Southern Baptists Eye Possible Name Change

Weekly summary of world news

Norm Olson September 23, 2011




The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest “Protestant” denomination, is giving serious thought to changing its name in order to better reach people for Jesus Christ, reports The Christian Post. But changing a 166-year-old name that 16 million members reportedly identify with is expected to spark some heated debate. Emotions were already high when SBC President Bryant Wright placed the proposal on the table on Monday. “Vigorous and emotional discussion over potential SBC name change now on floor of SBC Executive Committee,” R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Tweeted Monday. A presidential task force has been set up to study a possible name change. Wright explained that the denomination’s name poses some barriers, especially in church planting efforts, noting that it’s “so regional,” as reported by Baptist Press. “[A] name change could position us to maximize our effectiveness in reaching North America for Jesus Christ in the 21st century,” he stated. “Those who spoke to the issue with such passion and concern sent a clear and honest signal of how difficult the task may be. Family discussions are often difficult, but this is what healthy families do–they work through the challenges rather than run from them,” Mohler said. Mohler also pointed out, “The SBC is not driven by a southern agenda nor a southern vision, but by a passionate commitment to the Great Commission. . . . That region gave birth to the Southern Baptist Convention, but it no longer contains it.” On the other hand, Mohler sees “tremendous value” in the established name of the SBC as it has continuously defended Biblical truth and theological orthodoxy. He admitted, “To be honest, I am personally traumatized by the very idea of changing the denomination’s name. I feel an almost physical loss at the very prospect. It is a deeply and unavoidably emotional question for any Southern Baptist whose life is intertwined with the Convention, its work, and its churches. The task force may issue a final report on changing the SBC name in time for next year’s annual meeting in June.

Other news:

  • The first-ever Jewish news network began broadcasting this week, reports beliefnetnews. “Jewish News 1 was born as an alternative to the world’s leading news networks—CNN, Fox News and Sky News,” reports Andy Sennitt for the Media Network. “But its main goal is to serve as the Jewish version of al-Jazeera, which has won the hearts of tens of millions of Arab viewers over the past 15 years.” According to Israel’s Makor Rishon newspaper, the channel will be broadcast via satellite to Europe, North America, and the Middle East. In Israel it will be offered by the Yes satellite company. Sennitt reports that the network plans to broadcast news from Israel and the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week from studios in Tel Aviv, Brussels, Kiev, Washington, Paris, and London—with broadcasts initially in English, but eventually also in Hebrew, French, Italian, Russian, and German.
  • A Christian man accused of blasphemy died in a Pakistani prison on Sept. 9, the International Christian Concern announced Tuesday and reported by The Christian Post. Aslam Masih died of a “treatable disease” after officials denied him proper medical care, ICC reported. He had reportedly died of Dengue virus, an infectious tropical disease. “Once again, Pakistan has shown its contempt for the lives of its religious minorities,” said Jonathan Racho, ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia. “We urge the international community to pressure Pakistan protect the rights of Christians and other vulnerable groups in the country.” ICC is an advocacy group for religious persecution. According to ICC, a local human rights organization had appealed to the Pakistani officials to treat Masih but they refused, citing security concerns. Masih was reportedly arrested in 2010 after having been accused of blasphemy by two members of the Tablighi Jammat, an Islamic missionary group. The police actually released Masih at first for lack of evidence, only to arrest him again when faced with pressure from the local radical Muslim community, ICC said. The incident added to a row of deaths and arrests related to the persecution of Christians in Pakistan. According to ICC, another Christian man, Qamar David, died in the Pakistani prison in March. Though the authorities cited a heart attack as an official cause, it is believed that he might have been murdered, according to ICC. Two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy were also shot dead in July 2010 by Muslim extremists in Faisalabad. Another similar case had taken place in 2009, when a man by the name of Falish Masih had been found dead in his prison cell, carrying multiple body wounds, as it was reported. The Pakistani police said at the time that the man had committed suicide, according to ICC. One of the most famous cases of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan is the case of Asia Bibi, the first woman in that country to be sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy. Bibi, still awaiting the solution of her case, had been accused of blasphemy by fellow field workers. A mother of five, she was sentenced to death by hanging for allegedly speaking ill of Prophet Muhammad. She denied the charges. Ninety-five percent of Pakistan’s population is Muslim, with 75 percent Sunni and 20 percent Shia. Only 5 percent practice Christianity and Hinduism, according to the CIA fact book.
  • A California couple has been fined by the city of San Juan Capistrano for holding Bible studies and religious gatherings in their home, which has some wondering about the future of religious freedom in America, reports The Christian Post. Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, residents of San Juan Capistrano, home to the oldest church in California, were fined $300 for the religious activities, which the city said violated a municipal code that prohibits “religious, fraternal or non-profit” organizations in residential neighborhoods without a conditional-use permit. Chuck Fromm is publisher of Worship Leader Magazine, a Christian music resource that combines Biblical wisdom and best practices for worship, and provides added educational and congregational resources through its associated educational services, according to its website. However, the Fromms insist that their weekly meetings are not affiliated with a church, nor are they seeking to establish a church. “How dare they tell us we can’t have whatever we want in our home,” Stephanie Fromm said. “We want to be able to use our home. We’ve paid a lot and invested a lot in our home and backyard. . . . I should be able to be hospitable in my home.” The municipal code is “reactive,” which means it is only enforced if someone complains. Fromm admitted that at least one person had voiced concern about the activities. “Can you imagine anybody in any neighborhood, that one person can call and make it a living hell for someone else?” Mrs. Fromm said. “That’s wrong . . . and it’s just sad.” According to the Pacific Justice Institute, a nonprofit legal group that is working on behalf of the Fromms, there was no noise beyond normal conversation and quiet music on the home stereo system. The group members met inside the family room and patio area of the 4,700-square-foot home. “Imposing a heavy-handed permit requirement on a home Bible study is outrageous,” said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, in a statement. “In a city so rich with religious history and tradition, this is particularly egregious. An informal gathering in a home cannot be treated with suspicion by the government, or worse than any other gathering of friends, just because it is religious. We cannot allow this to happen in America, and we will fight as long and as hard as it takes to restore this group’s religious freedom.” San Juan Capistrano city officials could not be reached for comment.
  • Two gay men who were recently united in a civil union ceremony at their Illinois home say they’ll sue two bed-and-breakfasts that refused to host the event, reports WJBC and AP. Advocates say it’s part of a growing clash between religious freedom and gay rights. The Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton and the Beall Mansion in Alton told the couple they wouldn’t host a civil union. “We believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural, based on what the Bible says about it,” Timber Creek’s owner said in an e-mail. The Illinois Department of Human Rights found “substantial evidence” that a civil rights violation was committed. That gives the couple 90 days to file suit. Illinois’ civil unions law went into effect in June.
  • Repent America recently conducted a campus tour throughout several New England states to preach the gospel to students. During the week of Aug. 29, the ministry visited the University of Vermont, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Southern Maine, and the University of Maine. Although the president of the University of Vermont cancelled classes the day after Tropical Storm Irene made landfall, many students still came to the campus and listened to the preaching. The following day as RA witnessed at the University of New Hampshire, police ejected the ministry by claiming that it must have prior approval; however, the preaching continued for several hours from the public sidewalk on the perimeter of the campus. Thereafter, the ministry visited the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine, where the Word of God went forth all day to scores of students. Meanwhile, the city of Winchester, Va., has agreed to change its municipal noise ordinance, which criminalizes sounds that “annoy” or disturb the “comfort” of another person. The agreement comes as the result of the federal civil challenge that RA brought against the city last year after Winchester police shut down the group’s amplified preaching  because one man claimed that he was “uncomfortable.” The Rutherford Institute in Charlottesville represented the ministry in the case, which contended that Winchester’s  noise ordinance was unconstitutional.
  • The Michigan state House and Senate on Wednesday both approved bills that would implement a state ban on partial-birth abortions and now the measures head to the governor, reports lifenews.com. Michigan could be the next state to ban partial-birth abortions following a Supreme Court decision in April 2007 upholding a federal ban on them. States are banning the abortions to allow local officials to assist federal authorities in enforcing the law and in case the federal law is ever repealed.
  • Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis (USA-Ret.), who now serves as senior fellow for national security at the Family Research Council, was part of the Pentagon working group that helped craft the 1993 homosexual exclusion law that the lame-duck 111th Congress and President Barack Obama worked overtime to repeal last year. While Maginnis believes it will take time to fully feel the negative effects of allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military, he sees no reason why it should not be an election issue next fall, reports onenewsnow.com. “They did not tell the Pentagon that homosexuals have to serve; they just said we’re removing this law,” the national defense analyst notes. “So, a new president could impose a new regulation, or, for that matter, Congress could pass a law saying ‘we now prohibit the service by people that are known to be homosexual.’ That’s easily done.” But Maginnis concedes it is going to take a great deal of political will to bring back the ban, considering the lack of understanding most people have about the culture of the military.