January 2011

Greear addresses unreported victims of sexual abuse

February 12 2019 by J.D. Greear and Brad Hambrick, The Summit Church, Durham, N.C.

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear has set forth counsel to victims of sexual abuse who have not yet sought help.
An article coauthored with biblical counselor Brad Hambrick has been posted at Greear’s website, jdgreear.com, and is printed in full below.

BP file photo
J.D. Greear

Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., and Hambrick is the church’s pastor of counseling and an instructor of biblical counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
“Realize you did nothing wrong,” Greear and Hambrick write. “Abuse is never the fault of the abused.”
They acknowledge, “It is understandable to be afraid,” in providing encouragement to utilize channels to speak with someone “who can help you process the abuse and resulting trauma.”
Following is the full text of the article by Greear and Hambrick, titled “700 is not the total number: How to get help.”
On Feb. 10, the Houston Chronicle published an article titled, “Abuse of Faith: 20 Years, 700 Victims: Southern Baptist Sexual Abuse Spreads as Leaders Resist Reforms.” As I (J.D.) mentioned yesterday, what this article describes is heinous. There can simply be no ambiguity about the church’s responsibility to protect the abused and be a safe place for the vulnerable.
We completely agree with the words of ERLC President Russell Moore:
“Jesus does not cover up sin within the temple of his presence. He brings everything hidden to light. We should too. When we downplay or cover over what has happened in the name of Jesus to those he loves we are not ‘protecting’ Jesus’ reputation. We are instead fighting Jesus himself. No church should be frustrated by the Houston Chronicle’s reporting, but should thank God for it. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be far less reticent than a newspaper series to uncover what should never have been hidden.”
But anger and grief, while appropriate responses, are not sufficient to protect victims. What can easily be lost in the size of these numbers, which are grievously large, is the tragic fact that they cannot be the whole story.
More must be said and done in the coming days. But today, we want to provide some initial guidance to victims who have not yet come forward on how they can receive care.

If you have been victimized by a church leader (or anyone else for that matter) and the Houston Chronicle story rekindled fear and doubt about how you could receive care, please hear us: we are profoundly sorry. It is an unjust tragedy that you experienced abuse in the past. And it is unjust and tragic that you feel fear in the present.
We, the church, have failed you, but we do not want you to forgo care or counsel. To that end, here are some options to consider:
1. Realize you did nothing wrong. Abuse is never the fault of the abused. The appropriate response of anyone who is representing Jesus to you should be care and compassion.
2. It is understandable to be afraid. When people who should be trusted (like church leaders) violate that trust, it can make an already fearful situation (like abuse) even more disorienting.
3. Speak with someone who can help you process the abuse and resulting trauma.
– For immediate guidance, here are three numbers where you can reach trained professionals who are available 24/7:
* The National Hotline for Domestic Violence, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
* The National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-422-4453.
* The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
– For ongoing care, identify a counselor near you who is experienced in working with abuse and trauma. If you need help finding a counselor, here is guidance on finding a trusted Christian counselor near you with experience in your area of need:
* How to Find a Good Counselor in [Name of City]? – http://bradhambrick.com/findacounselor.
* Christian Care Connect – https://connect.aacc.net/?search_type=distance.
If you are not ready to speak with someone yet, consider reading On the Threshold of Hope by Diane Langberg or The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick. Both of these books do an excellent job of describing the healing process after abuse and would provide a taste of the benefits you would receive from working with a Christian counselor.
4. If you were abused as a child, then a report to Child Protective Services (or your state’s equivalent) will need to be made. If you are fearful to take this step alone, the counselor you speak with can help you do that.
5. If you are an adult who has been abused, the offense against you is no less wrong. Know that you have a choice about when in the process of your recovery that you choose to seek justice.
Taking the steps in #4 or #5 ensures that the crime (not just sin) your abuser committed against you shows up on a background check. This helps protect others. Reporting a crime is not just a matter of protecting others, though. It can also be an important step in restoring your voice.
6. When you are ready, involve your current church in your recovery journey. This assumes you are not in the same church where your abuser is in leadership. It is understandable if you do not take this step for a while. Don’t feel rushed. Your first step in this direction might be inviting a Christian friend to be an advocate in your counseling sessions. God is a patient Shepherd who walks at the pace of His sheep (Psalm 23:4).
Before we close, let us say something directly to pastors and church leaders:

The Summit Church photo
Brad Hambrick

Please share the resources above through your personal and church’s social media accounts. It is easy for church leaders to become self-centered and self-protective when news of churches’ failures come to light. But it would be another tragedy and a reinforcement of the problem if we allow that to happen.
People in our churches and community need to know that we are concerned about their safety, not about our reputation. Until that confidence is restored, no one who has been abused will feel safe in our churches. The way we respond in this moment – either in protecting and caring for victims, or defending ourselves and our institutions – will either obscure or adorn the Gospel we claim to preach.
Pastors, let us also remember to be patient with those who are understandably slow to trust. Even if we are not individually guilty of the things being discussed, people in our roles who said the kind of things we say are guilty of these very things. For those who have been abused or are close to a survivor, trust will come slowly.
As leaders, we need to remember that trust should not be an assumed entitlement for those who hold positions of authority. When situations are suspicious, then mistrust is not a sin. It is, in fact, wisdom rather than vice. For those who have suffered injustice and great harm from ministry leaders, their mistrust is something to be honored, not rushed.
Imagine it this way, if your child was abused by a teacher, wouldn’t you want your child’s next teacher to be patient with your child’s fear? Sure, the teacher could easily personalize that fear as mistrust and respond defensively. But the only appropriate response – the one you would want for your child – is one of patience.
If you want to learn about the impact of abuse, we would recommend this series of podcasts from Diane Langberg entitled Church as Refuge, online at http://www.dianelangberg.com/free-podcasts/page/2. Dr. Langberg will be giving similar lectures in the Washington, D.C., area on Feb. 15-16. We encourage as many ministry leaders as possible to attend.
And one final word, this time to everyone: while it is not enough to “just pray,” we absolutely should be praying for those who have been abused. Praying for the 700 people in the Houston Chronicle article. Praying for the many, many other victims who have not yet come forward. Praying for the abused in our very churches.
In addition to grieving and praying, we need to make sure, to the best of our ability, that those who are hurting in silence are cared for. What we have described here can help us toward that end.
There is more to be done. More will be coming out from our Sexual Abuse Advisory Group in the coming days.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C. Brad Hambrick is pastor of counseling at The Summit Church and an instructor of biblical counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

2/12/2019 11:09:18 AM by J.D. Greear and Brad Hambrick, The Summit Church, Durham, N.C. | with 0 comments

Greear names, summarizes Committee on Committees makeup

February 12 2019 by Baptist Press Staff

J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has announced the names of individuals who will serve on the Committee on Committees for the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

BP file photo

Greear announced the committee’s chairman on Feb. 4, Sky Pratt, associate pastor for mobilization at Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Ga., and vice chair, Ashlyn Portero, executive director at City Church in Tallahassee, Fla.
The Committee on Committees will assemble in Birmingham, Ala., just prior to the SBC annual meeting to nominate members of the Committee on Nominations who will, in 2020, nominate trustees for the boards of SBC entities.
The Committee on Committees has 68 members, two from each of the 34 states and regions qualified for representation on boards of SBC entities.
Greear issued a 250-word statement about the full committee:
“I am pleased to announce this outstanding group of Southern Baptists. We began last August when I first asked state executives and associational missions strategists for input. These individuals all desire to keep the ‘Gospel Above All’ of our differences and be a unifying group around Jesus’ work and his mission.
“This diverse group of Southern Baptists believe completely that we must continue to work to be a convention that reflects the coming kingdom, that keeps evangelism as our priority, emphasizes church planting as God’s plan ‘A,’ and engages the next generation in cooperative mission. All of these marks are what I believed the Holy Spirit was leading me to by allowing my name to be nominated by Ken Whitten last year and what this group believes as well.
“Many of the members of the Committee on Committees are in churches that were started in the past decade. It’s critical that we engage those new to our processes early in the life of their churches so that they develop a clear understanding of the importance of cooperation toward our common mission as Southern Baptists. This committee represents churches of all sizes, ethnicities and theological persuasions involved in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“It was my goal to select Southern Baptists who would represent their fellow Southern Baptists well, and while Cooperative Program (CP) giving wasn’t used as a measure for these appointments, the average CP giving percentage of this group is higher than the average Southern Baptist church.”
Greear said Pratt and Portero are “two dynamic Southern Baptist leaders, and they will lead this committee well.”
Pratt described the committee as “truly a reflection of Christ’s kingdom. We are thrilled to have such a diverse representation of Southern Baptists serving. Our prayer is that this committee with help our churches reach all nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Greear said the composition of the committee is:
– Male: 45 people, 63 percent of the total; female: 23 people, 34 percent
– Average age: 43
– Youngest: 22
– Oldest: 73
– Nationalities/Ethnicities:
* Non-white males: 46 people, 68 percent
* White: 34 people, 50 percent
* African Americans: 16 people, 24 percent
* Hispanic: 10 people, 15 percent
* Asian:  5 people, 7 percent
* Other/multi-ethnic: 3 people, 4 percent
– Church size:
* Less than 250: 51 percent (less than 100: 24 percent)
* More than 250: 49 percent
* Average baptisms: 26
* Average attendance: 597
– Average Cooperative Program percentage: 7.66
– Number of members’ churches started in the last decade: at least 11
Members of the Committee on Committees listed by state are:
ALABAMA: Terrence Jones, Strong Tower, Montgomery; Whitney Alexander, First, Gadsden.
ALASKA: Dinna Natcher, Filipino Bible, Anchorage; Brian Hicks, True North, Girdwood.
ARIZONA: Delia Comon, North Phoenix, Phoenix; Shannon Jennings, Aletheia, Sedona.
ARKANSAS: Matt Hubbard, Immanuel, Little Rock; Courtney Reissig, Midtown, Little Rock.
CALIFORNIA: PJ Tibayan, Bethany, Bellflower; Shirley Pugh, Reach for the Son, Poway.
COLORADO: Kathy Routt, Redemption Hill, Colorado Springs; Kenna Moreland, Denver Christian Bible, Denver.
FLORIDA: Jose Abella, Providence Road, Miami; Ashlyn Portero, vice chair, City Church, Tallahassee.
GEORGIA: Sky Pratt, chair, Prince Avenue, Bogart; Milton Campbell, Midtown Bridge, Atlanta.
HAWAII: Arjay Gruspe, Pawa’a Community, Honolulu; Sterling Lee, First, Pearl City.
ILLINOIS: Michael Allen, Uptown, Chicago; David Sutton, Bread of Life Missionary, Chicago.
INDIANA: Reginald Fletcher, Living Word, Indianapolis; Alan Scott, Oakhill, Evansville.
KANSAS/NEBRASKA: Jonathan Castillo, First Southern, Topeka, Kan.; Diane Ravenstein, CrossPoint, Hutchinson, Kan.
KENTUCKY: Beth Holmes, Yellow Creek, Owensboro; Todd Linn, First, Henderson.
LOUISIANA: Ryan Rice, Connect Church of Algiers, New Orleans; Michael Wood, First, West Monroe.
MARYLAND/DELAWARE/DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Dan Hyun, The Village, Baltimore, Md.; Ken Fentress, Montrose, Rockville, Md.
MICHIGAN: Josh Tovey, Redemption, Grandville; Eric Stewart, ONElife, Flint.
MISSISSIPPI: Dawson Zhang, Hattiesburg Chinese Christian, Hattiesburg; Reid Guy, Carterville, Petal.
MISSOURI: Sam Bierig, Liberty, Liberty; Kyle Hubbard, The Gate, University City.
NEVADA: Heiden Ratner, WALK, Las Vegas; Danny Reyes-Escobar, Hope, Las Vegas.
NEW ENGLAND: Kaleigh Adams, Harbor, Hyannis, Mass.; Itamar Elizalde, Iglesia Casa De Oracion, Worcester, Mass.
NEW MEXICO: Kyle Bueermann, First, Alamogordo; Amber Celoria, Bethel Baptist, Alamogordo.
NEW YORK: Roscoe Lilly, Starpoint, Clifton Park; James Roberson, The Bridge, Brooklyn.
NORTH CAROLINA: Kallie Wade, Mercy Church, Charlotte; Betsy Bolick, Perkinsville, Boone.
NORTHWEST: Audrey Evans, Pathway, Gresham, Ore.; Matthew Savage, Journey, Everett, Wash.
OHIO: Peyton Hill, Highland, Grove City; Robin Smalley, Lakota Hills, West Chester.
OKLAHOMA: Vanda Wall, Henderson Hills, Edmond; Sophia Geiger, First, Snyder.
PENNSYLVANIA/SOUTH JERSEY: Carlos Pacheco, Iglesia Central Hispana, Morris Plains, N.J.; Venus Sanders, Ezekiel, Philadelphia, Pa.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Philip Pinckney, Radiant, North Charleston; Stephanie Powell, The Mill, Moore.
TENNESSEE: Damon Conley, Brown Missionary, Southaven, Miss.; Bruce Raley, First, Hendersonville.
TEXAS: Alexandra Canales, High Pointe, Austin; Michael Criner, First, Bellville.
UTAH/IDAHO: Bryan Catherman, Redeeming Life, Salt Lake City, Utah; Daniel Savage, Redemption, Ogden, Utah.
VIRGINIA: Vernig Suarez, First, Norfolk; James Ford, Remnant, Richmond.
WEST VIRGINIA: Mason Ballard, Resurrection, Charleston; Timothy Marr, North Charleston, Charleston.
WYOMING: David Grace, Trinity, Laramie; Don Rushing, First Southern, Powell.

2/12/2019 11:05:40 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

Jobs program shows women ‘who they are in God’s eyes’

February 12 2019 by Trennis Henderson, WMU

Intent on living up to its name, Future & Hope Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) typically equips 10 to 12 women during in-depth 10-week sessions on such practical life skills as computer skills, money management, parenting and healthy relationships blended with weekly Bible studies and mentoring.

WMU photo by Pam Henderson
Keyboarding instructor Rhonda Davis interacts with participants in the Faith & Hope Christian Women’s Job Corps program as they learn practical life skills and grow spiritually through 10-week in-depth sessions.

Amanda*, a Future & Hope CWJC participant who has been on her own since age 15, is now a 24-year-old mom with three young sons who currently live in foster care. Candidly sharing her motivation for joining the program in Paragould, Ark., she said, “I came here to try to get my kids back … but I need a foundation before I can get them back.”
Pursuing her CWJC certificate and gaining related life skills, Amanda said, “is going to better my life and my kids’ lives and give me something solid to start with.”
Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps, ministries of national Woman’s Missionary Union, include nearly 200 certified sites throughout the country. The ministry sites are designed to equip participants in a Christian context for life and employment.
Pursuing the vision of “women helping women change their future and find hope,” the Paragould ministry echoes Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”
“Oh my goodness, we have seen God work such miracles in these women,” said Carol Foster, site coordinator for Future & Hope. “I think what strikes me the most is just how they feel about themselves and how they begin to understand who they are in God’s eyes.
“We always talk about, You are who God says you are regardless of what other people have said about you or to you,” Foster said. “They begin to get a little sense of that. I see them learning about God through the teachers here, not just in the material but in the way that they’re accepted and loved on throughout the program. It allows us to treat them like they’re special because we know that they are but they just haven’t seen it so often.”

WMU photo by Pam Henderson
Carol Foster is founder and site coordinator for Future & Hope Christian Women’s Job Corps, housed in a former parsonage provided by First Baptist Church in Paragould, Ark.

Just a few weeks into the program, Amanda commented, “I have come to the realization that God is my outlet and He’s going to provide my every need – and that’s never been something that’s ever went through my mind before. My faith has grown so much and I know that no matter what, I don’t have to turn to drugs because I’m not alone. God is going to provide my every need.”
Acknowledging that “I have always depended on men who were not good for me or for my kids,” Amanda added, “Now I depend on God. I feel better, I feel more content, more happy than I’ve ever felt. … I’m excited for my kids to have a mom, not a teenager or not a friend. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be. I just didn’t know how to do it.”
Such results are what Foster had hoped for when she sensed God’s guidance to establish Future & Hope several years ago, since enlisting numerous individuals, churches and area businesses to help support the ministry.
With a background in school counseling and prison ministry, Foster said she realized there were so many unmet needs among women and families struggling with difficult issues. “When I first heard of Christian Women’s Job Corps, it was just like God said, ‘That’s what I want you to do.’”
After completing CWJC’s Level 1 National Certification Training for Site Coordinators, Foster approached First Baptist in Paragould about using the church’s former parsonage as a ministry site.

They agreed on a trial basis to “see how it went and reevaluate it at the end of six months,” she recalled. “It’s been six years and we’ve never done a reevaluation. They just allow us to use it and we try to take the best care of it that we can.”

Future & Hope CWJC operates with a team of volunteer teachers as well as a board of directors and an advisory council who provide ministry ideas, personal support and resources to help the ministry succeed.
Jeff Boone, an insurance agent and member of Reynolds Baptist Church, serves as advisory council chairman. Describing the ministry as “a hand up, not just a handout,” he noted, “It actually makes a difference in people’s lives.”

WMU photo by Pam Henderson
Participants in the Future & Hope Christian Women’s Job Corps gather for lunch and fellowship as part of the ministry in Paragould, Ark. Area individuals, churches and organizations volunteer to provide the meals for each 10-week session.

With the program’s focus on personal spiritual growth, strengthened relationships and job skills, Boone said participants “can learn to take care of themselves as well as their family and then be able to take care of others in the future in our community.”
Kathy Mitchell, a longtime women’s Bible study leader, was recruited by Foster for the program’s weekly Bible study.

“I liked the idea of being able to reach women that would not normally walk through the door of a church, women that are in crisis,” Mitchell said. “I hope that I can maybe clear up some misconceptions they have about God and that they’ll realize He really does love them, that He’s a loving Father.
“So many of the women that come through the job corps have very difficult relationships so they feel kind of beaten down and I want them to know that God is for them, not against them,” she said. “I always hope they fall in love with the Bible and want to seek and learn for themselves.”
Recounting a recent example, Mitchell said, “I was teaching on Psalm 23 and one of them jumped up in the middle of class and goes, ‘I finally get it!’ And she was so excited that God was her shepherd. She had never understood that before. It made her glow with excitement because she realized He really was watching out for her and caring for her and guiding her.”
For Amanda – and dozens of other women who have gone through the program – Future & Hope Christian Women’s Job Corps already has made an impact.
“I’m learning things that I probably should have learned a long time ago as far as making good choices and decisions,” she said. “Just having someone teach me the right thing, having this guidance is absolutely amazing.
“I’m so grateful for what these women do here. They are not just volunteers, they are angels,” Amanda said. “Christian Women’s Job Corps gave me my faith and my hope.”
*Name changed to protect participant’s privacy.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trennis Henderson is the national correspondent for WMU and former editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Arkansas Baptist News state convention news journal.)

2/12/2019 10:53:40 AM by Trennis Henderson, WMU | with 0 comments

Nevada, United Airlines on 2019 sex exploitation list

February 12 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The state of Nevada and United Airlines are newcomers to a 2019 watchdog list of the top 12 contributors to sexual exploitation in the U.S.

National Center on Sexual Exploitation artwork
The state of Nevada, Sports Illustrated magazine and United Airlines are 2019 newcomers to the Dirty Dozen list of the top purveyors of sexual exploitation.

Nevada enslaves women through legalized prostitution and United Airlines has not addressed passenger reports of inflight sexual assault and harassment, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) said in releasing its 2019 Dirty Dozen List Feb. 11.
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (SI), Netflix and Massage Envy spa also made for the first time the Dirty Dozen list of companies that promote and enable sexual exploitation.
“No corporation or mainstream entity should profit from or facilitate sexual exploitation,” Haley Halverson, NCOSE vice president of advocacy and outreach, said in releasing the list. “Unfortunately, many well established brands and organizations in America do just that.”
Nevada’s legalization of prostitution, active in 10 counties, has enabled the state to become the largest illegal sex trader in the country, with 63 percent more activity there than in New York state, the nearest aggressor, NCOSE said.
“Under this legal framework, women are consumables,” said Lisa Thompson, NCOSE vice president of policy and research. “Like all systems of prostitution, Nevada’s sexploitation industry has a predatory dependence on women facing dire economic circumstances, and oftentimes with childhood histories of neglect and sexual abuse.” Women are sometimes recruited from jails, their bonds paid by brothel owners, NCOSE said.
United Airlines has exhibited systemic inappropriate reactions to sexual harassment in flight, NCOSE said.
While complaints have occurred on “virtually every airline,” Halverson said, “United aircrews have apparently received especially ineffective training.” The airline “appears to be chronically ill-prepared to address the growing problem of viewing pornography on airplanes, which creates a culture of sexual harassment.” In the enclosed environment of air travel, she said, children likely would be exposed to pornography.
Among other top abusers, SI peddles women’s bodies for public consumption, Massage Envy mishandles complaints of sexual assault committed during massages, and Netflix promotes child prostitution, NCOSE said, notably in its original series “Baby.”
Returning from 2018 on the seventh annual list are Amazon, Google, HBO, Roku, EBSCO Information Services, STEAM online video game distributors and Twitter.
The Dirty Dozen list “is an activism tool that gives the power back to individuals to speak out against corporatized sexual exploitation,” Halverson said. CVS Pharmacy’s removal of the SI swimsuit issue from checkout counters is one of NCOSE’s latest victories, Halverson said.
Among other NCOSE’s successes, Halverson said, Google no longer links pornographic videos to advertisements; Hilton Worldwide and other hotel chains no longer offer pornographic movies on demand; Walmart has removed Cosmopolitan Magazine from its checkout aisles; and the U.S. Department of Defense no longer offers pornographic magazines on military bases.
NCOSE markets itself as “the leading national organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health crisis of pornography.”
NCOSE’s Dirty Dozen list and accompanying narratives are available at endsexualexploitation.org/dirtydozen-2019/.

2/12/2019 10:53:17 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Paper’s sexual abuse report leaves SBC’s Greear ‘broken’

February 11 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

A Houston newspaper, in reporting on instances of sexual abuse by pastors and others at Southern Baptist churches, has left SBC President J.D. Greear “broken over what was revealed today.”

BP file photo

“The abuses described in this @HoustonChron article are pure evil,” Greear stated in a series of tweets after the Houston Chronicle reported Feb. 10 on instances of abuse by ministers, youth pastors, Sunday School teachers, deacons and church volunteers.
Along with its 6,000-word report, the Chronicle released a database of 220 individuals who have been convicted of or pled guilty to sexual abuse crimes.
The Chronicle said its investigation had revealed approximately 380 instances since 1998 – including more than 250 since 2008 – of “those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned.”
The crimes have left more than 700 victims, the newspaper stated.
One of the victims died of a drug overdose 14 years after she was molested in 1994, the Chronicle reported, citing criminal and civil court records. The 14-year-old slit her wrists after the 1994 incident. Her mother blames the daughter’s subsequent death on the trauma she suffered, the newspaper stated.
“I join with countless others who are currently ‘weeping with those who weep,’” Greear stated on Twitter, voicing resolve to mobilize the SBC in “stopping predators in our midst.”
“The voices in this article should be heard as a warning sent from God, calling the church to repent,” Greear tweeted. “As Christians, we are called to expose everything sinful to the light. The survivors in this article have done that – at a personal cost few of us can fathom.”
Greear also tweeted:
– “There can simply be no ambiguity about the church’s responsibility to protect the abused and be a safe place for the vulnerable. The safety of the victims matters more than the reputation of Southern Baptists.”
– “As a denomination, now is a time to mourn and repent. Changes are coming. They must. We cannot just promise to ‘do better’ and expect that to be enough. But today, change begins with feeling the full weight of the problem.... It’s time for pervasive change. God demands it. Survivors deserve it. We must change how we prepare before abuse (prevention), respond during disclosure (full cooperation with legal authorities), and act after instances of abuse (holistic care).”
– “We – leaders in the SBC – should have listened to the warnings of those who tried to call attention to this. I am committed to doing everything possible to ensure we never make these mistakes again.... We must admit that our failures, as churches, put these survivors in a position where they were forced to stand alone and speak, when we should have been fighting for them. Their courage is exemplary and prophetic. But I grieve that their courage was necessary.”
– “The Baptist doctrine of church autonomy should never be a religious cover for passivity towards abuse. Church autonomy is about freeing the church to do the right thing – to obey Christ – in every situation. It is a heinous error to apply autonomy in a way that enables abuse.”
D. August Boto, interim president of the SBC Executive Committee, said in an interview with the Chronicle that the newspaper is “not the opponent of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“You’re helping us. I’m all for shining the light of day upon crime,” Boto said.
Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in similar fashion in a commentary after the report was published, “No church should be frustrated by the Houston Chronicle’s reporting, but should thank God for it. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be far less reticent than a newspaper series to uncover what should never have been hidden.”
Moore referred to the Sexual Abuse Presidential Study initiated by Greear last year, which is “assigned with investigating all options and reviewing what other denominations and groups have done to keep track of abuses, while hearing from law enforcement, psychological and psychiatric experts, survivors, and many others.”
“Our approach is seeking to encourage policies and practices that protect children and the vulnerable from sexual abuse in autonomous but cooperating churches, all the while promoting compliance with laws and providing compassionate care for those who have survived trauma,” Moore wrote.
“True, we have no bishops. But we have a priesthood of believers. And a key task of that priesthood is maintaining the witness of Christ in the holiness and safety of his church. That means training churches to recognize sexual predation and how to deal with charges or suspicions when they emerge, and equipping churches to stop the pattern, in their church or from their church to others.”
Boto, in written comments to Baptist Press, noted that even before 2008 “the Executive Committee was calling on anyone who becomes aware of, or suspects, sex abuse in any form to report immediately to law enforcement. Law enforcement has the authority to investigate fully any allegation of sexual abuse. One of the God-ordained roles of government is to punish evil-doers.
“It is my hope and prayer that this report will serve as a stirring reminder of God’s call to personal holiness for all believers, Followers of Christ should not ‘participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them,’” Boto said, referencing Ephesians 5:11.
In the interview with the Chronicle, he voiced “anger” at the tragic reality that sexual abuse occurs.
Boto said his “perception of your doing a report is probably more positive than you would suspect” for “lifting it up again anew and afresh. Why? Because not only Baptist churches but all churches are considered by sexual predators to be soft targets.... [W]e harden those targets by making people aware of the malevolence that exists.”
He also stated, “Crime is crime and needs to be dealt with like crime. Because that’s what it is. And so, reports to law enforcement should be immediate.... Believers of all kinds sometimes lead themselves to the conclusion that mercy should preempt justice. The Bible says that those two things are not mutually exclusive. They co-exist in the very character of God. I’m afraid sometimes people opt for mercy to the exclusion of justice, when in fact justice is corrective. Justice is God’s technique for dealing with sin.
“So I’m all for mercy. But it should not be precluded by justice. In fact, [mercy] should not precede justice,” Boto said.
The Chronicle’s database can be accessed at projects.houstonchronicle.com/2019/southern-baptist-abuse.
The SBC Executive Committee has a longstanding resource page focused on preventing sexual abuse in churches, available here. The webpage includes a link to the National Database of Sex Offenders at nsopw.gov/?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1.
In a 2018 resolution at the SBC annual meeting in June, messengers renounced “all abusive behavior as unquestionably sinful” and called for decisive action to report abuse allegations to law enforcement authorities. It also offered compassion to abuse victims, “being careful to remind the abused that such injustice is undeserved and not a result of personal guilt or fault.”

2/11/2019 10:36:39 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Millennials’ witness stymied by ‘faulty discipleship’

February 11 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Barna research indicating nearly half of U.S. millennial Christians believe evangelism is wrong reflects the church’s failure to disciple them, say two Southern Baptist evangelism leaders.
“The great reason for a loss of passionate evangelism is faulty discipleship,” said Sammy Tippit, president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists. “The early days of my ministry took place in communist countries where generations of youth where forced to study atheism in schools. The social and cultural pressure to not speak about one’s faith was overwhelming.
“Yet, Christian young people in Romania would ‘gossip the gospel’ at great risk to their future,” Tippit told Baptist Press in written comments. “What was the difference in them and today’s youth? Absolute surrender to Jesus. Taking up their cross and following Him. They were taught from the beginning that it costs everything to follow Jesus. We’ve given simplistic solutions and called for comfortable Christianity.”
Johnny Hunt, the North American Mission Board’s senior vice president of evangelism and leadership, said millennials’ reticence to share their faith “is what all of our generations are exhibiting in the church today. Believers of all ages are not evangelizing and that is what we are trying to turn around.”
Among U.S. millennials who are practicing Christians, 47 percent agree “it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith,” according to research by the Barna Group released Feb. 5. Millennials’ level of agreement with that statement was higher than among Generation X (27 percent), baby boomers (19 percent) and elders (20 percent).
Still, a full 96 percent of millennial Christians in the U.S. believe part of their faith is “being a witness about Jesus,” Barna reported. Ninety-four percent say “the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus.”
Barna defined millennials as individuals born between 1984 and 1998 (ages 21-35).
Millennial Christians’ belief that evangelism is wrong came in spite of high self-confidence about their witnessing abilities. Barna reported 86 percent of millennials said they know how to respond “when someone raises questions about faith,” and 73 percent said they are “gifted” at sharing their faith.”
Hunt, a former Southern Baptist Convention president, said believers should “be careful not to hit the panic button over a single answer to a survey” because millennial believers “have the potential to have a huge impact for Jesus. I have met so many who are sold out to Jesus and serious about having an impact for Him.
“More than anything, this report should cause us to look at our churches and ask ‘What are we teaching our young people? Are we effectively passing the faith baton to the next generation?’ In most cases the answer is ‘we need to do better,’” Hunt said.
Tippit likewise cautioned against painting “an entire generation with a broad brush when we see studies like the Barna one.” Yet cultural and church-related trends “have played a role in producing a spirit of fear and timidity about evangelism among millennials.”
“Today’s culture seduces this generation with a thought process that says that all faiths are equal,” said Tippit, an evangelist based in San Antonio, Texas. “Today’s philosophy says that it doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe, and anyone who says it does matter must be a bigot.”
Within churches, Tippit said, part of the failure to disciple millennials is not exposing them “to the huge multitude of Christian youth” around the world “who once were Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and atheist” and have come to Christ through “great moves of the Spirit of God” in “places like China, Iran and India.”
Global millennial believers are “on fire” for Christ, Tippit said.
U.S. millennials’ lack of exposure to global Christians is “paradoxical because millennials are a generation that is multi-cultural, multi-national and multi-ethnic,” Tippit said. “... We need to build networks through social media, the internet and communication technology that enable this generation to rub shoulders with those who have the smoke of heaven in their hearts.”
LifeWay Research’s 2018 State of Theology survey, sponsored by Ligonier Ministries, found 90 percent of 18- to 34-year-old evangelicals say it is “very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.” LifeWay Research’s survey did not ask about millennials’ practice of personal evangelism.

2/11/2019 10:36:29 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

History needed telling, SBTS grads & NAAF say

February 11 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Slavery and racism once supported by the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) oldest seminary needed to be documented for history’s sake, black alumni and a representative of nearly 4,000 black pastors told Baptist Press (BP).

SBTS Photo

In this month annually dedicated to black history, the leaders are lauding Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. for initiating the report detailing the racism and slave ownership of SBTS founding fathers.
“Dr. Mohler’s commissioning the study and releasing the internal report on the history of slavery and racism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) is clear leadership akin to the men of Issachar,” said Marshal Ausberry, president of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the SBC, referencing 1 Chronicles 12:32. “Dr. Mohler clearly understands the times and knows what to do!”
Southern Baptist executives Kevin Smith, Ken Weathersby and Curtis Woods, all SBTS alumni, also praised the report, clarified its purpose and shared future hopes. Smith and Woods both teach SBTS courses while serving in leadership capacities at state conventions, and Woods served on the committee appointed to research and compile the report.
“The goal of the report was historical truth-telling. We knew the report would potentially produce lamentation and laudation in the hearts of various readers,” said Woods, co-interim executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, and an SBTS assistant professor of applied theology and biblical spirituality.
A proclaimed righteousness of slaveholding and efforts to preserve it, support for the Confederacy, opposition to racial equality after the Civil War, and the restoration of Southern white rule after the war were all causes of the seminary’s founders, the report points out. Juxtaposed to professed Christianity and gospel proclamation, 19th and 20th century faculty and administrators taught white supremacy and segregation.
“The history of the seminary is like an antibiotic and a vaccine,” said Ausberry, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va. “As an antibiotic it kills the lingering infection of racism and as a vaccine, kills a recurrence of the disease!”
The gospel is greater than historical accuracy in moving beyond wrongs committed, those interviewed told BP of the document released in December, 2018 as a “Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.”
“I’m not certain a written document by fallible men will be stronger than the inerrant and infallible Word of God to increase ethnic diversity within SBC life,” Woods said. “C. Eric Lincoln correctly stated, ‘A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.’ In context, Lincoln’s aphorism means if the mind is not renewed, the report will be eschewed.”
Jesus Christ is our reconciler, Ausberry said.
“We reconcile to each other because that is the picture of Christ reconciling a sinful world to Himself,” is how Ausberry put it. “Southern Baptists have a golden opportunity to show the world how we can make peace with our past, and truly love one another, because the love of Jesus Christ binds us together.”
SBTS is well known today for theological and academic integrity, and is one of the largest seminaries in the nation, said Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement.
“It is paramount not to allow your past failures to prevent you from moving forward in reaching the goal in producing leaders who reflect the character of Jesus Christ,” Weathersby said. “The outcome of knowing the purpose and the core values of your institution will allow you to make the necessary corrections in training leaders and creating an environment for diversity in every level of the school.”
Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said the report is not surprising because Mohler values historical study. The report is an analysis of primary sources, said Smith, who teaches an SBTS summer intensive course as assistant professor of Christian preaching.
“It’s very significant that readers understand what type of document this is – historiographical, not political or ethical,” Smith said. “Also, it’s important to know that the audience is Southern Baptists, that we might know more about our flagship seminary.”
The report’s informational value to those previously unfamiliar with this part of SBTS history, and its documentation of the times for those who were already familiar with the period are both positives, Smith said.
Other institutions, including Princeton and Georgetown universities, Woods said, led the way in unearthing past institutional commitments to black exploitation which created an economic advantage for educating Anglo-Americans. For instance, Jesuit priests who ran Georgetown University sold about 300 slaves to Southern plantation owners in the 19th Century to keep the school afloat, history records.
“SBTS performed its research because President Mohler rightly believed that a holistic understanding of the gospel gives Christians the appropriate categories to deal with past sins,” Woods said. “I, as an African-American faculty member, was elated to join the committee at the chairman’s request.”
Widespread opinions from secular and Christian communities followed the report’s release.
“A good research project requires the author to propose a thesis with delimitations. Our committee fulfilled the report’s purpose. We gave a considerable amount of thought to our conclusion,” Woods told BP. “As it relates to including additional scenarios to the story, SBTS invites budding scholars to take up the investigative mantle in our research doctoral program rather than wasting precious brain cells through social media diatribes.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: February is Black History Month and Sunday, Feb. 10, is Racial Reconciliation Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/11/2019 10:36:20 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pro-life concerns mount over high court’s Louisiana’s ruling

February 11 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Supreme Court’s latest action in an abortion-related case again has prompted pro-life Americans to wonder whether a majority even exists to protect unborn children and their mothers.
In an order issued Feb. 7, the high court blocked enforcement of a Louisiana law to require that an abortion doctor have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans had upheld the 2014 law, which is intended to protect the health and lives of women who suffer complications from abortion.
The action, which four justices opposed, followed by less than two months the Supreme Court’s refusal to review lower court opinions rejecting decisions by Kansas and Louisiana to remove Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider. The cases in that Dec. 10 action did not address abortion directly but involved whether Medicaid recipients could challenge a state’s decision on who qualifies as a provider in the government program that helps with health care expenses.
Both actions left pro-life advocates questioning where the court stands on abortion regulations and the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing the procedure after two justices named by President Trump have been added in the last two years.
“We are disappointed this law has been enjoined, but we are hopeful that the state of Louisiana will prevail in the end,” Travis Wussow, general counsel and vice president for public policy of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in written comments for Baptist Press. “The abortion lobby’s relentless opposition to regulations like these exposes the industry’s drive for profits above all else.
“We will continue to stand for the dignity of all as image bearers of God as we seek to care for the vulnerable,” Wussow said.
Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, said her organization “is disappointed that a bare majority of [justices] continued to stay the enforcement of a commonsense safety measure that will protect Louisiana’s women from substandard abortion practitioners.”
Two days before the high court’s action, David French – senior writer for National Review and former senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom – said a stay of the Fifth Circuit opinion by the justices would be “quite frankly ominous news for the pro-life movement.”
A stay means a compelling possibility exists that a majority will ultimately decide a lower-court decision was in error.
“If the Court grants the stay, pro-life advocates should be gravely concerned,” French wrote Feb. 5.
The pro-life movement’s hopes are the justices will review and uphold the Fifth Circuit decision. “We look forward to a closer look at the real facts of this case by the Court,” Foster said, “and we’re confident that in doing so, the Justices will vote to uphold it.”
Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act requires a doctor to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic where a procedure is performed. While a federal judge struck down the law, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed the decision in a 2-1 ruling in September. The appeals court denied Jan. 18 a request for a review by all the judges.
An abortion clinic in Shreveport and two unnamed doctors responded by requesting a stay from the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice John Roberts split from what is considered the court’s conservative branch to join the high court’s liberal wing – Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – in granting the stay. Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch joined the court’s newest member, Brett Kavanaugh, in a four-page dissent.
Kavanaugh and Roberts joined the four liberal justices in their December decision not to review the appeals regarding the removal by Kansas and Louisiana of Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider.
In his dissent on the Louisiana case, Kavanaugh said the stay should be denied while three abortion doctors affected by the case seek admitting privileges at hospitals. Louisiana has three abortion clinics and four doctors who perform abortions at those facilities. One of the doctors already has admitting privileges.
The doctors have a 45-day regulatory transition period in which to obtain privileges from hospitals and could bring a complaint at the conclusion of that time if they are unsuccessful, Kavanaugh wrote.
The high court’s approach by granting the stay “will take far longer and be no more beneficial than the approach” he suggests, Kavanaugh said.
Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributor to National Review, said in a Feb. 8 post he does not think Roberts’ vote for the stay “signals anything about how he will rule on the merits of the case.” Whelan said he would be “very surprised” if Roberts considers a 2016 decision on a similar Texas law to be “sound precedent.”
In that case, the high court voted 5-3 to rule that portions of a Texas law regulating abortion doctors and clinics constitute an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abort her child and are therefore unconstitutional. Overturning a Fifth Circuit opinion, the justices invalidated a section mandating an abortion doctor to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. They also struck down a requirement that an abortion clinic must meet the health and safety standards of other walk-in surgical centers.
Defenders of the Louisiana law say it does not include the health and safety requirements of the Texas law and the situation in the state does not burden women seeking abortions like the Texas mandate does.
Since the decision on the Texas law, Trump has nominated Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016 before that ruling. When Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy retired last year, Trump nominated Kavanaugh, who barely received Senate confirmation after a contentious battle focused on his abortion views and sexual assault allegations.
While pro-lifers have hoped the addition of the Trump nominees to Roberts, Thomas and Alito would produce an upholding of state abortion restrictions and an eventual reversal of Roe, abortion-rights advocates have warned Roe is on its death bed and pressed some state legislatures to approve expansive protections for the procedure.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, applauded the Supreme Court’s stay, saying in written comments, “While this particular ruling thankfully falls on the right side of history, it illustrates a sobering reminder: the thread that women’s rights hang by is dangerously thin in so many places across the country. [NARAL and its members] will continue to combat attempts by hostile state legislatures and courts to gut the protections of Roe v. Wade.”
The case is June Medical Services v. Gee.

2/11/2019 10:36:01 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

IMB elects EVP, appoints 19 missionaries

February 8 2019 by Julie McGowan, IMB

International Mission Board (IMB) trustees unanimously elected Todd Lafferty as the 173-year-old entity’s executive vice president (EVP) during their Feb. 6-7 meeting in Richmond, Va.

Photo by Chris Carter/IMB
In his first presidential report to IMB trustees on Feb. 7 in Richmond, IMB President Paul Chitwood states that he has a growing gratitude to Southern Baptists for their faithful giving and support of their International Mission Board.

Trustees also appointed 19 new missionaries for service around the globe; affirmed Roger Alford as vice president of communication, and recognized 48 emeriti in memoriam.
Lafferty, 59, most recently has served as pastor of mobilization for Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. He and his wife Susan previously served with the IMB for nearly 29 years. See related Biblical Recorder story.
IMB President Paul Chitwood described Lafferty as a strong leader, humble servant, and sincere Christ-follower with a burning passion for the lost. “The Lord is kind to bring him back to the IMB,” Chitwood said.
Lafferty said he was honored and humbled to be considered as the candidate for EVP.
“Many have not asked, ‘Why are you going back to the IMB?’ Almost to a person they have said, ‘This makes perfect sense. God has been preparing you for this all of your life,’” Lafferty told the trustees.

“It is my desire to work alongside Dr. Paul Chitwood and the other vice presidents to do all that we can to have the most visionary and strategic missionary force on the face of the earth,” he said. “And we need to make sure they have the resources they need to get the job done.

“I believe that God calls missionaries to the cross-cultural task of reaching the nations, but he also calls others to serve alongside and enhance all that we are doing to reach the nations,” Lafferty noted. “So we call on our Southern Baptist churches to partner with us in reaching the nations, and we call on our international partners to lock arms with us in the greatest endeavor on the planet – to take the good news to the ends of the Earth.”

New missionaries, new VP


Photo by Chris Carter/IMB
Susan and Todd Lafferty, left, share a warm greeting with IMB President Emeritus Jerry Rankin and his wife, Bobbye, following the IMB trustees’ plenary session Feb. 7 in Richmond, Va. Lafferty was unanimously elected as the IMB’s executive vice president during the session.

Trustees approved the appointment of 19 new full-time, fully funded missionaries, who were honored during a Sending Celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond. The service included a formal installation of Paul Chitwood as IMB’s 13th president.
Trustees also affirmed Chitwood’s selection of Roger Alford to fill a newly created role of vice president for communications. The role is designed to build and maintain an optimum communications approach, operation and staff to best serve the needs of IMB and the SBC. Alford will begin serving alongside the existing senior leadership team in March.

“I’m thrilled that Dr. Chitwood and trustees have entrusted me with the privilege of telling the stories of IMB missionaries,” said Alford, who has been the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s communications director for the past five years.

“These are truly modern-day heroes of the faith who have committed their lives to working in difficult and often dangerous places around the world.”

After more than three decades as a newspaperman and an Associated Press correspondent, Alford joined the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) in January 2014. In that role, Alford, 56, created the online newspaper Kentucky Today, wholly owned by the KBC. The initiative was intended to expand KBC’s ability to communicate with its 2,400 churches and 750,000 members.
Alford has broad experience in managing all aspects of communications, including writing and editing, all aspects of traditional and social media, web development, marketing strategies, media relations, graphic design and mass mailings. He and his wife Susan are members of First Baptist Church in Owenton, Ky. They have three grown children.

Celebration of service


Photo by Chris Carter/IMB
Linda Cooper, president of National Woman’s Missionary Union, brings greetings and words of partnership to the IMB board of trustees during their Feb. 7 plenary session in Richmond, Va.

Meador recognized the lives of 57 former colleagues – including seven staff, two current missionaries and 48 emeritus missionaries – who died in the past year. The field personnel’s lives totaled 1,365 years of service through the IMB, with an average age of 88.5 and an average of 28 years of service. “Thank you, Lord, for your grace to us through the lives of these men and women,” Meador prayed at the conclusion of the memorial recognition.

Former staff who were recognized in memoriam included Tom Williams, who served 34 years as a missionary to Thailand, regional leader for Western Pacific, regional leader for Western Europe, and as vice president of the Office of Global Personnel; and Jim Slack, who served 51 years as missionary to the Philippines and in Global Research. Meador also recognized Randy and Kathy Arnett, ages 62 and 61, who served 31 years in Togo and Côte D’Ivoire, as regional leader for West Africa, and in theological education leadership in Sub-Saharan Africa. They died in a traffic accident, March 14, 2018.
Emeritus missionaries included, among many others who served around the globe: Faye Taylor, age 100, who served 39 years in Hong Kong, China, and Indonesia; Pauline Moore, age 105, who served 38 years in Yugoslavia, Switzerland, and Germany; Virginia Winters, age 94, who served 40 years in Brazil; Etta Jean Phillips, age 87, who served 39 years in Botswana, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe; and Charles Whitten, age 96, who served 40 years in Argentina, Equatorial Guinea and Spain.


In his first presidential report to trustees, Chitwood stated he has a growing gratitude to Southern Baptists for their faithful giving and support of their International Mission Board.
“Just shy of three months since I was elected president by the trustees, I am even more in awe of the place that God has given this remarkable organization in His kingdom work around the world,” Chitwood said. “And I am even more appreciative of the commitment that Southern Baptists long ago made, and still keep, to cooperate together that Christ is proclaimed among the nations.”

Photo by Chris Carter/IMB
IMB trustee David Miller, right, from Tennessee, greets Roger Alford, left, who will begin serving as IMB vice president of communication in March.

“Cooperating churches with 10 members to those with more than 10,000 members, local associations of a handful of churches to those with hundreds of churches, state conventions with 100 churches and those with thousands of churches, and SBC entities with budgets of a few million to those with budgets of hundreds of millions: this is the beauty and the brilliance of the Southern Baptist system of cooperative missions,” he said. “It is a system that today maintains an overseas force of more than 3,600 missionaries serving in more than 100 countries. The gospel will be heard today where it would not have been heard if it weren’t for Southern Baptists making and keeping a commitment to cooperate together.”
Chitwood reported a strong commitment by IMB’s overseas personnel and staff to see the entity’s vision fulfilled.
“As grateful as we are for the financial resources that Southern Baptists and their Lord have provided to support the work of the IMB, by far the greatest resource that Southern Baptists and their Lord have provided is their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, their mothers and fathers and even their grandparents,” he said. “Whether on staff in Richmond or overseas in a far and distant land, Southern Baptists have sent us their very best.... As Michelle and I have now answered the call upon our lives to once again serve and help lead this organization, we stand in awe of the quality of servants whom God has brought to the IMB and sent out through the IMB.”
Linda Cooper, president of National Woman’s Missionary Union, from Bowling Green, Ky., brought partnership greetings to the trustees during their plenary session. She reported how WMU has partnered with IMB, such as providing missions education materials to local believers in East Asia, working through Southern Baptist personnel, and by continued promotion of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions.
“This is such an exciting time in the IMB,” said Rick Dunbar, IMB trustee chairman. “Last night we saw the Southern Baptist Convention coming together as represented by many key leaders of the SBC in support of God’s new missionaries who are being sent out, and also in celebrating the inauguration of our 13th president, Paul Chitwood.”
“We thank the SBC for their support of the IMB and trust that to who much is given, much is expected,” Dunbar noted. “We take that trust seriously and commit ourselves to being good stewards of that trust. We are optimistic for the future and feel good things are ahead. We feel a tremendous responsibility to our Lord and the SBC and seek to glorify Him though our work through the IMB.”
The next IMB board of trustees meeting is scheduled for May 22-23 in Richmond. The next missionary Sending Celebration is scheduled for June 11 during the SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham.

2/8/2019 12:43:12 PM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments

Rainer: LifeWay did ‘all we could’ to save stores

February 8 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

LifeWay Christian Resources did “all we could” to keep brick and mortar stores open, LifeWay President Thom Rainer told the entity’s trustees. But despite positive indicators in mid-2018, by late in the year, data from stores showed revenue declines “had not reversed” and “had been exacerbated.”

Thom S. Rainer

Rainer’s comments during a Feb. 4-5 trustee meeting in Nashville came prior to approximately three hours of executive session over two days, in which business and financial matters were discussed. LifeWay has not yet announced any actions taken during the executive session.
During their meeting, trustees also highlighted a document explaining the profile and qualifications of the president they are seeking to succeed Rainer, who announced his retirement in August.
In January, LifeWay announced some of its stores would be closing. It has not announced the number of stores to close and the timing of those closures.
As commerce shifted increasingly online over the past decade, Rainer told trustees, “we were doing all that we could to keep brick and mortar as a viable channel.” He added, “When it is all said and done, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think I will have a regret for every attempt we have made to sustain our brick and mortar stores.”
Ultimately, Rainer said, the decline of LifeWay stores is part of a larger trend: “anything that can be purchased online is declining in brick and mortar.”
From 1990-2017, brick and mortar sales declined for sporting goods, furniture, shoes and hardware among other industries, Rainer said, citing data from the news website Axios. But the largest declines in that period were for books (49 percent) and newsstands (61 percent), including cards and small gift items.
Only businesses whose products cannot be sold online – like nail salons and pet grooming businesses – increased brick and mortar sales from 1990-2017, Rainer said.
Despite those market-wide declines, LifeWay stores were “the last man standing” among major Christian bookstore chains after Family Christian Stores closed two years ago, Rainer said. At that time, “we began to see some of their business migrate to our brick and mortar” stores, giving some “reason for optimism.”
As recently as August 2018, Rainer gave trustees a positive report about LifeWay stores, based in significant measure on the customer migration from Family Christian, he said. But financial indications based on Family Christian Stores’ former customers were “a false positive.” The industry-wide decline continued, and by November and December 2018 “we began to see that not only had our efforts not reversed the declines. They had been exacerbated.... We knew that we were feeling the winds of change for this era.”

“There is such irony,” Rainer said, that the former LifeWay campus in downtown Nashville is going to house “two towers for Amazon and there are going to be 5,000 Amazon employees there when Amazon has been one of the most disruptive forces that we have encountered.”
Still, LifeWay’s “ministry, in spite of this channel shift” to online commerce, “will not go away,” Rainer said.
Following Rainer’s report, trustees entered an executive session that spanned approximately two hours Feb. 4 and approximately one hour Feb. 5. As of Feb. 7, no announcements have been made about actions taken during the executive session.
During a Feb. 5 plenary session following the executive session, LifeWay acting senior vice president Earl Roberson said trustees spent “a lot of time on the business side of LifeWay” during the closed session. COO Brad Waggoner said he is “grateful for you trustees, the way that you lean in and the questions that you ask and the sincerity with which you express yourself.”

Presidential search

Trustees also referenced and distributed a document posted online explaining the qualifications and “leadership behaviors and characteristics” of the president their search committee is seeking to succeed Rainer.
According to the nine-page document posted on the website of CarterBaldwin, the executive search firm LifeWay’s trustees have contracted to assist them, presidential candidates must have:

  • “15-20 years of experience serving consistently in the local church as a pastor, staff or lay leader”;

  • “Demonstrated competence and capability in organizational leadership such as denominational leadership, business leadership or faith-based leadership experience with operational business savvy”;

  • A bachelor’s degree, with a theological and/or business degree preferred.

Among requisite “leadership behaviors and characteristics” of presidential candidates are “spiritual leader,” “business acumen,” “change agent,” “integrity” and “inclusive.”

2/8/2019 12:42:56 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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