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Houston equal rights ordinance now on appeal

May 5 2015 by Baptist Press staff

The push for a referendum on a controversial Houston ordinance has moved into appeals court, continuing the battle over sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under the city’s anti-discrimination laws.
 
“We talk about the days of my parents when poll taxes and other things were used to eliminate the process of the voting for minorities,” Willie Davis, pastor of MacGregor Palm Community Baptist Church, told reporters at a news April 30 conference called by the Houston Area Pastors Coalition.
 
“And here we have a city mayor … who denies the entire city of Houston the right to vote,” said Davis, one of nearly 100 individuals who circulated petitions to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
 
Davis’ comments came as pastors opposed to the ordinance announced their appeal of a district judge’s ruling April 17 on a jury’s mixed verdict two months earlier. Judge Robert Schaffer’s ruling left opponents 585 validated signatures short of qualifying for a citywide repeal vote in November.
 
The appeal sparked a second round of harsh words by the city’s lead attorney, Geoffrey Harrison.
 
Having “lost the jury verdict and lost the judge’s ruling,” Harrison said the opponents’ “misguided appeal sounds like a continuation of their three-ring circus of discrimination, intolerance and hate,” according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. After the April 17 district court ruling, Harrison said it was “a powerful smack-down against the forces of discrimination and intolerance.” Houston Mayor Annise Parker had made passage of the ordinance a priority for her administration.
 
Andy Taylor, lead counsel for pastors opposing the ordinance, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN that the appeal has three elements.
 
First, a writ of mandamus asks the Texas Supreme Court to order Houston City Secretary Anna Russell to verify the voter registration of all 54,000 petition signers – something she has not done since stopping her count just short of 20,000 after verifying the minimum number of signatures needed to pass the referendum. Her signature verification subsequently was dismissed by Parker and then-City Attorney Dave Feldman.
 
Second, the appeal asks the Texas Court of Appeals to expedite the process, giving plaintiffs a hope of meeting the Aug. 18 deadline for placing the referendum on the November ballot, although the case is likely to go to the Texas Supreme Court.
 
Third, Taylor filed a writ of mandamus with the appellate court asking, again, for the expedited process. A writ of mandamus is a request of a court to rule without the full benefit of court proceedings, which can take six to 18 months. A writ of mandamus is rarely granted, but Taylor said because of time constraints his clients have no adequate remedy to their complaint.
 
Woodfill v. Parker will be heard by the 1st or 14th Texas Court of Appeals in Houston.
 
The Houston ordinance went into effect after Schaffer’s April 17 ruling.
 
Schaffer, of Houston’s 152nd District, rendered the post-trial judgment involving a range of city legal issues over what constitutes a valid signature on a petition. The judge spent two months sorting through a trial jury’s February verdict as well as ongoing legal motions from both the city and opponents of the ordinance.
 
Schaffer’s ruling credited the petition drive with 16,684 valid signatures – 585 short of the 17,269 requirement that would have placed the ordinance on the ballot last November, or 10 percent of the votes cast in the last mayoral election. The petition for a referendum was launched after Houston’s city council passed the controversial measure, called HERO by its supporters, in an 11-6 vote last May.
 
Opponents of HERO – led by the multi-ethnic No UNequal Rights Coalition – subsequently gathered nearly 54,000 signatures. Petitions circulated by 98 individuals underwent extensive legal challenges by city officials last August, at one point dropping the number of valid signatures to 3,905, though the petitions had notary public verifications.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by Bonnie Pritchett, a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, and Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press.)
 

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5/5/2015 11:53:56 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Church history’s mothers ‘sang the truth of Christ’

May 5 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Augustine of Hippo is known by Christians the world over for standing against heresy in the fifth century and laying a foundation for the Protestant Reformation a thousand years later.
 
Lesser known is the fact that Augustine might never have become a Christian if not for his mother Monnica, who prayed for his salvation for years before eventually sailing from North Africa to Italy to beg her son to attend church. He honored her wishes and was saved when he heard the gospel under the preaching of Ambrose of Milan.
 
Monnica – as her name is spelled on her tomb despite commonly being rendered as “Monica” – is one of many noteworthy mothers in church history.
 
“Some of Christian history’s greatest preachers, theologians and missionaries owe the first fruits of their ministries not to their exegetical insights, homiletic abilities or spiritual zeal, but instead to the faithful prayers of their godly mothers,” Christian George, assistant professor of historical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press in written comments. “In the lives of countless Christians throughout the ages, God has often granted second births as a result of those who gave them their first.”
 
Susanna Wesley was another Christian mother whose witness and love for her children helped alter the course of church history. Born in England in 1669, Wesley oversaw the spiritual and educational development of her 19 children – 10 of whom survived to adulthood – while her husband Samuel was away from home for lengthy periods.

 
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Lawrence OP, Flickr
Monnica weeps in prayer for her son, Augustine. Augustine led an immoral life until the prayers of his mother were answered, and he became a Christian. Monnica lived long enough to see Augustine be baptized.

On a rotating basis, each child had a night for individual conversation and prayer with Susanna. She wrote commentaries on the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer as curriculum for her children. One of her sons, John, led thousands to Christ and organized what became known after his death as the Methodist Church. Another son, Charles, wrote more than 6,000 hymns, including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” and “Rejoice, the Lord Is King.”
 
Susanna has been called the “Mother of Methodism” though she never preached and published very few writings.
 
“Susanna patterns for us a mother who worked tirelessly to provide for her children,” George said. “She shows us the power and influence that a mother can have over the development of a child’s theology, spirituality and worldview. She proved to be a woman of great resilience in the face of a domestic life riddled with difficulty, illness and loss.
 
One of Southern Baptists’ heroes similarly owes part of her success to her mother. When Anna Maria Moon’s husband died of a heart attack in 1852, she was left to manage the Virginia family plantation alone and raise four surviving children, including a daughter named Lottie. Believing strongly in the value of education, Moon sent Lottie to the Baptist-affiliated Virginia Female Institute, where she became one of the first women in the South to earn a master’s degree.
 
“Anna’s belief that her daughter should receive a higher theological education placed Lottie on a trajectory that, in 1859, would intersect with a revival led by John Broadus at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” George said. “It was during this revival that Lottie experienced a spiritual awakening that would later result, in 1873, in her decision to move to China and join her older sister Edmonia as a missionary through the Foreign Mission Board.”
 
The annual Christmas offering for international missions named after Lottie Moon generated $154 million for the International Mission Board in 2013, the most recent year for which a gift total is available.
 
Two of the earliest inspirational mothers in church history were a Roman noblewoman named Perpetua and her slave Felicity. Both were mothers of infants when they were martyred in A.D. 203 for refusing to recant their faith in Christ. According to an ancient account of their deaths, the women were beaten and thrown to wild animals before finally being killed with the sword.
 
“Though still nursing her newborn, Perpetua refused to recant despite her father’s pleading,” Rick Durst, professor of historical theology at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP in written comments. “Felicity was pregnant when arrested and thereby temporarily ineligible by Roman law to be put to death in the arena. She prayed that her delivery would come quickly that she might experience martyrdom with her companions, and that is exactly what happened. This story of these courageously faithful young mothers spread rapidly through the churches and encouraged many to stand firm for Christ in times of trial.”
 
Another ancient Christian mother is responsible for some of the Middle East’s most famous Christian landmarks. Helena met and married a high Roman official named Constantinus who later divorced her to marry another woman. Their son Constantine became the first Roman emperor to profess faith in Christ and granted Christianity newfound acceptance throughout the empire during the fourth century.
 
Constantine’s loyalty helped lead Helena to faith in Christ, and upon becoming a believer she took an interest in the geography of Jesus’ earthly life.
 
Constantine “underwrote Helena’s desire to make a pilgrimage to Palestine and to fund the construction of churches at the sites she identified as the birthplace of Christ in Bethlehem and of His ascension in the Garden of Olives,” Durst said. “When the Church of the Holy Sepulcher started construction in A.D. 326, Helena was the architect. She accomplished these journeys in her 70s. Many a modern tourist to Israel owes appreciation to this mother who did much to preserve the sites described in the New Testament.”
 
These and other believing mothers have “staked out some high ground in Christian history,” Durst said.
 
“Believing mothers have rocked cradles with their own ‘Magnificats’ of trust and truth in Christ, as did Mary in Luke 1:46-55,” Durst said, referencing the first word in the Latin translation of Mary’s song of praise. “Mothers have been God’s first line of discipleship down through the ages as God raised up the next generation of church leaders.
 
“Mother’s Day technically may have started in the U.S. in 1910 in West Virginia and then moved nationally in 1914 under President Woodrow Wilson, but God has empowered and honored mothers as His way of providing life, safety and courage in new each generation of children,” Durst said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/5/2015 11:48:38 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Exploring Worth-ship’ blesses ministers 65+

May 5 2015 by Carol Layton, NCBAM Communications

North Carolina Baptist ministers (65+) gathered March 31 at the Hawthorne Inn in Winston-Salem for encouragement, fellowship and worship. The theme of Faith Quest 2 was “Exploring Worth-ship.” This second ENCORE event is part of North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry’s (NCBAM) Servant Care outreach to the state’s pastors, missionaries and other ministers 65+. The event was supported by a special gift from the Baptist State Convention of N.C.

 
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NCBAM photo
As part of the “responding to the call of God” worship experience and the story of the four who carried a paralytic to Jesus, Faith Quest 2 attendees prayerfully consider who is on their blanket or in what ways they see themselves as the one being carried.

Sandy Gregory, NCBAM director, explains the purpose of ENCORE events: “They provide a place for ministers to reflect and to grow with others who have travelled similar paths and who speak the same language – who understand that the gifts and calling of God don’t come with expiration dates.”
 
The event provided a neutral space for ministers to come together in worship and to jointly and individually examine purpose and calling at this time of life. Jack Causey and David Moore led three “worth-ship” experiences: “Gathering in the Name of God,” “Hearing the Voice of God” and “Responding to the Call of God.” Each experience engaged all the senses as participants partook of communion, washed each other’s hands, and prayerfully reenacted carrying a paralytic to Jesus. Responsive conversations in small groups followed each experience. David Williamson provided special music.
 
“The worth-ship experiences were wonderful times of renewal and refreshment,” said Michael C. Blackwell, Baptist Children’s Homes of N.C. president/CEO and NCBAM founder, reflecting on the day. “The leaders and facilitators were seasoned veterans of leading small groups and they quickly built a community of trust.”
 
A common response of attendees from this year’s event as well as the inaugural event in 2014 was the value placed on the opportunity for fellowship and worship with kindred souls.
 
One Faith Quest attendee wrote this note about his experience: “The entire staff made one feel glad to be present. Whatever agenda is planned for next time, I will be pleased with it, because fellowship is the most important element.

5/5/2015 11:33:27 AM by Carol Layton, NCBAM Communications | with 0 comments



Reaching the nations by reaching North Carolina

May 5 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

North Carolina has the largest and fastest-growing immigrant population in the United States, and several other southern states also rank among the national leaders.
 
Interestingly, states where the immigrant population is booming happen to be states where a majority of evangelical churches are located.
 
“That’s just a coincidence, right?” asks Terry Sharpe, strategist with the International Mission Board (IMB).
 
Sharp and his audience know such an influx of people from around the world is not a coincidence, but instead is an opportunity ordained by God to reach men and women of various national, cultural and ethnic backgrounds with the good news of Jesus Christ.
 
Many of those individuals who are migrating to the United States represent people groups that have little or no access to the gospel and are designated as either unreached or unengaged by IMB.

 
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BSC photo by Chad Austin
Bryan Galloway of the International Mission Board was one of the leaders for the People Groups Discovery and Engagement Workshop March 30-April 1 in Cary.

“Whatever reason they are here, God is sovereign, and God is providing an opportunity that they might have a chance to hear the gospel,” Sharp said.
 
“God is providing that opportunity. Will we as a body of Christ be faithful to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them?”
 
Sharp and his IMB colleague Bryan Galloway recently spent time equipping and training pastors and ministry leaders from across the state in how to discover and engage people from different ethnic backgrounds who are moving to the region.
 
Sharp and Galloway led the People Groups Discovery and Engagement Workshop from March 30 to April 1 at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina offices in Cary.
 
The goal of the three-day workshop was to help attendees learn how to carefully examine, naturally encounter and intentionally engage people from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The event featured classroom training and a field-ministry exercise.
 
Attendees learned how to conduct research on PeopleGroups.info, a web-based resource that contains helpful data and information that can be used to learn more about the demographics of a particular community. Attendees also learned how to observe signs of cultural and ethic diversity in their communities and neighborhoods. They also learned how to engage individuals through the use of culturally-appropriate questions (see below).
 
During the field exercise, attendees divided into small groups and went out into the community to visit ethnic restaurants and markets, as well as places of worship for people of other faiths. Attendees were encouraged to apply the skills acquired in the classroom during the field component by observing and asking questions about things such as family, their home country, language, beliefs, dress, decor, religious symbols and more.
 
Several attendees later said they were pleasantly surprised to learn how many individuals from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds were willing to interact and converse, even about topics related to faith and religious beliefs. Participants said they came away from the workshop realizing that they could begin incorporating aspects of the training into their everyday lives, while also training and equipping friends and members of their congregations to do the same.
 
“The great thing about this is we are not asking people to add something to their already busy schedule,” said workshop attendee Mike Fry, who serves as missions and evangelism pastor at Richland Creek Community Church in Wake Forest.
 
“Instead, this is something that we can blend into our everyday lives. We can reach the nations as we live out our lives, and we can do it right here.”
 
And by reaching people here, they have the potential to take the gospel back to their home countries as they share Christ with family and friends.
 
“If we touch them here, it goes back there,” Galloway said.

 

The Five Fs

Asking open-ended questions is a good way to engage internationals in conversation and build relationships with them. Here are five topics that all begin with the letter F that you can use to begin building relationships with others in your community.

  • Family

  • Friends

  • Food

  • Faith/Festivals

  • Future

5/5/2015 11:28:54 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists receive communication honors

May 5 2015 by BR staff

During the Baptist Communicators Association (BCA) annual meeting April 15-18, several North Carolina Baptists received awards for print, video, photography and social media work.
 
Recipients of the 2015 Wilmer C. Field Awards were announced April 17 during a banquet held at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary overlooking San Francisco, Calif.
 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) and the Biblical Recorder (BR) were among the winners.
 
In the Interactive Communication Division, Sam Morris and the SEBTS Office of Communications placed first in the social media application category for “The Go Sign.”
 
In the Audio-Visual Communication Division, K Brown of BSC won first place in Video (including podcast) Editorial feature, less than 5 minutes category. His winning entry was titled “Love Through Touch.” Maria Estes of SEBTS placed first in the Video (including podcast) Editorial feature, more than 5 minutes category for “GO: Meeting Needs to Save Lives.” Brown also placed third in the Video (including podcast) – other category for “This is Romil.”
 
In the Photography Division, Brown received two first place awards. One was in the Feature – International – Single category for “Healing Light,” and the other was in the Portrait (Domestic or International) category for “Last Light.”
 
Carol Layton of NCBAM tied for first place in the Feature Writing Division for the Single Article – 750-1,500 words category. Her winning entry was titled “New Wheelchair Ramp Renews Mobility.” In the same division, Layton placed second in the Promotional and Advertising Copy category for “Serving Up the Best.”
 
In the Design Division, the BR tied for third with the Illinois Baptist and The Pathway for the Publications – State Baptist Newspaper category.
 
SEBTS’ Bailey Shoemaker placed third in the Promotion and Advertising – Poster or Flyer category for “The Joyful Collective.” Ryan Thomas, also of SEBTS, placed first in the Promotion and Advertising – Print Ad – Single category for his “Where Are You Going?” advertisement.

5/5/2015 11:24:18 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments



SBC Exec. Comm., boards and other committees announced

May 4 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Nominees to serve on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, the four denominational boards – International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources and GuideStone Financial Resources – the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the six seminaries and the Committee on Order of Business have been selected by the 2015 SBC Committee on Nominations.
 
Nominees will serve if elected by the messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, June 16-17 in Columbus, Ohio.
 
Executive Committee (83 members): 21 nominations considered; 10 new members; 11 renominations.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2019 replacing members ineligible for re-election are Paul S. Hicks, pastor, West Jefferson Baptist Church, Quinton, Ala., replacing Steven W. Loggins, Mount Olive, Ala.; Clay Hallmark, pastor, First Baptist Church, Marion, Ark., replacing Jay F. Shell, Batesville, Ark.; Randy P. McWhorter, director of evangelism, California Baptist University and member of Woodward Park Baptist Church, Fresno, Calif., replacing Roger L. Spradlin, Bakersfield, Calif.; Jay McCollum, pastor, First Baptist Church, Gallup, N.M., replacing David W. King, Albuquerque, N.M.; Dave Bryan, pastor, Chisholm Heights Baptist Church, Mustang, Okla., replacing Doug Passmore, Lawton, Okla.; Kim Grueser, pastor, Pittsburgh Baptist Church, Pittsburgh, Pa., replacing Procopio DeLeon, Laurel Springs, N.J.; Dwight M. Easler, pastor, Corinth Baptist Church, Gaffney, S.C., replacing J. Paul Fleming, Greenville, S.C.; Robyn A. Hari, layperson and member of ClearView Baptist Church, Franklin, Tenn., replacing David C. Perdue, Cordova, Tenn.; Jared C. Wellman, pastor, Mission Dorado Baptist Church, Odessa, Texas, replacing David Dykes, Tyler, Texas.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2017 is Richard R. Wilburn, pastor, Tupper Lake Baptist Church, Tupper Lake, N.Y., replacing Dale Suel, Amherst, N.Y., who resigned.
 
Nominated for second term are Tim E. Brasher, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Pat Pavlian, Highland, Calif.; James A. Ray, Clearwater, Fla.; Bill Prince, Covington, Ga.; Chris Metcalf, Lihue, Hawaii; Bill D. Whittaker, Glasgow, Ky.; Eddie DeHondt, Shreveport, La.; Lovina K. Rush, Kearney, Mo.; Joe Knott, Raleigh, N.C.; Kent Choate, Broken Arrow, Okla.; Carol A. Yarber, Brownsboro, Texas.

 
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GuideStone Financial Resources (45 trustees): 13 nominations considered; 4 new trustees; 9 renominations.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2019 replacing trustees ineligible for re-election include Dennis W. Adams, pastor, The Church at Arrowhead, Glendale, Ariz., replacing Danny H. (Dan) Coker Sr., Glendale, Ariz.; Joshua D. Goepfrich, pastor, Warsaw Baptist Church, Warsaw, Ind., replacing Thomas A. (Tom) Seel, Clarksville, Ind.; Odean Busby, layperson and member of First Baptist Church, Magee, Miss., replacing Joseph D. (Jody) Fail, Bay Springs, Miss.
 
Also nominated for term to expire in 2019 is Charles T. Brake, layperson and member of Abounding Grace Ministries, Deerfield, N.H., as a new trustee representing New England.
 
Nominated for second term are Rick L. Lance, Montgomery, Ala.; Kenneth C. (Ken) Whitten, Lutz, Fla.; James S. (Steve) Dighton, Lenexa, Kan.; Robert S. (Rob) Gibson, Goshen, Ky.; John D. Cameron, West Monroe, La.; David W. Morley, Enid, Okla.; Michael S. (Mike) Hamlet, Spartanburg, S.C.; E. Scott Turner, Plano, Texas; Kenneth C. (Ken) Price, Beaverdam, Va.
 
International Mission Board (82 trustees): 23 nominations considered; 12 new trustees; 11 renominations.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2019 replacing trustees ineligible for re-election are Lisa A. Lovell, layperson and member of First Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ark., replacing Stuart Bell, Centerton, Ark.; Ken W. Gross, layperson and member of Trinity Southern Baptist Church, Fresno, Calif., replacing R. Blake Withers, Redlands, Calif.; David E. Beauchamp, pastor, Crescent Beach Baptist Church, St. Augustine, Fla., replacing Debora D. (Debbie) Brunson, Jacksonville, Fla.; Morgan D. Kerr, pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Savannah, Ga., replacing Martha H. Wilson, Millen, Ga.; John L. Waters, pastor, First Baptist Church, Statesboro, Ga., replacing Jana T. Brown, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.; M. David Sills, professor, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of Ninth & O Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky., replacing Hershael W. York, Frankfort, Ky.; Deron J. Biles, professor, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of North Richland Hills Baptist Church, North Richland Hills, Texas, replacing Marshall D. Johnson, Irving, Texas; Ron Phillips Sr., layperson and member of Birchman Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, replacing James T. (Jay) Gross, Conroe, Texas; Kay Norred, layperson and member of Calvary Crosslink Church, Harrisonburg, Va., replacing Charlene D. Hahn, Norfolk, Va.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2018 are Richard L. Avey, associate pastor of missions and outreach, First Baptist Church, Cabot, Ark., replacing Matt Pearson, El Dorado, Ark., who resigned; Larry Lambes, pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Carlisle, Ohio, replacing Gerald Doss Estep, Lebanon, Ohio, who resigned.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2017 is Hance Dilbeck, pastor, Quail Springs Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, Okla., replacing Doyle R. Pryor, Sapulpa, Okla., who resigned.
 
Nominated for second term are F. Max Croft, Scottsboro, Ala.; Jay L. Wolf, Montgomery, Ala.; Don McDonald, Fort Smith, Ark.; Kristen K. White, Riverside, Calif.; Chuck Pourciau, Shreveport, La.; Tim L. Simpson, Clarksburg, Md.; Marvin (Rick) Dunbar, Madison, Miss.; Robert G. (Gary) Barkley, Excelsior Springs, Mo.; Andy Davis, Durham, N.C.; Claude Anthony (Tony) Smith, Anderson, S.C.; H. Dean Haun, Morristown, Tenn.
 
North American Mission Board (57 trustees): 14 nominations considered; 11 new trustees; 3 renominations.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2019 replacing trustees ineligible for re-election are Erin S. Bounds, layperson and member of North Valley Baptist Church, Odenville, Ala., replacing Larry E. Gipson, Oneonta, Ala.; Noe Garcia, collegiate pastor, Cross Church, Fayetteville, Ark., replacing Ronald L. (Ronnie) Toon, Batesville, Ark.; Nathan Millican, pastor, Oak Park Baptist Church, Jeffersonville, Ind., replacing Douglas K. (Doug) Dieterly, Lakeville, Ind.; Andrew M. (Andy) Addis, pastor, CrossPoint, Hutchinson, Kan., replacing Steven D. (Steve) Holdaway, Bellevue, Neb.; Tanya K. York, layperson and member of Buck Run Baptist Church, Frankfort, Ky., replacing M. Jason Pettus, Bowling Green, Ky.; Alisa J. Henley, layperson and member of Spruce Saint Matthew Baptist Church, Kansas City, Mo., replacing John P. Wenberg, Bridgeton, Mo.; Bill D. Richard, layperson and member of First Baptist Church, Moriarty, N.M., replacing Carroll E. Vaughn, Bloomfield, N.M.; Steve Hardy, Great Commission Partnership Office, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and member of Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., replacing James S. (Bud) Parrish, Gibsonville, N.C.; Stephen P. Spurgin, pastor, First Baptist Church, Miamisburg, Ohio, replacing Steven G. (Steve) Mayes, Amherst, Ohio; Danny Ringer, associate pastor, First Baptist Church, Elk City, Okla., replacing Patrick L. (Pat) Adams, Edmond, Okla.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2016 is Andy W. Childs, pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Toccoa, Ga., replacing Michael Edwards, Powder Springs, Ga., who resigned.
 
Nominated for second term are Richard T. (Rick) Wyatt, Brandon, Fla.; David A. Parks, Lexington, Ky.; Gregory A. (Greg) Varndell, W.Va.
 
LifeWay Christian Resources (58 trustees): 12 nominations considered; 8 new trustees; 4 renominations.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2019 replacing trustees ineligible for re-election are Cheri Dempsay, minister to children and women, First Sahuaro Ranch Baptist Church, Glendale, Ariz., replacing Lorie Honeycutt, Wellton, Ariz.; Terenda Wyant, director of childhood ministries, Sterling Baptist Church, Fairview Heights, Ill., replacing Judy Taylor, Harrisburg, Ill.; Marie Clark, retired Sunday School director, Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists and member of Nall Avenue Baptist Church, Prairie Village, Kan., replacing Carol L. Smith, Great Bend, Kan.; Bill Langley, pastor, Severns Valley Baptist Church, Elizabethtown, Ky., replacing Adam W. Greenway, Mount Washington, Ky.; Rebecca McCoy, layperson and member of Charity Baptist Church, Paris, Mich., replacing Sharon B. Williams, Holt, Mich.; Tony McAlexander, manager of technology, sound and video, Twin Lakes Baptist Church, Las Vegas, Nev., replacing Mike B. Farris, Tonopah, Nev.; Amy Mielock, layperson and member of First Baptist Church, Cary, N.C., replacing Simeon (Lee) Childs, Garner, N.C.; Katherine A. Pope, layperson and member of Baker Heights Baptist Church, Martinsburg, W.Va., replacing Jennie L. Harbour, Princeton, W.Va.
 
Nominated for second term are Wayne G. Story, Springdale, Ark.; Steven M. McNeil, Indianapolis, Ind.; Harry Forester, Shreveport, La.; Michael J. (Mike) Stevens, Texas.
 
Southern Seminary (44 trustees): 8 nominations considered; 5 new trustees; 3 renominations.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2020 replacing trustees ineligible for re-election are Steven R. Hussung, pastor, Rich Pond Baptist Church, Bowling Green, Ky., replacing William H. (Bill) Haynes, Somerset, Ky.; Carl M. White, pastor, Highland Baptist Church, Meridian, Miss., replacing John A. Temple, Meridian, Miss.; Clint L. Pressley, pastor, Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C., replacing T. Scott Eanes, Statesville, N.C.; David F. Gray, pastor, First Baptist Church, Garrettsville, Ohio, replacing Danny L. Lambert, Westerville, Ohio; Howard A. Pope, layperson and member of Highview Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky., replacing Frank F. Broadus, Jr.
 
Nominated for second term are Julie C. Emerson, Lafayette, La.; Matt Schmucker, Washington, D.C.; Rose W. Harris, Elizabethtown, Ky.
 
Southwestern Seminary (40 trustees): 10 nominations considered; 6 new trustees; 4 renominations.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2020 replacing trustees ineligible for re-election include JoAnne Ruble, layperson and member of Big Creek Baptist Church, Pleasant Hill, Mo., replacing Beverly J. (Joy) Stephenson, St. Louis, Mo.; Tim McPherson, pastor, Poplar Corner Baptist Church, Brownsville, Tenn., replacing Miles F. (Mike) Boyd, Jr., Knoxville, Tenn.; Philip Levant, pastor, Iglesia Bautista LaVid, Colleyville, Texas, replacing John Mark Caton, Allen, Texas.
 
Also nominated for term to expire in 2020 are Paul Kim, retired pastor and member of Antioch Baptist Church, Cambridge, Mass., as a new trustee representing New England; Andre M. Palmer, pastor, Evergreen Baptist Church, Brooklyn, N.Y., replacing Mary Basconcellos, Lincroft, N.J., who declined to serve a second term.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2016 is Matthew A. Kirkland, pastor, Good Shepherd Baptist Church, Christiansburg, Va., replacing Kevin King, Huddleston, Va., who resigned.
 
Nominated for second term are Timothy M. (Mark) Hindman, Prattville, Ala.; Denise B. Ewing, Winthrop Harbor, Ill.; Herschel D. Smith, Gwinn, Mich.; Charles R. (Randy) Martin, Longview, Texas.
 
New Orleans Seminary (41 trustees): 7 nominations considered; 3 new trustees; 4 renominations.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2020 replacing trustees ineligible for re-election are Jason E. Langley, pastor, Lakeside Baptist Church, Mannford, Okla., replacing Paul T. Jones, Midwest City, Okla.; Shawn Paschal, pastor, First Baptist Church, Tom Bean, Texas, replacing Marvin L. Rose, Baytown, Texas; John P. Foster, layperson and member of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, La., replacing Michael L. Sullivan, Houston, Texas.
 
Nominated for second term are Thomas H. Douglas, Kansas City, Kan.; Margaret R. Marcus, Flushing, Mich.; Dennis J. (D.J.) Horton, Moore, S.C.; Dennis J. Mizack, Roanoke, Va.
 
Southeastern Seminary (30 trustees): 8 nominations considered; 5 new trustees; 3 renominations.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2020 replacing trustees ineligible for re-election are Alex G. Gonzales, pastor, Hickory Tree Baptist Church, Batch Springs, Texas, replacing Brian A. Akers, Jarrettsville, Md.; William T. (Todd) Jones, pastor, Colesville Baptist Church, Silver Spring, Md., replacing J. Michael Palmer, Roanoke, Va.; Rusty Small, pastor, Liberty Baptist Church, Appomattox, Va., replacing Chester H. (Sonny) Holmes, Jr., North Charleston, S.C.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2017 is Gregory T. Pouncy, pastor, First Baptist Tillman’s Corner, Mobile, Ala., replacing David E. Brown, Wheat Ridge, Colo., who resigned.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2016 is Laura Small, layperson and member of First Baptist Church, Beaverton, Ore., replacing Jeremy E. Dollar, Las Vegas, Nev., who resigned.
 
Nominated for second term are Becky L. Gardner, Washington, Ill.; Jeremy Freeman, Newcastle, Okla.; Richard E. (Dick) Baker, Norfolk, Va.
 
Midwestern Seminary (35 trustees): 11 nominations considered; 6 new trustees; 5 renominations.
 
Nominee with term to expire in 2020, replacing trustee ineligible for re-election is Ralph B. Lassiter, pastor, Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, Omaha, Neb., replacing Larry D. Dramann, Lafayette, Colo.
 
Also nominated for term to expire in 2020 is Hugh K. Stidham, pastor, Good Shepherd Baptist Church, Scott Depot, W.Va., replacing Justin M. Shamblin, Charleston, W.Va., who declined to serve a second term.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2018 are Rex Smith, layperson and member of First Baptist Church, Paducah, Ky., replacing Larry T. Lewis, Paducah, Ky., who resigned; M. Lee Roberson, layperson and member of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church, Hobbs, N.M., replacing Gordon R. Sidwell, Roswell, N.M., who resigned.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2017 is Brandon Shields, pastor, Soma Baptist Church, Indianapolis, Ind., replacing James L. (Jim) Downey, Seymour, Ind., who resigned.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2016 is John Mathena, layperson and member of Quail Springs Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, Okla., replacing Duncan Locke, Jacksonville, Ill., who resigned.
 
Nominated for second term are Daniel R. Heeringa, Houston, Miss.; William D. Bowyer, Wake Forest, N.C.; Stanley K. Mauldin, Paoli, Pa.; Dwight A. Blankenship, St. Louis, Mo.; D. Douglas Richey, Excelsior Springs, Mo.
 
Golden Gate Seminary (39 trustees): 8 nominations considered; 4 new trustees; 4 renominations.
 
Nominee with term to expire in 2020, replacing trustee ineligible for re-election is J. Robert (Bob) White, state executive director, Georgia Baptist Convention and member of North Metro First Baptist Church, Lawrenceville, Ga., replacing Jay McSwain Jr., Duluth, Ga.
 
Also nominated for term to expire in 2020 are David E. Crosby, pastor, First Baptist Church, New Orleans, La., replacing Clay Crenshaw, Bossier City, La., who declined to serve a second term; Steve Davidson, pastor, Clovis Hills Community Church, Clovis, Calif., replacing Benny Wong, Los Angeles, Calif., who declined to serve a second term.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2019 is Kirby Kennedy, pastor, First Baptist Church, Palatka, Fla., replacing Al Fernandez, Miami, Fla., who resigned.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2016 is Philip W. Kell, president, California Baptist Foundation and member of Woodward Park Baptist Church, Fresno, Calif., replacing Seung Hwan Choi, San Jose, Calif., who resigned.
 
Nominated for second term are Paul Shepherd, Whitehall, N.Y.; Ralph C. Duke, Herndon, Va.; K. Milton Higgins, Madera, Calif.
 
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (34 trustees): 10 nominations considered; 6 new trustees; 4 renominations.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2019, replacing trustees ineligible for re-election include Mike L. Wilson, pastor, Lincoln Heights Baptist Church, Mansfield, Ohio, replacing Stephen W. Long, Perrysburg, Ohio; Justin T. Sampler, pastor, First Baptist Church, Inola, Okla., replacing Patrick G. Kinnison, Broken Arrow, Okla.; Trevor M. Atwood, pastor, City Church, Murfreesboro, Tenn., replacing Ronnie J. Wilburn, Jackson, Tenn.
 
Also nominated for term to expire in 2019 are Robert L. Orleck, layperson and member of Baptist Fellowship, Randolph, Vt., as a new trustee representing New England; Roger Manao, pastor, Philadelphia Bible Church International, Upper Darby, Pa., replacing Michael R. Stike, Peach Bottom, Pa., who declined to serve a second term.
 
Nominated for term to expire in 2017 is B. Todd Howard, pastor, Watson Chapel Baptist Church, Pine Bluff, Ark., replacing Richard D. Piles, Camden, Ark., who resigned.
 
Nominated for second term are J. D. Traylor, Hanover, Ind.; Tammie Andrews, Independence, Mo.; Tami L. Fitzgerald, Raleigh, N.C.; Barry K. Creamer, Dallas, Texas.
 
Committee on Order of Business (7 members): 2 nominations considered; 2 new members.
 
Nominees with term to expire in 2018, replacing members ineligible for re-election are Grant C. Ethridge, pastor, Liberty Baptist Church, Hampton, Va., replacing Stephen N. Horn, Lafayette, La.; David W. Galloway, layperson and member of Arapahoe Baptist Church, Centennial, Colo., replacing Lester O. Hoffman, Cambridge, Ohio.

5/4/2015 3:09:29 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



SCOTUS marriage decision could threaten seminaries

May 4 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist seminary leaders are among those expressing concern at the U.S. solicitor general’s admission that nationwide legalization of gay marriage could lead to the removal of tax-exempt status from religious institutions that stand for traditional marriage.
 
Also expressing concern are the National Religious Broadcasters and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
 
Todd Linn, chairman of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustees, told Baptist Press the “prospect of legalizing gay marriage across the nation raises a host of questions and concerns for religious institutions and conservative evangelical seminaries such as SEBTS.”
 
The concerns of Linn and others stem from an exchange at the U.S. Supreme Court April 28 between Associate Justice Samuel Alito and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli during oral arguments for the case which could result in nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage.
 
In response to the federal government’s argument that gay marriage should be declared a constitutional right, Alito asked Verrilli about institutions that refuse to permit gay marriage, citing a 1983 decision in which the Supreme Court upheld the Internal Revenue Service’s revocation of a tax exemption for Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian school in Greenville, S.C.

 
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Photo by Benson Kua. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The court “held that a college was not entitled to tax-exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating,” Alito said. “So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage?”
 
Verrilli responded, “You know, I – I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. I – I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is – it is going to be an issue.”
 
Verrilli, Linn said in written comments to BP, “opened the door to a number of other possible concerns. One can only imagine how legalizing same-sex marriage might also affect religious freedoms relating to admissions or hiring and firing.
 
“While many aspects of this issue remain unclear at the present, the seminary will be closely following all court cases and legislation that may impact the institution,” said Linn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Henderson, Ky.
 
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said the institution will stand firm in its support of biblical marriage regardless of any legal challenges.
 
“New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary affirms without reservation the biblical teachings on marriage and sexual morality,” Kelley told BP in written comments. “Marriage is between a man and a woman. Any sexual relationship outside the bonds of biblical marriage is wrong before God. All members of the NOBTS family are always responsible for upholding these biblical values. We anticipate no change in our policies or standards, and we will deal with any legal challenges to them as necessary.”
 
Russell Moore and Andrew Walker of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) called Verrilli’s exchange with Alito “the most shocking moment in the arguments.” Moore is ERLC president and Walker is director of policy studies.
 
“If a revisionist view of redefined marriage is treated as a matter of civil rights, then the government could seek to use its tax power to coerce religious institutions to violate their own God-given consciences and their constitutionally guaranteed free exercise of religion. The Founders warned us that the power to tax is the power to destroy,” Moore and Walker wrote in an article at erlc.com.
 
“The Solicitor General is signaling that at least this Administration is quite open to destroying those who hold a view of marriage held by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox, evangelical Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, many Sikhs and Buddhists. It was even a position held by the President himself until his most recent ideological evolution,” Moore and Walker wrote.
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted that an exchange between Chief Justice John Roberts and Verrilli also referenced religious schools. When Roberts asked, “Would a religious school that has married housing be required to afford such housing to same-sex couples?” Verrilli “did not say no,” Mohler observed.
 
“The Chief Justice asked the unavoidable question when he asked specifically about campus housing,” Mohler wrote in a blog post. “If a school cannot define its housing policies on the basis of its religious beliefs, then it is denied the ability to operate on the basis of those beliefs.
 
“The ‘big three’ issues for religious schools are the freedoms to maintain admission, hiring, and student services on the basis of religious conviction. By asking about student housing, the Chief Justice asked one of the most practical questions involved in student services. The same principles would apply to the admission of students and the hiring of faculty. All three are now directly threatened,” Mohler wrote.
 
Among others to weigh in on the religious liberty implications of legalizing gay marriage nationwide:
 
– NRB President Jerry Johnson said the possibility of religious colleges losing tax-exempt status “is a direct threat to religious liberty.”
 
“Verrilli cleared up any confusion,” Johnson said in an NRB news release. “The Obama administration would be open to targeting religious organizations if they dare stay true to the tenets of their faith on marriage. The intolerance of the LGBT lobby is no secret, but it is greatly disturbing to hear such an admission from the federal government.”
 
Joe Carter, an ERLC communications specialist, wrote a blog post for the Acton Institute titled “How the Federal Government May Put Christian Schools Out of Business.”
 
Bob Jones University’s stance against interracial marriage “was indeed loathsome and contrary to Scripture, which the school later admitted when it apologized for its racist past,” Carter wrote. “But opposition to same-sex marriage is not the same as racial animus. Yet the government, through its representative, has now signaled that Christian schools may soon be treated like racists and pariahs for refusing to give up the view of marriage shared by almost all people throughout history prior to the 1990s.
 
“This threat is more radical than many people realize. It’s not merely that Christian schools will have to choose between accepting federal funds and keeping their religious views about sexuality. If the choice were to follow the example of schools like Hillsdale College [in Hillsdale, Mich.] or New Saint Andrews College [in Moscow, Idaho] and forego taking any federal money, the decisions about what to do would be painful, but obvious. But what is being proposed is to revoke non-profit status, a move that would destroy many schools,” Carter wrote.
 
Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation wrote, “Nowhere are the consequences of redefining marriage clearer than with religious liberty. And yet the Obama administration’s Solicitor General Donald Verrilli admitted that religious schools that affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman may lose their non-profit tax-exempt status if marriage is redefined.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

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Going to court
‘Pray for marriage’ ERLC urges for Supreme Court

5/4/2015 2:58:30 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Is RFRA dead in N.C.?

May 4 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Supporters of North Carolina’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) gathered on the lawn of the lieutenant governor’s office building in Raleigh on April 28 to encourage lawmakers to pass the bill in the current legislative session. The crowd of more than 75 included religious leaders and legislators from Boone to Wilmington.
 
Speaker Tim Moore told the press on April 23 that the N.C. House would not consider RFRA this session. But statements made at the gathering contradict Moore’s announcement.
Two bills are waiting consideration, one in the House, HB 348, and one in the Senate, SB 550.
 
On the House side, primary sponsors of the legislation include Reps. Jacqueline Schaffer and Dan Bishop. Primary Senate sponsors include Sens. Warren Daniel, Buck Newton and Dan Souchek.
 
In a press conference outside Lt. Gov.Dan Forest’s office, Forest said RFRA is “an easy issue” for the people of North Carolina. “America could not be what America is today without religious freedom.”
 
“The most basic of all freedoms outlined in the first amendment of the constitution, the very first words in the very first amendment to the United States Constitution that allowed that constitution to be ratified by the states was the freedom of religion.” He emphasized that religious freedoms preceded freedom of speech, freedom of press and the freedom to assemble. “So, we think it is the basic foundational principle ... that has made America what it is today.”
 
Sen. Souchek said legislators need to look at the essence of the bill. “In 1987 I raised my hand at West Point and swore the first article of the code of conduct of the U.S. Army, ‘I am an American fighting man serving the forces which guard my country and our way of life, and am prepared to give my life in its defense,’” he said.
 
“As a soldier I willingly said I will lay down my life for freedom in this country. Freedoms are what made this country great. Religious freedom is a foundational principle whether you look at our society, our family or even our businesses.”
 
Souchek disputes business leaders’ claims that RFRA is bad for the economy. Many states with “booming economies” have enacted this legislation, he said. “Freedom is never bad for the economy or for jobs. I support this for our families, I support this for our businesses and I think it’s just the right thing to do to continue our legacy as a beacon of freedom and hope in the world.”
 
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, told the crowd, that religious freedom is a fundamental human right that has existed since the origin of the United States. “Some are trying to attribute wrong motives to this legislation and have put out a great deal of misinformation,” she said.
 
A similar bill has been passed in 28 states, and a federal law was passed 22 years ago and signed by then president, Bill Clinton. “This bill is a simple bill that allows North Carolinians to be free to live and work according to their beliefs,” Fitzgerald added. “It’s that simple. Others are trying to complicate this and say it is something besides that. But religious freedom is a basic human right that deserves protection under the law.”
 
Speakers regularly pointed to a recent poll that said 90 percent of North Carolina’s citizens believe religious freedom should be protected by law, and not left open for the courts to decide when individual religious freedom is burdened.
 
Fitzgerald said the proposed RFRA “is a balancing test that balances the rights of individuals to freely practice their beliefs in their lives and work against the interests of the government. The law says the government has a high burden of proof to burden someone’s religious freedom.”
 
Kelly Fiedorek, attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, spoke to the necessity of the state law. “You have absolute freedom of press, but unfortunately the U.S. supreme Court in 1990 substantially weakened the protection that courts give to religious freedom,” she said.
The federal law was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Ted Kennedy and had unanimous support in the house, Fiedorek explained. It was a bi-partisan effort.
 
“This is a common sense bill that simply insures that every citizen – regardless if you are a Democrat or Republican, whether you are gay or straight – regardless of what your beliefs are, this insures that you have a defense to make in court. It balances the government interests with citizens’ freedoms.” She said RFRA will provide the same dignity, fairness and tolerance as the freedom of press, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
 
Dan Bishop, represents Charlotte in the N.C. House. “The freedoms in the constitution that we swore an oath of office to maintain, protect and defend are the bedrock upon which our success is founded, the success of all business is founded,” he said. Six of the ten fastest growing state economies in the United States are states that have a RFRA, according to Bishop. “We’ve had some setbacks,” he added. “The message that I am here today to deliver is that I don’t intend to stop fighting for this piece of legislation because it’s important.”
 
He said the encouragement of citizens gives him courage. “Courage is essential for leadership, but it sometimes seems almost incompatible with politics.” Bishop hopes momentum from the grassroots citizens will motivate legislators to pass RFRA.
 
Forest was asked about the bill’s status. “The bill was heard in committee and the decision is not made until time runs out on this session. We are running out of time for the house or senate to take this bill up on the floor, but we hope it happens and we are encouraged,” he said.
 
Fitzgerald said the law needs to be passed this year because there is uncertainty in the courts.
 
“The issue here is that N.C. law does not firmly embrace the strict scrutiny test which has always been used by courts around the country, including the U.S. Supreme court, to balance and evaluate when the government can intrude upon a person’s rights to freely exercise their religious beliefs,” she added.
 
Bartley Wooten, pastor of Beulaville Baptist Church, brought six church members to the capitol for Tuesday’s event. “This is one of the most important issues facing our culture and our country today,” he said. “If leaders aren’t willing to stand up for religious freedom I believe our country will go in a direction that will be destructive.”
 
The previous Sunday Wooten preached a sermon about the attacks on religious freedom. He said the message was a response to the encouragement of the church members who asked him to address the issue. He said they asked for a better understanding of the biblical response to the crisis.
 
Some opponents of RFRA are focused on promoting same-sex marriage. If the same-sex marriage mantra defeats RFRA in the state Wooten said he does not believe that will be the end of the conversation. “I think there is a greater agenda that is willing to minimalize and take away the voice of Christianity. My fear is that it will ultimately become illegal for a pastor to preach against same-sex marriage and religious persecution will follow,” he added.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE -- K. Alan Blume is the chief editor for the Biblical Recorder.)

5/4/2015 2:46:37 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Kentucky Derby not the only day of track chaplain's year

May 4 2015 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

As a chaplain, Chris Wong readily talks to people he's never met. At Churchill Downs, that can get you on TV.
 
After last year's Kentucky Derby, Wong struck up a conversation with a woman on the grounds. She turned out to be the wife of Steven Coburn, owner of the winning horse California Chrome, and they happened to be in the background of NBC's post-race interview.
 
Wong, a master of divinity student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, immediately received a text message to let him know he was on national television.

 
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SBTS photo
Chris Wong, a Master of Divinity student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivers a morning devotional in Spanish over the intercom at Churchill Downs, April 29.

Wong laughs about it now as part of his overall Kentucky Derby experience. “To see it live and right there on the track was really exciting,” he said.
 
As the Kentucky Derby was held May 2 for the 141st time, the national sports media focused on Churchill Downs for just one day. But activity is ongoing at the track, and not just during the race season. Jockeys, exercise riders, hot walkers, horse grooms, blacksmiths and security staff are among the 1,000 people who work at the Backside of Churchill Downs throughout the year 700 of whom live there.
 
As associate chaplain with Kentucky Racetrack Chaplaincy, Wong has ministered at Churchill Downs since January 2014. When Daniel Hatfield, senior pastor at Louisville's Audubon Baptist Church where Wong attended at the time, heard from the chaplaincy that they were looking for a bilingual minister, he immediately thought of Wong.
 
Wong, who is from Miami, and whose parents are originally from Peru, is a native Spanish speaker, an important part of the Churchill Downs ministry since 75 percent of residents at the track speak Spanish as their first language. Wong said he wasn't planning on a job like this but soon realized his passion for face-to-face ministry had prepared him for such a role.
 
“I never had the intention to be a chaplain,” Wong said. “I didn't look for this job, it just kind of came to me, and God was already preparing me for it.”
 
One of the chaplaincy ministries at Churchill Downs is a chapel service on Monday evenings, which attracts 100-plus attendees during the race season. Either Wong or Ken Boehm, the senior chaplain at the track, preaches for a half-hour seeking to impart the gospel to people who don't typically hear it.
 
The rest of Wong's ministry is interpersonal. Wong said he enjoys studying and preaching like any other seminary student, but he especially values building relationships with people.
 

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SBTS photo
Chris Wong prays with an employee on the Backside of Churchill Downs.

“I really love sharing the gospel in one-on-one contexts,” he said. “I don't want to discourage people from sharing the gospel right off the bat, but I think the Gospel speaks through a full-embodied life too, through the way you are, the way you look at people, the way you talk to people. They can tell there's something different about you.”
 
Wong arrives at Churchill Downs just before 8 a.m. each day. After praying, he gives a one-minute devotional in Spanish over the intercom, which is broadcast throughout the Backside.
 
He then walks through the barns, talking to anyone he can find. Since they're all working, Wong usually only manages to greet them or have a brief conversation and maybe a short prayer. Many will invite him to birthday parties for their children or other events, and sometimes, when crisis strikes, Wong is someone they'll call.
 
Last year, one worker was beaten up so badly in a fight that he required facial reconstruction. Wong visited him regularly, bringing meals to his apartment on the Backside, talking with him and praying. He also makes hospital visits and is always a phone call away for people going through hard times. Wong said his main goal is to have a regular presence and give a voice of hope to the residents.
 
“People need someone to follow, and that isn't a chaplain, that's Jesus Christ.”
 
Many jockeys arrive at Churchill Downs with dreams of glory and fame, but it doesn't always work out that way. One jockey called Wong just to ask why he is “always so happy.” Wong said that's humbling to hear, especially when he's upset at the time or not in a good mood. He believes he's called to be a minister of peace in their lives by pointing them to a source of lasting hope.
 
“A lot of people come with the weight of expectations,” Wong said. “Their dream has been shattered and their hope in life is crumbling before them. I tell them this is an opportunity to draw near to God, to see there's more to life than merely the things before you.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J.W. Smith writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

5/4/2015 2:33:25 PM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



Women consider surrender, sacrifice and service

May 4 2015 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

“The sacrifices of the missionary calling are not in the conveniences of life but I’ve often heard my parents say the greatest sacrifice of the missionary calling is family,” said Gordon Fort, senior vice president of the office of prayer mobilization and training for the International Mission Board (IMB).
 
Fort remembers growing up in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). His parents would pull out the prayer list at the end of a meal to pray for the missionaries who had birthdays that day.
 
“The group I always knew was taking my name to the throne of God was WMU” or Woman’s Missionary Union, said Fort, missionary kid turned missionary. “WMU was doing missions before missions was cool.”
 
Fort, along with Phyllis Elvington and Edna Ellison, both of South Carolina, were the main speakers during WMU-NC’s Missions Extravaganza April 17-18 at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

 
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BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Phyllis Elvington, left, leads a prayer for new officers and regional representatives for the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina. See photo gallery.

Fort remembers his mother being notified by telegraph that her mother had died. By the time the family received notice, her mother was dead and buried.
 
“She had to wait for three more years for her stateside furlough to go to the cemetery [in Louisiana] and grieve the death of her mother,” he said.
 
Fort’s father received a telegram telling him his youngest brother had a brain tumor.
 
“I had never seen my father cry,” he said. “He sat in [a] rocking chair and just rocked with the tears streaming down his face because he knew he wouldn’t be there in the last days of his brother’s life.”
 
Fort asked the more than 800 women if the God who would provide in their time of desperation wasn’t also “the One who can ask of you anything?”
 
Speakers stressed the theme “All For You: Surrender – Sacrifice – Serve.” Music was provided by various groups and individuals from Ardmore Baptist under the leadership of David Fitzgerald, the church’s minister of worship, music and arts.
 
Ellison, author and WMU leader, told the ladies that God is good “in everything we do.” She scoffs at the idea that God is too hard to understand. “God is too good for us to understand,” she stressed.
 
National Acteen panelists from North Carolina also shared with participants. Haley Harrison and Kiara Curry are members at University Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte.
 
Both girls stressed the opportunities offered them because they are Acteens.
 
Curry said her fellow Acteens keep her accountable and provide encouragement.
 
“I feel as though I’m ready to take on the world one teen girl at a time,” Curry said.
 
Harrison said being part of Acteens has taught her to witness “in both word and deed” and showing believers and unbelievers the love of Christ.
 
“Acteens gives you close fellowship with other teen girls that you might not have otherwise,” Harrison said.
 
Elvington’s message focused on the word “all.”
 
“I don’t think we get it,” she said. “I think most of us are really fans of Christ not followers of Christ, because it doesn’t cost you anything to be a fan of Christ, … but it’s going to cost you everything to be a follower of Christ.”
 
She challenged the ladies about their families and their finances.
 
“As a Christian your foundation is Jesus,” she said. “As a Christian marriage your foundation is Jesus. You need to pray for your spouse every day.”
 
She also said women need to pray with their husbands every day. The same practice should be carried out with the children too: pray for them and with them.
 
“Children don’t learn how to pray in Sunday School,” she said. “They learn how to pray at home.”

 

WMU-NC business

During the 124th annual meeting’s business session Ruby Fulbright, former executive director-treasurer, presented Dorothy Barham her Heritage Award, which had been announced in February.
 
“If I could choose only two words to describe Dorothy they would be prayer and missions,” Fulbright said of the Lillington Baptist Church member. “The prayer that burdens Dorothy’s heart and keeps her on her knees is her prayer for those who are lost.”
 
The women approved a reduced budget of $955,694. WMU-NC’s 2014 budget was $991, 387, and the 2013 budget was more than $1.3 million. While the group did finish 2014 in the black, Mary Ellen Bowman, chairwoman of the finance committee, said that was because the group has not filled the position of executive director-treasurer.
 
“We can only pinch so many pennies [before] we begin to take the heart” of the organization, Bowman said. “There’s nowhere else to cut. The solution is [to] give more.”
 
WMU-NC receipts were down 6 percent last year and 17 percent over the last two years.
 
Tana Hartsell, former president, is acting executive director-treasurer. WMU-NC presented a monetary gift in her honor to the Good Shepherd Children’s Home in Guatemala, which was established by the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina in partnership with WMU-NC and N.C. Baptist Men. WMU-NC also presented Hartsell with a personalized throw with the WMU logo on one side and a photo of Hartsell with her name and years of service as president on the other side.
 
Participants at the meeting approved a proposal from Hartsell to move the meeting dates from April 8-9 to March 11-13 in 2016. The meeting will be held at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain.
 
WMU-NC added about 50 new groups – Children in Action, Acteens, Girls in Action, Royal Ambassadors, Women on Mission, etc. – during the last year. Hartsell stressed the Great Commission and the importance of joining God where He is working
 
“Missions education remains at the foundation” of WMU-NC, Hartsell said.
 
Participants took an offering  of $5052.62 to go towards Project Help: PTSD, aiding in helping people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Women also gave $325 to the Heck-Jones Offering and $340 towards operating cash for WMU-NC.
 
“It’s not easy to find someone who cares or who is willing to listen,” said Wanda Croom, a WMU leader and member of Dobson First Baptist Church, who shared about her and husband’s struggle with PTSD.
 
A Vietnam veteran, Dobson’s husband has struggled with PTSD long before PTSD was recognized. “Some days he’s just anxious for no apparent reason,” she said. “Project help … gives us hope.”
 
Participants voted on new officers and regional representatives for the Executive Board: Dee Dee Moody, president (First Baptist Church, Salisbury); Deborah Taylor, vice president (Great Marsh Baptist Church, Saint Pauls); Mary Ellen Bowman, vice president of development (First Baptist Church, Wilmington); Barbara Hill, recording secretary (Fairview Baptist Church, Statesville); Beth McDonald, assistant recording secretary (McDonald Baptist Church, Rockingham); Jeanette Walters, Region 2 (Love Memorial Baptist Church, Goldsboro); Tammy Weeks, Region 3 (Piney Grove Baptist Church, Faison); Dorothy Barham, Region 4 (Lillington Baptist Church, Lillington); Irma Duke, Region 4 (Baptist Fellowship of Angier); Judy Pettigrew, Region 9 (Waynesville First Baptist Church); and Debbie Hooper, Region 10 (Scotts Creek Baptist Church, Sylva). Regional representatives serve three-year terms.

5/4/2015 2:18:05 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



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