Judge sends Kentucky county clerk to jail

September 4 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A federal judge jailed Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis Sept. 3 for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In finding her in contempt of court, Judge David Bunning rejected the option of fining Davis, instead ordering federal marshals to take her into custody until she agrees to abide by his earlier order to provide licenses to gay couples, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal. A fine would be insufficient, said Bunning, who expressed concern Davis’ supporters would pay any fine he levied, the newspaper reported.
“Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defense,” the judge said, according to The Courier-Journal. “Oaths mean things.”
The court “cannot condone willful disobedience,” he said.
Davis told the court, “My conscience will not allow it. ...  God’s moral law convicts me and conflicts with my duties.”
Later Sept. 3, five of the six deputy clerks in Davis’ office told Bunning they are willing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Bunning said he would be willing to lift the contempt charge against Davis as a result, but he planned to call her back into court later in the day to discuss it with her.


Kim Davis

Davis’ jailing came three days after the U.S. Supreme Court denied her request to block enforcement of Bunning’s order. She has appealed the order to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, but Bunning’s order remains in effect while her appeal is considered.
Bunning’s decision to jail Davis – which was not requested by lawyers for the same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses in Rowan County – is the latest fallout from the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
The justices’ 5-4 ruling heightened concerns among religious liberty advocates regarding the threat legalized gay marriage poses to Christian individuals and institutions, as well as other defenders of biblical, traditional marriage.
The opinion prompted some county clerks to resign their jobs rather than issue licenses to gay couples, while others have held onto their jobs while refusing to issue licenses. In the private sector, some businesses were closed even before the Supreme Court ruling as a result of their refusal to compromise their belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Wedding vendors – including florists, photographers and bakers – have been especially vulnerable in states where gay marriage was already legal.
“Everyone is stunned at this development,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, regarding Bunning’s action. Liberty Counsel is representing Davis.
“Today’s events will escalate this debate to a new level,” Staver said in a written statement. “This is not the kind of America the Founders envisioned or that most Americans want.”
The government could resolve this conflict by providing accommodations for county clerks with conscientious objections to issuing licenses to same-sex couples, Staver and other religious freedom advocates have said.
Among the accommodations suggested in Davis’ case by Liberty Counsel are removing her name from marriage licenses and permitting the county’s chief executive to issue licenses.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, had told Baptist Press Sept. 1 the government “ought to provide its employees with all protections possible to the furtherance of maintaining public order.”
“There are better solutions available than the one in Kentucky that needlessly pits the rule of law against freedom of conscience,” Moore said. “The governor and legislature of Kentucky could act to accommodate county clerks whose consciences object to issuing same-sex marriage licenses while still maintaining the rule of law.”
Bunning’s ruling appears to be “a blatant case of judicial overreaction,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. It also is “a clear indication of the marginalization of traditional Christian morality and a direct endangerment to religious liberty,” he said in a written statement.
“These are issues of wide- and long-standing debate, and the Christian worldview does not offer a simple formula in terms of understanding what a Christian’s responsibility may be in so many of these challenges we now face, especially as an office-holder, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision,” Mohler said. “But it is clear that this is a test, not just for Judge Bunning, not just Kim Davis, but for the entire nation as we are deciding what we will require at the price of conscience from fellow Americans.”
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said, “For a judge to issue an arrest and jail decision in this instance” seems to reflect “an activist agenda where Christians are to be ‘taught a lesson.’” He noted it is increasingly apparent that “religious liberty is no longer a right in this country” when it conflicts with the homosexual agenda.
“It is a sad day which I believe we will see replicated in numerous ways in the days to come,” Page said.
After the Supreme Court refused Aug. 31 to grant a stay to Davis pending her appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court, her office still refused to grant licenses to gay couples the next day. Lawyers for the gay couples subsequently filed a contempt of court motion against Davis.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee announced his support for Davis after speaking with her by phone Sept. 2.
“When people of conviction fight for what’s right they often pay a price, but if they don’t and we surrender, we will pay a far greater price for bowing to the false God [sic] of judicial supremacy,” Huckabee said in a written statement. “Government is not God.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, another GOP candidate for the White House, urged a balance between a government office’s responsibility to carry out the law and the liberty of workers in the office to exercise the freedom of religion and conscience.
“Our nation was founded on the human right of religious freedom,” Rubio told The New York Times Sept. 2, “and our elected leaders have a duty to protect that right by ensuring that no one is forced by the government to violate their conscience and deeply held religious beliefs about traditional marriage.”
Davis – who has been described in news reports as an Apostolic Christian – has been married four times, according to court records obtained by U.S. News and World Report. The most recent of her three divorces came in 2008, the magazine reported Sept. 1.
She became a Christian more than four years ago after attending church in response to the dying wish of her mother-in-law, Davis said in a Sept. 1 written statement.
“There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ,” she said. “I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

Related Stories:

Lawyers for Ky. clerk seek new way to block marriage licenses
Clerk loses, resists high court on marriage licenses
Ky. county clerk prays, denies same-sex marriages

9/4/2015 12:08:40 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Video highlights market volatility

September 4 2015 by Timothy E. Head, Baptist Press

GuideStone Financial Resources has produced a video outlining the nation’s current market volatility and responses that long-term investors should consider, including remaining calm in the face of daily news, keeping a long-term focus on investments and maintaining diversification in age- and risk-appropriate investments.
David S. Spika, CFA, global investment strategist for GuideStone Capital Management, LLC, narrates the video. Spika has been called on in recent days to discuss market volatility in a variety of news outlets, including cable business channel CNBC and industry news source InvestmentNews.
Spika noted in the video that stock market declines and rebounds are virtually impossible to time, even for professionals, and should never be the reason for long-term investment allocation changes.
“Here at GuideStone, we’ve been confident that market volatility would rise because the market was much too calm and investors were way too complacent,” Spika explained on the video. “But we sure couldn’t predict the timing of the next correction.”
While headlines in the media may trigger memories of the 2008 market drop and recession, Spika said the reality is that markets are constantly going through periods of correction and rally.
“It’s also important to be aware that big down days in the market are frequently followed by powerful rallies,” he said. “Since 1945, there have been 100 declines in the S&P 500 of between 5 percent and 20 percent. On average, these declines have lasted only four months, and the market has recovered all of the loss quickly, within an average of one to three months.
“We believe that what is happening now is simply a needed short-term correction and not the beginning of a bear market.”
Bear markets are declines in the market exceeding 20 percent that last for a year or more and almost always occur in conjunction with an economic recession. Spika said that GuideStone does not currently see any signs of a coming recession and is encouraged by current economic data.
GuideStone participants and investors can make use of GuideStone Advisors’ complimentary GPS: Guided Planning Services service, which can assist individuals in determining their risk tolerance and asset allocation.
Participants can log in to their account at GuideStone Capital Management makes available this and several other videos, articles and links on current news topics related to the markets on its website,, under the “News & Insights” tab.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Head is executive officer for denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources.)

9/4/2015 12:03:01 PM by Timothy E. Head, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Student team befriends Bangkok ‘ladyboys’

September 4 2015 by Paige Turner, IMB Connections

They walked a couple of blocks to escape the crowds and loud music, gathered in a quaint coffee shop while local musicians practiced below and took turns telling about conversations with friends during the past hour of outreach.
The five college students retold conversations with excitement because they’d met with friends, yet their words were also marked by heartache at the weightiness of their friends’ struggles: low self-esteem, loneliness, family problems, unhappiness at work and financial issues.
Although trained in cross-cultural missions to unreached people groups, this International Mission Board (IMB) Nehemiah Team acknowledged these were hard issues to address. Since 2004 IMB has sent out nearly 1,400 students ages 18-29 on Nehemiah Teams that provide summer missions opportunities with potential for eternal impact.


Students Zaya Ortiz and Natalie Marking browse the market stalls for lunch in Bangkok. Ortiz and Marking looked for opportunities to build relationships and share the love of Christ in a city of 8 million-plus known for human trafficking, child prostitution and sex tourism.

And these students from Texas and Tennessee went to perhaps the most spiritually dark place in an Asian city of 8 million-plus known for human trafficking, child prostitution and sex tourism. For the students, it was an opportunity to befriend a group of people with whom few are sharing the gospel.
That group is Bangkok’s ladyboys,” the common way of referring to those who self-identify as transgendered men in Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand. About 10,000 “ladyboys” in Thailand’s capital make a living in the sex industry. Some work in bars where the workers are only ladyboys, and that’s where Nehemiah Team members Zayahary Ortiz and Natalie Marking looked for opportunities to build friendships and share the gospel.
As soon as they walked up, Ortiz spotted Melanie,* an individual she’d met a few times before, sitting on a stool outside the bar in a black and white bikini, quite focused on applying makeup. Like many others Melanie is consumed with wanting to be beautiful, unashamedly staring often in mirrors lining the bar walls, making sure nothing is out of place.
“Melanie has worked in bars for 10 years, 11 months at this one. She only gets two days off a month,” explained Ortiz, a pre-med major at the University of Texas at Austin.
Melanie’s schedule of working nights and sleeping during the day, with little time off, is typical. The lure of financial security brings some into the bars. Others choose it because, although they live in a country more accepting than most, finding other employment isn’t always easy.
Regardless of how or why Melanie ended up there, Ortiz wanted to show her that she cared. That’s really the goal of every Nehemiah Team, no matter where they serve in the world – to reach the unreached and hard to reach with Jesus’ love.
For this Bangkok team that meant going into uncomfortable places and intentionally getting to know individuals who are uncertain of their sexual identity.
“We have to spend time with them,” Ortiz said. “They have to know we are here to care for them like no one has.”


A popular red-light district is illuminated as the sun sets over Bangkok, Thailand.

Ortiz wanted to talk with Melanie, so she waited inside while Melanie got ready. She was early, so the lights were still on and others were also making finishing touches to hair and makeup. Two long rows of benches with purple cushions face each other across a skinny rectangle dance stage. Ortiz sat so close she could almost reach out and touch the stage.
After a little while house lights dimmed, green disco lights swirled and skinny black high heels emerged on the dance floor. The music was loud enough that Ortiz strained to hear Melanie sitting next to her as she talked about missing family eight hours away and trying to save vacation time to visit.
Ortiz’s smile, bubbly personality and head-turning laughter were bright spots in an otherwise dark place of men desperate to be accepted as women.
Melanie, 31, has lived a long time as a “ladyboy.” Some boys show feminine tendencies as children and are encouraged to live in this lifestyle while others, even if not showing feminine tendencies, may be raised as women because of cultural, economic or spiritual reasons. They change their hair and clothing, and some even pay for expensive, painful surgeries to make certain physical attributes more like that of a woman.
Sitting near Ortiz, Marking talked with Traci,* whom she met the week before. Traci talked about her dislike for working in the bar and her struggle with having divorced parents. Marking could relate, as her parents divorced when she was 10.
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center student discovered she and Traci share the same taste in music. Commonalities like music and movies, and even struggles like divorce, helped Marking look beyond lifestyle to see Traci as someone to whom she could relate.
“You can see their personalities,” Marking said. “You realize how much life they have.”
Some nights the Nehemiah students went to bars where staff from the non-profit Dton Naam, whom they served alongside this summer, already had friendships. Although a number of organizations in Bangkok help women trapped in prostitution, Dton Naam is the only one working with men in the ladyboy lifestyle.
Other nights, like this particular night, the collegiate missionaries went where – in just a few weeks – they’d established their own friendships.
Friends in a few weeks? With ladyboys in bars? The students were skeptical at first, too.
But it happened.
“You get comfortable because you’ve built a relationship,” Ortiz said casually, as if there was nothing unusual about their ministry setting. “You just forget about where you are.”
But can you look beyond bikinis and high heels and see the heart of someone desperate for love from their Heavenly Father?
It happened for Lee Webber. The Kilgore College student, who uses words like ‘fixin’ in his Texas twang, had no idea what to expect from a summer far, far away from his southern roots.
“How is a kid from East Texas going to make a difference?” Webber wondered.
Webber’s willingness to listen made a difference for Patrick,* who works in a gay bar but makes little money. Webber teared up talking about his friend who is pushing 40 and a little “old” to be working the bar scene.
“It’s amazing I made friends in such a short time. I can’t explain it,” Webber said. “God did a miracle in our hearts.”
He wasn’t the only one who saw miracles happen. During a prayer time that week the students wrote on slips of paper names of friends they’d met during the summer.
They kept coming, name after name of friends who needed prayer: someone who doesn’t eat a lot because he doesn’t feel pretty, someone else who wants to open a coffee shop but feels pressure to work in the bars to make money and support parents and younger siblings.
With names in hand the students sat on the floor and cried out to God for their eternal salvation and release from a lifestyle of bondage. They prayed for more people willing to go to uncomfortable places and reach the hard to reach – people they now call their friends.
*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paige Turner is a writer living in Southeast Asia.)

9/4/2015 11:44:49 AM by Paige Turner, IMB Connections | with 0 comments

Heroes honored for service; 53 profess faith

September 4 2015 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS Communications

First Baptist Church of Bossier City, La., hosted “Honor our Heroes Sunday,” a special day devoted to doing just that: honoring the first responders and military service personnel in and around the city.
The church formally invited all police officers, firefighters and paramedics from the city, as well as individuals in active military service, particularly those stationed at nearby Barksdale Air Force Base. Hundreds accepted the invitation, and roughly 5,000 people attended the church’s two worship services that day, which featured a gospel presentation and a live interview with Taya Kyle, wife of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, Aug. 30. By the end of the event, 53 people had prayed to receive Christ.


First Baptist Church of Bossier City, La., hosted “Honor our Heroes Sunday,” a special day devoted to ministering to and serving first responders and military servicemen in and around the city, Aug. 30.

Senior pastor Brad Jurkovich, who completed his doctor of ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2013, says the current cultural climate prompted the church to host the event. With nationally covered police shootings to the on-duty deaths of three Louisiana officers in the last month alone, Jurkovich saw the need to set aside a day to honor local first responders and military service personnel.
“We just wanted to be a blessing to them. That was our first goal,” he said. “Second, we wanted to share the gospel with as many people as we could.”
The church offered two worship services instead of its usual one offered each Sunday. The church also held a free breakfast to those who attended the first service and a free lunch to those who attended the second.
“The expectation was that our church would really demonstrate the serving passion of Christ to others,” Jurkovich said. “You’ve got these military and first responders that, all the time, they’re serving,” and the church decided to say, “No, we want to serve you.”
Hundreds of service personnel and first responders attended the services, including the police chief, fire chief, and the new four-star general at Barksdale and his staff. The mayor of Bossier also attended, as did the mayor of Shreveport.
The two worship services featured two primary activities: a gospel presentation from Romans 5:8 and a 25-minute interview with Kyle, wife of the late U.S. Navy SEAL sniper, whose life was featured in the movie “American Sniper.” During the interview, which was conducted on the platform by Jurkovich, Kyle shared about her husband, their life together, and the struggles she and her family have experienced in the two years since his death.


Pastor Brad Jurkovich interviewed Taya Kyle, wife of the late U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, Aug. 30.

When asked how she has been able to persevere through such difficult circumstances, Kyle said she has relied on her faith in the Lord. She explained that, had she known from the beginning that her husband would go through four tours in the Middle East and that he would be murdered upon his return home, she may not have been able to handle it. “But,” she continued, “He prepares you for things, and my faith is what’s getting me through.”
Jurkovich noted, “When you have someone whom people across the board are [asking], ‘How are they getting through all of this?’ and she flat-out says, ‘It’s because of my faith in the living God,’ God starts to work on a heart through that.”
He added, “You follow that up with, ‘Let me tell you what God did. He didn’t just talk about His love; He demonstrated it.’ And I said to them, ‘I’m looking at an audience where many of you, [when] you see a need, your initial response is to do something about it and to save [those in trouble]. That’s what God did for you. He didn’t just sit on the sideline; He did something for us. And He gives us a choice to receive Him or reject Him.”
At the conclusion of his sermon, Jurkovich extended an invitation. The two services combined saw 53 people respond by placing their faith in Christ.
“The phrase that I kept hearing as people left was, ‘I didn’t realize how badly I needed that kind of day of appreciation, affirmation and spiritual nourishment,’” Jurkovich said. “It was very humbling to be around all of that.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)

9/4/2015 11:37:13 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Students in Vt. get Calif. music resources

September 4 2015 by Sarah Carr, Northeastern Baptist College

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (GGBTS) worked with Northeastern Baptist College (NEBC) during the first half of August to pack up a 2,200-volume collection of music references, antique hymnals and books on music from the seminary’s Mill Valley campus in California and deliver it safely to Vermont at NEBC’s Hogue Library in Bennington.
“At creation God gave us the gift of music,” said James Mancuso, NEBC vice president of library services. “Through this donation, He’s given us the gift of music books.”
This gift is a milestone in NEBC’s budding music program. “We are excited to support Northeastern Baptist College as they expand their training opportunities for worship leaders in the Northeast,” GGBTS President Jeff Iorg said.


NEBC photo
A special music room in Hogue Library at Northeastern Baptist College in Vermont will house the music collection donated by Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary from its former music program.

The seminary posted information on a Christian librarian email list earlier this year concerning the available Mill Valley campus music collection. With the seminary having phased out its music program and preparing to move to a new location, Mancuso saw the opportunity as God’s provision. Plans were made for Mancuso to fly out and arrange the transfer. After a safe journey, NEBC students began unpacking and shelving the collection inside a special music room in the library.
GGBTS director of library services, Robert (Bob) Phillips, was delighted about the collection’s donation to NEBC, saying, “The 40 years of effort by Golden Gate librarians and faculty to assemble and preserve these books have now been reinvested in Northeastern Baptist College.”
The collection will be enhanced by another donation scheduled to arrive in October. An Oklahoma church team from Tulsa, who worked on construction projects for NEBC in the past, will be sending a 1,700-item music collection. Between these two donations, NEBC’s Hogue Library now can offer substantial resources to students enrolled in the college’s music program.
“It fulfills a great need that we would not have been able to meet on our own,” Matt Hasty, adjunct professor of music at NEBC, noted.
The resources are even more important as the need for musicians grows, NEBC President Mark Ballard said.
“Even though Northeastern Baptist College is located in the least-churched state in America, God is at work, people are being saved and churches are being planted,” Ballard said. “With every new church plant, the need for musicians grows. As our students train to serve in music ministry, they also serve the churches and church plants in the Northeast. What a blessing to have Golden Gate join us in impacting the Northeast with this wonderful gift.”
NEBC’s bachelor of arts in music ministry is designed to give students a solid biblical and musical foundation for ministry. Students are educated in music, music theory and biblical studies while applying what they are learning throughout each semester. Though students choose from concentrations in voice, keyboarding or guitar, they receive training in all three areas, along with regular practice through chapel and local church music ministries, resulting in well-rounded musicians.
Among the next steps for NEBC’s music program will be the acquisition of recently published books on music and a subscription to an audio database, with the college trusting God to provide for these needs as well.
“It must surely be providential,” Phillips said, “that this collection … would again support new Baptist work outside the South.”
Northeastern Baptist College, with an enrollment of 59 students, achieved Vermont accreditation and degree-granting authority from the State Board of Education in September 2014. NEBC is on the Web at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Carr is a communications specialist with Northeastern Baptist College.)

9/4/2015 11:11:39 AM by Sarah Carr, Northeastern Baptist College | with 0 comments

New book showcases Baptist history

September 3 2015 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Three Baptist history scholars were not completely satisfied with the textbook options in their field, so they decided to write their own.
In The Baptist Story, Michael Haykin, Nathan Finn and Anthony Chute sought to produce a more narrative story that spans four centuries of Baptist history of this diverse group, but is approachable for students and laypeople.


“It seems most Baptist history books are written primarily for the professor instead of the student,” said Chute, professor of church history at California Baptist University. “Our book communicates to the student the material they need to know in a way that is informative and interesting.”
Finn, dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University, noted the idea for a new Baptist history book emerged several years ago. Nothing came of it until B&H Academic asked Finn, Chute, and Haykin, professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to tri-author the book.
“There has not been a true Baptist history textbook written by Southern Baptists with a primarily, though not exclusively, Southern Baptist readership in mind for nearly 30 years,” Finn said. “While several fine textbooks have been published, most are not written from a convictionally evangelical perspective, or they only cover Baptists in a particular region.”
Both Finn and Chute said the research and work on the international Baptists and often neglected minority communities within Baptist life was the most interesting for them. “My tendency has been to focus on Baptists in America,” Chute said, “so the global perspective to which we were committed provided an opportunity for me to explore areas that broadened my appreciation for global Baptist work.”
While the work, released last month by B&H Academic, is primarily written as a textbook to be taught in an academic setting, the authors believe churches, pastors and laypeople could benefit from The Baptist Story.
Chute noted readers could gain an appreciation for the diversity among Baptists, but also the core beliefs that unite. “We also hope pastors and church members will gain an appreciation for the sacrifices Baptists have made over the years to establish religious liberty, build mission organizations and more,” he said.
Since the book was written to engage students, Finn would like to see pastors and interested lay people read it to develop a better grasp of Baptist history. “We hope every reader would walk away knowing Baptists have evolved from a tiny sect in England to a global movement mostly characterized by a high view of Scripture, a commitment to following the New Testament in ecclesiological matters, and a passion for evangelism and missions.”
For more information on The Baptist Story or other books from B&H Academic, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

9/3/2015 11:55:25 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Lawyers for Ky. clerk seek new way to block marriage licenses

September 3 2015 by Andrew Wolfson and Mike Wynn, USA TODAY Network/Religion News Service

Lawyers for a county court clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows same-sex couples to wed filed an emergency motion Wednesday to block an order from the Kentucky governor.
The motion asks U.S. District Judge David Bunning to stop enforcement of Gov. Steve Beshear’s order requiring county clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay couples while Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ case is on appeal to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
A spokeswoman for Liberty Counsel, the Orlando-based law firm that represents Davis, could not immediately explain the intent of the motion or whether it is designed to avert a contempt hearing set for Thursday at which Bunning could jail or fine Davis for failing to process the documents.


Screenshot from Video courtesy of The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, via USA Today

Lawyers for two gay and two straight couples who have sued Davis could not be reached for comment. Davis filed a claim in that suit against the governor saying his order violates her religious liberty as guaranteed under the state and federal constitutions and the state’s religious freedom restoration act.
In the injunction motion, Davis said she wouldn’t object to another county official issuing marriages licenses in Rowan County, as long as they are not issued with her signature.
But under Kentucky law, that’s the rub: Issuing marriage licenses is a required duty for a county clerk in this state and at least two other county clerks in Kentucky have followed Davis’ lead with less publicity.
In Alabama, for example, the law states that probate judges “may” issue the licenses rather than “shall,” so as of mid-July at least nine counties had shuttered their marriage-license operations with no date for relaunching them, according to The Associated Press.
In Granbury, Texas, a federal court in July compelled Hood County Clerk Katie Lang to issue a license to Granbury residents Joe Stapleton and Jim Cato; Texas law also requires clerks to record marriage licenses. By the time the case was settled, county taxpayers had to foot a $43,000 bill, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Lang still doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage and says so on her website but is allowing deputies in her office to issue the licenses, something that Davis objects to because the certificates bear her name as an elected official.
“It is not a light issue for me,” Davis said Tuesday through her lawyers, the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel. “It is a Heaven or Hell decision.”
On Sept. 3, Davis and her deputies are being summoned to an 11 a.m. hearing before Bunning in Ashland, Ky., about an hour away from this city of 7,000 in eastern Kentucky. On Sept. 2, she stepped out of her office for only a moment to say she won’t comment on the fray that has drawn international attention.

Related Stories:

Clerk loses, resists high court on marriage licenses
Ky. county clerk prays, denies same-sex marriages

9/3/2015 11:48:58 AM by Andrew Wolfson and Mike Wynn, USA TODAY Network/Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Dying church revitalized, called ‘Lazarus story’

September 3 2015 by Karen l. Willoughby, Baptist Press

When its copier was repossessed, Powdersville First Baptist Church believed the end was near.
The remaining members drew up papers turning the church’s property over to the next-door neighbors. Former members heard the news and started returning, praying for God’s direction. That was nine years ago.
“It’s a Lazarus story,” said Pastor Brad Atkins. “The Cooperative Program had a lot to do with it.”
As the once-vibrant church that started in 1983 withered by January 2006 in the wake of a church scandal, its missions giving shriveled to zero in order to keep the lights on and mortgage paid. Atkins, 16 years in full-time ministry and leading a worship center overflow class at a large church, accepted a call to the troubled congregation in Easley, S.C. It’s his first senior pastor role.


Submitted photo
The worship center of Powdersville First Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., displays flags from various countries to remind members of their international missions reach through the Cooperative Program and church mission trips.

“The first thing I told them was that we had to start investing in the Kingdom,” Atkins said. “We started off with 5 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program and 5 percent to Piedmont Baptist Association, because the director of missions had supply-preached and his wife played the piano to help keep the church afloat.
“In the years following, we started increasing and today we’re giving 10 percent to missions through CP, 3 percent to the association, and 3.5 percent to the church’s four church plants and other ministries.”
Church attendance has rebounded to an average of 350 in Sunday worship services today, from an average low of 30 in January 2006. The Cooperative Program gives the church a global impact, Atkins tells his congregation.
“We can’t send out 5,000 international missionaries ourselves, but through the Cooperative Program, we’re part of that,” the pastor continued. “The Cooperative Program allows our church to be globally minded. We’re having an impact for the Kingdom!”
Powdersville First Baptist Church has draped the walls of its worship center with flags from all the states and nations the church has ministered in on mission trips over the last nine years.
“It’s just a visual reminder that when you put your offering in the plate, it doesn’t stay in Easley,” Atkins said. “It goes all over the world.”
Church plants, local ministries and national and international mission trips illustrate the church’s commitment to actively participate in missions while giving financially. One of its church plants is five minutes away in Easley. Others are in Xenia, Ill., Baltimore, Md., and one is ministering to cowboys in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Next year, Powdersville First Baptist plans to plant a church in Chesnee, S.C., an hour away.
In addition to its home state of South Carolina, the church has taken mission trips to Florida, New Mexico, Utah and Virginia, and has ministered abroad in Haiti, Israel and Romania.


Brad Atkins

A mission trip to Anchorage, Alaska, is planned for 2016, as well as a “mystery mission trip” with a destination unknown to those who sign up.
“If the Lord is calling, it doesn’t matter where it is,” Atkins said. “We wanted to show our members that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the calling.”
Each October, church members complete a spiritual gifts survey in advance of the church’s annual missions fair in November. Members select ministries that interest them and turn in the assessment known as My Personal Ministry Booklet for ACTS.
It’s part of the church’s new ACTS – Amazing Church That Serves – structural model that resulted last year in about 70 percent of the congregation becoming involved in one or more ministries. ACTS utilizes the church’s five deacons to facilitate the ministries and update the pastor on ministry progress at monthly deacon meetings.
“It’s one of my favorite times of the month,” Atkins said of the deacon meetings. “It allows me to know the pulse of the church. This way our members can keep their focus. They can say, ‘I am promoting the Kingdom. I’m a part of this, from faithful giving to faithful service.’“
By taking the onus off a nominating committee that might not know the new members, ACTS gets new members involved right away, even between ministry fairs.
“Unless everyone in the church is using all the gifts, talents and abilities God has given them, the church will not be what God intended it to be,” Atkins said.
Powdersville First Baptist has more than 40 ministries, including Awana, Good News Club, and special community events such as the First Fest annual homecoming which drew more 600 people. There’s a free community supper once a month, a van ministry that includes Sunday morning breakfast, and other outreaches.
The first ministry fair in 2014 more than doubled the number of people involved in ministry at the church. Evangelism is at the core of each outreach.
“I remind our people regularly that the same gospel that changed their life has the power to change lives all around the world,” Atkins said. “God is blessing the church and we are seeing God give the increase.
“I believe that greater things are ahead of us, as long as we’re preaching the Word and loving the people,” he said. “There’s no limit to what God can do if we don’t limit what He will do.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

9/3/2015 11:42:27 AM by Karen l. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

100-plus turn to Christ at college Bible conference

September 3 2015 by Ryan Bower, Baptist Press

More than 100 students made professions of faith in Christ during Cedarville University’s annual Fall Bible Conference. Another 90-plus students responded to a call to full-time ministry.
“We praise God that each of these students responded in faith, moving forward toward what they felt God wanted them to do,” said Thomas White, president of Cedarville in southwest Ohio. “It was an amazing week, and we are praying that it is only the beginning of even more spiritual awakening.”
This year’s speaker, Clayton King, founder of Clayton King Ministries and teaching pastor at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., spoke to 3,400-plus students, faculty and staff during the Aug. 17-20 conference.
King shared the story of loss in his own life, including the deaths of his mother and father. He spoke about weakness and brokenness and how God uses those times as a way to worship Him and as a way to heal.


Cedarville photo
Clayton King, founder of Clayton King Ministries and teaching pastor at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., spoke to 3,400-plus students, faculty and staff during Cedarville University’s Fall Bible Conference, Aug. 17-20, in southeast Ohio.

“Hard times don’t make us happy,” King said early in the week. “They keep us humble and make us holy.”
Those words – and others sown by King in his series of messages – fell on fertile ground at Cedarville, which has been endorsed by the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio since 2002.
After the student body was dismissed Tuesday evening, residents of Lawlor Hall formed their traditional ring around their parking lot to sing songs of praise and pray for those who had made decisions during the service.
“While coming together in prayer and praise is something of a longstanding tradition, this year felt so different,” said Scott Stephens, Lawlor’s resident director. “We were able to celebrate what the Holy Spirit had done just moments before. There was a great energy.”
Freshman Megan Orr, a new student from Crystal Lake, Ill. was among those touched by the Spirit of God.
Orr spent the summer preparing herself for a new chapter in life – new friends, new challenges and the beginning of her studies as a psychology major. She came to Cedarville from a Christian home with faithful church attendance. But, she recounted, something was missing in her life.
“I’d always been really plugged in with my church,” Orr said. “I always thought I’m doing great, I’m doing ‘the God thing’ but I never really understood it. I’d go to church camp or a youth retreat and be on fire for God, but it didn’t last.” Eventually, her church attendance became sporadic and she wasn’t inclined to consider a Christian university when the time came to choose a college.
“I was struggling with a lot of guilt,” Orr said. “I kept telling myself that I was a sinner and I didn’t belong in church. I didn’t even want to attend a Christian college, but my parents brought me for a visit and convinced me it would be good for me.”
While sitting in the pew during King’s Tuesday evening message, Orr couldn’t help but feel that something was pulling her toward a decision about faith. “I could feel that something big was going to happen,” she said. “As I listened to Clayton pray for us and ask us to pray along, I began to cry. I knew that I needed to trust in Jesus.”
Orr returned to her room in Printy Hall after the service and began a frantic search through her Bible to find the exact words to pray.
That’s when senior Anna Prosise came alongside and explained there is no ritualistic passage or process that Orr needed; she simply had to ask Jesus to save her from sin. For Orr, that moment was the culmination of something that had been building since she stepped foot on campus four days earlier, encountering faculty, staff and students who welcomed her and pointed her toward Christ.
“It can be easy to take for granted the privilege we have to live in a community like this,” Prosise said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us at Cedarville. Never again will we have the opportunity to be around this many believers who will challenge you, grow with you and support you.”
Not lost on how God moved during the Bible conference is the $17,764 offering from attendees for the Miami Valley Women’s Center, a nonprofit organization in suburban Dayton that educates men and women with parenting skills, assists women who are considering an abortion, and provides regular Bible training for their clients.
“[W]e look forward to following up on each decision,” White said, “as we use their 1,000 days on campus to intentionally guide them to a life that glorifies God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ryan Bower is assistant director of public relations at Cedarville University.)

9/3/2015 11:37:34 AM by Ryan Bower, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

National CP funds 1.13% over projection

September 3 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) are $174,276,734.99, or 1.13 percent above the year-to-date budgeted goal, and are 1.42 percent ahead of contributions received during the same time frame last year, a news release from SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page reported. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution, according to the 2014-15 SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget.
As of August 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget represent 101.13 percent of the $172,333,333.33 year-to-date budgeted amount to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The total is $2,434,843.37 more than the $171,841,891.62 received through the end of August 2014.
The convention-adopted budget is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board (IMB), 22.79 percent to North American missions through North American Mission Board (NAMB), 22.16 percent to theological education, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget, and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. If the convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $188 million dollars, IMB’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.
Designated year-to-date giving of $191,161,942.22 is 0.4 percent, or $752,910.23, above the $190,409,031.99 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the EC through close of business on Aug. 31 and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief and other special gifts.
August CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $15,417,216.61. Designated gifts received during August amounted to $5,551,127.74.
The totals include money received by the EC from 42 cooperating state Baptist conventions as well as contributions from churches and individuals through the last business day of August.
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the SBC with a single contribution to its state convention.
State conventions retain a portion of church contributions to CP to support work in their respective states and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.
Month-to-month receipts often reflect significant swings based on a number of factors, including the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted, the timing of when cooperating state conventions forward the national portion of CP contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, and the number of Sundays in a given month.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the EC are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at

9/3/2015 11:34:18 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

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