November 2017

Young Baptist leaders encouraged to ‘get involved’

November 13 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

More than 125 young church leaders shared a meal, discussed ministry challenges and received encouragement to join the cooperative work of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) from its executive director-treasurer, Milton Hollifield Jr., at the 2017 Young Pastors Network dinner.

BR photo by Steve Cooke
Clay Smith, from left, pastor of First Baptist Church in Matthews, John Mark Harrison, pastor of Apex Baptist Church, and Matt Capps, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, led the 2017 Young Pastors Network dinner Nov. 6 in Greensboro.


The event took place Nov. 6 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C., during the 2017 BSC annual meeting.
 
Hollifield explained the convention’s ministry strategy, “impact lostness through disciple-making,” and how it applies to evangelism, church planting, church revitalization, collegiate ministries and more.
 
“I want you to be involved in the work of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, just as I also want to challenge and encourage you to be involved on the national scene through the Southern Baptist Convention,” Hollifield said. “Coming to participate in events like this can help you network and connect with others. ... You can do more working together than you can do alone.”
 
He also urged young church leaders to engage the denominational body’s nomination process for electing committee members. It’s not difficult, he said, and the number of nominees is often low. The dinner was hosted by Matt Capps, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex; John Mark Harrison, pastor of Apex Baptist Church; and Clay Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Matthews. Hosts posed questions for attendees to discuss with others at their table, covering topics such as organizational change and staying focused in ministry without burning out.
 

11/13/2017 4:00:43 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



House restores adoption tax credit

November 13 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A longstanding but endangered benefit for adopting families has gained new life in Congress.
 
Republicans in the House of Representatives amended their tax reform proposal to include the adoption tax credit in a committee vote Nov. 9, which was World Adoption Day. The action came after adoption and pro-life advocates led a week-long charge to persuade the GOP to restore to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H.R. 1, a benefit available to many adoptive parents the last two decades.
 
Meanwhile, the Senate tax reform legislation unveiled Nov. 9 maintains the adoption tax credit.
 
When the House tax reform plan was revealed Nov. 2 without the credit, adoption advocates expressed concern the result would be fewer adoptions and more children without permanent parents. The adoption tax credit – which can be for international, domestic agency, domestic private and public foster care adoptions – is credited with helping, and even enabling, many families to adopt. The credit, instituted in 1997, is $13,570 this year for a process that can reach tens of thousands of dollars.
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) rejoiced over the House Ways and Means Committee’s insertion of the tax credit after days of working with House leaders on its behalf.
 
“This good, common-sense policy furthers a government interest by creating a pathway for vulnerable children to be welcomed into families, instead of exiled in a system at the expense of the taxpayer,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “Caring for orphans is a pro-life issue, and I am glad to see Congress move to retain the credit as a part of its tax reform plan.”
 
A Southern Baptist congressman – Republican Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina – applauded restoration of the credit after pronouncing his disagreement with its elimination a week before. “The adoption tax credit is pro-life and pro-family,” Walker said Nov. 9.
 
Adoption and pro-life leaders joined in affirming the decision to revive the tax credit.
 
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family and an orphan growing up, called the tax credit “a vital tool supporting the life-affirming and life-saving act of adoption. It is a crucial part of a pro-life and pro-family policy agenda. There are many orphans whose lives will be changed for the better because of this change of course, and we are grateful for this decision.”
 
Deanna Foster, staff counsel at Americans United for Life, expressed gratitude to GOP leaders, saying, “As a former foster child, I know exactly how impactful adoption can be in a child’s life. Adoption is an important part of creating a culture of life ....”
 
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said, “The right-to-life movement has long promoted adoption as an alternative for single mothers facing unexpected pregnancies, offering them a viable alternative to abortion. Keeping the adoption process easier for families who want to adopt can offer encouragement to those mothers considering adoption as an alternative.”
 
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, initially defended elimination of the tax credit even though he is the father of two adopted children.
 
In introducing a substitute to amend the bill Nov. 9, Brady referred to recent discussions about exclusion of the credit, saying its restoration “will ensure that parents can continue to receive additional tax relief as they open their hearts and their homes to an adopted child. I know from personal experience that the adoption process can be expensive and time consuming, and ultimately, so rewarding.”
 
The Ways and Means Committee approved Brady’s amendment that included the adoption tax credit before passing the overall bill out of committee.
 
Before the committee passed the amendment with the adoption provision included, Moore and other advocates for the credit expressed their displeasure with its continued exclusion after days of protests. Some pointed to the House plan’s rejection of an adoption-encouraging provision while Planned Parenthood – the country’s scandal-ridden, No. 1 abortion provider – retained federal funding.
 
“It is shameful that the House tax reform plan still includes the removal of the adoption tax credit,” Moore tweeted Nov. 8. “Funding Planned Parenthood, but taxing adopting families. This is not pro-life, by any definition of the word. Let’s fix this.”
 
In calling for restoration of the adoption tax credit, supporters cited not only the benefit to children and adopting parents but to taxpayers.
 
An inter-country adoption can cost a family more than $60,000, but the government saves between $65,000 and $127,000 for each child who is adopted rather than placed in long-term foster care, the ERLC reported.
 
The National Council for Adoption said eliminating the tax credit “would have very serious consequences for America’s children, and will have a significant impact on the future of thousands of adoptions. In 2014 alone, nearly 70,000 children were adopted by non-relatives. For many of those families, the adoption tax credit makes all the difference.”
 
Households that make more than about $243,000 are ineligible for the adoption tax credit.
 
Supporters of the adoption tax credit singled out not only Brady and the House leadership in expressing thanks, but they also commended Republican Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee, Trent Franks of Arizona and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Democrat Rep. Danny Davis of Illinois for their work in restoring the benefit.
 
November is National Adoption Awareness Month.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/13/2017 11:20:58 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Church security focus of Texas seminars

November 13 2017 by GuideStone Financial Resources staff

With church security on the minds of many pastors and other church leaders in the wake of the tragedy at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, many churches of every size are re-evaluating their security protocols.
 
GuideStone Financial Resources and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company are offering two seminars in November for Texas churches interested in learning about implementing best practices for volunteer church safety and security teams. The events will also include training on protecting kids in the ministry environment from predators, improving the volunteer screening process and protecting the congregation from violent attacks.
 
The tragedy in a small South Texas town helped shed light on an unfortunate truth, GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins noted, violence can strike any church in any town.
 
“The idea of ‘it can’t happen here’ has been shattered with the Sutherland Springs tragedy,” Hawkins said. “Churches and ministries need to take precautions that make sense given their profile, location and local needs.”
 
Space is limited for the seminars; the cost is $15 per person and covers the cost for lunch and a copy of the detailed Church Safety & Security Guidebook, a 240-page guide that will equip your church with action steps, information and checklists to implement a safety and security plan for a variety of scenarios.
 
The two events are:

  • 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the First Baptist Church in Lubbock. To register, visit GuideStone.org/CSSCLubbock.
  • 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Nov. 16 at the Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin. To register, visit GuideStone.org/CSSCAustin.

 
Additional handouts available at the meetings are available to any church for free by visiting GuideStone.org/Security.
 
Many church security experts recommend the iceberg approach to their church security: 10 percent of a church’s security should be seen, while 90 percent is below the surface. This helps keep the church from feeling like a fortress designed to keep people out. The visible elements – lighting, security cameras, locks on doors, designated safety patrols, etc. – remind the congregation that measures are in place without being overwhelming. The behind-the-scenes elements help make sure the church can prevent, respond to and recover from a threat quickly.
 
Additionally, if possible, any church should have a uniformed police officer patrolling the facilities, Hawkins said.
 
“This can help provide visible protection while also introducing police as positive role models and encouraging positive interactions with children, youth and the church community,” Hawkins said.
 

Visible security is key

“It’s like locking your car doors at the mall or your home at night – it provides an important deterrent and may keep those with malicious intent out,” said Gaelen Cole, senior manager of risk and compliance for GuideStone’s Property and Casualty area.
 
Churches are often considered soft targets. This means that they appear vulnerable to attack, with few hard defenses to keep aggressors out. Visible security can help fight the perception that the church is vulnerable to those who would cause harm.
 
In addition to uniformed police, GuideStone noted, visible security measures include:
 

Greeters

Greeters are the first line of defense. During services or activities, a church should post greeters at all unlocked entrances. They not only welcome everyone but also they serve as important eyes and ears when it comes to threats. Train greeters in threat recognition and response; local law enforcement or security experts can help.
 

Safety and security patrol

In addition to greeters, it’s wise for churches to have a trained team patrol your property and parking lot during active hours.
 
Sixty-four percent of violence at churches is outside – in parking lots or on church grounds. Churches should have a designated, trained, visible patrol can help deter opportunistic offenders.
 
In fact, the same day as the Sutherland Springs mass shooting, national media reported a woman and her friend were shot and killed in her car in the parking lot of a Catholic church in Fresno, Calif., allegedly by her estranged husband. Sadly, Cole noted, domestic violence can spill over onto church property easily.
 

Cameras

Ideally, church cameras are connected to a system that records activity in all key areas of the church property. However, even if a church’s ministry can’t afford a full surveillance system, visible cameras – even if inoperable – are better than nothing. This deters behavior that would otherwise take place in secret: theft, assault, abuse, vandalism, etc.
 

Lighting

Like cameras, lighting – both interior and exterior – eliminates opportunities for secret activities. This measure is a relatively inexpensive way to make a church’s ministry less of a target for assaults, theft and the like. Make sure exterior lighting is on a timer or motion sensor so that it’s sure to be on after dark.
 

Trimmed hedges

This is a measure against concealment. Thieves will use hedges to conceal their attempts to break in.
 
Cole noted that behind-the-scenes work includes preparation, training and planning that complements or undergirds the visible elements.
 
Developing an effective plan includes:
 

Assessing threats

Work with local law enforcement and church security and risk management experts to assess the threats to the church or ministry. These will not only consider criminal threats but also weather-related, political and environmental threats as well. This will help address all the areas of need as a church develops its plan.
 

Planning the work

Put together a team to craft the overall plan. This team should include the church’s leadership, qualified and skilled volunteers, and any security or law enforcement experts that the church can work with. A congregations should decide who is responsible for doing what, and divvy up the work so it’s not too much of a burden on one person. Set deadlines and goals to help keep things moving along.
 

Working the plan

An unrehearsed, unused plan is virtually worthless. Fully implement all the elements of the plan, and make sure that key players are trained and put through drills regularly. Make sure the congregation knows their parts, too. Otherwise, panic can take over in crisis situations.
 

Reviewing annually

A church should make sure that they keep their plan updated to address new or changing threats.
 
For more information, go to GuideStone.org/CSSCLubbock or GuideStone.org/CSSCAustin. Or, go to GuideStone.org/Security.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – GuideStone Financial Resources released this article.)
 

11/13/2017 11:20:26 AM by GuideStone Financial Resources staff | with 0 comments



Sexual harassment: Kentucky Gov.’s ‘moral clarity’ commended

November 10 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Amid sexual abuse and harassment scandals involving a bevy of politicians, entertainers and journalists, Kentucky’s outspoken evangelical governor has called for the resignation of all state officials who have settled sexual harassment lawsuits.

Screen capture from Lexington Herald-Leader
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin called sexual harassment ‘reprehensible’ at a Nov. 4 press conference.


Within days of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s statement – which drew praise from Kentucky resident and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) President R. Albert Mohler Jr. – Kentucky’s Republican Speaker of the House resigned his leadership post and another GOP House member was temporarily relieved of his chairmanship of a key board. Both legislators admitted settling sexual harassment lawsuits and apologized for moral shortcomings while denying legal wrongdoing.
 
Meanwhile, two Southern Baptist seminary professors – one a woman – have weighed in with biblical perspectives on sexual harassment and assault.
 
Bevin, whose party gained control of the Kentucky House last year for the first time in a century, said at a Nov. 4 news conference the alleged sexual misconduct of some individuals in state government was “reprehensible” and had “not been denied” while “increasingly becoming corroborated by additional voices.”
 
Not naming anyone, Bevin went on to say, “Any elected official or state employee who has settled a sexual harassment claim should resign immediately,” according to media reports.
 
To “every elected official in Kentucky,” Bevin said, “You either publicly condemn or you publicly condone this type of behavior, period. There is no hiding out. There is no middle ground. This is not about specific individuals. ... It is about specific behavior. It is about a culture that is despicable, that is vulgar and that is unacceptable.”
 
GOP House Speaker Jeff Hoover, who allegedly had signed a sexual harassment settlement, initially condemned Bevin’s remarks but resigned his leadership post the next day, according to the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s news resource Kentucky Today. He admitted the settlement as well as “inappropriate text messages” and “banter” but denied committing sexual harassment. Hoover will retain his seat in the legislature, he said.
 
State Rep. Brian Linder admitted Nov. 8 that he also signed a sexual harassment settlement agreement and said he was considering resignation, Kentucky Today reported. Linder apologized “for my actions that have led to this grief and embarrassment” and was temporarily relieved of his co-chairmanship of the state’s Pension Oversight Board pending an internal investigation of the sexual harassment claim.
 
Two other Kentucky lawmakers and one legislative staff member also allegedly have settled sexual harassment claims, Kentucky Today reported. The state’s House Republicans have hired a law firm to investigate the sexual harassment claims.
 
Mohler said Bevin’s “moral clarity and candor on this issue stands out not only in the state of Kentucky but, frankly, in the entire national conversation for the fact that it is so laser-like.”
 
Bevin did not say all individuals accused of sexual harassment should resign, Mohler noted Nov. 8 in his podcast “The Briefing.” Rather, the governor implied morally upright people should “invite ... investigation” while stating their innocence “emphatically and publicly.” Mohler clarified he was speaking “morally” and not addressing nuances of lawsuits or criminal proceedings.
 
Bevin made a significant donation to establish SBTS’s Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization in 2012. He was the subject of a feature article last year in Southern Seminary Magazine.
 
In light of the broader news of sex abuse scandals in America, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) professor Katie McCoy wrote that scripture “neither covers up nor ignores sexual assault.”
 
Presenting an exegesis of Deuteronomy 22:23-27, McCoy stated, “Biblical law recognized rape as a violent crime against a woman,” with lack of consent as “the key factor” in establishing the victim’s innocence of any wrongdoing. Scripture, McCoy added, also suggests a woman’s claim of sexual assault typically should be believed.
 
“The severity of sexual assault in God’s Law compels us to hear, protect and defend the dignity of every woman, especially the one who breaks her silence about rape,” McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at SWBTS, wrote in an Oct. 24 blog post.
 
Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote that the litany of sexual assault and harassment reports in the media stem from Western culture’s false belief that “once we lose the constraints of sexual order ... we’ll all be happy.“
 
Happiness, Strachan wrote in an Oct. 13 blog post, “is not what is playing out in America.”
 
“Absent moral duties and religious constraints,” Strachan wrote, “men are behaving horribly, and women are by and large unprotected. Men are preying on women; women are taken advantage of.”
 
An alternative to sexual perversion, Strachan wrote, is for Christians to “create cultures of purity.”
 
“We can train young women to flee ungodly, wicked men, and to reject a culture of sexual exhibitionism while embracing modesty and God-defined beauty. We can help all the church see that their identity, the core of their being, is not sexual, but spiritual,” Strachan wrote.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/10/2017 10:57:52 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Roy Moore denies sexual misconduct allegations

November 10 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, a Southern Baptist long known for his support of Judeo-Christian values in the public square, has denied allegations he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl decades ago.

Screen capture from YouTube
Roy Moore, accused Nov. 9 of sexual misconduct decades ago, addressed supporters in September after winning Alabama’s GOP Senate primary.


The allegations were published Nov. 9 by The Washington Post, which claim Moore, 70, also pursued dating relationships with three other teenagers when he was in his early 30s.
 
Moore’s campaign said in a Nov. 9 statement, “After 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.
 
“Judge Roy Moore is winning with a double-digit lead,” the statement said. “So it is no surprise, with just over four weeks remaining, in a race for the U.S. Senate with national implications, that the Democratic Party and the country’s most liberal newspaper would come up with a fabrication of this kind. This garbage is the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation.”
 
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement on behalf of all Republican senators, “If these allegations are true, [Moore] must step aside” from the Dec. 12 special election to fill the seat formerly held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
 
By state law, a ballot in Alabama cannot be changed within 76 days of an election, The Post reported. But a candidate still can withdraw or be disqualified, and write-in candidates are permitted.
 
A former Alabama chief justice, Moore drew national media attention for controversial stands.
 
In 2003, Moore was removed from office for defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments display from the Alabama Judicial Building. He was elected to the office again in 2012. But last year he was suspended for the remainder of his term for advising the state’s 68 probate judges they had a duty not to issue same-sex marriage licenses until the Alabama Supreme Court clarified the relationship between state law and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
 
Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange in September’s Alabama GOP Senate primary.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/10/2017 10:57:04 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Sutherland Springs community gathers to pray, heal

November 10 2017 by Tammi Ledbetter, Jane Rogers & Bill Bumpas, Southern Baptist TEXAN

“We take care of our own,” stated Frank S. Page, formerly a Texas pastor, as he and Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines and his wife Donna spent three days helping to serve families distraught over the Nov. 5 massacre of half of the congregation of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.

Photo by Jane Rodgers, TEXAN
First Baptist Sutherland Springs Pastor Frank Pomeroy, right, and Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines express their faith to the media during a community-wide prayer meeting three days after a mass shooting killed 26 people at Pomeroy’s church.


The broader Southern Baptist family – from the Gaineses to Tony Wolfe, pastor/church relations director for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) – demonstrated servanthood by visiting grieving families and injured congregants and praying for area folks suffering from the tragedy.
 
In the hours following the Sunday morning massacre by a deranged gunman from New Braunfels who eventually took his own life, local ministers accepted the SBTC offer to host a community-wide prayer meeting at nearby Floresville Independent School District’s Eschenburg Field, setting local pastors free to minister to the flock of the targeted church and their extended family of God.
 
A reported shooting incident at a nursing home a half-mile away, chilly temperatures and the threat of rain did not deter an estimated 2,500 or more area residents and more than 100 media representatives from attending the prayer gathering Nov. 8 in the school district where several of the slain children attended school.
 
Political dignitaries in attendance at the community prayer meeting included Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several area congressmen.
 
Abbott extended sympathy to the families of the victims, calling the Sutherland Springs tragedy inexplicable, yet confirming that “there is only one source that has the answers, and that is God Almighty.”
 
Calling the evening’s community prayer service “righteous and rightful,” Abbott proclaimed Sunday, Nov. 12 as a day of prayer across the state for Texans to unite to pray for those affected by the “horrific, inexplicable evil.”
 
“Even though anguish and sorrow hang over the community, we will not be overcome by evil. Together we will overcome evil with good. You all have already shown that,” Abbott encouraged the crowd, describing his experiences with the affected families Sunday afternoon and with the community at a Sunday night prayer vigil.
 
“Love will conquer evil. You left me inspired. Hours before that [vigil] your community saw the very face of evil. Hours later, you reflected the very grace of God. You are a demonstration of God’s grace across this entire world,” Abbott said.
 
Pence thanked Abbott for his inspiring words and leadership, adding that he and his wife Karen were “deeply humbled” to be in the company of the other government officials, yet voicing his highest praise for the victims and families: “You honor us with your presence.”

Photo by Gary Ledbetter, TEXAN
Frank and Sherri Pomeroy, left to right, whose daughter was killed in a church shooting Nov. 5, speak with Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines and his wife Donna.


“Words fail when saints and heroes fall,” Pence said, “Your testimony of Christian love is inspiring the nation,” he said, adding a message of support from President Donald Trump: “The American people are with you.”
 
Describing the tragedy as the “worst mass shooting in a place of worship in American history,” Pence reminded the audience that the congregation of First Baptist had come together last Sunday “to join hearts and hands in worship and prayer” before the killing of 26, including nine children, victims whose “cherished names” will live forever in the hearts of friends and family and be “enshrined in the hearts of every American.”
 
Pence specifically mentioned victims such as 16-year-old Haley Krueger, who had planned to be a neonatal nurse, high school sweethearts Shani and Robert Corrigan whose son had died a year before and the Holcombe family who lost eight members – voicing “the deepest sympathies” to the families “of all of the fallen.”
 
The vice president also praised first responders, medical personnel and Stephen Willeford and Johnny Langendorff who pursued the shooter, calling them “Texas heroes” who likely saved the lives of others.
 
Pence praised Sutherland Springs pastor Frank Pomeroy, who, while grieving the loss of his daughter, could still say to the world: “Lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding. I don’t understand, but I know my God does.”
 
“Whatever animated the evil that descended on that church Sunday,” Pence said, “if the attacker’s desire was to silence the testimony of faith, he failed. The voice of faith, the witness of faith, in that small church in that small town now echoes across the world. ...
 
“Faith is now and always has been our source of strength and the summit of our national life. And I believe that faith has never been more important to the future of America,” Pence said, calling on Americans to fill the places of worship to “overflowing” this Sunday and reminding that we are “one nation, under God, indivisible.”
 
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee who once led a church in Fort Worth, quoted from John 10:10, telling the crowd, “Three days ago you saw the work of the evil one to steal and to kill and to destroy, but in a moment you’re going to hear about life,” referring to the gospel invitation to be led by Steve Gaines.
 
“As the nation is watching, may they hear words of life and life abundant,” Page prayed. “We know it is found through Jesus Christ.”
 
He encouraged families who lost loved ones by noting, “Southern Baptists are going to pay for the funerals of those in the church because we want to take care of our own.” The North American Mission Board in coordination with the SBTC has offered to cover that cost using funds pledged by an anonymous donor.
 
Gaines, speaking on behalf of nearly 50,000 Southern Baptist churches across America, told the audience, “If you live long enough you will go through a storm, sickness, tragedy or losing a loved one.” Looking over to the Pomeroys seated next to his wife, Gaines said the only explanation for the horrendous shooting is in recognizing the world is filled with sin.
 
He preached extemporaneously from the Sermon on the Mount which tells of “the greatest man who ever lived” delivering “the greatest sermon ever preached.”
 
Gaines said, “Jesus was telling these precious people He dearly loved that storms are going to come, the rain is going to fall. Storms come. Winds blow. They slam against your life,” he said, adding, “That’s exactly what happened at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs – a storm slammed against their church. They lost half of their congregation of 50 people worshiping the Lord when all of a sudden from the outside bullets were flying at just the right level as people were falling.”
 
Having spent several hours hearing that storm described by the Pomeroys, Gaines described them as “the salt of the earth, some of the godliest people I have ever met. Thank God for this shepherd who loves his sheep.”
 
Looking over to the several dozen grieving relatives of the victims, Gaines quietly said, “But out of this storm, Jesus Christ will work in all of the lives of the family members.”
 
Offering further comfort, he added, “I don’t know what last thing those people saw, but I do know the moment their spirit and soul left their body they saw the face of the Lord Jesus Christ. They won’t be able to come back to us, but you can go to them. ...
 
“How can this tragedy in any way lead to anything good?” Gaines asked. “What if you gave your heart to Jesus Christ?” in offering a gospel invitation to which several came forward in professions of faith and others for prayer and counseling.
 
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards quoted Romans 8:31-39 to describe how God conquered death. He prayed specifically for Frank and Sherri Pomeroy, asking God to use their close friends to minister and bless them and a support group of pastors “to help them through this valley.”
 
“May all believers be emboldened to share the gospel – the only thing with the power to end this type of violence – and give God the glory,” Richards said.
 
Sherri Bays, superintendent of Floresville school district, was one of several community leaders who spoke to the gathering.
 
“Help us to remember that during the saddest and troublesome times of our lives that You are here to carry us through,” Bays prayed. “Be with us Lord to feel Your presence. Help us not to succumb to doubt, but help us to have faith that Your will be done.”
 
Scott Pomeroy, student pastor at Oak Hills Community Church in Floresville and brother of the Sutherland Springs pastor, asked the Holy Spirit to “comfort all of us in need.”
 
Following the service, Frank Pomeroy told the Southern Baptist TEXAN that the 26 parishioners killed did not die in vain because their testimonies are shining the light to a dark world in need of Christ.
 
“Some of them – I can guarantee you – they would say if one person, anywhere in the world would come to know Christ by this, it was worth it. So I would say if you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, that’s what you need to do, and one soul coming to Christ makes this all worthwhile.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tammi Ledbetter, Jane Rogers & Bill Bumpas compiled this report for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

11/10/2017 10:56:30 AM by Tammi Ledbetter, Jane Rogers & Bill Bumpas, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



ERLC, others urge conscience protection this year

November 10 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and pro-life allies are calling for enactment of protections for the conscience rights of health care providers before 2018.


Photo by Lauren Konkol
Sen. James Lankford, a Southern Baptist, speaks at a Capitol Hill news conference Nov. 8 in support of the Conscience Protection Act, while other members of Congress and nurses who were victims of abortion discrimination look on.


The Conscience Protection Act (CPA) – one of the ERLC’s legislative priorities in its 2017 agenda – would bar government discrimination against health care workers and facilities that object to being involved in abortion, as well as health insurers that refuse to provide coverage of the lethal procedure. The bill will provide victims of discrimination with the ability to defend their rights in court – which would be a first for federal laws that protect health care conscience rights.
 
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the CPA in September as part of a consolidated spending package, but the Senate version of the legislation does not include the conscience measure. The ERLC and its pro-life allies are urging congressional leadership to make the CPA a priority in negotiations over the spending package. President Donald Trump has promised his support of the CPA, according to the office of Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., a key pro-life leader.
 
ERLC President Russell Moore and Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York called Nov. 8 for all Americans to support conscience rights.
 
In an opinion piece in USA Today, Moore and Dolan wrote, “On one of our most divisive issues, we have an opportunity to unite across political, religious and regional divides to agree that those who respect the life of the unborn child have a right to act on that belief, that we are not second-class citizens.
 
“Even those who disagree with us on abortion should see that respecting the right to choose not to be involved in abortion is part of being ‘pro-choice,’” said Moore and Dolan, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-life Activities. “[W]e find it hard to imagine how those who call themselves ‘pro-choice’ could deny another the choice of following his or her conscience.”
 
The CPA is necessary, according to the ERLC, because the Obama administration refused to enforce the Weldon Amendment, a measure that protects conscience rights. The amendment, an annual rider since 2004 to the Health and Human Services (HHS) spending measure, bars funds for a federal program – or state or local government receiving federal funds – that “subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.”
 
In a document in support of the CPA, the ERLC cited two examples of violations of federal conscience protections in the last eight years:

  1. In 2009, Cathy DeCarlo, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, was threatened with the loss of her job if she did not participate in the abortion of a 22-week-old unborn child. The hospital receives federal funds.
  2. In 2011, HHS denied a grant renewal to the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services because it would not pledge to refer human trafficking survivors to health care providers that cover abortion.

 
In a Capitol Hill news conference Nov. 8, DeCarlo told reporters, according to a release from Smith’s office, “I’ll never forget that day as I watched in horror as the doctor dismembered and removed the baby’s bloody limbs, and then I had to account for all the pieces. ... I never thought in America I would be forced to violate my conscience in this way.”
 
Also speaking at the news conference, Smith’s office reported, were Sandra Mendoza, who lost her nursing job after 18 years at the Winnebago County Health Department in Rockford, Ill., when she refused to assist in an abortion, and Fe Vinoya, who was warned she could lose her job as a nurse at University Hospital in Newark, N.J., if she did not take part in an abortion.
 
Smith told reporters at the news conference, according to his prepared remarks, “Health care is about saving life, eradicating disease, mitigating disability – not taking life. At the very least, health care providers should have the right to not be coerced into facilitating abortion. Coercive anti-conscience policies are not only highly unethical but blatantly illegal. The law couldn’t be clearer on this matter.”
 
The CPA’s sponsors – Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. – were among other members of Congress who spoke at the news conference.
 
Afterward, Lankford – a Southern Baptist – tweeted, “Honored to #StandWithNurses today. Congress should pass the #ConscienceProtectionAct to protect health care providers from gov’t discrimination if they decline to participate in abortions. This should not be controversial.”
 
The push for enactment of the CPA comes about a month after the Trump administration acted in another area to restore conscience rights weakened under President Obama.
 
HHS announced Oct. 6 the issuance of new rules to protect objectors to the abortion/contraception mandate instituted under Obama. A 2011 regulation to help implement the health care reform law required employers to provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives, including those with mechanisms that can potentially induce abortions.
 
The new regulations exempt from the mandate non-church-related, nonprofit organizations that object based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
 
The House approved the CPA in 2016, but the Senate failed to act on it.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)


 

11/10/2017 10:56:14 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pew survey: Transgender views follow partisan divide

November 10 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Republicans are far more likely to believe gender is limited to one’s biological sex apparent at birth, according to statistics Pew Research Center released after local transgender victories in U.S. elections Nov. 7.
 
In Virginia, Danica Roem unseated 13-term incumbent Republican Robert G. Marshall to become the first openly transgender “woman” elected to a U.S. statehouse, The Hill reported. In Minneapolis, Andrea Jenkins became the first openly transgender African American “woman” elected to public office in the U.S. by defeating three opponents for a Minneapolis City Council seat, The Hill said.
 
While just over half of Americans, 54 percent, say gender is determined by the sex assigned at birth, Pew reported Nov. 8 that among Republicans the number is about 80 percent. That contrasts to the 34 percent of Democrats who say gender is determined by one’s biological birth gender, according to Pew statistics gathered during four weeks in August and September of this year.
 
Adding fuel to the issue are contemporary debates regarding which public bathrooms transgender individuals should be allowed to use, whether they should serve in the U.S. military, and which gender they should be assigned on public documents.
 
Educational attainment further indicates how Democrats feel on the issue, Pew reported. More than three quarters (77 percent) of Democrats with a bachelor’s degree or higher said a person’s gender can be different than that assigned at birth. The percentage falls to 57 percent among those with a high school diploma or less.
 
Among Republicans, the results indicated no difference based on educational attainment, Pew noted.
 
The poll was conducted online Aug. 8-21 and Sept. 14-28 among 4,573 people included in Pew’s American Trends survey, said Pew, which describes itself as nonpartisan.
 
The poll found no consensus among Americans of all political hues regarding whether society has been too accepting or not accepting enough of transgender people, Pew said.
 
Regarding relationships with transgender individuals, 37 percent of Americans said they know someone who is transgender, Pew reported, including 13 percent who said they have a close friend or relative who is transgender.
 
Pew’s analysis of the findings is available at pewresearch.org under the FactTank heading.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

11/10/2017 10:29:11 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists pray for revival, celebrate record CP support

November 9 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC & Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Messengers from churches across North Carolina huddled in small clusters for an extended prayer service emphasizing revival and spiritual awakening to climax the Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina’s annual meeting Nov. 6-7 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C.

Photo courtesy of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina


Messengers also approved a record 2018 budget, passed a resolution denouncing racism and affirmed another on human sexuality and marriage.
 
Chris Schofield, director of the BSC Office of Prayer for Evangelization and Spiritual Awakening, along with pastors, directors of missions and prayer leaders, led messengers in the “Broken Before the Throne” prayer gathering, which featured periods of scripture reading and worship music.
 
More than 1,500 people were in attendance at the annual meeting, including 1,246 messengers and 299 guests.
 
The event’s theme, “Return to Me” was taken from Zechariah 1:3: “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.”
 
Messengers approved a 2018 budget totaling $31 million, representing an increase of $625,000 (2 percent) over the 2017 budget and an 0.5 percentage uptick in the amount allocated to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The new budget allocates a total of 41 percent to SBC ministries and missions.
 
Jeff Isenhour, chairman of the Budget Special Committee, reported that N.C. Baptist churches collectively sent more than $11.7 million in Cooperative Program (CP) support to the SBC, which marked the single-largest contribution to SBC causes through the CP in convention history.
 
Isenhour also reported that North Carolina churches led all state conventions by giving more than $13.6 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and ranked second among other conventions in support of North American missions with nearly $6.2 million in financial gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
 
Messengers approved a $2.1 million goal for the 2018 North Carolina Missions Offering, which supports disaster relief, church planting, mission camps, associational projects and mobilization ministry projects.
 
In his address, BSC President Cameron McGill preached from Zechariah 1:3 on “the sovereignty of God and the call of God.” McGill said God invites his people to refocus, re-vision and renew, and He promises them rest, restoration and revival.
 
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, chose to forego a standard report in his annual address to convention messengers. Instead, Hollifield said, “I have felt for some time impressed of God to talk with you about the need that we have for a new spiritually refreshing work of God to occur in our individual lives and also in the corporate body of the churches that we attend.”
 
Hollifield preached from the annual meeting’s theme passage and outlined five indications of the need for spiritual awakening: loss of joy in Christ, loss of vision to reach people, loss of unity within the body, loss of Kingdom focus and loss of zeal for evangelism.
 
He said, “It’s been almost a hundred years since there has been a great, awakening movement of God that has swept across America. We must admit that we stand in desperate need of a fresh awakening to change God’s people, so that we can have a positive impact on our culture. I ask you, my family, will you pray for that to happen?
 
“I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is, do I really want to see God make a radical difference in my church or in our denomination, in order that we can reach the nation with the gospel, and especially with those living right here in North Carolina? How desperate must our situation become before we recognize how far we have gradually, unintentionally moved away from God?”
 
Lee Pigg, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe, was elected as the convention’s president for 2018. Pigg ran unopposed and was nominated by Timmy Blair, a messenger from Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier.
 
Joel Stephens, pastor of Wakefield Central Baptist Church in Zebulon, was re-elected as first vice president. Stephens ran unopposed and was nominated by Rick Speas, a messenger from Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
 
J.D. Grant, pastor of Scotts Creek Baptist Church in Sylva, was re-elected as second vice president. Grant ran unopposed and was nominated by Perry Brindley, a messenger from Pole Creek Baptist Church in Candler.
 
Messengers adopted an amended “Resolution Denouncing Racism” that addressed the “preservation of history,” a reference to debates over Confederate monuments and statues, and affirmed the “sentiments” of an SBC resolution from earlier this year condemning “alt-right white supremacy.”
 
The Resolutions Committee explained why they felt such a statement was needed in a Biblical Recorder article published last month. They called racism “a critical and perennial issue in our culture and particularly in our own state,” and said the state convention should “formally express a biblically grounded opinion.”
 
Committee Chairman Jonathan Blaylock said at the annual meeting, “North Carolina Baptists denounce racism in all its expressions as sin against a holy and just God.”
 
Messengers also adopted a “Resolution on a Biblical Stance on Human Sexuality and Marriage” that affirmed “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex” and that “North Carolina Baptists commit to pray for our neighbors who identify themselves as homosexual and transgender.”
 
Messengers approved six motions that amended portions of the convention bylaws and one motion asking the Board of Directors to study and report back to messengers on the feasibility of establishing a training center for Vietnamese pastors.
 
The next annual meeting will be held Nov. 5-6, 2018, at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, N.C.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chad Austin is the communications coordinator for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Seth Brown is content editor of the Biblical Recorder.)
 

11/9/2017 9:26:44 AM by Chad Austin, BSC & Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



SWBTS cuts staff due to health care, utility costs

November 9 2017 by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, SWBTS

Escalating health care costs, increased expenses for utilities and other higher education costs have prompted personnel cuts at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas.

SWBTS Photo


Initial adjustments to operations were not sufficient to stay within the $36.8 million 2017-2018 fiscal year budget set by the seminary’s trustees last spring, according to a Nov. 7 news release by Charles Patrick Jr., vice president for strategic initiatives and communications.
 
SWBTS President Paige Patterson said the adjustments were “personally excruciatingly painful and sad to me” in the seminary release following a Nov. 2 inquiry by the Southern Baptist TEXAN. With a cumulative increase of 42 percent over the past three years, health care now accounts for 10 percent of SWBTS’s operating budget.
 
In serving 42 years as a president of Southern Baptist schools, Patterson said, “Not a day of it has been free from concerns about funding. The exorbitant cost of health care is the latest dilemma. Consequently, we have to tighten our belt.”
 
After making “low-hanging fruit adjustments” that included reductions in dining services, copy center hours and the fleet of vehicles at the 200-acre campus, Patrick said the administration decided not to fill positions from natural attrition, including student employees who are graduating and staff and faculty set to retire.
 
In order to continue providing health care benefits to employees and their dependents, a third round of cuts involved laying off 30 full-time staff “in selected areas where functions can be covered in other ways or by organizational change,” Patrick said.
 
Noting that implementation of the Affordable Care Act prompted many institutions and companies to discontinue spousal and dependent coverage from employer health insurance plans, Patrick said SWBTS has made the decision to maintain those benefits because the seminary “places a high value on the family” as “a critical institution established by God.”
 
The 865-member workforce at SWBTS includes 300 full-time and 565 part-time employees. Classes taught by the four faculty members scheduled to retire will be covered by current professors.
 
Patrick indicated the seminary had fielded questions about “the perceived dichotomy of making budget adjustments that affect staff positions while concomitantly embarking on campus building projects” such as the recently opened Mathena Hall and renovations to Reynolds Auditorium and Barnard Hall.
 
Donor funds designated specifically for those projects cannot be used for operating the seminary, Patrick said. Furthermore, “all newly constructed buildings possess a maintenance and operating endowment to defray the impact on [SWBTS’s] operating budget,” he clarified.
 
Patterson expressed appreciation for the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist funding channel for state and worldwide missions and ministries which provides 22 percent of the operating budget to subsidize campus services and tuition expenses for students.
 
Regarding the personnel cuts, Patterson said he had no choice but “to maintain the financial integrity” of the seminary. “We are profoundly appreciative of the prayers of God’s people,” he added, seeking intercession for those affected by the staff reductions and additional donors to help with the operating budget.
 
“Many of our faithful ministry partners in South Texas are understandably recovering from Hurricane Harvey,” Patrick said. He also encouraged supporters to “pray for and invite more students to [SWBTS],” noting that tuition revenue helps with the operating budget.
 
“The head count enrollment at [SWBTS] continues to be sustained, but students are taking fewer hours as they themselves make budget adjustments and work multiple jobs during these economic times of increased expenses,” Patrick said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Charles Patrick Jr., is the vice president for strategic initiatives and communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

11/9/2017 9:22:00 AM by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, SWBTS | with 0 comments



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