January 2018

Black church, family conference marks 25 years

January 26 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Black Church Leadership and Family Conference celebrates its 25th year July 16-20 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest, N.C.
The only year Mark Croston didn’t attend was when obligations at his former pastorate, East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., kept him away, he told Baptist Press (BP) ahead of the 2018 event hosted annually by LifeWay Christian Resources.

“Churches from across the country have participated and been blessed by this event,” said Croston, who resigned his pastorate in 2013 to serve as LifeWay’s national director of Black Church Partnerships. “Many who have attended over the years have watched their children grow up together and become lifelong friends. Some are serving in ministry and others are in seminary today preparing for ministry careers.”
The conference theme “Still Turning Things Around,” is based on Isaiah 45:22-25 and is also the focus of the fall 2018 YOU Bible study curriculum, LifeWay’s urban and multicultural series. 2018 marks the curriculum’s 10th anniversary, Croston said.
The conference is designed to encompass transformation and leisure, Croston told BP.
“While other events have come and gone,” Croston said, “Black Church Leadership and Family Conference still seeks to provide the relevant and transformational training that our churches need to meet the challenges of today.”
Croston credits several Southern Baptist Convention groups, the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention (NAAF) for the event’s longevity.
“For the past 25 years LifeWay Christian Resources, IMB (International Mission Board), NAMB (North American Mission Board), GuideStone, WMU and NAAF have been coming together to provide training and inspiration in the African American cultural context at Black Church Leadership and Family Conference,” Croston said. “In these latter years the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) Executive Committee, the ERLC (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) and several of our seminaries have partnered as well.”
Biblical edification, worship, fellowship and recreation highlight the event that Croston describes as “a grand reunion of old and new.” Elgia “Jay” Wells, Croston’s predecessor at LifeWay, is expected to attend, and children who grew up in the conference will be among an extensive lineup of ministers and teachers.
Among key speakers are Emory Berry, lead pastor of Greenforest Community Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., and his wife Julie Berry; SBC Pastors’ Conference President H.B Charles Jr., lead pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; Darron Edwards, lead pastor of United Believers Community Church, Kansas City, Mo.; and Tarrance Floyd, lead pastor of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church, Wichita, Kan.
Other key speakers include Vernon Gordon, lead pastor of The Life Church, Richmond, Va.; Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church, Atlanta; Breonus Mitchell Sr., lead pastor of Mount Gilead Missionary Baptist Church, Nashville; Joe Pace, pastor of worship and arts at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist; and San Pablo, Calif. urban missionary Marshelle Wilburn.
Registration and additional information are available at ridgecrestconferencecenter.org/event/blackchurchleadershipfamilyconference#.Wmn0DYeWzq.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

1/26/2018 10:23:50 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

California lawmakers call for more homeschool oversight

January 26 2018 by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service

Homeschooling opponents in California seized on the horrific case of child abuse discovered Jan. 14 in Riverside County to call for more oversight of parents who teach their children at home.
But homeschooling advocates say policymakers need to consider one key fact obscured by emotional reactions to the Tupin case: None of the organizations that track child abuse list homeschooling as a risk factor.
Police discovered what media outlets have dubbed a “house of horrors” when one of David and Louise Turpin’s 13 children escaped through a window in their stucco-sided, suburban home, which looked completely normal from the outside. But inside, investigators found signs of extreme abuse amid filthy conditions, with piles of human waste next to furniture where the parents had shackled the children. News reports quickly focused on a mitigating factor child safety advocates claim enabled the abuse: The Turpins homeschooled their children with no oversight from government officials.
Citing the lack of state involvement in home and private schools, California Assemblyman Jose Medina, a Democrat, said he plans to introduce legislation requiring state officials to conduct on-site inspections of all private schools in the state, which include parents who educate their children at home.
“I am extremely concerned about the lack of oversight the state of California currently has in monitoring private and home schools,” said Medina, who represents the area where the Turpins lived. Other lawmakers called for better enforcement of existing laws that require local fire departments to visit registered private schools every year, something that didn’t happen in the Turpin case.
Scott Woodruff, senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), said he understands why the California case has evoked such a strong emotional response. Everyone should be traumatized by the despicable – and criminal – treatment the Turpin children suffered at the hands of their parents, he said, but lawmakers are tasked with considering facts, not emotions.
“Any legislation that starts with a false premise shouldn’t be made into law,” Woodruff said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), risk factors for child abuse include parents’ failure to understand a child’s needs, a history of abuse in the family, substance abuse or mental health issues, poverty, low education, single parenthood, a large number of dependent children and transient caregivers in the home. The CDC details other factors, but none include homeschooling. While lawmakers should consider ways to stop child abuse, any regulations they adopt must address known risk factors if they are going to be effective, Woodruff said.
Other homeschool defenders note that children who attend public schools also suffer abuse, sometimes by teachers and coaches. They also face attacks, including bullying, by fellow classmates – abuse teachers and administrators too often fail to stop.
More details in the Turpin case now indicate public educators in Fort Worth, Texas, where the family first lived, missed a chance to stop the abuse early on. Former elementary school classmates of the Turpins’ oldest child, now 29, say she often came to school wearing the same dirty clothes and appeared frail. The girl attended public school from kindergarten to fourth grade – four years during which teachers never reported anything amiss.
The CDC does list social isolation as a risk factor for families, something that appears to have played a significant role in the Turpin case. The parents’ long history of antisocial behavior, recounted by former neighbors and estranged family members, feeds the narrative that homeschoolers are reclusive, withdrawing from public or private education because they have something to hide. But that does not appear to mesh with the reality of most homeschooling families. With rare exceptions, homeschooling families are more civically involved than non-homeschooling families, Woodruff said. Homeschoolers are more likely to participate in rallies or demonstrations, and homeschool graduates are more likely to work to promote a political candidate or social cause, he noted.
In a message to members and supporters Jan. 23, HSLDA president Mike Smith acknowledged reaction to the Turpin case could cause a backlash in public opinion about homeschooling. His advice: Engage with the community so they can see for themselves that homeschoolers care deeply about their children’s wellbeing.
“Be confident. Be friendly,” Smith wrote. “Keep encouraging your kids to go outside and play. And go on being involved in your neighborhood and your larger community.”
Despite calls for more regulation in California, a typically fertile ground for liberal policies, Woodruff voiced confidence homeschoolers would maintain their freedom to educate their children as they see fit.
“Homeschool freedom is a bipartisan issue,” he said, noting Republican and Democratic governors and legislatures have adopted pro-homeschool legislation. “This is not a party issue. This is a freedom issue, and we have seen historic support for homeschool freedom.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Jones writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

1/26/2018 10:20:30 AM by Leigh Jones, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Kentucky leader & pastors minister amid shooting aftermath

January 25 2018 by Kentucky Today & Western Recorder staff

The school shooting in Kentucky provided Baptist leader Paul Chitwood an extraordinary opportunity for ministry Jan. 23 among families of the two students killed and 18 others injured in a classmate’s melee.
Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, was visiting with Marshall County pastors when he received word of the shootings at Marshall County High School, about 20 miles southeast of Paducah.

CNN.com screen capture
Students and families gather for a vigil Jan. 23 after a student opened fire at Marshall County High School, killing two students in Benton, Ky.

The handgun-wielding alleged shooter was disrupted by a Marshall County sheriff’s deputy. The 15-year-old, who shot into a school common area before the start of classes, will be charged with murder and attempted murder, Kentucky State Police Lt. Michael Webb told the Baptist website Kentucky Today.
Killed in the shooting were Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, both 15-year-olds.
Chitwood urged prayer for the grieving families, the injured teens and their families and the students who witnessed the carnage.
“All the children have been traumatized,” Chitwood said. “They saw their friends shot. They had to run for their lives. We need to pray for healing and pray for the community and churches as they come together to minister to the families.”
Fourteen victims were treated for gunshot wounds and four others were injured during the incident, according to updated news accounts Jan. 24.
Six of the wounded students were taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, where Kentucky Baptist Convention President Charles Frazier spent the day ministering to families. Frazier is pastor of Zion’s Cause Baptist Church in Benton.
Chitwood and other Marshall County pastors spent several hours at a middle school where parents and students were reunited.
“About every kid had a cellphone and had been in touch with their parents,” Chitwood said. “But, even so, talk about tearful reunions, when these kids got out to their parents, it was a very emotional time.”
Area churches offered open doors, encouragement and support to the Benton community in the wake of a shooting. Hardin Baptist Church, located about 20 minutes from Benton, was among them, opening its doors from noon-2 p.m. for any student or family of a student who wanted to talk to or pray with a pastor or counselor. Around 20-30 students and adults were in and out the two-hour period.
Kory Cunningham, Hardin’s associate pastor, told the Kentucky convention’s Western Recorder news journal that youth and adults will meet together for tonight’s Wednesday evening service for “just a night of scripture and prayer. We are going to try again to bring each other together and remind us of the things that really matter in life.”
Joseph Brown, a 2015 graduate of Marshall County High School and member of Hardin Baptist, challenged those in his community via Facebook, “I beg any student that needs to talk to someone to please go to a counselor or talk to someone. It’s so important to talk about how you feel and what’s on your mind or something you saw, to someone that you can trust or get an answer from. The power of prayer is still strong.”
Brown, whose younger brother attends Marshall County High School, continued, “Don’t turn to hate and corruption. I pray that this situation will bring more to Christ and glorify Him. Let the ones we know, know that we love them, that the community loves them. In your spare time swing by the hospital and drop off flowers or just stop by and tell the student/parent you love them to show them we care.”
Kentucky State Police Commissioner Richard Sanders said the school had recently gone through active shooter training. “The students at the school did exactly as they were trained,” he said.
Without the Marshall County sheriff’s deputy apprehending the alleged shooter, Webb of the Kentucky State Police noted, “There is no way to know how much further it would have went.”
“Clearly, this kind of thing can happen anywhere, and I don’t know that there’s a way to stop it,” Chitwood said. “But it was inspiring to see the way the school officials and first responders handled this situation and the way parents reacted under extreme duress.”
Ricky Cunningham, Hardin Baptist’s senior pastor, noted, “Several of our church members work in the school system and they ministered amazingly in the crisis and chaos. Many of them were in the location of the shooter and shooting.” Cunningham, who was en route to the Amazon River to teach pastors, fielded calls from the airport in Nashville all morning related to the shooting.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, in a statement posted Jan. 23, noted, “This is a tremendous tragedy and speaks to the heartbreak present in our communities. It is unbelievable that this would happen in a small, close-knit community like Marshall County. As there is still much unknown, I encourage people to love on each other at this time. Do not speculate, but come alongside each other in support and allow the facts to come out.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention; the Western Recorder, westernrecorder.org, is the convention’s news journal.)

1/25/2018 8:28:54 AM by Kentucky Today & Western Recorder staff | with 0 comments

Adoption, foster care common in churches, study says

January 25 2018 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

The Bible has a lot to say about caring for orphans. Protestant churches in the United States appear to be listening.
About 4 in 10 Protestant churchgoers say their congregation has been involved with adoption or foster care in the past year, according to a study released Jan. 24 by LifeWay Research, which conducted the survey Aug. 22-30.

LifeWayResearch.com graphic

The church’s involvement on this issue may be because the Bible tells them to, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
“Foster care appears to come naturally for churchgoers,” he said. “It’s not surprising, since the Bible commands them to care for widows and orphans.”

Foster care, adoption are commonplace

Since the early 2000s, many Protestant churches have commemorated “Orphan Sunday” every November to draw attention to the plight of orphans around the world.
In the past, they’ve often focused on international adoption and orphanages. But in recent years, foster care – both in the United States and abroad – has become a focus as well.
LifeWay Research’s survey of 1,010 churchgoers – those who attend a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month – found 25 percent say someone from their church has been involved in foster care over the past year.
Seventeen percent say someone from their church has adopted a child from the U.S. in the past year. Fifteen percent say someone from their church has adopted a child from another country.
Those at larger churches, with 250 or more in attendance, are most likely to know someone in their church who has provided foster care (37 percent). Those who attend smaller churches, with fewer than 250 in attendance, are less likely (20 percent).
Those who attend nondenominational churches (39 percent) are the most likely to know someone who has fostered children.
Churchgoers from nondenominational churches are also most likely to know someone at church who had adopted a child from the United States (25 percent). Baptists (15 percent), Lutherans (12 percent) and Pentecostals (10 percent) are less likely.
Churchgoers from larger congregations are more likely to know someone who had adopted from abroad (30 percent) than those from smaller churches (7 percent). So are those from nondenominational churches (34 percent).
White (20 percent) and Hispanic (15 percent) churchgoers are more likely than African-American churchgoers (4 percent) to say someone from their church has adopted a child from another country.

Church leaders

Still, church leaders in general don’t talk much about adoption, according to LifeWay Research’s survey.

  • Fourteen percent of churchgoers say church leaders have encouraged families to consider adoption.
  • Twelve percent say church leaders encouraged them to become involved in foster care.
  • Eight percent say church leaders raised funds for families that are adopting.
  • Six percent say church leaders provided training for foster parents.

Overall, about half (45 percent) of churchgoers say their church has had no involvement with or conversation about foster care and adoption. Leaders at smaller congregations are less likely to encourage families to consider adoption (8 percent) or foster care (8 percent), to raise funds for adoptive families (5 percent) or to provide training for foster parents (2 percent).
Leaders at larger congregations are more likely to encourage families to consider adoption (23 percent) or foster care (20 percent) and to raise funds for adoptive families (15 percent) or provide training for foster parents (13 percent) than smaller congregations.
White (15 percent) and Hispanic (22 percent) churchgoers are more like to say their church’s leaders encouraged families to consider adoption. African-American churchgoers are less likely (6 percent).
Adoption and foster care are most commonly mentioned among nondenominational churchgoers. Twenty-nine percent say their church’s leaders encourage families to adopt. Twenty-six percent say their church’s leaders encouraged families to provide foster care. Fourteen percent say church leaders raised money for adoptive families. Twelve percent provided training for foster parents.
The number of adoptions in the U.S. has declined slightly in recent years, according to National Council on Adoption, from 133,737 in 2007 to 110,373 in 2014. That coincided with a decline in international adoptions, which dropped from a high of 22,989 in 2004 to 5,370 in 2016, according to the State Department.
According to a 2015 report from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, 427,910 children were in foster care, with 111,820 waiting for adoption.
“There may be no greater expression of the Christian faith than extending hope and love to children whose birth families are not able to able to care for them,” McConnell said.


LifeWay Research conducted the study Aug. 22-30, 2017, using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. People in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate but do not already have internet access, GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
For this survey, a nationally representative sample of U.S. Protestant and nondenominational adults (18 and older) who attend religious services once a month or more often was selected from the KnowledgePanel.
Sample stratification and base weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, home ownership, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. Study-specific weights included for gender by age, race/ethnicity, region, and education to reflect GSS 2016 data. The completed sample is 1,010 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends.)

1/25/2018 8:28:14 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

University ordered to readmit campus Christian group

January 25 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A state university must temporarily restore registered status to a Christian student group kicked off campus for allegedly violating the school’s human rights policy, a U.S. district court ruled Jan. 23.

University of Iowa photo
The University of Iowa must temporarily restore registered status to a Christian student group kicked off campus for allegedly violating the school’s human rights policy, a U.S. district court ruled Jan. 23.

The University of Iowa (UI) in Iowa City must restore registered status for 90 days to Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC), which the school accused of violating the human rights of an applicant because he identified as a homosexual. The Davenport, Iowa court decision allows BLinC to participate in a campus membership recruitment event Jan. 24 that BLinC said is crucial to its growth.
The court did not address BLinC’s religious freedom in particular, basing its decision instead on BLinC’s claim that its rights to freedom of speech and “expressive association” had been violated. Specifically, UI discriminated against BLinC when compared to other student groups among some 500 on campus, the court said.
“In light of this selective enforcement, the Court finds BLinC has established the requisite fair chance of prevailing on the merits of its claims under the Free Speech Clause,” Judge Stephanie M. Rose wrote in issuing the decision. “Because BLinC has established the required likelihood of success on one of its claims, the Court will not address BLinC’s claims under the Religious Clauses.”
BLinC’S attorney Eric Baxter, senior counsel of the non-profit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said the decision is a first step in ensuring the student group is not penalized for its faith.
“The Court agreed that the University has to stop discriminating against BLinC because of its religious beliefs,” Baxter said in a press release today. “Every other group on campus gets to select leaders who embrace their mission.”
In issuing its decision, the court said “BLinC may seek further action as necessary, and Defendants may respond by detailing any changes to the enforcement of its Human Rights Policy to registered student organizations.” Baxter expects UI will issue a decision this year to “permanently allow BLinC to stay on campus and pick leaders who embrace its faith.”
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Eastern Division, issued the ruling after hearing case arguments last week.
The case arose from circumstances dating to March, 2016, when a BLinC member who said he was pursuing homosexual relationships requested to serve as BLinC’s vice president, according to case materials posted at Becketlaw.org. When BLinC’s president told the student “she needed to discuss his candidacy for leadership with the rest of the executive team,” the student filed a complaint with the university.
The university told BLinC to “revise” its statement of faith or face revocation of its status as an on-campus group.
BLinC, established on campus in the fall of 2014, desires “to help students learn about how to continually keep Christ first in the fast-paced business world,” according to BLinC’s constitution. While interested students may join BLinC, the group limits leadership posts to students who “seek to live out” biblical principles.
The group had about 10 members, according to its attorneys.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

1/25/2018 8:27:57 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

ERLC names Leadership Council for 2018

January 25 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) announced Jan. 24 its 2018 Leadership Council.

ERLC graphic

The 75 pastors and leaders on the council will receive equipping from the ERLC staff designed to help them and their churches apply the gospel of Jesus to all areas of life. The commission, which initiated the council in 2014, unveils its latest list of council members each January.
ERLC President Russell Moore said he is excited each year “to be able to partner with a new group of leaders from around the country who are eager to address issues of great importance with a gospel focus both in the life of their churches and in the public square.”
“As an organization, we exist to serve churches, as they engage some of the most difficult cultural and societal questions imaginable every day,” Moore said in a written release. “I’m thrilled to be able to serve alongside these men and women to do all we can to model faithful Christian witness.”
Among the 2018 members who were also part of the Leadership Council last year are:

  • H.B. Charles, pastor-teacher of Shiloh Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Fla., and president of the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference;
  • Jen Wilkin, author and Bible teacher, as well as a member of The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex;
  • Byron Day, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., and president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC;
  • Matt Chandler, lead pastor of teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex;
  • Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware;
  • Jimmy Scroggins, lead pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The new members, who make up about two-thirds of the council, include:

  • J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh/Durham, N.C., area;
  • Jose Abella, lead pastor of Providence Road Church in Miami, Fla., and the SBC’s second vice president;
  • Teresa Chambers, interim head of school at First Baptist Academy in Houston;
  • Grant Ethridge, senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton Roads, Va.;
  • Noe Garcia, senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church;
  • Buddy Gray, senior pastor of Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, Ala.;
  • Averri LeMalle, associate pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston;
  • Ronnie Parrott, lead pastor of Christ Community Church in Huntersville, N.C.;
  • Bekah Stoneking, content editor for Explore the Bible: Kids at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville.

In written comments provided by the ERLC, Day said, “The challenge of our culture requires biblical wisdom and a prayerful, loving yet truthful approach to engaging people with the gospel. [The] ERLC helps the disciples of Christ to lovingly reach out to our world.”
Parrott said he is elated to serve on the council. “In a time when cultural confusion runs rampant, the ERLC is shining a bright light on biblical convictions such as life, sexuality and gender,” he said.
Council members receive training from the ERLC through events and conference calls. They provide counsel to commission staff and sometimes write for the ERLC’s website.
The entire list of council members is available at erlc.com/about/leadership-council.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/25/2018 8:23:17 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Dead Sea Scrolls fragment may help solve Bible puzzle

January 25 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A message from one of the last two untranslated Dead Sea Scrolls may contain a clue to help Bible scholars reconstruct the chronology of Jesus’ final week on earth.
Researchers at the University of Haifa have pieced together and translated 42 encoded fragments of a scroll that explain the structure of a year according to the 364-day calendar employed by the first-century Jewish Qumran sect, which lived in the Judean desert and authored the scroll.
While the Qumran sect’s use of a 364-day calendar was known from previously-translated ancient documents, the newly-translated material – published in the winter 2017-18 issue of the Journal of Biblical Literature – reveals the Hebrew name of a festival the sect observed to celebrate each change of season: Tekufah (“period” in English).
In contrast to the 364-day calendar, the more mainstream Pharisees and Sadducees employed a lunar calendar, which at times placed Jewish festivals on slightly different days.
Jim Sibley, a longtime Baptist representative in Israel who teaches at Israel College of the Bible, told Baptist Press (BP) Jesus and His disciples may have operated according to the Qumran sect’s calendar during the final week of His life. That could explain “the apparent discrepancy” between John 19:14’s report that Jesus died the day immediately preceding the evening of the Jewish Passover meal and the Gospels’ account of Christ’s eating the Passover meal the previous night, he said.
“The sign for the disciples as to where they would have the supper was a man carrying a pitcher of water,” Sibley said in written comments. Presumably, the disciples found him in southwest Jerusalem, “the traditional site of the upper room.” Some scholars believe that area was home to Essenes during the first century, leaving open the possibility the man was an Essene who observed the Passover according to the 364-day calendar.
A member of the Essenes may have “expressed faith in Jesus and joined the rest of His followers in Jerusalem,” Sibley speculated.
The newly-translated calendar scroll, known as 4Q324d, Sibley said, “point[s] up the importance given to the calendar” in the first century. He added that while the Old Testament notes months of the Jewish calendar, it does not stipulate whether days of the months were to be calculated by the lunar method or the 364-day calendar.
Among other unique features of the scroll, it was written in code and references both biblical and extra-biblical Jewish festivals, wrote University of Haifa researchers Eshbal Ratzon and Jonathan Ben-Dov.
Their work overturned an earlier researcher’s conclusion that the fragments came from several different scrolls, according to the Journal of Biblical Literature article.
Lamar Cooper, a Criswell College professor who has helped excavate a cave where some Dead Sea Scrolls were located, told BP the latest translation “really excites” him because it validates the overall usefulness of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“When the Dead Sea Scrolls were first found [in 1947], people thought they were not anything worthwhile,” said Cooper, distinguished senior professor of Old Testament and archaeology. “Over the years, everything that comes out [of the Dead Sea Scrolls] affirms what the Bible says.”
The Dead Sea Scrolls likely date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. and include important Old Testament manuscripts among about 900 documents written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Arabic and Latin.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/25/2018 8:18:11 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Sarah Huckabee Sanders: believer & mom in White House

January 24 2018 by Brandon Pickett & Maina Mwaura, Baptist Press

Experiencing the atmosphere of the West Wing is an unforgettable experience for anyone. But it’s an everyday experience for White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Screen capture from C-Span

As the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders took an interest in government and politics from an early age. Her extreme interest in politics “doesn’t make me sound like a very fun 7-year-old,” she joked in an afternoon interview.
Sanders, named as White House press secretary in July 2017, spoke with Baptist Press (BP) about her time in the role so far and how her Christian faith intersects with her work. The energy and zeal Sanders brought to the interview made clear her passion for her work in the Donald Trump administration.
“I think the president is doing great, and I think that it is obvious in the accomplishments he’s had in the first nine months in office,” Sanders said in the late-October interview.
“We’ve got a strong economy, we’ve got ISIS on the run and we have a Supreme Court justice in Neil Gorsuch that I think is going to leave an incredible legacy and will be one of the defining moments of the president’s tenure. I think we have had an incredibly successful nine months,” she said, stating her belief that “we’re going to get a lot more done.”
Asked what advice her father, a former Southern Baptist pastor, gave her when she was named as White House press secretary, Sanders said it was the same advice he has given her throughout her life.
“He’s always told me to be honest and be myself,” Sanders said. “I think that is something that applies regardless of whether you are a high school student or whether you’re in a professional career, and I think it’s good advice and something you can take with you no matter what.”

Photo by Brandon Pickett
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a working mom as evidenced by a bulletin board with artwork and notes from her three young children.

Although Sanders is the third woman to hold the title of White House press secretary, she is the first who is also a mom. She has three children, the oldest having started kindergarten this year. How does she juggle it all?
“I think a big part of it is that I have a great partner – my husband [Bryan] is incredibly patient and supportive, not just of me professionally but personally,” Sanders said. “So that makes a huge difference. I certainly would not have been able to do any of this without him and, frankly, wouldn’t want to.
“I think with any parent, you have a responsibility to try and be a good role model for your kids. I try to do that every day, and I hope that my kids, particularly my daughter, can say, ‘Look, in this world, I can do anything I want to do,’ and I hope she sees that and certainly sees that you can be a mom and have a professional career as well if you want to.”
Sanders said her faith is an integral part of her life and something she wants to represent despite being in a political position.
“A lot of times people say you need to separate faith and work, and my answer is that you can’t. Because if you are a deep-rooted Christian, your faith is what defines you, and I think that’s something that I try to take with me in everything I do and certainly don’t separate that when I go to work every day.”
Sanders has had to rely on her faith, especially through difficult circumstances and various tragedies amid the Trump presidency, like last summer’s hurricanes and the Las Vegas shooting, which took place in October, a couple months after she began in her role.
“I think your faith can help you get through the good and the bad days,” Sanders said. “Faith isn’t something that you want to lean on just when it is a difficult situation. ... [It’s] something that I try and I fail like everybody else every single day, but I think trying to do as much as you can to really connect and to have a real faith is important, and I try to do that. Again, some days are sure better than others and certainly we all fall short, but I try to be the strongest Christian that I can every day.”
Even while answering interview questions, Sanders’ gaze never strays too far from the multiple television screens in her West Wing office locked on every news network. But despite the high level of stress she faces, Sanders has a sense of gratitude for the job she now fills and the responsibility that comes with it.
“I’ve said several times before that if we ever come into the building and do not have a sense of reverence and respect, we have been here too long and it’s time for us to go,” Sanders said. “I hope that I never get to that place, and I never forget what a privilege it is to work here in the White House and work for President Trump.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Pickett is associate executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia state convention; Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.)

1/24/2018 8:30:05 AM by Brandon Pickett & Maina Mwaura, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

100 years of LifeWay Architecture

January 24 2018 by Joy Allmond, LIfeWay Christian Resources

LifeWay Architecture begins 2018 working toward the next 100 years of serving the Church, having marked its centennial anniversary in 2017.
“This is an important milestone in the history of LifeWay,” said Eric Geiger, LifeWay’s senior vice president and chief business officer. “Those who cast the vision for LifeWay Architecture were out-of-the-box thinkers who helped create environments conducive to group discipleship, and came alongside the local church to do the work with them instead of for them. And that’s who we aim to be, even 100 years later.”

Visioneering Studios recently began construction on Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, Ky.

Since 2013, LifeWay has partnered with Visioneering Studios – a nationwide faith-based, design-build firm with multi-disciplinary studios and national architecture and construction licensure.
Severns Valley Baptist Church, in Elizabethtown, Ky., is one of Visioneering Studios’ most significant projects to date. The 1,400-person worship center currently under construction will replace the multipurpose gym – where they have gathered for more than 10 years. The worship center will be joined to the existing building by a grand hall, which will look out onto what they have named the “Grand Lawn” – an outdoor space where the congregation hopes to engage the community.
The Severns Valley Church project is scheduled to be complete by Christmas 2018.
“As we continue to serve the local church in all aspects of design and construction, Visioneering Studios is honored to continue the legacy LifeWay Architecture began a century ago,” said John Parker, Visioneering Studios president.
“Our Nashville Studio is currently working with Southern Baptist churches in Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas, prayerfully transforming facilities to serve future generations,” Parker said. “We hope to forge ahead into the future while honoring their legacy just as we honor the LifeWay visionaries who preceded us.”
In 1917, after spending several years advising churches on their new buildings, restructuring their existing facilities and maximizing space for multi-purpose use, the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay) established a church architecture department with Prince E. Burroughs as its department leader. He believed one of the keys to making disciples was creating environments specifically for discipleship and learning.
LifeWay Architecture hired its first architect in 1922, survived the Great Depression and grew to more than 60 employees by the post-World War II era.
By the 1990s, LifeWay Architecture had added master planning and interior design services, and had developed into a full architectural studio that assisted churches as small as 100 and as large as 4,000 members across the United States.
Beyond architecture, interior design and master planning, LifeWay partner Visioneering Studios offers construction, real estate and development advisory services nationally. Through these services, Visioneering has become a trusted steward of story and space, focused on creating a seamless journey to the cutting-edge worship environments that churches are seeking in the 21st century.
“The creation of a department to pioneer new ways to design church space and steward physical resources 100 years ago is a reminder of the many ways LifeWay has contributed to the fabric of church life through the years,” said Gary Nicholson, who formerly served as director of LifeWay Architecture and as studio director of Visioneering Studios.
“Because of LifeWay’s investment in this service, billions of dollars have been better spent on facilities, and churches have avoided untold numbers of problems and enabled more and better ministry through efficient, attractive and innovative designs.”
For more information on Visioneering Studios, visit their website at visioneeringstudios.com, email contact@visioneeringstudios.com, or call 888-539-1957.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joy Allmond is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

1/24/2018 8:21:11 AM by Joy Allmond, LIfeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Fire destroys activities center at Sunrise campus

January 24 2018 by Todd Deaton, Western Recorder

Flames were shooting through the roof of the Sunrise Children’s Services activity center at its Danville, Ky., campus when local firefighters arrived on Friday afternoon, Jan. 19.
“God was watching out for us,” said Dale Suttles, president of Sunrise Children’s Services. “We were blessed that no one was in the activity center at the time.”

Robin Hart, The Advocate-Messenger
Firefighters battle a blaze that destroyed Sunrise Children’s Services activity center at its Danville, Ky., campus Jan. 19.

Boyle County emergency manager Mike Wilder told WKYT-TV in Lexington that fire crews battled for over an hour to keep the fire from reaching residential cabins on the psychiatric residential treatment facility.
The fire was spotted by a foster care specialist while taking a walk with one of the residents about lunchtime. No one was in the activities center at the time. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
“Our immediate and utmost priority was to ensure the safety and protection of the 27 male children and youth who live [at the campus],” said Melissa Bailey, associate director of communications for Sunrise, which is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has 16 locations across the state.
“I’m happy to report that we successfully transported all of the boys to a local church, which has graciously stepped in to help us feed and care for them at this time,” Bailey said.
The children, many of whom suffer from extreme psychological disorders due to trauma, likely will not be able to return to the campus for several days until it has been determined that it is safe to do so. However, loss of the multi-purpose facility, which also houses a small library, kitchen and classroom space, will significantly impact the treatment facility’s ministry.
Randy Reese, director of education at First Baptist Church in Danville, where the residents were relocated during the fire, told WKYT-TV that the children will feel its loss.
“I think it’s going to be tough mostly for the kids. I think that’s something, from talking with the workers here, that the kids utilized, enjoyed, was a very important part of their daily routines so I think that’s going to be a troublesome thing for the children that are there,” Reese said. “But I think this community will pull together, and we’ll find some places where they can go and participate in athletics and the activities they utilized that facility for.”
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services has been notified. “We are also contacting the family members of these young men to notify them that the boys are safe and out of harm’s way,” Bailey said.
“Please keep Sunrise in your thoughts and prayers as we assess and determine the damages from this fire,” she said, adding that donations and gift cards from those wishing to help will be greatly appreciated.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Deaton is editor of the Western Recorder, westernrecorder.org, news journal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

1/24/2018 8:11:05 AM by Todd Deaton, Western Recorder | with 0 comments

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