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CERI launches effort to help Sri Lankan foster parents 4

Children’s Emergency Relief International has launched a new GlobalGiving fundraising campaign to help foster parents and orphaned adolescents in Sri Lanka start or expand a small business. Full Story »

lamb

There is a small church that sits down the road from the Baptist building and has a large sign hanging above the door, “Lost Sheep Welcome.” I pass this church many times as I head with co-workers to our favorite lunch spot, and it stirs up emotions in me, ones based in frustration and sadness every time I see the sign. Full Story »

ALCOHOL | ADDICTION

BUDGET

CHILDREN

CHURCH/STATE

CLERGY ABUSE

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

EDUCATION

ENVIRONMENT

GAMBLING

HUNGER & POVERTY

IMMIGRATION

KEEPING YOUR CHURCH OUT OF COURT NEW

PAYDAY LENDING

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It was quite a party! It was great fun to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the CLC. Thanks to all of you who were there and to those who couldn’t come but joined in spirit. Like all events, there are built in limitations – the venue, the time, the date etc. This made me ponder about all the things that never make the program, but in some way capture the mission, dedication and spirit of the CLC.

Here’s a brief tribute to those things

CLC Interns have walked in the door confused about their gifts and future plans, and left to enroll in seminary, law school or to lead work in churches across the world or begin careers in the halls of influence and power. Letters have come in from these former interns all around the nation and world – grateful for the mentoring and direction of the CLC.

CLC ministry partners in family services and counseling ministries have spoken about their own shortcomings with honesty, humility, acceptance and compassionate care. Through these ministries lives have been restored and countless relationships deepened. When broken relationships have been laid on the table, new beginnings have been the hallmark of redemptive ministry through the CLC.

CLC interfaith ministry has continued outreach to leaders in all faith traditions lending respect and genuine openness to friendship and collegial efforts.  The CLC has joined faith leaders from many traditions to learn about each other and from each other including Bishops and judicatory leaders from all branches of the Christian family tree, Rabbis (both US and abroad), Imams, deacons and inspirational partners.

CLC writing teams of pastors and laity have tackled the most sensitive of issues with deliberative and courageous dedication and cooperatively edited their reports to the convention with systematic care – capital punishment, AIDS,  human trafficking, clergy sexual misconduct, clergy ethics, racial tensions, issues of Biblical justice and equity.

CLC has supported women in ministry and sought to encourage the use of gifts by many daughters of Baptist churches across our state and the world. Women have exercised their gifts as commissioners, directors, pastoral supporters and expert advisors to the work of the CLC.

CLC consultants and partners have given above and beyond the parameters of contracts and requests with generous gifts of talent and devotion: MLB web design, Anderson Consulting, Baptist University of the Americas, Baptist Standard, Trade as One, Buckner, Maston Foundation, South Texas Children Ministry, Baptist Child and Family Services, Logsdon Seminary, Truett Seminary, Dan McGee Associates, Baptist World Alliance, local Baptist Associations , Baylor University School of Social Work, ethics professors and leaders from Wayland, Baylor, Hardin Simmons, Howard Payne, Dallas Baptist University.

What mathematician could calculate the impact of dedicated Christian leaders? The CLC has been a home and place of service for many of the current and former BGCT leaders. For 60 years, the CLC has been the beneficiary of the talent and commitment of BGCT officers, Executive Directors, and outstanding cadre of CLCommissioners, pastors, friends and supporters.

When it comes to the program, there is no word count for excellence. The future is bright and beckoning for the CLC.  I expect to see you there.

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It seems that too often churches tend to operate under the guiding principles of “we’ve always done it that way” and, “we’ve never done it that way before.” While holding fast to certain traditions is a virtue in the church, basic procedures and modes of operation have to adapt to changing times. For the benefit of the church and its members, common sense safeguards must be in place to reduce liability, promote a safe environment and insure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Such safeguards are not only necessary to prevent a financial loss, but are also crucial for compelling moral reasons. No church wants be sued by a disgruntled former employee, uncover child abuse, or be the site of an accident. Church members deserve the reassurance that their leaders are good stewards of their tithe and trust.

Several recent news reports testify as to how important and damaging legal issues can be for a church including clergy sexual misconduct (Mega-church subject of sexual harassment suit),  hiring practices, and liability issues.

The CLC has a resource that will help church staff and laity to understand what policies need to be in place and what practices should be followed to protect their church.

Keeping Your Church OUT of Court is a legal guidance manual for churches that focuses on prevention. The resource offers recommendations and suggestions on a wide variety of common legal issues affecting churches such as IRS compliance and employment law. It also includes 85 pages of practical guides, including church policy checklists, sample forms, and document templates. Newer churches will find KYCOOC particularly helpful in insuring that basic church structure and policies provide the best possible legal standing and protection. For well established churches, KYCOOC can serve as a reference for common legal questions that arise. After using this resource, churches will be educated and equipped to proactively confront many common, challenging legal issues.

The Christian Life Commission, in partnership with the law firm of Bourland, Wall & Wenzel, P.C. of Ft. Worth, first published Keeping Your Church OUT of Court in 1995 and released an updated third version in 2008. The third edition is available in computer disc form or in a printed binder by calling the CLC.  In addition to providing this resource, the CLC and Bourland, Wall and Wenzel, P.C., are available to conduct seminars or workshops to provide an overview of the material and answer any questions congregations may have.

Our society is becoming more and more litigious and it seems people are more likely to run to the courthouse or wield the threat of a lawsuit as a weapon. While we would like to think that churches are immune from such conflict, we know that’s just not the case. By practicing sound operating procedures and taking common-sense precautions, churches can avoid potentially crippling lawsuits. Get a copy of Keeping Your Church OUT of Court and take the opportunity to institute positive changes in your church operation.

To order a copy of Keeping Your Church OUT of Court, 3rd Edition please call the Christian Life Commission at 214-828-5190.

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Just this week an important study was published from SAMHSA that shows that the use of illicit drugs among Americans increased between 2008 and 2009. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) (pdf) shows that the overall rate of current illicit drug use in the United States rose from 8.0 percent of the population age 12 and older in 2008 to 8.7 percent in 2009. This rise in overall drug use was driven in large part by increases in marijuana use.

The annual NSDUH survey, released by SAMHSA at the kickoff of the 21st annual National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, also shows that the nonmedical use of prescription drugs rose from 2.5 percent of the population in 2008 to 2.8 percent in 2009. Additionally, the estimated number of past-month Ecstasy users rose from 555,000 in 2008 to 760,000 in 2009, and the number of methamphetamine users rose from 314,000 to 502,000 during that period.

In addition, research shows that efforts must be reinforced and supported by the messages kids get from their parents. Past-month marijuana use was much less prevalent among youth who perceived strong parental disapproval for trying marijuana than among those who did not—4.8 percent versus 31.3 percent, respectively.

The church can make a difference by sending a clear message to young people and providing parents with the tools to effectively discuss these issues with their kids.

Check out the Addiction Ministry Education Network page on Facebook.
Become a fan and you will receive updates about events and links to important news articles.

CLC Substance Abuse Ministry Podcasts
Pathways to Prevention Website

www.hazelden.org

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CLC Sets 82nd Session Legislative Priorities

The Commissioners of the CLC have reviewed and approved the following public policy priorities for the 82nd session of the Texas Legislature. These priorities, in a number of different issue areas, will serve as a guide for the work of the CLC public policy staff.

This session, Texas faces the prospect of a large budget deficit estimated to be a minimum of $18 billion. The CLC is concerned with both where and how the state seeks to generate revenue and where and how the state will cut spending.  We encourage the state to seek equitable means of revenue generation that will grow with demand and not burden those who can least afford it. In addition, we ask that the state refrain from drastic cuts to state services that aid our most vulnerable citizens.

This list of issues and priorities is by no means exhaustive or fully inclusive of all the advocacy work the CLC will do. Each legislative session is unique and poses its own challenges and opportunities for a positive impact at the capitol and in the state. Many bills will be filed in each of our issue areas. The CLC will be monitoring their progress and taking appropriate action in support and opposition as the session develops. In addition, the staff will be monitoring bills pertaining to religious liberty, family life and health and long term care.

Throughout the session the CLC will be sending regular updates on the status of a variety of issues and will periodically send more time-sensitive alerts to let people know when their voice can have the greatest impact with lawmakers.

Gambling Expansion

  • Oppose the introduction and expansion of predatory gambling enterprises including casinos in order to fund state revenue
  • Maintain and protect our family-friendly tourism industry and other family-friendly businesses in Texas
  • Support enhanced regulation, prosecution and penalties for 8-liner machine operators
  • Oppose electronic bingo machines, VLTs, the legalization of poker tournaments, and continued attempts to expand Texas Lottery games in ways not contemplated by voters when approved in 1992

Predatory Lending

  • Support legislation that will close the loophole in Texas law allowing payday and auto title lenders in Texas to charge borrowers unlimited rates and fees on small loans

Hunger, Nutrition and Poverty

  • Improve access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps) to help Texas families afford a nutritious diet
  • Increase participation in the Summer Food Service Program so that more children in Texas will continue to receive nutritious meals when school is out
  • Promote policy solutions that help increase nutrition and reduce obesity
  • Create a local, sustainable, and accessible food system for all Texans

Environment

  • Support renewable energy in Texas as one source for rising energy needs including increasing the amount of clean energy available by raising the Renewable Portfolio Standard
  • Support programs that facilitate the recycling of electronic waste including televisions.
  • Create and promote incentive programs for churches and other nonprofit organizations that make investments in solar energy  and energy efficiency measures more affordable

Human Trafficking and Immigration

  • Support efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform on the national level
  • Support border security and law enforcement policies consistent with humanitarian values
  • Support efforts to protect and care for victims of human trafficking
  • Support law enforcement to pursue those who trade in and profit from human trafficking.

Alcohol and Addiction

  • Promote regulatory programs targeted at sellers, parents and adults, including keg registration
  • Support efforts to pass smoke free ordinances in public locations including the workplace.
  • Support raising the excise tax on beer and alcohol in order to raise revenue and reduce under-age drinking

Criminal Justice

  • Adopt safeguards to detect and protect innocence throughout the Texas criminal justice proceedings
  • Advocate for continued improvements in the juvenile justice system including measures that promote rehabilitation and community-based treatment
  • Support special drug treatment prisons, substance-abuse treatment centers, treatment diversion programs, and halfway houses for minor offenders
  • Support the development and expansion of re-entry programs including access to basic safety-net services for those who have completed their sentence.

Education

  • Promote the expansion of adult literacy and learning through workforce development, postsecondary access and expansion of ESL
  • Support teacher training and family incentives to expand dropout prevention and drop out recovery programs
  • Support parental choice within public school systems, standards of excellence and accountability for Texas charter schools and oppose providing public money for private sectarian use including vouchers

Texas Faith For Fair Lending

The Christian Life Commission, alongside Texas Impact and the Texas Catholic Conference, has established a faith-based coalition to fight predatory lending practices in Texas. The coalition is unique in that it is a grassroots effort by people of faith to change these horrible practices in our state.

Currently, almost all payday and auto title lenders operate in a loophole in state law that sets no limits on the rates and fees they can charge Texans on small dollar, short term loans. It is common for the rates and fees charged to be the equivalent of 500% APR.  These high cost loans are hurting Texas families. They are immoral, unethical and in direct contradiction of the religious values that most Texans hold.

Individuals, congregations, and other groups of faithful Texans are joining together as Texas Faith for Fair Lending to urge the State Legislature to close this loophole. We demand these lenders operate within the Texas Finance Code and stop taking advantage of our neighbors.

For more information, please visit the Texas Faith for Fair Lending website at http://www.texasfaithforfairlending.org.

To sign the petition supporting fair lending laws in Texas, please visit the Take Action portion of the website: http://www.texasfaithforfairlending.org/Take_Action_.html

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