March 7 2014 by
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service
, an Illinois-based advocate for home schooling and conservative dress who warned against rock music and debt, has resigned from the ministry he founded after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at his ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.
Gothard’s resignation from the Institute in Basic Life Principles
, according to a letter sent to families affiliated with the ministry he founded, comes a week after he was put on administrative leave. According to an organizer involved in the whistle-blowing website Recovering Grace
, 34 women told the website they had been sexually harassed; four women alleged molestation.
Photo courtesy of Institute in Basic Life Principles via Wikimedia
Bill Gothard founded the Institute in Basic Life Principles.
RNS spoke with several women who alleged they were sexual harassed, including one woman who alleged that Gothard molested her when she was 17.
Gothard is 79 and single.
Gothard told the Board of Directors he wanted to follow the New Testament command to listen to those who made accusations against him, according to an email sent from David Waller
, administrative director of the Advanced Training Institute
to families involved in the ministry.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus directs his followers to “go and be reconciled” if “your brother or sister has something against you.”
“To give his full attention to this objective, Mr. Gothard has resigned as president of the Institutes in Basic Life Principles, its Board of Directors, and its affiliated entities,” Waller’s email said.
Waller said the two institutes will continue under interim leadership, including upcoming conferences in Nashville and Sacramento under ATI president Chris Hogan.
Gothard’s ministry had been a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among families within the Quiverfull movement, who eschew birth control and promote big families.
Gothard has also rubbed shoulders with Republican leaders. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee
were photographed at a campaign lunch together; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke at one of Gothard’s conferences; and Sarah Palin, when she was a small town mayor in Alaska, attended his International Association of Character Cities conferences declaring Wasilla among Gothard’s “Cities of Character.”
The allegations against Gothard dovetail with financial woes. In recent years, IBLP’s net revenue has dropped significantly, and the ministry is losing money. Between 2009 and 2012, it lost $8.6 million. Its net assets dropped from $92 million in 2010 to $81 million in 2012. It held 504 seminars in 2010, but that number dropped to fewer than 50 in 2012.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Pulliam Bailey joined RNS as a national correspondent in 2013. She has previously served as managing editor of Odyssey Networks and online editor for Christianity Today.)
3/7/2014 12:41:38 PM
March 7 2014 by
Erin Roach, Baptist Press
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments
’s noted expository preaching is being honored in academic chairs at four Southern Baptist seminaries to model for new generations the verse-by-verse teaching that led thousands to Christ during his lifetime.
The W.A. Criswell chair for expository preaching
was installed at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
in January and was established at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
last fall. Two more chairs, at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
, have not been formally announced.
At Southeastern, Jim Shaddix
, professor of preaching and a teaching pastor at The Church at Brook Hills
in Birmingham, Ala., was installed in the new chair.
, a close friend of Criswell’s and chairman of the W.A. Criswell Foundation, is establishing the academic chairs. The foundation’s aim, Pogue said, is to be involved in winning people to Christ through preparing pastors, missionaries, church workers and laypeople to lead people to Jesus.
Pogue, a Dallas commercial real estate broker, told Baptist Press the word “expository” is the key component of the academic chairs in Criswell’s honor.
Photo courtesy of Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives
W.A. Criswell, delivering a presidential address at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1970, was known for preaching the Bible verse-by-verse. Academic chairs are being established in his name at four SBC seminaries.
As Criswell, who helped return the Southern Baptist Convention to its conservative roots and died in 2002, traveled the country preaching, pastors would ask him, “How do you know what you’re going to preach on next Sunday?” Pogue said. “We wake up on Monday morning and have no idea what we’re going to preach on.”
Criswell’s reply, Pogue said, would always be the same: “It’s very easy. I’m an expository preacher, so I start at the first passage in a book of the Bible, and I preach verse by verse all the way through that book. So I don’t have to worry what to preach the next Sunday. I just preach on the next verse from where I ended my previous sermon.”
Pogue said of Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas
for 50 years, “He preached through the entire Bible one time. It took him 17 years and eight months. He started at the first verse of the Book of Genesis, and he preached verse by verse by verse by verse all the way through the Bible.
“Dr. Criswell said, ‘Where I would leave off Sunday morning, I would start at the next verse on Sunday night. Where I would leave off Sunday night, I would start at the next verse the next Sunday morning. I never have to worry about what I’m going to preach the next Sunday. It will be just the next verse.’”
“After he got through preaching through the Bible, he’d start at different books in the Bible, and he would preach verse by verse all the way through that book,” Pogue said. “He said these young pastors worry about what they’re going to preach, but if they do expository preaching, they don’t have to worry about what they’re going to preach. They just preach the next verse from where they ended the previous sermon. I think it’s a great lesson for young preachers.”
In announcing the expository preaching chair at Southeastern during the seminary’s spring convocation, President Daniel Akin said Pogue “is a dear friend and a wonderful brother. I thank God for how he has been used in our Lord’s work.”
Criswell and Pogue had “a father-son relationship,” Akin said, “and Jack has done a tremendous job in honoring and perpetuating the legacy of Criswell.”
“If not for men like Dr. Criswell, you would not be here today,” Akin told the convocation.
The announcement of the chairs at Southeastern and Southern was accompanied by a video of Criswell’s sermon “Whether We Live or Die
,” delivered in 1985 at the Pastors’ Conference preceding the SBC annual meeting in Dallas during the Conservative Resurgence.
Shaddix, who now occupies the sixth SEBTS chair installed in the past 10 years, said, “I was there in 1985 as a seminary student when Dr. Criswell gave this address. It opened my eyes to become aware of what was going on and the need to stand on God’s Word and preach it faithfully with integrity.”
Being named to the chair, Shaddix said, “is the greatest honor, encouragement and affirmation in my life in ministry.”
Criswell’s 1985 sermon highlighted “the promise of renaissance, resurrection and revival” in Christ versus the “pattern of death for a denomination, the pattern of death for an institution, the pattern of death for a preacher and a professor” in theological liberalism.
Criswell also encouraged the audience to “never turn aside from [God’s] great high calling to preach the whole counsel of God, warn men of their sins and the judgment of God upon them, baptize their converts in the name of the triune Lord, and build up the congregation in the love and wisdom of Christ Jesus.” He added, “Just keep on winning souls to Jesus!”
Pogue established the first academic post in Criswell’s honor nearly two decades ago at the Criswell College
he founded in Dallas, naming it the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching
Pogue is the “custodian” of the Criswell legacy that has benefited thousands of ministerial students, said Susie Hawkins
, a former Criswell College trustee. “As one of those, I am eternally grateful for Jack’s love for the Word and how he so generously has given of his time and resources to expand the extraordinary teaching/preaching ministry of Dr. Criswell.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
3/7/2014 12:19:16 PM
March 7 2014 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
The Southern Baptist Convention’s
lead advocate for religious freedom has called on two conservative Republican senators to permit a vote on legislation designed to protect adherents of minority faiths in such countries as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria.
Russell D. Moore
, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
(ERLC), and Richard Pates
of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
(USCCB) asked Sens. Tom Coburn
of Oklahoma and Mike Lee
of Utah in a March 4 letter to lift their hold on a bill that would authorize presidential appointment of a special envoy to promote religious freedom in the Near East and South Central Asia. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed similar legislation in September with a 402-22 roll call, but the hold placed reportedly by Coburn and Lee has prevented the opportunity for a floor vote on the Senate version under the chamber’s rules.
The appeal to the senators came less than a week after another joint letter endorsed by Moore urged President Obama to promote religious liberty internationally and protect it domestically.
The special envoy to be established by the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act, S. 653
, is needed “to focus on the dire situation affecting religious minorities, especially Christians who are the group most targeted for harassment and attacks in the largest number of countries,” Moore and Pates said in their letter.
Christians and adherents of other religious faiths increasingly are targets of repression and violence in countries in both the Near East – also known as the Middle East – and South Central Asia. The existence of entire religious movements is threatened in some areas – most notably Egypt and Iraq.
In their letter, Moore and Pates – who is chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace – pointed to the civil war in Syria as an example of assaults in the Near East on religious adherents. More than eight million Syrians, many of them Christians, “are caught in the cross-fire between the government and opposition forces, and have fled their homes, becoming internally displaced or flooding into neighboring countries,” they told Coburn and Lee.
Other attacks in recent years on religious minorities cited by Moore and Pates were the destruction of Coptic churches in Egypt and the targeting of Christian villages by Hindu extremists in India.
“In many instances, religious minorities have lived for centuries side by side with those of other faiths, but now find themselves coming under increased attack and harassment,” they wrote.
Among his duties, a special envoy would monitor religious freedom conditions in the regions and recommend responses by Washington to violations of religious rights.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee easily approved the proposal in December. Sen. Roy Bount
, R.-Mo., is the sponsor of the bill, which has 22 cosponsors.
Coburn refuses to support the bill because he considers it unnecessary, he told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a February 2013 letter. He said the special envoy position duplicates that of the ambassador at large for international religious freedom, according to the letter provided by Coburn’s staff.
“[T]he creation of this duplicative position will ultimately do nothing to hold the [Obama] Administration accountable for its continued failure to fulfill the legal mission established under [the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act] and our moral obligations to support freedom for religious minorities worldwide, as the bill’s supporters intend,” Coburn wrote.
Instead of passing another bill, Congress should hold the administration and State Department “directly accountable for their failure,” he said.
Baptist Press requested comments from Lee’s office, but none were received before the deadline for this article.
One difference in the House and Senate versions of the proposal is the House bill mandates the special envoy will prioritize activities in the countries of Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan.
In 2011, the House passed a bill that was similar to the one it approved in September, but the Senate failed to vote on that legislation. The Obama administration’s State Department led opposition to the measure in 2011, said the House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Frank Wolf
The ERLC’s Moore joined nine others in a Feb. 26 letter to Obama thanking him for his advocacy of religious liberty overseas in his Feb. 6 remarks at the annual National Prayer Breakfast
. They applauded his words of support for imprisoned Christians Saeed Abedini
in Iran and Kenneth Bae
in North Korea, as well as his promise to appoint soon an ambassador at large for international religious freedom.
They also urged the president to guard religious liberty in the United States.
“Some Americans are concerned that your administration’s domestic policies do not fully protect the religious convictions of all our citizens,” they said in the letter. “Your leadership abroad will be strongest as you point to the robust religious freedom protection that is provided even to those who may be critics of your administration.”
Among their complaints, religious liberty advocates have been especially dismayed by the Obama administration’s refusal to reverse its abortion/contraception mandate or provide adequate conscience protections as part of the regulation. The mandate, which is part of the implementation of the 2010 health-care law, requires employers to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs for their workers.
The letter signers included Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington; and Dwayne Leslie, director of legislative affairs for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
3/7/2014 12:08:21 PM
March 7 2014 by
Adam Miller, NAMB/Baptist Press
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
LENNOXVILLE, Quebec, Canada – Canadians easily dismiss Christianity, especially in Quebec. The history of mistrust is woven deep within the fabric of Québécois culture, a culture that’s decidedly Catholic and, at the same time, increasingly secular.
But Lucas Aube in Lennoxville, Quebec, has worked to make rejecting Christ a greater challenge than ever among the thousands of students of Bishop’s University
and Champlain College
It hasn’t been easy.
The immediate response many give to Christian outreach has been one of disdain, skepticism and even, as Aube has experienced, disgust at the crazy religious people. Intentionally engaging people in ways that destroy stereotypes is changing that perspective.
NAMB photo by Peter Field Peck
Church planter Lucas Aube stands on the shore of the St. Francis River, which runs through the town of Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada, where he lives and serves as a North American Mission Board missionary.
“We are living as the hands and feet of Jesus on a weekly basis,” said Aube, who is planting Encounter Church with a goal of having a self-sustaining church that reaches students and the families in the surrounding communities.
Aube is one of six missionaries featured this year in the North American Mission Board
’s 2014 promotion of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering
. The church plant he pastors is part of NAMB’s effort to help Southern Baptists start 15,000 new churches in 10 years. Half of NAMB’s financial support comes from the Annie offering.
Aube and his leaders train members to share their stories and to talk of faith in Christ as a journey and a process.
“When you talk to them in these ways they see you as at least an option on part of their journey instead of something to avoid at all costs,” Aube said.
“They expect Christians to be nasty and terrible to them,” Aube said. “They’re blown away with the love and hospitality that we are showing them. The barriers seem to be coming down. They’re like, ‘Wow. We can’t believe you guys are Christians. You’re so nice.’ They’re blown away that Christians are there in a way that has no strings attached.”
Aube is quick to point out how crucial partnerships with other churches have made his ministry possible.
A team from First Baptist Church in Midland, Texas, learned of Encounter on a mission trip to Quebec, and the church has been part of the ministry ever since. First Baptist Midland
has been integral to Encounter’s continued growth and vital for weekly outreach efforts – efforts that require significant resources.
“Without them we would not be able to continue the work we have here,” Aube said. First Baptist Midland helps provide the food that goes into weekly meals for several hundred students.
Hospitality along with Tuesday night home cooked meals for about 300 students has provided the primary opportunities for students to emerge from atheism, agnosticism or some other belief into belief in the gospel.
“These opportunities really take a lot of time and energy and sometimes you feel like it’s going nowhere,” Aube said. “But over time we’ve seen people experience radical transformation.”
Students actually look forward to hanging out with the people of Encounter, Aube said, and chances are that going to church for a meal used to be the last thing on their list.
“The students love it,” Aube said. “Because that trust relationship is there, we’ve been able to go deeper in conversation. On Tuesday nights, for example, they say, ‘We’re going to church to have a meal.’ That’s their language. We’ve never used that language with them.”
In a lot of ways the work of reaching students in Quebec boils down to working hard to remove every barrier and then getting out of the way to watch the gospel bring people to life, Aube said.
“At its very core the gospel is offensive,” he said. “We aren’t supposed to add to that offense. We are supposed to seek and create opportunities for the gospel to do the work.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller writes for the North American Mission Board.)
3/7/2014 11:57:37 AM
March 7 2014 by
Caroline Anderson, IMB
Adam Miller, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
BANGKOK – Despite political unrest permeating their own country, Thai Baptists
have looked beyond their borders to show compassion to victims of Typhoon Haiyan
. The disaster left a trail of death and destruction through the Philippines last November.
“We want to tell [Filipinos], they are our brothers,” said Thongchai Pradabchananurat
, president of the Thailand Baptist Convention
. “When our brothers suffer, we suffer. When our brothers are sad, we are sad. What we can do for our brothers, we will do.”
Photos and videos of lost lives, homes and livelihoods after Haiyan’s devastation stirred the hearts of Thai Baptists to give $10,000 towards relief efforts in the Philippines, said Pradabchananurat.
IMB Photo by Lily Jameson
A picture of the Virgin Mary and a New Testament are displayed by a family among the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Ormoc, Philippines.
After watching news coverage of the typhoon’s aftermath, Pradabchananurat said the convention quickly sent word to Baptist churches throughout the country requesting donations for storm victims.
As a result, the donation will be given to Baptist Global Response – committed to long-term recovery and rebuilding in the Philippines.
Churches, large and small, responded to the call to give. Some small churches gave $50, while others gave from $100 to $500.
“Anything we can do for them we will do,” Pradabchananurat said. “It’s our joy. Our Thai people, Baptist Thais, they have become more generous. They are not rich, but they gave.”
The disaster reminded him of his nation’s own tragedy a decade ago due to a deadly tsunami.
A 2004 tsunami struck southern Thailand, killing more than 5,000 and causing millions of dollars in destruction.
“We used to suffer, we used to be victim,” Pradabchananurat said.
Typhoon Haiyan struck during the midst of a political crisis in Thailand. Pradabchananurat said the crisis temporarily diverted the attention of Thai Baptists and delayed the convention’s response time, but it didn’t keep Thai Baptists from giving.
James White,* an International Mission Board (IMB) worker in Southeast Asia, said he was inspired by the generosity of Thai Baptists.
“My initial reaction [to the $10,000 donation] was, wow, this is just another sign that our Thai Baptists are maturing in Christ and they want to be kingdom-minded, world-minded believers,” he said.
“They are stepping up and looking outside of themselves…realizing they need to be a blessing outside of their borders,” White said.
White was in a convention meeting with Pradabchananurat when the typhoon hit. The Thai leader asked White where they should send financial assistance.
White recommended the convention donate to BGR, a Southern Baptist international relief and development organization and a key ministry partner of IMB.
“Once the news cycle has become weary, some of these groups leave. Baptists don’t do that,” White said.
BGR and U.S. Baptists committed to long-term recovery projects in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami.
Pradabchananurat said Thai Baptists desire to be God’s hands and feet and give generously to those in need.
Pradabchananurat said Thai Baptists didn’t forget the generosity and kindness extended to them by U.S. Baptists. When Thai Baptists heard of the July 2013 devastating tornado in Oklahoma, they donated $6,850. Thai Baptists also responded financially to disasters in Japan, Missouri and Myanmar.
“Because of this kind of spirit, the churches in Thailand are growing,” he added.
Pradabchananurat said Thai churches started really growing after the tsunami in Thailand. Partnership and cooperation between Baptist churches in Thailand also increased as believers and churches banded together to help their country.
Church partnerships extended to Japan, Myanmar, Oklahoma and Missouri as Thai Baptists came alongside their fellow Christians during their times of crisis.
“We began to grow through that time,” said Pradabchananurat, explaining that much of the growth in Thai Baptist churches has been among lower income individuals.
The Thai leader said it has been historically difficult to reach the middle class of Thailand. However, in recent years, Baptist churches have been growing and more middle class Thais have become followers of Jesus Christ and they’re able to give more to their churches.
“They want to be a blessing to people outside of themselves,” said White. “That is a sign of growth and maturity.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson writes for IMB from Asia.)
3/7/2014 11:48:46 AM
March 6 2014 by
Erich Bridges, IMB/Baptist Press
Caroline Anderson, IMB | with 0 comments
KIEV, Ukraine – Tensions rose to dangerous levels as Russian forces occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in late February, but Ukrainian Baptists
aren’t slowing down their ministry to a nation battered by months of internal crisis.
In fact, they’re picking up the pace.
The response from the churches has been fantastic,” said International Mission Board (IMB) worker Shannon Ford, who lives in Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev, during a March 4 interview. “It really has been a time for prayer – not simply saying we’re going to pray, but actually going and being seen and guiding other people to pray,” even in the far east near the Russian border.
IMB personnel are serving right beside them.
“We’re able to do our ministry,” Ford insisted. “We have a family in [a Crimean city] right where the Russian fleet is parked. I talked to them this morning, and they were telling me all the different ministry things they did last week and what they’re planning this week. So despite all the uneasiness and the frightening pictures from the zoom lens of the media, our personnel and our national brothers and sisters are still doing their job, still having outreach groups, still holding services, still doing the things they do.”
IMB photo by Chris Carter
A Crimean Tatar pauses to pray. The man, who wished to remain unidentified, is a church planter to his own people in Crimea. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea is a small peninsula south of the Ukraine in the Black Sea, roughly the size of New Jersey. The Crimean Tatars have inhabited the Crimean peninsula, now a part of Ukraine, for more than seven centuries.
Ford doesn’t downplay the dangers facing Ukraine from both inside and out – or the agony the nation has experienced in recent months as protesters battled police and blood flowed before the government changed hands. He has served there for more than 15 years and feels the pain of Ukrainians more than most foreigners.
“The last couple of weeks in Kiev have been really tense,” he said, reflecting on the violent clashes in Kiev’s Independence Square. “The loss of life was just very hard to accept. The days after that turned into something more like an extended funeral period. I don’t know that I’ve seen a more grieving or sorrowful time in Ukraine.”
But Christians came alongside Ukrainians in the midst of their suffering and struggle, setting up tents in Independence Square to pray for people, provide medical aid, serve food and tea, distribute Bibles and share the gospel. In Ford’s view, it’s an outward sign of the maturing of evangelical work since Ukraine gained independence from the dissolving Soviet Union.
“For us it’s become a wonderful place for ministry because of our excellent partners, the Ukrainian Baptist Union,” he said. “Evangelistic efforts and church planting have borne lots of fruit. We’ve turned a page now from the pioneer work in the early ‘90s to looking toward missionary-sending from this country.”
At the moment, however, the crisis at home demands the full attention of Ukrainian Baptists. One of them is Oleksandr Turchynov
, who was voted interim national president by the Ukrainian Parliament until new elections take place in May. He took office after President Viktor Yanukovych
was removed Feb. 23 and later fled to Russia (Russia’s incursion into Crimea followed within a week).
Turchynov “has been a lay preacher in one of our Baptist churches, and he has brought a demeanor of trust and respect to the acting government,” Ford said. “So it’s really been a great time for the churches to be doing what we ought to be doing. They’ve not hidden. They’ve actually activated and gotten more visible during this time of stress and tension.”
Now, as divisions increase between ethnic Ukrainians in the western part of the country and ethnic Russians in the east, Christians are focusing on bringing people together.
“‘Unity’ is the word that keeps being used,” Ford reported. “The [Baptist] brothers and sisters in eastern Ukraine mostly use Russian. Many of them have Russian heritage. But they are the first ones to speak up and say, ‘There’s no tension between us and the Ukrainian speakers.’ Those in western Ukraine, even in a city that is very nationalistic and Ukrainian in language and culture, declared a ‘Russian language only’ day. They actually took to the streets and used Russian to show we’re one country. Language is not the thing that divides us.”
Unless circumstances force a change in plans, Baptists and mission workers anticipate a full schedule of summer camps, evangelistic outreach events and other ministries this year. In fact, Ford hopes Southern Baptist volunteers come to work alongside them.
“It may sound like a fool’s errand, but we still think you can come and serve, because we’re still here and we’d like you to come and join us,” he said. He also challenged Southern Baptists to use the current situation as a way to reach out to ethnic Ukrainians and Russians in American communities.
Ford said he and other IMB workers have been overwhelmed and greatly encouraged by the many emails and social media posts from Southern Baptists expressing concern and promising prayer.
“It’s kind of strange. We’re in a sense of alert, but we’re also very much at ease,” he said. “Our No. 1 prayer is not necessarily for our safety, even though we of course want that for ourselves and for our people. Our No. 1 prayer is that we make use of this opportunity to be purveyors of the gospel light. There’s just a lot of opportunity, and I’d hate for us to miss it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is an International Mission Board global correspondent.)
3/6/2014 11:42:26 AM
March 6 2014 by
Erich Bridges, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
BALTIMORE – “Restoration and revival through prayer
,” is the theme of the Southern Baptist Convention
(SBC) 2014 annual meeting June 10 - 11 in Baltimore, SBC president Fred Luter
“We have not had a theme that focused on prayer and revival for many years,” said Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church
in New Orleans. “I pray that God will send revival across America and particularly among Southern Baptists.”
Psalm 80:18–19 is Luter’s selection as the biblical text to support the theme: “Then we will not turn away from You; revive us, and we will call on Your name. Restore us, Yahweh, the God of Hosts; look on us with favor, and we will be saved” (HCSB).
Luter will preach during the June 10 evening session, marking his last presidential address.
No other business will be presented or discussed in the evening session, adhering to last year’s annual meeting format, said David Smith
, chairman of the SBC Committee on Order of Business
and executive director of the Austin Baptist Association in Texas
“It obviously had such a great response last year that we decided we wanted to do it again,” Smith said of the evening session. “We just think it’s going to bring back something that folks go to Convention for – to hear the Word, to be inspired, and to worship. And we’re looking forward to it.”
Luter, a member of the committee, requested at the September 2013 Executive Committee meeting that the evening worship format continues, Smith said.
“[President Luter] said, ‘I’d really like to recommend that we do the Tuesday night event again.’ And of course our committee wholeheartedly supported that,” Smith said. “On Tuesday night of the convention he’ll be sharing his president’s address and Roger [McGee, pastor of music and worship at First Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia] will be leading in the worship time.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press staff.)
SBC children, student registrations open
3/6/2014 11:31:50 AM
March 6 2014 by
Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press
Baptist Press | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department has issued a statement deploring what it calls “continued threats against Christians and other minorities in Syria” from militant Islamists at war with both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
and fellow Islamic militants.
According to a March 3 statement from State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki
, the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant
(ISIL) announced last week in Raqqa it will force Christians in the city to “convert to Islam, remain Christian and pay a tax, or face death.”
“These outrageous conditions violate universal human rights,” Psaki said. “ISIL has demonstrated time and again its disregard for Syrian lives, and it continues to commit atrocities against the Syrian people. Although ISIL claims it is fighting the regime, its oppression of and senseless violence against Syrians, including the moderate Syrian opposition, demonstrates that it is fighting for nothing except the imposition of its own brand of tyranny.”
The State Department’s condemnation of ISIL comes as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the group – a branch of al-Qaida also known as ISIS – had given Christians in Raqqa an ultimatum to accept a “dhimma,” a protection agreement much like those between mafia families and businesses. If the agreement was not signed, the villagers would have to convert to Islam or “face the sword.”
Haaretz reported Christians in the city had signed the agreement, which commits them to a biannual tax of “four gold dinars” – about $500 per person. Those deemed middle class Christians by Islamic clerics are only required to pay half the tax, while those who are poor will be required to pay one quarter of that amount.
The average annual income in Syria is only $4,800 (US), and much less since the civil war began. That means many Christians will be unable to pay the tax and will be forced into conversion or worse.
In addition to being required to practice Christianity behind closed doors, Christians in Raqqa must now follow 11 other conditions in order to keep the agreement with their Muslim overlords. Among those conditions are prohibitions on building new sanctuaries or restoring those damaged in the civil war, aiding any faction or government opposed to ISIL, and discouraging conversions to Islam from within the Christian community, according to the Israeli newspaper.
The dhimma is a type of agreement that has existed in Islam since the mid-7th century. The opportunity to pay the tax or “jizya” for protection was offered to Christians and Jews during the Islamic conquests because Islam’s founder, Muhammad, regarded Christians and Jews as “people of the Book,” partly because Islam claimed Abraham, Moses and Jesus as prophets and partly because the religion’s founder believed Christians and Jews living among Muslims would seek conversion in order to stop paying the tax.
Under such an agreement, “dhimmis” were and still are considered defeated and humbled foes of Islam.
In the Koran (Surah 9:29), followers of Islam are instructed to “fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and his messenger have declared unlawful – those who do not practice the religion of truth though they were given the Book – until they pay the tribute willingly and have been humbled.”
Muslims, according to Islamic teaching, are required to protect the lives and property of dhimmis, but they can be killed without trial if they violate the agreement.
Psaki said in her statement the dhimma between the ISIL and Christians in Raqqa is a departure from the “long history of tolerance and co-existence” between Muslims and Christians in Syria. But she also said that Christians were not fairing any better under the assault of the Assad regime.
“Both the regime and ISIL are fueling sectarian strife to justify their brutality. We strongly condemn these abuses and urge all parties to protect and respect the rights of all Syrians, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or religion,” Psaki said.
Raqqa, however, is not the first Christian settlement to be subjected to mistreatment by Islamic militants when caught between rebels and the Assad regime. In fact, it is not the first time ISIL has forced Christians to make a decision between faith, property or life.
In March 2013, nearly two years into the Syrian uprising prompted by the so-called “Arab Spring,” the town of Yacoubiyeh, comprised of nearly 2,500 Christian residents, was subjected to the same treatment. The commander of militant Islamist forces there said he would implement Islamic law, forcing Christians into a type of second class citizenry.
The rebel commander, using the pseudonym Hakim, said Christians could practice their freedoms, but in private. “Personal freedom stops where the freedom of others begins,” Hakim told the Associated Press.
The Christians in Yacoubiyeh who could flee fled, and militants moved on to capture the villages of Judeida and Quniya, home to thousands of other Christians. Those who remained met with Islamic clerics and expressed their desire to avoid the status of dhimmi. But the Lebanese Daily Star reported that Muslim clerics noted the absence of a legitimate government as a reason for the “service” provided by Islamic courts practicing Sharia law, to which the Christians would be subject.
The specter of ill treatment under Sharia law has caused many Christians, at first sympathetic with the rebels, to again support the Assad regime. In fact, several Assadist strongholds are among the ancient Christian communities that have been attacked by jihadists.
In September 2013, for instance, rebels comprised mainly of militant Islamists attacked the ancient town of Maaloula, the last town on earth where ancient Aramaic is the primary language. Jihadist fighters overran a Christian monastery in the town but did not harm the few remaining nuns there. They stated they were looking only to cleanse the town of supporters of the Assad regime.
However, churches in Maaloula were reportedly destroyed and Christian relics smashed in the fighting. Rebels also executed more than 20 people in the town square, many of them reportedly Christians loyal to the Assad regime.
News organizations such as Arutz Sheva, a national Israeli news agency, said the attack on Maaloula was led by the al-Nusra front of al-Qaida. It is this group, taking direction from al-Qaida’s spiritual leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, which is in a battle of its own with ISIL. Al-Nusra has accused ISIL leaders of assassinating some of its leaders to gain greater control over the Islamist revolution.
“The paradoxical result is that the al-Qaida stand-in – Al-Nusra – is now considered a more desirable ally of the rebels than ISIS because it relies largely on Syrian support, while ISIS [ISIL] has recruited many volunteers from Arab and Western countries,” Haaretz reported.
“Al-Nusra has also been ‘kinder’ to civilians. True, the group’s militants decapitated civilians suspected of supporting the Syrian regime, but it also is better at keeping order and maintaining the food supply to the civilians under its control. In addition, Al-Nusra and the Islamic Front – an umbrella organization for several Islamist groups – are currently cooperating in an effort to create a united front against ISIS [ISIL].”
According to Haaretz, al-Zawhiri, who assumed command of al-Qaida after the death of Osama bin Laden, told ISIL to stop resisting al-Qaida’s leadership or it would face “a dreadful battle.”
Fighting between the two groups, which has left Christians with little options in a three-way struggle between Assad, al-Qaida’s al-Nusra and ISIL, reportedly has resulted in 3,000 deaths. The pushback from al-Nusra also reportedly forced ISIL to hold up in Raqqa, where the dhimma agreement was signed.
In December 2013, political leaders in neighboring Lebanon denounced the first attacks on Christian sites in Syria, in particular the Church of the Annunciation and Martyrs in Raqqa.
, who was president of Lebanon during its own civil war from 1982-88 and is now head of the Kataeb Party largely comprised of Maronite Catholics, said the attacks “show the irresponsibility and ignorance of those who committed these crimes.” Gemayel called for militants to respect the freedom of those from other civilizations and religions.
According to CNN, ISIL’s agreement with the Christians of Raqqa has since come under fire from other radical clerics as well. Louay Safi, spokesman for the Syrian Coalition fighting the Assad regime, said the group’s treatment of non-Muslims was “un-Islamic.”
The radical cleric Abu Qatada, who is standing trial in Jordan for terrorism, told CNN the militants could not impose such an agreement on Christians yet – because they were not yet “empowered to govern Syria.” Presumably then, whichever branch of Islamic militants completes its conquest of the nation could then force Christians to submit as dhimmis.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gregory Tomlin is a writer in Fort Worth, Texas.)
3/6/2014 11:18:32 AM
March 6 2014 by
Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
BALTIMORE – Registration is open for preschool childcare, Children’s Conferences International, Children in Action Missions Camp
and Youth on Mission
in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s
June 10-11 annual meeting in Baltimore.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
childcare volunteers will care for preschoolers, while Children’s Conferences International
and Woman’s Missionary Union
will guide the Children in Action Missions Camp and Youth on Mission curricula and activities.
Preschool childcare and activities for children who have completed grades 1-6 will be housed at the Baltimore Convention Center, the annual meeting site. Youth who have completed grades 7-12 will begin their days at the convention center with worship before going into the community for hands-on missions work.
Pre-registration is required and will be accepted online at www.sbcannualmeeting.net
under the “Children/Youth” tab. All participants should register as soon as possible because of limited space.
Due to space limitations and worker-to-children ratio objectives, onsite registration will not be accepted.
Preschool childcare for newborns through 5-year-olds will be available during the SBC Pastors’ Conference, June 8-9, and the annual meeting, June 10-11. The cost is $25 per child for each of the events. In addition, there is a $10 non-refundable registration fee per child.
Lunch for preschoolers will be available for $6 Monday and $12 total for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Parents should pay all related fees when registering to insure their child’s participation. The SBC will verify registrations with an emailed confirmation packet, including a parents’ handbook.
Children’s Conferences International
Children’s Conferences International will offer the adventure “Christ Who Strengthens Me” for children ages 4-12 during the Pastors’ Conference. The cost for Sunday evening and Monday is $27 or for Monday only is $23. Registration at the door will be $30.
Registration is open at http://www.childrensconferences.com/*!sbc-pastors-conference-2014/c18n4
Children in Action Missions Camp
Children in Action Missions Camp for children who have completed grades 1-6 by May/June will be offered June 10-11.
The camp theme “Gotta Tell It!” is designed to challenge children to tell God’s story to people who need to hear it.
“Children attending the Children in Action Missions Camp will learn that they can know God and have a relationship with Him,” said Cindy Bradley, Michigan WMU executive director and camp coordinator.
“In addition to Bible studies, children will visit with missionaries representing both the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board,” Bradley said. “Children will also participate in worship sessions, games and recreation, crafts and mission projects. These Bible study and missions experiences will show children that they are a part of God’s story and have a place in His story.”
The cost is $40 per child. In addition, there is a $10 non-refundable registration fee per child. Snacks will be provided; lunch will not. Parents will need to pick up their children both days at the conclusion of the morning session.
Youth on Mission
Youth on Mission for students who’ve completed grades 7-12 by May/June will be provided June 10-11.
“Youth on Mission will learn that they can know God and have a relationship with Him. They will be encouraged to be bold in telling His story and by serving others. The youth will serve through hands-on missions projects in Baltimore,” said Kristy Carr, National WMU Ministry Consultant and Youth on Mission coordinator. “Each morning mission studies will be presented by both International Mission Board and North American Mission Board missionaries.”
The cost is $55 per youth. In addition, there is a $10 non-refundable registration fee per youth. Lunch and a snack will be provided both days.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Lynn Richmond of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s office of convention finance.)
Restoration, revival, prayer 2014 meeting focus
3/6/2014 11:04:30 AM
March 5 2014 by
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service
Baptist Press | with 0 comments
American evangelicals are denouncing a new Uganda law that criminalizes homosexuality, reiterating a position that many have held for years but which has nonetheless drawn scrutiny and skepticism from critics.
Since 2009, several American pastors and leaders have condemned legislation in Uganda that in its initial version imposed the death penalty for some offenders. Under the revised law signed recently by President Yoweri Museveni
, the death penalty was removed and replaced with life in prison in some cases.
Now, American evangelicals who insist they never supported either version of the law nonetheless find themselves playing defense, saying their statements against homosexuality at home are being twisted as an endorsement of harsh penalties against gays and lesbians abroad.
Decrying laws in countries such as Uganda and Russia, Russell Moore
, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
, said he knows no evangelicals who would support legislation like Uganda’s.
“We always must balance a fear of Western cultural imperialism with a responsibility to speak to global human rights around the world,” said Moore, who has also denounced Russia’s anti-gay laws because he has adopted sons from Russia.
RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.
Russell Moore at the Washington offices of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“Those of us who hold to a Christian sexual ethic don’t want to see those who disagree with us jailed; we want to see them reconciled to God through the gospel.”
The timing of Uganda’s legislation coincided with heated debates in the U.S. over the proposed legislation in Arizona that would have allowed businesses in the state to deny services to people who are gay if they felt that serving them would violate their religious rights.
“The situations in Uganda and Arizona are galaxies apart,” Moore said. “I think that in Arizona and several other states, in an attempt to preserve our religious liberties, regardless of how we agree with how it’s being done, can hardly compare with persecution around the world.”
California megachurch pastor Rick Warren
, too, posted on his Facebook page on Sunday (March 2) denying allegations that he ever supported the Uganda bill. In 2009, Warren posted an “encyclical video” on YouTube saying he opposes the criminalization of homosexuality.
“Last week, the nation of Uganda passed a bad law, which I have publicly opposed for nearly 5 years,” Warren wrote. “I still oppose it, but rumors persist because lies and errors are never removed from the internet.”
Evangelical humanitarian organization World Vision has opposed the bill since 2009, arguing that it could hamper efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS. “More people would be reluctant to seek, receive or even provide care and compassion out of fear of being reported,” the organization said in a statement. “This would also make their families and children even more vulnerable.”
Uganda is not the only country to criminalize same-sex relations. The United Nations
estimates that 78 countries ban homosexuality.
Since the law passed, Uganda has been hit with substantial aid cuts from Western nations; the World Bank has postponed a $90 million loan for the country’s health systems. Secretary of State John Kerry
has likened Uganda’s law to South Africa’s apartheid-era ban on interracial unions. Cardinal Peter Turkson
of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said Tuesday that “homosexuals are not criminals” and should not receive a sentence of life in prison.
Media reports have connected the bill to a 2009 conference in Uganda, at which three Americans condemned homosexual behavior and promoted therapy for same-sex attraction. One of the men, Scott Lively
, a Massachusetts pastor and head of Abiding Truth Ministries
, said that he is not responsible for the bill.
“It’s a very insulting argument, that somehow an American evangelical pastor is so powerful that I’ve overwhelmed the intelligence of an entire government and turned them out to do my will,” Lively said. “The Ugandans knew what they wanted to hear.”
He said he does not support the bill in its final form.
“I have mixed feelings about the final law,” Lively said. “I support the portions that increase penalties for homosexual abuse among children, intentionally spreading AIDS through sodomy. The penalties in the law for simple homosexuality are still too harsh.”
He said that if he had power to implement legislation in the U.S., he would make laws related to sexuality similar to new marijuana laws, where the government would be prohibited from advocating and promoting it but advocates who practice it would left alone. He said he also would have recommended reparative therapy, the disputed belief that sexual orientation can be changed.
“There are many who are compelled to same-sex behavior, like alcoholism or any other behavioral disorder,” Lively said. “The government should be concerned with helping them overcome their problems and not just punish them for it.”
Initial opposition to the bill was strong among evangelicals, but it gradually faded due to “Uganda fatigue,” said Warren Throckmorton
, a professor of psychology at Grove City College.
“Early on, Rick Warren went out on a big way against the bill, and he still got blamed for it at times. Some of the vigor early on was worn down over time,” Throckmorton said. “The bill came up and then died several times. Just when you thought it was gone and over with, the Ugandan parliament passed it in the middle of the night, so to speak.”
He said he would have expected a more vigorous response from evangelicals who have a stake in Uganda.
“Evangelicals have missionaries there, televangelists have shows on TV there. There is a substantial American Christian presence there,” Throckmorton said. “From the Ugandans’ point of view, the bill was passed as a way to make Uganda a more Christian nation; evangelicals could’ve been more vocal by saying, ‘This is not how it’s done.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Pulliam Bailey joined RNS as a national correspondent in 2013. She has previously served as managing editor of Odyssey Networks and online editor for Christianity Today.)
3/5/2014 8:19:08 AM
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments