BP Ledger, Jan. 27 edition

i>EDITOR'S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.

Today's BP Ledger contains items from:

Moody Radio

Southern Baptist TEXAN

WORLD News Service

Pew Research Center

Liberty Counsel

Baptist General Convention of Texas

Moody Radio launching Radical with David Platt

CHICAGO (Moody Radio) -- On Jan. 14, 2014, Moody Radio and Radical, the resource ministry of pastor David Platt, announced an official partnership for a new daily teaching program called Radical with David Platt.

"This is a historic partnership," said Collin Lambert, vice president of Moody Radio. "David Platt will be one of the first voices of his generation to have a daily, national teaching program on Christian radio and we are incredibly excited to bring his solid, passionate Bible teaching to a whole new audience." The 35-year-old pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., also is a best-selling author and sought-after conference speaker worldwide.

Radical with David Platt will be 24 minutes in length and feature his teaching from The Church at Brook Hills and various conferences. The program will begin airing on stations owned and operated by Moody Radio and select affiliates during the spring of 2014.

"My prayer for this partnership with Moody Radio is that God might be pleased to use this medium for the mobilization of more and more people to make more and more disciples in more and more nations so that he might receive more and more glory that is due His name," Platt said.

Additional information about Moody Radio's Radical with David Platt will be released in February.

About Moody Radio: As one of the largest Christian radio networks in the country, Moody Radio has 36 owned and operated stations, six Internet stations and more than 1,500 outlets that carry all or part of its programming. For more information about Moody Radio, visit www.moodyradio.org.

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Giving boom at Houston's First rooted in discipleship

By Bonnie Pritchett

HOUSTON (Southern Baptist TEXAN) -- The pastor wondered what could be accomplished if the church increased its offerings to benefit missions. But for Houston's First Baptist Church, the method wasn't to be found in one more campaign or big push. It was more foundational than that.

"We aimed for the heart, not the wallet. As people were discipled we captured the heart," said Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston's First Baptist Church.

In 2010 Matte believed God was giving the church a vision for missions. But initiating a new giving campaign on the heels of a successful capital campaign seemed imprudent. Besides, the vision was not about meeting a monetary goal, giving it away, and moving on. What if, Matte posited, First Baptist members simply gave more, recognizing their offerings supported existing ministries and kick-started new ones?

Matte and the church staff recognized one expression of faithful discipleship was charitable giving in its many forms. That would be their guide in praying for and planning the launch of an endeavor called Mission 1:8. The concept is the fusion of mission emphases with Christ's admonition in Acts 1:8 to be global witnesses. Matte said it is not a "campaign" because, though there is a beginning to the emphasis, there is no end. Thoughtful giving should be a part of the Christian life and, therefore, does not stop, he said.

And the results have been astounding. Underestimating God's provision by half, pledges for giving increased not by the anticipated 30 percent but almost twice that amount -- $15 million became $27 million. The additional pledges to the existing $45 million general operating budget far exceeded forecasted projections, leaving ministry leaders searching for even more ways to give to existing ministries and start new ones.

"It's a wonderful problem to have. What we're really celebrating is God moving in the hearts of our people," said Steven Murray, communications director at Houston's First.

Preparing the ground for the cultivation of stewardship included the creation of a sermon series and Sunday School material in which members were introduced (some for the first time) to the gospel-centered ministries supported by First Baptist. Matte wanted his congregation to have a sense of connection to that work, understanding that money put in an offering plate really does feed widows and orphans, minister to prisoners and proclaim the gospel.

Those ministries do a profound work, and Matte said the church should be grateful for the opportunity to serve with God in those areas. But, he asked the church, how much more could be done if everyone simply gave more?

"Our ministry as a church is a response to Him—a worshipful expression of our love and gratitude," Matte wrote in the Mission 1:8 educational material.

To help coordinate the giving plan, First Baptist hired the consulting firm Generis, which recommended keeping the mission offerings part of the general operating fund. This would keep the focus on the fact that giving was about meeting the day-to-day function and ministry of the church and not a one-time fund that would someday be dissolved.

Matte challenged the members to think about their giving patterns or lack thereof. Using a ladder as an illustration, he urged members to step up their giving by one rung. For some it would mean being first-time givers. Others would become occasional givers; then intentional givers; tithers; and, finally, extravagant givers.

Following the sermon series and Sunday School lessons last February, pledge cards were turned in the first of March. As if the pledges far exceeding their expectations weren't enough, Murray said they were "blown away" by the first-time givers.

Of the 7,000 cards turned in, 2,031 indicated the giver status. Of those the majority, 671, were first-time givers. Extravagant givers, at 619, came in second. Giving -- not pledges -- between March and September increased by 75 percent over the same period in 2012. And First Baptist has already started writing checks to their missions beneficiaries.

"It's just so fun to bless the socks off these people," Murray said.

Regardless of church size, David Self, the church's executive pastor, said any church can encourage its members to be faithful disciples. Like so many Southern Baptist churches, the rolls of First Baptist (26,000 people) do not reflect actual attendance on its four campuses (it averages around 5,100). Offerings could vary accordingly. But, Matte added, the benefits of intentional discipleship training could result in a burgeoning of faithful living, not just giving.

For example, an unintended consequence has been an uptick in the number of people wanting to serve in missions. First Baptist coordinates 30-40 mission trips a year, and more people are stepping up to go.

Prior to the launch of Mission 1:8 in February, Matte began having doubts. Times were hard and the church was not immune to the economic downturn of 2008. Church staff was laid off in 2009. And in 2010 the church had just completed a capital campaign that paid off all debt. In 2011 church staff began preparing for a fall 2012 roll out of Mission 1:8.

But Matte questioned the timing of God's call to ask the congregation to give more -- again.

"In the midst of it I wasn't sure if we should do this," Matte said.

During a sabbatical in San Francisco -- one of First Baptist's mission cities -- Matte prayed about the venture. From his vantage point in a room at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Matte could see the city's skyline as he prayed over it. But as is often the case, the fog rolled in, obscuring his view. 

That fog gave him a theological insight on faith. San Francisco still sat before him. He just couldn't see it. Matte realized the same was true for Mission 1:8. Matte said he felt God saying, "This is where I have you. You just have to trust that it's there."

"God used that to symbolize the purpose of Mission 1:8," Matte said.

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Last year was good for pro-life politics in state capitals

By Edward Lee Pitts

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (World News Service) -- Mia McCord told her boss, Texas state Sen. Kelly Hancock, that she'd have her baby after the 2013 legislative session ended in May. With a July 17 due date, that seemed like a safe promise.

But in early April doctors diagnosed her with severe preeclampsia. Her life and the child's life were at risk. They needed to deliver the baby. Mia was 26 weeks pregnant.

Born last April 10, John Mark weighed 1 pound, 4.8 ounces and measured 11.5 inches. He could fit into the palm of your hand. His own hands were the size of thumbnails. Doctors let Mia get a glimpse of her son before taking him to the neonatal intensive care unit at University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin.

Half a mile from that hospital sits the Texas state Capitol. There, weeks after John Mark's birth, state Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours against a series of pro-life bills. While journalistic publicists obsessed over the pink tennis shoes Davis wore during her marathon abortion speech (prompting Barack Obama to tweet, "something special is happening in Austin tonight"), Sen. Hancock posted on Twitter pictures of John Mark fighting for life.

"Tell me this child is not viable," Hancock tweeted. "Tell me this child is not worth standing up for?"

In 2013, as the federal government grew more pro-abortion with the advent of Obamacare, Hancock and other legislators around the country enjoyed unprecedented pro-life success in state capitals. Last year 24 states passed laws limiting abortion, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute. These laws are yielding results: A record 87 abortion clinics shut down in 2013.

Pro-life state laws now include bans on human cloning, sex-selection abortions, and wrongful birth lawsuits. States are holding abortion businesses to higher medical standards and requiring them to display ultrasounds and provide better documentation. Judges now have a harder time bypassing parental notification requirements when a minor seeks an abortion.

Last year North Dakota banned abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as soon as six weeks, and passed the nation's first prohibition on abortions for genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome. Arkansas lawmakers overrode a governor's veto and passed their own heartbeat protection act. Florida approved a measure saying infants born alive during an abortion are entitled to the same rights as a child born in a natural birth.

Courts are often setting aside such legislation as they wait for new U.S. Supreme Court guidance, but in states like Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas lawmakers are acting like the "lesser magistrates" in Christian political theory and speaking out on pro-life issues rather than pre-emptively surrendering to judges or Washington officials. 

"We don't have to beg for scraps," said Jonathan Stickland, a Texas state representative. Referring to personal offenses, he noted that "as Christians we are taught to turn the other cheek." Public policy issues like abortion are different, though: "We can grab our sword and fight." In Lincoln, Topeka, Oklahoma City, and Austin, legislators are doing just that as they prioritize pro-life bills.

WANTING TO SEE for myself this new mood, I started in Nebraska, where in 2010 lawmakers passed the nation's first ban on abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy. That's the current time medical technology shows babies in the womb can feel pain. 

Julie Schmit-Albin, the executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, took me to a gray concrete-block building on a busy road in the city of Bellevue. The building looks like a squat, medium-security prison. Cameras peer down from roof corners, and windows of thick glass are not made for looking out or looking in. 

"You'd question any medical care you'd be getting in there," Schmit-Albin said. "It looks like a veterinarian clinic." But it's not: The building houses what remains of LeRoy Carhart's late-term abortion business.

Not long after Nebraska lawmakers passed the law protecting unborn children capable of feeling pain, Carhart decided to take the bulk of his abortion business to Maryland. Nebraska law now bans abortionists from using mental health as an exception for late-term abortions and requires abortionists to report the gestational length, weight, and age of every baby aborted—two more reasons Carhart opened up shop elsewhere.

During the first six months after the fetal pain law went into effect, the abortion rate dropped 14 percent in the Nebraska county housing Carhart's center. Overall, Nebraska's abortion rate dropped to a 20-year low of 2,229 in 2012 compared to more than 5,600 in 1992. One of Carhart's Maryland patients died during a late-term abortion procedure last year.

ABOUT 150 MILES SOUTH of Bellevue sits Topeka, the capital of Kansas, a state once known as the home of late-term abortionist George Tiller and pro-abortion Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (now a beleaguered Washington defender of Obamacare). Kansas has become a state with a pro-life legislative supermajority: "It's unacceptable to be pro-choice in Kansas and win an election," said Jacob LaTurner, a new Kansas senator who, at 25, is an example of the pro-life youth movement in state capitals.

Pro-life leaders who came to the governor's mansion for a bill signing in 2011 had never been inside the building before. Now, though, Gov. Sam Brownback stops by unannounced at the Kansans for Life office in Topeka, bringing his own lunch and sitting at a table to chat. Kansans for Life activists move freely about the state Capitol where lawmakers and their staffs know their names. 

During one recent visit, Kansans for Life senior lobbyist Jeanne Gawdun made unscheduled calls on lawmakers who invited her in to chat. She now has numerous bills to frame, something she never had to do under Sebelius. But state court judges, often selected via secret vote by a lawyer-dominated committee, have halted some laws, so judicial reform has become a pro-life priority in Kansas: Many pro-lifers want the governor to nominate and the Kansas Senate to confirm judges.

One reason for the legislative momentum is evident at the Pregnancy Crisis Center of Wichita. The use of 3-D and 4-D ultrasound imaging is turning once shadowy pictures into something so clear that mothers bond with their babies. At the center a big screen TV, mounted on a wall, faces the ultrasound examining table. 

The window into a womb that was invisible when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 is transforming the hearts of voters and lawmakers. The technology is becoming more affordable, allowing pregnancy centers like the one in Wichita to purchase laptop-sized machines that can be taken around the city.

Advances are not just changing what we see of the unborn, but what compassionate doctors can do with them. Neonatal intensive care units and in-utero surgery are moving the point of viability outside the womb back from 24 weeks to as early as 20 weeks. Even before delivery, babies are now treated as separate patients: Anesthesia is administered directly to them during surgery performed in the second trimester.

As more people have personalized stories of premature births, the pro-life poll numbers tick up. Today 64 percent say abortion should not be permitted starting in the second three months of a pregnancy, and 63 percent of women support bans on abortion when the unborn can feel pain.

THOSE NUMBERS LEAD to the election of pro-life lawmakers. No one knows that better than long-time Oklahoma activist Tony Lauinger. For decades Lauinger daily drove the 106 miles from his home in Tulsa to the state capital in Oklahoma City when the legislature was in session. He spent most of the 1970s fighting to get a pro-life position into the state's GOP platform. Then he battled to get lawmakers to act on pro-life issues. Lauinger says "country club, fiscal Republicans" dithered and crumbled whenever crunch time came for pro-life bills during a legislative session. Most bills died in committee.

But Lauinger began to understand how the law could serve as a teacher. Realizing the movement did not have the votes to end abortions with one bill, he and other activists started chipping away. This piecemeal tactic educated voters on the realities of abortion. Lauinger compared it to reeling in a big fish with a small line, "jerk too hard and the line breaks and you lose everything."

When abortion groups fought bills that appeared responsible to the public, such as measures improving the medical standards of clinics, abortion groups claiming they are for women's health revealed their hypocrisy. Clinic licensing bills would take money from abortionists' pockets.

No issue advanced the pro-life cause more than the 15-year debate over partial-birth abortions. From 1995, when Ohio passed the nation's first state ban on partial-birth abortions, until 2007, when the Supreme Court reversed lower courts and upheld the ban, pro-abortion advocates battled to preserve this practice through presidential vetoes and lawsuits. This turned off many Americans.

Gallup's most recent values poll found that 48 percent of Americans call themselves pro-life while 45 percent call themselves "pro-choice." In 1996, the year of then President Bill Clinton's first veto of the partial-birth abortion ban, 56 percent said they were "pro-choice" while 33 percent regarded themselves as pro-life.

Changing attitudes, the adoption of term limits, and a pro-life sermon (see "Still-silent shepherds") have changed Oklahoma's legislature. Brian Crain now chairs a state Senate health committee, and it was a pro-life sermon he heard in his Tulsa Baptist church that led him to wonder, "At what point are we as Christians being co-conspirators by not doing anything?" Crain replaced a term-limited state senator who had been there 24 years. He tracked down Lauinger and told him he wanted to sponsor pro-life bills. Pro-life lawmakers gained a majority in the Oklahoma House in 2004 and the Senate in 2008. Pro-life bills soon followed.

Last year's coverage of abortionist Kermit Gosnell's trial in Philadelphia further exposed abortion's seedy underbelly. His conviction on three counts of first-degree murder and sentence of life in prison without parole came after charges that he performed illegal abortions and killed patients under his care, including newborns killed after being born alive during attempted abortions. The revelations boosted the call for greater clinic regulation.

"They've been able to do things in secret for so long," said pro-life Rep. Pam Peterson, the Oklahoma House of Representatives majority floor leader (and controller of the bill calendar). "Now the light is shining on them."

AT MY FINAL STOP, Texas, the freshmen class of legislators includes pastors, a former NFL player, a nurse, an oil businessman, a financial investor, a neurosurgeon, a former Air Force fighter pilot, and a constitutional lawyer. They all came to Austin sharing a pro-life commitment.

The lawmakers began strategizing about pro-life bills before being sworn into office, but it was still a struggle to get measures up for a vote. Senior Republicans said the bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, and thus protect children clearly capable of feeling pain, wasn't a priority, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the legislators back for a special session last summer. The pro-life push was back on.

Abortion supporters stalked the Capitol wearing burnt orange shirts. Some sat in the hallways and cast spells. Some printed "wanted" posters with the faces of pro-life lawmakers and smuggled jars of feces and urine to throw at them. When pro-life lawmakers huddled in the Capitol rotunda to pray, abortion supporters surrounded them, leaned into the prayer group, and yelled directly into their ears.

"Hail Satan," some chanted. While abortion backers cursed God, pro-life advocates sang "Amazing Grace." Jonathan Stickland, the Texas House member who no longer has to fight for scraps, recalls, "There were times when I thought, 'there are probably demons in this room.'"

Pink-shoed Wendy Davis, the filibustering abortion figurehead who is now campaigning to be governor of Texas, asked abortion supporters to send in stories she could read on the Senate floor. Stickland, whose wife during the legislative session miscarried 25 weeks into her pregnancy, spent a sleepless night trying to find a way to symbolize the voices of the babies who would never be able to tell their own stories. The next morning his staff drove to 14 paper stores and spent $850 to buy enough blue and pink paper to represent the roughly 80,000 babies aborted in Texas in 2011. Six people rolled the paper down to Davis' office.

Rep. Stephanie Klick, a nurse turned legislator, displayed fetal models in her office and used them to discuss the issue with abortion backers. They told her the models were offensive. Klick replied, "A baby is offensive?"

Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, author of the preborn pain bill, spent 36 hours on the House floor defending the bill and beating back amendments offered to weaken it. Opponents, angry that a female lawmaker was the face of the bill, brought coat hangers and rape kits onto the House floor to suggest the bill would lead to back-alley abortions. Laubenberg countered by placing onto the speaker's podium a pair of white baby shoes. 

Other pro-life female legislators silently surrounded Laubenberg as she answered volleys of hostile questions. "I knew God would prevail," Laubenberg said: "I was on the side of life and the other side was death. It wasn't my bill. It was God's bill."

The omnibus bill banning abortions after five months passed. It also requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and makes clinics follow FDA guidelines and the medical standards of ambulatory surgical centers. On the same July day, Gov. Perry signed the bill into law, Planned Parenthood announced the closing of three of its Texas centers.

After passing the measure, pro-life lawmakers walked out of the House chamber to yells. "Shame on you," abortion supporters shouted. "Shame on you!"

But Matt Krause, a freshman legislator who as a sixth-grader wrote about his hope that abortions would end, was unfazed: "I would much rather pro-abortion individuals yell, 'Shame on you,' and the Lord say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"

The Texas battle continues. Pro-abortion donors waving green dollars will try to drive out of the legislature Stickland's blue and pink paper and Laubenberg's white baby shoes. Laubenberg's 2014 likely general election opponent, funded by Planned Parenthood, recently bought a house in the district just to run against her.

And the war goes on in other states. Last year California approved a law allowing nonphysicians to perform surgical abortions, and Barack Obama became the first president to ever speak at a Planned Parenthood event.

JOHN MARK McCORD, the tiny baby born prematurely during the 2013 legislative session, proved to be strong, once pulling out his own breathing tube. His parents spent hours watching a blue line on a computer screen showing their son's oxygen saturation levels.

He is living at home now. Sometimes he comes to the Capitol with his mother. State Sen. Hancock gladly turns his office into a nursery. "There is no telling what he will do in life," Hancock mused. "We will get to find out now. [With] how many other babies will we not get to find out?"

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Global religious hostilities reached 6-year high in 2012

Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Pew Research Center) -- The share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

 

A third (33%) of the 198 countries and territories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas. The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, which still is feeling the effects of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring. There also was a significant increase in religious hostilities in the Asia-Pacific region, where China edged into the "high" category for the first time.

 

The new report – released two days ahead of Religious Freedom Day in the United States – is the fifth in a series of Pew Research reports based on two indexes (the Government Restrictions Index and the Social Hostilities Index) used to gauge the extent to which governments and societies around the world impinge on religious beliefs and practices.

 

The share of countries with a high or very high level of government restrictions on religion stayed roughly the same in the latest year studied. About three-in-ten countries in the world (29%) had a high or very high level of government restrictions in 2012, compared with 28% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Europe had the biggest increase in the median level of government restrictions in 2012, followed closely by the Middle East-North Africa – the only other region where the median level of government restrictions on religion rose.

 

Looking at the overall level of restrictions – whether resulting from government policies or from social hostilities – the study finds that restrictions on religion are high or very high in 43% of countries, also a six-year high. Because some of these countries (like China) are very populous, more than 5.3 billion people (76% of the world's population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion, up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007.

 

Among the world's 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) had the most restrictions on religion in 2012, when both government restrictions and social hostilities are taken into account. As in the previous year, Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, and Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion. Social hostilities related to religion in Burma (Myanmar) rose to the "very high" level for the first time in the study.

 

During the latest year studied, there also was an increase in the level of harassment or intimidation of particular religious groups. Indeed, two of the seven major religious groups monitored by the study – Muslims and Jews – experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed by national, provincial or local governments, or by individuals or groups in society. As in previous years, Christians and Muslims – who together make up more than half of the global population – were harassed in the largest number of countries (110 and 109, respectively).

 

The new study scores 198 countries and territories on the same 10-point indexes used in the previous Pew Research studies on religious restrictions around the globe:

 

-- The Government Restrictions Index (GRI) measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs and practices. The GRI is comprised of 20 measures of restrictions, including efforts by governments to ban particular faiths, prohibit conversions, limit preaching or give preferential treatment to one or more religious groups.

-- The Social Hostilities Index (SHI) measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society. This includes religion-related armed conflict or terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons or other religion related intimidation or abuse. The SHI includes 13 measures of social hostilities.

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Ban on Change Therapy Heads to Appeals Court

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Liberty Counsel) -- Liberty Counsel filed its opening brief at the federal court of appeals against the New Jersey ban on change therapy. A3371, signed by Gov. Chris Christie, prohibits licensed counselors from providing, and minors from receiving, any counsel to change or reduce unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity.

"A3371 is far more scandalous than the George Washington Bridge lane closure," said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. "Gov. Christie signed a bill that blocks licensed counselors from providing and young people from receiving any counsel to change unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, mannerisms, or identity. This law is causing immediate harm to young people and to licensed counselors," said Staver.

"A3371 invades the sacrosanct relationship between counselor and client by prohibiting therapeutic conversations that assist a minor to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity while permitting conversations that affirm or approve them," Staver told the court in the brief.

The district court found that the counseling of licensed New Jersey counselors is not entitled to any First Amendment protection whatsoever, a notion that ignores long-established precedent of the Supreme Court. "Far from being a First Amendment orphan, professional speech may be entitled to the strongest protection our Constitution has to offer," said Staver.

"A3371 is a textbook example of viewpoint discrimination. The legislation explicitly prohibits licensed counselors from providing, and clients from receiving, any counsel to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, or identity," the Staver told the court. "Counselors can only affirm same-sex attractions even though the clients insist that such attractions are unwanted and they want to change. Depriving these young people of beneficial counsel of their choice is dangerous and is causing immediate harm to our clients," said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono legal assistance and representation on these and related topics.

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Reyes named director of BGCT Christian Life Commission

DALLAS (Baptist General Convention of Texas) -- Agustin "Gus" Lucas Reyes, PhD., was named the new director of BGCT's Christian Life Commission (CLC). 

 

The CLC's role within Texas Baptist life is to speak to ethical issues and how they impact our lives and legislation.

 

"Dr. Reyes' work with education and immigration reform on a state and federal government level has proven his passion and ability to give a voice to those who have no voice," Dr. David Hardage, Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas said. "After receiving applications and conducting interviews from a national search, we discovered the person God has placed before us for this position was already with us."

 

Reyes has been with the BGCT since 2002, serving as ethnic evangelism consultant, director of congregational relationships and most recently, director of affinity ministries and Hispanic Education Initiative. Prior to joining the BGCT, he worked with LifeWay and Sprint Telecommunications. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration and Marketing at the University of Texas, Master of Business Administration at Angelo State University, Master of Religious Education and Doctor of Philosophy in Foundations of Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a member of Iglesia Bautista Highpointe in Cedar Hill where he lives with his wife, Leticia.

 

"Reyes brings a unique blend of Baptist life, dedication to making a difference and experience in working with those who shape our laws. Furthermore, having served in adjunct faculty positions, he is positioned to help educate and train Texas Baptist churches on how to impact their community through caring for those around us," added Hardage.

 

Taking the new role on Jan. 16, Reyes is eager yet humbled by the opportunity. "The CLC has built a wonderful foundation and legacy with lawmakers and churches on the Christian perspective of issues facing our culture today," Reyes said. "As Paul wrote to Timothy, we need to fan the flames. There's a great history with people like Valentine, Strickland and Paynter who have created an avenue for the marginalized to be heard and individuals to be helped. We will continue this and build upon their success."

 

There are a myriad of aspects that the CLC is known for and Reyes plans to continue those as director. "All through the Gospel, we see Jesus preaching Good News and also reaching out to those who are hurting, hungry, in prison, thirsty and oppressed. We will continue with Jesus' agenda and take the steps necessary to further provide for and protect those who need it," Reyes said. "We learned early in CLC's history that culture needs to change because culture can be blind to the needs of the marginalized."

 

Reyes' focus with education and immigration reform has been to help fix a broken system. He has testified in Austin and Washington, D.C. on these efforts and worked with bi-partisan groups on improving and creating fair and appropriate responses.

 

One area Reyes would like to continue to build upon is informing and encouraging churches to be a voice. "I want the CLC to help pastors understand what freedoms they have to speak to the legislative agenda. It's a freedom, a right and a responsibility," Reyes noted.

 

"The next step is clear: continue God's direction," Reyes said. "I welcome and covet your prayers for me and the CLC as we move forward impacting our world for Christ."