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Disciple-making strategy working in NC

May 22 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) board of directors took action on several items and heard reports on Cooperative Program (CP) giving and the convention’s disciple-making strategy in the board’s regularly scheduled May meeting.
 
During their two-day meeting held May 19-20 at the Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro, board members:

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Photo by K. Allan Blume
Clay Wharf, executive director of the North Carolina Baptist Foundation, discussed the North Carolina Baptist scholarship fund before the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina board of directors.

  • Voted unanimously to sell the Battle House, the former Baptist campus ministry property at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to Carolina Christian Study Center for $1.55 million.

  • Voted unanimously to transfer administration and oversight of the annual N.C. Baptist college scholarship program from the convention to the North Carolina Baptist Foundation.

  • Approved a motion to allow the convention to transfer $68,479 to a contingency reserve fund. The funds to be transferred represent 20 percent of a $342,494 surplus in the convention’s 2014 operations budget.

  • Approved a motion to change the dates for the 2017 annual meeting from Nov. 13-14, 2017 to Nov. 6-7, 2017. Convention bylaws stipulate that the BSC annual meeting will begin on the first Monday following the second Sunday in November, however a scheduling conflict with the host facility necessitated the change.

Beverly Volz, director of accounting services, reported to the board that through April 30, funds received through CP giving totaled approximately $9.39 million, which is up more than 5 percent over the same time period as last year. Additionally, giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the North Carolina Missions Offering is also up over the same time period as last year.
 
Based on giving trends among N.C. Baptists, Tony Honeycutt, chair of the Budget Special Committee, said the committee is considering a proposal that would increase the BSC’s 2016 Cooperative Program budget by $500,000. If approved, that will be the first budget increase since 2009 and will bring the budget up from $29 million this year to $29.5 million next year.
 
Additionally, Honeycutt said the committee is considering increasing BSC’s budget allocation to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) by three percent. The increase will bring N.C. Baptists’ total contribution to the SBC from 37 percent up to 40 percent, providing about $1 million more for CP missions support.
 
The committee will present its budget proposal to the BSC’s executive committee in July before it is presented to the full board in September. The final budget recommendation will be discussed and voted on by the messengers during the annual meeting in Greensboro November 2-3, 2015.
 
During the executive director-treasurer’s report, Milton Hollifield said N.C. Baptists are making “significant progress” in Kingdom advancement through the convention’s disciple-making strategy to impact lostness in the state.
 
Citing high attendance figures at the One Story disciple-making conference in February and the May 2 One Day training event, Hollifield said more pastors are asking the question, “How do I lead my people to make disciples?”
 
“We have undoubtedly gained momentum in the areas of disciple-making and church strengthening over the last year,” Hollifield said. “We are leading the way in an important conversation that is about more than growing the institution of the church, but about the people of the church growing to become disciples who will share the gospel with others and make disciples.”
 
The May board meeting was the first to be held in Hollifield Hall, Caraway’s newest facility. Named in honor of the late Wyndolyn Royster Hollifield, who was a generous supporter of Baptist causes throughout her life, Hollifield Hall was officially dedicated on May 19.
 
The 7,000-square-foot, $1.3 million facility features auditorium and meeting space that accommodates up to 300 guests.

5/22/2015 12:26:05 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Boy Scouts should allow gay leaders, BSA pres. says

May 22 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) should end its ban on gay adult leaders, BSA President Robert Gates said May 21, lending credence to the concern expressed in a 2013 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolution that opening the group’s membership to homosexual youth was “merely the first step toward future approval of homosexual adult leaders in the Scouts.”
 
A policy allowing gay Scout leaders “was a matter of time,” said Ernest Easley, who was chairman of the SBC Executive Committee (EC) in 2013. “Back when they changed their thinking regarding the boys themselves, I knew that within a year or so they would reverse their stand with the leadership. And frankly, I think it was the plan to begin with: Start with the kids. We get that done. Then we come back later with the adults.”
 
Gates, a former C.I.A. director and U.S. secretary of defense, told attendees of the BSA annual meeting in Atlanta he is not asking the national board to change the leadership policy immediately. But he said the Scouts must voluntarily accept gay leaders before a court forces them to do so.

 
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“Between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the BSA finds itself in an unsustainable position,” Gates said according to a copy of his prepared remarks, “a position that makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy. We must all understand that this probably will happen sooner rather than later.”
 
A new leadership policy should, Gates said, “allow all churches, which sponsor some 70 percent of our Scout units, to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith. We must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this.”
 
Easley, pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., questioned whether the BSA can truly protect religious liberty for churches with Scout troops.
 
“Our religious liberties are being stripped away state by state,” said Easley. “And depending on what the Supreme Court does in the next month or so, it may be the end of religious liberty as this nation has known it historically. So I don’t think religious liberty is even going to be an issue much anymore.”
 
In 2013, the BSA voted to approve new membership guidelines stating, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” Previously, a Boy Scouts policy stated, “Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed.”
 
Initially, BSA executive leadership planned to change Scouts policies to allow avowed homosexuals to become members and hold leadership positions. But following an outcry from Scouts, their families, sponsoring organizations and the American public, the BSA board took additional time to review the policy and recommended changing only the membership standards.
 
Less than a month after the change of policy, messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Houston adopted a resolution expressing “continued opposition to and disappointment in the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to change its membership policy.”
 
The resolution said the Scouts’ decision was “viewed by many homosexual activists as merely the first step in the process that will fundamentally change the BSA,” putting “the Scouts at odds with a consistent biblical worldview on matters of human sexuality.” The resolution added that the decision had “the potential to complicate basic understandings of male friendships, needlessly politicize human sexuality, and heighten sexual tensions within the Boy Scouts.”
 
At the time, Southern Baptist leaders echoed the resolution’s prediction the Scouts would eventually drop their ban on gay leaders. Among the leaders voicing that opinion were Steve Lemke of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Russell Moore of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Roger S. Oldham of the EC.
 
“We grieve that the Scouts have planted the seed of their eventual destruction,” Oldham, EC vice president for convention communications and relations, said at the time. “It won’t happen overnight, but the course has been set.”
 
In related news, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America has reaffirmed its policy of accepting transgendered persons into membership. The reaffirmation came in response to objections by conservative organizations, including the American Family Association, to allowing boys “who are confused” to join, CNN reported May 20.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/22/2015 12:19:16 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Board votes to sell Battle House at UNC-Chapel Hill

May 22 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) board of directors voted unanimously to sell the Battle House, the former Baptist campus ministry property at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, to Carolina Christian Study Center (CCSC) for $1.55 million.
 
The sale means the historic property that served as a base for Baptist Student Union (BSU) ministry at UNC-Chapel Hill for 50 years will continue to provide a Christian witness and serve the university community.
 
The vote came Wednesday, May 20 based on a recommendation by the BSC’s business services special committee during their full board meeting at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro.
 
Proceeds from the sale will be placed into a special account that will be used exclusively for furthering the collegiate partnerships ministry. The BSC will receive an initial down payment of 10 percent of the purchase price, which equals $155,000. The balance of the purchase price will be paid to the convention over a five-year period.

 
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Terms of the purchase agreement stipulate that the Battle House must be used for Christian ministry purposes. Additional provisions designate that ownership of the property would revert back to BSC in the event that CCSC dissolves. Should the center ever choose to sell the Battle House, BSC must be given the first opportunity to repurchase the property.
 
Additionally, BSC will have the authority to appoint a representative to CCSC’s board of directors.
 
BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton Hollifield said the center “is committed to engaging the academic community with the gospel,” and complements the convention’s approach to collegiate ministry.
 
“We’re excited to see this as a great complement to our new strategy for collegiate ministry that focuses on assisting churches to impact lostness among one of the largest unreached people groups in North Carolina, which is college students,” Hollifield said.
 
Hollifield said CCSC will be modeled after the L’Abri communities, founded by the late Christian theologian, philosopher and apologist Francis Schaeffer and his wife, Edith, in Switzerland in the 1950s. L’Abri communities still exist in many places around the world and serve as a place where individuals can gather to ask questions and seek answers about the claims of Christianity and the impact it should have on one’s life.
 
Named for former UNC-Chapel Hill president Kemp P. Battle, the Battle House was originally purchased by BSC in 1964 for $102,500. The property, which is adjacent to the university’s main campus and located in the historic district of Chapel Hill, has undergone significant renovations and improvements while serving as a base for Baptist campus ministry at the university for 50 years.
 
CCSC first approached BSC leadership about purchasing the Battle House in early 2014, several months after the convention implemented its new approach to collegiate ministry.
 
The BSC board of directors has previously voted to sell or transfer ownerships of other campus ministry properties owned by the convention. Properties at East Carolina University and UNC-Asheville were both sold during the past year, and the property at UNC-Pembroke was transferred to the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association.
 
Hollifield praised the work of the business services special committee, the convention’s board and BSC leadership for their work over the past year in determining the best use of the Battle House property. Hollifield added that he is thankful and encouraged that CCSC will continue to use the Battle House as place for ministry.
 
“Some of our former Baptist students at UNC-Chapel Hill who had been active in our BSU work felt this would be a great and very beneficial ministry for that campus,” Hollifield said.
 
Visit ncstudycenter.org.

5/22/2015 12:11:48 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Ohio Baptists praying outside 88 county seats

May 22 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Ohio Southern Baptists are praying publicly outside all 88 county headquarters across the state through May 29, proclaiming scripture, praising Jesus and pleading for county officials, businesses and community concerns, organizer Cathy Pound told Baptist Press.
 
“Most of the counties have specific concerns,” said Pound, Women’s Missions and Ministries Resource Group leader with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. “Maybe it’s single moms, maybe it’s drug addiction, maybe it’s sex trafficking; whatever their specific concerns are, we’ve been lifting those concerns up.”
 
At least 65 team leaders including pastors and lay leaders across the state are participating, with individual county teams varying in size. On average, seven people have prayed at each county seat, and 81 counties will have been reached through May 21, Pound said. The outreach is designed to unite and energize Baptists across the state in prayer.


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Submitted photo
Ohio Baptists from Orrville Baptist Church in Orrville, Lighthouse Baptist Fellowship in Medina and other congregations pray outside government offices in Wayne County, Ohio, May 21, as part of a county-wide prayer emphasis.

“The short-term goal is that Ohio Baptists literally would be purified and unified as one, and cry out as one voice for Jesus to draw the lost to Him in every single county,” Pound said. “And of course we, along with (Southern Baptist Convention President) Ronnie Floyd, we are praying that awakening will happen in Christ followers here in Ohio.

 “We’re seeing long-term goals that church plants would come from this. We’re believing that as our people really seek the Lord for their county, there’s going to be some significant changes in the lives of the officials in the county, and there’s going to be changes in the lostness. We’re believing that.”
 
Churches in various counties have made plans to schedule prayer outreaches at county seats weekly, monthly or quarterly, Pound said.
 
“One of the goals that we had for long-term was that this would not just be a one-time thing, but that these prayer leaders would really believe in the Lord that this is the beginning of something that they will pick up and carry on,” Pound said. “What we do want to do is encourage that there’s a prayer champion in every county and it’s coming from the Holy Spirit through them. These people live in these counties and it’s their heart, and it needs to be between them and the Holy Spirit how they move forward.”
 
The county seat outreach was divinely inspired, Jack Kwok, executive director/treasurer of the Ohio Baptist convention, told Baptist Press.
 

“A number of years ago, God just kept putting it on my heart to go to our county seats. We’re not protesting, we’re not marching, we’re not obtaining permits to have a public gathering,” Kwok said. “We just wanted to gather, whoever would come, in smaller groups, and pray at that county seat and pray for the lostness in that county, pray for the spiritual conditions – the difficulties families are facing ... the elected officials, and the service people, the police force, the fire and emergency people, and most of all just pray for a movement of God all across our state in every county.”
 
The county prayer gatherings are part of Ohio Baptists’ Pray Ohio Call to Prayer initiative that began in 2014 and is scheduled to continue at least through December, with a unique emphasis each month. The prayer gatherings at county seats began May 5, in addition to a May 12 prayer gathering held at Genoa Baptist Church of Westerville and prayer and fasting on the first Friday in May across the state.
 

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Submitted photo
Gerry Clevenger, pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Fellowship in Medina, Ohio, prays with his daughter Rachel outside government offices in Wayne County, Ohio May 21.

“We believe in prayer and we’ve been praying that the Father would bless in Ohio,” Kwok said. “We have 11 and a half million people and we believe God could use Southern Baptists to reach at least a million of those.
 
“We figure it would take 2,020 congregations to disciple and care for that many people. So that’s our 2020 vision,” he noted. “All along, we’ve had a five-core strategy that fits in the hand analogy quite well, with the thumb being prayer and spiritual renewal. And then, more and better disciples, more healthy congregations, discovering and developing leaders and working with associational church plants.”
 
Other Pray Ohio events have included prayer drives around and across the state and prayer targeting the causes of pastors, church planters, Woman’s Missionary Union and North American and international missions.
 
“This has been a long emphasis of ours. We think it’s very providential Ronnie (Floyd) came along with a similar vision and heartbeat in praying for awakening, and it just fit real well,” Kwok said. “Prayer at the end of the day is surrender to the Lordship of Christ and aligning our lives with God’s purposes and God’s will in our lives. We’re seeing an increased awareness and participation, and various other prayer emphases that have come alongside of that, some of them perhaps have branched off from it. But I rather think it was just God bringing that awareness to our folk all across the state.”
 
In June, Ohio Baptists will pray for Crossover Columbus and the city of Columbus in advance of the June 16–17 SBC Annual Meeting there.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

5/22/2015 12:01:42 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Baptist Foundation to oversee scholarship program

May 22 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The board of directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) voted to transfer administration and oversight of the annual Baptist college scholarship program from the convention to the North Carolina Baptist Foundation (NCBF).
 
The vote was the result of a motion recommended by the Christian Higher Education Special Committee during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on May 20 at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro. The motion was approved unanimously by the board.
 
Scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students from cooperating N.C. Baptist churches who attend one of the five affiliated educational institutions will be funded through an endowment established by NCBF, rather than through Cooperative Program (CP) funds received through the BSC.

 

The foundation’s board has already established the endowment by reclassifying funds that were previously designated for student loans so they can be used to fund scholarship. The student loan fund has been underutilized for many years, which led the foundation to take action to legally reclassify the fund, said Clay Warf, executive director of NCBF.
 
“Thanks to the efforts of the late Tom Dimmock, a foundation board member, we have been successful in converting the Luther H. Butler Student Loan Fund to the Luther H. Butler Scholarship Fund for N.C. Baptist students,” Warf said. “We are delighted to join forces with the Baptist State Convention in administering the N.C. Baptist scholarship program.”
 
The conversion enables the new endowment to begin with almost $3 million. Investment income from the endowment will be available for scholarships beginning in 2016. That figure could grow even higher.
 
The Christian higher education special committee also asked the BSC executive committee to consider making additional contributions to the scholarship endowment from some existing reserve funds managed by the convention. The executive committee will consider that request at a future meeting.
 
The board’s vote also included a measure that makes financial need a factor in allocating scholarship funds. Gordon Benton, chairman of the Christian higher education special committee, said making the scholarship a competitive, needs-based award was an important consideration for the committee.
 
Benton said that while the changes may mean that fewer total scholarships will be awarded, the scholarships that are awarded will be for a higher dollar amount.
 
Funds allocated for scholarships through the convention’s CP budget have decreased each year since 2009 as the overall convention budget has also decreased, Benton noted. Those decreases led convention and foundation leaders to appoint a special higher education subcommittee in January to explore options for changing the way scholarships are funded and administered.
 
Officials said funding the scholarships through the foundation’s endowment instead of the BSC budget means that more funds will be available for scholarships.
 
Committee, convention and foundation leaders also said they hope to see the number and amount of scholarships that are awarded to grow over time as the endowment increases. Individuals, churches and businesses can also make contributions to the scholarship endowment.
 
Transitioning oversight from the convention to the foundation should be complete by the time rising high school seniors begin the scholarship application process this fall. Students should notice few, if any, changes to the application process.
 
Seniors are asked to check NCBF’s website (ncbaptistfoundation.org) this fall for instructions and deadlines. Applications should be submitted in the fall of 2015. Students will be notified of scholarship decisions in the spring of 2016, prior to their college enrollment in the fall of 2016.
 
Scholarships will be awarded to full-time, undergraduate and graduate students attending one of the five affiliated Baptist institutions in North Carolina. They include: Campbell University, Chowan University, Gardner-Webb University, Mars Hill University and Wingate University. In addition, students attending Meredith University will be eligible for scholarships in compliance with the original terms of the Luther H. Butler Student Loan Fund.

5/22/2015 11:56:26 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Franklin Graham’s targets Supreme Court justices online

May 21 2015 by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

Evangelist Franklin Graham has taken to Facebook to plead for prayers on behalf of each U.S. Supreme Court justices as they prepare to rule on gay marriage.
 
Recognizing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right “would be a wicked, wicked thing,” said Graham, son of the iconic preacher Billy Graham. “The only hope we have is prayer.”
 
“Imagine tens and tens and tens of thousands of Americans praying for God to hear their prayers and to change the hearts of these justices. God just might do that.”
 
So far, Graham has posted prayers for seven of the justices on his Facebook page, which has 1.4 million “likes.” He plans to do two more in the coming days, covering all nine justices, both those who may rule for and those who are against same-sex marriage.

 
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Franklin Graham

The Supreme Court is expected to decide before the end of June. Many court observers believe the court is poised, if not to declare the constitutionality of gay marriage, then at least to require states to recognize gay marriages established in states where it is legal.
 
Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Samaritan’s Purse charity, describes Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the subject of his latest post, as the daughter of immigrants who made good on the American dream.
 
“Unfortunately,” the post continues, “she is also an example of someone who seems to be very misguided on the issue of same-sex marriage. She voted to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2014, and homosexual advocates consider her an ally in their fight to make same-sex marriage the law of the land.
 
“Let’s pray for Justice Sotomayor to have the wisdom to know that as a society we cannot survive if we turn our back on God’s standards and His definition of marriage,” the post concludes.
 
The Sotomayor post has received more than 34,900 “likes.” The one for Justice Samuel Alito, who, Graham writes, seems to understand the consequences of a ruling for gay marriage, garnered more than 92,400 “likes.”
 
“Social media, and Facebook in particular, has become a powerful pulpit,” said Scott Thumma, professor of sociology and religion at Hartford Institute for Religion Research. “The Graham clan has long understood the power of the media.”
 
“With nearly 1 million likes on Facebook and a quarter of a million followers on Twitter, Franklin Graham can inexpensively influence and incite his followers without the infrastructure his father required to persuade the masses.”
 
This is not the first time Graham has turned to social media to sway public opinion on a controversial issue in the news.
 
Duke University dropped plans to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer from the bell tower of Duke Chapel in January after Graham launched a Facebook campaign decrying the idea.
 
“As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism,” his Facebook post read.
 
Graham also asked Duke alumni to refrain from donating to the university until it canceled the call to prayer.

5/21/2015 1:25:40 PM by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Ethnic summit seeks to reach diverse population

May 21 2015 by K. Faith Morgan, NAMB

People-group ministry is often viewed as an international concern, but the executive leadership at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is seeking to highlight this ministry’s importance and develop the scope of Southern Baptist people-group efforts in North America.
 
“The ethnic population is growing faster than the Anglo population in the United States,” said NAMB senior assistant to the president, Kim Robinson. About 58 percent of the new churches added to the Southern Baptist Convention in 2013 and 2014 are reported to be minority congregations, he noted.
 
Robinson and NAMB president, Kevin Ezell, hosted a two-day summit at NAMB’s Alpharetta, Ga., building to address this growing need. More than 20 Southern Baptist leaders representing several different ethnic groups sat down to discuss current outreach efforts and explore how NAMB could effectively help plant churches for diverse populations in cooperation with ethnic Southern Baptist groups like the National African American Fellowship, the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America, the Native Fellowship of Christians, the Chinese Baptist Fellowship of the U.S. and Canada, and others.

 
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Photo by John Swain/NAMB
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) hosted a two-day summit to address collaboration and partnership to strength ethnic church planting and people group focus in North America. Participants included NAMB president Kevin Ezell, K. Marshall Williams, Byron Day, A.B. Vines, Dennis Manpoong Kim, Christian Phan, Abraham Chiu, Ted Lam, Jeremiah Lepasana, Bobby Sena, Rolando Castro Salas, Erick Zaldana, Emerson Falls, Santosh Ramdam, Mokhles Bekhet and NAMB staff Carlos Ferrer, Gary Frost, Jeff Christopherson, Kim Robinson, Jason Kim, Jeremy Sin, Ramon Osario, Gary Hawkins, Aslam Masih, Dhati Lewis, Neal Hughes, Clark Logan, Jerry Daniel, Greg Murphree, Chad Childress, Shane Critser, and Mike Ebert.

“We did not invite you here just to get to know you. We didn’t invite you here just to come and share the particular needs of each area. We’re really ready to stand with you. To speak up at the appropriate time, and to sacrificially, come together to have a shared goal of how we’re going to get this done,” Ezell said during the April 23-24 meeting.
 
Robinson told the group in his opening remarks, “We have a very strong desire to accelerate ethnic church planting, but we know we can’t do that by ourselves.”
 
He said, “That comes from pastor-led churches leading their congregations into church planting. So we want to partner with you to help plant more than we could if we tried to do it alone. It’s not that you need to join forces with us, and we are your leaders. We want to join forces with you.”
 
Throughout the two days, participants spent time in both large group sessions and small-group meetings where they explored ways that their respective fellowships could work symbiotically.
 
“We would like to advocate the potential of partnership with other ethnic groups, so that we could add value to the kingdom work here in the U.S.,” said Filipino leader Jerry Lepasana.
 
Dennis Manpoong Kim, pastor of Global Mission Church in Silver Springs, Md., agreed. “It is encouraging for me and for my congregation to cross over the ethnic boundaries to help other people start new churches,” he said. “I have a clearer understanding of what we are trying to do together, and I give thanks to God.”
 
One of the major organizational instruments introduced at the summit was the NAMB Church Plant Map at namb.net/map. This interactive online tool allows pastors, planters and church members to see both current church plants and potential plants by ethnic group alongside census statistics. The data presented is the result of research and on-the-ground expertise from missionaries and pastors living in the area.
 
“We constantly update these maps,” Ezell said. “We don’t just come up with these numbers arbitrarily. We meet with people locally who have investment and expertise there, and we put the information on the map for everybody to see.”
 
Many leaders echoed a desire for increased collaboration and communication between their organizations and NAMB, too. The tools and initiatives presented by NAMB’s mobilization team sparked enthusiasm for the potential to partner in ministry and magnify the groups’ respective strengths – especially as it relates to the specific cultural context of each ethnic group.
 
“You’ve got dots on the map, and so do we,” said Emmerson Falls, chairman of the Native Fellowship of Christians, in reference to NAMB’s extensive map of target church plants. “Where they overlap, let’s partner together – it just makes sense.”
 
The meeting also stressed the bond of fellowship forged through prayer. K. Marshall Williams, Sr., president of the National African American Fellowship, said “If we don’t dialogue with the divine – if dust doesn’t talk to deity – nothing is going to happen.”
 
Ezell said, “I really believe that God has brought us together for such a time as this. God has brought us together for a purpose, and it’s not just to grow in fellowship with one another but to leave here with some action points. What are we going to do, and what are we going to do together?”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – K. Faith Morgan writes for the North American Mission Board.)

5/21/2015 1:19:03 PM by K. Faith Morgan, NAMB | with 0 comments



Jindal signs executive order for religious liberty

May 21 2015 by Philip Timothy & Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message

Hours after a religious freedom bill was struck down in committee May 20, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal quickly signed an executive order that afternoon which appeared to capture the intent and much of the language of the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act.
 
“In Louisiana, the state should not be able to take adverse action against a person for their belief in traditional marriage,” read a statement issued from the governor’s office.
 
“That’s why I’m issuing an Executive Order this evening to prevent the state from discriminating against people, charities and family-owned businesses with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Jindal said. “We don’t support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty. These two values can be upheld at the same time.
 
“Indeed, we celebrate diversity of belief in Louisiana. Diversity of belief and religious liberty are the foundation of our law and Constitution and they should be protected. As long as I’m Governor, we will fight to protect religious liberty and not apologize for it,” he said.
 
The executive order means the 20 agencies that fall under the executive branch, including the Department of Revenue, Insurance, Transportation and Development and Health and Hospitals, must abide by the rules set forth in it.

 
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Bobby Jindal

The bill (HB 707) was designed to block the government from pulling licenses, tax benefits, and the like from a company because of the owner’s view of same-sex marriage. The sponsor of the legislation, State Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, said Jindal’s executive order reflects parts of an amended version of his bill.
 
“I applaud Gov. Jindal for this executive order. It will go a long way to preserve the most fundamental freedom of all Louisianians which is our religious liberty,” Johnson said.
 
With the Supreme Court’s imminent ruling on a landmark same-sex marriage case set for June 18, Johnson said he felt his legislation was necessary as there would be an increasing number of conflicts “between the old idea of religious freedom and new changing ideas about marriage.”
 
“As was just mentioned a few weeks ago in oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court, it is incumbent upon every state to address this important issue as soon as possible,” Johnson said. “This is a good resolution for our state for now and we intend to bring this legislation back again at the earliest opportunity.”
 
However, the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee did not agree and defeated the measure when legislators voted 10-2 to return the legislation to the calendar after hours of testimony from both sides including Louisiana Baptists’ Executive Director David Hankins and Louisiana Family Forum’s President Gene Mills.
 
“Thank you to all who signed the petition and supported the position statement put forth by me, Dr. [Steve] Horn, and Dr. [David] Goza,” Hankins said. “While the hesitancy of our representatives is disappointing, I am thankful the governor signed an executive order which will provide protection for people of faith who live out their convictions.”
 
Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum, said, “We are very disappointed in the fact Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans and chairman of the committee, did not even extend the courtesy of allowing Rep. Johnson to place his amendments on the bill.
 
“Rep. Johnson did everything possible to answer the spectacular claims of the opponents and to make his bill clear and concise, but the chairman, aided by Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite), motioned to return the bill to the calendar before the author could amend his bill,” Mills said.
 
“By voting with the chairman today, the House Civil Law committee effectively ignored two-thirds of Louisiana voters, endorsing both the state’s ability to discriminate and the LGBT advocacy groups. The website LA4Liberty.com has registered over 500 businesses and 1,000 citizens in Louisiana in support of the bill. These voices were ignored by today’s committee vote,” he said.
 
In response to the executive order, Rick Edmonds, vice president of Louisiana Family Forum, thanked Louisianians who have expressed their support for biblical marriage.
 
Edmonds wrote, “While religious freedom in America is being attacked on every corner, believers like you in Louisiana continue to make a difference. Many of you have been praying, signing petitions, speaking to legislators, informing friends and even making your way to Baton Rouge to make a difference. Congratulations, your hard work and prayers have paid off.”
 
LGBT advocacy organizations Equality Louisiana and Louisiana Progress Action issued a joint statement condemning Jindal’s Executive Order saying it would only hurt the state’s economy.
 
“It is shameful that Gov. Jindal has decided that abusing his executive power to accomplish the goals of House Bill 707, even after it was tabled indefinitely by our legislature today, is worth more effort than fixing our disastrous state budget. He may have forgotten what every day Louisianians value the most, but the testimony today against HB 707 should have reminded him. Discrimination is not a Louisiana value.”
 
However, a poll taken by Louisiana Family Forum on May 14 and May 17 indicated that a majority of voters in Louisiana supported the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act by a margin of over two to one (67 percent to 25 percent). Moreover, voters from nearly all key demographic groups in Louisiana overwhelmingly supported the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act.
 
In July 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1.6 percent of U.S. adults identified themselves as homosexuals and another 0.7 percent described themselves as bisexual.
 
In 2004, 78 percent of Louisianians amended the constitution to affirm traditional marriage.
 
However, officials from both the Louisiana tourism and business industry strongly opposed the bill according to a story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. In testifying against the bill, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry called it “a radioactive, poisonous message for (tourism).”
 
“The state could lose millions – up to $65 million a year – in state tax revenue because of lost business as a result the bill and perceptions that it is discriminatory,” Perry said. “Let’s not create discriminatory elements in the marketplace that destroy our economy.”
 
Johnson, though, was skeptical about Perry’s loss projections. “Those numbers are unsubstantiated,” he said. “So much of this is based on mischaracterization of the bill.”
 
Louisiana Baptist Convention President Steve Horn said in recent days he has been holding to Proverbs 24:10, which states “If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited.”
 
“As we await a decision by the Supreme Court in just a few weeks now, I am thankful for leadership in our state that would have the courage to do something in a difficult time,” said Horn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lafayette. “I fear that once again we have allowed the minority position to speak for the majority. Instead of continuing to have an honest debate about a matter that is going to define our culture, the Committee’s decision yesterday disallows the debate to continue.”
 
Johnson said he plans to reintroduce the bill during next year’s legislative session.
 
“All of this effort has been about one simple thing – the need to preserve the most fundamental of all human rights, which is our right of conscience and the freedom of belief,” Johnson said. “Everyone in our society deserves dignity and respect, but part of that is upholding the right of people to adhere to their faith.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Philip Timothy is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell writes for the Baptist Message.)

5/21/2015 1:14:30 PM by Philip Timothy & Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message | with 0 comments



Missions fuels Jimmy Draper scholarship recipient

May 21 2015 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Not long after LifeWay Chistian Stores associate Anna Dible began asking customers if they would like to purchase a Bible to send to South Asia, she asked God a question as well: “Can I go?”
 
Dible believes God called her to go and used her selection as the recipient of LifeWay’s Jimmy Draper Mission Scholarship to make it possible.

 
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Photo provided by LifeWay
Anna Dible was overjoyed to hand out Thomas Project Bibles in person to villagers in South Asia.

In April, Dible was part of a team of LifeWay employees who distributed 5,000 Thomas Project Bibles in South Asia. The Thomas Project is LifeWay’s initiative last year to encourage customers to purchase Bibles to send to South Asia. “I loved sharing with our customers about this awesome opportunity to reach people with the gospel and put Bibles in their hands,” she said.
 
Store manager Scott Glover says Dible’s passion was contagious in the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, store. “Anna was instrumental in our store selling the Bibles,” he said. Along with inspiring customers to donate them, Dible helped train other employees on the Thomas Project.
 
Dible said she “couldn’t stop smiling” when she found out she had been chosen for the scholarship. “It was such an honor to receive this scholarship and be part of what God’s doing in South Asia,” she said.
 
Part of what struck her during her time overseas was the importance of the Bibles. “It is such a treasure,” she said. “We were able to give people their very first Bible. We were able to equip them with their own copy of God’s Word and allow them to grow closer to God as they read and study their own Bible.”

 
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Photo provided by LifeWay
Anna Dible shares the gospel with children in South Asia using an Evangecube.

At 19, Dible is the youngest recipient of the scholarship that is awarded each year to an employee participating in a LifeWay mission trip for the first time. The scholarship is named for former LifeWay president, Jimmy Draper. In her application, Dible explained she had recently graduated from high school and “funds are pretty tight.” But she said, “God calls us to things beyond our wildest dreams.”
 
After reading an article in LifeWay’s employee magazine last year, Dible began to pray about going on an international mission trip with LifeWay.
 
“I find it awesome to be part of an organization that not only provides Bibles and biblical resources here in the United States,” she said, “but also impacts other countries with the gospel.”
 
After her trip to South Asia, she said she is looking forward to sharing with customers “how God is using LifeWay to impact other cultures.”
 
Glover noted, “Anna was a leader on our team in getting those Bibles donated,” he said. “... She is an outstanding, exemplary employee.”
 
Dible said, “one of the most powerful prayers we can pray to God is ‘Here I am. Send me.’” For anyone else thinking about going on a mission trip, she said to pray about it and then step out in faith. “If we offer ourselves up to be used by Him, He will use us,” she said. “And it is such a tremendous blessing to work with God Almighty.”
 
Her favorite memories from the trip were being able to share the gospel and seeing how receptive the people were. “It’s crazy to realize there are still so many people who have never heard the gospel and need to hear about Christ,” she said. “Someone just has to go and tell them.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. This article first appeared in LifeWay’s employee magazine, LifeLines.)

5/21/2015 12:53:05 PM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



Two Sudanese Christians face death penalty

May 21 2015 by Fredrick Nzwili, Religion News Service

Last year, a death penalty sentence slapped on a Sudanese doctor for refusing to renounce her Christian faith stirred international outrage and heightened calls on the government to increase religious liberty.
 
Meriam Yahya Ibrahim was released a month later, but now two Christian pastors have been jailed and they also face a possible death sentence.

 
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REUTERS Photo by Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
People from South Sudan stand near a tent used as a church at a railway station camp, where they have spent the last four years, in Khartoum on May 11, 2014.

Michael Yat and Peter Yein Reith, both from the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, have been charged with undermining the constitutional system and spying, offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment.
 
The clerics are charged with waging a war against the state and assault on religious belief.
 
“We know they have been arrested, but we don’t know where they are being detained,” said Kori Romla Koru, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches. “We are trying to find them.”
 
Yat was arrested last year after visiting the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church’s Bahri congregation in Khartoum, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a charity that works on behalf of persecuted Christians.
 
The congregation had resisted the takeover of the church by a Muslim businessman, who had demolished part of the worship center.
 
In December, police beat and arrested 38 Christians for worshipping in the church.
 
With Yat’s arrest, South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church sent Reith with a letter to the authorities to demand his release. He was arrested on Jan. 11.
 
Human rights groups have expressed deep concern over the charges, warning that the two clerics could face torture.
 
“It is unacceptable that after enduring extended detentions without charge, the men now face extreme and unwarranted charges,” said Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s chief executive, said earlier this month.
 
Since the separation of Sudan and South Sudan in 2011, Sudan has forced out all foreign missionaries, raided churches and arrested and interrogated Christians on grounds that they belonged to South Sudan.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.)

5/21/2015 12:44:48 PM by Fredrick Nzwili, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



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