February 7 2013 by
February 4 2013 by
Shawn Hendricks & K. Allan Blume, BR Managing Editor & BR Editor
Rubbing shoulders with professional athletes and various sports figures has been part of life for Roman Gabriel III, the president of Sold Out Ministries and radio host. For the Biblical Recorder
, Gabriel has interviewed a variety of personalities – from the NFL’s Tony Dungy to NASCAR’s Blake Koch. Each of his interviews focus on faith, family and how athletes use their sports platform to share Jesus and present a positive message to others. For the past 19 years Gabriel, who is the son of a former NFL star quarterback, – and a former pro QB himself – has covered Super Bowl week for both secular and faith-based media outlets. This year, the Biblical Recorder
– along with American Family Radio
and a few other supporters – partnered with Gabriel while he was in New Orleans for seven interview packed days. For this article, we turned the tables on Gabriel, who usually asks the questions. Gabriel shares his take on the week, the players and why the Super Bowl is similar to an annual Baptist meeting. Below are excerpts from the interview, which was edited for clarity, brevity and length.
Q: For those of us who have never been to the Super Bowl, give us a glimpse of what it’s like through your eyes. How did it go?
For me, I measure the week on our impact for the Lord. It went great. You have two teams – the Ravens and the 49ers. There were so many story lines. And many of those story lines were faith and family based. So that’s right up our team’s alley.
It is a spectacular thing. Sometimes you have a tendency to take it for granted if you’ve been there. But I can remember the first year I was there. If you’ve ever taken your kids to Disney Land or Disney World for the first time … [and] they’ve only seen Mickey Mouse on TV … it’s that kind of excitement when you go the first time. When you’ve grown up with football since you were one-year-old like me, and you knew players that have played from my Dad’s era and then I played in 80s era, … you’re absolutely blown away by the royalty of the NFL coming together. … It would be like going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a week and having everyone that’s ever been inducted and you being a music person. … This is like the Hall of Fame on steroids.
Q: What does a typical week look like for you at the Super Bowl?
Special to the BR
Roman Gabriel III, left, interviews Sean Considine of the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans.
We come in on Monday night. We get our credentials, and we get checked in the media center. We have a team of five – myself, producer, cameraman, another onsite cameraman and then a full-time photographer. … It is kind of like the Baptist convention getting people together. [It’s] where you can see players who you played with. [It’s] where people are able to reminisce about great Super Bowls of [the] past and players that have played in the game. [It’s] where radio stations can talk to them about the game and about the things they want to talk about. It’s beautiful for us because we’re able to target guys that are faith and family oriented, that are character oriented. [We] talk to them a lot about how they use their platform for what they do. So it really is a 24-hour, seven-day … coming-out party for the NFL. Everybody comes down to celebrate a great year in the NFL and to cap it off Sunday with a Super Bowl game.
Q: How many people did you interview while you were in New Orleans?
Probably over 100. … You can only imagine how difficult it would be to get a hold of premier NFL players through their agents throughout the year, to try to set up radio opportunities or film opportunities or Internet opportunities. I’ll get a year’s worth of material [at the Super Bowl]. … You have entertainers. You have movie actors. You have musicians. … Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medalist, was in the locker room with the Ravens. We interviewed him. He’s friends with a lot of the Ravens because he’s from Baltimore. You’ll see a lot of movie stars there because they’ll … come in to promote movies or a book that they’ve written. … I talk to a lot of people who cover sports that are there. … Very few people know that the Super Bowl is just the end of a very long week of promotion, a long week of having the opportunity to gather and have fellowship. … The average ticket price for a game like this is about $4,000 dollars, so this is definitely a corporate event. This is not something mom and dad can bring their kids to. It’s corporations and sports mixing for the benefit of making money. ... Our goal all week long is to get these [athletes and others] to open up about their faith, about their families and about how their career – and the career that they had – has turned into allowing them to have a platform that’s even greater today after … playing.
Q: What were some of the highlights of the week for you?
A: I had a chance to chat with [John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens,] for a moment. … As he was leaving [after the Super Bowl], he stopped and put his arm around me. … He said … “[I] just wanted to let you know we appreciate what you guys [in Christian media] do.” And I thought that was really special. … The other story was Michael Oher, [whose story is captured in] the movie The Blind Side.
Michael plays right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. [He] comes from a foster situation, had no parents … and of course the Tuohy’s … took him in. [They] provided that strong parental acknowledgement and encouragement to him. I just asked him, “What would you tell other kids that are in your situation?” And he said, “… Sometimes you have to decide for yourself that you’re going to make good decisions, even if you don’t have good people around you to help you in that. I just decided that I wanted to do the right thing. And I also know that God has blessed me greatly with my foster parents, [and] to be drafted in the NFL after everything I have been through and to be sitting here.” …
That’s what makes football and sports such a great thing. It teaches so many biblical lessons, and for me, those were never separated. The biblical lessons and the life lessons came together for me, and that’s why sports and God fit together so well. That’s why I have to thank God for introducing me to football and sports because I met God through that and through some very caring teammates [who] loved God.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel III hosts Sold Out Sports Saturday nights at 8 p.m. EST on American Family Radio. He is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Contact him at (910) 431-6483 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.soldouttv.com.)
Jim Henry will never forget the time his wife made an appointment to see him.
Henry, who was pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn. at the time, said he thought his wife, Jeanette, was playing a joke on him at first.
“Mrs. Henry, is there anything … I can help you with?” he asked her playfully.
Jeanette looked him straight in the eye and said, “You’ve got time for everybody else, and now you’re going to take time for me.”
“The church was growing, and I thought I was doing a pretty good job at home,” Henry said. “And I realized I wasn’t.”
Henry, who today is pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church Orlando after 28 years of service there, said that was his “kum-ba-ya” moment when he realized he needed to adjust his routine.
After 53 years of marriage, three grown children, five grandsons and one great grandson, Henry said that was a defining moment in his ministry. It stirred him to do a better job of balancing his schedule, not over committing himself to ministry, and carving out more “family appointment” time.
“Nobody taught me … these things,” said Henry, who pointed out that most young pastors aren’t properly equipped to juggle family and ministry. “I was not taught anything like this at seminary.”
And today’s pastors are paying a heavy price – with divorce or leaving the ministry.
Now on an advisory committee with Care For Pastors
, an organization that ministers to church leaders, Henry said 1,600 pastors are leaving the ministry every month.
And one of the main reasons is linked to marriage trouble. Every year more and more pastors are getting divorced, and church leaders – like Henry and others in North Carolina – are looking for ways to curb the trend.
Matt Chewning, a church planter in Boston, admits the first two years of giving birth to Netcast Church weren’t easy on him and his wife, Beth, and their four children.
“It really was difficult on my wife and me,” said Chewning, who got his start as an intern at 1.21 Church in Winston-Salem.
“There is a real enemy who is trying to attack your family. If the enemy can un-unite the husband and wife, that trickles into the church, and there will be disunity in the church.”
Finding the balance meant saying “no” more often to the demands of ministry and saying “yes” to his family.
“Number one, it says to my wife, ‘You are more important to me than our church,’” he said. “‘I’m not going to cheat on you with the church God has given us.’ If I don’t do certain things, I’m not hindering God’s ability to build this church.
“Jesus is going to build this church.”
Too many pastors transfer their loyalty from their families to their church once they begin their ministry, added Eddie Thompson, senior consultant for marriage and family ministry at the Baptist State Convention of N.C.
Thompson counsels with pastors and their families and leads a variety of marriage conferences throughout the year.
“They don’t mean to [transfer loyalty], but it’s just the nature of the job,” he said. “This really hurts them in the long run.”
The sooner pastors learn their families are a critical part of their ministry, the better off the ministry becomes, said Thompson. Pastors often become isolated from their families and friendships over time.
“Even though they are around a lot of people … many pastors feel isolated,” Thompson said. “Ask most women, ‘Does your husband have a close friend? No. He doesn’t.’”
“When somebody feels isolated this really opens up the doors strongly to temptation.”
In addition to infidelity, pornography is a growing “plague” and “cancer” in the lives of many pastors, and it wreaks havoc on their families and their ministries.
“This is the number one call I get from staff members from across the state,” Thompson said.
“Some are trapped in a world of pornography and don’t like it one ounce. The access to pornography is just too easy.”
Thompson cited a poll done by Focus on the Family
a few years ago that surveyed 2,000 pastors. The study asked them if they had viewed pornography in the last 20 days. Sixty-seven percent responded with “yes.”
Pastors and church leaders must realize they are an “easy target,” Thompson said. “You have the biggest target on your back than anybody.”
Facebook creates another temptation for people – including pastors – to engage in inappropriate relationships and extramarital affairs. A study involving 600 divorce attorneys revealed that two thirds of divorces in the United States are linked to the social networking site.
“We see Facebook really as [having] an intensely negative effect on the family right now,” Thompson said.
“This has really opened the door for pastors, just as much as everybody else.”
Couples must establish boundaries with Facebook and other social networking sites. And congregations must also learn to be sensitive to the fact that pastors, and their families, deal with the same temptations and struggles everyone else encounters.
“Many of these pastors and wives are hurting deeply, but they never tell anybody,” Thompson said.
“They’re so afraid, and they’re so ashamed, that they can’t make progress on their own. They just continue to exist in a marriage, in a family relationship that’s not very good.”
Thompson challenges pastors and their wives not to settle for “less of the marriage that God intended [them] to have.” He said pastors and their wives can schedule an appointment for free counseling anytime. There also are convention-sponsored marriage conferences available throughout the year.
But in order to get the help they need, pastors must overcome their fears and reach out for help.
While pastors face their own troubles, they usually have a church full of laymen, church staff and leaders struggling to hold their marriages together.
Scott and Holly Ladner, who have been married for 12 years, were one of those couples.
Today they co-teach a Sunday School class at Apex Baptist Church in Apex for young married couples. But during their first few years of marriage the couple, who now have a 6-year-old daughter, went through a “dark time.” They shared how for months they didn’t even kiss.
“What was amazing was that nobody knew what was going on,” Holly said. “There was not any infidelity. There was not any addiction. We were just fighting like cats and dogs.”
“We would go to church on Sunday morning, and we were great,” she said.
“We would smile. We were participating in Sunday School. To this day, we will have people tell us, ‘Are you kidding me? We had no idea.’ We were really wearing the mask well.”
But the couple sought counseling. They also started attending LifeWay’s Festival of Marriage at Ridgecrest.
“The only reason[s] Holly and I are still married is number one, Jesus Christ,” said Scott, who is a deacon in the church. “Number two, the … Festival of Marriage. It has saved our marriage, besides Jesus. And that’s no joke.”
Attending the annual marriage conference continues to be a part of their “an annual check-up.”
The Ladners hope their story inspires others to know that they aren’t alone and that marriage is worth the fight.
Holly said marriage is a journey, one that can be revealed and studied throughout scripture.
“The whole Bible is about marriage,” Holly said. “It’s about how much Christ loves His bride … this picture of us being the bride of Christ. It’s been beautiful the way the Lord has taught me through His Word about marriage. It is all about Him.”
Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro
Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
Visionary Marriage by Rob and Amy Reinow
The Pastor’s Juggling Act: A Pastor and Wife Getaway, Ridgecrest Conference Center, Black Mountain, June 6-8
Also Oct. 24-26 at Fort Caswell on Oak Island
For more information contact Eddie Thompson at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5644. Thompson can also plan events for your church.
Festival of Marriage, LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center, Black Mountain, Oct. 11-13. For more information call (800) 588-7222.
2/4/2013 3:20:58 PM
January 24 2013 by
Meredith Flynn, Baptist Press
Shawn Hendricks & K. Allan Blume, BR Managing Editor & BR Editor | with 0 comments
ANNA, Ill. – Haley Willis has exceeded expectations her whole life. Diagnosed with a neural tube defect 21 weeks before she was born, doctors told her parents, Jeff and Lynel, that Haley wouldn’t survive the pregnancy. When she was born on her due date, the Willises were told to take her home and enjoy her for as long as she survived – two weeks, at most.
Haley will turn 10 this summer. And Jeff and Lynel Willis, who serve at Harvest Church in Anna, say their oldest daughter is a miracle with a special gift for making people smile and drawing shy kids out of their shells. And defying the odds.
The Willises, who were told it would be easier to “interrupt” or terminate their pregnancy and start over, knew from the moment of Haley’s diagnosis what their responsibility was concerning their daughter.
“I was realizing really quickly that this wasn’t about Jeff and me,” Lynel said. “This was about God showing His glory through something as little as this baby. And we were just along for the ride.”
One month before her birth, the Willises named their daughter Haley Faith. Lynel said, “We wanted faith in the name, because we were having her out of faith.”
Jeff and Lynel met at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
in Kansas City, Mo., where Lynel was preparing for the international mission field and Jeff was studying to be a worship minister. He’s no stranger to defying his own odds; born without several of his fingers, Jeff plays drums, piano and guitar.
Before they got Haley’s diagnosis, their biggest concern was that she would have all her fingers and toes. But after their doctor gave them the bleak news of her condition and prognosis, the Willises started praying very specific things for her birth: to see her eyes, hear her cry and make snuggle sounds, to be able to feed her, and that Haley would grab on to Jeff’s pinkie.
Photo courtesy of the Willis family
People quickly notice Haley’s joyful spirit, parents Jeff and Lynel Willis say. Doctors gave her practically no chance of survival when she was diagnosed with a severe brain defect five months before her birth.
“When they laid her on my chest, and at the very moment, she grabbed on to his pinkie,” Lynel said. “And the whole room just went quiet, because they all knew what we had prayed for, and it was happening right before our eyes.”
Haley’s neural tube defect caused part of her brain to separate and grow in a sack called an “encephalocele.” She was born without one-third of her brain, and what she did have was “disorganized,” Lynel said.
From the very beginning, the Willises knew it was up to them to be Haley’s advocates. She was eating and sleeping like any baby but doctors still didn’t give her hope for long-term survival. She desperately needed a shunt to relieve pressure in her brain, but the neurosurgeon they visited wouldn’t even see her at first because he considered it a waste of time.
One physician who did fight alongside the Willises for Haley’s quality of life came to be known by the family as “Uncle Freddie.” He set up hearing and seeing tests for Haley – which she passed – and at six months, the neurosurgeon agreed to see her.
“By this time, she was smiling and looking at us, almost like a normal baby,” Lynel said. “She looked up at him, and he said, ‘This child is looking at me.’ And she smiled at him.”
Haley had her shunt surgery that day, the first in a long string of major procedures to better her life. Jeff accepted a church staff position in Tucson, Ariz., far away from the couple’s Midwestern roots. But it put them much closer to the Barrow Neurological Institute
in Phoenix, where, shortly after her first birthday, Haley had a craniotomy to repair her skull.
The procedure should have taken six to eight hours, so the Willises were stunned when the surgeon walked out after an hour and a half. “He just said, ‘I can’t believe what I just saw,’” Lynel recounted. The surgeons had been able to use some of the bone in Haley’s skull to close the tennis ball-size opening. He told the Willises they had “knitted the pieces together.”
The surgeon didn’t know her parents had prayed Psalm 139 – “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” – over Haley since before her birth, praying that God would knit her skull together, bind her, heal her.
“Just the words he had used, that he had knit them together, God was showing us all over again how much He loves us,” Lynel said. Jeff added, “... And that He was in control.”
Perfect in weakness
The Willises second daughter, Brynna Grace, was born in 2008. “For a 4-year-old, she can be pretty deep sometimes,” Jeff remarked. “She’s always thinking, and she’s very detailed – she picks up on things in a whole different way. She’ll ask me about my hands.”
He responds to his daughter’s questions by telling her, “God made me special and gave me the opportunity to share about how He made me....” There’s no physical connection between Jeff’s condition and Haley’s, but he does see a spiritual connection.
“The whole thing points back to Scripture – in our weakness, He is made strong,” Jeff said, referencing 2 Corinthians 12:9. Haley is “a little girl who shouldn’t be here, let alone functioning at such a high level, and how God uses her in her weakness ... the minute she walks into a room and just wins them over. People are drawn to her for some reason.”
As she looks toward her milestone 10th birthday, Haley is a student in a regular third-grade classroom. She gets special help during the school day for reading and math, and she walks on her own with a walker or her recently-acquired crutches. She’s a big sister to Brynna Grace, 4, and Roslyn Joy, 3. And she’s a teacher. For the past several semesters, Haley and Lynel have served as guest lecturers in a class for future special education teachers at Southern Illinois University
Lynel also has connected with other families with kids like Haley, communicating with them through Facebook, where she has documented Haley’s story, and even in-person visits. As the Willises talk with families facing a diagnosis like Haley’s, they encourage expectant couples to see the pregnancy through – and see what God’s going to do.
While Haley’s case is definitely miraculous and not the norm, Lynel counsels, “[E]ven if you don’t get the baby that you hope for, and you don’t get to keep your baby, that doesn’t mean that God isn’t trying to show you something, to do some great things in your life.”
The Willises learned the same lesson 10 years ago when, against all odds, they chose to stick with a pregnancy that almost everyone else thought was hopeless. “It really started dawning on us that what God was doing in our lives and through our lives as we went through this difficult trial,” Jeff said, “It wasn’t in the outcome of whether Haley was going to be alive when she was born, but that He gave us the peace, and let us minister to people.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist, newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association, where this article first appeared.)
1/24/2013 1:42:37 PM
January 23 2013 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Meredith Flynn, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – Pro-life leaders differ over whether they expected Roe v. Wade to reach its 40th anniversary, but they agree the battle to protect unborn children and mothers in crisis is headed in the right direction.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state restrictions on abortion in its Roe opinion Jan. 22, 1973. Roe and Doe v. Bolton, a companion ruling also issued 40 years ago Tuesday (Jan. 22), had the effect of legalizing abortion throughout the country for any reason at any point in pregnancy. One of the results has been an estimated 55 million legal abortions during the last four decades.
Looking back after four decades, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said he is surprised Roe is still the law of the land, “given the fact that we’ve had Ronald Reagan as a pro-life president for eight years and George H.W. Bush as a semi-pro-life president for four years and George W. Bush for eight years. That’s 20 years since ’73. I would have thought we would have had more pro-life Supreme Court justices nominated and confirmed.”
The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
acknowledged pro-choice presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had two nominees each but said the 1990 nomination by the first President Bush of David Souter was “the game-changer.”
Pro-lifers, in this picture from the 2010 March for Life in Washington, rally for the unborn. In the 40 years since Roe v. Wade, there have been more than 55 million abortions in the United States.
Souter “was a horrible, tragic mistake, which is the main reason we still have Roe v. Wade. If instead of David Souter, President George H.W. Bush had nominated a strong pro-life Supreme Court nominee, we would have had Roe v. Wade overturned.”
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life
Committee, said she is not surprised Roe still stands.
“Our opponents are the Goliath in this country,” she told Baptist Press (BP
) by email. “They have the media, much of Hollywood, and unfortunately, a lot of money made by killing unborn children. However, we all know how [the story of Goliath] ended. A young boy, with faith in God, prevailed.”
Land, 66, said he still expects Roe to be overturned in his lifetime, if he lives out a “normal life span.”
“[S]entiment is moving against it,” Land told BP. “A majority of Americans think it’s immoral, and a majority [is] willing to put restrictions on it, significant restrictions on the procedure.
Tobias, 52, is not so sure.
“I truly don’t know if Roe will be reversed in my lifetime, but I tend to think it will,” she said. “The pro-life movement is filled with young people who have seen and experienced the impact of abortion on their peers and they are joining the fight to protect the next generation from the same fate. Their energy and enthusiasm will carry this battle forward until it is won.”
Pro-lifers agree the Roe and Doe decisions have been devastating for Americans. In its 1973 Doe ruling, the Supreme Court provided an exception from state regulations of abortion for “maternal health,” which it defined as “all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient.” The result was to legalize abortion “on demand,” as pro-lifers have described it.
“I can look back over those 40 years and say without a doubt: The world is not a better place because of abortion – women are not in a better place because of abortion,” Carrie Gordon Earll told CitizenLink
, which is affiliated with Focus on the Family
. Earll, who had an abortion in 1981, is CitizenLink’s senior policy analyst. “What it’s created is a world where you’re almost expected to abort if you’re pregnant at an inopportune time,” Earll said. “It’s created a society where it’s easier to push women toward exterminating their babies than to accommodate them with their needs as mothers.”
Tobias, of Right to Life, said in a written statement Tuesday, “Roe is a sad commentary on our society’s attitudes toward women and their unborn children.
“Roe is an assault on the very foundation of our country – the principle that life is the most fundamental of all human rights,” she said.
In a brief, written statement Tuesday, President Obama – who has strongly supported abortion rights – reaffirmed Roe’s “historic commitment to protect the health and reproductive freedom of women across this country and stand by its guiding principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters, and women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care.”
The reversal of Roe and Doe without constitutional protection for the unborn would return the issue to the states.
“[I]n most states, most abortions that currently take place will be made illegal,” Land said. “In most of the abortions that take place, the overwhelming majority, more than nine out of 10, have nothing to do with the life of the mother, rape, incest or any serious malady or genetic problem in the fetus. And most states will outlaw purely elective abortions. A significant majority of states, if they have the opportunity, would currently severely restrict abortion.”
He said, “Unfortunately, there would still be states that would have very liberal” abortion laws.
Land pointed to several factors in the pro-life movement’s advance under Roe, including:
The debate during the 1990s and the following decade over the heinous partial-birth abortion procedure “did an enormous amount to humanize the fetus.”
The progress in embryology and ultrasound technology also has helped humanize the unborn child.
“You know they say a picture is worth a thousands words,” Land said. “Well, sonograms have done more to reduce abortion than probably anything else, because women who see their baby are significantly less likely to abort. And, you know, we’ve got more than a generation of young people who have grown up with their siblings’ sonograms on the refrigerator. And so it’s not possible to try to convince them that it is not a human being, which is one of the reasons why pro-life is now the new majority.”
Pro-life couples have had babies and “raised them to be pro-life,” and pro-choicers “have not had their babies, and so they haven’t raised them to be anything.”
Pro-lifers will not give up on their effort to supplant America’s abortion regime, Tobias said.
“The pro-life movement is the movement of love, helping people they will never meet,” she told BP. “As love never ends, neither will our efforts on behalf of unborn children and their mothers.”
In its 1973 Doe ruling, the Supreme Court provided an exception from state regulations of abortion for “maternal health,” which it defined as “all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient.” The result was to legalize abortion “on demand,” as pro-lifers have described it.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
U.S. passes 55 million abortion mark
Guest Column: 40 years after Roe, human dignity hangs in the balance
1/23/2013 3:33:32 PM
January 17 2013 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
MOSCOW – Upwards of 20,000 Russians marched through Moscow Jan. 13 to protest the country’s new ban on adoption by Americans, as confusion continued to swirl over the law’s immediate impact.
The Kremlin reportedly announced Jan. 10 that the law won’t take effect for one year due to a 2011 bilateral adoption agreement between the U.S. and Russia, The Washington Post
reported. That agreement says adoptions can continue for one year even after one party withdraws from it. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the ban on American adoptions in December.
But for couples who are trying to finish adoptions that already are under way, any one-year delay is not yet evident. The New York Times
reported the story of Rebecca and Brian Preece, a couple from Idaho who were in Moscow Monday (Jan. 14) trying to bring home their new 4-year-old son, who has Down syndrome. A judge had approved their adoption Nov. 29 but another judge on Tuesday (Jan. 14) said she could not sign a final decree “without further guidance from Russia’s Supreme Court.” And even if she signed it, she said, “there was no guarantee that other officials would issue the boy a passport,” The Times
reported. And even if he got a passport, “immigration agents might block his departure at the airport.”
Alla V. Prozorova, an adoption expert knowledgeable about Russian adoptions, said the ban harms children because Americans are unique in their willingness to adopt children with disabilities.
“People who are involved in this problem – I mean even higher-level authorities – they know only Americans really volunteer to adopt special needs children,” she told The Times
. “No Italian, no French, no Germans.”
Estimates vary over the number of children in Russia who are orphaned but most put it at more than 100,000. Putin signed the law as a retaliatory response to U.S. sanctions against Russia for human rights abuses.
One Russian orphan, 14-year-old Maxim Kargapoltsev, went public in his desire to have his adoption to a U.S. family finalized.
“I am very sorry,” he wrote on social media, according to The Washington Post
, “that the law will not let me have a very good family in the future, the family that I have known and loved and whom I have become attached to. I like my motherland, but I would like to have a family in the U.S.”
The 20,000 or so Russians who marched against the ban shouted “shame on the scum” and carried posters of Putin and members of Russian’s parliament, according to the Associated Press (AP
). It was a “far bigger number” of protesters than expected, AP said.
Unlike America, Russia does not have a strong adoption movement, and children often remain in orphanages until they are adults.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
1/17/2013 3:36:24 PM
January 9 2013 by
Baptist Press | with 0 comments
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Owen Strachan was named executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood
Jan. 7, succeeding Randy Stinson.
Strachan, 31, serves as assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) is a Louisville, Ky.-based group that supports a complementarian position on manhood and womanhood. The organization holds that men and women are equal but have different and complementary roles in the home and in the church.
“Owen Strachan is a bright and energetic young thinker, brimming with wise ideas about the next stage of CBMW’s mission,” Russell D. Moore, chairman of the board of CBMW, said. “I’m excited about the road-map he’s laid out for us and look forward to the future.”
Stinson becomes CBMW senior fellow.
Strachan has published articles, essays and reviews on gender roles for publications such as The Atlantic
online, Christianity Today, The City and the Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (JBMW). He participated in a 2012 debate with Rachel Held Evans over egalitarianism on the UK radio show “Unbelievable.” In 2012, Strachan’s JBMW article on “Dad moms” led to media coverage from outlets like The Blaze
, the Louisville Courier-Journal
and Christianity Today
. Strachan has spoken at the Family Research Council
, the Veritas Forum
and the Evangelical Theological Society
Strachan holds a Ph.D. in theological studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
and a master of divinity degree in biblical & theological studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
in Louisville, Ky.
Wayne Grudem, past president and co-founder of CBMW, said Strachan “brings a wealth of knowledge about theology and evangelical history to his new leadership role with CBMW.”
“Strachan is a wise and gifted communicator who seeks to honor Jesus Christ in all that he does,” Grudem said. “I expect that Dr. Strachan will be used by God to significantly increase the impact of the ministry of CBMW.”
Prior to taking a professorship at Boyce
, Strachan was the managing director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) and the founding associate director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reporting by Jeff Robinson of CBMW.)
1/9/2013 2:26:39 PM
January 4 2013 by
Laura Fielding, Baptist Press
Baptist Press | with 0 comments
CORDOVA, Tenn. – “Keeping up with the Joneses” takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to the family of college football star Barrett Jones.
Rex and Leslie Jones have raised three hard-working, respectful sons who have a heart for missions – and they happen to be talented football players.
“We wanted to be very intentional about how we raised [our boys],” Rex said. “One of the things I wanted to do is to raise my children with one goal in mind … [to] teach them to make good decisions.
“We just decided we were going to use the Bible as the foundation of truth to teach our kids.”
Their three sons are now grown – Barrett, 22, Harrison, 20, and Walker, 18 – but Rex and Leslie, members of Bellevue Baptist Church
in Cordova, Tenn., have watched that early foundation shape their sons into godly men.
Barrett and Harrison play football at the University of Alabama
– Barrett is an offensive lineman playing his last season, and Harrison, a junior, plays tight end. Walker, a senior at Evangelical Christian School in Cordova, plays for his high school team and plans to follow in his brothers’ footsteps.
Despite their athleticism, the brothers have remained true to the values their parents instilled – to make missions and ministry their first priority.
The Jones family took their first mission trip in 2001 when the boys were 10, 8 and 6. But missions wasn’t the only way Rex and Leslie exposed their children to ministry.
Church – despite hectic school and sports schedules – was always a priority. Rex didn’t allow his sons to participate in any sporting events on Sunday mornings. Leslie made sure the family was at 8 o’clock Sunday School and 9:30 a.m. worship services even after late-night Saturday activities.
“[The boys] thought that was a little harsh because, honestly, there aren’t many people that do that these days,” Leslie said. “But I think … it’s been a great thing because the kids have made church a priority since they are older now, too.”
Photo by Thomas Graham
The Joneses pose for a photo on their most recent mission trip to Nicaragua in March where they shared the gospel while visiting elementary schools, an orphanage and a local Baptist church. “You bond on these trips more so than you would at the beach or just on a regular vacation just because you see your family members growing spiritually,” said eldest son Barrett.
Barrett said his parents “did a great job of teaching me not only about the Bible and what we believe, but also how to study it for myself and how to find out why I believe what I believe.”
Besides a Christ-centered home life, the boys received a Christian education at Evangelical Christian School and strong biblical teachings through Bellevue. Each child began violin lessons at age 3, Leslie said, to teach them discipline and focus – while sitting still. They also used the violin as a ministry tool. The boys performed at nursing homes, schools or the Baptist Children’s Home and would then visit with the audience.
“I do think that gave them a love for people and ministering with people that they wouldn’t have had,” Leslie said.
Going on mission trips together has obviously strengthened the family’s bond. During a trip to Nicaragua in spring 2012, the Joneses often had arms around each other, sat by each other, gave one another hugs or were encouraging each other.
“You bond on these trips more so than you would at the beach or just on a regular vacation just because you see your family members growing spiritually,” Barrett said.
“I learned a lot from [my brothers],” Walker added. “They definitely made me tougher just because I’m the youngest, and I really wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
While the brothers are close, they are still competitive with each other – whether in basketball, football or a sport they just make up.
“I love both those guys, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let them win anything,” Barrett said with a grin.
Leslie said she’s thankful all three sons share a special connection with their mother.
“We do have a special bond, but it’s just such a natural thing because they’ve always been very affectionate children,” Leslie said. “They’ve always communicated with me a lot about things going on. I guess not having any girls, I had to talk to my boys, so they’re just sweet to their mother.”
“My mom is great,” Harrison said. “Obviously, it’s a really tough task to raise three boys … really, when you’re in a house of four boys, including my dad. … But that really can’t be compared to anything else – the job of a mother – and she’s done the best job I could ever ask for.”
The relationship between Barrett and Leslie is so close that Rex describes Barrett as a “momma’s boy.” Though Barrett disagrees with that title, he admits he shares a special connection with his mom, partly due to their similar personalities.
“I couldn’t do all the stuff I do today without her,” Barrett said. “She helps organize everything for me and helps me handle all the things I have to do – so I’m very grateful to her for that.”
Challenge to make a difference
Because of her closeness with her boys, Leslie struggled as her two oldest sons left for college. “I just found it very difficult to be so involved with their daily life, and then suddenly they move away and start a whole new life and routine,” she reflected.
Rex, however, felt differently.
“As a man raising boys, I want them to go out and conquer the world, and mothers sometimes have a little harder time understanding that part,” he said. “But it has really been great to watch Leslie let them jump out of what we call ‘the nest,’ and to really fly.”
For Leslie, sending the first child to college was especially tough.
“It was really hard on me, but I knew that it was just something I had to adjust to,” she said. “I had to be so happy for [Barrett] that he was physically and spiritually and emotionally prepared to leave home and to be on his own.”
Barrett is thankful for his parents’ continued support, especially when it comes to his vision and passion for missions.
“This is not something you can do by yourself,” Barrett said during his mission trip in Nicaragua. “They’ve always just been great parents for me and have supported me in whatever I wanted to do.”
“I think at the end of the day, that’s really what our job of parenting has been,” Rex said. “It’s not to keep them at home for a lifetime, but to really challenge them to go out and make a difference.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is a writer for IMB. To learn more about how to expose children to missions, visit imb.org/students or Kids on Mission.)
Alabama All-American prioritizes his faith
1/4/2013 2:38:46 PM
December 6 2012 by
Anne Reiner, Baptist Press
Laura Fielding, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – The United States must make the fight against persecution a priority, religious liberty advocates said recently.
“As the Apostle Paul taught the early church to respond to the needs of fellow believers who were being persecuted in Jerusalem, we here in America today have a responsibility to use our influence and our resources to help fellow Christians in need,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC
Perkins joined five other religious freedom advocates in a webcast on persecution cosponsored by FRC and Voice of the Martyrs (VOM
). As host of the webcast, he discussed the persecution of Christians in countries throughout the Middle East, as well as in North Korea, Eretria, China, Nigeria and more than 20 other countries.
The other spokesmen emphasized the need for action from the United States government to help the persecuted.
“I find it difficult to describe it as merely persecution. This is almost extinction,” said Emmanuel Ogebe, a Nigerian Christian attorney.
During the past year, Nigerian churches have suffered 24 suicide bombings, making it the worst year of the past 30 years of persecution, Ogebe said. Christians in Nigeria are not accustomed to such persecution, he said during the Nov. 14 webcast.
“Christians wear their Sunday best to go to church, and it turns out to be their funeral clothing,” he said.
Nigeria has seen little support from the United States government, Ogebe said.
Last Christmas, three cities were bombed by Boko Haram, a militant Islamic organization based in Nigeria. The State Department, however, said in its latest International Religious Freedom Report only one city was bombed, Ogebe said. He believes this further demonstrates the United States' desire not to label the bombings as terrorist attacks. Part of his belief is based on the fact the State Department refuses to label Boko Haram as a terrorist group.
The president and secretary of State must be willing to take action to help prevent the persecution of Christians, said Tom Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project
at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs on the Georgetown University
Also, Congress should deal with the issue as a bipartisan body, but while many are willing to agree, few are willing to act, Farr said. “I've been hearing 'amens' for 14 years, but I haven't seen any policies,” Farr said.
The number of Christians in Iran has risen to anywhere between one and three million, said Dr. Hormoz Shariat, founder of Iran Alive Ministries
. Meanwhile, the government has begun cracking down on Christians in a way it has not done before, he said.
“The persecution is a result of God working and people responding,” Shariat said during the webcast.
Shariat recounted the story of a 17-year-old boy who was imprisoned for his Christian faith. He was beaten, his leg broken and the fingers on his right hand broken. In addition, his education was expunged, and he was dismissed from his university. Yet, at the end of the teenager's imprisonment, the guard in charge of his torture asked the young man to continue to share the gospel with him so he could become a Christian, Shariat said.
Iranians are eager to hear the gospel of Jesus, because they see so many flaws in their own Islamic faith, Shariat said. The Christian movement in Iran should not be pitied, he said. Christians should be encouraged to take hold of their opportunity to make Iran a new country, he told the audience.
American Christians don't know enough about the persecution of their brothers and sisters abroad, said Todd Nettleton, VOM's director of media development. Some Christians are increasing their awareness of the plight abroad, but many more are still uneducated on the topic, he said.
“There are a lot of Christians who close the last chapter of Acts and think that is where the persecution stopped,” Nettleton said.
Perkins and Nettleton urged Christians throughout America to educate themselves about the persecution of Christians so they would be able to pray effectively. They also urged them to send Bibles and letters for the persecuted and sign petitions calling for the release of imprisoned Christians.
“There are people losing their lives, and we are doing nothing about it,” Perkins said.
In addition to the speakers who were at FRC for the event, Sen. David Vitter, R.-La., also spoke by video.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Anne Reiner was an intern this fall with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.)
Persecution reflects faith’s authenticity
12/6/2012 1:49:37 PM
October 15 2012 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Anne Reiner, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – A Japanese researcher who discovered a way to produce stem cells that act like embryonic ones without their lethal consequences has won a Nobel Prize.
The Nobel Foundation
awarded its 2012 prize in physiology or medicine to Shinya Yamanaka
, who was able to reprogram adult skin cells into cells that have virtually the identical properties of embryonic ones, which have the ability to change into any cell or tissue in the body. In the Oct. 8 announcement, Yamanaka, 50, shared the Nobel Prize with British scientist John Gurdon
, 79, whose work in 1962 paved the way for the Japanese researcher’s breakthrough.
Unlike embryonic stem cells, reprogrammed cells – also known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells – do not cause harm to a donor. The extraction of embryonic stem cells, however, results in the destruction of a days-old human embryo.
The “life” issue also was a theme in the awarding of this year’s Nobel Prize for literature. Chinese writer Mo Yan
, a critic of his country’s coercive population control policy, received the award Oct. 11 from the Nobel Foundation, which is based in Stockholm, Sweden.
Yan’s most recent novel, “Wa,” “illuminates the consequences of China’s imposition of a single-child policy,” according to the Nobel news release.
Yamanaka, the Nobel physiology/medicine winner who teaches at Kyoto University in Japan, was motivated in his search for a safe way to produce embryonic-like cells by a look through a microscope at a human embryo stored at a fertility clinic in the late 1990s.
“When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters,” Yamanaka told The New York Times in 2007. “I thought, we can’t keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way.”
In 2006, he found a way to induce adult cells to take on embryonic-like, or “pluripotent,” qualities. Embryonic stem cells are considered “pluripotent,” meaning they can develop into all of the different cell types in the body. Adult stem cells typically have been regarded as “multipotent,” meaning they can form many, though not all, of the body’s cell types. Yamanaka’s work showed adult cells could become “pluripotent” and thereby avoid the ethical problems with embryonic stem cells.
Pro-life bioethics specialist Wesley Smith lauded the Nobel Foundation’s decision to reward Yamanaka, writing on his blog, “This is so deserved!”
“Bravo Dr. Yamanaka! You proved that good ethics leads to splendid science,” Smith said.
The ability of stem cells to convert to other cells and tissues has provided great hope for developing cures for various diseases. Embryonic stem cell research has yet to provide any treatments for human beings and has been plagued by tumors in lab animals, however. Reprogrammed, or iPS, cells have demonstrated promising results but have not been used in human trials.
Only treatments using adult stem cells have produced successful therapies, including for such afflictions as cancer, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart damage, Parkinson’s, sickle cell anemia and spinal cord injuries.
Adult stem cells “have a proven track record for success at saving lives and improving health on a daily basis,” stem cell expert David Prentice of the Family Research Council told National Right to Life News Today. “Over 50,000 people around the globe are treated each year with adult stem cells.”
Mo, the Nobel winner in literature, focuses in his novel Wa on a rural doctor who delivers babies but also aborts them as she helps enforce China’s coercive family planning – or “one-child” – policy, according to a report by the pro-life organization All Girls Allowed.
Mo, 57, said in a 2010 interview he pressured his wife to abort their second child in order to protect his officer’s rank in the Chinese army.
“I personally believe the one-child policy is a bad policy,” he told Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, according to All Girls Allowed. “If there were no one-child policy, I would have two or three children.
“This has become an eternal scar in the deepest part of my heart. ... It became a big shadow in my heart.”
China’s population control program generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children. Couples who violate the policy face the possibility of not only forced abortions or sterilizations but of large fines, job loss and imprisonment.
The policy has resulted not only in many reports of authorities carrying out forced abortions and sterilizations, but there also have been accounts of infanticide. It has helped produce a dramatic gender imbalance because of the Chinese preference for sons.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
10/15/2012 1:14:42 PM
September 21 2012 by
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Following reports that Chick-fil-A had agreed to stop funding certain traditional family groups in order to get approval for a new Chicago restaurant, company President Dan Cathy said Sept. 21 the restaurant made no concessions and “we remain true to who we are.”
Cathy’s statement, posted on Mike Huckabee’s website, came one day after the company released its own statement saying that its corporate giving has “been mischaracterized” for many months and that it will continue to fund programs that “strengthen and enrich marriages.”
Said Cathy, “There continues to be erroneous implications in the media that Chick-fil-A changed our practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago. That is incorrect. Chick-fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been.”
Focus on the Family President Jim Daly – whose organization supposedly had been de-funded by Chick-fil-A – also has spoken up for the company. And gay activist groups – who initially applauded Chick-fil-A’s supposed move – now are criticizing the restaurant once again.
Chick-fil-A was facing a backlash after Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno and an Illinois gay activist group announced in Sept. 19 news reports that Chick-fil-A had agreed to no longer fund groups opposed to gay marriage. That alleged agreement led Moreno – who had criticized Chick-fil-A for its president’s comments affirming the traditional marriage – to stop blocking a new franchise from being built. In comments to the Chicago Tribune, Moreno called it a “big win.”
Media stories nationwide then gave Chick-fil-A another public relations headache. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
’s headline read, “Chick-fil-A said to change stance.” The Los Angeles Times
’ headline: “Chick-fil-A promises to stop giving money to anti-gay groups.”
The problem? Chick-fil-A’s base of support remains largely in conservative states, and those customers hardly consider Focus on the Family and other groups “anti-gay.” Many felt Chick-fil-A had caved.
Earlier this summer, hundreds of thousands of customers took part in Chick-fil-A Appreciation after company president Dan Cathy was criticized for comments supporting the biblical definition of marriage. Chick-fil-A’s stance on values is well-known: It is closed on Sundays, and its corporate statement includes the desire to “glorify God.”
In the 24 hours after the story out of Chicago broke, Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page was flooded with criticism of the new policy. Chick-fil-A released a statement Sept. 20, saying that “for many months now, Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving has been mischaracterized.”
“And while our sincere intent has been to remain out of this political and social debate, events from Chicago this week have once again resulted in questions around our giving,” the statement said. “A part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Because of this commitment, Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas.Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.”
The company also released a document that had been referenced in the media called “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are.” In it, the company repeats language from this summer and says its tradition is to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
The Who We Are document also says Chick-fil-A “supports programs and marriage retreats to help strengthen and enrich marriages,” which more than 4,000 couples attend annually. The document did not address whether Chick-fil-A has indeed agreed to stop funding certain groups. It’s also unclear how the company’s policy will appease gay activist groups.
In fact, the Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest gay group – expressed disappointment in Chick-fil-A’s new statement, particularly its pledge to fund marriage enrichment programs.
Focus on the Family’s Daly said in an article at Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink that he supports the company. He did not directly address whether Chick-fil-A was no longer funding Focus on the Family.
“I feel bad the Cathys are having once again to endure media accounts mischaracterizing their values and charitable efforts – and, unfortunately, I know how they feel,” Daly said. “How is an organization that helps save one marriage every six minutes and helps parents navigate through a crisis involving their children every 90 seconds deemed ‘anti’ anything but ‘anti-family breakdown’?” Daly concluded.
Gay groups also were upset that Dan Cathy was helping raise money for traditional groups, including taking part in a Sept. 18 WinShape Ride for the Family fundraiser. The money, the Advocate said, will benefit the Marriage and Family Foundation, which it said funds the Marriage CoMission, a traditional group.
‘Guilty as charged,’ Dan Cathy says of Chick-fil-A’s stand on faith
Editor ‘recounts’ positive Chick-fil-A story; some reports ‘distorted’
Guest Column: Dan Cathy’s views are in the majority
9/21/2012 8:40:29 AM
Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments