The Multiplying Church
Mark Reynolds and the Redeemer Fellows Program
Mark Reynolds from Redeemer Presbyterian Church sent along his presentation from the Best Practices Forum at the Exponential Conference (you can download the other presentations here). He tells about the Redeemer Fellows Program, one of the leading church planting internship programs in the country. Download a pdf of the presentation here.
Richard Land on Responsible Religious Freedom
I was on the phone with Richard Land earlier this week and we talked at length about his recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal. Be sure to check out the full article here.
The removal of 462 children from the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) polygamist sect's Yearning for Zion (YFZ) ranch in Eldorado, Texas, by that state's Child Protective Services has raised important questions about separation of church and state and the First Amendment's "free exercise" protections. Americans believe fervently in the "unalienable" right to the "free exercise" of religious faith without interference from government. However, we also have a deep-seated interest in protecting children from abuse.
FLDS members proclaim that their sole desire, according to fldstruth.org, is "the privilege of worshipping God as guaranteed by the Constitution," yet the sect's members argue that the practice of their faith involves polygamy, which is illegal in every state in the Union...
What should Americans make of all this? How do we respect religious freedom while protecting children?...
We should be ever watchful for potential government encroachment on our inviolable First Amendment freedom protections. Relentless citizen vigilance is the best safeguard of our religious rights. But the potential for governmental abuse of religious freedom is just that -- potential. The evidence for sexual abuse of children in this case is substantial. In such circumstances the first concern must be protecting children from abuse -- just as Texas law instructs the legal system to do.
Is there the danger of a slippery slope? Could some government officials attempt to use the Eldorado case as a legal precedent to trample the freedoms of unpopular religious groups? Of course. That is precisely why Americans should monitor carefully the actions of Texas officials, make certain they do not exceed their authority or violate religious freedom guarantees and ultimately prove their case in court...
Like most Americans, I agree that the safety of children must always take priority in government's actions. That does not give government officials a blank check to use children's "welfare" as a subterfuge to justify governmental intrusion or to disrupt any practice it finds vaguely weird.
There is no more treasured language in America's collective heart than these 16 words: "Congress shall make no Law respecting an Establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." As invaluable to our heritage as these words are, they were never intended to exempt people from obeying generally applicable laws, which meet a compelling government interest, such as the ones prohibiting adult males from having sex with underage girls in or out of "spiritual" marriages.
To misconstrue the First Amendment's religious freedoms to grant such exemption would be to desecrate those time-honored words and the sacred freedoms they guarantee.