The Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee is sharing an open letter to North Carolina Baptists from Dr. Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC. In the letter, Dr. Harris encourages churches to establish Cultural Impact Teams (CIT). An explanation of these teams is found in the letter below. Training opportunities for CIT Team Leaders is also found in the letter below.
This past February I had the privilege of crossing a milestone in my ministry when I celebrated 25 years of service as a senior pastor in the local church. Without question, from those early days at Center Grove Baptist in Clemmons, NC, to my service now at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC I have been blessed to serve and minister alongside some of the greatest and most Godly people in all the earth. Yet, in the midst of that milestone, I could not help but reflect on just how much our culture has changed during that time! You and I cannot help but notice that sins, some of which would have been unthinkable some years ago, are now being promoted as if they are natural and normal. Perversion masquerades as acceptable behavior. Perhaps most shocking of all, however, is that men and women who stand up and say, “No, this is not right,” are somehow labeled as bigots or narrow-minded. The real challenge with which we must come to grips is, “Are Christians really impacting the culture anymore?”
I have begun asking, “Where are the Christians?” and more specifically “Where are the Baptists in North Carolina?” Earlier this year my wife, Beth, reminded me, “Mark, we have met so many good and Godly people across this state. And most really want things to change in terms of the direction of our country. But, they don’t know what to do or how to bring that change.” That night, we both prayed that God would do something to help all of us be more effective at bringing that change.
Within a few weeks of that prayer, I was introduced to the Cultural Impact Team (CIT), a tremendous effort that needs to be established in each and every church. The Family Research Council, led by Tony Perkins, had developed a resource manual to help churches organize a team of people in their church to take the lead in impacting our culture. It was a natural fit for their Watchman on the Wall verse, Isaiah 62:6, “I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem: They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent.” If pastors are committed watchmen in our generation, a team of lay-leaders is needed to come alongside them. So, for the last several months, I have been helping pastors to establish a CIT in their church by training a lay-leader in a two-hour training session. I am joined by four other individuals in providing these trainings across North Carolina. So far, I have had the privilege of conducting six training sessions, and am planning two more. As a pastor, all we ask is that you choose the CIT Leader. Once you have done this, then we will communicate the date, time, and location of an upcoming training session. Hopefully, they will find one close by for their convenience.
You may be wondering, what difference can a CIT make? The CIT really does four things as they come alongside the pastor:
These four things actually are the outline for the training which the Team Leaders receives. I personally believe that in the quickly changing times we now face every pastor, and every church will need this team. Let me strongly encourage you to follow-up with this and get involved in this opportunity. There is no cost for the training, and all materials are provided by the Family Research Council. I want to invite anyone reading this who would like to have their church involved to simply contact my assistant, Marti Tidwell at email@example.com. The two training sessions I have will be held:
Thursday, October 16 at Harvest Baptist Church, 3741 S. Church St. Burlington, NC from 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Tuesday, October 21 at South Oak Ridge Baptist Church, 1336 Lone Hickory Rd. Yadkinville, NC from 9:30am – 11:30am
I thank God for His faithfulness, as He leads us to maneuver in these fast changing times. We need His wisdom. We need His vision. For as the Psalmist declared, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
By: TLUSA Troop 942
April 7, 2014
“Walk Worthy” Colossians 1:10 “…that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;…”
Last Call to Register for the Trail Leader Training to be held at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC this Friday and Saturday (April 11-12)
The training weekend is the first of nine that will be held across the US this year. You will hear presentations from Trail Life USA staff and Point Men from NC and SC.
This is a great opportunity for….
- Current and future leaders of Trail Life USA (TLUSA) Troops
- Parents of boys currently in TLUSA
- Parents interested in learning more about TLUSA or about starting a Troop
- Pastors interested in learning more about TLUSA for their Churches
Meet and hear from TLUSA Board Members and Executive Staff, get the latest news on releases like the Freedom Award, Woodlands Trail Branch Awards, Trail Badges, and new Adult Registration opportunities. Purchase TLUSA merchandise without shipping costs, including new releases not available anyplace else.
REGISTRATION IS STILL OPEN!!!!
Your advance registration in Winston-Salem will include:
- Dinner Friday night and lunch on Saturday
- A commemorative T-shirt
- A Trail Leader Training pin (the first pin released by TLUSA – sure to be a collectible!) and an official lanyard
If you wait to register, these items are not guaranteed. Registration MAY be available at the door, but the price and availability is not guaranteed, nor will the giveaways be guaranteed if you do not register by Tuesday, April 8 at midnight (EST).
The cost of advance registration is only $59. Unfortunately, there is no discount for Friday or Saturday-only registration. There is no discount for providing your own meals. There will be no childcare or youth programs offered at the training.
We want to see you at Trail Leader Training!!!
Hotel accommodations can be booked online at:
Search on Winston-Salem, NC and by date April 11. Then select landmark Hanes Mall. Any of the first 9 hotels are in the same general area (within 1 mile of Hanes Mall). The hotel rates are in the range from $58-$145 per night. Any of these hotels will be a 5-minute drive from Calvary Baptist Church.
Search on Hanes Mall, Winston-Salem for the date of April 11. Any of the first 10 hotels are in the same general area (within 1 mile of Hanes Mall). The hotel rates are in the range from $58-$139 per night. Any of these hotels will be a 5-minute drive from Calvary Baptist Church.
As an alternative to staying at a hotel, you may choose to camp on the lower baseball field at the west part of the campus.
This story was posted with permission from Trail Life USA
By: L.A. Williams, Christian Action League
July 26, 2013
RALEIGH – Legislation (S 353 – Health and Safety Law Changes) that will make abortion safer for women, allow for conscience protection for healthcare workers, prevent taxpayers from funding elective abortions and prohibit abortion for the purpose of sex selection passed the Senate 32-13 Thursday and is headed to Gov. Pat McCrory, who has said he will sign the landmark bill.
“This is a truly wonderful measure that will hold abortion doctors and clinics to standards similar to those of other surgical facilities,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Planned Parenthood is calling for the Governor to veto this bill, but we believe anyone concerned with women’s health should want the best conditions for patients undergoing this procedure.”
An hour-long debate preceded the Senate’s vote to concur with the House version of a motorcycle safety bill, which included provisions similar to those OK’d earlier by the Senate in its Faith, Family and Freedom Protection Act. The governor had said he would veto that bill unless it was modified to address concerns from the Department of Health and Human Services, and assuage worries that the measure would limit women’s access to abortion.
The final version of the bill, approved earlier by the House and sitting in a Senate committee until Thursday, asks DHHS to increase health and safety regulations on abortion clinics without unduly limiting access. A provision in the bill requires that an abortion doctor be present during the entire surgical abortion process and that, in the case of a medicinal abortion, the doctor be on site when the first dose of an abortifacient is administered.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Family Values Coalition, said the law will implement “common-sense and reasonable safety standards for abortion facilities.”
Supporters of the bill had pointed out in numerous debates that North Carolina has had problems with abortion clinics, citing recent violations in Charlotte and Fayetteville facilities, but abortion supporters insist the new law will lead to too many clinic closings and force women to undergo back alley abortions.
Responding to criticism of the bill, Sen. Thom Goolsby said “If you can show me something in there that is unreasonable, that is wrong, that hurts women, I will not vote for this…I’m just not finding it offensive.”
Far from offensive, Dr. Creech called the bill a victory for women’s health and life. He commended lawmakers for courageously approving the much needed measure despite protests from the abortion industry.
“This bill was not so much about prohibiting abortion, but about prohibiting an industry from operating under substandard conditions. Abortion clinics have far too long been given a privileged status. Those of us in the cause of life have known this for a long time. But more recently, clinics like the one where Gosnell in Philadelphia practiced and even some in our own state clearly show higher standards are definitely necessary. We look forward to the governor signing this new law.”
Rev. Creech added that he was very thankful for all those who prayed and contacted their legislators on behalf of the legislation.
This story was posted with permission from the Christian Action League of North Carolina
By: Garland H. Honeycutt
June 26, 2013
On Wednesday, June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court made landmark rulings on two cases regarding the issues of same-sex “marriage.” These cases involved the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (a piece of legislation that was overwhelming passed by congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996) and California’s Proposition 8 (the state’s marriage amendment, defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman).
Regarding DOMA, the high court ruled that one section of the federal statute is an unconstitutional deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.
Regarding Proposition 8, the high court did not necessarily make a ruling, but instead dismissed the case. Consequently, same-sex “marriage” will more than likely become lawful in California, however those states that have already protected marriage through their own state constitutions (like North Carolina), will not be affected.
Shortly after the court issued its rulings, many evangelical leaders, in the realm of state and national public policy matters, issued statements regarding the court’s decisions. Additionally, these evangelicals offered their own assessment as to how the church should move forward, given the result of the rulings. You can read a few of those responses below.
Response from Mark Creech, Christian Action League of North Carolina
Response from Tami Fitzgerald, North Carolina Values Coalition
Response from Russell Moore, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Response from Al Mohler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Response from Owen Strachan, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Response from the Family Research Council
Note: The Gospel Coalition has also produced an extremely helpful resource that gives more information on the actual court cases, entitled “9 Things You Should Know About the Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Cases.”
The Christian Life and Public Affairs special committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) is tasked with helping N.C. Baptists stay in touch with public policy issues that are important to Christians.
As a part of that responsibility, the committee supports the efforts of the Christian Action League of North Carolina (CAL) by assigning several committee members to serve on CAL’s board of directors and recommending financial support from the Baptist State Convention and individual churches.
CAL has a long relationship with the Baptist State Convention. In 1937, the BSC was instrumental in forming the organization that would be renamed in 1958, the Christian Action League of North Carolina.
From its beginning as an organization that addressed the state’s alcohol policy, CAL today helps communities address issues such as alcohol referenda and sexually-oriented businesses. It also has a full-time lobbying presence in the N.C. General Assembly, working with lawmakers on issues such as sanctity of life, human trafficking, religious liberty, and all issues of concern to Christians.
CAL Executive Director Mark Creech, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, is well respected on both sides of the aisle in the General Assembly and has the ear of lawmakers of all political stripes. He provides a voice for the concerns and convictions of N.C. Baptists and other evangelicals, providing a much-needed Christian perspective to the issues lawmakers face.
As our society becomes more secular and ignores, and even vilifies, our Judeo-Christian values, it is the conviction of your Christian Life and Public Affairs committee that we redouble our efforts to familiarize N.C. Baptists with the work of the Christian Action League and encourage financial support.
The convention provides some financial resources to CAL through the Christian Life and Public Affairs committee’s budget. Some churches, denominations and individuals contribute support, but these contributions do not cover the expenses of CAL.
The Christian Life and Public Affairs committee would like to challenge our NC Baptist churches to include CAL in their annual budgets. If a good number of our churches would contribute $100 per year, the ongoing work of CAL would be guaranteed.
Would you consider leading your church to support CAL? If so, could you contact Rev. Creech with this information? Or, if you need more information about CAL, contact him at 919-787-0606 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Rev. Creech is also available to address your church or association on the issues of concern to Christians.
The Christian Life and Public Affairs committee thanks you for your consideration of this matter. It is our prayer that we will continue to have this voice as we seek to be salt and light in our world.
By Garland H. Honeycutt
May 9, 2013
This past week three important pieces of legislation made progress in the chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly. The bills regarded pro-life and religious liberty issues.
House Bill 716 – Ban Sex-Selective Abortions
On Tuesday, the House of Representative passed a bill that prohibits doctors for performing abortions with knowledge that the gender of the child is a deciding factor in the pregnant woman’s reason in having an abortion. The bill would also penalize doctors who perform sex-selective abortions with a minimum $10,000 fine. Wednesday, the bill was filed and passed its first reading in the Senate, where it was referred to the committee on Rules and Operations.
Senate Bill 370 – Respect for Student Prayer
Thursday afternoon, the Senate unanimously approved a bill that would allow school faculty and staff to assume a posture of respect for student initiated, student led prayer. Current law prohibits school faculty and staff from bowing their heads, in regard to student prayer. SB 370 would allow school staff to show respect for student prayer, without penalty. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 719 – Student Organizations’ Rights
The Senate also unanimously approved a bill which guarantees student groups on North Carolina university and college campuses the rights to name only persons professing the faith or mission of the group serve as leaders of that organization. The bill also guarantees that student groups be given equal access to programs, funding, facilities, or other privileges associated with official recognition. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.
As law makers in the House and Senate pass good legislation that advances Christian principles within our schools and communities, North Carolina Baptists should continue to lift up our legislators in prayer. Pray for wisdom and guidance, as they honor Christ through public policy here in our state.
The Christian Action League of North Carolina is the voice for North Carolina Baptists and other evangelicals, in the North Carolina General Assembly. At the quarterly board of directors meeting, Christian Action League’s executive director, Rev. Mark Creech, gave an update on important legislative issues that are being monitored and addressed, by the League. Here are some of those important issues of which North Carolina Baptists should be made aware:
Christian Action League is supporting ….
DWI bills – Four bills that would tighten DWI laws by increasing penalties, allowing for more use of ignition interlock devices or clarifying habitual offender laws are in the works. These measures – H 31, H 40, H 41 and H 43 – are aimed at keeping drunken drivers off the roads.
Methamphetamine penalties – With the number of meth lab busts rising more than 30 percent in North Carolina last year, lawmakers wasted no time filing a bill that would stiffen the penalties for manufacturing the dangerous drug in the presence of children, the elderly or disabled. House Bill 29 would also create a criminal offense for the purchase or possession of a psuedoephedrine product by someone with a prior record of meth possession or manufacture. More meth-related bills are expected as legislators try to stop the spread of this dangerous drug.
Elective Bible courses in public schools – North Carolina public high school students would have the chance to sign up for a Bible course as an elective if S 138 becomes law. According to the bill, students would be able to use whatever version of the Bible they chose for the course, which, if approved by the local school board, could be offered as early as the 2013-2014 school year.
Preventing sex-selective abortions – H 716 “Clarify Law/Prohibit Sex-Selective Abortion,” would fine a doctor at least $10,000 for performing or trying to perform an abortion “with knowledge or an objective reason to know” that the child’s gender is a significant factor in the pregnant woman’s seeking the abortion. Fines for subsequent sex-selection abortions would rise first to $50,000 and then $100,000, and abortionists performing them would be subject to civil suits.
Human trafficking – The League is working tirelessly with lawmakers and advocacy groups to help get North Carolina off the top 10 list for states with human trafficking. S 683 and H 855 are two legislative measures helping to accomplish this.
Christian Action League is opposing …
Sunday hunting bills – Two bills are being considered that would overturn the state’s 144-year-old ban on hunting on the Lord’s Day. Overturning the ban on Sunday hunting poses a threat to the serenity and safety that rural church bodies across the state have traditionally enjoyed on the Lord’s Day.
The Christian Action League is also opposing any attempts to legalize video sweepstakes or to privatize liquor sales as bills are expected to be filed regarding these issues before the session ends.
“Each day brings new proposed laws to be examined through the lens of a Biblical worldview and new opportunities to help lawmakers determine how they can best represent their constituents, especially those who make up the body of Christ,” said the Rev. Creech. “We urge Christians to visit our Web site, sign up for our free weekly issues update and let lawmakers know that we are praying for them and expecting their best efforts for God’s glory.”
To find out more about the Legislature or a specific bill, log onto www.ncleg.net. The CAL web site is at www.christianactionleague.org.
By: Richard Land, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Later this month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on same-sex marriage, a high-stakes moment for both for American society and for the Court itself. On March 26th the Court will hear arguments on California’s Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry) case. Right after that, the Court will review the federal Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor.
Just like in Roe v Wade, a case widely discredited by legal scholars as poor law and credited by conservatives as the spark that ignited Christian activism, the court has a massive challenge ahead of it – threading the needle between state’s rights and the press of coastal public opinion.
I’ll address Hollingsworth v. Perry today and U.S. v. Windsor tomorrow.
The California case has the potential for far-flung reverberations in all fifty states. In the Proposition 8 case, the Court will decide whether to overturn a lower federal court’s renunciation of Proposition 8, in which the voters of California voted to amend their state constitution to define marriage as only between one man and one woman. The presiding judge, the since retired Vaughn R. Walker, declared that “Excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.”
The Obama Administration has filed a friend of the court brief in the Proposition 8 case calling for same-sex marriage to be declared legal, arguing that it is a civil rights case. The general counsel for Proposition 8 supporters, Andrew P. Pugno, responded to the Obama Administration’s brief: “By arguing that Proposition 8 is rooted only in irrational prejudice, the President has impugned the motives of millions of Californians, turned his back on society’s longstanding interest in both mothers and fathers raising the next generation, and disregarded the rights of each state to decide for itself whether to redefine marriage.”
The Supreme Court is basically faced with three choices. First, the Court could overturn Walker’s decision and validate the right of the people of California to define and regulate marriage in their state. This would be in line with 224 years of American federal jurisprudence which has left marriage to be regulated by each state.
Second, they could uphold Walker’s decision which would legalize same-sex marriage in California alone. Currently, nine states (and the District of Columbia) have legalized same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, and Vermont.
Third, the Supreme Court could take the occasion of this case to invalidate the prohibition against same-sex marriage in the more than 30 states who have voted in favor of such prohibitions, the most recent being North Carolina.
If the Supreme Court were to take this third option and use the Proposition 8 case to declare same-sex marriage the law of the land in all 50 states, it would create a firestorm similar to its overreach in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which struck down the abortion laws in all fifty states in one fell swoop. Even Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, perhaps the most liberal Supreme Court justice ever, has argued that the Supreme Court, acting as it did in Roe v. Wade, attempted to take an extremely contentious and divisive issue (abortion) out of the public discourse and caused an extreme backlash which made the abortion issue much more contentious and divisive than it otherwise would have been over the last four decades.
If the Court were to make a similarly sweeping and divisive decision on gay marriage and seek to impose a one-size fits all solution on a deeply divided country, it would create a similarly tremendous backlash. Same-sex marriage would immediately return to the boiling point in American politics and the Supreme Court would become similarly controversial in ways it currently seems to abhor.
Make no mistake, the nation is as deeply divided on same-sex marriage as it was on abortion in 1973, if not more so. Gallup polling data reveals that the country as a whole has shifted to some degree on the issue (49% to 40% currently favor same-sex marriage). However, Pew polling data reveals that opinion varies widely across the country with a majority favoring same-sex marriage on the Pacific coast, in New England, and in the Mid-Atlantic states. The same polling data reveals a majority opposition in the South, and opinion evenly divided in the Midwest and South Atlantic.
These figures are a recipe for the same volatile backlash Roe produced and has caused 19 state attorneys general to urge the Court not to “Stultify democratic principles by declaring a winner of the marriage debate.”
One would hope the Supreme Court would heed the lessons of history and make a narrow ruling on California and California alone and not repeat the mistake of Roe and further divide and inflame the country on the deeply divisive issue of same sex marriage. The better part of judicial wisdom would be to follow the precedent of the last 224 years and leave the issue of marriage to the various states.
On March 26th and 27th, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on two cases involving same-sex marriage issues which will have far reaching repercussions for both the Supreme Court and American society.
As I explained in yesterday’s column, “The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage (Part 1),” on March 26th the Court will hear arguments on California’s Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry), and the next day (March 27th) the Court will review sections of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor. These are two very different cases and are best analyzed separately. Yesterday’s column dealt with Hollingsworth v. Perry, and today we turn our attention to United States v. Windsor.
Whereas the Proposition 8 case deals with the issue of whether the people of California’s amendment to their state constitution defining marriage as being only between one man and one woman violates the U.S. Constitution, in United States v. Windsor the Supreme Court is seeking to adjudicate Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This bill passed Congress with an overwhelming bipartisan majority in 1996 and defines marriage as only between a man and a woman concerning eligibility or applicability of more than 1,000 federal laws, benefits, and programs that apply to marriage. The most well-known section of DOMA, which allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, is not under challenge in the Court in this case.
United States v. Windsor concerns Edith Windsor, who married Thea Spyer in 2007 in Canada. When Ms. Spyer died in 2009 and Ms. Windsor inherited her property, DOMA precluded Ms. Winsor from being treated as a surviving spouse by the Internal Revenue Service. Consequently, she faced a tax bill of approximately $360,000 that would not have been due had the marriage been a heterosexual union. Ms. Winsor sued in federal court and won at the district and appellate level. Now, the Supreme Court has taken up the case on appeal from the appellate court.
Why did the Supreme Court agree to hear these two cases? What will their decisions be? Will the Court risk provoking the wrath of a sizable percentage of the public by seeking to take the marriage issue away from the people of the various states and seek to impose its definition of marriage on all fifty states? Will the Court further use the occasion to mandate that federal benefits accorded to heterosexual marriage must now all be applied to same-sex marriages performed in the states that legalize it?
Many people have damaged their reputations and some have depleted their bank accounts by trying to predict or bet on what a particular Supreme Court will do concerning any given decision. Remember the Supreme Court’s unpredictable and surprising decision on the constitutionality of Obamacare?
Having acknowledged that the Court is always notoriously unpredictable, I am prepared to take the plunge and make a prediction. Given Chief Justice Robert’s aversion to judicial activism, shared by a crucial number of his fellow justices, I believe the Supreme Court will take the path of least judicial activism and most judicial restraint. I believe they will uphold the more that 200 year old judicial tradition of letting the states regulate and define marriage within their borders and will uphold the people of California’s ban on same-sex marriage. They have heard justice Ginsburg’s concerns about Roe and do not want to be the cause of such social and political division on the issue of marriage. Further, they do not want the Court and its role to become the issue.
However, I believe they will, at the same time, take the opportunity of the United States v. Windsor case to decide that when a state has recognized same-sex marriage as legal within that state, such marriages deserve to be treated the same as heterosexual marriage under federal law for the purposes of applicability of federal marriage benefits. I believe this is precisely why they took the United States v. Windsor case at the same time they decided to take up Hollingsworth v. Perry.
I believe they are going to seek to thread the needle and split the difference. Such decision making by the Supreme Court would leave the issue of defining marriage within the borders of each state (such as California), but at the same time declaring that if a state (such as New York) defines same-sex marriage as marriage, the federal government (including the IRS) would defer to each particular state’s definition of marriage when determining eligibility for benefits.
The end result would be that the Supreme Court would allow the same-sex marriage issue to continue to play out in the ebb and flow of the political process in the various states and keep the issue of marriage a “state” issue. And, since New York recognizes same-sex marriage, Ms. Winsor would get her estate taxes back, presumably with interest.
On Monday evening, February 18, Governor Pat McCrory gave his first State of the State address to both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly. Outlining his vision for a more efficient state government, Gov. McCrory urged lawmakers to join him in developing a better and more efficient North Carolina.
Perhaps one of the most attention grabbing lines in McCrory’s address was when the Governor said; “We obviously have a lot of work to do, but my team and I chose to look at these challenges as opportunities. These are opportunities for every one of us.”
Even those who may disagree with the specific details of McCrory’s policies cannot help but admire the new governor’s ambition. Despite the challenges that lay ahead of him, Governor McCrory has resolved, to the legislature and the people of the state, to see those challenges as opportunities, opportunities to create a better North Carolina.
Christians in the Tar Heel State would do wise to heed the words of their new chief executive, and see our own challenges as opportunities, opportunities to proclaim the gospel and advance the kingdom of God. Scripture teaches us that as followers of Christ, we will be faced with challenges both great and small. This was true of the disciples, who were challenged to leave their homes and possessions and follow their Lord. This was also true of the early church, which was challenged to take the gospel into their cities and ultimately to the uttermost parts of the earth. Such challenges have been faced by Christians all throughout the scope of history and yet, such challenges were tremendous opportunities for the gospel – opportunities to see lives changed by the message of Christ’s redeeming love.
Will we choose to see our challenges as opportunities to proclaim the gospel and advance the kingdom? As pastors and church leaders, will we see difficult situations within our churches and ministries as ways to impact our people and our communities with Christ’s message of salvation? As denominational leaders, will see obstacles in our associations and state convention as ways to penetrate lostness and see people come to faith in Jesus Christ?
Governor McCrory closed his address by telling law makers “now let’s get back to work.” May that also be the charge to North Carolina Baptists and ultimately to all followers of Christ. Let’s see our challenges as opportunities to proclaim the gospel and advance the kingdom, and let’s get back to work!
On Tuesday, February 5, the North Carolina House passed a bill that has stirred no small controversy in the media. House Bill 4 (H4), short titled “UI Fund Insolvency & Program Changes,” seeks to repay the $2.5 billion loan N.C. owes the federal government to help pay unemployment insurance (UI) benefit claims.
To summarize the situation, due to the persistently high unemployment and subsequent depleted unemployment insurance trust fund, North Carolina has borrowed money from the federal government in order to pay its unemployment benefits. These monies were not a grant but a loan; therefore, like all lenders, the federal government expects repayment and has a plan to do so by raising the Federal Unemployment Tax until the monies are repaid.
H4 seeks to repay the federal monies in a shorter amount of time than what is proposed by the federal government. However, in order to do so, unemployment benefits will be reduced in both amount paid, to a maximum of $350 per week, and in the maximum number of benefit weeks, to 20. Additionally, the state would raise the State Unemployment Tax (SUTA) rate by 0.6 percent.
If the bill is passed as is, and signed by Governor McCrory, North Carolina will pay the federal government back two to three years early without the federal government raising Federal Unemployment Taxes; regain a positive balance in the State UI trust fund (currently in the negative) by 2015, and; should achieve an anticipated balance of $2.2 billion in the UI trust fund by 2021.
In order to examine this proposed policy from a Christian perspective, one must remove the emotional issue of persistent high unemployment from the legislation itself. While almost every Christian in North Carolina, and possibly America, can name among their friends someone who lost their job and had, or is continuing to have, trouble finding gainful employment, reducing unemployment is not the intent of the bill. Rather, repaying the federal government its monies without raising federal taxes and facing other fines is what the bill seeks to accomplish.
Therefore, how should a Christian respond to the bill? To answer this question, another must be asked: what does the Bible say about debt? A second question also arises: what does the Bible say about the relationship between a borrower and a lender?
According to the Bible, debt is a situation to be avoided. Furthermore, Scripture strongly recommends that people should live within their means. Proverbs 21:20 states: “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets” (LB). Romans 13:7-8 says: “Pay to all what is owed to them… owe no one anything, except to love each other…” (ESV). These two examples illustrate to the Christian that debt is not a good situation, be it on a personal or state-wide scale.
Why is being indebted a bad situation? To answer, Proverbs 22:7 states: “…the borrower is the slave of the lender” (ESV). When one entity (“borrower”) accepts money from another entity (“lender”), the borrower voluntarily places themselves under the authority and control of the lender for the duration of the debt. This is true whether the borrower is a single individual or a group of individuals, such as the state.
Thus, when North Carolina accepted federal monies as a loan, the federal government gained the right to dictate to N.C. how those and other monies are spent as long as that loan remains outstanding. A generation ago this may have been no cause for alarm; however, the advent of Obamacare and its abortifacient mandates has made it clear that the federal government believes it has the right to insert itself into any area of life it so chooses. The thoughtful Christian therefore realizes that accepting federal monies, even in benign issues such as unemployment insurance, may have dire and unintended consequences.
As a result, Christians should support North Carolina’s efforts to repay its $2.5 billion UI debt to the federal government in a timely manner. By doing so, N.C. maintains its Constitutional right to limited self-government free from gross federal interference (see Article IV and Amendment X). Then all N.C. citizens, Christian and otherwise, can tackle the pervasive issue of high unemployment and return this state to debt-free prosperity.