Archives For Muslim

The Briefing

TX church holds first Sunday service since attack
After an emotional sermon held outdoors under a massive white tent, congregants and the public were invited to return to the church for the first time since the tragedy. A chilling memorial set up inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs included 26 white chairs bearing each victim’s name painted in gold. Pastor Frank Pomeroy shared his personal heartache and a message that the community bound together by faith can move past the evil that attacked the church seven days earlier. The service was held in a massive white tent erected in a baseball field.

Missionaries assist Muslims amid humanitarian crisis
Renewed clashes between Rohingya militants and security forces in Myanmar have created a massive new humanitarian crisis, resulting in more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into Bangladesh since Aug. 25. The government of Myanmar faces accusations of ethnic cleansing and international condemnation. Myanmar and its Muslim neighbor Bangladesh have largely been closed off to Christian missionaries, but Christian aid groups are now in Bangladesh to help the Rohingya.

Supreme Court to weigh anti-abortion speech restrictions
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Nov. 13 to take up a fight over a California law that requires pregnancy counseling centers, including those run by churches, to tell their patients that subsidized abortions are available elsewhere. Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015, the law says the centers must post or distribute a notice that says in part “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access” to such services as contraception and abortion. It was immediately challenged by religiously affiliated clinics that argue the law is worse than censorship, compelling them to communicate a message offensive to their beliefs.

Teacher removed after calling transgender student a ‘girl’
A Christian math teacher in the United Kingdom has been removed from the classroom for referring to a biologically female transgender student as a girl. Joshua Sutcliffe, a 27-year-old who teaches 11 to 18-year-olds at a school in Oxfordshire, has been removed from his teaching capacity and is facing a disciplinary hearing after a parental complaint that he discriminated against a female-born transgender student by stating “well done, girls” when addressing the student’s small group during class. The student in question self-identifies as male and Sutcliffe reportedly had not been instructed formally that she was to be referred to as a boy.

Museum of the Bible officially opens this week
The new Museum of the Bible – a project seven years in the making – officially opens its doors this week. In the heart of Washington, D.C., it’s the first museum solely dedicated to God’s holy word. With a $500 million investment and global cultural and scholastic partnerships, the Museum of the Bible hopes that its mission translates into more people reading and appreciating the best-selling book of all time.

Sources: Religion News Service, World Magazine, NBC News, The Christian Post, CBN News

The Briefing

High court backs church in public benefits case
The U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow June 26 for the freedom of churches to participate in government programs with secular purposes. Seven of nine justices agreed the state of Missouri violated a church’s right to exercise its faith freely by barring it from participating in a government-run, playground-resurfacing program. In its opinion, the court said excluding Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia “from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious” to the U.S. Constitution.

Muslim converts breathe life into struggling churches
A soaring number of Muslims, many of them refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, are converting to Christianity, breathing new life into Europe’s once floundering Christian churches. The Muslims are flocking to various Christian denominations, experts said, including becoming Protestants, evangelical, or Catholic.

Case of gay couple’s wedding cake heads to Supreme Court
A Colorado clash between gay rights and religion started as an angry Facebook posting about a wedding cake but now has big implications for anti-discrimination laws in 22 states. Baker Jack Phillips is challenging a Colorado law that says he was wrong to have turned away a same-sex couple who wanted a cake to celebrate their 2012 wedding.

New York sues pro-life protesters
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit last week against several pro-life sidewalk counselors, seeking to stop their activities and enact a 16-foot buffer zone around an abortion center. The suit claims sidewalk counselors “repeatedly harassed, threatened, and menaced patients, families, escorts, and clinic staff at the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens.”

Judge halts deportations of Detroit Christians to Iraq
More than 100 Iraqi Christians arrested in immigration raids earlier this month will get to stay in the United States—at least for another two weeks, according to an order issued yesterday by a federal judge in Detroit. The written order follows outcry from the Detroit area’s Chaldean Christians, who were shocked when officials detained scores of them on June 11.

Sources: Baptist Press, Fox News, ABC News, World Magazine, Christianity Today

The BriefingGraham urges ‘Beast’ boycott
Franklin Graham has called for a boycott of Disney over the company’s inclusion of a gay character in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast remake. “They’re trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children—watch out!” Graham wrote in a Facebook post.

Christian bakers appeal $135K fine
Christian bakers who lost their store and were fined $135,000 for declining to make a cake for a same-sex wedding brought their case before the Oregon Court of Appeals in an attempt to overturn the judgment. Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Oregon, said they simply want the freedom to live by the tenets of their faith.

High court vacates pro-transgender ruling
The U.S. Supreme Court set aside March 6 a ruling in favor of a transgender high school student and returned it to a lower court for reconsideration in light of the Trump administration’s recent withdrawal of a directive issued under President Obama. With the change in administration guidance, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will have to weigh its April 2016 decision that the school board of an eastern Virginia county violated federal law by refusing to permit a transgender high school student — who is a female biologically but identifies as a male — to use the boys’ restroom.

Muslim chaplain to head Army division
After a ceremony this summer, Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz will become the first Muslim division-level chaplain in the history of the U.S. military. In January, he was offered the job of chaplain for an entire division, an honor for anyone in his field but a milestone in his case – a Muslim spiritual leader for more than 14,000 mostly Christian soldiers.

Americans warm to religious groups—except evangelicals
Fewer Americans say they know an evangelical Christian. Potentially as a result, evangelicals were the one religious group that didn’t experience an increase in warmth among Americans. Pew Research asked Americans to rate their feelings toward major faith groups on a “feeling thermometer,” ranked from zero to 100—the higher the ranking, the more positive the impression. Overall, Jews (67 degrees), Catholics (66 degrees), and mainline Protestants (65 degrees) were rated warmest.

Sources: Time, The Washington Times, Baptist Press, McClatchy DC, Facts and Trends

State Baptist paper editors met for their annual meeting Feb. 14-16 in Ontario, Calif. and heard controversial issues addressed by Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines and International Mission Board President David Platt. As the meeting was taking place Prestonwood Baptist Church, pastored by former SBC President Jack Graham, announced its decision to escrow gifts previously forwarded to support the Cooperative Program while it discusses concerns about the direction of the Convention.

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Steve Gaines

Gaines on Trump, ERLC, IMB
In a question-and-answer session Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, told editors he voted for Trump as president because of his pro-life stance.

Referencing Trump’s campaign slogan, Gaines noted that the only way to really make America great again is by winning people to Jesus Christ and mentoring them and changing society through the people they influence.

Discussing the fallout following the issuance of Trump’s executive order on immigration, Gaines said, “At some point we need to understand that God is not an American and is not Republican or Democrat. Christians need to remember that we have dual citizenship, with our allegiance first to the Kingdom of God.

“It’s important to remember that to some degree we have more in common with a believer in a lost country than an unbeliever in our own country,” Gaines said.

“We certainly need to vet people coming into our nation to be sure we are safe from those who would do us harm. That’s why I have locks on my doors at night to keep my family safe.

Concerning controversy involving Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore’s political comments during the election, Gaines said he hopes there would be less divisive talk coming out of the ERLC.

“I hope the kind of talk we have been hearing is not the direction in which we are going. I hope Russell will remain in his position and that we have reconciliation with a lot of people,” he said.

Regarding the amicus brief involving a New Jersey mosque which has embroiled both the ERLC and the International Mission Board in controversy, Gaines said he believes IMB President David Platt would possibly think twice before the mission board enters such a case.

“You may not agree with his theology but he has no arrogance whatsoever in his heart. I really don’t think he would have signed the document [favoring government permission for the construction of the mosque] if he knew the ramifications.

Platt’s apology
“I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been,” Platt said when he met later with Baptist state paper editors.

“I can say with full confidence that in the days ahead, IMB will have a process in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams for evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.”

The apologies occurred amid ongoing discussion of an amicus curiae — Latin for “friend of the court” — brief joined by the IMB supporting the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, N.J., (ISBR) in its religious discrimination lawsuit against a local planning board. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also joined the brief.

In December, U.S. district Judge Michael Shipp ruled the Planning Board of Bernards Township, N.J., violated federal law when it required the ISBR to include more than twice as much parking in its site plan for a proposed mosque as it required for local Christian and Jewish houses of worship.

In his ruling, Shipp acknowledged the amicus brief, stating it “supports” the ISBR’s arguments that unlawful religious discrimination occurred.

Platt added, “I am grieved how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting. And my purpose in bringing it up here is not to debate religious liberty, but to simply say that I really do want IMB to be focused on [its] mission statement.”

Tennessee pastor Dean Haun resigned as an IMB trustee in November because he said joining the brief did not comport with IMB’s mission and could be viewed as an improper alliance with followers of a religion that denies the Gospel.

Gaines on CP, state conventions, revival
Concerning the Cooperative Program, Gaines said there is no biblical imperative for churches to tithe 10% of their receipts to CP, regardless of how good the SBC missions support program is. Churches today have a number of their own ministries for reaching their communities for Christ.

While Bellevue Baptist doesn’t give 10% through CP, Gaines his wife Donna are motivated to give a tithe because of the good work they see going on in their community as well as around the world.

Gaines urged, “State conventions need to be proactive and reach out, embrace them [young pastors and leaders], cultivate them. You know, it’s far easier to talk about someone than it is to talk to them. When you talk to them you get on their level, you empathize with them. And that’s what it’s going to take.”

Looking to the future of the nation, Gaines spoke about his desire to see revival once again sweep America. “The last time it occurred was the Jesus Movement of the early to mid-1970s. That’s when we as a denomination reported the largest number of baptisms in our history. Many missionaries and pastors and church staff members came out of that movement and changed America. It can happen again, and that is my prayer.”

Prestonwood escrows CP
Prestonwood Baptist Church’s decision to escrow gifts previously forwarded to support Southern Baptist cooperative missions and ministries was announced Feb. 16.

Mike Buster, executive pastor for the Plano, Texas, church, provided a statement to the Baptist Message explaining that the action had been taken because of “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention” and that it is a temporary move.

The decision impacts $1 million the 41,000-member congregation would otherwise contribute through the Cooperative Program.

But Graham subsequently explained to the Baptist Message that his congregation’s concerns are broader than just one personality.

Instead, he described an “uneasiness” among church leaders about the “disconnect between some of our denominational leaders and our churches.”

“I’m not angry at the SBC, and neither are our people,” Graham said, “and I’m not working to start a movement to fire anyone.

“This is a difficult decision for me, personally,” he added. “I love Southern Baptists, and still want to be a cooperating partner as we have been for many years.

“We’re just concerned about the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, and feel the need to make some changes in the way we give.”

Moore told Baptist Press in a statement, “I love and respect Jack Graham and Prestonwood Baptist Church. This is a faithful church with gifted leaders and a long history of vibrant ministry working and witnessing for Christ.”

– Reporting by Baptist Press, Georgia Christian Index, and Louisiana Baptist Message

Inauguration news round-up

ib2newseditor —  January 20, 2017

small American flags in the background

Time: Trump held a very Godly inauguration
Christianity has been a part of the presidential inauguration since George Washington laid his hand on a Bible for the very first swearing-in. So, it was not unusual that Donald Trump sought to involve faith in his inauguration. But the ways in which the 45th President invoked God in unusually blunt ways in his inaugural address were. He quoted a Psalm of David from the Bible to buttress his policy. “The Bible tells us, ‘how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’”

S. Baptist involvement in the inauguration
The participation of at least five Southern Baptist pastors in inaugural activities for President Donald Trump continues a tradition of prayer, Scripture, and references to God surrounding presidential inaugurations dating back to George Washington. In addition to Friday’s activities, a Saturday, Jan. 21 National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington will feature Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, Texas pastors Jack Graham and Ramiro Peña and California pastor David Jeremiah.

Muslims angry imam to participate in prayer service
A popular Washington-area imam’s decision to issue the Muslim call to prayer at Trump’s inaugural prayer service has sparked a heated debate among American Muslim community leaders and activists over the appropriate ways to engage with a president, who they say has repeatedly disparaged Islam. Mohamed Magid, a Sudanese-American imam, is the only Muslim leader listed on a lineup packed with Evangelicals and other faith leaders who are scheduled to participate in the National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral.

SBC Pres. Gaines pens Christian response to inauguration
Today Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. As you know, Mr. Trump won a highly volatile election last November. Some see him as a candidate of much-needed change, readily resonating with his Reaganish slogan, “Make America Great Again!” Others see Mr. Trump as a less than desirable candidate for the highest office in the land. What are Southern Baptists to do?

Three S. Baptists nominated for cabinet positions
Three Southern Baptists — Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, and Sonny Perdue – have been nominated to serve in cabinet positions for the Trump administration. Price, a regular attendee at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., has been nominated as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Pruitt, a member of Tulsa-area First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., has been nominated as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, was announced Jan. 18 as Trump’s choice for agriculture secretary.

Presidents who mentioned God in inaugural address
Every U.S. President has mentioned God in their inaugural address, even if speaking of the Lord in their own way, fitting with the times. With thanks to Bill Federer in America’s God and Country, consider this sampling of mentions.

Sources: Time, Baptist Press Washington Post, Baptist Press (2), Christian Post

The BriefingNew outlook for high court cases under Trump?
Several Obama administration executive actions are currently in litigation and may disappear if Donald Trump’s administration undoes his predecessor’s policies. But many question marks remain about what executive actions Trump will take. One of the major cases at the Supreme Court this term, Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., addresses the matter of transgender restroom use in public schools.

Texas association may expel churches for LGBTQ views
Two Texas Baptist churches may be expelled from the Baptist General Convention of Texas for their welcoming open-door policies toward LGBTQ people, reports say. Wilshire Baptist in Dallas and First Baptist in Austin received letters from BGCT officials stating that because the churches had affirmed themselves with the LGBTQ people, they were “no longer being in harmonious cooperation with the BGCT.”

People donating to Planned Parenthood as Mike Pence
Some Americans unhappy with the election results have found a new way to protest. They’re sending donations to Planned Parenthood in the name of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who has called for cutting off federal funds to the organization and — as governor of Indiana — imposed tougher restrictions on abortion for women in his state.

Muslim attacks on Egyptian Christians rising
The Christian and Muslim villagers grew up together, played on the same soccer fields as kids, and attended the same schools. But that didn’t matter on a recent day: An argument between boys sparked clashes between neighbors, with Muslims torching shops owned by Christians. A Christian farmer ran into the melee to protect his two sons. Someone in the crowd hit him with a stick. Others jumped in, striking him repeatedly until he fell to the ground with blood seeping from his head.

LifeWay won’t sell Amy Grant Christmas album
LifeWay Christian Resources will not be selling Amy Grant’s new Christmas album this year, and the manager for the Nashville-based singer says it’s because it’s not Christian enough for the Southern Baptist retailer.

Sources: World Magazine, Houston Chronicle, CNN, Washington Post, The Tennessean

Signs of Hope

ib2newseditor —  May 5, 2016

Illinois women on a mission in South Asia see lives changed by the story many there had never heard.

Editor’s note: In April, a team of women from Illinois traveled to South Asia to share gospel stories and witness how believers there are working to push back spiritual darkness. Lindsay McDonald, a pastor’s wife from First Baptist Church in Casey, captured the trip in words and pictures.

Okay, you can start,” Mim* says, leaning towards Gail Faulkner, who sits on the chair beside her. Having practiced the “Creation to Christ” story for months now, today is Gail’s opportunity to tell the gospel story that her team traveled nearly 8,000 miles to share.

“So, I should go ahead and start the story?” Gail confirms with Mim, a believer working to reach others in her country. About 20 women are gathered, clustered together on handcrafted floor mats.

A Hindu woman offered her simple, empty home for today’s story. The room is dark and still.

The women look expectantly at the visiting Americans and their translators and ministry partners—women from this country who have converted to Christianity.

“Yes, tell them. They are thirsty,” Mim responds with urgency.

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Women here talk to each other while they prepare meals, wash clothes in the village pond, and care for their children. When the women in the last village on the last day were asked about how to apply the story to their lives, they said, “If we spend less time gossiping, we will have more time to share the gospel.”

Gail, a pastor’s wife from Bethalto, Ill., joined this mission team even when this part of the world wasn’t on her radar. She says God made it clear to her that it was her time to be on the team, and cleared her path of any financial obstacles to traveling thousands of miles from home.

Joining her on the team were six other women from Illinois and three from the Carolinas. They came from a variety of life stages: young mothers, grandmothers, retirees, professionals. All prepared and trained for months to bring the message of hope Isaiah prophesied to the Israelites thousands of years earlier: a perfect sacrifice, Jesus.

The Illinois volunteers came to partner with two missionaries serving in this densely populated country, and three national believers who served as their guides and interpreters. These Christians focus primarily on evangelism to Muslim women, who they can encounter more freely because of the culture here. The nation’s oral tradition is built on conversations and storytelling. Much like the story about to begin in this dark house.

Out of darkness

Life in South Asia is hard.

“Oppression is real and hope seems distant,” says Amy Neibel, a mission team member from First Baptist Church in Carmi. In this country in South Asia, 80% of the people live on less than $2 a day, and 40% live on less than $1.

Poverty is real.

It bombards all of your senses—the smell of waste in the street, as adults and children sift through it, looking for items to recycle and sell. Cars honk in the dense traffic, and rickshaw drivers pedal passengers to and fro for a minimal wage.

Darkness is prevalent.

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Sights of daily life whizzed past our van as we traveled the dusty, dirty, bumpy roads that are congested with chaos. Traffic, animals, people. Vendor after vendor sells fruit, meat and South Asian cuisine. Physically and mentally disabled adults lay on the side of the road, and beggars tap on the vehicle window looking for money.

“It is a place where you not only sense it, but also see the spiritual darkness on the faces of the people,” Amy says. The country is 98% Muslim and many haven’t heard about salvation through Jesus.Almost 16 million people hear the Muslim call to prayer fives times a day; some stop and pray and others proceed with their day.“Though you can sense the darkness, they are just like us—they are hurting,” team leader Kimberly Sowell says during a morning devotional. Sowell’s ministry, Bangladesh: For Faith and Freedom, supports job training for women and girls, offering them a way out of the hopelessness that is so prevalent.

“All of God’s people are called to be used of him but why do some not go?” Kimberly asks the team. They answer, We’re comfortable where we are. The missions call is for “other people.” There’s plenty of spiritual need at home.

Most of all, this place is hard.

“God is working here. That’s why there is persecution, if God wasn’t moving there would be no persecution,” says Mim.

Into the light

Walking is a part of the daily routine here. While out one day in the capital city and a nearby port city, Gail says, “I noticed there was no life. The faces of the women passing me were stoic. No expression. The lack of hearing the voices of children crushed my grandma’s heart. I’ve never been to an area where the noise of children playing, yelling, running and crying could not be heard.”

Stepping into the Light of Life and Light of Hope Learning Centers is a different story. Within these walls, there is life! Young smiles greet the team as they enter. They play Twister, Phase Ten, and Old Maid with the girls to teach them colors, animals, numbers, and occupations.

The ministry Sowell began in 2013 supports efforts to provide nutrition, hygiene, education and vocational training to young women. Here, they also hear the gospel, so they can find faith and freedom in Jesus Christ.

“The Light of Hope Learning Center is an amazing place full of laughter and love,” says Connie Lang, a volunteer from First Baptist of Casey, on her first international mission trip. “It is run by an amazing missionary, Susan Kirker,* who loves the girls and their mothers.

“As we built relationships with the girls, I loved hearing them recite the Bible story that was being taught to them,” Connie says. “This trip has been life-changing. I have grown closer to the Lord and have seen the power of prayer at work.

“I would love to go back again.”

While leaving the capital city headed to our next area of work on Friday, we had just started to pray for the city when we drove by a mosque. Hundreds of men were lying facedown praying to Allah. Our hearts were sick to see the lostness right before our eyes. It’s everywhere—less than 1% are believers. You can feel the spiritual darkness.

Both centers are funded by the International Mission Board, but they are run independently from one another, with different directors and school formats. Light of Life, located in the capital, has a school for at-risk girls during the day and brings in Muslim women in the afternoons for sewing lessons.

Light of Hope offers similar activities. Girls have the opportunity to sew in the mornings while earning a daily wage, and then attend school in the afternoon.

Both centers give hope to hopeless lives of the girls living in the city slums. “Yet it is even more than that,” Gail says. “The girls are offered a daily clean shower, two meals for the day, an education, sewing skills, Bible teaching and love.”

 Walking in new life

Back in the dark village house, the Hindu and Muslim women listen to the “Creation to Christ” story and then take turns repeating it, trying to commit it to memory. Since they live in an oral culture, many do not know how to read or write. Messages must be verbally transmitted in speech or song among friends and family, and then passed down through generations.

More than 30 women accepted Christ after hearing the stories the team shared. Several who believed have already set up a time to be baptized—a big step of obedience in a place where the decision to follow Christ could bring persecution.

“God showed himself mightily to the South Asians and our team,” said Niece Edwards from First Baptist, Carmi. “I was stretched as never before and learned more about God’s sustaining power.”

“Walking through this South Asian country during this season of my life, really displayed how I need to walk beside my husband with the purpose of harvest,” said team member Kathy Fullerton. “We need to be intentional with neighbors, strangers, friends, and family because the gospel can permeate cultural bounds. Jesus died for those in burkas and overalls alike.”

*Names changed.