October 2012

N.C. volunteers headed to New Jersey

October 31 2012 by BR staff, Baptist Press

A mobile kitchen team and additional support units were headed to Rutgers, N.J., today to help with relief efforts related to Hurricane Sandy, which caused at least 50 U.S. deaths, record flooding, massive power outages and extensive devastation as it roared ashore Monday night (Oct. 29) near New York City.
About 75 North Carolina Baptist Men volunteers will be on site to assist with response efforts. A Facebook post indicated that recovery efforts will not be required for the Outer Banks for now. Assessment is still being done across a wide region to find out where Baptist volunteers can best be used.
About 200 Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers from the Carolinas and Georgia were expected to respond initially to a recovery effort in New Jersey that may last weeks, said North Carolina disaster relief director Gaylon Moss, who is coordinating recovery efforts for New Jersey while also responding to North Carolina.

“This is certainly a large disaster zone that will require a lot of assistance,” Moss told Baptist Press Tuesday. “We hope to send some kitchens up tomorrow.”

The two units each are capable of preparing 30,000 meals a day. The Georgia and South Carolina Baptist conventions also were expected to send feeding units and assist with debris removal and chaplaincy, Moss said.

New York City

In New York, where N.C. Baptists are part of a Great Commission Partnership with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, pastors were trying to reach their members.
“Pray that our churches come together to use this time to be the church to the people in our communities that are in need,” Freeman Field of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association told Baptist Press.

More than 7.5 million customers were without electricity in 15 states and the District of Columbia Oct. 30, neighborhood streets looked like rivers and homes washed off their foundations and onto a New Jersey highway, CNN.com reported.

In New York, floodwater inundated the city’s subway tunnels, causing the most devastation in the subway system’s 108-year history. More than 80 homes in Queens were destroyed by a fire that was battled by 200 firefighters, CNN said, and at a New York University hospital, 260 patients – including newborns in intensive care – were evacuated after a power outage.

“We’re talking months to recover from this,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.

Strong winds from the superstorm blew from Georgia to Canada and as far west as Lake Michigan Tuesday, CNN said, and heavy rains covered New England and parts of the Midwest. In West Virginia, the storm dumped three feet of wet snow.

Graffiti Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan was the only Southern Baptist church in New York City to receive damage from the storm as of Tuesday afternoon.

Field, whose father Taylor Field is Graffiti’s pastor, said the church lost power, “sustained minimal flooding” and was assessing damage to its facilities.

“Our association building on 72nd Street and Broadway did not sustain any damage, and the people and teams that were staying here are all safe and sound,” Freeman Field reported.

“... We are still hearing from our pastors about needs.... We know of two families specifically who had their apartments flooded out – one in Brooklyn from Park Slope Community Church, the other in Jersey City from Gallery Church,” Field wrote to Baptist Press in an email.

He asked for prayer for those who are stranded by the shutdown of the metropolitan area’s three main airports and by the problems plaguing the transit system.

“New York is an amazing opportunity to share the gospel with others in this time of need, so please pray that God is glorified through churches serving each other and serving their neighbors,” Field wrote.

George Russ, executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, was in Florida visiting his mother and was scheduled to return to New York around the time the storm hit. He couldn’t change his flight, so he remained in Florida Tuesday, hoping to return today if the airports opened.

Russ, who lives on Long Island, reported that his family was safe and that they communicated via text messages during the storm. He texted all of the pastors whose cell phone numbers he had and heard back from a lot of them, he said. Russ marveled at the devastation in the city he serves.

“It’s remarkable to see cars underwater in southern Manhattan,” he said, adding a request for prayer.

“Pray for our pastors as they try to get in touch with all of their people. Not everybody has cell phones or email, so it’s a little more of a challenge for them to stay in touch with everyone,” Russ said.

“We’re grateful for all the prayers. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has called already. We’re thankful for all the concern that people have shown.”

Freddy T. Wyatt, pastor of Gallery Church in Manhattan, kept friends updated on Facebook as the storm passed over the city. His family sought shelter in a hallway on the 14th floor of their apartment building.

“The flooding has already begun and seems significant,” Wyatt wrote Monday night. “Dozens of cars on our street are completely under water.”

An hour later Wyatt lost power, but the family made it through the night safely.

Nathan Tubbs, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Brooklyn, told Baptist Press Tuesday morning the devastation is an opportunity for Southern Baptists throughout the country to refocus their attention on New York.

“This is a really important city in terms of our country and in terms of the world, and there’s a great gospel void that exists here in New York City,” Tubbs said. “Those of us in ministry know that times of transition or times of great danger are good opportunities for people to consider the gospel. Maybe churches down south would say, ‘We’ve been thinking about New York for a long time and it’s time for us to get involved.’”

Disaster relief

The Kentucky Baptist Convention was expected to send to Orange County, N.Y., a feeding unit capable of preparing 30,000 meals a day to assist New York’s 10,000-meal-a-day unit, said Mike Flannery, disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New York.

“Feeding should start Thursday or Friday,” said Flannery, who was still assessing damage and recruiting volunteers from area churches. “They’re excited to help. They’re ready to go and their spirits are real high,” he said of volunteers.

The Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey reported most of its damage in South Jersey, while Pennsylvania was enduring power outages and regional flooding.

“When we look into the South Jersey area of our convention, that seems to be along the East Coast ... the hardest-hit area,” Penn/Jersey disaster relief director Karlene Campbell said. “As far as Pennsylvania, it looks like, for the most part, we’ve weathered this storm well, from what I understand. And it’s still early. We probably won’t be doing feeding operations here within state.”

American Red Cross shelters in Pennsylvania had few people, eliminating any need for Southern Baptist feeding units, Campbell said. The Red Cross was expected to move people from New Jersey to shelters in eastern Pennsylvania, she added.

The Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE) Tuesday was assessing the aftermath and coordinating with disaster relief partners.

“It looks like the major damage is in flooding in Connecticut and Rhode Island,” said Bruce James, the BCNE’s team leader for evangelism, disaster relief and men’s ministry. “We’ve got some tree damage up in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.”

Power was been knocked out at the Incident Command Center, which was running on backup generators. Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers from Tennessee were on standby, he said, ready to send chainsaw and mud-out teams.

“Other than that, we’re just trying to get everything in order so we can get these jobs going,” James said.

International Mission Board offices

International Mission Board (IMB) offices in Richmond, Va., escaped damage as the storm passed over the region. Mike Giannotti, IMB’s director of facilities and operations at the main office, said damage was limited to “a few small leaks” that trouble the building during any hard rain.

IMB’s missionary training facility in Rockville, Va., also reported no significant damage other than a few downed limbs and other debris from trees.

“Richmond was spared from the major destruction we’ve seen during previous storms, but Southern Baptists should remain in prayer for those in New Jersey, New York and other areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy,” IMB President Tom Elliff said.

“While we are thankful our city was spared the brunt of the storm, we grieve with so many others who were not as fortunate. May God give them hope, encouragement and endurance as they begin to clean up and rebuild their lives,” Elliff said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press, John Evans in Houston and Sheryl Hash of the International Mission Board. Biblical Recorder Assistant Managing Editor Dianna L. Cagle contributed to this report.)

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10/31/2012 2:59:51 PM by BR staff, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Cuban Baptists rally to aid Sandy’s victims

October 31 2012 by Emily Pearson, Baptist Press

SANTIAGO, Cuba – Hurricane Sandy’s torrential rains and 105 mph winds slammed eastern Cuba Oct. 25, killing 11 people, among them a couple from First Baptist Church in the hard-hit coastal city of Santiago.

The Baptist couple, whose names were not released, died when a wall collapsed in their home during the storm.

Hurricane Sandy devastated their city of Santiago, affecting nearly 70 percent of the area, news reports said. The storm destroyed 15,000 homes and damaged some 115,000 others.

Many of the 150 churches and 200 house churches affiliated with the Baptist Convention of Eastern Cuba were damaged; some were destroyed. The convention’s seminary and home for the elderly sustained damage.

Despite their losses, Cuban Baptists in Santiago are reaching out to the community, according to International Mission Board representatives and area pastors.

“The great thing is even in the midst of all the challenges and difficulties that are being faced right now, a lot of the pastors we’ve been able to speak to and the members of their churches just immediately began to step up to the plate,” said an International Mission Board (IMB) representative who travels frequently to Cuba. “Even though they themselves had had a lot of loss and a lot of damage, they’ve been coming together to try to help people in the community.”

The storm’s intensity caught many people unprepared, reports said. Debris, fallen trees and downed electrical poles now block most of the area’s roads, making it difficult to deliver aid supplies by vehicle. The storm also caused a citywide power outage predicted to last several more weeks.

In Santiago, Cuba, Hurricane Sandy caught many of the residents by surprise. Debris, fallen trees and downed electrical poles block most of the area’s roads, and a citywide power outage is predicted to last several more weeks.

To meet the pressing needs for food and water, local Baptist churches have begun setting up the first of 35 planned soup kitchens throughout Santiago and other locations ravaged by the storm.

“As a church, we have proposed to invest all our efforts and resources to help the needy,” one local pastor wrote in a letter to the president of the Baptist Convention of Eastern Cuba. “Today we began to prepare food. Early in the morning we only had a little bit of rice, but thanks to God, with the contributions of various members, we were able to feed 60 people. Tomorrow we will cook for 100. We know this is insufficient, but we have already begun. God will continue to provide.”

Local Cuban Baptists also are gathering clothing and other supplies for people in need. Fourth Baptist Church of Santiago has made their generator available daily so locals can charge cell phones and batteries and watch the television news.

As local Baptists met immediate needs, Cuban Baptists from the western side of the island quickly stepped in to help.

“As soon as the hurricane had passed,” said the IMB representative, “[leaders from the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba] discovered what some needs were, and they immediately loaded a truck with a lot of rice that they had stored for a hurricane and sent it with other foodstuffs and purified water and other things they felt would be needed.”

In addition to meeting physical needs, Cuban Baptists are using the opportunity to reach out to their neighbors spiritually, the IMB worker said.

“Our brothers and sisters [in Cuba] are recognizing that this terrible situation is an amazing opportunity to share the love of Christ in very real and tangible ways,” he said. “They take the call to share the gospel very seriously at all times. But in the midst of their own suffering, that actually draws the church together and it helps them to focus on finding the real needs of their neighbors and demonstrating the love of Christ.”

The disaster has motivated Cuban Baptists to intensify efforts in meeting their national goal of seeing 1 million new believers in Cuba by the year 2020, known as the “20/20 Vision,” the IMB representative said.

“Cuban Baptists from both the Eastern and Western Baptist conventions are very strong, mission-minded, Great Commission Christians,” he said. “And I think, as tragic as this is, this is an opportunity to be a part of seeing a million new believers by 2020. That’s an amazing perspective on things, just recognizing in the midst of this tragedy, God is going to do something amazing for those who love Him.”

In the wake of the disaster, Baptist Global Response (BGR) released $5,000 in emergency funds and anticipates soon providing more funds for relief efforts, said a BGR official. In addition, the Florida Baptist Convention has contributed $5,000 in aid and other state Baptist conventions are planning assistance.

North Carolina Baptist Men has a partnership with the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba.
NCBM has taken the primary role among Baptists in the efforts to help New Jersey after the storm.
For updates from NCBM visit its Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/ncmissions) or website: (http://www.baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Type/Disaster-Relief/Hurricane-Sandy). Donations are accepted online or you can designate your check to “Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief” and send it to: NCBM, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512-1107.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Emily Pearson is an International Mission Board writer living in the Americas.)

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10/31/2012 2:47:12 PM by Emily Pearson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Resolution on pursuit of holiness

October 31 2012 by BR staff

On Oct. 29 the Committee on Resolutions and Memorials made available the only resolution that will be presented during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting Nov. 12-13 in Greensboro. It is available here on the Biblical Recorder website but is also available at ncannualmeeting.org. It will be printed in the special issue of the Biblical Recorder for the Convention.
North Carolina Baptist’s Resolution for the Pursuit of Holiness
Whereas, God has called every Christian to a holy life without exception; and,
Whereas, Believing Romans 13:11 and 12, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”; and,
Whereas, Romans 12:1 and 2 states, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”; and,
Whereas, Holiness is a relationship in Jesus Christ in which the individual is being transformed into an ever-expanding likeness of Christ Himself; and,
Whereas, In obedience to I Peter 1:15 and 16, “But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (behavior); Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy”; and,
Whereas, In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord described the Christian influence as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”; and,
Whereas, Romans 13:14 instructs the Christian to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof”; and,
Whereas, According to Galatians 5:16, this can only be accomplished by walking in the Spirit; and,
Whereas, Galatians 5:22 and 23 provides the evidence of this walk, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance against such there is no law.”; and,
Whereas, Believing the pursuit of true holiness requires the fulfillment of Galatians 5:24, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts”; therefore, be it 
Resolved, That we should live our lives, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” II Peter 1:3; and, be it further
Resolved, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” II Corinthians 7:1; and, be it finally
Resolved, that the messengers gathered in Greensboro, North Carolina, comprising the 182nd annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, commit ourselves before God this day to living holy lives and working to restore strength, unity, and holiness in our churches in order that the Church might rise up and once again boldly proclaim the unchanging Word of God to a lost and dying world in need of a Savior.
10/31/2012 2:41:15 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

5,000 World Series packets given to fans

October 31 2012 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

DETROIT – Volunteers from Michigan Baptist churches distributed some 5,000 packets with evangelistic materials prior to a World Series game at the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park Oct. 27.

“We just thought it was a great opportunity to get the gospel in people’s hands,” said Larry Allen, pastor of Warren Woods Baptist Church in Warren. “Every time there are large numbers of people gathered, there’s an opportunity for us to sow some seed.”

The Oct. 27 game was the third game in the World Series between the Tigers and the San Francisco Giants. The Giants ended up sweeping the series with a win Oct. 28.

At the World Series in Detroit, Michigan pastor Larry Allen distributes packets of evangelistic materials to fan headed to the Oct. 27 game between the Tigers and the San Francisco Giants.

Michigan Baptists compiled the outreach packets that included materials from the North American Mission Board’s “Find It Here” campaign as well as trading cards of current and former Detroit Tigers with their testimonies on the back. About 20 volunteers participated in the packet assembly and distribution.

“Mobilizing churches in evangelism is one of our top priorities,” said Bobby Gilstrap, lead state missionary and executive director of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. “When we saw this great opportunity open up to share Christ with thousands of fans, we just had to be a part.”

Gilstrap said the reports of those involved have been encouraging, as the volunteers had several opportunities to engage in spiritual conversations with the fans.

“Only God will know the eternal impact of the contacts made last Saturday night,” Gilstrap said.

Allen said he didn’t have many chances to engage people in serious conversations because most were in a hurry to get into the stadium. But he still trusts that the effort was worthwhile.

“As we were assembling the things, we were praying that God would get them in the right hands,” Allen said. “We have prayed that those people who did receive them would take a moment to read the materials. We believe that God’s Word doesn’t return void.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is editor of BPSports. He also is director of media relations for Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

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10/31/2012 2:30:42 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Study: Record number of TV gay characters

October 31 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – The new broadcast television season apparently will have the highest percentage of gay and lesbian characters ever, according to an annual report by a prominent gay group.

The “Where We Are on TV” report by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) shows that 4.4 percent of all characters on broadcast scripted programs during the 2012-13 season will be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. That’s an increase from 2.9 percent in 2011, 3.9 percent in 2010, 3 percent in 2009, 2.6 percent in 2008 and 1.1 percent in 2007. All total, 48 characters on scripted programming are LGBT, GLAAD said.

“This year’s increase of LGBT characters on television reflects a cultural change in the way gay and lesbian people are seen in our society,” GLAAD president Herndon Graddick said in the report.

ABC leads the way with 5.2 percent of its characters identifying as gay on programs “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Revenge,” “Scandal,” “Mistresses,” “Happy Endings,” “Malibu Country,” “Suburgatory,” “The Middle” and “Modern Family.”

Fox is second in the number of gay characters (5.1 percent) on programs “Bones,” “American Dad,” “Glee,” “The Cleveland Show” and “The Simpsons.”

The CW is in third place (4.9 percent) with programs “Emily Owens, M.D.,” “The L.A. Complex” and “The Carrie Diaries.”

Fourth-place NBC (4.2 percent) has gay characters on “Chicago Fire,” “Smash,” “Go On,” “The New Normal” and “The Office.”

CBS (2.8 percent), in fifth place, has gay characters on “The Good Wife,” “Partners,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Rules of Engagement.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
10/31/2012 2:15:14 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Caribbean hurricane assessment launched

October 30 2012 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba – Baptists in the Caribbean spent the weekend assessing damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, which left at least 62 people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless before it moved on toward eastern coast of the United States.

Teams trained by the aid organization Baptist Global Response (BGR) moved into hurricane-ravaged areas of Cuba as soon as the storm ended, said Patrick Melancon, BGR’s managing director of disaster response.

“Initial reports from the storm zone indicate most of the damage is to homes, infrastructure and agriculture,” Melancon said. “Many organizations are responding to this disaster. BGR, in conjunction with other teams on the ground, is supplying funds for the initial needs of drinking water and food at feeding centers.”

Baptist Global Response released $5,000 in emergency funds over the weekend and anticipates providing another $35,000 for relief efforts within a few days, said David Brown, who with his wife Jo directs BGR work in the Americas. Brown said he has been receiving “a deluge of emails” from Cuba with reports of damage and requests for assistance as well as from stateside partners who have begun formulating plans to respond.

BGR photo

Santiago de Cuba, in eastern Cuba, suffered badly from Hurricane Sandy, reported Baptist pastor Victor Manuel Quesada, who was part of an assessment team that headed into the city after the hurricane passed.

One of those e-mails came late Oct. 26 from Baptist pastor Victor Manuel Quesada in eastern Cuba, who was part of an assessment team that headed into one of the worst-hit areas, the city of Santiago.

“More than 300,000 houses and other facilities have been partially or totally destroyed in the city. Every street in most of the main cities and towns in the province are blockaded by trees, junk and demolished materials,” Quesada wrote. “Food and potable water are a big, growing problem. The situation is indescribable. Families are without homes; electric, hydraulic, and communication are out of service. Most of the churches in the city have been deeply affected. Many of our brothers lost everything; some of them have passed away.”

“State conventions and churches in the U.S. have been seeking information via BGR concerning prayer support, volunteer opportunities and financial support to the crisis,” Brown said. “I expect that the needs in Cuba and Jamaica will be overwhelming for local Baptists to respond.”

The Southern Baptist response coordinated through Baptist Global Response will be based on requests received from on-the-the ground personnel trained by BGR in international disaster response, Melancon added.

“Those personnel are trained to assess in the key life-saving sectors – water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion; food security and nutrition; shelter, settlement and non-food items; and health action,” Melancon said. “Our response to this disaster will be evidence-based and assessment-driven. This methodology prevents the duplication of efforts and targeted assistance to the most needy in the communities we seek to serve.”

Melancon noted that areas in eastern Cuba struck by the high winds were not prepared for the storm because they do not lie along the usual tracks of hurricanes in the region.

Southern Baptists are able to respond to disasters because of the generous support of individuals, churches and groups, Melancon added. Any identified need for volunteers will be coordinated through the disaster relief offices of Southern Baptist state conventions.

In an Oct. 26 email Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM), asked for prayers for the people of Cuba. With sustained winds of 105 mph, Sandy, then a category 2 storm, struck near Santiago, Cuba. NCBM has a partnership with the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba.
For updates from NCBM visit its Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/ncmissions) or website: (http://www.baptistsonmission.org/Projects/Type/Disaster-Relief/Hurricane-Sandy). Donations are accepted online or you can designate your check to “Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief” and send it to: NCBM, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512-1107.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response.)

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10/30/2012 3:21:19 PM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Richard Land endorses Mitt Romney

October 30 2012 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Southern Baptists’ most prominent policy commentator, Richard Land, has endorsed Mitt Romney for president.

Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), made the endorsement – marked with three qualifiers – in a non-SBC role he also holds as executive editor of The Christian Post, an independent news website with a national and international audience.

“I have broken a 24-year, seven-election tradition of not endorsing a candidate as a private citizen,” Land said in an interview with Baptist Press after making his Oct. 26 endorsement.

“In previous elections, as I prayed about it, I did not have the deep conviction that this was the most important election in my lifetime and perhaps the most important election since 1860.

“This election, I did. And I felt compelled to act upon it in my right as a private citizen,” Land told Baptist Press.

Land’s endorsement comes in the context of an Oct. 12 story in Baptist Press (BP) about the ERLC’s party platform voter guide in which he was paraphrased as stating that the commission “does not affiliate with any political party and does not endorse candidates.”
The ERLC, Land was quoted as saying, “believes that the Lord alone is the Lord of the conscience and that voters should cast their ballot according to the dictates of their conscience.”

Land’s endorsement also comes in the context of LifeWay Research polling that found 52 percent of 1,000 Protestant pastors disagreeing with making personal political endorsements, while 44 percent agreed with the statement, “I personally endorsed candidates for public office this year, but only outside of my church role.” The survey, carried by Baptist Press on Oct. 1, also found that 87 percent of pastors said they should not endorse candidates from the pulpit.

“I would agree if LifeWay had asked me, I would have said, No, I don’t think pastors should be endorsing candidates from the pulpit,” Land told BP. “Normally, I would agree with those who think we shouldn’t [endorse candidates] even as private citizens.”

But Land, in his endorsement of Romney in The Christian Post, asserted that the stakes in this year’s presidential election “could not be higher morally, socially, or economically.”
Referencing the platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties in his column, Land noted the Democrats’ embrace of abortion and same-sex marriage versus the Republicans’ pro-life and pro-family stances.

“For Christians of traditional religious faith,” Land wrote, “there cannot be more fundamental issues than the protection of the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death and the defense of marriage as a divinely-ordained institution between one man and one woman.”

Land told Baptist Press that “once in a while, an election is important enough that one has to make an exception to the rule [of not endorsing a candidate]. And for me, this is such a time.”

Land has led the ERLC since 1988 and has announced his retirement for October of next year.

Among the three qualifiers to his endorsement, Land wrote: “I’m doing this in my individual capacity as a citizen of the United States and this does not reflect or constitute an endorsement by any other institution or organization with which I am affiliated.”

Roger S. Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee, in a press statement Oct. 26, said the SBC “has entrusted the supervision of its entity leaders to their respective board of trustees.”

Oldham also said, “... the so-called separation of church and state has never meant the separation of one’s faith from public life. The Southern Baptist Convention has a longstanding practice of speaking to moral issues on the national stage, such as abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, traditional (biblical) marriage, pornography, homosexuality, racism, and corporate greed, just to name a few. While many of these have political implications, Southern Baptists in their formal statements have chosen to speak to the issues rather than endorse particular candidates. As he noted in his press release, Richard Land made this endorsement as a private citizen, not in his official role as president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He apparently did so as a matter of conscience, apparently believing the issues are so pronounced and the stakes so high that he made the decision to break with his own past practice.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
10/30/2012 3:14:21 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

After winning free campus, GCU says ‘no thanks’

October 30 2012 by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Religion News Service

Five weeks after accepting a free, 217-acre campus in western Massachusetts, a for-profit Christian university has walked away from the gift.
Grand Canyon University (GCU) of Phoenix, Ariz. faced millions in unanticipated costs as it moved to open its first East Coast campus in Northfield, Mass., according to GCU President Brian Mueller. So rather than complete a property transfer from the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma, GCU decided to dissolve the deal.
“We were willing to make a $150 million investment, but we really had trouble with the city of Northfield,” Mueller said. “Northfield was concerned that growing the campus to 5,000 students would alter the basic culture and the basic feel of the area.”
The surprise development marks the second time in less than a year that plans to give away the free, newly renovated campus have collapsed.
The Greens, who bought the property in 2009 with plans to give it to a Christian institution, initially offered it to the C.S. Lewis Foundation to launch a C.S. Lewis College on the site. But fundraising efforts for the college fell short last year. In January, the Greens began soliciting new proposals, and in September named GCU the recipient.
The other finalist to receive the campus was the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, which later withdrew.
But GCU got little local cooperation, Mueller said. Not only would the town not help cover $30 million in sewer and road upgrades, but it also reportedly called on GCU to conduct an environmental impact study at the university’s expense.
“We were ending up having to cover the burden of all of that,” Mueller said. “It started to get overwhelming.”
As the Greens prepare to reopen the gifting process, the prospect of local opposition looms. Some residents protested earlier this year when Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University emerged as a top contender.
“One thing that is anathema to any quick resolution is if there is another outcry locally in Northfield when the selection process begins anew,” said an e-mail from Jerry Pattengale, a college administrator who’s overseeing the gifting process for the Greens, who own the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts chain.
“While most communities nationwide are offering amazing abatements and have teams that roll out the red carpets for new businesses ... many in Northfield basically shut doors or tried to.”
Formerly owned by Northfield Mount Hermon School, the 43-building campus carries symbolic importance for evangelicals since it was established in 1879 by famed evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Several Christian organizations remain interested in the campus, Pattengale said. Selecting a new recipient is expected to take at least a year.
Hobby Lobby President Steve Green said the family was “disheartened” by GCU’s decision, but finds it “understandable” in light of the unforeseen hurdles. “Many groups have expressed an interest in the campus,” Green said. “We will begin a new search soon.”
10/30/2012 3:00:03 PM by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Planned Parenthood rescued by Texas court

October 30 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Planned Parenthood has gained another reprieve in its ongoing battle against Texas to retain millions of dollars in government funding.
A judge in Austin, Texas, ordered the state Oct. 26 to put a stop for the time being to enforcement of a law that prohibits Planned Parenthood from participating in a women’s health program. State judge Amy Clark Meachum scheduled a Nov. 8 hearing in Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit, in addition to issuing the temporary restraining order, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider, gained the legal victory a day after being dealt a setback in the federal court system. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected Planned Parenthood’s request for its full panel of judges to rehear its case. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit ruled in August the state had shown it likely would succeed in demonstrating it had not violated Planned Parenthood’s First Amendment rights and could enforce the law.

The 2011 law bars the state from contracting under the Texas Medicaid Women’s Health Program with organizations that “perform or promote elective abortions or affiliate with entities that perform or promote elective abortions.” The ban reportedly affects only Planned Parenthood. More than 1,000 health-care providers certified for the program are not affiliated with abortion clinics, according to the Texas Alliance for Life.

After failing in federal court, Planned Parenthood tried a new strategy in state court. It said the law should be ruled “inoperable” if it costs it federal money, which constitutes about 90 percent of the program’s funds, according to the American-Statesman.

Gov. Rick Perry said in a written statement after Meachum’s order, “If there was ever any doubt that Planned Parenthood is more concerned about its own interests than those of Texas women, there is no longer. Having lost on its constitutional claims, Planned Parenthood has now turned to Travis County judges in a desperate effort to find some way to keep making money off Texas taxpayers. In Texas, we’ve chosen to protect innocent life. We will keep fighting for life, and we will ultimately prevail.”

In its suit in state court, Planned Parenthood said the law would cost it $13 million, result in the shutdown of six or seven Texas clinics and require another six or seven centers to reduce hours or workers, the American-Statesman reported.

Pete Schenkkan, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood, said in a written release the Texas law “is invalid under state law and, most importantly, threatens the integrity of the program and harms women who rely on Planned Parenthood, the provider of choice for nearly half of the patients” in the program.

In March, the Obama administration announced it would not grant a waiver to the women’s health program because of the ban on Planned Parenthood, thereby ending federal funding for services to about 130,000 women.

Texas will move ahead with plans to start a state-financed, women’s health program as early as Nov. 1, a state official said, according to the newspaper. The cost of the program is expected to be about $36 million next year.

“Abortion-centered organizations like Planned Parenthood neither need nor deserve taxpayer dollars,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, in a written statement.

“Texas has shown the rest of America what it means to be both pro-woman and pro-life,” she said.

Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Planned Parenthood and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements during its 2009-10 fiscal year.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press.)

Related story

Planned Parenthood gains court victories
10/30/2012 2:47:29 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Justice system needs ‘appropriate adjustments’

October 30 2012 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – A reformation of America’s criminal justice system should focus on restitution for victims, rehabilitation for offenders and safety for the public, a Southern Baptist ethicist and several other religious leaders said in briefing at the U.S. Capitol.
The panelists called for re-examination of a system that has resulted in the world’s largest prison population at 2.3 million people and a cost to taxpayers of $70 billion a year, according to the event’s sponsors. Their recommendations included establishing a national commission to study criminal justice in the country and considering a revision of mandatory minimum sentences, especially for non-violent offenders.

Barrett Duke of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission points to some theological truths about criminal justice at a Washington, D.C., briefing.

“[W]e need a commission to study the entire criminal justice system, the way we are doing criminal justice at this point, and find out where it’s working and where it’s not and be prepared to make appropriate adjustments,” Southern Baptist ethicist Barrett Duke said in agreeing with a recommendation by co-panelist Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). “If the mandatory minimums are not sensitive enough, then that needs to be addressed.”

Duke is vice president for public policy and research of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Carey is NAE’s vice president for government relations.

In his presentation, Duke offered seven theological truths related to crime and punishment that included these comments:
  • “God is the ultimate law-giver. There are universal standards of right and wrong.
  • “God instituted government to enforce His standards.
  • “People are personally responsible for their actions.
  • “Crime against others should be punished.
  • “All people are created in the image of God and are due appropriate respect. In this context, it means protection and adequate care of prisoners is appropriate.
  • “The punishment should fit the crime. Neither leniency nor excess should be tolerated.
  • “Punishment should be restorative whenever possible. Rehabilitation should be the goal in most instances, not retribution.”
Duke also cited a personal theological principle, saying Jesus’ teaching and Christian compassion require that he “minister to the prisoner regardless of his crime. Christians believe in second chances. All of us received a second chance through our faith in Jesus Christ when God forgave us of our sin.”

The briefing’s sponsors – Justice Fellowship and Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) – pointed to the following statistics to illustrate the crime-and-punishment problem in the United States:
  • America is the No. 1 jailer in the world.
  • The federal prison system has nearly 220,000 inmates, nearly 40 percent more than it is designed to handle.
  • More than half (51 percent) of federal prisoners are incarcerated for a drug crime.
  • More than 60 percent of federal drug offenders received mandatory minimum sentences during the last fiscal year.
  • Nearly 53 percent of all sentenced drug offenders had few or no prior offenses.
  • 1 million additional government employees have been hired in America’s corrections system since 1980.
  • One in 33 Americans is on probation, on parole or incarcerated at this time.
  • The arrest rate for murder in 2011 was only 30 percent in Chicago and 50 percent in Detroit.
Too many inmates, especially in federal prisons, are not “truly dangerous people,” said FAMM government affairs counsel Molly Gill, who served as moderator of the Oct. 11 panel discussion.

Other panelists criticized mandatory minimum sentencing laws, but Duke said the ERLC supports them.

“In our opinion, minimum sentences are useful, because they help prevent the influence of the biases of judges, because judges also bring their own biases into the courtroom and there may be a time when a judge is too lenient or too extreme on a particular issue,” he said.

Duke acknowledged such laws may need to be revisited for correction.

Some panelists called for alternatives to imprisonment for some offenders. One of NAE’s recommendations to Congress, Carey said, urges: “Expand the use of alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders with a focus on victim restitution and community service.”

Panelists also urged a cap on what are sometimes excessive phone rates from prisons so inmates and their families can remain in contact. “[I]t’s been demonstrated that the level of connection that prisoners have with their families while they’re behind bars has a big effect on how they do when they come out,” Carey said.

Though Duke acknowledged rehabilitation of offenders is a goal, he said, “[T]here are times when incarceration is not for rehabilitation ... and we believe capital punishment is appropriate at times.”

Also speaking at the briefing were Craig DeRoche, vice president of Justice Fellowship, and Kathy Saile, director of domestic social development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
10/30/2012 2:32:01 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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