April 2017

Minter, Warren to headline ministry wives’ events

April 24 2017 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press

Ministers’ wives attending the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix are invited to a trio of women’s events, including a Pastors’ Wives Conference, a Ministers’ Wives Luncheon and a Women’s Expo.

Kelly Minter

Authors and speakers Kelly Minter of Nashville and Kay Warren of Lake Forest, Calif., will headline this year’s events to be held in the North Ballroom of the Phoenix Convention Center.
This year’s theme is “Brave,” based on Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength & dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

Ministers’ Wives Luncheon

Minter will be the featured speaker for the annual Ministers’ Wives Luncheon, open to all wives of pastors, church staff members, chaplains, missionaries and denominational workers, slated for Tuesday, June 13, beginning at noon.
Referring to this year’s theme, Lori Frank, luncheon president, said wives “need not fear the future or serve from a position of fearfulness.” A pastor’s wife herself, married to Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Church in Arden, N.C., Frank noted that many pastors’ wives live in fear over a variety of things: criticism, unrealistic expectations from within the church or whether their kids are going to embrace the church like they do.
“Your courage, your adventurous spirit, your ambition for the gospel has to be rooted in faith,” Frank noted. “God will give each person His supernatural resources. We need not fear!”
Luncheon tickets cost $15/person and can be purchased online at lifeway.com/Event/womens-event-sbc-ministers-wives-luncheon-2017. Learn more at sbcwives.com.
Participants also may nominate a minister’s wife for the Willie Turner Dawson Award, which honors women who have served either as the wife of a minister or in ministry herself and have made a distinct denominational contribution beyond her service in the local church. Nominate online at biltmore.wufoo.com/forms/xgrp4820c077zh by May 1.

Pastors’ Wives Conference

Kay Warren

On Monday, June 12, the Pastors’ Wives Conference will be held during the morning session of the Pastors’ Conference from 8:45-11:45 a.m.
The session, to feature Minter, Warren and other women’s leaders, seeks to help pastors’ wives be “brave in their calling, brave in their family life and brave in their faith,” said organizer Susie Hawkins, wife of GuideStone Financial Services President O.S. Hawkins.
There is no cost for the Monday event and registration is not required. Women who serve in any facet of local church leadership, missions and denominational work are invited to attend.

Pastors’ Wives Expo

In the lobby outside the ballroom, a Pastors’ Wives Expo will offer resources to “expose, engage, enlighten and empower ministry wives” through displays for new Bible studies, ministry support and evangelistic tools.
Diane Nix, the expo organizer, said, “Our hope is that information gathered will not only be an encouragement for their journey but will inspire them as they go home to family and the women of their churches.” Persons interested in exhibiting should contact Nix at nixheart@me.com.

Kelly Minter

Minter, an author, speaker, songwriter and singer, enjoys sharing about the healing and strength of Christ through the Bible’s truth. Her latest book release is a personal memoir about her trips to the Amazon jungle titled Wherever the River Runs: How a Forgotten People Renewed My Hope in the Gospel. Her fifth Bible study curriculum, All Things New: A Study of 2 Corinthians (November 2016), is the most recent addition to her Living Room Series and her third to include video teaching sessions as well as written material.
In addition to writing, Minter has recorded several albums. Her most recent record, Hymns & Hallelujahs is an acoustic collection of original songs and favorite hymns, some of which are featured on the All Things New teaching videos.
She is also passionate about serving the poor and forgotten around the world and is invested in the work of Justice and Mercy International as they work in Brazil and Moldova. She also has recently launched her own conference-style event, “Cultivate: A Women’s Gathering Around the Word” that seeks to unite women through biblical teaching, prayer, mission and acoustic worship through a stylistically simple approach.

Kay Warren

Warren, wife of Saddleback Church senior pastor Rick Warren, shares the struggles and joys of ministry in her new book Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife, releasing in May. With personal stories and wisdom gleaned from decades of experience, Warren writes to women who understand firsthand the complex dynamics inherent to any in ministry.
In Sacred Privilege, Warren confirms that being a pastor’s wife does not mean being perfect. She reveals the brokenness from childhood experiences that included molestation, marital conflict and temptation as well as depression and a distorted view of her worth. Losing a child to suicide several years ago could easily have been the catalyst for leaving ministry, but Warren shares how resilient faith and confidence in God’s redemptive plan for her life has kept her feet firmly planted. The road has not been easy, but she has learned much along the way and can now confidently say that being a pastor’s wife is truly a “sacred privilege.”

Additional conference speakers

Monday morning’s Pastors’ Wives Conference also will feature presentations, interviews and conversations with Charlotte Akin, Marshelle Wilburn and Mary Margaret Gibson.
Akin is married to Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she is the facilitator for “Biblical Foundations for the Minister’s Wife.” Akin lived at the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home with her brother and sister from ages 9-18.
Wilburn, manager of volunteer services at the Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond, Calif., is married to Port Wilburn, church planter and pastor of Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship, a restart church plant in San Pablo, Calif.
Gibson is the ministry director of EvanTell’s Save the Mother, Save her Child (SMSC) evangelism training and equipping ministry for more than 700 faith-based pregnancy centers in the U.S. and 30 overseas.
Kristin and Eric Yeldell from First Baptist Church of Naples, Fla., will lead worship during the Pastors’ Wives Conference. The worship team from Biltmore Church will lead worship at the Ministers’ Wives Luncheon.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network in Columbia, Md. This article first appeared Baptist Life, newsjournal of the Mid-Atlantic Network.)

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Pastors’ Conference to spotlight Philippians
AVANCE 2017 to hear IMB’s Edgar Aponte
Pastors’ Conference scholarships exceed projections

4/24/2017 10:36:18 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastors’ Conference scholarships exceed projections

April 24 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference has announced the first 30 recipients of $1,000 scholarships to attend the Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting this summer in Phoenix.
With more scholarship announcements anticipated within weeks, the first wave of awards already has exceeded the estimated 5-20 scholarships Pastors’ Conference leaders had hoped to fund.
“We are thrilled that we have been able to help this group of men to attend, grateful to those who have given and anticipate giving out even more in the near future,” Pastors’ Conference President Dave Miller told Baptist Press in written comments. “Our regret is that we will not be able to help everyone who wants to come to the annual meeting and Pastors’ Conference.”
The Pastors’ Conference will feature preaching, worship and prayer to undergird the ministry of pastors and their wives. The sessions at the Phoenix Convention Center will be held June 11-12, prior to the SBC’s June 13-14 annual meeting there. The 12 conference preachers pastor churches ranging in size from approximately 60 to 500 in worship attendees.
Larger churches traditionally have helped fund the Pastors’ Conference. This year, however, conference costs have been covered by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Caskey Center for Church Excellence and other sponsors, freeing the conference’s traditional sponsors to help by funding attendance for pastors of smaller congregations who would not otherwise be able to make the trip to Phoenix.
According to an April 20 post on the SBC Voices blog, donors of the $30,000 in scholarships announced thus far include: Cross Church in northwest Arkansas; Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.; Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.; an individual donor at First Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma City; First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.; Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va.; Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison, Miss.; Cornerstone Fellowship Baptist Church in Haskell, Texas; and the SBC of Virginia.
A full list of scholarship recipients is available on SBC Voices.
Pastors’ Conference leadership team member Brent Hobbs wrote on SBC Voices that the recipients pastor average-sized Southern Baptist churches “and wouldn’t be able to attend without these scholarship funds. About 30% of our applicants are church planters.” Several are from outside traditional Southern Baptist states, Hobbs noted, adding, “We love having this opportunity to bless small church pastors.”
To qualify for a scholarship, applicants had to pastor churches with average worship attendance of fewer than 200 people, and the congregations they lead had to be “either unable or unwilling to fund expenses” for Pastors’ Conference attendance, according to a March 30 SBC Voices post announcing the scholarships.
According to SBC Voices, a second round of scholarship awards could be announced the first week of May.
“We are going to be able to do far more scholarships than we originally anticipated, but still are likely to only fulfill the applications of about a quarter of those who applied,” said Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa. “Of course, if Baptists give generously we will help more people!”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

Related articles:
SBC Phoenix: ‘Pray! For such a time as this’
Pastors’ Conference to spotlight Philippians
Minter, Warren to headline ministry wives’ events  
AVANCE 2017 to hear IMB’s Edgar Aponte

4/24/2017 8:48:52 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Crossover continues to yield ‘lifetime of ministry’

April 21 2017 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

“I will never forget the first day that we went door-to-door.”

BP file photo by Dominique Bray
Witnessing door-to-door and street by street by Southern Baptist seminary students will be a key element of Crossover Phoenix, the evangelistic outreach prior to each year’s SBC annual meeting. During to the 2011 Crossover in Phoenix, Angelo Europe, right, a student from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, talks with Xavier who was willing to listen to the gospel presentation.

As in door-to-door evangelism.
Brittany Tennal and her husband Julius, from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, were among 100-plus students participating in Crossover St. Louis, the evangelistic thrust prior to last year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
This June, seminary students again will be partnering with local Baptists to share the gospel and, unique this year, invite residents in Phoenix to a Harvest Crusade featuring evangelist-pastor Greg Laurie on June 11 in the University of Phoenix Stadium.
For Steven Palmer, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Tool, Texas, it will be his third Crossover as part of his master of divinity studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. And it will be the second for the family – his wife Wendy, daughter Elisabeth who also is a Southwestern student and son Steven James who plans to enroll this fall at the L.R. Scarborough College at Southwestern, formerly known as The College at Southwestern.
Palmer has had plenty of Crossover conversations with people “who didn’t believe anything” or were of another faith but willing to have a conversation and hear the gospel. And he has been thrilled at the instances when “you’re able to lead someone to faith in Christ.”
Preston Nix, professor of evangelism and evangelistic preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said Crossover’s “immediate returns are souls saved – eternal returns included – as well as churches encouraged during that week.”
“But the long-term returns are better-equipped servants of the Lord with greater boldness as witnesses for Christ for a lifetime of ministry,” Nix noted.
That was Brittany Tennal’s experience in her first-ever door-to-door outreach during Crossover St. Louis.
“That morning, my professor made a joke that we should not be the person who prays for someone not to answer the door,” Brittany wrote in a recollection for Baptist Press (BP). “Although he was joking, I felt a twinge of guilt as I immediately realized how afraid I was.”
She hoped her husband would have the team’s first opportunity to share Christ.
“Little did I know that the Holy Spirit was already at work!” Tennal recounted. “As we came around the corner and approached the first house, my husband looked to me and said, ‘Look, there’s a woman already standing in the door. You can go first.’ He was right. She was standing there like she was just waiting for someone to come to the door!
“I panicked for a few seconds but quickly felt the reassurance of the Holy Spirit,” Tennal said. “The Lord reminded me that I knew and loved the same gospel that my husband did and that I had the same power of the Holy Spirit inside of me.
“With this confidence, I invited this woman to the community event at the church and started a spiritual conversation with her. Although she did not respond to the gospel that day, I was able to share the sweet truth of the gift of salvation offered through Jesus alone and plant a seed that I pray the Lord will water and grow in her heart.”
As the week went by, Tennal said, “I found myself knocking on doors a good bit louder. ... I was even able to share the gospel with the woman who I sat next to on the plane ride home!”
Crossover “radically changed the way that I view evangelism and helped me grow as I took steps of obedience into this call that the Lord has given all believers in the Great Commission. That week changed the way that I talked with strangers, my coworkers, the students in our college ministry and my family.
“Looking back, I can see that it also played an integral part in my call to missions,” Tennal said. “In the months that have passed since the trip [to St. Louis], the Lord has led my husband and me to move to Johannesburg, South Africa, to reach parts of the city where the gospel has not yet taken root. What a privilege it is to be allowed to join God in His mission to fill the earth with worshippers and bring glory to His wonderful name.”
Crossover’s glory-infused moments can extend into amazing moments of new birth.
Nix recalled three different teams during 2015’s Crossover Columbus that attempted to witness at an apartment complex in the state capital and, each time, were told by a maintenance employee to leave.
“Before leaving, each team shared the gospel with the man,” Nix said. “The third group led him to Christ. It happened to be on his actual birthday that became his spiritual birthday when he was born again.”
Dale Allen, minister of evangelism at Great Commission Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, who is finishing a master of divinity degree at Southwestern, was at a bus station during Crossover Baltimore in 2014 to connect with other team members when a supervisor pulled up to ask how long he had been waiting for a bus. Allen walked to her car and explained that he was part of the Crossover initiative.
The supervisor got out of her car and read along once Allen opened his Bible to share the gospel, highlighting such scriptures at Romans 6:23 – “... the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” – and Hebrews 9:27 – “... it is appointed for people to die once – and after this, judgment.”
The supervisor soon knelt beside her car in prayer as she surrendered her life to Christ.
Once again, in Allen’s experience, “God just proved Himself to be God.”
For an overview of this year’s Crossover Phoenix, with information about the need for Southern Baptist volunteers, click here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. Gary Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary contributed to this article.)

4/21/2017 9:33:38 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Court’s hypothetical questions may prove telling

April 21 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A series of rapid-fire, hypothetical questions from across the U.S. Supreme Court’s philosophical divide has provided encouragement to advocates of increased freedom for churches to participate in government programs that have a secular purpose.
Both liberal and conservative justices offered alternative scenarios to a lawyer for Missouri in an important church-state case during oral arguments April 19. The justices – at least some who seemed skeptical of the state’s position – proposed the examples as they considered whether the state’s exclusion of a church-operated daycare center from a playground resurfacing program constitutes religious discrimination.
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling before its term closes in late June or early July.
The legal conflict involves the Missouri Scrap Tire Grant Program, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations – minus church-affiliated ones – for safer, rubberized surfaces for children’s playgrounds. The state rejected the application of the Trinity Lutheran Church Learning Center in Columbia, Mo., from participation in the program because of its affiliation with the church.
The exclusion was based on a section in the state’s constitution that “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion.” Missouri is one of nearly 40 states that have such provisions, which are known as Blaine amendments.
Southern Baptist father-and-son law team Michael and Jonathan Whitehead – co-counsels for the church – were encouraged after the arguments.
“[O]ver half of the justices seemed more receptive to the church’s arguments,” Jonathan Whitehead said in a written release. “Our legal team could not be more pleased or more optimistic for a victory.”
Michael Whitehead said, “You can never absolutely predict the vote just based on the justices’ questions and comments, but many observers are saying a 7-2 for the church is not unlikely.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told Baptist Press in written comments, “Local churches shouldn’t be penalized by the state merely for being churches.”
Moore expressed gratitude for “the legal representation Southern Baptists Mike and Jonathan Whitehead have provided on behalf of Trinity Lutheran for the sake of religious liberty.”
“My hope is that the court will do the right thing and resolve these important constitutional matters, protecting religious liberty and empowering churches and religious organizations to serve their communities,” Moore said.
The series of hypotheticals – offered by Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan of the court’s liberal wing and Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito of the conservative wing – came during the defense of Missouri’s policy by James Layton, the former solicitor general of the state. Among the questions:
– What about police and fire protection for churches? The state is not giving money to the church in that case and the protection is a public service, Layton told Kagan. He told Breyer, “I am not going to take the position that it permits” a city or state to withhold such protection, including public health, from churches.
Breyer asked, “If [the constitution] does not permit a law that [denies] money out of the treasury for the health of the children in the church, school or even going to church, how does it permit Missouri to deny money to the same place for helping children not fall in the playground, cut their knees, get tetanus, break a leg, et cetera? What’s the difference?“
Layton replied, “The difference is that the establishment [of religion] concerns that motivate Missouri’s policy do not apply in the police and fire context, but they apply here.”
The benefits in Breyer’s examples “are not selective, which they are [in the Trinity Lutheran case]; they are universal,” Layton said.
– What about federal grants to increase security for high-risk terrorist targets, such as synagogues and mosques? No, the Missouri constitution would not allow such grants, Layton told Alito.
– What about tours of the state capitol for school groups with the exception of religious schools? He doubted such exclusion would be permitted under the constitution since everyone who goes to the capitol receives a tour, Layton told Roberts.
During the exchanges, Kagan told Layton, “There’s a constitutional principle. It’s as strong as any constitutional principle that there is, that when we have a program of funding – and here we’re funding playground surfaces – that everybody is entitled ... to that particular funding, whether or not they exercise a constitutional right; in other words, here, whether or not they are a religious institution doing religious things.
“As long as you’re using the money for playground services, you’re not disentitled from that program because you’re a religious institution doing religious things.”
The “biggest surprise” of the arguments, Jonathan Whitehead said, was Kagan and Breyer’s “very open struggles about rules that would allow churches to be excluded from public safety programs just because they are churches. While everyone agreed the state shouldn’t let a church burn down to avoid ‘aid’ to houses of worship, none of the state’s explanations seemed to persuade the court that this case was much different.”
Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), acknowledged afterward the court “was struggling to find the right line here, but the line is the one that Missouri has drawn to separate the institutions of religion and government and prevent churches from being funded by the state, because churches are fundamentally involved in a religious exercise that should be protected.”
The BJC supported Missouri in a friend-of-the-court brief as did Americans United for Separation of Church and State, National Education Association and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund among others.
The ERLC filed a brief in support of Trinity Lutheran. Other organizations backing the church in briefs included the American Center for Law and Justice, Becket, Christian Legal Society, National Association of Evangelicals, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and 19 states.
David Cortman – senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom who argued on behalf of the church – told the justices the Missouri policy violates the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause.
The church was not seeking preferable treatment, Cortman told reporters afterward. “It was seeking equal treatment here. ... Your status should be completely irrelevant when you approach the government for a neutral benefit. The government should be religion blind just like it’s race blind.
“When the government’s engaging in safety benefit programs, it should want all kids to be safe,” Cortman said. “It shouldn’t matter what their status is. It shouldn’t matter where they decide to attend school. And I think that’s the principle here that the state violated.”
Hollman told reporters, “This case is not about playground safety. This case is about a Missouri constitutional prohibition that prohibits aid directly to churches, not to religious individuals but to churches.”
The Supreme Court “has never upheld direct government grants to churches, much less required states to provide such funding,” she said. “And that’s what this case is about – whether or not a state has to pay for property improvements of a church despite 200 years of precedent and lots of practical considerations that argue otherwise.”
Missouri’s new governor, Eric Greitens, threw a wrinkle into the case April 13 when he instructed the Department of Natural Resources, which manages the tire grant program, to make religious organizations eligible to receive grants. Though the question of mootness was raised during oral arguments, there did not appear to be strong sentiment for refusing to rule on the merits of the case in the wake of Greitens’ action.
Both Whiteheads are members of Abundant Life Baptist Church in Lee’s Summit, Mo.
The case is Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/21/2017 9:30:58 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baylor’s first woman president guided by faith commitment

April 21 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Linda Livingstone, the first ever female president of Baylor University, points to her faith as a deciding factor in her acceptance of the job at the world’s largest Baptist university.

Linda Livingstone

“My personal faith commitment and my commitment to Jesus Christ was really important in this process,” Livingstone, a former Baylor faculty member and dean, said in an April 18 telephone interview on local ABC affiliate KXXV-TV. “My family and I spent a lot of time and prayer and reflection as we looked at this opportunity as it played out, and it certainly was important in that.”
In 1998, Livingstone was instrumental in another first for women, as reported by various media outlets – co-chairing the search committee that brought the first female pastor into the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Julie Pennington-Russell. The church, Calvary Baptist in Waco, is affiliated nationally with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a breakaway from the Southern Baptist Convention. Pennington-Russell is now pastor of First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., where Livingstone is a member.
Livingstone’s unanimous selection by Baylor’s board of regents, chairman Ronald Murff said in an April 18 teleconference, was not provoked by the sexual assault scandal that unraveled the university’s leadership in 2016 but was driven by a search for the best person for the job.
“Dr. Livingstone brings an accomplished academic career to Baylor, combined with a strong appreciation and support of Baylor’s mission,” Murff said. “A longtime Baptist and former Baylor faculty member, she has a passion for the distinctiveness of Baylor’s Christian mission in higher education.”
Livingstone’s selection was hailed by the grassroots group Bears for Leadership Reform (BLR), which welcomed her back to the university where she was once “a beloved teacher.”
“Baylor has a special place in our hearts. It is in desperate need of reform. We believe Dr. Livingstone can play an instrumental role in that process,” Houston attorney, Baylor alumnus and BLR board member John Eddie Williams said in a press release. “We look forward to working closely with her to ensure positive reforms are made so that the Baylor Family can heal and move forward.”
Livingstone has led The George Washington University School of Business in Washington, D.C., since 2014, but served at Baylor from 1991-2002, rising from assistant professor to dean of the Hankamer School of Business. She led Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management from 2002-2014.
“My time at Baylor as a faculty member and associate dean was formative in my academic career and in developing my passion for academic administration,” Livingstone said in a Baylor press release announcing her selection. “Baylor’s unique culture of care and compassion – that I experienced personally from my colleagues and that I saw demonstrated among faculty, staff and students – continues to inspire and influence me as an administrator. Continuing to strengthen Baylor’s culture where faculty, staff and students are encouraged, inspired and cared for by one another is a priority.”
While at Pepperdine, Livingstone was a colleague of Ken Starr, who was stripped of his presidency of Baylor in 2016 after an independent investigation found “a fundamental failure” to protect students from sexual assault in a years-long scandal. Baylor made key personnel changes and instituted reforms in response to the investigative findings of the Pepper Hamilton law firm, but continues to suffer repercussions from the scandal.
Earlier in April, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Waco ruled that a lawsuit can proceed by Jasmin Hernandez, who is charging that Baylor violated Title IX by failing to respond when women complained that a football player had raped them. A court date is set for 2018.
Notably, Starr was not a Baptist when he was chosen as Baylor’s president in 2010, but told Baylor student newspaper The Lariat that he planned to join a Baptist church in Waco by June 1 of that year. Starr told The Lariat he had been involved in nondenominational Christianity for decades and that his home church, McLean Bible Church in Virginia, operated under a Baptist theology, Baptist Press (BP) reported at the time.
Drayton McLane Jr., Baylor’s regent emeritus and a member of the search committee that chose Livingstone, said she met all of the university’s requirements.
“She, her husband (Brad) and their family are outstanding, committed Christians,” McLane said. “Dr. Livingstone has taught at Baylor and understands the Christian heritage which is so important to the University.”
Livingstone bested 400 candidates and was included in 61 first-round interviews before the field was narrowed, the search committee said.
Livingstone is a scholar in organizational behavior, leadership and creativity, Baylor said, and is extensively published. At Graziadio, she focused on Christian values as well as scholarship, Baylor said, and oversaw a $200 million expansion. She is a former athlete, having played on the women’s basketball team during her undergraduate years at Oklahoma State University from 1978-1982 and was named a “Big 8 Scholar-Athlete.”
Livingstone begins June 1 as president, succeeding Baylor interim president David Garland, who replaced Starr. Baylor is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

4/21/2017 9:27:32 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Global Hunger Relief Run to be held at SBC Annual Meeting

April 21 2017 by Jill Waggoner, ERLC

A broad coalition of Southern Baptist ministries have partnered together to sponsor a Global Hunger Relief Run, including a 5k and one-mile Fun Run, in Phoenix, Ariz., June 14, in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting. All funds raised through participant fees will go directly to feed hungry people around the world.

Global Hunger Relief (GHR) is a partnership of seven Southern Baptist organizations who work together to meet hunger needs around the world. Formerly known as the World Hunger Fund, many churches highlight the work of GHR on Global Hunger Sunday each year on the second Sunday of October.
“Our partners have put together a first-class event for those who run and for those who simply want to have fun and support the lifesaving work of Global Hunger Relief while we’re together in Phoenix,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “GHR is a wonderful illustration of the cooperation of the SBC and how we can do more together.”
Participants of the 5k will take a short shuttle ride from the Phoenix Convention Center to Steele Indian Park where they will run a two-lap course. The one-mile Fun Ride participants will circle the park’s lake. Water will be available on the course and snacks at the finish line. Registration and more information about the run is available online.
Sponsors for the GHR Run currently include the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Global Response, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Guidestone Financial Resources, the International Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, the North American Mission Board, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Woman’s Missionary Union.
Because of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program, one hundred percent of funds received by GHR are used in hunger projects implemented by Southern Baptist missionaries and partners. Eighty percent of funds are used internationally through the work of the International Mission Board and Baptist Global Response. Twenty percent is distributed across the United States by the North American Mission Board. More information about Global Hunger Relief is available at globalhungerrelief.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.)

4/21/2017 9:24:25 AM by Jill Waggoner, ERLC | with 0 comments

Baptists partner with Tennessee foster care system

April 21 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services (DCS) has found a valuable partner to help improve the state’s foster care system: faith-based organizations like the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes (TBCH).

Since December, TBCH has participated in a collaboration of government and the private sector to encourage foster parenting. Known as TN Fosters, the collaboration seeks to unite state government, faith groups, nonprofit organizations and businesses in recruiting foster parents and supporting foster families.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam voiced gratitude that “Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes has taken the initiative to bring community churches together to meet the increasing need for high-quality homes to serve children in Tennessee foster care,” according to a TBCH publication.
This year, TN Fosters has yielded 308 new homes approved to provide foster care, 51 children in pre-adoptive placements with families, five adoptions and two instances of children exiting state custody to live with relatives, according to the Tennessee DCS.
In 2017, TN Fosters is seeking to recruit a minimum of 100 “forever homes” for children, recruit at least five percent of the churches in various counties to assist foster families and increase the state’s number of licensed foster homes by 10 percent, according to TNFosters.gov. Currently, Tennessee has approximately 4,500 foster homes, DCS told Baptist Press (BP).
For TBCH, participating in TN Fosters extends a foster care partnership with the state established in 2014. Over nearly two and a half years, TBCH has placed approximately 100 children with evangelical foster parents, said Alisha Worthey, TBCH vice president for foster care.
Under an agreement with the state, TBCH recruits families to foster then supports them with oversight and case management. The families are paid for their service directly by DCS, leaving TBCH free of restrictions associated with accepting government funds, Worthey told BP.
TBCH’s goal for foster children, Worthey said, is multifaceted.
In addition to placing at-risk children in safe homes, foster care “is a way we can ... teach them about Christ and hopefully plant a seed of [knowing]: You are created and you are loved,” Worthey said.
Among TBCH’s greatest successes since TN Fosters launched is a foster family that mentored the birth mother of two preschool girls while it housed the girls. Eventually the girls returned to their mother when she overcame substance addiction, Worthey said.
“That’s one of the most wonderful stories we could share,” Worthey said, because the foster parents “did everything that we’re asking our foster parents to do – to love on the kids and also love on the birth parents to give them encouragement and direction.”
In another instance, TBCH was able to find homes for a group of six siblings and keep them all within “a few streets” of one another, Worthey said.
Sandra Wilson, executive director of DCS’s Office of Child Permanency, said foster families recruited through TBCH and other faith-based organizations are free to act “on their own unique” religious beliefs, taking children to church and teaching them about Christianity as long as the children or their birth families don’t express concern.
DCS “strongly feels that partnering with the faith community will only produce great results – prudent and supportive foster homes,” Wilson told BP, adding that members of faith communities who elect not to foster personally are positioned to act as a support system for foster parents.
The TN Fosters website encourages churches to support foster families through, among other actions, assisting with home repairs, sponsoring special events and supplying baby and toddler items.
Faith-based partnerships, Wilson said, likely were one of the factors that influenced an April 4 report by court-appointed monitors noting improvement in Tennessee’s foster care system. The report recommended DCS be permitted to exit 16 years of court monitoring stemming from settlement of a 2000 class action lawsuit, which charged the state’s child welfare system with violating children’s rights and subjecting them to physical and emotional harm, The Chattanoogan reported.
DCS deputy communications director Carrie Weir told BP TN Fosters is “an additional good way to reach out to the community” in an ongoing effort to improve foster care.
TBCH is among at least 23 Baptist children’s homes affiliated with some 20 Baptist state conventions
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/21/2017 9:20:49 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Supreme Court arguments buoy church’s supporters

April 20 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The constitutionality of a state’s refusal to include a daycare center in a playground resurfacing program was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court April 19.
Justices on both sides of the court’s ideological divide vigorously questioned the state of Missouri’s position in rejecting the Trinity Lutheran Church Learning Center in Columbia, Mo., from participation in the program. Much of the high court’s reaction to the state – which cited the Missouri constitution’s ban on government funding of religion in its decision – focused on health and safety concerns for children and left supporters of the center hopeful about the justices’ opinion.
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling before it adjourns in late June or early July.
“The entire legal team representing and supporting the church was encouraged by the questions that came from members of the court whom we expected to be hostile toward the case,“ said Travis Wussow, general counsel and vice president for public policy of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in written comments for Baptist Press. “Some [justices] seemed at times incredulous at the arguments advanced by the state of Missouri.
“We are praying for a positive outcome in this case and specifically that the court would articulate a clear precedent that allows churches and people of faith equal access to resources in the public square,“ Wussow said.
Michael Farris, president of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented Trinity Lutheran in the case, said, “Religious people should not be treated as second-class citizens, especially when it comes to health and safety issues.
“A lot of the justices today seemed particularly concerned about the fact that the discrimination context here was health and safety,“ Farris told reporters outside the court building. “I feel very encouraged by the hearing today. We’re very hopeful.”
The legal conflict involves the Missouri Scrap Tire Grant Program, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations – minus church-affiliated ones – for safer, rubberized surfaces for children’s playgrounds.
Though the facts of the case may not be striking, the decision could prove to be highly significant in the high court’s ongoing decision-making regarding the First Amendment’s clauses protecting the free exercise of religion and barring government establishment of religion.
ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman, arguing for Trinity Lutheran, told the justices the state’s exclusion of the center “violates this court’s free exercise principles.“ The free exercise clause prohibits the government from “forcing a choice between the exercise of religion and receiving either a government benefit, right or privilege,“ he said.
James Layton, former solicitor general of Missouri who argued on behalf of the state, told the court including Trinity Lutheran’s center in the program would not violate the establishment clause but the state does not want “to come to the edge“ of violating it.
Associate Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer – considered part of the court’s liberal wing – joined Chief Justice John Roberts and others in challenging Layton regarding the state’s position.
“[Y]ou’re depriving one set of actors from being able to compete in the same way everybody else can compete because of their religious identification,“ Kagan told Layton. “[I]t does seem as though this is a clear burden ... on a constitutional right.”
The ERLC filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the high court in support of Trinity Lutheran, contending the exclusion of churches from neutral government programs does “not fulfill the ‘benevolent neutrality’” long embraced by the justices. In its brief, the ERLC said it is not just concerned with “the unjustified treatment“ of Trinity Lutheran “but also with the overall trend of churches and religious actors being excluded from participating in government programs.”
Missouri’s new governor, Eric Greitens, threw a wrinkle into the case April 13 when he instructed the Department of Natural Resources, which manages the tire grant program, to make religious organizations eligible to receive grants.
“The fact is we have hundreds of outstanding religious organizations all over the state of Missouri who are doing great work on behalf of kids and families every single day,“ Greitens said. “We should be encouraging that work.”
John Yeats, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s executive director, said in a written release accompanying Greitens’ announcement, “Governor Greitens ‘gets’ what our Founding Fathers understood: that faith is an integral part of our national identity. There are common places where people of faith and state can work together to accomplish the common good such as safety, education, rehab, foster/orphan care and other contexts where qualified religious organizations meet and, in most cases, exceed the state requirements.”
Although at least one court member – Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor – raised the question of mootness, the majority of the justices did not demonstrate concern about whether they should rule on the merits of the case in the wake of Greitens’ action.
The case is Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/20/2017 11:49:38 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kentucky puts focus on Bible with new laws, executive action

April 20 2017 by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today

Having declared 2017 the Year of the Bible, Gov. Matt Bevin has now signed two bills into law to make clear to teachers and administrators that scripture is welcome in Kentucky public schools.

Matt Bevin

Bevin signed legislation into law on Tuesday to allow school kids to take Bible literacy classes as electives. The law directs the Kentucky Department of Education to develop policies that allow public schools to offer Bible courses.
That was one of dozens of bills signed by Bevin on Tuesday.
Last month, the governor signed a bill into law clarifying that students can express religious and political viewpoints in public schools and on college campuses without interference from administrators.
State Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, sponsored that legislation after a Johnson County elementary school removed biblical references from a presentation of “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Carol.”
The law affirms rights that were already in place, but that had been misunderstood by some teachers and administrators.
Robinson said he’s felt the legislation was necessary to make clear to educators that biblical references are in no way forbidden from campuses.
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention, said he is glad that Gov. Bevin and lawmakers have enacted these laws “to make clear that the Bible is perfectly acceptable on school campuses and in classrooms.”
“Having seen so many students and teachers needlessly hurt by administrators who misunderstood religious liberty protections already in place, I believe these new laws will go a long way to clear misconceptions,” he said.
Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said Bible classes are popular among Kentucky students in schools where they’re already offered. And, Carroll said, “the sky didn’t fall” because the Bible was being used as a school textbook.
Sen. C.B. Embry, R-Morgantown, said children need a basic understanding of the Bible.
“I don’t think there is another document in the history of our culture that has had more impact on our culture, our society or our values than the Bible,” Embry said.
The measure had backing from most of the Democrats in the Republican-led Senate, including Robin Webb of Grayson.
“This gives some level of protection to the districts that do this, because it will provide a framework to pass constitutional muster and scrutiny, and requires the Kentucky Department of Education to conform to federal law,” she said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Latek writes for Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

4/20/2017 11:49:13 AM by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Supreme Court again tackles religious employment issues

April 20 2017 by Mary Reichard, WORLD News Service

A Supreme Court case involving three hospital systems once again brought up the ongoing legal question about just what counts as a church. The court heard arguments in the case at the end of March. The decision could affect millions of workers at religiously affiliated hospitals, schools and other organizations.
Advocate Health Care, Dignity Health and St. Peter’s Healthcare System want to keep running their employee pension plans as they have for decades, with IRS approval. Federal law gives the religiously affiliated hospitals an exemption from a requirement that they fully fund and insure employee pension plans.
But employees say their retirements are at risk and the hospitals shouldn’t be exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
The employees’ lawyer, James Feldman, said while churches should have an ERISA exemption, church-affiliated agencies should not.
“This line between churches and church agencies is one that gets drawn throughout the law,” Feldman said.
But the hospitals’ attorney, Lisa Blatt, said the law clearly is meant to protect church agencies like the hospitals: “We know Congress had in mind a hospital plan. The word hospital appears on every page of the legislative history.”
A ruling against the hospitals in this case could affect many religiously affiliated organizations such as schools and charities. Most of those organizations don’t see church as the four walls of a sanctuary but as vocations where the work of Christ is put into action. Getting rid of the ERISA exemption could cost those church agencies billions of dollars.
“The respondents are seeking $11 billion” from the hospitals, Blatt said. “I am not kidding – $11 billion per year.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested such an enormous payout could be avoided by not making a ruling for the employees retroactive. The federal government sided with the hospital systems in this case, saying the law clearly intended to exempt them.
A ruling in the case is expected sometime before end of June.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mary Reichard writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

4/20/2017 11:48:37 AM by Mary Reichard, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

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