July 2016

Felony charges dropped over baby body parts videos

July 27 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

All criminal charges have been dismissed against two investigators who posed as procurers of aborted baby body parts in undercover videos of interactions with Planned Parenthood executives.

Photo by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN
David Daleiden (center), with attorneys Peter Breen (left) and Jared Woodfill, exits the Harris County Courthouse after charges were dropped against the Center for Medical Progress founder in his investigation of Planned Parenthood.


The Harris County District Attorney’s office in Houston dropped charges July 26 against Center for Medical Progress (CMP) founder David Daleiden and his CMP coworker Sandra Merritt, who had sought to show in secretly recorded videos that Planned Parenthood illegally profits from the sale of aborted baby tissue.
 
Daleiden and Merritt had been charged with tampering with a governmental record by using false identifications to enter Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, based in Houston, and faced up to 20 years in prison for the felony. But prosecutors dropped the charges in advance of a 9 a.m. hearing when attorneys for Daleiden and Merritt had planned to submit a motion to dismiss the accusations.
 
CMP said on its website today: “The dismissal of the bogus, politically motivated charges ... is a resounding vindication of the First Amendment rights of all citizen journalists, and also a clear warning to any of Planned Parenthood’s political cronies who would attack whistleblowers to protect Planned Parenthood from scrutiny.”
 
Planned Parenthood “tried to collude with public officials to manipulate the legal process to their own benefit, and they failed,” CMP said.
 
Separate misdemeanor charges of attempting to purchase human organs were dismissed June 14. Daleiden and CMP continue to face federal racketeering lawsuits filed by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and Planned Parenthood under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
 
The Harris County charges were filed in January, months after CMP released videos garnered from a 30-month investigation into Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation program.
 
The release of the videos resulted in a national outcry and congressional hearings regarding Planned Parenthood’s handling of aborted babies. Federal law prohibits the sale of aborted fetal issue for profit, allowing compensation only for the cost of transporting such tissue to research facilities, according to news reports.
 
Attorneys for 27-year-old Daleiden and Merritt, 62, said the indictments against the pair were bogus.
 
Peter Breen, a Thomas More Society attorney who represented Daleiden, told Life Site News that the “meritless and retaliatory prosecution should never have been brought. Planned Parenthood did wrong here, not David Daleiden.”
Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver, Merritt’s attorney, said in a press release, “We celebrate this victory for Sandra Merritt as she did nothing wrong. She exposed the sale of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood and today she has been vindicated.” The indictment “was politically-motivated and should never have been filed in the first place.”
 
CMP stands by its undercover videos as proof of Planned Parenthood wrongdoing.
 
“A year after the release of the undercover videos, the ongoing nationwide investigation of Planned Parenthood by the House Select Investigative Panel makes clear that Planned Parenthood is the guilty party in the harvesting and trafficking of baby body parts for profit,” CMP said.
 
A Harris County grand jury’s investigation led to indictments against Daleiden and Merritt, but Planned Parenthood has not been charged with a crime. Instead, official investigations conducted in more than 10 states, including Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Missouri and Michigan, resulted in no criminal findings against the abortion provider, National Public Radio has reported.


Related articles:
brnow.org/News/January-2016/Planned-Parenthood-sues-over-undercover-videos

7/27/2016 8:56:24 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Black pastors attend prayer & listening session

July 27 2016 by Keith Collier, Southern Baptist TEXAN

Nearly two dozen black pastors met with Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) Executive Director Jim Richards and convention staff for a prayer and listening session on racial reconciliation amid national tensions stemming from black men being killed by police in Baton Rouge, La., and St. Paul, Minn., as well as gunmen killing police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Photo by Keith Collier
Terry Turner, former president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, leads a prayer time during a listening session with black pastors at the SBTC building in Grapevine July 19.


Richards invited the SBTC pastors to discuss ways the convention can assist churches of all ethnicities in working together for racial reconciliation in their communities.
 
“Whether it’s racial justice, whether it’s law and order, whatever the perspective is from [our] churches, we need to help them see what your concerns are, what your heart is, and how we can help our churches minister in the current environment,” Richards said.
 
Dante Wright, SBTC vice president and pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, opened the session by sharing his views on the Black Lives Matter movement, comparing and contrasting it with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
 
Wright explained that he does not see Black Lives Matter at its core as a group that hates cops or promotes violence but one that seeks to replicate aspects of the Civil Rights movement and voices legitimate concerns about police brutality and inequality in the criminal justice system.
 
At the same time, Wright said, one of the major differences between the Civil Rights movement and Black Lives Matter is that the latter “has eliminated religious leaders, they have eliminated biblical principles.”
 
Terry Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church and former SBTC president, agreed, noting that Black Lives Matter has a variety of voices, some positive and some negative.
 
“Society doesn’t know what to believe; everybody’s caught up in whether it’s good or it’s bad. ...  [Black pastors] have to have the voice that overshadows the negative voices,” Turner said.
 
Prior to leading one of several prayer times throughout the July 19 meeting, Turner thanked the pastors in attendance, noting God’s sovereignty in the midst of chaos.
 
“We’re caught up in the midst of turmoil and trauma in our society, but it has not caught God unaware,” Turner said, noting that the tragic events and racial tensions have been used by God to provide a forum for discussing solutions.
 
“It allows us to deal with some of the racial issues that have been swept under the carpet for over 100 years in our society,” Turner said.
 
Pastors expressed their frustrations and concerns related to racial injustice and inequality that still pervade American culture in sometimes subtle as well as sometimes volatile ways. At the same time, they discussed ways their churches are seeking to engage in racial reconciliation within their communities.
 
Jack Crane, pastor of Truevine Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth, shared how his church held a prayer meeting following the police shootings in Dallas and invited local police officers so they could pray for them.
 
“If we’re on the same team, then it should be the norm in the church for all of us to come together and say we stand for one cause,” Crane said.
 
Donald Burgs, pastor of Alief Baptist Church in Katy, said solutions too often are sought reactively instead of proactively. His church has pledged to be a community partner with the Katy police department.
 
“When you meet with the police chief and mayor in your community, you are not asking for anything; you are sharing what your church membership is going to be as a community partner.”
 
For Alief Baptist, this has included dialogue with the police department on the value of body cameras and de-escalation training for officers as well as compliance procedures for citizens. Additionally, men in the church have offered to be “boots on the ground,” mentoring young black men who are repeat offenders.
 
Tony Mathews, pastor of North Garland Baptist Fellowship and president of the SBTC African-American Fellowship, challenged pastors to be intentional about creating a multicultural church with staff and leadership of varying ethnicities. Recognizing it’s “easier said than done,” he said this approach ultimately “builds relationships in the congregation” and allows the pastor to de-escalate tensions in the congregation during difficult times.
 
“It takes a long time to build relationships cross-culturally, and it’s hard work,” Mathews said. “You have to know people and build relationships with people before you get to some of these volatile areas or you’ll end up building barriers instead of bridges.”
 
Bryant Pearson, founder of Bowtie Boys Mentoring Program in Garland, said churches must get involved in the educational and economic systems because much of racism stems from economic disparity. He said he seeks to get police involved in the lives of young children so mutual respect is built between them.
 
Wright agreed with Pearson about the cyclical nature of poverty and the criminal justice system, which is why the church he leads has opened up a barber shop, beauty shop and daycare center to provide jobs to those with criminal records.
 
E.W. McCall, a longtime pastor in California and currently a specialist in African American ministry with SBTC, encouraged fellow pastors to be “system savvy” by using their influence for God’s glory and speaking out against government laws and policies that contribute to inequality and racial tensions. He also challenged pastors to preach the gospel unashamedly as the only hope for reconciliation.
 
McCall reminded the pastors of the need for them to “show up” at convention meetings and “pay up” through their church’s participation in the cooperative program. “We are the convention,” he said. “It’s the theology of presence – I need to see you guys that’s here today at these statewide meetings.”
 
Other solutions discussed during the meeting included black pastors building friendships with pastors of other ethnicities in their communities and looking for multiethnic worship opportunities such as swapping pulpits with another pastor. The pastors also asked for the state convention to provide future opportunities for pastors of all ethnicities to dialogue with one another in small-group settings to find solutions for racial reconciliation.
 
Richards concluded the meeting by promising to fulfill this final request of black and white pastor discussion forums “sooner rather than later.” He issued a challenge for the black pastors present to build relationships with white pastors in their communities and bring them to the meetings.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

7/27/2016 8:49:18 AM by Keith Collier, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



DNC abortion stance provokes pro-life Democrats

July 27 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Despite the Democratic Party’s adoption July 25 of a platform calling, for the first time ever, for direct taxpayer funding of abortion, a pro-life group within in the party is laboring at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) to shift Democrats’ stance on sanctity of life issues.


In related news, Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in a USA Today op-ed coauthored with a former aide to President Obama, that the Democratic platform’s unprecedented pro-choice stance is “a foreboding sign for American civic life.”
 
With delegates gathered in Philadelphia amid tension between supporters of presumed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her chief rival Bernie Sanders over leaked emails showing DNC staff attempted to undermine Sanders’ campaign, a group called Democrats for Life of America wants to focus convention-goers on abortion-related issues. This week, the group is manning an exhibit and hosting a reception honoring John Bel Edwards, Louisiana’s pro-life Democratic governor.
 
Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, told Baptist Press (BP) pro-abortion stances and rhetoric are “hurting the party.”
 
“If we unite, we can take the party back,” Day said. “We can reduce support for abortion. We can support pregnant women. We really need those [pro-life] Democrats to start coming out and having their voices heard and stop hiding.”
 
Democrats for Life also is sponsoring a billboard along Interstate 95 near the convention site that reads, “One in three Democrats is pro-life. Open the big tent.”

Photo by Kristen Day
Democrats for Life of America hopes to convince delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week to make more room for pro-life views in their party.


Based on the party platform, however, the tent appears decidedly small when it comes to social issues. Among its planks, the platform:

  • calls for appointing judges who “will protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion.”
  • proposes overturning the Hyde Amendment, federal legislation that has prohibited federal funds from being used to directly pay for abortions since 1977.
  • supports repeal of the “global gag rule” – which prevents non-governmental organizations that receive federal funding from promoting elective abortion in foreign countries – and the Helms Amendment – which stipulates that foreign assistance funds may not be used to perform or promote elective abortion.
  • Opposes efforts to withdraw federal funding from Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider.

Day noted that Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, was seated next to potential first gentleman and former President Bill Clinton Monday night. Abortion activists like Richards have used their considerable influence to convince party leaders of the erroneous notion that being pro-choice earns votes, Day said.
 
Richards “has quite a lot of influence, and she’s killing the party,” Day said. “Her mission” of promoting abortion on demand “is hurting the party. It might take some more devastating losses for us to realize it.”
 
In a July 26 Los Angeles Times op-ed coauthored with Fordham University ethics professor Charles Camosy, Day argued that “radical support for abortion rights has been proven to drive away voters” in presidential swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. Abortion advocacy, she told BP, is a major reason Democrats have lost control in 66 of 99 state legislative chambers, including all legislative bodies in the South.
 
According to a survey this month by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, 51 percent of Americans self-identify as pro-choice, but a full 78 percent “support substantial restrictions on abortion and would limit it to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy,” LifeNews.com reported. Sixty-two percent of Americans and 44 percent of Democrats oppose using taxpayer funding for abortions.
 
By Day’s count, 60 percent more Democrats are pro-life than voted for Sanders in all of the nation’s presidential primaries combined.
 
“There’s a lot of frustration among Democrats” regarding “how far the party has taken this issue,” Day said of abortion rights. “I did not expect people embracing and welcoming [Democrats for Life] this much” at the DNC, “given the way the platform went.”
 
Moore’s July 24 USA Today op-ed argued that repealing the Hyde Amendment isn’t “good for Democrats, or for Democracy.”
 
“For the past 25 years,” Moore and coauthor Michael Wear wrote, “the Democratic Party, at least rhetorically, acknowledged that compelling taxpayers to fund abortions was a step too far in the culture wars. If the call to repeal the Hyde Amendment remains in the Democratic platform, that era is officially over. A party that calls for government funding of abortion does not merely disagree with pro-life Americans, but wants to implicate them through their government of supporting what they believe is a moral evil.”
 
Among its non-abortion-related planks, the Democratic platform:

  • applauds “last year’s decision by the Supreme Court that recognized that LGBT people – like other Americans – have the right to marry the person they love.”
  • vows to “oppose all state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals, including legislation that restricts the right to access public spaces.” It adds, “We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.”
  • states that Democrats “are horrified by ISIS’ genocide and sexual enslavement of Christians and Yezidis and crimes against humanity against Muslims and others in the Middle East.” The platform vows to “do everything we can to protect religious minorities and the fundamental right of freedom of religion.”
  • supports “removing the Confederate battle flag from public properties, recognizing that it is a symbol of our nation’s racist past that has no place in our present or our future. We will push for a societal transformation to make it clear that black lives matter and that there is no place for racism in our country.”

Washington post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel explained that “candidates are not bound to the party platform. Yet the platform is important as a measure of where the party assembled stands. For citizen movements, the platform can provide an important measure to challenge Democratic Party candidates and state and local officials.”

7/27/2016 8:45:00 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pokémon Go party draws 6 gamers to Christ

July 27 2016 by Alex Sibley, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

When viewed through the otherworldly lens of “Pokémon Go,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) is home to three “gyms,” or virtual meeting places, and nearly three dozen “Pokéstops,” or landmarks.

SWBTS photo
Pokémon enthusiasts trekked to Southwestern Seminary for a “lure party” at the Texas campus, which is home to three Pokémon “gyms,” or virtual meeting places, and nearly three dozen “Pokéstops,” or landmarks.


Thus, numerous Pokémon “trainers,” or participants – enthusiasts who wouldn’t otherwise trek to a seminary campus – have made their way to SWBTS as they play the game.
 
Realizing the unique opportunity for outreach, seminary students and faculty hosted a “lure party” at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus July 19.
 
SWBTS set off 80 Pokémon “lures” over a two-hour period, drawing roughly 200 people from the community, reflecting Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 4:19 that His followers be “fishers of men.” Southwesterners engaged the lost with the gospel and, as a result, six Pokémon players professed faith in Christ.
 
“Unlike any other time that we have done outreach in either the community or any type of mission trip, this was the rare opportunity where we didn’t have to go find people, but they were coming to us,” said Joshua Clayton, a master of divinity student who organized the event “to seize the moment and strategically utilize the game for evangelism.”

SWBTS photo
M.Div. student Heather Mentz speaks with Angel, a Pokémon enthusiast who made a profession of faith in Christ during Southwestern Seminary’s “lure party” at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus.


Jonathan Baldwin, SWBTS’s housing coordinator, was among the evangelists, and he personally saw two high school students turn to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
 
“The conversation started about the game, then transitioned into school and future college plans,” Baldwin recounted. “I took this time to share how God had saved me during my senior year of college, and I boasted in the Lord at how amazing this new life with Him is.” For Baldwin, “It is always exciting to see God save people and always refreshing to retell His story.”
 
A gospel tract produced specifically for the event by Southwestern stated, “Hello, Pokémon trainers! You think hunting for Pokémon is exciting? What if you were to find out that you may have just stumbled upon the greatest treasure ever known?”
 
With water stations placed at key locations around campus, servers offered passersby not just physical water but “living water” akin to Jesus’ words in John 4.

Photo by Neil Williams, SWBTS
Several Pokémon enthusiasts, called “trainers,” gather in their virtual world during a “lure party” at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.


M.Div. student Joy Arulogun had a fruitful discussion with a group of young students at one of the stations that resulted in two professions of faith and one rededication.
 
At a water station on the opposite side of campus, master’s degree students Heather Mentz in music and Mark Becker in biblical counseling and Ph.D. student Jessica Wan spoke with three young men, Angel, Fransisco and Kevin. Upon hearing the gospel message, Angel prayed to receive the Lord. Though Fransisco did not respond to the invitation, he nevertheless heard the gospel while Kevin, who is already a professing Christian, was encouraged by the evangelists to continue in his faith and find a church home.
 
The Pokémon tract served as a foundational element in Angel’s salvation. When Mentz learned that Angel and his two friends had already received and read the gospel tract, she discerned a perfect time to engage them in spiritual conversation.
 
Alongside Angel’s responsiveness, Fransisco listened to everything while “his other friend Kevin [who was already a Christian] was excited to hear someone give a gospel presentation,” Mentz recounted. “He said he had tried before with Angel but always gotten stuck.

Photo by Neil Williams, SWBTS
Two Pokémon enthusiasts at Southwestern Seminary’s “lure party” navigate their cellphone-encased virtual world.


“So not only did one person come to know the Lord [Angel], but another was encouraged to continue in his faith and find a church home [Kevin] and another heard a gospel presentation and experienced the joy and excitement we all had [Fransisco].”
 
Mentz then enlisted the aid of Becker, since he keeps Bibles in his car to give away. When Becker met up with the group, he brought several Bibles, “which was perfect,” Mentz said, “because it meant that Fransisco and Kevin could have Bibles as well.”
 
Becker proceeded to begin the early stages of discipleship with Angel as Fransisco and Kevin listened. Becker told them about the parable of the treasure in the field from Matthew 13:44 in which a man sold all he had in order to buy a field containing buried treasure, “because what he was getting was so much better.”
 
Becker compared it to trading an entire Pokémon deck for a Magikarp – a rare Pokémon – to show that what is lost is nothing compared to what is gained, Mentz said. “He told them that [the apostle] Paul said everything was rubbish compared to knowing Christ, and I think they could tell by our excitement and expressions when talking that we meant everything we were saying.”
 
Evangelism instructor Brandon Kiesling, who coordinated Southwestern’s evangelism teams, noted, “When there are so many people involved with something like [Pokémon], you can’t miss the opportunity to use it for good in some way especially when the people come to us. Why wouldn’t you [seize that opportunity]?”
 
Watch a video recap of Southwestern’s Pokémon outreach:

 

7/27/2016 8:38:12 AM by Alex Sibley, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary | with 0 comments



A light in mountains of darkness

July 27 2016 by Chris Turner, Tennessee Baptist Convention

Julissa knelt beside her daddy and urged him to get back on the donkey. He’d collapsed by the side of the road, torso in the bushes, legs and feet stretched out into the dusty mountain road.

Photo by Chris Turner
“It is easy to understand their suspicion considering that to a large degree we look like their conquerors,” said Lynn Frankland, Wrightsboro Baptist Church’s field strategy coordinator. “They’ve heard a lot of myths about us over the years. Another issue is that evangelicals have a history of showing up, creating changes, disappearing and never coming back. That’s what they expect. Part of building trust is showing them that we are committed to them.”


“C’mon Papi. We need to go home.”
 
But he was barely conscious and unable to move, a stupor brought on from a morning of heavy drinking.
 
Julissa’s plight is not that uncommon from many other children living in the isolated Andean Mountains of Peru where there is a high level of alcoholism among men. Much of the bacchanalia centers around the veneration of Catholic saints, such as Saint Ursula, who is the patron saint of the town of Viraco (vee-RAH-co), are located in the shadows of the dormant volcano, Coropuna.
 
Saint Ursula is uniquely recognizable. Most female Catholic saints have crowns atop their heads. Not Ursula. She wears a cowgirl hat. Legend has it that Ursula appeared to the Inca people here in the 1500s to warn them of an impending Spanish ambush. The people rallied and defeated the Spanish, solidifying Ursula’s significance in perpetuity.
 
Far from being a protector, however, she is a slave owner, the visual representation of the spiritual bondage that shackles these Inca descendants who are scattered like lost sheep among the massively imposing mountains. Eventually, the Spanish conquered their ancestors and imposed Catholicism as an alternative to death. Most took the deal, but more than five centuries later, if you scratch the surface of this brand of Catholicism, you find a commitment to the animistic worship of the sun, earth, moon, and stars. The Inca religion is alive and well and creates an odd mix with Catholic traditionalism that often manifests itself in these drunken celebrations that invite vast numbers from across the countryside.
 
“The prevailing attitude is fear,” said Greg Danford, a volunteer stateside strategy coordinator from Wrightsboro Baptist Church, working to spread the gospel in this region. Wrightsboro is one church of a small partnership of churches that have adopted this area and these people. There is currently a weak evangelical presence at best, and the few Christians here face persecution and crave discipleship.
 
“The fear comes from the control the priests hold over the people and from the superstition related to the mix of religions,” Danford said. “Christians who don’t participate in the rituals and celebrations face reprisals such as the irrigation water to their crops being cut off.”
 
Danford was part of a five-man hiking team trekking to about 10 remote villages seeking to better understand the spiritual and physical needs of the people. It’s a grueling exercise to get to these isolated locations connected by rugged trails and elevation changes of several thousand feet. Given the vastness, Danford’s team looked like a band of marching ants against the backdrop of imposing mountains.

Photo by Chris Turner
“The prevailing attitude is fear,” said Greg Danford, a volunteer stateside strategy coordinator from Wrightsboro Baptist Church, working to spread the gospel in this region. Wrightsboro is one church of a small partnership of churches that have adopted this area and these people.


But beyond the isolation, another challenge of working here is overcoming the suspicion people have of outsiders, especially Caucasians.
 
“It is easy to understand their suspicion considering that to a large degree we look like their conquerors,” said Lynn Frankland, Wrightsboro’s field strategy coordinator. “They’ve heard a lot of myths about us over the years. Another issue is that evangelicals have a history of showing up, creating changes, disappearing and never coming back. That’s what they expect. Part of building trust is showing them that we are committed to them.”
 
Information gathered on the trip will be used to develop a strategy for enhancing that commitment. The number of people professing Christ in these scattered little villages is miniscule by comparison to non-Christians. Both Danford and Frankland said that it is important to find “people of peace” who can be a foundation for both growing as disciples and becoming missionaries advancing the gospel to places and in ways stateside volunteers couldn’t.
 
The good news is that despite the spiritual darkness that blankets this region, there are some rays of gospel light. For instance, there is a family living in a remote area that is a bit of a crossroads between the market town of Viraco and distant villages.
 
All the members of the family are believers, are interested in growing in faith through discipleship training, and are interested in their home being a center for gospel advance.
 
And then there is Lucila Huamani (wah-MAHN-ee), a widow whose husband was the pastor of a small evangelical church in the village of Machahuay (mah-CHAH-why).
 
He died eight years ago but she prepares the church every week, places fresh flowers at the altar, and opens the doors for any who will come. She straightens the benches, prays, reads her Bible, and sings hymns. Many weeks Lucila is the only person present.
 
“I pray that God will send someone to lead the church,” she said. “And that this church will become a place that shares the truth of Jesus Christ in this entire area.”
 
Danford said the road ahead will be difficult because of the challenges but he also felt confident that the people were hungry to hear the gospel. It will take a consistent presence and a focused strategy, he said, and that if anyone was interested in knowing more about the needs in this area or about participating with Wrightsboro he can be contacted at gregdanford@gmail.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Turner is director of communications for the Tennessee Baptist Convention and a former International Mission Board missionary served on the five-member team in Peru.)
 

7/27/2016 8:32:09 AM by Chris Turner, Tennessee Baptist Convention | with 0 comments



‘Left Behind’ author Tim LaHaye dies at 90

July 26 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Tim LaHaye, author of the best selling Left Behind novels who helped stir a national interest in end-times prophecy, died July 25 of a stroke. He was 90.

Tim LaHaye


In addition to his end-times novels, LaHaye was a pastor, evangelical leader and author of more than 60 other books with 14 million copies in print on topics ranging from family life and sexuality to secular humanism and God’s will, according to an obituary from Tim LaHaye Ministries.
 
The 16-book Left Behind series, co-authored with Jerry Jenkins, was released beginning in 1995 and sold more than 80 million copies, popularizing a stripe of end-times theology known as dispensational premillennialism or dispensationalism.
 
Among other doctrines, dispensationalism teaches that Jesus’ second coming will be preceded by a “rapture” of the church and a period of “tribulation” on earth. Following the second coming, Christ will reign with His people on earth for a thousand years – the “millennium” – before establishing a new heaven and new earth, according to dispensationalism.
 
Other versions of end-times theology disagree on the timing of the rapture and the millennium relative to Christ’s second coming.
 
Paige Patterson, himself a dispensationalist and author of the volume on Revelation in B&H’s New American Commentary series, told Baptist Press (BP) LaHaye “enriched my life.”
 
“News of the transfer of Tim LaHaye to his heavenly home is the record of a faithful servant of Christ inheriting the promise of our Lord,” said Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “A long, full life of faithfulness to Jesus in the pastorate, in schools and in the public square highlight the way all of us should live. His example together with [his wife] Bev focus on the importance of biblical marriage and inspires us all. I will miss his low key but steel commitment to all that is holy.”
 
The initial “Left Behind” book twice was made into a movie, once in 2000 starring Kirk Cameron and once in 2014 starring Nicholas Cage.
 
Barry Creamer, president of Criswell College in Dallas, noted LaHaye’s advocacy of dispensationalism, part of the college’s heritage, and expressed thankfulness for his founding of educational institutions like San Diego Christian College and two accredited Christian high schools.
 
“Recognizing our debt to great leaders from previous generations, we are grateful to Dr. LaHaye for the fact that his advocacy for dispensationalism stemmed from his commitment to biblical inerrancy and a conservative hermeneutic, commitments reflected in Criswell College’s own doctrinal statement and administrative practice,” Creamer said in written comments.
 
“While probably best known lately for his Left Behind series, Dr. LaHaye’s roles as a pastor, as an organizer and connector for ministries, and as a founder and supporter of institutions of secondary and higher Christian education also tie him closely to the purpose and values of Criswell College and its founder, W.A. Criswell,” Creamer said.
 
LaHaye pastored churches in South Carolina and Minnesota prior to a 25-year pastorate at Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego, one campus of which became Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.
 
David Jeremiah, a BP columnist and the church’s current pastor, called LaHaye “one of the most godly men I have ever known.”
 
“Tim’s ministry will continue for many years through the books he wrote, the organizations he founded and the people that he influenced,” Jeremiah told Christianity Today. “But I will miss him when I look out from my pulpit next Sunday.”
 
In the 1970s, LaHaye encouraged the late Jerry Falwell Sr. to establish the Moral Majority to advocate traditional family values in the public square, according to Tim LaHaye Ministries. Falwell called the Left Behind series’ impact “probably greater than any other book in modern times, outside the Bible,” according to TIME.
 
Beverly LaHaye, his wife of 69 years, founded Concerned Women for America in 1979, a conservative public policy advocacy organization for women. The LaHayes – co-hosts of a radio show and later a TV program called “The LaHayes on Family” and co-authors of the 1976 book “The Act of Marriage” – were dubbed “the Christian power couple” by TIME in 2005.
 
Some Southern Baptist leaders paid tribute to LaHaye on Twitter. Among them, GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins tweeted, “Dr. Tim LaHaye has entered heaven today. ‘How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle’ 2 Sam 1:25. We are still in the battle!” Former Southern Baptist Convention President Jerry Vines tweeted, “Just read where Tim LaHaye passed away. He was 90. Great man and special friend. Well done, good and faithful servant.”
 
In addition to his wife, LaHaye is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.
 

7/26/2016 1:36:53 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Frank Page calls multi-racial association to renewed faithfulness

July 26 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Churches face challenges. Those challenges arise from the surrounding community and shape the ministry of the local congregation. Each one is different. Some churches care deeply about racial reconciliation because their cities are diverse. Others are concerned about military ministry because an army base is located nearby. Still more wonder what the future of cooperative ministry will look like in their region, due to changing demographics and church attendance trends.

BR photo by Seth Brown
Frank Page called the New South River Baptist Association to renewed faithfulness during their July 19 messengers’ meeting at Sperring Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C.


On July 19 the New South River Baptist Association (NSRBA) held a messenger meeting at Sperring Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., and in that location several issues converged. The group crowded into the sanctuary, representing an association of more than 100 churches in a racially diverse community surrounding the largest military base in the world.
 
Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, delivered the associational meeting’s sermon, calling churches to renew their faithfulness to God and hear His word to them.
 
“God is saying, ‘I am calling you back to my lordship,’” Page said, as he preached from Revelation 2:1-7. “He is in the middle of what’s happening in your church. … He is walking in our midst, and He is doing what the Lord does – to reprove, to convict, to convert. And, yes, He is still saving men, women, boys and girls – even now!”
 

Racial reconciliation

In an interview with the Biblical Recorder before the meeting, Sperring Memorial’s pastor, James Fields Jr., recounted the unique history of the church. Thirty years ago the church was a predominantly white congregation, he said. Today it’s 90 percent black. Rarely do churches survive such a transition.
 
“This is a church for the community,” Fields said.
 
In light of the recent deadly shootings involving black men and law enforcement officials, racial reconciliation has been a concern.
 
“We prayed for America to wake up and hear God,” he said. “Vengeance is His. He will repay. There is never a time when we should take up arms against one of our brothers or sisters, no matter what a person does. They have to answer to God.
 
“I teach my church that God says, ‘I will fight your battles.’ The only fight that you’re supposed fight is the fight of faith.”
 
Brian Kinlaw, pastor of Southview Baptist Church in Hope Mills, N.C., and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Board of Directors, commented on the significance of the meeting, “Our convention is far more diverse than many of us realize.
Tonight we got to see there’s not simply one race represented among Southern Baptist churches in this region, across N.C. and across this convention. … the unity that we have centered in Christ moves beyond the differences that we have culturally or racially. We can show that in a tangible way in a gathering like this.”
 
Randy White, NSRBA’s associational missionary, led the group of church representatives in a moving time of intercessory prayer during the service. Huddled in small clusters, attendees prayed through a portion of Isaiah chapter six, asking for a renewed vision of God and pleading for peace and unity in the midst of racial unrest.
 
Page said before the meeting began, “It’s time for churches to realize they need to be stronger than ever before in community involvement. … Our churches need to be at the forefront with a prophetic voice and community based ministry that makes a difference.”
 

Military ministry

Fort Bragg, an army installation that hosts more than 50,000 active duty personnel, sits near the northern border of the NSRBA. Many ministries in the area are heavily influenced by the presence of such a high concentration of military service men and women. Fields said Sperring Memorial’s congregation is 80 percent active and retired military.
 
“It’s like pastoring a parade, because they come and they go,” said Page, who previously pastored in the area.
 
Fields holds a simple philosophy for ministering next door to Fort Bragg. “I give them the Word of God, and I love them,” he said. “That’s all I got, and that’s enough.”
 
When asked what churches with military focused ministries can do to serve the community, Page said, “You establish relationships as quickly and deeply as you can. There are huge stresses on the family. So, churches in any military community … need to have family ministry.”
 

Local cooperation

As the packed sanctuary emptied after the meeting, Kinlaw emphasized the work of local associations.
 
“Our cooperative work together is more crucial than ever,” he said. “As the challenges are growing, as the needs are increasing, we can do more together than we can alone.”
 
The Recorder asked Page if he thought the role of local associations is changing. Page answered, “Well, I don’t think it is. I know it is. This is happening not just in N.C., but around the nation.
 
“Some associations have unfortunately failed in their understanding that they exist to serve the church and not vice versa. There are associations however that do understand they exist for the church, and they provide a wonderful and powerful ministry.”
 
Page emphasized near the end of his sermon, “Friends, we are in a serious, serious situation. Our country is a mess. Black people fighting white people. White people fighting black people. … Everybody’s pointing fingers. We’re in a mess, and inside the church we’re doing no better. … It’s time to get serious about the gospel.”

7/26/2016 8:19:48 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



New video series explores ‘Mission of God’

July 26 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

A new video-based Bible study produced by the Peoples Next Door N.C. ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) aims to provide a biblical and theological foundation for reaching the nations around the world and right here at home.


The Mission of God is a free, six-session study that explores God’s desire to see the nations of the world come to faith in Christ and the mandate He gives to believers to go and reach them. The series is available for streaming or download at ncbaptist.org/missionofgod.
 
“God’s heart is for us to reach the nations of the world with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Chuck Register, the BSC’s executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships who helped develop the series. “Across the grand narrative of scripture, God has one primary purpose – to bring glory unto Himself as the nations are reached with the gospel.”
 
In the video series, Mike Griffin, assistant professor of cross-cultural studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, walks through the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, showing God’s desire to see all of the earth’s people groups come to faith in Jesus Christ.
 
Each video is approximately 30- to 40-minutes long and includes both biblical teaching and thought-provoking discussion and reflection questions.
 
The series is designed so that it can be used in a number of ways, Register said.
 
The series could be used as a church-wide Bible study during Sunday or Wednesday night services, or it could be used by a Sunday School class or small group. Individuals may also utilize the series for personal study.
 
Pastors should also find the material beneficial for personal study or as an aid in sermon preparation for messages related to God’s heart for the nations. Additional resources related to the Mission of God series, including a corresponding small group leader guide and student guides, will be released later this summer.
 
Register said many individuals from countries and lands that have little or no access to the gospel are now living right here in North Carolina. And while the Great Commission mandates that believers take the gospel to the ends of the earth, Register said God’s people have a tremendous opportunity to reach people here.
 
“What we’ve discovered in North Carolina is that the nations have now come to us,” Register said.
“As we think about God’s heart for the nations, we want to reach them wherever we find them.”
Peoples Next Door N.C. is a ministry designed to do just that – equip churches to discover, engage and disciple individuals from the unreached people groups in North Carolina.
 
The Mission of God video series is just one of several resources offered by Peoples Next Door N.C.
 
Other resources include a manual to assist individuals and churches to discover and engage people groups in their cities, articles and email newsletters that offer practical tips on engaging individuals from other backgrounds and beliefs and a prayer map of North Carolina that spotlights unreached people groups who live in different parts of the state. To learn more about Peoples Next Door N.C., visit peoplesnextdoornc.org.
 
“Seeing and understanding God’s heart for the nations that is revealed throughout the pages of Scripture should encourage and motivate us to be on mission for Him,” Register said.

7/26/2016 8:16:18 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Motion well taken: Connecting Robert’s Rules to the Great Commission

July 26 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

An unnamed gentleman sat low in his chair at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in St. Louis, Mo. His event program tumbled to the floor as the churchman’s arms hung limp by his side. Soft snores communicated to nearby messengers, “The business meeting is now in session.”

Twitter photo
Amy Whitfield, from left, Craig Culbreth, Ronnie Floyd, Barry McCarty and Adam Greenway rely on Robert’s Rules of Order to keep the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting running smoothly.


The man’s sleepy demeanor symbolizes the way many Southern Baptists feel about the denomination’s deliberative process: “Can’t we get on with more exciting things, like the Great Commission?”
 
The Biblical Recorder interviewed four of the SBC’s current parliamentarians to see if the allegedly boring yearly procedures – along with the infamous guidebook, Robert’s Rules of Order – are a vital part of Southern Baptist life, or just dead weight.
 
“Not all of it is exciting,” admitted SBC Chief Parliamentarian Barry McCarty. “Some of it seems rather routine, but the fact is the annual meeting is what enables the SBC to function.
 
“Southern Baptists for years have fielded the largest missionary force in the world.”
 
The yearly parliamentary session is the “vital connection” between the churches that fund and direct missionary efforts and the entities that enable them.

“Robert’s Rules of Order helps the Southern Baptist Convention do its Great Commission work,” said McCarty.
 

Economic polity

Not only does parliamentary procedure have the ability to harness the energy and resources of nearly 50,000 SBC churches across the nation, said the parliamentarians, guidelines like Robert’s Rules keep the convention moving forward while providing guardrails against both tyranny and chaos.
 
“There will be some set of rules that govern every meeting,” McCarty said. “Even if you have a dominant chairman who says, ‘Forget the bylaws, these are my laws.’”
 
Organizations, especially large ones, need an objective set of standards that protect the right of the majority to make decisions and the right of the minority to be heard.
 
“I love the fact that our denomination is not a hierarchical denomination,” said Amy Whitfield, who was appointed in 2016 as the SBC’s first female parliamentarian. “It’s the churches that are making decisions … That is my favorite thing about how our deliberative body works.”
 
Adam Greenway, also appointed in 2016 as part of a newly recruited parliamentary team, echoed Whitfield’s sentiment, “We’re committed to a robust and vibrant congregationalism. … The genius of the SBC is the fact that any messenger can go to any microphone and make a motion.” Greenway developed his parliamentary skills with the Kentucky Baptist Convention for more than six years.
 
Craig Culbreth said, “It allows everybody’s voice to be heard, even when they’re not in the room.”
 
Culbreth has served as an SBC parliamentarian since 2010, but has also worked with the Florida Baptist Convention for many years, along with other state conventions and associations.
 
At least one well-known Baptist leader challenged the democratic ideal during the 2016 annual meeting. Paul Pressler, one of the architects of the Conservative Resurgence, raised a point of order accusing the chair of unfairly denying him the opportunity to speak to a resolution under consideration.
 
The chair of the meeting, then-president Ronnie Floyd, ruled the point of order “not well taken,” which means the accusation was denied and no rules violation had occurred. Greenway explained the ruling, “The system is fair … There is an electronic microphone ordering box. It is a blind system. … It is purely based on the order in which they register, and depending upon the order of precedence in what they are attempting to do, in terms of an amendment, motion or point of order.”
 
He added, “I would reject any sense in which there is bias or preferential treatment.”
 
McCarty agreed, “Every messenger has the same right as every other messenger. That’s a good thing for people to see.”
 
Greenway said, “Even if you don’t agree with the decisions, there should be a strong affirmation that things are done with integrity, objectivity and clarity.”
 
In fact, the integrity of the process was the hot button issue when the SBC first hired McCarty as a professional parliamentarian in 1986. The Conservative Resurgence drew its fair share of critics, and a number of lawsuits were filed claiming that certain organizational procedures fell outside the bounds of the convention’s governing documents. McCarty has advised SBC leaders and messengers for 30 years so that each parliamentary maneuver follows proper guidelines and takes place in accordance with the bylaws.
 

Fair and orderly

Culbreth pointed to the high-profile SBC presidential election between Steve Gaines, J.D. Greear and David Crosby at the 2016 annual meeting as another example of a fair system at work. The initial vote gave way to a runoff between the top two candidates, Gaines and Greear. After the second round of votes were cast, officials were still unable to declare a winner due to a number of ballots that were incorrectly marked or submitted, preventing either candidate from achieving the requisite majority (more than half).
 
Debate sprang up immediately in the convention hall and on social media about the tallying procedure.
 
Parliamentarians and denominational legal counsel pointed to the convention’s bylaws and parliamentary procedure as the basis for how the ballots were counted. Questions about the tallies were quickly overshadowed when Greear withdrew before a third vote was taken, allowing Gaines to receive the election by acclamation.
 
Despite the controversy, Culbreth thought it was good for messengers to see an objective set of guidelines in action. “Thankfully there was a fair system,” he said, noting how tight the runoff vote had been. “There weren’t just good ole’ boys in the back room that said, ‘Hey, he’s close enough, we’ll give it to him.’”
 
The SBC annual meeting is one of the largest deliberative bodies in the world. That makes it particularly susceptible to disorder, especially because of its bottom-up polity.
 
“It’d be a nightmare not to have the best possible set of rules of order to conduct meetings that are that large and that complicated,” McCarty said.
 
He referred to Robert’s Rules as “the sound principles of a fair and orderly meeting that have long existed among English speaking peoples.”
 
Greenway was quick to point out, “Robert’s Rules of Order is not the Bible. It’s not on the same level of authority as the Bible, but it certainly does provide a useful service in helping us do what we do … allowing God’s people to make the decisions about our work.”
 
He also emphasized that “Parliamentarians don’t rule on anything. Our role is purely an advisory role. … It is the messengers’ convention, and those of us who are parliamentarians are servants of the convention.”
 

Roll call

Anecdotal evidence suggests that newer churches are trending away from using Robert’s Rules in their business meetings, even if they are congregational in polity.
 
Culbreth agreed, “The typical Baptist church doesn’t have business meetings like they used to.” This pattern could produce a future where a growing number of Baptist messengers to the annual meeting are unfamiliar with the decision making process.
 
The SBC parliamentarians suggested that messengers familiarize themselves with parliamentary procedure and convention bylaws.
 
“Engagement is about showing up,” said Whitfield, “and if you’re going to show up, you have to know what you’re showing up for. You need to educate yourself. It’s essential to staying engaged in the process.”
 
Though they advocated for greater knowledge and involvement, none of the interviewed parliamentarians said it was necessary to memorize Robert’s Rules. The book runs nearly 700 pages. They did, however, name a few simpler resources.
 
The first was McCarty’s book, A Parliamentary Guide for Church Leaders. Greenway said it should be “mandatory reading” for Southern Baptist messengers to the annual meeting. He also pointed to the “tremendous work” accomplished by the SBC Executive Committee in making the convention’s governing documents available online and through the mobile app.
 
Culbreth offers a three-hour class to local associations entitled, “How to Survive a Business Meeting.”
He is also available to messengers during the annual meeting to answer questions about motions and other procedures.
 
“I did more of that this year than I’ve done in the last five years combined,” Culbreth said, “which is a good thing because it means people are interested in trying to find out how it works.”
 
Whitfield said, “Knowing the process helps us to participate in it and trust it.”
 
Only time will tell whether messengers will become more involved in one of the largest deliberative assemblies in the world or whether the repetitious motions, reports and points of order will lull them to sleep.
 
The SBC parliamentarians hope to see more engagement, and a closer recognition of how Robert’s Rules is a vital tool that mobilizes people and resources for the sake of the Great Commission.  
 

7/26/2016 8:01:27 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Fancy Finds eases transition for beloved strangers

July 26 2016 by Carol Layton, Baptist Children’s Homes

Twenty-year-old Charles Pollard knew nothing about pastoring a church. So when called to a church on its last leg in a dusty Arizona town in the late 1950s, he built the congregation by sharing the sweetest name he knew with the roughest and toughest people he could find.

BCH photo
Barbara and Charles Pollard consult with Baptist Children’s Homes staff who conducted their downsizing sale – Yvetta Smith, east regional director for North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry and Renee Gregory, director of Fancy Finds.


“I visited the prisons and hospitals, and every Tuesday and Thursday, after the family went to bed, I visited the bars,” he said. “I built that congregation from the bars mostly. After they joined the church, I’d go out with them and teach them to witness.”
 
Now, at 80 years of age, Charles still remembers one convert’s unique gospel message: “Brother, do you wanna die and go to hell and fry like a sausage?”
 
But building a church at age 20 in a rugged western town wasn’t even Charles’ first ministry challenge. Prior to that, he began a mission to migrant workers in Arizona’s Rainbow Valley. There, he confronted child abuse, murder, alcoholism, starvation and inhumane living conditions. He had successes there, but soon realized he needed ministry training. “The migrant workers were treated terribly. Emotionally, I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
 
Charles and Barbara Pollard paid some dues those early years, attending college, pastoring a church, and raising two little girls in a 20-foot trailer. “I wanted more than anything in the world to be a good daddy, but I could hardly feed them. I told God, ‘These girls are yours.’ He quickly spoke back, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure they are mine?’”
 
Charles was learning to fully trust God with the lives of his family. Soon, he saw an ad in the paper for a plumber. He knew nothing about plumbing either – but got the job and began a trade that would see him and Barbara through college and supplement their income for many years.
 
The two little Pollard girls, belonging to God, did not starve. Now grandmothers themselves, they have added four grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren to the Pollard family. Many in this family serve God in unique ways all over the world – a fact that brings Charles and Barbara “no greater joy.”
 
Pollard eventually acquired a doctorate in ministry, but still has a warm place in his heart for the seat-of-his-pants training the Lord provided as he preached and studied in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Georgia and Texas. “Everywhere I went God performed miracles. I never went anywhere that I did not see the sweet tender hand of God.”  
 
Barbara Pollard also witnesses that sweet tender hand. “I see our lives as circular – with God’s hand tying the end of things back to their beginnings – showing us that His plans are purposeful and good.”
 
Strong Baptist connections have regularly entwined the Pollards’ circle of life. While Barbara’s Baptist heritage traces back to the 19th century, Charles became a Baptist just to get a date. “Her daddy wouldn’t let me date her unless I went to church. So I became a Baptist.”
 
Now, after 16 years in North Carolina, the Pollards feel called to return to New Mexico where they began their lives together – a move requiring significant downsizing. Naturally, a Baptist ministry stepped into the circle.
 
Barbara remembers, “Our friends at First Baptist Church Cary knew we were planning a yard sale and told us about Fancy Finds Estate Sale Service. It was a natural for us.”
 
Fancy Finds is a ministry outreach of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) where 100 percent of the proceeds from a variety of services enrich the lives of children, aging adults and families served through BCH.
 
While Charles and Barbara both feel God’s hand in the move, they differ in the details of downsizing. Charles is ecstatic. “It thrills me to let go of stuff. I was born in poverty and raised with nothing. It feels more comfortable to be living with less.”
 
Barbara’s gentle smile doesn’t wane even as she admits, “It breaks my heart. I looked at my crystal and remembered entertaining every place Charles pastored and now I’m not going to be doing that anymore. But it’s a good time to be done with it and I love that Fancy Finds is taking care of things; I would be talking people out of buying stuff!”
 
During the Pollard’s downsizing sale, a man they had not seen in many years stopped by to say hello and goodbye. “You’ve always been in my heart,” he told Charles. He showed Barbara a picture of his son – a young man soon headed for the mission field. Barbara last saw him when he was eight years old and one of her piano students.
 
“It blesses me to think of this young man going to be a missionary. This kind of thing happens all the time. People come up to Charles and tell him of the impact he had on their lives.”
 
Barbara thinks of herself and Charles as “beloved strangers” – having traveled from church to church throughout six states. “I believe the travel is over. We need to draw in our boundaries a bit.”
 
Charles is ready for a new assignment out West. “The Baptists have been dying in the city where we’ll live and I look forward to helping them grow again. Our house is a block from the church. I hope they’ll give me opportunity to share the Jesus that I love.” Barbara smiles – knowing the chances are pretty good for her beloved stranger.
 
Visit fancyfinds.org or call Renee Gregory at (704) 909-8223.

7/26/2016 7:52:07 AM by Carol Layton, Baptist Children’s Homes | with 0 comments



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