Thursday
Nov132014

Alcohol proposal fails, GOP sweeps offices

LITTLE ROCK – Nov. 4 marked midterm elections in various states across the United States, including Arkansas. Arkansans voted to uphold local control of alcohol sales and gradually raise the state’s minimum wage. Republican candidates swept nearly all offices up for election in the state.

PageLarry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council (AFEC), was a harsh critic of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative, Issue 4, on the ballot. Page argued that the initiative would stifle the voice of individuals living in Arkansas’ 37 dry counties. By forfeiting the right of local municipalities and communities to decide to allow or prohibit the sale of alcohol, Page argued Arkansans would unnecessarily lose their voice on the issue.

Page sent an email to subscribers and to AFEC supporters following the results of the Nov. 4 election.

“The vote was not close. By an overwhelming margin, we beat Issue #4, rejected statewide alcohol sales, and retained the important principle of local control,” wrote Page. “It is so gratifying to see what a difference for righteousness we can make when we come together and take decisive action on an issue.”

The other major issue on the ballot in Arkansas dealt with gradually raising the state’s minimum wage. According to published reports, Issue 5 passed and will raise Arkansas’ minimum wage from $6.25 to $7.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, to $8 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016, and finally to $8.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017.

According to published reports, the other three issues passed. These were: Issue 1, to require legislative review to all changes in state agencies’ administrative rules; Issue 2, to allow more time to gather signatures for statewide initiatives or referendum petitions, if as originally filed they contained 75 percent of the necessary signatures, and Issue 3, to regulate campaign contributions to candidates for state and local office, bar some gifts from lobbyists to state officials, set certain state officials’ salaries and set term limits for members of the state’s General Assembly.

Republicans gained all six congressional seats and all seven statewide offices, including the office of governor. Much like other Southern states, Arkansas has traditionally been dominated by the Democratic Party. This year’s election continued a trend over the past few election cycles, which saw Arkansans supporting Republicans over Democrats, in many cases by large margins.

Janine Parry, director of the annual Arkansas Poll conducted by the University of Arkansas, told the Arkansas News Bureau (ANB), “It solidifies a pattern that we’ve been seeing since 2010. … We saw more victories in more branches at more levels than the state has since Reconstruction, and we’ve seen it for multiple elections. That is a realignment by definition.”

According to the ANB, Parry said that while it is difficult to know conclusively what role Arkansas’ dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama played in these shifts, the large “gains” Republicans have made since Obama took office put the party in a desirable position looking to the future.

Thursday
Nov132014

Ark. church accepts call to impact African city

Elaine Gaston
International Mission Board 

Editor’s Note: International Mission Board missionaries Mike and Heather McAfee from Tennessee and North Carolina are featured in the 2014 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions emphasis. This story is by Elaine Gaston, who has served overseas with her family in restricted-access countries and is now based in the U.S.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (BP) – Dinner was a far cry from an Arkansas Baptist church supper. 

On this night, six members of Arkansas’ Valley Baptist Church in Searcy squeezed into a modest Muslim home in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and dipped their spoons into African groundnut stew and fish sauce served over “attieke,” the staple Ivorian food made from cassava. They were eating with a local family who was breaking their Ramadan fast.

“Man, you couldn’t have told me 10 years ago I’d be over here eatin’ with a Muslim,” Paul Yingling said with an incredulous shake of his head. 

But then, you couldn’t have told Yingling, and his wife, Jan, that God would so burden their hearts for Muslims that they would find themselves traveling to West Africa to tell stories about Christ. 

Yingling is an automotive technician in Searcy. The Yinglings were part of the team of Valley Baptist Church volunteers who first journeyed to Abidjan last year to see how their hometown church might impact a West African city on the other side of the globe.

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Thursday
Nov062014

Protestant churches show economic improvement


NASHVILLE (BP) – The nation's slow economic recovery from a deep recession is showing up in the offering plates of Protestant churches in the U.S., according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research.

Although 56 percent of churches still report negative impact from the economy, 13 percent report a positive impact – a jump of 4 percentage points from May 2012. When compared to the previous three years, churches are reporting less negative and more positive economic impact.

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Thursday
Nov062014

Republicans regain Senate; Southern Baptists win key House seats

WASHINGTON (BP) – Voters gave the Republican Party a majority in the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 4 mid-term election, leaving President Obama without a Democratic-controlled chamber in Congress for the first time since he took residence in the White House nearly six years ago.

Southern Baptist candidates, meanwhile, won first-time seats in Congress as part of the Republican blitz, but social conservatives did not fare well on some state initiatives. 

The GOP gained at least seven senatorial seats, with winners in at least two races yet to be determined. Republicans will have at least 52 seats in the 100-member Senate beginning in January.

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Tuesday
Nov042014

Arkansas Baptists make voice known on resolutions at meeting in Texarkana

TEXARKANA – Arkansas Baptists made their voice known on a number of “hot-button” issues by approving resolutions regarding religious liberty, statewide alcohol sales, transgender identity and Christian citizenship and civic participation at the 161st annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) Oct. 28-29.

Larry Page, chairman of the ABSC Resolutions Committee, and executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, brought the report of the committee to the convention during the Wednesday morning session, Oct. 29. All resolutions were approved without opposition. (Read the full text of all resolutions at the end of this article.) 

Resolution 4 on Transgender Identity affirmed the biblical definition of sexuality, referencing Genesis 1:27 and Isaiah 43:7, among other verses, and opposed cultural trends to allow the redefinition of gender identity. The resolutions made clear it should be the desire of Christians to “extend love and compassion to those whose sexual self-understanding is shaped by a distressing conflict between their biological sex and their gender identity; and, … invite all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel (1 Timothy 1:15–16).”

Resolution 3 on the Proposed Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment encouraged messengers to “reject soundly” statewide sale of alcohol as proposed in the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment (AABA) Nov. 4. The resolution read in part: “Whereas, if the state’s voters approve the AABA, it will convert Arkansas’s (sic) 37 dry counties to wet ones and preclude absolutely the ability of voters in individual counties from voting all or any part of their respective counties dry; and … it is imperative that Arkansans understand how the AABA, if approved by voters, will fundamentally transform their state in undesirable ways and effectively disenfranchise voters in relation to local option elections.” 

Resolution 2 on Religious Liberty expressed appreciation for “God-given religious freedom” and called for “every branch of government to investigate all claims of First Amendment violations and to educate, discipline, or prosecute any who are involved in these violations;” and it urged “those who engage in defending the legal rights of people of faith to come to the aid of those who are facing discrimination for their faith by federal, state, and local governments, institutions, or individuals.” 

Resolution 5 on Christian Citizenship and Civic Participation affirmed the charge of all Christians to be “salt and light” in the world (Matt. 5:13-16), encouraging them to “engage the culture by being informed and proactive citizens, by voting in all elections, and by participating appropriately in civic matters.”

Resolution 1 on Appreciation thanked the staff and laity of Trinity Baptist Church, Texarkana, where the annual meeting was held, as well as the ABSC Program Committee, President Archie Mason, Executive Director J.D. “Sonny” Tucker and other dedicated staff and leaders of the ABSC.

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