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The Briefing

Disaster Relief ramps up as Florence floodwater rises
As Hurricane Florence crashed ashore in North Carolina, rising floodwaters have cut off the supply chains of some Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts. Still, Southern Baptists have begun relief ministries and the Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief itself has 1,700 volunteers on standby who are specially trained to provide relief during times like these. As of Sept. 17, the storm dumped more than 30 inches of rain in some regions, resulting it at least 23 deaths and is moving northeast into Virginia.

Platt to step down from IMB; Meador named interim
IMB president, Dr. David Platt’s resignation is to be effective at the Sept. 27, 2018, trustee meeting. As such, the Executive Committee of the board of trustees of the International Mission Board voted in a special meeting Sept. 13 to approve Dr. Clyde Meador as interim president starting Sept. 27, subject to full board approval. Platt has served as president of the IMB since Aug. 27, 2014.

China: Bibles burning, churches closing
China’s government is ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing. In several provinces crosses have been destroyed, Bibles burned, churches shut down and followers ordered to sign papers renouncing their faith. The campaign corresponds with a drive to “Sinicize” religion by demanding loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party and eliminating any challenge to its power over people’s lives. 

NYC to issue 3rd gender on birth certificates
New York City is the most recent city to allow a third gender option on birth certificates for persons who do not identify as male or female. The third gender marker on birth certificates will become effective Jan. 1, 2019 and will be classified as gender X. The new policy will no longer require persons who identify as such to provide a note from a doctor or a health care provider’s affidavit in order to make such a change. 

CO schools end sex ed program exposing porn
A Colorado school district has agreed to discontinue using products in their sex education program from a company parents say exposed their children to porn images. For two years, the Thomas More Society has assisted concerned parents in an effort to stop the Cherry Creek School District from using these products which were used by children in 55,000 elementary schools, middle schools and high schools across the United States.

Sources: Baptist Press, Illinois Baptist, News Channel 20, Religion News, Christian Post (2)

‘Social justice’ statement crystallizes simmering debate
Baptists and other Christians took to Twitter and other online forums last week to debate a statement signed by theologian John MacArthur and other evangelical leaders on the potential dangers of social justice. In the statement, the signers, which now number in the thousands, affirm that “lectures on social issues” in the church and “activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture” “tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.”

Southern Baptists have been among the evangelicals talking about the statement. And while he didn’t use the terminology, New Orleans Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley seemed to touch on similar concerns in his convocation sermon on “Baptist Blues.”

White House meetings with evangelicals are illegal, group says
Religion News Service reports that watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State is demanding President Donald Trump stop meeting with evangelical advisors. The group alleges the meetings are in conflict with a 1972 law that governs federal advisory committees.

Related: Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear was among 100 evangelicals in attendance at a White Hosue dinner Aug. 27. Greear has spoken publicly about his desire to see the SBC distance itself from partisan politics, a commitment he reiterated on Twitter.

Kavanaugh completes hearings, awaits vote
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was the subject of often raucous hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, and now will face a full vote he’s expected to win—but barely. Senate Republicans hold a 51-49 advantage.

“Careful consideration of potential justices for our nation’s highest court is understandable and even commendable,”  Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore told Baptist Press. “But the hysteria around the confirmation hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week is a sign of a dysfunctional political climate.”

Anne Graham Lotz asks for prayers in cancer battle
Bible teacher Anne Graham Lotz announced Sept. 4 she has breast cancer and will have surgery later this month to treat the illness. The daughter of late evangelist Billy Graham referenced Psalm 46:1 in announcing the diagnosis. “God has been…and is…my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in this trouble. Therefore, I will not fear.”

McCain services filled with Scripture
Memorial services for Sen. John McCain, who died Aug. 25 after a battle with brain cancer, included 10 readings from the Old and New Testaments. See the list at Christianity Today.

The Christian Post, Baptist Press, Religion News Service, Christianity Today

 

State missions is everyone’s calling. On the spiritual frontier, with 13 million people and at least 8 million who do not yet know Jesus, there’s more than enough mission work for all Illinois Baptists. For more than 100 years, IBSA has helped churches to grow stronger by equipping leaders for ministry. IBSA assists church planters in starting new congregations where they are needed. And IBSA helps pastors spread the gospel. And yet, the need grows. IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams calls it an uphill climb in our postmodern era, but we remain committed to our calling.
Pray for the missionaries and staff of IBSA today, including Associate Executive Director Mark Emerson who leads the Church Resources Team.

Pastor salaries not keeping pace with inflation
Compensation for full-time Southern Baptist pastors and church staff has lagged behind the growth in the cost-of-living over the past two years. Health insurance coverage also remains low, according to the 2018 SBC Church Compensation Study. Pastors of smaller churches were especially found to be compensated less than larger churches’ staff.

Many pastors lack a will, survey finds
More than half of Southern Baptist pastors do not have a will of any kind or a durable power of attorney with health care directives. LifeWay Research’s Scott McConnell said the survey shows pastors’ lack of awareness about estate planning and related laws.

McCain’s Baptist ‘church home’ hosts funeral
The late Sen. John McCain called North Phoenix Baptist Church his “church home” – despite never joining it. The Southern Baptist congregation in Arizona hosted McCain’s memorial service August 30. The two-time presidential candidate attended North Phoenix for more than 25 years; his wife was baptized there.

McCain died Aug. 25 at age 81, a year after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

TN Baptist on cereal boxes for tutoring efforts
It’s not often a Southern Baptist is highlighted on a cereal box. But for Neal Buchanan, he was recently featured on two brands of Kellogg’s cereal boxes – Fruit Loops and Frosted Flakes. Buchanan, an 82-year-old member of Lincoya Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, was chosen for his devotion to education and his passion for childhood literacy.

CA approves abortion drug bill
California legislators have approved a bill requiring state-run university health centers to give students abortion-inducing drugs. The state legislature passed Senate Bill 320 last week and now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

Sources: Baptist Press (4), World Magazine

More than half of American churchgoers say their political views match those of most people at their church, according to a new survey by LifeWay Research. And 57% of Protestant churchgoers under 50 say they prefer to go to church with people who share their political views. “Like many places in America, churches are divided by politics,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “And churchgoers under 50 seem to want it that way.”

Search committee named to find next Southwestern president
A committee of nine Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees has been appointed to find the Fort Worth school’s next president. The committee is tasked with finding a replacement for Paige Patterson, who was moved to emeritus status in May and terminated a week later, after coming under fire for his response to alleged sexual assault on the campus of Southeastern Seminary, where he previously served as president. The Southwestern committee includes an Illinois Baptist—Denise Ewing of First Baptist Church, Winthrop Harbor.

Southern Baptist chaplain exonerated
A U.S. Army chaplain accused of discrimination has been cleared of all charges, Baptist Press reported. Chaplain Jerry Squires told a soldier earlier this year he couldn’t perform a marriage retreat for her and her same-sex partner; he also rescheduled the event so another chaplain could perform the retreat. The Army dropped its investigation Aug. 24 after determining Squires had handled the matter in accordance with military policy.

Christian leaders advocate for refugees
A group of evangelical leaders, including Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, sent a letter to the federal officials in August asking them to consider opening U.S. borders to 75,000 refugees for resettlement in fiscal year 2019. The number is about 50,000 higher than a limit reported being considered by the Trump Administration, The Christian Post reported.  

Illinois churches ready families for fall with shoes, haircuts, backpacks, and prayer
Across the state, churches launched students and families into the back-to-school season with a number of outreach initiatives tailored to specific needs in their communities. In Harrisburg, Dorrisville Baptist Church gave away more than 500 pairs of gym shoes while in Chicago, Another Chance Baptist Church sent kids back to school with backpacks and new glasses. Read about back-to-school outreach and more from IBSA churches in the current issue of the Illinois Baptist, online at ibonline.IBSA.org.

-LifeWay Research, Baptist Press (2), The Christian Post, Illinois Baptist

Saddleback reaches baptism milestone
Saddleback Church celebrated its 50,000th baptism Sunday, Aug. 12. The Southern Baptist congregation headquartered in Lake Forest, Ca., has 19 campuses. Saddleback was founded in 1980 by Pastor Rick Warren.

“Each of these lives represents an individual changed by and committed to a relationship with Jesus Christ,” the church tweeted about the milestone. “We are in awe of what God has done in the last 38 years and are hopeful and expectant for what he will do in the years to come. Thank you, God!”

‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’—like you’ve never heard it before
At a recent conference, author and pastor John Piper wrote two new verses for “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” the hymn that wrapped up the meeting. The verses reflect his theological standpoint—which is more Reformed than that of the hymn’s author. Christianity Today asked church music experts to weigh in: As the culture around them changes, should hymns stick to their original theology?

NAMB forms new group to step up evangelism efforts
The North American Mission Board announced last week the creation of an evangelism and leadership group tasked with promoting evangelism in Southern Baptist churches. Georgia pastor Jim Law will head the new group, Baptist Press reports.

Rwandan government imposes new rules on churches
Rwandan officials have imposed new restrictions on religious practice in their country, including the requirement that all pastors have a theological degree from an accredited school. The government has also instructed pastors not to encourage their congregations to fast for long periods of time, Christianity Today reports.

Church fraud on the rise
Reported cases of financial fraud in churches rises about 6% each year, The Christian Post reports, and is expected to reach the $60 billion mark by 2025. The growing problem could be solved by requiring churches to complete a specific IRS form, says one tax law expert.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post

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