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Caring for child refugees, church is ‘stretched’

July 24 2014 by Myriah Snyder, Baptist Press

While most of America sees the border crisis on the nightly news, leaders at Calvary Baptist Church in McAllen, Texas, recognize it as a mission field in their own backyard.

Chad Mason, pastor for mobilization and global impact, recounted a meeting where Calvary Baptist leaders agreed that “we have to do something. We have to be involved in this. These people are here, and it’s incumbent on us to be the hands and feet of Christ with our actions.”

“I just love this church’s heart,” Mason said of Calvary Baptist’s response to the crisis. “Even the people who had practical concerns, their heart was totally right. There was not one time that someone said we shouldn’t do it based on political agenda. I was very proud to be a part of this church where their faith is influencing their stance. Their faith is the leading part of who they are.”

In facing what he described as a “massive humanitarian need right here in our community,” Mason said church leaders have had conversations with White House staff members and Border Patrol at many levels trying to get access to unaccompanied minors. “As of the moment, we have no access to them,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest piece of information that is misunderstood nationwide. We keep being told that any day that might change, and we have hope that we will have access to the minors.”


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Calvary Baptist Church coordinates with Catholic Charities at a child refugee relief center in McAllen, Texas, to provide food, showers and laundry service.

Thus Calvary Baptist is focusing on other aspects of relief work and ministry amid the chaos at the border, despite limited access to the unaccompanied refugees.

The church has discussed responding to the needs of Border Patrol personnel, Mason noted.

“That is one of the things that we really would love to be doing. We are trying to start an intentional effort to thank and care for the Border Patrol agents [in a larger way].” In August, the church hopes to host between 200 and 300 Border Patrol agents in an event partnering several organizations to say “thank you” and to show the church’s concern for how the agents’ work can be overwhelming.

Through cooperation with various organizations, Calvary leaders have had opportunities to communicate to government officials what the workers and refugees are experiencing at the border.

“This last weekend we had three senators and seven congressmen who were in town, and they wanted to hear from the volunteer faith community. I was blessed to go and sit in this meeting and speak and share as an equal voice.... We got to tell them what we were doing; we got to ask for their help.... We got to push them on issues that we would never [have been] asked to have any influence [over].”

With the influx of refugees, the need for showers, laundry services and other basic needs was so high that Catholic Charities was asked by the government to open a relief center. Days later, Calvary began assisting, along with the Salvation Army and other humanitarian organizations. Calvary’s volunteers focus on laundry service by using mobile laundry units provided by the Texas Baptist Men missions organization.

Calvary also has launched a website, southtexasrefugees.org, to facilitate communication among those interested in helping.

“We feel that we are being stretched, to become more like Christ,” Mason said. “God is using this opportunity tremendously.”
 

The greatest need

“All of the facilities that are hosting these unaccompanied minors nationwide are looking for foster homes to place children whose families aren’t in the United States,” Mason noted.

If not put in a foster home, the refugee children face being housed in a government facility for years, in many cases, while awaiting their hearings.

Although the agencies are not allowed to advertise the need for foster care for the children due to security concerns, Mason urged – as a third party – interested individuals to contact southtexasrefugees.org. The requirements are quite extensive and speaking fluent Spanish is a must.

“As soon as the border closes, these opportunities for relief are going to stop. When that happens our relief-based ministries will cease to exist, but foster care is going to go on for years. I would just stress to churches and Christians nationwide to consider opening your home. Let your home become a mission field.”

He continued, “[H]ere’s the thing: You talk about access to unaccompanied minors, that’s the limited access.... The most influential and life-changing opportunity to show the love of Christ is to open your home to one of these kids ... to share the gospel and demonstrate the gospel all at the same time.”

Families are needed for every age child, Mason said, while also pointing to the needs of the many 13-to-17-year-old mothers who crossed the border while either pregnant or with young babies.

Foster care, Mason said, is “where transformation can happen.... I think that’s a massive opportunity that needs to be embraced nationwide.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Myriah Snyder, who will be a senior at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., is a summer intern with Baptist Press.)

7/24/2014 11:28:17 AM by Myriah Snyder, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Rick Speas to nominate Joel Stephens for 2nd VP

July 23 2014 by BR staff

Rick Speas, senior pastor of Old Town Baptist Church, Winston-Salem and a former president of Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), said, “I am happy announce that I will nominate Joel Stephens to the office of 2nd vice president of the BSC. I believe Joel is a dedicated servant of the Lord. He is a strong supporter of North Carolina Baptists and the Cooperative Program, and he has served our convention in many capacities already.”

 

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Joel Stephens, senior pastor of Westfield Baptist Church, will be nominated by Rick Speas this November at the annual meeting in Greensboro.

As senior pastor of Westfield Baptist Church, Westfield, Stephens said the church is active in reaching the surrounding community and has taken the challenge to investigate ways to impact lostness in the Piedmont Triad area through the BSC’s new strategy.

 

Stephens said, “Our congregation has also supported me whole-heartedly in my role as a founding faculty member of the Roma Bible Institute – a school established by North Carolina pastors to train Roma pastors in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine that partners with Baptists on Mission and Hungarian Baptist Aid. Beyond all this, Westfield gladly gives over 11% to the Cooperative Program.”

 

Speas believes Stephens “will bring great insight and vision to that position and to our convention. It will give me joy to stand before our convention in November and nominate him.”

 

Stephens received his master of divinity and a doctor of ministry degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2007, he began serving on the BSC Board of Directors and as a member of the Council on Christian Higher Education – now the Christian Higher Education Special Committee. Stephens was elected in 2009 as chair of the Christian Higher Education Special Committee placing him on the Executive Committee, also. In January 2012, he was elected to serve as the chair of the Committee on Convention Meetings, and has filled that position the past two years.
 
He said, “I am so excited about what God is doing through our convention, and I whole-heartedly support the new strategy and the leadership of our convention. God’s hand is blessing and moving among us in these days.”

 

He and his wife, Lisa, have four children: Carson, Carrie, Cooper and Cathryn.

7/23/2014 2:49:30 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Medical missions involvement urged at conference

July 23 2014 by Ariana Castro Acuña, IMB/Baptist Press

Lynn Carter* always wanted to serve in missions somewhere in Africa but after attending the MedAdvance Conference in Rockville, Va., that may be changing.

The registered nurse from Milford, N.J., read about the conference in several newsletters and decided to attend, even though it was on her birthday. By lunch on the second day of the conference, she was questioning whether Africa was the only place she wanted to serve.

“Now, I’m thinking about Central Asia,” Carter said.

During the MedAdvance Helping Hands, Healing Hearts Conference, July 17-19 at International Missionary Board’s (IMB) International Learning Center, 144 healthcare professionals and students from across the United States came together to learn how IMB is active in health care missions, how health care strategies are being used to share the gospel across the world and how they can get involved.

Scott Holste, IMB vice president for global strategic mobilization, stressed why IMB is dedicated to health care missions: “It’s the biblical thing to do ... it’s the Southern Baptist thing to do ... and it’s the strategic thing to do,” Holste said during one of the sessions.


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IMB photo by Heather Pendergraft
Lynn Carter (name changed), a registered nurse from New Jersey, looks at an exhibit at the MedAdvance conference from the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting that features people groups to pray for from around the world.

Holste cited Matthew 4:23-24 and Luke 10:1-3 to illustrate how the Bible calls for healing as well as preaching. He also referred to letters from the 19th century written by IMB missionaries who used health care in their ministries to show how the organization has been involved in health care missions from its beginning.

Skills in the medical field can provide access to people and places where traditional approaches are restricted, Holste said, adding that 40 percent of the countries in the world fall into that category.

“I really believe God has gifted each individual – whether they are a doctor, or a businessman, or a dentist – and sometimes He calls people out of their professions, but I think a lot of times, He wants to build on the passions and talents He gave them,” Holste said.

Attendees also heard from 34 of the more than 300 International Mission Board missionaries currently using health care strategies to reach their people groups. The missionaries from various affinity groups across the globe each held 20-minute sessions, telling attendees about their ministries using health care strategies and presenting them with opportunities to serve in that area of the world.

“When you are face to face and hear how God is using them, and they’re so fearless, it’s amazing,” Carter said.

One of the conference’s themes was the relationship between human needs and spiritual needs. Throughout the conference, including in 13 break-out sessions, attendees were presented with models and ideas of how they can use their medical skills to serve both people’s physical needs and spiritual needs.

“The greatest spiritual needs and the greatest health needs in the world are usually one and the same,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response (BGR), a key IMB partner in health care initiatives.

In addition to healthcare professionals, this year’s conference also included an unprecedented number of students. Participating were 30 students from schools across the country, such as Avalon University (Ohio) and the University of West Florida.

MedAdvance “is a really good way to connect students like me with people already on the field,” medical student Olivia Mak said.

Mak, a student from Campbell University (North Carolina), has been thinking about international missions for a while.

“I can’t think of any other way (I want to) to use my skills other than to share the gospel,” Mak said.

Originally from East Asia, she said she was encouraged when she met several family doctors serving in that region.

At the close of the conference, IMB President Tom Elliff stressed the importance of health care missions.

“A health need is just an invitation to come share Jesus,” Elliff, addressing the group, said. “God has placed in your heart and hand a tool that can get to them like nobody else that I know of.”

Attendees were given an opportunity to commit to pray for health care missions, to go on a short-term health care missions trip and to explore the possibility of career missions. Marking commitment cards, 131 attendees placed their cards on a world map, with 41 of them expressing an interest in career service.

To learn more about medical missions opportunities, email medicalmissions@imb.org.

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ariana Castro Acuña served as an IMB summer intern.)

7/23/2014 10:49:05 AM by Ariana Castro Acuña, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



When same-sex attraction hits home

July 23 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

It’s a moment many Christians have had to face: a family member’s announcement that he or she is gay.

Amid feelings of sorrow, guilt, fear and anger that families may experience surrounding such an announcement, biblical counseling experts say believers must have hope and realize that Jesus always changes those who come to Him in repentance and faith.

The “lie” that “change is impossible” for people who experience same-sex attraction “is an offense against the gospel because change is Jesus’ gig,” Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press. “We need to be infusing people with hope. We need to be infusing them with the deep conviction that Jesus has been changing people for 2,000 years and He will change you if you have faith in Him.”

Lambert; John Babler, associate professor of counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Sam Williams, professor of counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggested several ways Christians can help family members struggling with same-sex attraction.
 

Develop a culture of honesty where family members can confess their sins and ask for help.


“In view of the mercy of God, if there is a gospel, it makes no sense to avoid, deny or minimize same-sex attraction,” Williams, a member of the SBC Executive Committee’s Mental Health Advisory Group, told BP in emailed comments. “I would like to propose that there is a properly Christian form of ‘coming out of the closet.’ Should we not all come out of the closet with anything we find inside that is broken and wrong? We do this so that we can repent more thoroughly, and receive all the help and healing that comes through authentic Christian relationships.”
 

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iStock graphic by Laura Erlanson

It’s important for families not to act more “creeped out” by a confession of same-sex attraction than they are by confessions of other sins, Lambert said.

“Christians forget that sin is sin,” he said. “We have to be really careful not to move someone beyond hope and beyond help or think that they have a higher ‘ick’ factor with their struggles than we do with ours.”
 

Express love and explain that homosexual lust and behavior are sins.


Families must avoid the twin mistakes of either blowing up at a confession of same-sex attraction or avoiding conversation about the topic for fear of damaging relationships, the biblical counselors said.

A statement of unconditional love is a good starting point for any conversation about a family member’s homosexuality, Babler told BP, but that must not be the only thing said.

“Say that homosexuality is clearly a sin issue, as the Bible teaches,” Babler said, although it is not “some ultra-sin that is worse than anything else.”

Speaking truth about homosexual sin is difficult, Babler conceded, but the consequences of being silent are far worse.

“Ultimately this loved one’s eternal destiny may rest in” their family’s willingness to confront sin, he said. “Even if they have made a profession of faith, they’re at least blinded enough that they’re not following godly counsel from scripture.”
 

Clarify that our identity is not determined by our sexual desires.


“We want to help people understand that while those same-sex desires – just like opposite-sex desires – can be strong, they don’t define who you are,” Lambert said. “God defines who you are, a person who’s made in the image of God. And if you are a saved person, [you are] a person who is being redeemed into the image of Christ.”

Babler noted that culture “frequently encourages people to find identity in something beyond themselves – whether it’s ‘I’m gay’ or it’s ‘I’m obsessive compulsive.’” But true identity “is in regards to being created in God’s image and a person that God desires to have a relationship with.”
 

Teach the gospel truth that Jesus changes sinners.


“Real and substantive change can be expected for people with same-sex attraction and same-sex orientation, as it can and should be for all who have chosen to follow Christ,” Williams said.

As with other sins though, God does not always change a believer’s inclination to same-sex attraction overnight, Williams said. Much change involves “a long obedience of faith down a narrow and often difficult road.”

“As it is with many root sins that are lodged deeply within us, change may or may not be associated with a complete elimination or reversal of same-sex attraction, for now,” Williams said. “But make no mistake about it: under the cross and in Christ neither the past nor our desires determine our identity or our future. Paul’s instruction in Romans 6 is to be who you are, in Christ.”
 

Use the same ministry techniques you employ to help people struggling with other types of sin.


Accountability relationships with godly people of the same gender, confession of sins, trust in the gospel, participation in a local church and meditation on scripture all help individuals struggling with same-sex attraction, the biblical counselors agreed.

“As much of a problem as homosexuality is, it can be dealt with in the same way as if they had a family member who was dealing with heterosexual sin outside of a marriage relationship,” Babler said. Ultimately a concerned family needs to “call their family member to the pages of scripture.”

It can be helpful to send a struggling individual brief scripture messages through email and social media, Babler said. All of the scripture shared should not focus on sexual sin but cover a variety of topics from God’s character and the gospel to the Great Commandment and personal purity.


Talk to a pastor or godly counselor if you find that helpful.


It’s a myth that only professional counselors and clergy members are equipped to help people with same-sex attraction, Lambert said, although some biblical counselors and pastors can provide spiritual guidance.

“There are plenty of professionals who don’t know how to appropriate the gospel of Jesus in the change process,” Lambert said. Such counselors “may have some helpful tips that somebody can use, but they’re not going to be able to help someone change in a way that honors Jesus Christ.”

The choice “isn’t between a professional and a non-professional,” he said. The key is to find a godly Christian “who knows the biblical dynamics of change and how Jesus uses His powerful grace in practical categories to see people be different than they were.”

Even when families give the best help possible, the sad reality is that not all homosexuals repent and follow Jesus, the biblical counselors noted. Husbands sometimes leave their wives for other men. Wives sometimes leave their husbands for other women. And godly parents have children living a homosexual lifestyle.

In such cases, it’s important for families not to blame themselves for their loved one’s sin, Lambert said, adding that dealing with a homosexual spouse generally is more emotionally difficult than coping with a gay child or sibling.

“Sin doesn’t happen in a simplistic way; it happens in a complex way. It could be the case that very faithful parents who love their kids and talk with them about the gospel and were present with them and directed their behaviors and interests toward gender-appropriate things” still have a homosexual child, Lambert said. “In a world full of sin, people go off the rails and parents need to not have an instinct of blaming themselves.”

Whatever the outcome of a family’s ministry efforts, they must hold to God’s truth and not let the experience of having a homosexual loved one distort their interpretation of God’s Word, Babler said.

“One of my concerns in working with family members is that I want to encourage them to keep their theology and their biblical belief intact,” Babler said, “and not accommodate due to the fact that it’s one of their loved ones and say, ‘Now I’m going to change the way I look at the Bible and I’m going to redefine my conclusion about what scripture says in regards to homosexuality.’ That’s a big temptation.”

Additional resources for families of those struggling with same-sex attraction include the Restored Hope Network, a group of ministries that address sexual and relational issues, and the books Understanding Sexual Identity by Mark Yarhouse and Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

7/23/2014 10:39:03 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Israel & Gaza believers pray for peace

July 23 2014 by Nicole Lee, IMB/Baptist Press

Several days after the death of three schoolboys in Gaza, Stephen Johnson* still weeps. He isn’t the only one.

And he isn’t the only one praying that the heartbreak of war casualties among Palestinians and Israelis ends soon.

More than 50 Jewish and Palestinian believers met together to pray for peace on July 13, a show of solidarity in the conflict that is rocking their region.

“We pray for all people caught up in the conflict, that the church will be an instrument of peace and that hostilities would end,” Johnson, a Southern Baptist representative in the West Bank, said.

The young boys, who were part a Christian-sponsored school in Gaza, are the faces of the conflict for Johnson and his wife Rebecca.* They are examples of the high cost of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the hardline Islamist terrorist organization controlling Gaza.

“We ask you to join our team in weeping with the parents and family of these three children,” Johnson said. “Pray with us for the safety of our students and teachers at the school, for all our friends in Gaza and also for all Israelis. May no more mothers have to cry over the loss of their children.”

The three children – Jehad and Wisam Shuheiber and their cousin Afnan – represent three too many innocent lives lost, Johnson said.

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BP file photo
As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, believers from both sides are gathering to pray, and Southern Baptists continue to minister.


Ben Martin,* a Southern Baptist representative in Israel emphasizes that this conflict is not between Jews and Palestinians, but between Israel and Hamas, a U.S.- and European Union-recognized terrorist organization.

“Terrorism comes because people give their hearts over to hate. They hate their enemy more than they love their own people,” Martin said. “My prayer is that people on both sides of the conflict would not fall into the trap of hate, which is a dark prison.”

Miriam Holman,* a Southern Baptist representative living among the Jewish population in Israel, agreed.

“My heart goes out to people on both sides of the conflict, and I pray that this operation will end soon and without any more loss of life,” she said.

The recent violence started with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli students in the West Bank on June 10 and the revenge killing of a Palestinian youth July 2.

Back-and-forth rocket attacks and airstrikes between Hamas and Israel ensued, culminating in a major offensive against Hamas in Gaza on July 8.

A temporary cease-fire ended abruptly July 17 after Hamas fired rockets into Israel. The proceeding ground invasion of Gaza by Israel is the first major Israeli ground incursion into Gaza since 2009.

On July 19, rockets fired by Hamas militants killed a Bedouin Muslim man in Israel and wounded three others in his household, including two children. The tragedy highlights the blurred lines in the conflict.

The situation is unpredictable, but despite the violence, Southern Baptist representatives keep the focus on ministry.

“We are confident that this is where God wants us to be,” Johnson said. “Our team remains where it is to share His love with the hurting world around us.”

Johnson recently gained approval for a food distribution program in Gaza through Baptist Global Response once the hostilities end.

In Gaza, a Baptist church of about 50 people suffers alongside others with a lack of food, inability to move about freely, no electricity for large parts of the day and uncertainty of what is to come.

“Pray that our team and other local believers and partners can have opportunities to share our source of hope,” Johnson said.

Holman, who lives close to the conflict in Israel, regularly retreats to her room when sirens go off but also reports busy markets and life as usual between moments of chaos.

Hundreds of missiles were lobbed into Israel every day in mid-July, she said, noting moments of peace were rare but welcomed.

She recently relocated to a safer distance from the violence but is burdened for those who have no safe place to go.

“Thankfully there have been few deaths or serious injuries in my town as a result of the missiles or the riots, but the situation is very tense,” she said. “Pray that this situation will open up opportunities for me and other believers to share about the true Prince of Peace.”

Southern Baptist representative Rebecca Johnson encourages prayer partners to pray for Israelis, Palestinians, Hamas, terrorists, the innocent and the guilty – everyone involved in the violence and bloodshed taking place in the Middle East.

“For God so loved the world – the ugly, me, you, Palestinians, Hamas, Israelis – so much that He gave His Son that we might have a relationship with Him,” she said.

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nicole Lee is a writer for the International Mission Board based in Europe.)

7/23/2014 9:49:28 AM by Nicole Lee, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Bordeaux will not seek second term

July 22 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

C. J. Bordeaux, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), announced he will not seek a second term as president at the coming November annual meeting. In a letter to the Biblical Recorder Bordeaux said, “I will not be nominated for a second term as your president for several reasons, but in particular because of some health concerns that have arisen in my life.

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C.J. Bordeaux, current president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

“Sometimes we have to step back and look at the whole picture, and even determine to give up some things that we thoroughly enjoy,” he said. “My wife and I have concluded that it would be best for me to set aside this responsibility as your president.”

Last November Bordeaux, pastor of Gorman Baptist Church in Durham, and Bobby Blanton, senior pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville, ran for the office. He served two years as first vice president and two years as second vice president before being elected to the office of president.

“From the depths of my heart, I wanted you to know how humbling it has been to travel across this state, representing you,” he said. “I have always been a North Carolina Baptist, and will continue to lead my church to support the causes of our state convention and our Cooperative Program. Thank you for your trust in me. I look forward to seeing you in November in Greensboro.”

Bordeaux said he believes the coming BSC annual meeting will be a time of “joyous worship and information.” The sessions will be November 10-11 in the Koury Convention Center, Greensboro. The theme is “Greater Things.”

The Biblical Recorder contacted Timmy Blair, first vice president of BSC and pastor of Piney Grove Chapel in Angier. Blair said Mark Harris, former president of BSC and pastor of First Baptist in Charlotte, will nominate him for the office of president.

Blair said he was saddened that Bordeaux was stepping down, but understood his concerns over health-related needs.

Bordeaux offered his support to Blair. “Timmy is a good man, a strong servant and he loves North Carolina Baptists,” he said.

Cameron McGill, the BSC’s second vice president and pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church said he plans to run for the office of first vice president at the November annual meeting.

“After praying with brother C.J. and brother Timmy over the past few months, and seeking discernment of the Holy Spirit, I feel led to pursue the office of first vice president,” he said.
 
“I believe with all my heart that the best days for our state convention are ahead of us. I would like the opportunity to continue to serve the churches across the state as a vice president,” McGill said.
7/22/2014 3:00:30 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



SBC’s homosexuality stance reinforced by 1992 amendment

July 22 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

When a retired Air Force general’s concern over homosexuality prompted an amendment to the Southern Baptist Convention’s constitution two decades ago, few observers realized that his impulse to defend biblical morality would prove instrumental in helping the convention resist pressure to legitimize same-sex relationships for years to come.

“Homosexuality was being promoted and was making progress ... and we wanted to protect the Southern Baptist Convention from [a] nickel and dime whittling away of standards and promoting acceptance of homosexuality,” said T.C. Pinckney, 84, a former member of the SBC Executive Committee (EC) who at a 1992 EC meeting proposed amending the SBC constitution to declare churches that condone homosexuality “not in friendly cooperation” with the convention.

Two generations later, young SBC leaders say stands for biblical morality like Pinckney’s are the “confessional bedrock” that has prevented the convention from capitulating to the push for sexual license.

God particularly blesses “confessional movements,” Christian groups that make formal statements of their beliefs and hold themselves accountable to abide by those beliefs, Owen Strachan, 32, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, told Baptist Press. Confessional denominations “are driven by a rich, rock-ribbed statement of biblical theology and gospel teaching. I don’t have a lot of confidence in this day and age for churches whose identity is not grounded in a strong statement of what they believe.”

The SBC’s most recent statement of its beliefs regarding human sexuality is a resolution on “transgender identity” adopted at its annual meeting in Baltimore in June. The resolution opposes “efforts to alter one’s bodily identity ... to refashion it to conform with one’s perceived gender identity,” opposes “all cultural efforts to validate claims to transgender identity” and invites “all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the gospel.”

In recent months Baptists inside and outside the SBC have made pushes to normalize homosexuality. Within the convention, a California pastor announced that he no longer views all homosexual acts as sinful. The SBC Executive Committee could consider action related to his church at its September meeting.
 

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SBHLA photo
T.C. Pinckney (left), pictured in 1993 with fellow Executive Committee officers Fred Wolfe (right) and Eldridge Miller, made a motion at a 1992 EC meeting that led to the SBC’s constitutional amendment regarding churches that “affirm, approve, or endorse” homosexuality.

Outside the convention, a Washington, D.C., congregation called a transgender transitions pastor last month and a Kentucky church began performing gay weddings. Both churches had previously withdrawn from the SBC.


A constitutional amendment

Pinckney’s motion came during the closing session of a February 1992 EC meeting after he failed to get the motion reported out of a subcommittee. He moved that the EC’s administrative subcommittee “recommend a change in the SBC Constitution and/or Bylaws” to include measures against any church “affirming, approving, or endorsing in any way the practice of homosexuality.”

Stemming from Pinckney’s motion, the SBC took an initial vote to amend its constitution the following June in Indianapolis. Since a constitutional amendment required messenger approval at two consecutive annual meetings, final approval came at the 1993 meeting in Houston.

The amendment to Article III of the SBC Constitution stated, “Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.” Previously the constitution said only that the convention would receive messengers at annual meetings from churches “in friendly cooperation with the convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work” and which were “bona fide” contributors “to the Convention’s work during the fiscal year preceding.”

The SBC’s attorneys said the convention had authority to declare gay-affirming churches not in friendly cooperation before the constitution was amended. But then-EC chairman David Hankins, who now serves as executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said the amendment was to “make explicit in the constitution what has always been implicit.”

The convention exercised its implicit power in 1992, declaring two North Carolina congregations not in friendly cooperation and withdrawing fellowship from them. The two churches were Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, which voted to bless the union of two homosexual males, and Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, which voted to license a homosexual to the ministry.

Pinckney said he initiated the amendment because the SBC needed to state its position on homosexuality as early as possible in order to avoid compromise as culture gradually normalized gay behavior.

“People have a tendency to allow things that are happening little by little just to proceed,” Pinckney told BP. “[They say,] ‘That’s not a significant thing. We can just go on and ignore that.’ But it’s like the drip, drip, drip of a faucet. It builds up and gets worse. The frog that is put into the water and the water is heated up gradually is boiled before he realizes what’s happening to him.”

Ed Young, SBC president from 1992-94 and pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, told BP the amendment relied on “the authority of Scripture” and ensured that the convention’s position was “clearly stated.”

Adopting the amendment “almost takes debate off the floor of the convention” related to churches that affirm homosexuality, Young said, “which would be inflammatory as far as the media goes.”


Cultural foresight

Current SBC president Ronnie Floyd said amending the SBC constitution more than 20 years ago was visionary.

“I strongly supported the SBC’s action to clarify churches endorsing homosexuality were not in friendly cooperation,” Floyd told BP in an email interview. “The events of the last 20 years have validated the wisdom of this action as our culture has moved further and further from biblical sexual ethics.”

Floyd noted the amendment was not the convention’s only expression of biblical truth related to homosexuality.

“The constitutional amendment was significant because it made clear that Southern Baptists would not succumb to those who were willing then – and are increasingly willing today – to compromise biblical convictions in exchange for cultural approval,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said.

“It should be noted, however, that the constitutional amendment to stand for biblical sexual ethics has been followed by many resolutions and denominational actions to make clear that homosexuality is not beyond the reach of the gospel – that all sinners can be washed, sanctified and justified by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 6:9-11),” he said.

Since 1976, the SBC has adopted at least 26 resolutions expressing opposition to homosexual behavior. Many also explain the hope and healing available to people with same-sex attraction if they will repent of their sins and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The convention’s first resolution on homosexuality in 1976 noted that “homosexuality has become an open life-style for increasing numbers of persons” and urged “churches and agencies not to afford the practice of homosexuality any degree of approval through ordination, employment, or other designations of normal lifestyle.”

Sarah Maddox was among Southern Baptists’ early visionaries regarding homosexuality. In the 1970s and 1980s, she had a speaking ministry that encouraged women to contend for Judeo-Christian values in the public square. One message that Maddox delivered on several occasions warned that homosexuality could be viewed as morally acceptable one day.

“I made this statement: If we don’t do something about the homosexual situation, one day it’s going to be considered as natural and normal,” Maddox told BP.

She said the warning “obviously had to be something God showed” her because she “never dreamed” homosexuality “would be thought of as natural and normal.” Maddox believes godly leaders deserve thanks for helping the SBC maintain its biblical moorings amid cultural change.

This steadfastness may be attributable to “godly leaders” who “have seen to it that we follow the biblical teachings,” Maddox said. “That’s why I’m a Southern Baptist – because we have stood by biblical principles and we have followed God’s teaching.”

One Southern Baptist leader to warn that homosexuality could become a cultural threat was R. Albert Mohler Jr., editor of Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index newsjournal from 1989 to 1993. In a 1992 editorial Mohler wrote that “Southern Baptists no longer have the false comfort” of regarding homosexuality “as someone else’s problem. The moral and theological integrity of our denomination is at stake, at every level.”

Mohler, now president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, predicted in his editorial, “Issues of sexuality will divide American society in the 1990s just as the Vietnam War produced the divisions of the 1960s and ‘70s.”


Fears realized

In the 21st century, leaders’ predictions largely came true, but the constitutional amendment they worked to put in place helped Southern Baptists resist the pressure to condone homosexual behavior.

In 2009, the SBC withdrew fellowship from Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, which had a half-dozen homosexual members, including some serving on church committees. Following the vote to withdraw fellowship, EC member Stephen Wilson said the convention encouraged churches to minister to homosexuals but took action against Broadway because it permitted members to persist in homosexual behavior without repenting.

This spring Mohler and four professors at Southern Seminary published a book countering the assertion of Matthew Vines’ book “God and the Gay Christian” that the Bible permits monogamous homosexual relationships.

Southern Baptists are waiting to see what, if any, action the convention will take in regard to New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., which split into two groups following pastor Danny Cortez’s announcement that he no longer regards all homosexual acts as sinful. In an email to the EC, Cortez said the faction of the church remaining with him, which retained the church’s name and articles of incorporation, will develop a “clear Third-Way position statement” neither affirming nor condemning homosexuality but allowing members to hold varying positions.


The way forward

Strachan, a professor at Southern Seminary who contributed to the response to Matthew Vines, said the SBC’s history of standing for biblical sexuality bodes well for its future.

“As a young Southern Baptist, I am personally grateful for leaders of recent decades who have done the hard thing and frankly have also acted with impressive foresight to safeguard the denomination from the kind of challenges we’re facing,” Strachan said.

While Strachan lacks confidence in the continued biblical fidelity of churches and denominations without confessional statements on marriage and sexuality, he said the SBC’s future looks bright in terms of resisting homosexuality. He pointed in particular to the Baptist Faith and Message article on the family, which defines marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”

“I don’t have hope today in prospects of cultural conquest for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Strachan said. “I know that God ultimately is going to win history. But I do have immense hope for churches that tie their flags to the mast [of] confessional theology, [who] make no apology for the Bible and its teaching and joyfully and winsomely promote the gospel of Jesus Christ out of the bedrock of confessional theology.”

Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, agreed that the SBC’s confessional statements about human sexuality will guard it from straying. Additionally, he expects the destructive consequences of sexual sin will lead to some shift in cultural opinions regarding marriage and sexuality.

“I’m optimistic by virtue of the fact that what we advocate and believe in are fixed, permanent truths that are bound by scripture,” Walker told BP. “They’re adjudicated by human experience and ultimately provide the best opportunity to attain human flourishing – because the Bible says so.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

7/22/2014 10:56:20 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SBC leaders to tour border facilities

July 22 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist national and state leaders will tour federal government facilities being used to address the crisis of unaccompanied children crossing America’s southern border.
 
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will join SBC lead ethicist Russell D. Moore Tuesday (July 22) in touring a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in McAllen, Texas, and a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shelter in San Antonio. Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, will join them in San Antonio for the tour of the center at Lackland Air Force Base.

The tours, followed by news conferences in each city, will occur as the United States seeks to deal with the more than 57,000 under-age children who have been apprehended at the border with Mexico in the last 9 months, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Most of those children – and sometimes children accompanied by a parent or parents – reportedly are fleeing Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which are plagued by violence among gangs involved in drug trafficking in those Central American countries.
 

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Image from iStockphoto.com

McAllen, which is near the southern tip of Texas, has been a major entry point for unaccompanied minors.

Floyd and Moore have called not only for the federal government to repair what is generally acknowledged as a broken immigration system but for a compassionate response to the plight of the children who are in the United States illegally.

“These children are someone’s children and someone’s grandchildren. They are people, real people,” Floyd wrote in a July 11 piece published in Baptist Press. “Their parents, along with other children who are crossing our unprotected borders, are trying to better their lives and futures.

“Yes, they should respect the rule of law, but now that they are here, we need to respect the God-given dignity of each of them,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said.

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in a statement for BP, “As Christians, our first response to this crisis on the border must be one of compassion toward those in need, not disgust or anger. This situation on the border is a crisis — one that will take careful work from government leaders to help secure a porous border and an even more porous immigration policy that fuels the problem. At the same time, this crisis will take a church willing to pray, serve and love these vulnerable ones in need.”

Also participating in the tours and the news conferences July 22 will be Daniel Flores, Roman Catholic bishop of Brownsville, Texas.

Southern Baptists in Texas have been ministering as they are able, but the federal government has not permitted access to unaccompanied children. HHS is responsible for custody of such children once they are processed. It permits only federal authorities and federal contractors to be in contact with the minors, according to the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. For now, Baptist churches are primarily working to help children and adults crossing the border together by serving them at a processing center; providing food, clothing and showers; and doing laundry.

The ERLC is among evangelical Christian organizations that have called for reform that would provide border and workplace security; uphold the rule of law; respect family unity; and establish a path to legal status and citizenship to those who want to live in this country permanently and are willing to pay penalties and meet the requirements. Flaws in both the system and its enforcement have resulted in an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the United States.

In 2011, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion.

The U.S. Senate passed broad reform legislation last year, but the ERLC has said it needs improvement. So far, House of Representatives committees have approved bills dealing with such matters as strengthening border and national security, providing visas for guest workers and requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check employees’ eligibility. The full House has yet to act on those bills, however.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

7/22/2014 10:47:21 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Obama: LGBT rights for federal contractors

July 22 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

President Barack Obama has used his authority to extend workplace protections among federal contractors to homosexual, bisexual and transgender status – prompting concerns the action will subvert religious freedom.

Obama issued an executive order Monday (July 21) that bars federal contractors from discriminating based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” His order – which the White House announced in June would be forthcoming – also ads “gender identity” to the list of categories protected in federal employment. The “sexual orientation” of federal employees already was protected.

The order maintains a 2002 directive by President George W. Bush that permits contractors that are religious corporations or institutions to employ individuals based on their religious identity.

Some defenders of religious liberty and freedom of conscience expressed their dissatisfaction with the order. They said the religious exemption would prove inadequate, especially affecting religious organizations that contract with the government to provide services to the needy.

“While we don’t know the full implications of this executive order, I am disappointed that this administration persistently violates the freedom of conscience for religious organizations that provide necessary relief for the poor and endangered,” Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in a written release.

“The same religious convictions that inspire their social action are the convictions now considered outside the new mainstream of sexual revolutionary fundamentalism,” he said. “The ones hurt will be the most vulnerable in our society.”

Ryan Anderson, who specializes in religious freedom issues for the Heritage Foundation, said in a July 21 commentary the order “disregards the consciences and liberties of people of goodwill who happen not to share the government’s opinions about issues of sexuality. All Americans should be free to contract with the government without penalty because of their reasonable beliefs about morally contentious issues.”

While employers “should respect the intrinsic dignity” of all workers, Obama’s order “undermines our nation’s commitment to pluralism and religious liberty,” Anderson wrote. The order includes “no protection for organizations that hire based on mission – not on affiliation – to continue to do so,” he said.

The categories covered by the new order differ from those already protected, such as color, national origin, religion and sex, Anderson said. “[S]exual orientation and gender identity are unclear, ambiguous terms. They can refer to voluntary behaviors as well as thoughts and inclinations, and it is reasonable for employers to make distinctions based on actions,” he wrote.

“Sexual orientation” normally encompasses homosexuality and bisexuality, while “gender identity,” or transgender status, includes transsexuals and cross-dressers.

The order does not cover federal grants, which pay for most social services, said Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance. It still could affect religious groups’ likelihood of applying for federal contracts, he said.

Some decisions by religious organizations “will be challenged by the rejected applicant as merely instances of discrimination, so it is predictable [the order] will lead to litigation and also may cause some religious organizations to back away from federal contracting so that their decision-making about sensitive issues of conduct won’t be second-guessed by the courts,” Carlson-Thies told Baptist Press via email.

Not all religious freedom organizations agreed with expanding the religious exemption.

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) joined nearly 100 religious, civil liberties and gay rights organizations in a July 15 letter asking Obama not to include a “special exemption for religiously affiliated contractors” in his order. The groups also urged the president to revoke the exemption ordered by Bush.

“When a religiously affiliated organization makes the decision to request a taxpayer-funded contract with the federal government, it must play by the same rules as every other federal contractor,” the BJC and other organizations wrote.

Obama signed the executive order before supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights gathered at the White House.

After being greeted by a standing ovation, the president told the crowd, “[T]hanks to your passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government – government of the people, by the people, and for the people – will become just a little bit fairer.”

The executive order follows the pattern of a growing number of states, federal contractors and major corporations. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia bar discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Of the 50 largest federal contractors, 86 percent protect “sexual orientation” and 61 percent protect “gender identity,” according to the White House. Among Fortune 500 companies, 91 percent prohibit discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and 61 percent ban discrimination based on “gender identity,” the White House reported.

Advocates for LGBT rights have been unable to convince Congress to pass the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA), which would grant civil rights to all employees on the basis of homosexual, bisexual or transgender status. The U.S. Senate passed ENDA in November, but the House of Representatives has refused to act on it.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

7/22/2014 10:39:31 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Disaster relief teams assist wildfire survivors

July 22 2014 by Kristen Camp, NAMB/Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams began preparing meals and providing shelter on July 20 for families affected by wildfires in Okanogan County, Wash.

The fires began July 14, after lightning struck in Methow Valley and spread to an area of more than 7,000 acres.

The Northwest Baptist Convention is sending feeding units, as well as chaplains, to the affected areas to minister to the families who have been evacuated from their homes. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has sent funding to assist with the effort.
 

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Screen capture from NBCNews.com
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams began preparing meals and providing shelter July 20 for families affected by wildfires in Okanogan County, Wash.

“Right now because the fire is burning in such a way that it is not contained, we can’t do any work that we could normally do to help homeowners,” Fritz Wilson, NAMB disaster relief executive director, said. “We have to wait until they contain the fires. Once the homeowners can get back into their homes, our teams can be in position to help them with disaster relief.”

Approximately 3,000 meals will be prepared each day at Chelan High School and then distributed to families in Pateros, Methow, Carlton, Winthrop and Mazama, according to local officials.

A Level 2 evacuation notice was issued to the city of Twisp, prohibiting meals from being distributed there until the fires have either been contained or have spread to a different location.

“What happens in wildfire situations is that one family may have to evacuate for a short period of time and then they are able to return to their homes. Then another family comes in because the fires move and the evacuations move. So our teams have the opportunity to minister to families from several different areas,” Wilson said.

Beyond feeding fire survivors and first responders, SBDR volunteers will often assist homeowners and local officials with cleanup efforts after the fires have been extinguished. These efforts include helping homeowners sift through the remainder of their homes to find any surviving valuables or mementos.

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 programs.

Southern Baptists have 82,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, 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 – Kristen Camp writes for the North American Mission Board. Mike Ebert and Lindsey Conway contributed to this article.)

7/22/2014 10:29:03 AM by Kristen Camp, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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