January 2017

Terror group releases video of kidnapped missionary

January 16 2017 by Onize Ohikere, WORLD News Service

Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has released a video confirming a Swiss missionary the group kidnapped a year ago is still alive.

Screen capture from CNN.com

The video, which is a little over two minutes long, shows Beatrice Stockly clad in a black veil and speaking in a barely audible voice. Stockly said the militants recorded the video Dec. 31, greeted her family and thanked the Swiss government for its efforts in securing her release.
“I’m in good health,” she said.
Islamic militants kidnapped Stockly on Jan. 7 last year from her home in Timbuktu, Mali. Islamists in northern Mali had previously abducted her in 2012, but special forces from Burkina Faso rescued her two weeks later.
AQIM has released three proof-of-life videos since Stockly’s capture, including this one. The extremists have referred to her as “a Swiss nun who declared war against Islam.” The group said in the first video, shortly after Stockly’s capture, that it would release her in exchange for some of its militants jailed in Mali and one of its leaders held in The Hague.
Switzerland has demanded her unconditional release. The Swiss foreign ministry said it created a task force to maintain contact with Mali’s security officials and ensure Stockly’s safe return.
Several missionaries remain under Islamic extremists’ captivity in western Africa. The group Ansar Dine continues to hold Australian native Ken Elliott a year after his capture. The militants kidnapped Elliott and his wife, Jocelyn, in January on the same day it staged an attack in the country’s capital that killed at least 29 people. The extremist group released Jocelyn in February, but still holds the doctor, who is in his 80s.
U.S. missionary Jeff Woodke still is in the custody of Islamic militants who kidnapped him in October from his home in neighboring Niger. The militants killed two security guards in the process. Niger’s Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum said the suspected militants likely belong to Mujao, a splinter group from AQIM. Woodke, 55, worked with a charity group that helped Tuareg herdsmen battling disease and drought.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Onize Ohikere writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

1/16/2017 11:14:00 AM by Onize Ohikere, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Mars Hill University president to retire in 2018

January 13 2017 by Mars Hill Communications

Mars Hill University President Dan Lunsford announced Jan. 11 that he will retire next year from the position he’s held for 15 years. The exact timing of his retirement will depend on the completion of a successful search for a new university president, but Lunsford said it will be in the first half of 2018.

Mars Hill University President Dan Lunsford

Lunsford became president on an interim basis in January 2002, following the resignation of the late Max Lennon. The board of trustees of what was then Mars Hill College made the position permanent in May 2003.
In announcing his retirement plans, Lunsford thanked the students, staff and faculty for their efforts over his tenure as president. He also thanked the trustee board, which he described as “incredibly supportive.” Lunsford said his promise to the board, when he accepted the position, was that, “whenever I finished my tenure, that Mars Hill would be stronger than when I began. I believe that we have achieved that promise.” He promised that in his remaining months in the presidency he “will remain as active and engaged in the life of the institution as I have been from ‘Day One.’”
Wayne Higgins, current chair of the trustee board and a member of that board when Lunsford became president, said Lunsford’s “passion for and dedication to Mars Hill is widely recognized by the entire campus and greater community.” Higgins called him “truly a visionary and academic leader,” adding, “Dr. Lunsford will be tremendously missed at Mars Hill University but we know he will continue to be very supportive and engaged with the university.”
Lunsford’s tenure at Mars Hill University has been marked by growth in many areas, fitting the theme of his presidency: Preserving the Past, Assuring the Future. Under Lunsford the school transitioned from a college to a university in 2013; completed its first comprehensive capital campaign (and is in the final stages of its second); saw the largest building boom in campus facilities since the 1970s (with the addition of three new residence halls and three new classroom and laboratory buildings, as well as the building and renovation of several athletic facilities); established the Asheville Center for Adult and Graduate Studies in south Asheville; added a large portion of the campus to the National Register of Historic Places; strengthened and added academic programs (including an Honors Program, master’s degrees in elementary education and in management and a nursing school); and increased funding for scholarships and other financial aid for students.
Lunsford is a 1969 graduate of Mars Hill College, earned his graduate degrees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and participated in postdoctoral study at Vanderbilt University and the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Government. He began his career as a 6th grade teacher in Durham, N.C.; was a principal, director of instruction, associate superintendent, and assistant superintendent for Orange County Schools before serving that district as superintendent from 1983-1990; and was superintendent of Henderson County Public Schools from 1990-1998. He began his employment at Mars Hill in 1998 as dean of the School of Education and Leadership.
Lunsford maintains strong involvement in community and professional organizations, including the South Atlantic Conference, Appalachian College Association, and N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities. He and his wife, Beverly, are active in the life of the university and the town of Mars Hill.

1/13/2017 1:25:04 PM by Mars Hill Communications | with 0 comments

LifeWay stores plan nationwide Bible study workshop

January 13 2017 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay

LifeWay Christian Stores across the country will host a nationwide Bible study workshop next week to help people better understand scripture.
The Jan. 17 workshop will teach participants how to conduct a devotional Bible study and how to apply the teachings of scripture to life.

LifeWay photo
Audrey Ellis, assistant store manager, leads a workshop in the LifeWay Christian Store in Chicago.

“This event is another great example of something customers will find in their local LifeWay Store, where we are striving to walk with them every step of the way,” said Nathan Magness, director of marketing strategy.
Magness says this will be the first in a series of workshops for the year.
“This past year, we began hosting monthly events in LifeWay Christian Stores around the country – from a Bible journaling workshop last January to a ‘Mommy & Me’ event last May. These events have proven to be very popular, with some stores seeing hundreds in attendance,” Magness said.
“LifeWay’s Groups Ministry team and Bible and Reference team helped us develop stellar content for the event, including a free workbook for participants and a training session for store teams to review prior to the event.”
The event will be from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and from 6-8 p.m. The first 75 customers at each store will receive a free Bible study workbook. The workbook is also available for free download.
“We saw a need for practical, accessible events that will equip customers with tools on how to study the Bible, how to lead a small group, and so forth,” Magness said.
“These events offer our store teams an opportunity to really engage with their communities as well as an environment where customers can engage with one another.”
Learn more at LifeWay.com/storeevents.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

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1/13/2017 11:58:22 AM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay | with 0 comments

Christian persecution increases; North Korea still No. 1

January 13 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

North Korea ranks as the most dangerous country for Christians for the 16th consecutive time after a year in which the persecution of followers of Jesus continued to rise, according to a new report.
Release of the annual World Watch List from Open Doors USA came as religious freedom advocates call for President-elect Trump to act in the first 100 days of his administration to protect Christians and other people of faith overseas.
About 215 million Christians underwent “high, very high or extreme persecution” last year in the 50 countries on its watch list, Open Doors reported Jan. 11. Open Doors – which has served the persecuted church overseas for more than 60 years – defines persecution as hostility endured by a person because of his identification with Christ. It can include loss of property, imprisonment, torture, rape and death.
According to Open Doors, the top 10 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution and their totals on a 100-point system are: (1) North Korea, 92 points; (2) Somalia, 91; (3) Afghanistan, 89; (4) Pakistan, 88; (5) Sudan, 87; (6) Syria, 86; (7) Iraq, 86; (8) Iran, 85; (9) Yemen, 85; (10) Eritrea, 82.
Open Doors’ list “is a crucial and sobering source of information to help Christians know how to pray and advocate for their persecuted brothers and sisters,” said Travis Wussow, vice president for public policy, as well as general counsel, of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “This advocacy makes a real difference in shaping U.S. policy, which can in turn play a crucial role in protecting the persecuted church around the world.”
In written remarks for Baptist Press, Wussow encouraged “all believers to review the report and select one or two countries and pray for the church there by name.”
David Curry, president of Open Doors, said in a written statement the list clearly shows Christians in the West “need to advocate on behalf of those who do not have the same religious freedom privileges we do.”
Curry and others have urged Trump, who will be inaugurated Jan. 20, to take steps in the opening days of his administration to protect international religious liberty. The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative has drafted – and solicited signers to – a letter urging the president-elect to retain or nominate in his first 100 days an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom and a special advisor for religious minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia.
Both those positions in the U.S. State Department could be vacant by the end of January.
David Saperstein, whose work as ambassador-at-large the last two years has been commended by conservatives and liberals, apparently will have to leave his post by the inauguration, according to a Trump transition memo first reported by The New York Times, World magazine said in a Jan. 9 article.
Knox Thames, also highly regarded across the board for his service the last 16 months as the first special advisor for religious minorities, will lose his job Jan. 31 unless the Trump administration retains him, World reported.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. – a Southern Baptist – told World, “During this unconventional transition, I encourage the Trump administration to make religious freedom positions a priority and maintain key offices within the State Department.”
Though North Korea is a communist country that enforces worship of its leader, Muslim extremism remained the primary force driving persecution last year, with Islamic forces instigating it in 35 of the 50 countries, according to Open Doors.
Persecution increased especially in South and Southeast Asia, reaching levels of violence experienced in such areas as the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, Open Doors reported. In Asia, the persecution was “fueled by dramatic religious nationalism and government insecurity,” according to Open Doors. Commonly, teetering governments scapegoated Christians.
Pakistan, which moved from No. 6 to No. 4 this year, was the most violent country, surpassing the violence in northern Nigeria by Muslims against Christians. India reached its highest ranking ever at No. 15 because of Hindu violence toward Christians.
In its research to compile the World Watch List, Open Doors measures the freedom of Christians in five areas of life – private, family, community, national and church. Its researchers also gauge the degree of violence.
Release of the latest Open Doors list followed a Dec. 30 report of a study by the Italian-based Center for Studies on New Religions, which found Christians are the world’s most persecuted faith group. Using an admittedly broader definition of dying for religious reasons, the study reported nearly 90,000 Christians died for their faith in 2016, according to the International Business Times.
The full report of the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List is available at opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/.
Last year, the State Department designated 10 “countries of particular concern,” a category reserved for especially severe violators of religious liberty. They were Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
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1/13/2017 11:49:49 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Child finds victory physically, spiritually

January 13 2017 by Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message

Just two years ago, little Hayden Heaberlin was facing the fight of his life, one that no 4-year-old should have to face – a battle with cancer.
But family and friends affirm those days of darkness were pierced by the light of God’s mercy and provision.

Submitted photo
Six-year-old Hayden Heaberlin, who has battled cancer for much of his young life, is all smiles as he listens intently to Calvary Baptist Pastor John Lary moments before being baptized Oct. 23.

There was the time when 50 people from his church surrounded his home in a prayer circle while his family was with him in Memphis, Tenn., where he was receiving treatments; and there were countless times when his family relayed to him text messages, phone calls and letters of encouragement.
But not even the news that his cancer was in remission caused him to celebrate like he did Oct. 23 when he was baptized at Calvary Baptist Church in Shreveport.
The worship center was packed with family, friends and church members, and Hayden was all smiles as pastor John Lary baptized him.
“You are a new person,” Hayden said about his conversion. “You don’t look different on the outside but on the inside.”
Hayden said his battle with cancer “was tough, but I got through it because God helped me.
“He can do anything,” Hayden added. “God healed me.”
His mom April describes the day Hayden gave his heart and life to Christ as the day the Lord restored her son physically and spiritually, and she discusses it in stark contrasting terms compared to the day she learned about her son’s cancer.
“When I found out his diagnosis, it’s like we were stripped of all that control and truly had nothing to depend on but the Lord,” she said. “At some points we didn’t know what to pray, but we trusted God’s will.
“Seeing people rally around us and pray for us was such great testimony to us,” she noted. “Going through that extreme low to now, two years later, is truly overwhelming.
“It’s hard to see what God has planned for you in the storm,” she said, “but I know He went before us and had it all planned out. We are beyond blessed, and we are thankful and appreciative of everything He has done for us.”

Submitted photo
Pastor John Lary, left, stands with 6-year-old Hayden Heaberlin and his parents, April and Dusty, the day of his baptism. He is one of 28 people baptized in 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church in Shreveport, La.

Hayden was diagnosed in 2014 with a rare malignant brain tumor – discovered after a playground injury sent him to a Shreveport hospital.
Eight months of surgeries and treatments followed at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Then, just prior to his last treatment at St. Jude’s, the neurosurgeon prepared the family for the worst. However, Hayden woke up with his abilities to speak and see intact.
“Like others in the hospital, the neurosurgeon was amazed. He said ‘it’s not me,’ pointing to the sky toward heaven,” April said. “The whole journey up to this point has been amazing and to this day we can see how God has answered our prayers.”
She especially is thankful for how God has used the situation to give Hayden a testimony he already is using to share the gospel with his friends and others he encounters.
One day, he hopes to become a missionary, April told the Baptist Message.
“He used to want to be a racecar driver but last year during Awana we got to research different missionaries,” April said. “He just lit up and said, ‘That’s what I want to do; I want to tell them about Jesus.’
“He gets so excited when he tells people about Jesus,” she said. “He has a passion for the Lord and a passion to share it. I never would have chosen this path [cancer] for Hayden. But I know the Lord is using this for His glory. I know the Lord has something even greater planned and in store for him.”
Pastor Lary calls the baptism one of the most impactful of which he has been a part. Even at 6 years old, Hayden has the maturity of someone much older, Lary noted.
“The Lord has grown him up so quickly, even in his faith,” Lary said. “When we were talking a few weeks ago, Hayden said he knows what it means to trust the Lord through his two-year journey.
“The Lord has a special calling on his life,” he said. “It was like a day of celebration that Sunday in October but it also was a day of completion for where the Lord brought him to a neat stage in his life.”
Hayden is one of 28 people baptized in 2016 at Calvary Baptist Church.
Baptisms reflect the mission statement of the church – loving God, loving others and making disciples.
To that end, each baptized new believer is enrolled in a discipleship class tailored to the appropriate age level. Children participate in a study of the book, I’m A Christian Now. Teenagers and adults take part in a spiritual growth small group class.
The church utilizes small groups for growth because they have found this method is the most effective, Lary said.
“We feel true growth comes through small groups, when you are doing life together,” he noted.
Calvary Baptist also engages its members in missions locally, nationally and globally.
Its sports outreach program draws between 2,000 and 3,000 students annually, providing a “hook” to share the gospel.
The church’s private school, Calvary Baptist Academy, also provides an inroad to present Christ. Lary said each year, a number of students attending the school accept Christ and follow up in believer’s baptism.
The church also has taken mission trips to New Orleans and Philadelphia. A trip to Ethiopia in 2017 is being organized.
“Calvary at its very core has always been an evangelistically-minded church,” Lary said. “So, from Hayden’s baptism to all the ministries Calvary extends to the community, one thing is constant: Calvary will always strive to keep Jesus the center of it all by loving God, loving others and making disciples. It’s all about Him and His glory.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell is a staff writer for the Baptist Message, baptistmessage.com, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

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1/13/2017 11:40:34 AM by Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message | with 0 comments

Attorney General won’t defend late-term abortions ban

January 13 2017 by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear is refusing to defend Kentucky’s new law banning late-term abortions if a lawsuit challenges its constitutionality, drawing a sharp rebuke from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

Andy Beshear

“This law is clearly unconstitutional based on our review of numerous federal appellate rulings,” Beshear said in a statement Jan. 12.
The new law, passed by the General Assembly on Jan. 7, bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the point at which babies can survive outside the womb.
Bevin chastised Beshear for “refusing to do his job” to defend a law that had the support of nearly 80 percent of the state’s lawmakers, a portion of them Democrats, and that is widely favored by Kentucky voters.
“AG Beshear would rather pander to his liberal, pro-abortion base than defend the law of Kentucky,” Bevin said. “I will, therefore, continue doing it for him by defending these pro-life bills. The citizens of Kentucky demand and deserve no less.”
Beshear said his office would be willing to represent state agencies in a lawsuit filed Jan. 9 by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the state’s new ultrasound law. The law requires women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound first. Please see related story.
“It is also my duty,” he said, “to defend laws where the constitutionality is questionable and finality is needed.”
The leader of the state’s largest religious organization called for Beshear to leave legal representation to the governor’s office in abortion-related cases.
“Given the attorney general’s lackadaisical attitude, I don’t think he would provide the strong, passionate representation Kentucky needs to defend either of these crucial laws,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Latek writes for Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

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1/13/2017 11:26:07 AM by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Sheik sent to kill pastor professes faith in Christ

January 13 2017 by Morning Star News, East Africa Correspondent

Islamic extremists ambushed a church leader in eastern Uganda this month after a sheikh sent to assassinate him during worship instead accepted Christ, sources told Morning Star News.
Sunni Muslim extremists had sent the sheikh, an Islamic teacher trained in Islamic proselytization, to the Pentecostal Upright Church to kill pastor Bishop Edweu. But during Edweu’s sermon on hearing and understanding the voice of God, the power of the gospel convicted the sheik of sin, Edweu said.
News of the former sheikh’s conversion shocked the community, and the 24-year-old newly converted Christian went into hiding. He, his wife and two children, ages 2 and 4, took refuge at an undisclosed location.
A month later on Jan 2, Muslims ambushed Edweu when he arrived for a devotion at the church in Amuria, about 170 miles north of Kampala. Six masked men grabbed Edweu and demanded that he reveal the whereabouts of the sheikh. Some of the gang began slapping and kicking Edweu; others hit him with sticks.
“As I fell down, a vehicle with bright lights flashed, which scared them away, and they disappeared into the nearby bush,” Edweu told Morning Star. “The vehicle arrived and took me into the church compound. Inside the church building we found a letter with a threatening message: ‘We are going to destroy your church unless you show us where [name withheld] is.’”
Area Muslims have reportedly been announcing the conversion weekly as they gather for mosque prayers. A local Christian resident told Morning Star News that on Fridays he has heard over the mosque loudspeaker, “[Name withheld] needs to die for forsaking Islam.”
When converted, the sheik had rushed up to the podium and fell at the feet of Edweu, who stopped preaching and questioned the young man. As tears rolled down the sheikh’s cheeks, he answered, “I was sent to come and attack, to kill the pastor and destroy the church,” according to the pastor.
The Muslim repented in front of the congregation, Edweu prayed for him, and the would-be assassin put his faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, the pastor said.
Since the ambush, Edweu and his congregation fear more persecution could be imminent.
The ambush was the latest in a series of anti-Christian attacks in eastern Uganda. Also in eastern Uganda, Muslim relatives of 24-year-old Sandra Summaya coerced her into taking poison at a New Year’s celebration, she said, because she accepted Christ at a Christmas worship service. Muslims in eastern Uganda beat Christians at a Christmas worship service and wrecked the home of a single mother on Christmas Eve, sources said.
This past December, relatives of a former Islamic teacher attacked his 60-year-old mother for becoming a Christian, wounding her head and breaking her hand, sources said. Aimuna Namutongi sustained a deep cut on her forehead. She and her son Malik Higenyi, whom Muslim relatives had beaten unconscious on Nov. 13 after he made a public profession of faith in Christ, managed to escape the attackers in December. Namutongi had been converted through her son’s testimony, a local source said.
Villagers recounted isolated attacks dating back to last June.
About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. The country’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another, but Christians in eastern Uganda are suffering continual attacks by non-state figures.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morning Star News is a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide.)

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1/13/2017 11:21:08 AM by Morning Star News, East Africa Correspondent | with 0 comments

Old Testament scholar, theologian dies at 70

January 12 2017 by SEBTS and Gateway Seminary reports

Well-known professor of Old Testament, John Herbert Sailhamer, 70, died Jan. 9 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body Dementia. During his career, Sailhamer served a number of institutions, including Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), where he worked from 1999-2006. Most recently, Sailhamer taught at Gateway Seminary, formerly Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, until he retired in 2012.

John Herbert Sailhamer

Sailhamer’s work at SEBTS was marked by service to students, as he spent much of his time advising master of theology and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) students through the thesis and dissertation process. During this time he also served as the president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2000 and wrote his last major publication The Meaning of the Pentateuch in 2009. That work was called his magnum opus and was listed among Amazon.com’s top 100 sellers. He served on the review and editorial teams for the New Living Translation and the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
The SEBTS community remembers Sailhamer for his contributions to Old Testament scholarship and the greatness of his character.
“John Sailhamer was the quintessential Christian scholar. His thoughtful writings will continue to bless the Church for years to come,” said SEBTS President Danny Akin. “His ability in the classroom is truly legendary. I do not choose my words lightly. He was that good and how we will miss him.” 
“John Sailhamer was not only a great man but a profoundly good man. He was great in that he was the consummate research scholar and a master classroom instructor who received standing ovations at the end of his courses,” said Provost Bruce Ashford. “But more significantly he was a good man, a humble and loving servant of the Lord who was loved by his peers and students.”
Tracy McKenzie, associate professor of biblical studies, worked closely with Sailhamer as a teaching assistant and Ph.D. student at SEBTS. In a tribute to Sailhamer, McKenzie wrote, “Much could be said of Sailhamer’s career in teaching and publishing … The numbers of his students who now serve in the academy – both inside and outside of evangelicalism – not to mention the pulpit, attest to his profound influence in the field through teaching and supervising Ph.D. students.”
The Library at Southeastern is home to Sailhamer’s personal library, a collection of rare volumes documenting the history of the Old Testament interpretation in post-Reformation Europe. Through this special collection, students have and will continue to benefit from Sailhamer’s work for years to come.
The author of more than 15 books, various articles and essays, his writing centered on reading the Bible, the Pentateuch in particular, as a unified, coherent whole.
Sailhamer earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from California State University, Long Beach, and worked as a general assignments reporter for the Dallas Morning News before completing a master of theology degree in Old Testament from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1974, a master of arts degree in Semitic languages from UCLA in 1976, and a doctor of philosophy degree in ancient Near East languages and literature from UCLA in 1981. He was ordained by the Evangelical Free Church of America in 1983.
His 36-year teaching career began in 1975 at Los Angeles Bible College and continued at Biola University, Bethel Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Western Seminary before starting work at SEBTS.
He is survived by Patty Engdahl Sailhamer, his wife of 45 years; his children, David Sailhamer, Elizabeth Sailhamer Soukup, John Christian Sailhamer and Peter Sailhamer; eight grandchildren; brother, Paul Sailhamer; and sister, Claudette Miller.
A memorial service and celebration of his life will be held Jan. 13, at 4 p.m. at the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, north campus, at 2904 N. Brea Blvd. in Fullerton, Calif. A private burial will take place near Sailhamer’s birthplace of Moline, Ill., at Kingsbury Country Cemetery. Please send donations to the Compassion Fund or Disability Family Fund and the First Evangelical Free Church.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Katherine Chute is director of communications for Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

1/12/2017 9:23:33 AM by SEBTS and Gateway Seminary reports | with 0 comments

Obama farewell draws mixed response from Baptists

January 12 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Following President Obama’s farewell address Jan. 11 in Chicago, Southern Baptists who have met with him personally reflected on his “liberal” social policies, apparent commitment to family, and status as America’s first black president.

Screen capture from CNN.com
In his farewell address to the nation, President Barack Obama said conversations with Americans of all ideological perspectives “made me a better president and ... a better man.”

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee President Frank S. Page said he “watched the presidential speech with great interest” and has appreciated Obama’s example as a husband and father despite deep disagreements with the president on some issues.
A member of Obama’s Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2009-10, Page told Baptist Press in written comments, “I have interacted with him personally and find him to be greatly engaging and gregarious.”
“I’ve also deeply disagreed with him on a number of social and moral issues and believe that our country is deeply divided because of his intractable adherence to an extremely liberal agenda. I have no doubt that President Barack Obama will be vilified by some historians and glorified by others,” Page said.
Other Southern Baptists to meet with Obama during his presidency include Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) President Russell Moore, former ERLC President Richard Land and Montana Southern Baptist Convention executive director Barrett Duke.
Former SBC President Fred Luter received a congratulatory phone call from Obama two days after being elected the convention’s first African American president.
Obama’s speech, delivered on the eve of Donald Trump’s first press conference as president-elect, outlined four “challenges to our democracy” and touched on social issues that have divided him at times from social conservatives.
The four challenges Obama noted were lack of economic opportunity for some Americans, racial division, disagreement on basic facts surrounding certain issues and taking democracy for granted.
The nearly hour-long speech referenced lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights on four occasions, at one point classifying “LGBT rights” among “big global fights” from which “we cannot withdraw.”
Racial justice and reconciliation was a major theme of the speech.
“Race relations are better than they were 10, or 20, or 30 years ago,” Obama said. But “we’re still not where we need to be, and all of us have more work to do.”
Antidiscrimination laws must be upheld, Obama said, and “hearts must change.” Later, he referenced the 2015 murder of nine black worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., by a self-described white supremacist.
Obama thanked his family and White House colleagues for their support and said conversations with Americans of all ideological perspectives “made me a better president and ... a better man.”
Land, who retired in 2013 after 25 years as head of the ERLC and its predecessor organization the Christian Life Commission, told Baptist Press (BP) he met with Obama twice.
“In a country where there is increasing family dislocation,” Land said, it has been “important that [Obama] has given every indication of being a devoted husband and father.” He added that electing an African American president “says something really important and really good about our country.”
However, Land said he is “disappointed” Obama “has not used the occasion of being the first African American president to bring about greater racial reconciliation.”
Regarding foreign policy, Land said he disagrees with Obama’s response to situations in Iran, Iraq and Syria among other global hotspots.
Domestically, the president’s Affordable Care Act, pro-abortion policies, “radically liberal” Supreme Court nominees and “championing” of the pro-gay agenda drew criticism from Land.
Duke, a former ERLC vice president for public policy and research who met with Obama at least twice, told BP he is “glad” for “the opportunity to meet and work with our nation’s first African American president.”
“While we knew we disagreed on many substantive matters, President Obama was very gracious and respectful toward me,” Duke said in written comments. “He is a man of deep, personal convictions, and he stood by his convictions. However, I found him to be very thoughtful and open to counsel on matters of common interest.”
Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the SBC has referenced him in at least seven convention resolutions. The evaluations expressed by Southern Baptists following his farewell address mirror the perspective of a 2009 resolution “on President Barack Hussein Obama.”
In 2009, messengers stated they “share[d] our nation’s pride in our continuing progress toward racial reconciliation signaled by the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America.”
The 2009 resolution also “deplore[d] the President’s decision to expand federal funding for destructive human embryo research” and “decr[ied]” his “decision to increase funding for pro-abortion groups and to reduce funding for abstinence education.”
Messengers additionally pledged to “earnestly pray” for Obama, who leaves office Jan. 20.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/12/2017 9:23:06 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Repent & be saved, ‘Emanuel 9’ families urge Roof

January 12 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Convicted murderer Dylann Roof should repent of the massacre of nine people he killed at Mother Emanuel church, the victims’ survivors said after a jury recommended the death penalty Jan. 10.

ABC Nightly News screen capture
Family members of Myra Thompson, one of nine blacks killed during the June 17, 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, S.C., urged convicted killer Dylann Roof to repent after a jury recommended the death penalty. ABC’s Steve Osunsami, left, interviewed Thompson’s widow Anthony and their daughter Denise Quarles.

“Judgment day is coming sooner for him than what he expected,” Denise Quarles, daughter of massacre victim Myra Thompson, said on ABC News after the jury’s decision was announced. “He definitely needs to [repent].” Her father and Thompson’s widow Anthony Thompson said “yes” in agreement.
Roof, an avowed white supremacist, affirmed his decision to kill the black worshippers as recently as the December 2016 sentencing phase of the trial, it was widely reported. Acting as his own attorney, he said, “I felt like I had to do it and I still feel like I have to do it,” Roof said then, ABC News reported.
Myra Thompson, a 59-year-old wife and mother of two children, was among those Roof killed after they welcomed him to a June 17, 2015 Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (also known as Mother Emanuel AME) in Charleston, S.C. During the closing prayer, Roof began firing 77 rounds from a Glock .45 caliber handgun, reloading the 13-round chamber several times before leaving the church.
Melvin Graham, the brother of 54-year-old victim Cynthia Graham Hurd, also encouraged Roof to repent.
“He’s in God’s hands now,” Graham said in an interview recorded by several news outlets, including PBS, outside the federal courthouse in Charleston. “And if he turns his life around, if he makes a humble confession to God … he can join my sister and the other eight in heaven. Because God said, ‘I will forgive you for no matter what you do, I will forgive you,’” said Graham, paraphrasing scripture.
“Just like when he showed no remorse here, when that time comes if he chooses not to show any remorse, then he again will determine his sentence,” said Graham, a father and grandfather who lives in Goose Creek. “He has another chance.”
Family members of the victims notably expressed forgiveness to Roof before the Grand Jury when charges were filed against the white supremacist, but Graham said he’s still trying to forgive Roof.
“I’m a work in progress,” Graham said during the interview, but expressed assurance that in time “peace will come.”
Among Roof’s victims was Emanuel AME pastor and legislator Clementa Pinckney. Emanuel’s current pastor Eric S. C. Manning was not available to Baptist Press for comment Jan. 11, as he was in court hearing U.S. District Judge Richard Giegel officially sentence Roof to death, a church staff member told Baptist Press.
During the trial, Roof never expressed remorse for the crime and insisted that he is not mentally ill.
“I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed,” Roof wrote from jail days after confessing to the crime, according to the FBI. “I would like to make it crystal clear. I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry.” Roof laughed nine times about the killings during his recorded confession, the FBI said.
Roof has already requested an appeal of the death sentence, ABC News reported. Because Roof represented himself during the sentencing phase, he would also be responsible for filing an appeal, according to ABC News.
Roof is the first person sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. He also faces state charges punishable by death, but a date for the state trial has not been set.
A memorial to the victims remains on Emanuel AME’s website. “In Loving Memory. Gone But Never Forgotten,” accompanies photos of the victims. “Thank you to all who have prayed, sent cards, gifts and for other acts of kindness as we continue to grieve and heal.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

1/12/2017 9:22:43 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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