December 2013

Gay marriage now legal in 1/3 of states

December 27 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Same-sex marriage has gained legal standing in more than one-third of America's 50 states.
The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday (Dec. 19) gay marriage is constitutional in the state, bringing to 17 the number of states that have legalized such unions. In addition, the District of Columbia has approved same-sex marriage.
The legal victory by same-sex marriage advocates added to their successes in an unprecedented year for the movement. In 2013, marriage between people of the same sex has become legal in eight states, the most of any year so far.
The New Mexico decision produced another setback for defenders of the biblical and traditional view of marriage as between a man and a woman. It came less than a week after a federal judge in Utah essentially decriminalized polygamy and about a month after two states, Hawaii and Illinois, legalized gay marriage.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore, one of biblical marriage's defenders, responded to Thursday's ruling by acknowledging the trend and encouraging his allies.
"It seems that every week there comes a new development on the marriage debate, and New Mexico is the latest," said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in a statement for Baptist Press. "We should steel our resolve to articulate a biblical vision of marriage, to love our neighbors who disagree with us and to fight and contend for God's purpose for marriage, the family and for religious liberty in these changing times."
The battle over what constitutes legal marriage will continue elsewhere in the country. The issue is in the courts in several states, and gay marriage advocates are seeking electoral or legislative victories in others. Through 2016, the Human Rights Campaign -- the country's largest political organization promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights -- has targeted Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Oregon at the ballot box or in the legislature.
The 17 states that have legalized same-sex marriage generally are located in three sections of the country, plus Hawaii: The Northeast (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont); Midwest (Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota); and West (California, New Mexico and Washington).
Before Hawaii, Illinois and New Mexico, same-sex marriage also became legal during 2013 in California, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Gay marriage proponents recognized the significance of the latest victory, as well as the others that have preceded it in recent years.
"The past few years have seen an amazing show of support for the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples," said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. The ACLU represented same-sex couples in the New Mexico case. "Today's victory in New Mexico brings us one step closer to the day when marriage equality is a reality nationwide."
In November, Fred Sainz, HRC's vice president of communications and marketing, told supporters in an email, "LGBT equality advanced more in 2013 than in any other year and at a pace never before seen."
Meanwhile, Andrew Walker, the ERLC's director of policy studies and another defender of biblical marriage, said after Hawaii and Illinois legalized gay unions, "No one denies that the wind is to the backs of the marriage revisionist movement, and this will likely continue for some time.... ome knees may buckle if cultural fame is what you're striving after, but what matters right now -- as it has for all times -- is that Christians bear witness to the truth, despite uncomfortable circumstances."
The New Mexico high court's ruling came in response to a division among counties in the state on the issue. Eight counties had been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, some in response to orders from judges, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The state's remaining 25 counties had not been issuing licenses to gay couples.
In its opinion, the justices said barring same-sex couples from being married violated equal protection rights under the state constitution.
"Prohibiting same-gender marriages is not substantially related to the governmental interests advanced by the parties opposing same-gender marriage or to the purposes we have identified," the state Supreme Court said. "Therefore, barring individuals from marrying and depriving them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of civil marriage solely because of their sexual orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause ."
Among the governmental interests promoted by those opposed to legalizing gay marriage but rejected by the justices were "responsible procreation and child-rearing." The court said, "Procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law, as evidenced by the fact that the aged, the infertile, and those who choose not to have children are not precluded from marrying."
Instead, the court ruled, "It is the marriage partners' exclusive and permanent commitment to one another and the State's interest in their stable relationship that are indispensable requisites of a civil marriage."
Jim Campbell, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said the government's intent in "recognizing marriage is to bring together one man and one woman as husband and wife to be a father and a mother to any children their union produces."
"The New Mexico Supreme Court ignored that time-tested understanding of marriage and replaced it with the recently conceived notion that marriage means special government recognition for close relationships," Campbell said in a written release. "This unfortunate result prevents New Mexicans from deciding the future of marriage -- its very definition as well as its role in society -- through an inclusive democratic process. Regrettably, the court constitutionalized a view of marriage previously unknown in the Land of Enchantment and never chosen by the people."
An effort will be made in the state legislature to bring the issue to voters as a constitutional amendment.
Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, expressed her disapproval of the matter being decided by the high court.
“I'm confident that most New Mexicans believe, like I do, that it should have been settled by a vote of the people," Martinez said, according to the Journal. "Instead, the Supreme Court stepped in and rendered their decision. While there will surely be intense debate about this decision moving forward, I encourage New Mexicans to continue to respect one another on their discourse, as this is an important issue for many New Mexicans on both sides."
The New Mexico high court's ruling came as no surprise. In August, it rejected the religious free exercise arguments of Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin, a Christian couple who operate a photography business. The justices ruled the Huguenins violated the state's ban on sexual orientation discrimination by refusing to photograph a same-sex ceremony.
That decision demonstrated one of the byproducts of the growing legalization of gay marriage: The loss of freedom to exercise religious beliefs by citizens who believe marriage is only between a man and a woman. Photographers, bakers and others who have refused to participate in same-sex ceremonies because of their Christian convictions have lost in court or suffered financially despite their appeals to the right to exercise their religion.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Art Toalston contributed to this report.).
12/27/2013 12:12:21 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

GuideStone injunction blocks abortion mandate

December 23 2013 by Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press

OKLAHOMA CITY – Federal District Judge Timothy DeGiusti issued a preliminary injunction Dec. 20 against the federal government’s mandate that requires employers, including many religiously affiliated ones, to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices.
Although churches and closely related ministries are exempt from the mandate, many Christian universities, children’s homes and other ministries were not exempted, and instead were in danger of being forced to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices through a poorly conceived “accommodation” or incur crippling penalties.
DeGiusti’s ruling means organizations that use GuideStone’s health care plans, now or in the future, will be protected from participating in providing abortion-causing drugs for the foreseeable future. A trial date to make a final decision has not yet been set.
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, said the ruling by the Oklahoma City federal judge “reflects common-sense legal principles, respects the rights of religious institutions to provide benefits consistent with their convictions, and provides needed relief from the government’s attempt to co-opt ministry health plans.”
“We appreciate Judge DeGiusti’s timely protection of religious liberty and give thanks to God for this victory and for the many thousands who have made this a matter of prayer,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins noted that the injunction only concerns abortion-inducing drugs and devices, not other contraceptives.
“While our Catholic friends oppose contraceptive in most every form – a belief that they should be free to exercise under the First Amendment – our plans reflect the convictions of most Southern Baptists and evangelicals that the use of contraceptives is a matter of personal conscience,” Hawkins said. “Our plans will continue to provide coverage for the vast majority of FDA-approved drugs that do not cause abortions.”
Russell D. Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the injunction is a “first step toward a historic win for religious liberty.”
“A government that can coerce the conscience is a government that had overstepped its God-appointed bounds,” Moore said. “We are thankful for Guidestone and the gospel grit of President O.S. Hawkins. We’re still early in this fight but this is good news.”
The ruling also encompasses Truett-McConnell College, a Georgia Baptist Convention-affiliated school, and Reaching Souls International, an Oklahoma-based missions organization.
“We are pleased to see that Judge DeGiusti, along with many other courts, is recognizing these mandates go too far,” said Emir Caner, Truett-McConnell’s president. “We join with our partners in ministry at Reaching Souls and GuideStone in celebrating this ruling and praising the Lord for this outcome.”
Dustin Manis, CEO of Reaching Souls International, said the ruling “protects our ministry from this offensive, objectionable and onerous requirement. We pray this injunction will lead to an eventual full repeal of the abortion-drug mandate and continued protections for religious organizations under the First Amendment.”
This case is one of nearly 90 lawsuits brought against the abortion-drug mandate. Hawkins said Christians should continue to pray for these cases as they wind through the courts.
The Dallas law firm Locke Lord LLP filed the lawsuit in conjunction with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The case is GuideStone v. Sebelius. Kathleen Sebelius is the HHS secretary.
“Whether the cases relate to family businesses like Hobby Lobby or for nonprofit ministries like GuideStone, the religious freedom concerns cannot be overstated,” Hawkins said. “It’s time for Christians to stay informed, get involved and pray for wisdom for all in authority.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is department head of denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
12/23/2013 3:43:23 PM by Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Asian Nativity set maker learns the real story

December 20 2013 by Evelyn Adamson, Baptist Press

Summer Cole* steps out of a wooden long-tail boat and walks along a narrow path at a lakeside village in Southeast Asia. Straw lays scattered across damp soil while an unmistakable scent wafts through the morning haze. The scent, akin to a barnyard, rises from the large quantities of pottery produced at the village, often sold in tourist markets on the opposite end of the lake.
Behind Cole, Mo Kham* jumps out of the boat and runs to catch up. Cole, an International Mission Board (IMB) worker, and Kham, a national believer, step carefully through a maze of broken clay pots, scurrying chickens and bleating goats, en route to the home of potter Thant Lin* in the village populated by the region’s Tai people group.
Lin serves a cup of tea to Cole and Kham and then places tiny figures on a low-lying table in the center of the dwelling. 
The fragile clay pieces, when assembled in a cluster, depict Christ’s birth.
The tiny figures have brought Cole, who is raising four boys with her husband, in contact with Lin and his family. She visits Lin’s home a couple of times a year and helps to develop his business while sharing the gospel.

First visit


IMB photo by Kelvin Joseph
Thant Lin* and his sister prepare pots holding their ceramic nativity scene figures before being fired in a kiln. *Name changed

Cole, setting down her tea, recounts the excitement of discovering nativity sets in one of the local markets 10 years ago. “I was amazed that in a staunchly Buddhist country, there was this little nativity set, and I wanted to find out more. So I went and found what village they come from.”
During a subsequent trip to a nearby town, Cole ventured to the village to find the Lin family, who invited her in for a visit. She learned that the potter had started making the nativity figures on the recommendation of a French resort owner’s wife who had taken note of how many tourists stopped to look at the nativity her husband had received from a priest in France.
I realized they did not know much about the figures they were making,” Cole said, “so I made a plan to come back.”
Cole’s return to Lin’s village required a one-hour plane ride, one-hour taxi ride and two-hour boat ride. She brought a children’s Bible so the family could look at the pictures as she shared the Christmas story.
Though they listened carefully, Lin and his family did not fully understand the heart of the message, having never heard the gospel before.
“This is something that they’ll probably have to hear many times to begin to catch the significance of it and understand why I would be so interested in these [nativity sets],” Cole said.

Crafting and learning

Ten years later in the village, Cole and Kham ask Lin how his family is doing. Before responding, he picks up a wise man and coats the hardened clay with a hand-mixed deep maroon.
Lightly brushing details into the crown of the wise man, Lin finally tells them everyone is healthy, his eyes never leaving the terra cotta figure.
“After I heard the story, I want to bring honor to it. It gives me great honor to be a part of telling this story,” Lin said.
He gingerly sets the piece on a tray and goes outside to prepare a new ball of clay for the next set of figures.
Finishing the new ball, he walks back into the house and retrieves several molds he carved by hand. Cole and Kham ask if he remembers what each piece signifies and he nods. 
“I believe this story is true,” Lin said.
He quickly selects a portion of clay and presses the mold together, creating a replica of Mary.
While doing so, Kham leans forward, talking once more about the significance of Mary in the Christmas story. While believing the story is true, Lin and his family have yet to accept Christ. 
Molding complete, Lin slowly carries the tray of pieces to a corner of the living room, leaving them to dry. Once dry, the pieces are fired in a kiln and painted to match the other figures.
Cole says this is the first time she has seen the process from start to finish.
Observing Lin as he places the pieces into firing pots, Cole notes how involved he is in every step.
Looking upward she notes how God is involved in every step of bringing this village to Himself.
“I see God’s hand at work [here]. I can only point to God’s divine planning,” she said. 
Cole visits the family two to three times a year, sharing Bible stories when she comes, confident God is working His redemptive plan in this village.
“The story is not [finished], the vision not achieved, but there is definitely a door opening wider,” she said.

Kham, in her second visit to the village, feels God calling her to minister more intently with Lin. Gazing over the village, she said, “I felt something the first time I came here. This time, I have asked God to give me this village. I feel God has a plan here.”
*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evelyn Adamson is a writer working in Southeast Asia. View video at The “Totally His heart, hands, voice” theme for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (LMCO) is from Matthew 22:36-39. The LMCO, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, support nearly 5,000 international missionaries in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the LMCO are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $175 million.)
12/20/2013 1:46:04 PM by Evelyn Adamson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Volunteers share coats, tell of God’s love

December 20 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

About 12 miles north of Manhattan in Yonkers nearly 200 people came out on a cold, snowy day to receive a free coat. To the south of Yonkers in Queens, in the Ridgewood community, many Romanians received a free coat.
In Woodside, a predominantly Hispanic area with a good representation of Asians and Eastern Europeans, a woman named Luce came by the coat distribution and shared her personal struggles. And in Astoria, which is only four square miles but home to 220,000 people, volunteer Jessica Lohman met a woman early in the day who asked lots of questions.
“She just wanted to tell me her story,” Lohman said. “She has experienced a lot of heartache.”

BSC photo
Volunteers braved the chilly temperatures in New York to minister at 14 different sites. More than 5,000 coats were distributed, and connections were made with local churches.

On Saturday, Dec. 14, at 14 distribution sites throughout Queens and New York City, local church members and 100 North Carolina Baptist volunteers heard the same question repeated all day: “Why are you doing this?”
During the “Coats for the City” outreach, volunteers all over the city shared hot chocolate, coffee and distributed more than 5,000 coats. Volunteers also shared the gospel and made connections with people in the community. The event was hosted in partnership with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), Metropolitan New York Baptist Association and Global Gates.
Coats for the City was birthed three years ago when Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gastonia began a partnership with House of Worship in Queens and church planter Boto Joseph. Bethlehem pastor Dickie Spargo met Joseph during a vision tour with the BSC Office of Great Commission Partnerships and wanted to help him reach the diverse Jackson Heights community.
This year additional coat distribution sites resulted in a more widespread impact. People received a coat and also a Bible or a copy of the Jesus film in their language.
The day before Coats for the City, North Carolina volunteers helped churches pass out flyers and also participated in evangelism training.
Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships, challenged volunteers to use outreach efforts such as Coats for the City to not only meet a physical need, but a spiritual need as well.
Your presence here is a display of your faith,” he said. “But don’t just stop meeting a need for the body. This is a platform to meet the deepest need of the human heart – a spiritual need. You have a wonderful story to tell; be bold with your witness of the gospel.”
Sharing the gospel is a priority for Lohman and her husband, who joined a team of five churches from South Roanoke Baptist Association to serve with Coats for the City. Association leaders asked church members to use Coats for the City as an opportunity to seek and pray about developing long-term partnerships with New York City church planters.
Lohman, a member of First Baptist Church in Washington, appreciated the opportunity for parents to be on mission together with their children.
“We want to get them involved in missions,” she said. “We have a burden to see people saved.”
Lohman and other members of the South Roanoke team served alongside Connection Church in Astoria, which National Geographic’s “Genographic Project” identified as one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the world. It is also home to the third largest Greek speaking population in the world.
We want to show God’s love in small, practical ways. Coats for the City is one way we can do that,” said community pastor Larry Mayberry. “It falls in line with our goal to ‘LoveLoud’ and help make our community a better place to live.”
Although Connection only recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, the church is already praying about planting a church in 2015.
Winter Archibald moved to New York about four months ago to serve as an intern with Connection Church. Archibald is from North Carolina and spent about a month this summer in New York helping lead mission teams from North Carolina. During her last week in New York she worked with Connection Church and felt God calling her to move to Astoria.
“Connection Church wants to meet the needs of the community. When we do that, people are curious and they ask why,” she said. “They see us doing this not separately, but with them.”
Connection Church involved local businesses in Coats for the City. For example, the church posted flyers about the event in a local coffee shop and paid for people to have a free cup of coffee when they donated a coat.
Coats for the City helped Connection Church members and North Carolina Baptists demonstrate God’s love to people in Astoria and begin building relationships.
In Ridgewood, Donna Fox and a team of ladies from Sandy Ridge Baptist Church in Hickory served alongside church planter Nathan Creitz.
“We prayed for 30 days before we came for God to put people in front of us,” she said. “On Saturday, we were able to see what God wanted us to do.”
Fox has been to New York about six times, one of those times in August 2012 when she and her husband participated in a vision tour through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships. They spent a day meeting church planters throughout Brooklyn while their music minister spent the day with Creitz in Queens.
Through Coats for the City, the team and Creitz connected with people like Maria, who has five children and no way to provide them with Christmas gifts. Maria not only received a coat, but the team also purchased toys from a local toy store for her children.
Fox said the team is praying about how their church can establish a partnership in New York.
“New York is already in the hearts of the other ladies.”
To learn more about how your church can get involved in partnerships in New York, visit
12/20/2013 1:31:50 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Baptist Children’s Homes helps Nicole break grasp of past

December 20 2013 by Jim Edminson, BCH Communications

Christmas time can be the best time ever, especially when you are surrounded by people who love you, when you feel safe and when you have a new relationship with Jesus.
I like getting presents,” 15-year-old Nicole said. “But this Christmas, I see the importance of Jesus’ birth. I’m truly ready to celebrate this year. It will be the best ever.”
It’s hard to imagine that only five months ago Nicole was standing before a judge and facing a probationary sentence. The petite, raven-haired teen’s life had been turned upside down. Her single father moved them to a new town because of a job transfer. The two settled into their community, and Nicole began attending a new school. Then life spiraled downward for her. “I’d never moved before and it was kind of scary,” Nicole said.

BCH photo
Nicole has always liked getting Christmas presents but the holiday this year has taken on a special meaning; for the first time she understands Jesus’ birth.

“It was a new start and I had begun to look forward to it, but I wasn’t treated the way I had hoped.”
More and more children and teens are facing cruel bullying. Nicole was added to the statistics. People who she never would have expected began making school a nightmare.
“I’ve been pushed down stairs and against walls,” she said solemnly. “These were kids that everyone thought were great – cheerleaders and straight-A kids. It became a bad place for me.”
At what seemed like the lowest point for Nicole, a group of students reached out to her. They welcomed her into their circle.
They began by telling her that they were her friends and that they would treat her differently than the other kids who were making her life miserable. Nicole felt hopeful.
Gangs and drugs had never touched her life. In her hometown, these things had never raised their ugly heads. Before Nicole could recognize what was happening, she was trapped in a horrifying place.
“I knew what I was doing was wrong and that I’d get into trouble, but I was going to do it because of the people I was with,” she said.
They began to manipulate her, and she began to think what was good was bad and what was bad was good.
“I was thinking everything I did bad was the right thing, but I was wrong,” she said. “I see now how fast I messed up.”
And then what Nicole treasured most was about to be crushed. Her new friends told her that her relationship with her father was a lie. He was against her and she needed to break ties.
“I found myself fighting with my dad all the time,” she said. “I wrecked our relationship. At that time, I just didn’t care about him or anything. I only thought about what my friends wanted.”
It took the strong arm of the law to break the grasp the gang had on her life. After a dark night incarcerated, she came to Baptist Children’s Homes.
“I never imagined it would be so beautiful. Everyone welcomed me with open arms. They made me feel like it was not just a job for them – they do what they do for all the kids.”
Nicole still fears her friends – the gang that hurt her and her father. But life is different. There are people around her who protect her and make her feel safe.
She is working hard to regain the trust and respect of her dad.
She looks forward to daily devotions in the cottage and asks lots of questions as her faith grows.
“I’m a better person because of all this,” she said. “I’m becoming what God wants me to be.”
You can help make hope possible for children like Nicole by making a gift to Baptist Children’s Homes. Please give online at to help immediately.
12/20/2013 11:31:05 AM by Jim Edminson, BCH Communications | with 0 comments

New Ph.D. areas offered at SEBTS

December 20 2013 by Ali Dixon, SEBTS Communications

In the fall 2015, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C. will begin six new areas of study in its Ph.D. program. The degree maintains the standard of highest academic rigor, with affordable tuition rates and flexible schedule options.
Bruce Ashford, provost of Southeastern, said, “We are excited to announce six new modified residency Ph.D. areas of study, including apologetics and culture, theology and worship, systematic theology, historical theology, philosophy of religion and Christian leadership.”
These additional areas of study will offer specialization in a specific academic discipline. Pastors and professors will be equipped to engage the current culture with the truth claims of Christ. The new programs will enable students to teach sound Christian doctrine in the Church and in the academy. Practical teaching and understanding of worship leadership will be provided as well.
Furthermore, other areas of study will focus on the ability to assess and critique philosophical thought from a Christian foundation, discern truth in a pluralistic world, advance understanding and practice of historical theology and develop the heart and mind of the leader. 
“In our Ph.D. program, students may remain in their current vocation or place of ministry,” Ashford shared. “They will make four to six trips to the seminary campus over the course of two to three years to meet residency requirements. Under this model, they are able to complete the Ph.D. within four to six years total.”
The new areas of study are built around accessibility and convenience for the participants, as well as careful curriculum design. “One of the attractive aspects of the new Ph.D. tracks is their inclusion of sequenced seminars, such that the student’s seminars build logically upon seminars previously completed,” Ashford added.
Chuck Lawless, dean of graduate students at SEBTS said, “I am excited about these new opportunities for doctoral study. Not only will we offer the highest level of academic rigor, but also offer these studies to students who remain in their place of ministry. That combination – deep study with practical relevance – is what seminary ought to be.”  
Heath Thomas, the director of Ph.D. studies said, “These new areas of study add to an already exciting and growing program. We believe they will enhance the top-shelf post-graduate education at SEBTS. We invite qualified students to make application so that together we can work to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and fulfill the Great Commission.”
Applications are reviewed for annual admission, and the admission process is competitive. For more details, please contact the office of Ph.D. Studies at SEBTS by phone: 1-800-284-6317, email (, or visit the SEBTS website
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ali Dixon is Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s information and news specialist.)
12/20/2013 11:16:04 AM by Ali Dixon, SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Hundreds enter ministry through his influence

December 20 2013 by David Roach, Baptist Press

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – At age 15, Ronnie Hicks visited Glendale Baptist Church for the first time. As Hicks walked out the door, pastor Richard Oldham sensed God telling him, “I want to use this young man.” So Oldham told Hicks that God’s hand was on him.
Hicks didn’t know what to make of the pastor’s words that day in Bowling Green, Ky. But three years later he felt God calling him to preach and committed his life to vocational ministry, with Oldham serving as his mentor through college at Bowling Green’s Western Kentucky University. Forty years later, Hicks retired from a career of serving as pastor of Southern Baptist churches and it was clear that Oldham’s sense of God’s will had been correct.
Hicks is not alone in that experience. During Oldham’s 56 years as pastor of Glendale, more than 250 young people have surrendered their lives to fulltime Christian service – with their pastor mentoring them all. Often he helped them recognize their callings by saying, “God’s hand is on you.”
Today, Oldham’s protégés, who call themselves “Swordsmen,” occupy pulpits across the Southern Baptist Convention and have served as state convention presidents, SBC Executive Committee members, trustees of SBC entities and leaders in many other capacities. For more than 50 years, the Swordsmen gathered each summer in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting.
“His legacy is not a megachurch,” said Mike Routt, a Swordsman who pastors Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and is the SBC Executive Committee current vice chairman. “But more than 250 people have surrendered to ministry under his leadership. If all of those 250 people and their families were back at Glendale, he would have one of the largest churches in America. But his legacy is not there at Glendale Baptist Church. His legacy is at churches and preaching points across America and around the world.”

Photo by Fredda Mansfield
Richard Oldham, pastor of Glendale Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., for 56-plus years, addresses a special service in his honor in November.


Nurturing the young

Oldham was called to Glendale on July 21, 1957. Initially he told the pastor search committee he wasn’t interested. But they called a second time and said the church was in a business session and would not adjourn until he agreed to pray further about coming. That prayer led to a move from Lansing, Mich., where he was pastoring, to western Kentucky.
Five decades later, at age 83, Oldham hasn’t felt God call him into retirement. Though he has difficulty breathing because of a lung condition called pulmonary thrombosis, he still preaches, performs funerals and makes hospital visits as he is able – and of course spends time with college and high school students.
In the past two years, four new Swordsmen have surrendered to vocational ministry.
“I met with some [young people] last night until 11 o’clock,” Oldham told Baptist Press in an interview earlier this year.
From day one at Glendale, he felt called to spend much of his time with younger people in the church. Often he can be found in a local restaurant surrounded by an entire section of students, and on Sunday nights he produces a local radio program called “Teentime” on which his young disciples preach, sing and give their testimonies. In 51 years of Teentime, Oldham has never preached on the program himself.
“One time in a deacons meeting one of our deacons brought up that the pastor is spending too much time with young people,” Oldham said. “And he thought the deacons ought to correct me. I had to say to them, ‘Men, if you don’t want your pastor to spend time with young people, you need to get a different pastor because God’s called me to do that.’”
Asked how the deacons reacted, Oldham replied, “They didn’t fire me.”
As he spends time with young men and women, Oldham says a key to guiding so many into ministry is exposing them to outstanding preachers. For previous generations, that meant hosting at Glendale men like Vance Havner, R.G. Lee, J. Harold Smith, Angel Martinez, Jerry Falwell and W.A. Criswell. Lee, longtime pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., preached his famous sermon “Payday Someday” five times at Glendale, with people saved each time.
More recently Oldham has hosted SBC leaders like R. Albert Mohler Jr., Hershael York and Richard Land.
“When these men come, I get our young people to spend time with them,” Oldham said. “They go out and eat with them. I purposely had these men come to expose our young people to greatness.”

Gift of singleness

A unique facet of Oldham’s ministry is his lifelong singleness. He had girlfriends early in life and was even engaged once. But shortly after arriving at Glendale, he realized the ministry to which God had called him was too time-consuming to take on a wife and children.
“The Lord seemed to say, ‘It’s OK. I’ll take care of you,’” he said of his singleness. “And He has.”
Though a few young women vied for his attention over the years, Oldham has always held himself to a strict code of conduct with women and never faced any accusations of impropriety.
Once, a woman he had counseled in the church office called at 2 a.m., insisting that she needed to see him immediately. He told her she was not welcome at his house at that hour and that he would call the police if she came. She was welcome, however, to schedule an appointment at the church office the next day, he said. She never came to the office.
“I’ve tried my best to walk circumspectly and not give opportunity for questions,” he said.
He only allows women to ride in his car in emergencies, and then only in the backseat. He also tries to have someone else present when he counsels a woman.


During his ministry Oldham has baptized more than 6,000 people. Many of them went on to be Swordsmen.
“If you only knew some of the students who came to Western Kentucky University without Christ and left to go to seminary, the pulpits of America and the mission fields of the world,” said Hollie Miller, a Swordsman, former Tennessee Baptist Convention president and pastor of Sevier Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville. “Truly amazing.”
Routt is among those won to Christ under Oldham. As a freshman at Western Kentucky, “God was very far from my thoughts,” Routt said. But he began attending Glendale and fell under conviction from the Holy Spirit through Oldham’s preaching and the personal witness of Oldham’s nephew Roger “Sing” Oldham, another Swordsman who serves today as vice president for convention communications and relations at the SBC Executive Committee.
The very night that I became a Christian was the night that I surrendered to fulltime vocational ministry,” Routt said. “... On that night my freshman year at Western I walked the aisle and gave my life to Christ and surrendered to vocational ministry.”
Bill Ricketts, a Swordsman, former Georgia Baptist Convention president and pastor of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Bogart, Ga., said he still uses witnessing methods he learned from Oldham.
“The first time I ever learned about sharing the Gospel was with Richard Oldham, and he taught me the old Romans Road,” Ricketts said of the Gospel presentation drawn from the New Testament’s Book of Romans. “I still use that from time to time to share the Gospel with people. So even to this day there are things that he taught me that I value, that I treasure.”

Dark times

Naturally, 56 years of ministry have brought difficult moments. One of the most dramatic occurred in the early 1990s when during a sermon Oldham realized that the choir behind him was leaving. Soon the congregation began leaving too and he heard a voice from the balcony: “Don’t move. It’s just going to take one shot.”
A gunman was perched in the balcony with his weapon aimed at Oldham. Because of sunlight shining through a stained glass window, Oldham couldn’t see the man. But he responded, “Whoever you are, you’re not going to take a shot. This is God’s house. Let’s pray.” Oldham began to pray and a deacon talked the man into surrendering his gun before the police arrived.
Other difficult times came when beloved staff members died or moved to new ministry assignments.
“We’ve had outstanding people that were with us,” he said. “When they left, it broke my heart.”

A vast network

Yet the difficult times pale in comparison to God’s blessings over the decades, Oldham says, including service as Kentucky Baptist Convention pastors’ conference president and preacher of the KBC convention sermon several times. One of the greatest blessings, though, is seeing God use his Swordsmen, Oldham said.
“I really cannot imagine anyone, other than my parents, who has influenced my life for Christ as much as Richard Oldham,” Miller said. “I came to Glendale Baptist Church as a college freshman and my life has never been the same. Bro. Richard is a powerful preacher, an amazing mentor and the most passionate personal witness I’ve ever known.”
As Ricketts traveled in Central America earlier this year, he was reminded how far Oldham’s influence extends. At an orphanage in rural Honduras, he noticed a Western Kentucky University mug on a table. When he asked about it, the orphanage director’s wife said that’s where her husband attended college. Ricketts mentioned Oldham and learned the director had been saved and baptized under Oldham’s ministry.
“I thought to myself ..., ‘Could we ever know the extent of this man’s ministry?’” Ricketts said. “I just marvel at it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky.)
12/20/2013 10:58:34 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Moore: 'Duck Dynasty' suspension, cultural fundamentalism

December 20 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – The A&E network's suspension of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson for comments regarding homosexuality constitutes a form of close-minded muzzling that is unhelpful in a pluralistic society, lead Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore said.

The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission reacted to A&E's Wednesday (Dec. 18) announcement that it had suspended Robertson indefinitely for comments he made in an interview with GQ magazine. The network's statement seemed to indicate the action was taken because of his description of homosexual behavior as sinful.

In the GQ article, Robertson said in response to writer Drew Magary's question about what is sinful, “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”


Christmas cards with Phil Robertson are among an array of “Duck Dynasty” products sold nationwide. Robertson has recently been criticized for comments he made in a GQ interview about homosexuality. A&E suspended the patriarch of the Robertson family for his comments.

The article says Robertson continued by paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6: “Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers – they won't inherit the Kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right.”

In announcing the suspension, A&E said in a statement, according to Advertising Age, “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty. His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

In a Wednesday appearance on CNN, Moore said proposing that people “who hold to what every branch of the Christian faith has held to for 2,000 years are somehow bigoted or hateful is not productive for speech.”

Addressing A&E's action in a blog post the same day, Moore said it is “the sort of censorious cultural fundamentalism that is neither 'progressive' nor 'pluralistic.'”

Some of Robertson's anatomical language in the GQ article was “ill-advised and crude,” Moore wrote, but the comments “that seem most offensive to people are his moral assessments of sex outside of conjugal marriage. ... As Christians, we believe that Jesus is Lord over sexuality, and he says that sexuality is expressed rightly only in the marriage of a man and a woman. That's not new.

“We're a divided country on sexual issues,” Moore said in the blog post. “That's why every news cycle brings more controversy.

“Let's have the sort of cultural conversation that allows us to seek to persuade each other, not to seek to silence one another with intimidation,” Moore wrote. “That's what real diversity is all about.”

Moore's blog post on the controversy quickly became popular. Posted at 8:30 p.m. CST Wednesday, it had recorded 215,000 page views and been shared on Facebook 22,000 times by noon Thursday.

Robertson released a statement through A&E Wednesday, saying, “I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Duck Dynasty is a highly successful reality show for A&E, breaking the record for the largest audience for a non-fiction cable television program when August's season premiere drew 11.8 million viewers. It features Robertson and his family as well as their hugely profitable business, Duck Commander, which makes duck calls and other products in West Monroe, La.

LGBT rights organizations criticized Robertson's comments when the GQ article, which is in the January 2014 issue, was released online.

Wilson Cruz, an actor and spokesman for GLAAD, called for A&E to condemn Robertson's comments. “The world is changing. The country's changing. And even the state in which Mr. Robertson lives is changing. And he needs to get in line,” Cruz told CNN Wednesday.

GLAAD also described Robertson's comment about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior as “far outside of the mainstream understanding of LGBT people.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the incident serves as a warning to evangelical Christians.

Though evangelicals probably will have concerns about the graphic nature of some of Robertson's comments and his decision to cooperate with GQ, Mohler wrote in a Thursday blog post, “[T]he fact remains that it is the moral judgment he asserted, not the manner of his assertion, that caused such an uproar. A quick look at the protests from gay activist groups like GLAAD will confirm that judgment.

“So the controversy over Duck Dynasty sends a clear signal to anyone who has anything to risk in public life: Say nothing about the sinfulness of homosexual acts or risk sure and certain destruction by the revolutionaries of the new morality. You have been warned,” Mohler said.

Robertson has shared the testimony of his conversion to Christ widely, and he and other family members speak regularly at churches and Christian conferences. The TV episodes typically close with a prayer as family members and friends gather around a table for a meal.

Robertson's faith and evangelism are reflected in the GQ article. Magary reports Robertson telling him:

“If you simply put your faith in Jesus coming down in flesh, through a human being, God becoming flesh living on the earth, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, being buried, and being raised from the dead – yours and mine and everybody else's problems will be solved. And the next time we see you, we will say: 'You are now a brother. Our brother.' So then we look at you totally different then. See what I'm saying?”

In a testimony for “I Am Second” videos, Robertson explains what happened when a man explained the gospel of Christ to him when he was a young father whose life was mired in alcohol, drugs and adultery:

“So when he went through Jesus coming down in flesh through a little virgin girl, Mary, dying on a cross, being buried and raised from the dead, I'm like, 'How in the world did I ever miss that?' I had missed it.

“I was blown away when I heard that Jesus died for me, was buried and raised from the dead – something so, it is simple, but profound, that happened back there almost 2,000 years ago. I had never heard it.”

Robertson and others in the family are members of White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe. Robertson and his son Alan are elders at the church.

Duck Dynasty has resulted in a marketing bonanza featuring best-selling books, a Christmas CD and other merchandise. LifeWay Christian Stores, like many retailers, carries the books, Christmas CD and selected posters and apparel.

In other comments:
  • Evan Lenow, chair of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's ethics department, said Robertson's suspension will be a test for the rest of the family, who began the show with “three no-compromises” – “faith, betrayal of family members, and duck season.”
“The first two are now on the line for the Robertsons,” Lenow wrote in a post at the seminary's blog, “The patriarch of the family has essentially been fired from the show for expressing his religious views. The rest of the men, including Duck Commander president Willie Robertson (one of Phil's sons), are about to have their allegiance to family tested. Do they go on without Phil or stand by him? ... I think they only have one option – walk out on the show. Sure, the show could go on without Phil, but the family couldn't. Either Phil is a part of the show or no one is on the show. That is the only option.”
  • Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project of LifeWay Christian Resources, wrote at his blog, “Nowadays, Christians are the cultural heretics. If you believe what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, your public platform may be in danger. No matter that Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, and every imam in Turkey believes the same thing. We're for free speech, until it offends someone. Then we pull the plug. ... I believe the Duck Dynasty suspension will backfire, and Phil's days on the show aren't over for good. You can't claim the right of free speech for the obscenities of Bill Maher and then try to shut down conversation in Louisiana.”
  • Denny Burk, associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky., predicted at his blog that Robertson's remarks will lead to the end of the show.
“The other guys on the program will be dogged in every interview from here on out until they give their opinions as well,” Burk wrote. “And as soon as they do, the entire cast will [be] branded heretical by the sexual revolutionaries that dominate popular culture. When that happens, that will be the end.

“What happens now? There will be a virulent outcry from the left (facilitated by the media) until Duck Dynasty disappears from television. There will be a firestorm of controversy, but the demise of the Duck Dynasty program is the inevitable endgame. I hope I'm wrong.”
  •  Doug Napier, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a news release, “This move is more evidence of the one-sided censorship of the cultural and political elites outraged by such a basic teaching. A&E, as a media outlet, should understand better than most the free marketplace of ideas. The self-appointed speech police rallying behind A&E don't believe in the free marketplace of ideas and have no tolerance for any beliefs other than their own.”
  • David Mathis, executive editor of Desiring God in Minneapolis, provided a contrasting viewpoint, saying this is not a fight evangelicals should participate in.
“There will be real battles to fight – real courts and real judges and real presidents, governors, and legislatures that will continue riding the societal wave of the LGBT agenda,” Mathis wrote at the Desiring God blog. “As the seemingly unstoppable train barrels down the tracks at us, we will continue to face excruciatingly tough decisions about when and how to hold our ground and when and if to dive out of the way and live to fight another day.

“But this is not it. This is cable television. This is a silly show that, while genuinely entertaining, is doing just as much to marginalize Christians as backwater as it is getting the name of Jesus on television – as if that was ever the tip of the spear for the Great Commission, anyway.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Erin Roach & Art Toalston of Baptist Press contributed to this article.)
12/20/2013 8:34:16 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Moore on Robertson’s suspension: need for ‘cultural conversation’

December 19 2013 by Elizabeth Bristow, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

NASHVILLE – During a recent interview on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront, Russell D. Moore, addressed the criticism that Phil Robertson, star of A&E’s Duck Dynasty, is receiving for his comments on homosexuality in a recent article for GQ magazine.
“Suggesting that people who hold to what every branch of the Christian faith has held to for 2,000 years is somehow bigoted or hateful is not productive for speech,” said Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, on CNN.
In response to the controversy, A&E announced that it has put Robertsonon hiatus,” an action that Russell D. Moore calls “ridiculous.”
Silencing views one doesn’t agree with, rather than engaging them, is hardly open-minded,” Moore said on Twitter tonight.
Moore expounded his position on his blog, Moore to the Point.
“Admittedly, A&E didn’t hire Robertson to be Charlie Rose or George Will. They hired him to be comedic and sometimes shockingly homespun. Now, I thought his reported anatomical comparisons were ill-advised and crude. But that doesn’t seem to be where the controversy lies.
“The comments that seem most offensive to people are his moral assessments of sex outside of conjugal marriage, which were more or less just a recitation of the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6. As Christians, we believe that Jesus is lord over sexuality, and he says that sexuality is expressed rightly only in the marriage of a man and a woman. That’s not new. We also think we’re all sinners, and that God calls us all to repentance. That’s not new either.
“We’re a divided country on sexual issues. That’s why every news cycle brings more controversy. Why not engage one another, and have the debates in a civil fashion, without attempting to silence one another. I don’t agree with David Letterman’s views on divorce and cohabitation, but I don’t want him suspended for voicing them. I’ll bet I don’t agree with MTV’s Nev Schulman of the popular Catfish show on sexual ethics, but it wouldn’t put me in the fetal position under the table to hear him voice them.
“Let’s have the sort of cultural conversation that allows us to seek to persuade each other, not to seek to silence one another with intimidation. That’s what real diversity is all about.”
The full text of Moore’s blog can be found here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Elizabeth Bristow came to the ERLC in 2010 after graduating from Union University. She serves in the communications department and primarily handles media relations and other PR initiatives for the organization.)
12/19/2013 1:19:10 PM by Elizabeth Bristow, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission | with 0 comments

Pastors say disciple-making is God’s plan

December 19 2013 by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications

For Robert Hernandez, disciple-making is essential to the Christian life and a critical mark of the New Testament church.

“When a church loses its focus on making disciples we really shouldn’t call ourselves a church, at least a New Testament church, anymore,” said Hernandez, who serves as pastor of El Centro Del Señor church in Cullowhee and Casa de Dios church in Canton.
Hernandez planted El Centro with an emphasis on disciple-making, from which came the birth of Casa de Dios nine years later. Last month El Centro celebrated its anniversary with a special service and continues to focus on disciple-making through its preaching and teaching ministry.
“Every time I speak in front of the church we talk about making disciples,” Hernandez said. “That’s why we exist as a church, and as I get up to preach every week I remind people of that purpose.”

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Robert Hernandez, pastor of El Centro Del Señor church in Cullowhee and Casa de Dios church in Canton, emphasizes disciple-making.

Hernandez is intentional about creating mentoring relationships, investing in peoples’ lives and walking them through the basics of Christianity. Once they mature in their walk with Christ, he sends them out to continue the cycle.
“They can take it from there, and I still talk to them and encourage them, and we talk about opportunities to begin discipling someone else,” he said. “I try to get them together with people who need that so they can go do a Bible study in their home with them.”
He is also intentional about mentoring people who demonstrate the ability to lead.
“When I see potential leaders, teachers or preachers I tend to focus on discipling them more intensely,” Hernandez said.
One such leader is Louis, a former member of El Centro who was instrumental in the planting of Casa de Dios.
“Louis very early on caught that vision of disciple-making,” Hernandez said. “He has a very strong burden for making disciples for Christ and we’ve made that again a focus of that church.”
Now, Casa de Dios members are forming Saturday night Bible studies and discipleship classes in a neighboring county, from which they hope to birth another church.
Our hope is that these small groups will eventually become a church as we begin to gather these groups together,” Hernandez said. “We hope to repeat everything there.”
Hernandez said the disciple-making process requires time, patience and, most importantly, obedience to Jesus.
“If you look at the Great Commission there is no other option, there is no other plan.”

Marching orders

Scottie Patrick, pastor of Cashiers Baptist Church in Cashiers, called the Great Commission non-negotiable.    
“His command to us is to go and make disciples of all the nations,” Patrick said. “The Great Commission is the marching orders for our church and every Christian, and ought to be the marching orders of every church.”
When Patrick began his pastorate at Cashiers five years ago he implemented strategies for training members in evangelism and spiritual growth. As part of that ongoing emphasis, two years ago he began offering regular discipleship classes using the MasterLife curriculum.
Patrick said it has been a long process, and more work is yet to be done, but the fruit of their labor is beginning to show.
“They are growing in their relationship with the Lord,” he said. “They are willing now to step out and do something they have never been willing to do before – to open up their homes to invite lost folks in to share the gospel with them.”
Seventeen families from Cashiers committed to hosting people in their homes during the recent My Hope with Billy Graham evangelistic emphasis. Patrick said their response demonstrates the importance of implementing an intentional discipleship process.
“That was a major increase from what we had seen several years ago and some of them are still doing the Billy Graham emphasis, resulting in one young girl coming to faith last week.”
Although disciple-making is a slow process, the end result makes the effort worthwhile.
“One of the desires of my heart as a pastor is that our people would know the joy of having God use them to lead someone else to faith in Christ,” Patrick said. “When that happens, there is great joy.”
For more information on disciple-making, please contact Brian Upshaw, Team Leader for the Disciple-making Team at or (800) 395-5102, ext. 5632.
12/19/2013 1:08:00 PM by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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