September 2017

Court urged to protect cake artist’s religious freedom

September 12 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Forcing an artist to create a cake for a same-sex wedding in contradiction to his beliefs is a “de facto religious test” that violates the First Amendment, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has told the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
The ERLC – joined by seven other organizations and an individual – urged the high court to reverse a lower-court ruling against Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop in a friend-of-the-court brief filed Sept. 7. The justices agreed in June to accept the appeal and are expected to hear oral arguments this fall in one of the cases at the center of the growing legal and cultural skirmish between religious liberty and sexual liberty.
 
Phillips, who is a Christian, declined to design and decorate a cake for the wedding of two men because of his belief marriage is only between a male and a female. But he told them he would make and sell them all other baked items. After the men filed a complaint with the state, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission ordered Phillips to create custom cakes for same-sex ceremonies or quit designing wedding cakes. The commission also ordered him to re-educate his employees on complying with the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act (CADA), which it found Phillips had violated.
 
When Phillips appealed, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the commission’s order, and the Colorado Supreme Court declined in 2016 to review the decision.
 
ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press (BP), “No person should be required to use their gifts and calling in a way that violates their fundamental beliefs, and the Supreme Court’s responsibility is to protect Americans from governments and agencies that demand this.”
 
Freedom of conscience “matters to every American, regardless of belief,” he said in written comments. “A state that can force some individuals to violate their personal convictions is a state that will eventually force others to as well.”
 
He prays the high court “will once again uphold conscience freedom and personal liberty, and that coercion would be thwarted and replaced by a public square that shows mutual respect for all its citizens,” Moore said.
 
Joining the ERLC on the brief – which was written by Michael Whitehead, a Southern Baptist lawyer in Kansas City, Mo. – were the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention, American Association of Christian Schools, John Paul the Great Catholic University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Spring Arbor University, William Jessup University, Jews for Religious Liberty and Omar Ahmed Shahin, a Muslim imam.
 
The ERLC’s brief was one of at least 45 filed with the Supreme Court in support of Phillips, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents him in the case. Among others calling for the justices to rule in Phillips’ favor were the Trump administration’s Department of Justice, 86 members of Congress, 20 states, Becket, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Christian Legal Society and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Jonathan Whitehead, also a Southern Baptist lawyer in the Kansas City, Mo., area and the son of Michael Whitehead, wrote the brief filed by members of Congress.
 
In a similar case, the ERLC and others urged the Supreme Court in an August brief to review an opinion against Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington state florist who declined to design flowers for a same-sex wedding. ADF, which also represents Stutzman, has asked the justices to consolidate the Southern Baptist woman’s appeal with Phillips’ case.
 
In its brief on behalf of Phillips, the ERLC and its fellow signers say the lower court’s decision imposes a “de facto religious test” that has the effect of “barring from this craft” those who agree with his beliefs about marriage.
 
They “face a terrible choice,” the brief says. “Either they obey the State, which compels them to use their talents to design and create a customized cake that celebrates a same-sex marriage despite their contrary religious beliefs – and disobey God’s ‘divine precepts’ ... – or they disobey the State and face crushing state penalties and litigation costs.
 
“No American should have to satisfy a government official that he holds the ‘right’ beliefs to keep his business or to practice his profession,” according to the brief.
 
The brief contends religious free exercise, protected in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, extends not just to religious bodies but to “individuals and businesses in the marketplace as well.”
 
The Colorado Court of Appeals rejected Phillips’ distinction “between creating a custom cake for a same-sex marriage and serving other baked goods to gay customers,” the brief says. “The court thus equated a good-faith refusal to create a custom wedding cake with anti-gay bigotry.
 
“There is no real question that [Phillips’] objection to celebrating a same-sex marriage is an ‘exercise of religion’ protected by the First Amendment.”
 
The high court needs to reverse the court of appeals’ ruling because the judgment against Phillips is part of a “troubling trend of religious tests” involving wedding vendors, as well as other occupations, the brief contends. It cites the experiences of a graduate student in counseling, pharmacists and a judge as victims of “a legal mandate penalizing or excluding a person from her chosen occupation because of religious belief or expression.”
 
The case is Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

9/12/2017 8:22:40 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Irma response to begin; Harvey relief work continues

September 12 2017 by Josie Bingham, NAMB

Mark MacDonald walked around his Jacksonville home Sept. 11 assessing the damage done by Hurricane Irma.
 
“Our roof is leaking and a few trees are down,” MacDonald said. “I was curious as to how our neighbors were doing. Their garden was completely torn to shreds. It’s not ideal, but it really could have been worse for us. We’re all thankful to God for that.”

ABC News screen capture


Sept. 11, MacDonald will be working on his own home and aiding his neighbors. But as the sun rises Sept. 12, MacDonald will help lead teams of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers and trained experts in feeding units, mud-out and more.
 
As the strategic communications catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, MacDonald said he is “overseeing all our communications strategy for Hurricane Irma. Just like the early response in Harvey, we’ve anticipated Hurricane Irma and the response she’d require ahead of time. I’ve met with our disaster relief teams over the weeks. We are ready to provide 500,000 meals a day in the southern parts of Florida. Feeding is the first thing we will be doing Tuesday.”
 
Preparations are being made by the Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania/South Jersey, New York and Virginia Baptist conventions to respond to the needs of hurricane survivors as Irma continued to crawl up Florida and into south Georgia.
 
Counties in northern Florida as well in south Georgia were prepared for the worst. MacDonald was grateful that many reports they’ve received from Southern Baptist pastors hosting hurricane survivors came back better than expected.
 
“We’ve had some pastors call to say they need hot meals and laundry units,” MacDonald said. “Others who are hosting in the southernmost parts of the state have asked for cleaning crews and volunteers to help repair homes and clear roads and yards.”
 
According to the National Weather Service, residents of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas will continue to see tropical storm-like conditions Sept. 12 with flash flood warnings for counties along those states’ coasts.
 
“Tuesday, we expect our Southern Baptist volunteers will be able to get into the southern parts of Florida to respond to needs and have gospel conversations,” MacDonald said. “The rain stopped Monday. Our work can finally begin.”
 
David Melber, North American Mission Board (NAMB) vice president of Send Relief, has been working with NAMB’s disaster relief partners, SBDR directors in several states, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and others to map out unique response plans for hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
 
“Every hurricane is a challenge, and none of them are alike,” Melber said. “That means every response is different. Harvey stayed in one place for days and dropped 52 inches of rain. This slowed down every organization’s ability to respond but now we are in full response mode.”
 
As of Monday, Sept 11, Hurricane Harvey SBDR response has witnessed 29 professions of faith and initiated 508 gospel conversations; provided 444,765 meals, 7,240 showers and 4,534 loads of laundry; and completed 109 construction jobs including 47 roof repairs.
 
The work is not finished in Texas and has just begun in Florida.
 
“For both hurricanes, we will need generous partners to help us with the significant expenses related to responding to these events,” Melber said. “Then we need volunteers that will commit to long-term help meeting the needs of the communities impacted in Texas and in Florida. Please continue to pray for the areas that have already been impacted.”
 
For donation and volunteer information for Hurricane Harvey response, click here or here for Hurricane Irma response.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Josie Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.)
 

9/12/2017 8:13:35 AM by Josie Bingham, NAMB | with 0 comments



‘God sent them,’ flooded homeowner says of Baptists

September 11 2017 by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB

Paul Matlock, 73, was sitting in his yard, staring into the distance, overwhelmed, when Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers arrived.

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Neal Allison of Central Baptist Church in Thornton, Texas, carries a flood-damaged door to a debris pile at the Houston home of Paul and Diana Matlock’s home which was inundated with more than six feet of water from Hurricane Harvey in mid-August. Allison’s unit is with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.


Floodwater from Hurricane Harvey had climbed more than six feet inside his home; it was chest high when he managed to escape with his wife Diana, 63, and their toy fox terrier. They had flooded twice before but never this badly. They knew when they left that they would probably lose almost everything they owned. And the sight when they returned confirmed it.
 
They had just finished restoring their home following last year’s “Tax Day” flood. A granite countertop and brand-new stainless steel appliances lined the kitchen where Diana Matlock enjoyed cooking for friends and family.
 
Little is salvageable now.
 
“I spent three days trying to figure out what I had done to make God so mad at me,” Matlock said as he watched SBDR volunteers carry items to the curb. “I’ve lived a pretty moral life. And [the hurricane] affected all of my immediate family and my wife’s family in Louisiana.”
 
His spirits were immediately lifted when he saw that he had not been forgotten by God – in fact, he was being helped yet again. When the SBDR trucks roll into the driveway, his first thought was to grasp the volunteers’ hands and join them in a prayer of thanksgiving.
 
“I’m convinced God sent them here,” Matlock said.
 
For thousands upon thousands of homeowners like Matlock in Houston and along the Texas Gulf Coast, Southern Baptist volunteers are on-site or making plans to be there to add their labors and share their faith.
 
Through the North American Mission Board (NAMB), information on volunteering or making a donation can be found at namb.net/Harvey.
 
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), meanwhile, is working to mobilize churches and volunteers through what is being called Texas Relief (TXR), online at sbtexas.com/Harvey.
 
TXR is “specifically a part of sending volunteers to areas that need help who are not disaster relief-trained,” explained Lance Crowell, SBTC church ministry associate who is helping lead the initiative.
 
Crowell said the SBTC is aiming to mirror how the North American Mission Board mobilizes churches and volunteers through its Send Relief ministry.
 
“What NAMB is thinking nationally about Send Relief we were trying to develop our own avenue in Texas,” Crowell said.
 
The SBTC also has organized a “Buckets for Harvey” effort to fill five-gallon buckets with cleaning supplies for flood survivors. Information is available also at sbtexas.com/Harvey.

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Sean Curry of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston pulls flood-damaged sheetrock from Paul and Diana Matlock’s home, battered by Hurricane Harvey’s 51 inches of rainfall in mid-August.


The Baptist General Convention of Texas, a second state convention in the state that partners with the Southern Baptist Convention, also has a webpage recapping volunteer and giving channels, texasbaptists.org/harvey-response. Included are deployment opportunities through Texas Baptist Men and through the convention’s BOUNCE student ministry.
 
At the Matlock home in Houston, SBDR unit leader Brian Batchelder, whose unit is with the SBTC, said the couple knew what needed to be done but had no idea how to do it alone.
 
“We provided the how,” said Batchelder, who attends Broadview Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas. “People need to see Jesus in the middle of a crisis. That’s why we come – so people can see what Jesus means to us and how He can help them.”
 
When Matlock teasingly asked volunteers not to scratch his ruined truck, Batchelder knew the homeowner was beginning to find hope.
 
A smaller moment encouraged volunteers Linda Parker and Glenda Warren, both of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas. When they arrived with the SBDR mud-out team, they first found Matlock almost in tears and despondent. No one had touched anything, and the stench of mud and mold was overwhelming, even with a mask.
 
The only thing Matlock wanted to find was his father’s 1942 class ring from Oklahoma Baptist University. Matlock kept it on his nightstand in a handmade wooden box, but everything in the room had been scattered by the floodwater. Together, they scoured the room, finding the ring as well as a large container filled with photographs that somehow had been untouched by the flooding.
 
“Little things like that are irreplaceable,” Parker said. And, she said, “Just the fact that someone was doing something took the burden off his shoulders.”
 
SBDR volunteers say they try to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus, easing the spiritual burden as well as the financial through providing cleanup aid at no cost.
 
“These folks have lost everything,” Batchelder said. “It just breaks my heart to take all their stuff to the curb and to have to pay someone to do that … .”
 
Batchelder’s voice broke as he recalled his first volunteer experience, following Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. At the end of every project, he and the volunteers signed a Bible and gifted it to the homeowners as a tangible reminder that they are never alone.

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Crystal Fryer of Jersey Village Baptist Church in Houston throws flood-damaged debris onto a pile at the home of Paul and Diana Matlock which took on more than six feet of water from Hurricane Harvey.


“This isn’t about us – it’s about Jesus,” he said, gazing at the gold-shirted volunteers working in the Matlocks’ house and debris-laden yard. “We’ll be gone, but He’ll still be here.”
 
Matlock and his wife were unable to escape with anything but a few pieces of clothing and family mementos. What little remains of flood survivors’ lives is under constant threat by looters. Three homes have been looted in the Matlocks’ neighborhood, but local law enforcement has increased patrols in the area, and Matlock believes his home will be safe.
 
SBDR volunteers expect to be stationed in Texas for many months as assessment and recovery continues.
 
The scope of the devastation is staggering. Houston is the fourth-largest city in the nation, bigger than the state of New Jersey with a population of more than 2.3 million within city limits and 6.5 million throughout the metro area. Across the state, Hurricane Harvey affected more than 6.8 million people in 18 counties. As the days pass, the damage and death totals continue to rise.
 
So, too, do the number of volunteers. In Matlock’s area, SBDR has partnered with Champion Forest Baptist Church. A church-wide call for volunteers supplemented the ranks by more than 2,000 people. Together, SBDR and Champion Forest have cleaned more than 400 homes, with many more scheduled for the days to come.
 
The impact of Hurricane Harvey remains mind-numbing.
 
As the Category 4 storm crept across Texas in mid-August at an agonizing 2 miles per hour, the rain – more than 51 inches – kept falling, and the rivers and bayous kept rising.
 
The water rose quickly in downtown Houston, climbing to almost touch interstate exit signs and inundating local businesses, killing more than 70 people, necessitating more than 75,000 rescues and causing up to $190 billion in damage. An estimated 27 trillion gallons of rain – enough to fill the Houston Astrodome 85,000 times – fell in Texas and Louisiana over a six-day span.
 
In Houston’s neighborhoods, the flood’s toll becomes heartbreakingly clear. Many homes remain underwater and rescue efforts continue. In locations where the water has receded, fetid muck replaces it, slickening the floors and coating the walls. As the days pass, a mounting pile of debris lines the curbs, almost obscuring the homes from which it came.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carmen K. Sisson writes for the North American Mission Board. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this report.)
 

9/11/2017 10:46:42 AM by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB | with 0 comments



Alabama coach finds Christ, renews football zeal

September 11 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Former University of Alabama football coach Mike DuBose says his two favorite words in the Bible are “but God” in Ephesians 2:4.

Submitted photo
Mike DuBose, center, found Christ toward the end of a tumultuous four-year tenure as head football coach at the University of Alabama.


He believes the description of spiritual transformation those words introduce mirrors the work of God he has experienced, beginning toward the end of a trying stint nearly two decades ago as leader of one of college football’s winningest programs.
 
“If it wasn’t for the ‘but God’ moment,” DuBose, 64, told Baptist Press (BP), “there wouldn’t have been a rebirth and old things passing away and all things becoming new.”
 
From personal and football-related challenges in 1999-2000 that led to DuBose’s forced resignation at Alabama, he has emerged with a personal relationship with Jesus, a strengthened marriage and a ministry to young football players.
 
His wife Polly said she and her husband are “an example of what God can do to put your life back together [and] make you new people.”
 

Coming to a ‘crossroads’

DuBose initially professed faith in Christ as a high school student, but he was not discipled and says he may not truly have been born again. So he drifted from Christ through nearly 30 years as a defensive lineman at Alabama, an assistant and head high school coach and an assistant coach in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and National Football League (NFL).
 
He was hired as Alabama’s head coach in 1996, leading the Tide to a 1999 Southeastern Conference title, an Orange Bowl appearance and earning Southeastern Conference (SEC) Coach of the Year honors. Yet he also experienced turmoil. Reports in 1999 of personal misconduct were followed by a 3-8 record in 2000, and DuBose was forced to resign.
 
“I was angry when I got fired,” DuBose said. “But the reality is I should have gotten fired.”
 
Unbeknownst to many, however, God began to work in DuBose’s life during the 2000 season.
 
“We just came to that crossroads, and knew I was definitely going down the wrong road, that road that leads to death and hell for eternity ... At that time, I recommitted my life to Christ,” he said.
 
Then he paused: “Maybe recommitted is not the right word. It may have been, committed my life for really the first time. I got into the Word and built a relationship. And that was a journey. It was a process. It wasn’t an overnight and total change.”
 
Initially, DuBose thought his commitment to Christ meant he needed to deemphasize football. But during a year away from the game in south Alabama with his wife, he was walking by a lake and sensed the Holy Spirit saying, “I never asked you to love football less. I just asked you to love Me more.”
 
DuBose responded by telling God he wanted to coach again – at any level God opened doors.
 

‘Football as a ministry’

Submitted photo
Mike and Polly DuBose have experienced renewal in their marriage and walk with Christ during the two decades following his head coaching career at the University of Alabama.


Since then, DuBose has held multiple positions on high school and college coaching staffs, including as head coach of Division III Millsaps College in Mississippi and defensive line coach at the University of Memphis. Today he is a volunteer linebackers coach at Opp (Ala.) High School, his alma mater.
 
While DuBose has done some public speaking about his spiritual journey, his main ministries are to the young men he coaches and to his family.
 
“I was given a passion for” football, DuBose said. “And I think if you’re given a passion, it’s a calling of God on your life to do it. I see football as a ministry.”
 
Polly DuBose recalled a former player who experienced challenging childhood and teen years before being mentored by her husband. Now that player is beginning his final season of football at University of Alabama at Birmingham and is “an incredible young man of faith,” she said.
 
“There are so many wonderful stories like that,” Polly said.
 
In mentoring young men, Coach DuBose emphasizes the need for husbands to be the spiritual leaders of their homes. He also sees spiritual leadership at home as his top ministry.
 
Polly noted, “In the really hard places of his life, Mike took the high road. He started reading and studying God’s word and walking in obedience. I would watch Mike daily get up early every morning to spend time in prayer for his family. When we all walked out the door to start the day, we had been covered in prayer. Mike has become ‘a man after God’s own heart’ and he has my utmost respect.”
 
DuBose said he regrets forcing his wife to be their family’s spiritual leader for years and expressed thanks she stayed with him through challenging times. He called leading his family “the greatest responsibility and greatest privilege I have today.”
 
Polly said her family’s spiritual journey illustrates that “even when you make mistakes in your life and all seems lost, it doesn’t stop The Father from loving you. He desires to have a personal relationship with you. God will meet you where you are and will give you a new heart and life in Him. That’s just what He did for us.”
 
In 2008, The New York Times seemed to note something of DuBose’s newfound joy, stating he – then head coach at Millsaps – looked “as sunny as the weather” on a clear fall day and that the turmoil of Alabama “seemed a distant memory.”
 

A ‘much bigger’ game

Reflecting back on his spiritual journey, DuBose said “football is a wonderful, wonderful game. But it is just that: it is a game. There is a game that is much bigger, much more important. That is the game of life, which leads to either heaven or hell. When we shake it all down, we’re all on one of two teams. We’re either on God’s team or we’re on Satan’s team.”
 
He added, “My family and I are choosing Christ.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

9/11/2017 10:32:21 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Man finds renewal after prison for church burnings

September 11 2017 by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist

Ben Moseley is a little older, the creases in his face a little deeper since he and two of his buddies set fire to some Baptist churches in Alabama on a night of binge drinking 11 years ago.

Submitted photo


He watched 10 birthdays pass while he was behind bars. He woke up every morning of his 20s shaking off the emotions of dreams where everything was normal – life before the day he flicked that lighter. The things he’d done, the things he’d lost and the things he’d taken from others were always in the back of his mind.
 
“I was told that my life was over, that I had no hope, no dreams or ambitions,” he said. “My slow death had begun.”
 
And from the outside looking in, that might’ve looked pretty true.
 

Spinning out of control

Moseley was a freshman at Birmingham-Southern College majoring in music and theater the night that police rushed into his dorm room and ended his youth with some very adult consequences.
 
“Music was my dream,” he said. “I loved it.”
 
But that dream would be put on hold down a country road in Bibb County in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 2006, drunk and spotlighting deer with two friends.
 
“It was at the end of our winter term at school and we had free time on our hands,” Moseley said. “We were hunting, ran out of bullets and were just looking for the next thing to do.”
 
That next thing, he said, was stupid and thoughtless and haunted him for every single day of the nine years, two months and two weeks he sat in prison. He and his friends set fire to five churches – Rehobeth Baptist Church, Lawley; Ashby Baptist Church, Brierfield; and Pleasant Sabine Baptist Church, Centreville, which were all destroyed; and Antioch Baptist Church, Centreville, and Old Union Baptist Church, Randolph, which suffered damage.
 
A few days later, when the reality of what they’d done set in, Moseley and one of his friends set fire to four more churches in west Alabama in “an exceedingly foolish double dare.”
 
Things had spun out of control. Officials traced tire tracks at the churches back to the SUV they were driving, and the next thing Moseley knew, police officers were in his dorm room.
 
“What we did was horrible. It’s always in the back of my mind,” Moseley said. “We had no hatred at all in what we did – it was thoughtless and stupid. And I always had the questions in my mind – how many people were victimized?
 
How would I feel if I were in their place, or if someone else had come through town and done something like that on a whim? I was in and out in a night, and I never saw the aftermath. I never saw the people I’d hurt.”
 
But pastor Jeff Greer did. He saw those people.
 
Greer, who was on staff at Mountain Brook Baptist Church, Birmingham, in 2006, reached out to First Baptist Church, Dancy, in Aliceville, one of the churches with fire damage from the second round of burnings.
 
“We wanted to help them, to bring a team to repaint, rebuild, do whatever we could to help,” Greer said.
 
So Mountain Brook Baptist brought those teams. They picked up the congregation’s mortgage for the rest of the year.
 
They took a piano to the church and celebrated with them when they reopened their renovated building.
 
And they watched them start to heal.
 
“We were just like everybody else helping those churches at the time – we didn’t know who did it or the circumstances behind it,” Greer said. “We simply wanted to help out a fellow church that needed help from some folks.”
 
So they helped the church get back on its feet, and then they moved on.
 

A second chance

That was where Greer’s story with Moseley started, even though neither of them knew it – it was just that the next chapter took a decade to happen.
 
“Several years after serving with Mountain Brook Baptist, I moved over to become pastor of Riverchase Baptist Church,” Greer said. “And last year, when Ben got out of prison, one of his friends asked me if it would be OK if he came to our church.”
 
Greer said of course it would. And in his heart, he wondered what God was up to.
 
“I couldn’t believe it, that 10 years later I might get the opportunity to be a part of this young man’s life,” Greer said. “I knew it was something God was doing.”
 
So he told Moseley’s friend to tell him he’d be welcome, with open arms and with no judgment.
 
“I told him I’m glad that Ben wants to continue to invest in his spiritual life and walk with the Lord,” Greer said. “He needed a second chance.”
 
When Moseley was sentenced in April 2007, U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor told him and his two friends that they had harmed a lot of people.
 
But, he said, with God’s grace, they had the “opportunity to do good still.”
 
Moseley took that idea to heart.
 
When he got to prison, “there was that anxious well of emotion that resulted from reliving the disappointment in myself, the gut-wrenching extraction that was done from a life of seeming luxury, from college to having nothing,” he said.
 
But Moseley didn’t want to handle it by sinking lower in his pain.
 
“I chose to spend my time doing things that would prepare me for when I got out,” he said.
 
He built some positive relationships. While in federal prison in California, he taught himself Spanish and practiced it with his cellmates and an older man he played Scrabble with.
 
“I was the weird guy who daydreamed about having a mortgage, who stayed in my cell and away from trouble, who wondered if I’d ever have a wife or children,” Moseley said. “I gave my energy to those positive things, to trying to learn and live God’s standard for my life, to get ready for the person I might become one day.”
 
With his love of music, he set out to learn what he called “The Prison 500,” a list of 500 songs he wanted to be able to play by memory on the guitar. He learned 326.
 
A voracious reader, he devoured books on all kinds of topics – history, linguistics and “anything biblical,” he said.
 
But that didn’t stop him from thinking about what he’d lost.
 
“For almost a decade, I sat hopelessly waiting,” Moseley said. “I watched the world rush headlong into the future without me. I cringed knowing my past had led me straight down the road to ruin, where concrete and razor wire undoubtedly haunted my dreams.”
 
But when he walked out of prison May 20, 2015, he was offered a fresh start, full of grace.
 
“Just to get to have another day, or to be at home for Thanksgiving or Christmas – you can imagine the emotions,” Moseley said. “There’s progress. My family is there to support me.”
 
He’s got a job with good benefits – he said he sees that as a gift. He started a band. He also married his childhood friend Heather and they welcomed their first child Aug. 8 – a baby boy.
 

Desire to grow

After welcoming Mosely into Riverchase Baptist Church in Birmingham, Greer noted he is “impressed with Ben’s faith and his walk and his desire to continue to grow as a Christian.”
 
“We’ve been able to reach out to him and offer him a church home and offer him the pastoral care and leadership that he was kind of wondering about as he came out of prison,” Greer said.
 
Moseley said he knows people know his backstory – he just assumes everyone does.
 
“But I’m here just to say you can be redeemed. I feel like I am on that road to redemption,” he said. “It happens in the trenches from the bottom up. I’m not on any kind of pedestal to go and tell people to do the right thing. But I hope that people one day can look at me and say, ‘That guy, he got it wrong, and now he’s got it right.’”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist, thealabamabaptist.org, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)
 

9/11/2017 10:27:39 AM by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist | with 1 comments



‘Christmas Code’ kindles Advent-oriented evangelism

September 11 2017 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins had one goal for his new book, The Christmas Code – providing pastors and churches a resource with short Advent devotionals as a church-wide evangelism tool during the holiday season.


The new book, which released Sept. 5, already has tallied nearly 200,000 in preordered copies.
 
Rob Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., part of the fast-growing Inland Empire region, was stirred when he read the book while returning from a GuideStone trustee meeting.
 
Like all of Hawkins’ books, author royalties and proceeds benefit Mission:Dignity, GuideStone’s ministry to retired Southern Baptist pastors and their widows in financial need.
 
“I’m passionate about Mission:Dignity,” Zinn said, “and I’m passionate about what GuideStone does.”
 
Initially, Zinn had planned to order 1,000 copies of The Christmas Code to take to a state convention meeting in Fresno to encourage other pastors to use it in their churches.
After sharing his idea at the Fresno meeting, others indicated an evangelistic interest in the book to the tune of 30,000 copies. On his way home, the total grew by another 5,000.
 
As of Sept. 1, Zinn said, the church and others he influenced have ordered nearly 60,000 copies of the book.
 
“The game plan is to send the book to every association in the state – we’re going to cover the state,” Zinn said. “Every association is getting an amount of books to share with their pastors.”
 
Noting that so many cultural trends start in California and then sweep across the nation, Zinn said he hopes to see revival kindled in the state.
 
“If all we see through this effort is 10,000 decisions, that’s 10,000 coming to Christ because of The Christmas Code,” he said. “I’m praying for it.”
 
The Christmas Code is a 64-page devotional with a daily scripture reading from Dec. 1-25, a “Code word” to live throughout each day and a daily Advent prayer. It also contains a section on “God’s Personal Gift to You” relaying the plan of salvation in the back.
 
Hawkins said he wrote The Christmas Code because he recognized that hearts are softer during the holiday season.
 
“As a pastor, I always saw December as the greatest time to evangelize,” he said. “Carols are playing in the mall and people are more receptive to the message of the Christ child.”
 
Hawkins envisions multiplied hundreds of churches across denominational lines using the devotional to place on doors in their communities to invite residents to their Christmas services or to provide to families for churchwide devotionals, as well as offering them to visitors during November and December. The book is small enough that some have told him they’ll be placing them inside Christmas cards this year.
 
Zinn said Immanuel Baptist Church will provide five copies to every family in the church – one to keep and use as a family and four to give away.
 
“It’s getting harder and harder to get people to do personal evangelism,” Zinn said, “but they’ll give a book. I think this is a tool the Holy Spirit can use to draw people to the gospel.”
 
The book, which retails for $2.99, is available for less than a dollar per copy with quantities of 100 or more.
 
“You may not be able to buy a Coke or a pack of gum for under a dollar anymore, but you can provide a beautiful Christmas devotional book with the plan of salvation for every lost person in your community for less than a dollar,” Hawkins noted.
 
More information on ordering the book with free shipping, as well as a link to read the first seven chapters for free, can be found at OSHawkins.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

9/11/2017 10:22:13 AM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments



Evolutionary scientist admits theory’s major flaws

September 11 2017 by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service

Gerd Müller, a highly regarded Austrian evolutionary theorist, recently gave a presentation, published in Interface Focus, in which he admitted Charles Darwin’s theory largely avoids explaining how life originated and how complexity developed.
 
Müller did not espouse any creationist or design beliefs, but his presentation demonstrated that even the staunchest advocates of evolution are forced to admit the theory has many holes. The presentation was devastating “for anyone who wants to think that, on the great questions of biological origins, orthodox evolutionary theory has got it all figured out,” Discovery Institute experts wrote on their organization’s blog.
 
Müller’s admission offers a particularly damning critique since answers to questions about how things originated and how complexity developed form the basis for all origin theories. He also referred to the concept of macroevolution, the idea that one species can evolve into a totally different species, as “vague” and advised proponents of an expanded framework of evolution to avoid the term altogether.
 
Many Christians reject the theory of macroevolution because the Bible teaches that God created everything according to its kind. Somewhat less controversial is the theory of microevolution, which refers to changes or adaptations within a species. For example, dog breeders can breed a dog that sheds less, but it’s still a dog. But they can’t breed a dog that can fly. Many evolutionists believe microevolutionary changes lead to macroevolution, but Müller admitted even evolutionary experts argue among themselves about whether microevolutionary adaptations actually produce macroevolution.
 
Even within evolutionary circles, Müller noted, a large number of scientists recognize that the standard theory of evolution needs to be revised or replaced altogether: “A rising number of publications argue for a major revision or even a replacement of the standard theory of evolution, indicating that this cannot be dismissed as a minority view but rather is a widespread feeling among scientists and philosophers alike.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Borg writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used with permission.)
 

9/11/2017 10:15:44 AM by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Baptist camp welcomes treatment facilities’ residents

September 8 2017 by Jane Rodgers & JC Davies, Southern Baptist TEXAN

When Hurricane Harvey forced two residential treatment facilities for adolescents and young adults to flee the Houston area, a Baptist camp became their temporary home.

Photo by Jane Rodgers
Pam Reed, middle, stands with members of her staff from two residential treatment facilities for adolescents and young adults who evacuated to Latham Springs Camp before Hurricane Harvey’s landfall.


Pam Reed, executive director of nonprofit Devereux Texas, called Latham Springs Camp and Conference Center, located 25 miles northwest of Waco, since, after all, it had twice provided shelter during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008.
 
“In 2005, preparing for the evacuation [for Katrina], we reached out to camps all around Texas, and Latham Springs said, ‘We’re here for you.’ We made contact with them and immediately became fast friends,” Reed said.
 
As Harvey threatened, Reed again turned to Latham Springs for help.
 
“This is a camp we are very familiar with. We love the people. We love the environment,” Reed said.
 
“The kids are really having a good time. It’s very peaceful, and there are lots of fun activities: nature walks, ‘human foosball.’ It feels like camp,” she said. “And when you are in a crisis or disaster mode and you can come to a place like this, you get relaxed very quickly and the kids calm down. They get their basic needs met, and they start to feel like kids, and they have fun.”
 
Reed and the Devereux Texas staff brought more than 200 children and intellectually and developmentally delayed (IDD) adults from facilities in League City and Victoria, accompanied by more than 125 staff members, including teachers and medical personnel.
 
Once they arrived on site, various needs quickly became apparent.
 
“Mike [Wilson], the camp director said, ‘What do you need? How can we help? He put people in action, contacted the sheriff and reached out to [Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief],” Reed recounted.
 
Reed also praised the surrounding community’s generosity for providing donations, describing the circumstances as a valuable “life lesson” for the children and youth to look beyond themselves.
 
“It’s a wonderful experience for our kids to see all these people whom they have no connection to coming here to help,” Reed said, calling the “concept of volunteering” a bit confusing for some kids who wondered why strangers would offer assistance.
 
“Maybe someday they’ll have the chance to do what’s being done for them today,” she said.
 
Reed said their date of departure from Latham Springs is “a bit of a question” while repairs are being made to their Houston-area facilities.
 
Wilson took note of disaster relief volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention on site and their selfless efforts.

Photo by Tobin Davies
On the future site of Bayou City Fellowship’s new sanctuary sits a metal building that has been turned into a makeshift headquarters for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief.


“Watching the way God’s folks step up, what a testimony it’s been to these people,” Wilson said. “They will come to the office and ask for this or that, and often while they are still in the office, the need is met as someone drives through the gate.”
 
Meanwhile, an Southern Baptists of Texas (SBTC) Disaster Relief (DR) laundry trailer from Lake Athens Baptist Church began operating over the Labor Day weekend in the recreational vehicle section of the 400-acre camp, apart from the main cabins, lodges and dining facilities.
 
Inside the trailer, with dryers humming, DR volunteers Danny Partridge and Jerry Hamilton from the church said they expected to continue washing, drying, folding and bagging nearly 50 loads of laundry each day. Lake Athens pastor Mike Curry and his wife Pam staffed the unit during the first part of the weekend.
 
The trailer shell was made available to Lake Athens by the North American Mission Board and the SBTC, Partridge said, explaining that church members wired and finished the inside, adding four stackable washing machine/dryer units and otherwise outfitting it, paying for the improvements with donations. The trailer also features three showers, including one that is ADA compliant.
 
Lake Athens’ deployment marks the “maiden voyage” of the church’s laundry trailer, SBTC DR director Scottie Stice said.
 

The work continues

Throughout southeast Texas, disaster relief operations continue in numerous locations throughout the hard-hit region.
 
In Rockport, where Harvey’s onslaught crippled electricity and water services, SBTC DR teams moved into the parking lots of Coastal Oaks Baptist Church, with its facilities being used for distributing food, water, clothing, baby items and pet supplies to those in need.
 
“We served 75 families yesterday [Aug. 31] and three times that many before lunch today [Sept. 1],” said Andrew Barlow, Coastal Oaks associate minister, whose own home suffered extensive damage from uprooted trees.

Photo by Tobin Davies
Members of Bayou City Fellowship in Houston stop to pray during cleanup of homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey.


“As the need became evident for a distribution center here in Rockport, we had to make the call. You either use it or you don’t. We decided to use it. We are staying at capacity. As donations are going out, more are coming in,” Barlow said.
 
Coastal Oaks escaped severe structural damage from the storm. Brick facades on the church gym were shorn off the building and trees were uprooted by violent winds that made the region resemble one ravaged by a tornado.
 
Mike Phillips, fresh from a DR mud-out deployment to Illinois, brought a chainsaw team from First Baptist Church in Bellville and was joined by volunteers from Del Rio, Borger, Pflugerville and Wimberley.
 
“We had a week and one day [between disasters],” Phillips said, his voice raised over the buzz of chainsaws as his 12-man crew sliced through trees threatening a home, the first of three work orders scheduled on the block.
 
Assembling a chainsaw crew for Rockport was easy because many people were “ready to come down,” Phillips said.
 
“Our focus is to help families where there is what we call a priority one situation, where we need to get trees off the house and the situation is dangerous,” he explained, gesturing to uprooted trees in the home’s side yard that would be left alone because they posed no threat.
 
Around the corner, Sharon Sanders, who attends Coastal Oaks, surveyed the ruins of her trailer and waited for an adjuster.
 
“I’m tough,” Sanders said. “I have ridden them all out except one in the 1960s when I got stuck on the highway.” Although she sheltered from the storm nearby, she was back to pick up the pieces.
 
Back at Coastal Oaks, DR volunteer Debby Nichols said she had committed to a month-long deployment and was in charge of a unit from Texarkana tasked with feeding the 35 SBTC DR volunteers on site.
 
“This is my first deployment without electricity and water, which makes it a bit difficult to cook,” Nichols said as generators hummed behind her.
 
“It’s hard to stay cool at night, too. But it’s all right. I have a home to go home to [in Texarkana],” she said.
 
George Yarger, SBTC DR logistics officer and head of communications, arrived in Rockport with men from his home near Mabank, bringing the SBTC’s DR communications trailer, equipped with ham radio equipment, satellite potential and computers.
 
This deployment, Yarger said, is different in terms of communications, with unreliable internet and no power. “Whatever we can get on our cell phones,” he said, “is the only data we have.
 
“One of our main jobs is to make sure each crew on the field has a clear line of communication in case emergency services are necessary,” Yarger said.
 
“Mosquitos became a problem today. The hurricane seemed to have blown them away,” he added. “Unbelievable bugs” have returned, but: “We found if we turned the lights off, it was not a problem. I was having to type around the bugs.” Chainsaw crews also mentioned swatting mosquitoes.
 
Yarger said the deployment had been smooth so far in terms of logistics and the moving of equipment, despite the lack of electricity.
 
“I’m responsible for basically anything that doesn’t have a soul,” he said of his role as logistics officer. “Equipment makes the work happen, but ... we are here because the work allows us to share the love of Jesus Christ with people.”
 
Yarger said he loves it when people ask, “You mean there’s no charge for this?”
 
He said he answers, “Of course there’s a charge for this, but it was paid for with the blood of Jesus Christ. We have come here to share that.”
 
“There’s always someone who needs the touch of Christ,” Yarger said.
 
Chaplains Brenda and John Fuller of Grand Saline had such an appointment on Aug. 31 when a middle-aged man named Carter prayed to receive Christ when the Fullers were assessing his house for damages.
 
“As far as the work in the Texas Gulf Coast goes, Yarger said, DR crews are “going to do big jobs for a long, long time.”
 
In Houston, on the future site of Bayou City Fellowship’s new sanctuary, a metal building has been turned into a makeshift headquarters for disaster relief.
 
Cases of water, cleaning supplies and food sit stacked several feet high as volunteers scurry to organize donations that keep pouring in.
 
Across the room, church members work long hours in dispatching demolition crews to homes where floodwater from Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc.
 
“The great thing about Houston is Houston is a working people, and our church is a working church,” said Curtis Jones, Bayou City’s pastor.
 
Even while the storm was dumping heavy rains on huge swaths of Houston, Jones said the church rallied to meet needs. Men from the congregation went out in boats to rescue individuals and families trapped in their houses, and the church set up a disaster relief page on its website to start accepting donations and mobilizing volunteers.
 
“I think this moment is the point of all those sermons for all these years. When our neighbor needed us most, we showed up and turned up in Jesus’ name,” Jones said.
 
Like Bayou City, Champion Forest Baptist Church has utilized its facilities to collect supplies and, as of Sept. 2, the church had sent more than 1,000 volunteers out into the city for cleanup.
 
“This is an opportunity to be the gospel, to offer something with no expectation of anything in return, just truly giving and loving,” said Jeff Skipper, Champion Forest’s mobilization pastor.
 
Outside of Houston, churches from throughout the state and nation have also extended a helping hand. Regardless of church size, Bayou City’s Jones said there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to take part in relief efforts.
 
“Every church, no matter what the size has men and women who can do sheetrock and who can do plumbing, and we’re going to need all those things,” the pastor said. “We’re going to need all those little churches who can send us teams of 10 and 20 people for the next six months, at least.”
 
Although the process of restoring the city is likely to take years, Jones is hopeful that it will lead to a transformed Houston, and most importantly, to transformed lives.
 
“Houston has been plunged beneath the waters, and I’m hoping that God will raise it up to newness of life. That’s only something He can do. We can rip out sheetrock, but only God can transform a life, and definitely only God can transform a city.”
 
Get up-to-date information, find opportunities to volunteer, and give online at sbtexas.com/harvey.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jane Rodgers and JC Davies write for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

9/8/2017 9:31:44 AM by Jane Rodgers & JC Davies, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



Seminary Reformation tours leave pastors inspired

September 8 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Renewed commitments to expository preaching and teaching theology were among pastors’ takeaways this summer from Reformation tours of Europe led by Southern Baptist Convention seminaries.

SBTS photo
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. speaks from the pulpit of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther preached regularly.


“After going and seeing the tour of Martin Luther [sites] – all that went into his life, the risks he took – why would you ever do anything other than preach the Bible?” said Clint Pressley, a North Carolina pastor who participated in The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SBTS) Land of Luther Study Tour in Germany Aug. 14-21.
 
Fellow North Carolina pastor Marty Jacumin said his excitement was stoked to train younger ministers when he visited Luther’s study in Wittenberg, Germany, during Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) June 16-26 Reformation Study Tour.
 
“In the study of [Luther’s chief assistant Philip] Melanchthon and the study of Luther, you see their desks,” Jacumin, pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., told Baptist Press (BP). “And you see the chairs around the room where students would have sat ... That just fires me up to think about the conversations that would have gone on in those rooms.”
 
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary each will lead Reformation study tours in the spring.
 
SBTS’s study tour, co-led by Florida-based Ligonier Ministries, took participants to such Reformation sites as Wittenberg (where Luther posted his 95 Theses), Eisenach (where Luther took refuge in the Wartburg Castle as he fled from the pope) and Worms (where Luther replied when asked to recant his writings, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me”).
 
Among the trip’s featured speakers was SEBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr.
 
Pressley, pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., and a Southern Seminary trustee, told BP he was inspired to see Wittenberg’s City Church, where Luther preached “thousands of times ... with remarkable faithfulness.”

Photo courtesy of Marty Jacumin
North Carolina pastor Marty Jacumin, right in dark hat, speaks at Calvin College in Geneva during Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's Reformation Study Tour.


“Over the course of time, God used that,” Pressley said. “We can only pray that the Lord would use that in our own churches because that’s what has the impact – God’s Word speaking through someone who is faithful.”
 
Jacumin, chair of Southeastern’s board of trustees and an adjunct professor, helped lead the June Reformation tour along with SEBTS President Daniel Akin and SEBTS professors Stephen Eccher, Scott Hildreth and Dwayne Milioni. Wittenberg, Worms and Zurich, Switzerland – where Anabaptists were drowned for their faith – were among the tour’s highlights, Jacumin said.
 
“The takeaway was the amazing history,” Jacumin said.
 
Yet he also appreciated the tour’s inclusion of a concentration camp, where 20th-century Nazis drew inspiration from some of Luther’s anti-Semitic writings, and mention of Luther’s tendency as an older man not to let other believers “speak into his life anymore.”
 
“Luther was used in an incredible way,” Jacumin said. “But with all our heroes, we’ve got to understand they were men of flesh, and there are things in their lives that reveal that.”
 
NOBTS church history professor Lloyd Harsch, who will lead the seminary’s May 23-June 2 Reformation tour, told BP that Reformation tours help believers understand “the context in which” their faith “developed.”
 
“Seeing that Martin Luther shook Western Christianity from the tiny village of Wittenberg gives hope to pastors serving in small towns that their ministry can have an impact far beyond the borders of the town,” Harsch said in written comments. “Standing in the room where John Calvin and John Knox taught the next generation of church leaders reminds us of the importance and value of discipleship and theological education.
 
“The simple plaque along the Limmat River in Zurich marking the location of the first executions of Anabaptists and worshiping in the remote cave where they later met in secret makes vivid the price those who have gone before us paid for following their understanding of scripture,” he said.
 
“Just under 500 years ago, revival fires were kindled that would sweep across Europe, and beyond,” Harsch noted. “Reformation tours allow participants to see where the tinder was gathered, why the match was lit and how the fire spread.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

9/8/2017 9:31:21 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GOP urged to keep promise to defund Planned Parenthood

September 8 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore has joined other pro-life leaders in telling congressional Republicans it is “well past time to deliver” on their promise to defund Planned Parenthood.
 
The Sept. 5 letter – sent to all the GOP members of Congress – urges them to adopt legislation that would remove most of the federal funding received by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates, which perform more than one-third of the abortions in the United States. The country’s leading abortion provider has received more than $550 million annually in government grants and reimbursements in recent years.
 
“Planned Parenthood is not and has never been a ‘health-care’ organization,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), adding it is “a storefront that preys upon women in crisis, exploits families and devalues human life.
 
“It is well past time for Congress to hold Planned Parenthood accountable,” Moore told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments, “and to care for women and children by directing taxpayer dollars toward community health centers that protect women and children, not prey upon them.”
 
Mallory Quigley – communications director for the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, which organized the effort – told BP in a written statement, “Defunding Planned Parenthood is a unifying issue for Republicans; meanwhile, Democrats are in the midst of an internal debate after their pro-abortion extremism cost them during the last two election cycles. Now is not the time for pro-life Republicans to give up. They must deliver.
 
“Taxpayers should have no part in the abortion business, and women and families would be better served by the holistic primary and preventative health-care centers that already outnumber Planned Parenthood by more than 20 to 1 nationwide,” Quigley said.
 
In the letter, SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, Moore and others remind Republicans of their promise to Americans to defund Planned Parenthood and of President Donald Trump’s commitment to sign such a proposal. Eight months after Trump’s inauguration, the GOP-controlled Congress still has failed to do so, they say.
 
“The pro-life majority that now controls both chambers of Congress and the White House must pass a reconciliation bill stopping the vast majority of federal funding for Planned Parenthood,” the letter says. “Doing anything less brings into question whether this Congress can truly be called the pro-life Congress. Rhetoric must be translated into law.”
 
The reconciliation process enables the Senate to approve a budget-related measure with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster.
 
In the last congressional session, both the Senate and House approved legislation to cut funding for Planned Parenthood by about 90 percent and direct it to federally qualified health centers that do not perform abortions. President Barak Obama vetoed the measure, however.
 
The Senate fell short of even a simple majority in a July vote seeking what became known as a “skinny repeal” of the 2010 health-care law. The failed Senate proposal would have cut funding for Planned Parenthood for a year.
 
In their letter, Dannenfelser, Moore and the other signers say it is up to Congress to decide whether the reconciliation bill is a broad package or a narrow measure, “but giving up is not why the voters sent pro-life Republicans to Congress.”
 
In addition to Dannenfelser and Moore, others signing the letter were Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council; Catherine Glenn Foster, president, Americans United for Life; Penny Young Nance, president, Concerned Women for America; Jeanne Mancini, president, March for Life Education and Defense Fund; Kristan Hawkins, president, Students for Life; Lila Rose, president, Live Action; Gary Bauer, president, American Values; and Paul Weber, president, Family Policy Alliance.
 
Planned Parenthood’s 2015-16 annual report, released this May, showed its affiliates performed 328,348 abortions for the year, an increase of about 4,300 of the lethal procedures from the previous year. While its number of abortions increased, Planned Parenthood reported a sizable decline in such services as prenatal care and breast exams.
 
The non-profit continued to prosper financially, reaching $1.4 billion in total revenue. During the year ending June 30, 2016, PPFA and its affiliates received $554.6 million in grants and reimbursements from the federal and other levels of government. That was an increase of about $900,000 from the previous year.
 
The ERLC is conducting an online advertising campaign to rally support for federal defunding of the organization.
 
Messengers to June’s SBC meeting in Phoenix adopted a resolution calling for defunding of Planned Parenthood at all levels of government and denouncing the organization’s “immoral agenda and practices.”
 
Backing for the defunding effort in Congress has grown in response to the latest scandal to mar Planned Parenthood’s reputation. A series of undercover videos first released in 2015 appeared to provide evidence Planned Parenthood was trading in body parts from aborted babies.
 
Other undercover investigations by pro-life organizations in the last several years have shown Planned Parenthood employees allegedly demonstrating a willingness to aid self-professed sex traffickers whose prostitutes supposedly were in their early teens, seeking to conceal alleged child sex abuse and agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.
 
Planned Parenthood, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, came into existence when eugenicist Margaret Sanger opened a Brooklyn birth control clinic in 1916. It took the lead in the abortion business in this country when a New York affiliate began performing the procedures in 1970. New York legalized abortion that year, three years before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on the procedure.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

9/8/2017 9:31:03 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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