November 2008

SBC president urges pastors to finish well

November 11 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

GREENSBORO — Baptists should focus more on doing, not just knowing, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention said.

Johnny Hunt, also pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., preached from Psalm 119 about leading and praying with the end in mind.

"We will be remembered for how we finish," he said.

Hunt was one of seven speakers at the N.C. Pastors' Conference at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro. The meeting with the theme "Authentic" was Nov. 9-10, just before the start of the Baptist State Convention annual meeting.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin woke up the crowd by blasting those who think the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president happened outside the providence of God.

Hunt said the Psalmist asked God to do something in his life. The psalm includes prayers for education, for illumination, for direction, for inclination, for attention, of realization, for protection and of aspiration, he said.

Pastors should be teachable and do something with the knowledge they attain, Hunt said.
"Everybody wants to know just so they can know so they can blog," he said. "Churches make a difference because of what they do with what they know.

"I'd rather do more and know less than know more and do less."

Hunt said people who see God for who He is will see themselves for who they are and other people for who they are.

"Sometimes I go to church and think I'm doing good until Jesus gets lifted up," he said.

Bible in hand
Stephen Rummage, pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, preached from 2 Tim. 3:1-17 about "A Bible in Your Hand." He talked about the perilous times we face; the perfect truth we follow; and the precious treasure we find with the Bible in our hands.

The Bible says perilous times will come in the last days, Rummage said.

"Brothers and sisters, we're living in those last days," he said. "These are demonic times we're living in."

Rummage said the Bible tells of people who have a "form of godliness" but deny its power.

"When we depart from preaching and teaching this precious book, the power goes away," he said.

The Bible does not save people, but does make people wise for salvation in Jesus Christ, Rummage said.

"The Bible takes us all the way from our sin to salvation in Christ Jesus," he said.

Rummage said if preachers want to hear from God, they should read the Bible.

"You open it; you read it; and God speaks," he said.

The Bible confronts the forces that oppose God, Rummage said.

"That's why this book is such a precious treasure," he said. "It's all we need."

Rummage encouraged pastors to keep a Bible in their hands. He said he wants to be buried with a Bible.

"One day when I die, I hope they find this book in my cold, dead hands," he said.

Richard Hicks, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Supply, preached from 2 Cor. 1:12 about the "authentic messenger."

"We need authentic ministers," he said.

Authentic messengers are holy and clean, Hicks said.

"We serve a risen Savior," he said. "Our ministry, our life must be rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ."

Consecration and holiness are grounded on sacrifice. Many churches want the music and sermons to be "positive," Hicks said.

"I want to tell you, the most positive things you can preach is the blood of Jesus Christ," he said.

Hicks said authentic messengers endure lives of hardship and affliction.

"God comforts us in our affliction," he said. "It's not an easy road you travel.

"The authentic messenger doesn't let affliction and hardship turn him aside."

Authentic messengers exhibit honesty and integrity, Hicks said.

"You'll never rise any farther than your integrity in the pulpit and in your daily life," he said.

Hicks said Southern Baptists have been fighting for the Bible.

"We finally settled it that it is God's word," he said. "We need to preach it."

Authentic messengers enjoy lives of happiness and joy, Hicks said.

"Enjoy the trip, because there's much joy in sharing Jesus," he said.

Saddest chapter
Bob Pitman, an evangelist from Alabama, preached from 1 Sam. 4, which he called the saddest chapter in the Bible. The passage describes how the Phillistines defeated the people of Israel in two battles, killing 4,000 in the first and 30,000 in the second.

The priests in Israel were morally bankrupt, stealing from people, seducing women and having sex in the temple, Pitman said. In response, God withdrew His hand of provision and protection.

Evil can overwhelm individuals, churches and nations, he said.

"God can withdraw His hand, and when He does that, there comes trouble," Pitman said.

The leaders of Israel blamed God for their first defeat, then brought the Ark of the Covenant, thinking that it would save them.

"It can never save anyone," Pitman said. "Salvation can never come from an it. Salvation comes from Him."

Pitman said, the Ark was an elaborate, ornate, meaningful box, but it was still a box.

"God was not in the box," he said. "If your god lives in a box, don't be surprised if someone steals him from you."

When the Ark came, the people of Israel shouted. It was a revival, but it was  revival over a box, Pitman said.

"I'd rather have no revival than a false revival," he said.

At the end of the chapter, the wife of a priest killed in the battle has a baby after she hears that her husband was killed, her father-in-law had died and the Ark had been taken. Just before she dies, she names the child Ichabod, which means the glory has departed.

Moral corruption is not authentic methodology, Pitman said.

"I'm tired of hearing of ordained adulterers," he said. "If you're into that, get out of the ministry."

Akin talked about authenticity and the man of God.

Preaching from Psalm 128, Akin said the man of authenticity is clear about who he trusts, is committed to those he loves and is concerned about where he lives.

Akin said he and his wife have four boys. When seminary students ask him about raising kids, he tells them he and his wife tried to teach their kids to love Jesus and have fun.

Akin also encouraged pastors to love their wives.

"Great partners almost always make good parents," he said.

Akin said that in 1997 the average age of male video game player was 18. Now, it's 33, he said.

"Grow up," he said. "Go do something worthwhile for Jesus."

Akin said fathers need to raise masculine sons and grandsons.

Pastors need to ask young people if God is calling them to missions, even if parishioners don't like it, he said.

"That's worth getting fired over," he said. "That's worth getting run off for."

The psalm isn't about prosperity theology, Akin said.

"Hard work and the heart of God go hand in hand," he said.

Preaching from Acts 1:4-8, Phil Hosklins, pastor of Higher Ground Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn., said Jesus left the Church with an "authentic mission to seek to win the lost at any cost."

Hoskins said Jesus left the Church four things, including and unfinished task, an unchallenged message, unlimited power and an unfailing promise.


11/11/2008 6:03:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Articles, Bylaws changes pass easily

November 11 2008 by Norman Jameson, BR editor

Messengers approved numerous changes to their Articles and Bylaws virtually without dissent during Tuesday morning business.

Shannon Scott, chairman of the Articles and Bylaws Committee, walked messengers through 10 motions that consolidated, clarified and simplified Articles and Bylaws that govern the work of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Nearly 600 messengers were present when the business session began, but messengers were streaming in steadily and registration reached 1,930 by noon.

Additionally, messengers approved a study committee that will begin the process to sever the current relationship between BSC and Baptist Retirement Homes.

A study committee report in 2007 recommended the Convention “respectfully request” of BRH that it initiate a formal severance. Since that time, there has been no action, according to Board President Allan Blume, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone.

“The board believes this needs to reach a point of closure,” Blume said. A study committee will be appointed to bring a report in 2009.

The motions carried virtually without dissent, except for a couple “no” votes for motion seven, which dealt with makeup of the Board of Directors. It made committees consistent with the organization of Convention staff, and clearly positioned Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute as “accountable to the Board of Directors.”

The changes cut one-third of the verbiage from the Articles and Bylaws, consolidating references and eliminating redundancies.

No messenger spoke from the floor to challenge any of the motions or changes.

Blume also presented a motion to terminate councils and have them become committees of the Board of Directors “to simplify and streamline.” A study will look at their form and function and will “not seek to alter membership, power or responsibility” of the bodies.

“The question of this study is ‘What purpose does a council fulfill that is not fulfilled by a committee?’” Blume said. “There is no distinction between function of a council or a committee that relates to the Board.”

He said that in BSC history until the 1950s the task of the councils has been assigned to committees. Councils include Christian Social Services and Christian Higher Education.

11/11/2008 5:50:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR editor | with 0 comments

Speas re-elected BSC president (updated)

November 11 2008 by By Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

GREENSBORO — Rick Speas, pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, was re-elected president of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) Nov. 11 with no opposition.

Speas will begin serving his second one-year term when the BSC annual meeting ends on Nov. 12.

Kevin Brown, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, nominated Speas, who served as pastor at Mount Pleasant for nine years before moving to Old Town 10 years ago.

"Pastor Rick, as I still call him, has mentored me at Mount Pleasant," Brown said.

Brown said Speas has a heart for missions. He has led missions teams to Brazil, South Africa, India and Canada and his churches always support the Cooperative Program, Brown said.

Speas has tirelessly traveled the state from the mountains to the coast during his first term, according to Brown.

"I tell you without reservation, Rick Speas is one of the greatest servant leaders I've ever met," he said.

The election was held at 10:30 a.m., 25 minutes earlier than scheduled. Messengers took the unusual step to suspend the rules and change the time for the election, which had been a "fixed order of business" on the annual meeting program.

Other offices
In elections the afternoon of Nov. 11, Ed Yount, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, was elected first vice president, and Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, was elected second vice president. It's the first term for both. Neither faced opposition.

Leland Kerr, who had served the past year as first vice president, and Phil Ortego, who was ending the end of his first term as second vice president, both decided not to seek re-election.

Greg Mathis, pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville and a former BSC president, nominated Yount.

Mathis said Yount's is a top church in baptisms and Cooperative Program funding. Yount also "lovingly and uncompromisingly" believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, Mathis said.

Richard Hicks, pastor of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Supply, nominated Harris. Hicks said he worked with Harris early in Harris' ministry.

"God had His hand on Mark from the very beginning," Hicks said.

Tim Lowry, pastor of Balfour Baptist Church in Asheboro, was re-elected recording secretary.

Johnson Gupton, pastor of Forest Hill Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, was re-elected assistant recording secretary. Neither had opposition.

11/11/2008 4:30:00 AM by By Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Missionaries commissioned in big Monday event

November 11 2008 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor and Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

GREENSBORO--Missions took center stage Monday night at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting, with an emphasis that included state, national and international efforts.

Thirty-eight International Mission Board appointees were commissioned, including 15 from North Carolina before a crowd of about 1,400, larger than a typical Monday night audience. Because all the North Carolina appointees are going to serve in areas where missionaries are not welcomed, they cannot be named or pictured for their safety.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Missionaries gather on stage Nov. 10 at the Greensboro Coliseum with flagbearers scattered around the coliseum floor. The International Mission Board service was the first at a BSC annual meeting.

Fifty-four percent of IMB missionaries now serve in such areas.

The North Carolinians include six beginning careers as missionaries; six Journeyman who are on shorter term assignment;  one couple with International Service Corps and one on a short term assignment in the master’s program for person’s over age 50.

Hundreds of people responded to a call at the end of the service to indicate their willingness to take the next step in world missions, no matter what that might be. Tom Elliff, senior vice president for nurture and church relations at the IMB, listed several “minimums” which are “the least that God expects from every person in this room.”

He said God expects every Christian to “see something,” such as the multitudes that need Christ; to “feel something,” such as Jesus’ gut wrenching emotion when He saw the multitudes; to “know something,” such as the miniscule number of Southern Baptists directly involved in world evangelization; and to “do something,” to send missionaries or to be sent.

“It ought to be to someone’s advantage that that we’re living, sucking up oxygen and sunshine,” said Elliff, a former missionary, Southern Baptist Convention president and mega-church pastor in Oklahoma.  “There is no guarantee someone will get saved because you’re here, but it ought to give someone a boost.”

Elliff said the IMB has about 5,500 missionaries but it still takes eight Southern Baptist churches to produce one missionary.

"One point seven billion will die without hearing the name Jesus unless something radical happens," he said.

NC Missions
Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptist Men, detailed the extensive outreach and impact of North Carolina Baptists at home and abroad.

Testimonies from the commissioned missionaries showed that most had their call to missions initiated or confirmed while they were on short term mission trips of the kind coordinated by N.C. Baptist Men.

“God will use short term mission trips to make us the people we need to be,” Brunson said. “Thank you North Carolina Baptists for praying, giving and going to the ends of the earth.”

Walter Mickels represented the North American Mission Board and thanked N.C. Baptists for their support.

The international portion of the service started with a procession of flags from nations around the world, carried by volunteers as the missionaries walked took positions on the stage.

Ruby Fulbright, executive director of the Woman's Missionary Union of North Carolina, read scripture from Isaiah, 1 Corinthians and 2 Timothy and led prayer.

"God's heart for the nations runs like a thread through Scripture," he said.

George Robinson, who works with the IMB's International Service Corps and is an assistant professor of missions and evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said God uses ordinary individuals.

"Our God is a missionary God and His people are to be a missionary people," he said.

The missionaries being commissioned have joined God on His mission, Robinson said.

"This world will never be the same because you are sending them out," he said.

Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, challenged people attending the convention to do more than just give money to missions. He urged N.C. Baptists to become "prayer partners" and to “hook your heart” with missionaries.

“You’re either a sent one or a sender,” Gilbert said.

After missionaries gave brief testimonies, Allan Blume, president of the BSC's Board of Directors, came to the podium to lead prayer for them.

"These are your partners in the gospel," he said. "Have you been blessed?"

The crowd answered with a standing ovation for the missionaries.


11/11/2008 4:17:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor and Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Messengers to consider BRH money for NCBAM

November 10 2008 by By Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Messengers will consider releasing about $870,000 currently held in escrow to Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH) when they vote on budget matters in annual session Wednesday, Nov. 12

The Baptist State Convention (BSC) Executive Committee will recommend the money, held in escrow from Baptist Retirement Homes, be given to BCH to establish North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministries.

The Executive Committee also considered a candidate for a significant staff position in executive session. An announcement is expected Tuesday. The most significant vacancy among six currently at the BSC is that of the newly established Executive Leader for Church Planting and Missions.

The escrowed funds will be used to set up the NCBAM office by hiring staff, and for printing and technology, according to Budget Committee Chairman Steve Hardy, who made the recommendation at BCH’s request.

The money represents a year’s Cooperative Program funding for Baptist Retirement Homes (BRH) and has been escrowed since BRH and BSC have not arrived at a mutually acceptable relationship. A task force in 2007 recommended steps for BRH to clarify the relationship, but none has been taken.

A recommendation is expected during business sessions this week to sever the BRH relationship, which would prompt a task force to recommend a new relationship to be voted on in 2009.

The 2009 budget contains $950,000 for ministry to aging adults if it is fully funded. While not designated for NCBAM, those funds “will be our avenue for doing that,” according to John Butler, executive leader for business services.

Butler said a “significant portion of these funds will be designated for projects in associations and churches to start up ministries.” BSC will administer those funds, he said.

The Executive Committee cancelled its December meeting as there is “no business online to take care of,” said Executive Committee Chairman Allan Blume.

In the face of current revenue and economic forecasts, Butler said he and staff have been working internally toward a budget some $4 million below that approved in 2007 for 2009.

He expects to meet the North Carolina Missions Offering Goal of $2 million, he said. The goal is a half million dollars below that of last year.

11/10/2008 6:00:00 PM by By Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Akin blasts Obama detractors

November 10 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

GREENSBORO — Christians who denigrate president-elect Barack Obama should be ashamed, said the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

While Danny Akin said he disagrees with Obama on a number of issues, he has been embarrassed by what some Baptists and evangelicals have said since Obama was elected Nov. 4.

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, took issue with people who spoke harshly about President elect Barack Obama.

Akin said he's heard people say that it wasn't God's will for Obama to be elected and or that Obama will not be their president. He said he's even heard some refer to Obama as "nigger."

"Shame on us," Akin said. "I'm not talking about secular people. I'm talking about people who say they're a Baptist, who say they're a born-again believer."

Akin said that according to the Bible, God ordained the election's outcome.

"God did not wake up Wednesday morning (Nov. 5) and say, 'Golly, I didn't see that coming,’" Akin said. "If you think that, you're a heretic because you have denied the omniscience of God."

God raised up Obama to be president, just like God raised up every other president since he’s been able to vote, Akin said, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, both Bushes and Bill Clinton.

"If you don't believe that, you don't know the book, you don't know the word," he said. "He has His purposes and He has His reasons we may not understand, but God is not in the business of being caught off guard by who steps into the White House."

Christians have clear commands in scripture to pray for, submit to and honor Obama, Akin said. The Bible also tells Christians to ask God to take Obama's heart and change it.

If Christians aren't careful, they'll make the government and the White House an idol, Akin said.

"I've got news for you, my Savior is not on Capitol Hill, He's on Calvary's hill," he said. "That was true with the present administration as it will be in the next administration."

Akin said he is sometimes proud of who Southern Baptists are and what they stand for, but at other times he wants to run and hide.

"I'm begging us as Southern Baptists, let's don't act in a way that brings shame to the name of Jesus and harms our ability to extend the gospel to every man, every woman, every boy and every girl regardless of the color of their skin."

Akin said he will cooperate with Obama when he can and confront him when necessary.

"I will always respect the office I believe was ordained and raised up by God," he said. "I've been preaching the gospel the same way for 30-plus years regardless of who's in the White House. That's not going to change on Jan. 20, 2009 one whit."

For complete coverage, click BSC 2008.
11/10/2008 4:13:00 PM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 7 comments

Ministers’ wives a reflection of God

November 10 2008 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

GREENSBORO — Charlotte Akin sees God’s hand on her life.

She credits God with helping her understand that being left at the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home in Pelmetto, Ga., at the age of 9 was the best move for her. I know the Lord revealed that to me so that I would hope,” she said.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Charlotte Akin prepares to speak to the North Carolina Baptist Ministers' Wives Nov. 10 at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro

Akin was the keynote speaker Nov. 10 at the annual North Carolina Baptist Minister’s Wives meeting at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro.

Using 2 Corinthians 3:18 the theme for the meeting was “A Reflection of You.” About 40 women gathered to share pastries and worship together.

“A lot of you have been in ministry a long time,” said Phyllis Turnage, who is not only a pastor’s wife but a pastor’s child. “Sometimes you’re just not real. If you’re wearing any masks just them off and be who you are.”

Tracy Lane, a single mom who lives in Ocean Isle Beach, led the women in music. She shared how God had turned her life around.

“God has changed me, inside and out,” Lane said. “He tells us in His word who He really wants us to be — a reflection of Him.”

Akin is the wife of Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. The couple has been married 30 years and has been at Southeastern five years. She shared about her sons, their families and her grandchildren. Akin facilitates “Biblical Foundations for the Minister’s Wife,” a class for women as part of the women’s certificate program at Southeastern.

Referring to the theme verse, Akin said turning to Jesus allows the veil to be “taken away.” Akin remembers being a “sad and angry little girl” when she arrived at the children’s home, sometimes waiting for hours for her dad to show.

At age 11, Akin made a decision that allowed an introduction to a Father that made her feel “loved and safe.”

About five years later, Danny Akin took Charlotte on their first date to see a romantic movie — “Jaws.” They married anyway. She was 19; he was 21.

“We were young and had a lot to learn,” Charlotte said.

When the couple was living in Dallas, one Monday night their youngest son, Timothy, was hit by a car and hospitalized three weeks. “The Lord completely healed him,” she said. Now he and his family serve with the International Mission Board.

“My life is a reflection of God’s mighty, redemptive power,” she said.

In closing, Akin read some of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” encourage the ministers’ wives to focus on God.

The group plans a retreat each summer and works with the Ministers’ Spouses Support Group with the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC). “Daughters of the King,” the 47th annual retreat is slated for July 20-22, 2009, with Doris Brooks as Bible study leader and Lori Cole as the praise and worship leader. A retreat for new ministers’ wives is set Oct. 16-17, 2009, at Camp Mundo Vista near Asheboro.

Presided over by Turnage, outgoing president, the meeting in Greensboro involved special music by Tracy Lane as well as reports from Janis Baker, Betsy McSwain and Margaret Harding. Officers for 2008-2009 are: Gray Frady, president; Donna Burnop, president elect; Cheryl Reeves, vice president; Janis Baker; secretary/treasurer; and Lori James, secretary/treasurer elect. Regional representatives include: Marlene Johnson, eastern; Dee Dee Whray, central #1; Lafayetta Reaves, central #2; Debbie Goforth, western #1; and Polly Heffner, western #2.

All the officers give generously out of their time and money,” said Baker.

Harding, adult specialist with WMU-NC, shared some of the activities and ministries of the WMU-
NC, including the poverty simulation, military spouses prayer partnership, involvement with Habitat of Humanity build in Greensboro and the Missions Extravaganza planned in March 2009.

McSwain shared about the prayer partnership with Vermont ministers’ wives where 55 women are already participating.

“One of the main concerns of ministers’ wives today is we need friendship,” McSwain said. “Many times they felt like they were alone in their situation.”

The offering was designated as a gift to Roberts Chapel Baptist Church in Pendelton. The church burned Oct. 30. McSwain said the church is receiving support from members as well as other churches with hymnals, pews, etc.

The ministers’ wives are already excited about next year’s meeting in conjunction with the pastors’ conference. The scheduled guest is Henry Blackaby’s wife. One thing they hope to add next year is childcare so more women will be able to come.

11/10/2008 2:56:00 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Ballot measures touch on social, ethical issues

November 8 2008 by Ashley Gipson, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON —  Moral issues abounded on state ballots in the 2008 election, with conservative religious groups successfully working to bar gays from marrying in several states and adopting children in another.

But efforts to restrict or ban abortions failed, and measures to allow gambling, assisted suicide and embryonic stem cell research passed.

"We are encouraged by the success of the marriage ballot initiatives because they, alongside the majority of states that already have this protection, show that the American people across the nation uphold marriage as only one man and one woman," said Traditional Values Coalition Chairman Louis P. Sheldon and executive director Andrea Lafferty in a statement.

Same-sex marriage

After the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in May, proponents of an amendment to ban it claimed victory Wednesday with 52.5 percent of the vote.

California's Proposition 8 is the most expensive proposition on any ballot, with more than $70 million invested from both sides. Now the question is if thousands of recent same-sex marriages will be allowed to stand or will be challenged as invalid in court.

Arizona and Florida voters also voted to ban same-sex marriage, joining more than two dozen other states that have made such amendments.

Arizona passed the ban with 56 percent of the vote, and 62 percent of Florida voters supported the ban, which needed a 60 percent majority to pass.

Arkansas voters chose to bar unmarried couples from adopting children or becoming foster parents. While the ban, which was approved by 57 percent of voters, will apply to all unmarried couples, it was originally proposed to prevent same-sex couples from being able to adopt.


A slim majority of Californians —  52 percent —  rejected a measure that would have required minors to get parental consent to before having an abortion. The failed measure would have also required minors to wait two days before having an abortion. More than 30 other states have similar laws in place.

More than 70 percent of Colorado voters rejected an amendment to define human life as beginning at fertilization. This "personhood" amendment could have paved the way to a state abortion ban.Abortion-rights activists feared the amendment would have outlawed certain types of birth control.

South Dakota rejected a measure, 55 to 45 percent, that would have banned abortions except in cases of rape or incest. This is the second time in two consecutive elections that South Dakota voters have rejected an abortion ban, although this measure was less restrictive.

Stem cell research
Michigan amended its constitution to allow more extensive embryonic stem cell research, passing its proposition by 53 percent. The amendment will allow people to donate embryos left over from fertility treatments that would otherwise be discarded. The state has allowed research on adult stem cells and stem cells harvested from umbilical chords.

Assisted suicide
Washington voters decided to allow competent adults, who are medically predicted to have six months or less to live, to receive lethal medication prescribed by a physician, but the patients must self-administer the medication. The proposition passed by 59 percent of the vote. Oregon is the only other state with a similar law.

Maryland approved a constitutional amendment that allows 15,000 slot machines to be placed throughout the state. The proceeds will primarily go towards public education.

Massachusetts voters passed a ban on greyhound racing. Missourians repealed a "loss limit" on gambling; Colorado voters chose to extend casino's hours of operation; Arkansas approved a state-run lottery; while Ohio rejected a measure that would have allowed the state's first casino.

11/8/2008 8:51:00 AM by Ashley Gipson, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Gays, Mormons clash outside L.A. temple

November 8 2008 by David Finnigan, Religion News Service

LOS ANGELES — Mormons and gay activists clashed over same-sex marriage Nov. 6 at the Mormon temple in Los Angeles in a skirmish that attracted about 1,000 protesters angry at the passage of California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

Los Angeles police said two demonstrators were arrested during the tense protest in front of the Mormon temple on Santa Monica Boulevard, near the gay and lesbian enclave of West Hollywood. Police said they also took witness statements about possible hate crimes from gay and lesbian protesters claiming they were assaulted by counter-demonstrators near the temple.

TV news footage showed several young Pacific Islanders tearing down pro-same sex marriage signs placed on the temple ground's fencing and also arguing with protesters. Mormon church spokesman Keith Atkinson said the Pacific Islanders' behavior may have been "uncharacteristic of our people, but I know that emotions are running high."

Police formed a skirmish line dividing both sides, with hundreds of protesters outnumbering the handful of Mormons. No vandalism was reported, though Atkinson said some graffiti was found on the edge of temple property.

Proposition 8 passed Nov. 4 with 52.5 percent of California voters approving a ban on same-sex marriage, effectively overturning the state Supreme Court's landmark ruling last May that allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry. Attorneys representing gay rights groups have filed several lawsuits challenging the measure, but gay and lesbian leaders are particularly angry at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its strong support of the measure.

"The majority of the donations that came to the Yes on 8 campaign came from members of the Mormon church," said Lori Jean, executive officer of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, at a press conference.

Atkinson said 40 percent of the funding in support of the measure came from Mormons but he added, "The church hasn't given money to the campaign. These were individual members."

Mormons were particularly offended by a No-on-8 TV commercial this week that depicted two Mormon missionaries invading a lesbian couple's home and destroying their marriage certificate. California's Catholic bishops also denounced the TV spot as a "blatant display of religious bigotry and intolerance."

11/8/2008 8:49:00 AM by David Finnigan, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Gay marriage fight dealt a setback after California defeat

November 8 2008 by Brittney Bain, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON —  In a razor-thin outcome, California voters overturned same-sex marriage rights in the nation's most populous state, as similar bans on gay marriage were approved in Arizona and Florida.

The verdicts by voters in three large and growing states will likely put the brakes —  at least temporarily —  on gay groups' march toward civil marriage rights.

The three measures were a stunning defeat for same-sex marriage proponents, and showed conservatives' continued ability to flood the polls to prevent —  or in California's case, overturn —  court-ordered gay marriages.

Observers say the fight may now shift away from the courts to state legislatures because voters have shown little appetite for courts that mandate equal protection for gay and straight couples.

"We are grateful to have reclaimed for traditional marriage what activist judges took away from the people of California when they began allowing same-sex marriage back in May," said Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego and supporter of the grassroots "Protect Marriage" campaign.

On Nov. 5, a coalition of gay groups, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, asked the California Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 8, saying it violates the "underlying principles" of the constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

Thousands of same-sex couples rushed to the altar to wed in California after the state Supreme Court overturned a 2000 voter referendum that defined marriage between one man and one woman.

Close to $73 million in donations from both in-state and across the country was spent by opponents and supporters of California's Proposition 8, which amends the state's constitution to define marriage solely between a man and a woman.

The campaign pitted church leaders and some evangelical groups against civil rights activists, other religious leaders, and even celebrities and corporations. Apple Inc. and Google Inc. both donated at least $100,000 to the "No on 8" campaign, while the Mormon Church was one of the biggest backers and fundraisers for the proposition, pouring in millions of dollars.

Campaign ads became as controversial as an 11th-hour commercial released by an anti-Proposition 8 group called Courage Coalition depicted two Mormon missionaries invading a lesbian couple's home to confiscate their marriage license.

Advocates for gay marriage called the issue a matter of equal rights, while opponents argued same-sex couples already have domestic partnership rights.

"I believe in the long run that marriage will be recognized," said Troy Perry, who founded the predominately gay Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles in 1968. "I'm not pleased, but I'm not bitter about it, I'm a Christian."

Ron Prentice, chairman of and part of the "Yes on 8" movement, called it a "great day for marriage."

"Gay and lesbian domestic partnerships will continue to enjoy the same legal rights as married spouses. Our coalition has no plans to seek any changes in that law," Prentice said.

In Florida, voters approved an amendment to the state's constitution that bars same-sex marriage and defines marriage as only between a man and woman. Gay marriage was already illegal in the state.

Arizona voters approved a state constitutional ban on gay marriage with 56.5 percent of the vote.

While Arizona law already prohibits gay marriage, supporters wanted to amend the state's constitution to prevent a judicial overturn of the law. The amendment that passed was a scaled-down version of an amendment rejected by voters in Arizona two years ago.  

The Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-traditional marriage group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., said the balloting in all three states demonstrated that voters wanted to preserve marriage between a man and woman.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — David Finnigan contributed to this report from Los Angeles.)

11/8/2008 8:46:00 AM by Brittney Bain, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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