April 2012

Operation Inasmuch – April 28, May 5 – is opportunity to evangelize

April 23 2012 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

Sharing the gospel in modern America is not as acceptable to the unchurched population as it was just two generations ago, said David Crocker, executive-director and founder of Operation Inasmuch (OIAM).
Since that time, the broader culture has turned against the church and embraced secularism. Crocker said the culture shift of the last half century has taken a toll on the church’s efforts to impact lostness.
“The openness to hear the gospel is less than ever,” he said. “And the willingness to share the gospel is less than ever because we are afraid of being rejected.”
During a break out session April 14 at the N.C. Baptist Missions Conference at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, Crocker explained how Operation Inasmuch is an effective evangelistic tool that helps break down barriers between the culture and the church.    
Operation Inasmuch is a missions effort that encourages churches to minister to those in need in their communities through hands-on, practical efforts such as construction projects, landscaping, painting, block parties and prayer walking. This year, the initiative also will be teaming up with North Carolina’s Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) and its Rampin’ Up! effort to build wheelchair ramps for homes around the state.

BSC photo by Buddy Overman

David Crocker leads an Operation Inasmuch breakout session during the N.C. Baptist Men’s Missions Conference April 14.

The compassion-based ministry provides services to the community with no strings attached. Connecting with the community in this way builds bridges between the church and a skeptical culture, and provides Christians a platform from which they can share the love of Christ through word and deed.
“When you serve people first you show them that you care and you earn the right to share with them,” Crocker said. 
Crocker pointed out that the model for Operation Inasmuch is based upon the holistic ministry of Jesus, who routinely combined good news with good deeds. But he added that some churches have not taken full advantage of the opportunity to share the gospel while serving their neighbors in practical ways.
“There are a lot of churches that are doing Operation Inasmuch and they may not be realizing the full evangelistic potential of that one-day event,” Crocker said.
Crocker shared a few practical suggestions that will help churches make Operation Inasmuch as evangelistic as possible.
One approach is to make sure team leaders consistently reinforce to volunteers the motivation behind Operation Inasmuch. Leaders can also help prepare volunteers to share their faith while they serve in the community. 
Another way churches can emphasize evangelism is to hand out printed materials such as postcards and Bibles. The postcards are an easy way to tell people why the volunteers are serving as the hands and feet of Jesus. Bibles also are given to families and individuals who receive help with home repair projects. 
Crocker’s final suggestion calls for leaders to identify evangelistically gifted volunteers and intentionally move them to multiple projects throughout the community during the day.
He believes when churches use these additional methods they will make a big difference in their communities. “When we put good news and good deeds together it creates good will in the community,” Crocker said. “Most of our communities could use some of that.”
For more information about how you or your church can participate in Operation Inasmuch, visit ncoperationinasmuch.org.
To learn more about national OIAM, visit operationinasmuch.org.
4/23/2012 4:01:23 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Campbell law professors refute claims about marriage amendment

April 23 2012 by VoteForMarriage NC

RALEIGH, N.C. — On April 18, law professors from Campbell University released a white paper refuting the claims made by Professor Maxine Eichner of University of North Carolina School of Law who has alleged that the N.C. Marriage Protection Amendment would negatively affect current law. 
Law professors Lynn Buzzard, William Woodruff and E. Gregory Wallace found Eichner’s assertions regarding how the amendment would alter legal protections for unmarried same-sex and opposite sex couples to be incorrect and said “we do not think its terms justify these concerns.”
In a press release, the Campbell University law professors (who are speaking as individuals, not for the university) said if the amendment passes, “same-sex couples would still be protected under domestic violence laws, would retain their current rights to child custody and visitation, and could continue to receive public health insurance benefits.”
The professors’ legal analysis stated, “The Amendment does not forbid the legal recognition or validity of all domestic relationships, but only of domestic ‘unions.’ The flaw in Professor Eichner’s analysis is that she does not give the term ‘union’ its proper effect in limiting the amendment’s reach.”
In addition, the law professors found that, “The plain language of the amendment reaches only domestic unions – marriage and marriage imitations or substitutes – not all domestic relationships. There is no evidence that North Carolina’s proposed amendment is intended to go further than the marriage amendments in every other state by barring the state, as Professor Eichner claims, from giving unmarried couples ‘much less significant protections than those accorded married couples.’”
“We are thankful that the law professors at Campbell University had the diligence to dig deeper into this matter and confirm that the opposition’s charges against the amendment are factually and legally false. The Marriage Protection Amendment simply elevates current law defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman to a constitutional amendment,” said Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of Vote FOR Marriage NC. “It’s time for the opposition to stop fabricating hypotheticals as a scare tactic to avoid talking about the real issue at hand – preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Since the amendment passed the N.C. General Assembly in September of 2011, Maxine Eichner, a professor at UNC School of Law and state employee, has traveled across the state to offer her opinion regarding the unintended consequences of amendment on current law. Eichner claims the amendment would negatively affect benefits and protections for all unmarried couples. Although all such claims were based solely on Eichner’s opinion, the media and other sources have cited her claims as facts. The white paper produced by law professors at Campbell University offer a refutation of her false allegations.
Vote FOR Marriage NC is the referendum committee working to pass the amendment on May 8.  The campaign is comprised of a multitude of policy organizations, denominations and civic groups. Its Executive Committee consists of the Christian Action League, N.C. Values Coalition, a coalition of African American pastors, N.C. Baptists, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).
North Carolinians interested in more information about Vote FOR Marriage NC may visit the campaign’s website at VoteForMarriageNC.com.
4/23/2012 3:58:13 PM by VoteForMarriage NC | with 0 comments

Study: Religious hostility escalates worldwide

April 23 2012 by Mark Norton, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Practicing a religious belief in nearly one-third of the world’s countries is increasingly difficult due to government restrictions and public hostilities, according to new data from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The Pew study found a 32 percent increase in governmental restrictions and public hostilities from 2006-09 in the 198 countries of the world. Among its finding, the survey showed religious restrictions:

– increased 12 percent in 23 countries.

– decreased 6 percent in 12 countries.

– remained unchanged in 163 countries.

“Among the world’s 25 most populous countries – which account for about 75 percent of the world’s population – restriction on religions substantially increased in eight countries and did not substantially decrease in any,” according to the Pew study, which was presented at an International Religious Freedom Roundtable event on Capitol Hill in late March.

Worldwide, about 1 percent of all people live in a country where hostilities decreased.

Many governments have religious freedom wording in their constitutions, but not all provide such protections, the Pew study noted. Religious liberty language is in the constitutions of all 198 countries and in the basic laws of 143 countries. Yet, 111 countries – or 56 percent – have statements in their constitutions or basic laws that contradict religious freedom.

And, even though countries have these laws, “not all governments fully respect the religious rights written into their laws,” the study noted.

Nigeria has become a case in point.

The Islamic extremist sect Boko Haram “started in 1995 with a stringent ideology that there is not a means for Christians to exist in the culture; you are to be targeted and killed,” said Mark Lipdo, director of the Stefanos Foundation, at an April 5 event hosted by the Family Research Council (FRC). Nigeria is a key focus for the religious liberty efforts of the Stefanos Foundation.

The most recent attack by Boko Haram came Easter Sunday near a church where at least 40 people were killed, according to Reuters News Service.

In Nigeria, there are three levels of persecution: street, state and sect, Emmanuel Ogebe, a U.S.-based Nigerian human rights lawyer, said at the FRC briefing.

At the street level, average Muslims in northern Nigeria are taught that Christians are infidels, Ogebe said.

At “the state level, we have state governments who persecute Christians so they cannot get a job. If you get a job, you can’t be promoted. If you’re a Christian, you can’t get loans to build a church,” Ogebe said.

Sect violence is mostly being done by Boko Haram, which is “calling for Christians to leave, calling for jihad,” said Gregory Trent, who works for the Jubilee Campaign and recently was on a fact-finding mission in Nigeria. Social hostilities in Nigeria are significantly elevated in contrast to previous studies, given the rising number of instances of bombings and rioting. The Jubilee Campaign advocates for religious and ethnic minorities living under oppressive regimes.

In the Pew study, social hostilities included individuals and groups reacting to a religion or religious person with violence, harassment and abuse.

“In November 2008, for instance, at least 300 people were killed and hundreds of others were injured during three days of religious rioting in the [Nigerian] city of Jos,” according to the study.

Religious hostilities are constantly on Nigerians’ minds, with Trent noting, “The violence has not abated; the violence has not stopped; there are constant barrages of attacks.”

The Pew Forum study can be accessed at www.pewforum.org/Government/Rising-Restrictions-on-Religion(2).aspx.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Norton, a student from California Baptist University, is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.)
4/23/2012 2:55:15 PM by Mark Norton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Guest column: Lessons from Chuck Colson, a transformer of culture

April 21 2012 by Ginny Dent Brant

Chuck Colson, the former White House “Hatchet Man” who became a modern-day prophet, has passed on to his heavenly reward. He was the first in the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate charges.  He became an evangelical leader, author of 30 books, cultural philosopher, founder of Prison Fellowship and The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and commentator for his daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint.

Photo by Van Payne
Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship based in Lansdown, Va., speaks during the June 21 evening session of the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention Pastor's Conference.

He proved that prison can be a good thing. It was the place where God obtained his full attention. His time there gave Chuck a new mission in life–teaching and training prisoners to enable them to be “born again” in Jesus literally all over the world. What he lost in Watergate, his significance and power, was found in discovering God’s will for his life.
An authentic 180-degree conversion
In 1975, his first book, Born Again, became a best-selling memoir.  In 1978, it became a movie which impacted millions.  Chuck Colson’s conversion also had an impact on my dad, Harry S. Dent, Sr. My father started the Senate Prayer Breakfast and regularly attended the White House Prayer Breakfast. When Chuck Colson (who never darkened the doors of this White House event) showed up and proclaimed he was a changed man, several people including my father pondered, “How convenient, now that he was being investigated for the Watergate break-in.” When Chuck Colson came to my father and apologized for wrong doings against him, my father realized his conversion was authentic. It took guts for Colson to ask my father’s forgiveness for how he treated “the Southerner in the White House.”  It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. It was also a wake-up call for my father and many others who were beginning to see something in Colson’s life and dramatic conversion that was lacking in their own—a real transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.
The media’s impact on our culture
In the 1980’s, Chuck Colson’s soul was burdened about the changes in our culture. I’ll never forget what he told me. It grieved him to see what the media was showing on TV and its effects on mainstream America. He boldly set up a meeting with the president of one of the major TV Networks. “Mr. President,” he stated, “the violence, sexual promiscuity, disrespect and immorality, as shown in these TV shows is having a profound impact on this country. The evangelicals in America are concerned.”
That president looked him straight in the eye and responded, “Mr. Colson, I appreciate your concerns, but we market what people want, and I have the research and polls right here that prove your evangelicals are watching everything you’ve just described to me in record numbers.”  It was a humbling moment for Chuck Colson to realize the very people he was going to bat for were batting 500 in hypocrisy. But Colson did not back down. He’s continued to stand for what is right and be a transformer of our culture.
34 Easters behind bars
One of my fondest memories of Chuck Colson was an Easter Service my dad, Chuck and I participated in during 1988, at a maximum security prison in SC. It was the most moving Easter Service I’ve ever attended.  I sang “The Day He Wore my Crown” in voice and used sign language for visual effect. My father identified with the prisoners and gave his testimony exclaiming, “I came close to standing in your shoes. God delivered me from myself at age 48.” The homerun came when Chuck Colson stepped up to the plate and delivered a chilling message about freedom in Christ. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Here we fellowshipped with prisoners behind three sets of prison doors; yet, we stood united in Christ. Many prisoners’ faces beamed with their new found freedom in Christ.
After the service, my dad and Chuck Colson went to death row to pray with some of the inmates. I later discovered this was an annual event for Chuck Colson.  For 34 years, he celebrated Easter by preaching a Risen Christ to prisoners. That Easter took on a new meaning for me. Freedom from bondage to sin is a precious gift Christ has secured for us . . . even behind three sets of bars. No one is above or beneath the power of the gospel.
A transformer in our day
In November of 2009, the Manhattan Declaration was born in the heart of Chuck Colson. This document encouraged Evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians to stand for their convictions on the issues of the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage and religious freedom. With nearly 525,000 signatures including well-known religious leaders, this document clearly reminds us what Chuck Colson said in a speech at Harvard Business School in 1991, “A society without a foundation of moral absolutes cannot long survive.”
Chuck Colson, a professed Southern Baptist, trained a new generation of church and lay leaders. He challenged us by warning, “There’s too much of the world in the church and not enough church in the world.” His message through books and orations always inspired Christians to be God’s change agents in this world. His latest book The Sky is not Falling: Living Fearlessly in These Turbulent Times, cautions us not to cower in fear, but boldly restore this culture to Christian principles.
Among his 15 honorary doctorates, he was awarded the Salvation Army’s “The Others” award (Mother Teresa was the first recipient) and the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Throughout his ministry, all awards, royalties and honorariums were donated to Prison Fellowship. He was a modern-day prophet — a man who’s mark was telling the truth, even when we were too comfortable to hear it.
Truly, our loss is heaven’s gain. But who will take up the torch and carry the message? Who will be the transformers and change agents of tomorrow? Hopefully, it will be all of us who confess that Jesus is Lord. As for Chuck Colson, his life sentence has now been commuted to eternal rest by a loving, forgiving God. What a joy to hear those words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” For herein lies the significance of a man—not walking in the halls of power, but serving his omnipotent Creator.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ginny Dent Brant is an educator, counselor, writer, soloist, Christian speaker and Bible study teacher. She is president of Laity Alive and Serving, which her father, Harry Dent, a former aide to Richard Nixon, started in 1985. She is the author of Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, a father-daughter memoir that traces Dent’s transformation from political strategist to God’s kingdom strategist. More info at www.ginnybrant.com.)
4/21/2012 6:31:20 PM by Ginny Dent Brant | with 0 comments

NAMB increases funding for Appalachian Regional Ministry

April 20 2012 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Matthew Hallenbeck got a phone call no pastor wants to get on a Sunday morning. The church was on fire.

An incapacitated driver had plowed into Bellewood Baptist Church in Syracuse, N.Y., early that morning causing massive damage – and a fire. The church decided – as they worshipped together outside on a cool, crisp October morning – to rebuild again.
Yet no one worshipping on the church lawn knew exactly how the congregation would come up with the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be needed.

Now, a year and a half later, Bellewood is just months from worshipping in a new building – thanks, in part, to a church nearly 900 miles away and the Appalachian Regional Ministry (ARM) that connected the two.

First Baptist Church in Barnwell, S.C., looking for a new mission trip to replace one that had been cancelled, found out about Bellewood’s need through Bill Barker, ARM’s longtime executive director. First Baptist then scheduled a construction trip to help Bellewood. It was the first of several volunteer connections made by ARM to help the New York church.

Photo by Carol Pipes

NAMB missionaries Bessie and Lester McPeek inventory donations given by Southern Baptists to their ministry – God’s Love From a Diaper Bag – in Jenkins, Ky. The ministry specializes in helping moms in need of basic items for their babies – especially diapers. The McPeeks partner with Appalachian Regional Ministries to receive volunteers and donations to help those who come to the center.

“One of the reasons I’m Southern Baptist is that I believe in the Cooperative Program,” Hallenbeck said of the help Bellewood received from volunteers through the Appalachian Regional Ministry. “Southern Baptists learned a long time ago that we can do a lot more together than we can by ourselves. This just proves it to me – these people coming together and working with us to build the church.

“It’s not something we could have done on our own.”

ARM started in 1999 as a partnership of 13 state conventions, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Woman’s Missionary Union. It has been a catalyst for nearly 600,000 volunteers’ ministry throughout the region. More than 60,000 people have come to faith in Christ through ministries associated with ARM.

Because of its unique role in penetrating lostness in one of the poorest and least-churched regions of North America, NAMB has increased its role, taking full responsibility for funding the ministry starting in January 2012. NAMB will pay the salary and benefits for Barker and cover the ministry’s operational expenses. Because of some of the similarities to Southern Baptist ministry in the Midwest, ARM will relate to that NAMB region.

“We’re excited to have the Appalachian Regional Ministry fully under the umbrella of the North American Mission Board,” said Steve Davis, NAMB’s vice president for the Midwest region. “Bill Barker is one of our finest missionaries. By making this ministry a full part of NAMB, it guarantees our commitment to the spiritual needs of the Appalachian region for the long term through our Send North America strategy.”

The Appalachian Regional Ministry began as a Southern Baptist response to the immense spiritual and physical needs of the region, which runs from the state of New York to Alabama, following the path of the Appalachian Mountains. Barker said ARM focuses on five key areas: church planting, ministry centers, construction projects and church strengthening within Appalachia.

“There are still so many needs in this region and our foremost concern is the spiritual need,” said Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president. “With NAMB’s increased role, we plan to mobilize more churches and more Christians to become involved in the ARM ministry.”

According to some reports, parts of central Appalachia have endured a poverty rate three times the national average. Barker, who grew up in West Virginia, says poverty is greater today in the region than it was when the ministry first started 13 years ago.

“Just in the area of West Virginia where I live, 950 people lost their jobs recently,” Barker said. “They shut down several mines. These are permanent layoffs.”

The spiritual needs are vast as well. Barker estimates some counties within the region are nearly 90 percent unchurched – with little to no evangelical work. In an effort to reach the region with the gospel, ARM helps church planters in a variety of ways – from providing volunteers to recruitment.

Barker worked with church planter David Crowe to start a church in Green County, Pa., which today averages between 80-90 people in worship each week.

“We wouldn’t be here without ARM,” Crowe said. “Bill [Barker] had our backs. He made our needs known, and God used that to provide for our needs as we started the church.”

To meet the physical and spiritual needs in the region, ARM connects Southern Baptists to an array of ministries within Appalachia. Barker speaks at 125 churches a year sharing the needs of the ministries and churches relating to ARM – along with sharing the church planting opportunities within the region. Barker also keeps an updated list of ministry needs and volunteer opportunities on the ARM website.

Just last Christmas alone, ARM collected and distributed more than 5,000 Christmas boxes stuffed with toys, gloves and school supplies to children in Appalachia through local Southern Baptist churches and ministry sites.

In meeting Southern Baptist volunteers ministering through ARM and seeing the massive amounts of donated items Southern Baptist churches sent through the ministry, one local non-Christian couple who had been regularly volunteering came to Christ. Eventually the entire family turned to faith and were baptized at the church Lester and Bessie McPeek started at the ministry center in Jenkins, Ky.

“Pray for laborers,” Barker said. “We need people to come here long-term and start churches, and we need people to help us fight the poverty, too.”

For more information about the Appalachian Regional Ministry and to find out more about the ministry needs among Southern Baptists in the region, visit arministry.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
4/20/2012 1:41:19 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Teen birth rate drops; deeper issues remain

April 20 2012 by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The teenage birth rate in the United States has fallen to the lowest level since 1946, according to the latest data from National Center for Health Statistics.

In 2010, babies born to women between ages 15 and 19 numbered 367,752. The previous year, there were 409,802 such births.
An overall rate drop of 9 percent from 2009 to 2010 was accompanied by decreases in the rates of all racial and ethnic groups and virtually every state, according to the data released April 10. The rate reflects a variety of factors, said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA), “including family structure, parental expectations, socio-economics and type of sex education.”

While the decrease constitutes positive news, Huber and Richard Ross, cofounder of the True Love Waits abstinence movement, both caution that the numbers hide other problems.

“While teen birth rates have reached historic lows,” Huber said, “[sexually transmitted disease] rates among teens are at historic highs.”

Ross called the death of unborn babies and those that arrive without married parents an “incalculable tragedy” and said “those pregnancies are not the core issue. Sexual behavior itself is the issue.”

Teenage births had a recent peak in 1991 of 61.8 live births for each 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. The most recent historic drop to 34.3 births per 1,000 continues a steady downward trend.

Those previous high rates in the early 1990s were accompanied by a dangerous attitude toward teenage sex, said Ross, professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Ross recalls adults wanting to protect teenagers from AIDS and other diseases but assuming that nothing could be done to stop teenagers from having sex.

“I remember the surgeon general of the U.S. saying on television, ‘The American teenager is incapable of controlling his or her sexual behavior,’” Ross said.

This led many to an increased emphasis on the use of contraceptives by teenagers, Ross said. He and others, however, saw this as the right moment – in 1993 – to begin True Love Waits (TLW), a message of sexual purity and abstinence until marriage.

The teen pregnancy numbers began to drop and abstinence education became a national movement influencing teenagers and governmental leaders.

“A congressman once told me, ‘Richard, a number of us stood outside and looked at those TLW cards covering the National Mall. It made an impact on us and our policies. It was a wakeup call that there are millions of teenagers who would respond to a positive call to abstinence,’” Ross recounted.

Millions continue to heed that call today. The National Center for Health Statistics released another report last year that showed an overall decline in teenage sex for the last 20 years.

“We know that abstinence is a message that resonates with teens,” Huber said. “The targeted age group for sex education are 15- to 17-year-olds. About 75 percent of these teens have never had sex, despite the increasingly sexualized culture.”

Even though the STD rate among teenagers is at an all-time high, the NAEA found a 1:24 disparity in federal funding of abstinence education compared to contraceptive-centered programs. From 2007 to 2012, the funding gap between the two is more than $4.2 billion – $675.9 million to $4.9 billion. The most recent budget proposal by President Obama recommends only 4 percent of sex education dollars be spent on abstinence-based programs.

Half of unintended pregnancies were conceived when partners said they used contraception, Huber noted, and two of the four most common STDs are easily transmittable with a condom.

In February, the NAEA reported on an analysis sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found that comprehensive sex education programs in school did not significantly increase teen condom use or reduce teen pregnancy or STDs.

“It is disappointing that an administration that prides itself in supporting evidence-informed programs would ignore the evidence in this arena,” Huber said.

Despite the federal funding, Ross said devoted Christian parents can make a difference regarding their teenagers’ choices. In a study released last year, the National Center for Health Statistics found that teenagers who have been raised by both parents are less likely to have sex. The study also indicated that the most common motivation for teens to embrace abstinence is religious reasons.

“Parents who are just nominally religious have little influence,” Ross said. “But here is the good news: The most powerful predictors of a teenager living in moral purity are a mom and dad who deeply love Jesus and have embraced His lordship and supremacy. The second most important factor is the willingness of those parents to communicate often how their supreme love for Christ is impacting their own choices about purity.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a freelance writer and master of divinity student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.)
4/20/2012 1:35:15 PM by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. pastor leads search for Midwestern president

April 19 2012 by Allen Palmeri, The Pathway

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) – Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) trustees have established a seven-member presidential search committee and solidified their commitment to two leaders serving in an interim capacity.

Bill Bowyer, pastor of Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., was named as search committee chairman.
Other members are Larry Dramann, pastor, East Boulder Baptist Church, Lafayette, Colo.; Dwight Blankenship, pastor, Parkway Baptist Church, Creve Coeur, Mo.; Larry Lewis, pastor, Reidland Baptist Church, Paducah, Ky.; Don Paxton, pastor, Rosedale Baptist Church, Abingdon, Va.; Roger Marshall, pastor, First Baptist Church, Effingham, Ill.; and Kevin Shrum, pastor, Inglewood Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn.

Shrum began the trustee board’s April 16 meeting as acting chairman. He and the seminary’s acting interim president, Robin Hadaway, have been in leadership since the resignations of the previous president, R. Philip Roberts, and previous chairman, Wayne Lee, were accepted on Feb. 10.

In affirmations during the April 16 meeting in Kansas City, Mo., Shrum was elected trustee chairman and Hadaway, associate professor of missions, was elected as Midwestern’s interim president.

Kevin Shrum, left, chairman of Midwestern Seminary’s board of trustees, and his wife Janet along with Robin Hadaway, MBTS interim president, join in singing a hymn during a chapel service at the seminary on April 17.

Shrum, pastor of the Nashville church the past 17 years, was elected unopposed. Shrum said trustees intend for the search committee to recommend a presidential candidate next April for board approval.

The search team will be in regular contact with the trustees to provide updates, Shrum said.

Hadaway asked for prayer for Midwestern’s report to the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 19-20 annual meeting in New Orleans. “I think we’ll have a good report.”

Blankenship, who nominated Shrum as chairman and was later elected as first vice chairman, prayed for Hadaway’s request.

“As he ministers to [those at the seminary], let him have the gentle touch of Christ,” Blankenship prayed. “And as he stands before the Southern Baptist Convention, let him tell the story of what Christ has done.”

Blankenship’s nomination of Shrum included praise for Shrum’s attention to detail and Christ-like spirit.

“I have seen him in these meetings to be a peacemaker,” Blankenship said, “and I think that’s what we need to move forward.”

Anthony Allen, MBTS senior vice president of administration, estimated that gifts to the seminary so far this year are around $1.4 million in “a strong spring.” Unrestricted cash on hand is around $1.2 million. About $900,000 is needed to complete the construction of the seminary’s new chapel, Allen said.

“This is our main objective,” he said, noting that “incremental progress” is being made even as plans are being formulated to install flooring and seating in the facility.

Trustees discussed removing the wording from the seminary’s personnel handbook that states, “Any communications initiated by a seminary staff member to the trustee must be approved in advance by the president.” It was referred to the trustees’ executive committee who will also examine the MBTS whistleblower policy.

In other business, trustees voted to:

– renew their commitment to a long-range planning task force.

– begin the process of amending their bylaws to make the audit committee a standing committee, with the investment portion remaining under the trustees’ business services committee. This will require another vote by trustees to adopt it, with the intent of promoting transparency and demonstrating good governance, according to trustee Gene Downing of Edmond, Okla., who made the motion.

– elect Ken Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kearney, Mo., as second vice chairman and Judy Crain, a member of First Baptist Church in Easton, Md., as secretary/treasurer. Rich Hastings, a member of First Baptist Church in Raytown, Mo., was elected member-at-large.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Allen Palmeri is associate editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
4/19/2012 3:08:03 PM by Allen Palmeri, The Pathway | with 0 comments

Land’s comments meet with ERLC’s regret, investigation

April 19 2012 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Comments by Richard Land about the Trayvon Martin killing “have angered many and opened wounds from the past,” the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) executive committee said in a statement released April 18.

The executive committee also registered concern that Land, the ERLC’s president, had used sources from other media without proper attribution for some of his comments in his weekly radio call-in show.
An ad hoc committee has been formed “to investigate the allegations of plagiarism and recommend appropriate action,” the ERLC executive committee reported in its statement.

“The [ERLC] Executive Committee is very saddened that this controversy has erupted, and is very concerned about how these events may damage the work of the ERLC in support of Southern Baptists and in furtherance of the Kingdom of our Lord,” the six-member committee said.

Land, in a statement after the executive committee released its concerns, said:

“I serve at the will of the trustees. I believe fervently in the trustee system of oversight. I am under their authority. That is why I initiated the conference call that led to this statement. I look forward to continuing to work with and under the oversight of my trustees, who have been elected by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).”

Land issued an open letter of apology the evening of April 16 for comments he voiced on his “Richard Land Live!” radio broadcast March 31 about the infusion of politics into the Trayvon Martin case. Earlier on April 16, Land issued an apology for material he failed to attribute on the radio show to a Washington Times columnist.

The ERLC executive committee includes the commission’s three trustee officers and the chairmen of its three trustee subcommittees. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has 34 trustees representing churches from across the country elected by messengers at the SBC’s annual meetings.

The chairman of the ERLC executive committee is Stephen Faith of Indiana, a retired pastor and Baptist association director of missions.

The executive committee statement included expressions of regret alongside reminders of the race relations work by Land and the Southern Baptist entity he has led since 1988.

The executive committee stated its regret for “any harm that may have been done to race relations within the Southern Baptist Convention. The ERLC has worked very hard over many years to heal the wounds and scars of racism in our country and to realize the dream of complete equality among all races in the Southern Baptist Convention and in our nation.

“It should be noted that Dr. Land himself has contributed materially to progress in the area of racial equality,” the ERLC executive committee continued. “Among other things, he was a primary driver of the Convention’s 1995 apology for its past positions on race issues. We therefore disclaim and repudiate any suggestion that Dr. Land, the ERLC, or the Southern Baptist Convention harbors racism in any form. We recognize that there is more work to do before the members of Southern Baptist congregations are as diverse as the citizens of our great nation. We and Dr. Land remain dedicated to that cause.”

Regarding the charge of plagiarism that circulated through the media in mid-April, the ERLC executive committee stated, “We expect Dr. Land and the ERLC to embody the highest moral and ethical standards, as befitting a group of people devoted to following Jesus Christ. Though the source citation standards prevailing among talk radio shows are different from those applicable to journalistic work or to scholarly work in the academic setting, we nevertheless agree with Dr. Land that he could, and should, do a better job in this area. We therefore support Dr. Land’s commitment to improve his practices in giving credit to authors he quotes.”

The ERLC executive committee, in forming the ad hoc committee, said it was doing so “to ensure no stone is left unturned.” The group acknowledged, “We understand that additional instances of this kind in connection with the Richard Land Live! program may come to light.”

In addition to Stephen Faith, other members of the ERLC executive committee are Richard D. Piles, an Arkansas pastor; Donald L. Mason, a Georgia layman; Stephen W. Long, a director of missions in Ohio; Christopher L. Slaughter, a West Virginia layman; and Stephen G. Veteto, a Colorado seminary educator.

The full text of the ERLC trustee executive committee statement follows:


On Monday, April 16, 2012, Dr. Richard Land informed the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission that he had become embroiled in a controversy involving his criticism of the actions of certain community and political leaders in the wake of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman. He requested a meeting with the Executive Committee to inform us of the controversy and answer any questions we might have. Dr. Land has been very candid and forthcoming with us, and he has apologized to us and to the entire Board of Trustees for creating this controversy.

We recognize that Dr. Land’s comments, substantively, have angered many and opened wounds from the past. Moreover, Dr. Land has admitted that he quoted sections of articles related to the Trayvon Martin matter in his Richard Land Live! radio broadcast without giving clear and proper credit to the authors of those articles. We understand that additional instances of this kind in connection with the Richard Land Live! program may come to light.

The Executive Committee is very saddened that this controversy has erupted, and is very concerned about how these events may damage the work of the ERLC in support of Southern Baptists and in furtherance of the Kingdom of our Lord.

We also regret any harm that may have been done to race relations within the Southern Baptist Convention. The ERLC has worked very hard over many years to heal the wounds and scars of racism in our country and to realize the dream of complete equality among all races in the Southern Baptist Convention and in our nation. It should be noted that Dr. Land himself has contributed materially to progress in the area of racial equality. Among other things, he was a primary driver of the Convention’s 1995 apology for its past positions on race issues. We therefore disclaim and repudiate any suggestion that Dr. Land, the ERLC, or the Southern Baptist Convention harbors racism in any form. We recognize that there is more work to do before the members of Southern Baptist congregations are as diverse as the citizens of our great nation. We and Dr. Land remain dedicated to that cause.

We expect Dr. Land and the ERLC to embody the highest moral and ethical standards, as befitting a group of people devoted to following Jesus Christ. Though the source citation standards prevailing among talk radio shows are different from those applicable to journalistic work or to scholarly work in the academic setting, we nevertheless agree with Dr. Land that he could, and should, do a better job in this area. We therefore support Dr. Land’s commitment to improve his practices in giving credit to authors he quotes.

We would be remiss if we did not recognize the invaluable contributions Dr. Land has made in the areas of religious freedom, theological scholarship, ministry, Southern Baptist denominational leadership, engaging the culture and our political leaders on matters of religious conviction, and in being a force for the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention, our seminaries, and what is now the ERLC. Dr. Land is uniquely and richly gifted for the many roles he has occupied. He has been steadfast in his dedication to the ERLC and to Southern Baptists. These things must also weigh in the balance.

Finally, we are reverently mindful of our obligations to the ERLC, Southern Baptists, and, most importantly, to our Lord Jesus Christ, to ensure no stone is left unturned in addressing this controversy. Accordingly, the Chairman has appointed an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations of plagiarism and recommend appropriate action to the Executive Committee. We, of course, expect full cooperation with this investigation from all of our staff and we pledge to take all necessary action to address any wrongdoing that may be discovered.

We covet the prayers of our fellow Southern Baptists and other members of the Christian Church as we and Dr. Land work through these very important and challenging issues.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)

Related story
Land issues letter of apology for Trayvon Martin comments
4/19/2012 2:55:16 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Risqué billboard removed after NYC pastor sends out Tweets

April 19 2012 by Sara Shelton, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – When pastor Freddy T. Wyatt arrives at his New York City church plant and sits down in his office every day, he looks out the window. There, on the side of the Broadway Plaza Hotel, is a four-story billboard that is home to ads for products like Coca-Cola and VITAMINWATER®. The Gallery Church has been at the corner of 27th and Broadway for nearly three years and, every few weeks when the advertisement changes, members of the congregation can’t help but notice.
When Wyatt sat down at his desk and let his eyes drift to the billboard in early April, he was shocked at what he saw – a new ad for VITAMINWATER®, a brand of Coca-Cola, featuring a half-naked woman with the phrase “xxx you’re up” covering her chest, promoting a flavor of the drink called XXX.

“The billboard took the breath out of me, not in a good way,” Wyatt recounted. “I had begun to look forward to the different ads each month, but this one stopped me in my tracks. It broke my heart.”

Wyatt thought of the men and women in Gallery Church who would see this ad every Sunday as they returned home. “How can they stay focused on the truth just presented to them in church when they walk outside to face a four-story distraction?”

Photo by Peter Field Peck

Freddy T. Wyatt, center, is pastor of the Gallery Church, a six-year-old church plant serving the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.

He thought of his children, two young sons and a daughter. What message was this going to send them?

“I was brokenhearted that my daughter, after hearing the message that she is loved and valued by God will walk out the doors of her church only to receive another message by the four-story billboard. It’s telling her, ‘If you look like this or take your shirt off or tease men, then you’ll be valued.’ I’m sure this isn’t the goal of the company – to degrade women and tempt men to do the same – but this is exactly what the billboard does.”

With this in mind, Wyatt took to Twitter.

He reached out to both Coca-Cola and VITAMINWATER® with his thoughts about the billboard, calling on them to take action and remove it. His messages simply read:

“@cocacola @vitaminwater I’m a pastor in NYC & u just put this larger than life garbage across from @GalleryChurch.”

“@cocacola @vitaminwater On behalf of the families in NYC that are seeking to raise respectable & wholesome families, take it down.”

“I didn’t mince words,” Wyatt said. “I was angry and brokenhearted and I wanted them to know what message they were sending in using such a disrespectful, sex-sells strategy for their ads.”

To Wyatt’s surprise, less than 24 hours later, on April 4, a rep from VITAMINWATER®  tweeted him back.

“We’d love to discuss your concerns, Freddy,” the rep’s Tweet said. “Can we call you @GalleryChurch or can you send us your contact information?”

Impressed by the prompt and courteous response, Wyatt attempted to get in touch with the rep. They spent the day playing phone tag, unfortunately missing one another and never getting the chance to talk.

The next day, Wyatt arrived at the Gallery Church, sat down in his office and looked out the window. There, where the explicit ad had stood four stories high, was an empty billboard. After four tweets and a couple of voicemails, VITAMINWATER® had removed the ad.

“I am so thankful and impressed by such an active response from VITAMINWATER®,” Wyatt said. “It shows great respect for their customers and is really an honorable and classy decision on their part.”

A rep for VITAMINWATER® declined to comment for this story, but Wyatt said when he finally did get on the phone with someone from the company, she was both “understanding and respectful” of his concerns.

Though Wyatt and his team are gratified by the removal of the billboard, they recognize that this is just one small victory in the battle to reclaim culture with the truth of Christ.

“If you walk just four blocks south past the Gallery Church, that same image from the billboard is posted much smaller on the outside of a bus stop shelter. But our hope is that this billboard incident will spur a conversation at places like VITAMINWATER® that will ultimately result in the removal of images that disrespect and degrade men and women from advertising.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sara Shelton is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
4/19/2012 2:48:09 PM by Sara Shelton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Morningstar recognizes MyDestination Funds

April 18 2012 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone

DALLAS (BP) – Launched just over five years ago, the MyDestination Funds family of date target funds continue to attract attention and recognition. Today, nearly one out of every four dollars coming into GuideStone retirement accounts is invested in a MyDestination fund.
The MyDestination Funds provide a simpler approach to retirement planning. Investors need only choose the fund that corresponds closest to their retirement date. Each date target fund is a “fund of funds” with a diversified asset allocation that becomes more conservative as the participant moves to and through retirement.  Investors are reminded to make consistent and age-appropriate retirement contributions throughout their career.
While they are a simpler approach for investors, they are sophisticated Funds that are recognized by third-party rating firms. 
The MyDestination 2005, 2035 and 2045 funds each received three stars for their overall ratings and the MyDestination 2015 and 2025 funds each received four stars from Morningstar® for the period ending February 29, 2012, based on risk adjusted return. Morningstar’s overall rating represents a fund’s performance over its three-, five-, and (when applicable) 10-year period. In the case of the MyDestination Funds, which were launched in 2006, it currently relates to the Funds’ performance over three and five years, including the volatile 2008-2009 market downturn.
In the more recent three-year period, the 2015, 2025, 2035 and 2045 funds each received Morningstar’s highest rating, five stars. Morningstar’s star rating is a quantitative assessment of a fund’s past performance — both return and risk — as measured from one to five stars.
The outstanding Morningstar recognition for the funds comes on the heels of the GuideStone Funds family being ranked No. 1 out of 182 funds, receiving ranking firm Lipper’s 2012 Best Overall Small Fund Group award, one of the nation’s premier financial industry awards, awarded to fund families with up to $40 billion in assets.
GuideStone Financial Resources chief operating officer and GuideStone Funds President John R. Jones said a MyDestination Fund can be a good choice for those wanting a simple approach, those wanting professional management with automatic asset rebalancing and those searching for a diversified portfolio that gradually adjusts as their retirement date approaches.
“When we first offered these funds in December 2006, we became the first and only registered mutual fund company offering Christian-based, socially screened date target funds,” Jones said. “Their popularity continues to grow, as people who want professional management with automatic asset rebalancing find out about these funds and move their money into them.”
In addition to the funds mentioned, GuideStone launched the MyDestination 2055 Fund in January.
As with all GuideStone Funds, the MyDestination Funds adhere to the same social screening guidelines adopted by GuideStone.
4/18/2012 2:35:19 PM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone | with 0 comments

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