November 2017

Sociologist’s ‘Cheap Sex’ examines drop in marriage rates

November 17 2017 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

The price of sex has plummeted, throwing the “mating market” into a tizzy, according to Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus.
 
“It turns out that a world in which it is possible to satisfy our sexual desires much more immediately carries with it a number of unhappy and unintended consequences,” writes Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, in a Wall Street Journal editorial. For his new book on the subject, Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy, Regnerus conducted 100 in-depth interviews of young adults in five major cities and surveyed more than 15,000 people.
 
Marriage, an institution that studies consistently find creates the best environment for children and leads to happier, healthier, more financially stable adults, is in retreat: In 1970, 80 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds were married, compared to just 40 percent in 2015, according to U.S. Census data. Although young adults – especially women – say they want to eventually marry, Regnerus argues marriage is declining chiefly because the marriage market is now controlled by men who have access to cheap sex.
 
Why is sex cheap? Because women today expect little in return. Whereas women once demanded more care, commitment and fidelity – serving as the gatekeepers in the sexual market – data shows women today give sex away for next to nothing, then wonder why they find dating so frustrating and marriage so elusive.
 
Regnerus explains the shift with three developments: the birth control pill, online pornographic videos and online dating. All three give men the opportunity to have cheap sexual fulfillment with little investment.
 
While the sexual revolution promised women sexual and economic freedom – and Regnerus agrees the pill led to more education and career success for women – it also handed the keys to the marriage market to men, he argues.
 
Some sociologists disagree, arguing today’s declining marriage rates are motivated primarily by men’s dropping wages. In a response to Regnerus, published last week by the Institute for Family Studies, New York University sociologist Paula England points to data showing the decline in marriage is especially pronounced among those with less education.
 
“The retreat from marriage among these less advantaged men is not just a matter of them marrying later to get an education and build careers; they often manage to do neither,” writes England, concluding that men’s economic woes are a key barrier to marriage.
 
Regnerus agrees, in part.
 
In a reply to England, also published recently by the Institute for Family Studies, Regnerus agrees men’s economic woes have contributed to declining marriage rates. But he does not believe rising wages would in turn increase the marriage rate. Studies show uneducated men get just as much, if not more, sex than educated men, Regnerus argues. A study of U.S. regions that saw economic booms from fracking found no increase in marriage rates, he notes.
 
“As marriage recedes culturally – that is, as few institutions reinforce it and respectable lives can be lived without it – I see no evidence to suggest marriage would notably and widely reemerge even if working-class men’s earnings rose,” Regnerus concludes.
 
Instead, he says men and women today are losing out on “the real relationships that are most likely to lead to their long-term flourishing” because cheap sex has taken away their ability to cultivate and sustain them.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

11/17/2017 9:03:30 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Bobby Welch’s art honors hometown’s heritage

November 16 2017 by Jennifer Davis Rash, The Alabama Baptist

Some call it Dye Branch, others Dye Ditch, but no matter the reference used, natives of Fort Payne, Ala., who grew up in the area in the 1950s and 60s seem to know all the adventurous tales.

The Alabama Baptist photo by Jennifer Davis Rash
Bobby Welch – who was baptized, licensed to preach and ordained at FBC Fort Payne, Ala. – describes the story behind his art with those attending the Landmarks Historic Association of DeKalb County annual meeting Oct. 29 in Fort Payne.


One of those natives, Bobby Welch – former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and retired longtime pastor of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla. – has decided to take the stories to a new level with an official visual representation of those days.
 
“This is a heritage tribute, a tribute to the ordinary,” Welch said during the Oct. 29 annual meeting of Landmarks Historic Association of DeKalb County. “It is for the heroes of the environment – those who stayed and have been here through the thick and thin. They are producing, innovating, booming and doing what needs to be done.”
 
Welch has technically been gone from the area since the early 1970s when his then pastor Dan Ireland at First Baptist Church (FBC) of Fort Payne helped him settle into New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary following a surrender to preach.
 
Welch was baptized, married, called to preach, licensed to preach and ordained at FBC Fort Payne, and that all came after nearly losing his life during the Vietnam War.
 
A decorated veteran who received a Bronze Star for bravery and a Purple Heart for battle wounds, Welch was shot and nearly killed while in combat.
 
“Bobby is a miracle man,” Ireland said when Welch was elected SBC president in 2004. “He always felt the Lord spared his life for special reasons.”
 
For the past three years, Welch has been reconnecting to his hometown by creating scenes from the “boom” era of Fort Payne in papier-mâché style.
 
His unique life-size works of art led to the idea of a heritage piece he plans to donate to the city in the coming months.

The Alabama Baptist photo by Jennifer Davis Rash
Bobby Welch, former longtime pastor of FBC Daytona Beach, Fla., created “Born Again Bike” as a tribute to newspaper delivery boys and girls of his childhood era when all the news was distributed through print. He even included a dog clinching to the sock of the newspaper boy as he cycles through the neighborhood.


Armed with stacks of old newspapers and magazines and his handy hot glue gun, Welch plans a 360-degree scene encapsulated in something similar to an upside-down aquarium.
 
Eight characters will represent various points of life for those growing up around Dye Branch during the boom years. But the characters are not fictitious, Welch noted. “The people who are the inspiration behind each character will see themselves but it won’t be obvious to everyone,” he said.
 
The heritage tribute will be his first piece designed for outdoor placement and will be in the city park or nearby, said councilwoman Lynn Brewer. “We are trying to celebrate our heritage and the people from Fort Payne, and Bobby is part of that,” she said.
 
Darlene Rotch, curator of Boom Town Makers Market, added that Welch’s work will remind those who see it to “never give up.”
 
“That’s what Fort Payne is all about,” she said, noting the city is headed into its next boom.
 
Welch agreed. “I smell good things here,” he said. “We’ve got enough boom spirit in us. This is a good place with good blood and Dye Ditch water in it.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jennifer Davis Rash is editor-elect of The Alabama Baptist, news journal of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.)
 

11/16/2017 9:27:53 AM by Jennifer Davis Rash, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments



NOBTS mourns loss of beloved professor

November 16 2017 by NOBTS staff

Jerry N. Barlow, professor of preaching and pastoral work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), died Nov. 11 after a brief illness. He was 72.
 
Though battling his own health issues, Barlow ministered to others through the final week of his life. He checked in on doctor of ministry students and even called another faculty member dealing with an illness from his hospital bed. Barlow was known on campus for kindness, wit and pastoral concern for others.

NOBTS photo
Jerry Barlow, professor of preaching and pastoral work at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, preaches in Leavell Chapel in 2006.


“Dr. Barlow was the pastor to all of us,” said NOBTS president Chuck Kelley. “His investment in his students and colleagues was legendary.”
 
Barlow was born June 13, 1945, in Petal, Miss., and studied chemistry at William Carey College. During his time at William Carey, Barlow was selected to work at the Oak Ridge nuclear power plant in Tennessee. After completing his undergraduate degree, Barlow studied chemistry at Rice University and joined the United States Navy.
 
Barlow surrendered to gospel ministry after his military service and spent the last 40 years of his life as a pastor and ministry professor. He earned his master of divinity degree and doctor of theology degree at NOBTS. After serving several churches, Barlow was called to First Baptist Church in Franklinton, La., where he served for 15 years.
 
In 1996, Barlow was elected to the NOBTS faculty and taught in the College of Undergraduate Studies (now Leavell College) until 1998 when he was elected to the graduate faculty at NOBTS. In 2003, Barlow was named dean of graduate studies at NOBTS. He served in that role until 2015 when his focus returned to the classroom.
 
Barlow is survived by, Lynne, his wife of 47 years, his daughter, Cathy Edmonston, son-in-law, Kirt Edmonston, and three grandchildren.
 
A memorial service for family and friends will be held Nov. 16 at First Baptist Church of Covington, La. An on-campus memorial service will be held at NOBTS campus following the Thanksgiving break.
 
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (ATTN: Student Aid Fund, 3939 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70126) or to Louisiana College, c/o Jerry and Lynne Barlow Scholarship Fund (LC Box 587, 1140 College Drive, Pineville, LA 71360).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The communications teams of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary released this report.)
 

11/16/2017 9:25:41 AM by NOBTS staff | with 0 comments



West Virginia Baptists ‘all in,’ tackle opioid crisis

November 16 2017 by Cleve Persinger, WVCSB

During their annual meeting, West Virginia Baptists were urged to be “all in” through seeking to grow as a convention united in generosity in response to the gospel. Messengers also pledged to battle the state’s drug epidemic during the convention’s 47th annual meeting.

WVCSB photo
Bill Henard, executive director-treasurer of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists (WVCSB), and David Wheeler, professor of evangelism and student ministry at Liberty University, offered prayers for West Virginia pastors at the close of the WVCSB 47th Annual Meeting.


During the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists (WVCSB) annual meeting – held Nov. 2-3 at First Baptist Church of Fairlea, W.Va. – 173 messengers and 41 guests marked a continued increase in total attendance over previous WVCSB annual meetings.
 

All In

The theme “All In” is the convention’s emphasis for fall 2017 through fall 2018 and is drawn from 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised” (CSB).
 
Bill Henard, WVCSB executive director-treasurer, encouraged messengers to personify the theme.
 
“When we are ‘all in’ for the mission of God, we can do more together than by ourselves,” Henard said. “Imagine what God could accomplish through this state convention of Southern Baptists if we worked together, committed to radical, sacrificial generosity as a way of life and grew as a generous people in response to Christ’s generosity.
 
“We could tackle the growing drug epidemic in our midst, develop and send out leaders, plant and revitalize churches,” Henard said, “and tell all of West Virginia – from the cities to the hollows – the Good News of the gospel.”
 
Henard and the state’s three strategists – Cleve Persinger, Danny Rumple and Tim Turner – presented plans to “strengthen and send” West Virginia Southern Baptists leading up to the convention’s 50th anniversary in 2020. Multiple “Strengthen and Send Intensives” in West Virginia in 2018 will cover stewardship/generosity, mercy ministry, church planting and revitalization, small groups and Sunday School, gospel conversations and the Sunday morning experience.
 
Featured speakers at the annual meeting were Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources; Will Basham, lead pastor of New Heights Church in Milton, W.Va.; Todd Hill, pastor of Grace Baptist in Parkersburg, W.Va.; and David Wheeler, professor of evangelism and student ministry at Liberty University.
 

Business

Messengers approved a 2018 budget totaling $2,382,578, representing a decrease of $121,600 (4.9 percent) from the 2017 budget. Messengers allocated 41 percent to Southern Baptist Convention ministries and missions through the Cooperative Program, a 1 percentage point increase over 2017. Anticipated funding sources include $1,019,565 from the North American Mission Board and $59,992 from LifeWay.

WVCSB photo
Bill Henard, executive director-treasurer of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists at podium, presents 2017-2018 officers, from left, president Todd Hill, recording secretary Jim Messenger, first vice president Paul Harris, and second vice president Nathan Ertel.


Messengers approved two new congregations for affiliation, namely First Baptist Church in Winfield and Simpson Creek Baptist Church in Bridgeport. Simpson Creek pastor Michael Hopkins exclaimed to messengers, “Simpson Creek is all in!”
 
Messengers adopted a resolution to dedicate themselves to an “active, gospel involvement in the effort to rid West Virginia of drug abuse” by “seeking partnerships with civil, religious and government groups and agencies to discover effective ways to solve the drug abuse problem in our state, including, but not limited to, the provision of spiritual counseling, the elimination of poverty, the strengthening of families, the restoration of hope and the sharing of the gospel.”
 
The resolution further states “West Virginia has become the epicenter of opioid abuse, suffering from a rate of 33.5 drug overdoses per 100,000 people, compared to a national average of 13.4 deaths.”
 
Additionally, a resolution was adopted by WVCSB expressing gratitude to Greenbrier County, First Baptist Church of Fairlea and the Alleghany Association.
 
Three convention officers were re-elected: president Todd Hill, pastor of Grace Baptist in Parkersburg; first vice president Paul Harris, pastor of Abundant Hope Church in Barboursville; and recording secretary Jim Messenger, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in West Union. Nathan Ertel, student pastor of Old Fields Baptist Church in Old Fields, was elected second vice president.
 
Music was led by the First Baptist Fairlea worship team, the Grassroots Church of Lewisburg worship team, the gospel trio 3:16 Crossroads and Allegheny associational missionary Dennis Cherry.
 
Events for the wives of pastors and ministers preceded the annual meeting. A catered lunch featuring a question-and-answer session with Thom Rainer was held Nov. 3 for senior pastors.
 
The WVCSB 2018 annual meeting will be held Nov. 1-2 at Fairlawn Baptist Church in Parkersburg.
 
To listen to the sermons and see reports presented at the 2017 WVCSB annual meeting, visit wvcsb.org/47.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cleve Persinger oversees partnerships and communications for the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists.)
 

11/16/2017 9:21:48 AM by Cleve Persinger, WVCSB | with 0 comments



Indian Christians accused of kidnapping, forced conversion

November 16 2017 by Julia A. Seymour, WORLD News Service

A court allowed seven Christian children in India to return to their families a week after Hindu radicals falsely accused their chaperones of kidnapping them to forcibly convert them. It was the third situation of its kind in Madhya Pradesh state since May.
 
The children and adults were traveling to Mumbai for a Christian event when extremists intervened, beat them and accused the caretakers of kidnapping, The Indian Express reported. Forced conversion is a crime in the state. Police took the Christians into custody.
 
Parents provided baptism certificates proving the children were Christians already, and the state’s high court authorized their return. Two female chaperones remain accused and jailed, UCA News reported. Several Christians accused of the same crimes in a nearby town in May were released on bail but await prosecution, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).
 
ICC’s William Stark said the accusations not only cause direct harm but also are “definitely having a chilling effect on the church itself” because many Christians are afraid even to attend church.
 
Complaints aren’t only being directed at Christians when they travel. An India-based attorney who works with Alliance Defending Freedom told UCA News that Hindus falsely accused Christians in Madhya Pradesh of forcibly converting people at least 27 times this year.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julia A. Seymour writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

11/16/2017 9:20:11 AM by Julia A. Seymour, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



To tweet or not to tweet: Who gets to say?

November 16 2017 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

A liberal advocacy group in Wisconsin is asking a federal court to declare the Twitter accounts of three state representatives “designated public forums.” As such, blocking access to the accounts is unconstitutional, the group argues. The lawsuit is the second such case filed this year demanding unfettered access to the virtual conversations on elected officials’ Twitter accounts.
 
One Wisconsin Now v. Kremer, filed Oct. 31, claims Wisconsin state Reps. Jesse Kremer, John Nygren and Robin Vos, all Republicans, violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when they blocked One Wisconsin Now (OWN) from reading and commenting on their official Twitter accounts. In July, the Knight First Amendment Institute filed a similar complaint against President Donald Trump after his administration refused to restore its clients’ access to his Twitter account. Both cases seek to codify into law the current virtual reality – public officials’ use of Twitter has become a constant town hall meeting.
 
Even with only one legal precedent and a mention from the U.S. Supreme Court about Americans’ dependence on social media, the courts most likely will side with the plaintiffs, said Lata Nott, an attorney and executive director of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center.
 
“These [Twitter accounts] will be seen as public forums because they are being used that way,” she said.
 
The plaintiffs argue Twitter has become a ubiquitous means of communicating with constituents and allowing citizens to “otherwise engage in a direct manner” with their elected officials. Anyone blocked from a Twitter account cannot read that user’s posts or responses and cannot post to the account from their own Twitter feed.
 
By blocking the plaintiffs’ access, Trump and the Wisconsin representatives denied their rights to speak and petition their government for redress of grievances, the lawsuits claim. Plaintiffs in both cases also accuse the public officials of viewpoint discrimination, claiming they only got blocked because of their critical posts on the defendants’ Twitter feeds.
 
Using the public forum analogy requires public officials to allow access to all “speakers,” whether they agree with the official or not. Participants in a town hall meeting can be removed from the forum for “content-neutral” reasons like “using profanity or not wearing pants,” Nott said. But they can’t be removed for the content of their speech.
 
Nott believes the courts will apply the same standard to Twitter’s virtual town hall meetings. But a case could be made, albeit not a strong one, that a public official’s tweets are “government speech” – sources of information, not prompts for a discussion, Nott said.
 
A Virginia case settled in July provides the only legal point of reference for the two courts considering the Twitter cases. In that case, a Loudon County Board of Supervisors chairwoman used her personal Facebook page to solicit comments about an issue before the commission but blocked the plaintiff because of his critical posts. A federal judge ruled that violated the plaintiff’s right of free speech.
 
But just as rules of decorum apply in a town hall meeting, Nott said, officials could possibly establish similar rules for their social media accounts – no profanity, no degrading comments. If they consistently apply those rules, the officials could have a case for blocking an abusive user.
 
Although the Wisconsin representatives have not yet responded to the lawsuit, Nott noted the facts in both cases are not in dispute.
 
Of the 300 million Twitter users worldwide, 70 million are in the United States, according to Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia University v. Trump. Of those, 42 million follow Trump – 9 million more than when the lawsuit was filed in July.
 
Trump fires off, on average, 11.5 tweets a day. In contrast, Kremer, a defendant in the Wisconsin lawsuit, tweets about 4.5 times a week to his 956 followers. Kremer’s co-defendants tweet, on average, once a day.
 
Plaintiffs in both cases seek summary judgments declaring the president and the Wisconsin representatives violated the First Amendment by restricting speech and denying the plaintiffs a redress of grievances. They also want the court to enter an injunction requiring the defendants restore access to their Twitter feeds and prohibit the defendants from blocking them again.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

11/16/2017 9:16:10 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Roy Moore imbroglio draws Southern Baptists’ comments

November 15 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

New allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore emerged as Southern Baptists offered a range of commentary on the embattled social conservative.
 
Moore’s wife Kayla posted on Facebook Nov. 12 an endorsement of her husband by more than 50 pastors, some Southern Baptists. But Alabama’s AL.com news website noted the endorsement appeared to be a “recycled” statement from Aug. 15, well before two women accused Moore of sexual contact with them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s. Three pastors listed as signatories reportedly told media outlets the Moore campaign did not ask them if they still endorsed Moore before republishing the statement and asked that their names be removed.

Screen capture from ABC News


Meanwhile, Joe Godfrey, leader of the Alabama Baptist Convention’s public policy auxiliary, told Baptist Press (BP) many of his state’s evangelical voters are experiencing a “struggle” because they must choose between Moore, “who may have done something that is repugnant,” and his Democratic opponent, whose support for abortion also “is repugnant.”
 
Some Baptists – including Russell Moore, Daniel Akin and Bob Terry – criticized specific defenses of Roy Moore while not addressing the allegations against him.
 
On Nov. 13, a woman accused Roy Moore, 70, of sexually assaulting her in the late 1970s when she was 16. The previous week, another woman alleged Moore had inappropriate sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32. Three additional women said Moore pursued romantic relationships with them as teenagers when he was a young adult, according to The Washington Post.
 
Moore has denied all the charges and says he is remaining in the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The election between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones is slated for Dec. 12.
 
At least a dozen GOP U.S. senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have called for Moore to withdraw from the race in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, according to media reports. Others, like Southern Baptist James Lankford of Oklahoma, have said Moore should withdraw if the allegations are true.
 
Moore is a Southern Baptist and former Alabama chief justice who long has drawn media attention for controversial stands like refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building and advising probate judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses even after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage.
 
The pastors’ endorsement posted by Kayla Moore called Roy Moore “a man who cares for the people, a man who understands our Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers, and a man who deeply loves America.”
 
The statement, which appeared to include signatures of at least six Southern Baptists, added, “We are ready to join the fight and send a bold message to Washington: dishonesty, fear of man, and immorality are an affront to our convictions and our Savior and we won’t put up with it any longer. We urge you to join us at the polls to cast your vote for Roy Moore.”
 
Thad Endicott, pastor of an Opelika, Ala., church that is not Southern Baptist, was among the pastors listed in Kayla Moore’s Facebook post. But he told AL.com the endorsement “was evidently copied and pasted from the August endorsements without checking to see if I still endorsed Moore.” At least two other formerly endorsing ministers made similar claims, one to AL.com and another to an Alabama Fox affiliate.
 
Baptist Press was not able to reach any Southern Baptists on the list of endorsers before its publication deadline.
 
Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, said many Christian voters in Alabama “find themselves in a dilemma of not knowing exactly what to do [on Election Day]. The hope – and the prayer is – that new information is going to come out before the election that will either lead to Roy Moore stepping aside if the accusations can be proven or to him being exonerated.”
 
Some of Moore’s defenders have drawn criticism from Southern Baptist leaders.
 
When an Alabama political reporter appeared to suggest the actions Moore is accused of committing were no more serious than a hypothetical situation involving theft of a lawnmower as an immature young adult, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) President Russell Moore tweeted, “I’ve heard lots of morally repugnant things recently. Comparing the sexual exploitation of girls to the theft of a lawnmower tops the list.”
 
Since allegations against Roy Moore first were reported in the media Nov. 9, Russell Moore has tweeted about sexual assault, hypocrisy and politicians’ personal sins at least 16 times. He did not appear to mention Roy Moore by name but retweeted a Nov. 14 Christian Post article that tied the ERLC leader’s comments to the scandal surrounding Roy Moore.
 
Among Russell Moore’s tweets, “Christian, if you cannot say definitively, no matter what, that adults creeping on teenage girls is wrong, do not tell me how you stand against moral relativism.”
 
Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted that the comparison of sexual exploitation to lawn mower theft “is one of the stupidest and dumbest things I have ever heard in my life.”
 
Terry, editor of The Alabama Baptist news journal, took issue with an Alabama politician’s statement to The Washington Examiner Nov. 9 that Roy Moore’s alleged pursuit of teenage women while in his 30s was morally acceptable and akin to the relationship between Mary and Joseph in the Bible.
 
“That comparison is not only morally inappropriate, it is factually wrong and cannot be left unchallenged,” Terry wrote in a Nov. 12 editorial. “The biblical story of Mary and Joseph tells the story of two people legally married to one another. The story currently in the news asserts abuse of a young teen by an older man who had no relationship other than a casual acquaintance. To equate the two is morally indefensible.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/15/2017 8:02:14 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Church with a woman pastor declined by Tennessee convention

November 15 2017 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist & Reflector

Messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC) annual meeting voted overwhelmingly not to seat messengers from First Baptist Church (FBC) in Jefferson City, which has a woman as pastor, during the TBC’s opening session Nov. 14.
 
First Baptist attempted to register seven messengers, including new pastor Ellen Di Giosia, who has been in the position since Aug. 1.

Photo by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist & Reflector
TBC Registration Secretary Dan Ferrell, left, speaks with Ellen Di Giosia, right, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, and other church members. Messengers to the annual meeting later upheld a decision by the Committee on Credentials to not seat messengers from FBC.


In mid-October, the TBC’s Committee on Credentials met and agreed that a church with a woman pastor does not fit the definition of a “cooperating church” as defined by convention bylaws. The committee based its decision on Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 declaring that “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
 
Di Giosia and the FBC contingent met with TBC registration secretary Dan Ferrell on Tuesday morning and were presented guest name badges and a bag of materials which included everything given to messengers except ballots.
 
Curt Wagoner, chair of the Credentials Committee, moved that messengers affirm the committee’s decision not to register messengers from the church. Several messengers spoke for and against the motion.
 
Tim Fields, a messenger from Immanuel Baptist Church in Nashville, spoke against the motion, noting that churches are autonomous and that Baptists traditionally have supported the concept of the priesthood of the believer.
 
Frank Bowling, pastor of First Baptist Church in Medina, agreed that churches are autonomous but also noted that so are conventions. The question is not about calling, he said. “The question is the autonomy of the local church and this body being able to express that same self-autonomy.”
 
Tambi Swiney, associate pastor of Immanuel Baptist in Nashville, spoke against the motion, noting that First Baptist in Jefferson City “has a long legacy of faithful service to God.”
 
Chris King, pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Huntland, urged messengers to affirm the committee’s decision on the grounds of biblical compliance. “Compromising the gospel is destructive to our cause,” he said.
 
Kelly Moreland-Jones, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Nashville, had a question for the committee. “Did Jesus tell you not to seat the messengers?” She cited soul competency, the priesthood of the believer and local church autonomy. “We trust God to call pastors of churches,” she said.
 
Kevin Shrum, pastor of Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, agreed that First Baptist Church has every right to organize as it sees fit. “The Tennessee Baptist Convention has the right to organize on the principles it has adopted,” he said. Shrum then called for the question and messengers voted to end discussion.
 
By a show of ballots, the motion was overwhelmingly approved with less than 20 opposing votes.
 
Di Giosia and messengers met with the media following the vote. She also provided a statement.
 
The statement acknowledged that while “some spoke to oppose this action, a majority vote of the messengers speaks on behalf of the entire fellowship of churches, according to Baptist polity. Therefore, our church is no longer a part of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.”
 
In response to a media question, Di Giosia acknowledged it would have been simpler for the church not to send prospective messengers and stayed home. “We came because there needed to be clarity for our church and for the convention,” she said, noting that had the church not sought to seat messengers, the convention itself would not have had opportunity to vote on the issue.
 
Di Giosia stressed “this was not a fight or a battle. It’s a disagreement between brothers and sisters in Christ.”
 
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, also spoke to media following the vote, describing Di Giosia as “a good and godly sister in Christ.”
 
“There was just a theological difference in how we interpret Scripture that relates to the female being the senior pastor of a local church,” Davis said.
 
Voicing appreciation for how TBC messengers conducted themselves during the discussion, Davis said, “They were very civil and they exuded everything that we hold dear about our relationship to Christ.”
 
The TBC leader said he hopes the action sends the message that “we are going to be committed to scripture and that in spite of how others may interpret this action, it is very important that we have some anchors and that we have a belief system that is tied to scripture.”
 
He acknowledged that the TBC’s confessional statement, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, is not inerrant or infallible, “but it reflects what we believe about the Word of God.”
 
Davis also noted that while other denominations and churches may affirm women pastors, “our network of churches, on this issue, has clearly stated where we stand.”
 
He said the convention adopted the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 in 2006 and has affirmed it on four different occasions in four different ways since. “First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, chose to go in a different direction.
 
“It is not a matter of the Tennessee Baptist Convention voting to kick them out. It is a matter that there were theological differences and that it was handled with grace and it was handled with dignity and respect on both sides,” Davis said.
 
The statement by First Baptist in Jefferson City, noted, “While the outcome saddens us, it is fair to say that we are not surprised. Our congregation’s long-held position that God calls all people into service regardless of gender has not always been received well, even by some brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been heartened, however, by a tremendous outpouring of support we have received from Christians, both Baptist and non-Baptist, from Tennessee and around the country in recent weeks.”
 
The statement also noted that “although one of our Baptist affiliations has changed, FBC, Jefferson City, is the same congregation we were yesterday. We will still gather to worship, study, and pray. We will still nurture children and youth in the way of Jesus.
 
“We will still serve our community and partner with those who further the work of God’s kingdom throughout the world. We will still proclaim the name of Jesus to the best of our abilities.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)
 

11/15/2017 7:58:34 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist & Reflector | with 0 comments



Court to rule on mandate on pregnancy centers

November 15 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Pro-life pregnancy care centers have gained a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court in their bid to be free from promoting abortion.
 
The high court announced Nov. 13 it would rule on a 2015 California law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to notify their clients of the availability of abortion services elsewhere. The justices are expected to hear oral arguments in the case in this term and issue an opinion before they adjourn next summer.
 
The FACT Act, as it is known, is part of an ongoing effort by abortion-rights advocates and their lawmaking allies in cities and states to limit the impact of pro-life centers that provide free services to pregnant women. With the aid of ultrasound machines that demonstrate the humanity of the unborn child, pro-life centers are helping women decide to give birth. The centers’ services also include medical consultations, baby clothing and diapers, job training, mentoring programs and prenatal and parenting classes.
 
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore expressed hope the Supreme Court “will act to protect freedom instead of forcing organizations to promote the predatory industry seeking to exploit the very women they are seeking to serve.”
 
“Crisis pregnancy centers stand against a culture of death – offering support and life-giving alternatives,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in written comments for Baptist Press. “Forcing these centers to advertise on behalf of the abortion industry is deeply un-American and unthinkably wrong.”
 
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) – a nationwide network of more than 1,400 pro-life pregnancy centers that sued the state – applauded the high court’s decision to grant review in the case. More than 100 of the pregnancy centers NIFLA provides legal counsel, education and training for are in California.
 
The California law “counts among the most flagrant violations of constitutional religious and free speech rights in the nation,” NIFLA President Thomas Glessner said in a written statement. The implications of the justices’ ruling “will reverberate nationwide,” he said.
 
Illinois and Hawaii have enacted laws that are similar to California’s.
 
Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said after the high court’s announcement, “Forcing anyone to provide free advertising for the abortion industry is unthinkable – especially when it’s the government doing the forcing. The state should protect freedom of speech and freedom from coerced speech. Information about abortion is just about everywhere, so the government doesn’t need to punish pro-life centers for declining to advertise for the very act they can’t promote.”
 
ADF is representing NIFLA and two pregnancy centers in the challenge to the Reproductive FACT Act.
 
Abortion-rights advocates argued that the California law provides women with necessary information.
 
“Women deserve to have all the facts in order to make the best decisions about their own health, lives, and futures,” said Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-choice California.
 
The Reproductive FACT Act requires licensed pregnancy centers to post a notice for clients that says, “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].”
 
The law also mandates that each unlicensed center provide notice it “is not licensed as a medical facility by the State of California and has no licensed medical provider who provides or directly supervises the provision of services.”
 
Under the law, a penalty for a first-time offense is $500, while each subsequent violation can result in a $1,000 fine.
 
In October 2016, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco – like a federal judge before it – refused to grant an injunction blocking the California law. In its opinion, the Ninth Circuit panel said the law does not violate the First Amendment’s protections for free speech or free exercise of religion. The law “does not discriminate based on viewpoint,” the three-judge panel said.
 
Local governments also have placed speech requirements on pro-life pregnancy centers, mandating they post signs, for instance, that say they do not provide abortions or contraceptives or make referrals for the services. Courts have invalidated all or most of such mandates in Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Montgomery County, Md.; and New York City.
 
The ERLC aids gospel-focused pregnancy centers through its Psalm 139 Project, which provides funds to purchase and place ultrasound machines in such centers.
 
The ministry of pro-life pregnancy centers will be among the topics at the third annual Evangelicals for Life (EFL) conference, which is scheduled Jan. 18-20 in Washington, D.C. Anne O’Connor, NIFLA’s vice president of legal affairs, will speak at the conference. The ERLC and Focus on the Family are cosponsors of the conference.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/15/2017 7:52:34 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Sex abuse prevention resources available at sbc.net

November 15 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

While a growing international storm of sexual abuse allegations and revelations has swirled for more than a month, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has long encouraged churches to be proactive in preventing abuse, SBC resources show.

Screen capture from SBC.net


Spiritual leaders, churches and seminaries should model, exhort and teach the highest standards of moral and ministerial integrity, and churches should use legal resources and avenues to exclude sexual predators from leadership and influential positions including pastors and counselors, the SBC said as early as 2002.
 
“We call on our churches to discipline those guilty of any sexual abuse in obedience to Matthew 18:6-17 as well as to cooperate with civil authorities in the prosecution of those cases,” the SBC said in its resolution that year On the Sexual Integrity of Ministers. “We pray for those who have been harmed as a result of sexual abuse and urge our churches to offer support, compassion and biblical counseling to them and their families.”
 
A Hollywood sexual abuse scandal that began in early October with accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein revived a “Me Too” campaign birthed 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke, according to Ebony.com, “to unify those who’ve been victimized by sexual violence.” The revived campaign, widely attributed to Alyssa Milano and identified in social media as #MeToo, drew support from scores, some of whom alleged sexual abuse in church settings.
 
Living Proof Ministries Founder Beth Moore and Saddleback Church Cofounder Kay Warren are among Southern Baptists sharing personal stories at #MeToo.
 
Apart from the #MeToo campaign, a civil lawsuit alleging sexual abuse-related offenses against First Baptist Church of Columbia, S.C., was filed Oct. 10 in Richland County, S.C., Fifth Judicial Circuit Court, according to online court documents.
 
The lawsuit accuses First Baptist of Columbia, S.C., its senior pastor Wendell Estep and student minister Philip Turner of conspiracy in failing to report the alleged sexual abuse of an 11-year-old church attendee, now 17. The plaintiff, identified as “Joel Doe,” also accuses the church of working to conceal previous court cases regarding sex abuse allegations.
 
The lawsuit alleges Andrew McCraw abused the plaintiff while McCraw was a volunteer youth ministry worker at the church and the plaintiff was a youth ministry attendee. While Estep and Turner are not accused of sexual abuse, the lawsuit alleges gross negligence, negligent supervision, clergy malpractice, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, civil conspiracy and violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices.
 
In court documents filed Oct. 25 in Richland County, First Baptist of Columbia, Estep and Turner officially denied all allegations and requested that the charges be dismissed.
 
In its most recent action, a 2013 resolution On Sexual Abuse of Children, the SBC reiterates the church’s “legal and moral responsibility to report any accusations of child abuse to authorities in addition to implementing any appropriate church discipline or internal restoration processes.” The resolution encourages the use of background checks, sexual predator databases such as the U.S. Department of Justice sex offender database, the implementation of church policies and procedures to protect children, and full cooperation with law enforcement officials “in exposing and bringing to justice all perpetrators, sexual or otherwise, who criminally harm children.”
 
The SBC posts online resources available to all at sbc.net.
 
In its May 2012 issue, the SBC LIFE journal of the SBC Executive Committee published the special report, “Protecting our children: Accepting the responsibility, embracing the privilege.” The publication is among free abuse prevention resources at sbc.net.
 
A link to the National Sex Offender Public Website that offers a free searchable database of offenders, as well as a background checking service provided by LifeWay Christian Resources of the SBC, are among resources at sbc.net/churchresources/sexabuseprevention. Educational resources from GuideStone Christian Resources and various Southern Baptist state conventions are also available there.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

 

11/15/2017 7:50:06 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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