April 2017

Jon Nelson: from atheist to 1st black Missouri Baptist VP

January 3 2019 by Christopher Pearson, The Pathway

The Missouri Baptist Convention’s first African American officer, Jon Nelson, is not only a husband, father and church planter. He’s also a testimony to the grace of God that can take an adversary of faith, such as Nelson once was, and bring him into the service of the one he had hated.

Submitted Photo
Jon Nelson found himself alone as an atheist – with only the God he hated. Now, years later, he is a church planter and Missouri Baptist Convention first vice president.

 
Growing up in his parents’ inner-city church in Kansas City, Nelson admits he often intellectually wrestled with Christians there.
 
“When I attended my parents’ church, I would privately engage in debates to destroy others’ faith by asking venomous and loaded questions,” Nelson remembers of his effort to agitate doubt that anyone had about God, the Christian faith or the Bible. Having become a self-defined – but not publicly identified – atheist, he wanted others to taste and see the same freedom he felt by rejecting belief in any God.
 
For Nelson, this “freedom” began in high school and continued at Kansas State University. He used his God-given talents in analytical thinking and communication to break down not just Christians, but anyone of any faith around him, hoping to give them this so-called “freedom” as well.
 
But it came at a cost. Soon the friends he debated and judged for their belief in any God would leave him, and he found himself alone and at odds with only the God he hated.
 
Yet, even in his march toward freedom, which only left him in chains, God’s relentless grace refused to leave Nelson alone.
 
“There was this one young lady, a believer in Christ, that no matter what I did, she would not run away, but would keep coming back and forgiving me,” Nelson recounted. “I never understood it.” Through a series of sins and gracious forgiveness, he found his way into a church and heard the clear, drawing gospel of the Jesus Christ.
 
Shortly before being baptized, Nelson decided to use the gifts he once utilized to destroy the faith of others to now build their souls in Christ. He would later start down the road of earning a Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary undergraduate degree and becoming a pastor. However, becoming a church planter was not the end of how the Lord would use him.
 
Three years after planting Soma Community Church, a Missouri Baptist church in Jefferson City that serves the community of Lincoln University and the surrounding area, Nelson was elected as first vice president of the Missouri Baptist Convention in October – a far jump from the young atheist who sought to corrupt the hearts and faith of those around him. While many have filled this position, Nelson is believed to be the first African American to do so since the convention’s founding in the 1800s.
 
“It is incumbent upon our convention to be the first in issues of race in America,” Nelson told The Pathway, Missouri Baptists’ news journal, while also praising Southern Baptists for taking historic steps, such as the SBC’s 1995 resolution on racism.
 
“It is an honor to sit in the seat that so many good men have sat before me,” Nelson said of serving as a Missouri convention officer. “This is the organization my wife Heather and I have chosen to give a part of our lives and ministry to, now and in the future.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Christopher Pearson is a correspondent for The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

1/3/2019 12:03:19 PM by Christopher Pearson, The Pathway | with 0 comments



Rash begins 2019 as Alabama Baptist’s new editor

January 2 2019 by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist

When Jennifer Davis Rash was getting ready to graduate from the University of Alabama (UA) in 1993, Jim Oakley had a plan for her life.
 
“She was an ideal student for me to recommend because I knew she would do well and make me and our program both look good,” said Oakley, then a career counselor and internship placement director for the College of Communication and Information Sciences at UA.

Jennifer Davis Rash began her new role as The Alabama Baptist's editor-in-chief on Jan. 1.

 
He had several publications ready to offer her jobs, including one prominent paper who wanted to hire her “very badly,” Oakley said.
 
But Rash felt God had something different in mind – something totally off Oakley’s map. Rash said she felt like God was calling her to do media work through missions and ministry.
 
“The new direction surprised me as much as everyone else,” she said. “But I absolutely knew it was from God.
 
“I had never considered serving on the mission field prior to my senior year in college, but a few months before graduation I encountered a Southern Baptist missionary home from the field and my focus completely changed,” Rash said. “It was as if she had been appointed to recruit me.”
 
While the paperwork and process for applying to serve with the International Mission Board (IMB) was daunting – especially on top of a rigid class, work and extracurricular activity schedule – Rash said she felt drawn to the opportunity.
 
So after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, she packed up her car and headed to join the IMB’s partner ministry Caribbean Christian Publications based in Hollywood, Fla.
 
During that two years God solidified in her heart the call to leverage her career for the cause of Christ.
 
She also experienced a rich growth in her relationship with the Lord, made lifelong friends – one of whom would later become her husband, Jason – and discovered she had so much more to learn.
 
Oakley said he really couldn’t understand her decision at first, but came to grasp it during her time on the mission field.
 
They stayed in touch during those two years, and by the time her term of service was up, he understood. Oakley also knew exactly where she should land next.
 
It was late 1995 and Bob Terry, the new editor of The Alabama Baptist (TAB), was looking for strong new hires, Oakley said.
 

‘Sense of peace’

 
Rash trusted Oakley’s guidance, interviewed with Terry within a few days of returning from the mission field in December of that year and was shocked to discover how the Baptist state newspaper immediately felt like home.
 
“I went into the interview thinking the position would be sort of a layover opportunity until I finished seminary,” Rash said. “But that same sense of belonging and peace surfaced again, one similar to what I experienced with the missions call.”
 

Immediate connection

 
Terry agreed. “The unusual part of the interview process was how Jennifer and I seemed to click as we talked about the role of Christian communications and the role of media in the church.
 
“Her talent was attested to by the awards listed on her biographical sketch,” he said. “Her work with Caribbean Baptists demonstrated her willingness to work on a variety of different projects at the same time.”
 
The two negotiated and Terry offered her the job. Her start date was Jan. 1, 1996.
 
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made because Jennifer has been a wonderful colleague and friend all of our time together,” Terry said.
 
Now more than 23 years from that interview Rash has stepped into the role of TAB’s president and editor-in-chief on the heels of Terry’s retirement Dec. 31, 2018. Rash began her new role Jan. 1.
 
In those years in between she’s served in roles from an entry-level news writer to the paper’s executive editor, earned a master of theological studies from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham and served her church and community in a variety of ways.
 
“I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Terry for taking a chance on an eager, young journalist with so much to learn and investing in my growth and development,” Rash said.
 

‘High energy’

 
Arthur Williams, chairman of TAB’s board of directors, said he’s excited about TAB’s future.
 
“She is very talented, hardworking, high energy, experienced and brings a wealth of knowledge to the paper,” he said. “I believe the future is bright for The Alabama Baptist under her direction and leadership.”
 
Amelia Pearson, board chairman at the time Rash was tapped as editor-elect, said she believes “Jennifer’s appointment is a good example of preparation intersecting with opportunity.”
 
“We are blessed that she has the experience in the business and that that experience has been with TAB,” Pearson noted. “I know she has the support of Dr. Terry and the staff, which made her a very logical choice for the board of directors. Her dedication and vision should take the newspaper far.”
 

‘Well prepared’

 
Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said he’s known Rash for more than 20 years and long felt she would be used by the Lord in a significant way.
 
“Approximately a decade ago I became convinced that Jennifer would serve well as an editor of a state paper. I was hopeful that her place of service would be The Alabama Baptist,” he said.
 
“That time has come and Jennifer is well prepared to assume the role of leadership at The Alabama Baptist. She epitomizes Christian professionalism in her attitude and in her work. I am proud to have Jennifer in this most important role in Alabama Baptist life. She will represent us very well.”
 
Rash brings “a unique combination of gifts” to the role, Terry said.
 
“She is winsome and outgoing, an inspiring leader and an award-winning journalist,” he noted. “Her years of service at TAB demonstrate her tireless energy and give her thorough grounding in the workings of this ministry, of Alabama Baptists and Southern Baptists.
 
“In addition to all of that she is creative and will lead the way to continue the heritage of leadership and service The Alabama Baptist has provided for the past 175 years. I wish her nothing but the best in the days ahead.”

1/2/2019 2:05:05 PM by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments



Retired SWBTS professor William Tolar dies

December 31 2018 by Baptist Standard Staff

William B. Tolar of Fort Worth, Texas, a longtime professor of biblical backgrounds and archaeology, died Dec. 29. He was 90 years old.
 
Tolar was born July 5, 1928, in Jonesboro, La., to Peter Dane and Lora Stewart Tolar. At age 13, he began reading the Bible after a teacher told him it was the best-selling book in history, but 99 percent of the people in the world never had read it in its entirety. The experience changed his life.

 
He made a profession of faith in Christ on Easter Sunday in 1942, and one year later, he accepted God’s calling to vocational Christian ministry.
 
After ranking highly in an academic competition and being named Louisiana’s top high school running back, Louisiana State University offered Tolar a full scholarship, but he wanted to prepare for the ministry at a Baptist school. He earned undergraduate and master’s degrees at Baylor University. He continued his education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), where he earned masters and doctoral degrees.
 
Tolar taught 10 years in the religion department at Baylor University and 38 years at SWBTS, where he also served as dean of the School of Theology, vice president for academic affairs, provost and acting president. He also taught as an adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist University and as a distinguished fellow at the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute. He lectured in 53 countries on five continents, led more than 80 trips to the Holy Land, and was interim pastor of more than 50 churches.
 
Tolar was a member of Agape Baptist Church in Fort Worth. He is survived by his wife Floye Kimball Tolar of Fort Worth; son William and daughter-in-law Laura Tolar of Hurst; daughter Lora Mae and son-in-law Brian O’Riordan of Chicago; and two grandchildren.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article first appeared at BaptistStandard.com. Used by permission.)

12/31/2018 4:12:05 PM by Baptist Standard Staff | with 0 comments



Year-in-Review: Top social media posts from 2018

December 31 2018 by Biblical Recorder Staff

12/31/2018 1:25:24 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments



Indonesia tsunami draws BGR ‘outpouring’

December 28 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A tsunami that killed at least 430 people in Indonesia the weekend before Christmas is being met with an “outpouring” of God’s love, Baptist Global Response (BGR) executive director Jeff Palmer says.

Screen capture from The Guardian
A Dec. 22 tsunami in Indonesia's Sunda Strait left at least 430 people dead and tens of thousands displaced.  

 
The 10-foot tsunami in Indonesia’s Sunda Strait – between the islands of Java and Sumatra – was triggered Dec. 22 by an eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano and an ensuing landslide. In addition to the deaths, nearly 150 people remain missing and more than 1,400 were injured, according to media reports. Tens of thousands have been displaced.
 
The tsunami took many Indonesians by surprise – including attendees of a beachfront concert in Tanjung Lesung – because the nation’s tsunami-detection system allegedly has been out of order since 2012, according to media reports.
 
BGR, a Baptist relief and development organization, has made an initial allocation of $5,000 for relief efforts in Indonesia. The funds will be administered by local churches and believers trained in disaster relief, Palmer told Baptist Press. At least some of those funds are being used on food and water for survivors.
 
“Because we’re able to respond with local church partners, there is an outpouring, an out-showing of the love of God for those in need,” Palmer said. “Anybody that knows the Indonesian believers knows they have a heart to reach their own people. They will help them in need, but they will also do everything that they can to make Christ known.”
 
The need for additional BGR response to the tsunami is being assessed, Palmer said, noting “the Indonesian government has a great emergency response unit.”
 
Regardless of whether BGR responds additionally to this disaster, Palmer said, future response in Indonesia is likely because Anak Krakatau is “active” and “spewing.”
 
“My suspicion is that it’s going to be a lot worse,” Palmer said. “Eventually, we’re going to have a (major) eruption.”
 
The Indonesian government raised the volcano’s alert level today (Dec. 27) to its second highest rank. Thousands are being evacuated from the area and flights rerouted, according to media reports.
 
The Krakatoa volcanic formation, comprising multiple islands including Anak Krakatau, is among the world’s most active and dangerous volcanoes.
 
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation. Its 260 million people are 87 percent Muslim, 7 percent Protestant and 3 percent Roman Catholic, according to data from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
 
Earlier this year, an earthquake and tsunami killed at least 2,000 people on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, a disaster that also drew BGR response.
 
BGR is not an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, but it does promote and endorse the SBC’s Cooperative Program. BGR’s partnership with Southern Baptists in meeting global human needs is fundamentally undergirded by those who give through their local churches to the Cooperative Program and to the Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief fund.

12/28/2018 12:58:18 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SBC missions, ministries projected to see CP boost

December 27 2018 by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, TEXAN

For the second year in a row, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists approved the largest increase among all state Baptist conventions in the portion of Cooperative Program (CP) receipts sent beyond the state next year. The new split of 65 percent for in-state missions and ministry and 35 percent for the work of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities will deliver an anticipated $192,500 beyond the two states for international and domestic missions, six Southern Baptist seminaries, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and the Executive Committee of the SBC.
 

CIBSPR photo
Messengers vote at the 2018 annual meeting of the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico.

Joining Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists with increases in the percentage given to SBC causes are the state Baptist conventions in Arizona and Dakotas (both up 2 percent) and Pennsylvania-South Jersey (up 1.5 percent). Another 14 states raised the SBC portion 1 percent or less.
 
As one of the states boosting the portion sent to the SBC, Barry Whitworth, executive director of the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania-South Jersey, said, “This marks the largest CP giving year in the 48 years of our convention.” With approval of a move from a 27.5/72.5 to 29/71 percent split, Whitworth encouraged churches to do more, adding, “... God-willing, I’d love for us to hit the 30 percent mark before our 50th year celebration” in 2019.
 
Five state Baptist conventions reduced the percentage given to SBC missions and ministry, including Alaska (-13.54 percent), Northwest (-7.2 percent), Indiana (-5.11 percent), Wyoming (-0.46 percent) and Illinois (-0.07 percent). Nine of the 41 state conventions (and fellowships) continue the practice of prioritizing “shared ministries” said to benefit both the state convention and SBC entities. Those budgeted items are taken off the top before computing the percentage of remaining receipts divvied up between the state and SBC causes, and vary from 0.94 percent in Maryland/Delaware to 20.28 percent in Wyoming.
 
Six state conventions continue to lead the pack, forwarding to the SBC half or more of the undesignated Cooperative Program receipts received from churches without a “shared ministry” calculation. Those are the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (55/45), Florida (51/49), and Alabama, Iowa, Nevada and Ohio all at a 50/50 split.
 
With 18 states increasing their CP percentage to the SBC, 17 making no change and only five decreasing that portion, the amount projected to be sent to the SBC is $193,500,000 according to William Townes, vice president for convention finance at the SBC Executive Committee.
 
Southern Baptists in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands also forward a percentage of their Cooperative Program receipts to the SBC for the SBC allocation budget.
 
The actual dollar amount of a state convention’s allocation fluctuates annually depending on how well cooperating churches in the state are able to fund their respective budgets.
 
Each state convention elected officers to leadership for 2019. Those serving as president are:
 
ALABAMA – Tim Cox, who has served as pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Chelsea;
 
ALASKA – Tracy Simmons, pastor of Christ Community Church in Anchorage;
 
ARIZONA – Ashley Evans, pastor of Twenty-Second Street Baptist Church in Tucson;
 
ARKANSAS – Jeff Paxton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dover;
 
CALIFORNIA – Shawn Beaty, pastor of Clovis Hills Community Church in Clovis;
 
COLORADO – Calvin Wittman, pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge;
 
DAKOTAS – Sean Donnelly of Black Hills Baptist Church in Whitewood, S.D.;
 
FLORIDA – Erik Cummings, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Carol City;
 
GEORGIA – Robby Foster, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta;
 
HAWAII/PACIFIC – Steve Irvin, pastor of Pali View Baptist Church in Keneohe;
 
ILLINOIS – Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills;
 
INDIANA – Bobby Pell, pastor of NorthWoods Church in Evansville;
 
IOWA – Jim Parker, pastor of Sojourn Church in Council Bluffs;
 
KANSAS/NEBRASKA – Derrick Lynch, pastor of Blue Valley Baptist Church in Overland Park, Kan.;
 
KENTUCKY – Tim Searcy, pastor of Allen Baptist Church near Prestonsburg;
 
LOUISIANA – Eddie Wren, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rayville;
 
MARYLAND/DELAWARE – Harold Phillips, senior pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Md.;
 
MICHIGAN – Scott Blanchard, pastor of Lakepointe Church in Macomb, Mich.;
 
MINNESOTA/WISCONSIN – Chris Heng, pastor of Twin Cities Hmong Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minn.;
 
MISSISSIPPI – Mark Vincent, senior pastor of Clarke-Venable Baptist Church in Decatur;
 
MISSOURI – Jeremy Muniz, pastor of First Baptist in De Soto;
 
MONTANA – Chad Scarborough, pastor of First Baptist Church in Shelby;
 
NEVADA – Damian Cirincione, executive pastor of Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas;
 
NEW ENGLAND – Tim Owen, lead pastor of Mission City Church in Rutland and Castleton, Vt.;
 
NEW MEXICO – Jared Bridge, pastor of Anchor Church in Albuquerque;
 
NEW YORK – Bruce Aubrey, pastor of Northside Church in Liverpool, N.Y.;
 
NORTH CAROLINA – Steve Scoggins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville;
 
NORTHWEST – Dustin Hall, pastor of Kennewick Baptist Church in Kennewick, Wash.;
 
OHIO – Ryan Strother, lead pastor of Central Baptist Church in Marion;
 
OKLAHOMA – Blake Gideon, pastor of First Baptist Church, Edmond;
 
PENNSYLVANIA/SOUTH JERSEY – George Tynes, pastor of Truth Baptist Church in Philadelphia;
 
PUERTO RICO – David Colón, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Logos in Santa Isabel;
 
SOUTH CAROLINA – Bryant Sims, pastor of First Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Greenwood;
 
TENNESSEE – David Green of First Baptist Church in Greeneville;
 
TEXAS (BGCT) – Michael Evans, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield;
 
TEXAS (SBTC) – Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin;
 
UTAH-IDAHO – Mike McGukin, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Idaho Falls;
 
VIRGINIA (BGAV) – Richard Martin, a deacon at Huguenot Road Baptist Church in Richmond;
 
VIRGINIA (SBCV) – Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk;
 
WEST VIRGINIA – Paul Harris, pastor of Abundant Hope Baptist Church in Barboursville, W.Va.; and
 
WYOMING – John Constantine, pastor of Story Community Church in Story.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tammi Reed Ledbetter is associate editor for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

12/27/2018 11:24:10 AM by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, TEXAN | with 0 comments



Repeal of tax on churches appears to fail in Congress

December 27 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Dec. 20 to reverse a year-old law that calls for churches to file tax returns for the first time in American history, but it appears unlikely the effort will go any further in this Congress.
 

BP file photo by Art Toalston
An unprecedented tax faces churches and religious organizations beginning Jan. 1 for such matters as parking by staff members.

The House voted 220-183 in a nearly party-line vote for a bill that included repeal of a 2017 tax cut’s provision – Section 512(a)(7) – that required houses of worship and nonprofit organizations to pay a 21 percent tax on such employee benefits as parking and transportation. Only Republicans voted in favor of the proposal, and all but three of those opposing the legislation were Democrats.
 
The House’s action, however, apparently will fall short of ultimate nullification of the controversial provision. The Senate does not appear to have the votes to approve the House-passed measure, Southern Baptist policy specialists said.
 
“We are disappointed that despite strong leadership from Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Congressman Mark Walker (R-N.C.), and strong bipartisan support for fully repealing the nonprofit parking tax, Congress was unable to do so this year,” Travis Wussow told Baptist Press. “We will continue to work on this issue in the 116th Congress and continue to call on members of both parties to set politics aside and get this done.”
 
Wussow is general counsel and vice president for public policy of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
 
The provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that became law last December not only leveled a tax on churches and nonprofits but burdened them with accounting and compliance costs not previously required, its foes said. If the section is not repealed, the cost to the charitable sector would be a congressionally estimated $1.7 billion over 10 years, according to a November letter from a diverse coalition of opponents led by the ERLC.
 
The ERLC – joined by 32 other organizations – sent a letter Nov. 13 to leaders of two congressional committees and some other members asking them to repeal the church tax provision before the end of the year. The measure “will hopelessly entangle the (Internal Revenue Service) with houses of worship, simply because these houses of worship allow their clergy to park in their parking lots,” the ERLC and its allies said in the letter.
 
In the letter, the coalition said the First Amendment is the basis for not requiring houses of worship to file tax returns. It “allows houses of worship to operate independently from the government and shields houses of worship from government interference and intrusive public inspection into their internal, constitutionally protected” activities, according to the letter.
 
Walker, a Southern Baptist, applauded the House’s approval in the new Retirement, Savings, and Other Tax Relief Act of language from a bill he introduced.
 
“Never in our nation’s history have we placed a tax on places of worship, always respecting the sanctity of our religious liberty,” Walker said in written comments. “In this season of giving, our charities and churches should be encouraged to know that the House is dedicated to stopping new taxes and compliance fees that threaten to impede the life-altering work they perform in each of our communities.”
 
In addition to ERLC President Russell Moore, the coalition letter’s signers included: Leith Anderson, president, National Association of Evangelicals; Daniel DiNardo, archbishop, Galveston-Houston, and president, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Erik Stanley, senior counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom; David Nammo, chief executive officer (CEO), Christian Legal Society; Jerry Johnson, president, National Religious Broadcasters; Dan Busby, president, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability; Shirley Hoogstra, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Donna Markham, president, Catholic Charities USA; Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; Anwar Khan, president, Islamic Relief USA; Gerald Causse, presiding bishop, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Jerry Silverman, CEO, The Jewish Federations of North America; and Michael Smith, president, Home School Legal Defense Association.
 
See Biblical Recorder’s related stories here and here.

12/27/2018 11:23:58 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Year-in-Review: Top 5 stories from 2018

December 26 2018 by Biblical Recorder Staff

Below are the top five stories from 2018 that were covered by the Biblical Recorder. Find more about these topics at BRnow.org.
 

Renowned evangelist, Billy Graham, dies


World renowned evangelist Billy Graham died Feb. 21 while sleeping peacefully at his home in Montreat, N.C. He was 99 years old. The revered Southern Baptist and North Carolinian preacher, who earned the nickname “America’s Pastor,” was buried beside his wife, Ruth, at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. Graham was best known for his decades-long ministry of spreading the word of Jesus Christ to untold crowds around the world through itinerant preaching and evangelistic crusades.
 

J.D. Greear elected SBC president

 
North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in 2018. The months leading up to the annual meeting in June were marked by contention and debate. The election was portrayed by many as a pivotal moment in Southern Baptist life, described by some as a generational, theological or cultural referendum. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, received more than two-thirds of the ballots. Ken Hemphill, member of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville and former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was the only other candidate for SBC president.
 

Disaster relief teams play crucial role after major hurricanes

 
North Carolina’s Baptists on Mission, also known as N.C. Baptist Men, remained busy in 2018 with ongoing disaster relief and recovery efforts following major hurricanes that struck the region. President Donald Trump visited a disaster relief site at Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, N.C., on Sept. 19 in the wake of Hurricane Florence, which brought catastrophic wind damage to the coastal region and widespread flooding farther inland. Many congregations made efforts to repair damages to their church facilities while also organizing local relief efforts for surrounding communities.
 

#MeToo movement prompts reflection across SBC

 
A grassroots movement spread across the nation in 2018, united under the social media hashtag #MeToo, that drew attention to the problems of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The widespread exposure of sexual misconduct led to the resignations of some Southern Baptist leaders, in addition to criminal charges against a former missionary and South Carolina state convention employee. As a result, the International Mission Board launched investigations into its handling of past allegations of sexual assault and current policies for dealing with related matters. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) partnered with LifeWay Christian Resources to commission a full-scale study on the extent of sexual misconduct in churches. SBC President J.D. Greear created an advisory group in conjunction with the ERLC to study how Southern Baptists are currently handling sexual abuse issues, develop recommendations for best practices and offer potential resources for SBC churches and entities. The #MeToo movement also prompted debate about the development of a database or other tools to help churches and ministries protect their flocks from sexual predators.
 

Andrew Brunson freed from Turkish prison

 
Andrew Brunson, a North Carolina native and international church planter in Turkey, was released in October after two years in prison. He had been jailed by Turkish authorities on disputed charges of espionage and terrorism. Christian religious freedom advocates widely agreed that Brunson was wrongly imprisoned and persecuted for his faith. Brunson was the pastor of a Presbyterian church in Izmir, Turkey, for six years prior to his arrest.

12/26/2018 12:13:14 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments



SBTS slavery & racism report stirs media flurry

December 26 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SBTS) 71-page report on the institution’s history of slavery and racism garnered coverage in hundreds of media outlets during the week following its release. Reaction to the report ranged from affirmation by many evangelicals to criticism from both the left and right.
 

SBTS photo

“Insofar as there is any legitimacy to any criticism, we need to hear it,” SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Dec. 17 on NPR’s On Point radio broadcast. “... I intend to deal with honest partners in this, with people who want to engage in a conversation about the Christian responsibility that we face as Southern Seminary. And I think Southern Baptists would be willing to enter into that conversation.”
 
The report was researched and drafted by a six-member committee of current and former faculty appointed by Mohler in late 2017. Their work, released Dec. 12, documents the racist history of the Southern Baptist Convention’s flagship seminary – from its slaveholding founders in the antebellum South to its segregation-defending faculty in the early 20th century.
 
Overall, reaction has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Southern told Baptist Press. Among those to praise the report are African American pastors on social media.
 
Dwight McKissic, a Texas pastor long known for speaking to racial justice issues in the SBC, tweeted Dec. 12, “I’m unaccustomed to reading racial truth & transparency at this level from author(s) who were not liberal or African American. Refreshing to get an honest, insightful, and helpful historical overview of race/slavery. Truth that you acknowledge & act upon will set [you] free.”
 
Thabiti Anyabwile, a well-known speaker and pastor in Washington, D.C., tweeted Dec. 12, “One of the things to point out about this report is that there’s a faculty at the institution that was being prepared over many years, not just when someone decided to write a report. The report is only possible because the Spirit has been at work in private for a long time.”
 
Among conservative evangelical critics of the report was Douglas Wilson, a Reformed author and pastor known for defending some aspects of the Confederacy. The report, Wilson wrote in a Dec. 17 blog post, seems to succumb to “a bizarre form of works righteousness” that repeatedly rehashes past racial sins without offering full forgiveness and pardon to members of the offending group.
 
“With regard to this original sin of American slavery, under no conceivable scenario will Al Mohler ever be allowed to stand before the students of Southern Seminary and declare to them that their sins are entirely and completely forgiven,” Wilson wrote.
 
Other critics claimed the report should not have ended its historical survey with the mid-1960s. Emory University historian Alison Greene told the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal the report failed to address more recent alleged instances of white supremacy among Southern Baptists. “You don’t get the whole story of the seminary’s history of white supremacy,” Greene said. “They are almost claiming it is not relevant.”
 
Lawrence Ware, an Oklahoma State University philosophy professor, said “the vast majority” of Southern Baptist churches still “are going to be white supremacist churches, and we have to kind of deal with that and be honest about that.” Ware made his comments during an On Point appearance with Mohler and Curtis Woods, a member of the report’s drafting committee.
 
Woods, co-interim executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, challenged Ware. “We have to have research in order to back a statement like that up,” he said. Woods also recounted steps toward racial inclusion taken by the SBC and its entities.
 
Still other critics claimed Southern Seminary must revise its theology entirely to address adequately its racist history.
 
North Carolina Baptist minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove wrote in a Dec. 13 Washington Post op-ed that Southern Baptists stand in the tradition of “slaveholder religion” and need “a theological reckoning that gets to the heart of what it means to read the Bible, to share its Good News and to be saved.”
 
“Slaveholder religion makes a relationship with God separate from one’s obligation to work for God’s justice,” Wilson-Hartgrove wrote. “It made it possible for Southern Baptists in the early 20th century” to “feel righteous in their defense of white supremacy” and for today’s Southern Baptists “to say they’re concerned about the evangelization of migrants” while also claiming “they are in no way obligated to work for polices that would help those people find homes in the United States or anywhere else.”
 
When asked on NPR about such criticism, Mohler said he thinks “there will be very little interest on the part of Southern Baptists – or for that matter, evangelical Christians – in discussing the dismantling of Christianity in order to meet a political objective.”
 
SBC President J.D. Greear was among positive reactors to the report. He tweeted Dec. 13, “I am grateful for this historic step of gospel healing @albertmohler & @sbts have taken. No matter how painful it can be to learn, we cannot heal what we do not know.”

12/26/2018 12:12:46 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Christmas with the Gettys

December 21 2018 by Shawn Hendricks and Maina Mwaura, Baptist Press

December is an especially busy time for Christian music artists Keith and Kristyn Getty. The couple, known for the modern hymn “In Christ Alone,” have been in the midst of their eighth annual Christmas tour. But Keith was quick to downplay the couple’s hectic schedule just a few hours before the tour’s opening concert.

Screen capture from BP video
Keith Getty discussed a range of topics in an interview with Baptist Press that included the Getty’s Christmas tour, Billy Graham, his favorite hymn writer, writing a song for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, next month's Evangelicals For Life event, and where churches are going wrong with music.

 
“Are you kidding, my kids are at the aquarium. This is an off day,” Keith said with a hearty laugh and a slap of the knees as he fielded a few questions from Baptist Press (BP) in Atlanta.
 
Getty discussed a range of topics that included their tour, Billy Graham, his favorite hymn writer, writing a song for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, next month’s Evangelicals For Life event, and where churches are going wrong with music.
 

‘Tis the season

 
Getty noted their annual Christmas tour – Sing! An Irish Christmas – wasn’t originally “part of the plan.” The couple’s 17-city tour wraps up this week in Nashville. Getty said the concept for the tour began years ago when Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea invited the couple to do an event featuring evangelist Billy Graham.
 
“Which was really 40 minutes of music and it was the great hymns of Christmas with some of our modern hymns,” Getty said. “And they said, ‘Tie it all in an Irish bow....’ It was a wonderful night and that sort of became a main tour.”
 
Since then, the couple has performed the concert across the country with what Getty describes as a “fantastic reach.”
 
“We were able to take the deep hymns of Christmas, which I believe are the classics, and have this massive audience ... to encourage Christians today to sing the hymns of the faith,” he noted. But Getty also sees it as “a window to ... tens of thousands of non-believers by media to millions who are yet to believe. So it’s been an interesting thing.”
 

Singing and the church

 
Getty shared how he grew up in Northern Ireland in a Christian home listening to classical music. Three things were a constant in his life, he recalled: conservative Christianity, classical music and Ireland.
 
As the gospel spreads around the globe, Getty believes many churches are missing a tremendous opportunity with music.
 
“We have a very clear sense,” he noted, “that the 21st century desperately, desperately needs deep, rich hymns to help build deep, rich believers.” 
 
Singing is not as respected as it should be in worship, he said. A lot of Getty’s friends in the ministry, he noted, “have underestimated the power of music, to their detriment.”
 
Many church leaders, he said, focus on “preaching, on doctrine, on governance.” But they show “carelessness” and “lack of care and wisdom, and actually, love” for their congregation through their “apathy” toward singing.
 
Getty discussed how singing in churches has changed through the years. Part of it is culture, he said.
 
“Singing as a group is less cultural than it was 50 years ago,” he said. “In the 1950s, western education believed the making of the gentleman was in part learning to sing.
 
“You sang in choirs, in assemblies,” he said. “And so it’s no longer part of culture..., but I think also it is bad teaching and bad leadership of pastors. I think that is a number one issue.”
 
He said congregations need to teach that it is obedience to sing.
 
“We also need to understand that we are created to sing,” he said. “God has created us to sing, created us to praise.”
 
Getty later added, “my hope would be that the late-night TV shows mock Christians for their passion of singing. Right now they sure don’t.”
 

‘Trying to grow’

 
Getty said he spends at least 100 days a year writing songs. And at the end of that year, three to six of those get used. Among the songs that have made it through the writing process is “For the Cause,” which Getty dedicated to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and its president Danny Akin in 2016.
 
Writing music is about continually “trying to grow,” Getty noted.
 
“You’re constantly listening to new music, trying to play fresh sounds, bring in new collaborations to try to energize what you’re doing,” he said. “So I write hundreds of melodies every year. I would doubt we use one percent of my melodies of the things I record or write down. They’re not very good. Trust me.”
 
And many of today’s worship songs, Getty said, have “enhanced the narcissism of younger generations.” This is because worship songs “are largely about what affects me as opposed to how God is God.”
 
The key, he said, to being the best Christian hymn writer – or Christian anything – is to “make sure your faith is always growing faster” than your craft.
 
He noted during the interview, “Always be asking yourself, is the energy I’m putting into my music, into my journalism, my being a mother, being a business person, into being a pastor, is that energy being acceded by my desire to be more holy?”
 
He acknowledged, “And of course the answer for me is no, it’s not. But the question is always there.”
 

Evangelicals For Life

 
In January, the Gettys will perform at the pro-life event Evangelicals For Life in Washington, D.C.
 
“Kristyn and I are parents to four daughters,” he said, noting they “aren’t particularly political.”
 
“But ... it was the importance of sanctity of life that is so important,” he added. “That is the core of it ... the protection of that is a huge conviction for us.”
 

‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’

 
And who is Getty’s favorite hymn writer?
 
“I’m always going to come back to Martin Luther,” he said, noting the impact of Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” a paraphrase of Psalm 46. “... Ultimately because I think that the sheer grit that he had is just remarkable to have written and to write. ... Just that passion which he would have stood and sung, that knowing that the bounty was on his life because he did it.”
 
Watch the full interview below.
 

 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is editor of Baptist Press. Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.)
12/21/2018 11:08:38 AM by Shawn Hendricks and Maina Mwaura, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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