February 4 2014 by
Mike Creswell, Baptist State Convention
The Executive Committee
(EC) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
(BSC) met at Caraway Conference Center
Jan. 28. Since winter weather affected much of North Carolina, the Board of Directors
(BOD) meeting scheduled later in the day was cancelled.
Based on the number of board members who committed to attend, a quorum would not be met.
State leaders consider the first BOD meeting of the year an important one because committee chairpersons and board officers are elected during this meeting. These chairpersons, the board officers, along with four who are elected from the board membership at-large, the officers of the convention, the presidents of North Carolina Baptist Men and the North Carolina Baptist Associational Missionaries Conference, comprise the EC.
The board will address the elections and other matters in a rescheduled meeting Feb. 20.
The committee heard an update on the sale of the Hollifield Leadership Center. The board had previously decided that funds from the sale of the Hollifield Leadership Center
would be applied to Caraway Conference Center’s New Beginnings Campaign. The EC approved a plan that will accelerate the availability of funds. The plan requires the approval of the full board.
The Hollifield Leadership Center, a 30-acre conference facility on Lake Hickory, was acquired by the BSC in 2000. Low use of the facility made it too expensive to operate.
The North Carolina Boy’s Academy
(NCBA) purchased the property and will reopen it as a ministry for troubled boys. The NCBA is a branch of Teen Challenge, a worldwide ministry founded by David Wilkerson in 1958. The convention financed $2.25 million of the $2.5 million purchase price with equal payments to be made annually over the next five years, beginning with the first payment of almost $500,000 this year.
, chairman of the Business Services Special Committee
, said his committee will recommend that the board take $2.25 million from the convention’s contingency reserve fund and make those funds available to Caraway Conference Center for expansion and improvement. The annual payments from NCBA will replenish the reserve fund. Adams is the chairman of deacons at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro.
, BSC’s executive leader for business services
, said the convention is required by policy to keep a contingency reserve of at least 10 percent of the annual budget. The contingency reserve is also reviewed by the convention’s external auditors to provide future benefits for convention retirees. The amount of those future liabilities has decreased in recent years due to personnel policy changes affecting the eligibility and scope of retiree benefits.
Butler said the plan, if approved by the board, would permit Caraway to begin construction on a new $1 million auditorium. Hollifield Hall
will be named after benefactor Wyndolyn Royster Hollifield
The plan would also allow for three guest room lodges with a total of 24 additional rooms, estimated to cost about $1.2 million above what has been spent on the projects.
Butler said much of the work such as acquiring permits, site preparation and other tasks has already been completed. Some of the new facilities could be available for use as early as January 2015. The projected work is less than the original plan. “We want to work with what God has given us and be good stewards,” he said.
In response to questions, Butler said the contingency reserve fund, consisting of $4.6 million, will be sufficient for future retiree benefits even after $2.2 million for the Caraway project. If a problem arises with repayment, the convention holds a lien on the Hollifield property and would be able to recover it, he said.
Butler expressed confidence in the business plan of the NCBA, and he expects no problems with repayment. “I think they will be good partners for our churches in providing needed ministries,” he said. The EC voted unanimously to recommend the plan to the board.
For the final financial report of the 2013 budget, Beverly Volz
, BSC director of accounting services
, reported that the convention received $29,100,744.99 in 2013 through the Cooperative Program
, which was 13 percent below budget and 3 percent behind the 2012 total.
“We finished in the black,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., the convention’s executive director-treasurer. He praised the convention staff for their care in budget management.
North Carolina Baptists gave $1,907,940.80 to the North Carolina Missions Offering
(NCMO) in 2013, which was a 2.7 percent increase from the 2012 total, Volz said. The NCMO funds primarily support the work of Baptists on Mission (also known as North Carolina Baptist Men) and the BSC’s church planting ministry, with 10 percent going to associations for area missions and ministry projects.
Volz said North Carolina Baptist churches gave $5.8 million to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions
in 2013, slightly more than the 2012 total. They also gave $12.5 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions
in 2013, more than seven percent below the 2012 amount.
The new president of the North Carolina Baptist Associational Missions Conference
, Dougald McLaurin
, praised the work being done in Baptist associations across the state when he addressed the EC.
McLaurin is the director of missions for the Tar River Baptist Association
. This association is made up of 55 churches in and around Louisburg. He said five churches in Tar River are going through a transformational process. Through prayer drives, “little by little, eyes are being opened to the lostness that exists within the shadows of their steeples,” he said.
Tar River Baptists have been helping plant new churches in Toronto, Canada. McLaurin said his office forwarded more than $100,000 to Toronto for that purpose in 2013. He urged committee members to learn more about the work of their local associations.
, president of North Carolina Baptist Men
, reported that they are remaining active in New Jersey and New York, and that there are opportunities for service in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
2/4/2014 1:53:35 PM
February 4 2014 by
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Mike Creswell, Baptist State Convention | with 0 comments
Charlotte, NC – To date, more than 110,000 people
have indicated making a commitment to Jesus Christ during the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s My Hope America
campaign in 2013. As a result, plans are underway to continue My Hope in 2014.
While the project reached a pinnacle last November when Billy Graham marked his 95th birthday with the broadcast of his video message “The Cross
,” stories continue to come in to the ministry about lives that have been impacted through the program.
“We will never be able to know all of the numbers, but we do know that God did a mighty work and that He changed hearts all over the country,” said Franklin Graham
, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “We give God the thanks and praise – we know that He has done it.”
As a result of My Hope’s impact in 2013, plans are underway now to continue this effort in 2014. Many churches and individuals are already planning to host viewings of “The Cross” this Easter.
2013 Results from My Hope America with Billy Graham
Last November, more than 4 million households tuned in to watch “The Cross” on Fox News Channel
, Christian cable networks and more than 100 local television stations across the nation. Millions of others connected online through the website, YouTube, Facebook and other avenues. In addition, it was shown in churches, living rooms, bookstores, coffee shops, prisons, rescue missions, and even drive-in theaters and aboard cruise ships.
More than 26,000 churches
across the United States officially registered for the project, making it the largest U.S. outreach in the 64-year history of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
My Hope America impact stories from around the nation will be featured in an upcoming Billy Graham television special called “Hope Across America,” airing on local and Christian networks and online beginning Feb. 3.
Future Plans for My Hope
As a result of the project’s impact, plans are underway now to continue this effort. Many churches and individuals are already planning to host viewings of “The Cross” this Easter, and others are encouraged to do so.
“Pastors have told us again and again that the program is Spirit-anointed,” added Graham. “Some churches have told us that they are going to show ‘The Cross’ on Good Friday or Easter. This is a tremendous idea—what a perfect time.”
The program is available for viewing online at www.myhopewithbillygraham.org
or individuals and pastors can order a free DVD by calling (877) 247-2426. It will also air on a number of Christian networks and local affiliates during Easter week.
“Our plan is to do My Hope each year for the next five years – we want the week of my father’s birthday (November 7) to be Evangelism Week across America
,” continued Graham. “We want to continue to produce powerful evangelistic programs and material that churches and individuals can use to reach the lost around them for Christ.”
New My Hope programs are under development, the first of which is expected to be made available to churches and individuals this November.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world by every effective means available. For more information, please visit www.billygraham.org.)
2/4/2014 11:18:50 AM
February 4 2014 by
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association | with 1 comments
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – The movie "Alone Yet Not Alone
" lost its nomination for best original song more likely because of Oscar-related politics than prejudice against a Christian message, because another nominated movie prominently includes Christian music, a film industry insider said.
The Disney animated movie "Frozen," nominated for best original song for "Let It Go," opens with "Vuelie," a tune including music from the Danish Christmas hymn "Fairest Lord Jesus," said Ted Baehr
, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission
and director of its Movieguide of family movies and entertainment.
"As soon as I saw Frozen I recognized 'Fairest Lord Jesus' and I said, 'This is great, a big Disney film with Fairest Lord Jesus opening the movie," Baehr told Baptist Press. "That song is more explicit than Alone Yet Not Alone. So I don't know how you would explain it was a bias against Christianity if Frozen has a song with Fairest Lord Jesus in it."
Joni Eareckson Tada
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
rescinded its Oscar nomination for Alone Yet Not Alone on Jan. 28, citing film producer Bruce Broughton
, a former member of the Academy's Board of Governors
and a current member of its executive committee, for using his influence in campaigning for the film among Academy members.
Baehr said the Academy nomination process is convoluted, and that the nomination withdrawal likely came after producers of successful blockbusters questioned the inclusion of a small, largely unheard of production.
"Everybody promotes their projects.... This is the normal human condition," Baehr said. "[The Academy] suddenly had a lot of big-name people who were saying, 'We didn't get nominated. How did this group get nominated?' So this is just like getting into a sorority or fraternity, getting into a club.
"There's cliquism involved here. Whether the cliquism had political motives or religious motives is hard to say, because there are other people in the system that were just as religious," Baehr said. "You've got a double standard. Why there is a double standard you'd have to intuit for yourself."
Christian author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada
, a quadriplegic advocate for people with disabilities, sang the song Alone Yet Not Alone in the movie by the same name, which had a limited release last year and is slated for a broader showing June 13.
Tada would not speculate regarding the Academy's motivation but said the cancellation "in no way detracts from either the song's beauty or its message."
"Regarding the reasons for the nomination being rescinded, it is not my place to speculate as I have no insights into the workings of the entertainment industry," Tada said in a press release. "I was honored to be invited to sing the song and it will always be a treasured experience.
"I was grateful for the attention the nomination brought to this worthy song and the inspirational film behind it, as well as to the ongoing work of Joni and Friends to people affected by disabilities," Tada said. "The decision by the Academy to rescind the nomination may well bring even further attention, and I only hope it helps to further extend the message and impact of the song."
Tada will sing the song at the 22nd annual Movieguide Faith & Values Awards
, which will honor Christian entertainment achievements Feb. 7 in Los Angeles.
The Academy's move has increased the popularity of the movie, the song and the Movieguide event, Baehr said.
"People are calling us and we're grateful and all the major press is coming to the Movieguide Awards," Baehr said. "The good news is [the Academy’s decision is] promoting this film. Every article you write is good for the film and Joni's career has hit a new high."
The family-friendly movie produced by Enthuse Entertainment is based on the true story of Barbara
and Regina Leininger
, sisters whose faith was tested when they were captured by the Delaware Indians during the French and Indian War in 1755. Broughton and Dennis Spiegel wrote the song.
In rescinding the song, the Academy's Board of Governors said Broughton emailed Academy members and pointed out his song as number 57 among the list of nomination contenders.
"No matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one's position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one's own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage," said Cheryl Boone Isaacs
, Academy president, in a press release on the Academy's website, Oscars.org
. "The Board determined that Broughton's actions were inconsistent with the Academy's promotional regulations, which provide, among other terms, that 'it is the Academy's goal to ensure that the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner.'"
Broughton has expressed devastation in response.
"I indulged in the simplest grassroots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention," Broughton told The Hollywood Reporter
. "I got taken down by competition that had months of promotion and advertising behind them. I simply asked people to find the song and consider it."
In addition to Frozen, other nominees for best original song are "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2," "The Moon Song" from "Her," and "Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." The Academy Awards will be presented March 2.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor.)
2/4/2014 10:32:29 AM
February 4 2014 by
Baptist Press staff
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
SAN FRANCISCO – California’s controversial law that bans change therapy for teens who have unwanted same-sex attractions could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court after an appeals court rejected a petition to rehear the case.
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
let stand Jan. 29 an earlier decision by a panel from that court upholding the law signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown
in 2012. The first-of-its-kind law, which now has been copied in other states, prevents licensed counselors from trying to change a minor’s sexuality, even if the therapy is desired by the patient.
, which made the petition for a rehearing, said it will ask the Supreme Court to review the case.
Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain
The Golden Gate Bridge
wrote a dissent by three judges, stating that the law should be reconsidered on free speech grounds. The panel had concluded that the law does not violate the First Amendment because it regulates “conduct” rather than “speech.”
O’Scannlain, a Reagan appointee, said the panel disregarded Supreme Court precedent and “simply asserts that some spoken words – those prohibited by SB 1172 – are not speech.” SB 1172
is the law’s legislative name.
“The panel cites no case holding that speech, uttered by professionals to their clients, does not actually constitute ‘speech’ for purposes of the First Amendment,” O’Scannlain wrote. “And that should not surprise us – for the Supreme Court has not recognized such a category.
“The Supreme Court has chastened us lower courts for creating, out of whole cloth, new categories of speech to which the First Amendment does not apply. But, that is exactly what the panel’s opinion accomplishes in this case.”
Liberty Counsel has filed two similar cases on change therapy in New Jersey after Gov. Chris Christie
signed a bill into law last August banning state-licensed counselors from trying to help children under 18 reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction.
Similar bills have been proposed in Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Virginia and Washington.
“The minors we represent do not want to act on same-sex attractions, nor do they want to engage in such behavior,” Mat Staver
, chairman of Liberty Counsel
, said in a statement. “They are greatly benefiting from this counseling. Their grades have gone up, their self-esteem has improved, and their relationships at home are much improved.
“Legislators and judges in the state of California have essentially barged into the private therapy rooms of victimized young people and told them that their confusion ... is normal and that they should pursue their unwanted and dangerous same-sex sexual attractions and behavior, regardless of whether those minors desire their religious beliefs to trump their unwanted attractions,” Staver said.
Pacific Justice Institute
, a pro-family group based in Sacramento, won a preliminary injunction preventing SB 1172 from taking effect for more than a year until the three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit reversed the injunction, agreeing with the state that the law should not be analyzed under First Amendment principles because it was a professional regulation.
“We will continue the fight to protect the freedom of counselors and young people seeking help with their same-sex attractions,” Brad Dacus
, president of Pacific Justice Institute
, said. “Throughout this process, we have been astounded by the lengths to which LGBT activists and the state of California have gone to distort science, free speech principles and common sense.
“The implications of this case reach far beyond this issue,” Dacus said, “and we are optimistic that the Supreme Court will rectify the Ninth Circuit’s latest attempt to defy its precedents.”
Pacific Justice Institute plans to file a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court.
The Los Angeles Times
editorial board, commenting Jan. 31 on the Ninth Circuit’s decision, said O’Scannlain raised an important question regarding whether psychotherapy should be viewed as conduct rather than speech.
“This page opposed enactment of the law against sexual conversion therapy, not because we approve of such therapy (we don’t) but because legislators shouldn’t ban a procedure performed by even a minority of licensed professionals without conclusive evidence that it’s harmful,” the editorial board said. “Such evidence does not exist.
“Still, the issue in this case wasn’t whether the law was a wise exercise of the Legislature’s power to regulate healthcare; it was whether the measure violated the 1st Amendment.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
2/4/2014 9:43:25 AM
February 4 2014 by
Evelyn Adamson, IMB/Baptist Press
Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments
SOUTHEAST ASIA – Uncertainty rocked Vanna Keo* after her husband Kith* accepted Christ. She had never met any Christians before, and now her husband was one.
In supporting her husband, Keo agreed to meet Don and Dayla Patrick*, IMB workers
in Southeast Asia
for more 15 years. The Patricks were the ones who shared the gospel with her husband and led him to Christ.
Keo also wanted to see for herself what real Christians were like. Laughing at her perspective at the time, Keo says she met the Patricks “and saw who they were. They did not do any weird or crazy things to us. After that, I didn’t have any bad feelings towards them.”
A couple of years following her husband’s conversion, Keo accepted Christ. Then the family came on hard times when their Muslim community turned against them. Unable to cover their expenses, Rith looked for work aiding several Christian organizations with various projects. But the jobs did not produce much income.
IMB photo by Grace Chapman
Vanna Keo* sews a dress to provide income for her family and support other women in her Southeast Asian community who help her complete orders locally and from women in the U.S. (*Name changed.)
The friendship between Keo and Dayla Patrick continued to grow. Keo talked about ways she could help bring in money. “I considered what I could do since I’m a mother,” she says, “and I decided on sewing
Keo’s ability sparked an idea in Patrick’s mind. “After Keo sewed for me,” Patrick began to see God at work; “I thought, ‘Maybe this is something that can help them.’”
Six years later, Keo and Patrick sit on a white tiled floor, poring over new designs for the dresses that sustain Keo’s family.
Bold pink and brown designs splay across the ground as Keo holds several strips of brown cloth in her hands. Lines furrow across her forehead as she glances between fabrics before calling Patrick over to help decide which material best complements the pink. Patrick narrows the selection to two designs, leaving the final choice up to Keo.
After selecting a chocolate brown material, Keo clicks on the sewing machine and sets to work cutting, fitting, sewing and tweaking a dress for one of Patrick’s daughters to try on for size. Her fingers guide the material through the machine, correcting any misdirection before a mistake results.
The dresses by Keo and, now, her friends are primarily sold in churches across the United States. Susan McPherson
*, who lives in Texas and is a longtime customer of Keo’s project. McPherson has bought dresses when Patrick sells them in churches during her visits to the United States. Patrick sends the profits directly back to Keo’s project.
“The quality is wonderful,” McPherson says, “and I loved that I was able to help other mothers across the world by buying a dress from them.”
“One of the things I really like about the project,” Patrick says, “is it connects women in Southeast Asia who are trying to feed their families, with women in the States, who want to help in a tangible way.”
Keo gathers more fabric for a second dress and Patrick helps pick out a bold blue pattern. After finishing it, Keo and Patrick sit on the cool tile in the early evening while the children play and talk about what they have learned during the course of the sewing project.
Keo pauses before looking up and saying, “We had money for once; I had a job. At one point my brother was helping us, and now he is at university. It paid for his university. The project was a way for my family to help themselves during a time of real need.”
Patrick recounts that while Keo’s husband studied the Bible and set to work on an important ministry project, it was the dresses Keo sold that supported the family until Rith found a steady stream of income.
Keo adds that the dresses have done more than help provide an income for her family. The project has deepened her faith.
“I have experienced the Lord’s intervention in my life,” she says. Looking at the newly sewn dresses, she continues, “To see answered prayers has helped my faith grow and helped me through difficult struggles.”
And Keo’s eyes light up as she says, “When they come
, I can share about Jesus
. That is what is important ... the opportunity to share my faith I wouldn’t normally have in the community.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – *Names changed. Evelyn Adamson is a writer living in Southeast Asia. To purchase dresses Keo has made, email AsiaStoriesIMB@gmail.com. The WorldCrafts initiative of WMU also features products from women in more than two dozen countries to help provide sustainable incomes. WorldCrafts is on the Web at worldcraftsvillage.com.)
2/4/2014 9:27:54 AM
February 3 2014 by
Aaron Cline Hanbury, Southern Seminary/Baptist Press
Evelyn Adamson, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – While “cultural Christianity is dead” in an increasingly secular America, evangelicals have the “theological resources” to keep the faith, R. Albert Mohler Jr.
said during a “Faith and Freedom in the Public Square
” discussion at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Mohler, president of Southern Seminary
, was joined by nationally syndicated radio show host and conservative pundit Dennis Prager and New York Times columnist Ross Douthat
for a wide-ranging and often entertaining two-hour discussion Jan. 28 of secularism, faith, politics and shifting morality in America.
, a Roman Catholic
whose 2013 book about religion in the United States, “Bad Religion
,” appeared on The New York Times bestseller list, opened the session with a “view from Washington.” He offered a “distillation” of the socio-religious environment and the cultural conversation in the nation’s capital.
“The view from my city is that we are in this kind of post-culture war era in American politics,” Douthat said, describing an era when most consider “religious conservatism” as “mostly gone into retreat.”
Photo by Emil Handke/SBTS
R. Albert Mohler Jr. (right), president of Southern Seminary, discusses religion in public life with New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (left) and radio talk show host Dennis Prager Jan. 28 at the Louisville, Ky., campus.
Douthat, who moved to D.C. in the 1990s, recalled the debates surrounding the “religious right,” the Moral Majority and more recent controversies concerning the role of faith in major political debates.
“It’s remarkable to me as someone who was there for those debates, and participated in them, to see how quickly – this was just six or seven years ago – the conversation has shifted, and how strong the assumption is among American journalists, people in the American media and people who work in politics that the sort of post-1970s religious right versus secular left cultural battles are of yesterday,” Douthat said.
The consensus, Douthat suggested, is that “religious conservatism is weakening, that America in general is suddenly secularizing in ways that people didn’t expect 10 or 15 years ago – that what’s happening in the debate about gay marriage is kind of a microcosm of these trends as a whole and that, frankly, if there is a sort of future in the debates about religion and politics, it’s more likely to be defined by some resurgent religious liberalism, which a lot of people are very eager to identify with the new pope.”
Reacting to Douthat’s summary of the nation’s cultural ethos, Mohler pushed back against the idea that everything has changed since the culture wars of recent decades, saying that “the culture wars are over, except for where they’re not.” He noted specifically that the issue of abortion is today “more divisive than at any point since Roe v. Wade in 1973.”
But, Mohler said, the major difference in today’s socio-religious world compared to that of the previous generation is a move away from a wide, almost requisite, acceptance of religion in all facets of public life.
“There was in the center of the country – and I don’t mean that geographically, but culturally – a cultural religiosity that was, in the main, a cultural Christianity that trended in one direction for the better part of 60 to 70 years, and it had a kind of moral authority that is disappearing before our eyes,” said Mohler, an evangelical theologian who is the author of several books about cultural trends as well as the host of a daily podcast in which he analyzes the news from a Christian viewpoint.
Prager, a practicing Jew who, in addition to hosting a radio show, is a syndicated columnist and author, responded by suggesting several ways in which “this country is changing,” each of which he tied to the loss of belief in a transcendent God or moral standard. Prager specifically noted a “loss of meaning” and a loss of objective morality.
“We live in the age of feelings,” Prager said, citing abortion rights as the greatest example of individual feelings guiding contemporary morality. The unborn child’s worth is “entirely dictated by the feelings of the mother. It is an unbelievable statement of narcissism, which is what happens when there is no transcendent morality,” he said.
Extending his theological argument, Prager pointed to assumptions about the nature of humanity as the fundamental dividing line between liberals and conservatives today.
“Everything in leftism [both religious and political liberalism] follows from the belief that people are basically good,” Prager said. “And everything in conservatism follows from the belief that people are not basically good. Judaism and Christianity were united in teaching that people were not basically good. With the death of traditional Judaism and traditional Christianity, you have the unbelievably dangerous belief that people are basically good, and everything flows from there to big government to believing that your opinion is what makes things moral. And that’s where we now stand.”
After the trio set forth their assessments of America’s contemporary religious landscape, Douthat posed a question about the declining number of “religious persons” in the United States.
Concerning evangelicals, Mohler admitted that “right now there are fewer evangelicals by theological definition than the sociologists tell us there are.” But the issue, he said, is not evangelicals departing from their genuine beliefs. Rather, many of those who, in a previous generation, self-identified as “evangelical” no longer do so. He alluded to a mid-20th-century America, particularly in the South, where affiliation with a church or religious group brought a certain amount of social and cultural credibility.
“Cultural Christianity,” Mohler said, “is dead.” Yet he was not entirely pessimistic.
“I’m pretty convinced, if I can give you good news that there are going to be evangelicals who keep the faith. Evangelicals in the main, though tempted by any number of things, have theological resources, if they will lean into them, that will prevent some of the things that have happened elsewhere,” Mohler said, referencing the near disappearance of liberal Protestant denominations like the Presbyterian Church (USA).
While conceding Mohler’s point, Douthat questioned whether theologically defined conservative religion could restore conservative values to cultural prominence.
“The resilience of conservative religion may not have been as resilient as a lot of conservative believers hoped it was,” Douthat said, adding that though theological grounding may be “enough for survival,” it may not be “enough to restore its flourishing.”
Mohler, returning to an earlier point about transcendent authority, said the primary difference in religious groups that fade away and those that continue to thrive is “oughtness.”
“If there’s no binding authority – if there’s no ‘ought’ – then no one is going to pay to repair the [church] roof. And no one is going to feel guilty for not going” to church, Mohler said.
He continued, “If you look at conservative Catholics and the conservative Jewish community, the conservative evangelicals, what you find is persons who actually believe there is a huge ‘ought,’ there is a transcendent reality, which is to say, [there is a] God to whom we are answerable and there is something at stake.”
After about two hours of conversation that covered topics from civil rights to party platforms, the three men fielded questions from the audience. Questions and answers ranged from the “loss of God” in public discourse and conservative involvement in pop culture to the so-called cultural “war on men” and same-sex marriage.
The event’s emcee, Warren Cole Smith
, associate publisher and vice president of WORLD magazine, introduced the panelists and moderated the question-and-answer portion of the evening. WORLD, the largest Christian news magazine in the United States, cosponsored the event with Hashtag Productions.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Cline Hanbury is manager of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.)
2/3/2014 10:51:36 AM
February 3 2014 by
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press
Aaron Cline Hanbury, Southern Seminary/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
NASHVILLE – It was a day Mark Croston
never saw coming. He had no reason to leave his 26-year pastorate in Suffolk, Va., except God’s calling to unite with LifeWay Christian Resources
“I was at a church that I love” – East End Baptist Church
– “that was doing a wonderful job growing and developing. We’ve had a building program that’s kind of all laid out – the land, 17 and a half acres of land purchased, the plans were completed. City approvals done. The money ... in the bank. It was just a matter of starting.”
Croston loved the church as his own family, cherishing his relationships among East End’s nearly 1,000 members.
“It was right then, right before starting the building, that God spoke to me,” Croston said. “As the deacon got up to pray on that Sunday [Aug. 4, 2013], I felt like God told me, ‘Open your eyes and say goodbye.’ My plans got all interrupted. Everything changed on that day.
“A couple of months later, I’m doing something I never believed I would be doing.”
Croston has worked as LifeWay’s national director of Black Church Partnerships
since last November. Yet, when he visited LifeWay in Nashville following God’s direction, Croston saw no place there for himself.
“[LifeWay] asked me, ‘Could you see yourself in this position?’ My answer was ‘no.’ ‘Could you see yourself leaving your church?’ ‘No.’ So, all the questions they asked me, my answer was no to all of them,’ Croston said. “They even said to one another, ‘He doesn’t sound like he really wants to come here.’ I can’t say there was anything about the position. ... It wasn’t about anything except that I felt God called me to do this task.”
Croston helps African American churches assess their needs and determine how LifeWay can help meet those needs.
“Our job is to help churches in their ministry of making disciples. I provide training, consulting and resourcing to churches across the length and breadth of our country, African American churches,” he said.
Croston holds a doctor of ministry degree from Virginia Union University in Richmond, with a concentration in Christian education in the African American church. In 2012, he was president
of both the SBC-affiliated Baptist General Association of Virginia
and the Virginia Baptist State Convention
, which describes itself as Virginia’s oldest African American Baptist organization.
Croston sees the value of the LifeWay position because of his experiences as a pastor.
“Having some people available to us as pastors who know about the cutting edge of research, who know about the trends that are happening in the church and society, who have resources and access to resources that can be made available to us is just really, really helpful,” he said. “I’ve moved from serving the church as a local pastor to kind of serving the pastors of the churches, just in a different capacity.”
But, he acknowledged, leaving the pastorate is difficult.
“What I miss,” he told Baptist Press, “is the relationships you have with people, because the way that people let you into their lives and the kind of experiences you have with people, I don’t know that there’s another way to have that in some other capacity other than being a pastor. I get plenty of preaching opportunities, plenty of teaching opportunities, plenty of work in the ministry, but that kind of intimate relationship, I don’t think, could you gain with that broad a spectrum of people in any other way.”
Elgia “Jay” Wells
, who held
the LifeWay position
before his 2012 retirement
, said the post brings LifeWay in greater harmony with the SBC’s National African American Fellowship, which is marking its 20th anniversary this year. Wells is NAAF’s executive director.
“We are extremely grateful that God has led Dr. Mark Croston to LifeWay,” Wells said. “He is a gifted leader and will take the work with African American churches further than it has ever been. As NAAF we will pray for him and give him our full support and cooperation.”
Croston serves as NAAF’s treasurer and has been an active member of the group for 19 years.
“Our convention has made a bold initiative to be more ethnically inclusive and sensitive,” Croston said. “I would see my role in this position as helping the convention to achieve those particular goals. The National African American Fellowship has been working towards these ends for some time.
“One of the things that we have consistently talked about in the fellowship meetings is encouraging and making our convention sensitive to the needs of minorities in our country and in our convention and the idea of being more inclusive,” Croston said. “So we really celebrate the fact that the convention has now gone on record to say we really want to do this.”
As NAAF began to voice its concerns for ethnic diversity within the SBC, Croston said, the group realized it would have to be part of the solution.
“It’s easy for me to sit in my church and say look we need this stuff, but then somebody’s got to step up and actually do it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
2/3/2014 10:33:37 AM
February 3 2014 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
WASHINGTON – Being a disciple of Jesus means growing in recognizing the importance of the common good of people in society, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore
told college students at a conference in the country’s capital.
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
, spoke Jan. 27 on the first night of the five-day National Association of Evangelicals’ Christian Student Leadership Conference
. Students from across the country gathered for the annual meeting, which focused on how evangelicals are to think about the common good.
When people are left to themselves, they “want Jesus to come in and just extend our own idolatry of the self out into the infinite future,” he said.
Russell D. Moore
“Following after Christ means that we’re replacing this sense of self at center in the understanding that we are the supporting characters in other people’s stories,” Moore told about 65 students. “We start to recognize and pay attention as we’re growing in Christ-likeness and as we’re growing in the Spirit ... the significance of others and to recognize the worth and the dignity of people who can’t do anything for us.
“That’s the reason why we care about the unborn when the rest of the world would want to dehumanize them by speaking of them simply as zygotes and embryos and fetuses and unplanned pregnancies,” he said. “That’s the reason why we care about people who are suffering with AIDS and with other diseases. That’s why we care about women who are being trafficked. That’s why we care about immigrant communities that are suffering. That’s why we care about people who are in prison.”
Moore added, “We learn for His priorities to become our priorities, which means we start caring about what it takes to cause the people around us to flourish, what it means for them to live in ways in which they are blessed rather than cursed.”
He addressed the question of Christian thinking on the common good by teaching on Luke 10:25-37, the account of Jesus’ encounter with a lawyer, who was an expert in the Jewish law, and of Jesus’ resultant parable of the Good Samaritan.
Christians often fail to think about the common good because of concern it will detract from either the gospel or mission of Jesus, Moore said.
“And they have good reasons to think that [about the gospel], because there are all sorts of people who would rather think about the common good than the gospel,” he told the students. It happens in churches, denominations and organizations, Moore said.
“Sometimes people will say, ‘We want to make sure that we protect the mission of Jesus, so we don’t want to be concerned about anything other than spiritual things.
We understand why people think that, because they see the mission turn into all kinds of other things.”
People are made right with God only by faith in Christ, he said. “But that transformation of the heart leads to a following of Jesus and obedience.
“Faith and obedience are not at odds with one another, as long as they’re put in the right perspective and with the right priority so that the faith works itself out in acts of obedience, in acts of mercy and the things Jesus has called us to do,” Moore told the students.
Those who embrace the gospel understand Jesus “presents Himself in solidarity with the people that we encounter, especially those who are vulnerable, those who are in harm’s way, those who are oppressed,” he said.
Christians sometimes say they work for the common good to have a chance to share the gospel. “That’s true, but that’s only part of it,” Moore said.
He recounted a story he heard about the people of a church who ministered to severely disabled children who were unaware of who was with them, children with whom they would never be able to share the gospel. The person describing this ministry asked, he recalled, “Is it worth it to minister to them?”
Moore said, “That is exactly the kind of question that the New Testament answers over and over again, ‘Yes.’ There is a mysterious connection between our recognition of Jesus and our recognition of those who are our neighbors, those who are in harm’s way.”
“The mission of Jesus is the extension of the life of Jesus,” he said. “Jesus preaches the kingdom of God, never backs down from preaching the Gospel with Himself as the center of it. And as He does that, Jesus listens to the cries of those who are vulnerable around Him in order to work toward well-being and the common good. He preaches. He heals. He casts out demons. He feeds. He listens. He touches. He loves.
“When we respond to the cries of the unborn, when we welcome the orphan, when we hold the diseased, when we in our own churches first signify to the rest of the world that no one is without value, no one is without dignity, no one is without worth, all we’re doing is by the power of the Holy Spirit being conformed into the image of Jesus so that His priorities are our priorities, His mission is our mission, and His future is our future.
“When you work for justice, when you work for righteousness and when you do it with the gospel at the center, you’re following in the way” of Christ, Moore said.
Sometimes Christians “are going to disagree on what is the best way” to work for justice “because the issues are often complex, he said. “How do we help the poor in a way that doesn’t simply just give people short-term money but actually causes people to flourish, to maintain families and to maintain communities and to carry out the purpose that comes with vocation?”
During a question-and-answer time with the students after his speech, Moore addressed how followers of Christ should respond to opposition. He recommended a Christian ask two questions:
“Are my critics right about what it is they’re saying about me?
“Am I being clear in what it is that I am saying?”
He said Christians should “want the right kind of opposition.”
“What you want to see is ... the opposition is coming because you are standing with the gospel and with the Word of God,” Moore said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
2/3/2014 10:13:41 AM
February 2 2014 by
Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
NEWARK, N.J. – Whether chasing down NFL players during Super Bowl
week for a quote, talking to a gymnasium full of students or posting pictures of his latest adventures on Facebook, it is evident that Roman Gabriel III
is passionate about three things: Jesus Christ, family and football.
Gabriel is a radio host, motivational speaker, evangelist and son of NFL quarterback Roman Gabriel Jr., who played for the Los Angeles Rams
(1962-72) and Philadelphia Eagles
(1973-1977). During Super Bowl week, the younger Gabriel has been right at home for the last 20 years talking to athletes, coaches and various media celebrities about their faith and values.
Gabriel, president of Sold Out Ministries
, and other Christian media professionals put microphones in front of many NFL players and sports personalities on Super Bowl media day and throughout the week leading up to the game.
“This platform gives them a worldwide opportunity to speak the truth to people who would never walk in a church,” said Gabriel, a member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church
in Boone, N.C.
Super Bowl media day is an annual event that Gabriel lovingly refers to as a “circus” – with NFL players, coaches and reporters converging in one location to talk about the big game. Media day and the rest of the week’s interviews provide much of Gabriel’s material for the year.
Once the final snap is taken during the Super Bowl and Gabriel’s post-game interviews are complete, he heads back to his home in North Carolina to begin sifting through countless hours of footage and audio for various media outlets.
Gabriel’s Sports Talk
radio program on American Family Radio
can be heard in 200 cities nationally and streams live at afr.net
. Another of Gabriel’s venues is the Biblical Recorder
, newsjournal for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, where his sports Q&A runs in print and on the BR’s website (brnow.org
Gabriel also has spoken to thousands of middle and high school students, challenging them to live alcohol- and drug-free.
Before he was interviewing athletes and speaking in schools, Gabriel played quarterback for the University of New Mexico. He also had a brief stint in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and in the now-defunct USFL (United States Football League). A neck injury ended his football career.
“When people ask me [if I] miss football, I [say] no,” Gabriel said. “The last time I played football was 1983, but ... I love what the platform has given me to talk to kids, to talk to people about Christ, to share my faith because I played a game.”
Gabriel is just one of many Christian media professionals who see the NFL and athletics as an effective ministry tool.
Mike Barber of Mike Barber Ministries gathers media alongside Gabriel during Super Bowl week for his prison ministry and website Pro-claim.TV.
“It’s the biggest platform in America,” Barber said. “It reaches more homes. It gets the attention of the youth like no other event ... when ... one in six of our youth today will be locked up. What a great opportunity ... for a true genuine word to be heard loud and clear.” Barber has been involved in prison ministry for 25 years, after playing tight end with the Houston Oilers, Los Angeles Rams and Denver Broncos (1976-1985).
Gabriel, who works with Barber on various Super Bowl-related projects, said, “He and I were doing this when nobody else was.... He’s helped me a lot.”
Gabriel recalled “the earlier years” – long before Tebowmania when the media’s attention swirled around former Denver Broncos quarterback and outspoken Christian Tim Tebow. Gabriel referred to some of the older Christian players as “guys that spoke out about their faith long before it was popular” – including Reggie White, Kurt Warner, Roger Staubach and Bart Starr. Each year Starr honors a player who has shown character and leadership on and off the field. The recipient of this year’s Bart Starr Award (named earlier today, Jan. 31, during the Super Bowl Breakfast) is Aaron Rogers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
The message of these and other players reaches people who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to do with the Christian faith, Gabriel said. “A great deal of Americans are never going to walk in a church and hear that,” he said. “In this country that’s what it’s all about. People look up to fame and fortune.
“... They look up to Hollywood and they want to be a star,” he said. “So my deal is ... if we’ve gotta put people out there, let’s put the right ones in front of these kids – the ones that truly live a life that pleases God first.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)
2/2/2014 7:41:35 AM
January 31 2014 by
Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press
Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
NEWARK, N.J. – Jacob Tamme
is used to intense competition. He’s taken hard hits on the football field in games and in practice during his six years in the NFL. But when his wife Allison was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year, the Denver Bronco
said he was forced to rely on his Christian faith
more than ever.
Tamme, who caught a touchdown pass in the Broncos’ win against the Patriots in the AFC Championship
, said his team’s Super Bowl run this season has been the opportunity of a lifetime. But he said his relationship with Jesus has helped him overcome. Now one year after his wife was first diagnosed with cancer, the backup tight end reflected on how his faith has sustained him and his family. After successful surgery and treatment, Allison is a cancer survivor.
“My faith has been key,” Tamme said Jan. 28 as reporters gathered around him and other players at the Prudential Center
in Newark, N.J.
, for media day during Super Bowl week.
Photo by Shawn Hendricks/BP
Jacob Tamme, Denver Bronco tight end, shared how his faith helps him through the challenges that come as a NFL player on and off the field. One of those challenges involved his wife Allison being diagnosed last year with thyroid cancer.
Tamme, who will be playing in his second Super Bowl
– his first was in 2010 when the Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints – said he has seen how his faith also has strengthened him through challenges on the football field.
In his second season as a Bronco, Tamme has been called on at key moments to fill in for Pro Bowl player Julius Thomas, who struggled with a knee injury this season. Tamme scored another touchdown earlier in the season against the Patriots.
“We’ve gone through a lot as a team this year,” Tamme said. “From all sorts of things ... to being out, to losing players to injury. I think the great teams are the ones that can do what we’ve done and overcome those things ... really come together as a team and support each other.”
Having a tight-knit group of fellow believers who lean on prayer has helped, the former standout from the University of Kentucky said.
“We have a lot of guys on the that are men of faith and guys who pray together and believe that there is power in that,” Tamme said. “We have a good group, a solid foundation as a team.”
One teammate who Tamme pointed out as a spiritual leader is quarterback Peyton Manning
. While Manning is known for keeping conversations with the media on football, Tamme described him as a solid example of how a player should handle himself on and off the field.
“Peyton as a leader is as good as it gets,” he said. “He leads in a way that not a lot of guys are able to do. Having him in the locker room is pretty big. ... I don’t know how often he has or hasn’t expressed but yeah, he is certainly a man of faith.”
In the book “Manning
,” published in 2001, the Bronco quarterback gave a rare glimpse of his faith.
“My faith has been number one since I was thirteen,” Manning wrote. “... Some players get more vocal about it ... and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don’t do it, and don’t think it makes me any less a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don’t want to be more of a target for criticism. ... My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago....”
Tamme said Manning is just one example of the many solid Christian athletes in the NFL.
“We have a lot of men of faith on this team ... across the NFL,” he said. “It’s inspiring to get together with these guys and be in unity about that. It’s been special.”
While having that support is important, Tamme also pointed to the Bible as a source of strength and guidance.
“For me the Bible is the rock and the foundation of God’s Word,” he said. “I think it grounds you. For me, there’s all sorts of things that want to get and impact the way that we think. ... Just to have that foundation every morning is a discipline that I’m really working on.
“... To be a part of a team like this has been more than I’ve ever dreamed of as a kid, to play in two Super Bowls in six years,” he added. “To have a chance now to win one and get that ring – it’s been a special year.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)
1/31/2014 11:38:22 AM
Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments