February 2017

Women’s academic society forms at Southeastern

February 24 2017 by Harper McKay, SEBTS

Women at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and The College at Southeastern have a new opportunity for encouragement and collaboration in their academic work through the Society for Women in Scholarship.

Photo by Maria Estes
The new Society for Women in Scholarship at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is a gathering place for ideas, networking, learning and leadership development among women at Southeastern who desire to be part of theological scholarship. The society holds monthly meetings on campus at Southeastern.

Created by SEBTS students, the society’s goal is to provide a gathering place for ideas, networking, learning and leadership development among women at Southeastern who desire to be part of theological scholarship.
It was just over a year ago when Bekah Stoneking, a doctor of education student, and Amber Bowen, a master of arts in philosophy of religion student, first met to discuss their scholarly ambitions. The encouragement they received from one another led them to invite more women to informal coffee outings, eventually sparking the idea for a society for Southeastern’s students.
“We found great benefit from having each other to converse with, to encourage, to collaborate with and to come alongside,” Stoneking and Bowen wrote in describing the society’s start. “We began to think about what it would be like on a larger scale.”
As part of Southeastern’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative, the Society for Women in Scholarship provides greater opportunities for a minority population on Southeastern’s campus to contribute to the academy.
“Women are our largest and most diverse minority group on campus,” said Walter Strickland, special adviser to the president for the Kingdom Diversity Initiative. “I’m convinced that the fruit of the society will extend beyond the confines of the group by emboldening women to contribute more readily in the classroom discussion, providing opportunities to publish written work and by sponsoring events for both genders to think deeply about the Christian faith.”
Denise O’Donoghue, SEBTS director of women’s life and assistant professor of ministry to women, noted, “One benefit is it offers a means for women to discuss academic thoughts and ideas outside the classroom with other like minded women.”
SEBTS Provost Bruce Ashford called the society “one of the most exciting developments” in the seminary’s recent history.
“It is composed of a number of very sharp women who are committed not only to maintaining high standards of scholarship but to handing down the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” Ashford said.
The society meets on the first Wednesday of every month to discuss topics relevant to women in theological scholarship. February’s meeting focused on time management, with members offering advice to one another about juggling the responsibilities of academic writing, publishing, ministry and more. Among future topics: fears common to women in the academy and how to overcome them.
Adrienne Miles, assistant professor of English and linguistics who serves on the leadership team, said the Society for Women in Scholarship has already boosted the confidence of women at Southeastern. “Our members are saying, ‘Thank you so much for this.’ It’s what they’ve been wanting.”
Many women who once felt isolated now have a greater sense of belonging through the society. “They have a place where they can see other women [involved in scholarship] and not feel like they are only one or one of two students,” Miles added.
As part of its mission to promote good scholarship, the society plans to sponsor academic events on campus for the entire student body, creating a space for men and women to interact as academic peers and be iron sharpening iron.
The society is open to women at Southeastern from sophomore undergraduate students through master’s- and doctoral-level students. Women interested in membership do not have to already have a specific research focus, only the desire to grow in scholarship and contribute to academic life on campus.
The next society meeting will be March 1, 2017, at 3 p.m. in the Ledford Center. For more information, visit Kingdom Diversity at Southeastern or contact thesociety@sebts.edu.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Harper McKay is the news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

2/24/2017 1:28:44 PM by Harper McKay, SEBTS | with 0 comments

Obama-era transgender bathroom order rescinded

February 24 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Trump administration has reversed an Obama-era directive that advised schools to open bathrooms and locker rooms to students based on their perceived sexual identity or risk losing federal funding.

The new ruling leaves bathroom use policies to the discretion of state governments and local school districts, but the issue is already set to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is scheduled on March 28 to hear a case from the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia challenging a lower court ruling allowing transgender teen Gavin Grimm to use the boys’ bathroom at school. Grimm, a biological female, identifies as male.
Obama’s directive, nonbinding legally but strengthened by the possibility of federal funding being rescinded under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, had already been blocked in August 2016 by a Texas federal district court.
Trump’s reversal was announced in a Feb. 22 directive sent to public schools jointly from the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education.
“There must be due regard for the primary role of the States and local districts in establishing educational policy,” the new directive reads. “The Department of Education and Department of Justice have decided to withdraw and rescind the [Obama] guidance documents in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved. The Departments thus will not rely on the view expressed within them.”
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, who lamented Obama’s 2016 order, welcomed the new directive.
“I’m very glad to see the Trump Administration revoke these guidelines. This move is good for parents and good for families,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said at erlc.com. “Children are not pawns of the state to be used to advance the latest fashionable ‘right side of history’ cause. Christians must continue to insist that the worldview of the sexual revolution harms men and women and advocate for the inherent dignity of all.”
Discrimination based on sex is still prohibited in public schools, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said as the new directive was issued.
“We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment,” DeVos said. “This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate. At my direction, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.”
DeVos echoed President Donald Trump in saying the issue is best left to state and local authorities.
“Schools, communities, and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students,” DeVos said.
In explaining the reversal, the Departments of Justice and Education said Obama’s directive interpreted Title IX to include discrimination based on sexual identity, not only biological sex, and lacked extensive legal analysis or any explanation of how that position “is consistent with the express language of Title IX.”
At least one state, California, might uphold the use of bathrooms and locker rooms based on gender identity instead of biological sex, a children and families advocacy group there said in a press release.
“If you believe in local control of schools, or parental rights, or the safety of girls, or in the biological fact that you’re born male or female, this is common sense good,” Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, said of Trump’s reversal. “Unfortunately, because of a raft of anti-family, sexual-indoctrination laws in California, government schools here will still be unsafe, mixed-up places where biological boys can masquerade as girls in female restrooms, shower facilities and sports teams.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

2/24/2017 1:25:48 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Texas blocked from defunding Planned Parenthood

February 24 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Texas is the latest state to suffer a judicial setback in its effort to eliminate government funds for Planned Parenthood.
Federal Judge Sam Sparks of Austin, in a Feb. 21 ruling, blocked enforcement of a December decision by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to disqualify Planned Parenthood affiliates from participation in the state’s Medicaid program. State Attorney General Ken Paxton promised to appeal Sparks’ opinion.
With the decision, Texas becomes at least the sixth state recently to be thwarted in the attempt to remove the country’s No. 1 abortion provider from its Medicaid program. Courts also have ruled against similar efforts by Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
A Texas Baptist leader expressed disappointment in the ruling in support of a scandal-plagued organization that performs about 300,000 abortions annually nationwide and receives more than $500 million a year in government grants and reimbursements.
“Planned Parenthood wouldn’t be in business if they couldn’t do abortions,” said Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
“They are more committed to abortion than they are to women’s health.
“Planned Parenthood clinics don’t do prenatal care or mammograms, contrary to popular understanding,” Richards told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “Public funding should instead be given to actual women’s health providers.”
The HHSC move to terminate Planned Parenthood’s participation in Medicaid followed the release of undercover videos in 2015 providing evidence that at least some of its affiliates were trading in body parts from aborted babies. The secretly recorded videos showed various Planned Parenthood executives across the country discussing their sale of fetal parts as well as their willingness to manipulate the lethal procedure to preserve organs for sale and use.
In his opinion, however, Sparks said HHSC Inspector General Stuart Bowen disqualified Planned Parenthood in December minus “any evidence indicating an actual program violation warranting termination.”
Bowen’s reliance on the video of conversations between undercover investigators and a Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) official provided no evidence of wrongdoing by the Houston-area affiliate of the national organization, Sparks said. Evidence was lacking that Planned Parenthood altered abortion procedures for research purposes, aborted babies to procure tissue for its own research and profited from obtaining tissue for research, the judge wrote.
Planned Parenthood proved it has a “substantial likelihood of success” in the case, thereby demonstrating it is entitled to a preliminary injunction against the state, Sparks said.
Sparks’ opinion came only four weeks after another undercover investigation refuted Planned Parenthood’s assertion it provides prenatal care as a primary service. The pro-life organization Live Action reported its special investigators requesting prenatal care were turned away by 92 of the 97 Planned Parenthood centers they contacted. See related story.
In promising to appeal, Paxton said Sparks’ opinion “flies in the face of basic human decency.”
“The raw, unedited footage from undercover videos exposed a brazen willingness by Planned Parenthood officials to traffic in fetal body parts, as well as manipulate the timing and method of an abortion,” Paxton said in a written statement. “No taxpayer in Texas should have to subsidize this repugnant and illegal conduct.”
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, “We will never back down, and we will never stop fighting for our patients,” The New York Times reported.
The court fight in Texas comes as Congress seeks to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood and to protect the right of states to withhold money for the organization.
Congress is threatening to use the reconciliation process to cut about 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding and direct it to federally qualified health centers that do not perform abortions. A reconciliation bill enables the Senate to approve a budget-related measure with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster. Both the Senate and House passed such a reconciliation proposal last year, but President Obama vetoed the bill. See related story.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is conducting an online advertising campaign to rally support for the congressional effort. The attempt includes a digital petition for delivery to congressional leaders. The petition is available for signing at erlc.com/initiatives/defund-planned-parenthood.
On Feb. 16, the House of Representatives voted 230-188 to repeal an Obama administration rule that effectively restricts states from prohibiting funds for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Five weeks before President Obama left office, the Department of Health and Human Services issued in mid-December the rule regarding the Title X program, which provides federal funds to states for family planning and preventive health services. See related story.
While PPGC – which has seven centers in the Houston area – is the focus of the Texas case, other Planned Parenthood affiliates also are part of the suit. All together, the 30 Planned Parenthood centers in Texas provide services to about 12,500 Medicaid patients.
Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent year for which statistics are available. PPFA and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its latest annual financial report (2014-15).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

Related articles:
House votes to annul rule protecting Planned Parenthood
Veto override on PPFA defunding fails in House
Planned Parenthood wins 1st round of Title X funding fight
Macy’s ends Planned Parenthood contributions

2/24/2017 1:14:12 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gene Fant Named President of North Greenville University

February 24 2017 by NGU communications

The Board of Trustees of North Greenville University (NGU) has elected Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr., to serve as its next president.

Gene C. Fant, Jr.

“The Presidential Search Committee undertook a nationwide search with the assistance of the team of Price Harding, III, a partner and founder of CarterBaldwin Executive Search of Atlanta, Ga., a search firm with wide experience in higher education and especially in Christian higher education,” said Bill Tyler, Chairman of NGU’s Board of Trustees and Presidential Search Committee. “We evaluated nominations and applications from over 60 qualified candidates. In the end, it was about the candidate that would be the right fit for North Greenville and its mission.”
Fant, 53, has a long record of leadership in Christian higher education, most recently at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“Lisa and I are profoundly humbled,” Fant said, “to be invited by the Board of Trustees to serve alongside this marvelous faculty and staff in this Kingdom work. North Greenville’s Christ-honoring heritage has impacted our region and indeed the world since its beginning, and I look forward to leading the university as we follow God’s calling on our shared lives.”
Fant noted that he was attracted to the position by NGU’s history of producing transformational leaders for church and society.  
“Throughout my career, everywhere I go, I run into people whose lives have been touched by NGU and its alumni, students, faculty, coaches and staff. I hope to build on that solid foundation of influence and extend it into new areas,” said Fant.
Fant will complete the spring semester in his current role as the Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Palm Beach Atlantic University, assuming his duties at NGU on June 1.  
Fant has left his mark on Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA). He has led the campus in a renewed commitment to its Christ-first mission, joining unapologetically Christian dedication to unflinching academic excellence. About a dozen new academic programs have been launched in healthcare, business and science, and he was instrumental in the launch of the Titus Center for Franchising, which benefits from a $1.5 million startup gift.
He is a builder of both people and programs. As Provost and Chief Academic Officer of PBA, Fant has been an innovative academic architect, an elite and insightful talent scout, a strategic thinker, a resourceful idea generator, a passionate advocate of intellectual discipleship, a significant sculptor of the PBA experience, but most importantly, an extraordinary Christian scholar and Christ-follower. He understands the transformational nature of Christ-first higher education. At all times, he remains student-focused and faculty-friendly, with a keen understanding of the importance of both the liberal arts and professional studies. Additionally, he is known as one of the best storytellers.
“The Palm Beach Atlantic University community applauds Gene’s selection as president and will continue to pray for him and Lisa as they lead NGU onward and bring an inexpressible joy to their new University family,” said PBA President William M. B. Fleming, Jr.
Prior to his time at PBA, Fant served at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, from 2002-2014, holding a variety of positions before assuming the role of the Executive Vice President for Academic Administration under then-President David S. Dockery. At Union, he led in the implementation of numerous academic programs, coordinated the academic transition of the university’s athletics program from NAIA membership to NCAA Division II and was involved in the rebuilding of the campus following the devastating tornado that struck the campus in 2008.
“What a joy to learn that Gene Fant has been nominated to serve as the next president of North Greenville University. I have been truly blessed and privileged to know him for a number of years and to learn from him as an insightful leader and thoughtful educator. Moreover, he is a faithful Christ-follower, an ambassador for Christ-centered higher education, a reflective Christian thinker, and a churchman of the first order,” said David S. Dockery, President, Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Union University President Emeritus. “I am confident that the Board, administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of North Greenville will soon share my excitement about their gifted new president. I am genuinely delighted for Gene and Lisa as well as for the North Greenville community, and I truly believe that good and blessed days are ahead for one and all.”
Since 2004, Fant has also been deeply involved in the Impact 360 Institute, a year-long gap year program in biblical worldview and leadership development. Impact 360 Institute was launched by John and Trudy Cathy White; Trudy is the daughter of Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy. In addition to being one of the program’s original curriculum designers, Fant serves on the Board of Directors.
“Gene Fant believed in the mission of Impact 360 long before other Christian educators, and he was instrumental in helping us bring other higher education professionals to appreciate the value of a gap year between high school and college,” says executive director of Chick-fil-A’s Life Shape Foundation Larry Cox. “He is the type of leader who will motivate the young men and women of North Greenville University to think Christianly about their lives and how God can use them to integrate faith, learning, and living.”
Deeply committed to the Christian intellectual tradition, Fant holds five earned academic degrees, including the Ph.D. in English and the M. Div. in biblical languages; he also completed the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. He was the third generation of his family to graduate from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. A prolific author and speaker, Fant’s book The Liberal Arts: A Student’s Guide (Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition), Crossway 2012, is used as a text for both university courses and faculty development. With his wife Lisa, he co-authored Expectant Moments: Devotions for Expectant Couples, Zondervan 1999, a best-selling devotional memoir. His essays have appeared in Baptist Press and many newspapers; he was a contributing blogger at both The Chronicle of Higher Education and First Things.
Fant’s father, Gene Sr., is a retired Baptist pastor, who served as a church planter in New York and pastored in Mississippi, California, Virginia and Tennessee. His mother, Mona Faith Fant, is a syndicated radio show host and singer-songwriter.  
Lisa, also an educator, is a native of Virginia, where they met while teaching school. They have been married since 1989 and have twin children, Ethan and Emily, who are both students at Impact 360 Institute; the twins just returned from a month-long mission trip.
Chairman Tyler says “This is an historic time in the life of North Greenville. In 1991, it was about survival. Today, it is about taking a Christ-centered institution with a very strong foundation and moving it into the future in order to equip students to go into the world and impact the kingdom by having a strong biblical worldview no matter what their educational discipline may be. We are not looking back, we are moving forward.”

2/24/2017 9:43:47 AM by NGU communications | with 0 comments

Planets’ discovery said to incite misplaced hope

February 24 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

At least some of scientists’ enthusiasm over discovery of seven potentially habitable planets seems to reflect the misplaced hopes of a secular worldview.

Rendering from NASA

That is the assessment of a Union University physicist and a Gateway Seminary Old Testament professor following NASA’s Feb. 22 announcement that astronomers have detected the first known system of seven Earth-sized planets rotating around a single star.
Bill Nettles, chair of Union’s physics department, told Baptist Press (BP) the “excitement” among some scientists “over the possibility of extra-terrestrial life simply confirms” a longstanding assumption that “surely life must exist somewhere in the universe.” That assumption “has been a theme of writers for centuries, and we shouldn’t expect it to wane.”
Yet “for Christians, there is already a hope that there is life elsewhere, but we don’t need to find it in some other planet,” Nettles said in written comments. “It is found in the promises of God, revealed in the human-divine person of Jesus of Nazareth.”
The discovery of “other planets around other stars should be no more surprising to us today than the discovery of rocky planets in our own solar system centuries ago,” Nettles said. “The Bible begins with the creation of the heavens and earth. These discoveries do not dispute that.”
The newly discovered planetary system, located some 40 light-years from Earth, is called TRAPPIST-1, named for the Belgian-operated Transitioning Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope that first detected some of its components.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope confirmed the existence of two planets in the system and discovered five more, according to a NASA press release, for a total of seven confirmed planets.
All seven likely are rocky and could possess liquid water – “the key to life as we know it,” according to NASA. Three of the planets fall within a “habitable zone,” where rocky planets are most likely to have liquid water.
The planets purportedly are so close together that a person standing on the surface of one could see others in the sky with appearances larger than Earth’s moon.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said the discovery “could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments.” He added that “answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority,” according to the NASA release.
Nettles said even if further study “fails to reveal” gases on the planets “which might indicate biological activity,” there “will be no dashing [some scientists’] hope” of life in TRAPPIST-1.
Believers should remember the TRAPPIST-1 planets are governed by scientific laws “actively upheld by a powerful and loving God” and that “nothing about the discovery of Earth-sized planets around a dim star affects the Christian narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Glorification.”
Paul Smith, associate professor of Old Testament studies at Gateway Seminary, told BP “the underlying purpose of searching for life outside our planet” often seems driven by a quest “to ‘prove’ evolution.” Individuals on such a quest believe “life on another planet would indicate randomness in where life happens as long as the conditions are right rather than [creation] by the hand of God.”
In response to that notion, Smith said “the finding of water on a planet, bacteria or even some form of an atmosphere does not affect our understanding of the Bible’s doctrine of creation.”
Bacteria and similar organisms “may be life” in a scientific sense, said Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chandler, Ariz., and vice president of the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference, but they are “not ‘living’ as the Bible defines it.” That designation is reserved for creatures granted “breath” by God, he said in written comments.
Scripture seems to rule out the existence of life forms comparable to humans on any other celestial body, Smith said.
“Finding complex life forms [like humans] would change our view of creation and even more importantly our view of salvation,” he said. “The Bible is clear that sin came into the world through one man, Adam, and is forgiven through one man, Jesus. Those two truths do not allow for life on another planet that is intelligent enough to discern between right and wrong.”
NASA will perform follow-up studies on TRAPPIST-1 in the years ahead.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/24/2017 9:28:36 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 3 comments

WRAP UP: CP escrowing by churches draws study

February 23 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Amid continuing discussion of churches’ escrowing or withholding Cooperative Program (CP) funds, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) launched two efforts to study the issue at its Feb. 20-21 meeting in Nashville.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
Executive Committee chairman Stephen Rummage said the “prominence” of churches’ escrowing CP funds justifies a “special look” at the issue.

The EC also authorized its officers to study the feasibility of selling the SBC Building in downtown Nashville. The EC declined to recommend amending Article III of the SBC Constitution to list racial discrimination as evidence a church is not in friendly cooperation, noting the Baptist Faith and Message and convention resolutions already make clear that racism is grounds to disfellowship a congregation.
The EC’s actions related to CP came less than a week after it was reported that Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” See related story. Other churches have taken or are considering similar action over concerns related to multiple SBC entities, according to reports received by the EC.
In light of such reports, the EC’s CP Committee unanimously adopted a motion “that the chairman of the Cooperative Program Committee form a subcommittee ... to study and recommend redemptive solutions to the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches’ either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds, with the report being brought back to the September 2017 Executive Committee meeting.”
Adoption of the motion followed extended discussion, in which EC members and other attendees urged the committee to take action.
CP Committee chairman Rolland Slade told Baptist Press (BP) the “concern of the committee is anything that’s negatively impacting the Cooperative Program,” Southern Baptists’ unified channel for funding missions and ministries in North America and across the globe.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (left), presented the Executive Committee with a special CP gift of $200,000. Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the EC, received the gift with gratitude.

“We need to know about” such challenges, said Slade, pastor of Meridian Southern Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif., “and be on top of creating redemptive solutions.”
The ad hoc subcommittee likely will be appointed by Feb. 25, Slade said.
During a Feb. 21 plenary session, EC member Tony Crisp requested that EC officers “monitor the activities of our various Southern Baptist entities since our last convention ... in relation to how those activities might adversely affect” CP and “our churches and other stewardship structures of Southern Baptists.” He requested a report to the full EC at its June 12 meeting in Phoenix.
EC chairman Stephen Rummage responded that the request was “certainly within the purview and responsibilities of our officers ... so we are glad to comply with that request.”
Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., told BP the two efforts to study CP challenges – by the CP Committee and the EC officers – are “complementary” and will “help inform” one another.
“The issues behind [churches’] escrowing funds have risen to a level of prominence that justifies us taking a special look” at what is occurring, Rummage said.

SBC Building

While any sale of the SBC Building must be approved by both the EC and the SBC, the EC authorized its officers “to study the advisability and feasibility” of a sale “in light of interests being expressed in developing the area of Nashville, Tennessee, that includes the SBC Building.”
Financially, the convention does not need to sell the building, according to a report received by the EC’s Bylaws Workgroup. But multiple offers on the property are anticipated, and EC leaders want to be prepared to field them adequately.
The adopted recommendation requires officers “to regularly report” their progress and “any significant developments” to the EC.
EC President Frank S. Page told BP, “We have not made a decision about selling the building but wanted to get the process in place that would allow us to consider it ... in case we do receive an offer that is wonderful and if God leads.”

Constitutional amendment declined

The EC’s decision not to recommend amending Article III of the SBC Constitution came in response to a request at the 2016 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.
The EC believes “the Convention’s previous resolutions and its adopted statement of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message, speak clearly and adequately to the issue addressed in the suggested amendment,” according to the EC’s recommendation, “and it is already possible to challenge the friendly cooperation of any church on any grounds via the motion process.”
Page told BP, “We don’t want anyone to think that we are accepting racial discrimination as anything less than reprehensible. We simply realize there are a plethora of issues that could have been added to the Article III exclusionary list.”
If there is evidence of “systemic, official racial discrimination on the part of any church, we will deal with that,” Page said.

SBTC special CP gift

Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), presented the EC with a special CP gift of $200,000. The gift was in addition to the 55 percent of CP receipts the SBTC forwarded to SBC causes in 2016.
Messengers to the 2015 SBTC annual meeting voted to send the EC 100 percent of 2016 CP receipts that exceeded the budget, Richards said. When 2016 did not yield much overage, the SBTC Executive Board voted to send the $200,000 from the convention’s reserve funds out of a desire to support SBC missions and ministries.
Page received the gift with gratitude. “That is an encouragement to me and to us. Thank you, Jim.”
In other action, the EC:
– approved a 2017-18 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $192,000,000 for recommendation to the SBC during the June 13-14 annual meeting in Phoenix.
The proposed budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50.41 percent of receipts to the International Mission Board and 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board, for a total of 73.20 percent allocated for world missions ministries.
The convention’s six seminaries will receive 22.16 percent. The seminary enrollment formula for funding will yield: Gateway Seminary, 2.11 percent; Midwestern Seminary, 2.93 percent; New Orleans Seminary, 3.72 percent; Southeastern Seminary, 4.03 percent; Southern Seminary, 5.17 percent; Southwestern Seminary, 3.96 percent; and .24 percent to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, a ministry overseen by the seminary presidents. (Cumulative numbers may not match the sum of individual seminary percentages due to rounding.)
The budget proposal designates 1.65 percent to the ERLC. The SBC Operating Budget, the only CP-funded facilitating ministry, encompassing SBC annual meeting costs and the work of the Executive Committee, would receive 2.99 percent of the budget.
The formula for distributing any overage of gifts above the CP Allocation Budget would be amended to increase the IMB’s portion from 51 percent to 53.4 percent and decrease the SBC Operating Budget portion from 2.4 percent to 0 percent.
– recommended a 2017-18 SBC Operating Budget of $7,450,000.
– adopted a resolution of appreciation for Mark Edlund preceding his July retirement as executive director/treasurer of the Colorado Baptist General Convention (CBGC).
Affirming Edlund’s reputation as a man of “unquestionable integrity, honesty, and openness” and “a consummate servant leader,” the resolution noted his “numerous and distinguished” contributions to Southern Baptist life during and preceding his 16 years leading Colorado Baptists.
Under Edlund’s leadership, Colorado Baptists grew in international missions outreach, evangelism, financial health, church planting, baptisms and Cooperative Program giving to SBC causes, the resolution stated. Baptisms at Colorado churches during his tenure totaled 24,850, an average of 1,550 a year. CBGC cooperating churches increased from 240 to 283 and when added to 85 church-type missions, total 368 Southern Baptist congregations in Colorado.
Prior to his Colorado work, Edlund and his wife Kristy worked as Southern Baptist missionaries to Japan from 1984 to 2001, with Edlund holding various administrative positions in Kitakyushu. He and Kristy have been married 40 years and are parents of two adult children.
– reviewed the method for counting Gateway Seminary students for input to the Seminary Funding Formula. In light of the relocation of Gateway’s main campus, the EC’s CP Committee opted to let the seminary continue to include its northern and southern California campuses in the calculation at least until at least 2019-20.
– in response to a motion referred from the 2016 SBC annual meeting, declined to recommend that the SBC affiliate with the National Association of Evangelicals, noting the decision of whether to “affiliate with a non-Southern Baptist organization” is best left to “those churches so inclined.”
– recommended the IMB be permitted to adopt a fiscal year of Oct. 1-Sept. 30 and that the convention amend the SBC Business and Financial Plan to reflect the change.
– recommended the 2021-22 SBC Calendar of Activities to the SBC, along with amendments to the calendars for 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21.
– reelected Randy Pitman and Key Holleman, both of Nashville, to another three-year term as Southern Baptist Foundation trustees. Pitman is chief financial officer for Hemphill Brothers Coach Co.; Holleman is a senior vice president with Raymond James Financial Service.
– approved a request that the SBC Pastors’ Conference reimburse the SBC $100,000 for use of the Phoenix Convention Center’s meeting hall and other facilities June 11-12 preceding the SBC annual meeting as part of an annual reimbursement for costs in using the host facility.
– authorized a 2.1 percent increase in the Executive Committee salary structure for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
– approved the continuing contract arrangement for C. Barry McCarty to serve as chief parliamentarian for this year’s annual meeting in Phoenix.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – With reporting by Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor Diana Chandler and BP senior editor Art Toalston. David Roach is chief national correspondent for BP, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

Related articles:
Prestonwood escrows CP funds, cites ERLC actions
Singing ‘Down on My Knees,’ Gaines exhorts SBC to pray
Baptists must be ‘correct,’ Page says of stewardship
Tennessee pastor resigns as IMB trustee

2/23/2017 8:59:28 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

ANALYSIS: Trump administration rescinds school transgender policy

February 23 2017 by Joe Carter, ERLC

Feb. 22, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education issued a notice withdrawing the statements of policy and guidance issued last year by the Obama administration that affected public schools.
In May 2016, the Obama administration sent a letter to all public schools in America notifying teachers and administrators of a new regulation for treating “gender identity.” The letter stated that, to comply with federal law, policies concerning students would be based on their “gender identity” and not on their biological sex.
The Trump administration disagreed that “sex” and “gender identity” should be interpreted as synonymous and believed that the issue should be handled by states and local school districts.
Although the regulation has been rescinded, it’s important to understand how radically the directive would have changed public education in America. Here are some points you should know about the issue:

By what authority did the Obama administration issue the directive?

Although Congress is responsible for creating laws, they have ceded much of their authority to define what laws mean to the other two branches of government.
We often think the judiciary is the branch of government responsible for interpreting the law, but in reality the executive branch, whose departments act as regulatory agencies, generally determines how a statutes will be interpreted. Regulatory agencies handle administrative law, primarily by codifying and enforcing rules and regulations. When Congress passes a new law it usually goes to a regulatory agency to determine how the law will be put in place.
This specific letter was a “significant guidance” document, a policy instrument that provides “initial interpretations of statutory and regulatory requirements and changes in interpretation or policy.” These type of directives are often used to “Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President’s priorities, or the principles …”

Why was the policy changed implemented by both the Education Department and the Justice Department?

The policy change had to be accepted by both departments since the letter issued by the Obama administration provided guidance on how both the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) would “evaluate a school’s compliance” with interpretation of laws regarding transgender students.

What law was changed or interpreted by the Obama administration letter?

The letter provided guidance on the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving Federal financial assistance. The administration had reinterpreted Title IX to make “gender identity” synonymous with “sex.”
The key sentence in the letter stated, “The Departments [ED and DOJ] treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations.” In other words, if a biologically male or biologically female student “identified” as the opposite sex, then for almost all purposes public schools and colleges were required to treat them as such.

What were the penalties for refusing to follow this directive?

Because of pending lawsuits, the Obama administration was unable to fully implement the change. But school districts who did not comply would have been considered to be in violation of Title IX, and could have lost Federal funds for their school(s).

What exactly does “transgender” mean?

The letter states that, “Transgender describes those individuals whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.”
More broadly, transgenderism is an umbrella term for the state or condition of identifying or expressing a gender identity that does not match a person’s physical/genetic sex. A person can be transgender and “identify” as male, female, “third sex,” “genderfluid” (flexible about their gender identity and fluctuating between genders), “genderqueer” (not exclusively masculine or feminine‍), or dozens of variations.
Transgender is independent of sexual orientation, and those who self-identify as transgender may consider themselves to be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual or asexual.

What is “gender identity”?

As the letter defined the term, “Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of gender. A person’s gender identity may be different from or the same as the person’s sex assigned at birth.”
The LGBTQ community and their allies consider gender to be a trait that exists along a continuum and is not inherently rooted in biology or physical expressions.

How would a student prove they are transgender?

They didn’t have to prove anything; all that was required was for the student or student’s parent to notify the school of the child’s chosen gender identity. As the letter states, “Under Title IX, there is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.”
But couldn’t a “genderqueer” or “genderfluid” student claim to be both male and female at the same time?
Yes. If a child claimed to be both male and female they would have been allowed to use either male or female facilities or switch back and for the whenever they choose.

What if students or parents objected to sharing a locker room with someone of the opposite biological sex?

The letter makes it clear such concerns did not matter, and that schools would be required to provide “equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents or community members raise objections or concerns.” Under the Obama administration, choosing one’s gender identity was considered a protected civil right. As the letter noted, that means, “As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”

Would schools have been required to call male students “she” and female students “he”?

Yes. School staff and contractors would have been required to use pronouns and names consistent with a transgender student’s chosen gender identity.

How did the Obama administration directive affect restrooms and locker rooms?

Schools would have been forced to allow students to use the facilities that align with their gender identity. They would not be able to require children to use facilities based on their biological sex or use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.

How did the Obama administration directive affect athletics?

The regulation was surprisingly vague on this point. In general, if a biologically male transgender student wanted to play the girl’s team they must be allowed to do so. However, the letter also claims, “Title IX does not prohibit age-appropriate, tailored requirements based on sound, current and research-based medical knowledge about the impact of the students’ participation on the competitive fairness or physical safety of the sport.”

How would the Obama administration directive have affected single-sex classes?

When offering single-sex classes and activities, a school would have been required to allow transgender students to participate consistent with their gender identity.

How would the Obama administration directive affect single-sex schools?

Title IX does not apply to the admissions policies of certain educational institutions, including non-vocational elementary and secondary schools, and private undergraduate colleges. Those schools are therefore permitted under Title IX to set their own sex-based admissions policies.

How would the Obama administration directive affect fraternities and sororities?

Title IX does not apply to the membership practices of social fraternities and sororities. Those organizations are therefore permitted under Title IX to set their own policies regarding the sex, including gender identity, of their members.

How would the Obama administration directive have affected housing and overnight accommodations?

Schools must allow students to stay in accommodations that align with their gender identity. For example, if on an overnight field trip, a biologically male transgender student could sleep in the same room with female students.

What if a biological male wanted to wear a dress to prom?

According to the letter, a school “may not discipline students or exclude them from participating in activities for appearing or behaving in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity or that does not conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity (e.g., in yearbook photographs, at school dances or at graduation ceremonies).”

Does the change allow schools to discriminate against transgender students?

No. According to the new directive, the withdrawal of the Obama administration letter “does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment. All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment. The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights will continue its duty under law to hear all claims of discrimination and will explore every appropriate opportunity to protect all students and to encourage civility in our classrooms. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice are committed to the application of Title IX and other federal laws to ensure such protection.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Carter serves as a communications specialist for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. This article first appeared at erlc.com. Used by permission.)

2/23/2017 8:55:01 AM by Joe Carter, ERLC | with 0 comments

Assisted suicide marches on as Congress fails to act

February 23 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Physician-assisted suicide officially has a new home in the wake of congressional inaction, and its proponents are pushing more jurisdictions to legalize the lethal practice.
The District of Columbia’s Death With Dignity Act went into effect Feb. 18 when Congress failed to overturn the measure by the deadline. The Senate and House of Representatives have 30 days after the district approves legislation to rescind it under their authority to review D.C. actions. A disapproval resolution passed by both chambers also must be signed by the president.
With their victory in America’s capital, advocates are seeking to extend assisted suicide’s reach beyond the six states where it is already legal. Nearly half of the state legislatures are considering legalization measures in their current sessions.
Southern Baptist public policy specialist Travis Wussow acknowledged the challenge ahead.
“We have work to do to ensure our elected officials understand that assisting suicide is inconsistent with a pro-life ethic and a compassionate society,” said Wussow, general counsel and vice president for public policy of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
The ERLC is “disappointed Congress failed to respond to D.C.’s physician-assisted suicide ordinance,” he told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “For physicians to actively participate in the death of a patient is contrary to the healer role of a physician.”
The district measure – passed by the D.C. Council in November and signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser in December – authorizes doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and supposedly have less than six months to live. Though a House committee forwarded a disapproval resolution Feb. 13, the proposal received no vote from the full House or the Senate by the deadline four days later.
Southern Baptist bioethicist C. Ben Mitchell said Congress’ failure to act “seems to be either a sad dereliction of duty or a cowardly strategy to pass a law by neglect.”
The inaction “is eerily similar” to assisted suicide, said Mitchell, provost and professor of moral philosophy at Union University, in written remarks for BP. “Assisted suicide is either a dereliction of duty by physicians who should be attending to patients as persons or an example of negligence in not treating the real needs of their patients.
“Death by assisted suicide is anything but dignity in dying,” said Mitchell, also editor of the journal Ethics & Medicine.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio – sponsor of the House disapproval resolution – told BP in a written statement, “[O]ur commitment to protecting patients from the dangers of this deeply flawed legislation remains unchanged.”
Along with other members, Wenstrup said he would continue efforts to educate Congress and citizens about “our concerns over the consequences of legalizing physician-assisted suicide here in the nation’s capital and across the country. Americans deserve better.”
Upon introducing a companion bill in January, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said D.C. has “not addressed the legality of their ability to create this law,” citing a 1997 federal measure that bars the use of federal funds – including those for D.C. – for reasons related to assisted suicide.
Congressional foes of assisted suicide apparently hope to utilize another strategy in another attempt to nullify the D.C. law. Assisted suicide advocates believe members of Congress will seek to deny the funding required to implement the measure.
“[W]hile it is true that opponents want to defund and overturn the law, no funding is required for the law to go into effect,” said Jessica Grennan, national director of political affairs and advocacy, for Compassion and Choices. “We urge anyone who is eligible and considering this option to make the request of their doctor right away, since we cannot predict whether or when this right may be stripped away by Congress.”
In 22 states, legislators have introduced – or are expected to introduce – in their current sessions bills legalizing assisted suicide, according to the Death With Dignity National Center. Proposals in Hawaii and New Mexico already have received committee approval. In addition to D.C., assisted suicide is also legal in California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Assisted suicide is not just potentially abusive, but it already is being used in place of health care, foes say. Some Americans with terminal illnesses have reported Medicaid and/or their insurance companies have informed them they will pay for a lethal prescription but not drugs to treat their afflictions.
Messengers to the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention meeting adopted a resolution affirming “the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.” The resolution called on churches and Christians “to care for the elderly among us, to show them honor and dignity, and to prayerfully support and counsel those who are providing end-of-life care for the aged, the terminally ill, and the chronically infirmed.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/23/2017 8:52:12 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

78 U.S. lawmakers call for release of jailed pastor

February 23 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers have signed a letter calling for the release of Andrew Brunson, a U.S. citizen believed to have been jailed for his Christian faith in Turkey where he had pastored more than 23 years.

Facebook photo
Pastor Andrew Brunson, shown in this photo with his wife Norine, is imprisoned in Turkey on false charges because of his Christian faith.

The chairman and ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee are among 78 signatories of the letter calling for Brunson’s release, Senate committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said in a Feb. 16 press release. Brunson, formerly of Black Mountain, N.C., has been held since October 2016 on accusations of being a member of an armed terrorist group.
“The United States and Turkey have benefited from a close partnership for decades, and we hope to be in a position to continue strengthening these ties,” reads the letter sent Feb. 15 to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Now is the time for our countries to reaffirm respect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law while reasserting our shared commitment to addressing security challenges through partnership and cooperation.”
The U.S. lawmakers urged Erdogan “to consider Mr. Brunson’s case and how the recent treatment of Mr. Brunson places significant strain not only on him and his family, but also on the robust bilateral relationship between the United States and Turkey,” and appealed to Erdogan “to inquire as to the options for promptly deporting Mr. Brunson and to act on them expeditiously.”
Brunson, identified as an Evangelical Presbyterian by the Presbyterian Lay Committee, had led the Izmir Resurrection Church of about 40 worshippers in Izmir without government interference until he and his wife Norine sought to renew their Visas. Brunson is accused of having links with the Fetullah Gulen movement, blamed by the Turkish government for a failed military coup against Erdogan.
The pastor was reportedly detained 63 days since early October 2016 without charges at the Harmandali Detention Center in Izmir, before being imprisoned Dec. 9, 2016 at nearby Sakran Prison. Brunson’s wife Norine had also been detained, but was released Oct. 19 after the couple had reportedly been held in isolation two weeks. The Brunsons have three adult children studying in the U.S.
Joining Corker as signatories are U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate committee; U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), House committee chairman, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), House committee ranking member. They are joined by 35 senators, including 27 Republicans and eight Democrats; and 39 representatives, including 34 Republicans and five Democrats, according to Corker.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is also advocating for Brunson’s release. In coordination with its European affiliate, the European Centre for Law & Justice (ECLJ), the ACLJ sent a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council (U.N. HRC) on Brunson’s behalf.
“One of the hallmarks of Turkey’s proud history is the respect for all faiths. Thus, Turkey should respectfully be reminded of its continuing obligations under its constitution as well as the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] to respect and value the freedom of religion,” reads the letter posted on the ACLJ website. “The ECLJ urges this Council to call upon Turkey to honour its obligations. The ECLJ further requests that the U.N. make every effort to ensure that Pastor Brunson is not only treated with great care, but that he is quickly released and allowed to return home without injury or delay.”
Brunson is the lone Christian among 19 prisoners contained in a 10-person cell, the ACLJ said on its website. His daughter Jacqueline Brunson, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is delaying her wedding in hopes of her father’s release, the ACLJ said.
An estimated 100,000 Christians live among Turkey’s 80 million people, said the International Christian Concern, also advocating for Brunson’s freedom.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

2/23/2017 8:47:56 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastors’ Conference speakers meet to unify sermons

February 23 2017 by Keith Collier, Southern Baptist TEXAN

This year’s Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference has already promised several firsts, including the first time all preachers will be from small- and medium-sized churches and all sermons will walk through a book of the Bible expositionally.

Photo by Keith Collier
David Allen, dean of Southwestern Seminary’s School of Preaching, exhorts pastors scheduled for this summer’s Pastors’ Conference to preach “text-driven” sermons during a Feb. 6-7 colloquium at the seminary’s Texas campus.

This year’s Pastors’ Conference added another first – the first time the speakers met in advance to discuss their passages to ensure cohesive unity to their sermons.
Eleven of the 12 pastors, whose churches range in attendance from 60 to 500, met with Pastors’ Conference officers as well as preaching faculty from Southwestern (SWBTS) and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminaries (NOBTS) on Southwestern’s campus Feb. 6-7 for what was called the Pastors’ Conference Colloquium.
David Allen, dean of Southwestern’s School of Preaching told the Southern Baptist TEXAN that, in addition to featuring preachers from small- to medium-sized churches, “the lineup is amazingly diverse ethnically.”
The Pastors’ Conference is slated June 11-12 prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting, June 13-14 in the Phoenix Convention Center.
Allen led the colloquium’s main sessions, speaking on key foundations for effective sermons and preaching “text-driven” sermons reflecting the substance, structure and style of the biblical text.
Recognizing it would be the largest audience most of the pastors have addressed, Allen also gave advice for adjusting to a larger preaching venue, including addressing distractions, eye contact and voice projection.
SWBTS and NOBTS preaching faculty led various breakout sessions, pairing the preachers with a professor to discuss their specific passages and approaches to preaching the texts.
“The goal of the colloquium was informational and inspirational,” Allen said, seeking to provide the preachers with information that would assist them in writing text-driven sermons on the paragraph units of Philippians” and wanting them “to be inspired and encouraged as they approach the Pastors’ Conference to preach.”

Photo by Keith Collier
Preaching faculty from Southwestern and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminaries pray over pastors who will speak at this summer’s Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix.

Allen admitted to the group that he was initially skeptical of sequentially preaching through a book of the Bible in a conference format, concerned for maintaining continuity, but he changed his mind after helping in a similar approach at the 2016 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting, where the six convention sermons focused on Romans 8.
Pastors’ Conference President Dave Miller, a small-church pastor from Sioux City, Iowa, proposed the idea for changing the conference lineup and preaching expositionally through a book of the Bible in a blog post in April 2016. Miller said he was surprised two months later when he was nominated and elected president of the conference.
Miller called for recommendations of smaller church pastors who practice expository preaching, and after a thorough process of prayer and listening to sermons, 12 men were selected, most of whom Miller had never met. His team also selected the book of Philippians.
“One of the reasons we chose Philippians was because it had good preaching passages but did not have a lot of the theological minefields,” Miller told the TEXAN. “We wanted to stay away from some of the things that had been controversial in the convention.”
Miller said the colloquium provided a venue for the pastors to get to know one another and create a team approach.
“We really want to make this a team, not just 12 individual speakers,” Miller said. “That was the purpose of the colloquium, to get a unified approach to Philippians so that it’s not just 12 individual sermons but a common outline, a common approach.”
Miller said the colloquium would not have been possible without the generous hospitality of Southwestern Seminary; the expertise offered by Allen and other preaching faculty from Southwestern and New Orleans seminaries; and the Pastors’ Conference’s partnership with the NOBTS Caskey Center for Church Excellence, which focuses on smaller membership and bivocational Southern Baptist churches and is directed by professor Mark Tolbert.
Tolbert exhorted the pastors to be faithful witnesses of the Word during one of the sessions, challenging them to walk in humility and to rely on the power of God’s Word in their sermons.
Voicing enthusiasm for this year’s Pastors’ Conference format, Tolbert told the TEXAN, “We think it’s going to be great to model what it is to preach through an entire book of the Bible.
“Some pastors have heard about that but have never done it, and this is going to be an example of how to do that. We think expository preaching is one of the best practices for how to have church health,” Tolbert said.
“These guys are not celebrities,” he added, “but we want the celebrity of the Pastors’ Conference to be the Word of God and the Lord Jesus.”
Tolbert said the Caskey Center will be sharing research data at the Pastors’ Conference conducted in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, led by Ed Stetzer, on “best practices in smaller membership churches for health and growth.”
Ryan Rice, pastor of Connect Church in New Orleans and one of the Pastors’ Conference speakers, said he left the colloquium greatly encouraged despite possibly being the pastor with one of the smallest congregations ever to preach at the conference. Even though this will be the largest audience to which he has preached, Rice told the TEXAN he has peace, “knowing the Lord is with me, and we will be proclaiming His Word.”
“But isn’t that the beauty of this conference – pastors unknown to the larger body of the SBC that love their church, people and the Word of God? I was immensely humbled to be in the room with brothers who love Jesus and can preach the Word.”
Rice noted that the breakout sessions gave him further clarity on preaching Philippians 2:12-19. “[H]aving the brother who would be preaching before me helped me to see how the main message of the book ties in with the passage I would be preaching as well.”
Spencer Plumlee, pastor of Riverview Baptist Church in Osage Beach, Mo., noted he benefitted from the breakout sessions, bouncing ideas off a preaching professor and hearing of resources for further sermon preparation on Philippians 3:12-16.
“I think every preacher at the Pastors’ Conference will be tied to the text very tightly because of the colloquium,” he said.
“I loved the opportunity to meet different pastors in similar contexts throughout the country,” Plumlee added. “It was very encouraging to know that there are many faithful brothers dealing with similar if not the same issues.”
Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, will preach from Philippians 4:2-9, a difficult passage, he said, because the relationship between the three paragraphs can be difficult to discern.
“I feel so much better prepared to bring a message that fits as a part of the unified whole of the book of Philippians and the sermons that all of these men will bring,” Barber said.
“It is my desire that the pastor of an average-sized church in the SBC walks away from this conference and says, ‘I didn’t know who any of those guys were, but they all did a good job. They don’t know who I am either, but I can do a good job, too. The power is in the Word of God, and the Bible in my hands is the same Bible that the famous pastor holds in his hands. I’m going to preach it with faithfulness and excellence.’”
Contemporary hymn writers Keith & Kristyn Getty will lead worship at the Pastors’ Conference, which is themed “Above Every Name.” For a complete list of speakers and more information, visit sbcpc.net.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

2/23/2017 8:29:06 AM by Keith Collier, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

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