3 - Charges dismissed against pro-life video producers
The dramatic undercover videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress have exposed Planned Parenthood officials, as their own comments indicated their participation in the sale of body parts from unborn babies. A grand jury in Houston has been convened to investigate this type of activity by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, but in a strange twist, the grand jury ended up indicting the videographers, David Dalieden and Sandra Merritt.
A piece on The Stream website questioned how that could happen. It goes on to say that after the indictments:
It was quickly revealed that a prosecutor in the Harris County D.A.’s office, Lauren Reeder, is a Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast board member. Attorneys for Daleiden would then accuse District Attorney Devon Anderson of colluding with the abortion mill.
Those accusations were confirmed last month, when Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s attorney Josh Schaffer admitted in a sworn declaration that Anderson’s office shared evidence with Planned Parenthood.
The website reports:
On Monday night, Harris County Judge Diane Bull dismissed a misdemeanor charge of attempting to illegally buy human tissue. A similar charge was also dropped against Daleiden’s partner in the sting, Sandra Merritt. A felony charge of tampering with government documents — Daleiden allegedly used a fake ID during his undercover operation — remains. A different judge is hearing that case.
According to the article, the CMP issued a statement, which said, in part:
The dismissal of the first indictment today sends a strong message to Planned Parenthood and their political cronies that colluding to suppress the First Amendment rights of citizen journalists will never work. The Center for Medical Progress follows all applicable laws in the course of its investigative journalism work and as more details about Planned Parenthood’s contracts for aborted baby parts come to light, it’s clear that Planned Parenthood and their business partners like StemExpress are the ones who are guilty of trafficking in human body parts.
2 - SBC meeting elects new president, passes resolutions
Increased attendance, a contended but amiable Presidential election, prayers for revival, and racial reconciliation were all storylines emerging from this week's Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis.
In a summary on the Baptist Press website, there was an unofficial total of 7,321 registered messengers, which was up from 5,407 last year. Memphis-area pastor Steve Gaines, of Bellevue Baptist Church was elected President of the Convention, succeeding Ronnie Floyd. The election had some drama, because after the first two ballots, no candidate had received a majority. Gaines' leading challenger, J.D. Greear of Raleigh-Durham, withdrew, leaving Gaines as the lone candidate.
A resolution passed overwhelmingly, calling for the removal of displays of the Confederate Battle flag was seen as a move of racial reconciliation. Former SBC President James Merritt moved that the convention call believers to "discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity with the whole Body of Christ, including our African American brothers and sisters." He said support of the flag hinders evangelism among African Americans and said, "Southern Baptists are not a people of any flag. We march under the banner of the cross of Jesus and the grace of God."
There were twelve resolutions addressing a variety of topics, including the June 12 terrorist attack in Orlando, FL.; biblical sexuality; requiring women to register for the military draft; and ministry to refugees.
The convention also featured a "call to prayer" on Tuesday night, which featured two hours of prayer for awakening in America and around the world. There were brief addresses by a variety of leaders, including former SBC President Johnny Hunt, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, California pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie and Jerry Young, President of the National Baptist Convention, USA.
According to SBCAnnualMeeting.net, the SBC meets in Phoenix next year, then Dallas. In 2019, Birmingham hosts the Southern Baptist Convention.
1 - Churches, faith community respond to Orlando tragedy
The mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub early on Sunday morning, June 12, has brought a range of emotions, from grief, to fear, to outrage. Around 50 people lost their lives, with more injured.
The topics that have been debated and discussed this past week include: the shooter's connection to radical Islam, the attack's location - at a nightclub catering to the LGBT community, gun control, and overall national security. You can read some of my early thoughts in a blog post here.
I believe that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a violation of Scripture. But, that doesn't preclude us from ministering to those who are in the LGBT community. Jesus died for all, and we can show love to all. The people who died in Orlando are unique creations of God, and their lives had value - their families, and all families who have lost loved ones, need to see hope.
To that end, a number of ministry organizations took steps to inject the hope of Christ into the desperate situation in Orlando. The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team took their ministry of presence into the area. A consortium of area churches and organizations held a prayer vigil at First Baptist Orlando on Tuesday night. Florida Today quoted Danny de Armas, senior associate pastor with First Baptist, as saying that the event was a collaborative effort of "about a dozen" local churches. He said, "First Baptist Orlando is hosting it and we're allowing our facility here but it's really a cooperative effort on terms of the program."
The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference was a sponsor of a special meeting Wednesday night. And, as I reported on the air, using a Huffington Post story, select area churches helped families of the victims by assisting with funeral services.
When tragedy hits, God's people can respond swiftly and compassionately. Kelly Burke, a chaplain with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, is quoted at BillyGraham.org: “Even if you’re 2,000 miles away from Orlando, you can pray and impact what takes place in Orlando. Pray that God would continue to strengthen and encourage His workers, His children and His churches here. And that He would also continue to soften hearts and get folks ready to receive what He wants to give them.”