Month: August 2020

Dallas judge reverses previous ruling, gives mother the OK to “transition” James Younger

In the ongoing legal battle between 8-year-old James Younger’s parents, a Dallas judge has awarded the boy’s mother, Dr. Anne Georgulas, sole decision-making power regarding her son’s health care and schooling.

Judge Mary Brown’s ruling effectively reverses a previous ruling that had established a joint managing conservatorship with James’ father, Jeffrey Younger.

Georgulas now has the authority to enroll James in school as a girl named “Luna” and have him undergo transgender medical procedures.

Although a formal hearing was scheduled for Aug. 11, Brown rendered her decision Aug. 10. No explanation was given as to why the judge issued the ruling without a hearing.

Younger has been ordered by the court to pay $250 an hour for trans-affirming counseling sessions, which he had previously objected to on grounds he was not permitted to help select his son’s counselors.

Younger is under a court-imposed gag order and is not permitted to speak to media, but some of his friends and supporters have set up a “Save James” Facebook page to bring awareness to the case.

According to Save James, counseling will cost Younger an estimated $5,000 a month, in addition to a $10,000 retainer required by the counselor.

The case received national attention last fall when a jury ruled 11-1 that Georgulas should have sole conservatorship over James and his twin brother, Jude.

#SaveJames and #SaveJamesYounger hashtags began going viral on social media, and prompted Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton to comment on the case.

Cruz called the ruling “horrifying and tragic.”

“For a parent to subject such a young child to life-altering hormone blockers to medically transition their sex is nothing less than child abuse,” he posted on Twitter in October.

Last year, Judge Kim Cooks overturned that verdict, giving both parents equal say in James’ medical treatment. According to LifeSiteNews, Cooks “found that Georgulas was overly affirming in instances when James supposedly showed a desire to be a girl, including taking him to LGBTQ parades, buying him dresses and fake hair and enrolling him in kindergarten as a ‘girl’ named ‘Luna.’”

In response, Georgulas appealed, filing motions to have the decision overturned and Cooks recused from the case.

In December 2019, another hearing was held. Cooks was replaced with Judge Brown, who decided to uphold joint custody in January 2020.

The ruling was again appealed by Georgulas in July.

In light of Brown’s most recent ruling, James will most likely return to school as “Luna” despite the fact that he reportedly chose to attend school as a boy, under his given name, at the start of the school year last fall.

Save James says a special evidentiary hearing is scheduled for September, although a specific date and time has not yet been announced.

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared at Decision Magazine.

SBTC DR crews help Hurricane Hanna survivors in Rio Grande Valley: “This was God’s perfect timing”

PHARR  On Aug. 6, Pharr native Patty Reynolds, 90, said goodbye to her only remaining sibling, her sister Sally Mullins, 87, as Mullins succumbed to Parkinson’s disease. Reynolds, known by her nickname Petie, and her nephew were allowed inside the quiet room at a residential healthcare facility to spend the last 15 minutes of Sally’s life with her.

Sally’s death proved to be one more heartache for Reynolds, who had reluctantly left her home to ride out Hurricane Hanna with her granddaughter and family, only to return to find her yard strewn with downed trees and limbs following the E1 storm that struck the Rio Grande Valley in late July.

The first Atlantic hurricane of the 2020 season, Hanna hit Padre Island on July 25, moving into the Rio Grande Valley, inundating South Texas with more than 15 inches of rain in some communities and prompting severe flash flooding. The storm’s onslaught brought more suffering to a region still reeling from a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases.

Although the Rio Grande River did not rise as feared, residents grappled with power outages and were left dealing with the effects of wind and flood damage. 

Reynolds’ home of more than 50 years was unscathed, but her sizeable yard was full of debris.

Reynolds remembered when Hurricane Beulah flooded the home in 1967, leaving water several inches deep inside. Grateful that the damage from Hanna remained outdoors, she was still overwhelmed by its magnitude, Reynolds’ granddaughter Shannon McCoy told the TEXAN. 

McCoy, a former Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief ministry assistant who recently returned to live in the Valley, spoke with SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice, who encouraged her to fill out a request for assistance. 

A chainsaw and recovery team from First Baptist Melissa came to help Aug. 5. They worked steadily for two days to clear Reynolds’ yard, continuing as she left to visit her sister for the final time. 

When Reynolds returned from that heartbreaking experience, DR crew leader Jesse Hauptrief asked if she would like the volunteers to carve a cross out of the stump left from a massive hackberry tree split by the storm. 

Reynolds burst into tears.

“I said, how appropriate for today,” McCoy recalled. “This was God’s perfect timing. She can look at that cross from now on and know God was holding her and was aware of her broken heart.”

“Now I can look out there and I have comfort,” Reynolds told McCoy, who said the yard was her grandmother’s passion.

“She works in the yard every single day. That’s how she stays so young. To see that cross will give her hope,” McCoy said.  

McCoy admitted she was surprised at the impact the crews had, despite her experience in DR.

“I never was able to see things on this side of DR, and I am completely blown away,” McCoy wrote in a text message to Debra Britt, SBTC DR administrator on site in the Valley. “Truly God’s work is being done.”

McCoy’s experience helped her know where to find help for her grandmother, but RGV survivors are having no trouble contacting the SBTC DR for assistance through the toll-free number, 855.728.1374 (855.SBTC DRHelp) and the number for Spanish speakers: 956.448.4712.

Swift response to Hanna by SBTC DR crews

By Monday, July 27, SBTC DR crews manning quick response or QRU mobile kitchens were preparing meals by the hundreds for survivors at various sites in the Valley in cooperation with the Salvation Army.

By Aug. 3, recovery and chainsaw teams from First Melissa and First Baptist Pflugerville were on site or en route. A team from First Baptist Bellville will arrive over the weekend of Aug. 8, Britt said.

To date, crews have completed 59 jobs: many small, involving cutting up fallen trees or limbs and clearing debris. Jobs that don’t involve mud-out or tree work are being tackled by volunteers from McAllen’s Baptist Temple. Besides hosting the DR crews, the church has provided two Spanish-speaking volunteers to accompany assessors to jobs and translate for them.

So far the deployment has involved a combination of chainsaw and mud-out work, Britt said, adding that the mosquitoes have proved a challenge, although social distancing has not, with the Baptist Temple’s large youth building allowing for ample space to spread out.

“We are checking temperatures every day. We are wearing masks when we go out to meet with folks,” Britt said. “We are blessed to be able to help.”

From 27-30 SBTC DR volunteers are at work daily, Britt confirmed.

What Christ called us to

The Hanna deployment is the first for Mike Lawrence of Redwater, Texas. Recently retired from the U.S. Forest Service, Lawrence is no stranger to responding to emergencies. He has used this occasion to pray with survivors as a chaplain, accompany assessors to potential job sites and even lend a hand on work crews.

Lawrence was among the volunteers helping out at Reynolds’ home.

“[She] is elderly lady with a heart of gold who couldn’t do anything to take care of the overwhelming situation. We could help her do something she couldn’t do. We brought comfort in a time of loss,” Lawrence said, his voice cracking with emotion. 

“It’s a privilege to be here,” he added. “It’s really about loving others. What Christ called us to.”

Black Lives Matter? Embracing the proclamation or the organization

ATLANTA—“Black lives matter!” is a statement of proclamation—a declaration and a decree—emerging from centuries of anguish born of America’s history of injustices stemming from the African slave trade.

“Black Lives Matter” is also an organization—a body of people with a particular mission—emerging from the proclamation, following episodes of police brutality and vigilante killings of Black men. The proclamation existed before the organization. The message of the proclamation and the message of the organization are not the same.

There are many who embrace the proclamation, yet are not aligned with the message of the organization. In their hearts they are convicted that Black lives do matter, and they are advocates for change, but believe the organization’s message, methods and values are antithetical to redemption and reconciliation. There are also many who embrace the organization, not realizing its message, methods and values are divergent from those of the proclamation.

Choose whatever side you wish, but it is important to know and articulate the difference between the two.

The proclamation

The justification for slavery in America was rooted in the idea that Black lives do not matter. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, the culture continued to dehumanize and oppress Blacks through mass incarceration, lynchings and making it impossible to achieve economic freedom was propagated in the ideology that black lives do not matter.

Racial injustice expanded through the creation of “Jim Crow” laws. Government-sanctioned violent acts were committed on non-violent protesters in marches, boycotts, lunch counter sit-ins, and even during African American worship services on Sunday. The brutal murders of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and so many more were all rooted in one ideology: Black lives do not matter.

After the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it became illegal to discriminate in employment practices based on race, but many government agencies continued to deny Blacks equal employment opportunities.

My beloved profession, the American Fire Service, was one of the most resistant. Lawsuits were filed in many cities to force local governments to comply, creating affirmative action laws. As a rookie firefighter in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1981, I saw rampant racism and discrimination, which was rooted in the centuries-old ideology deeply ingrained in American culture, even the fire service, that Black lives do not matter.

In recent years, incidents of police brutality and vigilante killings of African Americans gave rise to the origin of the proclamation: “Black lives matter!”

The proclamation’s intent was not to suggest that other lives do not matter, but rather to declare that the historical, systemic and institutionalized wrongs that have persisted toward Blacks must come to an end. This proclamation erupted out of generations of humiliation and is expressed with utter frustration and righteous indignation. “Black lives matter!”

As an American patriot, I agree with those who profess “all lives matter.” “All lives matter!” is a proclamation established in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

However, the generational evidence of Black lives in America juxtaposed to the generational evidence of our white brothers and sisters is self-evident. All men have been created equal, but all men have not been treated equal. Black lives have been intentionally and systematically deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is from this constitutional and historical backdrop this righteous proclamation has been decreed. “Black lives matter!”

The organization

The message of the proclamation has been adopted as the name of an organization, “Black Lives Matter.”

By its own description, the organization “Black Lives Matter” has a message that subtracts from the fervent and righteous message of the proclamation. The message of the organization and the message of the proclamation are not the same. The message of the organization is about Black lives, but it is not inclusive of all matters contributing to the plight of Black people. The organization’s message also includes matters and methods not aligned with the proclamation.

The message of the organization is rooted in ideas that have redefined the original pure message of the proclamation. The organization values the ideologies of moral relativism and pluralism. There is no absolute truth. Truth is defined only by what supports the cause. Each person is an authority unto themselves.

There is no acknowledgement of the sovereign God, moral authority, or respect for civic authority, even if the authorities are Black. The authority and counsel of Black mayors, Black police officers, Black pastors and Black politicians don’t matter. The only authorities that matter are those who endorse the cause. Anyone who does not embrace the ideology is an enemy.

The propaganda of the organization asserts: to reject the organization is to reject the proclamation. Those who are true to the proclamation are being forced to embrace the ideology of the organization or face being “canceled.”

People are losing their livelihoods because they do not embrace the organization, even though they are committed to the proclamation. People who embrace the proclamation are afraid to say “Black lives matter” because they don’t want to be mistakenly identified with the organization.

Here’s the point: You do not have to affirm the organization to champion the cause of the proclamation. The proclamation “Black lives matter!” must be distinguished apart from the messaging, methods and values of the organization.

Distinguishing divergent messages

“Black lives matter!” as a proclamation is a clarion call to address centuries-long injustices and inequality leveled against the descendants of African slaves — roots of inequities that have run deep and wide for generations. The proclamation is a message that seeks to lift up a standard of justice and equity and to repair the breaches caused by racism that continue to foster deprivation in Black families and communities.

Though every person has a right to choose between the message of the proclamation and the message of the organization, it is vitally important for Christians to distinguish between the two.

  • The message of the proclamation is a message of non-violence and domestic tranquility. The message of the organization includes violence, lawlessness and autonomous zones achieved by any means necessary and a declaration of “No Justice. No Peace!”
  • The message behind the proclamation is one of reconciliation and conviction embraced by all people who have a heart for unity. The message behind the organization is one of retaliation and condemnation that segregates and divides, even people of color.
  • The message behind the proclamation is one of bipartisan transformation. The message behind the organization is one of political transaction.
  • The message of the proclamation extends beyond the just cause of addressing innocent Black lives taken by police brutality, vigilantes and unjust incarcerations. It also includes Black lives murdered by other Blacks, Black lives taken by abortion, and the Black lives of children abandoned by their fathers. The message of the organization does not include these dangers to Black lives which matter just as much. 

Call to action: Embrace the proclamation

Don’t be ashamed or afraid to stand against racial injustice. “Black lives matter!” in its original meaning resonates with all African Americans and has captured the hearts of many non-African Americans. Black lives should not be deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The just and righteous flames of the proclamation are sufficient to burn down the mountain of racism in the United States. Embrace the proclamation. It expresses what we have been crying for centuries. Black lives matter!

This column originally appeared in The Christian Index.

Kelvin Cochran is administrator of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta.

“You can’t cut against the grain of Creation,” seminary prof says on gender issues

The Texas Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee of the SBTC held a virtual presentation on Tuesday, August 4, entitled “What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity?” Led by Andrew Walker, associate professor of Christian ethics and apologetics at Southern Seminary in Louisville, the presentation was open to current members of the TERLC as well as lawmakers across the state.

Committee chairman Nathan Loudin, pastor of Millwood Baptist Church in Austin, opened by thanking the lawmakers who were present. “Having spent some time engaging and testifying with different issues at the Capitol, you find out really quickly the issues are complex, difficult and often very bipartisan,” he said. “We thank you for being there, for doing the wrestling for us and for serving our state and especially the Lord in this manner.” 

Gender issues have become increasingly polarizing in recent years, leading to significant religious liberty implications for churches, faith-based non-profits and Christian colleges and universities. 

“I came of age in my career right when marriage was undergoing its redefinition, and I remember that debate happening and thinking to myself that if we get marriage wrong as a society, we’re going to get society wrong,” Walker said. “Because you can’t tinker with these basic cornerstone institutions and expect society to flourish.

“We have moved to a time in which we have denatured ourselves, and what I mean by that is that we have made it impossible to concretely identify what is a man or what is a woman,” he said. “The problem with the trans or gender-identity movement is it makes having that stable concept—necessary for a stable, purposeful social order—it makes it impossible. 

“And so we find ourselves unable to identify what is a man or a woman based on anything other than mere choice or stereotype. We can’t go down this path very long, because it so cuts against the grain of Creation,” he added. “And you can’t go against the grain of Creation that long without nature striking back.”

Walker said that a correct approach to gender must be grounded in reality, giving five axioms regarding how God has constructed reality as the premise for the presentation. He made clear at the outset that while there can be many worldviews, there is only one reality.

“Christian reality is reality itself. And when we’re talking about gender issues, I don’t want us to see this from a sectarian perspective that is only persuasive and intelligible if we have Bible verses,” Walker said, “though we have Bible verses.

“Someone does not need to be a Christian in order to agree with the propositions about what a male and female really is, because what we believe about male and female is not exclusive only to a Christian epistemology—it’s exclusive to reality as it is.”

His five axioms build on each other from broad to narrow, and include that 1) God created, 2) God created humanity, 3) God created humanity in his image, 4) God created humanity male and female, and 5) God created male and female for one another.

“When we talk about gender I want us to see this as a creational issue, not just a Christian issue,” Walker said. “When we’re painting a portrait of what Christians believe, we believe what we do about created reality because God authors Creation.”

Walker went on to discuss the immutability of male and female complementarity based on anatomy, adding that just because a man or woman has surgery that will change his or her appearance, there exists no surgery that will change one’s chromosomal makeup.

“We want to hold out from Scripture that male and female complementarity are true to our nature, they are true to our bodies,” he said. “Our reproductive anatomy matters in constituting a definition of male and female.”

He also pointed out the change in language between what was once referred to as sex reassignment surgery but is now referred to as gender confirmation surgery, indicating how society has shifted in its views regarding the transgender movement.

Again and again, Walker pointed back to Scripture and creational reality as the basis for how Christians should respond to the transgender movement.

The specific challenges he brought up included public safety in bathrooms, women’s sports, feminism, parental rights, public education and tactics like coercion.

Walker brought up the example of author J.K. Rowling who, though a self-described trans-affirming individual, has come under intense scrutiny in recent months for her comments regarding the movement’s harmful effects on children.

“It’s not enough to stay silent. In order to be properly acceptable in mainstream culture, you now have to be drafted into the cause of believing and saying things that you may not actually think are true,” he said.

Walker also referenced the tension among various proponents within the LGBT community. 

“To be gay, lesbian or bisexual assumes there are stable concepts of what it means to be a male or a female,  “The transgender movement undercuts that because it says there is no such thing as concrete gender categories, all it is is a matter of caricature and stereotype. And so it does away with the stable concept of homosexuality.”

The presentation ended with a question-and-answer time in which the participants could directly engage Walker with specific questions.

“Fluid gender identity is the most extreme idea to come out of the sexual revolution so far,” SBTC executive director Jim Richards said after the event. “Dr. Walker literally wrote the book on the subject for Southern Baptists, and it was very beneficial for some of our leaders to reap the fruit of his research on biblical sexuality.”

SWBTS internationals’ COVID-19 food needs spur Birchman to action

FORT WORTH—When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Ruth* and her husband—both students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary—found themselves in a major bind.

Because the campus shut down to prevent coronavirus spread, they lost their jobs at the seminary. But as international students from East Asia, their F1 student visas restricted their ability to get jobs anywhere except the school they attend. They also were ineligible for U.S. government aid and inhibited from returning to either of their home countries because of travel restrictions.

Money was tight before, but now they had no source of income to buy food.

“The financial issue is just one part” of the problem, Ruth said. “Another part is that you have a lot of extra time not knowing what to do. So it’s easy to feel panic about the future.”

But in their moment of panic, Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth stepped in to help, providing a steady supply of groceries from the church’s Corners of the Field benevolence ministry. As Birchman realized how serious the plight of Southwestern international students had become, they expanded the ministry.

By the end of July, Birchman and a coalition of partner churches were meeting the food needs of some 30 international student families at Southwestern who found themselves without a source of income during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lane Prairie Baptist Church in Joshua, Harmony Baptist Church in Weatherford and Calvary Baptist Church in Gainesville have all partnered with Birchman to help meet the students’ needs.

“When we discovered the plight of these students, it really was a concern for us and broke our hearts,” Birchman pastor Bob Pearle said. “These students basically were stranded. A lot of the other students living in dorms could go home. These students couldn’t fly out to their country.”

According to U.S. government regulations, F1 visa holders cannot accept off-campus employment at any point during their first year of study. After that, off-campus employment is permitted if the work is related to their education or in response to extreme financial hardship. Still, official authorizations are required or students risk losing their visa status. The pandemic has left international students across America with food insecurity, according to media reports.

Southwestern has not been immune from those challenges. So Texas Southern Baptist churches began to wonder if the Southern Baptist network of cooperation could find a way to help international seminary students. Such help, they believed, was in keeping with the spirit of the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified channel for supporting missions and ministries.

The food assistance can “help some of our brothers and sisters in Christ and help the institution” care for its students, Pearle said. “That’s what the Cooperative Program is all about—helping each other.”

The feeding ministry is part of Birchman’s ongoing provision of food to needy families and individuals. But the ministry made international students a focus as their pandemic needs became evident. Corners of the Field delivers groceries to students every other Friday.

The deliveries fed 19 seminary families June 5, comprising 72 people. Two weeks later, the number had increased to 31 families with 102 people. By late July, the ministry had delivered about 175 boxes of food to Southwestern international students. The seminary families receiving assistance are from India, South Korea and China among other nations.

“They are in a pickle,” Corners of the Field director Laretta Smith said. “It’s hard to watch because I’m a momma … To see someone’s else’s child suffer and not know what to do, my heart just breaks.”

The international students are grateful for the food, she said, even though it can be difficult to ask for help.

“They are heroes,” Smith said. “They came to this country to learn how to serve God well.” Despite their hardship, “they are still the most gracious people. They are still loving people. They are not bitter at all.”

In addition to the partnering churches, Southwestern alumni have donated money for the ministry too. The food distribution will continue as long as the need persists, with special plans in the works for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Cameron Bowman, Birchman’s director of outreach, said “the decision to take on feeding students at Southwestern was easy.”

“These students moved to Fort Worth to study and prepare for God’s calling on their lives to take the gospel to the nations,” Bowman said. “Because of the pandemic, they have lost their jobs and are unable to feed their families. If we can help them stay to prepare for what God has next by simply taking them food, we at Birchman want to be a part of that.”

Ruth said she and her husband “are really grateful” for the food deliveries and feel “a sense of support” from Southern Baptists. Now she and her husband are attempting to pass the blessing along to others.

“From the food we receive, we see their generosity,” she said. “We always receive plenty of food—even more than we [need] so we can share with our neighbors.”

*Name changed to protect privacy

Editor’s Note: If you or your church would like to contribute through food or financial donations, contact Cameron Bowman, director of outreach at Birchman Baptist Church: 817-244-6590.