June 2017

Charles W. Draper, beloved scholar-teacher, dies at 70

June 28 2017 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

Charles W. Draper, a professor of Boyce College and chair of the school’s department of biblical studies, died from a heart attack June 25. He was 70.

Charles Draper

“Professor Charlie Draper was a cherished member of the Boyce College and Southern Seminary faculty, and he will be greatly missed,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College.
“He has taught an entire generation of students, and he was known in the classroom for his passion for the Bible and his love for students,” Mohler said. “Time after time, I would hear from Boyce students about the influence of Dr. Draper on their lives. His personal investment in them and in their ministries is a timeless gift.
“Charlie Draper was always an encourager to me, to students and to all his colleagues on the faculty. To know him was to know his joy in Christ.”
For more than 50 years, Draper taught the Bible in numerous contexts – pastoring churches from Florida to Hawaii for more than 20 years, speaking in five different countries and teaching at the college level. He was also the general editor of the bestselling Bible reference book, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
Draper was a founding professor of Boyce College in 1998, when the school relaunched as the fully accredited James P. Boyce College of the Bible, replacing the non-degree-granting Boyce Bible School. From that time, Draper served as associate professor of biblical studies before becoming chair of the department of biblical studies in 2013.
“Only those who knew Dr. Draper as a professor or colleague can fully grasp the magnitude of his nearly two decades of service at Boyce College,” said Matthew Hall, the current dean of Boyce College. “His teaching ministry shaped an entire generation of alumni who are now spread out across the globe. And he was a kind and generous friend and mentor to virtually every member of our faculty, shaping so much of what makes Boyce College exceptional. We grieve the loss of a teacher, a colleague and a friend.”
Before joining the faculty at Boyce College, Draper was assistant professor of religion at North Greenville College in Tigerville, S.C., and adjunct professor at several institutions, including New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Mohler also emphasized the personal influence and friendship of Draper and his family.
“Charlie and [his wife] Retta Draper have been such an example of devoted marriage,” Mohler said. “We will be praying especially for Retta and the Draper family. Our hearts are grieving with them, even as we share their confidence in Christ.
“Mary and I have treasured Charlie and Retta as dear friends. Given Charlie’s background and family in SBC leadership, they understood some of the challenges we faced. I am so deeply thankful for Charlie’s devotion to Christ, his love for the church, and his commitment to our work together.”
Draper was born in Jacksonville, Texas, on May 25, 1947. His older brother, Jimmy, was a major figure in the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in the 1980s and 1990s, serving as SBC president from 1982-1983 and then as president of LifeWay Christian Resources from 1991-2006. Charles Draper was ordained as a minister in Warren, Ark., in 1964, and took his first pastorate at age 17.
He completed a bachelor’s degree at Baylor University in 1968. Draper then went on to earn a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1971), a doctor of ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta, Ga. (1981), and a doctor of philosophy from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (2000). For his Ph.D. dissertation, Draper collected and organized manuscripts of the Gospel of John in order to build a critical apparatus of the original text of John’s Gospel.
Draper leaves behind his wife of 48 years, Retta, who is also a long-time employee of Southern Seminary; his children, Shelly Hardin and David Draper; and his six grandchildren. He was a member of the East campus of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.
A memorial service in Draper’s honor will be held at Alumni Memorial Chapel on the campus of Southern Seminary on June 28 at 2 p.m. Visitation will begin at 12:30 p.m. The service will be live-streamed at sbts.edu/resources.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J.W. Smith writes for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

6/28/2017 10:07:09 AM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments

Pastor eyes run for Congress with divine ‘burden’

June 28 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Mark Harris, a pastor and past president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, has drawn media focus for his decision to resign his pastorate as he considers a second run for Congress.

Contributed photo
North Carolina pastor Mark Harris considers run for Congress, cites “distinct need” for pastors to engage culture.

The Charlotte Observer, local television stations and Charlotte’s largest talk radio station are among the media outlets to report on Harris’ June 11 resignation from a 12-year pastorate at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, which averages 700-800 in Sunday morning worship.
Harris told Baptist Press his decision stemmed from a sense of calling to politics and his awareness of “a distinct need” for pastors “not just to take a position on the sideline” of American public life, “but to get engaged.”
In addition, he believed First Baptist “needs a senior pastor that does not have the distraction of a campaign.”
Harris, a member of the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions Committee, has not formally announced his candidacy but is “looking toward that decision,” he said. First Baptist is considering how to manage the pastoral transition, with the possibility of Harris’ continuing to fill the pulpit through December.
While Harris still senses a call to ministry, he said “it is an important calling” when God leads a pastor to utilize his giftedness for ministry and his “empowerment of the Holy Spirit ... to shape public policy.”
“There continues to be a tremendous need [in politics] for voices that are going to stand on righteousness, that recognize where we are moving as a nation,” Harris said, noting “the culture seems to become more and more infected with a liberal point of view.”
If Harris becomes a candidate in the Republican primary for North Carolina’s 9th U.S. Congressional District, it would be his second run for the seat. He lost to incumbent Robert Pittenger last year by 133 votes out of approximately 26,000 cast in the GOP primary.
Harris finished third in the 2012 primary for one of North Carolina’s U.S. Senate seats.
After the 2016 defeat, “I prayed for God to take this burden away from me” to run for public office, Harris said. He even asked his church staff to pray along the same lines.
“I was crying out and asking God, ‘Lord, please just take away my passion,’” Harris said. Yet “that passion and that sense of call would not go away but frankly even intensified.”
Circumstances seemed to be part of God’s leading toward another run in the 9th District, Harris said, when multiple factors in the political world suggested he might be able to win new voters in 2018.
When “seeking God’s will,” Harris said, “I’ve always asked Him to open doors that no man can shut and to close doors that no man can open.”
With cultural engagement, Harris said, pastors must be like the Old Testament “sons of Issachar,” who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do,” according to 1 Chronicles 12:32.
“It’s important to be able to recognize the times, recognize the circumstances as you pray and ask Him to open doors,” Harris said.
As other pastors consider whether God is calling them to run for public office, Harris urged them not to immediately rule out the possibility as a spiritual step down but to seek the Lord’s will for their lives.
While ministry “is indeed a high calling,” Harris said, “... we do need to be careful about what we qualify as high, higher and highest when it comes to the will of God and the call of God on a person’s life.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/28/2017 10:03:26 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Trump urged to address India’s religious repression

June 28 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

United States senators urged President Trump to address India’s deteriorating religious freedom conditions – including its discrimination against foreign humanitarian organizations – when he met with that country’s prime minister June 26.

Screen capture from CNN.com
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and President Trump met at the White House June 26.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., and four of his colleagues called for the president to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a June 23 letter. Trump and Modi met at the White House the afternoon of June 26.
It is uncertain if Trump raised the issue with Modi. The White House press office did not respond in time for this article to a request from Baptist Press (BP) about whether the topic was discussed during the June 26 meeting. Neither Trump nor Modi commented on the matter during a joint news conference after their meeting.
In their letter, the senators pointed out India’s continuing status as one of the world’s more repressive countries for religious liberty despite being its largest democracy. They addressed specifically its use since 2011 of a law to prohibit funds from being transmitted into India by some foreign organizations.
The government blocked Compassion International – a leading Christian charity – from transferring money to help with the 145,000 children in the country it was serving. The organization was forced to pull out of India in March.
Compassion International “had helped feed and provide health care to children in India for nearly 50 years,” Kennedy said in a written statement. “Now thousands of innocent children will be left without this critical support.
“Many of these organizations are simply trying to meet the basic needs of the citizens of India,” he said. “Discriminating against foreign organizations that help the citizens of India is counterproductive, and it needs to change.”
In their letter, the senators said other evangelical organizations, “such as the Southern Baptist Convention, have also faced discrimination of various kinds.”
Joining Kennedy on the letter were Republican Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Crapo of Wyoming and James Lankford of Oklahoma, as well as Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Blunt and Lankford are both members of Southern Baptist churches.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, expressed his gratitude for the leadership of Kennedy and the other senators in “calling attention to the dangerous trends on display in India.”
“Religious liberty is imperiled not only at home but all around the world,” Moore said in written comments for BP. “My prayer is the administration, and every corner of our government, will take every opportunity to uphold and defend religious liberty.”
India has been listed as a Tier 2 country by the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) since 2009. Tier 2 is for countries in which the government commits or tolerates violations that “are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious’” standard for “countries of particular concern” (CPCs), according to USCIRF. The CPC designation is reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious liberty.
In its latest annual report in April, USCIRF said “religious tolerance and religious freedom conditions continued to deteriorate in India.” Hindu nationalist groups and their supporters committed “numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment and violence” against other religious groups in 2016, the commission reported.
Problems for foreign religious and humanitarian organizations increased six years ago, when India’s Parliament amended the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act to allow the government to bar money from such groups that conduct “activities detrimental to the national interest.” Since then, the government has used this language to target foreign organizations that serve India’s people, the senators said in their letter.
The senators cited the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Amnesty International, the Ford Foundation and Greenpeace as other organizations that have been examined by India’s government. More than 10,000 organizations have lost their licenses since Modi became prime minister in 2014, the senators said.
“We request that you use the United States’ strong, longstanding relationship with India to encourage Prime Minister Modi to alleviate the discrimination against these organizations, particularly religious-based aid groups, and to take steps to advance religious liberty for all of India’s citizens,” the senators told Trump, whom they thanked for his commitment to religious freedom.
USCIRF – which is made up of nine commissioners selected by the president and congressional leaders – tracks the status of religious liberty worldwide and issues reports to Congress, the president and the State Department.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/28/2017 9:59:46 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Americans’ views on sex, religion studied

June 28 2017 by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research

From cohabitation and same-sex marriage to birth control and bathrooms, Americans can’t seem to agree about what is right and wrong regarding sex. Their views are often rooted in faith, according to a study released June 27.

Those disputes can end up in court, in highly divisive and controversial cases. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.
When faith and sexuality clash, which side should prevail? Americans can’t decide.
About half of Americans (48 percent) say religious freedom is more important in such conflicts when faith and sexuality clash, says a survey conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2016, by LifeWay Research. A quarter (24 percent) say sexual freedom is more important. A quarter (28 percent) aren’t sure.
“It’s clear Americans value religious liberty,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But when it comes to sex, they aren’t sure religion should have the final word. That’s especially true for younger Americans and those who aren’t religious.”

Religious beliefs, age matter

LifeWay Research’s study is based on new analysis of a survey of 1,000 Americans. Researchers wanted to get a big-picture look at how Americans view conflicts between religious views and sexuality, McConnell said.
They found Americans’ views are divided by geography, religious beliefs and demographics.
Men (30 percent), those in the Northeast (33 percent), Hispanic Americans (31 percent), and those 18 to 44 (30 percent) are more likely to favor sexual freedom. So are nones, those with no religious affiliation, at 49 percent.

Southerners (53 percent), those with evangelical beliefs (90 percent), Protestants (68 percent), African-Americans (58 percent) and those 55 and older (55 percent) are more likely to favor religious freedom.
Researchers also asked Americans to indicate if the freedom they selected is always more important or usually more important. One in 10 Americans say sexual freedom always matters most. Fourteen percent say sexual freedom usually matters most. Thirty-one percent say religious freedom always matters most, and 17 percent say religious freedom usually matters most.
About a quarter (28 percent) are not sure.
Americans with evangelical beliefs are more likely to say religious freedom always matters most (74 percent). So are those who attend religious services at least once a month (56 percent).
Nones (22 percent) are more likely to say sexual freedom always matters most. So are those who attend services less than once a month (13 percent) and those from non-Christian faiths (15 percent).

Faith versus hate

One other major question for LifeWay Research: Do Americans think religious believers are motivated by hate or faith in disputes over sexuality?
About half say faith (49 percent) is the main motivation. One in five (20 percent) say hate. Almost a third aren’t sure (31 percent).
Researchers found a range of responses, based on demographics and beliefs, to the question, “What do you think motivates sincere religious believers who oppose sexual freedom?”

  • Those with evangelical beliefs: faith (77 percent), hate (3 percent), not sure (20 percent)
  • African-Americans: faith (61 percent), hate (11 percent), not sure (32 percent)
  • Christians: faith (58 percent), hate (13 percent), not sure (29 percent)
  • Ages 45+: faith (54 percent), hate (15 percent), not sure (32 percent)
  • Southerners: faith (53 percent), hate (18 percent), not sure (29 percent)
  • Those without evangelical beliefs: faith (44 percent), hate (23 percent), not sure (33 percent)
  • Ages 18-44: faith (44 percent), hate (25 percent), not sure (30 percent)
  • Attend services less than once a month: faith (42 percent), hate (25 percent), not sure (33 percent)
  • Nones: faith (29 percent), hate (34 percent), not sure (36 percent)

McConnell said most Americans don’t think disputes over sexuality and faith – such as cases of a Christian baker who won’t make a cake for a same-sex wedding – are driven by hate on the part of religious believers.
Many see that religious believers are motivated by their faith, he said. Others are skeptical.
“About one in five Americans – often those who aren’t religious – suspect these disputes are driven by hate,” McConnell said. “And a third aren’t sure. That’s concerning.”
Methodology: LifeWay Research conducted the study Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2016. The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate but do not already have internet access, GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
Sample stratification and weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine.)

6/28/2017 9:41:10 AM by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments

World Changers: ‘We believe in what they do’

June 28 2017 by Helen Gibson, LifeWay Christian Resources

Holes were starting to form in the front steps of her house. The storage shed in the backyard leaked when it rained. And everything needed a fresh coat of paint.

Photo by Helen Gibson
Kameryn Slayton, 15, and Ashton Beeles, 16, from Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas, paint the roof of Charlene Meadows’ backyard storage shed. They were two of 210 students who spent a week at World Changers doing various construction projects and ministry in Owensboro, Ky.

But 64-year-old Charlene Meadows, a lifelong resident of Owensboro, Ky., was unable to make these repairs to her home herself.
Kameryn Slayton, a 15-year-old from Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas, knew she could help. Wearing a pink baseball cap, a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, she dipped a paintbrush into a tray of metallic paint. With long brush strokes, she brightened the tin roof of Meadows’ storage shed with a fresh, silvery coat of paint.
As the hot sun beat down, other students worked to build Meadows a new front porch, repair her storage building and paint her home.
“I don’t know how to repair a lot of the stuff they’re doing, so they’ve helped me out alot,” Meadows said.
Across town, students painted homes, replaced old siding, built porches and installed wheelchair ramps. Together, they made up a group of 210 students representing 12 churches from eight states spending a week in Owensboro with World Changers.
An initiative of LifeWay Christian Resources, World Changers is a summer missions program that focuses on gospel-sharing and construction projects. This summer, nearly 8,000 students are registered to work with World Changers in 21 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.
World Changers began in 1990, and each year, it draws students from across the country.
Slayton and the others from her church traveled around 20 hours in a church van to the World Changers project in Owensboro. When they arrived, they met students from Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan and Alabama.
Most World Changers students stay in a school building that is empty for the summer. The students in Owensboro slept on air mattresses and in sleeping bags in classrooms at Daviess County High School. They ate meals in the cafeteria, and they worshiped in the auditorium.
David Brown, a bivocational pastor in Hopkinsville, Ky., has served as Owensboro’s project coordinator for the past five years. He and his wife Johnna first got involved with World Changers in 2002, when their church hosted students from around the country in Madisonville, Ky., where they were volunteer youth leaders at the time.

Photo by Helen Gibson
Charlene Meadows, 64, said she was very appreciative of the work World Changers students did to repair her home. While they worked on construction projects, she visited with them and tended to the garden in her backyard.

The next year, they took students from their church on a World Changers trip, where Brown helped replace the floor of a woman’s home.
“She was moved to tears because she was getting her floor fixed – something she needed,” said Brown, pastor of New Barren Springs Baptist Church. “And that was one of the big things that had me from there. We just believe in what they do [at World Changers].”
Students have done similar projects in Owensboro for the past 10 years, said Jerry Tooley, director of missions for the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association. Each year, he helps connect World Changers students to local churches, which provide lunches and refreshments throughout the week and a place to worship on Wednesday night.
During the week, students also built a ramp in nearby McLean County for 85-year-old Margie Brown.
Getting around has become harder and harder for Brown, who now has to depend on a walker or another person almost anywhere she goes. This makes the few steps leading up to her home a big problem.
But a group of World Changers students from Cumming, Ga., and Zeeland, Mich., were there to help create a solution.
With the help of their crew chief, Ralph Steel, they added a ramp to the front of her house to make it easier for her to come and go.
Taking a break from the work, these students, some who had been strangers only days before, stood around in a circle, talking and laughing as a group.
“I have more fun on these trips than I do on normal vacations,” said 17-year-old Olivia Holbrook from Concord Baptist Church in Cumming, Ga. The four other teenagers in the circle nodded their heads in agreement.
Standing across the circle, 18-year-old Taylor Ash, from Zeeland, Mich., chimed in.
“Getting this opportunity to go out into the community, somewhere that I don’t even know, and help others I don’t know either is great,” Ash said.
“I love being able to help people.”
For more information on 2018 World Changers projects, go to LifeWay.com/worldchangers/projects/.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Helen Gibson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

6/28/2017 9:29:15 AM by Helen Gibson, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

High court backs church in public benefits case

June 27 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Supreme Court made a clear decision June 26 that churches have the freedom to participate in government programs with secular purposes.
Seven of the high court’s nine justices agreed the state of Missouri violated a church’s right to exercise its faith freely by barring it from participating in a government-run, playground-resurfacing program. In its opinion, the court said excluding Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia “from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious” to the U.S. Constitution.
Religious freedom advocates applauded the ruling.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), described the decision as “a triumph for religious freedom and a victory not just for this church, and not just for people of faith, but for all who believe American citizens should be treated equally by their government.”
David Cortman – who argued before the court in late April on behalf of Trinity Lutheran as senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom – said the opinion “affirms the commonsense principle that government isn’t being neutral when it treats religious organizations worse than everyone else.”
The ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer came amidst a flurry of opinions and orders on the high court’s last day of the term. Among other actions, the justices:

  • Granted review of another religious freedom opinion, accepting the appeal of a Colorado court’s decision a baker must decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding despite his conscientious objection. The Colorado Court of Appeals had upheld a 2014 ruling by the state’s Civil Rights Commission that Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood must abide by an anti-discrimination law. The Colorado Supreme Court declined to rule on the lower court’s decision, and Phillips appealed to the high court.
  • Summarily reversed an Arkansas Supreme Court decision that upheld a state rule barring a female spouse of a mother in a same-sex marriage from having her name included on the birth certificate. New Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented, with Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joining him.
  • Lifted without dissent, but with some exemptions, injunctions blocking President Trump’s revised, temporary travel ban on entry into the United States of people from six Muslim-majority countries and granted review of lower-court opinions in the case during the next term, which begins in October.

The ruling in the church-state case from Missouri involved the state’s Scrap Tire Grant Program, which provides grants to non-profit organizations – minus church-affiliated ones – for safer, rubberized surfaces for children’s playgrounds. The state rejected the application of the Trinity Lutheran Church Learning Center from participation in the program because of its affiliation with the church.
In the high court’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged both parties in the case agreed the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion – known as the establishment clause – does not bar the state from including Trinity Lutheran in the program. Yet, Missouri’s rule violates the same amendment’s free exercise clause based on the court’s previous rulings, he said.
“The express discrimination against religious exercise here is not the denial of a grant, but rather the refusal to allow the church – solely because it is a church – to compete with secular organizations for a grant,” Roberts wrote.
“In this case, there is no dispute that Trinity Lutheran is put to the choice between being a church and receiving a government benefit,” he said. “The rule is simple: No churches need apply.”
The ERLC’s Russell Moore, said in a written statement the case “was about fair play: do religious organizations have access to the public square, or will they be penalized for holding religious convictions?”
“I oppose any establishment or funding of religion, but a house of worship taking advantage of a universally accessible program does not constitute an establishment,” he said. “Throughout our nation’s history, churches have been at the forefront of American life serving their communities.
“I’m glad this ruling insists that no American – whether religious or not – should be disadvantaged simply because of what they believe,” Moore said. “The Supreme Court got this right, and the only unfortunate thing about this case is that a principle so foundational to basic American freedoms would even be in question.”
The Southern Baptist, father-and-son law team of Michael and Jonathan Whitehead – co-counsels for Trinity Lutheran who practice in the Kansas City area – also praised the ruling.
“Free exercise does not just protect the right to pray and worship in private,” Mike Whitehead said in a written release. “Free exercise means the right to live out one’s faith in the public square, and to participate fully as citizens, including public benefit programs.”
Jonathan Whitehead called the 7-2 vote from a sharply divided court “very encouraging about the strength of this principle on the current Court.”
In the majority for the court’s judgment in addition to Roberts were Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch, as well as two typically liberal members, Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sharply dissented from the majority.
In its ruling, the court changed the relationship between the institutions of the church and state “by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church,” Sotomayor wrote. “Its decision slights both our precedents and our history, and its reasoning weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both.”
Strict-separationist and secularist organizations criticized the court’s decision.
“While claiming to stand up for churches, the Court ignores their distinct nature as centers of religious exercise,” said Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, in a written statement. “‘No aid’ provisions reflect the hard-fought battles of Baptists and other religious dissenters that abolished government controls over religion and secured church autonomy.”
Thomas, Gorsuch and Breyer all wrote concurring opinions. Thomas and Gorsuch both said they refused to join the opinion’s third footnote, which said: “This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.”
The ERLC filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the high court in support of Trinity Lutheran, contending the exclusion of churches from neutral government programs does “not fulfill the ‘benevolent neutrality’” long embraced by the justices.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/27/2017 9:40:57 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Raiders’ Carr says tithing tops priority list

June 27 2017 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

When Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a contract extension making him the highest paid player in NFL history, he was quick to identify one of his top priorities – tithing.
“The first thing I’ll do is I’ll pay my tithe like I have since I was in college getting $700 on a scholarship check,” Carr said at a June 23 press conference following the signing. “That won’t change.”

NFL.com screen capture

Carr and the Raiders agreed to a five-year, $125 million extension that will keep him in silver and black through 2022.
“First and foremost, I’m just blessed and honored to be sitting here today,” Carr said in his opening comments at the press conference. “I dreamed of this day when I was a little kid, and it’s here. I just thank God for this opportunity.”
An outspoken Christian, Carr said he was excited about the contract because he wanted to continue playing for the Raiders, and because of how he and his wife Heather would use the money.
“This money’s going to help a lot of people,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have it, that it’s in our hands, because it’s going to help people not only in this country but in a lot of countries around the world. That’s what’s exciting to me.”
The Raiders drafted Carr out of Fresno State in the second round of the 2014 draft. In three seasons with the team, Carr has established himself as one of the league’s elite passers. In 2016, he led Oakland to a 12-4 record with 3,937 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
His older brother David also played quarterback at Fresno State and was the top pick in the 2002 NFL draft by the Houston Texans. David retired from the NFL after the 2012 season.
Though he grew up in a Christian home, it wasn’t until college that Carr began to take his faith seriously, thanks mainly to a letter he received from Heather. They were just friends at the time, but Heather confronted Carr about his profession of faith that didn’t match up with his actions.
“He would say one thing but act the opposite way,” Heather said in a video produced by The Increase, an organization that shares the Christian testimonies of professional athletes. “He was talking about God and how much he loved God, and then I would see him going to the parties, hanging out with the girls.”
That letter from Heather was a wake-up call to Carr. He repented of the way he had been living, told his teammates that he had done a poor job of living the Christian life and pledged to be a better example to them going forward.
Lorne Bell, the area representative for the Fresno County Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was a teammate of Carr’s for two years and was there when Carr made that confession to the team in 2009. Bell said Carr apologized and asked his teammates to help keep him accountable in his relationship with Christ.
“This guy is real,” Bell remembers thinking. “I’ve seen that continue since he graduated. I know that Derek’s faith is genuine. He really loves the Lord. It’s not fake. It’s not for the cameras. God is number one in his life.”
Carr and Heather eventually began dating and then married in 2012.
Carr, whose grandfather was a pastor for more than 40 years, has a tattoo on his left wrist with the Scripture reference Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you’ – this is the LORD’s declaration – ‘plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”
On his website, Carr says he wants to use football as a means of glorifying God and sharing his faith with others.
“Football is God’s gift to me and I am thankful he chose me to be the steward of this gift,” Carr writes. “Being a quarterback is what I do but it does not define who I am. I am first and foremost a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Each time I step out on the field I play my heart out for the Lord.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth writes for Baptist Press and is an associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

6/27/2017 9:38:57 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Nine graduate from Fruitland Baptist Bible College

June 27 2017 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Nine graduates of Fruitland Baptist Bible College were urged to contend for the Christian faith during June 9 commencement exercises at the Hendersonville campus.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Branton Burleson, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Arden, delivers the baccalaureate sermon during spring graduation exercises June 9 at Fruitland Baptist Bible College. Burleson’s sermon was based on Jude 3 in which he urged graduates to contend for the faith. 

The school conferred associate degrees in religion/Christian ministry to eight individuals and a Christian leadership certificate to one.
Branton Burleson, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Arden, delivered the charge to graduates.
“You are citizens of heaven, as Peter said, living as resident aliens in a foreign land,” Burleson said.
Burleson told graduates that they are called to continually and vigorously strive to preserve, protect, defend and proclaim the Christian faith.
“You have been called to contend for the faith ... God is not sending you out to win a popularity contest,” he said.
“We’re calling people out of the insanity of this world and their sin and into the sanity of Jesus. We are citizens, and we are the church of the living God and the church of King Jesus,” Burleson added.
Burleson called on the graduates to develop a prioritized, robust theology.
All doctrine is important, he said, but some doctrines are worth dying for.
He listed some of those doctrines, beginning with the authority of the inspired and inerrant Bible as “a hill to die on.”
Fruitland President David Horton reminded those attending that the school is holy ground that receives about half its annual budget from the Cooperative Program giving of North Carolina Baptists. They have invested in your future ministry, Horton told the graduates.
Some of the graduates already have places of service.
Demonte Daniels, who received a Christian leadership certificate, will continue on as youth pastor at Greater Joy Baptist Church in Rocky Mount.
Greater Joy’s pastor, Bishop Shelton Daniel, was present to close the service in prayer before giving Daniels a hug of congratulations.
Fruitland has provided ongoing classes in Rocky Mount in cooperation with Greater Joy and Word Tabernacle Church, the North Roanoke Baptist Association and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Graduate Perry Brown will be moving soon to a new pastorate in West Virginia.
Brown has served as pastor of Solid Rock Baptist Church in Randleman for more than 20 years but feels God has called him to an essentially missionary role as pastor of Big Spring Missionary Baptist Church in Mallory, W.Va., located in Logan County about 90 miles from the larger city of Bluefield.
“I have fallen in love with the people and the community,” Brown said. “It has been a blessing.”
He added that teams from North Carolina Baptist churches and other states are already scheduled to come minister in Mallory. Brown has been taking classes at Fruitland part-time since 2013.
He said he became aware of the West Virginia challenge through the school. “We know that’s where God has for us to go minister,” he said.

6/27/2017 9:38:23 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Heart for orphans stirs panel conversation

June 27 2017 by Michael Smith, Baptist Press

Four Southern Baptist national entity leaders shared their insights on adoption and foster care during a panel discussion June 13 at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Cooperative Program booth at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Photo by Matt Jones
Four Southern Baptist national entity leaders shared their insights on adoption and foster care during a panel discussion June 13 at the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program booth at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Chad Keck, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Kettering, Ohio, and the Cooperative Program catalyst for the Midwest with the SBC Executive Committee, moderated the 20-minute discussion featuring North American Mission Board (NAMB) president Kevin Ezell, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) executive director and treasurer Sandy Wisdom-Martin, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore and International Mission Board president David Platt.
After opening the discussion by asking the panelists to share about their personal involvement with adoption and foster care, Keck asked the group what Southern Baptists can do to better engage on this issue.
Moore, who adopted his first two sons from a Russian orphanage, said that while everyone is not called to adopt or foster, everybody in the congregation can be involved in caring for orphans. He cited the example of a church that has created a room where children who have been removed from their home can come and be ministered to while their social worker looks for potential foster homes.
Ezell, who has three adopted children from Ethiopia, China and the Philippines, said the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast,” was created to serve as a resource for families who are fostering or adopting. The podcast is part of the NAMB compassion ministry Send Relief.
Wisdom-Martin, who has an adopted daughter, says WMU is always encouraging Christians to find practical ways to share the gospel. When it comes to adoption and foster care, this could include writing encouraging notes to social workers or serving in your local Baptist Children’s Home. For more information about the adoption and orphan care resources WMU offers, visit WMU.com/adoption.
Keck closed the discussion by asking the panel to share one piece of advice for Christians who are considering adopting or fostering.
Ezell advised them to talk to people that they trust who have walked down that road and learn from their experiences. “I don’t think adoption and foster care is for every family,” he noted.
Platt, who has an adopted son from Kazakhstan and a daughter from China, encouraged those thinking about committing to orphan care to “count the cost.”
“When we started doing this widespread more and more in the church, it was very costly for many families.” However, he is “convinced that the body of Christ is uniquely designed to care for orphans.”
Moore said it is important that husbands and wives are on the same page when it comes to fostering or adopting, and they need to be patient with each other.
“Don’t adopt or foster as a way of meeting some sort of need in your own life,” he said. “Make sure that you’re giving out of the overflow of a strong marriage and a strong family.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Smith is a writer living in Brandon, Fla.)

6/27/2017 9:37:43 AM by Michael Smith, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Run the Race’ explores questions of life & faith

June 27 2017 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Where is God when bad things happen? An upcoming film says He is pursuing you in the midst of those trying times.

Graphic from LifeWay.com

Following two teenage brothers, Zach and Dave Truett, Run the Race poses tough questions and is meant to stir up conversations about faith, according to filmmakers Jake McEntire and Trey Brunson.
LifeWay Films hosted a screening of Run the Race June 12 following the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual Pastor’s Conference. It’s scheduled for theatrical release in early 2018.
McEntire said the film, currently still in the post-production and editing process, is a story of redemption. “It’s a story of a guy who knows a lot about Jesus, but isn’t sure he knows Jesus like some of the people around him,” he said.
“It’s a powerful prodigal son story because you see God pursuing Zach throughout the movie,” Brunson said. “He’s running only to realize God is chasing him.”
Zach, played by Tanner Stine, is a star high school running back with big plans on earning a scholarship to help him and his brother Dave escape their small town and their alcoholic father who abandoned them when their mother died. A busted knee threatens Zach’s dreams of a full-ride to college.
For much of the film, Zach questions why God would allow these tragedies to happen.
Dave, played by Evan Hofer, was the team’s quarterback, but had to leave the sport after a hit to the head the previous season resulted in seizures. He later joins the high school track team with his own hopes of a college scholarship.
Along the way, Dave holds on to their mother’s faith with the help of the brothers’ godmother, played by Frances Fisher.
In writing the screenplay, McEntire said he incorporated elements from various friends’ lives with his own journey of tearing his ACL and losing athletic scholarships to develop the story of Zach and Dave Truett.
The movie needed to be true to life, Brunson said. “Sometimes bad things happen and that’s just as much a part of God’s love and care for our life as when good things happen.
“If you take your unbelieving friend to see this film, they’ll walk away with questions, but they’ll know what you believe,” he said. “When you have Jesus, you have everything you need.”
Brunson relayed a story of the film editor’s daughters inviting friends over to watch Run the Race. Two of the girls were atheists and said they appreciated how the film handled doubts and questions.
“This movie will create opportunities to discuss faith with kids in your community,” Brunson said.
To bring this film to the screen has been a process for McEntire. He said he, Brunson and Robbie Tebow, brother of the Heisman trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow, have been working on the film for 12 years. They are excited to see their film finally come to theaters.
“We want people to watch this and see the treasures in life are not money, fame and popularity,” McEntire said. “The treasure in life is Jesus.”
Brunson’s father and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., Mac Brunson, encouraged attendees of the screening to pray for the movie.
“These are young Baptist men who are doing everything they can to get the gospel out to this generation,” the pastor said. “Pray for this movie and pray for them.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

6/27/2017 8:08:57 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

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