What is advocacy -- and why should Christians care?

A conversation with Stephen Reeves

Story and photo by John Pierce

DECATUR, Ga. — Stephen Reeves joined the staff of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship last fall to assume a new position as associate coordinator for advocacy and partnerships. An attorney and Baptist layman, Reeves … served as director of public policy with the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission….

Earlier he worked as a staff attorney with the Washington-based Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.…

Baptists Today editor John Pierce talked with Reeves about the Fellowship’s new emphasis on advocacy.

BT: What is your working definition of advocacy?

BT: How does advocacy fit within the overall mission of Christian churches and organizations of churches such as the Fellowship? And how is advocacy already at work in CBF life?

BT: On whose behalf do you — and others who embrace this mission — advocate? How is this different from so-called “special interest” lobbying?

BT: Can you say a little about how you navigate what some might call “getting into politics” or “being controversial” — as if those are necessarily things to avoid?

BT: Where — that is, at what levels of power — does advocacy take place?

BT: How important is collaboration — the building of coalitions — to the success of advocacy? What other factors should be considered when choosing the right issue to address and the best approach to take?

BT: What are four or five issues being addressed today — or that need to be addressed legislatively?

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News Headlines

Compiled by Bruce Gourley

April 23, 2014

  1. Should Birth Control Be Covered Under All Health Plans? Americans Say ‘Yes’ (Science World Report)
  2. Southern Baptist Summit Has Frank Talk on Sex (USA Today)
  3. New Study by Sociologist Mark Regnerus Suggests Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior (Washington Post)
  4. Southern Baptists Tell Pastors at Sexuality Summit: No More ‘Adam and Steve’ Jokes (Nashville Public Radio)
  5. Advocate Says Something Missing at Baptist Sex-Summit (Associated Baptist Press)
  6. Southern Baptist Pastor Compares Preaching Against Homsexuality to Preaching Against Slavery (Huffington Post)
  7. Lawmaker Pulls Bill to Make Holy Bible Louisiana’s Official State Book (Times-Picayune)
  8. Catholic Church Launches Ad Blitz Featuring Cardinal Dolan to Lure Faithful Back to Pews (CBS New York)
  9. Former Wayland Baptist Executive Headed to Prison (Amarillo Globe-News)
  10. Christian Band MercyMe Opens up About Abuse, God and New Album (Fox News)
  11. Gunfire Wounds 3 People at Trenton Church Funeral for Teen Killed in Shooting (NJ.com)
  12. Asia: China on Track to Become World’s Largest Christian Country by 2015, Experts Say (Huffington Post)
  13. Latin America: Pope Francis Struggles to Keep Fellow Latin Americans in Fold: Poll (Reuters)

April 22, 2014

  1. Franklin Graham: Putin is Doing ‘What’s Right for Russia’ by Cracking Down on Gays (Raw Story)
  2. Army Stands Behind ‘Searingly Sectarian’ Prayer Event Despite Outcry Over Evangelical Ties (Huffington Post)
  3. Boy Scouts Revoke Seattle Church’s Charter Over Gay Scoutmaster (CNN)
  4. Huckabee: No Social Issues, No Evangelical Votes (Christian Broadcasting Network)
  5. A Casino Mogul and Southern Baptists Team up Against Online Gambling (InsuranceNews.Net)
  6. Baptist Impact Felt in Frankfort (Louisville Courier-Journal)
  7. Southern Baptist Leaders to Pastors: Put up a Glass Door (The Tennessean)
  8. Poll: Religion Trumps Belief in Big Bang for Most Americans (NBC News)
  9. The Battle of the Bible Films (Christianity Today)
  10. Outdoor Church Invites Homeless in on Easter (Boston Globe)
  11. Obamas Get Some Extra Attention at Easter Church’s Service in D.C. (ABC News)
  12. Top Catholic Leader Defends Hobby Lobby, Claims Women Can Get Birth Control at 7-11 (Think Progress)
  13. Small Church Makes Big Strides Despite Location, Trends (Associated Baptist Press)
  14. Merger Plans Collapse for Struggling Virginia College (Associated Baptist Press)
  15. Jerusalem: Christian Pilgrims in Jerusalem Find Their Path to the Via Dolorosa is an Ever Harder Road (Guardian)
  16. U.K.: David Cameron Christianity Claim Backed by Religious Groups (BBC News)

April 21, 2014

  1. Black Baptist Churches Look to Youth for Leadership (Des Moines Register)
  2. Easter 2014: Amid Celebrations, Tension in Jerusalem, Prayers in Boston (CNN)
  3. Gospel Story of Jesus’ Resurrection a Source of Deep Rifts in Christian Religon (Washington Post)
  4. The Florida Church Whose Worshippers are All Tourists (National Public Radio)
  5. Car Hits Fort Myers Church During Easter Service, 21 Injured (News-Press)
  6. Woman Sues After ‘8THEIST’ Plate Denied, ‘BAPTIST’ Approved (ABC News)
  7. Only 8% of Republicans Say Contraceptive Use is ‘Morally Unacceptable’ (AmericaBlog)
  8. Pope Francis’s Challenge to the Evangelical-Catholic Coalition (The Atlantic)

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Baptists Today News

Photo by Bruce GourleyIsrael trip fills; Montana experience still open

Nurturing Faith Experience: Israel, set for November, has reached capacity. To be put on a waiting list, please contact Baptists Today at (478) 301-5655 or info@baptiststoday.org.

However, for those looking for reflection, renewal and the exploration of fresh places and ideas, join us for NURTURING FAITH EXPERIENCE: MONTANA.   

This “experimental experience” in Big Sky Country, Aug. 18-23, will be a unique retreat opportunity. While addressing current issues, the group also will shape a model for future events in Montana.

Sponsors (to date) include Baptists Today, Baptist History and Heritage Society, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina and The Pittman Center of Gardner-Webb University. Other sponsor-participants will be warmly welcomed.

Programming will make use of the many talents within the group as well as leaders in Montana. Bruce Gourley, who lives in Bozeman and is owner of the popular web site Yellowstone.net, will be the well-informed guide.

Chromatic Pool: Photo by Bruce GourleyHere’s what the schedule looks like:

Monday, August 18

Arrive at the Bozeman, MT airport by 4 pm (earlier if possible). If someone’s flight is delayed, transportation will still be provided.

Western dinner and lodging in Bozeman / Get-acquainted time and overview of plans

Tuesday, August 19

Early breakfast in Bozeman and drive to Yellowstone National Park

Personalized tour by Bruce Gourley

Lodging in the park

Wednesday, August 20

Breakfast buffet at Old Faithful Inn

Second day of touring Yellowstone

Check in and dinner at Parade Rest Guest Ranch

Evening session

Thursday, August 21

All meals, meetings and activities at the ranch with a possible side trip

Friday, August 22

All meals, meetings and activities at the ranch with a possible side trip

Saturday, August 23

Breakfast and depart ranch for Bozeman

(Please make departing flights for noon or later.)


Cost is $1,200 (based on double occupancy) and includes:

Ground transportation from time of airport arrival in Bozeman (Aug. 18) until airport departure from Bozeman (Aug. 23)

Lodging and meals from Monday dinner through Saturday breakfast

Two-day private tour in Yellowstone National Park

The wonderful activities at Parade Rest Guest Ranch near West Yellowstone

Additional information:

Housing at the ranch and Yellowstone Park varies. These are cabins and lodges, not the Ritz. For anyone insisting on a private room throughout the week, please add $250.

Each person is responsible for his or her own travel to and from Bozeman. Reservations should be made as soon as possible.

Much time will be spent in the great outdoors with a variety of optional activities.

To secure a spot, please send a $400 deposit to Baptists Today, P.O. Box 6318, Macon, GA 31208-6318 marked as “NF Montana.” The balance ($800) will be due June 15.

Questions?  Email editor@baptiststoday.org.




Daily RNS News

Most voters favor prayer, minus Jesus, at public meetings


© 2014 Religion News Service

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on the constitutionality of prayer at public meetings. But a new survey finds U.S. voters clearly favor prayer – as long as the public prayer is generic and not specifically Christian.

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind survey asked about attitudes on high profile cases before the court, including Greece v. Galloway. That case addresses whether elected officials can open public meetings with religiously specific prayers, such as praying in Jesus’ name.

A Jew and an atheist brought suit in Greece, N.Y., saying the Christian prayers excluded many citizens and violated the Constitution, which bans government establishment of religion. Even when the town began inviting non-Christians to give invocations, the “establishment” issue remained a question.

“(Greece officials) were trying their best not to offend anyone by making prayers as generic as possible. In this survey we asked if this is an acceptable way to approach the problem. Three in four people said yes,” said Peter Woolley, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey.

Most registered voters (73 percent) said “prayer at public meetings is fine as long as the public officials are not favoring some beliefs over others.” And 23 percent said “public meetings shouldn’t have any prayers at all because prayers by definition suggest one belief or another.”

The key, however, is that this case centers on generic prayer that is “harmless, if not uplifting,” said Woolley. “Americans have become more used to the idea that one denomination is not necessarily privileged over another. Even unbelievers — atheists who would say prayer ‘is not for me’ — approved” of allowing nonspecific prayer.

While support for prayer was similar for every age group and both men and women, the most religiously observant were the most inclined to approve of it.

Among those who attend religious services (aside from funerals or weddings) at least once or twice a month, 86 percent would allow prayer, 11 percent would not.

For those who attend services a few times a year, 73 percent support it but opposition doubles to 26 percent.

But even those who seldom or never go to church backed the prayers at public meetings, with 58 percent approving and 36 percent opposing.

Surveys continually find prayer in general — not specified by denominational distinctions — is hugely popular.

Gallup, Barna Research and Pew Research Center all find that about 8 in 10 Christians (Catholics, Protestants and Mormons) say they pray at least weekly, as do Muslims and Hindus.

But there still remains a vocal minority of people who oppose having officials call on God before calling a public meeting to order.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State often send letters to legislators and public officials relaying citizen complaints and asking them to drop the prayer practices.

The FFRF view is that “government prayer is unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive.”