April 2011

Supreme Court limits prisoners’ right to sue

April 22 2011 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — Prison inmates who are deprived of their religious rights cannot sue states for monetary damages, the Supreme Court ruled April 20.  

Inmate Harvey Leroy Sossamon III said a Texas state prison illegally prevented him from attending religious services. Sossamon had been on cell restriction for disciplinary reasons at the time.  

Sossamon alleged that the prison’s actions violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), which protects inmates’ right to practice their faith.  

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, ruled that under RLUIPA prisoners can sue to change prison policies but not seek financial redress. Texas does not forgo its “sovereign immunity” when it accepts federal money to run its prisons, Thomas said.  

After Sossamon filed suit, the prison changed its policies, Thomas noted.  

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was joined by Justice Stephen Breyer in dissenting from the majority decision, argued that RLIUPA allows prisoners to seek “appropriate relief” for violations of the law.  
Without the possibility of monetary damages, Sotomayor said, prisoners will be forced to defend their religious rights “with one hand tied behind their backs.” The Baptist Joint Committee (BJC) for Religious Liberty agreed, saying the high court’s ruling leaves prisoners with “an incomplete remedy for vindicating their religious rights.”  

“We are disappointed in the majority’s pinched view of what was a clear congressional intent to provide prisoners broad protection for religious liberty and a robust remedy for its violation, including monetary damages,” said BJC Executive Director J. Brent Walker.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
4/22/2011 9:14:00 AM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



EC focuses on financial, committee reports

April 21 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

The Executive Committee (EC) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) met April 14 in Cary for a regularly scheduled meeting and heard committee and financial reports and appointments to new committees.  

The meeting began with a Vision Fulfillment story from Bob Fulkerson, pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in Goldsboro.  

Madison Avenue is less than one mile from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and the church has been seeking ways to minister to the military and their families.  

The church recently worked with Eddie Thompson, BSC marriage and family consultant, to host a marriage enrichment event for military families.  

Earlier this year Madison Avenue also hosted a conference for pastors, counselors, chaplains and lay persons involved with or interested in ministering to military personnel who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Although the church is not large in terms of size, its service in the community is an example that “it doesn’t matter what size church you are, you can make a difference,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer.   

Personnel matters
John Butler, executive leader for business services, reported on a change in the work assignments for the accounting team. Robert Simons resigned as comptroller in August of last year, and in his absence members of the accounting team have assumed additional job responsibilities. Since that time, Butler and the Convention’s auditors, C. Dewitt Foard and Company in Charlotte, have determined that while an additional “set of trained eyes” is needed to review the monthly financial statements and bank reconciliations, a full time CPA or MBA staff member would prove an unnecessary expense.

Therefore, BSC senior accountant Beverly Volz will assume many of the day-to-day tasks performed by the former comptroller. The BSC will hire a CPA to work on a contract basis each month to review monthly reports and bank reconciliations.

“This is just one example of what we’re trying to do in order to save dollars,” Hollifield said. “We are trying to examine all our staff positions to see if we can do more with less.”

Committee on Nominations
Mark Harris, Convention first vice president, brought the Committee on Nominations report. Those new appointments include:
  • Craig Hamlin, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, as 2011 chair of the Committee on Convention Meetings. Former chair Paul Crews is moving out of the state to accept a ministry position.  
  • Kenny Chinn, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Wilmington, as chair of the 2011 Committee on Resolutions and Memorials.  
  • Jim Gorsuch, member of Penelope Baptist Church in Hickory to fill the 2013 term of Barbara Hunnicutt for the Baptist Children’s Homes Board of Directors.  
  • Brandon Blair, student minister of Calvary Baptist Church in Lincolnton to fill the 2013 term of Laura Dunlow for the Committee on Convention Meetings.  
  • Michael McGirt, pastor of Faithwalk Fellowship Church in Hope Mills to fill the 2012 term of Robert Steele for the Committee on Convention Meetings.
Study committees
EC chair Bobby Blanton announced appointments to two study committees that come as a result of motions approved by messengers at the 2010 BSC annual meeting.

Phil Addison of Stony Point Church in Stony Point asked messengers to, “direct the Board of Directors to study and come (up) with recommendations concerning the adoption of the Baptist Faith and message 2000 as the doctrinal statement for the North Carolina Baptist State Convention and bring such recommendation(s) to the 2011 North Carolina Baptist State Convention Annual Meeting.”

That study committee includes: Greg Mathis, chair, Mud Creek Baptist Church, Hendersonville; Don Bouldin, Carmel Baptist Church, Charlotte; Eddie Honeycutt, First Baptist Church, Stanleyville; Cameron McGill, First Baptist Church, Dublin; and Rit Varialle, Elizabeth Baptist Church, Shelby.

Tim Rogers of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Indian Trail asked messengers to, “direct the Board of Directors to study a policy concerning the social use of alcohol as it relates to the funding of church plants, employment of personnel, and the nomination of persons serving on committees and boards of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Inc., and report back to the 2011 annual convention.” That study committee includes: Mike Whitson, chair, First Baptist Church, Indian Trail; Mike Barrett, Pleasant Garden Baptist Church, Pleasant Garden; Brian Langley, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Knightdale; M.O. Owens Jr., Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia; and Marcus Redding, Hulls Grove Baptist Church, Vale.

Both committees will report back to the EC in August and the BSC Board of Directors in September.

Young leaders
The only item of new business came as Blanton asked the EC to begin considering what they can do to invest in young leaders across the state.

He encouraged each EC member to begin thinking about bringing with them to this year’s annual meeting in Greensboro one or two young leaders who have never attended an annual meeting.

As the EC and Board serve as a “strong leadership agent,” Blanton said it is time to “begin the process of trying to invest in that next generation.”

Financial Report
Cooperative Program funds are close to $7.6 million, .3 percent ahead of last year at this time. Giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is ahead 23.88 percent and giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering is ahead 5.5 percent.

The next EC meeting is May 16 in conjunction with the Board of Directors meeting.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — BR Assistant Managing Editor Dianna L. Cagle contributed to this report.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/21/2011 5:41:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Carter serves Southeastern for 50 years

April 21 2011 by Lauren Crane, SEBTS

On April 10, 1961, Evelyn Carter began her employment at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on a “trial basis.” Half a century later, her trial period is over, and she is still faithfully serving.

In the spring of 1961, Southeastern’s first president, Sydnor L. Stealey approached his friend Charles, Carter’s husband, to ask if his wife would be willing to come and work as a faculty secretary at the young school. With only six faculty members at the time and one student wife working for them, Stealey was looking for someone who would be a more enduring fixture at the seminary to serve the faculty. Neither he, nor Carter, had any idea how enduring her time at Southeastern would be. On April 12, 2011, Southeastern seminary honored Carter for her year’s of service during a chapel service in Binkley Chapel on the Wake Forest campus.

Fifty years ago, when Stealey approached Carter to ask her to consider becoming a faculty secretary, “I told him I needed to think about it,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m not qualified to work for people with Ph.Ds.’ Dr. Stealey told me you never know what you can do unless you try.” After continuing to discuss the idea of working at Southeastern, Carter decided she would work for two to three months on an experimental basis.

“I was willing to try, but I wanted to start on a trial basis to see if the people I work for were happy with my work,” Carter said. “In two months I worked every day, and every day I worked, I liked it more and more.”

SEBTS photo

Evelyn Carter

By mid-summer of 1961, Carter was convinced she had found her calling in life — to serve and support the work of the young Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as a faculty secretary. “The professors were very nice. I never thought professors and people with more education than me could be so kind. They were like me. They were smarter than I was, but they never let me think they were smarter than I was. I told Dr. Stealey, ‘I think I have found my calling, and I am so happy. I’ll go full time, and if anything comes up to make you think I’m not qualified … we’ll work on it.’”

Over the next several years, Carter saw Stealey’s retirement and Olin Binkley’s succession as the second president of Southeastern. Throughout the 11 years of Binkley’s tenure as president, Carter worked faithfully alongside him and the other faculty members. Although it was a period of much change and growth for the seminary, Carter said she became increasingly close with the faculty and grew to love her job more and more. Following Binkley’s retirement in 1974, Carter remembers the beginning of William Randall Lolley’s 14-year presidential term at Southeastern. “That was the year more professors started coming in. All of them were kind, and every one that came I loved them more. It was like a big, happy family,” Carter said. The family atmosphere led Carter to freely open up with the professors when she felt overwhelmed with work. “When I first started, I was young, and very careful with them. During Dr. Binkley’s and Dr. Lolley’s administrations, I got bolder. I had that privilege, and we got along great.”

As Lewis Drummond, Paige Patterson and Daniel Akin took over the presidency of Southeastern, Carter continued to work at the seminary in whatever office needed her. Although she never worked in Stephens-Mackie Hall, throughout her 50 years at Southeastern she has held offices in every other building on campus. “Evelyn Carter has served with grace and distinction for every president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Akin, president of Southeastern, said. Not only has she seen the presidents and the campus itself change and grow, she has also witnessed the evolution of technology used in the office.

“When I started, they didn’t know how to type. I started on a manual typewriter, then an electrical typewriter, then a word processor, then computers, and I got lost and have never caught up. I’ve survived through different times, different periods and different experiences.”

In the late 1980s, as Carter’s husband’s health was failing, she was given the ability to take time off to care for her husband and household. “The year my husband died, he had been sick and had to go to Duke for various things.

“We were in and out of the hospital for two years. I told Dr. Lolley, ‘I’m taking off, but I’m using my vacation time.’” Lolley told Carter not to use vacation time, but to care for her husband and let Southeastern care for her. One way they did this, Carter said, was by having professors come to their home to help pick butterbeans and plant corn in their garden — a task Carter was unable to do alone.

“Those years were the most special to me, and they are years I’ll never forget and professors I’ll never forget,” Carter said. Although she considered retiring shortly after her husband’s death in 1988, Carter said she realized serving Southeastern professors was a blessing to her. “I didn’t want to be at home, with nobody there but me. That wouldn’t be good for me. I wanted to be active.”

Carter’s active lifestyle led her to take a trip to Israel in 1996, something she and her husband had been planning to do together before his death. “We were going to travel some, and in 1996 Southeastern gave me financial help to go to Israel. That was the highlight of my years. I never thought I’d be able to do that, and to go with one of the professors I had worked with was wonderful.”

Carter, who does not have any definitive plans to retire from serving at Southeastern, said she appreciates and is so grateful for every president of the school.

“They have served this great institution so well and allowed me the privilege of reaching a goal of fifty years at a place I love dearly. I will cherish the happy memories of every professor I have worked with during these years of service in the seminary and college. Their friendship, kindness and love will always have a special place in my heart.”

Akin said he is thankful for her 50 years of service to the college and seminary. “She has been a marvelous servant of King Jesus who brightens and encourages everyone she meets. What an incredible blessing she has been and continues to be. I love this sweet lady, my sister in the Lord.”

“The Lord Jesus Christ has blessed me in so many ways with his love, guidance, good health and strength to fulfill my goal and work for fifty years at Southeastern, a place that is dear to my heart,” Carter said. “To God be the glory, great things he has done!”

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/21/2011 5:30:00 AM by Lauren Crane, SEBTS | with 0 comments



Churches may qualify for credit

April 21 2011 by Baptist Press

DALLAS  — Online resources to help small churches evaluate whether to pursue the Small Business Healthcare Tax Credit under the health care reform law are now available from GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

These resources can be accessed free of charge on GuideStone’s Healthcare Reform website, www.GuideStoneInsurance.org/Healthreform.

The resource page includes a comprehensive Q&A about the tax credit; definitions and step-by-step guide for determining eligibility and amount of the credit; and necessary government forms.

The resource also includes a webinar with Danny Miller, a noted attorney with Connor & Winters who specializes in benefits issues for ministers.

“We urge churches to evaluate all factors before deciding whether to pursue the credit,” said O.S. Hawkins, GuideStone’s president.

“These resources provide tools to help in that process.”

The IRS confirmed in Notice 2010-82 in December that the Small Business Healthcare Tax Credit is available to churches who participate through a self-funded denominational church health plan, including GuideStone health plans.

John Butler, executive leader for business services at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said this is something most churches overlook.

Butler encouraged the BSC Executive Committee members April 14 to check on the possibility of receiving this credit for their churches.

Butler said that churches with 25 or fewer full-time equivalents would most likely be eligible. He advised churches with one employee to avoid the hassle because of time and money.

“It could be a significant boost to your budget,” Butler said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — BR Assistant Managing Editor Dianna L. Cagle contributed to this report.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/21/2011 5:25:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Exhibit wades into the water of river baptisms

April 20 2011 by Chris Herlinger, Religion News Service

NEW YORK — Religious rituals once shrouded in mystery are becoming less private — more open to photography, video, even tweets from the pulpit.

An exhibit at New York’s International Center of Photography (ICP) reveals a similar “opening up” a century ago as photographs of river baptisms began appearing on mass-distributed photo postcards.

“Take Me to the Water: Photographs of River Baptisms,” drawn from an archive of photographs of river baptisms donated by collectors Janna Rosenkranz and Jim Linderman, is a revealing exhibit both about the rituals themselves and how they were portrayed.

The photographs — all but one on postcards — chronicle an era of rapid transformation. While city growth and waves of immigrants changed the face of industrialized urban America, economic depression and religious revivalism marked life in the predominately Protestant South and rural Midwest.

Immersion baptisms became public events — practiced by a number of denominations but most often associated with Baptists who, while mocked as “dunkers or dippers,” were effective proselytizers, ICP curator Erin Barnett writes in her introductory text.

As part of this revivalism, rural pastors encouraged “outdoor communal rites” that became public displays of Christian faith, often witnessed by dozens, even hundreds, of people.

“Media-savvy preachers promoted mass revivals and encouraged a dialogue about religion in popular culture and media,” Barnett writes. While the postcards predate Facebook or Twitter, they share a similar strain of publicizing events and rituals in the public sphere, she said in an interview.

The need to promote “the Word” was no more obvious than in Liberal, Mo., a community founded in 1880 as a “town free of churches.” Though town fathers tried their best to keep Christian influence at bay, baptisms on land near the town were photographed and placed on postcards as evidence of Christian success.

Photo courtesy International Center of Photography

A postcard circa 1910 depicting a “Negro baptizing scene” in Greenville, Miss., is part of the “Take Me to the Water: Photographs of River Baptisms” exhibit at the International Center of Photography in New York.


The rites shown in the exhibit were “presented as an important, dignified, and solemn occasion, a traditional and visually stunning ritual in a changing world,” Barnett writes.

“These postcards were mementos of participation in or observation of an event of personal significance, and served as touchstones for stories about the believer’s life-altering experience.”

The fact that baptisms were preserved on postcards is also revealing. Photographs of baptisms were taken by professional and amateur photographers alike, but the advent of home photography and postcard-making resulted in a boom of millions of postcards throughout the U.S. in the early 1900s.

As the exhibit of about 50 works shows, there was also an underside. Some of the postcards were intended for northerners visiting the South and display a view of African-Americans that was often racist, using typical racial epithets of the time. One of the milder comments on one of the cards entitled “A Typical Negro Baptizing,” said: “You would think they would at least change to bathing suits, wouldn’t you?”     

Barnett said the exhibit makes no attempt to sanitize the impact of the postcards, or what she called the “horrifying” racist messages that accompanied them.

The exhibit is divided between photographs showing predominately white and African-American baptisms. The largest single image — and one that’s not on a postcard — depicts a baptism preformed in August 1919 in Indianapolis by Alexander Willbanks.

Barnett noted that in that image, as well as others, whites can be seen gawking at the African-American baptisms — a reminder of America’s racial divide, even (or especially) in religious matters.     

“You have one faith tradition, and those in the photographs are celebrating the same thing — a religious ritual of great importance,” she said. “But there’s absolutely no integration. I find that both amazing and disturbing.”

“Take Me to the Water: Photographs of River Baptisms” is on display at the International Center of Photography in New York through May 8.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/20/2011 11:07:00 AM by Chris Herlinger, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Americans embrace pluralism, poll says

April 20 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A majority of Americans mostly reject universalism — the belief that all people will be saved — but nevertheless believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, with a plurality saying that good works are the key to entrance into heaven, according to a new analysis of Barna surveys.

The data, released April 18, shows that millions of adults reject the clear teachings of scripture that faith alone, in Christ alone is necessary for salvation. Although Americans may distance themselves from universalism, they tend to embrace pluralism — the belief that different religions lead to heaven.

By a 48-44 percent margin, U.S. adults believe that “if a person is generally good or does enough good things for others, they will earn a place in heaven.” Also, 59 percent of Americans believe that “Christians and Muslims worship the same God,” although only 43 percent believe that “the Bible, the Koran and the Book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truth.”

Americans tend to reject universalism, although large percentages of adults accept it:
  • 55 percent of Americans disagree with the statement that “all people will experience the same outcome after death, regardless of their religious beliefs”; 40 percent agree.
  • 54 percent disagree that “it doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lesson”; 43 percent agree.
  • 50 percent disagree that “all people are eventually saved or accepted by God, no matter what they do, because he loves all people he has created”; 40 percent agree.
Sixty-nine percent of adults agree that “in life you either side with God or you side with the devil; there is no in-between position”; 37 percent disagree.

Additionally, 51 percent of Americans believe they “have a responsibility to tell other people their religious beliefs.”

The survey was based on data collected during telephone surveys between 2005 and 2011. Each survey had at least 1,000 respondents.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. The entire report is available at http://bit.ly/fFpjyb.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/20/2011 11:05:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Twisters kill 45, destroy church buildings

April 19 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tornadoes plagued the South for three days, killing at least 45 people in six states Thursday through Saturday, and damaging or destroying several Southern Baptist church buildings.

The storm system was the deadliest to hit the United States since February 2008 when 57 people were killed across the Southeast. In North Carolina alone, 62 tornadoes were reported and 23 people were killed Saturday night, according to USA Today. That number rose to 105 by Monday morning but officials had not completed their assessments, which will lower the numbers when the path of various tornadoes has been determined.

Boone’s Chapel Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., was heavily damaged by a tornado that struck the community Friday. The original brick structure, which was used as a chapel and the children’s education area, was a total loss, pastor Mike Johnson told The Alabama Baptist. The newer multipurpose section of Boone’s Chapel was damaged but should be reparable.

A father and his two adult children were killed in their homes on the edge of the Boone’s Chapel property. The church’s student minister lived in a home between the church and the two homes where the family members were killed, and his home was damaged by the tornado.

Members of Boone’s Chapel were out the next morning, helping however they could, The Alabama Baptist reported. As he pulled a file folder from the damaged church building, Johnson said, “There’s nothing like a tornado to change your sermon.” His sermon the next day would be from Lamentations 3 on the unfailing faithfulness of God. The congregation would meet at a local high school but expected to be back on their property on Easter Sunday.

Photo by Jennifer Davis Rash/The Alabama Baptist

Boone’s Chapel Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., was heavily damaged by a tornado April 15. The original brick structure, which was used as a chapel and the children’s education area, was a total loss, pastor Mike Johnson told The Alabama Baptist.


“Our members are definitely saddened, because the chapel was a place with a lot of memories of baptisms, weddings and funerals,” Johnson told the North American Mission Board. “But the church was insured and we will rebuild.”

The church’s music minister may have saved the lives of Johnson and his wife, who had planned to seek shelter at the church. “But he talked me into staying put in our home. It was an intervention of God.”

About this time last year, Johnson was pastor of First Baptist Church in Albertville, Ala., when a tornado destroyed portions of that community. He believes that experience helped prepare him for the disaster and rebuilding process to come at Boone’s Chapel.

At the request of the local school board, four Southern Baptist disaster relief chaplains were counseling adults and children at Pine Level Elementary School near Boone’s Chapel Monday, according to Mel Johnson, disaster relief coordinator for the Alabama Baptist Convention.

“We’ve even already had some decisions for Christ,” Mel Johnson said, adding that 10 chainsaw and recovery teams with more than 100 volunteers have been deployed in Alabama.

In Virginia, the sanctuary at Zoar Baptist Church in Deltaville was destroyed along with 28 homes in the community. The Southside Sentinel reported that a tornado “tore the roof off of Zoar Baptist Church and knocked down the two side walls. A painting of Jesus above the altar was unscathed. The church fellowship hall also was damaged but not as severely.”

In Atoka, Okla., Hillcrest Baptist Church suffered structural damage particularly to one corner of the building, according to a pastor in the area.

Jeff Self, pastor of First Baptist Church in Coalgate, Okla., told Baptist Press he drove by Hillcrest, and it looked like the parsonage behind the church was destroyed. He wasn’t sure if the pastor had been living there.

“They had an educational building that was pretty well damaged too,” Self said. “Our area got hit pretty hard. I don’t know of any other churches in our association that were damaged. There probably are some, but we’re so spread out I don’t know. The whole town of Tushka is pretty much obliterated. I’m sure many church members have lost homes and lost everything.”

Tushka Baptist Church, Self said, had some roof damage and some broken windows as well as a damaged church van.

Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptist Men, said tornadoes were responsible for widespread damage from Raleigh to the eastern part of the state.

At least 1,500 North Carolina Baptist disaster relief volunteers have been mobilized in that state, Brunson said, and feeding stations are operating in Raleigh. Most of the feeding is for the recovery teams and volunteers, who are working out of Baptist churches in eight locations throughout North Carolina.

“We have a lot of good blue hats and coordinators in North Carolina who got the people out fast,” Brunson said. “The Raleigh feeding unit served 4,000 meals on Sunday.”

Many homes were completely destroyed, which necessitates lots of chainsaw and cleanup work, Brunson said. To his knowledge, no Southern Baptist churches were destroyed in North Carolina.

Samaritan’s Purse, known for its international relief efforts, also deployed quickly in its home base of North Carolina to help residents clear debris.

In Clinton, Miss., about 10 miles west of Jackson, two subdivisions were hit particularly hard, said Don Gann, disaster relief coordinator for the Mississippi Baptist Convention. At least 30 homes were damaged severely in Clinton, and 100 Clinton families remained out of their homes and were staying with relatives or in shelters.

“It could have been a lot worse,” said Gann, whose own Clinton home was spared damage when a tornado passed over on Friday. “Right now, we’re doing OK and don’t need any outside help. Mississippi folks just immediately started helping each other. But we know who to call if we do need help.”

Feeding sites were set up in Clinton, Leakesville and De Kalb, Gann said. The units prepared 800 meals on Saturday and another 600 on Sunday. In all, about 200 Mississippi Baptist volunteers were involved in feeding, chainsaw and assessment work in those three areas.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach and North American Mission Board writer Mickey Noah.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/19/2011 6:54:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



In Japan, relief caravans, training under way

April 19 2011 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

ISHINOMAKI, Japan — Japan’s Baptist leader has expressed heartfelt gratitude for the assistance Baptists worldwide have provided in the aftermath of his country’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami — and has made specific requests for continued prayer.

Southern Baptists working in the disaster response say they are pleased that weekly caravans can now make their way into the disaster zone and that training efforts are helping Japanese Baptists mount effective relief initiatives.

“Please accept my deepest gratitude for your kind expressions of comfort, encouragement, prayer support, and love offerings, following the earthquake that has wrought devastation to Japan,” Makoto Kato, executive secretary of the Japan Baptist Convention, said in an April 1 letter. “The warm response from Christian brothers and sisters around the world has sustained our broken hearts. Japan Baptist churches appreciate the marvelous support system of Baptists around the world united in prayer for Japan.”

The increased availability of gasoline has made it possible for “the most critical necessities for human existence, such as water, food, clothing, gasoline, and kerosene,” to be delivered into the disaster zone, Kato said. The Japan Baptist Convention has placed temporary crisis management staff in the area to support the work of local churches in helping ease the emotional trauma disaster survivors are experiencing.

Baptist Global Response (BGR), an international relief and development organization, and its partners are moving to establish bases of operation in the primary impact areas of Sendai and Ishinomaki, said Jeff Palmer, BGR’s executive director.

“We have partners committed to establishing and staffing bases of operations in Ishinomaki and Sendai, and plan to build housing in Sendai for Japanese Baptist volunteers coming out from Tokyo,” Palmer said. “The operation now has the capacity of feeding hot meals to up to 3,000 people at a time, and our stateside disaster relief specialists have trained Japanese Baptists in areas of disaster response administration, grief counseling and logistics.”

The increased availability of gasoline has made it possible for “the most critical necessities for human existence, such as water, food, clothing, gasoline, and kerosene,” to be delivered into the disaster zone, said Makoto Kato, executive secretary of the Japan Baptist Convention.


Palmer said he has been deeply moved by the generosity of Southern Baptists in responding to the Japan crisis.

“We are now somewhere over $500,000 in donations through IMB (International Mission Board) and BGR and have appropriated almost $200,000,” Palmer said. “Funds are still coming in at a fairly steady pace, thanks to churches that have not forgotten Japan’s suffering people, and to partners like LifeWay Christian Resources, which has designated the ‘change buckets’ in their stores nationwide for Japan relief. Southern Baptists continue to demonstrate they are people who care about people in need.”

The disaster response in Japan is about connecting with people in need and caring about them as individuals, said Pam Wolf, who with her husband Ben helps lead BGR work in the Asia Rim.

Wolf joined a team headed into Ishinomaki on April 5 that helped a woman named Sato who wanted to return to the city in search of family members. Sato wound up helping with a distribution of relief supplies on the parking lot of a convenience store. While they were handing out supplies, Sato recognized one woman as an old friend, who also was searching for her family. The two women were deeply moved to find each other.

Sometimes just listening to someone’s story is even more important than what you give them, Wolf reflected. She told about a boy they met in Ishinomaki who had been swept away with his dog by the tsunami. The boy struggled to cling to his dog in the raging water and finally was able to catch hold of a ladder — but found himself forced to let go of the dog so he could climb out.

“He told us his story with tears in his eyes,” Wolf said. “You might think there are far worse tragedies than losing a dog that happened during the disaster, but for this boy, his loss is as traumatic as anyone else’s. Because Southern Baptists cared enough to send us in to do disaster response, we were able to be the love of God for this boy.”

Kato asked believers around the world to pray for the thousands of disaster survivors who need to experience the love of God for themselves: “Pray for the people struggling to survive under difficult conditions. Pray for the refugees living in relief centers, the sick, the grieving. Pray for the people who have been evacuated from the radioactive danger, and the many more that live in fear of contamination. Pray for the Lord Jesus to fill them with His comfort and strength.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is assistant editor and senior writer for Baptist Press. The International Mission Board has established a relief fund for the Japan disaster. Donations may be sent to Office of Finance, International Mission Board, 3806 Monument Ave., Richmond, VA 23230. In the memo line write “Japan Response Fund.” Or you can give online by going to imb.org and clicking on the “Japan response” button. For further information, call the IMB toll-free at 1-800-999-3113. Baptist Global Response is on the Internet at gobgr.org.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/19/2011 6:22:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Chinese gov’t continues crackdown on Christians

April 19 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

BEIJING — Fulfilling a promise to hold a worship service outside despite government demands, a large Beijing unregistered church — saying it would rather obey God than the Chinese government — saw 47 church members arrested April 17 in a public square, one week after 160 of its members were arrested by Chinese officials.

The standoff between the congregation, known as Shouwang Church, and the government has received worldwide attention and has brought to light the government’s often-hidden crackdown on Christianity. Since the first round of arrests April 10, some churches members have lost their jobs and been evicted after the government pressured employers and landlords, church leaders say.

Churches in China must register with the government, but once they do, they often have to conform to restrictions on growth and evangelism. The only legally recognized Protestant churches belong to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

Shouwang is only one of thousands of unregistered churches in China, but also one of the largest, with about 1,000 members. The unregistered churches often are called “house” churches because of their meeting location. Shouwang met in a building until 2009, when the Chinese government pressured the landlord to evict the congregation. Since then, the government has blocked attempts by the church to rent or purchase other property.

Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid, said Christians worldwide must speak up and pray for Shouwang. ChinaAid monitors religious freedom in China.

“God and his persecuted church will hold us accountable if we keep silent when we know clearly what we can and should do for our persecuted body of Christ,” Fu said. “We urge the Chinese government to exercise restraint and refrain from using violence that would further escalate the conflict with peaceful Shouwang worshippers who ask for nothing more than simply to exercise their right to religious freedom.”

The government didn’t seem to care April 10 that it was arresting church members in the nation’s capital in broad daylight, with media members watching. That pattern continued April 17, although it did warn an Associated Press writer not to conduct interviews. Once church members started to sing hymns in the public square, they were arrested, ChinaAid reported. Most of them were freed by that evening, although some — particularly the ones who had participated in both services — were still in custody. Yet even before Sunday morning, police had tried to stop the meeting by detaining senior pastor Jin Tianming and placing the other church leaders under house arrest. Upwards of 1,000 police were involved in the first round of arrests April 10, but there was not an estimate yet of the number of police involved this time. Tianming was freed Sunday morning, April 17.

In a letter to church members prior to the second outdoor service, Tianming had urged members to “step out, whatever the cost.”

“This really and truly is a spiritual battle,” Tianming said. “The devil Satan has taken advantage of the authority God has granted to the national government to destroy God’s church.”

The church’s outdoor worship is “pleasing to the Lord,” he added.

“We believe the church is Christ’s church, and Christ is the head of the church,” he wrote, restating what the church had said days earlier. “The church ought to honor only our Lord Jehovah as God. There is no other god besides Him. Therefore, the church will never be controlled or manipulated by any external forces; she belongs only to our Lord. What this outdoor worship expressed was our uncompromising position with regard to (the practice of) our faith.”

The church also released a statement saying that it cannot join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement because it is an “official state institution” and “is not a church.” But it did say it would be glad to register with the government, which it tried to do in 2006 only to be denied.

The government tolerated Shouwang’s growth until the law few years. The final straw apparently took place in October when approximately 200 house church members, including some from Shouwang, tried to attend the Lausanne Congress on Global Evangelization in South Africa, The New York Times reported. Most were prevented from leaving the country, and Chinese officials were angry that the house churches had tried to represent China instead of allowing the Three-Self Patriotic Movement to do so.

The Chinese House Church Alliance released a statement April 16 urging “all peace-loving Christians worldwide” to pray for Shouwang Church, which it said was being persecuted. “Some Chinese leaders mistakenly believe that if churches grow, it will lead to religious forces becoming an influence on political power and become a source of instability in society,” the alliance said in a statement. “Therefore, based on this misunderstanding, the government has adopted a long-term policy of suppressing religion.”

The Chinese house church movement, the statement said, must obey God.

“Christianity as a religion and Christians as citizens and members of society are willing to submit to the supervision of earthly kings and rulers,” the statement from the alliance said. “But, if the kings and rulers want Christians to do what goes against Biblical principles, then the church and Christians in this instance will unhesitatingly choose to submit to God and not to kings and rulers. This is something that earthly kings and rulers often do not understand. The church was established by Jesus Christ through his blood and water and the Holy Spirit. Christians as sons of God, which is a spiritual identity, are not under the supervision of earthly kings and rulers but rather under the supervision of the holy Lord Jesus Christ.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Read more about Shouwang Church at ChinaAid.org or The New York Times’ feature on the church.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/19/2011 6:17:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Study: Longer life means less need for church

April 19 2011 by Al Webb, Religion News Service

Researchers at two of Britain’s top universities claim that church attendance in many Western nations is falling because people are living longer and therefore have less fear of death.

The result, the studies say, is a “graying church.” In Britain, one in four older adults (65 or older) attends church, while just 11 percent of those between 16 and 44 are regular churchgoers.

The project was conducted by researchers at St. Andrews University in Scotland and the University of East Anglia in England and published in the International Journal of Social Economics.

East Anglia’s Elissaios Papyrakis wrote that younger people question the benefits of going to church year after year, whereas the elderly are far more apt to consider religion’s promise of life after death.

Some critics, however, say the theory is a harder match for the U.S., which leads other industrialized nations in church attendance.  

Papyrakis said churches should concentrate more on the good things religion can offer, starting early. That, he added, “can counterbalance the negative impact of life expectancy on religiosity — which in effect reduces concern about life after death.”

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
4/19/2011 6:16:00 AM by Al Webb, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



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