November 2017

Billy Graham’s 99th birthday offers 12-day radio special

November 7 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Sermons from Billy Graham’s prolific international ministry will be broadcast on an ad hoc radio station 12 days surrounding the evangelist’s 99th birthday Nov. 7, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has announced.

BP file photo


BGEA will host the Billy Graham Channel Nov. 6 through Nov. 17 as channel 145 on SiriusXM Radio, featuring sermons from Graham’s six decades of evangelism, as well as salvation invitations and reflections from family and friends, BGEA said. A companion website, TheBillyGrahamChannel.com, will offer companion resources.
 
“During this 12-day period, between 10 and 20 percent of the U.S. population will have access 24 hours a day to Billy Graham’s timeless, Christ-focused messages,” Jim Kirkland, BGEA’s director of audio media services, said at bgea.org. “We’re praying that it’ll be a gift of life-changing magnitude for many listeners.”
 
Concurrently, Zondervan Publishing announced today the upcoming Graham biography, A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story, set for a March, 2018 release. Graham personally chose as the book’s author William Martin, a Rice University religion and public policy professor, Zondervan said.
 
The book will expound on Graham’s autobiography Just As I Am, Zondervan said, by going “further behind the scenes to explain the conditions that made it possible for Graham to achieve his spectacular success and to reveal how sometimes he succeeded in spite of himself.”
 
Additional celebration plans include a public event at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., a private party with family members at his home in Montreat, and literary commemorations throughout 2018 in BGEA’s Decision magazine, BGEA President and CEO Franklin Graham said in a Nov. 1 press release.
 
“His mind is good but he’s quieter these days,” Franklin Graham said of his father. “He can’t see or hear well, but his health is stable. As a family, we are just so very grateful that he is still with us.”
 
The Billy Graham Channel continues a legacy of radio ministry the patriarch launched 67 years ago with The Hour of Decision broadcast, which was designed to continue only if sufficient financial contributions came, Kirkland said. The unexpected influx of monetary support birthed BGEA, Kirkland said, because Graham needed a mechanism to handle the funds.
 
“This channel will provide the gift of messages that point people to the gift of hope found in Jesus Christ,” Kirkland said of the SiriusXM debut. “Mr. Graham is having the birthday, yet the people listening receive the present.”
 
Billy Graham’s daughter and noted evangelist Anne Graham Lotz will join Franklin Graham in offering reflections during the 12-day broadcast, Kirkland said. Remarks from former U.S. presidents will also be featured.
 
As Billy Graham enters his 100th year, he lives with nursing care at the same home in Montreat where he and his late wife Ruth Bell Graham, who died June 14, 2007, lived and reared their five children. In evangelistic outreaches and crusades, Billy Graham preached to nearly 215 million people in live audiences across 185 countries and territories, according to BGEA figures.
 
He will enjoy on his birthday his favorite cake, which his son described as “a lemon cake with lard icing.”
 
“He loves those cakes, but it has to have the lard icing,” Franklin Graham said. “At the Billy Graham Library we’ll have a special celebration that day, as this year is also the 10th anniversary of the opening of the library. We’ll have birthday cake for everyone who comes by.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

11/7/2017 10:33:10 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Texas shooting: SBC leaders to visit grieving pastor, church

November 7 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists ministering in the wake of what some have called the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history say they’ve witnessed “God at work” despite the 26 dead and some 20 others wounded at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
 
Local pastors and field personnel with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) began providing grief counseling within hours of the shooting at First Baptist’s morning worship service Nov. 5. Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee President Frank S. Page plan to arrive in Sutherland Springs Nov. 7 to offer prayer and encouragement. SBTC executive director Jim Richards arrived Nov. 6.

Screen capture from ABC News on Twitter


On behalf of the SBC, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has offered to cover funeral expenses for all shooting victims in coordination with the SBTC, NAMB confirmed.
 
First Baptist Pastor Frank Pomeroy, who was out of town when the shooting occurred and whose 14-year-old daughter Annabelle was among the dead, told reporters the church’s tragedy will exalt Christ.
 
“Christ is the one who’s going to be lifted up,” Pomeroy said at a Nov. 6 news conference. “That’s what I’m telling everybody. You lean into what you don’t understand. You lean into the Lord ... Whatever life brings to you, lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding. I don’t understand, but I know my God does. And that’s where I’ll leave that.”
 
Pomeroy’s wife Sherri, who also was out of town during the shooting, expressed thanks for an “outpouring of love” by friends, community members and even strangers. She added that “as much tragedy as” Annabelle’s death “entails for our family, we don’t want to overshadow the other lives lost yesterday.”
 
“We lost more than Belle yesterday,” Sherri Pomeroy said. “One thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded yesterday by her church family that she loved fiercely and vice versa. Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners. We were a very close family. We ate together, we laughed together, we cried together and worshiped together.
 
“Now most of our church family is gone, our building probably beyond repair and the few of us that are left behind lost tragically yesterday. … Please don’t forget Sutherland Springs,” Sherri Pomeroy said.
 
The shooting began at approximately 11:20 a.m. local time, when Devin Kelley, 26, allegedly fired a semiautomatic rifle at the outside of the church building before entering and methodically firing at worshipers as he paced through the room, The New York Times reported.
 
Local Wilson County Sherriff Joe Tackitt said “nearly everyone” in the room “had some type of injury,” according to CNN. The dead ranged from an unborn baby in its mother’s womb and an 18-month-old to a 77-year-old, The Times reported. At least eight of the dead were members of one family.
 
When Kelley exited the church, he reportedly exchanged gunfire with a bystander and was pursued in a high-speed car chase by the bystander and another local resident, according to media reports. The chase ended when Kelley crashed his car, where authorities later found him dead.
 
Kelley allegedly shot himself at some point, The Times reported, but authorities don’t know if the self-inflicted wound caused his death. A “domestic situation” may have motivated the killing spree, according to media reports, and his ex-wife’s grandmother was among the dead.
 
Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., told Baptist Press (BP) SBC leaders want to help First Baptist however they can.
 
“Yesterday as we prayed at Bellevue for the families of those slain and also the others who were wounded at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs,” Gaines said in written comments, “I sensed the need to go there and try to minister to the pastor and his wife and their devastated congregation. I discussed it with Frank Page and Jim Richards, and we all agreed to go and help any way we possibly can. Our Southern Baptist family grieves with this beloved church and the community it serves. Our prayers are ascending steadily to God’s throne of grace. May God bring healing and hope to these that are hurting.”
 
Page said he and Gaines hope to “show our love” for the Pomeroys, congregation and town.
 
“Both Dr. Gaines and I had other commitments this week in state conventions, but prayed together and felt led of God to go see if we can minister in any way, however small, in that terrible setting,” Page told BP. “The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, represents who we are as Southern Baptists – a conservative, multi-generational church led by a bivocational, godly pastor. [The church] reflects the core of who we are. I call Southern Baptist churches to pray for these dear people.”
 
SBTC field ministry strategist Mitch Kolenovsky told BP a sister church some three miles away – River Oaks Baptist Church – knew about the shooting almost immediately because the congregation’s first responders all were called to First Baptist during River Oaks’ morning service.
 
River Oaks altered its service and began to pray. Soon, it sent pastor Paul Buford to help comfort survivors.
 
Initially, friends and family members of victims gathered at a small community center, where eight or nine Southern Baptist pastors from the local Gambrell Baptist Association offered counseling and prayer, Kolenovsky said.
 
Eventually, River Oaks opened its facility as a shelter for family members. Disaster relief chaplains from the SBTC and the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) were on site into the early Monday-morning hours to provide grief counseling and continue to minister in the area.
 
Both First Baptist and River Oaks cooperate with the SBTC. River Oaks also cooperates with the BGCT.
 
Local pastors who cooperate with the BGCT also are ministering in Sutherland Springs, the BGCT told BP.
 
BGCT executive David Hardage said in a statement, “On behalf of our entire Texas Baptists family, I extend my deepest condolences to the church family of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the community, and all who lost loved ones during yesterday’s tragedy. We join others in prayer, and trust that whatever happens, the Lord is our salvation and our stronghold.”
 
Kolenovsky said all the local ministry efforts have evidenced “God at work through his church.”
 
Richards told Fox News Nov. 5 the shooting was “spiritual warfare” and a “demonic attack.”
 
Spiritual warfare often “takes the form of physical violence,” Richards said. “It’s heartbreaking and horrific.”
 
However, “this will not stop the gospel of Christ,” Richards said. “It will not stop the godly people who seek to serve the Lord there. So we’re coming alongside them in every way we possibly can.”
 
Providentially, Frank Pomeroy’s comments to reporters following the shooting echoed remarks he made during a sermon the week before.
 
Preaching from Proverbs 3:5-6, Pomeroy, a motorcycle enthusiast, told of riding his Harley Davidson to church that morning with his daughter and compared leaning into turns with trusting God through life’s difficult times.
 
“God’s understanding is far greater” than ours, Pomeroy said according to a recording of his Oct. 29 sermon. “There may be things going on that you don’t understand, but you still need to do what God is calling you to do ... Leaning into God is the way we should go, even if it does not make sense, like leaning into a turn.”
 
A community prayer gathering is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at the football stadium at nearby Floresville High School.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – With reporting by the Southern Baptist TEXAN, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/7/2017 10:27:30 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay to open new downtown Nashville store

November 7 2017 by LifeWay staff

After closing its iconic downtown Nashville store in 2016, LifeWay Christian Stores will open a new one this month in the Music City on the campus of LifeWay’s new corporate headquarters.

Photo by Katie Shull
LifeWay Christian Stores will celebrate its new Nashville location with a grand opening, Nov. 13-18.


LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer said he is excited about LifeWay Stores’ downtown return. The former facility at 10th Avenue and Broadway, open since 1960, was closed in January 2016 after LifeWay sold the property in preparation for building its new headquarters.
 
A grand opening celebration will be Nov. 13-18 for the new store, which will feature Bibles, books, reference tools, children’s products, Christian music and movies, gifts, Bible studies and church supplies.
 
“Nashville has been a great partner to LifeWay for more than 125 years,” Rainer said. “We are glad to once again serve the downtown Nashville area with a place where individuals, families and churches can find biblical solutions as they seek to know and serve God.”
 
LifeWay will celebrate the new Nashville location with special offers, giveaways, activities for families, refreshments and more. As an introduction to the new store, people who live or work in downtown Nashville can receive a special discount of 40 percent off one regularly priced item through Nov. 25.
 
Located at One LifeWay Plaza, in the Capitol View development along 11th Avenue North, the 4,429-square-foot store will be open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. LifeWay Christian Stores are closed on Sundays to give store associates time for worship, family and rest.
 
Free garage parking will be available. The LifeWay Christian Store will also offer free Wi-Fi, seating for small community gatherings and a kids’ area designed for shared play.

Photo by Katie Shull
Store associate Paula Jones arranges a display in LifeWay Christian Stores' new Nashville location.


“Our prayer is for LifeWay Christian Stores to be a place where people can find great ministry resources and fellowship,” Rainer said. “Guests of the store will have the opportunity to connect at special events such as training workshops and family activities.
 
“They are also welcome to plan Bible studies or other meetings within the store,” he said. “It’s a welcoming environment where people will enjoy spending time.”
 
The Capitol View store will be LifeWay’s fifth in the Nashville area. The other locations are in the nearby communities of Franklin, Hendersonville, Mt. Juliet and Murfreesboro.
 
In operation for more than 90 years, LifeWay Christian Stores is the largest Christian bookstore chain in the United States with more than 170 stores nationwide. The stores are owned and operated by LifeWay Christian Resources with headquarters in Nashville. The nonprofit publishing and retail company is known for publishing best-selling author Beth Moore, the New York Times bestseller The Love Dare, the Christian Standard Bible translation and other Christian resources.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The communications team at LifeWay Christian Resources released this report.)
 

11/7/2017 10:20:10 AM by LifeWay staff | with 0 comments



SBC foundation aids missionaries & people in the pew

November 7 2017 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

The legacy of several hundred International Mission Board missionary families has become part of the Southern Baptist Foundation, marking its 70th year of ministry in 2017.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
Warren Peek, president of the Southern Baptist Foundation, recaps the legacy planning services it provides during a meeting of the SBC Executive Committee.


The foundation added legacy planning five years ago, serving more than 1,400 families, from missionaries to people in all walks of life intent on using their life’s financial gains to advance the cause of Christ.
 
“Helping our missionaries develop estate plans has given us an opportunity to build wonderful relationships,” said Warren Peek, the foundation’s president.
 
“We have been blessed by stories of remote villages opening their hearts to God’s love,” Peek said. “We have been inspired by the tireless devotion our missionaries have as they share the Good News each day to those who are lost. We have been humbled by their generous hearts as they have chosen to give to churches, ministries and faith-based organizations through their own estate plans.”
 
To date, more than $250 million in future gifts will be generated from the 1,400 families’ estate plans for missions and ministry.
 
“We help support every cause in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Peek said, noting that the foundation stands ready to help not just missionaries, but anyone who to develop a strategic plan to give to causes they love and care about.
 
Online at sbfdn.org, the foundation encourages people to “live like today is our last day,” Peek said.
 
“When you look at a tombstone, there is a birth date, a dash and a date of death,” he said. “That dash represents your life. What will that dash mean to others? What choices are you going to make? Will your choices advance God’s Kingdom? Each of us has the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for others to build on.”


The transfer of wealth during the next 25 years, by many estimates, will reach $40 trillion, yet in a 2012 LifeWay Research survey, 80 percent of pastors said their church provides no legacy planning resources to its members.
 
In addition to legacy planning, the foundation’s services – since its founding – include long- and short-term investment management of nearly $600 million in funds held by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities – investments that are screened for social appropriateness.
 
The foundation began in 1947 with $13,000 in investments and $25,000 for its initial operations from the SBC’s Cooperative Program (CP).
 
It began operating without CP funding in October 2013 and is now in the process of repaying its 63 years of SBC support by giving 10 percent of its net revenue back to CP each year.
 
“We want to be an example for others in giving,” Peek said of strengthening CP funding for missions and ministry. “The foundation wants to show our support for the Cooperative Program.”
 
The foundation’s services have extended to an array of individuals and their chosen causes, including:

  • One donor in the mid-1960s who created a scholarship fund for individuals from any mountain region in the U.S. attending a Baptist college or seminary. More than 600 scholarships have been awarded from $1.9 million earned in interest over the years from the initial gift.
  • The late Merv Ghoering, a grain and cattle farmer in South Dakota and member of an American Baptist church, whose regard for Southern Baptists grew through the televised preaching of the late Adrian Rogers of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., and the defense of the faith on CNN’s “Larry King Live” by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) President R. Albert Mohler Jr. Ghoering left $550,000 in his will to SBTS, the Cooperative Program and the Southern Baptist Foundation.
  • Two $1 bills sent by a disabled adult who wrote, “Please use money where [it’s] needed most. Please let me know if you got the money.” Peek keeps the 33-year-old’s letter in his desk. “This gift is very significant to me as it reminds me of the widow’s mite found in Luke 21:1-4,” Peek said.
  • The late Earl and Vivian Shoemake who created a $500,000 charitable trust during the 1970s that paid them an income of $1.4 million over the course of 30 years and then provided $1.1 million to Baptist causes upon their death.

 
The foundation’s legacy planning services include:

  • Facilitating outright gifts and other charitable giving strategies to support Baptist causes.
  • Designing comprehensive estate plans, including wills and various types of family-related and charitable trusts, in which individuals can designate a portion of their estate to be left to family members and a portion to be devoted to Christian causes, along with such matters as custody of children and naming of an executor (personal representative).
  • Durable power of attorney designations if a donor becomes incapacitated in handling health care and financial decisions.
  • Charitable gift annuities and charitable trusts through which a couple or an individual can receive income for the rest of their lives, with the remainder donated upon their death to their selected causes.
  • Donor-advised funds that provide a current charitable tax deduction with the ability to distribute gifts from time-to-time over a number of years to ministries recommended by the donor.

 
The foundation, a subsidiary of the SBC Executive Committee, also has worked with a number of SBC entities and state Baptist foundations on various planning initiatives. Once the legacy decisions are made, donors are ready to take the documents to an attorney for legal filing.
 
EC President Frank S. Page, as chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, sees it as a key part of the SBC, saying, “How I wish that all Southern Baptists were aware of the great ministry of the foundation. It can help a family or individual make an impact for all eternity.”
 
Said Peek, “By partnering with the Southern Baptist Foundation, the world is being changed. Through the services of the foundation, missionaries are being trained and encouraged, students are being educated to share the gospel, churches are being planted, cities are being transformed, lives are being impacted and forever changed across the world.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press. Leigh Anne Bowick, director of communications for the Southern Baptist Foundation, contributed to this article.)
 

11/7/2017 10:12:54 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



26 killed in Texas church shooting

November 6 2017 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

The 14-year-old daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor was reportedly among 26 people killed when an armed man opened fire during Sunday morning (Nov. 5) worship services at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a congregation about 35 miles southeast of San Antonio.

Screen capture from CNN
The 14-year-old daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor was among at least two dozen people killed when an armed man opened fire during Sunday morning (Nov. 5) worship services at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a Southern Baptist congregation about 35 miles southeast of San Antonio.


The pastor, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife were both out of town when the attack occurred, said Mitch Kolenovsky, a field ministry strategist with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), who contacted the pastor.
 
Medical helicopters evacuated at least 15 injured people, which reportedly included several children. Reports indicate that about 20 people were injured, with the victims ranging in age from 5 to 72 years old. At least eight of the people killed were members of one family.
 
Witnesses told reporters the gunman was wearing tactical gear when he entered the sanctuary about 11:30 a.m. and reloaded his weapon multiple times during the attack.
 
Authorities said the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, was dead. Reports indicate he was married and a resident of San Antonio suburb, New Braunfels. He was in the U.S. Air Force and served in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge. For assault on his spouse and their child, he was court-martialed in 2012 and served a year in confinement. His rank was reduced, and he received a bad conduct discharge.
 
Wilson County Commissioner Albert Gamez Jr. told reporters the gunman fled the church after the shooting and was pursued by a local citizen and deputies. It is not known whether he was killed by law enforcement or died of self-inflicted injuries.
 
The congregation is affiliated with the SBTC and reports average Sunday School attendance of 65 and worship attendance of 100. Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, said chaplains are being mobilized to help members of the community deal with the trauma.
 
Richards told Baptist Press: “We’re calling our churches to prayer for our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs. We don’t know the details yet but early reports indicate that several people have lost their lives in this tragedy. We will ... find ways to support this dear church. We pray God’s mercy and comfort on those who are grieved and those who are wounded.”
 
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., echoed the sentiment:
 
“We are praying for the families of those who were killed as well as those who were wounded. We pray that God will lay His merciful hand of healing on all who have suffered and have been injured. May God bring healing and hope to the church and the city. May God bless all the police officers serving in that area. And may God prevent further incidents like this throughout our nation in the days to come. Our hearts and prayers are with you.”
 
Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, also called on Christians to unite in prayer for families affected by the shooting.
 
“I am calling the Southern Baptist Convention to prayer for the people of Sutherland Springs Texas and particularly for our sister church members at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs Texas,” Page said. “Sadly, another morning of worship and praise and Bible study turned into a horrific scene of violence and many innocent lives were altered in an instant. God help us all as we deal with an evil that takes the life of the innocent.”
 
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Twitter: “Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response.” President Donald Trump tweeted, “May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas.”
 
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, shared via Twitter: “Another church shooting. Lord have mercy.”
 
North Carolina Baptists weighed in via social media.
 
C.J. Bordeaux, director of missions of Pee Dee Baptist Association and former president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, shared about the incident on his Facebook page today: “It is a very sad day when as [p]astors we now need to go into our pulpits, armed and packing. Evil is everywhere, even in the church. Let the politicians talk about gun control, but gun control would not fix this...this is evil pure and simple and it is like a cascading waterfall...it is only getting worse! Our prayers and sympathy with the church and families … .”
 
Hector Miray, pastor for the Lumberton location of Vertical Church, said, “My heart is broken for the victims of the Texas [c]hurch shooting, as well as the dark hearts that commit actions like these,” on his Facebook page.
 
Bob Lowman, director of missions for Metrolina Baptist Association, and Mark Harrison, missions pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, used their Facebook pages to call people to pray for these church members and this community.
 
“Sad! Sad! Sad,” Ray Carr, pastor of Baptist Center Church in Clayton, said, “but God is still on His throne. Pray for all those who have been affected by this sad situation.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dianna L. Cagle, Biblical Recorder production editor, contributed to this story.)
 

11/6/2017 10:26:50 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Man arrested for threatening to burn down Baptist church

November 6 2017 by Mark Maynard, Kentucky Today

A man who reportedly claimed to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan has been arrested for allegedly threatening to burn down a Southern Baptist Church in western Kentucky.

Photo from Google
Zion’s Cause Baptist Church


Dustin Wright, 24, of Calvert City, was charged Nov. 1 with terroristic threatening and taken to the local jail.
 
Charles Frazier, pastor of Zion’s Cause Baptist Church in Benton, said Wright came to the church on Wednesday asking for money. When the church secretary offered the man food instead, Frazier said, the man became belligerent, telling her he was a member of the Klan and that he would return and burn down the church.
 
“We have to take threats to our church seriously,” said Frazier, who has been nominated for president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which will hold its annual meeting Nov. 14. Frazier also is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
 
“We strive to balance the safety of our members while recognizing the need to be compassionate to others in need,” he said. “We always keep in mind our responsibilities as Christians to every person.”
 
Authorities arrested Wright at St. Pius Catholic Church in Calvert City, where he was again asking for money.
 
Churches have had to take security far more seriously in recent years with shootings and arson becoming all too common. Earlier this year, a 70-year-old widow was murdered at Denham Street Baptist Church in Somerset, allegedly by a man the church had given assistance to. On September 24, a gunman reportedly shot and killed one person and injured eight in what police called a “mass casualty” church shooting in Nashville.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Maynard writes for Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, where this article first appeared. Kentucky Today is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
 

11/6/2017 9:11:55 AM by Mark Maynard, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments



GOP tax plan, ACLU lawsuit threaten U.S. adoptions

November 6 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Adoption in America is facing challenges from both the right and the left.
 
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled a tax reform proposal Nov. 2 that wipes out the adoption tax credit, a benefit available to some adoptive parents the last two decades.
 
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has challenged a Michigan law that allows faith-based adoption agencies to abide by their religious convictions by refusing to place children with same-sex couples.
 
In both cases, adoption advocates fear fewer adoptions and more children without permanent parents will be the result.
 
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 be extremely expensive.
 
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore told Baptist Press (BP) the credit “is not just one more policy issue. It is in the national interest of any country to see that vulnerable children are in families, not exiled in a system. My prayer is that Congress will move to keep this important provision, not torpedo it.”
 
The ACLU brought suit in September in federal court contending state agencies in Michigan violate the U.S. Constitution by their implementation of a 2015 state law. The complaint on behalf of a lesbian couple says the state infringes the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause by permitting private organizations it has contracts with to reject same-sex couples as adoptive parents based on the agencies’ religious beliefs.
 
“Adoption agencies play a crucial role in protecting our society’s most vulnerable human beings,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Many of those agencies are operated by people of genuine religious conviction. Penalizing such conviction isn’t just an assault on conscience but is also a disregard for the thousands of orphaned children who find refuge through these adoption agencies.
 
“Let’s hope Michigan’s common-sense law would be upheld and that the ACLU’s callous attempt to politicize orphan care would fail,” Moore said in written comments for BP.
 
John Mark Yeats, dean of Midwestern College, the undergraduate arm of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., took to Twitter to underscore the importance of the adoption tax credit.
 
“This credit mattered in ALL FOUR of our adoptions!” Yeats tweeted.
 
A Southern Baptist congressman – Republican Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina – disagreed with his party’s elimination of the adoption tax credit.
 
Walker said via Twitter the GOP’s tax proposal “is strong but needs to include adoption tax credit. Providing a home for a child that is unwanted or special needs is pro-life!”
 
The House Ways and Means Committee revealed details of the tax reform plan, with its chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, explaining why he supported removing the tax credit even though he has two adopted children.
 
“This credit is not working,” Brady told The Washington Post, citing the fact that the credit’s non-refundable status prevents some families from claiming it because they fail to pay enough in taxes.
 
The GOP proposal’s reduction in tax rates will provide families with “more in their paychecks, especially the middle-class families that are crucial for adoption,” Brady said. “I think this is a better approach for the vast majority of Americans who are left behind.”
 
In a blog post Nov. 3, the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) offered a different picture of the Republicans’ plan.
 
Eliminating the adoption tax credit “would have very serious consequences for America’s children, and will have a significant impact on the future of thousands of adoptions,” according to NCFA. “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.”
 
NCFA President Chuck Johnson, an adoptive father, told BP elimination of the adoption tax credit is likely to have “the most adverse impact” in the area of foster care.
 
“Most of the 50,000 children being adopted annually from foster care are being adopted by their foster families,” Johnson said in written comments for BP. “In adopting these children, the families are giving up all financial support from the state, but do so to provide the child(ren) permanency.
 
“A one-time credit of $13,000 compared with the high cost of keeping children in foster care is a fiscally responsible decision,” he said. “It’s also the morally right thing to do. Very rare when you can accomplish the morally right thing and the fiscally best thing in public policy, but the [adoption tax credit] accomplishes just that.”
 
Households that make more than about $243,000 are ineligible for the adoption tax credit.
 
The GOP plan also removes a tax break for employers who offer assistance to workers who adopt, according to The Chronicle for Social Change.
 
Meanwhile, adoption advocates are concerned a win by the ACLU in its suit against Michigan government agencies could result in the elimination of adoption work by religious organizations that oppose placing children with same-sex couples. That already has happened in Illinois, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, according to the Heritage Foundation.
 
“Same-sex couples in Michigan seeking to adopt are free to do so with dozens of agencies across the state,” Emilie Kao and Zachary Jones of the Heritage Foundation said in an Oct. 31 piece for The Daily Signal, a Heritage publication. “Contrary to the ACLU’s claims, there is no constitutional or practical reason why a faith-based agency must be forced to violate its religious beliefs when there are an ample number of alternatives across the state.”
 
November is National Adoption Awareness Month.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

11/6/2017 9:08:25 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



New surgery exposes ‘chink’ in pro-abortion armor

November 6 2017 by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service

Surgeons at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston recently performed an innovative new surgery on an unborn baby boy with spina bifida at 24 weeks of gestation. The doctors removed the mother’s uterus but left it attached internally and then operated on the child through tiny slits in the womb, The New York Times reported.
 
Doctors diagnosed the baby’s condition following an ultrasound at 13 weeks. Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the spinal column does not close completely, leaving nerves exposed. It can cause both cognitive and physical disabilities. The medical team told the parents their baby’s brain stem was slipping down into the spinal column and the amniotic fluid, which becomes toxic to the exposed nerves, would likely cause more damage over time.
 
Initially, doctors pushed for an abortion, but the parents chose to give their little boy a chance through the experimental operation. The parents know their baby will still likely suffer some damage from the defect, but they hope the procedure will enhance his quality of life.
 
“We’re strong believers in God, and we’re at peace,” the grandmother told the Times in the Oct. 23 article. “This baby is going to be so loved.”
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a WORLD board member, pointed out in his podcast “The Briefing” the contradiction between secular media’s support of the cutting-edge surgery and a woman’s legal right to abort her unborn baby, calling it “a form of undisguised moral insanity.”
 
Mohler added that we should be thankful for what this surgery and the Times’ reporting of it represents: “What we see here is a chink in the pro-abortion armor.”
 
“What we see here is irrefutable evidence,” he noted, “even visual as well as verbal evidence, of what it means that unborn life in the womb is a baby.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Borg writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

11/6/2017 9:01:29 AM by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Puerto Rico DR efforts advanced by Texas volunteers

November 6 2017 by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN

Flooded streets, potable water shortages, communications disruptions, power outages and six-foot-long iguanas were among the obstacles encountered by eight Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) volunteers in completing initial projects to facilitate Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) efforts in Puerto Rico following hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Southern Baptist TEXAN photo
In Puerto Rico, disaster relief volunteers Rick Grandmaison and Gene Krenzer of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention repair a hurricane-battered roof.


The SBTC team deployed Oct. 15-23, responding to SBDR national director Sam Porter’s request to establish a communications center at the Seminario Teologico Bautista in Guaynabo, southeast of San Juan.
 
The Baptist seminary property is also home to the offices and conference center of Convencion de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur en Puerto Rico y Islas Virgenes, the Southern Baptist Convention in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
 
Porter also requested a small construction team to reroof buildings on the five-acre seminary grounds. With its kitchen, chapel, shower facilities and capacity to sleep 60, the seminary site is expected to become a headquarters for SBDR recovery efforts, Porter said in an Oct. 9 email to SBTC Disaster Relief (DR) director Scottie Stice.
 
Stice had affirmed the decision to assist Puerto Rico, noting that while SBTC DR continued to respond to Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in south Texas, communications teams were no longer in the field and a roofing crew could be spared.
 
“We went with able hands and bodies to do whatever needed to be done,” said DR volunteer Paul Cothren of Atlanta, Texas.
 
Using corrugated metal over wood slats, SBTC volunteers reroofed three dormitories and a guest house, said George Yarger of Mabank, SBTC DR communications unit director.
 
The volunteers first had to secure their own outdoor sleeping area from wind-blown rain by covering the open porch of the dorm above the kitchen and meeting area with plastic sheeting.
 
“You’re on an island. There’s a chance of rain every day,” Yarger said.
 
“We made the decision to stay [at the seminary] to get the greatest amount of work done. We hunkered down,” Cothren said.
 
Cell coverage was initially unreliable. Yarger set up a VHF, UHF and HF ham radio communications station at the seminary, enabling those onsite to maintain contact with the Red Cross VHF network.
 
Cell phone repeaters provided by the North American Mission Board also proved instrumental in improving communications early in the deployment, Yarger said.

Southern Baptist TEXAN photo
Puerto Ricans wait in long lines outside a Walmart in hopes of buying a generator.


“The VHF net was for emergency services. We checked in [regularly],” he said, adding that cell service was eventually restored, possibly negating the long-term need for ham radio operations.
 
“We left all the equipment behind for the next team to use,” Yarger said. “I am not sure they will need it, since the last 72 hours we had very good cell phone data. That’s the hope anyway.”
 
The volunteers also used a mobile radio unit to contact team members running errands in the group’s rented van. Yarger estimated he drove “2,000 miles back and forth to Home Depots.” Usually GPS navigation on cell phones proved reliable for such runs, but not always.
 
Obtaining water proved challenging. Volunteers got water from gas stations in addition to joining locals in filling jugs from nearby springs. The springs, which normally flow in ditches alongside roads, were channeled via PVC pipes which “mysteriously appeared” after the storm, Yarger said, adding that none of the residents he asked knew who had provided the makeshift conduits.
 
The SBTC crew used a small filtration system belonging to Yarger, then a larger UV-operated unit provided by the North American Mission Board to purify water for drinking and cooking.
 
The lack of electricity continues to stall recovery in Puerto Rico. The SBTC team reported lines of 200-300 people waiting to get inside Walmarts or Sam’s Clubs, many hoping to purchase generators.
 
“Everything hinges on electricity. As long as the power is off, [Puerto Rico] is not going to be a modern society,” Yarger said, adding that local sources indicated power would not be restored until mid-November.
 
Although electricity was scarce, eternal connections were made not only on the ground in Puerto Rico but also in the skies during the team’s 25-hour journey home from the Caribbean.
 
On the flight from St. Thomas to Miami, Yarger sat next to 65-year-old Jackie of the Virgin Islands whose son had died in the hurricane when the roof of his home blew off and a wall collapsed.
 
“My son was a Christian. He always wanted me to go to church with him. I never took him seriously. Now I wish I had,” Jackie told Yarger.
 
Yarger and another passenger, also a believer, led Jackie to Christ.
 
“I will see you all again,” Yarger told both women, referencing heaven as they arrived in Miami.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

11/6/2017 8:52:21 AM by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



Broadway composer seeks ‘lights’ in entertainment

November 6 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Amid entertainment industry scandals and a steady stream of profanity- and sex-laden content from Hollywood, Broadway composer Christopher Smith aims to inspire a generation of Christians to be salt and light in the entertainment world.

Photo by Joan Marcus, 2015, New York City
“Amazing Grace” ran on Broadway four months in 2015 and is now slated for a 70-city U.S. tour.


Smith – author of the script, music and lyrics for the musical “Amazing Grace” – has pursued that aim through speaking engagements at several Southern Baptist-related schools, including The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), Union University, Houston Baptist University and Liberty University. He also hopes to demonstrate what God-honoring entertainment looks like with a 70-city tour of “Amazing Grace” starting Nov. 17 at the Museum of the Bible’s grand opening in Washington.
 
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have been invited to the show, Smith said.
 
“I really believe,” Smith told Baptist Press (BP), “in the redemptive power of theater which is excellent in its artistry and honors God.”
 
“Amazing Grace” is based on the true story of 18th-century slave trader John Newton, an atheist turned Christian pastor who helped abolish the slave trade in Great Britain and wrote the autobiographical hymn Amazing Grace.
 
Inspired by Smith’s encounter with a book about Newton years ago, “Amazing Grace” mirrors Smith’s personal testimony in some ways. God saved him out of atheism at age 17. Then he went on to become a police officer and youth pastor in Pennsylvania before breaking into the theater business with “Amazing Grace.”
 
During the show’s 2015 run on Broadway, it drew polarized reviews from critics, with some extremely negative and some extremely positive. Audiences, however, reacted enthusiastically. Some theatergoers told Smith the production made them rethink their priorities in life.
 
One woman happened by the theater after learning from a doctor she had three or four months to live, Smith said. She decided on the spur of the moment to watch “Amazing Grace” and told the cast afterward the show helped her realize “there are things I need to get right in my life and people I need to get right with.”
 
On a regular basis, audiences spontaneously stood at the end of the musical to sing the hymn Amazing Grace.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith


Through the 70-city tour and continued speaking engagements, Smith hopes to show fellow believers they too can glorify God through the arts.
 
“You leave ‘Amazing Grace’ knowing ... that God can be in the theater,” Smith said, adding the musical makes clear Newton experienced a spiritual conversion wrought by God while not explicitly presenting the plan of salvation.
 
“We’re into this [trend] – especially in film – where [people ask], ‘Is it a Christian film, or is it a secular film?’ This [show] blurs the line. This is a secular musical about a personal salvation,” Smith said.
 
In mid-October, Smith helped students and graduates at Liberty present a concert of selections from “Amazing Grace” that featured a 400-person choir and full symphony orchestra. In rehearsals leading up to the concert, Smith said, he tried to help aspiring performers understand how to “communicate the gospel in a hostile industry, a hostile world without being adversarial.”
 
That goal also has led Smith to form a nonprofit organization called Lights on Broadway – with the assistance of SBTS philosophy professor James Parker among others – to train aspiring Christian performers. In addition to helping them hone their craft, Lights on Broadway will produce musicals consistent with a Christian worldview.
 
Young people in entertainment tend either to “quit because they don’t want to compromise” their morals or “compromise because they don’t want to quit,” Smith said. “That’s our fault. We need to create great quality entertainment [so] they can practice their gift without compromising their values.”
 
Secularists “did a takeover of entertainment,” Smith said. “I really think theater is the way to start to claw back something that will honor God.”
 
Performances of “Amazing Grace” at the Museum of the Bible are scheduled through Jan. 7. A schedule of other tour stops will be released at amazinggracemusical.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

11/6/2017 8:31:25 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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