A pastor’s perspective on Alabama Attorney General’s ‘Faith Forum’ at Briarwood


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NEW WHITE HOUSE FAITH AND OPPORTUNITY INITIATIVE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you to an article out of World Magazine, headline “Donald Trump Announces New White House Faith Initiative.” The president marked the National Day of Prayer last Thursday with a Rose Garden ceremony announcing the creation of a new White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.

“The office will focus on protecting religious freedom, guaranteeing the faith-based and community organizers that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the federal government,” the president said. The White House later will appoint a special advisor who will lead the office and make recommendations to the administration.

IS THIS A NEW ERA?

Harry, indeed, we’ve gone through an era where it seems there’s been a real hostility from the federal government toward evangelical Christianity. While we don’t know the final outcome of creating this new office at the White House, nonetheless, it looks like it is a positive sign.

Harry, I also know that Briarwood has recently been involved in a faith forum and you had both national and state officials in attendance talking about many of the issues that affect our nation and how the church might be involved in those issues.

DR. REEDER: Coming out of the Reformation was a glorious, wonderful insight that the three spheres — church, state and family — are interdependent but should never be hierarchal and one should not use the other, although all three affect each other. You don’t use the power of the state to enforce the church and the church does not co-op the power of the state for itself.

That was understood and that’s been developed and the fruition of it was this marvelous American experiment which says here are the three spheres — church, state and family — and individuals operate in those three spheres and the state’s job is to protect the free exercise of religion and then, in the free exercise of religion, you speak to the matters of the state in order to maintain and mature those basic principles of freedom and law.

The founding fathers said, “We don’t want a national church, but we want the church to speak to the nation.” Evangelicals, while they have personal and moral concerns in the present administration, on the other hand, they see some wonderful advancement in policy and appointments.

IT’S WISE TO ALLOW CHRISTIANS TO CONTRIBUTE TO GOVERNMENT AND LIVE OUT THEIR FAITH

Some very thoughtful and effective believers that find themselves in these positions by appointment in this administration and then some initiatives like the one that you’ve mentioned in which Christianity, in general, and evangelicals, in particular, are invited into the public square because the administration is declaring: We need your input in some of these matters and we want to support you in that.

And we actually had that experience on a local level. We were asked by the state attorney general in Alabama, Steve Marshall, he wanted to host about five forums reaching out to “people of faith” and reaching out to the churches on some of the issues facing the nation, in general, and the state, in particular. Some of those would be security and safety and another one would be the opioid epidemic. We hosted it.

Tom, it was an amazing time — I’m still amazed by it. And I don’t know whether simply to tip my hat to Washington, or Montgomery or to both but, most of all, I tip my hat, of course, to my Savior and His kind providence that lets events like this happen.

GREAT FOCUS ON HOW CHURCHES CAN HELP IN OPIOID EPIDEMIC

Our attorney general, Steve Marshall was very clear and he said, “We need the churches involvement in this opioid epidemic. You have no idea the depth of the problem that we’re facing in Alabama and even more in some states.” And he said, “Now, here’s what you can do for us,” and then when he finishes, he said, “Most of all is your work of evangelism.”

And then, from Washington, this very articulate and insightful lady began to give us the challenges and, three different times, she said this, “Now, look, our programs can help, our programs can retard the opioid epidemic, our programs can assist in all of those things but we can’t solve it.” And she just said, three different times, “It takes the Gospel of Jesus Christ to convert someone.”

And then they had a guy come in who gave a testimony. I’ll tell you, it took a long time to get through his testimony because there was a deep, dark path. This opioid epidemic is unbelievable in its devastation and how it’s accessed so quickly through prescription drugs. And then he gave this and how he got into it, and how easy it was to go deeper and deeper, and the destruction in his life, his marriage, his family, his children, his job, everything. And then God, by His grace, brought someone with the Gospel and another person into his life brought him to saving faith in Christ and now his life has been rebuilt.

It was a wonderful testimony and then, basically, she says, “See what I mean? Now, we were doing many things to help him, but that’s what it takes. We need you.” Now, she not only was right, but to hear someone from Washington saying that to us — articulate, insightful.

PREPARE FOR EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL THREATS TO CHURCHES

Then the expert that comes in about security in churches and he says, “Now, listen, there’s an external threat that people can come in with a gun,” and then he said, “Now here’s how you can set up your church.” And then he said very insightfully, “But your greatest threat is not from the outside.”

Now, as you know, Tom, I’ve had death threats — I understand all of that. He said: You know your greatest threat’s not from the outside; it’s from the inside. Let me tell you where it is. Churches are volunteer societies. You’ve got volunteers in your youth ministry, your children’s ministry and the nursery ministry and your greatest concern is to set up a proper process that doesn’t inhibit volunteers but does rightly screen them.

We work on the basis of volunteers. That can be a point of entry for someone who wants to manipulate the process in terms of predatorial behavior.

SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT BE IN OUR CHURCHES?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Is there anything that the church ought to be leery of with the federal government coming into the church? For example, I know a lot of people say, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get prayer back into schools?” The problem is who’s going to be leading the prayers?

HARRY REEDER: Here’s what you need to understand: You don’t want the government to fund religion because, once they fund it, they’ll control it, but you don’t want them to prohibit religion. And, if there are public funds that are accessible, then it’s fine to make those accessible but you’ve got to realize that it’s accessible to you, then they’re accessible for the Jewish synagogue and they’re accessible for the Islamic temple so you’ve got to understand that the government cannot pick winners and losers.

However, for me, that’s not a problem. I love to get in the game and compete. Let’s see what the Gospel does for people who are in addictive behaviors and let’s see what the man-made religions do for those in addictive behaviors. I’m all for that. Just give us access to the prison, give us access to the schools.

Don’t mandate people to have to participate in a “religious initiative,” but open the door for it and let’s see what that does in those institutions. We don’t want formal funding, but if there are facilities and things that are available, let’s get in and let’s all compete in the matters of life — just keep the public square open. And that’s what the government is supposed to do.

IT’S PROGRESS THAT THE GOVERNMENT REALIZES FAITH MATTERS AND CAN CHANGE SOCIETY

And I’m thankful for a government that understands this is not going to be solved by prisons and sentences and regulations. We need prisons, we need sentences, we need regulation — we need all of those things, but what it’s going to be solved is with what gets to the heart and these people had enough sense to say the Gospel gets to the heart. It doesn’t cosmetically change things through manipulative therapies; it is a heart change and that means a life change. When the heart changes, then lives change. When the heart changes and lives change, then communities change.

We don’t see changes unless people’s hearts get changed and the only thing we see changing that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What a glorious time it was and I’m grateful we could do that.

And, again, I want to say to all of our listeners that any time that we can be of help by sharing our screening process and evaluation tools, we are more than happy to do that because we do need to understand the statistical likelihood of somebody walking in with a gun — not that that doesn’t need to be a concern — but that’s very small compared to people that would come into churches looking for volunteers and use that as an access for predatorial behavior. And any way that we can help our brothers and sisters, we would love to do that.

COMING UP FRIDAY: A CONTROVERSIAL BIRTHDAY

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, on Friday’s edition of Today in Perspective, we’re going to recognize a birthday — the 200th birthday of an individual that, when his name comes up, there are a lot of different responses.

DR. REEDER: There were statues to this man that were torn down in the 1980s and now we have an 18-foot statue that was financed and erected in Germany to him last Saturday so let’s take a look at that individual and that celebration from a Christian world and life view. And let’s let our folks just think about now who are we talking about? We’ll tell you tomorrow.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

51 mins ago

Jalen Hurts gets one more shot at LSU — 3 playoff takeaways

The matchups for the college football playoff are set, and Jalen Hurts is back in Atlanta to face No. 1 LSU.

Hurts’ No. 4 Sooners are set to take on the Bayou Tigers in the Peach Bowl on December 28 in the first round of the playoffs. No. 2 Ohio State takes on No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

Here are three takeaways from the seedings:

1. There will be points scored in Atlanta. LSU has the No. 1 ranked offense in the country. The No. 2 ranked offense? Oklahoma. LSU and Oklahoma have the No. 32 and No. 24 ranked defenses, respectively. Hurts is an explosive quarterback with playoff experience in a system which has a history of putting up big numbers in big games. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is the likely Heisman Trophy winner. Expect this game to be a classic Big 12-style game flying up and down the field.

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2. The balance in Ohio State’s offense will expose Clemson’s losses on defense for the first time this season. With one of the worst schedules for a playoff team in recent memory, no one really knows how good Clemson is. The soft schedule has allowed Clemson’s defense to mask some of its losses on defense. On the defensive line alone, five players are now in the NFL who were with Dabo Swinney’s Tigers last season. That defense has not come close to getting stressed like it will in Arizona by Ohio State.

3. Prediction: LSU and Ohio State face off for the championship. LSU has gotten healthy in the secondary at just the right time. Three more weeks in between games should help and will be key against a dynamic Oklahoma offense. Ohio State has been the consensus most complete team in the country and one has to wonder how Clemson will handle seeing a good team for the first time all year. Throughout the entire year, LSU and Ohio State have looked like the best two teams in the country. Why would that change now?

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 hour ago

Gaston APSO brightens Childersburg shop window with holiday cheer

The Grinch can’t steal Christmas in downtown Childersburg.

To help catch shoppers’ interest, members of the Gaston Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) spruced up an empty shop window with trees, lighting and bright pops of holiday color. Indeed, the Gaston Grinch transformed a forlorn window into a joyful holiday scene.

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Karen White, a Plant E.C. Gaston scheduler, said the decorating project helped propel members into the Christmas spirit. Trish Wesson, the wife of Childersburg Mayor Ken Wesson, spurred the plan to decorate empty shops in the downtown area. With these efforts, merchants and many townspeople in Childersburg – the nation’s oldest continually occupied city, dating to 1540 – hope to attract more shoppers this holiday season.

Gaston APSO members were among 12 teams that spent several hours decorating. Another building resembles Santa’s workshop.

White, Barbara McGinnis, Kamber Nwransky and Sarah Hansen created the Grinch theme with paint, Christmas trees and ornaments. Gaston Maintenance Team Leaders Jason Bailey and Jason Blackerby safely strung and wired lights to illuminate the scene from dawn to dusk. Gaston APSO volunteers gave 18 hours to the mini-revitalization project.

“There are lots of empty storefronts, and these decorations helped revitalize our little town,” White said. “We pulled what we had in our closets and sheds. Our window looks great.”

White thinks that it would be helpful to keep displays in the town’s empty shops year-round.

“It brought joy to people in Childersburg, and we had so much fun doing it,” White said. “It makes you feel good when you go through town and see all of the windows brightened up.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

Stars, including Alabama luminaries, come out for ‘Rockers on Broadway’

As Dolly Fox watched “Rockers on Broadway,” a New York fundraiser she produced, unfold a couple of weeks ago, she realized it was a full-circle moment for her.

Her mother, Yolande Betbeze Fox, had won the talent preliminary and the title crown at both the Miss Alabama and Miss America pageants, and Dolly Fox herself had gotten some early performing experience in musicals at Town and Gown’s Summerfest in Birmingham. Now, former Miss Alabama Callie Walker was on stage at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge, singing a duet with her sister, Scarlett, who appeared in Broadway’s “Carousel.”

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“This is all about mentoring kids in the arts,” Dolly says about “Rockers on Broadway.” “Mom would have never gotten where she ended up without training with the most wonderful mentors and teachers along the way. Now that I’m an only child, I feel like it’s important to use some of my mother’s money to give back to other young, talented women.”

At the top of that list is establishing a new Miss Alabama scholarship in memory of her mother, who died in 2016, and “Rockers on Broadway.”

In its 26th year, “Rockers on Broadway” was founded by Donnie Kehr, who starred on Broadway in “The Who’s Tommy.” The idea came from the show’s director, Des McAnuff, and Pete Townshend of The Who. The idea was to give the rock opera’s performers – mostly Broadway performers — experience performing in rock clubs.

That has continued year after year, presented by the PATH Fund (Performing Artists That Help) and benefiting several charities.

This year’s event honored Tony Award-winner LaChanze and Grammy-winning producer Russ Titelman and featured performances from Broadway luminaries and up-and-coming artists such as the Walker sisters.

“This event went so well,” says Fox, who has been a member of the PATH board for four years. “Callie and Scarlett were amazing. They were so rehearsed and professional. They really knew their stuff.”

Callie and Scarlett Walker sang “Enough is Enough” (a hit for Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer).  Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, was among the performers, and her mother was in the audience.

“It was such an awesome evening,” Scarlett Walker says. “Having the opportunity to perform alongside the most amazing vocalists and musicians in the business was so magical.”

Her sister agreed.

“It honestly was one of the most exhilarating and fun performances I have ever been a part of,” Callie Walker says.

Dolly, whose father was Matthew Fox, president of Universal Pictures, had a famous champion herself in Andy Warhol, the pop artist who was a friend and a boss when she was an editor for his Interview magazine.

“Andy was such a mentor to me,” she says. “He came to everything I did, no matter how bad it was. I had such great mentors, and the parallel to Andy is actually quite relevant. He did that for me, and I’m trying to use any clout I have to do that for others.”

And her mother would be with her every step of the way, says Fox.

“We’re finding talent and mentoring it and giving it a leg up,” she says. “She would absolutely love this.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Roby: Celebrating 200 years of Alabama

For many, December 14 will be just another day to cross off the calendar; it’s another day closer to the holidays and the new year. For Alabamians, it marks one of the greatest celebrations to date in the history of our state. On December 14, 1819, Alabama was incorporated into the Union as the nation’s 22nd state. From North Alabama all the way down to the Wiregrass, Alabamians join together to commemorate the 200th anniversary of statehood to honor the beloved place we call home.

There are many incredible stories to be told about the historical impact made by our fellow Alabamians. The state has deep roots in our nation’s history.

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Many Alabama natives, some temporary and some permanent, were involved in critical turning points in American history. Alabama emerged as the center of the American Civil Rights Movement half a century ago and was home to pivotal events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Ms. Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist and Montgomery native, is widely known as the “first lady of civil rights.” Montgomery leaders recently unveiled a statue in downtown Montgomery recognizing Rosa Parks for her bravery and to serve as a reminder for future generations to continue down a path of righteousness. Ms. Parks’ actions changed the course of history, and her legacy will be remembered forever. Atlanta native Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., served as a pastor at Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and led the fight for equal rights. Parks and Dr. King represent faces of courage, strength, and equality for all. History changed right on our very own Alabama soil.

Not only is our state widely known for central moments in history, but we are also globally recognized for our presence in industries that are vital components to the success of our country. The agriculture industry is the state’s largest industry and is the largest employer in the Second Congressional District. Our state is home to thousands of acres of fertile farmland. Approximately half of the peanuts grown in the United States are cultivated within a 100-mile radius of the city of Dothan, also known as the “Peanut Capital of the World.”

Additionally, Alabama plays an integral role in the aerospace and defense industries with these two industries contributing to over 60,000 jobs in the state. North Alabama is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal, and the Anniston Army Depot, while Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and Fort Rucker are located across the southern region of the state.

These are just a few examples of the incredible, rich history that our state has to offer, and I wish I could include them all. One initiative that does honor each of these milestones is ALABAMA 200 which was designed to celebrate the people, places, and history of the state over a three-year time span. Beginning in 2017 and culminating with the state’s 200th birthday in 2019, ALABAMA 200 curated events and activities across all 67 counties to engage with Alabamians far and wide. Teachers, students, organizations and local leaders are among those included in these exciting events bringing local community residents and even visitors together. On Saturday, December 14, the state will participate in a finale commemoration in the Capital City. It will be the largest birthday celebration the people of Alabama have seen, and it is a unique and special opportunity to gather and honor the history and people that make the state of Alabama great. I am extremely excited to join the people of Alabama to celebrate our state’s history.

If you are able, I highly encourage you and your family to attend the events of the ALABAMA 200 finale celebration. There is no better way to pay tribute to the state we each hold so close to our hearts than by gathering in the Capital City to praise our great state.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

7 hours ago

Alabama Power Foundation marks 30 years of giving

It’s hard to imagine a time when the Alabama Power Foundation didn’t exist, especially for the dozens of organizations throughout the state that have advanced with its support.

For three decades, the foundation has looked for ways to elevate Alabama and boost communities through charitable giving, giving back more than $230 million to the communities that Alabama Power serves.

“Since our founding 30 years ago, we have prided ourselves in being a catalyst for change and for service to the state of Alabama,” said Myla Calhoun, Alabama Power Foundation president and vice president of Charitable Giving at Alabama Power.

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Alabama Power Foundation marks 30 years of giving from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Organizations that focus on education, the environment, health and human service, civic and community, arts and culture and other areas have benefited.

“We really enable our partner agencies to do what they do best,” Calhoun said. “So, when we talk about our success, really it’s their success that we’re proud of.”

Success like that the Literacy Council of Central Alabama has enjoyed.

“Ever since (our founding), Alabama Power Foundation has been a really strong supporter,” said Katrina Watson, president and executive director of the Literacy Council of Central Alabama. “We couldn’t be where we are without the Alabama Power Foundation’s long-standing support.”

Mark Dixon, president of A+ Education Partnership, said the Alabama Power Foundation doesn’t just give money but takes an active role in ensuring programs are successful.

“Alabama Power Foundation and Alabama Power Company have been a big supporter of ours since day one and over the years provided a lot of funding that really allows us to grow our mission, which is to create great schools for every child,” Dixon said. “We do two programs in schools – the Alabama Best Practices Center and A+ College Ready – and part of that is expanding great training for teachers and advanced placement programs for students. Alabama Power helped us fund those as a partner from the very beginning.”

Calhoun said the foundation’s mission fits in with the history of Alabama Power, with the ultimate goal of elevating the state.

“We believe and it is our hope that what we do creates a platform that makes economic development and community development and, really, the health and vitality of the state a bit easier,” she said. “And that’s what gets us going every day and that’s what makes us think strategically about the work that we do. And that’s what helps us to empower the agencies who day in and day out are doing the hard work in the communities where we serve.”

Grant recipients talk about the importance of Alabama Power Foundation from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)