March 2013

Ken Weathersby named EC vice president

March 19 2013 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Ken Weathersby will begin April 1 as vice president for convention advancement with the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC), the first African American to hold an EC vice presidential position.

Weathersby, who most recently has served as presidential ambassador for ethnic church relations with the North American Mission Board, has held a series of trail-blazing positions with various SBC entities over the past two decades.

Ken Weathersby

Weathersby will work in his newest role to increase ethnic participation and grow relationships with demographic subsets within the SBC such as young ministers and pastors of small churches and mega-churches, along with overseeing the EC’s Global Evangelical Relations ministry.

Executive Committee President Frank Page said Weathersby is a friend who will bring a wealth of expertise to the office.

“Dr. Ken Weathersby brings a level of experience that will be beneficial to the Executive Committee and to our convention,” Page said. “Ken is a friend and a man who is trusted and respected across our convention. We thank God for this new addition.”

Weathersby replaces W. Thomas Hammond Jr., who has resigned to accept the pastorate of First Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Ga.

Page also announced the reassignment of Ashley Clayton from associate vice president for Cooperative Program and Stewardship to the new position of special assistant to the Executive Committee president for Cooperative Program and Stewardship, effective immediately.

In his redefined role, Clayton will direct CP promotion and budget allocation planning, assist Page in recommending and implementing a nationwide process for CP development, and oversee stewardship education through state conventions, SBC entities and seminaries.

Weathersby was the first person to fill the role of presidential ambassador, created in August 2011. He has held a series of leadership roles at NAMB, including associate vice president for multi-ethnic mobilization, vice president for the church planting group, senior strategist for the evangelization group, and senior director of the church planting group’s equipping team.

Weathersby in 1999 was the first African American pastor to hold a full-time associate professorship at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he was director of the seminary’s Cecil B. Day Center for Church Planting and director of the Nehemiah Project, which steered seminary graduates into church planting.

He also has served the Tennessee Baptist Convention as evangelism specialist and team leader for evangelism strategies and director of the black church extension and multihousing office.

The National African American Fellowship honored Weathersby in 2012 for his denominational service with the Kennedy Boyce Award, named for the first two African American pastors to join the SBC in 1953, and in 2009 with the “Best Friend of Pastors” award for his work in facilitating relationships between the SBC and black pastors.

Weathersby has planted and pastored churches in Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio and Baton Rouge, La., where he started and led Douglas Avenue Baptist Church from 1989-93.

He has authored two books, How to Start a Church in an African-American Community, published by NAMB, and Develop a Heart to Help the Poor, Create a Safer World, published by the Woman’s Missionary Union.

A native of Jackson, Miss., he holds a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a B.A. from Mississippi College in Clinton. He also holds a doctor of ministry degree from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson.

He and his wife Belva Kennedy Weathersby from Charleston, S.C. have a daughter, Kenyeta, a student at South Carolina State University, and a son, Breon, a student at Morehouse College.

Hammond had worked since March 24, 2012, as vice president for convention advancement, and officially left the post March 15, 2013.

W. Thomas Hammond Jr.

“Most everyone knows that Thomas Hammond is one of my dearest friends in this world,” Page said. “Having faithfully served NAMB in their evangelism division for almost 15 years, Thomas brought a life and excitement to our Executive Committee staff.”

“I always encourage people to clearly follow God’s call. It is apparent, though he was here for a short time, that God has led in calling this man to a strategic pastorate at First Baptist Church of Alpharetta,” Page said. “Thomas will be missed, but we are excited to see him follow the will of God.”

Working under Page’s leadership has been a blessing, Hammond said upon his departure, describing Page as a sincere, transparent man of God and a godly leader.

“Many times working with someone enables you to see a side of them you did not know existed or their character flaws become much more pronounced,” Hammond said. “For me however, the experience was quite different. The impressions and opinions I had of Frank Page have only been solidified and confirmed.”

As vice president for convention advancement, Hammond provided leadership in a number of areas, including various aspects of the Cooperative Program, the Convention Ministries Workgroup and the Global Evangelical Relations Ministry.

Hammond served in 2009 as interim pastor at First Baptist Alpharetta and has maintained a relationship with the congregation.

Hammond describes the 1,600-member body as a growing, thriving church committee to the Great Commission. He will be the 20th pastor to lead the church in its more than 100-year history.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer. Other information was added from another Baptist Press article.)
3/19/2013 2:18:25 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Iranian pastor in prison needs help of White House, panel told

March 19 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Naghmeh Abedini has told members of Congress she is disheartened the Obama administration is not helping her husband, an American citizen who is being persecuted and tortured in an Iranian prison for his Christian faith.

Testifying March 15 on Capitol Hill, Abedini said, “I must say I am disappointed with our government. I am disappointed that our president and our State Department have not fully engaged in this case. ... I expect more from our government.

“[W]e should know as American citizens that our government will stand up to protect our beliefs, our fundamental human rights,” she said.

U.S. citizen and Iranian pastor Saeed Abedini is sitting in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, reportedly being tortured and pressured to deny Christ.

Her husband, Saeed Abedini, has reported that Iranian authorities at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran are torturing him and pressuring him to deny Christ. Iranian officials arrested and imprisoned him last year, and a court sentenced him in January to eight years in prison for endangering Iran’s “national security” by planting house churches a decade ago in the Middle Eastern country. A father of two, Abedini, 32, is an ordained minister of Iranian descent who became a United States citizen in 2010.

Naghmeh Abedini joined others in testifying before members of the House of Representative’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission about the eroding conditions for religious minorities in Iran, which is ruled by an extremist Islamic regime. Though invited, no representative of the State Department appeared at the hearing.

Others at the hearing criticized the Obama administration more strongly than did Naghmeh Abedini.

“The problem is that the State Department is AWOL,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which is representing Abedini’s family. “They act as if they are embarrassed about Mr. Abedini’s faith.”

“[W]hat our State Department is doing is abysmal,” said Sekulow, who said its actions show a “stunning lack of concern for protecting human rights and religious freedom.”

Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., a commission member, said the State Department “should be utterly ashamed for their failure to speak out” in behalf of Abedini and his family. He described the department’s response as a “deafening and almost cowardly silence.”

The March 15 hearing apparently prompted some action by the State Department. Later in the day, Naghmeh Abedini, Sekulow and ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow met with several State Department staff members.

“In that meeting, [Abedini and the Sekulows] made the case that they presented at the hearing today: the State Department needs to fully engage – Secretary [of State John] Kerry needs to become personally involved – to speak out and stand up for Pastor Saeed Abedini – a U.S. citizen – who is facing life-threatening treatment in an Iranian prison simply because of his Christian faith,” ACLJ spokesman Gene Kapp said in a written statement.

A State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said at a March 15 briefing Abedini is “unjustly imprisoned and ought to be released.”

More than 80 congressional members from both political parties wrote Kerry in mid-February to ask him to take action to gain Abedini’s release.

The separation from their father has been difficult for the children, Naghmeh Abedini told House members March 15. Before he was imprisoned, her husband was able to speak by means of the Internet to his children during his two-month house arrest, she said. That ended when he entered prison in September. The children questioned why their father would no longer speak to them, she recalled.

“I had to tell them that he was in prison because he loves Jesus and that he loved them very much and he was looking for the day to come back and tuck them into bed,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.

After they were married in 2004, the Abedinis – both Muslim converts to faith in Christ – witnessed the Christian conversion of thousands and the growth of the Iranian house church movement in which they were involved, she told the commission.

They left the country in 2005 after the persecution of Christians mounted following the presidential election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, she testified. Saeed Abedini returned to Iran more than 10 times from 2009 to 2012 in an effort to build a government-approved orphanage. Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard arrested him in July, when he was visiting the country in an effort to finish the orphanage, said Naghmeh Abedini, who traveled from Idaho to testify.

The treatment of Saeed Abedini is part of an increasing pattern of persecution for adherents of any faith other than Shia Islam, according to testimony at the hearing.

The most persecuted religious minorities are Baha’is and Christians, especially evangelicals and other Protestants, said Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press.)
3/19/2013 1:58:29 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Worship Summit encourages unified worship

March 18 2013 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

During the 1950s and 1960s worship styles varied little from one church to the next. For the most part, churches sang from the same hymnals accompanied by pianos and organs. This proved an effective worship style for that era, as it connected to the heart language of the time.
But as time and culture change, so does heart language and communication style. 
“We have to ask, how do we communicate the unchanging gospel in a vastly changing world, while helping people connect with God in worship? It’s a big question,” said Kenny Lamm, senior consultant for worship and music for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “We have to realize there are new forms of communication. People don’t communicate the same way as they did 50 years ago.”

Lamm spoke March 9 during the Worship Summit at Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell. The event was the first in a series of Worship Summits scheduled for 2013. Future events are scheduled for Aug. 24 in Charlotte and Oct. 26 in Lumberton.

During the summit, pastors and worship leaders learned how to recognize when to change the worship style and how to implement the change in a healthy, God-honoring, people-loving manner, with biblical integrity and musical excellence.
The swift change in culture has brought about a variety of worshipful expressions in today’s church, ranging from traditional hymns to contemporary rock music, and everything in between  – sometimes within the same church.
Neither style is wrong, Lamm said, provided personal preferences are kept in proper perspective.
“Our tendency is to presume that people who have different preferences than us are either inferior or wrong and when it comes to religious ways and practices we often tend to equate our personal preferences with God’s preferences,” he said. “When personal preferences lord over biblical priorities, the worship of God is vain and meaningless.”
Personal preferences rise to the surface most often when a church transitions from one style of worship to another. If the transition is not handled with care, a congregation might fall into a divisive “worship war.” 
“Worship wars are when people clash over expressions of worship,” Lamm said. "They may have the same essence of worship in their heart, but their expressions are different and they clash over that. Worship should be the most unifying thing of the church, but it’s not in so many cases. 
“Many churches today realize there is a need to transform their times of corporate worship. Once a church decides to make a change, your next steps can really help or hurt the process.”
Worship wars often happen when a church alters its worship style for the wrong reasons, such as mimicking the style of another church, or when they go about it the wrong way, such as failing to prepare the congregation or making changes too quickly.
“There are ways that you need to love your congregation, ways you need to help them see the vision for change and ways that you can help them see the biblical reason for why the change is necessary,” Lamm said.

Unified worship

The ultimate goal of worship is to unify the body of Christ, and unity only comes when believers understand that the object of their worship transcends all generational, cultural and personal preferences toward worship. A successful transition to a new worship style requires time and a step-by-step approach that includes communicating the biblical, missional, social and cultural reasons behind the change.
The first step begins with the biblical foundation for worship. Lamm said church leaders must teach the importance of personal worship and lead by example prior to implementing change. 
“Personal worship is a prerequisite for corporate worship,” he said. “We can’t whip people into a frenzy to worship God. You should come worshipping to church, not come to church to worship.”
Worship is more than coming to church and singing a few songs. It involves giving one’s self totally to God. In that sense, worship leaders must lead people to engage their entire being in worship.
“Worship is the act and attitude of wholeheartedly giving yourself to God – heart, soul, mind and body,” Lamm said. “The big reason that people are not being transformed in many of our worship services is because we are only offering a small portion of worship rather than the full range of experiences that Jesus set forth for us in the Great Commandment.”
Christ-followers who worship God personally and completely are better equipped to let go of personal preferences that often hinder a transition to unified worship.
“Christ’s plan for the church is not uniformity, not unanimity, but unity. Unity is the state of being united or joined as a whole,” Lamm said. “Unity will only be achieved as your congregation is willing to make sacrifices and love one another and to focus your efforts on God and not yourselves.”
For more information about the Worship Summit, including information on future events and how to register, click here or visit
3/18/2013 2:26:48 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Shaddix urges congregations to mobilize for global missions

March 18 2013 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

In the modern information age pastors can turn to a variety of resources to find the latest step-by-step guide to church growth, evangelism and missions mobilization.
Although Jim Shaddix, pastor for teaching and training at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., is not opposed to using pragmatic strategies to advance the Kingdom of God, he cautioned that reliance on strategies can diminish the church’s dependence on God’s power.
“Probably the greatest hindrance to missions today is that we are attempting to do the work of God without the Spirit of God,” he said. “It is my conviction that we are a Christian culture that is more influenced by our secular culture than we want to admit when it comes to best practices. We think that if we can just get another tool, we can get there.”

BSC photo by Buddy Overman
Jim Shaddix, pastor for teaching and training at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., leads a breakout session on mobilizing congregations for global missions.

Shaddix led a breakout session during the 20/20 “Gospel and Missions” Collegiate Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in early February that focused on how to mobilize congregations for global missions. 
Shaddix stressed that effective missions mobilization does not begin with strategies, but with a burden to reach the nations with the gospel.  
“Our biggest challenge is the heart condition of people we are trying to mobilize,” he said. “We have to understand that the mobilization of people to take the gospel to the nations occurs as hearts are changed.”
Prayer is essential to changing hearts, and may require churches to change the emphasis of prayer meetings from an inward focus on personal and physical needs to an outward focus on impacting lostness worldwide. Prayer is also an effective way to involve everyone in global missions, as all believers can pray.
Shaddix used Luke 10:1-2 to illustrate how Jesus fueled His missional strategy by organizing the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest for laborers.
“In America we have so many resources we think we can pick another plan to accomplish the Great Commission. Here is the Lord of the universe who says to pray to the Lord of the harvest,” Shaddix said. “We have an assurance that if we beckon them to pray and get them praying that there is a fueling [for missions] that takes place.”
Fervent prayer must also be accompanied by gospel-saturated preaching. In an era of practicality, pastors are prone to preach the Bible as if it were primarily a self-help manual. Sharing biblical wisdom is prudent, but should not overshadow the Bible’s overarching redemptive theme. 
“Our best chance of mobilizing congregations is going to come when it is something that is the outgrowth of the theology of the preaching event,” Shaddix said. “Bible preaching transforms people’s hearts with the gospel. This is why missions mobilization is going to happen most potently where the Bible is expounded on in an effort to simply let it say what it says.”
Churches that rely on the power of God through concerted prayer and the preaching of His Word are primed to execute a practical plan to reach the nations with the gospel. One practical step is to specifically target and adopt an unreached or unengaged people group
“Be specific by talking about, identifying and reaching people groups. That gives your people something to hold on to,” Shaddix said. “Give your people a tangible goal. We have a better chance to fulfill the Great Commission when they have a target to work with.”
Above all, he said to preach the Bible, lead believers to pray and challenge them to forsake the American dream for the Kingdom of God. 
“We are called to a level of sacrifice,” Shaddix said. “Call your people to risk everything for the gospel.” 
3/18/2013 2:10:35 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Chris Tomlin ‘most prolific songwriter’ in U.S. now, exec says

March 18 2013 by Baptist Press, Morning Star News

NASHVILLE – Worship leader Chris Tomlin “is the most prolific songwriter in the United States now, in this past decade,” a Christian music executive said in a CNN feature highlighting the differences between Tomlin and secular stars.

Howard Rachinski, CEO of Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI), the company that tracks what music is used in churches around the world, said last year churches used 128 songs Tomlin wrote or co-wrote.

According to March 9, CCLI estimates that every Sunday in the United States, between 60,000 and 120,000 churches are singing Tomlin’s worship songs.

BP photo
Chris Tomlin

The article identified Tomlin, who leads worship for Passion conferences and helped pack the Georgia Dome in Atlanta with college students in January, as the “undisputed king of worship music.”

But CNN noted the secret to Tomlin’s success: “The stage, the lights, the band aren’t about him. As lively as his shows are, the point is not to get you inside the doors. The point is to get you singing in church.”

Churches across the spectrum – black, white, Asian, large, small – connect with Tomlin’s songs, the article said. His goal, he told CNN, is to write songs that communicate what people would like to say to God.

Tomlin, 40, grew up learning country music in Texas, he said, and he didn’t give any thought to a career writing worship music. But in college, as he starting writing worship songs, he was invited to lead Christian conferences with 10,000 students, CNN reported.

“I was just writing songs for the church and from there they just started taking off,” Tomlin, now the worship pastor at Passion City Church in Atlanta, said.

Unlike mainstream musical celebrities, Tomlin isn’t driven by money or his own fame, the article said.

“I feel like I have a responsibility, that God has given me a gift to write songs for His church that people listen to and that people are coming to expect now,” he said. “... The difference to me in the music is that I ask that God’s presence be on it and that people, when they sing these songs, sense that God does something.”

Tomlin added that when he’s on stage, it’s not about him. In fact, he prefers to step back from the microphone and listen to God’s people praising Him in unison.

“It’s about a greater name than my name,” Tomlin told CNN. “My name is on the ticket, but this is about a greater name.
3/18/2013 1:56:28 PM by Baptist Press, Morning Star News | with 0 comments

Religious freedom activists scold U.S. State Department

March 18 2013 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON – Religious freedom activists scolded the U.S. State Department for not appearing at a hearing Friday (March 15) on Iran’s treatment of religious minorities, and called for greater government action to secure the release of people imprisoned there for their faith.

“The State Department is AWOL – they are absent without leave,” complained Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a conservative law firm that represents the wife of Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American minister in Tehran’s Evin prison. “They act as if they are embarrassed about Mr. Abedini’s faith.”

In comparison, he said, members of the European Union have called at the United Nations for Abedini’s release.


BP photo
Saeed Abedini

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, which held the hearing on Capitol Hill, criticized the State Department for “such a deafening and almost cowardly silence” about the case.

Evan Owen, a press officer with the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said department officials who focus on Iran had “scheduling conflicts” on Friday, but Suzan Johnson Cook, ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, and other officials were scheduled to meet with Naghmeh Abedini Friday afternoon.

“We believe we are doing everything we can publicly and privately,” Owen said in an emailed response to a request for comment. “We work closely with Congress on all efforts to support religious freedom around the world and would be happy to discuss our efforts with them in the future.”
Naghmeh Abedini testified tearfully about having to explain to her children, who live with her in Idaho, why her husband is no longer calling them from Iran.
He was convicted in January of undermining Iran’s national security by working with house churches from 2000 to 2005 and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
“Saeed is not a political person,” she said in an interview after her testimony. “His passion is for Christ, for Jesus. So it’s ridiculous that it’s being related to national security.”
More than 515,000 people have signed an online ACLJ petition urging U.S. and international leaders to press for Abedini’s release.
Saeed Abedini’s plight bears echoes of Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor who faced the death penalty after being accused of apostasy. He was released last year after U.S. leaders, from House Speaker John Boehner to megachurch pastor Rick Warren, rallied for his release.

“We certainly didn’t expect that it’d be harder to get help for Saeed Abedini, an American, from the American government than it would have for Youcef Nadarkahi, someone that they’ll likely never have a chance to meet,” said Jordan Sekulow, attorney for the Abedini family and executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice.
The hearing also addressed the mistreatment of other religious minorities in Iran, including Zoroastrians, Jews and Baha’is.
“In recent months, the Iranian government has managed to stoop to a new low by incarcerating young infants along with their Baha’i mothers,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Ken Bowers, secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, testified 436 Baha’is are awaiting trial, appeal or sentencing in Iran, up from 230 in January 2011.
In 2010, seven Baha’i leaders were sentenced to 20 years in prison.
3/18/2013 1:31:59 PM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Scouts could face ‘flood of litigation’ if policy changes

March 15 2013 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Altering the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) longstanding national membership policy to allow homosexuals would undermine a Supreme Court decision in the organization’s favor and expose the Scouts to a “flood of litigation,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has warned in a letter to Scout leadership.

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts’ policy of accepting for membership only those who adhere to the values in the Scout Oath and Law, which includes a promise to be “morally straight.” 

“BSA’s consistent adherence to its values as embodied in the Scout Oath and Law were important factors that led to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in BSA’s favor when its membership policy was challenged as a violation of a state public accommodations law,” ADF said.

Scout leadership has entertained the idea that changing its policy would protect the organization from discrimination lawsuits, yet ADF said it would have the opposite effect. 

“We write to alert BSA to the legal consequences of giving in to the demands of those who oppose or wish to change BSA’s values,” a summary of the letter circulated March 12 states. 

“Giving in will not alleviate their demands nor will it avoid legal liability for BSA or its many councils, charters, and troops. It is not legally necessary for BSA to sacrifice its history or its principles in the face of growing threats,” the legal organization said.
Even a neutral national policy that leaves membership decisions to local councils and troops would endanger the organization, ADF said, because the Boy Scouts “then will have no common message upon which to base their right to freedom of expressive association.”

The Boy Scouts should strive to maintain consistency of their message and values in order to ensure that their First Amendment right to free association is affirmed, ADF advised the Scouts.

In recent years a handful of councils and troops have defied the Scouts’ membership policy and have admitted members who are in defiance of the organization’s values, ADF noted. BSA should not let those isolated councils and troops dictate national policy because the existence of such noncompliant groups does not undermine the legal defensibility of BSA’s policy, ADF said.

“However, to ensure ongoing protection for its national policy under the First Amendment, BSA should take steps to regulate or disassociate itself from these groups,” ADF said. “In sum, consistency is key. Organizations that strive to maintain a consistency of their message by selecting members and participants based on a shared set of values typically have their First Amendment free association rights affirmed.”

If the Scouts said troops must adhere to the membership policy but allowed councils and troops to defy that policy, showing an inconsistency between words and deeds, “a court may be inclined to find that the BSA’s policy is no longer necessary to BSA’s mission and is therefore afforded no constitutional protection.”

If membership decisions were left up to local councils and troops, ADF said, “Rather than alleviating concerns of legal liability, this change would exacerbate those concerns for the national organization and for local councils and troops.”

Soon after the Supreme Court ruling in 2000, an appeals court ruled in a related case that unless the Boy Scouts changed their “official position,” they were not in violation of a public accommodations law. 

“This ruling is a stark warning that some courts may stand ready to rule against BSA and its members if there is any change in BSA’s ‘official position,’” ADF said. “Therefore, such a change, as BSA is contemplating, will not strengthen or protect BSA, but rather could be its undoing.”

Maintaining the current policy is the surest way for the Boy Scouts to ensure that state and local public accommodation laws do not interfere with the organization’s policies and operations, ADF said.

If the national organization lifts its ban on admitting homosexuals and allows local councils and troops to decide, ADF said, the risk would be even greater for those who choose to maintain the Scouts’ values-based policy. 

“Any council or troop that argues that the values-based membership policy is fundamental to the group will be undermined by other troops within the same organization who have abandoned it,” ADF counseled. “The lack of a common, central message among the troops would undermine the protection afforded” by the Supreme Court ruling.

Local troops and councils that wish to abide by the traditional membership policy if the ban is lifted, ADF said, risk substantial litigation that they cannot afford and that they could lose.

ADF suggested two steps the Boy Scouts should take in order to protect the organization from legal attacks: Reaffirm the longstanding national membership policy and take immediate steps to disassociate or revoke the charters of councils and troops that are in open defiance of the membership policy.

“Boy Scouts are charged ‘to do the right thing,’ and this is the right moment for Boy Scouts leadership to set the example and do the right thing: defend Scouts’ honor,” David Cortman, ADF senior counsel, said in a news release. 

“For generations, the Boy Scouts have stood firm on certain moral principles that have successfully shaped our nation’s boys into leaders. The Constitution protects the Boy Scouts’ freedom to promote the values that have defined the organization and to ensure that its leaders and members adhere to those values,” Cortman said.

Erik Stanley, an ADF senior counsel who is an Eagle Scout, said the Boy Scouts shouldn’t give in to intimidation or abandon its values.

“Its leadership should defend the Scouts’ honor and stand strong on the principles that have made the Boy Scouts one of America’s most revered institutions,” Stanley said.

The New York Times reported March 12 that the Boy Scouts’ leadership sent surveys in recent days to 1.1 million Scouts and their families nationwide, asking questions that could help leaders decide whether to change the membership policy.

Among the questions, The Times said, were whether gay and straight Scouts should be allowed to share a tent on a camping trip; what role faith should play in Scouting if a church sponsoring a local Scout troop has taken a position on the inclusion or exclusion of gays and lesbians in its congregation; and whether the Scout Oath declares a value about sexual orientation or just a general, admirable code of conduct.

The surveys also ask whether the respondent would continue to participate in Boy Scouts if the national organization makes a decision on the membership policy that differs from the respondent’s opinion. 

Several Southern Baptist leaders have been outspoken about the need for the Boy Scouts to maintain their current membership policy, including SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page and SBC President Fred Luter. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)

3/15/2013 3:15:02 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Duck Dynasty’s’ commander talks faith

March 15 2013 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – The 8.6 million who viewed the 2013 season premiere of “Duck Dynasty” no doubt enjoy family patriarch Phil Robertson’s antics, from his unkempt beard to promises of poor hygiene. But the fisherman and duck caller with a master’s degree in education also tells a story of faith.
Phil Robertson says Jesus rescued him from his “sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle.”

Robertson’s faith walk began in his late 20s during his “sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle” when his sister was handing out Christian tracts in a bar where he worked, he said in an interview at
“I just decided to follow Him 38 years ago when I heard that He, in fact, was God in flesh. Not only was He God in flesh, it took the blood of God to remove my ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll’ lifestyle – sin,” Robertson said. “Well, I’m sitting there listening and I’m like, ‘Man, that was a mighty kind thing to do for a scumbag like me.’ Not only that, it wouldn’t do me any good, though, if something could not be done about the six-foot hole I’m going into – and you too, by the way.”

When the reality show premiered in March 2012 on A&E television, his sons and co-stars told him to contain himself, “because the Hollywood people wouldn’t let him get away with preaching,” Robertson said.

Robertson’s new book Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander will be available in May. He also tells his story of faith at churches and community events across the U.S.

Amidst the quackish wisdom, he seeks to model a Christian life.

“We’re godly people. We really don’t use filthy language. We really do fear God,” Robertson said. “We really do love you; you’re our neighbor. We’re gonna be good to you, really. And, we love you, irregardless of how you feel about us. In other words, our love for you is not contingent upon whether you love us or not. We just love you and ... you say, ‘well I don’t like you.’ I say that’s OK. I love you anyway.

“I just go on down the road.”
Robertson credits the Lord with his success, sharing his epiphany from a sinful, unfulfilled school teacher to a faithful fisherman and duck caller set on turning his life’s passion into his livelihood.

After accepting Jesus at age 28, he told his wife ‘Miss Kay’ he would fish the Ouachita River and market and sell the duck call he had created from cedar wood to support her and their four sons.

“But if you fast-forward 40 years, from the fishing and trying to get the duck call going to where we now are, we have now entered the world of Hollywood. We now have a multi-million-dollar business, and Miss Kay’s line has now become infamous, ‘Phil, I’ve been poor with you ... I’ve been rich with you ... rich is better,’” he said.

“Therefore, I either was real lucky, there had to have been a lot of coincidences, or God was right all along, ‘Love Me, trust Me, work hard, do what is right and I will bless you and your barns will be filled up, tapped down and running over.’ That’s what happened. It’s either luck or God said, ‘I’ll bless you. You did good.’ I’m leaning toward it was the Almighty.

“There you go.”

The entrepreneur was born to a financially stretched family in Vivian, La., and attended Louisiana Tech University on a football scholarship, playing first-string quarterback ahead of Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw. Robertson turned down an opportunity to play pro ball because it would have meant missing duck season, he has said.

He began making duck calls in a backyard shed, shipping orders, marketing the call to stores and earning a living mostly by fishing. His family business has grown to produce and sell duck calls from a manufacturing plant in Ouachita, Ark., and to market various Duck Commander products in stores across the U.S. and in several countries.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.) 

3/15/2013 2:50:05 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 6 comments

Group urges prayer for gay marriage cases

March 15 2013 by Baptist Press, Morning Star News

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – A prominent Christian legal group is urging believers nationwide to pray as the U.S. Supreme Court gets ready to decide the legal definition of marriage. 

The high court will take up two separate cases March 26-27 that either will affirm the historical, traditional definition of marriage or redefine it to include same-sex couples. The nine justices will decide the constitutionality of a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act – a federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman – as well as California Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage in the traditional sense. If the court strikes down both, then gay marriage likely would be legalized nationwide. 

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has been heavily involved in defending the traditional definition of marriage, is in the midst of a “nine weeks of prayer for marriage” initiative that includes weekly downloadable printouts naming attorneys and Supreme Court justices for whom to pray. Although the initiative was intended for nine weeks, it easily could be turned into a nine-day prayer initiative leading up to oral arguments. A nine-day prayer initiative launched on Sun., March 17 would end on Mon., March 25, the day before the first case is heard. 

“The institution of marriage is the foundation of society, and on March 26-27, the public purpose of marriage will be at stake before the United States Supreme Court in two equally but critical cases to potentially reaffirm or redefine marriage in America,” ADF’s Alan Sears, president and CEO, says in a video at the website. “We’re asking you, your friends, family, neighbors and church community, to join Alliance Defending Freedom and our allies in faithfully praying ... for different people and different things leading up to the Supreme Court arguments.”

The prayer list includes attorneys who will be defending traditional marriage.

“They need your prayers like never before,” Sears says. 

It also includes the attorneys who will be asking the court to overturn the marriage laws.

“The Lord commands us to pray for those who oppose us,” Sears says. “We will pray for God’s best for them while also praying He reveals the societal harms of their position.”

Each printout also lists a Supreme Court justice. 

“God’s design and purpose for marriage does not change, no matter what today’s politicians, activists or courts choose to accept,” Sears says.

For information about the prayer initiative, visit here. View video.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)

3/15/2013 2:35:34 PM by Baptist Press, Morning Star News | with 0 comments

Evangelical coalition launches immigration ads

March 15 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – An advertising campaign in South Carolina supporting immigration reform is about more than politics, Southern Baptist leaders say.
The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a coalition of evangelical Christian leaders, began advertising March 13 on Christian radio stations in South Carolina in an effort to promote congressional passage this year of broad immigration reform legislation. The ad buy is an effort to bolster support from the state’s senators and representatives in Congress for such a bill in the face of a competing effort by reform foes.

It has more than politics as a driving force, said Southern Baptists on a March 13 telephone news conference.

“It goes way beyond mere partisanship,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “This is an issue of conviction; it’s an issue of values; it’s an issue of bringing our biblical values to bear on an issue that’s rending the social fabric of the nation.”

Richard Land, seen here at a 2011 Georgetown University symposium, said the issue of immigration “goes way beyond mere partisanship. This is an issue of conviction; it’s an issue of values; it’s an issue of bringing our biblical values to bear on an issue that’s rending the social fabric of the nation.”

Trey Doyle, pastor of First Baptist Church of York, S.C., said, “This is about faith for us and putting that faith into action.”

The ad – which features Jim Goodroe, director of missions for the Spartanburg County Baptist Network – will run on 15 Christian stations over the next two weeks with its cost at five figures, an EIT spokesman said.

NumbersUSA has a $100,000 ad campaign running in the state that criticizes Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina for joining seven other senators in promoting a bipartisan immigration reform proposal, according to Bloomberg News Service

South Carolina is important “because Senator Graham has been part of the group of senators that have courageously been taking this issue on,” Land told reporters on the call. 

Supporters of immigration reform are grateful for Graham’s past and current leadership on the issue, he said. “And we believe that kind of courageous leadership should be supported.” 

Land also pointed to the significance of Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican from Spartanburg who is chairman of the House of Representatives subcommittee that deals with immigration policy.

“And so just as those who oppose immigration reform have been targeting South Carolina, for the same reasons we are putting these ads in South Carolina,” because Graham, Gowdy and other South Carolina members of Congress need to hear from their supporters, he said.

Gowdy is a member of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg.

Goodroe added, “South Carolina is also important because we have so many immigrants, and they play such an important role in our economy and in our civic life.”

In the 60-second ad, Goodroe encourages listeners to join an increasing number of Christians who are urging politicians to provide solutions to the immigration problem that “reflect each person’s God-given dignity, respect the rule of law, protect family unity, guarantee secure borders, ensure fairness to taxpayers and establish a path toward citizenship.”

The growing evangelical effort for reform seeks to address what is widely acknowledged as an immigration system badly in need of repair. The current system has resulted in the presence of an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

The proposal by Graham and the other senators would require undocumented immigrants to register with the government – as well as pass a background check and pay back taxes and a fine – to gain “probationary legal status.” All enforcement provisions must be final before an immigrant on probation can earn a green card and apply for citizenship years later. A commission, which includes governors and attorneys general from Southwestern border states, must make a recommendation about when the security prerequisites are met.

Immigrants on probation will not be able to receive federal benefits and must go to the back of the line for all immigrants, undergo another background check, learn English and civics, and prove they have a history of employment and a current job to seek permanent residency.

Critics have charged the proposal would grant amnesty to those who are in the United States illegally.

Goodroe denied that charge, saying, “[A]mnesty implies no repercussions or obligations or whatever. ... That path to citizenship is tough. There’s a lot of things that an individual must do, and that’s not an easy path. ... So I think if someone understood that path toward citizenship they would realize that we’re not talking about amnesty, but even the path toward citizenship is tough but needs to be fair.”

EIT is sponsoring an Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform April 17 in Washington.

Messengers to the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials establish after securing the borders “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.) 
3/15/2013 1:10:18 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

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