September 2016

2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference nominees sought

September 9 2016 by Baptist Press staff

The 2017 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix is expected to highlight the contributions of the convention’s smaller churches and celebrate the diverse landscape that makes up the SBC. To that end, Pastors’ Conference officers are seeking nominations for event speakers who represent these churches.

Photo by Matt Miller
Pastor and former NFL linebacker Derwin Gray encouraged pastors to trust God to do the impossible during the 2016 Pastors' Conference on Monday, June 13 in St. Louis.


To help fill the slate of preachers for the conference, the leadership team is inviting Southern Baptists to recommend expository preachers for the event. The online nomination process opens Sept. 12 at sbcpc2017.com. Nominations can be made through Sept. 30.
 
Dave Miller, an Iowa pastor and president of the 2017 Pastors’ Conference, made the announcement on the SBC Voices blog Sept. 7.
 
“We are operating from two strong convictions,” Miller, who also is editor of SBC Voices, said in written comments to Baptist Press. “First, we believe that the Bible is enough. Accurately and powerfully preached, a Pastors’ Conference focused on the word of God will be a rich blessing to all who attend.”
 
“And second, we believe that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of qualified preachers in average Southern Baptist churches who can encourage and challenge us from the inerrant, vibrant word of God,” Miller said. “Our task now is to find the right 12 men.”
 
Nominees should be the pastor of a Southern Baptist church with about “500 or less in average attendance” who has not preached at the annual meeting in the past five years. Miller noted on his blog, “We may stray a little higher if we decide to – these are guidelines, not rules. But we are coming from the belief that there are a lot of very good preachers out there, worth listening to, in average SBC churches.”
 
The leadership team encourages nominations representing the ethnic and geographic diversity of the SBC. To aid in the selection process, nominators should include links where sermons may be viewed online. If online sermons are not available, sermons may be submitted via email through Google Docs.
 
The selected preachers will also participate in a preaching colloquium held at a Southern Baptist seminary early in 2017 to focus on expository preaching of Philippians. The theme for the 2017 Conference is “Above Every Name” (Philippians 2:9). Through the four Pastors’ Conference sessions, pastors will preach through the book of Philippians in 12 expository messages.
 
“We want to work together as a team this year, not just 12 individual speakers,” Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, said.
 

A one-year experiment

The idea of electing a smaller church pastor to lead the Pastors’ Conference is something Miller and his friends have discussed for years. The group convinced Miller to run for Pastors’ Conference president on an agenda focused squarely on God’s Word. Miller used the SBC Voices blog to get the word out about the expository preaching focus and the Pastors’ Conference attendees responded by electing him president.
 
Miller is quick to point out that this is meant as a one-year opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of smaller churches. They have no designs on having a small church pastor lead every year.
 
“We wanted to do a conference that focuses on biblical preaching and worship and not focused on who is doing the biblical preaching,” Miller said. “We are trying this one year, we are not trying to ‘take over’ the Pastors’ Conference.”
 
His candidacy and election was not meant as protest or critique of large churches, Miller noted.
 
“Some small church movements have been distinctively anti-big church,” Miller said. “We are not doing that. We aren’t saying anything bad about large churches. We just want to give [smaller church pastors] a chance.”
 
If selected as a speaker, preachers are asked to attend the Pastors’ Conference in its entirety for the mutual support and encouragement of attendees and speakers.
 

9/9/2016 10:52:44 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Feds take linguistic fiat to hospitals, homeless shelters

September 9 2016 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

In the waning months of his presidency, Barack Obama is calling into question what it means to be a man or a woman.
 
His administration first went after public schools, ordering them to allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms based on gender identity, rather than biology. Now, policy changes adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) put those who care for the sick and indigent in the cross-hairs of federal regulators charged with promulgating the Obama view of fluid sexuality.
 
But faith-based groups are fighting back, filing suit to defend the biblical view of gender and their constitutionally protected right to hold it. As with the similar battle over marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court will get the final word on whether what God created and called “very good” still applies to American society.
 
HUD Director Julian Castro and HHS Director Sylvia Burwell are the latest Obama appointees to bypass the legislative process and create their own regulations granting protected class status to transgender persons, a designation that has never passed congressional muster.
 
Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, worked for seven years in the Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights. Regulatory changes in recent years prove “there is clearly a concerted effort” to alter the law by linguistic fiat, he said.
 
By his own executive actions, Obama set the standard for crafting law without Congress. Following his lead, federal regulators have effectively implemented sexual orientation and gender identity protections by redefining one word – sex – and making it mean something other than biologically male and female.
 
The HHS policy, implemented in May, forces doctors and hospitals to provide controversial sex reassignment therapy and surgery or face lawsuits and the loss of billions of dollars in Medicaid and Medicare funding.
 
“Ultimately, this case boils down to a very simple question of statutory interpretation,” attorneys wrote in a lawsuit filed to halt the policy’s implementation. “Can HHS redefine the term ‘sex’ to thwart decades of settled precedent and impose massive new obligations on health care professionals and sovereign states?”
 
The Franciscan Alliance, a network of religious hospitals, along with two other medical associations and five states, filed the suit Aug. 23 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Wichita Falls Division. A judge in that same court issued a temporary injunction Monday against Obama’s Title IX directive to public schools.
 
Doctors who refuse to comply with the HHS regulation could find themselves “unemployable” by hospitals because their lack of compliance makes them a legal liability, attorneys argue. The measure also appears to require doctors to perform abortions by expanding the definition of “sex” to “include ‘gender identity,’ ‘sex stereotypes,’ and ‘termination of pregnancy,’ among other things,” the suit notes.
 
“HHS has been cagey about this,” Lori Windham, an attorney with the Becket Fund, told me. “They have not exactly spelled out what [termination of pregnancy] means.”
 
The Becket Fund is one of the legal groups representing the plaintiffs in Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell. HHS has 30 days to respond to the suit.
 
Regulators deliberately excluded religious exemptions from the HHS regulation. The remedy for doctors and hospitals that refuse puberty-blocking hormone treatment for children or removal of a woman’s healthy uterus as part of “transitioning” into a man would be forced to sue the government.
 
Greg Bonnen, a Texas state representative and neurosurgeon, said the regulation violates the personal care autonomy of every physician. According to one analysis, 900,000 doctors currently work in the United States.
 
As a Christian, Bonnen finds the regulations especially onerous but said regardless of a person’s religious beliefs, everyone “should be very alarmed when the government tells doctors what to do.”
 
The HUD proposal, which has not been adopted yet, requires shelter providers to honor the accommodation request of a transgender person regardless of his or her biological sex. Failure to comply is an act of discrimination punishable by the loss of federal funding.
 
But it is the HUD regulations that John Ashmen, president of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), finds discriminatory. Throughout the policy, regulators give deference to the transgender person.
 
“The only accommodation for health or safety concerns may be made when a transgender person requests it,” Ashmen wrote in a letter to HHS in January.
 
The majority of AGRM shelters do not accept federal funding, so the threat of financial loss does not apply. Still, Ashmen said, the rule disregards the need for all people seeking emergency shelter to feel safe. HUD forbids facility operators from inquiring about a person’s biological sex, which could allow a man to gain access to a women’s shelter. That could prove traumatic for women seeking refuge from abusive relationships.
 
Ashmen told me some matters of operation should be left to facility directors, who best know their clientele. But HUD disagreed, telling Ashmen and other directors in a meeting earlier this year that they need to teach the rest of their guests to “accept the transgender person.”
 
Ashmen was incredulous. He told HUD that up to one-third of his clients are mentally ill, some are addicted to drugs or coming off a high, and others “act out” emotionally. Most arrive as the shelters are closing for the evening.
 
“So you’re saying we need to train those people?” Ashmen recounted.
 
But the biggest threat against faith-based operations is not the federal government but public opinion, Ashmen said. Directors have reported organizations sending transgender people to shelters to test the system. He fears journalists will do the same and publish scathing articles about the shelters’ biblical views of what it means to be a man or a woman.
 
While the government focuses on perceived discrimination, people who come to AGRM shelters find a different reality.
 
“They have come to a safe place where they will be cared for regardless of what they believe about themselves or God,” Ashmen said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 
 

9/9/2016 10:49:22 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Schools put new emphasis on helping homeless students

September 9 2016 by Jae Wasson, WORLD News Service

Tyren Jones’s grandmother kicked him out of the house before he finished high school. His father sat in prison and his mother had left the state, so he slept where he could: a crack house, his godmother’s, a friend’s couch.
 
Jones had no records, no parents, no home. He couldn’t land a job, and after a suspension, he couldn’t finish school. Jones is one of a growing population of homeless youth struggling to break out of the cycle of poverty. A recent U.S. education law, called the Every Student Succeeds Act, aims to help people like Jones get an education and eventually, a job.
 
The new law will take effect Oct. 1 as part of an expansion of homeless services that will allow schools to relax enrollment barriers and require states to break out achievement and graduation rates among the homeless. Homeless children are especially vulnerable to low grades and frequent absences.
 
“If a person doesn’t have a place to eat, sleep, shave, or shower they probably won’t be going to school either,” said Vazakiya Johnson, who works with homeless youth in Los Angeles as part of the Catholic organization Covenant House.
 
She said many of the young people that come through the doors of the Covenant House shelter are either trafficking victims, in the foster system, or simply don’t have a stable home environment to return to. They can’t afford books or food, and even if they could, many are too ashamed to go to school.
 
The new law promotes privacy for these students by protecting their records, especially the information on their housing situation. Teachers don’t need to know, Johnson said, that’s not what their job is about.
 
The law also will help homeless youth access federal funds to put them through school, find government housing and eventually pay for college. The administration also will provide transportation to their school of origin in hope students will be more likely to continue attending if they are not forced to jump from school to school.
 
But Johnson worries about the number of homeless children still on the streets that haven’t yet been identified. The number of homeless students enrolled in school – 1.3 million – is nearly double what it was a decade ago. But homeless advocates say many more have slipped through the system without even being registered as homeless. Under the new law’s provisions, school administrators must renew their efforts to find and place students in transitional housing. The 2017 budget proposes a 21 percent increase for homeless education.
 
Jones is lucky. He found a home at a youth shelter in Buffalo, where leaders there helped him make his way back to school. He begins his senior year this month.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jae Wasson writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

9/9/2016 10:47:05 AM by Jae Wasson, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Florida volunteers tending to post-Hermine needs

September 9 2016 by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention

When weather forecasters predicted Hurricane Hermine would bring a tidal surge of about three feet from the Gulf of Mexico’s churning waters, pastor Alan Ritter thought First Baptist Church in Homosassa would be safe from damage several miles inland.

Photo by Josh Gussler
Volunteer Brian Taylor from Damascus Baptist Church in Graceville, Fla., pulls moldy wallboard from a Crystal River residence flooded by Hurricane Hermine. Florida disaster relief is helping storm survivors on multiple fronts across the state.


But Ritter faced the worst with little time for preparation when late-breaking news of the storm suggested a seven-foot tidal surge would hit the community located on the Homosassa River.
 
Now First Baptist in Homosassa and at least three other Florida Baptist churches are cleaning up from damage sustained when the first hurricane to hit Florida in a decade made landfall on the state’s Big Bend coast in the early morning hours Sept. 2. The storm caused extensive damage across the state, knocking out power and flooding homes.
 
Delton Beall, Florida Baptist disaster relief director, reported that churches sustaining damage include Ozello Island Church in Crystal River, First Baptist Church of Horseshoe Beach and Blue Creek Baptist Church in Perry.
 
Dozens of Florida Baptist disaster relief volunteers have been deployed to provide help and hope to storm survivors on multiple fronts across the state.
 
Immediately after the storm made landfall, Florida Gov. Rick Scott thanked Florida Baptists on Friday, Sept. 2, for serving alongside the Florida Division of Emergency Management to help with emergency preparedness.
 
Within 24 hours after the storm, a feeding unit was stationed at Canopy Roads Baptist Church in Tallahassee to help meet hunger needs across the region. Volunteers began preparing between 1,400 and 2,000 meals per day for the American Red Cross and others from the community who arrive at the church in need. The Florida volunteers also provided food for senior adults living in a local nursing home for several days.
 
Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, visited the feeding unit on Tuesday and called the volunteers “amazing servants of God.”
 
“Our Florida Baptist disaster relief volunteers were serving meals by Saturday in Tallahassee,” Green said. “This immediate response demonstrates the love and compassion of Christ.”
 
After two days of assessors visiting the flooded communities along the Big Bend coast line from Keaton Beach to Homosassa, Florida disaster relief established a command center on Tuesday for cleanup and recovery response at First Baptist Church in Crystal River.
 
One of the biggest threats to homeowners after a flood is dangerous mold that starts growing in a home. Florida volunteers travel with “mud-out” trailers loaded with pressure washers, disinfectant, buckets, shovels and other related equipment. Mud, silt, damaged belongings and other debris must be removed along with any damp sheetrock. The process begins when floodwaters recede and the drying-out process has begun.
 
As many as 80 families with no insurance in the Crystal River area have contacted Florida Baptists for help.
 
Requests also have surfaced in other communities across the state that were hit by widespread winds and floods caused by Hermine. Local teams of trained Disaster Relief (DR) volunteers are providing cleanup and recovery in Tallahassee, Live Oak and Madison, and a mobile shower unit has been stationed in Crawfordville to help with needs in that community.
 
One Crystal River couple made professions of faith in Christ after the dedicated volunteers helped the couple and shared the gospel. Another accepted Christ after the Tallahassee crew shared their faith.
 
"Three new people have been added to the Kingdom of God today," Beall said. "It’s time to rejoice."
 
Beall noted that additional recovery sites may be established in coming days and another feeding site may be activated for other areas of the state as needs arise. He expects for the callout to extend for at least two weeks, although the Tallahassee feeding may end by Sept. 11.
 
This is the fourth callout for Florida Baptist DR volunteers during the past 12 months. Teams of Florida volunteers had been serving in Baton Rouge when Hermine hit. Some volunteers on their way to Louisiana stopped at the state line and others were called back home for deployment.
 
Florida Baptist disaster relief is underwritten by funds to the Maguire State Mission Offering, which purchases equipment and preparedness. But additional funds are needed to support massive call-outs of volunteers and equipment. To donate to the Florida Baptist DR relief effort send a check to the Florida Baptist Convention, 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32207. Designate “Florida disaster relief.” To make a donation by credit card, call 800-226-8584, att. Mike Gilley, ext. 3047, or Flor Ramirez, ext. 3100.
 
Green commended Florida Baptists for their commitment to provide help and hope in time of disaster. “Thank you Florida Baptists for your prayers, service and giving that enables this important ministry.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)
 

9/9/2016 10:42:55 AM by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments



Columbine martyr film seeks bold youth revival

September 9 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

When two fellow classmates approached Rachel Joy Scott on the lawn of Columbine High School and questioned her belief in Jesus, she affirmed her faith and was shot to death at point-blank range.


The story of her martyrdom has been told perhaps countless times in books, sermons and interviews in the past 20 years, but Pure Flix Entertainment hopes its upcoming film of Scott’s 17 years on earth inspires students nationally to accept and boldly proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior.
 
Beginning a month in advance of the Oct. 21 opening of I’m Not Ashamed, the Pure Flix Faith and Family Alliance ministry and ad hoc partners will kick off the national six-week “I Am Hope” evangelistic and discipleship movement targeting students.
 
Franklin Santagate, Pure Flix vice president of global strategic alliances, said the film is intended to start a youth-driven, multi-denominational movement for Christ.
 
“The common denominator will be young men and women who want to do something in their schools and in their communities for Jesus Christ and for one another,” Santagate said. “We believe with God’s help, it can activate a movement of young men and women, and that’s our prayer.”
 
Partnering with Pure Flix alliance in the outreach are the First Priority network of 2,600 school-based Christian youth groups, and See You At the Pole, an international, constitutionally-protected, student-led prayer outreach that encourages students of all ages to hold prayer meetings at flagpoles on school campuses and other venues.
 
Pure Flix alliance will launch I Am Hope at Sept. 28 See You at the Pole prayer gatherings, and end it the week of Oct. 30 with students serving in mission projects at such sites as rescue missions and food kitchens. Included in the outreach are a free app, a four-week curriculum, the movie viewing, evangelism and discipleship.
 
“We have just over 2,100 different youth ministries participating in I Am Hope and we see that growing every day,” Santagate told Baptist Press Sept. 1. “There are multiple denominations participating, including the Baptists. First Priority has become the conduit to connect with youth organizations. We’re also going to use the See You at the Pole [prayer gathering] as a connecting place.”
 
The curriculum is designed to equip, empower and engage students in sharing the gospel with classmates, friends, neighbors and family. At the close of the six-week emphasis, the app will provide weekly ministry updates to keep students engaged with the gospel, utilizing the popularity of smartphones.
 
“We want to have this app become a conduit to stay connected and give them great spiritual content,” Santagate said. “They don’t use laptops and desktops; they use phones. We’re using that tool to connect with them and we’re praying that many will stay connected as long as they think our message is relevant to them.”
 
Only 17 percent of an estimated 28 million teenagers in the U.S. attend church, leaving 23 million teens unchurched, First Priority Executive Director Steve Cherrico said on the I Am Hope website.
 
“We’re inviting you to join Rachel’s hope that her life would provide a chain reaction and reach this generation with the Good News of Jesus Christ,” Cherrico said in his brief message to youth. “You have the leadership and ability to reach this generation.”
 
The movie portrays the faith struggle of Scott, who was among 12 students and a teacher murdered by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo. on April 20, 1999. Students themselves, Harris and Klebold injured 21 others, planted bombs that did not detonate, and committed suicide.
 
“[Scott] grew up in a fatherless home. Even though she grew up in the church, her choices as a teenager were not the best choices,” Santagate said. “She ended up struggling with the party scene [etc.] – drinking, smoking. But [was] caught by her mom, and then sent away for the summer to ... her aunt Bea. At that point she accepts Christ but comes back not knowing what quite to do with it, even though she’s connected now to [a] small group.”
 
Scott experiences betrayal, depression, suicidal tendencies, heartbreak and other ills before finally sharing her faith with others.
 
“All these struggles are exactly what many, many teens go through. At all our screenings, we hear that over and over from the teenagers. ‘Man, this is exactly what we face,’” Santagate said. “We see it on the screening cards. ‘We’re so glad you show the reality of trying to be a Christian as a teenager facing these temptations.’”
 
Students who’ve screened the movie are inspired to impact their schools with the gospel, Santagate said. “I Am Hope came out of that expression of ‘Help us to do something.’”
 
I Am Hope resources are available at imnotashamedfilm.com/iamhope/.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 
 

9/9/2016 10:38:21 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Caswell summer staff member dies in wreck

September 8 2016 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

A pastor’s daughter known for her artistic and musical talent died Sept. 2 at age 17. Sarah Anne Johnson was involved in a one-car accident in Asheboro.


“Sarah was cheerful, talented in art and music, and committed to doing her best,” said Rick Holbrook, director of Fort Caswell, North Carolina’s Baptist Assembly on Oak Island. “She was grounded in her faith and had a true servant’s heart.” 
 
Johnson was the daughter of Pastor Arlen and Kimberly Johnson and a member of Grace Memorial Baptist Church in Troy, the church her father led. Johnson served on Caswell’s food service staff this summer during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Youth Weeks and other events and retreats.
 
“Sarah was a good worker, always cheerful and pitched in whenever and wherever needed to get the job done,” Holbrook said.
 
Holbrook told the Biblical Recorder that Johnson had attended camp in previous years and had served as volunteers with her family at Caswell.
 
“I think that the spiritual impact Caswell left on me is the most important,” she said in her application for summer employment at Caswell. “As a pastor’s daughter, I’m used to being ‘in church’ but Caswell was so much more about me getting closer to God than just being obligated to be at church and for that I’m grateful.”
 
Johnson was in her senior year at Fayetteville Street Christian School in Asheboro. She was on the school’s volleyball team and in the senior choir. She played piano and guitar.
 
A report in The Courier-Tribune indicated Johnson was pronounced dead on the scene. She was driving a 1997 Ford pickup in rain on a wet road. She crossed the center line, hit a ditch, overturned and struck a tree on the side of the road. The North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper did not indicate that weather played a factor in the incident in his report, but speed could have been a factor. Johnson was wearing a seatbelt.
 
The Courier-Tribune article said Ash-Rand Rescue, Franklinville Fire and Rescue and Randolph County EMS responded to the scene, along with the trooper.
 
She is survived by her parents and sisters, Carrie Grace Johnson and Hannah Joy Johnson, all of Franklinville; and grandparents, Brenda Johnson of Asheboro and Daniel and Ann Morris of Troy.
 
Memorials may be made to N.C. Assembly at Fort Caswell, 100 Caswell Beach Rd., Oak Island, NC 28465

9/8/2016 11:02:23 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Bathroom case appeal: It’s not about gender

September 8 2016 by Emily Belz, WORLD News Service

A Virginia school board in late August asked the Supreme Court to hear its case concerning gender and bathrooms, but its legal strategy in the filing doesn’t focus on gender issues. Instead the board argues in its cert petition (the formal request for the court to take a case) that the court should hear the case in order to decide how much power federal officials have.
 
The legal doctrine the Gloucester County School Board raises is obscure but could have more reach than the dispute over access to bathrooms and locker rooms.
 
In January 2015, a Department of Education official sent a letter telling the Gloucester County School Board that under Title IX the board must treat transgender students “consistent with their gender identity” in locker rooms and bathrooms. A federal district court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals treated that letter as authoritative, ruling against the school board.
 
The school board argues in this appeal to the Supreme Court that the letter doesn’t have authority because it didn’t go through the regulatory process. The letter “is about as informal an agency document as one can imagine,” the board wrote. “The letter was not publicized; there is no evidence it was approved by the head of an agency; and it was signed only by a relatively low-level federal functionary.”
 
The school board’s petition urges the court to revisit the Auer doctrine, a legal doctrine under which courts defer to federal agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous regulations “unless that interpretation is plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation.” The conservative justices on the court have regularly criticized the Auer doctrine.
 
“Auer deference effectively gives an agency the power to invade the province of both Congress and the courts in determining federal law on all kinds of issues of interest to all kinds of constituencies,” the board argues.
 
Title IX is the 1972 statute that prevents sex discrimination but allows schools to separate bathrooms and locker rooms “on the basis of sex.” The federal official in the letter to the school board said “sex” meant anyone’s gender identity, and the Obama administration in May sent a similar letter to all schools receiving federal funding, saying schools must allow students to use bathrooms based on their gender identity.
 
“That same strategy could easily be adopted by a future administration with radically different views,” the school board argues. “Indeed, it could be deployed to effectively amend in a different direction, and without any meaningful judicial review, not only Title IX, but also other federal statutes dealing with matters such as healthcare, the environment, labor relations, and financial-services regulation.”
 
Last week, a federal district judge in Texas put a halt to the Obama administration’s bathroom directive, ruling the federal government “bypassed” the normal regulatory process and that the agencies should not receive deference under the Auer doctrine. That ruling applied to all federally funded schools.
 
“These recent developments highlight the urgent need for this court to grant this petition,” the school board argues, referring to the Texas decision. The Virginia case is the first on this issue to reach the high court.
 
Thanks to a stay from the Supreme Court, the Virginia school board is not required to change its bathroom and locker room policies while the case is pending. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the stay. Justice Stephen Breyer said he voted for the stay “as a courtesy,” indicating he didn’t necessarily side with the conservative justices on the matter.
 
The school’s petition emphasizes it tried to accommodate Gavin Grimm (“G.G.” in the case documents), the student at the center of the case who was born a girl but now identifies as a boy and is undergoing hormone treatment.
 
The school began to allow Grimm to use the boys’ bathroom until parents complained. Then the board met and passed a resolution keeping the sexes separate in locker rooms and bathrooms, but agreeing to build additional single-stall unisex bathrooms that would be open to all students. Grimm said the unisex bathrooms “make me feel even more stigmatized and isolated” and later filed a lawsuit against the school board.
 
“At bottom, then, this case is not really about whether G.G. should be allowed to access the boys’ restrooms,” the school board concluded. “Fundamentally, this case is about whether an agency employee can impose that policy in a piece of private correspondence. If the court looks the other way, then the agency officials in this case – and in a host of others to come – will have become a law unto themselves.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Emily Belz writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

9/8/2016 10:59:06 AM by Emily Belz, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Eternity meshes with flood relief in Louisiana

September 8 2016 by Baptist Message & Baptist Press staff

Floodwater stopped two feet short of the church building where Bethlehem Baptist was sheltering 350 survivors of the onslaught of south Louisiana’s flooding.

Baptist Message photo
A mountain of debris lies outside Amite Baptist Church in Denham Springs, La., following mud-out work after record flooding. The church is one of dozens in south Louisiana for which partnerships are envisioned with one or more healthy churches to aid in its recovery.


The reprieve gave student minister Jase Shawley a chance to deliver a Sunday sermon, the day after the survivors’ sudden evacuation Aug. 13 – a reprieve that affected eternity for some of the evacuees.
 
Southern Baptist relief efforts, such as Bethlehem Baptist’s shelter in Albany, extend to food preparation and chaplaincy for survivors and first-responders as well as mud-out and cleanup for flooded homeowners and churches, now totaling 155,000-plus residences in 20 Louisiana parishes and, for Louisiana Baptists, 70 churches.
 
Among other initiatives: the provision of 100 fans and 45 dehumidifiers distributed through Louisiana State University’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry led by Steve Masters, whose home was ravaged by nearly six feet of floodwater.
 
The fans and dehumidifiers made their way to Baton Rouge from Bogart, Ga., where collegiate minister Sky Pratt at Prince Avenue Baptist Church initiated the project.
 
Masters described the fans and dehumidifiers as among “the flooded homeowner’s greatest needs. ... It is of critical importance in rebuilding to have the moisture out of the studs and walls of a house. Any type [of unit] will work.” Masters, who continues coordinating the collection, can be reached at 225-964-0830.
 
And the Louisiana Baptist Convention is continuing its efforts to partner flood-stricken churches with healthy churches for recovery and rebuilding. For information, go to louisianabaptists.org/churches-can-help-churches or call 318-446-3242.

Baptist Message photo
Jase Shawley shares a Sunday message with flooding evacuees Aug. 14 in Bethlehem Baptist Church’s gymnasium in Albany, La.


“Please, please come,” Gevan Spinney, president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, urged Southern Baptist volunteers in comments to the Baptist Message, the convention’s newsjournal.
 
“Thank you for what you’ve done in March in response to the floods in the northern part of our state,” Spinney, pastor of First Baptist Church in Haughton, said. “Please come and give to help us help the state recover from this [mid-August] flood. We need you.”
 
Spinney added, “Those yellow shirts [worn by Baptist volunteers] are a reminder throughout our state that we are not alone in this.”
 
For Jase Shawley, the shelter at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Albany extended beyond flood relief to spiritual celebration.
 
Shawley had wrapped up his sermon to evacuees when a church member relayed a request from a nearly-blind woman and avowed atheist named Cindy.
 
“She really wants to speak with you about her salvation,” Shawley was told. Later that Aug. 14 afternoon, he shared the plan of salvation with Cindy, who surrendered to Christ as her Lord and Savior.
 
“Cindy told me she didn’t know what had happened [in turning to Christ] but it was something like she had never felt before,” Shawley recounted. “She told me she had grown up being taught God didn’t exist. But now her heart was telling her He was real.

Baptist Message photo
James Carson looks at a Bible that was left untouched as floodwater filled the worship center of Northside Baptist Church in Denham Springs, La.


“Watching somebody who literally had nothing to do with any form of church or [with] praying – until that morning – and then watching her say, ‘Lord, I need You,’ just hours later was beautiful.”
 
For seven days, the church was immersed in a ministry of feeding evacuees and sharing the love of Christ – even seeing an impact after the shelter closed Aug. 19 when a number of evacuees returned for Sunday morning worship Aug. 21, with 11 coming forward during the altar call.
 
“It was beautiful to see 11 people come down and say they are giving their lives to Christ,” Shawley said. “As much as it was a blessing for them,” he added, “it was a blessing for us. This was something our church needed to see, that He can move mountains. ... We were truly the body of Christ to multitudes who needed a touch of His hand.”
 
In Denham Springs, interim pastor James Carson at Northside Baptist Church voiced a call not only for recovery help but also for soul-winners.
 
The church, where most of the 80-plus people who attend on Sundays are age 70 and above, was invaded by nearly four feet of floodwater.
 
“We as a church are looking at this opportunity not only of ministering to the physical needs of people but more importantly to the spiritual needs and trying to win people all over this community to Jesus Christ,” Carson told the Baptist Message. “And we welcome any soul-winners to come and join us in this effort. ...
 
“There are many in our community who are unchurched and unsaved,” he said. “We want our church to have a positive impact on those who are hurting in order to build relationships ... that will result in sharing the gospel message of salvation to the unsaved and to reclaim those believers who are unchurched.”
 
For volunteer chaplain Wayne Barber, the same spot in a Lafayette restaurant became a special place for a team from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
 
“There were three people in a row at the same booth, three days in a row, all accepting Christ,” Barber said. “It was amazing how we were going down the road and the Holy Spirit nudged us to go in there, even though we really hadn’t planned to at first.” The team’s witness yielded nearly 40 professions of faith during their week of outreach in the flood zone.
 
“Every night when we go to bed we pray the Lord would prepare divine appointments the next day,” Barber said. “When we meet up, we have the strength to be the Christians we can be.”
 
Even a robbery failed to deflate the resolve of Crossgate Church to aid its community of Robert.
 
A piece of equipment used to load supplies for delivery, a 521 Loader valued at $2,500, was stolen from the church on Aug. 18.
 
“We have 10,000 houses that flooded in Tangipahoa Parish and this piece of equipment was needed to help them,” pastor Louis Husser said.
 
A sister church’s deacon chairman, Carl Richardson of Lee Valley Baptist in Loranger who works for a tractor supply and equipment company, heard about the situation and contacted Lee Valley’s pastor about the church providing funding for a new loader.
 
Richardson described the gesture as a way to pay forward how a number of churches had aided Lee Valley when it was about to close its doors in early 2015 and had $200 in the bank. The church’s membership has risen to 40 after sliding to 15.
 
“Our church was able to put our arms around a sister church and be a blessing to them,” Richardson said. “[W]hat an awesome feeling it was to know God allowed us to be used, and we give Him the glory for it.”
 
Information about the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s relief initiatives, as well as a link for providing financial assistance, can be accessed at LouisianaBaptists.org/DisasterRelief or the Baptist Message website, BaptistMessage.com.
 
Protocol for disaster relief volunteer deployment by the Louisiana convention entails completion of a sign-up form posted at louisianabaptists.org/volunteerDR. An area coordinator then will contact groups/individuals about key locations where assistance is needed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston with reporting by Will Hall, Philip Timothy and Brian Blackwell of the Baptist Message, baptistmessage.com, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
 

9/8/2016 10:41:10 AM by Baptist Message & Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



ISIS sends child slaves on suicide missions

September 8 2016 by Anna K. Poole, WORLD News Service

Though Turkish officials are still investigating who is responsible for a recent suicide attack that killed 54 people at a Kurdish wedding, they initially thought the bomber was a child between the ages of 12 and 14, likely linked to Islamic State (ISIS).
 
Whether the claim proves true, evidence shows ISIS exploits boys and girls as bombers, combatants, and sex slaves.
 
ISIS reportedly keeps an army of child soldiers, indoctrinating them at ISIS-run schools and exposing them to grisly bloodshed. The group routinely releases video footage of these so-called “cubs of the caliphate” shooting and beheading victims. When these miniature militants are finished training, ISIS fighters deliver them straight to the front lines. Or, in many cases, child soldiers are strapped with explosives and sent on suicide missions.
 
Some children have volunteered to join Islamic extremists. “When [ISIS] came to my town, … I liked what they are wearing, they were like one herd. They had a lot of weapons. So I spoke to them, and decided to go to their training camp,” one child told Human Rights Watch, according to BBC.
 
But the majority of child soldiers don’t volunteer. Human rights groups say poor, marginalized, and refugee children are particularly at risk for being kidnapped by Islamic militant groups. And child soldiers are not always boys – over 3,000 ethnic minority Yazidi women and girls are enslaved by ISIS militants, according to The New York Times. ISIS fighters often buy and sell teenage girls for “as little as a pack of cigarettes,” says Zainab Bangura, who in April interviewed a number of female escapees from insurgent-held areas. Sometimes, young girls are driven into combat, but they are most often held for domestic and sexual slavery.
 
In central Africa, ISIS ally Boko Haram is increasingly using children as suicide bombers. According to UNICEF, one in five Boko Haram-claimed suicide attacks across Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad are carried out by children – mostly girls.
 
But ISIS isn’t the only terror group forcing children into the flame of combat.
 
Armed groups in South Sudan have enlisted at least 650 child soldiers this year alone, and approximately 16,000 since the country’s civil war began in 2013. Like many child soldiers across the globe, Sudanese children take up the deadliest battle posts.
 
“If you go to the front line, two things would happen: either you will kill someone or you will be killed,” a 16-year old former child soldier in South Sudan told The Associated Press. “If you are afraid, the commander will beat you.”
 
In the Congo, guerilla fighters view child soldiers as both a commodity and a talisman.
 
“There is a perception that children are purer and [as such have] magical protective powers,” Milfrid Tonheim, a researcher who interviewed hundreds of former child soldiers in East Congo, told Women in the World. “In reality these children are living shields who protect the commanders by fighting, but also often take bullets for [them].”
 
Worldwide, it is illegal to recruit anyone under 18 for military service, and recruitment of a child under 15 is considered a war crime by the International Criminal Court. Though the exact global tally of child soldiers is unknown, Amnesty International reports a United Nations estimate of 300,000 children actively involved in conflict in 30 countries.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Anna K. Poole writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

9/8/2016 10:34:19 AM by Anna K. Poole, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Phyllis Schlafly, defender of family & unborn, dies

September 8 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the conservative group Eagle Forum who was known for her decades-long advocacy on behalf of the traditional family, died Sept. 5. She was 92.

Eagle Forum photo
Phyllis Schlafly


Called a friend and “profound influence” by leading Southern Baptist women, Schlafly opposed the feminist movement for more than 40 years. An attorney, speaker and mother of six, she also publicly opposed abortion, same-sex marriage and communism.
 
In addition to authoring or editing 20 books, Schlafly was a columnist, radio commentator and television commentator.
 
Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, told Baptist Press (BP) Schlafly was “a friend and mentor to me and thousands of other women over the decades.”
 
“I learned from her a sense of priority for family commitments, the value of perseverance and the conviction that ultimately we were all accountable to God for upholding the creation order and the sanctity of life,” said Patterson, a recipient in 1987 of the Eagle Forum’s Eagle Award, which honors “citizen volunteers for their dedicated work at every level of government,” according to the Eagle Forum website.
 
Susie Hawkins, wife of GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins, called Schlafly “a profound influence on the American conservative movement.”
 
“Brilliant, fearless and nobody’s fool, Mrs. Schlafly was a fierce defender of the rights of the unborn and other dignity of life causes,” Hawkins told BP in written comments. “As a pioneer of the movement, she unleashed conservative women’s voices onto the political battlefield during the tumultuous 70s. She will be remembered with great respect and admiration.”
 
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Schlafly was a chief leader in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution despite its 90-percent approval by Congress and ratification by 35 state legislatures.

SWBTS photo
In 1987, Dorothy Patterson received the Eagle Forum’s Eagle Award for “dedicated work” in influencing government.


The ERA would have barred denial of “equality of rights under the law” based on sex in federal and state legislation. Schlafly told a 1979 seminar hosted by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission (CLC), however, it would likely be interpreted by courts to block commonsense laws supporting traditional family structure.
 
“Why would anybody want to tie our hands so that we can no longer give certain [legal] helps to the wife, the mother, and the widow, in order to compensate for the natural differences that women have babies, that women don’t have the same physical strength as men, and that women live longer than men?” Schlafly said according to a published copy of her address. “There are these differences between the sexes. And we should be entitled to have laws that respect those differences.”
 
At the time, BP noted that “some questioners from the floor took exception to some of Mrs. Schlafly’s points.”
 
Following the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence, however, opinions among SBC leaders seemed to change regarding Schlafly.
 
Upon her death, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the CLC’s successor organization, recommended via Twitter a video from the early 1970s in which a representative from the National Organization for Women “clearly underestimated” Schlafly in a debate.
 
Patterson said in written comments, “Phyllis was a committed Roman Catholic, and I am a devoted Baptist; but together we have been on a mission to protect the family and life itself in the midst of a world spinning out of control morally and spiritually. From our first meeting in the early 1980s in Washington D.C., she remembered my name. She inspired me to take the fight against the ERA to Southern Baptists and gave me specific assignments on how to do that.”
 
In 1980, the SBC adopted a resolution which “reaffirm[ed] the biblical role which stresses the equal worth but not always the sameness of function of women” and stated the convention did “not endorse the Equal Rights Amendment.”
 
Patterson called Schlafly “an example of the victory awaiting her winning combination of steel and velvet.”
 
“I salute her life and ministry,” Patterson said, “and bid her adieu with sorrow and with the reminder that as long as I breathe and live, there is a fight to be fought for all that is dear – and that includes the upcoming election. God help us as women to evaluate the candidates – even if the lesser of two unsatisfactory choices. We must vote and keep on fighting for what is right. We owe that to our friend and co-laborer Phyllis Schlafly.”
 
In addition to her six children, Schlafly is survived by 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband John Fred Schlafly.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

9/8/2016 10:23:23 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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