August 2016

2016 politics: Change looms for church, speakers say

August 31 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The increasing threat to religious liberty and the brokenness of politics in this election year demonstrate the need for change among Christians in America, speakers said at a gathering Aug. 27 in Nashville.
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) cosponsored the event – “The 2016 Presidential Race, Religious Liberty and the Future of the Church” – a day after the conclusion of the ERLC’s National Conference on cultural engagement and gospel faithfulness.
 
The church inhabits an America in which religious freedom is now a “polarizing concept,” ERLC President Russell Moore said, and the political culture is “shattered into a million pieces,” said David French, a staff writer for the conservative magazine National Review and a constitutional lawyer.
 
The clash between religious liberty and sexual liberty – manifested in the legal and cultural battles over such issues as same-sex marriage, gay rights and transgender rights – has prompted some former supporters of a 1993 federal law protecting religious freedom to reverse themselves. To regard that law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as a subversive idea is “a dangerous trend” for all Americans, because all protected liberties “hang together,” Moore told the audience.
 
“Once a liberty becomes too politically toxic to uphold or to maintain – and that means you simply toss it aside – there are other liberties that are then going to be [at risk],” he said.
 
In the long term, Moore said, the church must be able to explain to an increasingly secularized American culture “what it means to be religiously motivated” and to train Christians in what religious liberty really is – especially its “biblical and theological foundations.”
 
French described the 2016 election process – which resulted in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively – as a “colossal, miserable, disgusting failure.”
 
Citing such factors as public rage about circumstances, ignorance about politics and lethargy among the electorate, French also pointed to the dominance of the Fox News Channel among conservatives as a factor in the broken political culture.
 
Fox’s “priorities become movement priorities. Fox fame becomes real fame,” said French, who considered a third-party presidential run as a conservative alternative to Trump. “Fox’s priorities are not the priorities necessarily of the movement, much less the priorities of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
He thinks Americans “are about to see some significant changes culturally and nationally as a result of this election,” French told attendees at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
 
Rejecting the idea Trump could win the election, French gave different scenarios in case of a Clinton victory.
 
If she wins within what he described as the “perceived margin” produced by #NeverTrump voters like himself, “you’re going to be looking at the great blood-letting” among conservatives, he predicted.
 
If Clinton’s victory is greater than the #NeverTrump edge, “There’s going to be a need for repentance, a lot of repentance” by conservatives particularly – and white evangelicals especially – toward communities of color, French said.
 
The country will have just gone through a campaign in which the party of Abraham Lincoln “explicitly embraced a person who has himself explicitly given aid and comfort to some of the most vile racists,” he told the audience. “You can’t ignore that.”
 
Looking ahead to a post-election America, Moore said he is concerned about “what happens to the witness of evangelicalism in the middle of a moment like this,” especially when considering an evangelical church that is increasingly multi-ethnic.
 
Evangelicals “have to speak a word that we can live with for future generations of evangelical Christians and our neighbors,” he said. Evangelicals also must make the gospel of Jesus clear amid times when they can tend to become tools of a political agenda, he said.
 
“Politics in American life, across the board, far left and far right, has become a religion,” Moore said. “It has become a kind of transcendent source of authority and a transcendent source of identity.
 
“Part of what we have to do is dethrone politics as a religion and as a source of identity while at the same time remaining engaged in our responsibilities” as citizens, he said.
 
Culturally, evangelicals and other conservatives partly find themselves at this stage in America because progressives, or liberals, “have done a better job of capturing hearts and imaginations, telling stories that make, you know, the LGBT community more sympathetic,” said Mike Cosper, director of the Harbor Institute for Faith and Culture. Conservatives have a “huge opportunity” to tell stories well, he said.
 
From a legal perspective, ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley said the Supreme Court has been a factor in the current situation by “not staying within its lanes, really becoming a legislative branch and legislating from the bench. There are balances that have been out of balance for a long time.”
 
The “lack of regard for religious liberty” by the high court and others, Stanley said, results in the denial of the “inherent, fundamental nature of religious liberty,” denies the freedom of Christians “to fully follow Christ” and “ignores the human cost involved.”
 
He reminded attendees God remains in control, “and our God can use the loss of religious liberty as an instrument of sanctification in His church and in His people.”
 
Jennifer Marshall, vice president with The Heritage Foundation, said the current state of religious freedom “is pressing us to clarify, number one, what we believe, which is long overdue; number two, to live that out more faithfully; and number three, that we would then become better at explaining it to our neighbors in ways that make it attractive in its substance to them but also move them from a position of saying, ‘You have no right to exist,’ to a position that would allow for this diversity, this true diversity, in society.”
 
Rod Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative, said Christians should expect the government to become more hostile toward them.
 
The result of this hostility will be persecution in the workplace, including the loss of jobs for Christians, he said. Another result will be that some will renounce their faith, Dreher said. “[T]hey will deny Jesus for the sake of preserving their career, their wealth or their social standing.
 
“This easy, easy cultural Christianity is a thing of the past,” he said, adding it is going to cost something “to remain faithful to the Lord through this new dark age.”
 
Christians need to “radically rethink the way we worship and live in our churches,” Dreher told the audience. “The church is going to have to become the center of our lives.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

8/31/2016 9:40:25 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



New birth sprouts among dozens of flood survivors

August 31 2016 by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN

“I would go to hell,” a man replied honestly when Wayne Barber asked where he thought he would be if he died.

Photo by Mike Dunn
SBTC disaster relief volunteers workers organize food for distribution to thousands of families whose homes were damages in widespread floods near Lafayette, La.


But the man, who was helping his sister with her flooded Louisiana home, changed his demeanor as Barber, a disaster relief chaplain with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), explained the gospel to him. At the end of their conversation, the man prayed to receive Christ.
 
“You could just see the Holy Spirit working,” fellow SBTC chaplain Laquita Hunter said.
 
The man spoke of his intentions to tell his wife, a Christian, what had happened, adding, “She is probably not going to believe it at first!”
 
His is among some 40 professions of faith SBTC chaplain teams had recorded as of Aug. 28 during relief efforts in a 50-by-50-square mile section of Louisiana stretching from Crowley east to Beaux Bridge and from Opelousas south to New Iberia.
 
SBTC teams, housed at The Bayou Church in Lafayette, have prepared as many as 9,700 meals per day, which are then delivered by the American Red Cross to families and individuals in need. Additionally, mud-out and clean-out operations have started and chaplains are offering the hope of salvation to all who will hear.
 
SBTC volunteers – along with Baptist relief teams from 17 other states – deployed rapidly after their assistance was requested.
 
Some 30-40 SBTC volunteers are working daily alongside teams from Louisiana, Mike Jansen, one of the SBTC’s volunteer leaders, confirmed, adding that the number of actual volunteers varies daily as individuals rotate in and out.
 
SBTC cleanup efforts have included assisting at least two churches, the Lafayette Korean Church and First Baptist Church Broussard, so those congregations could hold Sunday services. DR teams also focused on affected pastors’ homes to free preachers to minister to their congregations.
 
“We are doing mud-outs and clean-outs, a little bit of tarping of roofs,” Wally Leyerle, another SBTC volunteer leader, reported. “We are sending out our chaplains with assessors, and they are telling people about the love of Christ. ... The Lord seems to be directing our people right where they need to go.”
 
Barber and his wife Ann along with Hunter have experienced divine guidance as they drove through affected neighborhoods.
 
“God turned us around,” Wayne Barber recounted of a day he sensed the Lord telling him to “go back” and stop at a home they had passed.
 
A man in his 30s strode out as they pulled in the driveway.
 
“I saw y’all drive by, and I saw y’all turn around,” the man said. “I knew you were coming back to talk to me!”
 
Barber did talk to the man, who prayed to receive Christ. The man’s mother, a Christian who had long prayed for her son to come to faith, walked over from next door as more evidence of God’s hand in the encounter.
 
“Every day before we go out, we pray for divine appointments,” Barber said.
 
On another occasion, a woman in her 30s claimed that a negative experience with a pastor’s wife as a youth “turned her away from the church.”
 
“She thought Christians were hypocritical,” Hunter said.
 
Hunter presented the gospel to the woman, urging her to forgiveness. “We talked and she cried, then she accepted Christ.”
 
Like so many flood survivors, the woman had lost her home and possessions but she gained hope in the Lord. “We could tell, when we left, that her life had changed and was going to be different,” Hunter said.
 
Names and contact information about all who pray to receive Christ are recorded and given to area churches for follow-up, Barber said.
 
Jansen described the work of SBTC feeding teams as exhausting, stretching from 3 a.m. till evening to prepare lunches and dinners for pickup and delivery by the Red Cross to shelters and the community. “You know, it’s just an awesome thing to see the volunteers giving all of their time and energy to produce the food to see that the people of Louisiana have a hot meal.”
 
Even the simple presence of helpers in the midst of disaster’s aftermath brings encouragement, Leyerle said, noting, “Every time I go out in public and people see me wearing the SBTC [Disaster Relief] shirt, I am constantly being told thank you for being here. We are able to minister to people just by being here.”
 
“It appears we will be there some time,” SBTC disaster relief director Scottie Stice said, urging all available SBTC Disaster Relief volunteers to consider deploying. To learn more about SBTC disaster relief work in Louisiana, such as sponsoring a church or pastor’s home affected by the flooding, visit bit.ly/LAfloods.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jane Rodgers is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

8/31/2016 9:31:55 AM by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



SBC seminaries healthy, face M.Div. challenge

August 31 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

When it comes to training pastors, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) seminaries compare favorably with North American seminaries generally, according to a comparative data analysis by Baptist Press (BP).


Still, a slight shift of students away from the master of divinity (M.Div.) – the basic pastoral training degree – and toward less rigorous master of arts degrees focused on general theological studies parallels a trend nationally at seminaries and other graduate schools of theology.
 
“Southern Baptist seminaries are probably the healthiest seminaries among any denominational body in the United States,” Charles S. Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP. “That’s been a really neat thing to watch happen.”
 
Accounting for all students, SBC seminaries enrolled more than 20,000 people in 2014-15, according to calculations by Kelley, an all-time record.
 
When undergraduate students are removed from the total, leaving the traditional graduate-level seminary population, there was a total headcount enrollment of 11,636 students at the six SBC seminaries last fall, according to data from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), an accrediting organization for graduate schools of theology.
 
Two-thirds of those students (66.5%) were enrolled in degree programs that provide specialized theological training for pastors: the M.Div. (43.5%), the doctor of ministry and similar advanced ministry degrees (13.8%) and the doctor of philosophy and similar advanced research degrees (9.2%).
 
In comparison, 63 percent of students overall at the 272 ATS member schools were enrolled in the same degree programs.
 
Over the past decade, the percentage of graduate students pursuing an M.Div. at SBC seminaries has held steady – up slightly from 42.5 percent in 2006 to 43.5 percent in 2015, with a high of 49.7 percent in 2011.
 
In comparison, 41.5 percent of students at ATS schools generally were enrolled in M.Div. programs last fall, a figure that includes markedly more women than are enrolled in SBC M.Div. programs. Nearly 30 percent of M.Div. students generally were women in 2015 compared with 10 percent at SBC seminaries – likely due to Southern Baptists’ belief, as expressed in Article VI of The Baptist Faith and Message, that “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
 
Nationally, there has been a 15 percent decline in M.Div. enrollment over the past 10 years, according to a March ATS report. Though the six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries have fared significantly better, they have experienced a 6.2 percent decline in M.Div. enrollment over the same period, according to data from ATS.
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and the SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents, told BP the six seminaries’ focus on pastor training reflects Southern Baptists’ recognition of “the need for a learned and educated ministry, and especially the need for educated pastors.”
 
“For over half a century now, the M.Div. is the degree specifically designed and well recognized for the preparation of pastors for churches,” Mohler said in written comments. “There will be an entire generation of pastors facing retirement within the next decade, and our SBC strategy calls for the planting of many new congregations.
 
“This means that we will need thousands of young pastors ready to step into these pastorates, and we need them to be fully prepared and filled with conviction and passion for the Great Commission. We must continue to emphasize the master of divinity and make the training of pastors central to all that we do,” he said.
 
Two SBC seminaries – Southern and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary – have increased their raw number of M.Div. students over the past decade. New Orleans Seminary has increased its percentage of M.Div. students from 32.2 percent in 2006 to 56.5 percent in 2015.
 

‘The longer way’

In an apparent shift away from pastoral training nationally, enrollment in master of arts (M.A.) degrees in general theological studies – which require fewer hours than the M.Div. and less study of Greek and Hebrew – has increased 15 percent during the past five years, according to ATS.
 
If the trend continues, M.A. enrollment will exceed M.Div. enrollment in North America by the year 2022, ATS reported.
 
Within the SBC, master of arts programs in general theological studies have grown at five of the six seminaries over the past decade, with the largest enrollment increases at Southeastern and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Over the past 10 years, general theology M.A. students have increased fourfold at SBC seminaries. But they remain a relatively small percentage of the graduate students (13.5%).
 
Southeastern Seminary President Daniel Akin said M.A. growth is attributable in part to “expanded training that we’re doing for laypeople.” There has also been growth among “specialized programs of study” offered through M.A. programs in ethics, apologetics, marriage and family and other fields. Some 18 percent of Southeastern’s total master’s-level students are seeking an M.A., he said.
 
Still, for local church ministers, “we lift up and make very, very clear that the gold standard for ministerial training is the M.Div.,” Akin said, a sentiment echoed to BP by each of the other five seminary presidents.
 
Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson told BP the shift away from the M.Div. by some pastors in training “is part of the general educational dumb-down in America.”
 
“The M.Div. is a longer way,” Patterson said, “and it requires all the biblical languages,” which are “deadly crucial” for pastors. Because “preparation in school is not just academic” but a matter of character formation as well, a decrease in pastors with M.Div.’s could be a harbinger of “more and more ... pastors’ having moral failures.”
 
Kelley said the only pastors for whom the M.A. might be most appropriate are those “with a lot of pastoral experience” whose “life classroom experience” makes up for the M.Div. coursework they will miss.
 
Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said another cause of M.A. growth is that ATS allowed its member schools to offer entirely-online M.A.’s years before it permitted entirely online M.Div.’s in 2013.
 
“Once [ATS] made the M.Div. degree online,” Allen told BP, “... many of those online students who were M.A. online students moved to the M.Div. category,” contributing to an increase in Midwestern’s M.Div. enrollment in 2015-16.
 

Advice for churches

Jim Futral, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, urged churches to note the types of seminary degrees held by prospective staff members and to verify that the emphasis of their training matches the needs of the church.
 
Many congregations “probably don’t pay any attention to ... the degree and the depth of study that [prospective pastors] have had,” said Futral, who has served 18 years as executive director.
 
Futral said finishing academic training quickly has advantages, but pastors who pursue lengthier and more rigorous courses of study tend to reap long-term benefits.
 
“I’m not a much different preacher today than when I was a junior in college,” said Futral, who holds an M.Div. and a doctor of ministry degree. But “the discipline of all my preparation in college and in seminary and working on my doctorate is a process that shaped my life.”
 
Among noteworthy aspects of each SBC seminary’s graduate enrollment over the past 10 years:
 

Gateway

Gateway Seminary of the SBC, formerly Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, has seen steady enrollment in both its M.A. degrees in general theological studies and its M.Div. General theology M.A. enrollment moved from 157 in 2006 to 132 in 2015 while M.Div. enrollment went from 379 to 367 over the same timeframe.
 
“Over the past 10 years, we have customized some M.A. programs for specific needs we discovered among potential student populations,” Gateway President Jeff Iorg told BP in written comments. “Those programs have had some success. Our master of divinity enrollment, however, is not increasing and we expect it to increase more as we focus more intensely on our new location in Southern California.”
 

Midwestern

Midwestern’s total fall headcount enrollment increased from 595 in 2011 to 1,196 in 2015, contributing to ATS’s designation of the seminary last year as one of the fastest growing in America.
 
“We don’t want to see a generation of graduates get M.A. and not M.Div. degrees,” Allen said. “The M.Div. is the gold-standard degree that comes with a complete toolkit. So on our campus, we’re very intentional about the priority of the M.Div. degree, and that’s why we’ve seen a recovery of it here.”
 
Midwestern’s ministry and research doctoral programs comprise 52.7 percent of the graduate student population, the largest total of any SBC seminary by nearly 30 percentage points. Allen called the doctoral program a “niche” for Midwestern.
 

New Orleans

New Orleans Seminary’s M.Div. population increased by more than 30 percentage points between 2006 and 2012 to 65.5 percent despite enrollment declines in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which damaged the campus severely in 2005.
 
“I’m very grateful that at all six of our seminaries, including ours, we are seeing a growing number of students come,” Kelley said. “... That is very much against national trends. We are seeing people called of God still wanting to get theological education.”
 
Southern Baptists’ unified program of funding missions and ministry in North America and around the world, the Cooperative Program, “really, really does make a difference. The more expensive we make seminary education, then the less seminary education we’re going to tend to see in our people,” Kelley said.
 

Southeastern

Southeastern’s M.Div. students have comprised more than 50 percent of the student body each year even as M.A. enrollment increased. Akin noted increases in on-campus students taking courses at non-traditional times and in online students.
 
“We offer classes six days a week,” Akin said. “We offer classes in the morning, in the afternoon and at night; Monday-only classes; Saturday-only classes; Friday-Saturday classes; hybrid classes. And then we do a massive amount now of distance learning, where people are pursuing their degrees not only from all over the country, but all over the world.”
 

Southern

Southern’s M.Div. enrollment for the full 2015-16 academic year exceeded 2,000, Mohler said, constituting an institutional record and “the largest [M.Div. enrollment] in the history of theological education.” Southern’s fall 2015 M.Div. enrollment was 1,639, according to ATS.
 
“Our M.A. enrollment has grown over the last decade,” Mohler said, “but the M.Div. enrollment has grown much faster – and this is our goal and strategy. The shift of emphasis in some schools from the M.Div. to M.A. programs can be traced back to the 1970s. It is not a healthy long-term strategy for schools that want to prepare pastors for local churches.”
 

Southwestern

Southwestern’s total headcount enrollment of graduate students has increased 7.5 percent to 2,590 over the past five years, with more than 800 M.Div. students each fall.
 
“The seminaries ought to be special ops training schools for Christian ministry and missions,” Patterson said. “... Special ops people in the United States military don’t do less training than the regular troops. They do ever more and more training.”
 
Overall, the M.Div. students at SBC seminaries comprised 16.5 percent of all M.Div. students among ATS schools last fall.
 
That should come as no surprise for a denomination that pledged in a 1983 resolution on SBC seminaries “to continue their support of the six Southern Baptist seminaries, to pray for their expanding ministries in preparing God-called persons for more effective ministries, and to encourage the continuing fidelity of the six seminaries in fulfilling their assigned purposes with both freedom and responsibility.”
 
The ATS data used in BP’s calculations does not present a full picture of God’s work at SBC seminaries because, among other factors, it does not account for undergraduate enrollment and is based on a count of students in the fall semester only rather than the entire academic year. However, ATS data allowed BP to perform a precise comparison of SBC seminaries and other theological graduate schools.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

8/31/2016 9:19:08 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mother, son fight for ‘right’ to incestuous relationship

August 31 2016 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

A mother and adult son charged with incest in New Mexico are going public with their relationship, saying they are willing to go to jail to fight for the “right” to be together.
 
The mother, Monica Mares, 36, and her son, Caleb Peterson, 19, met again last year after nearly 18 years apart. Another family adopted Peterson soon after Mares gave birth to him. Their relationship soon turned romantic, according to the couple, and Peterson started living with Mares and her two youngest children, ages 5 and 6, in Clovis, N.M.
 
Police learned of the relationship during a domestic dispute involving a neighbor in late February, according to reporting by the Clovis News Journal. Peterson admitted to having sexual relations with Mares. Mares and Peterson appeared in court March 10 to face charges of incest, a felony. Last week the court moved the trial date from late August to Oct. 26. If convicted, they could each face up to three years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
 
The case garnered a wider audience after an exclusive in-depth interview with Britain’s Daily Mail earlier this month. Mares and Peterson said they hoped to raise awareness for “genetic sexual attraction,” sexual attraction between close relatives who first meet as adults.
 
“Honestly, I never thought we would get into trouble for our relationship. We were both consenting adults – when it comes down to it,” Peterson said in the Daily Mail interview. “She’s adult; I’m adult. I can make my own decisions. I never thought it would blow up into something like this.”
 
A support and advocacy website for related couples is raising money for their legal fees. The site supports what it calls consanguinamorous relationships and is pushing for “FULL marriage equality for ALL consenting adults.” A woman who calls herself Cristina Shy runs the site.
 
“It needs to be brought to the attention of everybody in the country, and people need to start thinking differently,” Shy told the Daily Mail. “It was the same with gay people just a few years ago and now they can get married and they are accepted. Well, why not consanguinamorous people like us? We are all adults.”
 
That is “not a far leap at all,” said Travis Weber, an attorney with the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.
 
“I think that the framing of this case and the advocacy on their behalf is made much easier by the Supreme Court’s decision and many of the developments we are seeing in law in regards to homosexuality,” Weber said.
 
Despite public pushback, many commentators are advocating for Mares and Peterson’s right to have a sexual relationship. The local Clovis News Journal editorial board published an article in March arguing that regardless of any objections, “from morality to the physical and psychological health of everyone connected to this family – there is an overriding concern that government does not belong in the bedroom of consenting adults.”
 
Weber said this case points to a societal breakdown of logic and reason. People who oppose Mares and Peterson’s relationship are “holding onto a vestige of conscience and moral judgment in some areas,” but if pushed, Weber said, they often “can’t pinpoint why they are holding that view.”
 
When asked about the health risks of incestuous relationships, Weber said we have shut down an objective discussion about the health risks in regard to homosexuality: “What’s to stop us in regard to incest?”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

8/31/2016 9:14:08 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Disaster Relief brings stability to flood survivors

August 31 2016 by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB

The stench of floodwater filled the air, mingling with a hint of mold. Kim Rowland, a volunteer with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR), remained undaunted.

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplain Joan Sangster, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Jesup, Ga., carries wooden doorframes to a garbage heap Aug. 26, in Denham Springs, La. Sangster, along with other Georgia SBDR volunteers, was serving at the home of Karen Johnson and Phillip Carpenter this week, helping them mud out their flood-damaged house.


One by one, she pulled items from the lower cabinet – a crockpot filled with water the color of thin gumbo, fine china spattered with mud and glass baking dishes frosted with sediment.
 
All remnants of a mid-August flood that swept through Louisiana without mercy, leaving 13 people dead and damaging more than 100,000 homes in 20 parishes. Immediately, SBDR sprang into action. Volunteers from 18 states have now responded, including: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The response has also passed the 250,000 meals prepared mark.
 
Every day, assessors walk the streets, attempting to find the most vulnerable people with the greatest need. And every day, volunteers don their gloves and get to work, crawling around on a mud-slicked floor or hauling sodden carpet to the curb for trash pickup.
 
Rowland’s husband Kenny is the pastor of East Dublin Dayspring Worship Center in East Dublin, Ga. When they got the call for assistance, they knew they had to answer.
 
It was the same for Shornden McCloud, a member of Northside Baptist Church in Brunswick, Ga. He has volunteered with SBDR for more than a decade and didn’t hesitate to lend a hand. But it wasn’t always that way, he said as he slammed a hammer against a doorframe, trying to loosen the nails.

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Kim Rowland (right), a member of East Dublin Dayspring Worship Center in East Dublin, Ga., helps clean the kitchen of homeowner Karen Johnson Aug. 26, in Denham Springs, La. Rowland, along with other Georgia SBDR volunteers, was at Johnson’s home this week, helping her mud out the flood-damaged house. Johnson is among thousands of Louisiana residents affected by a mid-August flood.


He went through training, but for a long time resisted going on a call.
 
“I always had an excuse,” McCloud said. “I was more concentrated on my job. But after that first time, you’ll go every time. It’s a lot of work, but once you see what you’re doing for the Lord, once you see what this does for the people, you can never not go again.”
 
The Louisiana flood is a massive disaster, stretching 160 miles west, from Hammond, La., to the Texas border, then an additional 40 miles to the north and south. More than 115,000 people have applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
 
Flooding was particularly severe in Denham Springs, a small community on the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. Officials estimate 90 percent of homes and businesses flooded. Most of the city’s 10,000 residents are living in hotels or staying with family, trying to juggle work and cleanup while navigating the red tape required for government assistance.
 
Homeowners Karen Johnson and Phillip Carpenter, members of Immaculate Conception Church of Baton Rouge, are all too familiar with trying to balance daily life with recovery.
 
Carpenter, a crane operator, was working in Tampa, Fla., when the flood began. At first, he and his wife were not concerned. Their previous house was on a river, but after it flooded the third time, they moved to their current neighborhood. The area had never flooded. They felt sure they had found the perfect spot for their growing family.

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Kim Rowland (right), a member of East Dublin Dayspring Worship Center in East Dublin, Ga., helps homeowner Karen Johnson replace china in her kitchen cabinet on Aug. 26, in Denham Springs, La. Rowland and her fellow Georgia SBDR volunteers are serving Johnson, one of thousands of Louisiana residents affected by mid-August flooding.


Johnson wasn’t worried until a friend called and said she was evacuating. Street flooding quickly rose to ankle-deep. Thirty minutes later, water began seeping through the doors and bubbling up beneath the hardwood floors.
 
Johnson’s mother lived in a two-story house next door, so she took her three children and grandchild and fled to safety. The last time Carpenter made contact with them was around midnight. Two days later, he arrived from Tampa and tried to get to his house. He made it as close as two miles, but the water was too high to continue without a boat. When the family reunited almost a week later, they learned that their house had taken on nearly two-feet of water.
 
Volunteers like SBDR are a blessing, Carpenter said. People in Louisiana help one another, but everyone is going through the same thing. To make matters worse, skimpy national news coverage left his boss and coworkers puzzled.
 
“They’re calling me every day, wanting me to come back to work,” Carpenter said. “They have no idea what we’re going through. Everything I’ve ever worked for in my life is gone. My family is basically homeless.”
 
It eases his stress to know SBDR volunteers have things under control, from ripping up swollen hardwood floors to removing the sheetrock, which is beginning to mold. When Carpenter returns to work, he knows his family will be safe.
 
“This is fantastic,” Karen Johnson said as she washed dishes and wrapped Christmas paper around the keepers. “It’s a great help. It takes a lot of worry off us, especially with all the fraud.”
 
It’s hard to know whom to trust, she said. SBDR is a comforting presence. Still, the devastation takes an emotional toll on not only the homeowners but also the volunteers.
 
Joan Sangster, a chaplain for SBDR, choked up earlier in the day while praying with a family.
 
“Halfway through my prayer, I started crying,” Sangster said. “How can you not? But it rains on the just and unjust alike. Sometimes things that seem terrible might turn out to be a blessing.”
 
Sangster and her husband Chuck attend Calvary Baptist Church in Jesup, Ga. They became SBDR volunteers two years ago and have now made five deployments.
 
People often ask why God lets disasters happen, Sangster said. There is no easy answer. At 79, she has faced health challenges, but she holds fast to Romans 8:28.
 
Her purpose, she believes, is to help those in need.
 
“God is still using me, and I’m still able to do things,” she said as she carried an armful of wooden doorframes to the trash pile. “I feel so blessed that I’m able to be here doing this.”
 
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carmen K. Sisson is a freelance writer reporting for the North American Mission Board.)
 

8/31/2016 9:05:25 AM by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB | with 0 comments



Diaspora missions conference called ‘catalytic moment’

August 30 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

A unique Southern Baptist missions conference encouraged attendees to leverage the historically unprecedented migration of peoples around the world for the sake of sharing the gospel with every tribe, tongue and nationality. The U.S. is one of the most common destinations for migrants, and the circumstances present the American church with a remarkable opportunity for evangelism, according to conference speakers.

Photo by Seth Brown
Conference speaker J.D. Payne said, “The greatest needs for disciple making and church planting are outside of North America, but there is something missionally malignant if we’re willing to risk and take great sacrifices to travel across oceans to share the gospel and we’re not willing to walk across the street to the strangers next door.”


“[God] is the Divine Maestro, orchestrating the movements of the nations,” said J.D. Payne, pastor for church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.
 
He emphasized the importance of churches engaging in diaspora missions, which is the task of evangelizing migrants.
 
Payne said the “Reaching the Nations in North America” conference at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn., could be a “catalytic moment” for mobilizing American Christians “until the strangers next door are strangers no more.”
 
The meeting garnered nearly 400 attendees, exceeding expectations and making it the largest conference of its kind.
 
Speakers at the Aug. 26-27 event included Payne; Frank Page, CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee; Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College; and Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy for World Relief, a refugee resettlement organization. Additional leaders conducted breakout sessions, along with a cultural immersion experience in the Nashville area’s diverse communities.
 
Boto Joseph, an India-native church planter in New York City, led the group in musical worship, which included songs in multiple languages.
 
“It is my prayer that the summit launched a discussion in Southern Baptist life whose volume will only grow louder in the days to come​ as Christ-followers from every facet of the Southern Baptist Convention seek to engage our 47 million foreign born neighbors with the gospel of Christ,” said Chuck Register, executive leader of church planting and missions partnerships for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Photo by Seth Brown
Boto Joseph, an India-native church planter in New York City, led conference attendees in musical worship, which included songs in multiple languages.


Register helped coordinate and sponsor the event, along with his staff and others from the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC).
 
Yang spoke to attendees from personal experience and on-the-job expertise. She said, “We have an opportunity to make disciples of every nation without even having to leave our own backyard. It is not an accident that our neighborhoods are transforming. … The diversity of this country means that God wants people to hear the gospel.”
 
She shared multiple immigrant stories, including her own father’s immigration experience, recounting how he came into contact with the gospel because of his travels.
 
“Eighty-six percent of the immigrant population in North America are likely to either be Christian or become Christian,” Yang said, citing work by Timothy Tennent, professor of World Christianity and president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
 
“That’s far above the national average,” she continued. “The immigrant population actually presents the greatest hope for Christian renewal in North America. This group we want to keep out is actually the group that we need most for spiritual transformation.”
 
A conference attendee, Cody Beasley from Oaks Church in Raleigh, said the statistics were shocking. He and his wife, Aly, want to use what they learned to help them better communicate the gospel to Muslims and other internationals.
 
“It’s something that I’m passionate about,” said Beasley.
 
Yang pointed to the Bible as the Christian foundation for ministry to immigrants, while noting that some evangelicals take adverse political stances on the subject.
 
“Almost every single major biblical character from the Old Testament to the New Testament had some kind of migration experience, and it was through that migration experience that they experienced God,” she said, highlighting the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Ruth and David.
 
Even Jesus was a migrant, said Yang. “We are followers of a Middle Eastern refugee.”
 
He was a young, single, male, religious minority from the Middle East, she continued. “My question to all of us is, ‘If Jesus were alive today, would we let him into our country?’”
 
Stetzer acknowledged the need for just and sustainable border security, mentioning the “build a wall” position of many political conservatives in America.
 
“We might differ on that,” he said. “But you can’t differ and be a Christian on the call of Jesus to reach all kinds of people from different nations. … Our task is to be about the mission that Jesus has given us.”
 
Stetzer added, “In the midst of the politics we’re called to be prophetic.”
 
Breakout sessions of the conference highlighted tools and resources for discovering and engaging internationals, along with mobilization strategies for churches, associations and conventions.
 
Lewis McMullen, TBC church planting specialist, organized teams for a cultural immersion experience. One group visited the Islamic Center of Tennessee in Nashville, where they met local Muslims and received a guided tour of the facility. Afterward they shopped in a nearby ethnic market. Another team visited a Buddhist temple in the area.
 
“The greatest needs for disciple making and church planting are outside of North America,” Payne said as he gave the closing talk. “But there is something missionally malignant if we’re willing to risk and take great sacrifices to travel across oceans to share the gospel and we’re not willing to walk across the street to the strangers next door.”
 

8/30/2016 10:20:42 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Moore: gospel-defined conservatism needed

August 30 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Christians need to make certain what they are seeking to conserve in America is distinguished by the gospel of Jesus Christ, Russell Moore told attendees of a national conference on cultural engagement.

Photo by Rocket Republic
Russell Moore urges Christians to conserve gospel authority and community in his keynote speech at the ERLC National Conference Aug. 26 in Nashville.


“[I]f what we are conserving is not defined by the gospel, defined by a righteousness found in the lived life and shed blood of the resurrected Jesus Christ, a gospel that is seen in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God, a gospel seen in the community of the redeemed, a gospel seen in that ministry of reconciliation, then we have nothing worth conserving at all,” the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said Aug. 26.
 
Moore’s keynote speech came in the final session of the ERLC’s two-day national conference titled, like his address, “Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.”
 
Many Christians may be interpreting the great cultural shifts in America wrongly, Moore said.
 
“We have many Christians who are fearful and panicky because their illusion of a Mayberry-like, Christian America is falling apart,” he said.
 
“Brothers and sisters, the shaking of American culture is no sign that God has given up on His church. The shaking of American culture well could be a sign that God is rescuing His church from a captivity we didn’t even know that we were in.”
 
The dramatic cultural change does not mean this is “a time for fear,” Moore told the audience at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville.
 
“This is good news, because with the changing of the culture around us, what is falling is the almost Christianity of cultural Christianity,” he said. “Mayberry is great unless there’s a hell, unless there’s a judgment day. And if there’s a day of judgment, an almost gospel is worse than no gospel at all. So we must be prepared to be the people who stand and stand fast and, if necessary, to be the people who are willing to stand alone.”
 
Basing his remarks on Galatians 1:10-2:14, Moore said Christians should be the kind of people who conserve a gospel authority and a gospel community.
 
If Christians “are not consistently preaching and teaching and holding fast to the word of the Bible, some other authority will fill the void,” he said.
 
The gospel authority Christians should rely on “ought to feed and fuel a courage,” Moore told the audience. “If I received man’s gospel, then I need to be afraid of men. But if I received God’s gospel, then I need to be fearful of God and in obedience to God.”
 
Followers of Jesus should see their goal as “the approval of the invisible God more than the approval of the visible people that we admire or that we fear around us,” he said. Christians fear, he said, “because we are seeking to conserve ourselves; we’re seeking to conserve our lives; we’re seeking to conserve our security.”
 
Speaking of a recent report that a white pastor was fired because he wanted the church’s Vacation Bible School opened to children of other races, Moore said, “A church that would limit the gospel to one ethnicity or one skin color or one group of people is not just a church that is backward. It is a church that is anti-Christ. It is a church that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 
Through the gospel, God creates the kind of community that “brings us into family as a witness to the outside world of what reconciliation within the body really means,” he said. “The church of Jesus Christ is not a coalition of old, angry, white people who are all outraged about the same stuff.”
 
One of the biggest challenges for Christians is “to be separated from sin but not separated from sinners,” Moore told attendees. “And what we often want to do is the exact reverse.”
 
Christians can be guilty of fearing what others “in our tribe” in the church will think if they see them with a Muslim neighbor, atheist neighbor or gay neighbor, he said. “But am I a servant of Jesus Christ, or am I a servant of other people’s expectations?”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 
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Moore, Stanley candidly discuss ministry disagreements
ERLC event: gospel applies to race, politics, art
ERLC board honors O.S. Hawkins, Barrett Duke
 

8/30/2016 10:16:34 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. transgender ruling ‘narrow’ but a ‘step back’

August 30 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A federal judge’s ruling suspending enforcement of North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill for three individuals in the University of North Carolina (UNC) system has been classified by a pro-family organization in the state as “very narrow” and of “little effect” practically.
 
Judge Thomas Schroeder ruled Aug. 26 that UNC must allow three transgender individuals to use restrooms corresponding to their perceived gender identity until their claim challenging North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (H.B. 2) is decided. H.B. 2, among other provisions, requires individuals at public agencies to use restrooms corresponding to the biological sex indicated on their birth certificates.
 
“Judge Schroeder has made a very narrow ruling by suspending enforcement of H.B. 2’s bathroom provisions only for the three UNC transgender student and faculty plaintiffs,” Tami Fitzgerald, an attorney and executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a statement. “H.B. 2 remains in effect for all others at UNC and across the state. Since UNC has refused to enforce H.B. 2, the ruling has little effect.”
 
Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee to the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, ruled two transgender students and a transgender employee “are likely to succeed” in their challenge of H.B. 2’s bathroom use provision because that provision violates Title IX of the 1972 federal Education Amendments, as interpreted by the Obama administration.
 
The relevant precedent in the UNC case, Schroeder wrote in an 83-page opinion, is the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ April ruling that a transgender high school student in Virginia is entitled to use restrooms and other facilities corresponding to her gender identity. The Fourth Circuit ruled, Schroeder stated, that “controlling weight” should be given to the Department of Education’s interpretation of “sex discrimination” in Title IX as including gender identity discrimination.
 
The 1972 amendment includes no mention of gender identity.
 
Schroeder hinted he may agree with a dissent to the Fourth Circuit ruling but said accepting North Carolina’s arguments against the appellate court’s reasoning “would violate” his “obligation” to “follow circuit precedent.”
 
Schroeder’s ruling noted a Texas-based federal judge’s ruling against the Obama administration’s so-called transgender directive to public schools and universities as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s stay of the Fourth Circuit ruling until the case is resolved on appeal. Schroeder argued, however, that the Fourth Circuit’s reasoning “remains the law in this circuit,” which includes Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia.
 
Despite their successful argument regarding Title IX, the transgender plaintiffs in the UNC case “have not made a clear showing they are likely to succeed” in their claim H.B. 2 violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, Schroeder wrote.
 
Mark Harris, a North Carolina pastor and former Republican candidate for both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, told Baptist Press “the court appears to be waiting for a higher court’s decision.”
 
“Ultimately, everyone believes that the Supreme Court will end up ruling on this, particularly when you have the federal judge in Texas putting a stay on all of what the federal government was trying to do through President Obama’s Justice Department’s actions,” said Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.
 
Despite the narrowness of Schroeder’s ruling and its limited effect, Harris said “any decision like this feels like it takes us one step back. You would like to have every ruling come down in favor of H.B. 2 in terms of stating the issues of privacy and safety that we feel like are impacted here.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press)
 

8/30/2016 10:13:19 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Wrap-Up: ERLC event addresses culture, gospel

August 30 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Speakers and panelists sought to help Christians understand how they can engage the culture in a gospel-focused manner during the second day of a Southern Baptist-sponsored conference Aug. 26.

Photo by Rocket Republic
Trillia Newbell, the ERLC’s director of community outreach, speaks as a panelist during a breakout session on race and cultural engagement Aug. 26 at the ERLC National Conference.


The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) 2016 National Conference featured pastors, academics and authors providing guidance to the audience – which consisted of more than 900 registrants – regarding not only what biblically based cultural engagement is but how to avoid being a captive of cultural Christianity.
 
Dallas-area pastor Matt Chandler said the Bible Belt has “churches that are filled with unregenerate [people] in a culture where any type of conservatism is just lumped in to being a Christian.”
 
In the Bible Belt, pastors will often have to help “really moral church folk understand that they’re non-Christians,” he told attendees.
 
Many of those who grew up in a church but were converted to Christ as adults in The Village Church, where Chandler is lead teaching pastor, say they have a “long list of behaviors” but “never heard the gospel,” he said. “So we have to in the Bible Belt deconstruct the idea that Jesus is about good people.”
 
Speaking on the parable of the lost sheep, coin and son in Luke 15, Chandler said, “The mission of God is to seek and save the lost – not moral betterment. That’s what happens when we are saved, right? We are going to be transformed from the inside out.

Photo by Rocket Republic
Dallas-area pastor Matt Chandler addresses cultural engagement in the Bible Belt Aug. 26 during the ERLC National Conference.


“Well, the Bible Belt is so twisted around this idea,” he said, adding he has been overwhelmed that “the basic gospel message has been completely lost on a full generation.”
 
The reality for a Christian that “all of life is repentance” needs to be understood in the church, Chandler said.
 
“If people in the Bible Belt don’t know that what it means to be a Christian is for the rest of their life they’re to be repentant in their life, then every little struggle they have will be hidden in the darkness because they will believe that they did that when they got saved,” he said. “I just can’t tell you the sheer volume of people I know who are enslaved to sin and feel like they can’t tell anyone about it, because they got saved 15 years ago.”
 
Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, challenged audience members to consider whether they – and the American church – are “on a quest for control,” particularly of culture, freelance writer Kara Bettis wrote in a report for the ERLC.
 
Human beings are uniquely given authority – the capacity for meaningful action – and vulnerability – exposure to meaningful risk, but control itself is a testament to true motivations, he said.

Photo by Rocket Republic
Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, talks about culture and leadership Aug. 26 at the ERLC National Conference.


“You know someone is addicted to control [if] when their control begins to slip they become violent,” Crouch said, Bettis reported. “What our culture has perceived of us Christians is they see us losing control of culture and they see the rage with which we react to that loss of control.”
 
Crouch proposed an alternative approach – true leadership and leaders who “just show up and are honest about their limits, honest about our limits and call us to live a life of risk.”
 
Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist church in Hendersonville, Tenn., pointed attendees to a two-fold strategy Jesus gave the church to engage the culture – an invitation to follow Him and an investment in others.
 
“We’re going to change the culture the same way Jesus changed the culture, and that’s with an invitation to follow Him,” Gallaty said. “We will never affect the culture publicly until we have been transformed by the gospel privately.
 
“Intimacy with God always precedes ministry,” he said. “Who we are in Christ trumps what we will ever do for Christ.”
 
Greg Thornbury, president of The King’s College in New York City, said he is worried as someone who leads an institution preparing young adults for the world.
 
“I am concerned that the rightful teaching of grace in our churches may be producing a slacker generation that will damage our witness in culture in coming generations,” he said, acknowledging his comment would be controversial. “We need to recover the work ethic that made the people of God who they were in every cultural situation.”
 
Trevin Wax, Bible and reference publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources, said in a panel discussion cultural engagement should be connected to the Great Commission.
 
If cultural engagement is simply a way for Christians to seek “to show that we’re culturally savvy ... then that is the way to disaster,” he said, adding it should be about having a “Great Commission understanding of people around us so we can effectively present the gospel.”
 
On the same panel, Jackie Hill Perry, a poet and artist with Humble Beast Records, encouraged young Christians to demonstrate “an intentionality about our lives.”
 
They should use their “online presence for the gospel, for the glory of God,” she said.
 
Hill Perry also urged young Christian couples, “Don’t be afraid to have children. If we are not raising disciples now, who will be the ones to carry the torch later?”
 
The Aug. 26 proceedings included breakout sessions on race, religious liberty, parenting, millennials and sports. An all-female panel also discussed women and cultural engagement.
 
During the meeting, the ERLC announced its 2017 National Conference, which is scheduled Aug. 24-25 and will again be held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
 
Christ-centered parenting will be the theme, and the speakers will include ERLC President Russell Moore, who also spoke Aug. 26 at this year’s conference; Focus on the Family President Jim Daly; and authors Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jen Wilkin.
 
The ERLC and Southern Baptist Executive Committee cosponsored a Next Generation luncheon Aug. 26 for young SBC pastors and leaders. The gathering with more than 100 registrants included a question-and-answer session with SBC President Steve Gaines, Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, Chandler and Moore.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

8/30/2016 10:06:36 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Atheists block city grant to National Baptists

August 30 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Atheists have blocked a $65,000 grant the Kansas City, Mo., government had allocated for use during the National Baptist Convention USA (NBC-USA) annual meeting Sept. 5-9 in the city.


John Modest Miles of Modest Miles Ministries had counted on the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund grant to help cover ground transportation costs for delegates at the 31,000-church NBC-USA meeting, saying the funds would support tourism. But after American Atheists Inc. and two of its Kansas City members contended in a lawsuit that the public funds would support religion, the city withheld the grant pending additional documentation from Miles, the Kansas City Star reported.
 
As Miles works to recoup the money through other sources, including private funding, a GoFundMe page set up Aug. 26 by the Black Health Care Coalition had raised about $1,500, with all funds designated for the NBC-USA Kansas City meeting.
 
“Let’s join together to honor the social service agenda of the National Baptist Convention,” the GoFundMe appeal reads, noting criminal justice, disaster relief, hunger relief, employment advocacy, housing and health among the NBC-USA’s concerns. “We need this. Service saves lives.”
 
Miles was not available for comment Aug. 29, but he told the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer days earlier he had been troubled over the loss of funding.
 
“All of us are in tears,” said Miles, who also pastors the NBC-USA congregation Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City. “I’m up at night praying. That’s all I know to do.”
 
NBC-USA President Jerry Young, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., spoke during the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2016 annual meeting in St. Louis in connection with his joint promotion of racial reconciliation with immediate past SBC President Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
 
An estimated 20,000 delegates and family members are slated to attend the convention, occupying 8,200 hotel rooms and yielding a $7.9 million economic impact, VisitKC, the city’s convention and tourism agency, told the News & Observer.
 
Miles continues to meet with city officials to find another source of funds. City Manager Troy Schulte told the News & Observer that private funding is Miles’ only option, and said the city would assist Miles in finding such support.
 
“At this time, we will not be using public money,” Schulte said. The American Atheists’ lawsuit has not been heard in court, and the atheists had sought to resolve the problem in meetings before the lawsuit was filed.
 
“The National Baptist Convention is inherently religious – and it is clear under Missouri law and the First Amendment that Missouri taxpayers should not be paying for it,” Amanda Knief, American Atheists National Legal Director, said in a press release on the group’s website.
 
City tourism funds were also allocated to Miles’ ministry when he served as chairman of the host committee for NBC USA national conventions in 1998, 2003 and 2010, Miles told the Kansas City Star, but the paper said in a July 26 report that it was unable to verify the allocations because the city’s database records only go back five years. According to American Atheists Inc., the grants amounted to $100,000 in 1998, $142,000 in 2003 and $77,585 in 2010.
 
Young told the Kansas City Star that the convention is strictly a business meeting, with some sessions open to the public.
 
“I would hope that those who are part of the atheist movement would not take the position that the money used by the city to market the city and to bring economic development and enhancement … ought to apply to everybody but Christians,” Young told the Star. “When you spend money to bring 20,000 people to your city, you’re not spending that money to promote the cause. You’re spending that money because it just makes sense.”
 
The convention will continue as planned, Young said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 
Related articles:
Atheists plan billboards against Ark museum
Atheists’ anti-Ark slogan refused by advertiser
Lawsuit targets city’s grant to National Baptists
 

8/30/2016 10:02:12 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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