Author: Marie Delph

ANALYSIS: What will happen at the state level if Roe is overturned?

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case centers on an abortion restriction passed within the state of Mississippi that prohibits the procedure after 15 weeks. However, briefs and arguments before the court have focused not just on the 15-week ban, but the constitutionality of the court cases that currently govern abortion jurisprudence: Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvannia v. Casey (1992). The court could decide to uphold the Mississippi restriction, and in effect change the standard set by Roe and Casey. It could also go further and overturn both, ending almost half a century of federally sanctioned holocaust against the unborn.

Abortion access at the time Roe was decided

At the time that Roe v. Wade was decided, abortion was largely prohibited across the country. It was legalized in four states, and allowed in limited circumstances in 16 others such as rape, incest, or the life of the mother. In the remaining 30 states, abortion was outlawed without exception. For those who desired an abortion, it often required travel to a state (or country) which permitted the procedure. For example, in 1972 there were over 580,000 legal abortions in the United States. Historian Daniel Williams has shown that even with a majority of states banning abortion pre-Roe, certain states were able to provide enough hospital abortion services for hundreds of thousands of abortions. Thus, while abortion was largely illegal, it was not unthinkable.

What happens in various states if Roe is overturned?

While overturning Roe would return the question of abortion access to the states, the country is in a much different place than it was when Roe was decided. If Roe is overturned, a wide disparity would exist between different states, with some automatically protecting or prohibiting abortion access. Others would almost certainly become contested battlegrounds for control of state legislatures and the governorship so as to pass measures in either direction.

Whereas before only four states gave women the right to seek an abortion, currently 15 states and the District of Columbia protect that access: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

Another 12 would immediately ban or severely restrict abortion access: Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. There are also a number of states that have enacted laws which are currently blocked by the federal courts, but which could be easily reinstated to restrict access: Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and South Carolina. There are also states that would likely move to ban or restrict abortion based on the makeup of their state legislatures: Florida, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

Between these opposing groups of states would be those that would become highly contested for control of the government. For example, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina have a governor who is a Democrat and state houses that are controlled by the Republicans. As the push for pro-life causes moves to the state level, these local races would become more crucial in electing pro-life supporters.

New challenges at that state level

If the Supreme Court chooses to overturn Roe, the pro-life movement will need to focus on a number of new challenges that are likely to occur at the level of state policy. First, it is likely that the limiting of abortion in one state will not stop individuals from traveling to obtain it. After Texas passed a 6-week abortion ban, the neighboring state of Oklahoma reported an increase in individuals from Texas seeking an abortion. And while overturning Roe would increase the distance that individuals would have to travel on average to over 125 miles to reach the nearest abortion provider, it would still be an option for those who have the resources and are capable of traveling.

However, the more likely result will be an increase in the use of abortion medication. Currently, over 40% of abortions are obtained through the use of the abortion pills. With the pandemic and the loosening of restrictions on telemedicine, it has become easier to obtain the pills online and have them shipped directly to abortion-vulnerable women. Though there are some state regulations that limit the use of these pills and obtaining them through the mail, their prevalence is expected to rise because the cost of the medication is cheaper than a surgical abortion.

Another consideration that the pro-life movement will face is elected officials who refuse to enforce bans and restrictions, especially in states with divided governments. For example, Michigan’s attorney general has stated previously that she would not enforce the state’s ban on abortion if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe. Even if the pro-life movement is able to help pass legislation further restricting abortion, it will require government officials willing to enforce it.

Importance of state-by-state action for pro-life movement

With the shift from a national to state-level emphasis, the pro-life movement will need to adapt even as it continues doing what it has done for years. In the states where abortion is permitted, the pro-life movement will need to learn how to mobilize at the local level to pass ordinances, advocate for legislation, and help promote officials who stand for the dignity of the unborn. This will look different from state to state, and in some places it may be possible to only achieve partial measures in the short term — a ban on abortion at 20 weeks rather than a heartbeat bill — but in all it will look like advancing toward the goal where abortion is illegal and unthinkable, and every life is protected.

In those states where abortion becomes illegal, the pro-life movement should not cease to work toward making abortion unthinkable. Just because abortion is illegal does not mean that women will not face unexpected pregnancies and the difficulties that might make them consider abortion. The number one reason that people seek abortions are for economic issues, and these concerns — poverty, job insecurity, the cost of healthcare — will still exist once Roe is overturned. If Roe is overturned, Christians will have the opportunity to refute the claim by pro-abortion advocates that those in the pro-life movement only care about the baby and mother up to the point of birth. We will be able to showcase that being pro-life is a womb-to-tomb ethic, and that the church, in the name of Jesus, seeks to serve and love the most vulnerable.

The post What will happen at the state level if Roe is overturned? appeared first on ERLC.

Vance Pitman to lead NAMB’s Send Network

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Vance Pitman, who planted Hope Church Las Vegas in 2000 and pastored there 21 years, will lead the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) church planting efforts as the new president of Send Network. Pitman and NAMB president Kevin Ezell shared the announcement in a video released today.

“I’ve been part of Send Network since its inception, but I’ve been part of it on the field — as a church planter, a pastor and a Sending Church. Now I get to be part of it from a different vantage point,” Pitman said.

Pitman has led Hope to be a reproducing church. Under his leadership, Hope has played a part in planting more than 70 new churches. Throughout its history, more than 300 members of Pitman’s congregation have been sent out to help start new churches.

“I want to take what the Lord has allowed us to be able to do at Hope Church and help be part of raising up the next generation church planters and pastors across North America,” Pitman said.

Pitman will resign from Hope Church and begin his new role at NAMB on March 1, 2022.

“I am excited about the days ahead for NAMB and Send Network,” Ezell said. “Vance is a church planter at heart, and he has already had a great influence on Send Network. We look forward to seeing what God has in store for us as we continue to meet needs, share the hope of the gospel and plant churches throughout North America.”

Pitman has been closely involved in Send Network for several years. He contributed significantly to the development of the network’s church planter assessment process, which helps ensure that church planters are well qualified for their role. He is also regularly featured as a speaker at NAMB church planter training events.

Pitman follows Dhati Lewis, who led Send Network for three years. In mid-November, Lewis shared his plans to leave NAMB at the end of the year to concentrate more fully on developing and mentoring young leaders who will plant churches in the urban context.

“Vance is a close friend, fellow pastor and church planter,” Lewis said. “I’ve learned a lot from him, and I look forward to the ways he will help Send Network continue to plant churches everywhere for everyone.”

Pitman and his wife, Kristie, relocated to Las Vegas in 2000 to plant Hope Church. Their sending church was First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. What started as a small group meeting in their living room eventually grew to a church of more than 4,000 members with 54 languages spoken among them.

“For me, it’s always been about the Kingdom being expanded,” Pitman said. “I want us to trust God for an even greater future than we’ve already seen in Send Network.”

Hawkins’ latest book, ‘The Prayer Code,’ released

NASHVILLE (BP) – O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, will release the latest in his Code series of books on Tuesday (Nov. 30). “The Prayer Code” will be the last of his books released during his tenure as president of GuideStone. He will retire in early 2022.

The book’s full title is “The Prayer Code: 40 Scriptures Every Believer Should Pray,” and it examines 40 famous examples of prayer from the Bible and how believers can incorporate the lessons within those prayers into their own prayer lives.

Each of the 40 chapters includes a “Code Word” readers can use to remember the importance of that guiding principle of prayer.

The book follows previous installments in Hawkins’ Code series including “The Jesus Code,” “The Joshua Code,” “The Daniel Code” and “The Bible Code.”

Hawkins, who will become President emeritus of GuideStone after the first quarter of 2022, said the previous books in his series lacked a specific focus on prayer, so he desired this work to show how prayer and Bible study connect.

“The reason we came to ‘The Prayer code,’ is that without the Bible, prayer has no direction and without prayer the Bible has no dynamic,” Hawkins said. “It’s sort of like ham and eggs or steak and potatoes; they go together.

“For many Christians the difficulty in prayer does not come from inaccuracies about prayer as much as it is lack of discipline in setting apart a time to pray. A lot of people have not effectively developed a prayer life.”

Beyond examining specific examples of prayer in the Bible, Hawkins also spends time in the book exploring aspects or methods of prayer. One chapter outlines what Hawkins calls “the pattern of prayer,” which includes confession, thanksgiving, praise, intercession petition and communion with God.

Seeing the important role prayer plays in the Bible is what Hawkins said prompts us to see its importance for our lives as well.

“The disciples spent 24/7 with Christ for over three years and saw Him do many amazing things, but the only thing they asked Him to teach them to do was to pray,” Hawkins said. “If He who knew no sin sensed the need of prayer, how much more do we need it?”

Hawkins said the main thing he was personally reminded of while working on the book is the powerful connection the Holy Spirit has to believers as they go to God in prayer.

“There is a beautiful truth that we all need a prayer partner, and the Bible says we have one in the Holy Spirit,” Hawkins said. “The Bible says we often don’t pray as we ought, but the Spirit prays within in with groanings which cannot be uttered. When Jesus left, He said He was going to leave us a prayer partner in the Comforter or the Holy Spirit.”

As his time serving with GuideStone comes to a close, Hawkins said he is thankful for his time to serve the organization and will continue to write more books in the Code series.

All royalties for the books in the series, which have sold more than 2 million copies, go to support Mission:Dignity, a GuideStone ministry aimed at financially assisting retired pastors and their wives/widows.

Serving those who have faithfully served is what Hawkins said motivates him to continue his ministry of writing even into his retirement from full-time ministry.

“I’ve had 25 incredible years at GuideStone, and here we’re on a mission to bring dignity to those forgotten people … that’s what keeps me writing the Code books and supporting Mission:Dignity.”

More information about the Code book series or Mission:Dignity can be found here.

A prayer guide in light of Dobbs v. Jackson WHO

Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson WHO

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case out of Mississippi, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

You can find an explainer on the implications of this case here. Our goal in this piece is not to deliberate the intricacies of this case or to debate the legalese of Dobbs. Instead, as leaders in the pregnancy center movement, we want to encourage you to spend some time over the next few weeks and months in prayer for the justices, the attorneys, the organizations on the ground serving women, the unborn, and the women facing unplanned pregnancies who are walking through the doors of close to 3,000 pregnancy centers every single day.

So, if you would allow us, we would like to point out ways you can be praying. This guide does not provide an exhaustive list of needs, but we believe that it is a great launching point for God’s people to come together in prayer as we seek the end of abortion in our country and around our globe.

Justices

Please pray for the justices on the Court. Their job is one of ever-growing responsibility as they attempt to navigate the muddy waters of legislation, rights, public opinion, and the Constitution. It is easy for us to pile on when decisions don’t go our way, but it is far harder for us to realize that these men and women have families, friends, and normal life routines just like we do. Pray the nine justices will have courage, wisdom, and grace.

Attorneys

There are a number of attorneys and attorneys general who have prepared for this case. It is not lost on us that this case is a hinge point for our republic and for the rights of the unborn moving forward. We can’t imagine the pressure these men and women are feeling as they deliver arguments for which they have prepared and studied hard. Please pray for their peace, courage, and stamina.

Pregnancy centers

God’s Word tells us in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” There are thousands of pregnancy centers across the United States that are filled with people who work to overcome this evil with good. Pray for the staff and volunteers that populate these centers day in and day out. Pray for the nurses who view these precious lives via ultrasound. Pray for strength and stamina for these selfless men and women who choose to serve during these very trying times and face real spiritual warfare.

The unborn

Pray for these unborn babies. These lives represent image-bearers deserving of love, life, and an opportunity. Pray that the images we see on the ultrasound scans prompt action and heart change. Pray that these lives are given the care they need and deserve.

Women facing unplanned pregnancies

Pray for the women facing unplanned pregnancies. Pray that obstacles would be moved out of their way as they seek to choose life. Pray that abortion clinics close their doors and these women find their way to the door of a pregnancy center. Pray for healing, healthy relationships, and a desire to be an incredible mom. Pray for support from a church, friends, or family members.

We take prayer seriously at Hope Resource Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, and at Portico in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. We start every day calling out to our God for his loving hand as we serve his image-bearers, both in and out of the womb. We don’t know how God is going to answer any of these prayers, but we believe that just as David boldly stepped up to confront Goliath in his day, we are called to boldly confront abortion in America in our day. God is calling us to pray courageous prayers. Will you join us in this call to action? We are grateful for your support and are honored to serve alongside you for the work of the gospel and for life.

This post originally appeared on the ERLC’s website.

Giving Tuesday offers prime chance to support SBC entities

INVERNESS, Fla. (BP) — The Psalm 139 Project donating ultrasound machines to pregnancy centers, one of several Southern Baptist ministries participating in Giving Tuesday Nov. 30, can rescue expectant mothers as well as the unborn, a program participant said.

Barb Gosa, executive director of the Citrus Pregnancy Center in Inverness, Fla., told Psalm 139 Project organizer the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of an expectant mother whose ultrasound might very well have saved her life. The mother visited the pregnancy center when a technician was training nurses in the proper use of the machine shortly after it was donated.

The trainer told Gosa, “This baby she is considering aborting may have very well saved her life,” Gosa said. “In the end, we recommended she get to her doctor’s office, gave her copies of her scans, and explained it was important to do it right away.

“But had we not received the blessing of the (ultrasound) machine, and had (the trainer) not been here on the very day she came in, we believe the outcome could have been very different.”

Giving Tuesday (Virtual HQ – GivingTuesday), a global charitable giving movement birthed in 2012, includes opportunities to support several Southern Baptist entities and related ministries, oftentimes with donations increased through matching gift allotments.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is offering an unspecified match to Giving Tuesday donations to For the Mission (https://www.forthemission.com/givingtuesday/), with a goal of receiving gifts from 500 Great Commission Givers. For the Mission is SEBTS’s four-year fundraising campaign to raise $20.5 million for student aid endowments, academic faculty endowments, campus construction and renovation, and the Southeastern Fund.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is seeking to raise $250,000 on Giving Tuesday for its Providence Fund, which helps students preparing for fulltime ministry. The NOBTS Foundation Board has pledged $100,000 on the day, marketed at nobts.edu (https://nobts.edu/givingtuesday/default.html) as NOBTS and Leavell College’s Giving Day, and is challenging donors to collectively match the gift.

Among the most generous matching gifts is the $500,000 to match donations to the Mission:Dignity benevolence ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources ((https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/sbc-digest-missiondignity-gifts-matched-lifeway-online-christmas-store/). A Mission:Dignity endowment covers all administrative and overhead costs, allowing 100 percent of gifts to go directly to retired Southern Baptist workers, ministers and widows near the poverty line, GuideStone said.

“We would encourage anyone interested in giving this year to consider multiplying the effectiveness of their gift by giving it on Tuesday, Nov. 30,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. Giving is available at GuideStone.org/GivingTuesdayhttps://app.mobilecause.com/vf/MDTuesday).

The Psalm 139 Project is accepting donations at erlc.com/50by50 (https://erlc.com/50by50/), a site launching Tuesday to accept donations supporting ERLC’s goal to place 50 ultrasound machines at centers by the 50 anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January, 2023. Already, ERLC is on track to place 25 machines by the end of 2021, Psalm 139 Placement Manager Rachel Wiles said.

“When you partner with the Psalm 139 Project, 100 percent of your gift goes directly to placing ultrasound machines. All of our admin costs are covered by the ongoing generosity of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program,” Wiles said. “That’s what makes us unique — and that’s why partnering with us will make a real, tangible difference.”

Among other outreaches, J.D. Greear ministries is seeking to raise $60,000 to support ministry in an undisclosed location to Afghans. The ministry will provide matching funds up to $30,000, Greear announced today (Nov. 28), and a copy of Greear’s discussion guide “Be the Movement.” Donations will support a training facility, housing for local ministry leaders, language education support, a medical project for pregnant Afghan women, and other outreaches.

Send Network churches make up one quarter of Outreach Magazine’s reproducing churches list

LAS VEGASWhen Heiden Ratner started WALK Church in Las Vegas, he had an ideal model for reproduction in his sending church. Las Vegas’ Hope Church has started more than 60 churches since its 2001 founding.

Ratner served as an apprentice at Hope Church before planting WALK Church in 2014.

“It was in that season where I got to learn under Pastor Vance Pitman about the Kingdom of God and how the Kingdom of God is so much bigger than just one church,” said Ratner, who also serves as the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) city missionary for Las Vegas. “He showed me that it’s going to be churches planting churches that actually reaches the city. That shifted our thinking. We didn’t come to start something. We came to be a part of something God was already doing in Las Vegas.”

Ratner and WALK Church clearly learned what Pitman taught. Since its launch in 2014, WALK has planted two churches—and supported another eight churches in just seven years. Outreach Magazine recently recognized the church as one of its 100 Reproducing Churches.

At least a quarter of the magazine’s list of reproducing churches came from Send Network, a Southern Baptist network of churches committed to reproducible church planting. Send Network churches include both long-standing, established churches and relatively young church plants.

The list is one of three published in the magazine’s September/October issue. The magazine also highlighted the fastest-growing and largest-participating churches. Outreach Magazine partners with Lifeway Research to create the three lists.

“It’s easy to focus on larger churches, but we are committed to looking at churches that plant churches,” said Ed Stetzer, editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine. “We know that church planting — done well — is about reaching people. We know statistically that new churches reach more than established churches. So, at Outreach Magazine, we want to celebrate churches reaching people — and you can’t do that without church planting!”

Noah Oldham, whose St. Louis church—August Gate—appears on the list, said reproduction is a critical part of NAMB’s strategy to reach North America.

“It’s the task Southern Baptists have given us,” said Oldham, who serves as senior director of church planter deployment with Send Network. “We have the collective calling of taking the gospel to every man, woman, girl and boy in North America. We believe that happens not only in evangelism, not only through compassion ministries like Send Relief, but it happens through church planting. It is healthy churches planting healthy churches. Great Commission churches planting Great Commission churches.”

Oldham said August Gate has served as the sending church for six new plants in its first 12 years of ministry and helped to financially support another 12 plants. Even the name August Gate symbolizes the church’s commitment to planting new churches. August, Oldham says, is the month when farmers prepare for harvest, and St. Louis has long been known as the Gateway City.

“If you put those two things together, you get harvest St. Louis,” Oldham said. “So, we gave it that name because we wanted, from the very beginning, every time someone asked, ‘Hey, what’s your church about? What’s the name about?’, we could tell them God called us not just to plant a church, but to plant a church that would plant many churches.”

Shades Mountain Baptist Church, an established church founded in 1910 and a Send Network church in Birmingham, Ala., also made the Outreach 100 list. The church has served as the sending church for two church plants and has supported 16 church plants in strategic cities throughout North America.

A little more than two decades ago, recently retired Pastor Danny Wood began raising the value of missions and church planting through a five-day missions conference that introduced the congregation to church planters from around North America. Church planting became a part of the church’s fabric as the congregation learned to love, care for and resource church planting missionaries.

“The church has grasped the conviction that multiplication is a biblical mandate,” said Tim Wheat, Shades Mountain’s missions pastor. “We are not only called to multiply disciples but to multiply leaders and multiply churches. As a living entity, the church follows the path of life of all living things. Things that are alive are to reproduce things that are alive, of like nature, so therefore, we have sought to make support and engagement with church planting a priority.”

The church leverages its Sunday School system and discipleship groups to “reproduce disciples” and uses Send Network’s Multiplication Pipeline to reproduce “missional leaders.” Both are key elements to their church planting strategy.

Church That Matters, another Southern Baptist church on the Outreach list, credits Send Network for helping to spur even greater multiplication efforts within the church. Oklahoma and Send Network announced a partnership in August 2021 to form Send Network Oklahoma.

“Send Network jumping into Oklahoma has been a game-changer in terms of the tools available through them to support the multiplication taking place,” said Rusty Gunn, pastor of Church That Matters who also serves as a church planting catalyst in the state. “It has inspired us. I was driving a lot of the church planting in our first eight to ten years. This is really giving us a shift to a much larger involvement, belief and buy-in from other people in our church. It has given us a framework, something we can latch onto to continue to discover, develop and deploy more and more planters.”

Send Network’s Multiplication Pipeline is a free resource that is designed to help churches reproduce by discovering, developing and deploying its members to help start new churches throughout North America.

Missionaries welcome effort to push back darkness

Europe is a modern crossroads of people from Northern Africa and the Middle East.

The mission strategy of Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma was forever changed when Mike, the missions pastor, read a statistic: “5% of missions work is done in North Africa and Middle East.” After reading this startling fact, Mike knew the Lord was calling him to lead his church in reversing the statistic in their own mission strategy.

“As I read that statistic, it just hit me,” Mike says. “I looked at the missions team at [our church] and realized we weren’t even doing 5% of our missions work among NAME peoples. I knew that had to change.”

Otis Neumann*, a missionary with IMB’s Northern African and Middle Eastern affinity, appreciates the advocacy of Mike and his church.

“His vision has inspired others, including Hispanic churches and the Oklahoma Baptist Convention, to make NAME peoples a priority for prayer and missions work,” Otis says.

For two years Mike and the missions team prayed about a specific, unreached people group. Along with a team from their church, Mike and his wife traveled to Europe in 2012. They met an IMB missionary who gave them a glimpse into how God was at work among NAME peoples there.

Otis says that coming to Europe first to connect with immigrants from NAME is a good way for churches to develop a love for the people and make them a priority in their mission vision.

“Europe is a modern crossroads of people from Northern Africa and the Middle East,” he explains.

“From Europe, SBC churches have the unique opportunity to partner with IMB and share the gospel with people who come from some of the most difficult to access places in the world.”

Two years after their trip to Europe, Mike and his missions team made their first trip into Northern Africa. Since that first trip, the church has sent multiple mission teams every year. They focus on building relationships, prayer walking and meeting community needs.

In February 2020, the church sent a missionary couple from their church to Northern Africa to serve with the IMB. Even during the height of the pandemic when travel was restricted, the church looked for ways to support the work overseas through prayer and encouragement.

Otis and other missionaries pray for more churches to be bold in their mission efforts.

“When churches partner with IMB, we can do more together – and there is so much left to do in Northern Africa and the Middle East,” Otis says.

“Today, there many people groups living in places where we cannot yet directly engage them with the gospel, but through prayer, we can press forward into new places and push back the darkness as the light of the gospel is proclaimed to every people group of NAME.”

How to pray

Pray that God will call out more churches to join the work to reach NAME peoples with the gospel.
Pray for more long-term missionaries in the fields among the unreached.
Pray that the light of Christ would break the barriers that keep many from hearing the gospel.

*Name changed for security

Catherine Finch, former writer for the IMB, is now the communications strategist at Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children. This article first appeared on IMB’s website.

Call for prayer issued as court prepares to hear case that could overturn Roe vs. Wade

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is focusing on pro-life work as oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 1 at the Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs vs. Mississippi. Leaders from the ERLC talked with Jonathan Howe, vice president for communications of the SBC Executive Committee, during a special edition of the SBC This Week podcast released Monday.

“These oral arguments and this particular case coming out of Mississippi represents the best opportunity in a generation to potentially overturn Roe vs. Wade,” said Brent Leatherwood, interim president of the ERLC.

Leatherwood said it’s a time for the pro-life community to intercede in prayer for the justices of the Supreme Court as they hear the arguments.

“We need to be praying for the nine justices as they receive these arguments and, then, go back to their chambers and really start sussing through competing priorities,” he said.

Chelsea Sobolik, director of public policy for the ERLC, said this case is unique because it specifically deals with the viability of the unborn child in the womb.

“The Mississippi law says essentially after a child is viable at 15 weeks, elective abortion would be unconstitutional,” Sobolik said, adding that the law does makes exceptions related to the health of the mother and if severe fetal abnormalities are discovered.

Sobolik said this case is has the ability to undue the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade to legalize abortion in 1973 because it deals with viability.

“Viability is basically the key to unraveling the undue burden standard,” she said.

In the podcast, Howe, Leatherwood and Sobolik are also joined by Elizabeth Graham, vice president for operations and life initiatives for the ERLC. Graham discussed the work of the Psalm 139 project and their goal of placing 50 ultrasound machines in pregnancy support centers across the US before the 50th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision in January 2023.

When it comes to the viability of a child outside the womb, Graham said, “What we know today from a science and medical standpoint is different than what we knew 30 or 40 years ago.”

She added that while the ERLC believes that life begins at conception, it is widely accepted in the international medical and science community that a child is viable at 15 weeks of development.

“The way you cut down a tree is a thousand cuts, and every step we take to advance that goal of both protecting life in the womb and caring for mothers and their communities is important,” Sobolik said.

Leatherwood said that for nearly five decades Roe vs. Wade has rested on equal protection under the law for every human life as granted by the 14th Amendment.

“If we’re going to follow down that path of constitutional logic, then I think we want to bring that back to the court and say, ‘You’re relying on equal protection. We want equal protection for all lives. All these pre-born lives,” he said.

Follow Baptist Press for coverage of this week’s arguments before the Supreme Court.

Listen to the full version of the podcast below or find it wherever you download your podcasts.

Download this episode

 

Missionaries ignite gospel fire still burning decades later

Tears escape from Sharalene Roper’s eyes and cascade down her cheeks.

They’re tears of joy, and they come naturally for a woman who is fulfilling God’s calling on her life to care for elderly residents at the Baptist Retirement Communities of Georgia.

It’s the soft words of 107-year-old Neva Peacock that triggers the waterworks.

“I love you,” Miss Neva tells Roper in a grandmotherly tone that reflects genuine affection. “You are always so kind to me.”

Roper, 48, wipes her face and tells Miss Neva she loves her, too.

The winding path that landed Roper in the role of chief operating officer at Baptist Retirement Communities actually began long before she was born, back when her mother, Rosita Patanao, was a child, back to an unexpected encounter she had with a couple of Southern Baptist missionaries serving in the Philippines in the years following World War II.

The names of the missionaries have long been forgotten, but their gospel presentation that day, like the proverbial pebble tossed into water, sent out ripples that are still impacting lives more than 70 years later, including that of Roper and some 450 residents living in the Baptist Retirement Communities.

Patanao accepted Christ that day, grew up, got married, and raised her children in a Christian home, positioning Roper to step into the ministry she loves.

Roper’s pastor, Kevin Williams of First Baptist Church in Villa Rica, said the story is one that shows how God works out every detail to accomplish His will.

“It amazes me how God works all things together for good,” Williams said. “When you know all the details, and you have this young lady serving the Lord, and singing for the glory of God, it is absolutely amazing.”

In addition to her work with the elderly, Roper is a regular soloist at her church.

“Had it not been for those missionaries, had my mom not accepted Christ, I don’t know where my family would be,” Roper said. “My faith in Christ has just been the basis of my entire life. My mom nurtured that. She consistently encouraged me to pray, to read the Bible, and to have faith. She would always tell me that God is faithful, that He will take care of you.”

It’s the kind of story International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood says he never grows tired of hearing. In his travels throughout the U.S. and around the world, Chitwood often encounters people who tell him how their families heard the gospel from Southern Baptist missionaries.

“Only Heaven will reveal how many people will someday stand before the throne and the Lamb because God, in some way, used Southern Baptists who prayed, gave their money, sent missionaries, and went as missionaries themselves so the lost among the nations could hear the gospel,” he said.

Roper’s mom, a nurse, died in 2004, but she left indelible memories of her devotion to the Lord and of her joy in serving Him.

“Every morning she would sit in the kitchen by the window and read her Bible,” Roper said. “She would teach me Bible stories. And when I was grown with children of my own, I would see her teaching my children the same Bible stories she taught me.”

Those teachings formed the bedrock of Roper’s faith and have made her successful in her ministry at Baptist Retirement Communities.

Roper finishes her visit with Miss Neva, who in her younger years was a pastor’s wife and a teacher. She leans down and gives her a gentle hug, then walks out the door, still wiping away tears.

“When I came here for the first time, and those doors opened, I could almost feel God’s heart,” she said. “Where else could I minister to people in such a special way? I can share the gospel. I can pray over people. I can encourage the residents and staff. It’s really the believer’s ultimate dream.”

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Historic commitment signed to send missionaries from Asia to Africa  

Jeff Singerman addresses those gathered in Kenya for the signing of the memorandum of understanding between IMB leadership in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Singerman is the globalization associate for Sub-Saharan Africa.

On Oct. 29 in Kenya, IMB missionaries serving in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Asian Pacific Rim signed a memorandum of understanding solidifying the sending of missionaries from Asia to serve in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Daren Davis, the IMB leader for missionaries serving in Africa, said the signing of the memorandum is a historic step toward seeing Asians engage those in need of the gospel in Africa.

“This is a worthy effort, and we stand here to say we will stand firm, in one spirit, with one mind, striving together, side by side. Why? For the sake of the gospel,” Davis told those who gathered for the signing. “Welcome to this momentous occasion, welcome to this time where we join hands across the ocean to see the next step of partnership, the next step of ‘side by side’ for God’s glory.”

Five years ago, Asian and Kenyan Christians gathered with IMB personnel in Kenya to dream and plan for a mission partnership. Davis said they were encouraged by Philippians 1.

Davis said the vision expanded from IMB missionaries engaging the world, to IMB missionaries and Africans ministering together, to serving side by side with believers from Asia and the world.

Davis acknowledged the decades of missions’ investment in Asian countries.

“We stand here today on the shoulders of those who went before us, people who labored in places where the name of Jesus was not known, and now, from those very places, rise up believers who are going to the nations for the sake of the gospel,” Davis said.

Jeff Singerman, who serves in Africa, said the brutal fact is that there are multitudes of unreached people on the African continent. He sees the signing of the memorandum as an answer to prayer. It is a building block to understanding that Christians from other nations can join the task of seeing African churches sending African missionaries.

Singerman said they will host multicultural trainings to enable missionaries from Asia to be fruitful and successful in the mission and in the calling that God has given them.

“This collaboration might be the greatest contribution the IMB can make in this generation of missionaries. In other words, facilitating connections with those whom we work, so that they can understand their fulfilling and calling to the missionary task,” Singerman said.

Jonathan Tipton*, the IMB leader for missionaries in Asia, said, “We’re privileged to not only witness but play a key role in missions history that is just now beginning to leverage all of the economic and technological accomplishments made within the last 200 years.”

Tipton said the lightning speed of the development of telecommunications and transportation creates a bridge.

“Not only do we, but our Christian brothers and sisters from all the people we serve, have a massive and unprecedented opportunity to walk on this same bridge, declaring the gospel to all the peoples of the earth as we and as they go,” Tipton said.

Tipton said it’s important for the IMB and other sending agencies to represent and reflect the changing and expanding demographic of Christians.

The up-and-coming missions force is not from North America. As a reflection of this, before the signing of the memorandum, IMB leaders and missionaries prayed in Chinese, Thai, Korean, Portuguese, Wolof and Lozi.

Jeremiah Farmer, who serves in Asia, said, “It is my hope, that before I die, I get to see more Asian missionaries on the field than Western countries have ever sent in Christian history. I hope the same is true for Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Farmer noted that Asian missionaries make an enormous commitment when they choose to answer the call of the Great Commission.

“When I think of what it takes for a rice farmer in Asia to send a missionary someplace like Africa, the sacrifice it takes is immense, but what they get to learn is kingdom principles. They get to learn what it means to be blessed to be a blessing. They get to learn what it means to give and not receive anything back in return, except to know that God’s name may be proclaimed to lost people who have never heard the gospel,” Farmer said.

Farmer leads the training and equipping of Asian missionaries. Seven missionaries from Asia will soon be serving in Sub-Saharan Africa, and seven more are in the process of interviews. Eight of the missionaries committed to serving in Sub-Saharan Africa during the meeting surrounding the signing of the memorandum. Farmer said the meeting provided opportunities for the new missionaries to interact face-to-face with missionaries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Several missionaries recently finished training and are in the process of moving to West Africa.

Josh Rivers*, who serves in Africa, said the missionaries will come alongside their urban team in a key gateway city in Muslim-majority West Africa to share the gospel, disciple believers and plant churches.

Rivers said they will work in a developing area of a rapidly growing city to engage both the residents and the growing population of migrants.

“In partnership with Asia and the Pacific Rim, we are sending laborers into locations that are well below 1% evangelical,” Rivers said. “Most have never heard the gospel explained to them. Not only is this a wonderful opportunity to see more laborers among the lost, but it also serves as a testimony to believers in West Africa as they see nationals from Asia coming and walking alongside them for the advance of the gospel. It becomes a testimony to the West African believer that they too can be sent by God to carry the good news to other nations.”

Davis said he longs for the day when missionaries are sent from Africa to Asia.

“Let’s work together so that African churches will send African missionaries to our brothers in Asia, to our sisters in South America, to the big cities of Europe – taking the gospel back to America. We are living in a day when we are going from everywhere to everywhere,” Davis said. “May we put our hand to this plow and move forward.”

*Names changed for security

Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB from Southeast Asia.

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