August 2013

Churches help Catholics learn Baptist doctrine

August 21 2013 by Jane Rogers, Baptist Press

BEAUMONT, Texas – As Hispanic populations across the United States, many of which are traditionally Catholic, continue to increase, so do opportunities for Southern Baptist churches to address the spiritual questions of current and former Catholics.

Hispanics made up 38.1 percent of the population of Texas in 2011, the U.S. Census reports. This reflects a nearly 10 percent increase since 2006, when Hispanics accounted for 35.7 percent of all Texans, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts’ office.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) has 193 cooperating churches listing Spanish as their primary or secondary language. Many of their members are former Catholics. Churches in southeast Texas such as Beaumont’s Calvary Baptist also attract people from French Catholic traditions, much like their neighbors in Louisiana a few miles east.

How, then, can a Baptist church, with sensitivity and wisdom, integrate former Catholics who have converted to evangelical faith?

In Beaumont, Texas, Calvary Baptist Church offers a Catholic Connection class twice annually. About 200 people have taken the four-week class since it began five years ago.

“We use the class to help people from a Catholic background understand the differences between the Catholic faith and the Protestant religion and our church’s beliefs,” said Cliff Ozmun, Calvary’s minister of education.

“It is not a formal pathway for new members,” Ozmun said, “but almost every term we offer it, people do join the church and are baptized.”

The Catholic Connection class is not intentionally promoted in the wider Beaumont area. “It is aimed at the Calvary community,” Ozmun emphasized. When enough from Calvary express interest, the class is offered.
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“The class is not an evangelism tool for us. It is comparative theology,” said Ozmun, who noted that the last time the Catholic Connection class was offered, four individuals from a local group of Catholic apologists attended for the purpose of, in their words, providing “the Catholic response.”

“By the fourth week, they commended us,” Ozmun said. “It was not because we aligned with Catholic doctrine but because we taught the contrast in such a respectful way. They felt we were accurately presenting Catholicism.”

One person from the Catholic group even later approached Ozmun in a restaurant to say how much he had enjoyed the class.

Bill Morgan, Calvary’s minister to median adults, wrote the Catholic Connection class curriculum. Jim Robichau, a lay leader and former Catholic, teaches the course.

“We focus on a handful of things,” said Ozmun, including the authority of the Bible, the completeness of the canon, concepts of baptism, the purpose of communion, the doctrines of heaven and hell and the nature and role of confession.

Since Catholics and Baptists differ at several key doctrinal points, Mike Gonzales, SBTC director of language ministries, recommends focusing on the nature of the salvation experience when discipling former Catholics.

“A new believer who comes out of a Catholic background needs to understand that salvation is a spiritual experience” and not the result of adherence to the sacraments, Gonzales said.

“Scripture makes it clear that Jesus is the only mediator to God,” Gonzales added, citing 1 Timothy 2:5, John 14:6, John 10:9-10, Acts 4:12 and Hebrews 4:14-16.

Gonzales recommends discipling former Catholics with either Henry T. Blackaby’s Experiencing God or John MacArthur’s Fundamentals of the Faith in addition to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 confessional statement which is heavily referenced with scripture. Still, he noted, discipling former Catholics is much like discipling any new believers, Gonzales said.

“Discipling former Catholics is a process, not a program,” said Bruno Molina, SBTC language evangelism associate. Molina, a former Catholic himself, helps lead Hillcrest en Español, a Spanish fellowship at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cedar Hill, just south of Dallas.

Integrating those from a Catholic background into Baptist fellowships is “not a matter of going through so many lessons” or simply helping them find their spiritual gifts, Molina said. “It must entail encouraging them to stay in the Word so they understand that everything flows from the Word, not just tradition (about the Word).”

Potential pitfalls occur when the old faith traditions collide with the new. Tension can arise as those with a longtime Catholic identity relate to family members and friends.

“It’s important to encourage former Catholics not to exclude themselves from previous relationships,” said Molina, who recalled his own experience with his traditionally Catholic family after he had trusted Christ as Savior.

“When I came home from the Army and was going to explain the gospel to my dad, I was so excited. I didn’t realize at the time that when I thought they heard that God loved them and had a plan for their salvation, what they really heard was that I was rejecting their culture and the way they had raised me,” Molina explained.

Despite the tension, it is important for former Catholics to include Catholic family members in celebrations of faith, Molina said. For example, while asking Catholic family members to attend one’s adult baptism may be awkward, it should be encouraged.

“That is a great opportunity to testify and help the family understand and experience true Christian fellowship,” Molina said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jane Rogers writes for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Churches that wish to contact Cliff Ozmun, minister of education at Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, may do so via email at cozmun@calvarybeaumont.com.)
8/21/2013 12:20:56 PM by Jane Rogers, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Obamacare’s implementation eyed by GuideStone for 2014

August 20 2013 by Jennifer Carter & Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press

DALLAS – As employers nationwide – including most churches – prepare for 2014, the year that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) becomes more broadly implemented, questions are understandably arising from pastors, business administrators and church personnel and finance committees.
 
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, said the Southern Baptist entity is intent on maintaining its role as an advocate for church plans in general and for pastors and others in ministry it serves specifically.

“Since the enactment of ObamaCare in 2010, GuideStone has been focused on addressing the impact of this law upon our pastors and others serving churches and ministry-related organizations,” Hawkins said. “In fact, we continue to be at the forefront of advocating for pastors and others in ministry as the impacts of ObamaCare unfold. That remains a top priority here at GuideStone and is a multi-faceted endeavor.”

Pastors and churches must address four main concerns as they look to re-enrollment for 2014:
  1. whether they will provide coverage for their employees or put them in a position of having to obtain coverage on secular exchanges.
  2. how exchange plan benefits and total cost of coverage, including out-of-pocket expenses, exchange taxes and fees, will compare with their existing coverage.
  3. whether, if they use a secular health plan provider, they will be subsidizing objectionable contraceptives, including abortifacients.
  4. whether their health plans meet applicable health care reform limits and rules.

Health care exchanges

Under the health care reform law, health care exchanges – or marketplaces – were to be set up in all 50 states. Many states elected not to do so, meaning the federal government must establish them in those states. To date, 24 states have, or are working to, establish state-run or federal-state partnership exchanges. The remainder will have federally run exchanges.
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Despite a deadline of Oct. 1, 2013, to establish these exchanges, even at this late date much is unknown. Subsidies available to eligible individuals and families (e.g., those with a taxable household income around $62,000 for a family of two, $94,000 for a family of four, etc.) who seek their coverage through a health plan on an exchange may lower the out-of-pocket and/or premium costs, but the reality is that many exchanges may only offer limited provider networks, including fewer choices of doctors and medical facilities. This means that some individuals who move to exchanges may be forced to move their care from their existing doctor, or they may have limited choices when it comes to evaluating where to have surgery or receive complex treatment.

While many pastors and their families would otherwise qualify for these subsidies, the way the law was written excludes them from accessing subsidies if they participate in a church health plan, such as GuideStone’s. GuideStone views this as an issue of fundamental unfairness.

“GuideStone continues to work diligently with a broad coalition of denominations to help pastors and other ministry workers who want to keep their coverage with church health plans,” Hawkins said. “The Church Health Plan Act of 2013, S.B. 1164, would offer the same premium tax credits available to individuals who get their coverage from secular exchanges to those who can get their coverage from church health plans, like GuideStone’s.

“GuideStone has been instrumental in getting this legislation introduced into the Senate. But this effort is moving slower than it should because both Democrats and Republicans are putting politics over the needs of pastors. We continue to urge legislators to stand up for pastors and pass this important legislation, which will help more than 1 million ministry workers across all denominations.” More information about the Church Health Plan Act is available at www.FairnessForPastors.org.


Health care costs and coverage

“Our participants can rest assured that the quality GuideStone coverage they depend on will continue well past 2014,” Hawkins said. “Much is still uncertain about commercial market and exchange pricing. Some in the industry have speculated that premiums for exchange plans could jump 40-50 percent, which raises understandable concern. In contrast, GuideStone’s average rate increase for 2014 will be in the single digits – and that increase is driven by the burdensome requirements of ObamaCare as well as conditions in the health care marketplace.” 

GuideStone’s Church Health Plans meet – and often exceed – the minimum value coverage requirements set forth by health care reform. GuideStone’s plans have long provided comprehensive, quality coverage for participants and already include many of the reforms now mandated by health care reform. For example, GuideStone already was providing coverage with no annual or lifetime limits and GuideStone had never terminated a participant’s coverage for high or frequent claims.

“GuideStone remains committed to actively managing health care costs and providing participants a wide range of cost-effective coverage options in the future,” Hawkins said. “In addition to being competitively priced, they include elements such as capped out-of-pocket maximums that help participants control their overall costs.” 

To get a true sense of the cost difference between health plans on the exchanges and their current provider, GuideStone recommends that individuals look beyond base premiums and include out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance, as well as weigh the importance of provider networks, which can have a dramatic effect on the cost of accessing care from their existing doctors and facilities.


Abortion-causing drugs (abortifacients)

GuideStone’s Church Health Plans offer health care benefits designed to reflect the biblical convictions of Southern Baptists and other evangelical believers. GuideStone’s Church Health Plans, for example, cover a wide range of FDA-approved birth control options – but they exclude from coverage those that are abortifacient in nature.

“GuideStone was one of the first evangelical organizations to speak out on religious liberty and convictional concerns related to ObamaCare,” Hawkins said. “Even before the government issued its contraceptive coverage mandate, GuideStone was preparing to fight any requirement to cover abortifacients. Through the efforts of GuideStone and others, churches and closely-related denominational organizations were exempted from this objectionable mandate. But we are still fighting the battle to protect other organizations that do not fit in those exempt categories yet share these biblical convictions regarding the sanctity of life, such as colleges and universities and various other ministries. We are exceedingly grateful to be part of a body of believers that sees each and every life as a gift from God.

“There is simply nothing more important than protecting the most vulnerable among us: the unborn. We are pursuing every possible avenue of advocacy in that regard, including formulating a legal challenge in the courts on behalf of those ministry organizations that have not been exempted and may not have the resources to bring actions of their own.

“GuideStone remains committed to its wide range of advocacy endeavors. Together, with our friends at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, we are standing strong for religious liberty and our biblical convictions. At the same time, we are deeply engaged in seeking legislative and regulatory fixes for church health plans so we may protect and preserve coverage that is specially designed for pastors and others in ministry,” Hawkins said.

GuideStone’s health care reform website, www.GuideStone.org/HealthReform, includes additional information about health care reform and churches, including advocacy efforts on behalf of GuideStone participants.


Compliance

The health care reform law, itself more than 2,000 pages in length, has spawned to date more than 20,000 pages of regulatory guidance. For the most part, the unique needs of churches and other ministry organizations are not addressed. That makes adherence to the law that much more difficult. 

For those participating in GuideStone plans, those burdens are greatly mitigated. “We’ve looked for ways to shoulder as much of the burden of ObamaCare for our participants as we can,” Hawkins said. “Those in our plans can know that they’re complying with applicable provisions of the law and that we’re actively advocating on their behalf.

“ObamaCare imposes a number of requirements upon employers with 50 or more employees, and GuideStone has been working closely with those employers to provide assistance and support,” Hawkins said. “However, we also provide the same assistance and support to our smaller employers through a variety of channels, including www.GuideStone.org/HealthReform. Our commitment to the pastor at the crossroads is unwavering, and providing this information online allows us to communicate to the widest possible audience in a timely, cost-effective manner.”

On the health reform website is GuideStone’s PPACA Overview, which is updated as important changes come out and answers some of the most common questions regarding health care reform and its impact. Visit www.GuideStone.org/HealthReform, select “Individuals/Families” and choose “PPACA Overview.”

As re-enrollment materials are mailed out in September and October, GuideStone will continue to update its website with more up-to-date information.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jennifer Carter & Roy Hayhurst work in the editorial services area at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.) 
8/20/2013 5:39:31 PM by Jennifer Carter & Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Hardest days we’ve ever witnessed’ in Egypt

August 20 2013 by John Evans, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The wholesale looting and burning of Christian buildings in Egypt is not what grieves one Egyptian Christian leader the most. For him, the murder of a 10-year-old girl, gunned down by a Muslim militant on her way home from a Bible study, is the most grievous kind of wound inflicted by the conflict in his country. 

“Those are the hardest days we’ve ever witnessed,” the leader, who was not identified for security purposes, told Open Doors, an organization serving the persecuted church.

“The peaceful Egypt is now soaked into violence, hatred and desire [for] revenge,” the leader said.

Since the Egyptian military removed President Mohammed Morsi from power following an outcry against his rule by many Egyptians, enraged supporters of the former president and the Muslim Brotherhood are locked in a showdown with the military. Amid the furor, Christians are paying a heavy price.

“The level of violence against Coptic Christians, their property and businesses is unprecedented in modern Egypt, both in its scope and the number of churches and structures attacked,” Robert George, chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said in a news release.

Samuel Tadros, an Egyptian scholar, told The Associated Press (AP) the Muslim Brotherhood is blaming Christians for Morsi’s ouster so it can peg the interim military-supported government as anti-Islamic. He said Islamists have attacked more than 50 churches, setting many on fire and destroying at least 20. 
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Evangelical Christians in Egypt, during a gathering in 2011, worship through song, singing such words as “With my faith I will see the good in my bad situations. I ask my soul to sing for the Christ. Allelujah.” 


Tadros also told AP that the Coptic pope, Tawadrous II, has gone into hiding, many churches have cancelled Sunday services and Christians are fearing for their lives. He called Aug. 14 the worst day of violence against the Coptic Church since the 14th century.

MidEast Christian News (MCN), an independent news service, reported on several of the attacks. In one instance, Islamists stormed the St. George Diocese in Sohag, setting fire to the church, looting its contents and assaulting priests inside. Some Islamists even hijacked a fire truck to prevent it from extinguishing the fire.

Father Selwanes Lofti, priest of St. Mary and St. Abraam Church, told MCN how Islamists burned several other church buildings. 

“They stormed the monastery, setting areas on fire as they went, including the historical St. Mary Church, St. George Church and St. Antony Church,” Lofti said.

Writing for National Review, Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, said rioters are targeting not only churches and other religious buildings but also the private property of Christians. 

“In some cases, Egypt’s security forces have protected the Christians from enflamed Islamist mobs; in many others they are failing to stop the mayhem,” Shea wrote.

Wael Ibrahim, who managed the Assuit branch of the Egyptian Bible Society, told Morning Star News that Morsi supporters circled around the bookstore in the morning, threatening to attack any Christian who came near. They later burned down the building, destroying all literature and merchandise. 

“They didn’t just attack the store, they attacked the café and every store on the street that had any connection with Christians – they destroyed so many stores,” he told Morning Star. “All the books were burned. There is nothing left.” 

Shea described the Obama administration as being unable or unwilling to stop the attacks on Christians after U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf “responded simply that [the State Department] is ‘concerned’” about the violence and did not outline a specific policy to help Christians.”

“This can only mean [the administration] is either unwilling to use or has lost all leverage with Egypt’s military, which Secretary [of State John] Kerry had so generously continued funding,” Shea wrote.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spoke out on Twitter, noting the attacks on Coptic Christian buildings and saying U.S. aid “should be conditioned on #Egypt govt protecting #Christians.”

In the meantime, Coptic Pope Tawadrous II said the attacks have been expected and that Copts consider their church buildings “a sacrifice to be made for our beloved Egypt,” according to SAT-7, a Christian satellite station operating in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Terence Ascott, CEO and Founder of SAT-7, wrote in a commentary on the agency’s website that he found it “important and encouraging” that some Muslims came to protect the churches from attack. 

“[M]any Christians then sent messages to their fellow Muslim citizens saying, ‘Buildings can be rebuilt again, but you are priceless, so stay safe, and don’t worry about the churches,’” Ascott wrote.

Baptist Press reported on Aug. 16 that the Beni Mazar Baptist Church in Minya, a city south of Cairo, was attacked and burned. Nobody was reported killed or injured. Mounir Sobhy Yacoub Malaty, the church’s pastor, posted a video showing the ransacked and burning building.

The Egyptian Christian leader who spoke with Open Doors reiterated that the greatest loss is not the buildings destroyed, but the lives taken in the violence. He told Open Doors that irate Muslim Brotherhood members continue to threaten violence and destruction.

“My heart and the hearts of millions of Christian and Muslim Egyptians are bleeding,” the leader said, “as we see Egypt turning into a strange country we’ve never known before.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Evans is a writer in Houston.) 
8/20/2013 5:32:25 PM by John Evans, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



San Antonio debates ‘bias’ toward homosexuals

August 20 2013 by David Roach, Baptist Press

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio city council is considering an ordinance that would seem to bar anyone who opposes homosexuality from serving in public office or getting a city contract.

Opponents of the ordinance, some Texas Southern Baptists among them, say it violates the First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech.

“An effort is being made to silence and in some senses violate the civil rights of the Christian community and even the community at large, irrespective of their faith, if they oppose this non-discrimination policy,” Robert Welch, teaching pastor at Parkhills Baptist Church in San Antonio, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “They will be discriminated against if they have had any association with an organization that has had ‘discriminatory’ policies.”
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The Alamo is one of San Antonio’s famous landmarks. An ordinance the San Antonio city council is considering would seem to bar anyone who opposes homosexuality from serving in public office or getting a city contract.


A draft of the proposed ordinance prohibits “appointed officials” and “member[s] of a board or commission” from demonstrating “bias, by word or deed, against any person, groups of persons, or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability, while acting in such public position.”

“Sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are the categories that have sparked opposition.

The ordinance draft labels “bias” against homosexuals as “malfeasance” and authorizes the city council, in what would be unprecedented for a Texas municipality, to “remove the offending person from office.”

Businesses that have contracts with the city must include in their contracts a statement that they do not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the draft.

Nearly 120 people signed up to testify against the ordinance at a public hearing Aug. 7, and opposition letters are pouring into city hall, according to Texas Public Radio.

Supporters of the ordinance, meanwhile, argue that similar policies in Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin lend credibility to the San Antonio proposal. But Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, told the TEXAN that the San Antonio measure goes further than those cities’ statutes and is “one of the most egregious city ordinances of its type,” effectively barring Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin from serving in city government.

The ordinances in Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin deal with employment and housing discrimination and equal access to public accommodations as they pertain to gender identity and sexual orientation, but they say nothing about bias “by word or deed” regarding city officials or boards.

It “jeopardizes and threatens religious freedom and free speech and also tramples on rights of private businesses,” Saenz said. “That is why there is a large and growing group of folks in the San Antonio area and throughout the state that have major concerns with this ordinance.” He added that the opposition is an effort by people of “all different political parties.”

Among the measure’s critics is first-term U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

“Any attempt to bar an individual from public service based on a personal religious conviction is contrary to the liberties guaranteed us under our constitution and should be emphatically opposed,” the Houston Republican said in a statement. “It is encouraging to see so many Texans standing up to defend their religious freedoms in light of the misguided proposal put forth by the local city council.”

Even if the ordinance passes, Saenz said it is likely to lose a legal challenge. Cities that have attempted to enact similar measures, he said, “have been tied up for years in legal challenges and recall elections and court cases.”

Welch worries that the ordinance could exclude from public office any member of a church that teaches homosexuality is a sin. He has mentioned the issue in leadership meetings at Parkhills and urges all San Antonio believers to contact city leaders to express their opposition.

If Christians remain silent on this measure, it could hinder their ability to win people to faith in Christ, Welch said. Believers who do not defend biblical standards in civic life appear selective and hypocritical when they call people to repent in private witnessing encounters, he said.

“If we keep silent at this point on a matter that is most clearly revealed in Scripture to be antithetical to the plans of God, then we have no leg to stand on when we call people to repent of any sin,” Welch said.

There is no evidence that a homosexual or transgendered person has ever faced discrimination in the city government, Saenz said.

“It’s very clear that the folks that define themselves by their sexual orientation and behavior and their gender identity want to use the government to punish people that don’t agree with their lifestyle,” he said. “It’s unfortunate but I think it’s very clear that’s why these ordinances continue to come forward.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
8/20/2013 5:23:01 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ministry to hurting pastors to expand nationally

August 20 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

WOODSTOCK, Ga. – When pastor Paul Anderson* stood before his Southern Baptist church more than a decade ago and confessed a moral failure before resigning, he figured it would be his last time behind a pulpit. Full of regret and shame, Anderson and his family planned to head back to his hometown and out of ministry forever.

But God wasn’t finished with Anderson yet. Through participation in City of Refuge at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. – a restorative ministry for pastors in crisis – Anderson and his family found healing and new opportunity for ministry. Four years after his resignation, he began pastoring again. Today, Anderson is making plans for a new ministry to help pastors and their families in the hopes of preventing others from making the same mistakes.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Anderson said. “City of Refuge absolutely rescued us. At the time we had no idea where we were going to go and what we were going to do. We would have been left out on our own to figure it out.” 

But with more than 200 applications and 10 or fewer open slots a year through City of Refuge, the vast majority of hurting pastors have nowhere to turn during a crisis. To help provide more opportunities for restoration, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is partnering with First Baptist Woodstock to expand the ministry to other churches. Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Woodstock and a former SBC president, started the ministry after becoming burdened to help wounded and fallen pastors.

“Pastors spend their lives helping others with their issues,” said Hunt (@johnnymhunt). “But who helps the pastor? That’s what City is Refuge is all about.”

The long-term residential restoration ministry brings hurting pastors and their families into First Baptist Woodstock for potentially multiple years. While families are in the program, the City of Refuge provides housing, childcare, counseling and small group support at no cost to the family. Throughout the program, the City of Refuge focuses on helping pastors develop healthy relationships with God, themselves, their families, those they’ve hurt and with ministry itself.
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In an effort to help more hurting church leaders, First Baptist Woodstock will host a Sept. 27-28 conference called Restore, which aims to help church leaders develop a culture of restoration in their churches. Special breakout sessions at the conference will focus on sexual brokenness, substance addictions, church ministries and the life of a leader.

“The biggest reason we’re doing this conference is the consistent opportunity we have to deal with issues like pornography addiction and pastoral burnout and pastoral failure,” said Troy Haas, director of restoration ministries at First Baptist Woodstock. “After seeing that play out in the life of our church and in the lives of churches and men all across the country, we decided it was time we pulled together churches and leaders and encourage and help them to address these issues.”

The conference comes more than a year after NAMB and First Baptist Woodstock developed a partnership to help replicate the ministry in Southern Baptist churches throughout North America. NAMB is helping First Baptist Woodstock document how it does the ministry and find potential ministry sites. 

Haas believes he’ll soon have commitments from a few other churches to host City of Refuge ministries in other regions of North America.

Michael Lewis, who serves as NAMB’s pastor for pastors, said the entity believes expanding the ministry of City of Refuge will play a crucial role in NAMB’s efforts to help Southern Baptists start 15,000 churches over the next decade through Send North America. 

“It takes healthy churches to plant healthy churches,” Lewis said. “Healthy churches are led by pastors with healthy relationships. City of Refuge is a place where pastors can come and become healthy so they can play a part in penetrating lostness in North America.”

NAMB’s partnership with First Baptist Woodstock represents one part of its overall effort to strengthen pastoral leaders and their families, including an upcoming effort to encourage churches to honor pastors during Pastor Appreciation Month in October. NAMB’s efforts also include marriage retreats for pastors and peer-to-peer small groups. 

“We can have all of our programs right, and we can have all of our ‘i’s’ dotted and our ‘t’s’ crossed,” Haas said. “But if our church leaders are not vibrant and healthy spiritually and not connected and healthy relationally, all of those programs will not impact lostness like we’d desire them to.”

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. For more information about City of Refuge, visit restorelife.us/our-ministries/city-of-refuge/. To learn more about NAMB’s ministry to pastors, visit namb.net/pastorforpastors.) 
8/20/2013 5:14:32 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



91-year-old in Thailand: ‘God sent me here’

August 20 2013 by Marie Curtis, Baptist Press

BANGKOK, Thailand – Lorena Mayhugh’s small classroom in Bangkok, Thailand, smells of tacos. She is teaching English to her adult students while incorporating Mexican cooking lessons.

Wearing paper aprons, students chop lettuce and tomatoes and engage in culinary discussions. Forty minutes pass before they realize that instead of speaking Thai, they are learning vocabulary by practicing conversational English.

As one of her older students – a man in his 60s – prepares to leave, he folds his apron and tells Mayhugh, “Every time I see this apron, I’m going to think about this class.”

Mayhugh chuckles as she describes some of her teaching methods. “[Learning English while eating] was good for them, and I enjoyed it. I won’t forget it, either.”

Four nights a week, Mayhugh leaves the tiny dorm-style room she calls home and heads to her classroom at the Baptist Student Center in Bangkok. Most teachers at the school are volunteers like Mayhugh, but there’s one major difference. Mayhugh is 91.

She laughs off looks of surprise when people hear her age: “I’m having fun! Why not?”

Mayhugh has been in Thailand 10 years, first as an appointed master’s missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB) and now as a volunteer. She has taught nearly 3,000 students, mostly professional Thais who come to learn English. She estimates she’s gone through 200 brownie mixes and numerous batches of oatmeal cookies as teaching tools.
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IMB photo by Paul W. Lee
Lorena Mayhugh, 91, says she’s continuing to fulfill her call to missions until the Lord takes her home. Four nights a week, she volunteers as a teacher at the Baptist Student Center in Bangkok, Thailand.  


When others her age are slowing down, Mayhugh remains active. She’s made the choice to serve, teach and disciple on the other side of the world from her only son and grandchildren.

“God sent me here. This is where I belong right now,” she says. “When He wants me to go back home, I’ll go. When He’s through with me in Thailand, He’ll let me know.”

Despite her vigor, there are days Mayhugh feels the effects of living through nine decades. She’s had a hip replacement, suffered through dengue fever and recovered from a fall. Her eyesight is growing worse from macular degeneration and cataracts. Reading small print is almost impossible.

But her spirit is indomitable. “My hip hurts when I’m sitting at home just as much, so why sit?” she shrugs. “And by now I’ve pretty well memorized the books I teach from, so I don’t have to read them much.” 

Since all the apartment doors look alike where she lives, she put a mat outside hers so she can easily identify it. The problem is the trend caught on. “Everyone has their mat out now. But I can still tell which door is mine,” she laughs.

In Bangkok, Mayhugh walks or rides public transportation. Living on the center’s campus offers independence without the upkeep of a house or yard. In a culture where age is deeply respected, people including strangers are always ready to help “Grandma,” a nickname she owns with pride.

Though she misses her family in California, Mayhugh considers her missionary friends and the Thai people she loves as her family. Jai, a former student, and his mother are Mayhugh’s especially close friends. When the three eat out, “Jai orders for me,” Mayhugh says, since she struggles to read menus. “He knows what I like.” Well, except that time he ordered squid egg soup.

Mayhugh’s commitment to serving God began at an early age. Born in 1921 and raised in Missouri, she rarely missed a church event or an opportunity for service. “We went by Model T Ford to church,” she says. “When it was muddy, we went by wagon and when the snow was on, we went by sled!”

After college she married Carl Terwilliger, a pastor, and followed him West to plant churches. In Alaska, Mayhugh used her ongoing passion for missions and served 1958-59 as the Alaska state Woman’s Missionary Union president.

She settled in California, taught elementary school and at age 42 gave birth to their son, Carl Jr. Mayhugh’s husband died suddenly, leaving her to face one of the hardest times in her life as a 48-year-old single mother who didn’t know how to drive.

“Bad things happen to everyone,” she reflects. “When bad things happen, we can get closer to the Lord or we can get bitter.”

She married George Mayhugh in 1971. When he retired from the Marines and she from teaching, they went back to college to become electricians and serve in that capacity at churches.

Both in their 70s, the Mayhughs were appointed in 1973 as Mission Service Corps volunteers through the then-Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board). They traveled throughout California, helping maintain churches and Baptist campgrounds. They were serving at Jeness Park in the Sierra Mountains when George died of brain cancer. Heartbroken, Lorena wondered what the Lord wanted her to do next.

It was while attending a California Baptist Convention meeting in Bakersfield a few years later that she found the answer in an IMB job request for Thailand. In good health at 81, she applied. 

“When I read they needed an MK [missionary kid] teacher for three boys, I knew as well as I knew my name. I knew I was supposed to go.”

Her assignment was to teach Martin and Carrie Chappell’s sons.

“She just loved our boys from the get-go,” Carrie Chappell says. Charlie, now 21, remembers how Mayhugh taught him and his brothers by telling stories from her own life – being a teenager during the Dust Bowl, living through the Great Depression and losing a brother during World War II. She and the boys had science fairs, cooking classes and graduations.

“She’s a grandma to the boys,” Chappell says. “We all just love her and think she’s amazing.” On a recent trip to the U.S., Mayhugh traveled an extra 2,600 miles to attend Charlie’s college graduation, an event she says she just couldn’t miss.

Mayhugh loves her life in Thailand but eventually would like to move closer to her son in California, where she’s already discovered Vietnamese and Hispanics who might need her English tutoring. She’s also praying about taking classes at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

And she’s got other plans as well – places she’d like to travel, people she’d like to meet. In the past two years, she has hiked the Great Wall of China with Jai and snorkeled in the Andaman Sea off Thailand with her son. She doesn’t think her adventures are complete.

“Jai thinks I’ll live to 120, but I don’t know about that,” Lorena quips, as if thinking through the possibility.

“We can’t stop. When God is finished with us, He’ll take us home.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marie Curtis is an International Mission Board writer.)
8/20/2013 3:05:58 PM by Marie Curtis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



BSC Executive Committee approves committee appointments

August 19 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

The Executive Committee (EC) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) met Aug. 15, via conference call for a brief meeting to hear and approve committee reports.
 
In personnel matters, Evan Blackerby, interim campus minister at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, was named central regional campus ministry consultant.
 
Blackerby’s new position is part of the new Collegiate Partnerships Team, which will include three regional campus ministry consultants and two international ministry consultants. This team is being formed in an effort to help Convention staff more effectively implement the Convention’s new five-year strategy, which begins January 2014 (read more about the strategy).  

Rick Trexler, current BSC campus ministry team leader, will serve as team leader for this new team and as eastern regional consultant. In July, Jonathan Yarboro, campus minister at Appalachian State University, was named western regional consultant. 
 
The EC approved the following recommendation from the Committee on Nominations related to appointments on the BSC Board of Directors: Debra Smith, Dudley Shoals Baptist Church, Caldwell Association, to fill the 2014 unexpired term of Delores Greer. The EC also approved the recommendation of Chester Jones, Peachtree Memorial Baptist Church, Truett Association, to fill the 2016 unexpired term of Ed Trull on the Biblical Recorder Board of Directors.
 
Articles and Bylaws Committee chairman Bartley Wooten shared that the Committee recommends no proposed amendments to the BSC articles of incorporation, but will bring to the BSC Board of Directors in September 10 motions for proposed amendments to the bylaws.
 
The motions will address the following: amendments necessary to support the new Convention structure, an amendment to address change of purpose at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, and amendments to bring clarification to matters related to voting/quorum by messengers at the BSC Annual Meeting.
 
Beverly Volz, BSC director of accounting services, brought the financial report. Cooperative Program receipts through July 31 total $16,657,895.41, which is 2.37 percent behind as compared to the same time last year.
 
The next EC meeting will be held Sept. 24 in conjunction with the BSC Board of Directors meeting Sept. 24-25 at Caraway Conference Center.
8/19/2013 1:29:03 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Pastors’ Conf. seeks to build ‘lasting legacy’

August 19 2013 by Liz Tablazon, BR Editorial Aide

With the theme “A Lasting Legacy,” this year’s Pastors’ Conference aims to encourage pastors to influence others in ways that will endure past their own lifetimes. In a world where people seek immediate success, pastors are called to keep an eternal mindset.
 
The conference will be held Nov. 10-11 at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro. It will begin at 6 p.m. that Sunday and will end the following day at 3 p.m., leading up to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) annual meeting.
 
This year’s theme is based on 1 Corinthians 3:6; “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”
 
“What we’re doing in the churches in which we pastor, we’re trying to build up something … for the coming generation that will come behind us,” said Scott Faw, conference president. Faw is pastor of Moon’s Chapel Baptist Church in Siler City.
 
Faw said he hopes the next generation will remember today’s pastors for having “preached the word of God” and having left “a legacy of truth and righteousness behind us.”
 
“My expectation is to encourage pastors to leave a legacy, to preach, to really make a difference for the Kingdom in their respective areas of ministry, and for younger and older pastors and preachers to build something lasting,” he said.
 
This year’s speakers include:
  • Lee Pigg, senior pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church, Monroe
  • Jeff LaBorg, east campus pastor of First Baptist Church, Indian Trail
  • Junior Hill, Southern Baptist evangelist
  • Mike Whitson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Indian Trail
  • Ken Trivette, president and director of Native American Baptist Missions
  • Herb Reavis, pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.
  • David Gallamore, pastor of Rock Springs Baptist Church, Easley, S.C.
Mark Walker, associate pastor of music and worship at Lawndale Baptist Church, will lead the worship time.
 
The conference is free to attend, and no registration is required. For more information, visit here.
8/19/2013 1:21:25 PM by Liz Tablazon, BR Editorial Aide | with 0 comments



Egypt’s Christians suffer amid deadly crackdown on opposition

August 19 2013 by Charles Braddix, Baptist Press

CAIRO – Attacking churches across Egypt, pockets of supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi continue to retaliate against a deadly crackdown by government security forces.

Pro-Morsi demonstrators were angered by the Aug. 14 crackdown on protesters in Cairo. Widespread protests and violence continue throughout the country, with nearly 700 people reported dead and more than 3,700 injured.

The Muslim Brotherhood previously had warned that if government forces attacked its protesters, they would retaliate by attacking the country’s minority Christian population.

So far, nearly 70 churches, Christian institutions and businesses have been attacked, burned or destroyed.

The attacks appeared to be planned, since they occurred nearly simultaneously across the country, Christianity Today reported, quoting one church leader in the town of Assuit as saying, “It had to be pre-planned. It happened [here] at the exact time the attacks happened in Cairo.”

Among churches targeted was Beni Mazar Baptist Church in Minya, a city of 250,000 people 150 miles south of Cairo. It was attacked and burned. No casualties or injuries were reported, although the pastor and his family live on the premises.
08-19-13egypt.jpg

This screenshot of a video posted on Facebook by the pastor of First Baptist Church, Cairo, shows the smoldering ruins of Beni Mazar Baptist Church in Minya, Egypt. The church was attacked and burned during nationwide violence Aug. 14.


The first news of the attack came Aug. 14 from Mounir Sobhy Yacoub Malaty, pastor of First Baptist Church in Cairo and a leader of Egypt’s Baptist convention. At noon Malaty posted on his personal Facebook page: “Pray: Baptist Church in Beni Mazar, Minya, has been attacked.”

Malaty quickly followed with an update, “Beni Mazar Baptist Church on fire.” Later he posted a brief video showing the ransacked and burning remains of the church.

Months earlier, John Amin*, pastor of the Beni Mazar church, had said, “We live here at the church, so if someone attacks our church, they attack our home. The kids are afraid.”

Many in the community around the church are afraid, Amin said, but he still had a vision to see the church packed with those seeking Christ. “We want the community to see us and come and grow the church,” he said.

A jovial man, sometimes called the Egyptian Santa Claus, Amin has a broad smile that might hide the challenges he now faces, which are severe.

Minya reported the country’s highest number of attacks against churches, totaling 14. One of Egypt’s oldest Coptic Christian churches, the fourth-century Church of the Virgin Mary there, was torched and burned Aug. 14.

In addition, the Egypt Bible Society bookstore in Minya was destroyed.

Overall, violence in Minya left 41 people dead, including six policemen.

On Aug. 15, a government spokesman described attacks on Christians as a “red line” and pledged that authorities would “respond forcefully” to any new attacks.

Egypt’s defense minister, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, pledged that the army would pay to rebuild the churches that were attacked and destroyed during the protests.

Egypt’s violence began earlier in the week when government troops moved to clear thousands of Morsi supporters who were occupying two sit-in camps in Cairo. Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was removed from power July 3 after serving only one year in office.

Clashes later spread throughout Cairo, then across the country. The government has declared a month-long state of emergency, imposing a nighttime curfew in nearly half the country’s provinces.

Police have been authorized to use live ammunition in self-defense, sparking fears of renewed bloodshed, according to the BBC.

Security in the capital is tight, with many armored personnel carriers in evidence. In spite of roadblocks throughout the city, thousands of demonstrators still take to the streets. Tension is high as weapons including clubs, machetes and guns are openly being used by all sides.

“Fear is a part of life in Egypt,” said a Christian worker who serves in the region. He encourages believers in Egypt not to give in to fear. “The enemy is strong here. He makes people afraid.”

Spiritual oppression is real, the worker said, stressing that boldness to share the gospel, especially in difficult times, must come from the Holy Spirit.

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Charles Braddix is a writer for the IMB based in Europe.)
 
8/19/2013 1:16:48 PM by Charles Braddix, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Sergeant dismissed for saying ... nothing

August 19 2013 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press

SAN ANTONIO – Due to a perceived slight against homosexuality, Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk is in a fight for his career. The Lackland Air Force base first sergeant was told by his commanding officer to clear out his office on Aug. 9. The point of contention reportedly is not about anything Monk said, but what he refused to say.

“It’s all because he didn’t say anything wrong. He thought it,” said Steven Branson, pastor of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio. Monk, his wife and their three teenage sons faithfully attend services each Sunday the pastor said.

Branson said he has been in touch with Monk since the sergeant told him Aug. 11 of the untenable situation. The pastor said Monk feels abandoned by the institution he has served for 19 years. Deployed as a medic, Monk devoted himself to saving the lives of his fellow service men and women, according to his pastor.

“Now I’m in trouble,” Monk told Branson, “and everybody’s leaving me behind.”

At issue is Monk’s refusal to reveal his personal views regarding homosexual marriage to his commanding officer. According to a Fox News report, the commander, a lesbian, asked Monk to report on disciplinary proceedings for an Air Force instructor under investigation for making objectionable comments about homosexual marriage during a training session.

According to Fox News, Monk interviewed the instructor and determined his comments were not intentionally provocative. But some trainees complained. Monk suggested that his commander use the incident as a learning tool about tolerance and diversity, but to no avail.

“Her very first reaction was to say, ‘We need to lop off the head of this guy.’ The commander took the position that his speech was discrimination,” Monk reportedly recounted.

Branson said the commander began to press Monk about his views on the issue.

Fox reported, “She said, ‘Sgt. Monk, I need to know if you can, as my first sergeant, if you can see discrimination if somebody says that they don’t agree with homosexual marriage.’”
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Having witnessed the commander’s ire regarding the instructor, Monk declined to answer. He also understood Air Force policy demands silence from homosexual detractors.

“She got angrier and angrier with him,” Branson said. “So he got fired for something she thinks he believes.”

The action will be a mark on an otherwise spotless record. Branson called Monk “pure military” – a real “do-it-by-the-book” serviceman who also happens to be a strong Christian.

It is because of his faith and the lesson he wants to teach his sons that compels him to take action. As Monk told his pastor, “I’m going to teach my boys they can’t run from everything.”

The Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, has agreed to represent Monk should the need for legal counsel become necessary. And although the family is “low-key” and not well-known, help has come from the church. Branson said members who are experienced news media and military professionals offered counsel on how to negotiate the anticipated onslaught of exposure and scrutiny.

“We’re trying to provide him coverage,” Branson said.

The Monk family has faithfully attended Village Parkway Baptist for two years, the pastor said. Though a number of military personnel from Lackland Air Force Base attend the church, many do not join because reassignments keep them on the move. But their attendance and involvement in the congregation is encouraged and valued, Branson said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
8/19/2013 1:10:25 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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