September 2013

Deaf youth retreat impacts lostness

September 23 2013 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

During the final worship time at this year’s Deaf Youth Retreat at Camp Caraway, a young man named Duanta announced to everyone his profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
“He signed, ‘I am Duanta. I have been a thief and a rebel. Today I give my life to Christ,’” said Donnie Wiltshire, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) consultant for special ministries.
“He was crying. He was overwhelmed and felt like it was something he needed to say to everyone. Several other youth, touched by the sincerity of Duanta’s confession, likewise professed faith in Christ.” 
Every May, deaf middle and high school students from across the state attend the retreat near Asheboro. The primary purpose of the event is to provide youth an opportunity to respond to the gospel and to help Christians grow in their walk with Christ.

Contributed photo
Youth and leaders gathered for a group photo during the annual Deaf Youth Retreat held at Camp Caraway. About 36,000 North Carolinians are culturally deaf. About 100 N.C. Baptist churches are engaging the deaf community.

The retreat includes all of the typical things kids do at a camp such as swimming, playing games and sports activities, but it also has a strong evangelism and disciple-making emphasis, and it includes numerous times of worship, devotions and prayer, Wiltshire said.
An important feature of the camp is that adults who also are deaf mentor the youth. Most campers are from hearing families and rarely interact with deaf, Christian adults. This, combined with the other aspects of the retreat, provide a complete Christian camp experience, he said.
“When we have this event, these young people are able to see Christ in their counselors, have worship experiences, see testimonies from deaf adults – so they encounter Jesus all over the place,” Wiltshire said.

Meeting a need

For youth such as Duanta, the annual retreat might be the only time during the year when they have an opportunity to respond to the gospel. Thus, the retreat is essential for reaching the deaf community for Christ.
“Many of these kids have no church they are a part of during the week,” Wiltshire said. “Our annual camp is one of our strategies for impacting lostness in the deaf community.”  
About 36,000 North Carolinians are culturally deaf, which includes people who were born deaf or became deaf early in life, attend or were educated at a school for the deaf, and who communicate primarily through American Sign Language (ASL). 
The culturally deaf are one of nine affinity groups listed by the International Mission Board. Affinity groups are large concentrations of people who share similar origins, languages and cultures. Often, the most important aspect of ministering to a people group is to communicate the gospel in their heart language.
About 100 North Carolina Baptist churches are engaging the deaf community, the majority of which aim to mainstream deaf people into the life of the church through interpreters. Only 10 deaf congregations are active statewide.
“If deaf people have a choice, typically they will choose to be a part of a deaf congregation. Those are largely found in the metropolitan areas,” Wiltshire said. “The vast majority of deaf people in the state have no place close by where they can really be part of a Christian fellowship.”
Wiltshire said North Carolina Baptists can engage the deaf community in a number of ways, but they must begin with a commitment to understand the culture.  
“It takes a long-term commitment and a cultural understanding of how they think and live, and then reaching them in relationship,” he said.
The BSC offers training throughout the year to help churches minister to the deaf community, including ASL training for interpreters. Wiltshire encourages all North Carolina Baptists to prayerfully consider how they can engage the deaf community with the gospel. One way churches can help is by increasing their gifts to the Cooperative Program, which helps fund the annual deaf retreat and other ministries aimed at impacting lostness among North Carolina’s deaf population. 
“The lifeline for our work to reach deaf people in North Carolina is the Cooperative Program,” Wiltshire said. “Support for the Cooperative Program allows us to offer these kinds of ministries to reach people who are often overlooked.”
The 2014 Deaf Youth Retreat will be held May 2-4 at Camp Caraway. For more information, contact Donnie Wiltshire at
9/23/2013 6:44:57 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Henry Blackaby to undergo heart surgery

September 23 2013 by Baptist Press

ATLANTA – Southern Baptist Bible teacher Henry Blackaby will need surgery after suffering a heart attack Sept. 19 while driving in Atlanta, becoming confused and traveling for 29 hours before police found him Sept. 20 in Tifton, Ga., about 150 miles southeast of his home.

“Will need at least 4 bypasses done ASAP. Heart in bad shape,” his son Richard said on Twitter around 6 p.m. Eastern time on Sept. 21. “Please continue to pray.”

Blackaby “seems to be in good spirits and lucid,” the Blackaby family said in a statement posted on the Blackaby Ministries International website Sept. 21 around 6 p.m. Eastern time.

The surgery is scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 8 a.m. and is expected to last four to five hours. Updates on Blackaby Ministries’ website indicated that damage to his heart could have been sustained by an undetected heart attack as much as five years ago.

Blackaby was on his way to pick up his wife Marilynn from an appointment when he suffered the heart attack, according to the statement.

“He did not have his cell phone with him nor insulin for his diabetes,” the statement said. “As a result, his blood sugar rose and his kidneys began to struggle as well. The family was able to track his movements as he used a credit card to make occasional purchases. The police assigned a detective group to monitor his movements and to track him down. Hundreds of volunteers, many from his church at First Baptist Church Jonesboro, [Ga.,] drove all over the city looking for him. He is currently in a hospital undergoing extensive tests.”

The statement added, “It is clear that God heard and answered the prayers of His people! Thank you to everyone who prayed and helped in the search.”

An earlier statement posted on the Blackaby Ministries International Facebook page Sept. 20 around 9 p.m. announced that Blackaby had been found.

“The Blackaby family would like everyone to know that Henry has been found and is safe,” the statement said. “His health concerns are being addressed and we will keep everyone posted with the news. We wish to express to everyone our appreciation and gratitude for the prayers and concern over the last 29 hours. Henry has taught us that we can experience God in the good and the bad times. We thank God that we have experienced his grace, peace, and faithfulness in these times.”

Blackaby, 78, had been missing since Thursday, Sept. 19, around 4 p.m. from his home in Rex, Ga., in metro Atlanta.

Blackaby’s credit card purchases indicated that he was six miles from his home by mid-morning Friday and in Perry, Ga., 90 miles southeast of his home around 5:30 p.m., Richard Blackaby’s tweets said.

On Friday morning around 8, Richard Blackaby first disclosed that his father was missing via Twitter, stating, “Please pray. Henry Blackaby has been missing since 4 p.m. Thursday. He is in black Lincoln without his diabetic medicine in Atlanta area.”

At the website of Blackaby Ministries International, a notice stated: “Henry Blackaby’s family deeply appreciates the outpouring of prayers and support people have shown as they have sought to locate Henry. He was last seen at 4 p.m. Thursday and has not been seen since. He is a Type 2 diabetic and may be disoriented and unable to find his way home. Please pray for the volunteers who are searching for him and for his wife Marilynn and family who are trusting the Lord for his safe return.”

Prayers for Blackaby were circulated by various Southern Baptist leaders and over the PrayerLink network of Baptist workers who lead intercessory prayer initiatives. And a report of his disappearance has been on local TV in the Atlanta area.

Blackaby is best known for the “Experiencing God” Bible study he coauthored with Claude King. The discipleship resource, first published in 1990, has sold more than 7 million copies in 45 languages. Blackaby is retired from the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board but has continued to lead prayer and spiritual awakening conferences internationally. His ministry began as a pastor in his native Canada. He later became president of the forerunners of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and College and the Canadian National Baptist Convention.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press, and David Roach, a writer in Shelbyville, Ky.)
9/23/2013 6:35:28 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

U.S. asks Supreme Court to review Hobby Lobby’s birth control mandate challenge

September 23 2013 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

Federal officials have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the government mandate that private companies offer employees birth control coverage despite the business owner’s moral objections, with the company at the center of the suit owned by billionaire evangelical Christians.
Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit has been one of the most high profile of 60-some cases involving the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. The arts and crafts chain was founded by David Green, whom Forbes called “the biblical billionaire backing the evangelical movement.”
In June, the Obama administration issued final rules for the mandate that requires most employers to provide contraception at no cost. While there are exemptions for religious groups and affiliated institutions, there are no carve-outs for private businesses with religious owners.
Opponents of the mandate say that they will be forced to provide coverage they find morally abhorrent. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration Sept. 20 on behalf of four Christian universities in Oklahoma, where Hobby Lobby is also based.
Now that two different federal courts have issued contradictory opinions on the mandate, the issue is near certain to be decided by the Supreme Court. Thursday’s (Sept. 19) petition from the Obama administration to the high court raises the issue central in the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest.
The administration is asking the Supreme Court to decide that for-profit corporations cannot deny their employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.
“The United States government is taking the remarkable position that private individuals lose their religious freedom when they make a living,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead lawyer for Hobby Lobby.
“We’re confident that the Supreme Court will reject the government’s extreme position and hold that religious liberty is for everyone — including people who run a business.”
In June, a federal court in Oklahoma ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor, saying that corporations have free exercise rights, and that the contraceptive coverage mandate substantially burdened those rights without a compelling governmental interest.
In a separate case earlier this month, a federal court in Colorado also granted a preliminary injunction to a for-profit corporation and an evangelical owner who have religious objections to contraceptives they believe cause abortions.
In the Colorado case, Briscoe v. Sebelius, the court had initially refused to grant a temporary restraining order in the case but issued a new decision after the Oklahoma court decided the Hobby Lobby case.
The government’s petition to the Supreme Court came the same day as a petition in another case involving a challenge to the HHS mandate involving a family-owned woodworking business.
The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the business’s challenge in July, ruling that a business organized to earn a profit cannot exercise religion, so the business cannot claim religious protection.
“The chances are strong that the Court will agree to rule on one or more of the challenges, since federal appeals courts are now split on the question,” Supreme Court watcher Lyle Denniston wrote on Scotusblog.
If the Supreme Court grants a petition to hear the case, the case would be argued and decided before the end of the court’s term in June 2014.
9/23/2013 6:28:19 PM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Youth pastors join in call to prayer

September 20 2013 by Sharayah Colter, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Youth pastors are joining in to pray for revival and spiritual awakening.

Sparked by plans for a senior pastor prayer meeting Sept. 30–Oct. 1 in Southlake, Texas, two student ministry professors and a local church youth pastor have begun organizing a simultaneous prayer event for youth pastors at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

“I believe the church in America needs a mighty move of God, and I believe it starts with prayer,” said Johnny Derouen of Southwestern Seminary and one of the youth prayer meeting’s organizers along with professor Richard Ross and Arkansas youth pastor Keith Harmon.

“We just sensed the need to pray simultaneously alongside our senior pastors. We want to support our pastors in this 24-hour prayer event. We are encouraging student pastors all over America and the world who cannot join us in Texas to pray simultaneously with us wherever they are,” Harmon said.

Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and the group of fellow senior pastors have banded together to hold the senior pastor’s prayer meeting from a conviction about dedicated and persistent prayer and the role it can play in the revival for which they are praying.

“When we saw pastor Ronnie Floyd’s invitation for senior pastors to gather to pray toward revival, it immediately caught our attention,” Ross said. “Concerted prayer among pastors has preceded most great revivals. But a second thought soon came to mind. If young people may again be at the tip of the spear of revival, then shouldn’t those who directly lead them gather to pray in that direction?”

“This is not a ‘come and go’ event or a place to ‘come and be seen’; nor is it a denominational or political meeting,” Floyd wrote in an Aug. 14 blog titled “Call to Pray,” which can be read in full at “It is a serious spiritual experience of prayer with pastors nationally.” Keith Harmon, one of the organizers for the youth prayer sessions, is Cross Church’s youth pastor.

Both prayer meetings come in the same year when SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page has called the convention to pray with renewed fervor for revival and spiritual awakening throughout America and in which SBC President Fred Luter made prayer and revival the theme of the 2013 SBC annual meeting.

The prayer meetings will be held from 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30 to noon on Oct. 1 in Southlake and in Fort Worth. The youth pastor prayer meeting will be held in Price Hall on the seminary campus, and organizers ask that those planning to attend register by emailing or For more information on the youth pastor gathering, go to Pastors wanting to register for the senior pastor prayer gathering can do so at Southwestern will offer free transportation by reservation only from Southlake to the seminary in Fort Worth, for those youth pastors who travel to Southlake with their senior pastor.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sharayah Colter is a newswriter for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
9/20/2013 3:11:01 PM by Sharayah Colter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Iorg: Immorality, when celebrated, is ominous

September 20 2013 by Phyllis Evans, Baptist Press

MILL VALLEY, Calif. – The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on gay marriage in June summon a response to “the most significant change in American society since abortion on demand was legalized in 1973,” Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said during the seminary’s fall convocation.

Iorg warned that legalizing gay marriage is “an alarming affirmation of the final step of rejecting God’s design for human sexuality and traditional marriage as the foundation of a stable society.”

The apostle Paul’s description of first-century Rome in Romans 1:32 is sobering and applicable to the current situation, Iorg said.

“Sexual sins are not the final step on this downward spiral,” Iorg said. “The last step of rejecting biblical morality is when people applaud or celebrate those who legitimize immoral practices. We have reached that point in America.”

Such a hearty approval is why the Supreme Court decisions and cultural celebrations of gay marriage are so troubling, Iorg said.

“Sexual immorality – of all types – has been part of the human experience throughout recorded history,” he said. “The troubling issue today isn’t so much the rise of immorality. That cycle ebbs and flows with changing generations. The troubling issue is the applause, from kissing in the streets to White House ceremonies celebrated through every media possible.”

Photo by Shane Tanigawa
Seminary president Jeff Iorg, in a convocation message, said the last step in rejecting biblical morality happens when people “applaud or celebrate those who legitimize immoral practices. We have reached that point in America."

Political, cultural and educational leaders are effusively congratulating themselves on their so-called progress, Iorg said.

“The final act of an unraveling society isn’t immoral behavior; it’s canonizing immoral behavior as a ‘new normal’ and celebrating it as a ‘moral victory.’”

This cultural shift “will produce many new ministry dilemmas, Iorg said, noting that Christians must continue to affirm distinct moral standards. Recounting the apostle Paul’s list of unbelievers’ behavior, he said Paul contrasts how believers formerly lived and how they are expected to live now.

“The clear implication is believers once behaved like unbelievers, and the time for such behavior is now past.” Christians must also restrain immoral impulses not because it’s easy, Iorg said, “but because we are trying to live up to a biblical moral standard.”

“As a Christian leader or leader in training, you are expected to model even higher standards,” Iorg said. “While this seems obvious to many of us, it’s getting harder to maintain distinctive Christian morality.”

Iorg cited 1 Peter 4:1-11 as a passage that makes clear Christian moral standards will be aggressively opposed by unbelievers.

“As a result of your unwillingness to affirm their choices, unbelievers will slander you,” Iorg told the seminary community during the Aug. 29 convocation. “I predict that today’s slander is a precursor to more serious social, legal and physical opposition coming in the next few years.”

Opposition to moral standards requires a Christian response, he said.

“We know that unbelievers who reject biblical morality are at risk of judgment, and this motivates us to tell people about deliverance available through Jesus Christ,” Iorg said. “Your most significant message to people in a culture marked by moral decay and immoral living is the gospel.”

Believers cannot become preoccupied with opposing immoral behavior, Iorg said; instead, they must realize that moral choices come from a person’s spiritual condition.

“Unbelievers act like unbelievers. While we uphold our moral convictions, expecting unbelievers to model Christian behavior is a misplaced hope. Your first and best response to immorality in your community is to preach, teach, share, witness and live the gospel,” Iorg said.

“The greatest need of every person in the world – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, adulterer, fornicator or straight-laced puritan is still the gospel.”

Sharing the gospel with the LGBT community means welcoming them into worship services and befriending them at work and in social settings, Iorg said.

“While holding to your moral convictions, you must keep your focus on the greatest need of every person – no matter their behavior – which is responding to the gospel,” Iorg said.

Above all, he advised based on Peter’s words, maintain an intense love for them.

“When attacked, we need each other to withstand the pressure and become more unified with other believers,” Iorg said. “Yet there is also ample biblical mandate to love unbelievers. Tell the truth about immoral behavior, while treating people with respect.”

Iorg closed by affirming the distinct moral standards set forth in God’s Word.

“We expect opposition to those standards and will respond appropriately by communicating the gospel to all people by every available means. We will love each other, standing stronger when we stand together. We will love unbelievers, loving them enough to tell them the truth about God and the gospel,” Iorg said. “These foundations will serve us well as we fulfill our mission of shaping leaders who expand God’s Kingdom around the world.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phyllis Evans is director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.) 
9/20/2013 2:45:33 PM by Phyllis Evans, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

After porn: A marriage is restored

September 20 2013 by Joni B. Hannigan, Florida Baptist Witness/Baptist Press

LAKELAND, Fla. – Seven years after Cathy Dyer and her husband were married, pornography erupted as a crisis in their marriage, nearly destroying it.

Dyer recounts her real-life story of “God’s ability to turn tragedy into triumph” in Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives, a resource for women coauthored with Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla.

Utilizing handwritten pages from her personal journal, Dyer gives readers poignant insight into her private pain and process of restoration after her husband’s secret addiction to pornography came to light.

Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives is part of the Join 1 Million Men campaign to help men win the battle against pornography. Dennis pioneered the initiative at First Baptist Church at the Mall and introduced it to the Southern Baptist Convention at its annual meeting last June in Houston.

In Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives, as noted on, Dyer and Dennis address issues women encounter once pornography has entered the marital relationship – including how to keep the marriage intact and preventive steps wives and moms can take to keep their families porn-free.

Dyer and her husband Greg, who have two children, have now been married 19 years.

Dyer, in an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness, answered questions about the book, released by New Hope Publishers, a division of Woman’s Missionary Union.

Q: What did you anticipate will result from the release of your book?

I hope and pray that the book for women, along with the books Pastor Jay has written for men and pastors, will be a catalyst for many things: for people to find a kindred spirit, practical advice, help and deliverance. Additionally, it has been my prayer that pastors will use these materials with their congregations and join the movement.

Q: How have you prepared for any of the “shame” issues that come with disclosing such personal information to the public?

Honestly, shame was a minor issue as I worked on this material. My husband and I have been involved in some capacity of ministry in this area since about 2003, so I’m fairly used to putting my story “out there” and sharing openly. However, when we first started sharing with groups of people, it was nerve-wracking. Until you get used to it, telling people that your husband was unfaithful and a porn addict is an awkward topic to broach; but Greg and I realized – from our own situation – that this is a topic that sorely needs to be addressed. Someone has to be bold and have those awkward conversations. Why not us?

Q: How do you think this will help other women who are dealing with the same issue?

When I was going through all the mess of my marriage, it helped so much to read people’s personal stories, to know that someone out there had gone through the same thing ... and survived. One influential book for me was by Bonnie Keen, called Blessed Are the Desperate. I hope many things for my book, but my number one hope is that women who are struggling with pornography or even an affair in their marriage will find solace in my story, that they will connect with my pain and then see the hope on the other side, that they will draw near to God as they are going through all the wreckage.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives” and other resources in the Join 1 Million Men initiative can be accessed at
9/20/2013 2:23:07 PM by Joni B. Hannigan, Florida Baptist Witness/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Engage 24 stirs college hearts for lost

September 20 2013 by Adam Miller, Baptist Press

NEWARK, Del. – University of Delaware senior Allie Murray had never shared the gospel, but during an Engage 24 evangelism outreach, she discovered it can be a positive experience.

“I’m not very outgoing so my friend was leading the first few conversations,” Murray said. “I was surprised by how open everyone was. We didn’t just spring the gospel on them. We asked them questions about their background and guided the conversation toward Christ. From that I honestly developed a passion for sharing the gospel.”

During last year’s Engage 24, more than 800 college students from more than 100 colleges and universities shared their faith in one day on their respective campuses. From Simon Fraser University in Vancouver to the University of North Georgia, students shared the gospel hundreds of times, made thousands of contacts and led more than 100 students to Christ, organizers said.

Photo courtesy of Caroline Hale
University of Delaware senior Allie Murray, left, shared the gospel for the first time during last year’s launch of Southern Baptists’ Engage 24 collegiate outreach. This year’s Oct. 10 event will include Baptist Campus Ministries across North America.

Since that experience last October, Murray, a civil engineering major, has become evangelism coordinator for the university’s Baptist Campus Ministry.

“I have a heart for lost people because my family are not believers,” Murray said. “When I share the gospel I can feel the Spirit move in me and it gives me boldness and confidence. I know that what I say isn’t always perfect or right, so I rely on the Lord to do the work. And that makes me more confident.”

Through the national Engage initiative, students “discovered that not only was sharing their faith not too difficult, but that they’re actually kind of good at it and had a passion for it,” said Blake Hardcastle (@IBHardcastle), University of Delaware Baptist Collegiate Ministry leader.

Engage 24 was developed by Southern Baptist collegiate ministry leaders to help the 75,000-plus Southern Baptist college students across the U.S. share the gospel, developing in students and leaders a lifestyle of evangelism.

This year’s Engage 24, set for Oct. 10, will provide a potentially life-changing evangelistic avenue for students, said Brian Frye (@BriFrye), North American Mission Board national collegiate strategist.

“Far too many Christian students go through college without really engaging lost peers with the gospel, and this is a huge missed opportunity in shaping students for future ministry,” Frye said. “Collegians who develop boldness and skill in sharing Christ during college are laying the groundwork for a lifetime of gospel impact and discipleship – in whatever profession or ministry context they end up in post-college.”

For more information and resources, including a four-part Engage study guide published by LifeWay Christian Resources, visit

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller writes for the North American Mission Board.)
9/20/2013 1:51:50 PM by Adam Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Closure of Planned Parenthood clinic seen as prayer model

September 19 2013 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press

BRYAN, Texas – Christians throughout the Brazos Valley in Texas credit the power of prayer and God’s grace for the closure of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Bryan, believing it could be a breakthrough moment in the fight against abortion.

The clinic cited “budget cuts and persistent attacks on women’s health” when it shut its doors in early August.

Some of the Christians confessed they never believed the clinic at 4112 29th St. would close. Still others were certain it would happen – in God’s time. For 15 years the coalition of Christians prayed for and counseled countless women – and saved and lost the lives of unborn babies.

Yet while they mourned the loss of 6,400 babies at the Bryan Health Center-Family Planning, they praised God for the birth of an international movement, 40 Days for Life, which they consider the final nail in the coffin for this facility and others across the nation.

“God used you, and abortion is now ended in the Brazos Valley,” Shawn Carney, campaign director for 40 Days for Life, said at a celebration Sept. 7 across the street from the former clinic.

Bobby Reynoso, director of Coalition for Life in Bryan-College Station, said local pro-life leaders are praying that it will be the “tipping point for the pro-life cause in helping end abortion across the nation.” The coalition is exploring ways to replicate the success in other cities.

TEXAN photo by Bonnie Pritchett
Abby Johnson, now a pro-life advocate, prays and places roses outside the Planned Parenthood clinic she once directed in Bryan-College Station, Texas.

Speakers at the celebration included former abortion clinic employees, pastors and priests, prayer volunteers, crisis pregnancy center volunteers, health care ministry volunteers and the mayor of Bryan.

Jason Bienski said as mayor he usually is glad to see new business startups. “Today we celebrate the closing of a business. Planned Parenthood was never welcome in Bryan-College Station,” he said.

Speakers recounted stories of spiritual interventions and the renewing of their faith in a seemingly endless fight.

Karen Hall, director of Central Texas Orphan Missions Alliance (CTOMA) and a member of Central Baptist Church in Bryan-College Station, said the driveway to her offices sometimes was mistaken for the driveway to the neighboring abortion clinic.

Once inside the CTOMA facility, some women, thinking they were at Planned Parenthood, said they had arrived for their ultrasounds.

CTOMA has a state-of-the-art ultrasound machine as part of its pro-life ministry. While the women completed forms, an ultrasound nurse was hurriedly making her way to the clinic.

“There was joy in heaven every time a woman missed that Planned Parenthood drive and came into our office,” Hall said.

David Bereit, 40 Days for Life national director, told the crowd, “I believed the end of abortion would begin in this community. For 15 years you prayed. You never gave up. Today we understand why this community is shaping the abortion debate.”

According to Planned Parenthood’s website, a lack of state funding led to the closure, leaving low-income women to suffer for loss of their services. The statement did not mention that such services included abortions.

In 2011, the Texas legislature ended state funding of Planned Parenthood, an act many believe led to the closing of clinics across the state. Women from this region of Texas seeking abortions now must drive nearly two hours to Houston, home of the largest abortion clinic in North America.

In 1998, when Planned Parenthood announced it would open an abortion clinic in Bryan, Lauren Gulde, a member St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, was appalled. She rallied likeminded pro-life advocates to stand in opposition to the clinic. To her amazement, representatives from 60 churches attended the first strategy meeting, and the Bryan-College Station Coalition for Life was born.

The coalition illustrates the unity of the local body of Christ, drawing volunteers and donors from different churches. Well-established pregnancy centers welcomed a new partner in the fight.

For Tracy Frank, director of the Hope Pregnancy Center, “the Marines had landed.”

The faith-based Hope Pregnancy Center has operated behind the scenes in Bryan-College Station for 28 years, never drawing attention to itself through protests but effectively and quietly working behind the scenes leading women to Christ and away from Planned Parenthood. So Frank, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bryan, was elated when the Coalition for Life stepped into the fray.

The Coalition for Life, as a fledgling organization, sought counsel from similar organizations. A trip to Los Angeles taught the volunteers the increasingly popular and peaceful tactic of sidewalk praying and counseling.

With training and faith, volunteers showed up regularly to pray and counsel with women entering the clinic. Local police told Carney the sidewalk in front of the Bryan Planned Parenthood clinic was the most protested piece of Planned Parenthood property in the country.

And Planned Parenthood noticed. Jim Sedlak, an early volunteer, recalled a fundraising visit from Gloria Feldt, then-president of Planned Parenthood. When Sedlak told the coalition volunteers that Feldt declared Bryan-College Station “the most anti-choice place in the nation,” they cheered.

Clinic directors did not like the quiet protests, so fences were erected. But the metal bars did not block views or voices, and volunteers passed pro-life tracts through the gaps.

So another director put up a screen across the fence.

That director was Abby Johnson, who in 2009 after viewing an ultrasound during an abortion, walked out of the clinic and around the corner to the Coalition for Life offices. When she returned to the Planned Parenthood clinic weeks later, it was as a prayer volunteer on the sidewalk.

Choking back tears, Johnson addressed the crowd on Sept. 7. “I never thought I would call some of you friends,” she said.

The 40 Days for Life volunteers persistently prayed outside Johnson’s office, and Carney developed a cordial relationship with her. But she remained committed to what she believed was a woman’s right to choose – until that important day.

Bereit said Johnson is one of 83 confirmed abortion clinic workers across the nation who have left their jobs since the beginning of the 40 Days for Life initiative. The movement calls on volunteers to pray around the clock for 40 days. Each volunteer takes a shift praying at the clinic so someone is always there, praying, 24 hours a day.

The 40 Days for Life movement grew from a desperate time in the coalition. In 2004, Bereit said, the Coalition for Life leadership believed they were at an impasse. They were tired and the way forward was unclear. In search of answers, the leadership team committed to pray together for one hour.

“That prayer gave life to 40 Days for Life,” Bereit said.

When Bereit recounted the prayer meeting to his friend Jim Olson, he responded, “Planned Parenthood doesn’t know what a bad day they just had.”

That was 2004. By 2007, the movement spread throughout the United States and 19 other countries. By 2009, Johnson walked out her clinic door. And by 2013, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan closed.

“Never again will a single baby be lost at 4112 29th St,.,” Gulde said. “Never again will a young college woman walk briskly to her car with tears in her eyes.”

Bereit said, “You’ve shown the world that with God all things are possible.”

But Johnson, who has put her faith in Christ, said, “I want to leave you with this: It’s not done. It’s far from over.”

She believes abortion will end with the help of former abortion workers like Drs. Haywood Robinson and Noreen Johnson. The husband and wife were abortion doctors in Los Angeles before leaving the industry and promoting the pro-life cause. They now practice medicine in College Station and attend Aldersgate Church.

Pointing to the barred and locked clinic gates, Robinson told the crowd, “Those gates across the street represent the gates of hell, and it shall not stand! That building stands as an Ebenezer as to how God and His people triumph over evil.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.) 
9/19/2013 5:08:27 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Life Chain continues to pray across U.S. to end abortion

September 19 2013 by Allen Palmeri, Baptist Press

YUBA CITY, Calif. – The urgent need to rescue preborn babies is at the heart of another Life Chain observance Oct. 6.

For 26 years, people have been peacefully holding signs along streets in cities and towns while praying for the end of abortion. Upwards of a million participants in the United States and Canada were mobilized until organizers stopped counting in the early 1990s to make prayer the sole focus. The event occurs on the first Sunday in October, along with similar Life Chains at different times in other countries.

“Abortions remain numerous” while too many churches remain apathetic, said Royce Dunn, founder and director of Life Chain and a Baptist layman from Yuba City, Calif. “That’s why we do this. We aim to rescue a nation, too. The church must discover and discern the holocaust.”

Life Chain launched in California with thousands of participants from Sacramento to San Diego and went national in 1991 with 373 locations and 771,000 participants across the country. In 1992 the total swelled to more than 800 U.S. venues and 975,000 participants along with 97 chains and 80,000 people in Canada, although current numbers are considerably lower.

Contributed photo
Church members in Sylva, N.C., gather at the county courthouse as part of their participation in Life Chain, a national pro-life prayer initiative.

“The Life Chain is a call to the church through pastoral leadership,” Dunn noted. “It’s church-oriented and pastor-focused. Pastors are urged to prepare their people and lead them to the chain. Participants are to just isolate themselves with God for 90 minutes. If they do that with their pastor, it will be a very, very meaningful experience.”

Joe Goodson, a Southern Baptist minister in Texas, has seen the Life Chain work well in the state, having participated as a seminarian, youth pastor and pastor over the years. This year he will be with the Temple/Belton Life Chain.

The battle at the Texas statehouse in Austin in recent months over a bill to restrict abortions is a special motivation to Goodson for this year’s Life Chain.

“It was an intense conflict between light and darkness, and the spiritual blindness and darkness upon our nation and culture was almost palpable at times,” Goodson said. “The attempt to protect unborn children was slandered as evil with all sorts of obscene signs, chants and bitterness.” The legislature passed a bill with various abortion restrictions and Gov. Rick Perry subsequently signed it.

“After witnessing this, I am exponentially more eager to spread the word about the Life Chain all across Texas and beyond ... to provide that essential voice for the voiceless unborn,” Goodson said.

Dunn said today’s worship often shuns the cries of Jeremiah, Isaiah and Jonah. Instead, the American church largely is ineffectual against “a calamity much larger than the German Holocaust. While 56 million chiefly surgical abortions have been reported in America and 3 million in Canada, the actual numbers are much higher, and hidden deaths from the abortive chemicals in birth controls may exceed the surgical deaths.”

Commenting on the silence of many pastors on the issue, Dunn said, “As long as they refuse to discern and communicate what the children are enduring they will continue to die. ... The same thing happened in Germany. The same thing happened in America with institutional slavery before the Civil War. America has been warned before.”

For each Life Chain that gathers for prayer, their plea to end abortion is conveyed through a set of seven signs, with one taking the lead – “Abortion Kills Children,” the only one also printed in Spanish.

Other signs include: “Pray to End Abortion”; “Adoption the Loving Option”; “Jesus Forgives & Heals”; “Lord, Forgive Us and Our Nation”; and “Abortion Hurts Women.”

The signs feature colored lettering on a white background. Their cost has gone up over the years from 15 cents to 50 cents. Fundraising is discouraged. A local coordinator at the event typically will ask for a free-will offering to pay for them.

“It’s really peanuts to try to save human life,” Dunn said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Allen Palmeri is a writer in Jefferson City, Mo.)
9/19/2013 4:57:22 PM by Allen Palmeri, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chuck Kelley marks 30 years at NOBTS

September 19 2013 by Frank Michael McCormack, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), was honored for 30 years on the faculty during the seminary’s fall convocation service.

Kelley, who also serves as an evangelism professor at the seminary, was recognized Sept. 3 along with Gerald Stevens, professor of New Testament and Greek, who marks 25 years at the seminary, and several others.

Tom Harrison, chairman of the NOBTS board of trustees and executive pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., offered a special word for Kelley and other faculty members celebrating anniversaries.

“As part of the trustees, it’s a great pleasure to recognize these men and women who have served here so faithfully,” Harrison said. “These men and women have sought to do that in each of our lives so that we can go out and be a greater part of the Kingdom of God.”

During his tenure at NOBTS, Kelley has served as professor of evangelism, chair of the division of pastoral ministries, director of the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health and now president. He challenged those present to remain faithful to God’s call, even when that call is different than expected.

Photo by Stephen Jennings
Chuck Kelley recounts his call to serve as president of New Orleans Seminary during convocation in late August, when he was recognized for 30 years of service on the NOBTS faculty.

Kelley shared his personal road to serving on the faculty of New Orleans Seminary.

“I did not ever in my life imagine the role of seminary professor for me,” Kelley said. “I came to seminary to be an evangelist.”

Kelley said it was longtime professor Joe Cothen who first asked him to consider teaching.

“Now to be 30 years old and offered the opportunity to teach and be on the faculty of one of the largest seminaries in all the world was a great honor and a great privilege,” Kelley said.

Kelley said he wasn’t initially interested in the offer, particularly because it was not what he wanted to do in ministry.

But through talking with his wife Rhonda and with other mentors and counselors in his life, Kelley was convinced that joining the NOBTS faculty was God’s will. Still reluctant, he hit the road for the entire summer speaking at youth events. He didn’t return until 2 a.m. the day of faculty workshops.

“That was as long as I could put it off,” he recalled. “I’ll never forget that moment in the classroom two weeks after classes began when I had the experience of seeing exactly why God wanted me here and the realization that God had been preparing me all my life for this.”

Kelley contrasted his call to teach and serve at the seminary with New Testament and Greek professor Gerald Stevens’ story. Unlike Kelley, who stepped directly into a teaching role, Stevens did not experience an immediate open door to being a professor. That delay came in spite of Stevens’ profound conviction that God had called him to teach at seminary.

“He prepared all of his life for that calling, learning Greek and the New Testament, pouring his life [into his studies], because he knew God wanted him to be a seminary professor,” Kelley said of Stevens. “And God opened up a wonderful opportunity for him to sell cars – nothing close to his calling.”

Stevens later had the opportunity to be a collegiate minister, which was closer but still not what he wanted to do deep down. Kelley said he remembers eating dinner with Stevens at a New Orleans restaurant, both marveling at how God would open a door for Kelley at the seminary and not Stevens.

But it wasn’t too long before Stevens did receive that call to teach. And 25 years later, he remains passionately committed to that calling.

“Every class scheduled on any syllabus for any course at any time has never been missed,” Stevens said. “[I’ve] never canceled a class for any reason.” During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the seminary put the fall 2005 semester on hold for just over a month. However, committed faculty members like Stevens developed online methods to complete every class scheduled that semester.

“My call to the class is fundamental and inviolable,” Stevens said. “That call is a sacred duty sanctified by God and sealed in my heart. That call is the air I breathe.”

The NOBTS faculty recognized Stevens’ dedication and calling during the spring 2013 semester by honoring him with the Marvin Jones Award for Classroom Excellence.

“I was greatly honored to receive this award and the recognition of my fellow faculty members,” Stevens said.

Twenty-year anniversaries included Harold Mosley, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew; Thomas Strong, professor of New Testament and Greek; and Kenneth Taylor, professor of urban missions.

Professors celebrating 15 years at the seminary were Eddie Campbell, professor of English at Leavell College; John Gibson, professor of communication at Leavell College; Loretta Rivers, associate professor of social work; and Robert Stewart, professor of philosophy and theology.

Ten-year anniversaries included Reggie Ogea, professor of leadership and pastoral ministry; Jeffrey Riley, professor of ethics; and Edward Steele, associate professor of music.

New faculty members included Bong Soo Choi, professor of New Testament and Greek; Jody Dean, assistant professor of Christian education; Adam Harwood, associate professor of theology; Peter Kendrick, professor of theology and culture; Jonggil Lee, assistant professor of expository preaching; Mike Miller, associate professor of expository preaching; Hal Stewart, associate professor of discipleship; and Douglas Watkins, associate professor of Christian education.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank Michael McCormack writes for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
9/19/2013 4:44:12 PM by Frank Michael McCormack, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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