BP Ledger, June 3 edition
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:
California Baptist University (2 items)
WORLD News Service
World Watch Monitor
Oklahoma Baptist University
California Baptist University Lancers win 2013 NCCAA World Series
MASON, Ohio (California Baptist University) -- In one of the most dominating NCCAA World Series ever, California Baptist University put the final cap on a 6-0 tournament with a 7-0 win over Southeastern to win the 2013 NCCAA national championship, their second straight. The Lancers become the first team to repeat since Dallas Baptist in 2004.
Back on May 3 when California Baptist University dropped a 7-6 decision at Point Loma University, it seemed as if the wild roller coaster ride towards a conference title was all but over.
Seemingly left for dead after going 7-7 in the previous 14 games and probably needing a four-game series sweep of the Sea Lions, the Lancers caught a second wind when Grand Canyon dropped both games of a season-ending doubleheader at home to Dixie State later that night.
What transpired since then was nothing short of remarkable.
Three days later, the Lancers won the Pacific West Conference title in dramatic fashion with a pair of walk-off wins in a doubleheader sweep at home of Point Loma. Five days after that, the Lancers came out of the loser’s bracket to beat Fresno Pacific twice in one day to win the NCCAA West Region title.
Then, just seven days after that, it all culminated in a NCCAA championship.
In six tournament games, the Lancers allowed just seven total runs, only four of them earned, for an eye-popping 0.90 ERA. They had three shutouts and help opponents to just a .231 batting average. Meanwhile, the Lancers hit .350 as a team, outscoring their opponents 42-7.
The Lancers, who won 12 of their final 13 games to finish the season 43-18, complete an extraordinary four-year run that included four straight conference titles, three World Series appearances and two national championships.
They finished their season at 38-29.
CBU campus newspaper wins third national recognition
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (California Baptist University) -- The Banner, campus newspaper of California Baptist University, was named the second best overall Christian college newspaper in the inaugural Advisors of Christian Collegiate Media awards announced May 18.
The contest, held in conjunction with the annual Awards of Excellence competition run by the Evangelical Press Association (EPA), evaluates overall excellence in student publications throughout the United States and Canada.
“We are honored to be in the company of such outstanding student publications,” said Michael Chute, program director for journalism and public relations programs and faculty adviser for The Banner. “Our staff is thrilled that their hard work has been recognized by such a strong journalistic organization as the EPA.”
Other newspapers honored for overall excellence included the Taylor University Echo (first place), the Liberty Champion from Liberty University (third place), the Union University Cardinal & Cream (fourth place) and the Campbell Times from Campbell University (fifth place).
The Banner also won a first place award in the "Best of Show" awards at the National College Journalism, hosted by the Associated Collegiate Press, in April and placed in the top-10 among all colleges and universities in the nation at the annual College Media Advisors conference.
Campbellsville honors former president W.R. "Randy" Davenport
By Joan C. McKinney, news and publications coordinator
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (Campbellsville University) -- A plaque celebrating his wisdom in creating Campbellsville University’s Church Relations Council in 1978 was given to former CU president W.R. "Randy" Davenport in a ceremony May 17 in his home in Campbellsville.
Michael V. Carter, president of CU, read the plaque to Davenport and his wife Janet in their living room, surrounded by Charles Hedrick, one of the original members of the CRC, and John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president at CU.
Carter said, "Dr. Randy Davenport led Campbellsville University for almost two decades and provided strong leadership during an important era. His understanding of the importance of Christian higher education has enabled CU to move forward as a vibrant university in the 21st century."
Carter said CU is "building on the solid foundation of donor support that Dr. Davenport put in place during his presidency."
He said, "In addition to establishing the Church Relations Council which remains an important support group for CU, Dr. Davenport began the President's Club for donor recognition and initiated a number of other efforts which have continued to enhance the Christ-centered mission of CU. We are very grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Davenport for their dedication and lives of servant leadership."
The plaque expressed "appreciation and recognition" to Davenport for CRC's creation during his presidency of CU from 1969 to 1988.
It reads: "The CRC has served the university with wisdom, financial support and helpful suggestions and input over the years as a vital connection between the university and churches who support the education of all young adults."
Davenport, who is recovering from back problems and who is confined temporarily to a wheelchair, said, "How delightful! Thank you so much."
He said he and his wife and family have been "most humbled" by the many prayers, cards and Gideon Bibles presented in his honor during his illness.
Mrs. Davenport said, "The Lord has done wonderful things, and he shows us we have a lot to be grateful for."
Hedrick, who continues to serve on the Church Relations Council, said, "Over the years the CRC has made valuable input and suggestions to the university that have been helpful.
"If it were not for Dr. Davenport's vision for this council and the wisdom he used in selecting the original members of this board, valuable input and contributions to the university would have been missed."
Hedrick said he wanted the CRC to recognize Davenport now because they wanted to "recognize Dr. Davenport's valuable contributions in leadership he provided during a period of time the college could have declined to such a low point, and the college could have faced the possibility of no longer being feasible to continue."
He said the CRC wanted to present the plaque of appreciation to Davenport to show him their "concern and compassion." He said, "He was there for us, and we need to be there for him."
In a closing prayer, Carter spoke of "these two precious people of whom we care deeply."
Carter said the Davenports have touched thousands of lives through their work with Campbellsville University and the Gideons. He praised their "insight, drive and commitment to the Lord."
Davenport, 87, has been a lifelong educator having served in Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana and Michigan. He received his A.B. degree in chemistry from the University of Louisville, his master of science in education from the University of Arkansas and his Ed.D. in educational administration and supervision from the University of Arkansas.
He has served with Gideons, on the local and international levels, including as past international president of The Gideons International.
The Davenports have four children, three of whom graduated from Campbellsville University, and are: Marty ('74), Dr. Mary ('76) and Dr. Susan Davenport ('78) and Liz Wilson.
IRS targeted more than Tea Party groups
By Edward Lee Pitts/WORLD News Service
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (WNS) -- Susan Martinek founded Coalition for Life of Iowa because she wanted the pro-life movement to do bigger things in Cedar Rapids. Churches in the town of about 120,000 already held their own events, but Martinek thought coordinating resources would lead to greater outreach. The small-business owner sought tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service in October 2008. Like the head of most fledging nonprofits, she knew more donors would be inclined to give if they could claim tax deductions.
Martinek mailed the application and waited. In April 2009, the IRS asked for more information, including “advertisements, schedules, syllabuses, handouts, a summary of each person’s speech.” After complying with this exhaustive record request, Martinek called the IRS on June 6, 2009.
An agent told her to submit just one more item for approval: a letter with signatures from every member of the coalition’s board pledging, under the threat of perjury, that they would not organize groups to picket or protest outside of the local Planned Parenthood chapter.
Martinek’s board debated the demand. Some agreed to sign. Others refused, saying it was a violation of their First Amendment rights. On June 22, the group received an IRS letter with more requirements: “Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood are considered educational,” the letter read. “Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings.” The IRS asked for the “percentage of time” the group spent in prayer and to explain how signs were educational.
Martinek didn’t know what to do, and the group didn’t have enough money for an attorney. “You don’t hear about people fighting the IRS and winning,” she said. “I didn’t want the IRS to be upset with me, and they are just so powerful you don’t expect them to back off.”
The fallout from the recent government report outlining the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups has focused on Tea Party organizations. According to the report, the IRS used improper and potentially unconstitutional criteria to scrutinize groups seeking tax-exempt status. Innocuous application phrases such as groups seeking “to make America a better place to live” triggered IRS red flags that led to delays, denials, and audits. In the best apology he could muster, Steven Miller, the outgoing acting IRS commissioner, called those actions “horrible customer service.”
But such “service” also ensnared religious groups like the Coalition for Life of Iowa. “When the government starts talking about people of faith as people that need to be scrutinized more because of the negative implications they can have against the government, that ought to be frightening to most Americans,” said U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., the chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus.
In Sugar Land, Texas, Marie McCoy started Christian Voices for Life in 2010. Trying to save money, she filled out the IRS tax-exempt application herself. As with the Iowa group, the IRS asked for more material. McCoy wondered why the agency didn’t ask for all the necessary information in the application. She suspected the IRS was slow walking her request, overwhelming her with cumbersome demands designed to discourage her from pressing her case. An IRS letter dated March 31, 2011, asked: “do you education on both sides of the issues in your program?” It didn’t even use correct English. But grammar was the least of McCoy’s concerns.
“If you are trying to advocate against smoking, does that mean you have to explain what the benefits of smoking are?” McCoy asked.
She reached out to a national pro-life organization, and they put her in touch with the Thomas More Society—a Chicago-based public-interest law firm. Attorney Sally Wagenmaker took the case.
In order to gain tax-exempt status, organizations have to be charitable, educational, religious, or some combination of the three. In 1980, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that groups didn’t have to present both sides of an issue to qualify for tax-exempt status. Educational communication can be brief and emotionally compelling, the court ruled. But in these pro-life applications the IRS pursued a narrower test that included delving into the content of the groups’ message.
“It is very strange that the very entity that’s supposed to be enforcing the laws doesn’t know what the law is,” Wagenmaker said. “I don’t think the IRS is supposed to be deciding what’s constitutional and what’s not.”
Soon after Wagenmaker took the cases for both the Christian Voices for Life and the Coalition for Life of Iowa, the IRS withdrew its demands and approved the groups for tax-exempt status. The board for the Iowa coalition never signed a statement promising to avoid picketing in front of the local Planned Parenthood. “It’s fortunate,” said Martinek with the coalition, “because we have people go over there regularly to pray. We are not so much about protesting, but we didn’t want to sign away our rights.”
Wagenmaker called it strange that the IRS singled out Planned Parenthood for protection from these small grassroots groups. “That is like the elephant being concerned about a mosquito,” she said. “I’d love to see an application from a Planned Parenthood to see if the IRS asked them, ‘Do you counsel on pro-life issues?’”
The IRS did not just pursue local groups advocating for life. Established national faith-based organizations promoting traditional marriage found themselves in the agency’s crosshairs.
Franklin Graham wrote a letter to President Obama on May 14 claiming the IRS last year targeted the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse. The groups bought ads in the spring of 2012 supporting a North Carolina amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage and ads before last November’s elections asking citizens to “vote for Biblical values.” Last fall, the IRS notified the ministries that the agency would review their tax records.
“This is morally wrong and unethical—indeed some would call it ‘un-American,’” Graham wrote. “Unfortunately, while these audits not only wasted taxpayer money, they wasted money contributed by donors for ministry purposes as we had to spend precious resources servicing IRS agents in our offices.”
The Biblical Recorder, a Baptist newspaper in North Carolina, received an IRS audit in March after publishing ads supporting the state’s marriage amendment.
James Dobson’s Family Talk Action Corporation filed a form seeking 501(c)(4) approval in the fall of 2011. The group’s attorneys spent 19 months following the request. On March 19, 2013, an IRS agent told a Dobson attorney that the exemption status would not be granted because Dobson had criticized President Obama. According to Alex McFarland, a senior Dobson advisor, the IRS agent said Dobson was not producing content that was educational or presented all viewpoints. When Dobson’s attorney threatened litigation, it took the IRS nine days to grant the tax-exempt status.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) suspects that someone at the IRS leaked confidential donor information to a rival advocacy group in the heat of last year’s elections. The group receiving the information, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), calls itself the nation’s largest LGBT organization. HRC’s head, Joe Solmonese, soon became a co-chair of Obama’s reelection campaign. Touting the information as never-before-seen, HRC published NOM’s donor data on its website in March 2012. The list of names included then presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“Not only has Romney signed NOM’s radical marriage pledge, now we know he’s one of the donors that NOM has been so desperate to keep secret all these years,” Solmonese said at the time.
Publication of the list led gay-marriage groups to push for boycotts of the donors’ businesses. A forensic specialist hired by NOM determined that the leaked document originated from the IRS after uncovering a redacted IRS watermark that only appears in documents in the agency’s internal computer system. NOM is filing a lawsuit to discover who is behind this illegal breach of information that is punishable by up to five years in prison.
“I remind people that the abuse of the IRS for political purposes was one of the charges of impeachment that had been drawn up against Richard Nixon before he resigned back in 1974,” said John Eastman, NOM’s chairman. He added that some of NOM’s major donors are reluctant to continue giving if their personal information can’t be kept private.
Eastman recognized that the pro-life groups, the traditional marriage groups, and the Tea Party groups all are guilty of being on the wrong side of the Obama administration.
Wagenmaker, who specializes in representing nonprofits before the IRS, said the agency historically zeros in on money issues and the misuse of donations. Are the nonprofit leaders paying themselves, getting insider deals, or making loans with contributions?
“These things are natural for the IRS to be a watchdog for,” she said. “But now the IRS is asking about people’s message. As long as the IRS is charged with regulating political speech there are going to be problems.”
Wagenmaker has worked on four cases where the IRS has conducted viewpoint profiling. The big question many social conservatives are asking in the aftermath of the IRS’ overreach: How many sprouting local groups did not have the resources to break through IRS roadblocks? How many no longer exist or can’t expand or were silenced because they were put on a watch list and couldn’t fight IRS muscle? As Martinek with the Iowa pro-life group says, “Trying to fight the IRS can squash your hopes.”
Capitol Hill lawmakers are getting daily phone calls from constituents who oversee conservative groups wondering whether viewpoint discrimination is at the heart of recent IRS audits and delays.
While Lois Lerner, the IRS official in charge of the tax-exempt division, refuses to testify before Congress and goes on paid administrative leave, lawmakers are trying to discover who made the decisions that led to the abuses at one of the most maze-like bureaucracies in bureaucratic Washington.
“What we first heard always stretched credibility,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who described the IRS as a place where people seek signatures and counter-signatures for paperwork. “I mean, employees at ground zero of the federal bureaucracy going rogue? I’m willing to bet there’s still a lot more we’ll discover.”
Lawmakers continue to express ire that government officials did not inform Congress sooner. IRS leaders knew as early as 2011. Federal investigators had possession of internal IRS emails detailing the practices last July. Republicans are dismayed that Lerner, the person at the center of the scandal, had been tapped to lead the IRS’ new administrative duties under the trillion-dollar Obamacare program. In implementing what has been called the largest set of tax law changes in more than two decades, the IRS will gain expanded powers to gather information, monitor compliance, and impose fines for a new healthcare system that already has amassed about 20,000 pages of regulations. The IRS is asking for nearly 2,000 full-time employees for its Obamacare office.
Back in Texas, McCoy’s Christian Voices for Life coordinates activities with about 20 area churches representing several denominations. Roughly 1,000 people at two locations participated in the group’s most recent life chain event. They stood alongside high-volume highways on a Saturday afternoon holding signs with messages like “Jesus Forgives and Heals” and “Abortion Kills Children.” Occasionally a person stopped, confessed to having had an abortion, and asked for prayer. This fall McCoy will begin a program for training area teenagers on how they can help friends who are experiencing crisis pregnancies or suffering from past abortions.
Meanwhile in Cedar Rapids, participants with the Coalition for Life of Iowa go to a Planned Parenthood site every week to pray. Martinek’s own preferred prayer time is Wednesday nights when there is a teen clinic. It is something she wouldn’t have been able to do if she had given in to the IRS.
With the money raised as a nonprofit, the Iowa coalition from more than 15 area churches has expanded its offerings. It holds educational forums on such topics as stem-cell research and end-of-life decisions. And, several times a year, hundreds of coalition members gather at a local church. Carrying signs, they march a mile along busy First Avenue toward Planned Parenthood. Once there, they spread out along the front of the building and pray. Sometimes they hear testimonies. Sometimes they wave to the people passing. Sometimes they write messages in chalk on the sidewalk: Jesus Loves You. Life. Often they draw a cross beside the words. That’s about as confrontational as the coalition gets. They don’t obstruct Planned Parenthood’s parking lot or entrance.
Martinek likes to think they have been effective. She said local abortions have gone down 37 percent in the last three years. The local Planned Parenthood office has reduced its hours. After the rallies and prayers the coalition members do what many groups in middle America do: head over to the local pizza joint. They did not have to report that activity to the IRS.
Tehran church faces closure after pastor’s arrest
By World Watch Monitor
SANTA ANA, Calif. (BP) -- The future of the central Assemblies of God church in Tehran hangs in the balance, following the arrest of one of its pastors.
Iranian authorities continue to pressure churches of Armenian or Assyrian heritage to cancel all services in the Farsi language, or face permanent closure.
Pastor Robert Asseriyan was arrested on May 21, two days after the church refused to voluntarily terminate its Farsi services. He is being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.
Mohabat News, a website devoted to news about Christians in Iran, reported on May 28 that Asseriyan told his family by phone that he is in good health.
The congregation was to be told of the church’s decision at a meeting at the church on May 26, but a sign was posted on the door of the church, which read: “This church is closed due to major repairs. Please do not return!”
Mansour Borji, an Iranian-born Kurdish Christian and advocacy officer for the human-rights group Forum 18, says the situation is symptomatic of a wider problem in Iran, which threatens the existence of all churches in which Farsi is spoken.
“I am certain that the AOG church in Tehran will not be the last,” he said in a May 28 email to supporters. “If the Iranian government manages to close this church, the few remaining churches that have Farsi-speaking services will follow.”
In 2010 the number of Christians in Iran was recorded as 300,000 in the World Christian Database, although World Watch Monitor reported earlier this month that the figure is likely to be significantly higher due to the “systematic persecution and prosecution” facing Christians in the country.
Historically, the Iranian government has tolerated Christians of predominantly Armenian or Assyrian descent and their churches. However, churches which refuse to stop Farsi services face opposition.
The central AOG church in Tehran.
The central AOG church in Tehran is the largest official church in Iran that still offers services in Farsi.
In 2009, the church was ordered to terminate its Friday services, while in 2012 its leaders were asked to provide the national identity numbers of all members.
It is unclear whether the church will attempt to continue services, but Borji says the government is using Asseriyan’s arrest, and the detention of other pastors, as a bargaining tool.
“Authorities have explicitly made their intentions clear: ‘Farsi services have to stop! We cannot allow this to go on…. It is best if you close them yourselves so you can keep the building and continue to serve the Armenian congregation. It is only then that we can consider release of your pastors’,” he said.
Four leaders from AOG’s church in the southern city of Ahwaz are also in prison, having had one-year sentences upheld by the appeal court earlier this month.
To Borji, the future for the church in Iran looks bleak.
“It was clear to most of us that an end to all manifestations of Christian worship in Farsi was the outcome Iranian authorities were pursuing all along,” he said. “I know some of my fellow pastors will try to offer spiritual insights and comforting words about the nourishing effect of persecution. I however will do my part [to protect Christians’] right to worship freely.”
Iran is No. 8 on the World Watch List of 50 countries where oppression of Christians is most severe. The list, published annually by Open Doors International, a ministry to Christians under pressure for their faith, says the Iranian authorities keep a close watch on Christian activities, especially those that reach out to Muslims, who face the death penalty for leaving Islam.
OBU Commissions Students for Summer Missions Service
SHAWNEE, Okla. (Oklahoma Baptist University) -- Representing plans to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Oklahoma, across the United States and around the globe, OBU students participated in a Global Outreach Commissioning service Wednesday, May 1, in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium.
Students, staff from OBU’s Spiritual Life office and OBU President David W. Whitlock led a service of worship, biblical message and prayer as the OBU community prepares to conclude the spring semester and engage in summer missions endeavors. Odus Compton, director of student ministry, presented a message based in Isaiah 62 highlighting God’s heart for all people; Christian believers’ opportunity to intercede on behalf of others; and God’s command for Christians to share the good news of his love with others.
The Scripture passage in Isaiah 62:1 begins with God declaring he will not be silent or quiet, but rather that he will continue to announce his love for all people until it is known throughout the world. In Isaiah 62:4-5, the prophet Isaiah conveys God’s heart: “You will no longer be called Deserted, and your land will not be called Desolate; instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land will be married. And as a groom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you” (HCSB).
Compton told students about his wedding nearly 25 years ago. He could see his bride walking down a staircase, and with the lights in the church, he said she appeared to be floating on air. He waited expectantly for his beautiful bride, delighting in her both that day and continually since then. God’s Word, Compton said, explains that God feels the same way about his people: he waits expectantly for all people to realize he loves them and wants to save them from a desolate life.
“Do you realize that God chooses us?” Compton said. “God puts his name upon us, and he calls us by name. He makes us his own, much like a groom rejoices over his bride. Oftentimes, we think we just worship God, but just allow it to settle upon us this morning that God rejoices over us. He celebrates his children. He has been doing that from all eternity, beckoning us.”
Compton said early in Isaiah’s ministry, he was confronted by a holy God. The experience not only marked him, it changed his life.
“That’s the hope we’re all destined for and desperately need –- to be valued, to be considered of worth, to be honored,” Compton said. “It’s something we all strive for, and yet it’s something God has freely given to us, offered to us and provided for us.”
In Isaiah 62:6-9, the Scripture talks about watchmen who guard the city of Jerusalem until God’s work is finished. Similarly, Compton said, Christians today are assigned the task of being “watchmen” over fellow believers who are engaging in God’s work.
“God has called us to stand as watchmen and not lose heart,” Compton said. “For these that are going and others who are going, it is our privilege and responsibility to not ‘step off the wall’ but to ‘stand on the wall’ in their behalf and to cry out for them. There are saints here who have labored and have served around the world and given their lives who need our prayers. Others that are consistently, constantly now serving around the world need us to ‘stand on the wall’ –- the privilege that we have to agree with them to pray.”
Compton pointed out blue cards laying on the steps of the chapel’s stage. He invited members of the OBU community to take the cards at the conclusion of the service as a sign of commitment to pray for the person named on the card.
The Scripture passage closes in Isaiah 62:10 with a command to “Go out, go out through the gates; prepare a way for the people!” with a clear message: “Look, your salvation is coming.” The result of going, Isaiah 62:12 says, is that believers “will be called the Holy People, the Lord’s Redeemed.”
“We have a message now that we have the privilege and the opportunity to take to the very ends of the Earth, to declare to the daughters and the sons of all nations, of all peoples, that there is a God that has chosen them … (and) that has invited them to know Him,” Compton said.
The number of people who have no faith in God and those who have no opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ is great, Compton said. He said if a person lined up those people and simply said the name “Jesus” to each person for 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it would take the person 180 years just to speak the name “Jesus.”
“You can’t lose heart, the need is too tremendously great,” he said. “Oh, might we be found faithful to the task and that –- like God, and like those who stand on the wall and pray and like those who go to the end of the Earth –- we would not be silent.”
During a closing worship song, students, faculty and staff filed down the stage bearing the flags of the states and countries where they will serve during the summer. Dr. Whitlock asked those in attendance to stand near a person going out on mission and pray for them as they prepare to go. Whitlock led by verbalizing a prayer of commissioning.
Many of the missions endeavors represented in the service are facilitated by OBU’s Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach. The GO Center unifies OBU’s efforts to provide academic study and hands-on cross-cultural experience related to international ministry. It is a nexus for campus activities and outreach training, led by Dr. Bruce Carlton, director of the GO Center, and Dr. Joy Turner, director of global mobilization.