February 2016

FCA founder Don McClanen lifted sports into ministry

February 22 2016 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

Don McClanen, who founded Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) in 1954 after enlisting the support of several Christians in sports, died Feb. 16 at age 91.
 
More than 60 years after its founding, FCA is a worldwide ministry headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., with 1,200 staff members who use athletics as a means of reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
Former Major League pitcher Rick Horton, who now serves as the St. Louis-area FCA director in addition to his role as a St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster, said of McClanen, “He’s really been such a great example for FCA over 60 years of what it means to be on a mission and to be led by God to a particular vision.”

 
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Don McClanen

FCA President Les Steckel, in announcing McClanen’s death in a Feb. 16 email, wrote, “If you’ve ever wondered what God can do with a life totally surrendered, called, and risking all to follow His vision, remember this young basketball coach from Oklahoma who in 1954 saw the potential of athletes and coaches to share the gospel with the world. Sixty-two years later that vision, The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, is alive and well, influencing lives for Christ across the globe ... an amazing legacy.”
 
One of the FCA staff members who received Steckel’s email was Kellen Cox, whose thoughts immediately turned to a conversation he had with McClanen last year.
 
Cox normally loved his job with FCA. The organization had been a part of his entire life, with his father coming to Christ in high school through FCA’s ministry and later serving on the FCA board in southwest Missouri. Cox himself had been active in FCA in junior high and high school. He began the FCA chapter at Missouri Southern State University where he played football.
 
Cox had the opportunity to join FCA full-time after graduation, sensing a clear call from God as he ministered to coaches and athletes. He approached each day with excitement and expectation.
 
But one day last year, Cox awoke with an unusual sense of discouragement – the first time he had ever felt it in his work. The small pressures and trials of life had mounted, as they often do. The day began with a canceled meeting, leading Cox to become even more despondent.
 
Then his phone rang.
 
“Is this Kellen Cox?” the man asked, saying he was calling on behalf of McClanen.
 
As the area director of FCA for Johnson County, Kansas, Cox knew all about McClanen. A minute later, the 90-year-old McClanen was on the phone, saying how much he had appreciated a letter Cox sent to him and and his wife Gloria a few months before, thanking them for their ministry and the impact they had made on his life.
 
“Gloria and I get a lot of letters, but yours stood out to us,” McClanen told Cox. “I’ve never felt so courageous in my age. We felt brave again after reading it.”
 
“I’m not too emotional of a guy, but I definitely started crying then and there,” Cox recounted.
 
Cox was amazed that in the moment when he really needed encouragement, the founder of the ministry he loved dearly would call from his Maryland home and tell him about the impact he was making. The two talked for about half an hour. McClanen asked Cox if there was any way he could fly out to Maryland for a visit.
 
Over the next few months, Cox thought about making that trip and wondered if he’d ever get to meet McClanen. Then Steckel’s email came on Feb. 16.
 
“When we got the email two mornings ago, my heart sank,” Cox said. But, speaking in heavenward terms, Cox said, “... I knew that I’ll be meeting him one day.”
 
McClanen’s vision for FCA began when he was a student manager for the men’s basketball team at Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State) after serving in World War II. He noticed that athletes were using their influence to endorse products, and he wondered why that same influence couldn’t be used to reach people for Christ.
 
“Don was a very humble man, soft-spoken and Christ-like,” said longtime FCA staffer Wayne Atcheson, who now works with the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. “Only God could take a student basketball manager in college and give him the vision for FCA and the perseverance to organize what became the world’s largest sports ministry.”
 
After graduating, McClanen became a high school basketball coach and then basketball coach and athletic director at Eastern Oklahoma A&M, when he started contacting high-profile athletes, sending a letter to 19 people in March 1954 that laid out his vision for FCA. Among the recipients were broadcaster Red Barber, New York Giants shortstop Alvin Dark, Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine, Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham, Olympic track star Louis Zamperini and Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Branch Rickey.
 
Later that year, after Rickey had not replied to his letter, McClanen arranged what he told Rickey would be a five-minute meeting. Rickey was one of the most prominent figures in sports at the time, and McClanen considered his support vital for the success of the ministry. That five-minute meeting turned into several hours, with Rickey pledging to back the effort. FCA officially launched in November 1954.
 
McClanen moved to the Washington, D.C., area after founding FCA, where he began two other ministries – Washington Lift, an inner-city youth ministry, and Ministry of Money for wealthy Americans to reach impoverished nations. McClanen made regular mission trips to Haiti even into his 80s.
 
He is survived by his wife Gloria and son Michael.
 
“God put a fire in his heart to reach the world for Christ,” said Dan Britton, FCA’s international executive vice president. “He was a humble man who had a lot of passion. That’s a unique combination that most people don’t have.
 
“Being around him, I was always challenged to dream big and to see what God could do through a simple man,” Britton said. “A man with a vision in his eyes can change the world, and that was Don McClanen.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president of university communications at Union University. He is co-author of “Pujols: More Than the Game” and writer of the forthcoming autobiography of Olympic gold medalist David Boudia, “Greater Than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption.”)

2/22/2016 12:46:21 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Trump receives ‘tough questions’ on social issues

February 19 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has received an open letter from Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink network asking him to clarify what CitizenLink’s president called a “contradictory record” on abortion and religious freedom among other social issues.
 
The Trump campaign has not responded directly to the Feb. 17 letter but addressed some issues raised in the letter in a series of press releases Feb. 15-16.
 
CitizenLink’s letter, signed by President Paul Weber and the leaders of 25 state-based partner organizations, also raised questions related to government funding of Planned Parenthood, nomination of Supreme Court justices, Trump’s personal character and other issues.
 
CitizenLink is affiliated with but legally separate from Focus on the Family and promotes public policy it believes is consistent with a Christian worldview.

 
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Donald Trump

“Time is ticking,” Weber said in a news release, “and we want Mr. Trump to clear up his contradictory record on issues Americans care about. We have invited Mr. Trump several times to join our Presidential Candidate Teleconference Series. He has yet to accept, and our constituents are left wondering.”
 
CitizenLink, which has not endorsed any candidate, has hosted teleconferences with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina participated in teleconferences prior to suspending their campaigns. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson is scheduled for a teleconference later this month.
 
Among the questions posed by CitizenLink which Trump has addressed in news releases:

  • “After years of describing yourself as ‘pro-choice in every respect’ – even supporting partial-birth abortion – you now say that you are pro-life. Your explanation for this change of position – that a baby who was nearly aborted ended up being a ‘superstar’ – is confusing, particularly since you acknowledged that if the child had been ‘a loser,’ your pro-abortion position probably wouldn’t have changed. Please explain this utilitarian view of the sanctity of human life. Do you consider life only worth protecting if it meets certain criteria, and, if so, what are those criteria?”

Trump addressed his change of view regarding abortion in an op-ed on his campaign website, one of three releases Trump issued in mid-February declaring himself pro-life.
 
“Let me be clear – I am pro-life,” Trump wrote. “I support that position with exceptions allowed for rape, incest or the life of the mother being at risk. I did not always hold this position, but I had a significant personal experience that brought the precious gift of life into perspective for me. My story is well documented, so I will not retell it here.”

  • “How do you square your new position on life with your statements in 2015 supporting continued taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion seller?”

Trump, while not mentioning Planned Parenthood by name, denounced “the half billion dollars given to abortion providers every year by Congress” – the amount of federal funding Planned Parenthood receives annually.
 
“The Supreme Court in 1973,” Trump wrote, “based their [Roe v. Wade] decision on imagining rights and liberties in the Constitution that are nowhere to be found. Even if we take the court at its word, that abortion is a matter of privacy, we should then extend the argument to the logical conclusion that private funds, then, should subsidize this choice rather than the half billion dollars given to abortion providers every year by Congress. Public funding of abortion providers is an insult to people of conscience at the least and an affront to good governance at best.”

  • “You’ve recommended your sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, for the [Supreme Court]. Yet, as a federal judge, she overturned the New Jersey Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, writing that it ‘burdened a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion.’ How can we trust you to nominate judges who will respect the constitutional limits on judicial power and uphold the sanctity of human life?”

Trump has said he was joking when he mentioned his sister as a potential Supreme Court justice, The New York Times reported Feb. 17.
 
In a news release, Trump called himself “the only candidate who has gone so far, at the [Feb. 13 GOP] debate, as to suggest two individuals I feel would best represent the conservative values we need to protect: William ‘Bill’ Pryor Jr. and Diane Sykes.” He added, “I will appoint a great conservative.”
 
Sykes, a former justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, was nominated by George W. Bush to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor was appointed by George W. Bush to the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2004 congressional recess appointment after Senate Democrats initially blocked his confirmation. Pryor previously had called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination in constitutional law history,” according to a transcript of his 2003 confirmation hearing.
 
Cruz has said he would have nominated former federal appellate Judge Michael Luttig to fill a 2005 Supreme Court vacancy.
 
Among CitizenLink’s questions on topics not addressed by Trump in this week’s news releases:

  • “You claim to support religious freedom, yet a leading gay-activist organization calls you ‘one of the best, if not the best, pro-gay Republican candidates to ever run for the presidency’ – particularly because of your ‘standout position’ when it comes to legislation that forces Christian business owners – and others of faith – to either betray their conscience or lose their business. How do you reconcile these contradictory positions?”

  • “You have built your campaign on lifting the economic outlook of lower-income Americans, yet you built your fortune in part on gambling, which preys on those very people. How will you make America great when you’ve run businesses associated with increased crime, bankruptcies, broken marriages and suicides?”

  • “The first casino in the nation to add a strip club was Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, which boasts of ‘36,000 square feet of adult entertainment.’ What would you say to young girls and women who are concerned about a president who is directly connected with the exploitation of women?”

The full text of CitizenLink’s letter is available at www.citizenlink.com/trump/.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/19/2016 12:33:49 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Luter, on race relations, sees church as unifier

February 19 2016 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

Race relations issues have not improved since the election of the first African-American U.S. president, but the church can lead in modeling reconciliation, said Fred Luter Jr., immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the first African American to hold the position.
 
Luter, speaking on a Black History Month video, “Answering the Call” produced by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), said, “I really thought this nation was ready to move forward” with the historic election of Barack Obama that garnered votes from Anglos as well as diverse ethnic groups.
 
“As much as we needed racial reconciliation in America, I really thought that was the opportunity for our nation to come together and make us one as a nation,” Luter said. “But unfortunately ... that’s not the case.”

 
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Screen capture from YouTube
Fred Luter, former SBC president speaking on a Black History Month video, underscored a unity rooted in Jesus Christ. “Regardless of your race, regardless of what side of the track you were born on, regardless of all the things the media and society have tried to do to divide us, we can be one.”

Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, expressed optimism for the future as the body of Christ leads the way as an agent for social change.
 
In analyzing today’s situation, Luter quoted a pastor-friend who states it this way: “America doesn’t have a skin problem, we have a sin problem.”
 
When the sin problem is resolved through faith in Christ, racial reconciliation follows, Luter said, noting that the church has both the responsibility and capability to model what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ.
 
“We can be one,” Luter said. “Regardless of your race, regardless of what side of the track you were born on, regardless of all the things the media and society have tried to do to divide us, we can be one.”
 
As the SBC’s first African-American president, race isn’t an issue he can avoid, Luter said, citing one question that consistently comes up when he is interviewed by journalists.
 
“Every last one of them asked this question: Why would a black man want to be president of a convention that started because of slavery?”
 
Luter said his answer was always the same. “Racism, segregation is a part of our past, but that’s the thing: it’s our past.”
 
The Southern Baptist Convention has addressed the past and has taken deliberative action to demonstrate its desire to be diverse, he said.
 
“We regret the past of this convention,” Luter said. “This convention has publicly apologized for our past.... We’ve made it known through resolutions that we want this convention to be diverse, and it is. I believe the Southern Baptist Convention is the most diverse convention of any in America.... There is no other convention that comes close to our diversity in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
Luter said he longs for the day when the topic of conversation will be inroads Southern Baptists have made in evangelism, discipleship and in changing the world – “where I can go to a church ... and be introduced not as the first African-American president, but as, ‘This is our brother, Fred Luter.’ That’s my prayer for this convention and for America.”
 

‘A win-win situation’

Luter pointed to the close relationship between the church he leads and New Orleans Seminary, a friendship benefitting both, modeling what Christians can learn from one another.
 
As a young pastor with a background as a National Baptist, Luter said he was at first unaware of what NOBTS offered in terms of theological education, continuing education and resources. With his church located two miles from the campus, “a great partnership” developed.
 
“I began to appreciate all that this seminary had to offer us, a small mission church in the inner city,” Luter said.
 
As regular chapel speaker at NOBTS and a national alumni officer, Luter invites students to visit and join with Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. For some, it is their first experience worshipping in a predominantly African-American church, Luter said.
 
“I think it’s a win-win situation,” Luter said. “What New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has meant to Franklin Avenue, but also what Franklin Avenue Baptist Church has meant to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.”
 

‘Hope from heartache’

In a separate Black History Month video produced by NOBTS, “Hope from Heartache”, several African-American NOBTS students share what it means to follow in the steps of those who dared to step out onto a long road to equality.
 
The students honor the freedom won by pioneers Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and others, yet they point to a greater freedom won by Christ, a freedom through which they find victory over sin and the grace to forgive.
 
“I have experienced everything from total, complete acceptance to harsh and blatant racism,” said Joy Pigg, a bachelor of arts in Christian ministry student in the seminary’s Leavell College. “It has developed my faith because it has taught me really what grace is and what forgiveness means. It has helped me understand the gravity of how God has forgiven us for this problem of sin.”
 
In Christ, where loss is redeemed and heartache gains meaning, the students speak of a passion to take hope and healing to those in need. Answering God’s call to serve, they say, brought them to NOBTS.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart writes for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

Related Story:

SBC celebrates racial reconciliation progress

2/19/2016 12:29:30 PM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments



Most Americans unfazed by Planned Parenthood videos

February 19 2016 by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research

“What videos?” seems to be the reaction of most Americans to the series of undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood over the past six months, according to a new LifeWay Research survey.
 
The videos made national headlines, provoked outrage in Congress and prompted investigations in about a dozen states. In showing undercover activists from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) discussing with Planned Parenthood officials possible payments for donated fetal remains, CMP contends the videos show Planned Parenthood illegally selling fetal remains. Planned Parenthood denies the claim.
 
The LifeWay Research phone survey of 1,000 Americans found that seven out of 10 are either unaware of the videos (43 percent) or have not spoken out after seeing them (27 percent).
 
Among those who are aware of the videos, LifeWay Research found that, overall, about one in five Americans (18 percent) spoke out against Planned Parenthood after the videos became public. One in eight (12 percent) spoke in support Planned Parenthood.

 
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“Given the serious accusations against Planned Parenthood – that they sold baby parts – it is surprising how few Americans responded,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research.
 
The survey was completed in September at a time the videos received renewed attention during a debate among Republican presidential candidates.
 
“The videos caught many people’s attention, even prompting Hillary Clinton to call them disturbing, yet Americans remain quite divided on abortion,” Stetzer said. “That division appears to be reflected even in their views on such videos.”
 
Researchers found religion plays a role in how Americans responded. Self-identified evangelicals (29 percent) and Christians (23 percent) are more likely to have criticized Planned Parenthood. Nones – those who claim no religious affiliation – are more likely to have supported Planned Parenthood (17 percent).
 
Americans with evangelical beliefs (27 percent) and weekly churchgoers (also 27 percent) are more likely to speak out against Planned Parenthood than other Americans.
 
Researchers also found regional differences in responses. About a third of Midwesterners (34 percent) are unaware of the videos. That figure jumps to about half for Americans in the South (46 percent) and West (48 percent).
 
Also, Midwesterners are most likely to have spoken out against Planned Parenthood (21 percent) as well as in support of Planned Parenthood (17 percent). Southerners (20 percent) were more likely to have spoken out against Planned Parenthood than those from the Northeast (13 percent).
 
The largest differences in awareness of the videos occur across racial/ethnic groups. One out of three whites (32 percent) are unaware of the videos, but more than six in 10 African Americans (60 percent), Hispanics (66 percent), and people of other ethnicities (61 percent) do not know about them.
 
Among other findings:

  • Men and women had similar responses to the survey, as did Catholics and Protestants.

  • Americans over 65 (25 percent) are more likely to have spoken out against Planned Parenthood than those 18 to 24 (7 percent). Americans who are 18 to 24 (18 percent) are more likely to have supported Planned Parenthood than those who are 25 to 34 (9 percent), 35 to 44 (5 percent) or 55 to 64 (9 percent).

The reaction to the videos may provide a lesson to pro-life groups, Stetzer said.
 
While the videos seemed to connect with churchgoers, older and white Americans and those in the Midwest and South, they missed younger Americans and those from diverse backgrounds.
 
“Through social media it is easy to assume everyone in America is having the same conversation,” Stetzer said. “But these results show that is not the case.”
 
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 14-28, 2015. The calling utilized Random Digit Dialing. Fifty percent of completes were among landlines and 50 percent among cellphones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.6 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine [factsandtrends.net], published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/19/2016 12:24:29 PM by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



Unity for Vietnam’s Baptists is pastor’s next goal

February 19 2016 by Don Graham, IMB

When Christian Phan felt God’s call to plant a church in Vietnam in 2007, he never dreamed it would lead to a new three-story building – one of the first public places of worship built in Ho Chi Minh City in decades – and, now, the launching of an entire denomination.

 
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Dedicated in January, Agape Baptist Church’s new building is one of the first public places of worship constructed in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) since communist forces claimed South Vietnam in 1975. In addition to hosting worship services and theological training, the facility also will house the offices for the proposed national Vietnamese Baptist Convention.

But that is what Phan was privileged to be a part of during his most recent mission trip to Vietnam.
 
He spent two weeks traveling the Southeast Asian country to connect with Vietnamese pastors, advance the creation of a national Vietnamese Baptist Convention and dedicate a new campus for Agape Baptist Church in Ho Chi Minh City.
 
Phan, 42, leads a Seattle-area congregation – also named Agape Baptist Church – which he started in 2004 in Renton. And he is president of the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship, a network of more than 120 Vietnamese Baptist churches in the United States and Canada.
 
Phan also has a dream of unity among Baptists in his native Vietnam. Like their Southern Baptist brethren, he wants Vietnamese Baptists to know they can accomplish more together than on their own.
 
Since the fall of Saigon in 1975, government restrictions on public expressions of religion have forced Vietnamese Baptists to adopt a house church model, leading to dozens of small disconnected groups. During his January trip, Phan invited the leaders from these house churches to meet and plan for the future.
 
“I asked them about their vision for Baptist churches in Vietnam, and they realized an individual church isn’t strong enough to do anything big for God,” Phan recounted. “I challenged them to come together, but they didn’t know how to start.”
 
That’s why he began partnering with Vietnamese pastor Nguyen Thanh in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). In less than a decade, they have established 42 new house churches in Vietnam under the network of Agape Baptist Church. But rapid growth still left the house churches scattered. Phan felt the need for a central rallying point, which led to the construction of the new three-story Agape Baptist building in Ho Chi Minh City.

 
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Christian Phan, center, green shirt, stands with the proposed leadership of the national Vietnamese Baptist Convention. The fledgling denomination will apply for official recognition by the Vietnamese government later this year.

The building will serve as the headquarters for Agape network churches in Vietnam, a place of corporate worship for Agape house churches in Ho Chi Minh City, and as a campus for the Vietnamese Baptist Theological School, which provides biblical training for pastors and lay leaders. It also is ground-zero for Phan’s biggest project in Vietnam yet – the establishment of a national Vietnamese Baptist Convention.
 
To catalyze a movement to unify the country’s 400-plus Baptist churches (including the Agape network), Phan spent much of his January trip meeting with Vietnamese pastors to garner their support. If successful, the Agape Baptist building in Ho Cho Minh City will house the offices for the Vietnamese Baptist Convention.
 
Phan currently is helping Vietnamese Baptist leaders establish the constitution to govern the new convention. His goal is to have the leadership team, constitution and bylaws approved by mid-summer.

 
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Christian Phan, pastor of Agape Baptist Church in Renton, Wash., speaks to the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America at their 2015 annual meeting in Plano, Texas. Phan is the fellowship’s president and leads the organization’s efforts to support the creation of a national Vietnamese Baptist Convention in Vietnam.

The fledgling denomination will then face its biggest challenge – recognition by the Vietnamese government.
 
Phan said there is no timeline for how long that process may take, though he believes Vietnamese officials will likely give their approval. Vietnam’s government has slowly loosened restrictions on religious freedom over the past decade, driven largely by its bid to become an economic powerhouse in Southeast Asia. Phan said pending trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership will force Vietnam to comply with human rights and religious freedom requirements.
 
As evidence, Phan points to three previous mission trips he made to Vietnam to train church planters in 2006, 2007 and 2008, all of which were conducted in secret due to government restrictions. But on this most recent trip, he was able to travel openly as a pastor and church planter.
 
If the government does recognize the Vietnamese Baptist Convention, Phan said it will speed the spread of the gospel among Vietnam’s 94 million people, of whom 2 percent are evangelical Christians. Vietnamese missionaries could then be sent anywhere in the country without fear of persecution from local or regional authorities.

 
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Dozens of Vietnamese pastors gather to pray during an altar call at the 2015 meeting of the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America in Plano, Texas.

“It’s very important to have a convention where people can come together and have more power to serve God and greater impact on the nation – that’s very significant,” Phan said. “For a long period of time, over 40 years, we’ve been separated into small groups and not been unified. The need to come together is urgent.”
 
The cooperation of Vietnamese Baptist churches through a national convention also would facilitate the sending of Vietnamese missionaries to other Southeast Asian countries in need of the gospel, Phan added.
 
“When we come together, we can do something bigger. I dream of sending missionaries everywhere in this country, to Laos, Cambodia, Taiwan, Malaysia – wherever God leads.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is a writer based in Richmond, Va.)

2/19/2016 12:14:26 PM by Don Graham, IMB | with 0 comments



Jim Mooney to lead Baptist foundation’s investments

February 19 2016 by Leigh Anne Bowick, Southern Baptist Foundation

Jim Mooney has joined the Southern Baptist Foundation as vice president of investments, with responsibilities for development, maintenance and oversight of entity’s investments and its investment managers.
 
Mooney, 47, comes to the foundation with 20-plus years in the investment field, specializing in market analysis, manager research, portfolio management, and asset allocation.

 
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Jim Mooney

Prior to joining the Southern Baptist Foundation, Mooney was a research analyst conducting asset class and manager research for The Bogdahn Group in Orlando, Fla.
 
He previously worked with several firms in Memphis, Tenn.: GAVION, LLC; First Data Corporation; FTN Financial; Strategic Financial Partners; and Raymond James. He also was the district executive for the Boy Scouts of America’s Chickasaw Council in Memphis from 1995-97.
 
Mooney holds a business administration degree in finance from the University of Memphis and has been licensed with the National Association of Security Dealers.
 
Mooney, in looking forward to his work with Southern Baptists, said, “The opportunity to work at the Foundation provides me the chance to apply my professional work experience in a role that has a direct impact on those that are serving in ministry positions.”
 
He and his wife Melissa have two children.
 
The Southern Baptist Foundation,(sbfdn.org), was established in 1947 to provide investment and estate planning services, including trusts, wills, deeds, gift annuities and donor advised funds, to assist individuals and ministries in discerning God’s purposes for the resources He has entrusted to them.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Ann Bowick is director of communications with the Southern Baptist Foundation.)

2/19/2016 11:48:09 AM by Leigh Anne Bowick, Southern Baptist Foundation | with 1 comments



Platt asks state papers to encourage unity

February 18 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt has asked Baptist state papers to encourage unity among Southern Baptists following the announcement next week of how many IMB personnel have left the board through a series of voluntary resignation programs.
 
Addressing a gathering of Baptist state paper leaders Feb. 16 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Platt also detailed what he deemed some of the most exciting work God is doing through IMB missionaries across the globe.
 
“As we announce a number next week” at a Feb. 23-24 IMB trustee meeting in Richmond, Va., Platt said, “I know that the reality of so many IMB missionaries making transitions will set in in a fresh way across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). And I know there’s an adversary who would love to use that to breed discouragement and division and disunity. And I just want to ask you brothers and sisters for your help in encouraging the churches.”

 
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David Platt

In response to a $210 million difference between gifts from churches and expenditures since 2010, the IMB launched a two-phase “organizational reset” in August, which included a voluntary retirement incentive (VRI) for personnel 50 and older with five or more years of service and a “hand raising opportunity” (HRO) for all remaining staff and missionaries to voluntarily resign and receive a benefits package.
 
Platt had previously said a combined total of at least 600-800 missionaries and stateside personnel would need to accept the offers. He told the state paper leaders no involuntary reductions of overseas missionaries have been necessary as part of the reset and none are anticipated, though some overseas missionaries may have their duties adjusted.
 
“For all our missionaries overseas, every step of this process has been voluntary,” he said.
 
The “one area of our staff in Richmond that has been affected in a more involuntary way,” Platt said, is the communications center, which is slated to close April 29. Of the 40 Richmond communications employees, 10 were offered positions on the newly formed mobilization team. The remaining 30 were eligible to apply for other IMB positions or accept the HRO.
 
“This decision to remove various positions in Richmond was not driven by financial needs as much as it was driven by stewardship of responsibility,” Platt said. “We have a responsibility to Southern Baptists to [ensure] that every position we have is a position we need. We have a responsibility to use the resources entrusted to us in the wisest way possible for the spread of the gospel to the nations.”
 
He added, “At the same time, we obviously want to honor these brothers and sisters whose positions were eliminated, through generosity, through expressions of gratitude for the pivotal role many of them have played for decades in service to the IMB.... These are some of the kindest servants and leaders in the Richmond office.”
 
The decision to close the Richmond Communications Center was made following internal and external audits of the IMB’s communications effectiveness and extensive meetings with stateside and overseas communications staff, Platt said.
 
The closure stemmed from the fact that “our mobilization efforts” – presumably including the communications strategy – “have not kept up with our times,” Platt said. “We are way behind in the development of a digital mindset that builds on customization and flexibility rather than predictability and uniformity. Our field and stateside communicators struggle with employing new methods for reaching a changing audience.
 
“In all of this, our home office mobilization efforts have been disconnected from our field strategy. And as a result, looking across the IMB after months and months, it’s clear we’re sorely missing a culture of growth in which silos are broken down, mobilization needs are adequately addressed and mobilization goals are actually accomplished,” he said.
 
Platt invited Baptist journalists to participate in an overseas trip later this year to visit the IMB’s global communications teams, which will assume some duties formerly performed by the Richmond communications office, and learn about the new communications strategy.
 
The board’s two overseas communications teams are based in Eurasia and Asia, with the Eurasia team primarily relaying news from IMB personnel in Europe and Africa and the Asia team reporting primarily on personnel in Asia.
 
Some communications functions likely will be outsourced in keeping with a longstanding IMB practice, Platt said.
 
In response to a question about encouraging work occurring among IMB missionaries, Platt referenced “multiplication of churches” in South Asia, “miraculous things happening through the spread of the gospel in Southeast Asia” and “unprecedented opportunity” for evangelism associated with the Mideast refugee crisis.
 
Platt referenced “people being martyred” among IMB national partners in Southeast Asia and said “the Lord [is] blessing even that ... in an Acts 7 kind of way for the spread of the gospel.” One IMB partner was stabbed, Platt said, and the alleged assailants were saved in prison through the witness of the victim’s wife, as were police officers investigating the incident.
 
“It’s awesome,” Platt said. “That’s happening all around the world every day.”
 
Among other points noted by Platt:

  • The team of advisers helping Platt make major decisions includes John Brady, vice president of global engagement; Zane Pratt, vice president of training; Rodney Freeman, treasurer and vice president of support services; Sebastian Traeger, executive vice president; and Clyde Meador, executive adviser to the president.

  • The IMB’s GC2 initiative, which allows congregations to fund missionaries directly, currently has 14 participating churches. “In order for a church to do this,” Platt said, “they are required to keep their giving through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon [Christmas Offering for International Missions] both strong.”

On average, churches participating in GC2 have increased their CP giving by 6 percent and their Lottie Moon giving by more than 20 percent since entering the program, Platt said.

  • Reports that the IMB actually has a budget surplus are inaccurate, Platt said. “I, our treasurer and our financial team are totally confident in the numbers we have used/are using. In addition, we have communicated fully with our auditors. We have received from them consistently ... the highest ratings.”

  • Platt asked Southern Baptists to pray for the ministries of IMB missionaries whenever they hear about international crises in the news.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Baptist Press managing editor and director of operations Shawn Hendricks contributed to this report. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/18/2016 12:51:44 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gospel for Asia sued for fraud

February 18 2016 by William McCleery, WORLD News Service

A Dallas-based law firm filed a class-action lawsuit Feb. 8 against Gospel for Asia Inc. (GFA), alleging the Texas-based international ministry has engaged in fraud and racketeering.
 
GFA has claimed that hundreds of millions it has received in donations have gone to help the poor and preach the gospel. The lawsuit, though, alleges that ministry leaders were “covertly diverting the money to a multi-million dollar personal empire.”

 
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Gospel for Asia officials did not immediately return phone calls and emails Feb. 9-10 requesting comment.
 
The lawsuit, filed by the Stanley Law Group on behalf of Matthew and Jennifer Dickson of Rogers, Ark., asks a U.S. District Court to order money returned to unwitting donors whose well-intentioned contributions were, according to the lawsuit, misappropriated.
 
The lawsuit accuses GFA founder and leader K.P. Yohannan of funneling millions of dollars into a variety of for-profit businesses and a lavish 350-acre compound that is home to GFA’s sprawling headquarters in Wills Point, Texas.
 
GFA promised donors their contributions would be used for specific purposes the donors themselves selected, the lawsuit notes, such as buying blankets or camels for poor families or motorbikes for missionaries, especially in regions of South Asia, where the ministry concentrates most of its work. GFA did not keep such promises, the lawsuit contends.
 
“K.P. Yohannan and his Gospel for Asia inner circle have been exploiting the goodwill and generosity of devout Christians around the country for years,” said the plaintiffs’ lead attorney Marc R. Stanley in a prepared statement. “Gospel for Asia should return all the money it’s taken from donors who thought they were contributing to charity.”
 
Last year, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) booted GFA from its membership after an investigation found the ministry did not meet ECFA’s guidelines.
 
The ECFA found GFA hoarded as much as $259 million during some months rather than spending the donated funds on church-planting, missionary work, or charitable relief for the poor.
 
Former GFA board member Gayle Erwin resigned his board position Oct. 3, 2015, the day after the ECFA revoked GFA’s membership.
 
Erwin recently said he grew suspicious when Yohannan became reluctant to discuss details of ministry practices with him and other board members.
 
“There came a time when he stopped talking and everything became a veil of darkness,” Erwin said. “And for that I confronted him a lot.” Yohannan eventually lashed out at Erwin, according to the former board member. “I was pretty much insulted in every way possible. … In talking with others, I have found out that’s how he leads. He is a bit of a bully.”
 
The class-action lawsuit applies to tens of thousands of donors who donated a combined hundreds of millions of dollars to GFA, said attorney Martin Woodward of the Stanley Law Group, who added that the lawsuit aims to hold GFA accountable: “When a charitable organization promises donors that all contributions will be spent only as the donors direct, that organization is obligated to keep its word. Gospel for Asia made all sorts of explicit guarantees to donors and then broke its promises. This case is about righting those wrongs.”

2/18/2016 12:46:05 PM by William McCleery, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Study Bible scholar Charles Ryrie dies

February 18 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Charles C. Ryrie, a scholar whose name abounds on Ryrie Study Bible editions with more than 2.6 million in print in multiple languages, died Feb. 16 in Dallas at age 90.
 
Known for his end-times theology of dispensationalism, Ryrie was a longtime systematic theology professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and a longtime member of First Baptist Church (FBC) in Dallas.
 
At FBC Dallas, Ryrie became close friends with the current pastor, Robert Jeffress, and his predecessors at First Baptist, O.S. Hawkins and Mac Brunson.
 
Hawkins, now president of the Southern Baptist Convention's GuideStone Financial Resources who served at FBC from 1993-97, said in comments to Baptist Press (BP): “If ever there lived a man whose life was immersed in the Bible it was Charles Ryrie. This is evident not only in the legacy he left in the Ryrie Study Bible, his amazing collection of rare and antique Bibles and books, but his passion to never stop studying even into his ninth decade of life.

 
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Charles Ryrie   

“What many do not know,” Hawkins noted, “is that he was a great churchman” who attended regularly.
 
“He was a mentor and compassionate counselor to me personally,” Hawkins said, “and I already miss our frequent visits and fellowship. I can still hear him say, 'The Bible is the greatest of all books, to study it is the noblest of all pursuits, to understand it, the highest of all goals.'“
 
Brunson, pastor of FBC Dallas from 1999-2006 and now pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., said Ryrie “will be remembered as one of the great theologians of the 20th century. He was a tremendous synthesizer of text and theology, making it so plain anyone could understand. His study Bible stands alongside the work of Scofield and Dabney.
 
“The older he grew, the more he attracted younger men who were eager to sit at his feet,” Brunson said. “He was brilliant, sharp-witted and genuinely humble, and a dear friend to those who knew him.”
 
Jeffress was unavailable for comment Feb. 17.
 
Ryrie joined FBC when he was a DTS student from the mid- to late 1940s and the late W.A. Criswell was the church's new pastor, ultimately serving there 50-plus years.
 
A seminary tribute to Ryrie stated that the professor and Criswell became friends and that Ryrie “regularly taught a Sunday School class there and enjoyed a long-term relationship with the church.”
 
The Ryrie Study Bible, with the DTS professor's 10,000–plus explanatory notes, used the King James Version when it was first published in 1978. It is now also available in New American Standard Bible and English Standard Version translations.
 
The DTS tribute to Ryrie quoted the Bible scholar's reflections on his way of writing: “When I was working on the study Bible, I thought of people in home Bible classes, and I would sometimes ask, 'Would they want a note on this verse or an explanation of this doctrine? Simply?' These people were my make-believe audience.
 
“Actually, they weren't make-believe, they were real people,” Ryrie continued. “On the human side, I think [the ability to be concise] is because off and on through the years, I've taught children. If you want to advise your writers to write more clearly, tell them to go host a Good News Club somewhere, and teach it.”
 
In addition to the study Bible, Ryrie wrote more than 50 books. During his time at DTS, he also served as dean of doctoral students for more than 20 years before retiring in 1983.
 
Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and coauthor of the 2000 book Progressive Dispensationalism with DTS New Testament professor Darrell Bock, noted in written comments to BP that Ryrie, in his book Dispensationalism Today, released in 1965, “defined dispensationalism for the generations of dispensational scholars who took their training in the ’60s through the ’80s, and it is still quite influential today. ... Most importantly, it provided a clear, concise definition of dispensationalism that focused upon the essence of the system as he saw it.”
 
Ryrie's view of dispensationalism, Blaising said, “was built around three core affirmations that he labeled as its sine qua non: (1) the distinction between Israel and the church, (2) consistently literal hermeneutics, and (3) the glory of God as the unifying purpose in all His works. The features of the system, its way of reading the biblical narrative and its eschatology, are all to be related to these core principles.
 
“Practically all the distinct features of dispensational eschatology were affirmed by Ryrie and related to the definition he provided,” Blaising said. “This includes the pretribulational rapture, the future seven-year tribulation, and the millennial kingdom.
 
“However, he offered some modifications on how dispensationalists thought about the number of dispensations, how the biblical covenants were related to the dispensations, and how the Kingdom of God was to be understood in the New Testament,” Blaising said. “Most important was his modification of what earlier dispensationalists called the eternal distinction between heavenly and earthly peoples and programs in the plan and purpose of God.
 
“Because of these modifications or revisions of the classical system (from John Nelson Darby to Lewis Chafer), I have referred to Ryrie's system as Revised Dispensationalism. Many, however, refer to it as Traditional Dispensationalism, since it was the form of dispensationalism that was widely taught and promoted in the latter half of the 20th century.”
 
Blaising added that Ryrie's influence extended beyond eschatology.
 
“He wrote widely, with books on the Holy Spirit, the Christian life, grace and the doctrines of salvation. He was one of the earliest to address the growing question concerning the role of women in the church.... In all that he wrote, he was a masterful theologian, concise, readable and understandable to the average layman as well as to the scholar. He made a profound impact on my life, and I am grateful to God for him,” said Blaising, who also holds the Jesse Hendley Chair of Biblical Theology at Southwestern.
 
“For all of his giftedness, he was a humble man who loved the Lord and had a heart for the gospel.”
 
Ryrie was a native of Alton, Ill., who attended First Baptist Church, “the fifth generation of his family” at the American Baptist congregation that is no longer in existence.
 
Ryrie held a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Edinburgh; doctor of theology and master of theology degrees from DTS; and an undergraduate degree from Haverford College in Pennsylvania.
 
He is survived by three children and three grandchildren.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)    

2/18/2016 12:38:33 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Freed Boko Haram captives shunned, study shows

February 18 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Women and girls kidnapped and raped by Boko Haram jihadists are often rejected and ostracized in refugee camps and upon return to their communities and families, a new report released by UNICEF and International Alert reveals.
 
Hundreds of an estimated 2,000 residents kidnapped in northeast Nigeria since 2012 have been freed as military forces have retaken land captured by Boko Haram, the study said. Returning to their communities and families, often with children born of rape in captivity and forced marriages, the women face unique discrimination, the report found.
 
“As they return, many face marginalization, discrimination and rejection by family and community members due to social and cultural norms related to sexual violence,” according to the report’s executive summary. “There is also growing fear that some of these girls and women were radicalized in captivity. The children who have been born of sexual violence are at an even greater risk of rejection, abandonment and violence.”

 
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While the exact number of those kidnapped is not certain, still missing are more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014 in Chibok and the subject of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
 
The Feb. 16 report “Bad Blood: Perceptions of children born of conflict-related sexual violence and women and girls associated with Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria,” was conducted through 19 focus group discussions and key interviews at four camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Maiduguri Metropolitan Council, Borno state’s capital. The camps are among 17 officially registered camps in the capital, each with populations ranging from 3,000 to 18,000, and together comprising 95 percent of IDPs from Boko Haram violence. Those interviewed included religious leaders, survivors, male and female community leaders, government representatives and service providers.
 
While all victims of sexual violence during the Boko Haram conflict are stigmatized, those perceived to have lived in Boko Haram strongholds, or to have been Boko Haram brides either by force or personal will, face more intense persecution upon their release, interviews revealed. Communities fear the women may have been radicalized to perpetuate Boko Haram violence, and that their children fathered by the jihadists will naturally become jihadists themselves.
 
“Many perceive these victims of conflict as being partly responsible for the violence and losses suffered by entire communities during the insurgency,” report authors wrote. “As a result, children and newborns as well as their mothers are being increasingly ostracized and are at risk of further violence.”
 
Faith-based groups can help mitigate the risk of violence to freed victims through local and international education campaigns on the vulnerabilities and risks the victims face, by partnering with local groups who can advocate for the women in their communities, giving the victims platforms to share their stories, and providing medical care and legal assistance.
 
Despite Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s proclamation at the end of 2015 of a “technical defeat” of Boko Haram, the jihadists have continued to attack villages and markets in northeast Nigeria and Cameroon in particular, sometimes killing more than 100 at a time through suicide bombings, firebombs and shootings.
 
Among Boko Haram’s latest attacks, 58 people were killed in twin bombings in mid-February at a small, informal IDP camp about 55 miles outside Maiduguri, Bloomberg News reported Feb. 17. In late January, Boko Haram killed more than 100 people in firebombs, shootings and suicide bombings in northeast Nigeria, the most deadly attacks near the IDP camps in Maiduguri. Charred and bullet-ridden corpses littered the streets, survivors and soldiers told the AP.
 
Boko Haram, which has claimed allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has exceeded ISIS as the deadliest terrorist group in the world, according to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index. The GTI attributed more than 6,644 deaths to Boko Haram in 2014, with most attacks occurring in northeastern Nigeria. ISIS killed 6,073 in terrorist attacks in the same year, according to the report.
 
Boko Haram originally targeted Christians but has also killed moderate Muslims, government officials and civilians, killing as many as 20,000 people and displacing 2.6 million others since 2009, according to estimates.
 
In 2014 alone, 42 percent of all attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria were on Christian communities, while 35.4 percent targeted random civilians, according to the Jubilee Campaign 2015 Report on Nigeria. Other attacks in 2014 targeted Muslim communities (6.8 percent), the government (10.9 percent), schools (4.1 percent) and media and medical personnel (0.5 percent), the Jubilee Campaign reported.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

2/18/2016 12:27:53 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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