Sunday, November 30, 2014

The 3 - November 30, 2014

This week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, begins with the actions of a Christian legal advocacy organization that is taking a step to inform school districts regarding the rights of students to celebrate Christmas.  Also, in the aftermath of the grand jury decision regarding the fatal shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, churches in that area and Christian leaders nationwide are responding.  And, the top story: giving thanks - while that activity is something that Christians are called to participate in year-round, we can be especially challenged to express the love of Christ during this special time.

3 - Alliance Defending Freedom sends letters to school districts

As we enjoy the celebration of the Christmas season, we also recognize that the coming of this season tends to present some problems for school districts who will sometimes limit the right of free expression of the season by students.  This year, Christian legal advocacy organization Alliance Defending Freedom sent out a legal memo and myth and fact sheet Wednesday to more than 13,000 public school districts nationwide to explain the constitutionality of recognizing Christmas, participating in Christmas-related events, and allowing various forms of Christmas expression. The letter also offers free legal assistance to districts that need help.

In the memo, ADF explains that, " officials across our nation – whether intentionally or from being misinformed – have denied students and teachers their constitutional rights of religious speech and expression under the guise that the Constitution requires them to do so.”

ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said, “No court has ever ruled that the Constitution requires school officials to censor Christmas carols, eliminate all references to Christmas, or silence those who celebrate Christmas...On the contrary, school officials tread on dangerous legal ground if they stifle the religious expression of students with regard to Christmas. As in previous years, we hope the materials we are providing to school districts will clear up the misinformation that has existed about this for far too long.”

Examples cited by ADF of incorrect responses by school districts include a South Carolina charter school that reportedly cancelled its participation in Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child after a humanist group threatened the school with legal action. School districts in Wisconsin and South Carolina that wrongly censored Christmas carols in school productions changed their positions in response to public outcry and letters from ADF explaining that the inclusion of religious carols is permissible.

2 - Churches respond to the Ferguson grand jury decision 

Across the country, strong response to the grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown stirred up emotions, which erupted in violence in Ferguson and protests across the nation.  And, not surprisingly, churches in the Ferguson area stood together to offer peace and relief.

According to an article on the website, Ferguson area churches were standing strong to respond.  For example, Pastor Rodrick Burton drove to New Northside Missionary Baptist Church to pick up the church van and a few cleaning supplies. He told his congregants it was time to help their neighbors: cleaning up businesses damaged by the riots and helping transport people who felt unsafe out of the area in the church van.

At South City Church, worship and outreach coordinator Michelle Higgins kept soup warm and the church doors open for anyone—including protesters, off-duty police, fearful community members—to find a space for prayer and rest. The church was stocked with medics, sleeping bags, hot dinner, and prayer services, but some just needed a moment to sit in silence as the jury’s decision “spoke deep, deep hurt to their souls,” Higgins said.  Other churches in the city similarly prepared for the aftermath of the grand jury decision by creating care centers.

Burton, who, like Higgins, is African-American, said that while he doesn’t know what compelled Wilson to shoot, “I do know that Christ is consistent in that we are supposed to pray for our enemy and we are suppose to forgive. The clergy don’t even dare bring that sentiment forward to the table, and when they do, it’s from a position that we are more righteous than them.”

In the discussions and meetings he’s participated in during the last 100 days, Burton said he saw pastors egging on the “idolatry of protest.”   He pointed out that this resulted in businesses being destroyed in Ferguson after the grand jury decision was announced.

Higgins believes the church has the responsibility to “model the unity to which we are all bound, always striving to be that family you wish everyone else would be, and that means worshiping and repenting together.”

And, while the Christians in the Ferguson community and the St. Louis area are attempting to spread the love of Christ in an explosive situation, a number of Christian leaders are speaking out on the grand jury decision and the aftermath of it.  I think that Christians can agree that this situation can provide teachable moments, opportunities for dialogue, and a heightened capacity for understanding.

1 - Thanksgiving brings a time for ministry

During the Thanksgiving season, we have the opportunity to not only spend time in fellowship with family and friends and take time to reflect on God's blessings, but also, as an act of worship to God, to reach out to others and spread the love of Christ.  This is definitely in action during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, as events across America were focused on helping those less fortunate.

According to the website of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, AGRM President John Ashmen is quoted as saying, “A greater number of people are discovering the deep satisfaction that comes through face-to-face encounters with invisible neighbors in need, and more so, the joy of giving to folks who will never be able to pay you back.” He points to an increase in volunteer involvement in rescue missions across the country, a trend that becomes evident during the holiday season—the busiest time of the year for feeding the hungry and homeless in America.  But, he also points out that help doesn’t always dry up after the holidays anymore.

Some of the events that the website highlighted this year:

Omaha, Nebraska: Open Door Mission was scheduled to engage 600 volunteer drivers to help deliver some 5,000 “Turkey ‘n’ Fixins” food boxes to at-risk families the Saturday morning before Thanksgiving.  Food box contents for this “Drumsticks on Wheels” event were funded through community donations from both businesses and individuals, featuring a shopping event to raise food box funds at a regional chain of grocery stores. 

Boise, Idaho: Rescue Mission Ministries was slated to serve more than 3,000 Thanksgiving meals to men, women and children at its annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet, held the day before Thanksgiving.  The mission also planned to distribute some 2,000 family food boxes for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Bridgeport, Connecticut:  Bridgeport Rescue Mission asked for volunteers to conduct drives to collect some 3,000 turkeys and 15,000 winter coats for Thanksgiving distribution. The Bridgeport Mission has also set a goal to deliver 4,000 holiday food boxes to area families in great need.

Columbus, Georgia: Valley Rescue Mission expected to serve up to 1,000 holiday meals “in-house,” and also plan to deliver holiday meals to shut-ins and the elderly in their community.

Also, one of the trends across America is the presence of a large Thanksgiving Day-related run.  For instance, in my hometown of Marietta, Georgia, the MUST Ministries Gobble Jog has grown to be the 7th largest Thanksgiving Day race in America.  In some instances, these types of events combine health and fitness with an outreach to the needy.

For a Christian, these types of events can serve as examples to challenge us to use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to extend our faith and express our thanks.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The 3 - November 23, 2014

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, there has been response among Christian leaders in response to the President's announced action on immigration this week, a continuation of faith-based groups and leaders speaking about the issue.  Also, thousands have been speaking out in support of a large family who are featured in a long-running reality show.  And, the top story:  a major gathering on the topic of marriage recently concluded at the Vatican, and evangelical Christian leaders were among the assortment of representatives from a variety of faith groups who attended and spoke.

3 - Christian leaders respond to President's executive action on immigration

As expected, this past week, President Obama announced that he would be taking executive action regarding immigration.  According to a report on the website, the President said that:
1. "We’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over."
2. "I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed."
3. "We’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country."
Of course, as the report points out, that third area, which could affect up to 5 million illegal immigrants in the nation, is continuing to prompt debate.

The President relied on a Biblical reference in his announcement.  He said, "Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger—we were strangers once, too...My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too."

Jenny Yang of World Relief is quoted as saying, "Congress should see the President’s actions as impetus to pass immigration reform that will supersede executive action as soon as possible..."

Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said that the President's action was "not the preferable delivery mechanism," but described it as a "merciful action" because it "initiates a reconciliatory prescription necessary in addressing a defacto humanitarian crisis within our borders: millions of God's children created in his image living in the shadows."

Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention disagreed with the unilateral action and said, "My hope is that the Republicans in Congress will not allow the President's actions here as a pretext for keeping in the rut of the status quo." He is also quoted as saying, "More importantly, I pray that our churches will transcend all of this posing and maneuvering that we see in Washington. Whatever our agreements and disagreements on immigration policy, we as the Body of Christ are those who see every human life as reflecting the image of God.”

Noel Castellanos, CEO and President of the Christian Community Development Association, applauded the President for "making good on his promise to give relief."  He said that he has long "urg[ed] Congress to fix our broken immigration system based on the biblical principles of love for neighbor and human dignity."  He said that, "Now it is time for Congress to finish the job by passing comprehensive immigration reform."

The Washington Times featured a report with a number of Christian leaders, including Penny Nance, chief executive and president of Concerned Women for America, who said that their stance on immigration is that “we must secure our borders and enforce the law” — and “we do not believe the president has constitutional authority to give temporary amnesty without congressional approval.”

She added, “I think it’s important to note that the president and others have been using dog whistles to [call] evangelicals, by saying that undocumented workers must ‘get right with the law...It’s true and it’s clever, in that it appeals to our core belief in redemption and restoration.”

But the question is whose idea can make that happen, Ms. Nance said. “Eleven million people are God’s children and we must choose wisely and justly. But we must also be cognizant of national security and sovereignty.”

Among religious leaders, views on immigration reform are likely to not only continue, but harden, said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a Christian think-tank and religious watchdog organization.

You can read more about the positions of Christian leaders on the issue, including a new LifeWay Research survey of pastors on it, by going to a recent edition of my other blog, The Front Room.

2 - Petition drive to remove Duggars' program countered reports that as of this past Saturday, after just two days, a petition in support of the Duggar family was poised to overtake a separate petition on attacking the family for their conservative beliefs.  The original petition drive was launched in September, and it was highlighted this week by several mainstream media outlets.   The original petition grew and was up to over 140,000 signatures by Saturday after it received that flurry of media coverage.

LifeSiteNews launched its counter-petition on Thursday, and over 2 days, it had risen to over 120,000 signatures.

The anti-Duggar petition criticizes Michelle Duggar, the mother of the large Christian family featured in TLC's "19 Kids and Counting," for opposing a "transgender" bill in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and demands that TLC yank the Duggars from the air.

Among high-profile Christians supporting the pro-Duggar petition are the Benham Brothers, whose proposed reality TV show on HGTV was cancelled after gay activists launched a campaign highlighting their traditional Christian views. They said that the effort to remove the Duggars waas part of "the same intolerant agenda that attacked our family." The brothers say that agenda "is now demonizing one of the most wholesome families in America...The Duggars have always been an example of Christian love for each other and society. It’s time for Americans to stand with them against this latest manifestation of anti-Christian bullying."

1 - Variety of church leaders, including evangelicals, address marriage at Vatican conference

This past week, 28 speakers from 14 religious traditions and 23 nations spoke at an ecumenical conference on marriage at the Vatican.  Included in the assortment of speakers were two evangelical leaders:  Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, which is a Southern Baptist congregation.
According to a story on the website,, Moore gave a message on the importance of marriage and emphasized the spiritual harm that comes from "jettisoning" the very relationship that represents Christ's relationship with His Church.  Warren offered a plan of action and charged the audience to "never give up!"
In opening the conference, Pope Francis is quoted as saying, "We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment...This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings..."

In the closing address, Warren shared these comments, according to the Christian Examiner website:
"In Hebrews 13:4 we are given this clear command: Marriage is to be honored by everyone," Warren preached. "Sadly today, marriage is now dishonored by many."
"It is dismissed as an archaic, manmade tradition, discouraged as a career-limiting choice, denounced as an enemy of women, demeaned in movies and television and delayed out of fear that it will limit one's personal freedom," he said.
"Today marriage is ridiculed, resented, rejected, and even redefined."
"What are we to do about this?"
Saying there is too much at stake, he urged "The church cannot cower in silence!"
Using Mark 10:6-9, Warren presented five convictions he said "the Owner's Manual on Marriage" gives:  1) Gender is God's idea, 2) Marriage is God's idea, 3) Sex was created for marriage, 4) Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and 5) Marriage is to be permanent.   He concluded by saying that they should "...never give up and never give in!"  He observed, "The church cannot be salt and light in a crumbling culture if it caves in to the sexual revolution and fails to provide a counter-culture witness."

The Examiner story reported that Moore spoke on Tuesday, saying people should defend one-man/one-woman marriage for the common good, but also for the sake of the Gospel.   It referred to a Baptist Press article quoting Moore as saying, "Marriage is a common grace, and we should speak...of why jettisoning normative marriage and family is harmful...Marriage 'is grounded in the natural order, bearing rights and responsibilities that were not crafted by an human state and cannot thus be redefined by any human state.'"

As the Christian Examiner pointed out, the conference was a year in the making, but coincidentally came just a month after a Vatican bishop's council stirred speculation about softening of official Catholic views on marriage, homosexuality and the family.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The 3 - November 16, 2014

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, I explore a halt to new regulations and a halt to new churches being registered in the African nation of Kenya.  Also, a Federal appeals court has upheld the housing allowance extended to clergy in the U.S. tax code.  And, Christians stood in prayer with persecuted believers in an annual observance recently.

3 - Kenya bans new churches

Church leaders in the nation of Kenya are crying foul in the face of proposed new regulations directed at churches in the wake of a scandal involving a minister who was allegedly selling miracles.

Standard Digital News reports that the Chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, Bishop Mark Kariuki, and others alleged that the move by the Attorney General Githu Muigai to stop registration of new churches and his proposal to introduce regulations amounted to persecuting the church.

Kariuki addressed journalists ahead of a meeting with the Attorney General on Friday to discuss proposed regulations.  He is quoted as saying that, “We see this as persecution of the Church and we call on all Christians to support us and stand with us. When it comes to matters of faith, people are willing to die for the faith and we will stand firm with the church.”

Christianity Today, which had referenced a link to the Standard story, reported that the government response came after TV station KTN's Jicho Pevu and Inside Story broadcast a "Prayer Predators" exposé of preacher Victor Kanyari, whom the station claimed had been making money from his followers by asking them for advance payment for prayers and miracles.  Kanyari, who preaches at Salvation Healing Ministry, continued holding services but hired security to screen out visiting journalists, according to the Standard.

Kanyari admitted he coached members of his church to give false testimonies, but said many people had been “healed and blessed in many ways” by his ministry. He will be investigated for obtaining money by false pretenses, according to Kenya's director of public prosecutions.

The Standard reported that the AG has directed existing religious organizations to file details on their current status and financial returns with the Registrar of Societies. Details that organizations are required to provide would include: a copy of Kenya Revenue Authority’s personal identification number, full name of the organization, a registration number, date of registration, details of office bearers, copies of their identification cards and their passport size photographs.

During the press briefing, Kariuki reportedly argued that there is no need for the church to be punished for the sins of one person.

2 - Appeals court upholds clergy housing allowance

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued an important decision this week in a case involving the clergy housing allowance - it ruled that the federal tax code provision that treats church-provided housing allowances to ministers as income tax-free must stand, according to a report on the website of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, or the ECFA.  The allowance had been challenged by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The ECFA piece states:
In doing so, the appeals court overturned a previous decision by a lower district court in favor of the atheist group, Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The district court had found that the exclusion is an unconstitutional benefit in favor of religious groups...
The appeals court determined that the FFRF and its leaders were not proper parties to challenge the law in federal court because they had not suffered any concrete, personal injury—a critical element to establish standing.

The ruling stated, regarding the atheist organization's challenge, "This argument fails, however, for a simple reason: the plaintiffs were never denied the parsonage exemption because they never asked for it. Without a request, there can be no denial."

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley is quoted as saying:
The government isn’t subsidizing something when its money is not even involved...The atheists who filed this suit may have an axe to grind against religion, but as the 7th Circuit found, that doesn’t give them sufficient standing to challenge a tax benefit for which it has never applied and that has been provided to pastors for decades. The allowance many churches provide to pastors is church money, not government money. It is constitutional and should continue to be respected and protected.
1 - Christians unite in prayer for persecuted church, release of Kenneth Bae celebrated

The first two Sundays of November are set apart to remember and pray for the persecuted church, through the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), according to its website.

It states that, "Today’s greatest untold story is that more than 100 million Christians worldwide face persecution for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Daily Christians in countries such as Eritrea, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Sudan and Sri Lanka face imprisonment, violence and even death."

The IDOP is a designated time, this year set aside on either November 9th or even the 2nd, when Christians around the world who are suffering persecution are remembered in prayer.  The website,, featuring resources helpful in observing the day and in standing with the persecuted church, is a project of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.

This week, a piece ran on the Christian Today website reporting that Christian missionaries have vowed to continue their work in North Korea and China with more caution, despite the crackdown on Christianity in the region after the imprisonment of American missionary Kenneth Bae.

Bae was released recently from labor camp and returned to America after serving two years of his 15-year sentence for his Christian faith. North Korea and neighboring China have reportedly both increased their surveillance on Christian activities since his sentence.

"We are getting more nervous," Kim Seung-eun, a missionary from South Korea that often travels to North Korea, told Reuters. "We have to come up with a strategy to avoid another case like Kenneth Bae's."

Bae and another man held in North Korea, Matthew Todd Miller, were released from North Korea on Saturday, November 8 and arrived on U.S. soil later that day, according to NBC News.

Jeffrey Fowle is another Christian, who is from Ohio, who was detained for several months in North Korea. According to Christian Today, he was arrested after he had left a Bible in a public place, which he later explained in an interview that he planned to give to North Korea's underground church. Fowle told CBN that it was clearly against the nation's law but, as he said, "...being a Christian believer, I was trying to carry out the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, saying 'carry the Gospel to all corners of the Earth."

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The 3 - November 9, 2014

This week's edition of "The 3," features the celebration of the birthday of one of America's most revered evangelists and a new evangelistic video released to coincide with it.  Also, a Federal court ruling was handed down in favor of marriage (traditional marriage).  And, the top story involves pro-life candidates who were swept into the U.S. Senate this past Tuesday night.

3 - Billy Graham celebrates birthday, new video released

Last year, the My Hope America with Billy Graham effort mobilized churches and their members to invite people to come into homes and other locations to view a video presentation from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and to hear event hosts share about their salvation through Jesus Christ.

Last year, in observance of Dr. Graham's 95th birthday, a video featuring a new message from the renowned evangelist, The Cross, was made available.  This year, in honor of Dr. Graham's 96th birthday, the extended My Hope initiative released a new video featuring material from Billy Graham called, Heaven.

On its website,, the Association states:
As the release of a new video message from Billy Graham kicks off My Hope 2014, churches in all 50 states, Canada and the United Kingdom have plans to share the Gospel with friends and neighbors in English and Spanish.
Heaven, the latest short film from Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s My Hope outreach, features a never-before-seen message from Billy Graham, coupled with the true stories of a Nevada woman who lost her father to murder and a California firefighter who nearly lost his life battling a fire.
The piece includes snapshots of how local communities are incorporating the new material.   One of those is from Prattville, Alabama, where, "The community has rallied around a veteran firefighter who is fighting for his life after falling from a ladder earlier this month. Now a local pastor is inviting firefighters from surrounding counties to his church on Sunday, Nov. 9 to pray for the injured firefighter, honor first responders and watch the My Hope video Heaven. The video is largely focused on a firefighter who nearly lost his life when he fell through a roof into a raging inferno."

WSFA reported that last Wednesday night, firefighters from across the region gathered at the White City Volunteer Fire Department, whose chief, Lowell Strock, fell nearly 20 feet from a ladder while performing maintenance on a station heater.

In the hospital, his fellow firefighters stood watch at his bedside around the clock.

Prayers chains have been started at fire departments throughout Alabama. At a conference in Gulf Shores for the Fire Marshal's Association of Alabama, everyone stopped to pray for Strock, who is a 24-year veteran of the Prattville Fire Department.  A moment of silence also went over the scanners Wednesday night for him.

Churches are capitalizing on this new material to invite people to creative events where a video will be shown.  My Hope is an outreach that continues to galvenize believers across the nation and has been producing fruit around the world.

2 - Federal appeals court upholds traditional marriage laws

In an end to a string of court victories for proponents of so-called "same-sex marriage," a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld natural marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.   Liberty Counsel filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, and according to a report on its website, Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote, “Of all the ways to resolve this question, one option is not available: a poll of the three judges of this panel, or for that matter all federal judges, about whether gay marriage is a good idea. Our judicial commissions did not come with such a sweeping grant of authority, one that would allow just three of us—just two of us in truth—to make such a vital policy call for the thirty-two million citizens who live within the four states of the Sixth Circuit.”

Sutton continued, “A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, or not all, or our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of states.”

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reportedly upheld the law based on the case, Baker v. Nelson, stating that it was still good law.   Liberty Counsel reports that in the Baker decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a law defining marriage as one man and one woman did not violate the U.S. Constitution, and the United States Supreme Court ruled that there was no federal question, and Baker became precedent.

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, is quoted as saying, "Marriage is not merely a creation of any one civilization or its statutes, but is an institution older than the Constitution and, indeed, older than any laws of any nation. Marriage is a natural bond that society or religion can only ‘solemnize.'"  He also said, "With a divide in the appeals court rulings, the Supreme Court will likely take up the issue."

1 - Pro-life candidates are victorious in U.S. Senate races

A significant number of candidates who spoke on the pro-life issue were victorious across the nation in the mid-term elections last week.

As I reported on my blog, The Front Room, and on The Meeting House last ThursdayBaptist Press quoted Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission as saying that the election illustrates that "the pro-life issue persists and can win," which he deemed the "most important aspect" of Election Day 2014.

In a written statement, Moore said: "Candidates who articulated explicitly their commitment to life won, and those who expected to use abortion as a 'wedge issue' to benefit the 'pro-choice' cause lost…"

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said the "overwhelming victory for pro-life candidates signals the fact that the bottom has fallen out of the abortion-centered 'war on women' strategy."

The National Right to Life News website reported on Wednesday that:
Through the work of the National Right to Life Political Action Committee and the National Right to Life Victory Fund, the right-to-life movement scored big gains in yesterday’s mid-term elections. National Right to Life’s political committees were actively involved in 74 races. As of this morning, 53 (72%) of the pro-life candidates in those races prevailed, including pro-life Senate candidates in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Two of the Senate races in which National Right to Life was actively involved are still outstanding. In Alaska, pro-life Dan Sullivan has what appears to be an insurmountable lead over pro-abortion Sen. Mark Begich, and in Louisiana, pro-life Rep. Bill Cassidy is considered the frontrunner in a December run-off election against pro-abortion incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The NRLC piece touted 12 Senate races, including all 7 in which the pro-life, Republican candidate won a seat previously held by a Democrat.  NRLC, Susan B. Anthony List, and CitizenLink are just 3 of a number of pro-life, pro-family organizations who were actively involved with informing voters of the positions of candidates.   As Dr. Moore is quoted as saying: "We should pray now that the newly elected Congress and the president will be able to work together for just policies that protect and promote human dignity, family stability and religious liberty."

Sunday, November 02, 2014

The 3 - November 2, 2014

On this week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review blog feature, I take a look at North Carolina judges who would rather resign than to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.   Also, the institution of traditional marriage in a culture that has been more accepting of homosexual behavior and same-sex unions was upheld in a conference attracting church leaders to Nashville.  And, the top story involves the mayor of Houston withdrawing subpoenas for a variety of types of their communication.

3 - Judges resign rather than perform gay "marriage" ceremonies

With the U.S. Supreme Court refusing, at least temporarily, to get involved in appeals court decisions against marriage laws in a variety of states, that has led to a number of states seeing their laws upholding traditional marriage being nullified.  North Carolina is one. reports that at least 6 North Carolina magistrates are resigning from their roles after gay marriage was legalized there.  Reportedly, those resigning include: Rockingham County magistrate John Kallam Jr., Gaston County magistrate Bill Stevenson, Graham County magistrate Tommy Holland, Union County magistrate Gayle Myrick and Jackson County magistrate Jeff Powell.  Also, Swain County magistrate Gilbert Breedlove had resigned from his post last week.

These officials have said they do not believe in marrying same-sex couples and that is a violation of their faith.

Stevenson, from Gaston County, told WCNC-TV that, “It was something I had to do out of conscience. I felt like to perform same sex unions would be in violation of the Lord’s commands so I couldn’t do that.”  He added, "I hate to wax so biblical, but it says what good is it for a man to gain the whole world but lost his own soul, so that’s the stakes I put on this."

Myrick, from Union County, said, “For me to do what the state said I had to do, under penalty of law, I would have to go against my convictions, and I was not willing to do that. I want to honor what the word says.”

2 - Conference in Nashville highlights the sanctity of marriage in the midst of culture

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention held an event in Nashville this week entitled "The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage," intended to, as Baptist Press put it, help "a capacity crowd of more than 1,300 people bolster marriage within the church and protect marriage outside it."

Another Baptist Press article quoted Dr. Russell Moore, ERLC President, as saying that evangelicals cannot repeat the "same old mistakes" in which they "slowly adapted to a sexual revolution that is now ravaging our churches and our culture."

He said that instead, "we contend for marriage and we contend for family and we contend for holiness, but we do this in the context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." If evangelicals make the same mistakes, Moore told attendees, "we won't just lose a marriage culture; we will lose the Gospel itself."

Other speakers included International Mission Board President David Platt, who pointed attendees to the missiological implications of marriage and singleness. He said that both portray the gospel: "The purpose of marriage is for the display of the gospel and a demonstration of the glory of our God." He added that, "Today's cultural climate provides a huge opportunity for gospel witness."

Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, urged the audience to follow the New Testament directives for Christians to love and act kindly toward those who oppose them on the marriage issue. He is quoted as saying, "If you want to fight the culture, you're not going to win the culture. You've got to persuade the culture." He added, "We are soaked in an ocean of His grace, and we don't want to give a cup to anybody."

According to another Baptist Press report, speakers on the final day included J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC.  Greear related that Christians need not adopt the two-option narrative -- "affirmation or alienation" -- offered by American culture in regards to homosexuality. He said that Jesus provides another alternative -- "full of grace and truth" – that calls for courageous proclamation of God's Word and compassionate outreach to human beings.

Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife, told attendees the church has "an unprecedented opportunity" at this cultural moment. He said that Christians need the rallying cry of "a family reformation."  He is quoted as saying, [F]or many Americans, the unmet thirst for a good marriage, a solid family represents a need we must address as followers of Jesus Christ."  He added that in order to have a family reformation, the church must "set its sights on becoming the marriage and family equipping center in their community."

1 - Houston mayor retracts subpoenas, Christian leaders express continued concerns

Another development took place this week in the ongoing story involving Houston pastors who had a variety of forms of their communication subpoenaed regarding a lawsuit filed by proponents of a petition drive to get the city's controversial gay rights ordinance put on the ballot for a referendum vote.  Christianity Today reported that Houston mayor Annise Parker announced Wednesday morning that she was directing city officials to rescind subpoenas issued to five local pastors.

She had met with Houston pastors and clergy leaders from across the country who have defended the subpoenaed pastors’ religious freedom. She is quoted as saying, "It was never our intention to interfere with clergy and their congregants...I don't want to have a national debate on freedom of religion when my purpose is to defend ... a city ordinance."

According to Parker, the subpoenas—once modified to exclude sermons—are “legal, valid, and appropriate," but unintentionally pushed the city into a broader religious debate that wasn’t good for the city or its efforts to defend its new ordinance. She said, “This is not about silencing my critics; this is about doing the right thing."

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley responded, saying: "We are gratified that the First Amendment rights of the pastors have triumphed over government overreach and intimidation. The First Amendment protects the right of pastors to be free from government intimidation and coercion of this sort."

But he went on to say that, "...the subpoenas were only one element of this disgraceful episode. The scandal began with another abuse of power when the city of Houston arbitrarily threw out the valid signatures of thousands of voters. The city did this all because it is bent on pushing through its deeply unpopular ordinance at any cost."

Grace Church in Houston, pastored by Steve Riggle, who was one of the 5 Houston pastors receiving subpoenas, was scheduled to be the sight of the "I Stand Sunday" national simulcast on Sunday night, November 2nd, sponsored in part by the Family Research Council.