August 2008

Most Americans believe God can save lives, even if doctors can't

August 21 2008 by Tim Murphy, Religion News Service

A majority of Americans believe that divine intervention can trump doctors' advice in end-of-life cases, according to a new report published in Archives of Surgery.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut, found that 57 percent of adults believe in the possibility of a miracle even after doctors have told them a family member's life can't be saved.

Just 20 percent of trauma professionals felt divine intervention could save a patient.
"Regarding medical futility, the results indicate that physicians can be reasonably sure they are trusted to make those decisions. However, they need to be prepared to deal with families who are waiting for a miracle," the report concluded.

The study was conducted in the summer and fall of 2005, just a few months after the public debate over whether to remove the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman whom doctors concluded was in a persistent vegetative state.

Although 61 percent of respondents said that "a person in a persistent vegetative state could be saved by a miracle," only 11 percent said that they would prefer to be kept alive if given the choice.

Researchers surveyed 1,006 adults, and 774 trauma care specialists. Race, age, gender, and education level were weighted to reflect census data, but researchers did not report the religious affiliation of participants.

8/21/2008 4:12:00 AM by Tim Murphy, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

BSC reveals new employee

August 20 2008 by BR staff

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Brian Upshaw

When the Baptist State Convention (BSC) Executive Committee authorized hiring four new staff members Aug. 14, one name could not be revealed yet.

Today, the new team leader for church ministries in the congregational services area was revealed: Brian Upshaw, senior associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Gulfport, Miss. He’s been in that position since 2004 but has been on staff at First since 2000.

Upshaw will be supervising BSC employees in the areas of Sunday school, music and worship and preschool and children’s ministry, said Lynn Sasser, executive leader of congregational services.

Joining Upshaw are:

Kenny Adcock, as state Royal Ambassador leader and recreation associate at Camp Caraway; Eric Vidana as webmaster at BSC offices in Cary; and Jeff Pate as campus minister at Western Carolina University.

During the Aug. 14 meeting at Caraway Conference Center, the Executive Committee also approved modifications to staff retirement options and initiated a study that could change the status of several councils to committees of the Board. See the full story about the Executive Committee meeting.

8/20/2008 6:29:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Ostrich ministry provides two kinds of hope

August 20 2008 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

IMB photo

Ostriches are a prized bird among the Xhosa people in South Africa.

GRAHAMSTOWN, South Africa — Baby ostriches — 100 of them — scamper in all directions, pecking at the dirt, a stray spoon and anything that moves or glitters. In a few months, the Hanise family will sell these birds for their meat, hide and feathers.

It’s a brand-new venture for the family living in the hills outside Grahamstown, South Africa. They see the ostriches as an opportunity to earn money and have a shot at a better life. Bob Morris sees the birds as an entry point to building relationships, sharing the gospel and helping start new churches among the 8 million Xhosa people living in South Africa.

For the last two years, Morris, a missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB), has been working with Martin Fick on the ostrich project. Fick, a tall hulk of a farmer from Zimbabwe, started the project with the native African birds to provide jobs for the poor and to teach Christian principles.

After Fick’s team drops off the batch of birds at the farm, Morris prays with the family.

“There have been many projects before, but this one is different,” says Tempela Hanise, while watching his family shove food into the baby birds’ mouths.

“There has never been a project like this with a pastor,” he adds. “Having a prayer here, for instance, has never been done before.”

IMB photo

For the last two years, IMB missionary Bob Morris, right, has been working with Martin Fick on the ostrich project in South Africa. Fick is a farmer from Zimbabwe.

Morris and his wife, Susan — both claim Park Street Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., as their home church — have navigated rough roads for nearly 20 years to minister among the Xhosa, who live in and around two territories. One is known as the Transkei — which means “the area beyond the Kei River.” The other is called Ciskei, which means “on this side of the Kei River.”

The Xhosa have lived in these areas since the days of apartheid — a system of racial segregation from 1948 to 1994. Though those days are over, the people continue to struggle to make a living in this dry land, viewed by some as uninhabitable.

“They were pretty much dumped here with nothing,” Morris says. “It’s a tough place to live.

“There’s just rocks and heat,” he adds. “There’s very little soil.”

Ostriches, however, tend to thrive in this warm climate — as long as it doesn’t get too hot. About 12 birds died on one unusually hot day when the temperature rose to 115 degrees.

“It has been hard, but God is faithful,” says Zandi Bosi, one of the farmers who lost an ostrich due to the heat. “(The ostrich project) helps feed my children and helps them go to school.

God is a part of this project and has given me an opportunity.”

IMB photo

A Xhosa child walks among a group of baby ostriches that her family just received. The birds are part of a Christian-based project designed to provide jobs and teach biblical principles.

Each farmer is responsible for purchasing the birds. Fick, Morris and other locals on the team help provide biblically based training and mentorship, while meeting both physical and spiritual needs.

Fick believes helping someone meet his or her basic needs is the least a Christian should do.

“Your faith isn’t actually worth much if you say to a man ‘Go and be warm and well-fed,’ if in fact you’re not prepared to do anything for him in a practical way to change the quality of his life,” Fick says.

“So that is very inspirational for us.”

The project started with 12 farmers. Today there are more than 60 — with a couple hundred more on a waiting list.

The key to making the project successful, Fick says, is to instill a sense of ownership among the people, most of whom live in cramped one- or two-room houses.

“There are so many (Xhosa) people who are … exploited and downtrodden,” Fick says. “For us, there is this restoration of dignity and self-worth.”

That’s important, he says, because seeing how God values us brings meaning and purpose to our lives.

A number of villagers attend a small church and a couple of Bible studies Morris helped start in the Transkei area. Still, many Xhosa cling to witchcraft and ancestor worship.

IMB photo

Morris admits that work among the Xhosa has been slower than expected; many cling to witchcraft and ancestor worship. He and his wife, Susan, have helped start a church and weekly Bible studies.

Noma, a woman in Morris’ congregation, claims to be a Christian but struggles to let go of ancestor worship. Her family pressures her to make a traditional beer to gain the favor of the dead.

“I challenged her on that,” Morris says. “I said ‘You’re a Christian. You should be giving your attention and allegiance only to God,’ and she said, ‘But my family won’t let me stop making it.’”

Morris also has struggled to reach the Xhosa men, who often leave their homes to find jobs. One older man in the community tried to run off the Morrises, but they keep coming back.

Last year, a volunteer team from the United States helped Morris reach out to the Xhosa through evangelistic projects, More than 400 people raised their hands to receive Christ as their Savior.

Morris hopes the Xhosa will let go of their traditions and trust Christ for all their needs — even if it takes the help of ostriches.

8/20/2008 4:44:00 AM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor raises barely beat inflation

August 19 2008 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Inflation didn't eat away all of the average Southern Baptist pastor's pay increase over the past two years, but it came close — and churches may have a more difficult time keeping staff members ahead of inflation in 2008.

That's one finding of the SBC Church Compensation Study, a survey of 12,854 staff positions in Southern Baptist churches. The survey was conducted by LifeWay Research, in cooperation with GuideStone Financial Resources and Baptist state conventions through July 1. The study also found that almost two-thirds of churches are partially or fully paying for their full-time senior pastor to have medical insurance and that compensation can vary significantly depending on geography, worship attendance and the pastor's experience and education.

All the data acquired by the study has been compiled into a web-based tool that will help churches as they begin planning staff compensation packages for their 2009 budgets.

Adjusting for church size, the average full-time Southern Baptist senior pastor's compensation (salary and housing) rose 7.26 percent between 2006 and 2008. That rate of change was only slightly higher than the compounded 7.01 percent inflation rate for the same two-year period, according to figures supplied by the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index.

With no adjustments for church size, compensation for other full-time staff ministers increased 12.24 percent between 2006 and 2008, while compensation for full-time office personnel increased by 9.55 percent and by 9.92 percent for full-time custodians.

Churches partially or fully pay for their full-time senior pastors' medical insurance 65 percent of the time, the study found. That includes 36 percent that at least partially fund family coverage, 19 percent who at least partially fund coverage for pastor and spouse, and 10 percent who provide coverage only for the pastor.

The research also discovered that 38 percent of those pastors have life and or accident insurance paid for partially or fully by their church, 32 percent have a disability benefit, 27 percent have dental insurance and 12 percent have vision insurance.

Help for smaller-membership churches

These statistics were determined after adjusting the data to account for church size, which indicates that even smaller-membership congregations are trying to take care of their pastors' needs, said O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources.

"We are pleased to see that two-thirds of SBC churches are offering some level of medical coverage for their ministers and families," Hawkins said. "What is most rewarding is recognizing the number of smaller churches that understand that this is an important benefit for the overall financial well-being of their ministers."

Attendance, membership, budget

The study also found several factors significantly affect a full-time Southern Baptist pastor's compensation, said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research.

"Average worship attendance accounts for the most variance in pastor salaries — 54 percent," Stetzer said. "The membership of the congregation is the next most significant factor, accounting for 50 percent of salary variance. Church budget also explains a noticeable amount of variation — 35 percent."

A valuable planning tool

The data gathered by the SBC Church Compensation Study have been compiled in a web-based tool to help churches as they begin planning salary packages for 2009 — a process that promises to be very challenging in today's uncertain economic climate.

The web-based tool, which can be found at, will help churches determine appropriate salaries for their staff members by looking at survey data from churches similar to their own, based on geographical location and church size.

Staff and churches seeking more information related to retirement, life, health, life and disability benefits, salary, and compensation can contact GuideStone at (888) 98-GUIDE or (888) 984-8433, or visit

8/19/2008 7:05:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New Bible carves up stories by historical timeline

August 19 2008 by Tim Murphy, Religion News Service

Bob Sanford wanted to create a Bible that would bring order and clarity to the text. Instead, he's waded right into one of the great debates of biblical scholarship.

"The Chronological Study Bible" will be released this fall in the midst of a Bible-publishing boom in the United States. In an industry that now as much to do with profits as with prophets, Sanford expects his new edition to have wide appeal.

"(Our challenge) is to take the scholarship and make it enjoyable to a readership that enjoys history," said Sanford, who oversees the Bible division for the giant Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson.

The company has carved out its share of the industry's estimated $500 million annual haul by cornering the market on niche markets, such as families and teenagers.

The latest edition rejiggers the order of books, psalms, and Gospels in an effort to provide a historical framework for a text most scholars consider chronologically challenged.

So, for example, whole sections of Isaiah and Nehemiah are reordered to better reflect an accurate historical timeline; the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are merged into one based on Mark's chronology; and some of St. Paul's letters (which traditionally appear later in the New Testament) are woven into the Book of Acts.

The book's target demographic seems more receptive to the idea. Brad Riley, a pastor at the First Church of the Nazarene in Wichita, Kan., said a chronological Bible would likely be most useful for newcomers to the faith.

"The Bible can be intimidating for people ... and the chronology can help people put the timeline together in their minds," Riley said.

Tommy Bratton Jr.
, who leads group Bible study at the First Baptist Church in Asheville, N.C., agreed.

"We try to put our Bible studies now in context of when things occur," Bratton said. "It would give people, I think, a greater sense of how things were laid out in that way."
Some biblical scholars, however, aren't buying the idea.

"I would say, generally speaking, that scholars would have no interest at all," said Pat Graham, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta. "What it ends up being is something that laypersons find helpful — or would think it would be helpful. Any biblical studies expert worth their salt would not have much interest in this at all, except as kind of a curiosity."

At issue for scholars is a question they have grappled with for generations: When — and by whom — was the Bible written? For readers, the larger question is this: Does it really matter if Ezekial, say, appears before or after Nehemiah, and does it make a difference if a biblical timeline looks more like a zigzag?

The most recognizable changes in the Chronological Study Bible come in the placement of non-narrative sections — the books that aren't necessarily anchored by specific people, places and events. The book of Psalms, which appears in the middle of the Old Testament in most editions, is split up in the new edition by time period. All Psalms relating to David, for example, will instead appear as supplements to the relevant books of the Old Testament such as 1 Chronicles.

Sanford says unlocking and reordering the Bible's chronology can help readers understand the context in which portions of the book were written. But in practice, scholars say, this can prove challenging.

For some biblical accounts, such as the Israelites' exile to Babylon, there are historical accounts to support the narrative. Other stories require a leap of faith, however. Scholars say trying to rearrange individual books requires getting to the bottom of some of the world's oldest known cases of identity theft: Many biblical works were the handiwork of multiple authors, all writing under a single name.

"It was very common in antiquity to attribute one's own writings to the most important historians in the past," said professor Michael D. Coogan, a professor at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., and editor of the "New Oxford Annotated Bible." "It happens not just in the Bible — Socrates certainly didn't say everything Plato quotes him as saying."

Take, for example, the Book of Jeremiah, which was written by an undetermined number of authors over an unknown period of time. Some narratives are repeated and any semblance of chronology devolves into a jumble of dates and places.

The Bible's order is significant for other reasons as well. Some scholars worry that changing the order would impact the Bible's meaning and diminish the value of non-narrative elements, such as the book of Psalms.

"Part of the problem, and to me one of the flaws, is the assumption that this Bible is working with — that (narrative) — is the primary genre of literature in the Bible. That just isn't true," said the Bruce Birch, who teaches at the Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Graham, who called the idea of a chronological Bible "radical," offered a helpful suggestion for potential buyers.

"It's like you would attach a pack of cigarettes with a warning label from the surgeon general," Graham said. "Well, this Bible should have a warning from the theologian general or something: ‘This bible may be harmful to your spiritual health.'"

8/19/2008 3:17:00 AM by Tim Murphy, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Former Wake Forest University president dies (updated Aug. 20)

August 19 2008 by wire reports

WFU photo

Thomas K. Hearn

Thomas K. Hearn, 71, died Monday, Aug. 18.

Hearn, who was president emeritus at Wake Forest University (WFU), died at his Winston-Salem home.

Although he retired in June 2005, Hearns kept an office in Z. Smith Reynolds Library.

In 2003, Hearn was treated for a brain tumor at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. He took off some months to recuperate from surgery in late 2003 and early 2004.  In April 2004, Hearn announced his retirement.

In the fall of 2003, Hearn underwent surgery for a brain tumor doctors had found.

Family members are planning a memorial service Friday, Aug. 22 at 3 p.m. in Wait Chapel. Reports say Hearn died of complications with a brain tumor.

An Alabama native, Hearn was WFU’s 12th president and served 22 years in the post.

In an article from WFU, the current president, Nathan Hatch, called Hearn one of the university’s greatest leaders.

"He served 22 years with great vision and integrity, and all who love Wake Forest are grateful for his legacy of achievement and the place the institution holds in American higher education,” Hatch said.

In a Winston-Salem Journal article, Hatch looked back at Hearn's legacy.

"What I will remember most was his devotion to Wake Forest and to its people," he said.

Before coming to WFU, Hearn was senior vice president at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Born in Opp, Ala., Hearn grew up in Albertville, received a bachelor's degree at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham and a master's degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., before getting a doctorate in philosophy from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

Within three years of arriving at the university, the school ended its ties with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), establishing independent governance.

This move allowed WFU to appoint its own trustees while giving up BSC financial support.

"That was a major step in the history of Wake Forest," said Ed Wilson, a retired provost who worked with Hearn, in the Journal article. "It made it a more diverse school."

The BSC founded Wake Forest College in 1834 in Wake Forest. The original Wake Forest campus is located in Wake Forest, the current home of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

During Hearn's time at WFU, applications doubled, more faculty were hired and two presidential debates (1988 and 2000) were hosted on the campus.

During his tenure, Wake Forest Divinity School was established.

The broad green lawn at Wake Forest that stretches from Wait Chapel to Reynolds Hall was given the name of Thomas K. Hearn Jr. Plaza in his honor. A collection of his commencement speeches was recently published in a book called On This Day of Endings and Beginning.

The university has posted more information and photographs at

He is survived by his wife, Laura; three children, Thomas, Lindsay and Will; three stepchildren, Brys, Hampton and Forrest; and nine grandchildren.

Memorials to: Wake Forest University Brain Tumor Center of Excellence, Office of Development, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1021.

8/19/2008 1:14:00 AM by wire reports | with 0 comments

Tennessee sheriff to draft church-goers as deputies

August 18 2008 by Tim Murphy, Religion News Service

Citing recent high-profile shootings across the country, a Tennessee sheriff has introduced a new plan to train parishioners as law enforcement officers.

Under the "Church Protection Plan," churches in Bradley County in southeastern Tennessee can nominate parishioners to serve as special deputies during Sunday services.

"The chances of a violent shooting occurring in a church are remote, but it can and has happened," Sheriff Tim Gobble wrote in a statement. "If this program helps save a life or prevent a shooting, it will be worth it."

Two people were killed and seven wounded when a gunman opened fire at a Unitarian church in Knoxville, Tenn., about 80 miles north of Bradley County, on July 27.

Under the program, churches with nonprofit status and more than 50 parishioners would have the option of submitting two names to the sheriff's office to serve as "special deputies."

If appointed, special deputies would be required to participate in 40 hours of training each year, and would be authorized to carry firearms. Their authority would be restricted to church services and events.

Some county commissioners have questioned the program, saying it rests on a fragile legal framework.

"I'm very concerned about the county's liability, but I'm equally concerned about the church's liability," county attorney Joe Byrd said, according to the local Cleveland Banner newspaper.

According to Chief Deputy Bill Dyer, the program existed for more than a century, and the new deputies will come at no price to the taxpayer.

"Any time we have a large gathering of citizens, whether it be a church or a block party, or a fireworks demonstration, or a parade, the potential is there for a lot of people to be injured," said Dyer. "So we're trying to protect citizens wherever they gather."

Church security has become a thriving business in the United States, with many megachurches employing security guards to protect parishioners. Last December, a shooter killed four people in a pair of shootings in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Although Dyer said there have been no recent threats made against churches in Bradley County, churches have been quick to sign up, he said.

8/18/2008 6:43:00 AM by Tim Murphy, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

'God is my biggest fan.'

August 15 2008 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

Anna Cummins (front) is part of two U.S. rowing
teams in the Beijing Olympics. Photo courtesy
of U.S. Rowing.

BEIJING — Rowing wasn't even on Anna Cummins' radar as she prepared to enter college at the University of Washington. In high school she competed in basketball and track, and she expected to run in college.

But Cummins soon discovered that God's plans for her didn't include track.

"I grew up as a pretty good miler, and running was integrally part of my character," said Cummins, a member of the U.S. Olympic rowing team. "When I was not recruited to the University of Washington track team, but rather the rowing team, it took a lot of prayer to let go of the old and try the new. Little did I know that God made me perfectly to row."

Cummins, competing in her second Olympics, is part of both the women's eight and the women's pair teams. In the women's eight, Cummins and her American teammates will race in the finals on Aug. 17. In the earlier women's pair, she and her partner Portia McGee didn't qualify for the finals.

She didn't win a medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. This time, her goal is the gold. Cummins credits her coach, Tom Terhaar, with helping to improve on her weaknesses, mainly her technical skills.

"The technical changes I acquired helped me to get more out of each row," Cummins said. "Also, my strength has increased as a result of these more efficient rowing practices. I have no regrets and feel ready for my best in Beijing."

Cummins' journey to Beijing began during her college years. Her high school track coach had connections with the rowing coach at the University of Washington and helped her plan a visit with the team. Cummins admits to knowing nothing about the sport.

"One of the coaches I met said I could take rowing as far as I wanted before I had ever even taken a stroke, and she was so sincere," Cummins said. "She really believed, so I thought, why not give it a try for a year? Two Olympic Games, four world titles and four NCAA championship trophies later, I'm still at it."

Her journey to faith began much sooner, when she was in the fifth grade. Her parents decided that something was lacking in the life of their family, so they began attending church.

For the first time, Cummins began learning about God and the story of redemption.

"My youth pastor helped me to see that even though I was a really good kid, I wasn't perfect and I needed Jesus, so that I could be in a right relationship with God," Cummins recounted. "I gave my life to Jesus and my life has never been the same."

Cummins' faith propels her to serve those in need. She's an athlete ambassador for Team for Tomorrow, an ongoing humanitarian relief effort of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams that encompasses donations, volunteerism, disaster services, advocacy and other relief contributions. This fall, as part of Team for Tomorrow, she'll be involved in the Seattle area with building houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Her belief in Christ also gives purpose to the sport that she has come to love so much.

"Because God gives me my worth and I can't earn it through rowing, I feel I am less prone to go through the ups and downs associated with my performance," Cummins said. "God is my biggest fan. He will always love me not matter how I do. And, He has the toughest expectations — perfection — so I'm always trying to improve."

8/15/2008 3:36:00 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

BSC hires four, manages budget, prepares for September

August 15 2008 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

The Baptist State Convention (BSC) Executive Committee authorized hiring of four new staff members; approved modifications to staff retirement options; and initiated a study that could change the status of several councils to committees of the Board at its Aug. 14 meeting at Caraway Conference Center.

In a quiet summer prelude to an expanded September board meeting, the Executive Committee also heard the process by which a new president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute will be sought and moved to assure that all churches would receive special missions offering promotion materials even if they do not want to cooperate with Woman’s Missionary Union, either state or national.

A search committee named by Fruitland Board Chair George Cagle, who is on the BSC Executive Committee, will work closely with BSC Executive Director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. and Brian Davis, chairman of the Council on Christian Higher Education and BSC executive leader for administration and Convention relations, to identify a candidate to succeed Kenneth Ridings, who will retire at the end of the year.

The candidate’s ultimate approval will come from the BSC Board of Directors since Fruitland is a department of the Board.

Four men will be joining BSC staff, filling vacant positions. They are:

Kenny Adcock, as state Royal Ambassador leader and recreation associate at Camp Caraway;

Eric Vidana as webmaster at BSC offices in Cary;

Jeff Pate as campus minister at Western Carolina University;

A team leader for church ministries in the congregational services area will remain unnamed here until Wednesday, by which time he will have informed the out-of-state church where he is on staff of his change.

Details on the staff retirement options also are being voluntarily delayed here until they are discussed with staff during in-office days next week.

Move for councils

Shannon Scott, chair of the Articles and Bylaws Committee which is recommending extensive consolidation of those documents, moved to form a committee to study a proposal to “terminate the status of the Council on Christian Higher Education, Council on Christian Social Services and Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs” as councils of the Convention. Instead, he would propose that each council “become a committee of the Board of Directors to simplify the organizational structure and streamline the work of the Convention.”

Scott’s motion would leave “membership, powers or responsibilities” of the bodies unchanged.

John Butler, executive leader for business services, said staff is operating within revenue and the $2.5 million budget deficit does not negatively affect BSC operations as much as it would appear. While revenue through July 31 was 11.3 percent below budget, it was just one percent below 2007 receipts.  

Butler said because most revenue actually is forwarded to other entities, BSC operations are negatively affected by about $890,000 of the $2.5 million deficit. “That is significant,” he said. “But we’ve told executive leaders from the beginning of the year to spend at 90 percent or more below budget.”

Careful managing of health care costs, including passing more costs onto employees, also has contained expenses, he said.

“We’re in a good place right now in terms of managing income and expenses,” Butler said.

Hollifield said, “I do not and will not deny the challenges we have because of the controversial things we have dealt with last year and this year,” but he is convinced the primary factor behind slow revenue is a weak economy.

While the 2009 budget calls for staff salary increases and merit raises totaling four percent, Butler said revenue dictates that raises be scaled back to a cost of living increase only. Butler, a former banker, predicts a consumer price index rise in the neighborhood of 3.6 percent for 2008, although the July rise was an annualized 5.6 percent.

WMU letter exchange

Resurrecting an issue from the July meeting, Brian Davis challenged the contention of Ruby Fulbright, WMU-NC executive director, that she had correspondence from national WMU director Wanda Lee that clarified a Fulbright position on distribution of special offering materials. Davis said he contacted Lee, who told him she could find no record of such correspondence.

At issue is where materials to support the North American and International mission boards special offerings will be available to churches who do not want to cooperate with WMU-NC. 

Private correspondence from Lee to Phyllis Foy, chair of the women’s ministry study committee that is recommending formation of Embrace ministries, was read publicly at the July meeting that made it clear materials would be available to any church, even outside the traditional distribution pattern of state Woman’s Mission Union organizations.

Fulbright has consistently held during two years of controversy between her organization and the BSC that national WMU would recognize only one WMU in each state. Nothing in Lee’s letter indicates otherwise. 

But Lee’s letter in July apparently was interpreted by Executive Committee members to mean that WMU national would work just as easily with Embrace as with WMU-NC. Fulbright said she had a letter of clarification from Lee which said WMU national would sell dated curriculum to anyone and make offering materials available to churches that chose not to receive them through WMU-NC, but there will be only one WMU organization per state.

Evidently between the July meeting and Aug. 14 Davis challenged Fulbright’s possession of such a letter by asking her for a copy of it. When it was not received, he asked Lee for a copy and Lee said she could not find one, a fact that Davis interpreted to mean such a letter had never been sent.

Fulbright remained silent during that accusation and produced the email correspondence dated June 23 only after the meeting concluded. Fulbright withheld the document during the meeting, she said afterward, because she wanted to talk with Lee for further clarification.

The June 23 email of clarification from Lee was obviously not in direct response to the Lee letter to Foy, although several Executive Committee members thought that is what they were hearing. Instead, it was one of many items of correspondence between Lee and Fulbright as the WMU organizations navigate the turbulent waters of a new relationship between WMU-NC and the BSC.

Davis said after the meeting that his only concern is to clarify for churches that call the Convention office and do not want to cooperate with WMU-NC where they can receive offering materials. He had no way to estimate how many churches have expressed that sentiment.

WMU-NC will distribute special offering materials to churches as always to support the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. WMU national works through the state organizations, but retains just a small amount of materials that may be available for direct distribution to some churches.

The September board meeting—normally a two-day event—is being expanded to a third day to accommodate significant business, including reports of task forces on giving plans, women’s ministry and ministry to aging; significant revisions to the articles and bylaws and NCMO allocations.

The meeting will be Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Caraway Conference Center.

8/15/2008 3:01:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Baptist names first combined hospital/school CEO

August 14 2008 by wire reports

A Texas urologist will be the first chief executive of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, officials said Aug. 13.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported that Dr. John D. McConnell will oversee N.C. Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, including the medical school. The two organizations make up the medical center, one of the Piedmont Triad's largest employers, with more than 11,000 employees.

A Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center news release is here.

8/14/2008 2:00:00 PM by wire reports | with 0 comments

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