August 2008

Church best equipped to minister to homosexuals

August 4 2008 by Douglas Baker, BSC Communications

Exodus International photo

Alan Chambers

RIDGECREST — Families and individuals found help and healing at an Exodus International event attended by more than 700 at Ridgecrest.

Exodus International is an Orlando-based ministry which seeks to help homosexuals escape from that lifestyle. During the event, entire families sat together and often held hands during times of music or prayer in atmosphere of openness and trust.

Many platform personalities are ex-gays — a term that is acceptable to everyone here. They are open about their past. The testimonies of those who rise to share their stories share a constant in their lives — a church. And not just a local church, but a church personified — a specific couple or individuals in a local church who reached out to them (often aggressively) and did not give up until they broke through to help the individual overcome.

Testimonies indicated that for some, it was not a happy time. Coming to Christ was a painful first step which led to a series of more painful steps resulting in some difficult goodbyes and sad (often bitter) relational ruptures. Leaving everything and everyone to follow Jesus Christ was difficult, and the stable love of certain individuals in the church made the dark hours of temptation and loneliness easier.

One person (speaking on condition of anonymity because some of his friends do not know that he struggles with homosexuality) stated that many churches he visited made it clear from the beginning that he would not be welcomed were he to openly confess to anyone — especially the pastor — that he is gay.

“I agree with the Bible that homosexuality is wrong, and I want to change,” he said. “My sinful desires are so strong that I often have problems believing the Bible when I struggle so hard with my own heart.”

He went on to say that he finds little real help from the church in battling sin.  

“I find most churches are more interested in programs and numbers than helping real people like me with a real problem,” he said. “They are more quick to participate in some sort of legislative action against homosexuality rather than spend some time with me. My friends in the gay community are always there for me.”

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, offers another perspective. While Chambers agrees many local churches are not compassionate in their outreach to homosexuals, he believes “the church is the hope of the world, and the church needs to get serious about reaching out to these people who struggle with homosexuality.”  

“Getting serious” about homosexuality is not something that comes easily to most congregations. Many feel ill-equipped but Chambers said, “The church doesn’t need some special sort of learning or training to deal with the sin of homosexuality. Like any sin, we all need and must have the help of Christ to save us from our sins.”
 
Chambers describes sin as a present reality that “we all deal with for as long as we are alive.”
Such a resolve has led Exodus International to change its focus from personal ministry to homosexuals to that of teaching the church to perform this vital ministry. “It would be my hope that soon Exodus would no longer be needed and the church could function well in ministry to homosexuals,” Chambers said.

Such a church-centered focus from a para-church organization seems to be part of the trend where local churches are called upon to assume more of an active role in the transformation of their communities.

“Churches are central to the healing of anyone — not just the homosexual,” Chambers said. “We at Exodus are committed to the restoration of lives built on the solid foundation of the Bible and lived out in the church.”

For people like David (last name withheld by request), their church is “a new family, a whole new life, and a chance to live again the way I am supposed to live.”

A former lesbian agrees on the importance of the church. “Each week I go to listen to the preaching and learn about the Bible,” she said. “I pray there and seek to really encounter Jesus through the worship of all of his people who are there with me. I use every Bible class and every chance I can get to be with the Lord’s people as help when I know I will really need it. The people at my church helped me turn my life around.” 

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Chambers is featured on a BSC InSight Podcast.)
 



8/4/2008 10:00:00 AM by Douglas Baker, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Practical tips for tough times

August 4 2008 by By Judy Woodward Bates, Baptist Press

DORA, Ala. — With fuel prices soaring and real estate foreclosures on the rise, we’re living in some pretty scary economical times, aren’t we? As believers, how are we to conduct ourselves? Is there a way to sensibly tighten our money belts and still continue to show generosity? Yes.

Cut back where you can and use the savings to bless others. For starters, here a half-dozen simple suggestions:
  • When eating out, order ordinary tap water instead of other beverages. For a family of four, this can make an easy difference of around $400 a year in savings, even if they only dine out once a week.
  • Unless you absolutely have to use your cell phone for business purposes, switch to a prepaid minutes plan that has no monthly fee. For $100, I buy 1,000-minutes and use about a hundred a month, which comes out to $10 a month.
  • Use your GPS or a web site like www.MapQuest.com to find the shortest distance between your home and the places you go. If you discover a route that cuts only two miles each way from your five-day-a-week work drive, over the course of the year, you’ll use two to three less tanks of fuel in the average vehicle. Check your route to school, church, and other places, and you may literally find more ways to save.
  • Switch to fluorescent lighting throughout your home. Not only will the bulbs themselves use less electricity, they’ll also help keep your home cooler, which means less air-conditioning expense, because they produce much less heat than an ordinary light bulb.
  • Change your home’s heat pump or furnace filter at least every three months. A clean filter means your heating and cooling system doesn’t have to work as hard, which translate to energy and dollar savings. Keep this on schedule by writing the date on the filter and on your calendar. Depending upon the condition of the filter, you may want to switch to monthly maintenance.
  • In lieu of funeral flowers, why not a memorial gift to a missions organization or to the person’s place of worship? Twenty dollars won’t buy much in the way of flowers, but it’s enough to pay to place four Gideon Bibles.
All around us, unbelievers are watching to see how our wallets and we respond to this toughening economic period. Those of us who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior need to be setting good examples with every aspect of our lives, including our financial management.

James 1:22 reminds us to “be doers of the word and not hearers only.” This means that we continue to give our tithes and offerings. It means that we keep shining and sharing the light and love of Jesus and exemplifying confidence in His immeasurable ability to provide for us, regardless of any economic downturn.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bates is a freelance writer, author, speaker and creator of Bargainomics, www.bargainomics.com.)

8/4/2008 9:53:00 AM by By Judy Woodward Bates, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Anglicans say church 'ridiculed' as 'gay'

August 2 2008 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

CANTERBURY, England — Allowing same-sex blessings and an openly gay bishop in the U.S. have caused Anglicans to be "ridiculed" for belonging to "the gay church," harmed interfaith relations and severely damaged the Anglican Communion, bishops at a once-a-decade meeting here said Aug. 2.

"The issue of homosexuality has challenged us and our churches on what it might mean to be a communion," the bishops said. "Confidence in the validity of the Anglican Communion, the bonds of affection and our
mutual interdependence is severely damaged
."

More than 650 bishops from the 38 provinces in the worldwide Anglican Communion, including its U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, are meeting here through Sunday for the decennial Lambeth Conference.
Threats of schism in the communion have steadily grown since an openly gay man was elected bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Many Anglicans — particularly in Africa, where Anglicanism is growing — believe the Bible prohibits homosexuality, and nearly 200 bishops are boycotting the conference, refusing to meet with North
American liberals.

While Lambeth Conference organizers have discouraged binding resolutions here, the bishops are working on a "reflections document" that will state the mind of the communion.

The bishops' comments Aug. 2 were part of the document's fourth draft, which Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said was unlikely to change much before the conference ended Aug. 3.

The bishops' reflections say "the ordination of an openly partnered homosexual bishop and the open blessing of same sex relationships" have had "many negative results," including:
  • mission partners lost
  • the church being "ridiculed" as "the gay church"
  • damaged ecumenical and interfaith relationships
  • decreased confidence in the Anglican Communion
  • increased "sexual license"
Also noted, however, are "positive effects in parts of Canada, the U.S. and England when homosexual people are accepted as God's children" and treated with dignity, according to the bishops.

The bishops said there is "widespread support" for moratoria on blessing same-sex unions, ordaining gay bishops and interference in each other's national churches.

But they admit "moratoria will be difficult to enforce, so there are some fears as to whether it will hold."

Meanwhile, some bishops are pushing for less talk and more action.

"I value the listening and to have voices heard," said Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong, "but we need some concrete action to be taken."

8/2/2008 10:23:00 AM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Greensboro churches combine school efforts

August 2 2008 by Bob Burchette, Special to the Recorder

GREENSBORO — Eight churches that joined forces in mid-June to conduct a successful Vacation Bible School(VBS) are working together for a community-wide "Back To School Community Day'' Saturday, Aug. 16.
   
The event will be from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. in a field between Southside Baptist Church and Motel 6, off U.S. 85 on the south side of Greensboro.

The goal is to attract at least 500 children to the event and provide them bags of school supplies, said Matthew Bowden, youth director at Southside That was approximately the average attendance each night for the VBS, according to Patrick Fuller,  Southside pastor.

Pastors of the eight churches reaped great spiritual rewards and established fellowship during that program, Fuller said. So they decided to work together again for the back-to-school block party.

"We found out we can get a lot more accomplished working together than competing for the attention of the children in our neighborhoods," Fuller said.

Three black congregations and five predominately white churches sponsored the VBS at Southside. Seven are Baptist churches, and one is an Assembly of God.

Each church has taken responsibility for getting various supplies, and for helping invite children to play games, and enjoy popcorn, cotton candy, ice cones, refreshments and play game, Bowden said. The area is being blanketed with flyers inviting participation. Mail invitations are being sent to those who participated in the Bible school.

Success of VBS has cleared a lot of hurdles for all of the churches involved, according to Rodney Mitchell, pastor of Rocky Knoll Baptist Church. 


"The most exciting thing about it was that it showed what could be done by working together," he said. "It was an opportunity to see what can take place when churches get together in a common purpose for the Lord. I looked out across the children gathered each night, and it was like a glimpse of heaven with the diversity of people there — white, black and Asian."

The churches also included Groometown Baptist, Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist, Water of Life Community, Whosoeverwill Baptist, Pinecroft Baptist and Central Assembly of God.

The hand-in-hand work among these churches won't end with the back-to-school party. "We're now talking about doing a Christmas program together," Bowden said.
    
(EDITOR'S NOTE — Burchette, a retired editor/writer for the
Greensboro News & Record, can be reached at bburchette@triad.rr.com
).
8/2/2008 4:51:00 AM by Bob Burchette, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments



BWA resolves to support immigrants

August 1 2008 by Baptist World Alliance

Washington, D.C. — In a resolution passed at a meeting in July, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Council declared that “we are all fellow sojourners in this world and that our treatment of the immigrants in our midst is central to authentic scriptural faith.”

Council members call on all Baptists to “renew their scriptural study, academic understanding and prophetic proclamation of the scriptural mandate to live in love and justice with refugees and immigrants.”

Noting that, globally, there are more than 67 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), and more than 191 million international migrants, the Council urged Baptists to “freely share resources with those in need … instill an ethic of love that supersedes ethnic, gender and political boundaries,” and to “act as advocates for refugees and migrants.”

The resolution came against the background of escalating tensions in different parts of the world where refugees and migrants experience increasing levels of discrimination and violence. Paul Msiza, General Secretary of the Baptist Convention of South Africa, apologized to members of the Council for the ethnic violence against migrant workers in that country in May.

Concern was expressed about the treatment and state of IDPs in Myanmar, and the Roma people in Italy, for whom a special resolution was also passed. The General Council, the highest decision making body of the BWA outside of the Baptist World Congress, “Laments that the Italian government, without objection of the European Union, is practicing the involuntary fingerprinting of all Roma people within its borders, including children, which we regard as ethnic profiling.”

Council members hoped that the BWA will take action to bring the state of refugees and migrants to the world’s attention, and to make intervention at the levels of the United Nations and with individual governments.

Members of the Council voted unanimously to establish a BWA Division of Freedom and Justice, which will address these and other justice concerns.

The General Council met during the BWA Annual Gathering that was held in Prague in the Czech Republic from July 20-25.

8/1/2008 8:49:00 AM by Baptist World Alliance | with 0 comments



N.C. volunteers bless Arkansas community

August 1 2008 by By Carla Wynn Davis, CBF Communications

CBF photo by Carla Wynn Davis

Kate Hall teaches a swimming lesson to a Helena-West Helena child during the All Church Challenge July 12-24 in Phillips County, Ark.

HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. – His name is Frank, and he hadn’t been near the water since he almost drowned 40 years ago.

He bought an above-ground pool for his grandchildren who love to swim, but the potential danger haunted him because Frank knew if something happened, he couldn’t rescue them. 

That’s what brought him to the Helena-West Helena municipal pool for swimming lessons, where church members had to help him walk into the shallow end of the pool. By the end of the lesson as the rest of the adult swimmers and teachers gathered for the closing prayer circle, Frank – so deathly afraid of water – made it out of the shallow end.

“When I turned around, I saw Frank in the circle standing in the mid-section of the pool,” said Kate Hall, the swim camp director and a member of Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh. “He told the volunteer, ‘I have to go under this rope and join that prayer circle because I have to thank God for what he’s enabled me to do tonight.’”

The more than 230 children, teens and adults who took to the pool during swim camp were only part of the All Church Challenge, a two-week missions blitz in Phillips County, Ark., where Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Ben and Leonora Newell have served since 2002. The ministry is part of Together for Hope, the Fellowship’s rural poverty initiative in 20 of the poorest U.S. counties.

More than 250 Fellowship Baptists representing 21 churches traveled to Phillips County to serve July 12-24. Many have come before – some year after year.

“As they make a long-term commitment, their ministry deepens,” Leonora said.

Helena residents appreciate the four-year commitment of Kate Hall, who started the swim camp, so much that they dedicated the pool pavilion in her honor and in honor of Earnest Womack, local pool director, the pool in which Hall and other volunteers have helped so many overcome their fears.

First Baptist Church in Elkin has sent teams for three years. Member Betty Pittman spent the week traveling on the Stories on Wheels bus to Elaine, Ark., where they held a children’s camp that included basketball, games and a Bible story.

“We’re planting the seed, believing – even though you can’t see – that the seed will sprout,” she said.

Individuals keep coming back, too, like Van Jones, of St. John’s Baptist Church in Raleigh, who has stayed both weeks for three years.

“I’ve planted roots in a mission project,” he said. “This is worthwhile. I see a lot of change in the community. I might not live here, but I make a lot of friends.”

And that’s one of the goals of the All Church Challenge – for local residents to get involved in and energized by the work.  During the first week, Leonora nearly canceled preschool camp because she didn’t have enough workers, but local resident Jean Williams stepped in and said she’d find enough workers from the community. Local residents showed up, and the camp ran as planned.

Fellowship Baptists came from as far away as Virginia and Texas and for different reasons. B.F. Waddell, 87, came to help finish the new pool pavilion. On the way to Helena and back to North Carolina, where he is a member of McGill Baptist Church in Concord, he stopped to see two friends from his service in World War II. One he hadn’t seen in 50 years. 

Laurenn Singleton, Sarah Neaves and Lakenn Reynolds – members of a state reserve champion swimming team – came to Helena from Elkin, to teach swimming lessons.

 “Everyone seems really excited, and they really want to learn,” Reynolds said. “I’m hoping we … make a difference.”

 Mark Ivey and his new wife were married June 28 and chose to spend a week in Helena instead of a week honeymooning at the beach. Because they’ve come to the All Church Challenge for several years and love the local people, it was an easy choice.

 “One week here and you know you affected some people’s lives forever,” he said.

All these Fellowship Baptists and more spent two weeks “sharing the gospel in all types of ways,” Ben said. They catalogued books for the community center library, hosted a children’s camp, helped in the community gardens, taught water aerobics and visited local residents in the nursing home. They also helped with construction like installing new siding at the home of Charley and Winifred Wells, who saved money all year long to buy the materials.

At the end of the two weeks nearly 400 people gathered to celebrate and see children perform the new songs they learned and to honor the efforts of local leaders.

As Ben Newell looked over the crowd, seeing the smiles and hearing all the laughter and conversation, he knew the last two weeks had made a difference.

 

8/1/2008 8:31:00 AM by By Carla Wynn Davis, CBF Communications | with 0 comments



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