News

Pastor Protection bill passes TX House, Senate

June 3 2015 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press

Passage of the only surviving religious liberty bill in the 84th session of the Texas Legislature gives pastors some legal protection against litigation should they refuse to preside over a same-sex marriage. Senate Bill 2065, the Pastor Protection bill, passed overwhelmingly May 21.
 
With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to rule by the end of June on whether states must recognize same-sex marriage as a constitutionally protected right, conservative Texas legislators filed bills that would, if passed, provide legal standing for citizens, businesses and clergy against an anticipated wave of legal action. But the lack of support from state leadership and the legislators’ self-imposed censorship in the wake of protests at Indiana’s capitol in April left stymied all other legislation that would have given a legal defense for those opposed, on religious grounds, to same-sex marriage.
 
The lone religious liberty bill to be debated, SB 2065, passed the House of Representatives 141-2 on its second reading, garnering even the support of two gay representatives. The next day it passed unanimously, 142-0, earning the votes of its two earlier opponents. On May 25 it was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott who has said he would sign it.
 
The bill ensures clergy and churches cannot be compelled by the government to solemnize or facilitate a wedding that is in conflict with their deeply held religious convictions. The law also provides legal standing for them if sued for refusing to perform a wedding.
 
Although pleased with the passage of SB 2065, Cindy Asmussen, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention ethics and religious liberty advisor, said the lone bill does not provide legal cover for the multitude of scenarios legislators were trying to account for. The state’s Religious Freedom Reformation Act (RFRA) statute gives a broad foundation upon which Texans can stand when defending their religious convictions but it does not provide the specific defense needed for a variety of situations, Asmussen and others argued. A statute, unlike an amendment, can be repealed by any subsequent legislature.
 
“It’s enough for the pastors and the clergy, but we want to protect all Texans,” said Rep. Matt Krause.
 
Asmussen, who spent weeks petitioning legislators to give serious consideration to religious liberty bills and the issues they seek to proactively address, lamented that legislators did not share her sense of urgency.
 
During the second reading of the bill May 21, questions on the House floor to Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, sponsor of the Pastor Protection bill, reflected some misunderstandings of the problems SB 2065 seeks to forestall.
 
Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburgh, repeatedly asked Sanford if any clergy, to date, had been forced, against their religious convictions, to marry anyone or if they had been prosecuted for failure to do so. His questions indicated he saw no immediate threat to clergy. Canales, along with Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, voted against the bill May 21.
 
“Rep. Canales, I would certainly say there are repercussions that pastors are experiencing today,” said Sanford, a pastor at Cotton Creek Baptist Church. “Pastors came in droves to the capitol to testify for this bill because they sense a need for it.”
 
Even with the Texas marriage law and the RFRA statute in force, pastors told Sanford they are being intimidated by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists. Some pastors have been asked to perform same-sex marriages. He reminded the House of the subpoenaing of five Houston pastors for their opposition to a city ordinance giving civil liberty protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
 
The Pastor Protection bill received the support of two gay lawmakers and other supporters of same-sex marriage, but their support was not without affirmation of same-sex marriage and nuanced statements aimed at their ideological and political opponents.
 
“The unstated here is the LGBT community and, let me reassure those pastors out there, that some fine day my partner and I are going to be able to get married in the great state of Texas. The Supreme Court will hopefully take care of that issue for us. When that day comes, rest assured to those pastors and preachers who will take a more literal interpretation of the Bible that my partner and I of 20 years will not be going to them to bless our union,” said Cecelia Israel, D-Austin, one of two gay lawmakers to support the bill.
 
Israel said she supported the bill as a reiteration of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution “which is a respect for religion,” not because of the legal cover its authors believe is needed in a post-marriage culture.
 
Rep. Richard Pena Raymond, D-Laredo, said society, in time would come around to accept same-sex marriage. When two “children of God” love each other they should have the right to marry, he concluded.
 
There was applause from the House gallery as representatives cast their votes in favor of the bill.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN at texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

6/3/2015 11:22:58 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SBTS receives Keesee technology grant

June 3 2015 by Paul Baity and Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

The Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund awarded a grant of $198,000 to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) for upgrading the technology and furnishings of 10 classrooms, as well as two classrooms in the James P. Boyce Centennial Library, Crismon Hall and the Mullins Room.
 
“We are very thankful for the support of the Kessee Foundation and for their continued generosity to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” said President R. Albert Mohler Jr. “This significant gift will assist us greatly as we make certain Southern Seminary is ready to seize the opportunities of the future. Most importantly, it will enhance our ability to train young ministers and missionaries in the classroom and beyond the physical classroom to the global mission field beyond.”

 
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SBTS administrators submitted the proposal to the Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund Board of Trustees in November 2014. The proposal detailed the seminary’s plan to create a Global Campus through improved technology in the classroom. The upgrades will allow faculty to teach students currently overseas and bring guest lecturers to their classrooms through wireless video sharing. Students will be able to collaborate online and learn how to use technology to study and teach the Bible effectively in the modern world.
 
“We live in serious times, we attract students who are serious about the gospel, and we are committed to equipping them to engage our technological age,” wrote Dan Dumas, senior vice president of institutional administration, in the proposal. “That begins with a seminary experience where students are equipped to use technology to study and teach God’s Word.”
 
The technology afforded by the grant will offer faculty members the tools to teach on a global scale, allow better student retention of the material, and permit faculty to feature scholars and ministers in their classes who are not able to travel to Louisville, according to the proposal.
 
Added Mohler, “I especially appreciate the Kessee Foundation’s forward-focused thinking in terms of technology and its responsible use. Our commitments are irreducibly theological, but modern technology affords us opportunities the founders of Southern Seminary could never have imagined.”
 
The seminary also plans to renovate the classrooms and computer lab in the James P. Boyce Centennial Library in order to provide Master of Divinity and doctoral students with more equipped rooms of study and seminars. Crismon Hall will be converted into a classroom capable of accommodating 60 students, and the Mullins Room will become a conference room to facilitate doctoral seminars.
 
The Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund provides assistance master’s degree students and Southern Baptist seminaries. The fund also offers grants to seminary students from Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina committed to ministering in the Southern Baptist Convention.

6/3/2015 11:20:09 AM by Paul Baity and Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



Permanent contraception pushed by Gates Foundation

June 3 2015 by Kiley Crossland, Gates Foundation

An Oregon gynecologist is developing a nonsurgical method of permanent contraception with a $5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
 
The foundation claims the grant, awarded late last year, will be used to assist women who have reached their desired family size and no longer wish to have children. But critics argue the Gates-funded project is a continuation of the foundation’s unbalanced focus on contraception and sterilization in the developing world.

 
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Photo by Kjetil Ree
Bill and Melinda Gates

The grant is the third from the Gates Foundation to the Oregon Health & Science University. The first, for $1 million, was used to assess whether a foam used to treat varicose veins might also double as a permanent contraceptive. The second, for $295,000, was used to establish the Oregon Permanent Contraception Research Center (OPERM).
 
OPERM, led by gynecologist Jeffrey Jensen, is using the latest grant to solicit research proposals for studies into effective methods of permanent contraception that are nonsurgical, low cost, portable, acceptable for use by non-physicians, and effective with a single treatment, according to the OPERM funding appeal. Research proposals are due May 30.
 
“My goal is very simple, to make every pregnancy planned and highly desired,” Jensen said. Jensen cites a World Health Organization (WHO) statistic claiming 222 million women in developing nations would like to stop or delay childbearing but are not using any form of contraception.
 
But Stephen Phelan of Human Life International disputes the WHO numbers, saying he has not seen the data to back them up.
 
“There is no justice in manufacturing a supposed demand for poor women to be sterilized, when what these women always say they want most when asked is better basic healthcare, education, opportunity and just governance,” Phelan said. He argues the portrait painted by Gates and other contraception-pushing foundations misrepresents women in developing countries.
 
The Gates Foundation has championed contraception access for women in the developing world as “one of the best investments a country can make in its future.”
 
But Phelan argues the Gates’ vision for “development” by furthering contraceptive access misses the mark.
 
“It is difficult to determine what is more outrageous, the uncritical and fawning ‘news’ reporting on every new Gates Foundation sterilization development grant, even as coercive sterilization campaigns continue around the world, or the fact that the Gates Foundation continues to act as if every problem in the developing world can be solved by sterilizing women,” Phelan said.
 
Jensen’s team is testing the FDA-approved varicose veins treatment, a polidocanol foam, which showed promise in initial studies on monkeys and baboons. Jensen hopes soon to move on to human clinical trials.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine worldmag.com based in Asheville, N.C.)

6/3/2015 11:12:58 AM by Kiley Crossland, Gates Foundation | with 0 comments



CP 2.57% ahead of year-to-date projection

June 3 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) are 2.57 percent above the year-to-date SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget projection and 2.09 percent above contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Frank S. Page.
 
The year-to-date total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of May and includes receipts from state conventions, churches and individuals for distribution, according to the 2014-15 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

 
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The $128,551,618.17 received by the Executive Committee for the first eight months of the fiscal year, Oct. 1 through May 31, for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget represents 102.57 percent of the $125,333,333.33 year-to-date budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The total is $2,633,111.07 or 2.09 percent more than the $125,918,507.10 received through the end of May 2014.
 
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution to its state convention.
 
The convention-adopted BP allocation budget is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board (IMB), 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board (NAMB), 22.16 percent to theological education through the Convention’s six seminaries, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget, and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources are self-sustaining and do not receive CP funding.
 
According to the budget adopted by the SBC at its June 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore, if the convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $188 million dollars, IMB’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.
 
Designated giving of $156,407,635.19 for the same year-to-date period is 5.61 percent, or $8,312,960.60, above the $148,094,674.59 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief and other special gifts.
 
May’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $17,363,411.14. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $24,064,963.92.
 
State conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective states and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.
 
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted and the timing of when the state conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee.
 
CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at cpmissions.net/CPReports.

6/3/2015 11:06:01 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



2016 VBS to ‘submerge’ kids in God’s Word

June 3 2015 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Next summer, kids will have the opportunity to dive past the surface and go deeper into God’s Word with “Submerged,” the 2016 Vacation Bible School (VBS) theme from LifeWay Christian Resources.
 
The theme helps challenge a culture consumed with celebrity – one marked by the image of beauty and popularity, LifeWay VBS specialist Jerry Wooley said.

 
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“It’s a value system that’s unrealistic and an impossibility to achieve or maintain,” he said. “During Submerged, kids will discover it’s not what’s on the surface that matters, but the internal truth that only God can see.”
 
Each day of next year’s VBS, students will explore the way Jesus saw people and examine the truth of the key verse, Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.”
 
“This is an adventure that will take us not only to the depths of the ocean,” Wooley said, “but to the depths of our hearts as well. We will be challenged to let God not only search our hearts, but reveal the truths of our hearts as well.”
 
VBS remains one of the most effective evangelistic events for churches. Using the most recent statistics available, Wooley said nearly 3 million people participated in VBS at a local church in 2014. Approximately 80,000 children made professions of faith during those weeks and more than 1 million unchurched individuals were identified as a result.
 
Wooley believes the same could happen again next summer as Submerged reveals our greatest need. “God sees our heart and knows our thoughts,” he said. “He sees what lies below the image we want the world to see, and He loves us anyway. He sees and knows our true potential, our sin and our need for a Savior.”
 
For those ready to start planning for next summer, VBS 2016 Jump Start Kits will be available for purchase in October, with other resources scheduled to be available in December.
 
VBS 2016 Preview events, designed to give leaders a hands-on opportunity with the new material, are scheduled for January in Ridgecrest, N.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Nashville.
 
For more information, visit LifeWay.com/VBS.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/3/2015 10:57:15 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Public apologies spur church discipline warnings

June 2 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Public apologies by two U.S. megachurches for a lack of compassion in the exercise of church discipline have prompted some Baptist pastors to underscore the need for humility and congregational polity during the attempted restoration of wayward members.
 
Most American churches have not exercised biblical church discipline for a century, said Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville. “Because we have so little practice with it, along the way, as we seek to restore it, people are going to make mistakes. This kind of humility required to apologize for making a mistake, I think, is going to be needed and needed in large quantities in order to be successful in getting to a healthy place with regard to what church membership is.”
 
Matt Chandler, pastor of the The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a Southern Baptist multisite congregation, apologized during worship services May 30-31 for a domineering approach by elders in some church discipline cases, the church confirmed to BP.

 
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Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church, a multi-campus church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Christianity Today (CT) reported on one case in which the church’s leaders initiated the discipline process when a woman ended her marriage after discovering her husband had viewed child pornography for years. She requested to be removed from membership, but the request was denied initially, CT reported, with leaders citing a membership covenant requiring couples to “walk through the steps of marriage reconciliation” before pursuing divorce and a policy forbidding members under discipline from withdrawing.
 
The Village Church’s elders reversed their course May 28 and released her from membership, issuing an apology for not leading her “to a place conducive to peace, repentance and healing.” She filed for a marriage annulment under Texas law.
 
In Chicago, a megachurch’s pastor and elders apologized last fall for “the complete lack of biblically required restorative component” in the discipline of three former elders accused of stirring up division in the church, CT reported. In September, Pastor James MacDonald said Harvest Bible Chapel’s elder board had “lifted all discipline” from the former elders.
 
The former elders accused Harvest’s leaders of fostering a “culture of intimidation” and exhibiting a lack of transparency. In response, a 2013 video message from Harvest’s leadership called church members to “avoid these former Harvest elders at all costs lest you incur great detriment to your own soul.” The former elders’ viewpoints, according to the video, were “satanic to the core,” CT reported.
 
Neither the Village Church nor Harvest brings matters of church discipline to a congregational vote.
 
One way churches err in their discipline processes is by failing to include the entire congregation in votes to withdraw fellowship from individuals in sin who refuse to repent, said Barber, a former first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The process of church discipline outlined in Matthew 18:15-18, he said, involves confronting a sinning church member individually, then confronting the person again with two or three witnesses if he or she refuses to repent.
 
If that call to repentance fails, the entire church body should call for repentance and withdraw fellowship from the individual if there is still not a positive response.
 
“Having that congregational basis to [discipline] is helpful,” Barber said, “because my experience is that congregations are unwilling to extend church discipline sometimes when I’m willing to do it. So there’s something of a mediating force in having to go to an entire congregation.”
 

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James MacDonald, senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, a multi-campus church in the Chicago area.

Barber, who has led First Baptist to remove a person from church membership, said the primary biblical theme related to church discipline is “rescuing believers who are wandering off into a dangerous position.”
 
In 2008, Barber sought to help the SBC articulate an official position on church discipline by submitting a resolution on the topic to the convention’s Resolutions Committee. Portions of the draft Barber submitted were incorporated into a resolution adopted by the convention on “regenerate church membership and church member restoration.”
 
The resolution called churches to repent of “any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members.” It asked “denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior’s teaching on church discipline.”
 
Another pastor to submit a resolution incorporated into that statement was Tom Ascol of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla. He said the “biggest mistake” related to corrective church discipline among contemporary churches “is neglecting it altogether.” Among those who do practice it, there can be a tendency of pastors to withdraw fellowship from members without the church’s authority, said Ascol, a member of SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page’s Calvinism Advisory Group in 2013-14.
 
“Pastors can fall into the mistake of exercising pastor discipline, where the church has not been taught [and] the church is not fully on board with what’s supposed to be done,” Ascol said. “... Christ does vest His full authority in the church. So it’s the whole body that has responsibility” for removing individuals from membership.
 
Most church discipline is “formative” rather than “corrective,” helping believers develop godly character through teaching and encouragement, Ascol said. He added among corrective discipline, most cases do not proceed to the step of involving the entire congregation. Discipline that does progress to congregational involvement should be carried out in love, he said, never with “harshness” or “heavy-handedness.”
 
Leading Grace to exclude unrepentant individuals from membership is “the most painful thing as a pastor that I’ve ever had to lead a church to do,” Ascol said.
 
Corrective church discipline “is always for God’s glory. It’s always for the sake of the gospel,” Ascol said. “... When we administer discipline and we do it right, it’s in love.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/2/2015 11:31:46 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Supreme Court boosts workers who claim religious bias

June 2 2015 by Richard Wolf, USA Today

The Supreme Court ruled June 1 that companies cannot discriminate against job applicants or employees for religious reasons, even if an accommodation is not requested.
 
The decision was a defeat for preppy clothier Abercrombie & Fitch, which refused to hire a Muslim girl in 2008 because she was wearing a black hijab, or head scarf. It could benefit job applicants and employees who need time off for religious observances as well as those who adhere to strict dress codes.
 
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the 8-1 decision for a near-unanimous court, save for Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent. Scalia reasoned that even if the clothier did not know Samantha Elauf’s religion, it still motivated the decision to deny her employment.
 
“The rule for disparate-treatment claims based on a failure to accommodate a religious practice is straightforward,” Scalia wrote. “An employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.”

 
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Photo courtesy of Emily Hardman, Becket Fund
Samantha Elauf outside of the Supreme Court on Feb. 25, 2015.

The ruling continued the high court’s practice of providing legal protection for religious beliefs and customs. In recent years, it has allowed employers with religious objections to avoid covering some forms of birth control, upheld the practice of opening local government meetings with a prayer, and allowed a Muslim inmate to keep his beard in prison.
 
That history put Abercrombie & Fitch’s “look policy” for sales associates on thin ice. During oral arguments in February, both liberal and conservative justices refused to believe the company’s insistence that Samantha Elauf, 17 at the time, was turned down simply because of the head scarf, not her faith.
 
In his dissent, however, Thomas defended the company, claiming that its “neutral look policy” cannot constitute intentional discrimination.
 
The court’s decision could have implications for religious minorities’ job opportunities and companies’ hiring practices. Muslim women who cover their heads encounter some of the biggest problems. Businesses, on the other hand, claim that requiring them to cater to all religious minorities’ observances is an “undue hardship.”
 
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The ban on religious discrimination includes observances and practices, unless the employer cannot reasonably accommodate them.
 
The clothier’s “look policy” affects the type of clothing, jewelry and makeup its sales representatives can wear, including atop their heads. But it often grants exceptions upon request, including for head scarves.
 
The circumstances in Elauf’s case actually posed a narrow question: Must the job applicant request a religious accommodation, or should the employer recognize the need for it? During her job interview, Elauf never brought up her religion, and her interviewer never asked.
 
The federal government maintained that Abercrombie discriminated “when it intentionally refused to hire Elauf because of her hijab, after inferring correctly that Elauf wore the hijab for religious reasons.”
 
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – which sued Abercrombie on Elauf’s behalf – saw a 250 percent increase in religion-based discrimination charges involving Muslims. In 2012, more than 20 percent of its 3,800 religious discrimination claims were filed by Muslims.
 
Abercrombie & Fitch, backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, contended that employers should not be forced to inquire about a job applicant’s religion for fear of appearing to discriminate.
 
The company settled a lawsuit brought by black, Hispanic and Asian-American college students for $40 million a decade ago and pledged to diversify its hiring, promotion and marketing practices. Since then, it says, it has gone from fewer than 10 percent non-white sales associates to more than 50 percent.
 
It issued a statement following the Supreme Court’s decision noting “significant enhancements to our store associate policies, including the replacement of the ‘look policy’ with a new dress code that allows associates to be more individualistic; changed our hiring practices to not consider attractiveness; and changed store associates’ titles from ‘model’ to ‘brand representative’ to align with their new customer focus.”
 
“This case relates to events occurring in 2008,” the company said. “A&F has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and consistent with the law, has granted numerous religious accommodations when requested, including hijabs.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Richard Wolf writes for USA Today.)

6/2/2015 11:30:16 AM by Richard Wolf, USA Today | with 0 comments



Population growth fuels church planting need in Calgary

June 2 2015 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

Pastors beware. Go on a mission trip to Calgary, and you may be there for life. That’s what happened to Brett Myers, who had been pastoring Corinth Baptist Church in Westminster, S.C., for two and a half years, when he arrived on a mission trip in the summer of 2012.
 
“I was just broken by the need in the city,” Myers said.
 
To Myers’ surprise, the need for new churches in the city was more tangible than he had thought.
 
As he made plans for his church’s next mission trip to the city the following year, he told Pastor Bo Neal, who leads the local Calgary church with whom Myers had been partnering, about his family’s growing call to church planting. Neal then told Myers that the manager of a nearby homeowners association had come to him recently to ask him to start a new church in her new community.
 
“So now, for three weeks, we’ve been praying God would send us a church planter,” Neal told Myers. After much prayer and a visit to the city a few months later, Myers and his family arrived in the spring of 2014 and began making plans to start Southwinds Church Mahogany.

 
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Contributed photo
One of the many ways to help plant a church involves engaging with the community, which includes hosting events to reach the church’s neighbors.

But with only one Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) church for every 53,627 people in the city, Calgary needs more than just one new church. And the churches that are in the city are small.
 
According to Bob Shelton, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send North America: Calgary city missionary, the 27 CNBC churches in Calgary have a total of 1,850 people in them.
 
“It’s tough to wrap your mind around the differences in ministry in a city where so many people have such little exposure to the gospel,” said Myers, who is currently a NAMB church planting apprentice in Calgary.
 
“In South Carolina – not to say there’s not a need for more churches there or anything like that – but when you talk to someone they have some kind of basis for understanding of the gospel. Here, a lot of times, there’s not.”
 
Calgary and Edmonton, both NAMB Send North America cities, are the two largest cities in the Canadian province of Alberta. Calgary has more than 1.2 million people. According to the Calgary Herald in 2012, the city had the highest population growth in Canada over the previous 10 years. Much of that growth has come from an expanding oil and gas industry.
 
Housing is popping up throughout the city.
 
Myers notes that the community where he is planting, named Mahogany, currently has about 3,000 residents but will include more than 40,000 residents by the time it’s done.
 
Because they are typically built to be self-contained, with all the shopping, educational and cultural needs met within the community itself, many of these communities will include opportunities for new churches to be started.
 
Shelton believes the biggest limiting factor in pushing back lostness in Calgary isn’t the responsiveness of the residents but the lack of church planters in the city. The city needs church planters who will come to the city and stay.
 
“Particularly when people come here from the states, it is hard slugging here,” Shelton said. “The ground is hard here spiritually, but it’s also very cold here. There are several months of the year when it is brutally cold.
 
“You have to be a hearty soul to ‘weather’ the weather. You also have to persevere here because it takes times to build those relationships. It takes time to build trust. You’ve got to stay here long enough to share the gospel and see some of the fruit of your labor.”
 
To help bring more laborers to the Calgary harvest fields, Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., has agreed to become the lead partner for Send North America: Calgary.
 
As a lead partner, Calvary Baptist is making plans to send a church planter to the city, supporting church planters who are already there, mobilizing its congregation to serve existing planters with mission teams and networking among other churches to get more resources and people to Calgary. Last year the church sent two interns to help church plants in the city. This year they hope to send as many as five.
 
The church is actively recruiting a church planter who might come to Winston-Salem for three to six months to gather a core team to plant in Calgary.
 
Mark Gilbert, a lay leader at the church who leads the efforts with Calgary, noted that Calvary Baptist has nearly twice as many people in its worship services as in all the CNBC churches in Calgary each weekend.
 
“The people are super-friendly, super-engaging, but their frame of reference of Christianity is lost,” said Gilbert. “Some of the planters will tell you that kids come to their community events where they talk about the Bible, and they’ll have kids who have never heard of Jesus and never seen a Bible.”
 
Myers says for his church plant and other planters in the city to have a spiritual impact on the level of lostness among them, they need the support of others. In addition to the need of resources and prayers from Southern Baptists, he pointed to a significant need of volunteer teams in the summer to conduct camps and other outreach efforts.
 
Those efforts, Myers says, will go toward planting multiple churches in the Calgary area.
 
“God has told us in the Great Commission, He has told us in Acts 1:8, to go and make disciples,” Myers said. “Our vision is to plant new churches in new communities all around this city.”
 
Learn more about Send North America: Calgary at namb.net/Calgary.

6/2/2015 11:23:03 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



Mission:Dignity buoys retired pastors, widows

June 2 2015 by Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press

Virginia Pangle summed up what Mission:Dignity means to a pastor’s widow like herself. “I don’t have to worry about being cold, hungry or going without my medicine,” she said.
 
Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, ensures that Pangle along with nearly 2,000 other retired Southern Baptist pastors, their spouses or widows are able to have a sense of financial dignity in retirement. The ministry, fully supported by gifts from individuals, Sunday School classes and churches, provides monthly grants to retired Southern Baptist workers in critical financial need. The neediest couples can receive up to $600 each month in assistance.

 
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GuideStone photo
Virginia Pangle said before she received help through Mission:Dignity she had to worry about being cold, hungry or going without medicine.

Mission:Dignity Sunday, held the fourth Sunday of every June on the Southern Baptist Convention’s calendar, is set aside for churches to make a special offering for support of the ministry. Sixty percent of Mission:Dignity recipients are widows; one out of every four recipients is a pastor’s widow age 85 or older.
 
Mission:Dignity receives no Cooperative Program funding.
 
“GuideStone was founded to serve those who gave sacrificially to spread the Word of God,” GuideStone president O.S. Hawkins said.
 
“The very DNA of GuideStone, part of the fabric that our founder, William Lunsford, laid for us, is to care for pastors and their widows in old age. We’re privileged to carry on this ministry through Mission:Dignity.”
 
To help churches mark Mission:Dignity Sunday, GuideStone has created videos, bulletin inserts, posters, a PowerPoint slide and even sermons for use on June 28 or any Sunday. Materials are undated so churches can use the materials at a time convenient to their schedule. Churches can order materials now through June 22 for delivery in time for Mission:Dignity at MDSunday.org. Additionally, churches can request information by calling 888-98-GUIDE (888-984-8433).
 
John Ambra, Mission:Dignity director, said Mission:Dignity offers the opportunity for churches to live out, as noted in the book of James, care for widows in their distress.
 
“Some of our participants tell us that Mission:Dignity is the difference between having food, or not, having medication, or not, or having to choose between heat or eating,” Ambra said. “To come alongside these dear soldiers of the cross and serve them and, in many cases, their surviving widows is a deep blessing.
 
“Additionally, we’re encouraging pastors and members of Southern Baptist churches to refer retired pastors or their widows who are in critical financial need to Mission:Dignity. We ask pastors to think about their pastoral predecessor or for church members to remember the pastor who helped lead them to the Lord; [the apostle] Paul reminds us that those who work in preaching and teaching are worthy of double honor.
 
“It is our deep calling and blessing to ensure those workers live out their declining years in dignity and honor.”
 
For more information on Mission:Dignity, go to MissionDignitySBC.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – June 28 is Mission:Dignity Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention).

6/2/2015 11:15:26 AM by Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Magna Carta: Celebrating an 800-year legacy of democracy and liberty

June 2 2015 by Libby Donaldson, Baptist Press

June 15 marks the 800th anniversary of King John’s seal on the Magna Carta, one of the most significant documents in the history of democracy.
 
While only three of the Magna Carta’s original clauses are still a part of British law, this canon was foundational in shaping today’s human rights and personal freedoms, including the freedom to practice religion.
 
In the U.S., it paved the way for multiple governing documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For instance, the Fifth Amendment – “Nor shall any persons be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law” – sounds much like the Magna Carta’s 39th clause. 
 
In 13th-century England, King John wasn’t the most popular ruler. His frivolous spending and lack of concern for his people led to heavy taxation. Upset by his selfish monarchical style, unsatisfied barons demanded something be done. Along with several bishops, they drafted 63 clauses that helped rein in King John, claiming all free men – even the monarch – were subject to the law. In 1215, at Runnymede, England, King John placed his seal of approval on the document that has forever shaped the relationship between governing powers and free men in democratic societies. 

 
6-2-15MagnaCarta.jpg

Photo by Clare Kendall for British Library
The British Library brought together the four existing original Magna Carta manuscripts from King John’s reign for the first time during a three-day “unification event” earlier this year.

Translated from its original Latin, the Magna Carta (Great Charter) states, “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.” Applied, it meant every free man had the right to a trial by a jury of his peers.
 
Rebecca Jones, a high school history teacher in North Carolina, says that while Americans may not hear about the Magna Carta as much as the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights, it is just as valuable.
 
“The Magna Carta is one of those old, dusty documents that my students are always really frustrated that they have to learn about because ‘it doesn’t apply to me,’” Jones said. “However, I think that we have to understand that this document is just as important to the foundation of the American political system as our own documents are.
 
“Those ideas of limiting that power of the king would in turn influence the writing of America’s own founding government. It was also one of the first times in European history that we see a limit on absolute monarchy, something that wouldn’t happen in France until the revolution in 1789 or in Russia until 1918,” Jones said. “It’s very important for me to show my students the progression of representative government throughout world history, and eventually to how it would influence our own.”
 
Mark Durfee agrees. The U.S. history teacher in Texas says the Magna Carta was the “foundational influence” that led to the English Bill of Rights of 1689. In North America, it largely impacted the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1619, the Mayflower Compact in 1620, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut in 1639 – “the first written constitution in English Colonial America” – the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Articles of Confederation in 1777. This all led up to the drafting, signing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and 1788 and the Bill of Rights in 1789 and 1791.
 
Anniversary celebrations in the United States occurred as early as November 2014. The Library of Congress hosted a copy of the Magna Carta for 10 weeks, along with other documents that depicted “how a number of the most basic principles of the U.S. Constitution – consent of the governed, the right to a trial by jury, the right to due process of law, freedom from unlawful imprisonment and limited government under the law – can be traced to Magna Carta,” according to the Library of Congress website.
 
The American Bar Association will be hosting 600 to 800 U.S. lawyers to commemorate the anniversary at the monument the ABA erected at Runnymede in 1957. Queen Elizabeth II also will make her way to the location where the Magna Carta was born.
 
The British Library exhibition “Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy” is open to the public through Sept. 1 and showcases two of the four existing original copies of the document from King John’s reign.
 

Worth praying about

  • Pray for global, national and local government leaders as they make decisions about rights and freedoms.

  • Ask God to bring freedom to those who are oppressed by their own governments.

  • Thank God for reigning with both justice and grace.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Libby Donaldson is a writer for the London Bureau of Baptist Press.)

6/2/2015 11:08:18 AM by Libby Donaldson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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