April 2018

New discovery sheds light on dark matter

April 9 2018 by Julie Borg, WORLD Digital

The recent discovery of a galaxy about 65 million light years away that appears to harbor no dark matter has flabbergasted astronomers who believe galaxies need dark matter to hold them together.

Photo from NASA. gov/ESA, and P. van Dokkum (Yale University)
The recent discovery of a galaxy about 65 million light years away that appears to harbor no dark matter has flabbergasted astronomers who believe galaxies need dark matter to hold them together.

“Finding a galaxy without any [dark matter] is completely unexpected; it challenges standard ideas of how galaxies work,” Allison Merritt, one of the researchers, said in a statement. A paper describing the discovery appears in the journal Nature.
Controversy surrounds the theory of dark matter in both the field of science and the Christian community. Astronomers developed the concept more than 30 years ago to explain why galaxies move and behave as though influenced by far more gravitational pull than their visible mass would exert. Cosmologists hypothesized that galaxies must contain a huge amount of unobservable mass that doesn’t emit or reflect light. In fact, they estimated dark matter accounts for 90 percent of the total matter in the universe.
But some physicists didn’t agree and developed their own theory, modified Newtonian dynamics. These physicists suggested that by tweaking Newton’s law of gravity just a bit they can account for the strange behavior of galaxies – no dark matter required.
Christians who believe in an old universe accept the theory of dark matter more readily than those who believe in a more recent creation. Many young earth creationists reject the idea of dark matter that scientists can neither observe nor prove but assign it an integral role in the Big Bang theory, which requires an old universe. But Danny Faulkner, an astronomer and editor with Answers in Genesis who believes in a recent creation, said dark matter can exist despite the inaccuracy of the Big Bang theory.
One would expect that the discovery of a galaxy without dark matter would sound a death knell for the theory of dark matter and score a win for modified Newtonian dynamics, but Faulkner insists quite the opposite is true. The fact that this galaxy’s movement conforms to what one would expect based solely on its visible mass, with no tweaking of the theory of gravity required, disproves modified Newtonian dynamics because it must hold true in every case or it isn’t true at all. And that leaves only the theory of dark matter to explain the peculiar movement of most galaxies.
If dark matter exists, Faulkner said, it tells us that a whole form of matter that we know nothing about not only exists but accounts for most of the mass of the universe: “As a creationist I find that fascinating and exciting and humbling all at the same time because God apparently has made the universe out of about 90 percent of something we haven’t even contemplated yet.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Borg writes for WORLD Digital, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

4/9/2018 9:22:44 AM by Julie Borg, WORLD Digital | with 0 comments

Posthumous conception raises ‘host of ethical issues’

April 9 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The legal and moral propriety of conceiving a child with a dead person’s egg or sperm is among the latest fronts being discussed in bioethics.
In Ireland, legislation is under consideration that would permit reproductive cells from deceased individuals to be used by their spouses or partners to conceive children posthumously, according to media reports. The Irish legislature’s Joint Committee on Health discussed the bill once in January and again in February, a spokesperson for the legislature told Baptist Press (BP). A final bill could be drafted in the coming months and put before parliament for debate.
Health Committee chairman Michael Harty said in a news release, “Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) is becoming increasingly important in Ireland and measures must be put in place to protect parents, donors, surrogates and crucially, the children born through AHR.”
The posthumous conception legislation, which is part of a broader bill, would require children of the procedure to be carried in the womb of a surviving female partner in the relationship, according to an online commentary by Denver attorney Ellen Trachman, who specializes in reproductive technology law.
Posthumous conception has also been considered by lawmakers and courts in the United States, Canada and Israel.
Southern Baptist bioethicist C. Ben Mitchell said posthumous conception “raises a host of ethical issues.”
“There is no moral duty to use the sperm of a deceased husband or the eggs of a deceased wife,” Mitchell, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University, told BP via email. “And intentionally bringing a child into the world with only a single parent raises a host of ethical issues, not to mention a host of psychological, emotional and relational issues for that child.”
Frozen sperm can be used later via artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Frozen eggs can be used to conceive a child through IVF. Following IVF, the resultant embryo must implant in a woman’s womb – either the biological mother or a surrogate.
Sperm and eggs can be either donated prior to death or extracted from a corpse shortly following death, according to the German newspaper Der Spiegel.
In Israel, approximately 5,000 young adults have established “biological wills” stating they want their eggs or sperm frozen and used to conceive offspring if they die before having children, Der Spiegel reported March 28. Some posthumously conceived children have been born in Israel and elsewhere, according to media reports.
Posthumous conception also has emerged in the U.S. and Canada, including the 2016 birth of a New York police detective’s daughter two and a half years following her father’s murder, the Irish Examiner reported. The night the detective was murdered, his wife of three months requested that sperm be extracted from his body and preserved.
U.S. law, Trachman wrote, “lacks any clear uniform rules” regarding posthumous conception “but generally permits post-death reproduction with specific consent in place.”
An additional issue related to posthumous reproduction is what to do with frozen embryos when one or both parents die.
Der Spiegel reported a case in Israel, in which a widower sought, via a surrogate mother, to bring to term embryos he and his wife had frozen. A Harvard Law School blog noted a 2014 Texas case in which a 2-year-old stood to inherit 11 frozen embryos after both of his parents were murdered.
Frozen embryos, Mitchell said, are a separate ethical consideration from posthumous conception.
“If the eggs have already been fertilized, there is a moral duty to bring the embryos to term,” Mitchell said. “We should not generate a new human being only to abandon him or her in a petri dish or nitrogen tank. Embryos belong in uteruses.”
Southern Baptist Convention resolutions repeatedly have affirmed that life begins at conception and that all unborn life must be protected. A 2015 resolution, for example, affirmed “the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/9/2018 9:20:08 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Rwanda closes thousands of churches, arrests 6 pastors

April 9 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

An estimated 6,000 churches have been closed across Rwanda and six pastors arrested in a government crackdown that began March 1 with 700 closures in the nation’s capital of Kigali, according to news reports.
The six pastors, who reportedly tried to rally public support for the churches in Kigali, were accused of “masterminding” a plot to disobey the government, the BBC reported March 6.

Screen capture from Foursquare Gospel Church YouTube video
A March 21 worship service at the Foursquare Gospel Church, a Pentecostal congregation in Agatatu, Rwanda. The government has closed 6,000 churches in the nation of 12 million since March.

The closures come as the Rwanda Governance Board (RGO) is conducting a national review of proposed new regulations controlling faith-based institutions, including requirements that pastors have theological education and that buildings have two bathrooms each for men and women, according to World Watch Monitor.
Since March, the government closures have expanded across the nation to include 6,000 churches accused of not meeting certain structural and pollution regulations, the Associated Press (AP) said April 4, based on reports from Kigali. Most closures involve Pentecostal churches, but include dozens of mosques in the nation of 12 million people, the vast majority of them Christian.
The nation has too many churches, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said after the initial closings.
“Are these boreholes [deep wells] that give people water?” he said to news reporters regarding the 700 churches closed in the capital of Kigali, where 1,400 churches were serving a population of 1.3 million. “I don’t think we have as many boreholes. Do we even have as many factories? This has been a mess!”
The churches and houses of worship were closed for not complying with building regulations, safety and hygiene standards and pollution limitations. Many of the Kigali churches were reopened after inspections, according to news reports, but the number of churches that remain closed to date is not known. RGO head Anastase Shyaka told the AP the list of closures was still being compiled.
“The prayer houses were found in such poor physical conditions, and we are not targeting any religion,” Shyaka told the AP. “We are closing prayer houses of all different denominations and asking them to meet existing health and safety standards for their followers.”
Some of the closed churches were operating without government permits which must be renewed annually, Shyaka said.
The new regulations the RGO is studying are expected to make it more difficult for churches to open and operate.
Among the RGO concerns, some preachers “deceive their congregation with misleading sermons,” Shyaka has said in media reports. In February, Rwanda suspended a Christian radio station that aired a sermon the government viewed as “hateful” towards women, News 24 reported Feb. 28.
Religious and community leaders have expressed varying views of the closures, with some accusing the government of interfering with religious liberty, and others saying the closures are justified for safety concerns.
“Government efforts to have churches build better structures are welcome to all of us,” Esron Maniragaba, president of the Evangelical Free Church of Rwanda, told AP.
Innocent Nyezimana, a bishop and president of the Churches’ Forum, accused the government of being extreme.
“Those that failed to implement a few requirements should be reopened and allowed to work while fixing the problems raised,” the AP quoted Nzeyimana in March.
According to the nation’s 2012 census, Rwanda’s population is 44 percent Catholic, 37.9 percent Protestant and 11.9 percent Seventh-day Adventist. Among smaller groups represented are Muslims at 2 percent, and 0.7 percent that are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

4/9/2018 9:17:37 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Call for diversity in SBC leadership resonates at MLK50

April 6 2018 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Multiple speakers at the MLK50 Conference in Memphis, Tenn., made calls to action for racial unity in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), but Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, specifically charged two of the denomination’s entities to make definitive progress toward ethnic diversity in coming months.
“Right now we have two major entities in the Southern Baptist Convention that have vacancies at the leadership level,” Pitman said in a breakout session on racial problems and progress in the SBC. “It is imperative that at least one of them be filled with minority leadership.”
His words were met by a wave of applause.
The International Mission Board’s David Platt announced Feb. 12 that his resignation as president was forthcoming so he could return to full-time pastoral ministry, and the SBC Executive Committee’s Frank Page exited the entity’s lead role March 27 following the disclosure of a moral failure.
Making his point more directly, Pitman turned attention to a fellow panelist on the stage, Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
“Something is seriously wrong if the brother sitting to the left of me – with his experience, dedication and understanding of Southern Baptist life – is not strongly considered to be the CEO and president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Smith is African-American and has formerly served within the SBC as pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., faculty member at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
“I believe it’s an Esther-type moment – ‘for such a time as this’ – that God has raised up a statesman in our denomination that can lead us into the next generation,” Pitman said.
The breakout session was one of many at the April 3-4 event, co-hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and The Gospel Coalition to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
Pitman and Smith were joined in the panel discussion by Byron Day, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md. and president of the SBC National African American Fellowship; and Jeff Dodge, teaching pastor of Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. ERLC Chief of Staff Daniel Patterson moderated the talk, entitled “The SBC and Race: Problems and Progress.”
Day said there is a growing desire in the SBC to see deeds match the words found in a 1995 resolution that denounced and apologized for historical Southern Baptist participation and support of racial oppression.
“One of the things I’m hearing is that it is time to stop talking and start doing,” he said. “We need to see diversity at every level.”
In an earlier part of the panel discussion, Pitman called white Southern Baptists to humbly consider the concerns of their black brothers and sisters, and then join them in pursuing racial unity.
“Sometimes white Southern Baptists say, ‘OK, we made our apology, can we not move past that?’ But that’s a gross misunderstanding of the severity of the issue,” Pitman said. “Every time there is an opportunity to drive a nail in the coffin of racism, every white Southern Baptist should be quick to grab the hammer.”
Smith recounted the checkered legacy of Baptists and other evangelicals on racism and ethnic diversity.
“Pastors have historically been silent or provided the fences for the sin of racism in whatever form it manifested, or historically have been faithful pastors and paid the cost for it,” he said.
Smith said conversations around racism must be considered as topics of missions and evangelism, not politics.
“What are the missiological costs of not pursuing Christian unity?” he asked, alluding to the faults of both major United States political parties.
“Are there any missiological costs of being in a ‘browning’ country and being on board with a candidate that demonizes Mexicans?” Smith continued.
“Younger generations are happy to be here and be alive, so are there any missiological costs of being connected to a candidate who is in the hands of Planned Parenthood?”
Smith also explained why he values racial unity in the SBC, even when it is difficult to achieve.
“I am thankful for the resources and opportunities we have. Most American denominations can’t put a $1 million mobile dental clinic in poor neighborhoods, while church planters reach out to the communities and provide love-your-neighbor type ministries.
“Even as [the International Mission Board] downsizes to get our budget right, most denominations can’t field the largest global missions force around the world. Most denominations don’t have the particular focus [of the North American Mission Board] to plant churches in the 32 largest metropolitan areas of America. Most denominations don’t have the largest seminaries in the world.”
He said the Cooperative Program enables the SBC to sustain broad support across ethnic lines.
“Ultimately we do this for kingdom purposes, to obey Jesus’ command that His people would be one, but missiologically, why do we do this?
“Being the largest Protestant denomination in America, that since 1925 has had this way of putting our resources together, it allows us to strategically approach missions and ministry in a way that other denominations just aren’t able to.”
The panel discussion also covered topics such as leaders being continual learners, avoiding short-sighted cultural trends, broadening race discussions to include Hispanic and Asian ethnicities, and equipping younger Christians and future pastors to prioritize ethnic diversity.

4/6/2018 9:42:15 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

EC executive VP Augie Boto named interim president

April 6 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

D. August (Augie) Boto has been named interim president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC).
Meeting in Nashville April 4, the EC officers acted according to EC Bylaw 6 in tapping Boto for leadership following the March 27 retirement of former EC President Frank S. Page, who cited a “personal failing” in announcing his immediate departure.

D. August (Augie) Boto

The EC’s five officers also granted Boto “the option to appoint an interim EC presidential ambassador during this period of transition to assist him in fulfilling the many representative functions that fall to the office of president,” EC chairman Stephen Rummage said in a statement to Baptist Press (BP).
Boto, an attorney, “brings more than 20 years of denominational service to this strategic task,” said Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla. “Following three years as a member of the Executive Committee in the 1990s, he was selected as Executive Committee vice president for convention policy/staff counsel in 1998. In 2007, he was named executive vice president and general counsel of the Executive Committee.
“The officers have confidence that Augie will provide stability in leadership for the Executive Committee during this interim period as the EC begins its search for a new president,” Rummage said.
Boto said the EC staff “is committed to the principle that Southern Baptists accomplish more when we work together. In the lead-up to the SBC annual meeting in Dallas, our staff will spotlight the full array of Southern Baptist missions and ministries, promoting support for our collaborative work through the Cooperative Program.”
The full EC will elect a presidential search committee during a special called plenary session in Nashville April 17.
In accordance with a provision of EC Bylaw 6, adopted in 2012, the six-member search committee will be elected by written ballot among nominees from the floor during the special meeting. The board chair will serve as an ex-officio member with the right to vote, constituting a seven-member presidential search committee.
“We ask Southern Baptists,” Rummage said, “to continue to pray for the Executive Committee staff in their day-to-day duties in the countdown days to the SBC annual meeting in Dallas and for the full Executive Committee as we meet in two weeks to elect a presidential search committee.”
In addition to Rummage, the EC officers who met in Nashville were secretary Stacy Bramlett, a bank vice president in Collierville, Tenn.; Administrative Committee chairman Kent Choate, people development pastor at Foundation Church Sapulpa in Sand Springs, Okla.; Business and Finance Committee chairman Steve Swofford, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas; and CP Committee chairman Rolland Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif. The sixth officer, vice chairman Shane Hall, passed away in February and has not yet been replaced.
Boto is a member of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville where he is a Sunday School teacher and regular Bible Study leader. He is married to Cindy, and they have three adult children: Lucas, Matt and Grace.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/6/2018 9:38:41 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Church discipline focus of new survey

April 6 2018 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

More than 8 in 10 Protestant senior pastors say their church has not disciplined a member in the past year, says a new study released April 5 by LifeWay Research.

More than half say they don’t know of a case when someone has been disciplined, which can include being asked to leave the church for misconduct, according to the study conducted Aug. 30-Sept. 18.
“It’s one of the topics that churches rarely talk about,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

Church reprimands few and far between

Two Bible passages in particular deal with the question of church discipline and how to respond to misconduct by church members. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells his followers to go to offenders in private and ask them to mend their ways. If that fails, the passage says to bring one or two witnesses and, if that fails, then bring the matter to the whole church for discipline. The hope is that wrongdoers would repent and be restored.
A similar passage in 1 Corinthians tells readers not to associate with someone who claims to be a Christian but “is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler.”
McConnell says in general, church discipline would apply when offenders refuse to acknowledge their wrongdoing, persist in it or are no longer qualified for leadership.
According to the phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors, 16 percent of pastors say their church has disciplined a member in the last year. That includes 3 percent in the last month, 5 percent in the last six months and 8 percent in the last year.
More than half (55 percent) say no member has been disciplined during their time as pastor or before their tenure. Twenty-one percent say a member was disciplined three or more years ago. Five percent say there was a case of discipline in the last two years.
Pentecostal (29 percent), Holiness (23 percent) and Baptist pastors (19 percent) are most likely to say a church member was disciplined in the past year. Methodist (4 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed (9 percent) pastors are less likely.
Overall, about half of evangelical pastors (49 percent) and two-thirds of mainline pastors (67 percent) say they don’t know of a case where someone was disciplined at their church.

LifeWay Research also asked pastors about the process of discipline. Few churches say the responsibility for discipline lies solely with the pastor (8 percent), church elders (14 percent), trustees or board members (4 percent) or church deacons (1 percent).
Half (51 percent) say two or more groups must agree. Eighteen percent say there is no formal discipline process.
Pastors of churches of 100 or more attenders (17 percent) are more likely to say elders alone handle discipline than churches with 99 or fewer attenders (11 percent). African American pastors (21 percent) are more likely than white pastors (6 percent) to say the pastor alone is responsible for church discipline.
Mainline pastors (24 percent) are more likely than evangelical pastors (15 percent) to say their church has no formal discipline policy.
McConnell noted some churches may have informal discipline processes. And some church members may leave rather than going through church discipline.
Where there is formal discipline, a group of church leaders often must agree for formal discipline to take place. The process is rarely arbitrary.
“There’s some red tape involved for churches,” he said. “It is not easy to be kicked out of a church.”
For more information on this study, visit LifeWayResearch.com or view the complete survey report PDF.


The phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted Aug. 30 to Sept. 18, 2017. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine.)

4/6/2018 9:35:02 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

MLK50: Christians must pay price for racial unity

April 6 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Evangelical Christians must be willing to pay the price to gain racial unity, speakers said April 4 at a conference on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The final day of “MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop” occurred as Memphis and the country remembered King, who was shot down April 4, 1968, in this Mississippi River city. The two-day event – co-hosted by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and The Gospel Coalition (TGC) – took place in conjunction with many remembrances of King, including a ceremony at the Lorraine Motel, where he was killed, that conference participants were able to attend.

Photo by Rocket Republic
Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, talks about the inconsistencies of white evangelicals on race issues April 4 during the MLK50 conference in Memphis.

In the evening session, attendees gave an offering of more than $16,500 for the Memphis Christian Pastors Network, a multi-ethnic coalition seeking to foster racial unity and meet needs in the city. Earlier in the day, conference hosts unveiled the MLK50 Dream Forward Scholarship Initiative, which will enable minority students in Memphis to receive financial aid to participating Christian colleges, universities and seminaries and already has raised more than $1.475 million.
White pastors must address the issue, Dallas-Fort Worth area pastor Matt Chandler told conference attendees.
“You have got to say something,” Chandler told white pastors in the audience at the Memphis Convention Center and watching by live stream online. “There is no way forward if white pulpits won’t talk.”
Quoting King, the pastor of The Village Church said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
He had a difficult time sleeping the night before because he knew what he was asking of some of them, Chandler told pastors. They might be criticized, bullied and fired, he acknowledged.
Chandler encouraged them to begin by preaching on the Bible’s view of ethnicity and unity. “Ethnic harmony is one of the great themes of the Bible. This is the refrain of the Bible over and over and over again,” he said, adding, “Jesus consistently confronted broken thinking about ethnicity.”
Veteran pastor Crawford Loritts, an African American pastor of a predominantly white church, said on the final panel of the conference the question is not so much, “Where do we go from here?” but “Why haven’t we gone from here?”
The need is courage, he said. “This issue is going to cost us.
“Are we willing to pay that price? Love is expensive, and commitment is expensive.
“And I think God is standing back and saying to the church: You all know what to do here. You really do know what to do,” said Loritts, senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Ga. “It’s the courage and will to do it and to be it and to pay that price.”
Chandler and other speakers pointed to the need for cross-ethnic relationships – and not ones in which whites Christians find African Americans who agree with them.
As a pastor and president of the Acts 29 church–planting network, he has a group of black fellow pastors who provide a “voice that I need to hear because I do not know or understand,” Chandler said. “If it weren’t for the ‘hanging-in-there-ness’ of my African American brothers and sisters, there would be no way forward for us as a white congregation.”
On the final panel, Bible teacher Beth Moore said she has sought out minority voices who would push her.
“We’ve got to speak out,” Moore said, explaining she began voicing her convictions on social media when there was an effort to silence dissenting voices online.
“[I]n our discipleship, we are not teaching what is normative in the believing life,” Moore said. “We have been very proud of the fact that we have not ascribed to a prosperity gospel, but what we have ascribed to is a pampered gospel.”
Ignorance of history and the system is a problem for many white evangelicals, Chandler said in seeking to explain their inconsistencies on race issues.
“[T]hey don’t know what they don’t know, and they are part of a system that encourages their not knowing,” he said. “This ignorance has led to immaturity, and [immaturity] talks when it should listen, and it’s silent when it should speak. This immaturity has led either to hostility or withdrawal.”
Another problem is the slippery definition of “evangelical,” said TGC President Don Carson.
There are “millions of people who call themselves evangelicals who have never been born again; never really, truly trusted Christ; who don’t bow to the Lordship of Christ,” Carson said during the final panel discussion. “The statistical evidence for that is overwhelming.”

Photo by Rocket Republic
Karen Ellis, president of the Makazi Institute and writer/lecturer on international religious freedom, shares about the underground community of Christians that persevered through slavery April 4 at the MLK50 conference in Memphis.

Karen Ellis, president of the Makazi Institute and writer/lecturer on international religious freedom, said the perseverance of underground Christian communities among America’s slaves provides help for current followers of Jesus. They suffered violations of their religious liberty, but “they spread Christianity in America, not American Christianity.”
“[A]s we look at these abuses against the first freedom, religious freedom, we realize that Christ’s promise is true,” she told the audience, “that He will build His kingdom, and the gates of hell and legislation and racism and ethnocentrism and political idolatry and heresy will not prevail against its advance.
“As the cultural climate in America continues to sour toward Christianity, we must unite, and history shows us that we can,” she said. “If anyone has ears to hear, now is the time to find our way to each other.”
John Piper, author and Desiring God founder/teacher, said racial unity is for the glory of Christ.
“It is because we still see who we are that the unifying insignia of Christ shines so brightly with His glory,” Piper told attendees.
If a person lost his or her ethnic identity or language upon being born again, “Christ would not be preeminent in glory,” he said. “He would be parochial. He would be a tribal deity. Christ is not a tribal deity. He is the Creator of the universe, the incarnate God, the redeemer of a new humanity ransomed from all the people of the world that in everything He might be preeminent, that in the church the purpose of the universe happens.”
Piper told young people in the audience, “You have one hope to find a path that exalts Christ and does justice – an infallible, Spirit-illumined Bible in a colorful community of the redeemed. So young people, hold fast to the whole glory of Christ, and God may grant that we who are older may look down from heaven someday and see better things.”
H.B. Charles, pastor-teacher of Shiloh Church in Jacksonville and Orange Park, Fla., told attendees, “Do not underestimate what God is doing in the local church.
“Local churches being faithful right where they are might not make national headlines, but God is changing communities and neighborhoods and cities through churches that are determined to be the church,” he said.
The conference took a three-hour break so participants could attend events at the Lorraine Motel, where a bell tolled 39 times at 6:01 p.m. in memory of King. Only 39 at the time of his death, King led the civil rights movement from his time as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., in the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. In Memphis to advocate for sanitation workers on strike, King gave what became known as his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech the night before he was killed.
The ERLC/TGC conference’s final day also featured short talks, another panel discussion and 21 breakout sessions.
Leading music April 4 were the worship teams of Fellowship Memphis and The Village Church, which sang a newly composed song about racial unity.
Archived videos of the event may be viewed at mlk50conference.com/live.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
Related articles:
Southern Baptists, others lament at MLK50 conference
MLK honored on 50th anniversary of death
$1.5M raised for MLK50 scholarship initiative

4/6/2018 9:30:58 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Market volatility addressed at GuideStone summit

April 6 2018 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

Recent stock market volatility shouldn’t alarm long-term investors, GuideStone Financial Resources Chief Strategic Investment Officer David S. Spika said.
The market – which has seen more than half of this year experience moves of 1 percent or more – is healthy, and though the headlines can be unnerving, there is no need to make tactical changes to properly invested and diversified portfolios.

Spika’s comments came during the second annual GuideStone Employee Benefits Summit, a gathering of key ministry decision makers, human resources professionals and financial officers of churches and ministries. The meeting was held March 26-28 in Dallas. This year’s event brought 200 attendees from around the country.
Spika titled his presentation “The Return of Interesting Markets.”
“President Donald Trump is keeping a campaign promise to impose tariffs on nations that have an unfair trade advantage versus the United States, specifically China,” Spika noted during his presentation. “The stock market has reacted negatively to talk of tariffs because they have the potential to negatively impact U.S. economic growth and create higher inflation. However, a prime objective is to prevent the Chinese from acquiring key U.S. technologies.
“When combined with the specter of rising interest rates, the potential for a new Federal Reserve chairman to make a policy error, and the ongoing political upheaval in Washington, it creates uncertainty, which leads to volatility.”
Other Summit sessions included employment law updates from noted attorney Gayla Crain and tax law updates from Michael Batts, a certified public accountant from Orlando with expertise in churches and ministries. Other sessions covered churches and ministries surviving upheavals, cybersecurity and addressing and preventing sexual abuse within the church.
Spika’s session on the market was a key session during the Summit. He said the market, specifically key measures such as interest rates and volatility, is normalizing in 2018 after a tremendous and historic run in 2017.
“This is not a sign of a pending bear market or a recession,” Spika said. “The recent volatility spike has simply taken us back to 20-year averages, presenting a better landscape for active managers, like GuideStone, to generate excess returns on behalf of their investors.”
For more information, go to guidestone.org or my.guidestone.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/6/2018 9:27:32 AM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments

Association disfellowships church over racism charges

April 5 2018 by Joe Westbury, Christian Index

What began as a harmonious relationship between a declining Anglo church and a growing African American church plant in Georgia ended when Mallary Baptist Association disfellowshipped Raleigh White Baptist Church on grounds of racism.

Photo by Jimmy Baughcum
William “Butch” Knight presides as moderator of Georgia’s Mallary Baptist Association which voted April 3 to disfellowship Raleigh White Baptist Church over charges of racism.

After two years of intervention by the association and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board between the church and New Seasons Church, the association’s Executive Committee voted unanimously April 3 to remove the church from its membership and return all monies contributed this year.
The vote ends a 75-year relationship with the Anglo congregation since it was founded in Albany and joined the association in 1943. The church is named after a former pastor of First Baptist in Albany, Raleigh White, who had died in 1942.
Before the April 3 vote, the association had 53 churches, now reduced by one. Forty-five Executive Committee members representing 26 churches attended the meeting, director of missions Hans Wunch reported.
It was the first time in recent history that a special meeting of the association’s Executive Committee had been called. A regular meeting is set for later in April but its leaders felt that recent events, after repeated attempts at mediation, pushed the issue to the front burner.
“The reason for this action involved the church’s un-Christian attitudes and acts toward another associational church,” Wunch said in a written statement from the association April 4. “These attitudes and acts were racially-motivated. Thus they do not reflect the values and mission of the Mallary Baptist Association.”
The recommendation to disfellowship the church “called for serious actions, but they were not meant simply to punish but ultimately to bring about reconciliation and strengthen our Association’s witness in the communities in which we minister,” Wunch said in the statement. “We seek above all to advance the Gospel and honor our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The vote by the Executive Committee includes “a pathway to reinstatement to fellowship with our association if the church openly repents of their sin against the other church and demonstrates the genuineness of repentance.” An associational-appointed mediator would work “to reconcile biblically the relationship between the congregations so that both churches can minister effectively to the surrounding community. The Mallary Baptist Association shall actively pursue a location for New Seasons Church to meet for worship and ministry.”
In June 2015, Raleigh White pastor Ronnie Kinsaul, seeing the church’s steady decline in a transitional neighborhood, sought an African American church planter to partner with the congregation. The church was connected with Marcus Glass in the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s church planting network and the small-yet-growing New Seasons Church, which was meeting elsewhere.

Photo by Joe Westbury
Raleigh White Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., has been disfellowshipped by the Mallary Baptist Association for “attitudes and acts” that were racially-motivated.

Raleigh White agreed to shift its morning worship from the traditional 11 a.m. time to 9:45 a.m. to accommodate the church plant, which is being sponsored by Sherwood Baptist in Albany and Unity Baptist in Sylvester.
The Anglo congregation’s decline continued as members died or moved away, while New Seasons’ evangelistic outreach resulted in 78 individuals baptized in 2016, 80 in 2017 and five thus far this year. Popular with local military personnel who came and went with transfers, the congregation still managed to grow to 130 members while, as of last count, Raleigh White numbered only 20, even though it reports 253 in Southern Baptist Convention data.
New Seasons also became known for a strong commitment to community outreach. When tornadoes in January 2017 ravaged much of south Georgia, New Seasons was on the front lines, establishing the Raleigh White facilities as a donation and distribution center for supplies.
But Glass said he noticed a cooling of the relationship within six months of sharing Raleigh White’s facilities. As New Seasons added members, it began to use more of the church’s facilities, such as the gym with the basketball court, fellowship hall and Sunday School rooms.
Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index news journal cited sources who asked for anonymity that a number of Raleigh White’s members no longer shared their pastor’s vision of the future, and they tallied a list of complaints such as New Seasons members not returning dinner plates to their proper storage location on kitchen shelves.
As tensions continued, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board – through state missionaries and church planter consultants like Jimmy Baughcum – increased the mediation with little success. One step forward, two steps back, as Baughcum observed. Wunch approached Raleigh White with fellow pastors who worked for middle ground but found none.
When Kinsaul retired as Raleigh White’s pastor, New Seasons honored him with a special service where they collected a love offering as he entered retirement.
The situation deteriorated further this year when Raleigh White planned its annual homecoming and gave a 30-day notice on Feb. 18 to New Seasons that it would not be able to use the facilities until 2:30 p.m. on the March 18 homecoming.
Glass tried to discuss the inconvenience it would mean for New Seasons, which would basically delay its services by several hours. Raleigh White relented and agreed to allow New Seasons to begin their services at noon, just 30 minutes later than normal.
The problem came to a head on the day of the homecoming, The Index reported, when visitors, unaware of the change, showed up early for the worship service and were turned away at the doors of the church. A daughter of one of the visitors asked to use the restroom and was told she could use the convenience store down the road. It was suggested to other visitors that they remain in their cars until their service began.
One pastor, whose wife had passed away, showed up early to discuss his wife’s funeral arrangements with Glass who was going to preside at her memorial service. He was likewise turned away.

Marcus Glass, pastor of New Seasons Church in Albany, Ga.

That event was too much for the association’s leaders with alleged racism now being played out in the open. Three days later, on March 21, the association’s Administrative Committee met and voted to recommend a motion to remove Raleigh White from fellowship.
Five days later, on March 26, Wunch along with the association’s moderator, William “Butch” Knight, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Albany, and associate moderator Chad Ellis, senior pastor of Gillionville Baptist Church, met with two deacons from Raleigh White. They stated the intention of the association to withdraw fellowship from the church if it did not repent of its actions against New Seasons.
The meeting did not go well, Wunch told The Index. That led to the April 3 called meeting of the Mallary association’s Executive Committee.
After a little longer than 90 minutes of soul-searching questioning, members voted to withdraw fellowship until the Raleigh White congregation repents, which will lead to immediate reconciliation.
Glass, pastor of New Seasons, said he and his congregation “felt the love tonight from our association, from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and the Southern Baptist Convention for supporting us in this difficult ordeal. These brothers not only talked the talk but walked the walk in standing up against racism.
“Our heart is deeply saddened but the Bible teaches that we are all one in the body of Christ. This vote was about the need for ministry to continue in His name and not allowing the sin of racism or mistreating other people to continue unchallenged.
“I am not happy for what happened, but I am happy about the path to reconciliation that will follow true repentance,” Glass said. “I thank God for planting His voice in the hearts of the leaders of our association and for the churches taking a brave stand. For them, this was not about race but was about doing what is right in the eyes of God.”
Knight, who had been in constant touch with Raleigh White leadership in recent days, said his contact with them in the afternoon of April 3 did not produce the hoped-for results.
“I implored them to acknowledge the wrong they had repeatedly committed and offered to have someone from the association to walk down the path to reconciliation with them,” Knight said. “I was informed that they would have their own meeting at 6 p.m., an hour prior to our meeting, and no one from their church would attend our meeting.”
Knight said the association has made plans with churches to host New Seasons on a temporary basis, if they have no place to worship this coming Sunday.
More than 2,000 miles away in San Diego, Calif., pastor A.B. Vines and his congregation, also named New Seasons, had prayed April 2 for the association’s meeting, and he watched it via live streaming .
Vines said he believes it is the first time a Baptist church has been disfellowshipped for racism. “We have preached about it, have talked about it, passed resolutions about it, but this is the first time we have actually taken action about it,” he noted.
The Albany congregation is one of 18 churches and church plants in the New Seasons nationwide network which Vines heads. Vines currently is president of the California Southern Baptist Convention and will be a nominee for first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the June 12-13 annual meeting in Dallas.
Vines first became familiar with Albany in his younger days while stationed as a Marine at the logistics base in the city. He noted that this is a third attempt to plant a church in Albany.
“Tonight is not a celebration. But we know that Marcus is a great guy with a heart for reaching Albany for our Lord,” Vines said. “I will continue to pray that Raleigh White will repent and that this will not be permanently etched on their tombstone.”
As for New Seasons’ immediate future is, Glass is not sure.
“I am praying that the heart of Jesus will set in before next Sunday with the members of Raleigh White. Regardless, we will continue to show to them the love that God has shown to us,” Glass said. “And unless we are told otherwise, on Sunday morning I’m driving to 2804 Phillips Drive in Albany and continue to share the facilities with them.
“If not, I know the churches of this association are behind us and will help us grow our ministry elsewhere.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, christianindex.org, news journal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

4/5/2018 9:24:23 AM by Joe Westbury, Christian Index | with 0 comments

Southern Baptists, others lament at MLK50 conference

April 5 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

MLK50 conference conveners lamented and asked God for brokenness in the evangelical church during a time of prayer at the close April 3 of the first day of a gathering to honor the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo by Rocket Republic
Trillia Newbell of the ERLC leads in prayer at the MLK50 conference during a time of lament and petitioning God April 3 in Memphis.

The prayer session occurred at “MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop,” a two-day conference on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of King. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and The Gospel Coalition (TGC) are co-hosting the event at the Memphis Convention Center to consider the state of racial unity and what is required to achieve solidarity, especially in the church.
Southern Baptists and other members of the advisory council who helped convene the conference read New Testament passages and prayed while other event advisors stood behind them on the platform.
Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, asked for the Holy Spirit to “break our hearts for our blindness and our hard-heartedness and our foolishness.”
“Will You allow Your church to see the pitiful state of things so that we might repent ... [with] the kind of gut-level heart-brokenness that understands that we have made a mess and only You will be able to clean up that mess?” he said.
ERLC President Russell Moore acknowledged in his prayer that many at the conference are members of Christian denominations that were formed in defense of slavery.
“Father, Lord, would you have mercy on us, sinners?” Moore prayed. “Lord, would you give us a sense of broken-heartedness, a sense of lament, a sense of repentance, but not the sort of repentance that leads only to despair, [but] the sort of lament and the sort of repentance that causes us to cry out, Abba Father?”
Collin Hansen, TGC’s editorial director, prayed, “Oh Lord, in this country, we have gone astray. Fellow white Americans and I have turned to our own, to our own self-interests.
“Plead for us, Lord Jesus, transgressors against Your will, transgressors so often against brothers and sisters of color,” he requested. “Lord Jesus, heal our strife-stricken land, these United States of America. Let justice begin with the household of God, and let a revival of justice and mercy begin with the household of God.”

Photo by Karen McCutcheon
ERLC President Russell Moore urges the evangelical church “not to rebrand but to repent” on racial justice issues during the MLK50 conference April 3 in Memphis.

Bible teacher Beth Moore petitioned God to provide “what we desperately need – to be like Jesus.”
“We ask for Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven,” she prayed. “We are not what we should be in 2018, but we thank You, God, we are not what we were this morning.
“And You tell us Lord if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can say to a mountain, ‘Move,’ and it moves,” Moore said, adding, “[W]ith every grain of faith we have, we say to the mountain of racism, ‘You must move in Jesus’ name.’”
Trillia Newbell, the ERLC’s director of community outreach, prayed for a ministry of reconciliation that “moves us and drives us to one another that we would be reconciled.”
Rufus Smith, senior pastor of Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Memphis, prayed, “Lord, we are not; please change us. Lord, we have not, please give us. And what we are not, please make us for the sake of the kingdom and the glory of our King.”
The Bible passages read in order before the prayers were II Corinthians 5:14-21 and 7:9-10, Hebrews 11:8-16, Philippians 1:27-2:11, Ephesians 2:11-12 and Hebrews. 6:10-12.
Chandler, Newbell and both Moores are Southern Baptists.
A simulcast and archived videos of the event may be viewed at mlk50conference.com/live.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

4/5/2018 9:18:34 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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