News Articles

Teens’ signatures to be collected to build abstinence momentum

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Young people committed to sexual abstinence until marriage are being asked to keep building the momentum of their movement.
The national True Love Waits campaign is seeking the signatures of 2,000 to 3,000 teens who have signed the TLW pledge. The signatures — which are needed by Sept. 21 — will appear in a two-page advertisement in Roll Call, a newspaper in Washington read by members of Congress, in late September or early October.
The ad will thank members of Congress who, in 1996, voted for a $250 million federal program to promote abstinence until marriage as the preferred societal standard, according to the organizers of the ad initiative, Focus on the Family and True Love Waits. Focus on the Family will pay the ad’s costs.
True Love Waits, which has been at the forefront of the now-international abstinence movement, was launched by LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly the Sunday School Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1993.
“Congress needs to hear a thank you from teens who appreciate a program that will help them follow their hopes and dreams for sexual purity,” a joint news release from Focus and TLW said. The congressional action, they noted, dares to counter the current era in which, “Many of the messages in culture from songs, movies, TV shows and peers do not encourage teens to remain sexually pure.”
A key milestone in the abstinence movement’s momentum is reflected in the findings of a new study by the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control: Less than half of young people report having engaged in sexual intercourse.
While 48.4 percent of students remains far too high to most Christians, it is an encouraging decline from the 53.1 percent of young people who reported having had sexual intercourse, or a 10 percent decline, according to the findings of a similar CDC Youth Risk Behavior study in 1995.
The following pointers are suggested for True Love Waits youth to participate in the Roll Call ad:
l) On the back of a standard-size business card, sign your name and print your city and state below the name.
2) Try to use the entire space on the back of the card.
3) Use at least a medium-point black ink pen.
4) One name (and city and state) per business card.
5) Return all signed cards by Sept. 21 to: True Love Waits, 127 Ninth Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37234.
Of the recent CDC findings, True Love Waits spokesman Richard Ross said U.S. teens “are marching toward a major fork in the road that will shape the rest of their lives. For the first time in 20 years, an increasing number are choosing the fork toward sexual abstinence. Led by the swelling numbers in the True Love Waits movement, these teenagers are headed toward a life of joy, rich relationships and intimacy with God.
“The declining numbers who choose the other fork are making a turn that is increasingly dangerous,” said Ross, youth ministry consultant at LifeWay Christian Resources. “Millions of dollars promoting the latex solution has not changed the fact that literally millions catch diseases each year, babies lose their lives before birth, dreams get shattered and precious teenagers turn away in shame from God.”
Among 1,000 sexually active teens, Ross noted, 250 teens will contract a sexually transmitted disease each year, at current rates. One STD, chlamydia, has reached such epidemic proportions that teenage girls should be examined for it twice a year, instead of the currently recommended yearly testing, according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August.
Citing the words of Scripture that “a little child shall lead them,” Ross pointed to the irony “that the trend toward moral purity is springing from some of our youngest citizens, rather than from the example of our national leaders. The hippies of the ’60s saw the moral hypocrisy and duplicity of adults and responded by throwing values to the wind. Christian teenagers today are equally aware of the failures of parents, office holders and even religious leaders. However, they are responding completely differently. A growing number are rejecting promiscuity and its devastating consequences, and choosing God’s very best. That gives us great hope for the future.”
The congressional funding — $250 million in Title V funds over five years — is to be used by the states to teach abstinence-only sex education.
While almost every state has applied for the funds, not all are using them for the proper purpose, said Peter Brandt, a spokesman for the National Coalition for Abstinence Education (NCAE), in a review of the congressional action.
Brandt’s assessment, as reported by Focus on the Family’s Citizen Issues Alert Aug. 25:
— 16 states appear to have embraced the intent of Congress to differing degrees. “They’re moving ahead with good programs,” Brandt said.
— 10 states “have arrogantly defied Congress’ intent, using the funds contrary to the spirit — if not the letter — of the law,” Brandt said. Such states have squandered funds on programs irrelevant to abstinence (youth hockey and soccer, for example) or eliminated key aspects, such as the congressional requirement to teach abstinence until marriage.
— two states — California and New Hampshire — have not taken funds but may do so in the future.
— the remaining states are “a mixed bag,” Brandt said — at times supporting solid abstinence teaching, but other times flirting with approaches pleasing to the existing sex-education establishment.
The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior survey of 16,262 students ages 10 to 24, apart from the reported decline in sexual intercourse, prompted CDC spokeswoman Laura Kann to voice alarm. “Too many kids practice behaviors that put them at risk of … homicide, suicide, motor vehicle crashes, unintended pregnancy, sexual transmitted diseases and, of course, HIV/AIDS,” she told USA Today Aug. 14.
Among the survey’s findings, as listed by USA Today: Nearly 80 percent of students reported having tried alcohol, with 33 percent having had five or more drinks in the previous month; nearly 50 percent had used marijuana and nearly 10 percent had tried cocaine, including crack, during the previous month; nearly 10 percent reported attempting suicide during the previous year, with 2 percent requiring medical treatment; adolescents account for half of the 40,000 people diagnosed with HIV each year; and more than 18 percent had carried a gun, knife or club during the previous month.
Among the 48 percent of students who said they have engaged in sexual intercourse, 16 percent reported having had four or more sex partners, and 56.9 percent said they or their partner had used a condom during their last sexual encounter.
But on the sexual abstinence front, “we see hope,” said Amy Stephens, Focus on the Family’s youth policy manager. “A 10 percent drop in sexual activity says something about methods and messages that are resonating with today’s youth.”
The CDC survey is not the only evidence showing the effectiveness of abstinence education. The 1997 federally funded National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, often called the Add Health study, found that teens who take a pledge of abstinence until marriage are less likely to engage in sexual intercourse than those who do not. And, the study reported, teens who make the pledge, have loving parents and regard religion and prayer as important are the least likely of all adolescents to engage in early sexual behavior.
“Society tells kids that their hormones and passions are uncontrollable,” Stephens said. “Why is the CDC surprised when teens take adults at their word and engage in risky behavior? Data indicate that our youth want the standard raised — they want reasons and skills which will empower them to say ‘no.'” Unfortunately, “we continue to battle against an establishment which profits from teen sex,” she said.
In other news in the abstinence front:
— In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 40 percent of 203 HIV-infected men and women said they had not told their sexual partners they are HIV-positive, according to an Aug. 21 report in The Pastor’s Weekly Briefing, also published by Focus on the Family. Less than half the HIV-positive group reported using condoms during every sexual encounter. A frequent reason cited for not disclosing their condition: fear of upsetting or losing their sexual partner.
— In a study of 398 unmarried couples, women with children were significantly more depressed than married mothers, USA Today reported Aug. 20. A key factor, according to sociologist Susan Brown of Bowling Green (Ohio) State University, involved feelings about the relationship’s high chances of breaking up.

Multi-phase abstinence effort
planned as bridge to millennium
By Art Toalston

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Hoopla about the next millennium won’t derail True Love Waits from its ongoing mission of persuading teens to a commitment of sexual abstinence until marriage.
“The True Love Waits theme for 1999-2000 is ‘Crossing Bridges with Purity,'” said Richard Ross, TLW spokesman and youth ministry coordinator at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The bridge motif, he said, will symbolize “students who are moving into a new era of history with a strong commitment to moral purity.”
The now-international TLW campaign, in which 80 Christian entities have joined forces since its launch by Southern Baptists in 1993, plans a multi-phase effort:
— Local/city displays of commitment cards signed by teens: During the months of January and February 1999, students will conduct True Love Waits campaigns in churches and schools to challenge their peers to commit to sexual abstinence until marriage. On Friday, Feb. 12, 1999, churches, local youth groups, community organizations and schools will come together to create a community display of pledge cards, perhaps on a local bridge or other focal point in the community.
— State displays: Cards from the community displays will be gathered and sent to a central point in the state for a state display in the spring or summer.
— National display: Cards from all 50 state displays will be sent to San Francisco for a national display at the Golden Gate Bridge on Oct. 2, 1999. Organizers hope to collect enough cards to span the entire one-mile length of the bridge.
“Many leaders consider the 1994 display of True Love Waits cards on the Mall in Washington a watershed event in the Christian abstinence movement,” Ross recounted. “The national display in 1999 can once again rivet the attention of the country on students who have made a powerful lifestyle choice.”
— International display: Cards from the United States and other countries will be sent to a site near the International Date Line to be displayed together the final week of December 1999. “The display will be a symbol of students around the world who are moving into a new era of history with their heads held high in a strong commitment to moral purity,” Ross said.
More information about the True Love Waits initiative can be found at the Internet site, www.truelovewaits.com, or by calling 1-800 LUV-WAIT.

Majority supports school choice
for religious schools, poll shows
By Tom Strode

WASHINGTON (BP)–Public support for educational choice programs that include private and religious schools continues to increase to the extent a recent poll found a majority of Americans favor the idea.
The survey found 51 percent of respondents favors permitting parents to send children to any public, private or church-related school if the “government pays all or part of the tuition,” while 45 opposed the idea.
It is the first time in the four years the poll has asked the question that a majority has supported the concept. Just two years ago, the survey, which is conducted by the Gallup Organization and the professional education fraternity Phi Delta Kappa, showed only 43 percent favored the idea and 54 percent opposed it. In 1997, 49 percent supported the concept and 48 percent did not. This is the 30th PDK/Gallup survey on attitudes toward public schools.
In new questions using the word “vouchers,” 48 percent supported vouchers that would pay all the tuition, while 46 percent were opposed. On vouchers for partial tuition, 52 percent were in favor and 41 percent opposed.
In the category of tuition tax credits, the survey also showed stronger support for partial rather than full recovery of tuition at private and religious schools. On full reimbursement, 56 percent favored the proposal and 42 percent opposed it. On partial recovery, 66 percent were in support and 30 percent in opposition.
The poll found, however, 75 percent of respondents say private and religious schools that accept government tuition payments should be accountable to the state in the same way public schools are accountable. Many private and religious schools would find that idea unacceptable.
Family Research Council President Gary Bauer welcomed the results released Aug. 25, saying in a written statement, “This initiative would improve our ailing education system by using competition to inspire excellence. It would also give much-needed help to students trapped in failing inner-city schools.”
Secretary of Education Richard Riley said in a written statement the poll results show “school vouchers remain a divisive issue. Vouchers drain taxpayer resources from the public schools that educate 90 percent of America’s children.”
On the issue of private schools that accept vouchers being accountable to the government, Riley said, “Vouchers are a bad idea for public education and a bad idea for private and parochial schools because they make them less private and less parochial.”
The battle over educational choice has produced strong advocates on both sides.
The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s largest teachers unions, are leading opponents of educational choice, primarily because they charge it will harm public schools. Some church-state organizations, such as the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, consider the inclusion of religious schools in voucher programs as a violation of the constitutional protection against government establishment of religion.
Among supporters of educational choice are Washington-based reform organizations such as the Center for Educational Reform and the Institute for Justice, as well as conservative and evangelical-based groups such as Christian Coalition and FRC.
The question of the constitutionality of school-choice initiatives is working its way through the courts. In June, the Wisconsin Supreme Court gave educational choice advocates their most important victory when it declared legal a Milwaukee voucher program that includes religious schools.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief with the Christian Legal Society, the National Association of Evangelicals and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod supporting the Milwaukee program. The brief argued the exclusion of religious schools from a voucher program for only secular private schools would constitute discrimination against religion, while inclusion of religious schools would not violate church-state separation.
When public school parents were given the choice in the survey of sending their oldest child to any school with the government paying the tuition, 51 percent said they would stay with their current public school, 6 percent said they would choose another public school and 39 percent said they would select a private or church-related school.
In May, President Clinton vetoed a bill that would have provided vouchers for low-income children in the District of Columbia to attend private and religious schools.

Feeding teams on site in N.C.;
Baptist assembly takes 2nd hit
By Steve DeVane

CARY, N.C. (BP)–The remains of Hurricane Bonnie were still pelting North Carolina’s northern coast when N.C. Baptist Men disaster relief teams arrived in the southern part of the state. Two teams provided supper for victims of the storm on Aug. 27, less than 24 hours after Hurricane Bonnie first slammed into North Carolina’s shore.
The strike included the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Caswell — which was hit by Hurricane Fran in 1996. The most heavily damaged buildings this time are the conference center and Lantana, a three-story lodge building on the Cape Fear River.
But the storm didn’t cause as much damage as Fran, which left $1 million in damage at Caswell. Preliminary estimates have placed the cost of damage by Bonnie there between $350,000 and $500,000.
The assembly canceled a youth retreat and other activities scheduled for Aug. 29-30 because of the storm. It was not immediately known when Caswell would reopen.
Jimmy Huffman, associate for youth with N.C. Baptist Men, said the state’s disaster relief teams set up feeding units at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington and Brunswick Island Baptist Church in Supply in the region where the hurricane came ashore.
Bill Smith, director of missions for Brunswick Baptist Association, said the association’s offices in the town of Supply received light damage. “The eye came right over us,” said Smith, who lives about five miles south of Supply in Holden Beach.
Smith, who has been through about 10 hurricanes, said Bonnie was longer and wetter than most. “It was not as bad as it could have been,” he said. “Let’s just say it this way: The Lord has blessed us again.”
Jerry Lethco, director of missions for Wilmington Baptist Association, said damage from Hurricane Bonnie was “nothing near what we’ve had before.” The area probably received 25 to 30 percent of the damage received in earlier storms, with the major problems being power outages and flooding, he said. Most businesses reopened by Aug. 28.
E.J. Hines, the director of missions at New River Baptist Association, said power was off in most of Onslow County, north of Wilmington and Caswell. He drove around the day after the storm hit and saw only minimal damage to buildings in the area.
Farther up the coast, Keith Hamilton, director of missions at Atlantic Baptist Association, said the roof from a building had blown off and was blocking the bridge on U.S. 70. He estimated winds in the area blew between 85 to 95 mph for about 10 to 12 hours. The storm dumped about six inches of rain on the area by early Aug. 27 with more expected.
“Our major concern now is flooding,” Hamilton said. “Some of our churches are in low-lying areas.”
But Hamilton didn’t expect to be able to inspect the damage anytime soon. “There’s no way we’ll get out today,” he said early on Aug. 27.
“We’re having to be patient on this one,” he said. “It’s taking its time getting on up the beach.”
After Hurricane Bonnie hit the southeastern tip of North Carolina, it slowly crawled up the coastline. The hurricane battered the central part of the coast, before being downgraded to a tropical storm.
It was finally pushed off North Carolina’s coast early Aug. 28 by a cold front. But back over the Atlantic Ocean, it strengthened to hurricane status again and headed northeast.
Twenty cleanup crews from across North Carolina were on standby and were expected to begin work by Aug. 29 or 30, Huffman said.
“They’re just waiting to be called out,” he said.
N.C. Baptist Men officials were scheduled to start working with American Red Cross and state and county emergency management officials on damage assessment Aug. 28, he said.

Disaster relief units deployed
along North Carolina coast
By James Dotson

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist disaster relief units began preparing meals for shelters and relief workers Aug. 28 in the wake of Hurricane Bonnie, which struck the coast of North Carolina and Virginia Aug. 26-28 before turning out toward sea.
Two North Carolina disaster relief units began operations at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington and at Brunswick Islands Baptist Church in Supply, N.C. Both units are providing meals for distribution directly at the churches, as well as for distribution by the American Red Cross to shelters and other areas.
Additionally, a shower unit from Albany, Ga. — a utility trailer equipped with a bank of showers — is also at the Winter Park church.
An additional feeding unit from Ohio remained on alert status Friday morning. Disaster relief units from Georgia, Florida and Alabama were taken off alert status for the Hurricane Bonnie operation Aug. 27.
Mickey Caison, national Southern Baptist disaster relief coordinator and an adult volunteer mobilization associate for the North American Mission Board, said arrangements are currently being made to send additional feeding units from Kentucky and Tennessee to assist with efforts further up the North Carolina area nearer the Virginia border. A “mudout” (flood cleanup) crew from Kentucky also remains staged at North Carolina Baptist Convention offices in Cary, N.C.
“We’re getting a lot of reports of flooding and road closures,” Caison said. “Our preliminary reports indicate flooding is going to be the biggest need.” The storm stalled over the North Carolina coast for an unusually long time for a hurricane, dumping huge quantities of rain across the entire coast.
Many residents already have begun returning to homes, Caison said, although continued power outages likely will mean a continued need for meal preparation at least through the weekend. Assessment of damage and needs was still in early stages, however.

Bill Cashion to direct
IMB volunteer program
By Mark Kelly

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Bill Cashion, a former Southern Baptist missionary to Venezuela and director of the International Mission Board’s human needs program, has been named director of the IMB’s Volunteers in Missions department.
Cashion, 49, will coordinate the process of matching Southern Baptist short-term missions volunteers with strategic requests from Southern Baptist missionaries overseas. In 1997, more than 17,000 Southern Baptists participated in overseas evangelism and ministry projects coordinated through the IMB.
He will assume his new role in mid-October after the world hunger consultation scheduled for Ridgecrest (N.C.) Baptist Conference Center Oct. 9-11. He succeeds Jim Furgerson, who left the IMB in July to become director of Texas Baptist Men.
Cashion brings to his new role both extensive experience in using volunteers and a passion for evangelism and church planting, said Bill Bullington, the board’s vice president for overseas services.
“Bill was very actively involved with volunteers when he served as a pastor in North Carolina and South Carolina,” Bullington said. “The IMB used him to train volunteers who were headed overseas, and he even contributed to a volunteer training manual we used.
“He also made extensive use of volunteers when he served as a missionary in Venezuela,” Bullington said. “Thirty missions and churches were started in the Caracas area in two years with the help of volunteers from the U.S.
“But besides understanding good missiological principles for starting indigenous churches with volunteers, Bill also has a real passion for evangelism and church planting. He is positioned very well to know how volunteers can best serve our field strategies.”
The International Mission Board has seen large increases each year in the number of short-term missions volunteers going overseas. Short-term volunteers have had such a positive impact on missions work overseas — and on the churches sending them — that IMB trustees voted in July to partially subsidize first-time overseas missions trips for pastors, directors of missions, seminary students and ministers to college students.
The contributions volunteers can make to the work of long-term overseas missionaries — and the volunteer-sending potential of 40,000 Southern Baptist churches — make them a significant part of God’s resources for bringing the world to Christ, Cashion said.
“There is no doubt the Lord has used volunteers in special ways all around the world,” he said. “As a missionary for 10 years, I saw God use volunteers as key ministers and evangelists in our church-planting strategy in Venezuela. The results were tremendous.
“The Volunteers in Missions department is committed to do all we can to assist churches, associations, conventions and missionaries to come together as the most effective team possible for sharing the gospel.”
(BP) photo (mugshot) posted in SBCNet BP Photos Library by the Richmond bureau of Baptist Press. Filename is cashion.jpg.

Business world needs more
Christian leaders, author says
By Terri Lackey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–God’s call to discipleship is also a call to leadership, Broadman & Holman author Bob Briner said.
“We need more godly people in top leadership, not because Christians need stars, but because that’s strategically where God’s kingdom needs to be represented,” said Briner, who has just completed a second book for B&H outlining leadership principles that made Jesus effective. B&H is the trade publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly Sunday School Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Briner, an Emmy Award-winning television producer and a longtime sports executive, and Ray Pritchard, pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Ill., co-wrote the books, “The Leadership Lessons of Jesus: A Timeless Model for Today’s Leaders” and “More Leadership Lessons of Jesus.”
In Mark, chapters 1-10, the authors pick up more than 100 practical leadership lessons from Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus was a good leader because he taught with authority, knew how to handle opposition, had great timing and focus, cultivated loyalty, knew how to plan, put others first and was able to communicate his vision, Briner and Pritchard’s book recounts.
A good Christian leader today should model such leadership lessons of Jesus as caring about employees, being committed to excellence, being a consummate planner and articulating messages, Briner said.
“Jesus was also an effective disciplinarian. His rebukes were given in love, and he earned the right to give those rebukes. That’s a tremendous leadership tool.”
Briner said Jesus also demonstrated he could make “the ultimate decision” — a characteristic lacking in many top corporate business people.
“When Jesus said, ‘We’re going to Jericho,’ that wasn’t a call for a committee meeting. He didn’t ask for a show of hands of all who were in favor of doing that.
“This doesn’t mean he was a dictator type, but somebody has to be able to make the ultimate decisions,” Briner said, “and leaders who leave leadership vacuums are worse than those who try to exercise too much leadership control.”
Briner worries that committed Christian leaders too often restrict themselves to the areas of religious enterprise. In days past, Briner said, Christian leaders in the secular world seemed more willing to speak up about their faith.
“Christians have been in the world overtly much more in the past than they are now.”
Briner, a Texas native, refers to a quote inscribed on the Dallas Morning News building that says: “Build the news upon the rock of truth and righteousness, conduct it always upon the lines of fairness and integrity.”
“Lately, Christians just haven’t been willing to go out there as leadership warriors,” he said.
Briner said the “people (in top businesses and government) deserve to have godly role models, and they deserve to see people who are living out the gospel,” adding that churches and parents get low marks in turning out Christian leaders.
“It begins first with parents and churches. I especially don’t think the church has done a very good job at all of challenging, particularly young people, to see the whole area of leadership as a mission field,” Briner said.
In fact, Briner wonders why churches don’t conduct leadership awareness events much like they do mission awareness events.
“It’s the churches’ fault that there aren’t more Christian leaders (in secular business roles), when you think about it. We haven’t been willing to say to our young people, ‘You need to think about leadership as a mission and ministry.’
“And then we haven’t been willing to provide them with the wherewithal to get there” — such as setting up a mentoring program or bringing Christian business leaders to the church for workshops or seminars.
“Leaders — corporate leaders, speakers of the house, editors, whatever — should be missionaries in the secular world.”
Briner doesn’t let Christians who are not in high-visibility leadership positions off the hook when it comes to acting as an agent for God.
“Everybody is called to leadership in some way because we are all called to make disciples,” Briner said. “The discipleship part of the Great Commission wasn’t about age or attitude, talent or temperament, gender or geology.
“It’s about everybody. It’s universal — so if we are all called to be disciples, we are all called to be leaders.”

Louisville journal taps Mohler
as one of top ‘Forty Under Forty’
By Russell D. Moore

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–A newspaper which focuses on business interests in the greater Louisville, Ky., area has selected R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for inclusion in its list of “Forty Under Forty” leaders.
The publication, Business First, recognized Mohler and 39 other civic, commercial and political pacesetters at a breakfast banquet Aug. 21 at downtown Louisville’s Seelbach Hilton hotel. Profiles of th