January 31 2014 by
Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press
NEWARK, N.J. – Surrounded by a horde of reporters probing about nearly every aspect of the upcoming Super Bowl
– including questions not related such as “Where’s Waldo?” and “Who is your favorite hockey player?” – several Seahawks
players are enjoying their moment on one of the biggest stages in sports to share their faith in Jesus.
“God has me here for a very particular reason,” Russell Wilson
, the Seahawk’s star quarterback, told reporters as he sat in the middle of cameras and microphones at the Prudential Center
in Newark, New Jersey
“Just to be here in front of all these people, to go against the odds when everybody told me I couldn’t. That’s all God. That’s not me,” Wilson, who at 5-11 has been criticized in the past for his size and ability, said Jan. 28. “My faith ... brought me a long way.”
Photo by Shawn Hendricks/BP.
“God has me here for a very particular reason,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson told reporters Jan. 28 during Super Bowl media day at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Wilson and other Seahawks players spoke about their faith and their video project “The Making of a Champion.”
In October, Wilson and several other Seahawks – Russell Okung
, Chris Maragos
, Clint Gresham
and defensive passing game coordinator coach Rocky Seto
and running backs coach Sherman Smith
– released a 15-minute DVD called “The Making of a Champion
.” Each shared their personal testimony and how their faith in Jesus impacts them on and off the football field.
Coach Pete Carroll
even helped out with a tweet about the free DVDs being handed out after the team’s Oct. 13 home game against the Tennessee Titans. About 30,000 of the DVDs were distributed to fans outside CenturyLink stadium. The video also is on YouTube and at makingofachampion.org.
After securing their spot in the Super Bowl, Seahawks long snapper Clint Gresham
tweeted, “Hey pastors, if you are looking for a great evangelism tool, play @makingofaCHAMP
for your Super Bowl halftime show!!#moac.”
Gresham, in his fourth season with the Seahawks, described his faith to Baptist Press as “everything to me.”
“... I remember being alone and empty and full of all kinds of junk in my heart, and God came in and cleaned me up and He gave me better love,” the former TCU Horned Frog said. “I just want to tell as many people about that as I can.”
Russell Okung, the Seahawk’s left tackle, nearly gave an altar call during his time with reporters on media day.
“If you guys would have a relationship with Him, I’ll tell you one thing: He saves. Jesus saves,” said Okung, who made the Pro Bowl last season. “He’s everything. He’s better than an abuse, better than any history you [left] behind. He’s better than all of those things. My sincere desire ... you’re never too young, you’re never too old. ... You can never earn your way. It’s a free gift. Salvation is free for all of you. I’m a living testament that it’s real.”
In the video, Okung shared about his challenges growing up in a single-parent home and never meeting his father who died when he was a young boy. Okung told reporters he believes God has blessed him with this opportunity to share the Gospel and impact lives.
“I look back over where I come from and I realize it’s nothing but God, nothing but Jesus,” Okung said.
“I feel like there is no coincidence. I feel like we’ve all been given a platform in some fashion and some way. It needs to be used. It needs to be used to bring glory back ... to give it all back to God. To give it all back to Him.”
Chris Maragos, a backup free safety who also is in the video, pulled a small stack of the DVDs out of his pocket and handed them to reporters.
“[God has] been able to open a lot of doors for us,” Maragos, a former San Francisco 49er in his fourth year of the NFL, said. “Not only to talk about our faith but also go and play a game that we love. For us, we need to be in a position where we’re prepared to step through those doors when He’s opened them.
“As big as this stage is, it’s pretty minute compared to what and who God is and what He’s been able to do on the cross for us,” Maragos added. “It’s really been fun to be able to use sports which is a great thing to really highlight how good God’s been in our life.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)
1/31/2014 11:22:15 AM
January 31 2014 by
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor
Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 1 comments
Robert Curran Stewart
, 77, known for being a gifted educator throughout North Carolina
, died Jan. 20 after a battle with cancer.
“He was a visionary leader,” said Johnny Ross
, a former worker with Stewart at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
(BSC). Ross called Stewart a “dear friend” and “master teacher.”
“He’s the most gifted Christian educator I’ve experienced in my lifetime,” said Ross, who retired from the convention in December. He had worked with Stewart in the late 1970s, ’80s and ’90s in the Sunday School area before moving to represent GuideStone Financial Services. “God gifted him with the ability to develop personal relationships.”
Ross said Stewart could take a “terrible teaching setting” and turn it into “an invitation to learn.” He’s thankful he was allowed to witness Stewart “practice his art.”
Born in Walhalla, S.C., Stewart was raised in Greenville, S.C., where he attended high school and Furman University. He married Jo Ellen Bradley in 1958 and moved to Texas where he received a master’s degree in religious education from Southwestern Seminary. Stewart was in the U.S. Army for two years. He was a 1st Lieutenant as a moral and welfare officer for the post and received a meritorious service award. Also during his military service, he was minister of education at Central Baptist Church, Lawton, Okla. He was minister of education at Central Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., (1962-1964) and minister of education and administration at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C. (1964-1978).
In 1978, he became the state Sunday School director
at the BSC. Later he was named church programs director and senior consultant
for the convention until he retired in 2003.
Throughout his time at the convention Ross stressed that Stewart practiced what he preached. He was involved at his local church – Woodhaven Baptist Church in Apex – while he was teaching others about education. Not only was he Sunday School director, but Stewart found time to be a deacon and teach classes at church as well. He was also involved in the music ministry.
“He cared about people,” Ross said. “He cared about me.”
Stewart encouraged people to “think outside the box to reach people,” Ross said, “but not lose touch with the churches.”
Ross said Stewart was a “devoted friend,” who, even in his final weeks continued to deflect attention away from himself to ask “How are you doing?”
“You never were around him where he didn’t make you feel better,” Ross said.
Missions was also a passion of Stewart. He traveled to Brazil, Belize and Alaska and served on a regular basis at the Wilmington Street Homeless Shelter.
He is survived by his wife, Jo Ellen Stewart; daughter, Kerri Hurley and husband, Brad, of Fayetteville; son, Steven Stewart and wife, Peggy, of Cheraw, S.C.; and granddaughters, Amanda and Meredith Hurley, and grandson, Gray Hurley, all of Fayetteville. He is also survived by brothers, Dr. James L. Stewart Jr. (Mary Ann) of Columbus, N.C., and Woody Stewart (Reen) of Simpsonville, S.C.
Memorials may be made to the Robert and Jo Ellen Stewart Scholarship Endowment for Christian Education students at Campbell Divinity School through the North Carolina Baptist Foundation, 201 Convention Drive, Cary, NC 27511.
1/31/2014 11:03:19 AM
January 31 2014 by
Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments
may be “The Science Guy
,” but Ken Ham
is the “Answers in Genesis
” man, and a debate between the two over the origins of life has nonbelievers and Christians wringing their hands.
Nye, host of a beloved television science series, and Ham, president of a creationist apologetics ministry, will meet at the Creation Museum
, where Ham is also the president, on Feb. 4. In what some wags are calling “the Ham-on-Nye debate,” they will weigh this question: “Is creation a viable model of origins?”
In truth, both sides answered that question long ago – Nye with Charles Darwin
’s work on the origin of species and Ham with the first book of the Bible. Yet many observers – both religious and nonreligious – say the debate is a very bad idea.
“Scientists should not debate creationists. Period,” wrote Dan Arel
on the Richard Dawkins
Foundation’s website. “There is nothing to debate.”
Arel, a secular advocate, is echoing the position of Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist who has long refused to debate creationists.
“Winning is not what the creationists realistically aspire to,” Dawkins said in 2006. “For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at all. They need the publicity. We don’t. To the gullible public which is their natural constituency, it is enough that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist.”
In a twist that might surprise Ham and Nye, some Christians find themselves agreeing with Dawkins.
“It is this huge stereotype that all Christians reject science and an event like this reinforces that stereotype,” said Deborah Haarsma
, president of the BioLogos Foundation
, an organization whose motto is “science and faith in harmony.” “It looks like science versus Christianity and it ignores the people who have accepted the science of evolution and have not let go of their faith.”
And that is a considerable number of people. A 2013 Pew Research Center
poll found 60 percent of Americans believe “humans have evolved over time” while 33 percent reject that statement. Of those who believe in evolution, 24 percent say they also believe “a supreme being” used evolution to create life forms.
“A debate like this sets up a false choice” between science and religion for viewers, Haarsma said. “We don’t want them to have to choose.”
Other Christians are concerned that Nye, an inexperienced debater with a background in engineering, will not perform well against Ham, a skilled debater. Tyler Francke
, a 25-year-old Christian who writes about the intersection of science and religion at the blog The God [of] Evolution
, said he knows many “young Earth creationists,” as Ham and his supporters are called, and that the presentation of scientific evidence alone is not enough to persuade them.
“Young-Earth proponents like Ham have all kinds of tricks they play to make their view seem reasonable,” he said. “They claim they don’t ignore evidence they just look at it with a different lens. … Bill Nye seems to be a very smart man, and I’m confident that he’ll come prepared. But if he shows up expecting a fair fight purely on the basis of what the available evidence most reasonably indicates, I think he’s going to be sorely mistaken.”
Nye may be an inexperienced debater, but he has a background in entertainment. He has hosted six popular science television shows – including the irreverent and informative “Bill Nye the Science Guy” – and appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” – where he was the first contestant to get the hook in its 17th season.
“Bill Nye is not a professional scientist; he is an entertainer and a science communicator,” said Joshua Rosenau
, policy director
at the National Center for Science Education
, an advocacy group that discourages scientists from debating creationists. “So I am optimistic this could turn out better than some others. But don’t try this at home, kids.”
Both men have described their reasons for engaging in the challenge. Nye, an agnostic, told The Huffington Post
he hopes “to show people that this belief (creationism) is still among us and it finds its way onto school boards.”
Indeed, there have been four laws introduced at the state level that challenge evolution in public school science curricula just this year – two in Missouri, one in Virginia and one in Oklahoma, according to the National Center for Science Education. Currently, laws in Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee permit the teaching of “alternatives” to evolution.
As for Ham, he has said he extended the debate invitation to Nye out of concern that young people are too quick to dismiss creation in favor of evolution. But critics note another reason — the financial rewards of increased media attention. The Creation Museum is up against a deadline for raising $29 million in municipal bonds to construct a proposed replica of Noah’s Ark
. Even if he loses the debate, critics say, Ham wins at the bank.
In fact, the debate, which will be held in the Creation Museum’s 900-seat Legacy Hall in Petersburg, Ky., sold out its $25 tickets within minutes. The museum will stream the event live and for free.
But while some of the strongest voices against the debate have come from the non belief community, some nonbelievers are looking for a silver lining.
, director of development and communications for the American Humanist Association
, went to so far as to say she wishes the debate had been her idea.
“It is very simple,” she said. “I am looking at statistics (like the Pew Research Center’s poll) and they tell me people like Ken Ham and other creationists are being very effective and that is a serious problem. We can’t just ignore that. We have to challenge people like Ken Ham so I support the debate 100 percent.”
, director of outreach for the Center for Inquiry
, another humanist organization that supports science education, is less certain. She said she was “originally on the fence” when she heard about the debate, concerned it would only attract the already convinced, but has reconsidered.
“If we don’t let their ideas see the light of day we can’t develop the tools to address them,” she said. “And we don’t just need the tools of facts and evidence, but also of understanding their views and compassion for them if we want to be effective at changing their minds.”
1/31/2014 10:11:32 AM
January 31 2014 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives
has approved a permanent, government-wide ban on federal funding of abortion but with a smaller majority than three years ago.
In a Jan. 28 roll call, the House voted 227-188 for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, H.R. 7
, which would install a prohibition on both funds and subsidies for abortion. The vote for passage in 2011, however, was 251-175.
The bill would standardize bans on abortion funding that now exist in various federal programs, many that have to be approved annually, and certify they extend to all agencies. The measure also would halt funds for abortion coverage under the Affordable Care Act
(ACA), the 2010 health care law. In addition, it would make certain that Americans can easily identify before the ban takes effect whether plans in the health care exchanges include abortion coverage and surcharges.
The legislation likely will go no further in this session of Congress. The Senate, with Democrats in the majority, undoubtedly would defeat the ban if it comes up for a vote.
Were the bill to gain Senate passage, President Obama would almost certainly veto it. The White House issued a statement of policy on the eve of the House vote, saying the administration “strongly opposes” the proposal. Obama’s senior advisers would recommend a veto if the legislation were to arrive at his desk, according to the statement.
The U.S. House of Representatives
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore
applauded the vote, saying, “Good for the House of Representatives for doing the right thing. Let’s pray for the Senate to have a conscience about the unborn and their families.”
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
(ERLC) strongly supports the ban, Moore said in a Jan. 27 letter to House leaders and all Southern Baptists in the chamber.
“Human lives in their earliest stages, Scripture teaches us, hold an intrinsic value equal to that of any other life – adolescent, adult, or aged,” said Moore, the ERLC’s president. “We therefore believe every unborn life is worthy of protection. Millions of other Americans, informed by their faith or simply by science, share this view as well. For the government to compel Americans to fund the destruction of the smallest and most vulnerable among us, in violation of those firmly held beliefs, is unconscionable.”
, president of the National Right to Life Committee
, said the administration’s veto threat “demonstrates yet again that President Obama is engaging in establishing massive federal subsidies for abortion on demand, notwithstanding his evasions and denials.”
Abortion rights advocates, meanwhile, criticized the House. Ilyse Hogue
, president of NARAL Pro-choice America
, charged House Republicans with “rolling back basic freedoms for women across this country.”
The smaller majority for the ban on abortion funding resulted from a drop in both Republican and Democratic support. This time, 221 Republicans voted for the bill, while all 235 GOP members supported it in 2011. Only six Democrats backed the measure in this roll call, a decrease from 16 last time.
The six Democrats who voted for the bill were Reps. Henry Cueller of Texas, Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Nick Rahall of West Virginia.
The Hyde Amendment
, first enacted in 1976
, is the best known prohibition on abortion funding, but others have been implemented in various federal programs. The Hyde Amendment applies to Medicaid and other funding through the annual Labor and Health and Human Services spending bill. A Judiciary Committee report with the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act estimated the Hyde Amendment has saved more than a million babies because 25 percent of women who would have chosen abortion did not do so for a lack of government funds.
In debate before the vote, Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., chief sponsor of the ban, said the Affordable Care Act “massively violates” the Hyde Amendment by providing federal funds in the form of tax credits for insurance plans that include election abortion.
He also told the House that the health care act “requires premium payers to be assessed a separate abortion surcharge every month to pay for abortions. We have learned that consumers may never know they are paying the surcharge, despite assurances to the contrary when the ACA was passed.”
Enactment of his bill “will help save lives,” Smith told the House.
The House-passed legislation includes exceptions for abortions in cases of a danger to the mother’s life and pregnancy by rape or incest.
Sen. Rogers Wicker, R.-Miss., is sponsoring a companion bill in his chamber, but it has only 25 cosponsors.
In other abortion-related news:
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 13 it would not review a lower-court ruling striking down Arizona’s ban on abortions at 20 weeks or more into pregnancy – which is 18 weeks post-fertilization – based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point. The high court’s refusal means the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is in effect in that circuit.
The Ohio Department of Health has ordered a license revocation for a Cincinnati-area abortion clinic operated by Martin Haskell, a doctor who helped popularize the partial-birth abortion method. The clinic, Women’s Med in Sharonville, has appealed the order, which would prevent abortion procedures at the center, to a county court. In the 1990s, Haskell became identified with the gruesome procedure that came to be known as partial-birth abortion after he described it in a 1992 paper he presented at a seminar sponsored by the National Abortion Federation. The procedure, which has since been banned in federal law, typically consisted of the delivery of an intact baby feet-first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierced the base of the infant’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserted a catheter into the opening and suctioned out the brain. The collapse of the skull provided for easier removal of the baby’s head. The method typically was used during the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.
In North Carolina, a federal judge has thrown out the state’s Woman’s Right to Know Act (H.B. 854), which requires abortionists to display an ultrasound image of a woman’s pre-born child to her prior to an abortion and also to offer the opportunity to hear the baby’s heartbeat so that the woman has full and complete information before surgery.
Steven H. Aden, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, in a written response, stated, “Giving women the information they need before such a weighty moral and medical decision is more important than an abortionist’s bottom line. This law places the best interests of women and their preborn children first. Abortionists, of all people, should not be given a pass from the common-sense standard that anyone performing risky surgery fully inform the patient of what the procedure is and what it does. We expect the appeals court will reverse this decision and uphold this important law.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
1/31/2014 10:03:14 AM
January 30 2014 by
Baptist Press staff
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – Immigration reform
, health care
and same-sex marriage
all made the cut in varying degrees for President Obama’s State of the Union address
The president cited each of the controversial issues during his fifth State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress and a national television audience Tuesday evening (Jan. 28). Some social conservatives responded with a call for action on one and critiques of his administration’s policies on the others after Obama’s 65-minute address.
In a speech that focused much on the economy and jobs, the president said, “If we’re serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.
“Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades,” he said. “And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”
Congress is seeking to address what is widely acknowledged as a deeply flawed system that has resulted in an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the United States.
White House photo by Pete Souza.
President Barack Obama
Last year, the Senate approved a broad immigration reform bill, which needs some repair work, according to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
(ERLC). The House of Representatives took a piecemeal approach in 2013, with committees forwarding measures dealing with such aspects as strengthening border security, providing visas for guest workers and requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check workers’ eligibility.
The House’s Republican majority is expected to discuss principles for immigration reform at a three-day retreat that began Wednesday (Jan. 29).
The Evangelical Immigration Table
(EIT) – a coalition of evangelical leaders promoting a solution that will secure the borders, respect the law and authorize a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants – placed in the Jan. 29 issue of USA Today a full-page ad telling House Republicans: “We’re Praying for You.”
The ad lists the EIT’s principles for the GOP representatives to consider and says, “We pray God will show you a path forward that honors the rule of law (Romans 13) and the call to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25).”
ERLC president Russell D. Moore
is one of the 11 evangelical leaders who make up the EIT.
On health care, Obama cited some of the results of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health care reform law that has remained controversial for various reasons. More than 3 million people under 26 years of age have acquired coverage under their parents’ plans, and 9 million Americans have registered for private health insurance or Medicaid, he said.
The president urged listeners to persuade those without health insurance to sign up by March 31, the deadline for obtaining insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
He also told House Republicans not to vote again to repeal the law. “If you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice – tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up,” Obama said.
The health care law and some of the Obama administration’s rules to implement it continue to meet strong resistance for coercive policies regarding abortion funding and religious freedom. In March, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to determine the constitutionality of the administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to pay for abortion-causing drugs for their workers.
, Family Research Council’s president
, said after the speech the president “failed to address how his policies undermine religious freedom.”
“Employers should not have to choose between violating their consciences or paying severe fines that threaten jobs and could even force them to drop health coverage for their employees,” Perkins said in a written statement. “This rule, or mandate, hurts families and women. It’s unfair and, thankfully, most Americans oppose it. I hope the President will listen to them.”
Obama made only a brief reference to same-sex marriage when he said, “And across the country, we’re partnering with mayors, governors and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality.”
In a blog post after the speech, Ryan Anderson
, the Heritage Foundation’s expert on marriage and religious liberty
, said the federal government “has no business redefining marriage. People (and their elected representatives), not the President or the courts, should make marriage policy in the states. And they should make policy that reflects the truth about marriage as a union of man and woman, husband and wife, so that children have a mother and a father.”
The Obama administration “should instruct all agencies of the federal government to respect states’ authority over marriage and stop redefining marriage for a variety of federal purposes,” Anderson wrote. “And government should not violate the rights of those who stand for marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”
Same-sex marriage has gained legalization in 19 states, although challenges to court rulings permitting gay marriage are pending in some cases. Meanwhile, the administration has issued policies to expand federal benefits to same-sex couples since two rulings from the Supreme Court in June.
In one decision, the high court said the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated “equal protection” under the Constitution by refusing to recognize gay marriages. The opinion meant same-sex couples gained access to employee, Social Security, tax and other benefits previously limited to heterosexual couples. In the other opinion, the justices ruled on a procedural question that had the effect of allowing to stand a federal judge’s invalidation of a California amendment that prohibited same-sex marriage. The court, however, refused to say states cannot limit marriage to a man and a woman.
The religious freedom of some Americans who believe marriage is limited to a man and a woman has suffered in recent months. Photographers, bakers and others who have refused to participate in same-sex ceremonies because of their Christian convictions have lost in court or suffered financially despite their appeals to the right to exercise their religion.
In the Republican response to the State of the Union speech, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington
told a personal story that affirmed the sanctity of all human life. Only eight weeks after delivering a third child, Rodgers shared about the first baby for her husband and her.
“Three days after our son was born, Cole, we got news no parent expects. Cole was diagnosed with Down syndrome,” said Rodgers, chairman of the House Republican Conference. “The doctors told us he could have endless complications, heart defects, even early Alzheimer’s. They told us all the problems.
“But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities,” she said. “We saw a gift from God. And today we see a 6-year-old boy who dances to Bruce Springsteen; who reads above grade level; and who is the best big brother in the world.
“We see all the things he can do, not those he can’t.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
1/30/2014 1:26:30 PM
January 30 2014 by
Erin Roach, Baptist Press
Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments
LOS ANGELES – Mandisa
, winner of this year’s Grammy
for best contemporary Christian music album, explained on Facebook why she chose not to attend the event that was replete with expressions of immorality.
Mandisa, honored for her “Overcomer
” release, cited “the allure of pleasure, the passion to have things and the pompous sense of superiority,” words from a translation of 1 John 2:15-16 warning believers not to fall in love with the world’s ways or worship the things it offers.
Beyond Mandisa, this year’s Grammys sparked an array of social media reaction among Christians. Ed Stetzer
, on a blog, noted that the Grammys “are not representative of our culture, but in some ways they are indicative of its shifts.”
Theologian Gregory Thornbury
said Americans have become bored with the lack of serious messaging from the artists, who have radicalized themselves into obscurity.
Mandisa, knowing she was nominated in three categories, watched the Grammys at home rather than adorning herself for the red carpet. Later she wanted to share, in “brutal honesty,” why she didn’t take advantage of the party.
Her first three reasons were that her busy schedule makes her want to stay home when she can, she felt insecure about her appearance and she assumed she wouldn’t win.
Mandisa’s fourth reason resonated with Christians.
“Yes, both times I have gone to the Grammys I have witnessed performances I wish I could erase from my memory, and yes, I fast forwarded through several performances this year; but my reason is not because of them, it’s because of me,” Mandisa wrote Jan. 27.
A former “American Idol” finalist, Mandisa worked at LifeWay Christian Resources
after graduating from college in Nashville. In 2007, she hosted a volume of “Missionary Moments Video Vignettes
” to demonstrate the value and impact of Southern Baptists’ cooperative missions and ministries.
Lately she has been struggling with being in the world but not of it, Mandisa said, referencing John 15:19. The pull of pride and selfish desires has tripped her up, she said.
“I knew that submerging myself into an environment that celebrates those things was risky for me at this time. I am taking steps to renew my mind to become the Heavenly Father-centered, completely satisfied with Jesus, and Holy Spirit-led woman I felt I was a few months ago, but I’m feeling a bit like an infant learning to walk again on shaky legs,” Mandisa wrote.
Instead of being on stage to receive her award, Mandisa knew she was better off alone with the Lord in her home as her name was announced.
Regarding the celebration of sinfulness at the Grammys, Mandisa doesn’t believe in separating herself from those who don’t share her faith. “After all, how else will people come to know Him, if not by His children?” she asked.
But she knows she must be different from the world.
“I can’t force my morality on anyone else. What I can do is live my life in such a way that reflects well on my Savior, stand firm in my values, and do all of these things in love,” Mandisa wrote.
If she’s nominated in the future, Mandisa said she’ll go to the Grammys if she feels up to it, keeping in mind she may feel like “an alien in a strange land.”
Christian singer Natalie Grant
, who was nominated for two awards, left the Grammys early, stating on Facebook that she had “never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus.”
“I’ve had many people throughout my career ask why I never tried to go into mainstream music and last night was a beautiful reminder that I love singing about Jesus and FOR Jesus,” Grant wrote Jan. 27. A multiple Female Artist of the Year in the Gospel Music Assocation’s Dove Awards, Grant was among the featured soloists for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington last year.
Grant responded to some who took her early exit as a protest of the more controversial elements of the show – specifically a mass wedding ceremony that included gay couples – by writing, “I’ve judged no one. I hate no one. And I believe that every person has been created in the image of God.
“I will never stand on a street corner and wave a sign, I won’t use my platform to engage in political arguments that will only divide and not unite,” Grant wrote. “I will continue to pray that my life will be my message. I do have my own personal convictions that I live by, and I will continue to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord (Philippians 2:12).”
, president of LifeWay Research
, said Queen Latifah overseeing a mass marriage ceremony would be touted as the cultural highlight of this year’s Grammys. Same-sex and heterosexual couples from various ethnicities married while “Same Love,” nominated for song of the year, was sung. Stetzer noted the song is a gay marriage anthem.
After watching the Grammys, Stetzer offered four takeaways in a blog post at BreakPoint.org
: Culture is changing, Christians will be increasingly uncomfortable, there is great opportunity to show the difference Christ makes, and Christians should speak with grace and love.
“Views that were sidelined ten years ago (remember, Presidents Clinton and Obama were once opposed to gay marriage) are not just accepted, they are celebrated,” Stetzer wrote. “Yet, it was not just a shift in views about gay marriage. We continued to see the objectification of women, communicating that talent mattered less than appearance. ... The coarsening of language and more were all on display.”
In that same BreakPoint post, Thornbury, president of The King’s College in New York, said the Grammys once mattered because pop music mattered.
“Once upon a time, J. Edgar Hoover monitored the movement of rock stars like John Lennon because he was a perceived political threat, because he was anti-establishment,” Thornbury wrote. “Nowadays, our rock stars are the establishment, and that’s not very, well, rock and roll.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
1/30/2014 1:14:39 PM
January 30 2014 by
Joe Conway, Baptist Press
Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
DENVER – Any athlete who has been sidelined wants to get back into the game as soon as possible. KaRon Coleman did when he played for the National Football League’s Denver Broncos
Now he’s doing the same as a church planter.
Coleman was first sidelined after three seasons as a running back for the Broncos when an injury ended his football career in 2002. But it only accelerated the vocation he knew he would pursue when his playing days were over – church planter.
While playing football at Stephen F. Austin State University
, Coleman said he felt a call to ministry. “I went to Bible college to complete my degree and later went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
,” said Coleman, who continued his education following his NFL career.
Along the way Coleman married, had five children and planted a church in his native Houston.
Coleman said his experience planting Fort Bend Community Fellowship
was great, but he and wife Jasmine sensed a call to serve in a place with greater need and that Denver might be that place.
“We felt God leading us to a post-Christian context,” Coleman said. “We previously lived in Denver and knew back then it was hard to find churches. However, we had no idea that close to 90 percent of metro Denver residents do not have a personal relationship with Christ. Building relationships has been critical to our church.”
The Colemans moved back to Denver in 2010 and launched Northeast Fellowship
in January 2011.
“We started from scratch. Many of the people I knew when I was playing for the Broncos no longer lived in Colorado,” Coleman said. “One of the first persons I met was a neighbor. He saw my son and I out playing catch and he wanted my son to play for his football organization. He was a believer, but the only believer in his family. Eventually we built a great relationship.
“He helped me see the community through his eyes,” Coleman said. “Not only did he help me develop a strategy for reaching the community, most of his family now attends our church. His father, mother, wife and son were saved and baptized in our church. Three generations!”
Just like an athlete sometimes has to mount a comeback after being sidelined, Northeast Fellowship is re-launching this year after coming through some challenging days. The re-launch includes a move to Saturday night worship in a new location, Denver’s Aurora
community location. Both changes are aimed at better connecting with people’s lives.
“We are attempting to build the church organically,” Coleman said. “We are multi-cultural
and more suburban than urban
. Almost all of our members are from Denver. We’ve seen about 75 people come to faith in Christ and have baptized 25.
“One of our greatest needs is for core members who can come and help us disciple new members. Many of our people are new to the faith and we are readily working through their spiritual formation.”
Coleman is familiar with challenges, from overcoming the absence of a father in his home growing up to graduating college undrafted by any NFL team. He used the latter as motivation to make himself an NFL-caliber free agent. Coleman enjoyed his years with Denver and was a solid offensive contributor for the Broncos.
And life with a single mother raising children alone gave Coleman the determination to do something to help change that circumstance for other children. Beyond mentoring and coaching, Coleman has released his first book, “Don’t Count Me Out,” his story of overcoming adversity through faith in Christ and perseverance. He hopes the book will help convince men to live up to their obligations and help children find real hope through the gospel.
Coleman and Northeast Fellowship are on the Web at northeastfellowship.org
. To learn more about church planting in Denver through the North American Mission Board initiative Send North America, visit www.namb.net/Denver
As to the NFL title game between the Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, Coleman told Baptist Press, “This Super Bowl promises to be another great game between two great teams – Seattle with its super defense and Denver with its dynamic offense. I’m an offensive player and I played in Denver so I will have to go with the Broncos for this Super Bowl. It will be a great game, but ultimately I think Denver presents too big of a challenge on offense. However, I believe it will be hard-fought and will come down to the end.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)
1/30/2014 1:04:27 PM
January 30 2014 by
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor
Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Today’s girls are learning too much culture and not enough Bible, said Erin Davis
Davis, an author and speaker
, but more importantly a woman, wife and mother, plans to study God’s Word with young ladies (seventh through twelfth graders) at “The Exchange,” a retreat for Girls Embrace Ministry
(GEM) through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
, which is scheduled March 28-29
at Caraway Conference Center
, is based on Colossians 3:1a. Davis will lead during the main sessions. Breakout sessions are age-graded rather than topic focused and will be led by Cathy Moffett (moms and leaders); Erin Gandy (11th and 12th graders); Merrie Johnson (ninth and 10th graders); and Bonnie Hunter (seventh and eighth graders). Music will be led by the BeDoTell
BR file photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Ashley Allen, right, makes some comments during the 2013 Girls Embrace Ministry weekend while Erin Davis waits for her turn to speak.
“My job is to start the conversation,” said Davis, founder of Graffiti Ministries. “It will be my goal to impassion your girls for the Word of God and then give you a point to have continued conversations about what we learn together during the weekend.
“You can learn more about your girl and how to engage her in the Word in each session.”
Davis is the author of several books including Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves
, True Princess: Embracing Humility in an All About Me World
, The Bare Facts
with Josh McDowell and The Lies Young Women Believe Companion Guide
with Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh. She released Beyond Bath Time: Re-imagining Motherhood as a Sacred Role
in 2012 and most recently has released four books – My Name is Erin: One Girl’s Journey to Discover Truth
, My Name is Erin: One Girl’s Plan for Radical Faith
, My Name is Erin: One Girl’s Journey to Discover Who She Is
, and My Name is Erin: One Girl’s Mission to Make a Difference
. She also wrote an eight-week Bible study aimed at teen girls called Beautiful Encounters: The Presence of Jesus Changes Everything
She is married to John. They have two sons.
Davis said Titus 2:3-4 “puts a fire in my belly.”
“That verse urges older and younger women to be teaching and learning from each other,” she said. “All of us are older than someone and all of us are younger than someone, but we seem to have lost the regular rhythm of teaching each other from God’s Word.
“My passion for young women and for God’s Word collide when I have an opportunity to teach at events like GEM. To me, it’s critical that we learn from and teach each other what God’s Word says and how to apply it to our lives.
Through Davis’ years of working with younger ladies, she knows they are open to God’s Word.
“They want to know what He says and do it,” she said. “But they need someone who has a little more experience and a little more wisdom to help them connect the dots.”
While being part of a biblically-based youth group is important Davis also says it is important for girls to retreat to events like this one.
“This event offers them a chance to pull back from the pressures they face at school, at home, and among their peer groups,” Davis said. “We will be free to simply focus on God’s Word for a weekend. We all need that from time to time, but especially for young women who are facing unprecedented pressure to compromise, it’s necessary for survival.”
Davis hopes the time will be one of encouragement for the girls’ leaders as well.
“It’s not about great programming or being relevant,” Davis said. “It’s about giving them a hunger for God’s Word. We’re going to do that together at GEM.”
, BSC consultant for Embrace Women’s Ministry
, shares Davis’ passion for encouraging women of all ages toward a deeper faith in Christ.
“I think it is important for girls to take part in this type of ministry because it is necessary for girls to grasp the truths of God’s Word so they know Him as their personal Lord and Savior, understand that after that their identity is in Christ and they have a responsibility to make disciples among those who are around them,” Allen said. “This current generation of teenagers has the potential to set the world on fire for Christ and reach the nations with the gospel unlike any other time in history (due to technology, ease of mobility, etc.) and we want to do all that we can to make disciples of these girls so that they can be a part of impacting lostness.”
Davis said young women have numerous struggles but many of those struggles can be traced back to their identity.
“They don’t know who they are,” she said. “More importantly, they don’t know who God says they are. That may look like boy craziness or self hatred or a hyper drive to achieve, but the answer is always to show them their value in Christ and give them the opportunity to let that be enough.”
The GEM Retreat is $130 per person for early bird registration and $150 per person for the regular registration deadline. The registration fee includes conference center lodging, conference fees, program materials, and Friday night dinner and Saturday breakfast and lunch. Early bird registration deadline is Feb. 7. The main deadline is March 7.
There is a frequently asked question section in the download page of the conference website. Visit ncbaptist.org/gem
; click on “The Exchange” or “Events.” Interested participants are encouraged to read this document before registering.
Contact (919) 459-5561 or email@example.com
1/30/2014 12:56:47 PM
January 30 2014 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate
violates a federal law protecting the religious freedom of for-profit corporations and their owners, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
has told the U.S. Supreme Court as part of a friend-of-the-court brief.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission signed on to the brief filed Tuesday (Jan. 28) in support of Hobby Lobby
and other family owned businesses that have conscientious objections to a regulation that requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs for their workers.
The ERLC-endorsed brief was one of more than 50 filed the same day with the high court on behalf of the companies. Among the other briefs was one signed on to by Southeastern Baptist
; its president, Daniel Akin
; Southern Baptist megachurch pastor
and author Rick Warren
; Southern Baptist professors
; and at least one other Southern Baptist pastor
The briefs urging invalidation of the abortion/contraception mandate, which is a rule implementing the 2010 health care reform law, came in cases that have been consolidated for March 25 arguments before the Supreme Court.
The briefs ask the justices to uphold a lower court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and its sister corporation Mardel, Oklahoma City-based retail chains owned by the pro-life evangelical Christian Green
family. They also call for the justices to overturn a ruling against Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business owned by the Hahns, pro-life Mennonites.
Graphic by Laura Erlanson/BP
ERLC president Russell D. Moore
, in a Jan. 28 podcast, said the justices’ ruling will be “impactful for all our people in our churches for probably the next 100 years, regardless of what the court does.”
Akin, in a written statement, said the Hobby Lobby case is “a critical issue that impacts freedom of conscience and religious liberty and conviction.... Christians everywhere should pray for God to move on the hearts of the justices of the Supreme Court to make the right decision.”
The ERLC-signed brief, written by University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock
, contends Congress clearly understood the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act
(RFRA) to provide “universal coverage,” including to for-profit companies and their owners. It also argues that larger religious liberty traditions – including state and federal conscience rights laws – are consistent with protecting for-profit corporations.
The ERLC, Moore said in a written statement, “is proud to stand with a broad coalition of allies committed to religious liberty. Our participation in the Laycock brief signals our confidence that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was designed to protect everyone – including those operating businesses.
“We’re in this because religious liberty isn’t a government grant, but a human right grounded in the image of God,” Moore said. “Our Baptist forefather John Leland wasn’t content to trust politicians with tyranny over the conscience. We are his sons and daughters, and we will carry the banner of soul freedom to the Supreme Court and beyond.”
A major question the Supreme Court will consider in the case is whether owners of for-profit companies can exercise their religion in the conduct of their businesses.
In a July ruling against Conestoga Wood, a divided three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said for-profit secular organizations “cannot engage in religious exercise.” A month earlier, however, the 10th Circuit in Denver rejected the Obama administration’s argument that protections under RFRA do not extend to for-profit companies. The 10th Circuit ruled that corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel “can be ‘persons’ exercising religion for purposes” of RFRA.
The Obama administration’s stance “appears to be that once they incorporate, the Greens and the Hahns have no religious rights that a government is bound to respect,” according to the ERLC-endorsed brief, which the Christian Legal Society
(CLS) organized and filed. “The corporation can be required to do absolutely anything, and the individual owners who carry out the corporation’s work have no religious-liberty right to complain.”
There are “no limits” to the administration’s position, the brief contends.
“If the Greens and the Hahns forfeited their rights to religious liberty when they incorporated their businesses ... then it would not matter if the government required coverage for all abortions, by any method, in any trimester,” the brief notes. “It would not matter if the government required coverage for partial-birth abortions, or assisted suicides, or unconsented euthanasia.”
The ERLC-signed brief also states, “If Mardel sold child pornography instead of Christian books, the government would not allow the Greens, actively involved as shareholders, directors, officers, and managers, to defend on the ground that ‘It wasn’t me; the corporation did it.’”
Both the text and legislative history of RFRA demonstrate that all claims – including those by for-profit companies and their owners – are covered by the law, the brief states.
RFRA’s sponsors “resisted all efforts to add exceptions to coverage,” according to the brief. “A definition in an early version of the bill, limiting coverage to ‘natural persons’ and religious organizations, was eliminated in all later drafts.”
Debate on the Religious Liberty Protection Act, a bill considered in the late 1990s but never approved by Congress, affirmed RFRA’s protections applied to corporations, the ERLC-signed brief states.
Others signing on to the CLS brief with the ERLC were the American Bible Society, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Association of Christian Schools International, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Anglican Church in North America, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
and World Vision
The brief endorsed by Southeastern Seminary, Akin, Warren and other Southern Baptists – as well as the Manhattan Declaration and leading evangelical theologians – focused on the abortion/contraception mandate’s violation of the Christian doctrine of work.
Biblical theology teaches a person’s “vocation is ordained by God as a spiritual enterprise in which Christians must serve in accordance with their spiritual callings,” the brief states. Mandating that a Christian choose between disobeying government rules or religious beliefs “substantially burdens” free exercise of religion, according to the brief, which was filed by the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics.
Among others filing a total of 56 briefs Jan. 28 in support of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, were the National Religious Broadcasters, National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Medical Association, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Democrats for Life, congressional members from both political parties, 20 states, women’s organizations, constitutional law scholars and Roman Catholic theologians.
“The broad support shows that Americans of many faiths and backgrounds want to see religious freedom protected,” Lori Windham, senior counsel with the Becket Fund, said in a written statement. “Religious freedom is important to Democrats and Republicans, to Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others.”
The ERLC also signed on to a brief in October asking the Supreme Court to review the lower-court decisions in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases.
The 25 briefs filed Jan. 28 in opposition to the two businesses, according to Becket Fund, represented, among others, more than 100 Democratic members of Congress, 16 states, ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) issued the abortion/contraception mandate on behalf of the Obama administration as part of implementing the Affordable Care Act
. In addition to contraceptives, the mandate requires coverage of such drugs as Plan B and other “morning-after” pills that possess a post-fertilization mechanism that can cause an abortion by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella,” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can act after implantation to end the life of the child.
HHS provided an exemption to the rule for churches and their auxiliaries but did not extend it to non-church-related nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies that object. Some conscientious objectors oppose underwriting all contraceptives, while others – such as Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood – protest paying only for abortion-causing drugs. The administration also offered an accommodation for non-church-related religious organizations, but critics said it was inadequate because it still forces such groups to provide access to the drugs through third parties.
For-profit and nonprofit corporations have filed a total of 91 lawsuits against the mandate, according to the Becket Fund
. GuideStone Financial Resources
, the Southern Baptist Convention’s health and financial benefits entity, combined with two of its health plan participants to file one of the suits in October.
The Supreme Court delivered a temporary win for mandate foes Jan. 24, when it continued an injunction blocking enforcement of the mandate against the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns in Denver, and other Catholic organizations. The injunction will remain in place while the 10th Circuit considers the lawsuit.
Hobby Lobby, a national arts and crafts retail chain, has said it will not comply with the mandate if it loses in court. The chain of nearly 590 stores could face fines totaling $1.3 million a day. Mardell is a Christian bookstore chain.
Hobby Lobby seeks to honor God “by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles,” according to its statement of purpose. Its stores are closed on Sundays.
The Hahn family, which owns Conestoga Wood, has been living under the mandate since its group health plan was renewed in January 2013. Refusal to abide by the mandate could cost the family an estimated $95,000 a day. Conestoga Wood is a wholesale manufacturer of kitchen cabinet parts.
The 10th Circuit case is Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby
, while the Third Circuit case is Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius
. Kathleen Sebelius is the HHS secretary.
The high court is expected to issue a decision before the end of its term in late June or early July.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
1/30/2014 12:47:49 PM
January 29 2014 by
Shelly Moon, GuideStone Financial Resources
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Ministers and church employees are invited to participate in the 2014 SBC Church Compensation Survey
: a tool used by churches of all sizes to determine fair wages and benefits. Participants will be entered for a chance to win an iPad. The survey and complete contest rules are available at www.GuideStone.org/CompensationSurvey
“GuideStone continues to be an advocate for pastors and church staff, ensuring that they are compensated fairly,” said O.S. Hawkins
, president of GuideStone Financial Resources
. “That’s why we partner with LifeWay Christian Resources and Baptist state conventions to produce this bi-annual study.”
Survey results are not reported individually. Compensation and benefit information can be contributed anonymously. Each Southern Baptist church employee who participates in the survey plays a vital role in building one of the largest databases of church compensation information in the United States. Survey results provide a baseline of compensation data among similar-sized churches within each state convention. Therefore, a higher number of participants leads to a more accurate baseline of compensation data. “We receive numerous requests to answer compensation surveys throughout the year,” said Al Fausch, director of business and financial administration at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. “We don’t participate in them all, but we always try to complete GuideStone’s survey.”
Churches often don’t contribute to salary surveys because they don’t have time or receive enough valuable information in return. But according to Fausch, GuideStone’s survey is worth the time because it provides customized reports to allow administrators, personnel/finance committees and minister search teams to better determine adequate compensation for ministers and staff. That can be essential information for thousands of churches, which makes the survey worth the few minutes it takes to complete. Like many other church leaders, Fausch has accessed previous survey results when hiring new staff to ensure that employees are being compensated at competitive levels. “The results are easy to navigate,” Fausch said. “I encourage everyone to participate. We are helping each other as well as ourselves by establishing accurate benchmarks.”
Southern Baptist church ministers and staff have until May 31 to complete the online survey. Survey results will be released this summer. Survey participants will receive advance notification of the results and can begin to access the data upon notice.
The winner of the iPad will be notified via email.
Contact GuideStone Financial Resources with any questions or issues. Call toll free (888) 98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433) Monday–Friday between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. CST to speak with a customer relations specialist, or send an email to info@GuideStone.org
1/29/2014 1:05:33 PM
Shelly Moon, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments