Author: Baptist Press

Some Bethany branches find home with Lifeline after same-sex decision

NASHVILLE (BP) – Multiple state branches of Bethany Christian Services have found a new home after the ministry announced its across-the-board policy change to place children for adoption and foster care with same-sex couples.

Bethany Christian Services (BCS) branches in Arkansas, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming and the Florida panhandle have transitioned to Lifeline Children’s Services since March 1, when the nearly 80-year-old, evangelical Christian organization disclosed its policy reversal. Bethany’s Mississippi branch already had made the change to Lifeline at the start of 2019 after BCS maintained its contract with the city of Philadelphia, Pa., by changing its policy on same-sex placements.

In all cases, the transitions took place with Bethany’s blessing in a cooperative effort between the two ministries, spokesmen for both organizations said.

Bethany’s national office in Grand Rapids, Mich., had given its boards in 32 states the freedom to make same-sex placements after the 2018 policy change in Philadelphia, said a source familiar with the ministry. BCS also had been winding down its pregnancy counseling and adoption work for at least five years, the source said.

Still, the organization-wide policy reversal caught some Bethany state workers off guard. Some decided they would need to leave Bethany.

“I was shocked and heartbroken,” said Sheila White, who had served with Bethany for a decade. She now is Lifeline’s Gulf Coast director of engagement in Florida.

Tricia Williamson of South Carolina said, “On March 1, I knew quickly that I would be submitting my resignation to Bethany. At that point, I did not know what the next steps would be for me. I really was not sure where I would land.”

Williamson, who began working for Bethany in 1992, was its South Carolina director when the organization disclosed the policy change. On June 1, Williamson and Bethany’s South Carolina branch of three offices transitioned to Lifeline, where she now serves as director of state services.

In addition to South Carolina’s three Bethany offices, the transitioning branches consisted of two offices each in Arkansas, South Dakota and Wyoming, as well as the office in Pensacola, Fla. Mississippi’s Bethany branch included three offices when it made the transfer to Lifeline.

Bethany’s policy change and the opportunity for some branches to find a new home prompted Lifeline to reaffirm its statement of faith, including its endorsement of a biblical view of marriage as a covenant of a man and a woman.

“We are standing firm on biblical values,” said Herbie Newell, Lifeline’s president and executive director. “As an organization, we’ll shut down before we compromise.”

White decided to join Lifeline “because they stand firm on the Word of God and assured me that they would not succumb to the ways of the world,” she said.

The move of state branches to Lifeline has proven beneficial from both perspectives, the parties said.

Bethany’s South Carolina branch “really operated with a clear Gospel focus,” Williamson said. “So it was just a great fit with Lifeline and their Gospel-centered focus, which is very much who we have always been in South Carolina with Bethany.

“I’m just really, really grateful,” she said. “To me, it’s just really clear God’s hand was in this.”

Lifeline, Newell said, has “inherited so many great people who were already living and working in this mission and were passionate about this work and passionate about living out their convictions and their faith in their relationship with Christ in what they do. Honestly, that part of all of this has just been pure joy.”

Regarding Lifeline’s focus, Newell said the Gospel of Jesus “is what transforms the lives of women that are walking through crisis pregnancy. The Gospel is what changes the trajectory of the life of a vulnerable child. … And our goal is to see lives transformed not just in the immediate but to be transformed for an eternity because they’ve come face to face with the Savior. And that’s our mission unequivocally.”

The work of Lifeline includes pregnancy counseling, adoption and family restoration in the United States, with offices in 16 states. The 40-year-old ministry, which is based in Birmingham, Ala., offers international adoption in 18 countries.

Lifeline has partnered with Southern Baptist entities in its work. Newell has spoken at three different Evangelical for Life conferences cohosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) since 2016. Lifeline cosponsored the 2020 event with the ERLC.

The ministry’s work with the International Mission Board (IMB) has included helping missionary couples adopt while they are on the field, Newell said. Lifeline also has aided IMB in efforts to serve vulnerable children around the world. Its partnership with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has included assisting church planters to engage on adoption and orphan care. Lifeline also has worked with Send Relief, the joint compassion ministry of IMB and NAMB, on serving children in foster care in Puerto Rico.

Lifeline and Bethany differ on the primary sources of their funding. Lifeline does not accept money from any level of government. Sixty percent of its financial support comes from donations, not fees for services, Newell said. Meanwhile, nearly 77 percent of Bethany’s $135.6 million in operating revenue during 2020 was from federal and state government funds, including contracts and grants. Government funding is reflected in the “child support” line item in Bethany’s annual report.

Bethany has shifted the focus of its work the last five years toward “foster care, global family strengthening (in-country foster care) and refugee services,” according to a written statement from a source familiar with the ministry. By then, Bethany had already been moving away from a concentration on pregnancy counseling, as well as domestic and international adoption. The organization’s international adoption accreditation expired in March of this year, and Bethany chose not to renew it in the wake of a dramatic decline in overseas adoptions by Americans during the last two decades.

The increasing use of chemical/medical abortion instead of surgical abortion has made it “more difficult to reach abortion-minded women,” said a source familiar with Bethany’s work. The organization has experienced a “steep decline in private domestic adoption” in the last five years, including a 40 percent drop during the last two years, the source said.

“[N]ot everyone within our large, diverse ministry agreed” with the shift in services, a Bethany spokesman said.

Bethany abided by an explicit statement beginning in 2007 that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman” before it reversed its policy on same-sex placement. Regarding the policy change, the organization “anticipated that some would disagree with our decision not to take an official position on several doctrinal issues about which Christians disagree, and we completely respect that,” the spokesman said.

With Bethany’s changes, its leaders and Lifeline’s leaders had conducted ongoing conversations regarding the possible transition of the work of some of the BCS state branches even before the Michigan-based organization’s decision to approve same-sex placements, said sources familiar with those talks.

Lifeline “is a great organization that we have long partnered with. So it was a natural fit for us to work together to transition some of our pregnancy counseling and private adoption services to them in several states,” said a Bethany spokesman, who emphasized BCS will continue to provide services such as foster care in most of those states.

While Lifeline and Bethany “have divergent opinions on the way forward,” what “is encouraging is the way that we’ve worked so well together in this transition,” Newell said. “[T]hrough our differences and through our differing philosophy moving forward, we’ve been able to put those aside to work together to make sure that things have been transitioned well.”

In the disagreement between Bethany and some of its state branches, Newell said he thinks BCS treated the branches “in a way where these branches are still flourishing, the staff is still flourishing, and all of those that were supporting these branches are still able to do the ministry that they’ve done for decades.”

ERLC-endorsed brief defends religious liberty of Texas inmate

WASHINGTON (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has joined in a request of the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the freedom of a condemned Texas inmate to have a Southern Baptist pastor lay hands on and pray for him when he receives a lethal injection.

The SBC entity co-signed with six other faith or religious freedom organizations a friend-of-the-court brief filed Monday (Sept. 27) by the Christian Legal Society in support of John Ramirez’s free exercise of religion. The brief contended Texas’ policy violates a federal law enacted in 2000 that prohibits the government from substantially burdening the religious free exercise of a prisoner.

The high court will hear oral arguments Nov. 1 in the case, Ramirez v. Collier.

Ramirez, 37, sued Texas prison officials in August for refusing to permit Dana Moore, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, to minister to him when he is executed. The Supreme Court granted a stay of the execution Sept. 8, the same night Ramirez was scheduled to receive the death penalty for a 2004 murder in Corpus Christi.

Brent Leatherwood, the ERLC’s acting president, said the high court “should overrule Texas’ ban and allow this important and solemn moment of ministry to proceed.”

“Religious freedom doesn’t end as you approach the moment of death, and we have joined a brief saying as much,” Leatherwood said in written comments. “The state has yet to make a compelling argument for why Pastor Moore, an SBC pastor, cannot minister to Mr. Ramirez in these final moments.”

Ramirez based his request for the stay on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and the ERLC-endorsed brief argued the state failed a test established by that federal law. RLUIPA bars the government from substantially burdening the free exercise of religion not only by an inmate but by a person or institution in land-use cases. The government, however, can gain an exemption from the law if it can show it has a compelling interest and is using the “least restrictive means” to further that interest.

Under RLUIPA, Texas has failed to show “its blanket prohibition on spiritual advisors engaging in audible prayer or physical touching of the prisoner furthers ‘a compelling government interest’ and is the ‘least restrictive means of furthering’” such a compelling interest, according to the brief.

The state has fallen short of meeting RLUIPA’s requirement that it “present specific evidence – not merely generalized assertions or speculations – as to why banning these practices is necessary to serve order and security,” the brief said.

Texas “does not say precisely what the security or safety concerns are or how audible prayers or touching would necessarily undermine its interests,” according to the brief.

Even if the state shows its bans on physical touch and audible prayer promote a compelling interest, it also must demonstrate they are the “least restrictive means” to achieve that interest, the brief said.

“[Texas] has multiple less restrictive means of maintaining order and security, and it has not demonstrated that these are inadequate.”

The brief contended Ramirez should be granted a continued injunction blocking his execution without the right to exercise his religion freely. It also argued the Supreme Court should remand the case to a lower court, if Texas maintains its ban, for consideration of a permanent injunction against the state prohibition.

In addition to the ERLC, also signing onto the Christian Legal Society brief were the National Association of Evangelicals, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Anglican Church in North America, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Rutherford Institute and Queens (N.Y.) Federation of Churches.

In his lawsuit, Ramirez is described as a “devout Christian.” Moore has ministered to Ramirez since 2016, when the prisoner was accepted as a member of Second Baptist Church. In 2008, Ramirez was convicted of the murder of convenience store clerk Pablo Castro, whom he stabbed 29 times during a robbery.

Ramirez filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court after a federal judge and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans both refused to halt the execution.

The application said the current ban by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice not only on Moore laying hands on Ramirez but praying and reading the Bible ignores “less restrictive alternatives.” Moore could pray, sing prayers or read Scripture next to Ramirez or further away, according to the application.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice changed its policy on permitting clergy in the execution chamber after the Supreme Court stayed Patrick Murphy’s execution in 2019 because his Buddhist spiritual advisor was not allowed to be present though Christian and Muslim chaplains were. The department barred all spiritual advisors from the execution chamber until it revised its policy in April of this year to permit their presence. Chaplains are not permitted to pray or read Scripture while in the chamber, however.

Timothy Cockes, Baptist Press staff writer, contributed to this article.

Texas tightens restrictions on chemical abortions

AUSTIN, Texas (BP) – In another move to protect unborn life in the state, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill earlier this month that narrows the window of time doctors can prescribe medicine to induce a chemical abortion from 10 weeks into pregnancy to seven weeks. The rule, which also disallows the pills from being delivered by mail, takes effect in December, The Associated Press reported.

In a ceremonial bill signing at Great Hills Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Austin, Abbott called the moment “a celebration,” the Texas Tribune reported. He was at the church for the annual Texas Faith, Family & Freedom Forum, hosted by policy group Texas Values.

“I think it’s clear that the most important freedom of all, obviously, is the right to life,” he said. “And even as we can all understand the imperative of the right to life, there are still millions of children who lose their lives to abortion, every single year. We in Texas will not accept that.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research institute that supports abortion, medication has become the most common way to obtain an abortion, the Texas Tribune reported.

“All pro-life Christians should be encouraged by this move by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature,” said Chelsea Sobolik, director of public policy for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in written comments for Baptist Press.

“But, while this is certainly a step in the right direction, there’s still much work to be done to make abortion unthinkable and unnecessary in our society. The government should do all it can to protect innocent preborn babies.”

The bill, Senate Bill 8, is the latest of a string of pro-life developments in Texas. Abbott also signed the Texas Heartbeat Act in May of this year, which outlaws abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency request to block that law Sept. 1, thus allowing it to take effect.

Mifepristone – often known as RU 486 and authorized by the FDA under President Clinton in 2000 – is part of a two-step process in what is referred to as a medical or chemical abortion. Mifepristone, sold under the brand name Mifeprex, causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child, resulting in his or her death. Misoprostol, a second drug taken later, causes the uterus to contract, expelling the body.

Pro-life advocates have long opposed the legalization of mifepristone not only because of its lethal effect on unborn children but its risk to women who are not under a doctor’s direct care when they take the pill.

In April, the Biden Administration allowed the drugs to be sent in the mail – a rule that has gone back and forth throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Biden administration temporarily lifted restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs, allowing them to be delivered by the mail during the pandemic,” the Texas Tribune quoted Abbot at the signing. “There was an effort to make that permanent. We will not allow that in the Lone Star State.”

With reporting by Baptist Press Washington Bureau Chief Tom Strode.

Personal evangelism benefits more than the hearer, SBTS professor says

Editor’s note: Sunday (Oct. 3) is Personal Evangelism Commitment Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Tim Beougher considers himself blessed that he already understood evangelism to be a natural part of the Christian life before he realized that for many Christians, it isn’t.

Shortly after his conversion, Beougher was invited to attend a weekend retreat by the Baptist Student Union at Kansas State University. The topic that weekend was evangelism.

“As a young believer, I just sort of thought [evangelism] was what you do,” he said. “After that conference I started sharing my faith in the dorm and the last two years was a resident assistant in my dorm. I told the Lord that with His help I wanted to share the Gospel with all 70 guys on my floor, and I was able to do that two years in a row alongside many classmates.”

Beougher serves as associate dean at the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry and Billy Graham professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary..

There is a simple reason Christians are to make personal evangelism a part of their life, he said.

“We’ve been commanded to,” said Beougher, who released the book Invitation to Evangelism: Sharing the Gospel with Compassion and Conviction last month. “There’s an old saying in church life that ‘God said it. I believe it, and that settles it.’ We need to leave that middle part out. If God said it, that settles it.”

Other motivations, of course, exist for participating in evangelism, he added. For one, it glorifies God as people begin to worship Him. It also meets the needs of others, especially in eternal matters.

The reality of an earthly death reminded everyone at Southern Seminary today (Sept. 27) of the need to share the Gospel, Beougher said, referencing the unexpected loss of fellow professor Gregory Brewton.

“One that we know has passed into eternity, but thousands do so every day,” he said. “And so, heaven and hell are real. The Gospel is people’s only hope, and we need to be about the business of sharing it.”

Although studies show a willingness from the unchurched to hear about the Gospel, Christians continue to exhibit a hesitancy to share it. Fear, Beougher said, remains the chief reason to avoid evangelism even though it benefits both the hearer and speaker.

“When we come to Christ, the Gospel isn’t something we leave in our rearview mirror,” he said. “It’s the fuel for our sanctification as well. We get the privilege of seeing God use us in someone else’s life. That happened to me as a young Christian and I never got over it.

“A lifestyle of witnessing opens up to spiritual growth. The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea both have fresh water flowing in, but the Sea of Galilee has output as well. If there’s not output, the fresh water flowing in sits there and it soaks and sours.”

When more members of a church get that desire for evangelism, it can change a culture, he said.

“You begin to get a sense of anticipation and you’re not surprised when someone comes to faith,” Beougher said. “I’m convinced there are two types of Christians – those who think we can’t reach anyone anymore, and those who say things have changed but the Gospel hasn’t and can still reach people.

“The point is both groups are right. If you don’t think you can reach people, you won’t. But those who think they can, will.”

Haitian American pastors mobilize to help migrants, end expulsions

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (BP) — Southern Baptist Haitian American pastors in Florida are mobilizing across state and denominational lines to help resettle Haitian migrants who drew widespread attention while stuck in Del Rio, Texas, last week trying to enter the U.S.

Bruno Molina, language & interfaith evangelism associate for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (seventh from left) helped Haitian American Southern Baptist pastors and others as they met with border patrol agents in response to the Haitian migrant crisis at the U.S. border in Del Rio, Texas. Photo from John Voltaire

Keny Félix, senior pastor of Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church in Miami Gardens, hosted a community rally Sunday to mobilize local congregations to help with housing and other needs and to call for an end to Haitian deportations. Félix was among members of the Florida Haitian Baptist Fellowship who met with border patrol agents and Southern Baptists in Del Rio last week.

“The images that had been coming across our television screens and our telephones were quite disturbing,” Félix said. “And to see the plight of our brothers and sisters, we felt compelled to go to visit Del Rio and … meet with our brothers and sisters there. Part of the trip was also to determine what needs are essential and how the church can definitely respond to the crisis, in addition to just advocating for the stop of deportations.

“We can do better as a nation under God,” Félix said.

John Voltaire, who serves about 350 congregations as a Florida Baptist Convention (FBC) Haitian church catalyst, is helping spearhead the effort. Bruno Molina, language & interfaith evangelism associate for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and members of First Baptist Church of Del Rio provided logistical support to the pastors during their trip to Del Rio Thursday (Sept. 23), when pastors distributed Bible tracts in Creole and French and donated other resources.

Images of border patrol mounted on horseback and grabbing migrants drew outrage from some, with President Joe Biden declaring that mounted patrol would no longer be used in the effort.

About 5,000 migrants are being processed by the Department of Homeland Security to determine whether they will be expelled or allowed to remain in the U.S., Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday. About 2,000 have been expelled and another 8,000 “voluntarily” returned to Mexico, their point of entry to the U.S., Mayorkas said.

Voltaire said migrants being processed by Homeland Security are apparently being sent to hubs in Houston and San Antonio.

“The challenge is now, once they have been released from these hubs, they need people to receive them,” Voltaire said. “This is where housing becomes an issue, other than mental health counseling for them, other needs that they will have and people to help them to go back to their appointments with immigration, but also they need housing. And I think housing will be one of the biggest challenges.”

John Voltaire, Haitian church catalyst with the Florida Baptist Convention, prays at the Sept. 26th community rally at Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church in Miami Garden, Fla., to help Haitian migrants attempting to resettle in the U.S. Photo from John Voltraine

Haitian American churches and families offering to house migrants are already at capacity or overwhelmed, Voltaire said. He is encouraging churches with mission homes and other facilities to open their doors and to let the Biden administration know the temporary housing is available. The availability of housing can determine where migrants are sent.

“Apparently if credible organizations with homes were to reach out to the administration,” Voltaire said, “that would probably facilitate housing some of these people … to find their destination.”

Voltaire serves the area with the largest number of Haitians in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau that counts about 300,000 people of Haitian ancestry in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Félix described the migrant situation as a crisis, with many of those being returned to their country of origin, Haiti, not having lived there for as long as 15 years. Many have lived in South America, he said.

“We definitely as ministers and community leaders feel that to send migrants who are seeking asylum, who are seeking safety and security, to Haiti at this time — when there is a humanitarian crisis, when there is political upheaval, when there is violence that has plagued the streets throughout the country, even making humanitarian relief difficult at this time – it’s inhumane,” Felix said.

Others who traveled to Del Rio included Samuel Louis-Jean, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jacksonville; Alvin Herring, executive director of Faith in Action; and Patrick Chery, Miami-Dade organizer for Faith in Florida.

Churches in the tri-county Miami area, Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez, Houston Haitians United, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, Haitian-American elected officials and others have responded to the pastor’s call.

“The aim is to collaborate and help these families while advocating on their behalf for a change in U.S. policy,” Félix said. “The deportation has to stop. The resignation of Daniel Foote, the U.S. Special Envoy for Haiti, citing the administration’s ‘inhumane’ treatment of these migrants gives further weight to our call to action.”

In addition to sending international missionaries, Southern Baptists must also show hospitality when those in need come to our front door, Félix said.

“As a people of faith, we need to be welcoming, we need to be engaged,” he said. “When the people come to our doors, how do we respond? We can’t respond with horses. … No, we have to understand these are a group of people in crisis, and whether they were of Latino descent, whether they were of Asian descent, it’s people and you have to respect the inherent dignity of the individual before God.

“The church needs to stand and do what the church is called to do, which is to be the hands and feet of Christ, particularly to those who are in desperate need at this time.”

SBC Executive Committee calls special meeting for Sept. 28

NASHVILLE (BP) – Members of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee are scheduled to meet for a special-called virtual meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 28) at 2:00 pm CDT. SBC EC Chairman Rolland Slade notified trustees of the meeting early Sunday afternoon.

The meeting is the follow-up to a motion passed at the Sept. 21 SBC EC meeting in Nashville. The motion allocated up to $1.6 million for Guidepost Solutions to conduct an independent, third-party review of the EC related to its handling of sexual abuse claims. It also gave trustees until Sept. 28 to negotiate a final agreement with GuidePost and the Sexual Abuse Task Force, appointed by SBC President Ed Litton.

Executive Committee officers have been meeting with members of the task force, representatives from Guidepost and attorneys during the seven-day period.

At the SBC Annual Meeting in June, SBC messengers voted for the formation of the task force to oversee an investigation of the EC by a third party.

Details concerning a possible online stream of the Sept. 28 meeting are still being developed. This story will be updated.

Senate urged to block sweeping abortion rights bill

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington D.C. Original image from Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress collection. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

WASHINGTON (BP) – The U.S. Senate stands in the way of a sweeping abortion rights bill becoming law, and Southern Baptist and other pro-life advocates have reasons to be optimistic that body will prevent its enactment.

The House of Representatives approved the Women’s Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755) Sept. 24 in a nearly party-line vote, 218-211. While all Republican members opposed the measure, every Democrat except Rep. Henry Cueller of Texas voted for it. President Biden, meanwhile, strongly endorsed the proposal in a Sept. 20 statement from his administration.

The legislation appears likely to hit a roadblock in the Senate, however. That 100-member chamber is divided equally by party, and 60 votes would be needed to send the bill to the White House apart from an effort to nullify the filibuster. If eradicating the filibuster were successful, the move would result in only a majority being required for passage of the measure. That procedural step, however, does not have the support even of all Democratic senators, and no GOP member has expressed support for the abortion-rights proposal.

The Women’s Health Protection Act would go beyond the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion by prohibiting federal and state regulations of the procedure that are now permitted by the justices, pro-life advocates point out.

Southern Baptist public policy specialist Chelsea Sobolik urged the Senate “to ignore this inhumane piece of legislation.”

“This bill looks as if Planned Parenthood authored it, and it ought to shock and grieve our consciences,” said Sobolik, director of public policy for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “This legislation is so extreme it eliminates all pro-life protections, removes any restrictions on abortion and allows for a preborn life to be wiped out up to the moment of birth.

“The role of government should be to protect these vulnerable children, but this bill proposes instead to empower the predatory abortion industry,” she said in written comments.

Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, said the legislation “would effectively ban all lifesaving, state protections” for women and “our youngest pre-born children,” including those upheld by the Supreme Court. It would “invalidate hundreds of constitutionally sound state laws” that protect unborn babies, she said in a written release.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., however, sought to assure pro-life Americans regarding the chances of Senate passage of what he called “the most aggressive pro-abortion bill ever.” After the House vote, Sasse said in a written statement, “These scorched-earth tactics are dead on arrival in the Senate.”

The congressional effort to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act follows actions by the Supreme Court that have heightened concerns among abortion-rights advocates.

The justices permitted a Texas law that bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected to go into effect Sept. 1. The high court already had agreed to rule in its next term on a Mississippi law that prohibits the abortion of an unborn child whose gestational age is more than 15 weeks. Mississippi, the ERLC and other pro-life organizations have filed briefs urging the Supreme Court to reverse Roe and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling in the case, which will be argued Dec. 1. In Casey, the high court affirmed Roe but permitted some state regulation of abortion.

The bill’s language would annul, according to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), pro-life laws in the states that have such requirements as:

A waiting period for a woman before an abortion;
Information for a woman considering abortion regarding her unborn child and alternatives to the procedure;
A ban on sex-selection abortion;
A prohibition on abortion after 20 weeks based on evidence the child feels pain by that point.

The legislation also would rescind most federal restrictions on abortion, as well as conscience protections for health-care workers and most, or maybe all, bans on government funding of the procedure, NRLC reported.

Abortion-rights organizations applauded the House’s approval of the expansive proposal.

Alexis McGill Johnson – president of the country’s No. 1 abortion provider, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America – called the vote “an important step in protecting the right to access an abortion in the U.S, and halting the wave of harmful and deeply unpopular abortion restrictions across the country.”

The Senate version of the bill has 48 sponsors, all Democrats. Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are the lone Democrats to refuse to sponsor the measure. Republican pro-choice Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told the Los Angeles Times she will not vote for the proposal because it goes “way beyond” protecting abortion rights in federal law.

Senate rules require 60 votes to invoke cloture, as the procedural move is known, and thereby cut off a filibuster so a vote on a bill can occur. Among the 50 Senate Democrats, Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have expressed their opposition to eliminating the filibuster.

Seminary Hill Press releases Spanish translations of evangelism books

Spanish translations of evangelism books by Seminary Hill

Spanish-language translations of two popular evangelism books were released today by Seminary Hill Press, the publishing arm of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Both titles, Movilizar para Evangelizar: El Pastor y el Evangelismo Eficaz en la Congregacion and the third edition of Evangelismo Diario, were written by Matt Queen, professor of evangelism and L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism (“Chair of Fire”) at Southwestern Seminary.

Originally published in English, the titles are Mobilize to Evangelize: The Pastor and Effective Congregational Evangelism and Everyday Evangelism.

“I couldn’t be more excited about Seminary Hill Press’ release of Mobilize to Evangelize and Everyday Evangelism in Spanish,” said Queen. “Due to the increasing number of both Spanish-speaking students at Southwestern, as well as Hispanic congregations globally, our brothers and sisters in Christ now have access to additional evangelistic resources and tools that can help them in winning the lost to Christ.”

Mobilize to Evangelize is written to equip pastors with tools to assess their church members’ understanding and perceptions of evangelism while also learning how the members practice evangelism. The book provides ideas for pastors to use to encourage their congregations to evangelize.

Everyday Evangelism is designed for pastors and church members and provides an understanding of the biblical basis of evangelism, steps to share the Gospel, and suggestions to aid pastors in creating a culture of evangelism at their churches. The book’s emphasis is to encourage believers to share the Gospel in the opportunities that surround them in their day-to-day routines.

“I hope the availability of Everyday Evangelism and Mobilize to Evangelize in Spanish will encourage Hispanic Baptist congregations of Southwestern’s commitment to assist them in their pursuit of congregational evangelism, as well as theological education opportunities for their congregants in their own heart language,” said Queen.

The books were translated in partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“I’m sincerely grateful to Dr. Bruno Molina and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention for translating these books into Spanish and utilizing them to equip and mobilize Hispanic congregations in Texas to share the gospel both confidently and consistently,” Queen remarked.

“I’m thrilled that these two books are now available in Spanish,” said Molina, language and interfaith evangelism associate at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “Mobilize to EvangeIize will provide our Spanish-speaking pastors with a step-by-step guide to evaluating and significantly improving their churches’ evangelistic outreach. Everyday Evangelism will encourage and equip Spanish-speaking pastors and lay people alike to practice the privilege of ‘as you go’ sharing of the gospel. I highly recommend both books.”

They are available for purchase on the Seminary Hill Press website at www.seminaryhillpress.com.

— originally published on swbts.edu

‘Jesus Music,’ a film about the history of CCM, to release in theaters Oct. 1

The Jesus Music movie image

The filmmakers who directed the faith-based hits I Can Only Imagine and I Still Believe will release their first major theatrical documentary Oct. 1 with a groundbreaking film about the history of contemporary Christian music.

The Jesus Music (PG-13), co-directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin, follows the birth of contemporary Christian music in the 1960s and 1970s and its growth in the 1980s and 1990s up to the modern day. It includes interviews with dozens of artists, including TobyMac, Kirk Franklin, Lauren Daigle, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Skillet’s John Cooper, Chris Tomlin, Eddie DeGarmo, Michael Tait, LeCrae, Mandisa and Bill Gaither.

It will be released in theaters Friday, Oct. 1. A companion book, The Jesus Music: A Visual Story of Redemption as Told by Those Who Lived It (by Marshall Terrill), also is being released.

The Erwins made the film during the COVID-19 pandemic when musicians were at home and unable to tour.

Although it is their first major theatrical documentary, the Erwins have made multiple live-action dramas, including I Can Only Imagine and I Still Believe, each of which opened in the Top 3 at the box office.

The Jesus Music is rated PG-13 for some drug material and thematic elements.

— Lionsgate

MinistrySafe develops training events for abuse prevention in response to COVID-19

FORT WORTH, Texas. (BP) – MinistrySafe, a non-profit organization focused on offering training to churches to prevent sexual abuse, is helping develop training on how the abuse prevention landscape has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The non-profit offers churches and other organizations that work with children a five-step safety program designed to protect children from abuse and create a safe environment for ministry.

Gregory Love, co-founder of MinistrySafe, said the pandemic brought about a lot of change for churches.

“Changes in our culture as a result of the pandemic have forced us to adapt,” Love said. “It has changed some of the fundamentals of how we do ministry, where we do ministry and what technology we are using to do ministry or education.”

MinistrySafe’s training is used by many Southern Baptist churches. A number of churches and state Baptist conventions are planning events in partnership with the organization to address general abuse prevention as well as changes in prevention methods brought about by COVID-19.

The Village Church in Texas will be hosting abuse prevention training events over the next few weeks with the help of MinistrySafe at both its Flower Mound campus (Sept. 30) and their Denton campus (Oct. 10).

The Georgia Baptist Mission Board will partner with MinistrySafe to hold a child protection workshop in Duluth, Ga., on Oct. 13, and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions is hosting an online webinar related specifically to the COVID-related changes in the abuse prevention landscape on Oct. 5.

A link to register for the Alabama Baptist Mission Board’s webinar can be found here.

Love will be speaking at the Alabama webinar, and said he is grateful for the state’s continued partnership.

During the training he will address two specific areas of concern that the pandemic brought about. Many of the current risks regarding sexual abuse have resulted from children spending more time at home and more time using technology, he said.

It’s important for ministries to know the pros and cons that come with specific technology and the use of certain apps, such as Snapchat, online gaming and other social media apps, Love said.

Many of these apps are great for communicating with students remotely, but Love highlighted the danger than can come with certain apps and games as they can give predators the opportunity to private message students or communicate in ways that are not out in the open.

In light of kids spending more time at home, Love said “most children are victimized in their core world,” that is, by a relative or someone they know.

Because a lot of schooling and church ministry has taken place online over the past 18 months, Love said children have not been able to spend time around other adults outside of their homes, who are often the ones to notice the first signs abuse is taking place.

These new problems are areas Love said churches must be aware of to know how to respond appropriately.

“The problem (of sexual abuse) is ongoing but now has new challenges, and one of those challenges relates to how predators have adapted to the changes faster than we’ve adapted in prevention,” Love said. “We just can’t believe that safety is important until there’s a pandemic, we need to understand that we modify things given our circumstances.

“If we’re going to modify our programs, then we need to know how to address the risks that now exist with those programs. Find out which of these applications you are using and then find out what are the weaknesses of these applications, and if the risks outweigh the benefits of the communication offered.”

Love said MinistrySafe’s purpose is working with different churches and organizations to explain how these new abuse challenges should affect their prevention training, their insurance information and how to provide an overall safe environment for children. The non-profit is also working on updating its video training to include topics related to changes resulting from COVID-19.

He expressed gratitude for churches trying to stay informed and prepared.

“We’ll break down these concepts and then put it right in front of them to let them know exactly what that means to you and what you do about it,” Love said. “Relationship is the foundation of discipleship, and the church is supposed to be the safest place on the planet, but we’re never going to accidentally get this (abuse prevention) right.

“I appreciate the Alabama Baptist Convention and many other groups that they would trust us to be able to unpack this information and I’m glad they’ve made it a priority.”