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IMB personnel policy may draw messenger questions

June 16 2015 by Baptist Press staff

A Louisiana director of missions has urged pastors in the Baptist association he leads to raise questions about new personnel policies of the International Mission Board (IMB) during the IMB’s report at the June 16-17 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), according to a June 10 report by the Southern Baptist TEXAN newsjournal.
 
Lonnie Wascom, a former IMB trustee and director of missions and ministries for the Northshore Baptist Association in Hammond, La, wrote in a June 2 email to the nearly 100 pastors in the association that he has “major concerns” related to the missionary qualifications policy adopted by IMB trustees during their May 12-13 meeting in Louisville, Ky.
 
SBC President Ronnie Floyd told the TEXAN he hopes any questions posed by messengers during the IMB’s report to the convention June 17 would be voiced “with love and respect for the trustee process.” Floyd added that individuals should exhibit the same “commitment to the Word of God and its principles” that guided the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence three decades ago. After all, Floyd said, “We are family.”
 
IMB spokesperson Wendy Norvelle, in a statement to Baptist Press, said, “We look forward to clarifying the content and intent of these policies during the convention for anyone who has questions. We’ve received overwhelming positive support from Southern Baptist pastors for these changes. We are excited about partnering with Southern Baptist churches in greater ways than ever in the days to come.”
 
Wascomb, chair of the IMB trustee committee that framed the former policy on the gift of tongues, or glossolalia in Greek, wrote in the June 2 email that the focus of his concern are policies pertaining to “the views and life experiences of [missionary] candidates on believer’s baptism, glossolalia and divorce.”

 
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IMB Photo by Paul W. Lee
IMB President David Platt addresses trustees during their plenary session May 13 in Louisville, Ky. Platt announced a policy to streamline guidelines for appointing new personnel within the framework of the Baptist Faith & Message.

The newly adopted policy replaced previous automatic disqualifications related to baptism, speaking in tongues and divorce among other matters in an effort to keep basic missionary requirements from going beyond the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM), IMB President David Platt told reporters May 14.
 
“We want it to be simple and clear that what’s driving us doctrinally is what all these churches [of the Southern Baptist Convention] have agreed on in the Baptist Faith and Message,” Platt said during the hour-long telephone press conference. “... We’re tethering ourselves to the Baptist Faith and Message, and we tethered ourselves to it in such a way that if the Southern Baptist Convention were to edit or adjust the Baptist Faith and Message a year from now or two years from now or whenever, then that would adjust the way we work.”
 
Platt reaffirmed in the press conference that all missionary candidates must “believe and function” in accordance with the BFM, which defines baptism in Article VII as “the immersion of a believer in water.” Platt also said IMB policy precludes disruptive emphasis by a missionary on any spiritual gift and that the marital history of all candidates will be considered.
 
Previous policies “were put in place at various times for good reasons,” Platt said, but needed revision given the demands of fulfilling the Great Commission today.
 
Wascom asserted the new policy will “lead to disunity and confusion in SBC life,” though he expressed hope he is incorrect.
 
“The ‘turned over’ policies were established over a long period of time involving study, input from all six SBC seminaries and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, lengthy conversations with field personnel regarding the potential impact to their work, etc.,” Wascom wrote. “The overturned policies took much longer to get in place than the period of time the current president has in his entire tenure to this point.”
 
Most of the Texas trustees who serve on the IMB interviewed told the TEXAN said they have received little negative feedback from pastors and other Southern Baptists.
 
“It’s been quiet,” stated trustee John Meador of Euless. “I’ve not had anyone approach me with specific concerns.”
 
Trustees Byron McWilliams of Odessa, Jay Gross of Conroe, June Richards of Keller and Robert Welch of Brownsboro related similar experiences of little or no inquiries following the vote.
 
“I fielded a few questions early on, some negative,” McWilliams said. “However, I’ve also had a very fair amount extend their support for the changes.”
 
Trustee Mike Simmons of Midlothian could not attend the May meeting but has had some requests for clarification primarily from members of the church he pastors.
 
“The expressions that I have received are of disagreement and concern about adopting a policy that has been dealt with extensively in previous years, and especially during the tenure of Dr. Jerry Rankin,” Simmons said. “The concern is that we are opening a door that will be difficult to close, and very well could create division within the convention, as well as, loss of support for the IMB.”
 
Trustee John Mann of Springtown told the TEXAN he had received a number of inquiries from fellow pastors he has known for years about various IMB-related matters, but “I have not received as much personal correspondence as I expected.”
 
“The calls I have received have been more for clarification,” stated Nathan Lorick of Fort Worth. “I am in conversations hearing people excited about the changes as well as people concerned.”
 
Trustee Jaye Martin of Cypress, who also missed the IMB trustee meeting, felt the change was given serious discussion in the months prior to the vote. She has heard nothing but positive feedback to the decision.
 
“IMB is just aligning with BFM,” she told the TEXAN. “Even before David Platt [came], we had been hearing lots from old and young about the policies – that we were not aligned with SBC ‘flexibility.’“
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press.)

6/16/2015 3:33:41 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Steve Green’s Bible curriculum is a hit in Israeli schools

June 16 2015 by Michele Chabin, Religion News Service

Students at 16 Israeli high schools are completing a yearlong pilot program developed by the Washington-based Museum of the Bible, funded by the billionaire Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain.
 
The Israeli pilot program, known as TAMAR, represents the museum’s first successful educational program. Seven additional schools have requested the program next year.
 
Hobby Lobby President Steve Green founded the Museum of the Bible to showcase his family’s vast collection of rare Bibles and biblical artifacts. The 430,000-square-foot building three blocks from the U.S. Capitol is expected to open to the public in 2017. The Greens, who are prominent evangelicals, are also known for winning a 2014 Supreme Court case that exempted their chain store from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
 
But the first launch of the museum’s ambitious Bible curriculum didn’t go so well.

 
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Photo courtesy of Museum of the Bible
Students gather around a tablet screen overlaid onto the hardcopy curriculum textbook.

Last year, an Oklahoma school district shelved a similar curriculum after the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a freedom-of-information request to determine the school board’s role in developing and approving the curriculum.
 
The district’s superintendent said the body had dropped the course because it had not received access to the entire final curriculum and feared the civil liberties groups would file suit against it.
 
The Israeli curriculum, which was already in the works by the time the Oklahoma curriculum was nixed, was tailor-made for Israel’s publicly funded secular Jewish school system, and contains no Christian content, according to the museum and Israeli educators.
 
The Israeli government requires all Jewish schools to teach the Hebrew Bible to their students. High school matriculation exams include biblical literacy and comprehension.
 
Created in partnership with Israel-based technology company Compedia and vetted by Israel’s Ministry of Education, the two-volume course is taught with iPads that the museum supplied to all the students. The museum, and by extension, the Green family, spent millions of dollars developing the program.
 
Its cutting-edge computer graphics and 3D animation are intended to make biblical stories come alive for Israeli teens, who study the Bible in the original Hebrew.
 
Nadavi Noked, who taught TAMAR (a Hebrew acronym for Bible and augmented reality) at the Bliech High School in Ramat Gan, said the program has the potential to encourage students to explore what in non-Orthodox Israeli circles “can be a slightly unpopular subject given the emphasis on math, science and computers.”
 

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Photo courtesy of Museum of the Bible
A student tinkers with augmented reality technology on her tablet, pointing the camera over the printed textbook and watching the pages come to life.

Traditional Bible study, Noked said, “is a very text-based, very black-and-white subject. TAMAR approaches the text through layers and layers of information that the students discover, making the Tanakh (the Hebrew term for the Bible) more relevant to their lives.”
 
When studying the Israelites’ journey through the desert after fleeing Egypt, for example, the students utilized modern technology, such as GPS and mapping, to explore where and why the Israelites may have chosen one route over another.
 
When the students studied the chapters containing Noah’s Ark, Noked said, the program introduced flood narratives from ancient cultures that contain similar motifs.
 
But the curriculum also emphasizes the Bible’s influence on law and government. In a promotional video for the pilot, a teacher demonstrates to the Israeli students the Bible’s reach by having them identify a biblical quote from the prophet Micah that is engraved in stone at the Library of Congress.
 
“You see where the Bible connects to the legislature of the United States,” the teacher says, noting that the U.S. government, which had numerous quotes to choose from, chose this biblical verse to model how the country’s legislatures should behave.
 
The emphasis on the Bible’s influence is part of a broader push in some evangelical circles to promote the notion that America’s earliest leaders were deeply shaped by the Bible, and that governance and the Bible should not be mutually exclusive.
 
Noked called the curriculum “a very positive experience. It’s made Bible study more interesting, more relevant. The combination of ancient texts with modern technology has created a new learning experience that our students relate to.”
 
Jerry Pattengale, the Museum of the Bible’s executive director of education, said that during the museum’s assessment visits to schools using the Israeli program, “teachers and students showed enthusiastic appreciation for the curriculum and its innovative engagement in learning.”
 
The Israel program, he said, “will help the museum improve its educational offerings for students and teachers from around the world who are interested in high-quality, engaging courses about the Bible.”
 
Based on the pilot, said Pattengale, who also sits on the board governing Religion News Service, Israel’s Ministry of Education has approved the curriculum’s use for other Jewish schools in the country.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michele Chabin is the middle east correspondent for RNS.)

6/16/2015 12:19:06 PM by Michele Chabin, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Can These Bones Live? refreshing yet brief

June 15 2015 by Cody Cunningham, Book Review

Church planting has enjoyed a renewed interest in recent years. Droves of practitioners have joined together to form massive church-planting networks, published stacks of books on the subject and have written a whole host of blog posts discussing the various approaches to planting churches. While this increased attention to church planting is encouraging, church revitalization has not always experienced the same level of careful contemplation. It is sometimes viewed as the less appealing option for pastoral ministry.
 
This trend is changing with more pastors and academics championing the cause of revitalization. One of those advocates for church revitalization is Bill Henard, pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., and a professor of evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His book, Can These Bones Live?, is a clear, practical guide to help ministers accomplish the difficult work of revitalization.
 
The title, which is based on the prophecy of Ezekiel 37, clues readers into two important characteristics of Henard’s work: his desire to see dying and declining churches experience life once again and his deep trust in God’s life-giving power to transform congregations.

 
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There is much to praise about the book, especially Henard’s contention that church revitalization is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit working through the preaching of the Word and prayer. His focus is refreshing in light of the vast number of resources that focus on methods and programs as primary means for achieving church growth. Henard warns, “Not all church growth is healthy church growth. Not all churches that are growing experience biblical church growth. Drawing a crowd is not the same as growing a church.”
 
Henard is right to point readers to the true spiritual nourishment that only the Lord can provide. Church revitalization is not simply about growing a church’s membership roll, but about seeing God produce a harvest of men and women committed to following Christ with all of their lives.
 
The subtitle of Can These Bones Live? describes the book as “a practical guide to church revitalization,” and readers will not be disappointed with the wide range of topics addressed. Written for pastors or involved laypersons, Henard offers numerous lists of practical assessment questions for churches. These questions bring up a host of issues, ranging from organizational structure to the condition of women’s restrooms.
 
While some books on church and ministry stick to abstract theological truths, Henard’s pastoral experience becomes apparent as he guides readers through a number of practical – and often overlooked – areas that should be addressed in church revitalization.
 
The majority of the book focuses on the assessment of one’s local church, and the final chapter introduces Henard’s “Change Matrix.”
 
This matrix is a four-step course of action that pastors can use to implement needed changes in their congregation. It is not a gimmick that promises an easy transition process in every decision. Henard is clear that revitalization is messy work that requires patience and wisdom from pastors and congregations alike. So, he provides an outline for pastors to consider as they implement changes.

 
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Cody Cunningham

The matrix is a potentially helpful resource for the church revitalizer, but the chapter felt dissatisfying because of its brevity.
 
Henard tried to unpack the Change Matrix – a distinguishing feature of the book – in a meager seven pages, not enough space for readers to fully grasp how to utilize the matrix in their respective ministry situations.
 
Additionally, there were a few topics that were noticeably omitted from the book. For instance, recovering biblical church membership is a component that seems essential to the process of church revitalization; it is largely missing in the book. Henard mentions the importance of a “New Member” class, but very little discussion about what constitutes church membership can be found.
 
Many, if not most, declining or dying congregations have lost sight of what it truly means to be a member of a local church. After all, statistics show that almost two-thirds of Southern Baptists are missing from corporate worship each week, according to a 2014 Baptist Press report on the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profile. Henard overlooked an important opportunity to encourage churches toward recovering healthy church membership.
 
Along the same lines, the topic of church discipline was missing from the book. God has given us church discipline as a means to purify His bride (Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5), and any congregation seeking revitalization must reclaim the biblical practice of church discipline. It seems peculiar that a practical guide to church revitalization would neglect to give churches wisdom on how to implement church discipline, a practice that is sadly missing from many Southern Baptist churches.
 
Our country, our own denomination even, is filled with churches that desperately need a fresh wind from the Spirit. While we cannot produce spiritual renewal through our own efforts, the Lord has a history of graciously pouring out his revitalizing Spirit on churches that align their hearts and practices with the Word. Henard does churches a service by providing a book that gives readers practical questions to assess and address areas that need to be realigned with God’s scriptures. Even though readers could benefit from a fuller discussion of church membership and discipline, the book still provides a great deal of wisdom and guidance as church leaders labor to build up the body of Christ. It is certainly worth a read for those who are interested in the work of church revitalization.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cody Cunningham is a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes at codycunningham.com.)

6/15/2015 12:50:49 PM by Cody Cunningham, Book Review | with 0 comments



Cowboy church ropes hearts with rodeo, worship

June 15 2015 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Each year Triad Cowboy Church (TCC) attracts people from its community and beyond by hosting a professional rodeo.
 
While roping calves and riding bulls are not generally associated with most churches, this Archdale congregation places a high priority on offering a free event to the cowboy community.
 
“It’s just a good, clean, multi-hour event that a family can go to,” said Pastor Doug Davis. “We provide everything. Rodeo is something people are attracted to.”
 
The May 2 event attracted more than 3,000 people and resulted in 121 salvation decisions and 249 re-dedications. During the worship service, Davis shared an evangelistic message and invited commitments. Some filled out cards, which were then placed in buckets, but others came forward into the arena to pray and make public decisions. Those who made commitments were given a cowboy-themed New Testament Bible and a booklet called “Living in Christ.”

 
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Contributed photo
Doug Davis, right, along with Jim King, left, bring Chelsea Kindall up out of the water. Kindall was one of five Triad Cowboy Church members that were baptized on May 2 at the church’s annual rodeo.

This year’s event was the first time the church offered a public altar call during the worship service. This was also the first year the church held a public baptism. Five members agreed to be baptized by Davis and Jim King, TCC’s associate pastor, in a water trough on a trailer towed by a truck into the arena.
 
“This year, the stands filled up for that event,” Davis said. “For the first time it was like a holy hush fell over the entire arena. People were not talking; people were totally engrossed in the baptism. It was absolutely unbelievable.”
 
Decisions will be sorted and spreadsheets shared with pastors in Randolph Baptist Association (RBA). For those outside RBA, information will be forwarded to the appropriate association for follow up with the participants.
 
Rodeo events included team roping, mutton busting, greased pig chases, barrel racing and bull riding. Outside the arena, volunteers set up slides and bounce houses and had a train to ride. The only cost was for food, which the group tries to keep affordable.
 
Davis said the rodeo takes all year to plan and costs more than $10,000. Purse prizes are given to winners of the professional events. The church also held a drawing for an iPad.
 
World champion bull rider Jerome Davis and his wife Tiffany, host the event on their property. The Davises (no relation to Pastor Doug Davis) are members of TCC. Jerome Davis, a world champion bull rider, was paralyzed in a 1998 bull riding accident. He and his wife, Tiffany, raise livestock for rodeos.
Most of TCC’s members volunteer to help with the event. The church’s flag team performed, and a member sang the national anthem.
 
“Just about the entire church is involved,” Doug Davis said. “This is a major deal. It takes a lot of hands on deck to pull this off.”
 
The rodeo has grown over the last five years from 1,000 people at an indoor arena to more than 3,000. Davis said the prayer is that the event will continue to grow. It began at a time when the economy was struggling, Davis said. Typical rodeo events cost $25 per person for adults about $10 for children, but Davis said TCC wanted to offset those costs as much as possible. They recruit sponsors, who are recognized for their contributions. The larger sponsors are allowed to set up displays, but they can’t sell anything.
 
“We blanket our community,” Davis said, to recruit support.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – TCC is available to assist other cowboy churches in planning their own evangelistic rodeo. Contact pastortcc@yahoo.com.)

6/15/2015 12:28:01 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



Abedini beating intensifies calls for release

June 15 2015 by Baptist Press staff

American pastor Saeed Abedini has been “viciously” beaten in the Iranian prison where he is being held for his Christian faith, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported June 10, prompting renewed calls for Abedini’s release as a condition of any nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran.
 
“It is crucial to speak out for Saeed as we approach the June 30th deadline between the United States and Iran,” Abedini’s wife Naghmeh said in a June 10 Facebook post. She added June 30 “is also Saeed and I’s 11th year anniversary.”
 
Naghmeh Abedini is scheduled to address the Pastors’ Wives Conference in Columbus, Ohio, June 15 preceding the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 16-17. She will also briefly address the SBC Pastors’ Conference June 15, delivering an update on her husband. Pastors’ Conference attendees will then pray for her and Saeed.

 
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Saeed Abedini

Fellow prisoners attacked Saeed Abedini June 3 as he attempted to leave his cell, punching him in the face and demolishing a table he used while studying and reading, the ACLJ reported. Prison guards stopped the attack and a prison doctor determined Abedini did not have any broken bones.
 
Naghmeh Abedini explained in a second June 10 Facebook post, “Saeed’s father was not able to see Saeed last week because of a holiday in Iran, but today he was truly shaken to learn of the beating that Saeed had endured. Saeed’s father was also treated horribly and harassed by the prison guards and staff and could only visit Saeed for a short time.”
 
In testimony before Congress June 2, Naghmeh Abedini said U.S. negotiators should discuss her husband and other Americans held captive in Iran during nuclear talks rather than merely mentioning them on the sidelines. Click here to read Baptist Press’ report.
 
“As I shared in front of our Congress last week, the Iranian government might turn up the heat in the furnace (as in Daniel 3),” Naghmeh Abedini said on Facebook, “but Saeed refuses to deny his faith in Jesus Christ and continues to be a witness in that dark prison. Jesus is with Saeed in that fiery furnace. He wants you to know that he has felt your prayers in his darkest moments. Thank you.”
 
News of Abedini’s most recent beating also prompted calls for action and expressions of sympathy on Twitter. Among them:

  • “Not good, not good at all,” conservative radio commentator Janet Parshall tweeted. “... Act quickly.”

  • “Please continue to pray for Pastor Saeed,” the Calvary Chapel movement tweeted. “He was brutally beaten in prison this past week.”

  • “Take 2 minutes and urge John Kerry to prioritize freedom of Saeed Abedini in talks with Iran,” a Christian blogger tweeted.

  • “The more the so-called ‘religion of peace’ persecutes #christians like #PastorSaeed the more testimony will spread. Pray for him NOW!” one woman tweeted.

ACLJ executive director Jordan Sekulow wrote in a news release of Abedini’s Christian faith, calling him “beaten and bruised for the gospel.”
 
“It is vitally important that as negotiations face an imposed June 30th deadline between the United States and Iran that our government make every effort – use every tool in its diplomatic arsenal – to bring Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen – home to his loving wife and two young children,” Sekulow wrote.
 
“With every beating, with every demand that he recant his faith in Christ and become Muslim or else be forced to serve even more than his 8-year-sentence, Pastor Saeed’s situation becomes more dangerous,” Sekulow wrote.
 
Abedini has been imprisoned in Iran since Sept. 26, 2012, because of his Christian faith. He was sentenced Jan. 27, 2013, on charges he threatened Iranian national security by planting house churches years earlier, and had been under house arrest since July 2012.
 
An online petition calling for Abedini’s freedom has garnered more than 938,000 signatures.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/15/2015 12:21:38 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Southeastern, Campbell, Gardner-Webb leaders offer graduates advice

June 15 2015 by BR staff

At the May 2015 commencement ceremonies 110 North Carolinians graduated from Campbell University, Gardner-Webb University, Southeastern, Midwestern and Southern Baptist theological seminaries with religious degrees at the masters and doctorate levels.

 
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Presidents and keynote speakers offered sage advice to graduates at each of the schools on what to focus on as they move forward in their ministries and careers. In keeping with their nickname, “The Great Commission Seminary,” Daniel Akin challenged graduates at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with Jesus’ last words in Matthew 28:18-20 in his May 15 commencement address. He highlighted God’s sovereign power, plan and promise.
 
“As you go and do what God has called you to do, you need to daily continue to acknowledge His authority,” Akin said. “Now that you are in Christ you have access to His authority and power.”
 
Campbell University’s May 8 ceremony  was bittersweet as president Jerry Wallace made his last commencement address before retirement ... He told the class of 2015 they will always have a special place in his heart.
 
“You are the last class that will bear my name on your diplomas,” Wallace told the students. “So we are always bonded together. Don’t you let me down, and I’ll try not to let you down.”
 
At the Gardner-Webb University May 9 commencement exercises, several students were chosen as keynote speakers. Elizabeth Hope Arnold of Drexel, who earned a master of divinity in biblical studies, offered a speech during the ceremony. She shared her thankfulness for the opportunity to fully embrace the Gardner-Webb experience. “From the first day of class, it was apparent that we would not all think alike, but we began to understand that our identity as the Kingdom of God does not depend on our uniformity, but rather on our love for one another,” Arnold said. “Today, we celebrate our success, the accomplishment we could not have obtained without each other. I am profoundly grateful for this community of faithful, loving people and the privilege to walk alongside them as friends.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Emily Blake, editorial aide for the Biblical Recorder.)
 

6/15/2015 12:14:48 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



Gift of ultrasound to open up ministry in Columbus

June 15 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

For Michael Brooks, the gift of an ultrasound machine this Sunday means God is providing through Southern Baptists a way for Stowe Mission of Central Ohio to help desperate women, save unborn babies and share the gospel.
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) will make the presentation to Stowe two days before the beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in downtown Columbus, where the mission is located. The ERLC will present the sonogram machine during the June 14 corporate worship of Veritas Community Church, a Southern Baptist church in Columbus.
 
The presentation will be the latest through the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project, which provides ultrasound machines for gospel-focused pregnancy help centers throughout the United States.
 
For Stowe, the machine will be a vital part of launching a ministry its leaders have seen a need for. Stowe – an outreach of the Metro Columbus Baptist Association – already offers a soup kitchen, food pantry, urgent care, dental clinic, eye clinic, HIV/STD testing, tutoring, job training, clothing distribution, as well as mental health screening in cooperation with other agencies. Such a diversified ministry has brought women in crisis through Stowe’s doors.
 
“We see teenagers coming in pregnant,” said Brooks, Stowe’s president. “We have young women who are addicted to heroin and being worked by pimps, and we see them coming in pregnant.
 
“It’s one thing to say, ‘Don’t abort, but go and be blessed,’ and not do any other things with them,” he told Baptist Press. “[T]he desire of our hearts is not just to say, ‘Don’t have an abortion’ but to be able to walk them through that process and show them that this is a real person that they have developing inside and give them a biblical worldview and then the best support that we can in bringing that person” into the world.
 
Part of helping women with crisis pregnancies is “providing the emotional and spiritual support, practical assistance through God’s people to face a future with hope that only Christ can give,” Brooks said.
 
“In many ways, we’re hoping this will open up our outreach to the community and allow us to share the Lord with them.”
 
Brooks had dreamed of Stowe starting a pregnancy help ministry, but the need for money and personnel was an impediment. God seems to be “using the ERLC and Southern Baptists to put that package together,” he said.
 
He acknowledged Stowe is “breaking the mold on how this usually works.” After ERLC staff visited Stowe and decided to donate a machine, Brooks said his worry was: “Okay, I’ve got this awesome piece of equipment that God’s given us, but I need staff to run this. And God’s honored that request too. So we have someone to put the clinic together and to run it, and we’ve got a whole folder full of names and phone numbers, nurses and folks that have been involved in pregnancy ministries that are calling and saying, ‘I’m on board. Just give me the call.’”
 
The ERLC is thankful to be able to partner with Stowe in helping women and babies, said Dan Darling, the ERLC’s vice president for communications.
 
“I’m inspired by the faithful service of the team at Stowe, which lives out a gospel ethic by serving the least of these with holistic health services,” said Darling, who will speak about the Psalm 139 Project June 14 at Veritas. “We’re excited about the unborn lives, created in the image of God, who will experience life due to this new ultrasound technology.”
 
ERLC President Russell Moore will preach on the gospel and racial reconciliation during all three of the services at the Veritas campus where the presentation to Stowe will be made.
 
The Metro Columbus Baptist Association has more than doubled its number of churches to 119 since 2004. Stowe’s ministry has increased dramatically as well. For instance, it has grown from about 20,000 meals served 12 years ago when Brooks arrived to nearly 165,000 last year. About 750 volunteers from local churches run the mission’s programs, he said.
 
“I just sit in my chair and just am absolutely blown away and amazed at what God has put together here,” Brooks said. His wife, Janet, and he formerly served with the International Mission Board, then the North American Mission Board. “You dream and then you try to scheme and figure out how I can make this work and where can I get the money and those kinds of things. And God, He already knew that and has already put all those pieces in place.”
 
Previously, the ERLC has provided ultrasound machines through the Psalm 139 Project to pregnancy centers based in San Marcos, Texas; New Albany, Ind.; Denver; Corinth, Miss.; Lakeland, Fla.; Phoenix; Louisiana; Houston; and Woodbridge, Va. The presentation to Stowe will mark the sixth consecutive year the ERLC has provided an ultrasound machine to a center near the location of the SBC’s annual meeting.
 
The Psalm 139 Project gets its name from the well-known chapter in the Bible in which David testifies to God’s sovereign care for him when he was an unborn child. David wrote in verse 13 of that psalm, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
 
All gifts to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchase, delivery and installation of ultrasound machines, as well as training for staff members, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the SBC’s Cooperative Program. Information on the Psalm 139 Project and how to give toward providing ultrasound machines through the ministry is available at http://psalm139project.com/.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/15/2015 11:56:29 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. House overturns governor’s marriage bill veto

June 13 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

The North Carolina House voted June 11 to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2, which allows government officials the ability to opt out of performing same-sex marriages. McCrory vetoed the bill May 28, saying government workers needed to uphold their oath of office and perform their duties, according to WRAL.

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North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory

 
The Senate voted 32-16 against the veto four days later, before it moved on to the House. The House voted 69-41 to overturn the governor’s action. Ten members of the 120-member House were not present at the time of the vote.
 
The bill says magistrates and registers of deeds have the right to opt out of performing any marriage if they do so based on “any sincerely held religious objection.” 

Opponents argued that the bill allows discrimination. Supporters noted that there is no "duty" under state law for magistrates and registers of deeds to perform marriages. It is an "additional authority" of the office.
 
Supporters also said the bill protects freedom of religion for government officials.
 
Senate Leader Phil Berger said, “This bill strikes a critical balance to make sure the freedoms granted to some under recent court orders do not erase the constitutionally-protected rights of others.”
 
“The legislation became necessary after federal court rulings knocked down the state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman, forcing same-sex marriage on a citizenry that voted to uphold the traditional understanding of the sacred institution,” said Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
 
“Subsequently, at least 16 magistrates resigned their posts. Eight were known to have resigned because they felt their faith prohibited them from performing gay nuptials.”
 
Opponents of the bill, like Gov. McCrory, argue that magistrates and registers of deeds must fulfill all of their constitutional duties, upholding their obligation to the law.
 
He said in a statement after the vote, “It’s a disappointing day for the rule of law and the process of passing legislation in North Carolina. … I will continue to stand up for conservative principles that respect and obey the oath of office for public officials across our state and nation,” according to WRAL.
 
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, said in a press release, “It’s hard to believe that any governor – much less a conservative one – would veto a bill protecting the religious freedoms of his constituents. The House and the Senate made the right call in overriding Gov. McCrory’s ill-advised veto and we are grateful for their continued leadership in fighting to preserve this fundamental American freedom.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor.)

 

6/13/2015 3:31:37 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



1985 Dallas SBC: 'a watershed moment'

June 12 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

For pastor’s wife Ritchie Hale, attending the 1985 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting meant sleeping in a 1960 popup camper with her husband and four children amid 100-degree temperatures and thunderstorms. For Conservative Resurgence leader Morris Chapman, that meeting occasioned one of the clearest personal directives God had ever given him. For moderate leader Cecil Sherman, it was the first time he contemplated losing the battle for the SBC.
 
All three knew the Dallas annual meeting 30 years ago was of monumental importance in the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence. By some estimates, the 45,519 registered messengers may have constituted the largest deliberative body ever assembled.
 
“The 1985 annual meeting was a watershed moment in the conservative revolution in the convention,” said Gregory Wills, professor of church history and dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SBTS) the school of theology. “Southern Baptist moderates mobilized all their resources to stop the conservative advance at the Dallas meeting. Their bid to regain the presidency failed.
 
“Equally important was the convention’s vote to appoint what became known as the Peace Committee, whose work affirmed that the controversy in the SBC derived largely from genuine theological differences,” said Wills.

 

A turning point in the resurgence

Hale, whose husband Sheldon pastored Liberty Baptist Church in Auburn, Ky., at the time, was willing to endure the steamy popup camper parked some 30 miles from the convention center, and dressing four children in their Sunday clothes in campground bathhouses, because she believed reelecting the conservative Charles Stanley as SBC president could make an eternal difference.
 
Hale’s husband was a student at SBTS, and she found it “disheartening” to hear his reports of professors’ claiming there were errors in the Bible. By electing an unbroken succession of SBC presidents committed to biblical inerrancy, Hale believed messengers could set in motion a process that eventually would return SBC seminaries to their biblical roots.
 
Chapman’s role in reelecting Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, began a few weeks earlier at a McDonald’s in Wichita Falls, Texas, where Chapman was pastor of First Baptist Church. As he ate lunch, “it was as if the Lord said audibly, ‘You are going to nominate Charles Stanley for his second term as SBC president,’“ Chapman said. He resisted the idea initially because it seemed strange to call a preacher of Stanley’s stature and announce such a clear sense of direction from God.
 

6-12-15_SBCwatershed_WEB.jpg

SBHLA photo
The 1985 SBC annual meeting’s 45,000 messengers led to a host of logistical troubles, with some messengers seated on the floor and others in overflow rooms.

But that afternoon, Stanley’s associate Fred Powell called with a message: Stanley wanted Chapman to nominate him. “I [was] really spooked that God was so faithful to make His will for me known so dramatically and clearly,” Chapman said.
 
When Chapman made his nomination on the convention’s opening day, Stanley was reelected over moderate challenger Winfred Moore by a 55.3-44.7 margin – a victory some attributed to a telegraph from evangelist Billy Graham supporting Stanley that was publicized the morning of the election. That victory, combined with Jimmy Draper’s election as SBC president in 1982 upon Chapman’s nomination, led a friend to dub Chapman, who went on to become SBC president and president of the SBC Executive Committee, the “common nominator” of convention presidents.
 
Sherman, then-pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, had campaigned against Stanley in the months leading up to the Dallas meeting. Sherman believed SBC conservatives’ attempt to limit positions of denominational service to proponents of biblical inerrancy would damage the convention’s historic cooperation for missions and evangelism. Along with fellow moderate Larry McSwain of SBTS, Sherman believed 16,000 votes for Moore would defeat Stanley and stem the tide of the Conservative Resurgence.
 
Counting on at least that many moderate votes, Sherman “went to Dallas with hope that we would elect a president,” he wrote in his 2008 memoir By My Own Reckoning. When Stanley was elected despite 19,795 votes for Moore, Sherman, who died in 2010, had a realization: “It was in Dallas that I first allowed myself to think of losing the SBC to political Fundamentalism,” Sherman’s label for the SBC’s conservative movement.

 

Escalating conflict

The conflict that culminated in Dallas began to percolate decades earlier as conservatives grew increasingly concerned that SBC entities had drifted from their commitment to biblical inerrancy – the doctrine that the Bible is completely free from error regarding theology, history, science and every other matter to which it speaks.
 
By the mid-20th century, “the view that the Bible was not the Word of God had become common among professors at Southern Baptist seminaries,” Wills wrote in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009.
 
Other entities likewise held beliefs objectionable to the Southern Baptist rank-and-file. The Baptist Sunday School Board, for instance, published in 1969 a commentary that claimed Genesis 1-11 was not historical and that Abraham was mistaken in his belief that God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac.
 
By the late 1970s, Paul Pressler, a judge in Houston, and William Powell, editor of the Southern Baptist Journal, had deduced that the key to changing the convention was winning the presidency. The president appointed the Committee on Committees, which in turn nominated the Committee on Boards (now the Committee on Nominations). The Committee on Boards then nominated trustees of the SBC entities. Conservative trustees could change the entities.
 
A president who appointed conservatives to the Committee on Committees would lead to conservative trustees in two years. A 10-year string of conservative presidents would lead to all the convention’s trustee boards being controlled by proponents of inerrancy – since only a percentage of trustee seats became vacant each year.
 
Conservatives launched their effort to reclaim control of SBC entities in 1979 by electing Adrian Rogers as president. Over the next five years, there was a succession of conservative presidents, including Stanley, who was first elected in 1984.
 
Through the controversy’s early years, SBC entity presidents largely remained silent about the conflict, though they identified with the moderate point of view. Following Stanley’s first election, however, entity heads began to speak publicly against the conservatives, with SBTS President Roy Honeycutt calling in a convocation address for “holy war” against the inerrancy advance.
 
The presidents of all six seminaries pledged their support for the moderate cause in Dallas, and Foreign Mission Board President Keith Parks wrote a letter to Southern Baptist international missionaries saying he could not support Stanley’s reelection.
 
Leading up to the annual meeting, 2,000 moderate pastors from Georgia endorsed an ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution urging messengers not to vote for Stanley. Conservative W.A. Criswell, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, sent letters to 36,000 Southern Baptist pastors asking them to come, bring messengers and vote for Stanley. In the final sermon at the SBC Pastors’ Conference preceding the annual meeting, Criswell rallied conservatives in what he told historian Jerry Sutton was the most important message he ever preached.
 
All eyes were on Dallas as the expected site of moderates’ most formidable stand.

 

“A lot of strollers”

The 45,000 messengers, plus guests, denominational employees and members of the media, who descended on the Dallas Convention Center caused a host of logistical problems. Two overflow halls had to be opened because the main hall seated only 31,000 – a capacity nearly four times greater than the 8,000 chairs set up for this year’s SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Restroom lines were so long that “desperate women and children finally began commandeering the relatively less-used men’s rooms,” according to sociologist Nancy Ammerman in her book Baptist Battles.
 
Hale remembers “a lot of strollers” and “lots of moms walking the back with babies on hip.” Young families – “scads” of whom came on “shoestring” budgets – “were there in mass because they really believed in being a part of the decision-making process.”
 
The Hales remained in their seats each day of the meeting, including lunchtime when they ate picnic meals. The children – ages 13, 11, 11 and 6 – were required to listen to one sermon per session and participate in the music. But during the consideration of business, they could entertain themselves with craft bags their mother had prepared.
 
Among the more creative crafts they fashioned was a set of pipe cleaner glasses modelled after Stanley’s. The three-day meeting afforded them ample time to hone their ability to mimic Stanley’s method of adjusting his glasses.
 
For Chapman, chair of the meeting’s Committee on Order of Business, meal breaks meant work – especially related to a controversial motion made by moderate James Slatton of Virginia.
 
When the Committee on Committees proposed its nominees to the Committee on Boards, Slatton attempted to amend the committee’s report by substituting each state convention president and each state Woman’s Missionary Union president for the committee’s slate of nominees. If adopted, Slatton’s motion could have thwarted the conservatives’ strategy to gain control of the convention by controlling the Committee on Boards.
 
Initially, Stanley ruled that Slatton’s substitute nominations had to be made on a state-by-state basis rather than all at once, but messengers voted to overturn his ruling. Then during a break, Stanley consulted with parliamentarians as well as the Committee on Order of Business and decided to rule Slatton’s motion out of order – a move that sparked considerable controversy, including a lawsuit against Stanley that eventually was dismissed.
 
Finally, messengers adopted the original slate of nominees to the Committee on Boards. Ammerman called debate over the Committee on Committees report “as near chaos as I have ever seen at a Southern Baptist Convention.” The debate contributed to the convention’s decision to hire a professional parliamentarian beginning in 1986.
 
After a session, “Charles expressed some concern as to whether he had ruled correctly on the Committee on Committees discussion in spite of the restlessness of a number of messengers,” Chapman recounted. “The motions and discussions led to a complexity of procedures, but at the end of the day, a number of the people on the platform commended Dr. Stanley for doing a great job in a difficult setting.”
 
Jim Wells, SBC registration secretary since 2002, said then-registration secretary Lee Porter handled contentious votes with “utmost integrity,” having tellers count votes twice in officer elections.
 
“With no computers and, of course, no online registration,” Wells said, Porter “had a system where he counted the churches that had their full allotment of 10 messengers by states. It was an elaborate system.”

 

“Point of no return”

One hopeful action of the convention for Sherman and fellow moderates was the election of what became known as the Peace Committee, which would “seek to determine the sources of the controversies in our convention, and make findings and recommendations regarding these controversies.” Sherman was among the committee’s original 22 members, balanced between conservatives and moderates.
 
At first, the proposed committee included no women, but Chapman’s wife Jodi was added along with former national WMU president Christine Gregory. The two women, who often disagreed on doctrine and convention politics, became friends, referring to themselves as “Cagney and Lacey,” a 1980s television duo of opposite-minded female police detectives.
 
The Peace Committee reported in 1987 that theological differences were the primary cause of the SBC controversy. In particular, “the authority of the Word of God is the focus of differences,” according to the committee’s final report.
 
Sherman eventually resigned from the Peace Committee in frustration, coming to believe the direction of the SBC was set.
 
“Most Southern Baptists thought the Peace Committee was working toward reconciliation,” Sherman wrote. “In fact, we were buying time for the Fundamentalist takeover to get past a point of no return.”
 
Though the Dallas meeting had ended, the Hale family was not finished with contentious votes. Using leftover ballots they had collected in the meeting hall, the children voted all the way home to Kentucky on where to take rest stops.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/12/2015 11:52:54 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Texas abortion law gets 2nd federal court win

June 12 2015 by Sharayah Colter, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press

Contested portions of a 2013 Texas pro-life law, which continually have been challenged in court by abortion advocates, were upheld June 9 by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
 
The decision to uphold the law as it was passed likely will mean that 49 licensed abortion clinics in Texas will be reduced to eight, as Texas House Bill No. 2 (HB 2) requires abortion facilities to comply with ambulatory surgical center standards.
 
The nonprofit Texas Values pro-family organization called the standards “steps to protect women who go into abortion facilities from being less likely to jeopardize their own lives” in June 9 news release. Texas Values, led by attorney Jonathan Saenz, played an instrumental role in HB 2’s passage in 2013 and has since worked to defend the measure in court and in the public square.
 
“Today we are thankful that the Fifth Circuit upheld a law that protects both women and children,” Saenz said. “The court’s decision ensures that abortion clinics must uphold basic health standards – standards that are required of other surgical centers in the state.”
 
An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is expected by HB2 opponents, with Center for Reproductive Rights senior counsel Stephanie Toti calling it “the best course of action” on Twitter.
 
A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court noted in their published opinion that although many of the ambulatory surgical center (ASC) standards “seem benign and inexpensive … e.g. … ‘A liquid or foam soap dispenser shall be located at each hand washing facility,’ [the] plaintiffs conceded at oral argument that they made no effort to narrow their challenge to any particular standards of the ASC provision of H.B. 2 or its accompanying regulations. Instead, they ask us to invalidate the entire ASC requirement.”
 
Those challenging the law maintained during testimony in trial that “abortions can be safely performed in office-based settings, such as doctors’ offices and specialized clinics,” according to the ruling, and that “there is no medical basis for requiring facilities in which abortions are performed to meet ASC standards.”
 
In opposing testimony, the state of Texas said “the sterile environment of an ASC was medically beneficial because surgical abortion involves invasive entry into the uterus, which is sterile.”
 
The challenged portion of the law upheld in this most recent court decision joins another provision challenged and upheld in court regarding the requirement that doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the location where an abortion is performed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sharayah Colter is a writer for the Southern Baptist TEXAN at texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

6/12/2015 11:46:40 AM by Sharayah Colter, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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