News

Winter storm underscores disaster preparedness

January 28 2015 by Meredith Yackel, NAMB/Baptist Press

Winter storm Juno hit areas of the Northeast Monday and Tuesday (Jan. 26-27) and continues to bring moderate to heavy snow in some areas. Although its impact is less than originally predicted, by noon Tuesday Juno had left parts of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island with one to two or more feet of snow.
 
Wind gusts reached 30 mph Tuesday night in Boston and topped 70 mph in eastern Massachusetts. Coastal flooding has forced roads in some areas to close completely, and several states either closed roads or imposed a limited travel ban. An estimated 36,000 customers are without power in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
 
Fritz Wilson, executive director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) with the North American Mission Board (NAMB), warned that “it is easy to take an attitude of complacency and not take preparedness with seriousness” since New York and other areas weren’t hit as hard as initially feared.
 
While trained SBDR volunteers could be deployed for such a natural disaster if needed, Wilson said blizzards are an example of the kind of event individuals and churches can prepare for in advance.
 
“Our Ready Church initiative is about being prepared for all disasters. The reason for churches and Christians to be prepared is that when we are prepared, we can better cope with the situation and minister to our neighbors,” Wilson said. Churches can connect with a local SBDR director to learn more about how to be prepared when a storm, or any kind of disaster, hits close to home.
 
SBDR leaders want to enable churches to prepare, connect and respond within their local context while, through the disaster relief network nationally and internationally, Southern Baptists are able to respond with full support to crises of all sizes. Ready Church empowers people to best connect with their community in these times of need to spread the Gospel.
 
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit https://donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
 
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
 
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Meredith Yackel writes for the North American Mission Board.)

1/28/2015 12:15:06 PM by Meredith Yackel, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ERLC, Focus unveil 2016 Evangelicals for Life

January 28 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists’ ethics entity and a leading pro-family organization took a public, first step Jan. 22 in mobilizing extensive evangelical Christian involvement in the annual March for Life.
 
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family introduced Evangelicals for Life – a major evangelical, pro-life conference in conjunction with the 2016 March for Life – at an event by the same name that preceded this year’s march. At the morning session, the ERLC and Focus on the Family announced they will sponsor with other organizations the first-of-its-kind event next Jan. 21-22 in Washington, D.C.
 
The ERLC and Focus are planning in 2016 “to really initiate a massive movement of evangelicals present at the March for Life,” ERLC President Russell Moore told those gathered Jan. 22 in a Washington hotel meeting room.
 
The March for Life, a signature event of the pro-life movement, began in 1974, a year after the Jan. 22 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide. Held on or near Jan. 22, it brings together many tens of thousands of pro-lifers – or a few hundred thousand, depending on estimates – to rally on the National Mall in Washington, then march up Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill. Leaders from the diverse groups that make up the pro-life movement typically gather for the march and surrounding events.
 
While many religious groups are involved, Roman Catholics dominate attendance at the march. Catholic parishes and schools from numerous states send busloads to Washington for the event, and many other Catholics travel by train and vehicle. The Catholic Church also sponsors events in Washington preceding the march.
 
Evangelicals are deeply involved in a variety of pro-life efforts in the United States, but they have been significantly underrepresented at the March for Life. That needs to change, Moore said.

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Photo by Chad Bartlett
ERLC President Russell Moore prays to close the Evangelicals for Life event Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C. Joining him in prayer are (from left) Kelly Rosati of Focus on the Family, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Phillip Bethancourt of the ERLC.

 

“I don’t want to see any fewer rosary beads at the March for Life, but I want to see more evangelicals here also at the March for Life,” he told the Jan. 22 ERLC-Focus gathering that included a sizable number of evangelical, pro-life leaders. “[O]ur absence is a shame. And so we don’t need any less ‘Ave Maria,’ but we need some more ‘Amazing Grace’ in the mix as well.”
 
Of the 2016 conference, Moore said, “You’re going to see a gathering of evangelicals saying, ‘This is our issue too.’
 
“[W]e’re wanting to cultivate a new generation of born-again men and women who care about the unborn, who care about their mothers and who care about consciences that are torn apart by the culture of death,” he said.
 
Moore and Focus President Jim Daly are the only conference speakers named so far.
 
Kelly Rosati, Focus’ vice president of community outreach, told the audience of about 70 pro-lifers, “We really believe that God is doing something in the evangelical community to encourage and strengthen those of you who have been on the front lines for so long.... We are going to turn this around, and we are never, never going to stop speaking out for unborn kids.”
 
Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, appeared at the evangelical event to commend participants and the plans for the 2016 conference.
 
“On behalf of the March for Life and personally, I just can’t thank you enough,” she said.
 
The ERLC and Focus supported the march later in the day. At least 10 ERLC staff members and five Focus staffers participated in the rally and march. Moore appeared on the rally stage among pro-life leaders, and he gave the benediction at the March for Life-sponsored Rose Dinner in the evening.
 
In a panel discussion during the Jan. 22 Evangelicals for Life event, Moore, Rosati and Samuel Rodriguez said they are encouraged by evangelical involvement on the life issue.
 
He especially is encouraged considering where evangelicals were in the years after Roe v. Wade, Moore said.
 
At the beginning, evangelicals thought it was “a Catholic issue” and didn’t say much except for “a few prophetic voices,” he told the gathering. Then people assumed young evangelicals would surrender the abortion issue and become pro-choice, he said.
 
“That is not true at all,” Moore said. “It is almost impossible for me to find a pro-choice, young evangelical. And it is almost impossible for me to find a young evangelical who isn’t passionately concerned about the lives of the unborn and about their mothers.”
 
He also is encouraged “because the life issue is connected to so many other things,” he said. “When we deal with the question of the vulnerable and the unborn, then we’re spending time concentrating on that issue of the dignity of humanity, on that issue of love for neighbor, on that issue ... of pleading for the innocent.”
 
That drives evangelicals to care about others, including orphans and the poor, he said.
 
Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said the next generation is committed to justice and sees “the pro-life commitment as part of the justice motif.”
 
“That pro-life platform serves as the impetus behind many of the civil rights issues that Christians are now advocating for in the 21st century,” he said.
 
Focus is excited at what it describes as “a renaissance in the evangelical pro-life movement,” Rosati told the audience.
 
Young evangelicals’ “comprehensive commitment to pro-life causes ... is going to enhance our work on behalf of the preborn,” she said. “I believe that with all my heart. And I think that’s one of the trends we’re going to see” continue in the future.
 
A thread runs through both the life and race issues, Rodriguez said. The “abortion industry is targeting the ethnic community like no other,” placing its clinics in Latino and African-American neighborhoods, he said. “So if you are in favor of bringing about racial reconciliation, it behooves you to address abortion.”
 
For pro-life evangelicals, Moore said, “the most important weapon we have in our arsenal is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The most important pro-life chapter in the Bible is not Psalm 139 but Romans 3, that God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
 
He added, “God is just. He hears the cries of the unborn. And, Paul tells us in Romans 3, God is the justifier – so that in the cross we have the justice of God and the mercy of God.”
 
Evangelicals “need to be the sort of people who are addressing this issue in our churches, talking to the conscience,” he said. “But you don’t leave it there, because you also say, ‘If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation,’ which means that woman who has had the abortion or that man who has paid for the abortion who is in Christ, God does not see that person as the one who had the abortion. God sees that person exactly as He sees Jesus Christ: ‘You are my beloved child with whom I am well pleased.’”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

1/28/2015 12:02:40 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘I will try,’ Obama pledges to Abedinis

January 28 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Seeking the release of Saeed Abedini remains a “top priority,” President Barack Obama told Naghmeh Abedini during a private 10-minute meeting with her and her children Jan. 21 at Boise State University. Obama pledged to seek his release with renewed energy.
 
“He was holding my hand the whole time. I could see that he cared in his eyes and he kept getting that across, that he cares, and he’s doing what he can [to gain Saeed’s release],” she said during a radio interview with American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) executive director Jordan Sekulow. “My son asked him to bring him back, bring daddy back for his birthday, which is in March, and he looked up and he looked at my son and he said, ‘I will try Jacob, I will try.’”

She credited God for arranging the meeting to allow her to seek her husband’s release and to proclaim God’s love and power.
 
“God had me in that room, not only to go before the king as Esther did and plead for a cause, but also to touch his heart,” Naghmeh Abedini said in an interview with CBN, referencing Queen Esther of the Old Testament. “I know I was sent as God’s ambassador to touch the president’s heart with God’s love, the love of Jesus, and those were accomplished; so I have hope for the next steps because God is in control.”
 
“He will show me,” she said of God. “He will take me through the next steps. I know there [are] great things to come and I can’t wait to have Saeed home with our family.”
 
Naghmeh Abedini has been advocating more than two years for the release of her husband Saeed Abedini from an Iranian prison, where he has been held since Sept. 26, 2012 because of his Christian faith. He was sentenced Jan. 27, 2013, to eight years in prison on charges he threatened national security by planting house churches in Iran years earlier, and had been under house arrest since July, 2012.
 
She met with Obama on the two-year anniversary of the opening day of Abedini’s trial.
 
“I just looked at [Obama] and said the kids and I love you and we pray for you,” she said on CBN. “And as soon as I said that, the wall all came down, and he just grabbed my hand and I said, ‘I don’t know if it’s a professional thing to say or not.’ And he smiled and he said, ‘Yes, I need your prayers.’ It was very personal, and I just felt like sharing God’s love with him.”
 
Obama arranged a telephone interview between Naghmeh Abedini and the State Department staff after the meeting. Secretary of State John Kerry has advocated for Saeed’s release during past visits to Iran.
 
“For me, that meant we’re on the same team, let’s take the next step necessary to get Saeed home,” she said of Obama arranging the interview with State Department staff. “Especially when Jacob asked to have daddy for his birthday.”
 
Naghmeh Abedini asked Christians to continue praying for her husband’s release.
 
“More than anything, I’ve been motivated to even pray more, and to ask the body of Christ to join me in praying more,” she said on CBN. “I’m thankful for everyone who is praying, the churches that are praying that are really supporting and standing with us. We couldn’t have done it without you. We’re going to bring Saeed home. We continue to pray.”
 
The meeting heightens the fight for Saeed Abedini’s release, ACLJ’s Sekulow said.
 
“It personalizes it for the president [and his staff.] But on top of that, it changes the staff’s perspective – the people who are doing the day-to-day on this at the White House and the State Department,” Sekulow said, “because the president has made it a priority and he’s also elevated this nationally by not only doing this meeting, but doing it right after the State of the Union address.”
 
More than 206,000 have signed a two-month-old ACLJ petition urging Obama not to make any diplomatic deals with Iran unless Saeed is released.
 
Naghmeh Abedini’s father-in-law visited Saeed in prison on the same day she met with Obama, and reported that Saeed is still suffering.
 
“He still has a lot of pain of course he’s in one of the worst prisons in the world,” she said. “The nutrition is horrible. The conditions are horrible.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)

1/28/2015 11:50:31 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Fabricated: 'I did not go to heaven'

January 28 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

LifeWay Christian Resources’ decision to stop selling a discredited book about a 6-year-old’s supposed vision of heaven is being cited as a reminder that followers of Jesus should rely on the Bible rather than subjective experience for their knowledge of the afterlife.
 
“Anytime you step away from the clear, revelatory, propositional statements of scripture into your own experience, then you open yourself to every kind of weird existential idea out there,” Chris Osborne, a Texas pastor who believes books like Malarkey’s are unbiblical, told Baptist Press. “We want people bound to truth, not to what they feel or what they think they saw or what they experience.”

LifeWay decided Jan. 15 that it would stop selling The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by the father-son team of Kevin and Alex Malarkey after Alex, now 16, said in a statement that he fabricated the supposed vision of heaven on which the bestselling book is based.
 
“I did not die. I did not go to Heaven,” Alex Malarkey wrote in an open letter to LifeWay and other book retailers.
 
“I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible,” Malarkey wrote.
 
LifeWay spokesman Marty King said in a statement released to BP, “LifeWay was informed last week that Alex Malarkey retracted his testimony about visiting heaven as told in the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. Therefore, we returned to the publisher the few copies we had in our stores. LifeWay is committed to becoming even more proactive the next few months in evaluating the resources we carry.”
 
In 2004, Malarkey spent two months in a coma and was paralyzed from the neck down following a car accident. When he awoke, Malarkey reported experiencing a vision of heaven that included being guided by angels and meeting Jesus.
 
Kevin Malarkey said he “felt no urge” to share his son’s story for five years, but he retained an agent and secured a book deal with Tyndale House Publishers in 2009, British newspaper The Guardian reported. Though Alex is listed as a coauthor, Kevin Malarkey is the sole owner of the copyright, according to information posted in the United States Copyright Office’s public catalog. Kevin Malarkey also owns the copyright for a “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” film and a Spanish version of the book.
 
Alex’s mother Beth Malarkey – who Christianity Today reported is separated from Kevin – has been writing on her blog since at least 2011 that the book contains inaccuracies, according to the Guardian. Beth Malarkey said she and Alex have not received any proceeds from the book’s sale, CT reported.
 
Tyndale announced in a Jan. 14 statement that it would “immediately put the book and all ancillary products into out-of-print status” and allow retailers to return their remaining inventory.
 
Last June, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) adopted a resolution that touted “the sufficiency of scripture regarding the afterlife” and warned Christians not to allow “the numerous books and movies purporting to explain or describe the afterlife experience” to “become their source and basis for an understanding of the afterlife.”
 
Though the resolution did not list specific book or movie titles, it seemed to describe works like The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo along with its companion movie released last year by Sony Pictures.
 
The resolution affirmed “the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.”
 
Osborne, who was a member of the SBC Resolutions Committee that proposed the resolution to the convention, believes the apostle Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 12:4 that he heard things during a vision of “paradise” which “a man is not allowed to speak” precludes anyone from describing a vision of heaven not in the Bible.
 
Although scripture says much about where believers will live following Christ’s second coming, it contains far less information about what occurs between the time a follower of Jesus dies and the Lord’s second coming, Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station, said. Still, God has given humans all the information they need about what happens after death, he added.
 
Theologians refer to the condition of believers between their deaths and Christ’s return as “the intermediate state.”
 
“There are several things I know about the intermediate state,” Osborne said, citing John 14:2-4. “Number one, Jesus comes and gets me and takes me there.... There’s obviously a place that He’s built for me there and [I will go there] immediately upon my death.”
 
Osborne speculated that the lack of information in scripture about the intermediate state may be one factor driving well-meaning believers to study books about near-death experiences for clues.
 
“The lack of explanation in the scripture causes people to create things that are not true,” Osborne said.
 
Matthew Arbo, another member of the Resolutions Committee that proposed the statement on books about heaven, told BP Christians should not worry about what will happen to them during the intermediate state even though it is “kind of a mystery.”
 
“We have the word from Jesus on the cross, ‘This day you will be with me in paradise,’” Arbo, assistant professor of biblical and theological studies at Oklahoma Baptist University, said. “We should just lay hold of that truth and trust that as God worked all things together for our good in our salvation and in our calling, so also He will do the same thing in our death.”
 
Jesus’ promise that the thief on the cross would be in paradise the day of his death (Luke 23:43) and Paul’s statement that “to be out of the body” is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8) demonstrate that Christians’ souls will go to heaven immediately when they die, Arbo said. Believers’ bodies will remain in the grave until they are raised, perfected and reunited with their souls at Christ’s second coming, he noted.
 
The lack of detail in scripture regarding the intermediate state should not drive believers to depend on fanciful portrayals in either secular or Christian media for information, Arbo said.
 
Books like Malarkey’s are “kind of an interesting juxtaposition to pop culture portrayals of death – vampire series, An American Horror Story – that are kind of morbid and nihilistic. They’re really bleak. And then you get these hits that aren’t quite so reductive and so defeating. It’s kind of understandable why somebody might fix onto that. There’s so very little that’s hopeful in pop culture today.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

1/28/2015 11:39:36 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ministers’ tax guide released by GuideStone

January 28 2015 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone

GuideStone Financial Resources has released its Ministers’ Tax Guide for 2014 Returns.
 
The annual handbook provides step-by-step instructions for both active and retired ministers, sample forms and detailed help in understanding the latest tax laws. Additionally, church treasurers and other church leaders will find a valuable resource in the guide’s special section about important federal requirements for churches.

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GuideStone participants can receive the free guide by visiting www.GuideStone.org/TaxGuide or can request a free printed copy by calling 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433).
 
The guide was written again this year by Richard Hammar, a noted CPA, attorney and widely published author who specializes in legal and tax issues for ministers.
 
Additionally, the material is edited by GuideStone’s compliance staff to ensure that it addresses tax issues in detail directly affecting Southern Baptist pastors.
 
“Each year, federal tax law can change, and ministers have come to trust in the Ministers’ Tax Guide as they prepare their taxes or work with their preparer,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “It is a joy to hear from so many pastors who tell us how thankful they are for this guide and how much it helps them navigate the unique ministerial tax laws. We are blessed to be able to help them with the important task of ensuring that their income tax returns are correct.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is department head of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

1/28/2015 11:14:17 AM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone | with 0 comments



Adrian Rogers’ library donated to Southwestern

January 27 2015 by Charles Patrick, SWBTS/Baptist Press

The library of the late Adrian Rogers, one of Southern Baptists’ most admired preachers, has been given by his widow Joyce and the Rogers family to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

The donation includes 3,500 books, sermon notes, photographs, letters and desks of Rogers, a three-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church from 1972-2005.

The seminary, in a statement, noted: “With the addition of this flagship collection to Southwestern’s library resources, future generations of scholars and pastors around the globe will be able to study the notes and sermons of a pastor who studied and wrestled with the Word of God prior to proclaiming it effectively from the pulpit.”

“Adrian Rogers is the greatest pastor and denominational leader whom I ever knew,” Southwestern President Paige Patterson said. “Together with Joyce, he modeled the relationship between husband and wife that I want every one of my preachers to have. I want to share this story of a great preacher with every successive generation.

“This library and study becomes the lynchpin for our Baptist heritage center and the center for expository preaching,” Patterson added. “I stand amazed at the foresight and kindness of the Rogers family.”

Craig Kubic, Southwestern’s dean of libraries, said, “Students and researchers will be able personally to examine the books and many files that informed the life, teaching and preaching of a giant in our denomination. Scholars will have the opportunity to understand the methodology Dr. Rogers used to formulate his sermons, which made such an impact on the Southern Baptist Convention and the world.”

Kubic added that Joyce Rogers “graciously gifted to Southwestern Seminary her personal scrapbooks in which she carefully documented each year of their life together with special attention to the accomplishments of Dr. Rogers. This uniquely personal insight will help scholars appreciate the monumental work and activities of Dr. Adrian Rogers.”

The Adrian Rogers Library joins other notable collections at Southwestern, including those of three of the seminary’s former presidents, B.H. Carroll, L.R. Scarborough and Robert Naylor as well as other key figures in Baptist life over the years, including George Truett, Jimmy Draper, Gipsy Smith, T.A. Patterson, J.M. Price and J.M. Carroll.

David Allen, dean of Southwestern’s school of theology, said Rogers’ preaching legacy “extends well beyond the Baptist world. There have been few pulpit masters like him with such a commitment to expository preaching. This collection of his books, sermon manuscripts and notes will be invaluable as a resource in our Center for Expository Preaching for our students as well as pastors. All will draw not only information but inspiration from this marvelous collection.”

Joyce Rogers, in presenting the library to the seminary, said, “It is with great joy that I give to Southwestern Seminary the books, filing system and other memorabilia that belonged to my husband. He was a diligent student of the Word of God. He especially delighted in expository preaching.”

Joyce Rogers, who authored a biography of her husband titled, Love Worth Finding, said she had “known and loved Adrian since we were children. We were married for 54 years, and he was a pastor and preacher of the Word for 54 years. I heard him preach his first sermon. I saw him develop from a topical preacher to a prince of expository preaching. I never heard him preach a boring sermon. He became known as a ‘Jesus man’ who passionately called millions to ‘Come to Jesus.’ He challenged me to love Jesus more than any other person.

She said Adrian Rogers “was not a collector of his own memorabilia – his legacy was not his focus. It was my joy to collect in scrapbooks and photograph albums items related to our wonderful five churches, his years as president of the SBC, and a number of mission trips around the world.

“He would not want you to put him on a pedestal,” Joyce Rogers said. “He was a man – but a man of God who wanted to win souls and stand for the veracity of the Word of God. He was willing to risk all in his ‘battle for the Bible.’ Toward the end of his life he remarked, ‘It’s a win-win situation. Heads I win, Tails I win.’ He won!”

Rogers died in November 2005 at age 74. His election as SBC president in 1979 was the first in a series of elections that turned the convention back toward its biblical moorings. Rogers later was elected as SBC president in 1986 and 1987.

Rogers’ preaching continues to be heard through the syndicated Love Worth Finding radio and TV broadcasts.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Charles Patrick writes for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

1/27/2015 11:58:43 AM by Charles Patrick, SWBTS/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Tony Evans, Trip Lee, others added to ERLC Summit

January 27 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Megachurch pastor Tony Evans and hip-hop artist Trip Lee are among additional speakers for a racial reconciliation summit sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity.

“The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” will be the theme of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) second Leadership Summit, March 26-27 in Nashville.

The ERLC announced in December it was changing the theme of its 2015 summit from pro-life ethics to racial reconciliation in the wake of grand jury decisions in the police killings of black men that provoked widespread protests and a nationwide discussion. The shift in plans followed refusals by grand juries in St. Louis County and New York City to indict police in the high-profile deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

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Tony Evans


Evans is senior pastor of Dallas’ Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, where he has served for nearly 40 years since founding the church. He is the author of several books and the president of the national ministry The Urban Alternative.

Lee has recorded five rap albums, including his latest, “Rise,” which quickly reached No. 1 on the iTunes list upon its release in October. He is the author of two books and has served as a pastoral assistant and elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

Other African American leaders named Jan. 21 as additional speakers for the summit are:

  • K. Marshall Williams, president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

  • Thabiti Anyabwile, church planting pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C., and an author and popular blogger.

  • Derwin Gray, founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church, with campuses in Indian Land and Rock Hill, S.C.

  • Dhati Lewis, founding and lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta.

Other newly named speakers are:

  • Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee.

  • Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

In a news release introducing the new summit speakers, ERLC President Russell Moore said the summit “will help equip us to tear down carnal divisions, to bring about peace, so that churches reflect the kingdom of God.”

“The New Testament is clear that the gospel reconciles us not only to God but also to each other,” Moore said. “Racism and injustice are not just social ills; they are sins against God. Racial reconciliation is a matter of what gospel we believe and to what mission we’ve been called.”

The summit will seek to set forth how the gospel applies to racial reconciliation in churches and communities, according to the ERLC. It will include keynote addresses and panels in the main sessions as well as speeches in breakout sessions.

In addition to Moore, other summit speakers previously announced are:

  • John Perkins, an author and leading evangelical voice in the civil rights movement.

  • Fred Luter, first African-American president of the SBC and senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

  • H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Juan Sanchez, preaching pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.

  • Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University.

  • Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

  • Kevin Smith, assistant professor of preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville.

  • D.A. Horton, national coordinator for urban student missions at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board and executive director of ReachLife Ministries.

  • Trillia Newbell, an author and the ERLC’s consultant for women’s initiatives.

  • David Prince, pastor of preaching at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., and associate preaching professor at Southern Seminary.

  • Josh Smith, lead pastor of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas.

The summit will take place nearly 20 years after messengers to the SBC’s 1995 meeting adopted a racial reconciliation resolution. The statement expressed repentance for the convention’s past racism and asked African Americans for forgiveness. The meeting also will occur within a week of the 50th anniversary of the voting rights march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery.

The first ERLC Leadership Summit, held in April 2014, was on the gospel and sexuality.

Information on the March racial reconciliation summit and registration for the event are available at erlc.com/summit2015. The event’s main sessions will be live-streamed at erlc.com.

1/27/2015 11:41:53 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Ala. Judges: no marriage licenses for gay couples

January 27 2015 by Baptist Press staff

A federal judge has declared Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, but a key state judicial organization contends probate judges are not bound by the decision.

U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade ruled Jan. 23 that the “Sanctity of Marriage Amendment” to Alabama’s constitution – which defines marriage as “inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman” – violates the federal constitution. She also ruled that the state’s attorney general is prohibited from enforcing the marriage amendment.

However, the Alabama Probate Judges Association claims Granade’s ruling “only applies to the parties in the case and has no effect on anybody that is not a named party.”

Granade, who was nominated to the federal bench in 2001 by George W. Bush, issued a two-week stay of her ruling to give the state time to file an appeal with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Granade said she will issue an order addressing probate judges specifically before the stay expires Feb. 9, USA Today reported.

Probate judges are elected in all 67 counties in Alabama, according to the association, “and are statutorily given the responsibility of issuing and recording marriage licenses.”

The legal effect of Granade’s decision “is to allow one person in one same-sex marriage that was performed in another state to adopt their partner’s child,” Al Agricola, an attorney representing the probate judges association, said according to a news release from the association. “There is nothing in the judge’s order that requires probate judges in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

The case triggering Granade’s ruling involved a lesbian couple who were legally married in California but denied adoption rights in Alabama when one of the women attempted to adopt the other’s biological son.

Greg Norris, president of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, said Granade’s ruling should not be construed as legalizing gay marriage statewide.

“As probate judges, our duty is to issue marriage licenses in accordance with Alabama law and that means we cannot legally issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” Norris, probate judge in Monroe County between Montgomery and Mobile, said. “The recent federal ruling does not change that.”

Though the association has advised its members not to issue licenses to same-sex couples, no judge will be penalized by the association for issuing a license after the two-week stay is lifted, Norris said according to USA Today.

Granade’s 10-page opinion argued that Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban “humiliates” children being raised by gay couples and “brings financial harm” to them.

“If anything, Alabama’s prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children,” Granade wrote. “Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents.”

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Missions, wrote in a blog post that Alabama Baptists “will continue to stand for marriage as defined by scripture.”

“The biblical view of marriage as one man and one woman is the foundation for society,” Lance wrote. “This foundation is cracking and crumbling fast in the wake of judicial actions. As Alabama Baptists, we will pray for the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court with a landmark ruling expected on the matter within a few months.

“We also pray for other leaders in government and for those who disagree with us. We will pray for our churches as they continue standing strong in support of the biblical view of marriage,” Lance wrote.

In 2013, the Alabama Baptist Convention adopted a resolution declaring that a family can “begin only with the marriage of one man and one woman.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/27/2015 11:29:24 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Hendersonville church helps people see better, share Christ

January 27 2015 by Emily Blake, BR Editorial Aide

Fruitland Baptist Church in Hendersonville has recorded more than 70 salvations since June 2014. What is the secret to their success? They make eyeglasses by hand for only 42 cents each.

Fruitland partners with Glasses for Missions and Evangelism Explosion to meet both physical and spiritual needs. They provide free glasses and eye exams along with the gospel.

After participating in this ministry for a year, the church integrated the glasses into many different ministries across all ages and demographics of their congregation.

“Jesus has certainly blessed the ministry,” said Clint Edwards, director of Glasses for Missions at Fruitland.


IMG_0032.jpg

Photo courtesy of Clint Edwards
Members of Fruitland Baptist Church construct glasses to give away during their ministry in Pittsburgh, Pa.

In 2014 they hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner where three came to Christ, a block party that yielded 11 new Christians, a trip to the North Carolina Mountain State Fair where 18 workers came to know God and five people accepted Christ at Farm City Day in Hendersonville. Along with local North Carolina events, Fruitland also introduced Glasses for Missions into Central Asia, Kenya, Bangladesh, South Korea and China.

Edwards’ most cherished experience with Glasses for Missions came from a trip to Faith Bridge Community Church in Pittsburgh, Pa.

“We had a fellowship that was open to the community and in the span of three hours 15 people came to Christ,” said Edwards. “I spoke with a man named Tony who was a rough looking guy with a huge cross hanging on a chain around his neck. After he accepted Christ I asked him if he was going to start attending church regularly. Four or five months later the pastor told me he still was.”

Each ministry event starts with a kit that allows volunteers to make eyeglasses in 12 different strengths. Fruitland offers training twice a month to teach people how to make the glasses and share the gospel.

Then at a distribution event, participants have their vision tested, and as volunteers assemble their glasses they discuss two questions: “Do you know for sure that you’ll be with God in heaven someday?” and “If God asked you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven,’ what would you say?” The church has used this simple process to lead many people to Christ.

Fruitland’s pastor, Michael Smith, said, “It’s a really great ministry because often when you say the word ‘evangelism’ people kind of freeze. But giving them a service project like this helps to remove whatever barriers that are associated with sharing the gospel cold turkey. It’s a great model to utilize a service like eye-care or car maintenance to open the door to gospel conversations.”

Dale Rozell, founder and director of Glasses for Missions, started the ministry 12 years ago from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The idea came to him after he and his wife asked the Lord to make them more effective in their ministry.

On a short-term mission trip they met a retired optometrist who had a vision to provide glasses to needy people in developing countries. Using his skills from a career in machine maintenance, Rozell created a product to match that vision.

The glasses can be produced anywhere in the world because they require no power tools. They are very durable as well. In the first seven years, the ministry expanded into 57 countries and is now capable of distributing 30,000 pairs each year.

A member of Fruitland, Emily Lyda, completed a class with the Henderson County Homeschool Association where she taught five 12-year-olds to make the glasses and share their faith. The students memorized scripture from an Evangelism Explosion tract, and practiced witnessing with skits and role play. After eight weeks each child made three glasses.

One child raised enough money to buy her own kit to share with her aunt who does ministry in Turkey.

“I believe the class was a success,” said Lyda. “The students learned why they believe what they believe, and the importance of fulfilling the Great Commission.”

The Fruitland group meets the first and third Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. for training and welcomes visitors. The church strives to host one outreach event each month. Most groups can learn to utilize Glasses for Missions in eight hours. To order your kit visit GlassesforMissions.org. To see the work going on around the world, visit the Facebook page: Glasses for Missions International.

For more information on the importance of this ministry, see the video below:

1/27/2015 11:10:56 AM by Emily Blake, BR Editorial Aide | with 0 comments



Gardner-Webb only N.C. college to earn ‘A’ in study

January 27 2015 by Gardner-Webb University Communications

An annual study on core curriculum requirements at over 1,000 colleges and universities from all over the United States has placed Gardner-Webb University at the head of the class for the fourth year in a row.

Ranked among 23 institutions with an “A” grade, Gardner-Webb is the only school in the Carolinas to earn an “A” distinction for core curriculum standards.

The 2014-2015 What Will They Learn? study, conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), ranks the core curriculum of all the major public and private colleges and universities in all 50 states.

The ranking places GWU in the top two percent in the nation, included with schools such as Pepperdine University (Malibu, Calif.), Baylor University (Waco, Texas), Morehouse College (Atlanta, Ga.), and the United States Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, Colo.).

The ACTA study analyzes seven core subjects and rates universities accordingly. ACTA believes that composition, U.S. government/history, economics, literature, math, science and foreign language components help students gain the knowledge and values necessary for responsible democratic citizenship.

“A”-rated schools require at least six out of the seven core courses; “B” schools must offer four or five out of seven. Other N.C. Baptist affiliated universities – Campbell, Chowan, Mars Hill and Wingate – received a “B.” Meredith College received a “B,” and Wake Forest University received a “C.” Both schools were founded by Baptists but are not aligned any longer.

1/27/2015 11:05:12 AM by Gardner-Webb University Communications | with 0 comments



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