October 2017

Pro-life Rep. Murphy to exit amid mistress abortion scandal

October 6 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, a purported pro-lifer accused of having asked his ex-mistress to have an abortion, announced Oct. 4 he will not seek re-election when his eighth legislative term ends in January 2018.

Tim Murphy


“After discussions with my family and staff, I have come to the decision that I will not seek reelection to Congress at the end of my current term,” he said in an official statement at murphy.house.gov. “In the coming weeks I will take personal time to seek help as my family and I continue to work through our personal difficulties and seek healing. I ask you to respect our privacy during this time.”
 
Murphy, R-Pa., made the statement after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published text messages between Murphy and Shannon Edwards, with whom Murphy has admitted he had an affair. In the texts, it appears Murphy had asked Edwards to abort a child the two thought she had conceived as a result of their transgressions. But she was not pregnant, according to news reports.
 
Among text messages the Post-Gazette published Oct. 3 were these two:
 
From Edwards, “And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options.”
 
Murphy’s retort, “I get what you say about my March for life messages. I’ve never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don’t write any more. I will.”
 
Murphy admitted the affair in September after a court hearing involving divorce proceedings between Shannon Edwards and her husband Jesse Sally, but has not publicly admitted to asking Edwards to have an abortion. In the Sept. 6 hearing in Pennsylvania, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kathryn Hens-Greco ordered the congressman to provide Sally’s divorce attorney with text and email communications between Murphy and Edwards, the Post-Gazette reported.
 
It was during that disclosure that text messages were revealed in which Murphy appeared to have asked Edwards to have an abortion.
 
“Last year I became involved in an affair with a personal friend,” Murphy said in a statement released by his attorney at the close of the Sept. 6 hearing. “This is nobody’s fault but my own, and I offer no excuses. To the extent that there should be any blame in this matter, it falls solely upon me.”
 
Murphy did not answer questions Oct. 5 from Baptist Press (BP) inquiring about the abortion allegations and his political stances on both federally funded and personally funded abortions. Instead, his spokesperson directed BP to Murphy’s official Oct. 4 statement, referenced in the second paragraph of this story.
 
Murphy co-sponsored with 181 legislators and voted in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Post-Gazette reported today. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the act Oct. 4 in a partisan vote of 237-189, barring abortion after 20 weeks except in cases of rape, incest or life/physical health endangerment of the expectant mother. (Please see related story.)
 
Murphy was first elected to Congress in November 2002 after serving in the Pennsylvania State Senate, according to the biography on his House website. He is a practicing psychologist who has specialized in child and family treatment and has served at several hospitals, including Pittsburg Children’s Hospital, the Magee Women’s Hospital and Transitional Infant Care. He authored the award-winning books, The Angry Child in 2001 and Overcoming Passive-Aggression in 2005.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 
Related article:
House OKs ban on late-term abortions in 237-189 vote
 

10/6/2017 9:23:03 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ACLU fights faith-based child placement agencies

October 6 2017 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging a Michigan law that allows faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to operate according to their biblical convictions. The lawsuit, filed against the state Sept. 20 in federal court, could jeopardize similar laws across the nation and force faith-based agencies to close.
 
The lawsuit names Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Charities, which are not defendants, as foster care and adoption agencies that turned away two married lesbian couples trying to adopt children.
 
Michigan law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but laws passed in 2015 provide an exception to that statute for religious agencies. Alabama, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia also have laws providing religious groups legal cover from lawsuits by LGBT activists.
 
The ACLU campaigned against those laws by threatening to sue and arguing that allowing religious agencies to act according to their faith by refusing to place children with same-sex couples would reduce the number of available foster parents.
 
Just the opposite is true, argue the laws’ supporters.
 
When Michigan lawmakers began drafting the religious protection laws in 2013, faith-based groups made up about 25 percent of the state’s child welfare agencies. The same holds true in Texas. A loss of even half of those agencies would result in an immediate reduction in available foster families and the ability to recruit more, said Randy Daniels, vice president of Buckner Children and Family Services at Dallas-based Buckner International.
 
“We can’t as a state risk that because we don’t have enough homes for kids now,” Daniels said.
 
Texas state Rep. James Frank, a Republican who drafted the law in his state, said the ACLU’s intolerance of “different beliefs threatens to diminish capacity and therefore hurt children in the system.”
 
Michigan’s Catholic Conference also called the lawsuit “mean-spirited” and “divisive,” adding that the law promotes diversity among placement agencies and does not prohibit anyone who meets state standards from adopting.
 
The ACLU of Michigan did not respond to questions about the lawsuit. Michigan, unlike Alabama, Texas and Virginia, has no Religious Freedom and Restoration Act providing extra legal protection for faith-based agencies.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission. Pritchett also is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

10/6/2017 9:22:37 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Fantasy-themed TV exposes kids to adult fare, PTC says

October 6 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Fantasy-themed television shows routinely repurpose familiar fairytales into graphic adult fare targeting children, the Parents Television Council (PTC) said in its most recent study.


Shows such as NBC’s “Grimm” and “Emerald City,” and ABC’s “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” repurpose Alice, Dorothy and other beloved characters to yield adult fairy tales while rating them suitable for children as young as 14 and, in some cases, younger, the PTC said.
 
“When parents think of typically child-friendly franchises like ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ or ‘The Muppets,’ they don’t expect the dark and disturbing content on the new versions that the broadcast networks are now routinely airing during primetime,” PTC President Tim Winter said in an Oct. 3 press conference releasing the findings.
 
“Now kids who watch these reimagined fantasy and fairytale-themed TV shows are not confronted with Dorothy’s optimistic attitude and ruby red shoes,” Winter said, referencing an inappropriate encounter between a Dorothy-like character and the Tin Man. “As Dorothy said to her dog Toto, ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore;’ but instead of Oz, it looks more like she is in Westeros (the fictional continent for Game of Thrones).”
 
In the report “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore,” the PTC said it counted 625 profanities, 300 deaths and 1,000 incidents of violence during 141.5 hours of programming. The study spanned 2011-2017, and focused on the traditional “sweeps” rating periods of November, February and May.
 
“We urge producers and distributors to take more seriously their public interest obligations as broadcast licensees,” Winter said, “and to use their influence to reimagine fantasy-themed primetime broadcast TV shows with children and families in mind.”
 
Grimm, a cult favorite cancelled this year after six seasons, was the most violent show included in the study, the PTC said. The primetime series was rated for children age 14 and above, but shows “were able to be viewed by children of any age,” the report said. Based loosely on ancient fairytales from the Grimm brothers, the series included 485 acts of violence encompassing dismemberment, decapitations, evisceration, dissection, crucifixion, impalement and torture, the PTC reported.
 
ABC/Disney’s “The Muppets” included no violence, the PTC said, but featured profanity, depictions and references to alcohol and drug use, and multiple references to sex. It was rated TV-PG.
 
In addition to Emerald City (rated TV-14) and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (TV-PG), the study also included NBC’s “Once Upon a Time” (TV-PG) and FOX’s “Sleepy Hollow” (TV-14).
 
“Our new research shows that this is the new and extremely alarming norm for these once- and still-beloved entertainment franchises,” Winter said. “This trend is of great concern because decades of scientific research proves children can be harmed from consuming graphic sex, violence and profanity in entertainment, and when it comes to inherently child-friendly franchises, it is natural to expect that they will indeed be child-friendly.
 
“When the TV networks rate these shows as being appropriate for children, that expectation is only reinforced.”
 
The national grassroots PTC markets itself as a nonpartisan educational and advocacy group for responsible entertainment. The full study is available at w2.parentstv.org/main/Research/Studies/OZ/OZStudy.aspx.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 
Related article:
Chromecast, Apple TV safest viewing for kids, PTC says
 

10/6/2017 8:20:37 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Green light given for Puerto Rico as FL, TX relief persists

October 5 2017 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

The North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Relief ministry has been asked to manage the disaster response on behalf of the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico.

Screen capture from CNN
The North American Mission Board’s Send Relief ministry has been asked to manage the disaster response on behalf of the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico. This home in rural Corozal, Puerto Rico, is one of thousands destroyed by a disaster called “unprecedented” on the island.


“We have officially requested Send Relief to coordinate the disaster relief response in Puerto Rico,” said Jorge Alvarez, who leads the Puerto Rican convention. “The needs here are unprecedented, and we need our entire Southern Baptist family to help Puerto Rico during this tragic time.”
 
David Melber, NAMB’s vice president of Send Relief, and his team will work with state Southern Baptist Disaster Relief partners to see that Southern Baptists meet the need. In NAMB’s structure, Send Relief includes traditional Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) ministry, but also gives service options for untrained church groups and individual volunteers.
 
“This really is an unprecedented event in Puerto Rico’s history,” Melber said. “We as Southern Baptists cannot let our neighbors and friends down.”
 
NAMB and SBDR received permission Sept. 28 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to move into Puerto Rico. Search and rescue operations are still underway. As soon as possible, Send Relief will be working to send help to those who are on the fringes of the ravaged island where relief has been more difficult to come by.
 
As the plan to send help and hope unfolds, NAMB will be working with Southern Baptists to establish church-to-church partnerships that will help meet long-term needs.
 
While awaiting FEMA’s go-ahead, NAMB started coordinating with pastors in Puerto Rico, FEMA and other relief organizations in order to prepare the way for an immediate and long-term response. NAMB has prepared relief packages for Puerto Rican Southern Baptist pastors that are filled with resources that will help them serve their communities.
 
In the coming weeks, NAMB and SBDR will be sending volunteers who will staff kitchens and provide food for Hurricane Maria survivors. Trained disaster relief personnel will be sent to the island first, followed later by untrained volunteers, who will receive training on-site or en-route to their service destinations.
 
In the Virgin Islands, a mobile kitchen from the Alabama Baptist Convention was transported to St. Thomas. Two Alabama SBDR leaders were scheduled to arrive a few days later to start setting up the kitchen and establish relations with pastors there. They are helping to set up an island-wide response before a volunteer team from Alabama will come in to start serving meals.
 

Send Relief Houston hub gaining momentum

While Puerto Rico and the response in the Caribbean garners headlines, the needs in Texas persist. SBDR and NAMB’s Send Relief volunteers have continued to chip away at the carnage left by Hurricane Harvey.
 
Mickey Caison, who recently retired as NAMB’s national coordinator for disaster relief, has been guiding the Send Relief response in Houston. Caison reported that, by the end of October, nearly 1,600 Send Relief volunteers from all over the United States will have come in to serve in Houston and beyond.
 
“The volunteers find that God can use them,” Caison said, “and they’re seeing God change lives as they share their testimonies both through their words and through their acts of service.”
 
Caison noted he has heard numerous stories of volunteers who arrived at a house to meet people who thought that God had forgotten about them, but a Send Relief team would show up and – in four or five hours – accomplish a task that would have taken the residents months to complete by themselves.
 
Send Relief’s goal is to come alongside SBDR and serve churches and communities affected by the storm. Beyond disaster relief, Send Relief addresses issues of poverty, adoption and foster care, human trafficking and ministry to refugees and internationals. This year has been the first major response that Send Relief has encountered.
 
“I really appreciate NAMB stepping out in this way to give churches another way to engage and serve those who are in need,” Caison said. “I’m excited to see where Send Relief can go in the future.”
 
Send Relief’s biggest need at the moment, Caison reported, is for churches to send volunteers who are capable of leading volunteer teams –people who are capable of assessing a site and directing a crew as to what needs to be done.
 
Send Relief could also use volunteers who can manage entire sites, from administration, to warehousing to other forms of organization.
 

Irma response continues, Florida Baptists assist Caribbean

In Florida, the Hurricane Irma response is moving forward as well. SBDR teams as well as volunteers from Send Relief have been hard at work serving meals and clearing out homes and property. As of Sept. 28, SBDR reported serving more than 500,000 meals and completing nearly 900 assorted recovery jobs. Volunteers have also seen over 40 professions of faith.
 
Aside from facilitating much of the response in their state, Florida Baptists also have been striving to build their relationship with the Virgin Islands and help manage a response there as well. Two Florida Baptist Convention leaders are set to arrive early next week in order to help set up Southern Baptists’ disaster relief response in the islands that will take place in the coming weeks.
 
For more information, go to sendrelief.net. Or, contact your state Baptist convention to learn more: baptistsonmission.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
 

10/5/2017 9:54:30 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments



Vegas shooting leaves West Tennessee church heartbroken

October 5 2017 by Chris Turner, Baptist and Reflector

A small West Tennessee Baptist church continues to feel the blow of Sunday night’s mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert after it learned one of the victims was a native son.

Baptist & Reflector photo
Heather and Sonny Melton


Sonny Melton, 29, who grew up in Big Sandy and attended Ramble Creek Baptist Church, was killed when he was struck by gunfire while shielding his wife, Heather Melton.
 
“It’s rocked this whole community,” said Jim Twilbeck, director of missions for the Western District Association. “It’s not that big and everybody knows everybody. Everybody knew Sonny. Everybody thought a whole lot of him.”
 
Melton attended Ramble Creek while growing up and before leaving for Union University, where he completed his bachelor of science in nursing accelerated degree (BSNA) and served as president of his BSNA class. He was employed at Henry County Medical Center (HCMC).
 
“The Union University School of Nursing is in shock today, as we learned of the tragic death of Sonny Melton,” said Kelly Harden, dean, Union University School of Nursing in a statement released by Union Oct. 2.
 
“Our hearts are broken for his family, friends and colleagues,” Harden said. “Sonny was energetic, enthusiastic and had a positive attitude that was infectious. He had a love for people, and was a natural choice for class president. You could not help but smile when you saw him, whether that was in class or taking care of patients.
 
“Nursing was his calling, and he served well as the hands and feet of Jesus. We are all better for having known him. Even as we grieve his passing, we rejoice in the fact that in Christ we have victory over death.”
 
Heather Melton is from Paris, Tenn., and is an orthopedic surgeon at HCMC. The couple had been married a little more than a year and were in the process of building a house on Kentucky Lake.  
 
In a statement, she reportedly told Fox News that she was “in complete disbelief and despair,” adding, “Sonny was the most kind-hearted, loving man I have ever met. He saved my life and lost his.”
 
Kelley Brewer, longtime deacon and former music leader at Ramble Creek Baptist Church, said Melton’s mother, Susan, now leads music at Ramble Creek Baptist Church. Melton’s grandmother is also a member.
 
“We’re just a small congregation of about 45,” Brewer said. “Sonny was a local boy who was a good kid and grew up and did pretty well for himself. Living in a small town you never expect anything like this to happen around here, and it’s shocking to hear about something like this happening to one of your own so far from home.”
 
Tennessee Baptist Mission Board President and Executive Director Randy C. Davis said the shooting was shocking news to wake up to and a “blow” to hear of someone from Tennessee being involved.
 
“Speaking on behalf of all Tennessee Baptists, my heart goes out to Heather, Sonny’s family and friends in the Paris area, and Ramble Creek Baptist Church,” Davis said. “Such a senseless and devastating loss. We are praying for Heather and the entire Melton family.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Turner is director of communications for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB). This article first appeared in the Baptist and Reflector, baptistandreflector.org, news journal of the TBMB.)
 

10/5/2017 9:52:13 AM by Chris Turner, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments



Churches moving forward on massive ‘Texas Rebuild’

October 5 2017 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Southern Baptist churches and ministries in Texas and outside the state are planning the next phase of recovery – getting people back into their homes and church buildings.


And they are depending on God to move in hearts across the nation to accomplish the impossible.
 
Estimates of the damage are hard to comprehend, Terry Wright, pastor of Vidor First Baptist Church, told the TEXAN. Just in Orange County, where his church is located, 80 percent of the homes went under water – some up to the eaves. Throughout the storm’s 54-county path of destruction an estimated 270,000 homes sustained flood or water damage and 80 percent of those had no flood insurance. Nearly 800 Southern Baptist of Texas Convention (SBTC) churches are in the affected zone, and about 250 have indicated they might be in need of some assistance.
 
Many of those were underinsured or had no insurance at all, and churches don’t qualify for Federal Emergency Management Administration grants. Please see related story.
 
And the maximum $33,500 payout to qualified homeowners only covers a fraction of repair and replacement costs. So without donations of construction materials and volunteer skilled laborers, many Texas homeowners face incomplete or insufficient repairs and cash-strapped churches may be forced to close.
 
But in the midst of the overwhelming disaster, many continue to turn to churches for help and hope. “They’re looking for something bigger than the storm,” pastor Wright said.
 
Texas Rebuild, launched last week by SBTC, will focus recovery efforts on the “lighthouses of hope for a community” – churches, said Kenneth Priest, SBTC convention strategies director. By assisting in the repair of church buildings and pastors’ damaged homes, the convention hopes to shore up what should be the source of spiritual and material aid in a community.
 
Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, on Sept. 27 tapped Kyle Sadler to coordinate the Texas Rebuild effort. Sadler, a wealth management advisor and investment property owner, is no stranger to floodwaters. His own home in New Caney has flooded three times in the past 18 months and First Baptist Church of Humble, where he and his family are members, took on two feet of water during Hurricane Harvey.
 
“The church has to take care of the church. That’s biblical,” Sadler told the TEXAN.
 
With its church building shored up, a congregation can more confidently and effectively minister within the community he said. Inspecting the hundreds of damaged churches from Rockport to the Sabine River is Sadler’s first task as Texas Rebuild coordinator. And Sadler has put out the call for donated supplies and skilled and unskilled laborers.
 
Complementing the Texas Rebuild effort will be Nehemiah’s Vision, a ministry birthed by First Baptist Vidor in the aftermath of Hurricanes Rita and Ike (2005 and 2008, respectively) – when it became apparent that some residents, particularly widows and the indigent, could not afford to repair their homes.
 
Nehemiah’s Vision has been dormant for six years, but between 2005 and 2011 ministry crews repaired or completely rebuilt 1,200 homes with the aid of 35,000 volunteers from across the country. The call has already gone out to those former volunteers to return. The ministry reboot will also assist with church repair.
 
In an interview with the TEXAN two years ago marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Rita, pastor Wright told the TEXAN he hoped they would never have to relaunch Nehemiah’s Vision.
 
“It’s obviously not anything anyone wants to do. It’s a lot of work,” Wright said. “But when the board met to consider doing this again [the vote] was unanimous – to help churches and help citizens. We want to do this for the Kingdom’s sake.”
 
And 95 miles east of Vidor, in the heart of Houston’s flooded west side, leadership from Houston’s First Baptist Church met this week to discuss its disaster relief transition from rescue to recovery. After clearing nearly 700 homes, deployment of their mud-out crews ended Sept. 22 and a headcount of the church’s skilled laborers, electricians and plumbers came up wanting.
 
But that won’t keep the First Baptist from continuing the ministry that Harvey began. As their talents allow, repair crews have teamed with out-of-town volunteers and will continue to work in the city. And donations, including $6,000 from a church in Hattiesburg, Miss., for sheetrock, keep arriving at the church. Contributions like beds and furniture are being warehoused until selected homes are ready to receive them.
 
Long-term rebuild efforts will involve the coordinated efforts of state and local non-profit organizations, including both Texas Baptists conventions, whose primary focus will be assisting the communities’ most vulnerable populations.
 
Mickey Caison, who is coordinating the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response to Hurricane Harvey, said the last time he checked there were about 700,000 applications for FEMA assistance. And if 6 to 10 percent of those have no means of repairing their homes that could mean at least as many as 70,000 will need volunteer aid and donated supplies.
 
“Those are staggering numbers when you begin to look at it,” he said. “And we haven’t even considered Florida, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands.“
 
Because the need is so overwhelming, Mike Ebert, NAMB public relations director, said the agency is trying to create more opportunities for people without formal disaster relief training to assist. National and state Southern Baptist disaster relief coordinators say the recovery efforts can only keep going as long as volunteers and financial support continue.
 
To date about 1,600 volunteers from churches across the nation are scheduled for Send Relief weekend and week-long projects through the end of October. Caison said NAMB is considering coordinating work crews of college students during Thanksgiving break.
 
Texas Rebuild has begun receiving requests for assistance while Nehemiah’s Vision has received 100 applications and 800 requests for more information.
 
For information on Nehemiah’s Vision assistance go to nehemiahsvisionrecovery.org/media. For information on Texas Rebuild go to: sbtexas.com/txrebuild.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

10/5/2017 9:01:05 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



House OKs ban on late-term abortions in 237-189 vote

October 5 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. House of Representatives continued its efforts to protect unborn children Oct. 3, passing a ban on the lethal procedure in the last half of pregnancy.
 
The House voted 237-189 – with only three Democrats in support – for the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36. The legislation would prohibit abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.
 
President Donald Trump has signaled he would sign the bill if the Senate also approves it. The White House issued a statement of administration policy Oct. 2 saying it “strongly supports” the proposal. Passage by the Senate – faced with a 60-vote requirement to prevent a filibuster – is highly unlikely, however, according to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
 
Pro-life leaders applauded the House’s latest in a series of successful votes this year in support of protecting unborn babies.
 
“No nation can call itself just or humane while allowing 20-week-old unborn children to be slaughtered at the hands of a predatory industry,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.
 
“Our government has much more to do in terms of protecting and valuing life at all stages, but this is a step in the right direction,” Moore said.
 
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), said the bill “would save thousands of unborn babies annually from terribly painful deaths. It is now clear that the overwhelming majority of House Democrats believe that painfully dismembering babies, in the sixth month and later, is just fine – now let them try to explain that to their constituents.”
 
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. – the bill’s sponsor and a Southern Baptist – said in a Facebook post after the vote, “The primary and overarching purpose of American government is to protect the innocent among us.”
 
Since Trump has shown support for the legislation, Franks said, “It now falls upon [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Senate to pass it for his signature. To allow Democrat proponents of abortion-on-demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy to use the arcane 60-vote Senate filibuster to prevent this bill from getting a fair up-or-down vote would be an overt betrayal of innocent blood and the most fundamental failure of leadership.”
 
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. – also a Southern Baptist – thanked the House via Twitter for passing the bill and “protecting the unborn.” He added, “It’s time for the Senate to do the same.”
 
Abortion-rights advocates decried the legislation, criticizing the science it is based on and the timing of the vote after the Las Vegas mass shooting and the ongoing post-hurricane needs in Puerto Rico. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-choice America, said the GOP’s “complete disregard to govern in a way that matches the priorities of the American people is staggering.”
 
More than 15,000 abortions are performed each year after 20 weeks, the Centers for Disease Control estimated in a 2008 study. Abortion doctors often use a technique known as dismemberment or “dilation and extraction” abortion from about 14 weeks of pregnancy into the third trimester, according to NRLC. In the method, a doctor uses instruments such as forceps, tongs, clamps or scissors to cut off or rip off parts of an unborn baby or crush the child’s body.
 
The sole Democrats to support the bill were Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas, Dan Lipinski of Illinois and Collin Peterson of Minnesota. Voting against the legislation were 187 Democrats and two Republicans, Reps. Charles Dent of Pennsylvania and Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey.
 
The House passed a pain-capable bill in 2015, but the Senate rejected it.
 
While efforts at the federal level have been unsuccessful, 16 states have enacted pain-capable abortion bans, according to NRLC. They are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated Idaho’s law in 2015.
 
This year, the House has passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act and health care reform that would slash government money for Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider. The Senate, however, has failed to vote on the No Taxpayer Funding proposal and fell short of passing a health care measure that would have cut Planned Parenthood funding.
 
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion proposal would standardize the prohibitions that now exist in various U.S. programs, block federal money for abortion coverage under the 2010 health care law and guarantee full disclosure of abortion funding by health insurance plans that are part of the controversial arrangement. The House approved the funding ban in the previous congressional session, but the Senate failed to act on it.
 
The Senate followed the House’s lead early in the year to pass a pro-life measure but only by the smallest margin possible. Vice President Mike Pence, acting in his role as president of the Senate, broke a 50-50 tie in March to reverse an Obama administration regulation that effectively barred states from prohibiting funds for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. The House had approved the measure in a 230-188 vote in February. Trump signed the legislation into law.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

10/5/2017 8:58:52 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



TBN’s ‘Huckabee’ seeks civil discourse amid division

October 5 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Civil discourse enabling understanding and nonpartisan solutions will be a main goal of a new talk show featuring Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist pastor and political figure told Baptist Press (BP) at his Nashville-area studio Oct. 2.

Photo by Icon Media Group
Gov. Mike Huckabee welcomed Baptist Press writer Diana Chandler at his Nashville-area studio where TBN will launch “Huckabee” Oct. 7.


People with divergent political opinions may learn from the show to understand one another’s perspectives, Huckabee noted in one of several interviews he conducted with media outlets in advance of his new show, “Huckabee,” launching Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN).
 
“I’m not suggesting they watch my show and suddenly they have this road-to-Damascus political experience and say, ‘Oh I see the light now.’ Maybe they will,” Huckabee said. “But that’s not what I expect to happen.
 
“But I want them to say, ‘You know, I still disagree with that guy, and I think my position is better, but I believe that he really believes that and I understand where he’s coming from.’ That would alone make America a better place to be.”
 
A pre-taped interview with President Donald Trump is slated to kick off Season 1, which Huckabee said will offer a fun variety including discussions of contemporary issues with entertainment, encouragement and edification. Huckabee’s daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders is Trump’s press secretary.
 
“The focus of this interview, and on most interviews on the show, will be on the ‘whys’ as much as the ‘whats,’” Huckabee said in a TBN press release. “Our audience will not hear the same things they would hear in every other interview on every other channel; we want to give them something they may not know, behind-the-scenes insight about the person and what drives their actions.”
 
The entire series will be civil and cordial, Huckabee said.
 
“My show is not going to be one where people will talk over each other. They won’t yell at each other. I’m not going to have a show that is what I call political ping-pong – some are on the left, some on the right, just bouncing back with very predictable talking points that I could regurgitate a hundred times a day because I know what they’re going to say,” he said.
 
“I want people to help me understand, not so much the ‘what’ of their belief system; tell me the ‘why.’ How’d you get there? What was it that led you to the conclusion? Whether it’s healthcare or a tax policy,” Huckabee said, “tell me how that makes the country better and why you believe it does.”
 
TBN offered the show to Huckabee after his previous self-named show ended a seven-year run on FOX News.
 
“We couldn’t be more excited about bringing this remarkable person to you each week,” TBN leaders Matt and Laurie Crouch said in announcing the show. “We believe he is just the welcome voice of wisdom, integrity and faith that America badly needs right now.”
 
Huckabee, Arkansas’s governor from 1996-2007, said it was his earlier years as a Southern Baptist pastor that prepared him best for the public square.
 
“When you’re a pastor, there is not a single social pathology that is happening in the world that you couldn’t put a name and a face to,” Huckabee said, pointing out such societal events and predicaments as the death of a child, opioid addiction, alcoholism, marital failure, financial ruin and betrayal.
 
“I can’t think of any way to better prepare me to one day be a public official than to deal with those very issues with people, but do it from an authentic understanding of where they’re coming from,” Huckabee said.
 
“As a pastor, you’re talking to those people every day. You’re in their homes. You’re in their hospital rooms. You know who they are,” he said. “You know the people sitting on the front row that everybody believes has it together, you know their real story. And then you know the people that nobody has any confidence in at all, and you know that they’re really far, far better than the community may look at them and see.”
 
His 12 years in the pastorate were unexpected, he said, and included six years each at Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, Ark., and Beech Street First Baptist Church in Texarkana.
 
Huckabee sought the Republican U.S. presidential nomination in 2008 and in 2016, falling short both times, and is well known for his roles as a public leader, commentator and bestselling author.
 
“I have strong opinions – nobody doubts that who reads and hears what I have to say – but I’m not angry about it. I’m not mad at anybody,” he said. “And I’m worried about the folks who are about to blow a gasket every time they read a news story, or every time they hear an opinion that’s different than their own. That’s frightening.
 
“Everybody needs to step back, take a deep breath, enjoy life a little bit, realize that none of us have it all figured out.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

10/5/2017 8:51:34 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Las Vegas pastors counter ‘brokenness’ with ‘hope’

October 4 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Las Vegas pastors are reporting trauma, ministry and prayer among their congregations in the 48 hours following the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
 
The shooting also has prompted reflections from Southern Baptists elsewhere, including Russell Moore of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), R. Albert Mohler Jr. of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and Charles Patrick of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
A gunman opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel Oct. 1, killing at least 59 attendees at a country music concert on the street below and injuring more than 500 others before reportedly taking his own life.
 
Michael Rochelle, pastor of Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas, told Baptist Press (BP) “a number of people” from the church “were present” at the shooting, with at least three individuals injured who are associated with the congregation.
 
“We have some of our college students pretty traumatized,” Rochelle said, including one young woman who “was on the ground and saw the young lady next to her shot in the neck, and she bled out and died in front of her.”
 
Shadow Hills hosted a special prayer meeting Oct. 3 and plans to host another Oct. 4, Rochelle said. Six of the church’s pastors have provided counseling at a local crisis response site, emphasizing scripture’s comfort in Psalms. The congregation is working with first responders and medical personnel to provide a variety of other ministries.
 
“The greatest emphasis for us right now is that we live in a broken world,” Rochelle said. “Tragedies like this highlight that brokenness, but the brokenness is here. And the answer is our faith in God. It’s our hope in Jesus Christ.”
 
Pastor John Mark Simmons of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Henderson, Nev., a Las Vegas suburb, called the congregation to intense, focused prayer in an Oct. 2 email.
 
“Disbelief and shock are words that describe what many of us felt when we learned the news of the mass shooting,” Simmons wrote. “So sad and troubling. It is a tragedy for our city, our state, and our country. We truly live in a sin sick world.”
 
Highland Hills hosted a special prayer gathering Monday afternoon and devoted a scheduled 5:30 a.m. prayer gathering Oct. 3 to the tragedy, Simmons said, with plans to focus Wednesday evening activities on prayer as well.
 
Simmons has asked the congregation “to pray for God to bring good even though Satan meant [the shooting] for evil,” he told BP via email.
 
Foothills Baptist Church in Las Vegas similarly opened its building for prayer Monday afternoon and hosted a community prayer gathering Monday night. Additionally, the church has been ministering to members whose loved ones were killed or injured, pastor Hoyt Savage told BP.
 
“What people need to hear is hope,” Savage, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said. “The Lord is a tower, and we run to Him. I shared with our people last night one passage that has given me great encouragement through the years in crisis times: Isaiah 41:10,” which states, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.
 
Among Southern Baptists to publish reflections on the shooting:
 
– Moore, president of the ERLC, urged believers not to claim “this moment was God’s judgment on an individual or a city or a nation for some specified sin.” Instead, it’s important to “see this as real evil” and “lament with those around us who are hurting.”
 
“We do not know why God does not intervene and stop some tragedies when He does stop others,” Moore wrote in an Oct. 2 blog post. “What we do know, though, is that God stands against evil and violence. We know that God is present for those who are hurting. And we know that God will ultimately call all evil to a halt, in the ushering in of His Kingdom.”
 
– Mohler, president of SBTS, said the existence of evil ultimately points to God’s existence.
 
“Evil is a fact” and “a theological category,” Mohler wrote in on Oct. 2 commentary. “The secular worldview cannot use the word with coherence or sense. The acknowledgement of evil requires the affirmation of a moral judgment and a moral reality above human judgment. If we are just accidental beings in an accidental universe, nothing can really be evil. Evil points to a necessary moral judgment made by a moral authority greater than we are – a transcendent and supernatural moral authority: God.”
 
Mohler added, “Only the biblical worldview explains why sinful humanity commits such horrible moral wrongs” and “promises that God will bring about a final act of moral judgment that will be the final word on right and wrong.”
 
– Patrick, vice president for strategic initiatives and communications at Southwestern Seminary, wrote in an Oct. 2 blog post that the Las Vegas shooting prompted him to begin “taking inventory of [his] life responsibilities,” including ministering to his wife, discipling his children and sharing the gospel with lost people.
 
“October 1 marks the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history,” Patrick wrote. “If you (as a believer) and I were one of the dead, we would be face to face with our risen Savior. However, the more pertinent question for us is who do we leave behind? Do we leave behind a spiritually mature and provided for spouse, saved and spiritually prepared children, and new professions of faith, or do we leave behind a spiritual massacre?”
 
– Jim Denison, a Texas Baptist speaker and cultural commentator, noted God grieves with His children when they experience pain.
 
“I hate that our world is so unpredictable that what happened last night in Las Vegas could happen anywhere at any time,” Denison wrote in an Oct. 2 blog post. “... But I also know the Father is grieving with us. The Creator of the universe is a Father who loves His children so much that His Son died for us (Romans 5:8). He feels all that we feel, including our pain and grief (John 11:35). ‘The LORD is near to the brokenhearted’ (Psalm 34:18).”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

10/4/2017 10:20:20 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Southern Baptists release letter on ‘alt-right’ to Trump

October 4 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A letter drafted by a group of Southern Baptists and others has called on President Donald Trump to denounce clearly the racism of the “alt-right.”

BP file photo by Van Payne
Texas pastor Dwight McKissic, shown here making a motion to bring his proposal on the “alt-right” to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 13 in Phoenix, collaborated with Southeastern Seminary faculty member Keith Whitfield to draft a letter signed by other SBC leaders calling on President Trump to denounce clearly the racism of the “alt-right.”


The letter – titled a “Call for Unifying Leadership” and first reported by CNN Sept. 29 – urges Trump to go beyond his previous comments and actions to rebuke a movement that “gained public prominence” during his presidential campaign. It commends the president for signing a joint congressional resolution Sept. 14 rejecting white nationalism and supremacy, but it tells him the country “needs your voice and your convictions to defeat racist ideologies and movements in every form that they present themselves.”
 
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines was among those invited to be an original signer of the letter. Joining him were Fred Luter, the convention’s first African American president, and former SBC President James Merritt. Other Southern Baptist signers included entity heads Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
 
The letter was a collaborative effort of a group of individuals led by Southern Baptist pastor Dwight McKissic and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) faculty and staff member Keith Whitfield. McKissic is senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Whitfield is dean of graduate studies and assistant professor of theology at SEBTS.
 
Messengers to the SBC annual meeting in June adopted a resolution condemning “alt-right white supremacy” in a nearly unanimous vote after declining to address the issue earlier in the proceedings. McKissic submitted the original resolution on the “alt-right.”
 
The appeal to the president comes after an election campaign and early administration that have included comments and actions by Trump that have brought criticism for their apparent insensitivity to minorities and racial injustice. He received widespread censure for remarks during an August news conference in which he said the “alt-right” protesters in Charlottesville, Va., included “some very fine people.”
 
After the letter thanks Trump for signing the congressional resolution and speaking in support of racial equality, it calls on him to follow up by speaking against the “alt-right.”
 
“This movement has escaped your disapproval,” the letter says. “We believe it is important for this movement to be addressed, for at its core it is a white identity movement and the majority of its members are white nationalists or white supremacists.
 
“Supporters of the movement have claimed that you share their vision for our country,” according to the letter. “These same supporters have sought to use the political and cultural concerns of people of goodwill for their prejudiced political agendas. It concerned many of us when three people associated with the alt-right movement were given jobs in the White House.”
 
The signers ask Trump “to join with many other political and religious leaders to proclaim with one voice that the ‘alt-right’ is racist, evil, and antithetical to a well-ordered, peaceful society.”
 
“Our country desperately needs unifying leadership again,” the letter says. “We need you, President Trump, to lead us in such an effort.
 
“America is profoundly fractured and divided. We can envision the change that could emerge if you would provide the moral leadership we so desperately need for racial healing. Our polarized nation could unite around your leadership on this critical issue.”
 
The letter also calls for churches “to come together for the sake of the nation and the Kingdom of God.” It cites comments from the leaders of two Baptist conventions to demonstrate Christian unity in response to bigotry and racial injustice. The letter quotes Gaines and Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention USA, in their denunciation of the “alt-right.”
 
A conversation began about a statement after the “alt-right” protest Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Va. – which was met by a counter-protest – demonstrated what many individuals believed was a need for “moral clarity and leadership,” Whitfield told Baptist Press (BP) in an email interview.
 
“We released our appeal publically to (1) keep this urgent issue in front of the moral conscience of the American people, (2) declare our convictions in a united way, and (3) call upon the president to provide desperately needed moral leadership on the racial tensions spurred on by the ’alt-right,’” Whitfield said.
 
“The ‘alt-right’ movement has been an instigator in the racial tension over the past two years,” he told BP. “They have worked to mainstream their message and have attracted the attention of conservative minded people who are afraid of progressive political ideologies. They have effectively co-opted the concerns of others for their ethno-European centric agenda. They are a dangerous group, fostering societal unrest by manipulating others. We believe that the cause of justice demands moral clarity and leadership and speaking truthfully against prejudice thinking.”
 
Other original signers of the letter included Young; Dallas pastor Tony Evans; prosperity gospel preacher T.D. Jakes; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College; and Jemar Tisby, president of the Reformed African American Network.
 
Southern Baptists invited as original signers also included Bruce Ashford, provost of SEBTS; Nathan Finn, dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University; J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Walter Strickland, associate vice president of kingdom diversity at SEBTS; and K. Marshall Williams, Philadelphia, Pa., pastor and former president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC.
 
In the June resolution on “alt-right white supremacy,” SBC messengers said they:

  • “[D]ecry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ;
  • “[D]enounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil intended to bring suffering and division to our society;
  • “[A]cknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst;
  • “[E]arnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.”

 
The text of the letter is available at unifyingleadership.org, where others may add their names as signers.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

10/4/2017 10:16:47 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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