Month: September 2012

14 Christian schools contest abortion mandate

POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. (BP) — A small Christian college in Missouri has filed suit against the federal government over the mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

The College of the Ozarks, in Point Lookout, Mo., is the 14th Christian school to challenge the mandate in court. The school timed its suit to coincide with the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, school President Jerry C. Davis said in a prepared statement.

“The so-called Affordable Care Act is government at its worst,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue. It is a constitutional issue, and the College wants its rights respected and enforced, instead of being trampled upon. The Constitution still matters.”

The College of the Ozarks, founded in 1905 by a Presbyterian missionary, objects to the administration’s requirement — as part of the 2010 health care law — that mandates health insurance plans offered by employers to cover elective abortion and abortifacient drugs. Although the College of the Ozarks qualifies for a one-year exemption to the mandate, which went into effect Aug. 1, the delay only postpones the inevitable, Davis said. The government’s “safe harbor” is more like Pearl Harbor, he said: “Do you want to be shot today or do you want to be shot tomorrow?”

Like other small schools, College of the Ozarks has seen insurance costs skyrocket. Rising premiums might force the school to make a substantive change to its insurance plan, which would end its eligibility for the exemption, Davis said.

According to Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal group representing several schools, institutions and companies fighting the mandate, there are 29 challenges against the mandate pending in courts around the country. Judges have dismissed three cases, two of which were filed by schools. Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic school in North Carolina, and Wheaton College, an evangelical school in Illinois, had their cases dismissed by a judge in Washington, D.C. In both cases, the judge ruled the schools hadn’t yet been harmed by the mandate and so did not have grounds to sue.

But the government is only dragging its feet by offering the one-year exemption and delaying the legal challenges, Davis said. The mandate puts all religious employers in an untenable position of choosing to obey the law or ignore their religious beliefs, he said. At some point, the government will have to defend its decisions or drop the mandate, Davis said. Although the mandate’s opponents keep hoping the government will come to its senses, such a resolution seems unlikely, Davis said.

“Give us an exemption we can all live with,” he said. “Otherwise, we want a restraining order and eventually want our day in court.”

Leigh Jones writes for World News Service, where this story first appeared. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Westridge Fellowship hosts Tejano heritage event

GRAND PRAIRIE—September marks Tejano Heritage Month, officially designated as such nine years ago by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. On Sept. 15, Westridge Fellowship in Grand Prairie—formerly Westridge Baptist Church—hosted a Tejano heritage event put on by the organization Reviving History.

“Few Texans know that the vice president of the Republic of Texas was a Tejano, Lorenzo De Zavala,” said Reviving History spokesperson Joshua Samuel. The event featured a Tejano band, door prizes, a piñata, and traditional Tejano barbecue. A video on Tejano history produced by the group Texas Tejanos was shown.

Westridge’s cooperation with Reviving History is not surprising. Pastor J.D. Stewart has long been concerned with the education of young people. He has been involved with student groups such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Campus Crusade for Christ.

He said he believes that violence on campuses and public shootings like the tragedy in Aurora, Colo., last summer partly result from the absence in the public school of biblical principles. His love of Jesus and concern for kids explain why Stewart accepted the call to leave his position as a telecommunications corporate executive in 2004 to become the director of Westridge Academy, the preschool and day care program of the church, and later its pastor.

Stewart has also long been concerned that young people are not only unaware of biblical history, but also lack knowledge of United States history. Enter Linda and Bob Patterson and Linda’s son, Joshua Samuel. Linda and Josh had watched American history videos while Josh was recovering from an illness. From this, the organization Reviving History was born. Josh wanted to make U.S. history accessible to others. The group needed a place to meet and approached Stewart.

“Our deacons got together. We prayed for two weeks. Then we called her and said, ‘The church is yours.’ We let Reviving History use our facilities on Saturday afternoons.” Reviving History has met at Westridge since June 2011. Everyone is welcome, and efforts are being redoubled in 2012 to create additional interest. Linda, Josh, and others canvas the area neighborhoods, putting out door hangers before each meeting. Josh also maintains the group’s website. Bob finances the operation and helps behind the scenes.

Reviving History has a website: revivinghistory.com. The church’s website is livewithchrist.com.

30 trust Christ via DR effort

More than 30 people in Louisiana had made professions of faith through the ministry of SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers as of Sept. 20.

SBTC DR Director Jim Richardson said the DR teams were scheduled to remain in Louisiana through the end of September serving victims of Hurricane Isaac.

Mud-out recovery teams along with volunteers serving in chaplaincy, feeding, shower/laundry and childcare were serving at Living Water Baptist Church in LaPlace, First Baptist Church in Norco, and First Baptist Church of Covington.

Through Sept. 20, the workers had served 1,242 volunteer days, prepared 24,368 meals, and seen more than 30 professions of faith.

Through SBTC volunteers, the gospel was presented 91 times and 445 spiritual contacts were made through prayer, conversation and witnessing. Additionally, 175 sites were cleaned up and volunteers provided 605 hot showers and did 341 loads of laundry.

Bible Conf. aims to help pastors through trials

SAN ANTONIO—“Forged by Fire” is the theme of the 2012 Bible Conference of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The conference on Nov. 11-12 precedes the convention’s annual meeting Nov. 12-13 at Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio.

This year’s Bible Conference president is the host church’s pastor, R. James Shupp. Featured preachers are Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas; Danny Forshee, pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church, Austin; Rudy Gonzalez of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary San Antonio campus; Tony Mathews, pastor of North Garland Baptist Fellowship, Garland; Tom Pennington, pastor of Countryside Bible Church, Southlake; and Robert Webb, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Kaufman.

The theme is taken from Isaiah 43:2, 1 Peter 1:6, 2 Corinthians 4:7, and Jeremiah 20:9.

“Each time I’ve walked the hallways during one of our conventions, I come across a fellow pastor who is suffering,” Shupp said of the conference’s theme of “Forged by Fire.”

“We need to encourage those who are giving a pound of flesh each day in their service to the Lord,” Shupp added. “The Ministry Cafés will deal with some of the greatest challenges we face in the ministry. Criticism, conflict, and change are some of the most difficult waters to navigate. The people who are speaking on these issues have walked through these fires and been forged by them. I’m praying that this conference will be a turning point in someone’s ministry. I believe the best way to help a church find health is to heal the man behind the pulpit.”

In addition to the preaching sessions, the Ministry Café from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on Monday will feature three different sessions with Floyd addressing the topic “The Fires of Criticism,” Mike Smith, president of Jacksonville College, addressing “The Fires of Conflict,” and Chris Moody, pastor of First Baptist Church of Beaumont, addressing “The Fires of Change.”

Registration for the Ministry Cafes is available at sbtexas.com/am12 and is $5 per person. Also, a Women’s Luncheon during the Monday Bible Conference will feature Thelma “Mama T” Wells of A Woman of God Ministries in Dallas. Cost for the Women’s Luncheon is $10.

Other related luncheons and gatherings on Monday include:

  • SBTC African American Fellowship Dinner: 4:30-6 p.m. in the Faith Room 203/205.
  • Southwestern Seminary Dinner: 4:30-6 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall.
  • Ezekiel Project Dinner: A free dinner on church revitalization. Pre-registration is at sbtexas.com/am12. 4:30-6 p.m. in the Victory Gym.
  • Forge Fellowship for Young Pastors: 9-10:30 p.m. (at the conclusion of the evening session) in the Fellowship Hall.


Tuesday events include:

  • President’s Luncheon: Noon-1:15 p.m. in the Victory Gym with Frank Page, president, Executive Committee of the SBC.
  • Criswell College Dinner and Dialogue: 4:45-6 p.m. in the Victory Gym. Topic: The Sinner’s Prayer and the Public Invitation: An Inquiry by a Calvinist and non-Calvinist. Moderators: Jerry A Johnson & Jim Richards. Includes Calvinist  Tom Nettles of Southern Seminary and non-Calvinist Barry Creamer of Criswell College.


DAY OF PRAYER/FASTING
The Day of Fasting & Prayer for the SBTC annual meeting is set for Wed., Oct. 10. The SBTC officers and staff are inviting churches to join in praying that the meeting and related events will be God honoring.

SBTC staff ministers will be available to lead or assist any San Antonio-area church in a prayer service on Oct. 10. On Oct. 11, SBTC will host a fellowship breakfast and luncheon that will provide more details about the Bible Conference and annual meeting.

Registration for the prayer breakfast and luncheon in San Antonio on Oct. 11 is available at sbtexas.com/ampastor. A prayer guide to aid your church during the Oct. 10 prayer service is downloadable there as well.

General information about the annual meeting and the Bible Conference is accessible at sbtexas.com/am12.

ANNUAL MEETING
The annual meeting, based on the theme “Hearing & Doing,” will feature a guest sermon on Tuesday night from Charles Stanley, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta and internationally known for his “In Touch” television and radio ministry.

Also speaking during the annual meeting will be SBTC President Terry Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, who will bring his message to the convention on Monday night.

David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, will preach the annual Convention Sermon on Tuesday morning, and SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards will bring his report on Tuesday afternoon.

Land: Man”s sin nature guarantees failure of both socialism and unfettered capitalism

FORT WORTH—“We’re deciding in this election what kind of country we’re going to be, whether it’s France or the United States,” warned Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard D. Land in his Sept. 6 address to a luncheon gathering at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. After addressing the intersection of “Theological Truth and Economic Theory” and the implications on the upcoming election, Land urged participants, “Be an informed voter and vote your values, your beliefs, your convictions.”

As a featured guest for The Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, he reminded the audience of the essential truth of the fallen nature of man, referring to Jeremiah 17:9 and Romans 3:23. “Selfishness is a reality, not a virtue,” he insisted.

With that biblical foundation in mind, Land said Marxism and socialism will not work. “If man is what the Bible says he is, the vast majority of men and women are not going to work according to their abilities and receive according to their need. The reality is that unless people get to keep a significant portion of their labor, they’re not going to work as hard as they would otherwise.”

In contrast, Land said, “Capitalism works best at producing wealth because it is most in accord with the biblical truth about man’s nature,” offering modern  China and India as examples.

Furthermore, human sinfulness can also corrupt laissez-faire capitalism, he said. Recalling Lord Acton’s warning in 1887 that “all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Land said that with no external controls, unfettered capitalism would exploit workers and seek to monopolize markets. All men are sinners and fallen human beings, he emphasized, including capitalists, labor union leaders, government officials and regulators.

Land recalled that America’s federal government system was put together by men who believed in human sinfulness and wanted to put a check on the power of government by developing a system of checks and balances in the three branches of government revolving around the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. “Our system works best when those three are in equilibrium with each other.”

Similarly, capital, labor and government coexist with the law of supply and demand in a regulated, balanced capitalist system, he explained.

Warning of the “generational theft” by which “we are stealing our children’s and grandchildren’s future,” Land said their future is threatened by the process of foreclosure. Unless this is reversed quickly, it will guarantee they’ll have a lower standard of living, he added.

He contrasted collectivism and individualism as two competing philosophies of government, then spoke of three instances where government developed policies which transformed the nation for good:

  • The Homestead Act allowed “people who were born not with a silver spoon or even a spoon” to head west and “put sweat and blood equity” into homesteading the land. “Did they build it?” he asked, answering, “Yes, but the government gave them the opportunity.”
  • Land grant colleges were established as the government provided land for states to develop universities.
  • The G.I. Bill offered a means of saying thanks to veterans, giving them an opportunity to buy a house and go to college. Growing up in a Houston neighborhood where streets were named Bastogne, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Pershing and Doolittle, Land said, “You didn’t ask, ‘What did your daddy do?’ You asked, ‘What branch was your daddy in?”

Land said, “Young men who had served their country had the opportunity to be the first persons in their families to go to college and that investment in human capital transformed us. It was the economic engine that drove incredible prosperity in the last half of the 20th century and they earned it.”

Repeating comments from the preface of his book “The Divided States of America,” he closed by saying, “What we have right now in this country is a full-fledged debate between those who want to remake America and those who want to restore America. Many who took that wrong turn in the mid-’60s, when we began to emphasize rights and privileges at the expense of obligations and responsibility, now understand the consequences and want to restore an America that is different than what we have now.”

Rural West Texas church finds new life after fire

More members belong to Carey First Baptist Church than the census says live in Carey, Texas—a town of about 60 people roughly two hours southeast of Amarillo and two hours northeast of Lubbock in the Texas Panhandle.

With about 100 people attending, the church has seen an exponential increase over the last 13 years—up from 18 members in 1999.

The pastor says the growth had nothing to do with him, everything to do with the Lord, and quite a bit to do with a devastating tragedy a decade ago.

As a train rolled through Carey on the night of Sept. 12, 2002, the engineer spotted flames from the church building and called 911. Emergency operators sent out the call to the fire department and also called Randy Wilson, the pastor of Carey First Baptist Church.

Wilson drove over and peered through his windshield at a church building engulfed in bright orange flames, just as fire trucks filed in behind him.

Firefighters soon realized the fire was burning too hot and was being fueled by a gas water heater, prohibiting the crews from quelling it. Wilson said he remembers telling the fire department not to risk their lives battling an unquenchable blaze.

“It was a devastating time for the church,” Wilson said. “Word got out and we had 50 members hanging out watching the fire all night long.”

The devastation, though, was not accompanied by a spirit of defeat or hopelessness, but instead a determination to go on.

When Wilson went to tell one of the 90-year-old deacons what happened, the man asked if it was totally gone. Burned to the ground and a total loss, Wilson replied.

“Well, it’s time to build,” the deacon said.

And that was the consensus from the whole church, Wilson added. But they soon discovered that rebuilding costs would far exceed their insurance money.

One day while riding the bus to a Future Farmers of America event, Wilson’s daughter, Amy, kept seeing Baptist church after Baptist church pass by her window, and she got an idea. Pulling out a piece of paper from her bag, Amy wrote a letter to all those Baptist churches telling them what had happened to Carey First Baptist Church and simply asking them to pray for them.

“We sent a copy of that letter to every Baptist church in the state,” Wilson said. “We didn’t change a single word in it.”

Soon, letters began filtering in, and many of them included money for rebuilding.

“Churches started calling me saying, ‘We have a mission team, and we go and do work at churches,” Wilson recalled.

Call after call came in with more churches wanting to help by sending teams or donating materials.

“Every church that called and the work that they did came exactly when we needed it,” Wilson said, explaining how God had ordained even the timing details for the rebuilding.

Everything from metal studs to sheet rock began pouring in as church teams came to work on the church side-by-side with the dedicated and determined members.

“Every weekend people would just show up and work,” Wilson said.

At first Wilson had been praying that they would complete the building debt-free, but soon he realized he needed to pray that they would finish debt-free with money in the bank so that ministry could continue once the new building was established.

“A month later we walked in debt-free with $10,000 in the bank,” Wilson said.

Now, 10 years after the church’s building burned to the ground, Carey First Baptist is thriving, even drawing people from the nearby town of Childress and offering Spanish translation for each sermon as it extends its reach to embrace the Latino community.

Wilson heaps praise on his Lord.

“It’s a fun time right now, watching it grow,” Wilson said, “because I can’t do it. It’s a God thing. Anytime a church grows because of man, it doesn’t last long.”

But lasting growth, both spiritual and size-wise, has been characteristic of Carey’s church for a decade now, assuring Wilson that God has his hand on the congregation.

“Anytime you start getting growth, people start getting excited and getting involved,” Wilson said. “It’s
helped my morale and the church folks’ too.”

Wilson said he’s been using the Baptist Faith and Message to teach church members about Baptist distinctives and biblical doctrines, and to help them understand why the church believes the way it does. He said they have been enjoying the study and learning a lot.

Wilson said he and the church have learned a good deal from the entire experience God has allowed them to walk through.

“The lesson would be to be faithful,” Wilson said. “We must be faithful to who God is and to what his Word says. We have a saying that ‘nothing is set in stone except what God’s Word says.’”

And as the growing church continues to reach out to their community, and even to nations as far away as Ecuador and Belize, Wilson asks that just as people agreed and committed to pray for them when their church building burned down, that they would continue to keep Carey First Baptist Church in their prayers.

“Pray that we continue to be the lighthouse God has called us to be,” Wilson said. “That we continue to do God’s will, God’s way.”

On Election Day, be salt and light

November 6 is Election Day in the United States. There are people who see it as just another day. It is amazing to me the disinterest on the part of a number of Christians and especially some pastors.

One of the reasons for a lack of participation is the notion that believers could jeopardize their witness to the nations if they are patriots to their own. This approach causes believers to avoid being salt and light. It may cost us the opportunity in the future to be a witness to the nations. If we lose our liberty in the U.S., we will not be able to go to the unengaged peoples of the world as easily. The liberty we enjoy in America is because Christians were a part of the formation of the Republic. Christians and non-Christians insisted on religious liberty when they began our country. The American experiment allows believers to express themselves in the public square. This freedom was not permitted in European nations and especially in non-Christian countries of the Middle and Far East. This continues to be the norm in most of the world.

Critics of political involvement like to point to Jesus as someone who did not seek to change a very oppressive government. The Apostle Paul lived under one of the cruelest rulers ever to wear the crown. He said to pray for kings and obey the law. However, the biblical ethic of civic involvement does not violate Jesus’ example or Paul’s teachings. Jesus did not come to change a political system; He came to die for our sins and resurrect to be Lord of all. Paul’s primary purpose was to advance the gospel within his context. Jesus and Paul did not directly confront many social ills. Yet it would be foolish to think that because Paul did not write explicitly against slavery that he endorsed it. Or because Jesus said to pay taxes when they were owed that he favors an oppressive redistribution of wealth. The outgrowth of individual salvation helps shape a collective culture of justice and biblical morality.

The Bible clearly teaches that God is interested in nations. He chose Abraham to start one. The Old Testament is replete with references about God’s judgment on nations for their sins. Nations can either be ethnic sub-divisions of races or geo-political groupings. Either way, God deals with nations according to how they deal with him—Psalm 9:17. To dismiss this teaching from God’s Word will bring a swift reckoning.

America is different from the nations in biblical times. We can participate in the decision making process. The people can make the choice to have moral laws that are based on biblical principles or to reject them. The Republic formed by our founding fathers was based on a Judeo-Christian foundation. By our decisions we determine how God relates to us as a geo-political entity known as a nation. Our national relationship with Israel can have an effect on our immediate future. There are critics who hold that the state of Israel now in existence isn’t the one God is speaking of in scripture. My answer is that the Jewish people who are there are still descendants of Abraham! He blesses those who bless them and curses those who curse them.

We are in a conundrum. In the presidential election we have a man who says he is a Christian yet rejects marriage’s definition as between one man and one woman. He also affirms the taking of life through abortion. The other candidate is a practicing member of a cult. As one wit quipped, “We are not electing a theologian in chief. We are electing a commander in chief.” We cannot abdicate the right to vote that has been purchased by the blood of our nation’s sons and daughters. It is not the lesser of two evils we have to choose from. As Christians, what are we to do? We must realize the ballot is to be cast for the one who will move our nation in a more biblically responsible direction.

Religious liberty, freedom of speech, traditional marriage, abortion and many other issues are at stake in this election. Our nation’s direction will be determined for the foreseeable future. More grievously, we could move ourselves away from the favor of God. We must pray for God’s grace and mercy. Participate as a believer. Vote your biblical convictions.

Land praying for seamless ERLC transition

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Addressing trustees of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission during their yearly meeting in Nashville, Tenn., retiring ERLC President Richard D. Land said he is praying for “as seamless a transition as possible” as trustees seek his replacement.

The Houston native announced last summer his plans to retire in October 2013 after what will have been 25 years leading the SBC ethics and social concerns agency.

“I have already begun to pray daily for the search committee. I know you are going to be open to the Holy Spirit’s leadership,” Land told the board members gathered at the SBC Executive Committee building, which houses the ERLC’s Nashville office, on Sept. 11.

Before addressing trustees, Land paused for prayer for the families of 9/11 victims on the 11th anniversary of the attacks in New York and Washington D.C.

Search committee chairman Barry Creamer of Dallas told the TEXAN after the meeting that the committee has held two teleconferences in addition to its meeting during the trustee gathering in Nashville and would have a website linked to ERLC.com beginning in October that would include updates in the search process.

Creamer said he couldn’t give details of the meetings except to say that the two teleconferences were more than an hour long.

“We’ve been pretty active in defining how we are going to come at the process. We’re optimistic and confident in God. It’s very positive,” he said.

The search committee met in executive session with the full board on Sept. 12.

AN ‘HONOR & PRIVILEGE’
He told trustees that he senses the Lord’s release from his assignment to the ERLC, noting a difference between the calling to a ministry assignment and the call to the gospel ministry—the latter being a lifelong assignment, he said.

He began preaching at age 16 and will soon be 66, he said.

“I’ve been at the ERLC half my entire ministry … and it has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve the Lord and his people called Southern Baptists through the ERLC,” Land told the trustees.

He recounted being one of three candidates for the then-Christian Life Commission presidency in 1988 and being doubtful of his chances, telling trustees that he had it on good authority that he was initially the third choice of the search committee. An offer to go to work in the George H.W. Bush administration was on the table—provided Bush was elected later that year in his run against Democrat nominee Michael Dukakis. Land had earlier taken leave from Criswell College to serve Texas Gov. Bill Clements for more than a year.

“I think they are going to select one of the other candidates and I think we are going to Washington,” Land recalled telling his wife, Becky.

When that CLC search committee, meeting at a Dallas hotel, called Land to see if he and Becky Land could meet them for dinner, a surprised Land scrambled for a babysitter and found a willing one in Paige Patterson, then Criswell College president.

When the search committee told him of their desire to nominate him for the job, “I was stunned. My wife was stunned. I took it as providential and we came,” Land recalled.

He took over a Christian Life Commission that had been a key player in the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, much against the grain of rank-and-file Southern Baptists.

Despite differences with Valentine’s views on many issues, Land recalled his enthusiasm for the agency growing up as a teenager in early 1960s Houston, as Valentine led the CLC to be “on the right side of the race issue when too much of Southern Baptist life and too much of American life was on the wrong side.”

Land said Valentine, who died in 2008, should be commended for his work on race relations.
“And I’m grateful for the role that God has allowed us to play in perpetuating that, to the racial reconciliation resolution in 1995, which was a step in a long journey.”

“We’ve now made another step. And I rejoice that Dr. Fred Luter has been elected president of our Southern Baptist Convention,” Land said. “That a convention that was born in slavery, one that endorsed, by and large, segregation, becomes a place where God could change our hearts to a place that we are now the most ethnically diverse denomination in the country, and [that] we have now elected our first African American president is a trophy of God’s grace, a monument to the fact that God does change hearts. But we haven’t arrived, That’s another step in the process.”

Land said the denomination must strive to reflect the demographic makeup of America and he said he believes Luter will help the SBC do that.

Racial reconciliation will be a significant focus of the ERLC’s work in 2013, Land added.

PUBLIC POLICY CONCERNS
In briefing trustees on the past year’s activities, Land said the agency had engaged more than 70 different cultural and political issues through ERLC.com, sent 122 unique letters to government leaders on varied topics, addressed 51 bills and legislative actions, and worked with 32 distinct coalitions to support biblical values.

Before the 112th Congress, the ERLC staff has spoken on a range of social issues dealing with bioethics, the environment, government debt, religious liberty and human rights.

Among them: taxpayer-funded abortions, federal funding of the United Nations Population Fund, which supports China’s one-child policy, freedom of conscience for healthcare workers in the new healthcare mandate, repeal of the healthcare law, and traditional marriage.

The ERLC, Land said, is also on record supporting laws denying entry into the country of Chinese government officials or those guilty of human rights abuses, and opposing patent reform that would allow the potential patenting of human genes.

Between Land, Barrett Duke, vice president for research and public policy, and other staff members, the agency gave 351 news interviews with a potential audience of 4.5 billion people, Land told trustees.

PORN-FREE CAMPAIGN
Also, the agency will be promoting the “Million Man Porn-Free Campaign,” led by Florida pastor Jay Dennis with materials published by the WMU. The materials and a website should be available in time for churches to use by fall 2013 with plans to showcase the campaign at the SBC annual meeting next June in Houston.

Pornography is a scourge “as lethal a threat to the family, as lethal a threat to the country as anything that we face, and it is probably destroying more lives every day even than abortion,” Land said.

He told trustee the average age for American boys to first view hard-core pornography has dropped from about age 16 a decade ago to around age 11.  

“Now it wouldn’t do anybody in this room any good to be exposed to hard-core pornography, but it would do none of us as much damage as it would an 11-year-old boy. We cannot afford to not talk about this in our churches. We’re being bombarded with it through the Internet,” Land related.

“Personally, I believe the devil has figured out that the most powerful weapon in his arsenal to destroy Christians’ lives and Christian families is pornography—Internet pornography.”

Land said Dennis has included age-appropriate materials for boys and teenagers as well as girls, men and women.

“I’ve seen this material, I’ve been thought it. I can tell you it’s great material, biblically based, and is age appropriate,” Land said.

OTHER BUSINESS
Also reporting to trustees, Duke, the Washington-based vice president for public policy and research, said a party platform comparison guide pulled directly from both major party platforms would soon be available at the ERLC’s ivotevalues.com website. Duke said the document would include only those issues that both parties have addressed.

The ERLC, through its Psalm 139 Project and in cooperation with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, has been able to place an ultrasound machine in New Orleans. Donors gave $17,000 toward it. The project is being promoted on the Web through Psalm139project.org and its Facebook page. In addition to New Orleans, the Psalm 139 Project has been able to place sonogram machines at Riverside Pregnancy Center in Highland, Calif., Choices for Women Resource Center in New Albany, Ind., Central Texas Life Care in San Marcos, Texas, and Florida Baptist Children’s Homes in Lakeland, Fla.

In their business session, the trustees:

  • approved a 2012-13 operating budget of $3,259,487, a slight increase over the $3,108,170 in the last fiscal year. Annually, The ERLC receives 1.65 percent of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program budget, the lowest percentage of any SBC entity.
  • named three men with Texas ties as fellows at the ERLC’s Research Institute. They are ERLC trustee Barry Creamer, vice president of academic affairs and professor of humanities at Criswell College in Dallas; Trey Dimsdale, research associate at the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement; and Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Seminary.
  • voted to grant Land, upon his retirement, the title “president emeritus.” The title carries no voting authority or monetary compensation.
  • approved from surplus funds a $250,000 grant to the Land Center for Cultural Engagement upon Land’s retirement next year. The center will be housed at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. The gift is given in honor of Land’s 25 years of service at the ERLC and includes approximately $100,000 previously designated for the center by the trustees. Established in 2007, the center encourages the study and research of ethics, public policy and other cultural issues.
  • named Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, recipients of the John Leland Religious Liberty Award for 2012. Nadarkhani spent more than 1,000 days in prison for his Christian faith and refused to renounce Jesus Christ in the face of threatened execution. He was freed Sept. 8. Dolan was prominent in opposing the federal healthcare law’s requirement that religious institutions provide insurance coverage for things that conflict with their religious convictions.
  • named Southern Baptist and Louisiana native Tony Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, as 2012 recipient of the Richard D. Land Distinguished Service Award. Perkins has been an outspoken advocate for traditional values.
  • elected new board officers. The new trustee chairman is Richard Piles, pastor of First Baptist Church of Camden, Ark. Stephen Long of the Northwest Baptist Association in Toledo, Ohio, was elected vice chairman, and Lynn Fruechting, a physician from Newton, Kan., was elected secretary.

Southern Baptist teacher killed in Jordan ‘loved by everyone’

IRBID, Jordan—A warm breeze whips sand around cars creeping down the main street of Irbid, Jordan. A man gestures to catch the attention of a carload of Americans, then lays his hand over his heart.

He knows there is only one place they can be going. It seems the whole city is mourning the death of Southern Baptist representative Cheryll Harvey.

“Even now, I can't believe she has died,” said Eman, a young Jordanian woman, as she clutches a small cup of the bitter, Arabic coffee typically served at wakes.
 

Eman is among dozens at the wake, shedding tears, sharing stories and paying their respects to the woman who “loved everyone and was loved by everyone.” They are crowded in the small classrooms in Irbid where Harvey taught.

“Many people loved Miss Cheryll,” Eman said, “many, many.”

Harvey, 55, from Sudan, Texas, taught English and other subjects in Jordan for 24 years. She was found stabbed to death in her apartment Sept. 4. Robbery was the apparent motive, according to police reports.

But to students, friends and colleagues gathered at the center Sept. 10, no motive will ever make sense.

“I have not been able to sleep since I heard the news,” said Muhammad, a young man Harvey tutored at his home after a problem with his legs made him unable to attend classes.

“I did not sleep, either,” said his brother Ahmad, also Harvey's student.

“Many of us have not slept,” echoed one of Harvey's colleagues.

They smile as they remember Harvey, they recall the many hours she spent working.

“She was the most selfless person I knew, and the busiest. I don't know how she did all she did every day,” another colleague said. “She started this center in 2000, and from the very beginning, people came and it grew and grew. And she spent so much of her time visiting the students in their homes. People just met her and loved her immediately.”

People like Muhannad, who met Harvey on the first day the center opened. Harvey reached out to the shy, young man who rarely talked. He invited her over for Friday lunch, and she “entered the heart” of his entire family.

Harvey ate with them nearly every Friday for the past 12 years, Muhannad said.

“I loved her as a mother, and she loved me as a son,” said Muhannad, who had her listed as “Mama” in his mobile phone. “But she didn't just love me. Anyone who asked her for help, she would help.”

For several hours, Muhannad sits at one of the classroom desks, recounting detail after detail of Harvey's gifts to Irbid, as if he can't get them out fast enough.

“She helped me pass college and nursing school. She sat with me and my sister one day for hours in the hot sun while my sister applied for the army. She took a friend who had cancer back and forth on the long drive to the hospital two or three times a week,” he said.

Harvey's closest friends were Jordanians. Most storeowners in the area knew her well; her dry cleaner wept when he heard of her death. And Harvey often spoke of staying in Irbid after she retired, Muhannad said.

“Everyone loved her. The children in my family would run to her and jump in her arms. She brought them chocolate, and she came over with gifts for them on all our holidays,” Muhannad said. “And we would always go to her house for Christmas and all her holidays.”

They would, and so would all her other students, plus every kid in a reasonable radius.

“One of her friends had many small children when Miss Cheryll moved to Irbid, and Miss Cheryll told them if they studied hard and passed their classes, she would take them on a trip somewhere,” Muhannad said.

Those kids took her at her word, and she kept it, Muhannad said. Now they are in high school.

“She is an angel, really. She is angel,” he said. “She is always smiling and always loving, not just my family, but many, many families. She's a very honest worker, and she has helped me with all my life.”

Muhannad really means “all.” When he married, he took Harvey with him to meet the prospective wives and their families, an honor and role usually reserved for the son's mother, aunt or sisters.

“She went with me to seven different girls' families,” he said. “I loved Miss Cheryll and respected her and wanted her to approve of the woman I married.”

Now he and his wife, Doa'a, are expecting a baby. When Harvey heard the news, she exclaimed, “I'm finally going to be a grandmother,” Muhannad recounted.

“I have promised that if it is a girl, we are going to name her Cheryll.”

Muhannad's mother, Wajcha, nods agreement.

“Cheryll was like my daughter. If she had been one of my own daughters, I couldn't be more sad,” Wajcha said. “As much as I could possibly say she was respectable, she was more than that. Everything about her was good.”

Two days after the wake in Irbid, dozens more colleagues and friends gathered under a tent for a memorial service in Ajloun, the mountain town where Harvey taught for 12 years before moving to Irbid.
 

“What shall I say about this sister who left family and country to serve as a stranger for Jesus Christ among us? Her life was her school to us — the way she loved, lived and encouraged the people around her,” said a local pastor who spoke at the service. “She did it because she loved Jesus Christ.”

Another colleague agreed, telling the crowd that Harvey's choice to leave parents, brothers and friends 24 years ago also is a testimony to her love for Jordan.

“Her body may be in Texas, but her heart is in Jordan,” he said. “She gave her life here.”

Everyone who knew Harvey will remember her for hundreds of little things, Muhannad said.

“Once she brought light to all the floors of her apartment complex — she bought light fixtures for every floor out of her own money,” he said.

She shed light in other ways, too, said Aziz, a fellow teacher.

“She understood and respected the culture, which is a big deal, to sacrifice and do that which is bizarre to you,” Aziz said. “She was a great person. The Bible says we have to be humble and simple, two things that make us believers, and she was both of those things.”

Mourners at both services left notes in a memorial book for Harvey, some in English and some in Arabic.

“She teach us not only English but how to live and how to love life,” one student wrote. “She was like a candle who burned herself to show others the light.”

Ava Thomas is a writer and editor in Europe for the International Mission Board.

Amarillo church planter Paul Kim dies

AMARILLO—Paul Kim, church planter and pastor of Canyon Korean Church in Amarillo, died on Sept. 9 in a drowning accident. Funeral services were scheduled for Friday at Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, the sponsoring church.

Kim is survived by his wife, Sarah, three sons, and one daughter.