outside the convention, a Washington, D.C., congregation called a transgender transitions pastor last month and a Kentucky church began performing gay weddings. Both churches had previously withdrawn from the SBC.

A constitutional amendment

Pinckney’s motion came during the closing session of a February 1992 EC meeting after he failed to get the motion reported out of a subcommittee. He moved that the EC’s administrative subcommittee “recommend a change in the SBC Constitution and/or Bylaws” to include measures against any church “affirming, approving, or endorsing in any way the practice of homosexuality.”

Stemming from Pinckney’s motion, the SBC took an initial vote to amend its constitution the following June in Indianapolis. Since a constitutional amendment required messenger approval at two consecutive annual meetings, final approval came at the 1993 meeting in Houston.

The amendment to Article III of the SBC Constitution stated, “Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.” Previously the constitution said only that the convention would receive messengers at annual meetings from churches “in friendly cooperation with the convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work” and which were “bona fide” contributors “to the Convention’s work during the fiscal year preceding.”

The SBC’s attorneys said the convention had authority to declare gay-affirming churches not in friendly cooperation before the constitution was amended. But then-EC chairman David Hankins, who now serves as executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said the amendment was to “make explicit in the constitution what has always been implicit.”

The convention exercised its implicit power in 1992, declaring two North Carolina congregations not in friendly cooperation and withdrawing fellowship from them. The two churches were Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, which voted to bless the union of two homosexual males, and Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, which voted to license a homosexual to the ministry.

Pinckney said he initiated the amendment because the SBC needed to state its position on homosexuality as early as possible in order to avoid compromise as culture gradually normalized gay behavior.

“People have a tendency to allow things that are happening little by little just to proceed,” Pinckney told BP. “[They say,] ‘That’s not a significant thing. We can just go on and ignore that.’ But it’s like the drip, drip, drip of a faucet. It builds up and gets worse. The frog that is put into the water and the water is heated up gradually is boiled before he realizes what’s happening to him.”

Ed Young, SBC president from 1992-94 and pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, told BP the amendment relied on “the authority of Scripture” and ensured that the convention’s position was “clearly stated.”

Adopting the amendment “almost takes debate off the floor of the convention” related to churches that affirm homosexuality, Young said, “which would be inflammatory as far as the media goes.”

Cultural foresight

Current SBC president Ronnie Floyd said amending the SBC constitution more than 20 years ago was visionary.

“I strongly supported the SBC’s action to clarify churches endorsing homosexuality were not in friendly cooperation,” Floyd told BP in an email interview. “The events of the last 20 years have validated the wisdom of this action as our culture has moved further and further from biblical sexual ethics.”

Floyd noted the amendment was not the convention’s only expression of biblical truth related to homosexuality.

“The constitutional amendment was significant because it made clear that Southern Baptists would not succumb to those who were willing then – and are increasingly willing today – to compromise biblical convictions in exchange for cultural approval,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said.

“It should be noted, however, that the constitutional amendment to stand for biblical sexual ethics has been followed by many resolutions and denominational actions to make clear that homosexuality is not beyond the reach of the gospel – that all sinners can be washed, sanctified and justified by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 6:9-11),” he said.

Since 1976, the SBC has adopted at least 26 resolutions expressing opposition to homosexual behavior. Many also explain the hope and healing available to people with same-sex attraction if they will repent of their sins and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The convention’s first resolution on homosexuality in 1976 noted that “homosexuality has become an open life-style for increasing numbers of persons” and urged “churches and agencies not to afford the practice of homosexuality any degree of approval through ordination, employment, or other designations of normal lifestyle.”

Sarah Maddox was among Southern Baptists’ early visionaries regarding homosexuality. In the 1970s and 1980s, she had a speaking ministry that encouraged women to contend for Judeo-Christian values in the public square. One message that Maddox delivered on several occasions warned that homosexuality could be viewed as morally acceptable one day.

“I made this statement: If we don’t do something about the homosexual situation, one day it’s going to be considered as natural and normal,” Maddox told BP.

She said the warning “obviously had to be something God showed” her because she “never dreamed” homosexuality “would be thought of as natural and normal.” Maddox believes godly leaders deserve thanks for helping the SBC maintain its biblical moorings amid cultural change.

This steadfastness may be attributable to “godly leaders” who “have seen to it that we follow the biblical teachings,” Maddox said. “That’s why I’m a Southern Baptist – because we have stood by biblical principles and we have followed God’s teaching.”

One Southern Baptist leader to warn that homosexuality could become a cultural threat was R. Albert Mohler Jr., editor of Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index newsjournal from 1989 to 1993. In a 1992 editorial Mohler wrote that “Southern Baptists no longer have the false comfort” of regarding homosexuality “as someone else’s problem. The moral and theological integrity of our denomination is at stake, at every level.”

Mohler, now president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, predicted in his editorial, “Issues of sexuality will divide American society in the 1990s just as the Vietnam War produced the divisions of the 1960s and ‘70s.”

Fears realized

In the 21st century, leaders’ predictions largely came true, but the constitutional amendment they worked to put in place helped Southern Baptists resist the pressure to condone homosexual behavior.

In 2009, the SBC withdrew fellowship from Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, which had a half-dozen homosexual members, including some serving on church committees. Following the vote to withdraw fellowship, EC member Stephen Wilson said the convention encouraged churches to minister to homosexuals but took action against Broadway because it permitted members to persist in homosexual behavior without repenting.

This spring Mohler and four professors at Southern Seminary published a book countering the assertion of Matthew Vines’ book “God and the Gay Christian” that the Bible permits monogamous homosexual relationships.

Southern Baptists are waiting to see what, if any, action the convention will take in regard to New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., which split into two groups following pastor Danny Cortez’s announcement that he no longer regards all homosexual acts as sinful. In an email to the EC, Cortez said the faction of the church remaining with him, which retained the church’s name and articles of incorporation, will develop a “clear Third-Way position statement” neither affirming nor condemning homosexuality but allowing members to hold varying positions.

The way forward

Strachan, a professor at Southern Seminary who contributed to the response to Matthew Vines, said the SBC’s history of standing for biblical sexuality bodes well for its future.

“As a young Southern Baptist, I am personally grateful for leaders of recent decades who have done the hard thing and frankly have also acted with impressive foresight to safeguard the denomination from the kind of challenges we’re facing,” Strachan said.

While Strachan lacks confidence in the continued biblical fidelity of churches and denominations without confessional statements on marriage and sexuality, he said the SBC’s future looks bright in terms of resisting homosexuality. He pointed in particular to the Baptist Faith and Message article on the family, which defines marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”

“I don’t have hope today in prospects of cultural conquest for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Strachan said. “I know that God ultimately is going to win history. But I do have immense hope for churches that tie their flags to the mast [of] confessional theology, [who] make no apology for the Bible and its teaching and joyfully and winsomely promote the gospel of Jesus Christ out of the bedrock of confessional theology.”

Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, agreed that the SBC’s confessional statements about human sexuality will guard it from straying. Additionally, he expects the destructive consequences of sexual sin will lead to some shift in cultural opinions regarding marriage and sexuality.

“I’m optimistic by virtue of the fact that what we advocate and believe in are fixed, permanent truths that are bound by scripture,” Walker told BP. “They’re adjudicated by human experience and ultimately provide the best opportunity to attain human flourishing – because the Bible says so.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

7/22/2014 10:56:20 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC leaders to tour border facilities

July 22 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist national and state leaders will tour federal government facilities being used to address the crisis of unaccompanied children crossing America’s southern border.
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will join SBC lead ethicist Russell D. Moore Tuesday (July 22) in touring a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in McAllen, Texas, and a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shelter in San Antonio. Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, will join them in San Antonio for the tour of the center at Lackland Air Force Base.

The tours, followed by news conferences in each city, will occur as the United States seeks to deal with the more than 57,000 under-age children who have been apprehended at the border with Mexico in the last 9 months, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Most of those children – and sometimes children accompanied by a parent or parents – reportedly are fleeing Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which are plagued by violence among gangs involved in drug trafficking in those Central American countries.


Image from iStockphoto.com

McAllen, which is near the southern tip of Texas, has been a major entry point for unaccompanied minors.

Floyd and Moore have called not only for the federal government to repair what is generally acknowledged as a broken immigration system but for a compassionate response to the plight of the children who are in the United States illegally.

“These children are someone’s children and someone’s grandchildren. They are people, real people,” Floyd wrote in a July 11 piece published in Baptist Press. “Their parents, along with other children who are crossing our unprotected borders, are trying to better their lives and futures.

“Yes, they should respect the rule of law, but now that they are here, we need to respect the God-given dignity of each of them,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said.

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in a statement for BP, “As Christians, our first response to this crisis on the border must be one of compassion toward those in need, not disgust or anger. This situation on the border is a crisis — one that will take careful work from government leaders to help secure a porous border and an even more porous immigration policy that fuels the problem. At the same time, this crisis will take a church willing to pray, serve and love these vulnerable ones in need.”

Also participating in the tours and the news conferences July 22 will be Daniel Flores, Roman Catholic bishop of Brownsville, Texas.

Southern Baptists in Texas have been ministering as they are able, but the federal government has not permitted access to unaccompanied children. HHS is responsible for custody of such children once they are processed. It permits only federal authorities and federal contractors to be in contact with the minors, according to the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. For now, Baptist churches are primarily working to help children and adults crossing the border together by serving them at a processing center; providing food, clothing and showers; and doing laundry.

The ERLC is among evangelical Christian organizations that have called for reform that would provide border and workplace security; uphold the rule of law; respect family unity; and establish a path to legal status and citizenship to those who want to live in this country permanently and are willing to pay penalties and meet the requirements. Flaws in both the system and its enforcement have resulted in an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the United States.

In 2011, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion.

The U.S. Senate passed broad reform legislation last year, but the ERLC has said it needs improvement. So far, House of Representatives committees have approved bills dealing with such matters as strengthening border and national security, providing visas for guest workers and requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check employees’ eligibility. The full House has yet to act on those bills, however.

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

7/22/2014 10:47:21 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Obama: LGBT rights for federal contractors

July 22 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

President Barack Obama has used his authority to extend workplace protections among federal contractors to homosexual, bisexual and transgender status – prompting concerns the action will subvert religious freedom.

Obama issued an executive order Monday (July 21) that bars federal contractors from discriminating based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” His order – which the White House announced in June would be forthcoming – also ads “gender identity” to the list of categories protected in federal employment. The “sexual orientation” of federal employees already was protected.

The order maintains a 2002 directive by President George W. Bush that permits contractors that are religious corporations or institutions to employ individuals based on their religious identity.

Some defenders of religious liberty and freedom of conscience expressed their dissatisfaction with the order. They said the religious exemption would prove inadequate, especially affecting religious organizations that contract with the government to provide services to the needy.

“While we don’t know the full implications of this executive order, I am disappointed that this administration persistently violates the freedom of conscience for religious organizations that provide necessary relief for the poor and endangered,” Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in a written release.

“The same religious convictions that inspire their social action are the convictions now considered outside the new mainstream of sexual revolutionary fundamentalism,” he said. “The ones hurt will be the most vulnerable in our society.”

Ryan Anderson, who specializes in religious freedom issues for the Heritage Foundation, said in a July 21 commentary the order “disregards the consciences and liberties of people of goodwill who happen not to share the government’s opinions about issues of sexuality. All Americans should be free to contract with the government without penalty because of their reasonable beliefs about morally contentious issues.”

While employers “should respect the intrinsic dignity” of all workers, Obama’s order “undermines our nation’s commitment to pluralism and religious liberty,” Anderson wrote. The order includes “no protection for organizations that hire based on mission – not on affiliation – to continue to do so,” he said.

The categories covered by the new order differ from those already protected, such as color, national origin, religion and sex, Anderson said. “[S]exual orientation and gender identity are unclear, ambiguous terms. They can refer to voluntary behaviors as well as thoughts and inclinations, and it is reasonable for employers to make distinctions based on actions,” he wrote.

“Sexual orientation” normally encompasses homosexuality and bisexuality, while “gender identity,” or transgender status, includes transsexuals and cross-dressers.

The order does not cover federal grants, which pay for most social services, said Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance. It still could affect religious groups’ likelihood of applying for federal contracts, he said.

Some decisions by religious organizations “will be challenged by the rejected applicant as merely instances of discrimination, so it is predictable [the order] will lead to litigation and also may cause some religious organizations to back away from federal contracting so that their decision-making about sensitive issues of conduct won’t be second-guessed by the courts,” Carlson-Thies told Baptist Press via email.

Not all religious freedom organizations agreed with expanding the religious exemption.

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) joined nearly 100 religious, civil liberties and gay rights organizations in a July 15 letter asking Obama not to include a “special exemption for religiously affiliated contractors” in his order. The groups also urged the president to revoke the exemption ordered by Bush.

“When a religiously affiliated organization makes the decision to request a taxpayer-funded contract with the federal government, it must play by the same rules as every other federal contractor,” the BJC and other organizations wrote.

Obama signed the executive order before supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights gathered at the White House.

After being greeted by a standing ovation, the president told the crowd, “[T]hanks to your passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government – government of the people, by the people, and for the people – will become just a little bit fairer.”

The executive order follows the pattern of a growing number of states, federal contractors and major corporations. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia bar discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Of the 50 largest federal contractors, 86 percent protect “sexual orientation” and 61 percent protect “gender identity,” according to the White House. Among Fortune 500 companies, 91 percent prohibit discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and 61 percent ban discrimination based on “gender identity,” the White House reported.

Advocates for LGBT rights have been unable to convince Congress to pass the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA), which would grant civil rights to all employees on the basis of homosexual, bisexual or transgender status. The U.S. Senate passed ENDA in November, but the House of Representatives has refused to act on it.

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

7/22/2014 10:39:31 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Disaster relief teams assist wildfire survivors

July 22 2014 by Kristen Camp, NAMB/Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams began preparing meals and providing shelter on July 20 for families affected by wildfires in Okanogan County, Wash.

The fires began July 14, after lightning struck in Methow Valley and spread to an area of more than 7,000 acres.

The Northwest Baptist Convention is sending feeding units, as well as chaplains, to the affected areas to minister to the families who have been evacuated from their homes. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has sent funding to assist with the effort.


Screen capture from NBCNews.com
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams began preparing meals and providing shelter July 20 for families affected by wildfires in Okanogan County, Wash.

“Right now because the fire is burning in such a way that it is not contained, we can’t do any work that we could normally do to help homeowners,” Fritz Wilson, NAMB disaster relief executive director, said. “We have to wait until they contain the fires. Once the homeowners can get back into their homes, our teams can be in position to help them with disaster relief.”

Approximately 3,000 meals will be prepared each day at Chelan High School and then distributed to families in Pateros, Methow, Carlton, Winthrop and Mazama, according to local officials.

A Level 2 evacuation notice was issued to the city of Twisp, prohibiting meals from being distributed there until the fires have either been contained or have spread to a different location.

“What happens in wildfire situations is that one family may have to evacuate for a short period of time and then they are able to return to their homes. Then another family comes in because the fires move and the evacuations move. So our teams have the opportunity to minister to families from several different areas,” Wilson said.

Beyond feeding fire survivors and first responders, SBDR volunteers will often assist homeowners and local officials with cleanup efforts after the fires have been extinguished. These efforts include helping homeowners sift through the remainder of their homes to find any surviving valuables or mementos.

NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.

Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kristen Camp writes for the North American Mission Board. Mike Ebert and Lindsey Conway contributed to this article.)

7/22/2014 10:29:03 AM by Kristen Camp, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Once dying church, begins new focus after re-launch

July 21 2014 by Tobin Perry, NAMB/Baptist Press

When Jim Jackson became the pastor of Faith Fellowship Church in Johnson City, Tenn., in January 2013, his first move wasn’t what most people might expect. He closed the church.

The church had been near its end for several decades as the community around it changed and the church didn’t adjust to better reach its neighbors. Faith Fellowship seemed destined to become one of the 1,000 churches Southern Baptists close annually.

But God didn’t appear to be finished with the church quite yet.

Just 18 months since Jackson closed the church, Faith Fellowship has found life. Today, where a dying Tennessee church once stood, more than 160 people regularly worship together. Jackson is among a growing trend of Southern Baptist church planters who are replanting dying churches.

Yet Faith Fellowship’s story of rebirth almost never happened. Jackson had been busy revitalizing a Kentucky Baptist church.

“It was one of the best ministry experiences of my life,” Jackson said. His wife Tina had a well-paying job as a nurse practitioner. And he wasn’t looking for a new assignment.


Photo courtesy Faith Fellowship Church.
Pastor Jim Jackson of Faith Fellowship Church in Johnson City, Tenn., greets Kenyans who are part of a church planted in the highlands of Kenya in cooperation with the International Mission Board. The church hopes to plant several other congregations in the region during the next few years

That’s when the couple sensed God drawing them to medical school for Tina. This would allow her to have more opportunities to share the gospel while practicing medicine. It also meant a move to Tennessee. Before long Jackson saw the need for a church plant in their new home community of Johnson City.

After the move, Jackson started doing what he had done before when planting churches elsewhere. Along with reaching out to nearby business, law-enforcement and educational leaders, he also connected with local church leaders. Pastors and the director of missions helped him learn about local needs and opportunities.

When one potential opportunity came up in three separate conversations, Jackson took notice. Ben Proffitt, the director of missions for the Holston Baptist Association, and two local pastors both recommended Jackson consider re-planting Faith Fellowship.

After three months of prayer by both Jackson and the 10 remaining people at Faith Fellowship, the church asked him to become their new pastor. After closing the church, Jackson and his team spent the next eight months developing partnerships and reaching out to the community with the love of Christ. Jackson put eight North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planting interns to work in the community. Those interns, he said, started each day with an hour of discipleship before digging into their daily ministry assignments. The Tennessee Baptist Convention also provided Faith Fellowship with volunteers who prayer walked and helped serve the community.

The new Faith Fellowship team knocked on 10,000 doors, made 30,000 phone calls, mailed out 40,000 postcards and did a few dozen backyard Bible clubs.

“We launched [in August 2013] with right at 280-300 people at our grand opening,” Jackson said. “God has been really good. About 50 percent of the people we have are people who had become disconnected from the church; they had just fallen away from the church. The other 50 percent are people who were totally unchurched.”

Today, Jackson now spends most of his time developing and discipling leaders – elders, deacons and teachers. In doing so Jackson makes sure the church is grounded in the gospel, he says.

As the church has focused more on discipleship, the congregation has transformed both spiritually and demographically, he said.

“I went to the church [recently],” Proffitt said. “There were older people with white hair still, but I’ve never seen so many pregnant women. There were so many people who were young there.”

Friends invited Matt Tefteller to Faith Fellowship this year. Jackson recently baptized him and his daughter on the same day. Tefteller said God has made him a much better father and husband since he joined the church.

“I had been attending different churches for years, but I guess I just never ‘got it’ until I started going [to Faith Fellowship],” Tefteller said. “I just finally saw it. We’re a close-knit family. We look out for each other.”

As Jackson focused on the church’s gospel grounding, Faith Fellowship has become heavily involved in church planting efforts in North America and around the world. Jackson has intentionally built church planting –locally, nationally and globally – into the core of the church.

Along with committed giving to the Cooperative Program, Faith Fellowship helped plant churches in Kenya and Guatemala with the help of the International Mission Board. The church has also worked with NAMB to partner with a church plant in New Orleans. Every fifth Sunday Jackson challenges the church to give sacrificially to a fund for church plants.

“It challenges our people to see our God is big,” Jackson said. “He wants to stretch our faith. He wants us to sacrifice things we like so we can spread the gospel. That’s our number one value – sacrifice.’”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry (tperry@namb.net) writes for the North American Mission Board.)

7/21/2014 11:46:11 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastors urged to fight abortion among blacks

July 21 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The abortion industry has infiltrated the African American community by cloaking the procedure as a woman's civil right and embedding the issue into politics, African American pro-life advocate Arnold Culbreath told Baptist Press.

"The abortion industry shamelessly slithered into the black American community on the heels of the 'free love' movement, soon after Woodstock, and at the outset of the civil rights movement," said Culbreath, urban outreach director for Protecting Black Life, an affiliate of the Life Issues Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, working to end abortion through education.

The abortion industry "duped black women into believing that abortion was their civil right," Culbreath said. "Not only was this misguided ideology deeply imbedded into the fabric of our community then, but we are still working to dispel the deception of this deadly dogma today."

The industry's tactic is one reason abortion is the leading cause of death among African Americans, Culbreath told Baptist Press.

"Unbeknown to many, abortion remains the leading cause of death among black Americans, higher than all other causes of death combined," Culbreath said. "In 2008, the most recent statistics released in 2011 reveal there were 289,072 black deaths from all causes excluding abortion. But in that same year there were 360,000 surgical black abortions.

"Nearly 1,000 black babies die by abortion every day," Culbreath said. "My passion stems from a God-given burden to see this genocide ended."

The assistant pastor of the nondenominational Heirs Covenant Church of Cincinnati has focused much of his ministry within the Southern Baptist community to accomplish his goal, speaking to audiences of various ethnicities at churches, colleges and special events.

"The Lord just put on my heart the Southern Baptist Convention," Culbreath told Baptist Press. "I just started moving forward and pushing on doors, and the Lord has opened those doors tremendously. We're trying to share some information that I think will change the landscape of our community."

Margaret Sanger targeted the African American community with the Negro Project of 1939, enlisting African American leaders to promote birth control among blacks as family planning. In reality, Culbreath said, she was promoting eugenics and selective reproduction. Sanger founded in 1921 The American Birth Control League, which became Planned Parenthood.

"Every time I speak I bring up Margaret Sanger. The white audiences, they get it. And many of them have known for years and cried out in protest to the genocide that's going on," Culbreath said. "It's so sad that when folks get offended about hearing the truth about Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, I rarely if ever get offense from the white audiences; it's the black audiences, the very ones that she and Planned Parenthood are working to obliterate. And I find that very sad and quite ironic."

Planned Parenthood, the largest birth control provider in the United States, has located 62.5 percent of its clinics within a two-mile radius of neighborhoods where African Americans and Hispanics make up the majority of residents, according to Life Issues research.

Planned Parenthood denies the charge, citing statistics updated in June from the Guttmacher Institute. The group contends 60 percent of Planned Parenthood clinics are located in majority white neighborhoods.

"The Guttmacher Institute is a leading, independent, nationally recognized reproductive health research and policy organization and we appreciate its unbiased findings that debunk the claim that a majority of abortion providers are located in Black neighborhoods," Vanessa Cullins, Planned Parenthood Federation of America vice president of external medical affairs, said in an email to Baptist Press.

Undisputed are statistics showing that African Americans account for a disproportionate percentage of abortions. In 2011, African American women accounted for 30 percent of abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, when blacks numbered only 12.5 percent of the population, U.S. Census figures show.

Abortion is also fueled by politics, Culbreath said.

"I often say, and I hate to give the devil any credit, but I often say one of his most masterful strategies regarding the issue of abortion, was to politicize it," Culbreath said, "because most people, black, white, brown or yellow, have difficulty talking about, thinking about, dealing with this issue beyond political construct."

"There is a political side to abortion, because it was passed by a 7-2 decision by our Supreme Court. It does have a political side, but in reality, it's much, much more broad than that," Culbreath said. "It has health implications, it has a negative impact ... on women, it has financial implications. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. And one friend of mine often says that if abortion was not lucrative, it would not be legal."

Culbreath cites success in informing African American pastors and others of abortion's detrimental impact on the black community.

"Most pastors, when you're able to have the conversation with them, will begin weeping, and say things like, 'I did not know this. I should have known that,'" Culbreath said. "And then there are those scenarios where a pastor may be post-abortive himself, perhaps in college, that kind of a thing, and maybe never told anybody."

Abortion is more than a woman's issue, Culbreath teaches.

"I tell men, if men are the carriers of the seed, does abortion not have everything to do with us? So if we can train men, put them in accountability partnerships one with another, where they're challenging one another and answerable to one another, I'm talking about relative to their sexuality, we could shut some things down," he said. "And when I talk about the successes, which I don't take credit for, there is an army of young people who are keeping themselves sexually pure until marriage. And they don't mind people knowing that they're virgins."

Just as Sanger targeted African American pastors to encourage the use of artificial birth control within the black community, Culbreath said, black pastors can be the catalyst to ending the practice.

"Margaret Sanger, in her Negro Project of 1939, was successful at infiltrating the black community largely through black pastors and preachers. I believe that God wants to close that back door to our community by the same people group, the watchmen, that opened the door to the community," he said. "So if it was opened by black pastors and preachers, I believe black pastors and preachers are a significant people group."

As a co-founder of the California-based National Black Pro-Life Coalition, Culbreath will participate in two workshops and panel discussions at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference, July 21–25 in Ridgecrest, N.C., to encourage the church to address the issue.

"We have such influence on any given Sunday morning. Any given Wednesday night, we're speaking to hundreds of thousands of people across this country. We could turn the tide on this issue," he said. "And that's one of the reasons the battle is so intense and so uphill, getting to these pastors and getting them to come forward and address the issue, because of the level of spiritual warfare that we're contending with. The enemy does not want them to get this information, because if the black community, the sleeping giant that it is, ever wakes up and begins contesting this issue, it's over. I believe that."

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)

7/21/2014 11:39:12 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

College loses city contract over biblical teachings

July 21 2014 by Sarah Padbury, World News Service

A Massachusetts Christian college is facing a backlash for supporting religious exemptions to a proposed presidential order that would add sexuality to the anti-bias policy applied to all federal contractors.
 The mayor of Salem, Mass., ended Gordon College’s contract to operate the city-owned Old Town Hall this week when the school’s president, along with 13 other religious leaders, signed a public letter to President Barack Obama asking him to include a religious exemption from a new executive order expected to require all federal contractors and subcontractors to hire LGBT persons, regardless of the organization’s religious stance on homosexuality.


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White House officials announced in June that Obama planned to sign the executive order, although no details have been released. The president does not have the authority to extend the order to all employers, but he can take unilateral action that affects federal contractors and subcontractors, which make up nearly one-quarter of the US workforce, according to The Boston Globe. Religious leaders worry the order could drive faith-based organizations out of federally contracted work, including disaster relief, janitorial service, technology support, adoption assistance, preschool education, and prison ministry.

The order also may affect colleges that use federal funding for student financial aid. Gordon College, located just south of Salem in Wenham, is a Christian university that requires its employees and students to follow biblical “behavior expectations,” including not tolerating “homosexual practice.”
Gordon President Michael Lindsay signed the letter to Obama, as did a broad group of Christian leaders, including Q Ideas President Gabe Lyons, Catholic Charities CEO Larry Snyder, Center for Justice CEO Stephanie Summers, and well-known pastors Rick Warren and Joel C. Hunter. The July 1 letter followed a June 25 letter signed by more than 150 conservative religious groups and leaders, including many major evangelical associations.
 Michael Wear, who served as the national faith vote director for the Obama 2012 campaign, helped write the letter. He told The Boston Globe the letter’s intent is to find a way to protect LGBT rights, but also assure religious organizations that hire “according to their religious identity” will not automatically be disqualified from competing for federal contracts.
But for Gordon College, consequences for signing the request began just days after the letter went public. Salem Mayor Kimberly Driscoll exercised an early termination option in the city’s contract with the school to operate Old Town Hall. Since 2008, the school has been contracted to maintain, operate, and assist in the preservation and improvement of the historic building, according to its website.
“I am truly disappointed in the stance you have taken, which plainly discriminates against the rights of LGBT individuals, both on and off campus,” said Driscoll in a letter to Lindsay posted on the city’s website. “These actions fly in the face of the City of Salem’s non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits our municipality from contracting with entities that maintain discriminatory practices.”
The school’s Facebook page has become a battleground between alumni and students who oppose the school’s stance on homosexuality, and those who support it. Some students are organizing a White House letter campaign of their own – in support of requiring Christian colleges to hire LGBT people.
Lindsay posted a letter on the school’s website July 8, apologizing for the confusion and hurt feelings caused by his actions.
“My sole intention in signing this letter was to affirm the college’s support of the underlying issue of religious liberty, including the right of faith-based institutions to set and adhere to standards which derive from our shared framework of faith, and which we all have chosen to embrace as members of the Gordon community,” Lindsay said.

7/21/2014 10:53:20 AM by Sarah Padbury, World News Service | with 0 comments

Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews viewed warmly

July 21 2014 by Baptist Press

Americans expressed warmer views toward evangelical Christians, Catholics and Jews than toward Muslims and atheists in a new Pew study released Wednesday (July 16).

The Pew Research Center gauged Americans' views of various religious groups and belief sets by surveying 3,217 adults May 30–June 30 in the study "How Americans Feel About Religious Groups."

Among Jewish respondents, Pew found a relatively negative view of evangelicals in particular. On average, Jewish people rated their warmth toward evangelical Christians at 34 on a "feeling thermometer" of 0 to 100, with 0 representing the most negative, and 100 the most positive. Conversely, white evangelicals rated their warmth toward Jews positively, averaging 69, as did black Protestants at 59 on average.


Generally, those surveyed rated evangelical Christians, Jews and Catholics warmly, with ratings averaging about 60; but rated atheists and Muslims more coldly, averaging around 40, Pew reported. The study gaged the perceptions of groups by those within and without each particular faith or belief system, including evangelical Christians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists and Atheists.

Among all surveyed, the average ratings received by the various groups are evangelical Christians, 61; Jews, 63; Catholics, 62; Buddhists, 53; Hindus, 50; Mormons, 48; Atheists, 41, and Muslims, 40, Pew reported. Evangelicals alone indicated an average thermometer rating of 63 toward Catholics, 39 toward Buddhists, 38 toward Hindus, 30 toward Muslims and 25 toward Atheists, the survey found.

"Religious groups are rated more positively by their own members than by people from other religious backgrounds," Pew reported. "Evangelical Christians receive an average rating of 79 from people who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, compared with an average rating of 52 from non-evangelicals," Pew reported. "Among non-evangelicals, roughly as many people give evangelicals a cold rating (27%) as give them a warm rating (30%).

"The fact that Catholics and evangelical Christians are large groups and view their fellow adherents warmly helps explain why the two groups are among the most favorably viewed groups in the population," according to the Pew report. "The other groups included in the survey constitute much smaller shares of the overall population. As a result, their ratings are very similar whether they are based on the entire population or only on people who do not belong to the group."

Close to half of those surveyed, 44 percent, indicated a warmth on the highest end of the feelings thermometer, higher than 67, toward evangelical Christians, Catholics and Jews, Pew noted.

Americans 65 and older reported higher thermometer rankings for evangelical Christians, Catholics and Jews, Pew found, while non-Christian groups received their most favorable ratings from Americans under age 30. Still, 18- to 29-year-olds recorded a score of 58 toward evangelicals, compared to a score of 67 for evangelicals among those age 65 and over.

"These patterns may partly reflect that there are more Christians among older Americans than among younger people," Pew reported. "In Pew Research surveys conducted this year, fully 85 percent of Americans ages 65 and older describe themselves as Christians, compared with just 59 percent among adults under 30 (32 percent of whom identify as religious 'nones')."

The study was conducted among a group identified as Pew Research's new American Trends Panel, described as 18.4 percent white evangelical, 18.2 percent white mainline Protestant, 5.2 percent African American Protestant, 19.8 percent Catholic, 5.9 percent agnostic, 3.9 percent Atheist, 21 percent "unaffiliated," and 12.8 percent "nothing in particular."

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)

7/21/2014 10:30:40 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Obama: Notify workers if dropping contraceptive coverage

July 18 2014 by Richard Wolf, USA Today/Religion News Service

Employers that intend to drop coverage for some or all forms of contraception in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision must notify employees of the change, the Obama administration said Thursday (July 17).
The notice was posted on the Department of Labor website as a new “frequently asked question” about the Affordable Care Act, the health care law passed in 2010 and still being implemented.


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The Obama administration, through the U.S. Department of Labor, has announced that employers who intend to drop coverage for some or all forms of contraception in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision must notify employees of the change.

The Supreme Court ruled last month that closely held corporations whose owners have religious objections to offering certain types of birth control in their health plans must be allowed to opt out of the government’s contraception requirement.
The case was brought by Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties.
The timing of the notice came after the Senate failed Wednesday to pass Democratic legislation that would have reversed the high court’s ruling. Faced with Republican opposition, the measure failed to get the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle.
Under the health care law, most corporations are required to provide 20 forms of birth control to female workers without cost-sharing. Churches and other religious organizations are excluded. Religious non-profit groups are allowed to sign a form indicating their objection, triggering a process in which employees still will get the coverage – but that accommodation is being contested in court.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling, which came on the last day of its term, more companies are likely to drop coverage of some or all contraceptives. The Labor Department notice is intended to warn employees.
“For plans that reduce or eliminate coverage of contraceptive services after having provided such coverage, expedited disclosure requirements for material reductions in covered services or benefits apply,” the department said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Richard Wolf writes for USA Today.)

7/18/2014 12:17:27 PM by Richard Wolf, USA Today/Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Ronnie Floyd President’s Page live at sbc.net

July 18 2014 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Ronnie Floyd, the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) new president, is now online at the convention’s www.sbc.net website, in addition to his ongoing blog at www.ronniefloyd.com.

Screenshot of Ronnie Floyd's page on the SBC website

The President’s Page includes a number of features:
  • Floyd’s blog each Monday addressed to Southern Baptists. The July 14 blog, for example, is titled, “Now is the Time for Southern Baptist Churches to Prioritize Reaching, Baptizing, and Discipling Young People.”
Other columns since his June 10 election as president have called for Southern Baptists to attend next year’s SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio; the need for prayer for America’s next Great Awakening; and ways in which Southern Baptists can influence America’s future.
  • About Ronnie Floyd, in which the new SBC president recounts his spiritual journey, starting with his new birth at age 15 at a small church’s youth event and his upbringing by a mother and father “who loved the church and brought us up to do the same.”
Floyd also tells of his education at a Baptist college and seminary; his 37 years as a pastor, including the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas since 1986; and his love for his wife Jeana, his two sons and six grandchildren.
  • A link to Floyd’s personal blog, www.ronniefloyd.com/blog, in which he has written about a range of ministry-related topics such as church membership, nurturing the next generation of leaders and God’s creation of the universe. The blog also has carried articles by other Cross Church staff members.
  • A link to other articles Floyd has written, such as his July 11 Call to Prayer in Baptist Press titled, “Responding to the crisis on the Texas border,” addressing the influx of Central American children into Texas through the border with Mexico.
  • Media Resources, including a bio-type article about Floyd and a selection of photos, including the news conference after his election as SBC annual meeting in Baltimore in June.
Floyd succeeds Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, who completed two one-year terms as SBC president.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
7/18/2014 11:31:19 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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