Anti-religion campus policies targeted by ADF

May 14 2012 by Leigh Jones, Baptist Press

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has launched a nationwide campaign to convince state universities and colleges to change policies that restrict students’ First Amendment rights.

Its strategy starts with persuasion but could culminate in lawsuits. The organization of Christian lawyers expects at least a few cases to end up in federal court, which could encourage the nation’s highest court to wade into the fray.

“The Supreme Court really needs to step in and clarify for universities that they can’t select particular views to censor,” said Kevin Theriot, Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel.

Theriot and his team have been working on the campaign for about a year, but the group’s failure to convince the Supreme Court to hear what many believed would be a seminal case for religious liberty on campus helped bring urgency to the project.
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On March 19, the Supreme Court declined to hear ADX v. Reed, a case involving a Christian sorority and fraternity at San Diego State University. The school told the groups they couldn’t require leaders to sign a commitment of faith, and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. In issuing its ruling, the Ninth Circuit relied heavily on a 2010 Supreme Court ruling in CLS v. Martinez, in which the justices said a state school could create an “all-comers” policy requiring all groups to open membership and leadership to all students.

But the Ninth Circuit did not rule on whether an “all-comers” policy could have exceptions, an issue the ADF and other religious liberty advocates hoped the high court would clear up with ADX v. Reed. The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case does not mean it agreed with the lower court’s ruling. It only means other cases took precedent on the docket.

The ADF hopes to persuade the high court to take up the issue in the future by litigating several similar cases through federal courts around the country. Lawyers from the ADF and The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty are using the same tactic to challenge the contraception mandate included in the new health care law. Legal experts say the high court is more likely to take a case if circuit courts issue contradictory opinions on similar issues.

And the lawyers have plenty of cases to choose from. The CLS v. Martinez ruling has prompted several schools, including Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn., to adopt what they describe as “all-comers” policies, although administrators apply them selectively.

“It’s really targeted toward Christian groups, no doubt about it,” he said. “They are the only ones who want to select leaders on the basis of belief. These policies are a poorly disguised attempt to discriminate against religious groups.”

Although the Vanderbilt case has received a lot of attention in recent months, it won’t be on the ADF’s list of offenders. As a private school, Vanderbilt is free to adopt policies that restrict constitutionally protected religious liberties. But plenty of state schools have scrambled to follow Vanderbilt’s lead.

ADF lawyers have identified more than 160 public universities with unconstitutional policies. The team sent letters to 40 schools in 23 states in early May in its first volley of challenges. Seventeen of the schools have policies that restrict the freedom of campus Christian groups to select members or leaders. The rest have policies that violate free speech, restrict protest activities to limited areas of campus or exclude religious groups from access to student fee funding.

The group saw its first victory shortly after mailing the first batch of letters. Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina agreed to change its policy limiting student expression to a small wooded area on campus. Courts have come down on the side of protestors in several similar cases in the last year.

The Alliance Defense Fund is just one organization pursuing campus religious liberty cases. Both the Foundation for Individual Liberty in Education (FIRE) and the Christian Legal Society regularly challenge unconstitutional policies. Individual groups facing discrimination on campus also fight attempts by school administrators to stifle their rights. The next case involving a campus Christian group could come from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where the student senate revoked official recognition for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship over violations of the school’s nondiscrimination policy.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Jones writes for World News Service, where this story first appeared.)

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5/14/2012 12:35:46 PM by Leigh Jones, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Move, RAs top agenda at Missions Extravaganza

May 11 2012 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Gearing up for the fall merge involving Royal Ambassadors (RAs), which will bring them under the fold of the Woman’s Missionary Union, WMU-North Carolina’s leader observed that the change will be a joint effort.
 
“I want to assure you that WMU-NC is not ‘taking over’ the car races,” said Ruby Fulbright, executive director-treasurer, referring to the derby races held each year with Royal Ambassadors. “WMU-NC is not ‘taking over’ anything. Helping our children and youth learn of God’s heart for the world and how they can be involved is a joint endeavor.”
 
N.C. Baptist Men will play a key role in training and helping equip people to lead – not only RAs – but the Challenger program as well.
 
Fulbright, who “drove” into her annual report in an RA race car and wearing racing gear, gave her report April 21 to 925 women attending the 121st annual Missions Extravaganza April 20-22 at Ridgecrest Conference Center.
 
“In North Carolina, WMU and Baptist Men have been working together to provide missions education resources, training for leadership and guidance as we enter a new phase of coordinated missions for children and youth,” she said.
 
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BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Women bidding at the annual Missions Extravaganza, Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) annual meeting, raised $11,376 for the Heck-Jones Offering. View photo gallery.


Music was led by Bud and Barbara Lee, traveling music evangelists from Missouri. The Hanging Dog String Band and the Far Out Four, groups made up of pastors and directors of mission, performed April 20.
 
Phyllis Elliott Elvington, a member at Tabor City Baptist Church and a big draw during her breakout sessions in previous years, served as the main speaker. Rianna Freeman, a freelance artist, painted three paintings during three sessions in which Elvington spoke.
 
Each of those sessions tackled the meeting’s theme: “Challenged … prepared … equipped.”
 
A silent auction raised $11,376 for the Heck-Jones Offering, and an offering during the weekend meeting raised $701 for Heck-Jones and $9,305.95 to be split between the annual prison retreat and Camp Angel Tree, a camp for girls with parents in prison.
 
Building donated
Fulbright announced the WMU-NC Executive Board agreed March 24 to accept a donation of an office building in Lillington. Closing on the 16,500-square-foot building is expected this month. Renovations will have to be made to the facilities.
 
“This opportunity has been provided by several missions-minded individuals who firmly believe in the purpose of WMU-NC to ‘challenge, prepare and equip Christian believers to be radically involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission,’” a WMU press release stated.
 
Fulbright intimated that the move would save the organization more than $70,000 a year that it currently pays to lease space in Raleigh.
 
“This truly is a gift,” said Fulbright. “We’ve been praying for God to show us new opportunities; to show us a new ‘thing’; something that might help propel us into the future as the premier missions resource center for N.C. – maybe even beyond.
 
“I’m dreaming ‘big’ here. But, I see signs that God is doing something in our midst.”
 
During the financial report, the women approved a 2012 budget of $1,207,689.
 
This was an increase from the 2011 budget of $1,157,448. With 2011 income at $1,097,664, WMU-NC experienced a $59,748 net loss. The organization transferred funds from its reserve funds to cover the cost.
 
The 2012 budget reflects expense items relating to the search for a new executive director-treasurer. Fulbright officially retired at the end of 2011, but she remained as acting executive through Missions Extravaganza and to finalize some other duties.
 
Other changes include: $50,000 for a new financial development director, as well as increases in salaries, money for new software to allow online donations and building a donor database, and increases for Camp Angel Tree and the Prison Retreat.
 
The women re-elected its officers: Tana Hartsell, president; and Robin Penninger, vice president; Beth McDonald, recording secretary; Denise “Dee Dee” Moody, assistant recording secretary. The vice president of development position is vacant.
 
Members-at-large approved were: Ruth O. Bass, Region 1; Lori Duke, Region 4; Tammi A. Burdine, Region 6; Irma Robledo, Region 6; Martha Heavner, Region 8; and Karen Burnette, Region 10.
Next year’s annual meeting meeting is April 19-21.
 
For more, visit wmunc.org.
5/11/2012 1:52:11 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



U.S. split on homosexual behavior as sin

May 11 2012 by David Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Americans are split on whether homosexual behavior is a sin, and many do not appreciate if a church teaches it is sinful, according to a recent survey conducted by LifeWay Research.

The random-sample survey of more than 2,000 Americans asked, “Do you believe homosexual behavior is a sin?” Forty-four percent said yes and 43 percent said no. Thirteen percent were not sure.

Being a born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian often corresponded with a negative view of homosexuality. Among those groups, 82 percent said homosexual behavior is a sin while 14 percent said it is not a sin. In contrast, 29 percent of all other religious groups said it is sinful and 51 percent said it is not.

Men and Americans without a college degree were more likely to say homosexuality is sinful. Forty-seven percent of men said it is a sin, but only 40 percent of women.

And 49 percent of those without a college degree said homosexual behavior is a sin, compared with 35 percent who have a college degree.

“When asking questions like this to a general sampling of the population, it is important to note that people’s definition of ‘sin’ may differ based upon their religious background and beliefs,” Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, said. “We intentionally used the word but also know it means different things to different people.”

McConnell noted that in 2011, Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll approached the question of homosexuality asking if it was “morally acceptable.”

“While we find 44 percent believe homosexuality is a ‘sin,’ Gallup reports 56 percent of Americans consider gay and lesbian relations morally acceptable,” McConnell said.
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Respondents in the LifeWay poll also were asked the question: “If you were considering visiting or joining a church, would knowing that the church taught that homosexual behavior was sinful impact your decision positively or negatively or have no impact?”

Only 26 percent of respondents said it would have a positive impact while 36 percent said it would have a negative impact. Nearly a third (32 percent) said it would have no impact.

Of those who said homosexual behavior is sinful, a slight majority (54 percent) said a church teaching it is sinful would positively impact their decision to visit or join. But among those who do not believe homosexual behavior is sinful, 74 percent said a congregation teaching it is sinful would negatively impact their decision to visit or join.

“Conversations about sin are inherently religious in nature,” McConnell said. “Merriam-Webster tells us the use of the word ‘sin’ is religious or moral and often specifically refers to a ‘transgression of the law of God.’ It is no surprise, then, that the sharpest negative reaction to a church specifically teaching that homosexual behavior is a sin comes from the least religious, those who do not attend religious services.”

Regarding the effect of a church’s stand on homosexuality, the survey found:

– Americans who never attend a place of worship strongly leaned negative in their response to the impact of a church teaching homosexual behavior is sinful. Those who never attend a place of worship were most likely to say this teaching would have a negative impact on them visiting or joining the church if they were considering it (72 percent) compared to only 21 percent of those who attend worship services more than once a week.

– Younger Americans took a more negative view of churches teaching against homosexuality. Those 18 to 29 (19 percent) were the least likely age group to say that a congregation teaching against homosexuality would have a positive impact upon their decision to visit or join. Those 65 and older were the most likely age group to say it would impact their decision positively (35 percent) and the least likely to say it would impact their decision negatively (29 percent).

– Men were more likely than women to look favorably on a church teaching homosexuality is sin. Twenty-nine percent of men and 22 percent of women said it would impact their decision positively. Thirty-four percent of men and 38 percent of women said it would impact their decision negatively.

– People in large (44 percent) and small (43 percent) cities were more likely to say a church’s teaching against homosexuality would impact their decision negatively than those in suburbs (32 percent) and rural areas (26 percent).

“Americans remain evenly split on the moral and religious questions of whether homosexual behavior is a sin,” McConnell said. “It likely reflects different beliefs about Scripture and different beliefs about who defines sin.”

The online survey of 2,144 adult Americans was conducted Sept. 23-26, 2011, among a sample of an online panel representing the adult population of the United States. Responses were weighted by region, party, age, race, religion, gender and education to more accurately reflect the population and provides a 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +2.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a pastor and writer in Shelbyville, Ky.)
5/11/2012 1:47:14 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Iranian pastor: I’m surrendered ‘to God’s will’

May 11 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

TEHRAN – The jailed Iranian pastor who could be executed for converting to Christianity has released a public letter asking for continued prayers and saying that while he wishes to be released, he has surrendered “to God’s will.”
 
The letter from Yousef Nadarkhani was translated into English by Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries, an organization that has been working to free Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for converting from Islam to Christianity. The case dates back to 2009. His first name also can be spelled “Youcef.”

“First, I would like to inform all of my beloved brothers and sisters that I am in perfect health in the flesh and spirit,” the letter began. “And I try to have a little different approach from others to these days, and consider it as the day of exam and trial of my faith. And in these days which are hard in order to prove your loyalty and sincerity to God, I am trying to do the best in my power to stay right with what I have learned from God’s commandments.

“I need to remind my beloveds, though my trial … has been so long, and as in the flesh I wish these days to end, yet I have surrendered myself to God’s will.”

Without naming names or countries, Nadarkhani acknowledged that “various churches” and “famous politicians” have asked for his release and that human rights groups worldwide have sided with him. Officials with the United States and United Kingdom have called for his release.
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Yousef Nadarkhani


“I do believe that these kind of activities can be very helpful in order to reach freedom, and respecting the human rights in a right way can bring forth great results in this,” Nadarkhani wrote.

But Nadarkhani, again without mentioning names, seemed to criticize Florida pastor Terry Jones, who in April burned several copies of the Quran. Jones, who pastors an independent church, said he took the action to draw attention to Nadarkhani’s case. Jones’ action didn’t get much attention in the United States but Iranian politicians noticed, and one called for Jones to be executed, The New York Times reported.

“Insulting the belief of other nations or people, whether they be a majority or minority, is not accepted and is an unworthy deed, specifically for those who have this teaching to love and respect others more than themselves and treat them the same as you want to be treated,” Nadarkhani wrote. “Then, burning and insulting is not a reverent behavior for a Christian, but it’s worthy to be in obedience to the Word of God and humble ourselves to glorify God.”

Nadarkhani said he prays for the leaders in Iran to “rule the country according to the will of God.”

He also asked for prayer.

“I ask all the beloved ones to pray for me as the holy word has said,” Nadarkhani wrote. “At the end I hope this be prepared as soon as possible, as the authorities of my country will do with free will according to their law and commandments which are answerable to.”

Nadarkhani’s stance against Iranian officials has inspired Christians worldwide. In September, Nadarkhani was given four chances to recant his faith in court and refused each time. His case then was referred to the ayatollah. The American Center for Law and Justice reported one of his court exchanges.

“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” Nadarkhani asked.

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge reportedly replied.

“I cannot,” the pastor responded.

Following is the full text of his letter:

“Greetings from your servant and younger brother in Christ, Youcef Nadarkhani.

“All those who are concerned and worried about my current situation. First, I would like to inform all of my beloved brothers and sisters that I am in perfect health in the flesh and spirit. And I try to have a little different approach from others to these days, and consider it as the day of exam and trial of my faith. And in these days which are hard in order to prove your loyalty and sincerity to God, I am trying to do the best in my power to stay right with what I have learned from God’s commandments.

“I need to remind my beloveds, though my trial … has been so long, and as in the flesh I wish these days to end, yet I have surrendered myself to God’s will.

“I am neither a political person nor do I know about political complicity, but I know that while there are many things in common between different cultures, there are also differences between these cultures around the world which can result in criticism, which most of the times response to this criticisms will be harsh and as a result will lengthen our problems.

“From time to time I am informed about the news which is spreading in the media about my current situation, for instance being supported by various churches and famous politicians who have asked for my release, or campaigns and human rights activities which are going on against the charges which are applied to me. I do believe that these kind of activities can be very helpful in order to reach freedom, and respecting the human rights in a right way can bring forth great results in this.

“I want to appreciate all those are trying to reach to this goal. But at the other hand, I’d like to announce my disgust at insulting words or activities which make stress and trouble, which unfortunately are done with the justification (excuse) of defending human rights and freedom, for the final result is so clear and obvious for me. Insulting the belief of other nations or people, whether they be a majority or minority, is not accepted and is an unworthy deed, specifically for those who have this teaching to love and respect others more than themselves and treat them the same as you want to be treated.

“Then, burning and insulting is not a reverent behavior for a Christian, but it’s worthy to be in obedience to the Word of God and humble ourselves to glorify God.

“I try to be humble and obedient to those who are in power, obedience to those in authority which God has granted to the officials of my country, and pray for them to rule the country according to the will of God and be successful in doing this. For I know this in this way I have obeyed God’s word. I try to obey along with those whom I see in a common situation with me. They never had any complaint, but just let the power of God be manifested in their lives, and though sometimes we read that they have used this right to defend themselves, for they had this right, I am not an exception as well and have used all possibilities and so forth and am waiting for the final result.

“So I ask all the beloved ones to pray for me as the holy word has said. At the end I hope this be prepared as soon as possible, as the authorities of my country will do with free will according to their law and commandments which are answerable to.

“May God’s Grace and Mercy be upon you now and forever. Amen.

“Youcef Nadarkhani”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)

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5/11/2012 1:38:08 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Brian Autry elected SBC of Virginia exec

May 11 2012 by Brandon Pickett & Amanda Sullivan, Baptist Press

GLEN ALLEN, Va. – Brian Autry has been elected as executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBC of Virginia) in a unanimous vote by the state convention’s Executive Board.
 
Autry, 41, founding pastor of Parkway Baptist Church in Moseley, Va., will take office on May 16.

“It’s a great day,” said Doyle Chauncey, SBC of Virginia’s treasurer and interim executive director. “He’s going to bring a different dimension to our convention. Our church planters are going to be extremely excited about a church planter who has been very successful.

“I think it’s an exciting new beginning for the SBC of Virginia,” Chauncey continued. “We’ve had several new beginnings, and every new beginning turns out to be something that God’s up to, and we later find out what it’s all about.”

SBC of Virginia’s former executive director, Jeff Ginn, left the post he had held for three years in August 2011 to become pastor of Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., where he continues to serve. Chauncey, the convention’s founding executive director, was named interim executive director upon Ginn’s departure and the Executive Board immediately formed a search committee.

The committee considered multiple candidates from across the nation but, in the end, unanimously voted to present Autry to the Executive Board.

“Brian did not seek the position, but we sought him,” said search committee chairman Kelly Burris, pastor of Kempsville Baptist Church in Virginia Beach. “He had been recommended to us by several people. The more we began to talk with him, the more impressed we were of the passion that he had for the SBC of Virginia.”
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Brian Autry has been elected as executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.


SBC of Virginia’s president, Randy Hahn, pastor of Colonial Heights (Va.) Baptist Church, noted, “We’ve got somebody with experience with Virginia – somebody with experience with the SBC of Virginia.”

Burris, in his presentation to the Executive Board prior to their May 8 vote, noted various goals that Autry had for the SBC of Virginia.

“He wants to plant strong churches that stay strong,” Burris said. “He wants the SBC of Virginia to mentor and encourage courageous leaders; to lead the Southern Baptist Convention in planting ethnically diverse congregations; to advance Christ’s mission – the Great Commission – by mobilizing followers of Jesus; to see our members become our missionaries.”

Autry said he is optimistic about the opportunity to serve the SBCV’s churches.

“I look forward to seeing how God is going to continue to use the SBC of Virginia as a marvelous coalition of churches of great Kingdom impact and advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Autry said.

Autry has been part of the SBC of Virginia for 16-plus years. He began working for the convention in 2000 as the student evangelism director. In 2002, he left that role to plant Parkway Baptist, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

“We have an average of 900 people in attendance each weekend and a little more than 1,000 members,” said Derek Futrell, Parkway’s pastor of worship and missions.

Ginn, SBCV’s former executive, praised the board’s decision, describing Autry as “wonderfully suited to this new, vital role. He is teachable, experienced, proven, fruitful, visionary and creative. Add him to the mix of the SBCV’s current staff and unique vision and it is a winning combination. I rejoice to hear the good news and back it 100 percent.”

In addition to his work with SBC of Virginia, Autry was a missionary with the North American Mission Board from 2000-05. His ministry reaches further back than that, having worked as associate pastor of students and education at Kempsville Baptist Church from 1996-2000.

Autry graduated from James Madison University in 1992 with a bachelor of science in both psychology and political science. He earned his master of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina in 1996. In 2002, he received his doctorate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a focus in evangelism, church growth and church consulting.

Autry and his wife Jennifer have three children: Melissa, Mark, and Jenna.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Pickett is director of media services for the SBC of Virginia; Amanda Sullivan is a writer for Innovative Faith Resources. For more information about the SBC of Virginia, visit sbcv.org.)
5/11/2012 1:31:29 PM by Brandon Pickett & Amanda Sullivan, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Franklin Graham responds to Obama’s same-sex marriage support

May 10 2012 by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

CHARLOTTE – Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s statement in support of same-sex marriage:
 
“On Tuesday my state of North Carolina became the 31st state to approve a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. While the move to pass amendments defining marriage is relatively new, the definition of marriage is 8,000 years old and was defined not by man, but by God Himself.
 
“In changing his position from that of Senator/candidate Obama, President Obama has, in my view, shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage. It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more.
 
The institution of marriage should not be defined by presidents or polls, governors or the media. The definition was set long ago and changing legislation or policy will never change God’s definition. This is a sad day for America. May God help us.”

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5/10/2012 2:00:31 PM by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association | with 0 comments



Obama first president to support gay ‘marriage’

May 10 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – President Obama Wednesday became the first sitting U.S. president to support gay “marriage” publicly, an announcement that was surprising perhaps only in its timing and one that could impact the general election.

The announcement came one day after North Carolinians overwhelmingly affirmed the traditional definition of marriage. Four other states will consider the issue this year, a year in which Obama is seeking re-election.

Obama seemed to be forced into stating his position after Vice President Joe Biden told NBC’s “Meet the Press” three days earlier that he is “comfortable” with gays and lesbians “marrying.”

Obama made the announcement during an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts.

“I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Obama told Roberts. The full interview aired Wednesday on ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer.”

Even before Obama was elected, some conservative and liberal pundits scoffed at the suggestion that Obama did not support gay “marriage.” For instance, in 2008 he opposed California Prop 8, a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. In 2011 he ordered the Justice Department to stop defending in court the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage in the traditional sense, and he also announced support for a congressional bill that would overturn the law. And this year, his spokespersons announced he opposed proposed constitutional marriage amendments in North Carolina and Minnesota. He’s also spoken twice to events held by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay group. Yet all along, the White House maintained he merely was “evolving” on the issue.

Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, reacted to the news with sadness.
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President Barack Obama, seen here during an ABC News interview, publicly announced he supports gay marriage.


“It is very depressing news when the president of the United States uses his power of influence to endorse same-sex marriage,” Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., told Baptist Press. “Scripture is very clear that from the beginning, God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman. It is important for us who are followers of Jesus to uphold the sacredness of marriage according to scripture.”

Wright added, “Christians are called to pray for our government leaders, and it is now more important than ever to pray for President Obama in this very misguided decision.”

It remains to be seen whether it will cost Obama politically. Although some polls now show majority support for gay “marriage,” it has yet to translate to the ballot. North Carolina voters Tuesday passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman, and the margin of victory – 61-39 percent – surprised even supporters. Thirty-two states now have voted on the issue, and traditional marriage has won with an average margin of 67-33 percent.

After watching the North Carolina results Tuesday night, pollster Tom Jensen of the left-leaning Public Policy Polling send out a Tweet, saying, “Hate to say it but I don’t believe polls showing majority support for gay marriage nationally. Any time there’s a vote it doesn’t back it up.”

Maine and Minnesota will consider the issue in November, and Maryland and Washington state likely will as well.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said he was “saddened” and “deeply disappointed” by Obama’s announcement.

“No matter what culture may dictate with its ever-changing winds, I am grateful for the sure and unchanging source of authority we have in scripture,” Page said. “We must hold to God’s Word on this and many other issues.”

Jim Campbell, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund – which defends traditional marriage laws – said Obama’s announcement could negatively impact families.

“The president has spoken eloquently about how fatherless homes often hurt children and society,” Campbell said. “Today’s statement is a tragic contradiction that promotes the creation of even more fatherless and motherless homes.”

President Clinton also supports gay “marriage,” but he made his announcement in 2009, well after leaving office.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)

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5/10/2012 1:48:12 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Land issues 5-part apology; NAAF pres. awaits trustee action

May 10 2012 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A five-part apology for “injudicious comments” was released May 9 by Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), regarding the Trayvon Martin killing.

Land’s apology stemmed from a May 2 meeting in which several key African American leaders were in attendance, including Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans; James Dixon Jr., president of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and senior pastor of El-Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md.; and K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the Southern Baptist African American Advisory Council and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa.

“I am here today to offer my genuine and heartfelt apology for the harm my words of March 31, 2012, have caused to specific individuals, the cause of racial reconciliation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Land said in his two-page apology May 9.

As a result of the meeting May 2 that lasted nearly five hours, Land said, “I have come to understand in sharper relief how damaging my words were.”

Among others at the May 2 meeting were Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In all, 12 individuals attended the session at the SBC Building in Nashville, Tenn.
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Richard Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.


Dixon, contacted by Baptist Press, said he would have no comment on Land’s apology until after ERLC trustees have completed the process initiated by their executive committee on April 18 regarding comments by Land on his weekly call-in radio show over the intrusion of politics into the Trayvon Martin case, in which Land referenced President Obama and the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson by name.

The six-member executive committee, in a public statement, expressed sadness “that this controversy has erupted” and concern “about how these events may damage the work of the ERLC in support of Southern Baptists and in furtherance of the Kingdom of our Lord.”

The ERLC executive committee also created an ad hoc committee to investigate allegations of plagiarism over material Land failed to attribute to a Washington Times columnist on the March 31 broadcast.

Steve Faith, ERLC trustee chairman, issued a statement later on May 9 that the ad hoc committee is working “with due diligence and will bring a thorough and complete report to the ERLC Executive Committee who will prayerfully consider the findings. The ERLC Executive Committee will bring a report to the full board of trustees and then release a public statement by June 1.

“It is important to understand that our Southern Baptist polity places Dr. Land under the authority of the ERLC trustees who are elected by and accountable directly to the Convention,” said Faith, a retired pastor and Baptist association director of missions in Indiana. “The trustees are aware of their responsibility to the Convention and to the watching world.”

Land’s full statement of apology May 9 follows:

“I am here today to offer my genuine and heartfelt apology for the harm my words of March 31, 2012, have caused to specific individuals, the cause of racial reconciliation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the ministry of The Reverend James Dixon, Jr. the president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a group of brethren who met with me earlier this month, I have come to understand in sharper relief how damaging my words were.

“I admit that my comments were expressed in anger at what I thought was one injustice – the tragic death of Trayvon Martin – being followed by another injustice – the media trial of George Zimmerman, without appeal to due judicial process and vigilante justice promulgated by the New Black Panthers. Like my brothers in the Lord, I want true justice to prevail and must await the revelation of the facts of the case in a court of law. Nevertheless, I was guilty of making injudicious comments.

“First, I want to confess my insensitivity to the Trayvon Martin family for my imbalanced characterization of their son which was based on news reports, not personal knowledge. My heart truly goes out to a family whose lives have been turned upside down by the shocking death of a beloved child. I can only imagine their sense of loss and deeply regret any way in which my language may have contributed to their pain.

“Second, I am here to confess that I impugned the motives of President Obama and the reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. It was unchristian and unwise for me to have done so. God alone is the searcher of men’s hearts. I cannot know what motivated them in their comments in this case. I have sent personal letters of apology to each of them asking for them to forgive me. I continue to pray for them regularly, and for our president daily.

“Third, I do not believe that crime statistics should in any way justify viewing a person of another race as a threat. I own my earlier words about statistics; and I regret that they may suggest that racial profiling is justifiable. I have been an outspoken opponent of profiling and was grief-stricken to learn that comments I had made were taken as a defense of what I believe is both unchristian and unconstitutional. I share the dream of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that all men, women, boys, and girls would be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. Racial profiling is a heinous injustice. I should have been more careful in my choice of words.

“Fourth, I must clarify another poor choice of words. I most assuredly do not believe American racism is a ‘myth’ in the sense that it is imaginary or fictitious. It is all too real and all too insidious. My reference to myth in this case was to a story used to push a political agenda. Because I believe racism is such a grievous sin, I stand firmly against its politicization. Racial justice is a non-partisan ideal and should be embraced by both sides of the political aisle.

“Finally, I want to express my deep gratitude to Reverend Dixon and the other men who met with me recently for their Christ-like witness, brotherly kindness, and undaunting courage. We are brethren who have been knit together by the love of Jesus Christ and the passion to reach the world with the message of that love. I pledge to them – and to all who are within the sound of my voice – that I will continue to my dying breath to seek racial justice and that I will work harder than ever to be self-disciplined in my speech. I am grateful to them for holding me accountable.

“I am also delighted to announce that as a result of our meeting, the ERLC, in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, will initiate regular meetings to discuss our common calling to heal our nation’s racial brokenness, work for meaningful reconciliation, and strategize for racial justice.”

Attending the meeting in addition to Land, Luter, Dixon, Marshall, Page, Patterson and Faith were Dwight McKissick, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas; Terry Turner, president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite; A.B. Vines Sr., senior pastor of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, Calif., in the San Diego area; Craig Mitchell, chairman of Southwestern Seminary’s ethics faculty and associate director of the seminary’s Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement; and C. Ben Mitchell, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

Land issued an initial apology April 16 for the comments in conjunction with comments by Luter and SBC President Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., in the Atlanta area. Earlier on April 16, Land also issued an apology for the material he failed to attribute to a Washington Times columnist.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
5/10/2012 1:38:55 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. native Anthony Allen elected as HLGU president

May 10 2012 by Brian Koonce, The Pathway

HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP) – After a seven-month long search, Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU) trustees unanimously elected Anthony Allen as HLGU’s 17th president.
 
The announcement came at the end of spring commencement May 5 at the Hannibal, Mo., campus. Allen was elected in a special called business meeting May 4.
 
Allen, senior vice president of administration and chief administrative officer at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) in Kansas City, will fill the role left by Woody Burt, who will retire as president Aug. 31. Allen, 43, also teaches Christian education courses at MBTS.
 
Allen, a North Carolina native, was raised in a Christian home in the Western region of the state. He came to faith in Christ at Broad River Baptist Church near Black Mountain. He grew up in Marion and graduated from McDowell High School.
 
05-10-12hlgu.jpg

Anthony Allen, right, newly elected as the 17th president of Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri, offers the closing prayer at the university’s 2012 spring commencement. From left are trustee chairman Terry Buster; presidential search committee chairman Pat Benson; and Woody Burt, HLGU president who retires Aug. 31.


He answered the call to ministry in his sophomore year at Duke University, where he served as president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and preached regularly at a Durham rescue mission.
 
Allen played football four years at Duke where he was a defensive tackle and graduated with a degree in history and religion. He earned both the master of divinity with biblical languages and the master of theology in Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C. He completed his doctorate in higher education administration at N.C. State University in Raleigh in 2011.
 
SEBTS hired him to work in the registrar’s office in 1990. The next year he became director of admissions and student recruitment. Later, the seminary moved Allen to the office of vice president for institutional advancement where he served until 2006.
 
A member of Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan., Allen began at MBTS in 2007 as senior vice president for administration and the chief administrative officer. He became senior vice president for institutional advancement in 2007. In 2012, Allen returned to his previous job title as senior vice president for administration and chief administrative officer.
 
Allen and his wife, Stacy, have five children, Bethany, Evan, Leighton, Annaliese and Brinley.
 
In a statement released by HLGU trustees after their May 4 meeting, Allen spoke about his impressions of the Baptist university and his vision for the future. “I appreciate very much its unwavering commitment to veritas or ‘truth’ and an unashamed commitment to our Baptist heritage,” Allen said.
 
Terry M. Buster Sr., chairman of HLG’s trustees and pastor of First Baptist Church in Palmyra, Mo., said in the statement he believes the search process revealed “God’s hand in every step of the way.”

“I’m excited about Dr. Allen coming as the new president of HLG University,” Buster said. “After a unanimous vote of the board of trustees we just feel like God’s moving us forward and continuing the progress, continuing the heritage, and continuing the history – and launching us into a shared vision and into new vistas and exciting growth at Hannibal-LaGrange University.”
 
Giving two reasons for why he considered coming to the university, Allen said first HLG “has a historic Christian commitment.”
 
This historic past has preserved the institution, while many have fallen by the wayside or jettisoned their Christian commitment and denominational accountability, he said.
 
Second, Allen said HLGU has “a denominational fidelity and accountability to the Missouri Baptist State Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
“As a Baptist university, we have an obligation and a sacred trust to train the next generation of men and women to serve in a variety of vocations and ministerial service,” he said.
 
Describing his vision for HLGU’s future as a “shared vision,” Allen said is it “one that is born out of a heart for Christian education that holds high the Word of God and the revelation of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 
“Christian higher education should be the best education because we recognize that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Allen said. “We believe in divine truth revealed through scripture, which informs our observations of the material world we live in,” he said, citing Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
 
Kevin Shrum, chairman of MBTS’s trustees, said they are sad to lose Allen’s presence on their campus.
 
“Anthony Allen has done a great job in helping bring stability and calm during the presidential transition period at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Allen’s omni-competence in many areas of leadership has helped stabilize our administrative staff and faculty communities. Congratulations to Dr. Allen and the Hannibal-LaGrange University community on his appointment as HLGU’s new president. Under his leadership, HLGU’s best days lay ahead.”
 
Buster said plans are for Burt to be named president emeritus once Allen begins as president in June or July.
 
Since coming to then-named Hannibal-LaGrange College as a professor over 30 years ago, Burt watched the school grow from a two-year institution with less than 400 students to a four-year university with fall enrollment this fall expected to top 1,200. During his tenure with HLGU, Burt taught speech communications and served as admissions director, dean of students, registrar, academic dean, chief development officer, executive vice president, and president. He and his wife Katherine who has taught English at HLGU, will guest-teach at a sister university in Cambridge, England, this fall. She will return for the spring 2013 semester before retiring next May.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce is a staff writer with The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Biblical Recorder Editor K. Allan Blume contributed to this story.)
5/10/2012 1:31:22 PM by Brian Koonce, The Pathway | with 0 comments



Iranian pastor’s attorney headed to prison

May 10 2012 by Baptist Press

TEHRAN – Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani’s attorney – called by many a hero for his representation of religious minorities – has been convicted and could begin serving a nine-year sentence soon in a development that will leave Nadarkhani without a lawyer.

Like Nadarkhani’s conviction, the case of attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah also is controversial. Dadkhah said he was convicted of acting against national security, spreading propaganda and keeping banned books at home, according to the Guardian newspaper in the U.K.
05-10-12attorney.jpg

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, the attorney for jailed Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, may find himself in prison soon, leaving Nadarkhani without an attorney, possibly for good.


Dadkhah has represented Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for converting from Islam to Christianity in a case that began in 2009. Nadarkhani’s first name also can be spelled “Youcef.”

“This development only reinforces the fact that Iran has no regard for basic human rights,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), said in a statement. “It also raises further concern about the fate of Pastor Youcef. With his attorney facing nine years in prison, and no other lawyer likely to take the case, Pastor Youcef has no legal advocate, which places him at greater risk.”

It’s possible that no attorney will step up and represent Nadarkhani. Dadkhah previously told the ACLJ that if he himself was placed in jail, “no attorney would be willing” to take Nadarkhani’s case out of fear of “being imprisoned or disbarred” for representing the Christian pastor. Dadkhah represented 12 Christians in Iran in April who had been charged with several crimes, including apostasy – that is, leaving Islam.

Sekulow called Dadkhah a “world-renowned Muslim human rights attorney.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
5/10/2012 1:23:42 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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