Archives For July 2018

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 — Leave a comment

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

The Briefing

Evangelical leaders sign ERLC statement supporting Kavanaugh
Southern Baptist and other evangelical Christian leaders embraced President Trump’s nomination of federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh July 9 and called for his quick confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. SBC President J.D. Greear, both vice presidents and several former presidents signed onto a statement issued late Monday that backed Trump’s nominee. The SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) sponsored the document.

Illinois taxpayer-funded abortions increase 274%
Illinois taxpayers paid for nearly four times more abortions in the first six months of 2018 than the year before and one state lawmakers expects the total number to eventually be much larger. Records from the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services showed 84 abortions from January to June last year. The same time period this year, there were 314 abortions – a 274% increase of taxpayer-funded abortion.

Filipino president to resign if “God exists”
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to resign if anyone can prove the God of the Bible exists has drawn reactions from Christians across the globe. Duterte made the statement last week at a science and technology event in Davao city, where the president criticized the concept of original sin. The Filipino president challenged even “one witness” to come forward with a “selfie” with the Christian God or other evidence of His existence.

One-third of Gen Z identify as not exclusively heterosexual
A new study has found that one-third of Generation Z, specifically those between the ages of 16 and 22, in Britain don’t identify as solely heterosexual. The percentage of those identifying as solely heterosexual increases to 71% among millennials, 85% among those in Generation X, and 88% among baby boomers. The study also shows that nearly 10% of Generation Z identify as bisexual, compared to about 1% among baby boomers.

Chick-fil-A ranks first in customer satisfaction survey
The annual survey released recently by the American Customer Satisfaction Index pertaining to restaurants reveals that Chick-fil-A has again emerged as the top-rated fast food joint. Chick-fil-A finished with a score of 87 on ACSI’s 100-point scale, placing it well ahead of its competitors, including Panera Bread which was given a score of 81 and Subway, which was the only other fast food chain to break into the 80s.

 Sources: Christian Post (2), Illinois News Network, Baptist Press (2)

By Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention expanded by more than 270 churches in 2017. More people showed up for weekly worship services, and congregations gave more generously in a strengthening economy. However, reported baptisms and membership declined as fewer churches participated in the SBC’s Annual Church Profile (ACP).

Longstanding patterns continued to dominate the ACP, which is compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions.

-The number of churches cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention grew for the 19th consecutive year, reaching 47,544. That’s a 16.3% increase in churches since 1997.

-Membership fell for the 11th consecutive year, to 15 million. Since 2006, Southern Baptist congregations have lost about 1.3 million members.

-Baptisms also declined, as they have for eight of the past 10 years. Congregations reported baptizing 254,122 people—26.5% fewer than in 2007. The latest ratio was one baptism for every 59 church members.

“It’s heartbreaking to be baptizing fewer people for Christ, even though Southern Baptists have nearly 2,900 more churches than we had a decade ago,” said LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer.

“Yet a quarter million baptisms is not an insignificant number. We praise God for every individual who has come to Christ and followed him in baptism. It is my prayer that God would embolden Southern Baptists to share the gospel with their friends and neighbors.”

Fewer churches reporting

The ACP numbers don’t tell the full story of baptisms or other measurables among Southern Baptist churches. Despite the best efforts of associations and state conventions across the country, 26% of churches did not participate, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. The percentage of SBC churches that participated by reporting at least one item was 74%, down from 80% in 2013 and 77% in each of the last three years. (In Illinois, 95% of IBSA churches submitted an ACP for 2017.)

For that reason, reported totals do not include all of the activity within Southern Baptist life, though the summary does include adjustments in some categories for non-reporting congregations. This summer, LifeWay Research plans to release statistical analysis of the current state of the SBC that includes estimates of the congregations that did not report.

Despite the lower participation rate, the ACP report shows increases in some areas:

-Average attendance at weekly worship services climbed 2.3% to 5.3 million, an increase of nearly 120,000.

-States outside the South reported some of the strongest signs of growth. California now has 47 more congregations and Michigan has 24 more congregations than the previous year. Those figures include churches along with church-type missions—congregations that are not fully independent or self-sustaining.

-Non-Southern states are now home to 21.3% of Southern Baptist churches and 32.2% of church-type missions.

-Reported baptisms nearly doubled in Colorado and rose 31% in Iowa, 17.6% in Alaska, and 13.4% in New Mexico. In North and South Dakota, weekly worship attendance grew by 20.8% while baptisms climbed 34.8%.

Overall, Southern Baptist churches reported 4,376 church-type missions last year, down 2.6% from 2016. The count of churches and missions combined is 51,920 congregations.

Giving & mission expenditures

Southern Baptists saw an increase in overall giving of almost $267 million. Total and undesignated church receipts reported through the ACP increased 3.3% and 2.3% respectively.

Reported mission expenditures fell by about $4 million in 2017. However, the numbers are not directly comparable since there were changes in how many and which state conventions collected this statistic.

Congregations reported total mission expenditures of just under $1.19 billion.

Individual congregations voluntarily report their ACP data to their local Baptist associations and/or their state conventions. National statistics are compiled and released when all cooperating state conventions have reported.

– From Baptist Press

By Chaplain (Major General) Douglas Carver, U.S. Army, Retired

small American flags in the background

The Bible commands us in Romans 13:7 to “give honor to whom honor is due.” Ultimately, all honor and glory and power belongs to our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. But it’s also appropriate, as we celebrate our nation’s independence, to remember and honor a special group of people — our veterans — who for 243 years have protected and preserved our freedom.

Whenever the nation has called — in times of distress or danger, chaos and confusion, peace and prosperity — our veterans have always been there, faithfully answering the call to duty. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen and veterans — men and women, active, guard and reserve — have done one of the noblest things a person can do with their life, which is to support and defend our great country with their lives and make a better world for our children and for generations.

Since leaving their bloody footprints at Valley Forge, making disease-infested trenches their homes during World War I, charging the beaches of Normandy, suffering crippling frostbite from three cold Korean winters, wading through booby-trapped rice paddies of Vietnam and traversing dangerous roads and terrain in southwest Asia, our troops have always been counted on to defend the American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and to worship Almighty God freely in peace.

Looking back through our nation’s history:

We honor our post-9/11 veterans for their patriotic response after the terrorist attacks on our nation 17 years ago. Since then, 2.77 million men and women have served in the armed services on 5.4 million combat deployments. Their average age is less than 30. Half of them are married with children. Over 225,000 of our troops have three combat deployments or more.

We honor our Vietnam veterans who served during one of the longest wars in our nation’s history. Fifty years ago, in 1968, they experienced the bloodiest year of the war with nearly 17,000 killed in action beginning with the Tet Offensive in January 1968. Our Vietnam veterans never gave up, gave in, never quit, in spite of our country giving up on them.

We honor our Korean War veterans who fought and died in extremely difficult conditions, where the country’s mountainous terrain and the unrelenting cold of winter were bitter enemies in themselves. As one veteran put it, “on the other side of every mountain was another mountain.” At times the winter cold froze the oil in GIs weapons so they couldn’t fire, and thousands suffered from crippling frostbite. After the war, our troops spearheaded the effort in rescuing over 100,000 Korean orphans whose parents were killed in the war. Let’s remember our Korean War veterans today as we’re on the verge of declaring an end to the Korean War after 65 long years.

We honor the undaunted courage of our World War II veterans who stormed the beaches of Guadalcanal and Normandy, fought valiantly against unrelenting kamikaze attacks and torpedo strikes in the Coral Sea, and liberated the world from the grip of tyranny in Europe and the Pacific Rim. The Greatest Generation of Americans paid a staggering price for war, suffering more than 400,000 killed in action while advancing the cause of freedom throughout the world.

Finally, we honor the courage of our World War I veterans who were drafted to fight “the war to end all wars”. They fought from cold, muddy trenches while for the first time facing machine gun fire, deadly bombs and poisonous gas, enduring all this “to make the world safe for democracy.” This year the nation is commemorating the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.

One hundred years ago, 6,105 Southern Baptist messengers gathered for the 63rd session of the Southern Baptist Convention, May 15-20 in Hot Springs, Ark. Senior leaders felt that the denomination was at a critical point in its 70-year history. Evangelism efforts were at an all-time low, baptisms were down, seminaries were struggling with student population levels due to the war, and fewer men were answering the call to pastoral ministry.

At the same time, the War Department was almost begging churches and denominations for military chaplains. One man who answered the call was George W. Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, who, at the personal request of President Woodrow Wilson, left his pulpit for six months to serve as a chaplain with our troops in England and France.

Rev. Truett said he “would have gladly crossed the ocean and braved all the dangers and hardships for the privilege of preaching to vast multitudes of soldiers who came to the side of our great Saviour and King.”

At that same convention 100 years ago, Southern Baptists made a vow, “pledging their lives, their resources, and their sacred honor to the nation for the war effort, [to] press the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ into the hearts of young men in the flower of their youth.” Southern Baptists agreed that, regardless of how bad things looked in the denomination and the world, their primary focus in supporting our troops and the war effort was to ensure we kept the freedom to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

E.Y. Mullins, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that the best way we could support our troops was to strengthen their moral and spiritual life, making every effort to preach the Gospel, especially to those from Baptist homes and Baptist churches who were laying their lives on the altar of their country.

A.T. Robertson, professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary in his book, “The New Citizenship: The Christian Facing a New World Order,” said, “If we truly want to honor our troops and the Nation, we must clean up our house and keep it clean if we are to lead the nations of the earth in the path of peace to God and righteousness. We must make Christ king in our homes, schools, stores, factories, railroads, ships, military, city halls, state capitols, and national capitol. We must have men and women who live under the authority of Jesus as Lord and follow His teachings. The world has yet to see a Nation where Christ reigns with honor in the hearts of his people.”

As we honor our veterans and the nation, let us begin by honoring the Lord with our lives and giving thanks to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty, especially the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus. Let us give thanks to and pray for our veterans and their families who have given so much for the earthly freedoms we enjoy. And may we be faithful stewards of the freedom we’ve been granted by the men and women who have, through their selfless and sacrificial service, kept America the land of the free and the brave.

Chaplain (MG) Doug Carver, USA-Retired, is executive director of chaplaincy for the North American Mission Board. This article is adapted from his address honoring veterans on the opening day of the June 12-13 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas.

The Briefing

Florist: My state turned my life upside down because of my religious beliefs
Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington State florist sued for declining to provide flowers for a same-sex marriage ceremony, writes about what taking a stand for her religion did to her life, and what the U.S. Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling and that Court’s decision to vacate the Washington State high court’s ruling might mean for her.

Supreme Court rules pro-life centers don’t have to advertise abortion options
In a much-anticipated decision, NIFLA v. Becerra, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against a California law that forced pro-life centers to advertise abortion services. The court remanded the case, sending it back to the lower court “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” Other cases are still pending over similar laws in Hawaii and Illinois, but this message from the highest court in the land places those laws on shaky ground.

ERLC: Church’s internal discourse needs protection
An effort by Texas abortion providers to obtain a church’s internal communications would violate the First Amendment and a federal law protecting religious freedom if successful, according to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The ERLC filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to overturn a federal judge’s order requiring the Roman Catholic bishops and archbishops of Texas to turn over their private deliberations on what they describe as doctrinal and moral issues.

New church parking tax triggers fresh debate
At least one religious watchdog group says the newly instituted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that applies the federal income tax to parking benefits provided by churches is a step in the right direction towards transparency in church finances. Others decry the new provision that many historically tax‐exempt employers, including churches, hospitals, charities, and schools will be required to file federal Form 990‐T, which accounts for unrelated business activity.

UN-related religious liberty committee led by ADF rep
Days after the U.S. withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council of 47 nations, a U.S. attorney has been named head of a multi-faith nongovernmental group advising the U.N. on religious freedoms globally. Alliance Defending Freedom International’s Kelsey Zorzi began serving June 28 as president of the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Sources: Gospel Coalition, WORLD Magazine, Baptist Press, Christian Post, Baptist Press

By Daryl C. Cornett for Baptist Press

Old Holy Bible and the American Flag

Independence Day is my favorite holiday — an occasion to celebrate our country’s existence and have some mandatory fun!

There is nothing particularly religious about it, and that’s just fine. I like the family gatherings, cookouts, parades and fireworks. I like all the red, white and blue. It is an uncorrupted holiday that is exactly what it is supposed to be.

However, I believe that this secular occasion affords us the opportunity for important spiritual perspective and reflection.

First, Independence Day is an occasion to express thankfulness for God’s gift of our American government and its perseverance. This year we celebrate the passing of 242 years since a small group of men, representing 13 British colonies, asserted that the time had come to declare their independence. They made a long list of grievances against England and declared that independence was necessary and right. After winning a war that few thought possible, the confederation of the new states decided to unite under a federal government with its own constitution.

Christians throughout history have lived within a variety of governmental arrangements — monarchies, dictatorships, communist states and democratic republics of various forms. It is fitting to celebrate that in God’s gracious providence He has blessed us with government that guards against abusive power. The design of three separate branches has proven to be a practical check against the consolidation of too much power in one place. Christians can give thanks that God has graciously allowed our context to be a democratic republic in which we get to participate in the election of our own leaders and enjoy the privileges and protections of a constitution with a primary view toward preventing oppressive government.

Additionally, we can give thanks that by God’s grace we are still here. Every nation takes for granted its own existence. Human pride causes us to believe that the United States will always be just as it is today — powerful, prosperous and blessed. No empire thinks in its days of dominance that a time could come when it wouldn’t exist. Romans 13:1 reminds us, “… For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” We should be thankful for our Founders — Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and many others. However, we should acknowledge that our country’s existence originates from the hand of divine providence. The signers of the Declaration of Independence acknowledged this in its closing words: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” As we celebrate with our material comforts and security, let’s be careful to give thanks to the One who has given these good gifts and who has preserved our nation.

Second, we should remember to pray for our leaders. The apostle Paul instructed Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers and intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions….” It doesn’t matter if you voted for him or even if you like him, your Christian political stewardship is to pray earnestly for him. She may be the antithesis of all your political views, but God has seen fit to put her in that position of leadership. Pray for her.

Third, Independence Day is an occasion for the church to renew its commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel. Because God has continued to bless us with a free society, the door for the sharing of the Gospel remains wide open. Our culture has always had sin problems. Where sinful people exist in a fallen world, the enemy is always at work challenging God’s design. Spiritual darkness pushes back against God’s good news.

In America we have incredible freedom to proclaim our faith. We should be thankful that the first of the amendments to the Constitution provides every individual with freedom for personal religion. The first phrase promises this freedom. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Since this was adopted in 1791, we have periodically fussed about what constitutes an establishment of religion but never questioned that each of us has the right to our own personal faith and the right to share it with others. We may receive some rejection, but no one is arresting us for telling others about Jesus.

We would do well to be mindful that our American freedom must not be squandered on selfish individualism. We have all the freedom we could ever ask for to live out our faith with boldness and share it with others without fear of persecution.

On this Independence Day, let our hearts be full of gratitude for what God has established, pray for those God has seen fit to put into leadership, and remember that God continues to give us the freedom to be salt and light to our neighbors and impact our communities with the hope of the Gospel.

Daryl C. Cornett is pastor of First Baptist Church in Hazard, Ky., a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and former associate professor of church history at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn.