September 2016

GameDay Church, in 2nd NFL season, ready to expand

September 15 2016 by Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Witness

When most people think about tailgating, they think of football, food and fun with family and friends.

Photo by Nicole Kalil/Florida Baptist Witness
Fans gathered for GameDay Church outside EverBank Field in Jacksonville before the Jaguars-Packers game for a Sept. 11-themed gospel message.

But believers in the Jacksonville area will have the chance to add faith to the mix before every Jacksonville Jaguars home game as GameDay Church returns for the 2016 NFL season.
Last year more than 200 people gathered for a new kind of worship experience as GameDay Church held its first service outside EverBank Field just before the Jags took on the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 13.
David Tarkington, lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Orange Park and catalyst for the GameDay Church concept, said in an interview before the inaugural outreach that his desire is to take the gospel to a place where people are already gathering.
The GameDay Church experience also gives church attendees an opportunity to invite friends and family members who might not be open to going to church but who need to hear the gospel.
Tarkington is excited about the opportunity to have GameDay Church at the Jaguars’ Oct. 2 game in London against the Colts. Through tour operator David McGuffin’s Exploring Europe trip, Jaguars fans can enjoy several days of sightseeing in and around London, with the option of purchasing tickets for the Jaguars-Colts matchup. GameDay Church has partnered with Harrow Baptist Church in London, and tour participants will attend church there as part of the experience.
Tarkington will have the opportunity to share the gospel at that service, as well as some other things. “They want me to explain American football to them,” he said.
While Tarkington and his volunteer team from First Orange Park will take the lead, Tarkington said he is pleased to welcome another Jacksonville-area church to share in the GameDay Church outreach.
The Point, led by pastor Jeff Stockdale, will lead the Dec. 24 service before the Jaguars host the Tennessee Titans.

Photo by Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Witness
GameDay Church, now in its second NFL season, will conduct a worship service before every Jacksonville Jaguars home game.

Stockdale said he is excited about the “opportunity to make much of Jesus in our community.”
“We are very much about community, and we love our city,” he said. “The Jags are very much a part of our city.”
Since Christmas Eve is a natural time for people to come to church, Stockdale said he hopes many people will choose GameDay Church as their Christmas Eve service.
Tarkington is hopeful that the next expansion of GameDay Church will venture into other cities around the state or even the country. He has been in talks with Baptist leaders in Miami and Tampa on how GameDay Church can be a part of the spread of the gospel in those cities.
“Other churches are open to figuring out how to leverage professional sports to spread the gospel,” he said. “We’re still in the process of seeing what will go best.”
On Sept. 11’s GameDay Church under the blistering Florida sun and right next to a Green Bay Packers tailgating party, Tarkington paid tribute to first responders and victims of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, remarking that most Americans can remember what they were doing when the Twin Towers came down, making it a moment that changed everything. In the same way, the moment people meet Jesus changes everything for them, but in a much different way.
Packers fans who traveled to the game spoke to Tarkington after the service to let him know they appreciated his message.
“They said it was a message they connected with,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
GameDay Church is online at, on Twitter @GameDayChurch and Instagram @thefirstfam.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nicole Kalil is a reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness where this article first appeared. The Witness is the newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.)

9/15/2016 9:17:50 AM by Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Witness | with 0 comments

Zimbabwe leaders accused of starving opponents

September 15 2016 by Onize Ohikere, WORLD News Service

Zimbabwe’s Human Rights Commission has accused the ruling party of withholding food aid from opposition supporters amid mass starvation triggered by the country’s worst drought in years.
The commission said its investigation, conducted between May and August this year, confirmed that some opposition supporters in five constituencies could not access the government’s food aid program.
“There was unbridled maladministration on the part of some public officials who were allegedly performing their duties partially and with bias against persons of particular political affiliations,” the commission’s chairman, Elasto Mugwadi, told journalists in a press conference.
Some 2 million Zimbabweans annually require food aid due to poor harvests in the mainly dry regions. But the El Nino weather patterns beginning last year resulted in a severe drought across southern Africa. Nearly 5 million people in Zimbabwe now require food assistance.
Mugwadi said some community leaders and councilors belonging to President Robert Mugabe’s political party openly told opposition supporters in some districts they would never receive food aid. In some other areas, the leaders excluded people perceived as opposition supporters from food-for-work programs. The commission said the leaders manipulated some community members who were unaware of the food distribution criteria.
“This is uncalled for,” resident Abiot Moyo told The Zimbabwean. “We are a community in danger of starving and should not be faced with the politicization of food distribution.”
Mugabe has denied the claims. Earlier this year when the charges first surfaced, Mugabe said, “We might differ on policies but when we talk of food, all of us should be served.”
The accusation violates the United Nations Principles on Fundamental Human Rights, which guarantee freedom from hunger. The commission called on officials to remain unbiased in their service and asked the country’s authorities to investigate and prosecute all those guilty of human rights violations.
“The government must ensure that public officials act in their official capacity and desist from using political affiliation as yardsticks in any food aid,” the commission said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Onize Ohikere writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, Used with permission.)


9/15/2016 9:16:59 AM by Onize Ohikere, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Supreme Court blocks congressional Backpage subpoena

September 15 2016 by Gaye Clark, WORLD News Service

Chief Justice John Roberts blocked a congressional subpoena on Sept. 9 that required online classified website Backpage to produce information on how it screens ads for sex trafficking.
In March, the Senate voted 96-0 to hold Backpage in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena to appear before a congressional committee. The contempt charge allowed the Senate to pursue Backpage for the requested documents in federal court.
Backpage lawyers argued the case “highlights a disturbing and growing trend of government actors issuing blunderbuss demands for documents” and insisted its records are protected by the First Amendment.
“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,” Robert Corn-Revere, a lawyer for Backpage wrote.
What Backpage lawyers call an “expression of an idea,” others call illegal activity. Backpage, which sells ads in 431 U.S. cities and another 444 worldwide, stands accused of making huge profits by assisting traffickers who advertise minors for sex. The website posts more than a million sex ads each day. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 71 percent of all reports of suspected child sex trafficking have a link to Backpage.
Last month, federal District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer rejected arguments from Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer that the Senate’s subpoena was unconstitutional, overly broad, and burdensome.
“It would appear that Backpage has changed its moderation processes for the very purpose of avoiding inquiry. The First Amendment does not give Mr. Ferrer an ‘unlimited license to talk’ or to publish any content he chooses,” Collyer said when she issued her ruling.
Backpage then asked for an emergency motion from a D.C. federal appeals court, which sided with the Senate and again ordered the embattled website to respond to the subpoena by Sept. 9. That prompted Backpage’s emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Roberts said Backpage does not have to comply with the appeals court order until the Supreme Court takes further action. The Senate is required to respond to the appeal today.
Central to Backpage’s defense is a small section in the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which says online intermediaries that host or republish speech aren’t responsible for what their customers say and do. The company also insists holding it responsible for its customers’ postings would “chill free speech” online. Most state judges have agreed.
Haley Halverson, communications director for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation does not.
“They’re exploiting a loophole in the law that says that a website does not have to be held accountable for user-generated content on that website,” she told Onenewsnow. Her organization is recommending an amendment to the Communications Decency Act to remove the loophole, which she maintains “Congress never intended.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gaye Clark writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

9/15/2016 9:16:21 AM by Gaye Clark, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Attacks in India against Christians rising in 2016

September 15 2016 by World Watch Monitor

The Evangelical Fellowship of India’s (EFI) Religious Liberty Commission has tallied 134 attacks on Christians or their churches in the first half of 2016 – nearly as many as the annual totals for both 2014 and 2015.
The EFI, pointing out that the cases chronicled from Jan. 1 to June 30 were just a “fraction of the violence on the ground” (only “carefully corroborated” incidents were included), made several recommendations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist government, including the repeal of the controversial “anti-conversion laws.”
Named “Freedom of Religion Acts,” the laws officially aim to prevent religious conversions made by “force,” “fraud” or “allurement.” But Christians and human rights groups say that the laws, in reality, obstruct conversions generally, as Hindu nationalists invoke them to harass Christians with spurious arrests and incarcerations. Such laws are currently in force in five states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh – although they have been discussed in several others, such as in Maharashtra last year.
Nearly one-fifth of the reported incidents of anti-Christian violence occurred in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous, with over 200 million people, according to the EFI’s Aug. 16 report. After the 25 incidents in Uttar Pradesh, the second- and third-highest frequency of attacks took place in states with anti-conversion laws: Madhya Pradesh (17 incidents) and Chhattisgarh (15).
Tamil Nadu was the other high scorer (14). In 2002, this state passed its own “Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Bill,” but it was repealed in 2004 after the defeat of a Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition. The BJP (Prime Minister Modi’s party) is known for espousing a Hindu nationalist agenda and currently rules several states in central and western India, as well as controlling the federal government. The EFI report notes that Tamil Nadu is now governed by a Modi “ally.”
Last year, two BJP members of India’s Parliament – one in the Lower House and one in the Upper House – planned to introduce a Private Members’ Bill, each in their respective house, stated their intentions to introduce a national law against conversion from Hinduism, which would then force a debate in the Parliament.
The MP in the Upper House, Tarun Vijay, has noted that recent India census data indicates that, “For the first time, the population of Hindus has been reported to be less than 80 percent. We have to take measures to arrest the decline. It is very important to keep the Hindus in majority in the country.
“My argument is that religion must remain a matter of personal choice. But in India, it has become a political tool in the hands of foreign powers, who are targeting Hindus to fragment our nation again on communal lines,” Vijay claimed. “This has to be resisted in [the] national interest and in the interest of all minorities in India.”
The MP in the Lower House, Yogi Adityanath, a senior BJP legislator, is a Hindu head priest and founder of the nationalist Hindu Yuva Vahini social and cultural group of youths who seek to provide a right-wing Hindu platform.
In June 2015, Adityanath declared that those opposing yoga and Surya Namaskar, a Hindu salutation to the sun god within yoga, “should leave India or drown themselves in the ocean.”

‘A worrying trend’

Christians account for around 5 percent of India’s population, according to the World Christian Database, though the official 2011 census figure was just 2.3 percent, with Hindus 79.8 percent and Muslims at 14.2 percent.
Tomson Thomas, of the Persecution Relief advocacy organization for India’s Christians, told World Watch Monitor in August that attacks on Christians were at an “alarming level,” with more than 30 incidents a month being reported.
Meanwhile, the Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum said that in 2015 attacks on Christians were reported on an almost daily basis.
Recent figures from Christian charity Open Doors, which works on such issues, suggest an even greater number of incidents (closer to 250) occurred in the first six months of this year. But whatever the precise figure, Rolf Zeegers from Open Doors’ World Watch Research said “a worrying trend is emerging.”
“It is very alarming,” he said. “And yet President Modi’s administration does nothing. Isn’t it about time that Western countries offer the Christian community help by using diplomatic channels to directly put pressure on the Indian government to stop these violent radicals?”
A furor surrounding Mother Teresa’s canonization on Sept. 4 is another reminder of the difficulties faced by India’s Christian minority, with Hindu nationalists accusing the Catholic nun of having forcibly converted others. MP Yogi Adityanath said in June that Mother Teresa had been on a mission to “Christianize India.” Meanwhile, an online petition was circulated in which she was labelled a “soul harvester” who proselytized the poor.
But perhaps there is a glimmer of hope reflected in conciliatory language used in a Supreme Court ruling, reported by World Watch Monitor on Aug. 4, in which it was concluded that Christians had received “inadequate” compensation for the worst case of anti-Christian violence in India’s history – the 2008 Kandhamal rampage, during which around 100 Christians were killed, 300 churches and 6,000 Christian homes damaged and 56,000 people displaced after the killing of a Hindu leader.
The EFI report begins with a statement made by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur in that judgment: “The minorities are as much children of the soil as the majority and the approach has been to ensure that nothing should be done, as might deprive the minorities of a sense of belonging, of a feeling of security, of a consciousness of equality and of the awareness that the conservation of their religion, culture, language and script as also the protection of their educational institutions is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. ...
“It can, indeed, be said to be an index of the level of civilization and catholicity of a nation as to how far their minorities feel secure and are not subject to any discrimination or suppression,” Thakur wrote.
Yet conciliation will mean little if what the EFI report refers to as the “ominous and all-permeating impunity and occasional complicity of the administrative and police personnel” is not addressed.
The All India People’s Forum is quoted in the report as noting: “It is evident from the testimonies that the role of the police and administration is extremely lax. On some occasions the police have openly sided with the Bajrang Dal [a militant Hindu group], refusing to protect the Christians. … On the occasions where the district administration and police have intervened, it has not been to enforce the rule of law and uphold the Constitution and arrest the Bajrang Dal mischief-makers; rather the ineffectual mode of ’dispute resolution’ has been adopted.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adapted from reporting by World Watch Monitor, online at The news service reports on Christians worldwide under pressure for their faith. Used with permission.)

9/15/2016 9:15:50 AM by World Watch Monitor | with 0 comments

NCAA tourney pulled from N.C. over restroom bill

September 14 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

North Carolina’s pro-family leaders are decrying the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) decision to pull seven championship athletic events from the state during the 2016-17 academic year in response to a state law requiring individuals at public agencies to use restrooms corresponding to their biological sex.

“There is an expectation of privacy when women and children go into the shower or locker room, and it’s more than an expectation – it’s a right,” Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a statement. “And our elected officials have a duty to protect that right. The NCAA is punishing the state of North Carolina because it dares to stand up for the commonsense notion that everyone has a right to privacy, decency and safety in bathrooms, showers and locker rooms.”
The law in question, known as House Bill 2, also institutes a statewide nondiscrimination law that does not include protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression – another provision criticized by the NCAA.
The most high-profile events affected by the NCAA’s Sept. 12 announcement are first- and second-round Division I Men’s Basketball Championship games slated for March 17 and 19 in Greensboro.
Other sports affected include Division I women’s soccer, Division III men’s and women’s soccer, Division I women’s golf, Division III men’s and women’s tennis, Division I women’s lacrosse and Division II baseball.
The NCAA did not announce where the moved championship events would be played, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.
In publicizing its decision, the NCAA alleged in a statement, “North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert said, “Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships. We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans and everyone taking part in our championships.”
Fitzgerald, a trustee of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called the NCAA hypocritical.
“The NCAA is guilty of extreme hypocrisy,” Fitzgerald said. “While it bullies the people of North Carolina to allow boys in the girls’ locker rooms, showers and bathrooms, it prohibits boys from playing on the girls’ sports teams. Twenty-four states have sued the federal government over the very mandate that the NCAA is now trying to force on the people of North Carolina.”
The NCAA has not announced the cancellation of first- and second-round Men’s Basketball Championship games scheduled for Charlotte in 2018.
In related news, the NBA announced in July it would move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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Charlotte loses NBA All-Star game over ‘bathroom bill’


9/14/2016 9:42:53 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

He, she, huh?: Pronoun campaign ‘cultural Marxism’

September 14 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Vanderbilt University’s campaign to support transgender individuals by encouraging use of proper “pronoun etiquette” has been characterized by a law professor at the Nashville university as the latest manifestation of an intolerant, secularist agenda prevalent in higher education.

Images from iStock; Graphic by Laura Erlanson

"Political correctness, multiculturalism and the redefinition of the pronouns are a form of cultural Marxism,” Carol Swain, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt, told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “It’s part of an aggressive agenda to destroy Western traditions, values and norms. Across America and on the Vanderbilt campus, a small minority wields enormous power when it comes to implementing their agendas for societal change.”
Swain added, “The only acceptable religions” at universities like Vanderbilt “are ones that pose no threat to the godless secularism the university advances as enlightened truth.”
As students returned this fall, the private university’s Faculty Senate Gender Inclusivity Task Force placed posters on campus with the heading “What should I call you?” They urged faculty and students to share with one another in personal introductions and email signatures whether their preferred pronouns are he/him/his, she/her/hers or a gender-neutral option like ze/zir/zirs, according to an image of the posters posted online by the conservative publication The Daily Caller.
A Sept. 6 tweet by journalist and Vanderbilt alum Clay Travis included a photo of new Vanderbilt staff name badges that allegedly include an employee’s name, title and preferred pronouns.
A 5,000-word blog post by Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching cites “the need to establish university-wide best practices for respecting gender identity and expression” and includes a link to a “pronoun etiquette sheet.” The post references “long-standing misconceptions of gender as a binary construct” and states, “Biological sex is assigned at birth by a medical practitioner.”
The university suggests professors give students an opportunity to state their preferred pronouns on the first day of class and urges instructors to correct pronoun misuse during class sessions.
“While it may feel awkward to stop and correct your (or a student’s) pronoun usage,” the blog post states, “failing to act is a personal affront (and a violent act) against gender non-conforming individuals.”
“Fluency with gender non-conforming vocabulary” and “implementing gender-inclusive pedagogical practices” are important for all professors, the blog post states, even in disciplines like math and science.
Swain, who drew fire in 2015 for arguing Muslims should fully integrate into U.S. society, said the university “is advancing a dangerous political agenda that creates an unhealthy learning and teaching environment for students and faculty who disagree with its new direction.”
“It is an unhealthy agenda because it seeks to squelch free speech and any ideas that run counter to its worldview. The indoctrination process for students begins as soon as they set foot on the campus,” Swain said.
“The Christian faith is especially threatening to the agenda because of its lifestyle and belief requirements,” she continued. “Vanderbilt tipped its hand in 2011 when it adopted a policy that eventually led to half the Christian groups on campus losing their student recognition and ... the same rights and privileges as other students whose parents pay the same amount in activity fees. If the university is successful with its indoctrination, Christian parents will hardly recognize their children by Thanksgiving.”

An emerging trend

Vanderbilt is not alone in its advocacy of gender-inclusive pronouns.
In May, Tennessee lawmakers defunded the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion after it, among other controversial acts, advocated use of preferred pronouns on campus, including xe, xym and xyr.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported last year that other institutions to advocate pronoun usage reflective of gender identity include the University of Vermont, Harvard, Ohio University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
As of Oct. 2015, approximately 150 U.S. colleges had set up computer systems to record students’ chosen names and “a handful” allowed students to note their preferred pronouns in campus databases, the Chronicle reported, citing data from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender advocacy group Campus Pride.
While the use of pronouns to advance a pro-transgender agenda is relatively new – the University of Vermont established a chosen-pronoun option in its database in 2009 – the debate over gender-neutral pronouns is not.

A history of pronouns

A 2010 blog post by Oxford University Press (OUP) stated, “Wordsmiths have been coining gender-neutral pronouns for a century and a half, all to no avail. Coiners of these new words insist that the gender-neutral pronoun is indispensable, but users of English stalwartly reject, ridicule, or just ignore their proposals.”
OUP estimated there have been more than 100 distinct proposals for a singular, gender-neutral pronoun to be used in sentences like, “Someone left their cheese in the refrigerator.” In that sentence, “their” is plural and doesn’t agree with the singular object “someone.” “His” or “her” would be an awkward word choice as well because each term specifies a gender though the gender of the person referenced is unknown.
To remedy such grammatical conundrums, proposals for a new pronoun have included ip, co, xie, per and en, OUP noted.
A more traditional solution to the difficulty is to use words like their, them and themselves as singulars even though they are technically plural. Such usage has occurred since the 14th century, according to the literary website, including in the King James Version’s rendering of Philippians 2:3.
Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English at Liberty University, noted a vast difference between the historical gender-neutral pronoun debate and the current transgenderism-focused discussion.
“The gender-neutral pronoun debate we are currently facing is not one over linguistics, but gender identity,” Prior told BP in written comments. “It’s important to realize that they are two distinct issues. The debates from 100 years ago were related to English (including the issue of grammatical agreement and non-sexist language), not sexual identity.
“I love the English language,” Prior said. “But, like all languages, it has its limitations and idiosyncrasies. Having only the word ‘love’ to express various kinds of loving relationships and having no gender-neutral, singular personal pronoun inadvertently offers fuel for the ongoing sexual and worldview revolution.”
Paul Smith, associate professor of Old Testament studies at Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, suggested the original Hebrew language of the Old Testament as an instructive parallel for those wondering whether a gender-neutral pronoun is needed in English.
“Pronouns in Hebrew are only masculine or feminine with no other options,” Smith told BP in written comments. Yet the Old Testament authors found ways to describe people in non-gender-specific ways when necessary and never used language to countenance deviant sexual or gender identities.
“Gender identity and gender roles are part of God’s plan for creation, not a result of the fall,” said Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chandler, Ariz., and vice president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference. “Any deviation from this plan is a result of the fall and therefore a violation of God’s design and order.
“The Old Testament has no words for a third gender, nor does it have any terms for someone who wants to self-identify as anything other than their birth gender. ... The Old Testament speaks only to male and female and leaves no room for self-assignment of gender or gender-identifying terms,” Smith said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/14/2016 9:37:41 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Methodist pastor keeps job after officiating gay wedding

September 14 2016 by Jae Wasson, WORLD News Service

A United Methodist pastor in Charlotte, N.C., who performed a same-sex wedding earlier this year against the rules of her church is escaping without punishment.

The Rev. Val Rosenquist’s overseeing body, the Western North Carolina Conference, admitted in a Sept. 6 statement she will keep her position as pastor and will not face a church trial. The decision reflects the ongoing United Methodist battle between recognizing same-sex marriage and preserving the precepts of holiness put in place by founder John Wesley.
“Over the last 4 1/2 years there has been a building movement … to disregard the church’s biblical teaching on human sexuality,” said the Rev. Tom Lambrecht, the vice president of the conservative Methodist Good News Magazine. “This is just part of that.”
Methodists in Rosenquist’s area immediately filed complaints to the conference after the wedding. She performed it in the church, wearing her robes, and joining the hands of the two men before the altar. The conference’s statement promised a “just resolution,” officially defined as a focus on “repairing harm,” had been reached between the people who filed the complaints and Rosenquist. The conference has sealed the specific wording of the resolution until 2018.
Lambrecht suggested the conference refused to put Rosenquist on trial because of the fear it would cause controversy and help unofficially define a Methodist position on gay marriage.
“The people who are in charge of the institutional church would like to prevent conflict,” he said. “I think it is also a matter of the fact that we are in a kind of uncertainty.”
The United Methodist Church has been debating the issue for years. Rosenquist is not the first pastor who has broken the rules.
Frank Schaefer, a former pastor in Pennsylvania, presided at his son’s same-sex wedding in 2007 and lost his job under church discipline. He was told he could keep his clergy credentials if he recanted his support for gay marriage, and he refused.
In 2014, a New York bishop publicly dropped a case against a dean who officiated at a same-sex wedding. In response, 80 conservative Methodist pastors signed a statement suggesting a split in the church.
“We define salvation differently. We define the church’s mission differently,” Lambrecht said. “For us to stay together would be for us to be working against each other.”
Conservatives stopped a bill possibly revising United Methodist policy on same-sex marriage at the General Conference in May. Instead, the church decided to call a new session in 2018 specifically to discuss this issue.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jae Wasson writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville, N.C. Used with permission.)

9/14/2016 9:36:46 AM by Jae Wasson, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Polygamists appeal to Supreme Court

September 14 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Polygamy is knocking at the door of the U.S. Supreme Court.
A polygamous family featured in the reality television show "Sister Wives" asked the justices Sept. 12 to review a lower-court ruling that had reversed a federal judge’s decision in favor of the polygamists. The high court will decide in the months ahead whether to grant review and rule on the case.
Defenders of the biblical and historic view of marriage already were following the case and will continue to do so to see if the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage will extend beyond its incorporation of same-sex relationships. The justices legalized gay marriage in 2015.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, pointed out during his Sept. 13 podcast there “isn’t any great groundswell of support” for legalizing polygamy but that could change quickly.
"Ten years ago, indeed even less than 10 years ago, there was no public groundswell in support of same-sex marriage," Mohler said on "The Briefing."
“That’s how a moral revolution works,” he said. “The groundswell doesn’t exist. Then it is created by forces in the culture, including the academic arguments of the elites, the legal arguments of the lawyers, and, of course, how it is all filtered down to the public through public conversation and, of course, the arts, culture and entertainment as well.”
The case began with a victory for Kody Brown and his four wives in 2013, when Clark Waddoups, a federal judge in Utah, invalidated a portion of the state law that prohibits bigamy. His opinion essentially decriminalized polygamy. Waddoups ruled as unconstitutional a section of the law that prohibits a married person from cohabiting with someone who is not his or her spouse.
In effect, Waddoups legalized polygamy as it is practiced in Utah and other western states primarily by members of fundamentalist spinoffs of the Mormon religion. Such polygamous households typically do not have multiple marriage licenses but treat all relationships between a man and the women with whom he lives as marriages.
Brown and only one of his wives, Robyn, have a marriage license. He is “spiritually married” to the other three women with whom he lives. They are members of the Apostolic United Brethren, which believes polygamy is “a core religious practice,” according to court opinions.
Waddoups ruled the cohabitation section of Utah’s anti-bigamy law violates the free exercise of religion clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver did not rule on the merits of the case in reversing Waddoups’ decision. Instead, a three-judge panel decided the Browns’ lawsuit was moot, because the county attorney involved in their case had declared he would not prosecute them or other families who practice polygamy for religious reasons.
Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who represents the Browns, said the case involves the “underlying rights of religious freedom and free speech.”
In a Sept. 12 post at his website, Turley said Waddoups’ decision prevented “the targeting of plural families simply because of their consensual religious practices or relationships.”
Brown and his four wives, whose reality show is on TLC, moved to Nevada nearly six years ago to escape possible prosecution.
The case is Brown v. Buhman.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/14/2016 9:36:21 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Unknown entrepreneur was missions pioneer

September 14 2016 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

The modern missions movement owes much to an unknown entrepreneur, Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend, who overcame social constrictions in the antebellum south to rally women toward missions giving.

Her journey unfolds in the form of a novel, Her Way: The Remarkable Story of Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend by Rosalie Hall Hunt of Guntersville, Ala., who also has written a biography of pioneer missionaries Adoniram and Ann Judson and a history of Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU).
For Hephzibah, surviving a dangerous birth in Charleston two days before the city was captured by the British in the Revolutionary War was confirmation to her that God had a purpose for her life. Her mother had died following childbirth, and a couple of slaves risked their lives to take her back to her family’s plantation on Edisto Island, south of Charleston.
Hunt, a former national WMU officer, told Baptist Press she spent three years researching Hephzibah and then tried to reconstruct her personality and her philosophy of life in the novel.
Fashioning her research into a novel “gave me an opportunity to make her story immediate by using conversation to unfold the material,” Hunt said. “I did find it a challenge because I prefer to write with annotations, listing sources. I personally like a book with a lot of endnotes, but many people do not.”
As told by Hunt, Hephzibah’s father “taught her the old adage, ‘To him who wills, ways are not wanting.’” At 15, in marrying Daniel Townsend, a distant cousin, she brought to the marriage 4,000 acres of sea island cotton on Edisto. But in those days husbands controlled the dowry, and Hephzibah’s fortune was not available to her.
Most young brides may have been okay with this, but Hephzibah was not one of them, Hunt said.

Rosalie Hall Hunt

Though her father was an Episcopalian elder and her husband was a Presbyterian elder on Edisto, Hephzibah said she always had Baptist leanings. She had relatives in Charleston who were Baptists, and any chance she got she went to First Baptist Church with them. The pastor was Richard Furman, a prominent theologian of the era who was “very influential on her life and who baptized her when she was in her 20s,” Hunt said.
“She used to go by rowboat every Sunday that she could, six hours there and six hours back,” Hunt said. “She showed loyalty.”
Hephzibah gave birth to 15 children, but only six of them lived to adulthood. She experienced tragedy upon tragedy, including the untimely death of her closest brother.
Along the way, Hephzibah learned from Furman about William Carey and missions in India. She also learned of Polly Webb, a paraplegic in Boston who had started a mite society to give to missions. From Edisto, Hephzibah decided to join the missions cause.
“So she went to Daniel and said, ‘I need some funds for missions,’ and he said, ‘I’m sure Dr. Carey is a very worthy man but I’m not going to release the money,’” Hunt said. “… So she said, ‘Alright, I’ll find a way.’”
Since women were not necessarily allowed to have vocations back then and had to be creative in raising funds, Hephzibah sent a beloved servant named Bella to Charleston to learn from the leading pastry chef there how to make specialty cakes and gingerbread, Hunt recounted. “Meanwhile, she took servants over to the property that her brother had willed to her and built outdoor tabby ovens just yards from the Atlantic Ocean. Tabby is oyster shells and lime and water, like a cement. She built these ovens, and Bella came back and began baking the bread.”
They would bake all week and then row their goods over to the market in Charleston on Saturdays. “And that’s how the missions business began,” Hunt said. Each woman in the female mite society Hephzibah founded on Edisto learned to do the same.
In 1812, the mite society on Edisto gave an offering of $122.50 to the Charleston Baptist Association.
“I like to think that was a lot of gingerbread,” Hunt said. “That started it, and other societies began to spring up in South Carolina, in North Carolina, in Alabama and Georgia and Tennessee and other states. Then of course in 1888 it became the Woman’s Missionary Union.”
Hephzibah badly wanted a Baptist church on Edisto, particularly concerned for the slaves because few of them were in church services or had religious instruction. She and Bella started a catering business for weddings and special occasions, and by 1818 she had enough money to build a church, about $2,000, Hunt said.
Hunt’s novel includes a copy of a letter Hephzibah wrote to a lawyer ensuring that the property she gave to the church would remain in its possession – because 95 percent of the members were slaves.
Edisto Island Baptist Church was the only place on the island where a slave had any dignity or voice, Hunt said. “They could sit anywhere and they were deacons. This was like a gift from Hephzibah.”
Hephzibah described the slaves as her people, “and she didn’t just say it; she meant it,” Hunt said. The church is still an active congregation to this day, and Hephzibah is the only white person buried there.
“One of the most interesting things I found was in the minutes book that the pastor had written in the 1830s and ’40s,” Hunt said. “He had recorded the revival service of 1844. And he said, ‘Sister Townsend invited us to meet in her parlor.’ So they sat in the parlor of her home Dec. 21-26 and they met at night because that’s when the slaves were able to have free time, and the pastor said they started at 7 each evening and never finished before midnight.
“The last night of the services, Dec. 26, he said, ‘Sister Townsend assisted me in baptizing the 60 converts,’ and he listed them name by name – everyone who had come to faith. Isn’t that incredible? In 1844, a woman ministering like that. It was an amazing thing to read. And the dignity that she afforded these that she called her people,” Hunt said.
Hunt wrote the biography, she said, because WMU is the largest missions organization for women in the world, “and we need to know where we came from so we can pass it on.”
Laurie Register, executive director of South Carolina WMU, told Baptist Press though the name Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend is unknown – and was unknown to many in her day – “her commitment to her Lord and His mission; her determination that other women pray and support those called to the missions field; her love and concern for the spiritual needs of ‘her people’ provided the impetus for early women’s missions societies across our country.
“As a member and leader in Woman’s Missionary Union, I see a direct connection between Hephzibah’s female mite society … and this organization which now provides missions discipleship for every member of the church, and has a worldwide impact,” Register said.
Her Way is published by Courier Publishing, an extension of the Baptist Courier newsjournal in South Carolina. Butch Blume, managing editor at the Courier, told Baptist Press they were excited to publish Hephzibah’s story “mostly because it was a gripping tale with deep roots in South Carolina Baptist history.”
The novel is available through Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other booksellers. All proceeds go to missions causes.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville.)

9/14/2016 9:35:45 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Platt: Make evangelism ’primary’ in life, ministry

September 13 2016 by Marilyn Stewart, Baptist Message

International Mission Board President David Platt sounded the alarm against a “gospel-less” and “gospel-lite” missions approach that many are apparently adopting today. This dangerous trend, he said, promotes good deeds but minimizes a call for repentance.

International Mission Board President David Platt promotes the primacy of the gospel in mission efforts during a chapel sermon at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Platt spoke of his concerns during the Global Missions Emphasis chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) Sept. 6. He referenced debates taking place among some evangelical mission agencies regarding the usage of “Son of God” in translating Scripture or in interacting with Muslims.
“I see practices among these same agencies that minimizes the call to Christ, that says someone can be both Muslim and Christian at the same time,” Platt said. “I see trends that see social justice as equal to, or more important than, evangelism, gospel presentation.”
Platt said he drew criticism recently for promoting the primacy of evangelism in missions. He called on NOBTS to hold fast to a biblical definition of evangelism that calls for repentance from sin and belief in Christ.
“Evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit with the aim of persuading people to repent and believe in Christ,” Platt said.
At the conclusion, NOBTS president Chuck Kelley voiced his agreement with Platt and related the warning to Southern Baptists.
“If you had asked me the most surprising development in Southern Baptist life in the last five years, I would tell you it is the diminishing of the conversation about evangelism,” Kelley said. “There is less conversation about it now than there has been in my lifetime.”
In his sermon, Platt highlighted the distinction between a believer who wants to “witness” by living a good life and biblical evangelism. He reminded the audience that Christians around the world are being martyred not for living moral lives, but for proclaiming a message that calls for repentance.
Platt noted that the English word “martyr” comes from the same Greek root as the word translated “witness” in scripture. A believer in a Communist country that remains silent about the gospel is not in danger, but those who proclaim the gospel are, Platt told listeners.
Make evangelism “primary” in your life and ministry, Platt urged.
“The last thing the nations need is the exportation of nominal Christianity from North America,” Platt said. “The nations need the gospel and men and women who are committed to proclaiming it with contrite courage and brokenhearted boldness wherever God leads them.”
Doctrine matters, Platt said, noting that next year marks the 500-year anniversary of the start of the Reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door. The Reformers thought doctrine was worth dying for, Platt said, and told of John Rogers who was executed by Mary I of England because he opposed transubstantiation, the view that Christ was physically present in the bread and wine of communion.
The idea that the human act of eating communion was necessary for receiving Christ’s forgiveness “undercut the gospel,” Platt said. The core of the gospel, he said, is salvation secured by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone.
“If we lose this, we lose everything,” Platt said. “We have hope not in our merit, but only in His mercy. Not our merit – His merit. Doctrine like this matters. Theology like this matters.”
While salvation cannot be earned, persuasion is part of evangelism, Platt said. He underscored that only the Holy Spirit can “bring from death to life,” only the Holy Spirit can convict and regenerate.
Platt noted that eight times in Luke’s writings – passages such as Luke 1:39-42 and Acts 2:2-4 and 4:8 – the filling of the Holy Spirit preceded a verbal proclamation of the gospel.
A passion for the nations, a desire for the spread of the gospel to all nations is not for a select few believers, Platt said, but is for every follower of Christ.
“So, I challenge you today to look at a world with 2.8 billion people who have never even heard the gospel and make it your ambition to see this gospel proclaimed among them, wherever God may lead you,” Platt said. “May you be driven with zeal.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is a regional reporter for the Baptist Message,, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and assistant director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

9/13/2016 7:26:45 AM by Marilyn Stewart, Baptist Message | with 0 comments

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