December 2016

New York man: Coats for City worth the work

December 28 2016 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Does giving away coats in New York really do any good?
Absolutely yes, a man told a volunteer team from First Baptist Church in Summerfield.
The team was in New York City to take part in the annual Coats for the City project Dec. 1-3, in which some 5,000 coats were given out in a dozen locations around the city. Another church was scheduled to distribute coats in December too.
On Dec. 1, First Baptist’s team went to a warehouse in Queens, near the East River, operated by Campus Crusade for Christ. The ministry allowed Baptists to offload hundreds of coats, trucked in from North Carolina, for pickup later that day by New York churches for the big distribution Dec. 3.
As the team waited, they talked with Jimmy Bodillo, a local resident who operates the warehouse, which partners with churches around New York City to deliver food, clothing and other basic items to needy people. Bodillo was touched that volunteers would come from North Carolina to give out coats, and he responded by giving his testimony.
He told how back in 2002 he was arrested, tried and sentenced to spend 15 to 30 years in the state prison. Bodillo was not a Christian then, but he challenged God to get him out of jail. New laws and good behavior got him released after three-and-a-half years.
Bodillo was out of jail, but he was without family, home, income or job. He had no education. He had nothing.
He was staying in a shelter for the homeless, “not knowing where to go.”
As Thanksgiving Day approached, members from a local church in the South Bronx came and gave him a Thanksgiving meal.
“It was really a box full of love,” Bodillo recalled with tears in his eyes.
The box also had information about the gospel. He went to the church that had brought him the food, thinking he would just say thanks for the help.
“I guess God had other plans, because I gave my life to Christ that same day,” Bodillo said.
He started attending the evangelical church. Remembering the bargain he had made with God for getting out of jail, Bodillo decided if God did His part of the bargain, he had to do his part by living right.
He became a faithful church member, then a leader. He earned his high school degree, then graduated from a local seminary. Later Bodillo got training to be a counselor. Then he started working with Cru, the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry that includes the warehouse where Bodillo now works.
Bodillo’s church is not Baptist, and he was given a meal, not a coat. But to Bodillo, the coats sent by North Carolina Baptists are still the kind of an expression of love needed to get someone’s attention long enough to hear the gospel.
“I want to say thank you,” he told the First Baptist volunteers. “It’s people like you who literally fill this warehouse. I am proof of what can happen when people give of themselves.”
That has impact, Bodillo said.
“That impact reaches lives, and I am that proof,” Bodillo said. “There are Jimmys all over this city, and you guys are reaching them.”
As the volunteers stood quietly in the concrete-floor warehouse, Jim Morgan led them in singing “Amazing Grace.”
Then the 22-foot truck, filled with a shipment of some 5,000 coats and a second shipment of love, arrived. The First Baptist volunteers started unloading both shipments. 

Related stories:
Multi-language DVDs bridge language gap
N.C. Baptists send coats, gospel and love to N.Y.

12/28/2016 10:54:55 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Benefit concert aids Baptists on Mission

December 28 2016 by Tim Stevens, Special to the Recorder

Perhaps the best description of the Three Phantoms in Concert Hurricane Matthew Benefit came from one of the organizers of the event at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium.

Photo by David Kuhn
Three Phantoms in concert, left to right, Craig Schulman, Ciaran Sheehan and Mark Jacoby.

“This is something that your God did,” she said.
The concert featured three Broadway actors who have played the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s megahit, Phantom of the Opera.
The one-night event netted more than $51,000 for N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM; also called Baptists on Mission).
“It was an incredible night,” said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director. “It was simply amazing to see how it all came together.”
Show N Tell Ministries, a small Christian non-profit, helped put the benefit together in about five weeks, aided by the North Carolina Theatre, the City of Raleigh and the Duke Energy Center. Local owners/operators of McDonald’s and Duke Energy provided corporate support so every dollar of ticket sales and all donations were donated to support flood relief efforts. The John William Pope Foundation provided a large grant to boost the donation.
“To me, it was a God thing,” said Tim Stevens, executive director of Show N Tell.  “It reminded me of the Experiencing God model. Henry Blackaby said we should join God where He is working rather than try to think up our own ideas.”
Craig Schulman, one of Stevens’ friends and a Broadway star, called to check on him after the hurricane. A benefit was mentioned during the conversation. They originally hoped to do a benefit at the Garner Performing Arts Center, and Stevens set a goal of three or $4,000.
But when Schulman called back, he said he had two friends, two former Phantoms, who had agreed to come and do Schulman’s most famous production, Three Phantoms in Concert.
The three stars – Schulman, Ciaran Sheehan and Mark Jacoby – have had leading roles in shows such as Les Miserables, Showboat, Fiddler on the Roof, Jekyll and Hyde, Ragtime, Finnian’s Rainbow and many others, said they would donate their time and talent.
The North Carolina Theatre was contacted to get marketing help and CEO Lisa Grele Barrie said she would help, but that the show needed to be at Memorial Auditorium. She talked to Jim Lavery at the large Raleigh venue and within minutes the facility had waived most of its fees so the show could be moved.
“The entire process was like that,” Stevens said. “I’m thinking a one man show in a small venue, but suddenly we’re in one of the most prestigious venues in the state, and we are presenting an incredible show with three Phantoms and a band. I’m thinking less than $5,000 and suddenly we’re looking at tens of thousands.”
The first corporate sponsorship came about from a casual conversation while in an elementary school carpool line.
Advertising help, graphic design and printing soon was volunteered.
“It was one of the more remarkable things that I have ever seen,” Stevens said. “Every time there was a hurdle, an answer came quickly.”
The group decided to have volunteers who have worked in disaster relief following Hurricane Matthew be ushers to save money. But the auditorium’s ushering staff volunteered so the yellow-shirted relief workers were free to welcome the crowd and talk about relief efforts.
At intermission, after a brief talk by McDonald’s Doris Huebner, those same relief volunteers collected almost $6,000 in additional donations. Leftover concert posters were put on a table with a bucket labeled, “Make a donation. Take a poster.” An additional $600 was donated.
“I was thinking we might pick up a couple of hundred dollars at intermission. I was stunned,” Stevens said.
Brunson said the event would have been successful even if much less money had been collected.
“We got to tell our story,” Brunson said. “We had some people here who knew nothing about N.C. Baptists and missions. But they left knowing what we do.”
The event was so successful that organizers are looking at possible events in other parts of the state. The Phantoms are willing to come for another benefit.
But there will be a lot of prayers before that decision is made.
“We don’t want to rush ahead,” Stevens said. “We tried to have this same concert in Wilmington the day after the Raleigh concert, and it just didn’t work. We had to cancel it. All the things that came together in Raleigh never came together in Wilmington.
“The guys really want to come back to North Carolina and do another benefit. Their hearts have been touched by the need and the good works that are being done. The big thing right now, though, is be thankful for what God has done.”

12/28/2016 10:53:42 AM by Tim Stevens, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists send coats, gospel and love to N.Y.

December 28 2016 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

A woman wept as she showed off the nearly new coat sent by North Carolina Baptists.
“It’s beautiful!” she said through tears.

BSC photo
The promise of warm coats drew people from across New York for Coats for the City. Teams of volunteers from North Carolina traveled to the city to help with distribution at several churches and church plants. Coats for the City is a partnership between Metro New York Baptist Association and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

It took the promise of a warm coat to draw her into Graffiti 3 Church, a new Baptist church plant in Brownsville, a high-crime, high-poverty neighborhood in eastern Brooklyn, one of New York City’s five boroughs.
Pastor Norm Cannada, church members and a team of students from Fruitland Baptist Bible College in Hendersonville, greeted local residents outside and sent them upstairs to look through tables covered with coats. The locals left with coats, gospel tracts and copies of the 24-language Jesus DVD. Many had heard the gospel and seen Christian compassion expressed.
“Graffiti 3 had a great day with the coat giveaway,” Cannada said. “I had people sharing how much they appreciated the way our team from North Carolina and here at Graffiti 3 prayed for them. Thank you so much for allowing us to participate.”
Six Fruitland students who worked at Graffiti 3 were led by Ben Tackett, librarian and professor who teaches Christian literature, computers in research, Greek and Hebrew.
“I personally prayed with four different people and talked to probably 30 to 35 people,” said second-year student Byron Allison of Olin. “It was an excellent experience.”
The Brownsville scene was repeated across New York City on Sat., Dec. 3, in the sixth annual Coats for the City outreach, a ministry carried out in partnership between the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA).
Twelve churches, mostly recent church plants, distributed about 5,000 coats collected by N.C. Baptist churches and shipped to New York for the ministry.
A 13th church in the Bronx will distribute coats later this month.
“Coats for the City has been a great example of how partnership with multiple churches and volunteers can help us here in the city to multiply our contacts and gospel conversations and as a result, greatly strengthen our church-planting efforts,” said Kelli Creswell, staff member of MNYBA, based in Manhattan.
The association includes some 250 churches of many cultures and languages across greater New York City and beyond, plus parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
About 135 N.C. Baptist volunteers went to New York to help, starting on Thurs., Dec. 1, as church planters picked up the coats in three locations.
A team from First Baptist Church of Summerfield helped unload, sort and later reload more than 1,000 coats which had been delivered to a ministry warehouse operated by Cru Inner City Ministry, an arm of Campus Crusade for Christ. Saturday the Summerfield team helped give out more than 700 coats in Jackson Heights, Queens.
First Baptist Church has worked with Coats for the City since soon after the ministry began there in 2011. Jim and Wilma Morgan, leaders of the coats ministry, were on hand to sort, tote and distribute the coats. The two lead efforts to acquire coats from multiple sources, then rally volunteers to help clean, repair and sort the coats before hanging them on store racks in the church for delivery.
Marsha McDaniel, a 15-year member of First Baptist, was along to help with the coats on her first mission trip, though she serves year-round with Operation Christmas Child.
The First Baptist team worked as in previous years at Jackson Heights, Queens, where they handed out hundreds of coats in a public square to long lines of people eager to get them. This is one of New York’s most people-diverse areas, with many residents from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and beyond.
“We had a great coats outreach. It was really well received by the community,” church planter Brad Wall said of the Jackson Heights ministry. Wall leads South Asian outreach for the Global Gates Network and also directs strategy and leadership development.
“We have 18 follow-up appointments with people who requested a Bible and someone to study it with them,” Wall said. “We are going out tonight to connect with some of them. Please be praying.”
Bud Davis, a member of Lakes Community Church in Sanford, drove the 22-foot truck packed with coats to New York. His son, Clay, accompanied him.
Six other Fruitland students – led by Fruitland facilities director Bobby Garrett – helped with coats in Jackson Heights, which is one of the most culturally diverse areas of the city. Few in Jackson Heights spoke English, so most of the talking required interpreters, Garrett said.
They talked with people from South Korea, Peru, Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Ecuador.
“It was an incredible thing,” Garrett said. “Only one Muslim man refused to talk to us.”
Zac Lyons went to a coats distribution in Jamaica, Queens, where many people from Bangladesh live. Lyons recently became director of the Baptist State Convention’s Great Commission Partnerships ministry which helps churches set up missions partnerships in the United States and overseas.
“Coats for the City has proven to be a good way for North Carolina Baptist churches to partner with church planters and missionaries in New York City for the spread of the gospel to the nations God brought to us,” Lyons said.
The impact of giving out coats was clear: Lyons said one Bengali family was so touched by what the visitors were doing on the chilly day that they bought cups of hot chai and gave to all the volunteers so they could be warm while serving.
“Several people asked ‘Why are you guys doing this?’ and we were able to share the gospel with them,” Lyons said. Many wanted a copy of the New Testament in their language.
One man told Lyons he had tried to read the Bible once but had found it difficult to understand. Lyons pulled out his cell phone and used an app to audibly read out the Gospel of John in Bangla (as Bengali is called).
Volunteers at Jamaica were from Wilkesboro Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, Rich Fork Baptist Church in Thomasville and Tar Heel Baptist Church in Tar Hill.
In a different cultural context, pastors and members of three churches in Ridgewood, Queens, joined with volunteers from Dudley Shoals Baptist Church in Granite Falls to hand out coats. Kristo “Beni” Pango, pastor of an Albanian language church; Emanuel Grozea, pastor of Maranatha Romanian Baptist Church; and Nathan Creitz, pastor of City Life Church, worked together as they set up tables laden with coats along the sidewalk in front of Maranatha’s building.
“We had a great response to our coat giveaway,” Creitz said.
“Our English-speaking church plant connected with people of many different languages, including Arabic, Polish, Spanish, Romanian and Albanian.
“Our volunteers from Dudley Shoals Baptist Church were able to speak with many families, and the scarves and hats they brought from North Carolina were a big hit.”
Creitz said he wanted to send a message to North Carolina Baptists: “Thanks so much for your gift of coats and helpers to make this event a success every year.”
Pastor Bartley Wooten led a team from Beulaville Baptist Church in Beulaville, which included Wooten’s wife and daughter.
They served with Swerve Church, a newly planted church which meets in the building of longer established Evergreen Baptist Church in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The two churches set up the basement as a distribution center for coats, doughnuts, hot drinks and other goodies. Wooten was able to swap pastoral stories with Swerve’s pastor, Danny Torres.
Beulaville member Todd Jackson, his son, Lance, and member Ransom Smith helped local people sort through tables laden with coats to find good fits. Kim Longbottom, a member of New Friendship Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, and Courtney Combs from Beulaville Baptist Church worked with children at a table to one side.
Ann Combs had an extended conversation with a young couple from Italy.
In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a team from West Canton Baptist Church, braved freezing breezes outside in a park to distribute coats and talk with people who came to get them, working with the pastor and members of Mosaic Baptist Church.
Crystle Fletcher, Harriett Worsham and Beth Gray talked with a woman who sipped the hot chocolate they gave her while member Daniel Fletcher talked to a local man while they sat on a park bench.
A training session was held the afternoon of Friday, Dec. 3, at First Baptist Church in Manhattan by Baptist state convention leaders and local church planters.
Staff and leaders with the Baptist State Convention and MNYBA are already planning 2017’s Coats for the City.  

Related stories:
Multi-language DVDs bridge language gap
New York man: Coats for City worth the work

12/28/2016 10:42:01 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Blake Comer: Planting in Brooklyn

December 28 2016 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Blake Comer walks down Manhattan Avenue in New York City and seems perfectly at home. He points out the Polish baker, the Polish grocery and the signs with Polish names. He steps into his favorite doughnut shop where the staff welcome him as a regular.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
The plan is to have no exit strategy, Blake Comer said of planting a church in Brooklyn.

“You can hear Polish spoken about anytime you’re in here,” he says as he perches on a stool at a counter fronting racks filled with thick, serious doughnuts.
“This place was named as one of the nation’s best doughnut shops,” he brags before the waitress takes his order.
Now, this neighborhood that is Comer’s new home is not in Manhattan.
Manhattan Avenue is one of the main streets running through Greenpoint, Brooklyn, across the East River from Manhattan’s skyscrapers. Here, few Greenpoint buildings soar taller than three or four floors; incomes and rents are also lower this side of the river. Neighborhoods here are famously made up of many immigrants from Poland.
But this is New York, and there are many ethnic groups.
The tallest building nearby is St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church, a few blocks down. Poles tend to be Catholic, at least in background.
Despite his understanding and positive thoughts about Greenpoint, Comer and his wife, Laura Beth, only moved here last December. Their roots are in the Carolinas.
Ask Comer where he is from, and, like many people do these days, he hesitates in answering. His parents live in Winston-Salem, so his Tar Heel connection is ongoing.
Born in South Carolina, he also lived in Burlington and Goldsboro in North Carolina. During the Burlington years, he completed grades one through six and was a member of Holly Hill Baptist Church, led by then-pastor Steve Hardy, who recently served with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Great Commission Partnership office. Moving to New York seems like a big move for a Carolinas resident. But the move was for a huge purpose: They have come to start a new church.
Asked why, Comer answers in a couple of ways. First, he has been moving on an eight-year faith journey that led here. God called him to start a church before he completed Anderson University in Anderson, S.C., in 2007. He served as a pastoral intern and youth pastor with a congregation in Columbia, S.C., to gain experience, all along preparing to plant a church.
After a visit to New York, talking to many people, mentors and peers and doing lots of research, he felt led here to Brooklyn’s northernmost neighborhood of Greenpoint.
“We have prayed through this and talked a lot,” Comer said. “We have tried hard to pursue what the Lord was calling us to do.”
Getting endorsed by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) was a big help. At this point, Comer is called a church-planting intern. He and his family were able to live in New York in NAMB’s David Dean House almost rent-free for several months as they settled in and adjusted.
The Comers were fortunate to find a small apartment for them and their two children; there’s even a small backyard, a rare luxury in New York. Comer waits tables at an upscale Manhattan restaurant to help cover the achingly high expenses that go with living here. A pastor friend helped him find the job, which leaves his weekends and evenings free. He’s also doing an internship at a church in Manhattan, and the family is attending an area church until they get a new one started.
Comer walks from Manhattan Avenue toward the East River, passing brownstone houses with steps down to the sidewalk just like in countless movies and TV shows.
He points to an abandoned church building that once was an independent Baptist church; it’s now just a place for rent. There is an urgent need for new churches in Greenpoint, Comer said, where some 40,000 people live.
He lists five Catholic churches and a few others in town, but “only one or two healthy evangelical churches.”
Further, the area is growing. Over the next five years, new housing high-rises are projected to be built in the former industrial/warehouse area alongside the East River. The new housing is expected to draw another 10,000 to 20,000 people.
“Once again, the workers are few, and the harvest is plentiful,” Comer said quietly.
He and his family are settling in for the long haul, figuring that’s what it will take to start a church. He likens their commitment to early New World settlers who burned their ships to make sure they stayed put in their new home.
“We don’t have an exit strategy,” Comer said. “Here, if you have an exit strategy, you’ll use it.
“Our goal this year is to start a weekly Bible study in our home. At this point, we’re inviting people to dinner or brunch, serving pancakes and grits. We’re being intentional and trying to move slowly. We have no illusions of putting up a steeple and people immediately coming in.”
As Comer heads back off toward home, one gets the idea that he’s not just seeing the Greenpoint streets. He’s already seeing a new church, welcoming people not just to a new community, but to a new church – and ultimately, into the Kingdom of God.  

12/28/2016 10:34:53 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Church partnerships assist Hurricane Matthew victims

December 28 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Although months have passed since Hurricane Matthew left a path of devastation and destruction in its wake, many individuals and churches in eastern North Carolina still have significant needs.
N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM), also known as Baptists on Mission, is providing churches across the state a chance to lend a helping hand to those families and congregations impacted by the storm.
As part of its long-term relief and recovery efforts in eastern North Carolina, NCBM is coordinating church-to-family partnerships and church-to-church partnerships.
The partnerships allow a congregation to be matched with a family or church to offer prayer, volunteers, construction or other assistance to those impacted by the storm. The initiative is being called “Baptists CARE,” short for Churches Assisting Recovery Efforts.
NCMB and its team of volunteers plan to engage in relief and recovery efforts in the months and years ahead in eastern North Carolina, but the needs are so great that NCBM officials want to involve as many people as possible to help meet those needs and minister to others.
The program is designed so that even a group with a church, such as a Sunday School class or small group, can participate. “We’re aiming to help as many people as possible, and the only way to do that is to ask churches and church groups to partner with a specific family or church to meet as many needs as possible,” said Tom Beam, student mission mobilization consultant with NCBM.
Beam is helping coordinate the efforts for church-to-family partnerships, alongside Paul Langston, NCBM’s missions mobilization consultant, who is coordinating church-to-church partnerships.
Baptists on Mission have been working with pastors, directors of missions and disaster relief coordinators to develop a list of needs from families and churches in affected areas. Churches that want to provide assistance will be matched with a family or church to work with directly.
Thanks to the generosity of N.C. Baptist churches, church members, businesses and others, NCBM will provide partner churches up to $2,000 to assist families rebuild their homes and up to $10,000 to assist affected churches. Partner churches will consult with the assigned family or church to decide what the partner church will be able to accomplish with the available funds and resources.
“The main goal of these partnerships is build a relationship between the partner church and the affected family or church,” Langston said. “Whatever your church can do will be greatly appreciated by the congregation.”
Beam and Langston said these partnership opportunities are a great way to show the love of Christ and share the gospel. “Our hope is that people will come to know the Lord or develop a better relationship with Him through these partnerships,” Beam said.

For more information or to participate in a church-to-church or church-to-family partnership, contact the Baptists on Mission offices at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5596.  

12/28/2016 10:27:42 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Multi-language DVDs bridge language gap

December 28 2016 by BSC Communications

New York City is famous for its high numbers of internationals who have come to the Big Apple from other lands – more than 500 language-culture groups now live there.
Many of these newcomers speak English poorly or not at all. The language gap is a very real divide Baptists had to cross during the recent Coats for the City effort in New York City.
About 135 Baptist volunteers journeyed from North Carolina to New York Dec. 1-3 to help local Baptists distribute about 5,000 coats collected by N.C. Baptist churches. The coats helped win an audience, but then, how does one talk about Jesus with someone from Bangladesh or some other distant country?
Technology helped. Along with the coats, the volunteers were equipped with 200,000 copies of the famous Jesus film produced by Campus Crusade for Christ, which tells the life of Christ and presents the plan of salvation. Each DVD carries the film’s soundtrack in 24 languages.
These are the most common languages spoken in New York City, said Brad Wall, co-founder and strategy/leadership development director for the church-planting Global Gates Network in New York City. He also directs outreach to South Asians. The Jesus DVDs were a gift from Phil Cohn, with Christ for All Peoples (CFAP), based in Charlotte.
Cohn was a building contractor who gave mostly to help overseas missions work, but he said God called him to reach people from overseas nations who have flooded into America in recent years.

He has been raising funds to produce 1 million of the Jesus DVDs and enlist 20,000 volunteers to reach the homes of 10 million immigrants with the gospel over the next three years.
Related stories:
N.C. Baptists send coats, gospel and love to N.Y.
New York man: Coats for City worth the work

12/28/2016 10:21:23 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Year in Review: Read the most viewed & most shared stories of 2016

December 27 2016 by BR staff

The Internet allows news stories to travel faster than ever before. That momentum is generated by readers who visit our website and engage with news through social media. See the top online stories of the year.

Most viewed – Web
  1. Evangelicals and Donald Trump: It’s not him, it’s us (column) – March 3
  2. The barren woman’s home on Mother’s Day (column) – May 3
  3. Graham issues protest letter to ACC over anti-HB2 vote – Sept. 16
  4. Proposed bill limits referrals to Baptist Children’s Homes – Aug. 22
  5. J.D. Greear to be SBC president nominee – March 2
  6. Williamston church honors pastor for 29 years of service – May 16
  7. Caswell summer staff member dies in wreck – Sept. 8
  8. Disaster relief volunteer dies of heart attack on flood recovery – April 1
  9. Talking about politics, God focus of new study – Aug. 4
  10. Mark Harris exposes Human Rights Campaign (column) – May 2
Most shared – Twitter

Most shared – Facebook
12/27/2016 3:12:12 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Year in Review: Issues in 2016 that affected lives and ministries

December 27 2016 by BR staff

Hurricane Matthew slammed the eastern part of the U.S. in early October, prompting North Carolina Baptist Men and a host of volunteers to serve those affected by the storm, both inside and outside the state. In the midst of Matthew recovery efforts, N.C. Baptists also volunteered to feed firefighters in the western part of the state as fires ripped through the mountains.
Even as 2016 was winding down, House Bill 2 continued to be a hot political topic in North Carolina. On the national level, Donald Trump’s winning presidential bid stirred controversy among Southern Baptists right up to the time the “year in review” issue was printed, and it’s likely to continue well into 2017. There were many issues that grabbed attention over the last 12 months. The Biblical Recorder is listing a select number of the top stories for your reading pleasure.

Donald Trump’s election exposes SBC rift

When then-presidential-frontrunner (now president-elect) Donald Trump addressed thousands of young evangelicals at Liberty University in January 2016, conservative Christians renewed discussion of whether political support for the real estate mogul can be consistent with a Christian worldview. Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. said Trump’s propensity to speak his mind reminds him of his late father Jerry Falwell Sr., a Baptist pastor who was active in conservative politics during the 20th century. Other evangelicals weighing in on Trump’s candidacy included pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas.
While not officially endorsing Trump, he said he “would be very comfortable with Mr. Trump as president.” Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, consistently opposed the assertion that Christians should support Trump’s candidacy throughout the election season. Moore even drew direct criticism from Trump on social media. “Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!” Trump tweeted. The Wall Street Journal and other major news outlets reported Dec. 19 that some Southern Baptists are calling for Moore’s resignation due to his opposition to Trump.

Baptists confront refugee crisis

A team of North Carolina Baptists volunteered at the Greek border crossing to the former Yogoslavic Republic of Macedonia, where they aided desperate migrants and shared a message of hope in early February. The team’s primary job was to help a local, non-governmental aid organization (NGO) relay important information and resources to incoming refugees. They offered basic guidance in the Eidomeni camp, including directions to food, bathrooms, clothing and doctors. The team also supplied practical items like plastic handbags and helped prepare food for distribution.
A luncheon focused on migrant ministry took place during the 2016 annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Standing in front of a banner with “Hallelujah” painted in various languages, Phil Kitchin, former pastor of Clarkston International Bible Church in Clarkston, Ga., challenged attendees of the Heavenly Banquet to actively see and serve refugees and immigrants coming to North Carolina. Kitchin spoke from Luke 10, drawing on the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate what it takes to reach and care for immigrants and refugees in the state. The first step N.C. Baptists must take, he said, is to stop and look. He acknowledged that many in the hall were pastors of ethnic churches and encouraged them to look beyond their own familiar places.

Bathroom law dominates N.C. politics

North Carolina lawmakers passed the Public Facilities Privacy & Securities Act (commonly known as HB 2) in a special session March 23, requiring state agencies to designate single-sex bathrooms and changing facilities for use according to biological sex as indicated by birth certificate. The controversial law overturned a sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council. The SOGI policy would have allowed transgender people to access the bathrooms, locker rooms or other public accommodations according to their gender of choice.
Critics lobbied against the bill, calling it discriminatory and prompting businesses, performing artists and others to boycott the state. Exit polls suggested support for the bill cost N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory a reelection bid even as fellow Republicans swept state and national elections across the country in 2016. HB 2 supporters said Charlotte’s ordinance would endanger women and children by potentially allowing sexual predators to exploit the policy.

Churches respond to police violence, attacks

Churches across the Charlotte area held special prayer services and planned outreach events in late September amid protests and riots after the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott. Holding interracial prayer gatherings, ministering to grieving police officers in the emergency room and hosting a question-and-answer session with police are among the ways Dallas-area Southern Baptists responded to the violent killings of five police officers July 7. The assassinations, apparently committed by a suspect who reportedly told police he wanted to kill white people, occurred within days of police killing two black civilians under questionable circumstances – Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile of the Minneapolis area. Congregations in Baton Rouge responded similarly to the shooting deaths of two local police officers later in the month, holding prayer gatherings and calling for racial reconciliation.

Can sex offenders go to church?

A legislative amendment went into effect Sept. 1 that clarifies a North Carolina law barring registered sex offenders with an offense against a minor from coming within 300 feet of areas designated for children. The change came in response to two federal injunctions against the law. The most recent ruling struck down the proximity clause of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-208.18(a) because it violated the First Amendment. The 300-foot rule effectively fences many church properties, along with other public spaces such as libraries, parks and courthouses, when child-care facilities or youth educational spaces are located nearby.
Judge James A. Beaty Jr. of the Middle District of North Carolina ruled April 22 that the clause was “unconstitutionally overbroad.” He said it restricted “significant First Amendment activity” – such as church attendance – for registered sex offenders who have not committed an offense against a minor. The amendment, which was signed into law July 21 by Gov. Pat McCrory, narrows the 300-foot rule’s application to sex offenders deemed by a criminal or civil proceeding to be a “danger to minors.”

Overtime regulations draw church attention, legal questions

The Biblical Recorder reported in June that changes to federal labor laws could affect churches and other ministries. Some human resources experts were initially unsure whether the updated overtime regulations would apply to employees of religious organizations, but many Southern Baptist leaders began urging churches to review and update personnel policies to ensure compliance. The new labor laws were put under preliminary injunction by a federal judge a week before they were set to take effect Dec.1.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced May 18 that it was updating overtime regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to “simplify and modernize” the rules. Salaried employees making less than $47,476 annually ($913 per week) would be eligible for overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week, according to new federal labor protections. GuideStone Financial Resources, the financial services auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention, posted an overview of the new changes to its website Oct. 17, outlining how the overtime rules would apply to ministries.

Marijuana legalization spreads

Eight of the nine states with marijuana-related ballot measures Nov. 8 expanded legalization of the drug. Of the five states to consider recreational marijuana legalization for adults, only Arizona rejected it. California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada all voted in favor of legalization. All four states to consider medical marijuana – Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota – voted either to legalize or expand its use. Montana approved medical marijuana in 2004, but the state legislature enacted limitations on its use five years ago. The other three states granted approval for the first time.

Assisted suicide makes ballots

Colorado voters overwhelmingly legalized physician-assisted suicide Nov. 8, joining five other states where similar laws already exist. The Colorado End of Life Options Act, on the ballot as Proposition 106, passed by a two-thirds margin. Before the vote, assisted death in the state had been a crime of felony manslaughter. The new law gives adult patients access to “medical aid-in-dying medication.” And it allows terminally ill patients with under six months to live, as diagnosed by at least two physicians, to self-administer drugs prescribed by a physician to induce “peaceful death,” according to the law posted on the Colorado Legislature website. Patients choosing death must be at least 18 years old, must have the “mental capacity” to decide to end their life and must not make such a request based on their age or disability, the law stipulates. The initiative was designed after Oregon’s 1994 Death With Dignity Act, the first in the nation to legalize the practice, although its enforcement was delayed three years by a court injunction. California, Montana, Vermont and Washington also allow assisted death.

Courts take up transgender bathroom case

The Supreme Court announced Oct. 28 it will review a lower court opinion regarding the right of a student to use the public school restroom that matches her gender identity rather than her biological sex. Oral arguments in the case likely will take place in early 2017, and an opinion is expected before the court adjourns next summer. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled in April the school board of an eastern Virginia county violated federal law by refusing to permit transgender students to use the restrooms of the gender with which they identify, regardless of their biological sex. In a 2-1 opinion overturning a federal court, the Fourth Circuit panel ruled the ban on sex discrimination in the Title IX education amendments encompasses gender identity.
About a month later, the Obama administration issued a sweeping directive on transgender rights. Officials with the Departments of Education and Justice told public school districts, as well as colleges and universities, to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity. The guidance was not legally binding, but it implied noncompliance could result in the loss of federal aid. With transgender rights on the ascendance, proponents of biblical sexuality welcomed the high court’s decision to rule on the case out of Virginia.

Churches respond to Gatlinburg fires

Wildfires in and around the east Tennessee resort area of Gatlinburg destroyed the facilities of at least one Southern Baptist church, claimed buildings at two other churches and prompted local believers to launch relief ministries. The reported 14 blazes near Gatlinburg Nov. 29 were among a series of wildfires across the southeast this fall that have led Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units to deploy in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia.

12/27/2016 3:02:08 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Year in Review: Southern Baptist Convention news in 2016

December 27 2016 by BR staff

There were many issues that grabbed attention over the last 12 months, along with events and personalities that took center stage. The International Mission Board completed a controversial budget recovery plan. Golden Gate Baptist Theological seminary relocated and finalized its renaming process.

LifeWay relocates, plans for future

LifeWay Christian Resources broke ground on its new corporate headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., April 6. President and CEO Thom S. Rainer estimated the completion of the new building could be November 2017. LifeWay will continue to occupy part of its current property, which was sold to Southwest Value Partners, a private real estate investment firm, until the new building is complete. About 1,100 employees will move into the new location in Capitol View, a mixed-used urban development in Nashville’s central business district. The relocation also prompted the move of a statue of evangelist Billy Graham from Nashville to Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C. Workers installed the statue in October.

Golden Gate takes new name, location

Gateway Seminary, previously Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, closed its main campus in Mill Valley, Calif., June 3 and opened a new 150,000-square-foot facility, 400 miles south of the San Francisco Bay Area, in Ontario, Calif., on July 5. Messengers to the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting affirmed the seminary’s name change June 14, after a first vote in 2015. SBC bylaws require two consecutive years of messengers’ approval for such a change. The move left the seminary with more than $100 million in cash and debt-free real estate assets. Gateway concluded a two-year transition period with a series of dedication events Oct. 5-8. “Our dreams exceeded our memories. Our vision supersedes our heritage,” Gateway President Jeff Iorg said Oct. 6.

IMB completes ‘reset’

International Mission Board (IMB) trustees unanimously approved and celebrated a balanced 2017 budget during their Nov. 10-11 meeting near Richmond, Va. IMB also projects appointing 451 new personnel in 2017, a 3 percent net increase in total field personnel. The budget relies on the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO). LMCO giving projections for the 2016 calendar year are predicted to be the largest offering in IMB history. N.C. Baptists led the 42 state conventions in cooperative giving in 2015. IMB’s voluntary retirement and resignation programs, which began in 2015, resulted in 983 missionaries and 149 stateside staff leaving the mission entity. IMB also closed its Richmond Communication Center and reduced on-site communication staff from 40 employees to 10.

ERLC faces mosque controversy, ‘fake news’ fiasco

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in a religious liberty case involving an Islamic group that had been denied permission to construct a mosque by a local planning board. The brief, which was also signed by the International Mission Board and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, among others, said a mosque cannot be denied construction “simply because it is a mosque.”
Gerald Harris, editor of The Christian Index, penned a June 6 editorial criticizing the ERLC’s position, arguing that Muslims did not qualify for religious liberty protections because “Islam may be more of a geo-political movement than a religion.” Harris’s editorial spurred an open letter from a trio of Southern Baptist professors who said it was “inappropriate to question whether Muslims should retain the right freely to practice their religion.” The issue sprang up during the SBC’s annual meeting when a messenger questioned ERLC President Russell Moore on whether Baptists should defend the religious liberty of Muslims.
The controversy was exaggerated by a fake news article from a satire website that said the SBC launched a “Mosques Across America” campaign “to build mosques all across the nation.” The rumor spread rapidly through social media, being shared as fact and generating questions to multiple state conventions and other SBC entities.

Stetzer takes Wheaton position

Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research and executive editor of The Gospel Project curriculum published by LifeWay, was named to the faculty of Wheaton College and as executive director of Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. Stetzer, 49, began his new roles at Wheaton July 1, which also include publisher of Evangelical Missions Quarterly, founded nearly 50 years ago, and chair of the Wheaton College Graduate School’s evangelism and leadership program. LifeWay Research has become a frequently quoted source of original research on the church and the culture in recent years while The Gospel Project, a multi-age-level Bible study resource, has grown to more than 1 million users each week.

12/27/2016 2:58:07 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Year in Review: North Carolina Baptist news in 2016

December 27 2016 by BR staff

Read about the stories from 2016 that define the year for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. North Carolina Baptist Men served persistently and sacrificially both inside and outside the state. North Carolina Baptist churches were recognized for leading the nation in missions giving.

N.C. Baptists lead the way in missions giving

North Carolina Baptists gave more than $32 million dollars to Southern Baptist missions and ministries in the last fiscal year, leading the 42 state conventions in cooperative giving through both the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, Milton Hollifield Jr. announced in 2016. Messengers to the 2016 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting voted to approve a 2017 budget that increases the percentage of Cooperative Program funds forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention to 40.5 percent (or $11,417,637), representing a half-percent increase over last year’s allotment. The total budget for 2017 comes to $30,375,000, which is up nearly 3 percent over 2016.

NCBM floods region with volunteers

North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM; also called Baptists on Mission) responded to many disasters in and outside of the state this year. NCBM provided cleanup and restoration after flooding in West Virginia, and most recently, NCBM conducted more cleanup and restoration after Hurricane Matthew left parts of North Carolina devastated. NCBM was able to provide hot meals, clean water, chaplains, showers, laundry services and childcare in addition to providing chainsaw, mud-out and tear-out teams. “Do we really see hurting people, and do we really love them?” said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director.

‘Patterned’ resource aids disciple-making

‘Patterned,’ a 10-week disciple-making resource created by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, was introduced to Southern Baptists during the One Day Conference in August. Patterned, which is available in both digital and print versions, includes five lessons for each week centered on the elements of disciple-making. Lessons were written by North Carolina pastors, ministers, lay leaders, missionaries and seminary professors and are designed to be used in a small group or Sunday School setting.

Missions event highlights diaspora ministry

A unique Southern Baptist missions conference in August called Reaching the Nations encouraged attendees to leverage the historically unprecedented migration of peoples for the sake of sharing the gospel. The U.S. is one of the most common destinations for migrants, and the circumstances present the American church with a remarkable opportunity for evangelism, according to speakers. “[God] is the Divine Maestro, orchestrating the movements of the nations,” said J.D. Payne, church multiplication pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

BCH endangered by foster reform

The Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) was at the center of a congressional debate about foster care reform that could almost entirely defund congregate care facilities for children that have been removed from unfit homes. The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 proposed limits to federal funding for group homes in order to redirect those dollars to foster care placement prevention and family services, such as drug abuse programs and parent skill-based training. The bill’s purpose is to “keep children safe and supported at home.” BCH later said it had ‘resolved concerns’ with lawmakers.

12/27/2016 2:54:13 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

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