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Pro-abortion lawyers throw support behind David Daleiden

February 12 2016 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

Two unlikely advocates, both pro-abortion attorneys, called the indictment of pro-life activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt “deeply disturbing” and a potential threat to the “vital” work of undercover journalists and activists.
 
Posing as representatives for a medical research company, Daleiden and Merritt gained access to Planned Parenthood abortion facilities, including Houston’s Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC). There they surreptitiously recorded conversations with Planned Parenthood staff, including alleged bartering for the sale of aborted baby body parts, a federal crime. In July, the pro-life activists began releasing the footage in a series of online videos. A resulting investigation into PPGC by the Harris County district attorney resulted in indictments against Daleiden and Merritt. No charges were brought against the Planned Parenthood affiliate or its executives.

 
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Abortion advocates cheered the turn of events. While denouncing the pro-life activists’ efforts to defame the nation’s largest abortion provider, Sherry F. Colb and Michael C. Dorf, both Cornell University law professors, opposed the criminalization of their investigative work.
 
“Undercover exposés play a vital role in informing the American public of important facts that would otherwise remain hidden,” Dorf and Colb wrote in a Jan. 29 column for CNN.
 
In deference to the First Amendment’s Freedom of the Press clause, state laws offer limited protection for undercover investigators, whether they are media employees or self-styled journalist activists. There is no such protection at the federal level. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the ends do not justify the means – undercover investigators must abide by the law or face prosecution and, possibly, jail.
 
As part of their undercover investigation, Daleiden and Merritt presented false California ID cards to gain access to the Houston abortion facility. That prompted the felony charge of tampering with a government document. Falsification of a Texas-issued identification is a misdemeanor, while presenting a fake out-of-state ID warrants a felony charge.
 
Daleiden and Merritt also face a misdemeanor charge for attempting to purchase “fetal remains” in violation of the Texas ban on “the purchase and sale of human organs,” an ironic acknowledgement of the aborted babies’ humanity. But Dorf and Colb note the charge disregards the fact that Daleiden and Merritt had no intention of making a purchase.
 
The pro-life activists’ tactics replicate those of animal rights activists who disguise their identity and intent to gain access to laboratories, farms and slaughterhouses, Dorf and Colb note. Both attorneys are animal rights advocates and work for clarity in the law as it relates to undercover investigations.
 
“Perhaps journalists need special protection so that, in some circumstances, they should be licensed to violate the law,” Dorf suggested in a separate blog.
 
Even if laws offer limited protection, undercover work requires deception – a problematic matter for Christians.
 
“I think undercover work is fundamentally different from lying,” Daleiden said in a Jan. 22 interview with Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family.
 
Moore and Daly asked Daleiden about his pro-life advocacy at the inaugural meeting of the Evangelicals for Life conference just hours before the annual March for Life rally in Washington, D.C.
 
“The purpose of the undercover work is actually to serve the truth and to bring greater clarity,” Daleiden said.
 
To an extent, the Cornell attorneys agree. They said the courts must strike a balance between the public’s right to know and an investigator’s ability to access information without fear of imprisonment: “But the criminal prosecution of Daleiden and Merritt, even if they did break the law, could chill undercover journalists and activists everywhere.”
 

Related Stories:

CMP’s Daleiden unabashed by legal challenges
CMP activists indicted by Houston grand jury
‘Even abortion doctors have human dignity,’ says CMP founder

2/12/2016 12:17:50 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 1 comments



Larycia Hawkins agree to part ways, Wheaton endows scholarship

February 12 2016 by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service

Wheaton College and Larycia Hawkins, the political science professor who started a furor over theology and academic freedom after declaring on social media that Christians and Muslims serve the same God, announced Feb. 5 they are amicably parting ways.
 
The college and Hawkins had reached a confidential settlement to end efforts to revoke her tenure and remove her from the faculty. Hawkins has not said what she plans to do next or whether she will continue her academic career at another university.
 
The surprise announcement came just days before Hawkins was to go before a faculty panel at the evangelical university in Wheaton, Ill., to defend her comments. Several groups of faculty members had voiced support for Hawkins, who maintained throughout the conflict that Wheaton was treating her unfairly and had no reason to question her adherence to the evangelical college’s statement of faith.
 
Hawkins made her controversial comments in mid-December as part of a campaign to show solidarity with Muslims. She announced she also would wear a hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women, during Advent. Wheaton administrators quickly put her on paid leave pending an official review.

 
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Larycia Hawkins

Hawkins was a tenured professor who had worked at the school for about nine years.
 
“In pursuit of further public reconciliation,” Hawkins and Wheaton administrators held a joint press conference. During the news conference, leaders announced an endowed scholarship, created as part of reconciliation efforts, for summer interns working on peace and conflict projects.
 
Hawkins said she would cling to happy memories of her nine years at Wheaton. She also repeated the calls for unity among all people that she voiced on Facebook in December.
 
“Today [Feb. 10] is Lent, the beginning of a season of fasting, a season to reflect where we are on our spiritual journeys, who we are and what we are becoming,” she said. “So, I ask you: Who are you? Do you find yourself in your neighbor? Because yes, we are all created in the image of the divine. But we find ourselves in our neighbors, we find ourselves in other people.”
 
While Hawkins and Ryken spoke of reconciliation, a group of about two dozen Wheaton students, alumni and religious leaders called for repentance. The group gathered on the school’s campus to call for Wheaton and other Christian universities to “confess and repent of the sins of racism, sexism and Islamophobia, and recognize that all humans have dignity and are created equal in the eyes of God.” The group planned to pray and fast for 40 days.
 
“Wheaton College sincerely appreciates Dr. Hawkins’ contributions to this institution over the last nine years,” Wheaton College president Philip Graham Ryken said in the joint statement. “We are grateful for her passionate teaching, scholarship, community service, and mentorship of our students.”
 
As part of the public reconciliation attempt, Provost Stanton Jones told faculty members he had apologized to Hawkins for the way he handled the situation. Jones recommended in January that the college fire Hawkins, which triggered the formal review process that would eventually have ended with a Board of Trustees vote.
 
“I asked Dr. Hawkins for her forgiveness for the ways I contributed to the fracture of our relationship, and to the fracture of Dr. Hawkins’ relationship with the College,” Jones wrote in an email to the faculty that was obtained by The Washington Post. He said he had shown a “lack of wisdom and collegiality” in dealing with Hawkins through another colleague, rather than directly.
 
The situation caused such an uproar on campus that Ryken said he has asked the board to weigh in on the process and the way it was handled.
 
“Because concerns have been raised about many aspects of this complex situation – including concerns related to academic freedom, due process, the leaking of confidential information, possible violations of faculty governance, and gender and racial discrimination – I have asked the Board of Trustees to conduct a thorough review,” Ryken wrote, according to the Post.
 
On Feb. 5, slightly more than one-third of the school’s faculty signed a letter asking for Hawkins’ reinstatement. She has previously accused administrators of being on a witch hunt to pander to “platinum donors.”
 

Related Story:

First steps taken to fire professor over Muslim comments

2/12/2016 12:08:15 PM by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



WMU search committee named; prayer requested

February 12 2016 by Julie Walters, WMU

National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) President Linda Cooper has named the search committee for identifying the woman God would have as the missions organization’s next executive director and requested prayer for the committee’s work.
 
On Jan. 11, Wanda Lee, who has served as executive director since 2000, announced to the WMU board her intention to retire, providing ample notice for a search committee to be formed and seek a new leader.
 
Cooper said she prayed earnestly for God’s direction in selecting search committee members who have extensive experience in WMU and represent various geographical locations.
 
The committee members are Joy Bolton, executive director of Kentucky WMU, who will serve as chairperson; Debby Akerman, former national WMU president (2010-2015); Jill McNicol, president of Illinois WMU; Kathy Sheldon, president of Pennsylvania/South Jersey WMU; and June Tate, president of Colorado WMU.
 
“Above all, I am confident these women will take this task very seriously, seeking the Lord’s guidance in all they do in every step of this process,” said Cooper, a member of Forest Park Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky. “I encourage every Southern Baptist to pray intentionally and daily for the committee, for me, and for the one whom God already has selected who will lead WMU forward.
 
“I also ask you pray for Wanda who will continue to lead WMU in the meantime,” Cooper continued. “She has given her all to lead us for the past 16 years and is committed to a seamless transition in leadership. I thank God for her and for other strong missions leaders in our churches who know firsthand how God uses missions discipleship through WMU to change lives.”
 
Including Lee, national WMU has had just seven leaders since its inception in 1888: Annie Armstrong (1888-1906), Edith Campbell Crane (1907-1911), Kathleen Mallory (1912-1948), Alma Hunt (1948-1974), Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler (1974-1989), and Dellanna O’Brien (1989-1999).
 
The committee will begin its work immediately. Recommendations and resumes may be sent to WMU Search Committee, c/o Joy Bolton, Kentucky WMU, 13420 Eastpoint Centre Drive, Louisville, KY 40223, or by email to Joy.Bolton@kybaptist.org, to be received no later than May 1.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Walters is corporate communications team leader for WMU, Woman’s Missionary Union, based in Birmingham, Ala.)

2/12/2016 12:03:49 PM by Julie Walters, WMU | with 0 comments



Liberty Institute: NASA bans ‘Jesus’ in emails

February 12 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Liberty Institute has threatened legal action against NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, charging that employees who comprise a praise group were prohibited from using the name of Jesus in emails advertising a meeting.
 
NASA banned the praise group from using the name of Jesus after the group sent emails announcing the theme “Jesus is our life” for a meeting in a space center building, Liberty Institute and attorneys Fish & Richardson P.C. of Dallas informed NASA in Feb. 8 official correspondence.

 
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“We write regarding NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) refusal in May/June of 2015 to allow the JSC Praise & Worship Club to continue to use the word ‘Jesus’ in advertisements for the club in the JSC Today, NASA JSC’s weekly email newsletter,” reads the letter posted at LibertyInstitute.org. “NASA JSC’s censoring of the club’s religious viewpoint is a violation of federal law and the First Amendment.”
 
NASA’s JSC committed “prohibited viewpoint discrimination,” and violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the letter charges, and asks the governmental agency to reverse its decision by March 10 to avoid repercussions in court.
 
“Given NASA JSC’s clear violation of the rights of the JSC Praise & Worship Club and its members, we request that NASA JSC reconsider its position and notify us, in writing, that NASA will remove its prohibition of the use of the name ‘Jesus’ from the Club’s future advertisements,” the letter requests. “Please let us know NASA JSC’s response to this letter in writing no later than March 10, 2016. Should we receive no response (or an inadequate one) by that date, we are prepared to enforce the Club’s rights in court, where we believe we will win.”
 
NASA has not responded to Baptist Press’ request for information, but in other news reports, NASA refused to deny the claim. Instead, NASA spokespersons said the agency promotes freedom of speech among employees.
 
“NASA does not prohibit the use of any specific religious names in employee newsletters or other internal communications,” NASA’s Karen Northon told “The Hill” political news website. “The agency allows a host of employee-led civic, professional, religious and other organizations to meet on NASA property on employees’ own time. Consistent with federal law, NASA attempts to balance employees’ rights to freely exercise religious beliefs with its obligation to ensure there is no government endorsement of religion. We believe in and encourage open and diverse dialogue among our employees and across the agency.”
 
The JSC Praise & Worship Club has met at the center since 2001, and is one of several employee groups that meet during lunch “to encourage one another, pray together and worship God through singing,” Liberty Institute said, and meetings are open to all JSC civil servants and contract workers.
 
In the announcement in question, the club wrote, “Join with the praise and worship band ‘Allied with the Lord’ for a refreshing set of spring praise and worship songs on Thursday, June 4, (2015) from 11:15 a.m. to noon in Building 57, Room 106. (The theme for this session will be ‘Jesus is our life!’) Prayer partners will be available for anyone who has need. All JSC civil servants and contractors are welcome.”
 
The group has complied with the order pending any legal action, said Liberty Institute, which is soliciting signatures in support of the praise team at libertyinstitute.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

2/12/2016 11:57:53 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Charles Couey, advocate for the blind, dies

February 12 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Charles Couey, who labored in behalf of blind Southern Baptists for more than 30 years, died Jan. 31 after an accident at his Nashville home. He was 69.
 
Couey also labored for sighted Southern Baptists to be involved with the blind.
 
“We need church staff persons, parents, spouses and others who work with blind persons in your church,” Couey said in a Baptist Press article prior to the 2009 meeting of the Southern Baptist Conference for the Blind. “Your knowledge of the literature you use in various ministries of your local church can assist us in helping you provide these materials in a format the blind member can access.”

 
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Facebook photo
Charlyene and Charles Couey

Couey was one of the organizers of the conference in 1990, with six people in attendance, and he served as its president at various times over the years. He also was the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s (TBC) consultant on ministries with the blind from 1983-2004 and had served as a Mission Service Corps volunteer with the North American Mission Board.
 
Couey also had a passion for missions education for boys through Royal Ambassadors (RA) and for volunteer missions at home and abroad.
 
He was “a regular missionary for RA events,” according to a Facebook post by the Tennessee Royal Ambassadors. One RA leader’s boyhood memory was of Couey “playing baseball with a bunch of RAs using his softball that beeped. … Charles never let his lack of vision get in his way of having fun and sharing Christ with others.”
 
A 1993 mission trip to Santiago, Chile, was a milestone for Couey. “Next to my conversion and the family God has given me, the Chile trip was the greatest spiritual event of my life,” he said. He was the first blind Tennessee Baptist to participate in volunteer missions overseas, a TBC missions leader noted.
 
Couey, who was a children’s Sunday School teacher at his church, told of holding Chilean children throughout the week’s eight services.
 
One Chilean woman had said she could not attend services because there was no one to watch her baby. Couey held the baby while he preached so she would attend. The woman accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior later in the week, one of 15 who turned to Christ under Couey’s preaching.
 
“Being myself and showing compassion for people’s needs is what God used as much as my preaching,” he said.
 
As an advocate for the blind, Couey was involved in a number of initiatives at various times, producing braille programs for Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings and braille copies of several Sunday School resources published by LifeWay Christian Resources and sparking the idea for Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal to coordinate volunteers to do tape recordings and, later digital recordings, of its articles.
 
Gene Mims, senior pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Nashville where Couey was a member, described him as “a most unusual man because despite being blind he had no limitations. Except for driving, I know of nothing he did not do. He was able to do things despite his blindness that most others do normally and he was able to do more than some people ever attempt to try.
 
“He always greeted me on Sundays with the same line: ‘You’re looking good today preacher,’” Mims added.
 
Couey is survived by his wife of 44 years, Charlyene, a former Woman’s Missionary Union director for the Nashville Baptist Association; a son, Jonathan; a daughter, Catholene Buckles; and five grandchildren.
 
His funeral was Feb. 4 at Judson Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to the Gideons or the Christian Women’s Job Corp of Middle Tennessee.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector, contributed to this article.)

2/12/2016 11:43:45 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Trump, Sanders dominate in N.H.

February 11 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Maverick candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders easily won Feb. 9 in the first primary election to determine the major political parties’ nominees for the White House.
 
Trump – the brash, billionaire businessman and celebrity – outdistanced the crowded Republican field by nearly 20 points to gain victory in the New Hampshire primary. Sanders, the United States senator from neighboring Vermont who describes himself as a socialist, dominated Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic primary by more than 20 percent.
 
The Republican presidential candidates take their campaign to South Carolina, which holds its primary Feb. 20. The next Democratic contest is the Nevada caucus the same day.
 
For the GOP, the move south will bring the evangelical Christian vote more into play. Exit polls in New Hampshire showed only 23 percent of Republican primary voters identified as “white evangelical or white born-again Christians.” Of those voters, 27 percent voted for Trump, 23 percent for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, 13 percent for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and 11 percent each for Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

 
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The New Hampshire win after a second-place finish in the Iowa caucus Feb. 1 provides Trump with momentum heading to South Carolina. That state’s primary will provide the first sample of how much backing a candidate with multiple marriages, a past of abortion rights support and a recent history of anti-religious freedom rhetoric can gain from southern evangelicals.
 
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore described Sanders and Trump as “the two most thoroughly secular candidates we have seen in years.”
 
Their victories came in a state that was recognized Feb. 4 by the Gallup polling organization as the least religious in the country.
 
“Their ascendancy is one more reminder that evangelical Christianity is a minority viewpoint in 21st Century America,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “We have much work to do to persuade our fellow citizens that matters of human dignity and religious liberty are in the common good.
 
“More importantly, our celebrity-crazed moment should remind us of the mission field to which we have been called,” he said. “The Christian witness will sound all the more distinct in this culture, but the more distinct it is, the more powerful.”
 
Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “Even a few months ago, it would have surprised most Americans to be told that New Hampshire voters would nominate a socialist and a nationalist for the nation’s highest office. But that is indeed what happened” in the primary.
 
In New Hampshire, Trump received 35.3 percent of the GOP votes, according to The New York Times. Kasich surged to finish second with 15.8 percent, while Cruz – the Iowa winner – took third with 11.7 percent and Bush fourth with 11 percent. Rubio ended up fifth with 10.6 percent. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and famed surgeon Ben Carson gained 7.4, 4.1 and 2.3 percent, respectively.
 
In the Democratic vote, Sanders won 60.4 percent. Clinton, the former first lady and secretary of State, received 38 percent.
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a popular cultural commentator, described the majority vote for “an avowed Democratic socialist” as “a sea change in politics, almost a political revolution, and whoever becomes the eventual Democratic nominee, the Democratic Party – this announces – is marching steadily to the left.”
 
Meanwhile, the GOP voters’ failure to narrow the race to two or three major candidates, Mohler said on his podcast, “The Briefing,” Feb. 10, means “there is still a great deal of uncertainty as to who will be eventually among the top two or top three vote-getters as the Republican nomination race continues.”
 
Ashford said, “It appears that the GOP field is in for a long nomination fight that will span many states and cost an enormous amount of money. At this point, the closest contender [to Trump] is Ted Cruz, followed perhaps by Marco Rubio, who, despite his lackluster showing, probably stands the best chance of winning the general election.”
 
In the delegate count for New Hampshire, Trump won 10 delegates, Kasich four, and Cruz, Bush and Rubio three apiece, The Times reported. Sanders gained 15 delegates and Clinton nine.
 
Rubio’s fifth-place finish proved a significant setback after his strong third place in Iowa and a week marked by endorsements from former GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and evangelical author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada.
 
Rubio and Clinton were two candidates who “fared poorly, but not poorly enough to hinder themselves from performing well in upcoming primaries,” Ashford said. “Rubio’s disappointing finish probably owes to his lackluster performance in the ABC debate and his assertion that women should be required to sign up for the draft.”
 
Though Rubio stood second in the New Hampshire polls before the Feb. 6 debate, his response to attacks from Christie during the debate proved disastrous in the eyes of most observers. When asked in the debate, Rubio joined Christie and Bush in supporting women registering with the Selective Service System.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/11/2016 12:29:59 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baylor’s sexual assault response draws protest

February 11 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Baylor University’s response to reports of campus sexual violence has drawn scores of protesters to the university president’s house and provoked at least two observers to call for the severing of official ties between Baylor and the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT).
 
Baylor President Ken Starr responded to critics with two statements, which affirmed the protesters’ “poise and maturity” and stated the university is conducting a thorough review of its response to reports of sexual violence.
 
A BGCT spokesman told Baptist Press the convention will “celebrate the good and work to resolve the bad” in its “long and storied relationship” with Baylor.
 
About 200 people participated in a candlelight vigil at Starr’s home Feb. 8 asking Baylor to “handle campus rape cases better,” according to The Dallas Morning News. The protesters then held a prayer service at the university’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

 
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Baylor University Facebook photo
About 200 Baylor students, faculty/staff, alumni & others gathered peacefully on campus for a student-led candlelight vigil Feb. 8 to support those who have been impacted personally by sexual violence and shine a light on the issue.

The vigil occurred one week following allegations by ESPN’s Outside the Lines that in multiple instances, “school officials [at Baylor] either failed to investigate, or adequately investigate, allegations of sexual violence,” including two instances of sexual assault by former members of the university’s football team.
 
The football players referenced, Tevin Elliott and Sam Ukwauchu, both have been convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to prison.
 
The Dallas Morning News reported at least three women who allege they were assaulted by Elliott say the university mishandled their allegations. During Ukwauchu’s 2015 trial, “it was disclosed that Baylor officials had conducted an internal investigation into the assault complaint and cleared him of any wrongdoing,” ESPN reported.
 
A day before the vigil, Starr released a letter to the Baylor community explaining that last fall, the university’s board of regents hired the law firm Pepper Hamilton to review its sexual violence policies because the firm has “expertise in the institutional response to all aspects of sexual misconduct.”
 
Vigil participants said in a statement on the event’s Facebook page, “Baylor University’s Administration repeatedly promises justice to students raped at Baylor and fails to provide it. Ken Starr repeatedly issues emailed platitudes while students still suffer. Policies outlined in Baylor’s Title IX compliance documents are inconsistently followed, and, at times, ignored altogether. Perpetrators are repeatedly allowed to go free due to these shortcomings. This makes our campus unsafe.”
 
Starr responded to the vigil in a Feb. 9 statement posted on Baylor’s website.
 
“Last evening, our students came together as a family,” Starr said. “They displayed great poise and maturity during the vigil at Allbritton House [the official name for the Baylor president’s home] and in the prayer service that followed at our beloved Truett Seminary. We hear your voices loud and clear.”
 
Starr gave his word the university would “continue to improve” and take “definitive, responsible actions” after it receives recommendations from a Philadelphia law firm that is conducting what Starr previously called “a comprehensive external review of the university’s response to previous reports of sexual violence.”
 
The university has not publicly discussed “specific reports of sexual assault,” Starr said, in an effort to comply with federal student-privacy laws. Baylor will not comment on “policies and procedures” until after the external review is complete.
 
Under Baylor’s current policy on “sexual harassment, sexual violence and interpersonal violence,” Starr said, “a trained and experienced external professional reviews [each] investigative report, meets with the parties and witnesses and renders an objective and impartial determination as to responsibility. When a student is found to have committed an act of sexual violence, strong disciplinary consequences ensue.”
 
Bart Barber, a Baylor alumnus and pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, speculated on the SBC Voices blog that Baylor’s quest to achieve top national rankings in athletics and academics may have led the university to “cover up sexual misconduct,” and opined that the university “handled sexual violence on its campus in such a shoddy and disgraceful manner … because it has learned so much from churches.”
 
“Ambitious people and ambitious organizations,” Barber wrote, “often see allegations of sexual assault as a threat to themselves.”
 
Churches that “have tried to cover up sexual misconduct” should be disfellowshipped from their local Baptist associations, their state Baptist conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention, Barber wrote, until “they have made amends with the victims and have put in place procedures and safeguards to protect those who report sexual misconduct in the future.”
 
In the same vein, Barber encouraged the BGCT “to take disciplinary action in its relationship with Baylor University.”
 
Barber’s call for cessation of the cooperative relationship between the university and the convention echoed a similar call by Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Mac Engel, who wrote Feb. 2 Baylor should “distance itself” from “the Baptists, or quit messing around with these overly enabled ... football players.”
 
Engel concluded, “Don’t take my word for it, listen to Jesus Christ when he commanded: ‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ If you can’t, just drop the charade with the Baptists.”
 
BGCT communications director Rand Jenkins said in a statement, “Baylor University and the Baptist General Convention of Texas have a long and storied relationship that dates back to the founding of both entities.” BGCT funding of Baylor “is directed to provide scholarships for students in ministry training. Most of those scholarships are directed to Truett Seminary.
 
“All individuals and institutions go through difficult times,” Jenkins continued. “We celebrate the good and work to resolve the bad. In the midst of this horrific situation surrounding Baylor and some students, we prayerfully hope for a satisfactory resolution to this matter. Furthermore, we grieve with those who are suffering and prayerfully approach resolution for all involved.”
 
Currently, the BGCT elects 25 percent of Baylor’s board of regents and planned to send the university $353,124 this year, according to the convention’s 2016 Missions and Ministries Budget.
 
In his letter, Starr assured friends of Baylor that the university is seeking “to eliminate the scourge of sexual violence” from campus life. “Such despicable violations of our basic humanity contradict every value Baylor lifts up as a caring Christian community,” he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/11/2016 12:23:12 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



China detains pastor of largest state-sanctioned church

February 11 2016 by June Cheng, WORLD News Service

Chinese officials detained the pastor of the country’s largest state-sanctioned church in late January, likely as a punishment for speaking out against the government’s campaign to demolish church crosses in Zhejiang province. If so, Pastor Gu Yuese of Chongyi church is the latest victim in a nationwide crackdown on dissent that has included human rights lawyers, publishers and pastors.
 
The Zhejiang branch of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the state-run Protestant church body, said on Jan. 29 that Gu is under investigation for embezzling funds and other unspecified economic crimes. But Bob Fu of Texas-based China Aid said the detention is absolutely a politically motivated charge. Gu has been outspoken about the government’s crackdown on church crosses, which has resulted in 1,800 cross removals since 2014.

 
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Wikipedia photo
Chongyi Church

Ten days before his arrest, officials sent Gu a notice removing him from his position at Chongyi, a mega church with about 10,000 congregants. Gu and his wife sent a note to the congregation saying they would stay at the church.
 
There is a rare freezing cold coming soon to Hangzhou, please rely on the Lord’s grace. Chongyi Church is also facing an unprecedented situation, they warned.
 
The move is surprising because Chongyi Church is a government-sanctioned congregation, meaning Gu trained at an official seminary and the entire church is legally registered under the TPSM. In the past, the government has typically targeted unregistered house churches, which operate outside the law. But since the government began tearing down crosses from atop churches in Zhejiang in 2014, even official churches have been caught in the government’s crosshairs.
 
Gu is part of China’s national Standing Committee for religious authority, as well as a provincial head of the China Christian Council. But he fell from the government ín good graces after publishing an open letter on his church ís website stating the cross removal policy is likely to cause chaos and religious conflict, while pointing out that the Chinese Constitution promises to respect the traditions and customs of all religions.
 
On Jan. 27, family and friends were unable to contact Gu and the next day received an official notice he had been placed under residential surveillance in a designated location, which is essentially a jail cell. According to China Aid, his wife also was detained after their house was searched. Guís latest official charge is embezzling funds for 10 million yuan.
 
On the following Sunday, the turnout at Chongyi was uncharacteristically low, with a Chinese Communist Party spokesman taking to the pulpit. According to China Aid, the front row was filled with people unfamiliar to the regular congregants, who clapped at the speaker ís every word. Officials also forced the church ís other pastors to leave, assigning them to different local congregations.
 
His arrest marks a major escalation in the crackdown against those who oppose the forced demolition of crosses, Fu said in a statement. He will be the highest-ranking national church leader arrested since the Cultural Revolution.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – June Cheng writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine at worldmag.com based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

2/11/2016 12:17:27 PM by June Cheng, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Youth curriculum debuts: 6-year free resource

February 11 2016 by Michael Foust, Southern Baptist TEXAN

Richard Ross has spent most of his life leading youth to a deeper relationship with Christ, so he didn’t hesitate when he felt God’s call to develop a small group curriculum for teens and young adults.
 
But even Ross was surprised at the result: a six-year free curriculum for grades 7-12 encompassing a multi-year journey to learn everything from apologetics and ethics to evangelism and missions.
 
The online “Disciple6” curriculum, written by 60-plus faculty and students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, includes learner and leader guides spanning core doctrines of the faith to train disciples for Christ.
 
The resource is available for download at Disciple6.com.
 
“Our broken culture, the millions of lost in the U.S, and the unreached people groups globally demand that we develop true disciples,” Ross told the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

 
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Richard Ross

“Yes, we need to offer biblical ministry to every teenager, regardless of spiritual condition or motivation,” Ross said. “But every church absolutely must offer a place where those select teenagers gather to truly become world-changing disciples. That is what we are missing today, and that is what we must begin to do – or all is lost.”
 
Students who go through the Disciple6 curriculum even can earn a first-semester scholarship to the seminary’s undergraduate school, the College at Southwestern, ranging from a 10 percent discount for someone who completes one year of the curriculum to a 100 percent discount for students who finish all six years.
 
The curriculum, which includes biblical interpretation, biblical relationships, leadership, spiritual disciplines and worldview, was a complete volunteer effort; writers were not paid fees.
 
One of the writers, Candi Finch, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies, said the Disciple6 curriculum is desperately needed.
 
“While many churches are doing a great job of discipleship, the truth is that we are losing the majority of our young people,” Finch told the TEXAN.
 
Finch quoted research from the Barna Group, which she said found that “one of the most common critiques of the church” by young adults who grew up in church and then left “is that they felt they could not ask their most pressing questions about life and faith in the church or were simply given shallow answers.”
 
“This curriculum wrestles with each core doctrine of the faith as well as engaging many pressing ethical questions of our day from a Christian worldview perspective,” Finch said. “I believe many of our teenagers are hungering for the meat of God’s Word, and they will certainly get it through each of these lessons.”
 
Ross, professor of youth ministry and co-founder of the True Love Waits movement for sexual purity, including abstinence until marriage, said the new curriculum grew out of a time when for one year, he asked a number of the top youth pastors one question: “What is your plan for discipling your core teenagers for six years, from grades 7-12?” None of them, though, had a comprehensive plan.
 
Ross was sitting on the platform at the seminary’s 2015 spring convocation when he felt God stirring him to develop the new curriculum.
 
“I left that service with my heart racing,” Ross said, “knowing all of us were about to go on a grand adventure,” one that drew the endorsement of Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson.
 
“Everyone embraced the fact that the curriculum would be offered to every church at no cost,” Ross said. “I remember saying, ‘The two teenagers in a tiny church in the Rio Grande Valley will get the same quality materials as the teenagers at Prestonwood Baptist or FBC Dallas.’”
 
Finch said she can sum up what she likes about the Disciple6 curriculum in four words: grounded, comprehensive, interactive and free.
 
“Each lesson is grounded in the Bible, so students are being equipped in knowing how to correctly handle God’s Word and use it to address the most pressing questions of their day,” Finch said. “The six-year curriculum is comprehensive so that the young man or woman who walks through these lessons during their teen years will have wrestled with the core doctrines of the Christian faith in an engaging way. Each lesson is interactive – teenagers and adults are digging into each week’s focal passage together, discussing hard questions and thinking through practical applications of each lesson. Finally, the entire curriculum is free so that any church or youth group can access it.”
 
Disciple6 is not designed for Sunday School, an hour when lost youth may be present, Ross said, explaining, “This curriculum only can be effective with teenagers who have made a firm decision to be a disciple of Jesus.”
 
The lessons are designed so they can be led by adults or youth, Ross added.
 
“The goal is teenage disciples who are fully prepared to disciple others – now and for a lifetime.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is a writer and editor based in Illinois. This article first appeared at the Southern Baptist TEXAN at texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

2/11/2016 12:10:11 PM by Michael Foust, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



LifeWay to close stores at 3 seminaries, including Southeastern

February 10 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – LifeWay Christian Stores are closing at three Southern Baptist seminary campuses, the retail chain confirmed Feb. 10.
 
The LifeWay Christian Stores chain also confirmed the closure of its longtime downtown Nashville location due to the sale of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entity’s 14.5-acre campus last November and the relocation of its offices to a new facility late next year also in the downtown area.

 
02-11-16LifeWay-(1).jpg

BP file photo
The LifeWay Christian Resources store at headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., has already closed. Three stores on seminary campuses, including the one on Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's campus, are scheduled to close soon.

A change in buying patterns among seminary students was cited as the reason for the closures at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
 
Cossy Pachares, vice president of the retail division of the SBC’s LifeWay Christian Resources publishing arm, said in a statement to Baptist Press: “LifeWay created our campus stores to help seminary students acquire the resources necessary for their academic studies. Over the last five years or so, students have been migrating more to digital, rental and online options for many of their textbook and scholarly resource needs. This is not a bad thing. We know these new options are helpful to students, since they can be more cost effective and powerful.
 
“While we are excited about these new options for seminary students, the changes have unfortunately had a significant impact on our ability to continue to operate these stores.”
 
LifeWay Christian Stores at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary “have not been as significantly affected,” he said, “because they draw customers from outside their student population. LifeWay will continue to operate these stores at this time.”
 
LifeWay’s store at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in the San Francisco Bay Area closed last year as the seminary prepares to move to a new campus in Southern California later this year.
 
LifeWay is part of the move to digital resources, Pachares noted in his statement, reporting that the entity’s WORDsearch software team is in the process of releasing a number of digital textbooks.
 
Pachares said LifeWay employees at Southwestern, Southeastern and Midwestern “have been encouraged to apply for positions with other LifeWay Stores, and have also been informed of severance benefits as well as incentives to continue their employment until work is completed at each location.”
 
“The closings are very difficult decisions, and ones we delayed as long as we could. But we have worked with executive leadership at each of the seminaries, and they understand our situation with the stores,” Pachares said.
 
LifeWay has operated its bookstore at Southwestern since 1930; at Southeastern since 1951; and Midwestern since 1958. The store at Southwestern will close Feb. 29; at Southeastern, April 30; Midwestern, May 31.
 
Regarding the downtown Nashville location, Martin King, LifeWay director of communications, said Feb. 10, “The downtown Nashville store closed last month as a result of the sale of LifeWay’s downtown campus. We are considering the feasibility of including a LifeWay Christian Store in our new building.”
 
LifeWay currently operates nearly 180 Christian retail stores in 29 states.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/10/2016 4:32:59 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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