May 2013

Jason Allen inaugurated as MBTS president

May 3 2013 by Tim Sweetman, Baptist Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Entering a freshly completed chapel complex, trustees, guests, friends and family gathered to inaugurate Jason K. Allen as the fifth president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary May 1.

The service was held following the spring trustee meeting and pre-inaugural events from Sunday through Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo. (See story.)

Entity heads from across the Southern Baptist Convention were in attendance or brought greetings. They included Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee; John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention; and David Dockery, president of Union University. Leaders and representatives from several secular and Christian colleges and universities also were present.
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Jason K. Allen, right, signs the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 at his inauguration as Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s fifth president as Kevin Shrum, chairman of the board of trustees at the seminary, looks on.


An invocation given by Jimmy Draper, president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources, was followed by hymns, introductions and Scripture readings. Page brought greetings from the Executive Committee and commended Allen’s vision for the seminary’s responsibility toward the local church. Page said, “Our prayer is that you will never forget your connection to the local church.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., delivered the inaugural sermon, charging Allen to steward the sacred trust and confession of faith, particularly as outlined in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

“Among us, a confession of faith must be seen as a gift and a covenant. It is a sacred trust that guards revealed truths,” Mohler said. “A confession of faith never stands above the Bible, but the Bible itself mandates concern for the pattern of sound words.”

Allen then signed the BF&M after receiving a charge from trustee chairman Kevin Shrum. Each aspect of the charge was related to the roles of the president, his character and the vision and mission of the seminary. It also included an impassioned plea for Allen not to forsake loving and cherishing his wife and children while going about his seminary duties.

The signing of the BF&M was Allen’s solemn pledge to the Midwestern Seminary community and the inauguration audience to witness the inauguration that he would carry out those obligations.

Following the charge and investiture, Jon Elliff, pastor of Makakilo Baptist Church in Kapolei, Hawaii, encouraged those gathered to continually pray for Allen and his family, as Allen’s position would be one upon which Satan would seek to wreak havoc, especially in his family life. He then prayed over Allen and his wife Karen – charging him not only to be faithful as a seminary president but also as a husband and father.

Allen’s presidential response outlined his vision for the future of Midwestern Seminary.

“To our watching denomination I say, this day a man has been installed that loves the churches of this convention,” Allen said. “He resolves to serve, in both letter and in spirit, in good faith with the churches of this convention and welcomes the oversight and accountability the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention exercise over this seminary; this seminary they own.”

The newly inaugurated president highlighted Midwestern Seminary’s calling to exist “For the Church,” saying, “Under the auspices of this vision, we intend to bear any burden, pay any price, endure any hardship, seize any opportunity, launch any initiative and embark on any effort to strengthen our claim and fulfill our mission to be the seminary For the Church.”

Allen then made a call for unity to the SBC churches, their leaders and to all Christians beyond the denomination:

“To this denomination, and to brothers and sisters of like-faith beyond this denomination, I say join us, hope the best for us, believe the best about us, and expect the best from us,” he said. “Pray for us, partner with us, support us, send us your men and women to train for ministry, stand with us in solidarity of spirit, shared conviction and Gospel aspiration; and, without guile, I say, hold us accountable. Hold us accountable to our denominational, confessional and missiological commitments so that we might rightly exist For the Church.”

Allen was elected by the seminary’s board of trustees last October. Previously, he had served as vice president for institutional advancement at Southern Seminary.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Sweetman is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. To view Jason Allen’s complete presidential response, visit www.jasonkallen.com.)


Related story

Trustees: MBTS vision is 'For the Church'

5/3/2013 1:00:51 PM by Tim Sweetman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Trustees: MBTS vision is ‘For the Church’

May 3 2013 by Tim Sweetman, Baptist Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Trustees of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary unanimously approved a resolution April 29 titled “For the Church” underscoring seminary President Jason K. Allen’s vision for the institution.

The biannual meeting also was the first event held in Midwestern’s newly completed chapel complex.

Presented in the main plenary session Monday afternoon, the resolution stated that all trustees “celebrate and affirm President Jason K. Allen’s vision for Midwestern Seminary to exist For the Church and fully support the institution bending its energies and resources toward this end.”

The resolution noted the seminary’s original mission of training “pastors, ministers and evangelists for the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and furnishing pastors, ministers, and missionaries to found and serve Baptist churches internationally,” while also speaking to the accountability of the seminary to the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We are all so excited about the unity and cohesiveness that we feel,” Kevin Shrum, chairman of the trustees, told those in attendance. “This is a tremendous resolution.”

The resolution and response came after hearing Allen’s presidential report in which he spoke specifically regarding his vision for the seminary.

“We are building a culture that esteems the church,” Allen told trustees. “We are not merely in the credentialing business.”

Allen also highlighted an increased desire for cultural renewal on campus, a greater missiological emphasis in the classroom and institutional expansion at Midwestern.

He further announced the new branding of the seminary, which encapsulates the vision of the institution to exist For the Church. Ongoing branding changes include campus signage, the launch of a new website on May 6 and complete overhaul of the visual identity. Midwestern’s new logo is a reflection of the new vision and tagline for the seminary.

Additionally, Allen noted that the seminary not only is positioning itself to serve its current students more effectively but also is anticipating increased growth. The administration announced record spring enrollment for 2013, surpassing the previous record set in the spring of 2012.

Midwestern also received positive reviews from an Association of Theological Schools accreditation visit earlier this year. The team said they originally approached their visit with apprehension but in their final report said they had “experienced transparency, mutual support and confidence in the future.”

In response to the favorable review the seminary received from the accrediting agencies and other encouraging developments on campus, Allen said, “We believe that as we are faithful to His church He will be faithful to us.”

In other business, trustees approved the launch of Midwestern Baptist College’s new undergraduate dual-major programs. This initiative is aimed at enabling students to be better prepared for bivocational ministry.

The dual-majors allow students to receive degrees in either Christian ministry or biblical studies but also they will graduate with a secular degree in a field such as business, music, communications or humanities. The programs will enable students the opportunity to serve in closed countries by having a platform with which to enter safely.

The seminary also will add three new concentrations to the master of divinity track, including preaching and pastoral ministry, Christian ministry, and biblical and theological studies.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Sweetman is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)


Related Story

Jason Allen inaugurated as MBTS president

5/3/2013 12:53:30 PM by Tim Sweetman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



IN-DEPTH: Persecution of Nigeria’s Christians

May 3 2013 by Ann Buwalda & Emmanuel Ogebe, Baptist Press

NIGERIA – The publicly reported Christian casualties in Nigeria last year were greater than the Christian casualties of Pakistan, Syria, Kenya and Egypt combined. In fact, Nigeria alone accounted for almost 70 percent of Christians killed globally. This makes Nigeria the most lethal country for Christians by a huge margin.

While media reports do not tell the whole story, and death tolls are not the only factor in persecution, such a great list of martyrs demands our attention. In 2012, more than 900 Christians were killed in Nigeria in attacks that specifically targeted Christians for their faith. By the first quarter of this year, at least 128 people have been killed in northern Nigeria, mostly Christians.

Much of the violence in 2012 was attributed to the Jihadist terror group Boko Haram. With 3,000 casualties affecting citizens from a dozen countries in three years, Boko Haram has earned a dubious distinction as one of the top five lethal terrorist organizations in the world. In the last three years, however, the three most deadly incidents of anti-Christian persecution – with triple-digit casualties – in Nigeria were the March 7, 2010, massacre in Jos, Plateau state, the April 16, 2011, pogrom in the country’s Sharia (Islamic law) states and the Jan. 20, 2012, onslaught in Kano. Two of these three incidents were not the handiwork of terrorists but of average northern Nigerian Muslims.

While Boko Haram’s bloody terrorist tactics certainly merit serious concern, the focus on this group has overshadowed a pattern of systemic religious violence in Nigeria. It obfuscates the pervasive history of the killing of Christians by Muslims in northern Nigeria going back over a quarter century.


Transferred aggression

In 1999, after a pro-democracy movement successfully ended military dictatorship and a Christian was elected president, 12 Muslim-controlled states in northern Nigeria reacted by imposing Islamic sharia law in open violation of Nigeria’s constitution. This resulted in horrific violence the following year that left thousands dead when Christians protested peacefully.
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Such acts of violence continue to this day with virtual impunity. In November, for instance, the mispronunciation of a dress style by a non-Muslim tailor led to his death – along with several other Christians – and church burnings in spontaneous riots. This ultimately fatal fashion mistake was not the handiwork of terrorists but of average northern Nigerian Muslims.

Persecution in Nigeria is discernible in three widening concentric circles: sect, state and street levels. While much has been said regarding the smallest circle – sect-level actors such as Boko Haram – most analysts overlook the ongoing and serious persecution in the wider state and street circles, which provide an enabling environment for groups like Boko Haram.


Street-level aggression

Consider the street level. The most serious attack on the Christian community in Nigeria’s recent history was not carried out by Boko Haram or any organized Islamic sect. Rather, it was an act of ordinary Muslims across most northern states. This anti-Christian pogrom, referred to as the “post-election violence,” deserves examination as a bellwether of the real conditions in Nigeria’s tottering political union.

In April 2011, in what was dubbed one of the “freest and fairest” elections in Nigeria’s recent history, Goodluck Jonathan was elected president. Before his victory was announced, violence erupted in the 12 northern sharia states – again.

The final toll for the Christian community was staggering. In a 48-hour period, 764 church buildings were burned, 204 Christians were confirmed killed, more than 3,100 Christian-operated businesses, schools, and shops were burned, and more than 3,400 Christian homes were destroyed. While there have been similar death tolls in certain incidents in terms of scope and coordinated scale of destruction, there has been no equivalent attack against the church in recent decades, with the possible exception of government-backed genocides in Sudan.

Yet this was not a government-backed endeavor. Instead, thousands of Muslim youths in 12 states gathered together with machetes, knives, matches and gasoline and carried out this pogrom. The “freest and fairest” elections resulted in some of the “fiercest and most ferocious” violence against innocent Christians that Nigeria has seen.

In several states that our fact-finding teams visited, taxis were randomly stopped by rampaging Muslims and the Christians ferreted out for murder. In one instance a taxi driver, despite the pleas of sympathetic Muslim passengers, drove a pastor to a mob and handed him over to be killed.

This was clearly an anti-Christian pogrom. Muslim rioters in the city of Zaria would enter a federal campus and attack only the Christian chapel, leaving the other buildings untouched. People were randomly required to recite the Koran or be killed. Throughout northern Nigeria, this violence was carried out along religious lines, with Muslims attacking unsuspecting Christians. More church buildings were destroyed than any properties associated with the ruling party, the government or any other category.

The post-election violence only scratched the surface of the street-level persecution suffered by northern Nigeria’s Christians. In several months of fact-finding across northern Nigeria, investigators from aid and advocacy organization Jubilee Campaign interviewed pastors whose church buildings have been burned half a dozen times or more in the last decade. In one case, police even watched as Christian women were raped on church premises and did nothing.


State-level oppression

The U.S. State Department, among others, claims that the Muslims of northern Nigeria have been marginalized politically and economically by the federal government and have responded to “legitimate grievances” with violence. This has been used to give unconscionable justification to violence against Christians in northern Nigeria, whether by terrorist actors such as Boko Haram (sect level) or the Muslim community at large (street level). The facts surrounding state-level persecution reveal this undeserved justification.

For most of its independent history, Nigeria has been ruled by dictators from prominent northern Muslim families. Suspect census figures and dubious redistricting have bloated the federal revenues that go to northern states. On an economic front, the corruption of these dictators and the amounts of money that they funneled back to their home states – as well as to Swiss accounts – is a matter of public record. Africa’s richest billionaire, according to Forbes magazine, is from northern Nigeria. Inspired by this decades-long hegemony, many in the north reject Western education, leaving their children in the hands of wandering mallams (Islamic clerics) to be instructed in Islam while begging for their bread.

This practice has produced millions of unemployed and unemployable youths who in anti-Christian riots are ready foot-soldiers – and, with the rise of Boko Haram, suicide bombers.

The true victims of marginalization in northern Nigeria are Christians who are totally disenfranchised politically, economically and socially in their own states and by their own ethnic groups due to their religious identity. Discrimination against indigenous Christian communities is endemic in at least 16 of the 19 northern states (three Christian majority or co-equal states did not report state-level persecution), encompassing more than just political disenfranchisement. Christians are denied equal rights, most state jobs and promotions. The level of discrimination is such that many Muslim managers refuse to hire a Christian outright.

Christian neighborhoods are frequently overlooked for development or basic maintenance. In Sabon Gari, a Christian ghetto in Kano City, the roads, water lines and other basic services have not been updated for decades. Many northern cities leave such outer enclaves to “infidels” as a way of separating them out.

In Tafawa Balewa, a Christian area of Bauchi state, the state government refused to maintain public schools and finally shut them down, community leaders say, to deprive Christian children, particularly Christian girls, of education. Many private Christian mission schools have historically been confiscated by the governments and stripped of their faith-based roots. The state legislature of Bauchi relocated the capital of Tafawa Balewa, a Christian community, to a Muslim-dominated town in violation of the constitution. When the Hon. Rifkatu Samson, the member representing the community, objected, the state legislature suspended her from parliament. That was a year ago. She was the only woman and the only Christian in the parliament.

Any public signs of Christian identity, such as crosses, bells, or identifiable church buildings, are prohibited in practice. Governments require permits to construct new church buildings or to repair old ones. These permits are not granted while existing church buildings have been seized via eminent domain. The Muslim community is so determined to prevent Christians from having church buildings that, when selling land to Christians, official land deeds commonly include the proviso, “Not to be used for a bar, a brothel, or a church.”


Christians and Muslims together

While enduring these injustices, members of the Christian minority are consistently and blatantly faced with pressure to convert to Islam. Christians are regularly and publicly humiliated for their religious identity, and anything that can be construed as disrespectful or contradictory to Islam is met with immediate violence.

These injustices constitute acts of discrimination and group persecution, which have been outlawed by international laws created following the demise of Nazi Germany and the Nuremberg trials. Since then, the international community has seen again and again that persistent cultures of hate among dominant groups produce mass violence against disenfranchised and despised minorities, eventually leading to genocide. Regrettably, this is the true state of affairs in northern Nigeria. These practices of discrimination, disenfranchisement and incitement are the root cause of Boko Haram and the real danger to Nigerian Christians – and to Nigeria itself. This is the intersection of a trifecta of evil intolerance – persecution at the street, state and sect levels – and Christians are the primary victims.

The March 7, 2010, massacre in Jos, the April 16, 2011, Sharia states pogrom and the Jan. 20, 2012, Kano onslaught mark three consecutive years of triple-digit casualties, each in excess of 200 lives lost from a single incident. These incidents only scratch the surface of persecution in a country that has the world’s largest population of Christians and Muslims living together, setting a stage for unfathomable conflict.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story first appeared at Morning Star News, an independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide. Ann Buwalda, Esq. is executive director of Jubilee Campaign, and human rights attorney Emmanuel Ogebe is Nigeria expert for the organization, which promotes the human rights and religious liberty of ethnic and religious minorities.)
5/3/2013 12:42:09 PM by Ann Buwalda & Emmanuel Ogebe, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Faith abounds at supporting N.C. Missions Offering

May 2 2013 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Sunday by Sunday Pastor Joe Smith announced the week’s new total for the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO).
 
When the $3,000 goal was met late in 2012, members silently cheered.
 
When the total passed $4,000, they were delighted – and cheered some more.
 
The $4,178 Faith Baptist Church members ultimately gave to NCMO last year was a significant amount for the church, which has an average Sunday morning attendance of about 250.

That the church surpassed their NCMO goal by 39.5 percent was not surprising to Smith.
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BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Joe Smith, pastor of Faith Baptist Church, says the church’s support for the North Carolina Missions Offering is just part of the picture of the congregation’s missions giving.

 
Everybody in the church has “bought into” the concept of missions, he explained: Members do missions, pray for missions and give for missions. 
 
Faith members have come to understand that their mission field begins just outside their front door and extends to the ends of the earth.
 
The small town of Faith from which the church takes its name is situated just south of I-85 near Kannapolis, northeast of Charlotte. As most towns in the state, Faith’s population has changed greatly in recent years.
 
“Now people from many lands are living in our area and some are attending services at Faith Baptist,” said Smith.
 
However, it took a visiting speaker two years ago to put their local situation into the larger context of North Carolina’s changes.
 
Chuck Register painted a huge missions challenge for Faith members when he told them their state’s population is one of the fastest-growing ones in the nation. The growth of the Hispanic population in the state has also led the nation, he said. Further, today’s N.C. population represents a big swatch of the planet’s population:  more than 230 language/culture groups now live in the state.
 
Register is executive leader for the Baptist State Convention in church planting and missions development. He served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Gulfport, Miss., and taught at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, LA, before coming to work in the convention’s Cary office.

Register reminds N.C. churches every opportunity that their state has 5.8 million lost and unchurched people who urgently need to be reached with the gospel and ushered into strong, Bible-believing churches that will disciple them for further missions and outreach.

Merely adding new churches is insufficient amid so many lost, Register says; rather, multiplying churches will be the only way to reach so many: new churches must start more new churches as quickly as possible.
Many of the 101 new churches Register’s staff helped start across the state during 2012 are doing just that.
 
Beyond Register’s message to the church’s Baptist Men, Smith took Register’s printed and digital materials on population and the dire need for new churches and shared it with his members. “It really impacted them to understand the growth of N.C.’s population, the number of languages now spoken here and the great need for new churches in our state,” Smith said.
 
Further, they understood that one immediate way Faith could help start more new churches and also support the many missions projects they took part in through N.C. Baptist Men, was to support the N.C. Missions Offering.

NCMO is the main funding source for the 14 ministries of N.C. Baptist Men and also provides about a third of the Baptist State Convention’s budget for starting new churches. (The Cooperative Program provides the balance.)
 
Faith has kept its Cooperative Program support at 10 percent of its undesignated receipts and supports the Southern Baptist international and North American missions offerings. Locally the church supports Rowan Southern Baptist Association, a fellowship of 40 Baptist churches in the Salisbury area.
 
Soon after Register visited Faith, Smith made contact with Jonas Perez, who was committed to starting a new Spanish-speaking church in the town of Faith. The church let the Perez group use a chapel for their services and offered other support; he also became one of about 125 church planters the convention supports on a limited-time basis as they are launching new churches.
 
Seeing a new church birthed right in front of them brought the need for new churches even more vividly to members, Smith believes.
 
Promoting NCMO is only part of what’s needed to keep missions alive in his church, Smith said.
 
One big ingredient was prayer, he said. “We needed to pray that the Lord would lead us individually in what He would have us give,” he said.
 
“A second was promotion. We’ve tried to promote NCMO through everything we do media-wise: in the church bulletins, in the church newsletter, in our church Web site. I talked about it from the pulpit as often as I could,” he said.
 
Missions participation is the other big element to having a missions-minded church, Smith said. On the church’s annual missions emphasis day, Dec. 2 last year, members marched into the sanctuary carrying flags from 38 nations, indicating Faith members have served in that many overseas countries.
 
“We have so many people who are participating in missions trips, whether partnerships or whatever, that our people feel they are part of the life of our Baptist State Convention and the life of our N.C. Baptist Men,” he said.
 
Through Baptist Men, two teams have served in relief ministry in New Jersey and New York after Hurricane Sandy last year; thousands of men and women volunteers have prepared more than 600,000 meals in the two states since last November.
 
“We’ve had several people who have gone to Cuba, some more than once. We got involved and adopted a village in Bihar, India, where Baptist Men have supported wide range of ministries, along with starting many new churches. Our people have provided money for seven or eight water wells to be dug there; I was there last October,” Smith said.
 
“I think our people give to missions because they have participated in these missions ventures, they know the need and they come back and tell our other members about what they saw and experienced,” Smith explained.
 
The Faith congregation commissions each missions team, whether one person or a whole team, so the trip is endorsed and backed by the entire church. A churchwide missions fund provides seed money for teams to serve, he said. “As a church we gather around them and pray for them. We call upon people to commit to pray for them while they prepare to go and while they’re gone. Everybody has a part in either holding the ropes from this end or being on the field, serving out the call,” Smith said. “I think that makes a lot of difference in support,” he said, “because it’s not ‘them,’ it’s us.”
 
While Smith is quite happy with Faith’s 2012 giving level for NCMO, he said, “I hope we can do better next September!”
5/2/2013 4:13:58 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



CP keeps pace with budgeted goal

May 2 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are $109,763,948.25, or 0.09 percent above the year-to-date budgeted goal, and are 3.82 percent behind contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Frank S. Page. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2012-13 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

“I am passionate in my belief that contributions through the Cooperative Program are high value gifts for the furtherance of Kingdom enterprises,” Page said. “Our collective efforts through global missions and evangelism, domestic church plating, affordable ministerial training and preparation for our pastors and other church staff, and a voice of conscience ringing in the halls of government can and will make a difference for eternity. While we are grateful for every dollar we receive through the Cooperative Program, I long to see the day when our SBC entities are funded at 21st-century levels of ministry need.

“We continue to pray for the economic recovery of our people and our churches and hope to see this recovery play itself out in increased financial support for these Kingdom endeavors.”

As of April 30, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget totaled $109,763,948.25, or 100.09 percent of the $109,666,666.69 year-to-date budgeted amount to support Southern Baptist missions and ministries globally and across North America. The total is $4,365,046.85 less than the $114,128,995.10 received through the end of April 2012.

The convention-adopted budget is distributed 50.2 percent to international missions through IMB, 22.79 percent to North American missions through NAMB, 22.16 percent to theological education, 3.2 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. If the convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $188 million dollars, IMB’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.

Designated giving of $133,044,493.26 for the same year-to-date period is 1.68 percent, or $2,192,557.73, above gifts of $130,851,935.53 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.

The Cooperative Program is a program of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the various ministries of its state convention and to the various missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution.

Traditionally, state and regional conventions have acted as collecting entities for Cooperative Program contributions. They retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.

CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state offices, to the denominational papers and are posted online at www.cpmissions.net/CPReports.

April’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $14,411,893.39. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $14,130,275.65.

The end-of-month total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of each month. Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted and the timing of when the state conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee.
5/2/2013 4:11:13 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



FDA: 15-over can buy morning-after pill off shelf

May 2 2013 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the sale of the Plan B One-Step morning-after pill to teens 15 and older without a prescription, a controversial move in part because the drug can cause a chemical abortion. 

The announcement came one day before the Justice Department appealed a judge’s ruling related to the issue. 

The FDA previously allowed only teens 17 and older to obtain Plan B One-Step off the shelf. The FDA’s decision Tuesday (April 30) lowers that age by two years, meaning teens who can’t yet drive will be able to obtain the drug in the aisle of a drug or grocery store without involvement by a parent or health care professional. 
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Proof of age will be required to purchase it, with the package including a “product code” prompting the cashier to request identification. Additionally, the drug’s packaging will include the label “not for sale to those under 15 years of age *proof of age required* not for sale where age cannot be verified.” 

Plan B One-Step works in part by restricting ovulation or preventing fertilization. It is its back-up mechanism that draws opposition from pro-lifers. According to the FDA website, the back-up mechanism works post-fertilization by “preventing attachment” of a tiny embryo to the uterine wall. Pro-lifers consider it a chemical abortion.

The drug sometimes is called a “morning-after pill.” To work, it must be taken within three days of sex. According to the FDA, Plan B One-Step fails to work one out of eight times.

On Wednesday (May 1), the Justice Department appealed a federal judge’s ruling that had ordered the agency to make a sister drug, known simply as Plan B, available to teens of any age without a prescription. That decision was heavily criticized because even pre-teens could obtain the drug without a prescription. In its April 30 announcement, the FDA said its decision was made independent of the judge’s ruling. 

Teva Women’s Health, the maker of Plan B One-Step, had submitted the application prior to the judge’s ruling, the FDA said.

“The data reviewed by the agency demonstrated that women 15 years of age and older were able to understand how Plan B One-Step works, how to use it properly, and that it does not prevent the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease,” FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said in a statement.

Anna Higgins, the Family Research Council’s director of the Center for Human Dignity, said the FDA’s decision is wrong.

“The effects of taking a high dose of a systematically absorbed hormone during puberty are unknown,” Higgins said. “There have been no studies on the drug’s effect on young girls. ... If Plan B is available [over the counter], teens and women will avoid necessary medical screenings during which serious medical problems like STI’s would be detected and treated. A 2010 study out of the UK shows that the increased availability of Plan B to teens was followed by a spike in STI rates among that age group.”

The FDA’s decision also infringes on the rights of parents, Higgins said.

“This decision undermines the right of parents to make important health decisions for their young daughters,” she said. “Parents have every right to be involved in any health decisions that affect their children. No parent wants his or her daughter exposed to a potentially dangerous medication without their consent. Instead of allowing unfettered access to potentially dangerous drugs to teens, parent-teen communication regarding the medical and moral issues involved with sexual behavior should be encouraged.”

In limiting the sale of Plan B One-Step to women 17 and older in 2011, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, had argued that girls as young as 11 could not be trusted to use the drug properly. President Obama supported her at the time.

“The reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old [going] into a drugstore should be able – alongside bubble gum or batteries – be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect,” Obama said then.

About 10 percent of girls reach reproductive age at 11, although the average age is 12.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
5/2/2013 4:05:32 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Video: Abortion doc says he won’t help survivor

May 2 2013 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – A pro-life group has released an undercover video showing a late-term abortion doctor agreeing not to help a baby live if he or she survived the abortion – perhaps demonstrating that the horrors found in Kermit Gosnell’s clinic are not as rare as Americans would like to think. 

Gosnell is the Philadelphia abortion doctor on trial for delivering babies at least six months gestation and allegedly killing them by cutting their spines.
 
In the video released by Live Action – a pro-life group that goes undercover with actors and actresses – a woman who is 24 weeks pregnant tells a Washington, D.C., abortion doctor she wants an abortion. The doctor seen on the video is named Cesare Santangelo. The woman, though, is using a hidden camera and working for Live Action, and is only acting as if she wants an abortion. 

Live Action says the video is the second in a series of videos examining America’s late-term abortion industry. The videos will show that Gosnell is not alone in letting full-term babies die and also will explain – through the words of abortion clinic workers – how legal late-term abortions are performed, Live Action says.

A 2002 federal law, the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, requires that medical attention be given a baby who survives an abortion. 

“Has [a baby] ever survived?” the woman asked Santangelo.

“Usually, at this point in your pregnancy,” he answered, “it’s too early to survive, usually. It will expire shortly after birth – it’s all in how vigorously you do things to help a fetus survive at this point.”

Later she asked, “Does it ever, like, move or anything when it comes out?”

“That’s why I try and sever the umbilical cord first, and we wait for that to stop pulsing, and this way the fetus is expired first, so it doesn’t (move),” the doctor said, explaining the technique done inside a woman to help deliver a dead baby. 

“Has it ever survived?” she asked.

“Not here,” he answered. “No. No.”

“If it did (survive), like, what would happen? Would I have to take it home or be responsible for ...” the woman asked. 

At first, Santangelo answered that he’s legally required to help the infant: “Technically, you know, legally, we would be obligated to help it survive. But, you know, it probably wouldn’t. It’s all in how vigorously you do things to help a fetus survive at this point.”

If “everything possible” is done to help the baby survive, there’s “maybe a 20-30 percent chance” it would live, he said. 

“If you don’t do anything, then, you know, the chances are much, much less,” Santangelo said.

The woman then told him: “I’m just so scared of having to be stuck with the responsibility. But would you make sure that it doesn’t survive?”

“We would not help it,” the doctor said. “We wouldn’t intubate it, let’s say.”

To “intubate” is to insert a tube to help the baby breath.

“So you would make sure it didn’t survive?” the woman asked. 

“Yeah,” Santangelo says, “we wouldn’t do any[thing] extra.”

Santangelo compared the situation to a “terminal person in the hospital that had cancer.” 

“We wouldn’t do any extra procedures to help that person survive,” he said. “Like ‘do not resuscitate orders.’ You know? We would do the same thing here. ... Whereas, if you were in a hospital in Virginia, let’s say, and you went into labor, and you went to the hospital, and then they saw you deliver, they would do everything possible to help that fetus survive.” 

“But you wouldn’t?” the woman asked.

“We wouldn’t here,” he answered.

Said Live Action president Lila Rose, “It is clear from our investigation that the horrors revealed during the Kermit Gosnell trial are not exclusive to that clinic. Our videos expose the truly gruesome, illegal, and inhuman practices going on inside many of America’s abortion clinics. Our investigation reveals that these inhumane practices are just another day at the office for abortionists and their staff. By making the killing of our weakest children their profession, these doctors, nurses, counselors, and staff make a mockery of medicine and the Hippocratic oath to ‘do no harm.’ These children deserve our protection, not the ignorance that allows these atrocities to continue.”

Denny Burk, associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky., wrote on his blog that the Live Action videos “show that late-term abortionists everywhere have to deal with infants who survive abortions.”

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

 

5/2/2013 3:59:28 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Survey: Muslims give views of bombings, sharia

May 2 2013 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – While most Muslims worldwide reject suicide bombings and other violence in the name of Islam, a significant minority of Muslims in Palestinian territories and Afghanistan favor such acts, according to new Pew Research Center findings.

“Muslims in some countries surveyed in South Asia and the Middle East-North Africa region are more likely than Muslims elsewhere to consider suicide bombing justified,” according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, a survey of 38,000 Muslims in 39 countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

In Palestinian territories, 40 percent of Muslims favor violence in the name of Islam while 49 percent take the opposite view. In Afghanistan, 39 percent favor such violence. In Egypt, about 29 percent consider suicide bombing justified at least sometimes, Pew reported, compared to only 15 percent in Jordan, 12 percent in Tunisia and 7 percent in Iraq.
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A recent survey by Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that ideas of what constitutes sharia law varies widely from country to country and is usually determined by that country’s history.


Still, concepts and acceptance of sharia law and religious freedom vary widely among the world’s Muslims, seemingly dichotomously, with many Muslims saying they favor Islamic law and religious freedom simultaneously because there’s no global definition of sharia law or religious freedom that Muslims embrace.

James Bell, primary researcher for the Pew study, said one of its key aims was to learn what average Muslims mean by sharia law and what role they want it to play in their lives and in their society.

“One of the things the survey finds is that most adherents of the world’s second-largest faith want sharia to be the official law of the land in their country,” Bell said. “But I would note that support for making sharia law does vary, and that at a regional level, we see much lower support for making Islamic law the law of the land in southern and Eastern Europe and Central Asia where medians of 20 percent or fewer hold his view.”

One of the key contributions of the study, Bell said, “is to demonstrate empirically that if we did stop there, we would have an incomplete picture of how Muslims around the world view Islamic law ... because we find that even in many countries, where there’s strong support for enshrining Islamic law as official law, there’s also overwhelming support for religious freedom for non-Muslims.”

Amaney Jamal, an associate professor of politics at Princeton University and special adviser to the study, explained the seemingly conflicting findings.

“The one thing that stands out is that this idea, this construct that sharia law is this unified, holistic system of Islamic governance is perhaps false. The idea here is that there really isn’t a monolithic code of sharia laws or a monolithic code of what constitutes Islamic law,” Jamal said. “Across every country, across every society, what encapsulates this notion of sharia, what encapsulates this notion of Islamic law, varies.”

Muslims tend to be most comfortable using sharia in domestic matters such as settling family or property disputes, but less in matters involving severe punishment such as cutting off hands of thieves or executing people who convert from Islam to other faiths, according to the study’s executive summary.

In countries where Muslims favor making sharia the law of the land, those who approve of severe punishment include 76 percent of Muslims in Palestinian territories, 70 percent of those in Egypt, 57 percent in Jordan, 56 percent in Iraq, 50 percent in Lebanon and 44 percent in Tunisia, the study found. 

Jamal, who participated in a media conference call April 30 regarding the Pew study, said concepts of sharia vary depending on a country’s history.

“So in countries that have had a repressive history, countries that have witnessed little religious conflict ... citizens tend to feel that applying some code of law that represents or is informed by Islamic ideals ... about social justice, equality, redistribution, rather than rigid applications of things that are permissible or not permissible ... there tends to be a tendency to [put faith in] what Islam can do for societies,” Jamal said.

Farid Senzai, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and also a conference call participant, said the study’s results show Muslims overwhelmingly view democracy and sharia law as somewhat compatible.

“You can have a democracy but yet also have strong support for Islam to play a role in politics,” Senzai said. “The evidence suggests that Muslims overwhelmingly support democracy and the majority also want sharia to play a role in politics.”

But the extent to which democracy and sharia can co-exist is not consistent across all countries, Senzai said.

“The Arab Spring that we witnessed in the last couple of years and the transitions taking place is very much looking at this question. ... Clearly Muslims have supported democracy and the overwhelming majority have wanted to participate in democracy as we’ve seen in the Arab Spring,” Senzai said. “Yet, as we’ve also seen, Islamist groups and groups that are religiously oriented also are playing an active role and have been winning in many of those elections. Egypt is the case in point.”

The report incorporates findings from a survey conducted in two waves. The survey began in 2008 when 15 sub-Saharan African countries with substantial Muslim populations were surveyed. Pew’s 2010 report “Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa,” included some of those results. The survey continued in 2011, when an additional 24 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa were surveyed. Pew published results regarding religious beliefs and practices in its 2012 report “The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity.” Some survey questions were not asked in countries where such an inquiry would have caused too much controversy, Pew reported.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer.)
5/2/2013 3:55:59 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gay player story turns into discussion on Bible

May 1 2013 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – An NBA player Monday (April 29) made history by becoming the first player from a major American team sport to declare he’s gay, although the news coverage quickly switched to a debate involving Christian doctrine following comments from an ESPN commentator.

No player from the four major American team professional sports – football, basketball, baseball and hockey – had ever declared his homosexuality until 7-foot center Jason Collins, who began the season with the Boston Celtics but ended it with the Washington Wizards, announced in a Sports Illustrated article that he is gay.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete in a major American team sport,” he is quoted as saying on the cover of Sports Illustrated. “But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

The magazine’s cover included a picture of Collins with the words: “The Gay Athlete.”

Collins has been in the league for 12 years – a long time for a pro athlete – with a career average of 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds. He started nine games out of the more than 80 his team played this year and has been a backup center in recent years, so there’s no guarantee a team will pick him up next season. Nevertheless, his announcement was significant.

Media coverage of the event changed when ESPN commentators LZ Granderson – who is gay – and Chris Broussard began discussing their beliefs about the issue during a broadcast of “Outside the Lines.” Both men are friends.
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Chris Broussard discusses his position on homosexuality during a television show.


“Chris and I have known each other for a long time, and we’ve had this conversation many, many times,” Granderson said. “We’re both happy to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. But we have the conversation respectfully.”

Broussard then explained what Granderson meant.

“I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality,” Broussard said. “I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is. LZ knows that. He and I have played on basketball teams together for several years. We’ve gone out, had lunch together, we’ve had good conversations, good laughs together. He knows where I stand and I know where he stands. I don’t criticize him, he doesn’t criticize me and call me a bigot, call me ignorant, call me intolerant.”

After Granderson said that he, too, considers himself to be a Christian, the host asked Broussard to comment on the fact that Collins – in the Sports Illustrated article – called himself a Christian.

“Personally,” Broussard responded, “I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals, if you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be – not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be – I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.”

That led Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports to write a column criticizing Broussard.

“Gay young men and women have an impossibly tough time growing up and attempting to fit in, even as our culture shifts to become a more tolerant society,” Dwyer wrote. “The last thing they need is to see someone like Chris Broussard, who ESPN (and by extension, the NBA) trusts as its voice both at games and in-studio, to be referring to them as sinners who are in open rebellion to God.”

ESPN itself released a statement, seemingly standing by Broussard but saying, “We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today’s news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in his daily podcast “The Briefing” that Broussard only was reflecting historic Christianity.

“What he was articulating is the classic Christian position,” Mohler said. “Indeed, he’s exactly right in suggesting exactly what biblical Christianity understands to be the truth about homosexuality.”

Earlier in the broadcast, Broussard had said the people within the NBA he had spoken with had been “overwhelmingly supportive” of Collins.

“The climate in society is very set for this thing to happen,” he said. “... A lot of people feel like if you come out and say you don’t agree with homosexuality, you are viewed as a bigot, you’re viewed as intolerant. So the climate is right for somebody to come out and say they are gay.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
5/1/2013 3:55:37 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Q&A with Greg Laurie about prayer in times of grief

May 1 2013 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Pastor Greg Laurie knows a thing or two about prayer in tough times.
 
The honorary chairman of this year’s National Day of Prayer (May 2) says prayer was the only thing that got him through his son’s death five years ago. When fellow megachurch pastor Rick Warren lost his son Matthew to suicide, Laurie was the man he most wanted to hear from.
 
Laurie, 60, who leads the evangelical Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., talked about prayer, grief and what not to say when a friend’s loved one dies. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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Photo by Trever Hoehne for Harvest Ministries
Greg Laurie, seen here during a radio broadcast, has some experience with grief. Laurie lost his son in a vehicle accident several years ago.

 
Q: The prayer you wrote for the National Day of Prayer mentions “random acts of horrific violence.” How did you pray after the Boston Marathon bombings?
 
A: I prayed that comfort would be extended to those who had lost loved ones. I prayed for those who were injured. And I prayed for no more of these attacks to happen.
   
Q: Then there was an explosion at the Texas fertilizer plant. How did you pray about that?
 
A: Anytime there’s human suffering and anytime people have lost loved ones, I pray that God will extend comfort to them because, having had our own son die five years ago, I’ve been up close and personal with grief and I know the very real pain that it brings into a person’s life.
   
Q: It’s been a difficult month for the nation with these back-to-back tragedies. Do you think people should be more drawn to prayer in times like this, or is it wrong to mostly call on God when we’re in need?
 
A: I don’t think it’s ever wrong to call on God. Certainly it’s far better if we’re calling on him all the time. Quite frankly, sometimes crisis is what shows us a need that we had all along, which was the need to pray.
   
Q: Can you discuss your role in talking to Rick Warren after he lost his son to suicide?
 
A: I called him the day after it happened and he said, “You’re the one person I’ve been waiting to hear from.” We talked for a while about it. We prayed. I shared some things that I learned over the years after losing our own son and then I spoke just last Sunday at Saddleback Church. I brought a message of hope and encouragement to his congregation.
   
Q: What was your major piece of advice for them?
 
A: I said, I just want you to know that Rick is going to come through this. He’s going to come through this stronger but I also want you to know this is the hardest thing that can happen to a parent – to lose a child.
 
Q: What should people not say when a friend is grieving the loss of a child?
 
A: Don’t say, “I know what you’re going through” because you probably don’t.
 
I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I know what you’re going through. My grandmother just died.” And I pointed out that everyone’s grandmother and grandfather will die, then their parents, then them. But no one expects their child to die before them.
 
Or saying things like “Well, just rejoice and smile they’re in heaven.” Understand that though that is technically true, it is also true that that person is in deep pain and that can come off almost glib and uncaring.
 
Q: Can you talk briefly about your son’s death?
 
A: He was 33. He was actually working for our church as our lead designer and was on his way to work and had an automobile accident and died.
   
Q: Has that experience changed the way you approach prayer?
 
A: It has shown me how much I need to pray. When it was all said and done, being a preacher didn’t give me a leg up on this. I still was a grieving father missing a son. And in the initial moments after it happens, and the hours and the days after that, one wonders if you can even survive such a thing. I’ve found that prayer is what got me through the day. Sometimes it wasn’t so much day by day, it was even hour by hour.
   
Q: So what’s the message you’re going to bring to Capitol Hill on the National Day of Prayer?
 
A: I am going to talk about how God promises to heal a nation if we will pray. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 he says, “If my people which are called by name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I’ll forgive their sin and heal their land.”
   
What I find interesting about that verse is God is not pointing his finger at the White House, so to speak, but at his house. I think that it’s very easy for people in the church to point their fingers at Washington or Hollywood. In effect, God points his finger at his own people.
5/1/2013 3:50:33 PM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



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