A Southern Baptist Convention task force appointed to investigate the possibility of a name change for the denomination has recommended that the SBC keep its name, but introduce an “informal” optional title, “Great Commission Baptists.” The task force, which was appointed by SBC President Bryant Wright, released their report and its recommendation on Monday. Rather than a legal name change, the panel recommended “a descriptor name be adopted to go with the SBC official name.” “I’m in complete agreement with the position they have taken,” said Wright in an interview with The Christian Post. “They could be used together, or a church or entity could decide to use ‘Great Commission Baptists’ by itself or together with ‘Southern Baptist Convention’ or use ‘Southern Baptist Convention’ by itself.” Wright has been supportive of the consideration to change the name of SBC, which was founded in 1845 and has had members seriously considering changing its name since 1903. Some have expressed concerns that the SBC name was a hindrance for some and that it was too regional. “But the regional aspect of the name ‘Southern’ Baptists doesn’t describe our mission given by Jesus Christ to His church to go and make disciples of all people. That is our mission. That is what we do,” said Wright. Wright appointed the 16-member task force back in 2011, with its chairman being Dr. Jimmy Draper, a Baptist minister with more than five decades of experience in ministry. Dr. Eric Herrstrom, pastor of Lake Arlington Baptist Church, where Draper served as an interim pastor, told CP that he also liked the task force’s decision. “I believe it addresses the regional issue that ‘Southern’ creates as well as better describes who we are as a commissioned people,” said Herrstrom. “I think, informally and from a public perspective, ‘Great Commission Baptists’ reframes for the world a more descriptive picture of who we are as Southern Baptists. Formally, I don’t know that there is a need to immediately leave our ‘Southern Baptist’ name from a legal perspective.” Draper stressed that the Southern Baptist Convention “describes who we are, not what we do. SBC is a name respected worldwide.”
- The chief of a homeschooling organization in Sweden, where officials recently made the activity illegal, has fled his home country because of the badgering, fines, court hearings, and threats over the best way to teach his own children, reports WorldNetDaily. According to a report in the New American, Jonas Himmelstrand of the Swedish Association for Home Education has left his home country because of, among other things, attempts by the government to fine him $26,000 for homeschooling. The report said Himmelstrand quietly moved his family to the Aland Islands between Sweden and Finland, which are outside the jurisdiction of Swedish homeschooling laws. While he earlier had considered it worth staying and fighting for the rights of parents to decide the best education for their children, he said in the report that it was clear it was time to join the other homeschool families who already have fled Sweden. With the attack launched by the government on parental rights, Sweden joins Germany as nations where families have been forced to flee because of government persecution.
- Seven states are asking a federal judge to block an Obama administration mandate that requires birth control coverage for employees of religious-affiliated hospitals, schools, and outreach programs, reports newsmax.com and AP. The lawsuit in U.S. District Court of Nebraska alleges that the new rule violates the First Amendment rights of groups that object to the use of contraceptives. The rule, announced as part of the federal health care law, has come under fire from religious groups that object to the use of birth control. In response to the criticism, Obama administration officials have said they will shift the requirement from the employers to health insurers themselves. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says the proposed change still fails to address their concerns. Joining the lawsuit are Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.
- GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is expressing outrage over a U.S. apology to Afghan authorities for burned Qurans on a military base, reports newsmax.com and AP. He was joined by Sarah Palin, who blasted the decision on her Facebook page: “Obama apologizes for the inadvertent Quran burning this week; now the U.S. trained and protected Afghan Army can apologize for killing two of our soldiers yesterday.” Gingrich lashed out Thursday at the Obama administration for the formal apology. Copies of the Muslim holy book were found burned in a garbage pit on a U.S. air field. President Barack Obama’s apology was announced Thursday morning. A few hours later, news organizations reported that an Afghan soldier had killed two U.S. troops and wounded others in retaliation for the Quran burning. Campaigning in Washington State, Gingrich says Afghan President Hamid Karzi owes the U.S. an apology for the shootings and that the Afghans “do not deserve the apology of the United States.” The Obama administration says the apology is appropriate, given the religious sensitivities involved.
- GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on Wednesday showed no signs of backing down from his provocative statements about President Obama and religion, accusing the president of working to undermine the country’s “Judeo-Christian values” through his implementation of health-care reform and other policies, reports conservativebyte.com. “Essentially, we are going to have to hold together on some set of moral codes and principles,” Santorum said at the Sabbar Shrine in downtown Tucson, speaking before an enthusiastic tea party crowd of about 500 people ahead of an evening CNN debate. “And we’re seeing very evidently what the president’s moral codes and principles are about. We see a president who is systematically trying to crush the traditional Judeo-Christian values of America. We saw it with Obamacare and the implementation of Obamacare, where his values are going to be imposed on a church’s values.” In other news, The Center for Individual Freedom warns, “Barack Obama’s socialized healthcare scheme has become a vehicle for Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to shred the Constitution and dictate, mandate and enforce as much of their radical unconstitutional agenda as they wish. In other words, the extreme left has effectively hijacked the bureaucratic implementation of ObamaCare and will stop at nothing to ram whatever outrageous and unconstitutional mandate they can dream up down our throats. The freedom of religion is a basic Constitutional right. Indeed, it’s our nation’s most foundational right. And with a swipe of the pen, the Obama administration has gone from chipping away at our religious liberties to outright extinguishing them entirely.”
- Reports over the past week say that President Obama plans to reduce the size of the U.S .military and disarm a large portion of the country’s nuclear arsenal. His forced Pentagon cuts will result in nearly 100,000 servicemen and servicewomen being eliminated from the armed forces. He also wants to scrap 80 percent of America’s nuclear weapons. Obama is also pushing to revamp the military retirement system, which would greatly reduce the number of career personnel. “It’s obvious that he has no respect for those who serve in the military or who desire to commit twenty years of their lives to defending our nation,” opined godfatherpolitics.com. “His goal is to cut the US military budget by hundreds of billions of dollars and weaken our national defenses. He has demoralized a large portion of the military by his policies on gays in the military, oppression of Christian teachings by military chaplains and his promotion of Muslim teachings and rights in the armed forces. So while Obama is busy slashing America’s military defenses to pieces, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is doing the exact opposite. He has just committed $772 billion for arms buildup over the next ten years.”
- An eighth-grade student in North Carolina was suspended for 55 days for showing another boy a bag of oregano and claiming it was marijuana, reports UPI.com. “It was just a joke,” the boy’s mother told FoxNews.com. “He’s embarrassed that it’s turned into such a big issue. He’s actually said he doesn’t know why he did it. But he didn’t have an illegal substance to begin with.” The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group best known for defending the right to religious expression, has taken up the boy’s cause. John Whitehead, the institute’s president, said the suspension may violate the boy’s constitutional rights. “We want the record cleaned up so this doesn’t track him for the rest of his life,” Whitehead told FoxNews.com. Under Union County Public Schools policy, students can be suspended for 10 days for possession of a real or counterfeit drug with an additional 45 days possible if the student’s behavior was egregious. Whitehead argues that oregano is clearly not an illegal drug, and the school district does not define counterfeit drugs.
- Bishop Duane Pederson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America announced in a letter to all his congregations that he and his wife, Sylvia, have begun the legal process of divorce, reports examiner.com. Though divorce among Lutheran clergy is not unheard of—38 percent of Lutheran pastors’ marriages end in divorce, mostly as a result of burnout in ministry—many clergy are asked to leave their positions and not accept another call for a period of time following their divorce. Bishop Pederson has indicated he intends to continue as bishop of the Northwest Synod, breaking with a longstanding tradition of repentance and time away from the ministry while the pastor sorts out his life. In fact, in the ELCA, pastors are strongly advised, often even forced, to take a leave of absence when they decide to divorce, a position affirmed in the denomination’s statement on human sexuality. Meanwhile, Pederson has been engaged in a battle with Grace Lutheran Church, Eau Claire, Wis. Grace took a vote to disaffiliate from the ELCA, which narrowly failed, but also voted to affiliate with a new Lutheran group, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, in a measure to maintain congregational harmony and unity among a majority of members who have found the anti-Biblical theological drift of the ELCA a violation of their own bound conscience.
- Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, has issued a statement in response to President Obama’s health plan “accommodation” for religious groups, reports lcms.org. Declared Harrison, “In response to President Obama’s announcement concerning an ‘accommodation’ to a previous mandate that health plans must cover all forms of birth control (even those that can kill the unborn), The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod remains deeply concerned. We strongly object to the use of drugs and procedures that are used to take the lives of unborn children, who are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception. Drugs such as ‘Plan B’ and ‘Ella,’ which are still included in the mandate, can work post-conception to cause the death of the developing child, so don’t be fooled by statements to the contrary. We see President Obama’s action as significant, in that it appears to have been prompted by the many voices united in concern over an infringement of our religious liberties. But the ‘accommodation’ did not expand the exemption for religious employers, nor did it restrict the mandate in any way. It simply described a temporary enforcement delay and a possible future change—a change that, unfortunately, would not adequately protect religious freedom or unborn lives. We remain opposed to this mandate because it runs counter to the biblical truth of the sanctity of human life. . . . We can no longer expect a favored position for Christianity in this country. But we can, as citizens of this great nation, fight for constitutional sanity against secularizing forces. . . . How much longer will it be legal in this country to believe and act according to the dictates of biblical and creedal Christianity? Jesus bids us, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’ (Mark 12:17). We will pray for and support our government where we can, but our consciences and lives belong to God.”