June 2015

Phil Lineberger, former BGCT president, dies

June 5 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Houston-area pastor Phil Lineberger, a former president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), died May 31 at age 69.
A son-in-law, Brian Seay, told the Baptist Standard newsjournal that Lineberger “lost a battle with depression and took his own life.” Lineberger had been on medical leave from the pastorate of Sugar Land Baptist Church, since mid-March, the Baptist Standard reported.
Lineberger had led the church, formerly Williams Trace Baptist Church in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, since 1995 during his 48 years in the ministry.


Phil Lineberger

Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said in a statement to Baptist Press, “I’m deeply saddened to hear of this tragedy. My wife and I were members of Travis Ave Baptist Church many years ago when Phil Lineberger was associate pastor. He was a kind, happy soul.
“As a person who has walked through this valley of suicide in the family, my prayers go out to his wife and family,” said Page, who lost one of his three daughters to suicide in 2009. “I’ve expressed and promised to his brother, Rick, and asked him to convey to the entire family, the prayers and support of our convention.”
The Baptist Standard quoted several paragraphs from a eulogy Lineberger delivered four years ago after the suicide of a friend in the ministry, John Petty, former chair of the BGCT Executive Board and pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Kerrville. Petty ended his life after a lengthy struggle with depression.
“The Bible says we see through a glass darkly,” Lineberger said. “We don’t know how dark the darkness is in someone who is depressed. Through the darkened glass, they can’t see the light of life or the love of others. They can only feel the pressure of the darkness of despair in their own mind. That darkness is visible to them and often invisible to us.”
The Baptist Standard recounted that Lineberger, as president of the BGCT in 1991, presided over a contentious annual meeting in a bulletproof vest with a bodyguard nearby as 1,100-plus messengers deliberated over a revised relationship with Baylor University. Baylor’s board of regents had revised the university’s charter to remove the institution from BGCT governance, and Lineberger and other BGCT officers helped reach an agreement with Baylor by which the convention would to elect one-fourth of the university’s regents. Messengers affirmed the compromise.
In addition to Sugar Land Baptist Church, Lineberger had led churches in Tyler and Richardson, Texas; Little Rock, Ark.; and Huntsville, Ala. He was a longtime board member of Texas Baptists Committed, a Baptist moderate organization, serving as co-chair in 1994.
A native of Texarkana, Texas, Lineberger held doctoral and master’s degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and an undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas. He became a Christian at age 10 after attending a revival led by the late evangelist Freddie Gage.
Survivors include his wife Brenda; three adult daughters; and 10 grandchildren.
A memorial service was held June 4 at Sugar Land Baptist Church.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/5/2015 12:43:14 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Seminaries urge tax-exemption protection

June 5 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist educational leaders are among 74 signatories to a June 3 letter urging Congress to pass a bill protecting the tax-exempt status of schools in the event the U.S. Supreme Court approves same-sex marriage as a civil right.
If the Court establishes gay marriage as the law of the land, educators are concerned there may be legal precedent to withdraw tax-exempt status to schools that uphold the biblical truth that marriage is between one man and one woman.
“It is out of concern that schools adhering to traditional religious and moral values could lose tax-exempt status that we urge support for the Government Non-Discrimination Act, which would ensure that the federal government cannot discriminate or take action against private entities because they act in accordance with a moral or religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman,” the letter reads. “This bill, introduced in the 113th Congress with more than 100 House and Senate cosponsors and which will be introduced soon in the 114th Congress, would protect against government discrimination of those who believe in natural marriage.”
Christian educators are concerned after an April 28 exchange at the U.S. Supreme Court between Associate Justice Samuel Alito and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli during oral arguments in a key gay marriage case. Alito cited a 1983 decision in which the Supreme Court upheld the Internal Revenue Service’s revocation of a tax exemption for Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian school in Greenville, S.C., because the school prohibited interracial dating and marriage.
“So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage?” Alito asked Verrilli, who said he would need more information to give a concrete answer, but admitted, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has observed that Verrilli “did not say no,” the letter notes. “Instead, he said that the federal government, at present, does not have a law banning discrimination in such matters on the basis of sexual orientation.”
If the Supreme Court approves gay marriage, “Christian institutions that offer student or constituent housing could be mandated to provide such to same-sex couples,” the letter reads. “Additionally, even if there is no sexual orientation law, it is difficult to see how educational institutions that recognize marriage in their housing, for instance, will not be required to recognize same-sex marriage benefits as well if the Court redefines marriage.”
The Family Research Council (FRC) spearheaded the letter initiative, releasing the correspondence in tandem with a June 3 press conference at the U.S. Capitol featuring the bill’s author, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah); Union University President Samuel “Dub” Oliver; American Association of Christian Schools President Keith Wiebe; and Jerry Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters and former president of Criswell College.
Other Southern Baptist letter signatories, in addition to Mohler, included Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President Jeff Iorg; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Provost Steve Lemke, and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore. Louisiana College President Rick Brewer, Criswell College President Barry Creamer and Louisiana College trustee Tony Perkins also signed the letter.
“Any federal initiative, whether generated in the judicial, executive, or legislative branches of government, to remove tax-exempt status from faith-based educational institutions because of their commitment to their beliefs about marriage would result in severe financial distress for those institutions and their millions of students,” reads the letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House speaker John Boehner. “Additionally, it would result in millions of students losing the choice of a faith-based educational experience that has been of historic value to the country for over 150 years.”
There are more than 1,700 religiously affiliated colleges and universities in the U.S., in addition to 29,000 such preschools, and elementary and high schools, according to U.S. Department of Education statistics, the letter notes.
At the June 3 press conference, FRC Center for Religious Liberty Director Travis Webber said the federal government is “on the verge of excluding these schools from the public square and effectively eliminating the entirety of their good work simply because they believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”
“We urge you in the strongest terms to protect the schools we represent,” the letter urges Congress, “as well as other Americans who live and work in our great country, from such unwarranted and unconstitutional abridgements of the liberty we always have cherished in our nation.”
The Supreme Court is expected to rule in June on the gay marriage case in question, Obergefell v. Hodges.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

6/5/2015 12:33:37 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Regnerus family study weathering renewed attack

June 5 2015 by WORLD News Service/Baptist Press staff

A study by sociology researcher Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, which found children of gay parents don’t fare as well in adulthood as children raised by both biological parents, moved back into the news in May.
The Regnerus study created a firestorm of opposition when it was published in 2012 but subsequently was vindicated by the university’s research integrity officer. His survey of 2,988 adults ages 18 to 39 examined the outcomes of those who had grown up in a variety of family structures, compared with those who had grown up with both biological parents. The outcomes included such things as employment status, criminal history, marital status, income level, suicidal tendencies, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and overall happiness. A key finding: Children raised by same-sex parents did not fare nearly as well in adulthood as those raised in an intact biological family.
Almost as soon as Regnerus’ study was published by the journal Social Science Research three years ago, it was politicized. Those who supported traditional marriage used the research as an argument against legalization of same-sex marriage. Advocates of same-sex marriage, meanwhile, attacked it, sometimes viscously; a few claimed the study supported legalized same-sex marriage since it would allow gay parents to raise their children in a more stable home, a factor the study associated with better outcomes.


Now, two sociology professors, Simon Cheng of the University of Connecticut and Brian Powell of Indiana University, have re-analyzed Regnerus’ data and are challenging the findings in the same journal.
Cheng and Powell assert that Regnerus misclassified many of the children by counting them as being raised by same-sex parents when, in fact, they had not been. Cheng and Powell cite the fact that more than half of the 248 respondents included in the group raised by same-sex parents never lived with their parent’s same-sex partner and one-third either never lived with their same-sex parent or lived with them only very briefly, The Washington Post reported May 10.
The researchers said that when these “misclassified children” are dropped from the data, the results show adults who lived with same-sex parents through most of their childhood have outcomes comparable to those from intact biological families. Some have suggested the reason Regnerus’ results showed children of same-sex parents did not fare so well was because of family instability, not their parents’ sexual orientation.
Regnerus, speaking to WORLD Magazine, responded, “I’ve never suggested that instability was not the key concern or that orientation was causal for the outcomes we see.” Most of the respondents who had a gay parent were the product of a dissolved opposite-sex union, Regnerus said in an article in the Witherspoon Institute’s online journal Public Discourse. About half of those with gay mothers spent time with their mother and her same-sex partner in the same household, he said.
Other critics raised concerns that the study was biased because a large amount of the funding came from the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative think tank, and one of the paid consultants and advisers for the research was a Witherspoon fellow.
Regnerus, however, said the funders had nothing to do with the gathering, analyzing or interpreting of the data.
“All funders have agendas,” he said. “It’s up to the scholar to stick to the science, interpret the data, etc.”
The survey never implied same-sex parenting causes children to have negative outcomes, Regnerus said. The data simply showed children of same-sex parents don’t fare as well in adulthood as those raised in intact biological families. Social science just describes what is, it doesn’t assign blame or give credit because it is difficult to discern cause, Regnerus said in Public Discourse.
“I just wish the charged atmosphere could begin to sustain a healthy and fair debate,” he wrote. “Not just yet, it seems.”
In a 2013 interview in the Dallas Morning News, Regnerus said, “As I wrote in the original study, others will approach the study of this subject a bit differently, with different classification rules of thumb or alternative statistical modeling approaches. That’s how science works, and that’s fine. … But when scholars howl on day one of the study’s release – or when bloggers start lecturing me about sampling methods – well, that’s when you know that the matter has escaped the boundaries of normal science and gone off the rails a bit. I hope for cooler heads to prevail in the future, but I’m not optimistic about that.”
Regnerus stated he takes responsibility “for what is written – on a sensitive subject, no doubt – but not for what others make of it. Plenty of social conservatives made more of it than it deserves, while many social liberals went in the opposition direction, mindlessly denouncing it as having nothing interesting to say at all.”
Regnerus is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Arlington and a faculty research associate at its Population Research Center and a senior fellow at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family & Culture. He is among numerous parties who filed an amicus brief for traditional marriage in federal court.
Regnerus is the author of a forthcoming book, Premarital Sex in America, slated for December release from Oxford University Press and author/coauthor of two earlier books. Regnerus holds Ph.D. and master’s degrees in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an undergraduate degree from Trinity Christian College.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adapted from a WORLD News Service report by Julie Borg and used by permission, with reporting by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston. WORLD News Service is a division of WORLD Magazine, on the Web at worldmag.com.)

6/5/2015 12:27:33 PM by WORLD News Service/Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

‘Stubborn’ 94-year-old volunteer won’t quit

June 5 2015 by Paige Turner, IMB Connections

“This is Jay,” Lorena Mayhugh said as she introduced the Thai-Chinese man next to her to a colleague at the Baptist Student Center in Bangkok, Thailand. “He’s Dr. Jay now,” she added with a big smile.
A few minutes later another colleague walked by and the 94-year-old English teacher quickly asked if he’d met her former student.
Lorena Mayhugh has invested in the lives of thousands of students during her 10 years as a volunteer English teacher at the Baptist Student Center. Jay Juntasa,* however, has become like a grandson to her, and she like a grandma to him.
Like any grandma, she’s a proud one. She can’t keep the smile away when Jay talks about the business he started making facial and skin creams.
“He’s trying to get rid of my wrinkles,” she joked.
Lorena, a public school teacher in the U.S. for about 33 years, is a sharp-thinking storyteller who tosses out funny quips with ease and loves sharing personal anecdotes. She’s also a pretty good “encourager,” of sorts.


Lorena Mayhugh

To persuade Jay to learn to play guitar for worship during the small group Bible study she had encouraged him to start, she made a deal: If he learned to play guitar, then she’d read his doctoral dissertation.
She read it, all 100 pages, with the help of a magnifying glass.
Most Sundays after church Lorena goes to lunch with Jay and his mom – her Thai family, she calls them – at a Chinese restaurant.
“She sacrifices her time,” Jay said. “She taught me to rely on God and she guides me.”
She’s still teaching me, the 44-year-old said.
Lorena met Jay several years ago in one of her classes at the Baptist Student Center. From university students to government officials to senior adults, anyone can enroll in the classes.
Lorena casts her net even wider at “conversation corners” once or twice a week. Fighting off mosquitoes and enduring brutally hot evening temperatures, she sits at a table outside the center and waits for students. They can drop in any time during a three-hour period for casual conversation practice.
“You can stay awhile,” she said to a middle-aged woman and pointed to an empty chair next to her. The woman sat and Lorena continued conversation corner by telling how God created the world.
The students practiced new vocabulary from the story, and, to help with their listening skills, Lorena asked questions about the story.
On that night Lorena also told the story of Moses, which several students heard for the first time. Most of her students are not Christians. For Lorena, telling Bible stories is not only a good way to help them practice English – it’s an open door to the gospel.
“The Bible is about people. They make mistakes. But they turn to God and ask for forgiveness,” Lorena told her students after she finished the Moses story.
Bible stories aren’t the only way Lorena gets to the gospel. She’s a natural at weaving stories from decades of life experience into her English lessons.
She tells how God provided for her family during the Great Depression and how they were able to send milk and chickens home with the pastors who traveled through town. As a young girl, Lorena was drawn to the pastors’ late-night stories; she was already a storyteller in the making.
“I would sit up and listen to these pastors talk to my dad as long as I could keep my eyes open,” she recalled.
Students like Keng Meesang,* who call the 8 million-plus city of Bangkok home, are especially partial to the Missouri native’s narratives about growing up on a farm.
Keng’s favorite Lorena stories are the ones about milking cows, raising chickens and picking wildflowers in the forest on the way into town.
Keng, who now teaches English classes of his own at the Baptist Student Center, learned a lot from Lorena about being a teacher.
“I am learning from my students,” he said. “Teaching is learning.”
“He is right on that,” Lorena chimed in.
Lorena delights in answering questions from students, especially the ever-popular and expected inquiry about her age.
Not far behind is this question: Why would she leave her son, a marine biologist who likes taking his mom whale watching on his boat, and her grandchildren in California to live in Thailand?
Lorena tells them she’s a Christian, and God told her to come to Thailand.
About a year and a half ago she packed up her dorm-sized apartment on the center’s campus and headed home to California, thinking it was finally time to be with family and friends.
It didn’t take long to realize she was already home in Thailand. She returned to her classroom ministry of loving Thai people and sharing the gospel.
Although some wonder how Lorena still does ministry at her age, slowing down was never really an option.
“I’d be bored,” she said without hesitation.
Lorena can no longer drive a car, but in Bangkok she gets around just fine using taxis and the Skytrain, an elevated rapid transit system reached by stairway.
“That’s 66,” she declared triumphantly and stepped up on the last step to the Skytrain platform. With her walking cane to assist a hip that’s been replaced and sunglasses to protect eyes that have endured multiple cataract surgeries, she’d do several more 40-step sets before exiting the Skytrain and arriving home.
“She’s so stubborn,” Jay teased about his former teacher’s never-ending drive to remain a woman on-the-go.
Even during a vacation with Jay and his mother to China, Lorena insisted, much to Jay’s consternation, on climbing the steps at the Great Wall of China.
While she may have a stubborn streak and a desire to be independent, something more keeps Lorena going – a fortitude grounded in her relationship with Jesus and her passion for others to know God.
“You can do a lot in a classroom just teaching English,” she said. “Students know if you really like them. They see if a person is kind. And that goes a long way.”
*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paige Turner is a writer living in Southeast Asia.)

6/5/2015 12:12:05 PM by Paige Turner, IMB Connections | with 0 comments

Duggars open up to Fox-TV’s Megyn Kelly on family sex scandal

June 4 2015 by Maria Puente, USA Today

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the Christian conservative reality-TV stars reeling from a family molestation scandal, appeared on television June 3 for the first time since the shocking revelations that their son confessed he groped underage girls years ago, including his own little sisters.
In their first TV interview since the revelations two weeks ago, the Duggars talked about how son Josh Duggar, now 27, came to them at age 14 and tearfully told them that he had “improperly touched” some of their daughters.
“We were shocked, we were devastated,” Michelle Duggar told Megyn Kelly on Fox News. “As parents we felt, we’re failures. We tried to raise our kids to do what’s right to know what’s right. And yet one of our children made really bad choices.”
Still, they insisted their son is not and was not a pedophile, because he was too young at the time of his offenses. Josh was never charged with a crime.


Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar

For the first time, the couple acknowledged that four of the victims were their daughters, including younger sisters Jill and Jessa, who also spoke to Kelly. A fifth was a family friend.
The daughters are upset that Josh’s secret came out, since it affected them as well. The Duggars insisted that Josh had sought and received forgiveness from all the victims, that all had moved on and put the episode behind them.
“Every victim should have the right to tell their own story, not by a tabloid,” said Jim Bob Duggar.
Kelly said at the conclusion of the hour that the rest of the daughters’ interview will air on another Duggar special on her show on Friday night.
Under Kelly’s questioning, the Duggars defended their actions in delaying reporting Josh to the authorities, saying they were trying to protect their son and their daughters. They eventually took him to police because “we felt it was an important step for Josh to confess to police because he broke the law,” Jim Bob said.
But the police didn’t act at the time, and by the time Josh was reported to state child protection authorities, the statute of limitations for any possible criminal act had expired.
The Duggars said that in 2002 and 2003, when he was 14 and 15, Josh had groped the girls while they slept (the girls slept in the same room), and that he did this more than once even after his first confession to his parents.
They got him out of the house and sent him to a non-professional Christian-based counseling program in Little Rock, Ark. Jim Bob said it was “the best decision” they made, because Josh became “closer to God” as a result. “It was a turning point in his life,” he said.
Josh asked for forgiveness from his victims, some of whom were too young to understand what was wrong or what had happened or why Josh had to leave, said Michelle Duggar.
Kelly pressed them about why they launched a reality show about their family in 2008 given this past.
“When we were asked to do the show, all of this had been taken care of five years before,” Jim Bob said. “We had no fears because everything was resolved and … it was a sealed juvenile record and this stuff under law can’t be brought out.”
The Duggars believe the bigger story is how those records were released (under the Freedom of Information Act), and they threatened to sue, to “protect juvenile records because mistakes juveniles make when they’re young should be sealed,” Jim Bob said.
“We trusted (the authorities) and our children poured out their hearts and then to have their trust betrayed and have everything turned over to a tabloid and twisted?” said Michelle.
Kelly also pressed them on the widespread criticism that they lectured others about sin while covering up their own sins.
“Everybody has things in their past in their families,” Michelle said. “Our son violated God’s principles, and it was terrible what Josh did, it was inexcusable, but it was not unforgivable,” added Jim Bob.
The Duggars believe they are the victims of a witch hunt because of their religion (they’re Baptists) and their politics. “This is more about … there’s an agenda and there’s people that are twisting (the allegations) to hurt and slander,” Michelle said.
Appearing on conservative-friendly news channel, the Duggars told Kelly on her show, The Kelly File, that they still believe they can save their top-rated series about their huge family, 19 Kids and Counting, from the cancellation ax.
But they’re not too worried if it goes away, because they and their family will do just fine moving on with their lives, they said.
The TLC network has pulled the show’s reruns from its schedule but has not decided whether to dump it outright, despite the damage caused by Josh’s dark secret and his parents’ role in hushing it up in Arkansas years ago.
The Duggars’ interview with Kelly was their first public discussion of the scandal that has deeply damaged their show, their children, their pious image and their conservative GOP politics since InTouch magazine published a story May 21 based on police reports obtained under a Freedom of Information request to Arkansas authorities.
Hours later, the Duggars and Josh, now 27, acknowledged the scandal on their Facebook page without going into details, apologized and fervently reconfirmed their faith.
Josh Duggar also hurriedly resigned from the influential GOP ally, the Family Research Council in Washington, where he worked as a lobbyist for Christian causes and against gay marriage and abortion rights.
While TLC ponders what to do about the lucrative and popular show, the Duggars have been the targets of withering social-media criticism as hypocrites for promoting their family’s moral purity while hiding Josh’s self-described “inexcusable” past behavior.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Maria Puente writes for USA Today.)

6/4/2015 11:50:54 AM by Maria Puente, USA Today | with 0 comments

Survey: ‘Nones’ open to variety of denominations

June 4 2015 by Ken Walker, LifeWay Research

Americans have a surprising openness to Christian churches, even those who are supposedly turned off to religion, a new survey from LifeWay Research shows.
No matter which denomination is in the name of a church, fewer than half the nonreligious say “it’s not for me.” Their views are more favorable than unfavorable toward a wide range of faiths – Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Assemblies of God, and non-denominational.
These findings, based on a new survey of denominational opinions by LifeWay Research, may come as a surprise to those who’ve seen recent headlines. Growing numbers of people who don’t identify with any church have gathered considerable media attention. But LifeWay Research vice president Scott McConnell said many of these “nones” aren’t as closed to church as some may assume.
“Just because someone has no religious preference does not mean they have closed the door to the Christian church or a denomination as being something that can meet needs in their lives,” McConnell said.
The recent nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 adults of varying ages, backgrounds and beliefs posed two types of questions. In addition to asking whether nine denominations or faiths are for them, researchers sought to determine whether Americans’ image of each group is favorable or unfavorable.


Among the overall findings:

  • No denomination is ruled out by a majority. People are most skeptical about Pentecostal churches, but even then only 45 percent declare, “it’s not for me.”

  • Impressions of each denomination are more favorable than unfavorable.

  • However, many people don’t understand denominational differences. For each faith, 20 percent to 35 percent say they are not familiar enough to form an opinion. This group almost always outranks those with unfavorable views.

One in 5 say they are not familiar with Catholic or Baptist faiths. Even more – about 1 in 3 – are unfamiliar with Lutheran, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God or Pentecostal.

Many non-Christians open to denominations

Though they may be puzzled about what a denomination teaches, many Americans are receptive to church, the survey shows. While 40 percent to 48 percent of the nonreligious – atheists, agnostics and those with no religious preference – assume such groups as Catholics, Baptists and Pentecostals are “not for me,” a majority don’t automatically exclude them.
In addition, anywhere from one-third to half of those from non-Christian religions do not assume the nine denominations named in the study are “not for me.”
“One might assume that when someone makes a conscious decision in favor of a certain religious preference, that means ‘no’ to everything else,” McConnell said. “While many are not open, to see half of the ‘nones’ and a third of those in other religions indicate they are not closed to Christian churches makes us re-think that.”

Denomination’s name may do no harm

In addition, the research shows that a trend in recent years to omit denominational identity from a church’s name may not help attract non-members.
“It would depend on who you’re trying to reach,” McConnell said. “But some denominational groups have as much ‘brand equity’ as non-denominational churches, which have been growing the fastest.”
The best-known faiths garner the most approval. Baptist and Catholic – which have the highest rate of familiarity (and the highest number of adherents) – top the survey for favorable impressions, with 61 percent for Baptist and 57 percent for Catholic. Most respondents also look favorably on non-denominational churches (53 percent) and Methodists (52 percent).
Conversely, only 38 percent hold a favorable view of Pentecostals, while 35 percent say they aren’t familiar enough to form an opinion. Fewer than half also report favorable impressions of Southern Baptists, 49 percent; Lutherans, 46 percent; Presbyterians, 46 percent; and Assemblies of God, 45 percent.
“It’s not necessarily a negative to include the denomination’s name,” McConnell said. “But in looking at the overall totals there are problems with preconceived notions with any name signaling where you are, theologically or historically. It also appears the Assemblies of God is probably pulling up the Pentecostal perception and Southern Baptists are negatively impacting the Baptist brand.”
Few rule out Baptist, non-denominational churches
People are most open to Baptist and non-denominational churches, the study found, with “it’s not for me” chosen by only 36 percent for Baptist churches, 37 percent for non-denominational churches and 39 percent for Southern Baptists. No faith group is ruled out by more than half of those surveyed, but 41 percent say the Lutheran church is not for them, and 40 percent feel that way about the Assemblies of God, Methodists and Presbyterians.
Though most Americans report favorable opinions of Catholicism, 42 percent say the Catholic faith is not for them. An even higher share, 45 percent, feels that way about the Pentecostal church.
Education also influences perceptions. For example, those with a graduate degree are more likely to assume groups like Baptists and Pentecostals are not for them than people with a bachelor’s degree or less education.
When it comes to the church’s future, McConnell points to one finding that should concern each denominational group tested. More than 4 in 10 young adults age 18-24 indicate various denominations are not for them.
“While young adults are often testing their views as they enter their 20s, about half do not perceive Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran or non-denominational churches as places for them as they explore,” McConnell says.
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 26-Oct. 5, 2014. The calling utilized random digit dialing. Sixty percent of completes were among landlines and 40 percent were among cell phones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.5 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ken Walker is a freelance writer from Huntington, W.Va.)

6/4/2015 11:36:58 AM by Ken Walker, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments

Fred Luter named NAMB ambassador

June 4 2015 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has named former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Fred Luter as its new national African American ambassador.
In that role, Luter will focus on involving more African-American churches in the SBC and in church planting.
“We still have a lot of lost souls out there who aren’t in anyone’s church,” Luter said. “One of the primary messages I’ll have for pastors is to encourage them to have compassion for the lost. If we’re going to be successful in church planting, that has to happen.”


Fred Luter

Luter will speak on behalf of NAMB throughout the year and represent the mission board at a variety of SBC events, sharing NAMB’s goal to increase the number of African-American churches in the convention from 4,000 to more than 5,000 in the next five years.
Luter will continue to serve as senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. In 2012, he became the first African-American to be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in its 167-year history.
“I am overjoyed to learn of Dr. Fred Luter’s appointment,” said K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and president of the National African American Fellowship in the SBC.
“I am sure that God will use him to assist our churches in realizing that we can do more for the Lord as unified Kingdom citizens of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Marshall said. “The National African American Fellowship, SBC, will pray for Dr. Luter as he embarks on this great ministry and mandate from the Master.”
Luter noted that Southern Baptists have made progress involving African-American churches since his early days as a pastor in New Orleans. NAMB has reported African-American church plants increased by 82.7 percent from 1998 to 2011.
“We’ve had a lot of African Americans plant churches and a lot of African American churches to join the SBC,” Luter said. “But as the old saying goes, ‘We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go.’ We’ve made progress; however, it’s not where we think it should be. Hopefully, this is something that will kick start that and get it to where it needs to be.”
NAMB President Kevin Ezell expressed hope that Luter’s role will help focus attention on the continuing need for more ethnic Southern Baptist churches.
“Brother Fred loves our convention and our convention loves him,” Ezell said. “I don’t know of anyone who would bring more energy and enthusiasm to this role. I am grateful to him for lending his name and his efforts to this cause.”
Luter noted that much of the growth in the SBC in recent years has come from ethnic churches.
“But this is an opportunity to reach out to people in our cities and towns and help them understand that there’s still a percentage of African-Americans out there who are lost and still need direction,” Luter said. “Hopefully, we can give them a place to connect.”
Luter began serving at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in 1986 when it had only 50 members. Before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the church had become the largest Southern Baptist congregation in Louisiana, with more than 8,000 in attendance. In the aftermath of Katrina, Luter led in the church’s rejuvenation to nearly 5,000 people in attendance by the time he was elected SBC president in 2012.
At the time of his election, fellow pastor David Crosby of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, noted Luter was “the only mega-church pastor I know of who has had to do it twice, and he did it against the trends and against the odds.”
Luter and his wife Elizabeth have two adult children, Chip and Kimberly.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

6/4/2015 11:29:42 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments

Naghmeh Abedini: Tie Saeed’s release to Iran deal

June 4 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The release of Americans imprisoned in Iran should be a condition of any nuclear deal with the Persian nation, the wife of imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini told the House Foreign Affairs Committee June 2.
Following testimony from Naghmeh Abedini and the families of other U.S. citizens imprisoned or missing in Iran, the committee passed a resolution stating, “Iran should release all detained United States citizens immediately and provide any information it possesses regarding any United States citizens that have disappeared within its borders.”
Naghmeh Abedini said she appreciated that the captive Americans are “being discussed on the sidelines” of nuclear talks. “But they’re still not home. Where’s the action? Where’s the resolve? I don’t see any resolve.

Iran continues to shrug it off and not really respond to discussions on the sidelines. ... This is crucial time. Iran has to feel some pressure to want to release the Americans. They’re not going to do it through sideline discussions. I hope there’s some pressure as this is a crucial time to bring these Americans home and end [the] pain and suffering of all of our families,” Naghmeh Abedini said according to video of her testimony posted on the Save Saeed Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SaveSaeed?fref=ts).

Saeed Abedini has been imprisoned in Iran since Sept. 26, 2012, because of his Christian faith. He was sentenced Jan. 27, 2013, to eight years in prison on charges he threatened Iranian national security by planting house churches years earlier, and had been under house arrest since July 2012.


Naghmeh Abedini

Family members of two other Americans imprisoned in Iran joined Naghmeh Abedini in testifying before Congress. Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was arrested more than 10 months ago and charged with espionage. Amir Hekmati is a former Marine who was charged with espionage when he visited his grandmother in Iran in 2011.
Also represented was the family of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared while working as a contract employee for the CIA in 2007.
Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers responded to the testimony by saying they would not support a nuclear deal with Iran that fails to include the release of the jailed Americans.
“It would just be ludicrous and outrageous for us to have a deal with Iran that doesn’t include the bringing home of our hostages,” New York Democrat Eliot Engel said according to NPR.
Texas Republican Randy Weber said “Congress should get real serious” about insisting on the Americans’ release.
There should be “no agreement, period, until Iran releases the hostages,” Weber said according to the Washington Post. “I hope John Kerry, President Obama, everybody on their team comes to their senses and says if human rights is not the main thing with this regime, how can you trust them with anything else?”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said the Obama administration will not negotiate for the prisoners’ release. “We will not allow these American citizens to be used as bargaining chips,” he said.
The State Department confirmed it has discussed all four Americans represented at the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the sidelines of nuclear negotiations, NPR reported.
A deadline of June 30 has been set for reaching a final nuclear deal between the U.S., Iran and five other nations. Legislation passed in April gives Congress the power to approve any nuclear agreement.
In her prepared written testimony for the Foreign Affairs Committee, Naghmeh Abedini said her husband needs two surgeries because of injuries sustained in captivity and faces serious challenges related to “his psychological health.” She also spoke of her husband’s refusal to recant his trust in Christ for salvation.
“When I entered this great nation almost 30 years ago as a young girl, I was given the freedom to choose Jesus as my Lord and Savior,” Naghmeh Abedini said. “I felt safe knowing that my rights to choose my own religion would be protected and defended in this great country of the United States of America. Today my husband is suffering in the Iranian prison for this very reason. It is because he also chose to believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
“The Iranian government has repeatedly told Saeed he holds the key to his freedom – but this key would be to deny his faith and return to Islam. Yet, Saeed has refused to deny his faith in Jesus Christ in the face of torture and abuse,” she said.
Only the comfort of the gospel has allowed her family to cope with three years of separation and captivity, Naghmeh Abedini said.
“The do’s and don’ts of religion cannot bring much peace and comfort,” she said. “Only an intimate relationship with our Maker can bring about the supernatural peace and strength that is covering our family today. And that relationship is only possible through the acceptance of the heavy price of sin that was paid on the cross by Jesus Christ. Today that salvation is available for all who believe.”
The American Center for Law and Justice has collected more than 900,000 signatures on petitions calling for Abedini’s release, according to an ACLJ news release.
“As the Obama administration is finalizing nuclear negotiations with Iran, the very nation holding Pastor Saeed and the other Americans hostage, it is critical that America demand his freedom,” ACLJ executive director Jordan Sekulow said. “Congress has a say in any final deal and both chambers have reiterated that the American citizens are a top priority.
“It’s time for America’s leaders to back up their words with actions to save Pastor Saeed and the other U.S. citizens,” Sekulow said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/4/2015 11:10:48 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pro-lifer’s NAACP parody wins court appeal

June 4 2015 by Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service/Baptist Press

In a ruling issued May 26, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided unanimously with the pro-life Radiance Foundation in its trademark infringement fight with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The court ruled a parody of the NAACP written by Radiance co-founder Ryan Bomberger did not violate trademark laws or confuse people about the NAACP’s mission.
“The critical message conveyed by the satirical mark itself and in the commentary that follows ensures that no confusion about the source of the commentary will last, if in fact it is generated at all,” the judges wrote.
Like Radiance, many people and organizations use satire to criticize organizations, the ruling noted. Some have parodied the National Rifle Association as the “National Republican Association” or the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as the “Anti-Christian Lawyers Union.”


In January 2013, Bomberger, who is black, wrote a column published by LifeNews.com calling the NAACP the “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People.” Though the NAACP doesn’t hold an official position on abortion, Bomberger used the parody to highlight the organization’s support for pro-abortion groups.
The same month, the NAACP sent a letter to Bomberger and LifeNews demanding they remove the parody in seven days. Bomberger, represented by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), filed for declaratory judgment, and the NAACP filed a trademark infringement counter suit.
“The Radiance Foundation merely expressed its opinion of the NAACP’s abortion activism in an article,” said ADF-affiliated attorney Charles M. Allen. “The NAACP cannot use trademark law to shield itself from criticism by denying others the right to use its name when they are expressing their opinions.”
Last year, District Court Judge Raymond Jackson sided with the NAACP, ruling Bomberger’s parody created confusion about the organization’s name. He ruled Radiance “may not present such critiques in a manner that is likely to confuse the public regarding whether certain trademarks espousing a pro-abortion viewpoint are authorized or sponsored by the NAACP.”
But that ruling violated First Amendment rights, according to ADF senior counsel Steven H. Aden. After Bomberger and LifeNews posted the article, people complained to the NAACP about its abortion stance, but no one expressed confusion, according to a brief filed with the 4th Circuit.
“The First Amendment protects the freedom of all organizations, regardless of their political or religious views, to comment on the views of others,” Aden said. “The 4th Circuit was right to reverse the district court’s flawed decision which discriminated against free speech.”
Bomberger said the 4th Circuit ruling upheld “what the NAACP claims to protect: our most basic civil rights.” In his controversial column, Bomberger argued the NAACP fights for social justice while ignoring the injustice against unborn, black babies.
“They’ll beat the drums of economic, social, and environmental ‘justice’ while over 360,000 black babies, annually, never get a chance at one of the few constitutional rights that actually exist – the right to life,” he wrote.
Even the ACLU of Virginia and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sided with Radiance against the NAACP. The two organizations filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Radiance. The brief cited First Amendment rights, trademark laws, and past precedent to defend Radiance’s parody.
“I never would have thought that I, as a biracial (black/white) adult, would be the target of such inequality,” Bomberger wrote in a March Townhall column. “When the ACLU sides with us over the NAACP, acknowledging the abuse of trademark law to silence speech, you know just a little bit of hell has frozen over.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Courtney Crandell writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine at worldmag.com based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

6/4/2015 10:58:03 AM by Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

BSC announces Annual Meeting theme, website

June 3 2015 by Chad Austin, BSCNC Communications

An echo can be defined as a sound that’s heard again and again after being reflected from its source.
It’s also defined as closely imitating another person’s ideas, or a person who reflects or imitates someone else.
When you think about it, an echo sounds a lot like the disciple-making process.


Echo: Reproducing Gospel Life in Others” is the theme for the 2015 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Annual Meeting. The theme is based on 2 Timothy 2:2.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul encourages Timothy to make disciples by saying, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NKJV).
In this verse, we see disciples being reproduced through four generations. Paul (first generation) instructs Timothy (second generation) to teach faithful men (third generation) who will teach others (fourth generation). This passage demonstrates obedience to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ when He instructed His followers to “go and make disciples” in Matthew 28:19-20.
At the 2015 BSC Annual Meeting, scheduled for Nov. 2-3 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, attendees will learn more about what it means to be a disciple and how to be about the work of making disciples. Visit the recently launched website, ncannualmeeting.org, to learn more about this year’s meeting and theme.
Hotel reservations can be made through the website; the meeting schedule and speaker biographies are also available. The website will be periodically updated with new information.
This year’s theme, “Echo: Reproducing Gospel Life in Others,” as well as the theme verse of 2 Timothy 2:2, were selected after prayerful consideration by the BSC’s Committee on Convention Meetings.
“The theme of the 2015 Annual Meeting has been derived with the desire for all churches within the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina to ‘echo’ the very words of Paul,” said Josh Phillips, chair of the Committee on Convention Meetings. “The BSC has become very intentional in its approach to disciple-making. The theme of this year’s Annual Meeting is intended to promote and support the direction that our great convention is heading.”

6/3/2015 11:28:20 AM by Chad Austin, BSCNC Communications | with 0 comments

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