October 2011

Misspelling ‘Muhammad’ puts girl in danger

October 6 2011 by Baptist Press

LAHORE, Pakistan – An eighth-grade student in Pakistan has been expelled from school and her family forced to relocate after the Christian girl misspelled “Muhammad,” leading to accusations of blasphemy, sources told Compass Direct News.

In Abbottabad, 13-year-old Faryal Bhatti, a student at the Sir Syed Girls High School in Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) Colony Havelian, misspelled a word on an Urdu exam Sept. 22 while answering a question on a poem in praise of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, according to area Christians. Urdu is a language.

Faryal wrote laanat, the transliteration of the Urdu word for “curse,” instead of naat, which means a poem written in praise of Islam’s prophet, they said. The school administration and local Islamists declared that the error was serious enough to violate Pakistan’s widely condemned laws against blaspheming Muhammad and Islam.

Conviction under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy law for derogatory comments about Muhammad is punishable by death, though life imprisonment also is possible.

Faryal’s Urdu teacher was collecting the answer sheets from her students when she noticed the word on Faryal’s paper. The teacher, identified only as Fareeda, summoned the Christian girl, scolded her and beat her, area sources told Compass by telephone.

Fareeda then notified the principal, who in turn informed school officials as news of the error spread throughout the colony. The next day, male students at the school as well as some Muslim representatives staged a demonstration, demanding registration of a criminal case against the eighth-grader and her eviction from the area, sources said.

Prayer leaders within the Muslim community also condemned the incident in their Friday sermons, asking the colony’s administration to take action against Faryal as well as her family, sources said.

POF Colony Havelian Managing Director Asif Siddiki called a meeting of clerics and school teachers to discuss the conflict, according to reports, at which the girl and her mother were ordered to appear; they explained that it was a mere error caused by a resemblance between the two words.

The girl and her mother immediately apologized, contending that Faryal had no malicious intentions, but in a move apparently designed to pacify Muslim cries for punishment, the POF administration expelled her from the school Sept. 24.

School administrator Junaid Sarfraz said Faryal had confessed that she had inadvertently made the mistake and the school administration, after consulting local clerics, decided to expel her. Sarfraz claimed that Faryal’s teacher was certain that she had made the mistake intentionally and that the matter was referred to clerics because Faryal had previously aroused similar suspicions of blasphemy.

Maulana Alla Dita, head of the area’s prominent mosque, reportedly said the school administration had made the right decision in expelling Faryal from school. Dita claimed that he had met with Faryal, who had apologized for the mistaken use of the word. Dita said he wasn’t clear about Faryal’s intentions, but that “the word she had used was sacrilegious,” according to press reports.

Faryal’s mother, Sarafeen Bhatti, a staff nurse at the POF Hospital Havelian for several years, immediately was transferred to POF Wah Cantonment Hospital. Abbottabad District Commissioner Syed Imtiaz Hussain Shah said the 13-year-old had been expelled for using “derogatory words” and her mother had consequently been “moved to another place.”

A Christian lawyer in Havelian who was among the community members making efforts to defuse area tensions told Compass by phone that the military had acted swiftly to save the lives of Faryal and her mother.

“The military swung into action soon after protests broke out calling for a blasphemy case against the teenager,” the attorney said on condition of anonymity. “They bundled the family in an ambulance and took them away before the situation could turn violent.”

A text message campaign also started Sept. 24, calling for action against the family, he said. “Some Christian families living in the area panicked, but the situation has been under control so far,” he said.

An area Christian told Compass there were 13 or 14 Christian families in the colony who now have fears about security. He said Faryal’s family had little contact with other Christians living in the area. The resident also praised the army for acting in a timely manner, “or else the mullahs would have punished all of us for the little girl’s error.”

The incident has instilled fear in Christian parents that an unintentional mistake by their children could cause them personal disaster. Shazia Imran, mother to three schoolchildren, told Compass that Faryal’s episode had left her distressed.

“Ever since I came to know about the young girl’s story, I have been unable to sleep properly,” she said. “We have been continuously telling our children not to discuss their faith with anyone in school and to avoid getting into religious discussions with their Muslim class fellows, but this was beyond my imagination.”

She added that she and her husband were now “very disturbed and fearful” about their children’s future in Pakistan.

Azra George, a Christian mother to a college student, said the incident had shocked her and the congregation at her Presbyterian church.

“Everyone at church was discussing this sorry incident on Sunday,” she said. “Parents of school-going children were particularly perturbed. This blasphemy thing will always remain hanging on our heads like a sword, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

Compass’s repeated attempts to reach the Bhatti family were unsuccessful as they had moved to an undisclosed location because of security concerns.

Asif Aqeel, executive director of the Community Development Initiative, an affiliate of the European Centre for Law and Justice, said the incident showed how Pakistani society was getting sensitized over the issue of blasphemy.

“Only a small number of people are formally accused of blasphemy. We do not know the number of people who, like Faryal and her family, are harassed without a legal charge,” he said. “Members of Pakistan’s minority communities are afraid of moving around and expressing themselves freely due to the fear of being accused of blasphemy.”

Christians make up only 2.45 percent of Pakistan’s population, which is more than 95 percent Muslim, according to Operation World. Aqeel said a Christian boy recently was implicated in a criminal case of harassment by the family of a Muslim girl who was in love with him. Aqeel said the boy’s family urged the police investigating officer to free the boy, whose name was withheld for security reasons, as the charges were baseless.

“The family was taken aback when the police official told them that their son had mocked the Sunnah (sayings and teachings) of prophet Muhammad by keeping a French beard,” Aqeel said. Thus, although the harassment case had nothing to do with the blasphemy law, the mere mention of the law forced the family to keep silent, he said.

Similarly, Christian teachers avoid lessons that mention Islamic history or anything related to the religion out of fear that any misstep could bring criminal charges. Likewise, Urdu language and social studies textbooks include several lessons on Islamic religious thought, so Christian teachers avoid nearly half of these books to avoid being charged with blasphemy, he said.

Napolean Qayyum, a leader of the Minorities Wing of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, condemned the incident, saying it was unfortunate that a 13-year-old had to suffer this ordeal over a miniscule error.

“The army’s timely intervention saved the Christians’ lives, but most people are not so fortunate,” he said, adding that the incident showed how intolerance towards minorities was taking root in Pakistani society.

“Would the teacher have highlighted the same mistake if it was made by a Muslim student?” he said. “I would guess not.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Written by Compass Direct News, a California-based news service focusing on the persecuted church. Used by permission.)
10/6/2011 8:08:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

BBC drops B.C./A.D. dating method

October 6 2011 by Al Webb, Religion News Service

LONDON – British Christians are incensed after the state-funded BBC decided to jettison the terms B.C. and A.D. in favor of B.C.E. and C.E. in historical date references.

The broadcaster has directed that the traditional B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, or Year of the Lord) be replaced by B.C.E. (Before Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era) in its television and radio broadcasts.

The BBC said in an official statement that since it is “committed to impartiality, it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians.”

It described the terms B.C.E. and C.E. as “a religiously neutral alternative to B.C./A.D.,” although critics quickly pointed out that the new terms, like the old, were anchored around the birth of Jesus Christ.

The new edict drew immediate accusations that the network was guilty of political correctness run amok as the BBC's phone lines were jammed with irate listeners and readers.   Retired Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, a leading British evangelical, told journalists that “this amounts to the dumbing down of the Christian basis of our culture, language and history.”

“These changes are unnecessary,” said Nazir-Ali, “and they don’tactually achieve what the BBC wants them to achieve. Whether you use Common Era or Anno Domini, the date is still the same and the reference point is still the birth of Jesus Christ.”

The network also drew fire from Britain’s Plain English Campaign, whose spokeswoman, Marie Clair, said “it sounds like change just for the sake of change. ... It is difficult to see what the point of the changes are if people do not understand the new terms.”

On Sept. 28, a BBC spokeswoman addressed the controversy, saying: “Whilst the BBC uses B.C. and A.D. like most people as standard terminology, it is also possible for individuals to use different terminology if they wish to, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research.”
10/6/2011 8:03:00 AM by Al Webb, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

MasterChef winner shares recipes, gospel

October 6 2011 by Whitney Jones, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Since winning Fox’s MasterChef contest last year, Whitney Miller has been sharing her love of food with her first cookbook, but new recipes and satisfied taste buds aren’t all this southerner wants to spread.

The Mississippi cook is using her fame to share the gospel.

MasterChef is a cooking reality show hosted by Gordon Ramsay, celebrity chef and owner of several award-winning restaurants.

The show’s harrowing finale, where Miller had to prepare and cook a second piece of chicken in less than 10 minutes after dropping her first piece, aired last September and is one of several moments during the show that she says is evidence of God’s protection in her life.

“There’s so many times I knew the Lord’s hand was over me because I don’t think I would have made it through the whole competition without Him,” Miller, a member of Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., told Baptist Press.

Ramsay, the show’s head judge, told Miller – who was 22 at the time – that she was too young during her audition. Now she has turned that snub around and encourages other young men and women.

Every time she signs a copy of her new cookbook, “Modern Hospitality,” she writes “1 Timothy 4:12,” which says: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

“I really love the opportunity that through the book I can use that as a witness,” Miller said. Miller and her family are cautious about how she is portrayed, a concern that almost caused her to refuse signing the basic reality TV contract that said the show’s producers could depict her any way they wished. However, the show’s executive producer promised her that cameras would only film on set and how she acted in front of them was how she would be shown onscreen, she said.

Even after the show, Miller is careful with her actions because she does not want to do anything that would discourage people from the gospel. For example, she refuses to be a part of events held in casinos.

“I have my morals and values and I stand on those,” Miller said.

“If money is put towards me or whatever, I don’t sway from my beliefs.” Miller’s cookbook, which mentions her faith in the introduction, is not just a way for her to encourage others and share Christ’s love. It is the fruition of her childhood dream.

“It’s been a big dream of mine since I was young to be able to put a cookbook out,” she said. “It’s southern classics but with my own modern twist.”

However, Miller said she knows her success does not come from herself. She attributes it to God and said her first step in all of her endeavors has been prayer.

“Anything that I do I just pray over it, and before I even started the cookbook I just prayed that it would be something that people could really use and not just something that was put up,” she said.

She asked God to make her a servant and show her people who do not believe, and He did, she said. During her cookbook tour, she met people with different nationalities, cultures and religions and was able to share the gospel with them.

Her life can be hectic and unpredictable, which she relishes because it forces her to realize that she is not the one in control.

“On a daily basis I know I have to be in the Word because it’s the foundation for everything,” she said. “I know that I just have to have faith that the Lord does have a plan for me.”

Miller studied nutrition in college and said her next aspiration is to encourage families to bring their children into the kitchen. Hopefully by doing so, children can learn about produce and other healthy cooking tips that can help them make better, more nutritious decisions as they get older, she said.

“Being a resident of Mississippi, it’s not exactly known for being the healthiest state, so if I can help with that, that is really one of my passions,” she said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Whitney Jones is a student at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and was an intern with Baptist Press.)
10/6/2011 7:59:00 AM by Whitney Jones, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Poll finds evangelicals stand apart on evolution

October 6 2011 by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON – White evangelicals and Tea Party members are less likely to believe in evolution and climate change than most Americans, a finding that could pose a particular problem for Republican presidential hopefuls.

A new poll released Sept. 22 also showed that a majority of Americans (57 percent) believes in evolution, and an even larger majority (69 percent) believes in climate change – though many still disagree that the phenomenon is based on human activity.

But most Americans do not insist that their presidential candidates share their views on these issues, nor do they believe scientists have come to a consensus on them, according to the poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in partnership with Religion News Service.

The views of white evangelicals and Tea Party members stand apart.

Even though these issues aren’t deal-breakers for most voters, they are “symbolically important for two groups that play an outsize role in Republican primary politics: white evangelical Protestants and members of the Tea Party,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI.

“Because evangelicals and Tea Party members hold views that are significantly different than the general population, the challenge for Republican candidates is to talk about these issues now in a way that will not hurt them later in the general election,” Jones said.

On evolution, a third (32 percent) of white evangelicals affirm a belief in evolution, compared to two-thirds of white mainline Protestants, six in 10 Catholics and three-quarters of the unaffiliated.

On climate change, though strong majorities in every religious group say they believe the earth is getting warmer, white evangelicals (31 percent) are significantly less likely to believe the change is caused by human activity. That compares to 43 percent of white mainline Protestants, 50 percent of Catholics and 52 percent of the unaffiliated.

The poll reveals an unusual political schism on climate change. Typically, Republicans come down on one side of a question, Democrats on the other, and independents in the middle, said Dan Cox, PRRI’s research director.

On climate change, Republicans (49 percent) cluster with Tea Party members (41 percent) on whether there is solid evidence that the earth is warming. That compares to 81 percent of Democrats and seven in 10 independents.

“There is no reason for climate change to be a partisan issue,” said Cox. “But the political leadership on the issue has led to a polarization of opinion, with Democrats and independents on one side and Republicans on the other.”

Many Americans say they do not care much about a candidate’s stance on either evolution or climate change: more than half (53 percent) say a belief or disbelief in evolution wouldn't affect their vote, and about as many say the same about a candidate who doesn’t believe climate change is caused by human activity.

White evangelicals, however, care.

Only four in 10 evangelicals say a candidate's views on evolution would make no difference in their vote, and those who say they cared about a candidate’s position say they would be less likely to vote for someone who believes in evolution. By contrast, Americans overall who cared about evolution say they’d be more likely to vote for a politician who believes in it.

Tea Party members (33 percent), more than any other group, are more likely to support a candidate who does not believe in climate change. That compares to 16 percent of Republicans and 5 percent of Democrats.

Americans also doubt a strong consensus exists among scientists on climate change, a phenomenon that has frustrated the vast majority of climatologists who consider it a problem caused by human activity. Only four in 10 Americans believe a consensus exists.

A slight majority (51 percent) says a consensus of scientists believes in evolution, though evolution is overwhelmingly endorsed throughout the scientific community. In other findings:
  • On stewardship of the earth, 57 percent say God wants humans to live responsibly with animals and plants. A sizable minority (36 percent), however, prefers the idea that “God gave human beings the right to use animals, plants and all the resources of the planet for human benefit.”
  • Black Protestants are evenly divided on evolution, with 47 percent affirming it and 46 percent affirming creationism.
  • Though most Americans believe in evolution, they disagree on its driving force. Of those who believe in evolution, 30 percent say it’s driven by natural selection or another natural process, compared to 22 percent who say a divine being guides it.
The PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey was based on telephone interviews with 1,013 adults between Sept. 14 and 18. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
10/6/2011 7:45:00 AM by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

CP ‘a cause for joy,’ Page says

October 5 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Cooperative Program (CP) allocation budget ended its fiscal year with its first increase since 2007, a moment that Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee President and CEO Frank Page said was a “cause for joy” in light of economic hard times.

The Cooperative Program allocation budget finished its Oct. 1-Sept. 30 fiscal year with receipts up 0.06 percent and combined CP and designated giving for the year up 0.17 percent, although total receipts were 3.98 percent below budget, according to Page.

The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2010-11 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ method of supporting missions and ministries of state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Page applauded the increase in light of 2010’s large decrease in receipts and the badly depressed economic conditions churches are facing. The CP allocation budget was down 4 percent last year.

A total of $191,878,645.16 in CP gifts was received by the Southern Baptist Convention during the fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2010, through Sept. 30, 2011 – up by $115,492.29 (0.06 percent) from the previous fiscal year’s $191,763,152.87.

During the 2010-11 fiscal year, an additional $191,878,065.75 in designated gifts brought the fiscal year’s overall giving for national and international missions and ministry to spread the Gospel to $383,756,710.91, or 0.17 percent above the previous year’s $383,087,678.95 combined figure.

“While this is a slight increase of $115,492.29,” Page said of the yearly CP allocation budget total, “when placed in the context of last year’s $8 million decline in the SBC portion of the CP, it is an encouragement and a cause for joy. We know that our nation continues to struggle in what one friend of mine called ‘this generation’s Great Depression.’

“Given the tremendous economic trials so many of our people face, I want to say a special thank you to the many faithful Christ-followers who have given so faithfully to the Lord’s work,” Page added. “I also want to say thank you to the many pastors who are leading their churches to significantly turn around their Cooperative Program giving. I am traveling throughout this convention, thanking people and encouraging them as much as I possibly can. I am so grateful that many are having a renewed commitment to and understanding of the good work that is happening through the Cooperative Program. Many state conventions are working hard to maximize every dollar and to increase contributions to national ministries. Please continue to encourage our state conventions in the good work they are doing.

“I stood at the convention this year in Phoenix, Ariz., and stated several principles by which we will operate. One of those is celebration and encouragement. I just simply want to say thank you to Southern Baptists today for the encouragement you have given to the work of Southern Baptist missions and ministries by your faithful giving. May God bless you all!”

For the month of September, CP receipts totaled $17,403,090.27. Designated year-end giving of $191,878,065.75 was $553,539.67, or 0.29 percent above gifts of $191,324,526.08 for the previous fiscal year. A total of $5,560,064.86 in designated gifts was received in September, up $1,543,927.78 (38.44 percent) over the previous month’s $4,016,137.08. For the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, the year-end total of $191,878,645.16 was $7,943,445.02 (or 3.98 percent) below the $199,822,090.18 budgeted to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.

The total includes receipts from individuals, churches, state conventions and fellowships for distribution according to the 2010-11 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and other special gifts.

State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor and senior writer Mark Kelly.)

Related story
In America’s West, cooperation a must
10/5/2011 9:25:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Marty King to lead LifeWay communications

October 5 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Long-time denominational communicator Marty King has been named director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is currently associate executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association and has led the state’s communication team as editor of the Illinois Baptist the last five years.

In his new position at LifeWay, King will lead the team responsible for LifeWay’s internal and external communications including Facts and Trends magazine, news media relations and a number of social media platforms. He also will serve as an official spokesman for LifeWay, one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services.

King’s vocational career has focused on journalism, marketing, fund development, advertising and denominational communications, and he has extensive experience in organizational strategic communication and news media relations. He served both the Home Mission Board and its successor agency, the North American Mission Board, as director of corporate communications for 15 years.

King succeeds Micah Carter, who has taken a position with LifeWay’s church resources division. King officially will take on his new role Nov. 1.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources staff.)
10/5/2011 9:24:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hunger loses battle in remote Thai village

October 5 2011 by J.B. Shark, First-person account/Baptist Press

BAN CAM, Thailand – As our motorcycle neared the wooden bridge, we heard the worrisome sound of rushing water. Heavy rain had swollen the creek and made the path very muddy. Jaidee Yodsuwan,* my guide and driver, accelerated through the mud. The back wheel slid sideways, causing Yodsuwan to lose control of the bike. We headed straight for the cliff. I breathed a quick prayer.

At the last moment, Yodsuwan recovered and our bike crossed the bridge to safety. Our adventure started on a treacherous, muddy path. But our story in this remote Thai village began six years earlier – when the medical clinic closed and a community development organization supported by the Southern Baptist Convention’s World Hunger Fund took its place.

My father was one of the last doctors to work at this clinic in Thailand. I was excited to see how things had changed and how the staff I remembered from childhood now reached out to their Northern Hill Tribe neighbors through the Thai Peoples’ Welfare Foundation.

We loaded down motorcycles with supplies and rode up into the hills on a narrow, muddy walking path. Our team of six Thai Life Development Center workers and International Mission Board missionary Joanie Snyder* headed to a village the Thai government deemed as being in great need – Ban Cam.

Yodsuwan and another pastor originally visited this village a few years ago. The community development workers found the people very isolated and living in their old ways: abject poverty, no electricity, no decent bathrooms and wooden homes with thatch roofs. The village had no building specifically for their children to attend school.

As he surveyed the conditions, Yodsuwan gained a vision for how the team could serve the village and build relationships to share the love of Jesus by meeting physical and spiritual needs.

Yodsuwan said the first night his team stayed in the village, no one invited them into their home. Then, as the team began making up beds in a deserted house, one old man invited them to stay with him. This “man of peace” started the relationship that allowed the team to work in the village.

Three years later, the relationships and trust continue to grow, providing access to other villages even more isolated in these hills.

Photo by Victor Xingh

Gan Boonruang* and Jaidee Yodsuwan* of the Ban Cam community development team, which draws on the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund for support, prepare motorcycles for the trip to the village. They spend long hours repairing and prepping the motorcycles each week. See related video.

Yodsuwan and his team make this treacherous trip into the hills each week – rain or shine. This week, the rain poured down. But with joy and rain gear, we rumbled on toward the village. Yodsuwan said it is important to make this trek each week, the village needs the encouragement and is a launching point for further community development in the area. “In your precious name, stop the rain,” I heard Snyder pray. Then turning to me she said, “Though I don’t always go with them, I feel responsible for the team’s safety, so I’m always praying for them. I have to trust in the Lord, and pray.”

I learned more about why she was concerned for the team’s safety as we continued up the trail. I started out driving one of the motorcycles, but after falling off four times, I rode on the back of Yodsuwan’s motorcycle.

As we rode along, the path became very narrow. On the left was steep hillside, on the right, the steep drop-off of the cliff. We had only a one-foot margin of error on either side. On several occasions, I got off and walked as Yodsuwan gunned the motorcycle up the rough mountain trail, bouncing back and forth. Like Snyder, I found myself praying the whole trip.  

Who knew our World Hunger Fund projects made it to places as remote and rough as this? Even though the trip was difficult, the team ran to serve the people when we arrived.  

Community development projects have taken hold here gradually. Villagers have learned about proper nutrition and how to grow their own vegetables. Proper toilets have also been dug, keeping their water supply clean.

You can tell the difference the World Hunger Fund has made in this village simply by listening to the laughter and singing of children playing soccer with two community development workers. Now the children are healthy and beginning to thrive. The homes also were full of smiling women, as team members Fern Yodsuwan* and May Srisai* taught them new life skills.

As evening approached, we made our way to the school building, which this team helped build, to spend the night. Jaidee Yodsuwan and the schoolteacher led in a time of prayer and song as we ended our day.

The following morning, the team gave math lessons and the sound of happy chatter and scraping chalk filled the school. Jaidee Yodsuwan cut hair and Joe Boonmee* prayed with the children as they studied. Through the team’s teaching, each of the children has heard the story about Jesus’ love at least once.

After I prayed for the village, we headed down the mountain – back to electricity, real roads and nice homes.

Somehow, the ride back didn’t seem quite as treacherous, as I rejoiced in seeing how God uses this passionate team to serve the poor and share the Good News of His love, no matter how difficult the journey.

With confidence one team member told me, “Though there is not a believer in the village now, one day someone will come to believe in Jesus.”

Through your gifts to the World Hunger Fund, you are an active part of this team. You make it possible for them to physically help people in poverty while sharing Christ’s compassion and love literally to the ends of the earth.

*Names changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – J. B. Shark is an intern serving in Southeast Asia. To see an interactive map of World Hunger Fund projects in Asia and take an on-line quiz about world hunger, visit asiastories.com. For information about promoting or donating to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, visit worldhungerfund.com. Oct. 9 is World Hunger Sunday for Southern Baptist churches across North America. Since 1974, Southern Baptists have fought the problem of hunger through their World Hunger Fund. One hundred percent of every dollar given to the fund is used to provide food to undernourished people all over the world – 80 percent through the International Mission Board and 20 percent through the North American Mission Board.)

World Hunger Fund videos available for churches
Four videos focusing on world hunger are available for use by churches and other groups in connection with World Hunger Sunday Oct. 9.
  • “SBC World Hunger Fund” is a fast-paced 92-second video that explains how the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund tackles the world’s No. 1 health risk: hunger. Created by AsiaStories.com, this video is available at vimeo.com/30022908
  • “What are you going to do about hunger?” takes a look at hunger needs around the world and what the World Hunger Fund does. Created by the North American Mission Board for a children’s audience, this video is available at youtube.com/watch?v=W6fY0NGGSzE&feature=youtu.be
  • “More than a meal” takes a look at how one congregation on Los Angeles’ Skid Row is using World Hunger Fund resources to change lives for the Kingdom. Also created by the North American Mission Board, this video is available at vimeo.com/28671442
  • “Beating hunger in Ban Cam” focuses on a team of passionate community development workers who make a treacherous journey by motorbike each week to help residents of a remote Thai village beat hunger. Created by AsiaStories.com, this video is available vimeo.com/30020021
These and other multimedia resources also are available at worldhungerfund.com, the home site of the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund.
10/5/2011 8:53:00 AM by J.B. Shark, First-person account/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Police to British cafe: Don’t show Bible DVD

October 5 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

LONDON – Religious liberty took another hit in Great Britain when a Christian restaurant owner was threatened with arrest for playing a Bible DVD that included passages critical of homosexuality.

The incident, reported in the Daily Mail newspaper, is but the latest example of what U.K. conservatives say is an abuse of the country’s Public Order Act, which prohibits the use of “insulting” words that can cause “harassment, alarm or distress.”

The restaurant, called the Salt and Light Coffee House, for years has played a DVD version of the New Testament on an overhead TV, with the sound turned down and the words of the Bible appearing on screen. Called “The Watchword Bible,” the entire DVD series spans about 26 hours.

Police entered the restaurant Sept. 19 after getting a complaint. Restaurant owner Jamie Murray said he suspects the complaint came after the passage from Romans 1:26-26 was displayed on screen. The restaurant is located in Blackpool.

The two police officers conducted an “aggressive inquisition,” Murray said.

“I told them that all that appeared on the screen were the words of the New Testament,” Murray told the newspaper. “There is no sound, just the words on the screen and simple images in the background of sheep grazing or candles burning. I thought there might be some mix-up but they said they were here to explain the law to me and how I had broken it.

“I said, ‘Are you really telling me that I am facing arrest for playing the Bible?’ and the (officer) fixed me with a stare and said, ‘If you broadcast material that causes offence under the Public Order Act then we will have to take matters further. You cannot break the law.’” He then turned off the TV.

“I was worried about being handcuffed and led out of the shop in front of my customers,” Murray said. “It wouldn’t have looked good so I thought it was better to comply. It felt like a betrayal. They left the shop and told me they would continue to monitor if we were displaying inflammatory material. At no stage had they spoken to me like I was a law-abiding citizen trying to earn a living. I felt like a criminal.”

But Murray says he is not going to back down. The Christian Institute, a British-based organization that fights for religious liberty, is representing him.

“I have now checked on my rights and I am not going to be bullied by the police and the PC lobby out of playing the Bible silently in my cafe,” he said. “It’s crazy. Christians have to stand up for what they believe in.” Murray asked, “What’s next, people coming into churches and saying you can’t say this or that?”

A police spokesman told the Daily Mail that the force is “respectful of all religious views.”

“However, we do have a responsibility to make sure that material that communities may find deeply offensive or inflammatory is not being displayed in public,” the spokesman said. It is not the first time the Public Order Act has been the source of controversy. Last year a Baptist street preacher in the U.K. was arrested for calling homosexuality a sin, and his arrest was based on the 1986 law.

The preacher, Dale Mcalpine, was arrested in April 2010 in the British town of Workington after a police officer – who happened to be homosexual – overheard him telling a woman that 1 Corinthians forbids homosexuality. The officer warned him to be quiet, and when he didn’t, he was arrested. The entire incident was captured on video.

Mcalpine was charged and jailed for seven hours, although charges were dropped.

“England, the U.S. and other Western nations share the same legal, political and religious traditions,” Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute in the U.K., told Baptist Press last year. “If this can happen in England, it can happen where you live. Christians need to be aware that small changes in the law can lead to big changes in the culture. If you want to be free to share the gospel, you must defend that liberty in the public square. Don’t hide in your churches; get out there and engage in the culture. Do it wisely, graciously, with excellence and with courage.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)

10/5/2011 8:41:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Instant churches’ convert public schools

October 5 2011 by Cathy Lynn Grossman and Natlie Diblasio, USA Today

(RNS) Praise the Lord and pass the crates with the prefab pulpit and the portable baptistery inside. The Forest Hills Community Church is moving into P.S. 144 — sort of. Every Sunday morning, the elementary school in Queens, like dozens more schools in New York City and thousands more nationwide, is transformed into a house of worship for a few hours.

There’s no tally of how many churches, synagogues and mosques convert public school spaces into prayer places. But what’s clear is that there has been a steady rise in numbers as congregations find schools to be available, affordable and accessible to families they want to reach.

Critics, including some courts, are concerned that these arrangements are an unconstitutional entanglement of church and state. They say these bargain permits effectively subsidize religious congregations that would have to pay steeply higher prices on the open market. They also note that the practice appears to favor Christian groups, which worship on Sundays — when school spaces are most often available.

Caught in the middle: congregations such as Forest Hills, which spent $3,000 for a permit to use P.S. 144 from February through June, and just renewed for July and August.

For September and beyond, however, nothing is certain.

The city’s Department of Education, which has been trying for a decade to oust the congregations from its schools and end the weekend worship practice, won the latest legal round in June. As the case winds its way through more appeals, an injunction allows about 60 congregations to remain in place and the permit process to continue.

So Forest Hills’ evangelical founder and pastor, Jeremy Sweeten, still rises early each Sunday, hitches up a 20-foot trailer and tows it to the school. The trailer, packed by PortableChurch.com, has every bit of paraphernalia needed to create a sanctuary and children’s Bible classes.

By 10 a.m., the Assemblies of God congregation of about 60 adults is raising their voices in song and prayer. Then about 1 p.m., as swiftly as they came, they’re gone, with every offering basket stashed and every Bible boxed away.

It’s a familiar scene in many communities across the nation:

— A USA Today look at the five largest and five fastest-growing school districts in the continental U.S. found that all 10 had granted permits for religious congregations to hold weekend worship.

New York City, the largest, is typical: Christian churches are the primary clients because Muslims and Jews worship on Fridays and Saturdays, when school spaces usually are used for student activities.

— The Acts 29 Network, a Seattle-based evangelical coalition that has started 350 churches across the nation in the past five years, estimates about 16 percent of these meet in school spaces.

“We don’t have a hidden agenda. Our heart is to serve the community just like schools serve the community. ... They’re designed for large groups, and they’ve got parking,” says Scott Thomas, Acts 29 president.

— A 2007 national survey of newly established Protestant churches found that 12 percent met in schools, according to LifeWay, a Nashville, Tenn.-based Christian research agency.

LifeWay Director Ed Stetzer said the major draw is that startup congregations and expanding multisite churches can offer worship close to families’ homes for a fraction of the cost of creating their own building.

However, Stetzer, who also leads church-planting efforts, said he sees the constitutional dangers. Stetzer said he cautions school districts that they will have no control over the religious preaching and teaching.

“So if a Wiccan coven (wanted a use permit), you would have to be as neutral as you would with an evangelical church. Even Westboro (the Topeka, Kan., congregation that pickets funerals with signs denouncing gays) could move in and you would have no way to stop them,” Stetzer said.

In the New York City case, the city school board’s legal briefs argue the practice “improperly advances religion” by, in effect, subsidizing the churches with facilities below market rate. It also shows “favoritism” to Christian churches as religions that don’t worship on Sundays are generally shut out.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. In his June ruling, Judge Pierre Leval wrote that the Bronx Household of Faith, ensconced since 2002 in P.S. 15, “has made the school the place for the performance of its rites, and might well appear to have established itself there. The place has, at least for a time, become the church.”

The Bronx church is seeking a rehearing. Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the church, expects the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the ruling.

“Religious groups, including churches, shouldn’t be discriminated against simply because they want to rent a public building just like other groups can,” Lorence said.
10/5/2011 8:30:00 AM by Cathy Lynn Grossman and Natlie Diblasio, USA Today | with 0 comments

In America’s West, cooperation a must

October 4 2011 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

GALLUP, N.M. – In the heart of the American West, where 68 percent of the population claims no religious preference and the Gospel is little known, one church is making a difference with a disciple-making ministry that also reaches around the world through the Cooperative Program (CP).

“Let’s look at reality,” said Jay McCollum, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gallup, N.M., since 1994. “The world has come to North America. It’s going to take our cooperative efforts – because of the amount of money it will take – to reach the people of America. “No one mega church can do this; it’s going to take multiple churches,” said McCollum, whose congregation gives 11.5 percent to support Southern Baptists mission work at the state level, across North America and around the world through the Cooperative Program.

“The Cooperative Program has been the vehicle Southern Baptists have used to put the largest missionary force in the field in the history of Christianity.... Our cooperative efforts assist us not only in reaching people in our corner of the world but also to the vast people groups of the world.”

The people in Gallup are a microcosm of the world, McCollum said. Gallup has long been known as the “Indian Capital of the World” for its proximity to several Indian reservations, including Navajo, Hopi, Zuni. More than two-thirds of the city’s estimated 21,000 people claim Native American heritage.

It’s the other third that brings a cosmopolitan air to the town and to the church membership, the pastor added. In addition to Hispanic, African-American and Anglo, there are a variety of Asian groups, and even 600 or more Palestinians, the highest per-capita presence of Shiite Muslims in North America, McCollum said.

“The Cooperative Program broadens our horizons,” McCollum said. “CP raises the awareness of people to see there’s Christian work taking place around the globe, and that people can be called to be a missionary on a foreign field, in the state convention, or in their neighborhood.”

Local inroads

First Baptist seeks to make inroads to the community through a variety of initiatives: connection with city leaders and residents through government and private organizations, the pastor’s radio programs, in-costume character sketches at schools and other endeavors that result from McCollum involving himself in Gallup civic life during his 17-year tenure. Gallup is one of about 95 cities across the nation that provide a week-long Southern Baptist WorldChangers learning experience in home repair, simple construction and other servant evangelism skills for high school and college students. More than 200 who gathered the last week of June in Gallup worked at 19 job sites. Their assignments ranged from roof repair to building a handicap ramp to prepping and painting exterior walls of homes and more.

Jay McCollum, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gallup, N.M., dresses in character at area elementary schools to teach biblical principles in a context children can readily understand. As Pecos Bill, he talks about the importance of not stealing and not lying and being citizens of your community, honoring your parents. “Character counts” when he’s Sam McGillicuddy: responsibility, honesty, good moral character. He tells the Christmas story as Cactus Jack. As Paul Revere, Pastor McCollum talks about the importance of American citizenship and the freedoms for which many early patriots died.

While the week of World Changers in Gallup involves students from across the United States, the other 51 weeks of the year First Gallup members prepare the town for the next onslaught of enthusiastic teen workers.

“There’s the constant work of securing homes to work on, and raising the money for materials and supplies,” McCollum said. “And as they become aware of needs, church members throughout the year do light repairs for invalid adults and single moms with insufficient funds.

“Being able to host a WorldChangers project in Gallup, it’s given people a vehicle to be on mission in their city, and it’s changed the image of our church,” the pastor said. “We’re no longer a ‘rich church that sits on a hill.’ We’re a church that cares about its community and the people in it, some of whom are the most vulnerable.”

Despite the many needs in Gallup itself, WorldChangers spreads out from Gallup each summer to the nearby reservations, through a partnership with Jim Turnbo, regional missionary for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

First Gallup also involves itself through its association in strengthening churches that need a helping hand. In addition, it’s a part of a new church start on a reservation near Gallup.

The church also doesn’t shy away from crucial but controversial social issues. About 15 months after McCollum’s arrival in Gallup, he led a successful city-wide charge against the sale of packaged alcoholic beverages on Sunday. Despite opposition from liquor store owners, weekend crime involving alcohol has dropped so much that elected officials are not inclined to reinstate Sunday sales.

“I engage in the community,” the pastor said. “I serve on various boards, coached soccer, been on about every booster club, and we often host sports banquets in our church, so we’re constantly engaged in that facet of our community.”

Focus on baptisms

The congregation follows McCollum’s example of engaging in their community. All that activity builds relationships, which lead to evangelistic encounters that keep First Gallup focused on its goal of baptizing about 50 people a year. This in a church where about 270 people participate in Sunday morning worship.

“This is a mission field,” McCollum said. “You’re looking at 68 percent of the population who claim no religious preference.... I have a great opportunity to preach to people who are not gospel-calloused. We’re not in the Bible belt. We’re not in ‘cultural casual Christian mode.’ We’re in the Wild West.

“Oftentimes the good news is good news because they’ve never heard it,” the pastor continued. “They may not accept it, but they’re willing, open, to hear it.”

McCollum writes his own radio and television advertising, promotional spots and on-air devotional thoughts.

“Utilizing social media and broadcast to let the message of First Baptist Church be known to the public is something I love to do,” the pastor said. “We’ll do 156 radio spot ads a week in seven formats.... There’s no way to monitor the response to this. You’re raising the level of spiritual awareness in the community.

“I think every church needs to be a strong evangelistic church,” McCollum said. “You have to preach the gospel, see people come to Christ, disciple them and equip them, so they are missionaries – ambassadors for Christ where they live, in their places of work, and as they share the gospel while going about their lives – shopping, sports and the like.

“This is a process that takes place over time,” the pastor continued. “It has to be done in every generation.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, Dakota Baptist Connections and The Montana Baptist, newsjournals for their respective state conventions. Learn more about the Cooperative Program at cpmissions.net.)

Related story
CP ‘a cause for joy,’  Page says
10/4/2011 8:13:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Displaying results 61-70 (of 77)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8  >  >|