Archives For faith and culture

The Briefing

Crossover & Harvest America share timeless Gospel message
More than 700 voices worshiped at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Ariz. on Friday, June 9, kicking off the weekend’s Crossover Arizona and Harvest America events. NAMB’s Crossover Arizona and Greg Laurie’s Harvest America joined forces to host a three-day evangelistic outreach involving training, street evangelism and service projects before culminating in Harvest America’s Sunday night crusade. By the end of that evening, Harvest reported 2,904 salvation decisions at the event with another 494 indicating decisions online.

100s of new churches not enough to satisfy Southern Baptists
Southern Baptists gained almost 500 churches last year, while taking in more than $11 billion. Such statistics would have most US denominations praising the Lord. But because of declines in other metrics that matter more—including their namesake, baptisms—leaders say members should offer lament instead.

Delaware legalizes abortion through all 9 months
Delaware gave pro-abortion advocates a rare but big win last week when Gov. John Carney signed a bill making it legal to kill unborn babies through all nine months of pregnancy. Proponents of the bill drafted it out of fear the Supreme Court might someday overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Trump: ‘It’s time to put a stop to attacks on religion’
President Trump told his political base of evangelical Christians that he would continue to restore the religious liberty many of them feel they’ve lost. “It is time to put a stop to the attacks on religion,” Trump said in a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

McDonald’s introduces gay pride fries in rainbow boxes
McDonald’s is serving its signature fries in cheerful rainbow-colored boxes at participating locations throughout the greater California Bay Area, as well as at some D.C. locations. The rainbow fries will be available throughout the month of June.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today, World Magazine, Religion News, Houston Chronicle

AZ Republic Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 1.22.47 PM copy

Screenshot from AZCentral.com.

A planned protest by LGBT representatives at the site of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting hasn’t materialized yet. A small group of people carrying rainbow placards reading “Dissent is patriotic” walked in the main entrance to the Phoenix Convention Center, down the hallway through the food court, and out the exit at the far end. Almost no one noticed.

“They probably won’t get in during the meeting,” one attendant at the information desk said waving a messenger’s badge, “not without one of the these.”

An homosexual advocacy group called Faith in America (FIA) sought to meet with Southern Baptist Convention leaders during the Annual Meeting June 13-14. FIA said a half dozen of their representatives will be in Phoenix. They seek to have homosexuality and transgenderism “removed from the sin list.” An FIA news release said a doctor, clergy member, and gay country singer will try to engage messengers in conversation about LGBT issues. The group said they will “politely disrupt” the SBC meeting.

SBC leaders offered at an alternate meeting in Nashville after the Phoenix convention.

The small group that walked through the Food Court on Sunday night talked quietly among themselves. They were joined later by a few more people outside the convention center as the evening session of the SBC Pastors Conference dismissed and attenders filed out.

Earlier in the day in another section of Phoenix, LGBT supporters staged a rally holding the same “Dissent” placards. The Phoenix rally was one of 100 planned across the U.S. on the one-year anniversary of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shootings that left 49 people dead. A year ago, the SBC opened with prayer for the victims’ families and survivors.

The protest may come as the Annual Meeting opens on Tuesday.

–Eric Reed in Phoenix

The Briefing

Pro-LGBT group plans protest at SBC 2017
The advocacy group Faith in America (FIA) has announced plans to “politely disrupt” the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix. The group hopes to persuade the nation’s largest Protestant denomination to change its interpretation of Scripture, FIA said in a press release accusing the SBC of marginalizing and harming lesbian, gay, homosexual and transgender (LGBT) children in particular by discouraging sexual sin.

Illinois forces foster parents to support gender transition
The state of Illinois’ social services policies now bar social workers from employment and foster families from caring for children if they refuse to facilitate a child’s gender transition. The director of the Department of Children and Family Services approved “enhanced department procedures” that established “mandatory minimum standards for LGBTQ children under its authority.” These state standards, reportedly drafted with the assistance of the ACLU, “will not tolerate exposing LGBTQ children and youth to staff/providers who are not supportive of children and youths’ right to self-determination of sexual/gender identity.”

Planned Parenthood reports abortion increase
Despite a significant decrease in clients, decrease in contraceptive services, and increase in the number of abortions it performs, Planned Parenthood still claims abortions make up only 3% of its overall business. According to the abortion giant’s annual report, released last week, it performed 328,348 abortions and 9,494,977 total services. The report came out about six months later than normal, prompting speculation about what it might contain.

Christian hospitals win Supreme Court case
In a decision that has religiously affiliated hospitals cheering, the Supreme Court ruled federal pension rules don’t apply to them. The 8-0 ruling reverses lower court decisions that sided with hospital workers who argued that the exemption from pension laws should not extend to hospitals affiliated with churches.

DoD wants fewer generic Christians
The general categories of “Protestant, no denominational preference” and “Protestant, other churches” have been removed from the Department of Defense (DoD) list of recognized religions as the US military seeks out more detailed designations for its 1.3 million service members. This spring, the DoD doubled the religious identities that military personnel can declare on official paperwork and dog tags. The list now totals 216 different affiliations, including 30 types of Baptists.

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

Priority 17 worship

Priority Conference looks at godly womanhood

“There’s a lot going on in the culture,” Carmen Halsey said. “If Christian women are not going to talk about it, who is?”

Halsey challenged the nearly 600 attenders at the Priority Women’s Conference in Decatur April 28-29, and brought before them speakers who would address tough issues women face today. “Some of the topics (at the conference) sound a bit risky,” she said, “but the culture is talking about it; the culture is who we’re going to have to reach. We are going to have to be brave if we’re going to do it.”

Halsey serves as IBSA Women’s Missions and Ministry director. The two-day conference addressed what it means to be godly women in today’s culture.

The conference took place against a backdrop of women’s marches with pink hats and cat ears, and a resurgence of debate on feminism and abortion. An April march on the state capitol in Springfield came the day of passage of a bill expanding taxpayer-funded abortions in the name of “women’s health care,” and now there is a renewed push for Illinois to become the thirty-seventh state pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Thirty eight are required for the ERA to become part of the U.S. Constitution, although the ten-year period for adoption expired 30 years ago.

How women can hold godly views and live Christ-like lives in such an environment may have been a subtext for the conference, but the admonitions were clear: “God calls us not to just be hearers of the Word, but also to be doers of the Word,” Halsey said.

“How do we create a safe place that we can come ask questions and learn from each other?” Halsey said. She emphasized the need for women to minister to women who don’t know Christ. And she brought to the platform teachers and leaders whose experiences serve as solid examples.

The missionary
Rebecca Epley served as an International Mission Board missionary to Bangladesh until taking voluntary retirement. Epley said its people are 96% Muslim, the rest are Hindu and Buddhist, with less than 1% Christian. “Many have never heard the name of Jesus, and do not know who Jesus is.”

Working with other missionaries, they started the Light of Hope Center to reach poor families. Muslims began threatening Christians who would go to the Christian center for help.

Epley shared, “One mother was told, if your daughter continues to go to this center, we’ll burn your house down.” The strong mother of six replied that the Christians had done much more for her daughter than the Muslims ever had. “She will not stop going to the center,” Epley quoted the woman as saying. “And no, they did not burn her house down.”

Epley also told about girl who visited the center who had gotten pregnant outside marriage. The girl had brought shame on her family, her mother pushed for an abortion. “In Bangladesh, they think until a baby is born it’s just a ball of blood,” said Epley.

“We found a Christian family to adopt that baby. That girl accepted the Lord, but later she was forced to marry a Muslim man. We can’t fix that situation, but we know that Jesus is in her heart.”

Epley encouraged the Illinois women to stand strong in their faith and to follow God’s leadership. “One of the verses God has given me is ‘Be still.’ Stop trying to figure it out. I will be exalted. Keep your eyes on me. He is going to be exalted through those girls in
Bangladesh.”

Church members
What should women do in the church? That’s a question with many answers, especially at a Southern Baptist women’s conference. Nora Allison and Carrie Campbell were the leaders of a breakout discussion on that topic. Allison is Director of Women at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Ky., and teaches at Southern Seminary. Campbell is a member of Sojourn, a student at Southern, and central Illinois native.

In the Bible we first see men and women in Genesis 1:26-28 when God created male and female in his image. In Ephesians 4:14-16 men and women are to work together as part of the church body.

“Peter says men and women alike are co-heirs,” Allison shared. “God gave women specific responsibility to lead and train other women in who they are supposed to be. Men and women are not alike in how they are created, or in how they live out their faith.

“Typically our churches are 60-65% women. We need women to identify their giftedness and then use their gifts in appropriate ways in their church.” Allison suggested doing this by having women teach other women and shepherd women in small groups.

Campbell said it’s important to “know what your church believes regarding women’s roles in the church.” It’s also good to find out if your church studied the biblical text to determine what the roles of women are. “What do you believe about the roles? Have you studied what the Bible says?” she asked.

Most important, Campbell said, “Examine your motives. Where is your heart ? It’s OK and right to push back if things are not biblical. Are you doing this for yourself and your own glory, or for God’s glory and his will to be done?”

Doers
“Feminism is alive and well in our culture and in the church,” or so said the breakout topic assigned to Jeanette Cloyd. A member of the Illinois Baptist Women’s State Advisory Team, Cloyd shared how after the Industrial Revolution, women started to be more involved in churches because they were looking for something worthwhile to do. But some women took it too far and acted as if they were more spiritual than men.

Cloyd said in the last twenty years, many women in evangelical churches have moved toward a more traditional biblical model of womanhood. Women are “having this constant struggle—a lot are quitting their jobs and staying home and raising their children.”

Women have begun looking for mentoring relationships. “We need someone to mentor, and not just younger women,” Cloyd said. “The Bible should be our guide,” she said, pointing to Titus 2. “We’re supposed to be humble and helpful to one another.” And mentoring is really discipleship. “We can’t do if we don’t know. We can’t look different to the world if we’re not doers of the word. That’s where discipleship comes in.”

And that’s the challenge for Baptist women: serving in the way of Christ, as godly women in a declining culture, so the world can see the difference.

-Lisa Misner Sergent

The Briefing

Who values religious freedom, besides U.S.?
Significant differences exist in the importance Americans and Europeans place on certain freedoms, including the right to choose your own religion, according to research from YouGov. Only in the U.S. do more than half (53%) choose the right to pursue a religion of their choice as one of the most important freedoms. The next highest nation is Finland with 37%. Support in all other European nations is below 30%.

Christian leaders praise Trump’s Saudi speech
President Trump’s address in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is garnering significant attention given that it was his first address on an international trip but especially because of its theological overtones while expressing his vision for U.S.-Muslim relations. In his speech, Trump said religious leaders must make clear to their faith’s adherents that “barbarism will deliver you no glory — piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned.” Such an explicit theological judgment struck Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as highly significant.

‘I will pray for you,’ draws personnel warning
Offering to pray for a coworker could get you fired. A Baptist mother of two has filed religious discrimination and retaliation charges against a school system that threatened to fire her for privately telling a coworker she’d pray for him. Attorneys for Toni Richardson, an educational technician with the Augusta (Maine) School Department, are awaiting a response from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the complaint filed May 16.

Planned parenthood clinics falling like dominoes
Planned Parenthood clinics around the country have posted permanent “Closed” signs because of low finances and lack of patients. Clinics in New Mexico, Iowa and Colorado have been experiencing the most shutdowns, because of financial issues. In July, the last Planned Parenthood clinics in North Dakota, Wyoming, and North Dakota are slated to close.

Married lesbians sue Tennessee over spousal definitions
Four married lesbian couples in Tennessee are fighting a new state law they say denies their parental rights. The couples, each expecting a baby this year, filed a lawsuit last week against a law mandating that undefined words in state statutes be interpreted to have “natural and ordinary” meanings. LGBT activists are calling the law “sneaky,” arguing it “clearly targets LGBTQ Tennesseans” by requiring words like “husband,” “wife,” “mother,” and “father” in state law apply only to opposite-sex couples.

Sources: Facts & Trends, The Christian Post, Baptist Press, Conservative Tribune, World Magazine

The Briefing

Trump to Liberty grads: Follow Christian convictions
In front of a record-setting crowd of about 50,000 attendees, the newly minted politician winked to his support from evangelicals—repeatedly bringing up religious freedom and identifying with their position as Washington outsiders. “In America we do not worship government, we worship God. We do not need a lecture from Washington on how to lead our lives,” he said to the graduates.

La. Executive Board concludes study of ERLC
The Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Executive Board has concluded a study of “issues of concern” related to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and issued a letter commending ERLC President Russell Moore for “confessing his failings.” The letter, addressed to the ERLC president and trustees, also urged Moore “to listen carefully and respectfully to Southern Baptists even as we listen to him.”

Graham calls persecution of Christians ‘genocide’
Franklin Graham, son of the famed evangelical preacher Billy Graham, urged fellow Christians to struggle against a “Christian genocide” that he says has killed in greater numbers than most believers can fathom. Graham spoke May 10 at a conference aimed at highlighting an issue many feel is ignored by politicians and the media.

Court sides with Christian print shop
The owner of Hands on Originals, a Lexington, Ky., print shop, did not violate a local nondiscrimination ordinance when he refused to create T-shirts for an annual gay pride festival, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled. The 2-1 decision is the second to uphold Blaine Adamson’s right to engage in “viewpoint or message censorship.” A local gay and lesbian advocacy organization asked Adamson to create T-shirts promoting the organization’s 2012 Pride Festival. Adamson declined, saying he could not promote that message as a Christian.

Majority of Protestants support gay marriage
Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults say same-sex marriages should be recognized by the law as valid. Although not meaningfully different from the 61% last year, this is the highest percentage to date and continues the generally steady rise since Gallup’s trend began in 1996. However, U.S. Protestants, including all non-Catholic Christians, are now about twice as likely to support gay marriage as they were in 1996 (55% vs. 27%). This year’s poll is the first-time Protestant support has reached the majority level.

Sources: Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Religion News, World Magazine, Gallup

The Briefing

Has Trump found religion in the Oval Office?
President Donald Trump has increasingly infused references to God into his prepared remarks — calling on God to bless all the world after launching strikes in Syria, asking God to bless the newest Supreme Court justice, invoking the Lord to argue in favor of a war on opioids. Language like that has the Christian conservatives who helped lift Trump to the White House nodding their heads in approval. But others who have long followed Trump are skeptical that the president has found religion in the Oval Office.

Study: Evangelicals left churches over Trump
A number of Christians left their churches following last November’s election won by President Trump, including 10% of evangelicals who reported leaving their houses of worship before last December, a new study has found. The study found those most likely to leave their churches were Trump supporters who felt their clergy didn’t support him and those who opposed Trump and believed their church leaders strongly supported the billionaire real estate mogul.

Sounding the alarm on transgender regret
Robert Wenman was four years into being a “full-time” transgender woman in Ontario, Canada, when a police officer asked him: “You got all your legal rights by now. Why don’t you just enjoy life as a woman?” The question left the then-LGBT activist stuttering: Here he was, training a group of law enforcers on transgender rights, yet he couldn’t answer a basic question: Why? Why was he still campaigning, still fighting?

‘Bible Answer Man’ converts to Orthodoxy
On Palm Sunday, Hank Hanegraaff and his wife entered into Orthodox Christianity at St. Niktarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC. The former Protestant is well known among evangelicals as the Bible Answer Man. Since 1989, Hanegraaff has been answering questions on Christianity, denominations, and the Bible on a nationally syndicated radio broadcast.

Anticipation growing for SBC Phoenix 2017
Apparent interest in the Southern Baptist Convention’s upcoming annual meeting has necessitated an increase in hotel room availability for attendees the second consecutive year. The SBC Executive Committee has reserved an additional 500 rooms for the 2017 meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix. The previously reserved block of rooms was fully booked as early as March.

Sources: Politico, The Christian Post, World Magazine, Christianity Today, Baptist Press