September 2014

Texas abortion law ruling expected this week

September 16 2014 by Bonnie Pritchett, TEXAN/Baptist Press

Attorneys argued Friday before the U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit whether to fully implement a contested 2013 Texas law regulating abortion practices while a lawsuit against the legislation is on appeal. The decision of the three-judge panel will significantly impact the number of operating clinics statewide, reducing their number from about 20 to seven or eight if the judges rule to overturn a lower court’s injunction.

A ruling is expected by the end of the week according to pro-life advocates who have followed the saga of the hotly debated Texas House Bill 2 since its passage in June 2013. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked for the emergency hearing after US District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled Aug. 29 that two of the regulations in HB 2 created an “undue burden” for women seeking abortions, rendering the measures unconstitutional. Yeakel ordered an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of the provisions while the case, Whole Women’s Health vs. Leakey, is appealed.

Kyleen Wright, executive director of Texans for Life, and John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life attended the hearing in New Orleans and were encouraged by the judges’ responses to oral argument.


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They would not speculate how the Court would rule on the emergency release from Yeakel’s current injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law but they were optimistic Friday’s (Sept. 12) proceedings shed light on how the court will eventually rule on HB 2 when it hears the full case later this fall.

“It was a lively hearing that went longer than expected because of all the questions,” Seago told The Texan in a telephone interview.

Wright said Judge Jennifer W. Elrod “obviously did her homework,” asking detailed questions of the plaintiff’s attorneys regarding conflicting information presented in the current case and a similar case brought against HB 2 last year by Planned Parenthood.

At last year’s hearing, Elrod sat on the all-female, three-judge panel that unanimously ruled to overturn Yeakel’s injunction against two of the HB 2 provisions.

Plaintiffs in this case also joined last year’s suit. They represent Texas abortion clinic owners and doctors. Planned Parenthood chose not to join the current lawsuit which claims HB 2 regulations requiring abortion clinic doctors to receive admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and clinics upgrade their facilities to meet ambulatory service center (ASC) standards would ultimately restrict women’s constitutionally guaranteed access to abortion.

Seago said the questions and their tone revealed Elrod and Judge Stephen Higginson, a President Barack Obama appointee, had opposing views on the issue. The third judge, Jerry E. Smith, asked the fewest questions but previous rulings suggest he would uphold HB 2 on appeal.

Wright and Seago noted the judges questioned the plaintiff’s statistical information regarding clinic closures and their subsequent impact on women seeking abortions. In his ruling, they said Yeakel failed to prove the “large fraction test” requiring plaintiffs prove that a large percentage of women of child-bearing years would be unduly burdened by clinic closures.

Wright said the abortion clinic attorneys were hard-pressed to give specific numbers and, instead, relied on anecdotal information. In last year’s case Planned Parenthood attorneys claimed implementation of HB 2 would hinder 20,000 women from getting abortions.

But under questioning today from Elrod that number was proven unreliable and based on presumptive information which has since be proven false.

“It was more rhetoric than accurate,” Seago said.

Although the impact of clinic closures were the salient point leading to arguments of “undue burden,” plaintiffs’ attorneys seemed elusive when asked how many abortion clinics will open in a post-HB 2 Texas.

Elrod pressed the issue because Whole Women’s Health, an abortion provider with clinics in major Texas cities, announced it would open a clinic in New Mexico just across the border from an El Paso clinic due to close if HB 2 is upheld.

The El Paso clinic and one in the Rio Grande Valley were featured prominently in Yeakel’s Aug. 29 decision.

Yeakel concluded the State’s ASC regulation was unconstitutional on two fronts. The ASC requirements demanded clinics be built or remodeled to accommodate medical systems used in out-patient clinics. New abortion facilities included those regulations in their designs. But existing facilities said cost or structural issues proved overwhelming and chose to shutter their clinics.

Yeakel argued the ASC systems were not necessary when performing non-surgical, or medication-induced, abortions and were, therefore, arbitrary. But pro-life advocates argued abortion clinics that provide medication-induced abortions also provide surgical abortions, hence the need for the higher standards of practice as outlined in HB 2.

In ordering the injunction, Yeakel argued the ASC requirements and the admitting privileges mandate created an untenable combination for abortion clinics. He specifically cited the plight of two clinics, one in the Rio Grande Valley and one in El Paso.

The admitting privileges provision went into effect last year, requiring abortion clinic physicians receive admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic where they work. According to statistics cited in Yeakel’s ruling, almost half of the 40 Texas abortion clinics closed because their doctors could not get the admitting privileges.

Only the El Paso clinic remained open in west Texas. But the Sept. 1 implementation of the ASC requirements would have forced the closing of that clinic, the lone Texas clinic west of the I35 corridor.

If the regulation requiring clinics to meet ambulatory service center standards had gone into effect Sept. 1, the number of clinics would have dropped to seven or eight located only in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Ft. Worth, noted plaintiff’s attorneys.

“The court concludes the act’s ambulatory-surgical-center requirement, combined with the already in-effect admitting-privileges requirement, creates a brutally effective system of abortion regulation that reduces access to abortion clinics thereby creating a statewide burden for substantial numbers of Texas women,” Yeakel wrote in his decision.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

9/16/2014 10:02:36 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Busy moms discover everyday life as ministry

September 16 2014 by Adam Miller, NAMB/Baptist Press

Stephanie Copenhaver is not entirely sure why they keep coming back or why they showed up in the first place. Apart from an invitation through her kids and their friends, there didn’t appear to be anything else that drew six students two years ago – midsummer, no less – to “learn about Jesus” in a four-week study in July.

The second week, 12 students showed up, and, by the end of the study, more than 30 students had been introduced to the Good Samaritan, the Armor of God, biblical values and Jesus, about whom most knew little to nothing.

“These weren’t churched kids, and yet most of them totally hung on every word,” said Copenhaver, a member of Northside Baptist Church in Roswell, Ga.

This all started the summer before her youngest son John’s fifth-grade year. Copenhaver said she had been considering how privileged her kids were to know about the Bible and about Jesus. She wanted other kids to experience the life God intended for them.

“I called two other mothers and asked if they wanted to get kids together to study the Bible,” she said. “They said ‘sure’ and we told our kids to invite their friends.”

After a few planning meetings over lunch, the mothers had developed a few short lessons that would introduce unchurched, soon-to-be middle schoolers to the Bible, God and God’s plan for the people He created.

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NAMB photo by Susan Whitley
Stephanie Copenhaver, a busy mom of four, often spends as much time discipling her children and their friends on the way to soccer matches as she does in formal settings.

Last year the same kids returned, this time bringing some of their friends to learn about Jesus’ miracles in the Gospel of John.

As a result of the study, one student – Phillip Bruce – became a Christian and was baptized. “We got a cool-looking cross made for him. He wears it all the time,” Copenhaver said.

Two years into being with the group, Bruce says he is noticing a change in the way he thinks about life.

“I think twice about things now,” Bruce said. “I forgive more quickly, and now I go back and change my mind when I think about doing something foolish.”

Copenhaver’s evaluation of these experiences: “I stand at these meetings and I think, ‘I can’t believe He chose me to be a part of this.’”


Growing influence

Copenhaver is quick to point out that she and the two other moms involved in this ministry – Pam Troutman and Jiska Van Ede – aren’t doing anything special, other than simply remaining open to God’s leading.

“I think if you’re open to God, He will give you opportunities,” she said. “A lot of people say they don’t feel like they know enough. Well, I don’t either. I’m not a pastor. I’ve never read through the entire Bible. But I think that if you love God and make yourself available then that’s all it takes. And honestly I’d be blown away if just five unchurched kids showed up.”

Troutman said observing what God is doing through the kids has surprised her.

“What strikes me most is how these kids, many who go to different schools, actually are praying and caring for each other,” Troutman said.

“I don’t think any of us ever could have expected it to go like this.”

Van Ede says the group is able to give her boys and the others something she didn’t experience in her native Holland.

“I was the only one on my street to go to church,” she said. “[Biblical community] is the thing I never had as a kid growing up in Europe.”


Living on mission

“Life On Mission,” a new resource offered by the North American Mission Board (NAMB), challenges Christians to live on mission in their everyday lives. In Life On Mission, authors Dustin Willis and Aaron Coe shared stories of laypeople impacting their spheres of influence with the gospel.

“The Christian life is a life on mission,” said Dustin Willis, a former church planter whose experiences are chronicled in Life On Mission, which has been released through Moody Publishers. Willis works with Coe at NAMB as a mobilization and equipping coordinator.

Before becoming NAMB’s vice president of mobilization and marketing, Coe spent seven years planting Gallery Church in New York City. He wrote of how believers living out the everyday mission of God led to his and his wife’s salvation and ultimately to their call to ministry. Coe’s great-grandmother, as a layperson, actually helped start the church where Coe’s wife, Carmen, accepted Christ.


For the future

Similarly, believers like Copenhaver who are living their lives on mission are recognizing that they are working for future generations as well.

“I feel like these kids are still open and unjaded, but I also know they are exposed to so much at a very young age that will shape how they see the world,” Copenhaver said. “I feel like if we get them at a young age we can help shape future generations. And while I may not know all of them really well, I have a personal interest in where they spend eternity.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller writes for the North American Mission Board. This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of On Mission magazine.)

9/16/2014 9:43:34 AM by Adam Miller, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



72-hour abortion wait prevails in Missouri

September 15 2014 by Brian Koonce, Baptist Press

It took until the final hours of the veto session late on Sept. 10, but the Missouri legislature has overridden Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes and joined two other states with the nation’s longest waiting periods before an abortion: 72 hours.

In what pro-life leaders are calling a major victory, women must now wait three days after an initial consultation with a doctor when seeking an abortion. Missouri’s previous waiting period was 24 hours.
 

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The vote tally was 117-44 in the House and 23-7 in the Senate. With a two-thirds majority needed to override a veto, the bill reached 72.6 percent in the House and 76.6 percent in the Senate. (The original tallies when the bill was passed in the spring were 111-39 and 22-9.) In the Senate, debate had gone on for more than two hours in a Democrat filibuster before Republicans invoked the previous question and brought up the vote.

“We thank the Lord for our elected officials who voted with conviction” during the legislature’s special session, said John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Sen. David Sater, R.-Cassville, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate and a member of First Baptist Church there, said elected officials must remember that “unborn children are not abstractions to play politics with. They are human beings like you and me and deserve protection under the law.

“I firmly believe that most Missourians do not think three days is too much time to decide whether to bring a child into this world,” Sater said. “Another 48 hours could very well be the difference between a life saved and a life ended.”

Nixon vetoed the measure July 2 saying the bill was unacceptable because it did not allow an exemption for rape and incest. Missouri now joins Utah and South Dakota as the only states with 72-hour waiting periods, though Utah has the exceptions for rape and incest similar to what Nixon demanded.

“Nothing in this bill prevents any woman who has been a victim of rape or incest from receiving immediate medical treatment from health care professionals,” said Joe Ortwerth of the Missouri Family Policy Council. “This legislation assures that a woman considering abortion has sufficient time to evaluate accurate medical information concerning the abortion procedure. It also furthers a woman’s freedom to make an independent choice about abortion free from coercion from boyfriends, parents or sexual predators.”

There is only one abortion provider left in Missouri, a Planned Parenthood site in St. Louis. However, there is a location in Granite City, Ill., just a few miles across the state line where there is no waiting period.

Legislators also voted to override Nixon’s line-item veto of a budget increase to Missouri’s Alternatives to Abortion Program. It gives an additional $500,000 annually in tax credits for people who contribute to maternity homes and pregnancy resources, both of which were currently capped at $2 million each. The veto override passed the House, 123-37, and the Senate, 27-2.

These two pro-life votes were among 17 of the governor’s vetoes the General Assembly has overridden the special session.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce writes for The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

9/15/2014 1:01:41 PM by Brian Koonce, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Calif. convention expels 'Third Way' church

September 15 2014 by Terry Barone, Baptist Press

The California Southern Baptist Convention’s (CSBC) Executive Board voted Thursday (Sept. 11) to withdraw fellowship from a church whose pastor says he believes homosexual acts are not always sinful.

In a unanimous vote of the 35 members present (six were absent), the board voted to withdraw fellowship from New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., for holding beliefs contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M). Article XVIII of the BF&M defines marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” Article XV states, “Christians should oppose ... all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.”

Board chairman Montia Setzler sent word to Cortez of the board’s decision on Sept. 12.

Setzler, pastor of Magnolia Church in Riverside, Calif., said the board was acting as the “convention ad interim” in taking the action. Article VI, Section 1 of the CSBC Constitution gives the Executive Board the “authority to act for the Convention between its sessions.”

This is the first time in 74 years of existence that the convention has withdrawn fellowship from a church, Setzler said. He added that the CSBC once opted not to receive Cooperative Program gifts from a church.

New Heart first made headlines when pastor Danny Cortez told the congregation in a February sermon he had “changed [his] stance on homosexuality.” The sermon, which Cortez posted on YouTube in March, has been viewed more than 46,000 times.

In the sermon Cortez acknowledged his endorsement of homosexuality “is a radical shift from the longstanding belief of our church. This is a radical shift from our statement of faith, aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Cortez argued that Romans 1 does not condemn all homosexual acts but only those committed in a spirit of violence or unbridled lust. He said modern homosexual relationships are different from the ancient forms of homosexuality Paul was referencing.

In a letter to a prominent gay blogger last spring, Cortez wrote, “The church just voted two Sundays ago, on May 18, 2014, to not dismiss me, and to instead become a Third Way church (agree to disagree and not cast judgement [sic] on one another ...). This is a huge step for a Southern Baptist Church!!”

A former elder at New Heart told Baptist Press that the church in reality never adopted any position on the issue and split into two groups in early June amid unresolvable deadlock.

Following Cortez’s controversial sermon, the congregation voted on four possible options and stipulated that it would separate peacefully if it did not achieve a two-thirds majority. According to the former elder, the four options presented were:

  • Terminate Cortez as pastor and maintain the traditional Christian view that homosexuality is sinful.

  • Take more time to consider the issue.

  • Establish New Heart as a “third way” church, neither affirming nor condemning homosexuality but “agreeing to disagree.”

  • Become a fully gay-affirming church.

Failure to achieve a two-thirds majority led to the previously agreed upon separation.

The faction that went with Cortez retained the name “New Heart Community Church” and the articles of incorporation.

The faction that went with Cortez was the subject of the CSBC’s action.

Setzler told board members he and CSBC Executive Director Fermín A. Whittaker along with D. August Boto, executive vice president and general counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, met with Cortez and a member of his church on Wednesday, Sept. 3 in the Los Angeles area.

The “best thing for convention leadership was to actually hear from” Cortez, Setzler said. “It’s easy to be misquoted and misunderstood ... so we wanted to actually hear from him. It was a cordial meeting.”

Setzler added, “We came away believing that Cortez still believed what he had written to the blogger.”

Cortez was given an opportunity to attend the CSBC Executive Board meeting on Sept. 11 and speak, Setzler said, but “he did not choose to do that.” According to Setzler, Cortez affirmed during the Sept. 3 meeting with convention leaders that New Heart “still would like to be a Southern Baptist church.”

Setzler said he and Whittaker informed Cortez that the CSBC Executive Board was likely to deal with the matter of his church one way or the other. Setzler said he told Cortez that he “did not expect that there would be an outcome that allowed the belief system that the church had adopted to remain compatible with California Southern Baptists.”

When an Executive Board member asked in the Sept. 11 meeting how Cooperative Program funds given by New Heart would be handled, Setzler said, “We have not offered money back because money given is given in good faith and spent” for the purposes intended.

After the vote, Setzler said, “I came away grieved that we could not come to an agreement of them moving back to what I would consider to be a biblical stance on this issue. So it is not with any joy, it is out of a sense of loss” that the decision was taken.

“This was not done lightly and ... we took extra steps in order to be able to clarify and know and not assume what [the church’s] stance was,” Setzler said.

When asked about potential “restoration” of the pastor and church, Setzler responded, “It is our hope that under the pastor’s leadership, the church would be led back to compatibility with the articles of faith we follow as a convention. Should the pastor and congregation arrive at that conviction and reverse their current stance on homosexual practice and behavior, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss resuming fellowship with New Heart Community Church.... I believe restoration is possible, and I think there would nothing but Kingdom joy if that were to happen.”

At least three board members prayed for Cortez and the congregation.

In related news, the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association’s executive board recommended in July that the association not seat messengers from New Heart at its Oct. 11 meeting. If the board’s recommendation is adopted, the association will not receive any New Heart contributions, director of missions Mark Hammond told BP.

The association has not cashed New Heart’s checks since news broke of Cortez’s announcement that he approves of some homosexual acts. If the association votes not to seat New Heart’s messengers, all of its uncashed checks will be returned, Hammond said.

Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (EC) chairman Mike Routt told BP he “thought it likely that the EC would consider the same issues the California convention did and perhaps act on the matter” during its meeting Sept. 22-23 in Nashville.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – With reporting by Holly Smith, managing editor of the California Southern Baptist, and David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

9/15/2014 9:41:11 AM by Terry Barone, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Boston kicks off Send North America Experience tour

September 15 2014 by Joe Conway, NAMB/Baptist Press

The fall tour of the North American Mission Board’s Send North America Experience debuted Sept. 8 at Tremont Temple Baptist Church. More than 1,100 attenders lined up around the block passing the final resting place of Paul Revere and dozens of other patriot’s headstones on their way to hear a message from David Platt, worship with the Passion Band and learn more about living life on mission.

Aaron Coe, NAMB’s vice president for mobilization and marketing, recounted that D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham have preached in senior pastor Denton Lotz’s pulpit in Boston, Mass. He is one in a line of prominent preachers who’ve led the nation’s first integrated congregation.

Coe hinted that history is not finished with Tremont.

“A group of ordinary Baptist men felt called by God to build a church that did not charge for pews [a custom common in colonial America],” Coe said. “They believed that every life on mission matters. We believe that every life on mission matters. It is time for the church to stop making excuses and take action.”


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NAMB photo by John Swain
North American Mission Board vice president for mobilization and marketing Aaron Coe reminded those who attended the Boston Send North America tour stop of the significance of Tremont Temple Baptist Church. The location has hosted Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham, among many others.

Coe led the gathering, made up of many Bostonians, and scores of people from around the northeast, to pray for the city, its leaders and for Jesus to be known in the region.

One of those Bostonians was Drew Dolan, a mechanical engineering student at Northeastern University. He was there with fiancée Amada Bringhurst to hear Platt and “explore what God is doing here in Boston and see how we can be a part.”

Platt, newly elected president of the International Mission Board, reminded the ethnically diverse gathering not to underestimate the power of God’s Spirit.

“I want to encourage you and exhort you that God has placed you here for a reason,” said Platt, who remarked that some eight out of 10 residents of the northeast do not have a relationship with Christ. “What will you do with your moment?

“Don’t underestimate what God can do with ordinary people. God uses ordinary people with extraordinary power from the Spirit of God to accomplish His purposes. Every Christian has been commissioned to preach the gospel and empowered to share the truth. And never dilute the essence of the gospel,” Platt, who used the example of the church founded at Antioch by ordinary followers of Christ [Acts 19:11], said.

“Every major move of the Spirit of God is the result of prayer for the power of God,” he noted. “Do not let prayer be a supplemental part of your life or your church. Prayer must be a fundamental part of your life and your church.”

The event, one of more than 20 scheduled across the U.S. and Canada, is a prelude to NAMB’s Send North America Conference, Aug. 3-4, 2015, in Nashville. The Boston attenders also provided an offering of more than $6,000 to help fund a Boston church plant. Boston is one of 32 Send North America cities where a concentrated focus on church planting is part of the Send North America strategy. It is a strategy that resonates with Boston tour stop participant Cameron Liner.

“We all moved here from Oklahoma to be a part of what God is doing in Boston,” Liner, speaking of his wife and friends, said. “Tonight was a great reminder that we have to continue to follow God in obedience. If you know you need to do something, you need to do it.”

Liner is a member of Charles River Church, planted by Curtis Cook. Cook and his team were hosts for the Boston tour stop. Cook also serves as city coordinator for Send North America: Boston.

Coe told the gathering that one goal of the tour stop was to encourage believers and remind them they are not alone.

“Do you really think there is hope for me?” asked 26-year-old Amber Smith*, who represented a trend toward a younger audience at the gathering. Smith is a former drug dealer who survived a rough childhood. “I’m so glad [the tour] came to Boston because now I know that people really do care about me.”

At the end of the night Drew Dolan said he knew he was in the place God intended him to be.

“I felt God speaking to me in the first worship set,” he said. “It was to the point of becoming overcome with emotion, which doesn’t come easily to me. It was also incredible worshiping next to my fiancée. We felt shaken by the mission we are given for this city and this region.”

To learn more about the Send North America Experience, visit snaexp.sendconference.com. To register for the 2015 Send North America Conference, visit sendconference.com. Explore being a part of Send North America: Boston at http://www.namb.net/boston/.

*Name changed due to the sensitive nature of Smith’s past.

9/15/2014 9:18:52 AM by Joe Conway, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Tim Tebow joins ‘Good Morning America’

September 15 2014 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

Tim Tebow, the popular former college and pro quarterback revered and criticized for his Christian faith and his on-the-field prayers that coined the word “Tebowing,” continues to make headlines this year as a football commentator – and now as a morning show contributor.

Tebow, an analyst for the SEC Network and ESPN, has signed on with “Good Morning America,” ABC News announced Thursday (Sept. 11). A member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., Tebow will be a part of the show’s “Motivate Me Monday,” a non-football series. “Tebow will appear in studio and live on location in towns across America with a wide-range of reports that motivate and inspire,” the ABC release said.

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Tim Tebow
 

The Heisman-winner who played for the University of Florida has garnered positive reviews from the media as a college football commentator for his warm personality and knowledge of the game. Earlier this year Tebow drew praise for his pregame analysis and predictions for the BCS National Championship game. Tebow predicted the Florida State University Seminoles would beat the Auburn University Tigers 35-31. Final result? FSU won 34-31.

“Tim is a SEC icon with a national fan base and broad appeal,” ESPN Vice President Justin Connolly said in the news release after Tebow signed on with the SEC Network last year. “He will be a significant contributor to the compelling content we will deliver.... Tim brings a wealth of knowledge about the game, the conference and the passion among SEC fans.”

Before becoming a football analyst, Tebow’s public declarations of his Christian faith set off a nationwide discussion about whether professional athletes should keep their religious faith to themselves.

Many evangelical Christians rallied around Tebow as he played two seasons for the NFL’s Broncos in Denver, helping lead them on a playoff run in 2012. He then played a year for the New York Jets before being cut in the 2013 preseason by the New England Patriots. Tebow has said in past reports that he still hopes to play quarterback in the NFL.

Some Tebow supporters have cried foul over the secular media criticizing the quarterback for being too outspoken about his Christian faith while other athletes – the NBA’s Jason Collins and NFL’s Michael Sam – have drawn praise for going public about their sexual orientation.

This season, much of the news media hailed Sam as a hero for being the first NFL player to publically announce he is a homosexual. Sam even shared a kiss on national television with his boyfriend after the St. Louis Rams drafted him this spring. The team cut Sam a few weeks later, but the defensive end soon garnered headlines again when he made the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)

9/15/2014 9:05:30 AM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Platt: Opposition reveals our beliefs

September 12 2014 by Erich Bridges, IMB/Baptist Press

The rise of militant secularism – and increasing efforts to make the practice of biblical faith socially and legally unacceptable – are slowly raising the cost of discipleship in America.

“In one sense, I’m thankful for the trends in our culture, and even in the church, that are causing us to ask, ‘OK, do we really believe the Bible?’” said David Platt, who discussed a range of missions-related issues during an interview following his election as president of Southern Baptists’ International Mission Board on Aug. 27.

“Do we really believe this gospel that we claim to believe?” Platt asked. “Because more and more, cultural Christianity is just kind of fading to the background. People are realizing if you actually believe in the gospel then that’s not as accepted as it once was. It’s actually looked down upon as narrow-minded, arrogant, bigoted and offensive. Obviously, we want to be humble in our embracing of the gospel but it’s becoming more costly in our culture in a way that’s good – in the sense that this better prepares us [for] what we’re going to be a part of around the world.”
 

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IMB photo
David Platt, addressing his first missionary appointment service as IMB president, tells 50 new workers, “We’ve been invited by God to be part of making His salvation known among people that He loves, and we know that when we share this gospel, people are going to be saved ... somebody from every tribe, nation and people group.”

Platt acknowledged that Christians now face such questions as: Do we believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ enough to lose friends, social status, a scholarship or a job over it? Do we believe it enough to suffer for it?

Despite the higher cost to live and declare the gospel in America, Platt stated: “We’re not going to shrink back in light of the resistance that’s there.” Instead: “We’re going to step up, rise up and say we want to see His glory proclaimed no matter what it costs us, because we believe He is our reward.”

Amid America’s longstanding religious liberty coupled with the prosperity of the richest economy in human history, Platt noted: “We need to realize the clear New Testament teaching that it is costly to follow Christ, that the more your life is identified with Christ, the harder it will get for you in this world.”

He continued: “We need our eyes opened to that reality. I think we’ve been almost seduced by the spirit of cultural Christianity that says, ‘Oh, come to Christ and you can keep your life as you know it.’ No, you come to Christ and you lose your life as you know it. The more you’re active in sharing the gospel, the more unpopular you’ll be in many ways, the more resistance you’ll face. ...

“[But] it helps you realize this is what our brothers and sisters around the world are facing in different places. If we’re going to join with them in spreading the gospel, then we need to be ready to embrace that ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,’” Platt said, quoting the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3:12.

During months of praying about leading Southern Baptists’ global mission enterprise, Platt said God had instilled in him a “deeper, narrowing, Romans 15 kind of ambition, where Paul said, ‘I want to see Christ preached where He has not been named.’” The whole concept of unreached peoples, “of nearly 2 billion people who have never heard the gospel, is just totally intolerable,” he said.

With most unreached people living in places where religions, cultures, governments and extremists oppose – sometimes violently – the transmission of the gospel and the making of disciples, Platt said he realizes: “Making disciples of all nations will not be easy, and the more we give ourselves to reaching unreached peoples with the gospel, the harder it will get for us.

“But the beauty is the more we identify with Christ [in America], the more we’ll be ready to identify with the sufferings of Christ [overseas] as we go. And we’ll realize, whether here or there, the more we give ourselves to this mission, [the more we’ll] believe in the depth of our heart that He is our reward and that the reward of seeing people come to Christ is worth it. This is just basic theology of suffering in mission. How has God chosen to show His love most clearly to the world? Through the suffering of His Son, a suffering Savior.

“So how is God going to show His love most to the world today? Through suffering saints, through brothers and sisters who identify with the suffering Savior.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent.)

9/12/2014 10:14:38 AM by Erich Bridges, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Truett Cathy: His ‘good name’ celebrated

September 12 2014 by Tim Palmer, Baptist Press

The life of Truett Cathy was celebrated by 2,000 people who packed the auditorium of First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., and hundreds more in an overflow room Wednesday (Sept. 10). The memorial service encompassed stirring music and humor – and an overriding testimony to a patriarchal faith in Jesus Christ.

Cathy, a Baptist churchman who founded the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain and contributed to an array of charitable causes, died Monday, Sept. 8, at his Atlanta-area home. He was 93.

Frequent Scripture passages spiced the memorial service, including one of Cathy’s favorites, Proverbs 22:1: If you must choose, take a good name rather than great riches; for to be held in loving esteem is better than silver and gold.

Cathy earned great riches in the restaurant business but he laid up greater treasures in heaven, such as the eternal influence of teaching an eighth-grade boys’ Sunday School class for six decades.

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Pallbearers leave First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., after a memorial service for Truett Cathy, famed entrepreneur of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain.


One former class member, Joshua Werho, paused in his duties as an usher to recall his Sunday School teacher. He really liked teaching that age because it’s the transition to becoming young men, Werho recounted, repeatedly using the word passionate to describe how Cathy taught.

Cathy challenged the youths not to let the world corrupt them and to guard their hearts for the women they would marry, Werho said.

Another former student, Woody Faulk, told the memorial service crowd about the time he found Cathy in the woods on a February day and asked what he was doing. Cathy said he was picking early-blooming jonquils for a Valentine’s Day bouquet for his wife Jeannette. When Faulk asked him why he didn’t just order flowers from a florist, Cathy replied, Don’t you know how much florists charge to deliver on Valentine’s Day?

Faulk used the story to point toward Cathy’s authentic personal faith. I saw that love in action, Faulk said.

Cathy’s faith is worthy of emulation, Faulk said. I want to live like that too, he said. Don’t you?

Cathy’s grandson, Andrew Cathy, recalled lessons learned from his grandfather. Don’t take yourself too seriously was one. Take what you do very seriously was another.

Charles Carter, who served as First Baptist’s pastor for 27 years, called it a high honor to bring the message in Wednesday’s service. Carter drew from Romans 12, saying that Cathy followed the exhortations in the oft-quoted passage.

Carter described Cathy as larger than life – someone who pursued his hopes and dreams while making the world a better place. Noting that Cathy viewed his work in food service as a divine call, Carter said, We could all do well to follow his example.

Even after earning fame and fortune, Carter said, Cathy kept God first. That’s a hard line to walk.

Carter concluded with words addressed to Cathy himself. You’ve left some awfully big shoes to fill. We’ll do our best.

Both of Cathy’s sons also addressed the service. Don Bubba Cathy recalled that his father lived in the same small house for more than 60 years, but he had a 200-car garage. Don’s Sunday School story was that his father threatened no-shows with going to their houses and having Sunday School around their beds.

Dan Cathy, who succeeded his father as Chick-fil-A’s chief executive officer, said he counts the 61 years they shared as precious. I’ll proudly live in the shadow of his legacy for the rest of my life.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Palmer is an Atlanta-area writer.)

9/12/2014 9:51:17 AM by Tim Palmer, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



NFL/Ray Rice stir domestic violence blogs

September 12 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

After professional football star Ray Rice was suspended by the National Football League (NFL) indefinitely for knocking his then-fiancée unconscious in Atlantic City, Southern Baptists took to the Internet to give a biblical perspective on domestic violence.

“Often, men who abuse their wives or girlfriends will seek to hide under the cover of therapeutic language, as they seek to ‘deal’ with their ‘issues,’” Southern Baptists’ lead ethicist Russell D. Moore wrote in a blog post for CNN Sept. 10.

“There is no question that a man who would abuse a woman is socially and psychologically twisted,” Moore wrote, “but we should not allow this to in any way ameliorate the moral and public evil involved in these cases. The state should work, at every level, to prosecute the abusers of women and children in a way that will both deter others and make clear society’s repugnance at such abuse.”

Rice, a two-time All-Pro running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was suspended for two games initially, after a video showed him dragging the unconscious body of Janay Palmer, who is now his wife, out of a casino elevator following the assault in February. When an elevator surveillance video showing the actual assault surfaced Monday (Sept. 8), the Ravens released Rice and the NFL handed down his indefinite suspension.

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said both the government and the church have a responsibility to confront violence against women. Part of the government’s responsibility, he said, is to make justice “clear and decisive enough” that women will report abuse and not fear repercussions from the men who harm them.


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Churches must “address the spiritual and moral realities behind” domestic violence by disciplining men who abuse women and teaching about biblical gender roles, Moore said.

Christians “are the people who believe that every idle word and every hateful act, no matter how covered up in this life, will be brought into the open at the Judgment Seat,” Moore wrote. “We ought to warn men that their cowardly and predatory acts toward women do not escape the scrutiny of God.”

Among other Southern Baptists to comment on the Rice situation:

Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, wrote that public outrage over Rice’s actions demonstrates widespread acknowledgment that women possess unique dignity which must be protected.

“The justly-outraged response of America to Rice’s abusive act has shown us that though we might ideologically deny that women deserve courtly treatment from men, we still practically believe they do,” Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, wrote in a blog post at patheos.com. “There is something particularly awful, in other words, about Rice knocking out the woman he ostensibly loves. This act of violence is different than a fight between him and a hulking teammate. As many commentators have recognized, a man brutalizing a woman is terrible in a unique way.”

The physical strength of men has been granted to them by God and should be used to protect others rather than harm them, Strachan wrote.

“What would godly men do if they saw a situation like the one Ray Rice created?” Strachan wrote. “They would know, most likely, that if they stood between him and her, they would get dropped, flat out. They would be knocked out. But they would step in all the same. What’s more, they would do so gladly. They would sacrifice their safety and their body and their very life for others. Men stand in the middle. Men get between.”

Emily Ellis, a publishing team leader at LifeWay Christian Resources, lamented that 42 percent of pastors say they rarely or never speak about domestic violence in their churches, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

Ellis said the biblical pictures of Boaz covering Ruth with his garment and God covering His people contrast with the video of Palmer lying “exposed and humiliated on an elevator floor.”

“Instead of Rice ‘covering’ her, as God has commanded men to do, he exposed her. He abused her. He misused his God-given strength to harm her,” Ellis wrote in a guest post on LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer’s blog.

Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, identified 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5 as key Bible passages to guide husbands in proper treatment of their wives. Though often controversial, adopting biblical gender roles in the home leads to harmonious families, he wrote in a blog post.

“While our society cringes to see the video of a man striking his fiancée, the solution to the problem is often equally despised. This is because the teachings of Scripture are counter-cultural,” Lenow wrote.

“It is unpopular to tell a man that he should treat his wife as a weaker vessel. It is out of favor to say that a wife should submit to the loving leadership of her husband as to Christ. But I think counter-cultural is the way we should go here. While culture walks swiftly down the path of violence, the words of Scripture call us men to honor, love, and cherish women,” he wrote.

Alex Duke, editorial manager for 9Marks, a ministry associated with Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., used the Rice incident as an opportunity for evangelism. In an article posted at The Gospel Coalition website, Duke addressed non-Christian sports fans who might stumble across his writing.

“I’m struck by my propensity to, like Rice, hide the truth about myself despite convincing evidence to the contrary,” Duke wrote. “... But there is someone who has all the evidence, all the footage, someone who knows and has seen and can recall every minute detail, frame by frame by frame. I don’t know your feelings about the Bible, but I trust its every word. So I believe the author of Hebrews when he writes, ‘And no creature is hidden from [God’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.’

“If today’s technology can watch us from the tucked-away corners of casino elevators, how much more can we be sure the creator of the eye and the giver of sight sees all things? Only repentance and faith in the enfleshed, risen Son saves us totally from our sins, private and public, broadcasted and hidden (Rom. 5-8),” he wrote.

Joe Carter, ERLC communications director, noted “9 Things You Should Know About Intimate Partner Violence.”

“In 48 population-based surveys from around the world, 10-69 percent of women reported being physically assaulted by an intimate male partner at some point in their lives,” Carter wrote at The Gospel Coalition website. “In large national studies, the range is between 10-34 percent.”

Carter added, “According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 women (22.3 percent) have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while 1 in 7 men (14.0 percent) have experienced the same. Female victims frequently experienced multiple forms of IPV (i.e. rape, physical violence, stalking); male victims most often experienced physical violence.”

Jeremy Pierre, assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press that an article he published last year may help churches and pastors considering the topic of domestic violence in light of Rice. In the article Pierre urged churches to “promote a culture of safety for oppressed people in the congregation” and discipline abusive men.

“Wives should be reminded that by remaining quiet about abusive husbands they insulate them from the loving correction they need to save their souls from destruction,” Pierre wrote in the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. “It is not loving to hide domestic abuse; it will only bring destruction. To the victim as well as the perpetrator. No matter how many times an abuser feels guilty and promises not to continue, without help from others, the pattern will continue.”

Pastors should always alert government authorities in cases of violence and sexual abuse, Pierre wrote.

“Many well-meaning pastors may, in attempt to show grace, treat violence as ‘church family business.’ This is both illegal and foolish. Part of godly authority is exacting the consequences of a man’s actions on him. An abuser must be accountable to the law, regardless of the state of his repentance,” Pierre wrote.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

9/12/2014 9:29:09 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Bivocational, small church council named

September 12 2014 by Baptist Press/SBC LIFE

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) President Frank S. Page has named a 21-member Bivocational and Small Church Advisory Council to serve through 2017, SBC LIFE reported in its fall issue.

Calling the local church the "headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention," Page named the council to help the Executive Committee and other SBC entity leaders gain greater understanding of and appreciation for the perspectives of churches served by bivocational pastors and churches with Sunday school attendance of 125 or less.

The council will provide information, insight and counsel to EC staff relative to the special needs and concerns of Southern Baptist bivocational and small church leaders, and it will serve as a bridge to pastors who often lack the flexibility or resources to participate in SBC meetings, SBC LIFE reported.

The council will neither launch nor execute ministries; its purpose is consultation, communication and cooperation. Members represent a cross-section of the country and reflect the SBC's cultural diversity.

During Page's four years at the helm of the Executive Committee, he has maintained a proactive agenda to "encourage the cooperation and confidence of the churches, associations, and state conventions and facilitate maximum support for worldwide missions and ministries," as noted in the EC Mission Statement in its official organization manual.

Page has visited each SBC entity leader and state convention executive, seeking to build and strengthen relationships and gain insight in addressing questions of cooperation among the different SBC entities and the cooperating state convention ministry partners.

The Bivocational and Small Church Advisory Council joins a list of such councils Page has named during his tenure, including groups addressing the Hispanic, African American, Asian American and multi-ethnic communities among Southern Baptists.

As early as 2013, Page began meeting directly with pastors to build and strengthen relationships, listening to their perspectives on cooperation and SBC work as well as updating them on SBC ministries. Since January, Page has met with more than 400 pastors in 14 states where he has had other SBC-related duties. The Bivocational and Small Church Advisory Council will work with Page to expand the reach of these listening sessions among their friendship networks.

Council members are Ira Antoine Jr., Minnehulla Baptist Church, Goliad, Texas; Vernon E. Beachum Jr., First Baptist Church; Fort Ashby, W.Va.; Paul Biswas, Cambridgeport Baptist Church, Cambridge, Mass.; Fredrick Brabson Sr., New Covenant Baptist Church, Knoxville, Tenn.; Bobby Clark, Abbott Baptist Church, Mansfield, Ark.; Gordon Donahoe, Neely's Bend Baptist Church, Madison, Tenn.; Ray Gilder, Gath Baptist Church, McMinnville, Tenn.; Kenny Heath, Grace Baptist Church, Cumberland, Md.; Hal Hopkins, Lighthouse Baptist Church, Breinigsville, Pa.; Stephen R. Jones, Central Baptist Church, Alameda, Calif.; Pusey Losch, Mountain View Community Church, Richfield, Pa.; Henry Luckel, Ethne Church, Larkspur, Colo.; Gary Mitchell, First Baptist Church, Chataignier, La.; Joel Perez, Iglesia Bautista La Cosecha, Okeechobee, Fla.; Michael Pigg, Philadelphia Baptist Church, Lithonia, Ga.; Shannon Smith, Westside Baptist Church, Fremont Campus, Omaha, Neb.; A. Scott Tafoya, Indian Nations Baptist Church, Albuquerque, N.M.; Mark Tolbert, Bedico Baptist Church, Ponchatoula, La.; Elizondo Marcos Villarreal, Iglesia Cristiana Bautista, Lufkin, Texas; Cliff Woodman, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Carlinville, Ill., and Joe Young, Calvary Chapel, Parchman, Miss.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – SBC LIFE is the journal of the SBC Executive Committee.)

9/12/2014 9:24:33 AM by Baptist Press/SBC LIFE | with 0 comments



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