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News

Student volunteers show God is ‘hope in darkness’

October 20 2014 by Paige Turner, IMB

Portable spotlights propped up on cinder blocks let smiles shine bright against the night sky in Thailand. Students and children bunch together in a circle laughing, dancing and doing hand motions to silly songs.
Paul Thompson exchanges high fives with children in the migrant worker camp. Boys crowd near their human jungle gym, wanting him to play and lift them on his shoulders. They crave attention, and Thompson gladly gives it.
 
Thompson, a member of Salem Baptist Church in Apex, is on a weeklong International World Changers mission trip with about 40 high school and college students from churches in North Carolina and Virginia. World Changers provides student groups and individuals a short-term missions experience as they partner with International Mission Board (IMB) workers throughout the world.
 
The joyous ruckus of singing and laughter from Thompson, the World Changers team and the children would seem to attract the attention of at least a few onlookers. But on this Tuesday night, their presence goes unnoticed to the world outside the migrant worker camp in northern Thailand.

 
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IMB photo by Chloe Lewis
Members of the North Carolina team teach third grade students about different countries and their cultures. Many of the lessons they teach were prepared weeks in advance to ensure that the team was equipped. 

That’s because the team is sharing the gospel among a people group that’s not only unreached with the gospel but is largely tucked away, hidden and invisible from the world. They work in construction and are transient, moving families and homes from one construction site to the next. To get to the Tuesday night camp, the team drives through an upscale neighborhood. At the back of the neighborhood they see homes under construction, and just across the street, the migrant workers’ tin, wooden and bamboo shacks –entirely out of sight from the main road, as are most camps.
 
They arrive at the camp and trudge through mud and puddles carrying lights, craft supplies, sound equipment and tarps to sit on. The team plays games, sings songs and shares the gospel.
 
As they help children and adults make beaded bracelets and tell the story of creation and salvation, Thompson sees just how easy it can be to show love.
 
“The man next to me is listening to the translator but looking at me,” Thompson said. “I was showing him how to do the bracelet. He wanted that eye contact. He wanted me to help him.”
 
In another camp Thompson meets a boy who stays by his side. They can’t really communicate, but at the end of the day, the boy asks the translator to tell him something.
 
“He wants you to come back,” the translator says. “He doesn’t want you to leave.”
 
Thompson graduates from North Carolina State University next year, and until this trip he never thought about serving overseas. But now, after seeing God work, he is considering it.
 
“God loves these people,” Thompson said. “Before the trip we prayed specifically that we would be welcomed by the people and that God would prepare their hearts.”
 
God answered those prayers as the team moved beyond surface-level outreach. They taught English at the migrant worker school in the mornings and invested time in getting to know the children. The principal of the school even invited IMB workers to continue teaching. 
 
The team saw many children from the school in the evenings, when they shared the gospel, shared a meal and showed the “Jesus” film in different migrant camps. As a result, evangelism efforts are pushed forward in the four new camps where students served.
 
A number of migrant workers express interest in the gospel throughout the week. Several pray to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and hundreds hear the gospel for the first time.
 
Men lingering in the shadows, yet hovering near, eventually kick off their shoes and make their way to the tarp where team members share the gospel.

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IMB photo by Chloe Lewis
As the week progresses, the team continues building relationships with the children by showing them the love of Christ. Grace Ann Carver, member of Salem Baptist Church and a teacher in North Carolina, gives the children one-on-one attention with one of their English activities.

 

They ask questions, wanting to know more.
 
“We prayed we would get out of the way this week and join God in what He was already doing,” said Justin Carmona, student pastor at Salem Baptist.
 
Carmona’s students joined students from Oak Grove Baptist Church in Clyde, and Corinth Baptist Church in New Kent, Va., in serving alongside IMB workers who have worked for several years with the migrant workers.
 
“I like knowing that when we leave, people will still be here; that this ministry will continue,” Carmona said. 
 
Salem Baptist plans to be around to see what happens next, as the church is committed to partnering with IMB workers and the migrant worker ministry.
 
“We want to be part of [IMB workers] strategy,” Carmona said. “We want to come alongside in prayer for them. We also want to help financially, and send interns and teams.”
 
Carmona was surprised to see migrant workers so receptive to the gospel.
 
“A lot of the migrant workers might be raised Buddhist, but they aren’t really practicing it; they are going through the motions,” he says.
 
World Changers team member Sarah Crowley saw that receptivity firsthand. One night she talked with two women who prayed to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
 
“They kept thanking us. They told me they are so happy to be in the family,” said Crowley, a Salem member and freshman at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
 
Crowley joined the team only a few days before the group departed. After plans for another summer mission trip fell through, Crowley felt like Thailand was where she needed to go but had no idea how it would happen.
 
So when Carmona asked if she wanted to take the spot of a student who couldn’t go because of health reasons, she said “yes.”
 
“This trip was exactly what I needed at this point in my life. I’ve learned God is hope in the darkness, and that Jesus can love through me,” she said.
 
“I think God is calling me to something bigger than I ever thought I could do,” Crowley explains. “But He can equip me. I think it’s time to start thinking about doing what God wants me to do, and not what other people want me to do.”
 
Trusting God to equip and following Him no matter the cost are valuable lessons, even for migrant workers who are more recent believers like Aom. *
 
The students meet Aom, an older woman who walks with a limp, when she shares her testimony with nearly 200 adults and children at the migrant camp they visited Tuesday night.
 
This time, instead of teenagers and children singing and playing, it’s the older woman who is in the spotlight. Aom shares how two years ago a World Changers team came to her camp, showed the Jesus film and shared the gospel. She then repented and believed in Jesus.
 
Some of Aom’s friends and family don’t want her talking about Jesus. But she isn’t afraid, she says, because the confidence of God is in her heart.
 
Migrant workers are coming to faith because of her testimony. She helped start a church in one of the camps, and she continues serving with IMB workers and World Changers teams in the migrant camps.
 
An eternal impact.
 
All because students answered, and continue to answer, God’s call to go. 
 
*Name changed
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paige Turner is an IMB writer living in Southeast Asia.) 

10/20/2014 4:57:52 PM by Paige Turner, IMB | with 0 comments



Houston sermon subpoenas unite Baptists

October 20 2014 by Tom Strode & Bonnie Pritchett, Baptist Press

The city of Houston has managed to unite Baptists divided on other issues to speak with one voice on an application of their shared belief in religious freedom – that the government should not subpoena sermons.
 
Baptists on both sides of a divide from the days of the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) urged Houston Mayor Annise Parker in a letter Oct. 16 to concede that the city’s subpoenas of sermons and other pastoral communications were wrong and will not be repeated. In a suit against the city, lawyers for Parker’s administration have issued broad subpoenas to four pastors and a ministry leader who oppose the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, known as HERO among the homosexual-transgender ordinance’s supporters.
 
City Attorney Dave Feldman, in another development, struck the word “sermons” from the subpoenas Oct. 17. But attorneys for the ministers maintained that nothing short of a complete withdrawal of the documents will suffice.
 
“The city of Houston still doesn’t get it,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel Erik Stanley said. “It thinks that by changing nothing in its subpoenas other than to remove the word ‘sermons’ that it has solved the problem. That solves nothing.”
 
The subpoenas have elicited an outcry of opposition, including the letter from Baptists who once worked together before differences rooted in theology resulted in organizational division within the SBC beginning in the early 1990s. The letter’s signers included leaders of the SBC and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT).

 
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The Baptist leaders asked Parker and the city “to acknowledge that the issuing of these subpoenas is improper and unwarranted, in order to ensure that such will not happen again. Whatever a church or synagogue or mosque or any other religious body believes about marriage or sexuality, the preaching and teaching of those bodies should be outside the scope of government intimidation or oversight.”
 
“This is about more than ‘walking back’ a bad public relations move,” they said in the letter. “This is about something that is fundamental to basic, self-evident rights that are endowed not by government but by nature and nature’s God.”
 
The signers admitted they “disagree on many things” and “represent a broad coalition of Baptists from across the political and theological spectrum.”
 
As Baptists, however, they said they “have a long history of support for religious liberty and separation of church and state. On that, we stand united.
 
“Our ancestors stood in the colonial and revolutionary eras demanding the disestablishment of state churches, the end to state licensing of preachers, and the cessation of penalties for religious dissenters,” they said in the letter. “Our forebears – some of whom were imprisoned – petitioned for a First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty, for everyone, because we believe as Baptists that God alone is Lord of the conscience.”
 
Signing the letter were ERLC President Russell D. Moore, BJC Executive Director Brent Walker, SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards, BGCT Executive Director David Hardage, SBTC President Jimmy Pritchard, BGCT President Jeff Johnson, Houston Baptist University President Robert Sloan and BGCT Christian Life Commission Director Gus Reyes.
 
Moore worked in conjunction with Walker to organize the coalition who signed the letter.
 
In a statement for Baptist Press, Moore said he could not “think of a time since the Southern Baptist controversy started when Baptists across the spectrum have cooperated on an issue in this way.”
 
“We have disagreements with one another on important matters, but we stand together for our Baptist heritage of religious liberty and separation of church and state,” Moore said. “I hope that Mayor Parker, and any other politician who wishes to violate these principles, will reconsider. Baptists have been reminding politicians of the importance of soul freedom for hundreds of years, whether from English jail cells or colonial courtrooms or revolutionary-era rallies. We stand with our forebears, and we won’t back down.”
 
Issued in September but not reported until Oct. 14, the subpoenas seek a wide range of communications by the pastors and ministry leader. They include not only emails and text messages but: “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition [for a referendum to overturn the ordinance], Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
 
The city threatened contempt of court charges – with the possibility of fines and/or jail time – if the pastors did not comply.
 
Many Southern Baptists in the Houston area have been involved in a diverse interdenominational effort first to defeat HERO and then to gain its repeal after the city council approved the measure in May. HERO added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a list of protected classifications, such as race, religion, sex and disability.
 
Foes of the ordinance are concerned it will violate the religious freedom of business owners and others who disagree with the measure. Also, opponents think it will make women and children vulnerable to sexual predators by permitting people to use public restrooms of the gender they identify with rather than those of their natural gender.
 
After enactment of the ordinance, opponents began a petition drive to place repeal of the ordinance before Houston voters. They submitted about 31,000 signatures – among more than 50,000 collected and nearly 14,000 more than required to qualify for a referendum. Feldman disqualified enough of the signatures, however, to prevent a vote on repeal. In response, HERO opponents filed suit, seeking to gain court approval for a referendum. A court hearing is scheduled for January.
 
Feldman’s revision of the subpoenas, meanwhile, was a preliminary response to ADF’s brief calling on the Harris County 152nd District Court to quash the subpoenas related to the lawsuit. In his brief, Feldman tried to justify the original demand, calling the requested material “relevant” because of the pastors’ involvement in the referendum process that is at the heart of the lawsuit against the city’s disqualifying the referendum.
 
“Even though the pastors are not parties in this lawsuit, the subpoenas still demand from them 17 different categories of information – information that encompasses speeches made by the pastors and private communications with their church members,” Stanley said in a written release. “As we have stated many times, the problem is the subpoenas themselves; they must be rescinded entirely. The city must respect the First Amendment and abandon its illegitimate mission to invade the private communications of pastors for the purpose of strong-arming them into silence in a lawsuit that concerns nothing more than the authenticity of citizen petitions.”
 
In related developments since news broke of the subpoenas:

  • Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott urged Feldman in an Oct. 16 letter to withdraw the subpoenas. Abbott told Feldman, “Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Abbott wrote. “The people of Houston and their religious leaders must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious affairs are beyond the reach of the government. Nothing short of an immediate reversal by your office will provide that security.”

  • Parker, a lesbian who fervently promoted passage of the ordinance, indicated Oct. 15 after receiving the first wave of criticism that the city would change its approach on the subpoenas, but Feldman and she also seemed to fail to appreciate the religious liberty concerns. According to The Wall Street Journal, a city spokeswoman said Parker agreed with concerns about the subpoenas, which she said were issued by pro bono lawyers for Houston. Neither Parker nor Feldman “were aware the subpoenas had been issued until yesterday,” the spokeswoman said. “Both agree the original documents were overly broad. The city will move to narrow the scope during an upcoming court hearing. Feldman says the focus should be only on communications related to the HERO petition process.” Parker, however, tweeted Oct. 14, the previous day: “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?” At an Oct. 15 news conference, Feldman said the subpoenas had been inaccurately “construed” as an effort to infringe on religious freedom, according to the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “All of this hysteria about how we’re trying to infringe – all because of the used of the word ‘sermon’ – is really ridiculous,” Feldman said.

 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

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10/20/2014 4:42:06 PM by Tom Strode & Bonnie Pritchett, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Death sentence upheld for Pakistani mother

October 20 2014 by Staff of Morning Star News

LAHORE, Pakistan – In spite of protests within Pakistan and abroad against the country’s blasphemy laws, the Lahore High Court upheld Oct. 16 the death sentence for a Christian mother accused of insulting Islam’s prophet Muhammad.
 
Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, is the first woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan. The mother of five was arrested in June 2009 after Muslim co-workers beat her when she refused to convert to Islam; her death sentence was announced in November 2010.
 
Naeem Shakir, Bibi’s lawyer, will appeal the decision to the Pakistani Supreme Court, he told Morning Star News, but huge backlogs at the court could delay the appeal three years.
 
Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, told Morning Star News that they were hoping for some relief but that the verdict had devastated the family.
 
“I met Asia in prison a month ago,” he said. “She’s fine and was hoping to hear good news, but, alas, our ordeal is not over yet.”
 
Justice Anwarul Haq and Justice Shahbaz Ali Rizvi had rejected Bibi’s appeal, even though there were glaring contradictions in witness testimonies, Shakir said.
 
“I pointed out the conflicting accounts of the prosecution witnesses, as each one of them had a different narrative regarding the exact location where the local village council was convened in which Asia had allegedly confessed that she had spoken ill of Islam’s prophet and sought forgiveness from the villagers,” Shakir said. “There is also discrepancy in the number of people present as each witness gave different figures.”

AsiaBibi10-20-14.gif

File Photo
Asia Bibi

 

In addition, the court did not take into account that the First Information Report (FIR) against her was registered six days after the alleged incident, “which clearly shows that the case was a premeditated conspiracy against the Christian woman,” Shakir said.
 
The complainant in the case, Qari Salem, was not even present in the berry fields where the alleged incident had occurred, Shakir said.
 
“One of the witnesses, a female co-worker of Asia named Maafia, used to study the Koran from Salem’s wife, and we believe that she is the one who provoked Salem, a prayer leader of the village’s local mosque, to lodge a case against Asia as she and her sister, Asma, had an altercation with Asia in the berry fields over drinking water from the same bowl,” Shakir said.
 
Bibi’s appeal had been delayed several times, but Shakir said he had been confident the verdict would be overturned.
 
“I was shocked when the judges decided to uphold the sessions court decision,” he said, adding that the court had said that Bibi’s “confession” before villagers was sufficient evidence while ignoring that any such confession might have been coerced by Muslim mob.
 
The courtroom was packed with clerics and members of Islamist extremist groups who supported the prosecution, and they erupted in celebration upon hearing the two-judge panel’s decision to dismiss Bibi’s appeal.
 
David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s deputy Asia Pacific director, called the ruling a grave injustice.
 
“Asia Bibi should never have been convicted in the first place – still less sentenced to death – and the fact that she could pay with her life for an argument is sickening,” he said in a press statement. “There were serious concerns about the fairness of the trial, and her mental and physical health has reportedly deteriorated badly during the years she has spent in almost total isolation on death row. She should be released immediately and the conviction should be quashed.”
 
The ruling is the latest chapter in a long ordeal for Bibi, whose case has focused international attention on how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have become a weapon against religious minorities.
 
While Bibi’s death sentence led to international protests, the possibility of overturning it provoked outrage within Pakistan. Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was slain by his bodyguard on Jan. 4, 2011 because of his support for Bibi and his criticism of the blasphemy law; the bodyguard believed Taseer, a Muslim, had blasphemed by criticizing the law.
 
Former Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, the first Christian, cabinet-level minister, was shot and killed on March 2, 2011 for calling for reforms to blasphemy laws following Bibi’s trial.
 
“The laws are often used to settle personal vendettas – both against members of minority religious groups and Muslims – while individuals facing charges are frequently targeted in mob violence,” Griffiths said. “Those who speak out against the laws face terrible reprisals. However, the blasphemy laws violate international law and must be repealed or reformed immediately to meet international standards.”
 
Death sentences have rarely been carried out in blasphemy cases, but that is in part because such allegations have frequently led to deadly vigilante attacks on the accused or their lawyers. Pakistan is nearly 96 percent Muslim, according to Operation World, and religiously charged court cases commonly involve clamoring crowds of Muslims and other pressures coming to bear on lawyers and judges. Of 52 people extra-judicially murdered after being charged with blasphemy in Pakistan, 25 were Muslims, 15 were Christians, five were Ahmadis, one was Buddhist and one was Hindu, according to a report by the Centre for Research and Security Studies.
 
Bibi was convicted under Section 295-C of the defamation statutes for alleged derogatory comments about Muhammad, which is punishable by death, though life imprisonment is also possible. Pakistan put a de facto moratorium on executions into place in 2008, though one person has been executed since then.
 
In the harvest fields of Ittan Wali in June 2009, Bibi’s co-workers objected to her touching the container for the water she had fetched, saying that her Christian faith made it impure for them, and they told her to convert to Islam, according to her husband. Her objections were taken as blasphemy, and they beat her before dragging her to a police station, he said. More than 20 men have been sentenced to death under the blasphemy law, most of them Christians, though none have been executed, human rights groups say.
 
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been routinely misused to settle personal scores with false accusations. Police have found most blasphemy accusations to be false during investigation, but accusers can make innocent victims suffer months in jail with quick and easy registration of such cases.
 
Christians make up 2.45 percent of Pakistan’s population.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Morning Star News is a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide. Used by permission.)

10/20/2014 4:34:45 PM by Staff of Morning Star News | with 0 comments



BOD approves amendments, property proposals

October 20 2014 by BSC Communications

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Board of Directors (BOD) approved a reduced Cooperative Program (CP) budget for 2015, took action on several properties, heard reports and approved proposals for changes in convention bylaws during its meeting Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell on Oak Island.
 
A CP budget of $29 million, $1 million less than the 2014 budget, was approved. The budget increases the percentage going to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to 37 percent, up from 36.5 percent in 2014. The budget will be presented for consideration by messengers during the convention’s annual meeting Nov. 10-11 in Greensboro.
 

Properties

The Business Services Special Committee presented three recommendations and several updates. Jimmy Adams, chair of the committee, brought recommendations to take action on properties owned by the BSC.
Two of the properties are buildings that have been used by the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM). A new collegiate partnership strategy launched in 2013. It mobilizes local churches to reach college students. The board also heard a report on campus ministry from Jonathan Yarboro, acting team leader for collegiate partnerships.
 
The board authorized the sale of the BCM building at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. The 30-year-old facility is in poor condition. Bids were approved beginning Oct. 6, 2014, for a minimum of 45 days.
 
This action was precipitated by an unsolicited offer to purchase the property. Proceeds from the sale will go into a fund for collegiate partnerships. A BCM building near the University of North Carolina-Pembroke will be transferred at no cost to Burnt Swamp Baptist Association to use as a ministry center. This facility will continue to be used for BCM.
 
Adams said the land was originally owned by the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) and a provision was included with the transfer of property requiring BCH to have the first right of refusal if the convention gives up ownership. BCH declined the property and supports the transfer to Burnt Swamp Association.
 
The BOD authorized Fruitland Baptist Bible College to construct a four-unit student family housing building with a gift from Jim Jacumin, a lay member of East Valdese Baptist Church in Valdese. The building will be named the Nancy Nell Jacumin Family Apartments, in honor of his late wife. Jacumin received the 2014 Heritage Award from the BSC, in recognition of his generous support of Baptist causes. Another gift from Jacumin, the Jim and Nancy Nell Jacumin Retreat Lodge at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro is now complete and will be dedicated Oct. 28 at 1 p.m.
 

Bylaw amendments

The BOD approved six amendments to the convention’s bylaws, which will be considered by messengers at the annual meeting.
 
The amendments proposed include:

  • Changing the procedures and requirements for submitting resolutions for consideration at the annual meeting.

  • Setting procedures for meetings of the BOD when weather or other factors cause meetings to be cancelled.

  • Clarifying qualifications and limits on who can serve on the BOD.

  • Updating wording related to the Christian Life & Public Affairs Committee.

  • Updating names for Fruitland Baptist Bible College (from Institute) in BSC documents.

  • Clarifying inconsistencies on the description of trustees for North Carolina Baptist Hospital. 

Disciple-making

Chris Hawks, chairman of the evangelism and discipleship committee, said the BSC is on target to train 500 people in using “The Story” this year. (One is planned Oct. 28 at Green Pines Baptist Church in Knightdale.)
 
Milton Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, urged the board to pray for a spiritual awakening in North Carolina. “Let’s pray that, if we don’t see it in our lifetime, that others will,” he said.
 
Highlighting the convention’s nine-month-old strategy focused on impacting lostness through disciple making, he urged the board, “Just begin investing your life in others.”
 
A lack of disciple-making has resulted in declining baptism statistics, he said. “The baptism figures across the Southern Baptist Convention for 2013 match the figures when Harry Truman was president,” he added.
 
“My prayer is that churches and associations and agencies and all of our partners in ministry will fully embrace disciple-making and that each will develop a disciple-making culture within their organization. You can become a catalyst for disciple-making.”
 

Engaging people groups

Chuck Register, executive leader for church planting and mission partnerships, said a new research project has identified 78 clusters of lost people across Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle.
 
“God is bringing to North Carolina people of the world who have not heard the Good News,” he said. Now that many of these have been identified, “We are calling for engagement.”
 
To speed up the engagement process, the BSC will launch a pilot project in January that places 10 individuals to work with churches to engage these groups
 

Collegiate partnerships

Jonathan Yarboro said the BSC’s new model of collegiate partnerships plans to reach students on 200 campuses across the state – approximately 591,000 students.
 
He said the convention is moving from a model that focused on nine campuses to one setting up partnerships with churches to engage the 591,000 college students in all colleges across N.C. This will include outreach on the state’s many community colleges for the first time.
 
Some 90,000 international students are studying at schools in the state. “God is bringing the nations to us as international students,” Yarboro said. There is an estimated 35,000 college faculty and staff who also need the gospel.
 

Baptists on Mission

Referring to the areas of New Jersey and New York hit by Super Storm Sandy, John Gore, president of Baptists on Mission or N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM), said, “There is still much to be done there.” Volunteers will continue to work in that area through August 2015. NCBM have rebuilt 104 homes in these areas since 2012.
 
Gore told of personally taking part in preparing 2,000+ meals a day in Piscataway, N.J., using NCBM’s new kitchen unit two.
 
He said cleanup work led to faith sharing, and people have come to faith in Christ through the work. One person they helped said seeing the volunteers was like seeing Jesus in his front yard. “That’s what it’s all about – being Jesus to the people of New Jersey,” Gore said.
 

Baptist Children’s Homes

North Carolina Baptists served 9,983 children in 2013 through the BCH, reported Brenda Gray, executive vice president for development and communication.
 
“Redeemed” will be the Thanksgiving offering theme this year. The week of prayer emphasis is Nov. 16-23. Gray also gave the report for the N.C. Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM), operated by BCH from its Thomasville campus.
 
She said NCBAM receives 350 calls a month requesting help for senior adults. To respond, NCBAM has enlisted more than 2,000 volunteers. A $15,000 grant from the N.C. Baptist Foundation will provide wheelchair ramps to prevent seniors from falling.
 

N.C. Baptist Hospital

FaithHealthNC is a partnership ministry between N.C. Baptist Hospital (also known as Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center) and faith groups; it includes training volunteers to work with patients before, during and after hospital stays in order to keep people healthier, said Wanda Dellinger, chairman of the Christian Social Services Special Committee.
 
She said Ashe, Brier Creek and Brushy Mountain Baptist associations have signed agreements to encourage church participation with FaithHealthNC.
 
Last year’s Mother’s Day Offering, used by N.C. Baptist Hospital to help needy patients, provided $579,000 in medical care to 59 patients. Also, CareNet counseling centers maintained by the hospital across the state provided $600,000 in free pastoral counseling last year.
 

Fruitland

Fruitland Baptist Bible College expects about 188 students to be enrolled this fall, reported President David Horton.
 
The school has satellite campuses in Monroe, Wilkesboro and Rocky Mount, plus Hispanic campuses in Sylva, Statesville, Charlotte and Wilmington.
 

Biblical Recorder

“People in Baptist pews need to know what’s going on,” said Allan Blume, Biblical Recorder (BR) editor, in the BR report.
 
He said the BR is one of the top three Baptist newspapers in the country in online readership. Web traffic increased by more than 100 percent this year. Print circulation continues to decline even as digital soars.

 
Universities

Gordon Benton gave highlights of the five Baptist universities which have partnership ties to the BSC as part of his report from the Christian Higher Education Special Committee.
 
Chowan University has the highest enrollment since 1971, and launched a new student chaplaincy ministry this year.
 
Campbell University has received a $1.5 million gift to establish a chair of evangelism and missions in the divinity school, plus another $1 million to implement it.
 

Christian Life and Public Affairs

Chairman Ray Barnhill introduced Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League (CAL), to talk about the work of CAL, a public policy group representing conservative evangelicals from 17 church groups in the state.
 
Creech said the organization is facing its most severe financial shortfall.
 
“We may be forced to suspend this ministry of seven decades,” he said.
 
A motion at the 2013 annual meeting regarding the financial needs of the CAL was referred to the BOD. The Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee was tasked to address the motion.
 
Barnhill said BSC cannot offer additional funding support for the CAL but worked with Creech to encourage churches and individuals to support CAL.
 
Barnhill said the convention sent out letters requesting support for CAL and encouraging churches to invite Creech to speak.
 
Creech indicated that the effort was making a difference.
 
“Thank you so much,” said Creech. “We consider the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina our mother. We were birthed by you.”
 

Communications Committee

Micheal Pardue, chairman of the Communications Committee, reported the committee is working with John Jones, the convention’s team leader for information technology and services, on a new approach to getting information from churches affiliated with the convention.
 
The Annual Church Profile (ACP), gathered for LifeWay Christian Resources, has been the traditional tool for this, but many churches do not return the reports.
 
Pardue said getting information from the churches is important, because even the size of the board of directors depends on ACP reports from the churches.
 
Pardue announced Kathryn Carson is the new team leader of the BSC communications team. She has served as a graphic designer on the convention staff since 2005.
 
In other matters the Board elected Ginger Brown as board secretary, replacing Pam Young, who was the temporary board secretary.
 
The board approved a recommendation from BSC president C.J. Bordeaux, pastor of Gorman Baptist Church in Durham, that board member Debbie Smith be named to fill the unexpired, at-large term of Bobby Lewis on the executive committee. Lewis moved out of state.


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10/20/2014 4:19:51 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Other events during annual meeting

October 20 2014 by Compilation of press releases

Each year messengers gather for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting. As always there are other events that happen around the same time.

  • Pray Greensboro: prayer walking Nov. 10 in Greensboro. Teams will receive a map of the prayer walking area (strategic places that the BSC staff believe are ready to be engaged with the gospel), a prayer walking training video with a guide and a demographic overview to prepare them. Register by Oct. 31. Visit https://ncbaptist.wufoo.com/forms/sft-november-2014-prayerwalking-greensboro/.

  • North Carolina Baptist Ministers’ Wives Annual Meeting meets Nov. 10, 9-11:30 a.m. at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. The room is Guilford G. This event has no cost and does not require registration. Light breakfast will be served. The speaker is Beth Greer who is a member of First Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., where she is active in music and women’s ministries.

  • N.C. Baptist International Missionary Fellowship plans to meet Nov. 10 from 10:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Lindley Park Baptist Church in Greensboro. The cost per person is $10 and must be sent in by Nov. 7 as a reservation to: Marj Bennett, 1607 Wycliffe Court, Burlington, N.C. 27215. Call (336) 586-0085 or email mtbennett004@triad.rr.com. Christian books and Bibles will be collected to share with ministry areas overseas. The fellowship will also be collecting funds to add to its scholarship supporting students planning missionary service.

  • Great Commission Partnerships Ice Cream Social will meet Nov. 10 after the evening service of the annual meeting in Guilford G of the Koury Convention Center. This event has no cost and does not require registration.

  • Heavenly Banquet meets Nov. 11 at noon in Guilford G of the Koury Convention Center. Shelton Daniel, pastor of Greater Joy Baptist Church in Rocky Mount and Roanoke Rapids, is the speaker. Deadline to register is Nov. 3. The cost is $12 per person. Visit https://ncbaptist.wufoo.com/forms/heavenly-banquet-2014/. Contact Austin Pulliam at apulliam@ncbaptist.org or (800) 395-5102, ext. 5651.

  • SEBTS Alumni Luncheon will be Nov. 12 from noon until 1:15 p.m. at the Sheraton Greensboro. Sponsored by the C.H. Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching, the lunch features John Ewart, director of the Spurgeon Center. Cost is $10. Visit http://www.sebts.edu/alumni/events/; click on “State Luncheons.” Contact (919) 761-2293.

10/20/2014 3:43:05 PM by Compilation of press releases | with 0 comments



Fall Board of Trustees and Southeastern Society Meetings

October 17 2014 by SEBTS Communications

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) held its semi-annual Board of Trustees (BOT) and Southeastern Society meetings Oct. 12-14. Attendees were encouraged by reflecting on past successes and planning for the future.
 
On Oct. 12, Drew Raynor, pastor of Harvest Church in Cary, spoke at a special chapel service about his experience as a recent SEBTS graduate working to revitalize a church.
 
In the community surrounding the church, only five percent of the population claims to have a personal relationship with Jesus. “God is continuing to move His church, gospel and kingdom onto places of darkness,” Raynor said.  
 
Sunday Oct. 12, marked the launch of Harvest Church, a church plant out of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, led by Tony Merida, the Johnny Hunt chair of biblical preaching at SEBTS.
 
Raynor preached from the book of Acts, focusing on the fact that God sends Christians out full of power and purpose to fulfill the Great Commission.
 
Though he has no experience pastoring or planting a church, Raynor recognizes God is at work. “God has blazed a trail with Harvest Baptist Church,” he said. “He is acting in spite of me, not because of me.”

 
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SEBTS Photo by Maria Estes
Danny Akin, right, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Todd Linn, center, chairman of the Board of Trustees, present George Harvey with a framed resolution recognizing Harvey’s 25 years of service. 

On Oct. 13, the BOT and the newly renamed Board of Visitors, now called the Southeastern Society, met for the presidential address and reports. Daniel Akin, SEBTS president, noted recent accomplishments of the seminary including the fifth year of record enrollment at 3,220 students.
 
“God is bringing more students here than ever before,” Akin said. “I see a younger generation that has a lot of courage and passion. It is a wonderful time to be a part of something that is making a difference for eternity.” 
 
Akin continues to lead the seminary’s Kingdom Diversity initiative. “We have a deep passion to train ministers and reflect what our church will look like in heaven,” he said. “There are no subdivisions in heaven. We are all calling on the same Father and indwelt by the same Holy Spirit!”
 
In the evening, a banquet celebrated SEBTS’ $50 million campaign goal and honored George Harvey for 25 years of service to the seminary. Harvey, who is general counsel and director of planned giving, joined SEBTS in June 1989 during difficult financial times as the seminary was undergoing a significant transition.
 
Bart Neal, retired vice president for institutional advancement and former interim president at Southeastern, launched the campaign in 2002 and opened the banquet in prayer.
  
“The Lord has accomplished many significant things through your faithfulness in the past 10 years,” Akin said. “It is easy to talk about what the campaign does in dollars and cents, but it is the relationships that God has allowed us to build over these years that have knit us together as family.”
 
Akin noted that the campaign was successful in the midst of two of the greatest economic downturns in America since the Great Depression. “Even though the campaign was launched in economic turmoil, God was faithful,” Akin said.
 
“We need the gifts of brothers and sisters like you to help us do what we are doing here for the glory of God,” Akin said.
 
“Students are becoming more and more aware of what a blessing it is to study here. It blesses me to no end to see the many ways God is using our graduates for the glory of God.”
 
He mentioned graduates serving in the public square, helping young mothers to choose life for their unborn children and writing legislation to protect freedom and religious liberty.
 
In 1990, SEBTS became a new school in many ways, Akin said. George Harvey was recognized for the significant role he played in the school’s transformation.
 
After a unanimous vote of the trustees earlier in the day, Todd Linn, chairman of the BOT, and Akin presented a resolution to Harvey.
 
The resolution honored and celebrated a man who left a highly respected career in law to come to a failing seminary, and trusting the Lord and His purpose for the institution.
 
“We cannot help but say thank you to George Harvey for being a faithful servant,” Akin said.
 
Ryan Hutchinson, executive vice president for operations, said, “No one on campus has more of a servant spirit as Harvey serves our students and others.”   
 
For a quarter of a century of service, a scholarship fund of $100,000 was announced in honor of Harvey and his wife, Anne.
 
On Oct. 14, Akin welcomed special guests to campus in chapel and preached on “A Great Commission Church” from Revelation 3:7-13.    
 
In addition, during their fall meeting SEBTS trustees:

  • were introduced to new faculty members: Adrianne Miles, assistant professor of English and linguistics; and Chip Hardy, assistant professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages.

  • approved the name change for the Board of Visitors to the “Southeastern Society.”

  • approved a new military rate currently equivalent to the Southern Baptist Convention rate structure for those that are serving and have served with an honorable discharge in the armed forces of the United States.

  • were introduced to new trustees Rick Butterworth (Ariz.) and Earle Finley (N.C.).

To view photos from the Southeastern Society and BOT meetings, please click here.
To listen or watch portions of these events online, please click here.

10/17/2014 2:33:18 PM by SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Drop pastor subpoenas, Texas AG to city atty.

October 17 2014 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist Texan/Baptist Press

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called on Houston city attorney Dave Feldman Oct. 16 to withdraw subpoenas requiring five pastors to submit their sermons to his office in regard to litigation against a new Houston Equal Rights Ordinance’s (HERO) protections based on sexual orientation.
 
The pastors are part of a petition effort to repeal the ordinance, known as HERO among its supporters.
 
“Your aggressive and invasive subpoenas,” Abbott wrote in the letter addressed to Feldman, “show no regard for the very serious First Amendment considerations at stake.”
 
In a news conference Oct. 15, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Feldman admitted the wording of the subpoenas was “overly broad” but claimed they had no knowledge of the documents before Oct. 14 because the subpoenas had been prepared and issued in September by a law firm assisting in the litigation.
 
But that statement does not ring true for Erik Stanley, an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney representing the five pastors. It is disconcerting that attorneys for three of Houston’s most powerful law firms did not consider the First Amendment implications of the subpoenas, Stanley noted.
 
“The fact that it did not occur to them tells us their view of the law,” Stanley told the Southern Baptist TEXAN newsjournal.
 
Abbott, in writing to Feldman, stated, “These lawyers acted in the city’s name, and you are responsible for their actions.”

 
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FreeImages.com Photo

Stanley filed a brief with the Harris County District Court Oct. 10 asking that the subpoenas be quashed. The request would give the pastors a reprieve from the threat of fines or imprisonment for contempt of court for non-compliance.
 
Critics nationwide called the subpoenas a “fishing expedition” that will have a chilling effect on anyone seeking redress with city hall. And the move illustrates a key objection members of the No UNequal Rights Coalition have with the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance – government intrusion into the life and work of the local church.
 
The ordinance, passed in May, gives protected status to individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It requires public accommodations be made for individuals based on their gender identity, not biology. Although churches are exempt from the law, critics charge it would force para-church organizations, businesses and individuals to violate their religious convictions in accommodating the law. Parker, a lesbian, championed the ordinance saying its passage was deeply personal.
 
One of the subpoenaed pastors, Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, told the TEXAN that the city’s action “certainly serves as another example of the disregard the Parker administration has for the rule of law, and we knew that the ordinance was placing the punitive power of government over the religious beliefs of citizens, business owners, property owners and eventually the church.”
 
Included among the 17 categories of requested material in the subpoena is “all speeches, presentations or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by or approved by you or in your possession.”
 
Another request calls for “all communications with members of your congregation regarding HERO or the Petition.”
 
The subpoenaed pastors – Welch, Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church, Khanh Huynh of Vietnamese Baptist Church, Magda Hermida of Magda Hermida Ministries and Hernan Castano of Rios de Aceite – are not plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city but have been outspoken in their opposition to the ordinance as members of the No UNequal Rights Coalition.
 
News of the subpoenaed sermons broke Oct. 14. Within 24 hours nationwide, blowback began to reverberate in city hall. In the Wednesday press conference Parker and Feldman only admitted the subpoenas were poorly written and even blamed their critics for creating the controversy.
 
When asked why the city attorney she hired deemed it necessary to subpoena pastors’ sermons, Parker chuckled and dismissively answered the question.
 
“Let me just say that one word in a very long legal document – which I know nothing about and would never have read – and I’m vilified coast to coast. It’s a normal day at the office for me,” she said.
 
Parker accused her detractors of misinterpreting the intent of the subpoenas.
 
Although she claimed ignorance about the subpoenas, a day earlier she posted on her Twitter feed, “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?”
 
Her tweet spurred nearly 300 responses from across the nation and political divide. Most disagreed adamantly with the ideology behind her post.
 
“Using the pulpit for politics is not only allowed, it’s the foundation of our nation! Ever heard of ‘abolitionists?’“ one post read. Another: “I’m as dyed-in-the-wool-liberal, secular, LGBT-loving as they come, and I think you may have crossed a line there.”
 
At the news conference, Feldman said the court order for sermons has been “construed” as an effort to infringe on religious liberties.
 
“All of this hysteria about how we’re trying to infringe – all because of the use of the word ‘sermon’ – is really ridiculous.”
 
Abbott, however, noted in his letter to Feldman, “In good faith, I hope you merely failed to anticipate how inappropriately aggressive your lawyers would be. Many, however, believe your actions reflect the city government’s hostility to religious beliefs that do not align with the city policies.”
 
Stanley called the city administrators’ actions “political retribution and bullying.”
 
The pastors targeted by the subpoenas are part of a racially diverse association of pastors united in their effort to repeal the ordinance. Unable to stop its passage by city council in May, the No UNequal Rights Coalition was formed to organize a referendum to put the ordinance to a vote by the city.
 
More than 50,000 signatures were gathered in the petition drive – far more than the 17,269 needed to put the issue on the November ballot. The requisite number of signatures was certified by City Secretary Anna Russell. But three days later, with only hours left in the city’s deadline for certifying the petitions, Feldman summarily disqualified thousands of signatures alleging they did not meet city charter standards.
 
The coalition sued the city demanding Russell’s certification protocol be followed. The case goes to trial in January. The subpoenaed sermons and pastor-church member communications are part of the city’s discovery proceedings.
 
Outcry regarding the “overreach” has come from across the nation. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz held a rally and press conference Oct. 16 at Houston’s First Baptist Church. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council initiated a petition drive as a show of support for the pastors. Local and national talk radio hosts railed against the mayor and city attorney.
 
Nationally syndicated conservative radio talk show host Sean Hannity even offered to pay bail for any pastor jailed for failing to comply with the subpoena.
 
Southern Baptist leadership called on evangelical Christians to respond en masse.
 
Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., wrote in his blog post, “My concern is whether or not Christians will persist in having the courage of their convictions. This won’t be the last time the church encounters intimidation – for we are assured that all who desire godliness in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
 
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell D. Moore noted in a news release, “A government has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque, or any other place of worship.”
 
Moore challenged pastors across the country to preach about or at least address the issue from the pulpit and for all Christians to pray and educate themselves about the perils of losing religious liberties.
 
“The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and we will,” Moore stated. “But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

Related Story:

Houston subpoenas pastors’ sermons

10/17/2014 1:05:01 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist Texan/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Marriage ‘non-decision’ draws Roe comparison

October 17 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Supreme Court’s refusal to rule on same-sex marriage amounted to a stealth version of Roe v. Wade on the issue, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore told a national television audience.
 
Appearing on C-SPAN Oct. 14, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said the justices’ decision not to review lower-court invalidations of state laws banning gay marriage “was essentially an under-the-radar Roe versus Wade for marriage.” Roe v. Wade was the high court’s 1973 opinion that struck down all state bans on abortion.
 
The Supreme Court’s Oct. 6 orders involving laws in five states across three federal appellate circuits – and an ensuing decision by an appeals court – supposedly will result in same-sex marriage being legal in 35 of the 50 states. Before the action, gay marriage was legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The justices’ “non-decision decision,” as Moore described it, leaves open the question of the constitutionality of same-sex marriage nationally, but it appears highly unlikely the current court would invalidate such unions.
 
He doesn’t know “what the end game is in the short term, but it’s very clear where the court is wanting to go, and that is toward finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” Moore told “Washington Journal” host Greta Wodele Brawner. “I, of course, don’t think there is any such constitutional right.”

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BP Photo
The Supreme Court’s refusal to rule on same-sex marriage amounted to a stealth version of Roe v. Wade on the issue, Russell D. Moore told C-Span’s Greta Wodele Brawner before a national TV audience.

 

The high court’s denial of the appeals was not “something I was all that surprised by,” given its ruling last year in a marriage case, Moore said. That 2013 decision “laid the groundwork for what they wanted to do,” he said of the majority of the justices.
 
In last year’s opinion, the justices struck down a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that recognized marriage as only between a man and a woman. Though the high court refused in that decision to say states could not limit marriage to heterosexual couples, most lower courts have used the decision as a basis for striking down state laws that define marriage in that manner.
 
Moore said the Supreme Court’s latest action “doesn’t settle the debate, because we will continue to debate what marriage is and why the government ought to have an interest in marriage at all.”
 
Short term, the situation “looks very bad for people who believe in traditional marriage, as I do,” Moore said. “But long term, I am more optimistic. I think marriage is resilient, and I think we’re going to be having this conversation for a long time. I don’t think the sexual revolution is going to be able to keep the promises that it’s making.”
 
Southern Baptists don’t desire the harm of homosexuals, Moore told Brawner and callers who questioned him on the issue. “We don’t want to see them mistreated in the community,” he said. “But we do think though that sexuality is biblically moral only within the confines of marriage, and marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman. And so we would make a great distinction between the way we ought to love people and care for people and what it means to call people to repentance.”
 
Moore said, “I think there’s a reason why government is involved in marriage between a man and a woman, because it’s a unique sort of relationship, that it ... ideally can produce children. There’s a different government interest there than there is in other relationships of any kind.”
 
Brawner asked Moore if he would support civil unions for same-sex couples. “I wouldn’t support marriage in some other name,” he replied.
 
In other responses during the telecast:

  • His top legislative priority is “religious liberty protection,” Moore said. Though the justices ruled in June in favor of the religious freedom of for-profit businesses such as Hobby Lobby that object to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, “[T]he very fact that we had to go to the Supreme Court in order to say that the government shouldn’t have the power to pave over the consciences of people to act against what they believe is morally wrong [is] a troubling sign,” he said. The ERLC, Moore said, wants “to protect the religious liberty of those people who say, ‘I can’t in good conscience participate, for instance, in a same-sex wedding,’ or ‘I can’t participate in something that would go against my conscience.’ And we believe that is true for all Americans, not just for us. We want religious liberty for everybody.”

  • Regarding the deadly Ebola virus, Moore said churches should pray and be informed. He also said the demonizing of missionaries who minister to Africans with the disease should stop. “That is deeply obnoxious,” he said. “We need the people of God to minister to those who are suffering. As Christians, we have always been willing to do that for 2,000 years, and we need to be continually willing to do it. I do think we need to warn against this idea that somehow we can become fortress America, and we can just keep Ebola across the sea in Africa as though Africa were not our problem. We cannot say of Africa, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ We need to instead recognize that these are human beings made in the image of God, and we need to do everything we can to try to remedy this, not only in the few cases we’re seeing in the United States but also ultimately in Africa.”

  • Southern Baptists and other evangelicals bear a responsibility to remain faithful to Christian doctrine, but they also “have a responsibility to be compassionate to people and understand that we are to love every person and to respect the dignity of every person,” Moore said. “We believe that every person is created in the image of God. And so we don’t see people who disagree with us as enemies to be vaporized. We instead think we ought to be talking to one another to persuade one another. And I don’t think that’s weakness, and I don’t think that’s backing down.”


(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/17/2014 12:57:14 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



McDonald’s, Starbucks asked to filter Wi-Fi

October 17 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A campaign requesting that McDonald’s and Starbucks implement pornography filters in conjunction with their free Wi-Fi service at U.S. locations is “righteous” and should receive enthusiastic support from “people of faith,” a leader of Southern Baptists’ anti-pornography initiative told Baptist Press.
 
“If these two businesses decide to block pornography from their free Wi-Fi, others would follow,” Jay Dennis, co-sponsor of the Join One Million Men campaign, said in written comments. “Christians must keep in mind as we approach these companies to be kind, gracious, yet firm in our resolve. Once these businesses understand that making this move is good for business, I think they will act accordingly; at least I hope they would.”
 
Launched at the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston, Join One Million Men is seeking commitments from 1 million men to live pornography-free lives. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) sponsored the initiative along with Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla.
 
Meanwhile a survey conducted by the Barna Group of 388 self-identified Christian men found that more than three-quarters (77 percent) of the respondents ages 18-30 reported viewing pornography at least monthly. The survey also found that 77 percent of respondents ages 31-49 reported looking at pornography at work during the past three months.

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FreeImages.com Photo

 

The campaign to institute porn filters at McDonald’s and Starbucks was launched Oct. 3 by Enough Is Enough (EIE), a nonprofit organization aimed at making the Internet safer for children and families. The EIE campaign is the first phase of a larger “Porn Free Wi-Fi” initiative.
 
Such an initiative is necessary in part because of news reports that registered sex offenders have been caught viewing pornography and child pornography at McDonald’s in children’s play areas, according to a news release from EIE. A filter also would prevent teens from bypassing parental controls on their wireless devices to view pornography in public Wi-Fi hotspots – something “conscientious and tech-savvy youth can easily” do, the release said.
 
“Now is the time for corporate America to take a stand against Internet pornography and child pornography that is damaging children,” EIE CEO Donna Rice Hughes said. “For 20 years, children have been spoon-fed a steady diet of online pornography, with few laws or barriers of entry. Recent peer-reviewed research shows the extreme nature of Internet pornography is having destructive impact on the mental, emotional and sexual health of adolescents, including addictive and even criminal behavior.”
 
Starbucks and McDonald’s both filter pornography at their United Kingdom stores as part of a voluntary self-regulation campaign led by British Prime Minister David Cameron. But as of Oct. 3, Starbucks had not replied to a certified letter from EIE requesting a similar service at U.S. locations. McDonald’s replied, “We appreciate your concern and are looking into options for effective filtering in the U.S,” according to the news release.
 
Some U.S. businesses like Panera Bread and Chick-fil-A already have pornography filters on their public Wi-Fi. Similar filtering at McDonald’s and Starbucks would affect some 25,000 locations.
 
EIE is seeking 10,000 signatures on a petition that will be sent to the CEOs of both companies. The petition is located at www.friendlywifi.org.
 
In related news, the Barna survey, commissioned by Proven Men Ministries, found that born-again and married Christian men are among those who struggle with pornography. A full 95 percent of the 388 self-identified Christian men responding to the survey admitted they have viewed pornography, with 54 percent saying they view it at least monthly.
 
More than half (55 percent) of self-identified married Christian men reported looking at pornography at least monthly and 35 percent of those surveyed reported having had an extra-marital affair, Barna reported.
 
Despite the small sampling of just 388 self-identified Christian men polled, Dennis said there is “no doubt” that “the findings of that survey are spot on.”
 
“There have been several surveys and each of them points to the same conclusion – Christian men struggle with pornography too,” Dennis said. “In my studies and conversations with Christian leaders and pastors, there is a consensus that as many as 80 percent of Christian men are having some level of struggle with pornography, specifically Internet pornography with a delivery system on computers or smart phones.”
 
Join One Million Men presents an opportunity for churches to address the pornography epidemic, Dennis said.
 
“Join One Million Men has been an exciting journey that continues to reach men in all churches and denominations,” he said. “We have just revamped our website to make it more user-friendly for men to take the pledge. We have over 25,000 Christian men who have made the commitment.”
 
The Join One Million Men website (join1millionmen.org) includes a place for men to register their porn-free commitments as well as a place for women to register their commitments to pray for the purity of men in their lives.
 
Resources from the WMU’s New Hope Publishing also are available at the site, including Dennis’s book Our Hardcore Battle Plan: Joining in the War against Pornography; the companion volume for wives, Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives: Winning in the War against Pornography by Dennis and Cathy Dyer; and a mobile app for men that delivers daily scriptures to their mobile devices to help in the fight against sexual sin.
 
A Spanish version of the campaign resources is being produced for distribution in Latin America beginning in 2015, Dennis said.
 
Fighting pornography is particularly important because it is robbing men of “the moral authority to lead in their homes and churches,” Dennis said.
 
“I am 55 years old and most men my age and older were first exposed to pornography through a magazine,” Dennis said. “That has all changed since the Internet. The nature of Internet pornography makes it so dangerous because of the 4 A’s. By that I mean, it is easily accessible, affordable, anonymous and addictive. One look can hook a man. I believe the day the Internet went live, Satan and his forces thought, ‘We now have a tool to silence and chain Christian men.’ Unfortunately, it’s working.”
 
Dennis encouraged pastors to address pornography now before it destroys the men in their churches.
 
“My commitment is to continue to challenge men to make a commitment that from today and for the rest of their lives they will not view pornography and that they would incorporate accountability, filtering software, spiritual disciplines and daily surrendering to the Holy Spirit,” he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

10/17/2014 12:41:34 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



NJ school district cancels, reinstates Halloween celebrations

October 17 2014 by Jessica Mazzola, Religion News Service

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. – A New Jersey elementary school canceled and reinstated its Halloween celebration this week in a debate that reflects societal ambivalence about the holiday’s religious origins.
 
On Oct. 13, parents of students at the Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood received a note home from Principal Mark Quiles saying that the annual Halloween celebration at the school would be canceled.
 
“We have a very diverse school district,” district spokeswoman Suzanne Turner said. “Every year, we have students who opt out of the [Halloween celebration] and the principal felt that number was significant enough,” to discontinue the event, she said.
 
For years, Christian evangelicals have objected to what they see as Halloween’s pagan origins. Some churches have adopted alternative harvest celebrations, while others have constructed elaborate “Hell Houses” designed to depict the torments of hell and the promise of salvation through belief in Jesus.
 
But a day after canceling the in-school Halloween celebration, parents received a note home from Acting Superintendent James Memoli saying the cancelation has been reversed, and the event would take place as it has in the past.
 
“The issue regarding whether or not we celebrate Halloween transcends one district school, and deserves a broader discussion,” he said in the letter.
 
“Given how close we are to Halloween, we do not have time to engage in this District-wide discussion without disrupting plans that are already in place in other school[s].”
 
Turner said the district had heard from parents both supporting the decision to cancel the festivities, and disagreeing with it. The decision to reinstate this year’s event was not in response to parent complaints, she said.
 
Memoli said district leaders would discuss the issue in time to make a district-wide decision on in-school Halloween events before the holiday next year.
 
“We respect that each student and family has the right to choose whether or not to participate in the Halloween celebrations, and as always, alternate activities will be provided for students who will not be participating due to religious or other objections,” he said in the note.
 
The state Department of Education (DOE) only offers districts guidance on days off for holidays, DOE spokesman David Saenz Jr. said.
 
“The list of holidays approved by the State Board of Education is a list of religious holidays that local school officials must honor if they receive requests for excused absences for individual students,” he said.
 
“Local officials have the option of not approving a request for a religious holiday not on the list.”
 
Halloween does not appear on the list.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Jessica Mazzola writes for NJ Advance Media.)

10/17/2014 10:07:18 AM by Jessica Mazzola, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



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