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Families sue government for redefining Title IX

May 9 2016 by Lynde Langdon, WORLD News Service

Fifty-one families from the Chicago suburbs are saying “enough” to the Obama administration forcing schools to let boys and girls who identify as the opposite sex use the restrooms of their choice.
 
The families, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Thomas More Society, filed a suit against the U.S. Department of Education in federal court May 4. The lawsuit claims the department is “continuing to trample students’ privacy and other constitutional and statutory rights” in its enforcement of Title IX, a law that prohibits gender discrimination in federally funded schools.
 
In April 2014, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) ruled Title IX protections cover discrimination on the basis of gender identity as well as biological sex. Since then, schools around the country have faced threats of having their federal funding revoked if they don’t meet the demands of transgender students.
 
One such case arose in Palatine, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, between Township High School District 211 and a biologically male teen who lives as a girl. The district calls the student by a female name and pronouns, allows the student to play on girls’ athletic teams, and lets the student use female bathrooms. But the student, who has not been identified, could not access the girls’ locker rooms and had to change clothes for PE class and other activities in a separate bathroom.
 
The school district put up privacy curtains in the girls’ locker room and offered to let transgender students change there if they undressed behind the curtains. But that was not enough for the OCR, which said the privacy curtains were discriminatory unless all girls were required to use them. The OCR threatened to revoke $6 million in federal funding from the district, which relented and allowed the student open access to girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms.
 
The lawsuit filed May 4 describes the effect the policy has had on some of the female students at the high school: “The girls are afraid of having to attend to their most personal needs, especially during a time when their body is undergoing often embarrassing changes as they transition from childhood to adulthood, in a locker room or restroom with a male present.”
 
The suit describes how girls are avoiding using the restroom, wear their gym clothes under their school clothes to avoid undressing, and run to the opposite end of the school during passing periods to try to find empty restrooms.
 
Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the problems stem from the OCR’s redefining “sex” to include gender identity, something it had no authority to do.
 
Recently in Virginia, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a transgender student in a similar case. But the court acknowledged in its ruling that it was only upholding the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX, something another administration or Congress could change.
 
“Not only may a subsequent administration choose to implement a different policy, but Congress may also, of course, revise Title IX explicitly to prohibit or authorize the course charted here by the department regarding the use of restrooms by transgender students,” Judge Henry Floyd wrote. The argument of the families in Palatine, though, is that the Obama administration never had the right to rewrite Title IX in the first place, so the court should declare its actions void.
 
“No government agency can unilaterally redefine the meaning of a federal law to serve its own political ends,” ADF legal counsel Matt Sharp said. “The Department of Education is exceeding what it is legally and constitutionally allowed to do. In fact, at least five other federal and state courts have rejected the DOE’s interpretation of Title IX.”
 
Just hours after the Illinois families filed their suit, the U.S. Justice Department cited the new Title IX interpretation in a warning to North Carolina over its recently enacted restroom law.
 
The law, known as HB2, protects public establishments from being forced to allow biological males and females to have access to restrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify. Lawmakers passed HB2 in response to a city of Charlotte ordinance that made sexuality and gender preference protected classes under its civil rights laws.
 
Federal officials have given the state until Monday to pledge not to enforce the law. If Gov. Pat McCrory refuses, North Carolina could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal school funding.
 
The Justice Department also claims the law violates Civil Right Act protections against workplace discrimination.
 
“The state is engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender state employees and both you, in your official capacity, and the state are engaging in a pattern or practice of resistance” of their rights, the letter said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lynde is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital.)
 

Related Stories:

DOE releases list of schools not bending to LGBT agenda
Homosexual activist group targets Baptist schools
HB 2: Feds threaten McCrory with LGBT rights violations

5/9/2016 11:14:37 AM by Lynde Langdon, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Child abuse prevention among Southern Baptist aims

May 9 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists were represented among many groups planting pinwheels in gardens across America this spring to spotlight child abuse prevention and spread awareness of the 700,000 children in the U.S. who are maltreated each year.
 
Accepted as symbolic of the innocent whimsy of childhood, more than 5 million pinwheels have been distributed nationally during the annual April Pinwheels for Prevention emphasis since Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA) adopted the symbol in 2008.

 
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Submitted photo
A group of children from Calvary Baptist Church in Chapmanville, W.Va., planted pinwheels around the three crosses on the church’s lawn during the annual Pinwheels for Prevention against child abuse emphasis.

The pinwheel garden at Calvary Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Chapmanville, W.Va., marked the church’s fourth straight year of participation, said pastor John Freeman.
 
“We just have a great burden for kids, children at our church and especially those who go through the awful experience of being abused,” Freeman said of the church that draws about 100 Sunday worshippers. “It just seems like each year it grows and grows.” Following a special service April 3, the church planted perhaps 200 pinwheels on its grounds and in flower pots inside the church, Freeman estimated.
 
Prayer is always a focus of the event, Freeman said.
 
“We certainly make a point of having a time of prayer in church when we have the Pinwheel Sunday,” he said, “to pray for just children everywhere, especially in our county. There just seems to be a lot of abuse in our county here in West Virginia.”
 
Rebecca Adams, a longtime social worker and Calvary Baptist Church member, encouraged the congregation to adopt the practice.
 
“I’ve kind of seen firsthand the need for foster parents, and I see firsthand sometimes situations that the children come from, the abuse and neglect situations in the biological homes,” said Adams, who inspects foster homes for approval as a home resource coordinator with Necco family services group in Logan County. “And here at work, we participate in Child Abuse Prevention Month every [April] and we do special events, and one of those things was the Pinwheels for Prevention Project.”
 
In West Virginia in 2013, 12.3 of every 1,000 children suffered maltreatment, according to the West Virginia Bureau for Children and Families’ most recent statistics.
 
“My eyes were opened to some of the situations these kids go through,” Adams said of her work at Necco. “My eyes were kind of opened to the abuse and neglect that takes place right here in our own community, in our little area, in Logan County and the surrounding area.”

 
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Submitted photo
A young boy plants a pinwheel at Calvary Baptist Church in Chapmanville, W. Va., marking the annual Pinwheels for Prevention against child abuse emphasis.

Child abuse includes all types of abuse and neglect of children under 18 by a parent, caregiver or other custodian, including ministers, coaches and teachers, and is categorized as physical, sexual, emotional or neglect, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
Children at Calvary Baptist Church enjoy planting the pinwheels and have been appropriately educated regarding child abuse, Adams said, and the greater community has embraced the practice.
 
“[The children] look forward to it. They like to show that they are a part of it as well,” Adams said. “[Community members] take the initiative to put them in their own yard, or to encourage other people to do it and to try to help raise awareness about the issue that we face in our area. The pinwheel is the national symbol for child abuse prevention.”
 
Sunrise Children’s Services, a Kentucky Baptist supported childcare agency in Mt. Washington, Ky., helped Kentucky Advocates for Abused and Neglected Children kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month in planting thousands of blue and silver pinwheels on the state Capitol lawn in Frankfort, Ky. March 31.
 
Dale Suttles, Sunrise Children’s Services president, told the Western Recorder newspaper that “there is something so poignant and powerful about this event.”
 
It’s “a reminder of the intrinsic worth of every human being,” he said. “It’s why the work we do is so important.”
 
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has long advocated for the protection of children, adopting resolutions and offering a library of resources (sbc.net/churchresources/sexabuseprevention.asp) to help churches minister to children in safe environments.
 
Among resources are links to the LifeWay Christian Resources’ background checking service, the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, tools from GuideStone Financial Resources, and a pastor’s search committee handbook. The SBC website also links to resources offered by the Alabama State Board of Missions, the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
 
SBC LIFE, the SBC journal, published the special report “Protecting Our Children: Accepting the Responsibility, Embracing the Privilege” (available here: www.sbclife.net/pdf/ProtectingOurChildren.pdf), which offers testimonies from the abused and professionals working to protect them, Scriptural exhortation, statistics and legal help.
 
The SBC, set to hold its annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis, has adopted four resolutions pledging to protect children from abuse, most recently the 2013 Resolution on Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse (seen here sbc.net/resolutions/search/resolution.asp?ID=1230).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

5/9/2016 11:07:28 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Teen birthrate drop puts character in spotlight

May 9 2016 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

The birthrate among American teenagers has dropped to the lowest level since the government began tracking numbers, and observers are pointing to sex education programs that focus on character as one of the causes.
 
Having peaked more than 20 years ago, the teen birthrate fell 60 percent, from 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991 to 24.2 births per 1,000 in 2014, according to an analysis released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) April 28.
 
The Washington Post noted that sex education programs have changed over the years with fewer crude lessons on how to use contraception and more lessons on the overall development of a child’s character, “approaches that some research has shown may be more effective.”
 
Richard Ross, co-founder of the True Love Waits movement and professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he could not agree more with the idea that character lessons are more effective.
 
“Trying to make premarital sex a little less risky is not the ultimate answer,” Ross said. “The primary focus must be given to the hearts, minds and character of the teenagers.”
 
Such an approach, Ross said, is far more common today than before the advent of True Love Waits (TLW), which is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources.
 
“Numerous members of Congress told me in the mid-1990s that True Love Waits had changed the conversation in D.C.,” Ross said. “The explosive growth of the movement revealed to leaders that teenagers are open to considering moral purity and that surprising numbers will choose that lifestyle.”
 
Valerie Huber, president of Ascend (formerly the National Abstinence Education Association), said contraceptive use among teens has flat-lined and “there is a phenomenon that is hopeful and promising.”
 
“Waiting for sex is a message that is resonating with youth,” Huber said. “It is relevant. And we need to find more and better ways to encourage and reinforce this healthy behavior rather than encouraging and normalizing teen sex.”
 
According to the CDC, Huber said, over the past 20 years the percentage of teens who have ever had sex has decreased by more than 15 percent, something she called highly significant. “More teens are waiting,” she said.
 
Ascend partnered with The Barna Group to ask teenagers why they were waiting to have sex, and fear of pregnancy was low on the list, Huber said.
 
The study, soon to be released in full, revealed:

  • 42 percent wait because of personal values

  • 42 percent wait for a committed relationship

  • 30 percent fear pregnancy

  • 22 percent fear getting an STD

In its most recent analysis, the CDC said despite record declines in the teen birthrate, racial/ethnic and geographic disparities persist. Community-level interventions that address the social conditions associated with high teen birthrates might further reduce those disparities, the CDC said.
 
Ross identified three needs going forward.
 
“First, our youth pastors just out of college were in diapers when TLW swept the nation and world. Many have not seen the way that teenage believers embrace this message,” Ross said. “They have not seen the empowerment the teenagers experience when they discover that large numbers of their peers are choosing the same values and lifestyle.”
 
Seasoned leaders need to mentor younger leaders, Ross said, to open their eyes to the value of addressing the topic with a new generation of teenagers. He pointed to the True Love Project by LifeWay as an ideal way to teach and lead teenagers on the subject.
 
“Second, the church must find new ways to equip parents to lead out on this issue at home,” Ross said. “The research consistently says that Mom and Dad almost always are the most powerful voices and influences. On the issue of sexual purity, parents cannot be content to outsource all the teaching to the church.”
 
Also, church leaders and parents need to do much better tying the issue of sexual purity to Jesus, Ross said.
 
“Moralism is not a motivator. Cold religion is not either. We need a new generation of teenage believers who say, ‘I live my life in purity because I love and adore Jesus.’ ... Even in a decaying culture, teenagers can live in purity if they are doing so for King Jesus,” Ross said.
 
Huber said teens deserve to receive information and a culture-wide reinforcement of messaging that equips and empowers them to wait for sex.
 
“More teens are waiting for sex despite the fact that nearly every message that teens receive regarding sex is one that sends an expectation that they are – or very shortly will be – sexually active,” Huber said.
 
But if societal messages sent the expectation that teens would not engage in sex and then caring adults at every juncture reinforced healthy choices, the positive numbers would become more positive, Huber said.
 
“While a drop in teen birthrates is great, that is only part of the picture of what teen sexual health looks like,” Huber said. “Only by avoiding all the risks of sex can teens enjoy optimal sexual health.”
 
Huber cited “tremendous progress” in federal sex education policy this year. Among the gains:

  • An analysis published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in March indicates that fewer communities are comfortable with contraceptive instruction, the focus of the Obama administration’s well-funded Teen Pregnancy Prevention program. A survey found birth control instruction had decreased, instruction on the benefits of waiting until marriage for sex had increased, and sexual risk avoidance education enjoyed strong support. “The authors begrudgingly acknowledge that the increase in SRA [Sexual Risk Avoidance] education, despite its decreased federal funding, ‘shows the continued salience of this approach to sex education,’“ Ascend said in a news release April 21.

  • Ascend and the Family Research Council presented a congressional briefing called “Sexual Risk Avoidance Education: Bypassing the Road to Poverty,” which drew a standing-room-only crowd of congressional staffers from both sides of the political aisle in February, Ascend said. The briefing emphasized that SRA education is vital to helping youth avoid the potentially devastating impact of poverty on future success.

  • In March, a coalition of supporters of the SRA message commended the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for three specific changes in sex education policy: renaming the Competitive Abstinence Education program to the Sexual Risk Avoidance program; inserting key concepts from the Healthy Relationships Act to serve as the legislative definition for SRA education; and doubling the funding for the SRA program without making similar increases to the president’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention program.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville.)

5/9/2016 11:03:33 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



DOE releases list of schools not bending to LGBT agenda

May 9 2016 by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service

Amid pressure from the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) publicly released a list of Christian schools seeking Title IX exemptions over their views on transgenderism.
 
In December, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) issued a report calling for “greater transparency” for religious schools seeking exemptions “under the guise of religious liberty.”
 
On April 29, the Obama administration published the results of the request – placing the spotlight on each college and university seeking to hold true to a biblical worldview on gender and sexuality.
 
“Yes, we filed for the exemption and we are proud of it,” said Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, one of the schools on the list. “But nothing will change for us. We are compliant with a biblical worldview and to do anything else would be false advertising for our students.”
 
Title IX is the federal law enacted in 1972 to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex. For years, the law was used primarily to give women equal access to intercollegiate sports. But in 2014, without a single move from lawmakers in Congress, the DOE expanded the definition to include gender identity. Now, schools need to accommodate men who identify as women – granting them access to female housing or even permission to compete on female sports teams if they choose.
 
The broadened definition challenged many Christian institutions to either compromise their faith-based principles or file for an exemption from the new mandate to keep federal funding. And even with the exemption, the move opens the door to possible lawsuits from LGBT groups and public ridicule.
 
Eight Senate Democrats joined with HRC to pressure the DOE to compile and release the list.
 
But others in the Senate view this as just one more example of an overreaching agency in the Obama administration.
 
In March, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., spoke out against the DOE, citing Title IX mandates as an example of abuse of power.
 
“The Department of Education positions itself to hold federal funding ransom if universities don’t comply with its policies even when those policies are unlawful abuses of regulatory power,” Lankford said. “Here the ends certainly do not justify the means. Schools and the very students we want to protect suffer as a result.”
 
The Department of Education’s list spotlighted 74 schools that have filed for exemptions since 2009. They range from Baptist institutions, such as Anderson University in South Carolina, to Quaker colleges, such as George Fox University in Oregon.
 
“(We want) to ensure that no student unknowingly enrolls in a school that intends to discriminate against them,” HRC president Chad Griffin said.
 
The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), which represents 152 North American institutions, said the list merely affirms which schools are taking advantage of provisions already laid out by lawmakers.
 
“The real story is why some are trying to penalize religious colleges for simply following the law,” the CCCU said in a statement.
 
Yet for Piper, the exemption is less about shielding his institution under the law but protecting his students from invasions of privacy. Being a male or being a female is an objective reality, and Piper said he wants to respect each student’s God-given biological sex.
 
“We believe that women should be given the dignity of having their own restrooms, showers, and dorms,” Piper said, reiterating statements he made in December. “I am pro-woman and proud of it.”
 
Christian law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) echoed that sentiment.
 
“Activists have sought to publicly shame institutions that have exercised their rights, and they successfully recruited the Department [of Education] to join their efforts,” said Greg Baylor, senior counsel with ADF. “We are hopeful that most Americans will support schools that seek to respond to gender dysphoria with compassion and Christian love rather than follow the government’s one-size-fits-all mandates.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Wilt is a reporter for WORLD Digital.)
 

Related Stories:

Families sue government for redefining Title IX
Homosexual activist group targets Baptist schools
HB 2: Feds threaten McCrory with LGBT rights violations

5/9/2016 10:51:06 AM by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service | with 1 comments



St. Louis SBC preschool & child care are full

May 9 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Preschool child care registration for the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting in St. Louis reached capacity ahead of the May 6 deadline and has surpassed 2015 registration by more than 30 percent, according to SBC Executive Committee staff.
 
Preschool registration closed May 4 with 142 registrants, SBC Executive Committee meeting planner Lynn Richmond said. Last year’s registration closed May 20 with 109 preschoolers, characterized as newborns through 5-year-olds.

 
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BP file photo by Rebekah Rausch
The presence of children in strollers at Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings, such as these at the 2015 Baltimore meeting, is thought to be indicative of increased participation among younger Southern Baptists.

“Preschool registration has been closing earlier due to [reaching] capacity,” Richmond said. “Since there is no onsite registration, parents are being proactive in getting their children registered.”
 
Registration for 6 to 12-year-olds is also strong, with about 150 already signed up and availability likely to end before the original May 30th deadline at sbcannualmeeting.net and thegiantcow.com/#!blank/tz247.
 
The increases in preschool and children’s registration are indicative of a growing presence of younger messengers and attendees at SBC annual meetings, said Roger “Sing” Oldham, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention communications and relations.
 
“This year’s preschool and children’s registration bodes well for the future of cooperation as Baptists of all ages work together,” Oldham said, “to impact the lostness of our world with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
The Executive Committee’s yearly survey of SBC annual meeting attendance also indicates increased participation by younger Southern Baptists. Participation from adults younger than 40 reached a 10-year high at the 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore, the survey revealed, when nearly a fourth of attendees (24.68 percent) were under age 40. The survey, while not a scientific sampling, also indicated 10-year highs for SBC attendees in age categories of under 45 and under 35.
 
“Seeing so many strollers at the 2015 annual meeting in Columbus was very encouraging,” Oldham also noted. “It hearkened back to a time when younger pastors and their families were more actively involved in the SBC annual meeting.”
 
Preschool child care will be provided by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief child care volunteers.
 
Registrations are still being accepted for Youth On Mission, which will engage students in hands-on missions projects June 14-15 for $55 per youth, plus a nonrefundable registration fee of $10 per youth. Youth on Mission registration is available at sbcannualmeeting.net.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

5/9/2016 10:41:13 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



U.S. distress from God, Evans says at prayer event

May 6 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

God is troubling this country to grab the attention of Americans, Tony Evans told participants May 5 in a National Day of Prayer event in Washington, D.C.
 
Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, was the keynote speaker at the Capitol Hill observance, which was one of tens of thousands of such events across the country. This year’s National Day of Prayer (NDP) was the 65th since the federal government first recognized the occasion.
 
Ronnie Floyd, Southern Baptist Convention president, attended the Washington, D.C., event and cited the importance of prayer in a message. “On this National Day of Prayer, we need to remember, there is no great movement of God that has ever occurred that has not first been preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God’s people,” he posted on Instagram.
 
The United States is experiencing societal distress not unlike that reported in 2 Chronicles 15:6, which says God “troubled them with every kind of distress,” said Evans, this year’s honorary NDP chairman.
 
“[W]hat you and I are seeing in America is what happens when a culture disregards God,” Evans told the audience. “We want God in the vicinity. We want him for invocations; we want him for benedictions, as long as He stays away from the meetings in between.”
 
When God is dismissed, Evans said, “that creates a vacuum for the viruses of evil to proliferate.”
 
“So what God has actually done is to allow America to become distressed,” he said. “Because He’s been pushed to the side, He’s allowed the vacuum of evil to proliferate so that He can get our undivided attention. And when He gets that undivided attention, we will cry out and scream out and declare Him at a level He wants to hear it at.
 
“It’s time now to declare through our prayer and its accompanying action our declaration of dependence.”
 
Evans urged Christians to be “visible, verbal followers of Jesus Christ,” saying it is “not a time for secret agent Christianity.”
 
In his National Day of Prayer proclamation issued the day before the observance, President Barack Obama called for Americans to rededicate themselves to the advancement of religious liberty.
 
Acknowledging this country “was founded on the idea of religious freedom,” Obama said the United States “will continue to stand up for those around the world who are subject to fear or violence because of their religion or beliefs.”
 
“As a Nation free to practice our faith as we choose, we must remember those around the world who are not afforded this freedom, and we must recommit to building a society where all can enjoy this liberty and live their lives in peace and dignity,” the president said in his proclamation.
 
At the Washington observance, it was announced Shirley Dobson is stepping down as chairman of the NDP Task Force after 25 years. The wife of author and radio show host James Dobson will become chairman emeritus, and Anne Graham Lotz will succeed her as chairman. Lotz will continue to lead AnGeL Ministries.
 
This year’s NDP theme, established by the task force, was “Wake Up America.” The Bible verse for this year’s observance was Isaiah 58:1a:  “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet.
 
National Day of Prayer has been held each year since Congress approved a resolution in 1952 calling on the president to establish such an annual event. President Truman inaugurated the observance the same year, and presidents since then have recognized it with proclamations. In 1988, Congress amended the law to set the first Thursday of May for the observance.
 
The NDP Task Force is a privately funded group that says the observance is for people of all faiths to participate in but the events it organizes are fulfilled “in accordance with its Judeo-Christian beliefs.”
 
In years past, NDP observances have been held in as many as 40,000 or more locations.
 
Obama’s National Day of Prayer proclamation may be accessed online at www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/05/04/ presidential-proclamation-national-day-prayer-2016.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/6/2016 11:55:51 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Missing NOBTS student found in Ala. hospital

May 6 2016 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS

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New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary student John Russell, missing since April 22, has been found in an Alabama hospital. He has been in the ICU at D.W. McMillan Hospital in Brewton, Ala., since April 22 following an accident.
 
Hospital officials were unable to identify Russell until May 4. After identifying Russell, who is still in ICU, Alabama authorities notified NOBTS that he had been found. Russell's mother has been notified and is traveling to be with him during his recovery.
 
NOBTS President Chuck Kelley asked for continued prayer for Russell as he recovers.
 
“We rejoice that our student John Russell has been found and is receiving the medical care he needs," Kelley said. "Please join us in praying for his full recovery.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary D. Myers is director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

Related Story:

NOBTS helps police in missing student case

5/6/2016 11:50:27 AM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS | with 3 comments



Millennial church launches with eight baptisms

May 6 2016 by Mark Kelly, NAMB

Some might say Queen Creek, Ariz., is growing fast enough to make a person’s head spin. In just three years, a city of 29,673 southeast of Phoenix has exploded to an estimated 50,000 people.
 
But Trey Van Camp’s head isn’t spinning. His heart is broken.

 
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Photo courtesy Heart Cry Gathering
On his church’s launch day in January 2016, Trey Van Camp (left) baptized eight people at Heart Cry Gathering near Phoenix. Five more were baptized at the young church plant on Easter Sunday.

“I was born and raised here. Queen Creek is one of fastest growing cities in our state,” said the church planter, noting that most of the people who live there do not have a relationship with Christ.
 
The thought of so many souls deprived of the gospel weighed heavily on Trey and his father, Billy, who pastors Heart Cry Cowboy Church in Queen Creek. They decided a new church was needed to reach the flood of young outsiders moving into the city, who weren’t likely to drive out to Horseshoe Park for services targeting Queen Creek’s native cowboys.
 
Throughout 2015, a core team of about 40 people gathered in four different Bible studies, and the new congregation, Heart Cry Gathering, drew 140 people to its January 10 launch at a movie theater in the heart of Queen Creek’s bustling north side. The church plant receives funding from the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
 
Eight people were baptized that first Sunday and, barely two months later, another five were baptized on Easter.
 
“We want as many baptisms as possible. That’s what we’re all about,” Trey said. “It’s crazy how many people are moving in. There just aren’t enough churches being planted to meet the need.”
 
Heart Cry Gathering is connecting with the area’s millennial generation through both ancient and modern approaches, Trey said.

 
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Photo courtesy Heart Cry Gathering
Trey Van Camp, here with his wife Jordan, and their daughter, Faith, launched Heart Cry Gathering outside of Phoenix in January 2016. The church celebrated eight baptisms on its launch day and an additional five on Easter Sunday. Photo courtesy Heart Cry Gathering
Photo courtesy Heart Cry Gathering

“We do communion every week. We recite confessions. We are really rooted in the history of the church,” Trey said. “But we meet in a movie theater and use video technology very well. All our leadership is in their 20s, but at the same time we talk about what we do as Southern Baptists and we are passionate about the Cooperative Program [the Southern Baptist Convention’s giving channel to support missions and ministry].”
 
Heart Cry Gathering tries to get maximum leverage out of its movie theater setting.
 
“We gave away 100 free movie tickets at our launch service,” Trey said. “All our flyers look like movie theater posters, and we use movie clips to illustrate what we are talking about in our services.”
 
But while they are connecting the gospel to people, Heart Cry Gathering also wants to connect people to their community, and the community to the mission of Jesus.
 
“We want to be a church that is missionary right away,” Trey said.
 
“We are really focusing on the ASU Polytechnic campus, which graduates engineers and nurses and teachers. Our passion there is to raise up disciples and send them out as missionaries wherever they get a job offer. We have a mission trip this summer to Alaska, and we send teams to the Rio Vista Center, which is the Southern Baptist homeless outreach in Phoenix. We want to disciple our people to serve others who can never pay them back.”

 
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Photo courtesy Heart Cry Gathering
Trey Van Camp (center in red shirt) stands with the group of eight people who were baptized at the launch of Heart Cry Gathering near Phoenix in January 2016.

The congregation struggles, however, against the apathy that holds many millennial hearts hostage, Trey said.
 
“People my age are apathetic,” he noted. “I have some friends who think what we are doing is cool, but they don’t want anything to do with it. Religion is not a route they want to take.”
 
Not a single person responded to the 5,000 mailers sent out for the launch, so Heart Cry Gathering must take the long view and invest in relationships, Trey said.
 
“Every person who has come was because we have made a relationship with them,” he said. “That’s hard because it takes a long time. But we had one couple come last Sunday who told us they would never ever come to our church. They said, ‘We don’t like Christians. We don’t like Jesus,’ but they came yesterday, so we praise God for that. We have to keep pressing on and keep loving people. It takes a long time, but it’s worth it.”
 
Two of the congregation’s worship leaders are brand-new believers who came to Christ because time was invested in relationships.
 
“I was working out one day, and I met this guy. I invited him over to our house and he brought his wife,” Trey said. “They showed up at my house all of 2015 for the Bible study. We led them to Christ, and I got to officiate their wedding in November. Then they were in the group I baptized on our launch day. Now he is leading music for our worship team.
 
“Our drummer was a one of the ones who said he would never come to church,” Trey added. “But the guy who is now our worship leader was his best friend. He got saved, and now his kids are going to be baptized. It’s amazing to see how Jesus has transformed his life.”
 
“Our team is comprised of former drug addicts, people from broken families, former atheists … and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
 
View a video from Heart Cry Gathering’s opening day baptisms at https://vimeo.com/165172249. Learn more about Heart Cry Gathering at http://www.heartcry.cc/. Explore more about church planting through the North American Mission Board at www.namb.net/SendMe.

 
 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for the North American Mission Board.)

5/6/2016 11:39:50 AM by Mark Kelly, NAMB | with 0 comments



Chinese student becomes leader in campus ministry

May 6 2016 by Scott Barkley, Georgia Christian Index

For a long time, international student Hilary Tong’s personality reflected how she lived her faith. Quiet. Reserved about her relationship with Christ.
 
That may sound odd for a communications major. But there’s a meticulousness in how the Chinese native now is more outward in her witness among international students at her college and throughout Georgia.

 
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Submitted photo
Chinese student Hilary Tong at Wesleyan College in Georgia spends one-on-one time with campus minister Danielle Burdette. Tong is the current president of the BCM as well as Georgia BCM international student leader – the first international elected to the role.

“The thing I appreciate most about Hilary is her willingness to ask God to show her the rough edges of her life and faith, and then ask Him to put her into situations that smooth those out,” said Danielle Burdette, campus minister at Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga., where Tong is the Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) president.
 
Tong also is the Georgia BCM international student leader – the first international elected to the role.
 
Last summer, Tong ventured into BCM missions on three trips – one to New Jersey to help ongoing rebuilding efforts from Hurricane Sandy; another to assist church planters in the upper Midwest; and a third as a camp staff member ministering to children with developmental disabilities as well as their families.
 
Tong’s position as Wesleyan’s BCM president continues to expand her spiritual growth.
 
“It’s been a chance to learn leadership skills, to learn how to guide a team and mix everyone’s strength, trigger everyone’s energy to serve,” she said. “It’s an encouragement to see how God has led my fellow student leaders and see how their lives grow. The chance to organize events and lead Bible study is valuable to me.

 
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Submitted photo
Hilary Tong (top right in gray sweater), president of Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Wesleyan College in Georgia, is intent on deepening her faith through Bible studies, leadership opportunities and personal witness. Leading the Bible study (at top) is campus minister Danielle Burdette.

“The people that I know through BCM are like family, and this relationship is very valuable to me for my days here in the U.S. I enjoy it and am honored to serve as a part of God’s Kingdom.”
 
This year, Tong felt that God was directing her to lead and teach others about prayer and walking in faith. At the beginning, the BCM only had a few students but now the numbers have grown to 10-15 a week, all also involved in a local church. Tong also has experienced leading a fellow student to pray to receive Christ for salvation.
 
“It is so good to be able to see God’s faithfulness in all of this,” Tong said. “He has answered our prayers. … I have learned what it means to be a part of a Christian body and how to work with a group of people for God’s mission together.”
 
How she lives her faith, though still reflecting her personality, has changed somewhat. There’s a time to sit quietly, sure, but there’s a time for action. A time to be a leader.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is web content developer for The Christian Index at christianindex.org, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

5/6/2016 11:33:03 AM by Scott Barkley, Georgia Christian Index | with 0 comments



Donations offer relief for family buried under medical bills

May 6 2016 by N.C. Baptist Hospital/Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

What began as a simple overnight hospital stay for newborn Stella turned into 22 days of complications and fear. Born with Down syndrome, Josh and Gina Grant’s little girl was having trouble keeping food down: she wasn’t thriving. Days turned into weeks as the experts at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Brenner Children’s Hospital ran a battery of tests and procedures. Exploratory stomach surgery was the last resort.
 
“That night, I said good-bye to my daughter,” Josh admits. “I prayed with her and told God he was in control. I didn’t think she was going to make it.”

 
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The four-hour surgery worked: doctors discovered part of Stella’s small intestine was nearly closed. “Prayer works,” Josh enthuses. “She was brand-new!”
 
But, so were the medical bills; new ones arrived every day. The family was overwhelmed. As the bills skyrocketed, they talked about bankruptcy and were looking into refinancing the house for a second mortgage when, one day, the phone rang. And rang.
 
Josh, a magistrate, was at work with a room full of people but, finally, he picked up and got the news that changed everything.
 
“Our bills were paid in full by the Mother’s Day Offering,” he says. “I told the people in front of me that I needed a minute. They left and I just sat there and cried. I was crying so much, Gina could barely understand me but, when she did, she started crying too. Something lifted off of us. It was unbelievable.”
 
Since 1924 North Carolina Baptists have given to the Mother’s Day Offering to “extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, especially to the needy.”
 
The Grants shared the news in church and the whole community that had supported them for so long joined them in gratitude. “It was totally up to God to save Stella,” Josh remarks. “And, apparently, it was totally up to God to take care of us financially.”
 
Today, Stella is a busy two-year-old, adored by her big brothers and a blessing to her parents because she is a symbol of God’s love in action through N.C. Baptists. “We couldn’t have done it without the Mother’s Day Offering,” says Gina. “The people who participated helped save Stella’s life; they healed her. I don’t think thank you does it justice. It’s amazing how much you can love someone you don’t even know.
 
Visit mothersdayoffering.org for more information about the offering.

5/6/2016 11:27:03 AM by N.C. Baptist Hospital/Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center | with 0 comments



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