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7 black churches burned in 10 days

July 2 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Fires at seven black churches within the past 10 days have fueled discussions of racial hatred, as the first occurred within a week of the June 17 massacre of nine black Christians by a white supremacist at a Charleston church.
 
Arson had been confirmed in three of the fires as of July 1 but none had been deemed hate crimes. Two of the churches are Southern Baptist congregations.
 
Southern Baptist leaders voiced outcry at the arsons in comments to Baptist Press.
 
While the fires are still under investigation, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd said “racism and prejudice must cease.”

 
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NBC News screen capture
Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, S.C., is the eighth predominantly black church to burn in the past 10 days. Arson has been confirmed in three.

“The continuation of African-American churches being burned in our nation is highly concerning to me,” said Floyd, pastor of the Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “Our Southern Baptist family hurts for our brothers and sisters who have suffered these devastating losses, especially those who are suffering at the hands of individuals who purposely inflict harm. As members of the family of God, we stand with them in prayer and encouragement.”
 
K. Marshall Williams, president of National African American Fellowship of the SBC and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., called the arsons “the manifestation of sinful and wicked humanity.”
 
“We need a nationwide outcry and action on all levels of government and society to insure that these acts of terror and hatred toward African Americans who are worshipping the true and living God cease,” Williams said. “I recognize more than ever that, as Christians, we are in intense spiritual warfare. … So I cry out to the Lord to protect and heal the broken hearts of His people. And I fast and pray for the Lord to change hearts and send a revival and spiritual awakening to our land. We need the Lord!”
 
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said he is brokenhearted “at the burning of a house of prayer or God’s house and it disturbs me greatly because of the cowardice of such acts and the hatred of such acts of violence. I am deeply disturbed that people would act so cowardly and hatefully, especially toward a building where people gather for worship of our Lord, and it is a heinous act of violence that I pray will be mediated somewhat by the apprehension and the prosecution of these persons who are responsible.”
 
The fires have spurred a popular Twitter campaign #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches. The NAACP tweeted that its state conferences are calling for black churches to “take necessary precautions.”
 
The latest fire destroyed Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in the small town of Greeleyville, S.C. The church had been rebuilt after the Ku Klux Klan burned it to the ground 20 years ago. Greeleyville is 65 miles north of Charleston, the site of the massacre at Emanuel AME Church that took the lives of the pastor, leaders and others ranging in age from 26-87 as they were praying in Bible study.
 
Arson was confirmed in a June 24 fire that caused $250,000 in damage at Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., a predominantly black Southern Baptist church that also hosts services for two Nepali congregations.
 
A June 27 blaze still under investigation destroyed the sanctuary of the predominantly black College Heights Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church in Elyria, Ohio, causing $1 million in damage, the Cleveland ABC affiliate NewsNet5 reported.
 
Arsonists torched College Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., on June 22, and on the following day at God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Ga., both predominantly black congregations.
 
A fire of undetermined origins destroyed Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, S.C., on June 26. Bobby Jones, the church pastor, told National Public Radio that he had often discovered “KKK” scrawled on the building’s outside walls but said he hoped the fire was not set by arsonists. The fire left only the steeple and two walls standing in the church that was home to about 35 worshippers.
 
Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Fla., was destroyed by another June 26 fire likely caused by a tree falling on overhead electrical lines, fire officials said. Damage at the predominantly African-American church was estimated at $700,000.
 
Black churches were targeted by arsonists in the mid-1990s, when more than 70 black and multicultural churches were burned in a 20-month span, according to news reports.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/2/2015 12:09:04 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



After gay marriage: next steps for LGBT activists

July 2 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

With same-sex marriage now legal in all 50 states, pro-gay activists are shifting their focus to issues like alleged workplace, housing and public accommodations discrimination. Some have even proposed stripping churches of their tax-exempt status and legalizing polygamous marriage.
 
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists view the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage “as a means to a greater end,” said Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn. – “a huge means, but I certainly don’t think it’s the end. I think many will not be happy” if the advance of gay rights “doesn’t go further.”
 
Akin, a member of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) leadership council, has helped equip Fairview’s members to share Christ with the homosexual community and respond to pro-gay activists. He told Baptist Press that in his experience, the push for expanded LGBT rights typically “doesn’t come from animus of any kind. It stems from wanting cultural affirmation, seeing any form of discrimination as inequality.”

 
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Jon Akin

Following the June 26 Supreme Court ruling, the advocacy group Freedom To Marry said it would shut down and redeploy many of its resources to a new group called Freedom For All Americans, National Public Radio (NPR) reported. The new group’s website says its goal is “to ensure that all LGBT Americans are afforded comprehensive protections from discrimination.” The group is representative of a larger shift among gay marriage advocates, according to NPR.
 
Freedom For All Americans lists among its goals “to persuade Congress and the President to adopt explicit statutory protections ensuring freedom from discrimination for all LGBT Americans in housing, employment and public accommodations.” Such protections must not include “overly broad and harmful religious exemptions that will encourage employers, business owners and others to choose to disregard [LGBT] protections,” according to the group’s website.
 
Freedom For All Americans hopes to win similar legal protections at the state and local levels, noting that currently “28 states have no explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender.”
 
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBT advocacy group, said June 28 on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the gay rights movement “still [has] a long ways to go” following the high court’s ruling.
 
Some Christians counter that forbidding all discrimination based on sexual orientation could force churches, Christian colleges and universities, and other Christian nonprofit organizations to hire open homosexuals contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs. Housing nondiscrimination ordinances could, among other pitfalls, force evangelical seminaries to offer married housing to same-sex couples. Public accommodations laws could permit persons who identify as transgender to use restrooms and locker rooms that do not correspond to their biological gender.
 
Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, warned of threats to religious liberty in a June 26 conference call with members of the media. Religious colleges and universities as well as organizations with government contracts could face challenges to their fundamental rights in the days ahead, Moore said.
 
“Religious liberty is the next front in this skirmish in American life,” Moore said. “And one of the most tragic results we could possibly see is an unrelenting culture war from secular progressives against those who dissent, because of deeply held religious convictions, [from] this new definition of marriage and sexuality in American life.”
 

Tax-exempt status

The tax-exempt status of churches and other Christian organizations could be one front in the continuing struggle related to LGBT rights. Two days following the Supreme Court ruling, TIME published an op-ed article arguing that tax exemptions should be removed from “organizations that dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality.”
 
TIME writer Mark Oppenheimer, who also writes a biweekly column for The New York Times, argued that exempting churches from taxes is equivalent to providing them with government subsidies – in effect, forcing citizens to fund their religious viewpoints.
 
Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, responded in a Federalist article that “the real intent of removing tax-exempt status is to cripple the institutions that continue their dissent from the sexual revolution.” Churches in urban areas would be “immediately vulnerable” in the event of a tax exemption loss because they would be liable to hefty property taxes on their real estate settings.
 
“Legal gay marriage is not the endgame for the gay-rights movement,” Burk wrote. “It never was. Moral approval is the endgame. The agenda is not tolerance for different beliefs and lifestyles. The agenda is a demand that everyone get on board with the moral revolution or be punished. That means if you or your church won’t get with the program, then the revolutionaries will endeavor to close you down.”
 

Polygamy

Another potential battle could revolve around the legalization of polygamy. The same day the Supreme Court issued its ruling, an article posted at Politico.com argued, “Now that we’ve defined that love and devotion and family isn’t driven by gender alone, why should it be limited to just two individuals? The most natural advance next for marriage lies in legalized polygamy.”
 
Author Fredrick deBoer argued that, during the fight for gay marriage, LGBT activists said legalized gay marriage would not lead to legalized plural marriage because they had a “short-term political need” to counter social conservatives’ “slippery slope” argument. “But times have changed,” and sexual revolutionaries can now admit this logical implication of redefining marriage, he wrote.
 
Chief Justice John Roberts made a related observation in his dissent to the gay marriage ruling.
 
“Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective ‘two’ in various places,” Roberts wrote, “it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not.”
 
Jim Denison, a cultural commentator and chair of the advisory board for Dallas Baptist University, noted that multiple pro-LGBT activists have advocated plural marriage. “Why would the sexual revolution stop with polygamy?” he asked rhetorically.
 
“The next step,” Denison wrote in a blog article, “would be ‘consensual marriage,’ the belief that anyone should be able to marry anyone, regardless of age or biological relationship. If those in love are entitled to marriage, why not fathers and daughters (or sons)? Why not adults and children? If federal and state marriage benefits are owed to anyone who marries, why would a young man not marry his grandfather to secure medical care and inheritance rights?”
 

Other battlefronts

A June 26 Huffington Post article suggested yet other issues pro-gay advocates are likely to address following their Supreme Court win:

  • The lack of gender-neutral restrooms in public places;

  • The supposed need for bans on gay conversion therapy;

  • Acceptance of homosexuals in sports, politics and entertainment;

  • The supposed need to permit military service by transgender persons;

  • The supposed need to lift restrictions on gay men giving blood; and

  • Adoption, custody and surrogacy rights for LGBT parents.

A Massachusetts pro-gay activist told NPR there should also be an “LGBT-inclusive curriculum” in public schools that would explain the significance of key homosexuals in history.
 
Faced with such challenges, Akin, the Tennessee pastor, said followers of Jesus should teach God’s standards of marriage and sexuality in their churches, exercise biblical church discipline when church members reject God’s standards for human sexuality, and stand for God’s truth amid the culture in a firm but winsome manner.
 
“We should always recognize that lost people aren’t our enemies,” Akin said. “Satan is the enemy. So we’re called to love our neighbor regardless of our neighbor’s sin.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

7/2/2015 11:56:57 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



FBC Sylva honors former pastor John Bunn in Sunday service

July 2 2015 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

The funeral for John Thomas Bunn, 88, went on just like a regular service at First Baptist Church of Sylva.
 
The former pastor and town mayor did not want a lot of attention so Pastor Jeff Mathis preached from the floor, leaving the pulpit “empty in honor and in memory of him,” Mathis said during the morning service June 28.
 
“We are honoring John’s wishes this morning by not changing the character of our morning worship service.”

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The Sylva Herald file photo by Nick Breedlove
John Bunn, 88, died June 25 in Sylva. He was former pastor of First Baptist Church of Sylva and served as the Sylva mayor as well as in various community roles.

 

Bunn died June 25 in his home.
 
Ordained to the gospel ministry on June 4, 1944, at First Baptist Church in Morehead City, Bunn received a bachelor of arts degree from Wake Forest College and a master of divinity and doctorate from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
 
He was the chairman of the department of religion and philosophy and professor of religious studies at Campbell University (1960-’75) and was president of the General Board of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (1983-’87) during the height of friction between conservatives and moderates.
 
His influence led to First Baptist leaving Tuckaseigee Baptist Association over the decision of Cullowhee Baptist Church to call a woman as co-pastor. First Baptist was joined by Cullowhee, East Sylva, Black Mountain and Deitz Memorial in severing ties with the association.
 
Bunn was pastor at many churches including First Baptist Church of Sylva, where he started in 1975 and left for a year, served and became interim pastor and was named pastor emeritus in 1991.
 
“All told, I would guess that the number of years of service to be 15, though he was active in the life of our church for 40 years,” Mathis said in an article in The Sylva Herald.
 
In 1990, Bunn became Sylva’s mayor for two years.
 
He served on numerous community boards and committees. Bunn was one of the founders of United Christian Ministries of Jackson County, where he would like gifts in his memory to be donated.
 
“It’s Jesus who truly brings peace,” Mathis said in his concluding sermon remarks. “It’s Jesus who truly brings rest. John knew that. John preached that. John is living that right now.”
 
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Lois Webb Bunn; three sons David, Steve and Raymond Bunn; two granddaughters; and two great-granddaughters.
 
Memorials to: United Christian Ministries of Jackson County, P.O. Box 188, Sylva, NC 28779.

7/2/2015 11:53:28 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 1 comments



Majority of Americans say U.S. special to God

July 2 2015 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research

In a nation founded on religious liberty, most Americans believe God has a special relationship with the United States, and they’re optimistic the best is yet to come.
 
Despite headlines lamenting the global decline of the United States since the Cold War, 54 percent of Americans believe the nation is on the upswing, according to a survey by LifeWay Research released July 1.
 
Only 4 in 10 think “America’s best days are behind us,” LifeWay Research reported from data in a September 2014 survey.

 
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Though the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of God, 53 percent of Americans say they believe God and the nation have a special relationship, a concept stretching back to Pilgrim days. Even a third of atheists, agnostics and those with no religious preference believe America has a special relationship with God.
 
“‘God Bless America’ is more than a song or a prayer for many Americans,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “It is a belief that God has blessed America beyond what is typical for nations throughout history. I am sure that would spawn many theological conversations” but it’s important to note a majority of Americans “think God has a special relationship with their country.”

 

Exceptionalism

Both ends of the political spectrum – from President Barack Obama to the Republican Party platform – have touted American exceptionalism, the belief that the United States plays a unique role in human history. For some, the concept includes the idea of a special relationship with God, although beliefs about the nature of the relationship vary.
 
“Some Christians view America as an archetype of biblical Israel, chosen and uniquely blessed by God,” Stetzer said. “That’s why Christians sometimes speak of God ‘healing our land,’ when most theologians say this American ‘land’ is not in the same category as the ‘land’ of biblical Israel.”
 
Americans have emphatic opinions on the matter, with 35 percent strongly agreeing God has a special relationship with the United States and 25 percent strongly disagreeing. Smaller segments say they somewhat agree (19 percent) or somewhat disagree (13 percent).
 
Americans also have a firm belief in the nation’s future. In recent years the nation has faced an economic downturn and reports of dwindling political power, academic skills and moral fiber. Nevertheless, 35 percent strongly disagree with the statement “America’s best days are behind us,” and 20 percent somewhat disagree. In contrast, just 21 percent strongly agree and 19 percent somewhat agree.

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Demographic differences

Optimism for the U.S. is highest among the most highly educated Americans. Only one-quarter of those with a graduate degree believe America’s best days are gone, compared to 38 percent of those with some college and 46 percent of those with a high school degree or less.
 
Protestants are more pessimistic about the nation’s future than Catholics, with 43 percent of Protestants agreeing America is past its prime, compared to 34 percent of Catholics.
 
Women, meanwhile, are significantly more likely than men to believe that God has a special relationship with the United States. While 49 percent of men have that view, the number rises to 58 percent for women.
 
LifeWay Research also found differences by age, race, geography, education and religious preference.
 
Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans ages 45-54 think God has a special relationship with the United States, a belief shared by 48 percent of those 18-44.
 
Belief in a special relationship also is high among:

  • African Americans, at 62 percent, compared to whites at 51 percent.

  • Southerners, at 59 percent, compared to 49 percent of Midwesterners and 50 percent of Westerners.

  • Those with a high school degree or less, at 66 percent. For those with some college, the rate drops to 51 percent. It drops further to 40 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree and 29 percent of those with a graduate degree.

Evangelical Christians are the most likely to believe in a special relationship, with 67 percent agreeing. Among evangelicals 45 and older, the share soars to 71 percent.
 
“Americans, particularly those in more religious segments or geography, are most likely to believe in this special relationship,” Stetzer said. “But, considering the history of the nation, from Manifest Destiny to Ronald Reagan’s ‘City on a Hill’ speech, it’s not surprising this long-held theme continues today.”
 
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 19-28, 2014. The calling utilized Random Digit Dialing. Sixty percent of completes were among landlines and 40 percent among cellphones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.4 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups. Those labeled evangelicals consider themselves “a born again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

 
7/2/2015 11:31:45 AM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



Connect 316 meets, honors Jerry Vines

July 2 2015 by Norm Miller, Louisiana College Communications

Celebrating the “traditional Southern Baptist understanding of God’s plan of salvation,” Connect 316 executive director Rick Patrick said the group will “stand in our own stream and gladly fish for the souls of men” during the C316 dinner in Columbus, Ohio.
 
The gathering drew more than 200 to its meeting in the Greater Columbus Convention Center June 16 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
 
Connect 316 also honored former SBC President Jerry Vines with its inaugural “Jerry Vines Award for the Promotion of the Whosoever Will Doctrine in Southern Baptist Life.”
 
Connect 316 was organized in 2013, according to its website, to offer “a theologically driven ministry fellowship to promote scholarship and encouragement in the gospel for those of us embracing the [Herschel] Hobbs-[Adrian] Rogers theological tradition.”

 

Patrick, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sylacauga, Ala., in his opening remarks, said C316 has “a genuine respect for the streams of others ... We nevertheless celebrate our own theological stream” coming from Anabaptists, General Baptists “to the Separate Baptists in the South in the 1700s and 1800s and to the traditional Southern Baptists of the 1900s, including every primary confessor of the Baptist Faith and Message: E.Y. Mullins in 1925, Herschel Hobbs in 1963 and Adrian Rogers in 2000.”
 

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BP file photo
Jerry Vines addresses a group at a 2008 John 3:16 Conference at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. Vines was the recipient of Connect316’s inaugural “Jerry Vines Award for the Promotion of the Whosoever Will Doctrine in Southern Baptist Life.”

“Leaving Geneva” was the theme of the evening’s meeting, as three speakers recounted their journey from Calvinism, which proponents call the doctrines of grace.
 
Leighton Flowers, youth evangelism director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said he discovered Calvinism in college, reading from modern Calvinists like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul and John Piper. “I fully embraced what is called the ‘Young, Restless and Reformed’ position,” Flowers said.
 
Reading A.W. Tozer began his exit from Calvinism, Flowers said. “He’s an intellectual,” Flowers said he thought, “and he knows God, obviously, so he has to be a Calvinist, surely.” But some of Tozer’s writings “simply did not fit my paradigm.”
 
Flowers also assumed C.S. Lewis was a Calvinist before he read his writings. “I could not understand how [these men] could be intelligent, read the Bible, and not be Calvinists,” he recounted.
 
After extensive study and exchanges with fellow Calvinists, Flowers began to believe that the Calvinist view of total inability, or total depravity, “is not a biblical doctrine.”
 
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation and is that which enables sinful people to hear God’s appeal to be reconciled and also respond to that appeal, Flowers said. A Southern Baptist preacher’s son, he acknowledged that “close, dear friends” doubt his initial commitments to Calvinism. It is “heart-breaking sometimes because of our differences,” he said.
 
Ronnie Rogers, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., and author of Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist, next addressed the crowd, saying, “I was for about 34 years a Calvinist. ... But I kept running into all these problems [having] insufficient answers.”
 
Among the issues Rogers cited is the Calvinism view of compatibilism, which holds that “determinism and moral responsibility are compatible,” as he put it. But determinism and compatibilism are “no less deterministic than sheer determinism,” he said.
 
Another issue involved Calvinist definitions of terms like sovereignty, election, foreknowledge and predestination.
 
“Calvinists believe in predestination of the elect and non-elect. Period,” Rogers said. But when some are asked if “God predestined the lost to hell,” they respond, “Well, I’m not a hyper-Calvinist,” Rogers said. “But that doesn’t answer the question.” Calvinism teaches that God structured a plan that prevents the non-elect from going to heaven, he said.
 
Some Calvinists, Rogers said, violate basic hermeneutical principles by using “theological imports” and “a complex hermeneutic” that obscure the clear and simple meaning of such biblical texts as John 3:16.
 
What Calvinists cannot adequately explain is attributed to “mystery,” Rogers said, noting that many “mysteries” are “Calvinistically generated.” The mysteries disappear, however, when considered outside of the Calvinist system, he said.
 
Doug Sayers of Cincinnati, a speaker with the Gideons, said his journey from Calvinism began when a friend told him that Sayers’ hospitalized and semi-comatose toddler son might go to hell if he died.
 
“I guess you could say that one of the most disquieting realities of Calvinism reared up and kicked us right in the face,” Sayers said, noting that his friend was a Calvinist who had the “honesty and courage to actually apply the five points to a real-life situation.”
 
Sayers subsequently wrote a book titled Chosen or Not? A Layman’s Study of Biblical Election and Assurance.
 
Sayers noted that some “baptistic Calvinists have taught that every dying infant should be presumed elect and will be saved.” But their hearts and creeds are in “undeniable conflict,” he said. “Their defense of that hope is more emotional than biblical and bears witness to the common grace sense of justice that God puts within each one of us.”
 
Embarrassed over reading into the biblical text what he thought it should say, “the kind of eisegesis that I had been accusing non-Calvinists of for years,” Sayers concluded, “I can tell you tonight that I am more at peace with the entire Bible than I ever was as a Calvinist.”
 
Connect 3:16 presented to Jerry Vines its inaugural “Jerry Vines Award for the Promotion of the Whosoever Will Doctrine in Southern Baptist Life.”
 
Vines, in receiving the award named in his honor, ascended the platform amid a standing ovation. He said he’d never heard of anyone “winning his own award.”
 
After quoting John 3:16, 1 John 2:2 and 2 Peter 3:9, Vines, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., concluded in prayer, thanking God for “wonderful news of Jesus Christ, which is available to every single person.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Norm Miller is director of communications and marketing for Louisiana College in Pineville, La.)

7/2/2015 11:22:57 AM by Norm Miller, Louisiana College Communications | with 0 comments



Pro-life laws stymied by courts in 4 states

July 1 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Pro-life regulations in Texas, North Carolina, Kansas and Iowa have been stymied in court challenges.
 
Affected are a Texas law requiring abortion clinics to qualify as ambulatory surgical centers and for abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges; a North Carolina law requiring doctors to show pregnant women ultrasound images before performing an abortion; a Kansas law banning dismemberment abortions; and an Iowa Board of Medicine ban on “webcam” abortions.
 

Texas

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday issued a stay of House Bill 2, which was slated to go into effect July 1, until the justices can consider whether to take up a challenge to HB 2 after their summer recess.
 
The Supreme Court stay, in a 5-4 vote, prevents HB 2 requirements from going into effect requiring abortion clinics to qualify as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) and for doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges.
 
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled June 8 that the two requirements are constitutional and can be enforced.
 
According to Texas Right to Life, “The justices ruled that the provisions in question will effectively remain on hold and unenforced until the abortion businesses file a full appeal of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling and until the justices return from summer recess in September” at which time “the justices will either agree to hear the abortion industry’s arguments against HB 2 or deny the request. …
 
“If the request is denied, HB 2 will go into effect immediately, and the abortion industry will have exhausted all legal resources to further stall or overturn the law,” Texas Right to Life stated. “However, if SCOTUS agrees to hear the case, the stay would most likely not be lifted until the court’s final opinion was issued.”
 

North Carolina

The Supreme Court refused June 15 to take up an appeal from North Carolina in which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned a law requiring abortionists to show ultrasound images to clients so that the women would understand what happens during the procedure.
 
The lower court had ruled that the 2011 law violated abortion practitioners’ free speech rights and was “ideological in intent.” North Carolina legislators passed the measure overwhelmingly, even overriding a veto from then-Gov. Bev Perdue to put it into effect.
 
Federal appeals courts have upheld similar laws from Texas and South Dakota, according to The New York Times, which noted that such divergent rulings often prompt the Supreme Court to enter a case. Various other abortion-related ultrasound laws have been passed in more than 20 states, The Times reported.
 
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, told WORLD News Service, “In any other medical procedure, doctors would have a duty to disclose all of the relevant information and, yet, a procedure as destructive and life-changing as abortion is held to a lower standard.”
 

Kansas

A Kansas district court judge granted a temporary injunction June 24 blocking the Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, WORLD News Service reported.
 
Kansas was the first state in the nation to ban the dilation and extraction (D&E) procedure, the most common form of second-trimester abortions. Signed into law in April by Gov. Sam Brownback, the law was slated to go into effect July 1.
 
The Center for Women’s Health, an abortion facility in Overland Park near Kansas City that carries out abortions up to 21.6 weeks, filed a lawsuit June 1 challenging the ban. District court Judge Larry Hendricks, in issuing a temporary injunction, ruled that the Kansas constitution guarantees the right to abortion. The state’s lawyers will defend the law when Hendricks hears the full case later this year. In the meantime, dismemberment abortions will continue in the state.
 
“Certainly we are disappointed,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said. “The Kansas constitution doesn’t say you can kill babies in this manner. But we think there is ample evidence from previous Supreme Court rulings to uphold a ban on this type of abortion.”
 

Iowa

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a ban on “webcam” abortions in the state June 19, stating that it placed an “undue burden” on women.
 
Iowa’s webcam, or “telemed,” abortions had enabled doctors to prescribe the RU-486 abortion pill regimen by teleconference. Rather than meeting a doctor in person, women at rural clinics have a virtual consultation with doctors in Des Moines or Iowa City. After doctors prescribe the drugs, women take one pill at the clinic and a second at home. If they have bleeding or severe complications, local emergency care is needed.
 
The Iowa Board of Medicine agreed to outlaw the practice in 2013 for safety concerns, but its decision was placed on hold while Planned Parenthood fought the decision in court. Last year, an Iowa district judge upheld the ban. But on June 19, six of the Iowa Supreme Court’s seven justices ruled the medicine board’s ban unconstitutional because it made abortions too difficult for women to obtain.
 
The plaintiff in the case, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, has performed 7,200 webcam abortions since 2008.
 
Iowa was the first state to launch a webcam abortion system. Planned Parenthood executives there began planning the system in mid-2007 as a way to perform first-trimester abortions at rural clinics where it was too expensive for them to keep a doctor on staff. Iowa law requires abortion drugs to be prescribed by a physician.
 
“The Iowa Supreme Court has approved a dangerous medical practice banned by 16 other states,” said Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, which supported the ban. “There is a grave danger that telemed abortion may be assumed by abortion activists to render obsolete their need for on-site abortion providers across the country, greatly increasing the health risks for women who undergo medical abortions in remote areas.”
 
According to The Des Moines Register, the decision was thought to be the first time in 40 years the Iowa Supreme Court has weighed an abortion case.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adapted and used by permission from WORLD News Service, with reporting by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston. WORLD news Service is a division of WORLD Magazine, on the Web at worldmag.com.)

7/1/2015 12:20:11 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



TRUSTEES: ‘This is NAMB Phase II’

July 1 2015 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell shared updates and a new “NAMB Phase II” vision with the entity’s trustees during their June meeting.
 
“We are going to have the very best,” Ezell said. “Premiere assessments, training and coaching. Southern Baptists deserve that.”
 
Ezell said NAMB wants to see as many new churches as possible. But he noted the entity will give greater focus to quality, not quantity as church planters receive foundational assistance.
 
As the meeting started, Tommy Greene, the newly elected executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, shared words of encouragement and challenge from Ephesians 5:15-16, which admonishes believers to make the “most of every opportunity because the days are evil.”
 
Once the Florida convention passes its budget this fall, Green said, 51 percent of Cooperative Program giving will leave the state for national and international Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) causes.
 
“And that’s not the end,” Green told trustees during their June 15 meeting in Columbus, Ohio. “That’s just the beginning. As Cooperative Program money increases in our state we are not going to use it to add more people at the Florida Baptist Convention. We don’t need more people. We need more to go to the ends of the earth in order that the gospel can go forward. Pray that Florida one day – and I pray that it will be very quickly – will be a state that’s sending 60 percent and keeping 40 percent.”

 
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Photo by Susan Whitley
Tommy Green, newly-elected executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, challenged the North American Mission Board's trustees to make the most of every opportunity. The group met June 15 in Columbus, Ohio, prior to the annual Southern Baptist Convention.

What NAMB is able to accomplish now is “because of men and women who have come before us who laid the foundation and made some very stern decisions,” Ezell said. He introduced Ronnie Yarber, a retired Texas pastor who helped form the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and served on its staff. Yarber served as a Home Mission Board trustee from 1981-89 during the time when the SBC was engaged in pivotal battles over issues that included inerrancy of scripture.
 
“It was a difficult, difficult period of time for those eight years that I served,” Yarber said, “out of which God did wonderful things.
 
“You are under the direction and leadership of one of God’s great men,” Yarber said. “Work with him, pray for him, follow him and God has greater days yet for Southern Baptists. I believe with all of my heart.”
 
In other business:

  • Ezell reported that 53.92 percent of NAMB’s budget will go toward church planting in its 2015-16 budget year. It was only 18.1 percent of the entity’s budget in 2011.

  • Ezell announced that Fred Luter will serve as NAMB’s National African-American Ambassador. Luter is immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and he will continue serving as senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. Luter will help NAMB mobilize efforts to increase the number of African-American churches in the SBC from the current 4,000 to 5,000 during the next five years.

  • NAMB chief financial officer Carlos Ferrer reported revenues from all income sources including the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering are running 2 percent over budget and expenditures are running below income.

  • Trustees re-elected the three officers who had just completed their first year of service: chairman Chuck Herring, senior pastor of Collierville First Baptist Church in Collierville, Tenn.; first vice chairman Mark Dyer, an attorney and member of Parkway Hills Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; and second vice chairman Stephen “Spike” Hogan, senior pastor of Chets Creek Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Ten trustees whose terms of service concluded after the meeting were recognized: Larry Gipson of Oneonta, Ala.; Ronald Toon of Batesville, Ark.; Douglas Dieterly of Lakeville, Ind.; Steven Holdaway of Bellevue, Neb.; Jason Pettus of Bowling Green, Ky.; John Wenberg of Bridgeton, Mo.; Carroll Vaughn of Bloomfield, N.M.; James “Bud” Parish of Greensboro, N.C.; Steven Mayes of Amherst, Ohio; and Patrick Adams of Edmond, Okla.

In his remarks to trustees, Ezell outlined a potential new way for NAMB’s work to be organized: Send Network and Send Relief. While not yet ready to present a final plan, Ezell said Send Network will be “all about church planting.”
 
Ezell highlighted the process through which NAMB will take church planters. “We want you to know that we do our due diligence,” he said. “We run them through the car wash and they come out much better than when they started and we have a real good analysis of where they are.”
 
Coaching will be added to NAMB’s church planter process, Ezell noted.
 
“We are going to make sure that every church planter is not walking the road alone,” he said. “That they have a sending church but they also have a coach who has been there, done that, walking [with] them and helping them navigate that.”
 
Send Relief will bring resources and volunteers to needs such as hunger, military family support, sex trafficking and exploitation, disaster relief, monthly mission construction projects and others. Ezell said he would bring additional details about Send Relief to trustees during their October meeting.
 
Evangelism, mobilization, chaplaincy, partnerships and mission support services will run across and serve both Send Network and Send Relief.
 
“These are good days,” Ezell told trustees, “but let’s not take them for granted. Let’s not take our eye off the goal. We have to keep our eyes focused and keep moving ahead. This is no time for cruise control. This is NAMB Phase II and it’s time to buckle our seat belts again to get this done and I’m honored to be able to do it with you.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert writes for the North American Mission Board.)
 

Related Story:

Ezell shares ‘NAMB Phase II’ vision

7/1/2015 12:08:46 PM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 0 comments



Bus crash survivors return home

July 1 2015 by Brian Blackwell, Louisiana Baptist Message

Twenty-four living miracles returned to their church late June 27, nearly 30 hours after surviving a serious bus accident in Florida on the way to a church camp.
 
Those students and adult chaperons, along with nearly 40 other students and adults, walked into Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville, La., to a roar of applause, welcome home signs, balloons and plenty of hugs with their loved ones.
 
“Today is a good day because we all were able to come home and to be able to come home alive and basically in really good shape,” pastor Philip Robertson told the crowd of nearly 200. “There’s no way from a human standpoint that everybody should have walked away from that accident alive.
 
“It shouldn’t’ have happened,” he said. “There should have been some fatalities, but there weren’t. Death knocked on the door and God said not today. They will live.”
 
The crash was reported at 3:10 p.m. on Friday, near DeFuniak Springs, Fla. just west of State Road 331, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The 30-passenger bus carrying youth and chaperons from the church left the roadway and hit a tree.

 
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Photo by Brian Blackwell
A father and daughter embrace during a welcome back ceremony for a youth group at Philadelphia Baptist Church, Deville, La., June 27. Twenty-four students and chaperons, along with about 40 other students and adults, returned nearly 30 hours after surviving a serious bus accident in Florida on the way to a church camp.

Twenty-five were taken to four different area hospitals for treatment, though none received life-threatening injuries. Just one of the youth involved in the accident was unable to return, though church officials are hopeful she will be back home by early next week.
 
The remaining 40 members of the church party were in other vehicles that were traveling with the bus that wrecked. They were taken to DeFuniak Springs Community Center for the night.
 
First responder Mary Culbertson commented in a post shared on Facebook that she was impressed by the Philadelphia Baptist students who witnessed the accident from the other vehicles.
 
“What an amazing group of resilient children!! I was honored to be involved as one of the first responders at the Community Center and each child I spoke to blessed me immensely. They were nervous, shaken but strong in their faith. Each one had called home. The people in charge from their home church worked diligently, non-stop to notify and locate all of the injured. God was watching over this group and unfortunately, their trip to Florida came to an end before it began but the good news is, they are all coming home. The bond between these 63 teens was an amazing sight to behold.”
 
Pastor Robertson also praised the students’ response, as well as the diligence by the adult chaperons.
 
“They were like an army,” he said. “They were there. They were doing everything they needed to do, no doubt guided by the Holy Spirit.”
 
Students were not available for comment because of their delayed arrival at the church shortly before 10 p.m. on Saturday. But eighth-grader Rebekah Daigrepont connected with the students not long after the bus accident occurred.
 
Daigrepont said she believes God prompted some of them to move seats or the placement of their body only moments before the accident occurred.
 
“Many of my friends said they heard an audible voice telling them to move, right before the accident took place,” Daigrepont said. “That was definitely a God thing.”
 
Ricky Belgard, prayer minister at Philadelphia Baptist, also noted God’s hand was on the youth and chaperons in the bus that crashed.
 
When Belgard and others at the church learned of the accident, they contacted the parents and the more than 200 prayer partners who serve as part of the church’s prayer ministry. As they received more information, they then notified the church family and many more prayers were lifted up to God.
 
The prayer chain then grew as news got out. A number of churches in the area sent out text and emails asking for immediate prayer for all those involved.
 
“God in His providence had His hand on the youth,” Belgard said. “He is our shield. We were praying for a shield of safety as they traveled even before the accident. As you look at the pictures you can truly see God’s hand over the youth because it easily could have been tragic.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell writes for the Baptist Message at baptistmessage.com, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

7/1/2015 12:00:38 PM by Brian Blackwell, Louisiana Baptist Message | with 0 comments



Oklahoma Supreme Court rules Ten Commandments must go

July 1 2015 by Greg Horton, Religion News Service

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered a Ten Commandments monument removed from the state Capitol grounds June 30, three years after its installation sparked a religious feud.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma first filed a lawsuit challenging the monument’s constitutionality in 2013.

 
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Photo courtesy of Serge Melki via Flickr
The Oklahoma state Capitol building.

In a 7-2 ruling, the justices said the monument was in violation of Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution. The article states that public money or property cannot be used or donated “ … for the use, benefit or support of any sect, church, denomination or system of religion … “
 
The wording is critical because the monument was purchased with private donations but placed on public land.
 
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt released a statement saying the justices got it wrong. Pruitt argued that the monument is nearly identical to a Texas monument that was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
He said he plans on petitioning for a rehearing. Gov. Mary Fallin also released a statement, in which she indicated that she would be talking to Pruitt’s office about legal options.
 
The monument was erected in 2012. Since then, several other religious groups have asked to place their own monuments on the state Capitol grounds.
 
The decision likely affects a proposed satanic monument that New York’s Satanic Temple applied for in 2013. After that application, as well as one from a Hindu group, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission put a hold on all new monuments.

7/1/2015 11:51:14 AM by Greg Horton, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Opportunity, authenticity draw people, panels say

July 1 2015 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN

With more than half the world’s population believed to be living in urban areas, the International Mission Board (IMB) addressed how it is looking to combine the evangelistic efforts of its full-time missionaries with students, retirees and businessmen who can most seamlessly relocate to foreign cities.
 
During a 20-minute segment on the Cooperative Program stage in the exhibits area at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, IMB President David Platt and executive vice president Sebastian Traeger provided information on the IMB’s “cities strategy.” A pilot program still in the development stages, the effort will initially target five cities.
 
Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tenn., facilitated the conversation with Platt, Traeger and Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas.
 
“We remain laser-focused on reaching unreached people groups with the gospel,” Platt said during the June 16 panel discussion. He emphasized the pilot program is not a means of fundamentally altering missions but maximizing the effort to reach the lost by integrating the skills of laypeople with IMB personnel in the field.

 
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David Platt, left, president of the International Mission Board, and Sebastian Traeger, IMB's executive vice president, speak on a panel about the entity's "cities strategy" in Columbus, Ohio, June 16.

New urban believers will, in turn, take the gospel to points beyond the city, Platt said.
 
“God is bringing people groups to those cities … and they can spread the gospel from those cities,” he said. “And there are unique opportunities for multiple people to go to cities.”
 
According to the United Nations estimates, 54 percent of the world’s population lives in large urban areas, and that number will grow to about 66 percent by 2050, Platt said.
 
Pitman said, “If we don’t pay attention to the cities then we are ignoring what’s happening in the world; we’re not paying attention to the shift that is taking place.”
 
Pitman has urged his church to use their job skills and passions to engage the city where they live. That ethic readily translates into the same kind of work and volunteerism overseas.
 
Platt said, “If they are not doing it here they won’t do it over there.”
 
Traeger said business owners or employees don’t have to “leave their jobs, but leverage their jobs.” The program isn’t about putting hammers in the hands of accountants like a short-term mission trip. It’s about putting accountants in accounting firms and in the sphere of influence of established church planters, he explained.
 
And with an estimated 6 million expatriates working overseas, Pitman noted the IMB has access to a substantial untapped resource.

 
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Jonathan Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn., left; David Platt, president of the International Mission Board; Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas and Sebastian Traeger, IMB's executive vice president, speak on a panel about the entity's "cities strategy." The panel was held at the Cooperative Program booth in the exhibit hall at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, June 16.

But are millennials leaving the church in droves as a recent poll indicates?
 
That question was addressed in a 20-minute CP panel session later that afternoon.
 
The panel acknowledged the answer is a little more nuanced than a simple “yes” or “no.” Shedding light on the subject and advising how churches can attract and keep young adult members, Dean Inserra, pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., and Matt Carter, pastor of the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, fielded questions from Pastor Akin.
 
“The average age of [people at] our church is 27 years old,” said Carter whose church in Austin serves the University of Texas and thousands of students attending other local universities and community colleges. “So we’re reaching them but, largely, what the evidence is showing is that they are leaving the church as a generation.”
 
The pastors agreed there are a host of reasons why millennials are not coming or staying in church.
 
“One of the stumbling blocks is the exclusivity of the gospel,” Inserra said. “But that’s always going to be an issue. It has been an issue for 2,000 years.”
 
Sexuality is another issue. Biblically-faithful churches are committed to complementarianism and aren’t afraid to talk about it, Inserra said. That will turn away some millennials but draw others seeking answers.
 
But attracting millennials is not complicated, the pastors said.
 
Millennials are desperate to get into the fight for the mission of God but are often not engaged that way at church, so they leave, Carter said.
 
Many decide to be a part of missions and social justice apart from the church, Inserra said. So one way to reach millennials is to draw them in, making them part of the mission of Christ through the church.
 
“The currency of the millennial generation is authenticity,” Carter said.
 
“They don’t want to be ‘wowed.’ They don’t want to know how creative you are. They want to know if you are real.”
 
Carter and Inserra said churches that invest in their communities and create a sense of community within the church are a big draw for the young adults eager to make a difference in their world.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN at texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

7/1/2015 11:39:02 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



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