April 2014

NOBTS broadens accessibility of its degrees

April 24 2014 by Gary D. Myers, NOTBS/Baptist Press

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees, to broaden accessibility to its degree programs, approved a new master of divinity specialization and removed the "on-campus" requirements for distance learning degrees during their April 16 spring meeting. Trustees also voted to pursue establishing the seminary's first international professional doctoral extension center in Seoul, South Korea.

The new master of divinity specialization creates a more flexible degree plan with more options and electives. Called the M.Div. flexibility track, it will provide more options for extension center students and transfer students seeking to complete their degrees. The flexibility track also will help those who earned a master of arts in Christian education or similar degree in transferring their credits into an M.Div. program, which is required to qualify for advanced degree programs such as the doctor of ministry.

In removing the "on-campus" requirement for distance learning degrees, trustees acted on the notification NOBTS received in February that it had been granted "comprehensive distance learning" status by its accrediting agency, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS). Previously, all master's students were required to earn at least 30 hours of their degree on the main campus (or 18 "on campus" hours for students at extension hubs in Marietta, Ga., or Orlando, Fla.). With comprehensive distance learning status, NOBTS can offer entire master's degrees without the on-campus requirements.
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NOBTS will continue to offer numerous main campus workshop courses in the summer and during fall and spring breaks. Workshops have been a popular option for extension center students seeking to fulfill "on-campus" requirements. While students will no longer be required to come to campus, administrators told trustees that workshops likely will remain an attractive option for extension students seeking specialized degrees and those who enjoy interacting with on-campus faculty as part of the main campus experience.

In approving efforts to establish the seminary's first international doctor of ministry (D.Min.) teaching site in Seoul, South Korea, trustees expanded the work of the seminary's Korean Theological Institute (KTI). KTI, established in 2006 in Georgia, offers ministry training through the bachelor of arts and master of divinity degrees in the Korean language to the growing number of Koreans moving to metro Atlanta. Korean-language D.Min. studies were added in 2009. Due to the success of the program in Georgia, Bong Soo Choi, director of KTI, and Jonggil Lee, director of the Korean D.Min. program, decided that expansion to Korea was the next logical step. If the requisite accreditation and governmental approvals can be obtained, Gangnam Joongang Baptist Church is the intended location for the D.Min. site in Seoul.

Trustees approved four new extension centers including one at a state prison in Florida and four new undergraduate certificate teaching sites. As a part of a statewide strategy to provide accessible theological education to Georgia Baptists, the board voted to pursue establishing extension centers at First Baptist Church in Duluth, Ga., First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga., and at the Savannah Baptist Association in Savannah, Ga. The new Georgia centers will offer undergraduate and graduate coursework. An undergraduate extension center, modeled after the successful program at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La., was approved for the Hardee Correctional Institute in Bowling Green, Fla. The new centers will be launched as soon as accreditation approval and funding can be obtained.

Three undergraduate certificate sites, meanwhile, were approved for Georgia and one for Florida. The Georgia sites will meet at the Columbus Baptist Association in Columbus, Ga., Liberty Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ga., and Family Life Missionary Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ga. The new Florida site will meet at Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, Fla.

NOBTS president Chuck Kelley, speaking after the trustee meeting, reiterated the seminary's commitment to accessible education. He said that new initiatives like the M.Div. flexibility track, the removal of the "on-campus" requirements and the teaching sites are all designed to give students more options.

"We are trying to make it possible for any student to fit theological education into their place in life and their calling from God," Kelley said. "They will be able to flow from one form of theological education to another without penalty or extra barriers."

"So if they want to do online, classroom, residential, non-residential -- anything from a certificate to a Ph.D. -- we are designing our curriculum to allow the students to tailor their study to their calling and their circumstances."

Trustees approved the following faculty rank promotions:
  • David Lema, from assistant professor to associate professor of theology and missions (ministry-based) in Leavell College, also serving as director of the south Florida extension center.
  • Jeff Nave, from associate professor to professor of psychology and counseling, also serving as director of testing and counseling.
  • Jim Parker, from associate professor to professor of biblical interpretation, also serving as associate vice president of facilities and executive director of the Mike and Sara Moskau Institute of Archaeology.
  • Donna Peavey, from associate professor to professor of childhood education.
  • Loretta Rivers, from associate professor to professor of social work.
  • Greg Woodward, from assistant professor to associate professor of conducting, occupying the Lallage Feazel Chair of Church Music and serving as director of choral programs and chairman of the division of church music ministries. Woodward was also granted tenure.
In other action, trustees:
  • approved a $22.9 million budget.
  • approved a plan to relocate the main entrance of the campus to facilitate increased traffic flow on Gentilly Boulevard after the opening of the new Walmart adjacent to NOBTS. Seminary Place, the current entrance gate will close and the main entrance will move to the existing gate in front of the Hardin Student Center.
  • reelected Tom Harrison, executive pastor at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., as trustee chairman, Dan Wilson, professor of biblical studies at California Baptist University, as vice chair and Marsha Dyess of Maurepas, La., as secretary-treasurer.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary Myers is director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
4/24/2014 1:24:19 PM by Gary D. Myers, NOTBS/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Easter brings rebirth for urban church

April 24 2014 by Tobin Perry, NAMB/Baptist Press

On Easter Sunday the community surrounding Bales Avenue Community Church came together to celebrate two resurrections.

The first and most important was Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. The second cause for celebration was the church’s new beginning – a merge with Living Faith Church, a growing church plant in Kansas City, Mo. – after decades of decline.

Jason Dawson, pastor of Bales Avenue, said, ”One of the primary reasons for launching again on ‘resurrection morning’ … is the demonstration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead!

“We hope we’ve demonstrated Christ in a real and authentic way,” he said. “What a great parallel. What was dead is now alive. This is the message of the gospel that the power of God is demonstrated as His people are reconciled to God.”

The new church is the result of a merger between Bales Avenue Baptist Church, which started in 1891, and a young church plant named Living Faith. The Easter Sunday relaunch took place in the former Bales Avenue Baptist building on the corner of Kansas City’s Bales Ave. and E. 12th St. More than 100 people attended the service, where Dawson preached on “Jesus is Alive in the City.”
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NAMB photo by Gerik Parmele
Kayla Frederic (right) from First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Mo., helps Nathaniel Thorton find just the right pair of glasses as part of an eyeglass distribution outreach at Bales Avenue Community Church in Kansas City, Mo. The event helped Bales Avenue introduce itself to the Northeast Kansas City neighborhood where it officially launched on Easter 2014.


Like many other churches throughout North America, the ministry context at Bales Avenue has changed drastically since it opened its doors. Membership grew to more than 1,000 by 1901, making it the second largest church in the Missouri Baptist Convention.

The church peaked in size at more than 1,300 in the 1950s, but post World War II demographic shifts transformed the once thriving middle-class, culturally monolithic neighborhood to an ethnically diverse, low-income neighborhood. From 1990 to 2010, the foreign-born population of the area around Bales Avenue Baptist grew from 3 percent to more than 35 percent of the total population. The medium household income is $21,089 –less than half of the nation’s average.

By the winter of 2013, about 50 to 60 people attended the church each week. And the vast majority of those regular attendees had moved to the suburbs, 30 to 45 minutes from the neighborhood surrounding the church.

“This made ministry to the neighborhood difficult,” Dawson said. “If you saw people become born again – even on a Sunday morning – it’s hard to spend time with them and disciple them when you live 40 minutes away.”

As Bales Avenue struggled to discover its place in northeast Kansas City, Dawson was gaining a love for a similar urban neighborhood. While the Dawsons were members of a suburban church in nearby Independence, Mo., a family who lived in the urban core of northeast Kansas City took Dawson and his wife Brandy under their wings and mentored them. Every week the Dawsons came to the city for Bible study.

“I speak Spanish,” Dawson said. “I’ve lived in Nicaragua and Mexico. God has given me the ability to speak the language for a reason – to share Christ in that context – so when I had the opportunity to move down to that neighborhood, I took it.”

After moving to the urban core in 2003, Dawson and his wife spent the next six years sharing their faith regularly in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the couple also continued to be discipled. But bringing people they reached with the gospel to their suburban church didn’t work.

“It just kind of broke my heart to see this part of the city without a church,” Dawson said. “There were Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims, but at that time Christianity was very, very void.”

In 2010 the Dawsons and four other couples started Living Faith, a new church plant in northeast Kansas City. By the end of 2013, the church had gradually grown to around 100 in average attendance. Dawson then learned from a Kansas City pastor that Bales Avenue might be open to merging with Living Faith. Last December the two agreed to become one.

As the new congregation – now called Bales Avenue Community Church – moved toward the Easter launch, they began to reintroduce themselves to the community through events like a marriage conference held at the church and an eyeglasses giveaway.

Since Dawson and several other members of Living Faith are bilingual, the church is now more equipped to share Christ in its increasingly multicultural neighborhood. For long-time members, that’s one of the most exciting parts of the church’s new transition.

“We really lacked the ability to communicate in the languages of the people coming into the neighborhood,” said Mary Royster, who has been attending Bales Avenue since 1982 but now lives 45 minutes away. “For the last 10 years those languages – the ethnic populations – have grown really large. With this new group that we’ve partnered with, they speak those languages and they are more able to communicate to people in the neighborhood.”

A partnership with Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) has made the church a training center for new church leaders, bringing new life and activity to the church property during the week. Since Dawson works full-time in a secular job, he shares preaching duties with another leader in the church, Vince Payne. An MBTS student also preaches once a month.

“We’ve got a lot of new possibilities here,” Heidi Huesing, who was a part of Living Faith before it merged with Bales Avenue, said. “There are a lot of needs here, but a lot of opportunities to see God at work. I believe God is going to do something great through this church.”

For more information about getting involved in pushing back lostness in Kansas City, visit www.namb.net/kansascity. Learn more about church revitalization at www.namb.net/revitalization.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)
4/24/2014 1:14:10 PM by Tobin Perry, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Needs, fears, struggles’ of 1.3 million helped

April 24 2014 by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press

Labby cried loudly as her parents left her on the first day of preschool. The 3-year-old was overly thin. Her brittle hair and small, black teeth were signs of poor health and poor hygiene.

At lunch, Labby and her friends devoured everything on their plates. The day was full of firsts: nutritious food, clean water, a tooth brush, washing hands – and the first toilet Labby had ever seen.

Nearly a year later, Labby looks healthier and is doing well in her class. She has become an expert in washing her hands before eating, brushing her teeth and using the toilet. She and her friends are getting the nutrition they need to be healthy, and the life skills they need to live abundant lives.

Labby and her friends are just a few of more than 1.3 million people in need worldwide who received help from Southern Baptists during 2013 through Baptist Global Response.
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BGR photo
Southern Baptist humanitarian work around the world focuses on specific individuals being transformed by the love of God, not on “people in general,” says Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response. Southern Baptists helped a total of 1,385,030 individuals in 4,359 communities during 2013.


“Every day we are faced with a new challenge: hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa, poverty in mega-cities, typhoons in the Philippines, a refugee crisis in Syria or Sudan,” Jeff Palmer, BGR executive director, said. “It is easy to lose sight that these challenges represent people and not just statistics. For example, more than 9 million people have been driven from their homes in Syria. These are all individuals with needs, fears and struggles. And most of them are women and children who are wondering how they will get through the day.

“Keeping focused on the names and faces of the people being helped reminds us that we’re not here to assist people in general,” Palmer said. “We’re talking about the love of God transforming the lives of specific individuals.”

The 1,385,030 individuals helped in 2013 lived in 4,359 communities in 53 countries, according to BGR’s annual report, “Immersed in their stories,” which was released April 17. The organization’s 297 projects addressed issues of clean water, hunger relief, disaster response, livelihood training, health care, and assistance for widows and orphans, among other things.

In the first five years since it launched in 2008, BGR saw a 381 percent increase in direct donations for hunger and relief. A full 93 percent of donations in 2013 went directly to program services – a remarkably high percentage among humanitarian organizations, some of which keep more than 40 percent of receipts to cover administrative expenses.

“The world today is immersed in great need,” Palmer said. “From typhoons ravaging Asia to armed conflict in the Middle East to chronic hunger in Africa, people struggle to find the basic needs for life such as food, water and shelter.

“Thanks to the partnership of Southern Baptists who care about people in need, we are able to provide simple housing, health care, food and hope to people who are suffering.”

Baptist Global Response provides regular updates on new and ongoing projects at its website, www.gobgr.org – including a new monthly video report from Palmer on developments in Southern Baptist human needs work overseas. The 2013 BGR annual report may be found at www.gobgr.org/annual.

BGR is one of seven national partners in the Southern Baptist anti-hunger campaign called Global Hunger Relief (formerly World Hunger Fund), which directs 100 percent of donations to service projects. Global Hunger Relief will be formally launched at this year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Baltimore, Md.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for Baptist Global Response.)
4/24/2014 1:03:05 PM by Mark Kelly, BGR/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Campbell’s Jerry Wallace shares his plans for future

April 23 2014 by Campbell University Communications

Campbell University president Jerry M. Wallace, who has led Campbell to unprecedented growth and transformed the university into a destination for leading health education and other key programs over the past 11 years, announced during a April 23 meeting of the university Board of Trustees that he will step down as president on June 30, 2015. After a one-year sabbatical, he will transition to the honorary role and title of university chancellor.

“It is with a heavy heart that the Campbell University Board of Trustees accepts president Wallace’s request to transition to the chancellor’s role beginning July 1, 2016,” Benjamin N. Thompson, chair of the Campbell University Board of Trustees, said. “President Wallace’s legacy is beyond measure. His leadership has truly transformed the university’s place and image among North Carolina’s leading colleges and universities.

“We are grateful, though, that president Wallace will continue to serve Campbell, allowing us to continue to benefit from his wisdom, visionary leadership, and love for the university,” Thompson added. “The search for Campbell’s next president will begin immediately.”

Wallace, who has been on the Campbell faculty for the past 44 years, is only the fourth president in the university’s 127-year history. When introduced as president on May 29, 2003, Wallace said: “Campbell will respond to the existing and developing needs of the region, state and nation by providing new undergraduate, graduate and professional programs that complement and extend Campbell’s mission.”
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Jerry M. Wallace


Over the past 11 years as president, Wallace has guided Campbell as it has done just that. Notably, Wallace has expanded Campbell’s health programs to complement its pharmacy school and to address the shortage of health professionals in North Carolina, including the establishment of a medical school. When the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine opened in the Leon Levine Hall of Medical Sciences in August 2013 with 160 students, it was North Carolina’s first new medical school in 35 years.

Other health programs launched during Wallace’s presidency include the physician assistant, public health, physical therapy, and proposed nursing programs. The Doctor of Physical Therapy program welcomed its first class of 40 students in January 2014, and the public health and physician assistant programs began in 2012 and 2011, respectively. Also, in January 2014, the N.C. Board of Nursing granted Campbell Initial Approval Status to start a Bachelor of Science in nursing program, which is expected to enroll its first cohort of 50 students in the fall of 2014.

“During my time as president, my goal has been similar to that of my predecessors-remain true to the university’s founding principles and to the meet the education and professional program needs of North Carolina and our students,” Wallace said.

Undergraduate enrollment has steadily increased during Wallace’s time as president and now surpasses a record of more than 4,500 undergraduate students on the main Buies Creek campus and extended campuses at Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and RTP. The number of applicants to Campbell has also reached new highs, with more than 10,000 first-year and transfer students vying for just over 1,000 undergraduate admission spots during the 2013-14 academic year.

To accommodate more students and programs, Wallace has spearheaded a long-term university master plan that resulted in more open spaces, traffic roundabouts, landscape centerpieces and the brick thoroughfare called Fellowship Commons, as well as the addition of numerous facilities on or near the main campus in Buies Creek. Those facilities include the Leon Levine Hall of Medical Sciences; John W. Pope, Jr. Convocation Center; Robert B. & Anna Gardner Butler Chapel; Dinah E. Gore Bell Tower; Ronald W. Maddox Hall of Pharmacy; Barker-Lane Stadium, home of the Fighting Camels football team; Jim Perry Stadium, home of the Camels baseball team; and Bob Barker and Pat Barker residence halls.

Wallace also led the efforts to relocate the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law from the university’s main campus in Buies Creek to downtown Raleigh, N.C., in 2009. Until that time, Raleigh was the only state capital in the southeastern U.S. without a law school. Since the relocation, the law school’s enrollment has expanded, the externship program has strengthened (60 to 70 students any given semester now complete an externship), and its standings in the U.S. News & World Report rankings have jumped. Over the past two years, Campbell’s law school is one of only four North Carolina programs ranked among the top tier law schools in the nation. (The others are Duke University, Wake Forest University and UNC-Chapel Hill.)

In addition, Wallace’s tenure saw the return of intercollegiate football at Campbell in 2008 and the addition of a study abroad program. In the 2013-14 academic year alone, the study abroad program will have placed 118 students in nearly two-dozen countries around the world.

“When I came to Campbell as an adjunct instructor in 1970, I had no idea that one day I’d be the university’s president,” Wallace said. “It has been my greatest professional honor and personal joy to work at Campbell for 44 years and serve as president for the past 11 years.”

An ordained Baptist minister and a Rockingham, N.C., native, Wallace first joined Campbell in 1970 as an adjunct sociology professor while serving as a pastor of Elizabethtown Baptist Church. He began teaching full time at Campbell in 1975 and went on to serve the university in a variety of roles, including as chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, director of graduate studies, and vice president for academic affairs and provost.

As the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences from 1981 to 1984 and then as provost beginning in 1984, Wallace conducted the feasibility study and spearheaded the university’s efforts to open in 1986 the first pharmacy school in the entire United States in nearly 40 years. Campbell changed the name of the pharmacy school to the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences in 2009, reflecting the expansion of health programs Wallace oversaw during his tenure as president.

“I’m deeply appreciative to the university Board of Trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students for their support and encouragement,” Wallace said. “I’m equally grateful to the love and support of my wife, Betty, and our children throughout my time as president. I could not have done it without them.”

Wallace earned his bachelor’s degrees in English and government from East Carolina University, his Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Master of Science in sociology and a Doctor of Education from North Carolina State University.

His wife, Betty Blanchard Wallace, is a native of Warsaw, N.C., and earned her degree in education from Campbell in 1972. She taught kindergarten and first grade for 10 years and later served as the director of the Curriculum Materials Center at Campbell’s School of Education.

The Wallaces have three children: McLain, a two-time graduate of Wake Forest University; Kelly McLamb, a graduate of Meredith College and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; and Betty Lynne Johnson, a graduate of Campbell and Wake Forest University and the academic coordinator of the physician assistant program and an associate professor of health professional studies at Campbell. The Wallaces also have five grandchildren: Wallace, Catherine Stuart, Elizabeth, Isaac and Ronald Joseph.

“I’m grateful for the provisions and guidance God has provided in opening doors for me and especially for Campbell University,” Wallace said. “My hope in the coming year and beyond is that Campbell will continue to produce students who are the salt of the earth and the light of the world while expanding its mission in order to meet the evolving needs of North Carolina.”

Campbell’s search for its next president will begin immediately. Board Chairman Thompson will lead a search committee that will be finalized in May 2014. The search committee plans to engage a national executive search firm. The next president is expected to be identified by spring 2015 and assume his or her duties July 1, 2015.

“The search for Campbell’s next president will be a challenging task, but we’re in a fortunate position as president Wallace has outlined an ambitious list of goals for the next five years,” said Thompson, adding there are several major initiatives in the works, including fundraising for new facilities, developing new academic programs, and finalizing other projects.

“The Board of Trustees is deeply grateful for president Wallace’s service to Campbell over the past four decades,” he said. “We’re also deeply grateful for his commitment to ensure Campbell does not lose any momentum as it continues on a trajectory of growth while fulfilling its mission to prepare students for purposeful lives and meaningful service.”
4/23/2014 3:00:42 PM by Campbell University Communications | with 0 comments



Pro-gay book ‘exceedingly dangerous’

April 23 2014 by James A. Smith, Sr. SBTS/Baptist Press

A new book’s “exceedingly dangerous” assertions that homosexual orientation and gay marriage are consistent with a high view of the Bible are refuted by president R. Albert Mohler Jr. and four of his colleagues at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in an e-book published April 22.

God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines released the same day as the official release of Vines’ volume, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, which has garnered significant attention.

An April 22 blog post by Mohler asserts that Vines’ interpretation of Scripture is driven by his experience as a homosexual rather than the normal rules for understanding written documents.

“When he begins his book, Matthew Vines argues that experience should not drive our interpretation of the Bible,” Mohler writes. “But it is his experience of what he calls a gay sexual orientation that drives every word of this book. It is this experiential issue that drives him to relativize text after text and to argue that the Bible really doesn’t speak directly to his sexual identity at all, since the inspired human authors of Scripture were ignorant of the modern gay experience.”

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SBTS photo
God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, edited by R. Albert Mohler Jr., was released the same day as Vines’ book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships. A response to Vines was “absolutely necessary,” Mohler said.

A review of Vines’ book by Andrew Walker of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission argues that “Vines has compiled liberal biblical scholarship and popularized it for a non-technical audience.” Walker’s review, published on the ERLC’s Canon & Culture website, summarizes the book in detail and includes bulleted arguments for pastors to use as they discuss God and the Gay Christian with church members.

Vines, a 24-year-old former Harvard student, weaves with his treatment of Scripture his personal biography of growing up as an evangelical Christian and “coming out” as a homosexual to his parents and now former home church. In the process, Vines left Harvard in order to study the Bible’s claims about homosexuality, which later resulted in the publication of his book.

“Not every book deserves a response, but some books seem to appear at a time and context in which response is absolutely necessary,” Mohler told Southern Seminary News. “The kind of argument that is presented by Matthew Vines, if not confronted, can lead many people to believe that his case is persuasive and that his treatment of the Bible is legitimate. I think that it’s very important that evangelicals be reminded that the church has not misunderstood Scripture for 2,000 years.”

Published by SBTS Press, the 100-page critique of Vines is edited by Mohler, who also contributes a chapter. Other contributors are: 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.

Mohler’s chapter provides an overview critique of Vines’ argument, while Hamilton primarily addresses Old Testament claims, Burk deals with New Testament claims, Strachan looks at the church history assertions and Lambert answers the question of whether there is such a thing as a “gay Christian.”

Vines’ special contribution to the debate, Mohler said, is his claim to having a “high view” of Scripture, even while relying upon a “world of very liberal biblical scholarship” as his primary sources.

“Evangelical Christians have enough biblical instinct to trust only someone who comes with a high view of Scripture,” Mohler said. “But this is a warning to us that not all who claim a high view of Scripture actually operate by a high view of Scripture.”

Some evangelicals hope to avoid the “cultural pressure-cooker” surrounding homosexuality by finding a “convenient, persuasive off-ramp” from traditional biblical arguments, Mohler said. Vines’ book “could be for some of those wavering evangelicals the kind of off-ramp for which they’ve been searching. However, it’s a fatally flawed argument. And it will take them into a non-evangelical identity.”

Vines’ argument is “exceedingly dangerous,” Mohler said, “because if we do not know what the Bible teaches on homosexuality, and if the church has misunderstood that vital issue for two millennia, then what else has the church misunderstood about the gospel? If we can’t trust the Bible to tell us what sin is in order to tell us why Christ’s death was necessary, then we really don’t know what the gospel is. And if you can read the Bible the way Matthew Vines reads it, then biblical theology is impossible. I cannot imagine greater challenges facing the church than these.”

Also troubling, according to Mohler, is the fact that Vines’ publisher – Convergent Books – is closely related in organization and leadership to evangelical publisher WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

“What is new is the packaging of the argument and the fact that this is being published – at least to some extent – within evangelicalism by an imprint associated with WaterBrook Multnomah that is targeting itself toward the evangelical community,” he said.

“It’s very distressing that the president of Multnomah, who is also the president of Convergent, is not only defending the publication of this book,” Mohler said, but the publisher also claims Vines believes in biblical inerrancy.

“That’s a very troubling assessment from someone who has major responsibility in evangelical publishing,” Mohler said.

Southern Seminary’s e-book – published as the first in a new “CONVERSANT” series from SBTS Press – is available for free as a PDF download on the seminary’s website. CONVERSANT titles are “designed to engage the current evangelical conversation with the full wealth of Christian conviction.” Soon, the seminary’s e-book will be available for order on digital platforms, including Kindle, Nook and iBook.

In his review of Vines’ book, ERLC’s Walker highlights in his review four main arguments that the author makes:
  • Christianity’s historic position against homosexuality leads to “bad fruit” in the lives of homosexuals.
  • The Bible does not address the modern and comprehensive concept of “sexual orientation.”
  • Biblical authors lacked knowledge of modern faithful, loving and committed same-sex relationships.
  • Scripture’s negative view of homosexuality can be explained by its “patriarchal context.”
All of these arguments are flawed, but they could play an important role in advancing the homosexual agenda, Walker states.

“If I were mapping a playbook for the gay rights movement, this book is an important point in the strategy,” Walker notes. “It has to be written in order to introduce confusion within the evangelical firmament, one of the last remaining constituencies in America that has not embraced homosexuality with gusto.”

“This book need not be 100 percent compelling or accurate in order to succeed. All that needs to happen for Vines to claim victory is for his readers to be confused and not necessarily convinced of his argument.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor and chief spokesman at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Baptist Press chief national correspondent David Roach contributed to this report.)
4/23/2014 11:32:34 AM by James A. Smith, Sr. SBTS/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘People loved us with the Mother’s Day Offering’

April 23 2014 by N.C. Baptist Hospital Communications

In 24 hours everything changed for the Dean family. One day Daniel Dean was a lively four-year-old celebrating his birthday. The next day he was curled up on the sofa with an apparent infection. Tests revealed the worst news parents could get. Daniel had Burkitt’s Lymphoma, an explosive form of leukemia.
 
Worried about the aggressive treatment regimen and astronomical medical bills, the Deans turned to family for support – their family of faith. “In John 13, Jesus said ‘all will know my disciples by their love for each other,’” said Curt Dean, associate pastor of single adults at Lawndale Baptist Church, Greensboro. “People loved us with the Mother’s Day Offering.”
 
The Deans are thankful that Daniel has been cancer-free since April 2012, and they are very grateful for the support of the Mother’s Day Offering. “We’re called to be ministers to each other,” said Dean. “This is a way we can live out the gospel and love and bless one another as Christ has compelled us to do.”
 
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NCBH photo
Curt Dean, right, associate pastor of single adults at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro, and his family faced a crisis when their son was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. They have been helped through North Carolina Baptists giving to the Mother’s Day Offering. 

Gary R. Gunderson, vice president of Faith and Health Ministries of North Carolina Baptist Hospital, said, “Despite many profound uncertainties in health care policy, one thing has remained constant since 1920: the partnership between North Carolina Baptists and their hospital means that we are able to look anyone in need in the eye and say that we are here for them without regard for how the world sees them or their bank account.”
 
Sherri Sexton, another Mother’s Day Offering recipient, is one of the hundreds of patients who have been blessed because of the relationship between the hospital and North Carolina Baptists.
 
Sexton was worried. She had been a heart patient for nearly a decade, with a long family history of heart problems. The transient ischemic attack (TIA) that took her to Baptist Hospital was a warning sign that a real stroke may be imminent. It was also the final push that knocked her family over the edge of their personal financial cliff.
 
Sherri and husband Mark had been climbing a steep mountain for months. He had lost his job, and she was out of work on disability. Then a terrible car accident took everything they had left. The hospitalization for the TIA put them in a fiscal landslide.
 
“I was paying all I could, but sometimes it was only $10 because I had to buy medicine and food,” Sexton said. “We had been praying to God for work, to show us what to do, to help us figure out how to get this and our other bills paid. Our church was praying too. We turned it over to God and put it in His hands. We knew He would take care of it.”
 
God did take care of it through N.C. Baptists.
 
“When we got the letter from the Mother’s Day Offering, I thought it was from a collection agency. But instead, it was the biggest blessing. I fell to my knees crying and thanked God for working a miracle. I called my husband. He was driving a truck for one of our friends for a couple of days and had to pull over and cry a little bit, too. We praised and thanked God. It was the best feeling. People don’t believe God is real, but I am living proof. God has blessed us.”
 
For the Sextons, faith is all about trust, even when everything is going wrong – especially when everything is going wrong. “I believe if you trust in the Lord and pray, God will do what is best for you and will lift the burden,” Sexton said. “God never puts more on you than you can bear. He will take care of you.”
 
“For 90 years, North Carolina Baptists have faithfully and sacrificially given to the Mother’s Day Offering to make a life-changing difference for hurting patients and families at North Carolina Baptist Hospital,” said Leland Kerr, Baptist Health Care liaison at the hospital. He added, “Your gifts made all the difference in the world for people like Daniel Dean and Sherri Sexton and hundreds of other hurting patients and families.”
 
Kerr further stated, “We are grateful to North Carolina Baptists on behalf of the Deans, the Sextons and many other patients in great need. Your gifts to the Mother’s Day Offering provide a source of hope in the name of Jesus Christ and His love. Please join me in praying for God’s love to be at work through the Mother’s Day Offering. Please give generously and allow Him to touch others through you.”
 
The Dean’s story and the Sexton’s story can be seen at www.mothersdayoffering.org. Mother’s Day Offering materials were mailed to North Carolina Baptist churches.
 
Materials can be obtained by calling (336) 716-3027 or email Kerr at lakerr@wakehealth.edu.
4/23/2014 11:09:22 AM by N.C. Baptist Hospital Communications | with 0 comments



Evangelicals must persuade, Moore says

April 23 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Evangelicals in post-Christian America must seek to persuade those who disagree with them to recognize the importance of human life, marriage and religious freedom, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore said on a nationwide telecast Easter Sunday.

Speaking April 20 on ABC’s “This Week,” the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said America has changed from the days when religious conservatives would speak of a moral majority in the country.

“It’s a different time, and that means ... that we speak in a different way. We speak to people who don’t necessarily agree with us,” Moore said during a panel discussion on the political power of evangelical Christians.

“There was a time in which we could assume that most Americans agreed with us on life and on abortion and upon religious liberty and other issues, and we simply had to say, ‘We’re for the same things you’re for. Join us,’“ he said. “It’s a different day. We have to speak to the rest of the culture and say, ‘Here’s why this is in your interest, to value life, to value family, to value religious liberty.’“

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Statistics cited in an April 18 profile of Moore on “CBS This Morning” demonstrate the shift in the United States. Nearly one-third of Americans 65 years of age or older identify as evangelicals, but only one in 10 Americans 18 to 29 years old describe themselves as evangelicals, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

When “This Week” host Martha Raddatz cited a significant drop in church membership over the last two decades, Moore said he is not worried about the development because it seems to represent “the collapse of a cultural, nominal form of Christianity.”

“We’re at a point now where Christianity is able to be authentic and Christianity is able to be authentically strange,” he said. “Many people now when they hear about ... what evangelical Christians believe, the response is to say, ‘That sounds freakish to me, that sounds odd, and that sounds strange.’

“Well, of course it does,” Moore said, “when we believe that a previously dead man is now the ruler of the universe and offers forgiveness of sins to anyone who will repent and believe. That’s the same sort of reaction that happened in the Greco-Roman empire when Christianity first emerged.”

This context “offers an opportunity for the church to speak clearly, articulately about what it is that we believe, to give a winsome and clear message about what the gospel actually is,” he said.

This requires a certain tone, Moore told reporter Jan Crawford April 18 on “CBS This Morning.”

“Our message to the outside culture cannot simply be: ‘You kids get off of my lawn,’“ he said.

“We shouldn’t be angry; we should be convicted, which are two very different things.”

In her report, Crawford said a “different tone only goes so far.” While some say the church should back off social issues, Moore disagrees, she reported. Same-sex marriage is one of those issues.

Crawford asked Moore, “Is homosexuality a sin?

He replied, “Yes. I believe that any sexual activity outside of marriage, which is the conjugal union of a man and a woman, is a sin.”

Research shows the evangelical church’s view is at odds with most Americans, Crawford reported. One-third of Americans say they have left the religion of their childhood because of its views on gay rights, the report said, citing the Public Religion Research Institute.

Moore said, “We have to speak to the outside world about why it is that we believe in the Christian sexual ethic. It’s not because we hate people. It’s not because we’re bigots. It’s because we really do believe this is how God designed the universe.”

Also appearing on ABC’s “This Week” panel with Moore were Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse; Ralph Reed, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition; and ABC analyst Cokie Roberts.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
4/23/2014 10:43:21 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mark Regnerus: religion can predict sexual behavior

April 23 2014 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

Controversial sociologist Mark Regnerus presented new research on marriage and sex at a conference of Southern Baptists on Tuesday (April 22), suggesting that religion and sex are tracking more closely than ever before.
 
In his first new research since his controversial study on same-sex parenting about two years ago, the sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin presented findings from an unpublished study on marriage and sexual behavior to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission conference on sexuality. The study suggests there’s a correspondence between what people’s religious affiliations proscribe regarding sex and marriage and their behavior.
 
In his former study, Regnerus, a Catholic who was raised as a Dutch Calvinist, argued that young adults with a parent who had had a same-sex relationship fared worse than those raised by biological parents without histories of same-sex relationships. He addressed criticisms in a follow-up paper in 2012, but he continues to stand by his study.
 
“The study hasn’t been retracted,” Regenerus said in an interview. “I can’t imagine it being retracted, because it’s not false and no errors were discovered. Maybe there could’ve been a sensitivity to language. But I stand by what I said.”
 
The state of Utah recently filed a letter distancing itself from the study in defending its statewide ban on same-sex marriage. The state cited a recent federal district court decision dismissing Regnerus’ views as “not worthy of serious consideration.”
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ERLC photo by Kent Harville
Mark Regnerus is a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin who spoke at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission sexuality conference on April 22, 2014.

 
In his new study, Regnerus conducted a survey of 5,738 people ages 18 to 39, asking them about behavior from porn use and masturbation to marriage and views on social issues. “Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” he said in an interview. While the research included those of other faiths, Regnerus’ presentation to Baptists focused mostly on Christians.
 
About 50 percent of younger evangelicals had premarital sex with their spouse, compared to 10 percent of Mormons, his study suggests. Mormons are the least likely religious group to be in a sexually inactive marriage, the research suggests.
He declined to provide his report to reporters saying his research is scheduled to be released in September. His presentation offered at least three possible takeaways:
 
1. The percent of younger people who are unmarried is going up each year.
 
Since 2000, the rate of those who are married and between 25 and 35 years old has been going down while the rate of those who have never been married is going up by about 1 percentage point each year. Those who were married used to be a higher percentage than people who were unmarried, but the trend began to reverse around 2008.
 
“By 2020, this is full-scale disaster for the church and society,” Regnerus said in an interview. “Marriage is foundational for civil society. We don’t have to have everybody married. But if you can’t solve problems in the household, there’s a lot more community dependence.”
 
2. Men are in the driver’s seat in the marriage market.
 
Women tend to be more interested in marriage, giving men the upper hand to choose if they want to “settle.”
 
“I don’t think men are afraid of commitment at all,” Regnerus said in his presentation. “They’re in the driver’s seat in the marriage corner of the market.”
 
Women are generally more interested in commitments and are more concerned about numerous partners than men. Women’s need for an economically stable husband has decreased, but they still want a marriageable partner, he said.
 
“The question is whether marriage is shrinking with the need,” he said.
 
3. Younger women have more fluid sexual identities than men.
 
Men say they are heterosexual at a much more consistent rate than women. For instance, women in their 20s are significantly less likely to say they are definitely heterosexual.
 
Regnerus said that the marriage of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is married to a former lesbian, illustrates how women are more likely to consider themselves to be heterosexual later in life. On the other hand, men remain more consistent over time, settling earlier on whether or not they are definitely heterosexual.
 
He also found that same-sex couples have more partners. When he asked, “Have you or your partner ‘had any other sexual partners’ since the relationship began?” 28 percent of cohabiting opposite-sex respondents said yes, compared to 37 percent of cohabiting same-sex respondents.
 
Despite the earlier controversy, he hopes that in time people come to appreciate his research.
 
“After all this political hoo-ha is done and gone, we’ll finally be able to settle down and people can talk about the same data with cooler heads,” he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Pulliam Bailey joined RNS as a national correspondent in 2013. She has previously served as managing editor of Odyssey Networks and online editor for Christianity Today.)
4/23/2014 10:29:14 AM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Governor appoints NCBAM leader to homelessness council

April 23 2014 by Carol Layton, NCBAM

Sandy C. Gregory, a native of Statesville, was recently appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to serve on the North Carolina Governor’s Council on Homelessness. The Council will provide recommendations to the governor and the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on issues related to the problems of persons who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Gregory’s term began immediately and expires February 2016. 
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Sandy C. Gregory

 
Gregory is the director of North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) – a statewide ministry that assists aging adults 65 and older. In partnership with North Carolina Baptists as well as civic and social agencies, NCBAM strives to enable aging adults to maintain their independence and enjoy quality lives.
 
“Because of the growth of the aging population and the ratio of those who are economically vulnerable, homelessness among aging adults will substantially increase over the next decade,” Gregory said.
 
Gregory has served as pastor, associate pastor, and minister to children and youth at churches in Virginia and North Carolina. He was the executive director for the Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry and the Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Plantation in Virginia. Prior to joining NCBAM as its founding director, Gregory served the parent organization, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina as director of development for the south-central region.
 
He is a member of Staunton River Masonic Lodge in Virginia and First Baptist Church in Statesville. Gregory and his wife Renee live in Statesville and have seven children.
4/23/2014 10:23:02 AM by Carol Layton, NCBAM | with 0 comments



WMU-NC moving meeting to Winston-Salem

April 23 2014 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Moving its annual meeting away from Ridgecrest Conference Center caused the biggest stir at the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina’s recent meeting.
 
“After 22 years of meeting at Ridgecrest, many have grown to expect it always to be here,” said Tana Hartsell, WMU-NC president. Many have come to expect the “mountaintop experience.”
 
Stressing that WMU-NC remains thankful for Ridgecrest, its staff and facilities over its 22 years of meeting at the conference center nestled in the mountains, Hartsell said the organization was looking at the changing needs and desires of its membership.
 
“The necessity to make a change of some sort was clear,” she said, and many of the details still need “to be worked through, but already there are new and exciting ideas that are beginning to surface.”
 
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BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Debby Akerman, Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) president, shares with participants of WMU-NC’s Missions Extravaganza April 4-6 at Ridgecrest Conference Center. See photo gallery.

Next year the group will meet April 17-18 at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. Participants for WMU-NC’s 123rd annual meeting and Missions Extravaganza numbered 734 women gathered April 4-6 at Ridgecrest Conference Center at Black Mountain. Throughout the conference women had the opportunity to attend seven breakout sessions from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning with several major sessions featuring Debby Akerman, national WMU president. Mother-daughter team Melody and Sarah Moore led the weekend’s music.
 
“In spite of the headline news which would lead us to believe otherwise, God is at work in our world today just as He is at work within our own hearts and lives,” Hartsell said. “The foundation of [WMU] is the basic core value that we believe that Jesus Christ, Son of God, gave His life, a sacrifice for the salvation of all people of the world fulfilling God’s plan for the ages as revealed in the Bible, God’s Holy Word. This is what compels, this is what propels Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina to challenge, prepare and equip Christian believers to be radically involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.”
 
Hartsell said WMU-NC is not doing a good job of communicating its own story.
 
“It isn’t about what we in WMU will do but it’s about what God can and will do through us as we follow where He leads,” she said.
 
Churches started more than 50 age-level WMU groups in 2013, including Mission Friends, Girls in Action, Acteens and Women on Mission. “You may think those numbers small but it’s what those numbers represent that we must remember,” Hartsell said. “Those are organizations where [people] will be challenged with the knowledge of those around the world living in darkness.”
 
Hartsell mentioned its support from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) of North Carolina as well. WMU-NC is a “collaborating partner” with CBF, Hartsell said, but also mentioned CBF’s involvement in other Baptist entities in the state including Baptists on Mission (or North Carolina Baptist Men), Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, Baptist Retirement Homes, N.C. Baptist Hospital and the Baptist-affiliated universities.
 
An offering April 5 raised more than $8,200 for WMU-NC. Women learned about ministries such as the new partnership with Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina and Baptists on Mission (or North Carolina Baptist Men) to aid in an orphanage in Guatemala.
 
Building on the theme “We’ve a story to tell,” Akerman talked about story telling being “one of the few human traits that is truly universal, found in every culture since time began,” Akerman said.
 
She praised the WMU for being the best discipleship setting for all ages.
 
“WMU challenges Christian believers to understand and be radically involved in the mission of God,” said Akerman. “Jesus came to proclaim a message with eternal value and purpose. God has purposed WMU to equip our churches to be on mission, to educate our preschoolers, children, students and adults to live missions lifestyles and to be intentional supporters for our thousands of Baptist missionaries.”
 
Akerman invited WMU-NC to come to Baltimore, Md., where WMU is holding its 125th annual meeting in June.
 
Beth Beam, chairwoman of the finance committee, shared the 2013 budget was $1,349,432 based on estimated monthly expenses of $112,453. Contributions totaled $967,343 from the WMU operating fund, Heck-Jones Offering, Crown Club contributions and CBF. Beam noted that the number is down more than $6,100 from the same category in 2012 and more than $22,000 from 2011.
 
Even with fewer dollars coming in WMU-NC had a net gain of $57,740. Beam said the only reason expenses were less than the income was because of the open position for executive director-treasurer and a preschool/children position.
 
WMU-NC’s goal of $385,000 for the 2013 Heck-Jones Offering fell short with $314,934. The 2014 goal is $400,000. So far the group has just over $106,000 toward that goal.
 
A detailed 2014 budget was approved. The budget was set at $991,387. It is available at http://tinyurl.com/2014wmuncbudget.
 
“This budget represents lives,” Beam said. “We have a dedicated and dependable full- and part-time staff that operates WMU North Carolina. They are fully committed to challenging, preparing and equipping Christian believers to be radically involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.”
 
Hartsell, a member of Kannapolis First Baptist Church, was re-elected as president while Denise “Dee Dee” Moody, a member of First Baptist Church in Salisbury, was approved as vice president. Beth McDonald, a member of McDonald Baptist Church in Rockingham, was re-elected as recording secretary, and Barbara Hill, a member of Fairview Baptist Church in Statesville, was elected as assistant recording secretary.
 
Members of the board elected were (by region): Region 1 – Nancy Scaff, Woodville Baptist Church in Hertford; Region 3 – Deborah Taylor, Great Marsh Baptist Church in St. Pauls; Region 5 – Linda Beaver, First Baptist Church in Salisbury; Region 5 – Kristie Foster, High Rock Church; Region 5 – Joyce T. Rogers, First Baptist Church in Asheboro; Region 6 – Linda Linderman, Deep Springs Baptist Church in Peachland; Region 7 – Jennifer Coffey, Indian Hills Baptist Church in Lenoir; Region 8 – Cynthia C. Marks, Alexis Baptist Church in Alexis; and Region 10 – Nelda Reid, East Sylva Baptist Church in Sylva.

Photo gallery

4/23/2014 10:05:43 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



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