August 2015

Volunteers rebuild more than homes

August 24 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

As Paul Kenny tried to put the pieces of his life back together following Hurricane Sandy, little did he know that meeting some folks from North Carolina wearing yellow shirts would change his life.
 
Like many New Jersey residents, Kenny evacuated as Hurricane Sandy approached in October 2012, leaving behind his home and possessions. When he returned several days later, he discovered that 16 inches of water had flooded his home. As he began throwing out all of his belongings, that’s when two “guys in yellow shirts” showed up.
 
“Two gentlemen came banging on my door,” recalls Kenny, nearly three years after the storm. “I had two piles of clothes and furniture out there (on the curb); everything I owned. They asked if I needed any help. I said, ‘OK. How much?’ They said, ‘Free.’ I looked at them and said, ‘What’s the gimmick?’ They wanted to do it for free.”

 
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BSC photo by K Brown
Paul Kenny credits North Carolina Baptists with changing his life. Through the ministry of Baptists on Mission (also known as N.C. Baptist Men), Kenny was introduced to Christ and baptized in 2014. He now serves on projects related to Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. N.C. Baptists have a partnership in New Jersey helping people repair and rebuild homes.

Those “guys in yellow shirts” were among the hundreds of volunteers from the North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM; also known as Baptists on Mission) disaster relief ministry, who went to the region to assist in the cleanup and rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the storm.

The volunteers began working with Kenny to help him reconstruct and paint his home. As they worked alongside one another each day, the volunteers conversed with Kenny, asking him about his spiritual beliefs and sharing the gospel with him.
 
Kenny, who didn’t attend church and had never read the Bible, said he “had a million and one questions.”
 
Patiently and caringly, the NCBM volunteers answered Kenny’s questions and continued talking with him about Jesus. They also gave Kenny a Bible, which he quickly read cover to cover. Eventually, Kenny trusted Christ as his Savior and was baptized in July 2014.
 
“They helped me tremendously [with] painting and helped me tremendously spiritually. If they didn’t help, I’d probably still be sheet-rocking my home,” Kenny said with a laugh.
 
Shortly thereafter, Kenny started volunteering with NCBM, assisting his fellow neighbors in the ongoing relief efforts.
 
And like the volunteers who befriended him, Kenny also shared how his own life had been changed through the power of the gospel.
 
“They turned my whole life around, meeting the Baptist men and women,” Kenny said. “They changed my life, 100 percent. They helped me believe in God, 100 percent.
 
“They want to spread the Word of God more than anything. It’s phenomenal.”
 
Disaster relief is just one of the 18 different ministries of NCBM, all of which are supported by the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO). The offering, typically received in September, also supports other ministries that seek to share the love of Christ and the gospel with individuals just like Paul Kenny across the state, nation and world.
 
NCBM volunteers not only helped Kenny rebuild his home, they helped him rebuild his life.
 
“Putting people’s lives back together is pretty cool,” Kenny said.
 

8/24/2015 12:20:45 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 1 comments



Suicide draws focus of study

August 24 2015 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research

Most Americans believe they are seeing an epidemic in the United States of people taking their own lives, a LifeWay Research study shows.
 
But most Americans don’t view suicide as a selfish choice, and they don’t believe it sends people to hell, the survey finds.
 
“Americans are responding with compassion to a tragedy that touches many families,” said Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research vice president. “For example, as researchers learn more about the effects of mental illness, people may be more likely to react to suicide with mercy.”

In a phone survey of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research found more than a third (36 percent) have had a friend or relative commit suicide, and 56 percent describe suicide as an epidemic in the U.S. The study, released Aug. 21, is based on a survey conducted Sept. 26-Oct. 5, 2014.

 
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Concern is highest among the oldest half of the millennial generation, those 25 to 34 years old. This age group is more likely than others to perceive an epidemic of suicide (66 percent), say suicide is selfish (45 percent), and believe those who commit suicide go to hell (27 percent, matching 35- to 44-year-olds).
 
Federal data show suicides have been on the rise since 2005. This is not unprecedented; suicide rates were almost as high in the mid-1980s. And globally, the U.S. isn’t even in the top 50.
 
But among 25- to 34-year-olds, suicide is the second leading cause of death. “In a young and generally healthy population, it’s understandable this would be a concern – many millennials will know of friends and acquaintances who have either committed suicide or been impacted by those who have,” McConnell said.

 

Not a path to hell

Fewer than a quarter of Americans (23 percent) say people who take their own lives go to hell. More than 6 in 10 Americans say suicide does not lead to hell, and 16 percent are not sure.
 
However, Christians (27 percent) – and particularly evangelicals (32 percent) – are more likely than others to believe suicide leads to damnation.
 
Catholics believe more firmly than Protestants that suicide does not send people to hell, with 63 percent of Catholics and 54 percent of Protestants taking that stance. Protestants (19 percent) are more likely to indicate they don’t know whether people who commit suicide go to hell compared to Catholics (12 percent).
  “The finality of suicide makes people wonder about its consequences,” McConnell said. “Most churches teach suicide is wrong, but many also acknowledge God’s mercy and sovereignty.”
 
Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans (36 percent) say people who commit suicide are selfish. The number rises for Christians (39 percent) and particularly for evangelicals (44 percent).
 

LifeWay Research also found differences by race. One-fourth of African-Americans say a friend or family member has committed suicide, compared to 39 percent of whites. African-Americans are more likely than others to believe suicide is selfish (44 percent) and sends people to hell (38 percent). In comparison, 19 percent of whites and 25 percent of Hispanics say people who commit suicide go to hell.

 
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Effect of mental illness

Americans were disconcerted by last year’s suicide of comedian Robin Williams, McConnell noted. Williams hanged himself in August, about seven weeks before LifeWay Research began its survey.
 
“Experts say mental illness affects 90 percent of people who die by suicide,” McConnell said. “Robin Williams fit that pattern – before he died, he had been seeking treatment for depression.”
 
Suicide and mental illness have been taboo topics in many churches, McConnell said. In previous studies by LifeWay Research, two-thirds of Protestant pastors said they speak to their churches about mental illness once a year or less, and 65 percent of family members of someone with mental illness say churches should do more to talk about mental illness so the topic is not so taboo.
 
In recent years, some have begun speaking out. McConnell said Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren has spoken publicly about the suicide death of his son Matthew, and Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, released a book about his daughter Melissa’s suicide.
 
“I deeply appreciate Lifeway conducting this research and releasing these findings,” Page said. “I think it does point to positive changes in the way people perceive this issue. However, we have a long way to go as believers and churches as we encourage people who struggle with mental illnesses. We must continue to be people of patience, compassion and competency as we point people to the hope and help they can find in Christ. We must also continue to encourage hurting people to seek out truly Christian psychological assistance.”
 
Page appointed the Mental Health Advisory Group in response to a motion on mental health ministry and a resolution on mental health concerns introduced at the 2013 SBC annual meeting. Since then, the group has reported and advised him on ways of better informing Southern Baptists about available mental health service providers and resources.
 
McConnell noted, “For too long, many Christians have viewed mental illness as a character flaw rather than a medical condition. It’s encouraging to see the culture begin to change. Open discussion of suicide and mental health in churches can make the difference of life or death.”
 
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 26-Oct. 5, 2014. The calling utilized random digit dialing. Sixty percent of completes were among landlines and 40 percent among cell phones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.5 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups. Those labeled evangelicals consider themselves “a born again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine. Baptist Press contributed to this report.)
 

Related Story:

Frank Page addresses suicide epidemic

8/24/2015 12:09:20 PM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



Two South Sudanese pastors’ travel ban lifted

August 24 2015 by Morning Star News staff

Two Christian pastors have arrived safely home in Juba, South Sudan, after an eight-month ordeal of imprisonment on fabricated charges of capital crimes in Khartoum, Sudan, and a ban on leaving the country, Morning Star News reported Aug. 19.
 
Peter Yein Reith, 36, and Yat Michael, 49, were acquitted of the crimes calling for the death penalty on Aug. 5 but were prevented from boarding a plane out of the country the next day. Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) had issued the travel ban when they arrested the pastors, Michael on Dec. 14, 2014, and Reith on Jan. 11.
 
Although it was not immediately clear why the travel ban was lifted Aug. 19, Michael and Reith were transported from Juba International Airport to a Juba church for a service of thanksgiving.

“Thank God for their arrival home,” Michael’s wife told Morning Star News after the service.

 
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Christian Solidarity Worldwide photo
Freed South Sudanese pastors Yat Michael, left, and Peter Yein Reith.

South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) leaders welcomed the pastors, who expressed their gratitude to Morning Star News amid the cheering congregation. An international outcry erupted over their weeks-long incarceration without charges after Morning Star News on Dec. 28, 2014, broke the news of Michael’s arrest, and on Jan. 20 published the first account of Reith’s arrest.
 
“Thank you very much, Morning Star News, for your great role which led to our release from jail,” Reith said.
 
Reith and Michael were convicted of lesser charges and released on the time they had served. Reith was convicted of “establishing or participating in a criminal organization,” while Michael was convicted of “disturbing public peace.”
 
The SSPEC pastors had also been charged with spying and undermining the constitutional system, two crimes punishable by death, life imprisonment and confiscation of property; disclosure and obtaining information and official documents, punishable by two years in prison or a fine; blasphemy/insulting religious creeds, punishable by one year of imprisonment, a fine or no more than 40 lashes; and joint acts in execution of a criminal conspiracy.
 
Michael was arrested after encouraging Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church; Reith was arrested after submitting a letter from SSPEC leaders inquiring about the whereabouts of Michael.
 
The Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church had been the subject of government harassment, arrests and demolition of part of its worship center as Muslim investors have tried to confiscate church property. Police in North Khartoum on Dec. 2, 2014, beat and arrested 38 Christians from the church, releasing them later that night. A similar incident occurred Oct. 5, 2013, when Sudan’s police and security forces broke through the church fence, beat and arrested Christians in the compound and asserted parts of the property belonged to a Muslim investor accompanying them. Those arrested were released the same day.
 
Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of Sharia Islamic law and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
 
Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that the property belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in locating other Christians.
 
Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, the Sudan government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.
 
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a country of particular concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended in 2015 that the country remain on the list.
 
Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution, moving up from 11th place the previous year.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor Diana Chandler, from a Morning Star News report.)
 

Related Stories:

2 South Sudanese pastors banned from travel
2 South Sudanese pastors released

8/24/2015 11:58:56 AM by Morning Star News staff | with 0 comments



Josh Duggar admits to marital infidelity

August 21 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Josh Duggar admitted to marital infidelity Aug. 20 in a post on the family website after a massive Internet hack revealed he had subscribed to an online adultery service.
 
“I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have been unfaithful to my wife [Anna],” the statement read as of 2 p.m. Central Time. “I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him.”
 
Earlier news reports, including posts from ABC and Time magazine, quoted Duggar as admitting to a porn addiction with the statement, “I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction,” but such an admission was no longer in the statement posted on the Duggar family website.
 
“I have brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions,” Duggar wrote. “The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country I was hiding my own personal failures.”
 
Duggar’s admission was introduced with a statement from his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.

 
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Image capture from CNN video

“When we learned of this late last night our hearts were broken,” the parents wrote. “As we continue to place our trust in God we ask for your prayers for Josh, Anna, our grandchildren and our entire family.”
 
Josh Duggar’s name is reportedly among the 32 million who have subscribed to the online adultery site, revealed in the Internet hack by Gawker.com. The 27-year-old and his wife have four children.
 
His admission is posted at www.duggarfamily.com/2015/8/statements-from-jim-bob-and-michelle-duggar-and-josh-duggar, and is printed in full below.
 
Josh Duggar was embroiled in a scandal in May when he admitted to having molested five underage girls as a teenager, including four of his sisters. His admission led to the cancellation of the family’s TLC reality hit series “19 Kids and Counting” and Josh Duggar’s resignation from his position as a lobbyist with the Family Research Council (FRC) family values group.
 
“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably, for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” he admitted in May. “I confessed this to my parents, who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities, where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”
 
In June, his sisters Jill (Duggar) Dillard and Jessa (Duggar) Seewald identified themselves publicly as two of the girls their brother molested.
 
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar will participate in an upcoming TLC documentary on child sexual abuse produced in partnership with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. “Breaking the Silence” is set to air Aug. 30 at 9 p.m. Central on TLC.

 

Aug. 20 Josh Duggar statement

I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have been unfaithful to my wife.
 
I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him.
 
I have brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions.
 
The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country I was hiding my own personal failures.
 
As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. I deeply regret all the hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example.
 
I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for my precious wife Anna and our family during this time.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

8/21/2015 11:43:48 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



S.C. church’s stance on homosexuality challenged

August 21 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) has asked a Greenville church to either reverse its decision to open marriage ceremonies, church membership and ordination to homosexuals or withdraw from the state convention.
 
First Baptist Church, whose pastor in 1845 was elected the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) first president, voted to cease cooperation with the SBC in 1999, according to the church’s website. But South Carolina’s Baptist Courier newsjournal reported First Baptist still cooperates with the state convention but not with the local Greenville Baptist Association. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) is listed among the church’s “affiliations” on its website.
 
Meanwhile, a Southern Baptist seminary president has argued the church’s position on homosexuality illustrates the result of Baptist moderates’ rejection of inerrancy decades ago and the trajectory of the CBF – an organization founded by moderates in 1991 when it became evident conservatives would gain control of the SBC.
 
First Baptist voted in May to adopt a “consensus statement” declaring, “In all facets of the life and ministry of our church, including but not limited to membership, baptism, ordination, marriage, teaching and committee/organizational leadership, First Baptist Greenville will not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

 
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Upon learning of First Baptist’s newly-adopted policy regarding homosexuality, the SCBC sent the church a letter requesting withdrawal from the convention or reversal of the policy and an affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message’s definition of marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” The convention asked First Baptist to respond to its request by Sept. 10.
 
The Baptist Courier reported First Baptist likely “has no intention of recanting its position,” which may trigger a motion to withdraw fellowship from the congregation at the SCBC’s annual meeting in the fall.
 
Richard Harris, interim SCBC executive director-treasurer, said, “We cannot accept, approve or condone those kind of beliefs. Our stance is clearly stated in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We cannot walk in agreement with a church that accepts those beliefs,” the Baptist Courier reported.
 
SCBC President Tommy Kelly said, according to the Courier, “While Southern Baptists embrace such principles as local church autonomy and the priesthood of individual believers, these principles should never trump biblical authority. According to Matthew 19:4-5, marriage is between one man and one woman within a covenant relationship. As SCBC president, I do not support the decision endorsed by Greenville [First Baptist] to marry, ordain and allow transgendered or homosexual people to serve in church leadership. It is in direct opposition to biblical precedent and standard.”
 
First Baptist pastor Jim Dant wrote in the church’s newsletter that not all members agree with the congregation’s nondiscrimination policy. But he said First Baptist will remain united amid its diversity of opinions.
 
In adopting the consensus statement, “we made no decision regarding the issue of homosexuality – members hold different convictions,” Dant wrote. “We did make a statement on what it means to be church – diverse and respectful of God’s unique work in the life of every member, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the church’s claim not to have made a decision on homosexuality “is theologically, biblically, morally and even logically incoherent. The church certainly did make a decision regarding homosexuality.”
 
Mohler wrote in a blog post that SBC moderates’ refusal to affirm the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy in the late 20th century set the stage for actions like that of First Baptist years later.
 
“Once a church or denomination is untethered from the inerrancy of the Bible,” Mohler wrote, “there is no brake on the relativizing effects of cultural pressure.”
 
Though many first-generation CBF leaders regarded homosexual behavior as immoral, “the CBF is now set on a collision course with its own rising generation of leaders,” Mohler wrote.
 
A policy adopted in 2000 by the CBF Coordinating Council states, “As Baptist Christians, we believe that the foundation of a Christian sexual ethic is faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman and celibacy in singleness. ... Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does not allow for the expenditure of funds for organizations or causes that condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice. Neither does this CBF organizational value allow for the purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.” This policy is posted on the CBF’s website as the fellowship’s current statement regarding homosexuality.
 
The CBF’s Organizational Policy on Homosexual Behavior Related to Personnel and Funding additionally states, “The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does not issue ‘official’ positions on homosexuality or other social issues, for to do so lies outside the CBF’s stated mission.” The policy goes on to affirm “the freedom and right of every Christian to interpret and apply Scripture under the leadership of the Holy Spirit” as well as local churches’ freedom “to determine their membership and leadership” and “to ordain whomever they perceive as gifted for ministry.”
 
According to analyses in Baptist Global News, a moderate Baptist news organization, the CBF is struggling financially and numerically in part because of a failure to reach young adults – despite its “new generation of more liberal leaders” referenced by Mohler.
 
Chris Robertson, minister of students and outreach at Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Ga., wrote, “I affiliate with CBF, but I’ve never been to a CBF church with hundreds of young adults. To be completely honest, I’ve never been to a CBF church with more than 25 young adults.”
 
Robertson theorized that failure to reach young adults may stem from failure to communicate “a clear message that both implicates and demands something of us and from us.”
 
Marv Knox, editor of the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Baptist Standard, wrote, “CBF is struggling to maintain the interest of a critical mass of congregations. And funding its plethora of partner ministries is formidable in an era when churches mirror our highly customizable, pick-and-choose culture.”
 
Since 2012-13, the CBF’s missions and ministry budget has held steady at $12.4 million. In 2011-12, the budget was $12.3 million, down from $14.5 million the previous year.
 
The CBF’s claim to have 1,800 partner churches has been questioned for years by conservatives because the fellowship includes in that count churches that forward designated contributions from at least one member but do not support the CBF as a congregation, according to Baptist Press reports.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/21/2015 11:40:20 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Texas beyond-budget receipts recommended for SBC

August 21 2015 by Keith Collier, Southern Baptist TEXAN

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s (SBTC) Executive Board has voted to recommend that 100 percent of beyond-budget 2016 Cooperative Program (CP) receipts be forwarded to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) missions and ministries.
 
SBTC messengers will vote on the recommendation during the convention’s Nov. 8-10 annual meeting at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston.

 
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The Executive Board also approved a 2016 SBTC proposed budget of $27,743,629.
 
The budget recommendation, adopted by the Executive Board during its Aug. 11 meeting in Grapevine, would continue to forward 55 percent of CP receipts for SBC causes and retain 45 percent for Texas missions and ministries.
 
“We’re just thrilled to be able to say to the Southern Baptist Convention that we believe in our partnership,” SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told Baptist Press, “and we believe in the Cooperative Program method of giving.
 
“Our convention is blessed, and as we continue to receive funds over budget, we intend to forward those on to the Southern Baptist Convention for missions, education, ethics and religious liberty and all the causes that we do together as Southern Baptists,” Richards said.
 
Through the end of July, Cooperative Program receipts were $15,810,793 – slightly up from the $15,688,282 given through July 2014, SBTC Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis said. To date, net operating income through July was $808,837, mostly the result of underspending, Davis said, with SBTC designated giving and investment income also contributing.
 
Also during the SBTC board’s meeting:

  • Affiliation requests from 30 churches were approved, bringing the total number of churches in the SBTC to 2,510.

  • Church planter Shane Pruitt, 36, was elected as the SBTC’s new director of missions. Pruitt planted C3 (Connection Community Church) in the Dallas-area city of Rowlett in November 2010 through the support of the SBTC. The congregation has grown to more than 600 in less than five years. Pruitt replaces Terry Coy, who retired in June after serving in the position since 2008. Pruitt’s job description as director of missions includes the development of a church-planting network and recruiting and mobilizing church planters in Texas. He shared an immediate vision he believes God has given him called “Pray 100 Plant 100” for “all 2,500 of our churches to get on our knees before the Lord and plead with the sovereign Lord to raise up 100 planters that will plant 100 biblically-based, Kingdom-focused, missionally driven churches across the state of Texas.”

  • Joshua Crutchfield, pastor of First Baptist Church of Trenton, was approved as the recipient of the 2015 H. Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award during November’s SBTC annual meeting.

Richards, in his executive director’s report, noted recent events in the nation, such as the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage and President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran. “With all these things happening around us, turmoil in the churches and in the culture, the Kingdom of God continues to move forward,” he said.
 
Richards rejoiced at the ongoing evangelistic impact of the SBTC student camps and Engage revival teams. He also noted that the number of SBTC-supported church plants continues to flourish, and he has been thankful for the statewide regional prayer gatherings led by SBTC President Jimmy Pritchard. Richards concluded his report by mentioning his excitement for the upcoming annual meeting, where the convention’s Reach Houston initiative will be launched and the SBTC and Baptist Missionary Association of Texas will gather together for a joint worship service.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN at texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this story.)

8/21/2015 11:35:49 AM by Keith Collier, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



Former Atl. fire chief Cochran now a preacher

August 21 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Kelvin Cochran was enjoying newfound popularity in 1981 as one of the first black firefighters in Shreveport, La., when women began following him to the fire station with their phone numbers in hand, charmed by his presence on the back of the fire engine.
 
The 21-year-old dated like “crazy” for four months, he said, until God woke him up one morning and changed his life.
 
“Son, this is not the life I called you to. You need to find yourself a wife,” Cochran remembers God saying to him. “So I took God very seriously and I thought, rather than trying to find someone that I never met, let me just take the time and pray and think of the girl that I admired the most growing up in Shreveport.”
 
His memories took him back to the fourth grade and a certain Carolyn Marshall, whom he found only after calling every Marshall in the Shreveport phone book. He persuaded her to invite him to the home she still shared with her mother in a public housing development.

 
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BP Photo by Diana Chandler
Pastors and leaders at the 2015 Black Church Leadership & Family Conference surround former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran, center, with prayer after he announced his call to preach.

He proposed on that very night over hot chocolate, and without a diamond ring, at the kitchen table as her mother sat in another room. He and Marshall were married six months later. They celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary in June and have three adult children and a grandchild.
 
Cochran sees his unconventional road to marriage as part of God’s plan to prepare him and his family for the difficult situation they now face since he was fired as Atlanta fire chief in January after he wrote, Who Told You That You Were Naked? The discipleship book for men focuses mainly on the fruit of salvation in Jesus Christ, but lists homosexuality as one of many manifestations of a lack of spiritual discipline. The biblically based statements on homosexuality placed him at odds with the City of Atlanta, his employer.
 
“This is how God prepared my family [to persevere],” he told a group of 200 men gathered July 23 at the 2015 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C. “When you skip dating and courtship and go right to engagement, you’re going to have some sufferings in your marriage. It gave me a firsthand experience of how the grace and power of God can sustain holy matrimony, even without dating, without courtship.”
 
Growing up in a Christian home in poverty – sometimes with only bread and mayonnaise to eat – and the inherent difficulties in rising through the ranks to become the first black fire chief in Shreveport are all circumstances that have emboldened him to stand for Christ in difficult situations, Cochran noted.
 
“I came to realize that God has been preparing me for this my entire life. Suffering is an inherent and necessary component of fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.”
 
Cochran finds strength in God for his present journey battling the city of Atlanta in a lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, charging the city violated Cochran’s free speech and religious freedom by firing him.

 
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BP Photo by Diana Chandler
Kelvin Cochran, whose book “Who Told You That You Were Naked’ led to his dismissal as Atlanta fire chief, addresses men at the 2015 Black Church Leadership & Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.

One fruit of his current struggle is the call to preach, Cochran told the men gathered at the Ridgecrest conference, who surrounded him in prayer at the end of his “Man 2 Man” address.
 
“In this whole experience God has done many amazing things, but one of the things He’s done, He’s called me to preach the gospel,” Cochran said. “It’s still hard for me to get that out, considering who I am and where I came from ... So I need your prayers.”
 
Cochran preached his first sermon in July at Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he is also a deacon and teacher. It was through a Bible study he leads on the quest for authentic manhood at the church that the book was born. Cochran said he felt inspired to write the book after hearing men in the class talk about struggles with their sinful nature.
 
He began by researching the words “naked,” which means condemned and deprived, and “clothed,” which means redeemed and restored.
 
“This is what God told me, ‘I’ve got too many Christian men walking around acting like they’re naked. You need to ask them today, Who told you that you were naked?’ and that’s what that book is about. But because men have challenges with sexual sin, I had to talk about sex in the book.”
 
Cochran’s story appears to be symptomatic of an ever-increasing attack on the freedoms of religion and speech in America, and he encourages the church to stand united in defense of such freedoms.
 
“The divisions from my experience of what I’ve been going through since Thanksgiving of last year, the divisions by religious and secular standards by the Body of Christ in the United States of America have diluted the power and influence of our collective voice as believers to our elected officials, to big corporate business and to special interest groups,” he said. “And though we are the vast majority of Americans, there are smaller segments of groups in our nation who are transforming the very foundation of what our nation has been founded on.”
 
Most Christians have been quiet as the definitions of family and marriage have diminished, he said, and they must be protected to preserve society’s foundation.
 
“Life, family and marriage is how God intends to effect bringing the Kingdom of God into the earth. He does it through life, He does it through marriage and He does it through family. It’s His mechanism for bringing the Kingdom into earth.”
 
Cochran shared lessons learned since the controversy began over his book – namely, that God always prepares His children for sufferings they experience; there are worldly and biblical consequences for standing on biblical truth; sufferings are for God’s glory and those who endure sufferings will be blessed for their endurance.
 
“Brothers my back is not against the wall, I’m not at the end of my rope, and throwing in the towel is not an option. I am a son of the Most High God,” he said, and borrowed words from a favorite hymn. “I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

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8/21/2015 11:29:22 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ala. proposed budget continues toward SBC parity

August 21 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Trustees of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) have unanimously voted to recommend a 2016 Cooperative Program (CP) budget of $40 million, with 53 percent funding state convention ministries and 47 percent going to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) ministries.
 
The SBOM’s Aug. 14 budget recommendation reflects the Alabama convention’s move toward “a point of parity or equitable distribution” of CP funds between Alabama and SBC missions and ministries, Rick Lance, SBOM executive director, told trustees.
 
The 2016 budget recommendation – which also was unanimously affirmed by the SBOM’s Executive Committee and Budget Advisory Subcommittee – includes:

  • 53 percent, $21,208,238, for state convention ministries: SBOM Ministries ($11,172,660) and Alabama entity ministries ($10,035,578).

  • 47 percent, $18,791,762, for SBC ministries: SBC Executive Committee ($17,992,424 for the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget to SBC entities), GuideStone Financial Resources ($749,338 for retirement contributions for participating Alabama ministers and protection coverage for other participating church employees) and SBC CP Advance ($50,000).

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Rick Lance, Alabama State Board of Missions executive director

Lance told trustees that the state convention budgeting is moving away from a “shared ministries” category because, for many people, the phrase doesn’t communicate clearly concerning the allocation of Cooperative Program gifts from Alabama churches.
 
Still, for the 2014 and 2015 budgets, shared ministries was included as a category – budget language that was acknowledged by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and periodically by SBC leaders during the 90-year history of the Cooperative Program.
 
Over the course of the next five years, Lance noted, “We’re going to have an increased SBC allocation of at least 1 percent [of budget], assuming a $40 million base budget. Future CP increases will go to SBC until we reach that point of parity or equitable distribution. By that I mean if we raise the budget beyond $40 million, all of that’s going to the SBC until we get to that point of parity.”
 
Bobby DuBois, SBOM associate executive director and chief financial officer, noted the planned annual increase of 1 percent to the SBC is made possible because of decreases in the CP budget allocation to Samford University, initiated by its president, Andrew Westmoreland, to The Baptist Foundation of Alabama and to the SBOM.
 
From the 2015 budget to the 2016 budget recommendation, the allocation for the SBOM would decrease from $12,121,650 to $11,172,660. Alabama entity ministries would decrease from $10,754,630 to $10,035,578.
 
Among Alabama entity ministries are Samford University, University of Mobile, Judson College, The Alabama Baptist newspaper, Shocco Springs Conference Center, Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union and Alabama Citizens Action Program.
 
Lance noted to trustees several points of CP celebration:

  • Alabama has been, and remains, a pacesetter among state conventions in dollars given through the Cooperative Program. Alabama is neither the largest nor wealthiest state numerically or economically, Lance said, but no one can question Alabama Baptists’ heartbeat for missions support in giving through the Cooperative Program.

  • During the 2015 calendar year, Alabama Baptists will send approximately $31,000,000 to the two SBC mission boards – more than $20,000,000 to IMB and more than $10,000,000 to NAMB. This does not include gifts sent directly from churches to the mission boards.

SBC leaders frequently note the loyalty of Alabama Baptists as SBC partners, Lance said, and that passion has not and will not change. Alabama Baptists partner with whomever they can in SBC life to support Great Commission ministries, he said.

  • Since 2012, Alabama Baptists have adopted budgets that increase the SBC allocation by an average of 1 percent annually. That trend will hopefully continue until the state convention reaches parity with the SBC, Lance said. All Alabama Baptist Convention entities/ministries have sacrificed to make that record possible.

  • The State Board of Missions staff has decreased in size from 121 to the current 73 full-time employees – approximately 42 percent. By July 1, 2016, that number is expected to be 67 full-time employees, for an overall decrease of 45.5 percent.

  • The State Board of Missions staff has been granted two 2 percent salary increases since 2010 while the CP percentage for SBC causes has increased each year. No salary increase is anticipated for 2016.

The 2016 budget recommendation will go to a vote of state convention messengers Nov. 17 at Eastern Shore Baptist Church in Daphne.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston from reports by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and The Alabama Baptist newsjournal at thealabamabaptist.org.)

8/21/2015 11:15:15 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



‘God’s Gladiator’ Danny Lotz has died

August 20 2015 by Biblical Recorder staff

Danny Lotz, son-in-law of Baptist evangelist Billy Graham, died Aug. 19, two days after he was taken to Rex Hospital in Raleigh. Lotz’s wife, popular Bible teacher Anne Graham Lotz, found him unresponsive in the swimming pool at their home on Aug. 17. Emergency responders restarted his heart at the scene before transporting him to the hospital, according to a statement by Rex.

 
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Danny Lotz

Lotz, 78, was in intensive care under life-supportive measures, but doctors took him off life-support “after every possible attempt was made,” the hospital statement read.
 
He became a Christian as a young man in New York, said the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s website. In college Lotz played basketball for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where they won the 1957 National Championship. After suffering a broken leg he was forced to stop playing basketball, but Lotz went on to start the first chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in North Carolina.
 
Gov. Pat McCrory honored Lotz with The Order of The Long Leaf Pine in early 2015. The award recognizes outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of lifetime service to the state.
 
Lotz practiced dentistry in Raleigh for many years. He and his wife have three children, Jonathan, Morrow and Rachel-Ruth.
 
The Billy Graham website said Lotz was diagnosed with diabetes at age 50. His endurance of illnesses that left him without the use of one ear and one eye earned him the nickname “Gladiator.”
 
Graham Lotz called him “God’s Gladiator,” saying, “He was more than a man’s man. He was God’s man who triumphantly finished his race having fought the good fight, and having kept his faith firmly focused on the kingdom of God first.
 
“The Lotz family appreciates all the prayers and expressions of love and support that have poured in this week, which the Lord has used to sustain them during this time,” said Rex Hospital. “They respectfully ask for privacy as they mourn their loss and celebrate the life and legacy of a great husband, father and man of God.”
 
Visitation will be from 5-7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh. The service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Aug. 30 at Providence.

Memorials to: Fellowship of Christian Athletes or AnGeL Ministries.

8/20/2015 11:58:57 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



‘These mothers don’t know,’ says former StemExpress worker

August 20 2015 by Lynde Langdon, World News Service

In the latest investigative video about Planned Parenthood’s tissue-harvesting practices, a whistleblower tells how workers at a Fresno, Calif., center took the remains of babies for experimentation without a mother’s consent.
 
Holly O’Donnell, who worked for the tissue procurement company StemExpress, recalled one of her coworkers at the center taking blood from a woman in late-term pregnancy after the woman had already refused to donate tissue or blood to StemExpress.
 
O’Donnell asked the worker, “What did you say to her to get that blood?”
 
“Nothing,” the worker replied.

The video is the sixth released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in a series about selling the remains of aborted babies for scientific research. Planned Parenthood claims it only receives reimbursement for the costs of harvesting the specimens. But earlier videos show Planned Parenthood employees working out the details of selling the specimens to undercover journalists posing as tissue buyers. Planned Parenthood executives tried to negotiate for higher fees and said they could alter abortion procedures to provide higher quality specimens for more money.

 
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A screenshot from the 6th CMP video

The video released today did not contain undercover footage but focused on O’Donnell’s experience working for StemExpress.
 
“It really wore me down,” she said. “The environment, it’s morbid. You can hear screaming. You can hear crying.”
 
While she worked for StemExpress, O’Donnell started her days by reviewing sheets of tissue orders. One such sheet shown in the video listed the need for a liver from a baby at 18 to 22 weeks gestation for UCLA, a 14-week pancreas for the University of Massachusetts, and a 16- to 18-week brain that was “complete but can be in pieces” for Temple University.
 
O’Donnell said she felt pressure from coworkers to meet the demand for specimens. She was once scolded for not getting a consent to donation from a woman who was crying and throwing up and didn’t know if she wanted an abortion. “That was an opportunity you just missed,” she said she was told.
 
“If there was a higher gestation, and the technicians needed it, there were times when they would just take what they wanted. And these mothers don’t know. And there’s no way they would know,” O’Donnell said.
 
Federal law requires patients to consent to all donation of aborted tissue. The consent must take place after the woman has already made up her mind to have an abortion.
 
The videos from CMP have shed light on the high demand for aborted babies’ remains for science experiments and Planned Parenthood’s relationship with tissue providers. In a hearing Tuesday in the Wisconsin state Senate, Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said tissue from aborted babies is essential to the school’s research. The state legislature is considering whether to ban the use of aborted tissue in experiments.
 
When asked by a lawmaker what would happen to the school’s research if women quit having abortions, Golden said, “It would have a substantial negative impact on our capacity to do the life-saving research that we are doing.”
 
But Dan Miller, state director for Pro-Life Wisconsin, equated excuses about deriving good from using aborted babies for research to the talking points parroted by Nazis who experimented on Jews during the Holocaust.
 
StemExpress has defended its practices, saying 90 percent of its business involves adult donors and its work contributes to finding cures for disease.
 
“The nation’s and the world’s great research facilities need a reliable source of human-derived blood, tissue, and cellular specimens to perform their studies,” a statement on the StemExpress website reads. The company also noted it has never requested an intact human fetus from an abortion provider. In one video by CMP, an abortion worker told its undercover journalists she could provide an intact fetus.
 
StemExpress has sued CMP to stop it from releasing undercover footage of its employees. The company has accused the pro-life group of violated California wiretapping laws by making clandestine recordings of its employees. A judge has ordered CMP not to release a video allegedly taken in May during a restaurant meeting with high-ranking StemExpress officials until an Aug. 19 court hearing on the matter.
 
O’Donnell, who no longer works for StemExpress, said, “I’m not going to tell a girl to kill her baby so I can get money. That’s what this company does. Straight up.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lynde Langdon is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital.)
 

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8/20/2015 11:51:41 AM by Lynde Langdon, World News Service | with 0 comments



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