March 2019

Texas bill would shield churches that report sex abuse

March 18 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist pastors and leaders have initiated a Texas bill to allow nonprofits including churches to disclose credible but unproven sexual abuse allegations with no fear of civil liability.
 
Texas House Bill 4345, introduced in the legislature March 8, would protect charitable organizations and their volunteers when disclosing such information to prospective employers, even when no criminal charges have been filed against the accused.
 
Those who spread allegations with “malicious purpose” or “in bad faith” would remain open to civil liability, according to the bill.
 
The bill can strengthen churches and other charitable organizations in hindering repeat offenders, said pastor Ben Wright who helped initiate the bill.
 
“I don’t think that it solves all of the problems related to abuse and sexual misconduct,” Wright, pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park, Texas, told Baptist Press (BP) March 15. “But it does help churches and organizations know that if they pass on information that they believe to be true, that they have good reason to believe is true, it helps them know that they will be shielded from potential lawsuits.”
 
Wright and Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, worked together to birth the legislation with the help of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
 
The leaders recruited Texas Rep. Scott Sanford, executive pastor of Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen and active with the SBTC, to introduce the legislation March 8 with bipartisan support. Wright, who chairs the SBTC Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee, said Sanford is a former committee member.
 
Travis Wussow, ERLC vice president for public policy and general counsel, helped draft the legislation to comply with state laws and meet intended purposes.
 
Wussow said he offered a few comments and suggestions to the draft bill before it was filed. “We plan to coordinate with and assist the Texas ERLC as the bill moves through the legislative process,” he told BP March 15, “and depending on the outcome and issues raised this session, this could become a concept for other states to consider.”
 
Under the bill posted on the Texas Legislature website, “a charitable organization, or an employee or volunteer thereof, acting in good faith is immune from civil liability for any act to disclose information reasonably believed to be true about allegations that any person, while employed by or serving as a volunteer of the charitable organization engaged in sexual misconduct, sexually abused another person, sexually harassed another person, or otherwise committed an offense [under applicable state law] to the current employer or a prospective employer of that person.”
 
According to Ministry Safe, an organization that helps churches and other ministries protect children from sexual abuse, as many as 90 percent of sex abuse offenders never have an encounter with law enforcement, SBTC spokesperson Gary Ledbetter told BP.
 
Increasingly in the secular world and in churches, Wright believes, human resource individuals are only disclosing basic employment information to prospective employers who call for references, and withholding character details.
 
“But I think we have a moral obligation to do more than that,” Wright said, “when we have good reason to believe, biblical justification to believe, that the person has acted inappropriately, whether in abusing their authority to manipulate or exploit those under [their] care, or when there have been actual criminal charges that have been filed.” Indications of adultery could also be shared, Wright said.
 
The SBTC is working to get legislative support for the bill, Ledbetter said. Rep. Ed Thompson, a member of the Texas ERLC, is among seven bill cosponsors.
 
Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, said churches must do all they can to protect children and others from abuse.
 
“As a convention of churches we will continue to work on ways to provide a safe environment for the vulnerable,” The Houston Chronicle quoted Richards as saying on March 14. “We hope HB 4345 will facilitate this goal.”

3/18/2019 9:40:18 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



High winds damage Illinois Baptist building’s roof

March 18 2019 by Lisa Misner, Illinois Baptist State Association

No one was hurt, but the roof of the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) building in Springfield was in poor condition after high winds blew part of it off on March 14.
 

Photo courtesy of Pat Trees
Part of the roof of the Illinois Baptist State Association’s building was blown into the parking lot March 14 by strong winds.

A gust of wind blew a section of the building’s roof into its north parking area around 4:20 p.m. The part that blew off was the rubber membrane of the roof along with the underlying Styrofoam that serves as part of the drainage system. High winds continued to blow smaller pieces into the parking lot over the next few hours.
 
The state association’s staff heard a loud popping sound just before the section of roof crashed into the parking lot. Nearly 50 people – IBSA staff and building tenants – were inside when the incident occurred.
 
“I haven’t seen or felt that kind of wind in a long time,” IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said, “but I’m still surprised at what it could do to the roof of a sturdy building like ours. I’m so thankful to the Lord that none of our staff, tenants or guests were injured.”
 
The crew from Springfield Firefighters Local 37 was quickly on the scene. Stationed just down the street on Adlai Stevenson Drive, crew members saw the incident happen. One first responder told the Illinois Baptist, “We were in our incident room and saw the roof come off the building. We knew we had to come right away.” The fire crew quickly evacuated the building.
 
The IBSA Building was open during regular office hours today.
 
Workers spent Thursday night and Friday morning cleaning up debris and getting a tarp over the roof. At least one vehicle was left with severe dents and scratches and others had minor damage.
 
The National Weather Service reported wind gusts as high as 61 mph at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, 10 miles from the IBSA building.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Misner is communications director for the Illinois Baptist State Association. This report was provided by the Illinois Baptist newspaper.)

3/18/2019 9:38:00 AM by Lisa Misner, Illinois Baptist State Association | with 0 comments



Gateway Seminary begins 75th anniversary celebration

March 18 2019 by Kathie Chute, Gateway Seminary

Seventy-five years ago, Southern Baptists’ seminary to the West was born during a prayer meeting, the dream of a visionary man.
 

Gateway photo by Caleb Stallings
Celebrating Gateway Seminary’s 75th year, President Jeff Iorg delivered the Founder’s Day address March 14 to an audience of faculty, staff, students and local pastors.

Gateway Seminary celebrated the anniversary of that occasion March 14 during a Founder’s Day event that culminated in a 10-hour prayer vigil by faculty, staff and students.
 
“Isn’t it appropriate that we begin our celebration with prayer, just as the school began?” President Jeff Iorg asked the seminary audience gathered in the chapel. “We will be hosting other events during the year to commemorate our 75th anniversary.
 
“But as we celebrate this significant achievement,” he noted, “it’s important to remember aspects of our founding that have marked our history and, I hope, will mark our future.”
 
Iorg said the seminary was the dream of a man from Arkansas named Isam Hodges.
 
Hodges, his wife and five children moved to Berkeley, Calif., in 1935, one year before the first Southern Baptist church was founded in the state. He graduated with a master of arts degree from Berkeley Baptist Divinity School in May 1937 and accepted the call to serve as pastor of Golden Gate Baptist Church the next month. The church cooperated with the Northern Baptist Convention.
 
“Missions-minded as he was, he began gathering facts about surrounding communities that needed churches,” Iorg said, recounting the story from former President Harold Graves’ book Into the Wind. “He began agitating for an aggressive program of evangelism and missions, but there was no ready response from fellow pastors.”
 
He said that Hodges’ frustration with the slow response of fellow pastors did not keep him from opening his heart to his own people. His sermons were filled with Baptist history and missionary information. He challenged them with the descriptions of sacrifice by those who had spread the gospel in other areas. He sought in every way he could to spur their evangelistic concern.
           
“As Southern Baptist churches began to be organized nearby, Hodges and his people became aware of their work and growth,” Iorg noted. “He suggested to his Northern Baptist brethren this was the kind of work they should be doing. This only antagonized them. They saw only the danger of a Southern Baptist invasion of their territory. He finally came to the conclusion that the only way to get an effective expansion program going was to join Southern Baptists.”
 
On Nov. 17, 1943, the Golden Gate Baptist Church voted 36 to 6 to begin partnering with the Southern Baptist Convention. Hodges had been their pastor for more than six years. Although he did not join that fellowship to turn it toward Southern Baptist alignment, the six years of evangelistic and missionary promotion made a difference in the life of the congregation.
 
“The church had been using some Southern Baptist Sunday School materials and had already been cooperating with many Southern Baptist activities,” Iorg said. “Hodges had established sufficient reputation among Southern Baptists to be elected president of their state convention. This happened only two weeks before his church officially sought Southern Baptist affiliation.”
 
As Hodges looked about him in early 1944, he knew that only a great network of churches in every city, town, and village could accomplish what God would do in the West, Iorg said. New missions and churches had to be started. For this to happen, many more pastors and other church leaders would need to be trained. Hodges prayed more about his lifelong dream and willingness to work toward creating the school he felt was needed.
 

Gateway photo by Caleb Stallings
Gateway Seminary faculty, staff and students prayed for the seminary during a 10-hour prayer vigil. Participants signed up in one-hour increments to prayer walk through the six-story seminary building in Ontario, Calif.

“Isam Hodges and his wife invited the six deacons of their church and their wives to their home for fellowship and prayer on Thursday evening, March 23, 1944,” Iorg recounted. “One of those attending, caught up in the spirit of the meeting, said, ‘This will go down in history as a great prayer meeting.’ A key feature of the prayer meeting was asking God about starting a new seminary in the West.”
 
Hodges knew it was time to begin the school he had envisioned before moving to California.
 
The morning after the prayer meeting, he sat down at his typewriter and wrote these words: “God has given us a vision of a Western Baptist theological seminary. There shall be a theological seminary here in the Bay Area which shall be called the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.”
 
Hodges was not a trained educator, but God was laying on him the responsibility to begin a school. And there was this question: How could there be more missions and churches without preachers?
 
One of his friends, though, did have more school experience and theological training – Dallas Faulkner, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church in San Francisco. Like Hodges, Faulkner was a native of Arkansas and a graduate of Ouachita Baptist College and Southwestern Seminary. He had continued his studies and earned the doctor of theology degree from Southern Seminary. He came to California in the 1930s, first settling in the Bakersfield area, before ultimately moving to San Francisco. Because of his background, Hodges decided to enlist his friend’s help.
 
The two talked, prayed, planned and took definite steps to organize the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. The next morning, March 26, 1944, at the morning worship hour in the Golden Gate Baptist Church, Hodges asked that the six ordained deacons be recognized as a committee from the church to meet with a like committee from the First Southern Baptist Church of San Francisco to begin establishing a seminary. The church unanimously adopted this recommendation, and these deacons, along with Hodges, met with the committee from the First Southern Baptist Church, San Francisco, on March 31, 1944. It was at that meeting the vote was taken to legally organize Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Iorg said that members of the first board of trustees for Golden Gate Seminary were laymen, six each from the two churches. Hodges and Faulkner set about organizing the seminary immediately following the action creating the board of trustees.
 
“A charter from the state was applied for on July 12, 1944, and obtained, bearing the date July 24, 1944,” Iorg said.
 
“And this summer on that date,” he added, “we will have a birthday party to celebrate that occasion. The official name on the charter was Golden Gate Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, although ‘Southern’ was later dropped from the name.”
 
The seminary maintained the name Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary through locations in Berkeley and Mill Valley until 2016, when the institution moved to Ontario, Calif., and changed its name to Gateway Seminary. The institution now also offers degrees on four regional campuses, in addition to all its master’s degrees being offered online.
 

Gateway photo by Caleb Stallings
Min Lee, a Gateway Seminary student and local pastor, gave instructions for a prayer walk to a group of faculty, staff and students.

“This is the story of our founding,” Iorg said. “A visionary pastor, a friend who partnered with him and 12 Baptist laymen put their lives on the line to create what has become one of the largest seminaries in the world – a beacon of biblical scholarship with missional intentionality shaping leaders who expand God’s kingdom globally. Our genesis point was a prayer meeting, six deacons and their wives sitting or kneeling in a circle calling out to God for His direction and blessing. Thank God for our courageous, prayerful forefathers and foremothers. We are commemorating their visionary leadership and this significant prayer meeting with this day of prayer on Founder’s Day.”
 
A prayer journey began immediately following the Founder’s Day service, with participants engaging in one-hour sessions as they moved through the building.
 
In addition to the birthday party in July that will mark the issuance of the seminary’s charter, other celebrations will be held during the fall and spring trustee meetings.
 
The 75th anniversary celebration will conclude in April 2020 with a final observance at the Ontario Convention Center.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathie Chute is director of communications for Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/18/2019 9:31:09 AM by Kathie Chute, Gateway Seminary | with 0 comments



Missionary nurse leaves legacy of caring

March 15 2019 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

While Ellen Tabor served faithfully in Korea for 20 years as a medical missionary beside her husband, some of her most recognizable impact came after the couple returned to North Carolina.
 
Myrtle Ellen Dennis Tabor, 90, died March 10 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem after suffering a heart attack and stroke.
 

“I knew Charles and Ellen Tabor soon after their return from missionary service in South Korea,” said Delores Thomas, former Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) president, on a tribute wall for Tabor. “They often joined our WMU-NC Executive Board for devotionals and updates. We were so thrilled when she began the Baptist Nursing Fellowship in N.C. and then saw its establishment nationally. Ellen was a humble servant, and much loved.”
 
A native of Albemarle, N.C., Tabor received her first degree at Mars Hill College (now university) and started nursing at North Carolina Baptist Hospital (now Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center). After she married Dr. Charles Gordon Tabor, the couple served at Wallace Memorial Baptist Hospital in Pusan, South Korea, for 20 years through the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board). The couple also served Macau.
 
After returning to America, she pursued education and service as a nursing professional. She earned a doctorate in education.
 
She helped found Baptist Nursing Fellowship (BNF), an organization that started Feb. 12, 1983. She became BNF’s first president at the national meeting in Oklahoma that year.
 
BNF provides continuing education, missions opportunities and fellowship for Baptist nurses serving in the U.S. and on mission fields around the world. Tabor served on the board of the WMU Foundation.
 
In 2012, Tabor was honored as WMU-NC’s recipient of the N.C. Baptist Heritage Award at a ceremony in Greensboro.
 
“You are being recognized today because of things that you have done for the good of humanity, and because of your love for God and for the advancement of the work for his kingdom,” said Milton A. Hollifield, Jr., executive-treasurer director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), at the ceremony in Greensboro, sponsored by the BSC and the N.C. Baptist Foundation (NCBF).
 
Tabor attended the September 2018 meeting of BNF in Talladega, Ala. She was among 50 participants from 16 states celebrating BNF’s 35 years of ministry.
 
In an interview with a WMU correspondent, Tabor said her initial dream for BNF, “which we have kept the whole time, was that we would invite nurses who have a calling from God to use their nursing skills to advance His work whether in America or on the mission field.”
 
“My approach is see wherever you’re working with your health skills, see where you can help that person’s life be better in managing their health and being able to live healthy lives,” Tabor said. “Also, if they do not have the dimension of spiritual health, that they will want to be connected to the salvation experience of knowing Christ.”

One of Tabor’s bankers, Katrina Love, a vice president at SunTrust Bank, had this to say: “I had the honor of serving as one of her bankers since 2010, and I just spoke with her (March 7). She has always shown extreme kindness and concern for her family, and for others. She ensured that everything was in order, and that each person she met was well. She always asked about my family, and my mother, who is 93 years old. Though I have served many clients during my 31 years in banking, she is one that has felt like family to me. I miss her already!”

Oh his Facebook page, one of Tabor’s grandchildren posted about his grandmother on March 11.
 
“My wonderful grandmother passed away yesterday,” David Tabor wrote. “She was an amazing woman, accomplished in so many aspects. Never shy of hard work and always kind. She helped raise a wonderful set of grandchildren, contributed so much to the world of nursing, her church, her community, local schools, too many charities to count, and so much more. She was a dedicated wife and gave so much to everyone in her life. Miss you and love you Meemaw.”
 
Tabor was a member of First Baptist Church on Fifth in Winston-Salem.
 
She was preceded in death by her husband of 69 years, Charles Gordon Tabor, who died Feb. 21, 2017. 
 
She is survived by her sons Charles David Tabor and Dennis Gordon Tabor; five grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
 
The family will receive friends from 1 p.m.-1:45 p.m., Fri., March 15, at Hartsell Funeral Home, 522 N. Second Street, Albemarle. The funeral service will follow at 2 p.m. in the funeral home’s Lefler Memorial Chapel. Burial will follow the service at the Anderson Grove Baptist Church Cemetery at 2225 East Main St., Albemarle.
 
Memorials can be sent to the N.C. BNF Endowment Fund through NCBF at 201 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511-4257; put account number 089495 on memo line of your check; or the Ellen D. Tabor Endowment at BNF, c/o WMU, 100 Missionary Ridge, Birmingham, AL 35242.

3/15/2019 11:57:34 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Admissions bribery scam ‘missed the point of college’

March 15 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A high-profile college admissions cheating scam, evangelical pastors and educators say, should remind students and parents to trust God for their future rather than attempting to manipulate circumstances.
 

Photo from Facebook
Yale University was among the elite colleges where wealthy parents allegedly sought to bribe officials in an effort to gain admission for their children.

“It’s really an idol” to equate success in life with admission to an elite college, said Mark Coppenger, a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who has done campus ministry at Northwestern University and earned a doctor of philosophy from Vanderbilt University.
 
“It’s nice when you can carry a certain prestigious [label] around,” Coppenger told Baptist Press. “But if you think it’s a go/no-go in life, then you’re sadly mistaken. In fact, I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that with the cost and the ideology of a lot of these prestigious schools, you may come out more damaged and frustrated than if you had gone to a smaller, less prestigious school and had great people to invest in your life.”
 
Fifty people were charged with federal crimes March 12 for allegedly paying some $25 million in bribes to get their children into colleges like Stanford, Yale, Georgetown, Wake Forest and the University of Southern California, according to media reports. The scheme allegedly involved cheating on standardized tests and paying coaches of low-profile sports like crew and water polo to falsely identify high school students as recruits.
 
At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents have been charged, according to the Associated Press, including attorneys and Hollywood actresses.
 
Raymond Yip, a pastor near Stanford, said “there is a lot of pressure placed on students in the Bay Area to perform and achieve.” Many parents who cannot buy admission at elite colleges still “push their children to achieve it through an overload of academics and achievements.”
 
“But this seems to come at a cost,” said Yip, English language pastor at New Community Baptist Church in Mountain View, Calif. “The pressure is too much, to the point where students cannot handle it, and [some] end up taking their lives.”
 
Students who get into elite schools, Yip said, sometimes continue to “make success an idol.”
 
“A child that was once active and engaged in worship of God at church will most likely stop attending church because of the school achievement, and even leave the faith altogether because it has become less ‘relevant,’” Yip told Baptist Press via email. “I have seen it happen to some members of my church.”
 
The remedy for idolizing academic success, Yip said, is for parents to “make faith in Jesus a high priority” and let everything else “fall into place.”
 
“Children will see that it is about doing our very best because that is a godly value,” Yip said. “Families will be more focused on serving and considering the needs of others first ... trusting that God will open up opportunities for the children, rather than the parents having to manipulate the circumstances to gain a desired outcome for their children.”
 
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said the admissions scandal reflects some parents’ “cultural aspiration” for their children to “be a part of the future American elite,” even if attaining that status requires corrupt means.
 
Yet “Christians understand this to be yet another demonstration of Genesis 3, of human sinfulness, of how human depravity works its way through system after system,” Mohler said March 14 on his podcast The Briefing.
 
Coppenger saw admittance to an elite university become “an obsession” for many students at the Chicago-area high school his daughter attended while he was a Baptist campus minister at Northwestern and pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church. Such an obsession with academic success, he said, continued for some Christian students at Northwestern, who would “get up at dawn and work in the lab” on Sundays, then “run down to the church” for worship and “have lunch with us” before running “right back to the lab in the afternoon.”
 
Coppenger challenged them to “prove the Lord’s Day” by resting on Sunday to conform to the work-rest rhythm God designed humans to follow.
 
“I said, ‘Can you just try to trust God to get you through this thing without working full bore seven days a week?’” Coppenger said, adding students need not be “Pharisaical” about refraining from study on Sundays.
 
With a college education, Coppenger noted, U.S. News & World Report rankings aren’t nearly as important as whether students learn to approach their field from a Christian worldview perspective – which can occur while attending a Christian or secular university.
 
“A number of these people who are dying to get into the Ivy League setup missed the point of college and life,” Coppenger said.

3/15/2019 11:51:52 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Facebook considers whether Gateway is ‘hate group’

March 15 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Gateway Seminary is cooperating with Facebook to show the school is not a “hate group” in efforts to boost a post describing the Bible as the ultimate authority.
 

Facebook refused to boost a post linking Gateway President Jeff Iorg’s March 5 blog entry entitled “Logical Progression,” which mentioned abortion, gender issues and polygamy in asserting the domino effect of unbiblical decisions.
 
“Holding the line on positions based on timeless biblical standards as an ultimate authority has been and always will be important,” is the focus of the post Iorg sought to boost. Facebook refused.
 
“My understanding is Facebook has requested, and we have provided, additional information about me and the seminary,” Iorg told Baptist Press (BP) today. “They are seeking to establish we are a valid company, not a hate group or a foreign entity.”
 
Facebook requires pages, according to the message the platform sent in refusing the boost, “to be authorized to run ads related to politics and issues of national importance.... To continue,” Facebook told Gateway, “please complete the one-time authorization process.”
 
“So far, we have had a cooperative relationship in trying to resolve these issues,” Iorg told BP. “We understand their ‘flags’ but at the same time will not compromise our message. They have not asked us to do that, only to provide documentation to prove our legitimacy.”
 
In Iorg’s blog at gs.edu/presidents-blog, he wrote a March 11 entry following Facebook’s response to his initial request.
 
“The phrase ‘timeless biblical’ sets off warning bells for many people,” Iorg wrote. “They prefer standards based on their perception – ‘my truth’ or ‘my reality’ – rather than anything field-tested by centuries of best practices.
 

Jeff Iorg

“And biblical?” Iorg wrote March 11. “Who cares about ancient texts? Not many people today seem interested in discovering answers from the ground-source for the Judeo-Christian worldview. And more than that, doing so earns you the label ‘intolerant.’”
 
Iorg’s original blog entry was not about abortion, gender issues or polygamy, he explained March 5, but were only logical examples.
 

“Gender issues is an example,” he wrote March 5. “Recent news reports indicated $8 million has been spent by the military on medical care for persons going through gender reassignment.” That is “hard to accept,” Iorg wrote, “when the VA medical system cannot provide adequate care for veterans, including the wounded. But, paying for gender-reassignment treatment is a natural outcome of changing laws about gender.”
 
Iorg still expects a positive outcome from Facebook, he told BP.
 
“We are working to resolve the issues so we can continue to advertise with them,” Iorg said. “We expect to resolve this issue in a positive way.”
 
The main campus for Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention is located in Ontario, Calif. The Western Association of Senior Colleges and Universities Commission officially reaccredited Gateway March 4, describing its online program in particular as “high quality” and exhibiting “the best practices in distance education.”

3/15/2019 11:41:03 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Equality Act said to endanger morality, liberty

March 15 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

New legislation that bans discrimination against gay and transgender people would cripple Americans’ freedom of conscience rights, Christian and conservative leaders say.
 
On March 13, Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced the Equality Act, a proposal that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the classifications protected in federal civil rights law. “Sexual orientation” includes homosexuality and bisexuality, while “gender identity” refers to the way a person perceives himself regardless of his biology at birth.
 
Advocates for the bill say it is needed to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in such categories as employment, housing and public accommodations – which includes establishments that provide goods, services or programs. Opponents say they oppose unjust discrimination but contend the measure would denigrate Christian morality and coerce behavior in violation of religious beliefs.
 
Both versions of the Equality Act go so far as to eliminate the use of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as a possible protection in cases covered by the measure. Enacted in 1993, RFRA requires the government to have a compelling interest and use the narrowest possible means in burdening a person’s religious exercise.
 
The Equality Act – first introduced in 2015 – appears certain to gain approval in the Democratic-controlled House. The bill, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., has 239 cosponsors in a chamber where only 218 votes are needed for passage. Only one of the cosponsors is a Republican.
 
The Senate – where Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is the chief sponsor – has 46 cosponsors. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is the lone GOP cosponsor.
 
If the Equality Act were to become law, “its sweeping effects on religious liberty, free speech and freedom of conscience would be both historic and also chilling,” said Andrew Walker, senior fellow in Christian ethics at the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “In short, the Equality Act equates Christian ethics with hatred and bigotry.
 
“We believe all persons, including those who identify as LGBT, are made in God’s image and deserve respect, kindness and neighborliness,” Walker wrote in a March 11 post for The Gospel Coalition. “But this truth does not necessitate Christian capitulation to the sexual revolution.”
 
If enacted, the bill would cast “into the dustbin of history” the ideas “that marriage is a complementary union of a man and a woman, and that male and female are immutable, biological realities,” he wrote.
 
Kristen Waggoner – senior vice president of the U.S. legal division of Alliance Defending Freedom – said Americans “simply deserve better than the profound inequality proposed by this intolerant, deceptively titled legislation.”
 
The Equality Act would “undermine human dignity by threatening the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience that the First Amendment guarantees for every citizen,” Waggoner said in a written statement. “Like similar state and local laws, it would force Americans to participate in events and speak messages that violate their core beliefs.”
 
Emilie Kao, director of the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, said the bill “would empower government authorities to open every girl’s locker room and sports team to males who self-identify as female; pressure doctors to administer puberty-blocking hormones to children over the objections of their parents; and punish Americans who fail to engage in government-compelled speech.”
 
“Congress should resist the deeply authoritarian impulse that this bill represents,” she said in written comments.
 
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted upon the Equality Act’s introduction, “No American should face discrimination based on who they are or who they love.” In a March 13 news conference, she said, “[W]e look forward to a swift, strong and successful vote on this bill.”
 
“Sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” or SOGI, policies in some states have especially affected professionals who serve at weddings – such as cake designers, florists and photographers who disagree with same-sex marriage. Some have lost their businesses as a result of government rules.
 
Adoption agencies, religious colleges, ministries for the needy, businesses and churches are among the organizations that have faced legal action for their commitment to marriage as a male-female institution, their determination to maintain policies in keeping with their beliefs and their willingness to protect privacy by preventing people of the opposite sex from using restrooms and locker rooms.
 
Some evangelical Christian leaders have sought to find a way to protect both “sexual orientation/gender identity” and religious liberty by including religious exemptions in SOGI laws. The National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities have endorsed such proposals.
 
More than 20 leaders of Southern Baptist institutions signed a December 2016 document that rejected such an approach, however. The statement, issued by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, said even “narrowly crafted” SOGI laws “threaten fundamental freedoms, and any ostensible protections for religious liberty appended to such laws are inherently inadequate and unstable.”
 
Nearly half of the 50 states already have protections against LGBT discrimination. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws explicitly banning discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP). Two more states interpret existing law as prohibiting such discrimination, and one state bars discrimination based only on “sexual orientation.” Twenty-six states have no explicit prohibitions.
 
MAP describes itself as a think tank that provides research to help hasten equality for LGBT people.

3/15/2019 11:36:02 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Protecting children from abuse focus of webcast

March 15 2019 by Timothy E. Head, GuideStone Financial Resources

Protecting children, youth and other vulnerable groups – as well as responding well to reports from victims of abuse in churches and ministry organizations – will be topics covered during a free upcoming webcast sponsored by GuideStone.
 
Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church will host the event, which will feature Greg Love and Kimberlee Norris, founders of MinistrySafe.
 
The “Protecting the Vulnerable in Your Ministry” webcast is from 1:00 p.m. – 3:30p.m. Central time on Thursday, March 21. Pastors and other church leaders can register for the free training at GuideStone.org/MinistrySafeWebcast.
 
“We want to ensure that every pastor in every church knows the steps they need to take to recognize and prevent abuse in their midst – as well as how to come alongside and help victims who report abuse,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “Our goal is to help pastors and churches fulfill the ministry they have received from the Lord, and part of that ministry is protecting their flock from those who seek to harm them.”
 
The webcast will provide actionable takeaways on protecting children, youth and other vulnerable people in the church. Discussion will include how to create a culture of communication, respond well to reports from victims of abuse, properly prepare for and enforce an effective safety system, and implement extensive staff training program with background checks, monitoring systems and more.
 
“We believe this webcast will be timely and useful for any pastor or church leader who wants to respond to this urgent need in our churches,” Hawkins said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy E. Head is the executive officer for denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources.)

3/15/2019 11:31:05 AM by Timothy E. Head, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments



20,000 homes: Crossover’s goal for SBC June outreach

March 14 2019 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

As Southern Baptists from across the country make plans for the SBC annual meeting in June, they’re also preparing to engage more than 20,000 homes with the gospel through Crossover activities.
 

BP file photo
Several teams of Crossover volunteers gather for final preparations before venturing out across Phoenix to share the gospel prior to the 2017 SBC annual meeting. This year's Crossover outreach is slated for June 8 in Birmingham, Ala.

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Alabama State Board of Missions will mobilize 400 teams of volunteers to knock on 20,000 doors in the metro Birmingham area on Saturday, June 8, the weekend before the SBC annual meeting.
 
“This year we have a really simplified approach that will help us make as big of a concentrated push as we can make in one day,” said Joel Southerland of NAMB’s evangelism team. “We already have student pastors bringing students, and pastors who are bringing van loads of volunteers, because it can all be done in one day.”
 
Teams interested in participating can arrive on Friday night, get trained on Saturday morning, and then go out on the streets to share the gospel that day, Southerland said.
 
Johnny Hunt, NAMB vice president of evangelism and a former SBC president, and Bill Fay, author of Share Jesus without Fear, will train volunteers on Wednesday, June 5, in how to have gospel conversations. The training rally, simulcast at other local Alabama Baptist churches, will be held at the Church at Brook Hills.
 
That same training will be available via video at seven “hub churches” throughout the metro Birmingham area on the morning of June 8.
 
A hub church in each of seven associations in and around Birmingham will serve as a base of operations on June 8, said Sammy Gilbreath, Alabama Baptists’ state director of evangelism.
 
Gilbreath noted that Birmingham has a metropolitan population of 1 million people, with 2 million living within 30 minutes of the city.
 
“I think it’s a great way to do a mission project, even for a one-day project,” Gilbreath said. “They can come in on a Saturday and impact a major metropolitan area that is changing demographically. It gives us the opportunity to present the gospel to an area that is very unchurched.
 
“While we have a lot of churches – 3,280 in Alabama Baptist life – there are a lot of people, a huge population in metro Birmingham, that are not connected to any church.”
 
Gilbreath believes the Crossover activities will be a catalyst for future evangelistic engagement throughout the state as churches get trained in personal evangelism.
 
“Events offer us opportunities to train,” Gilbreath said. “Not only are we getting the opportunity to knock on 20,000 doors, it’s giving us an event that provides an opportunity to train our own people in the state of Alabama to do this in their own communities.”
 
Although Gilbreath said they’ll knock on 20,000 doors, he acknowledges that some people won’t be home. When volunteers come to homes where they don’t have an opportunity to share the gospel, they will drop off a bag with an invitation from the local association to their local churches along with brochures and some kind of gospel tract.
 
Crossover also will include a major evangelistic push into the inner city of Birmingham. A NAMB Send Relief mobile health clinic and mobile dental clinic will be set up outside of an inner-city church in a high-poverty area of the city. Evangelistic teams will be at the clinics sharing the gospel with participants.
 
As in previous Crossover events, Southern Baptist seminary students will partner with local churches for door-to-door evangelism in Birmingham throughout the week prior to the main outreach and will be a part of the 400 teams blanketing metro Birmingham on June 8.
 
For three decades in Crossover initiatives, NAMB has partnered with state Baptist conventions and Baptist associations to engage the communities hosting the annual SBC meeting. Last year, a record 4,229 people made professions of faith in Christ through Crossover events in Dallas.
 
“It’s a really good opportunity,” Southerland reiterated from Gilbreath, “for a pastor or a student pastor to train their church how to witness in their own community.”
 
To register for Crossover Birmingham or for more information, visit the Crossover Birmingham website.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

3/14/2019 12:10:27 PM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



Georgia Baptist Mission Board rolls out restructuring plans

March 14 2019 by Scott Barkley, Christian Index

Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond, Jr., rolled out restructuring plans March 12 during the Mission Board’s executive committee meeting.
 

Photo by Myriah Snyder, The Christian Index
Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond, Jr., shared restructuring details March 12 during the Mission Board's executive committee meeting.

With various multi-colored maps on display, Hammond’s report on the mission board’s future included details on how there will be no “Baptist Building,” no large collection of departments and no expectations of attending meetings that often involve a stop-and-go crawl through Atlanta traffic. Hammond also outlined a new focus for resourcing churches and pastors, the ones he calls his “heroes.”
 
“They – you – have the most important job someone could have,” he told the mission board’s executive committee members. “You preach the gospel.”
 
Anticipation of Hammond’s announcement had been building since a downsizing in January indicated changes on the way. With it comes a shift in mentality, he told state missionaries in a closed-door meeting March 6 that presented the changes.
 
“It won’t be the case of churches coming to us for help and resources. We’ll be going to them,” Hammond said.
 
“We want to put a higher emphasis on results, not activity,” he said in a call for greater efficiency of missions dollars. “Let’s be sure that what we’re doing makes a difference. The world is changing every day. If we’re not, we’re going to get lapped.”
 

Missions and ministry center to be sold

 
The listening sessions Hammond has hosted throughout the state rendered a variety of answers from pastors. But some responses were uniform. One concerned the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth, which opened in June 2006.
 
In response to a question on what the Mission Board needs to stop doing, “stop holding on to the building” received nearly five times the response as anything else, Hammond said.
 
While there are several interested buyers, ongoing talks with interested parties will continue, expressed chief operation officer Kevin Smith.
 
Each region will not be a “mini-convention” Hammond explained. Catalysts and region consultants will be mobile, working from home or whatever office space (such as a coffee shop or their cars) when not visiting churches, he said. A central administration location, he noted, for approximately 50 staff is currently being sought north of Atlanta.
 

Core values

 
Traveling across the state to the listening sessions clarified Hammond’s desire to streamline the Mission Board and make it an entity focused on pastors and churches, he told executive committee members. To that end, he presented three core values for the Mission Board:

  • “Pastors are our heroes.”

  • “Churches are our priority.”

  • “Georgia is our mission field.”

“The passion of an entity is seeing what they do. The character is found in what they decide to stop doing,” Hammond said. “It’s hard to stop doing things, especially when they used to work. But truthfully, we’re not unlimited in our resources.”
 
Being efficient with resources and mission dollars calls for a focus on goals, he added.
 
“We exist to encourage, resource, train, and bless pastors and churches,” he said. “If we cease to do that, then we need to cease to exist.”
 
Hammond addressed anticipated questions about the final core value. Yes, he said, Georgia Baptists are called to go into all the world. However, that starts with healthy churches in Georgia.
 
“We’re going to partner with others in reaching Georgia [such as] through our associations and focus on specific areas of lostness,” he said.
 
Partnerships through the North American Mission Board (NAMB) or International Mission Board could help healthier Georgia Baptist churches reach one of NAMB’s Send cities or an unreached people group, he explained.
 
“It’s not that Georgia is going to be all that we do; my prayer is we’ll end up doing more than we’ve ever done,” Hammond said. “But we want to make sure the light is shone in Georgia like never before so we can shine it elsewhere.”
 

Six regions, five teams

 
Instead of a perspective where the Georgia Baptist Mission Board is headquartered northeast of Atlanta, six regions will serve to make the Board closer in accessibility to churches. Five teams, each with a lead strategist (basically a vice presidential position), will address key areas of ministry in:
 
– Church strengthening
 
“All the activities we’ll be doing as a mission board will point toward this,” Hammond said.
 
– Pastor wellness
 
“This is the other ‘significant rail’ on which this train is going to run,” he said. “It’ll be for the whole family.”
 
– Research and development
 
“Communications, resources, Cooperative Program development, designing logos, [etc.],” he said. “We want to respond to what churches say they need.”
 
– Georgia Baptist women
 
“We’ll work to equip women to reach women,” he said. “Georgia WMU will be in this team.”
 
– Strategic church planting
 
“We use the word strategic because ... we want to see where the population trends and growth are,” he said. “See where we’re under-churched.”
 
The church strengthening lead strategist will work directly with five catalyst leaders, each assigned to an area listed below:

  • Evangelism

  • Missions

  • Discipleship

  • Next-gen

  • Music and worship.

 
Those catalysts will focus on their area of engagement through the state through a consultant assigned to that region.
 
Church strengthening will be one “rail” on which the restructuring will run, with church pastoral wellness serving as the other, Hammond stated. The latter, he added, will address the health of pastors in spiritual, physical, vocational, relational and financial areas.
 
“There are some great things we can learn to help us deal with stress. The bodies that we have are what carry us as we carry the gospel,” he noted.
 
Chief Strategist Steve Parr explained that the restructuring process will begin on June 1, with a rollout at the Georgia Baptist Convention Nov. 11-12. Full implementation of the restructuring is expected to be complete on Jan. 1, 2020.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is editor of The Christian Index, christianindex.org, online news journal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

3/14/2019 12:00:48 PM by Scott Barkley, Christian Index | with 0 comments



Displaying results 41-50 (of 88)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9  >  >|