December 2014

Akin tells grads of 'Win-Win Scenario'

December 19 2014 by Ali Dixon, SEBTS/Baptist Press

Daniel Akin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president, spoke on "The Ultimate Win-Win Scenario" in his commencement address.
 
"The Lord is now sending you out to serve across North America and around the world to take the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ to those who desperately need to hear it," Akin said. "We are very proud of you and thankful for you."
 
Akin drew from the apostle Paul's words in Philippians 1:21 for his charge to the graduates: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," which he said has been one of his life verses throughout his Christian life.
 
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SEBTS photo by Maria Estes
Soon-to-be graduates from The College at Southeastern gather outside Binkley Chapel before graduation exercises begin.

He placed the verse in the context of four Iraqi children who recently had been beheaded for refusing to deny their faith in Jesus.
 
"Either we believe [Philippians 1:21] or we don't," he said. "Evidently these four children did."
 
Paul was in prison because of his faith when he wrote his letter to the Philippians. "Released or executed, for those who follow Jesus, we indeed are in the ultimate win-win scenario," Akin stated.
 
"If any words of scripture could accompany you wherever God sends you and in whatever it is God wants to do through you … it would be these," he said.
 
Akin's hope for the graduates is that "you indeed would be able to grasp with great faith 'for me to live' is all about Christ … and to die is simply more of Jesus."
 
Highlighting two facets of the passage, he noted that "there is a life worth living" and "a death worth dying."
 
The Christian life is deeply personal, practical, purposeful and powerful, Akin said. "Other things no longer dominate my life," he said. "I live to serve Christ. There is no aspect of my life that is off limits to Him."
 
Speaking about the inevitability of death, Akin said, "There is nobody that is going to cheat death." It comes "whether you are ready or not. For the Christian you can be ready."
 
Akin quoted a letter from Karen Watson, a Southeastern graduate from California, who died on the mission field in Iraq in 2004. He said she was "a sister who really did believe that to live is Christ and was equally confident that to die is gain."
 
Watson left a letter with her pastor to be read at her funeral if she were to die on the mission field. "To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory was my reward, His glory is my reward," she wrote. "There is no joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him."
 
Akin concluded, "It may indeed be God's design and His plan that your life will be a short one, that your life will end by the world's perspective prematurely, perhaps even unjustly and no doubt some would even say unwisely.
 
"Why were they in that dangerous place?" some might ask. "There is only one answer.... Jesus is worth the risk … the sacrifice … everything," Akin said. "As you leave here, it is my prayer that everything will be on the table for Jesus."
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ali Dixon is the news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
12/19/2014 9:21:53 AM by Ali Dixon, SEBTS/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



U.S.-Cuba diplomacy sparks hope & wariness

December 19 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

President Barack Obama’s opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba may fuel an already-vibrant evangelistic movement there, or it may fuel a repressive regime, Southern Baptist leaders and pastors said in voicing divergent opinions to Baptist Press (BP).
 
“Our prayer is that the Cuban church planting movement continue to expand. The Cuban people are very receptive to the gospel,” Kurt Urbanek, International Mission Board (IMB) strategist for Cuba, said in a statement to BP.
 
“We praise the Lord Jesus Christ for the spiritual awakening in Cuba which has seen over 500,000 Cubans come to saving faith in Baptist churches during the past 13 years,” Urbanek noted. “Our focus as missionaries is evangelism, discipleship, church planting and leadership development. We look to political developments only as they impact the growth of the Kingdom of God.”
 
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A thriving house church in Cuba is among 6,400-plus counted in missions statistics as of 2013. “Our prayer is that the Cuban church planting movement continue to expand,” an International Mission Board strategist said after President Barack Obama’s Dec. 17 announcement to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Baptist congregations in Cuba included more than 977 traditional churches and more than 6,454 house churches in 2013, according to IMB statistics, an increase from only 210 traditional churches and an unknown number of house churches in the country’s early days of communism in 1960.
 
President Obama said from the White House Dec. 17 the United States will end “an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.”
 
The U.S. intends “to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas,” Obama said, pledging to reverse 50 years of U.S. policies that have isolated the country that is only 90 miles from Florida.
 
“Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades. We have done so primarily through policies that aimed to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy anyplace else,” the president said. “And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people.”
 
Obama said the U.S. will re-establish an embassy in Havana; cooperatively work with Cuba to advance mutual interests on many issues including migration; take steps to increase travel, commerce and the flow of information to and from Cuba; and review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
 
Terry Lassiter, who oversees Southern Baptist missionaries to Cuba as strategy leader for the IMB’s American peoples affinity group, joined Urbanek in expressing optimism after Obama’s announcement.
 
“We are very hopeful and happy to hear of this new era of relations between Cuba and the USA. We pray that this will further strengthen the partnership between Cuban Baptists and Southern Baptists in the U.S.,” Lassiter said. “We have much to learn from each other to see the advance of the gospel and this new relationship makes this more possible.”
 
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, recounted in a statement to Baptist Press, “Having recently traveled to Cuba, I can speak to the deep commitment of our Baptist brothers and sisters there. I was sad to see the deprivation among the people of Cuba and I’m deeply concerned for them. However, the government there must take responsibility for its policies” that have led to its isolation.
 
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, from a religious freedom perspective, said, “I disagree with President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba. I tend to think engagement and trade is better than disengagement, but Cuba is a special case, a terrorist-sponsoring, human rights-violating dictatorship located just miles away from our border. I don’t trust the Castro regime to keep the promises they are making.”
 
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, added, however, “I can only hope now that God will use the open markets in Cuba toward a more open door to the gospel. Regardless of where we stand on the politics of this, we should all pray for a free Cuba, including complete freedom of religion, to come about in 2015.”
 
Óscar J. Fernández, who holds political asylum from Cuba, expressed pessimism that the changes will help Cubans. Fernández directs Ministerio Hispano, a ministry of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn., and formerly was a Hispanic editor for LifeWay Christian Resources for nearly 20 years.
 
“This is a real tragedy for the people in Cuba, and for the families of the thousands of martyrs and political prisoners in the island,” Fernandez, a columnist for BP en Español, said. “This change is not going to help the Cuban people [under] a communist government in power for more than 50 years. I will applaud if Cuba makes any concessions, but they are not [likely to do so].”
 
David R. Lema Jr., meanwhile, then a 7-year-old son of a Cuban Baptist pastor who left Cuba with his family for Spain, said he believes “any normalization of political ties between Cuba and the U.S., regardless of political implications or results, should prove beneficial for Christian work.”
 
“Travel for Americans going to Cuba would flow smoother and with less inconvenience – anyone that has gone to Cuba knows what I am talking about here,” said Lema, director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Center for the Americas in Miami. “Churches and individuals will have more freedom to help the churches directly without having to worry about U.S. embargo violations.”
 
Other Cuban Baptists ministering in the U.S. who commented on Obama’s move expressed a mix of guarded optimism and caution.
 
Felipe Rodríguez, pastor of historic Iglesia Bautista Getsemaní in Miami, told the Florida Baptist Witness, “My hope is that this will be of benefit to the churches in Cuba. … If this allows us to bring resources and help the churches in Cuba then it’s a good thing.” Otherwise, he said, it is “just purely political.
 
Rodríguez recounted that Getsemaní has experienced diplomatic restrictions in helping a church in the small town of Congoja rebuild its building after it was destroyed by a storm. Rodríguez, who pastored the Congoja church in the 1980s, has been in the U.S. for 16 years.
 
Natanael Vicens, director of Hispanic ministries in the Miami Baptist Association, said his church has wanted to engage in missions trips to Cuba but the prices and the restrictions on travel had made it difficult.
 
“Having embassies will make missionary trips to Cuba much easier because, as of now, the process to travel there is long and costly.” Vicens told the Florida Baptist Witness. “If it’s true that the Cuban government will do what it says it will do, glory to God, hallelujah. But under the current government everything remains to be seen.”
 
“We have to wait and see what happens,” Alberto Ocaña, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Northside in the Miami suburb of Hialeah, told the Witness. “If there is no genuine change [by the Cuban regime], it will be like a person that claims to be a Christian but there has been no real change in his heart; it is purely cosmetic.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)
12/19/2014 9:16:59 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Day of Service: NAMB gives back to community

December 18 2014 by Baptist Press staff

The phrase “Whatever it takes” is one of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) operating values. Staff members are reminded that the mission agency exists to serve Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist churches. Giving back to the community in service was a tangible demonstration of this value as staff participated Dec. 12 in the annual NAMB Day of Service.
 
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NAMB photo by Susan Whitley
NAMB staff member Samuel Romero delivers food to a car of a visitor at Peace Baptist Church's Peace on the Move food distribution Dec. 12. Romero was one of more than 100 NAMB staff that participated in an annual day of service, which saw ministry take place at three metro Atlanta locations.

Staff from the NAMB’s Alpharetta, Ga., office joined local ministries in a variety of service activities at Peace Baptist Church of Decatur, Clarkston International Bible Church in Clarkston and No Longer Bound of Cumming.
 
Nearly 300 cars pulled into the parking lot at Peace Baptist Church, some as many as four hours early, to receive food from the Peace on the Move ministry. But as they were waiting in line, it became apparent to some of the volunteers that many of those gathered had much greater needs than just a meal.
 
“As I was talking to the families, I could see looks of hopelessness on their faces,” said Lebron Pinkerton, NAMB’s wellness consultant, who volunteered as a greeter. “But as I stood and watched them leave the church, their whole demeanor changed. They looked hopeful again.”
 
Justin Woelk, an events consultant at NAMB, also served with Peace on the Move and helped distribute food to the families that drove to the church.
 
“I think the biggest thing I took away from the day of service is that God is always present … whether it is in a warm house, a filled church or a parking lot on a freezing Friday morning,” Woelk said. “I was reminded on Friday that we weren’t taking Jesus to Decatur, but we were getting involved with what He is already doing in Decatur.”
 
Scott Blair, a videographer with NAMB, who served with staff at the addiction recovery ministry, No Longer Bound, said the service project cast light on the needs that exist in the community.
 
“It was an eye-opening experience – in part because many of the clients were really young,” Blair said. “I was blessed to not face the kinds of challenges some of these young men and women face with life issues and drug addiction. It was a good experience to meet them and see the priceless opportunity they have, not only from the recovery standpoint, but to have the ability to receive job skill training to help them find meaningful work. Another thing that surprised me is that many of the clients are there by choice. More than one made the point to say they were not there because of some court order, but because they chose to be.”
 
Cathy Palmer, director of the Refugee Sewing Society, was overwhelmed by the transformation of the sewing rooms and retail store housed at Clarkston International Bible Church. NAMB staff replaced lighting units, ceiling tiles, painted and sorted buttons and other sewing supplies.
 
“It may not seem like a big thing,” said Palmer, a NAMB missionary, “but it makes a huge difference in what our women can accomplish because they will be able to see their work. It will make a difference in our store where people will be able to better see the crafts our women make. It was wonderful to feel the presence and support of the staff and to make connections with people who will volunteer to help us meet other needs. It was awesome.”
 
Palmer said the women and staff were so impressed with the change that they planned a picnic lunch in the sewing room on Monday to celebrate.
 
NAMB president Kevin Ezell said, “As we help churches conduct mercy ministries, experiences like this are very valuable. We want our staff to get out of the building and onto the ministry field – especially at this time of year.” NAMB writer Kristen Camp contributed to this article.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – NAMB writer Kristen Camp contributed to this article.)
12/18/2014 9:17:59 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Discipleship for boys strengthens witness

December 18 2014 by Kate Gregory, IMB/Baptist Press

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – When Carlos Llambes was about 7 or 8 years old, he heard a sound he had never heard coming from a church before – laughter. Churches had always seemed so formal and structured to the Cuban boy. Plus, times in the Caribbean island 90 miles south of Miami were somber and uncertain in the late 1960s in the years after the Cuban missile crisis.
 
So when Carlos walked by Primera Iglesia Bautista (First Baptist Church) in his hometown of San Cristobal, Cuba, on a Wednesday night and heard laughter, the curious youngster peeked inside the doors. Members of the congregation were singing a joyful song and smiling.
 
“They seemed happy, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Carlos recalled. So he sat down in one of the pews to watch.
 
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IMB photo by Wilson Hunter
Carlos Llambes looks out over the city of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where he served for more than 10 years as a Southern Baptist missionary. He set into motion a church-planter training institute as part of the Dominican Baptist Convention that has resulted in 100 new churches in seven years. He attributes his missionary outlook to the missions education and inspiration he received as a Royal Ambassador (RA). His home church in Cuba, First Baptist Church in San Cristobal, taught all ages about missions, including Carlos through RAs, the Southern Baptist missions discipleship organization for boys.

A couple noticed the boy and invited him to a group of Royal Ambassadors (RAs) – a Southern Baptist missions discipleship organization for boys – the man led near the church during the week. The group had to begin meeting in secret because at that time, Christian leaders were subject to imprisonment or being put in reeducation camps. Rumors spread that walls had ears and conversations were monitored.
 
“Our little group of RAs, of eight or nine boys, we met secretly in a little room, and we spoke quietly,” Carlos recalled. “I brought a little Bible with me that was falling to pieces, but it became precious to me as did those times with that little RA group.”
 
“The best memories I have of Cuba are at my little church as an RA,” Carlos Llambes, now a Southern Baptist missionary, said. “We used to fellowship with other churches and play baseball and ping pong.”
 
Those seemingly carefree times were even more precious to the youngster because he was constantly saying goodbye to those he knew. First, his father lost his lucrative business, separated from his mother and left the country. Then, amid the political turmoil of the times, neighbors and friends decided to leave the country. His mother struggled to provide for him on her own, so she, too, decided to make plans to leave the country.
 
She had sewn him a new outfit to wear during their travels, but it took nearly five years for the paperwork to come through to relocate, so the pants had become several inches too short on him.
 
But needing something suitable to wear to the RA meetings, Carlos began to wear the outfit – made of wool because his mother thought that any place farther north from the Caribbean would have cold temperatures.
 
“So there I was, a little boy wearing short wool pants in the tropics,” Carlos laughed.
 
When he arrived in Miami at age 12, he lost touch with those he had known in Cuba.
 
But years later when Carlos was an adult with a child of his own, history seemed to repeat itself. When the Llambes began attending Iglesia Bautista Estrella de Belen in Hialeah, Fla., Carlos saw a familiar face – his RA leader.
 
Despite the passage of time, Pablo Lavina and Carlos recognized each other.
 
Pablo went home and told his wife, Juana, “You’ll never guess who I saw today. It was Carlito (little Carlos),” recalled Juana.
 
“It’s so wonderful to know that we’ve helped a child to find his way to what God had in store for him,” Juana said. She had served as a Sunday School teacher at the Cuba church as a young adult. Now in their 60s, she and her husband are active in the Hialeah congregation, with Juana serving as its custodian.
 
The couple has given Carlos some photos they had brought with them from Cuba of the RA group. Carlos keeps the photos as a reminder of the impact missions and a couple dedicated to missions can make.
 
“They really took care of us in a very difficult time when Christians weren’t looked at very kindly,” Carlos recalled. “RAs was such a missions seed that was planted in me. It didn’t come to fruition until years later, but it was there, growing inside of me.”
 
Though he didn’t become a Christian until he was an adult, Carlos points to the missions teachings of RAs as having the biggest influence on his eventually becoming a missionary and focusing on planting churches.
 
“I learned at a young age, when I was a boy in Cuba, through First Baptist Church, San Cristobal, the love and the difference that a little local church can make. It’s transformational. It makes a difference in communities,” he said.
 
Today, Carlos is an International Mission Board missionary who served 10 years in the Dominican Republic, starting a church planting institute there with the Dominican Baptist Convention. He and his wife Lilly recently transferred to Mexico City to participate in church planting efforts in the megacity.
 
“People might think, why bother with a little church?” Carlos said of how he encourages new Christians to form home Bible studies among their family and friends. “You watch what God can do with a little church. I am a product of that. Just give it time.”
 
Of his RA group of eight or nine boys, he became a missionary and two others grew up to be pastors, says Carlos, adding that’s an impressive ratio that underlines the life-long impact of churches teaching missions to all ages.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kate Gregory writes for IMB.)
12/18/2014 9:13:55 AM by Kate Gregory, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



McDonald’s, Starbucks resist porn-free WiFi campaign

December 18 2014 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

Despite nearly 25,000 supporters, a public campaign asking McDonald’s and Starbucks to install anti-pornography filters on their in-store free WiFi networks has so far been unsuccessful.
 
The “Porn Free WiFi” campaign, organized by the Internet safety group Enough is Enough (EIE), is urging the fast-food and coffee giants to implement Internet filters in their U.S. stores to stop customers from accessing or distributing child pornography and graphic adult pornography via their free Internet connections.
 
EIE cites news stories chronicling instances of open WiFi hotspots becoming hideaways for criminals trafficking child pornography or sexually soliciting children. “The “Porn-free WiFi” campaign is not just about protecting our children from viewing hard-core pornography using public hotspots – it’s also about limiting the safe-haven that open WiFi creates for sexual predators,” Donna Rice Hughes, EIE’s CEO, said.
 
EIE sent letters to McDonald’s and Starbucks in April, applauding both businesses for pro-actively implementing Internet filters in their U.K. stores. McDonald’s U.K. website claims it was the first company to join a family-friendly WiFi filtering initiative called Mumsnet. Earlier this year, Starbucks joined an industry-wide public WiFi filtering effort called “Friendly WiFi.” Colorful banners are displayed in restaurants offering free Internet that is filtered for explicit content. In 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron introduced nationwide policies to protect children from exploitive and graphic material online, including a default setting of “opt-out” for all Internet service providers.
 
In the letters, Hughes urged the two U.S.-based companies to implement the same filters in their stores at home, noting other major chains, like Chick-fil-A and Panera, already filter their free Internet access voluntarily.
 
“We appreciate your concern and are looking into options for effective filtering in the U.S.,” McDonald’s said in a written response to Hughes. The fast-food chain has continued a dialogue with EIE, Hughes said, but in the seven months since the letter exchange neither McDonald”s nor Starbucks has added filters to their combined 25,000 U.S. stores.
 
Hughes believes the campaign “strikes a nerve with Americans.” People expect corporations that project a family-friendly image to have family-friendly corporate polices, she said. And support for the “Porn Free WiFi” campaign is growing. In the last few weeks, three more partner organizations – Concerned Women for America, Morality in Media and the National Homeschoolers Association – have joined EIE’s efforts.
 
The group’s next step is to approach McDonald’s and Starbucks again, this time also including the petition signatures it has collected. Hughes is confident the two major stores will soon implement filters, setting an example for other free WiFi providers.
 
“This is something that any family and any parent can get behind,” Hughes said. “This is not a controversial request we are making. This has nothing to do with censorship or First Amendment rights. It has nothing to do with anything but these corporations doing the right thing.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland is a writer for WORLD News Service.)
12/18/2014 9:10:41 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Survey: Race relations better, long way to go

December 17 2014 by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press

Race relations in America are better than they used to be. And most Americans see diversity as a good thing, a new LifeWay Research study shows.
 
But there’s still a long way to go, according to two new surveys from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
 
Researchers asked 1,000 Americans and 1,000 Protestant pastors about their views on race relations. They found many Americans have mixed feelings about the state of racial diversity in the United States.
 
Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, says Americans are still adapting to the nation’s demographic shifts.
 
In 1960, 89 percent of Americans were white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Today, America is much more diverse. Fewer than two-thirds of Americans – and just over half of schoolchildren – are Non-Hispanic whites. By 2050, no one group will be a majority.
 
That’s a big change that Americans are still trying to sort through, McConnell says. The fallout from the deaths of Mike Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York has increased tension about racial relations.
 
“Recent high profile cases highlight the lack of understanding, respect, and trust that remains between races,” he said.
 

Among the research findings:

Eight in 10 Americans (82 percent) say racial diversity is good for the country. One in 7 (14 percent) disagree.

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Three quarters of Americans (74 percent) agree with the statement, “We have come so far on racial relations.” About a quarter disagree (23 percent).
 
But few are satisfied with the state of race relations. Eight in 10 (81 percent) agree with the statement, “We’ve got so far to go on racial relations.” One in 6 (16 percent) disagree.
 
LifeWay Research found support across ethnic groups for the statement, “We’ve come so far on racial relations.” Three quarters of whites (74 percent), African-Americans (74 percent) and Hispanic-Americans (73 percent) all agree.
 
However, McConnell says, some Africans-Americans take issue with that statement. One in 6 (17 percent) strongly disagree, compared to 11 percent of whites and 5 percent of Hispanics.
 
There are similar differences in intensity of responses to the statement, “We’ve got so far to go on racial relations.”
 
Fifty-seven percent of African-Americans strongly agree. That drops to 39 percent of whites and 42 percent of Hispanics.
 
Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, said, “On the surface, most Americans agree that racial reconciliation matters. But we’re divided about how important this issue is. For many white Americans, progress on issues of race is a good thing but not urgent. For many African-Americans, it’s front and center.”
 
Younger Americans – those 18 to 24 – are the most optimistic about race relations. Almost 9 in 10 (88 percent) say diversity is good for the country. And most (84 percent) agree with the statement, “We’ve come so far on racial relations.”
 
Older Americans are a bit more skeptical. About three quarters (76 percent) of those over 65 say diversity is good for the country. Seven out of 10 (71 percent) of those 45 to 54 say the nation has come far on racial relations.
 
Whites (85 percent) are more likely to agree that diversity is good for the country than African-Americans (75 percent) or Hispanic-Americans (74 percent). Christians (80 percent) are less likely than the Nones (89 percent) to see diversity as a good thing.
 
As other polls have shown, LifeWay Research found few Americans believe race relations have improved since the election of President Barack Obama. About half (49 percent) say race relations have stayed the same. Three in 10 (29 percent) believe relations are more strained. About 1 of 7 (15 percent) say things have improved.
 
About a quarter of African Americans (23 percent) say relations have improved since Obama’s election. That drops to 1 in 7 (14 percent) for whites.
 

Faith still matters in race relations

Christian pastors and other religious leaders took a leading role during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. Many Americans say those leaders still fill an important role today.
 
“Christian leaders have the opportunity to influence millions of Americans to value each and every person no matter their race,” McConnell said.
 
Two-thirds (65 percent) of U.S. adults say religious leaders play a positive role in race relations in the United States. About 3 in 10 (30 percent) disagree, while 5 percent are not sure.
 
Evangelicals (74 percent) and Christians (71 percent) are most likely to say religious leaders have a positive role in race relations. Those of other faiths (56 percent) and the Nones (46 percent) are more skeptical.
 
Hispanic-Americans (57 percent) are less likely to agree than whites (67 percent) or African-Americans (72 percent).
 
For their part, Protestant senior pastors see a close connection between diversity and the central message of Christianity.
 
Nine of out 10 pastors (90 percent) agree with the statement: “Racial reconciliation is mandated by the gospel.” Only six percent disagree.
 
LifeWay Research found this connection between the gospel and racial reconciliation has widespread support among pastors.
 
Most evangelical (90 percent) and Mainline (93 percent) pastors agree. Pastors of smaller churches (83 percent) and those from larger congregations (95 percent) also agree. About 3 out of 4 (76 percent) African American pastors and 9 in 10 (91 percent) white pastors say racial reconciliation is mandated by the gospel.
 
Many pastors have hands-on experience working on diversity. About 3 out of 4 (72 percent) say their church is “personally involved at the local level in addressing racial reconciliation.” A quarter disagree (23 percent). Four percent are not sure.
 
Pastors of larger congregations – those with more than 250 attendees – are more likely to agree (79 percent) than pastors whose churches have less than 50 in attendance (66 percent).
 
African American pastors (93 percent) are more likely to agree their church is involved in racial reconciliation than white pastors (71 percent).
 
Previous LifeWay Research studies found most pastors say their congregations should reflect the racial makeup of their community. But few have diverse flocks.
 
More than 8 in 10 (86 percent) say their congregation is made up of one predominant racial or ethnic group, according to a LifeWay Research study released in January 2014. The latest wave of the National Congregations Study found similar results.
 
“If pastors want to lead a movement of racial reconciliation, they need to make sure their members are following,” McConnell said. “If church members are not inviting and welcoming people of other ethnic groups, their reconciliation efforts are not taking root.”
 
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 19-28, 2014. The calling utilized Random Digit Dialing. Sixty percent of completes were among landlines and 40 percent among cell phones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity, and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.4 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups
 
Those labeled evangelicals consider themselves “a born again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian.” Those labeled Christian include those whose religious preference is Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Non-denominational Christian. Nones are those whose religious preference is Atheist, Agnostic, or No Preference.
 
The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted Sept. 11-18, 2014. The calling list was a stratified random sample drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for LifeWay’s Facts & Trends magazine, FactsandTrends.net.)

12/17/2014 1:59:18 PM by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Hanukkah an ‘evangelism opportunity’

December 17 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Each holiday season Ric Worshill looks forward to the celebration that provides him with a natural opportunity to tell his friends and family that Jesus is the light of the world.
 
But it’s not Christmas.
 
As a Messianic Jew (a Jew who follows Jesus as the Messiah), Worshill celebrates Hanukkah annually for eight days to commemorate the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish people won independence from foreign rulers some 150 years before the birth of Christ – during the period between the Old and New Testaments. According to Jewish tradition, the military victory and subsequent rededication were accompanied by a one-day supply of ceremonial oil miraculously providing light for eight days in the temple lampstand – which reminds Worshill and other Messianic believers that Jesus is the light of the world.
 
Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, which is Dec. 16 this year. In other years Hanukkah can begin anywhere from late November to late December.
 
Hanukkah “is a great evangelism opportunity,” Worshill, president of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, told Baptist Press. “I use it quite often. Some of the verses I use for evangelism are about light.”
 
Among those verses are the account of God creating light in Genesis, Old Testament references to God as light and Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world in John 8. Using these and other passages, Worshill explains that Jesus is the divine Savior of humanity. At least six Jewish people have received Jesus as their Lord and Savior at Hanukkah through Worshill’s witness, he said.
 

The history of Hanukkah

In 722 B.C., Assyria conquered the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel. About 150 years later, the southern kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians and the Jewish people found themselves entirely under foreign rule. Later the Persians defeated the Babylonians, and in turn the Greeks defeated the Persians. But the Jews did not regain their independence.
 
From about 320-198 B.C., factions within the Greek Empire waged war for control of the Jewish homeland and it fell to a group known as the Seleucid Dynasty, whose ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes treated the Jews brutally. He outlawed the Hebrew scriptures, forbade Jewish religious practices and converted the temple in Jerusalem into a center for pagan worship, according to the website BibleMesh.com.
 
But in 167 B.C. a Jewish priest named Mattathias Maccabaeus launched a guerilla revolt against the Seleucids along with his sons. Though Mattathias died before the revolt ended, his sons established an independent Jewish state in 142 B.C. and rededicated the temple to Yahweh, the God of Israel.
 
“According to tradition, when Jewish military leaders entered their temple to reclaim it, they relit the lampstand in the temple – but they found only a single jar of oil that hadn’t been defiled, only enough oil to last a single day,” said Timothy Paul Jones, a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor whose forthcoming book and video series “How We Got the Bible Made Easy” includes material on Jewish history between the Old and New Testaments.
 
“It would take eight days to obtain the oil they needed to keep the fire burning, but – again, according to tradition – the lampstand remained lit all eight days, even though there had only been enough oil to burn for one day. The word ‘Hanukkah’ derives from a Hebrew verb that means ‘celebrate,’” Jones said.
 
Jewish independence ended in 63 B.C., when the Romans conquered Palestine and began using it as a base to expand their empire into Asia. The Romans continued to rule Palestine throughout the New Testament period.
 
Some of the earliest sources of information about Hanukkah are the books of the Maccabees, which are included in a collection of writings regarded as scripture by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believers but not Protestants or Jews.
 
The books of the Maccabees “never mention the tradition of the lamp burning for eight days,” Jones, Southern’s Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry, said. “The purification of the temple under Judah Macabee [one of Mattathias’ sons] is described in 1 Maccabees 4. According to this text, Judah and his men found the temple profaned and the courtyard covered in weeds.
 
“They removed stones that had been defiled by pagan sacrifices and replaced them with unhewn stones, made new utensils and lit the lampstand (1 Maccabees 4:36-51). This chapter in Maccabees describes an eight-day dedicatory celebration in which the lampstand was lit, but there’s no mention of the lampstand burning for eight days on a single jar of oil,” Jones said.
 
Hanukkah is also mentioned by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus and even in the New Testament, where Jesus celebrated it in John 10:22-23 under the name “the feast of dedication.” The Babylonian Talmud, a collection of Jewish laws and traditions compiled from A.D. 200-500, is the first written source to mention the eight-day oil miracle.
 
Worshill is confident that the oil miracle is historical.
 
If the Maccabees “were willing to go to such an extent and have so many of their fellow Jews die in the battles to try and take back the temple and Judah for the Jewish people and then worship God and praise Him, I’m sure God would be willing to create a miracle just for them,” Worshill said.
 

Hanukkah’s importance

Christians should know about the Jewish documents describing Hanukkah because they provide context for understanding the Bible, Jones said.
 
“Christians should view intertestamental texts in the same way that we view other Ancient Near Eastern or Roman texts that describe the historical contexts of the Old and New Testaments: these texts are errant writings which may help us to understand the inerrant scriptures by describing the historical context in which God inspired His Word,” Jones said.
 
Knowing about Hanukkah is also important because it can open doors to share the message of Jesus with Jewish friends, Jones said.
 
“Paul placed a priority on the proclamation of the gospel to Jewish people (Romans 1:16), and we have been adopted into a family in which our elder brother Jesus was born a Jew and followed every instruction that God gave to the children of Israel (Galatians 4:4-7; Hebrews 2:11). Understanding festivals like Hanukkah can equip us to proclaim the gospel to our Jewish neighbors with intelligence and sensitivity,” Jones said.
 
Worshill agrees. In fact, one of his most memorable Hanukkahs involved leading a distant cousin to faith in Christ.
 
Worshill remembers telling his cousin, “Hanukkah is an amazing prophecy. It’s an amazing story of how God is going to light the temple in the future. And it’s not going to be the temple in Jerusalem. It’s going to be the temple in heaven.”
 
Then Worshill told his cousin about Christ and judgment and challenged him based on Deuteronomy 30:19, “You have a choice today. Choose life. Choose Christ.”
 
The cousin stormed away angry but visited Worshill at work a couple of days later. Crying, the relative said, “I choose life.”
 
Hanukkah “is about praising the Lord,” Worshill said. “The sad part is most Jewish people have no clue that’s what it’s about.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

12/17/2014 1:31:41 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mohler offers ‘Christmas mandate’ to graduates

December 17 2014 by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS Communications

The mission of seminary graduates is to announce the birth of Christ and the clear truth of salvation, president R. Albert Mohler Jr. told the fall 2014 graduates of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Southern Seminary conferred degrees upon 207 master’s and doctoral students during the 214th commencement exercises in Alumni Memorial Chapel, Dec. 12.
 
In an address from Luke 1:67-80 titled “To Give Knowledge of Salvation to His People: A Christmas Mandate for Christian Ministry,” Mohler stressed the significance of the approaching Christmas holiday as an opportunity for graduates to refute a “terminal theological confusion” in churches today.

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R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, preaches during the 214th commencement excercises in which 207 graduates were awarded master’s and doctoral degrees by the school, Dec. 12.

 

“The clarity of the Christmas story reminds them that they are to be defenders of the faith, teachers of undiluted truth, guardians of the treasure entrusted to them, heralds of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Mohler said. “They have learned so much in their studies here, and they will learn even more as they teach others.”
 
Preaching on Zechariah’s prophecy in Luke 1:67-80 concerning John the Baptist’s role as the forerunner of Christ, Mohler likened the task of graduates as “counter-revolutionaries for the kingdom of Christ” to proclaim his birth and salvation.
 
“Those who will graduate this day will join the faithful line of preachers, missionaries and ministers before them who, like John, gave knowledge of salvation to the people, by declaring the tender mercies of God that promise the forgiveness of sins,” Mohler said.
 
The “crystallizing simplicity of the Christmas message” stands in stark contrast to the theological confusion existing in pulpits and churches today, Mohler said. He described the sense of urgency with which graduates must proclaim the truth of this gospel.
 
“The Christmas story cannot be reduced to a sentimental tale that gives humanity a warm glow,” Mohler said. “This is either the greatest truth ever declared, or it is the saddest lie ever told.”
 
Examining Luke 1:66, in which the witnesses of John the Baptist’s birth ask what the child will be, Mohler turned the question on the audience. While faculty and family members cannot know how God will use the graduates in ministry, Mohler said, they can know with certainty that “they are to give knowledge of salvation.”
 
“They have been taught the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” Mohler said. “They have been skilled in ministry and equipped for mission. They have received their mandate from on high. And now, we watch them go.”
 
Mohler closed the address with a gospel call on behalf of the graduates, urging the audience to “know that the baby lain in Bethlehem’s manger is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father, but by him.”
 
Audio and video of Mohler’s address are available at sbts.edu/resources. A complete manuscript of the address, “To Give Knowledge of Salvation to His People: A Christmas Mandate for Christian Ministry,” is available at www.albertmohler.com.

12/17/2014 1:14:46 PM by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Family TV not ‘family-friendly,’ PTC finds

December 17 2014 by Baptist Press staff

Contemporary television series showcasing family life will likely include sex, profanity and violence that make the entertainment unsuitable for family viewing, the Parents Television Council (PTC) has found.
 
As many as 99 percent of the broadcast television shows about family that PTC studied contained some form of adult content in 2013, they noted in a Dec. 10 report. Profanity was found in 94 percent of shows; sexual content in 84 percent; 33 percent contain violence.
 
Among all 202 episodes of family-themed shows studied, only two episodes of “The Millers” were found suitable for family viewing, the PTC told Baptist Press. The sitcom has since been cancelled.
 
“Parents often assume that TV shows about families are ‘safe’ viewing choices,” PTC President Tim Winter said in a press release, “but our study shows that families who watch TV shows about families will be barraged by sex and profanity – even on TV-PG-rated shows. This is unacceptable.”
 
Shows marketed specifically to families are at fault, Winter said.
 
“Even on some of the more ‘family-friendly’ shows, there is still adult content such as pixilated nudity and bleeped profanity,” Winter said. “Also disturbing is that adult characters aren’t the only ones ‘delivering’ the lines with adult content – children are too.”
 
Child development research shows that children under the age of 8 have difficulty critically comprehending televised media messages and are prone to accept messages as truthful, the PTC reported.
 
The report, “Remembering Family: Insights and New Research on Family and Media,” found only one percent of family-themed TV shows to be suitable for family viewing.
 
This study examined only whether adult content was present and does not include data describing how much content was present in each show. PTC analysts examined every major broadcast network and every primetime show that featured family as central to their storyline. The study period was from the beginning of each network’s fall 2013 season through December 31, 2013.
 
Competition with cable shows drives network television to include objectionable material, Winter said.
 
“Ironically, broadcast TV shows have the capacity to attract many millions of viewers, and therefore, more ad dollars, while cable networks can be ‘successful’ with only a few million viewers,” Winter said.
 
“Yet NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt recently admitted that broadcast TV needs to be mindful of its audience in order to appeal to more people.”
 
The PTC quotes Greenblatt as having said, ‘The flip side is, in the broadcast world, you need to appeal to many more millions of people. Therefore, forget about what the Federal Communications Commission says. You just need to be more mindful of language and subject matter, and what certain characters do because, the entire country, in spite of the fact that we live in a very liberal business, does not want to see lots of sexuality. They do not want to hear language. They do not want to see serial killers running around being the centerpieces of shows. They don’t watch those kinds of shows. And it’s not just because they don’t have the [pay] services in their homes to watch them. They don’t seek them out.”
 
Winter referenced Greenblatt’s assessment in encouraging television programmers to remember the desires of families.
 
“This should be reason enough for the entertainment industry to ‘remember families,’ when it comes to trying to appeal to a broad audience, and therefore, create programming that the entire family can watch together without having adult content shoved in their faces. It’s really a no-brainer,” Winter said. “Families want to watch shows about families, but without the sex or profanity that’s all too common on current fare.”
 
The Parents Television Council (www.parentstv.org) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media.
 
The full PTC report, “Remembering Families,” is at www.parentstv.org/mediafeed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

12/17/2014 1:06:31 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Floyd calls Baptists to racially reconcile

December 16 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist pastor Terry Turner has a newspaper clipping from the early 1900s telling of a family member taken from jail by a mob of southern whites and lynched, never tried or convicted of a crime.
 
Turner’s memory of growing up as an African American under Jim Crow segregation laws in Guthrie, Okla., partly fuels his support of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd’s racial reconciliation initiative launched today (Dec. 15), calling for Southern Baptists to repent of racism and unite in love. Twenty other Southern Baptist pastors signed the appeal, including leaders from the white, black, Asian, Native American and Latino communities.
 
The appeal, titled “The wounds run deep: racism and injustice must end and let grace and love begin,” is on Floyd’s online SBC President’s Page and addressed to Southern Baptist pastors, churches, leaders and laypeople. Floyd wrote the post “under conviction of the Holy Spirit that I must do something as a Christian, a pastor and as the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said, and was prompted to hold a conference call with four black and two white pastors Dec. 10.
 
“The time is now for us to rise up together and cry out against the racism that still exists in our nation and our churches, and the subsequent injustices,” Floyd wrote. “We are grieved that racism and injustice still abound in our nation in 2014. All human beings are created by God and in His image. The dignity of each individual needs to be recognized and appreciated by each of us and by all of the 50,000 churches and congregations that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
Floyd referenced 1 Corinthians 12:26 in calling for Southern Baptists to understand and work to alleviate the pain of racism and injustice within the body of Christ.
 
“With heavy hearts, we recognize the deep pain and hurt that has come to many of our African American brothers and sisters. The recent events in America have reawakened many of their greatest fears. Their wounds from the past run deep,” Floyd wrote. “Without relationships and conversations, we will never understand one another. Because you hurt, we hurt with you today. We are a part of the same body of Christ, His church, which is to be a picture of the multi-faceted wisdom of God.

 
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Ronnie Floyd

“We are not black Christians. We are not white Christians. We are not Latino Christians. We are not Asian Christians. We are not Native American Christians,” Floyd wrote. “We are Christians! We are followers of Jesus Christ.”
 
Floyd encouraged Southern Baptists to combat racism as the convention has fought other sins.
 
“Southern Baptists have always been a prophetic voice crying out against matters such as the evil of abortion, the persecution of Christians around the world, the tragedy of human trafficking, or the sexual sins from adultery to homosexuality,” Floyd wrote. “All racism and injustice [are] sin. All ethnicities are capable of committing the sin of racism. Pastors, churches, leaders, and laypeople of the Southern Baptist Convention, the time is now for us to repent personally and collectively of all racism and injustice. Silence is not the answer and passivity is not our prescription for healing.”
 
Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, and a former president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, participated in the conference call and signed Floyd’s declaration. Without racial reconciliation, the U.S. will not experience the revival for which Southern Baptists have long prayed, Turner said.
 
“We’ve come to a point where, if we’re going to have revival in our country, then our convention will have to address the issue of racism that has been prevalent in our country since the 1600s and has kept us as a people divided,” Turner told Baptist Press. “Until we can come together as a unified people of God … [and] deal with that issue, true revival can’t come, because it won’t provide the oneness that God requires of His people.”
 
Racism has been America’s shame for generations, said Turner, who recalls having to enter the back doors of restaurants and not being allowed to ask for a seat, simply because of his race. The sin of racism has hindered the U.S. as a whole, he said.
 
“I believe that [racism] has been the nemesis and the shame of America, because when it came to difficult positions of where we stood, we didn’t have a clear understanding of biblically what racism was doing to us, even in the days of slavery,” Turner said. “The Civil War was started over the issue of where the Bible stood on slavery, and even today, many people are still dealing with unregenerate hearts that have trickled down from the Jim Crow laws as well as from the days of slavery.
 
“Until our convention comes together, and really learns to reach across racial lines, and love our brothers of different ethnicities, revival won’t come, because oneness won’t be there in the body of Christ,” Turner said.
 
Johnny Hunt, a Native American and senior pastor of Woodstock Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., also signed the initiative.
 
“I think it is of utmost importance that we be led by President Ronnie Floyd and other Southern Baptist ministers to pursue the initiative of racial reconciliation,” Hunt said, referencing 1 Peter 4:8 as a call to love one another, because love covers sin.
 
“I pray that this will be the commencement of bringing us together in spiritual solidarity that would glorify God and be a witness to all those that are looking in to see how the body of Christ really responds to a crisis situation,” said Hunt, a former SBC president. “I pray that there would be a genuine outpouring of God’s love demonstrated through the reconciliation of any broken relationships.” Southern Baptists of all ethnicities should “embrace one another in a way that would rebound to the greater glory of God in genuine love and partnership together in the Gospel.”
 
K. Marshall Williams, senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and president of the SBC National African American Fellowship, participated in the conference call with Floyd and also signed the appeal.
 
“I’m praying that God will pour out His Spirit, like a mighty purifying fire, of deep conviction, confession, spiritual brokenness with genuine fruits of repentance, from the sins of racism and injustice, that have been a systemic satanic stronghold in our Nation,” Williams told Baptist Press, “so that we will see loving unity in the body of Christ, which will usher in an unprecedented revival, spiritual awakening and healing in our land.
 
“I appreciatively applaud and I am praying for Dr. Ronnie Floyd as we seek the Lord for wisdom, when it comes to allowing His love, mercy and justice to rule in polity and practicum as Kingdom citizens.”
 
Other pastors on the conference call, all of whom signed Floyd’s appeal, were immediate past SBC president Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans; immediate past NAAF president A.B. Vines, pastor of New Seasons Church in Spring Valley, Calif.; Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn.; and Ted Traylor, senior pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
 
Among Hispanic signatories is David Galvan, senior pastor of Primeria Iglesia Baptista Nueva Vida New Life in Dallas, who told Baptist Press he shares Floyd’s heartbeat and concern for racial reconciliation and justice.
 
“Our business is souls, regardless of race or social status,” said Galvan, a former SBC second vice president. “We care about people and especially those of the household of faith. God addressed injustice and the lack of mercy when He spoke to the Israel of old and therefore we too must address alleged injustices.”
 
The church should spread the gospel among all peoples, regardless of race or social status, Galvan said.
 
“Racial reconciliation is not a political posture. For us, it is the way the body of Christ operates. It is the mind of Christ,” Galvan said, referencing his congregation. “Though we minister primarily to a Spanish-speaking constituency, we also have an outreach to everyone in our community that understands English, and we have had an English-speaking worship service for over 30 years. Our English service is attracting people of varying backgrounds.”
 
Traylor, in Romania on a mission trip, told Baptist Press in an email that talking with other pastors on the conference call was helpful.
 
“I hear much about having a conversation regarding racial issues but I do not see many happening. [Floyd’s initiative] put me in a conversation that was healthy, helpful and educational,” Traylor said. “I hope Southern Baptists will seek to have these kinds of conversations that lead to action.”
 
Southern Baptists should follow Jesus’ example in preaching to set the captives free, Traylor said.
 
“When injustice is in the air, we as church leaders need to call sin what it is and we need to encourage those who are speaking for those that cannot speak for themselves,” Traylor said. “Jesus preached to set free the oppressed and we must do the same.”
 
Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., signed the letter and recruited other pastors from Asian communities within the SBC to do the same.
 
Although the United States is composed of united governments, the country has missed the mark in racial unity, said Kim, who came to the U.S. from Korea in 1967 and served two military tours in the U.S. Army.
 
“Somehow we are not united racially,” Kim told Baptist Press. “I don’t get that America, we claim we are united states, but now we are not united, because of racial issues. We are totally separated. I have not seen the unity that Jesus speaks about” among believers.
 
Southern Baptists need to actively pursue racial reconciliation and encourage others to do the same, Kim said. As the church is one body, when one person hurts, the others hurt as well, said Kim, who chairs the Executive Committee’s Asian American Advisory Council.
 
Other Asian pastors who signed the appeal are Filipino Roger Manao, senior pastor of Philadelphia Bible Church International in Philadelphia, Pa.; Simon Tsoi, pastor emeritus, First Chinese Baptist Church in Phoenix; and Vietnamese Christian Phan, senior pastor of Agape Baptist Church in Renton, Wash.
 
Remaining signatories are Vance Pitman, senior pastor, Hope Church, Las Vegas; Jack Graham, senior pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas; J.D. Greear, senior pastor, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Manuel Martinez Sr., senior pastor, Primera Iglesia Bautista, Irving, Texas; Timmy R. Chavis, senior pastor, Bear Swamp Baptist Church, Pembroke, N.C.; Bucas Sterling III, senior pastor, Kettering Baptist Church, Upper Marlboro, Md.; Dennis W. Mitchell, senior pastor, Greenforest Community Baptist Church, Decatur, Ga.; and Frank Williams, senior pastor, Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church and Bronx Baptist Church, both in Bronx, N.Y.
 
Floyd encouraged churches to respond in a way appropriate to their congregants and communities.
 
“We determined the number one issue is a heart issue; therefore, we focused on this through this article,” Floyd told Baptist Press. “If a pastor and a church operates with the heart we have communicated that we need to have, then each church should decide their needed steps of action, appropriate to their context in their community.”
 
Many Southern Baptists already have intentionally worked to achieve racial reconciliation within the SBC and the nation.
 
In 1995 the SBC adopted a resolution apologizing for its racist past, asking African Americans for forgiveness. The resolution “lament[ed] and repudiate[d] historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest.” It went on to say, “We apologize to all African-Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime; and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
 
Some 16 years later, the convention adopted a 10-part recommendation from an Ethnic Study Committee that sought to help ethnic churches and leaders better partner with fellow Southern Baptists in missions and ministry. In addition, SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page has appointed councils to advise him and other SBC leaders on how to integrate members of racial and ethnic minority groups into Southern Baptist life more fully at all levels. Page’s advisory councils include the Hispanic Advisory Council, the African American Advisory Council, the Asian American Advisory Council and the Multiethnic Advisory Council.
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) announced Dec. 12 it has changed the subject of its March leadership summit to race relations in light of recent events. The ERLC’s March 26-27 meeting in Nashville will be on “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” instead of the previously announced theme of developing a pro-life ethic. Among the speakers joining ERLC President Russell Moore will be longtime civil rights leader John Perkins and Fred Luter, the SBC’s first African-American president.
 
Hunt, who acknowledged his unique perspective as a Native American, has worked to integrate his pastorate, he told Baptist Press, and has included African American associate pastors, deacons, teachers and other leaders.
 
“I sense that God has led Woodstock to be a church that is color blind, but at the same time sensitive for the need for reconciliation on every point,” Hunt said. “The very love of God and the love for the brothers and sisters within the family of God and even God’s deep love within our heart for those who don’t belong to Him yet – we should be moved to action.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

12/16/2014 12:48:36 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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