April 2014

Luter names Committee on Committees

April 28 2014 by Baptist Press

Appointments to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Committee on Committees have been announced by SBC president Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. Luter announced the appointments in accordance with SBC Bylaw 19, which calls for providing notice to Southern Baptists of the appointees well in advance of each year’s convention.

The Committee on Committees will assemble in Baltimore just prior to the SBC’s June 10-11 annual meeting to nominate members of the Committee on Nominations who, in turn, nominate trustees for the boards of SBC entities. SBC Bylaw 19 also provides that the Committee on Committees “shall nominate all special committees authorized during the sessions of the Convention not otherwise provided for.”

The Committee on Committees has 68 members, two from each of the 34 states and regions qualified for representation on boards of SBC entities.


BP photo
Fred Luter

The president named Roc Collins, pastor of Indian Springs Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn., to serve as chairman of this year’s Committee on Committees.

Committee members are:

ALABAMA – Dennis Culbreth, First Baptist Church, Jasper; Bobby Burt, University Baptist Church, Huntsville

ALASKA – Alan Dial, Upper Tanana Valley Regional Church, Tok; Gary Bearce, Pioneer Baptist Church, Wasilla

ARIZONA – John Guillot, Green Valley Baptist Church, Green Valley; Bob Dodridge, CrossPoint Baptist Church, Tempe

ARKANSAS – Gary Hollingsworth, Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock; Ronnie Parrott, Cross Church, Springdale

CALIFORNIA – Randy Bennett, Daybreak Baptist Church, Bakersfield; Don Fugate, Foxworthy Avenue Baptist Church, San Jose

COLORADO – Matthew Perry, Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial; Mike Atherton, Cornerstone Baptist Church, Lone Tree

FLORIDA – Walter West, Anastasia Baptist Church, St. Augustine; Tommy Green, First Baptist Church, Brandon

GEORGIA – Herman Parker, First Baptist Church, Bremen; Daniel Jack Lee, Altamaha Baptist Church, Jesup

HAWAII – Vince Tabudlo, All Nations Fellowship, Honolulu; Michael Landry, Oceanview Baptist Church, Oceanview

ILLINOIS – Mary Sue Jones, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Decatur; Doug Nguyen, Uptown Baptist Church, Chicago

INDIANA – Chris Gustafson, Eastern Heights Baptist Church, Jeffersonville; Rick Hillard, Eastlake Baptist Church, Crown Point

KANSAS-NEBRASKA – Jon Sapp, Western Hills Baptist Church, Topeka, Kan.; Abraham Arevalo, Casa de Dios, Wichita, Kan.

KENTUCKY – Norman Brock, First Baptist Church, East Bernstadt; Roger Alford, Long Ridge Baptist Church, Owenton

LOUISIANA – Jerilyn Johnston, First Baptist Church, Covington; James Jenkins, Baptist Bible Fellowship, Shreveport

MARYLAND-DELAWARE-D.C. – Harold Phillips, Pleasant View Baptist Church, Port Deposit, Md.; David Griesemer, Landover Hills Baptist Church, Landover Hills, Md.

MICHIGAN – Winford Williams, First Baptist Church, Brighton; Dan Russell, Calvary Baptist Church, Southgate

MISSISSIPPI – Greg Warnock, First Baptist Church, Brookhaven; Jason Dukes, First Baptist Church, Booneville

MISSOURI – Richard Biesiadecki, LifePointe Church, Wildwood; Charles McLain, First Baptist Church, Crystal City

NEVADA – David Simpson, Green Valley Baptist Church, Henderson; Matthew Zamudio, South Reno Baptist Church, Reno

NEW ENGLAND – John Revell, Stamford Baptist Church, Stamford, Conn.; John Scoggins, Nashua Baptist Church, Nashua, N.H.

NEW MEXICO – Kathy Loudat, First Baptist Church of West Albuquerque, Albuquerque; Andrew Hebert, Taylor Memorial Baptist Church, Hobbs

NEW YORK – Steve Allen, Bible Church International, Randolph; Frank Williams, Wake Eden Baptist Church, Bronx

NORTH CAROLINA – Bobby Blanton, Lake Norman Baptist Church, Huntersville; J. Bartley Wooten, Beulaville Baptist Church, Beulaville

NORTHWEST – Don Moor, Dayspring Baptist Church, Chehalis, Wash.; Adrian Hall, First Baptist Church, Beaverton, Ore.

OHIO – Mark Stinson, Trinity Baptist Church, Cambridge; Nicole Strother, Central Baptist Church, Marion

OKLAHOMA – Todd Parr, First Baptist Church, Broken Arrow; Kathy Franklin, Crossway First Baptist Church, Sulphur

PENNSYLVANIA/SOUTH JERSEY – Philip Pham, Vietnamese Baptist Church, Philadelphia; Thomas Harris, Ezekiel Baptist Church, Philadelphia

SOUTH CAROLINA – Alex Sands, Kingdom Life Christian Center, Greenville; Tommy Kelly, Varnville First Baptist Church, Varnville

TENNESSEE – Roc Collins, Indian Springs Baptist Church, Kingsport (chairman); Scott Andrews, First Baptist Church, Sevierville

TEXAS – Dalia Gonzales, Iglesia Bautista La Vid, Colleyville; Joe Davis, Church at the Cross, Grapevine

UTAH-IDAHO – James Thompson, First Baptist Church, Provo, Utah; Pat Panagoplos, First Baptist Church, Roy, Utah

VIRGINIA – Brad Russell, Old Powhatan Baptist Church, Powhatan; Kevin Cummings, Fincastle Baptist Church, Fincastle

WEST VIRGINIA – Raymond Bouchoc, Baker Heights Baptist Church, Martinsburg; Kevin Belcher, Burke Memorial Baptist Church, Princeton

WYOMING – Fred Creason, Boyd Avenue Baptist Church, Casper; Frances Irizarry, Iglesia Bautista Principe De Paz, Casper
4/28/2014 10:21:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Easter sermon yielded to Ukraine’s president

April 28 2014 by Sharayah Colter, Southern Baptist TEXAN, Baptist Press

Texas evangelist Michael Gott saw an unexpected opportunity and seized it when he yielded his preaching time on Easter morning to Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov.

Ukrainians attending the service at a large and crowded Baptist church in Kiev were unaware that Turchynov, a fellow Baptist and an occasional lay preacher, would be there when they gathered to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, Gott said in a statement provided to the Southern Baptist TEXAN.

Turchynov, designated as acting president following protests and bloodshed in the former Soviet republic, spoke to the crowd for more than 20 minutes about his faith in Jesus Christ. He noted his deep appreciation for their prayers and referred to them several times as “dear brothers and sisters,” Gott said.

Gott, whose Michael Gott International ministry is based in Keller, Texas, is in Ukraine on an evangelistic tour with the Arkansas Baptist Master’Singers choir. He said he urged the president to take the opportunity to encourage his fellow Ukrainians.


Texas evangelist Michael Gott (right) sits next to Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov during a Easter morning worship service at a Baptist church in Kiev. Gott is in Ukraine on an evangelistic tour with the Arkansas Baptist Master’Singers choir.

“Mr. President, I honor you for the courage you have to stand before this nation as a humble, born-again Christian,” Gott told Turchynov from his seat near the leader. “While the world is watching, let them hear you confess Jesus Christ as the risen Lord.”

Turchynov was “gracious in his words of encouragement,” Gott said. When it was announced Turchynov was in attendance, the Baptist church broke out in applause – unusual for a Ukrainian church, he noted.

Gott said Turchynov’s address to the church was “a historic moment. Never before has an acting Ukrainian president attended a Baptist worship service. Never. And I would remind all of us that this is the same Ukraine that once harshly persecuted Baptists and called them ‘a despised cult.’ But also this is the Ukraine in which Nikita Khrushchev once said, ‘Ukraine does not need Jesus Christ – they have me!’“

Gott said he even joked with Turchynov that he would make a good evangelist, yielding a “Thank you” and a smile from the head of state.

Later in the day, Gott spoke to an estimated 20,000 people at Maidan, in the heart of Kiev, where he reminded the open-air crowd and a live national television audience that political leadership would not solve the unrest plaguing the nation.

“A new president is not the solution to Ukraine’s problems,” Gott said. “This nation needs a new birth – a spiritual awakening.”

Gott commended the nation for uniting to oust a corrupt leader, but said the lasting hope for Ukraine would be found in kneeling before the risen Lord.

The pro-Western government took over after Viktor Yanukovich, the Moscow-backed president, fled the capital amid civil unrest after his refusal, under Russian pressure, to strengthen ties with the European Union. Moscow refuses to acknowledge the acting Kiev government and reportedly has troops positioned along its border with Ukraine. In March Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in what the United States condemned as an illegal “land grab.”

Ukrainians need Christians worldwide to join them in prayer, Gott said.

“The situation in Ukraine reminds all of us how we need to become world Christians and to recognize that some of these major events taking place in the world directly affect our brothers and sisters in Christ, and so we all need a new sensitivity about the work of God going on in many places in the world.

“But for Ukraine in particular, we need to imagine the anguish and the struggle in the hearts of these people,” Gott said. “An invasion from Russia in Ukraine would be disastrous and it would almost force the world to go back to the Cold War mentality. Ukraine could not withstand a Russian military invasion. We need to pray for peace, and we need to ask for God to intervene, and we need to recognize that all of this indirectly affects the work of the Great Commission. Let us ask God to bless the people of Ukraine.”

During his time there, Gott has also visited with the Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists president, Viacheslav Nesteruk, thanking him for his support and adding, “We have come to lift up Jesus Christ and to see people drawn to him.”

The choir tour is covering seven cities in western Ukraine. The choir received an official invitation from the Ukrainian minister of culture that gives them permission to hold events in public buildings, Gott said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sharayah Colter is a writer for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
4/28/2014 10:07:58 AM by Sharayah Colter, Southern Baptist TEXAN, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Clemson coach says players aren’t coerced by religion

April 28 2014 by Mandrallius Robinson, USA Today/Religion News Service

Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney has responded to complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation expressing “constitutional concerns about how the public university’s football program is entangled with religion.”
According to the Wisconsin-based foundation, Swinney has promoted a culture in the program that promotes Christianity and violates constitutional guidelines of the separation of church and state.
In a statement released by the university, Swinney asserted that religious activity is not a requirement of his program.

Photo courtesy of Parker Anderson via Flickr
Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney has responded to complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation expressing “constitutional concerns about how the public university’s football program is entangled with religion.”

“Over the past week or two, there has been a lot of discussion of my faith,” he said. “We have three rules in our program that everybody must follow: (1) players must go to class, (2) they must give a good effort and (3) they must be good citizens. It is as simple as that.
“I have recruited and coached players of many different faiths. Players of any faith or no faith at all are welcome in our program. All we require in the recruitment of any player is that he must be a great player at his position, meet the academic requirements, and have good character.”
Swinney did not address the specific allegations from the FFRF directly. In a letter sent to Clemson officials on April 10, the group alleged that Swinney has organized religious activities for players while also acting as an official state employee.
The FFRF also alleged that Swinney hand-picked chaplain James Trapp, which violates the university’s policy on team chaplains, which specifies that student athletes should select their own chaplain. The FFRF also contended that Trapp has used his office to proselytize.
The foundation has recommended the elimination of the chaplaincy position. Swinney did not address Trapp’s status and did not address how often he or his staff members discuss or promote their faith with current players.
Swinney did address how the topic of his faith is broached during recruiting visits with prospective athletes even though the FFRF did not submit a specific complaint about Swinney’s recruiting practices.
“Recruiting is very personal,” Swinney said. “Recruits and their families want – and deserve – to know who you are as a person, not just what kind of coach you are. I try to be a good example to others, and I work hard to live my life according to my faith.”
In a statement posted online April 24, the FFRF said Swinney was dodging the issue.
“His religion is not the issue; it is his proselytizing in a public university football program,” the group said. “It is a bedrock constitutional principle that government employees cannot abuse their position to advance their religion.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mandrallius Robinson writes for The Greenville News and USA Today.)
4/28/2014 9:54:52 AM by Mandrallius Robinson, USA Today/Religion News Service | with 0 comments

‘Whole Gospel’ needed in sexualized age

April 25 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Evangelicals must proclaim the Christian sexual ethic and the ‘Whole Gospel’ to an increasingly confused culture, Southern Baptist lead ethicist Russell D. Moore told pastors and others during a three-day leadership summit.

The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said fulfilling their God-given commission means Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians must truthfully address the deception foisted upon people by the devil and his demonic forces.

“[I]f we tell the culture around us what we think they want to hear or if we practice the sort of selective universalism that tells them what they want to hear only as it relates to sexuality, we will not breed evangelism,” Moore said April 22. “We will breed cynicism from a group of people who will say, ‘If we cannot trust you to tell us the truth about your gospel, then how can we trust you to tell us how to be resurrected from the dead.’“

Moore delivered one of the keynote addresses during the first ERLC Leadership Summit, which addressed the topic “The Gospel and Human Sexuality” April 21-23 in Nashville.

The way to address Americans “is not by more culture-war posturing but by a Christ-shaped counter-revolution that takes seriously what the Bible speaks about sexuality, about marriage, about human dignity and focuses that upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Moore said.

Photo by Kent Harville
Phillip Bethancourt, ERLC executive vice president (left), and ERLC President Russell Moore discuss ethics, culture, and the public square during a question-and-answer session of the ERLC Leadership Summit April 21-23.

He acknowledged the Christian view of sexuality in a sexualized culture not only will appear strange but may, in many cases, “seem even subversive to the people around us.”

“What I think we ought to commit to do as the people of God is not to run away from the strangeness of Christianity but to reclaim the strangeness of Christianity as it is found and focused on a crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ,” Moore said.

In too many of their circles for too long, evangelicals have had an “almost gospel” or a “discount-store prosperity gospel,” he told the pastors and other church leaders.

“[W]hen we are calling people to a Christian sexual ethic, if we have spent all of our time preaching a gospel that fulfills all the expectations that you already have of what it means to live your normal life – your best life now with heaven at the end of it – then of course it seems nonsensical” to tell those called to singleness the path to celibacy is difficult, to tell people they must fight against temptation, to tell spouses their marriage should not be ended when it becomes demanding, to tell Christians their lives are going to be ones of spiritual warfare, Moore said.

“The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not pretend that the path to sexual purity is easy,” he said. “The gospel of Jesus Christ says that the entire life of the Christian is one of bearing a cross, which is why we need the entire body of Christ ... so that the stronger will bear up the weaker,” he told the audience.

Everyone needs “not an almost gospel but a whole gospel that speaks to us truthfully of God’s justice and truthfully of God’s justification to understand and to know the joy of what it means to follow and to walk after Jesus, which means sometimes that we walk in places that don’t seem to make sense...,” Moore said.

An “almost gospel is no match for the sexual revolution,” he said.

Among problems Moore cited as marking America’s sexualized culture are pornography, divorce, abortion, child abuse, the objectification of young women and challenges to the concepts of love, fidelity and family.

With Luke 3:2-22 as his text, Moore said the mission of John the Baptist, described in the passage, is the same as the mission of the church – “to point and say, ‘Behold the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.’“

God designed the human sex drive to be powerful so a man “will leave his father and mother, cleave to his wife, and they will become one flesh,” he said.

In the one-flesh union of a man and a woman, God “is showcasing, He is picturing, He is demonstrating the union of Christ and His church,” Moore said, adding, “That is not just a relationship. It’s a gospel tract. It’s an invitation hymn.”

Evangelicals must not only address the deceptions of the devil but his accusations, Moore said.

“You and I are living in a world full of sexual brokenness in which the devil is saying to people all around us, ‘I know who you are. I know what you’ve done,’“ he said. Many people inside and outside the church, he added, are hiding from the voice of God because of the devil’s accusation.

The call for people to be reconciled to God should be done with not only the message of Jesus but in the way He did it, Moore told the audience.

Speaking prophetically means doing so “in a way that opposes the devil without acting like the devil,” he said. “It is easy to demonize opponents. It is difficult to oppose demons.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Baptist Press’ Washington Bureau chief.)

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Sex-saturated culture addressed at summit
Mark Regnerus: religion can predict sexual behavior
4/25/2014 2:30:43 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Sex-saturated culture addressed at summit

April 25 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Pastors and other evangelical Christians should speak biblically and live purely to minister faithfully in a sex-saturated culture, speakers said at a Southern Baptist-sponsored summit on the gospel and sexuality.

In addresses during the three-day conference, speakers challenged participants with messages designed to equip church leaders and other Christians to live with purity while aiding people inside and outside the church who are captive to a sexualized society. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission sponsored its inaugural ERLC Leadership Summit in sessions April 21-23 at the Southern Baptist Convention building in Nashville.

As sexualized as American culture is, it does not appear to be at the saturation point, ERLC president Russell D. Moore said.

“In terms of the entire society, I don’t think we’re there yet, because I think that what’s happening is that technology is making the sexual revolution more and more elastic,” Moore said during a panel discussion on ministry in a sex-permeated culture.

He suspects that “what we are going to find is there are a lot of people who have been promised a kind of easy gospel of sexual freedom who are going to be asking, ‘What now? What’s after this?’ And so I think we need to be the sort of church and the sort of people who can be ready” to welcome and help them, Moore said.

The summit, titled “The Gospel and Human Sexuality,” dealt with such issues as moral purity, marital sexuality, pastoral care for sexual immorality, pornography, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, sex trafficking, discussing sex with children and young people, and biblical manhood and womanhood.

Photo by Kent Harville
“The Gospel and Homosexuality” pastor Jimmy Scroggins makes a comment during the panel discussion during the inaugural ERLC Leadership Summit April 21-23 at the Southern Baptist Convention building in Nashville. In the background are pastors Greg Belser (left) and J.D. Greear (center).

J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh/Durham (N.C.) area, said presenting the beauty of the gospel of Jesus is vital in dealing with sexuality and sexual sin.

“The problem is not that our desire for sex is so strong but that our love for God is so weak,” he said in a keynote speech on pastoral care for sexual sin.

“[O]ur message cannot simply be, ‘Stop having sex.’ Our message has to be, ‘Behold your God,’” Greear told the audience, which consisted of 205 registrants.

“What you have to do is to be consumed with a God and His work so much that it breaks the craving” for sex, he said.

Various speakers pointed to the need for pastors to preach systematically through the Bible, and some pointed to the damage that preaching to address felt needs has done among evangelicals in recent decades.

“The generational effect of felt-needs preaching, the generational effect of preaching what we think people want to hear and not exalting the unique person and unique work of Jesus Christ has caused irreparable harm in the church world,” said Kevin Smith, assistant professor of preaching at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

“It’s easy to scapegoat gay people,” he said. “It’s easy to scapegoat the culture war without proclaiming the Word of God from the pulpit to the people sitting in your congregation looking at your face.”

Evangelicals should make certain they are speaking biblically and factually while befriending gays and lesbians when addressing homosexuality and same-sex marriage, speakers noted.

“The point is not homosexuality; the point is the Lordship of Jesus,” Greear said.

“God doesn’t send people to hell for homosexuality. He sends people to hell for self-rule and self-righteousness,” he said.

Jimmy Scroggins, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., said Christians should “reject redneck theology in all its forms,” including jokes about “Adam and Steve.”

The summit addressed the pervasiveness of pornography, especially among church leaders and other Christians.

Pornography “represents the greatest moral crisis in the history of the church,” said Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern Seminary.

While there are all sorts of moral problems, “porn is something evangelicals can do in a dark room behind a shut door after they have railed against homosexual marriage,” he said during his keynote speech.

“I think the greatest threat to the church today is the Christian pastor, the Christian school teacher, the Christian college and seminary student who exalts sound theology, who points to the Bible and then retreats to the basement computer” for an hour of pornography, Lambert told the audience.

The average age of a boy’s first experience with hard-core pornography is 12, Lambert said. “We don’t know what it is like to have a nation of men who are addicted to pornography,” he said.

David Prince, pastor of preaching at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., and associate professor of preaching at Southern Seminary, said he is convinced pornography is “devastating the spiritual vitality of our churches.”

Pastor and seminary professor Tony Merida said Christians can battle sex trafficking by halting their consumption of pornography.

“I would go so far as to say if you are viewing pornography you are perpetuating the sex trafficking industry,” said Merida, founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., and associate professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

Pastors need to be accountable to others regarding pornography and to address their churches, Lambert said. While practical strategies are needed, “[t]here is no grasp of porn that is so tight that the grace of Jesus cannot break it,” he said.

Evangelicals need to awaken the culture to the problem, Lambert said. “[W]e need to dedicate ourselves to a decades-long fight to end this.”

While discussion of pornography focused on the need of males to be on guard, Trillia Newbell said women should not be forgotten by pastors when they address the issue of pornography and other sexual sins.

Research from 2007 showed about 13 million women go to online porn sites each month, said Newbell, an author and the ERLC’s consultant for women’s initiatives. About one-third of visitors to adult entertainment websites are females, Newbell reported.

“There is a stereotype and a really, really, really bad rumor that women don’t struggle with sexual sin. Or so it appears,” she said.

All Scripture is useful, “and therefore those [biblical] texts aren’t meant for only men,” but for women also, Newbell said.

The problem of pornography among evangelicals was reflected in research data presented by Mark Regnerus, an author and associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas-Austin. He cited research showing:
  • 25 percent of evangelical men report using pornography in the past week.
  • 14 percent of evangelical men report porn usage in the past day.
Regnerus also reported that more than 48 percent of evangelicals report having premarital sex with their spouse.

Prince pointed to the gospel in a keynote address about helping parents address their children’s sexuality.

“We are to have a distinctive, Christ-centered view of everything, including sexuality,” he said.

“Our approach can’t be, ‘Just say no.’ That is not Christian sexuality. We want them to have a comprehensively, Christ-centered view of sexuality.”

Among his recommendations, Prince encouraged parents to recognize sex education as an important part of gospel education, to answer questions without hesitation when asked by their children and to be the first to explain sexual intercourse to their children.

Smith said pastors and other Christians should address sexuality but with the “tone of Scripture” and “in ways that reflect God’s glory.”

“[W]e must realize the over-sexualization of our society can’t lead to the a-sexualization of the church,” he said. “[W]e can’t get to a place where the church” doesn’t talk about sex.

He urged the audience – some who were watching by live-stream – to avoid vulgarity and “ways that remove the mystery of the special intimacy between a husband and wife.”

“I’m tired of preachers bragging about their hot wife,” he said. “No. 1, hot is an objectifying term. There is nothing good, profitable or godly about calling your wife hot in public. All it does is set up an examination” of your wife.

“We’re trying to heighten the conversation,” Smith said. “We’re not trying to make sex less dramatic. We’re trying to make sex more dramatic.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Baptist Press’ Washington Bureau chief.)

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Mark Regnerus: religion can predict sexual behavior
'Whole Gospel' needed in sexualized age
4/25/2014 2:20:13 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Mohler open to meeting with Vines, gay author

April 25 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Through an exchange on Twitter, R. Albert Mohler Jr. has expressed his willingness to meet with author Matthew Vines, whose new book God and the Gay Christian argues that scripture permits monogamous homosexual relationships.

Four Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) professors who contributed with Mohler to an e-book critiquing Vines also apparently have shared their interest on Twitter in meeting with him.

Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, edited the e-book God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, released by SBTS Press the same day as Vines’ book. Contributing chapters to the book were Mohler; James Hamilton, professor of biblical theology; Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies; Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history; and Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling. Burk, Strachan and Lambert teach primarily for Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary.


R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

In the e-book, Mohler and his co-authors noted that Vines’ arguments are flawed biblically and historically.

On April 22, Mohler tweeted a link to a Religion News Service interview featuring written comments from himself and Vines on the topic of Christianity and homosexuality. Mohler included Vines’ Twitter handle in the post, and several minutes later Vines responded, “@albertmohler Thank you for engaging with my book. If you are open to it, I’d love to connect and get to know you, even in the midst of differences.”

Mohler responded, “I will be very glad to meet you in person and not merely in print. I am thankful for a respectful exchange of beliefs.” Vines, who said in his book that he is homosexual, replied that a meeting would be “wonderful” and offered to travel to Kentucky, where Southern Seminary is located.

In response to an inquiry by Baptist Press, Southern Seminary’s executive editor and chief spokesman James A. Smith Sr. said, “Dr. Mohler is grateful for the respectful initial dialogue with Matthew Vines, but he will not be commenting further at this time.”

The next day, Vines had a Twitter exchange with three of the Southern Seminary professors who contributed to the e-book – Hamilton, Lambert and Burk.

Hamilton tweeted a link to a blog post he wrote which characterized one of Vines’ arguments as a “misunderstanding of Jesus.” Hamilton asked Vines, “If you were convinced you had misread something, would you be open to reconsidering?”

Vines responded that he is “always open to reconsidering” and said he would like to meet Hamilton and the other e-book authors when he travels to Kentucky. Hamilton, Lambert and Burk tweeted publicly that they welcomed the meeting. A separate tweet by Vines made it appear that Strachan had privately accepted the invitation to meet.

Vines tweeted that he also looked forward to meeting with Andrew Walker of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who wrote a review critiquing God and the Gay Christian. Walker had contacted Vines via Twitter and told him that he “would be happy to meet.”

In the RNS interview with Mohler and Vines, senior columnist Jonathan Merritt asked them, “If there is one thing you could ask the other party and those they represent, what would it be?”

Vines replied, “My main request to non-affirming Christians is simply to listen. If you are straight and don’t have close relationships with many gay Christians, it isn’t appropriate to respond to this conversation with knee-jerk outrage and condemnation. I may be young, but this issue affects my life far more intimately than it affects the lives of straight Christians, and I think it is important for straight people in particular to be open to listening and learning. We won’t all agree in the near future, but if we turn down the volume and respect and value one another’s faith, the church will be able to offer a more Christ-like witness because of it.”

Mohler said, “If the Bible, plainly understood by Christians for two thousand years, is not to be trusted to reveal our true identity, our true need, and God’s plan and purpose for our lives, then why even attempt to argue that the church has misread the Bible for two millennia? I would ask those arguing for the acceptance of same-sex sexuality and marriage within the church to consider that they are trying to make of Christianity what it has never been and can never be. What is at stake is nothing less than eternal salvation. The church must not fail those with same-sex attractions by forfeiting the only gospel that leads to salvation.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is Baptist Press’ chief national correspondent.)
4/25/2014 10:41:31 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Debt-free chapel dedicated at Midwestern Seminary

April 25 2014 by Tim Sweetman, MBTS/Baptist Press

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary dedicated its new chapel complex, expanded its doctor of biblical studies degree and elected a new graduate dean during the trustees’ meeting in Kansas City, Mo.
The seminary’s spring enrollment rose by the highest percentage in the school’s history, seven percent, Midwestern president Jason K. Allen told trustees, adding that budgetary cost savings during the past year will allow the seminary to avoid a tuition increase next year.

“Our determination is to make top-notch theological education as accessible and affordable as possible for our students,” Allen told trustees April 15. “Therefore, we are thrilled to announce we are holding tuition and fees flat for the 2014-15 academic year.”

In a dedication service, the Daniel Lee Chapel was named in honor of Daniel Lee, founder and pastor emeritus of South Korea’s Global Mission Church, which provided significant financial support during the fundraising process. Trustees and others praised God for allowing the chapel to be dedicated debt free, the result of a generous gift from a long-time seminary friend, former trustee and Oklahoma City businessman Gene Downing and his wife Jo.

Allen described the provision as a reminder of God’s continued blessing on the institution, and thanked the Downings for their generosity.


Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Facebook photo
Midwestern Seminary trustees and others praised God for allowing the chapel to be dedicated debt free, the result of a generous gift from a long-time seminary friend and former trustee, Gene Downing and his wife Jo.

“Their incredible Christian generosity, as demonstrated over the past decade at Midwestern Seminary and in a penultimate way this week, is a sign of God’s faithfulness to Midwestern Seminary, and it catapults us forward in the next season of institutional growth and advance,” Allen said. “I am thankful to God for friends like Gene and Jo Downing, who are standing with Midwestern Seminary and its mission to exist for the church.”

The ceremony featured all living previous presidents of Midwestern Seminary, who were in attendance and participated in key roles during the service.

“It was a personal joy to welcome back to campus Drs. [Milton] Ferguson, [Mark] Coppenger, and [Phil] Roberts, to celebrate their tenures at Midwestern Seminary and to have them participate in the chapel dedication service,” Allen said.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, presented the chapel message on the inerrancy of Scripture from Matthew 22.

“I thank God for this seminary,” Patterson said. “I thank God for its president. And dear students gathered today, may I say to you, that you are the hope of the future.

“You must be the light of this age … yours is the responsibility to take this priceless and precious Word of God and instill it in the heart of hopeless, helpless men and women who need desperately to know a Savior,” he said. “As you present Him, you can present it knowing that it is true.”

Following the chapel dedication, Allen, Patterson and Judge Paul Pressler led a panel discussion on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Conservative Resurgence and biblical inerrancy. Patterson and Pressler were key contributors to the conservative resurgence.

Trustees announced in their business meeting the expansion and enhancement of the seminary’s doctor of philosophy in biblical studies degree with five new emphases, including biblical theology, biblical ethics, biblical missiology, biblical ministry and biblical preaching.

“The enhanced Ph.D. in biblical studies makes studying at Midwestern affordable and attainable for the pastor-theologian seeking to advance his ministry without relocating,” Rodney Harrison, vice president for institutional effectiveness and director of doctoral studies, said.

The residential work involves 10 five-day seminars, comprehensive exams and a research dissertation, Harrison said. Additionally, certain emphases allow significant advanced credit to be awarded to those already holding an accredited doctor of ministry degree.

“I am so very pleased to announce the expansion of the academic program to include these five important emphases,” Allen said. “It is a sign of Midwestern Seminary’s expanding academic footprint, and our commitment to train pastors, ministers and evangelists for the church.”

Trustees elected Thorvald Madsen as Midwestern’s graduate dean, a position he’d held in an interim capacity since the summer of 2013.

“I am deeply thankful to have Dr. Thor Madsen serving as graduate dean of Midwestern Seminary,” Allen said. “He is a proven academician, gifted scholar, and one who is well-respected by our faculty and throughout the broader Southern Baptist Convention.”

Madsen holds a doctor of philosophy in New Testament from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, a master of arts in philosophy from Western Kentucky University and a master of divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

In other business, trustees voted to maintain all current board officers, with the exception of secretary, Judy Crain, who rotated off the board after 12 years. Bill Bowyer, pastor of Wake Crossroads Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., was elected trustee board secretary.

Trustees heard a presentation to update the seminary’s bylaws, and will vote on the measure at their fall meeting.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Sweetman is director of communications and brand strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
4/25/2014 10:24:53 AM by Tim Sweetman, MBTS/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Adoption ‘difficult, but rewarding,’ couple says

April 25 2014 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

My wife and I had heard that international adoption would be one of the most difficult and rewarding things we’d ever do. We found that to be true when we adopted our daughter Laura from Colombia. We can’t believe it’s been more than five years since we first saw our baby girl, who was 6 months old at the time. She’s grown up so much since then.

Though there were days we wondered if we’d ever become parents, we found that Laura was definitely worth the wait. We can’t imagine our lives without her.

She has truly brought joy to our lives.

Many challenges tested us during our adoption journey. Whoever said adoption isn’t for the faint of heart wasn’t joking.

The process taught us a lot about perseverance, handling disappointment, relationships and depending on God. Here are five lessons we learned along the way:

Lesson 1: Adoption takes passion – and a little obsession.

When we first returned to the United States, our daughter received a lot of attention. Most people commented on her black spiky hair and big brown eyes.


BP photo
Shawn Hendricks, managing editor of Baptist Press, shares about the challenges and blessings that often come with international adoption.

There have been some who have casually mentioned to us that they may like to adopt someday. When we hear this, we wonder if they are serious or just caught up in the idea.

One thing we’ve learned through our experience is that there isn’t anything casual about adoption.

The adoption process takes a 100-percent commitment – and then some. Without a passion and a do-whatever-it-takes attitude, we never would have gotten through the hours of paperwork, unanswered phone messages, weeks of no new information, personality tests and interviews – not to mention the expense.

An adoptive couple needs to have their heart in the process. Without that, they’re wasting their time.

There is definitely a romanticized view of adoption. People often seem to see it as a higher calling that only the “chosen few” accept or as a project or opportunity to save the world one child at a time. But that wasn’t what it was about for Stephanie and me. People will comment on how wonderful Stephanie and I are for adopting or how blessed Laura is for being adopted. When I hear this I can’t help but think, “Hey, we’re the blessed ones. We’re just an ordinary couple who wanted to have a child like most people.” For a couple unable to have a biological child, adoption gave us that opportunity.

Lesson 2: Accept the fact that you are not in control.

Nothing went the way Stephanie and I expected during our adoption process.

There were many times during this journey when we threw up our hands and said, “God, we don’t know what’s going on, but we hope something positive is going to come from all of this.”

There were times we felt God had let us down.

We occasionally wondered if we were on our own.

We wondered why it was so difficult for us to start a family or if we’d ever have one at all.

We thought, “God, what purpose could you possibly have for us not being able to have a child?”

During the adoption process, we had to complete a home study and one-on-one interviews with our social worker. We were asked many personal questions about our marriage and family. Naturally, there were times we wanted to answer, “This is really none of your business.”

It seemed so unfair. “Most couples don’t have to go to a counselor’s office and fill out paperwork to start a family,” we thought. “Why doesn’t their house have to be inspected for safety locks on the cabinets and a fire extinguisher?”

We had to accept the fact that God has a plan for our lives and Laura’s life – even if it didn’t make sense to us at the moment.

Lesson 3: Just smile and answer the questions.

When you decide to adopt, you’ll hear it all.

People are going to say and ask things that encourage, surprise, frustrate and disappoint you. They’ll make funny comments. They’ll ask odd questions. And occasionally they’ll ask or say something that seems insensitive at the time.

Try to remember that most people are just curious, interested and want to help in their own ways.

It’s important to stay composed and answer these questions the best way you can. Getting upset, being rude and storming away won’t help matters. At the end of the day, just go home and talk about it with your spouse. You’ll feel much better and probably be able to laugh about it later.

There will always be those who won’t understand why you are adopting. Adoption isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK.

Lesson 4: Support your spouse.

There were times Stephanie and I weren’t at our best with each other. We definitely let the stress of the process get to us at times.

There were times I should have been more supportive of her and listened and done more to help.

My wife is the organizer and chief of logistics in our household. She has a way of coordinating things so much easier than I do. I often decided to let her tackle most of the details and the bulk of the adoption paperwork. I feared I’d just mess it up and that she’d do a better job.

But I know now that wasn’t right. This often left her feeling overwhelmed, alone and frustrated.

It wasn’t until later into the process that I realized she needed more support; usually she just needed me to be by her side.

Looking back, we couldn’t have gotten through it without each other.

Lesson 5: It’s worth every crazy moment!

When we finally welcomed Laura into our home, all of the headaches, tears and frustrations we experienced no longer mattered.

As parents, we cherish every moment with Laura – story time, playing at the park, meals and saying prayers every night with her. We look back and are thankful everything worked out exactly the way it did.

As I’ve said many times before, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)
4/25/2014 10:09:48 AM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Under God’ in pledge gets Americans’ nod

April 25 2014 by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press

In 1954, Congress added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. Sixty years later, most Americans would like to keep it that way, despite ongoing legal challenges to the pledge.

A lawsuit filed against a New Jersey school district in late March contends that reciting the phrase “under God” in the pledge sends a message that nonbelievers are bad citizens and creates a hostile environment for atheist students.

But a telephone survey of 1,001 Americans by Nashville-based LifeWay Research found that 85 percent want to keep “under God” in the pledge.

Researchers did find 1 in 4 Americans (25 percent) believe forcing students to say “under God” violates their rights. But less than 1 in 10 (8 percent) Americans want to remove “under God” from the pledge.

“Most Americans have recited the pledge hundreds of times and are not inclined to memorize a different pledge,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “Changing it may just feel wrong. Most Americans say they believe in God or a higher being and feel comfortable having ‘under God’ in the pledge.”

Lawyers for parents in the New Jersey lawsuit disagree. They issued a statement Monday (April 21) announcing the suit that had been filed March 28.

“Public schools should not engage in an exercise that tells students that patriotism is tied to a belief in God,” said David Niose, attorney for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, which represents the parents. “Such a daily exercise portrays atheist and humanist children as second-class citizens and certainly contributes to anti-atheist prejudices.”

A similar legal challenge to the pledge is pending before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. That case, brought by atheist parents of a public school child, claims the “under God” phrase violates the state’s equal rights laws.

The study by LifeWay Research found younger Americans are more likely to support removal of “under God” from the pledge. Fourteen percent of those ages 18-29 want to remove the phrase, compared to 5 percent of those over 64.

Women (88 percent) are more likely to want to keep “under God” than men (83 percent). Americans with a college degree are more likely (13 percent) to want it removed. And, self-identified born again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christians are most likely (94 percent) to say “under God” should remain.

Methodology: Interviews were conducted in either English or Spanish. The telephone survey of adult Americans was conducted Sept. 6-10, 2013. Both listed and unlisted numbers were called, with approximately 20 percent of the sample reached by cell phone. To more accurately reflect the population, responses were weighted by age, gender, education, race/Hispanic ethnicity and regional population size. The sample of 1001 phone surveys provides 95 percent confidence the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)
4/25/2014 9:54:10 AM by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Bivocational ministry not a stretch for those called to field

April 24 2014 by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index/Baptist Press

Wesley Thompson would probably contend he’s devoted to ministry. A student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he’s pursuing a degree in church ministries, with an emphasis on students and families, to improve his ability at presenting the gospel.

Wesley Thompson also might say he is devoted to being a better educator.

A teacher at a small private school about 20 minutes from Southern’s campus in Louisville, Ky., Thompson looks forward to returning to his native Tift County and entering the classroom full-time and improving his ability at presenting the gospel.

Neither calling is exclusive from the other, even if they did become apparent at different times, says the 23-year-old Thompson, who calls Mount Zion Baptist in the community of Chula his home church.

“My desire to be a teacher came first,” Thompson says. “I love school and helping young people and teaching allows me to do that on a daily basis.

“My passion and calling in life is to mentor and assist students – especially middle school and high school age.”

Although Tift County High School boasted a graduating class of approximately 500 in 2008, the year Thompson graduated, the surrounding area is typical of south Georgia and made up mostly of smaller communities.

Such rural settings are often typical for bivocational ministry, but that picture is expanding, says Ray Gilder of the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network, formerly the Southern Baptist Bivocational Ministers Association.

Bivocation nation

In all likelihood, the Southern Baptist Convention is already predominately bivocational, though hard data can be difficult to find.

NAMB file photo by Ken Touchton
Pusey Losch is a painting contractor – owner/operator – starting his business 32 years ago after seeing opportunity while laboring as a carpenter. Losch is one of some 8,000 bivocational pastors serving congregations across the Southern Baptist and Canadian National Baptist conventions. Losch is the founding pastor of Mountain View Community Church in Richfield, Penn.

“Getting the exact figure is difficult, because many churches fill out their annual profile each year but fail to check the box ‘bivocational’ when they are,” Gilder says.

Gilder was a full-time pastor before becoming the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s Bivocational/Small Church specialist nearly 20 years ago. At his insistence, he has served various churches since that time in a bivocational role.

According to 2011 statistics found at the organization’s website, http://www.bivosmallchurch.net/, half of Southern Baptist churches had fewer than 50 in Sunday School. That points to at least half of SBC churches having bivocational pastors, Gilder says.

Now factor in the push for new churches. Some initial funding may help a pastor focus fully on his ministry responsibilities, but many of those financial commitments are for only a time.

All told, it means that being an effective minister in the future may require mastery of a craft that isn’t taught in seminary. Gaining credibility comes through knowing your business, inside and out, alongside your theology. And for a growing number of people, answering a call to ministry may refer to time around the water cooler with guys who have no interaction with church.

Finding what matches

Standing on the other side from Thompson with a life’s worth of perspective in bivocational ministry is Georgia Baptist pastor Paul Reviere.

Don’t make the mistake of referring to Reviere as “part-time.” He will quickly correct that description and note that considering hours worked, there’s very little difference between full-time and bivocational ministry. Reviere should know. He’s been the pastor at Tabor Baptist Church in Tignall for 38 years.

After graduating from Georgia Southern University in 1973, Reviere moved back to his hometown of Lincolnton. He had already answered a call to serve as pastor, but a part-time salary wasn’t going to provide for himself and his wife, so he became a paraprofessional in the Lincoln County School System.

He enjoyed the work, and went back to school and earned a teaching degree. The result was a 37-year career teaching third grade at Lincoln Elementary School.

In 2010, budget cuts led to a staff position being eliminated. It so happened that the most recently-hired teacher who was about to lose her position had once been a pupil of Reviere’s.

Rather than see his former student lose her job, he retired.

Through the years Reviere has preached many times at other churches for revivals. He’s also turned down numerous opportunities to be considered for full-time positions.

“My philosophy is I don’t need to be ‘full-time,’” he says. “My calling is to supply my own needs as far as making a living is concerned so I can minister in a church where they otherwise can’t support a minister.

“Of course, there are circumstances that require a full-time minister. It’s just not me.”

Last July, LifeWay Christian Resources president Thom Rainer took an informal poll on Twitter as to how many hours a week full-time pastors work. Responses indicated that 87 percent of full-time pastors work 40-59 hours weekly. A more scientific poll Rainer cited by LifeWay Research in 2008 among full- and part-time ministers stated that 49 percent of pastors work that same amount of hours.

Most would agree that part-time ministers work more – or at least are expected to work more – than their salaries would indicate. People in smaller congregations can occasionally grow envious of the bigger church with more resources and a full-time minister. Those expectations to attract more people end up at the pastor’s desk, even if that desk is in a spare room at his house.

As more churches move forward with bivocational positions, ministry responsibilities will fall more on the laity. That’s far from being a bad thing, Reviere says. He points to the benefits of faith being a strong part of one’s identity in the workplace.

“Being in a full-time pastorate can isolate you from the community,” he says. “When your job is part of that community, you get opportunities to support and pray for folks that aren’t as likely to come to your church.

“You’re already there with them and it becomes a simple matter of building trust. They begin to see you not as just the preacher down at the church but as a colleague.”

A growing call

Matthew J. Hall, vice president for academic services at Southern Seminary says, “The guys who come to us with a desire to be bivocational usually grew up in those churches and see the need. They have a clear sense of answering that call.

“I do think there’s an upcoming renaissance of men seeking to be bivocational,” he says. “Southern Baptists can’t afford to forget about those churches.”

Kenneth Cloud, director for Bowen Baptist Association in southwest Georgia, says, “About 65 percent of my churches are bivocational.”

“It’s becoming very difficult to find men who want to serve in them,” he says. “Search committees can’t fund full-time positions [on their budget]. They think it’s like they’re backing up by going with a bivocational pastor, but I tell them to not think of it that way. It’s regrouping.

“Our Baptist colleges need to have an emphasis on the platform of intentionally being bivocational,” Cloud says. For the record, degrees in business, nursing, criminal justice and education are among those offered at Brewton-Parker College, Shorter University, and Truett-McConnell University alongside studies such as world missions, Christian studies, and religion and philosophy.

“It’s a different calling,” Cloud says. “I believe God has called people to serve these smaller areas, but they’re not answering the call. Who will go?”

Thompson had teachers and ministers who inspired him to pursue his calling. After high school he attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton to earn his associate’s degree in education. He would go on to attain his bachelor’s degree in that field through the University of Georgia.

“During my undergrad years at our campus BCM [Baptist Campus Ministry] I met a guy who was a youth pastor at a church who became a great friend of mine as well as mentor to me,” Thompson says. “For a while I felt I would be doing God a disservice if I was not strictly doing ‘church-ministry’ 100 percent of the time. He was able to help me better sense my calling and understand it was OK to desire to be a bivocational pastor.”

For the past four summers Thompson has worked with LifeWay Centrifuge camps. The experiences, particularly pointed questions about theology from students, convinced him of the need for theological education. In 2012 he worked as a youth leader alongside a bivocational pastor at “a small country church.” That pastor also helped influence Thompson’s decision to pursue bivocational ministry.

“In this guy I could see his heart for his congregation as well as his heart for the people that he worked with outside the church. It confirmed my desire to work with students in a church setting as well as in a real world environment such as a school classroom.”

What Thompson remembers about his own teachers that inspired him could serve as a ministry statement of his own.

“These individuals knew how to help students in all aspects of life.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is production manager for The Christian Index (www.christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention, where this article first appeared.)
4/24/2014 1:34:56 PM by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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