News

Ireland will not force churches to wed gays

May 27 2015 by Baptist Press staff

IRELAND – On May 22 Ireland became the first country to hold a public vote amending its constitution to allow gay marriage, but the change will not force houses of worship to perform the unions.
 
Instead, gay couples will be able to enter in “civil marriage,” a separate institution from but affording all the legal benefits of “religious marriage,” according to the Yes Equality civil group that spearheaded the drive for the constitutional change.
 
“No religious institution can be forced to marry a lesbian or gay couple against their beliefs,” the group’s website reads. “Churches will be able to continue with religious ceremonies and will not be required to conduct wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.”
 
Ireland’s Justice Department plans to draft a marriage bill this week that will permit those taking vows in civil ceremonies to choose either to be “husband and wife” or “spouses of each other,” satisfying the demands of religious groups including Catholics, Protestants and Muslims that no church will be required to perform gay marriage in the country, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
 
With 62.1 percent of the vote, Ireland approved a referendum to the nation’s 1937 constitution stating, “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” According to official results announced May 23, votes in favor of the change totaled 1,201,607, while 734,300 voted against it.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton, who called the vote a “magical, moving moment,” said she expects the bill to become law by early July, AP reported. The first gay marriages in Ireland are expected to happen as early as the fall of 2015, since civil marriages require a minimum three-month notice.
 
Ireland is the second country this year to approve gay marriage, following Finland, and is the 20th country to approve gay marriage to date, according to the Pew Research Center. However, Ireland is unique in being the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote.
 
The referendum failed in only one of the country’s 43 parliamentary constituencies. Groups opposing the referendum graciously conceded defeat.
 
“This is their day, and they should enjoy it,” CNN quoted the group Mothers and Fathers Matter. “Though at times this campaign was unpleasant for people on all sides, nobody who involves themselves in a campaign does so with anything but the good of their country at heart. There is no better way to resolve difference than the way we are using today.”
 
In addition to Finland, other countries allowing gay marriage are Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England/Wales, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay, according to Pew. Gay marriage is legal in 37 U.S. states and D.C., and in certain parts of Mexico.
 
The Roman Catholic Church was a strong opponent of the referendum in Ireland where more than 84 percent of the population identifies as Catholic, according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. Northern Ireland is the only part of Britain where gay marriage is still illegal.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.)

5/27/2015 10:55:22 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



9-year-old renewing hope after Haiti earthquake

May 27 2015 by Meredith Flynn, Illinois Baptist/Baptist Press

HAITI – Several years ago, the Bigarade community in Port-au-Prince was just a flood plain. Now, more than a hundred homes dot the landscape, and children run down the dirt roads to their very own school.
 
Earlier this year, there was a new face at the school, though one who’s very familiar with its story. At nine years old, Mackenzie Howell has been working to renew hope in Haiti since 2011, when she saw a documentary about the devastating earthquake that rocked the country the previous year.
 
Four years after she started raising money to help kids and families there, Howell visited Bigarade and the school she helped build. “Seeing the kids” was what she looked forward to most before the trip, and was also her favorite part of being in Haiti, she told the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

 

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Photo by Bob Elmore
After four years of prayer and giving, it was all hugs and smiles as Mackenzie (right) visited a community school in Bigarade that her missions giving helped build.

“She really does care about this,” said Howell’s mom, Alison, who also went along on the trip led by Bob Elmore, who facilitates the Illinois Baptist State Association’s short-term mission teams in Haiti. The Howells, who are from Nederland, Texas, met Elmore through International Mission Board missionaries working in Haiti after the earthquake. Howell sent her first donation – $1,400 raised through a coin drive at her preschool and a bake sale at church – to the missionaries to help with construction projects. They connected her with Elmore.
 
Since her first project, Howell has raised more money with several other initiatives, including sales of “Leila’s Big Difference,” the book she wrote and published in 2013. Elmore, several teams of volunteers, and Haitian workers have turned Howell’s gifts, along with other donations and resources, into a school for more than 100 children in Bigarade.
 

Instant community

The school property was vacant in November of 2011, when Elmore first saw it. “It was a goat field then … we just kind of wrote it off,” he said.
 
When he returned the next spring, a local Christian man named Thomas had gotten permission to put up a tarp and bamboo school on the site. People on Elmore’s mission team were asking, “What can we do?”
 
That fall, after receiving an anonymous donation to purchase the land, Elmore took a team to Bigarade to start construction on the school. At least eight Illinois churches and associations helped with the project. The facility now doubles as Gosen Church.
 
Bigarade is an “instant community,” Elmore said, a product of the earthquake that drove people from where they were and forced them into new living situations. Before the school was built, kids were either walking to another community or not going to school at all.

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Photo by Mary Russell
On a March 15-19 mission trip to Haiti, Mackenzie Howell, 9, worshiped in the church she helped build after a massive earthquake. The Texas girl’s efforts connected her with Illinois Baptists working in the country.

 
Working in the school was one of the main objectives for Howell and her team. They came prepared to do a two-hour lesson each day with crafts, and to provide lunch for the kids on three days.
 
“Our ultimate goal is to start a feeding program where the kids can have lunch every day,” Alison said a few days before her team left for Haiti. It just seems like something God would want them to do, she said, to feed His children. The team took with them enough money to start construction on a kitchen for the school, and also a classroom for the youngest students.
 
Thomas, who put the early school on the property, is now headmaster, and students arrive every morning in blue and white uniforms. Once a goat pasture, the school now employs seven teachers, and has 114 students. The feeding program will employ two or three cooks and purchase food from local sources, Elmore said.
 

 

Complete God

“... It was such a blessing to watch her,” Alison said of her daughter during the trip. “She really grew throughout the week.” And Howell’s not finished with Haiti, not by a long shot. She wants to go back – soon. And she’s planning a second book.
 
“It’s going to be about Leila [meeting] a white girl that came from the U.S. to visit her school and help out with the school and do crafts and stuff, kind of like how I did,” Alison said.
 
Recently, Howell shared about Haiti with kids in her church’s Awana program. Her grandmother, who also was part of the March trip, came out of the room crying, Alison remembered.
 
“Whatever you do, don’t practice with her,” was the grandmother’s advice for Howell’s future speaking engagements. “... She had them laughing and crying,” Alison said. “It’s because it really does come from her heart.”
 
In Haiti, March 14-19, Howell taught her new friends a dance she had choreographed in honor of their country to a song with special meaning there, “I Am Not Forgotten.” Watching, Alison said, “It was just such a beautiful picture of how complete God is.”
 
“So many times, we give to missions or do this and that … but we don’t always get to see the fruits. I just continuously thank God that’s he’s allowed us to see so much of the fruit of his work.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist, newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist Association.)

 

5/27/2015 10:48:19 AM by Meredith Flynn, Illinois Baptist/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Scholars divided over ‘the least of these’

May 27 2015 by Jonathan Merritt, Religion News Service

When asked to describe the essence of the Christian message, Mother Teresa would often hold up a child’s hand and recite Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” She would then jiggle the child’s fingers one by one and repeat: “You. Did. It. To. Me.”
 
Mother Teresa saw Jesus in the face of every needy person she ministered to because she understood “the least of these” to refer generally to the poor. And the soon-to-be-saint is not alone; many poverty advocates have successfully invoked it to raise millions and motivate the masses. The gravity of this phrase increases when one considers that Jesus says that divine judgment in the afterlife will be doled out based upon how one treats the least. With such serious words spoken by the man Christians believe to be the Son of God, no wonder the phrase is one of the most frequently cited in the entire New Testament.
 
But could Mother Teresa and so many others have gotten it wrong? According to a growing chorus of prominent Bible scholars, Jesus was speaking about persecuted Christians rather than the poor. They claim their interpretation is consistent with the way the phrase is used elsewhere in the Bible and the majority view among Christians throughout history. But not everyone is buying what they’re selling.
 
“’The least of these’ were missionaries of Jesus – the apostles and others – who had been persecuted and then suffered imprisonment for following and preaching,” says Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Mother Teresa, social justice advocates, and liberation theologians have all colonized this term to their own agenda and made it about anyone poor.”
 
McKnight first encountered this way of understanding the phrase 30 years ago in a German dissertation while studying for his own Ph.D. He grounds his thinking in the usage of “least of these” in the New Testament. When you look at the New Testament Gospels where this phrase is used, McKnight wrote in his book Kingdom Conspiracy, it usually refers to followers of Jesus. To support this notion, McKnight notes that in this passage Jesus adds the phrase “brothers and sisters of mine.” (The Greek only says “brothers,” but it is generic.)
 
“No matter how many times I’ve said this, it seems not everyone cares how the terms are used in the New Testament,” he says. “They have followed Mother Teresa and that’s that.”
 
McKnight says that in the 21st century, “the least of these” might be the Egyptian Coptic Christians who were beheaded by ISIS radicals in Libya or Saeed Abedini, the Iranian-American pastor imprisoned by the Iranian government for hosting illegal Christian gatherings.
 
Understanding Jesus’ words as referring generally to the poor has been a minority view among Christians throughout history, notes Craig Keener, professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and author of The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Religious Commentary who agrees with McKnight’s view. Three major interpretations of “the least of these” in Matthew 25 have been held by Christians throughout history: any needy person, the Christian poor or Christian missionaries ­– a group Keener calls “agents of the Kingdom.” The predominant Christian interpretation has been divided between the latter two options, he says.
 
McKnight and Keener – an Anabaptist and Methodist, respectively – are not alone in their understanding. Craig Blomberg, a professor at Denver Seminary and expert on Jesus’ parables, says he believes this passage is speaking about Christians. Calvinist theologian D.A. Carson has argued similarly. Even Christianity Today published an article in March 2015 calling this “a more biblically accurate understanding of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25.”
 
Finding consensus among such a wide swath of Christian scholars is impressive, but not everyone agrees. When Southern Baptist, Boyce College professor Denny Burk argued this view in a recent blog post last week, it created uproar online and led to an article on the matter by Baptist News Global.
 
Klyne Snodgrass, author of Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, is a major scholar who says Mother Teresa and others have interpreted this passage appropriately. He says that Matthew is clearly referring to the poor because the context of the passage is about obedience, not mission. He says that opposing scholars are both wrong about the phrase’s usage in the New Testament and wrong on how Christians have understood the phrase throughout history.
 
“When we read [‘the least’] in other places in the Gospels, it is not the exact same expression. As opposed to other places, it is a superlative expression in Greek in this passage in Matthew. So you can’t say it is the same word,” Snodgrass says. “And for that matter, it is not a common enough word or set phrase that is used frequently enough to infer one meaning from its usage.”
 
When it comes to history, he admits that some historians estimate that more than 50 percent of Christians have not understood this phrase to mean the poor in general, but he adds that you can’t decisively conclude how a historical figure understands the phrase based on the writings we cave. If you take out the uncertain references, Snodgrass says, about 39% refer to Christians and 21% referred to everyone.
 
“But talking about history misses that Matthew’s focus here is about the needy, poor, mercy, and the love of God,” Snodgrass says. “The real problem here is that people want to avoid accepting that judgment is according to works – a fact that is the consistent teaching of the Bible in both the Old Testament and New Testament.”
 
Though disagreement over this important Christian text abounds, scholars on all sides concur that the Bible provides ample support for caring for those in need.
 
“The principle that people who care about poverty want to promote – caring for the needy – is a good one and a biblical one,” says Keener. “But it just isn’t a principle that’s found in this passage.”

5/27/2015 10:46:47 AM by Jonathan Merritt, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



New campaign to provide Bibles in China

May 27 2015 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources/Baptist Press

A new campaign from LifeWay Christian Stores and Tyndale House Publishers allows individuals and churches to purchase Bibles for people in the world’s most populous country.
 
The Gospel for China is a partnership between the two organizations that seeks to provide “an easy and legal way for individuals or churches to purchase Bibles for believers and seekers in China,” said Cossy Pachares, vice president of LifeWay Christian Stores.
 
From now until June 20, customers at any of LifeWay’s 185 stores can purchase a Bible for $5. It will then be printed in China and distributed to someone there currently without access to Scriptures.
 
“In less time than it takes to order and receive a meal at a drive-through, you can purchase a Bible for someone in China,” said Jeffrey Smith, New Living Translation brand director at Tyndale.
 
The partnership made sense for LifeWay, Pachares said, because of the situation in China. “The church in China is the fastest-growing in the world, even in the midst of persecution,” he noted. “Unfortunately, millions of Christians there do not have a Bible because they either can’t afford one or they live in areas where God’s word is not readily accessible.”
 
This is the fourth such promotion for LifeWay Stores. Most recently, they partnered with B&H Publishing and the International Mission Board for The Thomas Project.
 
Two completed versions of The Thomas Project resulted in more than 340,000 copies of Scripture being sent across South Asia. More than 126,000 Bibles for Christians in Central America and the Caribbean were provided through the Aqua Viva Project.
 
For more information about LifeWay’s current Bible partnership, The Gospel for China, or to purchase Bibles online to send, visit LifeWay.com/GospelForChina.

5/27/2015 10:43:26 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ERLC to address culture at SBC meeting

May 27 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) will cosponsor a conversation on church and culture, launch a new equipping initiative for ministry to gays and lesbians, and relaunch a magazine during its participation at the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting June 16-17 in Columbus, Ohio.
 
The ERLC will partner with 9Marks church health ministry for “Connecting Church and Culture” on the eve of the SBC meeting. Russell Moore, the ERLC’s president, and Mark Dever, president of 9Marks and senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., will discuss cultural engagement by the church and answer questions from the audience. The event will be at 9 p.m. June 15.
 
Among his other speaking engagements in Columbus, Moore will participate in a presidential panel discussion on “The Supreme Court and Same-sex Marriage: Preparing Our Churches for the Future.” The discussion, which will be held during the final session of the convention June 17, will take place about two weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue its opinion in a case about gay marriage.
 
In a written statement for Baptist Press, Moore said he is “thrilled to be a part of these discussions at our annual meeting designed to think through how the Gospel should reorient the cultures of our local congregations to speak to the outside world and to prepare our churches for what the future holds and what Gospel fidelity looks like in our ever-changing society.”
 
In other efforts to help churches prepare for cultural engagement and gospel ministry after the Supreme Court’s decision:

  • The ERLC will unveil Equip, a joint initiative with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to aid pastors and other church leaders in ministering to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. This initiative, which will soon be online at erlc.com/equip, will feature specialized video content from Sam Allberry, a British pastor and author of “Is God Anti-gay?” Video of other pastors and leaders, as well as written resources, also will be available. 
  • The entity will revive Light magazine as a biannual publication providing content to assist Southern Baptists in engaging the culture. The first issue of the new version of the magazine will focus on ministry in a world in which same-sex marriage is legal. It will include articles from Moore; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.; Mike Goeke, associate pastor of First Baptist Church in San Francisco; and Rosaria Butterfield, author of “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.” Light magazine will be available for free at the ERLC booth in the SBC exhibit hall.

On June 14, the ERLC will present a sonogram machine to the Stowe Mission of Columbus during the morning corporate worship of Veritas Community Church. The presentation is part of the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project, which provides such equipment for gospel-focused pregnancy help centers. The machine will be used in Stowe’s medical clinic. Stowe Mission is an outreach of the Metro Columbus Baptist Association. Moore will preach on the gospel and racial reconciliation during Veritas’ corporate worship.
 
Moore also will preach in the June 14 evening session of the SBC Pastors’ Conference and will participate in a panel discussion at the Baptist21 luncheon June 16.
 
The ERLC-9Marks conversation on church and culture June 15 will be in the Delaware Room of the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
 
SBC President Ronnie Floyd, who initiated the idea of a panel discussion on ministry after the Supreme Court’s ruling, will moderate the conversation during the convention’s afternoon session June 17. In addition to Moore, other panelists will be Mohler; Butterfield; Matt Carter, lead pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas; and Ryan Blackwell, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in San Francisco.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/27/2015 10:39:14 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



IMB missionary dies unexpectedly in Malawi

May 26 2015 by Melanie Clinton, IMB

Malawi – International Mission Board (IMB) missionary Susan Sanson, 67, died of malaria in Zomba, Malawi, on May 18.
 

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Susan Sanson

She developed a sudden onset of malaria on May 17 and began treatment. However, early the next morning her husband Billy woke to find her unresponsive. He rushed her to the hospital, but she passed away as medical staff were examining her.
“This was sudden, tragic and quite unexpected,” said Kevin Rodgers, an IMB strategy leader in Africa and a friend of the Sansons. “Susan was a unique, godly, precious child of the King, and while I know she is in His presence in perfect peace and joy, there is still a great burden of sadness that we will all have to work through in the days to come.”
 
The Sansons, who do not have children, moved to Malawi as IMB missionaries in 2000. Susan Sanson was involved in reaching out to, discipling and counseling university students, and also worked in Baptist churches in Zomba. Billy Sanson is a chaplain and university minister at Chancellor College in Zomba.
 
Upon news of her death, Chancellor College students set up a Facebook page, “Tributes to a Mother: Susan Sanson.”
 
“A charming lady a mother to all,” posted one student. “Surely as she used to say ... even though she had no children of her own, she didn[’t] feel the gap because we were all [her] children.”
 
Students organized a prayer campaign, encouraging intercessors to pray at least 15 minutes a day. Prayer requests will be distributed via phone messages twice a day.
 
Susan Sanson was born in New York and raised in Ohio. As a young adult, she spent time in Manhattan as a model and fashion magazine editor. “She had an amazing testimony of ... moving to New York and living the high life as a fashion model and mover and shaker in the fashion world ... and then God arresting her heart and bringing her back to Him,” Rodgers said. “She quit her job, sold her things, moved to New Orleans and enrolled in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
She met Billy Sanson at the seminary, where he was a doctoral student. The couple married in 1992.
 
“She was a jewel for Jesus,” Rodgers said, “and I can assure you that when we get to heaven it won’t be easy to run into her because she has a seat reserved about as close to Jesus as you can get. ... She had one of the purest hearts I have ever known.”
 
A memorial service will be held in Zomba at Chancellor College on May 24 at 2 p.m. Burial will be in the United States, but funeral details are not finalized.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Melanie Clinton is a writer for IMB based in Africa.)

 

5/26/2015 11:54:40 AM by Melanie Clinton, IMB | with 0 comments



Duggar series pulled, Josh resigns FRC

May 26 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

TLC has pulled the hit series “19 Kids and Counting” in response to media reports alleging Josh Duggar, the 27-year-old son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, sexually molested five underage girls when he was a teen.
 
Duggar, now married with three children of his own, also resigned his position as a lobbyist with the Family Research Council (FRC) family values group. In a May 21 People.com story posted on the family’s blog, he apologized for the sin after allegations surfaced.

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Image capture from ABC News video
Josh Duggar

 
“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably, for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Josh said in the blogpost. “I confessed this to my parents, who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities, where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”
 
His parents reported the incident to police 12 years ago, but no charges were ever filed, the Washington Post reported.
 
FRC president Tony Perkins affirmed Josh Duggar’s resignation.
 
“Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years,” Perkins said in a statement on the FRC website. “Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work. We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time. We will be praying for everyone involved.”
 
TLC has removed the show from its schedule, but ran a 19 Kids and Counting marathon May 21 after news of the molestations broke.
 
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar said when they learned of the molestations 12 years ago, it was a dark time that drew the family closer to God, according to the blogpost.
 
“We pray that as people watch our lives, they see that we are not a perfect family. We have challenges and struggles every day,” the couple said. “It is one of the reasons we treasure our faith so much because God’s kindness and goodness and forgiveness are extended to us – even though we are so undeserving. We hope somehow the story of our journey – the good times and the difficult times – cause you to see the kindness of God and learn that He can bring you through anything.”
 
Duggar’s wife Anna said he confessed the incidents to her two years before proposing marriage, and that she was “surprised at his openness and humility.”
 
On the blogpost, Anna Duggar said she knows “who Josh really is – someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended. [He is] someone who had received the help needed to change the direction of his life and do what is right.”
 
Duggar long ago sought forgiveness from his victims and from God, he said on the blog, and “would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy, and redemption.”
 
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have 19 children and are outspoken advocates of their Christian faith as well as pro-family public policies. Their television show debuted in 2008 as “17 Kids and Counting,” since which time they have had two more children.
 
The show has stirred controversy during its TV run. In November 2014, nearly 100,000 people signed an online petition asking the TLC network to cancel the show, accusing Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of using their fame “to promote discrimination, hate, and fear-mongering against gays and transgendered people,” because the couple opposed a Fayetteville, Ark., ordinance that provides civil rights protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.)

 

5/26/2015 11:47:11 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Brewton-Parker names seventeenth president

May 26 2015 by Peter Lumpkins, Brewton-Parker Communications

After a unanimous decision, chairman of the board of trustees for Brewton-Parker College (BPC), Ray Sullivan, notified the public May 19 that Steven Echols will become the seventeenth president of BPC.
 
“We are blessed to have Dr. Steve Echols leading Brewton-Parker College. He is a proven leader who not only understands and embraces Brewton-Parker’s mission, but also understands and embraces Georgia Baptists’ historical legacy.” Additionally, Sullivan indicated Echols’ obvious passion for seeing students transformed by the gospel. “The trustees look with anticipation to a bright future for Brewton-Parker under the capable leadership of Dr. Echols.”
 
The special trustee meeting was requested by the Presidential Search Committee which has been actively seeking a candidate for president since February 2015. Before the meeting began, chairperson for the search team, Lynda Yawn, appeared confident that the entire trustee body would find that Echols, presently serving as President of Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tennessee, ought to be the next president of BPC.
 
“We feel a strong support for him based on our prayerful approach to the entire process,” said Yawn. “Dr. Echols has shared that he feels God’s call to Brewton-Parker and is excited about the future of the college.”
 
The entire trustee body voted unanimously to extend the presidential invitation to Echols.
 
Echols is no stranger to higher education in Southern Baptist life. Having earned an undergraduate degree from Mercer University, Echols then earned both a master of divinity and a doctor of philosophy degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS).
 
Additionally, Echols earned not only a doctor of ministry degree in leadership from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., but also completed all course work except the project thesis for the doctor of educational ministry degree from NOBTS.
 
Since January 2012, Echols has served as president of Tennessee Temple University (TTU) in Chattanooga, Tenn. where, upon becoming president, immediately led the trustees to adopt the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as the doctrinal statement of TTU, a statement all faculty members were required to sign.
 
Due in large part to Echols’ convictional allegiance to Southern Baptists’ theological heritage, TTU was affirmed in a unanimous resolution of support at the Tennessee Baptist Convention in the fall of 2013.
Prior to serving as president of TTU, Echols was associate regional dean for the Alabama/Georgia NOBTS Extension Center System while simultaneously serving as professor of leadership the Nelson L. Price Chair of Leadership.
 
In addition, before moving to north Georgia as dean and professor of leadership at the NOBTS extension, Echols served on the main NOBTS campus as director and then associate dean of the professional doctoral programs & associate professor of leadership. During this time the number of students in the two doctoral degree programs more than doubled, becoming the largest in the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
Trustees, denominational executives, professors, and Georgia pastors together stated their unqualified support for Echols as BPC’s new president.
 
While Echols’ duties and responsibilities as president are effective immediately, he does not anticipate being in the presidential office until June 1.

5/26/2015 11:43:28 AM by Peter Lumpkins, Brewton-Parker Communications | with 0 comments



SBC missions partnership on exhibit at annual meeting

May 26 2015 by Baptist Press staff

The Cooperative Program (CP) exhibit at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, will reflect the CP’s partnership with the North American and International mission boards, said Ashley Clayton, SBC Executive Committee (EC) vice president for Cooperative Program and Stewardship.
 
“The Cooperative Program is about Southern Baptists joining hearts and hands to advance the Great Commission! As Southern Baptists, we have a long-standing guiding principle that says, ‘we can do more together than we can do alone,’” Clayton said. “Whether it is church strengthening, church planting, theological education, international missions, church revitalization, collegiate ministry, disaster relief or world hunger, it is our commitment to work together through the Cooperative Program, which will make a difference in this world.”
 

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BP file photo
Messengers and their families visit the Skybridge exhibit at the Baltimore Convention Center during the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

The exhibit will feature a diverse group of speakers including SBC leaders, missionaries, church planters and pastors focused on topics and issues relevant and timely to SBC life, but the schedule will be designed to alleviate competition with programming in the main convention hall.
 
Building on the success of previous annual meeting exhibits, the CP platform area will look more like a television studio than a formal stage. Interviews and panel discussions will be live-streamed and most presentations will be captured as video for posting on national and state convention websites following the annual meeting.
 
The exhibit will present components of the Great Commission Advance, an initiative to increase missions involvement among individuals and churches, which EC president Frank Page will address during his report June 17.
 
“I see a mounting urgency and a growing consensus among our pastors to advance the Gospel through SBC mission and ministries, fueled through the Cooperative Program, in our own backyard and beyond,” Page told Baptist Press. “I do not know of a better plan for any church – small, large, new, growing, graying or ethnic – to accomplish an Acts 1:8 strategy than through the Cooperative Program. Every church can stand hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, on level ground, as partners in the Gospel.”
 
A complete schedule of CP exhibit interviews will be available on the SBC Annual Meeting app, as well as in the daily program. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android users and can be downloaded by typing in “SBC Annual Meetings” in the device’s app store. Once the app is downloaded, it will prompt you to install the information for the 2015 meeting.
 
Reports of other entities’ and ministries’ plans for the exhibit hall during the SBC’s June 16-17 annual meeting follow:
 

 

International Mission Board & North American Mission Board

In an effort to simplify the process for churches to engage in Southern Baptist missions, this year’s convention attendees will find the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the International Mission Board (IMB) and EC at the same booth. Those who visit the booth can learn more about getting their churches involved in reaching unreached people groups internationally and in church planting in North America.
 
IMB: The IMB exhibit will help visitors discover how God might be calling them and their church to play their part in fulfilling Christ’s commission. The booth will feature kiosks offering information about five major global cities to show visitors how church planters, professionals, students, retirees and others are taking the hope of Christ to unreached people living there.
 
The exhibit’s kiosks also will provide information about how churches and individuals can join others to make disciples and multiply churches among unreached peoples for the glory of God in extreme places. In addition, IMB is equipping churches to send men, women and families to join God’s global mission in new and creative ways. Visitors will be directed to imb.org/send to explore opportunities to send and partner together in mission.
 
NAMB: While learning more about getting their churches involved in reaching unreached people groups overseas, visitors also can learn more about church planting in North America. In addition to IMB missionaries and staff, the exhibit will also have Send North America city missionaries, church planters and other missionaries on hand to answer questions.
 
Booth visitors can also find out more about the Send North America Conference, Aug. 3 and 4, in Nashville, Tenn. And Southern Baptists will be able to learn about more opportunities from NAMB and IMB during the Send North America Luncheon (noon on June 15).
 

LifeWay Christian Resources

The SBC Exhibit Hall will feature LifeWay’s 8,000-square-foot store offering a wide selection of books, Bibles and other Christian products. Other LifeWay areas will present interactive displays highlighting LifeWay’s church resources, conference center and camps.
 
Among special features of the LifeWay exhibit:
·      Small group experts from LifeWay’s Resources Division will help messengers plan and select appropriate materials for small group Bible studies.
·      Messengers will be able to obtain information about two free movie screenings: “War Room” on Monday night (June 15) and “Woodlawn” Tuesday evening (June 16). Information will also be available about two free breakfasts: a panel discussion about Biblical Preaching Tuesday morning and an SBC men’s breakfast Wednesday morning.
·      A special story time for kids will be held in the B&H Publishing Group Kids area featuring noted children’s books read by Debbie Rodgers. Also, Veggie Tales’ Bob & Larry will be available in the LifeWay Store to greet children and have their pictures taken together.
·      Book signings by numerous authors are scheduled in the LifeWay store throughout the convention including speaker and author Angie Smith; Jeff Iorg, author and seminary president; Frank S. Page, president of the EC; and former SBC presidents Jack Graham and James Merritt.
·      Exhibits featuring LifeWay “OneSource” endorsed products and providers designed to give individuals and churches trusted purchasing options for items such as church signs and furniture, copiers, office supplies and background checks.
 

GuideStone Financial Resources

GuideStone’s Wellness Center once again will offer free health checks valued at $150, allowing messengers and family members to have their blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose measured.
 
In the main booth, representatives will offer reviews of participants’ retirement accounts and answer questions about GuideStone’s life and health plans, property and casualty coverage and other GuideStone services. Churches will be able to order materials for Mission:Dignity Sunday, highlighting GuideStone’s ministry to needy retired ministers and their widows.
 
GuideStone will offer several breakout sessions, including Compensation Planning for Smaller Churches, a one-hour session at 2 p.m. Monday. Retirement Income Solutions course will be available for one hour at both 4 p.m. Monday and 12:15 p.m. Tuesday. To answer churches’ questions regarding a July 1 deadline that could impact churches that reimburse for individual health care coverage, GuideStone will offer a one-hour session, “Health Care Reform Impacts Your Church, Too,” at 5 p.m. Tuesday. All courses are free and are located in C120. Seating is limited; advance registration is recommended by visiting GuideStone.org/SBC2015.
 
GuideStone will give away copies of President O.S. Hawkins’ book, “The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer,” to the first 250 families at both the Mission:Dignity display and GuideStone’s Wellness Center. GuideStone also will make available a free copy of Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook (Volume 3), edited by Hawkins, to pastors/preachers. Quantities are limited.
 

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Those who visit the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) booth can get equipped for the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage by picking up the first issue of the newly relaunched Light Magazine, featuring content from Russell Moore, R. Albert Mohler Jr., J.D. Greear, and Rosaria Butterfield. The theme of this issue is “Marriage Redefined?”
 
ERLC will be giving away a free “Cultural Engagement Bundle” of books, including the major works of Carl F.H. Henry. Register to win by signing up for the ERLC’s new email newsletter, “The Weekly” at the booth.
 
The ERLC will also be hosting, with 9Marks Ministries, a special event with Russell Moore and Mark Dever. “Connecting Church and Culture” will be held in the Delaware Room at the Hyatt Regency. Register for free online at erlc.com/churchandculture or get free tickets at the ERLC booth.
 

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s (GGBTS) booth will highlight the upcoming relocation of its main campus to southern California as well as the plans for the new commuter campus in northern California. The plans for these two buildings, which will open in summer 2016, will be displayed in the booth. Representatives of the seminary will be available to answer questions about the relocation, discuss GGBTS education programs, and sell tickets to the annual alumni and friends luncheon. To reserve your tickets now, email rsvp@ggbts.edu.
 

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Visitors to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) exhibit will experience personal interaction with the school’s senior leadership, faculty and staff. In the booth, a host of new programs and initiatives will be highlighted: most notably, MBTS’s new website FTC.co, which is geared toward resourcing pastors with effective ministry tools for the church. Additionally, giveaways will include faculty-authored books as well as an all-expense paid trip for two to Midwestern Seminary’s Kansas City campus to attend the annual For the Church Conference on Aug. 31-Sept. 1.
 

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

The redesigned New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary booth highlights main campus programs, distance learning options and the new Entrust Mentoring Community initiative. The seminary enlistment team is on site to guide potential students as they seek to answer God’s call to ministry and prepare for service. Alumni are invited to visit the booth to reconnect with faculty and staff and to hear the latest news from campus. In keeping with tradition, small bottles of Louisiana hot sauce are available to those who visit.
 

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Visitors to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) exhibit will be welcomed by faculty and alumni to discuss and explore innovative seminary and college degree programs that train students to fulfill the Great Commission. Admissions staff will be present to provide additional information and answer questions. Convention attendees will also be given the opportunity to share how they are going and win books in the areas of biblical studies, theology, cultural engagement and pastoral ministry authored by SEBTS faculty members.
 

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Throughout the annual meeting, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) exhibit will have a variety of giveaways providing resources for pastors. One giveaway is a new resource by SBTS Press: A Guide to Church Revitalization, featuring chapters by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Kevin Ezell, Mark Dever and others.
 
Along with promotions and interaction opportunities with seminary faculty, the seminary also will distribute the latest issue of Southern Seminary Magazine. Themed around missions in a world of risk, the magazine features articles by President R. Albert Mohler Jr., IMB vice president Zane Pratt and seminary faculty.
 
Convention attendees can connect with alumni, professors, friends and prospective students at the exhibit’s seating area, as well as purchase tickets for the annual alumni luncheon on Wednesday, June 17. For more information, go to sbts.edu/alumni/sbc-luncheon.
 

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) will reflect its ongoing passion for preaching the Word and reaching the world. Free books and resources – including a guide to landmarks and restaurants in Columbus – will be distributed, and SWBTS representatives and faculty will be available to discuss the seminary’s programs and answer questions. The booth will also feature several seminary-produced videos highlighting successful students and SWBTS’s global impact. Visitors will have the opportunity to take pictures with the words “preach the Word” and “reach the world” and post them on Twitter. For every picture tweeted, $1 will be donated to NAMB or IMB.
 

Woman’s Missionary Union

This year, national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) will showcase four distinct ways to be involved in missions at their exhibit: ongoing WMU missions discipleship programs for preschoolers, children, youth and adults; hands-on missions opportunities sponsored by WMU; fair-trade products from WorldCrafts; and Bible studies and books on missional living from New Hope Publishers.
 
New Hope Publishers is partnering with WMU to tell the story of radical commitment to God’s mission and will feature new 2015 spring and summer releases as well as an advanced reader sampler of the upcoming “Upside Down Living” release from Andrew Mann, pastor of Graffiti 2 Ministries in New York City. New Hope is also featuring the work of several SBC leaders including Frank S. Page and Jeff Iorg who both will sign books at the LifeWay Christian Store on-site.
 
WorldCrafts, a fair-trade division of WMU, develops sustainable businesses among impoverished people around the world. A member of the Fair Trade Federation, WorldCrafts partners with dozens of artisans groups to import and sell hundreds of handcrafted items from more than 25 countries around the globe. Many of the artisan groups WorldCrafts partners with are working to free women from human exploitation and sex trafficking. A total of $1,300 in prizes also will be given away through 12 different giveaways.
 

Baptist Global Response

“Helping Them Write a New Story” will be the focus of the Baptist Global Response (BGR) exhibit. Visitors to the booth will be able to explore six ways to help people in need write new chapters in their lives.
 
The exhibit will feature six stations that show ways BGR helps people who care connect with people in need: healthcare, agriculture, water, widows and orphans, human trafficking and disaster response. The focus draws on BGR’s gift catalog, which will be available at the booth and at LifeWay’s store in the exhibit hall. BGR’s catalog, annual report and prayer guide are available at gobgr.org. The organization facilitates, on behalf of Southern Baptists, more than 300 projects in over 50 countries that help people with the basics of life, such as food, water and shelter.
 

The Southern Baptist Foundation

The Southern Baptist Foundation’s booth will showcase resources and services to facilitate giving, glorifying God and advancing His Kingdom. The foundation assists believers in planning for eternity by providing quality estate planning as an act of stewardship and generosity. The foundation also provides prudent, socially screened investment services to churches and entities.
 

Seminary Extension

Seminary Extension has been training volunteers, leaders, teachers and pastors for Southern Baptist churches since 1951. Following its original mandate from the Southern Baptist Convention, Seminary Extension continues to offer opportunities for theological education and ministry training through independent study and sponsored study groups in churches, associations and Southern Baptist state conventions. Individuals interested in studying with Seminary Extension can stop by the booth in the Exhibit Hall for more information. Director Randal Williams and student services associate Carmen Ferreira will be in the booth each day to answer questions and provide information about Seminary Extension. They also look forward to visiting with alumni, current and former instructors.
 

Global Hunger Relief

The Global Hunger Relief  (GHR) booth in the Exhibit Hall at Columbus will bring the hunger crisis across North America and overseas to the attention of Southern Baptists. More than 1 billion people around the world live with constant hunger, and about 24,000 people – over half of them young children – die every day from illnesses that could have been alleviated by basic nutrition. This year’s booth will give visitors an opportunity to talk personally with Southern Baptist workers engaged in the battle to alleviate hunger around the world. Booth staffers also will help visitors address hunger needs in their own communities and around the world with free and low-cost resources, including a brief video that will premiere on the annual meeting platform Wednesday morning (June 17).
 
GHR is a collaborative effort of seven national partners: Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, NAMB, IMB, BGR, WMU, LifeWay and the SBC Executive Committee – as well as state Baptist conventions.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor Diana Chandler and BP managing editor Shawn Hendricks.)

5/26/2015 11:29:45 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



ERLC Academy surpasses student’s expectations

May 26 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The first Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) Academy surpassed even the lofty anticipation of at least one seminary student.
 
After participating in the ethics training May 18-19 in Nashville, Ronni Kurtz acknowledged he “had high expectations going into the seminar, and all of them were not only met but completely exceeded.”
 
“I came into the seminar looking forward to hearing Dr. [Russell] Moore’s position on each particular issue,” Kurtz told Baptist Press in email comments. “I walked away having a clear framework of how and why one should pursue Christian ethics.”
 
Kurtz, a master of divinity student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MWBTS), was one of 125 participants in the inaugural ERLC Academy. Most were students from Southern Baptist seminaries, including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), in addition to Midwestern.
 
For two days, ERLC president Moore lectured on ethics and responded to questions – many on issues students reportedly were confronting. He spoke to the participants gathered in the auditorium of the Southern Baptist Convention building and to an online, live-streaming audience.
 
The lectures covered such general topics as the kingdom of God and Christian ethics, and establishing a framework for Christian ethics. Moore also addressed such issues as religious liberty, marriage, gender identity, the sanctity of human life, contraception, artificial reproductive technology, capital punishment, environmental stewardship and poverty.
 
He enjoyed “thinking through these important questions” with the seminary students, Moore said.
 
“Ethics isn’t about abstract theory,” he told BP in a written statement. “Ethics is central to the Christian life, because it is the outworking of the Gospel in our lives and in that of the church.
 
“In preaching, we have to define what repentance is, and what should be repented of,” Moore said, “and in discipleship, we apply the Bible to how we live in families, in communities, in nations.”
 
ERLC followed the two-day training with a seminar for doctoral students May 20-22. Phillip Bethancourt, the ERLC’s executive vice president, and Barrett Duke, its vice president for public policy and research, assisted Moore in leading the seminar.
 
The next ERLC Academy will address Christianity in the public square and will be held May 2016 in Washington. The ERLC plans to hold the training each year in May, Bethancourt said.
 
The ERLC will continue to invite the SBC seminaries to take part in future academies and hopes to include several Baptist colleges and possibly some other evangelical schools, Bethancourt said.
 
For Kurtz, the primary benefit this year was likely being able to hear from someone with “a wonderfully Gospel-saturated, Jesus-exulting, church-edifying understanding of the issues.”
 
“With each ethical issue dealt with, Dr. Moore brought a unique balance of political savvy, rich theology and Christian wisdom that was refreshing to say the least,” Kurtz said.
 
He especially was impressed with the question-and-answer session after Moore’s lecture on each issue, Kurtz told BP. Moore presented a solution to each question that was “faithful to the Bible, theology, Christianity,” Kurtz said. “I couldn’t recommend the seminar any stronger than I do.”
 
Seminary officials expressed delight with their schools’ partnerships with the ERLC and its academy.
 
“I can think of no better, healthier or more natural partnership for educating the next generation of Southern Baptist ministers and leaders than the one Southern Seminary enjoys with the [ERLC],” said Matthew Hall, Southern’s vice president of academic services, in email comments. “Pastors in our time are facing ethical dilemmas unimaginable a generation prior. The [academy] is the right idea at the right time, providing our students with a tremendous opportunity to be taught by proven leaders in the field like [Moore].”
 
SEBTS provost Bruce Ashford expressed his seminary’s gratitude to the ERLC for the academy. “The ERLC Academy, under [Moore’s] leadership, has brokered the type of partnership with other entities that Southern Baptists can be proud of,” he said in an email. “The ERLC Academy is helping equip a generation of Baptist young people who are willing to work out the implications of the Gospel in the public square, even as the public square is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity.”
 
In an email to BP, MWBTS provost Jason Duesing described the academy as “a wonderful opportunity for our students not only to fulfill their Christian ethics course requirement but also to do so in a frontline environment by one of the nation’s leading thinkers and voices of discerning wisdom in [Moore].
 
“We could not be more grateful for our cooperative partnership with the ERLC,” Duesing said.

5/26/2015 11:17:45 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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