August 2018

Labor Day: Owen Cooper’s faith inspired array of ventures

August 31 2018 by Tim Tune, Baptist Press

On Labor Day, Americans will celebrate U.S. workers who have built and shaped the nation and influenced the world.

BP file photo

One of the most successful entrepreneurs of the 20th century in Mississippi was also one of Southern Baptists’ most influential laymen. The late Owen Cooper, who died Nov. 8, 1986, worked tirelessly in both arenas.
The year before Cooper’s death, the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board named him Layman of the Century. He was the second of only two laypeople ever elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, serving two terms, 1972-1974. Many who knew him say his commitment to Christ and Christ-like ministry inspired his vision for bold endeavors.
His passionate interests drove him into many arenas to leverage his farm-boy upbringing as well as a master’s-level education in economics and political science from the University of Mississippi in 1936 and a law degree from Mississippi College’s School of Law (then Jackson School of Law) in 1938. His business acumen and political knowledge, as well as his speaking and persuasion skills, would all come into play frequently over the years.
“Mr. Cooper had an amazing ability to envision and then inspire masses of fellow citizens to implement a simple, elegant solution to a huge need and problem,” writes Jo [sic] G. Prichard III, Cooper’s longtime executive assistant at Mississippi Chemical Corporation (now Mississippi Chemical Co.). Prichard, author of Making Things Grow: The Story of Mississippi Chemical Corporation (1998), provided his reflections to Baptist Press.
The seeds for Mississippi Chemical were planted 75 years ago in 1943 as World War II was winding down. Mississippi agricultural researchers were studying ammonia as a source of nitrogen to improve crop yields. Cooper was then executive director of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, which represented 250,000 farmers and rural families.
By March 1947, the research had proven ammonia’s effectiveness as a fertilizer. But as demand for the product exploded, short supply made it expensive. That’s when Cooper laid out his vision to create Mississippi Chemical, his best-known business enterprise.
As Farm Bureau executive director – and a Christian concerned about the food supply in post-war America – Cooper challenged farmers across the South to buy stock in a new co-op enterprise that would build the world’s first farmer-owned ammonia-nitrogen fertilizer plant.
Farmers, Mississippi banks and a loan from the federal government provided $4.25 million for the plant, which was built in Yazoo City, Cooper’s hometown, 50 miles north of Jackson, now with a population of 11,000.
The first bags of fertilizer were produced March 16, 1951.
Over the next decade, the company built three similar plants in the United States and on the South American island of Trinidad.
In the 1960s – with support from other American fertilizer producers and the U.S. Agency for International Development – Cooper helped farmers in India build their own plants.
Cooper’s interests in India also included missions, where the Indian government limited permanent visas available to missionaries. Cooper suggested the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) hire Indian nationals to help.
When he learned it was against board policy to hire nationals, Cooper created Universal Concern to hire Indian Baptist preachers to go into unreached areas to start churches. The effort was so successful the mission board revised its policy and merged Universal Concern into its ministries.
Another of Cooper’s interests in India was Serampore College, founded by British Baptist missionary William Carey in 1818, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary this fall. Cooper’s interest is linked to Hattiesburg, Miss.-based William Carey University (formerly William Carey College).
“Mr. Cooper was supportive of William Carey University because ... we are named after Carey, the ‘father of the modern missionary movement,’” Tommy King, president of the Baptist-affiliated institution, said in email comments to Baptist Press.
Cooper’s wife Elizabeth, who died in 1999, served on Carey’s board. The university’s Owen and Elizabeth Cooper Institute of Missions is named in honor of the couple.
Carey is buried in a cemetery near Serampore, King said. “When Mr. Cooper was there years ago, he discovered that William Carey’s grave was in a deplorable condition and disrepair. And it was being flooded every time the river overflowed.”
King said Cooper came back to America and “raised money to renovate and repair the cemetery and build a levee to protect it from the river. So that’s the kind of thing he did. He just saw needs and took steps to meet those needs.”
Cooper also took steps to meet the pressing social needs he saw in his hometown of Yazoo City during the racially turbulent 1960s and ‘70s.
His daughter Nancy Gilbert, 78, of Madison, Miss., recounted that after a year of study in Europe as a Baylor University junior, “my view of the world greatly increased” beyond the racial inequality she had known as a child growing up in Yazoo City.
When she returned home from college in the early 1960s, Gilbert said, she and her parents had “a very rough” experience aligning their views on racial equality. Eventually, she said, “there was mutual stimulation ... let’s put it that way. And Daddy ... began to get involved in the social justice arena.”
His involvement included:

  • Promoting tolerance and cooperation between blacks and whites.

  • Helping organize the Mississippi Religious Liberty Council that spoke out against attacks on churches and synagogues.

  • Partnering with the NAACP to form an organization to run the largest Head Start program in the South.

  • Recruiting and hiring Louise Dean, Mississippi Chemical’s first black professional, to work on his personal staff.

  • Advocating the peaceful desegregation of the workplace, public facilities, colleges and public schools.

Cooper’s efforts in race relations were recognized by national media on Jan. 7, 1970, when public schools in Yazoo City were peacefully integrated. But involvement in civil rights came at a cost to Cooper, who wanted to run for Mississippi governor, Prichard writes.
“He would have been a formidable candidate and would have been a great governor,” Prichard writes, but Cooper sensed that his civil rights efforts “doomed any possibility of his running for governor in the Deep South of the 1960s and ‘70s.”
Still, Prichard notes, in his business and faith initiatives, “he always seemed to insist: ‘We can do this ourselves. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Tune is a writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.)

8/31/2018 11:12:38 AM by Tim Tune, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Tenn. Baptist on cereal boxes for tutoring efforts

August 31 2018 by David Dawson, Baptist and Reflector

Somewhere between exercising, working tirelessly in his yard, rebuilding classic cars, cutting hair and serving multiple roles as a lay leader at his church, 82-year-old Neal Buchanan still finds time to volunteer as a reading tutor at the elementary school near his home.

Neal Buchanan (right), a member of Lincoya Hills Baptist Church in Nashville's Donelson community, works with Jonah, 8, a second-grade student at Pennington Elementary. Buchanan has been serving as a volunteer tutor at the school near his house for almost 20 years.

Buchanan, a member of Lincoya Hills Baptist Church in Nashville’s Donelson community, has been passionate about childhood literacy for his entire adult life. He was recently honored for his devotion to the cause by being featured on two brands of Kellogg’s cereal boxes – Fruit Loops and Frosted Flakes.
“I am not sure why they selected me; I guess it’s because I have been doing it longer than anyone else,” said Buchanan in his typical humble manner.
“I think they chose him because he is the oldest one on the list,” joked his wife Gail.
Buchanan, a former school principal, has been volunteering at Pennington Elementary School on a weekly basis since 1999. He visits the school once a week, working with three or four students for 30 minutes each.
When he first started volunteering, it’s unlikely that he ever envisioned that he’d one day end up sharing the spotlight with Tony the Tiger and Toucan Sam. But that’s exactly what happened.
This past spring, Buchanan was contacted by Dollar General (DG) – which has a partnership with Kellogg’s – and was told that they wanted to recognize him for his commitment to literacy. He landed on the cover of the cereal boxes several weeks later, and his friends and family members began seeing his picture on the boxes at supermarkets around the nation.
Kellogg’s is a sponsor of Dollar General’s Literacy Foundation, which awards grants to support literacy. As a DG Literacy Foundation grant recipient, the FiftyForward initiative – a volunteer tutoring program – pairs older adults with children who need help strengthening their reading skills. Buchanan has been a part of FiftyForward for 17 years.
“They notified me that I had been selected, and then they sent a photographer from Denver, and he came and took pictures at Pennington (Elementary School),” Buchanan said.

Photo by April Dawson
Neal Buchanan, a member of Lincoya Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, was featured on cereal boxes nationwide.

Although Buchanan was surprised by the recognition, those who know him best probably were not.
In fact, anyone who is familiar with “Mr. B” probably assumed it was just a matter of time before he ended up on the cover of a cereal box – although “Wheaties” might have been the more likely choice.
Buchanan is a champion in many capacities, both in terms of being a hero of the faith and a role model for healthy living.
He maintains a strict daily exercise routine that includes running a mile and a half and then walking three and a half additional miles.
Buchanan rarely misses a day, regardless of the weather or any other obstacles that many people would use as an excuse.
Buchanan also stays busy with other outdoor activities, including yard work. He is known among his neighbors for his “Energizer Bunny” style work ethic when it comes to pulling weeds, mowing the grass, trimming hedges and other duties.
He is equally effective at projects inside the house. Buchanan is a bona fide “Mr. Fix It” on virtually anything – plumbing, painting, electrical work, etc. – and is a wizard with automobiles, too, as evidenced by the 1922 Ford Model T that he restored.
On top of all this, the ultimate handyman is also a barber – he got a barber’s chair for Christmas last year – and cuts hair for several friends.
Buchanan continuously uses his talents to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus. Whether it’s repairing the roof on a church member’s house, visiting an ailing neighbor in the hospital, serving on church committees, or simply offering the use of his truck to haul supplies and other items, Buchanan embodies the concept of having a “servant’s heart.”
His love for Jesus is evident to all those who know him.
And yet, despite having so many irons in the fire, Buchanan makes sure that his volunteer work at the school remains a top priority.
He was pictured on the cereal boxes with one of his tutoring students, Noah DeJesus, who attends Pennington Elementary and has made great strides in his reading in recent months. Buchanan said he was allowed to “suggest” a student for the picture.
“It was a big deal for Noah,” Buchanan said. “He was a celebrity at school.”
Buchanan’s role at Pennington is just one of the many stops that he has made in his career as an educator, both in paid and unpaid positions. “I’ve worked with two-year-olds up to graduate students in college,” he said with a smile.
Buchanan worked as an editor, including editing children’s literature, at the Sunday School board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) for 23 years. During this time, he also co-authored a book and developed the “ABCs of Salvation” – a teaching tool that is still in circulation today. It is used to tell children, and adults, too, about Jesus.
He also was the principal of a program for emotionally disturbed children in North Carolina and for a psychiatric school in Memphis.
“I have been involved in teaching, in some form or another, all my life,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Dawson is a communications specialist for the Baptist and Reflector,, news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/31/2018 11:12:15 AM by David Dawson, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments

Pastor salaries not keeping pace with inflation

August 31 2018 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources

Compensation for full-time Southern Baptist pastors and church staff has lagged behind the growth in the cost-of-living over the past two years. Health insurance coverage remains low, according to the 2018 SBC Church Compensation Study.
The biannual study is a joint project of state Baptist conventions, GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources. Compensation and congregational data is collected anonymously from ministers and office/custodial personnel of Southern Baptist churches and church-type missions.
According to the 2018 report, Southern Baptist churches spend an average of 51 percent of their budget on personnel expenses. This is the first year this spending was analyzed.

Compensation increasing

Compensation (salary plus housing) increased 3.8 percent for full-time, Southern Baptist senior pastors over the last two years, 1.5 percent for full-time staff ministers and 2.3 percent for full-time office personnel. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for the same two-year period increased 4.6 percent.

“After a period of very low inflation, the cost of living has moved closer to typical growth in consumer prices,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Churches that are unable to reflect this in their wages will hurt their staff.”
Factors correlating with compensation for senior pastors include weekly church attendance, education level and total years of experience. Larger churches tend to pay their pastors more, the study shows. For every additional 100 attendees, an otherwise similar pastor’s compensation is on average $3,641 higher. 
Higher compensation is also linked to education level. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $5,681 more than similarly qualified pastors with no college education or an associate degree. Master’s and doctorate degrees correspond with compensation increases of $5,754 and $10,868, respectively, when compared to college graduates.
Years of experience also netted increased compensation. Pastors earned $358 more for each additional year of experience in ministry. In contrast, each additional year of a pastor’s age compared to an otherwise similar individual is predictive of slightly less compensation by about $500.
“It’s true that you can’t gain another year of experience without also getting one year older. But age and experience have opposite relationships with pastor compensation,” McConnell explained. “When age and other factors are similar, more experience is related to higher pay. When experience and other factors are similar, higher age is related to lower pay. Those who become pastors later in life receive lower pay.”

Benefits declining

Overall, the growth in value of the entire pay package (salary, retirement, housing and other benefits including insurance) for senior pastors (4.4 percent) was slightly under the pace of inflation. However, the growth in pay packages for full-time staff ministers (1.3 percent) and office personnel (1.5 percent) fell well below the pace of inflation.

“We have always endeavored to ensure churches take proper care of their staff,” said Greg Love, who provides leadership for the church retirement relationship team at GuideStone.
“A church can maximize its limited resources by implementing a sound, structured compensation plan and not a lump-sum payment. This enables the church to provide salaries and suitable benefits for workers and their families, including life and health coverage,” Love said.

“Additionally, it empowers the church to provide highly important retirement contributions to ministry workers. These significant tasks can be accomplished as the church navigates smart financial stewardship, equips believers for ministry and strives for Kingdom impact.”
GuideStone provides many resources for churches seeking to establish, restructure or evaluate pay and benefit packages for ministers and other staff. The free resources can be found at
The 2018 study found half (50 percent) of churches participating in the survey provide some amount of medical coverage for full-time senior pastors, the same as two years ago and down from 60 percent in 2014.

Twenty-three percent of churches pay for medical insurance for the senior pastor and his family, 17 percent provide for the pastor and his wife, and 9 percent provide only for the pastor. Half of churches provide no medical coverage.
Churches with higher weekly average attendance are more likely to provide some amount of medical coverage for the senior pastor. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of churches with 250 or more in weekly attendance provide at least some medical insurance. Half (52 percent) of churches with 100-249 in weekly attendance provide some medical insurance, a larger percentage than in churches with 50-99 (44 percent) and churches with fewer than 50 in attendance (34 percent).
Some churches also provide additional insurance benefits to senior pastors including life and/or accidental insurance (29 percent), disability (25 percent), dental (24 percent) and vision (11 percent).
A number of factors also impact the amount of vacation senior pastors receive. Larger churches tend to give pastors more vacation, with otherwise similarly qualified pastors averaging one additional day for every 271 attendees. Vacation also varies slightly by region. Pastors in the South tend to receive less vacation with 1.8 fewer days on average than otherwise comparable pastors in the Northeast, 0.8 fewer days than those in the Midwest, and 1.1 fewer days than those in the West.
Pastors with a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree add an average of three, 3.8 or 4.8 vacation days, respectively, compared to those with no college education.
The 2018 online survey was open from February 1 to July 6, 2018. Data from 6,894 full-time SBC respondents is available at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/31/2018 11:11:59 AM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

McCain’s Bapt. ‘church home’ & pastor host funeral

August 31 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist congregation late Sen. John McCain called his “church home” hosted his Arizona memorial service today (Aug. 30). In addition to a eulogy by former Vice President Joe Biden, the service included references by Pastor Noe Garcia to the love North Phoenix Baptist Church felt for McCain and “the faith he has placed in Jesus Christ.”

Screen capture from ABC News
North Phoenix Baptist Church Pastor Noe Garcia said late Sen. John McCain is "more alive than he's ever been" because of "the faith he has placed in Jesus Christ."

McCain died Aug. 25 at age 81, a year after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.
During the funeral’s invocation, Garcia called McCain “a true American hero” and “a man loved by this church.” After reading from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, Garcia prayed, “We will grieve. We will mourn, Father. But we will do so with a different hope because of the faith [McCain] has placed in Jesus Christ. We can with confidence grieve with the hope to know that this very moment he is spending eternity with Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior.”
To close the service, Garcia said McCain is “more alive than he’s ever been” because “he knew” Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23 and John 3:16. He read each of those scriptures.
McCain, a two-time presidential candidate, attended North Phoenix for more than 25 years, though he was raised Episcopalian and never joined North Phoenix. His wife Cindy is a North Phoenix member and was baptized there.
A “man of quiet faith,” according to Religion News Service (RNS), McCain “sometimes spoke in person and online of his reliance on prayer.” Author Stephen Mansfield told RNS McCain was “cautious” about mentioning his faith “very publicly because he does not want to be identified with the religious right.”
Yet when McCain worshiped at North Phoenix, Garcia told Baptist Press, the congregation could see fruit of his faith.
“When [the McCains] would come here, he would come to church on time – 10 minutes before the service started,” Garcia said. “He waited until the service was over and walked out with everybody else. I just loved his humility and the way he loved our church members. The stories go on and on of how kind he was to everybody around him. That’s one of the main things that sticks out: how he was so personable with church members.”
North Phoenix hosted the memorial service to “honor” McCain and fulfill one of his funeral requests, Garcia said. “He called North Phoenix his church home. He’s been a part of the North Phoenix community for quite some time now.”
After McCain had become the presumptive Republican nominee for president in 2008, then-North Phoenix pastor Dan Yeary told BP, “He has a strong faith and is committed to Christ. I don’t have any doubt about it.” Still, as “a historical Episcopalian ... if you and I sat down with him and started talking Baptist talk, he just doesn’t have that kind of vocabulary.”
One of McCain’s favorite stories about his faith – one told at his funeral – occurred when a friendly guard at the Vietnamese prison where he was held as a prisoner of war drew a cross in the dirt by McCain with his sandal then rubbed it out a moment later.
“For a minute there,” McCain told California pastor Rick Warren at a 2008 campaign event, “we were just two Christians worshiping together.”
At the same event, Warren asked McCain what being a Christian means. McCain replied, “It means I’m saved and forgiven.”
McCain’s body will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol Friday and be buried Sunday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., his alma mater.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/31/2018 11:11:47 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Abortion procedure legal in U.S. draws ire in England

August 31 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

An abortion procedure in use for 17 years in the U.S. is drawing ire from a Christian medical group as England prepares to adopt the practice by year’s end.
Under the new plan, women in England will be allowed to take at home the second dose of the pharmaceutical combo commonly called the abortion pill, BBC news reported Aug. 25. Currently in England, both oral doses of the abortion pill must be administered in medical clinics, normally between 24 and 48 hours apart.
“Home abortions,” according to the interdenominational Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) of London, “pose a serious threat to women’s health” and should be carefully weighed before implementation.
The CMF cites “the largest and most accurate study of medical abortions,” a 2009 Finnish study of 42,600 women, evidencing four times as many serious complications after taking the abortion pill compared to surgical abortions, 20 percent compared with 5.6 percent respectively.
“This is just one step towards a longer term goal for abortion lobbyists, to make abortions as easy as possible, using nurses, pharmacists and internet suppliers, and to remove legal restrictions on abortion,” bioethicist and CMF head of public policy Philippa Taylor said in an Aug. 27 press release. “Abortion providers have obvious financial and ideological vested interests in increasing numbers of abortions. And our government knows that it is cheaper to pay for a couple of pills than a surgical abortion.”
According to the Finnish study, “both methods of abortion are generally safe, but medical termination is associated with a higher incidence of adverse events,” including excessive bleeding and incomplete abortions. The incidence of death was about the same, 1.7 percent, in both procedures, the study concluded.
Promoters of England’s new law, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) in London, cite that England trails other nations such as Scotland and Wales in approving at-home administration of the second dose of the abortion pill.
The Southern Baptist Convention has long opposed both surgical and medical abortions, adopting its first resolution against abortion in the 1970s. At the 2018 SBC Annual Meeting in Dallas, messengers approved a resolution “Reaffirming The Full Dignity of Every Human Being,” denouncing “every act of abortion except to save the mother’s physical life.”
In the U.S., abortion providers began distributing the second dose of the abortion pill for home use as early as 2001, just a year after the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, according to the Guttmacher Institute. While the FDA approved the drug for administration in a clinic or medical facility, legal off-label use of the drug was prevalent among 83 percent of providers by 2001, Guttmacher said.
Today, only three North American states require that both doses of the drug be administered in a clinic, namely North Dakota, Ohio and Texas, Guttmacher reported in its August update of abortion legislation. Similar laws in Oklahoma and Arkansas are not in use, blocked by court order.
Guttmacher describes the abortion pill as “highly effective” with a 92-95 percent success rate. Between 2000 and 2011 in the U.S., the institute said, 612 of the 1.52 million women who used the abortion pill (Mifiprex) were hospitalized. Most often, the women suffered excessive bleeding and had to receive blood transfusions. While eight women died from severe infections after taking the drug in the same period, the FDA determined the drug didn’t cause the infections.
Aside from any medical efficacy of the drug itself, Taylor said at-home dosing is inherently risky.
“With self-administered pills, there is no control over who takes the pills,” Taylor said, whether the pills are taken as prescribed, or whether the user is in a vulnerable, abusive or coercive relationship. The CMF describes itself at as an organization “to encourage and equip Christian doctors and nurses to live and speak for Jesus Christ.”
GuideStone Financial Resources, the SBC health and financial benefits entity, won final approval July 17 in its lengthy fight against the abortion/contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. In its victory, GuideStone will not be required to offer insurance coverage of abortion-inducing medications.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.  Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/31/2018 11:11:28 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kelley: ‘Baptist blues’ sermon sought unity, not attack

August 30 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Chuck Kelley’s New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary chapel sermon on “the Baptist blues” was not an attack against anyone in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), he told Baptist Press Aug. 29, but an attempt to foster unity by getting “conversation on the table.”

Screen capture from YouTube
"A confluence of unprecedented circumstances" has given rise to "the Baptist blues" among some Southern Baptists, Chuck Kelley said Aug. 21 in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary chapel.

“If people are unaware of the simmering divisions in our convention, we’re never going to be able to fix them,” Kelley, New Orleans Seminary’s president, said in an interview. “The reality is they are there. I think not talking “through” our feelings about the convention has made some of the divisions deeper.”
Kelley’s Aug. 21 chapel sermon has garnered nearly 3,700 views on New Orleans Seminary’s YouTube channel and has been the subject of blogs and social media posts. In the sermon, Kelley read an extended entry from his journal on the SBC, recounting circumstances that have led “so many people” to ask, “What in the world is going on with the Southern Baptist Convention?” and state to Kelley, “I don’t even recognize the Southern Baptist Convention anymore.”
Kelley’s message noted “a confluence of unprecedented circumstances” that have given rise to “the Baptist blues” among some Southern Baptists. Among them:

  • “At a crucial time” for the International Mission Board (IMB) following a reduction of 1,132 missionaries and stateside staff in 2016, the board’s “future is unclear” with the announced departure of President David Platt – “not a position that fuels the passion that has always drawn and held Southern Baptists together.”

  • Amid a 17-year decline in baptisms, the SBC “finally approved an evangelistic task force” in 2017 “to make recommendations on how to approach this dilemma. ... Many Southern Baptists wondered what was wrong with the soul of the convention if we went that long with that kind of decline without responding with major initiatives to reach more people for Christ.”

  • For most of the past decade, declines in church membership, worship attendance and small group attendance have evidenced churches’ “struggling on an unprecedented scale.”

  • Within the past six months, employees at four SBC entities have resigned “due to moral indiscretions.”

  • The #MeToo movement’s “focus on sexual abuse became a dominant national conversation. And ... it became a dominant conversation in the SBC as well, leading to the biggest mess the SBC has seen in a very long time: the internal controversy at Southwestern Seminary. How big a mess was it? It included the executive committee of an entity overturning a decision by the SBC-elected full board of that entity just days after that board met. It resulted in retirement of one of the most influential leaders in the history of the SBC” – a reference to former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, Kelley’s brother-in-law.

  • “The increasing tensions over the advance of Calvinism in the SBC bubbled over a bit in the SBC presidential election at that Dallas convention. Although neither nominee for the presidency promoted the election as such, the election became in the eyes of many a choice between younger Reformed leadership and older traditional Baptist leadership.” In the June election, North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear defeated former Southwestern Seminary President Ken Hemphill.

That confluence of circumstances led “many people” to say, “I don’t know if I want to be a part of the Southern Baptist Convention as it is shaping up right now,” Kelley said in the sermon. He countered such negativity by stating, “There has never been a more important time for us to come together as the body of Christ, working on the Great Commission together.”
Reflecting back on the sermon, Kelley said he “might change a thing or two about the way [he] said” some things. But he stands by the main emphases of the message.
In general terms, “traditionalists” are the Southern Baptists expressing concern with the convention’s direction, and “the growing Reformed group” is “very excited and pleased with what’s happening in the SBC,” Kelley said, adding those labels are “simplistic” and “there are not hard lines” to delineate the groups.
Everyone in the “Reformed” coalition does not hold Reformed theology to the same degree, he said, and traditionalists support many facets of Reformed theology, Kelley said. Additionally, some concerned Southern Baptists don’t fit in either group. But it is difficult to find another concise way to describe the division, he said.
Positive and negative feedback on the sermon was expected and “is a very accurate reflection of where the SBC is today,” Kelley said. “The thing that probably surprised me and disappointed me the most is people who said they had no idea anybody was concerned about the state of the SBC.”
Kelley underscored the need for Southern Baptists to reemphasize missions and the Great Commission so other conversations of lesser importance within the convention don’t take precedence.
Watch the sermon below.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/30/2018 10:53:17 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

LifeWay trustees begin search for new president

August 30 2018 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources

LifeWay Christian Resources trustees began the initial steps to search for a successor to President and CEO Thom S. Rainer during their Aug. 27-28 meeting in Nashville.

Photo by Aaron Earls
LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer said he has "been blessed immeasurably by the ministry and the people of LifeWay" during his report to trustees on Monday, August 27, 2018.

Trustee chairman Jimmy Scroggins named a seven-person search committee to find LifeWay’s next leader.
The trustees’ presidential search committee will be led by Kent Dacus, vice president of student services at California Baptist University, as committee chair. Dacus is a member of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside, Calif.
Other members include Bill Langley, pastor of Severns Valley Baptist Church, Elizabethtown, Ky.; Millie Burkett, member of Greater Gresham Baptist Church, Gresham, Ore.; Ken Bledsoe, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Aberdeen, N.J.; Madeline Harris, member of Ezekiel Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Penn.; Todd Fannin, member of Life Fellowship Church, Pryor, Okla.; and Luther McDaniel, member of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, Tenn. Three alternate members include Mike Osborne, executive pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church, Colonial Heights, Va.; J.D. Perry, member of Jefferson Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, La.; and Brad McLean, pastor of First Baptist Church, New Braunfels, Texas.
The search committee will receive questions and names for consideration at
Scroggins shared his appreciation for Rainer’s godly leadership the last 13 years. “Thom is a man of honor and integrity who has brought honor, integrity and success to this organization.”
He also asked the trustees to be in prayer for the search committee and for the future leader of LifeWay.
“We believe in a God who is sovereign over all things,” Scroggins said. “We believe God has had His hand and anointing on this organization for well over 100 years. And we are confident God will continue to sustain LifeWay and allow this organization to move forward and thrive.”
Rainer announced his retirement to trustees during the Monday (Aug. 27) plenary session and informed LifeWay employees by email that evening.
“My life has been blessed immeasurably by the ministry and the people of LifeWay,” Rainer said. “I accepted this position with humility and gratitude, and I leave it with humility and gratitude.”
Rainer told trustees he had no doubts it was the right time and season to pass the baton of leadership. “We are in an incredible position,” Rainer said. “LifeWay is poised for a great future with a new leader.”

Other business

LifeWay trustees elected Connia Nelson as senior vice president and chief human resources officer during the August 28 plenary session. Nelson joined LifeWay in 2016 as senior director of Human Resources. She succeeds Selma Wilson who announced her retirement earlier this month. 
“We are blessed to have someone of Connia’s caliber leading our people strategy at LifeWay,” Rainer told trustees.
In other action, trustees approved Chris Knight as secretary of the corporation. Knight, who joined the organization in April, is vice president and general counsel, overseeing LifeWay’s legal department.
LifeWay trustees also approved a 2019 budget of $471 million.

New Trustees

Photo by Aaron Earls
LifeWay trustee Darron Edwards led trustees in a time of prayer for LifeWay President and CEO Thomas S. Rainer who announced his retirement during the August 27 plenary session. 

Rainer welcomed and introduced eight new trustees who began their terms with the August meeting. New trustees include Derrick Burt, director of music ministries at First Baptist Church, Natchez, Miss.; Curtis Clark, senior pastor of Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Fla.; Cynthia Cook, a member of South Main Street Baptist in Greenwood, S.C.; Jacob Fitzgerald, senior pastor of Denman Avenue Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas; Chad Keck, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Kettering, Ohio; Benjamin Posey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Leroy, Ala.; Randy Smith, a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.; and Curtis Woods, associate executive director for convention relations at the Kentucky Baptist Convention and a member of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

Trustees also heard updates from LifeWay leaders regarding progress and plans for ministry.


In his report to trustees, LifeWay vice president Earl Roberson announced exciting changes in LifeWay Stores, including partnerships with Proverbs 31 Ministries and Passion that offer a store-within-a-store concept. These mini-stores will feature books, CDs, Bible studies, gifts and apparel tied to the ministries.
Trustees also heard reports on events and camps for children and students, which continue as mainstays of LifeWay’s ministry to churches. In 2018, 633 children made salvation decisions at CentriKid camps, and campers gave more than $97,000 to missions through the International Mission Board (IMB) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB). LifeWay’s student camps saw more than 100,000 student participants and reported around 2,000 decisions for Christ. Students attending LifeWay camps donated $538,000 to the IMB and NAMB.


Tim Hill, senior vice president and chief information officer, explained to trustees the emphasis LifeWay IT has placed on combating cybersecurity threats facing employees and customers. He detailed specific security measures the company is taking to keep corporate and personal information safe from potential data breaches.
Hill also outlined significant initiatives IT is finalizing for LifeWay Christian Stores, which includes a new modernized point of sale system and upgraded network and infrastructure that will roll out next month. The system will allow LifeWay to better serve customers with increased efficiency.

Organizational Development

Photo by Aaron Earls
LifeWay's Connia Nelson tells trustees how thankful she is for the opportunity to humbly serve as a part of the leadership team at LifeWay during the semi-annual trustee meeting. Trustees elected Nelson as LifeWay's senior vice president and chief human resources officer during the August 28 plenary session.

In Selma Wilson’s last report to the trustees before her fall retirement, she expressed her confidence in her successor, Connia Nelson.
“Connia is answer to prayer,” Wilson said. “What she’s already done in her short tenure at LifeWay is just the beginning of what she will do.”
Wilson highlighted several employee satisfaction achievements, including: positive feedback pertaining to the headquarters relocation, enhanced vacation policy, improved paternity leave benefits, a second-time Forbes award for being one of the best mid-size employers in America, and a first-time Forbes award recognizing LifeWay as one of the top employers for women.
At the end of his plenary report, Rainer thanked trustees and employees for the last 13 years. “You have honored and blessed me,” he said. “God has a plan for LifeWay, and I believe its best days are yet ahead.”   
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is director of corporate communications for LifeWay. Joy Allmond and Aaron Earls contributed to this story.)

8/30/2018 10:52:57 AM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Baptist promoted to Air Force Deputy Chief of Chaplains

August 30 2018 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

The U.S. Senate confirmed the promotion of U.S. Air Force Chaplain Colonel Ronald M. Harvell to the rank of Brigadier General on Aug. 20. With the promotion, Harvell, a Southern Baptist, becomes the Air Force’s 26th Deputy Chief of Chaplains.

U.S. Air Force photo
U.S. Air Force Chaplain Colonel Ronald M. Harvell's promotion to the rank of brigadier general was confirmed by a Senate vote on Aug. 20. Harvell, a Southern Baptist, will become the 26th Deputy Chief of Chaplains and will now transition to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. for his new pastoral leadership responsibilities.

He has been serving as the Air Mobility Command Chaplain based at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. Harvell will now transition to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., for his new pastoral leadership responsibilities.
“My wife and I are grateful to be able to continue to serve Air Force people,” Harvell said. “We are excited about helping airmen and their families to be more spiritually fit. We’re glad that God is allowing us to have this opportunity.”
As the Deputy Chief of Chaplains, Harvell will assist the Air Force Chief of Chaplains to provide guidance on the religious and moral welfare of Air Force personnel and their families.
He will also be responsible for helping train and equip the Air Force Chaplain Corps, which includes more than 2,200 active-duty and reserve chaplains and religious affairs airmen. Harvell will join the United States Armed Forces Chaplains Board whose members advise the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on concerns related to religion, ethics and morale.
“It is truly an extreme honor for one of our Southern Baptist chaplains to be selected to this strategically important position of pastoral authority,” said Doug Carver, executive director of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) chaplaincy team. “Ron has been recognized both by senior military leadership as well as the Air Force Chaplaincy and community for his humble and compassionate service to airmen and their families. As a humble servant of God and a visionary leader, Ron’s emphasis on a personal relationship with the Lord, discipleship and spiritual formation will be a great asset for the spiritual life of the Air Force community.”
Chaplain Harvell grew up as a self-described “Army brat” – the son of an Army infantry and aviation officer. His parents were believers who frequently talked to their kids about knowing the Lord.
As a military family, they regularly moved from base to base. Harvell received Christ while the family was stationed at Fort Walters, near Mineral Wells, Texas and accepted the call to international ministry in Colorado Springs, Colo., at Circle Drive Baptist Church.
“In high school, I would read books about missions and the things that were going on overseas,” Harvell recalled. “I felt like I only had one life to live. So, I wanted to go overseas and spend my life helping people come to know the Lord.”
At the time, Harvell had no idea that military chaplaincy would be the vehicle God would use to send him to minister around the world. Harvell has served 11 years overseas, including six deployments, to locations in Europe, East Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Harvell received his undergraduate degree from Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, where he met his wife Marsha. But it was during Harvell’s seminary years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, that God led him and his wife to pursue chaplaincy.
As they entered into the reserve chaplaincy, Harvell went into his first full-time pastorate at Northside Baptist Church in Kermit, Texas. There, it became clear that God’s hand was on his and his wife’s ministry.
“We were at Northside Baptist for 4 1/2 years, a little church of 10 people,” Harvell said. “In those four and a half years, it grew by 300 people, of which 150 joined by baptism.”
Harvell became an endorsed chaplain with the Air Force in 1991. Then in 1998, while serving in the chapel on the Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan, God’s blessing once again became evident.
“We had the opportunity to pastor this chapel of about 200 people,” Harvell said. “The Lord really poured out His Spirit, and the congregation grew to around 900 people every week, and over 170 people were baptized.”

Submitted photo
U.S. Air Force Chaplain Colonel Ronald M. Harvell and his wife Marsha have thrived together in ministry. The Senate confirmed his promotion to brigadier general on Aug. 20. Harvell, a Southern Baptist, will serve at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. as the 26th Deputy Chief of Chaplains for the U.S. Air Force.

All along the way, Marsha has been key to their ministry, serving in various roles through the years. The Lord blessed her teaching ministry, however, and she became an international trainer with Kay Arthur’s Precept Ministries and led a women’s conference while with her husband in Qatar.
“Southern Baptists as well as all believers need to know what an important ministry the Air Force is,” Marsha said. “It is just as important as our work in other countries around the world. Southern Baptist chaplains are on the front lines preaching, teaching, counseling and praying.”
In 1991, Harvell and his wife began a journey in active duty chaplaincy at Scott Air Force Base. And after a series of 13 moves that took them around the world, they are leaving Scott once again. This time, the destination is the Pentagon.
“We know that God will give us what it takes to do this job faithfully for Him,” Harvell said. “Whatever God asks us to do, we’re humbled to do it. We really treasure peoples’ prayers since spiritual support is very helpful!”
More than 1,600 Southern Baptist chaplains serve the U.S. military. The North American Mission Board endorses those chaplains on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/30/2018 10:52:23 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

S.C. church plant sues town for rental ban

August 30 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A Southern Baptist church plant in South Carolina has sued the town of Edisto Beach for prohibiting it from use of its civic center.

Photo from Facebook
A Southern Baptist church plant in South Carolina has sued the town of Edisto Beach for prohibiting it from use of its civic center.

Redeemer Fellowship of Edisto Island filed suit Aug. 27 in federal court in Charleston, S.C., because of a policy it says violates its free speech and religion rights guaranteed in the First Amendment. Redeemer Fellowship had twice met for corporate worship in the Edisto Beach Civic Center when the town council changed its policy to prohibit rentals for “religious worship services.”
The church – which began meeting in January – outgrew the home in which it met for corporate worship and began seeking to rent space. The congregation met at the civic center for worship on Easter Sunday, April 1, and May 6, but the Edisto Beach Town Council voted unanimously at its May 10 meeting to amend its facility use policy to ban such rentals. At its June meeting, the town council approved unanimously the amended facility use guidelines.
The town council acted at the recommendation of town attorney Bert Duffie, who said the First Amendment clause barring government establishment of religion prohibits rental of the civic center for worship services. 
Redeemer Fellowship – which is represented by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – says in its suit the new policy unlawfully discriminates against the church because it permits “virtually all community groups to rent the Center for all expressive activities” except for religious worship.
Speaking on behalf of Redeemer Fellowship, Cameron Andrews – a leader in the church plant – told Baptist Press, “We didn’t want to sue our town. In fact, we love our town; we love the people of Edisto. We have made a principled response to the discriminatory rules that were created.
“What we desire and what we’re seeking through this action is simply equal treatment under the law,” Andrews said in a written statement. “Our desire is not only for Redeemer Fellowship, but for all the churches in our community to have equal access to community facilities.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “Time and time again we have seen government bodies large and small use double standards to silence religious bodies.
“Situations like this are exactly why Baptists have long insisted that no government authority has the right to mute or impede religious speech or worship,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “My hope is that this case will be settled quickly on this church’s behalf.”
Christiana Holcomb, ADF legal counsel, said, “Churches shouldn’t be treated less favorably than other groups that want to rent facilities.
“The town of Edisto Beach tells the community that it welcomes ‘civic, political, business, social groups and others’ to use its civic center, but the town’s recent policy change singles out one form of expression, worship, as inferior to other forms of speech, and that’s clearly unconstitutional,” she said in a written release.
For about five years, an Episcopal church has rented a room at the civic center for “office space, Vestry meetings, Bible studies and theological training,” according to Redeemer Fellowship’s lawsuit.
In its suit, the church says Edisto Beach has instituted a public forum by opening the civic center for “expressive activity,” but its amended guidelines banning worship services are “content-based restrictions on speech.” It also contends the new rules “discriminatorily target religious exercise” and “evidence hostility towards religion.” In addition, the suit says the guidelines violate the establishment clause because the town’s government “must make judgments regarding which religious activities constitute religious worship, and which ones do not.”
Minutes of the May 10 town council meeting show Duffie said in recommending the rental policy change, “In this particular situation when you have worship services, which is sort of the core of a religious activity obviously, you have signs that are put out at the Civic Center with the religious organization’s name on it and the Edisto Beach Civic Center’s name on it, there’s potential for flyers to be given out, and it gives the appearance that the Town is endorsing or supporting whichever particular religious organization that is. So that could violate the Establishment Clause and put the Town at risk for liability.”
Duffie also told council members renting space to a church for worship could be found to be a subsidy that violates the establishment clause.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/30/2018 10:51:54 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Puerto Rico hurricane toll ‘a miracle’ at 2,975

August 30 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

It’s “a miracle” Hurricane Maria’s death toll in Puerto Rico is not even higher than the new official total of 2,975, a massive jump from the long purported 64, a Southern Baptist disaster relief leader told Baptist Press.

Screen capture from MSNBC files
Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello called Hurricane Maria the most devastating disaster in the territory’s history a week after the storm struck in September 2017. On Aug. 28, he raised the official death toll to 2,975 from 64.

The new count, based on an independent study that the territory commissioned from George Washington University (GWU), makes the hurricane one of the deadliest in U.S. history.
David Melber, president of North American Mission Board’s Send Relief arm, was in the territory Aug. 29 and sent BP a comment.
“Based on what we have seen, we expected the death toll was higher,” Melber said, “but given the magnitude of the storm it is a miracle that it was not higher than even the current report. We are certain the death toll would have been much greater had Southern Baptists and so many others not responded so quickly” in relief aid after the hurricane.
Puerto Rican native and Southern Baptist pastor Felix Cabrera also told BP the higher number is no surprise.
“The effect of this hurricane in the island proved that we were not ready for this kind of natural disaster,” Cabrera said. “The government tried, but they were not prepared in both logistics and preventions.
“Unfortunately, the reaction of the federal government was too slow and we didn’t receive the same attention that Houston and Florida received,” said Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City and second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“I’m very proud and grateful to be a Southern Baptist and for the continuous support that our churches, through NAMB and Send Relief, gave and are giving to restore Puerto Rico,” he said, “but also for the focus to take advantage of this crisis to make Christ known to my people.”
Bobby Sena, Hispanic relations consultant to the SBC Executive Committee, expressed sadness upon news of the higher death toll.
“I will continue to pray for the families that have lost loved ones. I will continue to celebrate that out of the ashes, rubble and devastation, a new Puerto Rico church has risen!” Sena told BP. “I am thankful the pastors have continued working to rebuild, sharing the gospel, teaching and ministering despite the conditions on the island.
“The tenacity and resilience of the pastoral leadership and their church membership are amazing,” Sena said.
Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers have helped recovery efforts on the island, where Annual Church Profile reports place about 40 Southern Baptist churches.
“Southern Baptists have been in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria’s landfall and we are still there,” Melber said. “We saw tragedies unfold and we saw many, many people served, the gospel being shared and Christ being honored. Critical to the response were and are FEMA and PREMA (Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency), whose professionalism and compassion played a key role in saving lives on the island.”
GWU looked at deaths that occurred between Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, and deaths deemed in excess of Puerto Rico’s normal mortality rate through February 2018. GWU’s study put Maria-related deaths at between 2,975 and 3,290.
While Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello adopted the lower number as the official count, Rossello’s number could rise, the Washington Post reported today.
The deaths were concentrated in 18 cities, with the highest fatality increases in metropolitan San Juan, the island of Vieques and western Puerto Rico. The elderly and poor were hardest hit, especially men over 65, according to GWU’s report.
Higher death tolls have been circulated since last year. A survey from Harvard University in the spring put the excess deaths at between 800 and 8,000, the Post reported. Puerto Rican residents have protested the government’s previous refusal to raise the death toll, the Post said, sometimes setting thousands of pairs of shoes in front of the Puerto Rican Capitol building in San Juan with names of the dead.
The current official death toll exceeds Hurricane Katrina’s carnage of 1,833 in 2005, but is still short of the deadliest hurricane in recorded U.S. history. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 killed between 6,000 and 12,000, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/30/2018 10:51:41 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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