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News

Brewton-Parker gets accreditation appeal

October 2 2014 by Joe Westbury, The Christian Index/Baptist Press

Brewton-Parker College (BPC) has been notified that it will remain an accredited member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) while appealing its accreditation status.

Brewton-Parker, one of three educational institutions affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention, was notified of the decision Sept. 29 – 103 days after it learned on June 19 that SACSCOC was suspending its accreditation.

In a prepared statement on Sept. 30, Brewton-Parker stated it had been informed that “the Appeals Committee of SACSCOC ordered a remand of the decision of the Board of Trustees of SACSCOC to remove Brewton-Parker College as a member. Brewton-Parker’s case will now go to the Committee on Compliance and Reports of SACSCOC for reconsideration.”

The statement further noted that the effect of the decision is to continue BPC’s accreditation, on probation, as it existed before the June 19 vote by SACSCOC trustees.


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Peter Lumpkins, vice president of communications at the south Georgia college, said it had presented new material evidence demonstrating improvement in its financial position that “warranted a remand and the continuation of its accreditation. SACSCOC will continue to review the new evidence in greater detail for compliance with SACSCOC’s standards.”

In the college’s Sept. 30 statement, BPC President Ergun Caner stated that “this decision by the appeals committee of SACSCOC is a validation of SACSCOC’s own process and shows that the system works. We are thankful the appeals committee recognized what we knew all along – that Brewton-Parker College is a financially stable and viable institution of higher learning.”

The decision, Caner added, is the result of thousands of hours of work by the entire college community and is a “victory ... shared not only by our trustees, faculty, staff and students, but also the entire community of dedicated friends around us.”

“The people of Mount Vernon, Ailey, Montgomery County and the entire region stood by us. Today that trust was validated. Our students, faculty, staff and partners in the community who have stood by our side should know that we are confident that Brewton-Parker College will remain accredited by SACSCOC.”

Caner pledged to continue to “work closely and cooperatively with SACSCOC” to remove the college from probation.

“It will continue on its march to grow enrollment to record heights. The greatest legacy of Brewton-Parker College’s 110-year history is ahead. However, today we give thanks to God for this decision, for it was by His guidance that this positive decision was made,” Caner said.

According to BPC’s Sept. 30 statement, new evidence presented to the SACSCOC appeals committee demonstrated that the college had corrected problems previously identified by SACSCOC stemming from financial difficulties experienced in the late 1990s. Over the last three years, Brewton-Parker has taken “significant steps to balance its operational budget, restructure its debt and cut its expenses, while retaining its status as one of the foremost providers of Christian education in the State of Georgia,” the statement said.

The college, founded in 1904, described its mission as developing “the whole student through the application of biblically centered truth to a liberal arts curriculum in a community of shared Christian values.” It is on the Web at www.bpc.edu.

Caner, 49, was elected as Brewton-Parker’s 16th president on Dec. 2 of last year. He had previously served as dean at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va., and as provost and academic dean at Arlington Baptist College in Texas.
 

Related Story:

Brewton-Parker to appeal accreditation findings

10/2/2014 11:47:42 AM by Joe Westbury, The Christian Index/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Survey: Prayer often ‘red phone for help’

October 2 2014 by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press/LifeWay Research

Many Americans pray for divine help, their friends, families, and sometimes their enemies. But few of them offer praises to God or pray for politicians and nonbelievers, according to a new LifeWay Research survey.
 
“Most people pray when they need the red phone for help,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, adding that many of them may not have a prayer life “rooted in a relationship with God.”
 
The online survey, conducted Aug.7, 2014, asked 1,137 Americans about the frequency and content of their prayers.
 
Among the findings:

 
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Most prayers are personal

When they pray, most Americans (82 percent) typically focus on their friends and family or their own problems (74 percent). A little more than half (54 percent) pray about good things happening in their life, while more than a third pray for their future prosperity (36 percent).

 

Prayer works for almost everybody.

Most Americans who pray (83 percent) think at least some of their prayers are answered. That includes one in four (25 percent) who say all their prayers are answered, one in five (21 percent) who say most of their prayers are answered, and more than one in three (37 percent) who say some of their prayers are answered.
 
Few (3 percent) say none of their prayers are answered. One in seven (14 percent) “don’t know” if prayers are answered.




 


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Most people don’t pray for politicians.

Only about 12 percent of Americans who pray say they pray for government officials, and few (5 percent) pray for celebrities. Among other things people have ever prayed for are parking spots (7 percent), other people to be fired (5 percent), or to avoid being caught speeding (7 percent). Sports teams have received a bit more prayer support (13 percent) while about one in five (21 percent) Americans who pray say they have prayed to win the lottery. Fifteen percent have prayed something bad they did will not be discovered.

 



American’s prayers are not always biblical.

More than a third of Americans (37 percent) who pray say they have prayed for their enemies, and four in 10 (41 percent) have prayed for people who have mistreated them, which the New Testament instructs people to do. More than a third (38 percent) typically pray for people affected by natural disasters. But only one in five pray for people of other faiths or people of no faith.

 

Americans are persistent in their prayers.

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About half of Americans (48 percent) say they pray at least every day, while a third (31 percent) say they pray several times a day. Overall, about two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans say they pray at least once a month.
 
That’s a good start, says Max Lucado, author of Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer, published last month from Thomas Nelson. Lucado, who partnered with LifeWay Research on the prayer survey, says the survey shows that prayer still has widespread appeal in American life.
 
“Prayer is not a privilege just for the pious or an opportunity for a chosen few,” he said. “Prayer is God’s open invitation to talk: simply, openly and powerfully.”
 
Methodology: The online survey of adult Americans was conducted Aug. 7, 2014. A sample of an online panel representing the adult population of the United States was invited to participate. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender, religion and income to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,137 online surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from this panel does not exceed plus 2.9 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends.)

10/2/2014 11:10:45 AM by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press/LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



W.Va. exec Terry Harper to retire

October 2 2014 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Terry Harper, lead missionary and executive director of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, has announced his retirement, effective at the conclusion of the convention’s Nov. 6-7 annual meeting.
 
Harper, 66, has led West Virginia Baptists 13 years, longer than any other executive director since the state convention, now with more than 200 churches, was established in 1970.
 
“Service in a state convention is great work and I will always be grateful for this opportunity to serve Christ in this unique way,” Harper said Oct. 1 in a statement to Baptist Press. State conventions have “a special place in SBC life,” he said, “and I do not see how [Southern Baptists] could ever do without the work of state conventions.”
 
Harper announced his retirement to the convention’s Executive Board during their Sept. 6 regular meeting.
 
“Our work has gone well thus far in 2014. We have seen a number of successful statewide events and many of our churches are baptizing record numbers,” Harper said. “At the same time we continue to see some of our established churches struggle and seek to find themselves in today’s culture.”
 
Churches that are declining and/or aging need the continued help of fellow West Virginia Baptists, Harper said, noting, “We should never, ever compromise our theology, but we must constantly be willing to try new approaches in order to reach the lost.”
 
Seth N. Polk, lead pastor of Cross Lanes (W.Va.) Baptist Church and a former convention president, said Harper “has served the WVCSB with integrity. His lifetime of faithful ministry and long tenure and diligence to the mission of God in West Virginia is to be commended. We pray for the best for him and his wife Cheryl.”
 
Harper told the Executive Board that heart health treatment and tests at the Cleveland Clinic contributed to his retirement decision.
 
“Of course I would love to work a while longer,” he noted, “but in all honesty, I think that is not best. We feel that now is the time for you to find a younger leader who will take this convention forward to new heights into the future.
 
“Please continue to think big and think outside the box during this transition time and as you go forward,” Harper counseled. “When you get a new executive director, give him the benefit of the doubt and give him your trust. Don’t make him earn that or fight for it. If he accepts this job, he will do so because he believes God is calling him to come and lead this convention. He will need your support and help.”
 
Harper told the Executive Board he has “sought to do my best to lead this convention in the way that I felt the Lord would have us to go. At times that has not been easy, especially during this time of great change within the SBC.”
 
In 2011, the convention adopted a six-point plan to streamline/reorganize the convention and focus more on church planting, drawing from the work of a 32-member Strategy Planning Group appointed by Polk as the convention’s president at the time. The plan entailed a shift in state convention personnel to align with a North American Mission Board plan to support five church planting catalysts in the state rather than the previous 10 association directors of missions.
 
The Strategy Planning Group was “a great team,” Harper said at the time. “They worked really hard and made some tough decisions. ... As painful as that has been, I still think it offers great opportunity for us in the days ahead. I think we’re going to see church planting like we’ve never seen before in West Virginia. That’s what it’s all about, and I believe we will see that.”
 
Harper became the convention’s sixth executive director when he was elected in December 2001. He had served as president of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia state convention, and earlier, as vice president, during his 17 years as pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church in the Richmond area. He earlier had led several churches, including Waverly (Va.) Baptist Church and First Baptist Church in Alamance, N.C.
 
A native of Roanoke, Va., he holds a master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, an undergraduate degree in psychology from Averett College in Virginia and an associate’s degree in business from Bluefield College in Virginia.
 
Harper and his wife Cheryl have three grown children, Derrick, Carla and Alison.
 
In his comments to the Executive Board, Harper said his wife “has served faithfully at my side during this time as she has always during our ministry. She served for 10 of these years as director of ministries to pastors’ wives and did so happily without pay, but did a great job.
 
“We have both loved this work and we love you all,” he said, grateful for having worked “with so many wonderful people on our Executive Board and those who have served as officers of our convention.”
 
In his comments to Baptist Press, Harper said his relationships with other state convention executives has been “one of the blessings in this job.... So many of them have blessed my life immensely. I have grown deeply in our fellowship together and I am a better man for it.”
 
Polk will lead a 15-member search committee for Harper’s successor. Applicants can email resumes to wvcsbsearch@mail.com through Nov. 30.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)

10/2/2014 10:53:13 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Panel at SEBTS reflects on civil rights

October 1 2014 by Staff/SEBTS communications team, Biblical Press

Fifty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) hosted a two-day event focused on America’s struggle for social equality and the roles people of faith played during the civil rights movement.
 
The events were held in partnership with the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture at SEBTS and consisted of a lecture and a panel discussion. Speakers touched on a variety of topics including the history of the struggle, the challenges America still faces in this area and how the church can get involved in moving forward.
 
Gerald Smith delivered a lecture entitled “‘The Child of a Storm:’ The Civil Rights Act of 1964” at Wake Forest Baptist Church in Wake Forest, N.C. Smith is the Martin Luther King scholar-in-residence at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He is the author, editor or co-editor of three books; his work also has been published in various historical journals and encyclopedias.
 
Smith posed the question, “How can a separation such as segregation exist in the church?” The church should be the safest place to discuss race, he said during his Sept. 16 lecture.
 
The following morning, Southeastern President Daniel Akin led a panel discussion in Binkley Chapel on the SEBTS’ campus is Wake Forest.

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Pictured left to right at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's panel on America's struggle for social equality are Daniel Akin, Clarence Henderson, Gerald Smith, David Roach and Brent Aucoin.

 

Akin was joined by Smith, as well as civil rights historians David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press; Brent Aucoin, associate professor of history at Southeastern; and Clarence Henderson, who participated in the 1960 sit-in at the whites-only Woolworth diner in Greensboro, N.C.
 
In 2013, the governor of North Carolina appointed Henderson as the chairman of the Martin Luther King Commission.
 
February 2, 1960 was a significant day for Henderson, then only 19. “The day I walked into Woolworth was a defining moment, but the moment doesn’t define us; what we do in the moment does,” Henderson noted.
 
Henderson said people responded by ignoring them or calling them names. “We put Jim Crow on trial to see if the Bill of Rights really meant what it said,” he said during the Sept. 17 panel.
 
“We sat down to stand up for freedom,” he said. “I was not just sitting down for a particular group of people but for America as a whole”
 
Despite how far American laws have come since then, Smith society still has a ways to go.
 
“De facto segregation and segregation by custom are still issues we face even though legal segregation has ended,” Smith said.
 
“There are still those who judge by the color of skin over content of character,” Henderson explained. “Christians have to be the conscience of America.”
 
Smith spoke about the concept of a “collective memory.” This type of memory can be handed down through the generations, he said. Even when one generation of people has not experienced something, the memory of their forefathers influences how that younger generation interprets and receives the world. “It could be anything,” he said. “Images are so important.”
 
Smith explained this collective memory can contribute to a lack of trust between people. “We don’t trust each other because of pain from the past,” he added. “How do we overcome and move beyond that?”
 
Roach shared that in the past, white Southern Baptists were not pushing for integration. “This was not a positive action from the SBC,” he noted.
 
Akin agreed noting that Southern Baptists were at best uninvolved.
 
Addressing the role of the church moving forward, Roach expressed the importance of educating church pastors about preaching the full racial implications of the gospel.
 
“The gospel solves the problem of alienation from God, but also solves the problem of alienation between people,” Roach said.
 
Aucoin called for Christians to take a holistic approach with the big picture in mind when addressing relationships. He encouraged Christians to be advocates for cultivating minorities in places of prominent leadership. “You as an individual can make a difference,” he emphasized.
 
To watch these messages online, go to http://multimedia.sebts.edu/.

10/1/2014 12:45:01 PM by Staff/SEBTS communications team, Biblical Press | with 0 comments



Student sees a young Muslim man decide to follow Jesus

October 1 2014 by Paige Ryder, IMB

It had been over four weeks since Face2Face student Bridgitte McLaughlin* met Moussa,* and she knew something was different about him. Moussa, 19, appeared to be a leader. He was loved by the kids in town and respected by adults.
 
When Moussa came to listen to the Bible stories McLaughlin shared, he would call out those who caused disruption or seemed disinterested. People listened to him.
 
Over the next couple of weeks McLaughlin and her friends began to notice a change in Moussa.

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Bridgitte McLaughlin* stands with a group of West African children.

 

One day Moussa came to McLaughlin and said, “I went back to my home village and I was telling someone about Jesus, but then she asked me a question and I didn’t know [the answer].” Moussa seemed discouraged.
 
McLaughlin asked what the question was.
 
“I’m not sure you’re going to know [the answer] … Where did Jesus die?” Moussa asked.
 
McLaughlin and her friends showed Moussa some scripture and answered his question. Relieved, Moussa thanked them.
 
Moussa’s question got McLaughlin thinking. Why was a Muslim man sharing the name of Jesus? She decided to ask him more questions.
 
Moussa told McLaughlin that when he was around age 12 he went to an Islamic school to learn Arabic and the Quran. Moussa questioned the teachings, lifestyle and authority of Islam. He didn’t know who to tell or where to go for Truth.
 
McLaughlin wanted to know if Moussa made a decision to follow Christ. When she asked him, he replied, “Would you like me to make a decision?”
 
“This is between you and God,” McLaughlin said.
 
“I just wanted to know what you were going to say,” Moussa said, “but I already made a decision and no one can change it.
 
“I’m going to follow Jesus.”
 
Moussa told McLaughlin that his dad walked into his room while he was reading the Bible and asked if he was going to fast during Ramadan. To McLaughlin’s surprise, he said he lifted up his Bible in response and his dad walked out. He did not observe Ramadan.
 
Moussa and McLaughlin were both encouraged by the words of a believer in the village who told Moussa, “Moses was chosen by God and it doesn’t mean that Moses was perfect, but he was a leader and he was strong. I see leadership in you.”
 
*Name changed
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paige Ryder is a writer for the International Mission Board. This story first appeared on commissionstories.com.)

10/1/2014 12:33:37 PM by Paige Ryder, IMB | with 0 comments



Bible’s sufficiency & counseling discussed

October 1 2014 by RuthAnne Irvin, Baptist Press

Affirming the sufficiency of scripture in biblical counseling is a “radical idea,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at the school’s first Counsel the Word Conference.
 
The conference, co-sponsored by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), featured popular practitioners Paul David Tripp, David Powlison, Heath Lambert and others during the two-day event.
 
“If we’re going to think about biblical counseling and we’re going to understand that it must be premised upon the sufficiency of scripture, we must recognize what a radical idea that is,” Mohler said during the Sept. 18-19 conference. “We must be certain the sufficiency of scripture is the theological foundation of our understanding.”
 
Mohler opened the conference lamenting how few counselors commit to the sufficiency of scripture in today’s church. The nature of biblical counseling, he said, necessitates a conference like Counsel the Word because the sufficiency of scripture is so neglected.

 
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Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks Sept. 18 on the sufficiency of Scripture in biblical counseling at the inaugural Counsel the Word Conference.

Tripp, popular author and founder of Paul Tripp Ministries, offered three principles for counseling from Psalm 27 during his message. He began by asking what it means to counsel biblically, then moved to his principles.
 
First, he said, “people do not live life based on the facts of their experience, but based on the interpretation of the facts.” Second, the Bible is not arranged by topic. Third, counseling “is profoundly more than exposing sin and telling people what to do instead.”
 
Tripp used the example of David in Psalm 27 as he faced trouble and pointed himself to the God of his salvation. He said difficulties in life often reveal how Christians interpret life and scripture.
 
“You will only ever properly understand the trouble in your life when you look at the troubles through the stunning beauty of your redeemer,” he said.
 
Closing his sermon, Tripp gave four words for personal reflection and to use in counseling others: gaze, remember, rest and act. He encouraged listeners to remember their identity in Christ while gazing on the beauty of the Lord, calling their hearts to rest in God and also to act “because God is wise and is all that He is for you by grace.”
 
Powlison, executive director of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) and editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling, spoke about “working toward God’s goal in us.”
 
Scripture is sufficient for identifying important decisions in a person’s life, to inhabit reality and to equip Christians for ministry, he said.
 
Powlison cautioned Christians to avoid making false assumptions about the sufficiency of scripture, providing biblical counterparts. He also suggested they could use Psalm 23 as a tool to counsel themselves or others.
 
Lambert, president of ACBC and counseling professor at Boyce College, emphasized the commitment to scripture’s sufficiency is the source of the counselor’s authority.
 
“You get the power you need for your life as you get to know Jesus and trust His promises,” he said.
 
The conference also featured a panel discussion and breakout sessions about counseling topics like anxiety, bipolar disorder, brain injuries, anger issues and homosexuality.
 
Audio and video from Counsel the Word is available at sbts.edu/resources.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – RuthAnne Irvin writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

10/1/2014 12:25:16 PM by RuthAnne Irvin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mo. Baptists join battle over sign restrictions

October 1 2014 by Baptist Press/Missouri Pathway

The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) has filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in joining other religious groups asking for a sign – that religious freedom trumps local sign codes which discriminate against churches and church plants.
 
The case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, originating the Phoenix area, is potentially the most important religious freedom case on the Supreme Court’s docket in the new term beginning Oct. 6.
 
Michael and Jonathan Whitehead, a father-son legal team in Kansas City, filed the friend-of-the-court brief Sept. 22, pro bono, on behalf of the MBC and its public policy arm, the Christian Life Commission (CLC). It marked the first time the CLC has filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
Jonathan Whitehead took the lead in drafting the brief, online at https://tinyurl.com/ox4o6ma. Michael Whitehead, meanwhile, is the MBC’s general counsel. The Whiteheads serve churches and nonprofit organizations with legal needs from formation (for church plants) through legal compliance and preventive law and, when necessary, litigation.
 
“We filed, in part, to tell the court that this sign code discriminated against churches in general, and small churches in particular,” Jonathan Whitehead said, in violation of the free speech and religion clauses of the First Amendment. “It also violates the assembly clause because the code singled out ‘meeting’ signs,” he noted. “Sign codes and other laws restricting speech must be content-neutral or they are presumptively unconstitutional.”
 
Don Hinkle, director of public policy for the MBC and liaison with the Christian Life Commission, said the friend-of-the-court brief “also told the court that Southern Baptists care about small churches and church plants like those starting under the Send North America initiative with the North American Mission Board.” Hinkle also is executive editor of The Pathway, MBC’s newsjournal.
 
The brief highlighted the Missouri convention’s partnership with North American Mission Board (NAMB) in its Send Cities strategy, which has prioritized the planting of new evangelistic churches especially in underserved areas outside the South. NAMB and its state convention partners are investing in church plants in 50 large cities, including the Phoenix area where Gilbert is located.
 
Church planters often depend on yard signs as the least expensive yet most effective means of communicating to residents the location and time of church services.
 
The MBC brief states: “People regulating what they consider ‘sign clutter’ are often tempted to regulate sign content as well. The Town of Gilbert, AZ, has failed to resist this temptation.”
 
The brief cited the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals assessment that: ‘In an effort to promote a safe, harmonious and pleasant environment – and presumably to insulate itself from challenges under the First Amendment – Gilbert has adopted a sign ordinance that makes one’s head spin to figure out the bounds of its restrictions and exemptions.’”
 
The MBC brief, “on behalf of many Southern Baptists, would like to say, ‘Amen.’”
 
“Yet, in spite of this criticism of the confusing code, the Ninth Circuit panel majority makes other heads spin by declaring this content-based law to be content-neutral.”
 
The town council changed the code’s words from “religious assemblies” to “non-profits” engaged in “qualified events” about “noncommercial” meetings. The effect of the new code words was the same as the old words – church signs were more severely restricted than signs with political and other non-commercial content, the MBC brief notes.
 
Two of three judges on a Ninth Circuit panel upheld the sign code in spite of Supreme Court precedents which have declared unconstitutional laws which restrict signs or other speech based on the content of the sign. The appeals court said the new code words are content-neutral because they apply to a neutral class of speakers, not to the content of the signs. And the court said government officials had good intentions to promote safety and aesthetes, and were not discriminating against small churches.
 
The Whitehead brief argues that officials can’t excuse their discrimination by appealing to their “good intentions” to reduce sign clutter. “Bad laws can’t be saved by good intentions,” the brief states. “And bad laws are not made better by increasing the number of people treated badly.”
 
The original code targeting religious assemblies was not made better by adding “other non-profits” to the class of persons burdened by restrictions, according to the brief.
 
“No law should treat the speech of churches worse than the speech of other similar speakers,” said Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel David Cortman, who will argue the case before the Supreme Court. “One look at the political signs Gilbert allows on street corners virtually all year reveals how the town applies stricter rules to church signs than it does to political signs, let alone other noncommercial signs. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.
 
The case is Reed et al v. Town of Gilbert, AZ, et al. The high court agreed in July to hear the case after the 2-1 vote by the Ninth Circuit panel to allow local governments to impose stricter regulations on size and display of temporary church signs compared to other temporary, non-commercial signs. It is expected that the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case sometime early in 2015.
 
For additional comments on this case, see Jonathan Whitehead’s blog at http://wp.me/p47YfE-eW.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – ­­Reported by the staff of The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

10/1/2014 12:18:39 PM by Baptist Press/Missouri Pathway | with 0 comments



Airstrikes may worsen refugee crisis

September 30 2014 by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press

Airstrikes now underway in northern Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will worsen an already heart-breaking refugee crisis, a Christian worker in the Middle East says.

During just three days last week, at least 130,000 new Syrian refugees flooded across the border into Turkey because of an ISIS offensive in their hometowns. More than 3 million officially registered refugees have been driven out of the country amid the four years of crisis in Syria.
 

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BGR photo
Airstrikes against ISIS targets in northern Syria are bound to increase the flood of refugees at a time of the year when temperatures continue to drop.

“The current strikes inside Syria are bound to increase the already overwhelming flood of displaced people fleeing to find safety,” Don Alan*, a Christian worker in the region, said. “Families desiring safety for their children will look for places that are safe and quiet.”

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd called on Southern Baptists to pray for beleaguered Christians in Iraq and Syria just hours before news of the airstrikes broke.

“Perhaps you know or maybe you don’t, but currently in Iraq and Syria we are witnessing a once-in-a-thousand-year destruction of the Christian church. A modern book of martyrs is being written,” Floyd said. “We need to elevate before our churches the international crisis in Iraq and Syria.”

“Pastors and Christian leaders, educate yourself and speak up on behalf of these brothers and sisters in your churches and on social media. Don’t let the world ignore this,” Floyd said. “I call upon each of us tonight as Southern Baptists to be a voice that resounds loudly and clearly about this issue.”

Alan echoed Floyd’s call to prayer for suffering refugees – among whom Christians are a minority – and the workers risking their lives to help them.

“We should be challenged to not only increase our prayers, but also be broken for the continued challenges faced by those being impacted by the fighting and bombings going in their country,” Alan said.

“Pray for courage as we continue to minister and share the love of Christ in the midst of such turmoil,” Alan added. “We know that the Lord’s desire is that not one should perish without having a chance to hear the good news, that there can be peace on earth in the midst of such traumatic events. May we not grow weary!”

For more information, go to globalhungerrelief.com.

*Name changed.
 

Related stories:

N. Iraq: 'They are waiting for us to help'
N. Iraq: Grave danger as winter approaches

9/30/2014 10:11:09 AM by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Climate policies said to harm poor

September 30 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In a preemptive response to President Barack Obama’s proposals at the United Nations for addressing climate change, a group of faith leaders released a document claiming that policies aimed at curbing carbon emissions tend to harm the poor unnecessarily.

Meanwhile a former Obama adviser has argued in The Wall Street Journal that the popular claim “climate science is settled” is erroneous because scientists are uncertain how earth’s climate will change in years to come.

Issued by the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation Sept. 17 and signed by more than 150 scientists, economists, theologians and others, “Protect the Poor: Ten Reasons to Oppose Harmful Climate Change Policies” contends that the effects of carbon dioxide on the climate are minimal and that policies mandating reduced carbon emissions inhibit economic advancement among the poor.

One of the signatories, Benjamin Phillips, associate professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he believes “the blind embrace of many environmentalist policy proposals will harm the poor, here and around the world.”

“Evangelicals have traditionally prioritized Christ’s command to care for the poor as a tangible way of demonstrating the compassion of God in the gospel of Christ,” Phillips told Baptist Press in written comments. “By experiencing the love of a Christian they can see, the poor find it easier to believe in the grace of God, whom they cannot directly see.

“But if pastors and missionaries promote public policies, however well-intended, that only serve to make energy and the things powered by it prohibitively expensive for the poor, those same people will find it harder to listen when that Christian proclaims the gospel to them,” Phillips said.

Obama urged increased reduction of carbon emissions and announced new measures to help developing countries combat climate change at the U.N. Climate Change Summit Sept. 23 in New York City. He argued that the “urgent and growing threat of climate change” will “define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other issue.”

But signers of “Protect the Poor” are skeptical about claims that catastrophic consequences of climate change are likely. Among the document’s contentions:

  • While carbon dioxide may slightly raise atmospheric temperatures, its effect is probably “small and benign rather than large and dangerous.”

  • “Empirical studies indicate that natural cycles outweigh human influences in producing the cycles of global warming and cooling, not only in the distant past but also recently.”

  • The affordable energy produced by fossil fuels – the primary source of carbon emissions – is “indispensable to lifting and keeping people out of poverty.”

  • “Mandatory reductions in CO2 emissions, pursued to prevent dangerous global warming, would have little or no discernible impact on global temperatures, but would greatly increase the price of energy and therefore of everything else.” Mandatory CO2 reductions “would also harm the poor more than the wealthy, and would harm them more than the small amount of warming they might prevent.”

  • Because the poor in developed countries spend a higher percentage of their income on energy than others, mandatory shifts to expensive “green” energy “will in effect be regressive taxes – taxing the poor at higher rates than the rich.”

In a call to action, the document asks political leaders “to abandon fruitless and harmful policies to control global temperature and instead adopt policies that simultaneously reflect a responsible environmental stewardship, make energy and all its benefits more affordable, and so free the poor to rise out of poverty.”

In addition to Phillips, Southern Baptists who have signed the document include Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., and former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Jeffrey Riley, professor of ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and Owen Strachan, assistant professor or Christian theology and church history at Boyce College.

A 2007 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on global warming took positions on climate change similar to those expressed in “Protect the Poor.” The resolution encouraged Southern Baptists “to proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research.” It also called for public policies that guarantee “an appropriate balance between care for the environment, effects on economics, and impacts on the poor when considering programs to reduce” carbon and other emissions.

Messengers voted to delete paragraphs from the resolution urging government funding of research on human induced global warming and supporting government initiatives to locate “viable energy alternatives to oil.”

Some members of the evangelical left differ with the Cornwall Alliance and the SBC resolution, arguing that love of neighbors entails reducing carbon emissions. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, told a multi-faith service held in conjunction with the U.N. Climate Change Summit that Jesus’ command to care for “the least of these” in Matthew 25 demands transitioning from “dirty and dangerous to clean and renewable energy.”

Yet Phillips said efforts to mandate “green” energy sources could hinder evangelism – especially in developing nations.

“Imagine a missionary in an African village, who lives in a home powered by electricity provided by expensive ‘renewable’ technology,” Phillips told BP. “If that missionary insists that the villagers can only have electricity also if they use technology far beyond their ability to afford, then he consigns them to ongoing poverty. Such an approach would put that missionary on the wrong side of James 2:14-17. Yet American evangelicals, albeit with the best of intentions, may be putting our missionaries in exactly that kind of position when we promote policies that would effectively deny the inexpensive energy necessary to lift people out of poverty to the global poor.”

In related news, Steven Koonin, former Obama undersecretary for science at the Energy Department, has attempted to chart a middle ground between denying and believing claims of harmful climate change. In a Sept. 19 Wall Street Journal editorial, he wrote that scientists don’t know how the climate will change in coming years or how much humans will influence that change.

“Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science,” Koonin wrote. “But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is ‘settled’ (or is a ‘hoax’) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.”

He added, “Individuals and countries can legitimately disagree about these matters, so the discussion should not be about ‘believing’ or ‘denying’ the science.”

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

9/30/2014 9:53:05 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Evangelicals & environmentalists cooperate?

September 30 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Amid polarized debate on climate change, Southern Baptists’ lead ethicist has called conservative evangelicals and secular environmentalists to cooperate on issues of creation care.

“I could prompt a cascade of ‘Amens’ in a sermon – or retweets on a Twitter feed – by noting that our legal system protects darter snails but not unborn humans,” Russell D. Moore wrote in the latest issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. “A secular environmentalist could evoke cheers on ‘The Daily Show’ by lampooning conservative Christians for claiming to be ‘pro-life’ while ignoring toxins in the atmosphere that produce birth defects or spontaneous abortions. These are appeals to the conscience, but they are rarely a conversation from one conscience to the other so much as they are self-reinforcing ‘red meat’ (or, I guess, ‘green leaf’ as the case might be) for the already-convinced bases.”

Yet “as those in the environmentalist activist community and those in the evangelical Christian community find themselves up close and personal together, we can learn some things from one another, and learn some things together,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote.

Like feminists and evangelicals have joined forces to combat pornography and human trafficking, environmentalists and evangelicals should work together to emphasize proper stewardship of the earth, Moore said in an interview with Baptist Press.

Followers of Jesus must listen “to our neighbors, including those who are environmentalists, in order to provide a Christian perspective on caring for the creation,” Moore said.


MooreEnvironment09-30-14.jpeg

Russell Moore

He acknowledged that evangelicals and secular environmentalists disagree in many instances on “huge global” issues like climate change. But such disagreement does not preclude cooperation to confront “local” problems like air and water pollution, proper land use and preserving natural resources for the next generation, he said.

“Climate change is an issue,” Moore said. “But I think that defining the issue [of environmental protection] solely in terms of climate change undercuts the means that we have to address [other] issues, which will have to happen at the level of consciences formed to care about the creation around them.”

In his journal article, Moore outlined three tenets of a balanced theology of the environment and pointed out common ground among evangelicals and environmentalists related to each area.

• Because part of Jesus’ saving work is to redeem the entire creation from the ruin of sin, His followers should likewise care about the material world.

“Orthodox (with a small ‘o’) Christians believe in the ‘end of the world,’ if by ‘world’ one means the present evil system under the tyranny of the criminal spirits,” Moore wrote. “But orthodox Christianity does not believe in the ‘end of the world,’ if by ‘world’ one means the destruction of the ecosystem or of the material cosmos.... The permanence of the creation, as redeemed in Christ, matters to the task of environmental protection because it grounds the activity of earth-keeping in optimism and hope.”

Christians who ignore creation care because they believe God will destroy the material world and environmentalists who warn that global warming will destroy earth are both misguided, Moore wrote. Exaggerated doomsday scenarios on both sides are less helpful than negotiated remedies to smaller scale environmental problems, he argued.

• The biblical concept of human dominion over creation means cultivating the earth for useful purposes. It precludes both predatory abuse of the creation and denial of humanity’s unique position in God’s economy.

“The concept of ‘dominion,’ found first in the opening passages of Genesis, sometimes alarms non-Christians because it seems to connote a sense of rapacious power,” Moore wrote. “But that is not what the Christian tradition intends. Biblical dominion is not, in Carl Henry’s words, ‘pharaoh-like,’ but instead is Christlike. Jesus, the One who fully restores human nature in his person, does not come to serve his own appetites but to serve others. The dominion over the creation is in the context of cultivation, and that in the context of a mandate to be ‘fruitful and multiply’ (Gen. 1:28). Dominion, then, by definition, is done with future generations, with others, in view.”

• A balanced political approach to creation care must neither reject environmental regulations altogether nor advocate regulations based solely on abstractions like global warming.

“Evangelical and environmentalist cooperation will begin in the small and long-term cultivation of communities learning to rethink connection and stewardship rather than primarily in the short-term activism of signed manifestoes and legislative checklists,” Moore wrote. “Evangelicals learning to ‘save the earth’ will do little good for the earth, or for evangelicals. But evangelicals learning about how ... to ‘live upstream’ with love for those who are living ‘downstream’ can bring about long-lasting change.”

Calvin Beisner, founder and national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance, said Moore’s theological discussion is a good starting point for evangelical reflection on creation care, but a robust environmental ethic must also consider science and economics.

“Theology is my main area of expertise, but extensive studies in the relevant science and economics over the past quarter of a century persuade me that many scientific claims about ecological disasters, and many economic policy prescriptions to address ecological problems, are mistaken – the scientific claims often exaggerated or simply counterfactual, and the policies often having harmful unintended consequences that outweigh the beneficial intended ones. Dr. Moore understandably avoids explicit affirmations about most such matters,” Beisner told BP in written comments.

“Just as in theology and ethics there are contrasting voices, so are there in the science and economics of environmental stewardship. We all need to be aware of the spectrum and the reasoning along it, and test that reasoning (1 Thessalonians 5:21) in developing our own understanding. That’s why the Cornwall Alliance always seeks the interdisciplinary input of scientists, economists, theologians, ethicists and others in developing our positions on environmental issues,” Beisner said.

While Moore acknowledged the need to formulate specific policies in light of multiple fields, he said the most pressing issue for modern evangelicals is training believers’ consciences to care about creation rather than hammering out national or state legislation.

“The primary issue,” Moore told BP, “is being aware of our responsibilities of shepherding, cultivating and leaving the creation for the next generation.”

He added, “Most of the discussion about the environment these days seems to be about huge global issues. I don’t think that’s where our primary problems lie. I think they’re primarily local questions of Christians engaged in the communities around them.”

9/30/2014 9:22:40 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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