May 2015

Mohler receives Meese religious liberty award

May 19 2015 by James A. Smith Sr., SBTS Communications

For his “significant efforts in publicly promoting and defending religious liberty,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, received the 2015 Edwin Meese III Originalism and Religious Liberty Award from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), May 15.
 
“This award is presented to those who clearly demonstrate through their lives and callings a profound understanding and commitment to defending the original meaning of the United States Constitution and our liberty,” said Alan Sears, ADF’s president, CEO and general counsel.
 
Speaking to Mohler, Sears said, “You’ve acted as an eloquent ambassador for evangelicals and as a tireless advocate for religious freedom for all,” noting Mohler’s commitment to religious liberty for all persons no matter their religious convictions.
 
The award description said: “Alliance Defending Freedom honors Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. for his significant efforts in publicly promoting and defending religious liberty and a principled jurisprudence through the active advancement of constitutional originalism. Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s tireless efforts embody the enduring commitment to justice that is the hallmark of the American spirit, as personified by the Honorable Edwin Meese III, in whose name this award is given.”
 
Mohler attended the event held in suburban Washington, D.C., with his wife Mary for whom he expressed thanks.

 
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Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. receives the Edwin Meese III Originalism and Religious Liberty Award from Alliance Defending Freedom President Alan Sears (left) and Council for National Policy President Tony Perkins (right).

“I am deeply and always aware that I could not be here without the constant support and love of my wife Mary Mohler,” he said.
 
In brief remarks, Mohler said the “eclipse of religious liberty and the threat of a new Dark Age” is a “gathering storm,” borrowing an expression Winston Churchill used to describe events in the 1930s that ultimately led to World War II.
 
“We are not facing the same gathering storm, but we are now facing a battle that will determine the destiny of priceless freedoms and the very foundation of human rights and human dignity,” he said.
 
A “revolution in morality” is seeking to “subvert marriage,” “redefine it,” and “undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing and freedom,” Mohler said.
 
Citing recent remarks by the United States solicitor general before the Supreme Court during oral arguments on gay marriage, Mohler said “religious liberty is under direct threat” by “erotic liberty and personal autonomy.”
 
“These are days that will require courage, conviction and clarity of vision,” he said. “We’re in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image.”
 
Mohler said the “very freedom to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake, and thus so is the liberty of every American. … I am a Christian, and I believe that salvation is found in no other name than Jesus Christ and in no other gospel, but I will fight for the religious liberty of all.”
 
The “danger of a new Dark Age” is “marked by the loss of liberty and the denial of human dignity,” he said. “Thus, there is a battle to be joined and much work to be done. Together, may we be found faithful to these tasks. As one no less than Churchill would remind us, in every gathering storm there is a summons to action.”
 
During the ceremony, Meese, the nation’s 75th attorney general who served under President Ronald Reagan, 1985-1988, praised Mohler for his work within the Southern Baptist Convention. Mohler “stood up” in defense of “sacred doctrines of the Bible” within the SBC, Meese said.
 
The constitutional principle of originalism and religious liberty “go hand-in-hand,” Meese said, “because unless we observe the original understanding of the Constitution as the founders gave it to us, we can be led down the wrong path” in which the Constitution is “perverted” to “lead our nation into ways that would be unbelievable to those who founded our country and did so much to give us the kinds of freedom we enjoy today.”
 
Meese said “religious liberty is under attack as never before” in America “in which so many forces are arrayed against preserving freedom of conscience and religious liberty.”
 
He added, “Never before in our history, I believe, has it been more important for people everywhere to stand up for principles of the Constitution and particularly the principles of the First Amendment of the Constitution, the first part of our Bill of Rights, and that is the protection of religious liberty.”
 
Concerning the Supreme Court’s impending decision on gay marriage, Meese admitted it’s not possible to know how the court will rule. Nevertheless, he said, “If they are following the Constitution, there is only one honest way in which they can come down, and that is to defend natural marriage.”
 
Also honored with the 2015 Meese Award was Cardinal Francis George, archbishop emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chicago, who died in April. Receiving the honor on behalf of George was his longtime friend, William Murphy, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York.
 
Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal ministry that defends and advocates religious freedom and employs more than 200 staff with 2,500 allied attorneys in the United States and across the world, according to Sears. A broad array of religious leaders founded the organization in 1994 because they were alarmed at the “rapidly declining state of religious freedom of America,” he said.
 
Beginning in 2009 with Meese, past recipients of the Meese Award are federal judge Robert H. Bork, evangelical leader Chuck W. Colson, professor Robert P. George, former Congressman Frank Wolf, Archbishop Charles Chaput, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement and former Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon.
 
The Meese Award presentations were held in conjunction with a meeting of the Council for National Policy, an organization comprised of influential conservative leaders in business, government, politics, religion and academia.
 
Mohler’s remarks are available on his website, AlbertMohler.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor and chief spokesman at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

5/19/2015 11:12:16 AM by James A. Smith Sr., SBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Lecrae’s ‘Unashamed’ to be published by B&H

May 19 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Grammy Award winning hip-hop artist Lecrae has signed a book deal with B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources.
 
Releasing in May 2016, the book will be titled Unashamed and will discuss details of his difficult past, including childhood abuse, struggles with drugs and alcoholism, bouts of depression and a suicide attempt.

 
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Lecrae

The book will tell Lecrae’s story of staying faithful in a world that is increasingly faithless. Throughout his journey, Lecrae has retained an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ and learned powerful lessons about what it means to be a Christian in the midst of a skeptical world.
 
“As an artist, my ambition is to make honest music, and I feel the same way about writing this book,” Lecrae said. “I want to be honest about where I’ve come from and what I’ve learned along the way. I want to influence culture, to help catalyze and inspire, and help other people find understanding. If they find some inspiration and some clarity for their own lives, as they follow my journey, then I will have succeeded.”
 
Jennifer Lyell, B&H trade book publisher, noted, “We are thrilled to partner with an artist of the creative caliber of Lecrae. His unique ability to communicate a message that gives hope and compels toward greater faithfulness will undoubtedly result in a game-changing book for individuals and ultimately for the broader culture.”
 
Lecrae is a Grammy Award winning hip-hop artist whose 2014 album, “Anomaly,” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, Rap, Digital, Christian, Gospel and Independent charts. His seven studio albums have sold more than 1.5 million copies. In 2014, Lecrae co-headlined the highest selling tour in America. He has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, winning Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song (2015) and Best Gospel Album (2013). He has also been nominated for 14 Dove Awards.
 
In addition to earning accolades for his musical talent, Lecrae has gained wide recognition for maintaining strong commitment to his faith and values. In 2013, he helped launch a national initiative devoted to restoring America’s commitment to fatherhood. He was also named the National Football League Players’ Choice Performer during the 2013 Super Bowl XLVII weekend in recognition of his positive lyrics. Lecrae resides in Atlanta, Ga., with his wife and three children.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This report was submitted by LifeWay Christian Resources. B&H Publishing Group is an imprint of LifeWay Christian Resources.)

5/19/2015 10:50:24 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Native Americans built association’s strength

May 18 2015 by Jim Burton, Baptist Press

In 1881, Burnt Swamp Baptist Association, an association of Native American Baptist churches, was established. From its humble beginnings of three churches in Robeson County – two of which still exist – the association now includes 70 churches in 10 North Carolina counties and two neighboring states.
Coharie, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Pee Dee, Tuscarora and Waccamaw Siouan make up the multi-tribal association’s membership, which was distinctively Baptist from its beginning.
 
“As far as we can tell, it’s the first organization of an association set up by Indians for Indians,” said Mike Cummings, a Lumbee who, since 1988, has led what may be Southern Baptists’ first affinity-based association.
 
Associational strength and community gave the southeastern North Carolina tribes perseverance to battle harsh realities in a segregated South.
 
At its first meeting, the association appointed a Domestic Board to evangelize Native Americans and established Indian education as a core concern of its churches.

 
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Photo by Alan Oxendine
The original Burnt Swamp Baptist Church hosted meetings that led to the formation of the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association in 1881. The association moved the structure, which has its original floor joists, to the current association office property in Pembroke, N.C.

The association aggressively raised money to develop elementary schools, often planting churches in the same communities where schools were built. The association also engaged in a larger effort to raise funds for a high school for Indians.
 
“This was the only place we could come; [we] couldn’t go to black or white meetings,” Cummings said. “We were on the fringe of North Carolina Baptist life.
 
“Burnt Swamp was us. That’s ours. Association pride has been strong because of that factor for one thing.”
 
Early on, Indians could vote and share the rights of other citizens, but in 1835 the North Carolina Constitutional Convention removed those rights for “free persons of color,” including Native Americans.
According to “The History of Burnt Swamp Baptist Association” by Tony Brewington, the association’s director of missions from 1969-86, this had a devastating effect on Indian communities and contributed to an extended resentment between the races.
 
“In every community where there are Indians, they have suffered through discrimination just like blacks have,” Cummings said. “I was a 10th-grader [before] Indians could go to white schools. I felt the brunt of that rigid prejudice against Indians.”
 
In 1921, Burnt Swamp Baptist Association sought admittance into the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). From the outset, associational leaders had supported and promoted BSC programs, and the two groups often received and sent representatives to each other’s meetings, but they had no formal relationship.
 
After languishing during the 1920s, the association’s petition was greatly assisted when Mary Livermore, an Anglo who worked with Native Americans, wrote a long plea that included the following:
“They feel so isolated, and are losing their young people especially because they had asked the convention before and been refused, and the Indians resent such rebuffs.”
 
When the state convention approved the membership petition in 1929, Burnt Swamp received a “bittersweet” response, as Brewington described it: the association was accepted as an associate member of the convention, meaning its churches participate in BSC programs but their messengers could not vote.

Though disappointed, associational leaders responded cordially to the decision.
 
Soon, relationships with the broader Southern Baptist family began to strengthen, first through joint missions endeavors with Woman’s Missionary Union and the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board), then with the seminaries through Seminary Extension.

 
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Photo by Alan Oxendine
Mike Cummings has served full-time with the multi-tribal Burnt Swamp Baptist Association since 1988. His wife Quae (pronounced kway) has served the association in administration support since 1979.

A new day

In 1999, 70 years after being initially accepted as a BSC associate member, Cummings was elected as the convention’s president, the first Native American to hold the office, serving two and a half terms.
“That did us a lot of good to see ourselves recognized by this convention,” Cummings said of his tenure. “We were basically fringe participants for years because it was like we were going to somebody else’s meeting.”
 
Not only did Cummings preside over the annual meetings in his role as president, he later served as BSC interim executive-director before Milton Hollifield began his tenure in 2006.
 
Cummings held those positions “not because of his ethnicity, but rather because of his ability as a leader,” Hollifield said.
 
“Although Mike Cummings has great pride in his Native American ethnicity and rich Indian heritage, North Carolina Baptist people looked beyond that positive attribute and recognized his love for God, his wisdom, his commitment to Kingdom building, his love for this state convention, and they believed that Brother Mike would lead with a spirit of integrity and fairness toward all ethnic and language groups in North Carolina,” Hollifield said.
 
The churches of Burnt Swamp Baptist Association take pride in the national leadership of former SBC President Johnny Hunt, who is a Lumbee Indian.
 
Timmy Chavis, pastor of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, is chairman of the SBC Executive Committee’s Multi-Ethnic Advisory Council.
 
Cummings and Chavis know that Native Americans have some advantages when propagating the gospel among their own people.
 
As Chavis puts it, “Indigenous people need to be reached with indigenous people.”
 
Burnt Swamp Baptist Association is “guided by its vision to be churches in fellowship and on mission together with God,” according to its website.
 
To that end, the association began engaging in short-term mission projects in 1986 when they helped a Native American church in New Mexico with construction. The next year, a team went to South Dakota.
Those ventures “launched us into understanding the impact we can make,” Cummings said. Soon, that impact reached overseas.
 
Mannie Mintac, a Filipino, married a Lumbee girl and, in 1993, he showed up in Cummings’ office and shared the call of God in his life.
 
“God wants me to go back and plant churches in my home,” Mintac told Cummings, regarding a remote region of the Philippines with no evangelical church.
 
Since 1997 when Burnt Swamp volunteers first went to the Philippines, they have built 10 churches and a school. Routinely, the association sends 10 missions teams annually to provide a variety of services, including medical missions.
 
Meanwhile, they continue to minister to North America’s native people, with Cummings noting, “We see our identity with these people.”
 
After 400 years of Anglos evangelizing Native Americans, only 10 percent have become Christians, said Emerson Falls, who serves as a Native American specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and is chairman of the SBC Fellowship of Native American Christians.
 
Burnt Swamp is a story of the success of home missions as Indians were once the objects of home missions, Cummings said. A subsidy from the then-Home Mission Board to support the director of missions ended when Cummings started in 1988.
 
Now, there’s a new message to the North American Mission Board, which replaced Home Mission Board and two other SBC entities in 1997.
 
“This association is not part of your mission field,” Cummings said. “It’s a part of your missions force.”
With an estimated 75 percent of Native Americans living in urban areas, Burnt Swamp is looking to turn its “missions force” to church planting there.
 
Though forward-looking, the association continues a tradition that started in its earliest days. Its churches gather four times a year on the fifth Saturday of a month for preaching and singing at their Union Meeting.
 
“Those guys preach like it’s nobody’s business,” Cummings said of the Indian pastors. “Indians like to sing and get happy when they worship. You would think we were Pentecostals.”
Passionate preaching is a reflection of their theology.
 
“This is a community that takes the demands of the Gospel literally,” Cummings said. “Someone has to agonize in response to gospel preaching. Almost every church here believes you have to have a come-to-Jesus meeting to be saved.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a photojournalist living in Cumming, Ga. This article first appeared in SBC Life, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.)

5/18/2015 3:48:27 PM by Jim Burton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Merger gives new church, old church new life

May 18 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Is it possible for a five-year-old church and a 155-year-old church to effectively merge and grow? Michael Ester, associational missionary for the Liberty Baptist Association, believed the time was right for First Baptist Church of Thomasville (FBC) to take such a bold step.
 
Last year in a conversation with Barry Surratt, the pastor of a church plant in Lexington, Ester raised the idea of a merger with FBC. “Mike [Ester] and I became friends a few years ago, not long after I started Centerpoint Church,” Surratt said. “If we ever organized as a denominational church, I always said I wanted to join be a Southern Baptist (SBC) church.”
 
A friend had encouraged Surratt to talk to Ester about organizing Centerpoint Church. After two years of discussions, the church did not have a constitution and was not prepared to constitute.
 
But last summer Ester told Surratt that the pastor at FBC resigned. Ester said, “The attendance is down and they’re looking for a new pastor. You’re looking for a location. This might be something we want to talk about.”

 
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Contributed photo
When two churches joined together in Thomasville it brought new life to the congregations.

“I won’t say I was positive about it at the beginning,” Surratt said. “I was willing to listen, but I just didn’t know what would go along with the merging of two churches. I wasn’t sure if I was up to that, ... but I was open to whatever the Lord wanted.”
 
Surratt’s hesitation was based on the confidence he had in Centerview’s growth, combined with his lack of familiarity with FBC. “I knew we had a really great group of people, and we had a good spirit in the church,” he said. “The only thing we didn’t have was a building. We had good growth, a willingness to work, good outreach and ministry. I didn’t want to do anything to hurt that.”
 
By merging with FBC, the people at Centerpoint would not only be moving to another facility, they would move to another town 10 miles away. As a seasoned pastor of more than 20 years, Surratt imagined all of the things that could go wrong. He was concerned about losing good people and upsetting the dynamic of the church.
 
“I didn’t know anybody at First Baptist,” he added. “I had no history or relationships with anybody there. I knew that my style of preaching and my direction would be in agreement with the church. I just didn’t know the way they have done things in the past.”
 
This was not the first time Centerpoint had considered a merger. “We had been approached three times about merging with other churches, and we considered it,” said Surratt. “But it never got to the point where we felt like it was something the Lord wanted us to do. So merging with FBC was the fourth time we considered merging. But this one was a whole different mindset, even though it was farther away than the others.”
 
Blending the two churches has eliminated Centerpoint’s monthly rental and utilities, saving more than $36,000 a year just in facility-related expenses, according to Surratt. They deposited their bank balance into FBC’s account and merged two groups of worshipers into a larger congregation. Seventy-one of Centerpoint’s members joined FBC, more than doubling the 50 regular Sunday attenders.
 
“It’s been a real good fit and gone very well,” Surratt said. “We only lost a few people from Centerpoint. They came to me and said they supported the move and voted for it, but they didn’t believe it was right for them. There were no hard feelings at all.”
 
Bynum Orr is a third strategic leader in the merger of the two congregations. He has been involved with FBC for more than a decade. In 2002 Orr began serving as the church’s interim pastor.
 
In its best days FBC saw 500 people attending, but an unfortunate disagreement created a split in the church in the ’90s, he said. Several pastors came and left.
 
Orr stayed with the church for five years until a younger pastor was called. Again, that did not work out well for the aging congregation. The pastor left, and Jay Lambeth was called to serve as the interim pastor last year.
 
“Lambeth and the church asked me to come back and serve as a pastoral care associate because I knew all of the older people,” Orr said.
 
His familiarity with the people at FBC and the church’s downward spiral, prompted Orr to join the discussions between Ester and Surratt. They served as a transition committee that met weekly for three months to work out the details.
 
“I know that merging is not something that happens frequently simply because both churches are usually afraid they will lose control,” Orr said.
 
“But we emphasized that everybody only gets one vote anyhow. Our church was not afraid of them coming in ... it’s worked very well and God’s blessed us. I’m excited about it.”
 
The merged congregation officially launched on March 15 and is seeing from 130 to 200 people each Sunday, according to Orr. There were 198 people in the Easter Sunday service.
 
Surratt is the senior pastor. Orr is preaching once each month and providing pastoral care to the church family. A music director and youth director serve the church. Six deacons, three from each church, serve with the staff.
 
Surratt is bi-vocational, working as a bailiff and a part-time, deputy sheriff for Forsyth County.
 
Orr has been a strategic connecting point for the people. “The people ask me, ‘What do you think about this?’ God has allowed me to be a connector in this merger and tell people that I support it,” he said.
 
“It’s pretty hard for older people to change, but they have a good attitude,” Orr added. “Pastor Barry Surratt is an excellent preacher and their people are wonderful people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any group of people that were willing to change, to do what needs to be done and to accept what needed to be accepted in order to be successful.”
 
After 15 years as the associational missionary for the Liberty association and three pastorates, Ester has helped a lot of struggling churches. He said many churches don’t see the problems and don’t realize that the director of missions (DOM) in their local association is a valuable resource.
 
“There are a lot of good DOMs across the state that want to be involved in helping churches,” he said. “Churches that are struggling don’t see the problems,” but a DOM can help church leaders talk honestly about the future of the church.
 
“When you haven’t baptized but one [new Christian] in a year, you’ve got some problems,” Ester said. “People can grow complacent, they don’t see the need to change and they are not healthy. Folks who have been there 20 or 30 years are doing the best they can, but they don’t see the barriers that are there.”
 
When a church is in decline, Ester said, “everyone wants to blame someone else.” Churches need to rediscover their vision and ask, “Why are we here, and how are we going to be proactive in ministry?”
 
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5/18/2015 3:39:01 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



House OKs ban on late abortions

May 18 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a ban on late abortions May 13 in a vote that was postponed nearly four months to the dismay of pro-life Americans.
 
The House voted 242-184 for the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which will prohibit abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation. The House leadership canceled a Jan. 22 roll call on the proposal after about two dozen Republicans, led by female members, expressed concerns about the legislation.
 
In the end, House leaders traded one abortion-related anniversary for another in holding the vote after appeals from pro-life organizations. They originally set the vote for the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court opinion that legalized abortion throughout the country. Instead, they held the vote on the second anniversary of the conviction of Kermit Gosnell, the notorious Philadelphia abortionist who killed hundreds of late-term babies inside and outside the womb.
 
Pro-life leaders hailed House passage of the proposal.
 
Russell Moore, the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist, thanked the House “for voting to end the abhorrent practice of late term abortion.”

 
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“No nation can seriously call itself humane while 20 week-old unborn children are unprotected from the abortion industry,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in a written statement. “We have much further to go as a government and as a culture in protecting the dignity of all human life, but this is a step in the right direction.”
 
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said the bill “would save thousands of unborn babies annually from terribly painful deaths.”
 
Abortion rights advocates, meanwhile, criticized the measure.
 
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called it a “misguided, dangerous bill” that is “part of a much bigger agenda to ban abortion completely.”
 
Nearly all of the House’s Democrats aligned with Planned Parenthood and its allies in opposing a bill that would protect often viable unborn children. Only four Democrats voted for the proposal, while 180 members of the party voted against it. On the GOP side, 238 members supported the bill, while four opposed it.
 
The House vote came only a week after The New York Times reported a new study showed prematurely born babies are surviving outside the womb earlier than previously thought possible. The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found a small minority of babies born at 22 weeks ‘ gestation survived with few medical problems, though the point of viability has been considered to be 24 weeks, The Times reported May 6.
 
Revisions in the legislation, H.R. 36, in the last four months actually made the latest version stronger, some of the bill’s proponents said.
 
The newly approved measure includes the following changes from the earlier version regarding exceptions to the ban:

  • A specially trained physician must be present to ensure the same treatment for a child who survives the abortion procedure as a prematurely born baby would receive.

  • An adult victim of rape must receive counseling or medical treatment at least 48 hours prior to an abortion, and a pregnancy to a minor that results from rape or incest must be reported to a social services or law enforcement agency.

  • A woman considering abortion must sign an informed consent form that includes an estimate by the doctor of the age of the unborn child and a description of the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

On the eve of the vote, Moore and eight other pro-life leaders urged the House to approve the ban. Describing it as a “modest pro-life bill,” they said in a joint statement, “The United States is one of only seven nations to allow abortion on-demand after this point, putting us in the company of human-rights violators such as China and North Korea.”
 
Among the other endorsers of the statement were leaders of the Susan B. Anthony List, Family Research Council, March for Life and Concerned Women for America. A coalition with a similar makeup, including Moore, also had issued a statement April 22 calling for House leaders to schedule a vote after no action had been taken for three months.
 
The small group of Republican House members who sought delay of the Jan. 22 vote focused their concerns on the original bill’s rape exemption, which required report of an assault on women of all ages to law-enforcement authorities.
 
One of the apprehensions expressed by the Republican dissenters in January regarded how the bill would be perceived by women and young adults. Women and young people, however, supported the ban with the law-enforcement reporting requirement, according to a November poll by Quinnipiac University. That survey showed 60 percent of Americans, 59 percent of women and 57 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 favored the legislation.
 
The Democrats who broke with their party and voted for the bill were Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jim Langevin of Rhode Island, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois and Collin Peterson of Minnesota. The Republicans who opposed the legislation were Reps. Charles Dent of Pennsylvania, Bob Dold of Illinois, Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and Richard Hanna of New York. Rep. Jody Hice, R.-Ga., was the lone member to vote “present.”
 
On May 13, 2013, a jury found Gosnell guilty of the first-degree murder of three babies who were alive outside the womb at his West Philadelphia abortion clinic. They were only some of hundreds of babies at least six months into gestation who were killed outside the womb after induced delivery, typically by jabbing scissors into the back of their necks and cutting their spinal cords. Gosnell also was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a woman who received an abortion in his clinic and of 21 counts of violating a state ban on abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

Related Stories:

‘Moral cowardice,’ Moore says of GOP dropping abortion vote
House GOP challenged to enact late abortion ban

5/18/2015 12:17:16 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Association’s ‘holy discontent’ spurs renewal

May 18 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Ten years ago, the Nelson Baptist Association was “unhealthy and unhelpful,” as pastor Matthew Spandler-Davison puts it. The central Kentucky association’s 40 churches could only muster 50-60 messengers for annual meetings, and it was a strain to populate the body’s 15 committees.
 
But a group of local pastors began meeting, praying and dreaming about a more vibrant form of local cooperation. A decade later, 600-700 people attend the Nelson Association’s annual meetings and the average church’s yearly giving to the association has increased by nearly $1,000.
 
So what happened?
 
“We just threw everything out and said, we’re going to almost start over, re-launch this association,” said Spandler-Davison, pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church in Bardstown, Ky. “Let’s get rid of all the committees, all the leadership structure – everything’s up for grabs. ... Let’s instead just evaluate who our churches are, who wants to associate with each other and why they want to associate.”
 
An intensive study of the association’s structure and the needs of its churches led in 2009 to the adoption of new bylaws, a new vision statement and a new structure consisting of three teams focused on ministries where churches saw the greatest need for local cooperation.

 
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Nelson Baptist Association photo
A revitalization of central Kentucky’s Nelson Baptist Association increased annual meeting attendance from about 60 to nearly 700, as pictured here.

The church evangelism team focuses on helping churches partner to share the Gospel and plant churches locally, across North America and internationally. The church equipping team focuses on building healthy churches through training and consultation. The church and community ministries team focuses on meeting needs locally through a crisis pregnancy center, a biblical counseling ministry and homeless ministries.
 
In addition to forming ministry teams, the association streamlined its administrative ministries.
 
“We said, we can do those things far better together as an association of 42 churches [now 45] than we ever could do individually,” Spandler-Davison said. “... There was very little opposition because no one looked back and said, ‘This old structure is worth fighting for.’”
 
Stan Lowery, the director of missions who led the Nelson association through its transition, said one problem under the old structure was that about 100 people took turns serving in a host of associational positions that were not meeting churches’ needs. A lack of enthusiasm among churches contributed to lackluster giving and a constant struggle to meet the budget.
 
Change was sparked by a confluence of “holy discontent” and leaders willing to dialogue about a better way to impact the community, Lowery said.
 
“There was kind of a holy discontent,” Lowery said. “We were not satisfied and were looking for ways to do it better to have a bigger Kingdom impact.”
 
In addition to consulting with Nelson association leaders, Lowery sought advice from other associations and national ministries that help associations. The resultant recommendations for change garnered support from a diverse array of the association’s leaders – in terms of age, church size and socioeconomic level.
 
The recommendations also had an economic impact.
 
Between 2005 and 2013, the average church’s annual gift to the Nelson association increased from $1,822 to $2,727, with the total amount received from churches increasing 68 percent during the same period. The association experienced a 12.5 percent increase in its total number of churches over that time.
 
Johnny Rumbough, a team leader with the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders, said the Nelson association represents a trend in associations across the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
Directors of missions are talking “in a fresh, new way,” said Rumbough, executive director of missions for the Lexington Baptist Association in South Carolina. “Most associations understand the importance of being relevant and realize that offering the programs we’ve offered for a long, long time is no longer the conversation we need to have. Instead, it is exactly what the Nelson association is [talking about] – being relevant to the churches, because our reason for existence is to serve those churches.”
 
Associations, Rumbough said, should position themselves alongside state conventions, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board as one of four Baptist entities that help churches engage in missions. Among the tasks of associations he noted: to help congregations partner to plant churches through NAMB’s Send Cities initiative and adopt unengaged, unreached people groups worldwide through the IMB.
 
“A lot of DOM [Director of Missions] friends are deciding like me that we’re missionaries,” Rumbough said. “You’ve just got to get out of the office and get into the mission field and do what missionaries do.”
 
Associations seeking to be missional and serve churches more effectively may contact the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders to connect with other associations that can help. In addition, the Lexington association offers online training for associational leaders across the country. Currently, some 25 DOMs are involved.
 
Based on the Nelson association’s experience, Spandler-Davison said “the purpose of associationalism is still something worth contending for” – even in associations that aren’t fulfilling that purpose well. He urged pastors who may be discouraged about their associations not to disengage, but to get involved.
 
“A strong local association of baptistic churches is more critical now than ever and more viable now,” Spandler-Davison said.
 
Young pastors are involved, he said, in “affinity-driven networks” uniting people with similar theological convictions, “but what we don’t have is relational, organic networks, which I think we’re all craving – guys that can really speak into my life from a different perspective, but where we can really partner together on the ground. That’s where associationalism steps in and fills that gap.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/18/2015 12:07:27 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Payday loans targeted by ERLC, others in coalition

May 18 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has helped launch a religious coalition seeking an end to the predatory loan industry.
 
The ERLC joined with other religious organizations May 14 to announce the Faith for Just Lending Coalition at a Capitol Hill news conference. The diverse alliance that includes Baptists, other evangelical Christians and mainline Protestants seeks to raise awareness about predatory lending and to motivate individuals, lenders, churches and the government to help bring an end to the practice.
 
Commonly referred to as payday lending, the growing practice often draws poor people especially into a debt trap by charging excessive, and often misleading, interest rates, according to coalition members. While an interest rate may be presented by a lender as 15 percent, for instance, it actually is only for the two-week period until a person’s next payday. The annual interest rate may be 400 percent or more, making it difficult for the borrower to repay the loan. It requires years for some people to pay off their debt.
 
More than 20,000 payday and car-title loan stores exist in the United States, according to the coalition. Payday lenders also operate online in a country that has a variety of state and local laws regarding the practice.
 
Coalition members decried the predatory practices of payday loans in introducing their effort.

 
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Photo by Doug Carlson
Barrett Duke, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission vice president for public policy, addresses a news conference May 14 in which the Southern Baptist ethics entity and other groups announced a new Faith for Just Lending Coalition to target predatory lending.

Predatory payday lending “grinds the faces of the poor into the ground,” ERLC President Russell Moore said in a written statement announcing the coalition’s formation. “As Christians, we are called by Jesus, by the prophets and by the apostles to care for the poor, individually, and also about the way social and political and corporate structures contribute to the misery of the impoverished.”
 
Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy, said at the May 14 news conference, “God is not an economic Darwinist. He does not believe in survival of the fittest when it comes to the treatment of the poor.
 
“The Bible speaks clearly about appropriate ethical behavior in business,” he said. “[God] didn’t oppose financial transactions, but He did, and He does, oppose predatory activities that take advantage of someone, especially the poor.”
 
Messengers to the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting approved a resolution that denounced predatory payday lending and called on the adoption of government policies to end the practice.
 
Other members of the Faith for Just Lending Coalition, as announced, are the National Association of Evangelicals; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; National Baptist Convention, USA; National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Center for Public Justice; PICO National Network; and Ecumenical Poverty Initiative.
 
While Moore acknowledged the organizations don’t agree on every policy issue, he is “happy to work together on this issue to stand against unchecked usury and to work for economic justice, human dignity and family stability.”
 
At its launch, the coalition announced the following principles for just loans:

  • “Individuals should manage their resources responsibly and conduct their affairs ethically, saving for emergencies, and being willing to provide support to others in need.

  • “Churches should teach and model responsible stewardship, offering help to neighbors in times of crisis.

  • “Lenders should extend loans at reasonable interest rates based on ability to repay within the original loan period, taking into account the borrower’s income and expenses.

  • “Government should prohibit usury and predatory or deceptive lending practices.”

The SBC resolution expanded on numerous concerns about payday lending, describing it as “the practice of lending small amounts of money, usually $350 or less, to individuals for two-week periods (i.e. until the next payday) potentially trapping borrowers in an endless cycle of two-week loans, often at an annual interest rate up to or exceeding 360 percent.”
 
From a biblical standpoint, the SBC resolution notes, “All such predatory behavior conflicts with God’s plan for human relationships (Exodus 22:25-27; Leviticus 19:35-36; 25:35-37; Nehemiah 5:10-13; Proverbs 11:1)” and it “fails to respect the dignity of the person created in the image of God and interferes with human flourishing.”
 
At the May 14 news conference, organizational representatives from Alabama and Kansas explained the problems in their states.
 
Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), said his state permits payday lenders to charge an annual interest rate of more than 450 percent and has more title-lending outlets than any other state. A committee in the Alabama House of Representatives recently failed to forward legislation that would have limited interest rates to 36 percent, he said.
 
Calling for a federal law to stop predatory lending, Godfrey told the story of a Birmingham woman who took out nine loans at nine different sites in a day. When she could not pay off the loans at the end of the month, she borrowed more money or rolled the loans over, he said. “They become your owner, and you become their slave,” Godfrey quoted the woman as saying
 
ALCAP is an auxiliary of the Alabama Baptist Convention.
 
Claudette Humphrey told the news conference audience the loan effort she directs for Catholic Charities in Salina, Kan., still is not enough to help some people escape predatory debt.
 
“We live in a time where it is a rarity to find a truly bipartisan issue, an issue where people of various religious beliefs can agree, an issue that crosses gender and color lines,” said Humphrey, director of the Kansas Loan Pool Project. “Predatory lending is that issue. Why? Because you are either for charging triple-digit interest rates ... or you are against it. You are on the side of being morally right or you are on the side of being morally wrong.”
 
Dallas pastor George Mason, representing the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, told news conference attendees it is time for a national remedy for “predatory wolves.”
 
“We are here to say that this is no longer a local matter,” he said. “We all work locally. We’ve got all sorts of ordinances in our cities, and we’ve replicated those throughout Texas and around the country. At state levels, we’ve been working and been thwarted again and again. This is a national scourge upon our land, and it has to end.”
 
With the coalition now launched, its members will begin focusing on building support throughout the country and in Congress to put an end to the predatory practices of payday lending, Duke said. Coalition members visited with congressional members or staff after the May 14 news conference.
 
Since payday lenders often “refuse to operate in a responsible manner, government intervention is crucial,” Duke said in a written statement for the coalition. “We cannot sit by idly while some of the poorest among us are preyed on by people simply looking for a quick buck with no regard for the devastation they cause in the lives of others.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

5/18/2015 12:00:07 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Nepalese Baptist pastor in U.S. aids homeland

May 18 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

As Nepal works to recover from two massive earthquakes within 17 days, a Nepalese Southern Baptist church planter in Buffalo, N.Y. is readying to travel to his homeland to help those in need, including his three sisters left homeless.
 
Purna “John” Tamang, pastor of Saransthan International Fellowship, said his sisters are living in tents in Kathmandu and other communities. Tamang described them as Christians telling others of Jesus Christ.
 
“They are sharing their faith,” Tamang said. “[Nepal] is in need of Jesus along with physical healing and financial support for clothing and food.”

 
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Ganga, left, and Purna Tamang

Southern Baptists can help by praying and fasting for Nepal, pleading for an end to the earthquakes and numerous aftershocks, Tamang said, and they can help by sending funds to help survivors rebuild their lives.
 
Tamang and his wife Ganga, or “Martha,” for example, are raising support to cover travel to Nepal in June to help victims and provide leadership training for ministers in South Asia.
 
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal April 25, killing more than 8,000 people and destroying thousands of homes. Officials were still surveying damage from the first quake when a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck May 12, killing several dozen more people, including victims in India and Chinese Tibet.
 
Tamang, a church planter and leader of the nonprofit “Love the Lost, Inc.” gospel outreach, has planted 18 churches in the past four years, including U.S. congregations in Kentucky, North Carolina, California, Ohio and New Hampshire, and in Nepal, Bhutan and India. One of his sisters helped plant a church in Bihar, northern India, where 100 people were killed in the first quake. All of the pastors survived both earthquakes, Tamang said May 12.
 
Nepal’s National Emergency Operations Center has estimated that nearly 300,000 homes were destroyed and about 270,000 others were damaged in the first earthquake alone. Many survivors are living in tents.
 
Born in Bhutan in 1979, Tamang was educated while living in refugee camps in Nepal for more than 15 years. During a life-threatening illness in 1993, Tamang said, he accepted Jesus, “a great healer,” as his Savior and was called as a church planter. When opportunity arose, he traveled to the U.S., first to Atlanta and then to New York, where his church is a member of the Frontier Baptist Association of the Baptist Convention of New York. Tamang’s mother church is Amherst Baptist Church in Amherst, N.Y., under the pastorate of Scott Gillette.
 
Baptist Global Response Nepal is coordinating Southern Baptist humanitarian relief efforts in Nepal, providing basic survival needs including water, shelter, food and healthcare. More information is available at gobgr.org.
 
Tamang may be reached at johntamang@gmail.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

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In Nepal, 4 Colo. pastors aid quake survivors
Nepal hit with second major quake in 17 days
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5/18/2015 11:20:48 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Winfred Moore, two-time SBC pres. nominee, dies

May 15 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Winfred Moore, a Texas pastor and two-time moderate nominee for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) presidency, died May 8 in Amarillo, Texas. He was 95.

 
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SBHLA photo
Winfred Moore, left, was elected Southern Baptist Convention first vice president in 1985 after losing the presidential election to Charles Stanley, right.

Pastor of First Baptist Church in Amarillo from 1959-89, Moore was defeated in SBC presidential elections in 1985 by Charles Stanley and 1986 by Adrian Rogers during conservatives’ battle to gain control of SBC entity trustee boards. Moore believed requiring “doctrinal uniformity as a prerequisite for missions” was neither “Baptistic” nor conducive to reaching the world for Christ, as he put it in a 1986 statement announcing his willingness to be nominated for the presidency.
 
At the 1985 SBC annual meeting in Dallas, which garnered a record 45,000 messengers, Moore allowed his name to be placed in nomination for first vice president in an apparent gesture of graciousness toward conservatives after falling short in his bid to prevent Stanley from winning reelection. He was elected first vice president with 66 percent of the vote in a three-candidate race.
 
Speaking with reporters near the platform after results of the presidential vote were announced, Moore seemed not to hear Virginia pastor Ray Allen nominate him for first vice president. Stanley, who was presiding as the sitting SBC president, asked Allen to come to the platform and inquired whether he was willing to be nominated. After asking Stanley in apparent jest, “Are you asking me that?” Moore said, “I will do with Charles Stanley everything that I know how to do to put the convention back in the mainstream of evangelism and missions.”
 
The exchange provided levity amid a contentious annual meeting. Conservative resurgence leader Paul Pressler wrote in his book A Hill on Which to Die that Moore’s election as first vice president “did salve a deep wound which Charles’s re-election had inflicted” on moderates.
 
Before pastoring in Amarillo, Moore served congregations in Mississippi, Alabama and Texas. Following his retirement from the pastorate in 1989, he taught religion at Baylor University.
 
Educated at Lambuth College and Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and George Peabody University in Nashville, Moore was elected president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1984 and 1985. He was an ex-officio member of the SBC’s Peace Committee by virtue of his service as first vice president.
 
Moore was preceded in death by his wife of 71 years, Elizabeth. He is survived by three children, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/15/2015 12:05:17 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Will Hall to lead Louisiana’s Baptist Message

May 15 2015 by Brian Blackwell, Louisiana Baptist Message

By unanimous vote, trustees of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, elected Will Hall as editor of the state newspaper and digital media outlet.
 
David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, also named Hall director of the office of public affairs for the state convention.
 
“I am extremely excited about the election of Will Hall as the editor of the Baptist Message and director of public affairs,” Hankins said. “Dr. Hall’s outstanding credentials, fruitful experience and Christian character will be a blessing to Louisiana Baptists as he leads us to communicate the message of Christ to our churches and our culture.”

 
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Will Hall

“When we looked at the candidates,” said Baptist Message board chairman Tim Hisaw, pastor of First Baptist Church in Tioga, “Will rose to the top. The future of the Baptist Message looks bright with Will at the helm.”
 
Hall most recently was executive editor and director of operations for the Christian Examiner, helping launch the digital news service in October 2014.
 
He previously served 10 years as vice president for news services with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee where he helped expand the reach and reputation of the SBC’s news service, Baptist Press and developed strategic communications. He also was press representative for the SBC.
 
During his tenure, Baptist Press expanded its monthly readership footprint to about five million combined in hard copy and the Internet; launched a sports division and weekly Spanish version of Baptist Press; and increased its network of publishing partners.
 
“I am excited to have the opportunity to contribute to the strong legacy of journalism that defines the Baptist Message,” Hall said. “I also look forward to working with our government officials to promote public policies that reflect the values and interests of Louisiana Baptists.
 
“Catherine and I are delighted to be part of the Louisiana Baptist family,” he added.
 
Hall retired as a naval aviator in 1998 after having directed academic programs for leadership development at the U.S. Naval Academy as a university department chair equivalent. He also served as a politico-military planner with the Joint Staff at the Pentagon in the strategic plans and policies directorate, among other operational and staff assignments.
 
He holds a bachelor’s degree from the United States Naval Academy; master’s degrees from George Washington University and Harvard University; and a doctorate from Vanderbilt University where he completed research about the effects of executives’ advice-seeking behavior on strategic decision-making and the subsequent impact on organizational performance.
 
He and his wife Catherine have three sons.
 
Hall is the 2015 winner of the Bo Pilgrim Award for Christian service and workplace evangelism. The annual award, initiated by the American Bible Society in 2008, is named for Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, founder of Pilgrims’ Pride poultry producer.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell writes for the Baptist Message at baptistmessage.com, newsjournal for the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

5/15/2015 11:57:10 AM by Brian Blackwell, Louisiana Baptist Message | with 0 comments



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