February 2015

Boston Marathon bomb amputee: ‘blessed’

February 25 2015 by Todd Deaton, Kentucky Western Recorder

Rebekah DiMartino was at the Boston Marathon in April 2013, standing just three feet from where a bomb exploded at the finish line.
“Here was me,” she said, pointing to a spot on the floor at a Kentucky church where she was speaking.
“Right here was a bomb!” she exclaimed.
“Three [feet]! And I’m alive, and I’m standing here to tell you about it,” she marveled.
DiMartino, at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, recounted her experience at the marathon – when three people were killed and more than 250 were injured – and how her faith has been a key part of her months-long recovery.
Jury selection has been underway in Boston since January for the trial of Dzhokar Tsarnaev, one of two alleged bombers – his older brother Tamerlan being the other, who was killed during the post-bombing manhunt.
“It was my birthday weekend,” said DiMartino, who lives in Texas. In Boston for her first time, she was there to watch her now-mother-in-law in the race. “No, I was not the runner,” she quipped. “I was actually the one on the sidelines eating chocolate-covered pretzels and watching everybody else [pass by].”
DiMartino noted that the “most miraculous part of my story” is how her legs shielded her then-5-year-old son Noah and spared his life – and how she has gained an array of opportunities to share her faith in churches and in media appearances such as the syndicated medical show “The Doctors” on Feb. 17.


Photo from Facebook
Rebekah DiMartino poses with her new prosthetic leg after receiving it last month. The word “Blessed” is embroidered on the leg to signify DiMartino’s gratitude that she and her son are still alive despite being three feet away from the Boston Marathon bomb as it went off.


“Whatever you are going through in your life, don’t give up because God has got a plan for everything,” DiMartino said. “And everything that we go through, it ultimately works together for your good.”
On the screen behind her was one of the most iconic pictures of the Boston Marathon bombing: Her little boy being rushed away in a wheelchair by first responders.
When the bomb went off, Noah was sitting at DiMartino’s feet, playing with some small rocks. Had he been standing, she was told, he likely would have died instantly. “I took everything in the back of the legs so that Noah would be saved,” she said.
“That is God’s purpose [for me],” she nodded. “I cannot feel sorry for myself in the least bit because I know my son is running around like normal today. ... I thank God every day for my little boy still being here.”
DiMartino was hospitalized for 56 days. In the past 18 months, she endured 30 surgeries – more than half on her left leg, which was nearly destroyed from the knee down. Doctors told her it may never function again.
“I was miserable. It was weighing on my heart for me to have to endure the pain and frustration of a leg that didn’t work,” DiMartino said, so she decided to have the leg amputated. In a bit of moribund humor, she wrote a breakup letter to her leg. “It was like a bad boyfriend to me,” she said. “There are things that hold you back, and this was one of them that I realized ... where I could make a change.
“And God’s glory shines through better when things don’t hold you back,” she asserted.
“My leg is not my life,” DiMartino said. “I’m so thankful that I get to be here. A leg is just a leg. Cut it off and give me a new one.” She introduced her new prosthetic as though it were a baby: “On Jan. 7, Felicia was born. She weighs 4 pounds, 8 ounces – 18 inches long. She’s absolutely beautiful. I just love her; she’s a doll. She’s so high-maintenance, but we’re working it out.”
Across her new leg is the word “blessed” in embroidery.
Learning to walk with a prosthetic leg, however, is painful and “one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” DiMartino noted in a Facebook post Jan. 14.
“[S]ometimes I find myself wanting to throw ‘Felicia’ across the room. But today I feel so thankful. In a week’s time I can already see so much progression in myself, and in the words of my prosthetist ... I am WAY ahead of schedule. So I guess you could say I’m ending tonight feeling pretty stinkin’ awesome.”
When facing tough decisions, DiMartino said in her Jan. 25 testimony at St. Matthews Baptist Church, it ultimately leads to a greater purpose. “I believe with all of my heart that my purpose in life is to inspire and encourage other people,” she said. “I don’t feel I have it figured out at all. But I know that I have such a passion to help other people, based on the struggles that I’ve been through ... and that’s what I’m going to spend the rest of my life doing.
“It’s a scary world; change it!” she urged. “I try very hard every day when I wake up to say, ‘God, let me have that open heart to where whoever talks to me, whoever comes in my path, sees that I radiate some type of light for You.’“
Rather than let adversity destroy her, “it’s gonna make me stronger,” she declared. She hopes to run the Boston Marathon. “I’m going to climb mountains. I’m going to dance. I’m going to run. I’m going to do anything and everything that I can because it’s my life and I’m not going to waste a second of it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Deaton is editor of the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this article. Rebekah DiMartino is on Facebook at facebook.com/newday.newhope.rebekahgregory.)

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2/25/2015 1:01:18 PM by Todd Deaton, Kentucky Western Recorder | with 0 comments

LifeWay letter of intent narrows potential buyers

February 25 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

LifeWay Christian Resources, continuing to move toward selling its 14.5-acre downtown Nashville complex, signed a letter of intent Feb. 23 with “a firm that represents a group of local and national developers.”
A letter of intent, according to a LifeWay statement issued Feb. 24, is “a temporary legal arrangement allowing the seller and potential buyers time to concentrate their negotiations.”
The LifeWay statement, issued by Marty King, director of corporate communications, noted that talks are ongoing “so it would be premature for us to discuss any elements of the negotiations or the businesses and individuals involved.”
LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has analyzed “more than a dozen offers to purchase our property in downtown Nashville” and had eliminated several of the offers during the week of Feb. 17, King said. The SBC entity has “focused on a handful of possible buyers ... Several other potential buyers have been told their offers are on hold until current negotiations either move forward toward a contract or are dissolved.”
King said LifeWay anticipates “a final decision in a few weeks, as we continue to seek the arrangement that provides the best stewardship of the resources with which LifeWay has been entrusted for more than 100 years.”
LifeWay’s downtown campus includes nine buildings with more than 1 million square feet of office, warehouse and parking space. About 1,100 of LifeWay’s employees work in the downtown offices. The organization also oversees 186 stores and 4,300 employees in 29 states.


King could not confirm a story in the Nashville Business Journal reporting that the “potential purchase price could be as high as $125 million, according to one source with knowledge of negotiations.”
The full text of the LifeWay statement follows this story.
Last August, LifeWay began a preliminary feasibility study of selling its campus to relocate to facilities better suited to the ministry’s future. The entity was founded in 1891 as the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay’s president, said in a mid-January report that the results of the study by local design and consulting firm Gresham, Smith and Partners (GSP) “confirmed there was interest favorable enough for us to take another step.”
LifeWay had conversations with local, regional and national entities about selling the property and accepted offers through mid-January.
Rainer said reasons to consider selling the property include:

  • Changes over the last 50 years in how LifeWay does ministry have created a need for workspaces that support LifeWay’s technologies, strategies and culture now and in the future.

  • LifeWay uses only one-third of its current space.

  • The opportunity to build a new facility designed specifically for the ministries LifeWay provides now and in the future.

If the property is sold, Rainer voiced a “very strong preference” for LifeWay to remain in downtown Nashville, which has become a vibrant urban hub. Gresham, Smith and Partners will help determine the size and type of space LifeWay needs to serve churches more effectively and efficiently, Rainer said. Planners estimate construction of a new building would take at least two years.
“Most of our current space was designed and built in the middle of the last century and for a much different work environment,” Rainer said in January. “We need a workplace designed to support the technologies, collaboration, and culture needed for today’s and tomorrow’s successful national and international ministry.”
Last August, Rainer cited demand for property in the downtown area and fewer employees now working at its corporate offices as reasons for studying a possible sale.
“... It would be poor stewardship for the organization not to explore the possibilities this situation could present for our ministry,” Rainer said in an Aug. 1 letter to LifeWay’s staff.
LifeWay, he said, could choose to sell only a portion of its property; or sell all of its downtown campus and move outside the city, either into existing facilities or begin new construction. Rainer described the possibility of moving outside of middle Tennessee as “remote.”
In the letter, Rainer addressed changes in the publishing industry and noted that more of LifeWay’s employees work outside Nashville than at its corporate offices.
“Our needs have changed,” he said. “We no longer print and package our resources on the first floor of the Operations Building and then put them on a conveyor belt running under Broadway to the U.S. Post Office.
“That post office building is now an art center, our printing is done all over the country, our assembly and shipping is centered in new facilities in Lebanon, [Tenn.], and [the Operations Building] sits mostly empty. We have been unable to even lease the space.”
While LifeWay leases unused office space in its Frost Building along with the adjacent parking lot, Rainer said, hundreds of offices on its campus remain vacant.
The full text of the LifeWay statement on signing a letter of intent follows:
February 24, 2015
LifeWay signs letter of intent, negotiations continue
LifeWay Christian Resources has analyzed more than a dozen offers to purchase our property in downtown Nashville. Last week LifeWay eliminated several of the offers and focused on a handful of possible buyers.
Yesterday LifeWay signed a letter of intent with a firm that represents a group of local and national developers formed for this project.
A letter of intent is a temporary legal arrangement allowing the seller and potential buyers time to concentrate their negotiations. Those talks are ongoing so it would be premature for us to discuss any elements of the negotiations or the businesses and individuals involved.
Several other potential buyers have been told their offers are on hold until current negotiations either move forward toward a contract or are dissolved.
We anticipate a final decision in a few weeks, as we continue to seek the arrangement that provides the best stewardship of the resources with which LifeWay has been entrusted for more than 100 years.
Marty King
LifeWay Spokesman
Director of Corporate Communications
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)

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2/25/2015 12:52:11 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Texas Supreme Court issues stay on gay marriage

February 25 2015 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN

The Texas Supreme Court issued a stay halting the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Feb. 20, less than 24 hours after a Travis County Clerk issued a license to a lesbian couple in Austin.
As far as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is concerned, the marriage license issued to the couple Feb. 19 is null and void. However, although the court issued the stay, it did not immediately rule to void the license.
Theresa Farfan, deputy press secretary for the attorney general, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN that Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir issued the marriage license for Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant of Austin in violation of Texas law and statutes. Those violations alone void the license, but Paxton asked the Texas Supreme Court for an expedited ruling on the case. Additionally he asked the high court to reaffirm the existing stay on the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and hold rogue judges to account.


Texas’ marriage law is presently under review by the U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit.
In two unrelated cases last week, Travis County judges ruled in favor of lesbian appellants asking for relief from the Texas marriage restrictions. On Tuesday, Feb. 17, a probate judge declared the Texas marriage law unconstitutional. Two days later Judge David Wahlberg of the 167th District Court in Travis County delivered a similar ruling and issued a temporary restraining order on the enforcement of the law so Goodfriend and Bryant could marry.
Wahlberg ordered county clerk DeBeauvoir to ignore Texas’ “unconstitutional” law prohibiting same-sex marriage and to immediately issue the marriage license, waiving the requisite 72-hour waiting period. According to Austin news reports DeBeauvoir gladly accommodated the court order.
In his Feb. 19 order, Wahlberg wrote, “The Court finds that unless the Court immediately issues a Temporary Restraining Order, the unconstitutional denial of a marriage license to Plaintiffs will cause immediate and irreparable damage to Plaintiffs, based solely on their status as a same-sex couple.”
Paxton said both judges acted without authority in unilaterally declaring the Texas definition of marriage unconstitutional. Additionally, Texas statute requires judges contesting the constitutionality of a law to notify the attorney general’s office and allow for a response. The judges did neither.
Those violations rendered the marriage license void at its issuance despite the couple’s very public nuptial ceremony in front of the Travis County Clerk’s office located on a busy Austin thoroughfare. Paxton also reminded all state judges the Texas marriage law is still in force even as it is being challenged in appellate courts.
“The law of Texas has not changed, and will not change due to the whims of any individual judge or county clerk operating on their own capacity anywhere in Texas,” Paxton said in a Feb. 19 statement. “Activist judges don’t change Texas law, and we will continue to aggressively defend the laws of our state and will ensure that any licenses issued contrary to law are invalid.”
In his request to the Texas Supreme Court, Paxton called the judges’ actions “an abuse of discretion” and called on the high court to “declare void any invalid marriage licenses issued in reliance on the trial court’s improper order.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

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2/25/2015 12:37:33 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

ERLC joins brief at 8th Circuit defending marriage

February 25 2015 by Baptist Press

A state law that restricts marriage to a man and a woman does not express hostility toward same-sex couples, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and four other religious organizations say in a new brief filed with a federal appeals court.
The ERLC and four other members of a diverse coalition called Feb. 23 for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to uphold the right of the citizens of Missouri to define marriage as only a heterosexual institution. In November, a federal judge struck down a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman.
ERLC and the other religious organizations “are standing together for a truth as old as human civilization itself,” Russell Moore, the entity’s president, said.
“The state did not create the family, and cannot re-create it,” he said in an ERLC news release. “We appeal to the court to recognize and to stay within the limits of its authority.”


Marriage is important, Moore said, “because marriage is about more than registering relationships at a courthouse. Marriage is about the common good and flourishing of society.”
In addition, as a Christian, Moore believes “with Jesus and the apostles that marriage points beyond creation to the gospel union of Christ and his church.”
In the friend-of-the-court brief, the ERLC and the other organizations say the frequent accusation that defenders of the biblical, traditional definition of marriage “are motivated by ‘anti-gay animus’” is “false and offensive.” This charge by advocates of same-sex marriage “is intended to suppress rational dialogue and civil conversation, to win by insult and intimidation rather than by persuasion, experience, and fact,” they say in the brief.
The ERLC joined the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the brief. The same organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief last February with the 10th Circuit Court in defense of laws in Oklahoma and Utah restricting marriage to heterosexual couples. In June, however, the 10th Circuit upheld lower court rulings invalidating the measures.
The Eighth Circuit has scheduled oral arguments May 11 in Omaha, Neb., to rule on the marriage laws of Missouri, Arkansas and South Dakota, according to The Associated Press.
The ERLC-endorsed brief for the Eighth Circuit was filed as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in the appeal of a similar case from the Sixth Circuit. In November, the Sixth Circuit became the first federal appeals court to rule states could limit marriage to the union of a man and a woman. Four other appeals courts had previously invalidated state laws that prohibited gay marriage. The Sixth Circuit opinion came in challenges to laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in April and issue a decision before it adjourns in the summer. If the justices release a decision this term, gay marriage could be legal throughout the country by the end of June or states could maintain their authority to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Rather than hostility or ignorance, their motivation for defending male-female marriage is “because we believe it is right and good for children, families, and society,” the ERLC and the others say in the brief. Their religious traditions teach this truth, but “so do reason, long experience, and social fact,” they say.
They also recognize marriage has “spiritual significance” and is even “sacred,” their brief says. “We make no apologies for these sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Their support for the biblical, traditional definition of marriage is not concentrated on opposition toward homosexuals, the ERLC and their allies say in the brief. “As our faith communities seek to sustain and transmit the virtues of husband-wife marriage and family life, our teachings seldom focus on sexual orientation or homosexuality,” they say.
The diverse groups say in the brief, “Our theological perspectives, though often differing, converge on a critical point: that marriage between a man and a woman is vital to the welfare of children, families and society.”
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 37 states, nearly tripling the 13 states where it was legal in mid-2013. It also is legal in the District of Columbia.
The expansion of same-sex marriage has resulted in a growing clash between the rights of gay couples and the religious freedom of individuals and organizations. Photographers, florists, bakers and other business owners who oppose serving in support of same-sex wedding ceremonies have been penalized or are facing penalties for their refusal.
The case at the Eighth Circuit is Lawson v. Missouri.

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2/25/2015 12:27:59 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gallaty: We must replicate disciples

February 24 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

At the recent One Story Discipleship Conference in Clemmons, Robby Gallaty said his journey to passionate discipleship began in 1995 when a college friend shared the gospel with him. “I rejected the gospel. ... But I will remember the seeds that he sowed in my life. God would bring that to fruition seven years later,” he said.
Now the senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., Gallaty’s life floundered after college. He started a computer business that failed. He worked as a bouncer at a New Orleans bar. After a threat on his life, he moved inside the bar to be a bartender.
In 1999 he sustained serious injuries in a traffic accident with a tractor-trailer rig. He said the hospital treated him, then sent him home with four addictive prescription drugs, including Valium and Percocet. Within three months the 22-year-old was addicted to pharmaceutical drugs.
Gallaty developed a $180 per day heroine habit at the height of his addiction. Six of his friends went to prison; eight of his friends died during that time.
His aimless life began to take a new course in 2002. “Finally after all of that I remembered what Jeremy Brown told me in college. I got on my knees … and prayed, ‘God if you’re real I promise I will commit my life to you and I will not be ashamed to tell people about what you did,’” he said. “I had a radical Paul-like 24-hour experience with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The encounter was so radical he told his father the next day, “Dad, God’s called me into the ministry.” His dad shot back, “Son, what are you smoking?” But this time it was not drugs that overpowered his life.
“I wandered for the next eight months,” Gallaty recalled. “I didn’t know how to live the Christian life. I didn’t know how to read the Bible. I knew how to pray rote prayers ... I didn’t know how to memorize scripture. I didn’t know I should do those things.”
At church the next Sunday someone said, “Robby, you’re like a Timothy. You need a Paul.” So he prayed for about two months that God would put a Paul in his life.
One Sunday at church, “a man by the name of David Platt walks up to me and says, ‘God put you on my heart. Would you be interested in meeting once a week to study the Bible, memorize scripture and pray? I said, ‘David I’d love to.’ He said, ‘Pray about it.” I said, ‘I already have. When do we start?’”
For the next two years, Platt, then pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., invested his life in Gallaty. “He gave me a passion for expository preaching. He gave me a burden for the lost. He gave me a desire for missions. More importantly he lived what discipleship is.”
Gallaty told approximately 500 conference attendees he is a product of discipleship. He said he often asks himself, “How different would my life be today if I had never been discipled by David and others? I wouldn’t be here today.”


Robby Gallaty is senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tenn. and co-founder of Replicate Ministries.


But the better question is “How different would your life be if someone would have invested in you?” he asked. “How different would the lives of our people be if we got serious and passionate about the things that were passionate to Jesus – which is making disciples?”
He said the discipleship movement is “the Reformation of the twenty-first century,” like the movement Martin Luther sparked in sixteenth century Germany.
“You have to understand that when Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg, it was the shot that was heard around the world. Why?” he asked. “Because Martin Luther was returning back to something that was started early on, that is the priesthood of the believer.”
Luther believed any person could take the Word of God, read it and live it out, without a priest, bishop or pope to interpret it for them. The present discipleship movement gives the average church member the opportunity to take ownership of their faith.
Brainerd Baptist Church gives their congregation a definition of discipleship. “Disciple making is intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Jesus Christ.”
“Discipleship without reproduction is not biblical discipleship,” Gallaty added.
Groups like Sunday School classes, Bible study groups and home fellowship groups have a role in the church. But if they are not reproducing, they are not biblical, he said. “How many generations of groups have you seen replicated in your church? How many groups who have invested in groups, who have invested in groups, who are replicating the process?”
Gallaty offered a four-fold process of making disciples based on 2 Timothy 2:1-2.
First, Christians need to abide in the power of Christ. “We cannot underestimate the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in our lives,” he said. Paul reminded Timothy that God has not given him a spirit of fear, but power, love and self-control.
Paul was emphasizing to Timothy that he must rely on the abiding power of Christ, Gallaty said. “When your people tell you, ‘Hey pastor, I can’t make disciples. I’m not smart enough. I’m not intellectual enough. I don’t have enough maturity under my belt. I don’t know enough. I just need one more class, one more seminar, one more conference. I feel inadequate.’ Do you know what you say to them? ‘You’re exactly where you need to be.’”
Second, Gallaty said Christians must accept the principles of Christ. “One of the most overlooked commands of the Great Commission is the little word ‘obey.’ ... To the Jew the word ‘hear’ is synonymous with the word ‘obey.’” Referring to the book of Deuteronomy, the book Jesus quotes more than any other, he said the Bible teaches that hearing and doing have the same meaning.
The third necessity is to invest in the people of Christ. Paul’s word to Timothy was to teach “faithful men who will teach others,” he said. “We must take discipleship to the next level and entrust the truth to faithful men who are able to teach others also. The discipleship process is not complete until the player becomes the coach.”
Gallaty’s fourth focus was the need to reproduce the priority of Christ.
He illustrated a common fault in churches. “Would you ever [take your child to church], walk into the preschool room with nobody in there, put the child on the ground, and as you’re leaving, throw them the bottle and say, ‘By the way, feed yourself’? You’d never do that! We do it every week. We call it church.”
Evangelism and discipleship are two oars on the same boat, he added. If there is discipleship without evangelism a time will come when there are no more people to disciple. And a church emphasizes evangelism without discipleship there will come a time when evangelizing dies.
Gallaty co-founded Replicate Ministries to educate, equip and empower believers. He invites believers to visit ReplicateMinistries.org for disciple making resources.

2/24/2015 8:41:06 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Southern Baptists seek racial diversity - but will it work?

February 24 2015 by Heidi Hall, Religion News Service

How tough is it to create a racially diverse denomination? Consider a recent luncheon organized by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) , the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
About 100 Nashville-area evangelical leaders accepted invitations to a lunch hosted by the denomination’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). On the agenda: a pitch for a spring summit and a short discussion by ERLC President Russell Moore about the need for churches to become more racially diverse.
The number of African-Americans who showed up for the lunch? Four (two of them denomination employees).
ERLC leaders originally planned a summit on bioethics. They quickly shifted gears after grand juries in November and December failed to indict police officers for the deaths of young unarmed black men. Moore’s social media remarks condemning the New York City jury’s decision not to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner were met with an angry backlash, some from people filling Southern Baptist pews and pulpits.
Black church leaders are greeting news of the summit with reactions ranging from polite skepticism to hopeful support.
It can’t come soon enough for Erskin Anavitarte, a Southern Baptist pastor-turned-musician who attended this month’s luncheon. Anavitarte, who is African-American, said he finds resistance when even suggesting white privilege exists.


RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks
Russell Moore at the Washington offices of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.


“People who talk about Ferguson [Mo.] and say that justice was served – most of them don’t even have a grid to make those statements they’re making,” he said. “They don’t even have friends who are African-American.”
The Southern Baptist denomination was birthed in 1845 when it insisted its members had the right to own slaves. The denomination didn’t formally apologize for its stand on slavery until 1995. Four years ago, the SBC considered a name change to move past that split and increase opportunities for expansion outside the South.
Moore, a Mississippi native, opposed the rebranding. Earlier sin needs to be kept out front, he said, lest members forget it. One of his earliest Sunday school memories convinced him of that.
“We had a substitute teacher, and I put a quarter in my mouth,” he said. “She said, ‘Don’t put a quarter in your mouth, because a colored person might have touched that.”’
Moore said the teacher probably never examined her own belief system around race.
But his proposed solution to that – diversifying worship spaces – will take some work. Of 50,500 Southern Baptist congregations, 3,502 identify as predominantly African-American, or about 7 percent, a 2013 denominational report shows.
Broaching the issue is important, said Joshua DuBois, former chief of the Obama administration’s faith-based initiatives and author of “The President’s Devotional.”
“Where the Southern Baptist Convention leads, a whole lot of white conservatives around the nation follow,” said DuBois, who is African-American and attends Assemblies of God-affiliated National Community Church in Washington, D.C. “One of the most exciting things is the possibility of churches connecting at the grass-roots level to do more together to create interracial churches.
“Right now, 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.”
DuBois said a good example of ways to change that was the recent merger of predominantly white Ridgewood Baptist Church into predominantly black Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., prompted by the white church’s financial struggles.
Shiloh Pastor H.B. Charles Jr. – who will speak at the upcoming summit – became primary teaching pastor of the combined flock and told The Huffington Post he hoped the merger served as an example of racial reconciliation.
Races worshipping together will increase understanding, said Miguel De La Torre, a professor at United Methodist-related Iliff School of Theology who studies the intersection of race and religion. For example, anyone worshipping at a diverse church wouldn’t be surprised that grand juries didn’t indict the police officers that killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, he said.
One reason most churches are segregated is that racial reconciliation has meant whites expecting African-Americans and Latinos to worship with them, De La Torre said, perhaps throwing in a “Taco Tuesday” as an attraction.
“For me to worship at an Anglo church, I must accept white theology, pray in a white manner, sing white German songs and eat meatloaf at the potluck,” he said.
De La Torre said it’s far more useful for whites to come to African-American and Latino churches, hear the reflections of religious thinkers from those cultures and take those lessons home.
Whatever whites choose to do, black church leaders worry about other issues, said the Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Black Church Initiative, an interdenominational coalition of 34,000 African-American and Latino churches.
They’re more concerned about fallout from the approval of same-sex marriage, attracting young members, meeting demands of churchgoers in African-American neighborhoods and maintaining financial viability, he said.
It’s good that the Southern Baptists are talking about race, he said, but he has a lot of questions.
“There were no discussions within the universal Christian faith – I certainly didn’t get a call – about what should be the vision going forward,” Evans said. “I’m not sure the motivation of their actions, but it’s a small beginning.”
He said he will have more interest when he sees a long-term, strategic plan and a financial commitment to implementing it.

The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation

The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation Summit will be held March 26-27 in Nashville. Speakers include: Fred Luter Jr., senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and the Southern Baptist Convention’s first African-American president; John Perkins, a civil rights leader and founder of the Christian Community Development Association; and Juan Sanchez, preaching pastor at High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Heidi Hall is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn. Contact her on Twitter @HeidiHallTN.)

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2/24/2015 12:36:44 PM by Heidi Hall, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Immigration ruling: ‘beyond mere enforcement’

February 24 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Obama administration has appealed a federal judge’s ruling blocking implementation of a program that would potentially grant “legal presence” to some 4 million undocumented immigrants. The administration also asked a federal court to stay the ruling.
On the day the appeal was filed, a Baptist college president noted the Obama administration’s “selective enforcement of immigration policies.”
“Everyone has to be under the same law,” Barry Creamer, president of Criswell College in Dallas and a trustee of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told Baptist Press in written comments Feb. 23. “To many observers the president’s selective enforcement of immigration policies appears to establish a de facto set of laws for longtime [illegal] immigrants distinct from the rules legal immigrants followed often at great sacrifice. But what is most disconcerting in the present moment is the president’s apparent push against the checks and balances between the three branches of government.”
The ERLC has called for immigration reform that would provide border and workplace security; uphold the rule of law; respect family unity; and establish a path to legal status for those who want to live in America permanently and are willing to pay penalties and meet the requirements.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled Feb. 16 that a deferred-deportation program initiated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may not be implemented while a lawsuit is being decided, in which 26 states challenged the measure. The program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), would allow illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. before age 16 to apply for “legal presence” status and work permits in renewable three-year increments.



The states challenging DAPA allege that applications for legal presence status likely will receive “only a pro forma” review before being granted, according to Hanen’s 123-page opinion. A similar program denied only 5 percent of approximately 723,000 applications for legal status through the end of 2014, Hanen wrote.
In an emergency motion asking a federal court to keep DAPA in effect while an appeal of Hanen’s ruling is decided, Sarah Saldana, director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, wrote that blocking DAPA “interferes with the Federal Government’s comprehensive strategy for enforcing our immigration laws.” DAPA was among a package of controversial executive actions on immigration announced by Obama in November.
Hanen, a George W. Bush appointee based in Brownsville, Texas, ruled that the state of Texas – perhaps along with other states – will “suffer an injury” because of the program, has legal standing to challenge the program and possesses “a substantial likelihood of succeeding” in its lawsuit.
In 2013-14, Texas absorbed at least $58 million in education costs stemming from illegal immigration and in 2008 incurred $716 million in uncompensated medical care provided to illegal aliens, Hanen noted – figures likely to increase if the number of undocumented immigrants increases.
The Department of Homeland Security “was not given any ‘discretion by law’ to give 4.3 million removable aliens what DHS itself labels as ‘legal presence,’” Hanen wrote. “In fact the law mandates that these illegally-present individuals be removed.
“The DHS has adopted a new rule that substantially changes both the status and employability of millions. These changes go beyond mere enforcement or even non-enforcement of this nation’s immigration scheme. It inflicts major costs on both the states and federal government,” Hanen wrote.
If a stay of Hanen’s order is granted, the administration believes it can begin accepting applications for the program as it appeals the ruling.
“We will seek that appeal because we believe that when you evaluate the legal merits of the argument, that there is solid legal foundation for the president to take the steps that he announced late last year to reform our broken immigration system,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
In November, ERLC President Russell Moore called Obama’s executive action “an unwise and counterproductive move,” stating his preference for immigration reform to occur “through the legislative process.”
In 2011 messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel while pursuing justice and compassion. The resolution urged the government to make a priority of border security and holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested that public officials establish after securing the borders “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.”
Debate over the resolution suggested disagreement among Southern Baptists on how the federal government should handle America’s 11-12 million illegal immigrants. An amendment to delete the paragraph calling for “a just and compassionate path to legal status” failed by a 51.3 to 48.4 margin. The Resolutions Committee proposed an amendment, which was accepted by messengers, clarifying that the resolution was “not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant.”
Creamer noted that “thoughtful believers have several issues to work through regarding the recent immigration conflict between the states and federal government, and now even within the federal government between the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
“First and foremost in many believers’ minds on both sides of the political aisle is the compassion we have and wish to express for every immigrant in our country – legal or otherwise. Too many immigration discussions reveal racist tendencies. At the same time, the only way genuine compassion for every person can be realized is for all to be under the same rule of law. In a just society there cannot be one set of laws for some immigrants and another set of laws for other immigrants; neither can there be one law for citizens and another for outsiders,” Creamer said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/24/2015 12:31:14 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Church plant, NAMB farm system prepare future leaders

February 24 2015 by Tobin Perry, North American Mission Board

Eric Tuffendsam had a problem. Though he believed God had called him to be a pastor, he knew he wasn’t ready. With a growing family, a new business and tight resources, the Cincinnati resident didn’t know where he’d find the additional hands-on training he needed.
But over the past six months, with the help of a 5-year-old church plant in Cincinnati and the support of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Tuffendsam has found practical pastoral training without moving his family or closing down his business.

NAMB Photo by Eric Tuffendsam
Eric Tuffendsam, a resident at Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, welcomes people into a worship gathering at the church. Part of Tuffendsam’s residency program has been guiding new members into the life of the church.

“Ministry isn’t all flowers and birds chirping,” said Tuffendsam, who is a North American Mission Board church planting intern. “The way people see a life of ministry from the outside – even those who have gone to seminary – is very romanticized. I had never seen how real the job of ministry is until this residency, and I’ve been doing ministry for years within the local church. But being so connected with the pastors [at Christ the King Church in Cincinnati] and seeing what they go through, it’s a whole new ballgame.”
Christ the King, a multi-campus Southern Baptist church plant that started in downtown Cincinnati, is in the middle of its second year of a residency program at the church. NAMB provides funding for three of the eight residents in the program. One of them is a lead planter and the other two are church planting interns. Most of the current crop of residents came from within the church.
Through its Missionary Development Farm System, NAMB funds four levels of church planting engagement – student missionaries, interns, apprentices and church planters. The farm system is expected to prepare future generations of church planters and help the missions agency reach its goal of partnering with local churches to start 15,000 Southern Baptist churches before 2022.
Michael Clary, Christ the King’s pastor, describes the church’s residency program as a mix between the theological and the practical. Residents spend the first half of their year focused mostly on studying scripture and books on theological and ministry development. Residents discuss what they are learning with one another in a group setting and with one of the church’s pastors. Each resident is assigned a pastor as a mentor.

NAMB Photo by Michael Clary
Michael Clary planted Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, five years ago. The first new Southern Baptist church plant in downtown Cincinnati in more than 20 years, Christ the King now has more than 400 people in attendance most weekends. Through a church residency program, Clary is training future church planters and pastors for ministry in Cincinnati and beyond.

The second half of the residency is devoted to providing opportunities for ministry development. Residents participate in ministry leadership at the church and receive input from their pastoral coach and the other interns along the way.
“If it were not for the NAMB internships, this would be much more difficult to get off the ground,” Clary said. “It has been a huge blessing.”
Tuffendsam says the residency has made a significant impact on his future ministry capacity.
“It’s like looking into a huge mirror of God’s glory and His church that He has established and seeing this is exactly what I need to be prepared and until I get that I’m not ready,” Tuffendsam said. “Then they give you what you need to get there.”
As Tuffendsam transitioned into the ministry development portion of the residency, he was given the responsibility of coordinating the church assimilation process – including everything from designing the process to leading volunteers in the effort. Along the way, his pastoral mentor and his residency peers get opportunities to speak into what he’s doing. As an intern he has also helped to lead a person to faith in Christ and has also been discipling a couple of college students.
Clary has spent much of the past year developing a discipleship plan that mirrors the residency program but seeks to disciple the church’s lay people. The church began piloting the program, called Element, beginning last fall. Just like the residency program, the discipleship plan included required readings and ministry development. The five-month plan (which will likely be stretched to eight months next time) centered on five core identities of a disciple – worshiper, family, learner, servant and missionary.
“The Great Commission says it’s our job to make disciples,” Clary said. “But I felt like we needed to define what it means to be a disciple. What does it mean for a new Christian to become a fully functioning disciple? That’s where the core identities language comes from. A disciple will worship Jesus from the heart, they’ll learn what it means to be a part of a church family, they will learn about the Bible and basic theology, they will learn to serve in the community and they will learn to share their faith with others.”
Clary and Christ the King have played an active role in NAMB’s Send North America efforts in Cincinnati. Send North America is NAMB’s effort to help local Southern Baptist churches plant new churches in 32 of the largest and most influential cities in North America.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)
2/24/2015 12:19:13 PM by Tobin Perry, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

Southeastern hosts interracial dialogue for community

February 23 2015 by Ali Dixon, SEBTS Communications

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in cooperation with the Town of Wake Forest hosted the first community dialogue on racial reconciliation entitled, “It’s Time: Interracial Dialogue.”
Walter Strickland, special advisor to the president for diversity and professor of theology at SEBTS, helped coordinate the event and served as the moderator for the five speakers.
“We are here today because in recent months there has been an unusual number of high-profile cases where the issue of race has been front and center,” Strickland said. “First and foremost, the loss of life is heartbreaking, and secondly, the nation’s polarized responses to these events, particularly the Michael Brown and Eric Garner non-indictment decisions, have been unproductive at best, and often inflammatory.”
The aim of the event was to facilitate dialogue in a community environment where each person has a voice. Organizers hope to begin developing strategies to cultivate racial harmony. 


SEBTS photo
Wake Forest residents gathered recently for an interracial dialogue on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Organizers hope this and future events will cultivate racial harmony in the community.


“It’s time for the people of God to lead this conversation in a way that only we can: saturated with the humility of our Savior, and with the humble posture that we took before the cross at the moment of our salvation,” Strickland said. “We must maintain this posture of humility before each other especially in this tense cultural moment in which we find ourselves today.”
The event was a time of listening to community leaders, discussing these issues and establishing relationships across racial, cultural and denominational lines.
“Our efforts are not in vain,” Strickland added. “This time is not a meaningless token of our desire to see change in our community. We are participating in God’s redemptive mission to restore the brokenness in creation as a sign of his rule and reign that is to come in the New Kingdom.” 
“At present, we live in a time where the scars of brokenness mark our world, but as the redeemed in Christ, we have the opportunity, no, the responsibility and privilege to live out the restorative plan of God until we meet him in Glory,” Strickland said. “It’s time for God’s people to gather together and mend what Christ died to heal, and today in particular we address strife along the lines of race.”
Speakers were encouraged to provide a specific strategy to facilitate healing along racial lines in the community. Following each talk small groups brainstormed practical steps to apply the strategy presented.
Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones shared about ways the Town of Wake Forest seeks to foster a positive relationship between police officers and citizens through school and community events. Advisory boards are a way for the community to stay connected and participate.
“We should continue to demonstrate respect for one another by listening to one another and working together to make Wake Forest an even better place,” Jones said. 
Enoch Holloway, pastor of Friendship Chapel Baptist Church in Wake Forest, shared about having intentional dinners with others to build diverse relationships in the community.
Holloway called listeners to be intentional about loving others. “Racism can never be touched if the human heart is not touched,” Holloway said. “My white and black brothers, we have to step up to the plate and serve, asking the question of ourselves, ‘What can I do?’”
The associate minister at Friendship Chapel Baptist Church in Wake Forest, Leon Harris, said, “Racism is an evil cancer in our society; it spans the globe in every country and continent. It can only be eradicated by the power and will of Almighty God.”
“I believe that it is God’s divine plan that we come together to talk about what’s going on,” Harris said. “Until we call on the name of the Lord, we are doing it in our own strength. We have to learn to depend on Him so He can do it, and He gets the glory.”
Darryl Fisher, senior former associate superintendent of Wake County Public Schools, said, “We have to be in it for the long haul. If we are persistent, change will come. It is not enough to be opposed, we must confront these issues head on.”
Ken Steigler, Civil Rights legendary pastor who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and strategized with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), shared the importance of relationships, acceptance, intentionality and listening (RAIL) when addressing racial issues. The event hosted about 100 attendees in Southeastern’s Ledford Center on Jan. 22. The group hopes to build upon the event by hosting “It’s Time: Part II” in the coming months.
To watch a recording of this event online, go to multimedia.sebts.edu.

2/23/2015 2:15:39 PM by Ali Dixon, SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments

New board members excited

February 23 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Richard Rockwell admitted to feeling a bit overwhelmed at the conclusion of his first meeting as a member of the Board of Directors for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
“I’m overwhelmed, not necessarily by the information, though that is overwhelming,” said Rockwell, a member of First Baptist Church in Swannanoa.
“I’m overwhelmed with excitement about what fellow Baptists are doing in the state and through the state in reaching the world. I’m excited about being a part of something that’s alive, focused and on mission.”


BSC photo
Richard Rockwell, member of First Baptist Church in Swannanoa, said his Baptist State Convention board service makes him excited to be “part of something that’s alive, focused and on mission”


Rockwell was one of 52 new members of the board, which met for the first time this year on Jan. 27-28 at the Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro.
During the day and a half of meetings, new board members met with their respective committees for the first time, heard reports from Baptist institutions and agencies, and shared their enthusiasm and eagerness to serve in 2015.
“What I’m taking back with me is an excitement to be here and knowing that everybody is working together,” said John Elledge, pastor of Liberty Grove Baptist Church in Ashe County. “There is something for everyone within the church to get onboard for Christ to impact lostness and to make disciples. I’m excited about that. God bless this organization.”
The BSC continually seeks individuals to serve on its Board of Directors, boards of the conventions institutions and agencies, and various committees. More information on the nomination process and forms for making a recommendation are available online: ncbaptist.org/recommend.
Although he has been active in North Carolina Baptist life for more than 20 years, new board member Bob Lowman said, “It’s great to be reminded of the partnerships we have, and I’m excited about the ways we’ll be able to continue those to reach the state for Christ.”
Lowman is director of missions for the Metrolina Baptist Association.
Steve Tillis, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Raleigh, said his first board meeting exposed him to new ministry opportunities that he is eager to share with his congregation. “It’s been a great opportunity to realize that the Kingdom is a lot bigger than just my church,” Tillis said. “I’m excited to take everything that I’ve learned here back to my church, so that they will know all that we’re doing in North Carolina.”

2/23/2015 2:07:06 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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