February 2017

NOBTS ‘looking forward’ to hosting Graham, despite controversy

March 3 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

(UPDATED: March 3, 2:30 p.m.)

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) will host Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, as a chapel speaker on March 7, less than two weeks after the church said it would temporarily withhold Cooperative Program (CP) money in order to evaluate future support of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities.
 
Mike Buster, Prestonwood’s executive pastor, told the Baptist Message their concerns were about “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission,” but Graham indicated the issues were broader.



Photo by Bill Bangham
Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, said the church's decision to escrow Cooperative Program funds was due to concerns with the "direction of the Southern Baptist Convention."

 
“We’re just concerned about the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, and feel the need to make some changes in the way we give,” Graham told the Message, citing “uneasiness” about an alleged “disconnect between some of our denominational leaders and our churches.”
 
NOBTS President Chuck Kelley told the Biblical Recorder that Graham had never expressed concerns to him about “our seminary or any other SBC seminaries.”
 
The seminary slated Graham to speak in the chapel service before news reports revealed Prestonwood’s decision to escrow CP funds. Kelley said withdrawing Graham’s invitation was never an option, emphasizing the need for “open dialogue during times of disagreement.”
 
“What a better time to have him on our campus as an SBC entity than when they [Prestonwood] are evaluating their relationship with the SBC … We are NOBTS. We do conversations,” Kelley said. “We do conversations with those with whom we disagree. This is a day when Southern Baptists need to do more talking and listening to one another and not less.”
 
Kelley encouraged other SBC agencies to invite Graham and “address on-site any questions he might have.”
 
Graham declined to comment on the nature of his concerns with denominational leaders or the propriety of taking the stage at an institution from which his church has decided to temporarily withold funds.
 
Although he did not know what topic or passage Graham intends to address, Kelley said he expects the worship service to be focused on God’s Word, not the current controversy.
 
“We are looking forward to a wonderful experience of worship and an excellent message from God's Word,” Kelley said. “I trust his message will be an exposition of the Word of God. That is what he does in his church. That is what he has done in previous visits to our chapel.”
 

Students oppose 'bullying tactics'

 
A group of students plans to voice opposition to Prestonwood’s decision to temporarily withhold CP money when Graham visits the campus.
 
Graduate student Devin Haun told the Biblical Recorder that he and other students are preparing an open letter to Graham and creating t-shirts that express appreciation for the Cooperative Program. The group is also garnering signatures from the NOBTS community to include with the open letter.
 
Even though Haun, who serves as associate pastor of Grace Baptist Church in New Orleans, disagrees with Prestonwood’s “methodology,” he acknowledged the legitimacy of the church’s concerns, “whether they be theological, political, generational or whatever the case may be.”
 
“They’re real concerns,’ he said, “and we acknowledge that. A lot of us have the same concerns.”
 

Haun continued, “We’re trying to be as positive, gracious and Christlike as we can, while at the same time sending the message that we love the Cooperative Program, we love the Southern Baptist Convention and we don’t appreciate these actions.
 
“As a student body, we love Dr. Graham, we love Prestonwood Baptist Church, and we love all the work they have done for the kingdom in years past and the work they’re currently doing. … We wish more of our churches were like them – and I’m not talking about size, I’m talking about how effective they are.”
 
But using the Cooperative Program as leverage for enforcing an opinion amid disagreement is inappropriate, Haun said.
 
“As Southern Baptists, we have a way to handle conflict, and that’s on the convention floor in June. You can rally your troops throughout the year, so that when the messengers get there, the votes will fall how they fall.
 
“[Prestonwood’s decision] is just bullying tactics. This is what kids do on the playground. It’s not right, and that’s what we’re upset with.”
 
Haun highlighted the diversity of students represented in their group.
 
“The people who are supporting us in this student body are Calvinists and non-Calvinists,” he said. “We have people that are pro-Russell Moore and anti-Russell Moore; we have old people and young people; we have all ethnicities and genders.
 
“Every single person in this institution is affected by [Prestonwood’s] decision, and we’re not OK with that.”
 
The list of signatures expressing support for the CP could include members of the faculty and administration, said Haun.
 
“Dr. Kelley himself asked for one of our t-shirts,” he added.
 
Once the letter is finalized and signatures are collected, the student group plans to send Graham an advance copy.
 
“We don’t want him to be blind-sided by this,” Haun said. “We want to make sure he’s well aware of what we have to say.”
 
He emphasized the goal of the demonstration will not be division, but unity.
 
“We want reconciliation between all parties,” said Haun. “We want the SBC to be unified, because if we’re not unified, we can’t accomplish our mission. That’s why we’re taking the steps we’re taking.”

3/3/2017 2:47:07 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Frank Page’s witness fruitful after 35 years

February 28 2017 by Katie Coleman, SWBTS

Engaging in door-to-door evangelism earlier this year, two seminary students came across a house they almost overlooked because of its obscurity. When they knocked on the door, Jackie, a man with a unique connection to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, answered the door.

Frank Page


When master of divinity students Sharon Ngai and Christian Stringer told Jackie they were from Southwestern, Jackie informed them that he had given his life to Christ more than 35 years ago as a result of Southwestern students doing door-to-door evangelism back then.
 
The student who led him to Christ was Frank Page, who now serves as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. At the time, Page was leading a group of fellow students in evangelism when his team met Jackie.
 
Jackie was lost and in need of the transformation that comes through Christ. After a 45-minute conversation with the Southwestern evangelists, Jackie gave his life to Christ and was later baptized by Page at Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
 
Oftentimes, Ngai and Stringer said, evangelism can be disappointing when people are not even willing to listen. So when they met Jackie, it was a powerful reminder that even just one conversation can be the difference in bringing someone to Christ.
 
“It is encouraging to see that people in this school have been doing evangelism and have been faithful all this time,” Ngai said. “All it took was someone showing up on their lawn. It is encouraging to see the fruit after all this time.”
The story of Page’s evangelism efforts, Stringer added, is a reminder that door-to-door evangelism is effective and is an opportunity to reach people who might not otherwise hear the gospel. “There are a lot of people who aren’t fans of door-to-door evangelism and would even say that it doesn’t work,” Stringer said. “So it is nice to have a reminder that God can use this method.”
 
Ngai and Stringer said they have both grown in the area of evangelism and are increasingly aware of the need to reach the lost, particularly in neighborhoods where opportunities abound. Although not everyone will accept or be open to the gospel, Ngai and Stringer know they must be obedient to God’s call to reach the lost.
 
“Especially when you see someone come to know the Lord,” Stringer said, “it reminds you of the importance, because if we don’t speak the gospel to them today, they might not have this new life in Christ, and who knows what their tomorrow holds.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Katie Coleman writes for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

2/28/2017 9:54:39 AM by Katie Coleman, SWBTS | with 0 comments



‘The Shack’ film stirs debate as did preceding book

February 28 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A fictional and emotionally destroyed Mack Phillips answers a mysterious invitation to a remote, isolated cabin. There he finds a trinity of fatherly love in a woman named “Papa” whose cohorts teach Phillips forgiveness and the faith to run on water – literally.


It’s the synopsis of the movie The Shack, based on William Paul Young’s New York Times bestseller and award-winning book by the same title, that some described as a biblically sound parable. And as with the 2007 controversial book that sold more than 20 million copies, others are criticizing the movie as a farce that serves to deeply distort rather than affirm biblical truths.
 
Among critics of the film is The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. If the movie is anything like the book, he says, it is dangerous in its false portrayal of the Holy Spirit, even though the book is a fictional fantasy.
 
“We need to be clear. This depiction of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of the gospel is profoundly unbiblical,” Mohler told Baptist Press (BP). “The Bible warns against any false depiction of God and calls it idolatry. Making that into a compelling story just compounds the theological danger, and when all of this is added to the creative storytelling power of Hollywood, it also becomes very seductive.”
 
James B. De Young, a Western Seminary professor who countered the book with his own 2010 book Burning Down ‘The Shack’: How the Christian Bestseller is Deceiving Millions has likewise criticized the film.
 
“If the film is a faithful portrayal of the events and the theology of the book,” DeYoung has told Christian News Network, “then every Christian should be gravely alarmed at the further advance of beliefs that smear the evangelical understanding of the truth of the Bible.”
 
The movie’s makers promote it as an educational depiction of the love of the true God, and offers free resources intended to be evangelistic and educational, including movie clips, a downloadable scripture-laden discussion guide, bookmarks and flyers.
 
“Our discussion guide is designed to help you dive deeper into the themes of The Shack with members of your church, school, community and others,” the guide is described at theshackresources.com. “We’ve added scripture verses and discussion questions to help you unpack each section. Feel free to follow the prompts or use this guide as a jumping off point for your own insights. You may present the movie clips in your service or group setting.”
 
Eugene Peterson, retired Presbyterian pastor and author of the award-winning The Message Bible, praised the book as comparable to the classic Pilgrim’s Progress, but Peterson is not listed among the movie’s endorsers. Instead, top endorsements on the movie’s website are offered by Dick Rolfe, co-founder and CEO of the Dove Foundation; Geoff Tunnicliffe, former head of the World Evangelical Alliance and Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family’s (FOTF) media and culture department, among others.
 
“The film will do a lot to point a world desperately looking for answers to a God who loves and cares,” Waliszewski said at theshackresources.com/endorsements, but did not review the film on FOTF’s Plugged In movie review program he directs.
 
Mohler believes the movie is dangerous as entertainment as well as education, he told BP, because of the incredible power inherent in storytelling.
 
“There are many Christians who sadly may not be sufficiently grounded in biblical doctrine to understand just how unbiblical this movie is,” Mohler said. “Secondly, they’ll be many people who are not believers, who will go away believing that the movie depicts biblical Christianity, true Christianity. It creates a cultural conversation in which the bottom line issue is that the makers of this movie have sought to create an entertaining story at the expense of biblical truth.”
 
In a 2010 review of the book on which the movie is based, Mohler points out the book’s skewed presentation of the trinity and its concepts of universalism, universal redemption and ultimate reconciliation. In the book “Jesus tells Mack: ‘Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.’”
 
LifeWay Christian Resources no longer offers the book.
 
“We stopped carrying The Shack a few years ago,” LifeWay Director of Communications Carol Pipes emailed BP, “because although it is a work of fiction, the theology presented as integral to the story clearly conflicts with the Bible on many issues, especially in regards to the character and nature of The Trinity.”
 
Mohler describes the book, and the movie to the extent that it aligns with the book, as the opposite of Pilgrim’s Progress.
 
“It is not credible under any standard of Orthodox Christianity,” Mohler said. “Pilgrim’s Progress is a parable that affirms scripture. The Shack you might say is a parable at the expense of scripture.”
 
The movie opens in wide release March 3, with a special March 2 preview showing, and stars Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer, Grammy Award winner Tim McGraw and Sam Worthington. Brad Cummings and Gil Netter (The Blind Side and The Life of Pi) are producers; Stuart Hazeldine is the movie’s director.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

2/28/2017 9:54:03 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



OSCARS: ‘Excessive,’ ‘overdose of snarky humor’

February 28 2017 by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press

Despite the $200,000 gift bags each major Oscar contestant would receive and the gastronomic delight that would later be served up by Wolfgang Puck, there were some awfully grim faces on the Dolby Theater stage throughout last night’s Oscar telecast.

BP file photo


In addition to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announcing the wrong film as Best Picture, dark clouds seemed to form each time President Trump’s agendas were mentioned. And they came up a lot.
 
I’m always nervous when only one side is given a voice. And while I wouldn’t necessarily want this piece to be a defense of Donald Trump, the president was definitely the underdog at this event. According to the Oscar crowd last night, Mr. Trump is the dispatcher of Armageddon, and possibly the killer of Bambi’s mom.
 
The 89th Oscar ceremony was star-studded and glimmering, but also too long and over-produced. And yes, excessive. What’s more, it had a not-so subtle political dominance that seemed a new form of McCarthyism. I halfway expected host Jimmy Kimmel to ask audience members, “Are you now, or have you ever been a conservative?”
 
Along with an overdose of snarky humor by host Jimmy Kimmel, last night’s speeches were peppered with self-congratulatory comments so pompous that they bordered on the satirical. One winner proclaimed her pride in being a member of the entertainment profession by saying “We are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” I sat there thinking, that must be a shock to doctors, ministers, firemen and perhaps a hundred other professions who also deal with the importance of life.
 
Many acceptance speeches consisted of moments of ridicule of conservative values. As if guilty over their good fortune (looks, riches, fame, talent, position), Hollywood’s bubble-protected elite appear to seek a more profound element to add to their resume – social activist. And with the glaring lack of praise for the Creator last night, one can only assume that there are people in the land of make-believe who have replaced God with a golden calf – the love of politics.
 
On the surface, dissenters are activated by the oppression of their fellow man. But is that really what we saw on the faces of the politically inclined last night? Are they really concerned about the disenfranchised?
 
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say, yes, they truly care about their fellow man, fellow woman and those yet undecided. They care and they want justice for all. Certainly, these would-be activists serve an important purpose: with their platform, they can demand accountability from our leaders. Very important. But here’s the flaw in their objective. Many search for change and justice from a secularist perspective – one that ignores biblical directives.
 
Can we really heal all of society’s ills without regard for God’s Commandments or without seeking His will? Wouldn’t that be like building a house on sand?
 
We know that Satan is the great deceiver, but seldom do we realize that the main weapon he uses to separate us from God’s will is truth. Well, a percentage of truth.
 
There are many good, well-meaning, even religious people in the film industry. However, if you’ve studied the industry clear back to its inception, it’s easy to see that with each decade newcomers to the movie medium have pushed the envelope when it comes to redefining moral standards. With lots and lots of baby steps, they’ve furthered the culture from class and social decorum. And very often, these unwitting folks have been used by Satan to further his “almost” truths.
 
On a lighter note, it was a festive evening, full of razzle-dazzle and moving tributes. Everybody looked great – except for all those dark clouds.
 
Some of the winners:
 
Best Picture
Moonlight
 
Best Actor
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
 
Best Actress
Emma Stone, La La Land
 
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
 
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis, Fences
 
Best Director
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
 
Best Original Screenplay
Kenneth Longergan, Manchester by the Sea
 
Best Adapted Screenplay
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright, in addition to writing for Baptist Press, is a regular contributor to The World and Everything In It, a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)
 

2/28/2017 9:53:18 AM by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Montana Senate passes novel late-term abortion rules

February 28 2017 by Bob Brown, WORLD News Service

The Montana state Senate has passed a bill requiring abortionists to try to save babies born at 24 weeks of gestation and older. Even if the Republican-controlled House passes Senate Bill 282, the bill still faces an uncertain future. The Senate voted 32–18 in favor of the bill, just shy of a two-thirds majority needed to override a likely veto from pro-abortion Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
 
Montana law currently prohibits late-term abortions except to save the mother’s life. But SB 282 would require the abortionist, even in that rare case, to induce labor or deliver the baby by Caesarean section and then provide the baby “life-sustaining support.” The bill, passed by the Senate on Feb. 23, also prohibits the abortionist from “intentionally [causing]” a viable baby’s death “prior to or during delivery.”
 
Abortionists who violate the law could be charged with a felony.
 
The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Albert Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon, said he’s “proposing two methods of terminating a pregnancy – and both would produce a live birth and it’s safe for the mother.”
 
Olszewski said the bill “represents a paradigm shift.”
 
“It reverses the pro-choice argument that the safest way to save a woman’s life is to kill the baby,” Olszewski said. Citing statistics he submitted to the Senate during deliberations, he said induction of labor and C-sections are “the two safest methods available to terminate a pregnancy.” Olszewski added that the real danger is “for the legitimacy of the pro-choice stance on late-term abortions.”
 
Martha Stahl, CEO of Planned Parenthood Montana, disagreed, calling the bill “unconstitutional” and saying the legislation “requires women to undergo invasive medical procedures that might not be the best medical options for a woman.”
 
The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana also opposed the bill, saying SB 282 “flies in the face of” Supreme Court rulings that prohibit states from setting viability markers. The bill does not specify a strict gestational age of viability, but instead defines viability as “24 weeks or more, or that a [baby] is able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid, whichever occurs earlier.”
 
The first of its kind, the bill would likely affect few women and children. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute reports that approximately 1 percent of abortions are done for any reason related to the mother’s health.
 
A more detailed study indicates that abortions specifically to save a mother’s life are considerably rare. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which requires abortionists to report the reason for each abortion, found that only 47 of 71,740 abortions (about 1 in every 1,526) carried out in Florida in 2015 were done to save the mother’s life.
 
In Montana, there were 1,842 abortions in 2013, and 1,690 in 2014.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Brown writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

2/28/2017 9:53:03 AM by Bob Brown, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



After the laughs & giggles, they learn God’s Word

February 28 2017 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector

The youth of Roaring Fork Baptist Church are not unlike countless other teenagers participating in Youth Bible Drill, preparing for associational and state competitions later this spring.

Contributed photo
This bathroom at Camp Smoky is the only place that can accommodate a row of Bible drillers from Roaring Fork Baptist Church in Gatlinburg, Tenn., whose church was destroyed by fire last November.


What sets the Roaring Fork youth apart from other groups is where they practice – one of the bathrooms and showers at Camp Smoky, owned and operated by the Sevier County Association of Baptists in Tennessee.
 
Roaring Fork Baptist was destroyed by the fires that swept through Gatlinburg and Sevier County in November. The church has been meeting since the fires at Camp Smoky where space is limited.
 
While not the ideal practice site, it is just a blessing to have somewhere to meet, said Ginger Cooper, one of Roaring Fork’s adults who work with several dozen youth and children’s Bible drillers.
 
The youth actually memorize scripture in a bunk room but there is not enough room to spread out so that’s the reason the drill is held in the bathroom, Cooper said. “The kids actually love it. They are very lighthearted about it and, as you can imagine, they think it’s funny. We have to get over the laughs and giggling before we get serious and go into the drill.”
 
But, after what the church and some of the youth have gone through, “a little laughter doesn’t hurt,” Cooper said.
 
The fires claimed the church building and nearly everything in it, including most of the Bibles used for the drills. Cooper had taken 14 Bibles home prior to the fire but those weren’t nearly enough for all of the youth and children who participate in the drills.
 
In a conversation with Candy Macon, a regional coordinator for Children’s Bible Drill in Tennessee and member of Wallace Memorial Baptist Church in Knoxville, Cooper shared the church’s need for more Bibles.
 
Macon contacted Donna Blaydes, preschool/Bible Drill specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Blaydes then contacted LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville which then provided Bibles and other related items free of charge to Roaring Fork.
 
“These Bibles are a huge blessing,” Cooper said. “The children are so appreciative.”
 
Blaydes recounted, “Words cannot express the blessing I received hearing Ginger share her experience, how even though their drillers lost their church, and many lost their personal homes, they were determined this would not keep them from learning God’s Word.
 
“Seeing a picture of some of her drillers practicing in a bathroom because that was the only available space brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face,” Blaydes added. “I am in awe of what God is doing in the lives of the people, especially the young people, of Roaring Fork. Their perseverance is such a testimony to the power of God’s Word.”
 
After the fires, Cooper admitted she did not think the church would be able to offer Bible Drill this year, but she is glad they have been able to do so.
 
“We wanted to try to make things as normal as possible for the children we’re ministering to,” Cooper said. Prior to the fires, Roaring Fork’s bus ministry brought about 100 children and youth to the church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, she said. Because some youth and children have moved since the fires, the number now is around 60 to 70 each week, Cooper said.
 
She acknowledged that “it’s a new normal for us,” but the important thing is the consistency. “The children know we love them and care for them,” she said.
 
Because of the lack of space, they had to get creative – thus the bathroom meeting place for the youth, Cooper said. “They are persevering and are happy in the new location,” she said.
 
The children meet in another location in one of the camp buildings, Cooper said.
 
Though they are still trying to prepare for the association Bible Drill, “God has shown me that though competition is great, it’s not the most important part,” Cooper said.
 
Cooper said a discovery she made after the fire reminded her of the resiliency of God’s Word. While searching through the debris at the church she found a Gideon’s Bible. The outside was charred, but the inside was not damaged. A bookmark in the Bible was burned on the portion that stuck outside the Bible. Inside, it was not damaged.
 
At first Cooper simply picked the Bible up and placed it on a table. She felt the spirit of God leading her to return back to the church prior to its demolition the next day to retrieve that Bible.
 
“It’s a symbol of what we do in Bible Drill,” she said. “He showed me [through that Bible] that His Word endures forever.” And through the youth and children’s Bible drills, they are able to “sow His Word into their hearts.”
 
While Bible drills may not be like they have been in the past, “every week we meet they learn a little bit more. We are encouraged and we know God will accomplish His will,” Cooper said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, baptistandreflector.com, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)
 

2/28/2017 9:52:30 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments



Black history & the SBC: Need for more study noted

February 27 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Black History Month gives Americans a yearly spotlight on such key figures in U.S. history as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr.

Kevin Smith


Few Southern Baptists, however, have considered key African American figures in Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) history like Garland Offutt, Emmanuel McCall and Fred Luter – the first African Americans respectively to attend a Southern Baptist Convention seminary, serve on an SBC entity staff and be elected SBC president.
 
Yet some Baptist historians hope the study of black Southern Baptist history will flower in years to come in light of new resources, including events hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), books published by LifeWay Christian Resources and SBC ministry reports containing information on ethnic participation.
Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said the history of African American involvement in the SBC is “part of the broader Southern Baptist us/we/family, and we need that knowledge ... of one another to pursue” the Ephesians 4:3 mandate to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
 
Former managing editor of The Journal of African American Southern Baptist History (JAASBH), Smith told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments he is eager “to learn how various ethnicities became Southern Baptist and are now enthusiastically pursuing the Great Commission.”
 
In his editorial for the inaugural issue of JAASBH in 2003, Smith wrote that “many books that have claimed to be broad Baptist histories merely noted the presence of black Baptists in passing (or, worse, ignored them altogether). This oversight must be corrected.”
 
The journal did its part to make that correction over a seven-year run by publishing articles on, among other topics:

  • The withdrawal of some 100,000 blacks from Southern Baptist churches following the abolition of slavery.
  • The first African American church to officially re-enter Southern Baptist life in 1951 after the SBC lost all black congregations by the early 20th century.
  • The Foreign Mission Board’s appointment of 48 black missionaries during its first 35 years of existence.
  • Southern Baptist efforts to share the gospel with members of the Nation of Islam.

 
JAASBH’s “most significant accomplishment,” Smith said, was developing a “written, scholarly record of black contributions to Baptist life.” The journal’s founder Sid Smith, who died in 2009, “was deliberate about these journals being in the libraries of our seminaries and state conventions.”

Jarvis Williams


In more recent times, the study of African American involvement in Southern Baptist life has been advanced by a 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit on “the gospel and racial reconciliation” as well as books published by LifeWay’s B&H Academic division.
 
At the 2015 Leadership Summit, ERLC President Russell Moore said that while some historical traditions are worth conserving, “if what we are conserving is 1950s Dixie, then we’re conserving something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we will be fighting God, and we will not win.”
 
Moore noted, “The Kingdom of God is not about coexistence. The Kingdom of God is about reconciliation. And that reconciliation is within the church.”
 
Among the B&H Academic resources to promote a fresh look at black church history is Aaron Lavender’s 2016 book Enduring Truth. It argued a decline in biblical preaching at some black churches stems from historical factors like racial discrimination, black liberation theology and prosperity theology.
Later this year, B&H Academic will release Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention, edited by Jarvis Williams and Kevin Jones. This book surveys racism in the SBC’s past and recommends a path for unity and reconciliation going forward. Most contributors to the work are African American Southern Baptists.
 
Jim Baird, director of B&H Academic print and digital, told BP in written comments, “B&H Academic seeks to publish books that address issues of great importance to the evangelical community. One such issue is race relations.
 
“That is why we are pleased to announce the forthcoming title, Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives. We believe this book as well as Aaron Lavender’s Enduring Truth offer important perspectives for the church and the Christian academy,” Baird said.
 
Williams, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP a robust knowledge of black Southern Baptist history can be a catalyst for racial reconciliation.
 
“Holistic, denomination[al], gospel reconciliation cannot happen,” Williams said in written comments, “until we are honest about our racist past, admit that racism still exists in our convention, repent of this racism both personally and corporately on a daily basis ... and intentionally listen to, learn from and pursue each other in Spirit-filled love.“
 
Williams added, “We have made great progress as a convention. But I think we have such a long way to go.”
 
In the future, Smith sees a need for more study of the various streams in black Southern Baptist life: African Americans who have always been Southern Baptists, those who have a background in historic black denominations and now are Southern Baptists and those who cooperate with both historic black denominations and the SBC.
 
Since 1972, at least 16 Baptist state conventions have elected African American presidents from the various streams of black Southern Baptist life, according to reports in BP and SBC LIFE. Luter became the first black SBC president in 2012.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. February is Black History Month.)
 

2/27/2017 10:51:49 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Young leader initiative announced by EC & NAMB

February 27 2017 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee and North American Mission Board (NAMB) are launching a young leader initiative to better engage pastors between the ages of 25-45.

The network’s goal will be to provide a sense of brotherhood for those already participating in Southern Baptist life and find ways to engage those who are disconnected or minimally involved.

Jonathan Akin


“A look at the research and a look around the room at most SBC meetings tells you we must do a better job at engaging and including young leaders,” Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president, said.
 
“I know there are thousands of young pastors who have a great contribution to make to our Southern Baptist family,” Ezell said. “We want to serve them better and let them know they are loved, valued and needed.”
 
Frank S. Page, president of the Executive Committee, added his hope that the initiative will lead to increased young pastor participation.
 
“The Executive Committee is delighted to partner with the North American Mission Board in this process of engaging younger pastors and churches,” Page said. “Our driving imperative is to do whatever it takes to see every man, woman, boy and girl have the opportunity to hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe this partnership helps make that possible by encouraging those who need to be at the table.”
 
The Executive Committee has hosted or sponsored several events and efforts under Page’s leadership to connect with young leaders, including the Southern Baptist Young Leader Network and formation of talkCP, a blog geared toward younger Baptists with the goal of fostering greater understanding of and participation in the Cooperative Program.
 
Ezell said the Executive Committee and NAMB will form a very diverse group of advisers that represent an ethnic and theological mix.
 
“We simply want to connect the disconnected pastors and provide opportunities for younger pastors to see the value of being a part of this family we call the SBC,” Ezell said.
 
Jonathan Akin will join NAMB’s staff to lead the joint effort. He is transitioning from his role as pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn.
 
The entities plan to launch the initiative midway through 2017.
 
“This summer will serve as a launch date for a new day in how the SBC mobilizes our next generation of pastors,” Page said.
 
Johnny Hunt, past president of the SBC and senior pastor of Woodstock First Baptist Church in Georgia affirmed the new effort.
 
“I’m very excited that Jonathan Akin has joined the staff of NAMB to help us reach a generation we are losing or, at best, challenged to reach 25-45-year-olds,” said Hunt, who has long been known within the SBC for his heart for mentoring young pastors. “This is a great move by Kevin Ezell and Frank Page.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert serves as executive director of public relations for the North American Mission Board.)
 

2/27/2017 10:43:53 AM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 1 comments



Texas conservatives take on transgender restroom fight

February 27 2017 by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service

The spotlight of the transgender debate is about to shine bright on Texas, where conservative lawmakers are bracing to continue the fight started in North Carolina last year.
 
The Texas legislature introduced a bill last month requiring all government facilities, including public schools, to keep restrooms, showers and changing areas separated by biology, not gender identity. The law allows private business owners to make their own policies in accordance with their beliefs.
 
As lead advocate for the new Texas restroom policy, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he has the motivation to see this fight to the end – even if it costs him his job. Texas will hold a hearing on the bill – comparable to North Carolina’s now infamous HB2 law – early next month. State lawmakers, including the dominant Republican caucus, remain divided on the issue. Fears of business boycotts and public ridicule could derail a bill Patrick asserts is “common sense.”
 
“You should never get full of yourself and say ‘I’m going to win this to prove a point,’” Patrick, a Republican, told WORLD News Service. “No, this is the right issue – this is the right thing to do.”
 
In 2016, North Carolina became a punching bag for LGBT advocates when state lawmakers blocked a City of Charlotte ordinance establishing identity-based restroom rules. The move generated widespread backlash from businesses choosing to boycott the state and LGBT groups smearing lawmakers as bigots. The nationwide fallout possibly cost former Gov. Pat McCrory his reelection bid.
 
Then the Obama administration weighed in by threatening to pull funding from any public schools that did not make special accommodations for transgender students.
 
Last year, a federal judge ruled the Obama administration over extended its authority and blocked the rule’s enforcement. The Obama administration sought a partial stay on the ruling, but the Trump administration’s Department of Justice withdrew the request the same day Attorney General Jeff Sessions took over the department.
 
This year, 14 states have pre-filed or introduced bills dealing with who can and cannot access public restrooms, locker rooms or other gender-specific facilities. But as the largest GOP-controlled state in the country, Texas will influence the national conversation.
 
Patrick said Texas had to act since some school districts had already changed rules to allow boys and girls to change and shower in the same facilities. He told me the rule change causes confusion for children struggling with gender dysphoria and opens the window for sexual predators to take advantage: “These predators will have carte blanche to get into the ladies’ room.”
 
The Texas legislature could vote on the restroom bill as early as mid April, but Republicans have yet to coalesce around the legislation. House Speaker Joe Straus, also a Republican, will guide the direction of the legislation since he has final say on which bills come up for a vote.
 
Straus’ office did not respond to an interview request for this story, but he previously voiced skepticism about passing a bill similar to the one that caused such an uproar in North Carolina.
 
“I hear from the business community and leaders back home that are very, very concerned that we might be walking into a situation that would be similar to be what North Carolina has experienced,” Straus said in January. “I’m hearing that we should be very, very cautious about that, and I agree with that.”
 
Last year, the NBA pulled its All-Star weekend from North Carolina, and the NCAA relocated championship contests to other states because of its restroom policy.
 
Houston just hosted the Super Bowl earlier this month, and the NFL is already threatening to bar Texas from hosting future games if the bill becomes law. Last week, the NBA issued a similar warning. The NCAA has yet to say it will punish Texas, but it will have the option to move the Men’s Final Four, scheduled for San Antonio in 2018.
 
The Texas Association of Business also has criticized the bill, predicting the state will lose $8.5 billion in revenue from tourism, conventions, sports and entertainment if it passes. But the group made similar predictions in 2015, when Houston overturned a city ordinance requiring all businesses and public buildings to open their restrooms and private changing facilities based on gender identity. The rule’s overwhelming rejection – 61-39 percent – didn’t interfere with Super Bowl plans or other events.
 
The proposed statewide legislation would allow organizations like the NFL and NCAA to set their own restroom policies at Texas convention centers or arenas but prohibit cities from passing local laws regarding transgender accommodation.
 
Patrick told me he’s confident the legislation will pass out of the heavily Republican Texas Senate and expects Straus to fall in line when it reaches the House. Patrick also cited misinformation about business opposition, claiming most businesses favor the legislation but worry about fallout from supporting it publicly.
 
“We didn’t start this fight, the fight came to us and if we do nothing they will win,” Patrick said of the transgender debate. “If it costs me an election, so be it. This is so clear. Sometimes you get into a fight and say ‘OK, I really need to think this through’ – this is so clear.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Wilt writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

2/27/2017 10:36:55 AM by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Doctors call for abortion pills at pharmacies

February 27 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

A group of doctors and abortion advocates are calling for easier access to abortion pills through pharmacies.
 
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone, also known as RU-486, to be dispensed at an abortion facility, hospital, or doctor’s office, not a pharmacy. But the 10 authors of an article that appeared Feb. 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine are calling for the FDA to allow women to obtain the drug with a prescription at a pharmacy and take it at home without a doctor’s supervision.
 
One of the authors, Beverly Winikoff of New York-based Gynuity Health Projects, said that the current regulations aren’t necessary.
 
“The restrictions on mifepristone are a shameful example of overregulation run amok,” Winikoff said. “Women and their health providers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get a medication that’s been safely and effectively used in this country for a decade and a half.”
 
Last year, the FDA extended the timeframe for a prescription for mifepristone from 7 weeks of gestation to 10 weeks. The use of abortion-inducing drugs soared and in some states outpaced surgical abortions.
 
Pro-life leaders say women will face greater danger as officials systematically remove restrictions on mifepristone and the follow-up drug, misoprostol, which induces labor.
 
“They're trying to make it simple to sell these drugs that are designed to cause extreme hemorrhaging,” Kristi Hamrick, spokeswoman for Americans United for Life, told me. “They are acting as though it is insignificant that you go home and this have this horrific thing happen to you.”
 
Women who undergo abortions at home face heavy bleeding that sometimes results in complications. Since 2000, when the FDA approved mifepristone, 19 women have died as a result of using it. A 2011 FDA report stated hundreds of women were hospitalized with infections and hundreds more needed transfusions.
 
The risks for chemical abortions, Hamrick said, are even higher than surgical abortions: “If, for example, a woman is heavily hemorrhaging and loses consciousness, who is going to ensure that 911 is called?”
 
Another of the article’s authors, Paul Blumenthal of the Stanford University School of Medicine, said the at-home procedure is “not unsupervised.”
 
“There’s a responsible physician who is overseeing this prescription,” Blumenthal said. “Even with telemedicine, patients are given a list of places to go if something is awry.”
 
The authors of the article suggest that if the FDA complies, more doctors will be willing to prescribe a drug they don’t have to have on hand themselves, and more women in rural areas far from abortion clinics will be able to get the drug.
 
But National Right to Life’s director of education and research, Randall O’Bannon, told me he suspected that after an initial surge in chemical abortions, women would eventually shy away from the drugs.
 
“As women discover the bloody, painful reality of these abortions, though, enthusiasm will wane,” O’Bannon said, adding that the potential complications of mifepristone, including hemorrhaging and uterine rupture, only add to the pro-abortion establishment’s betrayal of women.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

2/27/2017 10:13:07 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



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