March 30 2015 by
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press/Oklahoma Baptist Messenger
Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers began preparing meals, clearing debris and repairing damaged homes March 27 after tornadoes swept across central and northeastern Oklahoma just two days earlier, killing at least one person.
At least 75 homes were destroyed and several hundred were damaged in the Oklahoma City metro area, Oklahoma disaster relief director Sam Porter reported. Still, Oklahomans are resilient and thankful that the storms were not as damaging as those that struck Moore, Okla. and other communities in May, 2013, Porter said, that destroyed 4,035 homes and killed 25.
Photo by Bob Nigh
Disaster Relief volunteer Stan Bradley checks his list as he works to call out assessors after the March 25 tornadoes that hit Moore and Sand Springs, Okla.
“The storm itself is not as great a magnitude, but for those that lose their homes or a loved one ... it’s major for them. It’s very significant for them,” Porter said. “If all they’ve lost is their home, they’re thankful no one lost their life. There’s a great thankfulness that it wasn’t more destructive than what it was.”
A 30-member rebuild crew is applying tarps to the damaged rooftops of salvageable houses. The Tulsa Metro Baptist Network has set up two mobile feeding units at Foundation Church in Sapulpa, Okla., and plan to prepare at least 1,200 meals a day for up to three days, Porter said.
“I really think that will grow. They started out with 600 and just in the matter of a couple of hours, they said let’s put that at 1,200,” Porter said of the meal preparation. “We have chainsaw teams that are working, and there’s been a request also, we have a tarp team, putting plastic tarps on top of the houses to stop the roof from leaking until they can get it fixed,” Porter said, “and just the general debris clean-up teams.”
Trained assessors and chaplains were out determining needs within an hour of tornadoes. More than 50 mobile homes were destroyed in the River Oaks Mobile Home Park in Sand Springs, according to news reports.
The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s (BGCO) mobile command center is set up at The Church That Matters in Sand Springs, said Dave Karr, BGCO disaster relief state training director.
“Pastor Rusty Gunn has graciously offered us the use of the church’s parking lot,” said Karr, who initially set up an Oklahoma City-area incident command post at BGCO headquarters. Jim Sheets from Bartlesville was acting as incident commander in Sand Springs.
The state’s disaster relief team and in-state volunteers will likely be able to handle the response to storm victims, Porter said, but warned that it’s still early in the storm season.
“Our greatest magnitude storms normally happen in May. This is the first tornado to hit this year, and knowing ... the geography of the United States,” Porter said, “another one could come next week that’s great or greater.”
Porter praised Oklahomans for their response to victims, and thanked those who support the Cooperative Program that helps fund such efforts.
“Oklahomans are resilient. The greatest thing that happens is ... the community comes together and they know how to respond,” Porter said. “People who were hit two years ago are usually the first to go a mile down the street to help someone who’s hit again. Volunteers really lead the charge in this here in this part of the United States.”
The BGCO disaster relief operation may receive tax-deductible donations. To learn more, visit okdisasterhelp.com/donate.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – With reporting by the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, the news service of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
3/30/2015 12:34:04 PM
March 30 2015 by
Kevin Ezell, NAMB
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press/Oklahoma Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments
Recently the North American Mission Board
(NAMB) shared good news that Southern Baptist church plants were up 5 percent in 2014. We still have a lot of catching up to do because our church planting efforts lost pace with population growth decades ago, but hopefully last year’s increase will begin a new trend.
In addition to starting more churches, we must pay close attention to the health of these new congregations. Do they have staying power? Are they reaching people for Christ? Do they give to missions causes? In short, are they having an impact? We cannot and will not sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity.
Matt Schoolfield, here with wife Kristen, planted Fellowship Raleigh Church in Raleigh, N.C., in 2010 making his one of 943 Southern Baptist churches planted that year. About 80 percent of the “Class of 2010” church plants are still ministering today, according to a recent analysis conducted by the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
At NAMB we started monitoring Southern Baptist church plants much more carefully beginning with the Class of 2010. We are continuing to improve this process, but we already know a lot more than we did a few years ago.
As a reminder, the church planting class of 2010 started with 943 church plants. We pull our data from the Annual Church Profile (ACP) so we can make comparisons to the broader report that includes all Southern Baptist churches. The most recent ACP year for which these details are available is 2013, so that’s the data we are using.
Of the 943 churches planted in 2010, 757 are still functioning and are identified in the 2013 ACP database, resulting in a survival rate of 80 percent.
Churches planted in 2010 reported a 7 percent growth in membership from 2012-2013. During the same period, church membership throughout the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) declined .86 percent.
Worship attendance also continues to increase. The 2010 church plants reported a 20 percent jump in attendance for the reporting year, compared to a 2.21 percent drop across the SBC.
We plant churches so they can reach people for Christ. The Class of 2010 reported one baptism for every 13 members, a ratio of 1:13. Across the SBC the ratio was 1:51.
The Class of 2010 continues to support missions with their offering dollars. These church plants gave more than $3.3 million to missions in 2013. That’s up 12 percent over the previous reporting period. The giving includes the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings.
The good news is not limited to the Class of 2010. Churches planted in 2011 are doing well also. They have a two-year survival rate of 87 percent and saw membership rise 20 percent in the most recent year. Attendance jumped 52 percent, missions giving 47 percent and they had a baptism ratio of 1:14.
These trends give us an encouraging snapshot of how recent church plants are doing. If more established churches come alongside our plants, their chances for success will increase greatly. Please keep these church plants and their pastors in your prayers. Many of them are ministering in difficult areas and your prayers and offerings make a huge difference.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kevin Ezell is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board. For more information about the North American Mission Board’s mobilization efforts, go to namb.net/mobilize-me.)
3/30/2015 12:21:13 PM
March 30 2015 by
Kristen Camp, NAMB
Kevin Ezell, NAMB | with 0 comments
Abby Hughes is one of only two Generation Send (GenSend) campus mobilizers in the Northwest who is taking on the responsibility to find other college students to participate in GenSend 2015.
“I have been working alongside my church, as well as reaching out to pastors around the Northwest to connect with students who could potentially take part in GenSend,” said Hughes, who will be leading a GenSend team in New York City this summer.
GenSend is a development process designed to be an exciting, intense and unique student missionary experience that immerses college students into an urban context to gain practical knowledge of the realities of missions and leadership.
In January, several dozen GenSend student mobilizers gathered at the North American Mission Board for training. The student leaders are responsible for mobilizing more than 350 students from college campuses to serve on the North American Mission field this summer.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) conducted its first mobilizer training weekend for 41 students, including Hughes, in Atlanta in September 2014. A second training was held Jan. 6-7, 2015. The trainings are designed to equip students to create missional communities with other students on their college campuses and invite these students to serve in a major city in North America with a GenSend team this summer.
Hughes said one of the most important things she learned at the mobilizer training was how to be intentional with her time and her relationships. Hughes has seen several students commit to missions this summer and several more have joined her missional community group.
Along with teaching intentionality, members of NAMB’s student mobilization staff joined other speakers at the mobilizer trainings to share the vision for GenSend and urban church planting. The speakers also walked the students through practical instruction to fulfill their assignments.
“One of the most helpful and beneficial parts of the mobilizer training for me was having all of the practical questions answered,” said Hughes, a sophomore at Washington State University. “I was given clarity on what steps to take going forward as a mobilizer as well as how to leverage the personalities on my team for Christ and the mission He has given us for the summer.”
Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Atlanta’s Blueprint Church emphasized the importance of contextualization in an urban setting during his session on urban church planting.
“There are four things to consider in contextualization,” said Lewis. “The gospel must be contextualized. We can’t put our confidence in our own ability to contextualize. We should contextualize with a sense of urgency and we should remember that the goal of contextualization is reconciliation.”
For mobilizers like Hughes, contextualization will be key. The approach she took participating in GenSend Portland during the summer of 2014, will be different to contextualize the gospel as she leads her team in New York City this summer.
“College ministry looks so different in the Northwest,” said Hughes. “But the beauty of the gospel is that it is transferable everywhere and accessible to everyone. Like Dhati said, we have to contextualize the gospel into each person’s ‘heart language.’”
Mobilizers are required to recruit 10 students out of their missional communities by spring 2015 to serve in their assigned cities and continue to share the gospel. NAMB’s goal for GenSend 2015 is to have over 350 students serving in 16 Send North America cities across the United States and Canada from June 22 to August 5.
The number of teams per city will vary. But at least one team will serve and connect with a Southern Baptist church in each of the following cities: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Atlanta, Miami, Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Portland and San Diego.
Ken Miller, NAMB’s Missionary Development national coordinator encouraged the students to keep the right mindset during a session on missional community. “Don’t go into the city with the attitude that this is your team. You need to have the attitude that you are here to serve them and love them, as well as serve your city alongside them,” said Miller.
These words definitely stuck with Hughes as she left Atlanta and went back to her campus to begin her work as a campus mobilizer.
“I’m so excited that I have the opportunity to spend 10 weeks in a major urban city with the sole purpose of loving and serving people in the name of Jesus,” said Hughes. “I am excited to be humbled and challenged alongside my team and see how the Lord moves this summer.”
Learn more about GenSend student missions opportunities at sendnetwork.com/gensend.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kristen Camp writes for the North American Mission Board.)
GenSender intersects with world in NYC
GenSend hooks Hunt on urban church planting
3/30/2015 12:10:43 PM
March 30 2015 by
Baptist Press staff
Kristen Camp, NAMB | with 0 comments
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) announced March 26 in a news release its plan to publish the Gospel for Life book series through a partnership with B&H Publishing Group.
The book series will feature issue-specific volumes from noted Baptist leaders that address hot-button ethical issues facing Christians in today’s culture, according to the release. The goal of the series is to produce gospel-centered resources that equip Christians and local churches to engage ethical issues with convictional kindness.
The announcement, the release noted, was made in conjunction with the start of the ERLC’s 2015 Leadership Summit on “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation,” March 26-27 in Nashville.
ERLC President Russell Moore and ERLC director of policy studies Andrew Walker will serve as editors for the series.
“Our goal with this series is to help connect the agenda of the gospel to the complex questions of the day in a way that is accessible to and helpful for Christians and churches,” Moore said in the release. “I am thrilled to get to partner with this team of talented scholars and pastors to produce these volumes, and we pray the Lord would use them to equip the saints to face the tough questions of 21st century life from a kingdom perspective.”
Devin Maddox, Christian living and leadership publisher at B&H Publishing Group, also expressed enthusiasm about the books. “The time has long past for churches to begin preparing to engage a rapidly changing culture,” he said in the release. “I couldn’t be more excited for B&H to partner with the ERLC in a shared mission to serve churches in this way.”
There will be a total of nine books released in the series. The first three books, tentatively scheduled to release in spring 2016, will focus on racial reconciliation, same-sex marriage and religious liberty.
Authors for the first round of books:
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
John Piper, founder and teacher, DesiringGod.org
J.D. Greear, pastor, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham area
Russell Moore, president, ERLC
Trillia Newbell, director of community outreach, ERLC
Eric Mason, founder and pastor, Epiphany Fellowship, Philadelphia, Pa.
“The books will be written in an accessible manner for laypersons in the church,” the release said, “and will include discussion questions at the end of each chapter to be used for small group discussion.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Information submitted in a news release by the ERLC.)
3/30/2015 11:59:48 AM
March 27 2015 by
Seth Brown, BR Content Editor
Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments
The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit took place March 26-27 in Nashville, Tenn.
“The cross and the Confederate battle flag cannot coexist,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), “without one setting the other on fire.”
Disagreement among American Baptists about slavery was one of the major reasons why the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) formed in 1845. Many Baptists in the Confederate South wanted to support missionaries that owned slaves. Others argued that the Bible condoned slavery as a societal institution. Still more advocated against racial integration almost 100 years after slavery was abolished in America.
Racism has lingered in the SBC since the beginning, according to Moore.
In 1995 the SBC apologized in the form of a resolution that it had historically accepted and perpetuated racial strife of the worst kinds, “from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest.”
Photo by Alli Rader
Russell Moore preaching during the first plenary address, “Black, and White, and Red All Over: Why Racial Reconciliation is a Gospel Issue”
On March 26, the first day of the 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit in Nashville, Tenn., that is focused on racial reconciliation, Moore sought in his opening sermon to fan into flame the so-called fires that will destroy racial strife among Southern Baptists.
Moore deplored the comments of a Sunday School teacher from his childhood who told him upon the discovery of a coin in his mouth, “Get that out of your mouth … a colored man may have handled that.”
He went on to speak candidly about explicit and implicit racism among Southern Baptists, calling them to repent and believe the reconciling truths of the gospel.
Southern Baptists need to understand how ethnic divisions are overcome, added Moore. “White, born-again Christians tend to assume the body of Christ is white, with room for everyone else,” he said. “Racial reconciliation is not a matter of mercy ministry toward minority communities.”
Instead, it is about the fundamental Christian beliefs found in Ephesians 3:1-13 that the gospel is a message for everyone and the church is a unified, multi-ethnic people that are “fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise.”
Photo by Alli Rader
Russell Moore and John M. Perkins during a conversation on “The Civil Rights Movement after 50 Years.”
Other speakers followed, like Tony Evans, renowned speaker, first African-American graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas; Robert P. George, McCormick professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions; and H.B. Charles Jr., pastor-teacher of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., a majority black church that merged with predominantly white Ridgewood Baptist Church in early 2015.
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, also touched upon the gospel and racial reconciliation as he described the connection between the church’s mission and all the nations of the world.
Walter Strickland, SEBTS special advisor to the president for diversity and theology instructor, moderated a panel discussion on key issues in racial reconciliation with Evans, Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Ga.; Kevin Smith, assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.; and Dean Inserra, senior pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla. They discussed topics ranging from the role of poverty in racial reconciliation to “the talk” that African-American parents often have with their sons about how to interact with law enforcement in ways that diminish the heightened level of suspicion often placed upon black males.
John Perkins, civil rights activist, author, Christian minister and president of a foundation in his name, also joined Moore on stage for an interview. Perkins recounted his conversion to Christianity and immersion into the civil rights movement. He also discussed his struggle with forgiveness toward whites after being ridiculed and beaten in a Mississippi jail for his civil rights involvement. Perkins said, “God, if you let me out of this jail alive, I want to preach a gospel that’s stronger than my black interests.” God answered his plea, he said. “God put me in relationships with white people who loved me beyond my racism.”
3/27/2015 2:46:51 PM
March 27 2015 by
Warren Cole Smith, WORLD News Service
Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 1 comments
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) with 15 million members is the largest Protestant denomination in the country. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is its oldest and arguably most influential seminary. Albert Mohler has been president at Southern Seminary for more than 20 years, but when he arrived there as a young man still in his 30s, he had a huge task before him. The seminary had taken a hard, left turn in liberalism, and his job was to do no less than purge the school and restore it to its biblical, Baptist roots.
Q: Say a bit about the war for the soul of the Southern Baptist Convention that you joined when you came to Southern Seminary.
A: I grew up in what we would call a tall-steeple Southern Baptist church – very traditional, a brick church with the big pipe organ and all the rest. It was very much a part of the leadership structure of the Southern Baptist Convention, very faithful in its ministry. But, quite frankly, that church was also part of a denomination that was becoming increasingly non-theological and was losing its moorings and was also facilitating outright theological liberalism in the seminaries and many of the programs and agencies of the denomination.
I came to college in 1978 in a state Baptist college. The election of Adrian Rogers as the first conservative candidate the SBC elected in the conservative resurgence was in ’79, so I really grew into adulthood as that controversy was taking shape, and I had to figure things out in a hurry. I figured out in a hurry that I believed in the narrative of [s]cripture. I figured out in a hurry that I did believe that very serious theological issues were at stake. I didn’t figure out so fast how the SBC issue should be finally won and hammered out. It took me some time to see exactly how those issues were playing out in the Southern Baptist Convention. It required me to shift allegiances from the pastor and his friends who had very much been a part of contributing to my life for all my boyhood to a very different set of people.
BP file photo by Van Payne
R. Albert Mohler Jr. has been president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., for more than 20 years.
Q: A core tenet of the SBC is the autonomy of the local church. How did you reconcile that tension between individual churches that tended toward liberalism but were nonetheless asserting their Baptist claim to autonomy of the local church?
A: We do believe in the autonomy of the local church, but we also believe in the autonomy of the [SBC]. The [SBC] has the right to set its own expectations for membership. Those churches who associate together in the Southern Baptist Convention have not only the right, but every responsibility to determine the churches with whom they want to be in cooperation and do this work. … The Southern Baptist Convention was being quintessentially Baptist when it said, we’re going to take our stand here. These are going to be the parameters of our cooperation. If you’re within those parameters, we’d love to have you. If you’re outside those parameters, you need to join with a Baptist denomination or do whatever that fits your convictions, but not here.
Q: A part of that larger struggle was the struggle taking place right here in Louisville when you got here 21 years ago.
A: I came here as a student in 1980. When I arrived, this was the bastion of moderate superstructure of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is the mother seminary. It is “The” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. That definite article has been a part of its name since 1859. This is a school that started to move in a leftward trajectory in the very early years of the 20th century, but it did so in ways that were rather imperceptible. … You can move left incrementally and the SBC had allowed this seminary to do that from at least the
I arrived in the 1980s. I was starry-eyed. I loved the school. I had been sent here by my pastor and by my state college professors who loved the school or products of the school. There was so much here to love when I arrived as a student. This was a very happy place. There were wonderful things going on here, wonderful scholars. The problem is, they were theologically marching off the map. It wasn’t that I arrived at an unhappy place. I loved it here. It’s that what I heard in the classroom I knew just wasn’t right. … When I came back as president in 1993, I was a part of a much larger movement to recapture the whole SBC. I had the opportunity to articulate much of that vision and to make very clear what I believed needed to take place, not just in the seminaries, but in this seminary. I was elected to do that, and it was a very difficult process, but the Lord allowed it to be successful. Now, 20-plus years later, we’ve been able to build the seminary that I wish I had the opportunity to attend.
Q: What were some of the initial steps?
A: When I said the SBC was exercising its right to say, if you’re inside these parameters please stay, if you’re outside these parameters you’re going to have to go, that’s exactly what I had to say here to the faculty. If you’re inside the parameters then stay, if you’re outside those parameters then by your own admission of being outside those parameters you need to go. This isn’t a Fortune 500 corporation hiring by secular standards. This is a confessional, theological seminary. Every professor here from 1859 forward has signed to teach in accordance with and not contrary to our confession of faith. That confession of faith is unchanged, so if they were outside that confession of faith, they were outside what they had pledged sacredly to abide by. The difficult thing was having to say, “go.” That was not easy. It’s never easy. It was absolutely necessary. If I had to do it again, we’d have to do it again, but that’s not the kind of experience I would wish upon anyone.
Q: The liberal-conservative rift was solved by most of the liberals leaving. Were you left with mostly conservatives here?
A: I had to hire a lot of conservatives. By and large, out of a faculty of about a hundred, we had to hire almost an entire new faculty made up of conservative and evangelical scholars.
Q: One of the things that happened here after that was some people embraced reformed theology more than others. You happen to be one of those who has embraced reformed theology. Talk about your growth out of a Baptist church toward someone who would characterize himself as a reformed theologian.
A: I just want to remind us all that the Southern Baptist Convention was obviously born in that kind of reformed self-consciousness. Our confession of faith is extremely reformed, explicitly reformed. The framers and founders of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 were overwhelmingly, self-consciously holding to the theology that will be described as reformed.
Of course, they were Baptists, as I am adamantly a Baptist. We’re not Presbyterians, but in terms of our understanding of how salvation works in the larger superstructure of theology, we are now, as we were then, very, very close brothers, and for that I’m very thankful.
Q: Some of your comments on contraception and childlessness have created controversy. Talk about your position on those issues.
A: In the Bible, childlessness is always discussed as something that is grievous and a cause for sorrow rather than a cause for joy. There are purposes for which people were childless in the Bible, but that’s much like what Paul argued in 1 Corinthians 7 about someone who was unmarried. You’re unmarried for a purpose that is tied to the gospel. The idea that healthy married people, a man or woman who are married together would choose childlessness just as a lifestyle is alien from the Scripture. If that’s controversial, just try to find any hole in that argument from the Bible. I don’t think you’re going to find it. In fact, I’m confident you won’t.
Contraception is not as easy of a question to answer as you might think or people might want. The Roman Catholic Church has an easy answer, and that is no to any kind of artificial contraception. Quite frankly, their definition of natural stretches the imagination of what natural means. What we do need to recognize is that evangelicals just joined the contraceptive bandwagon unthinkingly, unreflectively, and, I think, unfaithfully, and just thought that any pill had to be a good pill. It has unleashed far more sorrow than joy in this world and has led to an understanding that babies are now simply an elective accessory and has made every pregnancy a tentative pregnancy. You have to put that alongside the availability of legal abortion. By the time you put together the triumvirate of no fault divorce, the availability of contraception, and the availability of abortion on demand, what you have is a situation that has just completely transformed the value of life as recognized by this society.
The evangelical, non-denominational megachurch has risen in the last 30 years or so. While there are some examples of faithfulness within that movement, there are also examples of lack of authority and lack of accountability moving those churches away from faithfulness. I think so. Lack of accountability is not just in terms of the structures of church officers and financial accountability and institutional accountability, but it’s theological accountability. Where’s the confession of faith? Where’s the connection to a comprehensive understanding of the Christian faith that intends to be consciously continuous with the faith of the apostles? Where is that? In most of these churches, it’s simply absent. The size of the church isn’t the problem. There are some wonderfully faithful, really big churches, and some of them are rightly called megachurches. But the megachurch model, which means the attractional model – we minimize theology in order to maximize the crowd – that’s a huge problem. I also think it’s a passing fad. I think that fits cultural Christianity, which is fast disappearing in a secularizing age.
3/27/2015 2:45:10 PM
March 27 2015 by
Calvary Baptist Church
Warren Cole Smith, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments
Calvary Baptist Church of Winston-Salem will be closed on Easter Sunday.
A banner was placed on their building March 9 announcing the rare event.
Instead the church will be hosting a community event at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum with the goal of “bringing the diversity of our community together at one venue on a special day,” according to a press release from the church. The free event will offer doughnuts and drinks at the main entrance beginning at 9 a.m. and is open to everyone.
Rob Peters, Calvary’s senior pastor, will be answering the question “Who is Jesus?” in his sermon.
Translation opportunities will be available in Spanish, Deaf, Vietnamese, Karenni and Nepali.
3/27/2015 2:38:52 PM
March 27 2015 by
Ken Walker, Baptist Press
Calvary Baptist Church | with 0 comments
The attorney who represents 65 former chaplains suing the Navy for discrimination says the possible dismissal of a chaplain for giving traditional biblical counsel is evidence of a continuing attack against evangelicals.
For Virginia attorney Arthur Schulcz, the charge of “intolerance” leveled against Navy chaplain Wesley Modder shows how once-subtle discrimination against evangelical chaplains is increasing. The 65 chaplains’ cases continue to be waged in various courts alleging instances of discrimination dating back to the mid-1970s.
The Navy’s action against Modder falls in the context of recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) language that protects the chaplain’s right to speak on matters of religion and morality, Schulcz said.
“There is the alleged taking of information from Modder’s personal files for the purpose of attacking him,” Schulcz said. “That is clearly a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, yet they’re attacking Chaplain Modder, not the perpetrators.
Chaplain Wes Modder, holding the ceremonial oar given to him by Naval Special Warfare Command.
“Now, the subtle attacks have transitioned to overt attacks. You have to understand the chilling effect this kind of attack has on other chaplains.”
Modder is a veteran of nearly 20 years in the military, including a four-year tour of duty with the Marines. On Feb. 17, his commanding officer sent Modder a letter calling for the chaplain’s “detachment for cause.”
Capt. Jon Fahs said Modder is unable to function in a diverse and pluralistic environment at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command base.
Fahs’ accusations include Modder allegedly telling a student she was “shaming herself” for engaging in premarital sex; berating another unmarried student for getting pregnant; and telling another that homosexuality is wrong.
“He failed to show tolerance and respect for the rights of individuals to determine their own religious convictions as required ...,” Fahs wrote. “On multiple occasions he discriminated against students who were of different faiths and backgrounds” at the Nuclear Field “A” School.
Stationed at the South Carolina post since last April, Modder has been temporarily reassigned as a staff chaplain at Naval Support Activity in Charleston, according to Christianne Witten, a spokesperson for the Navy Chaplain Corps.
Mike Berry, an attorney for Modder with the Dallas-based Liberty Institute, said the complaints lodged against Modder are “highly suspicious.”
One of them came from a young officer who had once worked in the same office with Modder and quite likely knew of his beliefs, said Berry, Liberty Institute’s senior counsel and director of military affairs.
“The actions the Navy has taken so far, particularly Fahs, potentially expose the Navy to liability in federal court for denying a chaplain his constitutional rights,” Berry said.
After receiving Fahs’ letter, Modder filed a request for accommodation of his religious views, which the Navy subsequently denied. Berry said the next step is filing appeals with the admirals responsible for overseeing these issues.
Berry said his client will challenge both the planned dismissal and the alleged infringement on his religious rights. The attorney said those are separate issues and likely to be decided by two different admirals.
The latter is especially significant, Berry said. Under previous Department of Defense (DoD) regulations, the burden fell on a service member to justify his/her religious expression – such as a Jewish soldier wanting to wear a yarmulke, Berry said.
NDAA legislation in fiscal 2013 and 2014 directed the DoD to change its regulations, Berry said. The new law places the burden on the military if it tries to restrict individuals from expressing their religious views – which is what the Navy is trying to do with Modder, the attorney said.
However, Witten replied that the Navy is complying with current DoD and Navy policies and the NDAA’s latest provisions. She said the Navy upholds the rights of conscience of chaplains and service members to express sincerely held beliefs.
“Upon commissioning, all Navy chaplains agree to serve in a diverse and pluralistic environment,” Witten said. “They are expected to treat everyone with dignity and respect, irrespective of differences in religious belief.”
Modder’s case has attracted statements of support from such leaders as evangelist Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and newly-announced Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
The chaplain’s endorsing agency, the Assemblies of God, also “stands solidly” behind Modder, issuing a statement that he is in good standing with the denomination.
“At the same time, we are committed to allowing the Navy to proceed with legal processing,” according to a statement from the denomination, based in Springfield, Mo.
“The Assemblies of God does not have any plans to become directly involved with the political aspects of Chaplain Modder’s situation. We believe this approach is in the best interests of Chaplain Modder, the Assemblies of God and the U.S. Navy.”
Schulcz said he hopes the Navy eventually will be called to account for violating Modder’s rights.
“Where are the [chaplain’s] rights this captain [Fahs] was sworn to uphold?” Schulcz said. “What’s important for people to understand is if you restrict religious freedom, you might as well throw out the rest of the Constitution.
“The right to worship, assemble and petition all come from the First Amendment. When those are under attack, you better watch out, because that’s the Bill of Rights.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ken Walker is a freelance writer from Huntington, W. Va.)
3/27/2015 12:23:55 PM
March 27 2015 by
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press
Ken Walker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
The “Return to the Hiding Place” film about the underground teenage army that helped Corrie ten Boom save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust is aptly released as anti-Semitism is rising globally and on college campuses, the movie’s director said.
The independent film comes more than 70 years after six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, but Jews still face the persecution and hatred of anti-Semitism, according to research and news reports.
Director Peter Spencer said the film’s release is for such a time as this.
“I believe God timed this film for now to bring attention to the plight of believers in the Middle East and the church kind of being asleep at the wheel,” Spencer said. “I’m encouraging pastors to let the truth be known as to what is happening to believers.”
Spencer is promoting the film as an evangelistic outreach to churches and especially youth. He said many young people are often so moved at the film’s end that they offer to start college-based prayer groups and Bible studies, and to educate themselves about the persecution of Christians and Jews.
IMB photo by Will Stuart
“I’m encouraging pastors to let the truth be known as to what is happening to believers,” Spencer said. “Anti-Semitism is growing in colleges because the Left and extremists know if you can get young people believing something in college, they’ll carry it their lives through. And right now the anti-Semitism is stronger than it’s ever been ... for many, many years.
“People have forgotten about the Holocaust,” Spencer said. “This film is to remind people ‘never again.’ We will not as a people sit idly by and watch the body of Christ, our family, be liquidated. We will not watch God’s children in Israel be liquidated.”
Return to the Hiding Place is based on the book and personal accounts of Hans Poley, a Dutch Christian physics student who dropped out of college after refusing to fight for the Nazis and was the first person sheltered in the ten Boom home during WWII. He helped lead a group of students, some as young as 13, who spied on the Nazi army and saved nearly 800 Jews from capture with the help of the ten Boom family.
“This is a film literally about life,” Spencer said. “It’s about protecting innocent life.”
It was at a pro-life debate 19 years ago comparing abortion to the Holocaust that Spencer met Poley, who told him about his activities in Holland during WWII. Before his death, Poley gave Spencer rights to his book and other stories of the underground youth army’s activities.
The movie presents ten Boom’s army as teenagers who became Christocentric, sacrificing their lives for total strangers, and exhibiting maturity Spencer said is rarely found among youth today. Spencer seeks to portray the danger the teenagers faced daily, knowing they could be tortured and killed at any moment.
“We have been seduced by this culture of self,” Spencer said, “and what it takes for us to get the gospel to the world and to change the way the world is determining, unfortunately, the outcome of our lives, is [to] empty ourselves of self and become Christ-centric, and what I would call Christocentric. That is something those teenagers did, and it’s incredible.”
While Poley survived the war, others in ten Boom’s group did not, and their deaths are portrayed in the film. Spencer depicts the teens, untrained in military maneuvers or espionage, as simply moved by the Lord to get involved.
“We sometimes shrink the vision of God by being so focused just on our own little groups and the finances of our own little groups ... that we lose the greatness of the body of Christ worldwide, and that’s why we don’t make decisions sensitive to the suffering body of Christ worldwide,” Spencer said. “So that drove me in this film, to once again bring attention to how God’s people suffered and what it took to stop that attack on God’s people, and we’re at that place again. We’re going to have to rise up and make a stand before it’s too late.”
Spencer believes Poley would be heartbroken at the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, the Middle East, and on college campuses in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Skip Grinberg, chairman of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, called the persecution of Jews in Europe epidemic.
“It has been 70 years since the liberation of the concentration camps. In today’s enlightened age, life should be different,” Grinberg wrote in a Feb. 28 editorial in the Pittsburg Tribune. “But, instead, we sadly find ourselves dealing with levels of anti-Semitism in Europe that are comparable to those of the 1930s. These efforts will encourage our lawmakers to work with their European counterparts and take steps to ensure that when we say ‘never again,’ we mean it.”
In the 2012 survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), 66 percent considered anti-Semitism to be a problem in the countries surveyed, and 76 percent said anti-Semitism has worsened over the past five years in the countries where they live. The study included 5,900 self-identified Jewish people in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, countries that comprise an estimated 90 percent of the European Union’s Jewish population.
The National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students, released in February, found that 54 percent of Jewish American college students personally experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism during the 2013-2014 academic year, mainly from an individual student.
The study by Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysarrom, conducted among 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 universities and four-year colleges, defined anti-Semitism as “prejudice and/or discrimination against Jews, individually or collectively, that can be based on hatred against Jews because of their religion, their ethnicity, ancestry or group membership.”
Return to the Hiding Place opened in select cities in March, and is expected to play in more than 650 cinemas nationwide in the coming months. The film is available for bookings at public cinemas and at churches capable of housing a viewing, Spencer said, through Sept. 1.
Among the film’s endorsers are evangelist Franklin Graham and the Holocaust Memorial in Israel.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
3/27/2015 12:10:53 PM
March 27 2015 by
Aurora Flores, IMB Communications
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Peru’s Nikkei, Japanese immigrants and their descendants, live and work among Peruvians, but their loyalties to Japanese identity and community can wind as tightly as red threads stitched around a baseball.
Although their circumstances dictate reliance on foreigners welcoming them as immigrants, their own Japanese culture compels a slow acceptance of outsiders, said International Mission Board missionary Tim Mitchell.
Tim and his wife Joy, both from Georgia, serve in the Peruvian capital of Lima, where they uniquely work among the Nikkei. About 100,000 Nikkei live in Peru, but only about 100 of them are evangelical Christians.
Overall, “the Nikkei are closed to the gospel,” Tim noted.
But they’re wide open to baseball, a sport that’s hugely popular in the land of their ancestors.
Photo by Lina White/IMB
Kevin Ohmé, former pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, takes time out to talk with some young Japanese-Peruvian baseball fans in Lima, Peru. Ohmé, from First Baptist Church, Brandon, Florida, has traveled to Lima for the past five years to participate in annual baseball clinics, where players hear the gospel while improving their baseball techniques.
Although soccer is the top sport in Peru, many Nikkei express their passion for baseball through Peru’s baseball federation, which offers leagues for young players and a national team. These players include non-Japanese Peruvians, too, but most of the federation’s leaders and some of its coaches are Nikkei. And its leagues are full of aspiring young Nikkei players.
One of those players is a Peruvian Nikkei named Alonzo, who dreams of moving to the U.S. someday to play for the big leagues. He’s had a chance to meet a couple of former major leaguers through annual baseball clinics the Mitchells helped launch in 2011.
As for the Nikkei’s wound-tight loyalties to their Japanese roots, families and beliefs, the clinics build a bridge for Christians to take that first step inside their world.
Through these clinics, baseball-experienced, Christian players and coaches from the U.S. – including two former big league pitchers – help young baseball players improve their game. During a free clinic, held in January, these volunteers shared the gospel through Bible stories, testimonies and one-on-one conversations with players. At the same time, Nikkei parents, coaches and federation leaders also heard the Good News of Christ.
Tim said “the Nikkei do not trust outsiders, but one day many of them will accept the God of the baseball coaches because they are seeing and understanding God’s love through this ministry.”
Although the Nikkei are relatively closed to the gospel, the Mitchells and the volunteers have seen at least 20 Peruvian Nikkei make public decisions to accept Christ during baseball clinics held the last three years.
“After these five years [since the project’s inception], they see we’re just coming here to love them. We’re not here to take their money, or take advantage of them,” said volunteer team leader Gary Payne, executive pastor at Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.
Payne and his team travel to Lima every January, but throughout the year the Mitchells water the seeds sown through further developing relationships with players like Alonzo.
Through Alonzo attending the baseball clinics, the Mitchells have gotten to know his parents, who visit to watch major leaguers help their son improve his skills.
“The baseball clinic has opened up a chance for us to get to know this family at a much deeper level and have an ongoing relationship,” Tim said.
The Mitchells also help Alonzo improve his English, which will ease his transition to the U.S. if he goes there someday. They also reinforce the gospel message through their sacrifice of time.
A current challenge is that the Mitchells are transferring to Japan later this year to serve among Latin American Nikkei living there. For economic reasons, many of these Nikkei have moved to Japan to work in its factories.
As the Mitchells prepare to leave for Japan, they’ve been praying about leaving their established ministry in Peru in good hands.
A big answer – really three of them – came during baseball clinics held in Lima in mid-January. Three other missionary families – serving in Peru through other mission organizations – attended these clinics. All three volunteered to continue following up with players, parents and coaches who made spiritual decisions. One missionary had been praying for how he could begin working with the kids in the league so he could share the gospel.
“I think we helped open this door for him in a big way,” Tim said.
Although the Mitchells will be moving to Japan, Tim plans to return to Peru annually to work with future baseball clinics involving Christian volunteers.
At the end of this year’s clinic, the baseball outreach hit a high note when volunteers, the Mitchells and baseball officials gathered at Lima’s Japanese Cultural Center for a farewell dinner. Although the center has a policy forbidding religious expression, the federation’s president surprised them by asking volunteer team leader Payne to pray a blessing before the meal.
At these dinners in past years, a Nikkei coach has entertained the team with a Japanese song and invited volunteers to sing an American one as well. This year Florida Baptist volunteer Josh Howard sang Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord),” a song based on Psalm 103.
“It was intimidating to stand and sing a cappella in front of friends and others in such an intimate setting, but it was an awesome blessing to find out that we praised God through song in a place that has said that worshiping God is not allowed,” said Howard, from First Baptist Church of Brandon.
“The Nikkei people are truly warm and inviting, after you win their favor,” added another volunteer from First Baptist Church Concord in Knoxville, Tenn. “We do this by producing a quality baseball product – opening the doors for the kingdom work that underlies everything we do.”
Pray for Tim and Joy Mitchell, IMB missionaries among the Nikkei of Peru, as they move to Japan to work with Latin American Nikkei there.
Pray God’s wisdom for three missionary families who will continue the Mitchells’ work of making disciples within Peruvian baseball leagues. Pray for receptive hearts.
Ask God to call out some U.S. Christian families to host Nikkei students in their home – for a semester or summer – to help them learn English and to share the gospel with them.
Ask God to call out U.S. believers gifted in business leadership and/or teaching English as a Second Language to use their skills in reaching Latin America’s Nikkei.
To join the Mitchells’ prayer team, contact them at email@example.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aurora Flores is an IMB writer living in the Americas.)
3/27/2015 11:47:15 AM
Aurora Flores, IMB Communications | with 0 comments