Survey probes pastors' views on handling misconduct

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – There's no consensus among Protestant pastors whether a colleague accused of misconduct should step down from the pulpit for a time, according to a LifeWay Research survey released May 10.

Few respondents, however, say pastors who commit adultery should be permanently banned from ministry, LifeWay Research reported on the findings of a telephone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors.

"Pastors believe church leaders should be held to high standards," said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, based in Nashville. "They also want to protect themselves against allegations that could be false."

The LifeWay Research survey asked pastors for their views on handling allegations of misconduct; the type of misconduct narrowed to adultery in one of the questions.

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Health insurers continue to face high costs of Affordable Care Act 

DALLAS – Health care costs continue to rise due to the federal Affordable Care Act. Some insurers are seeking large rate hikes while others have decided to depart the health care exchanges altogether.

UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest medical insurance provider, recently announced it lost $650 million in 2015 and $425 million in 2014 as a result of offering medical insurance on the various exchanges established through the Affordable Care Act. UnitedHealth has announced it would pull out of most exchanges for 2017.

While private insurance rates sometimes vary from the rates charged on health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act they are related. According to the Associated Press, customers in the health care exchanges could see medical insurance rate increases that reach “well into double digits,” as evidenced by Virginia health care providers on the website filing preliminary notices seeking average premium increases ranging from 9.4 percent to 37.1 percent.

As churches plan their 2017 budgets they should consider that most of the industry is reporting significant increases in core health care/medical insurance and pharmacy costs through the first quarter of 2016.

“GuideStone’s relationship with the national Blue Cross Blue Shield and Express Scripts networks provides deep discounting of medical and prescription costs,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “This helps mitigate the impact of rising medical and pharmacy costs. Through GuideStone, our participants have access to the broadest medical and pharmacy networks in America, with no narrow networks or exclusions, enabling our participants to maintain their personal physician-patient relationships.”

Additionally, GuideStone remains committed to offering the Teladoc service that can help participants and employers save time and money for non-life-threatening medical needs. (Due to state law, the Teladoc service is not available in Arkansas.) The service allows registered users to talk via phone or computer video connection to a live, U.S.-based, board-certified physician who can resolve many medical issues.

“As we design our medical coverage for 2017, and beyond, we are committed to continue to provide high-quality health care coverage at competitive prices for our participants, as well as for the employers we serve,” Hawkins said. “Through services like Teladoc, and by using technological tools to provide our participants the opportunity to make healthier lifestyle choices, we are working to slow the impact of core medical inflation for the benefits of our participants and their employers.”

GuideStone will inform the churches, ministries and participants it serves about medical insurance rates for 2017 in mid to late September.


Harrison Christians unify through Scripture and prayer

HARRISON – As part of an effort to unify area churches and Christians, the Boone County Bible Reading Marathon began April 28 with a breakfast and program. Boone County Judge Robert Hathaway read a proclamation to initiate the daily reading which took place between 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from April 28 to May 5.

In culmination of the weeklong Bible reading marathon, the participants relocated to Boone County Courthouse park and held a National Day of Prayer service in which 500 people, including community officials, pastors, a high school choir and hundreds of Christians, were expected to attend.

James Bryant, pastor of Gaither Baptist Church, Harrison, said that the "unity plan" in the area began about one year ago when billboards began being placed around the city of Harrison.

"Four of them have been placed and supported by churches and individuals that want the area to have a change in attitude about our community," said Bryant. "Unity prayer meetings have now been going on since the first of the year, now the Marathon is adding spiritual fuel to the unity fire."

"There is an excitement growing in the area that is contagious. I heard that just this week the Bible sales locally has increased significantly. Ninety three hours of reading is using hundreds in the 15 minute spot readings," said Bryant.


Williams Baptist College mourns loss of student athlete killed in car accident


WALNUT RIDGE – The Williams Baptist College (WBC) family is grieving the loss of one of its own after the tragic death of student athlete Britny Vickers.

Vickers was killed in a car accident Monday night, May 2, in southeast Walnut Ridge. According to reports, a truck crossed the center line and collided with a car driven by Vickers. The driver of the truck died as well.

Vickers, 20, was a sophomore psychology major from Homosassa, Fla., and a midfielder for the WBC Lady Eagles soccer team.  

A campus memorial service is planned for noon, May 4, in WBC’s Manley Chapel. Funeral arrangements are pending. 

Hundreds of Britny’s classmates, as well as Williams faculty and staff, filled Manley Chapel to grieve and pray together Monday night after learning of Vickers' untimely death. 

“Williams Baptist College is a tight knit campus family, and we feel this loss profoundly,” said Tom Jones, WBC president. “Britny enriched our campus with a wonderful personality and ever-present smile. We mourn with her family, her classmates and her teammates, and we offer our fervent prayers on their behalf.”  

"The WBC family extends its deepest condolences to Britny’s family in this loss of a very special young lady," a WBC press release stated.

– Source: Williams Baptist communications office




Southern Baptists to meet in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – When Southern Baptists depart St. Louis after their annual meeting June 14-16, convention president and Arkansas Pastor Ronnie Floyd said he will be praying they do so with a “deep burden for our nation, a new commitment to racial unity and an extraordinary commitment to evangelize America.”

The annual meeting will be held at America’s Center, 701 Convention Plaza, in St. Louis.

The theme of this year’s is Awaken America: Reach the World – Agree, Unite, Pray. Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, points to passionate prayer as a critical tool for a “nationwide and global spiritual awakening.”

“I pray that our SBC messengers encounter the living God through moments of worship, preaching, challenge and prayer,” Floyd said.

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