July 2016

Transgender directive challenged by 10 more states

July 20 2016 by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service

Ten more states have signed on to sue the Obama administration over its transgender directive that forces schools to allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their perceived gender identity rather than their biological sex.
“It’s putting school districts in a terrible position,” said Nebraska attorney general Doug Peterson, who took the lead on the latest round of lawsuits. “It’s trying to push a certain agenda through our school systems, and we need to simply stand up and say this does not make sense.”
Nebraska, along with nine other states, filed an injunction in federal court July 8 in Nebraska against the joint mandate from the Department of Education and the Department of Justice. The complaint says the new instruction violates the procedure required by law to enact such policies and disregards efforts from school districts to develop individualized plans that best serve their students.
On May 13, the Obama administration sent a directive to every school district in the country interpreting Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination for federally funded education programs, as forbidding gender identity discrimination and stating that schools needed to update their policies to reflect that interpretation.
That means once a parent or legal guardian says a student identifies with a different gender, schools have to treat the student as such.
Peterson said the directive defies common sense and standard due process for such a sweeping change.
“When a federal agency takes such unilateral action in an attempt to change the meaning of established law, it leaves state and local authorities with no other option than to pursue legal clarity in federal court in order to enforce the rule of law,” Peterson said.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, applauded the lawsuit.
“The guidance promulgated by the president’s agencies represents his political views and does not carry the weight of law,” the governor said in a statement.
Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming joined Nebraska in the lawsuit. The new court action follows a Texas-led coalition of 13 states that filed suit against the federal government over the same directive in May.
President Obama told BuzzFeed News his administration issued the directive because transgender students are a vulnerable minority subject to bullying. Denying them use of facilities matching their gender identity is discriminatory, he said.
“We are talking about kids, and anybody who’s been in school, been in high school, who’s been a parent, I think should realize that kids who are sometimes in the minority – kids who have a different orientation or are transgender – are subject to a lot of bullying. Potentially they are vulnerable,” Obama said.
With the new action, a total of 23 states have officially stated their disagreement with Obama’s interpretation of Title IX and claimed the school directive violates the Constitution.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who headed the first lawsuit, said at the Heritage Foundation last week he’s confident courts will agree the directive is an executive overreach.
“How you feel about your gender does not change your sex at birth,” Paxton said. “And how the president feels about his authority to write laws cannot change the fact that the Constitution grants that power to Congress.”
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7/20/2016 11:08:19 AM by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

GOP passes pro-life, conservative platform

July 20 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Republican National Convention approved a strongly conservative platform – including what was described as its most pro-life stance ever – on an opening day marked by charges of plagiarism and a failed effort by delegates opposed to Donald Trump.

Wikipedia photo

Voting July 17 in Cleveland, GOP delegates endorsed a platform that supports biblical/traditional marriage and the right to life of unborn children while opposing the Obama administration’s new transgender directive to public schools.
In incidents that demonstrated the continuing controversy of Trump’s campaign:

  • Melania Trump, wife of the presumptive nominee, delivered a speech Monday night that contained passages with close similarities to Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The resulting accusations of plagiarism dominated the news from the convention’s first day.
  • Anti-Trump delegates and others from several states attempted to gain a roll call on adoption of the convention rules, but the presiding officer ruled a voice vote favored passage of the rules and refused to acknowledge protesting delegates.

Trump’s candidacy has divided not only Republicans but Southern Baptists and other evangelicals. Some Southern Baptists and other evangelicals have supported Trump in the primaries or plan to vote for him in the general election as an alternative to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton; others have declared their opposition will continue through the general election.
Using the hashtag #NeverTrump on Twitter, objectors to the billionaire businessman’s candidacy 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.
The GOP platform approved Monday, however, appeared to be as conservative on social issues as ever, particularly on their primary concern, some pro-life leaders said.
“The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans. The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in written comments.
The March for Life described it as “the most detailed pro-life platform ever.”
“The delegates deserve a lot of credit for creating this document which, in great detail, explains what the pro-life movement is for and just how radical the pro-abortion position is,” said Tom McClusky, March for Life’s vice president for government affairs.
Among its planks, the Republican platform calls for these positions on abortion and other issues:

  • Support of a human life amendment to the Constitution to protect unborn children.
  • Opposition to government funds for Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform or promote abortion.
  • Backing of a federal ban on abortion based on the sex or disability of an unborn baby.
  • Reversal of the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
  • Protection of the freedom of religion and conscience of individuals, institutions and businesses, including those that limit their services to a traditional understanding of marriage.
  • Repeal of the Johnson Amendment, the 1954 law that bars churches and other tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates.
  • Support for a wall on the entire Mexican-American border to stop illegal immigration.
  • Restoration of advocating for religious liberty to “a central place” in United States foreign diplomacy.
  • Full enforcement of the law against human trafficking.

The Trump campaign issued a written response July 19 to Melania Trump’s speech but did not address the controversy regarding the passages that were similar to those in Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. “In writing her beautiful speech, Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking,” said Jason Miller, senior communications adviser. Other Trump campaign operatives denied there was any plagiarism.
Speakers during Monday night’s convention program, which focused on America’s safety, included:

  • Two of the security contractors who sought to defend the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, during a terrorist attack in 2012.
  • Pat Smith, the mother of a U.S. Foreign Service officer killed in Benghazi.
  • Three Americans who lost family members in deaths caused by the actions of illegal immigrants.
  • Rudy Giuliani, known for his law-and-order approach as New York City mayor.

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7/20/2016 10:53:34 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. church presses on after fire destroys sanctuary

July 19 2016 by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer

About 300 people filled the fellowship hall of Cherry Grove Baptist Church on July 17 for worship service, two days after a fire destroyed the church’s four-year-old sanctuary. Rusty Davis, pastor of Cherry Grove Baptist Church in Cerro Gordo, N.C., said people flooded the altars, several rededicated their lives to God and a young boy was saved during Sunday’s service.

Facebook photo

Firefighters from multiple North Carolina and South Carolina departments responded to a fire that started July 15 around 4:30 p.m. at the Columbus County church. They extinguished it by 10 p.m. An investigation is ongoing, but officials believe lightning likely caused the fire. There were no injuries reported.
“We see this situation as a speed bump, not a stop sign,” Davis said in a statement to the Biblical Recorder. “God is going to see us through, and His church will thrive.”
A church member anonymously donated $50,000 toward rebuilding the sanctuary, according to a CBS North Carolina news report. The church has received other donations, and members have created a building fund. Cherry Grove had just completed renovations on the sanctuary in September 2012.
Wednesday night services and Sunday School will resume this week, said Davis. The church is also moving forward with Vacation Bible School July 24-29 and will utilize the office complex, gymnasium and fellowship hall for the week’s events.
“We are going to move some of our classes into our office complex for the time being so that we can return to some sense of normalcy in the context of small groups. … We have great people who have been very flexible, and I praise God for it,” Davis said.
On Saturday, Cherry Grove’s Facebook page posted a photo of the church sign in front of the sanctuary. The marquee flashed part of Romans 8:37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

7/19/2016 2:17:12 PM by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer | with 0 comments

McDonald’s implements porn filter at U.S. stores

July 19 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The McDonald’s corporation’s decision to filter pornography from Wi-Fi at its U.S. restaurants has been called “brave and bold” by the leader of Southern Baptists’ anti-pornography campaign.

Baptist Press file photo

“I applaud McDonald’s for this brave and bold step of protecting people, especially children, from the evil that hovers over every place that offers Wi-Fi,” Jay Dennis, co-sponsor of the Join One Million Men Campaign, told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “McDonald’s wisely understood and acted upon the fact that pornography is among the top public health threats in our country. Now I pray that other major corporations will also accept the reality that pornography is a danger to one’s health physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally and spiritually.”
In response to a petition drive launched by the internet safety organization Enough Is Enough (EIE) in 2014, McDonald’s began filtering pornography and child pornography at its U.S. corporate-owned restaurants earlier this year, according to a July 13 EIE news release. The filtering service has been made available to McDonald’s franchises as well.
U.K. McDonald’s locations have provided internet filters since at least 2014, according to previous BP reports.
Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread are among other U.S. restaurant chains with porn-free Wi-Fi, EIE reported.
“Parents can have peace of mind that, when they or their children go to McDonald’s, they will have a safer and more friendly Wi-Fi experience, filtered from pornography, from child porn and from potential sexual exploitation and predation,” EIE President Donna Rice Hughes said according to the news release. “McDonald’s deserves widespread praise for this act of corporate responsibility and commitment to children and family safety.”
Starbucks, which filters pornography at its U.K. stores as well, was also targeted by the EIE petition drive but has not responded to the request for protected internet access in American stores, EIE reported.
Dennis, pastor of Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., said any business aiming “to be truly family friendly” must “take the same steps that McDonald’s and others have taken to protect those family-friendly places.”
“I encourage people of faith to say ‘Thank you’ to corporations who have taken these steps,’” Dennis said. “Also, we must continue to press other corporations and organizations to recognize pornography as a threat to public health. In every state we must work to help our legislatures to pass laws that recognize this threat.”
Launched at the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston, Join One Million Men is seeking commitments from 1 million men to live pornography-free lives. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Woman’s Missionary Union sponsored the initiative along with Dennis.
In 2015 the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Columbus, Ohio, adopted a resolution “on pornography and sexual purity,” which expressed “deep grief over the widespread devastation inflicted by the pornography industry” as well as commitment to “purity in thought, word, and deed.” The resolution “commend[ed] the good news that Christ is fully able to deliver and restore those who have fallen in sexual sin who look to Him in faith and repentance.”
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7/19/2016 8:46:56 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘No partiality,’ Page assures black church conference

July 19 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee President Frank S. Page upheld God’s impartiality during July 14 greetings to African Americans gathered at Ridgecrest, N.C., for a black church leadership conference.

Photo by Diana Chandler
Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page greeted attendees July 14 at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.

“I know, and you know, that we’re in difficult days,” Page said. “I know that you know there is much struggle in our land today, and we need to lift each other up.”
He shared revelations from his daily personal quiet time focused on Romans 2:11, an affirmation of God’s impartiality.
“Something jumps out every day to me from God’s holy, living Word,” Page said. “God says love one another with no partiality. God says respect one another, no partiality.”
Applause and vocal affirmation rang from those in attendance.
“God says encourage one another, no partiality,” Page said. “God says build each other up, no partiality. God says, be ye kind one to another, no partiality.”
Pastors and leaders were encouraged by Page’s visit, Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, told Baptist Press.
“This is the largest gathering of Southern Baptist pastors and leaders since the recent shootings in our country,” Weathersby said, referencing the killings of two black men – one in Baton Rouge, La., and the other in suburban St. Paul, Minn. – and of five white Dallas police officers.
“Dr. Page wanted to show his support and his presence,” Weathersby said, “and I heard pastors and leaders say his presence meant a great deal. They were very encouraged that the president of the SBC Executive Committee would come to the meeting.”
Conference convener Mark Croston, national director of Black Church Partnerships for LifeWay Christian Resources of the SBC, welcomed Page to the July 11-15 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference that attracted more than 800 African American pastors and leaders from across the U.S.
“We’re excited that he came in just to be able to say hello to us this evening,” Croston said. “He is one of the most authentic Christian men that I know. He has been extremely helpful in making everybody feel like they have a place in our convention.”
During his leadership of the SBC Executive Committee, Page has instituted several measures to build cross-cultural relations within the SBC. Among his initiatives is the appointment of various ethnic advisory councils gaining insight from African American, Hispanic, Asian and other Southern Baptists.

7/19/2016 8:44:32 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Turkey leader’s social media counters military coup

July 18 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Turkey’s Islamist-leaning president, Tayyip Erdogan, survived a July 15 coup by narrowly escaping a band of soldiers at a coastal resort and then launching “a counteroffensive that marshaled military might, technology and religion,” as described by Wall Street Journal reporters.

CNN screen capture

The coup attempt failed, leaving more than 250 people dead and 2,800 military personnel detained for questioning, as estimated by The Journal on July 17, while the BBC placed the number of overall detainees as climbing past 6,000.
The coup attempt likely will strengthen Erdogan’s grip on power in the nation of 75 million people. Though democratically elected as president in 2014, international religious liberty advocates have been wary of Erdogan since.
As noted in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2016 report: “The overall landscape for democracy and human rights in Turkey has deteriorated over the last several years. The government has increased restrictions on social media and cracked down on journalists and individuals or groups that criticize the government, especially President Erdogan.”
As stated by The Journal: “Instead of weakening Mr. Erdogan, the coup provided a rational for him to crack down on the military and judiciary, the two strongest bastions of Turkish society with the power to check the president’s political ambitions.”
President Obama affirmed Erdogan’s leadership soon after the coup began.
Turkey already had a distinct form of Islam prior to Erdogan, Joe Carter, a writer with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), wrote at the ERLC website.
“Although the majority of the population is comprised of Sunni Muslims, Turkey has been a secular, democratic constitutional republic since 1923,” Carter wrote at the ERLC’s website June 16. “Although Turkey’s constitution provides for strict secularism, this secularism is maintained through state control of religious expression in a variety of ways. For instance, all imams, or Muslim religious leaders, are employed by Turkey’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, which reports directly to the Prime Minister’s office. Further, Turkish public education curriculum includes compulsory Islamic education.”
The U.S. religious freedom commission lists Turkey as a “Tier 2” country in which “religious freedom conditions do not rise to the statutory level that would mandate a [country of particular concern] designation but require close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by governments.”
Apart from the coup attempt, Turkey’s tensions include the flow of refugees from Islamic State terror into Turkey and into other countries neighboring Syria and Iraq. An estimated 2.7 million Syrian refugees currently are living in Turkey, according to The Journal.
“Turkey is a member of NATO and has the second largest standing army in that treaty organization (the U.S. has the first),” Carter additionally noted. “The U.S. has an airbase in Incirlik, Turkey, with approximately 5,000 service members. This base has been a primary point of operations for the U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS).”
The coup attempt, launched by a segment of the Turkish military, included a gun battle with Erdogan’s security forces at the resort where the president was staying, F-16s attacking Turkey’s parliament building and helicopters attacking the nation’s intelligence headquarters, The Journal reported.
After his escape, Erdogan was able to utilize text messaging nationwide to rally thousands into the streets while loudspeakers at mosques voiced late-night calls to action. “It was the first time in Turkey’s history,” according to The Journal, “that its citizens rose up to prevent a military coup.”
Turkey has weathered several military coups since the modern state was founded in 1923 which subsequently segued back to civilian governance.
Carter described Turkey as situated on a peninsula in western Asia that “serves as crossroads between the continents of Europe and Asia.” It is bordered by Syria and Iraq as well as Greece, Bulgaria and Georgia and the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Black Sea to the north and the Aegean Sea to the west.
From a biblical standpoint, Carter wrote, “Numerous areas now located in modern Turkey are mentioned in the Bible, including: Mt. Ararat (Genesis 8:1-5); Haran (Genesis 11:31); the lands of the Hittites (Genesis 15:19-21); Tarsus [the original home of Paul] (Acts 9:11); Iconium (Acts 13-16 and 2 Timothy 3:11); Galatia (Galatians); Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14); and Ephesus (Ephesians).”
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7/18/2016 11:44:11 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Trump chooses social conservative Pence

July 18 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has selected a social conservative – Indiana Gov. Mike Pence – as his running mate.

Office of Indiana Governor photo
Mike Pence

Trump announced his vice presidential choice in a tweet July 15 and said he would hold a news conference regarding his decision July 16, two days before the Republican National Convention opens in Cleveland, Ohio.
The brash billionaire’s choice likely will be interpreted as an effort to help him gain votes from evangelicals and other conservatives – some who have proven reluctant to support him. Others, however, have promised not to vote for him for reasons that include his issue stances and rhetoric.
Pence, 57, compiled a solid pro-life and conservative record as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana for 12 years. Upon leaving Congress, he won election as Indiana’s governor in 2012.
While in the House, Pence received a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) during each session except one, when he gained a 90 percent score.
He has maintained the same kind of record as Indiana’s governor, signing several pro-life bills into law. In March, Pence signed a pro-life measure that included a provision that holds an abortion doctor liable for wrongful death if he knows the mother wants an abortion only because of the unborn child’s disability, gender, race or other physical trait. In June, a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect.
Pence’s record differs markedly with that of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, a social liberal who supports abortion rights and government funding of the procedure. Trump has no policy record, having never served in elective office.
Some pro-life organizations – including the NRLC, Susan B. Anthony List and Students for Life of America – applauded Trump’s selection of Pence.
“Mr. Trump’s selection of Gov. Mike Pence is an affirmation of the pro-life commitments he’s made and will rally the pro-life grassroots,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in a written statement.
Some other pro-life and social conservative organizations did not comment.
Pence has 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.
Trump’s candidacy has divided Southern Baptists and other evangelicals, as well as Republicans. Some Southern Baptists and evangelicals have said their opposition will continue through the general election. Using the hashtag #NeverTrump on Twitter, objectors have made no-vote promises based on his inconsistent and even harsh policy positions on such issues as abortion, religious liberty and immigration; autocratic inclinations; insult-laden rhetoric; and a lifestyle marked by adultery.
Other Southern Baptists and evangelicals have supported Trump in the primaries or plan to vote for him in the general election as an alternative to Clinton.
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7/18/2016 11:38:52 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Baton Rouge shooting stirs nearby churches

July 18 2016 by Baptist Message & Baptist Press staff

Though heartbroken from Sunday’s deadly attack on Baton Rouge law enforcement officers, the community has hope for the future through Christ, said the pastor of a church mere feet away from a police barricade of the incident, which left three law enforcement personnel dead and three others wounded.

Baptist Message photo
“There was an air of heaviness” Sunday at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., said pastor Jeff Ginn, following the fatal shootings of three law enforcement officers nearby.

“In the midst of our sorrow there is hope that God will redeem even this for His good purpose,” said Jeff Ginn, pastor of Istrouma Baptist Church. “What Satan intends to destroy and divide, God will use to unite.”
The Louisiana church was about to start its first morning service July 17 when Ginn learned a shooter had ambushed officers responding to a call nearby. They quickly changed the order of service, focusing on a time of prayer for the situation.
A shooter later identified as Gavin Long of Kansas City, Mo., killed two officers with the Baton Rouge Police Department and an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy before being shot by police, according to media reports. The murders occurred less than two weeks after two white police officers shot Alton Sterling, an African-American, in a Baton Rouge parking lot, inciting a wave of demonstrations that have led to more than 200 protesters being arrested, the Associated Press reported.
Though Istrouma decided to hold both worship services as planned, Ginn said the atmosphere was very different than most Sundays.
“There was an air of heaviness over the services,” he said. “One of the points I made in my message was [that] Jesus had joy in spite of the sorrow He experienced. So we pressed on, remembering those who were suffering.”
The church staff is holding meetings to plan their response, Ginn said. Possible ministry opportunities may include hosting a blood drive, offering church facilities for the slain officers’ funerals and placing messages of hope on an electronic billboard seen by motorists traveling on Interstate 12.
If the church doesn’t offer hope in this situation, Ginn said, it is unclear who will.
“Hope rests in the Lord,” Ginn said. “The church is the one who speaks His Word to the watching world. We have to be His voice in this moment.”
The deceased officers have been identified as Brad Garafola, 45, of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, Montrell Jackson, 32, and Matthew Gerald, 41, of the Baton Rouge Police Department.
Jackson’s child attended the daycare at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
“Our hearts are heavy as we learn the loss of one of our daycare families. Our prayers and thoughts go out to their families and all involved,” a Facebook post by the church daycare stated.
Florida Boulevard Baptist is opening its worship center this week from noon to 12:45 p.m. daily for anyone wishing to pray for comfort, healing and peace. They will be joined by other churches hosting prayer gatherings throughout the week.
Thomas Shepard, pastor of the Baton Rouge-area Church at Addis (La.), and members of the congregation spent Sunday afternoon ministering to the family of Matthew Gerald, whose nieces attended Vacation Bible School recently at the church.
“I prayed with the sister-in-law,” Shepard said. “We let her know we could meet with her sister [Gerald’s wife] or their children to provide grief counseling and whatever else they might need.”
On Sunday, Shepherd urged church members to pray for local law enforcement.
“After this morning’s unfortunate events, I would like to call our people to prayer,” Shepard said. “The officers affected in this tragedy are a lot closer to home than we expected. Some of our member officers were on the scene when several suspects were picked up in Addis for questioning in connection with the shooting.”

Unity ‘across racial barriers’

The day after Sterling was killed, 32-year-old Philando Castile, also an African-American, was fatally shot four times at point-blank range as he sat in his car during a traffic stop outside St. Paul, Minn., triggering additional protests nationwide. On July 7, five police were killed in Dallas by a suspect who apparently told officers he wanted to kill white people and was upset by recent police shootings.
Information about Long’s motive in killing Baton Rouge officers has not been released, but Lee Wesley, pastor of the predominantly African-American Community Bible Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, urged people to come together and find a way to break down racial barriers amid the streak of violence and racial tension.
Wesley has made counseling available through the church for those who have experienced trauma related to the shootings of Sterling or the three law enforcement officials. He is planning a multiracial prayer vigil in the hope of unifying the community.
“Our goal is to move forward to a spirit of oneness and unity,” Wesley said. “We have a common enemy, and that enemy is Satan, who wants to tear us apart. We want the world to see us standing together on the Word of God and come together across racial barriers. We want to say all lives matter. Black lives matter, white lives matter, the life of an individual citizen matters, the life of a police officer matters.”
At First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, a predominately white congregation, pastor Oren Conner led the congregation to pray in its worship service Sunday for the families of the slain officers as well as Sterling’s family, especially his wife Quinyetta and 15-year-old son Cameron.
Conner called all believers to pray for Baton Rouge in a July 18 column posted on The Gospel Coalition website.
“The God who saved us is the God who holds us together,” Conner wrote. “There is much to do in Baton Rouge, and the churches in our city will be leaning on one another in the days to come. It feels like we’ve been punched in the gut again, and we need some time to catch our breath. But today, the people of Baton Rouge need your prayers as we groan for peace and plead with God to stir in our hearts a desire to be peacemakers in our broken city.”
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, echoed the call for unity and called Americans to place their trust in Christ.
“We are deeply saddened once more because of the brokenness of our nation,” Page said. “Our hearts go out to the families of the brave police officers in Baton Rouge. This all points to the reality that without Christ, we have no hope. Legislation and education cannot remove the brokenness, but only Christ.”
Pastor Jay Avance of Baton Rouge-area First Baptist Church in Baker, La., posted on his Facebook page Sunday morning, “This is such a tragedy that has befallen our city. Please pray for the fallen officers’ families, pray for our officers serving right now, and pray for our officers’ families because this is very hard on them as well.
“Pray for our community, pray the Spirit of God will bring His peace over our city today,” Avance continued. “Thank you boys in blue, may we back the badge and lift each on up in prayer, and thank you all for what you do for our community by keeping us safe, God Bless!”

‘Flooded with emotions’

Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC) Executive Director David Hankins said the country is seeing events like the Baton Rouge shooting far too often.
“Jesus reminds us that the thief, Satan himself, comes to steal, kill and destroy. Tragically we’re seeing this play out before our eyes in ways we’ve never imagined,” Hankins said. “However, Jesus concludes His response by stating He comes to give life.
“In addition to showing compassion to those who are grieving and our unwavering support for those who serve us through law enforcement, we must be resolute in sharing the One who brings life and changes hearts.
“I call on all Louisiana Baptists to join me in crying out to God for the victims and their families and sharing the life-giving message of Jesus. Our culture is looking for hope. Let’s tell them where they can find it,” Hankins said.
LBC President Gevan Spinney said he is “flooded with emotions” as he thinks about the families of the fallen officers.
“However, I sense an overwhelming peace when I think about Psalm 29:10, ‘The Lord sat enthroned at the flood. And the Lord sits as King forever,’” said Spinney, pastor of First Baptist Church in Haughton, La. “Then threaded through all of my emotions is a constant hope that God the Father will send a soul-stirring revival through His church as we fall to our knees and cry out to Him. My prayer is that through this chaos we will experience an awakening in this country. In all of our emotions let us not be confused, Jesus is our hope.”

Call to prayer

First Baptist Church in Covington, La., across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, scheduled a prayer service July 18 in its worship center. Associate pastor Jay Johnston, who serves as chair of the Louisiana Governor’s Prayer Breakfast task force and as state coordinator for Louisiana National Day of Prayer, is calling churches across the state to hold similar gatherings.
“The Bible reveals to us that God created us with a need for others. Jesus modeled this with His followers to reveal the truth that we need each other,” Johnston said, adding, “Our state and cities are hurting and the recent shootings and killings in Baton Rouge have accelerated the hurt and brokenness of our community.”
Johnston recently challenged the people of First Baptist to read 1 Corinthians 13 each day for 45 days to learn what love is and then to practice it. He also encouraged them to tear up their metaphorical record book of wrongs. Johnston appealed to those without a relationship with Christ to trust Him as their Lord and Savior.
“I hope you will take the challenge to call people to pray, to love God and each other,” Johnston said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Baptist Message is the newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Baptist Press chief national correspondent David Roach contributed to this report.)

7/18/2016 11:19:20 PM by Baptist Message & Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

GOP senator delivers trio of powerful speeches on race

July 18 2016 by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service

The U.S. Senate’s only black Republican said that ending racial discord starts with breaking bread together.

Wikipedia image
Tim Scott

“I have experienced what’s possible when the family talks,” Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said July 14. “I think this is incredibly important that while our problems appear in black and white, our solutions are black and white.”
This marked Scott’s third speech in a week in response to the multiple racially charged shootings across the nation, including the killing of five Dallas police officers. In his final address, Scott said while the government can do more, ultimately it cannot force Americans to resolve their differences. He said ending racial strife in America has no simple solution, but listening to one another is a good start.
On July 11, Scott spoke on the importance of supporting police officers during this time. And on July 13, Scott shared his own encounters with police in a deeply personal account of how he’s been profiled because of the color of his skin, even as a U.S. senator.
Scott revealed law enforcement officers have pulled him over seven times during the span of one year as an elected member of Congress: “Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial.”
He later told of a time when a U.S. Capitol Police officer stopped him, assuming Scott was impersonating a member of Congress. Scott said a guard told him, “The pin, I know. You, I don’t. Show me your ID.”
“Later that evening, I received a phone call from his supervisor apologizing for that behavior,” Scott said. “That is at least the third phone call that I’ve received from a supervisor or the chief of police since I’ve been in the Senate.”
Scott added he does not know many African-American men who do not have a similar story to tell, regardless of income level or profession.
His speeches stem from the recent police killings of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, both caught on video. During a peaceful protest in Dallas the following week, a gunman opened fire on police, killing five officers and wounding seven others. The shooter also wounded two civilians.
Scott’s colleagues praised his messages.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told me today that Scott is an outstanding speaker: “We’ve all been listening.”
McConnell’s counterpart agreed. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., remarked after Scott’s speech today that he is tremendously impressed with his positive outlook despite troubling experiences, and praised his empathy as Americans grieve.
Scott proposed several ideas to help restore the trust between the African-American community and police officers. He said more officers need to wear body cameras so the American people can see the whole story. But he also advocated a police shooting tracking system and said officers need better de-escalation training.
But Scott said real healing starts when families join together over a meal to have hard conversations.
“I’ll continue to reach out to all my colleagues and my friends who may not look like me, who may have a different philosophy than I do, so that I can understand their hopes, their dreams, and their frustrations,” Scott said. “Because listening is important and as we look around at our nation, it appears to me that we haven’t done nearly enough listening to each other.”
One of Scott’s best friends in the Senate, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told me today he’s been asking people all week if their family has ever had a family of a different race over to their house for dinner: “I was shocked by how many said no.”
Together, Scott and Lankford are issuing a new challenge they call “Sunday Solutions,” asking families of different races to share a meal together and hear each other’s stories.
“We need one family from one race with another family from another race together. Not at a restaurant, but at somebody’s house having conversations around the dinner table,” Lankford told me. “That’s where we start to make repairs.”

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7/18/2016 10:29:17 AM by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

House panel: Fetal tissue buyers are trying to evade scrutiny

July 18 2016 by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service

Midway through a year-long investigation into the fetal tissue industry, the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives said abortion providers and fetal procurement companies are still stonewalling.
“Instead of helping us shine light, they’re trying to pull the curtain and hide what’s actually happening,” said Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., a panel member. “The industry, I would argue, has been less than cooperative, and I think we have to ask ourselves, why?”
On July 14, the congressional panel released an 88-page report summarizing what it has found thus far but said much remains unknown. The panel has issued dozens of requests to access financial records of fetal procurement companies, but many have not complied. Panel Chairwoman Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said the investigation has the full support of House leaders and will work to overturn as many stones as possible before submitting its final report to Congress on Dec. 31.
According to the report, 34 different entities have not fully complied with the panel’s requests for documents, including fetal tissue retailers StemExpress and Advanced Bioscience Resources, several Planned Parenthood affiliates, and university research centers.
Blackburn said some have evaded document requests by using memoranda from Democrats on the panel.
The investigation found evidence of middlemen businesses, such as StemExpress, working with abortion centers to match online orders for baby body parts – making profits of up to 400 percent for each sale. Companies send tissue technicians to abortion centers to give women consent forms to harvest their babies’ organs, making a commission for each sale. The forms falsely claim fetal tissue has been instrumental in finding cures for diseases such as diabetes and AIDS.
The panel also is looking into alleged violations of HIPAA privacy rules, which protect individual health records from businesses without a patient’s consent. StemExpress technicians were able to match women’s pregnancy gestational periods with its online orders, leading the panel to believe it had access to private medical records.
Under U.S. law, profiting from the sale of fetal tissue is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
“Throughout our oversight efforts, one thing has been clear: Today’s big industry too often puts profits before patients and convenience before ethics and the rule of law,” said panel member Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. “Today I am more certain than ever of the need for our panel’s work, and moving forward we will continue with this fact-finding effort with a mission to protect women, babies, and the American taxpayer.”
The House of Representatives commissioned the panel last fall to conduct a one-year investigation into the fetal tissue industry in the wake of undercover videos released by David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The first CMP video debuted one-year ago today, showing Planned Parenthood workers describing how they alter abortion procedures to keep baby organs intact for sale.
Daleiden and other CMP investigators found themselves in hot water shortly after the videos made waves. The pro-life activist had a misdemeanor charge levied against him for attempting to purchase fetal remains while shooting the undercover videos.
One month ago, a Houston judge dropped that charge against Daleiden. But he and fellow CMP investigator Sandra Merritt still face an indictment for presenting false driver’s licenses while seeking access to a Houston Planned Parenthood facility. Tampering with government documentation is a second-degree felony. A hearing on the charge against Daleiden and Merritt is set for July 26 in Harris County District Court.
Although prosecutors have filed charges against the pro-life investigators, instead of the abortion giant, Daleiden maintains Planned Parenthood is guilty of selling baby body parts for profit.
“As more details and evidence continue to emerge in the ongoing investigation of Planned Parenthood’s aborted baby parts business, it’s clear Planned Parenthood is guilty of far more wrongdoing in their fetal harvesting scheme than anyone initially realized,” Daleiden said in a statement July 14. “Planned Parenthood is not above the law and must be held accountable for their callous and careless treatment of vulnerable patients and their barbaric profiteering on baby body parts.”

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7/18/2016 10:16:36 AM by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

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