December 2015

Arkansas Baptists elect first black officer

December 7 2015 by Arkansas Baptist staff

Arkansas Baptists have elected as second vice president Steven Bell, pastor of Otter Creek Community Church in Little Rock, who is believed to be the first African American officer in the group’s history.
The vote came at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention’s (ABSC) 162nd annual meeting at Hot Springs Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Bell, a Pine Bluff native, planted the Otter Creek church in 2012 and previously served as a youth pastor for eight years in Little Rock.
Messengers elected Gary Hollingsworth, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, as ABSC president, and first vice president Sam Roberts, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuttgart.


Submitted photo
Newly-elected Arkansas Baptist State Convention officers, from left: Steven Bell, pastor of Otter Creek Community Church, Little Rock, second vice president; Sam Roberts, pastor of First Baptist Church, Stuttgart, first vice president, and Gary Hollingsworth, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, president.


ABSC leaders said 615 messengers from Arkansas churches attended the meeting, and observers placed the overall attendance including guests at well over 1,000. Comparatively, messengers at last year’s meeting in Texarkana numbered 515. The ABSC does not record guest attendance.
With the theme “Everyone Matters,” messengers to the Nov. 3-4 meeting worshipped and prayed together, conducted business, approved resolutions and heard reports and messages from a variety of speakers.
Messengers approved a 2016 Cooperative Program budget of $22 million, the same as it has been for four years. The ABSC will forward 43.13 percent (or $9,489,546) of the budget to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international ministries; retain 55.87 percent (or $12,290,474) in the state, and allocated 1 percent (or $220,000) to shared ministry expenses.
Nine approved resolutions address racial reconciliation, the sanctity of human life, services to children at risk, the biblical definition of marriage, religious liberty, the persecution of Christians worldwide, the 90th anniversary of the Cooperative Program and spiritual renewal and revival.
ABSC Executive Board teams, ministries and other representatives shared various reports, including testimonies about church planting, impact stories from work funded through the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering and other work around the state, such as one-day mission trips.
Greg Sykes, ABSC Executive Board president and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Russellville, reported that the property of the former First Baptist Church, Diaz, was given as a gift to Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, in order for Central Baptist to start a mission church. Sykes said the transaction showed up in the convention’s financials as a gain and loss, but explained that because of the nature of the transaction, it was not an operational loss.
Archie Mason, ABSC president and senior pastor of Central Baptist, reported a church that started at the location is now running two services, averaging around 150 people in worship, and has its own teaching pastor.
Mason moderated a panel discussion Nov. 3 during the afternoon session that included Nick Floyd, teaching pastor of Cross Church, Fayetteville; Wes George, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Rogers; Brad Lewter, senior pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church, Fort Smith, and Andy Swart, elder/lead pastor of Metro Church, Rogers.
Worship during the meeting was led by the worship team from Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro; Leslie Willis of Parkway Place Baptist Church, Little Rock, and the worship team from Hot Springs Baptist Church. Additional special music was provided by the Ouachita Baptist University Choir and Arkansas Master’Singers.
During a brief Executive Board meeting, Sykes was reelected board president and Wyman Richardson, pastor of Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock, was elected vice president.
Messengers set the 2016 ABSC annual meeting for Oct. 25-26 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.
EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled from a report by the staff of the Arkansas Baptist News, the news journal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.)

12/7/2015 10:26:00 AM by Arkansas Baptist staff | with 0 comments

Boko Haram resumes village raids, destruction

December 4 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Boko Haram has revived its once trademark hit-and-run raids on villages, killing at least eight people, kidnapping and displacing others, and burning homes in northeastern Nigeria and southeastern Niger villages Nov. 28-29, according to news reports.
The raids are the type of attacks Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said he would be able to stop by the end of December, aided by a regional army of 8,700 soldiers. At the same time, Boko Haram has continued almost daily suicide attacks Buhari has said would be much more difficult to combat in Nigeria and neighboring countries.
While Buhari is having more success against Boko Haram than previous Nigerian administrations, he has simply been unable to defeat the strong militants, said Ann Buwalda, executive director of the Jubilee Campaign for religious freedom and human rights.
“Is there progress? Yes. But is Boko Haram actually curtailed? I would say no, that this government is doing what it can, but still is not able to fully capture or apprehend or destroy Boko Haram’s strongholds in the northeast of Nigeria,” Buwalda said. “They’re very strong there.”
Boko Haram attacked villages in Borno state and Adamawa in Nigeria, and in the Diffa region of Niger, the French news agency AFP (Agence France-Presse) reported. Days earlier, Boko Haram killed 18 people and injured 11 others during a raid in the village of Wogom located near the southeastern town of Bosso, Niger, on the Nigerian border, AFP reported.
In the attacks, Boko Haram arrived on bicycles and on foot, shot civilians indiscriminately, slit the throats of others, threw explosives into homes, and kidnapped some of the women and children, fleeing in vehicles they stole onsite, witnesses told AFP.
But the village attacks are not an indication that Boko Haram is gaining strength, said Buwalda, whose organization receives reports from the non-governmental organization Stefanos Foundation and others in Nigeria.
“They continue their efforts to terrorize the local population in the northeast,” Buwalda said. “But I don’t see that Boko Haram is at this very moment gaining territory. That’s not what I’ve observed in terms of their levels of attack.”
The hit-and-run raids, once a Boko Haram trademark, had declined in favor of suicide attacks in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, often conducted by women Boko Haram had kidnapped, according to news reports. Among the latest suicide bombings, two women killed five civilians and wounded two soldiers by blowing themselves up in northern Cameroon Nov. 28, and three suicide bombers killed three civilians in an attack Dec. 1, also in northern Cameroon, Reuters and AFP reported. Boko Haram has taken credit for a Nov. 28 suicide bombing in Kano, Nigeria, that killed 22 people, AFP reported.
A top United Nations official warned Dec. 1 that Boko Haram’s almost daily suicide attacks are an effort to expand by demonstrating its power to young potential recruits who are suffering from poverty and marginalization.
“Boko Haram is ... convincing [recruits] that it is a sacrifice for the better. So we have to show them that they don’t have to die to have a better life,” Najat Rochdi, U.N. resident coordinator in Cameroon, told Reuters. He estimated Boko Haram’s numbers at 40,000 in the region, and said the militants are trying to establish an oil-rich Islamic state around Lake Chad.
More than 15 percent of children in the region are acutely malnourished, Rochdi told Reuters, and 2.2 million people are described as “food-insecure,” because of Boko Haram’s impact on farming and markets.
In Nigeria, the military had been hampered in fighting Boko Haram because a $2 billion arms scam diverted money that would have been used to supply the military with weapons, leading to the loss of thousands of lives, Buhari said. Nigeria arrested a former government official and a private business leader, charging them in connection with fraud and theft in procuring fighter jets, helicopters, weapons and ammunition that never materialized.
In efforts to abolish Christianity and establish Sharia law, Boko Haram had proclaimed Islamic caliphates or Sharia-based governments covering more than 20,000 square miles in northeast Nigeria before Buhari was elected. Nigeria’s military managed to recapture the land and establish sufficient peace to conduct nationwide elections, which had been delayed due to violence. Boko Haram has killed more than 1,500 people since Buhari took office, most of them by suicide bombings.
The regional military task force has enjoyed successes against Boko Haram. On Dec. 2, the military forces killed at least 100 Boko Haram members and freed 900 hostages, Cameroon military officials told Reuters.
Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is ranked by the 2015 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) as the deadliest terrorist group in the world, exceeding ISIS. The GTI attributed more than 6,644 deaths to Boko Haram in 2014, with most attacks occurring in northeastern Nigeria. ISIS killed 6,073 in terrorist attacks in the same year, according to the report.
Boko Haram originally targeted Christians but has also killed moderate Muslims, government officials and civilians, killing as many as 20,000 people and displacing 2.6 million others since 2009, and displacing 2.5 million from their homes, according to estimates. The group has pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed ISIS.
In 2014 alone, 42 percent of all attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria were on Christian communities, while 35.4 percent targeted random civilians, according to the Jubilee Campaign 2015 Report on Nigeria. Other attacks in 2014 targeted Muslim communities (6.8 percent), the government (10.9 percent), schools (4.1 percent), and media and medical personnel (0.5 percent), the Jubilee Campaign reported.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

Related Stories:

Boko Haram exceeds ISIS in terrorism deaths
800,000 children displaced by Boko Haram
Boko Haram suicide bombings widespread in Nigeria

12/4/2015 12:37:42 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Georgia Baptists increase budget, boost CP giving

December 4 2015 by Christian Index/Baptist Press

A brand new Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) reinvented for a new era in ministry was unveiled to messengers at the 194th annual meeting of the state convention. Messengers, meeting at Roswell Street Baptist Church on Nov. 9-10, also approved a 2016 budget of $40,600,000, a modest $200,000 increase over the current year’s budget and the first increase in six years.
Messengers also approved a full two-percentage point increase in Cooperative Program gifts to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) ministries in the budget. The total giving to national ministries including designated funds is 53.95 percent.
A portion of the annual Cooperative Program budget includes funds allowed by the SBC to remain in the state. These funds, frequently referred to as “shared causes,” include the promotion of the Cooperative Program by state convention employees and media as well as the bookkeeping expense of collecting the funds, recording them, and sending one check each month to the SBC. That process, shouldered by state conventions, avoids individual churches sending thousands of checks each month to the SBC Executive Committee.

53.95% forwarded to SBC Executive Committee

GBC Executive Director J. Robert White reported that Georgia Baptists gave a total of $62,096,469 in mission gifts – including Cooperative Program and designated gifts such as Mission Georgia, Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon missions offerings throughout the Oct. 2014-Sept. 2015 church year. The state convention forwarded $33,498,449 (53.95 percent) to the SBC.
“We are so thankful for our churches who support missions in Georgia and around the world,” White said.
White noted 55 percent of the debt servicing line item, which was no longer needed due to the debt on the Missions Center being retired through a gift of the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation, was being added to the state’s Cooperative Program funds that are forwarded to the SBC.
Those new funds, which equal two percentage points, will result in an additional $429,493 to the International Mission Board, $194,171 to the North American Mission Board, $188,803 to the six seminaries, $25,475 to SBC operations, and $14,508 to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

New identity for GBC

White rolled out the reinvention of the state convention and its new name – Georgia Baptist Mission Board – during his report to messengers. The new name and structure will take place on January 1.
The current name does not sufficiently describe the agency’s focus – missions – and, White said, the new name would position it closer to the missionary-sending entity that it has become.
The change could result in the eventual sale of the Baptist Missions and Mission Center on Sugarloaf Parkway, whenever a suitable offer is received, with minimal staff relocated to a much smaller facility. The convention will slowly move toward field-based personnel and practitioners to save on overhead costs and bring state missionaries closer to the field.
The commissioning service for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board will be held for staff in a special chapel service on Jan. 5. Mark Hearn, pastor of Baptist Church of Duluth, will be the guest speaker. While not open to the public due to space limitations, the service will be live streamed. Check The Christian Index website ( closer to the date of the service for more information.

Hammond elected president

Messengers elected First Baptist Alpharetta pastor Thomas Hammond as president, succeeding outgoing two-year-term President Don Hattaway, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville. Serving alongside Hammond will be vice presidents Kevin Williams of First Baptist Villa Rica, Robby Foster of Northside Baptist in Valdosta, Brad Waters of First Baptist Hazlehurst, and Mark Sterling of Curtis Baptist in Augusta.
Hattaway delivered the President’s Sermon, drawn from the book of Jonah. He likened modern-day Georgia to ancient Nineveh and its penchant for perverted lifestyles.
Barry Snapp, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Rockmart, delivered the Missionary Sermon based on John 1 and titled “Bring Them to Jesus.” Snapp urged those present to take the Gospel to those in their communities.

61 new congregations added

GBC Executive Committee member and pastor of First Baptist Newnan Jimmy Patterson announced that Georgia Baptists welcomed 61 new congregations into their fellowship during the 2014-15 church year. Most noteworthy, though, was that 51 percent of the congregations are non-Anglo/non-white, the highest percentage of new congregations in GBC history.
Patterson also noted that, continuing the trend toward greater ethnic diversity, First Baptist Church of Iranians in Lanier Association was among those welcomed into the Georgia Baptist family. It is the first Iranian church plant in GBC history and is being sponsored by First Baptist Church of Cumming in cooperation with NAMB’s Send Atlanta emphasis. It is housed at First Alpharetta due to the larger concentration of Iranians.
The closing session featured a message from Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas.
Messengers approved a motion from pastor Jean Ward, president of the Georgia Baptist African-American Fellowship, for the state convention’s constitution to be amended to allot one seat on the GBC Executive Committee to the fellowship. Ward, as president of the group, would represent the fellowship on the committee.
The Order of Business Committee recommended the motion be referred to the Executive Committee who, in turn, would report to the 2016 meeting of the Convention.

1,404 messengers registered

A total of 1,404 messengers attended this year’s meeting at Roswell Street Baptist, up 148 from the 1,256 who attended the 2014 meeting at Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon.
A record-breaking 28,939 backpacks were collected by Georgia Baptists for underprivileged children in Appalachia. This year’s goal was 25,000.
Calvary Baptist Temple in Savannah will host the 195th annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention on Nov. 14 and 15, 2016.
The 2016 doctrinal sermon will be delivered by Jim Perdue, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Warner Robins. Alternate will be Jason Jones, pastor of Isabella Baptist Church in Sylvester.
The 2016 missionary sermon will be presented by Andy Childs, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Toccoa while alternate will be Jerry Dockery, pastor of Crabapple First Baptist Church in Alpharetta.
The following year the 2017 annual meeting will be held Nov. 13 and 17 at North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was submitted by The Christian Index, the newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

12/4/2015 12:31:23 PM by Christian Index/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Seminary Roundup: News from SBTS, SEBTS and MBTS

December 4 2015 by Compiled by Baptist Press staff

The following article, compiled by Baptist Press, includes news releases of interest from Southern Baptist seminaries including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Southern, ERLC add 2 doctoral ethics degrees

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) is partnering with the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) to offer doctor of ministry and doctor of educational ministry degrees in Christian ethics, beginning with the upcoming winter semester.
Applications are being accepted for the summer semester for the degree programs to help prepare ministers to lead their church to engage the culture with the gospel.
The new degrees, which are 32 and 46-hour programs respectively, add to the doctoral program that the ERLC and Southern established last spring.
ERLC President Russell Moore said he hopes the new degree programs “will be a service to the church in raising up a corps of future leaders trained to be a gospel-focused voice in their ministry contexts on the pressing issues of the day.” Moore formerly was dean of the SBTS school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration.
Classes will be held on the campus in Louisville, Ky., as well as the ERLC’s locations in Nashville and Washington D.C. ERLC leaders Moore and Barrett Duke, vice president of public policy and research, will join with SBTS’s ethics department as instructors.
“Pastors and Christian leaders are doing ethics every day as they carry out their ministry,” said Phillip Bethancourt, executive vice president of the ERLC who also holds a faculty position at the seminary. The new degrees will help “equip a new generation of ministers to train their people to apply the gospel to all of life.”

Southeastern Theological Fellowship honors scholars at ETS

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) recognized five evangelical scholars during the Southeastern Theological Fellowship dinner at the 67th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Atlanta in November.
The scholars, from five different colleges, universities and seminaries, received awards for excellence in research and writing and for displaying characteristics of a Great Commission scholar particularly in classroom instruction and Christian scholarship.
SEBTS provost, Bruce Ashford, who served as master of ceremonies, said the seminary sponsors the dinner “to facilitate fellowship and scholarly collaboration across the evangelical community and to award selected persons for their contributions to evangelical scholarship.”
The first four honorees were Susan Booth, professor of evangelism and missions at Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and College; Michael Shepherd, associate professor of biblical studies at Cedarville University; Douglas Moo, professor of New Testament at Wheaton University; and Gregg Allison, professor of Christian theology at SBTS.
Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School who received the fifth award, briefly spoke on the benefit of scholarship in building up the church, emphasizing the difference between knowledge and wisdom and voicing a desire for everyone to grow in both areas.
“It was a wonderful evening,” Ashford said, “in which we had evangelical Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians and Methodists together at the banquet, not only dining together, but building friendships, sharpening one another, and even in some instances conceiving of writing projects upon which they wish to collaborate.”
More than 20 SEBTS faculty and students were among several dozen individuals from Southern Baptists’ six seminaries who presented papers at the meeting in the areas of theology, biblical studies and ethics.

Midwestern theology journal focuses on ‘Preachers & Preaching’

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) released its Fall 2015 issue of the Midwestern Journal of Theology, titled “Preachers & Preaching, Part II,” on Nov. 30, following up on Spring 2015 issue’s theme.
MBTS President Jason Allen said the journal reflects one of the seminary’s goals in serving the local church – “to provide scholarly and practical resources to enhance the gospel ministries of pastors, missionaries and ministers of God’s Word.”
Writing on the topic of preaching were Michael McMullen, MBTS professor of church history and managing editor of the journal; Jason Duesing, MBTS provost and associate professor of historical theology; Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology and director of Midwestern’s Center for Theological and Cultural Engagement; Scott Gibson, Haddon W. Robinson professor of preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; and Gregory Wills, dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of theology and professor of church history.
Titles of their articles are: McMullen, “John Williams, 1767-1825” (on the 19th-century Welsh Baptist preacher); Duesing, “Preaching against the State” (on 16th-century Anabaptists); Strachan, “The Pastor as Prophet: Christic Exposition in the Age of Audio”; Gibson, “The Landscape of the Character of Preaching”; and Wills, “The Ecclesiology of Charles. H. Spurgeon.”
The journal, which also includes seven book reviews, can be viewed in its entirety for free at the seminary’s website,; for subscription information for the journal’s print version, call (816) 414-3745 or email
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Art Toalston, senior editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. Original authors include T. Patrick Hudson, from MBTS; Maria Estes, from SEBTS; and Bonnie M.C. Burke, from SBTS.)

12/4/2015 12:16:57 PM by Compiled by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Violence in the city of peace

December 4 2015 by Mike Edens, NOBTS

Arab-on-Jewish violence has re-erupted in and around Jerusalem in recent weeks. Is this something new? No; but then again, yes.
There is something different in these acts. Many of the attacks are inspired by viral social media images rather than calls from religious or political groups. The weapon of choice for these daytime acts has generally been a knife rather than a gun.
Some of the Arab attackers are citizens of Israel and some are women. What has caused this within the nation of Israel?


Screen capture from YouTube
Viral footage of a young Palestinian woman attempting to stab a guard at a government checkpoint has heightened tensions between Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations.

An oddity of these events is that most of the attackers have little to no involvement in Palestinian political groups. Viral videos seem to be the uniting factor for those who have stabbed Jewish soldiers, policemen and ordinary citizens.
Some viewed footage of demonstrations and riots sparked by the perceived threat of Jewish destruction of the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. While Israeli political leaders have repeatedly declared their commitment to the latest Status Quo agreements reached after the Six-Day War of 1967 for freedom of access to the site, it has done little to lessen the volatility.
Others have viewed footage of previous Arab knife-wielding attacks on Jewish residents. Footage of a young Palestinian woman who stabs a Jewish man and her subsequent treatment by Israeli security forces, for example, was viewed by Arab men who later used knives to strike out at Jews.
In recent days, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) has issued Hebrew-language threats against Israel and global Judaism. These speakers claim solidarity with the current violence in Israel and support for the perpetrators. Clearly ISIS has no organized presence in Israel or the occupied territories, nor do other organizations seem to have control of these events. Like the so-called “Arab Spring,” viral images as well as social media seem to fuel this renewed conflict.
Many of those committing violent acts seem to be religiously marginal. However, this does not mean that they are not nationalistic nor culturally idealistic. The perceived threat to the Al Aqsa Mosque is not just religious. It can clearly be seen as a national and cultural icon. Additionally, images of young women assaulting Jewish men and suffering violence for their actions results in culturally-driven chaotic emotions in young Arab men.
The daytime commission of Arab-on-Jewish violence destabilizes daily life in many ways. The use of cutting weapons, knifes and cleavers, and the nature of the perpetrators allow them to “blend” into foot traffic in Jerusalem more easily. This is in contrast to young men toting AK-47s.
Many of the attackers have their social, economic and political well-being anchored in the nation of Israel. They attend government schools, serve in Arab-Israeli civic organizations and vote in Israeli elections. In the second intifada from 2000-2005, remotely similar tensions arose, but for the most part peaceful coexistence has been the norm. Israeli Jewish populations and security forces could assume that persons who were not part of groups like Hamas were unlikely to be threats to Jewish citizens.
While these issues in isolation are complex and confusing to outsiders to decipher, an additional perspective needs to be considered. To use the word “axis,” the values of all societies and persons can be plotted on a graph with two axes. One set of moral values stretches from collectivism on one extreme to individualism at the other. The second set of human norms stretches from honor/shame to innocence/guilt.
Middle Easterners both Hebrew and Arab tend to be defined by collectivism and honor/shame whereas Westerners identify with individualism and innocence/guilt. It is hard for Americans to comprehend choices which value communal life more highly than individual life and expend energies to protect the honor of the community even at the cost of being seen as personally guilty by society.
Behind this growing violence between the ethnically “other” residents of the Holy Land is another reality driven by biblical injunctions. Jews and Christians struggle with the command given in Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The question asked of Jesus in the first century is still being asked today: “Who is my neighbor?” Some are in communities of faith and are struggling to love in the midst of deep communal distrust and individual anger, seeking to walk humbly with God and all their neighbors.
One Palestinian, “Matthew,” recounts how becoming a follower of Christ has taught him love and forgiveness for his Jewish neighbors. His words speak of the transformation which Jesus Christ brings to the ethnic hatred and destruction in our world. A Messianic Jewish believer, “Shaul,” tells of caring for a pregnant Palestinian woman in the absence of a doctor and delivering her baby. Both of these men responded to God’s love in Christ which transformed ethnic pride and cultural superiority into a costly servant heart.
For us outside of Israel, we need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem knowing that the peace experienced by believers like Matthew and Shaul ultimately comes only from Jesus the Prince of Peace.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Edens is professor of theology and Islamic studies and dean of graduate studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

12/4/2015 12:08:20 PM by Mike Edens, NOBTS | with 0 comments

Sumners to retire, SBHLA begins director search

December 4 2015 by James A. Smith Sr., SBTS

Bill Sumners, director of Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (SBHLA) since 1988, will retire from his post next July, he recently announced in a letter to the Council of Seminary Presidents (CSP), which governs the organization.
“It has been my pleasure and joy to serve in this position, in this place, for most of my career,” Sumners told the CSP.


Bill Sumners

Since the 1997 reorganization of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the SBHLA has been governed by the CSP, comprised of the six SBC seminary presidents. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is also CSP president.
“We are very thankful for Bill Sumners for his many years of service to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives,” Mohler said. “He has been a key figure in bridging the Southern Baptist past to its present and future. We look forward to recognizing him in the months ahead for his service.”
Mohler said the CSP is “now about the task of finding” Sumners’ successor. As CSP president, Mohler will be “receiving all nominations for this very important post,” he said.
Candidates for SBHLA director are required to have a graduate degree in librarianship, Baptist history or archival studies, with a preference for certified archivists, Mohler said. Nominations will be received through Dec. 31, and can be mailed to: R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, Council of Seminary Presidents, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280.
Sumners expressed his appreciation to the Council of Seminary Presidents for its support and encouragement through the years.
“You have let us do our work and championed our vital role in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention,” he noted in his Sept. 21 letter to the CSP. “I particularly want to thank Dr. Mohler for his foresight in his work with the Program and Structure Committee in placing the SBHLA under the management of the Council. I am uncertain of our existence without his keen wisdom back in 1995.”
Sumners said the SBHLA’s “modest” collection in 1983 has grown to become the “largest, most diverse and most accessible collection of Baptist material in the world.”
Established in 1938 as part of the Southern Baptist Historical Society, the SBHLA maintains thousands of books, Baptist associations’ and state conventions’ annuals, Baptist newspapers, histories of Baptist churches, archival records, and many other Baptist history resources in 10,000 square feet of office space in the SBC Building in Nashville, according to its website.
Before becoming SBHLA director and archivist, Sumners was archivist of the Dargan-Carver Library of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (then known as the Sunday School Board of the SBC), 1983-1988. Previously, he was assistant archivist at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., and held library and research positions in Alabama and Texas.
Sumners holds degrees from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and University of Texas at Arlington. He has been married to Donna since 1971, and they have three children. He is a member and Sunday School teacher at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

12/4/2015 11:54:01 AM by James A. Smith Sr., SBTS | with 0 comments

Baptists respond to ‘prayer shaming’ after Calif. massacre

December 3 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

In bold letters, the sentence “God isn’t fixing this” dominated the Dec. 3 cover of the New York Daily News. Images of tweets from Republican leaders surrounded the headline, displaying sympathetic “thoughts and prayers” for the people affected by a Dec. 2 mass shooting.
The massacre occurred in San Bernardino, Calif., at Inland Regional Center, a state-run facility for individuals with developmental disabilities. Two heavily armed assailants dressed in tactical attire opened fire at a party located inside the building, killing 14 and wounding 17 more, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Our prayers are with the victims, their families, and the first responders in San Bernardino who willingly go into harm’s way to save others,” said GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz shortly after the massacre was reported.
The scathing subhead for the article, written by Rich Shapiro, called Cruz and others “cowards who could truly end gun scourge” that “continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”


Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said in a Washington Post article, “I’m hard-pressed to think of a more cynical and exploitative headline at a time of national mourning.”
Shapiro wrote in the first line of the NY Daily story, “Prayers aren’t working,” and quoted a tweet referring to gun control by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing – again.”
Emma Green, in an article for The Atlantic, called the sharp critique “prayer shaming.” She said, “There’s a clear claim being made here, and one with an edge: Democrats care about doing something and taking action while Republicans waste time offering meaningless prayers.”
Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., addressed the issue in his podcast, The Briefing, early Dec. 3.
He began by pointing out the oddity of a politically liberal news outlet demeaning Republican leaders for reacting to a tragedy by sharing “thoughts and prayers” since Democratic leaders, such as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, made similar statements only months ago after a mass shooting in Oregon.
“This cynicism offers a view into just how much religion and politics have changed in the United States,” said Green.
Mohler declared, “It tells us something about our contemporary political scene and about the continued secularization of America that the words ‘thoughts and prayers’ have now become a matter of political debate.”
Yet, the issue is not wholly political, said Mohler.
“From a Christian perspective we have to understand that more than a response to the phrase ‘thoughts and prayers’ is at work here,” said Mohler. “The New York Daily News after all, in that screaming headline, declared ‘God isn’t fixing this.’ That is something Christians need to note very, very carefully.”
Though the issue has been politicized, it is not political at its root. There is a deep moral longing in all people for the problems of this world to be solved, according to Mohler.
He continued, “Christians looking at this have to understand that nothing – no law, no political action – can actually solve the problem – can ‘fix it,’ as the New York Daily News demands – because the problem is in the human heart, not just in the events that come with horrifying headlines.”
The insufficiency for governmental, educational, psychological and other solutions to truly fix the problem of human violence points to the necessity and propriety of prayer in the face of murderous evil, according to Mohler.
“[The Christian] reflex to prayer is not a matter of public gesture, it is a matter of heartfelt concern, or at least it certainly ought to be,” he added. “We are both humbled and horrified from the biblical perspective in understanding the brokenness of the human heart that is reflected in the brokenness of the world.”
Only God can, and one day will, “fix it.” Yet, that doesn’t preclude the necessity for Americans to have a meaningful discussion about gun control, Mohler implied.
“[W]here there is the possibility of doing something that will really decrease the potential for human evil,” said Mohler, “we ought rightly to do it.”
Moore agrees: “I have no objection to people making the case for tightened gun control – even if I don’t agree with all their proposed solutions. Let’s have that debate. … The ‘prayer-shaming’ on social media, however, is not really about that debate at all.
“What most meant by ‘do something’ was to, well, express an opinion about gun control on Twitter. Ironically, enough, the ‘Don’t Just Pray There, Do Something’ meme will actually keep things from happening.”
He concluded, “We do believe that God can intervene, to comfort the hurting and even to energize ourselves and others for right action. For those who don’t believe in the power of prayer, the last thing any of us should want is social pressure to pretend to pray. What we can expect, though, is for neighbors to express in whatever ways they have, ‘We love one another, and we hurt for one another.’
“When that becomes just another culture war battlefield, we’ve lost more than a set of policy proposals. We’ve lost the social cohesion we need to do anything.”

12/3/2015 12:33:04 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 1 comments

Pro-life women speak in new ERLC book

December 3 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is preparing to publish a book by women on being pro-life in all of life.
The ERLC will release the book – Women on Life: A Call to Love the Unborn, Unloved and Neglected – in January, the same month when many Southern Baptist and other churches observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. The book’s release also will be near the dates of the inaugural Evangelicals for Life, an ERLC co-sponsored conference to be held in conjunction with the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.


With 16 female contributors, Women on Life – in both print and e-book format – seeks to equip Christians to address a variety of life situations from a biblical, pro-life perspective. The book’s topics include protecting unborn children and vulnerable women from abortion, seeking purity in singleness, teaching children about sex, helping pregnant teenagers, receiving forgiveness for sexual sin, adopting children, living as a single mother and caring for widows, the elderly and those with special needs.
Women on Life is about what it means to be pro-life, said Trillia Newbell, the book’s editor, in an ERLC news release.
“To be pro-life is to act out of love for every single person who carries incredible worth,” said Newbell, the ERLC’s director of community outreach. “It isn’t just a book about why we are pro-life, but rather how we can practically love and serve in a variety of difficult real-life circumstances.”
Russell Moore, the ERLC’s president, said in the news release, “It is crucial in our advocacy for the unborn that we speak directly to the consciences of women with a pro-life, whole-life message. The voices gathered together in Women For Life are doing just that. I’m excited to see what this book will accomplish for the cause of life and human dignity in our churches and communities.”
Among the contributors are Betsy Childs Howard, an editor with The Gospel Coalition; Jackie Hill-Perry, poet and artist with Humble Beast Records; and Kelly Rosati, vice president of community outreach for Focus on the Family.
Newbell thinks the book will help churches address a problem reflected in a new survey by LifeWay Research. The study, released Nov. 23, found – among other opinions – about twice as many women considering abortion expected or experienced judgment from a church rather than caring.
“My prayer is that this collection of short essays will help equip the church to serve and love the unborn, unloved and neglected,” Newbell said.
Women on Life will be available for purchase through most major online retailers. The book is being published by Leland House Press, an ERLC initiative to help local churches address moral and ethical issues.
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday in 2016 will be Jan. 17 on the Southern Baptist Convention calendar.
The ERLC is cosponsoring Evangelicals for Life with Focus on the Family. The conference, which has several other evangelical and pro-life organizations as sponsors, is scheduled Jan. 21-22. Moore, Newbell and Rosati are among the conference speakers. Registration for and information on Evangelicals for Life is available online at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
Related Story:
SBC leaders express concern, hope on abortion survey

12/3/2015 12:24:59 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lutheran group severs relationship with Scouts

December 3 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The second largest Lutheran denomination in America has severed its official relationship with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) based on concerns over the BSA’s decision this summer to allow openly homosexual Scout leaders.
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), a theologically conservative denomination with 2.1 million members, said in a news release it “no longer seems tenable” to abide by a 2013 Memorandum of Understanding with the BSA, in which the two organizations pledged to “work cooperatively” to “establish and nurture Scout units as an expression of the nurture and outreach ministry of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.” The release was issued by LCMS President Matthew Harrison and Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission.


The Memorandum of Understanding was dissolved Dec. 1.
“While we understand the legal concerns that led to this new BSA direction, it is simply a place the LCMS is not willing to go,” Harrison and Day said. “At our summer 2013 meeting with the BSA, we were assured that changes concerning adult leadership would not be on the table, but that was not the case. We are now being told that the LGBT agenda, even with the most recent change, won’t affect the content of Scouting or the BSA experience, but we do not believe that will be the case.”
The release noted the LCMS “has never ‘endorsed’ Scouting” but has allowed individual congregations to decide whether to sponsor Scout troops.
Harrison and Day said the BSA has offered its legal opinion that individual troops chartered by religious organizations may continue to exclude homosexuals from adult leadership based on the organizations’ values. But the BSA “fails to provide ample legal citations to verify support for such a conclusion,” the LCMS leaders said, and “the legal analysis is not particularly helpful” – including the Scouts’ assertion that adult leaders at church-sponsored troops would be viewed legally as ministers.
Due to the possibility of antidiscrimination lawsuits, LCMS congregations that continue sponsoring Scout troops “should seek legal counsel and guidance on how best to safeguard themselves legally,” according to the release.
The LCMS “had hoped to share” it would sign an agreement with the alternative scouting group Trail Life USA (TL), Harrison and Day said. However, “more conversation needs to take place, as it would be premature to wholly endorse TL.”
Among the LCMS’ concerns, “An uncritical involvement in TL could be just as problematic for any confessional Lutheran, for he or his congregation could easily be drawn into a theological perspective that is anti-sacramental, Arminian in its view of conversion and legalistic in its understanding of sanctification.”
Unlike the LCMS, the Southern Baptist Convention, which has never had a relationship with the Scouts, expressed disappointment with the BSA’s 2013 decision to prohibit denial of membership to youth “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
A 2013 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolution noted Southern Baptists’ “continued opposition to and disappointment in the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to change its membership policy” and predicted the decision was “merely the first step toward future approval of homosexual leaders in the Scouts.” The resolution encouraged families and Southern Baptist congregations to “prayerfully to assess their continued relationship with the BSA.”
As in the LCMS, individual Southern Baptist congregations have sponsored Scout troops.
When the BSA’s executive board voted to lift the Scouts’ national ban on homosexual adult leaders and employees, Southern Baptist leaders objected, including SBC President Ronnie Floyd and SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

12/3/2015 12:16:57 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC leaders express concern, hope on abortion survey

December 3 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists responded with concern and hope for greater grace in churches to a new LifeWay Research study that shows post-abortive women think congregations are more judgmental than caring.
The LifeWay survey, sponsored by the Care Net pregnancy center network, found 43 percent of women who have had an abortion were attending church at least once a month when they underwent the procedure that took their babies’ lives. Only 7 percent discussed their decision with someone in the church, according to the study released Nov. 23. See related report.
Among the findings in the survey of more than 1,000 post-abortive women:

  • They received or would have expected to receive from a church a judgmental reaction (33 percent) far more than a caring (16 percent), helpful (14 percent) or loving (13 percent) response.

  • Almost two-thirds (64 percent) thought church members are more likely to gossip about a woman contemplating abortion than to help her recognize options.

  • More than half (52 percent) of those who attend church acknowledged no one in their congregation knows about their abortion.

  • Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) said church members judge single women who are pregnant.

Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, said he “was saddened to hear that most [post-abortive women] said they would not share their plight or decision with people in the church because of fear. I do believe that is a valid point in some circumstances.”


He has ministered to women who had abortions and believes there is an alternative way to view the issue, said Page, a pastor for more than 30 years.
“There are many persons who feel such shame that they choose not to share with anyone,” he said. “For some, perhaps even a few, it is easier to say that their fear is of retribution or gossip when the truth is their deepest fear is the shame they feel over doing something so catastrophic.
“My prayer is for God’s healing and forgiveness, and yes also for acceptance by God’s people of those who have made such decisions in their past,” Page said.
Trillia Newbell, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s director of community outreach, said the survey results “do not surprise me, but they do grieve me.”
“We want our churches to be places where men and women can share openly and honestly about their struggles,” she said. “My hope is that the gospel of grace would break through a culture of fear and gossip so that women may be served well. We must equip the church on how to properly handle these tough circumstances with truth covered in gentleness and love.”
A soon-to-be-released book edited by Newbell is designed to equip churches to be pro-life in all areas. The ERLC-published book – Women on Life: A Call to Love the Unborn, Unloved and Neglected – will be released in print and e-book format in mid-January.
Garrett Kell, a pastor in the Washington-D.C., area, said the survey results “must cause us to stop and ask uncomfortable questions.”
“Am I the kind of Christian people feel safe to talk about their struggles with or would they feel condemned? Is our church the kind of place where people are shunned for sin or where they are helped to escape its snares?,” asked Kell, lead pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va.
Kell, whose pastoral ministry has demonstrated a burden for the abortion issue and those in crisis pregnancies, said, “Unplanned pregnancies can be terrifying for women and men alike, and a church built on the gospel will be one that welcomes and walks with people in their time of need. Lord, help us to be this kind of people!”
The ERLC and Focus on the Family are cosponsoring a conference to help equip churches to be pro-life from a Gospel perspective. Evangelicals for Life, a first-time event, will be held Jan. 21-22 in conjunction with the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Moore, Newbell and Kell are scheduled to be among the conference speakers. Registration for and information on Evangelicals for Life is available online at
The LifeWay survey showed regular worship attendance made a significant difference in a post-abortive woman’s perspective on her church. Regular church attenders were about four times as likely as those who rarely or never attend to say they expected or experienced such responses as caring, helpfulness and love.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

Related Story:

Pro-life women speak in new ERLC book

12/3/2015 12:11:39 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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