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Memorial Day: Jimmy Connelly’s greatest honor

May 30 2016 by Jim Burton, Baptist Press

An estimated 3.6 million Americans fought in the Pacific Theatre in World War II, overcoming brutal encounters on island after island against Japanese soldiers burrowed into the hillsides.
 
The late Jimmy Connelly was one of those Americans.
 
The Navy made Connelly chief of a troop-landing Higgins Craft during the massive amphibious assaults at the outset of the Allies’ first major Pacific offensive against the Japanese – Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
 
Each craft could ferry up to 36 Marines, and when they stormed the beaches, Connelly operated a 7.62mm belt-fed machine gun to provide cover. On his 10th trip to transport troops into the Solomon Islands battle zone, he also was carrying several hundred five-gallon cans of gasoline. When a mortar round struck their craft, shrapnel pierced his neck and arm, and his pants were set afire, propelling him into the ocean.

Contributed photo

 
When he returned home from the war, Connelly never mentioned the injuries. Too many men like him – 18 to 21-year-olds uprooted from their families and hometowns – lost their lives and limbs that day. His suffering, by comparison, had been minor.
 
Seventy-two years later, Connelly could still recite the names of his crew members killed that day in the Solomon Islands. Not until his mid-80s did he even speak of the war – or that the Navy awarded him a Purple Heart.
 

Child of the Depression

Connelly was born in 1922 into a family who scrapped their way through the Great Depression on a small farm in Branchville, S.C. He carried fresh milk on the school bus, and when it stopped at a railroad track, he would jump off and make deliveries to the stores before walking about a mile to school. With the money he made, Connelly was able to buy his clothes.
 
After high school, Connelly attended the University of South Carolina in Columbia but was unable to find a job there to support himself. So he returned to the family farm and eventually secured a job at the Charleston Naval Shipyard as an apprentice building and repairing ships. He became a ship fitter, someone who measured and designed repairs – which led to his Navy enlistment.
 
When he returned home from the war, Connelly caught the eye of Frances George, who lived about 10 miles away. He began frequenting their family’s restaurant where she worked in January 1946.
 
“He was very quiet, not boisterous,” Frances said. “Some of the soldiers were so flirty, but my husband wasn’t like that.”
 
Jimmy and Frances were married on July 2, 1946, when she was barely 18. This summer would have marked their 70th anniversary. Their only child, Jimmy Connelly Jr., was born in 1947.
 
Connelly returned to the Charleston Ship Yard after the war where he worked as a supervisor in design and planning until he retired.
 
Because Connelly never talked about the war, Frances never understood how much of the war he brought home. Neither of them had knowledge of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
 
“At night, he would have terrible nightmares three to four nights per week,” Frances said. “It would scare me to death. He didn’t know what it was, and neither did I.”
 
Connelly had recounted in a 2015 interview with the Georgia Christian Index, “The most vivid recollection of the war for me was seeing those young soldiers being riddled with bullets and shrapnel when they landed on the beaches. I could see them losing their limbs and dying in the sand, and I can still hear them crying out for their mommas, but their mommas were not there.”
 
The horror of war “still lives with me today,” Connelly told The Index. “I saw large numbers of our best young men die … to ultimately preserve our own freedom.”
 
He also remembered the killing of enemy soldiers. From his vantage point on the Higgins Craft, he could see Marines use flamethrowers to flush the Japanese from their entrenchments. “It was horrible, but I could smell the stench of burning flesh from my vantage point hundreds of yards away,” he said.
 
Not until about 10 years ago did Frances know that Jimmy had a Purple Heart. That was also about the time she learned the extent of his shrapnel wounds when he started bleeding while shaving as shards surfaced on his skin.
 
When he had a stroke, doctors ordered a routine MRI. The powerful magnets in the MRI pulled one of the shrapnel pieces close to his jugular vein and nearly severed it.
 

Deacon emeritus

Jimmy and Frances were members of Memorial Baptist Church in St. George, S.C. Besides his gentle spirit, friends and family remember how much he loved his church as they mourned his passing this year on March 26 at age 93. He was one of nearly 500 elderly World War II veterans estimated to die each day.
 
“At the funeral, I got pretty emotional,” said Clay Shook, Memorial’s pastor. “He was a dear friend of mine. As a pastor, I need men like him in my life. He cared about his church, me and my family.”
 
Shook spent time with Connelly in his role as a deacon and trustee as well as the church’s jack-of-all-trades fix-it man. Connelly earned a reputation around town for shopping to get the best price on church repairs.
 
“Jimmy loved his church,” Shook said. “He was an exceptional churchman and deacon,” a man who uniquely made “a huge difference.”
 
He had come to know Christ as a young lad and was baptized at Mt. Tabor Baptist Church near Reevesville. “But I have been baptized three times – once as a child, again in the Potomac River before going to the Pacific. I just wanted to make sure I had properly obeyed the Lord,” he told The Index. “I was also baptized in the Jordan River when I took a trip to Israel.”
 
Connelly’s example affected Shook’s only son, Andy, who served in the Marines from 2008-2014. After boot camp, Andy came to church in his dress blues to salute Connelly on the church steps. At the graveside, Andy placed his Afghanistan combat-action ribbon on Connelly’s casket.
 
Connelly’s values took hold in his family as well. His youngest grandson, Christopher, gave a eulogy, speaking of his love for his grandfather, and his grandfather’s love for Christ.
 
In World War II’s battles for freedom, Connelly had told The Index, “I considered it worth my life.”
 
Yet, “The proudest moment of his life,” his wife Frances said, “was when they elected him deacon emeritus.”

5/30/2016 10:28:46 AM by Jim Burton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists run for Congress: Albert Wiley Jr.

May 30 2016 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

In the May 21 issue the Biblical Recorder published brief summaries of six candidates for the U.S. Congress who are members of Baptist churches affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). Since that publication date three other candidates asked to be included. One was a member of a church that is not affiliated with BSC. One said he is a Baptist and was invited to provide the name of the Baptist church of his membership along with information for a story. He did not provide the material. The third candidate’s story follows. – The Editor
 

Albert Lee Wiley Jr. (10th District)

Dr. Albert Wiley was born in Forest City, N.C. He graduated from N.C. State University (BS) and worked as a nuclear engineer. He later graduated from the University of Rochester Medical School (MD), with further medical training at the University of Virginia, Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin (PhD). He specialized as a cancer physician and practiced oncology for more than 40 years in the U.S. Navy, as a professor at the University of Wisconsin and as professor and interim director of the East Carolina University Jenkins Cancer Center.
 
For the past 11 years he was director of a special nuclear emergency, medical response group (a Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration asset) and was the head of the WHO Radiation Emergency Assistance Collaborating Center, where he responded to many U.S. and international radiation incidents – including Chernobyl, Fukushima, U.S. Embassies – and trained first-responder physicians and nurses in 25 countries including Israel, Iraq, China, Russia, Ukraine and Africa.
 
Wiley said, “I am not a professional politician, but from my youth I have always felt that politics was important.” His grandfather read the Congressional Record to him every week when he was a child. He agrees with President Dwight Eisenhower’s statement, “Politics should be every U.S. citizen’s avocation.”
 
This will be Wiley’s seventh run for Congress. The first was in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan endorsed him. “I thought I could help bring bio and medical technology jobs to a depressed mid-west area [at the time],” he said. “In 2002 I ran for U.S. Senate because I had served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and saw that mistake. I became concerned about the national neoconservative rhetoric of encouraging the U.S. Congress and President Bush to go to war in Iraq.”
 
When asked why he is making another attempt for office, Wiley said, “Now I want to try again because this election may be the most important in my lifetime. Our country can – and for future generations must – do better in so many ways. As in all my previous primary election attempts, I am again self-funding the campaign. No money is requested or accepted for the primary.

Albert Wiley Jr.

 
“Congress now needs to be very concerned with the preservation of our national security and the preservation of our Holy Bible-inspired constitution, and our Judeo-Christian heritage, and values of traditional marriage and family, and the sanctity of life – from conception until death.
 
“I consider the loss of a job by the family breadwinner to be a public health issue. It scares, depresses and demoralizes the entire family. I have seen this tragedy so often in my medical care of cancer patients and their families. So being a strong and informed advocate for attracting good jobs to the 10th district would be my high priority. I think my knowledge of the medical and biotechnology industries would help to do this. I speak their language and understand their infrastructure needs.
 
“I also believe my broad, life work experience in medicine, biotechnology and nuclear engineering prepares me to work on issues such as the tragic Obamacare legislation; to work on nuclear non-proliferation issues; and on preventing ISIS terrorism by stopping weapons of mass destruction from entering our open borders and enforcing our immigration laws.
 
“Congress must address our deficit and our dangerous 20 trillion dollar debt – which has doubled under the Obama administration – because this debt will severely compromise the freedom and quality of life of our children and grandchildren.”
 
Although he is retired Dr. Wiley continues to work part time as a cancer specialist, primarily in the eastern part of the state where he has a second home in Salter Path.
 
He said, “But I have deep, life-long ties to the 10th district and have a home in Forest City,” which was also the home of his grandfather, Forest Davis, for whom Forest City was named. His mother and father also lived there all of their lives. His father was the city manager.
 
Wiley is a Republican candidate who faces Jeff Gregory, Jeffrey Baker and incumbent Patrick McHenry in the June 7 10th District primary. He and his wife, Janet, have been married for 55 years. They have four children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
 
He was baptized at the First Baptist Church of Forest City and has maintained a life-long membership there.

5/30/2016 10:22:46 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



NCBAM team kicks off Rampin’ Up 2016!

May 30 2016 by Carol Layton, NCBAM

Through six years of ministry and two Rampin’ Ups (2012, 2014), North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) has asked anybody and everybody to build a wheelchair ramp. Baptists on Mission are their first call, but they’ve also found many ramp-building friends among Rotary, Ruritan and Civitan groups; Boy Scouts; Methodists; Presbyterians; banks; and biker clubs. The one group they had never asked to build a wheelchair ramp was themselves. Until now.
 
On April 23, NCBAM team members came from all over the state to focus on ramp needs in Iredell County. Embracing the intergenerational aspect of Rampin’ Up! 2016, they brought along spouses, kids and friends in order to build three ramps in one day.
 
Jock Smith, husband of East Regional Director Yvetta Smith and frequent ramp-designer and builder in the Durham area, served as crew chief. He prebuilt parts of each ramp and then guided the motley collection of neophytes in the use of power drills, crow bars and post-hole diggers.
 

Submitted photo
 
The youngest members of the ramp-building team were Peyton (11) and Nicolette (12), children of NCBAM Director Sandy Gregory and his wife Renee. Peyton’s favorite part of the day was the process; he liked “using the tools.”
 
Nicolette received her joy at the finish line. “I loved seeing how happy the elders were when the ramp was all done. Just seeing their faces made me happy. I would do this again any day!”
 
According to Call Center Director Melanie Beeson, Iredell County was chosen because it is an area of great need and NCBAM has difficulty recruiting enough builders there.
 
“By building ramps in Iredell County, we hope to bring awareness to the need and the increased freedom and safety that ramps bring. We hope more volunteers will step up to meet the ramp needs and to share in the joy that comes from serving others.”
 
Emma Feimster’s home on a country road outside of Statesville was the site of the first ramp build. The 89-year-old had a toe amputated in October and has since been unsteady on her feet. Navigating just one step outside her kitchen door was dangerous. Before the team left, Feimster used her walker to easily exit her home and sat in a lawn chair while the NCBAM Team prayed.
 
After the last “amen,” Feimster looked around at each face, young and old, and stated, “I’m saying this from my heart. Thank you for this ramp. I love you.”
 
Rob Kauffman’s home near I-40 in Statesville was the site of the second ramp. Rob’s mother, Mary, has been in and out of hospitals and rehab centers for two years and is now living with her son and receiving care from Hospice.
 
Asked how he had been managing the steps before the ramp was built, Kauffman replied, “Very carefully! This ramp will make it so much easier for both of us. Now that the weather is nice, she likes to sit outside and watch the dogs play.”
 
After the prayer, Mary Kauffman thanked the team and said, “The good Lord has taken care of me. I think it’s wonderful that the kids are involved today.”
 
The third ramp of the day was built for Aquilla Freeman in southern Statesville. Just the day before the ramp was built, Freeman had toppled from her wheelchair while her daughter was doing her best to lower the chair down the deck steps.
 
Freeman’s daughter, Tabitha and her brother Darrell are taking turns staying with their mother during her recent health issues. “I tried with all my might to keep her from going down. I’m so glad she wasn’t hurt. This ramp is a blessing!”
 
NCBAM Team members now have an expanded appreciation for the thousands of ramp-builders they have worked with over the past six years. Sarah Faircloth, Call Center specialist for the west region remarked, “It was great to take a day to go out as a team and do ourselves what we ask others to do. Ramp builders often downplay their contributions and say to me, ‘Oh, this is just what we do.’ But their work is huge. It changes lives.”
 
Sandy Gregory focuses his leadership style on team-building and similarly focuses the larger work of the ministry on partnership-building. “The NCBAM team itself is a microcosm of the ways in which the ministry functions. No one person, no one organization can do it all. But together, whether working among ourselves or with other state groups, we make a huge difference in the lives of aging adults.
 
“What do you call a group with different backgrounds, different families, different gifts, and different talents who come together to serve? You call them the church.”
5/30/2016 10:16:14 AM by Carol Layton, NCBAM | with 0 comments



11 states sue White House over transgender directive

May 27 2016 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN

Eleven states and two school districts filed a lawsuit May 25 challenging President Barack Obama’s directive demanding all federally funded schools apply a controversial interpretation of Title IX requiring schools to define a student’s gender identity based not on biological sex, but self-identification.
 
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia; Governor of Maine Paul Lepage; the Arizona Department of Education; Harrold Independent School District (HISD) in Texas and Heber-Overgaard Unified School District in Arizona.
 
On May 13 the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice issued a “Dear Colleague” letter giving guidance to all federally funded K-12 schools and universities in their application of Title IX. The one-sentence regulation passed in 1972 as part of the Higher Education Act prohibits discrimination in public education based on sex. The Obama administration interprets “sex” to include “gender identity” – a student’s perceived gender regardless of biological characteristics.
 
Declaring the federal demands are “unlawful” and “capricious and arbitrary,” the lawsuit calls for a permanent injunction preventing the Obama administration from implementing and enforcing its rules.
 

Photo courtesy of Texas Atty. General's office
Texas Atty. General Ken Paxton explains the lawsuit filed May 25 by representatives in 11 states against the Obama administration's transgender directive.

In announcing the lawsuit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, “This represents just the latest example of the current administration’s attempts to accomplish by executive fiat what they couldn’t accomplish through the democratic process in Congress. By forcing through his policies by executive action, President Obama excluded the voice of the people. We stand today to ensure those voices are heard.”
 
Although the Dear Colleague letter does not explicitly mention any repercussions for failing to follow the guidelines, previous action by the Obama administration demonstrates that failure to comply comes with a high price tag.
 
Earlier this year a school district outside of Chicago created its own standards for balancing the needs of a transgender female student – a teenage boy presenting himself as a girl – with those of the student’s female teammates. Demanding full inclusion and affirmation of his gender identity as a female, the transgender student balked at the school’s offer of a private changing area and sued the school district demanding he be allowed to use the same locker room facilities as the girls. Citing Title IX, the Departments of Education and Justice threatened to withhold some of the school’s $6 million in federal funds if they did not submit to the student’s demands.
 
The ongoing battle over recently enacted transgender student guidelines by the Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) demonstrates the dissolution of gender norms that Obama’s interpretation of Title IX require. The guidelines permit students to identify as either gender without medical or parental validation and requires district employees and students to affirm the student’s preferred gender identity. The guidelines also require school personnel expunge gender normative language, such as “boys” and “girls,” from the classroom.
 
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who demanded the FWISD rescind the guidelines and fire Superintendent Kent Scribner earlier this month, said Obama’s edict “ignores both common sense and common decency.”
 
“[It] creates a problem where none existed,” Patrick said in a statement supporting the lawsuit. “It will disrupt schools across Texas, creating potentially embarrassing and unsafe situations for girls who would be forced, under his order, to share bathrooms, locker rooms and showers with boys.”
 
Patrick said he will continue to push back against the local and federal regulations.
 
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called Obama’s directive “rule by executive fiat.”
 
“The President continues to violate the Constitution by trying to re-write laws as if he were a king. The states serve as the last line of defense against an unlawfully expansive federal government,” he said.
 
HISD issued new guidelines May 23 in defiance of the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, stating a student’s birth certificate will determine a student’s gender identity on campus and all multiple-occupancy bathrooms or changing facilities “shall be designated for and used only by individuals based on their biological sex.”
 
In an effort to accommodate students with special needs, the HISD guidelines state, “The Superintendent or campus principal may make reasonable accommodations upon a person’s request due to special circumstances.”
 
Defendants in the case include the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice and their leadership, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor and their respective directors.
 
To view the lawsuit, visit: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/epress/files/2016/complaint_FM.pdf.

5/27/2016 2:31:05 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



South Carolina joins 13 states banning abortion at 20 weeks

May 27 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has signed into law a bill banning most abortions in the state at 20 weeks of pregnancy, joining 13 other states where such limitations currently stand.
 
Haley signed the South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act May 25 after the Legislature sent it to her desk a week earlier.
 
Effective immediately, the law bans abortions after the 19th week, including pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, and allows for exceptions only to save the mother’s life or in cases of “fetal anomaly,” according to the South Carolina Legislature.
 
The law defines fetal anomaly as “in reasonable medical judgment, the unborn child has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that, with or without the provision of life-preserving treatment, would be incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”
 
Mark Hendrick, associate director of the Office of Public Policy at the South Carolina Baptist Convention, praised the state for adopting the measure.
 
“Unborn babies are victims of excruciating painful abortions after the 20-week mark right here in our very state. This bill will give these children a chance at life, and that is something to celebrate,” Hendrick told Baptist Press. “No one knows what the Supreme Court will do, but it’s not their job to make laws to protect South Carolinians. That job falls on the General Assembly of South Carolina, with our Governor left to enforce them. The people spoke, and those in authority listened.”
 
The law affirms the ability of unborn children to feel pain at about 20 weeks of gestation.
 
“There is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain by twenty weeks after fertilization,” the bill partly reads. “It is the purpose of the State to assert a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain.”
 
Doctors breaking the new law would be charged with a misdemeanor, subject to fines ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to three years. At the third offense, prison terms must be at least 60 days, but still no more than three years, the law stipulates.
 
The law would only currently apply to hospitals, as none of the three abortion clinics in the state provide abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy, the Associated Press reported.
 
According to the Guttmeicher Institute, such bans are also in effect in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
 
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a 20-week abortion ban in 2015, and the Senate Judiciary Committee reopened debate March 15 on a similar bill. President Obama had threatened to veto such a measure.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor.)

5/27/2016 2:16:57 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SBC’s first black professor among retirees at SBTS

May 27 2016 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) first African-American seminary professor is among three retiring faculty members at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).
 
T. Vaughn Walker, David L. Puckett and Brian C. Richardson are retiring following the 2015-2016 school year with 64 combined years of service on the faculty. Walker, WMU professor of Christian ministries and professor of black church studies, was appointed in 1986 as the first black professor at any of the six SBC seminaries, and then the first elected to the faculty in 1997.
 

SBTS photo
T. Vaughn Walker, WMU Professor of Christian Ministries and professor of black church studies, is honored at a luncheon, May 19.

“T. Vaughn Walker is one of the warmest and most encouraging human beings I’ve ever known,” SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said at a May 19 luncheon honoring the retirees. “Over the course of 30 years, he has shown a steadfast commitment to Christ’s calling in his life, service to the church and commitment to this school that was transformed during the time he was here.
 
“There are very few men who could have lived through that entire process, and with such a kind and constant spirit contributed so much to this school.”
 
Walker, who had already earned a Ph.D. from Oregon State University and was a college professor, moved to Louisville, Ky., in 1984 as a SBTS student. At the time, the institution was founding the Carver School of Church Social Work and wanted to develop a ministry to the inner city of Louisville, particularly to black families, Walker said.
 
The seminary hired Walker as an assistant professor, and he taught for seven years in the Carver School, which closed in 1997.
 
After Mohler was elected president in 1993, Walker moved to the School of Theology, then to the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry in 2003. He retires as the last remaining active professor hired by the late seminary president Roy Honeycutt.
 
“The most compelling emotional moment for me here, in my 30 years, was the day I signed that Abstract [of Principles].” Walker said about the founding seminary charter all professors are required to sign upon their election. “I know I was the first African-American, at No. 200, to sign it. I even wondered whether an African-American had ever touched that book before, had ever had his hands on it.”
 
Walker has developed both master’s and doctoral programs in black church leadership, and has pastored First Gethsemane Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., since 1984. While he is retiring from full-time teaching, he will continue to supervise his current doctoral students and pastor his church.
 
“I am a practical theologian, I am not your traditional theologian. I see myself as a pastor who teaches,” Walker said. “My ministerial identity is as a senior pastor who loves the challenge and stimulation found among the academic environment.”
 
Kevin Smith, SBTS assistant professor of preaching and the first African-American president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, studied under Walker during his Ph.D. program and said he owes his career to him. A fellow graduate of Hampton University – a historically black university in Virginia where Walker earned his bachelor’s – Smith said the fruit of Walker’s academic ministry is scattered throughout the institutions of the SBC.
 
“I think his legacy is every black professor at a Southern Baptist seminary,” Smith said.
 
In his remarks at the luncheon, Mohler also praised Puckett for his “massive” contributions to the seminary, serving as professor of church history since 2002 and as associate vice president for doctoral studies from 2002 until 2012. Puckett authored “John Calvin’s Exegesis of the Old Testament” and a chapter on the Reformer in the “Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters.”
 
Prior to joining Southern, Puckett was professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; professor of church history and theology at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas; and assistant professor of historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) in Dallas, Texas. Puckett also earned his Th.M. at DTS and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
 
Mohler said Richardson, Basil Manly Jr. Professor of Leadership and Church Ministry since 1996, is uniquely “encouraging and unwavering in the faith.” Richardson was president of the North American Professors of Christian Education and is a popular conference speaker.
 
Richardson was the founder and first editor of the “Journal of Christian Education” and contributed to numerous books on education and family ministry. Prior to joining Southern, Richardson taught at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., and earned three graduate degrees, including a Ph.D., from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

5/27/2016 1:52:42 PM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



Baylor fires coach Briles, demotes president Starr

May 27 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Baylor University stripped Ken Starr of his presidency and fired head football coach Art Briles May 26 after an independent investigation found “a fundamental failure” to protect students from sexual assault in a years-long scandal.
 
The Baylor Board of Regents announced the personnel changes in a press release posted on its website, based on the findings of an investigation by the law firm Pepper Hamilton, LLP.
 
“Key findings of the investigation reflect a fundamental failure by Baylor to implement Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA),” the board said.
 
The board of the largest Baptist university in the world also created a new full-time position of chief compliance officer to report directly to the president’s office, sanctioned and placed on probation athletic director Ian McCaw, fired additional but unnamed members of the administration and athletics programs, clarified the roles of several departmental staff members and committed to institute “robust training” before the fall 2016 semester.
 
The Baylor sex scandal centered on the behavior of the university students, including football players and fraternity members, and university leaders’ handling of reports of sexual abuse and assault, including rape.
 
Baylor Board of Regents chairman Richard Willis expressed horror at the investigation’s revelations.
 
“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students,” Willis said in the press release. “The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students.”
 
Effective May 31, Starr will no longer serve as president, but will retain his position as the Louise L. Morrison Chair of Constitutional Law in Baylor’s Law School, and will serve in principle as chancellor on terms that are still being discussed, the board said.
 
The board appointed David Garland, former dean and professor at Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, as interim president. Briles was suspended indefinitely and will be terminated according to contractual procedures, the board said.
 
“We have made these decisions, because, above all, we must safeguard our students and our campus,” Willis said in the press release. “We must set a new course to ensure the leaders of the University place a premium on responding effectively and with sensitivity to those impacted by the tragedy of interpersonal violence.”
 
Among sexual assault cases under Starr’s and Briles’ watch, former Baylor defensive end Tevin Elliott was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $10,000 in 2014 for sexually assaulting a student at a party, and football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted in 2015 of sexually assaulting a university soccer player. Ukwuachu was sentenced to 180 days in jail, 10 years of felony probation and 400 hours of community service.
 
As recently as February, more than 200 Baylor students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered outside Starr’s home in protest of his handling of sexual assault allegations, the Waco Tribune reported.
 
Ron Murff, Board of Regents chair-elect, issued an apology on behalf of the board.
 
“We are deeply sorry for the harm that survivors have endured,” Murff said in the press release. “Baylor’s mission to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community remains our primary imperative. The Board has taken decisive action to ensure the University’s priorities are aligned with our unyielding commitment to that mission.”
 
Key findings from the Pepper Hamilton, LLP investigation, as posted on Baylor’s website, are:

  • The University’s student conduct processes were wholly inadequate to consistently provide a prompt and equitable response under Title IX; Baylor failed to consistently support complainants through the provision of interim measures; and in some cases, the University failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence or address its effects.

  • Actions by University administrators directly discouraged some complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes and in one instance constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault.

  • In addition to broader University failings, Pepper found specific failings within both the football program and Athletics department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player and to a report of dating violence.

  • There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct.

  • Over the course of their review, Pepper investigated the University’s response to reports of a sexual assault involving multiple football players. The football program and Athletics department leadership failed to take appropriate action in response to these reports.

The full statement is available at baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news. Baylor is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor.)

5/27/2016 1:42:15 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



National award recognizes Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

May 27 2016 by Josie Rabbitt, NAMB

When devastating floods hit the Houston area in April, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers did what they normally do in the face of crisis. They responded.
 
Those efforts were recognized May 20 when several disaster relief teams were acknowledged during this year’s National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) conference in Minneapolis. The organization presented SBDR with its National Member of the Year award.
 
“I am honored that the North American Mission Board [NAMB] allows me to serve this incredible organization,” said Mickey Caison, accepting the award. Caison serves as executive director of disaster relief for the North American Mission Board. “On behalf of the North American Mission Board and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network, I would like to express our gratitude to the membership of the National VOAD for this recognition of our work.”
 
For 46 years, more than 100 organizations like NAMB and the SBDR have cooperated through VOAD to serve people and communities impacted by natural disasters. Initiatives within each disaster relief organization, like the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program (the SBC’s unified channel for funding missions and ministry), have helped bring even more aid to disaster-stricken communities during the last half-century.
 

Photo by National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster recognized Southern Baptist Disaster Relief as its National Member of the Year. 

“It is a privilege to bear witness to the willingness of our volunteers to provide help, healing and hope to individuals, families and communities everyday as they serve as the hands and feet of Jesus,” Caison said. “The love and compassion expressed by our volunteers’ hard work, along with emotional and spiritual care, are used by our Lord not only to assist in recovery following a disaster but also to impact eternal relationships with Him.”
 
The National VOAD was founded in 1970 in response to the challenges many disaster organizations experienced in 1969. Until that time, numerous governmental, private sector and nonprofit organizations served disaster survivors independently of one another. As a result, help often came to the survivors haphazardly. Unnecessary duplication efforts occurred, while at the same time, other needs went unmet.
 
Now, the National VOAD can depend on committed member organizations like NAMB and the SBDR network of 42 state Baptist conventions’ thousands of volunteers – including chaplains – to meet the needs for survivors of disasters.
 
“I am so honored to see how Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has been recognized by the National VOAD,” said David Melber, vice president of NAMB’s Send Relief network. “Such recognition speaks to the very heart of the Cooperative Program. For 50 years, members from our Southern Baptist churches have been faithful to serve people in their most desperate times for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel in word and in action. We, at the North American Mission Board, are thankful for the testimonies of churches across this nation that led us to accept this honor and recognition on their behalf,” Melber said.
 
For more information about SBDR and Send Relief, visit namb.net/SendRelief.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Josie Rabbitt is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)

5/27/2016 1:22:31 PM by Josie Rabbitt, NAMB | with 0 comments



All need religious liberty, Baptist, others contend

May 26 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Religious leaders with widely diverse views called for freedom for all faith groups, not just their own, in a May 23 panel discussion sponsored by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
 
Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, Mormon and Muslim representatives explained to an audience on Capitol Hill why their faith perspectives support universal religious freedom despite the distinctions in their beliefs.
 
“Our differences are too important to be adjudicated by the state or to be applied through pressure,” said Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, who explained he thought he could speak for the entire panel in making such an assertion.


Religious freedom, Moore said, is “about having the freedom and the opportunity to be genuinely different, to be able to genuinely respect one another and to be able to have disagreements with one another, including about issues that we believe are of ultimate, ultimate significance, while at the same time saying, ‘These are not matters of coercion, and we do not need a government referee to come and settle those issues.’
 
“A religion that needs cultural or political pressure behind it,” he said, “is a religion that has lost faith in its deity.”
 
The event – titled “Christianity and the Common Good: Religious Liberty and Human Flourishing” – was the latest in the Capitol Conversations series of panel discussions sponsored by the ERLC. It came at a time in American life when evangelical Christians and Catholics are among those receiving government pressure to violate their beliefs to use their services for same-sex weddings and Muslims are sometimes facing hostility in reaction to terrorist acts by Islamic extremists.
 
Each of the panelists explained his faith’s basis for supporting freedom for all religious adherents.
 
“I am a genuine, creedal, evangelical Christian,” said Moore, the ERLC’s president. “I believe that no one goes to heaven except through explicit faith in Jesus Christ.
 

 

Photo from Christian Post
ERLC President Russell Moore speaks at a May 23 discussion on religious liberty in Washington, D.C., while Baltimore Archbishop William Lori listens. 

“That’s the reason why I don’t think that we ought to be harassing our Muslim neighbors or marginalizing our Muslim neighbors,” he told participants. “We can either love our Muslim neighbors and speak to them or we can scream at them. We can’t do both of those two things at the same time.”
 
Hamza Yusuf – president of Zaytuna College, a Muslim liberal arts school in Berkeley, Calif. – said the normative Islamic tradition he is a part of teaches: “Every religious tradition is to be treated with human dignity.”
 
Quoting the ancient saying of an imam, Yusuf said, “People are either your brother in faith or your equal in humanity.”
 
Dallin Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said religious freedom always has been a “paramount priority” for Mormons.
 
Citing Jesus’ command to His disciples to love one another, Oaks said Mormons understand “whatever freedom we claim and advocate for ourselves we extend to others.”
 
“We should walk along the path shoulder to shoulder to secure our ability to go our own way when we come to the intersections we have in our doctrine,” he said.
 
William Lori, archbishop of Baltimore and chairman of the ad hoc committee on religious liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said his church sees religious freedom “as a universal right because it is also a transcendent endowment given to human nature.”
 
The Catholic Church has a “decidedly international look” at the issue because of the Vatican’s diplomatic relations with countries throughout the world and the church’s dialogue with other religions globally, he said.
 
Catholics try “to use our freedom to serve the common good,” Lori said.
 
Evangelicals and other religious adherents can overcome an appearance they are seeking only their own interests by being aware of infringements of others’ freedom, Moore said.
 
“We need to identify and see where others are receiving pressure and persecution and marginalization, and stand up for one another,” Moore told attendees at the evening event. When a city council in the Bible Belt attempts to bar a mosque, evangelicals need to stand against such government action, he said.
 
In a world with about 1.6 billion Muslims, “a statistically insignificant number” are violent extremists, Yusuf told the audience gathered in a Capitol Hill hotel. “The Muslims in this country are by and large an extremely law-abiding group.”
 
About 80 percent of Muslims in the United States do not even practice Islam, Yusuf said. “They are much more American than they are Muslim.”
 
In an election year in which both of the apparent major party candidates are at least suspect on the issue, advocates for religious freedom face a “massive task” regardless of the election results, Moore said. Religious liberty proponents should “work to build collaborative majorities sometimes issue by issue rather than administration by administration,” he said.
 
Societies that protect religious freedom do best at serving the needy, often through the work of religious groups, and are more likely to protect other liberties, Ryan Anderson said while speaking as part of a second panel that addressed how religious liberty benefits human flourishing.
 
Such states also possess more civic harmony, less strife and greater voluntarism, said Anderson, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
 
Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said laws adopted after the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage and the enforcement of sex discrimination measures are being used “as weapons against the cake baker or the florist” who conscientiously objects to using her talents in support of a same-sex ceremony.
 
ADF is unaware of any case being litigated in the United States in which an individual “has been denied a good or service simply because they identify as gay or lesbian,” Waggoner said. Alternatives are available in each circumstance in which a florist, baker or photographer objected to providing services for a gay wedding.
 
Also speaking on the human flourishing panel was John Inazu, associate professor of law and political science at Washington University in St. Louis.
 
The latest Capitol Conversations event, which was the fifth held in the last 10 months, followed ones on same-sex marriage and religious liberty, Planned Parenthood and the sanctity of human life, the Syrian refugee crisis, and the Supreme Court and abortion.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)
5/26/2016 11:53:33 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Over 100K Kentucky Baptists involved in missions

May 26 2016 by Roger Alford, Kentucky Today

More than 100,000 Kentucky Baptists were personally involved in missions last year, some in other countries and others closer to home.
 
The false notion that only preachers can be missionaries has been cast aside as Christians from all walks of life step out to obey the Bible’s command to go and make disciples, said Eric Allen, missions mobilization leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
 
“There are mission opportunities for people with most any skill, talent or gift,” Allen said. “International Mission Board personnel serving overseas have requested help from Kentuckians who had experience coaching, in construction, and, in one case, artificial insemination of dairy cattle. These kinds of life experiences can be effective means of sharing the gospel.”
 
The total number of Kentucky Baptists involved in mission projects reached 105,979 last year, up from 99,622 the previous year, a 6 percent increase, based on data gleaned from the Annual Church Profile, a state-by-state survey of Southern Baptist congregations. The data showed the number of churches involved in mission projects reached 1,080 last year.
 
“That’s something to celebrate,” Allen said.
 
Kentucky Baptists have proven they’re willing to do their part for the cause of Christ. When the Kentucky Baptist Convention spread the word that International Mission Board missionaries needed volunteers with a specialty in artificial insemination in an undisclosed country in Europe, leaders didn’t know what kind of response they’d get, if any. It turned out several people stepped forward to help.
 
“I believe Christians have a greater awareness of the need to be on mission and they want to go,” Allen said. “Churches are helping members understand that there are many different ways to engage in missions using an individual’s gifts, talents and skills. Plus, no longer do we see missions as something that is done only on a summer trip. People are more likely to engage in missions every week in their local communities. And trips out of the state, or the country, now take place many times throughout the year.”
 
The Kentucky Baptist Convention encourages churches to take part in mission projects, and have developed partnerships with Southern Baptists working in other states and countries to make it easier. The KBC also invites Kentucky Baptists to take part in “vision trips” to areas that need help spreading the gospel, hoping to reveal the dire needs that exist in so many places.
 
“We provide training, placement assistance and scholarships for team leaders,” Allen said. “We have hundreds of mission opportunities in Kentucky, North America and internationally listed on our website, kybaptist.org/go.”
 
Allen said lots of churches are finding fulfillment in doing missions, like Indian Fork Baptist Church in Baghdad, Ky.
 
Since it was founded in 1802, Indian Fork had always been a financial supporter of international missionaries, but had never actually sent its own members overseas.
 
That changed last November when four members of the rural church spent a week ministering to orphans in Haiti and sprucing up the orphanage where they live.
 
“No matter what size your congregation is, the command and commission are the same,” said pastor Josh Rucker said. “The only limits are the ones we create.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger Alford is editor of Kentucky Today.)

5/26/2016 11:41:08 AM by Roger Alford, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments



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