Archives For July 2018

The Briefing

Southern Baptists to launch sexual abuse advisory panel
J. D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, announced July 26 the formation of a Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group. The working group will consider how Southern Baptists can take discernible action to respond swiftly and compassionately to incidents of abuse. It will also make recommendations for creating safe environments in churches and institutions.

Turkey moves Andrew Brunson to house arrest
Wednesday, a Turkish court ruled that Brunson should be moved from Kiriklar prison to house arrest at his home in Turkey. Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina has lived in Turkey for 23 years, pastoring a church in Izmir. He has been on trial for terrorism and spying charges and was detained nearly two years ago.

Sessions announces religious liberty task force
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced July 30 the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force to ensure the Department of Justice implements the Trump administration’s approach to religious liberty. Sessions said the goal of the task force will be protecting religious groups from persecution. 

Study: US churches unwelcoming to autism, ADD/ADHD
America’s religious communities are failing children with chronic health conditions such as autism, learning disabilities, depression, and conduct disorders. The odds of a child with autism never attending religious services were nearly twice as high as compared to children with no chronic health conditions. The odds of never attending for children with developmental delays, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavior disorders were just as high. 

Churches may have to pay taxes
Some in Congress want to tweak a portion tax bills that will now force nonprofits, including churches, to pay a 21% tax on the value of certain employee benefits. But most others downplay the problem or deny it needs to be addressed.

Sources: ERLC, Christianity Today (2), Religion News Service, McClatchy

By Andrew Woodrow

Classic Outreach

In a town proud of its Route 66 heritage, thousands gather every year to celebrate what John Steinbeck called “the Mother Road.” For more than 20 years, Edwardsville’s annual Route 66 festival at City Park has offered visitors fun, food, and classic cars. What was missing, realized church planter Rayden Hollis, was a gospel opportunity.

Hollis is the planter and lead pastor of Red Hill church in Edwardsville. The church isn’t quite three years old, and they don’t have their own building yet. But Hollis is passionate in leading his church by a missions strategy based on Jeremiah 29:7.

“Just as the Israelites, exiles in their community, were commanded to seek out the welfare of the city they were living in,” Hollis said, “it’s our philosophy that we too, as exiles, need to seek out the welfare of the city we live in and pray for it.”

That philosophy is at the core of Red Hill’s presence at their city’s summer festival—and it’s a noticeable presence. At this year’s event June 8-9, park visitors stirred the humid air with hand-held fans emblazoned with Red Hill Church. Diners at picnic tables ate under misting fans donated by the church. Dog walkers at the festival discussed their pets with dog walkers from Red Hill. Church members brought a bean bag set and played alongside park visitors.

Church Hits the ‘Mother Road’ from IL Baptist State Association on Vimeo.

And showcased just outside the church’s two tents at the festival: a 1955 Chevy Bel Air. The gleaming red and white car—made even more vibrant by the sun’s glare—attracted visitors to the Red Hill display.

To Hollis, Red Hill isn’t just about gathering for their Saturday evening worship, it’s about the church going out into the community and making the city better.

“I’ve been a part of churches where if the Lord removed that church from the community, the community wouldn’t even notice,” Hollis said. “We don’t want to be that church.

“We want to be so deeply integrated into the life of our community that if we were pulled out, it would have a devastating effect upon the regular rhythms that people engage in inside of our cities. So, we’re trying to find ways that we can step in and make an immediate impact and difference in the life of our city, just by observing what’s naturally happening in it.”

Nothing in return

Early on, Red Hill began to observe the rhythms and patterns of Edwardsville, seeking out ways to serve at city events with a focus to “breathe even more life into it,” Hollis said. “We want to be given an opportunity to show the city how much our church cares for it.”

Once Hollis learned of the success of Edwardsville’s Route 66 Festival, he knew he needed to get involved.

But at first, it wasn’t easy. Katie Grable, assistant director for the Edwardsville parks department, was uncertain about allowing a church to actively participate in the festival. “Initially I was a bit skeptical,” she told the Illinois Baptist. “Not because I was against a church partnership, but rather, I was nervous that their angle would be vocally evangelistic.”

Still, in 2015, Red Hill was granted permission to set up a photo booth tent in the far back corner of the festival. They provided props and space for festival-goers to pose for photos. “We wanted to do something that added to the festival’s success,” said Sarah Hollis, Rayden’s wife. “And through that, begin those gospel conversations with the park visitors.”

Realizing the potential to reach up to 10,000 people in one weekend, Rayden Hollis was eager to do more the next year. He asked Grable how Red Hill could best contribute to the festival, and the city’s success, from Red Hill’s own budget. His requests puzzled Grable, leading her to eventually ask Hollis what was in it for his church.

“Nobody just gives freely without wanting something in return,” Grable said. “And they were just willing to offer so much I eventually asked what Rayden wanted, and we would see what we could do to help.”

To Hollis, Grable’s question came as a surprise. “At first I didn’t know what she was talking about,” he said. “But then something really awesome happened.” Hollis was able to explain to Grable that what Red Hill was doing was meant to be a reflection of God’s love. Hollis further explained there wasn’t anything he needed but rather that the opposite was true. “I told her I had something that she desperately needed,” Hollis said. “And I got to share the gospel with her.

“Now the unfortunate news is that she didn’t receive Christ, but because of what we’re doing as a church, I got the opportunity to share with someone why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Grable wasn’t yet ready to receive Christ, but she understood Red Hill’s genuine intent in giving. And a partnership blossomed between the Parks and Recreation department and Red Hill.

“It was through that experience that I finally realized this was just an honest willingness in wanting to help,” Grable said. “They’ve been our most frequent partner since then and are the only organization that is coming out to basically anything that we do in the city.”

Valued partners

Since their first involvement with the Route 66 Festival in 2015, Red Hill has come a long way at the event. Their photo booth tent is no longer in the far back corner of the park. It has instead been moved to the front.

“We even have a second tent where we pass out handheld fans,” said church member Casey Elmore. “And we do almost all the volunteering for the kids’ activities.”

Elmore emphasized Red Hill’s devotion to the city as a “heartbeat to serve and build relationships within our community. And through that, crack open those opportunities to share the gospel.”

The church is also fostering its relationship with the Parks and Recreation department, who has called on Red Hill to help open their newest park, and even made Hollis an administrator on their Facebook page.

The pastor thanks Illinois Baptists for giving through the Cooperative Program to help make his church’s outreach possible. 

“Events like this would never happen unless Southern Baptists of Illinois continued to give to the Cooperative Program, to the Mission Illinois Offering, and other Illinois Baptist offerings. So, to every pastor, thank you for inspiring and encouraging your church to give. And to every Illinoisan who’s given over the course of their lifetime, thank you.

“Your generous gift helps make this moment possible for us to be a gospel witness and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this city.”

No girls allowed?

Lisa Misner —  July 26, 2018

The Briefing

Church’s roll purge incites media ‘circus’
Cave City (Ky.) Baptist Church, some 90 miles north of Nashville, sent a letter July 16 to nearly 70 members it alleges were not attending “habitually,” giving “regularly” or sharing in the congregation’s “organized work” as required of members in the church’s bylaws. The letter stated, “Cave City Baptist Church cherishes you as a member of this fellowship,” but “your name has been removed from the membership roll,” according to a photo of the letter published on Facebook. Within two days, newspapers and television stations had reported on the letter in Nashville; Louisville, Ky.; Lexington, Ky.; and Bowling Green, Ky.

First State Dept. Ministerial on religious freedom will be ‘More than talk,’ Pompeo says
The US State Department is gearing up to host what is being described as the first-ever three-day ministerial to promote and advance religious freedom in Washington, D.C., which will be attended by delegations and leaders from over 80 countries. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expects to host nearly 40 of his counterparts from countries around the world for the event taking place from July 24 to July 26.

Adoption agency protection moves forward in Congress
The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee included the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (CWPIA) in a spending bill it approved July 11. The proposal, H.R. 1881, would bar the federal government — as well as any state or local government that receives federal funds — from discriminating against or taking action against a child welfare agency that refuses to provide services in a way that conflicts with its religious beliefs or moral convictions.

Turkey keeps American pastor behind bars
A Turkish court ordered 50-year-old American pastor Andrew Brunson to remain behind bars until at least his next hearing Oct. 12. On July 18, the court heard testimony from members of Brunson’s church who made “vague, unsubstantiated accusations” against him. When the judge asked how Brunson would respond to the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses, he said, “My faith teaches me to forgive, so I forgive those who testified against me.”

Most US faith groups say country is on the wrong track
A new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic shows when it comes to politics, white evangelical Christians stand apart from every other religious group. The poll found 61% of evangelicals say the United States is headed in the right direction. By comparison, 64% of the overall public — including majorities of other Christian groups — believes the country is seriously off track.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Religion News Service

Curb appeal

Lisa Misner —  July 23, 2018

By Nate Adams

Picnic tables 2

If you haven’t visited the IBSA Building in Springfield recently, I hope you’ll find a reason to come this summer.

Perhaps you’ll join the thousands of tourists, families, and student groups who are drawn to the annual state fair, or to the perennial Abraham Lincoln sites. Or perhaps you’ll just drop by as you travel elsewhere, to say hello to your IBSA family at the corner of Stevenson and Dirksen.

If you do, I hope you’ll notice several improvements to our building’s “curb appeal.”
For one thing, the old Denny’s restaurant next door, that even I remember from my boyhood, has been demolished, and a new automated car wash is being erected in its place.

We’ve also made several improvements to our own building. The scraggly groundcover that we’ve been trying to tame since it was planted around the building in 1970 has been dug up and replaced with fresh new grass. New trees and flowers have been planted in fresh beds of mulch.

A new sidewalk leads from the front door around to a renovated patio area, which now offers picnic tables and benches. The parking lot has been freshly sealed and repainted. Inside, new customized carpet runners lead you from the doors to the elevators, and our reception area welcomes you with some new furniture.

Why the face lift? Well, it’s been about seven years since our last building renovation, and some of these things were intended and dreamed about then. Some of them are the answers to problems, such as the water main rupture outside our building last year. But most of the updates are simply intended to make our building more inviting, whether to IBSA pastors and church members, or to the building tenants who help pay our utilities, or even to the occasional vagrant who needs a cold drink or a bathroom.

1st floor lobby

If curb appeal is important at the IBSA Building, then it’s even more important for each local church. And summer is a great time to take stock and ask what kinds of repairs, improvements, or updates could make our houses of worship more inviting.

We tend to be blinded by familiarity and overlook the needs of our church buildings, just as we do in our own homes sometimes. But I guarantee that first-time visitors notice the wear and tear, the needed repairs, and the musty smells that we too readily take for granted.

I recently visited a small country church in central Illinois on its 150th anniversary. Unlike many churches that age, the original building had never been moved, or burned, or rebuilt. We worshiped in the same auditorium as the church’s founders.

But that didn’t mean the property had been neglected. A new foyer had been built on the outside, along with a ramp for accessibility. A new basement had been dug under the original structure. An attractive parsonage had been added next to the church building. And the grounds were beautifully landscaped, and freshly mowed and trimmed.

Everything about that country church said to me “come on in,” and “what’s inside is worthwhile.” That’s what curb appeal should be all about in all our churches. And that’s why it’s worth our time this summer.

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

Former missionary charged with sexual assault
Mark Aderholt, a former International Mission Board missionary and associate executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, was arrested July 3 on charges of sexual assault of a child under 17. The charges stem from alleged incidents in 1997, when Aderholt was a student at Southwestern Seminary. He later served as an IMB missionary in Europe, and since 2017, with the South Carolina Convention. He resigned his post there in June.

Gary Hollingsworth, executive director-treasurer of the convention, said July 10, “Our hearts are grieved, but we are trusting the authorities.” Aderholt’s arrest comes amid investigations of assault charges against other Southern Baptist and Christian leaders, leading Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler in May to label this season the SBC’s “horrifying #MeToo moment.”

Supreme Court in the spotlight after Kavanaugh nomination
The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court encouraged many Christians and conservatives, but the pick is troubling for black Christians, writes Wheaton College’s John C. Richards. “The truth is that many Black Christians aren’t so much looking for a more conservative court as they are looking for a more fair and neutral court—devoid of political influence.”

Should Kavanaugh be confirmed, a conservative Supreme Court could reconsider the implications of 1973’s Roe v. Wade, which lifted state restrictions on abortion. Abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights reported which 22 states are likely to ban abortion, should Roe be overturned by the Court.

New research: Americans and the Bible
About half of all Americans count themselves as “Bible users” who engage with Scripture at least three to four times a year, according to the 2018 State of the Bible survey by Barna and the American Bible Society. A larger percentage, researchers found, are curious about what the Bible says.

Most Christians invite their friends to church
Almost two-thirds of churchgoers have invited someone to church in the last six months, according to new data by LifeWay Research. But 17% say they don’t know anyone to invite.

Sources: Baptist Press, Baptist Courier, AlbertMohler.com, Christianity Today, Christian Post, Barna Research, LifeWay Research

Crucial moment

Lisa Misner —  July 16, 2018

Key issues at stake in Kavanaugh nomination

Supreme Court Building.

The announcement of Brett Kavanaugh as President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court cheered many Christians and conservatives July 9, including a coalition of evangelical leaders who released a statement in support of the 53-year-old federal appeals court judge.

“Judge Kavanaugh is an outstanding choice for the Supreme Court,” tweeted Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore. “He has a strong record, and the Senate should confirm him without delay.”

Moore was one of 40 leaders who signed the statement calling for Kavanaugh’s quick confirmation. The nomination was met with criticism from many on the left, including several Democratic Senators who signaled they’ll fight his confirmation. Appointing Kavanaugh will require a simple majority in the U.S. Senate; Republicans currently hold a 51-49 majority.

The nomination came two weeks after Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. Kavanaugh, who served as an aide to President George W. Bush, is viewed as more conservative than Kennedy, who often served as a swing vote on the Court. He authored the opinion in the Obergefell vs. Hodges in 2015, which legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S.

Kennedy also agreed with the Court’s opinion in a 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe v. Wade. The landmark 1973 decision to lift state restrictions on abortion figured prominently into discussion about Kavanaugh’s nomination. While the judge testified in 2006 that he would follow Roe “faithfully and fully” as the “binding precedent of the court,” he declined to give his personal opinion of the ruling.

During his presidential campaign, Trump pledged to nominate conservative justices who could overturn Roe, a promise his supporters still see as a possibility—one made even more likely by a second conservative appointment to the Supreme Court.
“I think eventually a conservative court will either overturn Roe v. Wade or at least greatly diminish its importance and its power,” Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress told Fox News before the nomination announcement.

Kavanaugh’s D.C. court decided last year that an undocumented minor could have an abortion, an opinion from which he dissented by stating that she shouldn’t be able to receive an abortion “on demand.” The stance was seen by some pro-life advocates as not strong enough.

Also pressing for evangelicals is Kavanaugh’s record on religious liberty, particularly in light of several high-profile cases heard by the Court during their most recent session. Christianity Today called Kavanaugh “another religious liberty defender,” referencing Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, whose pre-appointment resume included supporting Hobby Lobby’s right to be exempt from providing contraceptives in employee insurance plans.

While on the D.C. Appeals Court in 2015, Kavanaugh, a Roman Catholic, dissented from the court’s opinion not to rehear a challenge to the mandate, this one from the non-profit Priests for Life. He also issued an opinion in 2010 supporting the constitutionality of prayer at the presidential inauguration, and the words “so help me God” in the presidential oath.

During the session that ended June 27, justices ruled on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, in which they found in favor of a baker penalized by a state commission for refusing to create a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony. They also instructed the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider the case of a florist similarly penalized, in light of the Masterpiece ruling.

Russell Moore referenced those rulings and others in his statement supporting Kavanaugh. “As we saw this past term…the Supreme Court plays a vitally important role in protecting the dignity of every life and religious freedom for all Americans.
“Judge Kavanaugh is an outstanding choice for a Supreme Court justice. He will interpret the Constitution, not attempt to create laws from the bench.”

– Meredith Flynn, with reporting by Baptist Press
and Christianity Today