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2016 SBC exhibits: missions, ministry & elections

May 23 2016 by Baptist Press staff

Interviews with the three Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) presidential candidates and the launch of a new missions blog spot will highlight the Cooperative Program booth in conjunction with the 2016 SBC annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.
 
The offerings will be included in three days of dialogue and celebration of the gospel advancement the Cooperative Program affords among Southern Baptists, said Ashley Clayton, SBC Executive Committee vice president for Cooperative Program and Stewardship.
 
“We are approaching this year’s annual meeting in St Louis with two overriding objectives: engaging in conversation about the Cooperative Program and celebrating gospel advancement through SBC efforts,” Clayton told Baptist Press. “The panel discussions at the CP stage are designed to give face-to-face access with many of our entity leaders and an opportunity for pastors and messengers to hear directly from SBC leaders about important and relevant issues.”
 
The booth will display the partnership the Cooperative Program ensures, SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page said.
 
“We have a partnership in the gospel and we are bound together by our commitment to the Great Commission,” Page said. “Our ties to each other are stronger than time and distance, and stronger than our circumstances. Wherever God has called you, as Southern Baptists, we are not alone.”
 
The booth will operate June 13 from 8 a.m.-9 p.m., June 14 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and from 8 a.m.–1 p.m. June 15 in the SBC exhibit hall.
 
Interviews with SBC presidential candidates will occur June 13 beginning with a 9:30-9:50 a.m. session with candidate David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church of New Orleans, and immediate past SBC president Fred Luter, who will nominate Crosby. Interviews continue from 10:20–10:50 a.m. with J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Jimmy Scroggins, Greear’s nominator. Candidate Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., will be on stage from 4:30-4:50 p.m., with former SBC president Johnny Hunt, who will nominate him.
 
TalkCP.com, an interactive, missions-focused blog site for Southern Baptists, will officially launch June 13 with blog posts by SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, International Mission Board President David Platt, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell and others.

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Photo by Adam Covington
Brian Frye, left, collegiate evangelism strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, interviews a panel on replanting dying churches at the CP platform during the 2015 SBC annual meeting. Panelists included: left to right, Brad O'Brien, pastor of Redeemer City Church in Baltimore; Mark Hallock, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Englewood, Co. and Mark Clifton of the North American Mission Board.

 
“Our goal is to create a CP stage and platform much like the one we have every year at the annual meeting,” Clayton said, “except it is digital and available throughout the year ... not just three days in the summer.”
 
Other CP booth offerings will include an 8:30 a.m. June 13 panel discussion on “Pastoring Your Church Through Cultural Conflicts,” with Greear, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) President Russell Moore and City Church of Tallahassee, Fla., pastor Dean Inserra.  
National African American Fellowship President K. Marshall Williams, Page, Gaines and others will be featured in a 9 a.m. June 13 discussion on “Current and Future SBC Issues.”
 
The full schedule is available on the “SBC Annual Meetings” app and available for free download on the Apple App Store, Google Play and at http://m.core-apps.com/sbc_am2016.
 
The schedule is also accessible through sbcannualmeeting.net.
 
Reports of other entities’ and ministries’ plans for the exhibit hall surrounding the SBC’s annual meeting follow:
 

International Mission Board & North American Mission Board

To simplify the connections for churches to engage in Southern Baptist missions, North American Mission Board (NAMB), International Mission Board (IMB) and the SBC Executive Committee will once again share the same booth. Those who visit can learn more about getting their churches involved in taking the gospel to unreached people groups internationally and in church planting in North America.
 
IMB: For more than 170 years, the IMB has partnered with Southern Baptist churches to take the gospel to the nations. And visitors to IMB’s portion of booth will have an opportunity to literally walk through the legacy of Southern Baptists’ history that has built the opportunities for the future – a legacy of innovation, endurance, passion, commitment, risk-taking and stewardship.
 
Visitors also will discover how the entity is partnering with churches to creatively expand pathways to get the gospel to unreached people and places. The exhibit will challenge attendees to think about “missions” in a new way by leveraging the seasons of their lives and their God-given skills to go overseas as a student, professional, church planter, retiree or in other creative roles.
 
NAMB: In the past five years, NAMB has focused on equipping churches and helping those churches discover the next generation of missionaries in their pews. Evangelistic church planting and church planter support have been major highlights. Using creativity and human connection, IMB and NAMB both will focus on stories of gospel transformation, connected through the light of life.
 
“The power of the gospel is demonstrated in so many ways,” said Dustin Willis, NAMB senior director for marketing and events. “Evidence of that power is seen in changed lives. The power of those changed lives compels mission, borne in relationship, fostered in community – those are the stories we will highlight at the combined IMB, NAMB exhibit at the SBC.”
 
Messengers at the St. Louis annual meeting will have the opportunity to take their next steps in missions, both individually and as churches, with IMB and NAMB at the exhibit.
 

LifeWay Christian Resources

LifeWay’s 8,000-square-foot Christian store will offer a wide selection of books, Bibles and other Christian products, many at clearance prices. Other LifeWay areas will present interactive displays highlighting LifeWay’s church resources. Among special features of the LifeWay exhibit:
 
– Small group experts from LifeWay’s Resources Division will help messengers plan and select appropriate materials for small group Bible studies.
 
– Messengers will also be able to obtain information about the free LifeWay Breakfast scheduled for Wednesday (June 15) at 7 a.m. in the America Center Dome. The breakfast will feature a leading change in the church and attendees will receive resources worth more than $100. Reservations can be made at www.Lifeway.com/SBCbreakfast.
 
– LifeWay Films will have information about a special screening Monday evening (June 13) of a new documentary, “The Insanity of God,” that examines experiences of persecuted believers.
 
– A special story time for kids will be held in the B&H Kids area Monday and Tuesday (June 14) at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.
 
– Book signings by numerous authors are scheduled in the LifeWay store throughout the convention including all three candidates for SBC president: David Crosby, Steve Gaines, and J.D. Greear. Also signing books will be Mark Dever, Jimmy Draper, Robby Gallaty, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Jack Graham, Greg Laurie, Anne Graham Lotz, David Platt, Ed Stetzer, Don Whitney, and Rhonda Kelley and Dorothy Patterson.
 
– Exhibits will feature LifeWay “OneSource” endorsed products and providers designed to give individuals and churches trusted purchasing options for items such as church signs and furniture, copiers, buses, and background checks.
 

GuideStone Financial Resources

GuideStone’s Wellness Center once again will offer free health checks, valued at up to $150, allowing messengers and family members to have their blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose measured. Medical professionals will be on hand to answer any questions about the results.
 
In the main booth, representatives will offer reviews of participants’ retirement accounts and answer questions about GuideStone’s life and health plans, property and casualty coverage, and other GuideStone services. Churches will be able to order free materials for Mission:Dignity Sunday, to be held June 26, to support GuideStone’s ministry to retired ministers and their widows in urgent financial need.
 
GuideStone will give away copies of President O.S. Hawkins’ book, “VIP: How to Influence with Vision, Integrity, and Purpose,” to the first 500 families at GuideStone’s Wellness Center. GuideStone also will make available free copies of “The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer” and “The James Code: 52 Scripture Principles for Putting Your Faith into Action.” Quantities are limited.
 

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Those who visit ERLC’s booth can pick up the latest issue of the newly relaunched Light Magazine, featuring content from Russell Moore, J.D. Greear, Thomas Kidd, Sen. Ben Sasse and others. The theme of this issue is “Religious Liberty and the Common Good.”
 
ERLC will give away a pastor travel pack with signed copies of the most recent books from your ERLC authors and a craft coffee set with resources for churches. Also, ERLC will give away two complimentary registrations to the 2016 ERLC National Conference on August 25-26th in Nashville. This year’s conference theme is “Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.” Attendees can register to win by signing up for the ERLC’s “The Weekly” at the booth. The Weekly is a weekly email rundown of top news stories and commentary on today’s most pressing issues.
 

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

Golden Gate Seminary is poised for a name change if messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention give final approval. If the vote is affirmative, the seminary’s exhibit will change from “Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary” to “Gateway Seminary” immediately afterward. The display will focus on the benefits of gospel-centered education offered at the seminary’s five urban campuses in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix and Portland areas. Alumni and friends also can purchase tickets at the booth to the institution’s luncheon, if space is still available. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved by emailing rsvp@ggbts.edu or calling 888-442-8709, ext. 315. The event will be held on Wednesday (June 15) in America’s Center immediately following the morning session.
 

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Visitors to Midwestern Seminary’s exhibit area will experience personal interaction with the school’s senior leadership, faculty and staff. Stop by to learn more about the school’s growth and vision for the days ahead. Admissions team members will also be ready to answer questions about the many opportunities for training in ministry and mission. A host of programs and initiatives will be highlighted: most notably, Midwestern Seminary’s 81-hour M.Div., doctoral studies and online degree programs. Additionally, booth giveaways will include 2,500 “For the Church” T-shirts with individual state designs as well as some new designs, which will be unveiled at the annual meeting.
 

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

The NOBTS booth highlights main campus programs, distance learning options and the Entrust Mentoring Community. The seminary enlistment team is on site to guide potential students as they seek to answer God’s call to ministry and prepare for service. Alumni are invited to visit the booth to reconnect with faculty and staff and to hear the latest news from campus. This year, NOBTS will launch the #PrayNola initiative by asking booth visitors to join the seminary in praying for local churches, church plants and ministries in the Greater New Orleans area. In keeping with tradition, small bottles of Louisiana hot sauce are available to those who visit.
 

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Whether you want to begin your theological education or find resources for your church, the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS); exhibit has something for everyone. Chat with admissions staff about the many degrees from The College at Southeastern and SEBTS. Spend time with faculty, including Bruce Ashford, Chuck Lawless, Jamie Dew and Charles Quarles, to get insights and suggestions for your ministry. Find out about helpful resources for your church, such as Southeastern’s new GO Certificates – theological education for lay leaders. There will be book giveaways, ministry presentations and more.
 

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Throughout the annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) exhibit will have a variety of giveaways providing resources for pastors. One giveaway is a new resource by SBTS Press: “More Faithful Service,” featuring contributions by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Hershael W. York, Daniel S. Dumas and others. Along with promotions and interaction opportunities with seminary faculty, the seminary also will distribute the latest issue of Southern Seminary Magazine. Themed around the future of Christian higher education, the magazine features articles by Mohler, profiles of SBTS alumnus Greg Thornbury and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. Convention attendees can connect with alumni, professors, friends and prospective students at the exhibit’s seating area, as well as purchase tickets for the annual alumni luncheon on Wednesday (June 15). For more information, go to http://www.sbts.edu/support/sbc-alumni-friends-luncheon/.
 

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) will reflect its ongoing passion for preaching the Word and reaching the world. Free books and resources – including a guide to landmarks and restaurants in St. Louis – will be distributed, and SWBTS representatives and faculty will be available to discuss the seminary’s programs and answer questions. The booth will also feature several seminary-produced videos highlighting successful students and Southwestern’s global impact.
 

Woman’s Missionary Union

National Woman’s Missionary Union’s (WMU) exhibit will feature ways churches can engage their members in discipleship through a comprehensive and holistic approach. Five distinct sections of the exhibit will help visitors discover ways to learn, pray, give, serve and support missions. Highlighted opportunities will include ongoing WMU missions discipleship programs for preschoolers, children, youth and adults; hands-on missions opportunities sponsored by WMU; fair-trade products from WorldCrafts; and Bible studies and books on missional living from New Hope Publishers. Visitors can also register to win a number of giveaways.
 

Baptist Global Response

This year, Baptist Global Response (BGR) is focusing the theme of its booth on the plight of global refugees and forcibly displaced persons. The booth will feature a display of practical items and goods, such as food packages, hygiene kits and shelter materials, that represent the aid Southern Baptists are supplying to those displaced by the crisis in Syria and Northern Iraq. BGR hopes to raise awareness among convention attendees about how God is using Southern Baptists to help during this unparalleled human disaster, and it wants to suggest practical ways they can meet needs and share Christ’s love.
 

Southern Baptist Historical Library & Archives

Governed by the Council of Seminary Presidents, the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (SBHLA) is the largest and most accessible collection of Baptist material in the world. The SBHLA exhibit will feature historic photographs of Baptist life, events, churches, ministries and missions. In addition to information on the library and archives, the booth also will have brochures on church archives and information on baptistheritage.com, a website sponsored by the Association of Librarians and Archivists at Baptist Institutions (ALABI). Say farewell to Bill Sumners, retiring director of the SBHLA after 33 years with the collection and welcome the new director, Taffey Hall.
 

Southern Baptist Foundation

How can I help this generation touch the next generation for Christ? What will your legacy be? Can I make an impact for Christ? How can I support Kingdom work after I am gone?
 
These are just a few of the questions that await SBC messengers at the Southern Baptist Foundation’s booth. Visitors will be challenged to think about the causes that they love and how they can give to them. Resources and services to facilitate giving, glorifying God and advancing His Kingdom will be showcased. For more information, please visit the booth or email sbfdn@sbc.net.
 

Seminary Extension

Seminary Extension has been training volunteers, leaders, teachers and pastors for Southern Baptist churches since 1951. It’s original mandate from the Southern Baptist Convention was to offer opportunities for theological education and ministry training to people where they live. It still meets that mandate today. For those interested in studying with Seminary Extension, please stop by the booth for more information. The SBC’s annual meeting provides Seminary Extension the best opportunity each year to visit in person with those they have been serving and serving with through the years. Director Randal Williams and student services associate Carmen Ferreira will be in the booth each day.
 

Global Hunger Relief

The Global Hunger Relief booth will inform pastors and church leaders on the global hunger crisis, as well as provide free resources to aid their churches in becoming involved in live-saving solutions. Nearly 800 million people around the world live with constant hunger, and 1 in 6 in North America are undernourished. This tragedy is a reality for SBC churches and their communities. Seven Southern Baptist organizations – Baptist Global Response, SBC Executive Committee, ERLC, IMB, LifeWay, NAMB and WMU – have partnered together to see lives and communities changed forever through Global Hunger Relief.
 
Visitors to the booth will receive information for free downloadable resources to equip your church to participate in Global Hunger Sunday, including an article from ERLC President Russell Moore, videos, small group curriculum and more. They will also have an opportunity to talk personally with Southern Baptist workers engaged in the battle to alleviate hunger around the world.

5/23/2016 12:04:46 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Zika threat prompts abortion discussion

May 23 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In the United States and Latin America, abortion has entered the discussion of how to combat the Zika virus.
 
With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcing in April that Zika infection during pregnancy can cause “microcephaly and other severe brain defects” in unborn babies, some abortion rights advocates, including members of Congress, have suggested broadening access to abortion among Zika-infected women.
 
But Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), told Baptist Press that Zika, in addition to the real threat it poses, has become “an opportunity that pro-abortion people are blowing out of proportion to try to scare people into changing the abortion laws.”
 
Harrison, a Michigan-based physician, said, “The push to change abortion laws is not based on science, and it’s not based on a love of humanity. It’s based on simply the fact that some people want abortion worldwide. We, as Hippocratic physicians, do not believe you treat people by killing them.”
 
Citing a French Polynesian study, Harrison said pregnant women appear to be at risk of having babies with microcephaly only if they contract Zika during the first trimester. Even then, the risk of fetal microcephaly among infected women is 1 percent.
 
Microcephaly is a condition in which the brain does not develop properly, resulting in a smaller-than-normal head sizes and severe disabilities in some cases. In adults, Zika generally results in no symptoms or mild symptoms.
 
An Associated Press article put the risk of fetal microcephaly among infected pregnant women at “somewhere between 1 and 29 percent.” The CDC websites states, “If a pregnant woman is exposed, we don’t know how likely she is to get Zika. If a pregnant woman is infected, we don’t know how the virus will affect her pregnancy.”
 
The CDC has reported “active Zika virus transmission” in at least 48 countries and territories spanning from South Pacific islands to the Americas to Africa, and activated its Emergency Operations Center to the highest level of responsiveness.
 
Still, Harrison concluded, “The hysteria surrounding Zika is kind of a made-for-television production – or I should say a made-for-legislation production. It’s important that women understand what the risk is, but it’s also important for women not to become terrified of what the risk isn’t.”
 
In the U.S., the Senate and House are working to craft a response to President Obama’s request for $1.8 billion in emergency Zika funding. Bills approved by both chambers contain language barring federal funding from being used for abortions – a reality that drew objection from Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Louise Slaughter, Jan Schakowsky and Barbara Lee.
 
The four pro-choice congresswomen said in a statement according to The Hill, “By including ... language that denies access to abortions for women receiving Medicaid, women in the Peace Corps and military, federal workers and others, it continues discriminatory policies that deny women vital reproductive health care services based on their income, their insurance and where they work.”
 
Dee Redwine, Latin America regional director of Planned Parenthood Global, said the restrictive abortion laws of most Central and South American countries inhibit an adequate Zika response.
 
“Governments cannot, on one hand, discourage pregnancy, while at the same time limiting their commitments to and funding for family planning and access to safe and legal abortion,” Redwine said according to LifeSiteNews.
 
In February, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue sent a letter to then-Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump calling them to “put aside ... ideological objections and support universal contraceptive coverage until we better understand the Zika virus and can control its outbreak.”
 
Asked by BP whether “universal contraceptive coverage” would include birth control methods typically regarded by pro-life groups as abortifacients, a NARAL spokesman said it is “a broad concept” that does “not necessarily” specify “the particular type of contraception they would choose to employ.”
 
Harrison, of AAPLOG, said even though present versions of U.S. legislation prohibit Zika funds from being used for abortion, they do not prohibit the government from “advocating for abortion” as a response to Zika or contracting with organizations that provide abortion to secure prenatal care for Zika-infected women.
 
AP reported CDC officials thus far “have declined to discuss the issue of abortion services” in connection with Zika.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)

5/23/2016 12:00:47 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Rainer shares roadmap to helping pastors lead change

May 23 2016 by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press

The email addressed to LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Thom S. Rainer sounded urgent. The subject line: A plea for help.
 
“I am a pastor and I’m about to give up,” the email began. The pastor went on to share his frustration in trying to lead his church to make much-needed changes. “Every time I try something, I get hit hard by critics and bullies,” he wrote. “My wife wants me to quit.” He ended by asking Rainer for advice on how to lead change in the wake of so many obstacles.
 
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Rainer receives multiple letters, emails and comments a month from pastors saying they are discouraged trying to lead their churches to change. His latest book, “Who Moved My Pulpit?” is a response to those asking for advice.
 
“I wrote this new book with a heart for those church leaders,” he said. “Most pastors and church leaders don’t know how to lead change. But it’s an important and perhaps the most difficult aspect of leadership.”
 
Published by LifeWay’s B&H Publishing imprint, Who Moved My Pulpit? comes out at a time when many churches are in need of change. Research shows nearly 9 out of 10 churches are either declining or growing more slowly than the communities in which they are located.
 
“Change is absolutely necessary in our churches,” Rainer said, “but it is difficult and risky.”
 
Leading change in churches is more difficult today than it was 20-25 years ago, Rainer said. That’s due in large part to the pressure of today’s ever-changing culture on church members.
 
“The world outside the church has shifted so drastically away from Judeo-Christian values that church members want to hold onto the methodologies, ministries and programs they know and are comfortable with within the church,” he explained. “When change happens in the church, they are told they have to let go of those things they know, and that is yet another major frustration.”
 
The book, available June 1, is a collection of stories drawn from the experiences of pastors and congregations navigating change. Readers will learn valuable lessons from the mistakes and successes of others. One of the biggest mistakes a leader makes when leading change is not praying first.
 
“Leading change in the church can only work if it is God-led, God-powered, and God-ordained,” Rainer writes.
 
Another mistake, he said, is moving forward without making sure the congregation is on board with the change – and not measuring how others are responding to change.
 
“The greatest determinant of whether change will be effective is how well the leader is being received as a change agent,” he noted.
 
Rainer provides an eight-stage road map for leading change, which includes prayer, communicating a sense of urgency, building an eager coalition, providing a voice and vision of hope, dealing with people issues, moving from an inward to an outward focus, picking low-hanging fruit and implementing change.
 
Who Moved My Pulpit? takes some of its cues from retired Harvard professor John Kotter’s “Leading Change.” “Some of Kotter’s principles have a biblical foundation even though the book was not written with biblical intentionality,” Rainer said. “I had recommended his book to pastors for years, but many couldn’t connect with it because it’s a business book. I felt I needed to write a book for pastors and church leaders that would communicate some of these same change principles.”
 
For churches unsure they need to change, Rainer offers these five signs:
  1. The church is not growing.
  2. There is ongoing conflict within the church.
  3. Most of the church’s ministry and budget are focused inwardly.
  4. The church doesn’t have a positive presence in the community.
  5. The church has a high turnover of leadership.
If leaders take only one thing away from the book, Rainer hopes it will be to lead change with prayer. “Even if they only do that one thing, they are depending on the power of God to change the hearts of people more than any type of strategic methodology,” he said.
 
“Prayer is not an option in leading change in the church.”
 
Rainer hopes pastors will have the courage to make a difference in their churches and lead change well. Tens of thousands of churches are in need of revitalization. “God has called pastors to lead change for such a time as this,” he noted.
 
To learn more about Who Moved My Pulpit?, visit ThomRainer.com/WhoMovedMyPulpit.
5/23/2016 11:56:01 AM by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



More details emerge in Liberty, DeMoss split

May 23 2016 by Jamie Dean, World News Service

Nearly a month after Mark DeMoss resigned as chairman of Liberty University’s executive committee and from the school’s board of trustees, DeMoss and school leaders have offered more details on the circumstances that led to the separation. DeMoss’ resignation came less than two months after he publicly expressed his disapproval of Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
 
On the eve of the Liberty board of trustees meeting in April, members of the executive committee asked DeMoss, a Liberty graduate and former chief of staff for Liberty founder Jerry Falwell Sr., to resign as chair of the committee at the evangelical university in Lynchburg, Va. DeMoss complied, and a few days later he decided to resign also from the board of trustees, where he had served for some 25 years.
 
DeMoss recently spoke with me about the split and the meetings that led to the formal end of his 36-year association with the school.
 
The turmoil began in late January when Falwell Jr. endorsed Trump days after the billionaire businessman spoke at a Liberty convocation. (Several other presidential candidates, including Democratic hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also have spoken at the school.)
 
Falwell said his endorsement of Trump was personal and not connected to his role as the university’s president. Still, some influential Liberty alumni expressed dismay over Falwell’s public support for Trump and worried it would reflect poorly on the school.
 
DeMoss, who also was concerned, said he told Falwell he disagreed with the endorsement. As Falwell appeared at campaign events with Trump, gave media interviews, and recorded a robocall for the candidate, DeMoss told The Washington Post, “Donald Trump is the only candidate who has dealt almost exclusively in the politics of personal insult.”
 
In the interview published on March 1, the day of the Super Tuesday presidential primaries, DeMoss added, “The bullying tactics of personal insult have no defense—and certainly not for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. That’s what’s disturbing to so many people. It’s not Christ-like behavior that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.”
 
In response, Falwell told the Post that DeMoss’ comments disappointed him.
 
DeMoss told me he later apologized to Falwell for disappointing him but not for criticizing his endorsement. DeMoss said he also agreed to apologize to the full board if the article had created an awkward situation for them.
 
A few weeks later, DeMoss arrived in Lynchburg for two meetings: one with the executive committee on the evening of April 21 and another with the full board on April 22. DeMoss said he recused himself from the executive committee meeting while the members discussed his comments to the Post.
 
An hour later, according to DeMoss, the school’s general counsel (who was in the meeting) told him the committee wanted him to step down as chairman and to tell the full board the next morning he was resigning because he wanted a change of committee assignments. DeMoss said he told the attorney he was open to resigning “but I can’t give the reason you’re asking me to give because it’s not honest.”
 
In an email statement, a Liberty spokesman responded, saying, “No one was requesting that Mark DeMoss lie. The graceful exit suggested by the executive committee through counsel was that Mr. DeMoss simply report to the board that he desired to continue his service on the board on another committee. The executive committee thought it better for Mr. DeMoss to not have to say he was invited to resign or that he reached his decision about moving to a different committee because he had lost the support of the committee he chaired.”
 
The next morning, DeMoss said he told the board he was resigning from the committee because the members wanted him to step down, and he apologized if the Post article had put them in a difficult position. (He said he also apologized for telling the Post a Liberty graduate had returned his diploma to DeMoss over Falwell’s Trump endorsement. DeMoss said since the graduate reached out to him in his capacity as a board member, he shouldn’t have made the exchange public.) Three days later, DeMoss resigned from the board as well.
 
I asked a Liberty official why board members disapproved of DeMoss publicly disagreeing with Falwell over a public endorsement of Trump. A spokesman said DeMoss’ comments to the Post “went well beyond disagreeing about Donald Trump as the best candidate for president. Mark DeMoss publicly communicated his concerns about Liberty University as chairman of the board’s executive committee. He shared a negative evaluation of Jerry Falwell, not as an individual, but concerning his presidential stewardship … of Liberty University.”
 
DeMoss said he was surprised at the reaction, given Falwell’s vigorous public support for Trump: “I didn’t know why that would be OK, but it would not be OK for a board member to do one interview expressing disagreement with the endorsement.”
 
While Falwell emphasizes his support for Trump is personal and not Liberty-related, Trump hasn’t made that distinction. On Feb. 25, Trump told supporters, “And as you know Liberty University – do we love Liberty University? Huh? Jerry Falwell Jr., is an unbelievable guy and he has been with us from the beginning, and I want to thank Jerry and his family. It’s been amazing, the relationship.”
 
Back in Lynchburg, many Liberty students apparently don’t relish Trump. The results of the GOP primary in Virginia showed Trump came in fourth in Liberty’s voting precinct – with 8 percent of the vote.

5/23/2016 11:47:34 AM by Jamie Dean, World News Service | with 0 comments



Church ‘fills in the gaps’ for people dealing with hunger

May 23 2016 by Kristen Lowry, Kentucky Today

As she serves up oatmeal and sausage casserole, Susie Stivers sings an old gospel hymn in a strong voice.
 
It’s a bright Thursday morning; light streams in through the storefront windows of Victory Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Ky.
 
This is not your typical Southern Baptist Church. There are no stained glass windows, no baptismal, no steeple.
 
Instead, there are plastic tables with mustard bottles and Styrofoam bowls filled with onions.

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Photo by Kristen Lowry/Kentucky Today
Pastor Marc Webb shares the gospel with people at Victory Baptist Church during a Sunday service in Shelbyville, Ky.

 
Stivers greets each person who walks in the door by name. She has served as co-director of God’s Kitchen in Shelbyville since the ministry reopened in August of 2015.
 
“People are hungry, and sometimes this is the only meal they get in a day,” Stivers said.
 
According to data compiled by the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, 19 percent of Kentuckians were “food insecure” in 2014, the last year of available data. That means they were limited in their ability to acquire adequate food and may have gone hungry because there wasn’t enough money for food.
 
God’s Kitchen provides free breakfast and lunch for people in the Shelbyville community three days a week. The ministry is a partnership between 12 area churches that work together to provide meals, as well as a short devotion, every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
 
The ministry, which serves an average of 30 to 40 people each day that it’s open, operates out of Victory Baptist Church, a storefront church on Main Street. With the help of the other churches, Victory also runs a clothes closet and food pantry.
 
Many of the people who drop in for a meal struggle with homelessness, mental disabilities or financial hardships. Many of them work, but can’t seem to make ends meet. Many of them are also members of Victory Baptist.
 
As people are finishing up their breakfast, a young preacher walks through the front door. Marc Webb is wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and he carries a well-worn Bible under his arm. He begins at the front of the room, greeting each person, taking time to chat about their lives.
 
When he reaches an unfamiliar face, he asks if he has a church home. He invites him to Sunday worship at Victory.
 
Webb has served as pastor of Victory Baptist Church for the last three-and-a-half years.
 
He says he is thankful for the opportunity to minister to many people who would otherwise never step into a church.
 
“With some that come in, it’s not only food needs,” he said. “There are physical needs, mental needs, emotional needs and spiritual needs.”
 
And the community at Victory Baptist is committed to meeting those needs.
 
Many of those who come for meals at God’s Kitchen receive government assistance. Others would qualify, but don’t receive benefits.
 
Webb estimates that as many as two-thirds of his own congregation receive some sort of government assistance.
 
The latest data from the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services shows 697,056 Kentuckians received food stamps in 2015, with an average benefit about $250 a month.
 
Still, some people are going hungry.
 
“Victory Baptist is here to fill in the gaps,” Webb said.
 
Stivers recalls one of the regulars at God’s Kitchen.
 
“He never makes it through a whole month with groceries,” Stivers said.
 
“He’s so embarrassed. He will say, ‘I’m so sorry, I hate to bother you.’ It just really humiliates him to say anything.”
 
Stivers began giving him leftovers from the meals the church services. He had to eat them cold because he doesn’t have any way to heat them.
 
Now she’s hoping she can help him get a microwave.
 
“We’ve noticed in talking with people on food stamps that they will be fine at the first of the month, but the further into the month, the harder and harder it is,” Stivers said.
 
Many people who receive meals at God’s Kitchen don’t receive any government benefits – even though they could easily qualify.
 
Christopher Bollinger, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky, said a variety of reasons keep people who qualify from receiving food stamps.
 
“Sometimes it’s pride, sometimes its political views,” Bollinger said. “The second reason is often lack of knowledge of how to navigate the system.”
 
Getting – and keeping – food stamps can be a complicated process for many.
 
In order to qualify for food stamps, you have to prove you don’t make enough money or have enough assets.
 
“For some people it’s really a big burden to prove that you don’t have anything,” Bollinger said. “It can become onerous for those who legitimately need the help to sometimes get it.”
 
In 2013, the latest year with available data, only 88 percent of Kentuckians that were eligible for food stamps actually received them.
 
Webb says that often the church is the first place people will turn in a difficult situation.
 
“It really is a perfect example of people bearing each other’s burdens,” Webb said. “You could literally pick out any single person that comes and they are probably battling something pretty serious at the moment. There really is an atmosphere of people being there for each other, knowing that they are not alone in whatever they are struggling with. They can lean on, not only the leaders here, but the fellow believers as well.”
 
As the last of the visitors leave on Thursday afternoon, Stivers is still singing:
 
“As I climb this gospel ladder always heeding every sign, I know my Savior’s with me and He’s teaching me to climb. Every day that I’m climbing there’s a battle for me. Every step on this ladder is another victory.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kristen Lowry writes for the Frankfort bureau of Kentucky Today at kentuckytoday.com, a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

5/23/2016 11:40:15 AM by Kristen Lowry, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments



Ezell refutes ‘gag order’ allegations

May 20 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), released a statement May 17 to refute allegations that he misused contractual agreements to exercise undue influence over state convention operations. The blog post did not identify critics or specific allegations, but it came amid calls for NAMB trustees to investigate claims made by former executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network (MABN) Will McRaney.
 
McRaney said in an open letter that Ezell “strong-armed” the MABN (also known as the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware) by abusing the power of a “Strategic Cooperation Agreement,” threatening to cut funds and issuing “gag orders.” He also claimed in an email to Southern Baptist news editors that Ezell used “bullying tactics” against convention leaders to remove him from office in June 2015.

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NAMB photo by Susan Whitley
Kevin Ezell

 
McRaney uploaded a cache of documents to his website in early 2016. The material includes, among other things, event timelines leading up to his departure from MABN and statements about an alleged decline in cooperation between NAMB and state conventions. McRaney also penned multiple open letters to NAMB trustees and other Southern Baptists.
 
Both NAMB and MABN deny the claim that Ezell forced McRaney out of his position.
 
“[A]ny suggestion that the North American Mission Board (NAMB) or any of its officers influenced the separation of Dr. McRaney’s employment from the Network is false,” MABN said in a statement March 24. NAMB added the same day, “No one at NAMB forced or orchestrated the events leading up to [McRaney’s] decision to resign.”
 
In addition, no convention leaders have publicly substantiated McRaney’s accusations against Ezell.
 
A Southern Baptist blog site, SBC Today, recently announced a petition calling for NAMB trustees to investigate allegations. It contained 59 signatures at press time.
 
Ezell reassured Southern Baptists in a blog post, “It’s important for me to say that we are striving to ensure that NAMB’s partnerships are positive and working well. We have an enormous and important task, and we face an enemy that doesn’t play fair. It’s a privilege to work with state leaders who are passionate about reaching people for Christ and committed to pushing back lostness in North America. The overwhelming majority of state executives we work with are very competent and strategic leaders.”
 
The State Convention of Baptists in Indiana (SCBI) allowed Ezell to provide their agreement as an example. It includes clauses related to missionary employment and termination, employee conduct, cooperative budgets, entity relations and other operating procedures.
 
The documents establish terms of joint ministry and guidelines for managing financial resources, said Ezell. NAMB’s annual operating budget is approximately $120 million.
 
A number of state conventions requested that NAMB include confidentiality clauses in the contracts, said Ezell. For example, Indiana’s Strategic Cooperation Agreement stipulates that each party keep the terms of the contract private, unless both parties consent. Each party must also agree not to publicly criticize the other, resolving differences in private.
 
“The documents all include a line stating that each party agrees to settle disagreements privately and not speak negatively about each other publicly and so honor our biblical obligation to one another,” Ezell said. “It was never intended to be seen as a ‘gag order,’ but simply a commitment of charity and trust.”
 
NAMB partners with churches, local associations and state conventions to “reach North America for Christ,” said Ezell.
 
“The [Strategic Cooperation Agreement] is really just about the nuts and bolts of how we work together and stipulates that both parties will operate in ‘mutual respect’ and in a ‘peer-to-peer’ relationship.”
 
He concluded, “NAMB will stay focused on the task before us and not back up one inch on seeking excellence and accountability every step of the way when it comes to the stewardship of resources that God and Southern Baptists entrust to us.”
 
In a post on SCBI’s Facebook page, the state convention’s executive director, Cecil Seagle, said “My journey with NAMB president Kevin Ezell and [vice president] Steve Davis has proven them to be men of their word, utterly reliable, fully engaged at my request in every effort to reach the 6.5 million lost people in Indiana with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 
Milton Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), said, “I have worked extensively with Kevin Ezell since he became president of NAMB. As executive director-treasurer of the [BSC], I have negotiated covenant agreements and developed numerous annual partnership budgets with Ezell and Davis, in relation to NAMB's financial contribution for some of our work in North Carolina. These men have always exhibited integrity and fairness in our working relationship and they have always fulfilled their commitments in their partnership agreements with BSC.
 
“I believe that Ezell is passionate about reaching North America with the gospel and I believe he recognizes the necessity of working with state partners to achieve this. Ezell has never attempted to intrude in the business of our state convention or exert unwelcomed influence about any decision this state convention has made. I value the opportunity to work in partnership with him and NAMB, and I appreciate their desire to help North Carolina Baptists reach and disciple people that God has brought to live in North America.”

5/20/2016 4:37:47 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



BSC Board approves alignment with strategy

May 20 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The board of directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) approved three motions at its May meeting aimed at aligning the structure of the board with the convention’s strategic emphasis on disciple-making.
 
The motions adopted by the board included:

  • Requesting that the board’s articles and bylaws committee to draft proposals to change the meeting dates of the board from a Tuesday/Wednesday format to a Monday/Tuesday format.

  • Affirming the roles of the board president and role of the board president and executive director-treasurer to that ensure reports and presentations made at board meetings align with the convention’s strategy of “impacting lostness through disciple-making.”

  • Affirming the efforts of the board president and executive director-treasurer to shape committee meetings that reflect a move toward more engagement and involvement of board members in the work of the board.

The motions approved by the board were based on recommendations made by a special task force appointed by 2015 board president Perry Brindley to evaluate board meetings and explore ways to improve how the board conducts convention business.

 
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John Mark Harrison

Board and executive committee member John Mark Harrison, pastor of Apex Baptist Church, served as chairman of the task force and presented the motions and other recommendations to the board on Tuesday, May 18 during the meeting held at Caraway Conference Center and Camp near Asheboro. The task force includes past and current board officers and members as well as the current convention officers.
 
“We have not adjusted the structure of our meetings in many, many years,” Harrison said. “Every other structure has been tweaked and aligned to the convention’s strategy for impacting lostness through disciple-making.”
 
The BSC’s “impacting lostness through disciple-making” strategy was approved by the board’s executive committee in April 2013 and endorsed by the full board in the next month. The strategy was announced to convention messengers at the November 2013 annual meeting, and implementation of the strategy began in January 2014.
 
Strategy implementation included a reorganization of the BSC’s staff into new groups and teams. The reorganization included the formation of the strategic focus team, which is comprised of strategy coordinators who work in and around eight population centers across the state that were identified as having the most concentrated populations of individuals who do not know Christ.
 
One of the goals in changing the meeting dates and agenda of the board is to give board members more opportunities to engage in deeper conversations about the strategy. The change in board meeting dates will allow changes in board meeting schedules that are limited by the current dates. In addition, the task force hopes that board members will also interact and build relationships with one another and convention staff. Harrison said the task force hopes the increased interactions and stronger relationships will result in more advocacy and engagement in implementing the strategy and developing a disciple-making culture across the state.
 
Harrison said the approved motion to change board meeting dates from Tuesday and Wednesday to Monday and Tuesday will now be sent to the articles and bylaws committee, which will draft amendments to the convention’s bylaws for consideration at the September board meeting. If approved, the proposed bylaws change will be presented to messengers at the BSC’s 2016 annual meeting in November.
 
The task force also made several other recommendations. These recommendations require additional study and input. Formal action on these items will not take place in 2016, but the task force anticipates that by 2017 recommendations for the following could be finalized:

  • Transitioning the Christian Higher Education Special Committee into another structure.

  • Restructuring the Christian Social Services Special Committee as part of a newly formed Convention Relations Committee. This committee will include the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, N.C. Baptist Hospital, the N.C. Baptist Foundation and the Biblical Recorder.

  • Assigning the four at-large members of the executive committee to the new Convention Relations Committee. Each of the four at-large members of the executive committee would also represent one of the same four convention institutions and agencies.

Harrison asked that feedback on these recommendations be shared with the task force, particularly from members of the committees and representatives from the institutions and agencies that would potentially be impacted by the recommended changes.
 
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of BSC, thanked Harrison and the task force for their work and the board members for their consideration of the proposed changes.
 
“This is still a work in progress,” Hollifield said. “We’ll see how this plays out and make modifications as they need to be made. These changes along with others that are to come in the future will further align the board with our strategy to impact lostness through disciple-making.
 
“The steps you have just taken related to these changes will help us fulfill the BSC’s vision of becoming the strongest force in the history of this convention to reaching people with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
In other business, the board:

  • Voted to change the dates of the BSC 2018 annual meeting from Nov. 12-13 to Nov. 5-6 due to a scheduling conflict with the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.

  • Voted to authorize John Butler, executive leader for business services, to execute the necessary documents to assign BSC’s lease with Cullowhee Baptist Church for the property upon which the campus ministry building at Western Carolina University resides to the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. The facility was constructed by the BSC in the 1960s but the property is leased by the convention from Cullowhee Baptist Church. The Baptist Children’s Homes plans to use the facility for a new ministry to college students who had previously been in foster care and to facilitate churches in the area in ministering to the campus community.

  • Voted to transfer 20 percent of the BSC’s 2015 income over operating expenses to the convention’s contingency reserve funds. The amount of the transfer will be $65,187.

  • Announced that the sale of the campus ministry property at Appalachian State University has closed. The sale price was $500,000 and proceeds from the sale have been placed in the reserve fund for collegiate partnerships.

Board president Brian Kinlaw also appointed three board members to serve on the nominating committee of Fruitland Baptist Bible College. They were Bob Garbett, Ken Jones and David Spray.
 
Beverly Volz, director of accounting services, informed the board that Cooperative Program giving from N.C. Baptist churches is slightly ahead of pace for this year’s $29.5 million budget. Volz said Cooperative Program giving receipts exceeded $9.75 million through April 30, which is a little more than 1 percent ahead of pace this year and nearly 4 percent more than was received through the same time period last year.
 
In addition, Volz noted that giving from N.C. Baptist churches to the Southern Baptist Convention’s two major missions offering were both up by close to $1 million when compared with the same time period last year.
 
So far in 2016, giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions is approximately $3.4 million, $961,000 more than the same time last year.
 
Giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is approximately $9.3 million, reflecting an increase of more than $978,000 through the same time period in 2015.
 
Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer, reported that giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) in 2016 equals more than $268,000 through April 30. NCMO supports the 17 ministries of N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission, and it also provides a significant portion of the BSC’s church planting team’s budget. Davis encouraged board members to promote NCMO leading up to the offering emphasis in September.
 
Hollifield thanked N.C. Baptist churches and their members for their generosity in giving to missions.
 
“We praise the Lord for what He is doing, and we are grateful for what churches are contributing,” Hollifield said.

5/20/2016 1:26:30 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Trump’s Supreme Court list draws mixed reaction

May 20 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Donald Trump’s list for the U.S. Supreme Court gained approval from many social conservatives but apparently was unable to convince all to support his presidential candidacy.
 
On May 18 the presumptive Republican Party nominee named 11 candidates he would consider as replacements for the late Antonin Scalia on the high court. Trump offered the list as a self-acknowledged effort to reassure conservatives, saying later in a television interview he released the names “to quell any fears that people may have.”
 
The brash billionaire faces the challenge of convincing many conservatives they should vote for him after a divisive primary campaign marked by his inconsistent and sometimes harsh policy positions, autocratic inclinations and uncivil, insult-laden rhetoric. His candidacy produced strong resistance from some conservatives and evangelical Christians. Using the hashtag #NeverTrump on Twitter, objectors have made no-vote promises – even in the general election.
 
With his list, Trump sought to address one of the most significant issues in the campaign – the makeup of the Supreme Court for years to come. Some social conservatives who opposed Trump in the primaries have used the court as a reason for supporting him in the general election. They have said they will vote for him because the Democratic nominee – almost certainly Hillary Clinton – is sure to select nominees who support abortion and LGBT rights and likely not be champions of religious freedom.
 
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, called it “an exceptionally strong list of jurists.”
 
“We are encouraged by Mr. Trump’s repeated pledges to appoint constitutionalists, which stands in sharp contrast to Hillary Clinton’s position,” Dannenfelser said in written comments. “There is no question Clinton would only nominate judges who stand in lock-step with the abortion lobby and would strike down even the most modest abortion limits.”
 
Hannah Smith, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and a former clerk for Supreme Court Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, said the list “includes judges who take seriously the religious liberty of all Americans and who would apply the law fairly to preserve this crucial constitutional right.”
 
“All of the potential nominees on the list have records of principled judicial philosophies and have demonstrated their commitment to interpreting the constitution and laws as written, even under pressure,” Smith said. Neither Smith nor the Becket Fund endorses candidates.
 
Southern Baptist cultural commentator Denny Burk, however, said the list “does not alleviate the concerns that many of us have about his candidacy.”
 
Trump did not promise “to pick anyone from the list. ... So the list means nothing. ... And we are again being asked to trust the judgment of a man who changes his positions daily and who is a liar,” said Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Trump’s “character, temperament and authoritarian tendencies suggest that he would be a menace to our Constitutional order,” Burk wrote in a May 19 blog post.
 
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson said there is no guarantee Trump would name anyone on the list.
 
“This list is a limited time offer, subject to change, and may vary from sentence to sentence,” Erickson said. “Therein lies the ultimate problem with the Trump candidacy.”
 
Trump acknowledged to Fox News television host Sean Hannity he would not be bound to the 11 names on the list.
 
“I thought what I would do is put this forward and this would be the list that I would either choose from or pick people very close in terms of the spirit and the meaning of what they represent,” he said.
 
He will choose “most likely” from the list, Trump told Hannity. “But, at a minimum, we will keep people within this general realm.”
 
Among the social conservatives who are supporting Trump after strongly opposing him in the primaries are Dannenfelser and Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, The New York Times reported May 15.
 
“He’s not my first choice. He’s not my second choice,” Nance told The Times. “But any concerns I have about him pale in contrast to Hillary Clinton.”
 
Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees consists of:

  • Steven Collton, a judge on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003 and clerked for the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

  • Allison Eid, an associate justice of the Colorado Supreme Court who clerked for Thomas on the Supreme Court.

  • Raymond Gruender, also a judge on the Eighth Circuit Court who was appointed by Bush in 2004.

  • Thomas Hardiman, a judge on the Third Circuit Court who was appointed by Bush in 2006.

  • Raymond Kethledge, a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court in Cincinnati who was appointed by Bush in 2007 and clerked for Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.

  • Joan Larsen, an associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court who clerked for Scalia.

  • Thomas Lee, an associate justice of the Utah Supreme Court who clerked for Thomas and is the brother of Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.

  • William Pryor, a judge on the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta who was appointed by Bush in 2004.

  • David Stras, an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court who clerked for Thomas.

  • Diane Sykes, a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court in Chicago who was appointed by Bush in 2003

  • Don Willett, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court who has been a critic of Trump on Twitter.

Many conservatives have regarded Sykes and Pryor as among the leading judges in the federal system.
 
On Hannity’s Wednesday evening show, Trump said the Federalist Society – an organization of conservative and libertarian lawyers – vetted the judges on his list and the conservative Heritage Foundation reviewed it.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/20/2016 11:49:46 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Nurturing theological connections in the Americas

May 20 2016 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

As a youth pastor, Billy Hurst went on a two-week mission trip to Haiti. Because his wife Debbie taught school, she had to remain in the U.S. In their separation, she feared for her husband’s well-being in a foreign country.
 
“So I spent a lot of time in the Word and just praying for his safety,” Debbie said. “And while I was having my quiet times, the Lord very clearly revealed to me that I needed to prepare myself because He was calling me to the foreign mission field.”

 
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IMB missionary Debbie Hurst has used her gifting in education to open neighbors' hearts to hear biblical truth in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Mexico.

She wrote a two-page letter to Billy explaining how God had been talking to her about going to the mission field at some point in their married life.
 
“I wrote it out,” she said with a laugh, “because I knew he wouldn’t believe me.”
 
When Billy returned to First Baptist Church in Clover, S.C., he was surprised by his wife’s news, but not for the reason she expected. While Billy was on mission in Haiti, God had extended to him the same call to cross-cultural missions.
 
“What a surprise to be reunited after two weeks and learn that God had spoken to both of us concerning this matter,” Billy said.
 
Since then, the Hursts have served in Mexico, Costa Rica and, for the last two years, Guatemala. Billy is a professor and director of the master’s program at the Guatemala Baptist Theological Seminary in Guatemala City while Debbie teaches at a local grade school.
 
Their vision in all they have done has been to see a new generation of pastor-theologians in Latin America reach the nations by teaching truth and transforming lives.
 
In the couple’s first step toward the mission field, Billy pursued a master of divinity degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, graduating in 1997 (and currently working toward his Ph.D.).
 
“A strong burden was put on my heart while in seminary for missions,” he said. “It was not until I got to seminary that I began to realize the meaning of Romans 1:18-21, which says that people are without excuse in terms of knowing God. I had always assumed that people who had never heard of God would go to heaven.
 
“At that point, God began to burden my heart concerning those who have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel message proclaimed.”
 
A year before graduating, Billy participated in a mission trip to Guatemala. Though he signed up at the invitation of a friend who later dropped out, Billy nevertheless experienced a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit while worshipping at a local church, sensing God telling him that Guatemala eventually would be his permanent place of service.

 
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IMB missionary Billy Hurst, in teaching at the Guatemala Baptist Seminary, aims to see a new generation of pastor-theologians reach the nations by teaching truth that transforms lives.

Billy said he wept that day out of fear over leaving his comfortable surroundings in the States, Billy said. But he also “wept for joy knowing that God was using the Holy Spirit to guide me and my wife into future ministry.”
 
The Hursts first went to Guatemala in 1998 and served there two years, followed by placements in Costa Rica and Mexico. Then, in 2014, the Lord brought them back to Guatemala.
 
The couple is now part of the International Mission Board’s theological education connector team for the American peoples affinity group (that is, the people of Latin America). The team’s mission is to connect the needs of Baptist seminaries and partner institutions in the Americas to resources within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
 
“As ‘theological educators,’ the men and women who constitute this team have as their primary calling the task of training and equipping a new generation of Baptist national leaders for Great Commission deployment,” Billy said. “This is done formally in academic and local church settings and informally as they interact with students and the seminary community.”
 
And, as “connectors,” Billy continued, team members are tasked with connecting the Americas’ theological education needs with “unprecedented opportunities for service and resources found within the SBC – including Baptist seminaries, Baptist universities, and volunteers from Baptist churches and associations.”
 
In addition, team members strive to be actively involved in local church life, from evangelism and missions to small-group multiplication as a component of church planting.
 
The Hursts work specifically with the Baptist seminary in Guatemala where Billy teaches classes on missions, evangelism and discipleship as well as other classes as needed on the main campus or one of its extensions. Thanks in part to its partnership with Southwestern’s Global Theological Innovation, the Guatemala seminary has extensions in the interior of the country as well as in neighboring Honduras and Belize.
 
Billy also leads a Friday morning staff devotional on the seminary campus and a Tuesday evening discipleship group for young men. On Sundays, he visits various churches throughout the country in order to promote the seminary and encourage his students.
 
Debbie, meanwhile, has been involved in children’s ministry throughout the couple’s missionary career. When their own two children were young, for example, she invited children from the community to their home for birthdays and holidays, and their parents often would tag along out of curiosity. Questions typically were asked why the Hursts were in the country, opening the door for them to explain that they are ministers of the gospel, which often led to the formation of Bible studies.
 
“Doing the children’s ministry gave us the connection with our neighborhood in Costa Rica that allowed us to start a church there by God’s grace,” Billy said. “Her ministry and love for the women in Guatemala helped us as we developed a church here as well.”
 
In his work with the seminary and its students, Billy said the most rewarding parts of his ministry are watching students walk across the stage at graduation and seeing their passion for the lost, obedience to the Word and their spiritual growth.
 
“God continues to raise up students with a passion for His Word,” Billy said. “Mardo, a second-year student, came to the seminary with little Bible knowledge but with a desire to learn and be obedient to the Word. Over time, he has matured in his faith and grown in wisdom. His passion for the lost serves as an example to all on campus.”
 
In the years since Billy and Debbie Hurst received the call to cross-cultural missions independently of one another, their vision has remained steady: Many have come to know the Lord and have been trained to share the message of Christ; the truth is being taught and, little by little, the world is being touched.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is the senior writer/copy editor for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

5/20/2016 11:43:25 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments



Hobbyist's auto restorations nurture young men

May 20 2016 by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index

For seven days, up to 12 hours a day, several Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) students took the rough places and made them new, fashioning what began as junk into something special.
 
Working under the watchful eye of John Albrycht, the group restored a 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle, winning Best in Class at the Classics in the Country Car Show in Watkinsville, Ga., on April 23. The like-new VW will be sold to raise money for SendMeNow missions for BCM students at Georgia College in Milledgeville to share the gospel in the U.S. and throughout the world.

 
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Bugs 4 Christ photo
John Albrycht, who leads the nonprofit Bugs 4 Christ ministry, sits in the 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle that he and others, including BCM students from Georgia College, were in the process of restoring. It won Best in Class at the Classics in the Country Car Show in Watkinsville.

Two of Albrycht’s daughters served through SendMeNow, so the program is close to his heart. Though this is the first time the hobbyist has guided the restoration of a car to directly benefit missions, he’s been using an auto shop environment to build up young men for years, going back to his youth minister days at Plentitude Baptist Church in Jones County, Ga.
 
“We had quite a few junior and senior guys involved in the program,” Albrycht recalled. “A volunteer, Jeff Weeks, suggested we find a way to develop relationships with them outside of the church before they headed off to college.”
 
They determined the shop was the best place, where spiritual applications come easier than you’d think. In the end, it’s just guys talking while they work. Their first project was a ‘71 Volkswagen Super Beetle that had been shut up in a student’s barn.
 
It’s been 10 years since Albrycht and others began restoring cars for high school students, migrating toward college students, as a mentoring ministry. As word got out, more men wanted to be involved; today more than a dozen men from 30-60 years old and stretching across denominations serve as mentors. Although projects often take place in a group setting, growth occurs in the one-on-one conversations sure to follow.
 
“I like to apply scripture [while we work] and ask guys how they’re going to use truths in the Bible in everyday life,” Albrycht said. “Before establishing the ministry, he had noticed how his students were having trouble applying the scriptural truths taught at church to their lives. “Follow-up was missing,” he realized.

 
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Bugs 4 Christ photo
Enjoying a lunch of fried catfish brought by a volunteer, a Bugs 4 Christ group, including BCM members from Georgia College, take a break from restoring a ‘74 Volkswagen Super Beetle.

“One Friday around midnight a guy showed up at my house and said, ‘Mr. John, I need to go work on the car.’ At church, we’d been talking about sex and marriage. After 20 minutes he admitted to me he’d had sex with his girlfriend that night. Now, he wanted to know what he should do.
 
“I’d been involved in youth ministry for 20 years at that point and I’d never had a question with that much honesty. It’s not a question you get at church. Working on the car had created an environment where he felt safe to ask. It really opened my eyes that we’re not doing cross-generational ministry like we should.”
 
That openness isn’t confined to the younger crowd either. “Older guys, especially those saved later in life, are honest about their scars,” said Albrycht, now a member of Northside Baptist Church in Milledgeville who works as a real estate appraiser, negotiator and project manager.
 
A father of five, Albrycht speaks in churches on the importance of men being the spiritual leader in the family. At last count he’s been part of restoring/rebuilding 26 cars and giving them to young men and women in need. He sees a direct spiritual association with the process.
 
“Restoring cars is like restoring lives through Christ,” Albrycht said. “I’ll use the repair manual of the car to show how when we live apart from the Bible we mess things up. To rebuild and repair the car, we need to be familiar with the manual. We have to be ready and understand it, the same way we study and apply scripture.”

 
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Bugs 4 Christ photo
Discipleship, not just physical labor, was involved in the restoration of this car to be sold to support missions outreach by the Baptist Campus Ministry at Georgia College.

Though Albrycht is partial to Volkswagen Beetles, as shown by his Bugs 4 Christ nonprofit ministry, various models have been rebuilt over the years. Currently he’s overseeing a restoration for Jay’s Hope, a Macon-based organization devoted to fighting childhood cancer. Funding for each project is largely attained through donations of materials, time, even food brought to workers. For the Georgia College BCM rebuild, meals were provided by Haddock, Gray and Northridge Baptist churches, among others.
 
Though the mentoring is geared toward the young, older generations get just as much out of it, Albrycht noted.
 
“The enthusiasm and zest for life from these young guys is passed along to the others. The guys from Georgia College were such strong Christians they helped us live at a ‘younger level’ that week.”
 
And that generational highway goes both ways.
 
“If the goal is for kids to not just be hearers of the Word, but do what it says, then we have to provide relational support,” Albrycht said. “Older men have to pass on a positive spiritual heritage.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is web content developer for The Christian Index at christianindex.org, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

5/20/2016 11:32:32 AM by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index | with 0 comments



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