April 2012

Jack Harwell, ‘controversial’ Baptist editor, dies

February 5 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Jack Harwell, editor of The Christian Index for 21 years during his 30 years with Georgia Baptists’ news journal, died Jan. 18 at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Jack Harwell

A family obituary described Harwell, 86, as “a respected editor, but a controversial one, serving during a time of division in Baptist life over both theological and social issues. Harwell was part of the moderate branch of Southern Baptists that would later break away and form the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.”
The family obituary also stated, “Perhaps his greatest editorial was written after the [1968] assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Harwell called him ‘a noble Baptist leader’ who ‘did more to help his race and to combat the evil oppression of racism and inequality than any other person in modern times.’ He called on Georgia Baptists to be in the forefront in seeking ‘human equality for all our citizens.’
“That editorial was reprinted on the front page of The Atlanta Constitution,” the family obituary recounted, “and while it seems rather mild in the light of today’s attitudes about racism, it was seen by some as rather controversial at the time, and Harwell received obscene phone calls and death threats as a result.”
In December, Harwell resigned his 10-year staff position as minister of pastoral care at First Baptist Church in Morrow, Ga., due to failing health, The Index reported after his death.
Harwell’s theological views were challenged in 1976 – three years before the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence took root – by the late Christianity Today editor Harold Lindsell, author of The Battle for the Bible, who focused on Harwell in one of eight subsections in a chapter on Southern Baptists.
Lindsell cited 1974 correspondence in which Harwell stated he did not believe Adam and Eve were “one man and one woman” but represented “mankind and womankind.” Harwell wrote that he did not believe in the “verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible” because of “many, many instances where a literal, absolute, blind acceptance of the Bible without an understanding of human nature leads to all types of contradictions.”
Lindsell wrote that “once a denomination departs from a belief in biblical infallibility, it opens the floodgates to disbelief about other cardinal doctrines of the faith.” The theological drift of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) “will not get better if the disease now eating at the vitals of the Convention is not treated and the patient cured.”

BP file photo
Jack Harwell, center, was tapped as president-elect of the Southern Baptist Press Association, now Association of State Baptist Publications, during the editors' 1976 meeting in San Francisco. Hudson Baggett, left, of The Alabama Baptist was the association’s president; R.G. Puckett of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder, secretary-treasurer.

Theological controversy at the state level became “most evident in Georgia” after the election of the late Adrian Rogers as SBC president in 1979, wrote Jesse Fletcher in his book The Southern Baptist Convention: A Sesquicentennial History citing Harwell as a major point of controversy for conservatives.
At the Georgia Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in November 1979, Harwell received a vote of confidence from messengers, with Baptist Press reporting observers’ estimates of 2,500 standing to vote for a motion to “express our full confidence in the personal and professional integrity of the editor” and 500 voting against. The heated discussion included a statement by The Index board of directors chairman that Harwell had “repeatedly affirmed his loyalty” to Southern Baptists’ Baptist Faith and Message doctrinal statement.
In August 1986, The Index board of directors created an editorial review board to “reflect the spirit and theological position of Georgia and Southern Baptists” in response to a 32-page document of complaints after Harwell had editorialized against conservative nominees elected to the SBC’s boards, commissions and committees at that year’s SBC annual meeting.
But in October of the following year, Harwell announced his resignation, stating that he “could not continue with the restrictions or the pressures that have been created by the review board analyzing everything we do.” At that year’s annual meeting in November, Harwell’s supporters prevailed in a vote that he return to the paper. But the following month, the convention’s executive committee, vested with final hiring authority, narrowly voted that Harwell’s resignation remain in effect.
Harwell retired on Dec. 31, 1987, at age 55. Among tributes printed in The Index, Presnall Wood, president of the Southern Baptist Press Association and editor of the Texas Baptist Standard, wrote that Harwell “believed and practiced ‘trust the Lord and tell the people’ as he sounded a strong note for responsible editorial freedom in Baptist life.”
Harwell subsequently served 10 years as editor of SBC Today, a publication of Baptist moderates subsequently named Baptists Today, and 10 years at First Baptist in Morrow where he was ordained to the ministry and his wife Teliea was serving as minister to senior adults.
Born Jack U. Harwell in Mobile, Ala., he made a profession of faith in Christ at age 13; earned an undergraduate journalism degree from Samford University in Birmingham; served as a public relations specialist for the U.S. Army from 1953-1956 and the Air Force in 1957; and was associate editor of The Index from 1957 until he was named editor in 1966 at age 34. He was the 1977 president of the Southern Baptist Press Association.
In addition to his wife, Harwell is survived by a son, Ron; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
His funeral was held Jan. 26 at First Baptist in Morrow, with one his successors at The Index, Bill Neal, officiating.

2/5/2019 11:12:23 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Todd Deaton to rejoin S.C. Baptist Courier staff

February 5 2019 by Baptist Courier Staff

Todd Deaton has been named managing editor of The Baptist Courier, newsmagazine of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, effective March 1, moving from the editor’s post at the Western Recorder, news journal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Deaton, 55, a South Carolina native who formerly served 13 years as The Courier’s managing editor, will succeed Butch Blume, a 20-year Courier employee who succeeded Deaton in 2009 when Deaton became the Western Recorder’s editor.
Blume, who will retire in April, has served South Carolina Baptists for more than three decades, including 14 years at Anderson College (now Anderson University) before joining The Courier’s staff.
“We are beyond delighted that Todd will again be joining The Courier family,” editor Rudy Gray said. “He is an accomplished Christian journalist, a successful editor and a South Carolina native who certainly knows South Carolina Baptists.
“As we sought a managing editor to replace Butch Blume, it became evident that God was leading us to Todd. As both of us prayed about this possibility, we recognized that God was at work in our hearts. It has been a smooth process characterized by unity, and we praise God for His guidance.”
Gray credited Blume for having played a key role at The Courier in producing the magazine and web content and with the Courier Publishing book-publishing arm.
Deaton said he and his wife Michelle “have sensed for some time that God has been loosening our Kentucky ties in preparing us for new challenges in ministry. Little did we ever dream that we would be returning to serve the Baptists of my home state and to work with The Baptist Courier again. It is, indeed, a rare blessing to come home again, and I’m delighted that God is providing us with this opportunity to begin our ministry there anew. My wife and I also are looking forward to renewing great friendships among South Carolina Baptists.”
Chip Hutcheson, chairman of the Western Recorder’s board of trustees and a former Kentucky convention president, said the board and the newspaper’s subscribers “are thankful for Todd’s 10 years of dedicated service to Kentucky Baptists. We appreciate his dedication to telling the stories about how the Lord has been working through Kentucky Baptists. And I appreciate his desire to build bridges rather than cause discord.”
Hutcheson, who recently retired as publisher of the Times Leader in Princeton, Ky., said the newspaper world has changed dramatically during Deaton’s tenure, noting that he had weathered those challenges well. “In recent times he has continued to edit the newspaper with a much smaller staff than when he arrived here, and has done so without complaint,” he said.
Deaton stated, “Ministering with the Western Recorder staff and trustees on behalf of Kentucky Baptists truly has been a highlight of my career in Baptist journalism. I will treasure the friendships made while serving among Kentucky Baptists.”
Deaton is a recent president of the Association of State Baptist Publications and longtime member of Baptist Communicators Association and has won numerous journalism honors, including five first-place editorial awards from the Kentucky Press Association. He also previously served as associate editor of the Biblical Recorder, North Carolina's news journal.
Deaton holds a doctor of education degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; a master of divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; and an undergraduate degree from Furman University in Greenville, S.C.
He and his wife, Michelle, have two children, Laura, a nurse in Louisville, and Caleb, an aviation major at Eastern Kentucky University.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston, with reporting by The Baptist Courier of South Carolina and Kentucky Today of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

2/5/2019 11:12:11 AM by Baptist Courier Staff | with 0 comments

BSC Board faces $3M budget shortfall

February 4 2019 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Despite experiencing a budget shortfall in 2018 that was called “significant,” Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) officials are optimistic about the long-term financial outlook for 2019 while cautioning that adjustments will need to be made to the budget that will be proposed for 2020.

While receipts were more than $3.3 million or 10.85 percent below the $31 million Cooperative Program (CP) budget for 2018, BSC Executive Leader for Business Services John Butler told the state convention’s board of directors Jan. 29 the overall financial picture includes a few “bright spots.”
One of those bright spots was giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), which exceeded its $2.1 million goal by nearly $26,000. NCMO supports a variety of ministries such as church planting, missions projects and the 18 different ministries of Baptists on Mission (also known as N.C. Baptist Men), which includes disaster relief.
Butler attributed the budget shortfall to several factors that included the impact of Hurricane Florence as well as some accounting guidelines that govern the state convention.

Impact of Florence

In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence that caused widespread damage in eastern North Carolina last September, the BSC received more than $6 million in designated giving for disaster relief.
Butler said it is not unusual for churches to reallocate some missions dollars to disaster relief following major storms like Florence.
“The reality is that churches often adjust their missions budgets following natural disasters, moving funds planned for Cooperative Program (CP) support to meet the immediate needs in their communities and our state, and that’s OK,” Butler said.
“Giving to disaster relief enables us to help churches and individuals in crisis, opening the door for gospel conversations that often result in decisions for Christ. That’s an eternal impact that cannot be measured in dollars and is in keeping with our strategy of impacting lostness all over North Carolina.”
Hurricane Florence also impacted CP giving because many churches were not able to gather for worship for, in some cases, stretches of several weeks due to damage to their facilities, Butler said. The budgets of hundreds of N.C. Baptist churches were devastated by the storm, and those churches must rightfully take care of their immediate needs, he added.
Additionally, the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell experienced more than a quarter of a million dollars in lost revenue due to closures and canceled events in the wake of Hurricane Florence. With the loss of revenue plus unplanned costs of extensive repairs, the facility ended 2018 with a slight operating loss.

Timing a factor

Butler said timing and a lack of an uptick in end-of-year giving also impacted the final 2018 balance sheet.
The convention began 2018 behind budget because BSC bylaws stipulate that income received for five business days following the last Sunday of the year must be credited to the previous year’s totals. Since Dec. 31, 2017, fell on Sunday, all income received until Mon., Jan. 8, 2018, was applied to 2017.
“We started the year behind and never really caught up as the year went on,” Butler said.
He believed some of the shortfall would be made up in December when end-of-year giving generally increases. However, the December giving bump did not come in 2018.
“I’ve never seen that in my 12-plus years at the convention,” Butler said.  “Fortunately, it was just a delayed bump, as those gifts we normally receive the last week of December ended up hitting our books the first week of January 2019. In fact, we had the largest first week of receipts in our history.”
The budget shortfall was softened somewhat by the fact that the state convention’s CP budget is allocated on a percentage basis, but Butler still described the budget deficits that BSC ministries had to absorb as “significant.”
When removing the operational expenses for the BSC’s camps and conference centers at Caraway, Caswell and Truett, the state convention’s operations budget finished slightly in the black for 2018, Butler said. He praised state convention staff members for being good stewards of CP receipts, adding that BSC ministries operated at 90 percent of their budget allocations for most of 2018.

Strong start to 2019

As Butler noted, giving is strong so far in 2019.
More than $1.4 million was received for CP the first full week of January, which is about two-and-a-half times the weekly budget requirements. In addition, the convention received nearly $2.8 million for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering that ended 2018 more than $3 million below 2017 receipts.
“Obviously one week can make a huge difference,” Butler said. “Whether it was due to the early snows in December or delayed mail processing, it is obvious that much of the giving we normally experience at the end of the year didn’t make it to us before we closed the books on 2018. That certainly gives us some much needed breathing room as we begin 2019.”

Looking ahead

Despite the strong start to 2019, Butler said convention leaders must not ignore the giving trends of 2018 and previous years when planning a budget proposal for 2020.
“We can’t ignore what has taken place,” Butler said. “It would be foolish for us to plan a budget that disregards where we finished 2018.”
Members of the Budget Committee will be on hand at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the BSC board of directors in May to hear comments, answer any questions and receive other input or feedback that board members may have about the budget process and the working budget proposal for 2020.
The Budget Committee will meet following the May board meeting to receive budget requests from the institutions and agencies supported by the Cooperative Program budget.
The committee will send a final 2020 budget recommendation to the BSC’s Executive Committee for consideration this summer before board members consider the recommended budget at their regularly scheduled meeting in September.
Final approval of the 2020 budget proposal will be made by messengers attending this year’s BSC annual meeting in Greensboro on Nov. 11-12.

‘God will provide’

Butler said state convention ministries, institutions and agencies should expect a reduction to their CP budget allocations for 2020.
“Everyone will have to share in any cutback of the overall budget,” he said. “I don’t know what hurricanes may impact us this fall.
“I don’t know what our economy will do. I don’t know what cultural shifts are coming. What I do know is that we serve a God who is faithful, and He will provide.”

2/4/2019 2:10:46 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Mike Pittman called as BSC church planting leader

February 4 2019 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Mike Pittman, church planter and lead pastor of Vertical Church in Lumberton, was approved as the new Church Planting Team Leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) by the convention’s Executive Committee (EC) on January 29.

BSC’s Executive Leader for Church Planting and Missions Partnerships, Chuck Register, presented Pittman to the EC after conducting a nationwide search to replace Mark Gray, who recently retired.
“From a human perspective, church planting in North Carolina has been built on the shoulders of Mark Gray,” Register told the EC. “He’s provided outstanding leadership for our church planting team.”
On learning about Gray’s plan to retire, Register said he began looking for someone who has the “passion, knowledge and the administrative ability to lead our church planting team.”
He invited recommendations from his counterparts in other state conventions, staff at the North American Mission Board and those involved with church planting in North Carolina. Register said he interviewed candidates from various parts of the country including the Midwest, New England and several southern states.
“Through that process, it became obvious that Mike Pittman is the best man to lead our church planting efforts.”
Pittman has served Vertical Church since 2011. The multi-site church added locations in Bladen in 2013 and Pembroke in 2015. The church has celebrated more than 400 baptisms in seven years.
Pittman has served as a contract worker on the BSC’s church planting team since 2014, and is the primary coach in southeast North Carolina as well as a trainer for church planters in the state. He has been involved in helping develop the Sending Church Collective, a tool that helps multiply church planting in the state.
“This is a gentleman who understands the traditional, local church, which comprises a large segment of North Carolina Baptist life, having spent 11 years on staff of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Lumberton,” Register added. “He comes to us not only with a passion, knowledge and experience in church planting and church multiplication, he comes to us with an understanding of the established, traditional local church.”
“He is a proven church planter that advocates and practices both disciple-making – which is our strategy – and church multiplication.”
Pittman is a native of Maine. He told the EC he was not raised in church and dreamed of stardom in the music industry until his mid-20s.
At the age of 19, he attended Westside Baptist Church in Red Springs with his girlfriend who is now his wife.
“I heard the gospel for the first time in my life, … but my dreams for stardom were not over.”
At the age of 25, realizing he was married, had a child and did not have a record contract, Pittman said, “it’s time to grow up.” He returned to attending Westside Baptist. Four months later in a conversation with the pastor, he gave his life to Christ.
When presented to the EC as a candidate for the church planting position, Pittman said he often talks with other pastors about the need for a church planting movement in America.
“According to the traditional definition of a church planting movement, there isn’t one anywhere in North America,” he said.
He believes such a movement will help individual churches understand the call of God to reproduce the local church.
“I don’t know when we stopped understanding that God has called our church to reproduce,” said Pittman. 
A church planting movement does not depend heavily on a “visionary, entrepreneurial individual’s dream,” he added, but instead it will depend on “prayer-soaked, vision-fed seeds in churches all across North Carolina. Without a supernatural move of God, this is dead in the water. But I believe God is about to do something amazing in our state. I relish the opportunity to be part of that.”
Pittman announced his resignation from Vertical Church February 3. He and his wife, Keyna, have two children.

2/4/2019 9:21:38 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

African American history illuminates pastor’s life

February 4 2019 by Tobin Perry, Southern Baptist TEXAN

Terry Turner understands the value of knowing African American history by having seen the importance of discovering his own family’s history.

BP file photo
Terry Turner

Turner, a past president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, began looking into African American history as part of his doctoral research and discovered a connection between his story and the larger story of African Americans.
He was introduced to the research of Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson who examined the links between the breakdown of African American families today and slavery.
“Patterson brought to my attention that the greatest problem that African Americans were given from slavery is a history of disconnected fathers and husbands,” said Turner, whose own research and story became the basis of his book, God’s Amazing Grace: Reconciling Four Centuries of African American Marriages and Families.
 “Because those roles were destroyed, we’ve never been able to redefine them in the African American community,” Turner said, noting, “Of course fathers lead families. No family is complete without a father.”
Turner experienced this himself at age 10 when his father passed away. The pain and stress of growing up without a father followed him for years. Later, he had a child out of wedlock, continuing a cycle of absentee fatherhood into a new generation. Eventually, Turner came to faith in Christ, got married and had additional children.
For his first 25 years of pastoral ministry, Turner counseled couples to live out Christian principles in their marriage, but he struggled to find the satisfaction he felt should have come from his own marriage and family. He began his doctoral work at Dallas Theological Seminary with an emphasis on family and marriage, in part to get answers to the pain in his own family.

Photo submitted
Terry Turner speaks to the Texas State Fair annual pastors’ luncheon, describing his research into the impact of slavery on African American families that resulted in his book, God’s Amazing Grace: Reconciling Four Centuries of African American Marriages and Families.

As he researched the broader history of African Americans for his dissertation, Turner became interested in his lineage, tracing his family back to Warren and Elvira Turner, both born into slavery. Warren had conceived a son with another woman before gaining his freedom in 1865. Even after marrying Elvira, Warren fathered another child out of wedlock.
Later generations of men in the Turner family continued this pattern of risk factors including cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births. During slavery, Turner said, nearly nine out of 10 African Americans cohabited because it was their only option.
“I believe these risk factors were handed down to us through the generations of time,” said Turner, senior pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas. “The Bible tells us that the sins of the father would be handed down to the third and fourth generations. A lot of time we don’t take into account how what our parents went through impacts our lives. … Many of the risk factors present in my life were also present in my great-grandfather’s life.”
To turn around what he underscores as a crisis in American families, Turner urges all Americans to understand African American history – both the broader history of slavery and racism and the individual stories within families.
“I think the big problem is a lack of knowledge,” he said. “That’s what my book is all about, trying to promote an awareness and knowledge of our history. African American history has been basically written out. A lot of people don’t take into account where we are today in our country as far as race relations and the problems our families have. The family is the first institution God created. It is the basis of all of society. When the family structure is messed up and diluted, you’ll find that society is messed up.”

While slavery impacted African-American families by taking husbands and fathers out of the home, Turner said it also impacted Anglo families by passing on racism and prejudice through later generations.
Churches have a role to play in teaching African American history since most won’t learn it elsewhere, he stated.
It’s important for churches to teach the Christian principle of love – and be clear about their opposition to hate, he said, adding that love isn’t just something for Caucasians to better understand; African Americans need to get it as well.
“You have to fight hatred with love, which is the premise of my book,” Turner said. “Many African Americans look at American history and see how evil it was toward us and how enslavement was so difficult on our ancestors, and they want to rise up and take vengeance. My book is designed to show how the power of love brought our ancestors through all of that pain – and it will also bring us through it too.”
Because the Bible speaks directly to what ails families, whether African American or otherwise, Turner said his book is full of biblical passages.
“The Bible addresses every issue we deal with,” he said. “Preachers today don’t preach against sin like we used to. The greatest tool we have to change society is when a preacher stands up and preaches against the sins in society.”
There is hope for struggling families as churches begin to directly address some of the risk factors that are not only present in African American families but are rising across the board, Turner said, citing such risk factors as out-of-wedlock births, cohabitation and abandonment by fathers.
“I believe it can be turned around, but we have to know where we came from,” Turner said. “I encourage everyone to study their history. It was beneficial to me and has helped me to become a better father, a better husband, as I learned what my ancestors went through.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – February is Black History Month. Tobin Perry is a freelance writer online at tobinperry.com. This article first appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

2/4/2019 9:21:28 AM by Tobin Perry, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

Pew: Church good for happiness, civic engagement

February 4 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Church participation leads to more happiness and civic engagement, Pew Research Center said Jan. 31 after analyzing surveys from the U.S. and 25 other countries.
Religiously active people also tend to smoke and drink alcoholic beverages less than others, Pew said in its findings. But church participation had no clear positive outcomes for health, obesity and exercise, with results varying among countries studied.
“This analysis finds that in the U.S. and many other countries around the world, regular participation in a religious community clearly is linked with higher levels of happiness and civic engagement,” Pew said, citing civic activities such as voting, joining community groups and volunteering.
Religious affiliation without participation does not lead to the same positive outcomes, Pew found.
“This may suggest that societies with declining levels of religious engagement, like the U.S., could be at risk for declines in personal and societal well-being,” Pew said. “But the analysis finds comparatively little evidence that religious affiliation, by itself, is associated with a greater likelihood of personal happiness or civic involvement.”
Pew describes actively religious people as those who identify with a religious group and attend church services at least monthly.
Among key findings, actively religious people described themselves as very happy at higher rates than others in 24 of the countries studied.
In the U.S., 36 percent of actively religious people said they were very happy, compared to 25 percent of inactive religious people and 25 percent of those unaffiliated with any religious group.
Also in the U.S., 96 percent of religiously active people said they avoid frequent drinking, compared to 92 percent of religiously inactive people and 90 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.
Among religiously active Americans, only 32 percent say they are in very good health, although 85 percent don’t smoke, 64 percent exercise several times a week, and 72 percent are not obese.
Civically, 69 percent of religiously active Americans vote in national elections, and 58 percent belong to at least one nonreligious group. Those rates compare to 39 percent of the religiously unaffiliated who are members of at least one nonreligious group, and 48 percent of the religiously unaffiliated who always vote in national elections.
Surveys found the highest rates of very happy people among religiously active people in Mexico, 71 percent; Colombia, 58 percent; and Ecuador, 56 percent. Higher rates of religiously unaffiliated people said they were very happy in Spain, 18 percent compared to 13 percent of the religiously active, and Belarus, 13 percent compared to 11 percent.
Australia registered the highest voting rate among religiously active people at 94 percent, although 90 percent of Australians who are religiously unaffiliated said they do the same. In total, religiously active people in 17 of the countries studied voted in national elections at higher rates than Americans, Pew found.
Religiously active people judged themselves to be in very good health at the highest rate in South Africa, at 42 percent. Although a greater percentage of the religiously inactive, 44 percent, said the same there.
Pew judged the impact of religious participation on eight indicators of well-being, and based its interpretations on three surveys described as well-established data sets. Included are the World Values Survey from 2010-2014, the 2011 Health and Health Care Module of the International Social Survey Program, and Pew surveys conducted in 2012 and 2013.
In addition to the U.S., Pew studied Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Estonia, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, the Ukraine and Uruguay.

2/4/2019 9:21:15 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Diversity in focus as Baptists await EC announcement

February 1 2019 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

(Updated Feb. 4, 8:20 a.m.)

The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) has an upcoming meeting Feb. 18-19 in Nashville, Tenn., and many Southern Baptists eagerly await the announcement of the EC’s decision on a new leader for the organization.
As a handful of entity leadership roles were vacated over the past year, beginning with the resignation of Frank Page as EC president due to moral failure, some church leaders have called the organizations to use the openings as opportunities to consider ethnic minorities for executive leadership positions in an effort to promote diversity across the convention.

Baptist Press photo by Matt Miller
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee seven-member presidential search team includes (first row, left to right) Stephen Rummage, Mike Stone; (middle row, left to right) Adron Robinson, Carol Yarber, Joe Knott; (back row left to right) Stephen Swofford and Rolland Slade.

Last year, Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, publicly urged the EC and the International Mission Board (IMB) to take steps that would demonstrate their commitment to ethnic diversity. At the time, David Platt had announced his intention to step down as president of the IMB.
“Right now we have two major entities in the Southern Baptist Convention that have vacancies at the leadership level,” Pitman said during a panel discussion at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s MLK50 conference in April 2018. “It is imperative that at least one of them be filled with minority leadership.”
The IMB has since come under the leadership of Paul Chitwood, who was selected by trustees Nov. 15 to be the entity’s new president. Chitwood will be formally installed in his new role Feb. 6, 2019.
One of the EC’s own advisory councils uses a database to track progress and develop strategies to encourage greater participation of ethnic minorities in Southern Baptist life and leadership.
The EC presented a report to messengers at the 2011 SBC annual meeting with recommendations for all SBC entities that were “designed to foster conscious awareness of the need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life.”
Those recommendations included the implementation of ethnic-specific data in yearly informational reports submitted to the EC from SBC entities and due consideration of ethnic representation in presidential appointments, committee nominations and entity hiring practices.
The Biblical Recorder reached out to the EC’s search committee in early December 2018 to find out more about how they were reviewing potential candidates.
Stephen Swofford, chair of the EC search committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas, told the Recorder in an email Dec. 10 that the group had been “proceeding based on those who were recommended” but they had not utilized the Convention Advancement Advisory Council’s database to aid their efforts.
The database draws information from LifeWay’s Annual Church Profile (ACP), along with other data collected by the EC and the North American Mission Board, to help leaders of the SBC’s ethnic fellowship groups track their respective churches’ efforts in evangelism, discipleship, missions and cooperative giving, according to EC staff.
Mike Stone, EC chairman and pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga., declined to comment on the details of the search process but referred to statements made by SBC president J.D. Greear in an address to the EC.
“Remember that they (committees, boards, etc.) are filled with people who love Jesus,” he said. “They are doing their best to make the right decision, one that honors the Lord.”
On Jan. 29, a trio of well-known Southern Baptist pastors, including two former SBC presidents, sent a letter to the EC search team asking if any ethnic minority candidates were interviewed for the lead role, and if not, why. The letter, viewed by the Recorder, was signed by Pitman, James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., and Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.
The group emphasized they were not demanding that the EC hire a minority, nor requiring consideration for any particular candidate, but inquiring whether any minority candidates had been interviewed.
“We can assure you at the end of the process whoever you choose we will trust it was the Spirit of God leading you to select that person,” the letter said. “Still, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to explain to the increasing minority element of our convention and an outside world why no minority candidate was even given the courtesy of an interview.”
The pastors invoked the election of Greear as SBC president in their appeal, saying he had made ethnic diversity “one of the six initiatives of his presidency” in 2018 and was elected by nearly 70 percent of messengers.
Greear told the Recorder he had seen the letter but declined to comment on details. Greear did say, however, that he “agree[s] with their concern over whether we are making strategic and intentional efforts” to consider non-White Southern Baptists for denominational leadership positions.
“As I have said before, we need to recognize the leadership gifts of brothers and sisters of color that God has placed in our midst and embrace their wisdom and influence,” Greear explained.
“I am sure this search committee will follow the recommendation from the full EC board and interview at least one person of color. As I am sure this search committee knows, there are many highly qualified candidates who would be more than deserving of an interview. While nearly a fifth of [SBC] churchgoers are Black, Latino, or Asian, our leadership still falls far short of that mark and this search committee can take a giant leap forward.”

Read the full letter from Pitman, Wright and Merritt below:
Dear Executive Committee Search Committee:
You have been given an extremely important task to choose the next Chairman of the Executive Committee. There is no doubt that your number one desire is and should be to find God’s man for that position. It is with that common conviction and belief that we send the following.
Our nation is increasingly diversifying at a rapid rate that is a reflection of God’s kingdom which includes people from every tribe, every tongue, and every nation. We realize as a convention that we must increasingly diversify both our evangelistic efforts and our leadership if we are going to be the kingdom minded, growing, relevant force for Christ that we have been in the past and we want to be in the future.
We do not presume to speak for Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear on this issue; however, at the 2018 annual meeting in Dallas, TX, he was elected by nearly 70% of the messengers and made this issue one of the six initiatives of his presidency.
It is this backdrop that leads us to ask two very important questions for your committee: (1) In your search for the person to fill this position, have you interviewed any minority candidates? (2) If not, we respectfully ask why not? 
Please understand we are not saying that you should hire a minority candidate. That is neither our role or our responsibility. But candidly and respectfully we are saying that it would be difficult at best to explain to the increasing minority participation in our convention and to a world that is watching our denomination from afar, why no minority was seriously considered.
We know ourselves of certain minority candidates that we believe would at least merit a conversation and consideration regardless of whether or not they would be chosen in the end. At the very least, simply an acknowledgement that minorities were considered and interviewed in a serious way would show a good faith effort on the part of this committee to exhibit a sensitivity to where we are and where we need to go as a convention in terms of racial diversity in our leadership. Not to do so, we believe would send an extremely negative message and unnecessarily put the committee and frankly, the entire convention, in a bad light.
Let me be clear again: we are not dictating to the committee any specific individuals that you should either interview or select.  We can assure you at the end of the process whoever you choose we will trust it was the Spirit of God leading you to select that person. Still, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to explain to the increasing minority element of our convention and an outside world why no minority candidate was even given the courtesy of an interview. In fact, I would hope every other search committee for various vacant entity heads ongoing now and in the future would be sensitive to doing due diligence in this matter as well.
We send this letter with all respect and belief that in the end you will do the right thing and you will select the person that God wants us to have. We send this with humility, love, and a deep concern and care for the denomination that we all love. We would appreciate your timely response to this letter and your prompt consideration of this matter.
James Merritt – Pastor, Cross Pointe Church, Duluth, GA
Bryant Wright – Pastor, Johnson Ferry Baptist, Marietta, GA
Vance Pittman – Pastor, Hope Church, Las Vegas, NV

2/1/2019 4:22:30 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Yates association hosts ‘Who’s Your One?’ preview

February 1 2019 by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer

Leaders from more than 250 Southern Baptist associations across the country joined a simulcast Jan. 31 previewing the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism initiative. Yates Baptist Association hosted the live event at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham, N.C.
Marty Childers, Yates’ director of missions, said he hopes the initiative will “wake us up as a church and help us to see that lostness is real” and remind Southern Baptists of the mission God gave “to seek and save the lost.”

Photo by Rob Laughter, The Summit Church
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, shared a preview of the Who’s Your One? evangelism initiative he and the North American Mission Board will launch Feb. 20.

Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, introduced the initiative, which will launch Feb 20. Greear explained three convictions on which the strategy is built. First, he said, the core of Baptists’ commission is to spread the gospel and make disciples.
“There are a lot of important things we can get involved in, but none of them should ever compete with the one essential thing that we absolutely must be involved in, and that is seeing people bring other people to faith in Jesus Christ,” Greear said.
He continued by explaining how ordinary people, not pastors, associational strategists or state convention staff, “are the tip of the gospel spear” and serve as channels of the greatest work of evangelism.
The third conviction is to equip people to reach others outside of church. Greear emphasized the necessity of relationships in earning credibility to preach the gospel into other people’s lives in everyday contexts.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), introduced a recorded video of Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s senior vice president of evangelism and leadership, explaining the resources available to churches that want to participate.
Churches can request to receive a free “Who’s Your One?” kit that includes an implementation guide, 30-day prayer guide, graphics, posters, bulletin inserts and sermons by Greear and Hunt. Sermon guides and transcripts, as well as presentation slides are also included. Kits will be sent mid-February, but the implementation and prayer guides are available immediately at whosyourone.com.
Hunt highlighted the importance of prayer for the initiative. “We need more than resources,” he said. “We need a passion and a heart for evangelism. You can be equipped but not really have Christ’s heart for the lost.”
At Ridgecrest, Childers closed the event by leading local pastors in committing to pray for their own “one.”

2/1/2019 12:59:17 PM by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer | with 0 comments

Virginia governor’s comments called ‘horrifying’

February 1 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The expanding effort to strike down state regulations on abortion until the moment of birth brought a sharp rebuke from a Southern Baptist ethicist of a governor whose comments supported permitting babies to die if they survive the procedure.

Screen capture from YouTube
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, left, made remarks on a radio show Jan. 30 that have been called “nothing short of horrifying” by Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, described Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s remarks as “nothing short of horrifying, and a shock to any functioning conscience.”
The controversy in Virginia came a week after New York legalized abortion until birth for the mother’s “health” – which is not defined and has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to include essentially any reason – and as other states seek to wipe out limitations on the procedure.
Virginia became the latest battleground in the abortion conflict after Kathy Tran, a Democrat in the Virginia House of Delegates, spoke Jan. 28 before a subcommittee on behalf of her legislation to repeal abortion restrictions. In response to questioning by House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, a Republican, Tran said her bill would allow an abortion for “mental health” reasons “all the way up to 40 weeks.” She told Gilbert her proposal would permit abortion when the woman’s cervix is dilating and she is preparing to give birth.
When the Virginia House GOP posted a video of Tran’s remarks on social media, it went viral and drew strong protests from pro-life advocates.
Northam said in commenting on the bill in a radio interview Wednesday (Jan. 30), “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Northam’s comments are “morally reprehensible and ghoulish to the core,” Moore said. “How seared must a conscience be for a leader to discuss leaving born-alive children to die with the cavalier indifference as if he were discussing the relative merits of a water treatment plant in Danville or Culpeper?” he said in a written release.
“Human beings are not animals to be farmed, and not machines to be deprogrammed when they are not considered state-of-the-art,” Moore said. “Children have intrinsic value that is defined not by their power, nor by the whim of doctors, but by the image of God each one of them bears.”
Moore also said, “Thankfully, we as Americans have the voice of another, greater Virginian: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ If Mr. Jefferson’s words are true, then Gov. Northam’s words are false.”
Northam’s office defended the governor’s remarks in a statement later Jan. 30, accusing Republicans of “trying to play politics with women’s health” and contending women only seek third-trimester abortions “in the case of tragic or difficult circumstances, such as a nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities.”
The governor’s remarks “were limited to actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances went into labor. Attempts to extrapolate these comments otherwise is in bad faith and underscores exactly why the governor believes physicians and women, not legislators, should make these difficult and deeply personal medical decisions.”
The claim that late-term abortions occur only for fetal abnormality or a nonviable pregnancy does not appear to have clear support. Diana Greene Foster, a professor at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco, told FactCheck.org in 2015 “[t]here aren’t good data on how often later abortions are for medical reasons.” Based on limited research and discussions with researchers, Foster said abortions for fetal anomaly “make up a small minority of later abortions” and those for life endangerment are even more difficult to define.
Brian Autry, executive director of the SBC of Virginia, described Tran’s proposed legislation as “nothing short of infanticide.” The effort by Northam’s office to clarify his intent makes his statements “no better,” Autry said.
“This needed to come to light so Virginians can recognize what our elected officials are considering in regard to life in Virginia,” Autry said. Virginia Baptists must “prayerfully and diligently stand for the unborn and now the just-born.”
An SBCV news release called on Baptists to participate in the first-ever Virginia March for Life on April 3 to “[j]oin others to stand in front of the governor’s mansion to declare that we are pro-life, and we do not support abortion.”
While Northam called for multiple doctors to be involved in a decision regarding a late-term abortion, Tran’s bill would have changed Virginia law to require only one physician to participate. The subcommittee rejected Tran’s bill.
In the radio interview, Northam also said, “We want the government not to be involved in these types of decisions.”
Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel for Americans United for Life (AUL), said the government has long been involved in abortion decisions.
“The courts dictate every abortion regulation from coast to coast,” Forsythe told Baptist Press in a phone interview. “The Supreme Court is the national abortion control board. It controls every abortion regulation, permits it or strikes it down in every state for every abortion clinic from coast to coast.
“If you really wanted to get government out of abortion, you would get the courts out of abortion,” he said. “But of course, [abortion rights supporters] like the courts controlling abortion.”
New Mexico, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Washington have either recently enacted laws increasing access to abortion or are considering bills to overturn abortion regulations, according to AUL.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the Reproductive Health Act into law Jan. 22, the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which struck down all state bans and legalized abortion throughout the country. The new law enables non-physicians – midwives, nurse practitioners and physician assistants – to perform non-surgical or chemical abortions and protects abortion performers by moving abortion law from New York’s criminal code to its health code.
The New York law not only puts pregnant women at risk, but it is so radical it permits infanticide by eliminating protections for babies who survive an attempted abortion and by removing fetal homicide penalties, according to AUL.
While the Supreme Court struck down state laws in its Roe decision in 1973, a companion ruling – Doe v. Bolton – had the effect of legalizing abortion “on demand,” as pro-lifers have described it. In Doe, the high court provided an exception from state regulations of abortion for “maternal health,” which it defined as “all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient.”
The Supreme Court affirmed Roe in a 1992 opinion but also ruled states may regulate abortion to protect the lives and health of women.

2/1/2019 11:58:13 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christian schools ‘essential’ despite criticism wave

February 1 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Though Christian schools have drawn criticism in 2019, some Christian educators say the criticism unwittingly underscores the urgent need for Christ-centered education.

Photo from icsva.org
Immanuel Christian School

Among attacks against Christian schooling: second Lady Karen Pence has drawn fire for teaching in an evangelical school; the social media hashtag #ExposeChristianSchools has emerged; and accusations against a group of Catholic school boys proliferated following the March for Life.
“This country was founded on principles found in scripture, however we are now in a culture in which those foundational principles are being attacked,” said Wesley Scott, executive director of the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools (SBACS). “If you can take out the foundation, you can take the fortress. Churches and Christian schools are essential in repairing these foundational blows.”
Christian schools must “find ways to engage an anti-biblical culture with loving and Christ-like compassion while continuing to educate adults, youth and children in the moral and spiritual values found within the Bible,” Scott told Baptist Press via email.
Criticism of Christian schools emerged in mid-January when Karen Pence announced she had been hired to teach art part-time at Immanuel Christian School in northern Virginia. The school requires faculty, students and staff to uphold traditional Christian sexual morality, including prohibitions on homosexual activity and sex outside of a biblical marriage.
In response to Pence’s hiring, media commentators, gay rights activists and others criticized both her and the school. Vice President Mike Pence called it “deeply offensive” to “see major new organizations attacking Christian education.”
The criticism continued in late January when Washington’s Sheridan School, a private K-8 institution, stated it will no longer play sports at Immanuel because “some students did not feel safe entering a school that bans LGBTQ parents, students or even families that support LGBTQ rights,” according to The American Conservative.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Fox News that Americans should be “grateful” Karen Pence “is involved in her community.” The controversy over her teaching is “representative” of a larger “problem ... in American life.”
“Someone doesn’t have to agree with what Christians historically believe about marriage and family,” Moore said, “but that doesn’t mean we should attempt to bully Christians out of existence.... It’s a Christian school. Of course it’s going to hold to historic Christian principles and so the attempt to act shocked by it is really unfortunate.”
Criticism of another Christian school ensued when a Jan. 18 social media video appeared to show students from Covington Catholic High School in northern Kentucky confronting a Native American man in Washington after the March for Life. Initial criticism of the students, including some by Christian leaders, was followed by support of the students by many when a longer video seemed to depict the students’ actions in a more positive light.
Amid criticism of Pence and the Covington Catholic students, former evangelical Chris Stroop started on Twitter the hashtag #ExposeChristianSchools, inviting former Christian school students to “tell how traumatizing those bastions of bigotry are.” The responses included many positive testimonies of Christian schools’ impact along with stories of legalism, abuse and bullying.
Stroop tweeted Jan. 31, “I seem to have freaked out the entire American Right with this one wired weird hashtag.”
Scott, of the SBACS, said the hashtag “failed to accomplish” its critical purpose.
“While the intent of the hashtag is to ‘expose’ alleged social fallacies in schools who follow a biblical philosophy of education and morality, the responses to the hashtag have shown that Christian schools are, for the most part, a caring and loving Christian environment where children can receive a high-quality education,” Scott said.
Moore, in a Jan. 30 address to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in Washington, said Jesus always has drawn hostility from nonbelievers. Yet sometimes, “the people who are most hostile to us are the very people right on the edge of becoming our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“The people that we are often so fearful of,” Moore said, “may indeed be the Sauls of Tarsus that we will one day not only welcome, but heed.”

2/1/2019 11:58:02 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Displaying results 41-50 (of 10000)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10  >  >|