Digest

Stories of interest to Arkansas Baptists ...

Wednesday
Jan202016

Planned Parenthood lawsuit called 'frivolous'

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP) – Planned Parenthood filed suit Jan. 14 in federal court against the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), accusing the group of conducting "a complex criminal enterprise conceived and executed by anti-abortion extremists."

The abortion giant claims CMP founder David Daleiden and his team broke laws in several states, as well as federal laws, by secretly taping private conversations and trespassing, using fake identities to gain access to Planned Parenthood facilities. Daleiden conducted a three-year, undercover operation, during which he posed as a fetal-tissue buyer and secretly taped Planned Parenthood executives and abortionists talking about the group's methods of and payments for procuring the bodies of aborted babies for scientific research. CMP began releasing videos from the operation in July.

Until now, Planned Parenthood has left legal action against CMP to others.

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Wednesday
Jan202016

Atheist seeks removal of ‘God’ from United States currency – again

A California atheist who once argued against the Pledge of Allegiance before the Supreme Court has launched a federal legal challenge to the phrase “In God We Trust” on American currency, the Religious News Service (RNS) reported.

Michael Newdow, 62, a Sacramento-based emergency-room doctor, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to strip reference to God from paper money and coins in an Ohio court earlier this month. Newdow claims the motto is a violation of his religious freedom.

In placing the motto “In God We Trust“ on American currency, the U.S. government has “substantially burdened” atheists and others “to personally bear a religious message that is the antithesis of what they consider to be religious truth,” the lawsuit claims, the RNS report said.

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Monday
Jan182016

Saeed Abedini released from Iranian prison

Saeed AbediniTEHRAN, Iran (BP) – American pastor Saeed Abedini and three other prisoners have been released from prison in Iran, according to news reports. Abedini was detained in 2012 for organizing house churches and later sentenced to eight years in prison.

The release reportedly comes as part of a prisoner swap coinciding with the Jan. 16 implementation of a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers brokered in July 2015. The U.S. has released seven Iranian-Americans charged with violating sanctions, according to an Iranian news agency.

Abedini’s wife Naghmeh rejoiced on her Facebook page shortly after news reports came in: “It is confirmed: Saeed is released!”

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Thursday
Jan142016

Full text of Jan. 14 IMB press release

HEADLINE: IMB announces final phase of organizational reset

By Julie McGowan 

RICHMOND, Va. – The International Mission Board is in a position, financially, where no missionaries will be required to leave the field as the organization wraps up its two-phase reset, IMB President David Platt announced Thursday, Jan. 14.

In the second phase of the IMB’s plan to address revenue shortfalls and complete a reset of the organization, leadership also announced details of a Hand Raising Opportunity (HRO) during two town hall meetings. The HRO plan, leaders shared, offers missionaries and stateside staff members the opportunity to transition outside the IMB if they believe God is leading them to a new place of involvement in mission.

“While most will remain in their current roles, some may redeploy,” IMB President David Platt said. “I use that term ‘redeploy’ intentionally because no one is stepping onto the sidelines of mission in this process. These decisions are more about what place, role, responsibility or assignment people have in the mission of God.”

Sebastian Traeger, IMB executive vice president, presented specific details of the plan, which includes a package beyond the scope of a normal resignation. Personnel who elect the HRO will finalize their decisions by Feb. 22.

The HRO information was shared in two segments during the town hall meetings: first to missionary personnel, and then to staff, who are mostly based in Richmond, Virginia. Both groups attended in person or via Web conference and had information available online (after the meeting). The two meeting times allowed leadership to convey specific details that pertain to each group.

Active, long-term and short-term missionaries are eligible for the HRO. Missionaries can transition from the field over the next several months. All full-time and regular part-time staff are eligible for the HRO.

“These next two months put a responsibility in each one of our laps to seek the Lord concerning His will for our lives,” Platt said, reiterating two points to missionaries and staff. “First, on a biblical and theological level, IMB missionaries must each resolve to do all of our work around the world in glad, wholehearted alignment with the Baptist Faith and Message adopted by the 40,000 churches we represent.”

“Second, along these lines, those 40,000 churches expect each of us individually and all of us collectively to work diligently and wisely for the spread of the gospel around the world. In other words, they expect all of us to give the right effort that this mission requires, and this means we must hold one another to a high bar when it comes to our work.” 

Difficult decision

In the midst of this two-phase process, Platt shared last August that IMB leaders would be re-evaluating systems and structures across the IMB not only because of IMB’s financial realities, but also to be the best possible stewards of the resources that churches have entrusted to IMB to get the gospel to the nations. During that evaluation, leaders made the difficult decision to eliminate the Richmond Communications Center as it currently exists, effective April 29.

“These are some of the kindest servants and leaders in the Richmond office,” Platt said. “IMB is indebted to them on many levels. In the days to come, we want to express our honor and appreciation for the countless ways these brothers and sisters have served Christ through the IMB.”

Thirty stateside staff have options that allow them to remain as employees until the Center closes April 29; 10 staff are being transferred to other positions. The change does not affect any missionary positions. The functions of the Richmond Communications Center, including Lottie Moon Christmas Offering promotion, will continue to be performed by IMB’s existing global network of communication teams and other trusted partners.

IMB leaders will not be eliminating any other teams, groups or departments during this two-phase organizational reset.

Final numbers

The two-phase plan originally was announced during an Aug. 27, 2015, town hall meeting when IMB leaders laid out a strategy to address IMB’s revenue shortfalls and complete a reset of the organization. The first phase of the organizational reset was a Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) that became final in December.

As the two-phase process has progressed, IMB leaders have sought to guard the integrity of the process to avoid swaying IMB personnel as they make their decisions. Leaders indicated they strongly desire personnel to receive clarity from God regarding His leadership in their lives.

In November 2015, IMB leaders communicated that based upon the results of the Voluntary Retirement Incentive, coupled with this second-phase Hand Raising Opportunity, they project IMB will meet its need to reduce the total number of personnel by at least 600 people. Leaders plan to share final and official numbers at the end of this two-phase process at the end of February. 

IMB will continue to post updates, including frequently asked questions and answers, online on IMB.org.

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Wednesday
Jan132016

United Methodist Church blacklists five banks from Israel

The pension board of the United Methodist Church — one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States, with more than seven million members — has placed five Israeli banks on a list of companies that it will not invest in for human rights reasons, the board said in a statement on Tuesday, the New York Times reported.

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