December 2017

Top North Carolina Baptist stories of 2017

December 27 2017 by Biblical Recorder and BSC Staff

N.C. Baptists respond to major storms, incidents

North Carolina Baptists responded to three major hurricanes and more than a dozen other natural disasters during the past year, making 2017 one of the busiest years on record for the disaster relief ministry of N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission.
 
Thousands of N.C. Baptists volunteers traveled to Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico to assist in the recovery and rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. In Texas and Florida, volunteers provided hundreds of thousands of meals, showers and laundry to victims. In Texas, volunteers also assisted with hundreds of rebuild jobs. In Puerto Rico, volunteers assisted with water purification and cleanup efforts and plan to assist in other long-term projects.
 
Volunteers also responded to other events across North Carolina, which included incidents of tornados and flooding. Collectively, the Baptists on Mission disaster relief ministry responded to 18 different incidents in 2017.
 
Baptists on Mission also continued with the ongoing rebuild efforts in eastern North Carolina resulting from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. In May 2017, Baptists on Mission dedicated a new facility in Lumberton that will serve as a base of operations for the long-term relief efforts associated with Matthew.
 

Messengers adopt ‘Resolution Denouncing Racism’

Messengers from N.C. Baptist churches adopted a “Resolution Denouncing Racism” during the 2017 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Annual Meeting held Nov. 6-7 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
 
In presenting the resolution to messengers at the meeting, Jonathan Blaylock, who served as chairman of the state convention’s Committee on Resolutions and Memorials, said, “North Carolina Baptists denounce racism in all its expressions as sin against a holy and just God.”
 
Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. called the resolution a “strong statement” against racism, adding that “any form of racism is a sin against Almighty God.”
“The issue of race is not merely a cultural issue or a political issue,” Hollifield said. “It is a biblical issue, and it is a spiritual issue.”
 

N.C. Baptists emphasize prayer at annual meeting

“Return to Me,” based on Zechariah 1:3, was the theme of the 2017 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Annual Meeting, which included a special emphasis on prayer for revival and spiritual awakening.
The meeting culminated with a prayer service titled “Broken Before the Throne” on Tuesday, Nov. 7, that included times of worship and prayer around the call to repent, return, restore and refresh based on Acts 3:19.
 
At the conclusion of the service, messengers and guests in attendance gathered around pastors and prayed for them and their churches to have a renewed focus and passion for the Lord.
 
Organizers of the prayer service, which included Baptist state convention leaders, pastors, directors of missions and prayer leaders from across the state, said they hoped the prayer gathering would mark the beginning of a revival across North Carolina and beyond.
 

Record year in missions giving

N.C. Baptists celebrated a record year in missions giving in 2017 as churches collectively sent more than $11.7 million in financial support to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) through the Cooperative Program (CP), which marked the largest CP contribution to the SBC in state convention history.
 
North Carolina also led all state conventions in support of the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, giving more than $13.6 million to international missions through the offering. North Carolina ranked second among state conventions in support of the annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, giving more than $6.2 million to support North American missions. Total giving to SBC causes from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and its partnering churches exceeded $31.8 million for the SBC fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2017, which ranked third among all state conventions and was the highest total in North Carolina history.
 

Local churches increase gospel engagement

In September 2017, the Collegiate Partnerships Team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) celebrated a significant milestone by reporting that 50 of North Carolina’s 148 college, community college and university campuses are now being engaged with the gospel by local Baptist churches.
 
When the BSC shifted its collegiate ministry strategy in 2014 to focus on equipping local churches to reach college campuses, only nine college campuses in the state were being engaged with the gospel by a ministry affiliated with the Baptist state convention. When news of the 50th campus being engaged by a local church was announced in September, that marked a 456 percent increase in engagement in less than four years.
 
North Carolina also ranked among the national leaders in several evangelism, discipleship and missions categories based upon a collegiate ministry survey conducted by LifeWay Christian Resources. North Carolina ranked fourth in the number of college students who have come to know Christ the past year and fourth in the number of students who are being discipled in a small-group community.
 
Additionally, North Carolina ranked second in the number of college students who are being mobilized for mission trips and projects during the summer. North Carolina also ranked sixth in the number of students who are being developed as leaders and missionaries.

12/27/2017 8:48:54 AM by Biblical Recorder and BSC Staff | with 0 comments



Top SBC stories of 2017

December 27 2017 by Biblical Recorder staff

LifeWay releases Christian Standard Bible

(LifeWay) LifeWay Christian Resources released its newly revised Bible translation in January. As a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) balances linguistic precision to the original languages and readability in contemporary English. More than 100 Bible scholars from 17 denominations translated the HCSB from the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. A full version of the CSB is available at Read.CSBible.com and through other Bible apps and websites. CSB Bibles became available in March.
 

SBC Pastor’s Conference highlights small churches

The 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference (SBCPC) featured 12 preachers from churches of approximately 500 or fewer members, a break from the usual practice of staging prominent pastors from large churches. In addition, the speakers taught sequentially through the book of Philippians, covering every verse of the epistle’s four chapters over two days, rather than a selection of topical sermons. SBCPC President Dave Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, and a number of other leaders who aided him, also chose an ethnically diverse lineup of speakers, featuring six Anglos, three African Americans, one Jamaican American, a Cuban American and an Asian American.
 

SBC adopts resolution on ‘alt-right’

(Baptist Press) Messengers to the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting denounced “alt-right white supremacy” in a nearly unanimous vote June 14 after a tumultuous day of refusing to address the issue. The action came as a resolution on “the anti-gospel of alt-right white supremacy.” The “alt-right,” a movement that advocates white nationalism, gained increasing attention through 2016-2017. The vote took place after a wave of protests on social media greeted the failure of the Resolutions Committee and messengers to bring an “alt-right” resolution to the floor. The Resolutions Committee asked Tuesday for an opportunity to bring such a resolution to the convention Wednesday, and the Committee on Order of Business and messengers approved its request. In the resolution they approved Wednesday, messengers said they, “decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 

Texas church suffers massacre

(Baptist Press) The 14-year-old daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor was among 26 people killed when an armed man opened fire during Sunday morning (Nov. 5) worship services at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a congregation about 35 miles southeast of San Antonio. The congregation is affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and reports average Sunday School attendance of 65 and worship attendance of 100. At least 20 people were injured, including several children, with the victims ranging in age from 5 to 72 years old. At least eight of the people killed were members of one family. The gunman was wearing tactical gear when he entered the sanctuary about 11:30 a.m. and reloaded his weapon multiple times during the attack. The shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, was killed shortly after the attack. A resident of New Braunfels, Kelley was in the U.S. Air Force and served in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge.
 

Southwestern cuts staff amid financial struggles

(SWBTS) Escalating health care costs, increased expenses for utilities and other higher education costs have prompted personnel cuts at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Initial adjustments to operations were not sufficient to stay within the $36.8 million 2017-2018 fiscal year budget set by the seminary’s trustees last spring, according to a Nov. 7 news release. After making “low-hanging fruit adjustments” that included reductions in dining services, copy center hours and the fleet of vehicles at the 200-acre campus, a spokesperson said the administration decided not to fill positions from natural attrition, including student employees who are graduating and staff and faculty set to retire. In order to continue providing health care benefits to employees and their dependents, a third round of cuts involved laying off 30 full-time staff “in selected areas where functions can be covered in other ways or by organizational change,” the seminary said.

12/27/2017 8:43:16 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



Ohio passes Down syndrome abortion ban

December 27 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

Pro-life advocates are applauding an Ohio bill to ban abortions of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome. Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation into law Dec. 22.
 
Last month, the state House passed the bill 64-31, and the Senate passed it 20-12 in mid-December. The new law prohibits abortions “because an unborn child has or may have Down syndrome.” Abortionists who violate the law would face a fourth-degree felony charge, but their patients would not face prosecution.
 
The National Right to Life Committee’s Ingrid Duran told WORLD News her organization “commends the hard work of pro-life leaders in Ohio for passing a bill that protects the most vulnerable little humans in the womb.” She added, “People with Down syndrome, or any other genetic anomaly, should never be discriminated against. These babies always deserve protection, and families deserve a better option than abortion.”
 
Given Kasich’s track record, pro-lifers expected his signature within the 10-day period before the bill automatically becomes law.
 
“Gov. Kasich has signed every single piece of legislation Ohio Right to Life has put on his desk,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life.
 
The bill marked Kasich’s 20th pro-life law during his six years in office, including the 20-week abortion ban he signed last December.
 
Two other states have passed Down syndrome abortion bans with mixed results: North Dakota’s 2013 law still stands, while a federal judge blocked Indiana’s 2016 ban in September. Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill announced since then he plans to appeal the injunction.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio hasn’t indicated whether it will file suit against that state’s bill, but its lobbyist, Gary Daniels, called for a veto.
 
Gonidakis said he anticipates an ACLU lawsuit but is confident in Ohio’s pro-life Attorney General Mike DeWine’s ability to defend the law “tooth and nail in every court in Ohio and nationally all the way to the Supreme Court.” He added, “At the end of the day, everyone deserves a right to life whether you’re rich, poor, man, woman, black, or white, whether you have a special need or whether you’re perfect in the eyes of society. We do not want to engage in modern-day eugenics.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – BR staff contributed to this report.)

12/27/2017 7:19:33 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



No freedom for the captives?

December 27 2017 by WORLD News Service staff

Held captive by a determination to keep religion confined to churches and homes, the Freedom from Religion Foundation is demanding the Wisconsin Department of Corrections sever ties with an educational ministry that offers inmates a degree in Biblical studies.
 
Modeled after the 22-year-old seminary housed at Angola Prison in Louisiana, the Wisconsin Inmate Education Association (WIEA) and Trinity International University (TIU) formed a partnership to create Operation Transformation, an educational program offering a Bachelor of Science in Biblical studies to inmates serving life or long-term sentences.
 
After completing the four-year program, the inmates are reassigned to other prisons as “field ministers.”  The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) calls Operation Transformation a “grave” violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and claims in a letter sent to state officials that inmates would be better served by a non-religious education.

12/27/2017 7:16:34 AM by WORLD News Service staff | with 0 comments



One boy’s Christmas wish for peace in Iraq

December 27 2017 by Julia A. Seymour, WORLD News Service

Christmas was extra special for 13-year-old Noeh and his family this year. Like thousands of other Iraqi Christians, his family of eight had to flee Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014. This Christmas is the first they spent back in their hometown of Karemles, east of Mosul.
 
Noeh’s Christmas wish was that he and “all the other Christian children in Iraq will get to celebrate Christmas in peace and not be afraid.”
 
Late one night in 2014, priests knocked on doors warning that ISIS was coming. Noeh’s family spent hours on a dust-choked road, clogged with others in flight, listening to gunfire. They lived in a camp for internally displaced people near Erbil, in the Kurdistan region, for three years.
 
They returned to Karemles this summer. Noeh said he was very happy to go home again, but when he saw the rubble and destruction everywhere and his own house burned out he was “heartbroken.” In spite all they’ve endured, his family and many other returning Iraqis are hopefully looking forward and asking for help to rebuild in their homeland.
 
They want to live in peace and dignity and, as Noeh put it, “for life to go back to normal.”
 
That hope for the future brought Noeh and his father, Haitham to the United States earlier this month to deliver an Open Doors Petition to the United Nations. More than 800,000 people signed the “Hope for the Middle East” petition on behalf of the Middle East’s persecuted Christians. They also met and shared their story with leaders in Washington, D.C., including Vice President Mike Pence.

12/27/2017 7:12:04 AM by Julia A. Seymour, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Confederate statues removed from Memphis parks

December 26 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Two controversial Confederate statues were removed from Memphis parks Dec. 20 shortly after the city council approved sale of the public land to a nonprofit organization.
 
The sudden developments came after the city met roadblocks in its lengthy effort to take down statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and President Jefferson Davis. City leaders were seeking to remove the monuments before the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader was slain April 4, 1968, in Memphis.
 

Embed from Getty Images

Among the many Memphis events scheduled for the April 2018 commemoration of King’s life is a two-day conference sponsored by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and The Gospel Coalition. “MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop” – scheduled April 3-4 at the Memphis Convention Center – is designed to provide reflection on the status of racial unity in the American church and culture, as well as to examine what is required in its pursuit.
 
Memphis became the latest city in which Confederate statues have been removed this year, joining such locales as Baltimore and New Orleans.
 
The removal of the statues followed a unanimous vote Dec. 20 by the Memphis City Council to sell Health Sciences Park and its easement on Memphis Park to Memphis Greenspace Inc. for $1,000 apiece, The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported. Greenspace had both statues removed that evening for storage in an unannounced location.
 
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in a letter on Facebook Dec. 20, “[W]e saw an avalanche of support come together behind our efforts” following the August white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that resulted in violence and death.
 
“In all of my life in Memphis, I’ve never seen such solidarity,” Strickland wrote. “To all who have joined the effort: THANK YOU. This day would not have been possible without you.”
 
The statues’ removal followed an Oct. 13 request by Strickland to move the monuments a more appropriate place, which was rejected by the Tennessee Historical Commission.
 
The day after the statues’ removal, however, some Republican leaders in the Tennessee legislature called for an investigation into the city’s sale of the public land, according to The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis. They also said legislation may result.
 
Forrest, in addition to his role in the Confederate army, was a slave trader and an early member of the Ku Klux Klan. Some historians contend he was the KKK’s Grand Wizard. Forrest also was accused of war crimes in what has been historically known as the Fort Pillow Massacre of black Union troops at Tennessee’s Battle of Fort Pillow in 1864.
 
Forrest later became an important member of Memphis society and renounced the KKK, according to The Commercial Appeal.
 
The remains of Forrest and his wife were relocated from Elmwood Cemetery to what was then Forrest Park in 1904. The statue was placed over their graves the next year.
 
Davis’s statue was erected in 1964.
 
Calls for the removal of Forrest’s statue had grown over the last 50 years. Two years ago, the city council unanimously voted to remove his statue and move the caskets back to Elmwood Cemetery. The Tennessee legislature voted in 2016 to require the state’s Historical Commission to issue waivers for monuments of historical figures to be modified, according to The Commercial Appeal. That move led to Memphis’ waiver request, which the Historical Commission denied. State-initiated mediation began in November, but it was unsuccessful, Strickland said in his Dec. 20 Facebook post.
 
On Sept. 13, 170 Memphis-area clergy, including SBC President Steve Gaines and a dozen other Southern Baptists, urged that Forrest’s statue be moved “to a more historically appropriate site.”
 
In September, Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, told Baptist Press he supported removing both the Forrest statue from Health Sciences Park and the Davis statue from Memphis Park.
 
Both monuments “are a source of offense to many citizens of Memphis due to Forrest’s and Davis’ support of the enslavement of African Americans,” Gaines said in written comments at the time. “Fair-minded Americans acknowledge that slavery was cruel and unchristian. Indeed, slavery stands as one of the darkest blights of our nation’s history. Thus, these statutes should be relocated to less prominent, more appropriate settings.”
 
King, only 39 at the time of his death, led the civil rights movement from his time as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., in the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. He led the movement to practice nonviolence in its pursuit of change, helping produce the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In Memphis to advocate for sanitation workers on strike, King gave what became known as his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech the night before he was killed.

12/26/2017 10:11:30 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



U.N. said to lack ‘high ground’ for Jerusalem rebuke

December 26 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In a move characterized by media outlets as a denunciation of the Trump administration, the United Nations General Assembly voted Dec. 21 to ask nations not to establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.
 
By a 128-9 vote with 35 abstentions and 21 U.N. member nations absent, the General Assembly’s resolution “Status of Jerusalem” expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem” – an apparent reference to President Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there.
 

Image captured from C-SPAN video
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley declared the General Assembly’s vote “null and void,” echoing language from the resolution that declared “null and void” actions “which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of Jerusalem."

Paige Patterson, a longtime Israel supporter among Southern Baptists, told Baptist Press in written comments the U.N. “has no authority in the matter and little moral high ground.”
 
“A sovereign nation has every right to declare a city in its boundaries as its capital,” said Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Israel is no exception. President Trump has kept his campaign promise and recognized that right.
 
“What does sicken the stomach is the continued hatred of the Jewish people that sometimes occurs even among evangelicals. Nothing could be more certain in God’s Word than that He loves every human of every nation and died for them on the cross. The Jew who lives in Israel is no more an exception to that than an American who lives in Washington or an Arab who lives in Cairo,” Patterson said.
 
Drafted by Yemen and Turkey, the nonbinding U.N. resolution did not name the U.S. specifically but called “upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem,” according to a copy of the resolution published by The Times of Israel.
 
Yemen’s U.N. representative referenced the U.S. by name when he introduced the resolution in an emergency session of the General Assembly, called at Yemen and Turkey’s request. During discussion of the measure, several nations criticized America’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, according to a U.N. news release.
 
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley declared the General Assembly’s vote “null and void,” echoing language from the resolution that declared “null and void” actions “which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of Jerusalem.”
 
Haley said “the United States will remember this day, in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very right of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” The New York Times reported.
 
Haley and Trump both have suggested the U.S. might reduce its funding of the U.N. and nations who supported the resolution.
 
The nine nations to vote no on the resolution were Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo and the U.S.
 
A similar resolution received 14 affirmative votes Dec. 18 in the 15-member U.N. Security Council but was vetoed by the U.S.
 
Israel long has claimed Jerusalem as its capital, with modern Israeli governments varying in their willingness to let Palestinians control portions of the city. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as their capital.
 
Despite Trump’s Dec. 6 statement that he was not taking a position on “the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” Palestinians have held daily protests against his action ever since, according to media reports. Israeli troops fatally shot two Palestinians in the Gaza strip Dec. 22, Reuters reported.
12/26/2017 10:02:05 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



A waiting game for migrants in France

December 26 2017 by Rob Holmes, WORLD News Service

It’s near freezing when tents begin appearing on Avénue du Président Wilson. Migrants are getting ready for another November night. Their evening ritual creates an impromptu camp in a pedestrianized median on the north side of the city, near the Metro at Porte de la Chapelle.
 
I greet many of the men as I trail along behind a more expert friend who visits this spot weekly. She is Egyptian and comes like a sister, in the name of Christ, herself a stranger in France.
 
Some men are waiting to be processed as asylum seekers. Others want to avoid deportation after having asylum claims denied. They are among thousands who have inundated Paris, up to 80 per day. Across Europe, more than 178,000 migrants sought new homes in 2017. Most come from Muslim-majority nations in Africa.
 
Mahamat is angry. Murderous even. He tells me he plans to kill three people the next day. “They treated me like I’m a slave!” he roars.
 
Mahamat comes from a town in Chad where I once rented a house, planning to work with a nongovernmental organization there. My move never happened, but my exposure to the place means we have some shared spaces, shared memories, and that strikes a chord. Mahamat talks, and I listen. Telling me his ordeal seems to lower his rage. He smiles at my exhortation to patience, and I’m reassured he will not kill anyone.
 
We discuss God’s power to change things – to order events so Mahamat might be allowed to stay in France. Though feeling ill-treated here, he faces worse trials at home, and his journey isn’t over yet. “I spent 47 nights sleeping along the road to get to Paris. And now they say I have to return to Italy – because that’s where I entered Europe and got fingerprinted,” he said.
 
But there is no going back home for Mahamat. Like most in the camp, he says he came to provide for his family. He will risk living illegally if the asylum papers never come. Out of 87,775 seekers, France gave asylum to just one-third in 2016.
 
Samir Salibi believes these migrants represent a huge opportunity. Last year the IT engineer began a ministry called @home to “form a team of disciples that will impact this community.” He himself came to faith in Christ two decades ago as an immigrant to France. He now mobilizes volunteers to distribute food, blankets and other items. The volunteers also invite migrants to worship services and Bible study and into people’s homes. And they come. Samir aims to integrate refugees into society through French classes. But he told me @home is really about being a church family where refugees can feel at home and loved.
 
As I leave, I consider what will happen to the men at Porte de la Chapelle – and others already here for months or years. The United Nations has proposed funding migrants’ return home from awful conditions in Libya, where some are enslaved, before they even attempt the perilous trip to Europe.
 
Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, said the continent needs a strategy for the nearly 6 million migrants now waiting in countries bordering the Mediterranean. But the November summit of more than 80 African Union and European Union leaders, held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, did not produce a clear strategy for meeting the immense challenge that @home volunteers are tackling one person at a time.

12/26/2017 9:58:32 AM by Rob Holmes, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Holiday grief confronts Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas

December 22 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Some churches long have held special Christmas services to acknowledge the pain and loss many people feel surrounding the holidays. But in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Las Vegas, sadness and grief are particularly intense this year for those impacted by two senseless tragedies.
 
Amid the aftermath of deadly massacres this fall in both cities, pastors there are seeking avenues to bring consolation and comfort.
 
The “primary” way to minister to grieving people “isn’t a five-step method as much as it is just looking up and saying, ‘God, what would You have me to say? What would You have me to do?’” said Frank Pomeroy, pastor of Sutherland Springs’ First Baptist Church, where a gunman killed 26 people – including his 14-year-old daughter Annabelle – and wounded some 20 others Nov. 5.
 
In Las Vegas – where a separate gunman killed 58 people and injured more than 500 more Oct. 1 at an outdoor country music festival – pastor Michael Rochelle said “a heaviness” remains over the city this Christmas. He noted the “ministry of presence” as well as “active listening” have been important ministry tools.
 
For Pomeroy, the best way to help families cope with grief this December has varied from household to household.
 
For one church member recuperating from his gunshot wound in a rehabilitation facility, the pastor extended a visit to four and a half hours because the injured man “just needed to talk more than anything else.” Grieving with another family meant offering to help with a construction project at their house and playing superheroes with their hospitalized son. For others, referral to a professional mental health care provider has been the best avenue of ministry.
 
“We haven’t been called to be preachers as much as we’ve been called to be ministers,” Pomeroy told Baptist Press (BP). “... Run towards the fight rather than away from it is what I would tell other pastors” seeking to alleviate holiday depression.
 
As for his own grief over Annabelle, Pomeroy said he and his wife Sherri are taking things “one day at a time” and “haven’t really had time to process.”
 
One way God has blessed Pomeroy’s ministry is by increasing worship attendance at First Baptist from about 75 before the shooting to 300 now – three quarters of whom were previously inactive members or sporadic attendees who have renewed their commitments to Christ.
 
“There has been an exponential increase in people rededicating and turning their heart back” to Christ, Pomeroy said, adding, “We are still celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.”
 
Rochelle, pastor of Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas, said the city’s October massacre seems to have contributed to depression, anxiety and family struggles. Those problems have been amplified by a steady stream of events memorializing the shooting and “pulling off the scab.”
 
To help reduce anxiety and depression, Rochelle and other pastors at Shadow Hills have encouraged believers to build routines that direct their attention to God and away from negative circumstances.
 
“Give God the first moment of every day,” Rochelle told BP. “Before you even get out of bed, you just acknowledge, ‘You’re with me. I know You’re here.’ You give Him the first day of every week” by attending worship. “You give Him the first dollar of every paycheck” by tithing, and “you give Him the first chance for counsel in any decision.”
 
A routine of focusing on God can help those experiencing holiday grief of any variety, Rochelle said.
 
John Revell ministered as a volunteer police chaplain following the December 2012 fatal shooting of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He told BP a key to helping people amid loss and grief at Christmas is “to lead more with care and compassion than particular messages or instructions.”
 
“Hurting people may ask for an explanation” of why a tragedy has occurred, said Revell, founder of Life Line Chaplaincy, a Connecticut-based ministry for first responders and their families. But “they really want love. They want comfort. My experience is that comfort comes more from presence, hugs and listening and crying with people than trying to give them an explanation.”
 
“Demonstration” of God’s love, Revell said, open doors for “declaration” of God’s Word.
 
When opportunity for declaration arises, grieving individuals often are helped by reminders that the first Christmas also was a “dark time” for many of God’s people, Revell said. The Jews were oppressed by Rome as well as a murderous King Herod; Mary faced a “daunting task” with her unplanned pregnancy; and Joseph had to make some “critical decisions.”
 
“The birth of Christ brought the glorious light of God into the present,” Revell said. “It pierced the darkness of the world.”
 
Ian Jones, professor of counseling at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, urged pastors to “seek intentional engagement” this Christmas with people who have experienced loss and other challenges during the past year. Their sadness, he said, can be “aggravated by the apparent joy and happiness streamed through music, television ads and festive decorations and parties.”
 
Following tragedy or loss, “some people may shut down emotionally, struggle with guilt and an awareness of their own mortality, react to certain sounds or particular places that trigger memories, have difficulties eating or sleeping or act out and engage in risky behavior. Look for and pay particular attention to these responses,” said Jones, who provided counseling at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, following a 1999 shooting there that killed seven people.
 
“Try to normalize the emotions and physical responses – they are to be expected in light of the tragedy,” Jones told BP in written comments. “Assure them that there is no one proper way to grieve in terms of time, intensity and expression. Assure people of God’s love and abiding presence and your prayers. Lead them to an assurance that God is in control – even [as He was] while Jesus was dying on the cross.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

12/22/2017 10:37:14 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Former Midwestern President Milton Ferguson dies at 89

December 22 2017 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

Milton Ferguson, 89, the second president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), died Dec. 21 in Kansas City, Mo., after a brief battle with cancer.
 
Ferguson’s tenure as president at MBTS began in February 1973, and he served the seminary community in this role before retiring in 1995 at the age of 66.

Milton Ferguson


“Serving as Midwestern Seminary’s president for 23 years, Dr. Ferguson led the institution through a season of great denominational and institutional transition,” said Jason K. Allen, who is MBTS’s fifth president. “He did so faithfully and graciously, seeking to honor the Lord in both word and deed.
 
“I join the broader [MBTS] community in mourning Dr. Ferguson’s death, thanking the Lord for his life and ministry and in praying for his remaining family, especially his daughters Julia and Jane Ann,” Allen added.
 
Under Dr. Ferguson’s leadership, Allen said the seminary crossed many milestones including a growing enrollment, expansions in campus housing and leading the seminary to greater financial health.
 
Some of the specific milestones taking place at MBTS under Ferguson’s guidance include the following:
 
The graduation of 2,858 students during his tenure; conferring degrees upon the first doctor of ministry graduates at MBTS in 1974; renovating and expanding the faculty-classroom building in 1976; constructing the campus Child Development Center (which now serves as the Department of Worship Ministries Building) in 1979-80; opening the first off-campus extension center in Wichita, Kan., in 1979; initiating the institution’s church music program in 1983; and establishing the “Midwestern Leadership Series” and “C.W. Scudder Lectures” in 1993-94.
 
In addition to his service as a professor and seminary president, Ferguson served the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) as a researcher for the SBC Committee’s National Student Life Survey, on various SBC and state convention assignments and by conducting Lay Renewal Retreats, curriculum writing and preaching and teaching in denominational contexts.
 
Prior to his tenure as president of MBTS, Ferguson taught for 17 years as instructor of theology as well as associate professor and full professor of Christian philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas. He also served as pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in Hebron, Texas, from 1951-54, as associate pastor at Crown Heights Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and in numerous interim pastorates in Oklahoma and Texas.
 
A native of Harrah, Okla., Ferguson was born to Robert Homer and Martha Floyd Ferguson on May 8, 1928. He accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized at age 8. He was ordained into Christian ministry in December 1938 at Harrah Baptist Church. Ferguson was also a military veteran, serving in the U.S. Army of Occupation in the Pacific Theater (Korea) from 1946-48.
 
Ferguson earned a doctor of theology degree in 1956 and a bachelor of divinity degree in 1954 from SWBTS, as well as a bachelor of arts degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1951.
 
In the years following his presidency at MBTS, Ferguson regularly preached and then retired to The Baptist Home in Chillicothe, Mo.
 
“Over the past five years, Dr. Ferguson constantly encouraged and supported me,” Allen said. “He was a kind, gracious man. He loved [MBTS], was proud of his service here, and always spoke warmly of the growth and health of the seminary.
 
“In Dr. Ferguson’s final days, we enjoyed two extended visits. In those conversations, he spoke passionately of his faith in Christ, his belief in the Bible and his readiness to meet the Lord.”
 
Ferguson is survived by his daughters, Julia and Jane Ann, as well as their families. He was preceded in death by his wife, Bettie, and his daughter Jo Catherine.
 
Final arrangements for a memorial service have not been announced.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

12/22/2017 10:37:02 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



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