January 2019

Super Bowl: Rams receiver delivers ‘spiritual spark’

January 31 2019 by Tim Ellsworth, NAMB

For Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks, Sunday’s Super Bowl is an opportunity for redemption.
Cooks was part of the New England Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl but left the game prematurely in the second quarter with a concussion. He never returned to the game, which the Patriots lost 41-33 to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Photo by Tim Ellsworth
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks speaks to the media at the Super Bowl LIII Opening Night event Jan. 28 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

After an offseason trade that sent him to the Rams, Cooks is thankful for another Super Bowl appearance.
“I’ve asked God to redeem me since that moment,” Cooks said in a post-game interview following the Rams’ NFC Championship victory over New Orleans. “I’d always pray, from that moment, to redeem me in such a way to glorify Him. And I think He’s doing that.”
A spiritual leader for the Rams, Cooks is always quick, whether in interviews or on social media outlets, to offer praise to God and to regularly quote from the Bible, which he says is “what’s gotten me here.”
“Like Paul said in Philippians, I know what it is like to be in need, to have want, to have everything,” Cooks told Baptist Press during Monday’s Super Bowl LIII Opening Night event at the State Farm Arena. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I know that’s why I’m here to this day and been blessed with such an amazing gift to play this game – not for myself, but to give God glory.”
Cooks was not raised in a Christian home but became a believer heading into college at Oregon State. His father died of a heart attack when Cooks was 6, so he knows about tragedy and challenges in life. The Bible has been a constant source of encouragement and nourishment for his soul. Cooks’ Twitter timeline is full of Scripture verses and references to his faith, with tweets such as:
• “Let us turn our eyes to Jesus so that the desire of this world may grow dim.”
• “Seek and serve others not for our own benefit but to bring glory to God.”
• “Deny yourself, and take up your cross!”
• “When others see me I pray they miss me and see you Jesus.”
• “Saved through the one and only Jesus Christ.”
And on and on it goes.
For his teammates, Cooks’ addition to the team this year has meant a great deal.
“Brandin’s been a spiritual spark to this team,” Rams punter Johnny Hekker said. “His faith is no secret to anybody.”
Los Angeles defensive end Michael Brockers said Cooks is an example of faithfulness, and Rams guard Rodger Saffold said Cooks is a regular at team Bible studies and chapel services.
“He’s an inspiration to a lot of the young guys, and a lot of the older guys as well, because we all have our own walks of faith,” Saffold said.
When Hekker thinks of Cooks’ spiritual leadership on the team, he thinks of how he regularly sees Cooks sitting at his locker with his Bible open or kneeling in prayer.
Said Hekker: “The kind of example he sets makes it easier for guys like me and anyone around our organization to get that reminder, ‘Maybe it’s time for me to crack open my Bible as well.’”

1/31/2019 12:56:33 PM by Tim Ellsworth, NAMB | with 0 comments

Greear: White privilege should extend to all races

January 31 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Anglos receive “privilege” in American culture because of their ethnicity, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President J.D. Greear said in a podcast. But rather than debate the political ramifications of that privilege, Greear urged believers to “extend” it to people of all races.
The views Greear expressed in his “Ask Me Anything” podcast are similar to opinions he has voiced publicly since at least 2014, following a tragedy that sparked racial tensions in Ferguson, Mo. Yet he told Baptist Press his perspective of white privilege has become more acute over the past five years from “being in relationship with brothers and sisters of color.”

“Is white privilege real?” was the topic of a Jan. 28 episode of Greear’s podcast. He told podcast host Todd Unzicker he has “struggled with” the question and concluded there is an “invisible set of assets that I get from being part of the majority culture.”
“When I get pulled over by the police,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., “... I’ve never one time questioned whether or not it was because of my race. Every person of color I know has some story” about being pulled over “where it just appeared that there was a line of questioning that was being given to them because they were a certain race.”
Greear noted other examples of white privilege, informed by his relationships with people of other races including Emory University philosopher George Yancy, who has spoken at The Summit. Among them:

• Anglos often shop freely in stores while people of color report being followed because clerks seem to “assume [they’re] going to steal something.”

• Anglos may receive preferential treatment when seeking housing. An African American pastor at The Summit once applied for housing at an apartment complex and was told, “Sorry, we don’t accept subsidized housing.” The apartment worker, Greear said, incorrectly “assumed” the pastor needed government assistance.

• Employers “may give a closer look” to a job applicant with “a white-sounding name.”

• “Some evidence seems to indicate” that “being a person of color increases the likelihood that the death penalty is given” to convicted murderers.

The proper response to white privilege is not to take privileges away from Anglos, Greear said, but to help all people experience them.
“As a Christian, I know that I’m responsible to bear the burdens of others around me,” Greear said. “And I want to see privilege extend to them. So, if I’ve been given any privilege in whatever situation, I’m going to leverage that not for self, but leverage it to lift others up.”
Political debates about affirmative action, Greear said, are “beyond the scope of what I, as a pastor, would want to get into.”
Greear has written and spoken about the cultural privileges Anglos enjoy at least since August 2014, when he wrote on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission website of “unwarranted prejudice” African American males experience. In 2018, Greear blogged about cultural “blind spots” that “result from positions of privilege and power.”
Greear’s treatment of white privilege drew critique from some Southern Baptists leading up to the 2018 SBC presidential election and following his Jan. 28 podcast. Other Southern Baptists have commended Greear for his treatment of privilege.
Asked whether his perspective on ethnic privilege has shifted in response to feedback over the years, Greear told BP, “I have certainly become more acquainted with how some of our brothers and sisters of color experience societal dynamics differently. I’ve come to see that many benefits that I have taken for granted are not experienced equally by all. It’s not that I have changed my view – but I have grown more aware of certain struggles by being in relationship with brothers and sisters of color.”

1/31/2019 12:47:09 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Evangelism with Johnny Hunt’ NAMB podcast launched

January 31 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

Johnny Hunt, the new senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board, has launched a podcast – “Evangelism with Johnny Hunt” – co-hosted by NAMB President Kevin Ezell.
The podcast is among the new resources from NAMB to boost evangelistic conversation and activity among Southern Baptists.

NAMB Photo
Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at the North American Mission Board, has launched a podcast – "Evangelism with Johnny Hunt" – co-hosted by NAMB President Kevin Ezell. The podcast can be accessed on Apple iTunes and at NAMB’s website.

“This is another hook in the water of lostness to remind us, inspire us, instruct us and convince us that if the evangelistic spirit is to return, it’s up to us,” said Hunt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Over the last decade, Southern Baptists have seen a decline in baptism numbers across the convention, reflecting a downturn in churches reaching people and making disciples.
“I believe baptisms are down due to the fact that evangelism is not a front-burner issue in most churches,” Hunt said. “In the 1990s Southern Baptist churches discarded their programmatic evangelism resources ... and never replaced them. Many churches have moved away from a set time of outreach, and the bottom line is evangelism is not being done.”
While many churches shifted focus from referencing and utilizing tools and strategies, Hunt said, one of the keys to reigniting evangelism in the Southern Baptist Convention is the pastor.
“Pastors are the key to evangelism,” he said. “If it’s not important to them, it will never be important in their churches. Pastors must lead the way.”
Hunt, who began his new role at NAMB on Jan. 1 after 32 years as pastor at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., said each episode of the podcast is designed with pastors in mind.
Hunt and Ezell regularly interview current pastors to hear their wisdom and perspective. Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., Todd Unzicker, sending pastor at The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., and Steven Kyle of Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla., are among the guests who have already been interviewed for the podcast to discuss strategies in their local churches.
The evangelism decline among Southern Baptists, Hunt said, is not about a lack of resources but a lack of passion.
“We can see a surge once again when we put evangelism back where it belongs, front and center,” he said. “I have always prayed that I would never get over being saved. I pray, ‘Lord, remind me what it was like to not know You. Help me see others the way You do.’”
The evangelism podcast launched on Jan. 8 with the first three episodes. New episodes release every other week. Each installment lasts roughly 12 to 15 minutes, including encouraging testimonies, explanations on evangelism resources and tested church-wide strategies.
A podcast alone, Ezell said, won’t turn baptism numbers around, but it is one more way NAMB is trying to help Southern Baptists focus energy on sharing the Gospel with a world that needs its message.
“Everything we do at NAMB is about helping Southern Baptists share the Gospel,” Ezell said. “If every pastor makes this a priority, that will be a huge start. Brother Johnny’s podcast will share examples of the incredible ways he and many other pastors are leading their churches in evangelism. There are great stories and helpful ideas on every episode.”
The podcast can be found on Apple iTunes or accessed through NAMB’s website at namb.net/evangelism.


1/31/2019 12:12:36 PM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

Asia Bibi victory draws praise, caution from advocates

January 31 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who escaped death from a disputed blasphemy conviction in Pakistan, has stirred optimism as a legal victory and caution over her safety.
The Pakistan Supreme Court upheld Bibi’s acquittal Jan. 29. The three-judge panel ruled against Islamic extremists who challenged the court’s October decision to free Bibi.

Asia Bibi

“The verdict is a way forward, and it is positive,” NPR quoted Bibi’s attorney Saiful Malook as saying. “The judges raised pertinent legal questions, focusing on law and evidence, expressing displeasure over the perjury that was committed by the complainant against Asia and other witnesses.”
Bibi, who had lived in hiding in Islamabad since November, planned to travel to Canada to join family members already in Pakistan, a friend who requested anonymity told the Associated Press. She was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and would have been the first woman executed under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
“I am really grateful to everybody,” the friend quoted Bibi as saying, the AP reported. “Now after nine years it is confirmed that I am free and I will be going to hug my daughters.”
As Muslim extremists continue to threaten Bibi’s life, her attorney and others are calling for the prosecution of those who falsely accused the 53-year-old mother of five in 2009. Other advocates urge protection of the 3.9 million Christians who live as minorities in Pakistan and for the protection of the Supreme Court justices who upheld Bibi’s freedom.
In advance of the verdict, hundreds to perhaps thousands of Muslim extremists who threatened Bibi and her supporters were jailed, according to varying reports, and remain in custody. Few protested after the latest ruling, according to reports.
“The Supreme Court judges have given very clear observations on punishment for perjury,” Malook told Morning Star News. “Although there’s already a law against recording concocted testimonies, it’s important that the state implement it in letter and spirit to discourage people from leveling false allegations against others.”
Joseph Francis, a Christian politician and religious liberty advocate in Pakistan, voiced similar sentiment.
“This is a very good decision, but I think those who falsely implicated Bibi, wasting precious years of her life, should be prosecuted and sent to jail,” Francis, leader of the Pakistan Christian National Party, told AP. “Such a sentence will prevent others from falsely implicating innocent people in blasphemy cases.”
Bibi’s accusers should be jailed for life, were it not for the sensitivity of the case, Pakistan Supreme Court Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa told AP. Two government leaders who advocated for Bibi’s release during her ordeal, federal minister for minority affairs Shabbaz Bhatti and Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, were murdered in 2011 for supporting her.
“The image of Islam we are showing to the world gives me much grief and sorrow,” AP quoted Khosa as saying. More than 50 people accused of blasphemy have been killed by angry mobs and others in Pakistan, according to official counts.
Religious liberty advocate Amnesty International called for the court to be protected and urged the repeal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
“This shameful delay in enforcing Asia Bibi’s rights only reinforces the need for the Pakistani government to repeal the blasphemy laws as soon as possible,” Amnesty’s South Asia representative Rimmel Mohydin said, “as well as other laws that discriminate against religious minorities and put their lives in danger.”
Pakistan has “a duty to protect against threats of violence to harm religious minorities or the lives of judges or other government officials,” Mohydin said in a Jan. 29 press statement.
While the verdict is good news, said International Christian Concern (ICC), Christians in Pakistan now suffer a heightened threat.
“Our prayers now are with Asia and her family as they are in extreme danger until they are safely out of Pakistan,” ICC Regional Manager William Stark said in a press statement. “We are also very concerned for the safety of Pakistan’s Christian community at large. Asia’s case remains highly sensitive and the ignition point for many acts of religious hatred.”
Open Doors, which ranks Pakistan as the fifth most dangerous nation in the world for Christians, praised the verdict as a powerful message and upheld Bibi as a respected citizen among Christians.
“Bibi is a much loved and prayed for woman,” Open Doors quoted a partner in Pakistan as saying. “What happens to her impacts the whole Christian community.”
Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 on charges of insulting the prophet Mohammad while working in a field as a day laborer in 2009. When Bibi offered a coworker a cup of water, the woman said Bibi’s Christianity made the water ceremonially unclean. This set off a chain of false accusations related to Bibi’s beliefs and backed by Muslim clerics. Bibi refused to convert to Islam.
Since 1986 when Pakistan updated its blasphemy laws, at least 150 Christians, 564 Muslims, 459 Ahmadis and 21 Hindus have been jailed on blasphemy charges, according to Open Doors.
More than 40 people convicted of blasphemy are currently on death row or serving life sentences in Pakistan, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, which had advocated for Bibi’s release. Hundreds are serving or have served prison terms ranging from three years to 10 years.

1/31/2019 11:52:50 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lafferty named candidate for IMB Executive VP role

January 30 2019 by Julie McGowan, IMB

International Mission Board (IMB) President Paul Chitwood announced Jan. 30 that Todd Lafferty will be presented to the entity’s board of trustees as his recommendation for the IMB’s next executive vice president. IMB trustees, who meet Feb. 6-7 in Richmond, Va., are responsible for electing the person who serves in the executive vice president role.
Lafferty currently serves as pastor of mobilization for Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. He and his wife, Susan, previously served with the IMB for almost 29 years.

Contributed photo
Todd and Susan Lafferty visit the Taj Mahal in the Indian city of Agra in 2012. The Laffertys served as IMB personnel in a nearby country, sharing the gospel among South Asia’s 1.5 billion people who have no personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Seeking input from our IMB personnel on the field and in Richmond, and hearing from several board members and Southern Baptist Convention leaders, I was pointed again and again to Todd Lafferty, a man I’ve known for over 15 years,” Chitwood said. “Todd’s education and diverse background as an IMB missionary and staff member, along with his pastoral experiences in the local church in the U.S. and overseas, have uniquely prepared him for this significant leadership role.
“In my role as board chair with the IMB a decade ago, I had the privilege of traveling across South Asia with Todd and seeing him interact with scores of missionaries serving on his team,” Chitwood added. “I also watched him interact with two of my children who accompanied us on the trip. Todd impressed me 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.”

Mission service

Lafferty first served as an IMB Journeyman in Scotland from 1983-85. The Laffertys were appointed as career IMB missionaries in 1991 and started their journey in a large South Asian city, where Lafferty served as pastor of an international church. Later he added the role of strategy coordinator for the city to his responsibilities.
From 2000-2003, Lafferty served as a candidate consultant with the IMB, based in Richmond, VA. The Laffertys returned to the field in 2003 and served in a variety of roles including strategy associate in the Pacific Rim Region, interim regional leader of Pacific Rim, and the affinity group leader for South Asian peoples. The Laffertys finished their last stateside assignment with the IMB and retired in 2018.
In his current role at Shades Mountain, Lafferty oversees the church’s mission efforts, which includes supervising a collegiate church planter at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, giving leadership in their partnership with a church plant in Tucson, and spearheading Shades’ engagement of unengaged, unreached people groups. He provides oversight to a ministry to fatherless boys called “Fathers in the Field,” and he developed a ministry called “The Next Season,” for people transitioning to a new stage of life.


At the IMB, the executive vice president serves as the entity’s chief operating officer. He is responsible for supervising the day-to-day activities of the IMB under the guidance of the president, and he provides administrative leadership to the overall organization, to each of the organization’s vice presidents, and to areas not under the responsibility of a vice president. He also provides consultation on global strategic work in coordination with the vice president for global strategy.
The position relates directly to trustees, to the Southern Baptist constituency and to others as a spokesman for the IMB president. He will coordinate with trustee leadership to develop and establish board policies and procedures consistent with the president’s strategy.
If elected, Lafferty will begin March 1, 2019. He will succeed Clyde Meador, interim executive vice president, who has served in the role since November 2018. Meador has agreed, at Chitwood’s request, to remain at IMB for an unspecified amount of time in the role of “Special Assistant to the President.”
Lafferty earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing management from the University of New Mexico, and a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is currently completing work toward a doctoral degree from Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary. The Laffertys have three children: Becca (27), Jenna (24), and Jonathan (20).

1/30/2019 3:48:08 PM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments

Human trafficking during Super Bowl week prompts ministry

January 30 2019 by Tim Ellsworth, Union University

When Heather Havard was a freshman in high school, she heard the song “27 Million” by worship leader Matt Redman about the number of slaves in the world.

Submitted photo
Heather Havard leads a group of college students from Texas to participate in human trafficking awareness during the Super Bowl week.

She was moved enough to begin doing her own research and taking measures to fight human trafficking. This weekend, she’s leading a group of 10 people, most of them students at Sam Houston State University, where Havard is now a sophomore, to Atlanta to raise awareness during the Super Bowl about the problem of human trafficking.
“The Super Bowl is the number one event every year where human trafficking rates skyrocket,” said Havard, a member of University Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, Texas. “Traffickers will come from all over the country, and some from places all over the world. They’ll rent out whole hotel floors. Sometimes you’ll find that entire hotels are rented out by traffickers.”
Havard and her fellow students will walk around Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday handing out literature about human trafficking. They’ll also make rounds in parking lots to leave literature on vehicles. Havard said it’s important for people to know that as of 2018, there were more than 40 million human trafficking slaves in the world. In the state of Texas alone, 78,000 children and infants are being sexually exploited.
Havard’s group is just one of many anti-human-trafficking organizations that are mobilizing during Super Bowl activities in Atlanta. Kasey McClure, founder of the organization 4Sarah, said the Super Bowl city is a prime target for human trafficking.
“The Super Bowl draws men, and when it draws men, usually there comes money,” McClure said, and “that, unfortunately, draws women.”

Submitted photo
Annie Beirne holds a sign that says "Can I pray for your team?" last year in Minneapolis. Beirne and Havard went to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis last year to try to talk to people about human trafficking.

Women in the sex industry – and the men who exploit them – see the Super Bowl as an opportunity to make money, McClure said. Sometimes pimps will bring girls to the host Super Bowl city and make them work online or walk the streets. Many of these girls are underage.
McClure and volunteers she recruited spent Jan. 25-26 at First Baptist Church in Conyers, Ga., which served as a call center. Volunteers combed through online personal ads of women offering themselves for sexual services and documented the information they gleaned from the various ads. McClure then made phone calls to the women, offering them resources to help them get out of the industry.
“I saw your ad online,” McClure said when calls were answered. “I’m not with law enforcement. I’m calling today to offer you some encouragement. I’d like to text you a link where you can find some information about leaving the sex industry.”
Many times the women hung up. But some expressed a willingness to receive the information McClure provided. McClure and the volunteers tried to identify minors especially so they could pass their information along to law enforcement.
Becky Wilson, the communications director and pastor’s assistant at First Baptist in Conyers, said the church wanted to be involved because members saw the great need. 4Sarah is based in Conyers, and though McClure attends a different church, she has partnered with First Baptist Church in her efforts.

Photo by Tim Ellsworth
Kasey McClure, founder of 4Sarah, an anti-human trafficking organization, calls a girl who has placed an online ad. First Baptist Church in Conyers, Ga., served as a call center Jan. 25-26, with volunteers searching through online ads and McClure making attempts to reach girls wanting to escape the trafficking industry.

The church has provided McClure with a house that 4Sarah uses as a safe house for pregnant women and those coming out of the sex industry. Women can stay there up to 60 days and get medical care and counseling.
“I think it’s something that, unfortunately, gets swept under the rug because of the industry it is,” Wilson said of sex trafficking. “It’s very prominent. It happens all the time. It’s happening in this community. I think it’s something that needs to be brought to light.
“Everybody deserves a second chance,” she continued. “This is a great way to give these women a second chance. We’re forgiven of our sins. They should be forgiven of theirs. A lot of them are just hooked in.”
Shawn Wood, the student ministry assistant at First Baptist in Conyers, volunteered at the call center on Friday and has done other volunteer work with 4Sarah previously. She said she encountered one ad from a girl who looked like she was 12 years old.
“It’s always shocking to see how young the girls are,” Wood said.
She remembers one call that McClure made that went unanswered. McClure texted the number and told why she was calling. Later in the afternoon, the girl called back and said she was interested in the information McClure was offering.
“That doesn’t happen every time we call, but when those times happen, it’s worth it,” Wood said.
For Wood, her work to combat human trafficking flows from her heart for teenagers specifically.
“Slavery still exists,” she said. “All of those girls are in this situation because of something that has happened in their life in the past. No little girl grows up and says, ‘I want to be a prostitute when I grow up.’
“Christ brings us freedom, so to offer that freedom in Christ to them is something that I’m passionate about.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

1/30/2019 10:32:17 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Union University | with 0 comments

Young leaders’ summit called ‘fountain of wisdom’

January 30 2019 by Ishmael LaBiosa, SBC Virginia

More than 70 church leaders age 40 and younger from across Virginia gathered at the Young Pastors’ Summit on Jan. 15, an annual event hosted by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) of Virginia.

SBCV Photo
SBC of Virginia pastors and Christian leaders lead a panel discussion during the convention’s 2019 Young Pastors’ Summit.

Clyde Meador, interim executive vice president of the International Mission Board, and Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, were keynote speakers. A panel of SBC of Virginia pastors and Christian leaders also led a discussion.
Sean Couch, pastor of Christiansburg Baptist Church, described the summit as “really encouraging.... It was just a fountain of wisdom. I was writing down as much as I could as quickly as I could.”
The summit is intended for encouraging and challenging young pastors and pastoral staff, part of the initiative by Brian Autry, executive director of the SBC of Virginia, to invest in young leaders.
“I really appreciate his desire to lead and spearhead this effort,” said KJ Washington, church planter apprentice at Village Church at the Chester campus, affirming “how all these young pastors are able to gather together and to experience just great teaching and great fellowship together.”

SBCV Photo
Brian Lee, worship and administration pastor at Nansemond River Baptist Church, was one of more than 70 church leaders who attended the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia’s annual Young Pastors’ Summit.

The summit provided a forum for young pastors to discuss issues, engage in partnership and foster fellowship in a context for honoring scripture and fulfilling the Great Commission. Topics during the event included trusting people, changing congregational issues for young pastors and why more young pastors will be involved in church revitalization.

“The early church didn’t have any of the overhead expenses of a building,” said John Puig, youth pastor at Midway Baptist Church in Phenix, “and were therefore able to put all the resources that would go into building and maintenance into ministry instead. The idea of getting smaller and being able to do more of the same [through the conference] is a great thing in my mind.”
Couch added, “For the SBC of Virginia to be able to invest in younger pastors like us, it really is a benefit to us to help us to realize we do matter to the Kingdom. We are invited to the table to talk, and we’re excited about what God is going to do next.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ishmael LaBiosa is director of communications for the SBC of Virginia.)

1/30/2019 10:32:03 AM by Ishmael LaBiosa, SBC Virginia | with 0 comments

Former Baptist minister charged with child sex crime

January 30 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A former children’s minister at The Village Church has been charged with indecent contact with a child, allegedly in 2012 during his church ministry.

Matthew David Tonne, the 35-year-old accused, was dismissed as associate children’s minister from the Southern Baptist megachurch on an unrelated matter in June, senior pastor Matt Chandler said Jan. 24 in video and printed comments at thevillagechurch.net. The alleged crime occurred at the Mt. Lebanon Retreat and Conference Center, a Baptist ministry in Cedar Hill, Texas.
“We want to state clearly that there are no persons of interest in this investigation that have access to children at The Village Church,” Chandler said. “We would not let anyone who is under investigation for a crime like this be near any of our children at TVC.”
Tonne, a husband and father of three, had been out of jail since Jan. 9 on $25,000 bond. His original court date of Jan. 29, has been rescheduled to Feb. 7, based on documents filed in Dallas County District Court.
The Village Church is making at least one change in its ministry to children, Chandler said in the website comments.
“We have decided to no longer do overnight events with elementary children based on counsel from MinistrySafe,” Chandler said, referencing the ministry founded by attorneys to help churches, camps and ministries protect children from sexual abuse. Additionally, the church has hired a director of care, Summer Vinson Berger, whom Chandler described as a licensed professional counselor skilled in trauma care.
“She is helping us evaluate all of our current practices and will help us further strengthen our ministry here,” Chandler said. “We view physical and emotional safety as a top priority and will continue to pour resources into that area.”
Chandler, president of the Acts 29 Network of congregations focused on church planting, participated in a Baptist21 panel discussion on abuse in advance of the Southern Baptist Convention 2018 Annual Meeting in Dallas.
“We need to be trained in this,” Chandler said on the 2018 panel, encouraging churches to get expert help in avoiding abuse of all kinds. “I don’t care how well you know your Bible, we are not ready for this. We have got to get Christian outside help that helps us understand what to do in a fallen world.”
No details of the 2012 incident were available, other than a statement about the health of the victim and the victim’s family.
“Earlier this year, the minor came to a place where it was possible to verbalize the memory of what happened for the first time through ongoing therapy. (Cedar Hill Police) Detective (Michael) Hernandez has been investigating the case since that time,” Chandler said. “It took courage and strength for the child and the family to share this information, and we want to support them in any way possible.”
The church has no other reported incidents of abuse at the 2012 camp event, Chandler said.
“We have been working with the family and Detective Hernandez to do all that we can to bring healing and the light of justice to this situation,” he said, “including the decision to make this investigation public now.”
Parents and children at The Village Church have no need to fear for their safety from sexual predators at church events, Chandler said.
“We are committed to doing all that we can to protect our children,” he said.

1/30/2019 10:31:50 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New Mexico suicide bill spurs call to pray

January 30 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A New Mexico assisted suicide bill that has been described as “devastating” to the sanctity of life is drawing opposition from Baptists and other pro-family groups in the state.
Two of the bill’s most controversial provisions – suicide prescriptions via telemedicine and a broad definition of terminal illness – were removed Jan. 28 by a committee of the New Mexico House of Representatives. But the legislation still would allow non-physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication and could endanger vulnerable members of society, according to the Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico, a partner organization of Focus on the Family.
Jay McCollum, chairman of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s Christian Life Committee, asked Christians everywhere to make New Mexico’s assisted suicide bill “a matter of prayer and fasting.” He asked New Mexicans to visit, email and call their state legislators and ask them to oppose the bill.
“It’s really sad,” said McCollum, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gallup, N.M., and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee. “This is a very devastating bill to the sanctity of life and the teachings of scripture.”
The legislation – House Bill 90 – would permit nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe lethal doses of medication to patients with prognoses of six months or less to live. It would require a two-day waiting period between the time a lethal prescription is written and when it can be fulfilled – shorter than the waiting periods in other states where assisted suicide is legal, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
Initially, H.B. 90 allowed lethal medication to be prescribed via telemedicine, and it defined terminal illness broadly as an ailment that would cause death in the “foreseeable future.” Both of those provisions were eliminated by the House Health and Human Services Committee before it approved the measure on a 4-3 vote, the Family Policy Alliance said.
Despite the amendments, H.B. 90 “remains fatally flawed,” said Stephanie Curry, the Family Policy Alliance’s public policy manager.
“Even with the committee’s amendments, House Bill 90 continues to lack many ‘safeguards’ found in other states,” Curry said in a news release. “It would still allow non-physicians to determine mental capacity and to prescribe life-ending medication, and nothing in the bill protects ill and vulnerable New Mexicans from abuse and coercion from predatory family members and profit-driven insurance companies.”
Next, the bill will go to another House committee, then to the House floor and on to the New Mexico Senate. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, supports the measure.
Vince Torres, executive director of the Family Policy Alliance, told Baptist Press “there is little hope of stopping the bill in the House, though the vote on the floor will likely be closer than some expect.... Should it pass the House, there is still hope that the bill will fail to pass the Senate. In 2017, the bill failed by two votes and the overwhelming majority of those members are still serving.”
The Patients Rights Council (PRC), a group that opposes assisted suicide legislation across the U.S., noted in a news release several flaws of New Mexico’s proposed legislation. Among them:

  • “Government bureaucrats and profit-driven health insurance programs could cut costs by denying payment for treatment that patients need and want, while approving payment for less costly assisted suicide deaths.” That has occurred in Oregon and California, the PRC said.

  • “Even if the patient is severely depressed, has a mental illness, or is intellectually impaired, there is no need to provide counseling to address those conditions. Such patients are required to be referred to mental health professionals only to determine that they have the ‘capacity’ to understand what they are requesting.”

  • “The bill requires that the underlying condition with which the patient was diagnosed be listed on the death certificate as the cause of death – not the lethal overdose of drugs.”

Assisted suicide is legal in seven states and Washington, D.C., according to the Associated Press.
At least four SBC resolutions have opposed assisted suicide since 1992. Most recently, a 2015 resolution “on the sanctity of human life” noted the legalization of “physician-assisted suicide in several states” and affirmed “the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.”

1/30/2019 10:31:32 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

KBC executive search team sets Feb. 15 deadline

January 30 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) committee tasked with finding Paul Chitwood’s successor as KBC executive director “has been hard at work” toward building “a large pool of names” to consider, said search committee chairman Tom James.

The committee is asking Southern Baptists to help them in that endeavor by recommending candidates by Feb. 15. Recommendations should include at least a candidate’s name and contact information, James told Baptist Press. If a resume is not included in the recommendation, James will contact the candidate and request one.
Chitwood served as KBC executive director from 2011-18 before being elected president of the International Mission Board Nov. 15.
“The committee hopes to have a large pool of names” to consider for KBC executive director, said James, pastor of Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., adding the committee has “been hard at work, praying and processing” information.
Qualified candidates, James said, should have “a call to ministry in some form or fashion,” at least a master’s degree (though a doctorate is preferred), “a proven track record in leadership” and comfort with preaching at Kentucky Baptist churches.
The search is not limited to Kentucky residents, but “in a perfect world, [candidates] would have some familiarity with Kentucky,” said James, a former KBC president.
The search committee met Jan. 3 at the KBC headquarters in Louisville, Ky., the Western Recorder news journal reported. The committee is scheduled to meet again Feb. 25.
The 15-member search committee comprises pastors and laypeople, men and women, and an ethnically diverse cross section of Kentucky Baptists from across the state.
“I thought it would be almost impossible to get everybody on the same page and thinking in the same direction,” James said. “But it’s been amazing to me that such a wide variety and cross section of people from across the state” have been unified to “find God’s man.”
Recommendations can be submitted to kbcexecutivesearch@gmail.com.
“We’re not going to drag our feet,” James said. “At the same time, we’re not going to rush the process.”

1/30/2019 10:31:21 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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