May 24 2013 by
Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press
GRAPEVINE, Texas – Delegates to the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Thursday (May 23) approved new membership guidelines that open the ranks of the organization to homosexual members. Young men who openly claim to be homosexual may now participate as Scouts.
The decision, the BSA leadership said in a statement, was based on “growing input from within the Scouting family.” That input led to a national review of policy, or a “comprehensive listening exercise,” resulting in a resolution to remove the restriction “denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone.”
Some 1,400 delegates to the National Council approved the change in membership standards by a margin of 61-39 percent, but changes to the adult leadership policy of the organization, which forbids homosexual Scout leaders, was not up for vote and remains in place. Rules on sexual misconduct, heterosexual and homosexual, also remain in place for Scouts and Scout leaders.
John Stemberger, who has waged a national campaign to keep the ban on homosexual Scouts in place through the website OnMyHonor.net
, said the “most influential youth organization in America had turned a sad corner.”
“The Boy Scouts of America have demonstrated that values are not timeless,” Stemberger said in a statement after the vote. “The Boy Scouts are now teaching kids that when your values are no longer popular, change them.”
Stemberger added that BSA leaders had succumbed to the pressure of special interest groups by making the change to the membership policy. “The leaders of the Boy Scouts of America,” he said, “make decisions like politicians placing their fingers in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.”
Stemberger add that Thursday was the last day he would wear a Boy Scouts of American uniform. He said he plans to call a coalition together to discuss creating a new youth organization centered on biblical values, a call echoed by many religious leaders.
“We had hoped to keep sex and politics out of Scouting,” Stemberger said. “We grieve today not because we are leaving the Boy Scouts of America, but because the Boy Scouts left us.” He believes the BSA can expect to lose no fewer than 200,000 members and $30 million in funding.
Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page, who had met with Scouting leaders and had urged them to maintain the current policy, said he was “deeply saddened” that the BSA overturned its “constitutionally protected expressive message that homosexual behavior is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
“We know that the pressures exerted against the voting members of the 1,400 chartered organizations by homosexual activist groups have been unrelenting,” Page said. “We are grateful for each voting member who voted in the minority; but our sadness for the Scouting organization as a whole cannot be overstated.”
Page said the vote “ushers in a sea-change in the credibility of the Boy Scouts of America as a viable boys’ organization for millions of Americans who believe strongly in the principles of biblical morality. To claim that the Boys Scouts is the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training suddenly rings hollow.”
“We continue to pray for our country. We believe we are in desperate need of a genuine spiritual awakening that will transform lives through the power of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Page said.
Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land predicted a mass exodus of religious groups from the organization.
“Frankly, I can’t imagine a Southern Baptist pastor who would continue to allow his church to sponsor a Boy Scout troop under these new rules,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “I predict there will be a mass exodus of Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians from the Boy Scouts.”
The “supposed compromise” satisfies no one and signals the BSA will only become more inclusive of gays, Land said.
“The supposed compromise takes away their best defense. In the year 2000, the Supreme Court ruled the Boy Scouts did not have to have homosexual Scout masters because the homosexual lifestyle was contrary to the core values of Scouts. If you’re going to allow opening gay Scouts to participate in Scouting, then it’s no longer a core value,” Land said. “And so what we’re going to see now is a flood of litigation by pro-homosexual groups arguing that the continuing ban on gay Scout Masters is … prejudice and they will win. They will win, because the Boy Scouts have stripped themselves of their defense the Supreme Court used.”
Land advised Southern Baptist churches to withdraw their support of Scout troops and support the Royal Ambassadors ministry to boys.
The statement from the BSA leadership said the new membership policy is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the organization enough time to implement the policy and communicate it to its 116,000 units. The statement also said the organization would not be distracted from its mission by a “single, divisive and unresolved societal issue.” Leaders said there are no plans to review the issue further.
Russell Moore, president-elect of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the decision lands the “sexual revolution’s onward march” square in the middle of Scouting.
“Few, if any, are suggesting the Boy Scouts kick out boys based on their particular temptations. We don’t, and shouldn’t do that in our churches, much less in the Scouts,” Moore told Baptist Press. “But this change is more than this. It doesn’t speak in terms of temptations but in terms of the claiming of a sexually politicized identity as morally neutral.”
Local Scouting troops sponsored by evangelical, Roman Catholic or Latter-day Saints congregations, Moore said, “will be pressured to mute a definition of ‘morally straight’ that includes a sexuality intended only for the lifelong one-flesh union of a man and a woman in marriage.”
“Depending on how radically the BSA applies this new policy to local troops, I suspect many will be seeking an alternative to the Boy Scouts to train up boys toward a life of virtue,” Moore said.
The revision of the membership policy “highlights how important it is for churches to speak clearly of both our love for all people, including our gay and lesbian neighbors, and the importance of God’s design for human sexuality for human flourishing,” Moore said. “The Gospel doesn’t define us, as the culture does, in terms of our wants and desires. The Gospel addresses us, all of us, as sinners and calls us to a life of freedom and cross-bearing sacrifice.”
The culture is confused, Moore said, as it always is in a fallen world.
“Our voluntary associations, even the most venerable of them, are increasingly ambiguous about what it means to live a good life rooted in the permanent things,” Moore said. “Our churches cannot, and will not, share that ambiguity.”
The BSA statement ended by acknowledging the different opinions held on the matter of homosexuality, but said children were “better off when they are in Scouting.”
To view the Boy Scouts of America statement in full, go to: http://www.scouting.org/sitecore/content/MembershipStandards/Resolution/results.aspx
5/24/2013 1:53:09 PM
May 24 2013 by
Joe Conway, NAMB
Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
APLHARETTA, Ga. – Many churches will be honoring military members this weekend. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) encourages churches to consider planning now to honor returning military, chaplains and veterans this year near the Independence Day holiday, as well. NAMB has produced several resources to assist churches as they honor the military.
“This July thousands of our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace from Afghanistan,” says Doug Carver, executive director for chaplaincy services at NAMB. “Our military forces and their families have successfully engaged in a 12-year combat deployment post 9/11. The unsung heroes among all of those returning from combat environments are chaplains, including our pastors in uniform, endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Chaplain (Major General Retired) Carver says churches play a more vital role in chaplaincy than some members may realize. That role is essential, Carver believes.
“The personal connection and contact that churches provide for chaplains is so important in helping meet their own personal needs and assisting their military families, particularly in the chaplain's absence,” says Carver, who served as U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains before his retirement. “Southern Baptist Churches are a critical lifeline for our chaplains who are called and sent out by their local church to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to members of the Armed Services. Chaplains minister to our troops as an extension of the church's ministry to the military.”
Carver recommends churches use either the Sunday before or after Independence Day to honor returning members of the military, veterans and chaplains. He suggests an order of service including patriotic hymns and the inclusion of a testimony from a chaplain or veteran.
“A worship service honoring our veterans is especially meaningful this year as our Nation marks 40 years since the end of U.S. combat operations in Vietnam,” said Carver. “On March 29, 1973, the last of our combat forces departed the country and with the final release of American prisoners of war, the conflict drew to a close.”
President Barack Obama has proclaimed May 28, 2012, through November 11, 2025, as a 13-year commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The President is calling for all Americans to honor Vietnam veterans, the fallen, the wounded, those unaccounted for, former prisoners of war, their families and all who served during the war.
NAMB has produced a set of 50 prayer cards to assist Southern Baptists in praying for military chaplains. Each Southern Baptist church will receive a set of the free cards along with instructions for ordering more. Churches can download military ministry videos at namb.net/chaplaincy
The website also includes suggestions for conducting a service to honor members of the military.
In addition, NAMB has produced a tool for churches that want to commission members to the mission field as chaplains or missionaries. The commissioning resources include everything a church needs to conduct a commissioning service for a chaplain or missionary. Information about the commissioning guide is also available at namb.net/chaplaincy
Carver says the Independence Day emphasis is not only a way churches can honor military members, but also a way to show Southern Baptists how their efforts through chaplaincy have a significant impact every day. Marine Major Keith Warren is one who experienced that impact first hand.
When a chaplain asked to speak with him in December 2005, he assumed there was bad news for someone under his command.
“I expected him to tell me that one of my Marines' had a family emergency. To my surprise, it was me who had the family emergency,” said Warren, who was serving in Iraq at the time.
Warren had left his new wife alone at home to deliver their first son. The child was lost at delivery.
“I immediately began to blame myself for not being there to prevent the incident from happening,” said Warren, presently in Afghanistan with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. ”(The chaplain) listened patiently as I beat myself up for doing my job, deploying and leaving my newlywed wife to give birth to our child alone. He calmly talked to me about how the situation was beyond my, my wife's and family control.
“The chaplain helped me see that there was nothing that we could have done to prevent our loss. He said a prayer for my wife, our son and me. He provided a list of contacts and resources to help us heal from our loss.”
Warren's story is an example of why Carver asks churches to consider testimonies as part of a service honoring veterans.
“Ask veterans to give a testimony, both of how Christ provided for their needs when they served, and their faithfulness to Christ during their military service,” said Carver. “This may also include the service provided to them by chaplains. It would be appropriate to honor the families of, and the memories of, those who lost their lives in service to our country.”
To explore how your church can honor and support veterans and chaplains, learn about the chaplaincy prayer cards or commissioning kit, or to view videos about NAMB SBC chaplaincy, visit namb.net/chaplaincy
. To view a video honoring veterans and chaplain service, visit www.namb.net/video/war-stories/
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. Portions of this article will be published in the Summer 2013 edition of On Mission.)
Study suggests bad WWII experiences led vets to church
5/24/2013 1:36:27 PM
May 24 2013 by
Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service
Joe Conway, NAMB | with 0 comments
A new study has found that American veterans who had a negative experience serving during World War II attend church more frequently today than those who were less troubled by their service.
The study also found that when service members were fearful in combat, they reported prayer was a better motivator for getting them through it than several other factors, including the broader goals of the war.
Researchers say the study, which will be published in a future edition of the Journal of Religion and Health
, has implications for health professionals, counselors and clergy who work with veterans with more recent service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
SXC photo by Karen Barefoot
“The most important thing is that the more veterans disliked the war, the more religious they were 50 years later,” said Craig Wansink, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College and co-author of the study with his brother, Brian Wansink, a professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University.
“And the takeaway is that for people who work with combat veterans, if veterans have had a bad experience, it is clear that one alternative that has helped people understand the world or find a common community has been religion.”
The study, titled “Are There Atheists in Foxholes? Combat Intensity and Religious Behavior,” also found that:
As combat became more frightening, the percentage of soldiers who reported praying rose from 42 percent to 72 percent.
After the war, soldiers who faced heavy combat attended church 21 percent more often if they felt their war experience was negative; soldiers who described their war experience as positive attended 26 percent less often.
In general, religious behavior was high among all World War II veterans surveyed – approximately 69 percent were church members and reported attending services slightly more than three times per month.
The study was conducted with both old and new data, including data collected from U.S. Army service members in the Pacific in 1944 and from surveys the authors sent to surviving veterans more than 50 years later.
Brian Wansink said that while it is not surprising that service members in the heat of battle prayed – World War II journalist Ernie Pyle made the famous quip about atheists in foxholes that’s in the study’s name – it is important that those who work with veterans not overlook the impact of faith during and after combat.
“Religious involvement could help these people,” he said. “One reason it may have been so effective in the past is that religion is a very social experience, and that might be healing of itself because these are people who developed strong social bonds with their units and strong commitments to their comrades. That might be missing from current strategies in helping recent soldiers cope with stress.”
The authors spent 12 years working on the study – three times as long as the U.S. involvement in World War II – and were influenced by respect for their father, a member of the so-called “Greatest Generation” who fought in the war.
“The takeaway for us is that the best thing you can do on Memorial Day is call that father or great uncle who is a veteran and wish him a happy Memorial Day,” Brian Wansink said.
NAMB encourages honors for military, chaplains
5/24/2013 1:30:52 PM
May 23 2013 by
Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service | with 0 comments
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated May 28.)
North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) disaster relief volunteers are responding to a request from the Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief team for assistance in the wake of the May 20 tornado that hit Moore, Okla.
About 50 NCBM volunteers are working in Moore to help survivors recover the few personal belongings that remain in the damage. According to reports from the field, 70 projects have been completed since the team arrived last week. Two professions of faith have been reported.
Three skid steer teams, each consisting of 3 to 4 volunteers, began arriving in Oklahoma May 23. Skid steer teams specialize in debris removal requiring the use of heavy equipment.
“We are sending three pieces of heavy equipment, Bobcats, to begin the cleanup of debris in the city of Moore, Oklahoma,” said Gaylon Moss, NCBM volunteerism coordinator, as teams began to arrive. “All team members have heavy equipment and disaster experience and will be able to assist however they are needed.”
Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director, said additional disaster relief teams are prepared to respond in Oklahoma if needed. He thanked N.C. Baptists for their support of disaster relief missions and asked all N.C. Baptists to pray for the victims and volunteers.
“North Carolina Baptists have been blessed with over 14,000 trained men and women volunteers and lots of equipment that can be used to minister to hurting people and to glorify God,” Brunson said. “Pray for the teams and the people they will assist.”
For more information about NCBM disaster relief efforts in Oklahoma and how you can help, visit www.baptistsonmission.org/oktornado
5/23/2013 9:36:30 PM
May 23 2013 by
BSC Communications | with 0 comments
MOORE, Okla. – Southern Baptists throughout social media took note that NBC News anchor Brian Williams and reporter Harry Smith mentioned on air the quick response of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers in Moore, Okla., Tuesday (May 21).
“In the briefings today it was apparent there’s FEMA and then there’s the faith-based FEMA,” Williams said, standing in front of rubble left by the tornado that devastated the area Monday. “There are no fewer – I counted – than 30 churches that are banding together, and that’s going to be a huge part of this recovery.”
Smith added, “As you and I have seen in so many different places in this country, if you’re waiting for the government, you’re going to be in for an awful long wait. The Baptist Men, they’re going to get it done tomorrow.”
Williams agreed, “They’re already delivering food on the street.”
Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief workers were in action immediately after the tornado hit, responding with feeding units, debris cleanup and chaplains.
When the tornado hit, North Carolina Baptist Men were on alert waiting to see what Oklahoma would need. Leadership was in place Wednesday night (May 22) to lead N.C. Baptists in relief and recovery efforts. Teams of three to four people started departing today (May 23). They will be operating skid steers to help with debris cleanup.
“Pray for their traveling safety,” the N.C. Baptist Men Facebook page requested. “Pray for the survivors as they make decisions regarding their future.”
Photo by Bob Nigh
Residents of Moore, Okla., were being allowed back into their demolished neighborhoods Wednesday afternoon, and the death toll from the tornado stood at 24, including at least 10 children. See video.
Sam Porter, director of disaster relief for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), said “anywhere from 24 to 40 chaplains [will be] on the ground every day all across the storm track just to give emotional and spiritual care to people and give them hope because that’s where we find a great place to minister in disaster relief.”
Oklahoma Baptist chaplains were on the ground at the two destroyed elementary schools with the families as they searched for their children, Porter said, and the leader of the chaplaincy effort was involved in several official notification visits.
Porter reported that 5,500 Oklahoma Baptists were trained in disaster response before the Moore tornado hit, “and today is the day. It’s game-time in Oklahoma with disaster relief.”
Residents of Moore were being allowed back into their demolished neighborhoods Wednesday afternoon, and the death toll stood at 24, including at least 10 children.
The National Weather Service upgraded the storm to an EF5, estimating its winds at more than 200 miles per hour. Early estimates indicate the cost of damage from the tornado could exceed $2 billion.
Though security in the affected area remained tight, Oklahoma Baptist feeding and laundry units were in place. As of noon Wednesday, 105 Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief volunteers had prepared more than 9,000 meals and made nearly 270 ministry contacts.
“We will need cleanup assistance for four to five weeks at a minimum,” Porter said. “Because of the nature of the storms there will not be a lot of chainsaw work, but the debris cleanup will be big.”
Fritz Wilson, executive director for disaster relief at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), said a multistate response is expected in support of Oklahoma Baptist efforts and he anticipates out-of-state crews working in the affected areas by Friday or Saturday.
Wilson asked Southern Baptists to continue praying for survivors and volunteers and to give to the efforts to help sustain the disaster relief ministry.
“The heart of Southern Baptists comes through in ministry like this,” Wilson said. “Oklahoma Baptists went into action immediately following the storm.”
First Baptist Church in Moore, which served as a ministry center in response to the 1999 tornado that struck the community and has been instrumental in relief efforts from the earliest moments of this storm, is hosting an Oklahoma Baptist feeding kitchen and soon will host a NAMB command center.
Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president, said Oklahoma Baptists “have one of the best disaster relief teams in North America.”
Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said “there’s no better place to give your dollars than to the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief because they will be on the ground and we will be there when the last piece of debris is picked up and the last person needs to be served.”
Customers of LifeWay Christian Stores can donate to disaster relief efforts in Oklahoma as they check out at 160 stores across the country, Martin King of LifeWay Christian Resources, told Baptist Press. Donations will go to Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, and Jordan said they will “use every dime to serve those who have lost so much.”
Kevin Durant of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder pledged $1 million for tornado relief through his foundation Tuesday, saying it was difficult to watch coverage of the tragedy on television when he was out of town.
“I call Oklahoma City my home,” Durant said. “I go through Moore all the time. It’s unfortunate. We’re going to come together as a city like we always do and we’re going to bounce back.”
President Obama is scheduled to travel to Oklahoma on Sunday to inspect the damage, visit with families and thank first responders.
To give to the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief fund, visit okdisasterhelp.com
. To find out how to help through N.C. Baptist Men, visit www.baptistsonmission.org/oktornado
. Donations can be made to the “Oklahoma Midwest Tornado Fund.” Mail to: NCBM Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512, or donate online by clicking the “Donations” area when you visit the link above. Also you can follow NCBM on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ncmissionsdisasterrelief
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach. With reporting by Joe Conway of the North American Mission Board. See video.)
5/23/2013 3:25:05 PM
May 23 2013 by
Wayne Thompson, Special to the Recorder
Baptist Press | with 0 comments
More than 50 years ago, Pat O’Brien’s knuckles and athleticism helped him survive the mean streets of St. Louis, Mo., including a runaway past and brief semi-pro football career.
River Rock Church
, a church plant in Concord that was founded in 2011 with support from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is giving O’Brien strength to face an even tougher challenge – his wife Evelyn’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Diagnosed in October 2001 after ending a long career as a flight attendant for USAirways, Evelyn today can’t walk or say much to O’Brien who feeds, bathes, clothes her, transfers her from living room chair to wheelchair, and puts her to bed.
A good day, he says, is Evelyn sleeping all night.
“To see someone that was once this and now is this is the worst thing in the world,” O’Brien, 71, says. “Without the Lord, I couldn’t do this.”
He certainly knows from years of trying to do it on his own, remembers River Rock’s pastor Steve Davis.
River Rock members Ed and Claudia Zawada live next door to O’Brien, and had told Davis about him – prompting the first of many visits by the pastor. Living out River Rock’s mission of passionately pursuing Jesus Christ, they had already begun to soften O’Brien’s heart with their missionary lives and service.
“I have been talking to Pat about Jesus for some time,” says Davis, who once brought the church to the O’Briens to sing Christmas carols. Pat recalled one of his last memories of a lucid Evelyn, “She sang every song.”
What Davis didn’t know was going on between all the visits: that Evelyn’s Alzheimer’s and Pat’s own health problems – one bladder and three lung cancer surgeries, including one in January 2012 – were stirring big questions.
These questions included the meaning of life, of suffering, and the hope of heaven.
And they included one other big question: why the Zawadas on one side, and neighbors Joy and Jeff Stewalzki, other fellow believers, on the other, were so different and loving O’Brien in his darkest hours. They brought meals, helped lift Evelyn when needed, and constantly encouraged him and let him know he wasn’t alone.
Eventually, O’Brien said, the Holy Spirit used all of it to finally convince him that yes, even at age 70, he could personally know the peace “that surpasses all understanding” and lay his life’s heaviest burden at the feet of the cross.
Pat O’Brien, center, was 70 when he accepted Christ as Savior. He was baptized last June.
“Not long after the visit from River Rock, Steve asked me if I wanted to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior and I said ‘yes’ and wanted to join the church and be baptized,” O’Brien says.
Davis waited until O’Brien recovered from his gallbladder surgery (March of 2012) and then set the baptism for last June.
O’Brien took the plunge in River Rock member Diane Jordan’s swimming pool, with Ed Zawada and Jeff Stewalzki in the water with him and Davis. Evelyn looked on poolside in her wheelchair.
“Buried with Christ in baptism,” Davis said, lowering Pat under the surface. What happened next surprised everyone. As soon as Davis lifted Pat out of the water and said “raised to walk in new life,” Eveyln’s voice broke the quiet.
The woman, who grew up in church and whose heart never left it, clearly said, “Amen.”
A new man in every sense of the word, O’Brien said he begins each morning with devotions and prayers and then gets to work taking care of Evelyn. “My faith has made me more patient and understanding,” he says. “Without Jesus, I know I wouldn’t know what to do.
“The doctor recently asked me what my goals were with Evelyn and I said, ‘To keep her home and keep her comfortable. That’s what I am going to do as long as I can.’”
O’Brien admits he has no idea how long that might be. But if Christ does come again soon, he hopes to be found loving the Lord by selflessly serving his wife.
“As old as I am, I know that someone accepting Christ at my age is kind of unheard of. And everything was going wrong – not right – in my life, and everything we had planned to do together in retirement was going out the window.
“But the more I heard about Jesus, the more I saw how my neighbors lived their lives, the more He became real to me,” O’Brien says. “I tell everyone I know about Him now, and can now talk to my neighbors about him.”
“From the day I was saved, my life has changed. It’s hard to be a Christian but also good to be a Christian. I’ve learned to trust the Lord. I’ve learned to pray. I’ve learned to forgive people. It’s just a different way of life, and I thank God for Steve, River Rock, my neighbors and all the people and situations He used to change my life forever.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was provided by River Rock Church in Concord.)
5/23/2013 3:16:07 PM
May 23 2013 by
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
Wayne Thompson, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – A record number of Americans believe homosexuality is morally acceptable and is something people are born with, according a new Gallup poll.
Fifty-nine percent of U.S. adults say gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable while 38 percent say they are morally wrong, according to the poll conducted May 2-7 among 1,535 adults. The 59 percent is an increase from 54 percent last year and 49 percent in 2009, when the upward trend began. The trend is a dramatic reversal from 2004, a year in which 13 states passed constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman. That year, only 42 percent said such relations were morally acceptable and 54 percent said they were morally wrong.
On the question of homosexuality’s origins, 47 percent say “being gay or lesbian” is “something a person is born with” while 33 percent say it is “due to factors such as upbringing and environment.” Both numbers are records. The percentage of people who believe homosexuality is present at birth has increased or remained steady since 2009 when the upward trend began and a plurality of Americans (42 percent) said it was due to upbringing/environment and 35 percent said it was something with which people are born.
Bob Stith, former Southern Baptist national strategist for gender issues, said much of the growing acceptance of homosexuality can be blamed on the church’s failure to prepare Christians “to understand and communicate God’s original intent” on sexuality and “to do so in a redemptive and compassionate manner.”
“Apart from a true spiritual renewal, I do not see this trend changing,” Stith told Baptist Press, referencing the Gallup data.
No scientifically accepted study has found a “strictly genetic” cause for homosexuality, Stith said. But even if science does find such a genetic link, he said, Scripture’s teachings on homosexuality will remain true.
Stith believes homosexuality is a product of “nature and nurture” and that it’s a sin that can be overcome through Christ.
“I still hear Christians – including leaders – confidently state ‘it’s just a choice,’” Stith said. “Both science and those involved in ministry to same-sex strugglers recognize that both nature and nurture are involved. Again, we do great harm to our cause when we make that pronouncement.”
The homosexual might not choose his temptations, but he does choose whether to act on them, Stith said.
“We are by nature children of wrath,” Stith said. “It should not surprise us that not only are we predisposed to sin, we can be predisposed to specific sins. Various studies have shown a predisposition to obesity, anger and even alcoholism. But it is important to know that predisposition does not equate to predetermination.
“While I do not believe a strictly genetic causation will be found, it should not change our understanding of or our commitment to Scripture,” Stith said. “God has made clear His view of the issue. He has also promised freedom to any who will truly seek Him. Today, thousands of men and women walk in freedom from the power of same-sex attractions.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
5/23/2013 3:13:06 PM
May 23 2013 by
Don Graham, Baptist Press
Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
ROGERS, Ark. – It’s a question that both haunts and drives Tom Elliff, the kind that sometimes wakes him in the middle of night. But the International Mission Board’s (IMB) president won’t answer it until he dies, stands before the judgment seat of Christ and hears it fall from the lips of his Savior: “What did you do with what I entrusted to you?”
Elliff posed that question to IMB trustees during their May 14-15 meeting in Rogers, Ar., saying it should be lodged in the mind of every Southern Baptist. Scripture clearly shows that God will hold every believer accountable for his or her response to the Great Commission, Elliff explained, telling trustees that the question has prompted him to issue an “urgent appeal” to all Southern Baptists to “carry the gospel to the ends of the earth – now.”
“There are over 7 billion people on this globe, and unless something changes drastically, radically, it is estimated that fewer than half will ever have the slightest connection with evangelical Christianity in their lifetime,” Elliff said. “Why would God entrust to us the greatest lostness in all of history if He did not expect us to do something about it?”
Elliff contrasted a time of unprecedented lostness with unprecedented access, resources and manpower willing to combat that lostness, such that “every lost person in this broken world should have a legitimate reason to believe that, if they can just hold on for a little bit, somebody is going to get to them with the truth.”
But he warned of “disturbing signs” that show Southern Baptists “may not be prepared to fulfill our part in the Great Commission equation.”
Elliff cited the continued five-year decline in missions giving through the Cooperative Program (CP) in spite of efforts to reverse the CP trend. Out of the $1.3 billion designated as “missions expenditures” in Southern Baptist churches in 2011, IMB received less than $92 million through CP, with another $146 million given through a relatively flat Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
Photo by Paul W. Lee
“Don’t forget!” IMB President Tom Elliff told IMB appointees, reminding them of the uncertainty of the future, the necessity of being Spirit-filled and the reality of their witness as they go to some of the world’s most extreme locations.
The declining support has impacted the number of Southern Baptist missionaries serving overseas under IMB appointment, dropping below 5,000 to 4,850 at the end of 2012. But the drop isn’t for lack of qualified applicants, Elliff said, noting that many missionary candidates must be put on hold until a position becomes vacant or additional funding is secured.
“In a generation that could literally fulfill the Great Commission by taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, lack of missions support signals an impending retrenchment. That is unthinkable; in fact, it’s unacceptable in light of the opportunity we have,” Elliff said.
“Winston Churchill made a statement about men, but I want to say it about the Southern Baptist Convention. ... To every man there comes a moment in his lifetime for which he and he alone is uniquely gifted, uniquely qualified. What a tragedy it would be if that moment found him unwilling or unprepared for what would be his finest hour.
“It’s my conviction ... that all of us within the IMB family, as represented by you, our trustees, must be neither idle nor silent in this, our day of greatest opportunity.”
As a “first step” toward combating these problems, trustees overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging Southern Baptists to recognize and rally around the unique Great Commission opportunity which Elliff believes Christ has presented.
In addition to greater commitments to pray and give, the resolution calls on the SBC’s Executive Committee for an “aggressive, proactive and prompt” response to the challenges of missionary mobilization and support. The resolution also asks the Executive Committee to offer “thoughtful and substantive proposals” that will enable the SBC to “operate at maximum effectiveness in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
“What do I mean by ‘substantive?’” Elliff asked. “More than window dressing. We Southern Baptists have a way of taking an issue and changing the wording and making everybody happy and going home and nothing being accomplished.... We’re not talking about something that is trying to placate certain interest groups.”
The resolution offers guidance on what such “substantive proposals” must do, including:
Continue to effectively demolish every racial, ethnic and generational barrier that constrains us.
Make both mission going and giving more personal by fostering fresh, innovative and effective channels for sending and support, while operating within the proven and effective cooperative framework of our Southern Baptist Convention.
Honor, support and utilize the essential nature of the education, training and the advocacy provided by all our SBC entities.
Open the door to greater sacrifice, building trust through proven transparency at every level of our Southern Baptist life.
Leave to the next generation a Southern Baptist Convention that is doctrinally, structurally, spiritually and passionately prepared to finish the task of global evangelization.
The resolution calls for the Executive Committee to begin providing these proposals for change as early as the SBC’s 2014 annual meeting. Elliff said that Ernest Easley, Executive Committee chairman, has already been made aware of the resolution and is eager to meet with IMB leadership to discuss what the changes might include.
“The emphasis here is now,” Elliff said. “This is the moment of greatest lostness, greatest resources, greatest willingness, greatest access – right now. We cannot guarantee it tomorrow.”
School of prayer
Gordon Fort, IMB senior vice president for prayer mobilization and training, told trustees that prayer is critical to overcoming the challenges Elliff described.
“In the day of greatest opportunity, the day of greatest advance of the gospel in Christian history, we’re in jeopardy of being put on a shelf and rendered useless for the sake of the Kingdom,” Fort said. “The only answer is for the people of God to call out to God and beg Him to intervene.”
Fort announced the launch of the website for the newly formed School of Prayer for All Nations, imb.org/SPAN
, and an additional site for online registration, regonline.com/SPAN
, where Southern Baptists can sign up for a five-day session. Dates in 2013 and 2014 are currently available. IMB’s school of prayer is designed to teach and equip believers to walk more closely with God, pray more fervently for spiritual awakening, intercede more effectively for missionaries and the nations, and to mobilize others to join in prayer.
“God is looking for people who will stand in the gap and who will call out to Him in believing, faithful prayer,” Fort said. “I know in my heart that if God would move Southern Baptists to call on Him and if He would visit us, and if He would cleanse us and purify us, ... [we would see] a great flood of missionaries and the resources to sustain them.”
In other business, trustees appointed 58 new missionaries at Cross Church Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark., and elected officers. David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., was re-elected to a second term as chairman; John Edie, a member of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, Mo., was elected first vice-chair; Doyle Pryor, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Sapulpa, Okla., second vice-chair; and Vickie Mascagni, a member of Morrison Heights Baptist Church, Clinton, Miss., secretary.
Trustees also gratefully accepted and prayed over six estate gifts totaling more than $237,000.
The next IMB trustee meeting will be Aug. 27-28 in Richmond, Va.; the next missionary appointment service will be Aug. 28 at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va., at 7 p.m.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is a senior writer at IMB.)
Hearts ready for gospel, Elliff tells appointees
The full text of the IMB trustees’ May 15 resolution follows:
an urgent appeal for southern baptists to carry the gospel the ends of the earth ... Now!
1) recognizing that the Great Commission is our lord’s simple and unequivocal command, and....
2) recognizing we live in the moment of the world’s greatest lostness and southern baptist’s greatest opportunity to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, and....
3) recognizing that access to the lost, eagerness to reach them, and resources to undergird the fulfillment of the great commission have never been more abundant, and....
4) recognizing that our Lord will hold us accountable for the opportunity He has placed before us and the resources He has entrusted to us....
Be it resolved that:
1. We will pray ... And call upon our Southern Baptist constituency to pray, earnestly, fervently, and persistently for the kind of revival that will produce laborers for the harvest and the sacrificial giving necessary to support them. This is God’s first command in response to lostness. Pray (Mt 9:38)!
2. We will give ... And call on all Southern Baptists to give of both our tithes and our offerings, faithfully, sacrificially, regularly, and intelligently ... Insuring that our giving has maximum great commission impact beginning in our Jerusalem and gathering sufficient strength to carry the gospel message to the very ends of the earth (2 Cor 8:1-5).
3. We will urge the Executive Committee of our Southern Baptist Convention to be aggressive, proactive and prompt in its response to the challenges facing us in terms of missionary mobilization and support, and that they begin offering to our convention, as early as next year’s meeting of the SBC, thoughtful and substantive proposals that will enable our convention to operate at maximum effectiveness in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
These substantive changes must continue to effectively demolish every racial, ethnic, and generational barrier that constrains us.
These substantive changes must make both mission going and giving more personal by fostering fresh, innovative and effective channels for sending and support, while operating within the proven and effective cooperative framework of our Southern Baptist Convention.
These substantive changes must honor, support and utilize the essential nature of the education, training and the advocacy provided by all our SBC entities.
These substantive changes must open the door to greater sacrifice, building trust through proven transparency at every level of our Southern Baptist life.
And, should the Lord delay His return, these substantive changes must leave to the next generation a Southern Baptist Convention that is doctrinally, structurally, spiritually and passionately prepared to finish the task of global evangelization (2 Cor 8:7-11).
5/23/2013 2:59:32 PM
May 23 2013 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – A U.S. Senate committee has approved immigration reform legislation without including provisions for same-sex partners opposed by Southern Baptist and other evangelical Christian leaders.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 Tuesday night (May 21) for a bill designed to provide broad reform for a system that seemingly everyone acknowledges is badly broken. The lack of enforcement of the current system has resulted in an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States illegally.
It appeared support for the bill from many evangelicals, conservatives and Republicans would have vanished had the controversial topic of same-sex partners been interjected by the committee. After recognizing the threat to passage of the overall bill, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D.-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, withdrew before a final committee vote his amendments supported by homosexual rights organizations.
One of Leahy’s amendments would have recognized for immigration purposes a same-sex marriage that is legal in a state or foreign country. His other amendment would have enabled a same-sex partner of an American citizen to gain legal residency in the same way a husband or wife of a citizen does.
Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land welcomed the committee’s forwarding of the bill without the same-sex provisions.
“I am delighted that the immigration bill has passed out of the Judiciary Committee and that it has done so without any commingling of the immigration issue with the same-sex marriage issue,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “The bill will only get stronger from further debate in the Senate and debate in the House. This is a rare opportunity for bipartisan cooperation to do what’s best for the country and pass an immigration reform package that will not necessitate us revisiting this issue in the future.”
In a May 14 letter, Richard Land told Leahy and Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the leading Republican on the Judiciary Committee, the “issue is a deal-breaker” for the ERLC.
“On this point we seek to be ‘Waterford’ crystal clear: If [any] same-sex partner reunification provision is included in an immigration reform overhaul, the [ERLC] would not merely hold a neutral position on the broader bill, but would instead actively oppose it,” Land said.
In announcing the withdrawal of one of his same-sex amendments Tuesday, Leahy said, “I take the Republican sponsors of this important legislation at their word that they will abandon their own efforts if discrimination is removed from our immigration system. So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it. But I will continue to fight for equality.”
Three Republicans – Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Orrin Hatch of Utah – joined the Judiciary Committee’s 10 Democrats in approving the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744. The panel approved 141 of 212 amendments considered during five sessions, the committee reported.
The Senate bill includes a universal employment verification system, as well as border security and fence plans. When the border security plans are in place, undocumented immigrants can seek temporary status. To achieve such provisional status under the bill, each immigrant must meet several requirements.
The committee rejected amendments offered by Republicans to hasten both the securing of the border and implementation of the employment verification system.
Land and other evangelical supporters of broad immigration reform said upon its mid-April introduction the Senate bill marked a solid, though imperfect, start but did not endorse it. The product of about three months of negotiations among four Democrats and four Republicans, the proposal is the first serious congressional attempt since 2007 to repair the immigration system.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a leading GOP conservative involved in the negotiations, said the committee-approved bill marks “significant progress” but “work still remains to be done.” Congress must “earn the confidence of the American people that we are solving our immigration problems once and for all,” he said in a written statement.
He remains hopeful the Senate can improve the legislation “through an open and deliberative floor debate.”
Messengers to the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) passed a resolution in support of immigration reform with specific guidelines.
That resolution from the SBC meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials establish after securing the borders “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.
Supporters of immigration reform have warned there is only a narrow window of opportunity for passage in this two-year congressional session, which closes at the end of 2014. Land has predicted approval must happen by the Fourth of July or Labor Day this year.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
5/23/2013 2:55:26 PM
May 22 2013 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Baptist communicators in North Carolina brought home several awards from Arkansas recently.
The Baptist Communicators Association
(BCA) held its 60th annual meeting in Little Rock, Ark., April 17-20. BCA is a professional development organization open to anyone serving in Baptist communications.
K Brown, a videographer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), won four awards including a first place award for Bridge of Hope in the Audio-Visual Communications Division for video promotions that were less than 15 minutes. In the photography division, Brown won a second and third place award for Feature or News (International) – Series. His Bridge of Hope work garnered second place in this category, and his Slate and Chalk entry received a third place award. Brown’s Radically Transformed won a second place award for Promotional or Advertisement (domestic or International) – Series, also in photography.
Mike Creswell, BSC consultant for the Cooperative Program (CP), and Carly Conley placed third in the Interactive Communications Division for Web-based Other Media, for their 52 Sundays, a CP promotional work. Conley, a freelance graphic artist, also does graphic work for the Biblical Recorder. The Biblical Recorder’s design team placed second in the Design Division for Publications – State Baptist Newspaper.
Blake Ragsdale and Tabitha Ward of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) placed second in social media application in the interactive communications division for the BCH Facebook page.
Next year’s BCA workshop will be April 9-12 at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center. To learn more about BCA, including how to become a member, visit baptistcommunicators.org
. BCA also is on Facebook
5/22/2013 3:19:48 PM
BR staff | with 0 comments