Stories of interest to Arkansas Baptists ...


Arkansas pastor is SCBC search committee’s choice for new state executive director-treasurer

From the South Carolina Baptist Courier ...

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Gary L. Hollingsworth, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., is the choice of a search committee seeking a new SCBC executive director-treasurer.

South Carolina Baptist messengers will gather Thursday, Jan. 14, at 1:30 p.m. at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia to consider electing Hollingsworth to the position vacated by the retirement of Jim Austin in October 2014.

Hollingsworth has served at Immanuel Church for eight years. Prior to that, he was senior director of cultural evangelism for the North American Mission Board.

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Renewed same-sex marriage ban in Alabama debated

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP) – A Southern Baptist judge in Alabama is among the supporters of state chief justice Roy Moore's renewed order that probate judges stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"I absolutely agree with his reasoning behind why [Moore] is doing what he's doing," said Nick Williams, probate judge in rural Washington County and a former Southern Baptist pastor. Moore "has every right to issue administrative orders when the court system seems to be in chaos."

Moore issued an order Jan. 6 stating Alabama's 68 probate judges "have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to" the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

In his order, Moore implied the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in June, which declared same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional, applied only to Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee -- the jurisdiction where the case originated. Moore cited federal court rulings since Obergefell finding the case did not "directly invalidate" same-sex marriage bans in Nebraska and Kansas.

"An elementary principle of federal jurisdiction," Moore wrote, is that "a judgment only binds the parties to the case before the court." Alabama's Supreme Court has yet to decide whether it will apply the U.S. Supreme Court's reasoning to Alabama, he wrote.

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LGBT K-12 school proposed for Georgia

DALTON, Ga. (BP) – A new school for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in grades K-12 is being established in Atlanta as a safe zone for such students being bullied in traditional schools. But a Georgia Baptist leader is asking if a 5-year-old kindergarten student can identify as being LGBT -- or even a first or second grader, for that matter.

The school, being called the first of its kind in Georgia, will also employ LGBT teachers at what will be known as Pride School Atlanta. It will serve as an alternative for LGBT students, though the school "is open to any student who believes they're not getting the support they need for 'being different,'" the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted founder Christian Zsilavetz. The paper reported the venture on Jan. 4.

Bob Bagley, chairman of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board's Public Affairs Committee, seemed confused by the concept behind the new school, which could appear to be a potential step backward for those who support the LGBT lifestyle.

"It seems to me that after many years of seeking to be accepted by the public, that this is a change of direction in the LGBT community's effort to be part of mainstream America," said Bagley, the committee spokesman who also serves as director of missions for Murray County/North Georgia Association in Dalton.

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More churches seeing need for volunteer screening

NASHVILLE (BP) – Nearly half of the background checks requested by churches through LifeWay's program with backgroundchecks.com reveal some type of criminal offense.

Most of those are minor incidents such as speeding tickets, but 21 percent of inquiries discovered misdemeanors or more serious crimes, LifeWay's Jennie Taylor said.

Since 2008, when LifeWay began its relationship with backgroundchecks.com, more than 11,300 churches and religious organizations have conducted nearly 230,000 background checks using the program. In the past year, more than 2,100 churches have signed up through the LifeWay ONESource program.

CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach, Fla., has been using backgroundchecks.com for five years. Sandy Watts, ministry assistant at the church, said, "We feel it is vital to be able to assure parents who entrust their children to us that the adults caring for and supervising their children are safe and have a clear background."

Watts said most of their checks returned clear, but the few that have been flagged allowed church leadership to talk more deeply with the individuals and sometimes suggest other areas of the church that might be better suited for their service.

Chris Smith, pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Beckley, W.Va., said his church began using the service last year to screen volunteers for their AWANA clubs and the congregation was "eager to participate."

"We wanted to make sure the children are safe and the parents can have confidence in our volunteer staff," he said. "Having the information available to the leadership has given folks a greater sense of safety for the children, the youth and adults."

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Chainsaw cross conveys hope after tornado onslaught in Texas

Disaster relief volunteer Rick Evans of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention carves a cross into the stump of a tree downed by one of the Dec. 26 tornadoes in the metro Dallas area.ROWLETT, Texas (BP) – Three weeks after Shane Pruitt was a guest preacher at Bellville First Baptist near Houston, one of its disaster relief teams assisted Pruitt's family in the wake of devastating tornadoes that swept through the metro Dallas area the day after Christmas.

Pruitt, who serves as director of missions for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, recounted that he was en route to a preaching engagement when his wife called to tell him that tornado sirens were going off in their Rowlett suburb.

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