Month: October 2014

Pastors and people

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Rom. 14:4)

The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD. (I Samuel 24:6)

Bert and Ernie* came into my office (in another state) and plopped down in the chairs beside my desk. Without preamble Bert began, “Elmo*[our pastor] has got to go, and we need your support.”

Our conversation was pretty short when I told them I couldn’t support what they proposed. You see, Elmo had stumbled in several ways during his ministry at our church and was obstinate about it to boot. I couldn’t imagine him staying long and frankly didn’t mind when he moved, BUT nothing that had happened justified his firing. He was not a mere employee of the church, and we would be wrong to evaluate him as if he was.

In my experience, a few church members in most churches are too eager to rebuke or get rid of their pastor.  It becomes a corporate problem when those members have great influence. When that happens, even in response to a real provocation on the part of a pastor, a local church is tempted into great sin—one that will hobble its ministry for years. But the primary reason I don’t favor most pastor terminations is not pragmatic but convictional. I do consider pastors called (anointed) to the role at a specific church, and I do think we are most often “judging the servant of another” when we pick at the pastor. Saul’s case, from 1 Samuel 24, seems clarifying to me. Saul was, pretty early in his reign, spiritually a bad king. From David’s perspective he was also a real physical threat. Still, God’s choice of Saul and the fact that God had not yet removed him stayed David’s hand—out of respect for the role perhaps but certainly out of respect for the One who is Lord over good kings and bad ones.

On the other hand, pastors are not kings nor are they a different sort of Christian than their fellow church members. If most of the blame for church conflict comes from peevish church members who do not understand the nature of a church, some of it also comes from pastors who believe that they alone are immune from accountability to their brothers and sisters in Christ. There’s a caution here that we hear too rarely.
I’ve been on the platform, and I’ve been in the pews. There is a real temptation on the part of leaders to count those who agree with us in detail on the side of angels and to consign those who disagree with us about the smallest details to the other team. Being quick to make those judgments can be a symptom of thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. It can also make adversaries of those who don’t intend to be. Some wounds we experience in ministry are self-inflicted. Perhaps conflicts between pastors and churches are most often a failure for one or both parties to have the mind of Christ—meekness and humility. With that in mind, here are a few things that seem true and helpful in the relationship between pastors and congregations.

Pastors are not “the help.” I’ve seen situations where some church leaders consider pastors as temporary and replaceable as those who stock shelves at the grocery. Part of this misconception is fed by the too-short tenures of many pastors. Lay leaders who decide to disregard the pastor until he leaves may have found that this approach worked in the past. Nonetheless, at one point we (mostly) agreed that God was calling our pastor to lead our church; it is not a small thing to change our minds about that. My father-in-law once observed that church is the only place where some people “get to be the boss.” He’s right that this attitude is out there, but it’s a wrong attitude.

Pastors are human. My point is not that they make mistakes, as do you and I, but that they deserve mercy and grace as much as you and I. Not every mistake a leader makes should be a deal killer. We can be very unforgiving of those who serve us in leadership. I take Matthew 6 to say that we are obligated to forgive those around us before they apologize or satisfy us. Forgiveness means that we no longer hold it against him in thought, deed or speech.

Pastors are not omni-competent. None of us is. Listen to the list of qualifications many churches want of their pastor. They want a great preacher who will spend many hours in the study but also someone who makes every hospital and homebound visit and is available to chat with anyone who wants to stop by the church. He also needs to be a good businessman and know a little about church plant management. Oh yes, he’d better be a good dad and husband in the midst of it all. I’ve known pastors who wanted to micromanage the plumbing, the music ministry and real estate transactions in addition to their ministries of the Word. It’s a freakishly rare pastor who can and should spread himself so thin. It’s a church setting itself up for disappointment that expects him to do so.

Pastors are part of the body of Christ. Of course we understand that the pastor’s gifts are given for the building up of the church. But it is also true that your pastor was brought to you at this time because he needs what God has empowered you to do for him. He’s a church member as well as a church leader. That means that a pastor should become part of the church he also serves—to become intimate enough with his brothers and sisters so that they know his needs and his strengths. It means people should welcome the pastor, his wife and their kids as they fit in rather than treating them all as another sort of human being. Treating your pastor as an outsider is a sure way to shorten his tenure among you. 

This is a covenant relationship, friends, and not a business hierarchy. That covenant binds pastors and people together, but the covenant is with the Lord of churches. When a church and pastor crash into each other, someone has violated that covenant. Churches very much need pastoral leadership. Pastors very much need the fellowship, support, prayers and gifts of other church members. Something far grander than man-based success happens when we all take responsibility for our roles within the body of Christ.

*Not real names of anyone I know, except Muppets

Will we cry out for a movement of God?

The world is changing faster than ever. Many moral standards have shifted downward more in the last 10 years than the previous 100. Nations rise and fall in a day. Over 300,000 undocumented people crossed into the United States last year. Information is at your fingertips in the phone you hold in your hand. The rate of change is dizzying. Yet many churches struggle to adapt to the change.

You may have heard the joke, “How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?” It takes 113. A committee of five prepared a meal for the discussion about the light bulb, then a committee of seven presented the motion to the church body of 100 for approval before the one person could change the light bulb.

We laugh at ourselves because it stings a little. Unless our churches learn to adapt in this torrent of change, there will be little effective witness in many communities.

I suppose one of the greatest needs is simply desperation for a movement of God. The American church in general, and the Southern Baptist Convention of churches in particular, has seen its impact on the culture rapidly decrease. Our desperation must come in the pursuit of God if we have any hope of seeing our nation saved from itself.

SBC President Ronnie Floyd has held days of prayer across our nation. SBTC President Jim Pritchard is issuing a call to pray across Texas. We must seek God’s face. Repentance must take place. We have enough biblical truth in our churches to turn the world upside down. The Apostles did it.

The difference is obedience. The early church obeyed the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God.

Every morning for about a year I have prayed for Saeed Abidini and Kenneth Bae. Abidini is in an Iranian prison. Bae is in prison in North Korea. Both of these men are suffering because of their testimony for Jesus Christ. Unless something divinely dramatic takes place, we may be facing similar persecution in the United States before we reach the middle of this century. If we are not willing to be bold with our witness now, how do you think we will stand under the withering persecution of those who hate the gospel?

Every member, every church, every association and every convention must become desperate for God. We must obey his revealed will in the Scriptures. We may not avert judgment, but we will be in the center of his will, and that’s all that matters.

Churches must turn sacred cows into brisket for God to move in their congregation. It is time to put everything on the table. It is time to put all on the altar. Without compromising the doctrinal parameters of our fellowship, we must join hands and hearts with all who call upon our Lord Jesus to see a mighty move of His Spirit.

Join me at the Bible Conference and Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Nov. 9-11 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Register as a messenger, and bring guests with you for what we hope will be one of the most prayer-packed statewide events you will ever attend. Let’s call out to God together for his grace, mercy and power.

Not just another meeting

Autumn brings Baptists together for various “family reunions.” Whether on the associational level or the state level, these “get togethers” provide opportunities for fellowship, renewing friendships and encouragement. The heartwarming reports of how God has worked among us and through us prove again and again that we can do more together than we can separately.

Our Bible conference and annual meeting, Nov. 9-11 at Southwestern Seminary, promises to bring the usual blessings that occur when we gather, including heart-stirring praise and Spirit-anointed preaching. However, this year will be different. We will join our voices to the chorus of those calling out to God for spiritual awakening. Each session will focus on an aspect of awakening followed by a prayer time. We are really going to pray.

It is in my heart that we seek the face of God in such a way that our lives, churches and convention will not continue with business as usual. We have tried to change and impact our world with our best talents, resources, resolve and programs. Though there have been breakthroughs and drops of awakening, our best efforts are not working and have not worked. As we reach the end of our very best, we will discover the presence and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I encourage you to do all you can to be in attendance in Fort Worth. There are some who have never attended one of our annual meetings. There are others who have given up on meetings like these for various reasons. This year’s meeting, as we gather on  Southwestern’s campus, offers an incredible opportunity for us to call upon God to reveal himself in a movement that is beyond our ability to program or plan. I am praying that this will be part of the beginning of a fresh new visitation of the Spirit of God upon his people throughout our state, our Southern Baptist Convention and our country. God has done it before; let’s join together to ask him to do it again.

May our gathering in Fort Worth not be just another meeting but a joining of our hearts and voices that beckon an awakening, reviving movement of God’s Spirit among us. Let’s pack the house on seminary hill while we fill heaven with our prayer for spiritual awakening.

Marketplace Ministries sees workplace as mission field

DALLAS—As the first and only Marketplace Ministries chaplain in 1984, Gil Stricklin started the fledgling ministry with $25 and a 1974 Datsun as his office.

Thirty years later, Marketplace Ministries staffs nearly 3,000 chaplains around the world who care for 145,000 employees in 600 companies ranging from banks to manufacturing companies to food industries to law firms. They are thought to be the largest and oldest workplace chaplain organization in the world outside of the U.S. military.

“It’s amazing that just building relationships with people—a trust level and a confidence level—they know why you’re there. You’re there to help them,” Stricklin says of his ministry as a corporate chaplain.

“You’re designated to be the guy that, if they’ve got a problem or need some help, they come to you. We make over 13,000 worksite visits per month, which is over 150,000 for the year, where we’re actually going to a worksite.”

The idea for the ministry was birthed out of Stricklin’s passion for evangelism and more than 20 years as an Army chaplain, including two tours at Arlington cemetery and a deployment during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

As Stricklin worked among military medical staff during his deployment, he thought, “If these people need a chaplain, what about everybody else out there that aren’t connected with the Army?’”

So Stricklin and his wife, Ann, stepped out in faith and launched Marketplace Ministries. The first company Gil served had 150 employees, and by the end of the first year, three more companies hired him, which required him to bring on additional chaplains.

During that year, they saw more than a dozen employees come to faith in Christ. This trend has continued over the past three decades, as Marketplace chaplains have witnessed nearly 100,000 professions of faith.

In addition to those who become Christians, chaplains see many employees recommit to being active members in a local church.

“For every one person we lead to Christ, there will be twice that many who will rejoin a church,” Stricklin says.

Often, the difficulties of life such as health, marriage and family problems pave the way for gospel conversations with employees who would never go to a church for help.

Stricklin recalls getting a foot in the door with employees during at the first business he served. He was given an office, but no one ever stopped by so he simply made himself available during break times. After a few months he asked the owner to give him a task so he could be among the workers. As a result Stricklin found himself packing sunglasses in the company’s warehouse, which opened up opportunities for ministry.

“Finally,” Stricklin says, “one day a lady came to me and said, ‘Are you that preacher man? My mother had a stroke last night. She’s down at Baylor hospital. Would you have time to go and check on her and come back and tell me since I can’t get there until tonight?’

I said, ‘I’ll go right now.’”

“You’re designated to be the guy that, if they’ve got a problem or need some help, they come to you. We make over 13,000 worksite visits per month, which is over 150,000 for the year, where we’re actually going to a worksite.”

Stricklin, who always kept a suit and tie in his car, changed clothes and went immediately to the hospital. He returned to the hospital every day to minister to the family and performed the funeral a short time later.

Several months later, Stricklin led a salesman named David to the Lord. David’s daughter had stomach cancer, and as Stricklin made regular visits to her in the hospital, he asked David about his faith. David responded that he did not really have faith so Stricklin shared the gospel with him and he trusted Christ.

This kind of passion for Christ and compassion for people sum up the characteristics Marketplace Ministries looks for in its chaplains.

“We want guys that are dedicated, committed, strong in their faith, brilliant, and theologians to be in this ministry,” Stricklin says, adding that chaplains must demonstrate personal holiness and evangelistic fervor.

“We can’t teach you pastoral skills. If you don’t have those by experience then we don’t hire you. On the average our staff has 20 years of pastoral experience, and they have at least 30 years of walking with Christ—they have a track record.”

Ongoing training for chaplains is key to maintaining the level of quality they seek.

“We teach them how to take their religious skills and move it to a non-religious environment,” Stricklin says.

“Ninety percent of our chaplains are part time. We have over 1,500 pastors who are serving a congregation and working with us anywhere as few as five hours per week.”

Marketplace Ministries also staffs 800 women chaplains to minister to women in the workplace.

“There are some things that men shouldn’t be talking with ladies about, and there are some things ladies don’t want to talk with men about,” Stricklin says.

All chaplains are required to sign a statement of faith and agree to standards of conduct, which include abstention from alcohol and no divorce.

“I’d rather stand before Jesus one day and for him to say, ‘Gil, your standards were too high,’ instead of saying, ‘You lowered your standards to meet the standards of the world.’”

With three decades under their belt and ongoing expansion to businesses around the world, including new ventures in China, Stricklin desires for the ministry to maintain its foundational values as it breaks new ground.

“I don’t ever want this just to be a business,” Stricklin says, adding, “I want us to stay on track in that we’re a soul-winning agency and we’re a church-supporting agency.

“People don’t have to go to church, but they’ve got to go to work, whether they like it or hate it. And if we can be there on Monday morning at 6:00 when that ol’ boy gets out of his pickup truck, and he’s had an argument with this wife, and we can show God’s love through actds of kindness—we’re sowing seeds, and some of it is going to fall on fertile ground, and he’s going to come to know Christ and his life is going to be changed.”

Read related stories in the Oct. 8 edition of TEXAN Digital Magazine.

Churches must break mental illness stigma, survey suggests

Almost one-quarter of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with mental illness at some point in their lives, and many will turn to religious leaders for help. But ill-prepared pastors and the stigma associated with mental disorders combine to frustrate a person’s efforts to find healing within the Christian community.

In a study jointly sponsored by LifeWay Research and Focus on the Family researchers discovered despite the high incidences of mental illness in the general population, pastors rarely preach on the issue and church support for those suffering is limited at best. The resulting lack of communication keeps sufferers silent in the pews and congregations unaware of the wounded among them and their desperate need for help from their fellow believers.

Breaking the silence means breaking the stigma.

“The most powerful thing we can do is remove the stigma. It is not a sin to be sick.”

“The most powerful thing we can do is remove the stigma. It is not a sin to be sick,” said Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, who together suffered a very public loss in April 2013 when their adult son Matthew took his own life following a lifelong struggle with mental illness.

In a Sept. 22 nation-wide press conference to introduce the mental health research findings, Warren was joined by Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research executive director, and Jared Pingleton, a clinical psychologist and director of the counseling department for Focus on the Family.

News of the study elicited cheers from Christians working to break the stereotypes associated with mental illness within the church.

“Finally! Finally the church is going to see this as a real issue and stop blaming the victims,” Tammy Zwarst, a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist for the Galveston Baptist Association, told the TEXAN.

Zwarst, whose training includes board certification as a professional Christian counselor, has practiced for over 20 years and is still frustrated by the lack of understanding—and, sometimes, compassion—among Christians. She and Warren hold the pastorate accountable for the ethos in the church.

All too often, Zwarst said, pastors speak from a platform of ignorance regarding mental illness, equating mental health disorders with spiritual struggles.

And she cringes.

“Patients hear pastors say, ‘You need to get right with God. You don’t need medicines.’”

“Patients hear pastors say, ‘You need to get right with God. You don’t need medicines,’” Zwarst said.

Such rhetoric dissuades parishioners already racked with self-doubt and feelings of insufficient faith from sharing their struggles with their pastors or fellow church members.

“People with mental illness just want to be normal,” said Warren.

Who are the mentally ill, and how is the church recognizing and meeting their needs?

The LifeWay study involved three separate surveys: 1,000 pastors; 355 Americans diagnosed with an acute mental illness, which included 200 church-goers; and 207 family members of those diagnoses. All surveyed were affiliated with Protestant churches. Researchers conducted extensive interviews with 15 experts in the fields of spirituality and mental illness.

The study revealed although the church has made some strides in constructively addressing mental illness, there is still a long way to go.

  • 23 percent of pastors report experiencing some kind of mental illness.
  • 12 percent of pastors have received a diagnosis of a “mental health condition.”
  • 66 percent of pastors rarely speak from the pulpit about mental illness.
  • 16 percent of pastors reported they speak about it at least once a year.
  • 27 percent of pastors have a plan to assist families affected by mental illness.
  • 21 percent of respondents reported knowing about church assistance plans.
  • 68 percent of churches reported having a list of local mental health resources.
  • 59 percent of those diagnosed with mental illness want the church to talk about the issue.
  • 65 percent of family members of those diagnosed also want to discuss the subject openly in church.

The finely intertwined co-mingling of Christian faith and mental health confuses the relationship—and the distinction—between the two.

“They do get interwoven,” Zwarst said. “Sometimes there are people who are depressed who ought to be depressed. In that case conviction looks a lot like [clinical] depression.”

Suffering emotionally as a result of poor choices or circumstances beyond a person’s control is what Zwarst called Adjustment Disorder, but she would not define it as a mental illness. With counseling or even simply the support of faithful Christian family and friends, a person moves through and out of that “funk.”

But diagnosable depression lingers, and its debilitating influences vary, affecting a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. An individual may deal with a single bout of depression his entire life while others experience its ebb and flow for a lifetime.

Whereas depression often has environmental triggers that give life to the illness, bi-polar disorder is a bio-chemical disorder. It is not curable, but it is manageable. With medication and counseling, people diagnosed with the disorder can live well with the illness, Zwarst said.

And it is an illness.

“It’s the ‘No Casserole Illness,’” said Warren, borrowing the term from author Amy Simpson, who wrote in Troubled Minds about her experiences growing up with a mentally ill mother. Church members are quick to deliver meals to those struck by cancer but fail to recognize the same need in those dealing with a different disease.

Steven Smith, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary vice president for student services and communications, said pastors can—and should—do a better job when counseling church members and encouraging an environment of compassion in their churches.

SWBTS does not require counseling courses for a Master of Divinity, the degree sought by most would-be preachers, but biblical counseling courses are available for elective credit.

Warren said the most effective ministry pastors could provide the mentally ill in their congregations is a word of encouragement from the pulpit. Just a sermon or a prayer informs those suffering in silence someone cares, giving them the courage to speak up. And it can convict their fellow church members of the need for compassion.

The church historically has been a place where the broken—in mind, body, and spirit—could find healing or strength to live with what cannot be healed in this life.

“Every single church can have an attitude of caring,” Warren said. “We can champion a holistic approach to health … so that we’re not just dealing with our souls but our bodies and our minds.”

Read other stories from the Oct. 8 edition of TEXAN Digital Magazine.

Frances Richardson, wife of SBTC DR director, dies

PARADISE—Frances Elizabeth Lamb Richardson, 62, of Paradise, Texas, wife of Jim Richardson, Director of Disaster Relief for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, died Oct. 5, after a battle with glioblastoma brain cancer.

Frances, a native of Norton, Va., graduated from Washington Irving High School in Clarksburg, W.Va. She earned an undergraduate degree at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn., and a Master of Arts in education from Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga. Jim and Frances were married at Beallwood Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga., on Feb. 22, 1975.

Frances was devoted to family, community and church. She taught elementary and special education students in Tennessee, Georgia and Texas and volunteered with the Wise Regional Health System auxiliary at the Bridgeport and Decatur campuses. Frances was a past president of the Rotary Club of Decatur and a former board member of the Wise Choices Pregnancy Resource Center. She also owned and operated Ray of Sunshine Sitting Service of Wise and Northwest Tarrant Counties, LLC, an in-home care provider, and was a member of Faith Community Church of Paradise.

Frances is survived by her husband, three children and their spouses and six grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, Robert E. and Frances B. Lamb, and by a son, James Robert Richardson, stillborn on Mother’s Day, 1982.

Memorial services for Frances will be held at the following locations and times:

Faith Community Church
2228 B West Hwy. 114
Paradise, TX  76073
Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014
1:00 p.m.

Beallwood Baptist Church                           
4519 Hamilton Road
Columbus, GA  31904
Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014
1:00 p.m.

Court of Appeals upholds HB 2, enforces abortion clinic regulations

All but seven or eight abortion clinics throughout Texas were forced to close Friday (Oct. 3) due to non-compliance with a controversial 2013 Texas law regulating the abortion industry. The U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit ruled Thursday House Bill 2 (HB 2) can be fully implemented while a lawsuit against two of its provisions is pending in appeals court.

Pro-life advocates praised the ruling saying HB 2 raises the standard of operations for abortion providers and will be upheld upon appeal. But abortion proponents claim the law creates an untenable concoction of required standards most abortion providers cannot meet, creating an “undue burden” for women seeking abortions.

“This decision is a vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women,” said Lauren Bean, Texas Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman, in a press release.

But in a written response to the decision, lead plaintiff Whole Women’s Health called HB 2 politically motivated and “one of the most restrictive and harmful laws against women in the country.”

Abortion advocates called for a rally at the Texas State capitol Friday, encouraging Texas women to “fight back” and defeat pro-life candidates in the Nov. 4 general election.

Wendy Davis, the democratic gubernatorial candidate who rose to fame following her 11-hour filibuster of the senate version of HB 2, Tweeted a response to the ruling.

“Women should be able to make personal decisions without intrusion of pols like Greg Abbott, who’d ban abortion even for rape and incest.”

The 5th Circuit three-judge panel ruled the State had “made a strong showing of likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal,” indicating the law will be upheld when the full case goes before the same court later this year. The decision overturns Federal Judge Lee Yeakel’s injunction of two provisions of the law.

Although the 5th Circuit Court has a conservative reputation, Kyleen Wright, executive director of Texans for Life, was cautiously optimistic of a ruling upholding all provisions of HB 2. She told the TEXAN the current decision bodes well for the State on appeals, but there are other factors to consider.

“Who we draw for the panel to hear the appeal could be an issue, though. In this case, [Judge Stephan] Higginson, the Obama appointee, did write a dissenting opinion. There are four Obama appointees on the 5th Circuit so a lot rides on which three we draw,” Wright said.

This is not the first time the 5th Circuit Court has overturned Yeakel’s ruling on HB 2. In January an all-female, three-judge panel overturned his injunction against the HB 2 mandates establishing admitting privileges and standards for performing medically induced abortions.

But a second lawsuit filed by abortion clinic operators and doctors in April again challenged the constitutionality of the law. On Aug. 29, just two days before the mandate requiring all abortion clinics upgrade their operating standards to that of an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) went into effect, Yeakel ruled the measure unconstitutional and halted its enforcement.

Yeakel concluded the ASC regulations were not necessary when performing non-surgical, or medically induced, abortions and were therefore arbitrary. And had the ASC standards gone into effect as scheduled on Sept. 1, all but seven or eight clinics would have closed for non-compliance. That, Yeakel stated, created an “undue burden.”

A term cited in the 1992 lawsuit Planned Parent vs. Casey, “undue burden” is the as-yet qualified standard by which judges nationwide determine whether or not a woman’s access to an abortion has been infringed. The term, though defined in some rulings, remains subjective and open to broad interpretation according to pro-life advocates.

But plaintiffs contend the combination of ACS requirements and admitting privileges played a key role in the potential closure of abortion clinics in two remote locations­—El Paso and McAllen.

The McAllen clinic closed in March when its attending physician could not acquire admitting privileges to a nearby hospital. The El Paso provider met that standard but would be forced to shutter if the ASC requirement is enforced. Yeakel ruled the combination of the two mandates—specifically in the two cities—significantly diminished women’s access to abortion in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley and prohibited enforcement of the admitting privileges mandate in only those cities.

But the appeals court disagreed, reiterating its January decision overturning Yeakel’s previous injunction of the admitting privileges provision.

The court also overruled Yeakel’s state-wide ACS injunction with the exception of one element. While the case is appealed, the El Paso clinic will be held to the ACS operational standards but not be required to comply with the physical operating standards. Despite the small reprieve, abortion proponents said the El Paso clinic, the lone abortion facility west of San Antonio, will have to close.

Abortion advocates said the distance women will have to drive for an abortion in Texas essentially restricts access to the procedure. But Whole Women’s Health operates a clinic just across the Texas border in Los Cruses, NM—a fact the court would not take into consideration as it was not applicable to the Texas law.

Pro-life advocates disagree. Although the closure of far-flung clinics may make access to an abortion clinic more difficult, it does not make it impossible. And the court agreed. In its 38-page ruling, the appeals court stated there is a distinction to be made between what constitutes a restriction and an “undue burden.”

Although protesting the closing of non-compliant clinics in El Paso and McAllen, Planned Parenthood has applied to operate two new clinics in San Antonio and Dallas—locations where independent abortion clinics currently operate.

Asked what she thought of the decision to locate in high-volume metropolitan areas instead of West Texas and the Rio Grande, Valley Wright said, “Vintage Planned Parenthood. Like the bad boyfriend who promises one thing but does another, Planned Parenthood constantly professes its devotion to caring for women, especially low-income women, while actually always putting profits first.”

SBTC DR team responds to El Paso flash floods

El Paso—Torrential storms dumped over 5 inches of rain on northeastern El Paso in just over four hours on Sept. 22, the National Weather Service reported. The downpour brought flash flooding to areas already saturated by September storms, claiming the life of one victim who drowned in her vehicle.

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers responded to the emergency quickly. A team of four clean out and recovery specialists led by Monte Furrh of Bonham arrived in the El Paso area on Sept. 24, commencing work the next day.

“Many people got the water out of their homes pretty quickly,” Furrh said. “We helped take out sheetrock and treated affected areas for mold.”

“We were the only work crew there,” Furrh said, noting the Red Cross provided the SBTC team with referrals.

SBTC volunteers completed nine work orders on seven homes before leaving the area on Sept. 27. They had hoped to do more.

“One lady in particular really needed our help,” Furrh recalled. “She was 5 feet tall and said the water had risen to her waist. She had a 9-month-old baby, and her husband was away in the military.”

Unfortunately, the woman rented the home and the owners would not approve the work order.

“A company owned many of the rental homes, and representatives would not sign releases permitting us to work,” Furrh said.

Although efforts seemed hampered at times, this did not stop the team from engaging in spiritual conversations. At least 15 spiritual contacts occurred, DR off-site coordinator Daniel White posted on Facebook and Twitter.

“One man saw from my truck that I was from Bonham,” Furrh stated. The man’s parents had lived in Bonham, and the conversation resulted in Furrh’s sharing the gospel.

“I told him we were not out there just doing good deeds. I already had my salvation,” Furrh said, before explaining the plan of salvation.

In addition to Furrh, SBTC DR volunteers trekking over 700 miles to El Paso included Elmer Reedy, Mike Phillips and Ron Duzenack.

Cielo Vista Church in El Paso hosted the volunteers.


“What can we do to assist?”

1. Pray for the families who have been affected by disaster.

2. Pray for the first responders.

3. Pray for the disaster relief volunteers responding.

4. Get trained so you can serve as a part of disaster relief ministry of the SBTC,