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News

Facebook & Apple cover workers’ egg freezing

October 23 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A rise in the single population and the emergence of employers paying for female workers to freeze their eggs may indicate that America has wandered further from biblical sexual morality.
 
“The sexual revolution is the governing principle of our time,” Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press (BP). The refusal of many sexually active people to marry and bear children indicates that “ultimately it’s the god of eros that’s reigning today.”
 
The population of Americans over 16 who are single has eclipsed 50 percent for the first time since the government began compiling such statistics in 1976, Bloomberg reported. That includes 30.4 percent of American adults who have never married and 19.8 percent who are divorced, separated or widowed.
 
Meanwhile, Facebook and Apple have announced they will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs – a move The New York Times said “could be seen as paying women to put off childbearing.”
 
In January Facebook began covering up to $20,000 for female employees to freeze their eggs, the Times reported. Apple told NBC News it will begin covering egg freezing in January 2015, joining companies like Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Microsoft which offer similar benefits.
 
Walker believes the rise of singleness and employer offers of egg freezing are related, both reflecting a devaluation of marriage.
 
God has given some people the gift of singleness as described in 1 Corinthians 7, Walker said, yet a large number of singles are seeking sexual fulfillment outside marriage and refusing to channel their desires in a husband-wife union. The freezing of eggs may indicate that some people want to separate the bearing of children from a one-flesh union between husband and wife, Walker said.
 
“The main reason” marriage is “breaking down is that the goods of marriage” like children and intimacy are now “attainable outside of marriage,” Walker said. When those things “can be attained outside of marriage,” some may ask “why do you need to enter marriage in the first place?”
 
Additionally, Walker fears that employer-paid egg freezing could lead to the destruction of embryos. Often women who freeze their eggs later attempt in vitro fertilization, where sperm is used to fertilize the egg in a laboratory and then a tiny human is implanted in the woman’s uterus. Unless conducted within strict ethical parameters, in vitro fertilization can involve the indefinite freezing of embryos or even their destruction.
 
Although some reports have touted egg freezing as a way to delay child bearing, the Times reported that women under 35 have only a 10 to 12 percent chance of giving birth per egg, and women over 35 have a 6 to 8 percent chance or lower.
 
Egg freezing involves a two-week process of hormone injections and extraction under sedation, The Times reported. Generally it takes another two weeks for the patient to feel back to normal, and a cycle of extraction costs up to $15,000, with many doctors recommending more than one cycle. Storing the eggs costs about $500 per year.
 

‘Consumeristic mindset’

Larry Mayberry, a pastor in New York City, confronts the issues of delayed marriage and child rearing on a regular basis. He told BP his church is attempting to teach singles that marriage is a covenant and not a consumer product.
 
A “consumeristic mindset” common among New York singles “makes it way more difficult to settle down because you only want a mate that can give you ... what [you] think you want,” Mayberry, community pastor at Connection Church in Queens, said.
 
The oldest regular attendee at Connection is 45 and many worshipers are single, especially the women, Mayberry said. He does not believe many New York singles have the biblical gift of singleness but thinks they are distracted from the blessings of family by career, social life and a worldly approach to romance.
 
For one single woman at Connection, surrendering her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior led to a transformed perspective.
 
Before becoming a Christian, “her desire was to move up in her career. Her desire was to get to the top and to do it as quickly as possible. And she was delaying marriage because of that,” Mayberry said.
 
As the woman started to grow in her relationship with Jesus, “she began to see that if she really desired to be married, then she had to make sacrifices. It’s not just getting and getting and getting, but it’s about giving. So just in the last month she and a single man in our church have begun dating with the intent to marry,” Mayberry said.
 
While he did not comment on the bioethical implications of egg freezing, Mayberry said there can be legitimate reasons for Christian couples to delay child rearing, including the desire to provide adequate housing for a family.
 
“Having or not having a child is not a decision one should make solely based on your income,” Mayberry said. “However, if you live in a studio apartment as a young couple and you need to move into a one-bedroom – which may cost as much as $1,000 more a month [in New York] – one of the steps to getting there might be advancing in your career to one more promotion where you can get a raise.”
 
Determining whether delaying children is appropriate for an individual couple should always be done “in unity” within the marriage and “in community” with a local church, Mayberry said. He added that married couples should regard children as a blessing and not a curse.
 

Help for couples

Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, writes in his book What Is the Meaning of Sex? that it can be ethically permissible for couples to delay child bearing. But he notes they should never use a method of birth control that prevents implantation in the womb of a fertilized egg.
 
Burk offers several principles to guide Christian couples. Among them:

  • “Christians must reject the contraceptive mentality that treats pregnancy and children as ‘impositions to be avoided rather than gifts to be received.’“

  • “Each and every marriage act” of intimacy does not need to be aimed at conceiving a child as long as there is a general “openness to children over the course of a marriage.”

  • “Scripture does not order married persons to pursue the largest number of children that could possibly be conceived.”

Like Mayberry, Burk condemns the worldly mindset that regards marriage as a commodity and children as burdens.
 
“A selfish, materialistic mind-set is often blind to the blessings that God offers through children,” Burk writes.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/23/2014 12:22:46 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Former missionary pleads guilty to wire fraud

October 23 2014 by Erich Bridges, IMB/Baptist Press

Former Southern Baptist missionary Brady Nurse pleaded guilty Oct. 21 in a federal court to fraudulently obtaining approximately $300,000 in mission funds over a period of five years while working as a logistics and business coordinator for the International Mission Board (IMB) in Portugal.
 
Nurse, 37, who resigned as a missionary in January, could face up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and an order to make full restitution of the money he took. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2015, by U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer.
 
Nurse and his wife Andrea were appointed IMB missionaries in March 2006. His wire fraud activity was discovered earlier this year by the mission board’s internal auditing procedures. It was reported by the board’s internal auditor and general counsel to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which began a months-long investigation resulting in federal charges against the Montana native. Nurse’s plea agreement was announced Oct. 21 by Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond, Va., and FBI special agent Adam S. Lee after it was accepted by United States Magistrate Judge David J. Novak.

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Brady Nurse

 

Nurse admitted in a statement filed with his plea agreement that he obtained more than $285,000 through 135 fraudulent reimbursement requests from 2008 to 2013 during his time in Portugal and after returning to the United States. In the statement, signed by Nurse and his attorney, he acknowledged that he “routinely altered” amounts on valid documents and invoices submitted on expense reports to increase his reimbursement; “submitted fraudulent, manufactured, and/or duplicated documentation” on expense reports, “falsely represented” quotes and estimates for service from vendors as services actually provided, rather than lower amounts actually charged; altered documentation associated with household shipping charges “to obtain additional benefit from an increase shipping allowance”; and falsely obtained reimbursement for non-reimbursable expenses.
 
After his resignation as a missionary, the statement added, Nurse continued to seek reimbursement for “suspect shipping expenses by false statements submitted to IMB through interstate emails.” He also received nearly $21,000 in additional funds through a clerical error by the board’s benefits department and has yet to return those funds.
 
The mission board became aware in January of “suspicious transactions” by Nurse related to shipping of household items from Portugal to the United States, according to the court document. IMB internal audit staff began a full-scale review of Nurse’s reimbursement requests, comparing them with original documents obtained from Portugal. Results of the internal review were reported to the FBI, which began an investigation.
 
In a statement, IMB General Counsel Derek Gaubatz said:
 
“We are deeply grieved that one sent out to proclaim the free gift of the gospel would violate the sacred trust placed in him by Southern Baptists. IMB believes it is appropriate that Mr. Nurse face accountability for his actions and fully supports his prosecution under federal law. At the same time, IMB takes no joy in that prosecution. IMB is praying for Mr. Nurse and his family that they would experience the mercy of God in a fresh way.
 
“IMB is very thankful for its Internal Audit team that uncovered and put an end to the sophisticated methods used by Mr. Nurse to carry out his scheme. IMB has already put into place even more enhanced accountability measures to prevent similar schemes in the future. IMB takes its role as a steward over Southern Baptist resources given for missions very seriously. While both IMB’s external auditors and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) have independently verified that IMB has robust anti-fraud measures in place, IMB will be seeking their input on any additional measures they would recommend.
 
“Finally, IMB wishes to commend the special agents in the FBI and the professionalism of the US Attorney’s office for their role in bringing resolution to this matter.”
 
In an Oct. 22 message to all missionaries and staff, IMB Executive Vice President Clyde Meador asked for prayer for Nurse, his family and everyone affected by the case.
 
“One of the members of our IMB personnel family has acted in such a way to cause grievous harm to the cause of Christ and furtherance of the gospel in the area where he served,” Meador said. “It is one thing when someone sins and hurts himself, but when the individual takes advantage of the funds and the trust given to him by IMB, it seems much more damaging.”
 
“When family hurts us deeply, a best first reaction is bathing our reaction to the hurt in prayer. God alone can comfort, provide wisdom, and will guide your thoughts and words as you move forward in processing what has happened,” Meador continued. “Please join us in holding this brother up in prayer.... By allowing the federal government access to the facts, we have acted in a biblical manner, and now there is a legal penalty to be paid. We know you will be praying with us for him and those he loves in the coming months and years.”
 
IMB, Southern Baptists’ denominational mission enterprise, has more than 4,800 missionaries serving worldwide.
 
Nurse, originally from Montana, now lives in Washington state, according to court records.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Erich Bridges is the International Mission Board’s global correspondent.)

10/23/2014 12:10:07 PM by Erich Bridges, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



IMB’s Platt reflects on listening, learning

October 22 2014 by Erich Bridges, IMB/Baptist Press

A gathering of Southern Baptist missionaries grappling with what’s working in missions – and what isn’t – welcomed a new colleague to the strategic discussion: International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt.
 
The long-planned conference, held earlier this fall in Asia, came at an ideal time for Platt, 36. The influential pastor, mission mobilizer and Radical author was elected a few weeks earlier by IMB trustees to lead Southern Baptists’ international mission enterprise. Now he’s focused on absorbing the huge amount of knowledge required for his new job. The five-day gathering enabled him to meet with missionaries working in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe – something that might have taken him months or years to do otherwise.
 
“I was encouraged that the Lord orchestrated all of this, that He [brought] all these leaders together at this time of transition to be on the same page together, to study the Word together, to pray together, to worship together, to plan and work together,” Platt said. “I walked away totally energized that God’s doing something unique here – and just overwhelmed that I get to be a part of it.”

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IMB photo by Hugh Johnson
Missionaries surround International Mission Board President David Platt to pray for him as he seeks to mobilize churches. The prayer time came during a meeting in Asia that brought together missionaries to discuss breakthroughs and barriers.

 

Platt went to the five-day conference primarily to “listen” and “learn,” he said. He took full advantage of the opportunity, meeting from dawn until after midnight each day with a wide variety of missionaries, from region-wide strategy leaders to front-line workers. He also spoke to the full gathering several times, laying out his initial priorities as IMB leader. His messages received a warm response from missionaries.
 
“We’ve got great days ahead of us,” one missionary predicted of Platt’s leadership. “David has a passion for the lost that is contagious. It will spread out to other pastors, to churches, to missionaries. Our job is to lead, to mobilize and get out of the way. Let the church do what it was created to do: make disciples among all nations.”
 
During TED-type “up talks,” breakout sessions and small-group circles analyzing specific case studies, Platt joined other conference participants learning about mission breakthroughs that can be applied worldwide – and persistent barriers, or “stuckages,” preventing the advance of the gospel. The goal: to share effective approaches and spread fruitful practices as widely as possible.
 
“As I had this time with brothers and sisters who are serving on the front lines of unreached peoples, it was so encouraging to hear different stories – whether it was training church leaders in East Asia and seeing the gospel spreading through a burgeoning movement of churches there, or hearing from brothers and sisters in South Asia who are seeing a mighty move of God in one of the spiritually darkest places on the planet, or moving down to South America and hearing about what God’s doing in the middle of the Amazon,” Platt said.
 
“Not every place in the world is seeing this mighty move,” he added. “There are other brothers and sisters who are sharing in different places of struggles and hardship. They’re facing walls and barriers. But the gospel is spreading through them and it’s pressing through barriers as we persevere in our praying for them and going alongside them. That was the whole theme of the conference: The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of those who believe. Romans 1:16 is being proved over and over again in all kinds of different places in the world.”
 
An urgency to unleash local churches in missions permeated Platt’s messages during the conference. He outlined the “five desires” he has for mission strategy, a list he also is sharing with International Mission Board staff, Southern Baptists and the wider evangelical Christian community: to exalt Christ globally, the supreme purpose of missions; to mobilize Christians for God’s mission; to serve and equip churches for their biblical purpose of making disciples among all nations; to enable churches to reach every unreached people with the gospel and plant churches among them; and, ultimately, to complete God’s commission to the church.
 
“[I was] thankful for the time that I had to listen, to learn and hopefully to speak and to encourage as well,” Platt said after the conference. “My prayer in the days to come for our IMB family and the churches we are mobilizing is that the Lord would conform us all more and more to His heart, to His Word and His truth ... in seeing His mission accomplished.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent.)

10/22/2014 11:36:32 AM by Erich Bridges, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mark Driscoll speaks for first time after resigning Seattle megachurch

October 22 2014 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

Mark Driscoll is back. Sort of.
 
Days after stepping down as head of Seattle’s Mars Hill megachurch, Driscoll spoke briefly Oct. 20 at the Gateway Conference in suburban Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Initially, he and conference organizers agreed that he would not give a formal address at the conference.
 
But Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church near Dallas, said Driscoll requested to come to the conference as an attendee. “That was big of him to just come and be ministered to,” Morris said.

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Video screenshot
Mark Driscoll addresses participants of the Gateway Conference 2014, an event about leadership and worship and hosted by Gateway Church near Dallas, Texas.

 

“We could crucify him, but since someone’s already been crucified for him … ” Morris said, his voice trailing off. “It’s very sad that in the church, we’re the only army that shoots at our wounded. And I’d like you to stop it.”
 
Driscoll’s resignation came in the wake of accusations of plagiarism, bullying and an oversized ego that alienated some of his most devoted followers. Conference attendees gave Driscoll a standing ovation as Morris handed him the microphone.
 
“What do you want me to do?” Driscoll asked, teasing about the dangers of giving “a microphone to a preacher who’s been gone for a while.”
 
Driscoll spoke for three minutes, telling the crowd that he’s praying for Jesus to show him “blind spots” where he could grow.
 
“There are a lot of things I could say that would make me feel better. I don’t know if it would make me look better, but I don’t think it would make Jesus look better,” he said.
 
Driscoll asked the crowd for prayer for his family of five children, ages 8 to 17. “I’ve cried a lot lately,” he said. “It’s been a rough season for the family.”
 
Driscoll said his family has moved three times, people have been arrested at his home and he has received death threats. Recently, he said, he found rusty nails on his driveway.
 
When his children wanted to camp in the backyard, the family “woke up in the morning about 6:30 or so, and huge rocks about the size of baseballs come flying at my kids,” he said.
 
Days later, Driscoll said, media flew over his house in a helicopter. He said his 8-year-old son came down wearing a military jacket, loading up his Airsoft rifle, asking if his jacket was bulletproof. “He didn’t have any concept of media coverage,” Driscoll said. “He thought it was bad guys coming to kill his family.”
 
Addressing a conference of pastors and church staff, he said: “Every pastor needs a pastor. You pastors, your family needs you to be their pastor.”
 
Morris said that Driscoll had been preaching 50 times a year, sometimes six times a week, which was not healthy. “I’m glad he’s saying, ‘Help me learn to do it differently and do it better.'”
 
Morris joked about how he invited both Driscoll and North Carolina megachurch pastor Steven Furtick to the conference, both of whom “got bad media this year.” Furtick, who was already under fire for buying a $1.6 million house, came under the spotlight for “spontaneous baptisms” that turned out to be not nearly so spontaneous. Driscoll and Furtick smiled and shook hands.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Pulliam Bailey joined RNS as a national correspondent in 2013. She has previously served as managing editor of Odyssey Networks and online editor for Christianity Today.)

10/22/2014 11:30:39 AM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



1% CP Challenge: Learn, pray, give

October 22 2014 by SBC Life, Baptist Press

During October’s Cooperative Program (CP) Emphasis Month on the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) calendar, churches are encouraged to use the “1% Challenge” video as an educational and motivational tool.
 
The 1% CP Challenge “is a succinct way to do something more – an understandable way to say, ‘Yeah, we can do that,’” said Frank S. Page, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee president. “It is understandable, is easily acted upon, and can be done without shifting major sections of a church’s finances.”
 
The month-long emphasis spurs churches to learn about the Cooperative Program and prayerfully consider increasing their contributions to its work.
 
In 2012, 7 percent of cooperating Southern Baptist churches reported they had accepted the 1% CP Challenge in support of missions and ministries led by their state conventions and the SBC, according to a study by LifeWay Research for the Executive Committee, called the 2012 Cooperative Program Omnibus Survey.

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BP graphic
Southern Baptists have worked faithfully through the Cooperative Program for nearly a century to spread the Gospel locally, nationally and globally.
 

In their 2012 Annual Church Profile (ACP) reports, 3,192 churches – 6.93 percent of Southern Baptist churches – showed an increase in the percentage of their missions giving through the Cooperative Program by at least 1 percent, confirming the accuracy of the LifeWay Research survey. One tangible result of this is that the average percentage of undesignated gifts given through the Cooperative Program by Southern Baptists moved up by an encouraging one-tenth of 1 percent from the previous year (5.41 to 5.50 percent).
 
After many years of decline in average CP gifts from churches of about 0.20 percentage points per year, the decline leveled off in 2011 and 2012 (5.407 percent and 5.414 percent, respectively), rising slightly to last year’s 5.50 percent.
 
The Executive Committee commissioned another survey this spring, asking church leaders the same set of questions they were asked in 2012. An additional 8 percent of pastors indicated they plan to lead their churches to accept the 1% CP Challenge in the coming year. If this trend continues, millions of additional dollars will become available for missions and ministry entities to fulfill the tasks Southern Baptists have assigned to them.
 
“The Cooperative Program is not a reservoir that we hold; it’s money that we send through the CP to missions and ministries,” Page said. “It’s exciting to see new pastors, younger pastors, older pastors, ethnic pastors, Anglo pastors, say, ‘You know, it’s time to put more emphasis on the Cooperative Program.’”
 
The Cooperative Program fuels Southern Baptists’ global vision for reaching the nations with the gospel while sustaining a strong home base of ministry, reflecting the driving passion of Southern Baptists since the SBC was formed. If every cooperating Southern Baptist church raised its contributions through the Cooperative Program by 1 percent, the resultant CP gifts would increase by nearly $100 million.
 
This would unleash the state conventions to make a greater impact on lostness in their respective states. It would give the North American Mission Board greater flexibility in its Send North America church planting and evangelism initiatives. It would allow the International Mission Board to send and maintain a larger number of missionaries on the field. It would allow SBC seminaries to explore new delivery systems for ministerial training and graduate-level theological education to make an even greater impact on training pastors and church leaders for effective service. It would assist the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in its continuing mission to engage the broader culture with the claims of Christ and a biblical worldview.
 
Since 1925, more than $5.75 billion has been contributed through the national portion of the Cooperative Program to help fuel Southern Baptist missions and ministry causes of international missions, North American missions, theological education and moral advocacy. This is more than the combined cumulative totals of the Lottie Moon Offering since 1888 and the Annie Armstrong Offering since 1933.
 
Simply put, the 1% CP Challenge has the potential to be the rising tide that raises all the causes that Southern Baptist cooperating churches support. The Cooperative Program, as Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving, remains the fuel that drives the missions and ministries of the convention.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – SBC LIFE is the journal of the SBC’s Executive Committee. Visit sbclife.net.)

10/22/2014 11:24:43 AM by SBC Life, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Supreme Court reopens Texas abortion clinics

October 22 2014 by Bonnie Pritchett/Southern Baptist TEXAN

A lawsuit challenging abortion regulations in Texas is being fast-tracked through the appeals process and most likely will go to the U.S. Supreme Court, with attorneys for both sides navigating uncharted legal waters.
 
As Whole Woman’s Health v. Lakey is bandied in the appeals process, Texas abortion clinics have closed and now reopened since Sept. 1, the date when the House Bill 2 (HB 2) was scheduled to go into effect. In the latest iteration, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in mid-October that HB 2 cannot go into effect while two key provisions are under appeal.
 
The case is now being expedited. Briefs should be filed before year’s end and oral arguments heard as early as January before the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, according to Denise Burke, an attorney and vice president for legal affairs for Americans United for Life, a nonprofit organization that drafts pro-life public policy and law.
 
Burke told the Southern Baptist TEXAN she is confident the contested provisions can stand up to the appellate court’s scrutiny. But she would not presume to “read the tea leaves” about a Supreme Court ruling based on its five-sentence Oct. 14 statement vacating a Fifth Circuit ruling to allow enforcement of the law, enacted in July 2013.
 
The Supreme Court statement named the dissenting justices, an unusual move when considering emergency applications, with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voting to deny the hearing. A majority decision to deny would have left the Fifth Circuit’s Oct. 2 judgment in place that allowed enforcement of the law, closing all but eight abortion clinics in Texas.
 
Some of the clinics forced to close Oct. 3 due to full implementation of the law began to open again following the high court ruling.
 
The Supreme Court ruling reinstated an injunction imposed by federal Judge Lee Yeakel Aug. 29 halting the implementation of a provision requiring abortion clinics meet ambulatory service center (ASC) standards.
 
Only four other states have a similar provision. Missouri’s law was challenged and upheld. Alabama and Pennsylvania ASC laws have not been challenged. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, will likely succeed in rolling back the provision in that state, Burke said.
 
Abortion providers claim the ASC regulations – like the rest of HB 2 – are unnecessary and created solely to make operating abortion clinics in Texas untenable. But Burke said the provision forces clinics to operate according to the same standards as other outpatient clinics in Texas.
 
Americans United for Life is working with state legislators in Texas and other states to draft laws establishing inspection guidelines. Failure to adequately inspect abortion clinics in Pennsylvania led to the atrocities of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder in May 2013 for killing babies born alive in his Philadelphia abortion clinic. That state’s ASC law, established in the wake of the Gosnell controversy, most likely will not be challenged in order to avoid bringing to light the lax inspection standards, Burke said.
 
“The fight isn’t over, but today we are relieved,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, owner of Whole Woman’s Health and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, tweeted Oct. 15 after the Supreme Court ruling.
 
The post included her statement from a New York Times article, “Our entire Whole Woman’s Health team is bruised and battered from the year of battle, but today we all know in our hearts and minds that it has been worth it. Tonight, our reality in Texas was recognized by SCOTUS and they ruled on the side of Texas women.”
 
Hagstrom and other abortion proponents charge the ASC laws are purely political and created, not with women’s health care in mind but with the goal of closing clinics.
 
In the Texas lawsuit, Yeakel also ruled the admitting privileges requirement could not be applied to two clinics in McAllen and El Paso. The combined impact of both provisions forced the closure of the two far-flung clinics imposing an “undue burden” for women seeking abortions in those regions of the state the judge argued.
 
“The courts have struggled since [Planned Parenthood vs. Casey] with ‘undue burden’,” Burke said, referring to the 1992 Supreme Court case establishing the term.
 
The court’s invention of the term “has created an unworkable standard,” Burke said. Judges, establishing their own interpretation of the subjective term, have issued a myriad of rulings with a host of meanings for “undue burden.” Burke predicted that somewhere along the HB 2 appeals process the court is going to be asked for a concise definition.
 
Burke said courts also might consider access to abortion facilities outside a state when quantifying undue burden. In assessing Yeakel’s undue burden conclusion, the Fifth Circuit’s three judges did not consider the fact that women in El Paso can drive 50 miles to the newly opened Whole Woman’s Health abortion clinic across the border in Las Cruces, N.M. Instead they chose to consider the impact of the law only as it applies within Texas.
 
Similarly, the same court did not consider the ability of Mississippi women to obtain an abortion in nearby states when they refused to apply that state’s admitting privileges law earlier this year. Application of the law would have closed Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

10/22/2014 11:14:58 AM by Bonnie Pritchett/Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



Mud Creek seeks racial reconciliation

October 21 2014 by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor

Mud Creek Baptist Church and Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church share the same name because of a local creek that runs through Henderson County. Yet, the three miles now separating these two churches once had a racist past leading to a congregational split.
 
Greg Mathis has been pastor at Mud Creek Baptist Church for 35 years, and he had heard stories about the church split. He began searching church minutes after the Civil War, and it was then that he discovered some horrible details about some racism expressed against its African-American members. According to the minutes Mathis found, the sixth order of business in April 1867 deemed that Mud Creek’s African-American members “be allowed” the two back pews on the men’s side when the church wasn’t full.

 
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Times News Photo by Patrick Sullivan
James Roberts, from left, pastor of Fairmont Missionary Baptist Church in Asheville, Greg Mathis, pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, and Matthew Tollison Sr., pastor of Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church in Hendersonville, talk about a framed copy of Mud Creek Baptist Church’s apology for racist acts following the Civil War that caused black church members to form Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church. 

A month later, African-American members left to organize Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Church. They didn’t have an official place to worship until 1933 when they moved to their current location in East Flat Rock.
 
Matthew Tollison Sr., pastor of Mud Creek Missionary Baptist for 19 years, said he was shocked when he received a formal apology letter from Mathis.
 
In the letter, Mathis says, “I am ashamed of some of the past history between our churches, and I know that Christ was not pleased. … The Bible makes it abundantly clear that followers of Christ must exercise no discrimination toward other human beings because of skin color. We are all a part of the human race and should treat each other that way.”
 
Tollison and Mathis plan on framing and hanging the letter in conspicuous areas in each of the churches.
Mud Creek Baptist Church hosted a special service Oct. 12 to address racism and racial reconciliation. Mathis, continuing a sermon series called, “What a Christian Should Look Like,” opened the service saying that whites don’t always see through the eyes of those who’ve experienced racism.
 
In a video interview between Tollison and Mathis, Tollison said that even though strides against racism in America have been made, it’s still real.
 
Mathis also interviewed James Roberts, pastor of Fairmont Missionary Baptist Church in Asheville. Roberts told a story about a few altercations between whites and blacks in the days of segregation. While he was a medical professional, he had to take care of the very people who mistreated him. We had “to nurse them [whites] back to health. So, God must’ve had something in me during that time to love the individual and not the ‘ways.’”
 
Eric Gash, Hendersonville High School football coach and former NFL player, told Mathis about his first real encounter with racism.
 
He said, “It was my sophomore year in high school and we went from 3A down to 1A, and we had to play Rosemont. … At halftime we were beating them 7-0 or 14-0, and coming off the field a lot of the parents were there, and they were dropping a lot of obscenities – the ‘N’ word, curse words and things like that. That was like a rallying cry for us and we ended up bonding stronger and winning the football game. As we were leaving, they were throwing rocks at the bus and that shook me a bit,” because Gash had never experienced prejudice like that first-hand before.
 
In his sermon, Mathis said racism comes in many forms – it can be racial, geographic or religious. “If that’s who you are … then you’re either ignorant of what the Bible says, you’re misguided because of a misguided culture that you maybe grew up in, you’re ‘backslidden,’ or you’ve never really been saved. “I want to say very boldly, biblical and spiritually today that it’s absolutely a sin … if you have racism in your heart,” Mathis said.
 
In the apology letter to Mud Creek Missionary Baptist, Mathis closed saying, “We humbly and contritely seek racial reconciliation with you and your congregation.
 
“I want us to lead our congregations to do even more together, beginning with biblical reconciliation. I concur with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: ‘A person should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character!’ As we strive to live the new nature of Christ and lead our congregations to do the same, let’s move forward together as one race, the human race!”

10/21/2014 12:41:46 PM by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Floyd: Stand up for Houston pastors

October 21 2014 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

Baptists must let their voices be heard, said Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd.
 
Floyd is one of several speakers from across the nation slated to speak Nov. 2 at the “I Stand Sunday” simulcast hosted by Family Research Council and other partners. The event is being held in response to five Houston ministers being issued subpoenas by the city’s attorney to turn over sermons and other pastoral communications.
 
Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, responded on his blog Oct. 20 to news reports involving the ministers and how he believes America’s religious freedom is being challenged. The city’s actions remain a “blatant example of governmental overreach,” Floyd noted – even if the word “sermons” was struck from the subpoenas on Oct. 17.
 
“Regardless of the nature of communications they want from the pastors and churches, this … is a clear attempt to silence the voice of the Church in Houston, Texas, America, and the world,” Floyd wrote.
 
The free live simulcast, to be held at Grace Church in Houston, will focus on “the freedom to live out our faith free of government intrusion or monitoring,” the website istandsunday.com said.
 
“We will stand with pastors and churches in Houston, Texas, who have been unduly intimidated by the city’s mayor in demanding they hand over private church communication,” the site said.
 
Among others slated to speak: former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Duck Dyanasty’s Phil and Alan Robertson, Todd Starnes of Fox News and Vision America President Rick Scarborough. The list of speakers also includes David and Jason Benham, whose show – scheduled to air this fall on the Home & Garden Television network – was canceled in May after the Benhams’ Christian views on abortion and same-sex marriage were publicized by gay activists.
 
Religious liberty is one issue Baptists must not be silent on, Floyd said in his blog.
 
“Southern Baptist family, we must rise up together and be clear in Houston and beyond,” he said. “While many in mainline denominations will shy away from this discussion, and some evangelicals may also be silent, as Baptists, we must rise up and be very clear.”
 
Pointing to the Baptist Faith and Message, Floyd stated Southern Baptists “believe that the state owes every church protection and freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual end.”
 
Floyd added, “God alone is the Lord of the conscience, and government has no right to manipulate or intimidate any of us regarding religious conviction and practice.
 
“Southern Baptists have always stood tall for religious liberty. Our heritage is stacked high with heroes who have stood in tough times, defending religious liberty. We defend religious liberty at home and across the world.”
 
On Oct. 17, Baptist Press reported Baptists – even those firmly divided on various theological issues – were united by Houston Mayer Annise Parker’s subpoenas to a group of pastors who opposed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, known as HERO to the measure’s supporters.
 
In HERO, the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” have been added to a list of protected classifications, such as race, religion, sex and disability.
 
Opponents of the Houston ordinance, according to news reports, are concerned it will violate the religious freedom of business owners and others who disagree with the measure. They also fear it will make women and children vulnerable to sexual predators by permitting people to use public restrooms of the gender they identify with rather than those of their natural gender.
 
Floyd urged Baptist to express support and commit to pray for the five ministers who are involved in the subpoenas by using #4Houston5 through social media.
 
For more information and updates on “I Stand Sunday” and how your church can get involved, go to http://www.istandsunday.com. See Floyd’s full blog post here.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)

 

Related Stories:

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Houston subpoenas pastors’ sermons

10/21/2014 12:31:45 PM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SEBTS launches 5-year B.A./M.Div. degree

October 21 2014 by SEBTS Communications

Students preparing for the pastorate at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) now have the opportunity to earn a bachelor of arts (B.A.) and master of divinity (M.Div.) in five years.
 
The Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Family Foundation, Inc. has awarded a grant of $500,000 to SEBTS toward the implementation of the new pastoral degree program.
 
The Kern Family Foundation is committed to “educating future and existing pastors about the importance of work in developing people’s character, affirming their dignity, sustaining them and helping them flourish.”
 
Daniel Akin, president of SEBTS, said, “For more than 60 years now, SEBTS has been preparing men for pastoral ministry. As we continually seek to expand and improve our offerings, we became aware of the need to offer a degree track that allows a young man to receive both his B.A. and his M.Div. over the course of only five years.”
 
Students in the program will receive direct leadership, encouragement, mentoring and oversight throughout their undergraduate and graduate studies.
 
The program will include a speaking series focused on pastoral leadership to provide students focused opportunities to interact with proven and experienced pastors, denominational leaders and business leaders.

 

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SEBTS photo by Maria Estes
Students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary now have the opportunity to finish a bachelor of arts and master of divinity within five years.

Eighteen hours dedicated to the graduate level will be earned in the local church ministry context under the supervision of the Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching at Southeastern.   
 
John Ewart, director of the Spurgeon Center, said, “This allows the student called to be a pastor to zero in on those subjects and practical areas that best equip him to serve the church. The program features major field-based training that will give the student great experience in the crucible of real ministry. I wish this opportunity had existed when I was younger.”
 
“This program cuts through these barriers and moves the student through a high quality training process more quickly and efficiently. We need to train our students well but we also need to push them through and out. Our churches and our world need these well-trained leaders.”
 
In addition to the classroom curriculum, students will be encouraged to pursue ministry experiences during the program, resulting in 33 credits of field ministry.
 
Keith Whitfield, associate vice president for institutional effectiveness and faculty communications, said, "This is a laser-focused program for the student called to pastoral ministry. Through directed mentoring, students will develop the pastoral character and the teaching and leadership skills needed to lead their church to be a Great Commission church." 
 
Participants will be expected to articulate God’s call into the field of pastoral ministry, demonstrate character traits essential for ministry and leadership in the church, and show the ability to think critically, argue persuasively and communicate clearly.
 
Chuck Lawless, vice president for graduate studies and ministry centers at SEBTS, said, “If I were an undergraduate student studying theology, this possibility would certainly grab my attention. Earning a focused degree with a solid theological base, significant practical training and a pastoral advisor to shepherd me through the process would be exactly what I would want.”  
 
The tuition savings for Southern Baptist students would be $10,000 not including living expenses saved due to the abbreviated time frame.
 
“This program costs the student less money, gets him into full-time ministry two or three years earlier than otherwise, and doesn’t lower the bar in any way academically,” Akin said. “This is a welcome opportunity for students to receive the best training and ministry preparation while minimizing some of the obstacles they face in preparing for God’s calling.”
 
The Kern family believes healthy local churches led by capable, committed pastors can transform the moral fabric of society. For this reason, the Foundation has implemented programs to increase the number of talented young people pursuing a high-quality theological and pastoral education.
 
Grant funds for this initiative will be used to support a program coordinator, program assistant, the marketing of the program, student scholarships and student developmental activities.
 
Students will be eligible for dual enrollment with a minimum 3.25 GPA and 60 baccalaureate credit hours. The purpose of this cohort model and curriculum is to enhance and accelerate ministry preparation for students.
 
While concurrently enrolled in both degrees, students may receive 30 hours of undergraduate credit by competency exams and students will receive a total of 207 credit hours.
 
In order to remain enrolled in the concurrent program, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA and meet all non-credit character and program activity requirements for the program.
 
To learn more about this degree program, please contact the program coordinator, Stephen Wade, at swade@sebts.edu.  

 

10/21/2014 12:08:59 PM by SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Idaho ministers sue to prevent gay weddings at chapel

October 21 2014 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

The owners of an Idaho wedding chapel have filed suit against officials in Coeur d’Alene, claiming that the city is unconstitutionally forcing them to violate their religious beliefs by performing same-sex marriages or face possible fines and jail time.
 
The state’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge earlier this year; the Supreme Court refused to consider Idaho’s appeal on Oct. 10, making the conservative state one of more than 30 states, along with the District of Columbia, to marry gay and lesbian couples.
 
Pastors have raised concerns about being forced to conduct same-sex weddings, though most experts call that concern a red herring. The lawsuit in Idaho raises a larger question of whether ordained ministers who run a for-profit business conducting weddings can be required to conduct same-sex weddings under nondiscrimination laws.
 
Donald and Evelyn Knapp are ordained ministers who run The Hitching Post, a chapel in Coeur d’Alene, where they conduct weddings. They say in a lawsuit that they can’t provide same-sex weddings because it’s “something forbidden by their religious beliefs and ordination vows.”

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HitchingpostWeddings.com photo
Don and Lynn Knapp, owners of The Hitching Post, have filed suit against officials in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, claiming the city is unconstitutionally forcing them to violate their religious beliefs by performing same-sex marriages or face possible fines and jail time.

 

A 2013 Coeur d’Alen ordinance bans discrimination, including based on sexual orientation, in places of public accommodation. Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and jail time.
 
Religious entities are exempt from the city ordinance, as they often are from discrimination ordinances. But earlier this year, city attorney Warren Wilson said that the for-profit wedding chapel would likely be required to follow the ordinance.
 
“If you turn away a gay couple, refuse to provide services for them, then in theory you violated our code and you’re looking at a potential misdemeanor citation,” Wilson told a local television station, KXLY.
 
Similar laws have been applied to florists, bakeries and photographers that have refused to work on same-sex weddings in other states, Wilson told the local newspaper, The Spokesman Review: “I think that term is broad enough that it would capture (wedding) activity.”
 
A man recently called the chapel to ask about a same-sex wedding ceremony and was declined, the lawsuit says. The chapel owners are ordained by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, a Pentecostal denomination.
 
On Oct. 17, an Arizona-based religious liberty group, Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order, arguing that applying the ordinance to the Knapps’ situation would be unconstitutional and would violate Idaho’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
 
Eugene Volokh, who blogs for The Washington Post, believes the ministers will ultimately be entitled to an exemption under Idaho’s RFRA.
 
“Perhaps some might feel offended by such a statement of religious rejection, but I don’t think there can be a compelling government interest in shielding people from such rejections when it comes to the performance of ceremonies,” Volokh wrote. “Note that, if the law can be applied against the Knapps, public accommodation laws could also equally be applied to ministers who provide freelance officiating services in exchange for money.”
 
After the Supreme Court struck down the central provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act last year, President Obama called for the equal treatment of Americans under the law, as well as a commitment to religious freedom.
 
“How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions,” Obama said. “Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Pulliam Bailey joined RNS as a national correspondent in 2013. She has previously served as managing editor of Odyssey Networks and online editor for Christianity Today.)

10/21/2014 11:58:56 AM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



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