religious freedom

The homosexual political agenda has gained a momentum that may overwhelm Baptist churches. Most pastors are just attending to their congregational priorities without paying too much attention to the potential of law suits that could jeopardize local church autonomy as well as every member’s First Amendment  There is a lot of conversation among Southern Baptist leaders that local church bylaws should define Marriage and Sexuality.
This conversation is one that is important for all churches who have incorporated with their states.  Most Associational Baptist churches as well as Independent churches have a statement of their bylaws registered with their incorporation. Attending to this subject and amending church bylaws now may save heart aches
later. 
You may access Dr. Champions Facebook and post comments - www.Facebook.com/brochampion
  Every Baptist Church should heed this  article and schedule Church Wide Meetings on this issue.
 
 

NASHVILLE (BP) — With the U.S. Supreme Court set to take up gay marriage and potentially legalize it this summer, churches that host wedding ceremonies or other events for traditional couples should examine their bylaws and shield themselves from the impact of possible litigation, says an attorney who specializes in religious liberty issues.

“We’re in a day where every church needs to have a statement in its bylaws of its doctrinal beliefs on marriage and sexuality.” – ADF attorney

The justices are scheduled in March to hear two cases concerning gay marriage, and by June could either uphold the traditional definition of marriage or legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — a religious liberty legal organization — is hoping for the former but preparing churches for the latter, just in case.

A number of situations could place churches in legal trouble, such as congregations who would:– allow a traditional couple but not a same-sex couple to use their facility for a wedding ceremony.

– allow a traditional couple but not a same-sex couple to take part in a marriage class or retreat.
– terminate an employee involved in a same-sex wedding.

Bylaw language defining marriage in the biblical sense doesn’t mean a church won’t face a suit or a complaint, but it does mean the church would be in a much better situation legally, said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for ADF.

“I think we’re in a day where every church needs to have a statement in its bylaws of its doctrinal beliefs on marriage and sexuality,” Stanley told Baptist Press. “This is a proactive approach that churches can take to head off any claims of discrimination in the future, should they occur. There’s no magic language for such a bylaw statement, but it should be some form of a statement of the church’s religious beliefs.”What that does is it allows for a good defense of a church to any type of discrimination claim that may arise, by saying, ‘Look, this is part of our religious beliefs.’ When we fight on the ground of protecting a church’s religious belief, then we have a lot of ammunition in our arsenal from a constitutional perspective.”Even without gay marriage legal nationwide, there have been lawsuits against churches.

In 1999 a woman who had worked as a youth minister at a Colorado Episcopal church was terminated after it was learned she was a lesbian living with another woman. She sued in federal court, but the lawsuit was dismissed, with the court ruling her suit was barred by the First Amendment. (The case was Bryce v. Episcopal Church in Diocese of Colorado.)

In 2001, a California church’s worship minister, Bob Gunn, was let go when it was discovered he was gay. He sued the church, primarily because the pastor told the congregation why Gunn — who was popular with members — had been fired. The church won in court. (The case was Gunn v. Mariners Church.)

Some churches have affirmed the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and calls homosexuality sinful. Asked whether the BF&M would be sufficient, Stanley replied, “That would be just fine for churches to adopt the BF&M 2000 in their bylaws on this issue. But the BF&M 2000 does not necessarily address the issue of human sexuality in depth, especially the issue of homosexual behavior. Churches may want to consider adopting a fuller statement regarding their biblical beliefs on human sexuality.”

ADF has listed on its website suggested bylaw language for churches. (Read the two ADF articles on the subject – http://www.alliancedefendingfreedom.org/content/docs/issues/church/Suggested-Lang-Church-bylaws.pdf andhttp://www.speakupmovement.org/Church/Content/userfiles/Resources/church_seven_bylaws.pdf. Also, read the suggested language at the end of this article.)

“What we tell churches is that the clearer and the more explicit you can make your religious beliefs about those issues, the better off you are going to be in defending yourself against a claim of discrimination,” Stanley said. “Because then it becomes: You’re not discriminating against an individual based upon their sexual orientation or marital status. You’re making a decision to abide by your religious beliefs. And that’s protected by the Constitution. The more that we can move this from the ground of a claim of discrimination based on sexual orientation or marital status to the ground of ‘We are simply abiding by our deeply and sincerely held religious beliefs,’ the better off a legal defense is going to be.”

The legalization of gay marriage, Stanley said, will impact religious freedoms.

“Religious liberty is on the chopping block any time same-sex marriage is legalized or normalized in the culture,” he said. “But we’re not defenseless and we’re not left hopeless. If same-sex marriage is legalized by the Supreme Court, these types of cases that we see pop up, they’re just going to become more commonplace.”

In January, Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, urged Southern Baptists and other Christians to pray for the Supreme Court as it takes up the issue of marriage. Read his column here.

Following is ADF’s suggested language on marriage and sexuality for church bylaws:

“We believe that term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning and that is marriage sanctioned by God which joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture.

“We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other. We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.

“We believe that any form of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, pornography or any attempt to change one’s sex, or disagreement with one’s biological sex, is sinful and offensive to God.

“We believe that in order to preserve the function and integrity of the church as the local Body of Christ, and to provide a biblical role model to the church members and the community, it is imperative that all persons employed by the church in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers, should abide by and agree to this Statement on Marriage and Sexuality and conduct themselves accordingly.

“We believe that God offers redemption and restoration to all who confess and forsake their sin, seeking His mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

“We believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity. Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated and are not in accord with scripture nor the doctrines of the church.”
–30–
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Christians of similar platforms often conflict politically. Such was the case of Tim Tebow and Robert Jeffress.  Baptist.org commends both parties for their respective convictions on issues facing those who are believers in the Holy Bible.  Tim Tebow has the sports world as a virtual congregation to present the basic truth of Jesus Christ as Saviour to a blinded world. Robert Jeffress  as a pastor to a physical congregation opts to be fundamentally bold to stand on comprehensive applications of the Christ life in a decadent world.  We applaud both, for their testimonies for Faith and Practice as commanded by God’s Word.
New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow speaks at the Easter service of Celebration Church in Georgetown, Texas, Sunday, April 8, 2012. (AP Photo/William Philpott)

WILLIAM PHILPOTT/AP

NY Jets QB Tim Tebow has spoken at mega-churches in the past, including this appearance at the Easter service of Celebration Church in Georgetown, Texas last year.

Tim Tebow apparently consulted a higher power – Twitter – and decided not to speak at the controversial First Baptist Church of Dallas in April.

Tebow, still on the Jets’ roster until further notice, tweeted Thursday that he would cancel the appearance “due to new information that has been brought to my attention.”

From @TimTebow: “While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic … First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my … upcoming appearance. I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those … needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!”

Tebow was scheduled to speak at the mega-church on Sunday, April 28, but reports quickly surfaced, pointing out that the views of the church’s lead pastor, Robert Jeffress, didn’t exactly coincide with Tebow’s squeaky-clean image.

According to a statement from Jeffress, Tebow has told the pastor that he would like to come to First Baptist Dallas to speak at a future date.

Jeffress has spoken out in the past against Muslims, Jews, Mormons and homosexuals, claiming that Islam “promoted pedophila” and has said that “Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists and virtually everyone else” are members of cults, according to reports. He has said Islam and Mormonism are “heresy from the pit of hell” and tied Catholicism to “a Babylonian mystery religion” that corrupted the early Christian church.

He makes no apologies for his comments.

“I think as pastors we have a duty to preach ‘the whole counsel of God,’ and not just discuss those that are politically correct,” Jeffress said. “It’s my role to speak clearly on the issues on which the Bible speaks clearly. It’s my role to preach what the Bible says, and that includes the controversial issues.

TEBOWWEB22S_2_WEB

FREDERICK BREEDON/GETTY IMAGES

Tim Tebow sees little action after the Jets trade for him before the 2012 season.

“The reason for this firestorm is not because the word of God has changed. It’s because society has changed.”

“I applaud Tim Tebow’s decision to cancel his appearance,” Hudson Taylor, the founder of the non-profit Athlete Ally, said in a statement. “Regardless of his reasoning, his absence serves as a reminder that the discrimination of gay and lesbian athletes and individuals has no place in sports or society. I hope Tim will take this opportunity to speak out for respect and acceptance of all people, regardless of a persons sexual orientation.”

Statement by First Baptist Church Dallas:

The leaders and congregation of First Baptist Church Dallas are disappointed that New York Jets’ Quarterback Tim Tebow today has announced he will no longer speak at First Baptist Church Dallas on April 28, 2013, as part of the month-long celebration events surrounding the grand opening of our new $130 million, state-of-the-art campus on Easter Sunday.

Mr Tebow called Dr. Jeffress Wednesday evening saying that for personal and professional reasons he needed to avoid controversy at this time, but would like to come to First Baptist Dallas to speak  at a future date.

We are saddened that Mr. Tebow felt pressure to back out of his long-planned commitment to First Baptist Dallas from numerous New York and national sports and news media who grossly misrepresented past comments made by our pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, specifically related to issues of homosexuality and AIDS, as well as Judaism.

As a Christian pastor, Dr. Jeffress takes a biblical approach to moral and social issues, closely following his duty to preach ‘the whole counsel of God,’ and not just address issues that are politically correct. First Baptist is a church built on the truth of Scripture, even though at times that approach can be perceived as controversial or counter to the prevailing winds of culture.

The reason for the recent media firestorm is not because the Word of God has changed, but because society has changed.

More important, contrary to editorializing in the media, Dr. Jeffress shares a message of hope, not hate; salvation, not judgment; and a Gospel of God’s love, grace and new beginnings available to all.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/jets/tebow-cancels-gig-controversial-dallas-church-article-1.1269712#ixzz2LrDaDz47

September 8, 2011 | Buen Consejo | for http://www.baptist.org  |

Faith statements?  What is your faith in the Lord about?  Or, whom is it about? Him.. you..?  Do you serve God?  Or does he serve you?

So many Christians make statements of faith in the Lord (concerning their daily lives) that sound like these: “The Lord will take care of me.” “The Lord will meet my needs.”  “The Lord loves me, even if ya’ll don’t.” “I know the Lord will heal me.” and so forth.  Most of the statements of faith are about what the Lord can or will do for them.  Though there are times and places for that, such statements indicate a lack of faith. That’s why you have to remind yourself about promises he has for you. Instead, if you actually believe he will meet your needs, go on and do for him.  Proverbs 30:15a “The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give.”

Of the great statements of faith that I see in the scriptures I offer you these:  Do you remember Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Dan 1:6)? OK, maybe you don’t. They are the Hebrews known more commonly by their Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  OK, now you remember.  Nebuchadnezzar, the evil king, was going to throw them into a fiery furnace if they would not bow down to his idol.  Their statement faith is my first and personal favorite.  Daniel 3:16-18  “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”  They said, God can deliver us, but if he doesn’t, that’s fine too. We still will not bow down to that thing.

Job offers another great statement of faith: Job 13:15  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”

These statements do not say, God will make it easy, God will make sure I win! I’m a prince or princess before God, he’ll make sure I have a rich, smooth path!  God will see that I’m treated worthy of my position as God’s child!  These statements say that whatever the Lord has decided to put me through or have happen to me.. that’s fine. Just so long as I please him. It’s about the Lord, not about us.

Modern day christianettes, who listen to sermonettes, while smoking their cigarettes or briefly taste a tiny bit of devotional thought, looking for a gem or gold nugget to make them feel good and don’t dig into real deep scripture study wind up being a part of Generation Entitled, too quickly. Faith is not about God making your life easy, pain free or wealthy. God is not a genie in a bottle or a wishing well for you to get what your flesh wants.  We are to be living sacrifices for his service, not put God to work to serve us. Romans 12:1  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”  A sacrifice is not dominated by what it wants for itself.

Do what is right because it’s right. Not for reward or to avoid chastisement.  Look for what you can do for God, not what he can do for you.  Selfishness is the fastest route to misery.

Posted on Nov 4, 2010 | by Erin Roach

BAGHDAD, Iraq (BP)—Al-Qaida in Iraq has declared that Christians in the Middle East are “legitimate targets” for violence, after the group carried out an unprecedented attack on a Baghdad church.

The Islamic State of Iraq, with ties to al-Qaida, released a message Nov. 3 saying, “The Ministry of War of Islamic State of Iraq declares that all the centers, organizations and bodies of Christian leaders and followers have become legitimate targets by the Mujahedeens, wherever our hands will reach them,” according to a CNN report, which the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom circulated to its e-mail list.

Richard Land, a USCIRF commissioner and president of the Southern Baptist Ethics Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press members of al-Qaida have shown themselves to be murderous barbarians.

“This is just further confirmation that they operate outside the rules of civilization. They should be condemned by every civilized people and every civilized faith,” Land said. “This is an excellent opportunity for the too often silent Muslim community in the United States to condemn these threats against Christians and to condemn the atrocities that are being committed in the name of their faith.”

The Islamic State of Iraq claimed that its declaration targeting Christians was brought on by a dispute regarding women they allege are being held captive by Egypt’s Coptic Church, and they attributed their anger over the situation to prompting the attack on a Baghdad church that left nearly 60 people dead Oct. 31.

“The sword of slaughter will not be lifted off the necks of their followers until they denounce what the dog of the Egyptian church has committed, and until they show the Mujahedeens their serious endeavor to pressure the combatant [Coptic] church for the release of our Muslim sisters, who are captive in the prisons of their [monasteries],” the militant group said Wednesday.

Mike Edens, professor of theology and Islamic studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary who ministered in the Muslim world for 25 years, said to understand the accusation against the Coptic Orthodox Church, one must understand that historically claims have been made against Christian churches in the Middle East that they are comforting and protecting women who are identified as Muslims.

“Frequently these women have come from a Christian background and they were secured as a wife by a Muslim and were forced to convert or chose to convert, and then they’re seeking to convert back,” Edens told Baptist Press.

“They don’t have the freedom to do that, and they seek the protection of the church and they may even take vows to be a nun and be in a convent or a monastery. There is an element of factual basis to the claim, but it’s more complex than the secular news media is capable of helping us understand.”

The claim that al-Qaida in Iraq is making, Edens said, is a red herring because the jihadists make it seem as if they would accept a Christian presence among them if the women were not being held by the Coptic Church.

“That is not true,” Edens said. “Unlike the general Islamic population, members of jihadist Islamic groups, members of al-Qaida in particular in this case, have committed to an ideology that is opposed to all Christians in their midst. Not only that, they are opposed to all other religious expressions including expressions of Islam that are different from their own.”

Al-Qaida has killed more Muslims than Christians, Edens said, and they are antagonistic and belligerent against anyone who holds a different worldview than the jihadist ideal, which is the establishment of a global Islamic republic that is ruled by nothing but the Quran.

“They were clearly attacking this Syriac Catholic church, which is not connected with the Coptic Orthodox church, to try to mute the effect of the Christian Gospel and the Christian church,” Edens said. “Ideally, they would like the church to be removed from their presence. They see the church as an obstacle to their objective of having complete political power.”

Al-Qaida will give various reasons for opposing Christians, but the bottom line is that unlike the majority of Muslims, the jihadists are ideologically opposed to Christianity, Edens said.

“It was clearly an attack against vulnerable Christians to try to encourage them to emigrate out of Iraq, to reduce their voice in Iraq, to intimidate them,” he said. “I think also that contrary to the popular view, Islam is not a monolith, and the few people who were engaged in this assault represent a very small minority of Islam.”

The jihadists, Edens said, are trying to eliminate voices of peace, moderation and cooperation, and the Christian church is “a large voice in that choir” of making a better society.

“We as Christians who are in freedom need to pray for our brothers and sisters not just in Islamic countries but in much of the rest of the world who are suffering for their identification with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Edens said. “We have freedom to pray for them and to intercede for them and to learn of their plight and to send missionaries to walk alongside of them, and we need to be faithful in that.”

Southern Baptists have a strong heritage of religious freedom and a strong evangelical witness, Edens said, and believers must continue the mission even amid real threats of violence.

At Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., associate missions professor Eddie Pate said news of the “legitimate targets” statement can help believers in the West understand the intense pressure that Christians in the Middle East have lived under for many hundreds of years.

“Their life has never been easy,” Pate, a former mission worker in North Africa and the Middle East, told BP. “The church in the West could learn from and take courage from their faith and commitment under pressure. We should pray for them and support them.”

Pate noted that in countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, churches and mosques exist on the same street with their members interacting in daily life. The leaders of those countries, while often Muslim themselves, typically feel more of a threat from fundamentalist Islam than from Christians, he said.

Also, the situation in Egypt has been tenuous in the past 50 years with an uneasy peace existing most of the time between the Coptic Church and fundamentalist Islam.

“This peace is broken from time to time in often violent ways,” Pate said.
–30–
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. For Baptist Press’ initial story on the attack against the Syrian Catholic church, Our Lady of Salvation, in Baghdad, go to http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=34004

USA (MNN) ? Christians in Muslim-dominated countries are facing increased persecution. Over the last month, churches in Indonesia have been attacked and forced to close. A mob of Pakistani Muslim extremists shot and beat dozens of Christians, including one cleared earlier of “blasphemy” charges.

These Christians, and many more worldwide, are not free to believe.

Open Doors USA is launching an advocacy campaign called “Free to Believe.” The campaign will focus on helping persecuted Christians who currently do not have religious freedom like Christians do in the United States.

The campaign is a response to the United Nations Defamation of Religions Resolution which threatens the freedom of religion and expression for Christians and members of minority faiths worldwide.

This resolution seeks to criminalize words or actions perceived as attacks against a religion, with the focus being on protecting Islam. Passing this resolution would further result in the United Nations condoning state-sponsored persecution of Christians and members of other faiths.

Many of the countries supporting this resolution are the Islamic-majority countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) that persecute Christians and other religious minorities. Members of minority faiths such as Christians or Jews who make truth claims or even evangelize can be accused of “defamation,” and those individuals can be punished under national blasphemy laws as frequently happens in countries like Pakistan. Tragically, the UN resolution provides legitimacy to these countries’ blasphemy laws.

While the Defamation of Religions Resolution has been introduced and passed by the UN in the past–in various forms and under various titles since 1999, support for the resolution has been eroding in recent years. The Open Doors advocacy team has been lobbying countries which have voted for the resolution or abstained from voting on the issue in the past. The resolution is up again this fall for re-authorization.

It is important to encourage key countries to change their vote on this resolution. These countries are not easily influenced by American citizens. But they are more receptive to pressure from our legislators. That’s why we’re asking you to send a message to your legislator, asking him or her to ask key countries to change their vote on the Defamation of Religions Resolution. A sample letter is provided for you to send which includes the necessary information for your elected officials to lobby the target UN country missions.

To send a message, go to www.freetobelieve.info.

“It’s dangerous and alarming that a UN resolution provides legitimacy to national blasphemy laws that are used to persecuting Christians and other minority faith groups,” says Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey. “The United Nations Defamation of Religions Resolution in effect amounts to the UN condoning state-sponsored persecution. We as Christians need to speak out against it and do all in our power to stop its passage. Everyone should be free to believe.”

Read more at Mission Network News…..

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