July 2016

North Korea threatens U.S. over new missile defense system

July 22 2016 by Anna K. Poole, WORLD News Service

North Korea is threatening the United States – again. On July 11 the hermetically sealed nation vowed to sever its only diplomatic communication line and stage “powerful counter-action” over new sanctions on its leader and a planned missile detection system meant to prevent the totalitarian regime’s abuse of nuclear weaponry.
North Korea has been under strict sanctions for years, but the United States last week personally penalized Kim Jong Un for the first time, accusing the 32-year-old dictator and 10 top officials of human rights abuses. It is estimated the country holds up to 120,000 political prisoners.
“Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and torture,” said Adam Szubin, in a Treasury Department report released this month.
Pyongyang claimed the blacklisting equaled a declaration of war – and promised to retaliate.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby urged North Korea to “refrain from actions and rhetoric that only further raise tensions in the region,” but declined to comment further on the situation.
In response to the North’s penchant for unauthorized weaponry testing, the U.S. and South Korea have collaborated to develop the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (THAAD), an elite missile detection system. THAAD is designed to intercept and destroy enemy warheads in the terminal stage of flight, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Today, Seoul officials announced THAAD will be deployed in Seongju, a southeast farming town where most locals grow yellow melons for a living. Afraid the radar’s electromagnetic waves could cause health hazards, Seongju residents reacted with bitter opposition, and a group of local leaders immediately delivered complaint letters, written in blood, to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.
But South Korean Deputy Defense Minister Ryu Je Seung stood by the choice of Seongju as a missile-hosting town, claiming the placement would maximize THAAD’s military effectiveness while posing no danger to the environment or locals’ health and safety. Ryu said the system would be in place by the end of next year and would cover up to two-thirds of the nation’s territory from North Korean nuclear and missile threats.
Just days after the U.S. announced the impending placement of THAAD, North Korea reacted by threatening to terminate the nation’s single diplomatic contact line. The New-York based channel allows North Korea’s United Nations diplomats to communicate, which could be crucial in the face of ever-deepening animosity over the North’s missile and nuclear programs.
North Korea isn’t the only nation mad about THAAD. Officials in China and Russia complain the defense system could make it easier for the U.S. to spot their missiles. China’s Foreign Ministry last week expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute objection,” to THAAD.
The North Korean military this week denounced THAAD as “an invasionary tool for U.S. world supremacy,” and promised a “ruthless retaliatory strike [that will turn South Korea] into a sea of fire and a pile of ashes.” North Korea’s claim to reduce its southern counterpart to flaming rubble is a threat well-worn – the totalitarian regime has been using it since 1994.
North Korea’s statement was characteristically belligerent and overblown, but experts say a direct attack from Pyongyang’s impoverished military is unlikely.
“If you follow North Korean media you constantly see bellicose language directed against the U.S. and South Korea. … It’s hard to know what to take seriously,” professor John Delury of Yonsei University in South Korea told the BBC.
North Korea is still holding two American hostages for alleged espionage and subversion, and local officials implied the detainees would be treated under wartime law, which could complicate U.S. efforts to secure their release.

7/22/2016 11:27:30 AM by Anna K. Poole, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Pence makes case for Trump; Cruz steals spotlight

July 22 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence made a social conservative’s case for Donald Trump on the Republican National Convention’s third day, but the GOP runner-up – Texas Sen. Ted Cruz – grabbed the spotlight by refusing to endorse his party’s nominee.

Screen capture from YouTube
“This election will define the Supreme Court for the next 40” years, GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence said July 20.

Pence, 57, accepted the Republican nomination for vice president July 20 and offered reasons the lightning-rod billionaire should be trusted over presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The Indiana governor made his case, however, after a wave of boos ushered Cruz off the stage in a development that assured Pence’s speech would be eclipsed in the convention’s latest news cycle.
Cruz – whom Pence endorsed before his state’s primary in May – urged Republicans to “vote your conscience” in November but mentioned Trump’s name only to congratulate the nominee. Some delegates shouted, “Endorse Trump,” late in Cruz’s speech. Many booed him near the end of or after his remarks, providing the latest evidence of the divisiveness that marked the GOP’s selection process this year.
Admitting his speech would serve as his introduction to the country, Pence repeated to the delegates his common description of himself, “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”
Pence, a six-term congressman before being elected governor in 2012, did not focus on his pro-life and other socially conservative positions, but they surfaced when he spoke about the significance of the Supreme Court this year.
“As this election approaches, every American should know that while we are filling the presidency for the next four years, this election will define the Supreme Court for the next 40,” Pence said. “We all better think very carefully, very carefully about what this means for our Constitution and limited government. Elect Hillary Clinton, and you better get used to being subject to unelected judges using unaccountable power to take unconstitutional actions.
“For the sake of the rule of law, for the sake of the sanctity of life, for the sake of our Second Amendment and for the sake of all our other God-given liberties, we must ensure that the next president appointing justices to the Supreme Court is Donald Trump,” Pence said.
The father of three referenced King Solomon’s prayer from 1 Kings 3:9 in promising, if elected, “to pray daily for a wise and discerning heart, for who is able to govern this great people of Yours without it?
Pence, said Southern Baptist cultural commentator Bruce Ashford, “delivered a strong address intended to achieve what he was brought onto the ticket to accomplish: help religious and social conservatives feel comfortable voting for Donald Trump.”
While Trump’s selection of Pence was “a good one,” it can also be interpreted as a warning, said Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Trump chose Pence because Pence is a religious conservative, an establishment guy, and known for his solid stances on abortion and religious liberty,” Ashford told Baptist Press in written comments.
“But it is also a warning sign,” he said. “Trump chose Pence because Trump himself is not a religious conservative or an establishment candidate, and is not known for solid stances on some of the matters most central to evangelical concern.”
In Trump, Pence told delegates, “You have nominated a man for president who never quits, who never backs down – a fighter, a winner.”
The election of Clinton – formerly secretary of State under President Obama, U.S. senator and first lady – would ensure continuation of the flawed domestic and foreign policies of the current White House, Pence said.
“The choice couldn’t be more clear: Americans can elect someone who literally personifies the failed establishment in Washington D.C., or we can choose a leader who will fight every day to make America great again,” he said.

‘Vote your conscience’

Cruz, also a social conservative, urged Americans not to “stay home in November” but spoke only in general terms of the kind of candidates they should support, with a hint that might not include Trump.
“We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love,” Cruz told delegates. “That is the standard we should expect from everybody.”
Americans who love their country and their children, he said, should “stand and speak and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
In an appearance before the Texas delegation Thursday morning July 21, Cruz defended his refusal to endorse Trump. He again declined to commit to vote for the GOP nominee but said he would not vote for Clinton, according to The Washington Post. He asked them not to write in his name in November.
When asked why he reneged on his pledge to support the Republican nominee, Cruz said Trump invalidated the promise when the billionaire made personal attacks on his wife and hinted his father played a part in the assassination of President Kennedy.
Pence made at least one significant misstep as Indiana’s governor in the eyes of many religious freedom advocates and social conservatives. He signed into law last year a revised version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that increased protections for pastors, churches and nonprofit religious organizations but not businesses regarding participation in such events as same-sex weddings.

7/22/2016 11:09:20 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Multiethnic church pastor: peacemaker amid violence

July 21 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

With Alton Sterling and three police officers dead amid racial tension in Baton Rouge, La., black pastor Vince Smith counts among his blessings his interracial marriage to Cassie and his pastorate of the multiethnic Circle Church.

Submitted photo
Vince Smith, shown with his wife Cassie, pastors the multiethnic Circle Church in Alexandria, La.

Smith considers himself a peacemaker comforting those who mourn, whether they have lost loved ones at the hands of police or at the hands of civilians.
“The worst thing we can do as a multiethnic church is to dismiss the narrative of people,” said Smith, whose Southern Baptist congregation is 100 miles north of Baton Rouge in Alexandria. “When we raise one narrative as the normative point of view and the next narrative as secondary, then that is also dangerous. We don’t pick sides; we are in the middle being peacemakers.”
While racially charged violence brews in cities across the nation, Baton Rouge is where Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was shot dead by one of two white police officers who pinned him nearly immobile in a parking lot early July 5 after a 911 caller said Sterling had displayed a gun while selling CDs outside a convenience store.
Protests ensued, with a black man ambushing policemen nearly two weeks later, killing three officers, two white and one black.
Killed were Brad Garafola, 45, of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office; Montrell Jackson, 32, and Matthew Gerald, 41, both of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Police killed the shooter, identified as Gavin Long of Kansas City, Mo.
“Grief and lament are coming from those who have experienced police brutality [and from] families who have grieved [because of] similar situations and outright racism,” Smith told Baptist Press (BP). “Then to another side, [grief is coming] from police officers who are doing their best to do their job to protect and serve, family members that are worried for police safety, and blatant disregard for police.”
Smith does not see silence as an option.
“Peacemakers are not silent; they are in the business of addressing issues, not oversimplifying them to just move along,” Smith said. “It is not our job to decipher whether or not people should be grieving; it’s our job to allow them to grieve and hurt with them.”
When the Baton Rouge police officers were killed, Jerome Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church of Crestmont in Willow Grove, Pa., had just attended the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.
Before leading conference attendees in prayer, Coleman shared his perspective as a current black Southern Baptist pastor and former Pennsylvania state parole agent.
Coleman encouraged worshippers to maintain level-headedness amid news of such killings.
“I just want to remind you that a text without context is pretext for proof text. In other words, many times we will just get what the media wants us to get, or to stir up our emotions and things of that nature without having context of what is going on,” Coleman said. “And all I’m saying to you, when cooler heads prevail, we need to wait for the proof to come out.”
Coleman shared an experience from his law enforcement career that placed him in the basement of a home, with his gun drawn, in pursuit of an African American man hiding in the home to avoid arrest.
“Now luckily my training had taught me to keep my finger on the outside of the trigger guard when I’m carrying my gun. Because naturally when this young man popped up I flinched,” Coleman said. “And if my finger was inside the trigger guard, I would have shot an unarmed black man and I would have been on the news for shooting somebody that was unarmed and folks would have been outraged at me.”
For the most part, Coleman said, law enforcement officers and civilians alike are interested in doing their jobs and returning home safely to their families.
He evoked the parable of the Good Samaritan in explaining the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has included multiethnic crowds protesting – most often peacefully – across the country. Many have countered the movement with the mantra, “All lives matter.”
“I get that all lives matter. But if all lives matter, then when there’s a Jew beside the road beat up, Jewish lives matter. If all lives matter, then if I’m on my way down the road and a Samaritan is beat up, Samaritans’ lives matter,” Coleman said. “And if all lives matter and law enforcement is [attacked] … then law enforcement lives matter. And if all lives matter, then when ... black men are being stopped unnecessarily, shot and killed and murdered, then black lives matter as well.”
In Alexandria, Smith has planted a church that is multiethnic by definition – 65 percent white, 33 percent black and 2 percent other ethnicities. A police officer is among the members.
“We have specifically prayed for and laid hands on him and his family during our time of worship in these past two weeks,” Smith said. “We also have constantly communicated with our people to steer clear from polarizing points of view.”
Smith has been intentional in building a multiethnic congregation.
“There are many churches that desire to be multiethnic but their leadership may not reflect it. Also throughout the New Testament we see Paul writing on the issue of table fellowship,” Smith said. “We believe that the most segregated hour in America is not Sunday at 11:00 anymore, but rather Friday at 6:00.
“What we mean by that is people may tolerate differences on Sunday morning but they have a hard time celebrating differences over dinner on Friday night. Pastor Bryan Loritts says, ‘Sanctuaries should reflect dinner tables,’” Smith quoted the pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, Calif., as saying. “The exposure of different people in our lives will allow us to grow in cross-cultural competency for the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Smith is prayerfully navigating Circle Church to engage in intentional conversation about race, class, culture, police and related movements, he said.
Smith and his wife have seen firsthand the fruit of racism within a Christian context. Married in November 2012, their interracial union was poorly received by many, Smith said, and even sparked a deacons’ meeting at a church they attended.
“Some couples may have their first fight over grease stains on a chevron pillow. We faced families and whole churches disliking us,” Smith and his wife wrote in an article he sent to BP from MarriageRoots.com. “It kind of forces your faith to mature quickly. Those would have been the times when giving up would have been easy. Suffering comes in different forms. An avenue of suffering that strengthened our faith was not being celebrated everywhere we went.”
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7/21/2016 10:48:15 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Biblical studies prof Denny Burk elected CBMW president

July 21 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Biblical studies professor Denny Burk has been elected president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), an organization that helps believers understand and apply the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and gender.

Denny Burk

Burk, whose election was announced July 20, is a faculty member of Boyce College at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and director of the undergraduate school’s Center for Gospel and Culture.
His desire to address gender issues stems in part from his work as an associate pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Burk told Baptist Press (BP).
“I’ve already had church members wondering what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to think about coworkers who are entering into same-sex marriages and who are transitioning to some sort of a transgender identity,” Burk said.
“They’re wondering, one, what do I think about that? What does the Bible teach about that?” he said. “And then number two, how do I be a faithful disciple for Jesus in their lives in light of that? I see these gender and sexuality questions in my own church as profoundly practical questions that believers are wrestling with.”
Burk’s vision for CBMW includes reaffirming the organization’s bedrock belief that men and women are fundamentally equal and have been assigned distinct roles in the church and the home, a belief known as complementarianism and articulated in one of CBMW’s founding documents, the Danvers Statement of 1987.
Burk envisions drafting a new statement concerning “current challenges” like transgenderism and the redefinition of marriage, according to a vision statement posted online.
“Western culture has embarked upon a total revision of sexual and gender norms,” Burk wrote in the statement. “It has evicted the male-female complement from the definition of marriage. Indeed, with the transgender challenge, it has thrown into question the meaning of the sexual binary that God has encoded into every cell in our bodies.
“As a result,” Burk noted, “churches find themselves facing questions about manhood and womanhood that were barely imagined when the Danvers Statement was written.”
In drafting a new statement to complement the 1987 one, CBMW “will not be backing away from or revising Danvers,” Burk wrote.
The process of drafting a new statement, he told BP, will include “as much input on that draft” as possible, likely culminating in a meeting where complementarian leaders can sign it. He will “be surprised” if the process takes less than a year.
In addition to his duties at Boyce, Burk is a popular internet commentator on theology and cultural issues, who ranked 18th last year on Newsmax’s list of the “top 75 religion bloggers” in America.
Burk served previously as dean of Boyce and on the faculty of Criswell College in Dallas. His books include “Transforming Homosexuality,” coauthored with Southern Seminary’s Heath Lambert, and “What Is the Meaning of Sex?”
His election as CBMW president drew praise from Southern Baptist Convention entity presidents R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Russell Moore, according to a CBMW news release. Mohler of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary called him “a leading Christian intellectual” while Moore of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said he is a “Christlike leader who understands both the Bible and the culture.”
Burk will continue in his role at Boyce in Louisville, where CBMW also is headquartered. He succeeds Owen Strachan, who became CBMW executive director in 2012 and president in 2014.
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7/21/2016 10:43:18 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

GOP picks Trump; Lucifer invoked in race

July 21 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Donald Trump officially became the Republican Party’s presidential nominee July 19 on a day when the devil was invoked at the GOP convention as part of a reason not to vote for his Democratic opponent.

Wikipedia image

The controversial billionaire easily passed the 1,237 votes needed to secure the nomination during a state-by-state roll call, ending a divisive, even bitter, campaign season among Republicans.
In what was a foregone conclusion, Trump won with 1,725 delegates, easily surpassing other GOP candidates who had suspended their campaigns. The remaining delegates were split among Sen. Ted Cruz (475 delegates), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (120), Sen. Marco Rubio (114), neurosurgeon Ben Carson (7), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (3) and Sen. Rand Paul (2), according to USA Today.
Trump, who has never held public office, will face presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, barring an unforeseen development. Clinton – the former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady – is slated to gain her party’s nomination during its convention July 25-28 in Philadelphia.
Admitting he is not “politically correct,” Carson indirectly linked Clinton to Satan in telling delegates Tuesday night the country would never recover if she were elected.
One of Clinton’s heroes and mentors was community organizer Saul Alinsky, who “affected all of her philosophy,” Carson said. In the front of his book “Rules for Radicals,” Alinsky “acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom,” Carson said.
“So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer? Think about that,” he said.
The secular, progressive agenda of Clinton and others is antithetical to the principles of America’s founders, Carson said. “And if we continue to allow them to take God out of our lives, God will remove Himself from us. We will not be blessed, and our nation will go down the tubes, and we will be responsible for that.”
While many Christians would not agree progressives can remove God from Americans’ lives, the official nomination of Trump appears unlikely to end the debate on how Southern Baptists and other evangelicals should respond to a Trump-Clinton race.
Trump’s candidacy has divided Southern Baptists, other evangelicals and conservatives. Some have supported Trump in the primaries or plan to vote for him in the general election as an alternative to Clinton; others have declared their opposition will continue through the general election.
Using the hashtag #NeverTrump on Twitter, objectors to the candidacy of the businessman/reality television star have made no-vote promises based on his inconsistent and even harsh policy positions on such issues as abortion, religious liberty and immigration; insult-laden rhetoric; and a lifestyle marked by adultery.
Southern Baptist pastor Mark Harris, who was to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention but stepped aside to be with a “father in the ministry” who has entered hospice care, said he is “cautiously optimistic” Trump will advance a socially conservative agenda.
“I think you have to look at the choice between him and Hillary Clinton, and then I think you have to look at the long view,” Harris told Baptist Press (BP) in a phone interview.
“The president that we choose in November is not just a four-year decision but really a 40-year decision,” said Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. “And I think that’s very important for Southern Baptists. I think that’s very important for all Christians to stop and consider, because really and truly it’s no secret that this next president will have several Supreme Court [nominations].”
Thus, Harris said, “... when I look at that, I think there is no choice but to go with Donald Trump. And I realize that there’s plenty of others who have not come to that same conclusion, but I think some of them may very well come to it between now and November.”
His reasons for being hopeful Trump will govern as a social conservative are the nominee’s selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a pro-life evangelical, as his running mate; the support of former Southern Baptist pastor and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for the nominee; and Trump’s apparent willingness to receive counsel, Harris said.
Harris – who has campaigned as a Republican in races for both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives – supported Huckabee initially for the GOP presidential nomination but became a delegate for Cruz.
Another Southern Baptist running for Congress as a Republican told BP evangelicals don’t really have a candidate from the two major parties.
“[T]he bottom line is that there is not truly a candidate in this race who carries the banner of anything like a Christian conservatism,” said Hunter Baker, associate professor of political science at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and a candidate for the GOP’s nomination in the state’s Eighth District.
Clinton “represents advancing, aggressive secularism which threatens a wide variety of Christians and Christian organizations,” Baker said, while Trump “is little more than a wild card who may be better depending on those persons with whom he surrounds himself.”
“Evangelicals have reached an extraordinary point in their political lives,” Baker said in written comments. “After making major contributions to the public agenda in terms of the pro-life movement, the school choice revolution, the defense of marriage, and other areas, they find themselves essentially at sea in the current presidential race.”
The primary in Baker’s race is Aug. 4.
In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky offered the following: “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins – or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer.”
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7/21/2016 10:37:20 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Volunteer returns to site where husband died

July 21 2016 by Brian Blackwell, Louisiana Baptist Message

Two months had passed since Margie Fulkerson’s husband unexpectedly died from a heart attack at the same Louisiana home site where she was now working as a member of an Illinois Baptist disaster relief team.

Baptist Press photo
Margie Fulkerson along with fellow Illinois Baptist disaster relief workers returned to help rebuild a Louisiana home two months after her husband Don passed away while mudding out the residence.

Margie Fulkerson along with fellow Illinois Baptist disaster relief workers returned to help rebuild a Louisiana home two months after her husband Don passed away while mudding out the residence.
Holding a bottled water to quench her thirst in the 90-degree heat, Fulkerson fought back tears as she remembered when her husband Don passed away in late March while helping mud-out a home in Evans, La., damaged by several feet of flooding.
Gone are the days when the Illinois couple served together as members of the team from First Baptist Church in Galatia. The Fulkersons, who would have celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary in April, had served on 15 disaster relief trips together since their first assignment in 2012.
As emotionally difficult as the decision was to return to work on the same house where her husband passed away, Fulkerson said returning to finish the job is what Don would have wanted.
“He loved this kind of work and always wanted me to come with him,” she said. “I wanted to finish this for him.”
Fulkerson returned with seven other members of the team from Illinois, installing insulation and sheetrock and painting rooms from May 20-27.
Cathy Dudley was on the Illinois team who worked with the Fulkersons on an initial first disaster relief trip to Louisiana several years after Hurricane Katrina.
The hours and days following Don Fulkerson’s death were difficult, Dudley said, but what God did afterward made the situation a bright one for the future.
Dudley recounted that Margie decided during their return trip to Illinois, with the advice of others, for money to be given to First Baptist Galatia’s disaster relief fund in lieu of flowers. The team encountered a Vietnam War veteran during a break while traveling; upon learning what happened in Louisiana, he handed them $100.
That was the beginning of what would be a donation fund that will go toward future relief efforts, Dudley said, as well as help pay half the cost of defibrillators now used by Illinois disaster relief teams for life-threatening emergencies such as the heart attack the 77-year-old Fulkerson suffered.
“When something good comes out of a tragedy, it makes you smile,” Dudley said. “It makes your heart feel good knowing people are helping and keeping his memory alive.”
But the goodwill gesture did not stop there.
Others found out about the team’s return to Evans and donated a trailer full of items for the homeowners such as chairs and various appliances.
Jeremy Blocker, pastor of Simpson (La.) Baptist Church, which sent 12 volunteers to assist the Illinois team in the cleanup effort, was moved by the team’s return to help the homeowners.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Blocker said. “And it’s enlightening to see them wanting to come do this in memory of their Christian brother.”
The Louisiana Baptist Convention offered to pay for embalming services and flying Fulkerson’s body back to Illinois. However, Illinois Baptists had insurance to cover the expenses, so the Louisiana convention is using the same amount of money to assist in the rebuild of the home that the Illinois team was working to complete.
Margie Fulkerson, who has received encouraging cards from Louisiana Baptists, a sheriff and students from an area school, expressed gratitude for the support she has received.
“Thank you people from Louisiana for all the wonderful prayers and cards,” she said. “I can’t believe all the people who have remembered me and Don. I’m gonna keep doing what he loved for as long as I can and help those in need through this important ministry.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell writes for the Baptist Message, baptistmessage.com, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

7/21/2016 10:31:15 AM by Brian Blackwell, Louisiana Baptist Message | with 0 comments

Hospitals weigh California assisted suicide law

July 21 2016 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

Some California hospitals are opting out of the state’s new assisted suicide law allowing qualifying adults with a terminal illness to request a lethal drug from their doctor.
The End of Life Option Act, signed in October and effective since June 9, made California the fourth state – along with Oregon (1997), Vermont (2013) and Washington (2008) – to legalize some form of assisted suicide.
Euthanasia advocates applauded the bill while critics warned it might encourage physicians and family members to pressure patients to end their own lives.
Caught in the middle, some hospitals with moral qualms about assisted suicide, or that don’t have the resources to cater to it, are opting out of the lethal network.
Enloe Medical Center in Chico, Calif., is one of several hospitals choosing not to offer assisted suicide because the facility is not equipped to help someone make the decision to end his or her life.
“Enloe believes that the personal choice to end life, as well as the complexity of the process, often do not involve a stay in the hospital and are best and most appropriately made in a personal setting, in consultation with a family physician and trusted friends and family,” hospital administrators told WORLD News Service in a prepared statement.
Hospital staff will not be allowed to evaluate someone seeking assisted suicide or prescribe lethal drugs. Instead, Enloe will continue offering pain relief and hospice care “to enhance the quality of remaining life.”
Feather River Hospital in Paradise, Calif., affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, opted out based on “a respect for all human life,” administrators told the Chico Enterprise-Record.
Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, Calif., a top-rated hospital in Los Angeles County, is still evaluating whether to provide the lethal drugs.
“This is a complicated issue and we understand our community is invested in this decision, so we are being thoughtful and deliberate in our process,” administrators wrote in an email. “We continue to assess whether our inpatient facility is the right setting for aid-in-dying procedures.”
Doctors at Huntington voted “behind closed doors” to opt out, the Los Angeles Times reported in early May. But the final decision rests with the board of directors, which hasn’t made a move either way.
“Until such time, Huntington Hospital will fully comply with the act regarding its patients and will ensure patients are made aware, as appropriate, of the full range of end-of-life and palliative care options available to them, both from our hospital and from other providers,” the statement said.
Other major hospitals have opted in, including Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health and The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The California Department of Public Health has refused to say how many hospitals have opted out of the law. The agency won’t have to release the numbers until it issues its annual report in July 2017.
California’s law was based on Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, the nation’s first assisted suicide law. Last year, 132 people in Oregon took their lives with legal drugs, according to a 2015 report. The number of Oregonians opting for assisted suicide has steadily increased from 16 in 1998 and now totals 1,545 persons.
While California’s hospitals grapple with whether to provide lethal drugs, doctors must make their own decision. Individual doctors can always opt out, even if the hospital where they work has embraced the law. The California Medical Association, after opposing a similar bill in 2007, withdrew its opposition to the current law shortly before it passed. But the American Medical Association still opposes assisted suicide, calling it “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.”
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7/21/2016 10:26:33 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

‘Beyond powerful,’ woman says of black church conference

July 20 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

When Dianne Gordon returned home from the 2016 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference, friends observed a difference in her appearance.

Photo by Diana Chandler/BP
Niya Cotton, praise and worship director of St. John Church in Southlake, Texas, leads the “Who-so-ever Will” choir at the 2016 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.

“Everybody was telling me this morning, ‘Dianne you’re shining, you’re glowing,’ and I really do feel like that,” Gordon told Baptist Press July 18. “I feel like ‘wow.’ I’m good.”
Baptized a year ago at Wake Eden Baptist Church in Bronx, N.Y., the 52-year-old Gordon works fulltime as a registered nurse. She lost her brother to murder two years ago in her native Jamaica and is in the middle of a divorce. She also is pursuing a doctorate in education and leadership at the University of Phoenix.
“I needed the story of Nehemiah and all of those other classes, and to see the challenges that other black women have been through, and with Christ triumphed,” Gordon said of the conference. “[It] has given me this ‘Yes, I can do it, with Christ; just put Him first.’ And that was the message that I was getting....
“It’s been beyond powerful for me, just a wonderful experience.”
Gordon was among more than 800 pastors and laypersons who attended the annual LifeWay black church life conference, July 11-15 at Ridgecrest, N.C., to coach, empower and disciple African American leaders, families and children. Worship services, Bible study, more than 150 workshops, Christian service opportunities, dinners and recreational events filled the week.

Photo by Diana Chandler/BP
More than 800 gathered at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference that included a nightly worship service.


Nightly worship

Nightly worship leaders based their sermons on Nehemiah 4:11-14, with each preacher focusing on a portion of the conference theme acronym LEAD, shortened from launch, engage and advance into destiny.
Former Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, encouraged leaders in the July 11 evening sermon to wait for power from the Holy Spirit to “launch” ministry. Anthony Dockery, senior pastor of St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in La Puente, Calif., told leaders July 12 to follow God’s “rules of engagement” in engaging Christianity, culture and the community to effect change in these perilous times.
Geoffrey Guns, senior pastor of Second Calvary Baptist Church [National Baptist Convention USA] in Norfolk, Va., encouraged leaders July 13 to persevere in advancing in their ministry assignment. In the final evening sermon July 14, H.B. Charles Jr., senior pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., encouraged leaders to overcome discouragement in reaching their destiny.
The speakers joined other pastors, church leaders and denominational employees in leading daily morning workshops which totaled 150 over the span of the conference.
The workshops addressed numerous contemporary societal issues, including abortion, incarceration, the U.S. presidential election, fear and faith, sex trafficking, same-sex marriage and LGBT issues, and financial planning. Discipleship and ministry topics included apologetics, marriage, missions, parenting, associate ministry, evangelism, church growth, reentry ministry to the formerly incarcerated, using technology in worship, obedience, navigating the SBC, preaching and perseverance.

Photo by Diana Chandler/BP
Ken Weathersby, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, greeted worshippers at the 2016 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.


Presidential election

Political engagement among African American Christians, including the 2016 presidential election, was the focus of two workshops on contemporary issues. Steven Harris, director of advocacy in the Washington office of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the SBC, emphasized the complexity of concerns facing African Americans in voting, such as what it means to be pro-life.
“The gravity of the life issue can’t be overstated, particularly for people of color,” but the pro-life ethic must be expanded to the entirety of human life from conception to physical death, Harris said. “We’re doing this in the ERLC in terms of how we talk about what it means to be pro-life, that it just doesn’t revolve around what is a very ... important decision, but it starts from there and it goes from womb to tomb.”
Harris acknowledged a certain lack of privilege for African Americans to cast a vote based on a single aspect of the pro-life ethic, such as abortion, or on one specific political platform issue.
“What is often concluded about professed Christians [who vote Democratic] is that they don’t care about the life issue,” Harris said, summarizing his conversations with a diversity of politicians in Washington. “I’ve heard that conclusion simplistically stated on the Hill, and I’ve had to push back against that, because that doesn’t acknowledge the complexity.”
“For individuals in the African American community, in particular professed Christians, there’s a complexity of concerns [in voting] that takes into account a number of issues,” Harris said. “To distill that Christian’s faithfulness down to what they do on one of those issues, I think speaks to [a perspective born of] a certain amount of privilege to be able to do that.”

Photo by Diana Chandler/BP
Hundreds of women attended Woman-to-Woman discipleship sessions at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.


“Who-so-ever will” choir

Volunteers were recruited on the opening night of the conference for the week’s worship choir. The “Who-so-ever will” choir, as it was named, included perhaps 50 men and women who committed to daily practice and nightly singing.
Favorite traditional hymns and contemporary ballads rang out during each evening service, engaging the audience in heartfelt, robust praise and worship.
Coordinating and leading worship were Roy Cotton Sr., director of African American Ministries with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) and Roy Cotton II, director of music and creative arts with Oakcliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas, and his wife Niya Cotton, praise and worship director of St. John Church in Southlake, Texas.
Russell Andrews, minister of music at East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., led morning praise and worship July 12-15 at 6:15 a.m. as well as daily music time for children July 12-14, culminating in a children’s choral presentation during the July 14 evening worship.

Photo by Eric Brown
Former Southern Baptist Convention president Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, leads prayer during the Missional Leadership Dinner at the 2016 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference.


Black denominational servants

The Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network, open to African American Southern Baptist denominational professionals, elected officers during its July 13 business meeting.
Officers are president Charles Grant, a LifeWay church consultant; vice president Port Wilburn, interim director of missions of the San Francisco Peninsula Baptist Association; treasurer Ira Antoine Jr., director of Bivocational Ministry with the BGCT; and secretary Diana Chandler, general assignment writer/editor of Baptist Press.
Joining LifeWay as conference sponsors were Southern Baptist Convention entities the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board and GuideStone Financial Resources as well as the SBC Executive Committee, the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention and Woman’s Missionary Union.
The 2017 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference is scheduled July 17-21 at Ridgecrest.
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7/20/2016 11:20:42 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

LifeWay adds student events in urban ministry

July 20 2016 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Infusion, a new summer event from LifeWay Students, has been announced for 2017 to immerse participants in ministry within urban contexts.

The six-day Infusion events next summer – joining World Changers, PowerPlant and LifeWay’s other student opportunities – will be educational and missions experiences, said Dave MacNeill of LifeWay Students.
Infusion Missions involves students in hands-on experiences related to social justice and felt needs,” he said. “Infusion will excel in educating students on how the gospel addresses the believer’s responsibility to be aware of and involved in social justice.”
As awareness of social justice issues increases, many Millennials and members of Generation Z are trending away from traditional mission trips, MacNeill said, noting that Infusion will seek to connect evangelism with meeting the needs of individuals.
“This is not a social gospel,” he said. “This is an intentional strategy to share the gospel of Christ in a social justice ministry and context.” For him, it’s a matter of fulfilling both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
Social justice ministries often work to establish long-term local relationships to confront issues like poverty, racism or lack of education and health care, MacNeill said. “We want students to approach these issues with a gospel motivation,” he said.
In 2017, teams will choose from six different week-long events in three cities: Atlanta, Memphis and Philadelphia. During the events, students will have the opportunity to live, eat, worship and minister outside their everyday context.
“It will be intentionally immersive with hopes that students will see themselves as ambassadors of justice within their own context,” MacNeill said. “We want to develop lifelong gospel sharers as they meet social justice needs in their own communities as well.”
Students will learn to share the gospel in the social justice context, MacNeill said, and will develop a heart of humility toward communities that are different from their own.
Jesus was clearly interested in meeting the needs of those often ignored by society, he noted, referencing Jesus’ quoting of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the captives and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
LifeWay Students named the experience Infusion because it conveys what they hope to accomplish with participants. “Infusion is a unique term defined as ‘the process of introducing a quality or new element into something,’“ MacNeill said. “We want to introduce students to an environment where lasting change can happen in the way they view and engage the world and its needs.”
MacNeill believes Infusion can be a seminal event in the lives of participants. “Students will be challenged through experiences designed to open their hearts toward the oppressed and marginalized. They will witness these needs firsthand,” he said. “Students will learn and understand the need for and impact of the gospel in the social justice, felt needs context.”
For more information about Infusion, visit InfusionMissions.com.

7/20/2016 11:20:18 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Rescue of 18 from flood: ‘doing what I had to do’

July 20 2016 by Laura Sikes, NAMB

Rob Bowen had a decision to make. Flee rising floodwaters or help others find safety. The night of the historic flooding in West Virginia, Bowen and his wife Terri decided they would aid their neighbors.

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Redstar Home Supply owners Rob and Terri Bowen, both natives of Rainelle, W.Va.., have allowed Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to set up its command post in their hardware store’s parking lot. The couple, members of Calvary Baptist Church in Meadow Bridge, W.Va., helped rescue 18 neighbors from floodwaters that hit their town in June.

The couple quickly took action. Strapping a light to his forehead, Bowen, a former coal miner, said he found himself out in the darkness in his kayak with a friend searching for neighbors in his hometown of Rainelle, like 86-year-old Joan Burns.
“I had to go and check on my neighbor to see if she was okay,” Bowen said.
Burns, who lives alone next to the Bowens’ hardware store, Redstar Home Supply, pointed her flashlight through her window to signal the men, who then managed to move her to safety. Southern Baptists Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers are now helping Burns return to her home.
Bowen and his friend worked until daybreak with one small boat tied to the kayak, rescuing 18 people in the town of 1,500 in late June. From higher ground, Terri Bowen relayed messages from those trapped in their homes to her husband as he searched from the floodwaters. Tragically, the flood claimed 23 lives that night – 15 from Rainelle. About 100 rescues were reported.
“I was just out helping people, doing what I had to do,” Bowen said.

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
SBDR volunteer Ritchie Blackerby, a member of First Baptist Church of Morristown, Tenn., helps homeowner Joan Burns, 86, down the steps of her Rainelle, W.Va., home. Burns’ home was flooded in June. Teams have completed a tear-out and mold remediation, and hope to help her return home soon.

“I was really worried with him out there in the water all night,” Terri said. The Bowen home would survive undamaged, but their business took on almost six feet of floodwater.
Bowen chose to help his neighbors while the couple’s business was taking on floodwaters, costing them thousands of dollars of inventory, said his pastor, Zed Volpe, of Calvary Baptist Church in nearby Meadow Bridge, W.Va.
“This is Christianity 101,” Volpe said. “Rob and Terri have been awesome.” About 100 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers and others serving from Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia have been housed at Calvary since the flood, the pastor said. Church members have served around the clock since the storm hit to help their neighbors and SBDR volunteers.
While the town of Meadow Bridge did not suffer any damages, the church has several members who live in Rainelle and one member who died during the flooding that destroyed more than 200 homes, Volpe said. Meadow Bridge High School will help house volunteers until school starts, he added.
Damage was so extensive, SBDR opened a command site in Rainelle. Don Owen, director of operations at the site, helped set up the command center with his team from Tennessee. Owen said he’ll never forget the response of the people and the mayor of Rainelle the day SBDR came to serve. “They were so excited when we arrived,” Owen said.
Previously, teams served from SBDR’s incident command post in Lewisburg about 25 miles away. Due to the need, and travel time to and from Lewisburg, a fourth site was set up in Rainelle. SBDR also continues to operate command sites in Greenbrier, Kanawha and Nicholas counties.
The Rainelle site is in the parking lot of Bowen’s hardware store on Main Street. A North American Mission Board (NAMB) Send Relief trailer filled with cleaning supplies, blankets and water is located there to serve the community along with the command team. The Bowens also welcomed volunteers to use an apartment above their store.

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Cliff DeHart, working with the Baptist General Association of Virginia, inspects the basement of Phyllis Merritt’s Alderson, W.Va., home. Floodwaters from June storms overtook her home. DeHart worked alongside four other members of his church, Corinth Baptist Church in New Kent, Va., to strip floors, cut out drywall and spray for mold.

“They told us that their property was our property and to use it anyway we needed to help the people of Rainelle,” Owen said.
Bill Johnson is serving as deputy incident command leader in Greenbrier, managing relief efforts on behalf of NAMB. He said SBDR is thankful for the Bowens’ graciousness.
“In a small town, everyone comes to the hardware store,” Johnson said. “It gave us instant credibility in the community. Because of the Bowens, we have a Southern Baptist presence in Rainelle.”
Johnson noted a sustained need for volunteers for mud-outs and for those with construction skills as the work transitions from long-term recovery into rebuild.
Pastor Kerry Hinton of Lynnhaven Baptist Church in Pocomoke, Md., served with seven members of the church and another SBDR volunteer from Virginia on a two-day tear-out for Rainelle homeowner Gail McKinney.
McKinney’s home took on four feet of floodwater. The team helped remove mud and debris from the home while helping the 72-year-old sort through her water-soaked belongings.
“Volunteers worked with wonderful compassionate hearts, letting her tell her story and start the healing process,” Hinton said.
“A lot of people say that our town is going to be like a ghost town with so many moving out,” McKinney said. “We like our town and I hope it gets back on its feet.”
“It’s a lot of mud and a lot of heartache here, but people have come to help us from everywhere,” Terri Bowen said.
A recent Facebook post from the Redstar Home Supply page reads: “How about those workers coming from all over to help our town! You guys are amazing and really display the Lord’s love for us. We are looking forward to seeing what the next chapter (holds) of ‘being from Rainelle’ ... We look forward to easier days ahead ... God bless.”
To learn more about how you can help, contact the Baptist convention in your state or go to namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
Church leaders can explore how Send Relief comes alongside churches and state conventions to aid in times of disaster and meet other needs for relief across North America at namb.net/sendrelief.
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7/20/2016 11:13:03 AM by Laura Sikes, NAMB | with 0 comments

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