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Ferguson reaction: ‘how far we have to go’

November 25 2014 by Art Toalston & Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Philadelphia pastor K. Marshall Williams, in the hours prior to the grand jury report declining to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of an 18-year-old black, observed:
 
“When it comes to issues of racial justice, this verdict will show us how far as a nation that we have come and how far we have to go,” said Williams, president of the National African American Fellowship within the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
The entire tragedy in Ferguson, Mo. – from the Aug. 20 shooting to the grand jury report and a subsequent night of arson, violence and arrests in the St. Louis suburb – underscored the significance of Williams’ statement to Baptist Press.
 
For Williams, however, a Christian view directs his outlook and advocacy.
 
“I continue to implore all in the body of Christ to radical obedience to the Greatest Commandment, which will be a catalyst for unprecedented revival and spiritual awakening in our land,” the senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., said, citing 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Matthew 22:37-40.
 
“We need to practice and proclaim the gospel, standing up and crying out against sin and injustice, ‘for our God is a God of love but He is also a God of justice,’” Williams said, citing Micah 6:8.
 
Russell D. Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, issued a statement shortly after the 8 p.m. Central announcement that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for killing the 18-year-old unarmed black, Michael Brown, in an intense scuffle.
 
The country hasn’t yet “sorted through all the evidence the grand jury saw [to know] precisely what happened in this nightmarish incident,” Moore said. The Ferguson crisis, he said, “is one of several in just the past couple of years where white and black Americans have viewed a situation in starkly different terms.”
 
“In the public arena, we ought to recognize that it is empirically true that African-American men are more likely, by virtually every measure, to be arrested, sentenced, executed, or murdered than their white peers,” Moore said. “We cannot shrug that off with apathy” but must have “consciences that are sensitive to the problem.”
 
“But how can we get there when white people do not face the same experiences as do black people?” Moore asked in his statement. “… [W]e will need churches that are not divided up along carnal patterns of division – by skin color or ethnicity or economic status. We will need churches that reflect the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10) in the joining together of those who may have nothing else in common but the image of God, the blood of Christ, and the unity of the Spirit. When we know one another as brothers and sisters, we will start to stand up and speak up for one another.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. Diana Chandler is BP's general assignment writer/editor.)

11/25/2014 12:33:42 PM by Art Toalston & Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Famous marriages ‘breathe life’ for couples

November 25 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In 1523, Martin Luther found himself the matchmaker for 12 nuns who had escaped in pickle barrels from a Roman Catholic nunnery near Wittenberg, Germany. He secured husbands for 11, but the 12th, Katharina von Bora, rebuffed two potential husbands.
 
Her heart was set on the great Reformer.
 
Finally Luther married her in 1525 for strikingly unromantic reasons: to provide his father with grandchildren and to spite the pope by breaking the vow of celibacy he had taken as a Catholic monk. Though it didn’t seem like the makings of a storybook romance, Luther’s marriage to Katie, as he called her, blossomed into one of church history’s most tender unions.
 
Learning about famous Christian marriages, like Martin and Katie Luther’s, can “breathe life” into the marriages of believers today and “give some guys and their wives courage to get real and be honest,” radio host and marriage expert Dennis Rainey told Baptist Press.
 
Good marriages demonstrate how a spouse’s love can lift a Christian “out of doubt and discouragement and perhaps even losing heart,” Rainey, president and co-founder of Family Life, said. Stories of more challenging marriages can encourage believers to persevere through their own marriage struggles, he said.
 
“There was only one who was perfect, and He wasn’t married,” Rainey said. Being part of God’s Kingdom requires “humbling ourselves and admitting our humanity and sharing the stories of our humanity in some of its stench and ... coming clean and getting real – because that’s where everybody is.”
 
In contrast with the joyful marriages of Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon and others, Methodist movement founder John Wesley and revivalist George Whitefield struggled in their marriages. Wesley made his wife agree that she would not ask him to lighten his schedule of itinerant preaching. The couple eventually separated and she was dead for three days before he found out.
 
Whitefield once left his wife Elizabeth in America while he returned to England by boat without telling her. One of Whitefield’s protégés said the great revivalist viewed his marriage as a “distraction” and when Elizabeth died, “his mind was put at great liberty.”
 

“Uncommon unions”

The Luthers’ home was “joyful” and “playful,” Michael Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP.
 
“Luther had a deep sense of the joyfulness of the Christian life, and marriage simply exacerbated that,” said Haykin, who has compiled “The Christian Lover,” a book of love letters written by famous Christians.
 
Though Luther refused to back down in arguments with the pope and fellow Protestant Reformer Ulrich Zwingli, he often yielded to Katie’s opinions and preferences, Haykin said. Among the ways he deferred to her was changing his custom of bathing only once a year – a common practice in the 1500s – because “she would not have it so,” according to one of Luther’s letters.
 
Since the Luthers raised pigs, Martin playfully referred to Katie by such titles as “high mistress of the Wittenberg pig sty,” Haykin said.
 
Fellow Reformer John Calvin “epitomizes the Protestant rediscovery of marriage,” Haykin said, referencing the Reformation critique of Roman Catholic celibacy vows.
 
At age 29, Calvin was driven out of Geneva, Switzerland, and settled in Strasbourg, on the border of modern-day Germany and France, where Protestant leader Martin Bucer attempted to find a wife for him. Bucer and other early Protestants believed that a pastor like Calvin should be an expert on family, and ideally be married himself.
 
The first three or four potential wives proved unsuitable, including one who spoke only German – a poor match for Calvin who spoke French and didn’t know German. Calvin wrote that he would never marry her “unless the Lord had entirely bereft me of my wits.” Eventually he met and married on his own Idelette de Bure, the widow of an Anabaptist he had known in Geneva.
 
They were married only eight and a half years before her death; they had experienced two or three pregnancies, though none of their children lived to be more than three days old. Calvin didn’t mention Idelette much in correspondence or sermons, but several surviving letters reveal the depth of their love.
 
In 1541 a plague raged through Strasbourg, so Calvin sent his wife away for her safety. He wrote to a friend that “day and night my wife has been constantly in my thoughts, in need of advice now that she is separated from her husband.”
 
When Idelette died in 1549, Calvin wrote, “Mine is no common source of grief. I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life, of one who, had it been so ordered, would not only have been the willing sharer of my indigence, but even of my death. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry. From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance. She was never troublesome to me throughout the entire course of her illness; she was more anxious about her children [from her first marriage] than about herself.”
 
The marriage of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards was “a passionate love story,” Haykin said, noting that Edwards was among the Puritans in England and North America who, among other notable practices, broke from the longstanding tradition of arranged marriages.
 
“The whole idea of falling in love and then getting married is very much rooted in the Puritans,” Haykin said.
 
Edwards met Sarah when he was 20 and she was 13. She was six feet tall and “striking in terms of her physical beauty,” Haykin said, but “what caught his eye was her spirituality” and love for God. They married in 1727 with Sarah wearing green, which Edwards believed was God’s favorite color.
 
The mother of 11 children, Sarah was a “fabulous home economist” and Edwards “relied upon her enormously,” Haykin said. On one occasion when Sarah was away from home to attend a funeral, Edwards wrote a letter asking her to “please come home” because “things are falling apart here.”
 
When Whitefield stayed in the Edwards’ home for five days in 1740, he wrote that he had not seen a “sweeter couple” and began praying that God would provide him with a wife like Sarah.
 
Among Edwards’ last acts before he died was to give his daughter Lucy a message for Sarah: “Give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature as I trust is spiritual and therefore will continue forever.”
 
Charles and Susannah Spurgeon represent another strong marriage from church history, though she had a “very poor first impression” of the great Baptist preacher, Haykin said. The Spurgeons met when he preached for the first time at the London church that came to be known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
 
“He was sweating profusely ... and he pulled out this huge handkerchief with polka dots on it,” Haykin said. “And she thought, ‘What kind of country yokel have the deacons brought in to preach?’“ But soon they were married.
 
Among other strong marriages in church history were Martyn and Bethan Lloyd-Jones, B.B. and Annie Warfield and Francis and Edith Schaeffer.
 

Challenging marriages

Not all famous Christians, however, enjoyed vibrant marriages. C.T. Studd, a legendary missionary and author of the poem “Only One Life, ‘Twill Soon Be Past,” went to China for some 15 years without his wife Priscilla, Haykin said. Then he returned home only briefly before going to the Congo without her.
 
Studd “is often held up as a model of total commitment to Christ,” Haykin said. “I have problems with him in my mind because of his marriage.”
 
Foreshadowing his own marriage troubles, John Wesley once tried to convince his brother Charles that marriage interfered with commitment to Christ. The week before Charles was to be married with John officiating, the brothers began a journey to the wedding site that should have taken two days. But John scheduled so many preaching engagements along the way that they barely arrived in time for the wedding.
 
“Charles, in his diary, was absolutely furious at his brother,” Haykin said. John “was giving his brother an object lesson ... that preaching the gospel is more important than marriage.”
 
When John married two years later, he made sure his wife Molly never interfered with his preaching – with disastrous results. Molly travelled with him for a year. But after “tramping around the British countryside, sleeping under hedgerows, eating half-cooked meals, she told him she was settling down in London,” Haykin said. “Their marriage then began to disintegrate.”
 
John and Molly experienced ongoing tension over letters he exchanged with other women. She publicly accused him of infidelity at least once, though no evidence exists to substantiate the charges, and monitored his mail before they separated.
 
Although Whitefield prayed for a wife like Sarah Edwards, when he married, he was far less considerate as a husband than Jonathan Edwards. Whitefield once wrote that he was “not one of those lovers who is swooning for love at his beloved.”
 
Haykin said Whitefield demonstrated a consistent “lack of husbandly care of his wife.”
 

Lessons

Though some may overlook the marriage difficulties of well-known Christians because of their spiritual impact, Haykin sees the matter differently.
 
“If their marriages would have been solid, I think of how much better their ministries might have been,” he said.
 
With Wesley, for example, “we don’t see” the impact of his marriage failures “at this distance, and people may not have seen it even in his own day,” Haykin said. “But inevitably it would have had a kickback on ministry. How can he go out to preach the love of God to a crowd and he’s just had a row with his wife? Surely it had some sort of spiritual impact.”
 
On a positive note, Rainey of Family Life said ministers like Wesley and Whitefield illustrate that God still uses people who don’t “have it all together.”
 
“I think one of the big fallacies of being in ministry is the lie ... that you have to have it all together in order to preach the gospel,” Rainey said. People are “desperate” for “authentic human beings who are like them, who fail and then get back up and ask for forgiveness from God and their spouse, or their child, and make things right and keep going.”
 
But Rainey and Haykin agreed that preachers must have godly marriages.
 
“Marriage is a reflection of the love of God for His people and for His church,” Haykin said. “... Therefore, a Christian pastor who is representing God, speaking God’s Word to His people, if he is married, needs to have a solid marriage.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/25/2014 12:29:12 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Survey: Food ministries aided 1 in 4 families

November 25 2014 by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press

As the holidays approach, food pantries across the country will collect donations to help those in need.
 
Chances are some of the folks who donate also know what it's like to go to bed hungry.
 
Nearly one in four Americans (22 percent) say their family has turned to a church-run food pantry in the past for help, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.
 
"Churches may have the reputation for serving donuts, coffee and potluck dinners to their members," said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. "But they also are supplying food for many people in need."
 
The online survey of 1,158 Americans was conducted in September. They were asked to respond to the statement: "My family has received food from a church-run food pantry in the past."
 
Americans from a wide range of backgrounds said yes.
 
That includes one in four churchgoers (26 percent) along with one in five (18 percent) of those who never attend services.
 
One in three African Americans (37 percent) and evangelicals (35 percent) say their family has received help. So do nearly three in 10 (28 percent) of those without a college degree.
 
About one in four Hispanic Americans (25 percent) and one in five (19 percent) of whites say they had turned to a church-run food pantry.
 
Those in the West (28 percent) were more likely to say they'd received help than those in the Northeast (17 percent) or South (20 percent).
 
Older Americans (11 percent) and those with college degrees (13 percent) were among the least likely to say yes.
 
Some 50 million Americans have trouble putting food on the table, according to Feeding America, a national network of food banks. A similar number of people received food stamps in 2013, according to the USDA.
 
"There is an abundance of food in the U.S. but plenty of people still go hungry," McConnell said. "Many churches respond by faithfully following the biblical principle of being open-handed to the poor and needy by maintaining well-stocked food pantries to share."
 
Methodology: The online survey of adult Americans was conducted September 17-18. A sample of an online panel reflecting the adult population of the U.S. was invited to participate. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender and income to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,158 online surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from this panel does not exceed +2.9 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect the church.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

11/25/2014 12:25:57 PM by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Laser engineer connects with S. Asians

November 25 2014 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

Walt Tucker is an MIT grad who is as comfortable starting house churches as he is building lasers to protect aircraft from heat-seeking missiles.
 
Tucker, 52, spends much of his time sharing Christ and making disciples in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, known as “the Triangle.”
 
But he hasn’t quit his day job; his engineering career is his entree to a sizeable population of South Asian immigrants and expats who have come to work or study among the Triangle’s cluster of universities and high-tech firms.
 
Tucker moved to the Raleigh-Durham area in 2013 with his wife Katie, but not because of a job. Though he could have taken his engineering career anywhere, a mission trip to India in 2009 made it clear God was calling the couple to reach South Asians.

 
Engineer11-25-14.jpg

Walt and Katie Tucker use their jobs to live out the gospel among a large population of South Asian immigrants and expats in North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Walt works as an engineer; Katie is a clinical director at a chiropractic neurology center.

There are neighborhoods in the Triangle where as many as 80 percent of residents are South Asian, Tucker notes. The high population density, combined with the “technical camaraderie” he’d share with South Asians working in similar fields, made the Triangle a strategic place to live, work and play – on mission. Katie, in her work and witness, is a clinical director at a chiropractic neurology center.
 
For Tucker, there’s no divide between work life and spiritual life. He views the Great Commission in Matthew 28 as an all-encompassing command to make disciples through every aspect of a believer’s experience.
 
“I make my faith pretty obvious,” he says. “You preach the gospel by how you live as well as by what you say.
 
“What you don’t do is direct evangelism during work time,” Tucker cautions. Instead, he looks for the in-between opportunities: coffee breaks, around the water cooler, at lunch. Business trips are another prime opportunity.
 
“When you travel you get one-on-one with somebody and you have a lot of time, so you really can get into some good discussions,” he says. “I just try to use the time wisely and not be in anybody’s face. You know when someone is not interested so you go slower with them.”
 
Sometimes, spiritual conversations come when Tucker least expects them. Working late one night at a previous job in Florida, he remembers kneeling with a laser technician on the floor of their lab as the man prayed to receive Christ.
 
Excellence at work can be a witness unto itself, Tucker notes. For Christ-followers, he believes a job well done is an act of worship. “People wonder why you’re doing such a good job, and you tell them it’s because I’m doing it for the Lord,” he says.
 
“Also, when you do your work, you do it with excellence because now people know you’re a Christian; it’s like having a fish bumper sticker on the back of your car and driving like a maniac – it’s just not a good witness.”
 
When Tucker is off the clock, he spends most of his evenings discipling South Asian believers to become disciple-makers themselves.
 
“We’re trying to train them up to reach their neighbors and co-workers,” he says. “It’s not just about converting them, it’s about teaching them to make disciples.”
 
So far, the Tuckers have started several small Bible study groups in the Triangle with a vision of them growing house churches. But they know it won’t be easy – or quick.
 
“Of the South Asians we know who have come to Christ, it’s taken them a period of two to three years of seeing legitimate Christians who really live out their faith before they’ve made a decision,” Tucker says. “We’re in it for the long haul.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Don Graham writes for the International Mission Board. Learn more about using your job to make disciples overseas at marketplaceadvance.com.)

11/25/2014 12:17:21 PM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Marriage draws cheers at SBC of Virginia

November 24 2014 by Brandon Pickett, Baptist Press

One of the loudest cheers of affirmation at the 2014 Southern Baptist Conservatives (SBC) of Virginia Annual Homecoming was heard after a resolution on biblical marriage was read to the messengers and guests.
 
Nearly 1,000 messengers and guests attended the Nov. 9-11 annual meeting at The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights.
 
“We were challenged, encouraged and built up in the Lord,” said host pastor Randy Hahn said. “Oh, and we got some business done also. So grateful for the SBC of Virginia and its leadership that gives us opportunity to be so blessed in coming together for the work of the Lord. Annual Homecoming is a revival!”
 
This year’s theme, “Strong Churches with a Bold Commitment to the Great Commission,” was woven throughout the meeting, including sermons by keynote speakers Alistair Begg, Eric Geiger, Grant Ethridge and John Marshall.
 
Begg, drawing from 2 Timothy 3:14-17, noted that Timothy was not about magnifying himself. “He was like a styrofoam cup which has significance only in that which it contains. It is disposable. It will be gone in a moment,” Begg said. “It only has benefit on the strength of that which is in it.”
 
Begg also spoke to 128 church planters and sponsors during a special dinner where he reminded them of the importance of staying true to the Word of God. Later that evening to the entire convention, he reminded attendees that the task of pastors is one of a constant reminder, like parents do with their children. “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. We are people of The Book. People become convinced by the scriptures. Only God can soften hearts and give hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind.”
 
Brian Autry, SBC of Virginia’s executive director, gave a virtual missions tour around the Commonwealth in his Monday night report. He highlighted the efforts to reach Muslims in the Washington, D.C., metro area and in urban outreach in the Southeast, then called attendees to gather around church planters for a special time of prayer.
 
“Our Annual Homecoming was totally about the business of being boldly committed to the Great Commission,” Autry said. “From celebrating disaster relief volunteers, to praying over church planters and partner churches, to encouraging churches in the midst of revitalization, our focus is on honoring and proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord.”
 
Autry highlighted the story of pastor Don Paxton and how he and a mission team from Rosedale Baptist Church partnered with a church planter in northern Virginia to bring physical help along with the gospel at an Arab festival attended by some 10,000 people.
 
Four resolutions were approved unanimously by the messengers: Gratitude to the Lord and The Heights Baptist Church, Appreciation for Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Reaffirmation of Biblical Marriage, and Gratitude to the SBC of Virginia Disaster Relief Team. The text of the marriage and Forbes resolutions follow this story.
 
Mission Service Corps couple Matt and Susan Clonch were commissioned on Monday evening to reach hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Representatives from their sponsor church, Fincastle Baptist, and the Executive Board’s missions and communications committee prayed over them.
 
Messengers approved a 2015 Ministry Investment Plan of $9,000,000, the same amount as 2014. SBC of Virginia treasurer Eddie Urbine said the budget allocates 51 percent for SBC ministries and promotion and 49 percent for SBC of Virginia ministries. Since the inception of the SBC of Virginia, $116,374,396 has been given through the Cooperative Program.
 
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, encouraged messengers in the work they are doing for the Lord through the local church and through the SBC of Virginia. But he also exhorted them to increase their missions giving to see even more Kingdom impact.
 
Messengers unanimously re-elected Grant Ethridge, senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, as convention president.
 
“The reports of what God is doing in church planting and church mobilization to reach different people groups in Virginia were nothing short of miraculous,” Ethridge said. “God is moving and I have never been more proud to be a part of the family called SBC of Virginia.
 
“But the annual pep rally is over. Now is the time to be bold in our praying and preaching. Now is the time to be bold in our living and giving. Now is the time to cry out to God for revival in the church and spiritual awakening in our nation.”
 
The convention’s other officers also were elected unanimously: First vice president Brad Russell, senior pastor of Old Powhatan Baptist Church in Powhatan; second vice president Brent Vickery, senior pastor of Ramoth Baptist Church in Stafford; and secretary Matthew Kirkland, senior pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Christiansburg.
 
On both Monday and Tuesday afternoon, hundreds attended special luncheons. Monday’s lunch celebrated disaster relief volunteers with guest speaker Congressman Randy Forbes. Tuesday’s lunch highlighted SBC of Virginia’s Acts 1:8 Network with missionary and author Nik Ripken.
 
Autry, thankful for the atmosphere of highlighting missions throughout the entire three days, said, “Seeing pastors and church leaders representing various nations and generations at our Annual Homecoming serves as a reminder that we are living in the midst of a harvest field. We must work together to bring in the harvest.”
 
The gathering also featured a hands-on mission opportunity. Nearly 1,500 backpacks from more than 40 churches were loaded into a North America Mission Board tractor-trailer to be delivered just in time for children in need at Christmas.
 
Jerry Daniel, Love Loud team leader for the North American Mission Board, spoke of the importance of local churches connecting to the mission project, noting, “It’s a way for people to express generosity and compassion. A lot of churches enjoy encouraging their children to be a part of packing the backpacks because they get to talk about sharing and be concerned for those who have needs.”
 
Scott Bullman and the Sounds of Liberty from Liberty University led worship throughout the meeting. On Sunday evening, The Heights praise team, orchestra and choir led worship. On Monday evening, recording artist TaRanda Green joined the Sounds of Liberty and a combined choir from multiple SBC of Virginia churches for a special time of worship.
 
Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton will host the 2015 SBC of Virginia Annual Homecoming Nov. 8-10. Keynote speakers will include Ronnie Floyd, Vance Pittman, K. Marshall Williams and Dennis Swanberg.
 
 
**********
 
 
Following are SBC of Virginia resolutions on marriage and Congressman Randy Forbes
 
ON A REAFFIRMATION OF BIBLICAL MARRIAGE
 
WHEREAS, we the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and is the lens through which we see and understand God’s gracious and loving design for marriage, (Gen 2:24) and
 
WHEREAS the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and its affiliated Churches reaffirm the historic and biblical definition of marriage, and the need for it in our society; and
 
WHEREAS we affirm Article III section 1 of the Southern Baptist Convention Constitution which states, “Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior” and
 
WHEREAS some within our current culture, and judicial system, promote and recognize alternate definitions of marriage in an increasing number of states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, Be it
 
RESOLVED that we affirm that the term “marriage” has only one meaning: marriage, as instituted by God, is the joining of one man and one woman in a single, permanent, exclusive union. (Genesis 1:27; 2:24-25; Matthew 19:4-6) God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other. God has commanded that no one engage in intimate sexual activity outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. (1 Corinthians 7:1-9) Be it further
 
RESOLVED that we, affirm that declaring God’s Word and warning people of the consequences of their sins, including sexual sins, is an act of loving concern (James 5:19-20). God’s Word remains true and His prohibitions – including those on sexual sins – cannot be changed by any human government. (Acts 5:29) Be it finally
 
RESOLVED that we affirm God’s offer of redemption and restoration to all who confess and forsake their sin, seeking His mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. (Romans 10:9-13) We believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity. (Ephesians 4:29-32; 1 John 4:20-21) Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual, including those involved in sexual sin, are not in accord with scripture nor the doctrines of the church and are to be repudiated. (Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Peter 3:8-12)
 
OF APPRECIATION FOR CONGRESSMAN J. RANDY FORBES
 
WHEREAS, Congressman J. Randy Forbes, since elected to Congress in 2001, has set his key priorities to protect and defend our nation; and
 
WHEREAS, Congressman J. Randy Forbes “founded and chairs the Congressional Prayer Caucus and has led this group of bipartisan Members in national efforts to protect prayer and our nation’s spiritual history”; and
 
WHEREAS Congressman J. Randy Forbes has expressed public appreciation and recognition for the SBC of Virginia’s disaster relief volunteers and response efforts, therefore, be it
 
RESOLVED, that we the SBC of Virginia express our love and gratitude to God for the life and work efforts of Congressman J. Randy Forbes; and be it finally
 
RESOLVED, that the SBC of Virginia would pray the Lord’s blessing on Congressman J. Randy Forbes’ continued service in our nation’s Congress.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Pickett is director of communications & mobilization for the SBC of Virginia.)

11/24/2014 12:14:43 PM by Brandon Pickett, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Snowmelt flooding puts DR on alert

November 24 2014 by Joe Conway & Art Toalston, Baptist Press

“This is the first day of the digout in Erie County” from seven feet of snow, said Mike Flannery, disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New York.
 
Flannery was on the road to a meeting of the Erie County VOAD network (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) as he spoke briefly with Baptist Press about the record snowfall in Buffalo and nearby communities since Nov. 17. Flannery co-chairs the VOAD, which assists the Erie County Emergency Management Office.
 
“We’re working with churches to dig senior adults out of their houses,” Flannery reported of contacts with Baptist churches and those in other denominations.
 
And the VOAD is preparing for flooding as the snow melts, Flannery said, adding, “It looks like it’s going to be a long weekend.”
 
Yet such ministries may yield a starting point for church planting in the affected areas, Flannery noted.
 
When massive storms dump snow accumulations taller than the average person, all of that snowmelt has to go somewhere as cities across the Northeast face the prospect of flooding and even more snow. The polar blast, generated by a Pacific storm that spread a cold front as it curved north into the Arctic, brought freezing temperatures and/or snowfall to parts of all 48 contiguous states. The New York snowstorm has been responsible for 12 weather-related fatalities to date.
 
Fritz Wilson, executive director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), expects state SBDR teams will be handling most of the flood recovery and mud-out work stemming from the storm. The SBDR team at NAMB is closely monitoring developments.
 
“The potential for flooding is high in the affected areas that have received from five to seven feet of snow,” Wilson said. “The strength of the disaster relief network and the preparation of state organizations like New York and others give us optimism that our state partners will be able to respond to possible flooding.” Wilson said depending on the nature of the event, New York could request assistance from states in the Northeast, but he does not anticipate that it will call for a national response.
 
The National Weather Service (NWS) had issued multiple lake-effect snow warnings in New York, all set to expire Nov. 21. The NWS issued a flood watch for the most heavily affected areas that will not expire until Nov. 26. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, snowmelt typically generates a 10:1 ratio in water accumulation. In the case of the area around Buffalo, seven feet of melting snow would produce almost a foot of water.
 
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
 
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained Disaster Relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
 
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit https://donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board; Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/24/2014 11:01:10 AM by Joe Conway & Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mormons grappling with their history

November 24 2014 by Benjamin Hawkins, The Pathway/Baptist Press

Leaders within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) are speaking more openly about Mormonism’s controversial history and teachings.
 
Even as Mitt Romney’s presidential bid drew the national spotlight to Mormonism in 2012, leaders of the nearly 180-year-old religion expressed concern about its future.
 
“We’ve never had a period of – I’ll call it apostasy – like we’re having now,” Marlin Jensen, an official Mormon historian, told a group of Mormon students in Logan, Utah, according to a Reuters report. In response to one student’s question, Jensen admitted that Mormons are leaving the faith “in droves.”
 
Although the LDS church counts nearly 15 million members worldwide, estimates of the religion’s overseas retention rate are as low as 25 percent. Only half of the Mormons in the United States are active members, according to Reuters, and some sociologists report only 5 million active members worldwide. Additionally, young Mormons, especially, have begun to question the faith of their fathers.
 
“The problem for Mormonism is with the use of the Internet and with the persistence of many, many groups that have been very straightforward in promoting what Mormonism really stands for,” said R. Philip Roberts, director for international theological education with Global Ministries Foundation in Tennessee who also teaches adjunctively at Truett-McConnell College in Georgia. “They’re losing the battle.”

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BP file photo
Several Southern Baptists pray at the gates of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City when the Southern Baptist Convention held its 1998 annual meeting in the city where the religion is headquartered.

 

LDS leaders have for decades held a posture of silence and secrecy concerning questionable aspects of Mormonism’s history, theology and practices, said Roberts, former director of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) interfaith witness department and former president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
“Mormonism has everything to hide because they pretend to be a Christian organization,” Roberts said, noting that Mormons often use Christian terms while infusing them with unbiblical meanings.
 
But now, forced to address criticism widely available on the Internet, LDS leaders have begun – and only begun –to open up about controversial aspects of their faith. In recent articles posted on the LDS website (www.lds.org), leaders have admitted to Mormonism’s historically positive stance toward polygamy and the historical inaccuracy of some of its own scriptures.
 

Mormonism and polygamy

“Polygamy was a notorious doctrine and practice of the LDS since the time of Joseph Smith,” Tal Davis, who has served with NAMB’s interfaith witness department, writes in an article posted on the webpage of Marketfaith Ministries, an online worldview ministry with which he now works.
 
Smith had as many as 40 wives, including a 14-year-old girl and a woman married to another man. Although historians have known about Smith’s polygamy for more than a century, LDS leaders have until recently hesitated to admit this reality in a straightforward manner, Davis told Baptist Press.
 
Mormons aligned with LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City currently promote monogamy alone, in keeping with a canonized “declaration” of LDS President Wilford Woodruff in 1890 to achieve Utah statehood. But in their most recent statement on polygamy, LDS leaders never condemn polygamy, Davis said. Instead, they affirm that God has, in times past, commanded His people to practice polygamy. Smith himself claimed to have received a revelation from God that endorsed polygamy and condemned any who opposed its practice.
 
But LDS leaders also claim that God commanded biblical characters to practice polygamy. According to NAMB-certified apologist Rob Phillips, director of communications for the Missouri Baptist Convention, this claim is contrary to scripture.
 
“It is clear that God’s ideal is monogamous, lifelong marriage between a man and a woman,” Phillips wrote in a Nov. 12 article on Baptist Press. Additionally, he noted, various passages of scripture denounce polygamy or warn readers of “the danger of taking multiple wives.”
 
“This is precisely where we have an opportunity to urge our Mormon friends to revisit the Bible, which LDS theology and practice relegate to a back seat behind the Book of Mormon and other church documents,” Phillips wrote.
 

Historicity of Mormon scripture

Recent skepticism about Mormonism also has centered on the historicity of “The Book of Abraham,” a section of The Pearl of Great Price, which is one of Mormonism’s scriptures.
 
According to LDS lore, Smith translated The Book of Abraham from an Egyptian papyrus that he bought in the 1840s. For many years, the original Egyptian document was lost but was rediscovered in a museum in the 1960s.
 
Mormon leaders, in a recent statement on the LDS website, admitted what scholars have claimed since the rediscovery of the Egyptian document – that Smith’s translation in no way resembles what the original Egyptian text says.
 
Instead of repudiating Smith’s Book of Abraham, however, the LDS statement says that the Egyptian document wasn’t the textual basis for Smith’s translation. Rather, “the physical artifacts provided an occasion for meditation, reflection and revelation. They catalyzed a process whereby God gave to Joseph Smith a revelation about the life of Abraham, even if that revelation did not directly correlate to the characters on the papyri,” the LDS statement says.
 
The statement also asserts that The Book of Abraham presents valuable doctrine and “clarifies several teachings that are obscure in the Bible,” such as the belief that Jesus Christ “led other spirits in organizing the earth” out of preexisting matter.
 

‘An enormous opportunity’

Roberts said LDS leaders are failing in their attempt to squelch criticism and retain members. But this situation creates an “enormous opportunity” for Southern Baptists “to share the real truth and the real gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 
“It is important that Mormons hear the truth,” Roberts said, “and they need to hear it not from another counterfeit religion, but from people who know the truth.”
 
To learn more about Mormonism, Southern Baptists can read Mormonism Unmasked, which Philips and Davis coauthored with Sandra Tanner. They can find other resources about Mormonism on www.marketfaith.org, www.oncedelivered.net or on NAMB’s apologetics website, www.4Truth.net.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ben Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

11/24/2014 9:08:18 AM by Benjamin Hawkins, The Pathway/Baptist Press | with 3 comments



Obama’s action on immigration called 'unwise'

November 21 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

President Obama’s new executive actions to change immigration policy are unwise and threaten the growing consensus for reform, said the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist.
 
Obama announced in prime time Nov. 20 his actions, which include most controversially a plan to protect nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The president’s use of executive authority came after the Senate approved comprehensive immigration reform in the last Congress but the House of Representatives failed to do.
 
Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he disagreed with Obama’s unilateral act. Moore noted he supports immigration reform, but the president’s decision is an “unwise and counterproductive move.”
 
Writing in a post for Time magazine online, Moore said, “It’s because of my support for immigrants and for immigration reform that I think President Obama’s executive actions are the wrong way to go.
 
“On more than one occasion, I asked President Obama not to turn immigration reform into a red state/blue state issue,” he said. “People across the political spectrum support fixing this system, and it shouldn’t be a partisan wedge issue. I also asked him not to act unilaterally, but to work for consensus through the legislative process.
 
“My hope is that the Republicans in Congress will not allow the President’s actions here to be a pretext for remaining in the rut of the status quo.”
 
Obama defended his decision to act without congressional approval, saying he continues “to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass” a common-sense law. Until then, he has the authority to take steps “that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just,” the president said.
 
Flaws in both the immigration system and its enforcement have resulted in an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the United States.
 
In 2011, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story will be updated at BPnews.net. Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/21/2014 11:31:33 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Floyd releases ebook for prayer, revival

November 21 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd has released a motivational tool book to help pastors and churches across the SBC engage in concerted prayer for the next great awakening in advance of the 2015 annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
 
Floyd announced the release of his ebook in a press conference call Nov. 19, joined by Southern Baptist editors, writers and state convention leaders. The announcement also marked the release of the annual meeting theme, “Great Awakening: Clear Agreement, Visible Union, Extraordinary Prayer,” based on Romans 13:11, for the June 16-17 gathering.
 
During the conference call, Floyd highlighted several recommendations from his ebook: intercessory prayer for pastors on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings in advance of weekly sermons; a month of preaching on the subjects of repentance, extraordinary prayer, revival, awakening and teaching on God’s word; the dedication of a full Sunday morning worship service to congregational prayer; a day of prayer and fasting in May, and attendance at the Columbus meeting.

 
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Floyd’s ebook, “Pleading with Southern Baptists To Humbly Come Together before God in Clear Agreement, Visible Union, and in Extraordinary Prayer for the Next Great Awakening and for the World to Be Reached for Christ,” is available for free download at pray4awakening.com, sbc.net, RonnieFloyd.com, ibookstore.com and other sites. Additional tools and resources to promote the call to prayer are available on pray4awakening.com, including sermons from SBC pastors, encouraging pastors to learn from one another, Floyd said.
 
“I believe pastors need handles,” he said of the ebook. “I think sometimes we operate in generalities, like you should do this, or you should do that. But I also believe there’s historical precedence set in the awakenings, of them coming to agreement about a certain thing.
 
“I mean for example, let’s just say that a few hundred of our churches would really try their very best to have a month where they’re preaching on matters like repentance, and revival and awakening and reaching the world for Christ, and fasting and those kind of matters,” he said. “I mean that makes a major difference.”
 
Southern Baptists need to be in prayer for their churches, for their pastors, Floyd said. He called for three minutes of prayer each Saturday evening and Sunday morning for the anointing of God to come upon pastors as they preach His Word.
 
“I think we’ll have less conflict if we learn how to pray together,” he said. “And we’ll have a greater force of the Holy Spirit and His power in our churches if we pray regularly. And the sunrise and sunset is an image; that’s all it is. It’s a reminder to pray, either one or the other, when people get up or when they go to bed at night.”
 
Floyd compiled the book in consultation with theologians and leaders across the SBC, and referenced such stalwarts as Billy Graham, Jonathan Edwards, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jeremiah Lanphier, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody and William Booth.
 
“Surely we can embrace with clear agreement that spiritual revival personally, spiritual revival in the church, and spiritual awakening in the nation are all needed so we can accelerate our pace in reaching the world for Christ,” Floyd wrote in the book. “Certainly we can deny ourselves, defer our own preferences, and visibly unite in extraordinary prayer for the next Great Awakening and for the world to be reached for Christ.”
 
At the multisite Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, where Floyd is pastor, he will reserve January and early February for sermons on repentance, extraordinary prayer, revival, awakening and reaching the world for Christ, as he is asking every pastor to do for one month between January and May, 2015.
 
“We will end that probably with our major prayer gathering on Sunday morning,” he said of Cross Church, “which we had one last October and it was incredible and blessed. And we will find a day, or we will just call our people to a day of fasting in the month of May.”
 
Floyd is accepting sermons from pastors and Christian leaders to post on the pray4awakening website. He also noted the June 16 evening service at the 2015 SBC annual meeting will be a nationwide prayer gathering, and he hopes to engage Southern Baptists in attendance in Columbus and at home.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/21/2014 10:41:21 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Duggars targeted by pro-gay petition

November 21 2014 by David Roach & Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Nearly 100,000 people have signed an online petition asking the TLC network to cancel the popular reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” contending that its stars, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, use their fame “to promote discrimination, hate, and fear-mongering against gays and transgendered people.”
 
The Duggars have 19 children and are outspoken advocates of their Christian faith as well as pro-family public policies. Their television show debuted in 2008 as “17 Kids and Counting,” since which time they have had two more children. Speaking at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary last year, the Duggars said they stopped using birth control pills after the drugs caused Michelle to experience a miscarriage years ago.
 
The petition to cancel the Duggars’ show was launched by Jim Wissick of San Jose, Calif., at the website change.org and apparently stems from the Duggars’ opposition to a Fayetteville, Ark., ordinance that provides civil rights protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Fayetteville’s city council approved the ordinance in August, but opponents gathered enough signatures from city residents to place the ordinance before voters during a special election Dec. 9.

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Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar

 

A counter-petition in support of the Duggars was launched Nov. 20 at LifeSiteNews.com. According to that petition, “We need to launch a counter-attack, letting TLC know that the American people stand by the Duggars and their defense of traditional family values. Rather than being extreme, the Duggars represent the majority of people in state after state who have stood up for the traditional family. The real extremists are those who are demanding that a TV network penalize America’s beloved family because they support the truth about family, which they have always expressed in a loving, compassionate fashion.”
 
Prior to the city council’s approval of the ordinance, Michelle Duggar placed a robocall to northwest Arkansas residents warning, as quoted by Wissick, “The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes I said men – to use women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”
 
Duggar’s words “reek of ignorance and fear mongering,” Wissick wrote. “Just because someone is transgendered doesn’t mean they are a child predator or a rapist.”
 
Wissick added, “The Duggars have thrown massive amounts of money to repeal this law so business owners and land lords can evict and fire people solely over gender identity and sexual orientation! They need to be taken off the air!”
 
The Duggars’ oldest son Josh, who is executive director of the Family Research Council’s legislative group, drew criticism from Wissick for being employed by “a hate-filled, anti-gay organization.”
 
The Duggars’ Facebook page also has been the subject of criticism from gay activists, according to CBS News. Earlier this month Jim Bob and Michelle posted a photo of themselves kissing along with the caption, “God designed marriage to be a loving, dynamic relationship between a husband and wife for a lifetime. God loves marriage and it is supposed to be full of love, joy, fun and romance. We challenge all married couples to take a happily married picture and post it here.”

John Becker, of the LGBT blog The Bilerico Project, posted a photo of himself kissing his homosexual partner along with a message advocating gay marriage. The Duggars removed the photo and banned Becker from their Facebook page, CBS News reported.
 
On Twitter, Josh Barro, a reporter for a New York Times section called TheUpshot and an MSNBC contributor, wrote, “Anti-LGBT attitudes are terrible for people in all sorts of communities. They linger and oppress, and we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.”
 
Evangelical blogger Samuel James responded at the Patheos website in a blog titled “The Salem Duggar Trials,” noting:
 
“So let’s lay all the facts out as simply as possible:
 

“1. The Duggar family has a popular television program that many Americans enjoy
“2. The Duggar family have personal beliefs about sex and religion that are shared by a very large number of other Americans
“3. According to Jim Wissick and the petition signees, the Duggars’ beliefs – and by extension, the beliefs of tens of millions of Americans – are evil.
“4. Entertainment companies like TLC have a moral duty to not give employment or platform to people whose beliefs about sex are evil.
“5. Therefore, TLC should behave morally and cancel the Duggars’ popular show in order to avoid spreading evil beliefs among the viewing public.
 

“Read over that sequence carefully, and then ask yourself: Who is trying to force their beliefs on others here?”
 
TLC has not commented on Wissick’s petition, according to the Huffington Post.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. Art Toalston is BP’s editor.)

11/21/2014 10:22:13 AM by David Roach & Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



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