Friday
Dec192014

Ouachita trustees elect new board members/staff, hear report on Berry Bible Building campaign

ARKADELPHIA—Ouachita Baptist University’s board of trustees elected five new trustees and approved two administrative staff recommendations during the board’s Dec. 11 meeting on Ouachita’s Arkadelphia campus.
In other business, Ouachita President Rex Horne announced that efforts are under way to raise funds for the renovation of Berry Bible Building. The facility, built in 1962, is the academic hub of Ouachita’s Pruet School of Christian Studies. Plans call for updating classrooms, offices and other resources.

There currently are more than 175 Ouachita students pursuing majors in Christian studies and more than 400 students who cite an interest in preparing for vocational ministry. The renovation project will allow students to study in an enhanced learning environment as they prepare for ministry in Arkansas and around the world.

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Friday
Dec192014

Gender, homosexuality fight not over in Fayetteville, says Page, Lomax

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

FAYETTEVILLE – The fight over a controversial gender ordinance in Fayetteville rejected by voters in a recent special election may not be over, say religious leaders.

The ordinance, overturned Dec. 9, posed a threat to religious liberty, said Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council (AFEC), which is affiliated with the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. It appears Fayetteville city leaders are poised to bring the issue back up in the future.

PagePage said the Fayetteville city attorney has drafted a new “anti-discrimination” ordinance in response to requests from the city’s mayor and other local government leaders. He said specifics of the new ordinance are yet to be determined but that according to recent news reports, the new ordinance may not consider transgendered persons a protected class and may exempt churches from its requirements.

Much like the recently overturned ordinance, Page said the new ordinance would likely also threaten religious liberty in Fayetteville. 

“At this point, we can say that from the sketchy descriptions of how the ordinance will be crafted, it is likely that it will prohibit some businesses from refusing to provide services that run contrary to the deeply held religious tenets of the businesses’ owners and operators,” said Page. “We have seen this sort of thing in other cities that have these types of ordinances – legal action taken against florists, bakers and photographers who have respectfully declined to provide goods and services to same-sex marriage couples – based on their beliefs regarding the sanctity of marriage and the biblical model God established.”

LomaxRon Lomax, director of missions for Washington Madison Baptist Association (WMBA) in Fayetteville, was involved in informing churches of the possible implications of the recently overturned Fayetteville ordinance.

“Fayetteville has almost 50,000 registered voters, so we had 29 percent voting, which was more than in the general election in November,” said Lomax. “This issue will definitely be brought up again because our city council doesn’t seem to care that this issue has divided our city.”

Lomax said WMBA churches joined many other churches and faith-based organizations in Fayetteville to inform their members of the ordinance’s repeal election. He said the fight against the ordinance brought Southern Baptist churches together with churches of other denominations in the city.

“Several of our (WMBA) churches were attending the Repeal 119 meetings, posted the signs on their property and spoke about it in their churches,” said Lomax. “Our office made sure our churches had all the printed material available so their members could be up-to-date on everything going on and what the ordinance would do to our churches and businesses in Fayetteville.”

Lomax said Fayetteville has Christians who work within their city government, yet the city council is heavily biased toward a more progressive worldview. He said the recently repealed gender ordinance is an example of the city’s push to force Fayetteville citizens to accept the lifestyles contrary to the traditional biblical view of sexuality.

“They want us as Christians to be made to accept the lifestyle of the ‘HLGC’ (homosexual, lesbian, gender confused) people, my designation, not theirs. And, we don’t. We can love them as individuals and not agree with their lifestyle,” said Lomax.

“This ordinance and the way the city council handled it has woken up the Church to see the need to be involved in the government of the city,” he said.

Contact Caleb Yarbrough at caleb@arkansasbaptist.org.

Friday
Dec122014

Maternity home transitions into home for adult single mothers, their children 

LITTLE ROCK – Following several years of decline in admissions, referrals and resident population, the Promise House Maternity Home in Little Rock is transitioning into a new ministry, leaders of the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries (ABCHomes) announced recently. 

Beginning in early 2015, ABCHomes, in partnership with Baptist Health of Little Rock, will provide a Family Care Home to assist adult, single-parent mothers and their children at the now Promise House location. Baptist Health owns the West Little Rock facility, which has housed the maternity home since 1999. ABCHomes opened its first Family Care Home in June 2014, in Jonesboro. 

“This change has not been an easy decision,” said David Perry, ABCHomes executive director.  “Our leadership staff and board of trustees have struggled with this for months. The Promise House has been a vital area of ministry for ABCHomes for many years.  

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Friday
Dec122014

Family named winner of ABN Christmas card contest

NEW EDINBURG – For the first time, the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) has named a family winner of its Christmas card contest. Jennifer Reaves Bryant, member of First Baptist Church, Fordyce; her sons, Jack, 8, and Nate, 6, and her sister, Jodi Reaves, member of First Baptist Church, Kingsland, each created a Christmas card design as a family project.

The family members’ crayon drawings depicting the birth of Jesus will be combined into one design and featured as the official 2014 Christmas card of the Arkansas Baptist News.

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Wednesday
Dec102014

Fayetteville voters approve repeal of controversial gender ordinance

FAYETTEVILLE – Voters approved a repeal of a controversial gender ordinance Dec. 9 that would have been the first of its kind in the Natural State.

Unofficial results reported were 7,523 voting for repeal, with 7,040 voting against repeal, according to published reports.

Adopted by Fayetteville councilmen Aug. 20 following a marathon meeting, the ordinance would have extended housing, employment and public accommodation protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, which aren't covered in state and federal laws.

Within a month following approval of the ordinance, its foes collected enough signatures to place its repeal on the ballot in a special election.

Southern Baptist and other religious leaders in northwest Arkansas expressed concern that the ordinance was a significant threat to religious liberty in the city.

The passage of the ordinance by the Fayetteville City Council appeared to mark the first win in a new Southern campaign to extend LGBT rights.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the country’s largest political organization that promotes LGBT rights, announced in April such an effort with an $8.5 million budget over three years in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. On Nov. 10, HRC unveiled its “All God’s Children” religious outreach to persuade Mississippians that homosexuality is compatible with Christianity.

In a Nov. 10 memo, Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, said the city had failed to address the organization’s numerous questions about enforcement of the ordinance, including some regarding religious freedom.

Lead Southern Baptist Convention ethicist Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), described the ordinance as “one of the most broadly written and troubling nondiscrimination bills I’ve ever seen, stipulating religious exemptions only for the most narrow of circumstances, which will endanger untold numbers of men and women seeking to live out their gospel faith.”

The ordinance’s weakness on religious liberty is especially objectionable to Southern Baptists, Moore said, adding, “Religious freedom doesn’t arrive by majority vote and can’t be negotiated away by majority vote.”