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Carson to withdraw as Pastor’s Conf. speaker

April 24 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Likely Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference have “mutually agreed” that Carson will not address the Pastors’ Conference in Columbus, Ohio, as previously scheduled.
 
“We didn't want this to become a distraction for our convention,” Pastors’ Conference President William Rice told Baptist Press. “A number of people began to write about it and express their views on it, and it threatened to become a distraction we never wanted it to be. We felt like for the health of the convention, the health of the Pastors’ Conference ... the better thing to do was to mutually agree it’s not the right time to do it.”
 
Carson, a cultural commentator and professor emeritus of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, was scheduled to address the Pastors’ Conference on June 14 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. But some Southern Baptists raised theological and political concerns in late March and April, with Texas pastor Bart Barber and Baptist21, a network of younger Southern Baptist leaders, posting blog articles objecting to Carson’s scheduled appearance.
 
Barber is a former SBC first vice president and current Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustee.

 
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Photo by Gage Skidmore
Ben Carson

Among the concerns cited were that Carson’s appearance could be construed as an endorsement of his presumed presidential campaign, that his appearance could be construed as an endorsement of the Republican Party and that it would be inappropriate for a member of a Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) – the religious group with which Carson identifies – to address the Pastors’ Conference.
 
The Seventh-day Adventist Church, according to the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) 4truth.net website, is “in basic agreement with historic, biblical Christianity. Thus, the SDA is not a cult by definition. However, the SDA can be correctly regarded as a Christian sect because it has a number of distinctive doctrines not in accord with the mainstream of historic Christian faith.”
 
Among the “distinctive” doctrines referenced by NAMB, the SDA believes Christians who worship on Sunday are in error and “often implies that certain outward acts of righteousness are necessary to maintain one’s assurance of salvation.”
 
In a blog post published April 24, Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., addressed concerns regarding Carson’s affiliation with Seventh-day Adventists. Rice’s complete blog post is at calvary.us/pastorwillysblog.
 
“As a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Dr. Carson is publicly identified with theological positions that differ from those of Southern Baptists,” Rice wrote. “While this is true, I believed, and still believe, that leaders gathered for our Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference are open to listening to persons from outside our denomination. I believe most are willing to hear from national leaders even if we disagree on some points of doctrine as we have done in the past, particularly when the point of the discussion is a biblical worldview of prevailing cultural issues.”
 
Rice told BP that Carson’s appearance was never intended to be a political endorsement and Carson understood that. Pastors’ Conference leaders “felt like [Carson] could speak about public issues and the larger national issues going on culturally, but do so in a decidedly apolitical way as a guy whose career has not been in politics,” Rice said.
 
Rice’s blog post “respectfully disagree[d]” with those who believe Southern Baptists “should avoid all political involvements.”
 
“While I know of no Southern Baptist leader who believes our answer is found in a political party or political solution, there are times when we must be engaged in the public arena,” Rice wrote. “John the Baptist was not jailed for preaching the Gospel. He was jailed for speaking truth to power. Southern Baptists cannot and should not back away from appropriate engagement in political life.
 
“If Southern Baptists will not speak, then who will?” Rice continued. “In these current days where Christian brothers are being butchered overseas and religious liberties are under assault at home, will we stay silent out of some misguided attempt to avoid politics altogether? I pray not. Political leaders who stand for religious liberty, speak out for the oppressed and have the strength of moral convictions should know they have a friend in Southern Baptists.”
 
Rice asked those offended by the invitation of Carson to “show forbearance and forgiveness” and affirmed SBC President Ronnie Floyd’s emphasis on “visible unity” and “extraordinary prayer” for this year’s SBC annual meeting. Floyd “has worked too hard and too much is at stake for us to be sidetracked from that worthy call,” Rice said.
 
No replacement speaker for Carson has been announced.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)

4/24/2015 2:48:07 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



House GOP challenged to enact late abortion ban

April 24 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist and other pro-life leaders have called on Republican congressional leaders to halt the delay on a proposed ban on late abortions.
 
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), joined nine other heads of pro-life organizations April 22 to urge the leaders of the majority in the House of Representatives to schedule a vote immediately on the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The legislation would prohibit abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.
 
The pro-life leaders released a joint statement exactly three months after the originally scheduled date for a vote on the bill, H.R. 36. GOP leaders canceled a Jan. 22 roll call on the proposal after about two dozen Republicans, led by female members, expressed concern about the legislation. The House had approved the same measure in the previous congressional session, however.

 

House leaders have said they still intend to hold a vote on the bill.
 
In their statement, the pro-lifers said, “The babies and mothers being targeted by the late-term abortion industry have waited long enough for protection.”
 
The ban, they said, “is a simple, compassionate proposal supported by a large majority of Americans, including women and young people.”
 
“A vote on this popular, modest bill will serve as a benchmark as to whether the House GOP is serious about protecting unborn babies and women,” Moore and the others said.
 
The new Republican majority in the Senate is seeking to pass the bill, although the White House already has signaled its opposition to the measure. Obama administration officials have indicated they would recommend the president veto it.
 
In addition to Moore, other signers were Marjorie Dannenfelser, president, Susan B. Anthony List; Charmaine Yoest, president, Americans United for Life; Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council; Penny Young Nance, president, Concerned Women for America; Jeanne Mancini, president, March for Life; Janet Morana, co-founder, Silent No More Awareness Campaign; Frank Pavone, national director, Priests for Life; Kristan Hawkins, president, Students for Life of America; and Brian Burch, president, CatholicVote.org.
 
The House leadership’s original scheduling of the vote was significant, because Jan. 22 is the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion nationwide throughout all stages of pregnancy. Tens of thousands of pro-lifers gather each year on that date for the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
 
When the original roll call was canceled, pro-life leaders expressed their disappointment. Moore did not mince any words.
 
“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice,” he said in an ERLC news release. “If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?
 
“The congressional Republicans seem to think that pro-lifers will be satisfied with Ronald Reagan rhetoric and Nancy Pelosi results. They are quite wrong.”
 
Pelosi is the former Democratic speaker of the House who supports abortion rights.
 
The small group of Republican House members who sought delay of the Jan. 22 vote focused their concerns on the proposal’s rape exemption, which requires the assault be reported to law enforcement authorities. One of their apprehensions was its perception by women and young adults.
 
Women and young people, however, both support the ban with the reporting requirement, according to a poll in November by Quinnipiac University of voters nationwide. That survey showed 60 percent of Americans, 59 percent of women and 57 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 favor the legislation.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/24/2015 2:20:08 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Leaders ask Obama to fill religious minorities position

April 24 2015 by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

Beheadings, enslavement, kidnappings and rape plague minority religious communities across the Middle East, and it’s time for President Barack Obama to fill a job created to address their plight, a group of prominent evangelicals, scholars and other religious leaders told the White House.

 
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Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Social media via Reuters TV
Men in orange jumpsuits purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State kneel in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli, Libya, in this still image from an undated video made available on social media on Feb. 15, 2015.

In the seven months since Congress created a “special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia,” the extreme violence against these groups has only escalated, the religious leaders wrote to Obama on April 20. Nominate someone, they implored.
 
“The persecution and even eradication of religious minorities in the Middle East right now is the biggest humanitarian and national security crisis that we face,” said Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, who serves as president of the denomination’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “There is a moral imperative to do everything we can to advocate for imperiled religious minorities.”
 
The letter, sent under the auspices of the Washington-based International Religious Freedom Roundtable, was signed by Moore and 22 other religious freedom activists, including National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson and the Joel Hunter of Northland Church in Central Florida. More than 30 groups also signed, including Coptic Solidarity, the Chaldean Community Foundation, International Christian Concern and the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society.

 
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RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, right, leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion as David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, listens.

“The Islamic State’s murderous reach has extended beyond Iraq and Syria,” the letter reads, asking Obama to “swiftly” find a candidate for the envoy job. “Doing so would signal to beleaguered communities in the Middle East, and beyond, that America stands with them.”
 
Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Washington-based Hudson Institute, said violent rampages by the Islamic State, Boko Haram, al-Qaida, al-Shabab and other Muslim extremist groups amount to the ethnic cleansing of Christians. Other religious minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere, including the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Pakistan, Baha’is in Iran and Yazidis in Iraq, are also suffering grievously.
 
The new push echoes earlier calls for Obama to fill the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom position, which had sat vacant for months. Rabbi David Saperstein was confirmed for that post in December.
 
Even with Saperstein in place, the U.S. also needs a special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia, Shea said, noting the extreme and widespread violence these groups face.
 
Shea blamed U.S. political and religious leaders for failing to publicly recognize that victims of this violence are targeted because of their religion. Gunmen from al-Shabab hunted down Christian students when they killed 148 people at a Kenyan university on April 2, for example.
 

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Reuter's photo by Herman Kariuki
A Red Cross worker comforts a mourner as bodies of the students killed in an April 2, 2015, attack on a Kenyan university arrive at the Chiromo Mortuary in Nairobi. The assault by Somali militants killed 148 people.

Obama and other leaders shy away from relevant religious labels, Shea continued, as if “Christians are the oppressors and they can’t be victims.”
 
Moore said American Christians are trying to do something about violence against Christians and other minorities in the Mideast. “I see Christians praying for the persecuted church more than they ever have. I see Christians contacting their members of Congress and asking for actions on these issues more than I ever have before.”
 
But “Americans across the board aren’t as alarmed as they should be because I think they’ve grown callous to violence in the Middle East, and some Americans wrongly assume that violence in the Middle East is something we should just expect,” Moore added.
 
The White House did not have an immediate response to the letter.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Markoe is a writer for Religion News Service.)

 
Related Story:

Obama urged to name envoy for religious minorities


 

 
4/24/2015 1:53:54 PM by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Pulitzer winners tie domestic abuse to Christianity

April 24 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The South Carolina newspaper that won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism has drawn criticism for linking the Palmetto state’s domestic violence problems with its residents’ belief in the Bible’s teaching about gender.
 
“Just because the Bible describes [gender] roles is not any excuse for any type of abuse,” Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church North Spartanburg in Spartanburg, S.C., said. “To suggest something otherwise is to misinterpret or deliberately misuse the scripture. I think that’s what [the Pulitzer winners] have done.”
 
The Pulitzer Prize board announced April 20 that Charleston’s Post and Courier beat out The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal for the 2015 public service prize, an award for “meritorious public service by a newspaper or news site,” according to the Pulitzer website. The Post and Courier’s winning series “Till Death Do Us Part,” published last August, “probed why South Carolina is among the deadliest states in the union for women [in terms of domestic violence] and put the issue of what to do about it on the state’s agenda,” the Pulitzer site stated.
 
At least two articles in the Post and Courier’s seven-part winning series suggested that the traditional Christian belief of husbands as leaders of their households, drawn from Ephesians 5 and other Bible passages, is among the causes of domestic violence.
 
In a statement to Baptist Press, lead reporter Glenn Smith said the Post and Courier “would never imply that the Bible is to blame for abuse” but sought to highlight that “well-intentioned folks and traditional beliefs have at times gotten in the way of abused women getting the help they need in finding a way out of dangerous relationships.”

 
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Smith, who serves as the paper’s watchdog and public service editor, told NPR April 20, “In some parts of the Bible Belt in the state here, people are reluctant to talk about [domestic violence] because the Bible teaches you that, you know, women follow the lead of the man and that these sort of things are best left in the home.”
 
Smith apparently was referencing the “complementarian” view of gender roles in the family, which holds that scripture appoints husbands as the leaders of their homes. Article XVIII of The Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M) advocates the complementarian view.
 
“The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image,” the BF&M states. “The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family.” A wife, the BF&M states, “is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”
 
The Post and Courier series’ first article, which noted that a woman in South Carolina dies every 12 days from injuries sustained through domestic violence, suggested a link between domestic abuse in the state and the complementarian view of gender.
 
“Awash in guns, saddled with ineffective laws and lacking enough shelters for the battered, South Carolina is a state where the deck is stacked against women trapped in the cycle of abuse, a Post and Courier investigation has found,” the paper stated. “Couple this with deep-rooted beliefs about the sanctity of marriage and the place of women in the home, and the vows ‘till death do us part’ take on a sinister tone.”
 
Part three of the series asserted, “Part of the problem is rooted in the culture of South Carolina, where men have long dominated the halls of power, setting an agenda that clings to tradition and conservative Christian tenets about the subservient role of women.”
 
Part three said pastors “inadvertently” can “fuel the problem” of domestic violence by teaching that “scripture says women are to be submissive.”
 
The article cited a LifeWay Research study which found 42 percent of American Protestant pastors rarely or never speak about domestic violence. Part three quoted Mark Bagwell, care pastor at Golden Corner Church in Walhalla, S.C., a Southern Baptist congregation, as lamenting the state’s domestic violence problem and saying, “I’m grateful that ‘till death do us part’ is changing.”
 
Bagwell, who was away from the office and could not be reached for comment by Baptist Press’ (BP) publication deadline, appeared to be encouraging pastors to counsel women to physically leave abusive situations, not opposing the biblical view of gender roles. Nonetheless, the paper introduced Bagwell’s comments by asserting he “concedes that religious vows and teachings have likely kept a good number of women from leaving their abusers.”
 
David Shirley, director of missions for the Beaverdam Baptist Association in Seneca, S.C. – with which Golden Corner cooperates – said the Walhalla congregation is a Bible-believing church and it seems unlikely Bagwell intended to critique the traditional Christian view of Christ-like male leadership in the home.
 
The churches of Oconee County, S.C., including Southern Baptist churches, have played a significant role in supporting the local Safe Harbor shelter for battered women, Shirley said. He cited the involvement of conservative evangelical churches in the shelter’s work as evidence that a complementarian view of gender does not condone domestic violence.
 
“I don’t think in any way, shape, form or fashion does following God’s pattern for marriage have anything to do with domestic abuse in South Carolina,” Shirley said. “The biblical pattern of marriage is the solution. It’s not the problem.”
 
A Sept. 14 Post and Courier follow-up article not included in the Pulitzer-winning series cited a need “to counter conservative Christian beliefs that women should submit to their men and that domestic unrest is best resolved in the home.”
 
Smith, in his statement to BP, said the paper did not mean to imply “that the Bible condones” domestic abuse – a “complicated issue” that “various clergy members are working to address.”
 
During the paper’s investigation, Smith told BP, sources said “traditional beliefs about the sanctity of marriage and a woman’s place in the home contributed to abuse lingering in the shadows and remaining a silent epidemic. They also told us that well-meaning pastors sometimes exacerbated matters by counseling abused women to stay in dangerous marriages and work out their problems. We were told this by police, prosecutors, advocates and pastors themselves.”
 
Hamlet, of First Baptist North Spartanburg, said following biblical teaching on the family would stop domestic violence because it would involve men loving their wives like Christ loved the church. Hamlet agreed with the Post and Courier that pastors should not counsel women to remain in physically abusive situations, though he said some marriages can experience reconciliation following physical abuse when the abuser repents and shows a track record of change.
 
“Domestic violence is a terrible tragedy in our culture,” Hamlet said. “The most effective way that we can address it is applying Christian principles to the institution of marriage.”
 
James Cokley, pastor of Cherry Hill Missionary Baptist Church, an African-American congregation in Conway, S.C., acknowledged that domestic violence is a problem in the state but said he is “appalled” the Post and Courier suggested a link between domestic abuse and the biblical teaching of male leadership in the family.
 
“I was not surprised by the numbers as relates to domestic violence in the state of South Carolina,” Cokley said. “But I was appalled and surprised by the fact that [the Post and Courier] is blaming the father being the head of the household, or having the leadership role in the home, as a reason for domestic violence being so high.”
 
Citing male leadership as a cause of domestic violence “indicates that one thinks because the father is the head of the home, he has total liberty to do whatever he wants,” Cokley said, “and that’s not the case. That is not what we teach as Christians.
 
“We teach that while he is the head of the home, he is responsible to and for his family. And so it’s important that he does what is best for the family,” Cokley said.
 
Whenever Cokley learns about domestic violence within a congregation he pastors, he tells the parties involved to report it to the police and informs them he will report any illegal acts he knows about. Cokley said police inaction related to domestic violence has been a greater problem in his experience than the practice of male leadership.
 
“In one of my recent pastorates, I knew a situation where there was tremendous domestic violence in the home and no matter how many times the wife reported it, the police would do nothing,” Cokley said.
 
In the African-American community, some domestic abuse goes unreported because victims “fear” involving the police, Cokley said. Unless there is “tremendous dialogue” between the black community, the white community and the police, increasing victims’ willingness to report “is going to be a hard nut to crack.”
 
Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an interdenominational complementarian group, said domestic violence is “wicked” and pointed to Satan as “the instigator of abuse.” In contrast, the biblical view of gender promotes the flourishing of women, he said.
 
“Biblical manhood, and the biblical vision of marriage, creates men who would rather die than harm women. Men are called in scripture to be Christ-like ‘heads’ of their wives,” Strachan told BP in written comments. “This means that men must die to themselves and self-sacrificially lead, protect and provide for their wives. Eve was formed out of the body of Adam (Genesis 2:21-22). His body was literally used to make her body. There is a worldview in this textual detail: Men protect women. They use their strength for women, not against them. They gladly place themselves in harm’s way to bless women.
 
“We grieve when we hear of churches that do not teach this publicly, as many do not. Complementarian theology has created thousands upon thousands of local churches filled with men who would rather die than see their wife and children be harmed,” Strachan said.
 
When domestic abuse occurs within a church, the congregation should “gladly involve the civil authority and enact church discipline against any and all who abuse others,” Strachan said.
 
“Women should be protected at all costs. If necessary, separation should be enacted. Churches should take great care to communicate to abused women that they have maximal love for them, and that the abuse occurring is not their fault,” Strachan said. “The church cannot see divorce as a positive good as the culture does. But if necessary, divorce may take place.
 
“The church always seeks to repair and restore what is broken. This is a gospel instinct, even as taking any measure needed to protect women is a gospel instinct,” he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/24/2015 1:47:21 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Senate reaches anti-trafficking compromise

April 24 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The U.S. Senate passed April 22 a version of The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act after reaching a bipartisan compromise that will prevent monies for victims of human trafficking from funding abortions.
 
As passed, the bill increases penalties for human traffickers, funds support for victims, strengthens the ability of law enforcement to investigate such crimes, and makes the victims’ patrons – commonly called “johns” – equally responsible as the traffickers themselves.
 
Debate on the bill had centered mainly on whether the act would create further limitations to abortion specified under the 1976 Hyde Amendment that prevents the use of public funds for abortion, except in cases of rape and incest. In the compromise, the Senate specified that fines collected from human traffickers would only be used for non-health care services, while federal money for community health centers would be used to cover abortions of unwanted pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

 
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Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore praised the Senate for preventing monies collected under the act from funding abortions.
 
“Congress sent the right message to victims of human trafficking today,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in a press release April 23. “All life – born or unborn, poor or rich, male or female – matters infinitely to God. Recognition of this fact is a mandatory feature of a humane nation.”
 
The bill, which passed the Senate 99-0 with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas absent, now goes to the U.S. House, which earlier passed a version of the bill that does not include a victim’s fund, among other differences, The New York Times reported.
 
“I am thankful the Senate has acted on this important legislation,” Moore said. “Human trafficking is a modern-day plague on our world. Its victims suffer indescribably at the hands of merciless lust and rapacious greed. Every instance of human trafficking, wherever it happens and whatever kind, is a violent repudiation of human dignity and a shame on our culture.”
 
In remarks on the Senate floor, the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn, also thanked the Senate for its bipartisanship.
 
“This body’s consideration of this bill has proven that compromise and bipartisanship need not be relics of the past in today’s Washington, but they are very much alive and well, particularly when the need is so very great as it is in this area,” Cornyn said. “We have found a way now on a bipartisan basis to move this legislation forward so we can offer a hand to rescue these victims of human trafficking. We can give them an opportunity to heal, and we can provide them some hope for a better future.”
 
The act will begin to reverse the prevalent practice of criminalizing the victims of human trafficking, Cornyn said, and will instead offer much-needed resources for victims.
 
The act was among several anti-trafficking bills introduced in Congress this year. Among them is the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, introduced Feb. 24 by Sen. Bob Corker, with bipartisan support.
 
“Today more than 27 million people, many of them women and children, suffer under forced labor and sexual servitude in over 165 countries around the world, including our own,” Corker said in introducing the bill. “Despite the pervasive nature of this horrific practice, modern slavery is a crime of opportunity that thrives where enforcement is weak, so raising the risk of prosecution can achieve significant results.”
 
Corker’s bill would establish the nonprofit End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation and empower it with $1.5 billion in private and public monies to fund several anti-slavery initiatives.
 
The ERLC is among supporters of Corker’s bill, but no action has been taken on the bill since it passed the Foreign Relations Committee in February.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

4/24/2015 1:34:08 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Sandy survivor’s home rescued from demolition

April 24 2015 by Laura Sikes, NAMB

Hurricane Sandy survivor Cecelya Morsby faced near eviction in March from her flood-ravaged home.
 
More than two years after the superstorm’s onslaught, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers learned of her circumstances and came to her aid in the coastal Long Island town of Freeport.

 
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NAMB photo by Laura Sikes
Dressed to attend a Good Friday service, Hurricane Sandy survivor Cecelya Morsby of Freeport, N.Y., surveys her newly-painted dining room. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief collegiate teams and other volunteers have been helping to restore her home, which had been flooded by the storm more than two years ago.

Morsby’s home of 16 years was one of about 4,000 damaged by ocean waters that moved inland for about one mile during the hurricane, flooding almost every structure in the town of 50,000.
 
Morsby, a retiree from a major car company, evacuated her home and lived with her daughter in Manhattan for most of the time after the storm. Afflicted with chronic illnesses, Morsby also underwent vascular surgery and was unable to tend to her home for needed repairs.
 
In June 2014, she returned to live alone in her deteriorated home. Like many homeowners had done for months after the storm, she lived upstairs, having only partial power, little heat and no hot water while waiting for repairs. Morsby said she had not reached out for help early on because she thought her insurance would cover the damage. In early March 2015, her daughter, Monisha Mapp, contacted Nassau County’s Department of Aging for assistance and her mother’s case was referred to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR).
 
“The day I called her, [inspectors] had red tagged the house,” Sandy Rebuild project coordinator Bill Johnson said. The home was days from being condemned.
 
Johnson immediately called city inspectors, whom he had built relationships with, to notify them that SBDR would begin working on Morsby’s house right away.

 
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Photo courtesy of Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Macon, Ga.
Long Island homeowner Cecelya Morsby (right) hugs Maggie O’Kelley as Miranda Bell looks on. Morsby began to open up with the collegiatians as they worked to restore her home damaged by Hurricane Sandy

Because of her absence, Morsby had no idea that Southern Baptist volunteers were serving on Long Island. SBDR teams volunteers had been based just blocks away from her home – at Calvary Protestant Evangelical Free Church in Baldwin, N.Y., through last December. Currently, Sandy Rebuild works out of the New York Institute of Technology in Central Islip, N.Y. The college has housed SBDR volunteers in its dormitories since January 2014.
 
At Morsby’s house in March, SBDR collegiate teams and other volunteers from Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma and South Carolina tore out and repaired ceilings, hung sheetrock and painted the rooms downstairs.
 
One of the first teams sent to Morsby’s home consisted of Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) students from Mercer University and Wesleyan University in Macon, Ga.
 
Morsby seemed hesitant to answer the door when the team first knocked, BCM director Chris Fuller said.
 
“When we showed up that first day, she had obviously lost all hope,” Fuller said. “She was extremely reserved, shy and quiet.”
 

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Photo courtesy Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Macon, Ga.
Following a week of ministry, a collegiate team from Mercer and Wesleyan universities in Macon, Ga., presented homeowner Cecelya Morsby with a Bible each student signed and inscribed with personal notes or favorite verses. Morsby had come within days of losing her house to demolition when Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers stepped in to help restore the home damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The six inches of water from the storm – combined with water pipes freezing and bursting – had left the home’s interior in shambles. Water leaks had ruined the ceilings in her living room and dining room. Students began removing china and glassware from large china closets on top of the soggy, moldy carpet, which they removed.
 
Tory Aina, 18, helped clean out the kitchen. Morsby joined in the labors and started talking with them, later sharing about her life and showing her family pictures.
 
“Everything was such a mess, debris was everywhere,” Aina said. “I couldn’t believe that she was still living there on the top floor. ... Something that seemed so minor as washing dishes really helped her.”
 
The team bonded with Morsby and gave her a Bible signed with personal notes and favorite verses.
 
Fuller said he noticed Morsby’s transformation during the students’ time with her. He said he will never forget what she told them as they left: “My house is starting to look like a home again.”
 
“By the end of the week she had started to smile,” Fuller said.
 
Dressed to go to church on Good Friday, Morsby said, “Everyone has been so professional and nice. They worked so fast and were so diligent. I am so thankful for them.”
  
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Sikes writes for the North American Mission Board.)


Related Story:

Baptist Sandy rebuild continues after two years

4/24/2015 11:52:13 AM by Laura Sikes, NAMB | with 0 comments



Crossover’s impact reaches beyond one week’s efforts

April 23 2015 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

Baltimore church planter Jeremy Dickson has seen firsthand the impact of Crossover upon the ministries of his new church.
 
The week before last summer’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, Dickson’s Infinity Church worked with Southern Baptist volunteers during the annual evangelistic outreach to get the word out about a health fair in its neighborhood.
 
Thanks to the help of volunteers who showed up to help, Dickson believes the event was a rousing success.

 
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File photo by John Swain/NAMB
Jordan Mckinion (left), a member of Neshoba Baptist Church in Union, Miss., helps a Crossover block party participant with glitter ball crafts at last year’s Crossover in Baltimore. Colonial Baptist Church in Baltimore was the host church for the event. Crossover Columbus is set for Saturday, June 13.

In fact, Dickson is so grateful for the support of Southern Baptists during last year’s Crossover, he’s bringing a team to this June’s Crossover Columbus – along with volunteers from other Baltimore Baptist Association churches – as a way to say “thank you.” Dickson says nine people from his church have already signed up to be a part of this year’s event.
 
They will be helping a Columbus church with a block party in their neighborhood.
 
“We want to ‘pay it forward’ and say thank you to those who came and helped us,” Dickson said.
 
Crossover is held each year in the host city of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. A partnership between the North American Mission Board and the local Southern Baptist association, the outreach includes churches throughout the host city as well as volunteers from churches throughout North America. This year’s event takes place Saturday, June 13.
 
Infinity Church members have seen four people they met through Crossover come to faith in Christ since last summer, Dickson said. The church has baptized three of those new believers. Although it’s hard to quantify the influence of Crossover, he noted the event also contributed to the church plant crossing the 60 barrier in attendance soon afterward.
 
“It means the world to us to join with brothers and sisters who cared enough about us to give up a week to a week and a half in order to come and help us serve our community, especially since our neighborhood in Baltimore is much rougher than what many of them had experienced back home,” Dickson said.
 
Dickson noted that through the Crossover event he had one member of his church step up to lead future outreach efforts by the church. After being asked by members of the community to do the event again, the church plant has committed to host a similar event this August.

 
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File photo by John Swain/NAMB
Block parties, like the one hosted by Colonial Baptist in Baltimore, Md., for Crossover 2014, will be a large part of the activities on Crossover Saturday (June 13) in Columbus, Ohio. Sean Wallace, of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Calvert County, Md., helps children into a bumper car at last year’s event. In addition to Crossover, Columbus will host this year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., called Crossover “one of the most impactful events” in his church’s history. The church had hoped 500 people would attend their first Colonial Fest event. Anderson said they were dreaming of 800 people showing up. Instead more than 1,500 people participated.
 
Anderson said he was particularly excited that so many people from a nearby apartment complex participated in the event. The effort opened up additional ministry opportunities in that community.
 
He also appreciated the opportunity to get more of his congregation involved in ministry efforts which led to more people getting trained for evangelism.
 
“The event taught us to trust God for big things,” said Anderson, who was serving as the president of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware last summer as his church participated in Crossover. “So we’re going to do it again this year.”
 
The joint work of Southern Baptists in the city last summer was a great witness to their community, Anderson says.
 
“This was an opportunity to say to our community that we’re doing this together,” Anderson said. “Everyone has their own neck of the woods, their own Jerusalem. This allows us to work together in concert to impact our Jerusalem, which in turn impacts the whole city.”
 
For an overview, or to learn more about preparing to participate at Crossover Columbus, visit namb.net/crossover. For additional information, visit crossovercolumbus.org. Collegiate groups can discover more about opportunities at forcolumbus.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry and Joe Conway write for the North American Mission Board.)
 

4/23/2015 12:48:39 PM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



NCBAM AAIMs at resourcing leaders for the ‘age wave’

April 23 2015 by Carol Layton, NCBAM Communications

North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) will host its inaugural AAIM event May 7 at the Mills Home Campus of the Baptist Children’s Homes in Thomasville.
 
Aging Adults Innovating Ministry (AAIM) is a network of church staff and lay leaders with the ongoing mission to promote, equip and strengthen aging adult (senior adult) ministries across the state. The May 7 event is an opportunity to be encouraged and challenged as a leader to aging adults.
 
“The leaders who have participated in the formation of AAIM are passionate about working with aging adults and helping them to continue in whatever ministries God leads them,” said Sandy Gregory, director of NCBAM, who believes AAIM will change the face of ministry to and for aging adults in the state.

 
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“These leaders are aware of the coming ‘age wave’ and have innovative ideas for how aging adult ministries can adapt to our state’s changing demographics.”
 
Speakers include Gregory, Michael Blackwell, president of Baptist Children’s Homes and founder of NCBAM, and Stan Heiser, associate senior pastor at Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church.
 
The theme will be ”Value, Vision and V’room! – A call to action.”
 
The program will also provide opportunities for fellowship, worship and round-table discussions exploring innovative ways to minister with and to aging adults.
 
Regional leaders within AAIM have been building their groups in preparation for the May 7 kickoff event.The regional leaders are: Glenn Davenport, chaplain for Cleveland Regional Medical Center and Shelby Police Department (west region), Christa Warise, minister of senior adults at College Park Baptist Winston-Salem (central region) and Charles McKinney, minister to senior adults at First Baptist Church Jacksonville (east region). NCBAM regional directors will be members of each regional group.
 
More plans for the AAIM network will be developed after officers are elected May 7 – but current goals include participating in Caraway and Caswell’s aging adult retreats, fostering opportunities for intergenerational ministry, establishing a website with resources for aging adult ministry and developing ways to incorporate technology into ministry.
 
NCBAM will support the work of AAIM. The NCBAM Call Center will assist with meeting the needs of frail-aging adults in the communities.
 
Gregory believes God will bless the efforts of AAIM to strengthen aging adult ministries.
 
“I believe that in the coming years, we will witness God’s Spirit move mightily among aging adults in our state,” he said.
 
Church staff or lay leaders who work with aging adults are invited to attend. The event begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m.
 
The $10 cost includes lunch. For more information or to reserve your space, call (877) 506-2226 by May 1.
 
Visit ncbam.org.

4/23/2015 12:35:12 PM by Carol Layton, NCBAM Communications | with 0 comments



MBTS launches FTC.co website resource

April 23 2015 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) launched the website, FTC.co, April 22 with the goal of providing gospel-centered resources intended to engage, encourage and equip those ministering within the local church.
 
The site, which will be overseen by managing editor, Jared Wilson, will host blogs, articles, practical application tools and many other resources to assist current pastors, ministry leaders and lay men and women in their ministry roles.

 
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“Our primary goal in establishing FTC.co is to provide church leaders, from all walks of ministry life, with gospel-centered resources that are pastoral, practical and devotional,” said Jason Allen, MBTS president. “In doing so, we intend for the site to be relevant to the needs of the church and its leaders as well. Because the Bible is always relevant, our content will be well-sourced and grounded in God’s inerrant, authoritative Word.”
 
Contributing to the site’s resources will be writers and speakers from both inside the seminary and out.
 
“We have a variety of individuals participating as regular contributors,” said Charles Smith, MBTS vice president of Institutional Relations. “We will definitely glean from the experience and research base of many of our seminary’s professors and administrators. There will also be significant contributions from people with experience in pastoral ministry positions or in other organizational ministry roles. A few will be thoughtful Christian lay leaders who write extremely well. You will find most of the contributions come from those in pastoral ministry, though.”
 
The primary content type will be written pieces – articles published in blog format. However, the site will also feature video resources – both short form and long form – interviews, sermons, and conference talks. The content will be featured in ways that generally represent three major categories: pastoral, practical and devotional. There are also plans to experiment with long-form articles.
 
The pastoral category will feature pieces generally written by current ministry leaders that are focused toward their peers. The intent of the articles, Wilson said, is to provide gospel-centered encouragement “to those eager to see the church grow in spirit and mission, and to glorify Jesus Christ.”
 
Other works will focus on the practical aspects of ministry. The idea is to provide a plan for addressing problems or issues in the Christian life or ministry, Wilson said. “Our writers are seeking to diagnose the heart of the issue and root their application in the finished work of Christ,” he added.
 
The final general category on the site consists of the devotional aspects of ministers’ lives. “The content here is developed to help our readers treasure Christ more greatly, know Him more deeply and orient them around His gospel more stubbornly. These biblical reflections, theological meditations, and spiritual illustrations are designed to help our readers enjoy grace and delight in God,” Wilson noted.
 
Additionally, great effort will be placed on keeping fresh material on the site. “The website will feature new content daily, so there will always be something new on the site for visitors and subscribers,” Smith said. “We encourage our reader base to check back in often for fresh resources to assist them in ministry.”
 
Wilson, who has experience both in ministry leadership and in published authorship/writing, will be responsible for the overall editorial vision of the site, to recruit writers and solicit articles, to edit submissions and to contribute content as well.
 
“My primary goal moving forward is to help establish that FTC.co is a widely-read and greatly trusted resource for those seeking encouragement in the gospel,” Wilson said. “There is a lot of noise out there, especially for Christians seeking biblical nourishment. I’d love to carve out a niche for ourselves as a place where Christian leaders can always count on being fed and encouraged. I don’t think one can have enough good news.”
 
In addition to FTC.co going live online, MBTS plans to host upcoming events to bring its emphasis on existing for the church to bear both locally and around the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
 
During the SBC’s annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, the seminary will host an FTC regional conference luncheon, entitled “FTC at SBC.” The event will take place on Tuesday, June 16 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. The 90-minute event will feature Allen, Matt Carter, Mark Dever, Ronnie Floyd, Paige Patterson, Jared Wilson and others. To register for “FTC at SBC,” visit.
 
Additionally, on Aug. 31-Sept. 1, MBTS will hold its second annual For the Church Conference on its Kansas City campus. The two-day event will have the theme, “For the Church & Truth,” based on 1 Timothy 3:15, and is designed to equip and encourage pastors and leaders for the Church. Joining Allen will be H.B. Charles, Russell Moore, Darrin Patrick, David Platt, Jared Wilson and worship led by August Gate. To register for this event, visit.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

4/23/2015 10:59:28 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



Global adoptions decline; Show Hope begins new strategy

April 23 2015 by Sarah Padbury, World News Service

International adoptions plummeted to a 30-year low for U.S. citizens last year, with further declines expected. But some see the trend as an opportunity to help children remain in their home countries.
 
The U.S. State Department released its Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions in March. Between October 2013 and September 2014, officials granted 6,441 immigrant visas to children adopted abroad, the lowest level since 1984. A tidal wave of international adoptions started in the late 1990s and reached its peak in 2004, with almost 23,000 children adopted internationally that year. After a slow decline, adoptions began plummeting in 2009 and are expected to continue to fall due to other countries’ fluctuating policies toward intercountry adoption. Political and social change can halt adoptions – sometimes overnight – that have been in process for years.

 
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China, Russia and Ethiopia are the top three countries Americans have adopted from during the last six years.
 
Adoptions from China totaled 2,040 last year, down 96 percent from a peak of almost 14,500 children in 2005. The decline is mostly attributed to the Chinese government promoting domestic adoption over the last few years, the report said. Nationalist sentiment has also fed the trend. Today, Americans can expect to stand in line for at least eight years to be matched with a healthy baby, according to a representative from Chinese Children Adoption International. The wait is so long, the organization has stopped taking applications for healthy children and instead focuses on placing special-needs children.
 
On Jan. 1, 2013, Russia abruptly instituted a federal law banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens. The policy change left in legal limbo hundreds of children already in the adoption process, including many who had already met their new parents. Officials granted only two immigrant visas to Russian children adopted by Americans in 2014, down from about 9,400 in 2004. Russia’s move was widely reported to be retaliation for a law U.S. President Barack Obama signed a few weeks earlier, imposing travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia.
 
Fifty-six percent of the Russian public supported the ban, Russia’s RIA-Novosti news agency told CNN at the time. Russian officials claimed a few well-publicized stories of Russian adoptees abused or abandoned by their new American parents, as well as the alleged deaths of 19 adopted Russian children since the 1990s, turned public sentiment against the idea of having foreigners adopt their orphans.
 
Ethiopian adoptions peaked more recently in 2010, with 2,511 children finding new homes in America. But adoptions have declined steadily, with only 716 last year, a 72 percent decrease over the last five years. U.S. officials reported the decline was due in part to the Ethiopian government’s tightening control of the intercountry adoption process. But Ethiopian officials also want to reduce the overall number of children in institutionalized care by strengthening the country’s child welfare system. They recently reached out to the international community, asking for assistance creating systems that help preserve families, promote family reunification, train foster parents and encourage domestic adoption.
 
Show Hope, a Christian non-profit that offers adoption grants to Americans, has awarded about 5,000 grants over the last decade to help families pay for fees accrued while adopting internationally or domestically. But this year, Show Hope initiated a new strategy to help other nations develop better in-country child welfare systems, Executive Director Mike Hamilton told me. The pilot program provides financial assistance for local child welfare staff development by partnering with reputable organizations, including Buckner International in Kenya and Bethany Christian Services in Ethiopia.
 
Historically, Hamilton said, Americans have thought about adoption in the context of adopting international children into American families: “But the first hope is that children who are orphaned can stay in their family of origin. If that’s not an option, then that they can stay in their country of birth.”
 
International adoption should be the final option, Hamilton said, when no domestic family is available. With the new program, donors can help fund development of in-country adoption systems.
 
“This just makes sense due to declining rates,” Hamilton said of international adoption. “And it meets the overall goal, which is to help children find forever families.”

4/23/2015 10:54:10 AM by Sarah Padbury, World News Service | with 0 comments



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