October 2014

Churches and same-sex marriage seminar at annual meeting

October 31 2014 by BSC Communications

Pastors and other congregational leaders interested in developing a gospel-centered response to same-sex marriage are invited to a seminar being held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).

On Monday afternoon Nov. 10, North Carolina Baptists have the opportunity to meet with Lynn Buzzard, retired professor from the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University. Buzzard will lead a discussion related to potential challenges facing churches in light of the recent actions of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding same-sex marriage; these actions have legalized same-sex marriage in North Carolina.

Directors of missions across the state have already received resources developed by BSC staff, in consultation with Buzzard, titled, “Samples and Templates for the Development of Position Statements on Marriage, Wedding Policies and Facility Use Policies.” This resource has been provided to directors of missions for their use as they assist church leaders with legal issues.

While the development of appropriate policies are an important first step in addressing potential challenges, policies alone should not be the focus of the church regarding same-sex marriage. “The gospel cannot and should not be reduced to a policy. There will be great opportunities to share the life transforming truths of Jesus, while standing firmly upon the teachings of scripture about marriage, as we engage our communities and culture,” said Brian Davis, BSC associate executive director-treasurer.

The seminar, while addressing policies, will engage participants in conversation about the larger issue of the church and homosexuality.

The seminar will take place from 3:30-5 p.m. in Auditorium IV, located on the third floor of the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. If you have not received a copy of the samples and templates, this document is also available for download from the BSC’s Christian Life and Public Affairs blog: http://blog.ncbaptist.org/clpa/
10/31/2014 11:57:45 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Bolster family, ERLC speakers urge

October 31 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Evangelical Christians should graciously and truthfully minister to homosexual people while also pursuing a family reformation, speakers said Oct. 29 in the final session of a Southern Baptist-sponsored conference.
A leading Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastor, Baptist educators and leaders in the movement to strengthen and protect marriage addressed attendees, who totaled more than 1,300 registrants, at “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage,” the first national conference of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Christians need not adopt the two-option narrative – “affirmation or alienation” – offered by American culture in regards to homosexuality, J.D. Greear told the audience in the closing address of the three-day conference. Instead, he said Jesus provides another alternative – “full of grace and truth” – that calls for courageous proclamation of God’s Word and compassionate outreach to human beings.


ERLC Photo
“As believers, as Christians, we have to love our gay neighbor more than we love our position on sexual morality, which means that our relationship with them must not be contingent upon their agreeing with us about sexuality,” J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church, said Oct. 29 during the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s conference, “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage.”


“As believers, as Christians, we have to love our gay neighbor more than we love our position on sexual morality, which means that our relationship with them must not be contingent upon their agreeing with us about sexuality,” said Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. “It means that when they disagree with us we don’t push them away.”
Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife, told attendees the church has “an unprecedented opportunity” at this cultural moment. Christians need the rallying cry of “a family reformation,” he said.

“[F]or many Americans, the unmet thirst for a good marriage, a solid family represents a need we must address as followers of Jesus Christ,” Rainey said. To have a family reformation, the church must “set its sights on becoming the marriage and family equipping center in their community,” he said.
Greear offered nine ways Christ’s teaching in the Gospels shows how “Jesus-representing churches” can minister with “grace and truth” to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Such churches, he said, will:

  • Be known as the friends of the LGBT community.

  • Not stigmatize sexual sin.

  • Put forward God’s design for sexuality, not merely condemn its aberrations.

  • Begin with a call to repentance.

  • Not be bullied into silence.

  • Preach the possibility of sexual-orientation change but acknowledge that may not happen in this life.

  • Present the multi-faceted beauty of the gospel in dealing with sexual sin.

  • Not fear suffering for Christian confession.

  • Not make sexual ethics, but the gospel, the center of their message.”

Sexual ethics, Greear told the audience, “should not be central or dominant in our message. His cross should be.”
The Christian call for repentance should not focus exclusively on homosexuality, he said. “Our message is not simply, ‘Stop your sexual sin.’ Our message is, ‘Behold your God,’ because it is amazement at God’s love for us that delivers us from all the lesser attractions.”
He also said, “If what the Bible says about homosexuality is true, how can it be loving not to tell them?”
Greear apologized for the failure of Christians, including himself, to stand up to abuse and injustice toward those in the LGBT community.
“I think the question for us as church leaders is: Have you drawn the gay and lesbian community close?” he said. “Are you their friends? When you find out someone is gay, how interested are you in them as a person beyond their sexuality? Do you see them primarily as gay and lesbian or do you see them primarily as people created in the image of God just like you but with gay and lesbian desires? ... Would gay and lesbian people feel loved to be in your home?”
In addition to calling for a family reformation, Rainey also urged husbands and wives to pray together daily and encouraged churches to “enlist, equip and empower couples to become missional.”
“Don’t ever threaten divorce in your marriage,” he said. “If you have, repent. Ask your spouse to forgive you. Get down on one knee with a child and weep and say, ‘That will never happen again.’
“We must repent of our cavalier attitude about divorce while at the same time loving those who are divorced.”
He told attendees, “The Great Commission begins at home, but it’s not intended to stay at home. The family is not designed by God to be a holy huddle but to pierce the darkness.”
Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the biggest shift in parenting is “not only filtering” but of “interpreting culture in light of God’s Word.”
Allen, a member of a panel discussing the preparation of next-generation leaders for a “post-marriage culture,” pointed parents to the church. “Don’t underestimate the formative power of the local church, and have your family deeply immersed in the local church,” he said. Over 10 to 20 years, children in the church are “being formed holistically by the people of God.”
Steven Smith, vice president for student services and communication at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the audience, “We have to avoid the persecution complex ... wearing our feelings on our sleeves. The gospel is bigger than that.”
Ryan Anderson, an expert on marriage and religious freedom at the Heritage Foundation, addressed the clash between “sexual freedom and religious liberty.”
“Government ultimately should respect the rights of all citizens,” he said. “And a form of government that’s respectful of free association and free contracts and free speech and free exercise of religion would protect citizens’ rights to live according to their beliefs that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. After all, protecting religious liberty and rights of conscience doesn’t infringe on anyone’s sexual freedom.”
Matt Boswell, pastor of ministries and worship at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, led worship throughout the conference.
Videos of the conference sessions, which were held at the Opryland Retreat and Conference Center, are available at http://erlc.com/conference/liveblog/.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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10/31/2014 11:01:38 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Francis Schaeffer ‘indispensable’ to SBC

October 31 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The late Francis Schaeffer was known to pick up the phone during the early years of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) conservative resurgence. Paige Patterson knew to expect a call from Schaeffer around Christmas with the question, “You’re not growing weary in well-doing are you?”
Patterson, a leader in the movement to return the SBC to a high view of scripture, would reply, “No, Dr. Schaeffer. I’m under fire, but I’m doing fine. And I’m trusting the Lord and proceeding on.”
To some it may seem strange that an international Presbyterian apologist and analyst of pop culture would take such interest in a Baptist controversy over biblical inerrancy.
But to Schaeffer it made perfect sense.
He believed churches were acquiescing to the world, abandoning their belief that the Bible is without error in everything it said. A watered-down theology left the SBC with decreased power to battle cultural evils. To Schaeffer the convention was the last major American denomination with hope for reversing this “great evangelical disaster,” as he put it.
Thirty years after Schaeffer’s death, Baptist leaders still remember how he took time from his speaking, writing and filmmaking schedule to quietly encourage Patterson; Paul Pressler, a judge from Texas with whom Patterson worked closely during the conservative resurgence; Adrian Rogers, a Memphis pastor who served three terms SBC president; and others.
By the early 1990s, conservatives had elected an unbroken string of convention presidents and moved in position to shift the balance of power on all convention boards and committees from the theologically moderate establishment. But at the time of Schaeffer’s annual calls, the outcome of the controversy was still in doubt.
“I strongly suspect that he was afraid I would not hold strong,” Patterson, now president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, told Baptist Press (BP). “He had seen so many people fold up under pressure that he assumed we probably would too. So he would call and ask for a report.”

A worldwide ministry

Schaeffer was born in 1912 in Germantown, Pa., and was saved at age 18 through a combination of personal Bible reading and attending a tent revival meeting. Within months of his conversion he felt called to vocational ministry and eventually enrolled at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied New Testament under J. Gresham Machen and apologetics under Cornelius Val Til.
Schaeffer withdrew from Westminster before he graduated to attend the more fundamentalist-leaning Faith Theological Seminary in Wilmington, Del. In keeping with early 20th-century fundamentalism, Schaeffer emphasized separation from the world and personal holiness. Among the practices he opposed were theater attendance and dancing. Schaeffer retained his fundamentalist commitments through 10 years of pastoring in the U.S. and then service as a Presbyterian missionary in Europe.
In the early 1950s, however, a crisis of faith led Schaeffer and his wife Edith to begin engaging culture with the gospel rather than shunning it. They founded a retreat center in Switzerland called L’Abri – French for “the shelter” – where he studied culture from a Christian perspective and engaged young people with the claims of Christ.
L’Abri grew and was featured in TIME magazine in 1960. Soon Schaeffer emerged as a popular author and speaker, explaining how western civilization had departed from a Judeo-Christian worldview and setting forth Christianity as the only solution to societal ills.
Schaeffer “wakened the cultural consciousness of the evangelical community,” said Bruce Little, director of the Francis Schaeffer Collection at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Schaeffer Collection includes all of the apologist’s personal papers and has been digitized by the North Carolina seminary.
“He thought that man’s dilemma was that man was fighting against the evil of the day, but he wasn’t winning,” Little, who also serves as senior professor of philosophy at Southeastern, said. “Schaeffer thought the answer to this is found in the scriptures.”
From a Christian worldview perspective, Schaeffer wrote and spoke about such topics as the environment, abortion, art, literature, music, intellectual history and denominational decline. In the 1970s and 1980s, audiences packed auditoriums across America to hear him speak. He died of cancer in 1984.

Southern Baptist connections

Schaeffer’s interest in engaging culture made him particularly appealing to Southern Baptist conservatives. He helped provide them with a “battle plan” to fight cultural evils and what they perceived as theological drift in their denomination, said Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary.
“The one thing I heard growing up in Southern Baptist churches that was just plain wrong went something like this,” Land, former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said. “We’re Southern Baptist. That means we don’t get involved in anything controversial. We just preach the gospel.”
As a corrective to that notion, Schaeffer “made it very clear to us that the Bible is true seven days a week, 24 hours a day and its truth is to be applied to every area of life,” Land said.
Along with theologian Carl F.H. Henry, Schaeffer was the key intellectual influence on leaders of the conservative resurgence, Land said. When conservatives started to be elected as the executives of Baptist institutions, Henry spoke at Land’s inauguration at the Christian Life Commission (the ERLC’s precursor), R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky and Timothy George’s at Beeson Divinity School in Alabama.
“If Schaeffer had still been alive, we would have had him come,” Land said. He noted that Schaeffer was “close” to Rogers and “admired” by Bailey Smith, two conservative SBC presidents. Edith Schaeffer and Patterson’s wife Dorothy were close friends and travelled together in the early 1980s speaking on the importance of the home.
Clark Pinnock, a former New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary professor who mentored conservative resurgence leaders before taking a leftward theological turn in his own thinking, served on Schaeffer’s staff at L’Abri.
Another Southern Baptist to feel Schaeffer’s personal influence was James Parker, professor of worldview and culture at Southern Seminary. After reading works by Schaeffer and spending two months at L’Abri during his doctoral studies at Basel University in Switzerland, Parker decided he wanted to open a center for evangelism and discipleship like Schaeffer’s.
In 1992 Parker founded the Trinity Institute, a nonprofit study and retreat center near Waco, Texas, where he tutors individuals in the Christian faith and hosts conferences exploring the integration of Christianity to all areas of life.
Schaeffer was “a paradigm for the engagement of the mind for the faith, and so that was quite inspirational and encouraging to me,” Parker told BP.

Pro-life issues

The pro-life cause was one area in which Schaeffer strongly influenced evangelicals, including Southern Baptists. With his book and accompanying film series Whatever Happened to the Human Race? – coauthored with C. Everett Koop, who went on to become U.S. surgeon general – Schaeffer helped convince Southern Baptists that they had to protest abortion.
In a 1979 interview with BP editor Art Toalston, then-religion editor of the Jackson Daily News in Mississippi, Schaeffer said the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion was “completely arbitrary medically” in its assumption that “a human being is a person at one moment and not another.”
He added that the ruling “doesn’t conform to past rulings at all. It invalidated the abortion laws of almost every state in the union. In all these states, the people as a whole felt that abortion was wrong. But the Supreme Court says it’s right.
“Not having a Christian absolute that says the Supreme Court’s ruling is wrong because it breaks the ethic God has revealed, people took what the law says to be right,” Schaeffer said.
Prominent Southern Baptist conservatives, including W.A. Criswell of First Baptist Church in Dallas and Carl Henry, were not always pro-life, Land explained, but shifted their views as they saw the massive loss of life caused by abortion – a tragedy that Schaeffer highlighted.
Whatever Happened to the Human Race? was and is “devastating” to the abortion movement, Land said. “How anybody can read that book and not be motivated to take part in pro-life marches is beyond me.”

Finishing well

Little understands firsthand why Schaeffer was so influential. He remembers listening to him speak at Liberty University in April 1984, the month before he died. By that time Schaeffer was so weak that he was living on milkshakes and sometimes had to be carried to speaking engagements on a stretcher.
During a question-and-answer session, one student “stood to his feet and said, ‘Dr. Schaeffer, it seems to me that the church is in the 10th round. It’s bloody. It’s beaten. It’s on its knees. Is there any hope we can win?’” Little recounted.
“I can see Schaeffer now,” Little continued. “He leaned forward, brought the mic to his mouth and said, ‘Son, if you do it to win, you’ve lost already.’” Whether they win or lose, Christians fight the culture wars, Schaeffer said, “because our risen Lord has commanded us.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/31/2014 10:56:41 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Marriage equality advocate visits seminary class

October 31 2014 by Keith Collier, Baptist Press

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary ethics professor Evan Lenow recognized the risk of inviting Michael Saltsman, co-founder of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, to his classroom to discuss whether evangelicals should support same-sex marriage. But he also viewed it as a learning opportunity for those called to ministry.
Lenow and Saltsman dialogued on the topic during Lenow’s Bible & Moral Issues class at the seminary Oct. 15.
“It’s humbling to invite someone into my classroom whose goal is to convince my students that I am wrong,” Lenow, who holds the traditional view of marriage, said in a blog post the previous day. “But it is a healthy exercise for both student and professor.”
Saltsman, who serves as research director at Employment Policies Institute and vice president of a research and communications firm in Washington, D.C., grew up in a conservative evangelical family. He is married, and he and his wife have a two-year-old daughter. Although he held to a traditional view of marriage in college, he said discussions with friends who were in same-sex relationships and readings on both sides of the issue caused him to reconsider his position.
“I was very concerned about the way the debate was moving,” Saltsman said. “On the one hand, I really felt like this was an issue on a civil marriage point that the church was wrong on, but on the other hand I was really concerned about the way that people who had reservations about abandoning a traditional view of marriage were being treated.”
This concern led him to be co-founder of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality (EME).
“The idea behind Evangelicals for Marriage Equality,” Saltsman told Lenow’s class, “was to have an organization that said you can be a faithful Christian and a faithful evangelical that supports civil marriage equalities, as the government provides a certain set of benefits and tax treatments to opposite-sex couples that they would also provide them to same-sex couples. But at the same time, that we could have a respect and understanding for those folks who [disagree].”
Saltsman said EME’s board members – including author and former pastor Brian McLaren, who has been widely criticized for departing from orthodox Christianity – would largely identify themselves as “evangelicals.” Asked by Lenow to define the term “evangelical,” Saltsman defined it as someone who focuses on “the authority of scripture, the inerrant Word of God, a personal relationship with Christ, evangelism and sharing the gospel.”
Saltsman said members of EME’s board fall along the spectrum of views on whether homosexuality is a sin – some believing it is, others saying it is not – but, he added, “I would count myself as one of the people who is still undecided on the issue.”
Thus, Saltsman said, EME’s argument for civil same-sex marriage is more a legal position than a theological one.
Lenow, who serves as director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern, countered with scripture he believed clearly defined homosexuality as sin and asked, “If there really is a spectrum of belief across your board of advisors – you actually have people on your board who would say homosexual behavior is sinful and the Bible clearly condemns it as sin – how do you get to the point as evangelicals of saying, ‘This is a sinful behavior that God judges and condemns, yet we want to support it?’“
“We’re protecting a principle rather than promoting a behavior,” Saltsman said, adding that Christians often “stand for the rights of people who we either think are heretics or whose beliefs we don’t believe in.” He said EME advocates “equal treatment under the law.”
Lenow pushed back, saying he did not understand how evangelicals could give “hardy approval to something God says is sinful.”
“Is that a theologically consistent [position to take]?” Lenow asked.
“In a pluralistic, religiously diverse society such as ours,” Saltsman replied, “I will always stand up for equal protection under the law, even for people who I disagree with and who disagree with my point of view.”
Lenow also asked Saltsman for his definition of marriage, to which Saltsman gave two definitions – the church’s definition and the government’s definition – a dichotomy that allows him to have one position theologically and another legislatively.
The two also debated whether recognition of same-sex marriages would open the door in the future for other redefinitions of marriage, including polygamy and incest.
Saltsman agreed that polygamy could “denigrate society” but was dismissive about the potential for society to accept it, adding, “Polygamy isn’t even a discussion,” to which Lenow cited groups already pushing for acceptance of polygamous cohabitation and the potential for polyamorous relationships with multiple husbands and wives.
Lenow argued that opening the door for same-sex marriage becomes a “slippery slope” toward other perversions of traditional marriage. Saltsman said, “In any place where we draw lines … there’s always a way you can say there’s a slippery slope.” He argued that polygamy does not have widespread support by the majority of the population.
The two ended the dialogue with a discussion of whether Christian businessmen and businesswomen should be forced to offer wedding services and venues to same-sex couples. Both agreed this is a religious liberty issue and that Christians should not be persecuted for holding to their religious convictions. Lenow encouraged Saltsman and EME to take a stronger stand on this side of the religious liberty argument.
Following the dialogue, both Saltsman and Lenow expressed appreciation for an opportunity to discuss the issue with civility and Christian character. Students were given the opportunity to dialogue further with the two after class was dismissed.
“Today’s conversation in Fort Worth might not have solved the marriage equality debate,” Saltsman told the Southern Baptist TEXAN newsjournal, “but it still provided an important opportunity to explain that it’s possible to be a faithful evangelical and a supporter of civil marriage equality.” Saltsman said he appreciated “the back-and-forth with Dr. Lenow, who initially proposed this conversation and was kind enough to host it in his classroom.”
Lenow expressed appreciation for Saltsman’s willingness to speak to his class.
“Too often those on different sides of an issue talk at each other rather than with each other,” Lenow told the TEXAN. “This discussion demonstrated that two people can disagree on a significant topic and still have a civil conversation.
“There was a great risk in bringing Michael Saltsman into my classroom because he had everything to gain while I had everything to lose. However, I am confident that the biblical design of marriage is able to withstand critique from both inside and outside the church. In addition, my students need to know what people on the other side of the debate are actually saying. I hope my students benefited from the discussion and are more prepared to engage in similar discussions on their own.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Keith Collier is editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

10/31/2014 10:48:10 AM by Keith Collier, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Jack Graham named honorary prayer chairman

October 31 2014 by Berta Delgado-Young, Baptist Press

The National Day of Prayer Task Force has named Jack Graham, who served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, as honorary chairman for the 2015 National Day of Prayer.
Graham leads the 37,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church, which includes three locations in the Dallas area. He is also the voice of PowerPoint Ministries, a radio and television broadcast ministry from the Prestonwood pulpit that shares the gospel throughout the world.
The 64th annual National Day of Prayer will be held on Thursday, May 7, in Washington, D.C. Graham will lead the members of Congress in prayer. The theme for 2015 will be “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”


Jack Graham


“It is a privilege to lead the National Day of Prayer,” Graham said. “More than anything, in this desperate hour, may our hearts cry out to God for the healing of our nation’s spiritual brokenness. May Jesus be exalted and may God’s people be awakened to a new obedience to fulfill the Great Commission.”
Written by Graham, the following prayer below will be read simultaneously throughout the country at noon (EDT) where prayer observances are held:
Heavenly Father,
We come to You in the Name that is above every name – Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Our hearts cry out to You.
Knowing that You are a prayer-answering, faithful God – the One we trust in times like these – we ask that You renew our spirits, revive our churches, and heal our land.
We repent of our sins and ask for Your grace and power to save us. Hear our cry, oh God, and pour out Your Spirit upon us that we may walk in obedience to Your Word.
We are desperate for Your tender mercies. We are broken and humbled before You.
Forgive us, and in the power of Your great love, lift us up to live in Your righteousness.
We pray for our beloved nation. May we repent and return to You and be a light to the nations. And we pray for our leaders and ask that You give them wisdom and faith to follow You.
Preserve and protect us, for You are our refuge and only hope.
Deliver us from all fears except to fear You, and may we courageously stand in the Truth that sets us free.
We pray with expectant faith and grateful hearts.
In Jesus’ name, our Savior.
The National Day of Prayer was established in 1952 when Congress approved a resolution calling on the president to establish such an annual event. It was first observed by President Harry S. Truman. The resolution was amended in 1988 to establish the first Thursday of May for the annual observance.
“The president shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer,” the resolution states, “on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups and as individuals.”
Graham, who has led Prestonwood since 1989, is the author of numerous books, including Unseen: Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Winning the Battle for Eternity, A Man of God, Powering Up and, with his wife Deb, Courageous Parenting.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Berta Delgado-Young is communications editor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.)

10/31/2014 10:41:41 AM by Berta Delgado-Young, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Houston mayor to drop subpoenas of ministers

October 30 2014 by Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press

The subpoenas will be withdrawn, Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced Oct. 29.
The word “subpoenas” grabbed national attention after it became known that five Houston ministers were being subpoenaed for sermons and other private correspondence regarding their opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).
“I don’t want to have a national debate about freedom of religion,” Parker said in a news conference, according to the Houston Chronicle, “when my whole purpose is to defend a strong and wonderful and appropriate city ordinance against local attack. And by taking this step today we remove that discussion about freedom of religion.” Parker, who is openly gay, championed the ordinance known as HERO among its supporters.
The subpoenas were part of the city’s effort to defend itself against a lawsuit challenging its disqualification of a petition drive to vote on the ordinance, which has added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Houston’s list of protected classifications such as race, religion, sex and disability.
Foes of the ordinance, adopted in a controversial city council vote in May, have voiced concern that it will violate the religious freedom of business owners and others who disagree with the measure’s expanded classifications.
Also, opponents say it will make women and children vulnerable to sexual predators by permitting people to use public restrooms of the gender they identify with rather than those of their natural gender.
Among the subpoenaed pastors: Khanh Huynh, senior pastor of Vietnamese Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation.
Parker’s announcement followed meetings she had with pastors on Oct. 28, one with local pastors and one with seven pastors who flew to Houston to speak with the mayor, the Chronicle reported.
Myke Crowder, one of the out-of-town pastors, told the Chronicle, “What we did was to simply respectfully articulate our concerns ... [to] help her to understand a broader picture than what she might have seen before. She honestly listened, she asked hard questions, fair questions, and we gave her fair and honest answers.” Crowder, from Layton, Utah, is pastor of Christian Life Church there.
An “I Stand Sunday” simulcast (http://istandsunday.com) slated for Nov. 2 will go forward, a key organizer told Baptist Press. The rally is being sponsored by the Family Research Council based in Washington, D.C. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is slated to be among the featured speakers, along with former Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a Fox TV host; Ed Young, a former SBC president and longtime pastor of Houston’s Second Baptist Church; “Duck Dynasty” personality Phil Robertson; and Fox News commentator Todd Starnes.
Floyd, in an Oct. 29 statement to Baptist Press, said he still plans to be there. “We look forward to holding high the necessity of religious liberty in our nation as well as the desperate need for revival in the church and spiritual awakening in America,” Floyd said.
The subpoenas, which broke into the news in mid-October though they were issued in September, have been met with widespread protest and alarm.
Baptist theological conservatives and moderates, for example, joined in an Oct. 16 letter to Parker asking her and the city “to acknowledge that the issuing of these subpoenas is improper and unwarranted, in order to ensure that such will not happen again. Whatever a church or synagogue or mosque or any other religious body believes about marriage or sexuality, the preaching and teaching of those bodies should be outside the scope of government intimidation or oversight.”
“This is about more than ‘walking back’ a bad public relations move,” the Baptist leaders, including Russell D. Moore of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in the letter. “This is about something that is fundamental to basic, self-evident rights ... endowed not by government but by nature and nature’s God.”
Floyd, in an Oct. 20 blog as SBC president, wrote, “Regardless of the nature of communications they want from the pastors and churches, this ... is a clear attempt to silence the voice of the Church in Houston, Texas, America, and the world....
“Southern Baptist family, we must rise up together and be clear in Houston and beyond,” Floyd, pastor of the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, wrote. “While many in mainline denominations will shy away from this discussion, and some evangelicals may also be silent, as Baptists, we must rise up and be very clear.... God alone is the Lord of the conscience and Government has no right to manipulate or intimidate any of us regarding religious conviction and practice.”
Huckabee, in a commentary about “the heavy-handed” Houston mayor during his Oct. 18 “Huckabee” program on Fox, said, “So, I’ve got an idea – if she wants some sermons, here’s my suggestion. I’d like to ask every pastor in America, not just the ones in Houston, send her your sermons. Obviously, she could use a few. So, if you’re a pastor, send them to her. And here’s another thought, everybody watching the show ought to send her a Bible. That’s right, everybody. I hope she gets thousands and thousands of sermons and Bibles.”
News reports have acknowledged an influx of sermons to Parker’s office through such protests by Huckabee and others.
“Should the government demand that pastors hand over their sermons, sermon notes and even correspondence with their members?” Huckabee asked in his commentary. “Sure, it happens in North Korea, China and Iran, but should churches in America just sit back and shut up when their religious liberty, free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion is directly threatened? Just when you thought someone in government couldn’t display greater disregard for the Constitution after all the things like the Internal Revenue Service scandals, spying on reporters, collecting our emails and phone records, and forcing taxpayers to fund the slaughter of unborn children, we see yet another stunning example of reckless abuse of power.”
In addition to Huynh, the other subpoenaed ministers are Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, and three pastors: Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church, where the I Stand Sunday rally will be hosted; Magda Hermida of Magda Hermida Ministries; and Hernan Castano of Rios de Aceite. The ministers are not plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city but have been outspoken in their opposition to the ordinance as members of the No UNequal Rights Coalition.
After enactment of the ordinance in May, opponents began a petition drive to place repeal of the ordinance before Houston voters. They submitted about 31,000 signatures – among more than 50,000 collected and nearly 14,000 more than required to qualify for a referendum. City attorney David Feldman, however, disqualified enough of the signatures to prevent a vote on repeal. In response, HERO opponents filed suit, seeking to gain court approval for a referendum. A court hearing is scheduled for January.
The subpoenas had demanded a wide range of communications by the ministers, include not only emails and text messages but: “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition [for a referendum to overturn the ordinance], Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” The city threatened contempt of court charges – with the possibility of fines and/or jail time – if the pastors did not comply. The word “sermons” later was dropped but failed to quell the outcry.
The I Stand Sunday simulcast is slated to begin at 6 p.m. Central time, originating from Grace Community Church, 14505 Gulf Freeway in Houston.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. With reporting by Bonnie Pritchett of the Southern Baptist TEXAN and Tom Strode, BP’s Washington bureau chief.)

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10/30/2014 12:00:40 PM by Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Former homosexuals: Gospel approach needed

October 30 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Evangelical Christians need to change their approach to the hot-button issues of homosexuality and marriage, thinking with a gospel focus and practicing gospel community, participants in a national conference were told Oct. 28.
Southern Baptist leaders, former practicing homosexuals and others provided guidance to a crowd of about 1,300 registrants on the second day of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) first national conference, “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage.” The event at Opryland Retreat and Conference Center concluded Oct. 29.
Evangelicals cannot repeat the “same old mistakes” in which they “slowly adapted to a sexual revolution that is now ravaging our churches and our culture,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the ERLC.
Instead, “we contend for marriage and we contend for family and we contend for holiness, but we do this in the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. If evangelicals make the same mistakes, Moore told attendees, “we won’t just lose a marriage culture; we will lose the gospel itself.”
Poet Jackie Hill-Perry, who came to Christ out of a lesbian lifestyle, said a church that “is gospel-centered with gospel-centered people” is what has helped her the most in following Jesus. “My greatest growth has been in being connected to a community,” she said.


ERLC photo
Russell Moore talks with Rosaria Butterfield on “Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.”

Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian and now a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother, said, “One of the first things that we can commit ourselves to doing is being a community of believers who share the gift of repentance unto life in a way that other people can see.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if just this week all of your unsaved neighbors actually knew that church membership was a vital, life-giving gift to you,” she said.
David Platt, new president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, pointed attendees to the missiological implications of marriage and singleness. Both portray the gospel, he said. “The purpose of marriage is for the display of the gospel and a demonstration of the glory of our God,” Platt said.
“Today’s cultural climate provides a huge opportunity for gospel witness,” he said.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, urged the audience to follow the New Testament directives for Christians to love and act kindly toward those who oppose them on the marriage issue.
“If you want to fight the culture, you’re not going to win the culture. You’ve got to persuade the culture,” he said.
“We are soaked in an ocean of His grace, and we don’t want to give a cup to anybody.”
Moore said, “If we are responding to those who disagree with us with vented outrage and shock and horror and condemnation, what we are revealing is a lack of confidence in the gospel, in our mission, in our Christ.”
The Oct. 28 addresses and panel discussions continued a recurring theme in the three-day event of calling Christians to preach and live out faithfulness to the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and marriage while also reaching out graciously to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as advocates for same-sex marriage.
Evangelicals did not fare well in the last battle over marriage, which resulted in a divorce culture, Moore said. He pointed to four reasons that happened:

  • “We unintentionally accepted the view of marriage of the culture without ever even knowing that we were doing so.

  • “We were often cowardly and fearful.

  • “The divorce culture happened because it became normal to us.

  • “The reason we adapted to this is because the preaching on this issue was often so genuinely condemnable,” not calling for repentance and not offering reconciliation through Christ.

Of the church’s cowardice, Moore said, “If we are simply standing up and editing the Word of God when it comes to our own sins, if we are willing to preach the gospel except for the very thing that is ravaging our churches at that moment, we are not preaching the gospel at all; we are simply selling indulgences.”
The family values evangelicals assumed the rest of culture shared with them “are no longer there,” Moore told attendees, adding in a reference to John 3. “We cannot go back to the Nicodemus culture of superficial religion.
“Baptizing lost people and teaching them how to vote Republican is not a revival.”
The current upheaval in culture may mean some churches will become unfaithful, while “there are many other congregations that will become authentically counter-cultural communities that stand with the gospel no matter what,” Moore said. “That will mean that we will be uncomfortable with American culture, and we always should have been uncomfortable in American culture.”
Platt drew four missiological conclusions from foundational truths found in Gen. 1-3:

  • “We must flee sexual immorality for the sake of God’s glory in the world.

  • “We must defend and display sexual complementarity in marriage for the spread of God’s gospel in the world.

  • “We must work for justice in the world in order to exalt the judge of the world.

  • “We must spend our singleness and our marriages pursuing peoples still unreached by God’s redeeming love.”

Platt said, “Our bodies have been created not just by God. Our bodies have been created for God.” This culture “screams at every turn, ‘Please your body.’ The Bible shouts at every turn, ‘Please God,’” he said.
In a question-and-answer session with Moore, Butterfield told about God’s salvation of her out of “serially monogamous lesbian relationships” over 10 years. She said of the pastor who, along with his wife, patiently cared for and shared the gospel with her, “I never felt like a project, because Ken Smith always realized that the big sin in my life was unbelief, and everything else would get worked out in the wash.”
The author of the book Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert said “People are not different. Original sin is the great leveling playing field. It democratizes everything. “
In addition to the ministry of other Christians, Hill-Perry, who was married earlier this year, cited two other truths that can help Christians struggling with same-sex attraction: (1) Christians are new creations, and (2) Jesus is “not only Savior from sin but in temptation.”
British pastor Sam Allberry, who has acknowledged he deals with same-sex attraction, commented on the charge that Christians who teach the biblical message on homosexuality harm same-sex-attracted young people:
“We’re not the ones saying that sex is everything. And my concern is that a culture that says, ‘You are your sexuality; sexual fulfillment is the key to human fulfillment,’ I want to turn around and say, ‘Actually, I think that is putting more pressure on young minds and lives than anything we’re saying.’”
Christopher Yuan, a former practicing homosexual who now teaches at Moody Bible Institute, counseled parents to love their LGBT children, which is what his father and mother did.
“I think the last thing is to kick them out of the home,” Yuan said.
“There’s a total war going on,” he said. “And if we push or let go, you’re just pushing them into the world, into the arms of an embracing world. We’ve got to show them what real love is like.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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10/30/2014 11:48:00 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Marijuana: Can U.S. ‘Just say no’?

October 30 2014 by Warren Cole Smith, WNS/Baptist Press

Manitou Springs, a resort town at the foot of Pike’s Peak in Colorado, takes pride in its weirdness and seems to adopt a flippant attitude toward marijuana use. A popular T-shirt plays on the town’s elevation – 6,412 feet above sea level – by suggesting that “the whole town is high.”
But now that Colorado’s Amendment 64 has made recreational marijuana legal in the state, Manitou Springs is wrestling with just how weird and how high it wants to be, since the amendment allows towns to decide for themselves whether to have retail dispensaries.
Like Manitou Springs, many communities are grappling with how to handle marijuana. Since 2012, Washington state also has legalized it for recreational use, and medical marijuana is now legal in 24 states. Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia will vote on legalizing recreational marijuana Nov. 4.
Marijuana possession is prohibited by federal law, but the Obama administration has opted not to prosecute for possession of small amounts in states where pot is legal.
Moral and ethical concerns about pot use are changing. In the 1980s, critics derided the Reagan administration’s War on Drugs and called Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign simplistic, but marijuana use among teens plummeted during that era. By 1990 four of five Americans thought marijuana should be illegal.
Today’s polls, however, show that most Americans favor legalization. In Oklahoma, one of the nation’s reddest states, Democratic state Sen. Constance Johnson is heading an effort to legalize marijuana with, she said, “Genesis 1:29 as the basis of this campaign.” (Genesis 1:29 says, “God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed ... upon the face of all the earth.’”) Johnson, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Oklahoma, hoped to collect 160,000 signatures to put both recreational and medical marijuana on the ballot in November, but she fell short.
Johnson’s debatable use of scripture aside, other questions remain: Is marijuana safe? Do we know what will happen to its price (and therefore its demand) wherever it becomes legal? Is smoking marijuana for relaxation or recreation at home really different from having a glass of wine or, for that matter, cups of coffee that also can have a mind-altering effect?
Rob Schwarzwalder of the Family Research Council (FRC) has examined these questions and concluded that marijuana should not be legalized because “marijuana is intrinsically hallucinogenic and is mind-altering in even the smallest doses.” Today’s marijuana has much higher levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient, than did marijuana available in the past, Schwarzwalder notes.
Among the 60-plus active ingredients in marijuana, some of them can have positive health effects in pill form, such as relieving pain or reducing seizures, Schwarzwalder acknowledges. He does not object to the use of medical derivatives of marijuana in carefully created compounds and for specific applications, “but there’s a difference between taking a pill and smoking a joint. ... Medication taken in pill form is not hallucinogenic.”
Schwarzwalder thinks carefully crafted public policy can allow medical uses of marijuana-based drugs while maintaining a firm stand on legalization, which both he and the FRC oppose. “We use opiates as pain relievers, but no one advocates the legalization of opium,” he points out.
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, takes a similar stance on marijuana. Legalizing recreational marijuana is ill-advised because it often can be a gateway drug to more dangerous substances. Marijuana also introduces toxic chemicals into the body and leads to crime and poverty, Duke has argued in Baptist Press columns.
Legal prescription drugs containing marijuana’s pain relieving ingredient and taken in capsule form can benefit patients suffering from a range of medical conditions, Duke wrote, but the idea of smoking marijuana for medical purposes is questionable.
“The rush to decriminalization in the name of pain control or mental health cannot be justified,” Duke wrote. “Most people who use marijuana to relieve severe pain combine it with stronger pain relievers because marijuana is not effective enough by itself. Furthermore, marijuana’s pain-relieving ingredient has been available by prescription for years. A person can purchase Marinol – right now – with a doctor’s prescription.”

Marijuana-based drugs

Emergency room doctor Tom Minahan, after walking a long and difficult road with his daughter Mallory, opposes the legalization of marijuana but recognizes its potential medical uses.
Minahan, the father of four, is the medical director for two pro-life pregnancy care centers and is active in a California evangelical church who attests, “We take our Christian faith seriously.” But Minahan and his wife Carrin found themselves in a faith-challenging situation when Mallory, now 11, had her first epileptic seizures at 14 months. “Over the next decade or more, we tried everything,” Mallory says of giving his daughter a dozen drugs, sometimes three at once, to control or eliminate the 30-40 seizures she had each month.
Nothing worked, so the Minahans considered giving their daughter Felbatol, which has such serious side effects – including a significant chance of death – that it is truly a last resort. Minahan hated the idea of giving his daughter a drug that might kill her, and the doctor in him was aware of the Hippocratic Oath he had taken: “First, do no harm.” But, he said, “I was at the end of the line. I remember driving to work one day praying, ‘OK, God. I give up. Either fix her or take her home.’”
Before giving Mallory the drug, Minahan decided to attend a conference on cannabis and epilepsy at New York University where he “was surprised to find only a few tie-dyed people. Most of them were pretty normal.” He learned about a strain of marijuana that is low in the hallucinogenic THC and high in CBD (cannabidiol), a non-hallucenogenic compound. Some people with seizures had success taking an oil made from that strain.
Minahan had concerns about the long-term side effects of the marijuana oil. That’s one of the problems with allowing widespread marijuana use: The research on both health effects and societal effects is minimal. That may seem surprising since marijuana has been used widely for a half-century, and archaeologists have found cannabis seeds in Chinese and other tombs dating back at least 3,000 years, but large-scale and long-term scientific studies that meet rigorous academic standards are rare.
Yet for Minahan, the marijuana oil couldn’t be worse than the seizures and drugs that had taken over Mallory’s life. She had not been in school for three years. The constant worry and stress strained his marriage. So beginning in October 2013 he gave marijuana oil a try and “saw immediate effects.” The frequency of seizures declined and Mallory started needing less of her other drugs. By July of this year, Minahan could say, “Mallory’s had just one seizure in the past five weeks. She’s back in school. We have our daughter back. We have our lives back.”
Despite his experience, Minahan is “not a proponent of marijuana first. ... We don’t need America stoned.” He knows that so-called medical marijuana is often a ruse for recreational use and believes people should first exhaust conventional means before trying marijuana-based drugs.
Even though Minahan opposes recreational marijuana use, he realizes that legalizing marijuana could help him indirectly by causing the price to drop. He currently pays about $2,000 per month for Mallory’s marijuana oil, of which his insurance pays nothing. Legalization or even the less radical step of decriminalization – a fine rather than jail time for possession of small amounts – likely will cause a large drop in the price of marijuana.
But some experts say a drop in price will cost society more than it will benefit families like the Minahans. Among the costs of legalization or decriminalization are increased consumption, states Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and co-author of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs To Know.
For states that opt to legalize marijuana, “it is reasonable to incorporate a sunset provision that makes the laws revert back to what they were before reform ... unless extended by the voters or the legislature,” Kilmer said. He cited as justification for a sunset provision “the enormous uncertainty about the outcomes of policy changes and the strong possibility of unintended consequences.”
Few states are following that advice. Neither Colorado nor Washington has a sunset provision in its legislation, and none of the provisions on the fall ballot has sunset provisions.

To legalize or not

Which comes back to Manitou Springs. On a cold night back in January, more than 200 people attended a heated city council meeting, the largest crowd in anyone’s memory in this town of barely 5,000 people. At issue: Could recreational marijuana be legally sold in the town? Mayor Marc Snyder and others in favor said the tax revenue would be more than $160,000 per year, “very significant” for a town the size of Manitou.
Those opposed said the revenue projections – though required by law – have little basis in experience and will likely prove wildly inaccurate. Besides, opponents said, much of the money would have to pay for the problems pot sales would create. Because surrounding towns – including Manitou’s much larger neighbor Colorado Springs – had banned marijuana sales, opponents said Manitou Springs would become a destination for marijuana tourism, a place people would come to get high. A few argued that smoking pot was just plain wrong.
The final vote of the Manitou Springs city council was 6-1 to allow retail sales, but over the summer enough voters signed a citizen petition that the question will be back before voters in November. Although Amendment 64 passed in 2012 with 68 percent of the vote, when voters have cast ballots on retail sales in their own towns, the pro-pot vote has been much lower. Mayor Snyder thinks the November vote – even in this town that takes pride in its progressive posture – “could be very close.”
In the meantime, Manitou Springs’ single retail store opened in July. About 75 people waited in the rain to get in. Among them: Kevin “Sarge” MacDonald, a Manitou Springs city councilman.
More than one local news report noted that the marijuana dispensary is conveniently located next to a Loaf ‘N Jug, a Colorado-based convenience store chain. It seems unlikely, though, that a case of the munchies will be the only side effect of legalizing recreational marijuana.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Warren Cole Smith is vice president of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine (www.worldmag.com) and WORLD News Service. Used by permission. David Roach, Baptist Press chief national correspondent, contributed to this article.)

10/30/2014 11:36:31 AM by Warren Cole Smith, WNS/Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Pope’s evolution claims ‘frustrating’

October 30 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Pope Francis’ comments that evolution and the big bang theory do not conflict with Christian doctrine have drawn varied responses from evangelical commentators, with some saying he has departed from scripture and others claiming he made at least some valid points.
The idea that some species of living creatures evolved into other species over millions of years “is absolutely incompatible with Genesis for several reasons,” Terry Mortenson, a full-time speaker with Answers in Genesis, told Baptist Press. “The order in which God created in Genesis 1 contradicts the order in which creatures supposedly appeared in the evolutionary story at many places.”
Genesis’ claim that earth was created before the sun, moon and stars “flies in the face of the big bang, which is an evolutionary explanation for the origin of the cosmos,” Mortenson said.
Addressing the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Oct. 27, the pope warned against “imagining God was a magician with a magic wand able to do everything,” according to a translation of his remarks by Religion News Service.
“God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” Francis said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
Francis added according to a Reuters report, “The big bang, that today is considered to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the creative intervention of God. On the contrary, it requires it.”
Mortenson countered – contrary to big bang proponents’ claim that the earth is billions of years old – that the earth is less than 10,000 years old and living creatures were created by a direct act of God rather than evolutionary processes.
“Genesis is very emphatic in teaching God supernaturally created the first kinds of plants and animals and the first two human beings,” Mortenson said, “and then the text is very clear in saying that all subsequent plants and animals and people would come through those original supernaturally created creatures by natural procreation.”
Claims that earth is millions rather than thousands of years old are driven by ideology more than science, Mortenson said, because scientific dating procedures assume without empirical justification that certain natural processes – like the decay of radioactive isotopes or the addition of salt to oceans – have always occurred at the same rate.
If the pope’s remarks have been translated accurately in English press reports, they demonstrate “that he doesn’t really understand creationist arguments,” Mortenson said.
But Bruce Gordon, associate professor of the history and philosophy of science at Houston Baptist University, agreed with Francis’ claim that the big bang requires belief in God.
The big bang posits that the universe had a beginning, and everything that begins to exist has a cause, Gordon told Baptist Press in an email interview. So the universe had a cause, according to the big bang.
“Reflection on the nature of this cause reveals that: (1) logically prior to creation it must have been timeless; (2) logically prior to creation it must have been immaterial and (since there was no space) not physically located; and (3) [it must have been] capable of acting so as to bring into a existence a universe of space-time and mass-energy that requires considerable fine-tuning in order to be able to support life,” said Gordon, who also is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that plays a leading role in the Intelligent Design movement, which argues that the universe is the product of intelligence rather than blind chance.
“The only viable candidate for a cause of the universe is ... a being with divine attributes and abilities,” he said.
There “could be” a “way of understanding macroevolution [the idea that some species evolved into others] that is consistent with Genesis,” Gordon said. “Yet when the paleontological, molecular biological and genetic evidence is considered, macroevolution is more likely false than true.”
The idea espoused by Darwinists that humans evolved “through a process that was not directed at any level” is “deeply inconsistent with the Genesis account of creation and also deeply inconsistent with what we observe to be biologically possible,” Gordon said.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Francis’ remarks are troubling in at least two ways. First, they seem to contradict the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo, or “out of nothing.”
The pope’s statement that God is not a “magician” with a “magic wand” seems to imply “that God the creator is somehow in His act of creating accountable to laws external to Himself,” Mohler said Oct. 29 on his daily podcast. “The moment you do that, you actually depart from the Christian tradition. You are departing from the very clear statements of scripture.”
Second, Francis – and the two popes preceding him – apparently endorse a version of evolutionary theory that affirms the special creation of humans and the historical existence of Adam and Eve. But “no acceptable theory of evolution held in any major academic setting in the world makes those allowances,” Mohler said.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that “the human race takes its origin from two men: Adam and Christ” and that “because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for ‘from one ancestor (God) made all nations to inhabit the whole earth.’“
The Catholic Church “publicly says there is no conflict between the theory of evolution and the biblical and Christian understanding of creation,” Mohler said. “But they actually redefine at both ends of the equation ... That’s why it becomes so frustrating to evangelicals when we are told that the Roman Catholic Church says there’s no conflict.”
Mohler expressed surprise that there has not been more discussion of the pope’s statement that “God is not a divine being,” according to the Religion News Service translation of his remarks. The statement may be misreported, Mohler said, adding that Francis likely meant God is not an impersonal deity.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/30/2014 11:18:53 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Marriage crisis predated gay marriage, ERLC speakers say

October 29 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The crisis in marriage preceded the rapid rise of legalized same-sex unions, and the church faces a daunting challenge in addressing it, speakers told 1,300 attendees on the first day of a Southern Baptist conference on the issue.
Southern Baptist and other Christian leaders addressed a gamut of related issues Oct. 27 at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) first national conference, “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage.” A capacity crowd gathered at the Opryland Resort and Conference Center in Nashville at a time when court rulings have cleared the way for the legalization of gay marriage in 35 states, the percentage of never-married Americans is at a record high, cohabitation has become the default position of many adults and divorce remains a problem in the culture and church.
The conference continued Oct. 28 and will conclude Oct. 29.
Addressing Christian ministry in a “post-marriage culture,” R. Albert Mohler opened the event by saying the crisis regarding the biblical, traditional definition of marriage as a permanent union of a man and a woman began “with the heterosexual subversion of marriage.”
“The divorce revolution has done far more harm to marriage than same-sex marriage will ever do,” the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary told the audience made up primarily of pastors and other young adults. Heterosexuals “showed how to destroy marriage by making it a tentative, hypothetical union for so long as it may last, turning it only into a contract” that produced a “consumer good,” Mohler said.
“By the time the moral revolution on same-sex relations arrived on the scene, most of the moral revolution had already happened,” he said.


ERLC Photo
A group of panelists speak during the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s conference on “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage,” held Oct. 27-29 in Nashville. Those pictured include Phillip Bethancourt, Albert Mohler, D.A. Horton, Robert Sloan and Russell Moore.


Other speakers pointed to the victory of romantic love over all other forms of love in the American mind as a major reason for the marriage catastrophe.
“I think we as a culture have already redefined marriage to a large extent,” said Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources and a popular blogger. The culture moved away from a “common-good” understanding of marriage to the view of the institution as a romantic, sexual relationship between two consenting adults who want to commit to one another and have the government’s approval, he said.
The romanticized view of love and marriage is “already prevalent in evangelical churches,” Wax said.
During the same panel discussion on millennials and marriage, cultural commentator John Stonestreet said, “Same-sex marriage is not the root of any problems. It’s the fruit of missing what the point of marriage actually is.
“It’s time to rebuild marriage. Stop talking about defending it and start rebuilding,” said Stonestreet, a fellow of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He added, “There’s not much left to defend on a cultural level.”
Sherif Girgis, who cowrote a book arguing for the traditional view of marriage, said cultural indicators demonstrate why the issue is so important.
“Every aspect of the common good depends on a strong marriage. This is Matthew 25 stuff,” Girgis said, referring to Jesus’ words about the “least of these” in His teaching on the final judgment. “It is a matter of social justice. That’s why your congregation should care about it. That’s why we can’t give this up or think that it’s just a matter for the church. We owe it to the least of these to make sure that wherever possible our culture gives them the best shot at being reared by the love of the man and woman who gave them life.”
Western civilization is in the final stage of a moral revolution – one that is “happening at warp speed,” Mohler told attendees. British theologian Theo Hobson has said three things must happen for a moral revolution to occur. Those developments, Mohler said, are:

  • “Something that was nearly universally condemned is now nearly universally celebrated.

  • “That which was celebrated is condemned.

  • “Those who refuse to celebrate are condemned.”

The church is now in a position of being “a moral minority,” Mohler said.
“We are accustomed to ministry from the top side in the culture, not from the underside,” he said. “We are accustomed to speaking from a position of strength and respect and credibility. And now we are going to be facing the reality that we are already, in much of America, speaking from a position of a loss of credibility.”
Responding to this situation, Mohler said, “is going to take an awful lot of Christian thinking. It’s going to take a lot of prayer, a lot of agonizing conversations. . . . the kind of conversations that take place in the middle of an emergency.”
Mohler acknowledged he has been mistaken on a couple of points in writing about the issue of homosexuality for about 30 years. Early in the debate, Mohler said, he denied “anything like sexual orientation” because he thought it necessary to make the gospel clear. “I repent of that,” he said.
He believes a biblical, theological understanding of homosexuality is “far more deeply rooted than just the will,” Mohler said, adding Genesis 3 explains this is “deeply rooted in the biblical story itself and something we need to take far more seriously than we have in the past.”
Other speakers encouraged attendees to think and act biblically toward those with whom they differ on these issues.
“We need to recognize that even though we disagree with the gay rights movement on many things, including sexual morality, including the definition of marriage, there are some human dignity issues involved,” ERLC President Russell D. Moore said. “And we also need to recognize that we have gay and lesbian persons created in the image of God who are treated with indignity and really with evil and wickedness in many places in the world.”
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said during a panel discussion, “The one thing that’s hurt our witness most is the tone” with which it has been conducted. That has “brought on some of the condemnation not on what we’ve said” but how it has been said, he told the audience.
Glenn Stanton, director for global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, urged attendees to develop genuine friendships with people who disagree with them.
“The great divider between us and them – and I hate to use that term ... – is not sexuality,” Stanton said. “The great equalizer is our sin. The great equalizer is our need for repentance and new life in Christ.”
Friendship “is not a means to an end,” he said. “It is an end in itself. And as those relationships develop, then we can share the truth about our life, and it comes up naturally.”
In other comments from speakers Oct. 27:

  • Barronelle Stutzman, a Christian and florist in Washington state who has been sued for declining to do flowers for a same-sex wedding, made a surprise appearance and was greeted by a standing ovation. She said, “Do I not have the right to believe in Christ or follow Him? I can’t leave my relationship at the door of the church. He is my life.” She told attendees, “It’s me today, but it will be you tomorrow. You cannot sit this one out. ... I am but one voice. Let your voice be heard.” Moore prayed for Stutzman after her brief comments.

  • Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said pastors should help their churches by being aware of the issues, taking proactive steps to protect their churches and ministries, and continuing to preach biblical truth.

  • Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, said singles “can love and esteem what we don’t have.” Marriage should be viewed as a stewardship by singles, one which is “not about self-validation” but is about “focusing on another,” said Marshall, who has never married. “Both marriage and singleness call us to focus on contentment now.”

  • Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in commenting on Eph. 5:22-33 while addressing sex in marriage, “Basically what the Bible is telling us is we need to be living and speaking the gospel outside the bedroom. And when that takes place, there will be good news, yes, even gospel, inside the bedroom.”

The conference is being live streamed online at http://live.erlc.com/.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

Related Story:

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10/29/2014 1:14:17 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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