Archives For June 2016

Braveheart screengrab via YouTube

Braveheart screen grab via YouTube

The great experiment in democracy is in trouble.

We have only to look at the presidential election to see the truth in that statement. Apparently anyone can become president.

It is hardly believable that same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S. only one year ago. In the brief time since, the moral ground beneath us has shifted with the force of tectonic plates in quake.

Not since William Wallace painted his face blue and led his native Scotland to a rousing victory over England has the world so needed someone to raise his fist and shout “freedom!”

On Broadway, the most popular show lauds our founding fathers (who, little did we know, were hip-hop artists!). But the freedom today’s culture celebrates is license, not liberty. In a few short decades the nation has abandoned the very principles on which it was founded.
Our founding fathers established this nation with a few basic understandings: individual rights are derived from a Creator and our civil laws are based on “the laws of nature and Nature’s God.” The great experiment in American democracy is also built on the presumption of an educated electorate, culture with a conscience, and society with a solid moral foundation. Tocqueville observed that in a democratic republic, education about the constitution and morality must remain inseparable.

Yes, our founders were sinners: ambitious, schemers, slaveholders, adulterers. But knowing the wickedness of the human heart, they crafted a system they hoped would hold those wills and ills in check. They held high the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and more specifically, the basic freedoms of religion, the press, peaceable assembly, and the redress of grievances against the government.

Good luck with that. We can’t even get the Social Security Administration to answer the phone without a three-month appointment.

Congress is in gridlock, the Supreme Court issues endless rulings irrespective of morality, and the Administration makes edicts that endanger the psychosexual well-being of our children—all in the name of freedom. All in violation of basic common sense.

Not since William Wallace painted his face blue and led his native Scotland to a rousing victory over England has the world so needed someone to raise his fist and shout “freedom!” But it’s not freedom to have our own way that we need. What America needs is a fresh understanding that true freedom is liberty to be and do what God intends. Freedom that truly respects human dignity doesn’t allow people to destroy themselves and the nation by liberty gone wild.

Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

The rest is just illusion.

– DER

The Briefing3 reasons evangelicals should care about Brexit
Although American evangelicals might think Brexit has little or no significance for them, the opposite is true. It shows we must find a way to mitigate the negative effects of globalization and trade on those who do not benefit. If we do not, we will be pouring gasoline on the fire of populist anger and passing up an evangelical opportunity to love our (populist) neighbor by helping find solutions to his very real problems.

Pew: Christians face more terrorism but less government hostility
From some angles, it looks like the beginning of a hopeful trend among the steady stream of persecution headlines. Both government and societal harassment of religion dropped worldwide in 2014, according to a recently released Pew Research Center study. This is the second year in a row that researchers found such a drop.

Court strikes down abortion provider regulations
In a 5-3 opinion, the Supreme Court ruled portions of a Texas law that regulate abortion doctors and clinics constitute an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abort her child and are therefore unconstitutional. The high court’s reversal of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans invalidated a requirement an abortion clinic must meet the health and safety standards of other walk-in surgical centers.

Obama designates first national monument to gay rights
President Obama on Friday designated the first national monument to the gay rights movement, commemorating the Stonewall uprising in New York City. The site memorializes the six-day uprising that started after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-owned bar frequented by gay men.

California’s religious liberty moment—coming to a state near you
Many faith-based universities hold to the traditional Christian view that sex and gender are distinct and united. If SB 1146 is passed without amendment, the state of California would drastically limit the religious freedom of such institutions to believe and live according to these traditional beliefs. In other words, the “free exercise of religion” becomes meaningless or restricted to only those schools that train pastors for ministry.

Sources: BruceAshford.net, Christianity Today, Baptist Press,  Washington Post, Christianity Today

Princesses and Hot Dogs

A lesson in leadership from a bold five-year-old.

A few days ago I saw a brief news story about a dance class for five- and six-year-olds, where the instructor had invited the little girls to wear costumes at their next rehearsal. She dubbed it “Princess Day,” knowing how many of her tiny dancers would enjoy dancing as princesses, and also how many of them already had princess costumes.

What helped the story go viral and hit the headlines, however, was the photo of seven little girls in princess costumes standing with one very unique little girl, dressed in a hot dog costume. Five-year-old Ainsley chose to come to Princess Day not with a tiara on her head, but with a stripe of mustard down her front. One of the many captions and tweets that circulated with the photo simply read, “In a world of princesses, dare to be a hot dog.”

“In a world of princesses, dare to be a hot dog.”

There are so many things that encourage me about this story. First, there is the individuality, confidence, and boldness of the little girl. Many times I have found myself wanting, even needing, to be the hot dog in a group of princesses. I had a minority opinion, or a different point of view, or simply knew that the direction of the group was not right. It’s just easier to conform than to stand alone.

Then there was the dad who encouraged little Ainsley. He later tweeted, “No parent is ready to learn that their daughter is trending…Best part is it was all her idea!” The courage and confidence to be different, and the empowerment to act on that difference, often comes from those closest to us.

But for me, the most encouraging character in this little real-life drama was dance teacher Sarah, who was suddenly placed in the position of leading a group with a non-conformist. Sarah could have taken offense at the little girl who didn’t follow instructions or apparently respect her position as teacher. She could have sent her home, or embarrassed her in front of the class, or not included her in the dance or the picture.

Instead, this good-natured teacher embraced the little hot dog’s uniqueness, accepted both her and her costume into the group, and proudly took the picture that ended up making her class famous.

In doing so, Sarah challenged me as a leader. And I think she should challenge all of us who lead as pastors, Sunday school teachers, and ministry leaders. As hard as it is to be the hot dog in a group of princesses, it may be even harder to effectively lead a group of presumed princesses when a hot dog shows up.

That hot dog may be the deacon with an outreach idea that would take a church outside its comfort zone. It may be the sincere new believer in a Sunday school class who asks questions that don’t have tidy or pat answers. It may be the church member who presses an uncomfortable budget issue in a business meeting, when it would be easier to just vote yes and go home.

A confident, secure leader embraces multiple points of view and even minority opinions as ways to potentially make the final decision or outcome even better. An insecure leader wants only quick, compliant agreement.

After the picture became famous, teacher Sarah revealed that Ainsley was actually wearing a princess costume underneath her hot dog costume. Ainsley explained that she was still a princess on the inside. I found that to be an extra encouragement. When we’re patient and accepting of hot dogs, even on Princess Days, we often find that deep down they want to dance too. And God may even use them, or you or me, to make the dance more famous.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Race panel

Resolution urges no more use of Confederate battle flag

The Southern Baptist Convention rejected use of an iconic Southern emblem, the Confederate battle flag still commonly seen in the South, because it is for many representative of slavery and ongoing racism against African Americans. The resolution states: “We call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters.”

Its passage by a considerable majority was met with enthusiastic applause.

The vote came after an impassioned plea by Georgia pastor and former SBC President James Merritt, himself the descendant of two Confederate war veterans.

“Make no mistake, this is a seminal moment in our convention,” said Merritt. “I believe God has brought the SBC to both the kingdom and our culture for such a time as this. What we do today with this issue will reverberate in this nation, not just today, but I believe a hundred years from now. This is not a matter of political correctness, it is a matter of spiritual conviction and biblical compassion.”

Merritt proposed an amendment which strengthened the resolution, and removed a phrase some had used about “honor(ing) their loved one’s valor.” He substituted language to “discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters.”

The amendment passed. While not all messengers who spoke supported the resolution, the will of the Convention was clear: Southern Baptists have broken with the racism of their past. After statements in 1995 and the election of an African American president in 2013, some expressed hope the sins of the past are repudiated as well as the flag.

SBC President Ronnie Floyd chose the St. Louis convention, just a few miles from Ferguson, Missouri, as the place to discuss racial reconciliation. Convention week began with outreach ministry in Ferguson, site of riots in 2014 following the police shooting of a black teenager.

Floyd told convention messengers, “America is…experiencing a racial crisis. Any form of racism defies the dignity of human life. Regardless of the color of human skin, God has put his imprint on each of us…Racism is a major sin and stronghold in America.”

Floyd staged a panel discussion, a rarity in SBC business sessions, called “A National Conversation on Racial Unity in America,” with 10 leaders.

“I am absolutely, totally convinced that the problem in America can be put totally at the doorsteps of our churches,” said Jerry Young, president of a mostly African American denomination, the National Baptist Convention.

Young noted Christ told his disciples to be the salt and light of the world, and he said Christians are failing in the task. “I challenge you to know that the problem in America is a problem with the church being what God called it to be….Here’s what needs to happen in America: Somebody needs to pass the salt and turn on the lights.”

The panel discussed the killing of nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last year. “That racially motivated murder hurt all of us,” said Marshall Blalock, pastor of the mostly white First Baptist Church in Charleston. “The white community for the first time began to understand.”

Blalock noted, “The killer was a terrorist, he wanted to create fear and cause hopelessness. But he went to church where there is no room for fear, or hate, or hopelessness…Only the gospel can eliminate racism.”

Kenny Petty, pastor of the Gate Church in St. Louis, said incidents such as the Charleston church shooting and police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., exposed an infection. “That wound opened up and it reeked.” Since the shooting, “there has been some healing (in Ferguson), but we’ve got a long way to go. We found out that infection didn’t just stop with the culture, it went on to the doorstep of the church.”

“What we need is the mind of Christ,” Young said. “If we want to change racism in our churches and America we’re going to have to change our attitude through Christ.”

President of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Russell Moore called the convention’s action “an extraordinary moment.”

“We watched a denomination founded by slaveholders vote to repudiate the display of the Confederate battle flag in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters in Christ,” Moore said.

– Lisa Sergent

Almost a thousand evangelical Christian leaders gathered in New York City Tuesday to meet with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Among them were a number of prominent Southern Baptists. Eight were among the 25 leaders appointed to Trump’s evangelical advisory panel.

They are: Ronnie Floyd, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Cross Church in northwestern Arkansas; Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University; Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and a former SBC president; Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas; David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church; Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and former Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president; James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, which only recently joined the SBC; and Jay Strack, motivational speaker and founder and president of Student Leadership University.

Being on the advisory board does not amount to a full public endorsement (Falwell, Jr. is the only one who has publicly endorsed Trump) , however to many it does imply a tacit endorsement. Some have been critical of the leaders’ action, to which Land replied via an editorial in the Christian Post. “What would our critics have us do?,” he asked. “Would they really have us spurn the opportunity to give spiritual counsel and advice to Mr. Trump and his team? How would that be obedience to our Savior’s command to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? (Matthew 5:13-16). After all, as Evangelicals we all believe that the heart of the king “is in the hand of the Lord . . . He turneth it whithersoever He will” (Proverbs 21:1).”

Current ERLC president, Russell Moore, has been a vocal opponent of Trump, tweeting Tuesday afternoon, “If you wondered why younger, theological, gospel-centered evangelicals reacted neg to the old guard Religious Right, well, now you know.”

And, a few minutes later, “Forget the politics. Forget the country. An unrepentant lost person pronounces himself to be a believer. And you stand there and applaud?”

At last week’s Southern Baptist Convention, in the President’s message, Floyd stated, “Our nation is divided. We are known more for being the divided states of America than the United States of America. The national political races we have observed over this past year personify the fractured, dysfunctional condition in America relationally.”

Floyd also led a panel on Pastor’s and Politics at the convention. He introduced the panel saying, “Disagreement doesn’t have to result in a strained relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ…This presidential panel is an attempt to address this conversation.”

Graham, who was one of the panelists urged Southern Baptists not to sit at home but to get involved in the process. “One concern we should all have 30-40 million stayed home and did not participate…This is a critical election for the future of America,” he said.

He pointed to three primary issues Christians should be looking at when voting for a presidential. They are choosing Supreme Court justices, belief in the sanctity of life, and maintaining religious liberty. Graham noted, “We must not abdicate our responsibility to pray and to vote.”

There words appeared to be at odds with other convention leaders. At the B21 Luncheon during the convention, Moore and Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary were among the panelists speaking. Replying to a question about the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, Mohler said, “I find myself in a situation I’ve never found myself in as a Christian. I’m going to find myself unable to vote for either candidate.”

Moore agreed and said he plans to write in a name on his ballot.

One thing is certain, there will be continued disagreement regarding the presidential election. Another thing is also certain, many in the U.S. appear to be having flashbacks to 1976 and having their own Howard Beale, “Network” moments in this election cycle.

– Lisa Misner Sergent

The BriefingEvangelical leaders quiz Trump
The event with as many as 1,000 social conservative leaders – mostly evangelical – starts at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday and ends around midday. There isn’t a poll or endorsement coming at the end and participants say they are coming with an open mind. However, polls show a majority of white evangelicals – and social conservatives in particular – leaning towards Trump. The question is how strongly.

Inside today’s Trump meeting with evangelicals
What started as a closed-door gathering of 400 social conservative leaders to test Trump’s values has grown to a daylong conference of 1,000, involving nearly all the traditional political influencers of the religious right. For some, it is an effort to get Trump to better understand their policy positions.

Baptists go beyond conservative politics
The Southern Baptist Convention has been closely associated with conservative politics for years, but at its annual meeting this week the denomination showed that its concerns are becoming more diverse along with its membership. Where 20 years ago the convention voted to boycott Disney for promoting homosexuality, last week delegates passed a resolution extending love and compassion to the victims of the recent shooting at an Orlando gay night club.

Chicago’s deadly weekend
On Father’s Day weekend in Chicago, 12 people were murdered in 54 different shootings across the city. Among the dead is a 16-year-old boy. The youngest of the injured is just 3. This weekend is unfortunately not atypical in Chicago, where shooting deaths this year are on track to be the worst in two decades.

Refugees arrive in St. Louis
This time of year is when refugee resettlement is the busiest in the U.S. And with President Barack Obama announcing in September that he would bump to 85,000 from 70,000 the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. this year — 10,000 of them from Syria — St. Louis is seeing a higher-than-usual number of refugees.

Sources: Washington Post, Time, Washington Post, CNN, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Brandon McNeely, Sean Morecraft, Phil Nelson, and Dalton Sharro

Lakeland Baptist Church, Carbondale, SBC messengers: Brandon McNeely, Sean Morecraft, Phil Nelson, and Dalton Sharrow.

The world is currently experiencing its largest refugee crisis since the second world war with more than 65 million people displaced by war. The majority of these refugees come from the Middle East and Africa and are Muslim. It’s an issue that’s fraught with controversy

Last September, President Barack Obama pledged to bring 85,000 refugees to the United States with 10,000 coming from Syria. Southern Baptists took a stand on the issue, which has become a political hot potato in the race for U.S. president, at their annual meeting held this year in St. Louis June 14-15.

Resolution 12: On Refugee Ministry acknowledged the suffering refugees endure and Baptist’s historical role in refugee care, calling upon them to “minister care, compassion, and the Gospel to refugees who come to the United States.”

The resolution also called on the government to “implement the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection process.”

Phil Nelson, pastor of Lakeland Baptist Church in Carbondale, came to the convention as a messenger, bringing with him three young men from his church, Dalton Sharrow, Sean Morecraft, and Brandon McNeely. Resolution 12 (scroll down to read the full text of the resolution) in particular, caught their attention, said Nelson. “We saw the resolutions and we saw what’s going on with the Confederate flag and some others, and we thought that’s awesome the walls have come down, but we need to communicate to the world outside the ports of America that when our government and society is saying, ‘No, don’t come,’ we represent a different Kingdom.”

Together, the four wrote and proposed an amendment to further strengthen the resolution. Their amendment encouraged, “Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His Throne…”

The resolution received immediate support from the leaders of evangelical refugee relief organizations.

“I applaud the Southern Baptist leaders who have urged their churches and members to demonstrate Christ’s love to refugees, perhaps the most unwanted, unwelcome and unloved people in our world,” said Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision U.S.

Stephan Bauman, President of World Relief, expressed his gratefulness and said, “We believe that the biblical mandate for welcoming those fleeing persecution is clear. We see the arrival of refugees as a remarkable opportunity for the Church to live out our faith.”

Speaking with the Illinois Baptist shortly after the amendment was approved, Nelson explained, “Our citizenship is in a different place. We want to communicate clearly we belong to a different Kingdom. It’s not an American Kingdom, it’s the Kingdom of God.  We want to tell all those who are orphans and refugees you’re welcome here. I don’t care what religion, what background, you’re welcome because we believe the gospel can rescue and save everyone.”

“When we first heard David Platt give his story about the refugee issues in Somalia and Syria and other places, I couldn’t stop weeping,” Nelson said, his voice breaking. “I started seeing the kids that had no place to go. All of a sudden I thought, we have 46,000 Southern Baptist churches, what would happen if each one of those churches said we’ll take a refugee. We’ll take a family.”

Nelson shared how another Southern Baptist pastor was part of their inspiration. As they were writing it, a friend of Nelson’s who is originally from India stopped to say hello. The friend, now a pastor in South Carolina, “came over here in 1990 as a Hindu, had his gods in a suitcase,” described Nelson.

That friend was a refugee when he came to the United States and learned about Christ. “It was a Baptist family that adopted him, let him come and live with them, where he saw the gospel lived out, and as a result gave up his Hindu background, gave up his Hindu gods,” Nelson told the Illinois Baptist. “Now he’s going back to India every year planting churches. I thought if we’re going to reach the nations, and we’re going to convince the world that the gospel is for everybody, we’ve got to set the standard and say, ya’ll come.”

Nelson encourages Christians to reach out to refugees settling into their communities. “We’ve got homes, we’ve got hearts, we don’t do bombs and bullets we do hearts and homes,” he said.

– Lisa Misner Sergent


RESOLUTION 12: ON REFUGEE MINISTRY

WHEREAS, The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, with over sixty million people displaced throughout the world and considered refugees; and

WHEREAS, War, violence, genocide, religious persecution, and other forms of oppression have contributed to massive people movements across the globe, as millions flee for their lives; and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have a long record of caring for and ministering to refugees throughout our history; and

WHEREAS, This history of refugee ministry includes the sponsoring of almost 15,000 refugees from 1975–1985, resulting in the starting of 281 ethnic churches and a 1985 resolution commemorating this decade of ministry; and

WHEREAS, There are expected to be 85,000 refugees coming into the United States in 2016 from four continents and the Caribbean; and

WHEREAS, Scripture calls for and expects God’s people to minister to the sojourner (Exodus 22:21–24; Exodus 23:9–12; Leviticus 19:33–34; Deuteronomy 10:17–22; Deuteronomy 24:17–22; Deuteronomy 26:5–13; Psalm 146:8–9; Matthew 25:35–40); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, June 14–15, 2016, encourage Southern Baptists to minister care, compassion, and the Gospel to refugees who come to the United States; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage Southern Baptist churches and families to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His Throne (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9-12; Psalm 68:5; James 1:27; Leviticus 25:35; Leviticus 19:33-34); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call on the governing authorities to implement the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection process, guarding against anyone intent on doing harm; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we affirm that refugees are people loved by God, made in His image, and that Christian love should be extended to them as special objects of God’s mercy in a world that has displaced them from their homelands.