January 2010

Cale names interim director

January 29 2010 by Associated Baptist Press

HERTFORD — A Baptist association in North Carolina has hired an interim replacement for a camp director arrested last summer on molestation charges.

Chowan Baptist Association has employed Matt Thomas, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Elizabeth City, as interim director of Cale Retreat & Conference Center. The job begins Feb. 1 and is scheduled to last through August.

The camp’s permanent director, Steve Carter, is on administrative leave since his arrest July 1 on charges of taking indecent liberties with a child and first-degree sex offense involving a child. A grand jury later added four more felony charges.

Thomas earned the bachelor's, master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Campbell University Divinity School.

“I believe that God has brought Matt to us for this time in the ministry of Cale,” Associational Missionary Rob Roberts wrote in the association's February 2010 newsletter. “We look forward to what the Lord has in store for the Cale ministry as we seek to touch the lives of children, youth, and adults for Christ.”

Roberts asked Baptists in the association to pray both for Thomas and for Carter and his family. Carter was quoted in media denying the allegations against him. If convicted of the most serious offenses, he could receive up to life in prison.

Roberts said in an e-mail to Associated Baptist Press that no trial date has been set.

Before taking over as director of the Christian camp operated by Chowan Baptist Association in 2002, Carter served as a Southern Baptist missionary in Belize from 1997 to 2001 through a short-term mission program called International Service Corps.  
1/29/2010 10:07:00 AM by Associated Baptist Press | with 1 comments

GCR task force to issue progress report

January 29 2010 by Joe Westbury, Baptist Press

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Great Commission Resurgence Task Force members have wrapped up three days of deliberations in advance of making a preliminary report on their findings in February.

At the meeting’s adjournment on Jan. 28, task force chairman Ronnie Floyd said the 23-member group will make a “progress report” to the SBC Executive Committee when it meets in Nashville Feb. 22-23, with the entire document to be released May 3.

Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., said the task force “still has a lot of work to do between now and June but we want to take this opportunity to bring Southern Baptists along in our work.”

Floyd said the update will contain “several items, such as where we are at this point, how we see the final document shaping up, how our vision is coming together.” He declined to be more specific.

Photo by Joe Westbury/Christian Index

SBC President Johnny Hunt, right, in first public appearance since his successful prostate surgery Jan. 7, visits with North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear during a break in the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force sessions in San Antonio, Texas.

There will be another meeting or two of the work group as it coalesces around a definitive statement on the spiritual condition of Southern Baptists and suggestions for how the convention can be more effective, Floyd said.

The San Antonio meeting occurred three days before Southern Baptists were to set aside Jan. 31 as a day of prayer for the future of the convention and its missions outreach. SBC President Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., issued the call to prayer after input from Richard Harris, interim president of the North American Mission Board, and Frank Page, NAMB’s vice president for evangelism.

Floyd, as spokesman for the group appointed by Hunt at last year’s SBC annual meeting, underscored the considerable amount of work yet to be done and the limited amount of time in which to accomplish its goals.

“Our task is very large and we all have full-time ministries and other normal demands on our time. We continue to be in the process of developing that vision and will continue to meet until we have finished the task,” he said. “We still have a document to write.”

Floyd did not specify how many other times the group may meet, but did say an unofficial timetable is to have the final document released by May 3 on its pray4gcr.com website.

“Southern Baptists will be able to go online and see for themselves what we believe” the future holds for the convention, Floyd said. “We will spend the month of May tweaking the document, if any tweaking is needed, before it is formally presented to messengers to the annual meeting in Orlando on June 15-16.”

All 6,000 individuals who have registered at the site also will receive an e-mail copy of the document as soon as it is released, Floyd said.

The task force was the initiative of Hunt, who made the call for a Great Commission resurgence the hallmark of his presidency. He will complete his second term as SBC president at the Orlando meeting. With only five months to go, no one has yet been announced as a candidate for the open position.

The San Antonio meeting was the first public appearance by Hunt since his successful prostate surgery Jan. 7.

The task force has met on five occasions: twice in Atlanta and once in Springdale, Ark., at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and San Antonio.

Hunt’s seminal document, called A Great Commission Declaration, was first posted to the website www.greatcommissionresurgence.com on April 27 of last year. That site has since become pray4gcr.com.

“The purpose of this is so that we may be a more effective people to carry the good news of the gospel to the ends of the earth,” Hunt said at that time.

The 10-point declaration calls for:
  1. A Commitment to Christ’s Lordship
  2. A Commitment to Gospel-Centeredness
  3. A Commitment to the Great Commandments
  4. A Commitment to Biblical Inerrancy and Sufficiency
  5. A Commitment to a Healthy Confessional Center
  6. A Commitment to Biblically Healthy Churches
  7. A Commitment to Sound Biblical Preaching
  8. A Commitment to a Methodological Diversity that is Biblically Informed
  9. A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure
  10. A Commitment to Distinctively Christian Families
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)  
1/29/2010 9:03:00 AM by Joe Westbury, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Haiti survivors ache for family, friends

January 29 2010 by Tristan Taylor, Baptist Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — In certain places on the northern outskirts of Port-au-Prince, cars are stuck in traffic jams, street vendors are selling vegetables and people are filling restaurants.

BP photo

Enso Jean Louis, 22, lost his parents and five of his siblings during the Haiti earthquake. Enso, who is a believer, clings to his faith as he lies in a hospital bed, recovering from an injured right leg. He has not seen his surviving sister since he was admitted to the hospital and does not know where she is.

Despite these pockets of activity on the outskirts, the effects of the earthquake that claimed more than 150,000 Haitian lives two weeks ago continue to echo loudly throughout the city and surrounding areas.

In hospitals, volunteers offer medical care for broken bones and missionaries deliver supplies to help rebuild broken lives. But the catastrophe also has broken apart countless families.

Enso Jean Louis is alone in L’Hopital de Fermathe. He was brought there nearly two weeks after the quake. But unlike many of his fellow patients, the 22-year-old wasn’t accompanied by any family.

With bolts protruding from both sides of his injured right leg, he lies on a bed in a far corner of the ward. The bolts are attached to a brace that holds his bone in place. Filled with the noise of scrubs-clad medics rushing to treat the injured, the room is overflowing with patients and visiting family members. But there is no one at Enso’s bedside.

“My parents were taking care of us,” he says in Haitian Creole. “I relied on them. I do not know what can be done now.”

When the earthquake hit, Enso and his sister were watching television on the second story of his family’s house. His parents were downstairs with his other five siblings. Enso was knocked into the yard, where a block of concrete fell on his leg. The second story of the house collapsed onto the first, taking the lives of those downstairs.

The sister who was with him upstairs survived, but the two were soon separated when Enso was taken for medical care.

“I do not know where she is,” he says. “Today is 15 days without seeing (anyone I know). I feel that I am alone. There are no people coming here. They are not looking for me.”

But Enso, who is a believer, clings to his faith. As he stares at the ceiling through hazy eyes, his fingers wrap tighter around a blue Creole-language New Testament.

In the Dominican Republic
In Barahona, Dominican Republic, a farmhouse on the outskirts of town has been converted into a patient-care ward.

BP photo

Florence Jean Baptiste’s friend, Merison Aristide, left, and her brother, Rodrigue Arius, help her walk to a car following treatment at a hospital outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Baptiste underwent surgery on her femur to treat injuries suffered during the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Inside, makeshift beds line the walls of what was once the living room. There is no volunteer medical staff, only caregivers who keep vigil in plastic chairs beside their patients.

Behind a wall of curtains dividing the room, 22-year-old Johnny Francois sits at the foot of his sister’s bed. Dieula has a row of stitches on her left side that stretch from her thigh to her ribs. Johnny has a small bandage around his right foot. While his sister sleeps, he gazes listlessly at the floor.

Johnny is the oldest of 12 siblings. When Dieula was sent to the Dominican Republic for medical care, Johnny went along to look after her. He has not seen his other family members since. All he can do is stay with his sister and wait. He passes each day, a healthy man in a room full of injured people, hoping for some sign their situation will soon change.

“My father — I don’t know where is him,” he says in broken English. “I don’t know this country.”

He looks around the room where he has spent the past two weeks and shakes his head.

“I have no person come to see me. No person come to help me,” he says. “I do not have a friend.”

The quake separated loved ones as some were trapped under rubble and others were rushed away for medical care. The situation was made worse when hundreds of unidentified bodies were buried in mass graves. Haitians may search for loved ones for months to come, wondering who might still be alive.

But for now, many feel the added ache of loneliness — a pain sometimes not immediately visible to volunteers or treatable by doctors. They long for a listening ear, an encouraging smile and a friend with whom to share hope.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Taylor is a writer for the International Mission Board in the Americas.)

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1/29/2010 8:56:00 AM by Tristan Taylor, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Bobby Bowden: ‘studying for my finals’

January 29 2010 by Joni B. Hannigan, Baptist Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Clutching his Bible in one hand and gesturing toward the sky with the other, Bobby Bowden, one of the winningest coaches in college football history, said he didn’t know “when the end” would come for him, but “I’m studying for my finals.”

Prepping to end a coaching career spanning 55 years, the last 33 at Florida State, the 80-year-old grandfather and member of First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, spoke about his faith at the Gator Bowl’s Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s breakfast.

Bowden, who amassed 389 career victories and two national championships, chuckled in predicting that many in the room didn’t know who they would marry, how many children they would have, where they would eventually live or what kind of job they would have.

“I’ve already been there. Mine’s past. Eighty years’ worth,” Bowden said. “Therefore, I can see exactly how God put my life together. All y’all can’t yet.”

Taking it back to the 1940s, Bowden said rheumatic fever kept him in bed for six months when he was 13. The doctor told him to forget athletics. Three years later, Bowden recounted, his mother came into his bedroom, asked him if he believed in God and prayer and then challenged him to ask God for healing.

“I prayed God would heal me and let me play again,” Bowden said. After those three years of inactivity, a heart specialist told him to “go sic ’em.”

Photo courtesy of FSU Sports Information

Although he is exiting the sidelines at Florida State, Bobby Bowden says he can see “exactly how God put my life together.”

From high school to college and then to his first job, Bowden learned to trust God’s leading, never wondering about the next step. After graduating from Howard University (now Samford in Birmingham, Ala.), Bowden said the athletic director told him to go earn his master’s degree and they would hire him as the assistant coach.

Tracing his route from there to South Georgia College to FSU (as assistant coach 1963-65) to West Virginia and then back to FSU in 1976, Bowden said he never had to ask for a job.

“If you’ll put your faith in God through Jesus Christ and ask Him to lead you, He will do that. That’s what He did in my life,” Bowden said. “We think that God’s not alive, that He can’t work miracles.

“He worked one with me.”

Retelling a story about when Ronald Reagan was governor of California and running for president, Bowden said he went to Washington to meet with religious leaders including Billy Graham and the late Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy.

Kennedy, who served 47 years at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, asked Reagan what would happen if he were to die. Reagan, Bowden recalled, recited John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

“And with you, I leave that answer,” Bowden told the crowd. “Don’t you forget that answer. Because you are gonna have to use it one of these days. I am too.”

Harkening back again to his boyhood home in Alabama, Bowden said he would lie down in the front yard after tossing a football around on a warm summer day, looking up at the clouds, thinking about God and wishing he could see Him.

“The great story is ... God not only stuck His head out, He came down here,” Bowden said. “... Jesus says, ‘I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. You are not going to get to the Father but through Me.’... He made the invisible visible.”

Bowden ended his career at the Gator Bowl Jan. 1 with a 33-21 win over West Virginia.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness.)
1/29/2010 8:52:00 AM by Joni B. Hannigan, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Author worries online communities hurt real ones

January 29 2010 by Nancy Haught, Religion News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. — When it comes to Facebook, Jesse Rice sees an immensely popular social networking site that’s great for sharing photos and keeping in touch with friends.

He also sees something that encourages attitudes and behaviors that don’t work as well in real life.

Rice, 37, is the author of The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community. A former worship leader an evangelical megachurch in California, he has degrees in organizational communication and counseling/psychology and — just as important to his readers — a sense of humor.

On a video he uploaded to YouTube, he explains his credentials for writing the book. “I can look at various parts of an organization, at the flow of communication back and forth within the independent structure, and I can identify all the ways that it’s your parents’ fault,” he quips.

And “I have an actual Facebook account with well over 100 friends.” Yes, he acknowledges that some people have 6 million fans on a Facebook fan page.

“But, back off, Vin Diesel,” he snarls. “It is possible to be too fast and too furious.”

Actually, being too fast to judge others and too furious to write a well-considered post are two ways Facebook thwarts meaningful community, according to Rice, who argues that Facebook redefines the term altogether.

“Our definition of community has shifted,” he says. “Now it’s a continuum, with 10 being your best friend and 1 being people you just sort of bump into online. But it’s all community.”  

RNS photo by Faith Cathcart/The Oregonian

Jesse Rice of Portland, Ore., is the author of The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community.

Facebook has its bashers, especially in Christian circles. While some believers say they find genuine community online, others insist that face-to-face interaction is essential to a life of faith.

Some users find satisfaction in building and sharing their profiles, but others worry that Facebook breeds an all-about-me attitude and is eroding the capacity to listen and empathize.

In broad strokes and funny asides, Rice creates a context for Facebook and connects it to Christian experience. It’s too early to tell how the book will do, Pape says, but sales have surpassed 5,000 copies and the publisher’s preparing a second printing.

Rice, who admits he had an early crush on Facebook, says he and the social networking site are just living together now, although he expects the relationship to last. Launched in 2004, Facebook has more than 350 million users, and more are joining all the time.

“Facebook has become part of our lives,” he says. “And we’re just beginning to learn how to be human in it.

Rice has seen people give up on “embodied relationships” because they feel freer on Facebook. “People do argue that there’s a richness to relationships online,” he says. But it could be that they don’t know what they’re missing. “We don’t feel that hunger anymore.”

Rice figures his readers — he also blogs at http://churchoffacebook.com — are mostly pastors and parents wondering how Facebook fits into the lives of people they care about.

In a little more than 200 pages, Rice recounts the brief history of Facebook and compares it to other technological achievements that have transformed modern life: Air conditioning, for example, changed where and how Americans lived, ate, worked and spent their leisure time. Facebook shows signs of doing the same.

But Rice draws on his counseling experience to argue that prolonged hyperconnectivity shortens attention spans; that fear of missing out tethers people to technology and undermines their sense of control; that creating a Facebook profile turns some people into celebrities and their friends into an entourage or audience.

While he still has concerns, Rice says Facebook in many ways is just the latest version of an age-old concern.

“Whatever technology that’s in front of us always challenges us,” he says. “Our parents thought we listened to the radio too much.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Haught writes for The Oregonian.)
1/29/2010 8:47:00 AM by Nancy Haught, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Hammond interim pastor in Columbus, Ga.

January 28 2010 by Staff

Geoff Hammond, former president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), has been called as interim pastor of Wynnbrook Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga.

Hammond was forced to resign from NAMB for reasons never officially disclosed. NAMB board president Tim Patterson said following the closed door meeting Aug. 11, 2009 that resulted in Hammond’s resignation, that more information would be forthcoming “very soon.”

No other information has been offered by Patterson or the NAMB board concerning the forced resignations of Hammond and three of his associates. An article in the George Christian Index indicated “
Hammond’s 26-month administration had come under increasing criticism during the past year for chronic morale problems and leadership issues.”

Wynnbrook’s pastor Brad Hicks left in 2008 after more than 25 years at the church. Kevin Calhoun has handled interim duties the past 15 months, and will become the church administrator, according to a story in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

1/28/2010 8:47:00 AM by Staff | with 0 comments

Board elects Blanton, approves Caraway expansion

January 28 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Bobby Blanton will lead the North Carolina Board of Directors for the coming year after his election as president during the January 25-26 board meeting at Caraway Conference Center.

The board also elected an executive committee; affirmed a partnership with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association; and approved a $7.5 million fund raising effort to develop Caraway Conference Center.

Milton Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer, encouraged North Carolina Baptists to adopt the “Find it Here” evangelistic outreach around Easter, and to register their intent at www.finditherenc.org.

At the time of the board meeting, just 337 churches had committed to the outreach, which emphasizes an evangelistic sermon and invitation at Easter, a service when many persons attend a service out of tradition or curiosity who have not made a Christian commitment, according to Don McCutcheon, BSC group leader for evangelization.

Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church for 13 years, succeeds Allan Blume as board president. Blume led the board for three years.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Outgoing Board Chair Allan Blume.

“My predecessor lifted the bar so high,” Blanton said when accepting the gavel. “I can’t tell you how much I respect and appreciate the work of brother Allan Blume.” 

“With your prayerful support and patient encouragement we can proceed down the path that brother Allan and others like him have charted for us,” Blanton said.

Blanton also leads a BSC Executive Committee composed of Convention officers and the chairman of each board work committee. Additionally, the board elects four of its members at-large to serve on the Executive Committee.

Board Committee chairs are:
  • David Richardson, First Creedmoor Church, Business Services;
  • Todd Marlow, Westmoreland Baptist Church, Church Planting and Missions Development;
  • James Horton, Rocky Hock Baptist Church, Communications;
  • Scott Faw, Moon’s Chapel Baptist Church, Congregational Services;
  • Aaron Wallace, Hephzibah Baptist Church, Evangelization;
  • Joel Stephens, Westfield Baptist Church, Christian Higher Education;
  • Cameron McGill, First Baptist Church Dublin, Christian Social Services;
  • Mark Blair, Welcome First Baptist Church, Christian Life and Public Affairs.
At large members elected are:
  • Shannon Scott, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Raleigh, nominated by Joel Stephens;
  • Ann Beck, First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, nominated by Ray Talley;
  • Jonathan Hall, Oak Grove Baptist Church, nominated by Joe Denson and
  • Joe Denson, Southview Baptist Church in Charlotte, nominated by Todd Marlow.
Convention officers Ed Yount, Mark Harris and CJ Bordeaux also serve on the Executive Committee.

Dale Duncan, N.C. Baptist Men’s president, said N.C. Baptist Men is registering those interested in participating in short-term Haiti recovery missions at www.ncmissions.org. He said participants need a current passport to travel to Haiti.

In what may be a surprise to many, Steve Hardy, missions pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, said the series of immunizations needed for safe travel to Haiti could cost as much as $700. They cannot all be taken at once, so planning is recommended.

He recommended going to the Center for Disease Control website to learn what immunizations are recommended.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton Hollifield recognized re-elected board vice president Cindy Stevens for her past service.

Duncan said the primary building at the Shelby work camp is “almost up” and will be ready to operate by summer.

Following a request in November 2009 to upgrade salaries that are below the 85 percent level of the mid-range for salaries, Business Services Group Leader John Butler presented a plan to upgrade the salaries of several BSC employees.

The Executive Committee, which functions as the personnel committee of the board, approved $3,400 to be allocated immediately to address “severe deficiencies in pay structure.”

BSC staff salaries are established on a framework built by consultants Blount and Associates, who work with many non-profits and other Baptist state conventions. Blount established national low, mid and maximum ranges of salaries for organizations in similar work and based on the position’s responsibility, location and cost of living.

BSC salaries are targeted at 85 percent of the mid-range.

The 121 positions under consideration include nine at the camps and conference centers, and 94 in the five Convention groups.

Several positions were “below the minimum in pay scale,” Butler said.

The immediate allocation will come from the $63,000 income over expenses in 2009. If 2010 income warrants, an additional $21,000 will be allocated to the salaries of the individuals affected “to get them all to 85 percent of midpoint, as performance indicates,” Butler said.

Although 2009 income from Cooperative Program gifts from churches was 5.4 percent below the previous year, Hollifield said he “rejoices in people placing great faith in God rather than going into a mode of fear and holding back on their giving to God.”

He reiterated that 2009 “will be remembered as one of the most difficult times economically in our state, as well as the nation.”

He said the Convention adjusted spending to finish the year $63,000 in the black. He said he appreciated the “gracious spirit” various BSC agencies have had as they have worked together with budget shortfalls.

“I wish we had more income but I thank God He has blessed us and given us what He has,” Hollifield said.

Caraway master plan
Caraway Conference Center Director Jimmy Huffman has been working for two years on a master plan to push development of the 1,100 acre site.

Board President Blanton will appoint a seven-member committee to begin campaign planning to raise $7.5 million for the first phase of further development.

The first phase will include an additional 20-room hotel unit; 250 seat auditorium, expanded kitchen and dining space and the first of what could become three “mini-lodges” at which churches could have self-contained retreats.

It would also include a separate lodge for such things as self-contained youth retreats, even in summer when Camp Caraway is running full tilt.

Plans include refurbishing the Bill Jackson outdoor chapel, enclosing for all weather use the basketball court and adding a welcome center and new parking.      
1/28/2010 4:42:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Board affirms New York partnership

January 28 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

The North Carolina Baptist board of directors affirmed a partnership with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) during action Jan. 26. The partnership potential was initiated in December, with a visit by MNYBA representatives to Raleigh and a presentation by N.C. Baptist Men, which coordinates both their partnerships and collaborations with the Baptist State Convention (BSC). 

The MNYBA covers parts of three states and includes 20 million people. New York City is the most intensely urban setting in America, in what many consider the world’s most important city. Southern Baptists planted their first church in New York City in 1958. Currently 260 SBC related churches are at work to win their city to faith in Jesus Christ, including 200 ethnic churches.

Vision trips are planned in February and March by BSC and N.C.  Men’s leadership to explore ways North Carolina Baptists can help in New York. Leaders emphasize this will be a true partnership as New York Baptists will come south to help North Carolinians become more effective in urban ministry.

“Probably the most important city in the world is New York City,” said Baptist Men’s director Richard Brunson. “What happens in New York shapes so many things in the world.”

Brunson said with 500 people groups identified in New York, Baptists there “have a vision for reaching not only New York City but the world for Christ.” New York Baptists have been doing urban ministry for 50 years and with North Carolina rapidly becoming an urban state, the opportunity for learning “is a great opportunity that God has laid before us,” Brunson said.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Milton Hollifield, right, leads a commissioning prayer launching the partnership of North Carolina Baptists with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association. State Convention leaders gather around MNYBA leader George Russ.

MNYBA Director of Missions George Russ is a missions product. A native New Yorker, he greeted the board in Spanish. Then he told a true, but atypical story of what it is like to minister in the city.

Years ago after teaching a class late at night he went out to his car to find the battery had been stolen. He sought help from a nearby pastor on the 25th floor of an apartment building. The pastor loaned Russ the battery from his church van. Russ went back upstairs to call his wife, since it was now 1 a.m., and he asked the pastor to wait for him in his car.

While the pastor waited in the car, a man tapped on the window and offered to sell him a battery!

Primary initiatives
Russ, who has been led the MNYBA since September 2009, said the association has three primary initiatives the North Carolina partnership can enhance.
  • Brand new churches.
“We need churches in New York City,” Russ said. The newest church in the association constituted Dec. 27, 2009 as the New Revival Church. Members speak four languages and the pastor drives a cab during the day.
  • Community transformation.
Russ wants New York Baptists and their partners to share the gospel on the streets in practical ways, conduct servant evangelism and “least of these” ministries. Cultural centers reaching out to language groups offer a great venue in which to teach English as a Second Language classes.
  • Work within the context toward worldwide impact.
Just as cities were New Testament centers of evangelism, “we feel we can be too,” Russ said. He said the biblical strategy was to reach the cities and then “everyone in the whole region” became a Christ follower.

Russ emphasized that participating North Carolina churches would reap tangible benefit.

“You’re going to meet family members you haven’t met before,” he said. “There is a big family waiting for you in New York, and you will be encouraged about what God is doing.”

He said North Carolina Baptists would be able to worship with the world as one in the body of Christ. The 12-member worship team of Ebenezer Baptist Church, he said, has members from every continent.

Additionally, those who work in New York “will have the world on your heart all the time” and the partnerships churches establish “will be long lasting.”

“You’ll be humbled, stretched and broken,” Russ said. “You’ll pray more and deeper and your witness will be improved and your desire to be like Jesus and take up your cross and follow Him will be enhanced.”

Mike Sowers of N.C. Baptist Men will be primary contact for the partnership. Contact him at msowers@ncbaptist.org. Already specific needs are being posted at www.ncmissions.org for teams as early as this summer.
1/28/2010 3:27:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Haiti missionaries ask: ‘Why (not) me?’

January 28 2010 by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Religion News Service

Having survived a devastating earthquake during a 10-day mission trip to Haiti, Freedom Gassoway now savors every minute she spends at home with her family in Beaverton, Ore. But for this 33-year-old mother of two, some of life has also lost its sweetness.

Meals no longer taste good, she said, since she’s always thinking about the thousands of homeless and hungry people in Haiti. Her closet seems to have “too many clothes,” she said, and she feels a duty — by virtue of her survival — to share Haiti’s suffering with other Americans.

“I didn’t even know where Haiti was before this trip,” Gassoway said. “But now I feel like I have a responsibility for Haiti and helping people be aware of how they can be involved.”

As the dust settles from Haiti’s devastating quake, mission workers of all types are pondering the deeper meanings of their survival.

They’re wondering why they survived, why others didn’t and what they’re supposed to do with their new leases on life.

RNS photo by Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian

Freedom Gassoway of Beaverton, Ore., gets a hug from her friend, Ricki Pruitt, after she and nine other women were evacuated from a church missions trip to Haiti following the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

“As long as you’ve got something to occupy your mind, you can keep it off the horror of what’s just happened” in the field, said Randy Strash, strategy director for emergency response at World Vision, a massive Christian relief agency with almost 800 aid workers in Haiti.

“But once that (urgency recedes), I think you’ll find that many of them are really struggling — in their families, in their personal lives, in their health and in their theology.”

While theological interpretations vary, missionaries who survived the quake are consistently professing a heightened sense of calling.

They speak of feeling new “responsibility,” both to God and to the Haitian people, because they’ve been blessed to live another day.

As one of the world’s poorest nations, Haiti is a magnet for Christian ministries. An estimated 1,700 career missionaries serve in Haiti, according to Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of World Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

The Southern Baptist International Mission Board has no career missionaries in Haiti, although it once did.

For many of Haiti’s surviving missionaries, the distance between life and death was only a few feet when the Jan. 12 quake struck. Tragic episodes left missionaries wondering “why?” and believing that God must have a plan in mind. 

“I know that God has our family here for a reason and he kept us alive for a reason,” wrote Leslie Rolling, administrator of the Christian aid organization Clean Water for Haiti, in an e-mail from Haiti. “We now have an even greater responsibility to carry out the work we’re doing.”

On the night of the quake, Leslie’s husband tried to save a young girl named Jacqueline, buried in the rubble of a collapsed school.

Unable to reach her, he eventually left the scene late at night to prepare for a work crew’s arrival. He later confessed on his blog.

“How could I leave someone who was dying, trapped in a building! That’s so wrong!” Chris Rolling wrote. “Leaving her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done ... I think this is going to trouble me for a long time.”

(Jacqueline later died. She had suffered such extensive injuries, Leslie said, she likely wouldn’t have survived even if she’d been pulled out alive.)
Kay and Gary Walla of Indianapolis felt similarly helpless after the quake rocked the mountain community where their United Methodist church group was helping repair a school and orphanage. The Wallas, both in their 70s, were in “survival mode” — foraging for wild coconuts and grapefruit by day, huddling close to other missionaries for warmth by night — when they heard scratching beneath a pile of rubble.

Buried alive were a 21-year-old woman who had been training for a religious order and the 18-month-old boy whom she had recently adopted.

Unable to save them, the Wallas instead held a memorial service for them two days later.

“My husband and I said,  Why did we survive and all of these Haitians have not?”’ Kay Walla asked. “We know there’s more work for us to do ... God just spared us to help the Haitians.”

As missionaries try to make sense of their survival, they’re considering anew why disasters happen in God’s world. In Kay Walla’s view, God has nothing to do with deaths from natural disasters, but God does actively spare the ones who survive. Why God spares some and not others is unknown, she said, but survivors surely inherit special responsibilities.

Others echoed a similar sense of duty.

“We do owe it to those who lost their lives,” World Vision spokeswoman Maggie Boyer e-mailed from Port-au-Prince, “to commit to building a Haiti that they would be proud of.”

Related stories
Haiti missionaries ask: ‘Why (not) me?’
Earthquake victims search for help, hope
First N.C. team returns
Editorial: How do we best help Haiti recover?
First-person post from Haiti: ‘Unbelievable’
Spoke’n: Finding the first question
Haiti video available
Raleigh pastor clings to news, phone, hope
Haiti conditions bad, but relief pipeline opening
Haiti response may require $2 million
Quake shakes ground but not Haitians’ faith
Major aftershock hits Haiti
Haitian church 'holds on' after loss of 4 leaders
Second NC team into Haiti
Baptists confront Haiti challenge
Missionaries heartbroken over tragedy
Baptist pastor confirmed among dead in Haiti
Seven trying to get to Haiti
Florida convention staff missing
Haiti teams focus on urgent & long-term needs
Baptist worker in Haiti reported safe
N.C. Baptists gathering response effort for Haiti
Spoke’n (Editor's Journal): Haitians were 1779 allies
The Way I Hear It (blog): How to Handle Haiti
Answering the Call (blog): No ‘Flash in the Pan’ Needed
Guest column: Hope for Haiti
Raleigh video
IMB video
1/28/2010 3:20:00 AM by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Haggard’s wife tells why she stayed

January 28 2010 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Under similar circumstances, many women would have kicked their husbands to the couch. Or the curb.

But for Gayle Haggard, the gay sex-and-drug scandal that toppled her husband’s ministry was simply “the mountain we had to go over.”

And now, on the other side of that mountain, she’s preaching a message that many might find hard to understand, much less practice: forgiveness. In Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in my Darkest Hour, Haggard, 52, describes in candid detail the bumpy road she walked alongside her husband, former evangelical icon Ted Haggard, after the 2006 scandal left them literally wandering in the desert, both physically and emotionally. 

“The reason I chose to stay with Ted was because I knew that there was more to the story than just the scandal in our lives,” she said Tuesday (Jan. 26) as the book was released, “that my husband was truly a great man on many levels and I wasn’t willing to deny all the good that we’d built in our marriage, in our family and in our church.”

She said her husband, who resigned the pulpit of New Life Church, the Colorado Springs megachurch they started more than 20 years earlier in their basement, didn’t ask her to change any of the candid details she included.

Reading the manuscript brought her husband to tears, she said, as he saw the scandal through her eyes for the first time. “He said that I was kind of a combination of Margaret Thatcher and Mother Teresa.”

Gayle’s initial reaction to reports of her husband’s dalliances with a gay escort was denial, though she writes that early in her marriage her husband, now 53, confessed his “struggles” with sexual attraction to men.

RNS photo courtesy Tyndale House Publishers

Gayle Haggard, wife of disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard, writes about sticking by her husband in her new book, Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour.

“Our sexual relationship had always been strong and satisfying, and I didn’t believe for one instant that Ted had been regularly visiting a gay escort,” she writes.

When Ted finally did admit his transgressions to her, she was devastated and “could hardly breathe,” she recalled. She second-guessed her decision to naively encourage Ted to get stress-reducing massages, never knowing they led to sex with a male escort.

In the scandal’s wake, she had to abandon her church post directing women’s ministries and Ted resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. She was most bothered by the pity that came her way. “I hated that,” she said.

Despite the jumble of emotional reactions — anger, revulsion despair, anguish — Gayle said she “set my trajectory on forgiveness” and never banished her husband to the couch. She also never looked back.

“I really felt, as I could see how desperate my husband was and how despondent he was, that I needed to draw near to him,” she explained, conceding that every woman wouldn’t make the same choice. “It seemed as though everyone was pulling away from him and he was suffering enough, and I wanted to draw near to him and love him and show him forgiveness.”

Ted tells her that her forgiveness “provided a way for him to heal,” and the crisis led to a more intense emotional intimacy that the couple hadn’t yet experienced in their marriage.

“The scandal was the mountain we had to go over to the place that we’re at now,” she said.

Gayle writes that she agrees with her husband’s self-description as “a heterosexual with issues,” but admits that “I hope my heart is never put to the test” by her husband falling “into his sin again.”

While Gayle said she is “happier now than I’ve ever been,” she is less charitable about the church leaders and the “restoration committee” that decided it would be best if the couple parted ways with New Life and found a new life out of state.

The couple was exiled to Phoenix, where they moved from borrowed house to borrowed house, her husband unable to land a steady job. “Those were very dark days for us,” she said.

It was not, she said, a very biblical way to aid a fallen fellow believer.

“When you have a repentant brother, which Ted was from the onset, I think that the church needs to embrace those people and encourage them through their process of healing,” she said.

After pleading with New Life leaders to revoke the separation agreements, the Haggards returned to Colorado in the summer of 2008.

Just before Thanksgiving last year, the couple held two prayer meetings at their home but weren’t “prepared to handle” the idea of forming a new congregation.

“We just didn’t feel that we were ready to do that, although we desperately wanted to connect with people in the body of Christ,” she said. “We just put it on pause. We’re not sure at this point what the future holds.”

For now, the family is intact and the couple has found a group of supportive churches that have invited them to speak. Content to look ahead and not back, she said she sees brighter days ahead.

“Just the other day I looked at my husband and said, ‘Life is good,” she said. “And I realized that that was the first time I’d said that in three years.”

Excerpts from Why I Stayed
  • “I believed Ted had been honest with me, and our physical relationship certainly didn’t indicate that homosexuality was even a possibility. Our sexual relationship had always been strong and satisfying, and I didn’t believe for one instant that Ted had been regularly visiting a gay escort.”
  • “And so that night I began my journey of choosing ... choosing to love. I chose to press through my feelings of anger. I pressed through my feelings of revulsion and took the hand I had held so many times, the hand that brought me such comfort in the past. And in that moment, I realized how much I still loved my husband.”
  • “Ted confessed that as the external pressures had increased in recent years, he had sought a way to escape. He went for massages — and in my naivete, I had encouraged him to go. I had no idea that some of these massages culminated in sexual activity.”
  • “From the Denver masseur, Ted had also learned about certain drugs that purportedly would enhance his sexual experience. He gave in to this temptation and returned on several occasions to purchase drugs.”
  • “The thing I resented most was feeling like an object of pity. I don’t like pity; it embarrasses me. ... I had to deal with hearing people say, ‘Oh, that poor woman,’ and I hated that.”
  • “In Ted’s case, I honestly believe the Lord himself provided the most effective discipline. Ted suffered privately for months, and then he was publicly exposed, embarrassed, mocked, and humiliated. Because he confessed and repented almost immediately, the church’s response should have been forgiveness and restoration of fellowship. Instead, Ted was held up as an example for exile.”
1/28/2010 3:10:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 1 comments

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