July 2015

Fire destroys Bethlehem Baptist worship building

July 21 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

A severe thunderstorm moved through the western North Carolina town of Taylorsville July 18, sending a bolt of lightning to the steeple of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Witnesses say the steeple ignited immediately. Fire officials reported the 3:09 p.m. lightning strike appeared to traverse a primary beam across the length of the sanctuary causing the building to quickly burn out of control.
The church’s pastor, Wayne Caviness, said, “The sanctuary is completely destroyed. There is severe damage in the remainder of the facility.” The attached classroom building received smoke and water damage.


Photo by Lisa Caviness

The sanctuary was built in 1950 according to Caviness.
Within two hours the destructive flames were put out, but crews expected smoldering to continue for approximately 24 hours. Due to the intense heat more than 150 firefighters were called to the scene from every department in Alexander County with support crews from Hickory.
The day after the devastating loss church members and friends gathered for worship in nearby Bethlehem Elementary School’s gymnasium. Someone counted more than 375 in attendance, which Caviness said is “at least 100 more than we usually have.” They prayed and celebrated the fact that there was no loss of life and no one was hurt in the fire.
A group met on the church property mid-afternoon Sunday. “We had prayer, sang some songs, expressed our faith in God and our resolve to go forward,” Caviness said. “Most definitely, we are planning to rebuild.” The deacons met Sunday night to discuss the church’s next steps.
“We are definitely pulling together. We are not sure what the plan is. There is no water or electricity on the church property. We’re trying to see what can be done to restore [utility service],” Caviness added.


Photo by Lisa Caviness

The building was fully insured. A complete inventory of the contents will be performed, which is expected to be a painstaking process.
Larry Phillips and his wife, Kathy, were two of four chaplaincy volunteers with North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) who attended the Sunday worship service the day after the fire.
“We were there to talk with the members and pray with them, and let them feel the support of the Baptist State Convention and Baptist Men,” said Phillips, a former missionary through the International Mission Board, who now serves on the staff of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as the Unifour Strategy Coordinator with the Strategic Focus Team.
The chaplaincy volunteers were very well received according to Phillips. “The church was very grateful and expressed their gratitude for the presence of the volunteers.”
Phillips had arrived at the site of the burned out building Saturday afternoon as the firefighters were finishing their work. “I did get to talk with the pastor Saturday afternoon and asked him if the presence of chaplaincy volunteers would be helpful on Sunday.” The pastor was encouraged and invited the NCBM team to come, he said.


Photo by Andrea Crouch

“So, I made contact with Bill Fogarty, who is the team leader for the chaplaincy volunteer program of North Carolina Baptist Men. Bill got approval from Gaylon Moss and put the team together,” Phillips added. Moss is disaster relief coordinator for NCBM. Fogarty recently retired as pastor of First Baptist Church in Weddington.
In spite of the tragic fire, the church’s leadership encouraged a group of teenagers and adults to keep a commitment to leave for the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell Monday morning. They departed on schedule to attend the popular Youth Weeks Summer Camp.
The church operated a child care center in the now destroyed facility. It has temporarily relocated to Shiloh Lutheran Church, 1011 Shiloh Church Road in Hickory. As a licensed child care center, the change in facilities must be approved by the health inspector, fire marshal and environmental services. Church officials hope to get that approval in a few days.
A temporary location for Sunday worship services and other ministries has not been announced.

7/21/2015 10:49:41 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments

Church places Marine flag at serviceman’s seat

July 21 2015 by Scott Barkley, Georgia Christian Index

A single Marine flag stood in place at the orchestra chair where Skip Wells had played the clarinet for many years at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.
Members of the Atlanta-area church took time to pray July 19 for the families of Lance Cpl. Skip Wells, 21, and four other servicemen killed by a gunman who attacked a military recruitment office July 16 a little more than an hour away in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“As we held hands and prayed for his family, I lost it,” Callie Jones wrote in a Facebook post accompanying a picture of the orchestra and Wells’ Marine photo.


“While I am mourning the loss of a sweet kid who loved his country, my heart was crushed for his momma!!” Jones wrote, adding a prayer, “Heavenly Father please comfort Skip’s momma and the other 4 mommas that lost their baby on Thursday!”
Wes Cantrell, the church’s young adult pastor, tweeted a picture of the stage as well, commenting, “The Marine flag took the place of Lance Corporal Skip Wells in the orchestra today. #SemperFi
Wells was a 2012 graduate of Sprayberry High School who attended Georgia Southern University for a time before he “felt a calling to serve – in the Marines,” family spokesman Andy Kingery told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He got out of boot camp about a year ago and was doing what was asked of him. … He understood the risk he was taking by putting on a uniform, and Skip died doing what he chose to do.”
Those who died with Wells were Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, a two-time Purple Heart recipient from Hampden, Mass.; Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, of Polk, Wis.; and Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt of Burke, N.C. Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, originally of Paulding, Ohio, was seriously wounded in the attack and died from his wounds July 18. Smith had been living in the north Georgia town of Rossville with his wife and three young daughters.
For Skip Wells, military service was a part of his family’s DNA. His great-grandfather served during World War II, his grandfather was in the Air Force during the Cuban Missile Crisis and his father Kip served during Operation Desert Storm, the latter said in a statement to the media.
Skip Wells’ influence at First Woodstock was recounted prior to a time of prayer Sunday morning.
Relaying the words of orchestra director Gary Gaston, Jake Holman of the church’s music staff told the congregation, “Gary said Skip was the kind of young man you could always count on.” Skip “always showed up early and stayed until everyone was gone. He always had his Bible with him when he came to church [and] related well to people of all ages.”
Holman then relayed information passed along to Wells’ mother, Cathy: Instead of choosing a path of escape, Wells had gone back to help a friend climb a fence in eluding the shooter.
“In the effort to try and help one of his friends, he lost his own life,” Holman told the crowd.
Nolan Opp, a friend of Wells since the sixth grade, told the Journal-Constitution, “From the moment I met him, he had a demeanor about him. He was a great guy. I was his [JROTC] platoon commander for two years. He always wanted to learn. He wanted to be the best he could be at anything he did.”
Opp, now an Army private first class, added, “He always put others before himself. There would be times when I was just not myself or I’d be down about something. He would go out of his way to make sure I was OK. Everybody looked up to him.”
An unnamed policeman who is a member of Bayside Baptist Church in Chattanooga was one of three people who were wounded by the shooter, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who was killed after ending the lives of the four servicemen.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is production editor for The Christian Index at christianindex.org, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

Related Story:

Tenn. Baptist injured in Chattanooga shooting

7/21/2015 10:48:02 AM by Scott Barkley, Georgia Christian Index | with 0 comments

LGBT ordinance again before Fayetteville

July 21 2015 by Caleb Yarbrough, Arkansas Baptist News

Residents in Fayetteville, Ark., will once again vote on an ordinance aimed at protecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community Sept. 8.
Passed by the Fayetteville City Council in a 6-2 vote June 16, Ordinance 5781 is a revised version of a similar civil rights law originally passed in August 2014 by the council. The law was repealed by a popular vote in December.


According to media reports, the new ordinance would “prohibit business owners and landlords from firing or evicting someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It will also provide protections for use of public accommodations, including restrooms.”
Ron Lomax, director of missions for Washington Madison Baptist Association in Fayetteville, said churches associated with his association oppose the new ordinance, as they did the old ordinance.
“It’s not much different than the first one. It’s worded a little bit different, but the intent is the same,” he said. “We’ll be encouraging our people to vote it down again.”
Lomax added that while the ordinance exempts churches and religious organizations, it does not address Christians who live and work outside of the church or religious organizations.
“They don’t explain any of that. It’s kind of up in the air to what this all really means. They specifically put in there that churches and religious organizations wouldn’t be listed under the businesses. They put that in there hoping it would encourage Christians to vote it through,” he said.
Lomax said the vagueness of the ordinance excludes Christians in and of themselves from the religious exemptions. What it means, he said, is Christians could possibly be legally forced to do things contrary to their faith or suffer fines.
“Christians are not excluded. If you own a bakery or you are a florist or something, you would still be taken to court or fined for deciding not to do a wedding or something like that,” Lomax said. “So it doesn’t protect Christians.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caleb Yarbrough is an assistant editor for the Arkansas Baptist News, newsjournal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.)

7/21/2015 10:42:18 AM by Caleb Yarbrough, Arkansas Baptist News | with 0 comments

Gay marriage: mainline denominations affirm SCOTUS

July 21 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

At least three mainline Protestant denominations have celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s nationwide legalization of gay marriage, and others say they are divided on the issue.
With a new Associated Press (AP) poll suggesting decreased support for same-sex marriage among Americans generally, a watchdog group that monitors mainline bodies said gay-affirming denominations are more progressive regarding marriage than the culture.
“By and large, [mainline denominations] have been more liberal than the culture in compromising their sexual standards before the country itself compromised its laws on marriage,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Average church members in mainline denominations, Tooley said, are “close to where the nation is as a whole” on gay marriage, but the “governing bodies” of those denominations are “certainly much more liberal than the country is.”
The AP poll, conducted in conjunction with the German market research organization GfK, found 42 percent of Americans favor legalized same-sex marriage, down from 48 percent in April. The 1,004 adults polled were almost evenly split on whether local government officials with religious objections should be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, AP reported.


A majority of those polled (56 percent) said it is more important for the government to protect religious liberty than gay rights. A full 59 percent said wedding-related business owners with religious objections should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples.
Only 39 percent of those polled said they approve of the Supreme Court’s ruling – a minority that reflects the views of the governing bodies of the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ, all of which have affirmed the high court’s decision.
Less than a week after the court’s June 26 ruling, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church amended the church’s canons to allow marriage between people of the same gender. Deputies, as the Episcopal Church calls delegates to its convention, also authorized liturgies that can be used at same-sex weddings, according to Episcopal News Service.
Leaders of the PCUSA said in a June 26 statement released by the denomination’s office in Louisville, Ky., “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that same-gender couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide, striking down bans in 14 states. Church leaders believe today’s ruling is a step in the right direction as society’s views have continued to change in recent years.”
The PCUSA General Assembly voted last year to let ministers conduct same-sex weddings and approved an amendment to the body’s constitution defining marriage as between “two people” rather than “a man and a woman.” The amendment was ratified March 17 after a majority of the PCUSA’s 171 presbyteries approved it, according to the PCUSA website.
The United Church of Christ, which affirmed gay marriage in 2005, issued a June 26 news release “celebrating the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm marriage equality for all people.”
J. Bennett Guess, the first openly gay UCC national officer, said according to the release, “We’ve been at this a long time, and when the final story is written on how marriage equality came to this country, it will be impossible for anyone to ignore the significant leadership that the United Church of Christ, our churches and leaders, contributed toward making this victory for LGBTQ families possible.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) both released statements expressing division within their fellowships regarding the Supreme Court ruling.
Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, wrote in a pastoral letter to the denomination, “For many members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, this decision is a welcome sign of hope and a time for celebration. Other members of this church do not agree with the court’s decision and remain deeply concerned because of their understanding of scripture.”
Eaton continued, “This decision affects each of us, some profoundly, and we are not of one mind. Let us continue to accompany one another with prayer, love and mutual respect as we reflect on this new reality and remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians about the enduring power of God’s love.”
In 2009, the ELCA adopted a statement that acknowledged diverse opinions among Lutherans on homosexuality and neither endorsed nor condemned same-gender marriages, Eaton wrote.
Disciples of Christ General Minister and President Sharon Watkins wrote in a July 14 blog post that “the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) places a high value on both religious freedom and individual interpretation of Scripture” while leaving all decisions of policy on same-sex marriage to local congregations.
“Thoughtful Disciples come to different conclusions about marriage equality,” Watkins wrote. “For many, it is a positive step biblically and constitutionally. It affirms life-long, monogamous relationships, celebrates loving couples and stable families, gives legal support for children and spouses. For others, the Court’s decision is contrary to biblical and traditional understandings of marriage.”
The American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA), when asked by Baptist Press for a statement on the Supreme Court ruling, responded via email, “We respect and will continue to respect congregational freedom on this issue knowing that, within our family, we differ, but in love. We will continue to work through the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty regarding issues related to separation of church and state.”
The ABCUSA General Board voted in 2005 to amend the statement “We Are American Baptists” to define marriage as “between one man and one woman” and declare that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching.” However, that statement was never voted on at an ABCUSA biennial meeting and did not become an official denominational statement, spokesperson Bridget Lipin said.
Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, said mainline congregations and pastors who oppose gay marriage become increasingly susceptible to discrimination lawsuits when their parent denominations abandon official endorsements of traditional marriage.
“PCUSA churches are not the only ones that have no ecclesiastical backstop on this,” LaBerge said in written comments. “The Lutherans in the ELCA, the Episcopalians in TEC and churches in the UCC are also in denominations that have declared same-sex marriage ‘blessed.’ None of them will be able to appeal, if challenged, to the ‘sincerely held religious belief’ of their higher governing body. They will each have to prove that man-woman marriage is a theologically grounded ‘sincerely held religious belief’ and that the theological position of their denomination on this is not binding on them as a local church.
“That legal test is coming for churches that have allowed their sanctuaries and chapels to be used for weddings of non-believers and people of other faith traditions,” LaBerge said. “It is going to be very hard for them to demonstrate a consistently held theological belief based on the Scriptures if they’ve been willing to perform or host weddings for non-Christians. How then will they defend the right to not marry professing Christians of the same gender?”
The United Methodist Church (UMC) maintains an official stand against gay marriage but acknowledges disagreement among congregations and local church members on the subject.
A release from the United Methodist Church stated, “United Methodists had varied reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that establishes same-sex civil marriage as a constitutional right. But many United Methodists agree on one thing: The decision likely will escalate a longtime denominational debate on the church’s position on homosexuality.”
United Methodist clergy are banned from performing same-sex weddings, and churches are banned from hosting them, according to the UMC release.
(EDITING NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

7/21/2015 10:41:28 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Partnerships key to bivocational church planter

July 21 2015 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

Long days have become the standard for Nathan Vedoya, a bi-vocational church planter in Alberta, Canada.
There’s no such thing as a typical day. But on many of them he wakes up early, shares the breakfast-making responsibilities with his wife, and drops the kids off at school. He then goes to his full-time job as the shelter manager for a local mission. His wife Deen-Deen also heads out to a full day of work at around the same time.
Vedoya spends every weekday working at Hope Mission in Edmonton. After work, Vedoya enjoys dinner at around 5 p.m. with his wife and three children for much-needed discipling and family time. But on nights and weekends, he shifts his focus to planting a church in one of the toughest-to-reach cities in North America. But he said his often-hectic schedule is not something he regrets.


Photo courtesy Nathan Vedoya
Edmonton church planter Nathan Vedoya and his family invest their lives in the community by helping their neglected neighbors. Vedoya also leads Church in the Valley as a bi-vocational pastor. He and his wife Deen-Deen have three children, Charis (12), Malachi (10) and Jasmin (6). Vedoya launched the Church in the Valley on Easter 2015.

“I’m working 50 hours a week and planting a church. My wife is working, too,” said the Canadian Baptist church planter who is supported through the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “Why? Because we’ll do whatever it takes to see a movement get started in this city.”
After more than a year of preparation, Vedoya launched Church in the Valley on Easter Sunday with 140 people in attendance. Vedoya’s work in Edmonton represents what Canadian Baptists hope to see blossom throughout the city – a reproducible movement of new churches planted.
Vedoya’s commitment to planting bivocationally is grounded in the spiritual needs of the city, where evangelicals are in the minority. Right now, there is one Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) church for every 76,549 people.
Bob Shelton, the North American Mission Board’s Send North America city missionary in Edmonton, says the city’s churches are relatively small –about 1,200 people make up the 17 CNBC churches in the city.
Vedoya, who grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, noted, “We came under the conviction that for a movement to come to this city, we needed to be bivocational, so we began hunting for full-time jobs. We want to develop a team of like-minded people – bivocational leaders who would also come alongside of us.”
Economically, the City of Champions – so coined because of its historic National Hockey League team – has been flourishing in recent years. An oil boom in the Alberta province has brought people and resources into the city. Edmonton is one of 32 Send North America cities.
Like other North American cities, financial affluence has tended to quiet spiritual searching among residents. More people have affiliated themselves with “no religion” than any other religion over the last decade in the city, according to the 2011 Statistics Canada National Household Survey.
Shelton said, “Many people here don’t see the need [for Jesus]. They have social problems – like family breakups and trouble with young people – but many Albertans feel like they basically have life under control because things are going pretty well financially.”
Shelton said that’s why new missionaries to the city have to take time to build relationships to help the people of Edmonton see the gospel lived out before them. New missionaries to the city must come with a commitment to weather the extreme physical and spiritual climate over an extended period of time if they plan on seeing a new church take root.
Vedoya said new partnerships are critical for his work and the work of other church planters in the city. He pointed particularly to the value of the encouragement that church partners bring.
“Just to know other people are praying for you means so much,” said Vedoya, whose parents were CNBC church planters. Deen-Deen’s parents also serve as Southern Baptist church planters near Tacoma, Wash. “When you get letters or cards from partners, it is such an encouragement. You just never know what it could mean to a church planter when God impresses on your heart to reach out to His family. It’s very refreshing,” Vedoya said.
For more information about getting involved in Send North America: Edmonton, visit namb.net/Edmonton.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

7/21/2015 10:40:15 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments

Planned Parenthood exec. offered help, better way

July 20 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A prolife advocate and former Planned Parenthood clinic director has written an open letter extending compassion to the Planned Parenthood executive caught on video discussing the sale of baby parts gained through abortion.
Meanwhile, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America called charges that her organization has behaved illegally “outrageous.” Prolife advocates appear divided regarding the likelihood that Planned Parenthood violated the law. Still, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Judiciary Committee have launched investigations of Planned Parenthood, as have five states – Louisiana, Texas, Ohio, Georgia and Indiana.
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director in Bryan, Texas, wrote in a July 14 open letter published by LifeSiteNews that she opposes abortion but also condemns “hate and vile comments about” Planned Parenthood executive Deborah Nucatola, the subject of the debated video. Nucatola is not “evil” but “misguided,” Johnson wrote, telling the abortion provider of a better life to be found apart from Planned Parenthood.


Abby Johnson

“We care about you,” Johnson wrote, referencing her nonprofit organization that seeks to help abortion clinic workers leave the industry. “We want you to find peace. We want you to find true happiness. We know that won’t happen as long as you are involved in Planned Parenthood. We believe that your life matters. We believe that your life holds infinite value and worth. You matter to us. As hard as I fight to save unborn babies, I fight just as hard to save people like you from the grips of the abortion industry.”
Johnson understands Nucatola’s perspective, she wrote, because she “used to be just like” her – a harvester of post-abortive baby parts. In Johnson’s experience, consent was obtained from patients to harvest their babies’ tissue, and most women consented “because we made it seem like that by donating, they were helping others” in supplying materials for researchers.
Johnson described the process she employed in her former life to harvest baby organs.
“All of the blood, body parts and extra tissue would be collected into a glass jar,” Johnson wrote. “That glass jar would come to me in the POC (products of conception) lab through a ‘pass through specimen cabinet.’ I would take the jar to our sink, dump everything into a huge strainer, rinse out the jar and then rinse the blood out of the strainer. After I had a clean body, I would dump it into the glass baking dish that was sitting on top of an x-ray light box. I would put a little bit of water in the glass dish so that the body parts would float ... that made it easier for me to manipulate them.”
Johnson said she understands Nucatola’s apparently callous attitude toward dismembering children.
“After a grueling abortion day, we would all go out for margaritas and Mexican food. We would talk about the day and specific abortion cases. It wasn’t gross to us. We honestly didn’t think anything about it. We would plainly talk about harvesting fetal parts as if we were talking about harvesting a field of corn. That was our normal ... and we were proud to live in it. I get the humor. I get how something grotesque to others can seem ordinary,” Johnson wrote.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards defended America’s largest abortion provider in a video posted online July 17.


Screen capture from YouTube
Senator James Lankford, R-Okla., discussed the sanctity of human life on the Senate floor.

“Recently, an organization that opposes safe and legal abortions used secretly-recorded and heavily-edited videos to make outrageous claims about programs that help women donate tissue for medical research,” Richards said. “I want to be really clear: the allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true.”
Planned Parenthood’s “top priority is the compassionate care that we provide,” Richards said. She apologized for Nucatola’s speaking “in a way that does not reflect that compassion.” Nucatola’s “tone and statements” are “unacceptable,” Richards said.
Women who donate tissue from their aborted children promote “life-saving research” and “should be respected, not attacked,” Richards said, listing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases among the conditions researched and treated through use of fetal tissue.
Groups like The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) “have never been concerned with protecting the health and safety of women,” Richards said.
Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Americans United for Life, said it is “premature to say whether Planned Parenthood has broken the law.” The abortion provider may have violated federal laws banning partial-birth abortion and profiting from the sale of human remains, she said, adding that state laws may have been violated as well.
“Not a single investigation has yet been completed,” Hamrick said, “so it’s premature to say what they’ll find.”
Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent letters to Richards and Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting information about Planned Parenthood. Writing to Lynch, Grassley said the CMP video “raise[s] questions about whether abortion providers are acting in full compliance with the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.”
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., took to the Senate floor, calling his colleagues to act in defense of the unborn.
Lankford lamented that a July 16 Senate committee hearing included “extensive conversation about the rights of orca whales” and “protracted conversation about horse slaughter and how horses would be humanely put down” but the Senate has not discussed Planned Parenthood’s treatment of unborn babies.
“Why [would] this Congress ... spend time today debating horse slaughter and debating orca whales, but yet we’ve become so numb to children that the other debate doesn’t seem to come up?” Lankford said July 16. “Maybe we need to start again as a nation, asking a basic question. If that’s a child, and in our Declaration [of Independence] we said every person ... is endowed by our Creator [with] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, maybe we need to ask as a nation again, do we really believe that?”
Lankford, who is a Southern Baptist, added, “On a day that we passed an education bill, before we pat ourselves on the back saying how much we care about children, let’s make sure we’re dealing with a compassion for children at every age, not just at certain ages.”
As of midday July 17, Lankford was the only senator to speak about the Planned Parenthood video on the senate floor.
At least 11 Republican 2016 presidential candidates have condemned the Planned Parenthood practices described in the controversial video published by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), a Baptist Press survey of media sources found. None of the Democratic presidential candidates have addressed the controversy, according to the Washington Free Beacon, which noted that Hillary Clinton has received nearly $10,000 in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood employees.
Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said July 17 in its email newsletter “The Weekly” that Planned Parenthood’s actions are “horrific” but “unbelievably” may be “protected by [federal] law.” The ERLC did not evaluate state laws.
After offering an analysis of relevant federal law, the ERLC concluded, “This despicable practice of selling the body parts of aborted children is likely to be legal and an accepted, if not common practice, among abortion providers. The video should serve as a disturbing wake-up call for the pro-life community. We are justified in being outraged by the trafficking in human parts by Planned Parenthood and their justification of the practice and we should be outraged at the federal government that made it legal to traffic in the sale of aborted human flesh. What’s more we should call on our legislators to act to both defund Planned Parenthood and to ban the sale of fetal tissue.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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7/20/2015 12:09:39 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Duggars’ show cancelled, family helps documentary

July 20 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

TLC has officially canceled the Duggar reality show ‘19 Kids and Counting’ nearly two months after news broke that the oldest Duggar son Josh had molested five girls including four of his sisters when he was a teenager.
“After thoughtful consideration, TLC and the Duggar family have decided to not move forward with 19 Kids and Counting,” TLC said in a July 16 public statement. “The show will no longer appear on the air.”
Parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar expressed thanks to those who’ve assisted them during the show’s nine-season run, and indicated the family would be featured in an upcoming TLC documentary on child sexual abuse, produced in partnership with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
“We look forward to working with TLC on this upcoming special documentary and hope that it is an encouragement to many,” the family wrote on its blog. “With God’s grace and help, Josh, our daughters, and our entire family overcame a terrible situation, found healing and a way forward. We are so pleased with the wonderful adults they have all become.


“It is our prayer that the painful situation our family went through many years ago can point people toward faith in God and help others who also have lived through similar dark situations to find help, hope, and healing, as well.”
RAINN will participate in the documentary in concert with the Darkness to Light campaign to end childhood sexual abuse.
“We are pleased to be partnering with TLC to fight child sexual abuse, and appreciate its efforts to spur a national dialogue about this issue. Child sexual abuse affects millions of families across the nation, and we all have a responsibility to work together to end it,” RAINN said in a statement on its website rainn.org.
“As this multi-platform campaign moves ahead, we look forward to working closely with TLC and our partners at Darkness to Light, which does great work to train adults to recognize, prevent and react responsibly to child sexual abuse,” RAINN said. “Together, we believe we can help families that have been affected by this terrible crime and make sure that parents and others have the knowledge and tools they need to help keep kids safe.”
Jill (Duggar) Dillard, 24, and Jessa (Duggar) Seewald, 22, who have identified themselves publicly as two of their brother’s victims, are scheduled to appear on the documentary alongside other victims of childhood sexual abuse, according to ABC news.
Dillard and Seewald are the only two victims that have been identified by name since InTouch Weekly published on May 21 a copy of an official Arkansas State Police report. The released report included the names of the perpetrator and victims obscured, revealing a teenager the magazine identified as Josh Duggar had confessed to authorities that he molested five underage girls when he was 14 and 15 years old. Four of the girls were identified as children of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. The other victim is a former babysitter, who also has not been identified.
Dillard and Seewald have said publicly they have forgiven Josh for his actions, and said he was never a child molester, but rather a curious boy going through puberty. Josh Duggar inappropriately touched them through their clothes, they said, while they were sleeping. The Duggars sent Josh to Arkansas for three months when he was 15, where he participated in an unlicensed Christian treatment program modeled around physical labor, and he later received professional counseling, as did other members of the family, the sisters said.
Josh Duggar, now 27 and the married father of three children, apologized in May for having acted “inexcusably” as a teenager, and resigned his position as a lobbyist with the Family Research Council (FRC) family values group. His wife Anna was due to deliver her fourth child on July 10.
The cancellation of 19 Kids and Counting was announced just 30 minutes after an online petition was created at SupportTheDuggars.com, urging TLC to revive the show that had been suspended since news of the molestations broke. The Duggar family blog encourages the public to sign the petition, although SupportTheDuggars.com says the petition is not endorsed by the family.
“As of this morning, ‘19 Kids and Counting’ has been canceled. However, there is still time to show your support for the Duggars and to urge TLC to rethink its decision,” reads a post on the petition site that was reposted on the Duggar blog. “Post a comment explaining why you want 19 Kids and Counting to remain on the air, and then head over to sign the petition.”
The Duggars continue to praise God on the family blog.
“God’s faithfulness and goodness to us, along with His abundant grace, have given us strength and joy even in the most difficult days,” the Duggars wrote. “We have committed to Him that in all things – difficulties or success, good times or bad – we will purpose to bring Him honor by staying true to our faith and our family.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
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7/20/2015 11:56:47 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Tenn. Baptist injured in Chattanooga shooting

July 20 2015 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector

When Eric Stitts, pastor of Bayside Baptist Church, heard of the domestic terrorism attack on two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn., July 16, his first thought was disbelief.
Then he turned his attention and prayers to the many policemen in his church, located in nearby Harrison, who he knew would be called to the scene.
One of those officers (name has been asked to be withheld) was one of three people wounded during the incident which took the lives of four United States Marines. The shooter, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kuwait, was also killed.
“[He] is very faithful,” Stitts said. “He loves his family and he takes his responsibility as a police officer very seriously.”
Stitts noted the officer is a “man of integrity” and a member who is well respected in the church and community.
The Bayside pastor has been in contact with the officer’s wife. “She told me the recovery process will be long but he is expected to make a full recovery,” Stitts said.
Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher told television station WRCB the officer is “doing as well as can be expected after being shot by a brazen criminal like this.”
The pastor said Bayside Baptist was open all day July 17 for people to come and pray. In addition, Stitts said the church service on July 19 would be devoted to prayer as well.
“We will be praying for [the officer] and his family and the families of the four Marines who were killed as well as the two others who were wounded and all those involved,” he said. “We also are going to enter into a time of seeking the Lord and praying as a church family that the community will come together and seek the face of God,” he said.
He noted he told his church two weeks ago following the same-sex marriage ruling by the United States Supreme Court that now is not a time to panic or to live in fear.
In light of what happened on July 16, those words still ring true, he said.
“We must walk in our faith more than ever before. We must trust in God who can raise the dead,” Stitts said.
The most recent incident is another reminder “that we need spiritual renewal in our nation and that it must start within our churches,” he said.
Steve Roper, Baptist Collegiate Ministry specialist on the campuses of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, and Chattanooga State Community College, said the campuses and the community are in “a state of shock. Our community has never really experienced anything remotely like this,” he said.
Roper said the Chattanooga State campus is near where one of the shootings on Thursday took place and the school was placed on lockdown.
Because there are relatively few students on campus during the summer Roper said no special activities are planned for now.
Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy C. Davis said, “Baptists all over the state of Tennessee are praying for our friends in Chattanooga as they deal with the enormous grief caused by evil personified.
“We know all things work for God’s glory and the good of those who follow Christ, even in great tragedy,” Davis said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

7/20/2015 11:50:38 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments

Ruling leads to $26M settlement in NAMB case

July 20 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

A Montana judge’s summary judgement ruling has led to a $26 million insurance settlement in a quadriplegic man’s lawsuit against the North American Mission Board (NAMB) stemming from a 2009 auto accident.
Jeremy Vangsnes, who was 21 at the time of the July 2009 accident, was traveling with two of his brothers, Dan, then 24, and Ryan, 19, in an SUV driven by Scott Minear, 20.
The rollover crash, which left Jeremy Vangsnes paralyzed and with a brain injury, occurred on Interstate 90 near Belgrade, Mont.
The four men were based at Yellowstone National Park as part of a 10-week summer resort missions program of the North American Mission Board. The accident, at around 3:30 p.m. on July 21, 2009, occurred during a side trip to Glacier National Park for the Vangsneses to visit with an aunt, uncle and cousins.
The summary judgment ruling was issued by Judge Mike Salvagni of the 18th Judicial District for Gallatin County in Bozeman. The Associated Press on July 14 reported the ruling, which was filed on June 18.


A Montana judge’s summary judgement ruling has led to a $26 million insurance settlement in a quadriplegic man’s lawsuit against the North American Mission Board stemming from a 2009 auto accident. The rollover crash, which left Jeremy Vangsnes paralyzed and with a brain injury ... In that ruling, the court found that it had been conclusively established that the driver of the SUV “was acting within the course and scope of his agency with NAMB at the time of the accident which caused Jeremy Vangsnes’ injuries” and that, therefore, NAMB could be held vicariously liable for the acts of the driver.
A Montana judge’s summary judgement ruling has led to a $26 million insurance settlement in a quadriplegic man’s lawsuit against the North American Mission Board stemming from a 2009 auto accident. The rollover crash, which left Jeremy Vangsnes paralyzed and with a brain injury ... According to the personal injury law firm Maya Murphy, P.C., representing the Vangsneses, the settlement will allow the family “to hire 24-hour skilled nursing care for Jeremy Vangsnes and to buy a house that is more handicapped-accessible.”
Jeremy Vangsnes’ brothers and Scott Minear were hospitalized after the accident with various injuries and were continuing their recovery, according to a Baptist Press news report on Aug. 20, 2009.
The North American Mission Board had set up a fund for the Vangsnes and Minear families. The home church of the Vangsneses, First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., also had established a special fund for the family. A fund also is accessible through the Caring Bridge website.
Mark and Kathy Vangsnes, Jeremy’s parents, remain members of First Baptist in Spartanburg, a church spokesman told Baptist Press July 17.
The parents of Scott Minear, Frank and Tammy Minear, were members of an Atlanta-area Southern Baptist congregation, Crosspointe Community Church in Roswell, at the time of the accident.
The three Vangsnes brothers and Minear were among 17 student resort missionaries stationed at Yellowstone that summer.
Jeremy Vangsnes had finished his junior year at Coastal Carolina University in Conway and was a competitive runner there.
The elder Vangsnes said in the August 2009 Baptist Press story that support from Southern Baptists -– from their home church, First Baptist Spartanburg, to Baptists in Montana – had been “unreal. Right now, we’re staying with a local family only five minutes from Jeremy’s facility. The Baptist body of Christ has just overwhelmed us. ... We believe that God is upholding and sustaining us, and the prayer going up for us is amazing.”
Scott Minear’s mother, Tammy, told BP at the time, “To even begin to describe the body of Christ at work during this is impossible. ... We’re awestruck. How quickly so many people from so many different avenues – the Southern Baptist Convention, NAMB, local churches – responded. Churches here are ministering to us with their presence, with food, drinks, places to stay.
“All the prayers have been so felt. ... [W]e have been constantly aware of people praying for us. We feel like we’re wrapped up not only in God’s arms, but in the arms of people around the world, who are praying for us,” Tammy Minear said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/20/2015 11:36:16 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 3 comments

B&H claims 20 awards from Christian Retailing

July 20 2015 by Baptist Press/LifeWay Christian Resources

B&H Publishing Group dominated the 2015 Christian Retailing’s Best Awards, bringing home more honors than any other publisher.
B&H at LifeWay Christian Resources claimed 20 awards, more than anyone has won in a single year since the awards program began in 2001. Winning products included Thom Rainer’s Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive and other major releases such as The Study Bible for Women, The Big Picture Interactive Bible for children, Beth Moore’s Portraits of Devotion, and Angie Smith’s Chasing God.
“I am so excited and so proud of B&H,” said LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer. “They have come so far the last few years.”
The awards demonstrate the success of B&H’s new strategy of publishing fewer titles each year and focusing more intently on each release, said Jennifer Lyell, B&H Trade Book publisher. The shift began in 2012, and this year represents the first full year of the new strategy in releases, she said.


The awards were presented June 30 at the International Christian Retail Show in Orlando. Those in the Christian products industry are asked to vote on nominated products, evaluating their ability to speak to people’s hearts and evoke emotions; open people’s minds to new ways of thinking; and encourage and affirm Christlike living.
“This particular award system is driven by the votes of those who are closest to the end consumer, working in retail stores, and reflects ministry impact seen by retailers,” Lyell said. “We are so proud of our authors and their faithfulness, and encouraged by all of our internal and external partners that made this possible.”
List of categories and B&H’s winning products for 2015:

  • Children’s Bibles: The Big Picture Interactive Bible

  • Devotional/study Bibles: The Study Bible for Women

  • General Bibles: Holman Study Bible, NKJV, turquoise leather mother’s edition

  • Bible reference/study books: Exalting Jesus in Exodus (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Series), by Tony Merida

  • Children’s fiction: The Knight and the Firefly, by Tara McClary Reeves and Amanda Jenkins, illustrated by Daniel Fernandez

  • Children’s nonfiction: For Such a Time as This, by Angie Smith, illustrated by Breezy Brookshire

  • Christian living, practical life: Chasing God, by Angie Smith

  • Christian living, spiritual growth: Recovering Redemption, by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer

  • Church and culture: Autopsy of a Deceased Church, by Thom S. Rainer

  • Devotionals: Portraits of Devotion, by Beth Moore

  • Evangelism: Truth Matters, by Andreas J. Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw

  • Contemporary fiction: Moms’ Night Out, by Tricia Goyer

  • Historical fiction: Shadowed by Grace, by Cara Putman

  • Men’s nonfiction: Beat God to the Punch, by Eric Mason

  • Reformed: The Underestimated Gospel, Jonathan Leeman, general editor

  • Relationships: Raising a Princess, by John Croyle

  • Social issues: The Insanity of Obedience, by Nik Ripken with Barry Stricker

  • Young adult nonfiction: True Love Project, by Clayton and Sharie King

  • Backlist: The Love Dare, by Stephen Kendrick and Alex Kendrick

  • Spanish DVD: Historia de la Pascua

Christian Retailing is a journal for Christian products for Christian and church bookstores.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – LifeWay Christian Resources submitted this release.)

7/20/2015 11:12:50 AM by Baptist Press/LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

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