December 2017

Hance Dilbeck elected as Oklahoma executive director

December 14 2017 by Baptist Messenger staff

Hance Dilbeck was elected as the next executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) in a unanimous vote by the BGCO Board of Directors Dec. 11 in Oklahoma City.
 
Dilbeck, who has served as senior pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City since 2003, will become the ninth executive director in the convention’s 101-year history. Dilbeck will succeed current BGCO Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony Jordan, who has led the convention since April 1996.

Hance Dilbeck


Members of the BGCO Executive Search Committee, who began their search last September, spoke enthusiastically about Dilbeck during the Dec. 11 meeting at the Baptist Building, voicing how they believe God guided the decision process.
 
Committee chairman Nick Garland, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, said, “We all looked to Jesus to guide us to find the man to lead us as our next executive director-treasurer. Because of His working in us, there was a clear unity in our decisions, and we believe God led us to Dr. Dilbeck, and we know he will continue the great work here in Oklahoma that God has brought about.”
 
BGCO President Joe Ligon, pastor of First Baptist Church in Marlow, an ex officio search committee member, spoke heartily in favor of Dilbeck, saying he has been “raised up to lead for such a time as this,” while Jordan said he believes God has “uniquely prepared Hance Dilbeck to serve, from [his] first days of ministry up to now.”
 
Dilbeck, 52, will officially begin his service as BGCO executive director-treasurer-elect on Jan. 15. The board also voted to approve a transition period between Jan. 15 and Feb. 28 for Jordan, 68, and Dilbeck. Following the time of transition, Dilbeck will assume all administrative leadership of the BGCO on March 1, with Jordan’s retirement to become official on April 15.
 
Dilbeck has served in a number of leadership roles in Southern Baptist life, including BGCO president and terms of service as chairman of the board for various Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and BGCO-affiliated entities.
 
Under Dilbeck’s leadership, Quail Springs has tripled in size since 2003, led the entire SBC in Cooperative Program giving and played an active part in 29 church planting efforts and one church revitalization effort.
 
He has been a pastor in Oklahoma for more than 27 years, including First Baptist Church in Snyder; First Baptist Church in Noble; and First Baptist Church in Ponca City. He served at Little City Baptist Church in Madill while he was in seminary.
 
Dilbeck was born in Pawhuska and graduated from Pawhuska High School. His undergraduate degree in religion is from Oklahoma Baptist University and he is a two-time graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), where he earned a master of divinity degree in 1992 and a doctor of ministry degree in 2002. In addition to the pastorate, he also has served as adjunct professor of preaching at both Oklahoma Baptist University and SWBTS.
 
He has served in numerous other areas of denominational work, having been the featured preacher for Falls Creek Youth Camp, chairman of the board of trustees at Oklahoma Baptist University, chairman of the board of trustees at SWBTS, second vice president of the SBC, BGCO president and, most recently, chairman of the board of trustees for the International Mission Board.
 
Dilbeck and his wife, Julie, have been married for 32 years and have three grown sons, D.H., Dax and Leighton, and three grandchildren.
 
In addition to Garland, search committee members who addressed the board prior to the Dec. 11 vote were Kevin Baker, pastor of Martha Road Baptist Church in Altus; Blake Gideon, pastor of First Baptist Church in Edmond; Mike Keahbone, pastor of Cherokee Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City; Rusty McMullen, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sayre; and Doug Melton, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the staff of The Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)
 

12/14/2017 8:31:10 AM by Baptist Messenger staff | with 0 comments



Pew: Christmas celebrations, beliefs less religious

December 14 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Most Americans believe society is increasingly abandoning the religious aspects of Christmas, according to new Pew Research Center findings, but most Americans are not troubled by the trend.
 
Only 32 percent of Americans find the trend troubling, Pew found in the study released Dec. 12. While 56 percent of U.S. adults identified such a trend, a quarter of that group said the trend doesn’t bother them.
 
Concurrently, Pew said a religious appreciation of the season is declining among individuals themselves.
 
In the same study, Pew found declining numbers of Christians and unbelievers (“nones”) who approve of religious Christmas displays on government property, who embrace as historical truth the biblical story of Jesus’ birth, and who prefer religious greetings to secular ones during the season. Beliefs also broke along party lines, Pew said.
 
“There has been a noticeable decline in the percentage of U.S. adults who say they believe that biblical elements of the Christmas story – that Jesus was born to a virgin, for example – reflect historical events that actually occurred,” Pew said of the study conducted in November and December. “And although most Americans still say they mark the occasion as a religious holiday, there has been a slight drop in recent years in the share who say they do this.”
 
Describing the decline as “small but significant,” Pew said 76 percent of Christians believe all four “key” elements of the biblical account of the Messiah’s birth, compared to 81 percent who believed the same in 2014. The virgin birth, the visit of the Magi, the announcement of Jesus’ birth by an angel and the baby Jesus lying in the manger are elements of the biblical account Pew included in polling. When considering society as a whole, Pew said 57 percent of Americans embrace all four elements of the story, down from 65 percent in 2014.
 
Nine in 10 Americans celebrate Christmas, Pew said, but festivities are increasingly based on culture instead of Christianity. More than half of U.S. adults, 55 percent, said they mark Christmas as a religious holiday, compared to 58 percent four years ago.
 
“To be sure, while the public’s commemoration of Christmas may have less of a religious component now than in the past,” Pew said, “the share of Americans who say they celebrate Christmas in some way has hardly budged at all.” Christmas Day or Christmas Eve church services were on the schedules of 51 percent of those polled, down from 54 percent in 2013.
 
Regarding Christmas displays on government property, two-thirds approve of such displays today, while 72 percent approved in 2014. When it comes to greetings in stores and businesses at Christmastime, 52 percent of Americans express indifference to whether greeters proclaim “merry Christmas” or some other expression. Nearly a third, 32 percent, prefer to hear “merry Christmas.” Respondents were equally split in polling in 2012 and 2005, Pew said.
 
Politically, more than half (54 percent) of Republicans and Republican-leaning respondents expressed a preference for hearing “merry Christmas,” compared to 19 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents. About 60 percent of Democrats said it doesn’t matter, compared to 38 percent of Republicans.
 
Additionally, 68 percent of Republicans perceived that religious aspects of Christmas are emphasized less today than in the past, compared to half of Democrats. Just over half of Republicans said the trend bothers them to some degree, compared to 21 percent of Democrats.
 
Pew conducted the 2017 poll Nov. 29-Dec. 4 in telephone interviews with 1,503 adults in all 50 U.S. states and Washington D.C. Most of the interviews, 1,126, were conducted on cell phones; 377 on landline phones. A total of 728 adults polled did not have landlines, Pew said.
 
The full results are online at PewForum.org under the Religion tab.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

12/14/2017 8:30:48 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



NRB Internet Freedom Watch shines light on censorship

December 14 2017 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is drawing attention to online censorship of Christian and conservative speech by tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple by launching a new initiative – Internet Freedom Watch.


NRB announced Dec. 7 a new website – InternetFreedomWatch.org – for documenting cases of internet censorship, including Twitter’s takedown of an ad by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R.-Tenn., in October and Facebook removing former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s post supporting Chick-fil-A in 2012.
 
Sen. Ted Cruz, R.-Texas, and a former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner applauded the NRB initiative.
 
NRB, which has published a chart with more than 30 instances of internet censorship to illustrate the problem, has sent letters to the tech giants, urging constructive conversation and a resolution to the threats against religious freedom. NRB also is calling on Congress to hold hearings on the “severe problem of viewpoint censorship on the internet.”
 
Jerry A. Johnson, NRB president and CEO, said the association of 1,100 member organizations is not yet calling for new laws or regulations but does want the growing problem to receive appropriate scrutiny.
 
“It is unacceptable for these titans to discriminate against users just because their viewpoints are not congruent with ideas popular in Silicon Valley,” Johnson said at an NRB press conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
 
Johnson led a panel discussion with addresses by Cruz; former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell; Craig Strazzeri, chief marketing officer for PragerU, a victim of internet censorship; and evangelical leader Ralph Reed, chairman and CEO of Century Strategies.
 
NRB was founded in 1944, Johnson noted, in response to corporate censorship of evangelical radio ministries, and the group is rising now to address “those who desire to expunge opposing viewpoints from the marketplace of ideas by recklessly using nebulous terms like ‘hate speech.’”
 
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently acknowledged that internet-related companies, or edge providers, “routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like,” Johnson said.
 
“We call on these platforms to afford their users nothing less than the free speech and free exercise of religion rights embodied in the First Amendment as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Johnson said.
 
Congress must address the issue with hearings, Johnson said, because many Americans now view tech platforms “to be nearly as vital to their communications as the telephone was in the 20th century.”

NRB Photo
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at a press conference held by National Religious Broadcasters at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Dec. 7. Next to Cruz – who commended NRB’s Internet Freedom Watch initiative – is a timeline produced by NRB to illustrate growing censorship of Christian and conservative viewpoints online.


Cruz said every day more Americans are “getting their political news not from pieces of paper, not from their televisions but online from social media.”
 
“One of the biggest shifts that has occurred in recent years is the locus of power in media is no longer New York City. It’s Silicon Valley,” Cruz said. “And Silicon Valley has the ability to put a thumb on the scale in a far more subtle and insidious way.”
 
The New York Times can write stories that are liberally biased, but they don’t hide who they are, Cruz said. “But on the internet and social media it’s far simpler because views that are unfavored simply disappear. They simply don’t exist.”
 
In a Google search, for instance, Cruz said conservative views can be suppressed while views the tech companies like “magically bubble to the top.”
 
Though the companies are private, Cruz said because they’re the new media powerhouses they have a moral obligation to defend free and open communication, “and I think we have a right to call them out for that moral obligation.”
 
Reed, founder of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, cited the printing press, television and the internet as the three most important technological developments for advancing the gospel worldwide – but the internet is set to eclipse the first two.
 
If that is true, Reed said, “it is critical for Christians and others of faith to be able to share their faith in an unfettered way without fear of persecution, harassment, blocking or discrimination.”
 
Strazzeri of PragerU said one in four Americans have viewed a PragerU values-based video, and the organization is in a legal battle with YouTube for censoring about 40 of their 250 videos. PragerU’s mission is to explain what makes America great in five-minute videos, “conservative sound bites that clarify profoundly significant and uniquely American concepts,” according to its website.
 
YouTube, which is owned by Google, deemed the videos inappropriate for young audiences and restricted access using a method meant for violent, sexual or pornographic content, Strazzeri said, adding that millions of similar left-leaning videos are not restricted.
 
“We are fighting this for all Americans and for freedom of speech. Fighting back against Google was not an easy decision for PragerU, but someone has to take on Goliath,” Strazzeri said.
 
McDowell, who served with the FCC from 2006-2013, said he is delighted NRB is launching Internet Freedom Watch.
 
“This is good for freedom. This is good to get some of these companies to think more about it,” McDowell said. “I think there needs to be more attention brought to it, and I think at the end of the day merely the fact you’re shining a spotlight here has a curative effect.”
 
Cruz also commended NRB for the initiative and urged the association to continue defending free speech.
 
For more information, including video of the event and a timeline of viewpoint discrimination on the internet over the past seven years, visit InternetFreedomWatch.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville.)
 

12/14/2017 8:25:51 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Paul Pressler targeted in Texas lawsuit

December 13 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A lawsuit alleging decades of sexual abuse by retired Texas state judge Paul Pressler has named a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entity among its co-defendants.
 
Following multiple media reports on the Oct. 18 suit, Pressler’s legal team released a statement Dec. 12 to Baptist Press (BP), in which attorney Ted Tredennick called the allegations “frivolous.”

BP file photo
Paul Pressler, pictured here in 2004, has denied a lawsuit’s allegations of sexual abuse.


Pressler – who helped engineer a strategy to turn the SBC back to its theologically conservative roots in the late 20th century – denies the allegations by Plaintiff Gareld Duane Rollins, who claimed Pressler sexually abused him repeatedly between the late 1970s, when Rollins was 14, and 2014. Rollins’ petition, filed in Texas state district court, alleges he was enrolled in a young adult Bible study which Pressler led at Houston’s First Baptist Church, and later served as Pressler’s office assistant.
 
Rollins listed Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), its president Paige Patterson, Pressler’s wife Nancy, Houston’s First, Pressler’s former law partner Jared Woodfill and the Woodfill Law Firm as additional defendants, claiming they facilitated the abuse and “concealed the wrongful conduct of Pressler” from law enforcement authorities.
 
Each of the defendants, in their responses to the lawsuit filed with the court, have denied all allegations by Rollins.
 
The lawsuit demands more than $1 million in relief, claiming the alleged abuse contributed to Rollins’ life of substance abuse and crime.
 
Pressler, 87, was a justice on the Court of Appeals of Texas, 14th District, and a member of the Texas state legislature. He also served Southern Baptists in various other volunteer capacities.
 
Pressler’s formal response to the lawsuit, filed with the court Nov. 17, stated that he “generally and categorically” denied “each and every allegation” in the suit.
 
Mark Lanier, an attorney representing Patterson and SWBTS, told BP in written comments he “can say categorically that” the seminary and Patterson “had no knowledge of, no participation in, nor any suspicion of any improper behavior by anyone as set out in the complaint.”
 
At least 10 pages of the 40-page lawsuit focus on the SBC’s conservative turn, known as the Conservative Resurgence, arguing the culture fostered by Resurgence leaders contributed to the alleged abuse.
 
The lawsuit claims Patterson, like Pressler, “appears to be a closet Calvinist” and that the supposedly Calvinistic theology they advocated during the Resurgence regarded women and children as “property.” Pressler’s co-defendants, the suit claims, made “minors sexually available to Pressler,” who “under Calvinist dogma” is “considered to be [among the] Vice Regents of God.”
 
SWBTS and Houston’s First, the lawsuit alleges, “fraudulently misrepresented to the public in word and deed, including to Plaintiff Rollins and his mother, that Pressler was a Godlike, sexually safe, moral and great person of the earth who, as a Magistrate, worked God’s wisdom and thus would not be sexually dangerous to minors.”
 
Houston’s First told BP in a statement, “A lawsuit has been filed against a former member of our church, the church itself, and other parties. Paul Pressler III and his wife were members of Houston’s First Baptist Church for many years. They have not been members of our church since 2007.”
 
The events the lawsuit alleges are said to have “occurred in the 1980s, and we do not believe that any former or current staff members had knowledge of or involvement with any of the conduct forming the basis of the allegations,” Houston’s First said.
 
The case is in its earliest stages and is likely to proceed with typical pre-trial discovery requests and other normal motions and responses.
 
SWBTS and Patterson filed a motion Nov. 17 asking a judge to change the venue of the case to Tarrant County, where the seminary is located. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Jan. 16.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

12/13/2017 9:27:21 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Jerusalem: Trump declaration sparks Baptists’ reactions

December 13 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As violence continued in the Middle East after President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Southern Baptists expressed a range of views on the topic.
 
Former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Presidents Ronnie Floyd and Jack Graham were among those to celebrate Trump’s Dec. 6 proclamation on Jerusalem, which included a promise to move the U.S. embassy there. Jamal Bishara, an Arab Israeli who served on the Multiethnic Advisory Council appointed in 2014 by SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, called the Trump administration’s move “another slap in the face to Palestinians.”
 
The Washington Post reported Dec. 8 at least one Palestinian had been killed in the West Bank and dozens were injured as Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops. At least 245 people have been injured during clashes in the West Bank and in Jerusalem.
 
The United Nations Security Council held a special session Dec. 8 to discuss the Trump administration’s actions regarding Israel.
 
Bruce Mills, an American retiree living in Israel, told Baptist Press (BP) “the question uppermost in many peoples’ minds” there is how the current upheaval will affect the flow of religious tourists, the region’s No. 1 industry. Mills also said the move of embassies to Jerusalem “almost seems like some sort of prophetic fulfilment.”
 
Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said in a press release he is “thoroughly pleased President Trump has taken this action when it comes to our ally Israel,” adding the Jewish people’s “return to the Promised Land has been mixed with sorrow, as they’ve had to wait on the world to once again recognize what’s rightfully theirs: Jerusalem.”
 
“By recognizing that Jerusalem is Israel’s unquestionable capital and promising the subsequent move of the U.S. embassy, President Trump has incurred blessing on America,” said Floyd, who also serves as president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, “for Scripture says God blesses those who bless Israel.”
 
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.
 
Some observers have said moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem may undermine prospects for peace in the region and be understood as a declaration of Israel’s sovereignty over the entire city – though Trump said Dec. 6 he was not taking a position on “the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.”
 
The U.S. embassy has been in Tel Aviv for more than 50 years. In 1995, the U.S. Congress adopted legislation requiring the embassy to relocate to Jerusalem by 1999. However, Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama all exercised a provision in the law allowing them to suspend the relocation. Trump exercised the same provision in June before announcing the embassy’s relocation.
 
Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, called Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy “the best news to come out of the Middle East in decades.”
 
“As a Christian, I’m grateful America is playing a decisive role in the story of God’s chosen people, and I’m very glad President Trump is displaying the courage to fulfill a promise to support Israel and its biblical role among the nations,” Graham said in a statement.
 
Among other Southern Baptists to release statements supporting Trump’s announcement were Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas; David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.; Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif.; and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
 
Bishara, pastor of First Arabic Baptist Church in Phoenix and a dual Israeli-American citizen, told BP Jerusalem “maybe” should be the capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. But he lamented what he perceives as “the tunnel vision and the prejudice of the Western world against Palestinians.”
 
Such prejudice may be “church-influenced based on wrong biblical interpretation of scriptures,” Bishara said, “causing mistreatment of people as was done to blacks in the U.S.”
 
Travis Wussow, vice president for public policy and general counsel at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in an article posted at ERLC.com that “many Arab Christians are concerned about this move.”
 
“Arab Christians, wherever they live around the world, are religious minorities,” Wussow wrote. “Sectarian tensions are already high. The Arab Christians are especially vulnerable to and sensitive about attacks on churches and their communities by extremist elements. Several Middle Eastern Christian leaders in Jerusalem, Jordan and elsewhere sent letters to President Trump asking for a delay or for caution in making this move.”
 
Retired hospital executive Rich Hastings, a pro-Israel advocate in Kansas City, Mo., told BP he hopes “this Jerusalem controversy itself may cause our churches to emphasize the biblical importance of Israel in prophecy and to our faith.”
 
“The President’s decision may not be liked and certainly will not bring peace,” Hastings, who has led numerous tours and trade missions to Israel, said in written comments. “But dialogue about Israel and the Prince of Peace is a good thing. I look forward to the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy that when the Messiah returns, we will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) in Jerusalem.”
 
A 2016 SBC resolution “on prayer and support for Israel” did not take a position on Jerusalem’s geopolitical status but expressed messengers’ promise “to pray for God’s peace to rule in Jerusalem and for the salvation of Israel, for the [g]ospel is ‘God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew’ (Romans 1:16).”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

12/13/2017 8:45:30 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘God gave His best to die,’ Akin tells SEBTS grads

December 13 2017 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

The good news of the gospel, encapsulated in John 3:16, is to be shared across all nations, Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), noted at SEBTS’ Dec. 8 graduation ceremony.

SEBTS photo
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, leads the processional for graduation Dec. 8 at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus.


Dividing the passage into multiple sections, Akin highlighted the unparalleled love of God displayed in John 3:16 in his address to graduates, family and friends of SEBTS and The College at Southeastern.
 
“When God gave His Son, God gave His best,” Akin said. “And God gave His best to die.”
 
In John 3:16, he said, “Here’s where we see the massive scope of His love.
 
“It is the world. ... God rejoices in the beauty and diversity of the people groups He has placed in this world.”
 
Many of the graduates will be venturing among the unreached masses, Akin noted.
 
“They will go knowing there are people all about us who Christ died for and yet who have never even one time heard the gospel,” he said.
 
Akin set forth a clear presentation of the gospel message to those in attendance, saying there are only two types of people: those who are saved and those who are lost.
 
In drawing from a quote by Billy Graham, Akin said, “God proved His love on the cross when Christ hung and bled and died. It was God saying to the world, and God saying to you, ‘I love you.’ Now, what will you do in response?”
 
A total of 198 college, graduate and advanced degree students graduated this fall, along with four international students who received master of theological studies at partnering seminaries overseas.
 
This year’s graduation included 28 doctor of ministry graduates, the highest number to date at SEBTS.
 
To view photos from graduation, go to flickr.com/photos/southeastern/sets/72157690864226685.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Pratt is Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s news and information specialist.)
 

12/13/2017 8:25:50 AM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments



Greg Wood, IMB missionary to Mexico, dies at 48

December 13 2017 by Julie McGowan, IMB

Missionary Greg Wood, who spent 11 years sharing the gospel in an indigenous village with his family in Mexico, died Dec. 5, from aggressive brain cancer. He was 48.

IMB Photo
Greg Wood, IMB missionary to Mexico, died Dec. 5 from cancer. He was 48.


“Greg was unwavering in His love for the Lord, his family and for the unreached people of northern Mexico,” said colleague Charles Clark, International Mission Board’s (IMB) affinity group leader for the American peoples.
 
“In the midst of serving with his wife Missy and family in some of the most dangerous areas of Mexico, his passion and joy in sharing Jesus never wavered,” Clark said. “His passion for the unreached was contagious as he walked alongside and mentored national believers to continue the missionary task.
 
“Simply put, Greg loved Jesus and wanted all he came in contact with to know Him. It could be said of Greg, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant ... enter into the joy of your Master,’” Clark said.
 
Wood was born in Indiana. After working as a supervisor at the Department of Social Security for many years, he felt called to ministry, his family wrote in an obituary. After much prayer, he and his wife committed their lives to share the gospel with the people of Mexico.
 
The Woods were appointed missionaries to Mexico on Jan. 25, 2005, supported by their home church, Biltmore Church in Arden, N.C. They took their three children and lived in an indigenous village in Mexico for 11 years. While there, Wood strived to learn the Purepecha language and shared Bible stories with all who would listen. God allowed them to start several churches and see many people baptized.
 
IMB President David Platt said, “After hearing the news that Greg had gone to be with the Lord, I received a message from one of his colleagues saying that Greg was the most loving, peacemaking, dedicated missionary he had ever worked with. I praise God for His grace in Greg, his wife Missy and their incredible children.
 
“Greg’s life was spent for God’s glory in ways far beyond what we could ever measure in this world,” Platt said.
 
In addition to his wife, Wood is survived by three children, Jerod, Alex and Annie; his mother, Charlene Wood, and father, Boyce Wood.
 
“Greg will be greatly missed,” said John Brady, IMB vice president for global engagement. “He was a dedicated and effective missionary who loved the people he was seeking to reach with the Good News of Christ. Our hearts go out to his family in these days.”
 
Wood’s funeral will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at Arlington Baptist Church in Mint Hill, N.C. The family has requested memorial gifts be made to the International Mission Board.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is public relations manager for the International Mission Board.)
 

12/13/2017 8:20:53 AM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments



Transgenders to enlist as Trump appeal continues

December 13 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Transgender people will be able to enlist in the U.S. military beginning Jan. 1, the Department of Defense announced Dec. 11.
 
The announcement followed a federal judge’s ruling the same day that allowed a court order to remain in effect that blocked President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people in the armed forces. Trump said in a series of tweets in July the federal government would not permit people who identify as a different gender than their biological sex to serve in the military.
 
The Pentagon said Dec. 11 it would accept transgender applicants beginning the first of the year while the Department of Justice appeals court rulings in an attempt to permit an ongoing policy review that is to be completed before April.
 
Southern Baptist ethicist Andrew Walker expressed compassion for those who identify as a different gender than their biological sex while voicing disagreement with the Pentagon’s action.
 
“Baptist Christians are sensitive to the difficult psychological realities that gender-confused individuals experience and extend compassion to them in Jesus’ name,” Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. It is a mistake, however, “to take the position that adopting a gender identity at odds with one’s biological sex is either a truthful expression of one’s identity or in the best interest of gender dysphoric individuals,” Walker said.
 
“The ideology behind transgenderism is at odds with the Bible’s teaching on God’s design for us as males and females,” said Walker, author of the recently published book God and the Transgender Debate. The issue “signals how deeply the confusion runs in the culture about what it means to be made in God’s image and, tragically and regrettably, codifies into policy a worldview running contrary to a biblical understanding of human flourishing.”
 
In his comments on the developments, gender issues specialist Bob Stith quoted the late writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton, who said, “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”
 
“This is good advice for us as a nation as we plunge headlong into the brave new world of transgenderism in the military,” Stith told BP in a written statement. “All the legal explanations ignore some basic facts. One is that whatever you can accomplish surgically will never change what DNA makes clear. DNA will always reveal the gender of birth.”
 
Stith – founder of Family and Gender Issues Ministries in Trophy Club, Texas, and formerly the Southern Baptist Convention’s national strategist for gender issues – said the action serves as a reminder for Christians.
 
“Regardless of what the courts and culture say, we must be conscious that these are real human beings caught in a situation for which they did not ask nor do they understand,” Stith said. “While we disagree with the assessments of those so anxious to plunge headlong into this brave new world, we must stay focused on the challenge of being compassionate and redemptive to all those trapped in sexual confusion.
 
“Too many are willing to employ a scorched-earth policy on this and similar issues, but our focus must always be on the gospel of Jesus Christ. This alone offers true answers to the sexual confusion of our times,” Stith said.
 
Federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the District of Columbia said Dec. 11 the Trump administration failed to meet the requirements for her to lift her stay on the ban on transgender military service. The administration had appealed her preliminary injunction to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and asked her to permit the ban to stay in effect during the appeal process.
 
The administration is unlikely to succeed based on the merits of its case, Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her nine-page order Dec. 11. She also found unpersuasive the administration’s argument that its policy would be “irreparably harmed” if the military begins receiving transgender people Jan. 1.
 
In another decision Dec. 11, a federal judge in Seattle also ordered an end to the transgender military ban, The New York Times reported.
 
Supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights applauded the developments.
 
“The military has studied this issue extensively and determined that permitting qualified transgender people to enlist and serve will only strengthen our nation’s armed forces,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, in a written release. “This administration’s claim that allowing transgender people to enlist will lessen military preparedness is contradicted by the military’s own conclusions.”
 
In announcing the ban in a series of three tweets in late July, Trump said, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow [t]ransgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”
 
Trump’s announcement came a year after the Obama administration repealed the prohibition on transgender men and women serving openly in the armed forces. Then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter set a deadline of July 1, 2017, for implementing the new policy, but new Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced June 30 a six-month delay in enlisting transgender people.
 
Estimates of the number of transgender people already in the armed forces vary. The Williams Institute – a pro-LGBT think tank – has said about 15,500 transgender individuals serve on active duty or in the guard/reserves. Last year, a study by the Rand Corp. estimated 2,450 transgender people are on active duty and 1,510 in the selected reserve, whose members are often referred to as “weekend warriors.”
 
In 2014, messengers to the SBC’s annual meeting approved a resolution regarding transgender identity that “affirm[ed] God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” The resolution “regard[ed] our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn[ed] acts of abuse or bullying committed against them.” It also said, “[W]e continue to oppose steadfastly all efforts by any governing official or body to validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy.”
 
In addition, the resolution said, “We invite all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the [g]ospel.”
 
In August, a coalition of evangelical leaders, including about 70 Southern Baptists, addressed transgenderism in The Nashville Statement, a document on biblical sexuality. In the document, the signers said they deny “adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”
 
They also said, “We affirm that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender self-conceptions and by divine forbearance to accept the God-ordained link between one’s biological sex and one’s self-conception as male or female.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

12/13/2017 8:17:54 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Disciple-making conference changes days, revamps training

December 12 2017 by BSC Communications

Most Christians know they have a biblical mandate to “go and make disciples” that’s derived from Jesus’ Great Commission given in Matthew 28:18-20.
 
Some just have a hard time figuring out exactly how they should go about fulfilling this mandate.


The annual N.C. Baptist Disciple-Making Conference has been revamped for 2018 and will feature a special emphasis on training and equipping attendees in practical aspects of disciple-making in the realms of their home, church and world.
 
The 2018 conference is scheduled for Tues., Feb. 27, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons, just outside of Winston-Salem.
 
Registration is $10 per person, which includes the cost of program materials and lunch. Online registration is available at disciplenc.org.
 
The event is sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
 
Matt Carter, pastor of preaching and vision at The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, will serve as the keynote speaker for the event, and the conference will include more than 40 equipping sessions for attendees to choose from throughout the course of the day.
 
“We’ve repurposed the conference for this coming year so that it has more of a focus on training with a variety of breakout session options,” said Brian Upshaw, who leads the BSC’s disciple-making team. “Our last few conferences have focused on the ‘why’ of disciple-making, and we’ve had more and more requests for training in the ‘how.’”
 
Those requests led conference organizers to structure the conference in such a way that the content shared during the large group and equipping sessions complement one another with an emphasis on practical aspects of disciple-making.
 
Upshaw said Carter will cast a vision for what a disciple-making culture looks like in the local church, and breakout session leaders will focus on how to implement various disciple-making approaches and strategies.
 
“Matt Carter models Christ in the way that he leads and serves others,” Upshaw said. “He has led Austin Stone Community Church to focus on disciple-making, which is at the heart of who they are as a congregation. They understand disciple-making as a holistic process that includes both evangelism and discipleship, and they have some strong strategies in place to make disciples in the home, church and world.
 
“Matt is an excellent communicator, and I believe that North Carolina Baptists can learn a lot from him.”
 
Home, church and world will be the key focal points of the equipping sessions, which will be led by a mix of convention staff, pastors, church leaders and others. Upshaw described the home, the church and the world as the three primary “environments” for making disciples.
 
“The Great Commission should extend from our relationship with God to the personal relationships we have in our family, in the church and in the world,” Upshaw said.
 
“The world represents both our neighbors and the nations.”
 
Equipping sessions will focus on these three environments.

Sessions will address topics such as parenting, discipling children, worldview issues, sharing the gospel with people from different backgrounds and beliefs, developing a disciple-making pathway in the local church and more.
 
Some sessions will also address how disciple-making relates to some of the challenging cultural issues of the day.
 
A list of confirmed equipping sessions is available on the event website at disciplenc.org.
 
More session topics will be added to the list leading up to the conference.
 
Upshaw said he hopes conference attendees will gain some practical tools for ministry.
 
“My hope is that attendees would walk away from the conference with some practical tools that they can implement in their daily lives, in their churches and in their ministries,” Upshaw said.

“We want people to walk away feeling equipped and empowered saying, ‘I can do this.’”
 

12/12/2017 9:31:58 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Fire destroys half of church, worship resumes next day

December 12 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

One day after fire destroyed nearly half of Eagle Heights Baptist Church in Harrison, Ark., senior pastor Kennith Stacy held services in the congregation’s family life center.

KOLR-TV screengrab
Eagle Heights Baptist Church in Harrison, Ark., lost nearly half of its campus when a driver ran into a utility pole and sparked a fire. Springfield, Mo.


“In the midst of the tragedy that we find on our campus, we can still see that there’s joy because God’s presence hasn’t left,” Stacy told the congregation Dec. 9 in a Facebook post. “We are the body of Christ, and it’s not a building, but it is people. And so tomorrow morning we’re going to gather together as a church because that’s what we know to do.”
 
A 17-year-old motorist caused the fire around 4:40 a.m., police said, when he crashed his truck into a utility pole, sparking a transformer fire that quickly spread to the church, the Harrison Daily Times reported. Police said the driver was intoxicated, likely on drugs. The driver was bleeding from the face when arrested, a witness told the Daily Times, but no other injuries were reported.
 
The fire destroyed the church’s original sanctuary and basement built in 1949 that most recently was used as the youth center, according to news reports. The loss of the historic portion of the church, about 40 percent of the campus, will be difficult to process, student pastor Scott Dehart told KY3-TV in Springfield, Mo.
 
“This is where [the youth] make their memories, memories that last through college and their lifetime,” Dehart told KY3. “The memories that took place inside this building, many of them have come to know Christ in this building, many of them were baptized in this building. A lot of people were telling stories about how their parents had been married in the church.”
 
Police arrested the motorist on suspicion of careless driving with an accident, DWI, refusal to submit to a chemical test, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage and criminal mischief, the Daily Times reported. Police believe the accident was the driver’s second collision of the morning, that he had hit a trailer and continued to drive before crashing into the utility pole, Police Chief Paul Woodruff told the Daily Times.
 
The church cancelled Sunday School that morning, but held worship services at 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The church’s average Sunday attendance is about 285, according to Southern Baptist Convention statistics.
 
“We’re going to love on people and we’re certainly going to be available to hug and to cry with and to reminiscence and to reflect,” Stacy said on Facebook. “But more importantly, tomorrow is a day that we worship Jesus and this is the hope that we provide in this community.
 
“My friend Jesus is still king and we are still His people,” Stacy said. “Through the midst of this, God has got a plan and we’re going to follow Him faithfully in it.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

12/12/2017 9:23:17 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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