August 2015

‘Hands On’ student workers show God’s love to refugees

August 20 2015 by Evelyn Adamson, IMB Connections

“The drawing is very therapeutic,” the Syrian woman says. “I saw the fighting.”
 
She holds up her small notebook, swollen with crinkled pages, and shows off an intricate portrait of a woman’s face.
 
Tracing her fingers over inky sketch lines, she reminisces, “I used to draw with chalk and pencils, but now all I can afford are pens.”

 
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Photo by Evelyn Adamson, IMB
Kendall Stanford,* a Hands On student worker in the Middle East, talks to a Syrian child in her town.

Kendall Stanford,* a Hands On student worker, holds the notebook up and looks over several pages of drawings.
 
The artist is almost eight months pregnant. Stanford and another Hands On student worker, Lana Keely,* are trained healthcare professionals and are making an introductory visit. They will check on the mother’s recovery after the birth.
 
It has been several months since Stanford, Keely and a third Hands On student worker, Chloe Ralston,* were sent from their home church in Alabama, to serve Syrian refugee families for up to six months.
 
For Stanford, everyday life does contain trace evidence of her routine before she came; however, some elements have changed. She has traded her stethoscope for a scarf, and now walks down dusty one-way streets instead of cruising down broad highways. While she used to buy her coffee to go, now she sips tea with refugee families and listens as they share their stories.
 
Stanford says, “I think one of the main ways to minister to someone is to be where they are … being beside them, holding their hand. There’s a need to be here, to not just be where it’s comfortable, but to come where the need is.”
 
In her city alone, refugee numbers steadily rise as the war rages inside Syria. To this day, an estimated 4 million refugees have fled the country since fighting began in March 2011. A fraction of that 4 million have found themselves living in Stanford’s city, and they are why she quit her job, packed a couple of suitcases, and moved across the world.

 
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Photo by Evelyn Adamson, IMB
Lana Keely* studies the Bible with her Hands On colleagues at their apartment in the evening.

“More than anything, Syrian refugees need hope,” she says. “They need people to share God’s love – to let them know He is there in the suffering with them and that He knows what suffering is and He loves them.”
 
Stanford felt a desire to go overseas, but was looking for short-term opportunities longer than one month. Her church suggested she look into International Mission Board’s Hands On program. Hands On enables students to join a missions assignment for six months. For Stanford, Hands On has provided an avenue for her to respond to the desire God placed in her heart.
 
Stanford sees how God has specifically equipped her to help ease suffering through her training in health care.
 
She says, “At my previous nursing job [in America] I saw a lot of pain and suffering. Looking back I see how the Lord [used] that to prepare me to come over here [and] to be able to get in the hard places with people who are suffering.”
 
From treating burn scars on children, to taking food to hungry families, Stanford has seen God use her Hands On team to make an impact in the Middle East.
 
Stanford acknowledges that it is important to step out in faith wherever God calls His people to go.
 
She says, “If I truly am saying that I believe in Him, then I need to have open hands, [to ask] ‘Where do you want me to go? … How can I best use the gifts You have given me to glorify you and to share Truth?’”
 
*Name changed
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evelyn Adamson is a writer for IMB living in Europe.)

8/20/2015 11:47:10 AM by Evelyn Adamson, IMB Connections | with 0 comments



Creditors approve plan to keep Family Christian Stores open

August 20 2015 by Lynde Langdon, World News Service

Creditors for the bankrupt Family Christian Stores (FCS) voted to allow the chain to reorganize and remain open, according to court documents filed Aug. 10.
 
Family Christian Stores entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year with more than $100 million in debt. After several failed attempts to get court-approval for a quick buyout, FCS submitted a plan to its creditors for their approval.

 
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Under the plan, a sister company called FC Acquisition will buy the company for between $52.4 and $57.5 million. That doesn’t mean FC Acquisitions is bringing that much cash to the table; it will take over about $30 million of FCS debt that it has agreed to pay at a later date.
 
Prior to the vote, FCS worked out a settlement with a group of Christian publishers and vendors whose inventory FCS held on consignment. The consignment vendors worried FCS would take possession of inventory it hadn’t yet paid for. But the settlement ensures the vendors can get a portion of the proceeds from any future sales of the disputed inventory. About 97 percent of the consignment vendors voted in favor of the bankruptcy plan.
 
The bank Credit Suisse, to whom FCS owed $34 million, also dropped its objection to the bankruptcy plan after striking a deal. According to court documents, FC Special Funding, the senior secured creditor for FCS, paid Credit Suisse $6 million to take over its claim against FCS. That meant FCS only owed $6 million on that debt to a company that supported its bankruptcy plan.
 
FC Special Funding had been backed by Richard Jackson, who also is president of the board of the nonprofit that owns FCS. Though Jackson has backed FC Special Funding, FCS asserted in court filings that Jackson does not own FC Special Funding, nor is he a director for it.
 
The bankruptcy plan should allow Family Christian Stores to remain open leading into the holiday shopping season.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTELynde Langdon is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital.)
 

Related Story:

Family Christian accepts buy-out bid from existing investors

8/20/2015 11:40:55 AM by Lynde Langdon, World News Service | with 0 comments



Westgate mall reopens, demonstrating Kenya’s resilience

August 20 2015 by Nicole Lee, IMB Connections

NAIROBI, Kenya – Westgate shopping mall reopened its doors to shoppers July 18, just 22 months after the horrific four-day siege that left 67 people dead and 175 wounded. This show of resilience and courage came less than a week before a scheduled visit to Kenya by U.S. president Barack Obama.
 
The Somali jihadist group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the 2013 Westgate attack. They have continued their reign of terror with five separate attacks on Kenyan targets in the last two years.
 
One Kenya Baptist leader says Baptist churches are growing in numbers and maturity despite the terrorist acts. He said they are not just surviving these hard times but are now strategizing to make Kenya a training center and model for other East African nations to follow.
 
In addition, Baptist churches in Kenya have reached out to refugees from war-torn nations, even Somalia, the home of al-Shabab, he said.

 
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Photo by Bert Yates
Westgate Mall was on high security as it reopened its doors Saturday, July 18, just 22 months after al-Shabab’s bloody siege.

Healing Wounds

Katherine Walton, whose 4-year-old daughter, Portia, was in a highly publicized rescue photo on the first day of the Westgate attack in 2013, is an International Mission Board (IMB) third-culture kid (TCK) living in Kenya. Walton and her children were trapped in the mall during the attack. Though they have chosen to stay in Kenya, her family still bears the scars of that day, and her reaction to the mall reopening is a mixed one.
 
“The reopening of Westgate was a shock. I will never be able to return to that place, and I’m not sure the kids will either,” Walton said.
 
Her road to healing has been slow and arduous, but she testifies that God is faithful.
 
“It has been and still is a difficult journey in recovery. The children have all dealt with their own issues, but on the whole have done remarkably well,” she said. “God has been really good to us, and we keep moving forward, learning more about ourselves and about God during recovery.”
 
Walton and her husband have planted their lives in Kenya and work alongside nationals in the business world. Their love of the Kenyan people and desire to live out the gospel among them has been a strong anchor during the last 22 months.
 
“For us, it really hasn’t changed our perspective on what we’re doing here and why we’re here. In fact, in some ways it’s strengthened our ties to Kenya – our love for Kenya,” she said.
 
Bert Yates, an IMB worker in Nairobi, has the same kind of solidarity with Kenyans.
 
“One of my praises is that after these 22 months, when I think of Westgate my memories of explosions, gunshots, smoke and army tanks on the move are only fleeting ones,” she said, “but the strongest memory is that the first person to call me asking if we were OK was a Muslim friend who had lost relatives in the siege.”
 
Yates also has mixed emotions about the reopening of Westgate, but feels that it’s a healthy move.
 
“As others have said, it is a way of moving on, having confidence in the country, and not being victimized, but standing up and not letting our lives be controlled by fears of terrorism,” she said.
 

More Terror, More Courage

The terror of al-Shabab has not slowed since the Westgate siege. There were four attacks in 2014. Another in April of this year at Garissa University College (GUC) has been the deadliest to date – Christians were targeted, and 147 people were killed.
 
Although the reality of danger is growing, Yates and her husband work with Kenya Baptist Theological College and are encouraged by God’s movement among students.
 
“The attack on GUC has led to a new round of anger and of doubt about the security in the country, but it has opened many opportunities for believers to share their trust and faith,” Yates said. “God is definitely at work on the campuses in our country.”
 
The Yateses are also encouraged that many volunteer teams have persevered to come and help in this time. “Many volunteer groups have cancelled their trips, but we are praising God that many groups have come, are in the country, and are coming to serve our Father in Kenya.”
 
The Baptist leader said, “Terrorism is a global threat and risk to all of us. These things happen, but God is bigger than the issues and the problems.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nicole Lee is a writer for the London Bureau of Baptist Press.)
 

Related Stories:

Missionaries share about Kenya mall ordeal
Kenya may see more strife

8/20/2015 11:32:11 AM by Nicole Lee, IMB Connections | with 0 comments



Ky. Church ‘Revitalization two miles from Podunk’

August 19 2015 by Todd Gray, Western Recorder/Baptist Press

Bell City Baptist Church is defying conventional thinking when it comes to church growth.
 
Church growth proponents tend to agree that one important reality for a growing church is location, location, location. Bell City Baptist, however, is located in rural Graves county, two miles from Podunk, one mile from the Tennessee state line, 30 minutes from Murray, Mayfield, Fulton and Paris, Tenn. – or as their members like to say, “30 minutes from anywhere.”
 
Church growth experts might also add that you need a good population base from which to grow a church, but there are no houses visible from the front steps of Bell City Baptist. Church growth advisors might further agree that to reach young families, you will need a modern facility, with programs and ministries that appeal to young families with children, but, as you may have guessed by now, Bell City Baptist did not have those either.
 
They did, however, have a Spirit-filled young pastor named Presley Lamm, who loved the people, felt convincingly called to this church, and believed that God could do the improbable, or impossible, with the Bell City congregation.

In the three-and-a-half years that Presley has served as pastor, the church has grown in worship attendance from about 10 people to an average of 75. Sunday School attendance has increased from the same 10 people to 35 or 40 each Sunday. They have gone from a building that had not been updated since 1965 in a land-locked setting to a remodeled worship center with land available for future growth.

 
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God has already done a great work in a short time with this rural congregation.
 
In an interview with the pastor, and long-time church member, Edith Warren, I asked what had changed in the past 42 months, and what they addressed as a church in their attempt toward church revitalization. Following is a list of actions taken by the church:
 
1. The pastor motivated the congregation to think outward.
 
Pastor Pressley believes, “Everybody deserves a redemption story.” He said, “Regardless of their background each person within the reach of this church deserves to hear the gospel—whether an alcoholic of single mom, rich or poor.” Presley sought to remind the congregation that they have a mission to accomplish in reaching the people of their community.
 
As a result of their shift in focus to outreach they have baptized more than 45 people in the past three years. In some months, they have baptized every Sunday, and three baptisms are scheduled in coming weeks. They have also received almost as many new members by transfer of letter or statement of faith. Recently, one of their new attenders remarked that “every service feels like a revival.”
 
2. The church established a social media presence.
 
Pastor Presley had never been on Facebook before coming to the congregation, but he has used it effectively as an ongoing social media presence that ministers to their members and the surrounding community.
 
“The day of going and hanging posters for VBS and revivals is gone,” Pressley said. They have about 300 likes on their Facebook page which gets the word out for upcoming events.
 
3. They sought to improve the worship service.
 
Presley stressed that worship should be enjoyable and organized, but not planned to the point there is little room for trying something different. Praise has become a major part of their worship service from the congregational singing and the pastor’s leadership to celebration from the people of recent victories in their lives.
 
Members have become accustomed to expecting God to do something in the service. There is a freedom in worship where members do not like to miss services because they are afraid of missing what God might do.
 
4. They updated their facility.
 
The building was small, with no updates in the past 45 years. They now have a sound system, video projection system and an open pulpit area to aid in worship and presentations. According to the pastor, “The facility change was a big issue as it was a positive impression to guests that something was happening in the church.”
 
The remodeling cost approximately $16,000 and was done mostly with volunteer labor and the financial sacrifices of the members. As they stepped out in faith to do the remodel, God provided all that was needed to get the work completed. They have since purchased six acres of land around the church for parking and the construction of a new fellowship hall.
 
There are no wealthy people in the church or community, but the members give as they are able. They raised $20,000 in one Sunday in a church that takes in around $60,000 annually.
 
5. They developed a Community Response Team.
 
A Community Response Team was organized in 2014 as an effort to respond to community needs. Since that time the church has ministered to nearly 100 families by doing small construction projects, taking food to families, providing transportation, and in some cases giving money to people in need.
 
This ministry involves at least 20 members and has served to establish the church as a caring group in the community.
 
6. They have engaged in missions.
 
Before Presley came as pastor, the church had never taken a mission trip. In 2014 they sent five people to Muskogee, Okla., to work on an Indian reservation.
 
This year they are sending 14 people to Sioux Falls, S.D., to minister to a North American Mission Board church planter and help with his ministry.
 
7. They have become intentional about church fellowship.
 
The church eats together often, and when there is a conflict in the church family, the pastor encourages them to work through their differences and reunite around the will of God. They accept that people will have spirited business meeting discussions about issues for which they are passionate.
 
Ms. Edith says she has not seen a major rift in the fellowship since Pastor Presley has been their pastor. He leads business meetings with a rule that if people get angry, the meeting is over.
 
8. They established prayer as the foundation for all they do.
 
They pray about upcoming decisions and for resources to carry out the plans of the church. They also pray for each other and for all the churches in the area.
 
There is no way to explain the encouraging atmosphere at Bell City apart from it being a work of God in a rural community. When Presley is asked by members of other churches what they need to do to grow, he says, “Do something. Do something. Don’t just sit here.”
 
That’s pretty good advice from a pastor who is doing what he can do to help a rural church move into its best days. And, if God can bring revitalization to Bell City Baptist Church, He can do it anywhere there is a motivated pastor and willing people.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article appeared in the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Todd Gray is western regional consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

8/19/2015 11:54:07 AM by Todd Gray, Western Recorder/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Museum of the Bible allies with Israeli antiquities agency

August 19 2015 by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

A Christian family’s ambitious Bible museum project has forged a key alliance with the Israel Antiquities Authority, giving treasures from the Holy Land a temporary home just steps from the National Mall.
 
The agreement between the planned Museum of the Bible and the authority will allow for the display of a selection of ancient artifacts from the 2 million belonging to the antiquities authority.

 
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Photo courtesy of Leonid Padrul-Kwitkowski
Philistine Cult Stand from Yavneh Favissa, Iron Age II, Late 9th – 8th century BCE.

“When we set out to build the best new museum in the world, we knew the museum would be even better if we joined forces with some of the greatest collections anywhere,” said Cary L. Summers, the museum’s president. The museum is the brainchild of the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby craft store chain, which sued the government for a religious exemption to the contraception mandate and won.
 
Justices ruled in the 2014 Supreme Court case that the chain did not have to comply with an Affordable Care Act provision that required the company to insure employees of the craft store empire for a wide range of birth control.
 
Construction on the $400 million museum began in 2015, about three blocks from the U.S. Capitol. Though the Greens are evangelical Christians, they say the museum will not preach to visitors, but rather explain the impact, history and influence of the Bible.
 
This latest collaboration comes on the heels of the introduction of a Bible curriculum – developed by the museum – to 16 Israeli high schools.
 
Plans to use the curriculum in an Oklahoma school district were shelved last November, though, after opposition surfaced from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Markoe is a national correspondent for Religion News Service.)

8/19/2015 11:45:43 AM by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Marijuana legalization presses on amid concerns

August 19 2015 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

Marijuana legalization advocates continue to gain ground as nearly half of all states have decriminalized marijuana possession at least for medical purposes and a majority of Americans reportedly have told pollsters marijuana should be legal.
 
Despite such momentum, ethicists, federal agencies and even some mainstream media outlets are warning of serious consequences of further legalization of the mind-altering drug.
 
Barrett Duke, a Southern Baptist public policy specialist, said it is troubling to see so many states weakening their laws on marijuana use because they are “embracing a drug that has already revealed its destructive character.”
 
“Marijuana is not a harmless drug. It is an addictive substance that interferes with relationships, health and productivity,” said Duke, vice president for public policy and research with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
 
Marijuana also is a poor pain reliever, Duke said.

“Many people are going to be deeply disappointed when they discover that their use of marijuana has increased the number of problems they are dealing with while doing practically nothing to alleviate their suffering,” Duke said.

 
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“Years of controlled study are still needed before marijuana is unleashed on the public as a cure for anything. The current lapse in judgment will not end well for many millions of unsuspecting people.”
 
The editors of Bloomberg View July 20 called on Congress to heed what scientists have to say about marijuana, noting that “the political discussions involved in this process have been dominated by stories of heartbreaking suffering and frightening drug abuse.”
 
“Largely missing from the debate has been the most essential element: scientific evidence suggesting that marijuana does anything to alleviate physical suffering,” Bloomberg View said.
 
The editorial referenced a study released in June that found “weak evidence to support using marijuana to treat many conditions for which states have approved it.”
 
“Pot is not harmless, after all,” Bloomberg View wrote. “... To treat medical marijuana as a stalking horse for full legalization, as many of its advocates do, is plainly irresponsible. Protecting public health and safety requires arming both patients and lawmakers with better information.”
 
As Bloomberg noted, voters in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have approved the recreational use of marijuana, and legal sales of the drug – approved for medical use in 23 states – brought in an estimated $2 billion nationwide last year.
 
Five more states that already approved medical marijuana are considering legalizing its recreational use even as the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that the amount of the mind-altering chemical THC in marijuana has been increasing steadily over the past few decades and may explain a rise in emergency room visits involving the drug’s use.
 
“The popularity of edibles also increases the chance of users having harmful reactions,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported. “Edibles take longer to digest and produce a high. Therefore, people may consume more to feel the effects faster, leading to dangerous results.”
 
Following is a brief roundup of recent marijuana-related developments:
 
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the largest organization in the United States focused solely on marijuana decriminalization, launched a voter guide to the 2016 presidential race detailing candidates’ positions on marijuana policy and assigning them grades based on where they stand.
 
Sen. Rand Paul, R.-Ky., received the highest grade, an A-, “based largely on his sponsorship of a medical marijuana bill, his support for reducing marijuana-related penalties, and his strong support for allowing states to regulate marijuana for adult use.”
 
Gov. Chris Christie, R.-N.J., and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R.-Pa., received Fs because they oppose legalization efforts and are the most vocal supporters of enforcing federal marijuana laws.
 
The voter guide is online at mpp.org/president.
 
The Senate Appropriations Committee July 23 approved a measure intended to prevent the U.S. Treasury Department from punishing banks that provide financial services to marijuana businesses operating legally under state laws.
 
“Many banks are currently unwilling to provide depository and other basic banking services to marijuana businesses because the substance is still illegal under federal law,” the Marijuana Policy Project said. “Federal, state and local law enforcement and other government officials say marijuana businesses need to have access to banking because operating entirely in cash raises significant public safety concerns.”
 
MPP said it was unclear whether the amendment would actually make it to President Obama’s desk.
 
The same committee in June approved a measure prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. That amendment is thought to have a better chance of being included in the final spending bill Congress sends to the president.
 
And in May, the appropriations committee voted to allow doctors within the Veterans Affairs system to formally recommend medical marijuana to veterans.
 
Delaware in June became the 20th state in the nation to remove the threat of jail time for possessing a small amount of marijuana. Residents of Delaware will be able to possess up to an ounce of the drug and use it privately without facing criminal penalties. Police will be allowed to confiscate the drug, though, and a $100 civil fine can be assigned.
 
Passage of the bill was strictly along party lines, the Delaware News Journal reported, with no Republicans voting in favor of the legislation in the House or Senate.
 
Gov. Jack Markell signed the bill just hours after the legislature approved it, with a spokeswoman saying the governor “remains committed to reducing the number of people entering the criminal justice system and refocusing resources where they are needed most.”
 
– A Dutch study of college students found their test scores – particularly in math – improved by about 5 percent when they were no longer permitted to purchase marijuana.
 
“We find that the performance of students who lose legal access to cannabis improves substantially,” the authors of the study, two economists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said, according to Business Insider.
 
“Our analysis of underlying channels suggests that the effects are specifically driven by an improvement in numerical skills, which existing literature has found to be particularly impaired by cannabis consumption,” the authors said.
 
“This provides perhaps the first clear causal evidence of an important positive effect on short term productivity of restricting legal access to cannabis. Our findings also imply that individuals do change their consumption behavior when the legal status of a drug changes.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville.)
 

Related Stories:

Marijuana dangers can’t be ignored, critic says
Child use of medical marijuana ahead in Illinois

8/19/2015 11:40:47 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Ky. clerks continue fight against gay marriage

August 19 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A federal judge has granted temporary relief to one of two Kentucky county clerks still refusing to issue any marriage licenses following the Supreme Court’s nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage.
 
In a seemingly convoluted ruling, Aug. 17, U.S. District Judge David Bunning denied a request from Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to delay a previous ruling ordering her to issue marriage licenses to all couples regardless of gender. But Bunning, noting “emotions are running high,” ruled to delay implementation of his denial while the eastern Kentucky clerk appeals to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, the Associated Press reported. The net result is that Davis still has not been forced to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

 
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“We’re very pleased with the results at this stage,” Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, the Christian legal organization representing Davis, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “We will file a motion with the 6th Circuit to extend the stay while we appeal.”
 
An attorney for one of the couples suing Davis told the Herald-Leader he has “not ruled out a motion for her to be found in contempt.” AP reported Davis faces potential fines and jail time as well as possible impeachment from her post if she loses her appeal and still refuses to issue marriage licenses.
 
Davis testified in federal court last month she has religious objections to authorizing same-sex marriages. Bunning, however, said Davis must perform “the duties that she took an oath to perform” regardless of her religious beliefs.
 
Meanwhile, a central Kentucky county clerk also has remained steadfast in his commitment not to issue any marriage licenses in order to avoid authorizing same-sex marriages. Casey Davis – no relation to Kim Davis – of Casey County has not been sued but told Louisville’s WDRB news he believes a lawsuit is a “good possibility.”
 
Though told by Gov. Steve Beshear to issue marriage licenses to couples regardless of gender, Davis says his right to refuse is protected by a section of the Kentucky constitution stating, “No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.”
 
Davis said he would rather go to jail than resign, WDRB reported.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

Related Stories:

Ky. clerk to appeal same-sex marriage license order
Ky. county clerk prays, denies same-sex marriages

8/19/2015 11:32:47 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Spurgeon’s ‘preaching rail’ now at Midwestern

August 19 2015 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

A preaching rail used by Charles H. Spurgeon during his 19th century ministry has become the latest addition to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s new library dedicated to the British preacher.
 
President Jason Allen announced the acquisition of the preaching rail from First Baptist Church in Weaver, Ala., Aug. 10. The rail, which is a piece of furniture that functioned much like a modern-day pulpit, is prominently featured near the front entrance of the library in Kansas City, Mo.
 
“The Spurgeon preaching rail makes a signature addition to Midwestern Seminary’s Spurgeon Library,” Allen said. “It complements over 6,000 books and artifacts of the great Victorian preacher.... Many consider Spurgeon to be the greatest preacher of the English language; therefore, we consider this rail to be a tremendous addition to our collection.
 
“I am thankful to First Baptist Church Weaver and Pastor Ron Sweatt for entrusting it to us,” Allen said. “We believe the Spurgeon preaching rail to be a precious stewardship for Midwestern Seminary and the church as a whole.”

 
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MBTS Photo
Midwestern Seminary acquired a preaching rail from First Baptist Church in Weaver, Ala., that was used by the 19th century British preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The rail is displayed at the front of the newly completed Spurgeon Library on the seminary's campus.

According to Allen and Sweatt, the preaching rail itself has a unique history. W.A. Criswell, the historic pastor of First Baptist Dallas, amassed a large collection of antiques and artifacts during his overseas trips. It was on one of those trips, in the middle of the 20th century, that he acquired the preaching rail.
 
In 1976, Criswell gave the preaching rail to FBC Weaver, which was pastored by his friend, Bill Wilson, at that time.
 
In a letter dated June 30, 1997, Criswell told then-pastor Roger Willmore, “The Spurgeon rail pulpit was there in Spurgeon’s College (in London) before I brought it home. It was used by us in our own Wednesday evening services for several years before it was given to your church.”
 
Sweatt noted that upon receipt of the rail, considerable reconditioning of the piece was needed, and a church member, Richard Johnson, “did a lot of work to bring it back to its original condition.” He said FBC Weaver has used the rail in various capacities over the years.
 
With the recent completion of the Spurgeon Library construction project, Allen said the time was ideal to bring the rail to Midwestern Seminary.
 
“First Baptist Church Weaver possessed the rail for almost 40 years, but has now chosen to entrust it to us so it could receive broader visibility,” Allen noted.
 
Sweatt said he and the members of First Baptist Weaver “are honored to have the rail displayed in the Spurgeon Library for so many to see and appreciate.”
 
He said, “It reminds me of the importance and critical nature of the proclamation of God’s Word. There is no other lasting foundation upon which our lives, churches and ministries can be built other than the Word of God. My prayer is that God would use it to remind those of us who have been preaching for years to stick with the Word, and to encourage those beginning their preaching ministry to rest and trust in the Word. To me, the rail also emphasizes that a difference can be made by a person who will surrender to God’s call and will for his or her life.”
 
Christian George, who is the curator of the Charles Spurgeon Library, said, “Charles Spurgeon was best of all, and most of all, a preacher of the gospel. As soon as you enter the Spurgeon Library, you will see his preaching rail. It’s front and center because preaching played a central role in his, and in our, mission.”
 
Midwestern Seminary will publicly dedicate the Charles Spurgeon Library during a ceremony, Oct. 20.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is the executive assistant to the president at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

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8/19/2015 11:23:31 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



Parliamentarian Barry McCarty now a Baptist

August 18 2015 by J. Gerald Harris, Georgia Christian Index/Baptist Press

If Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meetings were tallied like college or NBA basketball games, Barry McCarty would be the leader in minutes played. In the course of 29 annual meetings, no one has accumulated more platform time in the SBC’s annual sessions than the well-known chief parliamentarian.
 
The Atlanta native – who became a Southern Baptist on Aug. 16 and is joining the faculty of an SBC seminary – has logged some 540 hours on the platform. But that is only a small part of what the convention parliamentarian actually does. McCarty customarily spends a significant amount of time with the SBC presidents in preparation for the convention business sessions.
 
McCarty has now served under 16 SBC presidents, beginning in 1986 with Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta. His parliamentary expertise has been invaluable in helping convention leaders navigate through some rather stormy business sessions, particularly during the Conservative Resurgence.
 
McCarty also is a preacher, teacher, pastor and educator. He holds a Ph.D. in rhetoric and argumentation from the University of Pittsburgh, has served as president of Cincinnati Christian University and until recently was senior pastor of Peachtree Christian Church in Atlanta.

 
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BP File photo
Barry McCarty, the Southern Baptist Convention’s parliamentarian for 29 years, now is a Southern Baptist and a new faculty member at Southwestern Seminary.

Throughout his ministry McCarty had served the Lord in the Stone-Campbell tradition that sought to restore Christian unity through abolishing creeds and returning to the principles of the early churches described in the New Testament.
 
“In reading Baptist history,” McCarty recounted, “I discovered that the desire to recover New Testament Christianity was also what the Anabaptists were striving to do during the Protestant Reformation.”
 
At the most recent SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, McCarty was asked by one messenger, “Barry, when are you going to become a Southern Baptist?”
 
The affable parliamentarian responded, “Well, it may be sooner than you think.”

 

Began with 2000 BF&M

McCarty developed a love for Southern Baptists through the years and a growing appreciation for the Baptist Faith and Message as a confession of sound biblical doctrine.
 
“My confidence in the BF&M 2000 began 15 years ago when I assisted the SBC in its adoption,” said McCarty, a man of deep convictions who holds tenaciously to the infallibility of God’s Word. “Paige [Patterson], who was the convention president in 2000, and I had numerous conversations about that confessional document and how it would be presented to the messengers at the Orlando convention.
 
“I immersed myself in the content of the Baptist Faith and Message and grew to love the way it summarized the Christian faith. I especially appreciated its clear statement on salvation by grace through faith, while also affirming believer’s baptism as the biblical testimony of a saving faith in the work of Christ.”
 
McCarty cited three primary reasons for his decision to become a Southern Baptist. “First,” he noted, “while Southern Baptists are not a creedal people, they are a confessional people. And at this point in history the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is the best statement of faith I know of.
 
“Second, right now no one is speaking to our culture on the great moral issues with as much clarity or biblical integrity as Southern Baptists,” McCarty said.
 
“Third, at this point in history no one is doing more to penetrate lostness around the world than Southern Baptists.”
 
“Dr. Barry McCarty has been a like-minded believer for 15 years,” said Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS). “One of my greatest joys is to welcome him to Southern Baptist life in a new way. He has helped us pull our bacon out of the fire so often, and now he becomes one of us. This is the beginning of a great new chapter in the lives of Barry and Pat McCarty.”

 
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Barry McCarty/Special
Posted to Twitter in June 2014, Barry McCarty stands with outgoing SBC President Fred Luter at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

‘We want in’

On Aug. 16, McCarty his wife Pat were baptized and welcomed into the membership of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. The McCartys selected Sherwood because of their friendship with pastor Michael Catt, the influence of Sherwood’s Refresh Conferences, and the prayers the church has lifted to God on their behalf.
 
“On Sunday,” McCarty told Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index newsjournal in an Aug. 14 article, “we are going to give four offerings to Sherwood Baptist Church. We are going to give our tithe, which will go to the local church, to the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program. We will give three gifts over and above our tithe: one to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, another gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and a gift to Mission Georgia [state missions offering].
 
“We get it. We understand how our convention works and we want in on all of it.”
 
Pat McCarty also is familiar with Southern Baptist life. When Barry served as a pastor in Dallas, she was employed by GuideStone Financial Resources, the SBC’s financial services arm. And during Barry’s pastorate in Atlanta, Pat served as an employee of the SBC’s North American Mission Board.
 
By month’s end Barry McCarty will have an opportunity to serve Southern Baptists in a new way – as a professor of preaching and rhetoric at Southwestern Seminary. He turned down other ministry opportunities to accept the position at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus, and it’s easy to sense his delight over the new season of ministry the Lord has provided.
 
“I would like for evangelicals across the nation to know my reasoning for becoming a Southern Baptist,” McCarty said, “and I would say to them, ‘If your church is having a love affair with the culture rather than lovingly speaking truth to the culture, you may need to become a Southern Baptist.’
 
“Southern Baptists are the strongest voice for New Testament Christianity in our generation. I want to be part of that voice.
 
“When the seminary presidents gave their report at this year’s convention in Columbus,” McCarty said, “Southern Seminary President Al Mohler said, ‘Ground zero for where we will be standing in 30 years is the seminary campuses right now.’ That is why I want to pour myself into the next generation of pastors and missionaries as a professor at SWBTS.”
 
Patterson remarked, “Everyone knows the prowess of Barry McCarty as a parliamentarian. But his greatness as a preacher and a rhetorician has been unknown to most Southern Baptists. He is a gracious pastor, a powerful preacher and a consistent witness for Christ. As professor of preaching and rhetoric at Southwestern, he makes our teaching of preaching the finest we could ever have imagined. This day, I am grateful to God that he has accepted this role.”
 
On August 26, 2010, The Index published an article on McCarty with the title: “The stranger among us is a wonderful friend of Southern Baptists.” The journey to becoming a Southern Baptist reminds him of the sojourners who are adopted by the tribes of Israel in Ezekiel 47:23, which says, “And it shall come to pass, that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his inheritance, saith the Lord God.”
 
“I am a longtime sojourner who wants to claim my inheritance in this tribe, among the people known as Southern Baptists,” McCarty said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index at christianindex.org, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

8/18/2015 12:30:07 PM by J. Gerald Harris, Georgia Christian Index/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Missionary remembered as godly mother, wife

August 18 2015 by Mark Kelly, IMB Connections

On the evening before she and her family had planned to return overseas, Kyra Lynn Karr, a Southern Baptist missionary to Italy, was killed in a traffic accident, Aug. 13.
 
News reports indicate a tractor-trailer driver exited his vehicle to conduct a safety inspection but the safety brake was not engaged and the truck began to roll. The vehicle hit the pickup in which Karr was traveling, crushing it against the highway guardrail on U.S. 41 in Bartow County, Ga. Karr, 30, died at the scene.

 
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Her husband Reid and their two youngest children were transported to nearby hospitals, where they were treated and released. Their oldest child was not with them at the time.
 
The tractor-trailer driver, Ivan Delgado, 52, of Rome, N.Y., was arrested and charged with DUI, police said.
 
Tabernacle Baptist Church pastor Don Hattaway described Karr as “one of the most wonderful, godly young ladies you could know. She was energetic, kind, articulate, beautiful and a great mother and wife.”
 
The Karrs, who spoke at Tabernacle in Cartersville, Ga., Aug. 9, had been in the U.S. since mid-June and were returning home after a family outing Thursday evening to prepare to fly back to Italy the next day. Hattaway and a group had worked with the Karrs in Italy earlier this summer, and he spoke to their commitment to their work among churches, university students and planting a church.
 
“Kyra was part of a street ministry to those caught in sex trafficking as well as to refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Italy,” he noted.
 
The Karrs were appointed as International Mission Board missionaries in 2009 and have been serving in Rome. They were about to begin their third term of service after a brief stateside assignment.
 
Kyra Karr was a graduate of the University of Georgia and grew up in Tabernacle Baptist Church. She and her family also were connected to Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Ky.
 
Karr is survived by her husband Reid; her children, Nolyn, Ellie and Livia; her parents, Joseph and Karen Carp; her sisters, Chelsey Carp and Sydney Shadle. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m., Aug. 19, at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 112 E. Church St., Cartersville, Ga., under the supervision of Parnick Jennings Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers the family request donations be made to Tabernacle Baptist Church for the Italian church plant Breccia Di Roma and its ministry efforts.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for IMB. Scott Barkley, production editor of The Christian Index, the newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention, contributed to this report.)

8/18/2015 12:21:52 PM by Mark Kelly, IMB Connections | with 0 comments



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