July 6 2015 by
Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press
Faced with unanticipated dangers at home and abroad, Christians can find “true safety” in serving the Lord, pastor Rob Muncy told the Mississippi congregation he leads a week after a June 17 massacre of nine worshippers at a historic black South Carolina church.
“We talked about how some people don’t go on mission trips because of safety,” Muncy told Baptist Press. Yet in Charleston S.C., “a group of people [were attending] Wednesday night prayer meeting. Physical safety is just an illusion we comfort ourselves with,” he said.
“The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”
About 25 people were in attendance at Woodville (Miss.) Baptist Church’s June 24 Bible study and prayer meeting, six from African heritage. Muncy spoke in response to the June 17 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where white supremacist Dylann Roof opened fire after sitting for about an hour as a visitor in a Bible study and prayer meeting.
“Year-round at Woodville Baptist, a key facet of being in the center of God’s will is giving to missions through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program, as well as being involved in local missions, church planting as far away as Vermont and Ohio, and numerous short-term mission trips globally. Through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists work together to support state, national and international missions and ministries.
Christmas gifts were donated to nursing home residents through an outreach of Woodville Baptist Church in Woodville, Miss.
“The Cooperative Program is the model for evangelism that all other denominations are looking at,” Muncy said. “It may not please everybody all the time, but it’s the best system for evangelism, freeing our missionaries to focus on ministry, evangelism, reaching people with the gospel.
““I include talking about it, explaining it, in my sermons from time to time,” Muncy said. “Giving to the Cooperative Program is being obedient to the Great Commission. Jesus said to go and make disciples.”
Woodville Baptist was founded in 1800 as one of the first Baptist churches in Mississippi, 10 years before the town of Woodville was chartered. The church has been committed to giving at least 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program for decades.
“We have RAs [Royal Ambassadors], GAs [Girls in Action] and Missions Friends on Wednesday evenings, and the kids learn about it there, too,” Muncy said. “This church gladly takes on the mantle of training the next generation.”
Being in the center of God’s will also involves raising up future generations of pastors, missionaries and other church leaders. “We honestly don’t know how many [we’ve mentored],” Muncy said. “Last Saturday at a memorial service in town I met another pastor from Meridian, Miss., who grew up in this church.”
Local ministries include being part of a PBM Ministries (with PBM standing for Presbyterian Baptist Methodist) that gives groceries to nearly 500 families the last Saturday of each month, reaching some of the 40 percent of Woodville residents who live below the poverty line.
““There are still 1,000 families in need that are not being reached, so we hope to grow and expand to include counseling, life skills training, gardening and tutoring,” Muncy said. “We get to pray with every person. As much as they need the food, they need prayer more.”
About 100 community children attended the 2015 Vacation Bible School at Woodville Baptist Church in Woodville, Miss.
Church members lead weekly Tuesday Bible studies at a local maximum-security correctional facility and minister Thursdays at a retirement home.
In a town where racial separation is the norm on Sunday morning, Woodville Baptist has partnered with New Life Community Church, an African-American congregation, for 21 years to provide Backyard Bible Clubs each summer. This year about 85 participated.
And an interracial crowd of about 100 youngsters participated in Woodville Baptist’s 2015 Vacation Bible School.
“We have to be involved in the community God has placed us in,” Muncy said. “When I came to Woodville, this town was 75 percent African American, and our church was 100 percent white. I don’t know how not to invite everybody I meet to church, and our church now reflects that.”
While whites still fill the pews Sunday morning, Wednesday evening is “very integrated,” Muncy said.
“And what was perhaps a half-dozen adults in prayer meeting and Bible study in 2008 has grown to at least 25 adults, plus another 60 teachers and students in the missions education programs. Woodville Baptist also provides ESL classes for more than 30 Guatemalans from a people group that has settled in the area.
“With the kids and our dedicated teachers, we’ll have more on Wednesday nights than we do Sunday morning,” Muncy said. “We pray for the sick and for the lost by name. We also pray for our town, our leaders, our nation. Prayer is followed by a verse-by-verse study of the Bible and how it applies to life.
“Everyone says the South is so racist, but we do everything together,” Muncy said. “We shop together, we go to functions together. But when it comes to church, there’s just the mentality of separation. We’re working on that.
“Sharing the gospel is the primary purpose of the church,” Muncy said. “The Great Commission isn’t a suggestion. … The scripture says we are saved for good works, and the only good works we can do that will last through eternity is to lead others to Christ, and discipling Christians.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen Willoughby is a writer based in Mapleton, Utah.)
7/6/2015 11:55:21 AM
July 6 2015 by
Brian Koonce, The Pathway
Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Dale Mitchell took the mound in front of 40,085 roaring fans for the defending American League Champion Kansas City Royals’ home opener against the Chicago White Sox. His cap pulled low, Mitchell cocked his arm and let his pitch fly.
At age 90, Mitchell had the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Photo courtesy of KC Royals
Dale Mitchell, a 90-year-old World War II POW, rekindles his skills as a B-17 bottom turret gunner to throw out the first pitch for the Kansas City Royals’ home opener.
A former high school second baseman, Mitchell and a grandson practiced the pitch on Easter and the next day it was Royals’ star third baseman Mike Moustakas on the receiving end.
“I wasn’t nervous. I knew I was throwing it to a young guy,” Mitchell, a member of First Baptist Church in Bethany, Mo., said. “I knew he’d run after it if he needed to. I told my Legion and my VFW posts that I hoped I represented them well.”
From his fellow veterans to his church to his family (they nominated him for the Buck O’Neal Legacy Seat at Kauffman Stadium and later learned he would throw out the first pitch), it’s hard to imagine anyone not being proud of Mitchell, whose World War II service included his B-17 being shot down in Europe.
Nearly 80 years ago, Mitchell accepted Christ at a little country Baptist church when he was 12 years old.
“I was a Christian all during my military service,” he said. “Being with the Lord, I can honestly say I never had any fear during any of it.”
Mitchell graduated from high school in 1943. Saying he wanted a challenge, he said goodbye to his high school sweetheart Doris and, unafraid of heights, joined the U.S. Army Air Force. After boot camp, he became a bottom turret gunner in a B-17 Flying Fortress. Inside the transparent bubble, Staff Sergeant Mitchell would man twin .50-caliber machine guns to defend the bomber from German interceptors.
“We had excellent gunner’s sights,” he said. “You just lined it up.”
His job was easy, Mitchell said, and he and his crewmates were well-trained. But the Flying Fortress’s 13 machine guns were no defense against well-aimed anti-aircraft fire. Mitchell and his crew found this out on an unusually warm winter day after dropping 8,000 pounds of bombs on Nazi railroad marshalling yards in Vienna, Austria. They took heavy anti-aircraft fire coming in and even heavier fire as they winged their way back to Italy. It was Mitchell’s fifth bombing run of the war.
Dale Mitchell, in his World War II uniform in 1943, was a Christian “all during my military service. Being with the Lord, I can honestly say I never had any fear during any of it.”
“Every time we went on a mission, the chaplain came out and prayed with us,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t afraid for our safety or our success. They always told us that if we made it through five missions, we had paid for our training. See, by that time we had pretty well taken control of the sky. The Germans never challenged us much with their planes, but they had pulled back all their anti-aircraft guns from all the countries they’d been run out of into and put them all in German and Austria. And … they just let us have it.”
The B-17 took hits to its engine and fuel tanks and caught fire as they neared the Yugoslavian border. The navigator kept telling the crew that if they could just keep the plane in the air 15-20 more minutes, they would be able to bail out knowing they’d be returned to American forces a day or two later.
“I guess we almost made it through that fifth mission,” Mitchell said. “If we hadn’t caught on fire, we would have made it back to Italy.”
The pilot stayed with the plane the longest as everyone else bailed out. The pilot made it close enough to the border that he was picked up by friendly forces, but seven of the crew – including Mitchell – were less fortunate.
“I lit right in the middle of a Hitler youth school,” he said. “Right on the lawn in front of the whole class.”
As the captives were taken by train to a camp near Berlin, it was the only time Mitchell was sure he was going to die – amid friendly fire by Allied forces.
“Our Air Force attacked the German train I was on,” Mitchell said. “I thought death was certain, and I cried out to God to take me to heaven.”
He and thousands of other prisoners were then transferred to Stalag VII-A near Moosberg, the largest German prisoner of war (POW) camp, forced to march the 300-mile distance.
Dale Mitchell stands beside a B-17 bomber during World War II. He was a bottom turret gunner aboard a B-17 shot down by anti-aircraft fire and was taken prisoner by Nazi forces.
“Everyone knew that Germany had lost the war, so we were treated much better than the POWs that were captured earlier,” Mitchell said. “We slept on the ground rolled up in a blanket. There was just one tap for water, and the [waiting] line never went down, day or night. We never faulted the Germans much for not giving us food, because they didn’t have any food either.
“I was blessed to stay healthy. I was young and grew up on the farm. I guess I handled it well.”
Four months later, on April 29, 1945, Patton’s Third Army rolled through Bavaria in their Sherman tanks and liberated the camp, setting Mitchell and 110,000 other Allied prisoners at Stalag VII-A free.
Once home, Mitchell married Doris and graduated from the University of Missouri’s agriculture school in 1949, working for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service until he retired 30 years ago.
Seventy years removed from war, Mitchell now enjoys time with Doris and the four generations of his family, worshipping at First Baptist and cheering the Royals in their recent resurgence, though it is usually from the comfort of his own home instead of the pitcher’s mound.
Almost as if he was looking down his sights, Mitchell’s pitch on opening day flew straight, and one-hopped into Moustakas’s glove. The crowd cheered wildly.
For the rest of the opener, Mitchell handed the pitching duties off to Kansas City’s ace Yordano Ventura. The Royals won the April 6 game 10-1 over the White Sox.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce writes for the Missouri Baptist Convention’s newsjournal The Pathway, on the Web at www.mbcpathway.com.)
7/6/2015 11:45:15 AM
July 6 2015 by
Jim Burton, Baptist Press
Brian Koonce, The Pathway | with 0 comments
When Tommy Kelly was 23, his life was turned upside down when his father died from a heart attack.
A faithful Christian, his father had been a deacon and church treasurer and was the local magistrate. Kelly was amused when local lawyers, who had far more education than his father, referred to him as “judge.”
And Thomas H. Kelly Sr. was patriotic, having served in the Army right after the Korean War.
“His military experience had a tremendous impact on him,” Tommy Kelly said. “I came along about 10 years after he enlisted. We were very close.”
The senior Kelly also supported his son’s decision to enter the ministry.
“There was a big void there in my life when he died,” said Tommy Kelly, who was in seminary at the time.
At the church where he subsequently served, Kelly began to cultivate relationships with veterans who were about his father’s age.
“My heavenly Father showed me how He was going to help fill that void,” Kelly said of the veterans. “A lot of those men have taken the place of my father.”
Tommy Kelly, front row, right, pastor of First Baptist Church, Varnville, S.C., joins with military veterans honored at the church this spring. Also on the front row, from left are Phil Stanley, who fought in Vietnam; Frank McClure, a Korean War veteran; and Marvin Kinard, who served during World War II.
For the past 21 years, Kelly, who currently is the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s president, has continued to develop relationships with veterans at First Baptist Church in Varnville where he serves as pastor.
Ministry in the Low Country
When Kelly moved to South Carolina’s Low Country to lead First Baptist in May 1994, the church averaged about 75 in attendance. Today, attendance has more than doubled.
The pace of life is slow in Hampton County, where the population density is 37 people per square mile. Varnville’s population of 2,437 is second only to the county seat, also named Hampton. Two major factories in Varnville created most of the jobs there for years, but both are now closed.
“Even with industry closed down, there’s still a need for the church,” Kelly said. “They need it more in times of despair than in times of prosperity.”
First Baptist has remained healthy, raising nearly $800,000 for a new family life center and nearly doubling its staff since 1994.
While Kelly can enjoy such measures of success, he sees relationships as far more important.
“About 15 years ago, I had been in the office and was riding up town about 9:30 a.m. when most restaurants would quit serving breakfast,” the pastor recounted. “I found some men who were veterans drinking coffee. It became a habit to leave and go drink coffee periodically. Through those relationships I found out what was going on all over town.”
The visits kindled friendships that included hunting and fishing together. The life experiences of the coffee-drinking veterans, many of whom were not members of his church, were such that they would often use expressions that Kelly hadn’t heard since his father had said the same.
When Kelly asked the veterans for advice, there was no lack of opinions. His relationships with veterans in his church grew particularly deep, one of whom was Lloyd “Tootie” Griffith who had become a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer in recent years.
“At his funeral, I just broke down and wept,” Kelly said. “He was very close to me.”
Other veterans remain close to him today.
Marvin Kinard, 89, World War II
Marvin Kinard volunteered to serve in the Navy in 1943 when he was 17. During his two years, six months, 28 days and three hours of military service, Kinard served in a host of stateside administrative tasks.
“I am still somewhat living back there,” Kinard says of his military service. He married Sarah, his sweetheart, in January 1945 and left the Navy about a year later. They returned home where Kinard worked in his father’s grocery store before opening one of his own before going into wholesale food sales.
Upon his return, Kinard was active at First Baptist Church in Hampton where he mostly taught children. His commitment to his local church ran deep.
“In 1952, the store that I had opened, one Sunday morning it caught fire and burnt,” Kinard said. “I did not have any insurance. I just went to church.
“The merchants in Hampton came together and built it back in three weeks,” Kinard said.
About 12 years ago, Kinard and his wife joined First Baptist in Varnville where again they became active. Sarah died in February 2014. Kinard, now 89, though not as active in the past, still attends regularly.
“The church means everything to me now,” he said. “I go there to worship, for that reason alone.
“Tommy is an inspiration to me,” Kinard said of his pastor.
Frank McClure, 85, Korean War
When Frank McClure enrolled at Clemson University, it was his first time away from First Baptist Varnville, where he had attended since birth. He studied electrical engineering and subsequently spent 42 years in banking.
McClure reported for military duty with the Army on his 22nd birthday. Soon, he was in Korea near the 38th parallel providing communications support for commanders.
One night as the Chinese were aiming for the headquarters compound with 88mm high-velocity canons, McClure rolled out of bed into a commo (communications) trench, which he said was not deep.
“I had left my helmet in my jeep, which was parked in the headquarters tent,” McClure said. “Shrapnel and bullets were flying by my head. That was the closest I came to being shot.”
He returned to Varnville and to First Baptist, which had long been a “part-time” church. Worship services in town rotated between several churches.
After Varnville called its first full-time pastor, McClure’s involvement grew. He joined the choir and continues today. “I love to sing,” he said.
McClure’s admiration for Kelly is clear.
“I don’t know I’ve ever met a man who was more sincere in doing what the Lord wanted us to do,” McClure said.
When Kelly called McClure once for advice about a pressing matter, his advice was simple.
“A knee-jerk action is bad action,” he told Kelly. “Sleep on it. Don’t rush into anything.”
Phil Stanley, 71, Vietnam
Serving with the 25th Infantry Division, Phil Stanley was in the main combat area of the Tet Offensive during his entire time in Vietnam. Huey helicopters would deliver him and other troops on search-and-destroy missions.
“I always sat on the floor with my feet resting on the running board,” Stanley said. “I always liked to be the first one out. Just wanted to hit the ground first.”
On July 2, 1967, the helicopter dropped his crew in the wrong landing zone – in the middle of a Viet Cong camp.
“A rifle grenade hit my close friend and exploded,” Stanley said. “I ended up getting shrapnel from it.”
The Army awarded him the Purple Heart, but the physical wound didn’t compare to the emotional wounds.
“It really hurt me when we came back and our country was spitting at us and throwing rocks at us,” Stanley said of his arrival at Fort Ord in California. “When I got home in Hampton County it was a lot different from that. I got a wonderful welcome.”
Without his friends and church, Stanley said his transition back to civilian life would have been “impossible.”
“You have those nightmares, which I still have some,” he said. And he went through stages of suicidal depression.
Stanley spent his career in retail, and he and his wife have remained active at First Baptist, filling multiples roles through the years. “I can’t survive without our church,” he said. “We all have some rough times. They are there when you need them.”
And he loves his pastor.
“He’s just wonderful,” Stanley said. “He’s a brother in Christ.”
Finding father figures among veterans has served Kelly well.
“By sitting at the feet of these men, I have learned a great deal that I would never have learned in a seminary classroom,” the pastor said.
Kelly admires the loyalty the veterans show toward their country, community, jobs and families.
“They were very much like my father in their commitment to their country and their Lord,” Kelly said.
Much of the teaching has happened over morning coffee at a local fast-food restaurant. In jest, the men there call themselves the “Hampton mafia” because they “put a hit out on somebody every day.” Those “hits” can turn into visits, baptisms, weddings and funerals.
“The strength of the church is not what happens on Sunday morning when the doors are open, it’s what happens in the community and the world when the door is closed,” Kelly said.
And sometimes, it happens over a cup of coffee.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a photojournalist and writer based in Atlanta.)
7/6/2015 11:38:41 AM
July 6 2015 by
Jim Burton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) are 1.45 percent above the year-to-date SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget projection, and 1.24 percent above contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page.
The year-to-date total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of June and includes receipts from state conventions, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2014-15 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
The $143,051,247.48 received by the EC for the first nine months of the fiscal year, Oct. 1 through June 30, for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget represents 101.45 percent of the $141,000,000.00 year-to-date budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The total is $1,752,801.88 or 1.24 percent more than the $141,298,445.60 received through the end of June 2014.
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution to its state convention.
The SBC-adopted CP allocation budget is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through IMB, 22.79 percent to North American missions through North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the convention’s six seminaries, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources are self-sustaining and do not receive CP funding.
According to the budget adopted by the SBC at its June 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore, if the Convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $188 million dollars, International Mission Board’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.
Designated giving of $176,306,998.94 for the same year-to-date period is 1.69 percent, or $2,933,477.57, above the $173,373,521.37 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief and other special gifts.
June’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $14,499,629.31. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $19,899,363.75.
State conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective states and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted and the timing of when the state conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the EC.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the EC are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at www.cpmissions.net/CPReports.
7/6/2015 11:31:28 AM
July 2 2015 by
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press
Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Fires at seven black churches within the past 10 days have fueled discussions of racial hatred, as the first occurred within a week of the June 17 massacre of nine black Christians by a white supremacist at a Charleston church.
Arson had been confirmed in three of the fires as of July 1 but none had been deemed hate crimes. Two of the churches are Southern Baptist congregations.
Southern Baptist leaders voiced outcry at the arsons in comments to Baptist Press.
While the fires are still under investigation, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd said “racism and prejudice must cease.”
NBC News screen capture
Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, S.C., is the eighth predominantly black church to burn in the past 10 days. Arson has been confirmed in three.
“The continuation of African-American churches being burned in our nation is highly concerning to me,” said Floyd, pastor of the Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “Our Southern Baptist family hurts for our brothers and sisters who have suffered these devastating losses, especially those who are suffering at the hands of individuals who purposely inflict harm. As members of the family of God, we stand with them in prayer and encouragement.”
K. Marshall Williams, president of National African American Fellowship of the SBC and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., called the arsons “the manifestation of sinful and wicked humanity.”
“We need a nationwide outcry and action on all levels of government and society to insure that these acts of terror and hatred toward African Americans who are worshipping the true and living God cease,” Williams said. “I recognize more than ever that, as Christians, we are in intense spiritual warfare. … So I cry out to the Lord to protect and heal the broken hearts of His people. And I fast and pray for the Lord to change hearts and send a revival and spiritual awakening to our land. We need the Lord!”
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said he is brokenhearted “at the burning of a house of prayer or God’s house and it disturbs me greatly because of the cowardice of such acts and the hatred of such acts of violence. I am deeply disturbed that people would act so cowardly and hatefully, especially toward a building where people gather for worship of our Lord, and it is a heinous act of violence that I pray will be mediated somewhat by the apprehension and the prosecution of these persons who are responsible.”
The fires have spurred a popular Twitter campaign #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches. The NAACP tweeted that its state conferences are calling for black churches to “take necessary precautions.”
The latest fire destroyed Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in the small town of Greeleyville, S.C. The church had been rebuilt after the Ku Klux Klan burned it to the ground 20 years ago. Greeleyville is 65 miles north of Charleston, the site of the massacre at Emanuel AME Church that took the lives of the pastor, leaders and others ranging in age from 26-87 as they were praying in Bible study.
Arson was confirmed in a June 24 fire that caused $250,000 in damage at Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., a predominantly black Southern Baptist church that also hosts services for two Nepali congregations.
A June 27 blaze still under investigation destroyed the sanctuary of the predominantly black College Heights Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church in Elyria, Ohio, causing $1 million in damage, the Cleveland ABC affiliate NewsNet5 reported.
Arsonists torched College Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., on June 22, and on the following day at God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Ga., both predominantly black congregations.
A fire of undetermined origins destroyed Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, S.C., on June 26. Bobby Jones, the church pastor, told National Public Radio that he had often discovered “KKK” scrawled on the building’s outside walls but said he hoped the fire was not set by arsonists. The fire left only the steeple and two walls standing in the church that was home to about 35 worshippers.
Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Fla., was destroyed by another June 26 fire likely caused by a tree falling on overhead electrical lines, fire officials said. Damage at the predominantly African-American church was estimated at $700,000.
Black churches were targeted by arsonists in the mid-1990s, when more than 70 black and multicultural churches were burned in a 20-month span, according to news reports.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
7/2/2015 12:09:04 PM
July 2 2015 by
David Roach, Baptist Press
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
With same-sex marriage now legal in all 50 states, pro-gay activists are shifting their focus to issues like alleged workplace, housing and public accommodations discrimination. Some have even proposed stripping churches of their tax-exempt status and legalizing polygamous marriage.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists view the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage “as a means to a greater end,” said Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn. – “a huge means, but I certainly don’t think it’s the end. I think many will not be happy” if the advance of gay rights “doesn’t go further.”
Akin, a member of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) leadership council, has helped equip Fairview’s members to share Christ with the homosexual community and respond to pro-gay activists. He told Baptist Press that in his experience, the push for expanded LGBT rights typically “doesn’t come from animus of any kind. It stems from wanting cultural affirmation, seeing any form of discrimination as inequality.”
Following the June 26 Supreme Court ruling, the advocacy group Freedom To Marry said it would shut down and redeploy many of its resources to a new group called Freedom For All Americans, National Public Radio (NPR) reported. The new group’s website says its goal is “to ensure that all LGBT Americans are afforded comprehensive protections from discrimination.” The group is representative of a larger shift among gay marriage advocates, according to NPR.
Freedom For All Americans lists among its goals “to persuade Congress and the President to adopt explicit statutory protections ensuring freedom from discrimination for all LGBT Americans in housing, employment and public accommodations.” Such protections must not include “overly broad and harmful religious exemptions that will encourage employers, business owners and others to choose to disregard [LGBT] protections,” according to the group’s website.
Freedom For All Americans hopes to win similar legal protections at the state and local levels, noting that currently “28 states have no explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBT advocacy group, said June 28 on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the gay rights movement “still [has] a long ways to go” following the high court’s ruling.
Some Christians counter that forbidding all discrimination based on sexual orientation could force churches, Christian colleges and universities, and other Christian nonprofit organizations to hire open homosexuals contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs. Housing nondiscrimination ordinances could, among other pitfalls, force evangelical seminaries to offer married housing to same-sex couples. Public accommodations laws could permit persons who identify as transgender to use restrooms and locker rooms that do not correspond to their biological gender.
Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, warned of threats to religious liberty in a June 26 conference call with members of the media. Religious colleges and universities as well as organizations with government contracts could face challenges to their fundamental rights in the days ahead, Moore said.
“Religious liberty is the next front in this skirmish in American life,” Moore said. “And one of the most tragic results we could possibly see is an unrelenting culture war from secular progressives against those who dissent, because of deeply held religious convictions, [from] this new definition of marriage and sexuality in American life.”
The tax-exempt status of churches and other Christian organizations could be one front in the continuing struggle related to LGBT rights. Two days following the Supreme Court ruling, TIME published an op-ed article arguing that tax exemptions should be removed from “organizations that dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality.”
TIME writer Mark Oppenheimer, who also writes a biweekly column for The New York Times, argued that exempting churches from taxes is equivalent to providing them with government subsidies – in effect, forcing citizens to fund their religious viewpoints.
Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, responded in a Federalist article that “the real intent of removing tax-exempt status is to cripple the institutions that continue their dissent from the sexual revolution.” Churches in urban areas would be “immediately vulnerable” in the event of a tax exemption loss because they would be liable to hefty property taxes on their real estate settings.
“Legal gay marriage is not the endgame for the gay-rights movement,” Burk wrote. “It never was. Moral approval is the endgame. The agenda is not tolerance for different beliefs and lifestyles. The agenda is a demand that everyone get on board with the moral revolution or be punished. That means if you or your church won’t get with the program, then the revolutionaries will endeavor to close you down.”
Another potential battle could revolve around the legalization of polygamy. The same day the Supreme Court issued its ruling, an article posted at Politico.com argued, “Now that we’ve defined that love and devotion and family isn’t driven by gender alone, why should it be limited to just two individuals? The most natural advance next for marriage lies in legalized polygamy.”
Author Fredrick deBoer argued that, during the fight for gay marriage, LGBT activists said legalized gay marriage would not lead to legalized plural marriage because they had a “short-term political need” to counter social conservatives’ “slippery slope” argument. “But times have changed,” and sexual revolutionaries can now admit this logical implication of redefining marriage, he wrote.
Chief Justice John Roberts made a related observation in his dissent to the gay marriage ruling.
“Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective ‘two’ in various places,” Roberts wrote, “it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not.”
Jim Denison, a cultural commentator and chair of the advisory board for Dallas Baptist University, noted that multiple pro-LGBT activists have advocated plural marriage. “Why would the sexual revolution stop with polygamy?” he asked rhetorically.
“The next step,” Denison wrote in a blog article, “would be ‘consensual marriage,’ the belief that anyone should be able to marry anyone, regardless of age or biological relationship. If those in love are entitled to marriage, why not fathers and daughters (or sons)? Why not adults and children? If federal and state marriage benefits are owed to anyone who marries, why would a young man not marry his grandfather to secure medical care and inheritance rights?”
A June 26 Huffington Post article suggested yet other issues pro-gay advocates are likely to address following their Supreme Court win:
The lack of gender-neutral restrooms in public places;
The supposed need for bans on gay conversion therapy;
Acceptance of homosexuals in sports, politics and entertainment;
The supposed need to permit military service by transgender persons;
The supposed need to lift restrictions on gay men giving blood; and
Adoption, custody and surrogacy rights for LGBT parents.
A Massachusetts pro-gay activist told NPR there should also be an “LGBT-inclusive curriculum” in public schools that would explain the significance of key homosexuals in history.
Faced with such challenges, Akin, the Tennessee pastor, said followers of Jesus should teach God’s standards of marriage and sexuality in their churches, exercise biblical church discipline when church members reject God’s standards for human sexuality, and stand for God’s truth amid the culture in a firm but winsome manner.
“We should always recognize that lost people aren’t our enemies,” Akin said. “Satan is the enemy. So we’re called to love our neighbor regardless of our neighbor’s sin.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
7/2/2015 11:56:57 AM
July 2 2015 by
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor
David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
The funeral for John Thomas Bunn, 88, went on just like a regular service at First Baptist Church of Sylva.
The former pastor and town mayor did not want a lot of attention so Pastor Jeff Mathis preached from the floor, leaving the pulpit “empty in honor and in memory of him,” Mathis said during the morning service June 28.
“We are honoring John’s wishes this morning by not changing the character of our morning worship service.”
The Sylva Herald file photo by Nick Breedlove
John Bunn, 88, died June 25 in Sylva. He was former pastor of First Baptist Church of Sylva and served as the Sylva mayor as well as in various community roles.
Bunn died June 25 in his home.
Ordained to the gospel ministry on June 4, 1944, at First Baptist Church in Morehead City, Bunn received a bachelor of arts degree from Wake Forest College and a master of divinity and doctorate from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
He was the chairman of the department of religion and philosophy and professor of religious studies at Campbell University (1960-’75) and was president of the General Board of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (1983-’87) during the height of friction between conservatives and moderates.
His influence led to First Baptist leaving Tuckaseigee Baptist Association over the decision of Cullowhee Baptist Church to call a woman as co-pastor. First Baptist was joined by Cullowhee, East Sylva, Black Mountain and Deitz Memorial in severing ties with the association.
Bunn was pastor at many churches including First Baptist Church of Sylva, where he started in 1975 and left for a year, served and became interim pastor and was named pastor emeritus in 1991.
“All told, I would guess that the number of years of service to be 15, though he was active in the life of our church for 40 years,” Mathis said in an article in The Sylva Herald.
In 1990, Bunn became Sylva’s mayor for two years.
He served on numerous community boards and committees. Bunn was one of the founders of United Christian Ministries of Jackson County, where he would like gifts in his memory to be donated.
“It’s Jesus who truly brings peace,” Mathis said in his concluding sermon remarks. “It’s Jesus who truly brings rest. John knew that. John preached that. John is living that right now.”
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Lois Webb Bunn; three sons David, Steve and Raymond Bunn; two granddaughters; and two great-granddaughters.
Memorials to: United Christian Ministries of Jackson County, P.O. Box 188, Sylva, NC 28779.
7/2/2015 11:53:28 AM
July 2 2015 by
Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 1 comments
In a nation founded on religious liberty, most Americans believe God has a special relationship with the United States, and they’re optimistic the best is yet to come.
Despite headlines lamenting the global decline of the United States since the Cold War, 54 percent of Americans believe the nation is on the upswing, according to a survey by LifeWay Research released July 1.
Only 4 in 10 think “America’s best days are behind us,” LifeWay Research reported from data in a September 2014 survey.
Though the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of God, 53 percent of Americans say they believe God and the nation have a special relationship, a concept stretching back to Pilgrim days. Even a third of atheists, agnostics and those with no religious preference believe America has a special relationship with God.
“‘God Bless America’ is more than a song or a prayer for many Americans,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “It is a belief that God has blessed America beyond what is typical for nations throughout history. I am sure that would spawn many theological conversations” but it’s important to note a majority of Americans “think God has a special relationship with their country.”
Both ends of the political spectrum – from President Barack Obama to the Republican Party platform – have touted American exceptionalism, the belief that the United States plays a unique role in human history. For some, the concept includes the idea of a special relationship with God, although beliefs about the nature of the relationship vary.
“Some Christians view America as an archetype of biblical Israel, chosen and uniquely blessed by God,” Stetzer said. “That’s why Christians sometimes speak of God ‘healing our land,’ when most theologians say this American ‘land’ is not in the same category as the ‘land’ of biblical Israel.”
Americans have emphatic opinions on the matter, with 35 percent strongly agreeing God has a special relationship with the United States and 25 percent strongly disagreeing. Smaller segments say they somewhat agree (19 percent) or somewhat disagree (13 percent).
Americans also have a firm belief in the nation’s future. In recent years the nation has faced an economic downturn and reports of dwindling political power, academic skills and moral fiber. Nevertheless, 35 percent strongly disagree with the statement “America’s best days are behind us,” and 20 percent somewhat disagree. In contrast, just 21 percent strongly agree and 19 percent somewhat agree.
Optimism for the U.S. is highest among the most highly educated Americans. Only one-quarter of those with a graduate degree believe America’s best days are gone, compared to 38 percent of those with some college and 46 percent of those with a high school degree or less.
Protestants are more pessimistic about the nation’s future than Catholics, with 43 percent of Protestants agreeing America is past its prime, compared to 34 percent of Catholics.
Women, meanwhile, are significantly more likely than men to believe that God has a special relationship with the United States. While 49 percent of men have that view, the number rises to 58 percent for women.
LifeWay Research also found differences by age, race, geography, education and religious preference.
Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans ages 45-54 think God has a special relationship with the United States, a belief shared by 48 percent of those 18-44.
Belief in a special relationship also is high among:
African Americans, at 62 percent, compared to whites at 51 percent.
Southerners, at 59 percent, compared to 49 percent of Midwesterners and 50 percent of Westerners.
Those with a high school degree or less, at 66 percent. For those with some college, the rate drops to 51 percent. It drops further to 40 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree and 29 percent of those with a graduate degree.
Evangelical Christians are the most likely to believe in a special relationship, with 67 percent agreeing. Among evangelicals 45 and older, the share soars to 71 percent.
“Americans, particularly those in more religious segments or geography, are most likely to believe in this special relationship,” Stetzer said. “But, considering the history of the nation, from Manifest Destiny to Ronald Reagan’s ‘City on a Hill’ speech, it’s not surprising this long-held theme continues today.”
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 19-28, 2014. The calling utilized Random Digit Dialing. Sixty percent of completes were among landlines and 40 percent among cellphones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.4 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups. Those labeled evangelicals consider themselves “a born again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christian.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
7/2/2015 11:31:45 AM
July 2 2015 by
Norm Miller, Louisiana College Communications
Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments
Celebrating the “traditional Southern Baptist understanding of God’s plan of salvation,” Connect 316 executive director Rick Patrick said the group will “stand in our own stream and gladly fish for the souls of men” during the C316 dinner in Columbus, Ohio.
The gathering drew more than 200 to its meeting in the Greater Columbus Convention Center June 16 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
Connect 316 also honored former SBC President Jerry Vines with its inaugural “Jerry Vines Award for the Promotion of the Whosoever Will Doctrine in Southern Baptist Life.”
Connect 316 was organized in 2013, according to its website, to offer “a theologically driven ministry fellowship to promote scholarship and encouragement in the gospel for those of us embracing the [Herschel] Hobbs-[Adrian] Rogers theological tradition.”
Patrick, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sylacauga, Ala., in his opening remarks, said C316 has “a genuine respect for the streams of others ... We nevertheless celebrate our own theological stream” coming from Anabaptists, General Baptists “to the Separate Baptists in the South in the 1700s and 1800s and to the traditional Southern Baptists of the 1900s, including every primary confessor of the Baptist Faith and Message: E.Y. Mullins in 1925, Herschel Hobbs in 1963 and Adrian Rogers in 2000.”
BP file photo
Jerry Vines addresses a group at a 2008 John 3:16 Conference at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. Vines was the recipient of Connect316’s inaugural “Jerry Vines Award for the Promotion of the Whosoever Will Doctrine in Southern Baptist Life.”
“Leaving Geneva” was the theme of the evening’s meeting, as three speakers recounted their journey from Calvinism, which proponents call the doctrines of grace.
Leighton Flowers, youth evangelism director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said he discovered Calvinism in college, reading from modern Calvinists like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul and John Piper. “I fully embraced what is called the ‘Young, Restless and Reformed’ position,” Flowers said.
Reading A.W. Tozer began his exit from Calvinism, Flowers said. “He’s an intellectual,” Flowers said he thought, “and he knows God, obviously, so he has to be a Calvinist, surely.” But some of Tozer’s writings “simply did not fit my paradigm.”
Flowers also assumed C.S. Lewis was a Calvinist before he read his writings. “I could not understand how [these men] could be intelligent, read the Bible, and not be Calvinists,” he recounted.
After extensive study and exchanges with fellow Calvinists, Flowers began to believe that the Calvinist view of total inability, or total depravity, “is not a biblical doctrine.”
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation and is that which enables sinful people to hear God’s appeal to be reconciled and also respond to that appeal, Flowers said. A Southern Baptist preacher’s son, he acknowledged that “close, dear friends” doubt his initial commitments to Calvinism. It is “heart-breaking sometimes because of our differences,” he said.
Ronnie Rogers, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., and author of Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist, next addressed the crowd, saying, “I was for about 34 years a Calvinist. ... But I kept running into all these problems [having] insufficient answers.”
Among the issues Rogers cited is the Calvinism view of compatibilism, which holds that “determinism and moral responsibility are compatible,” as he put it. But determinism and compatibilism are “no less deterministic than sheer determinism,” he said.
Another issue involved Calvinist definitions of terms like sovereignty, election, foreknowledge and predestination.
“Calvinists believe in predestination of the elect and non-elect. Period,” Rogers said. But when some are asked if “God predestined the lost to hell,” they respond, “Well, I’m not a hyper-Calvinist,” Rogers said. “But that doesn’t answer the question.” Calvinism teaches that God structured a plan that prevents the non-elect from going to heaven, he said.
Some Calvinists, Rogers said, violate basic hermeneutical principles by using “theological imports” and “a complex hermeneutic” that obscure the clear and simple meaning of such biblical texts as John 3:16.
What Calvinists cannot adequately explain is attributed to “mystery,” Rogers said, noting that many “mysteries” are “Calvinistically generated.” The mysteries disappear, however, when considered outside of the Calvinist system, he said.
Doug Sayers of Cincinnati, a speaker with the Gideons, said his journey from Calvinism began when a friend told him that Sayers’ hospitalized and semi-comatose toddler son might go to hell if he died.
“I guess you could say that one of the most disquieting realities of Calvinism reared up and kicked us right in the face,” Sayers said, noting that his friend was a Calvinist who had the “honesty and courage to actually apply the five points to a real-life situation.”
Sayers subsequently wrote a book titled Chosen or Not? A Layman’s Study of Biblical Election and Assurance.
Sayers noted that some “baptistic Calvinists have taught that every dying infant should be presumed elect and will be saved.” But their hearts and creeds are in “undeniable conflict,” he said. “Their defense of that hope is more emotional than biblical and bears witness to the common grace sense of justice that God puts within each one of us.”
Embarrassed over reading into the biblical text what he thought it should say, “the kind of eisegesis that I had been accusing non-Calvinists of for years,” Sayers concluded, “I can tell you tonight that I am more at peace with the entire Bible than I ever was as a Calvinist.”
Connect 3:16 presented to Jerry Vines its inaugural “Jerry Vines Award for the Promotion of the Whosoever Will Doctrine in Southern Baptist Life.”
Vines, in receiving the award named in his honor, ascended the platform amid a standing ovation. He said he’d never heard of anyone “winning his own award.”
After quoting John 3:16, 1 John 2:2 and 2 Peter 3:9, Vines, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., concluded in prayer, thanking God for “wonderful news of Jesus Christ, which is available to every single person.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Norm Miller is director of communications and marketing for Louisiana College in Pineville, La.)
7/2/2015 11:22:57 AM
July 1 2015 by
Baptist Press staff
Norm Miller, Louisiana College Communications | with 0 comments
Pro-life regulations in Texas, North Carolina, Kansas and Iowa have been stymied in court challenges.
Affected are a Texas law requiring abortion clinics to qualify as ambulatory surgical centers and for abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges; a North Carolina law requiring doctors to show pregnant women ultrasound images before performing an abortion; a Kansas law banning dismemberment abortions; and an Iowa Board of Medicine ban on “webcam” abortions.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday issued a stay of House Bill 2, which was slated to go into effect July 1, until the justices can consider whether to take up a challenge to HB 2 after their summer recess.
The Supreme Court stay, in a 5-4 vote, prevents HB 2 requirements from going into effect requiring abortion clinics to qualify as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) and for doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled June 8 that the two requirements are constitutional and can be enforced.
According to Texas Right to Life, “The justices ruled that the provisions in question will effectively remain on hold and unenforced until the abortion businesses file a full appeal of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling and until the justices return from summer recess in September” at which time “the justices will either agree to hear the abortion industry’s arguments against HB 2 or deny the request. …
“If the request is denied, HB 2 will go into effect immediately, and the abortion industry will have exhausted all legal resources to further stall or overturn the law,” Texas Right to Life stated. “However, if SCOTUS agrees to hear the case, the stay would most likely not be lifted until the court’s final opinion was issued.”
The Supreme Court refused June 15 to take up an appeal from North Carolina in which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned a law requiring abortionists to show ultrasound images to clients so that the women would understand what happens during the procedure.
The lower court had ruled that the 2011 law violated abortion practitioners’ free speech rights and was “ideological in intent.” North Carolina legislators passed the measure overwhelmingly, even overriding a veto from then-Gov. Bev Perdue to put it into effect.
Federal appeals courts have upheld similar laws from Texas and South Dakota, according to The New York Times, which noted that such divergent rulings often prompt the Supreme Court to enter a case. Various other abortion-related ultrasound laws have been passed in more than 20 states, The Times reported.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, told WORLD News Service, “In any other medical procedure, doctors would have a duty to disclose all of the relevant information and, yet, a procedure as destructive and life-changing as abortion is held to a lower standard.”
A Kansas district court judge granted a temporary injunction June 24 blocking the Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, WORLD News Service reported.
Kansas was the first state in the nation to ban the dilation and extraction (D&E) procedure, the most common form of second-trimester abortions. Signed into law in April by Gov. Sam Brownback, the law was slated to go into effect July 1.
The Center for Women’s Health, an abortion facility in Overland Park near Kansas City that carries out abortions up to 21.6 weeks, filed a lawsuit June 1 challenging the ban. District court Judge Larry Hendricks, in issuing a temporary injunction, ruled that the Kansas constitution guarantees the right to abortion. The state’s lawyers will defend the law when Hendricks hears the full case later this year. In the meantime, dismemberment abortions will continue in the state.
“Certainly we are disappointed,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said. “The Kansas constitution doesn’t say you can kill babies in this manner. But we think there is ample evidence from previous Supreme Court rulings to uphold a ban on this type of abortion.”
The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a ban on “webcam” abortions in the state June 19, stating that it placed an “undue burden” on women.
Iowa’s webcam, or “telemed,” abortions had enabled doctors to prescribe the RU-486 abortion pill regimen by teleconference. Rather than meeting a doctor in person, women at rural clinics have a virtual consultation with doctors in Des Moines or Iowa City. After doctors prescribe the drugs, women take one pill at the clinic and a second at home. If they have bleeding or severe complications, local emergency care is needed.
The Iowa Board of Medicine agreed to outlaw the practice in 2013 for safety concerns, but its decision was placed on hold while Planned Parenthood fought the decision in court. Last year, an Iowa district judge upheld the ban. But on June 19, six of the Iowa Supreme Court’s seven justices ruled the medicine board’s ban unconstitutional because it made abortions too difficult for women to obtain.
The plaintiff in the case, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, has performed 7,200 webcam abortions since 2008.
Iowa was the first state to launch a webcam abortion system. Planned Parenthood executives there began planning the system in mid-2007 as a way to perform first-trimester abortions at rural clinics where it was too expensive for them to keep a doctor on staff. Iowa law requires abortion drugs to be prescribed by a physician.
“The Iowa Supreme Court has approved a dangerous medical practice banned by 16 other states,” said Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, which supported the ban. “There is a grave danger that telemed abortion may be assumed by abortion activists to render obsolete their need for on-site abortion providers across the country, greatly increasing the health risks for women who undergo medical abortions in remote areas.”
According to The Des Moines Register, the decision was thought to be the first time in 40 years the Iowa Supreme Court has weighed an abortion case.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adapted and used by permission from WORLD News Service, with reporting by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston. WORLD news Service is a division of WORLD Magazine, on the Web at worldmag.com.)
7/1/2015 12:20:11 PM
Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments