June 2015

5 ways to make TV safe for kids: See PTC’s 2019 list

January 15 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Protecting children from obscenity on television has never been more difficult than in 2019, the Parents Television Council (PTC) said in listing the top five reforms the entertainment industry needs to make this year.
 

Netflix video cover
The Netflix cartoon Big Mouth, featuring teenagers confused by newfound puberty, is one of several shows harmful to children, the Parents Television Council said.

“Even with the most diligent parental oversight, the industry has exceptional power and leverage to influence our children,” the PTC said. “But while the industry continues to produce and distribute entertainment content, it continues to wave off any responsibility for harmful effects that content can have on children.
 
“That is the very height of corporate malfeasance and hypocrisy,” the PTC said in its list released at w2.parentstv.org/blog/.
 
The PTC implores the entertainment industry to:
 
1. Prevent inaccurate marketing to children by establishing “accurate, consistent and transparent” content ratings systems with public accountability.
 
“The current ratings systems are none of those things,” the PTC said. “Our own research, along with outside research, shows how these ratings systems allow kids to have access to some of the most violent and sexually explicit media content available.”
 
2. Stop marketing harmful content to children on streaming services such as Netflix.
 
Competition among streaming services is pushing such established outlets as Netflix to expand its lineup with little consideration of child safety, PTC warns.
 
The PTC described as “proven to be harmful to children” the Netflix suicide drama “13 Reasons Why”; the cartoon “Big Mouth” that “grotesquely sexualizes children,” and the film “Desire,” which the PTC said “borders on child pornography.”
 
Netflix callously markets such programs to children through its on demand streaming platform, the PTC asserts, with no regard for child safety.
 
3. Offer an “al a carte” Cable TV service instead of company-selected bundle plans.
 
Allowing families to choose which channels they subscribe to on Cable TV, instead of offering pre-packaged bundles, would allow families another tool in avoiding unsavory content, the PTC said.
 
“For years the PTC has advocated for the industry to embrace ‘a la carte’ Cable choice, where consumers choose and pay for only the networks they want to watch,” the PTC said. “Studies have also shown that families are seeking an ‘a la carte’ Cable choice solution not just because they are tired of paying for more than they watch, but also to keep harmful content from reaching their children.”
 
4. Stop opposing parental access to technology that filters television content.
 
Hollywood has effectively blocked parental access to technology that would allow consumers to filter explicit content from shows viewed on Netflix, Amazon and other bona fide streaming services, the PTC said.
 
Most recently, Hollywood studios lobbied against an amendment to the Family Movie Act in the last congressional session of 2018 by describing the technology as a tool of copyright piracy, the PTC said. Filtering can benefit the entertainment industry as well as parents, the PTC asserts, because parents would be willing to pay for filtering.
 
“Hollywood must stop its opposition to such a common-sense solution for families,” the nonpartisan watchdog group said. “If they won’t do it, then Congress must put families first by re-introducing this Family Movie Act amendment and passing it this year.”
 
5) Expand the #MeToo movement to protect children.
 
Television entertainment needs to prioritize children by discontinuing “sexually explicit, degrading, misogynistic and demeaning content” that “frequently includes children in the scene,” according to the PTC.
 
“We believe there is an urgent need for Hollywood to recognize #OurKidsToo,” the PTC said, and “improve how it portrays girls and young women.”
 
If these five reforms are adopted, as the PTC explains it, parents would not have to worry about accurate ratings, children would not be exposed to age-inappropriate content and issues, and families would not be forced to buy sexually explicit programming alongside family friending shows.

1/15/2019 11:25:05 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ERLC releases update on sex abuse study group

January 14 2019 by Biblical Recorder Staff

Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the study group on sexual abuse launched last summer by J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is currently focused on assessing needs and reviewing ways to prevent abuse and care for survivors.
 
Bethancourt outlined “phase one” of the group’s three-part effort and signaled plans for the future in an article published at the ERLC website on Jan. 14. The study group was formed by Greear, who serves as pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., in conjunction with the ERLC and the SBC Executive Committee.
 
“The purpose of this phase is to review existing organizations, strategies, experts, and resources in order to better understand the landscape of needs and opportunities when it comes to sexual abuse,” said Bethancourt.
 
The group has asked for input from a range of sources, including commissioning a survey on abuse by LifeWay Christian Resources. Plans for the project’s next phases – development and implementation – are already taking shape, according to Bethancourt.
 
Forthcoming resources will include “church-based strategies, seminary and higher education practices and training, and resources to be utilized at every level of the SBC” as part of a “wide-scale, comprehensive effort.” More information will be released at the SBC annual meeting, June 11-12, in Birmingham, Ala.
 
Bethancourt encouraged churches not to wait until the study group finishes their work to begin preventing abuse and caring for survivors.
 
“Even now, churches should implement basic, common-sense initiatives such as background checks and ‘two deep’ policies that require two adults to be present when working with minors,” he said. “Although the study will highlight how there is much more that can be done, we encourage churches to take action now.”
 
Email studygroup@erlc.com with questions or suggestions.

1/14/2019 3:23:16 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments



Protestants remain majority group in Congress

January 14 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Self-identified Protestant Christians – including more than 30 Southern Baptists – continue to make up by far the largest religious group in Congress.
 
Protestants total 293 members, or 55 percent, of the 116th Congress, according to a study published Jan. 3 by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. The analysis of data on members of the Senate and House of Representatives showed a decline of six Protestants from the previous Congress.
 
The largest Protestant category is “unspecified/other,” which consists of 80 members who identify themselves by such descriptions as Christian, evangelical or Protestant without citing a denomination. The general category of Baptists is the next largest with 72 members, the same as in the 2017-18 session.
 
Christians – an identification that includes Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Mormons in Pew’s analysis – dominate the religious makeup of the legislative body with 471 members or 88 percent of Congress. The new figure reflects a three percent decline in Christians from the 115th Congress.
 
Catholics make up the second largest religious group next to Protestants in Congress at 163 members or 31 percent.
 
Protestant and Catholic makeup of Congress has remained steady during the last six sessions dating to 2009, according to Pew. In that span, Protestant numbers have been between a low of 293 this year and a high of 307, while Catholics have totaled from 156 to 168.
 
Historian Thomas Kidd pointed to a couple of takeaways from the latest congressional numbers.
 
“To me, this suggests that Christian denominations – especially mainline Protestants – still hold a lot of cultural sway in America, in spite of the massive media coverage given to the unaffiliated, or ‘nones,’ over the past decade,” said Kidd, distinguished professor of history at Baylor University and prolific author on American religious history.
 
“The religious composition of Congress is largely a story of historic continuity, especially in comparison to the (much smaller) Supreme Court, where Protestant affiliation has nearly vanished,” he told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments.
 
The nine-member high court has five Catholic and three Jewish justices. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch reportedly has attended the Episcopal Church as an adult but grew up in the Catholic Church.
 
The two major political parties diverge on religious makeup in Congress: 

  • Republicans in Congress identify themselves almost unanimously as Christians. There are 250 GOP members who self-identify as Christians by Pew’s definition – all 53 senators and 197 representatives. Two Jewish representatives are the only other Republicans.

  • Democrats are more diverse. While 221 (78 percent) identify as Christians, 32 (11 percent) are Jewish and 18 identify as “don’t know/refused.” There are three Muslims, including women (2) for the first time; three Hindus; two Buddhists; two Unitarian Universalists; and one “unaffiliated,” new Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

At least six senators and 25 representatives who are members of Southern Baptist churches held their seats in the latest Congress. All except Rep. Al Green of Texas are Republicans. Two Southern Baptists in the Senate – Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Roger Wicker of Mississippi – won re-election in November, while four others were not up for re-election.
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is “always grateful when our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters are elected to Congress,” though “the issues we represent affect much more than Southern Baptists …,” said Daniel Darling, the entity’s vice president for communications. And while the ERLC has great relationships with members of Congress across denominations, he told BP in written remarks, the ERLC seeks “to build special relationships with those SBC members and their staffs, and we find that sharing a common faith tradition helps us in our advocacy because we are working from many of the same assumptions.” 
 
A recent example, Darling said, involved the ERLC’s work in 2018 with Reps. Mark Walker of North Carolina and Mike Johnson of Louisiana, as well as Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, in an attempt to repeal a law that requires churches and other non-profit organizations to pay taxes on such employee benefits as parking and transportation. Congress has yet to rescind it.
 
“Because of their involvement in and leadership of SBC churches, they understand the harm that this tax could cause churches both financially and for religious liberty,” Darling said. “That kind of shared lived experience is super-helpful to advocacy. The issues became more than theoretical.”
 
The Pew analysis – based on data collected by the news publication CQ Roll Call – showed some differences between Congress and the adult American public. For instance:

  • While 88 percent of Congress identifies as Christian, 71 percent of Americans do.

  • Though only one in 535 congressional members is “unaffiliated,” 23 percent of Americans are “unaffiliated” or “nones.”

Protestants dominated the makeup of the federal legislative body in the distant past before Congress became more diverse. In the 1961-62 session, 398 senators and representatives identified as Protestant, according to Pew’s report based on information from the Library of Congress. Another 100 were Catholics, which meant 498 of the 535 congressional members identified themselves with the Christian religion.
 
Since 1961, Catholic members have increased from 100 to 163, Jewish members from 12 to 34 and “don’t know/refused” from five to 18, according to Pew.
 
Below are the incumbent senators and representatives whom BP has identified as members of Southern Baptist churches based on information from the churches or the congressional offices. This list is based on church membership, not attendance.
 
Senate
 
Arkansas – Sen. John Boozman, R, second term.
 
Mississippi – Sen. Roger Wicker, R, third term.
 
Missouri – Sen. Roy Blunt, R, second term.
 
Oklahoma – Sen. James Lankford, R, first full term.
 
South Carolina – Sen. Lindsey Graham, R, fourth term.
 
Texas – Sen. Ted Cruz, R, second term.
 
House of Representatives
 
Arkansas: Rep. Rick Crawford, R, 1st District, fifth term. Rep. Steve Womack, R., 3rd District, fifth term. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R, 4th District, third term.
 
Florida: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R, 1st District, second term. Rep. Daniel Webster, R, 11th District, fifth term. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R, 16th District, eighth term.
 
Georgia: Rep. Austin Scott, R., 8th District, fifth term. Rep. Doug Collins, R., 9th District, fourth term. Rep. Jody Hice, R, 10th District, third term. Rep. Tom Graves, R, 14th District, fourth term.
 
Kentucky: Rep. Harold Rogers, R, 5th District, 20th term.
 
Louisiana: Rep. Mike Johnson, R, 4th District, second term. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R, 5th District, second term.
 
Missouri: Rep. Sam Graves, R, 6th District, 10th term.
 
North Carolina: Rep. George Holding, R, 2nd District, fourth term. Rep. Mark Walker, 6th District, third term. Rep. David Rouzer, R, 7th District, third term.
 
Oklahoma: Rep. Frank Lucas, R, 3rd District, 14th term.
 
South Carolina: Rep. Jeff Duncan, R, 3rd District, fifth term.
 
Texas: Rep. Louie Gohmert, R, 1st District, eighth term. Rep. Al Green, D, 9th District, eighth term. Rep. Mike Conaway, R, 11th District, eighth term. Rep. Randy Weber, R, 14th District, fourth term. Rep. Bill Flores, R, 17th District, fifth term. Rep. Brian Babin, R, 36th District, third term.
 
If you know of newly elected senators or representatives who are members of Southern Baptist churches, please email bpress@sbc.net.
 
The Pew report is available online at pewforum.org/2019/01/03/faith-on-the-hill-116/.

1/14/2019 11:48:24 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Chick-fil-A founder’s legacy seen in daughter’s new book

January 14 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Mountains fascinate Trudy Cathy White, from the mountaintop outside her childhood home where parents Jeannette and Truett Cathy of Chick-fil-A fame led family Bible studies to the rough spiritual mountains that have tried her faith.
 

Photo by Zorzi Creative
Trudy Cathy White

White, a Christian entrepreneur, speaker and former International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, offers wisdom from personal mountaintops in a new book Climb Every Mountain: Finding God Faithful in the Journey of Life.
 
She and husband John built their home on that childhood mountaintop in suburban Atlanta, reared four children and completed a 10-year stint near Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as IMB missionaries. Today, two gospel-centered ministries the couple co-founded, LifeShape and Impact 360 Institute, improve the lives of children and adults internationally.
 
Life’s struggles and pains, White told Baptist Press (BP) Jan. 11, have strengthened her relationship with God, whom she describes as a mountain of fortitude.
 
“I see mountains as symbols of God’s unchanging, resolute presence. He sits like a mighty mountain, unmoving and unaffected by the storms of life,” she writes in her book. “Second, mountains represent the many struggles, obstacles, and challenges I’ve faced throughout my life. They mark where the road gets rough, where the climb seems too steep.”
 
The advantages of growing up in a Christian home as the only daughter among the Cathy’s three children, having parents who modeled Christian principles personally and professionally, and managing her first Chick-fil-A franchise as a 19-year-old college freshman were not enough to shield White from pain.
 
“After all, God’s supposed to make our lives easy, right?” White posed. “Wrong. Life is hard.”
 
White’s most difficult journey has been understanding her own identity, she told BP, as she has always been introduced as the daughter of the founder of Chick-fil-A.
 
“I had seen my parents walk through so many challenges in life. Life is not defined by the things you have or who you’re connected with,” White said. “My identity is defined in Who [God] is in my life.”
 
White’s husband has suffered two bouts of cancer. Her youngest son David, born in Brazil, couldn’t breathe on his own the first 30 minutes of his life and spent nearly a month in intensive care.
 
The Lord is our shepherd; we shall not want,” John whispered Psalm 23 to her during the difficult birth, she said. Today, David is a 31-year-old husband and father, although he suffers from adult developmental amnesia.
 
White views children as gifts from God accompanied by the rewarding challenge of parenting.
 

“We as parents need to be the best role model we can be for them,” she said. She encourages parents to look past the temptation to criticize children for their faults, but to take opportunities to praise them.
 
The book flows from a lesson White learned from her father, that the greatest blessings in life stem from helping others. Each chapter of the book, available Feb. 12 in bookstores and on Amazon, uses scripture and life experiences to help readers learn their identity in Christ, understand their spiritual gifts and godly calling, and leave a godly legacy for generations. White’s lessons encompass godly parenting, aging and grief.
 
“The One who made you also made mountains,” White encourages readers. “He knows every part of you, and He knows every part of the climb ahead of you. And, although it may not feel like much of a blessing in the moment, He’s called you by name to climb it.
 
“But don’t worry,” White writes. “He’s there to climb it with you.”
 

1/14/2019 11:48:09 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Whitlock transitions from OBU president to chancellor

January 14 2019 by Oklahoma Baptist Messenger Staff

After more than a decade of service, Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) President David W. Whitlock retired Jan. 8 to serve the remainder of the academic year as chancellor.
 

Whitlock will assist OBU trustees in the presidential transition and retire from university employment effective May 31, 2019.
 
Will Smallwood, senior vice president for advancement and university relations, will serve as acting president of the 2,000-student university in Shawnee which is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
 
As chancellor, Whitlock will continue fundraising efforts, serve as OBU’s representative/board member for the Consortium for Global Education, participate in missions opportunity development, and perform other duties as requested by the board or interim president.
 
“As my 10th anniversary as OBU president approached, my 36th year of full-time work in higher education, Dana and I began to visit and pray in earnest about the right timing for retirement from OBU,” Whitlock recounted. “With the OBU 2020 strategic plan wrapping up this academic year, the planning for a new five-year strategic plan to be written this next year, and many other factors including primarily our sense of God’s calling, we believe that now is the time for my retirement from Oklahoma Baptist university.”
 
Saying his “purpose in life is to glorify God by inspiring and empowering others to lead lives of consequence, love and laughter, Whitlock noted, “Becoming part of the ‘OBU Story’ has been the honor of a lifetime. To write of my deep appreciation for OBU and its students, faculty, staff, its trustees, alumni and donors, and the Baptist churches that own and govern her would fill a book.” Whitlock said he remains “ready to serve OBU and her mission in whatever other platform God allows me to minister.”
 
As OBU’s third-longest tenured president, Whitlock’s leadership led to a 20 percent growth in enrollment; construction of six new buildings, including a 32,000-square-foot college of nursing and a center for sports medicine; significant renovations of multiple locations on campus, including Shawnee Hall for its centennial celebration, Montgomery Hall’s second floor to house the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry faculty, as well as other academic areas, residence halls and student and spiritual life facilities. He also led in expanding undergraduate and graduate programs; the Vision for a New Century Capital Campaign, which raised $52.3 million; and the transition of OBU’s athletics programs from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
 
Trustee chair Stephen Allen stated, “The many significant accomplishments achieved under his guidance and leadership are a testament to his dedication to the mission and purpose of Oklahoma Baptist University.”
 
Whitlock was named OBU’s 15th president in October 2008 and assumed the presidency Nov. 1, 2008. In 1999, he had joined Southwest Baptist University (SBU) in Bolivar, Mo., where he served as a professor of business, associate provost, dean of the college of business and computer science, and dean of SBU’s adult and off-campus programs. Earlier, he taught for 14 years at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked for two years in student life/auxiliary services.
 
He holds a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Oklahoma and, from Southeastern, a master’s degree in business administration and an undergraduate degree in chemistry. He was licensed to preach in 1993 and served in bivocational pastorate roles in Missouri and Oklahoma.
 
“Dr. Whitlock and Dana have poured a decade of their lives into Oklahoma Baptist University,” said Hance Dilbeck, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “On behalf of Oklahoma Baptists, I express deep gratitude for their leadership. We pray for God’s grace and peace in this transition to the next chapter of their Kingdom service.”
 
OBU offers 10 bachelor’s degrees with 88 fields of study for its 1,800 undergraduate students, along with five master’s degree programs, for an overall enrollment of 2,011, with students from 37 states and more than 40 countries.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)

1/14/2019 11:47:53 AM by Oklahoma Baptist Messenger Staff | with 0 comments



Dutch backlash to Nashville Statement ‘ominous’

January 14 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In the Netherlands, signatories of The Nashville Statement on biblical sexuality have been threatened with criminal prosecution, admonished by employers and derided by protests.
 
The episode has been cited by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. as “an ominous warning” of religious liberty restrictions to come in the U.S.
 
“There are many in the United States who would say, ‘Well, that’s the Netherlands. It can’t have anything to do with Christians in the United States,’” Mohler said Jan. 9 in his podcast The Briefing. “But of course it can.
 
“Remember that back in 2001, when in the Netherlands same-sex marriage was legalized, even many who later became avid proponents of same-sex marriage, said in 2001, ‘It can’t happen here,’” Mohler said. “But it did happen here. ... Consider that an ominous warning as you consider this headline news story from the Netherlands.”
 
About 250 Christian leaders in the Netherlands have signed a Dutch translation of The Nashville Statement, Dutch News reported Jan. 7. Released in 2017 by an evangelical coalition including the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, The Nashville Statement affirms biblical prohibitions of homosexual practice and transgenderism.
 
The Dutch translation appends a postscript confessing the guilt of Dutch Christians for “not decorat[ing] our principles with the example of our lives” and for occasional “abuse of power towards those who know of same-sex orientation,” according to a translation posted online by LifeSite.
 
Still, the Dutch government’s prosecution service announced this week it was examining the statement to see if criminal prosecution of signatories was warranted, Dutch News reported. Dutch opera singer Francis van Broekhuizen has filed a formal police complaint against a Dutch member of parliament who signed The Nashville Statement.
 
Meanwhile, a professor at the Free University of Amsterdam has been admonished for signing the statement, then stating churches must not be silent about the threat of transgender ideology like they were about the threat of Nazi ideology before World War II, according to the online Dutch newspaper NU.nl.
 
The Nashville Statement also was fodder for a Dutch political cartoon, Christianity Today reported Jan. 10. Even some Dutch Christians who oppose same-sex marriage have called the statement unhelpful and polarizing.
 
The Hague, a city on the Netherlands’ coast, flew a rainbow flag over city hall to protest The Nashville Statement, according to Jan. 8 media reports. Some Protestant churches in Amsterdam flew rainbow flags in protest Jan. 7, according to the news site Indebuurt Den Haag.
 
The Netherlands, Mohler said, “demonstrates the trajectory of European secularization perhaps better than any other single nation.” Its 2001 legalization of same-sex marriage marked the first such nationwide legalization in the world. A 2015 survey indicated atheists outnumber theists among the Dutch, and 59 percent of Netherlands residents said they had never entered a church building, Mohler said.
 
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) President Denny Burk said in a Jan. 8 appearance on Dutch television The Nashville Statement “is really designed for churches” and represents the consistent belief of Christians for 2,000 years.
 
Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, added in a Jan. 9 blog post he “has been in touch with some of the Dutch signatories of The Nashville Statement.” He urged prayer for them.
 
“They did not anticipate this kind of opposition to what is essentially a confessional statement,” Burk wrote. “But now they are being called to stand in the face of severe headwinds from the wider culture. They are also facing a potential criminal investigation from the country’s public prosecution service. Hopefully, this effort to criminalize Christian teaching will come to nothing, but we should nevertheless pray for these pastors until it does.”

1/14/2019 11:47:39 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Love for Mixtec people leads to surprise encounter

January 11 2019 by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist

Lisa Rose said she wishes she had snapped a photo of Terry Long’s face when he realized what had happened that day.
 
“The look on his face was just incredible,” she said.
 

Submitted photo
Choctaw Baptist Association director Terry Long, left, was surprised to find out "Shorty," a man he'd won to faith, was from an unreached people group.

The day had seemed pretty typical, she remembered. She and John Halbrook – both of whom serve in ministry to the Mixtec people of Montgomery, Ala. – had traveled more than two hours west to Butler to lead a workshop for Choctaw Baptist Association to educate them about the Mixtec people group.
 

‘Real love’

 
“Choctaw Baptists have had a partnership with us for several years and have been doing some construction on the Mixtec church in Montgomery,” said Rose, compassion ministries director for Montgomery Baptist Association.
 
Long, associational missions director for Choctaw Baptist Association, has a “real love for the Mixtec,” Rose said.
 
The Mixtec – one of Mexico’s indigenous people groups – has its own language, Mixteco. Roughly 726,000 Mixtec people live in Mexico, with another 100,000 or so living in the United States, most of them in California.
 
They were among the most unengaged unreached people group in the Americas a decade ago, but thanks to the work of Montgomery Baptists and others, there’s active evangelism happening among them now. They’re seeing churches planted here and there in the United States.
 
But if there were any Mixtec people in west Alabama, Long hadn’t found them yet.
 
That day after the workshop as they all went to Long’s favorite Mexican restaurant, he had someone he wanted them to meet – the owner, who went by Shorty.
 
Long had recently led him to Christ. He had spent months praying for Shorty before he ever invited him to sit down with him as he drew out the “three circles” gospel presentation on three tortillas – a circle representing God’s love, a circle representing our sin and brokenness and a circle representing salvation in Jesus.
 
“He had a wonderful salvation experience, and he’s excited about it and going to church,” Long said.
 
And in the months since Shorty decided to follow Christ, Long has been continuing to eat Mexican food there and talk to him about his faith.
 
“So I wanted to introduce him to Lisa and John, and when they told him they were involved in Mixtec ministry over in Montgomery, he got excited and said, ‘I’m Mixtec!’ Here we had just had a two-hour meeting about Mixtec ministry, and I had no idea that the one man from Mexico that I had led to the Lord was Mixtec,” Long said.
 
That revelation opened up a flood of conversation, and Rose came up with some ideas for how they could connect Shorty to the Mixtec ministry in Montgomery.
 

‘God’s up to something’

 
“It was just one of those God things,” Rose said. “Terry’s face was incredible when he realized that he had led a Mixtec man to the Lord without knowing it.”
 
Both of them agree – God’s up to something there.
 
“That’s too unusual to be a coincidence,” Long said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist, thealabamabaptist.org, news journal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)

1/11/2019 11:03:40 AM by Grace Thornton, Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments



Evangelist Rick Stanley, stepbrother to Elvis, dies

January 11 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Rick Stanley, a stepbrother to Elvis Presley who turned to Christ two months after Presley’s death in 1977 and, as an evangelist, spoke at Billy Graham-sponsored events and in a multitude of other settings, died Saturday evening, Jan. 5, in Aiken, S.C.
 

Stanley returned to First Baptist Church in Eureka, S.C., five years ago – where he first gave his testimony in early 1978 and was serving as associate pastor and minister of music at the time of his death at age 65.
 
John Arthur, pastor of First Baptist since 1963, said Stanley died of liver and kidney failure in Aiken Regional Medical Center’s ICU.
 
His two daughters, Brittany and Bethany, were at his bedside, Arthur said. They had called Stanley’s two brothers, David and Billy, to say a final goodbye, and Arthur left the room so that the daughters could be alone with their father.
 
Stanley was mostly unconscious after Arthur took him to the hospital when he fell ill on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
 
Stanley had moved to Eureka after “getting off the road,” as Arthur put it, from an evangelistic ministry that took him to crusades, church meetings, youth camps and school assemblies over the years, often with fellow evangelists. He also came to the rural community divorced from his wife Robyn.
 
In Eureka, Stanley rented a single-wide trailer 300 yards from Arthur’s house.
 
“He was with me every step of the way,” Arthur, 75, said of his five years with Stanley. “We were sort of a team, a great team ... seven days a week.”
 
Stanley’s car was in disrepair so he traveled with the pastor wherever they went, visiting in homes among the several hundred people in the Eureka area and in hospitals and local establishments.
 
“A lot of people wanted to meet Rick,” said Arthur, noting that Stanley had been interviewed on such TV shows as “Good Morning America” and “Larry King Live.” Stanley also had authored an autobiographical book, The Touch of Two Kings.
 
At church on Sunday mornings, Stanley taught Sunday School and led the music and took prayer requests in the worship service attended by 30-35 people. Arthur preached three Sundays of the month and Stanley one Sunday.
 
“I knew Rick Stanley to be a most dedicated and devout Christian,” Arthur said. “He loved people. He loved the Lord. And he loved the church.” Arthur spoke of Stanley saying that he returned to Eureka to learn the ministry from a seasoned pastor and wanted to serve at First Baptist the rest of his life.
 
Arthur can’t recall how he learned of Stanley’s conversion in 1977 and contacted him to give his testimony at Eureka, but they stayed in contact over the years.
 

Journey of faith

 
Stanley attended Criswell College in Dallas before earning an associate of divinity degree in 1986 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
 
He was one of several speakers in Las Vegas at the 1989 meeting of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists in conjunction with that summer’s SBC annual meeting and he addressed the 1994 SBC Pastors’ Conference in Orlando, Fla.
 
He spoke in meetings led by such evangelists as James Robison, Rick Gage and Gage’s father, the late Freddie Gage.
 
Stanley addressed two chapel services at Southwestern in October 2000, recounting how he, at age 5 or 6 (accounts vary), and his two brothers became stepbrothers to Elvis Presley in 1960 when their mother, Dee, divorced her husband and married Elvis Presley’s father, Vernon.
 
The three brothers relished the attention they received from Elvis, including an array of gifts, from toys to bicycles and playground equipment, Stanley said in a 1989 People magazine interview. At age 16 or 17 (accounts also vary), Stanley became a personal aide to Elvis and, as he described it, eventually became one of those who gave the singer prescription drugs before his concerts and before he went to sleep at night.
 
Stanley also veered into drug use and, according to a 2010 Associated Press feature, was bailed out of jail by Elvis in 1975 for a forged prescription and subsequently entered rehab. At the time of his death, Stanley was not afflicted with any addiction, Arthur stated to Baptist Press.
 
As a teen, Stanley had begun a friendship with a Christian girl named Robyn through a social event. They often went to church together and stayed in touch as he was out on the road with the Presley entourage.
 
“Every time I would talk to her, she would end the call the same way, ‘Rick, I am praying for you,’” Stanley said in chapel at Southwestern. “It was like dial-a-prayer or something.”
 
On the day before Presley died, Stanley told him what Robyn was saying about Jesus and how she was praying for him.
 
“Elvis Presley, at 42 years old, looked at me and said, ‘Ricky, she’s telling you the truth.’ Then he said, ‘People who talk to you about Jesus really care.’”
 
Stanley, who had to leave Graceland upon Elvis’ death, and Robyn were together the night he surrendered his life to Christ at a storefront church in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where Robyn’s family had moved.
 
“I am not a recovering or former anything,” he said at Southwestern. “I am a new creation in Christ Jesus.”
 
Before becoming a Christian, he had “the theology without the testimony” and “didn’t know God loved me,” Stanley said. “My impression of Christianity, I had always believed it, but I thought you had to stop something then come to know Christ. It doesn’t work that way.
 
“We need a reformation in salvation theology because we got an awful lot of people out there in the world today ... they want to come to know Christ, but we look at them and say, ‘You need to stop that stuff and come to know Christ.’
 
“No, you come to know Christ” and then by Christ’s empowering, “you stop that stuff.”
 
A memorial service for Stanley is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at First Baptist in Eureka, with Arthur and Rick Gage presiding.

1/11/2019 11:03:30 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Sexual purity movement undaunted by new critics

January 11 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Amid new claims sexual abstinence pledges harm teen girls, an early leader in the evangelical purity movement says he does not “second-guess the rightness of the original message.”
 

BP file photo
In July 1994, more than 210,000 teenagers displayed their True Love Waits commitment cards on the National Mall in Washington.

“Inviting teenagers into a lifetime of sexual holiness and purity, if consistent with scripture, is a beautiful thing,” Richard Ross, cofounder of the True Love Waits (TLW) sexual purity movement, wrote in a December blog post. “ ... I do not feel guilty, nor do I second-guess the rightness of the original message.”
 
TLW launched in 1993, and since then has spread to at least 100 denominations and student organizations in 100 countries worldwide, with an estimated 3 million students making TLW pledges. Each February, the Southern Baptist Convention observes a “True Love Waits Emphasis” on its denominational calendar.
 
LifeWay Christian Resources continues to offer TLW resources for each new generation.
 
Yet the latest critics in a 25-year stream of TLW naysayers claim abstinence emphases by evangelical churches wrongly shame girls and cause them to view their bodies as threats.
 
Linda Kay Klein, author of Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free, said she and other women who took purity pledges as evangelical teens experienced “fear and shame and anxiety” regarding their sexuality. “Sexual thoughts,” “feelings” and “choices,” Klein told NPR, have driven women in the evangelical subculture to nightmares, panic attacks and other physical symptoms that “mimicked classic PTSD [Post-traumatic stress disorder].”
 
The purity movement, Klein said, “was all about how [a woman] needed to be a good Christian by protecting [men] from the threat that is you – the threat that is your body” by wearing modest clothing and keeping mind and body free of sex until marriage.
 
Another critic, progressive pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, has asked women to send her their purity rings – which symbolize a commitment to sexual abstinence until marriage – so she can melt them down, The Huffington Post reported. In exchange for her purity ring, each woman will receive a silicone “impurity” ring and a “certificate of impurity.”
 
Bolz-Weber’s forthcoming book Shameless claims evangelical teaching on sexual purity has shamed women, and women must reclaim their bodies.
 
Ross wrote on Southwestern Seminary’s Theological Matters blog that he is obligated to consider such criticism and ask whether “this movement harmed rather than blessed a young generation.”
 
Ross concluded, “I grieve that distorted messages have harmed some teenagers. And I doubly grieve when I learn that some have carried pain into their adult years. But that grief does not cause me to doubt the beauty and rightness of the original True Love Waits (TLW) message.”
 
Seth Buckley, a South Carolina youth pastor who has used TLW since its inception, agreed. He said teaching sexual purity the right way protects teens from harm and does not load them “with guilt if they make mistakes.”
 
True Love Waits “should never wane because our students are being bombarded with images and music and things on the internet,” Buckley, minister to students at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., told Baptist Press. “... In many ways, it feels like we have an uphill battle. But we must continue to raise the standard of cherishing one another” and teach youth not to “sell out for sexual pleasure.”
 
Still, Buckley said critics of TLW over the years have helped refine his presentation of biblical truth. Now, for instance, he tells young couples in premarital counseling to expect challenges in their sexual relationship even if they saved themselves for marriage. He also spends more time talking to youth about pornography and the “redemptive side” of TLW, which emphasizes healing and forgiveness following sexual sin.
 
“I value criticism,” Buckley said. It “allows us to see another perspective.”
 
Another minister to modify his teaching on sexuality and relationships is Joshua Harris, author of the 1997 bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Last year, he announced he had changed his mind about some key points in the book – like the wisdom of steering clear of the dating culture. In December, Harris told NPR a sexual abuse scandal at the Washington-area church he pastored until 2015 made him start rethinking parts of his writings on sexuality. Harris was not implicated in the scandal.
 
“While I stand by my book’s call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past twenty years,” Harris said in a statement on his website. “I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner.”
 
Ross said tweaks to individual ministers’ presentations do not change the overall rightness of the purity message.
 
When “distortions” are stripped away, Ross wrote, TLW still proclaims an essential message: “All sexual expression should take place only between a husband and wife in biblical marriage,” and “Christ’s death on the cross makes forgiveness for sexual sins possible.”
 
“Multitudes of adults report that the TLW message was an important factor in their sidestepping sexual sin in their teenage years,” Ross wrote. “Multitudes of single adults continue to embrace and live out that message. Multitudes of married adults report that the absence of scarring from their teenage years is a major factor contributing to the beauty and joy of their current sexual expressions. Christ be praised.”

1/11/2019 11:03:20 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Court limits Jack Phillips’ religious bias lawsuit

January 11 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christian cake artist Jack Phillips can proceed with his latest lawsuit alleging Colorado harassed him based on his religious beliefs, but he may no longer seek damages from nine of the 10 defendants targeted.
 

Alliance Defending Freedom photo
A Colorado district court has limited the scope of Christian cake artist Jack Phillips’ latest lawsuit to defend his First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression.

Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, has legal standing to challenge Colorado’s discrimination law, the U.S. District Court for Colorado ruled Jan. 4 regarding a motion to dismiss the 2018 case. But most defendants successfully blocked Phillips’ pursuit of compensatory, punitive and nominal damages against them as government officials and individual citizens.
 
Only Colorado Atty. Gen. Cynthia H. Coffman remains an individual defendant in the case, having lost her appeal to block Phillips from pursuing equitable relief against her in her official governmental capacity.
 
“Because the Attorney General represents the Commission in proceedings to enforce” Colorado’s statute, Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel wrote, “and Phillips claims this enforcement is currently violating his constitutional rights, Attorney General Coffman is a proper defendant.”
 
Colorado Civil Rights Division Director Aubrey Elenis, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the entire seven-member Colorado Civil Rights Commission won their motion to have the case against them dismissed, proclaiming immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
 
In the district court ruling, Daniel acknowledges Phillips’ Christianity and the fact that the state law limits Phillips’ operation of his business. Because of the law, Phillips may not post on his business website a statement explaining that he refuses to bake items that violate his religious beliefs and free speech.
 
Phillips’ attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) praised the district court’s ruling to allow the case to continue, despite the limitations.
 
“We look forward to moving forward with this lawsuit to ensure that Jack isn’t forced to create custom cakes that express messages in conflict with his faith,” ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell said in a Jan. 7 press release. “Colorado is acting in bad faith and with bias toward Jack.”
 
The latest case, Phillips v. Elenis, is the cake baker’s second legal battle against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Phillips filed the lawsuit in August 2018 after the state said he discriminated against a citizen who wanted to celebrate her gender transition with a blue and pink cake.
 
The latest lawsuit follows a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Phillips’ favor regarding Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The commission exhibited “clear and impermissible hostility” toward Phillips’ religious beliefs in finding him guilty of discrimination in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled.
 
The district court ruling acknowledges Phillips’ use of his Christianity in business practices.
 
“Phillips is not only a cake artist, but a Christian. His faith teaches him ‘whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” Daniel wrote, referencing 1 Corinthians 10:31. “According to this teaching, and other instructions from the New Testament, Phillips operates Masterpiece as an extension of his religious convictions.... Phillips’ faith informs what he will and will not do.”
 
Because of the state law, Daniel said, Phillips is not able to clarify on his website that “Masterpiece Cakeshop serves all people – no matter who they are or what protected characteristics they have. ... But because our religious beliefs guide us in all parts of our lives, we cannot create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in conflict with our faith. For example, because of our belief in the teachings of the Bible and our reliance on those teachings as the only source of ultimate truth, we cannot create custom cakes that through words, designs, symbols, themes, or images express messages that ... celebrate gender transitions” and other events.
 
Maureen Collins, an ADF web writer, said the latest case hopefully will settle the issue for Phillips.
 
“Hopefully this lawsuit will mark the end of Colorado’s bullying of Jack,” Collins blogged Dec. 17. “He deserves to see a day when he can freely live out his faith without fear of government punishment. After all, that is the God-given right of every person, no matter who they are or what they believe.”

1/11/2019 11:03:09 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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