Archives For Alabama


J.D. Greear launches podcast
SBC President J.D. Greear has launched a podcast allowing him to engage listener-submitted questions about biblical, ethical, theological, political and practical issues. “Ask Me Anything: Honest Answers, Quick Questions” debuted Oct. 22 with three episodes. Greear is the first SBC president to launch a podcast during his presidential term, LifeWay Christian Resources said.

What voters value: evangelicals choose issues over candidates
The Billy Graham Center Institute and LifeWay Research released a study on how evangelicals voted in 2016. Among the findings, 53% of evangelicals characterized their vote as being for a candidate, while smaller percentages said they cast their vote against Hillary Clinton (18%) or Donald Trump (15%). That only half of evangelical voters said they voted for their candidate in 2016 led researchers to conclude that evangelicals are “more issue-oriented than candidate-focused,” Christianity Today reported.

 Greear: ‘Lie of the enemy’ led to synagogue murder
A shooter opened fire during a baby naming ceremony at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, leaving 11 people dead. The suspect shouted, “All Jews must die,” before opening fire. SBC president J.D. Greear described the crime as “a despicable lie of the enemy which we unequivocally reject.” He also tweeted: “We grieve with the city of Pittsburgh, the Jewish community, and especially the families of the victims.”

AL. Supreme Court calls for end of Roe v. Wade
Alabama’s highest court released a decision recognizing the personhood of unborn babies and includes a concurrent opinion calling for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Justice Tom Parker denounced Roeas a “legal anomaly and logical fallacy” after the Alabama Supreme Court upheld a murder conviction for a man who killed his pregnant wife and their unborn child. Justice Parker then urged the United States Supreme Court to “overrule this increasingly isolated exception to the rights of unborn children.”

New ‘Christian Pixar’ film company to be launched
“I Can Only Imagine” film producers, Andy and Jon Erwin, are creating their own Christian film company similar to Pixar or Marvel. They said the new production company and a series of films is backed by Hollywood. Named “Kingdom,” the company is an Erwin brothers collaboration set to spread the gospel message and “serve the church,” Jon said. 

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

The Briefing

Evangelical leaders push for criminal justice reform
Evangelical Christian leaders are spearheading a campaign for criminal justice reform, calling for equitable punishment, and alternatives to incarceration. The declaration, and a related 11-page paper on how the church can respond to crime and incarceration, were spearheaded by evangelical organizations: Prison Fellowship, the NAE, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

Samford to withdraw from state conv. funding channel
Samford University in Birmingham will no longer receive annual budget allocations from the Alabama Baptist State Convention (ABSC) after 2017. As of Jan. 1, 2018, the $3-plus million Cooperative Program allotment for Samford will be reduced from Alabama’s CP budget. The school’s board of trustees executive committee approved the decision as a result of an ongoing dialogue revolving around tensions concerning a proposed student organization — Samford Together — whose stated purpose was to facilitate discussion of topics related to human sexuality.

California adds four more ‘discriminatory’ states to travel ban
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed controversial legislation into law that allows child welfare providers — including faith-based adoption agencies — to refuse adoptions to hopeful parents based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” In response, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced his state will prohibit its employees from traveling to Texas because Texas has enacted laws that, he said, discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and their families.

Jesus painting on Islamic center branded hate crime
A large painting of Jesus on the cross was left at a Long Island Islamic center and police are investigating it as a hate crime.  The painting was found Friday on a fence of the Hillside Islamic Center in North New Hyde Park, Nassau County police said.

Man fined $12G for not taking shoes off in Muslim’s home
A Canadian landlord who was fined $12,000 for wearing shoes in a Muslim tenant’s home said he felt “humiliated” by the harsh penalty levied by a national human rights tribunal. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered John Alabi in April to pay the tenants $6,000 each after he failed to take his shoes off in the bedroom were the couple prayed while he was showing the home to potential renters.

Sources: Religion News Service, Baptist Press, Washington Post, NBC New York, Fox News

By Eric Reed

Editor’s note: Baptist news editors met in coastal Alabama this week. Look for stories in the Illinois Baptist and online over the next few weeks.

Orange Beach, Ala. | It’s a wonder the local paper didn’t call this “The Battle of Mobile Gay.” This is, after all, the place where in 1864 Admiral Farragut famously condemned the torpedoes and ran his ship “full speed ahead” past Confederate forts and mines (called “torpedoes”) tethered in the Bay.

The 2015 version had attorneys dueling on the courthouse steps and clerks inside shuttering the marriage license window because the probate judge refused to accept applications from same-sex couples.

“I’m plumb ashamed of this town,” one applicant said outside the courthouse on Monday when he and his partner were unable to get married. On Thursday, that same man declared, “In Alabama! I never would’ve believed it!” as he waved his new license in the air with one arm and hugged his new spouse with the other.

Between Monday and Thursday, the Battle:

A federal judge in Mobile, Callie Granade (pronounced like the ammunition), had ruled Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on January 23. Marriage licenses were to be issued starting Monday. But on Sunday night, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore told the state’s probate court judges, who issue marriage licenses here, that the federal ruling did not apply to them.

On Monday, it was reported 60 counties started processing applications from same-sex couples; seven did not, including the state’s second most populous county, Mobile. Probate judge Don Davis ordered the license window, festooned with purple and gold Mardi Gras masks, shuttered. No licenses were issued to any couples, same-sex or otherwise.

By Wednesday, it was reported only 23 counties were issuing same-sex licenses.

Attorneys representing gay couples and Judge Davis went to court.

And Roy Moore went on TV.

The last time Moore opposed a higher court ruling, he was removed from the bench. That was over the monument to the Ten Commandments at the State Supreme Court. This time, Moore went to the court of public opinion.

For many observers, he appeared to win in Alabama, where his stance is based on a state’s right to amend its own constitution as 81% voters did in 2006, limiting marriage to the traditional, biblical definition. But on TV, against CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Moore lost, according to national pundits who gave the win to the news anchor/attorney.

It didn’t matter. Late Thursday, Granade ruled again. Probate courts must issue marriage licenses to all couples, despite the state constitution. And today, Friday, it is reported all counties’ license offices are open for business.

Frankly, in Alabama, many would never have believed it. I wouldn’t, because I grew up here.

As Baptist editors gathered for their annual conclave to hear reports from SBC entity heads and discuss journalism, I was also looking forward to a short visit to my old home. I didn’t expect to see history made.

I learned to report from that federal courthouse where TV reporters waited this week for the rulings, reporting breathlessly at 5, 6, and 10 on the latest developments—or lack of them. I covered the same county governments at the place where a half-dozen gay couples were wed in the hour after the marriage license office reopened. And I thought I understood this coastal town where half the people are Baptist and the other half are Catholic, and their alliance has kept the politics and the morals mostly conservative for 300 years.

Until now.

Leaders of the Baptist state convention in Alabama quickly commented: “The vast and overwhelming majority of Alabama Baptist leaders and other church members continue to affirm the biblical view of marriage and the historic declarations that Alabama Baptists have made concerning the marriage relationship,” executive director Rick Lance said.

But the comment did not appear on local newscasts in Mobile.

I did hear a comment from an SBC leader at this meeting that demands my consideration. Given the rapid liberalization of public opinion on same-sex marriage and other moral issues, is it possible that pastors and leaders of SBC entities will find themselves heading organizations that are more conservative than the people in the pews—especially younger people? (That’s just the opposite of what happened in mainline denominations in the second half of the 20th century, when leaders grew far more liberal than church members.) Our church members will be shifted by the tide of public opinion, he said, if we pastors and teachers don’t provide a firmer biblical foundation.

And the next wave is coming soon. From here, it’s full speed ahead to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a ruling possibly in June is likely to determine the legality of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Expect Southern Baptists to speak to that, but will anyone listen?

The Baptists came to Alabama this week, but that wasn’t news. The world changed while we were here. That’s the news.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper and associate executive director for the Church Communications team of the Illinois Baptist State Association.


(Editor’s note: New Orleans in Rear View. Now that we’re back home, our Illinois Baptist news team reflects on the question: What is the lasting value of the 2012 SBC?)

 Posted by Meredith Flynn

David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., delivers a Pastors' Conference message in New Orleans on true repentance and salvation.

David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., delivers a Pastors’ Conference message in New Orleans on true repentance and salvation.

Before the convention, many (especially us press types) were buzzing about how a growing debate over Reformed theology might come up from the floor. The answer: It didn’t really pan out like we thought it might, at least in terms of a heated debate.

Instead, Pastors’ Conference speakers and panelists at some of the surrounding meetings encouraged Southern Baptists to work together, even if it means crossing theological lines. And some, most notably Alabama pastor David Platt, spoke passionately about the bigger fish we have to fry.

During his message Monday afternoon, Platt referenced a YouTube video from a message he preached at an inter-denominational conference earlier this summer. On the widely-watched video, Platt said the sinner’s prayer is a “superstitious” prayer that never appears in Scripture, and called into question some traditional evangelism methods.

In his message at the Pastors’ Conference, Platt admitted that as a young pastor, he would be wise to watch his words. But then he stayed true to what he said briefly in the video, pleading with Southern Baptists to preach the true Gospel, full of the messages of repentance, belief, discipleship, and global mission.

Two days later, after some debate on the convention floor, messengers approved a resolution upholding the “sinner’s prayer” as a biblical means to salvation.

How we lead people toward a saving knowledge of Christ, and where we find the conviction of our own salvation, is the most important conversation we can have, in my view. I’m grateful for the discussion, and look forward to watching and listening as God moves us closer to His heart for people.