September 2013

10:2: ‘Pray to the Lord of the harvest’

September 17 2013 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The Luke 10:2 biblical call to pray laborers into the Lord’s harvest undergirds the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) TenTwo initiative for churches to pray for laborers on Oct. 2 and beyond.

Daniel Ausbun, pastor of First Baptist Church in Moreland, Ga., is among those who have shared the online TenTwo prayer initiative video with their churches.
“We showed the two-minute video and read Luke 10:2,” Ausbun said. “[Everyone] was nodding their heads in agreement that we have an abundant harvest and we need to ask God to send workers into the harvest field. Everyone knows we need to pray, and TenTwo provides an organized opportunity for that.”

On Oct. 2, First Baptist in Moreland will join Southern Baptist churches in the U.S. and Canada praying for the Lord to send workers to the harvest. Many are intentionally focusing their regularly scheduled Wednesday evening activities on prayer.

“We are going to replace our Wednesday night Bible study with an hour-long prayer service,” Ausbun said. “No sermon, no songs, no testimonies – only prayer – a true prayer meeting. Everyone is welcome to come and pray. On Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 10:02 a.m. and 10:02 p.m. we want our entire church to pause and pray, wherever they are.”

Gary Frost, NAMB’s Midwest Region vice president who also leads the mission board’s national prayer strategies, voiced excitement for TenTwo’s potential to help bring the gospel to communities throughout North America and beyond.

“Penetrating lostness in North America is a huge task,” Frost said, noting that he often gets a “TenTwo buzz” in his travels, sometimes literally.

Baptists are “setting their phone alarms to 10:02 a.m. or p.m. to remind them to pray for God, by His Holy Spirit, to stir the hearts of harvesters to leave their comfort zones and work the fields,” Frost said. “Personally it has become a vital and welcomed ‘alert’ for me every single day ... of the lostness of our world and the urgency of sharing the love of Christ in every opportunity.”

Churches like Rose Bud Baptist Church in Rose Bud, Ark., are not letting their lack of a weekly Wednesday night prayer meeting keep them from participating. The central Arkansas church will use the entire month of October to pray and promote TenTwo.

“We plan to kick off our efforts on the last Sunday in September,” Rose Bud ministry assistant Kathy Moss said. “We will have home prayer meetings the first Sunday night in October and have other activities planned for the month using the TenTwo DVD and prayer guides.”

At First Baptist in Moreland, Ausbun plans to preach from Luke 10:2 on Sunday, Sept. 29, in advance of TenTwo.

“I’d like to encourage other pastors to remind their people who the Lord of the harvest is. I believe prayer evangelism is something we’ve gotten away from in the SBC. God sometimes has to remind me that only He can save a soul,” Ausbun said. “Without prayer, our evangelism is fruitless. Pray for God to send workers to share Christ with the lost and pray for God to save lost people.”

A TenTwo video is available at here. Explore additional TenTwo resources at

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

9/17/2013 10:23:02 AM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baptist historians reflect on 1961 Genesis controversy

September 17 2013 by Brian Koonce, Baptist Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – One of the catalysts of the Conservative Resurgence – the Elliott controversy – was examined by three Southern Baptist historians in a panel discussion Sept. 10 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS).

The controversy erupted at Midwestern in 1961 when Ralph Elliott, the chair of the Old Testament department, authored a book published by Broadman Press titled The Message of Genesis.

Elliott used a historical-critical method of interpretation to examine the first book of the Bible, arguing that it was not literal history, but that it could be religious truth nonetheless. Elliott assumed multiple authors for Genesis and concluded it was full of “symbolic stories” not to be taken as “literally true,” such as: Adam and Eve were not actual historical figures, the flood was local, and Abraham did not actually hear the voice of God commanding him to sacrifice Isaac.

Featured in the panel discussion were Greg Wills, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of theology; John Mark Yeats, assistant professor of church history at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Michael McMullen, professor of church history at MBTS. Jason Allen, Midwestern’s president, was the moderator.

Yeats described Elliott’s book as “a classic, liberal approach” which held that “the Scriptures themselves contain good, moral truth.”

Photo by Brian Koonce
Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen introduces panelists for a discussion on the 1961 Elliott/Genesis controversy that began at MBTS and spread throughout the Southern Baptist Convention: From left are Allen; Greg Wills, dean of Southern Seminary’s school of theology; John Mark Yeats, assistant professor of church history at Southwestern Seminary; and Michael McMullen, professor of church history for MB

What I think is more shocking,” Yeats said, “is that Elliott writes later that this was consistent amongst all our seminaries. This is what all departments were teaching and how pastors were being trained; you teach your people simple moral truths. Whether it’s historical, real or not, that doesn’t matter.”

The outcry in Baptist life was swift and widespread, exemplified by Texas pastor K. Owen White’s widely read essay, “Death in the Pot.”

“The book in question is ‘poison,’” White wrote. “This sort of rationalistic criticism can lead only to further confusion, unbelief, deterioration, and ultimate disintegration as a great New Testament denomination. It has happened to other denominations; it can happen to us! Modernism is insidious, dangerous, and destructive.”

Leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in 1962, The Message of Genesis controversy led conservatives who agreed with White to attempt to codify traditional Baptist doctrine in what would become the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) of 1963. The new confession was intended to reflect the beliefs of churches in the convention and to tighten the accountability standards regarding the inerrancy of scripture at the seminaries and SBC institutions.

Although messengers were nearly unanimous in adopting the new BF&M and it soothed conservatives in the pews, the panelists said it gave wordsmithing moderates an out. The first line calls the Bible “the record of God’s revelation of Himself to man.” The statement probably would not raise many eyebrows in conservative churches today, but it can be interpreted very differently. Its replacement line in the BF&M 2000 says the Bible itself is “God’s revelation of Himself to man,” and not just the record of the revelation. In another example, the final line of that section in the 1963 document reads, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.”

“The question is what kind of Jesus do you believe in and what kind of Bible do you end up with?” McMullen said. “Moderates approach scripture in a way that looks like they’re trying to preserve doctrine and belief in the Bible while undermining it completely.”

“You can’t not have a historical Adam,” Allen said, “and still have a theologically sound gospel.”

“You can’t have independent pieces with some being true and some not,” echoed Yeats. “Elliott thought you could.”

Much to his credit, Ellott shunned the wordplay tactics of many of his academic colleagues and didn’t couch heterodoxy in orthodox language. Though he eventually resigned under pressure from Midwestern, it was not for heresy, but because he refused to stop a new edition of his book from being published and proudly stood by it.

In his 1996 book, The Genesis Controversy, Elliott wrote that no one else had the integrity and nerve to be open about it. He called it “doublespeak” and said that many who believe as he did sought to hide their theology.

“That bothered him, and rightly so,” Wills said. “There was a lot of duplicity there.... If all the seminaries communicated what they truly believed, they would have all been shut down within a year.”

“Doublespeak has become an insidious disease within Southern Baptist life ...” Elliott wrote. “Often this was done [in Southern Baptist seminaries] with an eye and ear for the ‘gallery’ and how much the ‘church trade’ would bear. Professors and students learned to couch their beliefs in acceptable terminology and in holy jargon so that although thinking one thing, the speaker calculated so as to cause the hearer to affirm something else.”

Elliott went on to write that during the controversy, a liberal seminary colleague counseled him that his troubles stemmed from now knowing “how to communicate.”

“What he meant was that I did not know how to doublespeak,” Elliott wrote.

Though the Elliott-Genesis controversy occurred more than 50 years ago, Yeats said its lessons should not be ignored today.

“The battle for the inerrancy of scripture is never over,” Yeats said. “There’s always a creeping question that is always seeking to destroy our confidence in the Word of God.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce is a writer for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
9/17/2013 10:10:15 AM by Brian Koonce, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Toronto: Rendezvous Church seeks to ‘spark’ change

September 16 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Among midtown’s affluent, professional class most lack any actual physical needs, unlike Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood just eight miles south with a high concentration of poverty and violence.
To the north and east of Parkdale is Scarborough, one of Canada’s most diverse communities, with about 57 percent of residents born outside the country.
Three unique areas with different challenges, needs and much spiritual darkness – which is why Scott Rourk is starting churches in each of them. In the past year, 22 North Carolina Baptist churches have partnered with Toronto church planters, like Rourk. More partners are needed in the Greater Toronto Area, which is less than five percent evangelical and home to more than 5.5 million people.
After four years in Canada, Rourk planted Oasis Church and is now seeking to plant 10 churches in 10 years across Toronto. Rourk grew up in a suburb of Atlanta, Ga., and has planted churches in Belarus and New York. “Soon the whole world will be urban centers. The cities matter to God,” he said. “I came here because of who God has here. You have to love the city; you can’t just survive in the city. Our hope is to transform the city through the gospel message.”

Scott Rourk, left, talks with a woman who lives near Rendezvous Church, a church plant in Toronto.

Rendezvous Church in midtown, which meets on the University of Toronto campus, was the first of 10 Rendezvous churches that Rourk is praying will be planted across the city. The Parkdale and Scarborough churches also launched this year. 

Love the city

Building up to a church plant Rourk invests in communities, forms relationships and earns the trust of residents. For about three years now Rourk has invested in Parkdale, even helping start a soccer league that meets twice a week.  
Rendezvous Church hosted a soccer/Vacation Bible School camp this summer at a public school in Parkdale, as well as a SparkGood camp. Weeklong SparkGood camps were also held in midtown and Scarborough.
“We help kids spark a good idea, and then we help them go and do it,” Rourk said. “We help them think about one risk they could take that would make their community a better place.”
Other Rendezvous summer outreach efforts included prayer walking, block parties, street festivals and a bike repair clinic in midtown where volunteers repaired more than 700 bikes. “We try to create those moments, experiences and environments that will bring Christians and non-Christians together,” Rourk said. “That’s not just going to happen on a Sunday morning.”
Servant evangelism, such as picking up trash, is also important to Rendezvous Church because people need to know the church cares about their city.
“Our overarching goal is to better the city of Toronto. We came to seek the peace and prosperity of the city,” Rourk said. “People here love to serve, and they care about their city. We are sharing Jesus’ love in practical ways, and they find out why we are doing what we do. It’s totally relational.”
Rendezvous is also reaching out through canned food drives, packing and distributing hygiene bags through Un2Others Ministries, and coffee house evangelism.

A volunteer works with girls to make salvation bracelets, a craft project that allows workers to share how to come to faith in Christ.


Toronto culture

Rourk was invited to a public school with a rather unusual request – explain to students the meaning of Christmas and Easter. 
“People don’t have a Christian foundation. They are so distant even from knowing why they celebrate their holidays. We have to go all the way back to creation,” he said.
Rourk described Canada as a mosaic of cultures, with people bringing their customs and religion with them. More than half of Toronto’s population was born outside Canada and more than 30 percent of Toronto residents speak a language at home other than English or French. Half of all immigrants have lived in Toronto less than 15 years.
“You have to earn your right to share the gospel,” Rourk said. “Worldviews don’t change overnight. Religion is so intertwined with culture that it really is God having to change their life.”
Kate Croft served as a summer intern with Rendezvous Church. She said ministry in Toronto requires patience and willingness to listen and respect. “You have to be willing to listen. ... That wall of pride prevents so much from coming in,” she said.
Croft, 22, attends college in Colorado but is from Oakville, about 30 minutes south of Toronto. The past two summers she served in community outreach in Oakville and this summer was determined not to come “home.” But she was obedient to go where God called and is planning to return to Toronto to serve after college.  “Part of being a Christian is to listen to God, and He’s probably pushing you out of your comfort zone,” she said. “This summer I have learned how to put myself aside and serve others. I have learned how to love others by how God loves me.”

Partnerships are valuable

Rendezvous Church depends on support from interns like Croft, as well as church planters. Sath Arulvarathan and his wife Charmaine are moving into the Parkdale area to help lead the new Parkdale church plant.
“We feel called to establish ourselves in Toronto. Parkdale is the most diverse area I’ve seen,” Sath said.
He asked specifically for prayers against spiritual warfare. “Church planting can be draining and lonely. We’re all under constant spiritual warfare. Please pray Ephesians 5, that we may put on God’s full armor.”
Rendezvous also depends on long-term church partnerships.
“If you just come one time, you’ll never see the fruit of your labor,” Rourk said. “If you can commit with us four or five years, you’ll see a church planted.”
Three churches from Rowan and Cabarrus associations served together for a week this summer and worked alongside Rourk and Rendezvous volunteers. The trip came together after Ken Clark, pastor of Enon Baptist Church in Salisbury, participated in a Toronto vision tour last year with the Office of Great Commission Partnerships of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “You don’t have to go across the world to impact the world; the world has come to Toronto,” Clark said.
To learn how to involve your church in a Toronto partnership, visit

9/16/2013 6:24:28 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

October literacy conference offers training

September 16 2013 by BSC Communications

About 32 million adults in the United States have low literacy skills – a struggle that doesn’t just go away.
Seventy-four percent of children who have trouble reading in third grade are still poor readers as high school freshmen. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) literacy missions ministry seeks to help reverse these trends by showing the love of Jesus Christ in a practical way through ESL workshops and training events. About 65 churches and associations, and nearly 2,000 students, participated in literacy missions ministries this year.  
“When my husband and I came to live in North Carolina after serving as International Mission Board missionaries to Brazil for 16 years, I was at a loss as to how I would answer my missionary calling. God soon provided the answer,” said Barbara Martin, BSC literacy missions consultant.
“Our church teaches English as a Second Language to people from countries around the world, many of whom have never even heard the name of Jesus. These internationals would normally never set foot inside a church, but because we are helping them meet their need to speak English, they come,” she said.
“They also come to know who Jesus is, and some of them accept Him as their Lord and Savior.”
Martin is helping coordinate the annual literacy missions conference, which will be held Oct. 18-19 at Caraway Conference Center and includes a variety of workshops and breakout sessions. This year’s theme is “Know Love, Show Love,” based on 1 John 4:11. Doris Edwards, author of Beyond our Borders, will lead a three-hour workshop on English as a Foreign Language. Kathy Boyd, literacy missions leader for Mt. Zion Baptist Association, will lead a three-hour workshop on how to tutor at-risk children and youth. Literacy missions associate Glenda Reece will lead several breakout sessions such as pronunciation, Business English, the Lipson Method, using Bible stories to teach English, and 12 conversational “musts.” Lisa Wohlrab, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Raleigh-Durham area, will lead a session on teaching citizenship.
Other breakout session topics include refugee ministry, literacy missions on a budget, understanding the Hispanic culture, adult reading and writing, and tutoring youth and children. Continuing Education Credits are often available for public school teachers who attend the conference.
For more information, call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5629, or email The conference begins at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18.
For more information and to register, visit   
9/16/2013 6:12:24 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

U.S. Syrian attack sign of end times?

September 16 2013 by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Nearly one in three Americans see the threat of airstrikes against Syria as part of the Bible’s plan for the end times, according to a LifeWay Research poll.

A quarter of respondents think a U.S. military strike in Syria could lead to Armageddon. One-fifth of those polled believe the world will end in their lifetime, LifeWay found. Results from the poll of 1,001 American adults surprised Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research.

“We weren’t talking about Armageddon during the air strikes on Bosnia,” he said.

Previous U.S. military action, like the war in Afghanistan or air strikes during the 1990s war in Bosnia, didn’t get the same reaction, he said. But because Syria shares a border with Israel and is specifically mentioned in the Bible, people relate it to the end times, LifeWay found.

Still, Stetzer said he could see why linking Bible prophecy to Syria is appealing to many Christians.

It’s not that Christians want the world to end or want to see airstrikes, which will lead to suffering, Stetzer said. But they do want Jesus to return to set things right.

“For Christians, the end of the world doesn’t mean despair,” he said. “The end is really a new beginning.”

Israel plays a major role in biblical prophecy, particularly in the Christian theology of premillennial dispensationalism. That theology inspired the best-selling Late Great Planet Earth in the 1970s, and the Left Behind book series. A big-budget remake of Left Behind is currently in the works.

Most premillennial dispensationalists believe Christians will instantly disappear from the earth and be taken up to heaven during an event called the rapture, which will be followed by seven years of war and catastrophe. After the battle of Armageddon, Jesus will return and set up His kingdom on earth.

Differing opinions

LifeWay Research asked three questions about Syria and the end of the world as part of a telephone survey Sept. 6-10 of 1,001 Americans.

Of those polled, 32 percent agreed with the statement, “I believe the battles in Syria are all part of the prophecies of the Book of Revelation.” Forty-nine percent disagreed.

Among those surveyed, 26 percent affirmed, “I believe that U.S. military intervention in Syria might lead to the Battle of Armageddon that’s spoken about in the Book of Revelation.”

Women (36 percent) are more likely than men (28 percent) to see a link between current events in Syria and the Bible.

Southerners (40 percent) and those with household incomes under $25,000 (41 percent) are more likely to relate Syria’s woes to the Bible. Northeasterners (24 percent) and those with incomes over $75,000 (20 percent) are more skeptical.

The biggest difference came when people responded to the statement, “I believe the world will end in my lifetime.”

Overall, 18 percent agreed while 70 percent disagreed. But 30 percent of those with under $25,000 in household income agreed. By contrast, 9 percent of those with household income over $75,000 agreed with that statement.

Religion and age also played in a role in how people responded to the poll.

Those who attend worship once or twice a month were more likely to see a tie between Syria’s trouble and the book of Revelation (51 percent), as are evangelical, born-again, and fundamentalist Christians (58 percent). Fewer of those who rarely (25 percent) or never attend worship service (14 percent) agreed.

Older Americans were more likely to think U.S. airstrikes could lead to the battle of Armageddon, with 34 percent of those over 65 agreeing. Only 21 percent of those 18 to 29 agreed. But more younger Americans (24 percent) than older Americans (15 percent) think the world will end in their lifetime. About a third (32 percent) of evangelical, born-again, fundamentalist Christians believe the world will end in their lifetime.

Mark Hitchcock, pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Okla., said he believes the Bible does predict future events in the Middle East. But Hitchcock, a Bible prophecy teacher at Dallas Theological Seminary, doesn’t think the trouble in Syria was predicted in the Bible.

Instead, Hitchcock believes people want answers in troubled times. Economic hard times, political unrest and violence overseas have many Americans fearful, he said, leading them to see unrest in the Middle East as a sign that God is acting in the world.

“They want to know that God is in charge,” he said. “They want to know that someone has his hands on the wheel.”

Hitchcock is the author of The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)
9/16/2013 5:59:23 PM by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pledge’s ‘under God’ phrase faces Mass. court scrutiny

September 16 2013 by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press

BOSTON – A case challenging the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is being weighed by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts where state law requires schoolchildren to recite the pledge daily as a patriotic exercise.

The case before the court stems from a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the American Humanist Association on behalf of atheist parents of schoolchildren in the Acton-Boxborough School District.

Attorneys for the humanist plaintiffs avoided claiming that the pledge represents a state establishment of religion, as most of the pledge cases have in the past. Instead, attorneys argued in Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District that reciting the pledge, which requires atheists to say the words “under God,” is discriminatory and violates the state’s equal protection laws.

A state Superior Court judge ruled in 2012 that the words “under God” did not violate the law, but reflected a political philosophy evident in the history of the pledge and state law itself. The judge also stated reciting the pledge is not a religious exercise.

But David Niose, attorney for the atheist families, argued before the Supreme Judicial Court Sept. 4 that the case “presents a classic equal protection situation where an unpopular and wrongly vilified minority faces obvious official discrimination.”

“The trial court failed to apply strict scrutiny despite constitutional and statutory enumeration requiring it,” Niose told the court. “[The pledge] affirms very unambiguously that the nation is ‘one nation, under God.’ Had the ‘under God’ words not been in there, it would have been ‘one nation, indivisible.’ But by inserting ‘under God’ language into the pledge, we have a pledge where children every morning are pledging their national unity and loyalty in an indoctrination format which validates religious, God-belief as truly patriotic.”

The phrase “under God” creates two classifications of citizens, Niose argued, because it “actually invalidates atheism, as second-class citizenry at best and downright unpatriotic at worst.” Therefore, Niose said, the practice violates the state’s equal protection and anti-discrimination laws.

Niose’s equal protection and discrimination claims make the pledge case one of the first of its kind in the nation. But it is a strategy familiar to many activists in the state.

The use of equal protection as a legal strategy for social change is the same strategy attorneys used in the 2003 landmark same-sex marriage case before the Supreme Judicial Court. In its ruling in that case, issued in 2004, the court said laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are “incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under law.”

The prospect that the court may follow a similar pattern with this case is not lost on groups like the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Eric Rassback, deputy general counsel for the group, told Religion News Service (RNS) a ruling striking the words “under God” would result in similar challenges in other courts.

“You would then see a rash of state court lawsuits challenging the pledge all over the country ... a win for us would completely avoid that unnecessary harm. And it would affirm that it is not discriminatory to have the words ‘under God’ in the pledge,” Rassback told RNS.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the school district in the case. The American Center for Law and Justice, American Legion, Massachusetts Family Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom also filed briefs in favor of retaining the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance in Massachusetts schools.

Should the court rule in favor of the school district, the decision may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, though the challenge to the law likely would be met as others that addressed the words “under God” in the pledge since the phrase was added in 1954. In 2004 the Supreme Court ruled the requirement to say the pledge in schools was not a violation of separation of church and state.

Geoffrey Bok, attorney for the Acton-Boxborough district, argued before the Supreme Judicial Court that the case is not about equal protection or discrimination, but about parents seeking to tailor public education to their values.

Bok cited a unanimous ruling of the state’s high court in 1995 that “parents have no right to tailor public school programs to meet their individual religious and moral preferences.”

Bok also said the case should have been raised as an establishment of religion case, as it was in a similar case in New Hampshire in 2012. In that case, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that the state’s law requiring the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance daily in school did not violate the Constitution’s First Amendment establishment clause or the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection or due process clauses.

Though primarily not an equal protection case, the federal court ruled that schools are not required by the Constitution to shield students from religious ideas and viewpoints they may personally find offensive. The appeals court also ruled that the recitation of the pledge was voluntary and not a religious exercise. The Supreme Court later declined to hear an appeal in the New Hampshire case.

Bok also told the Supreme Judicial Court the phrase “under God” is representative of the United States’ underlying political philosophy, echoing the earlier court ruling from 2012. Even though the U.S. Constitution makes no reference to God, Bok said, the Massachusetts constitution does mention God, the Supreme Being, and rights that come from “something higher.”

“It is not a prayer. It is not an affirmation. It is not an invocation,” Bok told the court. “It is a statement of our political philosophy on which our country was founded, that our rights did not come from the king, or the czar or the queen. They come from something higher. They are innate.

“It is the argument upon which slavery was abolished. We believe all men have these rights,” Bok said. “It is the longstanding political philosophy espoused by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. It is the political philosophy confirmed in our Declaration of Independence.”

The Supreme Judicial Court issued no timeline for its ruling on Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District. The Sept. 4 oral arguments before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court may be viewed online here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gregory Tomlin is a writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.)
9/16/2013 5:42:29 PM by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘In God We Trust’ suit dismissed by court

September 16 2013 by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – A case filed by atheists who want the national motto, “In God We Trust,” removed from U.S. currency has been dismissed by a federal district judge in New York.

The ruling was issued Sept. 9 after the judge found the presence of the national motto on currency had not created a “substantial burden” on the plaintiffs, who included 18 atheists and humanists, the New York City Atheists and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

“While Plaintiffs may be inconvenienced or offended by the appearance of the motto on currency, these burdens are a far cry from the coercion, penalty, or denial of benefits required under the ‘substantial burden’ standard,” Judge Harold Baer Jr. wrote.

In the case, Newdow, et al., v. U.S. Treasury, the plaintiffs had alleged that their repeated use of federal currency bearing the national motto forced them to endorse the idea of the existence of God each time they undertook a financial transaction. One plaintiff, a numismatist or coin collector, also said she was forced to stop collecting coins because she was repeatedly angered by the presence of the motto on U.S. coinage.

The lead plaintiff in the case was atheist Rosalyn Newdow, whose son, Michael, honorary director of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, brought a lawsuit against the federal government in 2002 alleging that the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance exposed his school-aged daughter to brainwashing and scorn as an atheist, thus violating the separation of church and state. Newdow lost his case in the Supreme Court on procedural grounds in 2004.

“In God We Trust” was added to all U.S. currency in 1955, one year after President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. Atheists repeatedly have challenged the use of the phrase on monuments, government buildings and currency.

Baer wrote in his legal opinion dismissing the New York case that the courts have a long history of testing establishment cases.

In Lemon v. Kurtzman, Baer wrote, the Supreme Court developed three tests to determine whether the Establishment Clause has been violated. The high court said in that case that a statute must have a secular legislative purpose; “its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion”; and “the statute must not foster ‘an excessive government entanglement with religion.’”

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly assumed the motto’s secular purpose and effect, and all circuit courts that have considered this issue – namely the Ninth, Fifth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuit – have found no constitutional violation in the motto’s inclusion on currency,” Baer wrote, adding that the courts have distinguished currency because it is normally concealed and doesn’t require an individual to advertise the motto.

“Each circuit court that has considered the issue found no Establishment Clause violation in the motto’s placement on currency, finding ceremonial or secular purposes and no religious effect or endorsement,” Baer wrote.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), said in a statement from ACLJ the judge’s opinion in the case is “welcome and well-reasoned.”

“Time after time, flawed legal challenges like this one are brought by atheists,” Sekulow said in the statement. “And time after time, the courts soundly reject their attempts to change the historical and cultural landscape of America. In our amicus brief on behalf of members of Congress and nearly 90,000 Americans, we argued that the national motto poses no constitutional violations and [cases against it] must be dismissed. We’re extremely pleased that the court did just that.”

The ACLJ amicus brief stated in part, “The national motto simply echoes the principle found in the Declaration of Independence that our freedoms come from God and not the state. The national motto was adopted for the express purpose of reaffirming America’s unique understanding of this truth. … The Establishment Clause was never intended as a guarantee that a person will not be exposed to religion or religious symbols on public property, and the Supreme Court has rejected previous attempts to eradicate all symbols of this country’s religious heritage from the public’s view.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gregory Tomlin is a writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.)
9/16/2013 5:32:10 PM by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Harris announces candidacy for U.S. Senate

September 13 2013 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

At a private gathering Sept. 12 in Clemmons, Mark Harris announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. He is in a race that now has at least three other Republicans who are vying for the seat held by Kay Hagen.
Harris is the pastor of First Baptist Church, Charlotte and is completing his second term as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
“These are the people that ... caught the vision and carried it across the state,” said Harris to draft committee participants that have worked for 90 days to explore his potential candidacy. “We began with 70 people in Charlotte ... and we now have 26,000 on the database list.” 
Harris and his wife, Beth, spoke to the participants Sept. 12 with an official public announcement scheduled for Oct. 2. They will begin in Asheville and tour several stops to make the announcement.
Beth Harris told the group how God brought her to a point of  “... complete excitement, looking forward to this journey, really, really believing that this is God’s will.”
“The Lord gave me complete peace that Mark is not stepping down, he is not stepping away from anything God has called him to,” she said.
Asking God, “Why Mark?” she read scripture, prayed and saw “... the kind of preparation God has given Mark in ministry is the kind of leadership that is needed in a legislative body.”
Traveling across the state Harris said he has learned that “People really do want a candidate they can believe in. They really do want a candidate who is marked by character – someone who does not have to get up in the morning and read the newspaper to figure out what they believe. Someone that does not have to turn on the news and hear what the latest poll is saying to determine how they are going to vote or how they’re going to stand that day.
“They are looking for somebody that has a core that has been built in their life, not from [several] terms of public office, but a core that has been built up over a lifetime, that’s marked by character.” 
Harris was heavily involved in North Carolina’s marriage amendment referendum in 2012.
Harris’ church is giving him “a sabbatical leave mixed with a personal leave of absence,” developed by the church’s personnel committee, unanimously approved by the finance committee and the deacons and affirmed by the church in a public vote. The plan calls for Harris to devote his full attention to the campaign from Dec. 1 through the primary in May.
Jim Henry, the retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando Fla., will be filling the Charlotte pulpit during Harris’ absence.
9/13/2013 2:59:35 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 2 comments

Caraway offers first coed children’s camp

September 13 2013 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

This summer, for the first time in its 50-year history, Camp Caraway opened its camp experience to girls through Camp Caraway for Children, a weeklong Christian children’s camp for boys and girls.
Camp Caraway, located near Asheboro, has a long and distinguished history as a fun, Christ-centered, mission focused summer camp for boys. Since 1963, more than 65,000 boys have enjoyed a summer week at Caraway learning about missions and what it means to be a Christ-follower.
Mark Moore, Caraway summer camp director, was one of those boys. As a pastor’s son, Moore spent at least one week most summers during his childhood at Caraway. His experience as a young camper was influential in his call to vocational ministry. “Growing up at camp was one of the few places where I could truly be myself,” Moore said. “It was exciting to live a fun life and be a Christ-follower at the same time.”
Camp Caraway for Boys began as a Royal Ambassador camp, but all boys are welcome and do not have to be active in a particular church to attend. 
The weeklong camp is offered during four weeks throughout the summer. Campers engage in daily Bible study with a camp pastor, learn from missionaries and participate in numerous activities including team building games, swimming in the lake or pool, zip line and paintball. The camp experience is designed to show boys that the Christian life is exciting.

Contributed photo
Camp Caraway has added a week in its summer schedule for a coed camp for boys and girls. 

“We use fun, first of all, to share the love of Jesus, to develop healthy relationships, to share the importance of missions and to create lasting, teachable moments,” Moore said. 
Now both girls and boys, who have completed grades 1-6, will have that same opportunity through Camp Caraway for Children.
“There are great reasons to do single gender camping,” Moore said. “But if you look at the trends in ministry, most churches are strictly doing coed camps because that is what is typically done in public schools and Sunday School. There is a great trend toward coed camping.”
Moore said the coed camp was well received and is a step in the right direction for future coed camps. The children’s camp is designed around the same programming as the camp for boys, the only difference being the addition of girls and female leaders.
“We are allowing girls the opportunity to come experience things at Caraway that at one point only boys could do during the summer,” Moore said. “That opens up a new avenue for us to minister.”
In addition to the four camps for boys and one coed children’s camp, Caraway offered three father-son camps and one angel tree camp for boys who have a parent in prison. As the summer months come to a close, Caraway has hosted a total of more than 700 children.
The goal, Moore said, is for each camp to point children to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
“We want to reach boys and girls where they are,” he said. “Camp is one of the places where they can be themselves.
“We want to put them in a non-threatening environment away from home, away from church, away from school, where they can be themselves, where they can have fun and where they can have an opportunity for God to speak to them.”
Next summer Camp Caraway for Children will be held July 28-Aug. 1, 2014. For more information about the coed children’s camp, visit For more information about Camp Caraway, visit
9/13/2013 2:36:56 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Personal purity exhorted to seminary students

September 13 2013 by RuthAnne Irvin, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The spiritual health of seminary students and their families should precede academics, speakers said at a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary conference emphasizing purity.

Jeremy Pierre, the seminary’s new dean of students, introduced the all-day Personal and Family Vigilance Conference, underscoring the importance of students taking care of their spiritual lives while in seminary.

“Following Christ first in your personal life and in your family is not automatic,” Pierre said.

“It takes effort and it takes vigilance – grace-enabled effort and vigilance, but vigilance nonetheless. We don’t want any of our students to shipwreck their faith through the negligence of their soul, because following Jesus while studying Him is not automatic,” said Pierre, who also is assistant professor of biblical counseling.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Seminary’s president, led the first plenary session, exhorting students about the health of their private and spiritual lives. Mohler preached from 1 Timothy 4:12-16, warning about the dangers of ministry and the tragedy when someone leaves ministry because of poor personal and spiritual vigilance.

People learn much about an institution by how it begins its semester, Mohler said. He gave an example of a secular school that began its semester with a mandatory meeting about “safe sex” among the students. In contrast, Southern Seminary began its year by focusing on soul care for its students.

“We need to train ourselves for the pattern of sound steps and the pattern of a sound life,” Mohler said. “If we fail in terms of the private life, then we fail utterly.”


BP photo
Heath Lambert, associate professor of biblical counseling at Boyce College at Southern Seminary, preached about the dangers of pornography during the seminary’s Personal and Family Vigilance Conference.

People are always watching those in ministry to see how they live, Mohler noted; wherever the minister or leader goes, eyes follow to watch if his words match his actions.

Mohler read an open letter from a former student who, instead of graduating, signed divorce papers. The letter, which appeared in a 2011 issue of the seminary’s news magazine, Towers, illustrated the importance of the conference and its message of personal and family watchfulness while in seminary, Mohler said.

“All of us together, whatever our age, need to be determined to, right now, feed the virtues and starve the vices by God’s grace,” Mohler said. “It’s in the mirror that doctrine and character meet. The defense of the truth requires the same virtues as the defense of character.”

Heath Lambert, associate professor of biblical counseling at Boyce College, the seminary’s undergraduate school, led a plenary session directed toward men about the dangers of pornography.

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, a new book by Lambert, who also is executive director of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, addresses the issue of pornography within today’s Christian culture. The seminary gave attendees a free copy of the book.

Lambert described pornography as “the most significant problem in the church.”

“Today people in our churches have to be vigilant against a phantom,” he noted, referring to pornography’s anonymous ease-of-access on the Internet.

Purity in the churches begins with the pastor, Lambert added.

“God has raised you up to be leaders in your home and church,” he said. “If our homes and churches are to be pure, they are going to be led by men who are pure.”

Lambert preached from Romans 6, telling students that the necessary power to be pure is found in the passage, which addresses a believer’s deadness to sin and life in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

He noted key truths that empower men struggling with pornography: a Christian cannot confess Christ’s resurrection and not fight for holiness; the power for purity is found in the fight against sin; and the fight against sin includes the need for Christians to stop resenting sin and to present themselves to God as raised-to-life believers.

Lambert told students to protect themselves by putting protective systems on computers, cell phones and televisions to avoid temptations to sin.

Fighting for purity requires spending time with Jesus, Lambert said, also encouraging men to present themselves to God as instruments of righteousness by service to others and the church.

He encouraged attendees to sing gospel-centered music when tempted to sin, saying that God “has wired us that there’s something about singing that ignites our affections.”

And Lambert encouraged men to find someone and tell them the truth, emphasizing the importance of grace and honesty in the effort to fight sin.

The Aug. 22 conference also featured four breakout sessions led by seminary professors. Michael Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality, led a session about vigilance in soul care; Pierre led a session about ministering to those who need to confess sin; Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology, spoke to students about how couples can pursue purity together; and Brian Vickers, associate professor of New Testament interpretation, led a session about moving past guilt and toward grace.

The conference was the first to be cosponsored by the Rick Bordas Fund for Student Discipleship, established this year, and the John and Debbie Bethancourt Lectures for Ministerial Ethics.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – RuthAnne Irvin writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Audio and video from the conference are available at
Related story
Q&A: ‘Finally Free’ of pornography
Pornography likened to temple prostitution
9/13/2013 12:26:09 PM by RuthAnne Irvin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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