December 2012

Israel-Gaza ceasefire fails to kindle hope

December 7 2012 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – “Draw anything you want to draw,” a teacher in Gaza told her class of small children.

After a few minutes a little girl brought a picture of a man without legs lying in the street. She said she had seen him just outside her home.

In Israel, shell-shocked victims of a bus bombing lay outside a tangled mass of seats and shattered glass, panicked and waiting for medical treatment.

In both Gaza and Israel, life is marked by the ravages of war.

“Those who want no part of the bombings – either from Gaza to Israel or from Israel to Gaza – are caught between the bombs of both,” said Stephen Johnson, an Alabamian who serves as a Christian worker among Palestinians. “The long-term psychological effect is impossible to gauge, but continued warfare is training up another generation of enemies.”

In recent rocket exchanges stopped by a Nov. 21 ceasefire, more than 150 Palestinians and six Israelis died. Israel said its military action, called Operation Pillar of Defense, was in response to 100 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel during peacetime.

And now, in the midst of a tenuous ceasefire, Christian workers wait to see what will happen in the yearning for true peace.

Ben Martin, an Alabamian who serves as a Christian worker among Jews, said, “The attitude in Israel right now is that … the world doesn’t understand what happened and that when they retaliate in response to rockets from Gaza, they are looked down on by the world.”

Meanwhile, Israelis constantly anticipate that things could change.

“They try not to let terrorists disrupt their life,” Martin said. “But when the sirens go off you have mere moments to get into a bomb shelter. In Tel Aviv you have a minute and a half. In Sderot (just outside Gaza) you have 15 seconds. One hundred missiles had already been fired into Israel before [Operation Pillar of Defense] ever started.”

And Gaza is reeling from what Johnson called the “worst bombardment” it has ever experienced. “Destruction is widespread,” he said. “The stakes get a little higher each time.”

Many say they fear the ceasefire won’t last. The tension is a chronic situation, Johnson and Martin agreed. What will stop it?

“Gaza has got to get some hope that their lives can get better,” Johnson said. The more hopeless they are, “the more radicalized they become and the more difficult they are to reach with the gospel,” he said.

But Johnson said he firmly believes many will eventually find their hope in Jesus Christ. “We are sharing our lives and His love,” he said, “so that when the time comes, they will know the source of all hope.”

People on both sides express gratefulness when Johnson, Martin and others choose to stay with them when the bombs are headed their way, Johnson said.

“For those [Christian workers] on the field who are new, it is a challenging time of reconsidering their call to the field,” Johnson said. “It’s a fairly sobering experience. We are blessed to know that our new workers counted the cost and chose to stay in spite of difficult circumstances.”

Martin urged Baptists to be in prayer, especially for them not to pick a side.

“This is not like a football game where we choose a side we’re for,” Martin said. “This is a situation where we have to be for both of these people groups and for their salvation. This is about choosing the Lord’s work.”

Botrus Mansour, an Arab Israeli believer who serves as director of Nazareth Baptist School, said Christians in the region need special prayer because they teeter on the line of whether to use the strife as an open opportunity to share the gospel or to tuck and run and take the light with them.

One Christian in Gaza died of a heart attack after rockets struck houses near his. And the small Christian community in Gaza – about 1,500 people, with fewer than 100 Baptists – struggles amid overwhelming need, Mansour said.

The Christian community in Israel has a lot to face as well, Mansour said.

“Times of tension and conflict create an opportunity for the Baptist churches to serve the people through sharing the gospel and offering relief services,” he said. “But they also cause [enough] frustration for some Baptists to consider leaving the country [Israel]. The future looks pessimistic without peacemakers; this will cause more emigration of Christians from the Holy Land.”

A Southern Baptist representative identified as Herb, who is living in Israel, said he hopes that Baptist churches there will continue “to be agents of peace in the midst of the situation.”

“We continue to pray for both groups [Palestinians and Israelis] – that God will strengthen those who want true peace,” he said.

Herb said he hopes that people won’t stop coming to Israel.

“Sometimes when flare-ups like this happen, people stop coming” because of fear, he said. “We feel like people should continue to come. We feel very secure.”

Herb said he doesn’t see anything changing in Baptist work in Israel anytime soon, noting, “We are in it for the long haul. Baptists have been in Israel since 1911 and we are committed to carrying on.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Some names in this story have been changed for security reasons. Grace Thornton writes for The Alabama Baptist, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)
12/7/2012 2:02:41 PM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Grady Nutt’s comedy returns via Web, CDs

December 7 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – The comedy of Grady Nutt, a Southern Baptist seminary graduate known as the “Prime Minister of Humor” and a regular on television’s long-running “Hee Haw” show, is being rejuvenated 30 years after his death via a website and commemorative two-CD collection of previously unreleased tracks.

A native of Amarillo, Texas, Nutt began his career in childhood, singing gospel music on the radio with his mother accompanying on the piano, according to gradynutt.com. At age 12, he became an ordained Baptist minister and joked that he could perform legal weddings of his classmates.

Nutt graduated from Baylor University in 1957 and was a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. In 1960, he moved to Louisville, Ky., where he enrolled at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and also became pastor of Graefenburg Baptist Church in Waddy, Ky. Friendships he made there later became part of his performances, the website says.

Upon graduation from Southern in 1964, Nutt became a recruiter for the seminary, speaking on college campuses across the South. His popularity grew and led to several television appearances including as a guest host of “The Mike Douglas Show,” which was the nation’s top-rated daytime talk show at the time.
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Grady Nutt, a Southern Baptist seminary graduate who was part of the cast of “Hee Haw,” is being remembered 30 years after his death with a website and commemorative two-CD collection of previously unreleased tracks.


His big break came in 1979, the website says, when he was added to the cast of Hee Haw and was given a couple of minutes each episode to do a routine. He wrote several bestselling books and released multiple comedy albums and a Southern Gospel record.

In 1981, NBC launched “The Grady Nutt Show” starring Nutt as the pastor of a local church in which members would get into a humorous crisis and he would attempt to solve it, the website says.

The late Minnie Pearl, a Hee Haw star, said Nutt “used humor to spread his faith to a very wide audience.”

Tragically, Nutt was killed in a plane crash in 1982 after a speaking engagement in Cullman, Ala.

“Over the years, we’ve heard from people around the world how Grady touched their lives. We couldn’t think of a better time to communicate with his fans and release some of Grady’s best material,” Nutt’s son Toby said.

The family hopes to share classic Nutt stories as well as television and radio clips on gradynutt.com, Twitter and Facebook, giving fans an opportunity for interaction, according to a news release Dec. 4. The commemorative CDs are available for purchase on the website.

“These are some of Dad’s greatest bits,” son Perry Nutt said. “Listening to these stories takes you back to a time before digital, when all recordings were scratchy but real.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
12/7/2012 1:55:08 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘I’ve wondered if there was something else out there’

December 7 2012 by Will Stuart, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 2-9 with the theme of “BE His heart, His hands, His voice” from Matthew 16:24-25. Each year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists’ 5,000 international missionaries’ initiatives in sharing the gospel. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to www.imb.org/offering.)

SOUTH AMERICA – Grace, a member of one of the indigenous tribes of South America, speaks with intensity about the future of her people.

There are outsiders who would keep them in something of a museum – as living history, she says – stuck in a time that has not been a reality for generations.

It’s not what she wants. Yet the issue is not an easy one.

“A lot of our people don’t even know our [culture],” she says. “They say they do, but they hide behind it.”

She wants her people to move ahead – to “win.” She wants them to take advantage of all that is going on about them while retaining the best of their culture.

That means they will have to change, she says.

Grace has been active – militant, she says – in the Indian rights movement. She and her sister have traveled to New York and Florida for conferences. They were part of a group that surrounded the Catholic church in a nearby town and demanded their land back, threatening to breach a dam and flood the town if they didn’t get it.

Land disputes between Indians and others have been fierce. Non-Indians have hired gunmen to threaten the Indians. People on both sides have died.
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Grace recounts the religious beliefs of her indigenous people group in South America who have had limited contact with Christianity. “There have been times in my life that have been so hard,” Grace says, “I’ve wondered if there was something else out there.”


When Grace talks about Christianity, she speaks of a mix of indigenous, tribal religion; folk Catholicism; superstition and spiritualism; and Catholic dogma. Few from the tribe embrace it. They say they prefer to hold with their traditional faith.

She has met some evangelicals – her term for everyone who is not Catholic – and was not impressed.

“They have faith,” she says, “but they don’t have love. Faith without love isn’t worth much.”

A visitor tells Grace her words are straight from the Bible. “Next time you come, bring your Bible,” she says. “I want to know more about it.” The visitor says he has one with him. Grace asks him to get it. For 20 minutes they talk, flipping from verse to verse as they converse. The visitor is astonished at how much of what she says virtually is a paraphrase of the New Testament – a text she has never read.

“There have been times in my life that have been so hard,” she says, “I’ve wondered if there was something else out there.”

Grace and her tribe are among more than 3,000 unengaged, unreached peoples across the world. Nearly 400 of them are in South America. Isolated by language, culture, history and –in some cases – geography, they live mostly in small clusters of fewer than 3,000 people.

Most will never have a missionary assigned to them. Yet the church is called to take the gospel to all peoples.

Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering allow International Mission Board (IMB) personnel to identify and understand these often forgotten people. Those efforts offer Southern Baptist churches committed to embracing unengaged, unreached peoples a basis for beginning their work among them – to be His heart, His hands and His voice.

For prayer:

– that Grace’s people truly will have the opportunity to hear about their Savior.
– that more churches will embrace an unengaged, unreached people group that might not otherwise hear the gospel. (Learn how at www.call2embrace.org.)


(EDITOR’S NOTE – Will Stuart is an IMB photographer. Gifts for the offering are received at Southern Baptist churches across the country or can be made online at www.imb.org/offering where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at www.imb.org/lmcovideo.)
12/7/2012 1:46:12 PM by Will Stuart, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



In Britain, food & water withheld from ill babies

December 7 2012 by Baptist Press

LONDON – The British end-of-life protocol known as the Liverpool Care Pathway is being used for the deaths of sick children and disabled newborns.

Health care providers supposedly were using the Pathway only for terminally ill adults and the elderly, but an article in the British Medical Journal showed they also are withholding food, water and medicine from children, the Daily Mail reported Nov. 28.

In the journal article, an unnamed physician reported he had supervised the starvation and dehydration deaths of 10 babies in one neonatal unit.

While parents want their children to die quickly without suffering, those desires conflict with his experience, the doctor wrote.

“Parents and care teams are unprepared for the sometimes severe changes that they will witness in the child’s physical appearance as severe dehydration ensues,” he said of a process that has a median time from withdrawal of fluids to death of 10 days.

While he tries to prepare parents so they will not make a choice they regret, the doctor wrote, “I know, as they cannot, the unique horror of witnessing a child become smaller and shrunken....”

A hospice pediatric nurse criticized the use of the Pathway for children.

“The parents feel coerced, at a very traumatic time, into agreeing that this is correct for their child whom they are told by doctors only has a few days to live,” Bernadette Lloyd wrote in a letter to the Department of Health, according to the Daily Mail. “It is very difficult to predict death. I have seen a ‘reasonable’ number of children recover after being taken off the pathway.”

She also said,” I have also seen children die in terrible thirst because fluids are withdrawn from them until they die.... This is euthanasia by the backdoor.”

American pro-life bioethics specialist Wesley Smith agreed with Lloyd.

“You watch: The way things are going in the [United Kingdom], the answer won’t be to stop dehydrating, but to lethally inject,” Smith wrote on his blog.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.)
12/7/2012 1:39:19 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Minn.-Wis. Baptists continue CP pledge

December 6 2012 by Baptist Press

ROCHESTER, Minn. – Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists increased their support of national and international Southern Baptist ministries for the third consecutive year, continuing a commitment to .5 percent annual increases toward reaching 50 percent of the anticipated Cooperative Program budget.

Messengers at the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention’s annual meeting voted to give 14.5 percent of an anticipated $475,000 in 2013 Cooperative Program (CP) receipts to national and international missions, after having given 14 percent this year. The convention plans to keep 85.5 percent of CP gifts for ministry in its two member states. The allocations do not include any expenses shared by the state and national conventions.

Concurrently, the overall $1,973,321 budget approved by messengers for 2013 is about half of a percentage point above its 2012 budget of $1,962,879.

Current officers re-elected to serve an additional term are president, Mike Fahey, pastor emeritus of Roseville Baptist Church in Roseville, Minn.; first vice president, Rich Schulze, pastor of Graceway Fellowship in Green Bay, Wis.; second vice president, Mary Krome of Brown Deer Baptist Church in Brown Deer, Wis.; and recording secretary, Wes Shemwell of Midvale Baptist Church in Madison, Wis.

A total of 85 messengers representing 41 of the two-state convention’s 166 affiliated churches attended the annual meeting at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, Minn., with the theme “Every City, Every Place.” The state convention has 16,500 members.

Messengers set the 2013 annual meeting for Oct. 25-26 at Trinity Baptist Church in Reedsburg, Wis.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled from a report by the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.)
12/6/2012 4:10:01 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mont. Baptists unanimous in raising CP giving

December 6 2012 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

MONTANA CITY, Mont. – A year after embracing its 20/20 Vision, the Montana Southern Baptist Convention (MTSBC) voted to increase its Cooperative Program (CP) giving for the first time in the state group’s 11-year history.

Messengers to the 2012 annual meeting voted to increase by 1 percentage point its 2013 CP allocation to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) missions and ministries, sending 23 percent to the SBC of $967,179 budgeted for CP receipts from Montana churches.

“We determined as a convention that we want our churches and convention as a whole to be more engaged in the mission field,” MTSBC Executive Director Fred Hewett told Baptist Press about the unanimous vote to increase CP giving. “We recognize that we are a great mission field in Montana, but we strongly desire to be engaged beyond our churches and communities.”

The decision was buoyed by an increase in contributions from the Montana convention’s churches, resulting in a 6 percent increase in the budget, Hewett reported. The MTSBC does not separate any shared expenses from its allocations.

“Our giving was up, so our budget is up.” Hewett said. “Montana churches have increased their CP giving by 5 percent in the last 12 months. In the 20/20 Vision Report recommendation adopted last year, the goal is to be at 30 percent [in CP percentage to the SBC] by the end of 2020.”

The increase means more undergirding for church plants, church health and evangelism in Montana and around the world, which is what the 20/20 Vision Task Force reported to messengers at the 2011 annual meeting needed to happen: a focus on penetrating lostness, engaging in missions at home and abroad, and cooperating in denominational effectiveness.

“The Great Commission is our guiding principle,” Libby Baptist Church pastor Darwin Scofield said at the 2011 meeting. This year’s vote of the 79 messengers from 61 of Montana’s 140 Southern Baptist churches and missions confirmed his statement.

MTSBC President B.J. Hallmark, associate pastor of Crossroads Memorial Church in Great Falls, centered his presidential address on the meeting’s theme, “Give to Jesus.”

“I was trying to emphasize the need to give our lives more effectively to Christ, so we can make a difference in the lives of those people God places in our path,” Hallmark said of his sermon from Mark 6:30-44.

Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was the annual meeting’s keynote speaker. In a series of three messages over the two-day period, Duke spoke of God’s call to His people to prepare themselves personally, spiritually and mentally for their ethical role and responsibility for the family, church and government. He concluded the series by challenging the messengers from the story of the Good Samaritan to value people and their needs over things, self and agendas.

Messengers reelected Hallmark as president and reelected as vice president Bruce Speer, pastor of Crosspoint Community Church in Missoula. Messengers approved unanimously and without discussion all reports presented at the meeting, including the 2013 budget report, the executive board report and reports from the teams for strengthening, sending and starting churches.

The Tennessee Men’s Chorale, under the direction of Paul Clark, led the messengers in worship during their Oct. 2-3 sessions at South Hills Baptist Fellowship in Clancy. Clark is worship and music ministries leader for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

Hallmark described the meeting as one of the best he’s seen.

“The overall spirit of the churches has just been really good this year,” Hallmark said. “The pastors I’ve talked with have been very positive toward the Cooperative Program as well as the work of the [Montana] convention.”

Hewett agreed that “this was the best state convention we have experienced in many years in Montana. Attendance was strong, the messages were challenging, the fellowship was sweet and we conducted the necessary business.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, the newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
12/6/2012 4:03:48 PM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.M. Baptists celebrate 100th anniversary

December 6 2012 by John Loudat, Baptist Press

CLOVIS, N.M. – One hundred years after messengers from Baptist churches across New Mexico gathered at First Baptist Church in Clovis to organize a new state convention, their spiritual descendents returned there for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s centennial celebration.

It was in Clovis on June 19, 1912, that messengers from two state conventions – the New Mexico Baptist Convention (NMBC), organized in 1900 and affiliated with Northern Baptists, and the Baptist General Convention of New Mexico, formed in 1910 and affiliated with Southern Baptists – voted to dissolve and unite in a new convention that would partner with the Southern Baptist Convention.

The historic action was recommended by a committee of Southern and Northern Baptist leaders that had met in Hot Springs, Ark., on Jan. 24-25, 1912, less than three weeks after New Mexico became the nation’s 47th state.

The centennial celebration began Monday afternoon, Oct. 22, with a ladies’ tea at Highland Baptist Church in Clovis followed by the centennial banquet that evening at Central Baptist Church that evening. The next morning, the WMU Centennial Missions Celebration was held at Highland and a pastors’ and laymen’s conference at Parkland Baptist Church.

The celebration concluded on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 24, about 20 miles to the south at the BCNM’s oldest entity, the New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home in Portales, with a barbecue lunch.

The centennial drew 369 registered messengers – from 119 of the BCNM’s 345 churches encompassing 82,000 members – and more than 200 guests. Messengers from four churches that had never sent messengers to a BCNM annual meeting were seated at this year’s sessions.

“Staying on Course With God” was the theme of the overall celebration, with session themes “Celebrating Yesterday” on Tuesday afternoon, “Capturing Today” that night and “Considering the Future” on Wednesday morning.

Presiding during the celebration were BCNM president R. Maurice Hollingsworth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Las Cruces; first vice president Gary Wolfe, pastor of First Baptist Church in Otis; and second vice president Kevin Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Aztec.

Celebrating yesterday

Bringing the celebration’s first two messages from behind the pulpit – which the church has used since 1909, so it was there when the convention was organized in 1912 – were the BCNM’s two executive director emeriti, Chester O’Brien and Claude Cone.

O’Brien, who now lives in Amarillo, Texas, led the convention from 1975-85; Cone, from 1985-2005.

The entire Christian life is one “of grace, of godliness and glory,” O’Brien said in the celebration’s opening message.

O’Brien reminisced about “The Way It Was” in the years he served in New Mexico, first as pastor of First Baptist Church in Tucumcari and later as the state convention’s leader.

While a roster of state convention workers at the time O’Brien retired from the BCNM post was being distributed, he said his staff’s commitments were to reach the state for Christ, increase the Cooperative Program every year and increase cooperation with the Southern Baptist Home (now North American) Mission Board. While the convention was able to do the latter two while he was at the convention’s helm, he said the first one is ongoing.

Cone, now pastor of Monterey Baptist Church in Albuquerque, brought the convention’s annual sermon. He began by noting the enormity of the task before them.

While New Mexico Baptists have always been “missionary, evangelistic,” there is a need to “put it in overdrive,” Cone said. “The hunger of every human heart is for God,” he continued, noting, “We’re beggars who have found where the bread is” who should take it to others.

Cone closed by expressing his desire that the state’s Baptists “turn up the throttle” in supporting missions and evangelism through the Cooperative Program and “sharing the gospel, sharing the gospel.”

Among those who came to express gratitude for New Mexico Baptists’ past were the executive directors of two sister state conventions, Mark Edlund of the Colorado Baptist General Convention and Veryl Henderson of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.

Edlund thanked New Mexico Baptists for starting the first churches in one of the areas of his state, and Henderson said he was saved in one of those churches and is thankful for New Mexico Baptists’ help in reaching the huge area for which the convention he leads is responsible.

Capturing today

SBC leaders O.S. Hawkins, Clyde Meador and Frank Page also were featured during the celebration.

Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, encouraged pastors in their ministry challenges and underscored the relevance of the Gospel during his two messages.

Hawkins urged the leaders to remember the “privilege,” “place,” “predicament” and “perspective” of their calling as they experience challenges in their ministries.

In his second message, Hawkins said the gospel that New Mexico Baptists are charged to communicate with everyone everywhere is the same message their predecessors proclaimed a century ago, but the methods they must employ today are vastly different.

While people in today’s culture want “meaningful relationships,” “immediate gratification,” “something for nothing,” “guilt-free living” and “prosperity,” Hawkins said Christians are “the only ones that have the answer.”

Meador, a fellow New Mexico Baptists, noted in his message that no blessing New Mexico Baptists have received over the 100-year history of the convention compares with the grace they have received from God.

That grace is to be shared with others, Meador, executive vice president of the International Mission Board said, expressing his appreciation for New Mexico Baptists’ recent mission partnerships, which includes those with the predominantly Buddhist area of Southeast Asia and, now, Kenya.

Today is the day of salvation in places around the world, and for New Mexico and America as well, Meador emphasized, reminding New Mexico Baptists, “It means praying.... It means giving.... It also means personal involvement.”

Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, noted in his first message, “We’ve got a great message but we’ve not shared it in relevant ways.”

The apostle Paul was determined that Christ be exalted in his life wherever he was and whatever he was experiencing, Page said in his message based on Philippians 1:12-20.

Paul was grateful for the opportunities he had to share Christ during his imprisonment in Rome, Page recounted, urging New Mexico Baptists to examine their mindset, to not complain and to consider what God wants to do in the situations in which they find themselves.

“Let us pray that in life or death, Christ be exalted,” Page said, assuring New Mexico Baptists that he was praying that their next 100 years as a state convention would be even greater than their first.

The following morning, Page reminded messengers that they have a “marvelous heritage” but also a “marked responsibility,” “a mission” and “a master.”

“I believe God has a plan for New Mexico,” Page said of the BCNM’s second century, warning, “Satan has a plan for this convention also.”

Using the admonition in Hebrews 12:1-2 as his text, Page emphasized the words “Let us,” explaining that Southern Baptists do best what they do together.

Considering the future

Current BCNM Executive Director Joseph Bunce spoke about going where New Mexico Baptists have never gone before in his annual report during the celebration’s closing session.

“We have to realize God is giving us this land,” Bunce said, emphasizing the necessity of spiritual preparation, following the Lord and avoiding sin.

Bunce listed seven steps the convention will take as it begins its second century:

1. “We will commit ourselves to be a people of unity.”

2. “We will seek to become a convention that is financially independent and less financially dependent on outside partners.” After North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell thanked New Mexico Baptists in a video for their partnership in reaching North America for Christ and explained NAMB’s commitment to plant churches in places where they are most needed, Bunce said that, alongside the need for planting churches in New Mexico, there are a significant number of existing churches that need to be helped. “We cannot let the lights go out at home!” Bunce exclaimed.

3. “We understand our objective is Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth,” as stated in Bunce’s PowerPoint presentation.

4. “We will continue to cultivate mission partnerships to reaching the nations,” he said, noting, a significant number of New Mexico churches have the world on their hearts.

5. “We will continue to leverage technology as much as possible in the work of our convention.

6. “We are working to expand the equipping of disciples for the purpose of evangelism, focusing on how to share Christ with friends and families who have a differing faith.

7. “We will have a three-prong focus on revitalizing existing churches, planting new churches and developing leaders.”

“New Mexico Baptists are making a difference in this world,” Bunce declared, urging, “Don’t quit!”

The person who traveled the greatest distance from his home to attend the celebration was Jared Okello, volunteer mission coordinator for the Kenya Baptist Convention, with which the BCNM began a mission partnership this year in building “Houses of Hope.” Also present for the BCNM sessions was Wanda Lee, executive director of national Woman’s Missionary Union.

Business

Messengers moved quickly through each of the convention’s business sessions, passing each of the various recommendations without any opposition.

The convention’s Resolutions Committee proposed only two resolutions:
– one that recognized and expressed appreciation for the “kindness and hospitality of the people of Clovis ... [and] the diligent work and hospitality of the local churches of Clovis ... that have done so much to bring about a convention characterized by grace, worship, unity.”
– one that encouraged “all Christians to fulfill their God-given responsibility to engage in the public life of the nation ... to become educated about the issues in the upcoming election and vote as God leads them ... [and to] commit to pray for our elected leaders.”
Tar Henderson, pastor of Gila Valley Baptist Church in Gila, was elected to a one-year term as BCNM president, with George Riley, a member of First Baptist Church in Bloomfield, and Jonathan Richard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Estancia, elected first and second vice president, respectively.

There were no other nominations, so the men were elected by acclamation, succeeding the outgoing officers who had completed the limit of two one-year terms in office.

While the 2013 budget approved by messengers will require 0.38 percent less from New Mexico Baptist churches than is needed to meet the convention’s 2012 budget, receipts for the first 10 months of 2012 were trailing the budget requirement by 8 percent.

Next year’s budget will require $3,948,175 in Cooperative Program (CP) receipts from the churches, a reduction of $14,868 from the amount called for in the current budget. The budget includes a 1.5 percent increase in salaries for BCNM employees.

After an estimated $913,967, or 23.1 percent, is deducted for shared ministries from CP contributions, 35 percent of the remaining CP receipts, an estimated $1,061,973, will be forwarded to the SBC for national and international missions and ministry. No increase in the percentage was proposed for next year.

The remaining 65 percent, $1,972,235, along with the amount that had been deducted for shared ministries and additional income of $1,965,597 from various sources – including BCNM camps and children and student conferences, the Baptist New Mexican and the SBC’s North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources – will be used to support a total operating budget of $4,851,799, 7.78 percent more than this year’s budget, for mission work in New Mexico.

Leading worship during the centennial celebration were Southern Praise, a praise group from Rio Rancho; a Centennial Mass Choir of members of churches in eastern New Mexico and members of the New Mexico Singing Churchmen; and a Centennial Praise Team of four New Mexico Baptist music ministers.

The BCNM’s 2013 annual meeting is schedule for Oct. 22-23 at Sandia Baptist Church in Albuquerque.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.)

The full text of the BCNM resolution on voting follows:

Whereas, government is ordained by God to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil (Romans 13:3-5), and
Whereas, God holds all societies accountable to His standard of righteousness (Genesis 6:5-11, 19:12-13; Jonah 1:1-2) and
Whereas, Jesus Christ taught that His disciples are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16), and
Whereas, many Christians that are eligible to vote do not vote regularly, and
Whereas, the United States Constitution has placed our nation’s leadership in the hands of democratically elected officials, be it
Resolved, that the messengers to the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, meeting October 23-24, 2012, in Clovis, New Mexico, encourage all Christians to fulfill their God-given responsibility to engage in the public life of the nation, and be it further
Resolved, that we encourage Christians to become educated about the issues in the upcoming election and vote as God leads them, and be it further
Resolved, that we commit to pray for our elected leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
12/6/2012 3:56:03 PM by John Loudat, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Persecution reflects faith’s authenticity

December 6 2012 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 2-9 with the theme of “BE His heart, His hands, His voice” from Matthew 16:24-25. Each year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists’ 5,000 international missionaries’ initiatives in sharing the gospel. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to www.imb.org/offering.)

NORTHERN AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST – Nik and Ruth Ripken* have served in some of the toughest areas of Africa. They’ve known believers who have been martyred for Christ. They’ve spoken with hundreds of Christians experiencing persecution in more than 70 countries.

After all that, they’ve learned something about persecution.

“The most persecuted person is a lost person who has no access to Jesus,” Nik says. “Satan wants to keep people from hearing about Jesus. If he can’t do that, he wants to shut you up, to silence your witness.” Most American Christians fall into the second category. They experience no persecution because they tell no one about Jesus.
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Nik and Ruth Ripken (names changed), serving tea to a guest, began a long-term effort to understand persecution through their experiences in Africa and the Mideast. Believers have been martyred not just for following Christ but for being openly identified with outside Christian agencies.


Yet persecution of Jesus’ true followers has been normal from New Testament times to the present day. The No. 1 cause – when people come to know Jesus. The key is how to make persecution count for God’s glory, as the early Christians did.

The Ripkens learned that truth the hard way. They served in South Africa and Kenya after sensing a call from God in the early 1980s. They experienced the drama – and trauma – of ministry amid racial apartheid, religious and tribal tensions and other challenges. But nothing prepared them for their next place of service: Somalia. The overwhelmingly Muslim East African nation was wracked by civil war, chaos and danger in the 1990s, as it is today.

Loss and sacrifice

“We fed the hungry. We clothed the naked. We were shot at. We buried a 16-year-old son,” Nik recounts, referencing the death of their son from an asthma attack in Kenya on an Easter Sunday. And they watched helplessly as nearly 150 Muslim-background followers of Christ in Somalia were martyred. Four of their closest friends died on a single, terrible day in 1994.

The horror continued, and the Ripkens and other workers were forced out in 1998. They have not been able to return.

The Ripkens realized that many of these martyrs died not just for following Christ, but for being openly identified with outside Christian agencies. Thus began their long-term effort to understand the nature of persecution and how God works through it. Trying to stop it in every case or “rescue” every believer experiencing it is a misunderstanding of religious freedom, they contend.
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Nik and Ruth Ripken (names changed) visit the grave of their son in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ripkens lost their son, then 16, on an Easter Sunday in Kenya. During this time they saw the love of a Somali friend who walked, hitchhiked and road camel-back across hostile country to attend the funeral.


“We need to pray intelligently, not that persecution will increase, but that the peoples of the earth have access to Jesus – all of them,” Nik explains. “When that happens, persecution is going to be a reality. Sometimes God needs to have Joseph in Pharaoh’s prison for a purpose. Historically and biblically, persecution is normal. In many places today it authenticates the faith. So persecution is not something you run toward or run away from. Persecution just is. It’s what you make of it that counts.”

Now based in Northern Africa and the Middle East, Nik and Ruth specialize in training and research to help the global body of Christ, including International Mission Board (IMB) workers and Southern Baptist churches, understand effective gospel witness and church planting in environments where persecution is the norm.

Among the nations

Everywhere they go in the world, they meet Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others hungry to know about God. “Every time we send a missionary through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we’re saying, ‘We will not stop until every man, woman, boy and girl on earth has access to Jesus,’” Nik says. “Being His heart, His hands and His voice means we’re representing Jesus among all the nations.”

The nations are often much closer than we think. Immigrants arriving in America these days include people who are hard to reach with the gospel in their home countries. Here, they can be reached by crossing the street. But you have to cross the street.

“God is giving us a second chance. He is bringing the nations to us,” Nik says. “But we’re running from the nations in our midst. ... Until we get over our fear, we will not welcome the lost in our midst. [Often] these people are lonely and isolated. Get out of your church. Go to their homes. Invite them to your home. Shop where they shop. We’re in a free country, and yet we’re not exercising our freedom to witness to the nations in our midst.”

Even so, Nik emphasizes, U.S. Christians have the same spiritual freedom in other places – even the most “closed,” repressive nations on earth.

“Satan has deceived us,” he says. “Witnessing is not about freedom. It’s not about being in a free country. Witness is about obedience. Do I have the courage to suffer the consequences of exercising my freedom to share Jesus?”

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is IMB’s global correspondent. A book about the Ripkens, “The Insanity of God,” is their true story of faith persecuted in the midst of war, opposing religions and personal loss. It will be available at major outlets beginning Jan. 1. To learn more about the Ripkens and their ministry, visit nikripken.com. Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and through the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist missionaries around the world share the Gospel. Gifts for the offering are received at Southern Baptist churches across the country or can be made online at www.imb.org/offering where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at www.imb.org/lmcovideo.)

Related story

Persecuted need U.S. help, advocates say
12/6/2012 1:58:39 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Persecuted need U.S. help, advocates say

December 6 2012 by Anne Reiner, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The United States must make the fight against persecution a priority, religious liberty advocates said recently.

“As the Apostle Paul taught the early church to respond to the needs of fellow believers who were being persecuted in Jerusalem, we here in America today have a responsibility to use our influence and our resources to help fellow Christians in need,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC).

Perkins joined five other religious freedom advocates in a webcast on persecution cosponsored by FRC and Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). As host of the webcast, he discussed the persecution of Christians in countries throughout the Middle East, as well as in North Korea, Eretria, China, Nigeria and more than 20 other countries.

The other spokesmen emphasized the need for action from the United States government to help the persecuted.

“I find it difficult to describe it as merely persecution. This is almost extinction,” said Emmanuel Ogebe, a Nigerian Christian attorney.

During the past year, Nigerian churches have suffered 24 suicide bombings, making it the worst year of the past 30 years of persecution, Ogebe said. Christians in Nigeria are not accustomed to such persecution, he said during the Nov. 14 webcast.

“Christians wear their Sunday best to go to church, and it turns out to be their funeral clothing,” he said.

Nigeria has seen little support from the United States government, Ogebe said.

Last Christmas, three cities were bombed by Boko Haram, a militant Islamic organization based in Nigeria. The State Department, however, said in its latest International Religious Freedom Report only one city was bombed, Ogebe said. He believes this further demonstrates the United States' desire not to label the bombings as terrorist attacks. Part of his belief is based on the fact the State Department refuses to label Boko Haram as a terrorist group.

The president and secretary of State must be willing to take action to help prevent the persecution of Christians, said Tom Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs on the Georgetown University campus.

Also, Congress should deal with the issue as a bipartisan body, but while many are willing to agree, few are willing to act, Farr said. “I've been hearing 'amens' for 14 years, but I haven't seen any policies,” Farr said.

The number of Christians in Iran has risen to anywhere between one and three million, said Dr. Hormoz Shariat, founder of Iran Alive Ministries. Meanwhile, the government has begun cracking down on Christians in a way it has not done before, he said.

“The persecution is a result of God working and people responding,” Shariat said during the webcast.

Shariat recounted the story of a 17-year-old boy who was imprisoned for his Christian faith. He was beaten, his leg broken and the fingers on his right hand broken. In addition, his education was expunged, and he was dismissed from his university. Yet, at the end of the teenager's imprisonment, the guard in charge of his torture asked the young man to continue to share the gospel with him so he could become a Christian, Shariat said.

Iranians are eager to hear the gospel of Jesus, because they see so many flaws in their own Islamic faith, Shariat said. The Christian movement in Iran should not be pitied, he said. Christians should be encouraged to take hold of their opportunity to make Iran a new country, he told the audience.

American Christians don't know enough about the persecution of their brothers and sisters abroad, said Todd Nettleton, VOM's director of media development. Some Christians are increasing their awareness of the plight abroad, but many more are still uneducated on the topic, he said.

“There are a lot of Christians who close the last chapter of Acts and think that is where the persecution stopped,” Nettleton said.

Perkins and Nettleton urged Christians throughout America to educate themselves about the persecution of Christians so they would be able to pray effectively. They also urged them to send Bibles and letters for the persecuted and sign petitions calling for the release of imprisoned Christians.

“There are people losing their lives, and we are doing nothing about it,” Perkins said.

In addition to the speakers who were at FRC for the event, Sen. David Vitter, R.-La., also spoke by video.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Anne Reiner was an intern this fall with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.)

Related story

Persecution reflects faith’s authenticity
12/6/2012 1:49:37 PM by Anne Reiner, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Fiscal cliff imperils adoption tax credit

December 6 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – With Congress embroiled in debate over the so-called fiscal cliff, many in the adoption community are concerned the adoption tax credit set to expire at year’s end could be forgotten, even though immediate action is needed.
 
The tax credit that provided last year a maximum of $13,360 to each adoptive family has helped countless low- and middle-income families afford the costly endeavor. Unlike a tax deduction, which only reduces taxable income, a tax credit actually reduces a person’s tax liability.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D.-La., introduced in September the Making Adoption Affordable Act, which would permanently establish the tax credit and make it “refundable,” allowing adoptive families to receive a refund “in excess of their tax liability,” according to a release from the senator’s office. The bill is HB 4373 in the House and SB 3616 in the Senate.
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“Throughout this year we’ve always been told by the legislators that this bill would be taken up after the election,” Bill J. Blacquiere, president of nationwide adoption agency Bethany Christian Services told Baptist Press. “Well, now it is after the election ...”

Blacquiere remains optimistic the adoption tax credit will be extended by year’s end but also acknowledges “with all the debate going on regarding the fiscal cliff, [the adoption tax credit bill] has sort of been stalled in that process.”

Under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules, an adoptive family can claim adoption expenses – court costs and adoption agency fees, among others – up to the maximum amount allowed under the credit. This means if an adoptive family owes $13,000 in federal taxes, for instance, and their adoption costs $13,000, they would owe no taxes that year, likely resulting in a large IRS refund. Landrieu’s bill would provide up to $13,170 for covered adoption expenses, adjusted for inflation. She is the parent of two adopted children.

“The costs associated with adoption can quickly grow, particularly when a child has special needs, and this credit helps families who otherwise might not be able to afford it maintain their economic security as they begin raising their children,” Landrieu said in September.

Blacquiere fears that without the tax credit, there will be fewer adoptions.

“People would just simply say, ‘I can’t afford this cost,’ and they would back out of it,” Blacquiere said.

The 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents showed that only one-fourth of those who adopt children from foster care have incomes greater than $87,000, according to Kathleen Strottman, executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Strottman quoted the statistic in a Washington Times article.

The government has an interest in supporting adoptions through the tax credit, Blacquiere added.

“We in the United States have about 114,000 children that are in foster care, are permanent wards of the state – meaning they have no parents and are waiting to be adopted,” Blacquiere said. “And there are many families who are willing to adopt these children but do not have the financial resources to do so. The adoption tax credit empowers them to adopt these children. To get these children adopted, we need the adoption tax credit. The government is paying foster care costs for these children while they’re waiting for a home. And if they get into an adoptive home, those costs get reduced to the government.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
12/6/2012 1:40:04 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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