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Craig James: Fox Sports not ‘above the law’

August 5 2015 by Baptist Press staff

College football analyst Craig James has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against Fox Sports alleging he was fired from a broadcasting position because of his Christian belief that homosexuality is sinful.
 
“This case is much bigger than me,” James said according to a press release from Liberty Institute, the Christian legal organization representing him. “It affects every person who holds religious beliefs. I will not let Fox Sports trample my religious liberty. Today, many people have lost their jobs because of their faith. Sadly, countless are afraid to let their bosses know they even have a faith. This is America and I intend to make sure Fox Sports knows they aren’t above the law.”
 
After being hired by Fox Sports Southwest in 2013, James, a former NFL running back, worked one game and then was fired. A redacted copy of the lawsuit posted online by Liberty Institute states, “When James asked, Defendants identified one – and only one – reason for terminating James: his beliefs about marriage, which are explicitly religious in nature.”
 
Eric Shanks, president of Fox Sports, said in a 2014 deposition that James’ on-air performance had nothing to do with the decision to terminate him.
 
In response to James’ firing, a Fox Sports spokesman told the Dallas Morning News in 2013, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements [about homosexuality] would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”
 
James made the statements at issue during a debate as he campaigned for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in 2012 – a seat eventually won by Ted Cruz. In response to a question about civil unions, James said, “I’m a guy that believes in a man and a woman ... Adam and Eve, and what the Bible says,” according to a transcript of the debate.
 
In response to a follow-up question, James said he believes individuals choose to be gay, adding homosexuals are “gonna have to answer to the Lord for their actions.” James concluded, “As Christians we gotta stand up.”
 
The lawsuit seeks “monetary relief of $100,000 or more” plus punitive damages, attorney’s fees and a declaration that the firing was illegal.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/5/2015 11:54:39 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Once-dying church renews mission

August 5 2015 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Ione Baptist Church, in a rural village within minutes of both Canada and Idaho, dwindled to perhaps 20 members during the two years it was without a pastor.
 
Though the church had been organized by Southern Baptists in 1961, there was no Sunday School, no hands-on missions activity and no connection with the Inland Empire Baptist Association that serves the area when he accepted the church’s call, said Mike Smith, pastor at Ione since July 2013 and incoming moderator for the association.
 
“One of the first things we had to address was that [Ione Baptist Church] had no idea of Southern Baptist work and they were not giving to missions through the Cooperative Program,” said Smith. “The first thing we had to do was to educate them on what it meant to be Southern Baptist. We had several Sunday nights’ training on the Cooperative Program and what made us Southern Baptist: understanding the autonomy of the local church, missionary zeal and cooperative spirit.”
 
The Cooperative Program is the mechanism Southern Baptists churches use to support state, national and international ministries and missions.
 
“We cannot be missional if we are not obedient, and we cannot be obedient if we are not faithful in our stewardship and our giving,” Smith said. “That’s where the Cooperative Program comes in. That’s where we’re going to make our biggest impact. We can do more together than we can apart or individually.”

 
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Photo courtesy of Ione Baptist Church
Membership at Ione Baptist Church in Ione, Wash. had dwindled to 20 before its new pastor, Mike Smith, transformed the congregation through discipleship, missions and giving to the Cooperative Program

Under the leadership of Smith and his wife Audrey, an International Mission Board trustee who chairs the church missions committee, Ione Baptist Church now gives at least 10 percent of undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, is an active part of its association, and has adopted an unreached people group in Africa, while continuing its work at home.
 
“We started Sunday School with video-driven curriculum – taught by Dr. Adrian Rogers – trained and staffed leaders, and now we have five classes up and running,” Smith said. “We also wanted to start encouraging the congregation to have a missions heart. We got here in July, started training [for a missions trip] in January, and took them last summer to Medford, Ore. We carried 21 there, from age 12 to 80, and we’re still hearing about it.”
 
For that trip, the Smiths received a “Faithful Sowers Award” in 2014 from the Northwest Baptist Convention. An upcoming mission trip to a church “east of Spokane” is to help that congregation become revitalized, Smith’s particular area of expertise.
 
The Ione Baptist congregation “has really adopted a missions heart; they’re really lit up about it,” Smith said. “We’re running to keep up with God.”
 
The members, who in two years have gone through three intensive studies on prayer, decided they wanted to build a “missions center” on the church property, and planned to spend the next two years raising construction funds. But last July, they were offered a house next door to the church to be used as a missions center called House of Hope.
 
They had prayed for construction money; God provided a house that needed no construction.
 
“We now have more ministries than I can count being led by our members serving their Lord,” Smith said. “Since last November the mission center has been utilized more than 2,000 hours, and 34 volunteers have been trained. It has really made an impact on the community.”
 
Among ministries are a home repair outreach, a food pantry, family counseling, tutoring, music lessons, and classes in such subjects as needlepoint, artwork and cooking.
 
“God has allowed us to set [Ione Baptist members] free,” Smith said. “We asked them, ‘What is it that you want to do, love to do, are gifted to do?’ and it’s them who came up with the outreaches. One said, ‘I love to paint;’ she is teaching adults and sharing the gospel. A cooking class, with so many opportunities to help families learn to live within their income. And everyone who comes in the door leaves having been prayed over, and love expressed to them. It’s just outreach after outreach and all of them include sharing the gospel.”
 
The cooking class plans to prepare the annual Christmas party for pastors and their wives in the Inland Empire association, and they have been asked by a struggling sister church to help them host a “thank you” dinner for the community’s first responders. Two nearby churches have asked Ione Baptist to teach them how to start, grow and minister through food pantries.
 
“With our giving to missions through the Cooperative Program, missions fund, mission trips and missions house, over half of everything that comes in the door goes out in missions,” Smith said. “That’s the heart of the people. They have a recognition of the darkness, and they have a passion to bring light to that darkness.
 
“... This valley [Ione, Wash.] has been so neglected for years with the gospel it’s almost like a foreign mission field,” Smith said. “There is a very active wiccan and satanic group here. Our people are beginning to understand the spiritual warfare. The struggle is not only against the darkness, against the lostness, but also against the apathy and laziness of the status quo.”
 
The schools provide Ione Baptist’s major opportunity.
 
“We have many opportunities to tutor after school, provide family counseling for families coming out of the school, and we love to show our appreciation to the school staff for all they do for our community,” Smith said.
 
About 60 people now participate in Sunday morning worship; 31 have been baptized in the two years of Smith’s pastorate.
 
“One of the things we believe and instill in our people is that God saves us to use us,” Smith said. “That’s become the mantra here. We’ve also had people leave because you can’t just sit in our services and be a pew potato. Those who stay understand they’re going to be used; they’re going to serve.”
 
There’s no secret to revitalizing a church, Smith said.
 
“Beginning with yourself, you have to fall in love all over again with Jesus,” he said, citing Matthew 22:37-39, Deuteronomy 6 and Joshua 22:5 as the main scriptures he uses in church revitalization. “He must increase; we must decrease. That’s heaven’s math.
 
“... We are living proof of a loving God to a watching world. When we discover how to live out God’s dream, nothing is impossible.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen Willoughby is a writer based in Mapleton, Utah.)

8/5/2015 11:44:45 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



CP 1.4 percent ahead of budget projection

August 5 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee have exceeded $158 million, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee (EC) President Frank S. Page.
 
July’s Cooperative Program allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $15,808,270.90, bringing the total to $158,859,518.38 received by the Executive Committee through 10 months of the fiscal year (October 1 through July 31). The year-to-date total for distribution through the SBC’s Cooperative Program Allocation Budget is $2,192,851.71, or 1.40 percent, above the $156,666,666.67 year-to-date CP projection for support of Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. It is $4,945,028.86, or 3.21 percent, more than the $153,914,489.52 received through the first 10 months of 2014.
 
Designated year-to-date giving of $185,610,814.48 is 0.62 percent, or $1,145,711.26, above the $184,465,103.22 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee through close of business on July 31 and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (IMB), the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions (NAMB), Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief and other special gifts. Designated gifts received during July amounted to $9,303,815.54.
 
The totals include money received by the Executive Committee from 42 cooperating state Baptist conventions as well as contributions from churches and individuals through the last business day of July.
 
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the SBC with a single contribution to its state convention.
 
State conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the CP to support work in their respective states and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.
 
Month-to-month receipts often reflect significant swings based on a number of factors, including the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted, the timing of when cooperating state conventions forward the national portion of CP contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, and the number of Sundays in a given month.
 
The adopted SBC allocation budget projection for 2014-2015 is $188,000,000 and is distributed as follows: 50.41 percent to support nearly 4,800 overseas personnel with the IMB, 22.79 percent to help fuel North American evangelism and church planting through NAMB, 22.16 percent to help underwrite low-cost ministerial preparation and theological education through six SBC seminaries, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to promote biblical morality and religious freedom through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
 
CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at cpmissions.net/CPReports.

8/5/2015 11:41:00 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Send Conf. attendees share missions focus

August 4 2015 by Joe Conway, NAMB

Less than 24 hours before the start of the sold out 2015 Send North America Conference, Esther Fasolino had one word for why she was attending, “Missions!”
 
“We’ve come to learn,” said Fasolino, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Toronto. “The breakout topics are fantastic.” Fellow Toronto resident Ivonne Anlar said their group of 12 would spread out among the diverse breakout session offerings to maximize their coverage.
 
“We want to share the experience with as many people as we can,” Anlar said.
 
The conference, hosted at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Aug. 3-4, is sponsored by the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. The number of participants plus volunteers was expected to top 14,000.
 
Among those picking up their registration packets Sunday were the Alvir family from Morehead City, N.C. Merari Alvir is a church planter launching a bilingual church in the Outer Banks community. He and wife Jessica brought their two oldest daughters, Jessari and Helen, to experience the gathering.

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NAMB photo by John Swain 
Some of the 14,000 participants and volunteers at the 2015 Send North America Conference await registration for the event at Nashville Bridgestone Arena. The two-day missions event is sponsored by the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. Platform speakers for the event include Louie Giglio, J.D. Greear, Eric Mason and David Platt.

 

“We’ve been involved in ministry 20 years,” said Alvir, a native of Guatemala. “We came to be prepared to do missions. We want to plant a bilingual church and were struck with the need for Hispanic church plants in the United States.”
 
Alvir said the family just returned from their annual mission trip to Guatemala. He and his wife, a daughter of missionaries, strive to broaden their daughters’ call to missions and to keep up their language skills.
 
“We expect to be revitalized by the conference,” Alvir said. “We expect to embrace the calling of mission[s] on our lives. We want to make disciples and plant churches and want that in the DNA of the churches we plant. We want it in our daughters’ DNA.”
 
Just a block away from early registration, hundreds of volunteers were gathering in preparation for hosting attendees at the event.
 
“We want to help people find their mission,” said 18-year-old volunteer Kaden Davis, a member of First Baptist Church, Waynesboro, Tenn. “God has called us and we are to be on mission. We want to help people be on mission, too. We expect to see God’s Spirit move among the people here. It is exciting.”
 
At a Sunday briefing, Send Conference executive director Aaron Coe reminded event volunteers that just five short years ago a missions gathering like the Send Conference was only a dream. Coe said approximately 280 pastors are registered bringing some 8,200 members from their congregations.
 
“This conference is about aligning our lives behind God’s plan to advance His kingdom,” Coe said. “We want to change the conversation and help people understand they are the ministers. God wants to use each one of these people to share the gospel with their neighbors and friends. I can’t wait to see what God will do.”
 
The conference has drawn church members and leaders from all 50 states and four Canadian provinces. The main sessions will be held in the Bridgestone Arena. Breakout sessions will be hosted in the Music City Center and the Renaissance and Omni Nashville hotels.
 
There will be three stations for next steps in the venues where participants can respond to missions callings. A six-week, next steps Bible study will launch through the Send North America Network on Monday, Aug. 10. The Bible study will be supported with videos and blog posts.
 
Learn more about the Send North American Conference at sendconference.com. To explore missions and church planting through NAMB, visit namb.net/mobilize-me. Discover more about global missions at imb.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)
 

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8/4/2015 12:08:46 PM by Joe Conway, NAMB | with 0 comments



Bombs at 2 New Mexico churches halt services

August 4 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Small bombs exploded within minutes of each other Aug. 2 at two Las Cruces, N.M., churches – including a Southern Baptist congregation – cancelling Sunday morning services and necessitating evacuations at other churches across the city.
 
No one was hurt in the explosions that caused minimal damage at Calvary Baptist Church, 1800 S. Locust St., and Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1327 N. Miranda St., the Associated Press (AP) reported. No arrests had been made as of today, Aug. 3, but New Mexico state police described the bombs as improvised explosive devices, IEDs, designed to cause harm.
 
About 50 worshippers had already gathered for the 8:30 a.m. traditional service at Calvary Baptist Church when the bomb exploded at 8:20 a.m. in a mailbox attached to the building, Scott Rodgers, pastor of core groups, told Baptist Press.
 
Worshippers remained calm as police arrived and evacuated Calvary Baptist, ushering individuals to the church’s south parking lot, Rodgers said. He preached the Sunday morning service in the parking lot, as youth arts pastor Gregg Higgins led music. But the 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. services were cancelled, as police blocked adjacent streets while investigating the crime.
 
Church members are doing well, Rodgers said, and a licensed professional counselor within the congregation has made himself available if needed.
 
“Each church member that I’ve spoken to [has] given praise to God for how He protected us,” Rodgers said, “and recognizing what little we do know about the device, we’re very grateful that God has protected us and not a single person was hurt, not in the slightest.”
 
Mass had already convened at Holy Cross Catholic Church when a bomb exploded in a plastic trash can outside a church window around 8:40 a.m., A.P. reported, as 200 were preparing for communion. The bomb damaged a glass entryway, and parishioners exited a separate door.
 
Several churches in Las Cruces ended or cancelled Sunday services after the explosions, Albuquerque Journal News reported.
 
Newly hired Calvary Baptist pastor Kevin Glenn, former pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Columbia, Mo., was spending his first Sunday in Las Cruces in preparation for his new pastorate.
 
“Fortunately, I’ve been able to deal with other security issues at churches in the past,” Glenn said. “You never like to have experiences like that, but that’s allowed me to really know what the next steps are going to be for us at Calvary, to make some adjustments and increase some awareness on ways that we can make the campus more secure and help folks to understand we can worship faithfully and freely but also have our eyes open and be vigilant.”
 
The crimes are already uniting the community in prayer, as dozens attended an interfaith prayer vigil Aug. 2 at Pioneer Park. Glenn and Monsignor John Anderson of the Catholic congregation have discussed tentative thoughts for an ecumenical ministry outreach in response to the bombings.
 
“It has really pulled the faith community of Las Cruces together,” Glenn said, “and there are a lot of people praying at this time for safety and for the folks that did it to be brought to justice, but also that whatever it was that motivated such hate would be overcome with peace.”
 
Multiple state and federal agencies are involved in the investigation, including New Mexico State Police, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
 
New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez has said those guilty of bombing the churches “will feel the full pressure of the law.”
 
God’s presence was evident as the Sunday service approached, Rodgers said.
 
“I had studied for a sermon for three days and got up on Saturday morning and sensed that the Lord was saying that that’s not what I needed to preach on Sunday,” Rodgers said. “And so He took me to the story of David and Goliath and led me to see how important it is that whenever we’re faced with a difficult circumstance, that we not look at the size of our situation, but we look at the size of our God.”
 
Rodgers estimated combined Sunday morning attendance at Calvary Baptist is normally about 400.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

8/4/2015 12:04:25 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Younger Southern Baptists seek less partisan stance

August 4 2015 by Christine Wicker, Religion News Service

As Southern Baptists prepare to interview Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 4, a group of mostly younger pastors is challenging the methods used by the old religious right and urging a broader agenda and more qualified support for the Republican Party.
 
“There’s a whole generation of guys coming up saying we’re tired of being the lapdogs of the GOP and, worse than that, being tossed away like a Kleenex after the election is over,” said Ryan Abernathy, 40, teaching pastor at West Metro Community Church in Yukon, Okla.
 
“I know a ton of people saying we should no longer be blindly giving our allegiance to one political party.”
 
The group is fledgling and includes few prominent names, but it made itself known in June when bloggers successfully pressured Southern Baptist leaders to cancel a speech that Republican presidential contender and Seventh-day Adventist Ben Carson was to make at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual pastors’ conference.

 
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Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney walks to his campaign plane with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), second left, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), second right, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), far right, after a campaign rally in Tampa, Fla., on October 31, 2012. 

To be sure, political firefights and name-calling aren’t generally the style for young pastors, but on this issue they feel they have an important case to make.
 
“Religious right methods rested on the idea that evangelicals were part of an American moral majority, and often came across as triumphalist,” said Matt Capps, 33, senior pastor of Fairview Baptist in Apex, N.C. “In contrast many evangelicals under 30 see themselves as representing ‘kingdom outposts in a broken world.’”
 
One reason these younger pastors are backing away from partisan engagement is because of social media, said Bart Barber, 45, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas.
 
“It’s no longer possible to talk about people as though they aren’t there. You have to speak as though they are in the same room with you, because they are,” he said. “Anything you say is likely to end up on social media and be commented on by a whole army of bloggers.”
 
Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, was forced to defend his decision to host interviews with presidential contenders Bush and Rubio at the Send North America Conference, which began Aug 3.
 
“I look forward to having conversations with all the candidates, of both parties,” Moore responded. The commission invited only those leading in the polls when invitations were issued in May. Scott Walker and Hillary Clinton were also invited to speak to the crowd of 13,000 evangelicals but declined to participate.
 
Moore, who is himself part of a younger generation of Southern Baptist ministers, is looked up to by the group precisely because he has been willing to re-examine the denomination’s combative, and some would say, defensive approach to public issues.
 
In 2013, after Moore met with President Obama to support bipartisanship in immigration reform, he promised to pray for Obama and said that he loved him, despite their disagreements on many issues.
 
More recently he called for South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag that flew over state Capitol grounds, which also made a lot of people mad, said Barber.
 
While the pastors generally supported Moore on the issue of inviting presidential candidates, they wondered if he’d picked the right forum.
 
“People coming for church planting aren’t coming to listen to politicians. They’re coming for best strategies for reaching people for Jesus,” said Abernathy.
 
Others questioned how hard Southern Baptists tried to reach out to other candidates.
 
Leaving out other conservative candidates was “inexcusable,” Don Hinkle, editor of The Pathway, the official newspaper of the Missouri Baptists, told CBN’s David Brody.
 
“There is an appearance of favoritism and a lot of people are asking, why do such a thing 15 months before a general election?”
 
These pastors would like to see more emphasis on issues and actions that might not commonly be seen as Republican or conservative evangelical concerns.
 
When immigrant children began to flood across the border in 2014, Daniel Darling, a staff member at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote that evangelicals should apply their “pro-life convictions” to children being called aliens, invaders, even lepers.
 
“My hope is that followers of Jesus begin to see immigrants as less of a threat to their way of life and more of an opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission and be a part of God’s sovereign plan to gather a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue,” he wrote in The Huffington Post.
 
Capps believes cooperating with groups outside evangelical circles on issues such as justice, the sanctity of human life, and environmental protection could be a good idea. Abernathy, a bivocational pastor who works with a poverty relief organization, deplores GOP policies that support inequity.
 
At the same time, many of the young pastors are more theologically exacting than their elders. Some felt Carson was an inappropriate speaker to preach at the pastor’s conference because his Seventh-day Adventist faith is considered a cult by some.
 
Barber was equally unhappy over evangelicals’ embrace of Mormon Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. When the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association took Mormonism off its cult list weeks before the election, Barber wrote that, “(W)alking away from the GOP in this election may be the only way to save the gospel from the pragmatic branch of evangelicalism that never met a doctrine it wouldn’t throw under the bus for the right price.
 
“I want to make sure that politics is the servant of our spiritual message rather than the other way around,” said Barber.
 
The new methods don’t mean giving up opposition to issues such as abortion.
 
“But we’ve elected all these pro-life people and nothing has changed,” said Abernathy. “Maybe we need to get to the root causes. We may not be able to change the law of the land, but maybe we can change some peoples’ hearts.”
 
Like a lot of Southern Baptists who are struggling to keep believers and attract new ones, Capps would like to see a “convictional kindness,” an approach that’s more winsome than confrontational.
 
“This generation is not going to be known for standing outside abortion clinics with picket signs,” he said. “I want us to be the generation that says, ‘We will adopt these children or we’ll stand beside you and help you raise those children.’”
 

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8/4/2015 11:53:42 AM by Christine Wicker, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Satanist statue prompts Michigan Bapt. response

August 4 2015 by Benjamin Hawkins, Baptist Press

Michigan Baptists will not waver in their efforts to spread the gospel throughout their state, even after The Satanic Temple (TST) has unveiled a bronze, 9-foot-tall statue of Baphomet in Detroit, says Tim Patterson, a Baptist leader in the state.
 
“People have been worshipping Satan since Satan fell from heaven,” Patterson, executive director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, said. “That is nothing new at all. I think what is new about it is the public way it is being portrayed in the media.
 
“I’m not up in arms about it,” he noted. “I’m not worried about it, and Michigan Baptists should not be worried about it either. Our concern is what we’ve been called to do, and we’ve been called to proclaim the gospel, to plant churches, and to make a difference for the kingdom. … Our job is to punch holes in the darkness, and that’s what we’re going to be about.”
 
Nearly 700 people gathered July 25 in a Detroit warehouse around midnight for the unveiling of the Baphomet monument, which TST unsuccessfully tried to erect beside a 10 Commandments monument in Oklahoma two years ago.

 
8-4-15_statue_WEB.jpgImage captured from WXYZ Detroit video

According to The Christian Post, TST spokesperson Lucien Greaves said people received an e-ticket revealing the secret location of the event only after signing a contract, giving their souls to the devil. According to Time magazine, TST also overestimated the popularity of the event, telling possible attendees that it would be “the largest public satanic ceremony in history.”
 
Time also called Baphomet the “totem of contemporary Satanism.” The Detroit monument displays this demonic figure enthroned underneath a pentagram, with one child on each side looking up at its face in wonder.
 
But despite its centuries-old association with the occult, Baphomet is nowhere mentioned in scripture, according to Ryan Stokes, an assistant professor of Old Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of a forthcoming book tentatively called, The Rise of Satan: Sin, Suffering, and the Superhuman in the Hebrew Scriptures and Early Jewish Literature.
 
Nevertheless, according to Stokes, the Bible clearly affirms the reality of Satan and other demonic beings who were created by God, but who are in rebellion against God.
 
“According to the Bible, there are these spiritual beings out there that we would call evil spirits or demons or Satan,” Stokes said, “and the Bible says that they are responsible for a number of problems in the world, including sickness, in certain cases. And they are responsible for misleading humans into sin.
 
“And the Bible is clear also that God has defeated these beings, but that nevertheless people continue to be seduced by them.”
 
The Bible also speaks of Satan’s demand for worship from Jesus in Matthew 4 and Luke 4, and it refers to pagan idolatry – as practiced today, for example, in Buddhism and Hinduism – as the worship of demons (1 Corinthians 10:19-21).
 
“The Bible does seem to say that people who worship gods other than the God of the Bible are worshipping demons,” Stokes said. “So the worship of demonic beings doesn’t seem to be unique, according to the way that the Bible describes false religion.
 
“But, on the other hand, explicitly to identify that figure who is God’s enemy as the object of one’s worship does seem to be a more blatant statement – not just in favor of another god, but a statement in opposition to the God of the Bible.”
 
In a blogpost written for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), Bart Barber addressed the Christian response to TST’s unveiling of this Baphomet statue. Like Stokes, he noted all idolatry is the worship of demons.
 
“Every golden Buddha in your city is a statue to Satan, as well as every Hindu idol,” Barber, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Farmersville, Texas, wrote. “So, the fact that this statue is dedicated to Satan adds nothing new and only serves to make what God has seen all along obvious to everyone. There are satanic idols all around us.”
 
In his post, Barber also noted, according to Exodus 20:4-6, “we are not in a monuments-and-statues race.” He said Christians should respond to Detroit’s Baphomet monument in the same way that Jesus or the apostle Paul responded to idolatry.
 
“They refuted idolatry and preached the gospel,” Barber wrote. “ … Neither Jesus, nor any of the apostles, ever tried to tear down the idols in their world. They were more interested in changing people than in changing the landscape.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is the associate editor for The Pathway, the newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

8/4/2015 11:30:10 AM by Benjamin Hawkins, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Lion’s death occasions defense of legal hunting

August 4 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

With mainstream and social media in an uproar over the apparently illegal killing of Cecil the lion, Baptist leaders have underscored the legitimacy of legal hunting and condemned the hypocrisy of valuing wildlife over unborn children.
 
“The Bible says much about hunting and without one derogatory word,” said Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “But it is not just hunting at issue. Fishing and the eating of any kind of meat is at issue since [with] all of these, [animals] must die in order to feed people. The Bible makes it clear that the animals were given to men to meet their various needs including food. I do distinguish between killers and hunters. I always taught my children that we use every animal taken. Skinning a rattlesnake, a porcupine and a skunk underscored all of this for my children. They discovered that clothing and in many cases food can be gained but that each creature is God’s artistic creation.”
 
The preciousness of God’s creation requires that humans “not just go out and shoot up the countryside,” Patterson, a veteran of some 20 African hunts, told Baptist Press in written comments. “Almost all the animals taken in Africa go to the poor of the countries to eat, for which, particularly in Zimbabwe, they are most grateful.”
 
Cecil, a 13-year-old Zimbabwean lion, was killed in early July by American dentist Walter Palmer after the animal was lured out of Hwange National Park, where hunting is illegal, the New York Times reported. Zimbabwean officials say they want to extradite Palmer to face charges, but Palmer claims he was following the lead of professional guides and did not know his actions were illegal, USA Today reported.
 
Cecil’s death had been the topic of more than 425,000 tweets as of Aug. 3, according to the social media analytics site Topsy.com.

 
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SWBTS photo
Paige Patterson and his son Armour killed a roan antelope during a hunt in Zambia.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe authorities have accused a second American – gynecological oncologist Jan Seski – of illegally killing a lion in April, the Associated Press reported.
 
Patterson denounced illegal hunting and said if any laws were broken related to Palmer’s hunt, “the local outfitter and professional hunter” should be prosecuted. He added that “a man is innocent until proven guilty and rush to judgment is in this case, as [in] all others, unwise.”
 
Most hunting outfits in Africa “are run by men of high ethical and moral conduct and in accordance with the laws of the land,” Patterson said. Hunters “are normally your leading conservationists. After all, they are dependent upon the prosperity of the herds. That is why almost all forms of African and Indian game thrive in Texas today. Well regulated practices of hunting guarantee their survival.”
 
Patterson called much of the press’ outrage over Cecil’s death “the ultimate in hypocrisy,” noting the relative lack of concern for aborted babies whose body parts have been sold by Planned Parenthood and for the evils perpetrated against the Zimbabwean people by President Robert Mugabe.
 
“Little or no outrage at the butchering of human babies and the selling of body parts by Planned Parenthood, but the death of a lion in Zimbabwe merits the ink,” Patterson said. “And what about Zimbabwe itself? Why no furor over Mugabe’s disregard for human life, the stealing of property by the government and the violence toward opposition leaders? What of the thousands of people that he has starved to death uselessly? And why not report on what hunters do to conserve the lions, elephants and rhinos both monetarily and in parks like Antelope Park in Zimbabwe where we have replaced every lion taken with multiple lions born and released into the wild? Why not tell people the truth about what happens in countries that stop hunting like Kenya and consequently lose all their rhinos to poachers?”
 
Mark Keith, pastor of Elkton (Ky.) Baptist Church and an avid hunter, said God has given humans responsibility to care for animal life, but that does not preclude hunting. He said humans should consume animals they kill during hunts and not engage in “the senseless killing of animals.”
 
There is “spirituality” about hunting, Keith said. Those who do not hunt may “think that all their meat comes from the butcher section of the store where they shop. When you hunt, you realize that in order to feed you, something had to give up its life. It helps you to remember the food chain.”
 
People who hunt, Keith said, tend to have “a deeper respect for animal life.”
 
Enjoying the sport of a hunt is legitimate ethically, Keith said, but “it’s not all about killing an animal.”
 
“I do enjoy the challenge of being able to go out on a field where an animal is probably more at home than I am and to be able to out-smart it or to be able to know that I can provide for my family,” Keith said. “It kind of brings out some primal stuff in you that goes way back ... before we had stores and markets.”
 
Patterson and Keith both cited hunting as a valuable means of building relationships between fathers and sons. Patterson added that speaking about hunting at men’s banquets has allowed him to lead “several thousand” men and boys to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
 
Dan DeWitt, dean of Boyce College, wrote in a blog post that outrage over Cecil’s death illustrates indirectly the supreme worth of human life.
 
“Cecil was a neighborhood favorite in Zimbabwe,” DeWitt wrote. “That is, until he was lured out of an animal sanctuary and shot for sport. The closer animals are to humans the more worth we confer upon them. In this way, animals have proximate value. Their worth is often determined by their proximity to humans. If a wild dog gets hit by a car that’s one thing. If a poodle with a collar and nametag gets run over, that’s another. But what is it about humans that we have such value that it almost rubs off even on the animals we keep close to us? It’s because we are created with intrinsic worth.”
 
The intrinsic worth of human life makes absurd the mainstream media’s outrage over Cecil compared with its relative calm over the Planned Parenthood videos, DeWitt wrote. An alien who landed on earth and surveyed media outlets might conclude humans “are greatly concerned with the protection of lions. The rights of the unborn, not so much so.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/4/2015 11:17:32 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ERLC presidential candidate forum sparks discussion

August 3 2015 by Baptist Press staff

A presidential candidate forum to be hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) Aug. 4 at the Send Conference in Nashville has sparked discussion – and a variety of opinions – among Southern Baptists.
 
Some have defended the ERLC’s scheduled interviews with Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as consistent with the goals of a missions conference sponsored by the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. Others have asked why the ERLC did not invite other candidates and how the Bush and Rubio interviews differ from a highly criticized decision by the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference to invite then-likely presidential candidate Ben Carson to speak.
 
The Pastors’ Conference and Carson, who is now officially in the presidential field, later “mutually agreed” that Carson would not address the Columbus, Ohio, gathering because his presence might have been a distraction from the meeting’s emphases of unity and prayer.
 
ERLC President Russell Moore told Religion News Service he believes the candidate forum at the Send Conference is different from Carson’s invitation to the Pastors’ Conference because Bush and Rubio will be participating in a dialog rather than preaching sermons.
 
“What we’re doing at [Send] is quite different,” Moore noted. “We’re having a conversation with people and not treating them as spiritual leaders. We’re instead treating them as what they are – people who are running to lead the country.”

 
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An ERLC press release said Republican candidates were eligible to be invited if they were polling, at the time their invitations were issued, at 10 percent in the Real Clear Politics national average, an aggregation of multiple polls. The ERLC said in an email to Baptist Press that each Republican candidate to reach 10 percent between May 1 and a month before the Send Conference was invited. According to the Real Clear Politics website, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker both reached 10 percent during that time period along with Bush and Rubio.
 
Moore wrote in a blog post that he invited Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, but she declined.
 
Baptist21, a network of younger Southern Baptist leaders that objected to Carson’s invitation to the Pastors’ Conference, published a blog article containing “a few initial thoughts about why [they] aren’t as concerned with the Send invites.” The Send Conference “has been marketed for all people” rather than just pastors and “seems to be broader in scope” than the Pastors’ Conference, B21 wrote. Candidates at Send will be “interviewed specifically on religious liberty issues” rather than speaking “in a sermonic fashion,” and the ERLC invited candidates of both major parties.
 
B21 concluded, “Whether or not there is enough progress [from the Pastors’ Conference to the Send Conference] to avoid diluting our message and mission is yet to be seen. Some B21 members are skeptical.”
 
The SBC Voices blog, which also published an article critical of Carson’s invitation, published a more neutral article related to the Bush and Rubio interviews. SBC Voices editor Dave Miller wrote, “If we criticized the [Pastors’ Conference] ... when Dr. Carson was invited to speak, how can we not speak out and at least ask questions when something like this takes place?”
 
Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, concluded that he would “reserve judgment” because there “seem to be some significant differences about this situation from the one at the Pastors’ Conference.”
 
Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., tweeted in response to an announcement of the Bush and Rubio interviews, “I like this but confused. After outcry over Carson at Pastors’ Conference this looks like a double standard.”
 
CBN News chief political correspondent David Brody asked in an online commentary why Southern Baptist presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee were not invited to the Aug. 4 event. Brody quoted Don Hinkle, editor of Missouri Baptists’ newsjournal The Pathway, as saying, “There is an appearance of favoritism and a lot of people are asking why do such a thing 15 months before a general election – at a missions conference, no less.”
 
Hinkle recommended, “Let the field thin out, then do something, say next spring or early summer ... The present situation is not prudent. Southern Baptists are open-minded and, at this point, want to maintain a sense of fairness.”
 
Moore told Brody in a statement, “When the North American Mission Board asked us to have a conversation with candidates, I wanted to have all the candidates. Unfortunately, there are roughly 144,000 candidates running this year. So we determined objective criteria for polling, as laid out in the press release and invited candidates from both parties who met that standard. I look forward to having conversations with all the candidates, of both parties. This is an ongoing conversation. We had to start somewhere and the polling averages gave us an objective criteria to do so.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

 

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8/3/2015 12:44:01 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Platt: World missions ‘multiethnic issue’

August 3 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

All ethnicities are called to world missions, International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt told more than 600 black Southern Baptists gathered at Ridgecrest, N.C., acknowledging only 25 of the 4,700 IMB missionaries are African American.
 
“I don’t know all the reasons behind that [disparity]” he said during his July 23 sermon at the 2015 Black Church Leadership & Family Conference. “On behalf of the IMB I’m willing to take responsibility for it. And I long for that to change.”
 
More than 2 billion people have not heard the gospel worldwide, Platt said, urging Christians to fight all social injustices, not just those that appeal to us individually.
 
“This is not a white issue or a black issue, this is a multiethnic issue,” he said. “What is it going to take for the concept of unreached people to become totally intolerable to us in the church?’’
 
Platt spoke mainly from I Peter 4:12-5:12, incorporating the conference theme of “Stand” and conference scripture, I Peter 5:8-12.
 

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He segued from encouraging listeners to stand for the truth of God’s Word, to challenging them to do their part to ensure every nation hears the Word.
 
“The theme of the conference is ‘Stand’ here and now, and that’s exactly what I want to call us to do tonight,” he said. “Stand here and now on the battle front where the war is raging, based on the Word of God in 1 Peter 4 and 5. I would call us tonight as individual followers of Christ and His church to stand firm in the grace of God, with the Word of God, for the glory of God, in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ.”
 
In both the culture and the church, Platt said, there is opposition to such ills including injustice, poverty, human trafficking, global starvation and slavery. He noted there also is passivity toward such evils as abortion and same-sex marriage.
 
“We pick and choose which social issues we are going to address, based on what’s least costly and most comfortable to us. And ladies and gentlemen we do not have that option,” Platt said. “The same gospel that compels us to draw back poverty compels us to defend marriage. The same gospel that compels us to war against sex trafficking compels us to war against sexual immorality in all of its forms.
 
“Brothers and sisters there are battles that are raging rapidly on the front lines of our culture, and we don’t have the option on deciding which battles we’re going to fight. ... If we are going to be the church in our culture, we must engage the battles that are being fought.”
 
The greatest offense to Christianity is not homosexuality per se, Platt said, but it is most offensive to Christianity when we object God’s authority and His delineations between right and wrong.
 
“God is a righteous judge, before Whom we all must stand, and to Whom every single person in this room will give an account,” Platt said. “And this, brothers and sisters, is a biblical truth that is at the core of the cultural confrontation today.”
 
Not only has the U.S. Supreme Court taken on a role as the “arbiter of morality,” Platt said, but churches of various denominations are maligning and manipulating God’s Word.
 
“God is the faithful creator of the world, so we fight for the life around the world,” Platt said, encouraging Christians to fight such ills as human trafficking and abortion, and to care for orphans. While God has overcome sin and death, too many individuals around the world suffer and die without ever hearing that truth, he noted.
 
“I hope to see the day when every child, and every nation, and every tongue, and every language will gather around the throne of our King, and we will give Him the glory that’s due,” Platt said. “So I invite, I implore you, I urge you to stand for Christ [until] that day when we will gather around His throne, we’ll look at His face, we’ll see His face, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last ... Stand firm until that day.”
 
Platt was among four pastors who preached during the evening worship services of the conference held July 20-24 in Spilman Auditorium at the Ridgecrest Conference Center. Other evening worship preachers were Herbert Lusk II, pastor of Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia; Frank I. Williams, treasurer of the National African American Fellowship and pastor of both the Bronx Baptist Church and Wake-Eden Baptist Church in New York, and Wayne Chaney, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Long Beach, Calif.
 
The conference, tailored for African Americans and sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, IMB and others, offers training, education, preaching, inspiration, praise and worship, fellowship and recreation.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

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8/3/2015 12:35:13 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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