April 2015

Wait for ruling puts focus on Kennedy

April 30 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The wait for what could be a legal transformation of the institution of marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court began April 28 when oral arguments ended in a case concerning gay marriage.
Oral arguments seemed to indicate the case will end with a closely decided opinion on whether the high court or the states may decide if same-sex marriage should be legalized. In the nearly two and a half hours of arguments, the justices jousted with five lawyers about such issues as changing the ancient meaning of marriage, bestowing dignity on same-sex couples and protecting religious liberty.
The justices, who are expected to issue a ruling in late June or early July, have at least three options. They could: (1) Legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country; (2) enable states to maintain their authority to define marriage as only a heterosexual union; or (3) require states to recognize gay marriages from other states without prohibiting them from licensing only male-female marriages. Potentially, the justices also could rule in such a way as to deliver a wider victory for the rights of gays and lesbians.
Advocates for biblical, traditional marriage called April 29 for continued prayer for the high court and for preparation for an unfavorable decision.
“There were some good questions asked at the court yesterday, ones that I hope the justices will take into account, such as why the court should attempt to change an institution that has been understood a certain way for millennia,” said Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“As we continue to pray for this case prior to the decision, let’s remember, regardless of whether our land’s highest court recognizes the unchangeable or not, the church must hold steadfast and learn to engage a culture with the gospel in which we cannot assume people share our understanding of marriage,” Moore said.
Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said, “I am urging people to pray. I think we could see the Supreme Court go the wrong way on a 5-4 vote. But it’s not over ‘til it’s over.


“I think it’s going to be a 5-4 vote, with [Associate Justice Anthony] Kennedy deciding whether to impose same-sex marriage on the whole nation or not,” Lorence said.
Based on the arguments, many observers predicted the justices will divide along ideological lines: The more conservative justices – John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – in support of the states’ authority to define marriage; the more liberal justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – in support of a constitutional right to gay marriage. Kennedy, meanwhile, again appears to be the swing vote, but past opinions seem to indicate he will come down on the side of same-sex couples.
In the case, the high court is considering two questions: (1) Does the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution require a state “to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” and (2) does the 14th Amendment require a state “to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”
In the opening minutes of oral arguments, Kennedy was one of five justices who posed questions to gay rights lawyer Mary Bonauto about changing the definition of marriage after its long history as only a union of a man and a woman.
“Millennia” is the word he thinks of when he considers this case, Kennedy said. “I don’t even know how to count the decimals when we talk about millennia. This definition has been with us for millennia. And it – it’s very difficult for the court to say, ‘Oh, well, we – we know better.’”
Yet, Kennedy said there has been “time for the scholars and the commentators and – and the bar and the public to – to engage” regarding same-sex marriage, according to the court’s transcript.
Kennedy also expressed concern about the dignity of same-sex couples in addressing former Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch, who represented the states with traditional marriage laws.
“Same-sex couples say, ‘Of course, we understand the nobility and the sacredness of [marriage],’” Kennedy said. “It’s dignity-bestowing, and these parties say they want to have that – that same ennoblement.”
Lorence, who was in the courtroom for the arguments, said the denial of dignity argument seems persuasive to Kennedy. He said, “Is the Justice Kennedy who’s concerned about changing the definition of something that’s been there for a millennia – is that thought going to prevail in Justice Kennedy’s mind or ‘We have to stop dignity harms?’”
Bursch disagreed with Kennedy, saying, “The marriage institution did not develop to deny dignity or to give second-class status to anyone. It developed to serve purposes that, by their nature, arise from biology,” linking children with their fathers and mothers.
Bonauto, longtime director of the Civil Rights Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, opened the arguments by telling the justices, “The abiding purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment is to preclude relegating classes of persons to second-tier status. And here we have a whole class of people who are denied the equal right to be able to join in this very extensive government institution that provides protection for families.”
Roberts questioned her assertion, saying, “You’re not seeking to join the institution; you’re seeking to change what the institution is. The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship, and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship.”
Roberts also expressed misgivings about the Supreme Court making an across-the-board decision on gay marriage. “If you prevail here, there will be no more debate,” he told Bonauto. “People feel very differently about something if they have a chance to vote on it than if it’s imposed on them by – by the courts.”
U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, arguing on behalf of same-sex marriage, said of leaving the decision to the states, “It seems much more likely to me that the outcome that we’re going to end up with is something that will approximate the nation as a house divided that we had with de jure racial segregation.”
Some conservative justices raised religious liberty questions, though the issue was not the focus of the oral arguments.
Alito asked Verrilli about institutions that refuse to permit gay marriage, citing a 1983 decision in which the Supreme Court upheld the Internal Revenue Service’s revocation of a tax exemption for Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian school in Greenville, S.C.
The court “held that a college was not entitled to tax-exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating,” Alito said. “So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage?”
Verrilli responded, “You know, I – I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. I – I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is – it is going to be an issue.”
Verrilli’s reply “was the most ominous thing that was said,” Lorence said. Unlike the Bob Jones decision, such an action regarding institutions that oppose same-sex marriage would have widespread consequences.
“You have the wrong doctrinal stance on marriage,” Lorence said, “that means all the Southern Baptist congregations, all the Roman Catholic archdioceses, maybe the Mormons, maybe orthodox Jewish congregations, the Orthodox churches – we’re talking about huge swaths of the religious community ... – that would suddenly lose their tax exemptions.”
The result would be, he said, churches would have to pay income tax on offerings and members would not receive charitable deductions for their gifts.
“I wish that it weren’t the case,” Lorence said, “but it probably would be – the reality would be that people would give less because they couldn’t get a charitable contribution deduction on their income tax. And the churches would have to pay income tax on the income and property taxes on the church facilities and property that wouldn’t be exempt. ... Every church would not be annihilated, but it would definitely hamper immensely their ability to function.”
The arguments took place at a time when same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia. The state total nearly triples the 13 states where it was legal in mid-2013. Court rulings have produced legal gay marriage in more than two-thirds of those states.
The arguments came in a case, Obergefell v. Hodges, from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a 2-1 decision in November, it became the first federal appellate court to rule states have the authority to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Five other appeals courts have invalidated state laws that prohibited gay marriage.
The opinion by the Sixth Circuit Court, based in Cincinnati, took place in challenges to laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee – states where voters approved constitutional amendments between 2004 and 2006 that limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Courts have overwhelmingly issued opinions in favor of gay marriage since the Supreme Court – in an opinion written by Kennedy – struck down a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June 2013, saying it violated “equal protection” under the Constitution by refusing to recognize same-sex marriages. Though the high court refused to say states could not limit marriage to heterosexual couples, most courts have used the decision as a basis for striking down state laws that define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Hundreds of people gathered April 28 on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court building to voice their support for or against same-sex marriage. About 40 minutes into the arguments, a spectator in the courtroom began shouting against same-sex marriage and was taken out.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

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4/30/2015 11:28:24 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Riots about more than Gray’s death, pastors say

April 30 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

As Baltimore experiences the first calm after the April 25 funeral of an unarmed black man who died of injuries sustained when police arrested him, local black Southern Baptist pastor Ryan Palmer recalls the moment he first understood the heart of rioters whose violence he can’t condone.
Hours after the victim Freddie Gray was buried, the Baltimore Orioles were set to break a five-game losing streak as they played the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards. In the backdrop of exuberant fans, a discontented crowd gathered on the streets.
“It was a unique dynamic to watch this unfold on the television, that you had one group primarily African-American protesting in the streets, and you had another group primarily Anglo enjoying the baseball game just a few blocks away” Palmer told Baptist Press April 28. “In the darkness of the street on the news media coverage, you could see the light from the stadium; they were that close. So we knew that as the day began to wind down, these two groups of people were becoming more and more likely to interact.”
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked the baseball fans to remain in the stadium to allow police to push back the looters.
“The people in the stadium, a large number of them became so irate that they could not leave and do as they wanted to, that they began a protest in the stadium – and I haven’t seen any of this covered nationally – but it, their chant was most troubling,” Palmer said. “They were chanting the name of the young man who died in police custody, Freddie Gray, but they put a four-letter verb in front of his name ... [expletive] Freddie Gray. And for me, at that moment, I got insight into what some of these young folks were protesting.
“There is a latent racism and a sense of frustration that grows and flows out of being ignored. As someone aptly put it in one of my conversations I had with a friend, ‘Anger and lack of education [are] a dangerous combination.’ And so while they were yet still peaceful, and not doing the violence, the other group was shouting [expletives] to the deceased.”


Screen capture from CNN.com
A car burns after it was set on fire by rioters in Baltimore April 27.

Palmer, pastor of Seventh Metro Church, is among Southern Baptist pastors serving in the city that has been under a state of emergency since April 27, when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called in more than 2,000 national guardsmen to help policemen, and Rawlings-Blake imposed a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew that remains in effect. On the most violent day, looters burned at least 15 buildings and 144 vehicles, injured more than 20 police officers – some critically – and accounted for nearly 250 arrests, according to news reports.
Southern Baptist pastors and other clergy have been busy praying and meeting across denominational lines with politicians and community leaders. At some meetings, pastors prayed with gang members who have been accused of joining hands to kill police.
David Gaines, an African-American Southern Baptist pastor of the Baltimore inner-city Manna Bible Baptist Church, described the violence as the “opportunistic” work of those who are more concerned with destruction than justice.
Gaines has moved the church’s April 29 evening prayer meeting and Bible study up an hour to 6 p.m., planning to devote the entire session to prayer until 8:30 p.m., allowing his congregation to make it home before curfew. The church will be in prayer essentially all day Wednesday, he said, including the noon-2 p.m. prayer time.
Gaines hopes to meet May 1 with other Christian pastors in his community. They will devise a strategy to minister amid the turmoil, and Gaines plans to be more intentional in reaching the young men in the community who are suffering from a broken family structure, addressing their needs of education, employment, healthcare and salvation.
“I think what we want to be doing now, particularly after what we saw April 27, is be more strategic and intentional about reaching African-American young men, millennials. The father is absent in their lives,” Gaines said. “We’re going to go after every aspect of a man’s life and have a voice as the church to speak into these young men the truth as it relates to Jesus Christ. That’s our intention and we want to be very strategic.”
Developing a strategy with politicians, policemen, educators and other city leaders is also important to Gaines, who believes the rioting has opened a unique door for progress. Among African-American Southern Baptist pastors strategizing with Gaines are Steven Hardnett, pastor of Full Circle Community Outreach; Joe Bearnwell, pastor of Gethsemane Bible Baptist Church, and Ray Thornton, pastor of Pilgrim’s Way Baptist Church.
“What we’d like to do is set an agenda that we’re in control of. And we’re going to ask them to help us in our effort to reach the community the way we want to reach them. Now if they want to participate, we’ll be glad to have them bring their resources. But if they’d rather not, then that’s their choice,” Gaines said. “But I think we’re right at a precipice now where I think the government, Baltimore city in particular, they are open to anybody ... anything ... they’re desperate, which is excellent. They are at a place now where I think they’ll listen, so we’re going to take full advantage of that, and the timing couldn’t be any better.
“Not that I’m glad to see what’s happening. My heart broke, my wife and I sat there on the verge of tears as we watched the city just come unraveled right before our eyes – helpless to do anything – to see that kind of mayhem all around us. But at the same time, it has really ignited a fervor on our parts to pray, to be more intentional about praying and be more intentional about getting that gospel out into the community.”
While Gaines and Palmer agree that Gray’s death is not the cause of the violence, the two men view the rioting from different vantage points. For Gaines, it stems from an inability among young African-American men to take responsibility for their lives and livelihood.
“I’m really bothered every time I hear a number of pastors and community leaders redirect the problem as if the problem is race, as if the white man or the police, or the governor or whomever, is the problem. And it’s so unfortunate because the real problem is ... ‘We have met the enemy and the enemy is us,’” he said, paraphrasing a quote from 19th century naval commander Oliver Hazard Perry. “Internally we are imploding on ourselves simply because we lack biblical male leadership in our communities and in our homes. That’s the messaging I want to promote through our church.”
For Palmer, the enemy is external.
“We are not our own enemy. The enemy shows himself in lack of education. And what I mean by that is uneducated people struggle to find diverse ways to communicate. One thing education helps you to do is to kind of pick cultural locks by metaphor and analogies to build bridges to people who may not think like you, look like you or have experiences similar to you,” Palmer said. “When you have a lack of education and then, you frustrate that with anger. So the enemy is lack of education, the enemy is intolerance, the enemy is our own personal biases.”
For rioters, “this is the opportunity to express a frustration,” Palmer said. “[Such as] ‘Hey, I’ve got three or four children from different mothers and no real relationship with any of them.’ ‘I have dropped out of high school, so therefore, going to college is not real for me, and I’m unemployable.’ ‘I’ve made some bad decisions in my life, for diverse reasons, and now I’m not going to have the opportunity to live the life that I dreamt about when I was 7 years old, 8 years old. And there are a group of people who are not only insensitive, but don’t care.’”
Palmer gives God credit for protecting his church campus, located on North Avenue near one of the rioting hot spots.
“God’s word is true. A thousand may fall to your left, and thousands to your right,” Palmer said, referencing Psalm 91:7. “Literally, the violence was a few blocks west and a few blocks east. In both cases, you could see the steeple of our church from the locations, but they did not come into our block. They have not come into our block yet. We’re giving God praise and thanks for that.”
Palmer planned to teach evening discipleship classes via SKYPE or Google Chat to keep his small membership out of harm’s way and allow them to abide by the curfew. On the first day of the state of emergency, Palmer was busy helping his members navigate the city as traffic was blocked by rioters who caused traffic jams and immobilized parts of the city.
“What I was doing was just trying to meet that immediate need of getting those folks that you have charge over, those folks who look to you for leadership, to a safe place,” Palmer said. He planned to attend meetings with politicians and members of the Baltimore Ministerial Alliance in the coming days.
Southern Baptist pastors are active across the city, ministering to those in need, blogged Joel Rainey, a missionary with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Outreaches have included free lunches to children since schools were not in session, ministry to police officers, firefighters and National Guard personnel patrolling the city, and churches opened to offer refuge for frightened citizens.
Pastors point to the gospel as the only answer for the troubled city.
“I’m sure the only solution for this problem as well as any other cultural, social or personal problem is Jesus Christ,” Gaines said. “The only thing that’s going to change that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ changing hearts so that when I changed, I now see every man in the light of who God is. That the image of God is stamped on the Korean, the Japanese, the Caucasian, and I just can’t hate anyone, I can’t.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

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4/30/2015 11:22:36 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC 2015 schedule released

April 30 2015 by Baptist Press staff

The Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Order of Business has released this year’s schedule for the annual meeting in Columbus.
This year’s annual meeting theme is “Great Awakening: Clear Agreement, Visible Union, Extraordinary Prayer,” based on Romans 13:11. In addition to following the schedule, messengers can stay updated on this year’s annual meeting with the 2015 SBC mobile app that is now available. The app can be downloaded on your mobile device by accessing the App Store or Google Play or selecting one of the options at sbcannualmeeting.net. This year’s preferred Twitter hashtag will be #sbc2015.

SBC 2015 schedule

8:15 Opening Worship – Julio Arriola, Convention music director, global worship pastor, Cross Church, Springdale, Ark.
8:25 Welcome and Call to Order – Ronnie Floyd, SBC president, senior pastor, Cross Church, Springdale, Ark.
Announcement of Committee on Committees, Credentials Committee, Tellers Committee, and Resolutions Committee
8:30 Scripture – Jordan Easley, senior pastor, Englewood Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn.


Prayer – Daniel Cho, college pastor, Antioch Baptist Church, Cambridge, Mass., chaplain, Harvard University
8:35 Registration Report and Constitution of Convention – Jim Wells, SBC registration secretary, strategic partners team leader, Missouri Baptist Convention, Jefferson City, Mo.
8:38 Committee on Order of Business (First Report) – Andrew Hebert, chairman, lead pastor, Taylor Memorial Baptist Church, Hobbs, N.M.
8:43 Acknowledgment of Columbus Volunteers – Ronnie Floyd
8:45 Welcome to Columbus – Brian Frye, collegiate evangelism strategist, State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, Columbus, Ohio, national collegiate strategist, North American Mission Board
8:48 Response from SBC – Jarrett Stephens, teaching pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas
8:51 Crossover Report – Al Gilbert, vice president, evangelism, North American Mission Board, Alpharetta, Ga., and Rich Halcombe, director of missions, Metro Columbus Baptist Association, Columbus, Ohio
8:56 The Pledge of Allegiance and a 50th Anniversary Tribute to Vietnam Veterans – Ronnie Floyd joined by Gen. Doug Carver, executive director of chaplaincy, North American Mission Board, Alpharetta, Ga.
9:02 The National Anthem: “The Star-Spangled Banner” – Julio Arriola
9:10 Introduction of Past Presidents – Ronnie Floyd
9:15 Introduction of the President and Family – Jack Graham, senior pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas
9:18 Prayer for the President – James T. (Jimmy) Draper, president emeritus, LifeWay Christian Resources, SBC president 1982-1984, First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas
9:23 Worship – Julio Arriola
9:30 President’s Address – Ronnie Floyd
10:10 Response to God and Worship – Julio Arriola
10:20 Joint Seminary Presentation and Reports – Charles S. Kelley Jr., president, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans; Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth; Daniel L. Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.; Jason K. Allen, president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City; Jeff Iorg, president, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, Calif.
11:45 Closing Prayer – Tommy Green, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.
1:15 Opening Worship – Julio Arriola
1:25 Scripture – Terry M. Turner, pastor, Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, Mesquite, Texas
Prayer – Bobby S. Sena, Hispanic relations consultant, SBC Executive Committee, Atlanta
1:30 Introduction of New Motions (First Opportunity) – Ronnie Floyd
1:45 Executive Committee Report (Part One) - Frank S. Page, president and CEO, SBC Executive Committee, Nashville, Tenn.
2:20 Election of Officers (First)
2:30 GuideStone Financial Resources Report – O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO, Guidestone Financial Resources, Dallas
2:42 Introduction of New Motions (Last Opportunity) – Ronnie Floyd
2:52 Committee on Committees Report – Bryan E. Smith, chairman, pastor, First Baptist Church, Roanoke, Va.
3:02 Committee on Nominations Report – John S. (Chip) Hutcheson, chairman, newspaper publisher, Princeton, Ky.
3:12 Worship – Julio Arriola
3:17 Executive Committee Report (Part Two) – Frank S. Page
3:57 Election of Officers (Second)
4:05 Committee on Order of Business Report (Second) – Andrew Hebert
Election of 2016 Convention Preacher, Alternate Preacher and Music Director
4:12 Election of Officers (Third)
4:17 Election of Officers (Fourth)
4:22 Election of Officers (Fifth)
4:27 Committee on Resolutions Report – Steve Gaines, chairman, pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Tenn.
4:57 Closing Prayer – Grant Etheridge, senior pastor, Liberty Baptist Church, Hampton, Va.
6:30 Worship Prelude – Julio Arriola
6:45 A National Call for Prayer to All Southern Baptists for the Next Great Awakening and to Reach the World for Christ – led by Ronnie Floyd and other SBC pastors/leaders
(See SBC Bulletin: Tuesday, Part 2 for more details)
8:15 Opening Worship – Julio Arriola
8:25 Scripture – Adam Greenway, dean, Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Ministry, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
Prayer – George Russ, executive director, Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, New York, N.Y.
8:30 Committee on Order of Business Report (Third) – Andrew Hebert
8:45 Woman’s Missionary Union Report – Wanda Lee, executive director/treasurer, Woman’s Missionary Union, Birmingham, Ala.
8:57 Disaster Relief Emphasis
9:00 North American Mission Board Report – Kevin Ezell, president, North American Mission Board, Alpharetta, Ga.
9:12 Global Hunger Relief Emphasis
9:15 International Mission Board Report – David Platt, president, International Mission Board, Richmond, Va.
9:27 Presentation of Officers – Frank S. Page
9:40 Church and Mission Sending Celebration: Joint Commissioning Service – Kevin Ezell, David Platt and Ronnie Floyd
11:45 Closing Prayer - Jeremy Roberts, lead pastor, Church of the Highlands, Chattanooga, Tennessee
2:15 Opening Worship – Julio Arriola
2:25 Scripture – James D. (Sonny) Tucker, executive director, Arkansas Baptist State Convention, Little Rock, Ark.
Prayer – Cliff Woodman, president, Small Church Bivocational Pastors’ Network, pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Carlinville, Ill.
2:30 Previously Scheduled Business – Ronnie Floyd
2:40 LifeWay Christian Resources Report – Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO, LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville, Tenn.
2:52 LifeWay Christian Resources Presentation Thom S. Rainer
3:05 Worship Julio Arriola
3:10 Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Report Russell Moore, president, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Nashville, Tenn.
3:22 Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Presentation Russell D. Moore
3:35 The President’s Panel: “The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage: Preparing our Churches” (See SBC Bulletin: Tuesday, Part 2 for more details)
4:20 Worship Julio Arriola
4:30 Convention Sermon Eddie Bumpers, pastor, Crossway Baptist Church, Springfield, Mo.
5:00 Prayer of Response Bruce P. Frank, lead pastor, Biltmore Baptist Church, Arden, N.C.
5:05 Worship Julio Arriola
5:10 Columbus Hands Off to St. Louis
5:15 Closing Prayer Dean Fulks, lead pastor, Lifepoint Church, Lewis Center, Ohio
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The schedule first appeared in SBC LIFE magazine.)

4/30/2015 11:14:14 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

App available for 2015 SBC annual meeting

April 30 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Messengers to the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting can stay informed through a free smartphone app featuring schedules, maps, alerts, speakers, newsfeeds, the “Book of Reports,” the “Daily Bulletin” and much more.


The app will be available for iPhone, iPad, and Android users and can be downloaded by typing in “SBC Annual Meetings” in the device’s app store. Once the app is downloaded, it will prompt you to install the information for the 2015 meeting. This year’s preferred Twitter hashtag will be #sbc15. Messengers also can follow @SBCMeeting, @BaptistPress, @SBCLife, @sbccp, and @SBCPastorsconf for the latest annual meeting updates.
Developed by Core-Apps, the app will include:

  • Push alerts of up-to-date news, such as any changes in the meeting schedule;

  • The programs for the SBC Pastors’ Conference and the annual meeting;

  • An alphabetized list of Pastors’ Conference and annual meeting speakers, including their scheduled speaking times;

  • A newsfeed of Baptist Press news stories and photos covering Crossover, the SBC annual meeting and related meetings that take place during the week.

  • PDF versions of the Book of Reports, the Daily Bulletin, and SBC LIFE;

  • Scheduled times for seminary luncheons and other affinity groups ancillary to the annual meeting;

  • Twitter stream discussions about the annual meeting. Use the hashtag #sbc15 to join the conversation;

  • An interactive map of the exhibit hall and messenger-friendly local restaurants;

  • A list of exhibitors, including contact information for each exhibitor and the exhibitor’s floor location;

  • A list of Metro Columbus Baptist Association churches and church-type missions, with a map showing where each congregation is located, and

  • A “friends” icon where users can keep up to date with their friends and send them notes. (Users are required to fill out a brief profile.)

4/30/2015 11:10:25 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Clinton, Paul talk abortion on 2016 campaign trail

April 30 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

With abortion emerging as an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, a Florida pastor involved in pro-life ministries is urging believers to vote for pro-life candidates while not pinning their ultimate hope for protecting unborn children on either major political party.
“As we condemn the Democrats for their views, we can’t pretend that Republicans are the champions for” the pro-life cause, Dean Inserra, lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., said. “We can’t put our hopes into a party.”
On the Democratic side, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told the Women in the World Summit “religious beliefs” are among the obstacles to “reproductive healthcare” that “have to be changed.” Pro-life groups, including LifeNews.com, interpreted her remarks as an attack against evangelicals and others who oppose abortion on religious grounds.
“Yes, we’ve cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive healthcare and safe childbirth,” Clinton said April 23 according to a video of her speech posted on YouTube. “All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

4-30-15abortion.jpgPhotos from Flickr. Rand Paul photo by Gage Skidmore
Rand Paul, Hillary Clinton

Elsewhere in her speech, Clinton criticized Hobby Lobby for having “taken away” the “healthcare choices” of female employees, an apparent reference to the Christian-owned retail chain’s decision not to pay for health insurance that provides abortion-causing forms of contraception. Clinton also criticized those “who offer themselves as leaders who would defund the country’s leading provider of family planning,” an apparent reference to Planned Parenthood.
It was not clear whether Clinton’s remark about the need to change religious beliefs referred only to “reproductive healthcare” or also to a range of issues she listed before her apparent reference to abortion.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to Baptist Press’ requests for clarification prior its publication deadline.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League told LifeNews, “It was not surprising that Hillary Clinton, who strongly opposes a ban on partial-birth abortion, would tell her feminist audience that she supports Planned Parenthood. What was surprising was her comment on the need to change religious beliefs on abortion. In others words, Hillary has a problem with the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion – they must be changed.”
Donohue continued, “Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion. It’s time for Hillary to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”
Presumed Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush tweeted April 26, “Americans’ religious beliefs should be respected and protected not changed @HillaryClinton.” Bush encouraged his Twitter followers to sign an online petition advocating the protection of religious liberty.
Inserra, a member of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s advisory committee, said Clinton’s comments suggest her ultimate concern is neither “reproductive healthcare” nor “choice.”
“If you’re asking someone to change their religious beliefs, you’re not very pro-choice, in my opinion,” Inserra said. “You’re pro-abortion.”
If the political left “were really concerned about women’s health and reproductive health, then they would be honest about the entire conversation of abortion,” Inserra said, “about the psychological effects, about the physical effects – things that are actually very harmful for women. They don’t seem concerned about those things.”
Inserra’s wife Krissie established a ministry at Florida State University for students who experience unplanned pregnancies, he said. That ministry routinely deals with women who experience shame, fear and regret regarding their abortions.
Two weeks prior to Clinton’s remarks, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul publicly challenged Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to state “if she’s OK with killing a 7-pound baby that’s just not born yet,” according to the Associated Press.
Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, responded, “I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story.”
Paul’s public challenge came amid an exchange with reporters in which they pressed him for seemingly avoiding the question of what, if any, exceptions should be included in legislation banning abortion.
In an interview with AP, Paul said he is willing to support pro-life legislation with or without exceptions.
“I’ve supported bills with and without [exceptions], you know,” Paul, a senator from Kentucky, said. “So I will support legislation that advances and shows life is special and deserves protection.”
Inserra said Wasserman Schultz’s refusal to state that aborting a 7-pound baby is wrong illustrates the radical nature of many so-called progressive Democrats’ positions on abortion.
“It’s not about choice. It’s about abortion,” Inserra said. “If you think that it’s OK to take the life of a 7-pound baby, then you’re not pro-choice. You’re pro-abortion.”
Paul’s challenge to Wasserman Schultz “finally let us [pro-lifers] be on the offensive rather than the defensive,” Inserra said.
The 2012 Democratic Party Platform states, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”
Democrats for Life, a pro-life group within the Democratic Party, lists on its website three pro-life Democratic U.S. senators and four pro-life House members. The list is dated Oct. 25, 2013, however, and two of the Congressmen listed are no longer in office. Democrats for Life did not respond to Baptist Press’ request for an updated list prior to its publication deadline.
The 2012 Republican Party Platform states, “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”
The 2016 platforms for both major parties will be adopted at their national conventions next year.
Inserra said Christians should both vote for pro-life candidates and work to change people’s minds on abortion through discussion and ministering to women with unplanned pregnancies. When it comes to elections though, Inserra has no qualms about advocating “one-issue voting.”
“I don’t know how a Christian can justify voting for someone who thinks it’s OK to take a life of an unborn child,” Inserra said. “... I can think of no justification whatsoever for a Christian who claims to believe the Scriptures to vote for someone who thinks that little of an unborn child and, I would say, that little of women.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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4/30/2015 11:03:15 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SEBTS trustees hear of record enrollment, approve faculty

April 29 2015 by Ali Dixon, SEBTS

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) Board of Trustees heard reports April 19-21 on the seminary’s projected sixth year of record enrollment and elected two new faculty members.
The seminary’s annual events included chapel services featuring Chuck Quarles, professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology and James Merritt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia.
“I hope every graduate from Southeastern will be characterized by passion, tears, holy boldness, evangelistic zeal and deep conviction,” Quarles said. “Paul’s ministry was a tearful ministry, and God seldom blesses a tearless one.”
“I want to teach and pray in such a way that students have the right gospel method and message,” Quarles emphasized. “We call it the ‘Great Commission,’ not the ‘Good Commission,’ because it can never be improved upon, even by our clever innovations.”

Photo by Maria Estes
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president, Daniel Akin, addressed members of the Southeastern Society and Board of Trustees during their spring 2015 meetings.

On April 20, the trustees and Southeastern Society met for the presidential address and reports. Daniel Akin, president, recognized recent accomplishments of the seminary, including a projected sixth year of record enrollment. Unduplicated headcount has increased to 3,305 through the spring semester, up from 3,118 in the spring of 2014.
Chuck Lawless, SEBTS vice president for graduate studies and ministry centers, spoke on Acts 19 and spiritual warfare at a banquet that evening.
“I want our students so walking with God that hell knows them by name,” Lawless said. “I want them planting churches that make hell shake a little bit. I want them to know that when they go out hell knows they exist. That's our task.”
Lawless challenged trustees and guests to seek God's power in prayer and in the Bible. “Pray we will find the power of God when He has driven us to our faces,” he said. “The only way we do the work God has called us to is on our knees.”
To close, Akin told the audience. “To go is the default mode around here at Southeastern Seminary. It shouldn't surprise us that the task of going is hard, because the Bible calls this task war.”
In addition, trustees elected Jim Shaddix, professor of preaching, and Stephen Eccher, assistant professor of church history and reformation studies.
Shaddix, pastor of teaching/training at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., has taught at Southeastern since 2012, with prior teaching posts at New Orleans and Golden Gate seminaries. He holds a doctor of philosophy degree from New Orleans Seminary, doctor of ministry and master of divinity degrees from Southwestern Seminary and an undergraduate degree from Jacksonville State University in Alabama.
Eccher has taught church history and reformation studies since 2013 and has led several mission trips. He holds a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, a master of divinity degree from SEBTS and an undergraduate degree in religion from Palm Bleach Atlantic College in Florida.
They also approved faculty promotions of Bruce Ashford to professor of theology and culture; Brent Aucoin to professor of history; David Jones to professor of Christian ethics; Scott Kellum to professor of New Testament and Greek; and Mark Rooker to senior professor of Old Testament and Hebrew.
The 2015-16 proposed budget was approved at $25.9 million, up 1.68 percent from the current budget.
Trustees approved the purchase and renovation of the Paschal House, a historic house built in 1908 by G.W. Paschal, who taught Latin, Greek and the classics and served in a variety of administrative roles at Wake Forest College (now University).
Considered by many as the premier historian of North Carolina Baptists, Paschal authored several books, including the two-volume “History of North Carolina Baptists” and a three-volume “A History of Wake Forest College.” The purchase of the Paschal home concludes the acquisition of a total of 15.5 acres from the Paschal family. This land completes a multi-decade goal of purchasing the property contiguous to the southwest corner of campus.
During chapel on Tuesday, Merritt delivered a sermon on Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, and the seminary commissioned 21 international church planting students and their wives.
4/29/2015 1:31:08 PM by Ali Dixon, SEBTS | with 0 comments

Justices weigh same-sex marriage arguments

April 29 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Supreme Court debated at length April 28 whether the Constitution requires states to license or recognize same-sex marriages in a landmark case that could produce a nationwide revision of the institution legally and elevate already existing concerns about religious liberty.
In two and a half hours of oral arguments, the nine justices questioned and listened to advocates on both sides of the issue. It’s the next step toward a decision that the justices are expected to issue in late June or early July.
The court has at least three options. It could: (1) Legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country; (2) enable states to maintain their authority to define marriage as only a heterosexual union; or (3) require states to recognize gay marriages from other states without prohibiting them from licensing only male-female marriages. Potentially, the justices also could rule in such a way as to deliver a wider victory for the rights of gays and lesbians.
Russell Moore, the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist, said in a written statement April 28 he doesn’t think the Supreme Court “should redefine marriage, because I don’t think the Court invented marriage in the first place.”


Photo by Doug Carlson
Protesters gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court building April 28 as the court debated whether the Constitution requires states to license or recognize same-sex marriages. The landmark case could produce a nationwide revision of the institution legally and elevate already existing concerns about religious liberty.

“The action of finding some illusory 14th Amendment right to same-sex marriage in the Constitution – a right unknown not only to the Constitution’s drafters and ratifiers but to every generation of this country and every other until the most recent years – will have deep and wide consequences, for the stability of families and for freedom of religion,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “I hope the Court does the right thing and stays within the limits of its authority – recognizing that the state did not create the family, and cannot recreate it.”
The questioning by the justices during the arguments proceeded in predictable fashion. Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito – some of the more conservative members of the court – seemed to express misgivings about the plea to change the marriage laws of all the states. At one point, Roberts challenged Mary Bonauto, representing same-sex couples, when he questioned if they were “not seeking to join the institution” of marriage but to “change what the institution is.”
Meanwhile, Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan voiced skepticism about the arguments in defense of states maintaining the traditional definition of marriage. Some described marriage as a “fundamental right” in which the states in question prohibit same-sex couples from participating.
As is his norm, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas did not speak.
The arguments took place at a time when same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia. The state total nearly triples the 13 states where it was legal in mid-2013. Court rulings have produced legal gay marriage in more than two-thirds of those states.
The expansion of same-sex marriage has resulted in a growing clash between the rights of gay couples and the religious freedom of individuals and organizations. Florists, bakers, photographers and other business owners who have conscientious objections to providing their services for same-sex ceremonies have been penalized or are facing penalties for their refusal. The most recent example came April 24, when an Oregon judge recommended a fine of $135,000 for former bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple’s ceremony.
The April 28 arguments – which were 90 minutes longer than normal – came in a case, Obergefell v. Hodges, from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a 2-1 decision in November, it became the first federal appellate court to rule states have the authority to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Five other appeals courts have invalidated state laws that prohibited gay marriage.
The opinion by the Sixth Circuit Court, based in Cincinnati, took place in challenges to laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee – states where voters approved constitutional amendments between 2004 and 2006 that limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Courts have overwhelmingly issued opinions in favor of gay marriage since the Supreme Court struck down a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June 2013, saying it violated “equal protection” under the Constitution by refusing to recognize same-sex marriages. Though the high court refused to say states could not limit marriage to heterosexual couples, most courts have used the decision as a basis for striking down state laws that define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
In the January announcement that it would review the Sixth Circuit’s opinion, the justices said they would consider two questions: (1) Does the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution require a state “to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” and (2) does the 14th Amendment require a state “to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”
In the 90 minutes allotted to the first question, Bonauto – longtime director of the Civil Rights Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders – and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued on behalf of same-sex couples challenging the state laws. John Bursch, former solicitor general of Michigan, advocated for the states.
On the second question, the Supreme Court heard from Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, a Washington lawyer who formerly served as an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general, in behalf of gay couples and Joseph Whalen, associate solicitor general of Tennessee, for the states.
Among the 148 friend-of-the-court briefs filed in the case, at least three involved a Southern Baptist entity or leaders.
The ERLC endorsed a brief with 18 other religious organizations that defended the biblical, traditional definition of marriage and warned a ruling that mandates states recognize gay marriage “would generate church-state conflicts that will imperil vital religious liberties.”
The ERLC’s Moore signed onto a brief with other academic scholars that contended states that have restricted marriage to a male and a female have not denied “the equal dignity of self-identified members of sexual minority groups” while protecting “a child’s entitlement to a mother and father.”
Southern Baptist leaders – including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin – joined in a Liberty Institute brief defending male-female marriage.
The arguments came after a Sunday on which SBC President Ronnie Floyd had encouraged churches to pray during corporate worship for the court and its proceedings. The ERLC called for Southern Baptists and other Christians to pray for the justices during the arguments.
Hundreds of people gathered April 28 on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court building to voice their support for or against same-sex marriage.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/29/2015 1:00:48 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baltimore violence shows need for ‘a better way’

April 29 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Racial turmoil in Baltimore commanded the nation’s attention April 27-28.
“While we watch on the screen and read what is happening in Baltimore,” Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd said, “we need to pray for our pastors and churches in Baltimore as they rise up together, calling Baltimore to a better way to live personally and collectively.
“This better way is God’s way, the gospel way,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said. “In this critical hour in our nation, the greatest hope for Baltimore and for all of America is a mighty spiritual awakening.”
Rioting, looting and arson broke out in Baltimore after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American who died of a spinal injury while in police custody 15 days earlier.


Screen capture from CNN.com

The tumult reflects the various cultural crises America faces, from race relations to whether same-sex marriage will be legalized nationally. The Supreme Court hears arguments today on the latter issue, which also has garnered the prayers of countless Baptists and evangelicals. Internationally, rescue crews are searching for survivors in Nepal of an earthquake and aftershocks that have claimed at least 4,000 lives.
In Baltimore, dozens have been arrested and injured, including more than a dozen Baltimore police officers.
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, in comments about the upheaval in Baltimore, called on Southern Baptists to pray for the city. “Specifically, I ask us to pray in earnest for the ministers of the gospel who are standing in harm’s way trying to provide spiritual leadership in a divided city.
“But let’s also pray for the Gray family in their grief as well as the police officers who were wounded by a lawless group who took advantage of the situation,” Page told Baptist Press. “Pray for peace in Baltimore and, yes, justice for all those who have broken the law. It is a very sad day.”
Baltimore was the host city for the SBC’s annual meeting and Crossover evangelistic emphasis in 2014 in which volunteer teams worked alongside Baptist church members in the inner city and across the metro area. Baltimore also is one of the key cities in the North American Mission Board’s cornerstone church planting strategy, Send North America. It is the hometown of missions pioneer Annie Armstrong, for whom the SBC’s Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions is named.
Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called on churches to be agents of peace and reconciliation, in a statement issued to media April 27.
“There’s no question that Baltimore needs order and restraint of violence,” Moore said. “There’s no question that Baltimore needs investigation and justice in the untimely death of Freddie Gray. There’s no question that Baltimore suffers from poverty, racial injustice, family breakdown, illegal drugs, gang activity and a thousand other ailments. Government, civil society, law enforcement, and community organizations must confront all of these.
“But I would argue that the primary need Baltimore has is for the church,” said Moore, who convened a national summit of Southern Baptist leaders in March on the gospel and racial reconciliation.
“The witness of the church models for us that what we are told is normal isn’t normal at all,” Moore said, describing violence and hatred as “satanic, parasitic on a universe that God created for shalom.”
“When our consciences are formed, together, around the Lord’s table, serving one another, worshipping with one another, we are transformed to see the sort of universe God has in mind. We then work for justice and for peace, together.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/29/2015 12:50:54 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

God’s throne not shaken in Nepal, IMB worker says

April 29 2015 by Marie Curtis, IMB Connections

As the world watches the escalating devastation in Nepal, more than 40 International Mission Board workers from South Asia gathered April 26-28 at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, for a conference encouraging 140 churches to make commitments to reach the nations.
Conference attendees prayed for those impacted by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal April 25. More than 4,000 deaths have been reported and the quake was felt in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and the Chinese region of Tibet.
A strategy leader, whose work includes Nepal, shared his mixed emotions about being in Texas instead of working beside his friends in the devastated country.


Many buildings around Kathmandu are reduced to rubble in the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake April 25.

“I don’t know about the Lord’s timing. I’d rather be there today,” he said.
But he acknowledged the opportunity to advocate for the people he loves and asked U.S. churches to enter significant partnerships on behalf of South Asians.
“It’s no coincidence that a number of us are gathered here in one place,” he said. “In a way, it’s almost like God is clashing the cymbals and banging the gongs to say, ‘This is it.’ As we consider the ends of the earth, it is a strategic moment in Nepal.
“It’s hard not to focus on the loss of life in Nepal, but the potential of what comes next is really exciting,” he said. “Southern Baptists have been praying for generations to reach the lost. They’ve prayed, ‘Lord, shake the nations, Lord, do something that causes and breaks hearts open to look to you.’ Now is the time.”
During a time of prayer for Nepal at the opening session of the conference, the worker reminded the crowd of nearly 400 participants that Hindu temples and man-made buildings crumbled, “But we worship a God whose throne was not shaken.”
He asked believers in the U.S. to pray the Nepali church will “find its voice” and set themselves apart as people who meet the needs caused by the devastating earthquake in a way that will make history.
“And they will, it’s almost inevitable, because we know the Word and the Holy Spirit have been invested,” he said, referring to Southern Baptists’ work in Nepal for decades.
“Pray for boldness,” he said. “Pray for clear presentation of motives that as the Nepali church responds, that everyone would know it’s because something’s different about these people. It’s not just the cultural hospitality. This is some other motive of love ... that’s compelling the Nepali Christian church to respond.”
In Plano, churches and missions organizations from 23 states gathered for the three-day event to join together in reaching South Asia, an area that includes India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives, with the gospel. Workers estimate 1.6 billion people live in this part of the world, and most have never heard the name of Jesus.


  • Pray Christians and churches will be the salt that seasons and the light that pierces the darkness around them in this time of crisis.

  • Pray God will open unprecedented doors for the gospel in these coming days, as personnel and teams have opportunities to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ through acts of compassion and mercy.

  • Pray for a great spiritual harvest.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marie Curtis writes for IMB. Susie Rain contributed to this article.)

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4/29/2015 12:41:47 PM by Marie Curtis, IMB Connections | with 0 comments

WMU focus on surrender, sacrifice, service

April 29 2015 by Julie Walters, WMU

Prior to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, North American and international missionaries will share how God is at work around the world during the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting, June 14–15.
This year’s theme, “All for You,” focuses on surrender, sacrifice and service as a follower of Christ.


“In following Jesus, we find the joy and purpose that makes life worth living,” Wanda S. Lee, executive director of national WMU, said. “Nothing shares the message of Jesus better than a life lived in total surrender to Him. When we surrender our all for Him, sacrificing our desires out of a heart of love, life takes on a new form – one devoted to service to others.”
This devotion to Christ and a passion for sharing Him with others will be a consistent theme of featured speakers, including Michael Coleman, a military chaplain with the North American Mission Board; Terry Dorsett, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England; Earl Hewitt, a doctor who serves in West Africa; David and Alicia who serve in Southeast Asia; and Bud Fray, a retired missionary who served in Africa. Fray’s new book, “Both Feet In,” a story of God at work through His missionaries, will be the next emphasis book for WMU in 2015–2016.
General sessions are on Sunday, June 14, at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., and on Monday, June 15, at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. In addition, 20 different conferences will be offered on Monday. Topics range from creative ways to engage preschoolers, children, youth and adults in missions, to understanding post-traumatic stress disorder and learning ways your church can minister to those living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Additional elements this year include:

  • A reception in honor of Debby Akerman as she completes her fifth year of service as president of national WMU. A new president will be elected during the business session on Monday.

  • Missions Monday, June 15, hands-on missions experiences for children in grades 1–6 onsite at the church from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Advance registration is required.

  • Continuing education units (CEUs) for healthcare professionals who attend designated conferences.

  • An opportunity to help missions efforts in the Columbus area by bringing travel-size hygiene items to donate.

  • Chick-fil-A lunch available to purchase for $5 onsite at the church on Monday.

The WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting will be at First Baptist Church of Grove City. The church is approximately a 10- to 15-minute drive south from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, where the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention will be held June 16–17.
Visit wmu.com/columbus for more information, including a complete schedule, additional details, online registration for children for Missions Monday, and more.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Walters is the corporate communications team leader for the Woman’s Missionary Union, based in Birmingham, Ala.)

4/29/2015 12:32:55 PM by Julie Walters, WMU | with 0 comments

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