September 2016

Church cheers for high school football team

September 23 2016 by Chris Doyle, Baptist Messenger

How can a church impact its community? How about adopting a high school football team?

Photo by Emily Brashier
Brian Meister, student pastor at Oklahoma City’s Cherokee Hills Baptist Church, shows Keaire Wilkins a photo of his touchdown catch for the Putnam City High School Pirates. Cherokee Hills is connecting with the football team by “adopting” various players and cheering them on at home games.

Cherokee Hills Baptist Church (CHBC) is investing in Putnam City High School as families “adopt” players on the Pirates’ football team by going to home games and cheering them on. The idea happened as pastor Mike Keahbone was looking for ways the Oklahoma City church could have a community presence.
“We started praying for God to open doors,” Keahbone recounted. “And Kyle Hale [Putnam City assistant football coach] started coming to our church earlier this year.”
Keahbone got to know Hale better as church members served lunch to the players during the preseason two-a-days practices.
At one of the lunches, Keahbone asked Hale how many players are on the team, and Hale said about 80 guys are on the roster.
“And the Lord prompted me to ask the next question,” Keahbone said, “which was, ‘Out of those 80, how many would not have anybody out there watching them play on Friday nights?’ [Hale] thought about it for a second and said, ‘I’d say about 80-90 percent of them.’ It broke my heart.”
Right then, Keahbone knew what his church could do. He asked Hale to send him a roster, particularly noting the 60 players who did not have any family supporting them at ballgames.

Photo by Emily Brashier
Keaire Wilkins of the Putnam City High School Pirates catches a touchdown pass against rival Putnam City North in Oklahoma City. Wilkins later received a photo of the play through an outreach to the football team by Cherokee Hills Baptist Church.

“What if our church adopted those 60 players?” Keahbone said of the idea that came to mind. “What if we could rally around them and have people sign up to ‘adopt’ a player, wear a shirt that had that kid’s [jersey] number and make a commitment to make it to every home game? Whether they play or not, they can look over their shoulder and see someone in the stands just for them. After the game, go where the team is at, shake the player’s hand and tell him you’re proud of him.”
The church was on board and has already made its presence known early in the season.
“The goal is to build a relationship with the kid, so that we can have an open door to build a relationship with the family,” Keahbone said.
“Then we can figure out is the family not coming because they do not care? And there’s some of that. Or is it because they can’t afford it? If they can’t afford it, we’ll figure out a way to get them in the game. Or is it because they are working and can’t afford to take off work? In that case, our people, whoever adopted that player, can take pictures. They could do special things for the family.
“If it’s because their parents don’t care, then we’ll have somebody there who does care,” Keahbone added. “[A]nd if the Lord opens the door, we’ll share the gospel with them.”

Photo by Mike Keahbone
Pastor Mike Keahbone, bottom left corner, takes a selfie with members of a Putnam City High School fan club of members of Cherokee Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

Keahbone said he is also thinking about the 11 seniors they adopted when they observe senior night this season.

“They’ll call out every senior’s name and say they are the ‘son of so and so,’ and what does that look like if the parents aren’t there standing with them? Our heart and goal is to get that parent there to stand with them, but if not, we will stand with them.”
“The fan club that CHBC is doing is incredible,” said Hale, who said the experience has strengthened his walk with Christ. “A church reaching out to a community that is in desperate need of positive leadership and, most importantly, to be shown the love of God shows the community mindset that makes CHBC a great church to call home.
Cherokee Hills already has had an impact “by simply caring and being there for our athletes,” Hale said. “I can feel and see the athletes more motivated and happier to be at school, and our team is more of a family now than it has ever been because of the love that has been shown from the people of CHBC.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Doyle is associate editor of the Baptist Messenger,, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)

9/23/2016 7:18:41 AM by Chris Doyle, Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments

Russian anti-evangelism case appeal postponed

September 22 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A Baptist missionary’s appeal of a judgment against him for teaching a Bible study in his home in Oryol, Russia, was postponed in the middle of proceedings Sept. 19 when the judge said additional witnesses were needed to continue.

Submitted photo
Baptist missionary Donald Ossewaarde, in red tie, is surrounded by a representative from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, attorneys and Christians who attended the Sept. 19 appeal of a case against him under Russia’s new anti-evangelism law. The appeal was rescheduled until Sept. 30.

Donald Ossewaarde, who appealed a $600 fine under Russia’s new law prohibiting organizations from evangelizing outside church walls and without a government permit, said his attorney believes the postponement is a delay tactic designed to sidestep justice.
“He [the attorney] was convinced that the judge was spooked by all the attention my case was receiving, and needed to stall for time so she could consult with higher authorities,” Ossewaarde wrote on his webpage. “[My attorney] said that according to the law, judges are completely independent to make their own decisions, but in reality, they don’t want to risk their jobs by making a decision that would be unpopular with higher powers. He thinks that our case is a very strong one, and if a just and impartial decision is made, the charges will be dropped.”
The judge postponed the appeal hearing until Sept. 30, explaining that three members of Ossewaarde’s Bible study whom Russian police interviewed should be available to testify at the hearing, an explanation Ossewaarde’s attorney discredits.
“My lawyer explained that there was no possible reason to have the three witnesses come to the court,” Ossewaarde wrote on his website.
Ossewaarde has ended his ministry in Russia but continues to request prayer for a favorable outcome of the case, which could impact freedom of religion in the country.
“My attorney tells me that this case is a very important one that will help to determine the future of religious freedom for Russian citizens and for foreign missionaries,” Ossewaarde wrote. “Thank you for praying. Pray that I will be wise and safe.”
The proceedings were attended by two representatives from the U.S. embassy in Moscow, six people who had attended Ossewaarde’s Bible study and nearly 10 Christians from area evangelical churches, Ossewaarde said.
Ossewaarde was charged Aug. 14 under Article 5.26, Part 5 of the new religion law for holding religious services in his home, advertising services on bulletin boards in nearby neighborhoods, and failing to give authorities written notification when he began his religious activities. Ossewaarde believes he is innocent under the law passed July 20, which he said is inappropriately written to achieve Russia’s desired result of ending evangelism.
Shortly after the charge was filed, Ossewaarde’s wife Ruth, who had served as a missionary with him in Oryol, Russia, since 2002, returned to their home congregation of Faith (Independent) Baptist Church near Bourbonnais, Ill., after the couple received what Ossewaarde called a thinly veiled threat against their lives. A court-appointed attorney had told him anything might happen to him and his family, said Ossewaarde, who plans to return to Illinois after the case is resolved.
“I am sure that I am making some people mad by appealing these charges,” Ossewaarde wrote. “I am confident that the Lord will protect me, and that He brought me here ’for such a time as this.’”
Ossewaarde’s case has received international attention. He was arrested with five other ministers of various faiths and denominations within a month of the law’s passage. Fines were levied on them varying from 5,000 to 50,000 rubles, with only one man, a Hare Krishna, acquitted.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

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9/22/2016 7:54:23 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Evangelicals joust over Trump

September 22 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Evangelical leaders debated the appropriateness of a vote for Donald Trump during a Sept. 16 event at the National Press Club sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB).

NRB Photo
National Religious Broadcasters hosted evangelical leaders – Erick Erickson, Janet Parshall, Bill Wichterman, and Harry Jackson – in a forum debating the 2016 presidential election at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16.

Two supporters of the Republican nominee traded opinions with two of his opponents as a divisive campaign moves toward the Nov. 8 election.
Evangelicals have not escaped the discord in response to the major-party candidacies of Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Some have said they will vote for neither of the major candidates, while others have thrown their support to Trump, with many citing him as the “lesser of two evils” and/or arguing a refusal to vote for him is a vote for her.
NRB President and CEO Jerry A. Johnson, a veteran Southern Baptist leader who served as moderator, said in introducing the debate, “Clearly there are some strong disagreements among evangelicals, but after Nov. 8 we will still be part of the same family with common concerns about our nation and common commitments to improve our nation.”
Before citing Trump’s oft-reported character flaws, Erick Erickson – conservative editor and Atlanta radio talk show host who opposes the GOP nominee – told the audience, “If you’ve decided that you’re going to vote for Donald Trump in the privacy of a voting booth, go for it. I’m not going to ask you to violate your conscience any more than anyone should ask me to violate mine.”
If evangelicals support Trump openly, however, Erickson said, “I think you harm your witness because we may be wrapped up in the politics of the day, but there are people longing for the Lord and are looking at Christians in this country saying, ‘If they’re putting their faith in a guy like him, what’s in their church for me?’”
National radio talk-show host Janet Parshall said evangelicals should think biblically and critically, and that begins with the Supreme Court. The next president may have the opportunity to nominate three or four justices who could serve three to four decades.
“First, last and always,” she asked, “what will you do with the court?”
“A flawed candidate should not prevent us from opposing a more dangerous one, one who has a profoundly, clearly articulated worldview,” Parshall said, adding Clinton believes “in the denigration of marriage” and “the annihilation of the preborn.”
Parshall told the audience, including viewers of C-SPAN, which broadcast the debate live: “God has a habit of using flawed and broken people even when it doesn’t look right to us. For me, I choose to keep the republic and secure the system” by supporting Trump.
Bill Wichterman, former special assistant to President George W. Bush and president of the Capitol Hill ministry Faith & Law, said he has found the “lesser of two evils” argument the most compelling for supporting Trump but has concluded “this justification is insufficient.”
He is concerned Trump “may be a threat to our democratic republic” because the GOP nominee “has too often demonstrated contempt for the rule of law.”
Trump also “corrupts us,” Wichterman said. “If we support him, we become complicit in his reprobate behavior.”
“Many people who won’t vote for Clinton because they believe she is a liar are voting for Trump because they hope he is a liar and he doesn’t really mean what he says,” he said.
Trump supporter Harry Jackson, an African-American pastor in Maryland and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, acknowledged the challenges to Trump about racism but said Americans are “living in an interesting time where he may be the only one who is able to bring some substantive healing to the racial divide” by offering practical solutions.
Jackson will vote for Trump over Clinton for three general reasons – religious freedom, the Supreme Court, and support for Israel – and four reasons of special interest to black and Hispanic evangelicals: education reform, urban economic empowerment, restoration of non-violent offenders after their release from prison, and pro-family tax incentives.
Clinton, he said, “will simply perpetuate the status quo, and the aura of criminalization in the black community and welfare dependency will be continued.”
Wichterman said he plans to vote for Evan McMullin, a conservative, independent candidate. “It’s an honorable path for those of us who want to be able to vote for an honorable conservative,” he told the audience.
Parshall said of such an approach, “Not voting for Trump is voting for Clinton. That’s inarguable. It’s simply a matter of math.”
Erickson, however, disagreed.
“If I’m not voting for Trump, therefore I’m helping Hillary, well I’m not voting for Hillary, so therefore I’m voting for Trump,” said Erickson, who said he will write-in former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning on his presidential ballot. Refusing to vote for Trump “just takes one voter out of the vote pool,” he said.
Jackson said of the electoral dilemma, “[U]ltimately, God is allowing us to see some of our biggest cultural flaws through the flaws of these candidates.”
In introducing the debate, Johnson noted as a nonpartisan association of Christian communicators, NRB neither supports nor opposes candidates for political office.
NRB will be making available video and audio of the debate to its members by request (email C-SPAN has archived its broadcast of the debate on its website. NRB also will be posting the video on its YouTube channel.
The debate was the final event of the Capitol Hill Media Summit held annually in Washington, D.C., for members of NRB’s President’s Council. Other speakers included: novelist Joel Rosenberg, Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who received NRB’s Faith & Freedom Award. Participants also met with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in his Capitol office and toured the Museum of the Bible, which is under construction near Washington’s National Mall, scheduled to open in November 2017.
The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers and readers. Learn more at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is a writer in Fredericksburg, Va., covering news and events for the National Religious Broadcasters, Baptist Press and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)

9/22/2016 7:37:57 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New EC media policy addresses social media

September 22 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

The Executive Committee (EC) has voted to update its media policy, prompted by the proliferation and ease of use of social media.
In addition to news media, the policy now encompasses any individuals in attendance at EC meetings, including Executive Committee members themselves.
The new policy received a unanimous vote Sept. 20 during the EC’s two-day meeting in Nashville.
While meetings of the full Executive Committee are open to the public and individuals’ statements typically are on the record, its standing committees and workgroups have been held on “background rules” for more than 50 years, stipulating “(1) No direct quotation of any matter. (2) No implied or direct attribution to any person.”
The updated policy notes: “This applies not only to members of traditional media, but to anyone who uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook Live, Periscope, and all other technologies as they emerge.”
The policy explains, “It is to be understood that Committee and Workgroup discussions and recommendations are tentative and subject to the action of the full Executive Committee. These [committee and workgroup] meetings are open to the media, however, to provide the necessary background for accurate, complete, and well-balanced reporting of the sessions of the full Executive Committee.”
Page, in comments about the media policy, said, “There’s a reason why we have these rules so that people can speak freely, openly, and sometimes it’s important that they do so without attribution.”
The policy retains key elements from prior media guidelines, such as having “the right and responsibility to conduct executive sessions in unusual circumstances, such as the consideration of certain delicate personality and personnel matters which could not be handled wisely in open session without unnecessarily embarrassing individuals or disclosing privileged information.”
“The staff and members of the Executive Committee will provide every assistance possible to members of the media to enable them to do accurate, complete, and well-balanced reporting,” the policy states. “This open policy of full cooperation with news media representatives is a recognition by the Executive Committee of its responsibility to keep Southern Baptists fully informed about the work they sponsor and support through the Southern Baptist Convention and its entities.”
Related to media policies, the Executive Committee responded to a motion referred to all Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities from the annual meeting in St. Louis in June by Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Tennessee Baptist newsjournal Baptist and Reflector. Wilkey moved to “ask trustees of all SBC entities to consider examining their media policies and, if they do not have clearly defined guidelines, to consider establishing a policy that trustee meetings, including committee meetings, be open to news media.” Wilkey’s motion also asked SBC entity trustees to report to the 2017 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix “if such a media policy is in place or is in the process of being developed.”
The Executive Committee, in its response to be reported to messengers, stated that it “regularly reviews its media policy and is satisfied it has clearly defined guidelines with respect to open meetings, background rules, and executive sessions.”
To read the policy, click here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

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9/22/2016 7:11:17 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Grateful for what God is doing,’ Page tells EC

September 22 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) President and CEO Frank S. Page thanked God at the September EC meeting for His work among Southern Baptists, citing increased financial giving and a renewed commitment to the Great Commission.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
“I’m grateful for what God is doing in our churches,” Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee president and CEO Frank S. Page told EC members at their Sept. 19 meeting. “I’m grateful for what God is doing in our mission boards. I’m grateful for what God is doing in our seminaries. I am a grateful man for what God is doing in many ways.”

“I’m grateful for what God is doing in our churches. I’m grateful for what God is doing in our mission boards,” Page said in his Sept. 19 plenary session remarks. “I’m grateful for what God is doing in our seminaries. I am a grateful man for what God is doing in many ways.”
Cooperative Program giving has surpassed projections, he said, and giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions continues to grow.
The generosity of state conventions, sacrificial giving among churches and a strong economy have worked together to increase giving, he said, noting that several churches have raised Cooperative Program giving to more than $1 million a year.
“As of today [Sept. 19] we have reached our [Cooperative Program] budget for 2015-16 and everything now is [above projections],” he said. “I have already told our Great Commission Council this day that we finished August of 2016, 2.8 percent over the previous year and 4.8 percent ahead of our budget projections.”
The SBC anticipates finishing the current fiscal year 5 percent over the $186.5 million budget, Page announced, emphasizing that the allocation formula now changes to reduce the SBC operating budget’s portion to 2.4 percent of any overage and increase the IMB’s share to 51 percent.
“We’re thankful that will mean even more for our seminaries, theological education, and for all of our entities, especially our mission boards,” Page said, “and we’re grateful we’re seeing God do some wonderful things.”
He cited increases in Lottie Moon giving of 7.80 percent and in Annie Armstrong giving of .35 percent.
The Executive Committee has operated on approximately $1 million less than the approved budget this fiscal year, Page said.
“We have returned our Executive Committee to a state of fiscal health,” he said. “We give thanks to the Lord for that.”
Southern Baptists are actively participating in convention work, Page said, citing an attendance of 12,000 messengers and guests at the 2016 SBC Annual Meeting in St. Louis that includes 28 percent as first-time attendees. More than 32,000 people in 71 countries, he said, watched the annual meeting livestream.
Beginning his seventh year in his post, Page has worked to build relationships and trust among Southern Baptist churches, pastors, entities and partners. This fall alone, he will attend at least 15 Southern Baptist state convention annual meetings, he said, expressing gratefulness for the opportunity to minister in various ways.
“We’re seeing wonderful results,” he said. “I’m a grateful man.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

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9/22/2016 7:10:35 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New report endangers religious liberty, critics say

September 22 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Religious liberty as Americans have known it throughout their history will suffer a critical setback if a new report by the country’s top civil rights panel is followed, say Southern Baptist and other advocates for the First Amendment freedom.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) declared in its Sept. 7 report protections to ensure nondiscrimination “are of preeminent importance in American jurisprudence” and religious exemptions from safeguards for such classifications as sexual orientation and gender identity “significantly infringe upon” those civil rights guarantees.
USCCR Chairman Martin Castro added to the concerns of religious freedom advocates when he wrote in a statement included in the report, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”
With such language, the commission and its chairman indicated the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people should prevail when they clash with the rights of Americans who have religious conscience objections.
The legal and legislative advances of the LGBT and same-sex marriage movements have prompted debate for at least the last decade on how the conflict between religious liberty and what has become known as sexual liberty should be resolved. The USCCR is now on record favoring sexual liberty.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called the USCCR language on religious freedom a “logical, moral and political disaster.”
“For this administration to argue that religious liberty is merely a euphemism for unlawful discrimination demonstrates how deeply entrenched our federal government is in a culture war mentality against religious dissidents,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.
“Freedom of conscience isn’t privilege or luxury: It is the first freedom, without which no other freedom can exist,” Moore said. “This hostile attitude toward tens of millions of law-abiding Americans is tragic, and my prayer is that it would quickly give way to a recognition that soul freedom is worth defending for all.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a popular cultural commentator, described the report as a “bombshell” that constitutes “a moral revolution that is taking place right before our eyes.”
The USCCR has issued “a report, with the federal government’s authority, clearly stating that, contrary to the Constitution of the United States, religious liberty is going to have to take a back seat to erotic liberty or sexual liberty,” Mohler said on his Sept. 15 podcast, The Briefing.
When the USCCR’s chairman “puts the phrases ‘religious freedom’ and ‘religious liberty’ in scare quotes, that’s a clear indication that he intends to consign them, regardless of the U.S. Constitution, to the dustbin of history,” Mohler said.
The USCCR released its report – titled “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles With Civil Liberties” – more than three years after it held a hearing on the legal clash. The 306-page report followed a March 2013 briefing involving legal experts on different sides of the issue.
In its findings, the commission endorsed briefing panelists’ statements in support of other findings undoubtedly of concern to religious freedom defenders, including:

  • “A doctrine that distinguishes between beliefs (which should be protected) and conduct (which should conform to the law) is fairer and easier to apply;
  • “Third parties, such as employees, should not be forced to live under the religious doctrines of their employers [unless the employer is allowed to impose such constraints by virtue of the ministerial exception];  
  • “A basic [civil] right as important as the freedom to marry should not be subject to religious beliefs; 
  • “Even a widely accepted doctrine such as the ministerial exemption should be subject to review as to whether church employees have religious duties.”

In addition to its findings, the USCCR made recommendations narrowing religious liberty protections. It said courts, legislators and policy-makers “must tailor religious exceptions to civil liberties and civil rights protections as narrowly as applicable law requires.”
The commission also called for the federal government to consider clarifying that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) “creates First Amendment Free Exercise Clause rights only for individuals and religious institutions and only to the extent that they do not unduly burden civil liberties and civil rights protections against status-based discrimination.” It also urged states to adopt similar amendment to their RFRA-like laws.
RFRA is a 1993 federal law that requires the government to have a compelling interest and use the narrowest possible means in burdening a person’s religious exercise. President Clinton signed it into law after a broad coalition of religious freedom advocates pushed for the measure in response to a heavily criticized Supreme Court decision and following nearly unanimous approval by Congress.
In his statement, Castro said, “Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil liberties of others. However, today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality.”
If followed by the government, the USCCR’s findings and recommendations could severely restrict religious freedom and conscience protections for individuals, including employers, and institutions, including churches.
Two USCCR commissioners contributed statements to the report that disagreed with the majority.
One, Gail Heriot, said, “Religious liberty is sometimes referred to as our nation’s ‘First Freedom,’ because of its preeminent position in the text of the First Amendment and its importance in the founding of our nation.
“The Commission thus could just as easily – indeed more easily – have gone in the opposite direction of [its fifth finding]: Because religious liberty is our First Freedom, it is preeminent, and laws, including non-discrimination laws, that purport to coerce individuals into acting or prohibiting them from acting in ways that would violate their conscience ‘must be weighed carefully and defined narrowly.’”
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., objected to the report in a Sept. 15 floor speech in which he said the commission’s “profession of ‘Peaceful Coexistence’ must never quietly euthanize ‘religious liberty’ just because Washington lawyers and bureaucrats find it convenient and orderly to do so.”
“It must never be used to chip away at our most fundamental freedoms,” he said. “It must never undermine the essence of what it means to be human.”
Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ religious liberty committee, said Castro’s comments “painting those who support religious freedom with the broad brush of bigotry are reckless and reveal a profound disregard for the religious foundations of his own work.”
“Rest assured, if people of faith continue to be marginalized, it is the poor and vulnerable, not the Chairman and his friends, who will suffer,” Lori said in a written statement.
The USCCR, established in 1957 as a nonpartisan entity, consists of eight members, four appointed by the president and four by Congress. The president names the chairman and vice chairman of the panel.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/22/2016 7:09:55 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Charlotte churches ask God to bring ‘peace to our city’

September 21 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Midweek services for several Southern Baptist churches in the Charlotte area will feature focused times of prayer for the city amid controversy and overnight violence sparked by the shooting death of a black man at the hands of law enforcement officials Sept. 20.
Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church, said in a phone interview with the Biblical Recorder that the church’s goal is “real racial reconciliation,” emphasizing the importance of Christ-centered ministry.
Hickory Grove plans to spend the entire Wednesday evening service “praying for grieving families, law enforcement and the welfare and peace of the city according to Jeremiah 29. That will be our guide, as elect exiles in Babylon, praying the Lord would bring peace to our city.”
Local news reported that violent protests erupted late Tuesday evening (Sept. 20) after Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot by Charlotte police officers in an incident that began while authorities were searching for another man.
Officers observed Scott exit his vehicle holding a firearm and approached him after he returned to the car. When Scott emerged from the vehicle still armed, officers fired their weapons after warning him several times to put down the firearm, reports indicate. Officer Brentley Vinson fired the fatal shot. He has been placed on administrative leave, the department said. Scott was pronounced dead at Carolinas Medical Center.
A woman claiming to be Scott’s daughter alleged in a Facebook live video hours later that he was unarmed when officers shot him.
Protestors gathered Tuesday evening and clashed with police officers as demonstrations escalated. Several officers were hospitalized when rioters began throwing rocks and other objects. Looting and violent attacks continued late into the night and extended to the early morning hours of Sept. 21. Sixteen police officers were injured during the night, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney in a press conference today (Sept. 21) with Mayor Jennifer Roberts.
Coye Still, senior pastor of University Hills Baptist Church, a church located less than a half-mile from where the shooting took place, said his church plans to devote time during their midweek service for prayer over the situation. Still also hopes to plan joint events with area churches to serve the community, but he said people are “still taking it in, thinking about how best to respond.”
Pressley said his goal during this time of unrest is “keeping Christ as that which draws us together so that the gospel becomes the reconciling agent. It becomes what makes us whole. … We’re doing our best to be aware of what’s happening in the city and doing our best to point people to Christ.”
Pressley also said in a Facebook post, “As a church, we weep with those who weep. We are a broken people living in a broken world and that brokenness impacts us all. Even still, we do not live here without hope. God has reconciled us in Christ and given us a ministry of reconciliation. That’s why Hickory Grove Baptist Church exists.”
Scott Davis, senior pastor of Pitts Baptist Church in Concord, said a portion of his church’s midweek service will be devoted to prayer for the situation as well. He urged Christians to “pray first and foremost for our officials and public servants and respect them. … According to 1 Timothy 2, Paul’s greatest concern in our prayers for officials, other than for the general peace, was not simply for our personal comfort but rather for officials to have wisdom in their decisions so that avenues to spread the gospel would remain in place. It’s a gospel-advancing peace believers should focus upon.”
Many churches and other ministries are opening their doors to all who would like counseling and prayer. Bob Lowman, executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association, wrote in an email to area churches, “With the events of yesterday and last night, please join us in united prayer for our city, for the family affected by the shooting, for our police department and city leaders, and especially for the church to be the light and salt we need to be for such a time as this.”
Lowman indicated that Metrolina facilities will be open for prayer Sept. 21-22 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story includes reporting by BR Editor K. Allan Blume.)
9/21/2016 2:12:26 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 1 comments

N.C. restroom bill doesn’t deter SBC annual meeting

September 21 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Amid controversy over North Carolina’s controversial transgender restroom law, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders estimate they’re less than two weeks away from finalizing contracts to hold the 2023 SBC annual meeting in Charlotte.

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Convention Center

And they say they’re glad to support the state for its moral stand on gender and sexuality.
SBC President Steve Gaines said that “while other organizations such as the NCAA, NBA and NFL are seeking to punish North Carolinians for their state government’s bold and appropriate stand on gender and sexuality, Southern Baptists have voted and are resolute about holding our annual meeting there in 2023.”
“Because we are staunch advocates of religious liberty for all, we have no intention of changing our minds,” Gaines told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “My prayer is that other businesses and organizations will join us and make North Carolina their preferred choice for conferences, conventions and other similar events.
The SBC’s vote to schedule its 2023 annual meeting in Charlotte came at the convention’s St. Louis annual meeting this summer, less than three months after North Carolina legislators adopted House Bill 2 (HB2), an antidiscrimination law which does not include sexual orientation or gender identity among legally protected classes. The law also requires individuals in state buildings to use restrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificates.
In response to the law, some organizations have cancelled events in North Carolina as an expression of support for so-called homosexual and transgender rights. Among groups to cancel plans in the Tar Heel State are the NCAA, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the NBA and various businesses and recording artists.
“If more state politicians would follow North Carolina’s lead in this,” Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., said of HB 2, “we could stop the unprecedented bullying and intolerance that is seeking to erode our religious liberties in America. Now is the time for all Bible-believing Christians to lovingly, firmly stand up for righteousness and common sense.”
Convention manager Bill Townes told BP the SBC Executive Committee staff has been working since 2014 to schedule an annual meeting in North Carolina and considered HB 2 as it sought to finalize a recommendation to the Executive Committee. In June, the Executive Committee forwarded the recommendation to the full SBC.
“We take into consideration a lot of things” when scheduling annual meetings, Townes said. “We certainly were aware of that issue that was happening in North Carolina, and we thought it wasn’t bad for us to be there and support that city.”
The opportunity to support North Carolinians “fell in line with what we were already thinking” in terms of convention sites, Townes said.
The economic impact of the 2023 annual meeting is estimated at more than $8.5 million for Charlotte-area businesses, Townes said.
North Carolina Baptists welcomed the SBC’s support.
Allan Blume, editor of North Carolina Baptists’ Biblical Recorder newsjournal, told BP the state’s Baptists are “thrilled to welcome the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting back to our state for what will be the second time in 107 years. The announced presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ offers a positive statement for our embattled state.”
Previously, the SBC annual meeting convened in North Carolina in 1872, 1897, 1916 and 2006, according to the 2016 SBC Annual.
“As many know,” Blume said in written comments, “some radical voices launched a smear campaign, including boycotts of the state, after our state legislature passed House Bill 2 earlier this year. The bill provides privacy and protection for women and children in public restrooms and locker rooms – matters that are rejected by a promiscuous culture.
“Concert artists, conventions, professional sports and college sports events have been cancelled or moved out of the state through an aggressive campaign of misinformation and unparalleled hypocrisy. We appreciate the support of our Southern Baptist family,” Blume said.
Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, told BP he is “delighted” at the SBC’s support.
“It’s a matter of great importance that at this time, the largest Protestant denomination in the country is demonstrating their support for North Carolina’s stand on the bathroom bill, HB 2,” said Creech, who pastored Southern Baptist churches in North Carolina 20 years before transitioning to his current role.
The 2023 annual meeting is slated for June 13-14.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
Related articles:
Charlotte loses NBA All-Star game over ‘bathroom bill’
NCAA tourney pulled from N.C. over restroom bill
The breathtaking hypocrisy of the NCAA
Graham issues protest letter to ACC over anti-HB 2 vote

9/21/2016 1:08:00 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Wussow to lead ERLC Washington office

September 21 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has named one of its own – international justice and religious freedom advocate Travis Wussow – to direct its Washington, D.C., office.

Travis Wussow

ERLC President Russell Moore announced Wussow’s appointment as the new vice president for public policy, as well as general counsel, Sept. 19. In these roles, Wussow will coordinate the commission’s legislative, coalition and legal efforts. He will also continue to lead its international work.
Wussow, 33, is now serving as the ERLC’s director of international justice and religious liberty. His family and he moved to the Middle East more than a year ago for him to establish the commission’s first international office.
Moore described Wussow as “the natural choice to serve with me in this vital capacity in Washington.”
“Travis has modeled conviction and skill in law, in advocacy and in ministry,” Moore said in a news release. “During his time at the ERLC, Travis has brought unmatched insight and effectiveness in areas of international justice and freedom. I look forward to working together in our nation’s capital, connecting the vision of the kingdom of Christ to the pressing issues facing the country and the world.”
Wussow said he is “honored and humbled to have the opportunity” to direct the ERLC’s work in Washington.
“Our country and our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world face significant challenges,” he said in the news release, adding the ERLC “is well-positioned to provide policy and advocacy leadership in the years to come.”
In directing the Washington office, Wussow will succeed Barrett Duke, who has served as the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research while leading the office since 2003.
The Montana Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Board unanimously approved Duke, who has worked for the ERLC for 20 years, as the state convention’s new executive director Sept. 8. The convention will vote on Duke at its annual meeting in October.
The ERLC’s board of trustees has unanimously approved Moore’s appointment of Wussow to the Washington post. Wussow will begin serving in the Washington office in January.
From the office in the Middle East, Wussow leads the ERLC to collaborate with other organizations to advocate for religious freedom and social justice internationally. Under his direction, the ERLC office provides training resources on justice and religious liberty for churches and organizations, creates material for raising awareness on the issues and works with Baptist Global Response to help meet human needs.
Prior to his work for the ERLC, Wussow served on the staff of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, for about four years, fulfilling responsibilities at the multi-campus church as general counsel and executive director of central ministries. Before serving at the church, he worked at an Austin law firm.
Wussow also served previously as a fellow for the International Justice Mission, which works on behalf of human trafficking victims and the poor overseas.
He holds both undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas in Austin.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/21/2016 7:41:48 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gaines: SBC needs ‘renewal from heaven’

September 21 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Spiritual awakening, soul winning and stewardship will be the three-pronged emphasis of Steve Gaines’ Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) presidency, he told the SBC Executive Committee (EC) Sept. 19.

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“Leaders have to lead” in personal evangelism, SBC President Steve Gaines told the SBC Executive Committee Sept. 19.

Addressing the EC via video because of a scheduling conflict, Gaines said America’s morally deteriorating culture evidences the need for revival and awakening. He asked Southern Baptists to pray for revival using Psalm 85:6 and Habakkuk 3:2 as prompts.
Revival “is a renewal from heaven,” said Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. “It is when the fire of God falls” as depicted in Acts 4:31, which states, “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness.”
Evangelism is closely related to revival, Gaines said, noting pastors and other spiritual leaders must renew their passion for winning souls to saving faith in Christ.
One important component of evangelism, Gaines said, is the evangelistic invitation pastors should extend at the close of every message they preach. While an altar call, in which people walk to the front of a worship area to indicate their response to the gospel, is not the only valid form of evangelistic invitation, he said, Bellevue utilizes an altar call weekly and sees people come to faith in Christ through it.
“We need not only to share the gospel, but give [people] the opportunity to repent of their sins, to believe savingly in Jesus,” Gaines said. “... If we don’t give that invitation, I don’t care what else we preach; we have not preached the gospel.”
Evangelism in the pulpit, however, is not sufficient, he said. It must be accompanied by personal soul winning by every believer – especially church and convention leaders. Gaines suggested praying for lost people by name daily and looking for opportunities to share the gospel one-on-one.
“Leaders have to lead,” he said. “If you and I don’t do [personal evangelism], how can we expect anybody else to do it?”
Gaines expressed concern that the harsh rhetoric of some Christian leaders regarding the 2016 U.S. presidential election could inhibit their witness.
“When we speak prophetically, I want to encourage us to speak with kindness,” Gaines said. “The litmus test for me is this: Whatever I say, whatever I put on social media, whatever I say from the pulpit or in personal conversation” should not “prevent me from being able to share the gospel with that person to whom I’m speaking.
“If they would not listen to me share the gospel after I said something because I said something that was rude and inappropriate” about a political candidate, “then I have messed up,” he said.
Regarding stewardship, Gaines advocated the practice of tithing, which involves believers’ giving a tenth of their income to God through their local churches. While some argue the New Testament does not specifically require continuation of the Old Testament’s 10 percent standard, Gaines cited Matthew 23:23 to argue God’s commandment to tithe remains in force.
“I don’t believe that we in the New Testament [era] need to give less than people in the Old Testament,” Gaines said. “If you can’t trust God with 10 percent of your money, how can you trust God with your eternal soul?”
Tithing by every member of every Southern Baptist church would provide “all the money we need to support every ministry” at the church, associational, state convention and SBC levels, he said.
Gaines concluded by urging, “If we don’t have a national revival ... let’s at least have a revival among Southern Baptists.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/21/2016 7:41:17 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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