October 2018

ERLC’s new machines in Dallas ‘more impactful’

October 25 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Ultrasound machines – like those placed recently at the Downtown Pregnancy Center in Dallas with the aid of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) – not only help women choose life for their unborn children but create transformative personal stories.
 

Photo by Jeffrey McWhorter
Aujante, a client of an Involved for Life Inc. pregnancy center in Dallas, rejoices in her son after an ultrasound image of him in the womb helped her to choose life.

The ERLC announced Oct. 13 at its annual national conference in Grapevine, Texas, the donation of two machines to the Dallas center through the commission’s Psalm 139 Project, its ministry to help place ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers across the country. The ERLC and Focus on the Family placed the machines this summer through their Evangelicals for Life (EFL) collaboration.
 
"We are thrilled to work with the heroic staff and volunteers at the Downtown Pregnancy Center in Dallas as they serve women all across the metroplex," said Daniel Darling, the ERLC’s vice president for communications, in a news release.
 
"We are thankful for our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters who have invested and given sacrificially to care for unborn children and serve women in crisis," he said. "I am excited to see how God will use [these ultrasound machines] and Downtown Pregnancy Center in Dallas to continue gospel work and further the church’s mission to stand alongside the most vulnerable in society."
 
The availability of ultrasound machines makes a significant difference in what percentage of women decide for life, said Carolyn Cline, president of Involved for Life Inc., the umbrella organization for two pregnancy centers and a mobile sonogram unit in Dallas.
 
When Involved for Life’s centers and mobile unit present information to an abortion-minded woman about the procedure and fetal development as required by state law, "then 62 percent of the women who come in choose life," Cline told the audience at the ERLC national conference. "[W]hen we’re able to add medical services, which is ultrasound and STD screening as well, then we have 85 percent of those women who choose life for their baby.
 
"We call it ‘the God machine,’ because everything that we’ve talked about they’re able to finally see themselves on a screen," she said. "It’s not just information about a baby. It’s a woman seeing her baby for the first time. And that bonding process begins, and that is where minds are often changed."
 
Ultrasound images certainly made a difference for DeVon and Maritza, as well as Aujante.
 
DeVon and Maritza came to the Downtown Pregnancy Center with abortion in mind. "Abortion seemed the easiest way out," she said in a video testimony on the ministry’s website. She trusted God for the first time on that visit, Maritza said.
 
Then DeVon saw his son on the ultrasound screen.
 
"As soon as they showed me the heartbeat, it was like all downhill from there," he said on the video. "I broke out in tears. I just started crying and crying and crying. All I could really think about was: ‘I made that; I made that. That’s a gift right there.’
 
"I was just like, ‘This is God working. God put us in this position for a reason.’ I started accepting that and thinking about it like that."
 
Aujante, a wife and mother already, confessed she was confused and lost when she arrived at Involved for Life’s Uptown Women’s Center.
 
"When the doctor did my sonogram, I saw a baby – a baby," she said in amazement in another video testimony on the website. "I was so shocked. I thought, ‘A baby inside me.’
 

Photo by Karen McCutcheon
ERLC Vice President Daniel Darling, right, and Carolyn Cline talk Oct. 13 at the entity's national conference about the placement of ultrasound machines at a downtown Dallas pregnancy resource center operated by Involved for Life Inc. Cline is the ministry's president.

"I’m going for abortion, and my mind is for abortion," Aujante recalled. "And you’re going to have God Himself to change my mind. But when I saw the sonogram, I just started crying, like there is life. There is somebody there that I can care for. I believe this small, little person can change my life."
 
Downtown Pregnancy Center quickly began use of the new machines in mid-July after receiving them and the necessary training, Cline told Baptist Press (BP) in a telephone interview. The technology has improved dramatically since the ministry purchased its previous machines six or seven years ago, she said.
 
"For our nurses that are currently using them, the quality is so much better," Cline told BP. "And of course for our clientele, every little bit that we can have an improvement of the image of the baby in the womb is just that much more impactful for the client to be able to see the features of the baby. For us that’s very exciting as well – that they’re getting a better quality picture."
 
More than 450 unborn babies were saved last year through the ministry of the Downtown Pregnancy Center, Uptown Women’s Center and the mobile unit, Cline said. The ministry also has seen the transformation of lives through the gospel, she told BP. So far this year, 172 clients have professed faith in Christ and another 61 have rededicated their lives to Him.
 
Involved for Life Inc. began in 1994 as an outreach ministry of First Baptist Church in Dallas and became a separate organization nine years later, Cline said.
 
In September, the Psalm 139 Project placed an ultrasound machine at the Liberty Women’s Clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Liberty, Mo. It also plans to place a machine in New Orleans before the end of the year.
 
The Psalm 139 Project not only helps place ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers, but it funds the training of staff members to operate the machines. The initiative’s name comes from the well-known chapter in the Bible in which David testifies to God’s sovereign care for him when he was an unborn child. David wrote in verse 13 of that psalm, "You knit me together in my mother’s womb."
 
Since 2004, the Psalm 139 Project has helped provide ultrasound equipment for centers in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.
 
The ERLC has collaborated with Focus on the Family’s Option Ultrasound Program on some of the machine placements. The ERLC and Focus have co-hosted EFL each January the last three years.
 
All gifts to the Psalm 139 Project go toward machines and training, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the Cooperative Program, the SBC’s unified giving plan. For more information on the Psalm 139 Project, go to psalm139project.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/25/2018 12:35:54 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Evangelicals & politics: Reasons for voting ‘complex’

October 24 2018 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Politics is important for most evangelicals, but not so important that they question the faith of those who vote differently from them, a new study shows.
 
A new survey from LifeWay Research sponsored by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College explored the voting habits and political motivations of three groups of Americans: evangelicals by belief, self-identified evangelicals and those who are not evangelical by belief or self-identity. The survey was conducted May 9-16.
 
Evangelicals by belief – those who hold to four key theological statements developed by LifeWay Research and the National Association of Evangelicals – were most likely to say politics is at least somewhat important to them (87 percent), with 30 percent saying it is extremely important.
 
Self-identified evangelicals (85 percent) gave similar overall importance to politics. Non-evangelicals (78 percent) are less likely to see politics as at least somewhat important. But few self-identified (23 percent) and non-evangelicals (18 percent) say politics is extremely important.
 
“These numbers show evangelicals have a greater passion for politics than most, which could say something about the issues of our day. Some of the biggest political issues today involve evangelicals, which could explain why they are engaged at a higher level than others,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center.
 
“Evangelicals care for and tend to be involved in the communities in which they live,” Stetzer said. “We have come a long way from 50 years ago, when many evangelicals thought political involvement was worldly.”
 
Four in 10 African-American evangelicals by belief say politics is extremely important to them – more than any other ethnicity.
 
Evangelicals by belief and self-identified evangelicals are more likely than non-evangelicals to belong to one of the two major political parties.
 
Among evangelicals by belief, 44 percent are Republicans, 32 percent Democrats and 14 percent independents. Self-identified evangelicals are slightly less Republican. Forty-one percent say they are part of the Republican party, 32 percent Democratic party and 15 percent independent.
 
Non-evangelicals are more diverse with 23 percent Republicans, 36 percent Democrats and 23 percent independents.
 

The 2016 presidential election

 
Evangelical by belief voters are the most likely to say they felt strong support for their candidate when they voted and are most likely to still feel strong support for that candidate today.
 
Thinking back to 2016, nine in 10 evangelicals agree they felt strong support for their preferred candidate, with 69 percent strongly agreeing.
 
Little has changed when evangelical by belief voters think about who they voted for in the last presidential election. Today, 88 percent agree they feel strong support for who they voted for in 2016, with 70 percent strongly agreeing.
 
“Given the nominated presidential candidates in 2016, most voters with evangelical beliefs were sure about their choice and few have changed their minds,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
 
Self-identified evangelical voters and non-evangelical voters are less likely to say they felt strong support in 2016 and today.
 
And among evangelicals who voted, most did so for Donald Trump. More than half of evangelicals by belief (58 percent) and self-identified evangelicals (53 percent) cast their ballot for the Republican nominee.
 
Slightly more than a third of evangelicals by belief (36 percent) and self-identified evangelicals (38 percent) voted for Hillary Clinton.
 
A majority of non-evangelical voters (53 percent) voted for Clinton, while 36 percent voted for Trump.
 
African-American voters with evangelical beliefs overwhelmingly voted for Clinton (86 percent), while more than three-quarters of white voters with evangelical beliefs voted for Trump (77 percent).
 
Around half of younger voters with evangelical beliefs cast their ballot for Clinton – 47 percent of those 18 to 49. A majority of voters 65 and over who have evangelical beliefs voted for Trump (72 percent).
 

Single-issue voters? Not necessarily

 
The survey found evangelicals by belief (62 percent) and self-identified evangelicals (59 percent) were most likely to say one of the reasons for their 2016 vote was choosing the candidate with the ability to improve the economy.
 
Close to half those numbers – 36 percent of evangelical by belief and 31 percent of self-identified evangelical voters – listed the candidate’s position on abortion as a factor in their vote. Similar numbers said a likely Supreme Court nominee played a role.
 
When asked the most important reason for voting the way they did, again evangelicals by belief (17 percent) and self-identified evangelicals (18 percent) chose an ability to improve the economy. That was followed by positions on health care and immigration.
 
Few evangelicals by belief (5 percent) and self-identified evangelicals (4 percent) said abortion was the most important issue in deciding their 2016 vote. And 7 percent of evangelicals by belief and 6 percent of self-identified evangelicals chose likely Supreme Court nominees as the most important reason.
 
“In many ways, evangelical voters are a lot like everyone else when it comes to deciding their vote,” McConnell said.
 
“The issues often tied to evangelicals – like abortion and the Supreme Court – are further down the average evangelical’s list of deciding factors, behind topics like the economy and health care.”
 

Political divides in the pews?

 
Most evangelicals by belief and self-identified evangelicals say the 2016 election brought to the surface some underlying divisions among Christians.
 
Six in 10 evangelicals by belief (59 percent) and 57 percent of self-identified evangelicals agree the election revealed political divides within the church that have existed for a long time.
 
Younger and ethnic minority self-identified evangelicals are more likely to say those political divides were exposed during the election. Sixty-three percent of those 18 to 34 agree, compared to 53 percent of those 50 and over. African-American (62 percent) and Hispanic evangelicals (64 percent) are more likely to agree than whites (54 percent).
 
Yet, most evangelicals by belief and self-identified evangelicals believe someone in the opposing party can be a devout Christian.
 
Among Republicans, 68 percent of evangelicals by belief and 71 percent of self-identified evangelicals say someone can be a committed Christian and a Democrat. Fewer than a quarter of each disagree – 25 percent of evangelicals by belief and 22 percent of self-identified evangelicals.
 
Among Democrats, 74 percent of evangelicals by belief and 77 percent of self-identified evangelicals say someone can be a committed Christian and a Republican. Fifteen percent of Democratic evangelicals by belief and 13 percent of self-identified evangelicals disagree.
 
When evangelicals encounter someone using biblical beliefs to justify political views that are opposite of their own, few question their political opponent’s faith. Twenty percent of evangelicals by belief and self-identified evangelicals say they doubt the validity of the other person’s faith.
 
Evangelicals by belief are most likely to say they are hopeful they can find common ground biblically (40 percent), while self-identified evangelicals are most likely to agree to disagree (38 percent) with the other person.
 
“Jesus is not coming back on a donkey or an elephant,” Stetzer said. “We have to acknowledge that people vote for different and complex reasons and that Christians can differ on politics and agree on the gospel.”
 

Other findings in the study include:

 
– 59 percent of evangelicals by belief, 61 percent of self-identified evangelicals and 56 percent of non-evangelicals say their political support should focus on praising or criticizing issues rather than supporting individual political leaders.
 
– 27 percent of evangelicals by belief, 30 percent of self-identified evangelicals and 34 percent of non-evangelicals say evangelical Christians are too closely aligned with President Trump.
 
– 43 percent of evangelicals by belief, 41 percent of self-identified evangelicals and 27 percent of non-evangelicals say when a leader is making important political decisions they support, they should also support the leader when they say or do things they disagree with.
 
– 57 percent of evangelicals by belief and 54 percent of self-identified evangelicals say the goals conservatives achieve under President Trump will last after his presidency.
 
– 67 percent of evangelicals by belief and 66 percent of self-identified evangelicals agree committed Christians can benefit from a political leader even if that leader’s personal life does not line up with Christian teaching.
 
In his new book, Christians in the Age of Outrage, Stetzer said he describes how Christians should “gear down the outrage and turn up the mission. We certainly can’t go to war with people with whom we disagree because you can’t be at war with a people and reach a people at the same time.”
 

Methodology

 
The study was sponsored by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. The online survey of Americans was conducted May 9-16, 2018. The completed sample is 3,000 surveys. A minimum of 1,000 respondents were screened for each of three groups (those qualifying for both evangelical groups are included in the reporting for both):
 
– 1,000 Americans who are not evangelicals (do not have evangelical beliefs nor self-identify as evangelical or born again)
 
– 1,064 Americans who have evangelical beliefs
 
– 1,814 Americans who self-identify as an evangelical or born-again Christian
 
Slight weights were used for each group to balance gender, age, region, ethnicity and education. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from the online panel does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent for non-evangelicals, plus or minus 3.1 percent for those with evangelical beliefs, and plus or minus 2.4 percent for self-identified evangelicals. These margins of error account for the effect of weighting. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
 
For more information, visit LifeWayResearch.com or view the complete survey report PDF.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/24/2018 10:45:28 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



‘Security’ only reason for Asia Bibi verdict delay

October 24 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Security is the only reason Pakistan’s Supreme Court is delaying its ruling in an Oct. 8 appeal of Christian mother Asia Bibi’s blasphemy conviction, a religious liberty expert told Baptist Press (BP).
 

Asia Bibi

“There’s only one reason, security,” said Shaheryar Gill, senior litigation counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). “Generally the Supreme Court announces decisions the same day. In politically high-profile cases, or in these type security cases, these are the only times when the court doesn’t announce.
 
“And they don’t even take that long actually, but this time it seems like they’re taking a little bit longer,” said Gill, who checks the court’s website daily for updates and is in touch with the ACLJ’s office in Pakistan.
 
“If she’s acquitted she is obviously going to need a lot of security..., security provided by the government,” Gill told BP Oct. 23. “And she cannot be released openly. If she is, there’s no doubt, no question about it, that her life will be in jeopardy. They feel proud of killing somebody like this.”
 
The Supreme Court of Pakistan heard hours of testimony before deferring a ruling in the case, with no official timeline set for a decision.
 
Bibi, a 53-year-old mother of five, was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 on charges of insulting the prophet Mohammad while working in a field as a day laborer in 2009. When Bibi offered a coworker a cup of water, the woman said Bibi’s Christianity made the water ceremonially unclean, setting off a chain of false accusations related to Bibi’s beliefs and backed by Muslim clerics.
 
Mobs led by the radical Islamic political party Tahreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) have protested by the thousands in several Pakistani cities since the hearing, according to many news reports. TLP is calling for Bibi’s death, threatening to kill Supreme Court justices if Bibi is given clemency, the French news service AFP reported Oct. 10. TLP has threatened to stage widespread protests capable of paralyzing the country.
 
The death threats are credible and should be taken seriously, Gill told BP. The government would have to protect her if she is released, likely clandestinely taking her out of the country before announcing its decision.
 
“There’s just no other way to protect her life, other than the government itself actually doing something,” Gill said. “Hopefully there will be a plan to basically fly her over to another country. That’s really the only option really, because if she’s in Pakistan, somebody will find her.”
 
Gill referenced the 2012 case of Rimsha Masih, a mentally ill teenage girl acquitted of blasphemy stemming from accusations that she burned the Quran. To protect Masih, Pakistan’s military surrounded her with security and escorted her to a government helicopter and flew her to an undisclosed location, it was widely reported.
 
Pakistan’s military is strong and capable of protecting Bibi, Gill said, but not obligated to do so.
 
“If the government is willing to release her, they’re going to be willing to protect her as well,” Gill said. “The state has the power to do that; the government has the power to do that.”
 
Other Christians in the majority Muslim country also are in danger. In the past, mobs excited by blasphemy accusations have attacked and killed Christians, looting and burning their neighborhoods.
 
“It’s not an unusual thing,” Gill said. “It has happened in many cases, and that’s one of the reasons why I think Christians are generally afraid, because if she’s released and they can’t take it out on her, who else is left? Well, all these other Christians.”
 
Bibi has requested prayer, and many Christian watchdog groups are encouraging prayers for Bibi, her husband and five children, and other Christians in the country.
 
Since 1986 when Pakistan updated its blasphemy laws, at least 150 Christians, 564 Muslims, 459 Ahmadis and 21 Hindus have been jailed on blasphemy charges, according to religious freedom watchdog Open Doors USA. Before 1986, only 14 blasphemy cases were reported, Open Doors said on its website.
 
Bibi’s case is widely considered one of the most egregious cases of injustice stemming from the laws. One of more than 40 so-called blasphemers on death row in Pakistan, according to ACLJ numbers, Bibi would be the first Pakistani the government has ever executed on a blasphemy conviction.
 
More than 50 people accused of blasphemy have been killed by angry mobs and others, and hundreds are serving or have served prison terms ranging from three years to 10 years on such accusations, according to the ACLJ.
 
Open Doors lists Pakistan, with a 96 percent Muslim population, as the fifth most dangerous country for Christians to live. On its website, Open Doors suggests the following prayer:
 
“Father, we come to You now pleading for Asia’s freedom and asylum. Our hearts break for this family and the church in Pakistan under fire. God, we ask that You would protect Asia and the Supreme Court judges also under threat. Father, give these judges bold courage to stand their ground and acquit her. God, we also pray with Asia’s husband and five children.
 
We ask that You would surround them with your protection, comfort, and strength. Give them Your peace as they wait for this decision amidst so much hate. And Father, we pray right now for the church in Pakistan as they watch this unfold and see these protests. We ask that You would remind them of Your power and love for them. Place people in their paths to encourage them in these fiery paths and affirm their commitment to remain in and with You.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/24/2018 10:45:10 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GuideStone assesses stock market’s recent volatility

October 24 2018 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

Increased market volatility, which has commanded increased headlines in the days leading up to the November mid-term elections, has caught many by surprise. However, David S. Spika, chief strategic investment officer for GuideStone Financial Resources, noted that stock market volatility is a common and normal occurrence.
 
The stock market – as measured by the S&P 500 Index, experiences price swings of 1 percent or more 62 times a year on average. The same broad index of the stock market averages only 71 trading days between declines of 5 percent or more.
 
“The recent sell-off may feel unsettling to investors because they have been lulled into complacency by an historically low-volatility environment over the past couple of years,” Spika said, “but it’s actually quite normal and nothing to be concerned about at this time.”
 
Fears of rising interest rates and the impact that higher rates may eventually have on the economy is driving this current market volatility, Spika said.
 
“As the economic cycle matures – we are now in the 10th year of the current expansion – economic growth and employment gains force the Federal Reserve to raise the Fed Funds rate to prevent an outbreak of excessive inflation,” he said.
 
Additionally, fears about the ongoing trade negotiations with China, tariffs initiated by President Trump and the outcome of the mid-term elections also may have stoked the current market volatility.
 
While volatility can be unnerving, the best course of action for retirement investors is to stick with their long-term asset allocation plans.
 
“It is impossible to time the market,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “In fact, the market has historically rewarded those with long-term perspectives. Retirement account performance moving forward is based on results of the financial markets in the future, not in the past.
 
“While it’s easy to focus on the headlines and emotions brought on by the 24/7 news cycle, GuideStone believes it is best to avoid overreacting and for investors to stick to their long-term plans,” Hawkins said.
 
Spika noted that investors who believe they have too much equity (stock) exposure as a result of the strong run in the market since November 2016 may consider reallocating and balancing their portfolio.
 
One approach GuideStone offers to that end is the MyDestination Funds family of Target Date Funds. Retirement plan participants choose the fund closest to their desired retirement date; each fund is a “fund-of-funds” with a diversified asset allocation that becomes more conservative as the participant approaches the target date and through retirement.
 
The MyDestination Funds (“Funds”) attempt to achieve their objectives by investing in the GuideStone Select Funds and other investments. The Funds are managed to a retirement date (“target date”) by adjusting the percentage of fixed income securities and equity securities to become more conservative each year until reaching the retirement year and then approximately 15 years thereafter. The target date in the name of the Funds is the approximate date when an investor plans to start withdrawing money. The expense ratio for the Fund includes the expenses of the underlying Funds. The principal risks of the Funds will change depending on the asset mix of the Select Funds in which they invest. You may directly invest in the Select Funds and other investments. The Funds’ value will go up and down in response to changes in the share prices of the investments that they own. The amount invested in the Funds is not guaranteed to increase and is not guaranteed against loss, nor is the amount of the original investment guaranteed at the target date. It is possible to lose money by investing in the Funds.
 
For a copy of the prospectus with this and other information about the Funds, please go to https://www.guidestoneretirement.org/Individual/What-we-offer/Fund-Choices/MDFInformation and click “download a prospectus” or call 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433).
 
GuideStone Funds shares are distributed by Foreside Funds Distributors LLC, a registered broker-dealer and underwriter of the funds. GuideStone Capital Management, a controlled-affiliate of GuideStone Financial Resources, serves as the investment adviser to GuideStone Funds.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/24/2018 10:44:42 AM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments



Outcry at Trump gender memo shows ‘pain,’ confusion

October 24 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Angry reaction to news that President Donald Trump’s administration may revert to the traditional definition of gender in some federal programs, three evangelical commentators say, reveals society’s confusion and need for ministry.

The administration’s proposal “may sound controversial, but it is not,” Andrew Walker of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission wrote in an Oct. 23 commentary. “The only stable way to determine what defines male and female are primary and secondary sex characteristics.” Reaction to the proposal “by transgender activists demonstrates how confused our society is on what it means to be human and how far ingrained the transgender worldview has become in our thinking.”
 
The New York Times reported Oct. 21 that a memo circulating within the Trump administration proposes interpreting “sex” in federal antidiscrimination legislation to mean “a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” The memo, reportedly drafted last spring within the Department of Health and Human Services, adds, “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
 
This suggested interpretation of “sex” may be presented formally to the Justice Department before year’s end, The Times reported, and would affect how multiple executive branch departments enforce sex discrimination provisions in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
 
Such a move would continue the administration’s reversal of 2016 regulations by the Obama administration interpreting “sex” in Title IX based on an individual’s perceived gender identity.
 
Pro-transgender activists voiced opposition to the proposed Trump administration change, and The Times described it as “the most drastic move yet in a government-wide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.”
 
Catherine Lhamon, a former Education Department official under President Obama, told The Times defining sex in biological terms “quite simply negates the humanity of people.”
 
In response to news of the memo, people who identify as transgender took to social media under the hashtag #WontBeErased.

But Walker, author of God and the Transgender Debate, said, “The Trump administration is desiring a classification for male and female on the standard definition that all of human history has, up until recently, acknowledged. This is not revolutionary. To muster outrage at circumstances that simply return us to pre-2016 legal definitions is shortsighted.”
 
Humans never will “overturn” the “male-female binary,” Walker said, because “our createdness as male and female is stamped onto human nature.”
 
“The Trump administration is not defining people ‘out of existence,’” as a Times headline announced, Walker said. “Rather, it is taking the correct step to define sex based on created reality; not simply self-perception. This matters because law is a teacher. Its pedagogy communicates norms and expectations for how society ought to govern itself, therefore providing stability and order to the community underneath its authority.”
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.,, said defining sex based on self-perception is “unworkable” for society, and at least some negative reactions to the Trump administration’s proposal have been unreasonable. He noted in particular a Times op-ed written by a transgender individual under the headline “Trump cannot define away my existence.”
 
“A rhetorical strategy” being employed by “the moral and sexual revolutionaries” is “the argument that to disagree with them is to erase them” or “eradicate them,” Mohler said Oct. 23 on his podcast The Briefing. “If you allow that kind of language, we are simply left in a position of absolute cultural nonsense.”

Bob Stith, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former national strategist for gender issues, told Baptist Press nonsensical arguments from transgender activists should spur Christians “to be thoughtful and compassionate.”
 
“Regardless of what we may think of the arguments,” Stith said in written comments, individuals who identify as transgender “are real people facing a struggle for which they did not ask. The pain is real, and we must always keep that foremost in our discussions. But it is not compassionate to promote a solution that isn’t really a solution.”
 
Citing Genesis 1:27 and Matthew 19:4, Stith said “true compassion will make every effort to bring men and women into alignment with God’s creative intent.”
 
A 2014 SBC resolution “on transgender identity” affirmed “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception – a perception which is often influenced by fallen human nature in ways contrary to God’s design.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/24/2018 10:43:53 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Survey sees mix of orthodox belief, shifting opinions

October 24 2018 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources

Six in 10 Americans say religious belief is a matter of personal opinion. For 7 in 10 Americans, such religious beliefs include one true God existing in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But an increasing majority of Americans deny Jesus has always existed and many say the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a personal being.
 
Those are among the findings of a new study of American views on Christian theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
 
“When the majority of Americans believe religious belief is more personal opinion than objective truth, then we expect to see contradictory beliefs [as well as] beliefs that change over time,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
 
The survey of 3,000 Americans was sponsored by Orlando-based Ligonier Ministries. Titled the 2018 State of Theology Study, it is the third in a series of surveys examining Americans’ theological beliefs. Previous surveys were conducted in 2016 and 2014.
 
Survey questions focused on key doctrinal beliefs and included a number of areas where Americans often differ from historic and orthodox Christian views. Among the findings:
 

Character of God

 
A majority of Americans (70 percent) believe there is one true God in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Eighteen percent disagree while 12 percent are not sure. This has remained consistent since researchers began asking the question in 2014.
 

Sixty-nine percent of Americans say God is perfect and cannot make a mistake, which is higher than both the 2016 (65 percent) and 2014 (63 percent) surveys.
 
Two-thirds believe the biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. Twenty percent disagree; 14 percent are not sure.
 
Fifty-seven percent of Americans say Jesus Christ is the only person who never sinned; 29 percent disagree; and 15 percent are not sure.
 
A similar number say Jesus is a created being. Fifty-seven percent agree with the statement “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” Twenty-eight percent disagree and 15 percent are not sure. That’s a slight increase from 2016 when 52 percent agreed Jesus was created by God.
 
Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) say the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a personal being. Twenty-five percent disagree; 16 percent are not sure.
 
A quarter of Americans (26 percent) say God is unconcerned with their day-to-day decisions; 61 percent disagree; and 13 percent are not sure.
 

The Bible

 
Researchers found Americans are split on their views of the Bible. More Americans believe the Bible is completely accurate but a growing number say the Bible is not literally true.
 
In 2018, half of Americans say the Bible is 100 percent accurate in all that it teaches, up from 47 percent in 2016 and 43 percent in 2014.
 

Fewer than half (47 percent) of Americans, meanwhile, agree the Bible contains helpful accounts of ancient myths, but isn’t literally true. Forty-three percent disagree. In 2016, 44 percent agreed the Bible isn’t literally true; in 2014, 41 percent said the same.
 
Researchers also found 36 percent of Americans say modern science disproves the Bible while 48 percent disagree.
 
“The last writing included in the Christian Bible was completed nearly 2,000 years ago,” McConnell said. “Yet Americans’ beliefs around this book are shifting more than most other theological beliefs.”
 

Sin & punishment

 
More than 6 in 10 Americans (62 percent) expect Jesus to return and judge all people. However, fewer expect people to be punished in a place called hell. While 54 percent of Americans agree hell is a real place where certain people will be punished forever, 30 percent disagree.
 
According to the study, a majority of Americans (66 percent) admit everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. Twenty-seven percent disagree and 7 percent aren’t sure.
 
Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Americans say even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. Sixty-nine percent disagree and 8 percent aren’t sure. However, Americans are more likely to agree now than four years ago about the consequences of sin. In 2014, only 18 percent of Americans said even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation; in 2016, 19 percent agreed.
 
Americans with evangelical beliefs are the most likely to agree (49 percent) that the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.
 

Salvation

 
A majority of Americans believe Jesus is the only way to eternal salvation. Six in 10 (62 percent) agree Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of sin from their lives. Thirty-eight percent disagree.
 
Fifty-seven percent of Americans say only those who trust in Jesus alone as Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation. Forty-three percent disagree. Those who identify with an evangelical (88 percent) or black Protestant (83 percent) denomination are more likely to agree than mainline Protestants (65 percent) and Catholics (58 percent).
 
And slightly more than half (53 percent) believe righteousness comes only through faith in Jesus Christ not because of one’s actions. A third disagree while 14 percent aren’t sure.
 

Morality & moral authority

 
The share of Americans who believe the Bible has authority to govern our actions grew to a slim majority in 2018. Fifty-three percent agree “the Bible has the authority to tell us what we must do.” This is higher than both the 2016 and 2014 surveys with 50 percent and 49 percent agreeing, respectively.
 

Six in 10 (62 percent) Americans say the Bible is the highest authority for what they believe. Thirty-eight percent disagree. Americans from an evangelical (92 percent) or black Protestant (90 percent) denomination are more likely to agree than mainline Protestants (74 percent) and Catholics (67 percent).
 
Americans are fairly split on whether sex outside traditional marriage is a sin. Half (51 percent) say they believe sex outside traditional marriage is a sin including 33 percent who strongly agree. Forty-one percent disagree including 27 percent who strongly disagree.
 
Slightly more than half (52 percent) of Americans say abortion is a sin. Thirty-eight percent disagree while 10 percent are not sure.
 
Americans’ views of homosexuality continue to shift from historically orthodox Christian views. Forty-four percent believe the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today. Forty-one percent disagree and 15 percent are not sure. In 2016, 42 percent agreed, while 44 percent disagreed and 14 percent weren’t sure.
 
LifeWay Research asked Americans about gender identity. The study found 38 percent believe it is a matter of choice while 51 percent say it is not a choice and 11 percent are not sure.
 

Worship

 
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans see valid alternatives to worshiping in a church with other believers. And more than a third say worship services should be entertaining if churches want to be effective.
 
Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church. Thirty percent disagree while 12 percent are not sure.
 
Americans with evangelical beliefs are more likely to disagree (54 percent) that worshiping alone or with family is a valid alternative to corporate worship.
 
Thirty-seven percent of Americans say churches must provide entertaining worship services if they want to be effective. Half (51 percent) disagree. Americans ages 18-34 are the most likely to agree (46 percent). Americans with evangelical beliefs are more likely to disagree than those without evangelical beliefs (61 percent versus 49 percent).
 
“Church attendance has long been a measure of religious activity and devotion,” McConnell said. “Today, less than half of religious service attendees see regularly gathering for worship with other believers at church as essential.”
 
For more information visit LifeWayResearch.com, download the report or visit TheStateofTheology.com.
 

Methodology

 
A demographically balanced online panel was used for interviewing 3,002 American adults. The surveys were completed April 24 – May 4, 2018. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from the online panel does not exceed +1.9 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups. Slight weights were used to balance gender, age, ethnicity, income, region and religion. Comparisons are made to studies conducted by LifeWay Research in 2016 and 2014 using the same methodology. Those with evangelical beliefs were determined using the National Association of Evangelicals and LifeWay Research evangelical beliefs research definition.
 
LifeWay Research is an evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/24/2018 10:43:38 AM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Eugene Peterson, creator of ‘The Message,’ dies at 85

October 23 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Eugene Peterson, bestselling Christian author known for “The Message” paraphrase of Scripture, died Oct. 22. He was 85.
 

Wikimedia Commons photo
Eugene Peterson

Pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Md., for nearly 30 years, Peterson published more than 30 books on biblical spirituality, pastoral theology and Christian living, including his 2013 memoir The Pastor and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
 
Less than a week before Peterson’s death, news broke he had been placed in hospice care amid struggles with dementia and congestive heart failure.
 
Upon his death, his family said in a statement, “Among his final words were, ‘Let’s go.’ And his joy: my, oh my; the man remained joyful right up to his blessed end, smiling frequently. In such moments it’s best for all mortal flesh to keep silence. But if you have to say something say this: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’
 
“It feels fitting that his death came on a Monday, the day of the week he always honored as a Sabbath during his years as a pastor. After a lifetime of faithful service to the church – running the race with gusto – it is reassuring to know that Eugene has now entered into the fullness of the Kingdom of God and has been embraced by eternal Sabbath,” his family stated.
 
Among Southern Baptists to react to Peterson’s death, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted, “Grateful to God for a long obedience in the same direction,” referencing Peterson’s well-known book. “Thank you Eugene Peterson.”
 
Former Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt tweeted, “Eugene Peterson is with the God he loved and served in a magnificent way.”
 
When Peterson entered hospice care, author and speaker Beth Moore tweeted, “Don’t you just sorta hope when Eugene Peterson finally sees the gorgeous, glorious face of the Savior he has so long loved and served, that Jesus is the type that might greet him with something from The Message translation? Like, maybe John 21:12? ‘Breakfast is ready.’”
 
Last year, Peterson told Religion News Service he didn’t think death was “anything to be afraid of.”
 
“I have no idea how it’s going to work out,” Peterson said of death. “But I’m not afraid, I’ll tell you that. I’ve been with a lot of people who are dying. I think those conversations are some of the best I’ve ever had. These are people who have lived a good life and who have embraced their faith. They’re not afraid.”
 
At times, Peterson was the subject of theological controversy, as when he said in a 2017 interview he didn’t believe homosexuality was sinful – a statement he later retracted.
 
A funeral service for Peterson is scheduled Oct. 29 at First Presbyterian church in Kalispell, Mont., and will be livestreamed, according to Christianity Today.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/23/2018 11:08:04 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ETCH conference: Together, we can do so much more

October 23 2018 by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources

When attendees arrived at the 2018 ETCH (Equipping the Church and Home) family ministry conference, each discovered a small, monochromatic card on their seat.
 

Over the course of the conference, church leaders assembled these seemingly insignificant cards into a giant collage that revealed a Helen Keller quote: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
The visual aide marked the tone for a conference focused on breaking down silos and helping ministry leaders and families link arms around the gospel. ETCH – hosted by LifeWay Christian Resources – stands for equipping the church and home.
 
This year’s ETCH conference, held Oct. 18-19, drew about 1,200 kids and student ministry leaders to Nashville and offered more than 50 speakers and breakout leaders.
 

Ben Trueblood


Ben Trueblood, director of student ministries at LifeWay, admitted tensions can run high between different ministries in the local church.
 


Photo by Amanda Mae Steele
Some 1,200 kids and student ministry leaders gathered in Nashville, Oct. 18-19, for the ETCH conference hosted by LifeWay Christian Resources.

“Sometimes, we allow our passion for what we do supersede everything, and we’re willing to run over people for the sake of what we believe God has called us to do,” he said. “What’s at stake is a collapse of the vision we share of building life-long faith.”
 
Trueblood said 66 percent of teenagers active in church while in high school leave the church during their college years. To battle this statistic, he urged attendees to practice humility toward other ministry leaders and to build relationships with parents.
 
“The reason many parents don’t disciple their kids isn’t because they don’t want to, but because they don’t know how,” he said. “If we [church leaders] are serious about making disciples of kids and teenagers, we have to take a missional view of the adults in our congregation so that we forge those connections.”
 
Trueblood said the strength to do this flows from the gospel.
 
“You can fulfill what you’ve been called to do because God has forged a link with you through His Son,” he said. “It’s an unbroken link that will never be taken away no matter how much this life hammers against it.”
 

Lisa Harper

 
Bible study teacher and speaker Lisa Harper discussed how God breaks down divisions in the church to bring about redemptive results. She asked attendees to consider the backgrounds of Peter and John Mark.
 
Peter denied he knew Jesus, and Mark’s reluctance to continue a mission trip caused Paul and Barnabas to split, she said.
 
“Yet, God chose to take these two train-wrecks and train them how to be team leaders,” Harper said.
 
She also noted that Mark’s Gospel is the only one to record Jesus saying a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:20-27).
 
“If we come together as a covenant community, no one can plunder us,” she said. “Community under the banner of the gospel is covenant family.”
 

Russell Moore


“We desperately need to recover the idea of church as a family,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 


Photo by Amanda Mae Steele
ERLC President Russell Moore speaks to children and student ministry leaders about the importance of connecting younger church members with spiritual mentors.

Moore told attendees one of the most essential things they can do at their churches is to connect people with spiritual fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers who can help carry the burdens of younger church members who need guides.
 
“The last thing your kids and students need is a cool factor,” he said. “They don’t want people who are going to try to act their age; they want mentors.”
 
Moore also expounded on Luke 14:25-27 and said taking up one’s cross means not making family an idol.
 
“The problem is not usually that people have too low a view of family, but that they have too high a view – one that turns family into one more arena for winning and displaying,” he said. “If you don’t put family first [in front of the kingdom of God], then you’re actually free to love your family.”
 

Dorena Williamson

 
Dorena Williamson, author and first lady of Strong Tower Bible Church in Nashville, Tenn., spoke on what it means to display a close and personal love to one’s neighbors.
 
“Sometimes we attempt to qualify who our neighbor is,” she said, “But it’s really a simple question.”
 
Williamson reminded leaders that Jesus “moved into the neighborhood” through the incarnation and that the Good Samaritan cared for his neighbor with no sign of getting repaid for his efforts.
 
She also participated in a panel discussion with other speakers on the topic of how churches can create and nurture a gospel-centered vision of racial reconciliation.
 
“If we’re not having these discussions [about racism and racial diversity in the kingdom of God] and giving our children this information in their mental file folder, someone else is going to fill that folder for them,” she said.
 
Williamson also encouraged churches and parents to avoid telling children to be color-blind when it comes to race.
 
“Children see color at a very young age,” she said. “It’s insulting to our children to tell them to be critical thinkers but then teach then to deny that they see the colors of the people around them.
 
“To call oneself colorblind when it comes to race diminishes the glory of God,” Williamson said, “Because we’re all masterpieces fearfully and wonderfully made.”
 
Panel speaker Dan Darling, vice president for communications at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, noted that scripture is filled with passages addressing race. He cited stories like Pentecost and the giving of the Great Commission.
 
“The topic of race is all through the New Testament,” he said. “As these things come up in the text, we can teach them to our kids as long as we don’t miss them.”
 

Michael Kelley

 
Michael Kelley, director of Groups Ministry for LifeWay, cautioned churches against bunkering down in an inward-facing posture. He warned this leads to kids concluding Jesus is not a sending God.
 
“The very nature of what it means to be a Christian is to be sent,” he said. “We must show that the best place for a Christian is not right inside their carefully constructed environment, but rather living as a stranger and an alien in the world.”
 
Kelley gave three ways churches can break people from a bunkering mentality: limit programs to protect margin for members to engage their community, help families normalize gospel conversations, and encourage Christians to lean into hospitality.
 
“Hospitality is not a single act like making a casserole,” he said. “God calls Christians to live in a posture of hospitality.”
 
Other speakers at ETCH included Jana Magruder, director of LifeWay Kids; Crawford Loritts, senior pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Ga.; singer-songwriter and author Ellie Holcomb; and writer and speaker Jamie Ivey. Comedian and illusionist Jared Hall also performed at the event, and the Jimmy McNeal Band led worship.
 
The next ETCH conference is scheduled for Oct. 7-9, 2019 in Nashville. For more information, visit EtchConference.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Wilson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/23/2018 11:07:22 AM by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Seminary students urged to redefine ministry success

October 23 2018 by SBTS Communications

Success in ministry does not come from your abilities, but from the kindness of God, noted Noe Garcia during an Oct. 18 chapel service at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). 

Garcia is an alumnus of SBTS and senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Ariz., which was the home church of the late Sen. John McCain. Garcia attracted national attention this past August when he presided over McCain’s memorial service. 
 
During his chapel message, Garcia asked seminary students to rethink the meaning of success in ministry. He urged future ministers not to look for ministry success anywhere but in God’s provision.
 


SBTS photo
Success in ministry does not come from your abilities, but from the kindness of God, noted Noe Garcia during an Oct. 18 chapel service at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Your success will not come from the degrees hanging on your wall,” Garcia said. “Your success will not come from who you know. Your success will not come from your bank account. Your success will not come from your mentors. Your success will not come from your charisma. Your success will not come from anything but the Lord.” 
 
Preaching from Nehemiah 1, Garcia noted that God is the main character of the story – a great and merciful God redeeming a disobedient people.
 
Garcia also pointed out that not much is known about Nehemiah, except that God called him to do something dramatic for his sake: to lead the exiled nation of Israel back to Jerusalem and to rebuild the walls of the city. 
 
Christians should care deeply about the things God cares about, Garcia said, noting how Nehemiah was moved to tears because of the sin of his people. In the narrative, Israel is broken, sinful and separated from the land God had preserved for them, and this leads Nehemiah into deep sadness, prayer and fasting. 
 
This should be the first step for any minister of God’s purposes – utter dependence upon God, Garcia said.  
 
“If we’re being honest, when is the last time you mourned because the glory of God’s name is being dishonored? When is the last time you mourned and wept like Nehemiah because of the brokenness we see all around us?” Garcia asked. “You’re not called to mind your own business; you’re called to enter the business of God’s business.” 
 
Seminary graduates enter the ministry with many trained skills – in theology, exegesis, hermeneutics and church history. But Garcia suggested these abilities do not qualify anyone for faithful ministry; only the presence and power of God can do that.
 
“The most dangerous thing for us as Christians in a seminary [environment] is for you to get drunk off your own skills and giftings – never relying on the Spirit of God,” he said. “May God break us, and sanctify us from ourselves.” 
 
The drift away from faithful allegiance to God’s name is slow, Garcia said. But it’s easy for Christians to develop disordered priorities because the human heart is self-deceptive. 
 
“Some of us are more burdened for success in our ministry than we are for the glory of God’s name,” he said. “We are living on this mission for His name alone, and no one gets the glory for that but God.” 
 
Garcia told students that confession and repentance are critical components of ministering for God. And he argued that the Christian life does not only begin with repentance – the whole of the Christian life is marked by consistent repentance for sin. 
 
“Programs can fill a room, but only the Spirit of God will transform it,” he said. “What we need today in churches is not better programs or cool events. We need a dependence on the Holy Spirit and the presence of God.” 
 
For audio and video of the chapel service, go to equip.sbts.edu
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the communications staff of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/23/2018 11:06:56 AM by SBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Robinsons touched 65 lives by fostering, adoption

October 23 2018 by Katelyn Goodwin, Missouri Pathway

Few people have hearts as big as Ron and Terri Robinson. In 40 years of marriage, Ron followed his calling to ministry and pastored several Baptist churches with Terri at his right hand, opening their hearts to the communities they served.
 

Photo submitted
Ron and Terri Robinson, after cancer kept them from having more children, found fulfillment in foster parenting and adoption, touching the lives of 65-plus children over 22 years, many with special needs.

Then they opened their hearts to a new calling from God as foster parents. But their life and their marriage didn’t begin with that in mind.
 
Ron and Terri always wanted children, so they were beyond excited when Terri became pregnant three months after they were married. But several months later, a knot developed on the back of her leg. They discovered it was osteogenic sarcoma – a type of bone cancer.
 
“On a Wednesday when she was about eight months pregnant, they induced labor, and she delivered a healthy baby boy. On Friday, they took her into surgery and amputated her leg. And on Monday, the doctor sat on the edge of her bed and told her she had less than six months to live,” Ron recounted. “Needless to say, our world was thrown into a tailspin.”
 
Terri went through several rounds of chemotherapy, and her doctor told her the chance of another pregnancy was extremely low.
 
The next month, she was pregnant again.
 
Terri gave birth to a daughter, but a month later a follow-up test found cancer in her lungs. The second round of chemotherapy removed any chance of further children.
 
Eventually, Terri approached Ron and told him she believed God wanted them to be foster parents. When their eldest son, Joshua, went off to college, Terri and Ron felt they had the time and the space to commit to fostering, so they went through training with the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and received their licenses to foster.
 
In the 22 years since then, Ron and Terri have fostered more than 65 children, finding their niche with special needs children.
 
“One of the reasons why I do what I do is I believe that every child is special,” Ron said. “We truly believe that each child is personally knit together even before they’re in their mother’s womb, that the Lord intimately knew those children and God made them the way that they are.”
 
But no matter how much they loved their foster kids, adoption had never been on their radar. But then McKenzie came into their lives.
 
McKenzie was with the Robinsons for about two years before her biological mother disappeared. The Department of Family Services approached Ron and Terri with the idea of adoption, and Ron was thrown for a loop. But he and Terri prayed about it, and McKenzie joined their family as their third child.
 

Photo submitted
Beyond foster parenting, Ron and Terri Robinson have expanded their family to six, with two grown children and, now, four by adoption (from left) Johari, Jedidiah, McKenzie and Jesse.

A few months later, McKenzie’s biological mother had another child. She walked out of the hospital after he was born, so Ron and Terri stepped in to take care of the boy they named Jedidiah. About a year later, they officially adopted him as their fourth child.
 
“We thought we were through as far as adopting goes,” Ron said, “but God has a sense of humor.”
 
One day the Robinsons got a call about a little boy named Jesse who was four months old. He had weighed only one pound, three ounces at birth, and his prognosis was grim.
 
“They told us he would never roll over, he would never crawl, he would never walk, he would never talk,” Ron said. “He was basically just going to lay there until the Lord took him home.”
 
But the Robinsons had faith, and Ron told the doctors that when Jesse began to walk and talk, they would come back and prove them wrong.
 
Jesse was about three years old before he started walking, but when the family returned to the clinic, there received an emotional reaction. “There’s just something special about seeing doctors and nurses cry,” Ron said. “He’s my miracle kid.”
 
Jesse became their fifth child, adding to Terri’s love for special needs kids.
 
“It was so cool to see the little things, the little steps that we all take for granted,” Terri said. “We just expect those development milestones to happen, and in a special needs kid, they don’t necessarily happen in the order or time frame we think they’re supposed to.”
 
The last child they adopted also was a surprise. They received a call about a little girl with Down syndrome who had the mentality of a four-month-old. She wasn’t potty-trained, she barely ate and didn’t talk.
 
They named her Johari, and in 2015 she joined their family as their sixth child.
 
When Ron and Terri first brought Johari into their home, they couldn’t touch her or she would sit in the corner and rock and chant for an hour. Now Johari climbs on Ron’s lap to ask for cuddles every night, and although she can’t speak, she can certainly communicate.
 
“She’ll grab my hand and she’ll take me to the table if she’s hungry,” Ron said. “If she wants to go outside, she’ll bring me her shoes.”
 
The Robinsons are aware that their lives are unusual. They’ve taken in a number of children that others might see as difficult, but Ron and Terri have a unique Christian outlook on adoption.
 
“If you go to the book of Romans, you will find out that we have been adopted into the family of God. For 20 years I preached it, but I really didn’t understand it until I adopted a child,” Ron said. “I realized that I have so many flaws in my life, and yet my heavenly Father adopted me into His family.”
 
Their adventures with fostering and adoption, though fulfilling, have not been without challenges.
 
Isolation from people and society is one of the issues. Many people are uncomfortable with special needs children or children who are loud or disruptive. They may not understand why a foster parent chooses to spend all of their time, love and effort on foster children. This can lead family and friends to disconnect from foster families.
 
“God has never called us to be comfortable,” Ron said. “When something makes us uncomfortable, maybe that’s God’s way of stretching us to become more what He wants us to be.”
 
The Robinsons also struggle with the legal aspect of fostering and adoption.
 
With their very first foster child, the court made a decision that didn’t make any sense to Ron and Terri, when the judge said he had a headache and decided to get the case over with by sending the child back to their at-risk circumstances. Ron and Terri may have been frustrated, but they had done all that they could.
 
“My job is to love them, provide safety for them, care for them, and protect them while they’re in my home,” Ron said. When a social worker asked him if he was OK with the decision, he told her, “Six months from now I’ll be able to live with what I’ve done. I hope you and the courts can live with what you’ve just done.”
 
For those who may be interested in fostering or adoption, Ron encourages them to go through training and get certified, and then continue praying about it before making a decision.
 
Through 22 years of joy and pain, the Robinsons say that God has taken care of them. But they also know fostering is not easy.
 
“Sometimes maybe God hasn’t called you to be a foster parent and I get that, it’s not for everybody,” Terri said. “But there are ways you can still minister to these families.”
 
With training and certification, people can serve as respite for foster families. Sometimes the parents need a break for dinner, a movie or a walk together to work on their relationship. For Ron and Terri, it has been difficult to find qualified people to come in and watch over their kids.
 
But even if you can’t provide childcare, Terri encourages people to support foster families by providing them with dinner or a movie once in a while. And people can always work with their churches to support the work of Baptist children’s homes.
 
In the end, it comes down to the welfare of the kids.
 
“They’re not an accident, not a mistake. God made them this way,” Ron said. “And if we love the Lord, we ought to love them.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Katelyn Goodwin writes for The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/23/2018 11:05:29 AM by Katelyn Goodwin, Missouri Pathway | with 0 comments



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