Archives For belief

What voters value

Lisa Misner —  November 5, 2018

Evangelicals choose issues over candidates

Vote Yeah

With a day to go before the U.S. mid-term election, new research may shed light on how evangelicals will vote. The Billy Graham Center Institute at Wheaton College and LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tenn., released an extensive study in October on how evangelicals voted in 2016, and how they feel about their decisions today.

The study explored the voting habits and political motivations of three groups of Americans: evangelicals by belief, self-identified evangelicals, and those who are not evangelical by belief or self-identity. (Evangelicals by belief are those who hold to four key theological statements developed by LifeWay Research and the National Association of Evangelicals.)

Among the findings: 53% of evangelicals by belief characterized their vote in the 2016 presidential election 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.

“I see no reason that focus on issues won’t be repeated next month,” said Ed Stetzer, referencing the Nov. 6 election. The executive director of the Billy Graham Center Institute detailed the research in a press release. “In 2016, many evangelicals chose to look past a candidate as an individual to vote for a specific issue, platform, or party a candidate represented, seeing the candidates more like objects of representation than as individuals whose values and ideals fit theirs.”

According to the research, two-thirds of evangelicals by belief agree committed Christians can benefit from a political leader even if that leader’s personal life does not line up with Christian teaching.

The 2016 election
In the 2016 presidential election, 9 in 10 evangelicals agree they felt strong support for their preferred candidate, with 69% strongly agreeing. And little has changed two years later. Today, 88% agree they feel strong support for who they voted for in 2016, with 70% strongly agreeing.

Among evangelicals who voted, most did so for Donald Trump. More than half of evangelicals by belief (58%) and self-identified evangelicals (53%) cast their ballot for the Republican nominee, while 36% of evangelicals and 38% of self-identified evangelicals voted for Hillary Clinton.

African-American voters with evangelical beliefs overwhelmingly voted for Clinton (86%), while more than three-quarters of white voters with evangelical beliefs voted for Trump (77%).

Around half of younger voters with evangelical beliefs cast their ballot for Clinton—47% of those 18 to 49. A majority of voters 65 and over who have evangelical beliefs voted for Trump (72%).

The survey also measured the issues at play in the 2016 presidential election. Both evangelicals by belief and self-identified evangelicals said an ability to improve the economy was the most important reason for voting the way they did, followed by positions on health care and immigration.

Few evangelicals by belief (5%) and self-identified evangelicals (4%) said abortion was the most important issue in deciding their 2016 vote. And 7% of evangelicals by belief and 6% of self-identified evangelicals chose likely Supreme Court nominees as the most important reason.

Working across divides
Most evangelicals by belief and self-identified evangelicals say the 2016 election brought to the surface some underlying divisions among Christians. Yet, most evangelicals also believe someone in the opposing party can be a devout Christian.

When evangelicals encounter someone using biblical beliefs to justify political views that are opposite of their own, few question their political opponent’s faith. Evangelicals by belief are most likely to say they are hopeful they can find common ground biblically.

“Jesus is not coming back on a donkey or an elephant,” said Stetzer. “We have to acknowledge that people vote for different and complex reasons and that Christians can differ on politics and agree on the gospel.”

– From LifeWay Research, with reporting by Christianity Today

Paige Patterson clarifies comments on abuse and divorce
Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson’s spoke out to address his position on domestic violence after old comments he made regarding counseling women in abusive marriages circulated on social media over the weekend. Patterson said he has advised and helped women to leave abusive husbands, but stood by his commitment to never recommend divorce: “How could I as a minister of the gospel? The Bible makes clear the way in which God views divorce.”

200 evangelical leaders tell Congress to pass prison reform
Well-known evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham, and nearly 200 others are calling on members of Congress to pass bipartisan re-entry reform legislation that aims to provide federal prisoners with the training and rehabilitation they need to be successful once they are released back into society. The letter was sent to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and congressional leaders voicing support for the Prison Reform and Redemption Act of 2017, also known as H.R. 3356.

GuideStone, ERLC defend ministerial housing allowance
GuideStone Financial Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief filed April 26 that asks the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to reverse a lower court decision invalidating the exemption. It will decide on a section of a 1954 law that permits “ministers of the gospel” to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion or all of their gross income as a housing allowance.

Pew: 25% of survey’s Christians don’t buy biblical God
A fourth of self-identified Christians believe in what Pew described as “God or another higher power” who is not necessarily all-loving, omniscient and omnipotent as Scripture reveals. “In total, three-quarters of U.S. Christians believe that God possesses all three of these attributes — that the deity is loving, omniscient, and omnipotent,” the study found.

Butterfield: Christian hospitality’s radically different from ‘Southern hospitality’
In Rosaria Butterfield’s newest book, “The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post Christian World,” she articulates a gospel-minded hospitality that’s focused not on teacups and doilies, but on missional evangelism. It has nothing to do with entertainment—and everything to do with addressing the crisis of unbelief. Interviewer Lindsey Carlson spoke with Butterfield about opening hearts and front doors to our neighbors.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, Baptist Press, Christianity Today

The BriefingNY Times interviews SBC President on race & reconciliation
The New York Times interviewed Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and National Baptist Convention USA President Jerry Young about their public conversation late last year on racial reconciliation in Jackson, Miss.

Evangelicals for Life Conf. bolsters ‘burden’ for unborn
The first Evangelicals for Life conference, co-sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family, set out to increase participation by evangelicals in the annual March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The predominantly young audience arrived days ahead of the march (and winter storm Jonas) to select from presentations by nearly 40 evangelical pro-life leaders who taught how to extend their influence with a broader, more diverse base of support.

Terrorists kill 7 missionaries in Burkina Faso
The director of an orphanage and six others were among 28 people killed in an attack by Al Qaeda-linked militants in Burkina Faso. American Michael Riddering and his wife, Amy, had served with the missions group Sheltering Wings in the West African nation since 2011. The other six killed were Canadians on three-week mission trip. Also that day, two missionaries from Australia were kidnapped.

0.0% of Icelanders under 25 believe God created the world
Less than half of Icelanders claim they are religious and more than 40% of young Icelanders identify as atheist. Remarkably the poll failed to find young Icelanders who accept the creation story of the Bible. 93.9% of Icelanders younger than 25 believed the world was created in the big bang, 6.1% either had no opinion or thought it had come into existence through some other means and 0.0% believed it had been created by God.

Study: monthly porn exposure the norm for teens
Half of teenagers and nearly three-quarters of young adults come across pornography at least monthly, and both groups on average consider viewing pornographic images less immoral than failing to recycle. The new study by Josh McDowell Ministry and the Barna Group also found porn use is on the rise among young women and that 14 percent of senior pastors surveyed “currently struggle with using porn.”

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, Facts & Trends, Iceland Magazine

Heavenly peace

Lisa Misner —  December 24, 2015

Nativity SceneFour months ago, my husband and I got the best gift we’ve ever received: Our daughter, Lucy, was born August 5, launching us on an amazing, sleep-deprived journey as parents.

When we held her for the first time, we saw her with new-parent eyes—she was squinty, puffy, wrinkled, splotchy perfection. I’d guess we got about 90 seconds of peace before the thought popped in my mind that has dominated the last four months: Oh, there are so many ways we can mess this up.

New and prospective parents, resist the temptation to Google. Because once you go down that road, there’s no coming back. Paci or no paci? Swaddle or free sleep? Is the fresh air good for her, or full of germs too mighty for her tiny immune system? If she fails at tummy time, is it because she’s nervous about performing well in front of me? (Believe it or not, this is a thing, even at four months. Google it.)

Those 21st century concerns are embarrassing to say the least when I think about what another, historical mom must have worried about in the days after her son was born. This stable is so dirty, Mary must have thought. There are so many goats.

And later, Who are these people from the east who have come to see him? Can I trust they have his best interest in mind?

And, ultimately, I know why he’s here. Can I really stand to watch him fulfill God’s purpose for his life? Can I really let him die?

How many ways can I mess this up? she must have wondered.

The worries of motherhood, which can spiral pretty quickly into downright terror, could have made Mary cling tightly to the gift she’d been given, and the heavy responsibility she must have felt. After experiencing four months of parenting-induced anxiety, I know that had I been Jesus’ mother, I would have kept him in the house and away from germs for as long as possible. Probably still in his swaddling clothes.

But instead, after submitting herself to what had to have been a numbing proclamation (Luke 1:38), Mary watched everything happening to her son and her family and treasured them all in her heart, meditating on them (Luke 2:19).

Instead of worry, she embraced the heavenly stillness and peace of knowing that while her human weakness and propensity to make mistakes lurked around every corner, God was in control.

He still is.



Is preaching passe?

Meredith Flynn —  August 6, 2015

COMMENTARY | Nathan Carter

Nathan_Carter_August4In his little book, “The Priority of Preaching,” Christopher Ash writes what every pastor has thought at some point.

“Is it really helping when we spend so much of our week laboring at the Word of God, preparing to preach it to the churches we serve…Is it worth slogging away preparing Sunday’s sermon with such a world of need outside?”

Maybe you are a pastor and you have doubted whether your preaching is really doing anything. Maybe you are a church member who sometimes falls asleep during sermons and you wonder if there is a better way of connecting with today’s postmodern culture. Is preaching a thing of the past?

We are far from the Puritan days when one minister apologized to his congregation for preaching a two-hour sermon and they all replied, “For God’s sake sir go on, go on!” During the era of the Baby Boomers, preaching in many churches became a casual talk on how biblical principles can address felt needs, bolstered by the use of multimedia technology.

Many Gen Xers and Millennials are now looking for new expressions of church, and the very idea of preaching is being re-imagined. Wouldn’t it be more authentic to have a dialogue about the Bible where everyone could share his or her own experiences and insights?

I define preaching as one-directional, verbal proclamation of God’s Word culminating in the gospel. And I still maintain that this is an absolutely essential practice for the church. Why? For one, we see it happening all over the Bible (i.e. Acts 10:33-44). That’s descriptive, not necessarily prescriptive, you might say. Well, it is also expressly commanded elsewhere (i.e. 2 Tim. 4:2).

But couldn’t the intent behind “preach the word” be fulfilled in other ways than one person talking at other people for an extended time? I certainly believe there are several different legitimate styles of preaching. But the method of preaching is critical.

We need times when we bite our tongues as we are confronted by the authority of God’s Word. In an age of relativism and rebellion against authority, it makes sense why we don’t want to sit under preaching. We don’t want doctors; we’d rather self-diagnose. The idea of a wiki-sermon that we all have a hand in constructing is much more appealing. But our great need is to hear, “Thus saith the Lord,” and let his external word rebuke us, call us to repent, make us ready to receive the message of the gospel, and then respond in faith and obedience.

Hearing a declaration of something that has happened, something to which you can’t contribute a thing but must respond to with either belief or disbelief, best comports with the gospel. Since there is a constant need to have the double-edged sword of God’s Word pierce our souls to expose our sinful hearts and then graciously present Christ to us in all his resplendent glory so that we can trust in him as our righteousness and healer, preaching will always be indispensable.

There is a place for small group discussions and seminars and life-on-life mentoring. But preaching is an essential element of the life and health of a church. The practice of preaching can be abused (when it becomes a chance to express one’s own ideas instead of expound a text), but that shouldn’t cause us to avoid its proper use. Some preachers are more gifted than others, but the mark of a mature believer is to be easily edified as long as the Word of God is being preached.

Charles Spurgeon said, “I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men’s ears to hear it. The moment the Church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His Churches.”

May he do it again today!

Nathan Carter is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Chicago.

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Many Illinois Baptists know by now that Melissa Phillips, who was Associate Executive Director of IBSA’s Church Cooperation (Business) Team, went home to be with the Lord on July 2, almost a year after her initial cancer diagnosis.

Melissa was strong and determined, and she managed her initial months of chemo and radiation treatments so amazingly well that we all grew optimistic. And of course we were praying, diligently and daily (often wearing “Team Melissa” buttons). So her rapid health decline in June and then her passing have seemed sudden, especially to those who only saw her occasionally. For those of you just joining us in that grief, I am truly sorry for your loss, too.

Nate_Adams_July20Near the end of the movie, “The Last Samurai,” Tom Cruise’s character, Nathan Algren, travels to Tokyo to present the emperor with the sword of Samurai Lord Katsoumoto, who has just heroically given his life in battle. Somberly, the emperor says to Captain Algren, “Tell me how he died.” And with great respect and tear-filled eyes, Algren instead replies, “I will tell you how he lived.”

So let me write just a few words here about how Melissa Phillips lived. Melissa was one of the most loving, serving, capable professionals I have ever known. She was intelligent, intuitive, poised and articulate. I trusted her completely, and she brought the highest integrity and work ethic to every decision she made and every task she performed. She was often the first person at her desk in the morning, and the last to leave at night.

Melissa was 18 when she started at IBSA. It was just a few days after graduating from high school, and marrying her sweetheart Doug. As I said during her funeral service, in her 35 years at IBSA she not only trained a husband and two daughters, she trained six different executive directors. I am privileged to have been the most recent, and now the last.

Melissa was a reluctant executive, preferring to serve others and work behind the scenes for the good of IBSA, its churches and leaders. Yet she led well, and was strong and decisive when she needed to be, or when I needed her to be. Her moral compass and her wisdom were rooted deeply in her relationship to Jesus Christ and her understanding of God’s Word and his ways.

A few years ago, our son Caleb and Melissa’s daughter Laura got reacquainted at the annual IBSA family picnic. Talking led
to writing, and writing led to visits, and then a courtship led to marriage. So while Melissa has now gone on to be with the Lord, our families continue to be lovingly intertwined. And so in addition to all she gave me personally as a friend and staff member, through God’s providence she and Doug also gave us a daughter, one who seems to me to grow more like her mother every day.

As I watched hundreds of people patiently file through during the funeral visitation, and then pack every square foot of Springfield Southern Baptist Church for Melissa’s home-going service the next day, it became evident to me how many people loved and respected Melissa. The sentiment many expressed could be summed up by the question, “How can we go
on without her?”

This of course is the question Jesus’ disciples were asking themselves after his seemingly sudden death. Yet because Jesus then conquered death, and because he sent his Spirit to be present with us, and help us continue his example and his mission to the world, we find joy and purpose in moving forward, longing eagerly to see him again. How like Melissa to follow Jesus’ example, and leave those of us who loved and depended on her so much with that same wonderful assurance and hope.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

COMMENTARY | Charles Lyons

Floyd and Rad certainly stood out when they showed up in our tiny congregation. I had been pastoring a couple years. Obviously not from around here, they did seem familiar with church. Conversation revealed they were both from Arkansas; one from a Baptist church, the other from an Assembly of God church. Maybe they were 20 years old. My guess is they met in high school.

Charles_Lyons_July16They, like thousands before them, had fled home and familiarity for faraway, big-city anonymity. I’m not sure why, but they didn’t hide their homosexuality from me. I’ll never forget the anguished question during one tearful conversation with Floyd:
“How can this be wrong?” He was overwhelmed with need, emotion, passion, and counterfeit love.

I have to say, getting to know them as individuals radically changed my rabid hostility toward those I before would have called “perverts.” I didn’t change what I believed. My conviction that God’s Word is true was not threatened. But I had an overwhelming desire to be a channel of grace and, as John puts it, “love in truth.”

It was God’s truth and love by God’s definition that eventually contributed to Floyd and Rad drifting away from the church,
looking for something else I could not offer.

Let me tell you! I’m as opinionated a person as you’ll ever meet. Furthermore, I am able to passionately, hey, vehemently
articulate my views. I’m especially dogmatic and emphatic when it comes to behavior I don’t engage in, and I can really preach against that stuff!

Many of us have gone through a process to get where we are today. We used to regularly rant against “easy targets” like communists and hippies, and these days those targets have been replaced by homosexuals, transgender, and “gay marriage” (as if there really were such a thing). And some continue to rant rather than to take a Bible approach.

Should we ignore these things or begin to accept them? Of course not, but we need to confront them biblically. After all, we
are not just guarding our culture or doing battle with sinners. We are representing God and his grace as well as his warning.

Jesus’ harshest condemnations target self-righteous religious zealots. His greatest compassion is expressed to those most
ignorant of, rebellious toward, or distant from God. He said, “I didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

It goes without saying, those who are determined to pursue any kind of sin are not going to be comfortable or in close fellowship in a Bible-preaching church.

That said, there is a whole slice of “sinnerdom,” and for sure some wrestling with same-sex attraction, who would seek help
from people they knew loved them. Is that not the spirit of Jesus?

How do we communicate God’s love?

How do we communicate God’s love to those who are out of bounds in any way, shape, or form? Think over-indulgence. Adultery. Consider any form of destructive behavior. What about unnecessarily angry people?

How do we express God’s love to those who are way, way out of bounds?

Is God’s love unconditional? Is the love I live, preach, teach, and lead our congregation to demonstrate just as unconditional?

Should the church be the last place these out-of-bounds think of for seeking help?

Do the kids attending our churches know these are safe places to bare their souls and share their secrets?

Understand me. There is always someone reading between the lines looking for compromise if not sellout, and I am not advocating in any way changing or messing with what God says about any particular sin. I am saying our churches need to be havens of hope, dispensaries of love and deliverance, places of grace.

The rebels and unrepentants will cast themselves into an eternity without God… but they should go with the knowledge that we loved them. Those willing to believe God’s promises, trusting him for rescue, and willing to fight the flesh in fellowship with God’s people should never wonder if they have a home.

Charles Lyons pastors Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago.

Mark Dever and Russell Moore (center) answered questions from 9Marks' Jonathan Leeman (left) and Phillip Bethancourt of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (right).

Mark Dever and Russell Moore (center) answered questions from 9Marks’ Jonathan Leeman (left) and Phillip Bethancourt of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (right).

Columbus | The culture has changed and is continuing to change–there’s no mistaking it. But Christians don’t have to live in fear, leaders said Monday night at a post-Pastors’ Conference gathering.

When asked what he would tell churches in the face of sweeping cultural change, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore quoted Luke 12:32: “Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”

“The main thing that I would say,” Moore said at the meeting hosted by the 9Marks ministry, “is let us be joyful, hopeful, convictional people who are not panicked, who are not distressed, and who are not tossed about by the wind.”

Moore echoed his Sunday evening Pastors’ Conference message, when he referred to the argument some have made about Christians being on the wrong side of history when it comes to cultural change.

“Brothers and sisters, we started on the wrong side of history. The right side of history was the Roman Empire. The wrong side of the history was a Roman cross. And the Roman Empire is dead, and Jesus is feeling fine.”

At the 9Marks meeting, Moore and Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., fielded questions submitted by the audience. The questions on current social issues covered a variety of topics, including homosexuality, transgenderism, and race. Dever, who also serves as president of 9Marks, urged pastors to pray with their congregations about pressing issues, and not just 3-minute prayers during transitions in the worship services. One of the main sources for his pastoral prayers, Dever said, is The Washington Post.

“…You need to pray for five or ten minutes; I mean, give some thought to your prayer.” When the Westminster Assembly of the 1640s would hold a day of prayer, they would pray as long as they would preach, Dever said. An hour-long sermon, followed by an hour-long prayer. “And the pastors would prepare their prayers every bit as much as they would work on preparing their sermons.”

Nearly 400 years later, maybe that’s an idea worth revisiting.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

‘Unequally yoked’ couples may be more common in 21st century
Most married people–almost 70%–still share the same faith, Pew Research reports in its Religious Landscape Study. But the last few decades have seen an increase in interfaith marriages. 39% of those who have gotten married since 2010 have married someone of another faith–or no faith at all. 18% of the interfaith marriages since 2010 are between a Christian and someone not affiliated with a religion.

The_BriefingOf people who got married prior to 1960 (and are still married), only 19% are interfaith marriages. But Pew is careful to note the rise in interfaith marriages “may not be as pronounced as it appears,” if in fact marriages between people of the same religious group are more likely to last. Because the study only measures intact marriages, it’s possible that there were more interfaith unions prior to 1960 that ended in divorce.

What’s in a (church) name?
The presence of a denomination in a church’s name doesn’t necessarily deter even non-religious people, LifeWay Research reports. In a new survey, Americans were asked to respond to several denominations based on the statement, “When I see a church named the following, I assume it is not for me.” Pentecostal had the highest percentage of yes responses, with 45%, followed by Catholic (42%) and Lutheran (41%). Southern Baptist fell toward the end of the list, with 39%, and Baptist came in last (or first?) with only 36% of respondents saying they assume Baptist churches aren’t for them when they see the label.

Pro-choice views outgaining pro-life position
For the first time since 2008, pro-choice “has a statistically significant lead in Americans’ abortion views,” over pro-life views, Gallup reports. 50% of Americans now say they are pro-choice, compared to 44% who identify as pro-life.

One more poll: Measuring presidents’ popularity
CNN/ORC reports more Americans think favorably about former President George W. Bush (52%) than do current President Barack Obama (45%). Besting them both: Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who both have a 64% approval rating.

Campolo announces new view on same-sex marriage
Christian author and speaker Tony Campolo said via a statement on his website June 8 that he is “finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.” Campolo, author of many books including 2012’s “Red Letter Revolution,” said his decision was influenced by same-sex couples he and his wife have come to know “whose relationships work in much the same way as our own.”

Seminary President films video for ‘Openly Secular’ website
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin appears in a new video on the website of Openly Secular, an organization dedicated to eliminate discrimination against atheists, agnostics, and other non-religious people. We disagree on some very important issues, Akin says in the video, but we also agree on some important things, like that no one should be coerced when it comes to their religious beliefs.

Akin told Christianity Today, “I’m not going to endorse the organization [Openly Secular], but I’m happy to do a video as an evangelical who believes we all have the right to religious liberty. That’s all I endorsed.”

New movie tells how ‘Purpose Driven Life’ helped resolve hostage situation
A film scheduled for release this fall will tell the true story of Ashley Smith, an Atlanta woman who read Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” to a man holding her hostage in her home. Smith’s captor, Brian Nichols, eventually surrendered to authorities. “Captive” stars Kata Mara as Smith and David Oyelowo, who recently played Martin Luther King, Jr., in the film “Selma,” as Nichols.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson leads faculty through the Darrington Prison Unit during May 9 graduation ceremonies. SWBTS photo by Matt Miller

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson leads faculty through the Darrington Prison Unit during May 9 graduation ceremonies. SWBTS photo by Matt Miller

HEARTLAND | From Keith Collier’s report for the Southern Baptist TEXAN and Baptist Press

Inside the maximum security Darrington Prison Unit in Rosharon, Texas, May 9 was graduation day.

“You have done a great deal to educate the mind,” said Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, during the ceremony, “but this program is a little different, isn’t it? Because the program has not just been about the mind; it’s been about the heart.”

Patterson was speaking to the first-ever graduating class of Southwestern’s seminary prison program, itself a first for the state of Texas. The program was inspired by New Orleans’ Baptist Theological Seminary’s long-standing educational efforts at Angola Prison in Louisiana.


SWBTS Photo by Matt Miller

At Darrington, 33 inmates received bachelor’s degrees, as underclassmen cheered and watched a video feed of the ceremony (photo at right).

“When we started this, (Darrington) was one of our toughest, problematic units, and I’m here today to announce that it’s now one of our best,” said Texas State Senator John Whitmire in a press conference before graduation day.

Many of the graduates will leave Darrington this summer for other prisons, where they’ll help chaplains start similar programs. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called the graduates “prison apostles.”

“I’m overwhelmed at what God has done,” he said at the ceremony. “Only God could do this.”