August 2017

Baptist leaders ask Trump to protect ‘Dreamers’

August 31 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Several Southern Baptist leaders are among a group of evangelicals who urged President Donald Trump and the United States Congress to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country by their parents.
The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a coalition of Christian advocates for immigration reform, sent letters to President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Aug. 30, calling for legislative action to support recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), commonly called “Dreamers.”

​The letters were initially endorsed by heads of EIT’s seven principal organizations, including Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. An online petition garnered more than 300 additional signatures in the first 48 hours of its release, according to EIT.
“It is long past time for Congress to work together to find a workable solution for our broken immigration system – especially for the hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to our country by their parents,” Moore said in an EIT press release.
“Many of these Dreamers have stepped forward in good faith. Congress should respond with a legislative solution that delivers on the promises made to these men and women and protects them from perpetual uncertainty. Let’s pray for a fair solution that highlights both justice and compassion.”
Recent news reports said the president and other White House officials would soon decide whether to phase out the Obama administration policy, which provides discretionary relief from deportation to about 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants.
The letter to President Trump said these young people have made a positive impact and “our nation is better off because of their presence.” The statement emphasized that DACA recipients have submitted to screening for criminal activity and do not threaten national security.
“We are grateful that you have repeatedly stated your strong support for these young immigrants, assuring them that they should ‘rest easy’ and that you were ‘not going to hurt those kids,’" the letter said. “We ask you to work with House and Senate leadership to develop and pass legislation to protect these young immigrants.”
The list of signatories who affirm EIT’s six core principles, which are reflected in the letters, include Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board; Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Richard Land, former president of the ERLC; David Allen, dean of the school of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
Signatories also include several past presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention: Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas; Jack Graham, senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.; Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La.; Bobby Welch, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla.; and others.

(EDITOR'S NOTE – This story was updated Sept. 3.)

8/31/2017 4:18:50 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

16 flood survivors nestle in church staffer’s home

August 31 2017 by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Southern Baptist TEXAN

All’s good, Nicole Richert kept saying as she and her husband were “hanging out” and “relaxing” with 16 strangers and six dogs in their Houston-area home days after Hurricane Harvey’s deluge and flooding.

Contributed photo
Children’s minister Nicole Richert, back row left, put her church lessons on being a good neighbor into action as she and her husband opened their home to 16 survivors of Hurricane Harvey.

“We were just headed to the gas station when my aunt called, and she was looking for a lady named Judy who had been air boated out of her neighborhood,” Richert told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. She and her husband Trent had just pulled into the very Shell station where her aunt had told them to find the woman and her husband.
“When we found her we realized ... that all these other people had nowhere to go,” she recounted. A bus was transporting evacuees to a local school that had not yet opened to provide shelter.
“We said, ‘Who needs a home?’ That was it.”
Richert serves as children’s minister at Fairfield Baptist Church in Cypress, Texas, where first responders have been offered a respite area. Some neighborhoods experienced six to eight feet of flooding in houses, and churches in the area are coordinating how to meet ongoing needs.
“We’re just trying to see what to do and where to go,” said Jim Daniel, pastor of Fairfield Baptist, which took a hit from Hurricane Ike in 2008. He wasn’t surprised by the response of the Richert family in meeting needs of evacuees.
The collection of house guests included older couples and young families, all grateful for help. The Richerts served up chili and cornbread for dinner then found places for them to sleep throughout the house. They even made room for one family’s dogs, including a dachshund that had just given birth to puppies.
“This is one of those experiences where you spend time with people you don’t normally take the time to enjoy,” Richert said, describing two-hour dinners of good conversation.
Relatives have picked up the couple they initially had been asked to find, and one family is waiting for the water to recede before returning home. While FEMA offered lodging at a hotel for one of the families, they accepted their host’s invitation to remain along with the fourth family who will stay until their carpet is cleaned up from the flooding.
Teaching lessons about being a good neighbor is a part of Nicole Richert’s ministry to children, so making that application came naturally to her family.
“I hadn’t really even processed it or thought through it,” she admitted. “You see a need? You meet a need.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tammi Reed Ledbetter is special assignments editor for the Southern Baptist TEXAN,, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

8/31/2017 7:57:36 AM by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

North Korea missile launch leads Japan churches to pray

August 31 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Following a North Korean missile launch that triggered emergency sirens in Japan and government warnings to seek cover, Baptists in Japan are expressing trust in God and asking fellow believers for prayer.

Screen capture from CNN
Posing what Japan’s prime minister called a “most serious and grave threat,” North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean Aug. 29.

“Every person I have spoken with has told me how they are praying for the situation here in this area of the world,” said Ben Howard, an associate pastor at Yokohama International Baptist Church, a 200-member congregation in Japan’s second largest city. “Prayers are becoming very specific. Several are praying that God will hold North Korea back and not let them be aggressive.
“Several church members mentioned they were praying for [Japanese] Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe and President [Donald] Trump as they decide how to respond to these provocations, that they would have wisdom and that they would stand firm for the Japanese people,” Howard told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments.
Shortly before 6 a.m. Japan time Aug. 29, North Korea shot an intermediate-range ballistic missile over northern Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. It was the first North Korean missile ever to fly over Japan, leading Abe to call the launch “the most serious and grave threat ever” against his country, according to CNN.
Though the United Nations Security Council and Trump both condemned North Korea’s latest missile test, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un said Aug. 30 the launch was “the first step of the military operation of the [North Korean military] in the Pacific,” CNN reported.
Within the region threatened by North Korea’s aggression are at least 11 churches that cooperate with the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention (HPBC). Five churches in Japan cooperate with the Hawaii convention, as do six on the U.S. islands of Saipan and Guam.
Kim spoke of “containing Guam” as a next step in his military strategy, North Korean state media reported.
Chris Martin, executive director of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention said “a true sense of confidence and trust in God’s sovereign plan prevails” among HPBC churches.
“Our churches in Asia and the South Pacific are seeing this as another unique avenue to share the hope that is only found in Jesus Christ,” Martin told BP in written comments. “In spite of the global tensions, pastors, leaders and members are encouraging others to ask for God to bring peace and to calm the situation – and turn to Christ for the hope that can never come through man’s efforts. It is an exciting time for the brilliant light of the gospel of Jesus Christ to shine in a dark situation.”
Takeshi Yozawa, an associate pastor at Tokyo Baptist Church, told BP “people have been calm in general” regarding the missile that sailed over Japan.
Tokyo Baptist is a 1,000-member, English-speaking congregation in the heart of the Japanese capital.
“We haven’t noticed any difference in the general public in Tokyo,” Yozawa said in written comments. “By the grace of God, as a church, we have peace in His protection and grace. We will appreciate if others can also join us in praying for the security of this region, and for the salvation of the people in Japan.”
Howard said while members of Yokohama International “are not taking any special precautions” in light of North Korea’s threats, “the overwhelming reaction of our church body is that God is in control and this action on the part of North Korea should lead us to more prayer and reliance on God.”
Yokohama International members also are turning their thoughts toward non-believers.
One Sunday School teacher wrote to Howard, “My thoughts were of my daughters who are nominal Christians/nonbelievers in Singapore. I wanted them to know that whatever happens to me, I want them to praise God because I am in His hands.” Another Bible study leader plans to teach on Psalm 46 for the next month to help “the ladies in the group ... come to see that our security and peace is found in the Lord no matter what the circumstances around us may be,” Howard said.
In 2015, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, adopted a resolution “on religious persecution and human rights violations in North Korea.” In addition to citing religious liberty concerns, the resolution called all believers “to pray that God will turn the heart of Kim Jong Un to Himself.”
Yokohama International Baptist and Tokyo Baptist both cooperate with the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention. Though the Southern Baptist Convention is a domestic network of churches, several state conventions – including the HPBC – recognize overseas churches as cooperating churches with their state conventions.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/31/2017 7:52:31 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

TRUSTEES: LifeWay set for mid-November move

August 31 2017 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Christian Resources

By mid-November, LifeWay Christian Resources will move into a new corporate headquarters. New technology is rolling out for retail stores and And the Southern Baptist entity continues to expand globally.

LifeWay Photo
LifeWay President Thom Rainer addresses the entity’s trustees during their board meeting at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Asheville, N.C.

These were among the highlights of Thom S. Rainer’s report to LifeWay trustees during their board meeting Aug. 28-29 at Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C. LifeWay is leading change to meet the needs of churches in a rapidly changing culture, the organization’s president and CEO told trustees.
“There will never be a time we are not changing,” Rainer said as he outlined the steps LifeWay has taken to thrive in a tumultuous market. “We are choosing to move forward in an exciting and promising way.”
Both Rainer and Executive Vice President Brad Waggoner spoke of the challenges LifeWay has faced the past 12 years, including the Great Recession, changing church practices, the digital revolution and an unstable marketplace.
“Changes we initiated in the last several years have put LifeWay in a much better position for the future,” Waggoner said.
In his report, Rainer described improvements made since 2010 throughout LifeWay, including a turnaround in ongoing curriculum sales, the addition of new authors, and the launch of the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).
“Sometimes we just need to pause and see what God has done,” he said. “God has worked through us to allow us to be where we are today. Now is the time to ask God, ‘What next?’”

New headquarters

Rainer updated trustees on LifeWay’s imminent move to its new location in downtown Nashville this fall. “We are moving in on time and on budget. This is a God thing,” he said as he showed images of the Capitol View neighborhood that will be home to the new LifeWay headquarters. “This is going to be an incredible community.”
He shared his appreciation for LifeWay employees. “We would not be where we are today without the commitment, passion and the love of Jesus that our employees demonstrate,” Rainer said. “They do what it takes to get the job done.”

Budget approval

LifeWay trustees approved a 2018 budget of $499 million, which reflects a 5 percent increase over 2017 projected revenue.
“As has been true in the past, in both good times and challenging times, God has sustained LifeWay financially and this is true today,” said acting Chief Financial Officer Joe Walker.
In other action, trustees approved W. Alan Phillips as secretary of the corporation. Phillips, a LifeWay employee since 2006, is acting general counsel for LifeWay.
LifeWay trustees also discussed and approved responses to two motions referred to LifeWay by the Southern Baptist Convention during the 2017 annual meeting. The responses, regarding trustee representation on entity boards and the publication of trustees’ contact information, will be reported to the 2018 SBC meeting June 12-13 in Dallas.

New trustees

Trustees approved the nomination of Randy Smith to fill the vacancy of Wayne Morgan, a trustee from Georgia who resigned his position on the LifeWay Board of Trustees. Smith will serve as an interim trustee until the Southern Baptist Convention elects a director to fill Morgan’s unexpired term. Smith is a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.
Trustees also welcomed new trustees who began their terms with the August meeting. New trustees include Jennifer Landrith, a member of First Baptist Church, Cleveland, Tenn.; Ron Edmondson, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.; Greg Kannady, a member of First Baptist Church, Kingfisher, Okla.; and Michelle Branch, a member of Imago Dei in Raleigh, N.C.
Trustees also heard updates on various other projects and strategies.


The new CSB translation is one of several growing areas in LifeWay’s resources division, said Vice President Eric Geiger. Among the areas of growth are kids and student ministries, worship resources, Bibles, academic resources, ongoing curriculum and global ministry. In 2018, LifeWay expects its sixth consecutive year of ongoing Bible study growth, Geiger said.
He detailed LifeWay’s growth in India, Mexico and other global locations where LifeWay is building in-country staff teams, training pastors, distributing resources, investing in indigenous authors and supporting Vacation Bible Schools. LifeWay resources were distributed in 60 languages and 164 countries last year, he said.
“Serving the globe is ultimately His story because His church is a global church,” Geiger said.


Customers will see changes both inside and outside LifeWay Stores in 2018, said Vice President Cossy Pachares. In stores, new technology will make it easier for LifeWay to serve customers, and new store designs will make it easier for people to interact. Online at, customers will find an increasing number of products available.
Customers will also see more events and special programs in the stores, Pachares said.
“Our mission is to see lives transformed by the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Pachares said.


The move to a new headquarters means major changes for technology at LifeWay, said Vice President and CIO Tim Hill. His division is equipping the new headquarters with video conferencing, live broadcast capability and an internet-based telephone system.
Hill’s division is also revamping technology for LifeWay Stores and “Customers will see a big improvement in search capabilities,” he said, along with other features.

Organizational development

Vice President Selma Wilson said cultural changes have been made within the organization to prepare employees to lead change.
“During this time of great change, however, we can be thankful some things never change,” she said. “There’s nothing better than being an organization that serves the church, because we know the church will be here until the end.”
Wilson described recruitment efforts to hire the best and brightest talent, introducing Faith Works Here, a new employer brand designed to convey LifeWay’s culture to job seekers.
“We have an organization of people who are willing to be all in because of who we are and the vision and values we have, the mission of LifeWay, anchored in biblical truth,” Wilson said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is a writer for LifeWay Corporate Communications. Carol Pipes and Aaron Earls contributed to this story.)

8/31/2017 7:48:13 AM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

TRUSTEES: ERLC seeking to equip churches

August 31 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is committed to equipping churches to produce justice, holiness and reconciliation with the gospel of Jesus, Russell Moore told the entity’s trustees at their annual board meeting.

Photo by Kelly Hunter
ERLC President Russell Moore presents a resolution of appreciation to new trustee Jon Whitehead for his work on behalf of a Missouri church that won an important religious freedom case at the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

Moore, the ERLC’s president, made his comments during a report to the ERLC board during its Aug. 23-24 meeting at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Trustees approved recipients of two annual awards, adopted a slight budget increase, elected new officers and received reports on the commission’s work in the last year. The board meeting concluded on the day the ERLC’s national conference on parenting began at the same site.
The ERLC’s “central mission” is “to teach and shape and equip churches to form consciences of people who are able to witness to and model the reality of the kingdom of God around us,” Moore told trustees during his report.
In remarks based on Isaiah 56:1-8, Moore said Christians not only should act justly both corporately and individually but their lives should reflect a holiness that marks the people of God.
This year, the ERLC “has been speaking to issues of personal holiness, what it means to be distinct. And frankly, this is a crisis among us,” he told the trustees. “Many of the issues we’re facing right now in terms of holiness among the people of God have to do with those hidden, subterranean sorts of things that we don’t even see until they become a crisis” – issues such as pornography and addiction to drugs.
The commission “spent a lot of time this year finding models, congregations that are in a particular sort of way doing good work when it comes to preaching, teaching, discipling, evangelizing, dealing with real needs of people across the board,” Moore said.
One of the ERLC’s “driving factors” has been to ask in whatever initiative it is working on who is overhearing this who thinks he or she is “too good for the gospel” or “too bad for the gospel,” he said. The ERLC wants to say to those who think they are beyond the gospel, “There is a new family for you,” Moore said. “There is a future forward for you.”

Photo by Kelly Hunter
ERLC President Russell Moore gives his annual report to the commission’s trustees during their annual meeting, which was Aug. 23-24 in Nashville.

Moore told the board he will be “absolutely committed to seeing that we do everything we can to make sure that the gospel is not just preached and taught but the gospel is visibly seen in congregations that are reconciled to God and reconciled to one another, who love one another and who bear one another’s burdens.”
The trustees unanimously approved Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam as the recipient of the Richard Land Distinguished Service Award, which goes annually to a person displaying excellent service to God’s kingdom. They also approved unanimously the Little Sisters of the Poor for the John Leland Religious Liberty Award, which is given yearly to a person or group exhibiting a deep commitment to religious freedom.
Haslam, who has served as governor since 2011, “has been involved in a multitude of questions” the ERLC has worked on, Moore said. These have included the sanctity of human life, freedom of conscience and foster care, he said.
He has been “an unbelievable help and encouragement to the ERLC,” appearing at its national conference and meeting with the entity’s interns, Moore told trustees. In addition, the governor and his wife Crissy are “unbelievable witnesses for Christ,” he said.
The Little Sisters of the Poor is a Roman Catholic order that serves the elderly poor but became embroiled in a legal battle as a result of the Obama administration’s abortion-contraception mandate, the rule implementing the 2010 health-care law that requires employers to provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives, as well as drugs or devices that can potentially induce abortions. Though the Supreme Court gave the Little Sisters a partial victory last year, they and other challengers of the regulation await a final resolution.
Though we have “great theological differences” with the Little Sisters, Moore said, they “have stood up for freedom of conscience in ways that are going to be applicable to everybody across the spectrum.” These women “have shown not only pluck and determination through this but also a very sweet spirit and a willingness to work together with other people for the sake of religious liberty,” he said.
In other actions, the ERLC trustees:

  • Approved a 2017-18 operating budget of $4.234 million, an increase of about $136,000 from the previous financial year.
  • Elected Trevor Atwood, pastor of City Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., as chairman; Barry Creamer, president of Criswell College in Dallas, as vice chairman; and Roger Manao, pastor of Philadelphia (Pa.) Bible Church International, as secretary.
  • Passed a response to a motion at the 2017 SBC meeting from Oklahoma messenger Luke Holmes asking all convention entities to consider publishing online the names and contact information of their trustees. In its response, the board said the ERLC “does not release personal information regarding its staff or trustees as personal data is subject to spam, abuse and security concerns. Trustees may be contacted through the Office of the President.”

In addition, Moore presented a resolution of appreciation to new, at-large trustee Jon Whitehead. The resolution approved by the ERLC’s executive committee commended Whitehead for his work on behalf of Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo. The church won an important religious freedom case at the U.S. Supreme Court in June, and Whitehead and his father Michael – lawyers in Kansas City, Mo. – served as co-counsels for Trinity Lutheran.
At the end of the meeting, Moore introduced Joseph and Palmer Williams to trustees. The husband-and-wife team of lawyers who live in Nashville will assist the ERLC in the advocacy arena, he said.
In its written report, the ERLC cited the following among its events and initiatives during the last year:

  • The second annual Evangelicals for Life conference in January in Washington, D.C., co sponsored with Focus on the Family.
  • A pre-conference event in April in conjunction with The Gospel Coalition’s bi-annual national conference in Indianapolis.
  • The ERLC Academy for nearly 300 master and doctoral-level students, as well as others, in May in Nashville.
  • Three friend-of-the-court briefs with the Supreme Court and two more with lower courts.
  • Two Capitol Conversations LIVE events in Washington, D.C., that addressed truth in journalism and the decision in the Trinity Lutheran case.
  • Creation of a new public policy podcast, Capitol Conversations.

The ERLC staff reported on the continuing growth in communications, including:

  • A record social media interaction of 25 million impressions and views.
  • A reach of nearly nine million on the ERLC Facebook page, a growth of more than 200 percent.
  • An increase to nearly one million downloads and subscriptions for the ERLC’s podcasts.

Three trustees were recognized upon completion of their service to the ERLC: Chairman Ken Barbic, an at-large trustee; Bernard Snowden of Virginia; and Curtis Starner of Illinois.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/31/2017 7:44:20 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC’s Brotherhood fondly recalled at 20-year reunion

August 31 2017 by Tim Yarbrough, IMB & Bill Bangham, Arkansas Baptist News

More than 60 former staff members, trustees and volunteers of the Brotherhood Commission gathered for a reunion at the 20-year mark of the closing of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entity.

Photo by Bill Bangham
James D. “Jim” Williams, former Brotherhood Commission president, speaks during a reunion of the former SBC entity’s staff, trustees and volunteers at the 20-year point since its closure.

Some of the attendees came from as far as Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia to celebrate the ministry which made Memphis its home for 59 of its 94 years of existence. In 1997, the former Home Mission Board, Brotherhood Commission and Radio and Television Commission were merged into the newly formed North American Mission Board.
As an SBC entity, the Brotherhood Commission developed programs involving men and boys in missions. Brotherhood work began as a national organization of Southern Baptists in 1907 in Richmond, Va., as the Layman’s Missionary Movement. The name was changed in 1926 to the Baptist Brotherhood of the South. In 1938, its headquarters were moved to Memphis, and in 1950 it assumed its final name, the Brotherhood Commission.
The Brotherhood Commission is the former home of mission education programs Royal Ambassadors (RAs), Pioneers, Baptist Men, disaster relief (DR), the National Fellowship of Baptists in Missions and, in later years, World Changers.
Reunion activities included a tour of the former Brotherhood building located in midtown Memphis, a reception at Germantown Baptist Church, a reading of Brotherhood staff who have died and greetings from those who could not attend. Jim Burton of Alpharetta, Ga., who has ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and could not travel, connected with former colleagues via Skype.
Former Brotherhood Commission President James D. “Jim” Williams, in remarks at the July 29 gathering, said it was “hard to believe” it has been 20 years since the entity closed.
“Surely we all join in giving thanks for the 94-year history of the Brotherhood Commission and most of all for the countless number of people whose lives were touched through the programs and services of the commission,” he said.
Williams said the uniqueness of the Brotherhood Commission was embodied in its trustees, state program leaders, volunteer involvement and its staff. At the time of its closure, he said 70,000 Brotherhood volunteers were involved SBC missions and that enrollment and participation in Brotherhood programs was at an all-time high of 750,000.
During the years of his presidency, Williams said, “we had great trustees, all of whom worked doubly hard to keep SBC politics out of our operations.” They sought to keep the Brotherhood Commission operating, he said, but a vote at the 1995 SBC annual meeting prevailed to merge the three SBC entities into NAMB beginning in 1997. Former Brotherhood trustees Jack Knox, Don Varnado and Bob Hill were in attendance at the reunion.
State Brotherhood leaders, Williams said, were faithful in carrying out the commission’s programs to associations and churches.
“If we had time we could have a roll call of state leaders that truly embodied the significant missions education/involvement of men and boys,” Williams said, pointing to former state Brotherhood leaders in attendance at the reunion, including Paul Harrell of Mississippi, John LaNoue and Jim Furguson, both of Texas Baptist Men, and Brotherhood staff member and Tennessee state leader Tim Bearden.
Regarding volunteer involvement, Williams noted, “A special salute is due Woman’s Missionary Union as together [we] challenged laypeople not only to learn about missions but to do missions,” Williams said. “Furthermore, we salute all those special persons from other [SBC entities] that helped empower our mission.”
Williams concluded by thanking staff for making the Brotherhood ministry special.
“[I] wish there was a time to call the names of every staff member that served since 1908. I was never privileged to know President Henderson or Cook, but I did know and value each of the others, George Schroeder, Glendon McCollough and Jim Smith,” Williams said. “But the commission was more than the executive staff, the administrative staff and department heads. The real heroes are those in the trenches – editors, consultants, artists, secretaries, warehouse employees, distribution clerks, financial accountants, marketing personnel.”
Among the former Brotherhood Commission staff attending the reunion were Bill Bangham, retired editor-in-chief of theCOMMISSION magazine for the International Mission Board and former editor of World Mission Journal-Baptist Young Men; Douglas Beggs, retired vice president of program services; Bearden; Jack Childs, retired vice president of financial services; Mike Day, director of missions for the Mid-South Baptist Association in Memphis and former executive assistant to the president; Furguson; LaNoue; David Nester, portrait and studio photographer; Carol Pipes, director of communications at LifeWay Christian Resources and former World Changers staffer; Jeno Smith, chaplain and former Challengers editor; Charlotte Teas, former Royal Ambassadors staffer; Roy White, artist and designer; Grace (Atchley) Williams, former executive assistant; Sowgand Sheikholeslami, artist and designer; Susan (Watt) Word, former World Changers editor; and Tim Yarbrough, editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News newspaper and former World Mission Journal-Baptist Young Men and World Changers editor.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bill Bangham is the retired editor-in-chief of theCOMMISSION magazine for the International Mission Board; Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News newspaper.)

8/31/2017 7:44:01 AM by Tim Yarbrough, IMB & Bill Bangham, Arkansas Baptist News | with 0 comments

Hurricane Harvey: Baptists ready for ‘long-term’ work

August 30 2017 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) Disaster Relief (DR) units have begun deployment for what could be the largest relief effort the state of Texas has seen. With destruction from Hurricane Harvey covering almost a quarter of the state, DR leaders said their greatest need will be people and finances.

National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West
Texas National Guard soldiers rescue residents in heavily flooded areas of Houston after Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 27.

Calls for help have come from Corpus Christi, where the storm made landfall, and up the I-35 corridor to San Antonio, Austin, Waco and back down to the greater Houston area, which is floundering under as much as 25 inches of rain in places.
“This is going to be a record setter,” said Gordon Knight, SBTC director of chaplains. “This is huge, and we’re gearing up for a long-term stay.”
Harvey exceeded forecast predictions and plowed ashore early Aug. 26 as a Category 4 hurricane with winds topping 130 miles per hour. It moved inland toward Victoria where it lingered, sending bands of torrential rain to cities south and southwest of Houston 126 miles away. With winds diminished to tropical storm levels, attention turned to the Houston area as communities were submerged late in the evening of Aug. 26. As of Aug. 28, emergency centers were still issuing mandatory evacuations for communities to the north and south of Houston and along its eastern boundaries.
The rain had abated Sunday in League City, where as much as 23 inches of rain had fallen in 24 hours between Saturday and Sunday, raising the waters of Clear Creek to historic levels and threatening the residents of the Devereux treatment facility that sits on its banks. But with a steady rain Monday and the creek still out of its banks, the 145 residents and staff boarded buses heading to Latham Springs Baptist Camp north of Waco.
Devereux residential treatment facilities serve children and adults suffering from abuse, serious emotional disturbances, mental health and developmental disabilities.

Photo by Bonnie Pritchett
Water covers the roads and floods the Devereux residential treatment facility in League City, near Houston. The residents and staff were sent to Latham Springs Baptist Camp north of Waco.

They joined another 250 residents from another Devereux facility in Victoria and staff of Palacios Baptist Encampment, who had already been evacuated once before. Mike Wilson, camp director, said the facility is prepared to handle the influx of new residents and the response for regular camp volunteers has been overwhelming.
A laundry and shower unit with a chaplain was deployed from Lake Athens Baptist Church in Athens, Texas, to help primarily with the laundry needs at the camp.
Knight said more units are prepared to deploy but are awaiting the all clear from officials letting them know roads are passable.
Clean up and recovery, water treatment, communications and chaplains units were deployed Monday to Rockport. Mass feeding and shower units and chaplains were en route to Corpus Christi and Rockport according to a statement from the SBTC Disaster Relief Ministry Monday afternoon. Rockport teams were advised that they must be self-sufficient since there is no water, power or telephone service in the hard-hit town that is presently under a curfew from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Mass care feeding, shower and water units are en route to Northwest Houston, and laundry, feeding, shower and water support units are deploying to Austin.
Additional units – bunk house, feeding, chaplains, clean up and recovery, shower, childcare, communications and water treatment – are on standby.
Knight said the SBTC’s field ministry strategists from the hardest-hit regions serve as the disaster relief ministry’s “eyes and ears” assessing the needs and the crews’ ability to access the region.
Even without having been to the devastated regions, Knight, a 10-year disaster relief veteran, said the biggest need will be volunteers. Scores of people go through the required training to serve but often are not available when the call goes out for help he said. Some are among those in need of assistance.
“Thank goodness we have sister conventions that respond,” he said recalling the crews from other states that have come to Texas’ aid.
Trained volunteers will be needed for months Knight noted. While some non-SBTC responders get power and water activated and leave town once that work is done, “SBTC disaster relief stays there for the duration.”
“We’re telling folks realistically until Thanksgiving. That’s a conservative estimate,” Knight said.
Long-term needs will be money and people, he added. Volunteers must be trained for liability reasons, and training sessions will be forthcoming.
Donations of material supplies like water and clothing, while appreciated, are not always needed. Knight said financial donations made to the SBTC Disaster Relief Ministry will go directly to the areas of greatest need, which at this point is Harvey relief.
For more information on how you can help, go to the SBTC Disaster Relief Ministry website at or go to the North American Mission Board’s Hurricane Harvey Response website at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN,, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

8/30/2017 8:51:42 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

Evangelicals counter ‘agree to disagree’ sexuality

August 30 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A coalition of evangelical leaders, including about 70 Southern Baptists, has issued a statement on biblical sexuality countering the idea that Christians “should agree to disagree” in their views of homosexual practice and transgenderism.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) announced Aug. 29 the release of The Nashville Statement, which consists of 14 affirmations and denials consistent with the church’s long-held teaching on human sexuality.
The article that may gain the most attention is the document’s declaration on the acceptability of evangelical disagreement regarding the issues of homosexuality and gender identity.
Article 10 says, “WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness. WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.”
The statement – and Article 10 in particular – arrives at a time when some self-identified evangelicals have revised their views on human sexuality, particularly by affirming same-sex relationships and marriage. Others have asserted the issues are not essential to the Christian faith and evangelicals should be able to disagree on homosexuality and transgenderism without breaking fellowship.
The statement gained its name from a meeting CBMW convened Aug. 25 in Nashville at which a coalition of scholars, pastors and other evangelical leaders discussed and endorsed the document. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) hosted the meeting during its national conference and in conjunction with its Research Institute meeting.
In “the hope of serving Christ’s church,” the statement includes these declarations:

  • God designed marriage as a covenantal union of only a man and a woman that is the sole context for sexual intercourse.
  • God created male and female as equals but with differences intended for human flourishing.
  • Adoption of “a homosexual or transgender self-conception” is inconsistent with God’s purposes.
  • Same-sex attraction is not part of God’s original design, but people who experience such attraction may live fruitful lives through faith in Christ as they practice purity.
  • God graciously empowers sinners “to forsake transgender self-conceptions” and “accept the God-ordained link between one’s biological sex and one’s self-conception as male or female.”
  • People born with a sex development disorder possess the same “dignity and worth” as all other image-bearers of God.

CBMW President Denny Burk said the statement’s aim “is to shine a light into the darkness – to declare the goodness of God’s design in our sexuality and in creating us as male and female.”
The coalition hopes to “provide help for churches and Christian organizations that are looking for biblical guidance on how to address homosexuality and transgenderism,” said Burk, also professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. It also seeks to build a group of “like-minded evangelicals to stand together for the challenging days ahead” and to encourage young evangelicals who are under pressure to desert biblical teaching, he said in a written statement.
Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a statement to Baptist Press, “Never in my lifetime has there been more confusion in American culture regarding sexuality. Yet, the sacred scriptures have not changed, nor will they.
“A faithful reading of the Bible shows that God’s standard regarding sexuality in general and marriage in particular is between one man and one woman for life. The Nashville Statement affirms that biblical viewpoint clearly and graciously. I am glad to endorse this wonderful statement of biblical truth,” said Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church.
ERLC President Russell Moore described the statement as “an urgently needed moment of gospel clarity.” He said in a written endorsement, “The Sexual Revolution cannot keep its promises, and the church must stand ready to receive with compassion the many who are in need of a better hope. The Nashville Statement is part of that mission, and my prayer is that it will help anchor churches and Christians to the gospel of Jesus Christ for years to come.”
Among the initial signers of the document are British theologian J.I. Packer; theologian Wayne Grudem and author John Piper, two of CBMW’s founders; pastors John MacArthur and Alistair Begg; family leaders James Dobson, Tony Perkins and Dennis Rainey; theologians R.C. Sproul and D.A. Carson; and authors Rosaria Butterfield and Sam Allberry.
The lengthy list of Southern Baptist signers includes:

  • Former SBC presidents Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham, Johnny Hunt, Fred Luter, James Merritt, Frank S. Page, Paige Patterson and Bryant Wright.
  • All six SBC seminary presidents: Jeff Iorg of Gateway; Jason Allen of Midwestern; Chuck Kelley of New Orleans; Danny Akin of Southeastern Seminary; R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern; and Patterson of Southwestern.
  • Pastors H.B. Charles, Mark Dever and J.D. Greear.
  • Jerry A. Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, and Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary.
  • SBC entity heads Kevin Ezell of the North American Mission Board, O.S. Hawkins of GuideStone Financial Resources, Thom Rainer of LifeWay Christian Resources and Frank S. Page of the Executive Committee.

Piper, founder of Desiring God, said in a written endorsement the statement “speaks with forthright clarity, biblical conviction, gospel compassion, cultural relevance and practical helpfulness. It touches the most fundamental and urgent questions of the hour, without presuming to be a blueprint for political action.”
In written comments, Page said he was honored to sign a statement that “contains such a strong biblical worldview and clear statement of how believers should relate within the complexities of our 21st Century world.”
Andrew Walker, director of the ERLC’s Research Institute, said in an endorsement, “We are pleased to offer this statement as a faithful expression of Christian conviction in a secular age.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, however, took exception to the name and the content of The Nashville Statement, tweeting: “The @CBMWorg’s so-called ‘Nashville Statement’ is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville.”
The new declaration comes 30 years after the adoption of CBMW’s founding document, The Danvers Statement, in response to evangelical feminism. That document, approved in a 1987 meeting at Danvers, Mass., articulated “complementarianism,” which CBMW describes as “the biblically derived view that men and women are complementary, possessing equal dignity and worth as the image of God, and called to different roles that each glorify him.”
The Nashville Statement is available online at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/30/2017 8:51:23 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Knocking on doors sparks attendance, yields baptisms

August 30 2017 by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today

A Louisville pastor has busted the longstanding myth in the church world that door-to-door visitation is no longer effective.
Mark Bishop has knocked on about 200 doors a week since he arrived six months ago at Highview Baptist Church – Valley Station Campus. In that time, the campus pastor has seen attendance triple to nearly 300 and baptized 37 new believers.

Photo by Robin Cornetet
Knocking on about 200 doors a week, Mark Bishop has seen attendance triple in six months and baptized 37 at Highview Baptist Church – Valley Station Campus in Louisville, Ky.

“In this electronic age, people are shocked that I would take the time to stop by their house to talk to them in person,” said Bishop, a strong advocate for so-called front porch evangelism.
Bishop is encouraging his ministry staff to make the rounds, too, going to local neighborhoods, apartment complexes and mobile home parks and talking to anyone who will listen. Answer or no, each location gets a small card with Highview Valley Station’s address, worship times and a concise account of the gospel.
With the help of members spending their Sunday evenings going door to door, Bishop said the church has stood on more than 5,000 welcome mats – even in the rare instance when they weren’t all that welcome.
“I think soul winning is easier caught than taught,” Bishop said, referring to the newfound evangelical fervor at the church. “When they see it working it becomes contagious.”
Knocking on doors also has had an impact on friends of new believers who, after seeing a change in their acquaintances, are crossing a church threshold for the first time in their lives.
“Mark lives with gospel passion and intentionality,” Highview senior pastor Aaron Harvie said. “His love of Jesus and people is infectious.”
Bishop isn’t new to knocking on doors. As a teenaged preacher’s kid in Arkansas, he would ring doorbells on Saturday asking children if they wanted to go to his dad’s church.
“I would look for bicycles in the yard, anything that told me a kid lived there and then I’d pick them up on Sunday morning in the church bus,” Bishop said. “Sometimes I’d bring 70 or 80 kids to church. I’d have to make two trips.”
The youngest of three brothers to follow their father into ministry, Bishop said evangelism was a normal part of family life along with family devotions and scripture memorization.
Even when he went to serve in the Army, Bishop couldn’t deny the pull to preach and ended up becoming a chaplain with a flock of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. His knock-on-doors routine on the military base resulted in 300 soldiers accepting Christ during one deployment.
“There is nothing better than one-on-one contact when sharing Jesus,” said Paul Chitwood, the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s executive director. “While I am a firm believer in mass evangelism and pulpit evangelism, both will almost always involve one-on-one evangelism.”
Chitwood said plans are underway for a similar evangelistic outreach for this year’s Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) annual meeting in Louisville. Crossover Louisville will involve a massive door-to-door campaign with members of KBC churches across the state coming into the city days in advance of the Nov. 14 meeting to share the gospel.
The event is a partnership between the Louisville Regional Baptist Association, Highview’s Valley Station Campus and the evangelism team of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
“Every Christian isn’t called to preach to the masses,” Chitwood said, “but every Christian is called to share Jesus at every opportunity.”
Even if that means leaving a gospel invitation behind at Dairy Queen. Bishop said that’s how one Georgia transplant found her way to Highview Valley Station and now is a member.
“I have found it is not a strategy, or a training seminar, or anything else that makes someone successful. It’s a passion for the lost,” Bishop said. “It’s the gospel that works.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Robin Cornetet is associate editor of Kentucky Today,, an online news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

8/30/2017 8:50:50 AM by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Pastors jailed in Sudan as government muscles church control

August 30 2017 by Morning Star News, Sudan Correspondent

Police arrested and interrogated seven Christian church leaders in Omdurman, Sudan Aug. 23 for refusing to turn over leadership of their church to the government, sources said.

Kwa Shamaal

The Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) leaders were interrogated for six hours and released on bail, charged with refusing to comply with an order to turn over leadership of their congregation to a committee appointed by Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments.
SCOC moderator Ayoub Mattan and SCOC head of missions Kwa Shamaal (also transliterated Kuwa Shamaal) were among those arrested. Shamaal was previously arrested Dec. 18, 2015 and acquitted more than two years later, Jan. 2, of charges ranging from spying to inciting hatred against the government.
Sudan had written a letter dated Aug. 14 ordering the SCOC to hand over church leadership to the government committee, sources said. When the church leaders refused, police opened a case against them, though it was unclear under what law.
“Police asked if we still maintain our stance on our refusal to acknowledge the committee appointed by the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments, and we said yes, because it is not the work of the [government] ministry to appoint committees for the church,” Shamaal told Morning Star News.
Police said the arrests were in keeping with governmental orders to impose the committee as SCOC leadership, presumably to sell off the church property in Sudan’s bid to rid the country of Christianity. The pastors said the committee was contrary to SCOC’s constitution, which calls for general elections every three years to appoint new leadership.
Mattan, Shamaal and the others are still members of the legitimate executive committee of the SCOC, sources said. The current leadership term expires in March 2018.
Police also arrested minister Yagoub Naway and pastor Musa Kodi, both from the SCOC. The four Christians were interrogated along with three other church leaders, including SCOC finance secretary Abdulbagi Ali Abdulrahaman and SCOC deputy finance secretary El-Amin Hassam Abdulrasool.
Six other SCOC members are in hiding after learning police were searching for them to arrest and interrogate, sources said.
Another SCOC pastor, Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor, had received a 12-year sentence earlier this year after being charged with spying and trying to tarnish Sudan’s image, but he was freed along with Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur on May 11 after receiving a presidential pardon.
Tawor had been arrested along with Shamaal in December 2015. They were convicted on baseless charges of assisting Czech aid worker Petr Jasek in alleged espionage, causing hatred among communities and spreading false information, their attorney noted. Jasek was pardoned and released on Feb. 25.
Foreign diplomats and international rights activists took notice of the case after Morning Star News broke the story of the arrest of Tawor and Shamaal. Their arrests were seen as part of a recent upsurge in harassment of Christians.
Most SCOC members have roots among the ethnic Nuba in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, where the government is fighting an insurgency. The Nuba and other Christians in Sudan face discrimination and harassment, as Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has vowed to introduce a stricter version of Sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.
In what some are calling a campaign to rid the country of Christianity, Sudan has designated 25 church buildings for destruction. And on Aug. 2, a Baptist church in Omdurman – located across the Nile River from Khartoum, the capital – was demolished. On May 7, Khartoum state authorities in Sudan demolished an SCOC building in the Khartoum suburb of Soba al Aradi, which began as a refugee camp for south Sudanese. A bulldozer sent by the Jebel Aulia locality and the Ministry of Planning and Urban Development destroyed the church building.
Authorities had notified church leaders of the impending demolition just a week prior. The government reportedly claimed the churches were built on land zoned for residential or other uses, or were on government land, but church leaders said it is part of a wider crackdown on Christianity.
Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities have reportedly threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.
Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005. In June 2011, shortly before the August secession of South Sudan, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.
Due to its apparent treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2017 report.
Sudan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morning Star News is a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide.)

8/30/2017 8:50:34 AM by Morning Star News, Sudan Correspondent | with 0 comments

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