Today's BP Ledger includes items from:
Compass News Direct
Kentucky Baptist Communications
Drive to Release Rights Attorney in China Pushes Forward;
Gao Zhisheng's brother visits him in prison.
By Edward Ross/Compass Direct News
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Compass Direct News)--Confirmation last week of China's assertion in December that human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng is alive and serving out a prison sentence is key as efforts continue for his release, a human rights attorney said.
Gao, a Christian whose advocacy for religious minorities led to his conviction in 2006 for "subversion," is serving a previously suspended sentence of three years in Shaya County Prison in Xinjiang region in western China. The government had informed Gao's brother on Dec. 29 that he was detained at the remote Shaya prison, according to an urgent petition by Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Freedom Now to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, but officials had refused the family's request to visit the prisoner.
Chinese officials granted permission for Gao's brother, Gao Zhiyi, to visit the rights attorney on Saturday (March 24), The Associated Press reported this week.
Jared Genser, president of Freedom Now, told Compass that confirmation of Gao's imprisonment was important, as "it was not a foregone conclusion that he was alive, given the PRC's record for reporting on the whereabouts and health" of detainees.
"The United States has worked publicly and privately for Gao's release, but we're looking for the White House, specifically the president and vice president, to get involved, and so far this has not happened," Genser said. "We're pushing hard, but so far we're not getting a positive response."
U.S. Department of State officials and members of Congress have voiced support for Gao's release or acted on his behalf, and Genser said he is hoping for Congress to pass a (non-binding) resolution regarding the need to free him following the violation of his rights.
The half-hour visit by Gao's brother, who reportedly said that Gao appeared pale but in relatively good health, came after last month's visit to the White House by Vice President Xi Jinping, expected to take control of the Communist Party and thus become China's next leader. At that time, the White House said Xi had discussed "individual cases" of human rights violations in China with President Obama, though particulars were not revealed.
The day after the Feb. 14 visit, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reportedly said Obama raised "the importance of human rights and America's commitment to universal values directly to Vice President Xi."
At a State Department lunch for Vice President Xi on Feb. 14, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden reportedly voiced concern that "conditions in China have deteriorated and about the plight of several very prominent individuals." The Chinese vice president's response was not revealed.
Pressures to release Gao came as China's People's National Congress legalized secret detentions for up to six months on March 14.
Through a petition filed with the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention filed on Jan. 25, Freedom Now is urging foreign governments and U.N. groups to pressure China to release Gao and allow him to be reunited with this wife and two daughters, who fled to the United States in 2009.
After his sentencing in December 2006, Gao remained "in nearly total isolation, surrounded by plainclothes security forces and forbidden to leave his home, use his telephone or computer or otherwise communicate with the outside world," according to the petition. After Gao wrote an open letter to the U.S. Congress about human rights abuses in China, authorities "disappeared" him on Sept. 21, 2007, torturing him for more than 50 days. Gao later revealed that his captors shocked his genitals with an electric baton and piercing them with toothpicks.
"As with the torture experienced during his pretrial detention, the purpose of this mistreatment was to extract a false confession," the Freedom Now petition notes.
State-sponsored thugs again abducted Gao on Feb. 4, 2009. He reappeared on March 28, 2010, only to disappear again on April 20 of that year after security agents instructed him to return to Beijing from western China. During this short period of freedom, he described how police had stripped him and pummeled him "with handguns in holsters," taking turns beating him for two days and nights, according to the petition.
After more than 20 months without information regarding Gao's location or condition, China acknowledged on Dec. 16, 2011, that it would be taking him to prison to serve the three-year sentence imposed on Dec. 22, 2006 - withdrawing the five-year probation about to expire.
Mt. Washington Church Again Calls Compton to Pulpit
By Dannah Prather
MT. WASHINGTON, Ky. (Kentucky Baptist Communications)--Billy Compton, executive associate for Cooperative Program and resources for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, once again has been called to pastor First Baptist Church of Mt. Washington.
Members of the Bullitt County congregation made the call official at all three worship services April 1.
Compton, who led the church from 1992 to 1996, will return to the pulpit on June 3.
First Baptist Church has been without a senior pastor since last July when Paul Chitwood began serving as executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Compton had been serving as interim pastor when he was asked to consider taking on the role of senior pastor a second time.
Compton's most recent season of service on the KBC Mission Board staff began January 2008, when he took on the role of stewardship education and Cooperative Program promotion. He also was on staff 1989 until 1992 as associate director of the evangelism office.
Compton described his return to First Baptist Church as "a privilege."
First Baptist Church "has continued to grow along with the community, providing tremendous opportunities to build on the present strengths of the congregation and reach even more for Christ," Compton said.
"The church has purchased property for relocation to provide expanded ministry to the area," he added.
Describing Compton as "a pastor through and through," Chitwood said Compton "is one of the most kind and positive men I have ever met. Michelle and I rejoice that the people we served and love in Mt. Washington will have a great pastor to lead them."
Speaking as a member of the KBC staff or as a pastor, Compton said the Cooperative Program is valuable and worthy of support from Kentucky Baptists.
CP "is an effective and efficient means of making the Great Commission a reality," he said. "It allows any size church to have a local, regional and global impact."
Chitwood said he is confident that Compton's "track record of strong CP support" will continue at First Baptist Church.
At this time, there are no plans to fill Compton's current position at the KBC. Chitwood will release details of a major restructuring of the mission board staff in May.
"Going forward, every member of our staff will be designated a CP promoter and I accept the chief responsibility," Chitwood said.
A self-described "product of Kentucky Baptist life," Compton is a graduate and former trustee of Campbellsville University, and a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He also graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
Compton served as president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention in 1994-95.
Dannah Prather is marketing & media relations associate for the Kentucky Baptist Convention
Liberty University Student Conducts Training in Disaster Relief After Kentucky Tornadoes
LYNCHBURG, Va. (PRWeb)--Over spring break, Andrew Cheatham, a master's student at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary (LBTS), was asked to train students in Kentucky for disaster relief after tornadoes left heavy damage.
Cheatham oversees Liberty's CampusSERVE, a group that meets every Saturday at Liberty University to perform service projects. One of the group's most recent projects was helping a local family clean their home. The project was so extensive that it gained local media attention.
Cheatham was also among a group of more than 300 LBTS and undergraduate students who went to New York in September with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Disaster Relief group, helping communities recover after a series of massive floods. They performed "muck outs," where they went into houses and cleaned out toxic mud, tore out walls and cleaned up in some very hazardous situations, and as a result they gained opportunities to share the gospel with many of the homeowners, who were extremely grateful for their work.
Cheatham described the experience as "overwhelming," when he saw not only the level of destruction that was caused by the floods, but also the level of desperation from the residents.
It was the first time Disaster Relief had called on a group of college students to help. The organization is the third largest disaster relief effort, next to the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.
The Liberty students' work did not go unnoticed as the group called Liberty again in February to ask for two student volunteers who could help train other college students in cleanup efforts in the aftermath of tornadoes that ripped through Kentucky earlier this year.
"Andrew was the first person I thought about," said Dr. David Wheeler, director of Liberty's Center for Ministry Training, upon receiving the call for help.
Wheeler described Cheatham as an "amazing young man" who is "willing to do whatever it takes to see people get saved."
Cheatham joined fellow student Reuben John, who had also done relief work in New York, and the two spent their spring break training students from Morehead State University, in Morehead Ky.
Cheatham described receiving the call as "extremely humbling" and considered it a high honor to work on the project.
They worked in West Liberty, a town that, according to Cheatham, was "wiped out completely." When he and the students arrived it took their breath away to see how devastated the town was, he said.
Cheatham and John worked with an average of 100 students a day, the majority of which came through the Baptist student ministry at the Morehead State campus, about 2.5 hours from Louisville.
Cheatham was also the first person Wheeler hired when he became the director for the center, asking him to head up not only CampusSERVE, but also the LBTS Block Party ministry, and to help with other public outreach opportunities at the university.
According to Lew Weider, director for the Center for Christian/Community Service, Liberty students contributed almost 300,000 hours of service in Lynchburg and surrounding communities in 2011.
Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, Va., is the world's largest Christian university. More than 12,500 students attend classes on its 6,500-acre residential campus and more than 70,000 study in its thriving online education program.
Campbellsville University honors the late Dr. Bill Bennett
By Joan C. McKinney
CAMPBELLSVILLE, KY (Campbellsville University)--Dr. William E. "Bill" Bennett, the late professor of political science at Campbellsville University from 1970 to 2006, was honored posthumously recently at the Kentucky Political Science Association (KPSA) 51st annual meeting at CU.
Bennett, who died in 2006 while still a professor at CU, was awarded the Distinguished Political Scientist Award during the banquet ending the conference. Bennett was a life-long member of KPSA.
John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president, who served as 2011-12 president of KPSA, made the presentation to his widow, Carolyn Bennett; son, Bryan Bennett, and grandson, Will Bennett. He has another son, Aaron.
Chowning said those who knew Bennett are "better for it." He said the award is given from time to time to a "political scientist whose contributions to the discipline and profession are regarded as outstanding and worthy of notice."
Dr. Damon Eubank, chair of the Division of Social Science at CU and professor of history, was both a student of Bennett's and a colleague when Eubank came to CU to teach.
Eubank said, "He could engage students, and he brought passion to teaching. He was an idealist who believed we could change the world through politics."
Bennett was described as a "teacher and lover of learning." He was also described as: "skilled," "gifted," "loved by students," "eager to teach and have his students learn," "great personal friend," "dedicated and talented teacher," "always going the extra mile," "loyal and committed" and "competitive."
Dr. Bennett taught around 6,000 students during his 36 years in the political science area at CU. He was called the true "Christian professor" and was awarded the Campbellsville University Distinguished Professor in 1996.
In addition to teaching, Bennett also served as cross-country coach at CU.
Bennett graduated from CU in 1968 with a bachelor of arts degree in history. He received his master of arts in political science in 1971 from Western Kentucky University and his Ph.D. in 1982 from the University of Southern Mississippi.
He was a member of Little Vine Primitive Baptist Church and was a veteran of the Vietnam War.
He served on the Taylor County School Board, president of the Taylor County Academic Boosters and was a public lecturer with the Kentucky Endowment for the Humanities.
He belonged to several professional organizations including the Kentucky, Southern and National Political Science Associations, the National Association of Social Science Educators and Pi Gamma Mu, the Social Sciences Honor Society.
Bennett was involved in local and state politics, he liked to write non-fiction and grew fruit in his spare time.
"You are in college to learn," Bennett once said. "You are not here to be taught. There is a crucial difference. To be taught you only have to sit still. To learn you must take an active role in your education.
"To see a student beam with delight when he or she discovers a new ideal is what it is all about."
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 3,500 students offering 63 undergraduate options, 17 master's degrees, five postgraduate areas and eight pre-professional programs. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.
Joan C. McKinney is the news and publications coordinator at Campbellsville University.
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