September 2016

McCrory insists he still supports HB2

September 26 2016 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

Citing overlapping lawsuits and “substantial costs to the state,” North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory withdrew a lawsuit against the federal government over House Bill 2 (HB2), the state’s so-called “bathroom bill.” North Carolina will continue to defend the controversial law in separate but similar lawsuits pending in federal courts.
 

Pat McCrory


McCrory’s decision came less than a week after two college sports associations pulled their respective championship games from North Carolina venues over opposition to HB2, which requires people to use restrooms and locker rooms based on the gender listed on their birth certificates. Supporters of the law fear state leaders will yield to calls to repeal the bill after a months-long, vitriolic public relations campaign by LGBT activists and the resulting financial toll.
 
But Graham Wilson, McCrory’s press secretary, insists dropping the state’s lawsuit will make the law easier to defend.
 
“This action will consolidate the state’s efforts in the courts,” he said. “The remaining cases are well underway in the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina. Gov. McCrory will continue to fight against government overreach.”
 
Suits and countersuits filled federal court dockets after the North Carolina Assembly passed HB2 in March. In each case the state has sought to defend the law against allegations it violates federal civil rights statutes.
 
McCrory is in a tight race for reelection, running against Democrat Attorney General Roy Cooper who refused to defend HB2 against the federal lawsuit. In a Sept. 19 poll conducted by Elon University, McCrory had a tight lead in the race – 48.7 percent to 46 percent.
 
But according to the same poll, 49.5 percent of likely voters oppose HB2, while 39.5 support it.
 
State Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Republican who voted for HB2, is now calling for its repeal. In an interview with National Public Radio last week, Barringer balked at suggestions her change of heart was politically motivated.
 
Asked if she would support legislation allowing transgender persons to use their restroom of choice, Barringer said she couldn’t answer because she didn’t think society had a good way to define what that meant.
 
“But I will tell you that I am listening and open to hear that discussion,” she said, adding two other GOP legislators support her efforts.
 
Tami Fitzgerald, director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, called Barringer’s comments an act of political desperation.
 
“Today there are too many politicians willing to abandon their closely held beliefs and principles in the face of adversity,” Fitzgerald said. “People want leaders who will stand up for what is right. How much is it worth to prevent the sexual assault of one little girl in a public bathroom or locker room? That is the question that State Sen. Tamara Barringer ought to ask herself.”
 
State legislators drafted HB2 after the City of Charlotte passed an ordinance giving transgender persons access to the restrooms and private changing facilities of their choice. In a Sept. 19 joint press conference, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, along with representatives from the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign and Equality North Carolina, rejected a compromise calling on both Charlotte and the state to repeal their respective laws.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used with permission.)
 

Related articles:
Businesses fuel economic debate over N.C. bathroom law
HB 2: Feds threaten McCrory with LGBT rights violations
Charlotte loses NBA All-Star game over ‘bathroom bill’
Judge hears first argument in HB2 court battle
NCAA tourney pulled from N.C. over restroom bill
Graham issues protest letter to ACC over anti-HB 2 vote
N.C. transgender ruling ‘narrow’ but a ‘step back’

 
9/26/2016 8:27:34 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Contempt of Congress sought for fetal tissue firm

September 26 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A possible contempt of Congress holding against a fetal tissue procurement business that has worked with Planned Parenthood is the latest development in an ongoing investigation into the apparent trade in aborted baby parts in this country.
 
The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives of the U.S. House of Representatives voted 8-0 Sept. 21 for a resolution recommending that the chamber find StemExpress and its chief executive officer, Catherine Spears Dyer, in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide documents it had subpoenaed. The resolution also called for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to certify the panel’s report to a federal attorney.
 
All the panel’s Republican members voted for the resolution, but the six Democratic members refused to vote and walked out in protest.
 
The contempt report came in an investigation that has uncovered evidence some abortion clinics and at least one tissue procurement company have benefited financially from the trade, according to the House panel. The panel is seeking to determine if payments for baby parts made to clinics and companies violate a 1993 law that bans fees beyond reasonable costs for such activities as processing, storage and transportation of human fetal tissue.
 
The investigation has focused on Planned Parenthood since the panel was established last year after undercover videos provided evidence that the country’s No. 1 abortion provider trades in baby body parts. The secretly recorded videos showed various Planned Parenthood executives discussing their sale of fetal parts, as well as their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use.
 
The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which produced the undercover recordings involving Planned Parenthood, also released videos regarding StemExpress, a California-based firm that acts as a middleman between abortion clinics and biomedical researchers. CMP posted clandestinely recorded videos online of StemExpress officials discussing their work, as well as a video of a former StemExpress employee discussing her experience procuring baby organs at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
 
In its report at the Sept. 21 meeting, the panel said StemExpress provided limited information voluntarily, prompting subpoenas of the business in February and March. The panel also subpoenaed Dyer and the company’s outside accountant. StemExpress and Dyer refused to provide the accounting records needed to complete its work, thereby violating the subpoenas, the panel reported.
 
Southern Baptist ethicists pointed to the need for accountability by StemExpress.
 
“The abortion lobby consistently flouts public accountability and relies on political partisanship to escape scrutiny,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “This is yet another example, but the contempt recommendation offers a glimmer of hope that their game may not always be working.
 
“Congress should continue to find ways to hold this industry accountable, for the sake of the unborn, vulnerable women and communities,” Moore told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments.
 
C. Ben Mitchell, provost and professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., described accountability as “a very important part of ethical leadership.”
 
“The fact that StemExpress is either negligent or willfully defiant against the law does not contribute to public trust,” Mitchell told BP by email. “Why would an entity that is operating ethically have something to hide?”
 
Rep. Marsh Blackburn, R.-Tenn., the panel’s chairman, said she hopes the contempt resolution will produce compliance from StemExpress.
 
“A subpoena is not a suggestion,” Blackburn said in a panel news release. “It is a lawful order that must be complied with.
 
“Nine months is enough time for an entity to produce accounting documents. It’s time for them to turn over the records we need to complete our investigation.”
 
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D.-Ill., the panel’s minority leader, contended during the Sept. 21 meeting the entity has no authority to recommend contempt to the House, describing the vote as “an unauthorized, dangerous, unjustified, illegitimate escalation.”
 
On the eve of the panel’s action, StemExpress defended itself in a written statement, saying it has “provided hundreds of documents to the Select Panel, including accounting records, both voluntarily and in response to subpoenas. All Americans should be concerned that a Congressional panel can use the threat of contempt proceedings to support a narrative that flies in the face of the facts.”
 
CMP, meanwhile, said in a written release the Democrats’ walkout demonstrated “how terrified they and their abortion industry masters are of the full details being revealed about Planned Parenthood’s criminal partnership with StemExpress. Finding StemExpress in contempt of Congress is just the first criminal charge that the full details about the illicit body parts trade at Planned Parenthood will reveal.”
 
In a July update, Blackburn said the panel had found a “motive for illicit profit” in an investigation that includes Planned Parenthood and StemExpress as subjects. In its first six months of work, the panel had “uncovered evidence that some abortion providers have altered abortion procedures in a manner that substitutes what is best for the patient with a financial benefit for both the abortion clinic and the [tissue] procurement company,” she said.
 
The panel released documents from StemExpress in April that included:
 
– A marketing brochure distributed at an abortion trade association meeting that said a clinic could help with biomedical research in a way that is “financially profitable.”
 
– Exhibits showing technicians employed by the procurement company work within clinics to identify and procure body parts of unborn children being aborted.
 
– Lists of payments by researchers to the procurement company, including purchases of fetal brains of five to 24 weeks’ gestation for $715 apiece.
 
The California Senate approved in late August a Planned Parenthood-instigated bill that increases the punishment for a person who distributes a conversation with a healthcare worker he or she has secretly recorded. The State Assembly still must approve the Senate legislation for it to go to the governor’s desk.
 
Three months after release of the first undercover video in July 2015, Planned Parenthood announced it would no longer receive reimbursement for fetal tissue it provides for research.
 
Planned Parenthood and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its latest annual financial report (2014-15). Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
 
The House panel is to issue a final report by Dec. 31.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

9/26/2016 8:21:28 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gateway move increased assets, streamlined staff

September 26 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Thanks to the move of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) main campus to Southern California, the seminary has more financial assets and an employee structure more focused on theological education.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
A new main campus in Southern California helps focus Gateway Seminary on “the mission that you sent us to accomplish,” President Jeff Iorg told the SBC Executive Committee Sept. 20.


That’s the report Gateway President Jeff Iorg delivered to the SBC Executive Committee Sept. 20 in Nashville.
 
Iorg noted that the new 155,000-square-foot main campus in Ontario, Calif., has 20 percent more building space than the former Mill Valley, Calif., main campus in the San Francisco Bay Area. But it sits on 100 fewer acres of land, eliminating the need for “tens of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance and also future costs of maintaining a large campus.”
 
The Ontario campus “was not a default choice for us,” Iorg said. “This was an intentional choice” to focus Gateway on “the mission that you sent us to accomplish.”
 
Gateway faculty and staff, Iorg said, worked tirelessly to complete the move between June 3, when the Mill Valley campus closed, and July 5, when the Ontario campus opened. Their efforts included packing or disposing of “every single thing” on the old campus as well as setting up everything on the new campus – including a 200,000-item library.

Submitted photo
Faculty and staff moved Gateway Seminary’s 200,000-item library from Northern to Southern California in just six weeks.


“It’s hard to describe how hard people worked,” Iorg said. “... Our staff, because we were in move-in process, did it all. They broke down all the boxes, hauled out all the packing material, swept up after themselves, cleaned the toilets and made the lunch.”
 
During the six-week moving process, the seminary also received final approval from the SBC to change its name from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
When all was said and done, the move – including an $85 million sale of the Mill Valley property – left Gateway with more than $100 million total in cash and debt-free real estate assets. Among them:
 

  • A $46.5 million campus in Ontario.
  • An adjacent development lot in Ontario, which has been made into a park, valued at $4 million.
  • Two apartment complexes near the Ontario campus valued at $8.5 million.
  • A new northern California campus set to open in Freemont, near the Oakland airport, valued at $8 million.
  • A $5 million campus in Brea, Calif., near Los Angeles; and
  • A Southern California missionary-in-residence home worth $500,000.

Submitted photo
Gateway Seminary’s new main campus in Ontario, Calif., includes 155,000 square feet of building space, with a 400-seat chapel.


In addition to real estate assets, Gateway has some $32 million left over in what Iorg referred to as its “land sale endowment.” Beyond that amount, the seminary absorbed approximately $4 million in relocation expenses.
 
“God, good management and a lot of favorability in markets and real estate transactions has made it possible for us to turn $85 million into about $110 million in value and assets over the past two and a half years,” Iorg said.
 
In relocating to a main campus on a smaller lot, Iorg said, Gateway was able to cut approximately 40 maintenance and lawn-care positions from its staff while adding 10 new positions and 12 new employees “in the areas of faculty, communications, technology and recruiting.”
 
The resulting personnel cost is the same as it was in Mill Valley but more exclusively devoted to the advancement of theological education, he said.

Submitted photo
The grassy area in front of Gateway Seminary’s new facility in Ontario, Calif., has been dubbed “Gateway Park.”


In the end, not only will the move and resultant savings benefit Gateway, Iorg said, it will also benefit Southern Baptist missions worldwide.
 
Iorg told of being asked on one occasion why Gateway didn’t build a more traditional campus, with all its amenities, and depend on God, “who owns the cattle on a thousand hills,” to provide the necessary funding. His reply was missions-focused.
 
“God does own the cattle on a thousand hills,” Iorg said. “But He does not need to sell them and send [the money] to seminaries to build facilities we don’t need. He needs to sell them and send [the money] to the International Mission Board to get the gospel to the billions ... who have never heard the name of Jesus.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)


Related articles:
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‘Grateful for what God is doing,’ Page tells EC
New EC media policy addresses social media
Platt to EC: Seemingly dead man arose
WRAP-UP: EC recommends expanding membership
Golden Gate Seminary closes Mill Valley campus
 

9/26/2016 8:21:11 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



New Baptist Covenant extols racial justice

September 26 2016 by Mark Kelly & David Roach, Baptist Press

A theologically and ethnically diverse coalition of Baptists gathered around the theme of racial justice and reconciliation at the New Baptist Covenant Summit Sept. 14-16 convened by former President Jimmy Carter.
 
The group’s dwindling attendance – down more than 97 percent from its 2008 inaugural gathering of what Baptist Press estimated as 9,000 attendees – led the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) to wonder about the coalition’s future prospects for survival.
 

Jimmy Carter

Speaking to an estimated 240 people at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Atlanta, Carter said America has suffered significant setbacks since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but he believes the country has the resilience to assess its problems and resolve them.
 
The United States, he said, has lost “self-confidence and ambition for greatness” as well as “a lot of our inspiration, idealism and commitment” since the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
 
Carter noted the prospect of sustained warfare, America’s financial woes and growing disparity in income. He expressed concern about “fear and distrust of people different than us” and talked about racially unequal punishment before the law and how poor people too often are deprived of equal opportunity in life.
 
Yet, Carter said, “our country is resilient and ... has been able [in the past] to assess its own problems and resolve them over a period of time. Sometimes it takes too long, but we have that capability and that motivation in America.”
 
He commended the group for their determined efforts to build bridges between privileged and disadvantaged communities and challenged them, as the apostle Paul did the church at Thessalonica, “to be courageous, to be firm in their faith, to share love for one another, to be united and to persevere.”
 

Racial & theological diversity

The New Baptist Covenant launched in 2008 at Carter’s impetus. The group’s website says its “calling” is to “overcome historic divisions within our Baptist family” and create “vibrant, inclusive Baptist communities.”
 
The organization cites 220 congregations – many of which “serve historically segregated communities” – that are partnering to “nurture their relationships and transform their community” through literacy programs, feeding initiatives and economic development advocacy.
 
The group’s diversity was represented by the three-day program’s attendees, which included representatives from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), the American Baptist Churches USA, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas and the Indian American Baptist Association of Oklahoma.
 
In addition to their racial diversity, participants have espoused a diverse range of views on moral and theological issues.
 
On homosexuality, for example, Carter told The Atlantic in May that granting so-called homosexual rights is based on “the same principle” as granting civil rights to racial minorities. Meanwhile, the CBF includes Baptists with a range of views on homosexuality, and National Baptist congregations historically have denounced homosexual acts as sinful.
 
The coalition’s participants also have expressed diverse sentiments regarding the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
 
Carter has announced his withdrawal from the SBC on multiple occasions, and the CBF was formed largely by moderates disenchanted with the SBC’s conservative direction in the early 1990s. In contrast, the National Baptist Convention (NBC) USA Inc. has partnered with the SBC during the past year to promote racial reconciliation, including an appearance at June’s SBC annual meeting in St. Louis by NBC USA President Jerry Young.
 
Chelsen Vicari, evangelical action director for IRD, a group that seeks renewal in mainline Protestant denominations, told BP “the New Baptist Covenant’s survival is absolutely dependent on black Baptist denominational involvement.”
 
“The New Baptist Covenant’s first meeting gathered” thousands of Baptists in 2008 “largely due to the coalition’s meeting coinciding with the national conventions of historically black Baptist denominations also meeting in Atlanta,” including the NBC USA Inc., the National Baptist Convention of America, the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America and the Progressive National Baptist Convention.
 
“When NBC organizers failed to follow this same formula for the New Baptist Covenant II meeting in November 2011, the Institute on Religion and Democracy staff witnessed a satellite image of Jimmy Carter speaking to an empty Washington, D.C. auditorium,” Vicari said.
 
In the future, “it’s questionable if the largely white liberal Baptist splinter groups involved [in the New Baptist Covenant] can even sustain themselves as denominations and caucuses, much less a vibrant coalition,” Vicari said. “Consider the CBF-affiliated Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond that only counted 42 fulltime students and the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky which only enrolled 31 fulltime students in 2015-16. Compare these numbers to SBC-affiliated seminaries like Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that enrolled 2,268 during the same academic year.”
 

Other speakers

In addition to Carter’s keynote speech, the “Journeying to Covenant Community” program featured three sermons:
 
– Frederick Haynes III and George Mason. Haynes, senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church, and Mason, senior pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church, both in Dallas, shared the podium as they told about the “Covenant of Action” their congregations have engaged.
 
Haynes talked about their “journey of two-ness” in “a city engineered for division” and expressed gratitude for a partnership that has not been limited to pulpit-swap worship services which “don’t make a difference on the street.” Mason challenged the group to “enter into each other’s lives” so white churches can begin to understand the points of pain their black brothers and sisters experience in everyday life.
 
To evidence the depth of their mutual understanding, Haynes pointed to Mason’s help in organizing a march in Dallas following George Zimmerman’s 2013 acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an African American whose death drew national attention.
 
– Traci Blackmon. New Baptist Covenant leaders reached outside Baptist ranks to invite Blackmon, who serves as pastor of the St. Louis-area Christ The King United Church of Christ, which cooperates with the United Church of Christ denomination, a group that has affirmed same-sex marriage since 2005.
 
Drawing on Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18, Blackmon urged the group to keep doing the hard work of prayer and justice advocacy. In a society that lacks adequate fear of God and concern for others, Blackmon called on participants to “stand together across denominational polities, across class lines, across social stratifications and personal theologies, to support ... the righteous rage of some of the most marginalized of our society.”
 
Blackmon said it is “far too easy to absolve ourselves from any complicity in the tenor of our [society’s] atmosphere” and “demonize” highly visible people like Micah Johnson, an African American who killed white police officers in Dallas July 7, 2016, and white police officer Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown, an African American, in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 9, 2014.
 
– Tony Campolo. A veteran evangelical activist, Campolo called on the group to turn away from the Jesus who is an “incarnation of our cultural values” and take seriously the biblical Jesus, who “calls us to be people who create the Kingdom.”
 
“We preach half of the gospel most of the time,” Campolo said. “There are those who say, ‘We want a gospel that brings salvation and transformation to individuals.’ I say, ‘Amen.’ There are others who say, ‘I want to hear a gospel that brings social justice to play in the world.’ And I say, ‘Amen.’ But the whole gospel is transformed people living in a transformed world.”
 
Campolo departed from the summit’s focus on racial reconciliation to issue a call to inclusion of gays and lesbians in Christian congregations. The church, Campolo said, “is an inclusive community.”
 
“Right now we are struggling with [racial division], and we haven’t solved that one at all yet,” he said. “But no sooner are we dealing with this one than along come the gays and lesbians, who say, ‘What about us? Are you going to accept us into your church?’”
 
Adopting the voice of an imagined objector, Campolo protested, “Now, wait a minute. I don’t know about that. They’re unclean.” He replied to himself: “Don’t call anybody unclean who Jesus has called clean. I’ve got to tell you, when you call somebody an abomination, remember that person is a child of God and He went to Calvary’s cross to die for that person that you’re putting down, that you’re putting out of the church.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly is a career Southern Baptist journalist and freelance writer in Marietta, Ga. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

9/26/2016 8:20:05 AM by Mark Kelly & David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Nashville lightens up on marijuana penalties

September 26 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Nashville and surrounding Davidson County have joined a lengthy list of governments giving law enforcement officials the option of issuing civil citations to persons possessing small amounts of marijuana.
 
Marijuana possession and use in the city and county are still considered crimes. But under the new measure passed Sept. 20 by the Nashville Metropolitan Council, law enforcement officials may choose whether to charge a person with a civil offense or a criminal misdemeanor for knowingly possessing a half-ounce of marijuana or less.
 
The law sets civil penalties at $50 fines and 10 hours of community service. If charged criminally, suspects would face a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, the Nashville Tennessean reported.
 
Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, described the move as extremely disappointing.
 
“It once again reveals that Nashville and Tennessee are not the buckle of the Bible Belt that everyone thinks we are. In fact, anyway you slice Tennessee, our state is a mission field,” Davis told Baptist Press.
 
“This decision reveals the great need we have in our state to see people saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship. This decision should be a clarion call to all Christians to step it up and saturate their communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ,” Davis said.
 
Marijuana decriminalization and legalization are becoming more common in the U.S. It is legal in four states and is on the November ballot in five states, according to the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL), which reports that legalization was by voter initiatives. At least 21 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized marijuana, the NCSL said.
 
In Tennessee, the Memphis City Council will vote on a similar decriminalization measure in October. Decriminalization measures are already on the books in more than 30 cities including Chicago, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Orlando and Tampa, Fla, according to statistics.
 
Morally, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. has likened the increasing decriminalization and legalization of marijuana to the acceptance of LGBT lifestyles and beliefs.
 
“We’ve noticed that the arc of public moral change on the issue of marijuana has tracked very closely with the arc of the same moral change on the question of homosexuality and in particular, almost in the mirror image the issue of same-sex marriage,” Mohler said in his Sept. 20 briefing of current events.
 
Despite the growing trend, marijuana remains a Class I federal felony in the same category as heroin.
 
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in July denied a petition to decriminalize its use, based on findings from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that “marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision,” the DEA wrote in its letter of denial.
 
Marijuana use can lead to dependence in up to 30 percent of users, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and leads to addiction when users are unable to abandon the drug even as it interferes with daily life.
 
Medical studies continue to show marijuana’s danger. A research paper released Aug. 23 in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience reports that a major substance found in marijuana – tetrahydrocannabinol or THC – made rats “slackers” unwilling to work harder for larger rewards.
 
“High THC concentrations have been previously linked to impaired executive functioning,” the study’s authors wrote, “and we specifically show these deficits extend to situations requiring cognitively effortful decision-making.”
 
“Although a chronic dosing experiment would be required to assess this association directly,” the study concludes, “we hypothesize that associations between THC and poorer life outcomes may be due to a drug-induced decrease in willingness to allocate cognitive effort, rather than impairments in fundamental cognitive abilities per se.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)


Related articles:
Legal pot is sowing seeds of illegal growing in Colorado
Marijuana: DEA underscores lack of medical use
 

9/26/2016 8:13:27 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Prayer in troubled Charlotte counters ‘hurt, anger’

September 23 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

“Hurt” and “anger” have met with prayer in troubled Charlotte, N.C., where Southern Baptist pastors are praying and encouraging peace and reason amid violent protests and a declared state of emergency after the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott.

Screen capture from WSOC-TV
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney speaks at a Sept. 22 press conference after the police killing of a black man spurred violent riots and protests in Uptown Charlotte, N.C.


Christians of various denominations held prayer services Sept. 21 and Sept. 22 after police shot and killed 43-year-old Scott, a black man, while looking for a suspect in an unrelated incident. Charlotte policeman Brentley Vinson, also black, has been identified as the officer who fired the fatal shot among officers at the scene.
 
“Hurt; Anger; Disappointment; Frustration; Heartbroken; Sadness; Tired is the mood of our city of Charlotte as another black life is taken at the hands of a police officer,” pastor Phillip R.J. Davis of Nations Ford Community Church, a leading Southern Baptist African American church in Charlotte, wrote in a message posted on the church website.
 
Davis’ words are almost identical to the description given by First Baptist Church of Charlotte pastor Mark Harris in a written message to his congregation this morning, which he shared with Baptist Press, saying the city was experiencing “pain, hurt, anger, disappointment, and frustration.”
 
Both churches hosted prayer today at noon. While Nations Ford Community Church is about five miles southwest of where the riots occurred, First Baptist Church is in the same block. Marshall Park, the site where a peaceful protest at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 turned violent just yards away, is in First Baptist’s backyard.
 
“The church facilities have been protected and suffered no damage or harm. We thank the Lord for His mercy!” Harris told his membership. “Our offices are open presently, but will close at 3:00 p.m. to assure our staff be able to get home safely. ... I am writing this to you from our sanctuary, where I have been reflecting and praying this morning.” Buildings were damaged and looted within the same block of the church at 301 S. Davidson St.
 
Harris invited church members to a prayer meeting in the sanctuary today at noon, which was attended by about 300 people, including professionals who work in the Uptown community, church members and staff and students from the church’s school, Brookstone.
 
“There will be no agenda, no program, no music, no preaching, but just men and women of God, on the altar, crying out to The Father!” Harris said. “These are serious days, and they require serious people who take seeking the heart and will of God seriously!”
 
Davis wrote similar remarks.
 
“Now is the time for heartfelt and sincere prayers, not political and personal-agenda driven rhetoric,” Davis said on Nations Ford Community Church’s website. “Now is the time for loving encouragement not condemning judgment. In light of the climate in our city, I stand with other pastors and leaders both black and white and our church unites with other churches that [demonstrate] the gospel of Jesus Christ in love and that [seek] the peace of our city.”
 
The National Guard and the North Carolina Highway Patrol have been called in to help keep peace after overnight protests turned violent, leading to the critical injury of one civilian by another, minor injuries to eight other civilians and two police officers and 44 arrests on charges including failure to disperse, assault and breaking and entering, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said in a televised press conference at 11 a.m. today.
 
Harris, five other pastors and 25 members of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team held a press conference yesterday, when Harris urged Charlotte residents to trust the process of the investigation of the tragedy, to practice peace and to pray.
 
“We pray for the Scott family. The death of a loved one is gut-wrenching under any circumstances. They need our prayers,” Harris said at the press conference. “We pray for the officer involved in the tragedy. This public servant, this protector of all of us, is no doubt hurting as well. Not only the pain of what took place, but the intense scrutiny of each decision, which is life-and-death moments faced all too often, is cause for us to lift up this policeman and his family.”
 
The rapid response team from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, headquartered in Charlotte, is operating from First Baptist’s parking lot, offering prayer and counsel, Harris said.
 
“People can gather to protest and have their voices heard. But it must be done in a peaceful and a lawful manner,” Harris said in summarizing his press conference remarks. “Much of what we are seeing play out is being perpetrated by people from outside Charlotte. The true leaders, black and white, in Charlotte, who work, worship and raise their families here are all calling for peace.”
 
Bob Lowman Jr., executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, also is encouraging unity, prayer and cooperation across denominational lines. He is a member of the Pastors Prayer Summit Group that has been holding multiracial and multidenominational prayer gatherings for years and is planning a citywide prayer gathering with pastors within the coming weeks.
 
The city needs a spiritual awakening, he said.
 
“We need to see the church revived. ... and we need to be praying for God to do work that only He can do to send awakening to the culture,” Lowman told Baptist Press. “If you were watching the news last night here in Charlotte, that was not a picture of awakening. It was the opposite on the streets of our city.”
 
Lowman, Harris and Davis voiced confidence in the power of prayer.
 
“While my feelings I share with the community are real,” Davis wrote, “so is the God I serve. ... God is real enough to bring comfort and healing in the midst of the pain. God is real enough to bring calm even through the violence. My God is real enough to bring peace in the midst of chaos. God is real enough to reconcile hearts that [have] been divided.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

9/23/2016 8:44:19 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Platt to EC: Seemingly dead man arose

September 23 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

What appeared to local believers to be a physical resurrection from the dead among an unengaged, unreached people group in Southeast Asia has opened a door for gospel witness and highlighted what International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt called “God’s power to supernaturally save sinners.”

Photo by Morris Abernathy
International Mission Board president David Platt addressed Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee members during the committee’s plenary session Sept. 20. “Let’s work together,“ he urged, “to see thousands upon thousands of Southern Baptists proclaiming that Good News to the ends of the earth.”


Platt recounted the story – which, though atypical in Western experience, bore similarities to biblical accounts of raising the dead – during his report to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee (EC), Sept. 19 in Nashville. The episode illustrates, he said, the spiritual fruit that has come as IMB missionaries have shared the gospel with “biblical clarity, precision and consistency.”
 
Relaying the account of an IMB worker, Platt said a Southeast Asian believer trained by Southern Baptist missionaries took some friends with him and began sharing the gospel in a village “that was totally unreached with the gospel until they got there.” The villagers responded by listening, attending Bible studies and expressing the sentiment, “Maybe this is true.”
 
As villagers became interested in Christianity, they brought idols, necklaces and amulets associated with the occult to the center of the village to be burned, Platt said. In a reversal, however, one day all the villagers began taking back their occult-related items.
 
The believers learned upon inquiring that the village leader had died and his people believed his demise was the work of evil spirits who were displeased at the setting aside of sacred objects.
 
Discouraged, the Christians went to express their condolences at a house where the man’s body lay.
 
Standing over his body, they began praying “that God would show His mercy to the people in the village, that God would show His glory and His love to that people who were so close,” Platt said.
 
“This Asian believer tells our missionary,” Platt said, “that as they were praying there over the man, all of the sudden the man coughed. Everybody in the house got really still. And the man coughed again. People came rushing over, and the village leader started breathing. People started helping him up. Everybody’s looking at these Asian believers like, ‘What happened?’
 
“They decided this was as good a time as any to share the gospel,” Platt said. “So they shared the gospel, and in the days to come, people started coming to faith in Christ and that village starting burning their idols.”
 
Platt, acknowledging he doesn’t know if the man was really dead, offered an evaluation.
 
“I do know [that] at villages like this, they know how to recognize death,” he said. Yet “even if he wasn’t dead, God sure chose an opportune moment for that guy to cough.”
 
Regardless of the physiological particulars underlying the astonishing event, Platt said, God was at work drawing people to a saving relationship with Christ. The IMB president said he hopes believers from all walks of life will consider service on the international mission field, where they too can experience the Lord’s power to save sinners.
 
As an example of how believers from various walks of life can travel the “limitless” paths to missionary service, Platt said a fully-funded IMB couple might be joined on the field by another couple in which the wife is employed locally as a teacher and another in which the husband is employed as an oil and gas executive. Together the three couples could strategically evangelize their city.
 
Students, retirees, professionals and others, Platt said, have opportunities to expand Southern Baptists’ missionary force exponentially by using traditionally non-religious funding sources to get in position to share Jesus with the nations.
 
Regarding the apparent Southeast Asian resurrection, Platt concluded, “There are some things I don’t know, but here’s what I do know: We have the Good News of a God who has conquered death, who has power to say to the dead, ‘Come to life.’ So brothers and sisters, let’s work together to see thousands upon thousands of Southern Baptists proclaiming that Good News to the ends of the earth.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

Related articles:
Gaines: SBC needs ‘renewal from heaven’
‘Grateful for what God is doing,’ Page tells EC
New EC media policy addresses social media
WRAP-UP: EC recommends expanding membership
 

9/23/2016 7:54:36 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



WRAP-UP: EC recommends expanding membership

September 23 2016 by Baptist Press staff

Four state conventions would gain representation on the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee (EC) under a recommendation adopted during the EC's Sept. 19-20 meeting in Nashville for presentation at the SBC annual meeting in June 2017.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, speaks during the discussion of a recommendation to extend EC representation to four state conventions – the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin and Montana.


The recommendation would amend SBC Bylaw 18 to exempt the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin and Montana Baptist conventions from Bylaw 30's requirement that territories have 15,000 members in cooperating Baptist churches to qualify for EC representation.
 
In other actions, EC members updated the committee's media relations policy (see related story), declined to recommend an amendment to the SBC constitution to require that churches relate to a state convention and association to be considered a cooperating Southern Baptist congregation, and honored retiring state convention executives Fred Hewett, Cecil Seagle and Fermin Whittaker.
 
Regarding the amendment to extend EC membership to the additional conventions, EC President Frank S. Page told the committee he originated the proposed bylaw amendment in an attempt to be “fair and kind.”
 
“I have deep passion for small churches and deep passion for our smaller [state convention] partners,” Page said. Some territories “have been a part of the convention all these years” and yet “have no representation on the Executive Committee.”
 
The EC's September meeting marked the third time the body had considered a proposal to grant representation to geographic areas with fewer than 15,000 church members. In February and again in June, the EC considered proposals but felt more study was needed.
 
At a Sept. 20 plenary session, 20 minutes of discussion ended with approximately 60 of 82 EC members favoring the recommendation on a show-of-hands vote, according to an estimate by Baptist Press (BP) that was corroborated by EC chairman Stephen Rummage.
 
Members to speak against the recommendation said they supported the concept of granting representation to all geographic territories but worried the waiver of an objective numerical standard could set an unhelpful precedent.
 
Rummage, senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., told BP the EC's action “was carefully considered in the workgroup as well as the Administrative Committee” and “reflects the heart of Dr. Page and the committee as a whole to see the fullest number of Baptists represented on the Executive Committee so that all Baptists can know what is happening throughout our convention and so that all Baptist territories can have an opportunity to speak into the direction of our convention.”
 

SBC Referrals:

In response to motions referred from the 2016 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis, the Executive Committee:

  • declined to recommend an amendment to The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, Section IV, as proposed in a motion by messenger Steve Taylor from Indiana. Faith, as described in Article IV as “a personal commitment of the entire personality,” lacks the element of belief, Taylor stated in setting forth his concern in a two-page letter. The Executive Committee, in its response to be reported to messengers, said it “declines to recommend amending selective portions of The Baptist Faith and Message apart from a Convention-authorized comprehensive review of the Convention's confession of faith.” 
  • declined to recommend a constitutional amendment that would have required churches to relate to a state convention and association as a prerequisite to cooperating with the SBC. The EC stated that the amendment, proposed by messenger Andy Perryman of Georgia, would be contradictory to Article III, Article IV, and the preamble of the SBC constitution regarding autonomy of the Southern Baptist Convention and its cooperating bodies.
  • declined to recommend a bylaws amendment requiring that all nomination speeches for SBC officers include the percentage of Cooperative Program giving by each nominee's church. The SBC Bylaw 10C amendment recommended by messenger Steven Bailey of Arkansas was unwarranted, the EC said, as messengers are fully capable of using all publicly available information about any nominee to determine whether the content of any nominating speech is accurate, sufficient, and persuasive.
  • declined to recommend an amendment to Bylaw 15J that Committee on Nominations changes made within 45 days of the annual meeting be published no later than seven days before that annual meeting. The amendment recommended by messenger Doug Hibbard of Arkansas was unnecessary, the EC said, because the current processes of the Committee on Nominations are “efficient and sufficient to provide messengers with information regarding nominees.” Messengers may make inquiries during the nominations committee report as well as make a motion to amend the report as indicated in SBC Bylaw 15K, the EC noted.

Other action

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission honored GuideStone CEO O.S. Hawkins with the 2016 John Leland Award for Religious Liberty, commending Hawkins' legal battle against the Affordable Care Act's abortion/contraception mandate.
 

Photo by Morris Abernathy
O.S. Hawkins, left, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, receives the John Leland Award for Religious Liberty of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission from ERLC President Russell Moore.


In May, the U.S. Supreme Court instructed lower courts to broker a resolution in the dispute which upholds the religious liberty of faith-based organizations that oppose abortion.
 
“O.S. Hawkins easily could have led GuideStone to just accept whatever mandate came down from the government and said we'll just navigate our way through it,” ERLC President Russell Moore said. “He didn't. He led with courage and conviction and with skill and with integrity.
 
“The board of trustees of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission voted unanimously to award him with the John Leland Award for Religious Liberty and we wanted to recognize that in front of all of you here today.”
 
Hawkins said GuideStone is “cautiously very optimistic” that it will achieve a satisfactory resolution in the case. GuideStone health plans “provide contraception,” he said, “but there are four [abortifacient] pills we don't provide and never will.”
 

Resolutions of appreciation

The Executive Committee unanimously adopted resolutions of appreciation for three state convention executive directors who are retiring – Fred Hewett of Montana, Cecil Seagle of Indiana and Fermin Whittaker of California.
 

Fermin A. Whittaker

Whittaker, who will retire in February, has led the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) since 1995, his 22-year tenure being the longest in the convention's 76-year history.
 
The resolution credited Whittaker and his wife of 46 years, Carmen, with “contributions to Southern Baptist life have been numerous and distinguished.”
 
Under Whittaker's leadership, the number of CSBC cooperating churches has grown by more than 52 percent, from 1,168 in 1995 to 1,782 in 2015, with an additional 475 mission churches, totaling 2,257 congregations across the state.
 
CSBC churches have reported 302,000 baptisms since 1995 and increased the portion of Cooperative Program (CP) gifts forwarded by the convention to Southern Baptist national and international ministries by nearly 5 percentage points, from 28.85 percent in 1995 to 33.6 percent in 2015, despite the global economic downturn.
 
The resolution of appreciation noted that the California Southern Baptist Convention is “among the most diverse in the SBC, with many of the state's largest and strongest CP-supporting churches from a wide variety of racial and ethnic groups,” with Whittaker leading the convention into a number of migrant and disaster relief ministries.
 
Whittaker, a native of Panama, was saved at age 12 and baptized, surrendering to the ministry in 1959, all under the leadership of Southern Baptist missionaries. He moved to the United States in 1964 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen five years later. He served as pastor of First Bilingual Baptist Church in Pico Rivera, Calif., before being appointed as a missionary to California with the former Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board), later serving as assistant director of the language missions division, director of the ethnic church growth department and a regional coordinator for Home Mission Board's planning and finance section.
 

Fred L. Hewett

Hewett, who will retire in October, was commended by the Executive Committee for his leadership of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention and previous church planting efforts.
 
Hewett has served in the current position nearly nine years. Previously he had been a church planting coordinator with the North American Mission Board's church planting group for four years. He pastored a church in Atlanta in the early 1990s and then planted a church in Jupiter, Fla., in 1994, where he baptized more than 300 people and grew the church to nearly 600 in Sunday morning worship in eight years. Before that he worked 12 years for the State Farm Insurance Company and served in the U.S. Navy.
 
Hewett led Montana pastors as “a man of integrity, vision, compassion, a problem solver, and someone who can encourage the heart,” the EC noted, and led Baptists in the state to “a renewed focus on penetrating lostness.”
 
As executive director, Hewett helped grow the number of churches that cooperate with the Montana convention by 28.2 percent from 110 to 141 – including nine churches planted in the current year. Baptisms from those churches also steadily grew, the resolution noted, from less than 500 per year when Hewett was elected executive director to nearly 700 in 2015, the last year of record, for a total of 4,809 baptisms. Cooperative Program giving from the state's 141 churches and missions/church plants has increased for six consecutive years.
 

Cecil W. Seagle

Seagle was commended for his five-plus decades of denominational service in advance of his December retirement as executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana (SCBI).
 
Seagle has served in his current position since 2011. Baptist leaders have characterized Seagle as “a respected and faithful servant of the Lord.” He's been credited with leading the convention through several cultural, structural and denominational transitions.
 
Prior to his current role, Seagle served as the Florida Baptist Convention's missions division director for 22 years. His relationship with Indiana began in 2003 with a Florida missions partnership. In 2007, the partnership began to focus on how to impact Indiana's urban centers, culminating in Indianapolis being designated as a “Send City” in the North American Mission Board's emerging Send North America strategy. Under Seagle's leadership, the convention has improved church planter assessments, developed planting equipping centers, and made more effective use of its Church Planter Basic Training. As a result, more than 100 church plants have been initiated, with a high of 30 plants in a single year.
 
During Seagle's leadership, SCBI churches gave $4.5 million through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists channel of support for state convention and SBC missions and ministry causes. The convention increased the percentage forwarded from the state convention to the Southern Baptist Convention by nearly five percentage points (32.84 percent in 2010 to 37.7 percent in 2015).
 
Seagle served as pastor of six churches during his ministry career that began at Buckeye Forest Baptist Mission in Spartanburg, S.C., in 1961. He is the author of “Stress in the Life of the Minister” and has had numerous articles published in various publications.
 
Also during the meeting, Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, presented checks totaling more than $713,000 for the SBC's two mission boards. The funds – $465,699 for the International Mission Board and $247,689 for the North American Mission Board – were mission offerings given this summer by participants in LifeWay's Fuge, CentriKids and World Changers ministries.
 
(EDITOR'S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press editor Shawn Hendricks, senior editor Art Toalston, chief national correspondent David Roach and general assignment writer/editor Diana Chandler.)
 
 
Related articles:
Gaines: SBC needs ‘renewal from heaven’
‘Grateful for what God is doing,’ Page tells EC
New EC media policy addresses social media
Platt to EC: Seemingly dead man arose

9/23/2016 7:43:54 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Kentucky convention to hotels: Fight human trafficking

September 23 2016 by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today

The Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) will not do business with hotels that fail to train employees to recognize and report human trafficking, KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood announced Sept. 21.


Chitwood set forth the convention’s position in a letter to potential vendors and listed several resources for free training.
 
Among the list is the Kentucky attorney general’s office, which announced Sept. 20 a partnership that will seek to offer human trafficking training to Kentucky’s commercial drivers and truck-stop employees.
 
The Kentucky convention, the state’s largest religious organization encompassing a church membership of 750,000, intends for its internal policy to encourage corporate partners to provide employees with human trafficking awareness education.
 
Advocacy groups say human trafficking is a $32 billion industry that ensnares about 27 million people worldwide, with 46 percent of traffickers known by – or even relatives of – the victims. Some children as young as 2 months old have been victims of sexual exploitation. Children are twice as likely as adults to be trafficked, with the average girl groomed for prostitution being between 12 and 14 years old.
 
“That isn’t prostitution. It’s human trafficking,” Chitwood said.
 
“Going forward, our intention is that we will forego business with hotels that don’t participate in this training,” he said.
 
Attorney General (AG) Andy Beshear told the KBC’s Kentucky Today news website, “Part of my mission as AG is to protect and seek justice for victims of abuse, including individuals being sold for sex or labor.”
 
Beshear noted, “Whether it’s the trucking industry, the faith-based community or other law enforcement agencies, we must work together to help all Kentuckians recognize the signs of human trafficking.”
 
He said some Kentuckians do not believe trafficking occurs in the state, or if it does, it only happens in urban areas to non-citizens. While the numbers in Kentucky may be considerably smaller, the situation is no less startling.
 
“We need to help all Kentuckians recognize the signs of human trafficking and make them aware that it exists in every county in Kentucky,” Beshear said.
 
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, more incidents of human trafficking reported in Kentucky occurred at a hotel or motel than at any other location.
 
Such venues are favored by traffickers because of the anonymity of paying in cash and the ease of relocating the illicit operation night after night.
 
Chitwood said the convention wants to “partner with hotels that have taken steps to prevent human trafficking, establishments that exemplify great corporate citizenship, and are ready to put a stop to the use of hotels for criminal activity.”
 
KBC staffer Kristen Drake said, “As Christians, we must not stop at making others aware of these injustices. We must take action and fight for the freedom and restoration of victims.”
 
Drake was key in creating an upcoming workshop for Kentucky Baptist churches to not only learn about human trafficking but also to discover ways they can be a changing force.
 
The one-day workshop, sponsored by the Kentucky convention, will be Oct. 22 at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Louisville.
 
Andrew Dyer, president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said the state’s Baptists “are committed to standing with the ones the Bible calls the least of these.”
 
“We want to consistently be a voice for the ones who have no voice, whether it be the unborn, or in this case, the victims of human trafficking,” Dyer, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in London, Ky., told the Kentucky Baptist newsjournal Western Recorder.
 
In addition to bringing awareness to the situation, Dyer said, “We want to bring real hope to lives. Obviously that only comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, we want to be about anything we can do to point people to Him.”
 
In November, messengers to the KBC annual meeting are slated to vote on a human trafficking resolution.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Robin Cornetet is managing editor of Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
 

9/23/2016 7:37:37 AM by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments



Missouri Supreme Court returns entity to state convention

September 23 2016 by Missouri Pathway staff

The Missouri Baptist Foundation is coming home to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).


The Missouri Supreme Court declined Sept. 20 to hear the foundation’s appeal of an appeals court decision ordering its return to governance by convention-elected trustees.
 
By letting a May 24 ruling by the Missouri Court of Appeals – Western District stand, the state Supreme Court ended 14 years of litigation that began in 2002 after the foundation’s board broke away from the convention the previous year, changing its charter in violation of a charter clause requiring MBC consent. The amendments declaring its board self-perpetuating also violated MBC governing documents.
 
After months of seeking private reconciliation and even binding Christian arbitration – all rejected by the foundation’s self-perpetuating board – the convention asked a circuit court for a declaratory judgment, seeking a judge’s interpretation of the law and corporate documents as the only legal recourse to restore the foundation to the convention. The action was taken in accord with Missouri Baptists’ vote in their October 2001 annual meeting to direct the convention to seek a judicial ruling. More than a decade of lower-court proceedings ensued.
 
In October 2014 the Circuit Court of Cole County ordered the restoration of foundation governance to the MBC-elected board of trustees.
 
The foundation, with $150 million in assets, appealed the trial decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals, which heard arguments in September 2015 and handed down a decision on May 24 of this year.
 
That decision, written by Chief Judge Alok Ahuja for a unanimous three-judge panel, restored the foundation’s governance to the convention. As a last resort, the foundation appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case Sept. 20, leaving the decision of the appellate court in effect.
 
What happens now?
 
The Supreme Court’s decision empowers the Circuit Court of Cole County to oversee the legal transfer of governance back to the convention. The trustees elected by Missouri Baptists are to be installed as the breakaway board is vacated.
 
It is expected that this transition will be completed within a few months.
 
“We are so grateful for the Supreme Court’s final decision, which ends an arduous legal battle over governance of the foundation,” said John Yeats, MBC executive director. “We eagerly welcome the foundation back into the MBC family and we look forward to a smooth transition for the benefit of all investors.”
 
Yeats emphasized that investors should not experience any change in day-to-day operation of the foundation or in the services provided.
 
“Our issue ... has not been one of financial management but of governance,” Yeats said. “The question always has been, ‘Who has the legal right and fiduciary responsibility to govern the foundation?’ We have argued that it is a board of trustees duly elected by Missouri Baptists – and the courts have affirmed that position.”
 
Randy Comer, who serves as chairman of the Missouri convention’s Agency Restoration Group (ARG), said, “On behalf of the ARG, we want to thank Missouri Baptists for their prayers and steadfast support. We joyfully welcome the foundation back to the MBC family and ask the Lord to continue to show us His favor in the days ahead.”
 
Larry Guess, outgoing trustee chair of the foundation, issued the following statement:
 
“While we are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision, we will respect and follow the judgment of the Circuit Court of Cole County. The current members of the Board of Trustees have faithfully performed their duties for the Foundation during the fourteen years of the litigation with representatives of the Missouri Baptist Convention, and the commitment those Trustees have shown to the mission and ministry of the Foundation will not end today. Each member of the Board stands ready to do all in his or her power to assist the new members of the Board as they take office and begin the work of managing the Foundation going forward. We will do all we can to assure a smooth transition and the preservation of the best interests of the Foundation’s clients.”
 
Two other MBC entities that broke from the convention in 2001 – The Baptist Home and Missouri Baptist University – have consent clauses in their charters that are nearly identical charters to those of the foundation. The MBC intends to ask the Circuit Court of Cole County to grant a summary judgment to the convention, effectively restoring governance of the two entities to MBC-elected trustees.
 
Missouri Baptists “showed remarkable patience and resilience” during the years of litigation, Yeats said. “It is with a thankful heart that I say their faithfulness is now rewarded.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the staff of The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, newsjournal for the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
 

Related articles:
Missouri appeals court orders Baptist foundation’s return
Missouri Baptist Foundation appeal turned down
 
 

9/23/2016 7:33:42 AM by Missouri Pathway staff | with 0 comments



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