April 2019

Greear to be nominated for 2nd term as SBC president

April 12 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear will be nominated for a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Pennsylvania pastor K. Marshall Williams announced today (April 12).
“In these troublesome and turbulent times, we need a pastor-preacher-prophet that will stand in the gap and lead with confident, consistent, convictional, Christo-centric, courageous courtesy,” Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, wrote in a statement announcing his intent to nominate Greear at the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

Baptist Press photo

Williams said he sees “the Lord’s anointing on [Greear] as a result of him ruthlessly and relentlessly pursuing unhurried, uninterrupted time with the Almighty to heal, hear and instantaneously and radically heed the principals and precepts of the Holy.”
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, has focused his first year in office on the “Who’s Your One?” evangelism initiative, ethnic and gender diversity in his presidential appointments and a Sexual Abuse Advisory Study, which is advising him on a range of issues related to sexual abuse. “Who’s Your One?” asks believers to pray for and focus their evangelistic efforts on one individual over the course of a year in hope that person may come to Christ.
Williams said Greear “stands strong in calling us to return to holiness, so we can be vessels of His unconditional love, justice and empathetic blessing, which will enable us to demonstrate Greatest Commandment living, which is the prerequisite to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
“He is passionate about the pursuit of inexplicable unity of Kingdom citizens of all ethnicities,” Williams said, “so we can demonstrate a collective redemptive healing presence that pushes back darkness and stands up with moral authority to call our nation to repentance as catalysts to usher in revival in the church that will precipitate a spiritual awakening and a healing in our land.”
Greear told BP in written comments, “It is a great honor to have K. Marshall Williams nominating me this June in Birmingham at our annual meeting. His faithful and bold leadership in our convention has been helpful to us all over the years. I believe our best days of cooperative mission are ahead of us if we refocus to keep the Gospel above all our preferences, styles, theological leanings and cultural differences.”
During the 17 years Greear has pastored The Summit, worship attendance has grown from 610 in 2002 to just under 10,000, according to statistics available through the SBC’s Annual Church Profile. Total baptisms increased from 19 in 2002 to 616 in 2018 at the church’s nine campuses.
Over the past two years, The Summit has given a total of nearly $1 million through the Cooperative Program, according to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). The Summit has been the top CP-contributing church in the state in terms of total dollars given each year from 2016-18.
In 2018, The Summit gave 2.5 percent of its undesignated receipts through CP, a slight increase from 2016 and 2017, the church stated.
Six years ago, The Summit voted to increase its giving through CP to 2.4 percent of undesignated receipts over five years, but the congregation achieved that goal two years early, the church reported.
In 2016, The Summit began channeling all funds it regarded as CP gifts through the BSC rather than forwarding some directly to the SBC Executive Committee for distribution according to the CP allocation formula, as it had done previously.
The Summit said its Great Commission Giving totaled nearly $4 million (some 20 percent of undesignated receipts) in 2018. Great Commission Giving is a category of giving established by SBC action in 2011 that encompasses giving through CP, Southern Baptists’ unified program of funding state- and SBC-level ministries, as well as direct gifts to SBC entities, associational giving and giving to state convention ministries.
Included in last year’s Great Commission Giving was $3,500 through the local Yates Baptist Association, according to ACP data, a 700 percent increase from the church’s associational giving each year from 2013-16.
Funding for The Summit’s more than 40 Southern Baptist church plants is included in its Great Commission Giving as well, the church reported. The Summit has planted 292 churches to date, including 244 outside the U.S., with a goal of starting 1,000 churches in 50 years, the church stated.
Some 192 Summit members are serving as International Mission Board missionaries, the church stated. More than 250 total Summit members are serving as missionaries overseas.
Greear is married to Veronica, and they have four children. Greear holds master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“My prayer for year two would be that we would see the greatest evangelistic harvest in the history of our nation as every Southern Baptist intentionally reaches out to their ‘one’ for Christ,” Greear said. “I also pray we see a new movement of missionaries and church planters answer the call to carry the Gospel to all peoples.”

4/12/2019 4:54:32 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Suspect charged in Louisiana black church burnings

April 12 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A 21-year-old white man is charged with arson in fires that destroyed three black Baptist churches in St. Landry Parish. Investigators reportedly haven’t determined whether the fires were racially motivated.
Holden Matthews, the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy, was arrested April 10 and charged with three counts of arson. No motive has been determined, but investigators are considering Matthews’ membership in a band that plays “black metal” music, a genre that has promoted church burnings in other countries.

Screen capture
Gerald Toussaint, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church destroyed in a string of Louisiana church burnings, offered comfort and encouragement at a press conference announcing the arrest of Matthew Holden as the arson suspect.

“This was an attack on the house of God,” Louisiana State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning said in a 10 a.m. press conference April 11. “Though the Spirit is still strong, the landmark has been destroyed. We took that very seriously in this investigation.”
Matthews is accused of burning Mount Pleasant and Greater Union Baptist churches in Opelousas, and St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, all non-Southern Baptist congregations that each have served the small towns over a hundred years.
“At this time, the investigative team is still vetting several potential motives,” Browning said. “However, information investigators have uncovered, and that Matthews has offered, suggests a possible connection with a genre of music called ‘black metal’ and its associated history with church burnings in other parts of the world, which have been documented in movies and books.”
The racial characteristics of the crime could damage progress made in race relations in the state, Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC) Church Planting Director James Jenkins told Baptist Press (BP).
“I don’t know the motive of the guy who was arrested. I would hope that it was not racial, and at the same time I can’t think of a motive that I can accept,” Jenkins said. “It was an attack on God, more than it was an attack on anything.
“I just hope that with the arrest that it starts the process of healing in the community,” Jenkins told BP. “I always hate to hear about things of that type because I think we’re making such progress here in the state of Louisiana as far as race relationships, and things of that type have the effect of taking the scab off of a sore.”
Louisiana Baptists want to help the churches recover, Jenkins said. The LBC is working with associational mission strategists and hope to meet with an area ministerial alliance that serves the congregations to determine needs and desires, Jenkins said.
“I would like everyone to know that in my talks with the various powers within the Louisiana Baptist Convention, that we would like to help in this situation,” he said. “It’s important, too, that whatever we do, that we offer it in the spirit of Christian love and in solidarity with other Christians. It’s just a matter of our being able to make that contact and then figure out what we can do and the best way we can, according to how they want to be helped, if they need it.”
Gerald Toussaint, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas and a member of the Seventh District Baptist Association, thanked investigators for their work.
“We’ve suffered, but I think it has a cause, a higher cause,” Toussaint said. “Our country has to find out that the God we serve does not look on the outside; he searches the heart, and I believe the heart of these people is why we’re standing here today.
“We don’t represent hate,” he said. “We represent love, togetherness, peace, long-suffering, hope. And that’s what we’re here today to say to, not just to our community, but to our country.
“Be strong. Love one another. Be patient with one another,” said Toussaint, a bivocational pastor who leads two churches while working fulltime as a truck driver. “Help one another. Guide one another. Train up your children in the way they should go.”
At the April 11 press conference, the sacredness and perseverance of the church, as well as its value to the community were hailed by pastors and local, state and federal officials who spoke.
Pastors of the three destroyed church buildings were part of the investigative team comprised of more than 100 law enforcement officials, Browning said. The team included the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the ATF, FBI and Louisiana State Police.
“We had some very unique criminal investigators,” Browning said. Pastors provided prayer, a calming voice and served as investigative agents throughout the two-week investigation.
“We can now confirm that all three of these fires were intentionally set,” Browning said, “and all three of these fires are related. Several pieces of evidence, both physical from the scene and technological evidence, have confirmed that Matthews is the suspect.”
Each arson charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment.
See the previous report.

4/12/2019 4:49:16 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SWBTS to ‘recalibrate,’ ‘strengthen core’

April 12 2019 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) is looking to “recalibrate and to reposition” itself in “every way to strengthen the core of what we do,” SWBTS President Adam W. Greenway told trustees during their spring meeting, April 8-10.

SWBTS photo
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is looking to "recalibrate and to reposition" itself in "every way to strengthen the core of what we do," SWBTS President Adam W. Greenway told trustees during their spring meeting, April 8-10.

Business included approving the budget for the 2019-2020 academic year, approving a change to Scarborough College’s degree offerings, electing a new vice president, and approving a change in the administration of the seminary’s endowment.
Addressing Southwestern Seminary’s full board for his first-ever president’s report, Greenway stressed the importance of recalibrating the seminary in order to return the institution to its core priorities – chief among them residential theological education.
“At the end of the day,” Greenway said, “our core of strength is what we do right here on Seminary Hill. It is the experience that happens here in the classroom and on this campus. Theological education in the context of a vibrant, worshiping, learning, living together community – that is of first importance.”
Greenway personally committed “to do everything I can to make sure that we have the resources and are making the investments to strengthen our residential theological education and to reprioritize our core degree programs of strength,” which he identified as the master of divinity, the master of arts in Christian education and master of music.
Though affirming the seminary’s other degree programs – including doctoral degrees, other master’s programs and other specialized training – Greenway said all of these things must be done “out of a clear core of strength.”
In light of this priority, Greenway characterized the budget for the upcoming fiscal year as a reset to get back to the institution’s core strengths.
“In a time where we must be extraordinarily judicious in conserving the resources entrusted to us by our Southern Baptist Convention of churches, by the donors and friends who believe in our work and are willing to invest in us, [and] by the tuition dollars we receive from our students, we must make sure that we steward and shepherd every dime in a way that is going to enable our seminary to flourish and thrive in an increasingly challenging environment and world,” he said.
The budget “does involve some tough choices,” Greenway continued, and “it does involve some transitions. But I believe it will transition us to move forward to do what we must do to ensure that the work of Southwestern Seminary can continue in strength.”
The budget of $32.6 million was later presented by the Business Administration Committee and approved without objection by the full board.
Trustees also approved the recommendation of the Academic Administration Committee to eliminate the bachelor of arts in humanities and biblical studies in Scarborough College and replace it with two degrees: the bachelor of arts in Christian studies and the bachelor of arts in humanities.
In addition, trustees elected Colby T. Adams vice president for strategic initiatives. This position oversees the Office of Communications, Campus Technology, and other administrative priorities. Adams has held this position in an interim capacity since February. Adams also serves as chief of staff.
The board approved the recommendation that funds managed by the Southwestern Seminary Foundation be moved to GuideStone Financial Resources for management as soon as feasibly possible, and that once said action is completed, the Southwestern Seminary Foundation be dissolved.
New board officers were also elected: Philip Levant, pastor of Iglesia Bautista La Vid in Hurst, Texas, as chairman; Danny Roberts, executive pastor of North Richland Hills Baptist Church in North Richland Hills, Texas, as vice chairman; and Jamie Green, retired speech-language pathologist in Katy, Texas, as secretary.
Other business:

  • Randy Stinson, provost and vice president for academic administration, was elected professor of theology and ministry in the School of Theology, effective immediately. 

  • Patricia Ennis was given the title distinguished professor emeritus of family and consumer sciences, effective immediately.

  • The board approved the recommendation of the Communications, Policies, and Strategic Initiatives Committee to amend the seminary’s bylaws, including updated nomenclature and administrative titles and job descriptions.

  • The Jack D. Terry Jr. School of Church and Family Ministries was renamed The Jack D. Terry Jr. School of Educational Ministries; and The School of Church Music was renamed The School of Church Music and Worship.

4/12/2019 4:40:48 PM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments

SEBTS trustees celebrate For the Mission launch, Akin’s 15 years

April 12 2019 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

The public launch of the For the Mission campaign is just one way among many in which Danny Akin is continuing to cultivate an enduring Great Commission vision at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) as he marks his 15 years as president of the entity.

SEBTS photo
Danny Akin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president, marked his 15 years as president of the institution at the Spring 2019 Board of Trustees and Southeastern Society meetings April 7-9.

These highlights, were among the many items discussed and celebrated at the Spring 2019 Board of Trustees and Southeastern Society meetings April 7-9.
“We will now, in the year 2019, prepare ourselves for continued growth because faithfulness to Christ and love for the nations demands it,” Akin said at a banquet held April 8 for donors and trustees.
The campaign is being publicly launched to raise $20.5 million for the purpose of funding four strategic initiatives in four years. These initiatives include funding a new dining hall, renovations to Simmons Hall to provide campus housing, student aid, the Southeastern Fund and faculty endowments.
Other business approved by trustees included:
– the 2019-2020 $31.2 million budget,
– election of Walter Strickland to the faculty as assistant professor of theology,
– election of Scott Pace to the faculty as associate professor of pastoral ministry and teaching,
– promotion of John Ewart to professor of missions and pastoral leadership,
– promotion of David Alan Black to senior professor of New Testament and Greek,
– promotion of Steve McKinion to professor of theology and patristic studies,
– curriculum changes to include an M.A. in ministry to women and biblical counseling, an M.A. in church revitalization, a certificate in student ministry, a certificate in ministry to women, a certificate in church revitalization, an M.Div. in church revitalization, a D.Min. specialization in ministry to women and a D.Min. specialization in pastoral care and counseling;
– creation of three new scholarship accounts to include the Catherine Hall Memorial Student Aid Fund, the Arthur Lewis Brown Student Aid Fund and the Sweatman Missions Aid Fund;
– approval of Becky Gardner, Thomas Mach, Charles Cranford and Alex Gonzalez to serve another term in their respective offices.
Outgoing trustee members included: Erik Estep, Marty Jacumin, Doug Jividen, Sam Wheat and Don Warren, all of whom were honored for their service during Tuesday’s chapel service.
During a Sunday gathering for dinner and worship, trustees and donors heard from Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board.
Preaching from 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, Hunt encouraged trustees to utilize their lives for kingdom purposes. He explained that believers should give away their possessions sacrificially, go to places where the gospel is needed and invest in those who need to be discipled, all for the glory of God.
“I want God to initiate some things in my life that will outlast me,” Hunt said.
Southeastern Society members heard an update about the school from Akin Monday morning. He celebrated that SEBTS has continued to see growth as enrollment has risen to more than 4,500. Akin also noted the growth occurring in The College at Southeastern and The Global Theological Initiative at SEBTS. 
“Training students and sending them out is what we’re all about, both nationally and internationally,” Akin said.
Jonathan Six, director of financial and alumni development, shared the vision for the For the Mission campaign Monday morning with Southeastern Society members.
J.D. Greear, Southern Baptist Convention president and pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham area, delivered Tuesday’s chapel sermon, preaching from Colossians 1:24-29. He gave a sobering reminder to attendees of the call that believers have on their lives to joyfully sacrifice so that others can know Christ, even if in death.
“Joyful sacrifice is when you give up something you love for something you love even more,” said Greear, explaining that this is the way in which believers are spurred on to the mission of God. 
Following Greear’s sermon, Akin commissioned and prayed for students serving in the 2+2 program as well as those serving on short-term trips this summer.
Southeastern Society members give at least $1,000 to SEBTS each year and partner with the school to help train students in living out the Great Commission wherever they go. To learn more, please visit sebts.edu/ses.
To learn more about the For the Mission campaign or to make a gift, visit forthemission.com.
The next trustee and Southeastern Society meetings will be held Oct. 13-15.

4/12/2019 4:36:41 PM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments

ERLC, others defend religious liberty at U.N.

April 11 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention’s religious freedom entity and other advocacy organizations have expressed concern to the United Nations regarding the Malaysian government’s continued refusal to protect the right of all citizens to practice their faith.                                                                                                                                                     
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) in a March 5 statement regarding the Muslim majority country to the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The statement was read during the UNHRC’s latest meeting, which was Feb. 25 to March 22 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The ERLC and its allies responded to the disappointing reaction by a newly elected government in the Southeast Asian country to recommendations made previously by UNHRC member states. The new ruling coalition – representing the only regime change since Malaysia gained its independence in 1957 – failed to live up to the hopes of religious minorities after its election in May 2018.
In the statement, the religious liberty advocates expressed “deep regret” over the new government’s rejection of nine of the 10 recommendations by UNHRC members to address “the deteriorating situation” for freedom of belief in Malaysia.
The statement said the organizations are “highly concerned” the Malaysian government is only willing to protect religious liberty within its constitutional framework and not to live up to the international human rights standards that include the freedom to change religion or belief.
“Indeed, while the Malaysian Constitution provides for laws to control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing Islam, this provision has been used to enact anti-propagation enactments that prohibit the free expression of individuals and the manifestation of religious practices of minority religious groups,” the statement said.
In the statement, the ERLC and its allies urged Malaysia “to put an end to such restrictions” and guarantee equal human rights for all citizens.
The statement – organized by ADF International – specifically declared its disappointment with the Malaysian government’s unwillingness to delete religious status from required identity cards.
Travis Wussow, the ERLC’s general counsel and vice president for public policy, told Baptist Press, “The Malaysian government’s decision to reject nine out of 10 recommendations related to religious freedom is a significant setback for the hopes of Christians and other religious minorities. Christians had been hoping the new Malaysian government elected last year would bring a series of fresh reforms, but the future of interreligious peace and harmony in Malaysia is uncertain as ever.
“The United States and international community should keep up the pressure on the new Malaysian government to create a Malaysia for all Malaysians, including Christians and religious minorities,” he said.
Wussow attended the UNHRC meeting along with ERLC Executive Vice President Phillip Bethancourt as part of the U.N.’s release of its annual report on international religious freedom. They met with member states and other organizations to promote global religious liberty, especially regarding conditions in such countries as China and North Korea.
The recommendations made to Malaysia came from UNHCR members who participated in what is known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR Working Group, which consists of the 47 UNHRC member states, meets three times a year and reviews the human rights records of 14 of the U.N.’s 193 members each time. Non-governmental organizations such as the ERLC, ADF International and WEA are able to provide information for the reviews.
During the UNHRC meeting, the ERLC’s Wussow and Bethancourt attended a panel on the outcomes of the latest UPR session, which included a report on Malaysia.
The ERLC’s advocacy for religious freedom in Malaysia has been limited not just to U.N. forums. The entity produced a video documentary last year that reported on the burden to non-Muslims in the country from the religious registration requirement. Wussow traveled to Malaysia in 2017 to meet with government officials and affected Christians.
Some Christians – who constitute about 10 percent of Malaysia’s population – and other religious adherents have been registered as Muslims because of forced conversions, marriage arrangements or clerical mistakes, according to the ERLC. Registration as a Muslim, even mistakenly, bars a person from marrying a non-Muslim, forces children to attend Islamic schools and bans conversion to another faith.
Dato’ Amran Mohamed Zin, Malaysia’s permanent representative to the U.N. in Geneva, defended his government during the UNHRC meeting.
“Our diversity is our strength,” he said. “As a multi-religious nation, affirmative efforts continue to benefit and sustain peace and harmony in our country. Malaysia has put necessary checks and balances through additional policies and programs against acts of discrimination, stigmatization, stereotyping, hate crimes based on religion or belief.”
The statement from the ERLC, ADF International and WEA also brought attention to the abduction of Pastor Raymond Koh two years ago. They implored Malaysia’s government to launch a new, independent investigation into his abduction and to guarantee the security of all religious workers.

4/11/2019 9:35:48 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Unplanned’ inspires pro-life candlelight vigils

April 11 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Thousands of activists will attend pro-life prayer vigils outside Planned Parenthood clinics in 38 states April 13, inspired by the movie “Unplanned,” vigil organizers said.

National Pro-Life Action League photo
A group protests outside an Aurora, Ill., Planned Parenthood in 2018 in an event that is a precursor to the April 13 Nationwide Pro-Life Candlelight Vigil being held in 38 states.

The Nationwide Pro-Life Candlelight Vigil is planned in 141 U.S. cities as of April 10, according to organizers the Pro-Life Action League, Citizens for a Pro-Life Action League and Created Equal.
“Unplanned has become a call to action for the pro-life movement,” Mark Harrington, executive director of Created Equal and event co-director, said in an April 9 press release. “Thousands have been inspired by this movie to get actively involved in the pro-life movement for the first time. Saturday’s nationwide candlelight vigil will be the critical first step for many of these new pro-life activists – including a new group of first-time leaders.”
Abby Johnson, author of the book on which the movie is based, applauds the activism occurring just two weeks after the film’s March 29 release.
“It’s been wonderful to see the amount of activism that is happening,” Johnson told Baptist Press (BP) today, “not because of the film, but because God is moving in people’s heart after seeing the film.
“Abortion has been something that people unfortunately have been silent about for a long time, and our churches have been relatively silent about this issue,” said Johnson, who had an epiphany regarding abortion while working as a Planned Parenthood clinic director in 2011.
“I’m just thankful that the film is serving as a catalyst for this type of activism,” Johnson told BP. “And hopefully those who go to the vigil will then be even further convicted to go out to these clinics when they’re open and to share love and hope to the women who are going in considering an abortion.”
The national candlelight event repurposes the annual National Day of Prayer and Protest against Planned Parenthood, in its fourth year, to appeal to first-time activists the movie is generating, Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler told BP today.
“This year we decided to … do something a little different,” Scheidler said.
A coalition of more than 75 local, state and national pro-life groups are helping coordinate the candlelight event. Groups may schedule additional vigils at protestpp.com.
“The pro-life community nationwide is responding to the pain and suffering of abortion by turning to prayer,” Scheidler said. “Unplanned presents a heartbreaking story of what abortion does to its unborn victims, the women who make that choice, and those who are involved in providing abortions.”

National Pro-Life Action League photo
A 2017 Morristown, N.J., prayer vigil was among ongoing events aimed at stripping Planned Parenthood of federal funding.

Planned Parenthood claims to put women’s needs first, but the movie supports a different reality, said Monica Miller, executive director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and vigil co-director.
“While abortions continue to rise at Planned Parenthood, every year they’re seeing fewer patients and performing fewer other services,” Miller said, referencing Planned Parenthood annual reports. “More and more, Planned Parenthood is really all about abortion.”
Churches and individual Christians should actively show women options to abortion, Johnson told BP.
“Women have abortions not because they are feeling empowered in their abortion decision,” Johnson said. “They have abortions because they feel like they have no other choice, which is why the verbiage of being pro-choice is such a lie. Women have abortions because they feel like they’re out of options.”
Unplanned, still in theaters, brought in $12.9 million through April 8 on as many as 1,516 screens, according to Box Office Mojo.

4/11/2019 9:30:47 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Hungry’ & ‘confused’ migrants aided by N.M. Baptists

April 11 2019 by Daniel Porter and Joy Pittman, Baptist New Mexican

At the request of municipal and federal agencies, faith-based organizations in Albuquerque, N.M., including the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, are helping to house and feed more than 400 asylum-seeking migrants from South and Central America.

Gobnm.com photo
New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief Volunteers prepare food for migrants from Central and South America staying at an Albuquerque-area motel.

“This is a different kind of response for us,” said Ira Shelton, director of New Mexico Baptist Disaster Relief (NMBDR). Jesus’ teaching on helping “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46) “says to me, we need to be helping these people. They’re hungry and they’re confused. If we can bring hope, help and healing, then that’s what we need to do.”
Over the past several weeks, hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants have entered the United States along the El Paso, Texas, sector of the country’s border with Mexico. In addition to El Paso, the sector includes New Mexico’s entire southern border. The Albuquerque Journal reported March 22, that “most [migrants] crossed illegally.”
As of March 27, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had more than 12,000 migrants in custody.
Because of the large number of people crossing the border in El Paso, Annunciation House, a Catholic ministry that serves migrant and homeless communities in the border city, quickly reached capacity. As a result, many migrants have been transported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to Albuquerque, where city leaders are working with several nonprofit organizations – including NMBDR – to meet migrants’ day-to-day needs.
As of early April, Albuquerque was hosting 430 asylum-seeking migrants who entered the U.S. through the El Paso sector, said Roger Ebner, director of Albuquerque’s Emergency Management Office.
Medical personnel, city leaders and nonprofit organizations in Albuquerque agreed to work together to provide the migrants with medical care, temporary housing, food, clothing and transportation, said NMBDR associate director Ed Greene.
From March 14-19, 12 NMBDR volunteers, including Greene and Shelton, prepared hot meals and non-perishable lunches for several of the migrants who are staying in Albuquerque-area motels as they await further processing.
NMBDR volunteers also prepared nonperishable sack lunches to be handed out to migrants who were traveling from Albuquerque to other parts of the U.S., where they have immigration sponsors, said Cricket Pairett, ministry assistant for the BCNM’s Missions Mobilization Team. Food in the sack lunches, she said, had to be able to withstand several days of travel and varied temperatures.
As of March 26, the BCNM team had prepared approximately 320 meals in all and logged 193 volunteer hours.
Sandia Baptist Church in Albuquerque, which has a commercial grade kitchen, allowed NMBDR to use its space to prepare meals. Garland Peek, Sandia’s minister to adults, helped to coordinate the operation on behalf of the church.
Three additional BCNM churches have expressed interest in providing meals and other resources. Joseph Bunce, the BCNM’s executive director, said churches can supply volunteers to help as cooks and servers, provided they adhere to NMBDR’s strict food preparation guidelines.
At least one disaster relief volunteer declined to participate in the ministry to asylum-seeking migrants, citing political differences, Shelton said.
It is unclear how long the migrants will be in Albuquerque or whether more will arrive in the coming weeks. Ebner, of the city’s Emergency Management Office, said “there may be an ebb and flow to this, so I think this will continue into the future. But I believe there will be a decrease at some point ... We need to be as ready as possible and then be as flexible as possible.”
The city of Albuquerque, Ebner said, has not paid for any costs associated with the humanitarian response.
Ebner commended faith-based groups and volunteer medical personnel for meeting migrants’ needs. He said of NMBDR, “The Baptists have done a tremendous work here. Every organization appreciates the work they have done.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daniel Porter and Joy Pittman write for the Baptist New Mexican, gobnm.com, news journal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.)

4/11/2019 9:27:02 AM by Daniel Porter and Joy Pittman, Baptist New Mexican | with 0 comments

Prosperity gospel a problem in Africa, Chitwood says

April 10 2019 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

There’s a deacon in Uganda who will gladly pray for church members who pay a few shillings; another preacher says God will bless them with a car or house if they are willing to give him some money. And another preaches John the Baptist was born of a virgin birth. 

IMB photo, Matt Jones
Ugandan Baptist Seminary was founded in 1988. The seminary now has three local full-time faculty, 13 adjunct teachers, and 246 students and church leaders from eight different countries.

These are a few examples International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries in Uganda and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa have shared on why theological training is so critical.
“The prosperity gospel is alive and well in sub-Saharan Africa as is Islam and African traditional religions, animism,” said IMB President Paul Chitwood, who took a couple days to visit the Ugandan Baptist Seminary (UBS) during his whirlwind tour of Uganda with his wife Michelle and 12-year-old daughter Cai. Last week’s trip was Chitwood’s first extended visit overseas since taking on his new role as IMB president.
With Uganda’s population of more than 40 million reportedly positioned to double in size by 2050, biblically faithful education and discipleship there and in other African countries is needed more than ever. And Chitwood said IMB missionaries in Jinja and others working with UBS are helping provide that training.
“To see Ugandan Christ followers being equipped to challenge those false teachings … helped me know that we’re on the right path here [with theological education]” Chitwood said. And “our missionaries are approaching this in a way that is effectively turning the people away from the lies of false religion to the truth of the gospel,” he said.
Following his two-day stop in Jinja, Chitwood affirmed that IMB “is not wavering in our commitment to theological education.” 
And he wanted the seminary’s principal, Anthony Shelton, and other missionaries in Jinja “to know that [IMB is] behind him and his team and fully committed to their work.” Shelton and his wife Misti have two teenage daughters, Karis and Sophia.

IMB photo, Matt Jones
Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, guest teaches a class at the Uganda Baptist Seminary in Jinja, Uganda. Chitwood affirmed that IMB “is not wavering in our commitment to theological education.”

Shelton said a few years ago he was wondering if the seminary would be around to provide theological training. In 2015, the east Africa region was hit hard, losing about 65 percent of its field personnel who accepted a voluntary retirement incentive as the IMB looked to recover from a massive financial shortfall.
Beginning that year with five missionary teams, the Sheltons went from being the youngest missionary couple on their team to the only ones for a time. The seminary also lost significant financial contributions since many of its donors were connected to the missionaries who left.
“It was devastating,” he said. “… It left a big gap.” But he added, “God sent people. God was very gracious to us. … We’ve had people come in and out but filled in those gaps. And God continues to provide.”
“God provided staff and faculty but also the financial means to continue running the school,” Shelton added. “God’s grace is thick and active.”
UBS was founded in 1988. The seminary now has three local full-time faculty, 13 adjunct teachers, and 246 students and church leaders from eight different countries.
In the 30 years since UBS was formed, the seminary has seen more than 1,000 church leaders come through the school and graduate. But Shelton said it isn’t enough to keep up with the dramatic population growth.
“We have to do more,” he said. When locals are asked if they are a Christian, Shelton noted, “You’ll get all sorts of answers because there’s so much confusion with that question.”
Chitwood, who guest taught a class at the seminary and spoke during a packed chapel service, told students sending more missionaries from the U.S. will not turn the problem around. What’s needed is “brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are doing their work and working together,” he said. “And so we count it a high privilege to partner with you and to be a part of this seminary.”
He added, “We are hand-in-hand and arm-in-arm with you and thanking God for what He is doing through you and for the privilege that we have in partnering and investing in that ministry.”

IMB photo, Matt Jones
Students worship during chapel at Ugandan Baptist Seminary. In the 30 years since it was formed, the seminary has seen more than 1,000 church leaders come through the school and graduate.

Jonathan, 28, from Kampala, is a third-year student at the seminary and one of those partners. “I love the Word,” said the student who turned his life over to Christ in 2016. “I love teaching the Word and that is how I got the passion for coming [to] this seminary.”
Journeyman missionary Nathan Godby, who teaches English at UBS, hopes more Ugandans like Jonathan will develop that same passion and seek out solid theological training.
The answer, he said, begins with Africans reaching and training Africans.
“Here in Uganda there is a lot of just bad teaching and assumptions and so I saw the seminary as a great way to engage in missions and be part of mission … ,” he said. “These [students] who we’re teaching Bible, English and all of this, they already know five, six, seven languages, they know the culture they’re already in. They’re prepared for Africa.”
And, he said, the seminary will help prepare them for addressing issues such as false teaching on prosperity.
“It’s not rare to find a preacher, if you want to call him a preacher, who charges for prayers,” said Godby, who added that too many pastors go into the ministry for the wrong reasons of financial prosperity.
Being a pastor in countries like Uganda is often seen as “the best job around here,” he said. With many Ugandans unable to find good jobs, “sometimes the best job is to be the pastor and to take advantage of people.” 
This issue is among the reasons Uganda is reportedly looking at passing laws that force pastors to receive theological training. In 2018, Rwanda reportedly saw thousands of churches close after the country passed legislation requiring pastors to receive training.
Godby said he sees Uganda eventually passing similar legislation. This can be a good thing, he said, to bring more accountability and training to pastors who are not theologically sound. But he acknowledged it also can create religious freedom issues because it allows the government to regulate churches.
Daren Davis, IMB leader over work in the sub-Saharan Africa, hopes theological training through local, U.S. and other countries’ missionary efforts will help curb prosperity gospel issues and other false teachings.
“We’ve had 23 new long-term units appointed to sub-Saharan Africa since 2016 and six of them have been appointed to do theological training like this,” Davis said. “So that’s a significant percentage throughout sub-Saharan Africa.”

IMB photo, Matt Jones
Ugandan Baptist Seminary students pray before the start of class.

Missionaries are also starting an African Baptist Theological Educators Network which focuses on more partnership, he said.
“It’s a network of theologians that are teaching at schools, they may be convention leaders throughout Africa and also some of our partnering institutions in the states will come,” Davis said. “…It’s an opportunity to cast vision toward Africans being theologians and actually writing theological documents and journals that come from an African perspective, that address African issues.”
“It’s really a mutual partnership,” he said. “… We believe in partnerships with Baptist conventions across sub-Saharan Africa to help them do their part,” he said.
Ultimately, Davis said, working with believers around the globe who send missionaries is a big part of reaching the world for Christ. Davis mentioned his visit with Chinese believers one day last week in Kampala.
Those missionaries – including believers in Uganda and sub-Saharan Africa – want to learn more from us, Davis said, “but the thing I wanted them to understand is … we have things we can learn from you.”
For more information about or to partner with the Uganda Baptist Seminary, go to www.ugandabaptistseminary.org.

4/10/2019 10:28:58 AM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pro-life videos ‘saved lives’ despite SCOTUS setback

April 10 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal this month to dismiss Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit against pro-life activist David Daleiden, other pro-lifers say videos Daleiden released in 2015 have advanced the crusade against abortion.

EWTN screen capture from YouTube
Pro-life activist David Daleiden has advanced the anti-abortion cause through his investigative journalism, fellow pro-lifers say, despite a legal setback this month at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 2015 videos, released by Daleiden’s California-based Center for Medical Progress (CMP), claimed to show footage of Planned Parenthood workers trading in body parts from aborted babies. CMP’s investigation prompted congressional examination of Planned Parenthood and a reported investigation by the Department of Justice, as well as renewed federal defunding efforts.
Kristen Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told Baptist Press (BP) the CMP videos “revealed the cold-hearted nature of that horrific business and of the people laughing all the way to the bank. The evidence that Planned Parenthood officials picked through the broken bodies of aborted infants to earn extra money and found their deadly business amusing and highly profitable turned many people’s stomachs.
“Lives have been saved as people have taken the time to learn more” because of the videos, Hawkins said.
In 2016, Planned Parenthood sued Daleiden, CMP and others who helped produce the videos, according to media reports, claiming they conspired to commit federal wiretapping violations and fraudulently gained access to conferences.
Daleiden and his colleagues claimed they were performing investigative journalism and are protected by California laws requiring dismissal of lawsuits that seek to stifle free speech on a public issue, Reuters reported.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Daleiden’s arguments in 2018, and he appealed to the Supreme Court. The high court declined April 1 to hear Daleiden’s appeal, allowing Planned Parenthood’s suit to continue.
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, Daleiden tweeted, “The biggest losers from today’s decision are [Planned Parenthood] who now must go to trial on fabricated claims with zero facts.”
Planned Parenthood has denied it profited illegally from transferring fetal tissue to researchers. Planned Parenthood also has accused CMP of editing its videos deceptively.
Bioethicist Joy Riley told BP she can’t quantify the CMP videos’ impact, but she has “heard a number of conversations about abortion, personally and in the culture, that we weren’t having before the release of those videos” – conversations about abortion procedures, what happens to the bodies of aborted children and whether abortion providers are permitted to profit from selling fetal tissue.
“There seems to be a new level of honesty in some of the conversations we’re having in the culture,” said Riley, executive director of the Tennessee Center for Bioethics and Culture.
In addition to Planned Parenthood’s civil suit, Daleiden faces 15 felony counts in California related to his investigative reporting. He is expected to be tried April 22-May 4, LifeSite News reported.
In Texas, Daleiden was charged in 2016 with felony and misdemeanor crimes. Those charges eventually were dropped, and in January 2019, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the CMP videos “are authentic and not deceptively edited,” according to the conservative publication National Review.
A California federal judge blocked the release of CMP videos in a related legal matter, Reuters reported, and the Supreme Court allowed that ruling to stand last year.
Planned Parenthood has continued to receive more than $500 million a year in government funds despite reports and investigations as well as its record of performing more than 300,000 abortions annually.

4/10/2019 10:25:59 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Church fires in La. spur Baptist outreach, care

April 10 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Bert Langley lives just two miles from Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, the latest building destroyed in a series of fires at black Baptist churches in St. Landry Parish, La.

Louisiana State Fire Marshal photo
A shell remains of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, destroyed in a series of fires investigators said have “suspicious elements.”

Langley, director of missions at Acadia Baptist Association (ABA), drove to the church site looking for Pastor Gerald Toussaint who, according to news reports, works full-time as a truck driver. Langley found only a fire marshal surveying the remains of the church, which is said to be more than a century old.
“If we can help them find a meeting place, that would be the big thing right now,” Langley told Baptist Press (BP) April 9. “We know the church didn’t burn. That’s just the building.”
Langley has communicated with James Jenkins, Louisiana Baptist Convention church planting director, and First Baptist Church of Opelousas, a Southern Baptist congregation in the southcentral Louisiana community.
“We’re going to try to get some of the ministers together in the area and see what we can do to help them,” Langley told BP. “Our own Louisiana Baptist Convention African American representative, James Jenkins, called me yesterday. We’re going to do what we can. It’s just going to be a matter of trying to establish contact with them and find out what their situation is.”
No one perished in the fires that have “suspicious elements,” the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office (SFM) said in its latest press release. While an official determination of arson has not been made, the SFM told BP today, the incidents have evoked memories of racially motivated fires at black churches during reconstruction and the civil rights era.
Ronnie Floyd, president-elect of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, called the fires tragic and requested prayers for the congregations.

Louisiana State Fire Marshal photo
A Louisiana State Fire Marshal van shines light on the remains of St. Mary’s Baptist Church in Port Barre, La., one of three historically African American churches destroyed in a string of suspicious fires still under investigation.

“I am praying the spirit of hope and triumph rises up greater than ever in each one of these churches as they demonstrate the power of God’s love and forgiveness even in this hour,” Floyd told BP. “Please join me in praying for these churches.”
Fires destroyed Mount Pleasant and Greater Union Baptist churches in Opelousas, and St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, all non-Southern Baptist congregations.
Ken Weathersby, SBC EC vice president for convention advancement and a former Louisiana church planter and pastor, expressed sadness and hope.
“I know that the investigation is still ongoing, but it seems very suspicious to me,” Weathersby told BP. “It is my prayer that the people of God who have been affected will continue to press toward the goal of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
“I know that my God is able to bring good out of this terrible situation,” Weathersby said. “I will continue to pray for the churches involved.”
The fires spanned 10 days in late March and early April, and are being investigated by local, state and national officials.
“We are considering the fires suspicious at this time, but have not made an official determination on any of them,” Ashley Rodrigue, SFM public affairs director, told BP today. “Our investigation continues to move forward toward finding that answer each day.”
Opelousas is a majority African American town of about 16,000 people, while Port Barre’s 2,000 people include about 500 blacks, according to 2016 demographic data.
Both towns are in the coverage area of the Acadia Baptist Association where Langley serves.
“We don’t really know what’s going on,” Langley said, “other than that it seems to be all connected. And the little bit that [investigators are] letting us know about it is, for some reason it appears they’re targeting African American Baptist churches.”
“We [are] … just praying down here that God will lead them to find out whoever it is, and they get them off the street,” Langley said, assuming a perpetrator is involved, “so they don’t continue to burn buildings.”

4/10/2019 10:22:40 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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