July 2009

NAMB trustees call special meeting to consider leadership, morale

July 31 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Two months after passing a resolution unanimously praising the direction of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and affirming president Geoff Hammond for “exemplary, unique leadership and vision,” NAMB trustees will meet Aug. 11 to consider removing him from office.

A 48-hour flurry of activity launched July 29 led to a specially called meeting Aug. 11 when a regularly scheduled executive committee meeting was to be held. Although either the board chair or NAMB president has the authority to call a special meeting, it takes 20 percent of the board to initiate such a meeting.

North Carolina NAMB trustee Bruce Franklin was among the first 12 to call for such a meeting, following the first salvo of calls and email messages circulated among trustees July 29 when it became known that some members of the NAMB executive committee were unhappy with Hammond’s leadership and his future with the agency was in jeopardy.

Franklin, told the Biblical Recorder July 31 after NAMB announced the special meeting, that a decision of such magnitude should not be in the hands of the executive committee alone.

Although Franklin, who has been a trustee on year, said he heard the issue was “leadership,” he said in his three meetings and orientation he had not seen anything that would indicate a problem.

An additional issue rumored for months that surfaced full-blown with the announcement of the special meeting is staff morale. Reports have reached trustees of morale sinking to a level lower even than during the tumultuous days before previous NAMB president Bob Reccord resigned under pressure in April 2006.

“We need to find out what is going on and deal with it appropriately,” said Franklin, a businessman in Henderson. He said all that matters is “what we’re doing for Jesus” and that “it requires constant vigilance to stay focused.”

NAMB trustee Jason Pettus, pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., sent an email to other trustees July 29 that detailed much of the background prompting the special meeting. In his email, Pettus disclosed his own conversation with NAMB board chair Tim Patterson over rumors of the upcoming executive committee meeting.

Pettus said Patterson stated that the committee “had several ‘serious issues’ that they needed to talk with Geoff about.” He then detailed three most pressing concerns, which included that Hammond has failed to meet with an executive leadership coach hired to help him refine his leadership and management skills; that he had hired a chief operating officer without prior approval and that staff morale was at an “all-time low.”

A NAMB spokesman told the Recorder that Hammond had been encouraged that if the original executive leadership coach did not work out, he should select one of his own choosing which he was in process of doing.

Hammond has been working under a set of constraints not common for the chief executive of a Southern Baptist agency, constraints initiated after trustees found significant fault with their previous administration.

According to a story in Associated Baptist Press in April 2006, a trustee investigation faulted the previous administration of Bob Reccord for poor management, autocratic decision-making, extravagant spending on failed ministry projects, apparent conflicts of interest in no-bid contracts for a friend, and creating a “culture of fear” that prevented staffers from questioning the abuses. They also said Reccord spent time and money on events and projects on the periphery of the NAMB's mission and was absent so much he couldn't provide consistent, day-to-day oversight “to properly manage the agency.”

Consequently, trustees put safeguards in place to avoid a repeat of such behaviors, safeguards that Hammond has chafed under.

Joe Westbury, managing editor of the Georgia Baptist newspaper, the Christian Index, broke the major stories that contributed to a change in administration at NAMB in 2006. His story on current events is here.

The trustee affirmation of Hammond came during their May meeting in Jackson, Miss., about the time NAMB board chair Tim Patterson suggested NAMB and the International Mission Board be merged into one mission agency.

Contrary to Patterson's statement, the NAMB board affirmed that NAMB "is crucial to the weaving together of Southern Baptist partners to fulfill the Great Commission."

"As trustees, we are unified in support of our president, Dr. Geoff Hammond, who is providing exemplary, unique leadership and vision as Southern Baptists embrace the challenges of the ever changing and diverse mission field of North America," the statement said.

7/31/2009 5:01:00 PM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 7 comments

Upton BWA president-elect

July 31 2009 by BWA Communications

Ede (BWA) — John Upton, executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) in the United States, has been nominated to be president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA).

John Upton

Raul Scialabba of Argentina, chair of the BWA Officers Search Committee, made the recommendation to the BWA General Council on Friday, June 31, which is convening during the BWA Annual Gathering taking place in Ede, Netherlands, from July 27-August 1. The General Council accepted the committee's recommendation, thus making Upton the official nominee for BWA president.

The next Baptist World Congress, to be held in Hawaii in 2010, will vote on the General Council's nomination. If elected, Upton will be president of the BWA from 2010-2015, succeeding David Coffey of Britain, who was elected during the Centennial Congress held in Birmingham, England, in 2005.

Upton has had a long association with the BWA, and has served on the two governing bodies of the international Baptist organization, the General Council and the Executive Committee. He is currently chair of the Congress Program Committee, which assists in planning the 20th Baptist World Congress to be held at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu from July 28-August 1, 2010.

In addition, Upton has served on the Baptist World Aid Committee, the Commission on Christian Ethics, and the Executive Committee of the North American Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA.

"The President needs to be someone... who will be able to represent the BWA before governmental authorities and world religious leaders with Christian demeanor and wisdom," Scialabba told members of the General Council. 

"The president needs to be a person of vision who captures a sense of a bigger tomorrow" and is "able to unite diverse peoples within and for the BWA," Scialabba declared.   

The president-elect attended the Baptist-affiliated Averett College (now Averett University) in Danville, Virginia, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in the USA, and the Taiwan Language Institute. He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Kerrala, India.

Upton was elected executive director of the BGAV and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board in November 2001. Prior to this appointment, he served as group leader of the Mission Mobilization Group of the BGAV, beginning in 1995. Earlier, he was pastor of Urbanna Baptist Church in Urbanna, Virginia, from 1984-1986 and 1991-1995.  Between 1986 and 1991 he and his wife, Deborah, served as missionaries in Taiwan through the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

7/31/2009 5:22:00 AM by BWA Communications | with 0 comments

Camp celebrates cultural differences

July 30 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

North Carolina Baptist youth are learning to serve in a more multicultural environment.

Each night of one of the Deep Impact weeks sponsored by North Carolina Baptist Men features a speaker from a different ethnic group.

Referring to Rev. 7:9, when “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, (stands) before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (NIV), Kenneth Tan said the goal is to reach and disciple many people.

“We dare to dream that our churches be more like the Bible,” said Tan, who is a leader in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s multicultural ministries community. “We see more openness in the youth.”

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Doug Thompson, left, of Salem Baptist Church in Apex, steadies drywall as Samuel Yang, of First Korean Baptist Church in Raleigh, cuts. The two were part of the multicultural Deep Impact at Red Springs. View photo gallery.

Tan refers to DREAM — Dare, Reach, Equip, Affirm and Mission — when speaking about multicultural ministry.

Not only must people dare to dream but they must reach the next generation. In order to ensure that this generation reaches the next, Tan said they must be equipped and then affirm that this generation can be on mission.

“Here’s where the critical part is … not just look at someone from different background as mission field but missions force,” Tan said.

As Deep Impact grows, more weeks are becoming more multicultural, according to Tan and Mike Sowers, youth mobilization consultant with Baptist Men.

“The church can become a catalyst for change,” said Tan. “I wish our churches here would see what these kids are doing.”

As part of the multicultural focus week, the students have at least one special meal with a variety of ethnic foods.

“A lot of our weeks have mixed groups,” said Sowers, but the Red Springs and Greensboro weeks were the most diverse because of the youth and the people they were serving.

Sowers said all the Deep Impact weeks this year were full with the exception of Pennsylvania. Next year, there will be east and west tracks offered, doubling the amount of camps available across the state.

“It’s fun to help people,” said *Sarah Connor, a rising 8th grader at Apex Middle School, who was at her first mission trip in Red Springs. She worked on a crew with fellow Salem Baptist Church in Apex members as well as some students from First Korean Baptist Church in Raleigh.

“They really prepared us how to tell people about God.”

John and Lula Locklear expressed their gratitude for the students as well as the other teams that are helping piece together their Lumberton home after an electrical fire in March.

A youth crew from Salem Baptist Church was putting on a new roof for the couple.

“I thank the Lord for everybody,” said John Locklear, 76.

Lula, 75, wholeheartedly agreed.

“We’ve had some wonderful people out here working,” she said. “Everybody’s been so nice that’s out there.”

The Locklears heard about the ministry through Red Springs from another member at their church — West End Baptist Church in Lumberton.

“They’ve just been a blessing because we didn’t have no insurance,” she said.

At a local Boys & Girls Club, Steve Goatley, youth and children’s minister at First Baptist Church in Elizabeth City, led a creative team that took their skits and songs to various retirement homes throughout the week. The youth enjoyed spending time with the younger children. They painted faces, made balloon animals and shared their musical and acting skills. A Korean student on his team painted on many of the team members’ arms.

“All the kids have taken to her culture,” said Goatley, who said this Deep Impact allowed his youth to “see missions from the inside,” referring to a servant team who was on site at Red Springs to take care of the youth.

Goatley said Deep Impact was a wonderful trip for his students because of its “reasonable price” and fairly close proximity (four hours away).

The Red Springs site had to bring in extra bunker trailers to handle the overflow from the main building. It was the highest attended Deep Impact until the following week in Greensboro.

Tan hopes multicultural week is just the beginning.

“Our young people don’t want to talk about it they want to do something,” he said. “Eventually our prayer is that our mission week becomes the norm.”

*Name changed

7/30/2009 4:40:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

N.C. missions recipient comes full circle

July 30 2009 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector

TOWNSEND, Tenn. — As a pre-teen Ashley Sims and her family would travel from Yadkinville, N.C., to vacation in the mountains in Tennessee.

The first year they came they camped at the Tremont Outdoor Resort here.

The family was hooked on the location and one of the reasons was a summer mission team from New Vision (now New Sevier Home) Baptist Church in Knoxville.

The team led a camp each day at the camp’s pavilion and Ashley and her brother Bruce attended faithfully.

In fact, Bruce accepted Christ from seeds planted by the Knoxville team.

The Sims family returned two more times after that first trip and they made sure they came the same week as the New Vision mission team.

Now age 19, Ashley Sims has come full circle.

Whereas, she was once the beneficiary of young people giving a week to minister to her and other children at the camp, she is now serving as a summer missionary for Joe and Linda Ledford who coordinate CHARM (Chilhowee Area Ministries) for Chilhowee Baptist Association, based in Alcoa.

Sims has fond memories of her camping experience. “It was a new experience. We had never done anything like this,” she recalled.

As a child Sims attended a church that did not offer Vacation Bible School. The day camp she attended in Townsend became her VBS, she recalled. She noted she still has many of the crafts she made.

Sims, now a student at Surry Community College in Dobson, N.C., has since become a member of Union Grove Baptist Church, Yadkinville, which is very missions minded, she said.

Last year her church sent a group which included the entire Sims family to serve at the Tremont campground. While there she met the Ledfords and talked with them about the possibility of her working with them this summer.

She noted that when she was camping with her family years ago she never dreamed that she would one day serve at the same place as a summer missionary. “God led me to do this.”

Sims, who worked in the ministry in July, raised the money she needed to support herself through various fundraisers.  In addition, her church was “very supportive,” she said.

Having Sims as a summer missionary has already proven valuable, the Ledfords agreed.

There was one week when a team had to cancel at the last minute and it looked like there would be no day camp at the Tremont facility, Joe Ledford noted.

Ledford said that Garrett Baptist Church, Hohenwald, had planned to send a “vision team” this summer to see what the ministry entailed and to consider it for next year.

When the church canceled, Ledford asked the church’s pastor, Art McCormack, if they would come staff the camp “if we would plan it.” The church agreed, Ledford said.

He noted that the availability of Sims and a couple from South Carolina (Ricky and Cheri Tutterow) enabled them to provide the day camp and family activities at Tremont that otherwise would not have occurred.

The team from Garrett Baptist (along with Sims and the Tutterows) did a wonderful job, Ledford said.

Linda Ledford has been impressed with Sims’ ministry.

“Ashley is a magnet with the kids. They are drawn to her,” she observed. “She has been one of them,” she added.

“It is amazing that she came here to camp with her family and now her family has returned to minister in the same campground and Ashley has been a summer missionary here,” Linda Ledford said.

Joe Ledford observed that resort ministry normally just “sows seeds and trusts God for the results.” Day camp participants receive Bible story books and Bibles if they do not have one.

The ministry does result in professions of faith. There were four last year and one thus far this year.

The experience with Sims has been a boost for the Ledfords. “It’s been a joy to see the result of a (past) camp and to be a part of it with Ashley,” Linda Ledford said.

For Ashley, who aspires to be a teacher in public schools one day, she has loved working with the kids.

“It seems like it was only a year ago when I was the one making crafts in camp or listening to a Bible story.

“Now I am helping other kids,” she said.

7/30/2009 4:36:00 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments

George Bullard chosen for NABF post

July 30 2009 by Tony Cartledge, Associated Baptist Press

EDE, Netherlands — George Bullard, former interim executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and former director of Hollifield Leadership Center has been elected general secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship (NABF) beginning Aug. 1.

The position has been vacant since January, when Alan Stanford, who had held the position for eight years, announced his resignation. The NABF is one of six global regions affiliated with the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Each region’s general secretary also serves as a regional secretary within the BWA, representing his or her area as a non-voting member of the general council. The NABF consists of more than 30 conventions and denominational organizations representing about 18 million Baptists in the United States and Canada.

NABF President David Goatley, executive secretary-treasurer of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Missionary Convention, affirmed Bullard’s election. “He brings years of experience, insight, and the capacity to help us to function more effectively in the 21st century,” Goatley said.

Bullard, retired from the Baptist State Convention, lives in Columbia, S.C., where he is the strategic coordinator for a church consulting group called The Columbia Partnership.

He said the BWA role “aligns with my passion for the Baptist World Alliance, my passion for the vitality of denominational organizations, and my desire to help Baptist organizations reach their full kingdom potential.”

The general secretary position is considered part-time, but it is broad in scope. Bullard’s primary responsibility within the organization will be “to facilitate communication, collaboration, and networking among the Baptist organizations in North America,” according to the job description. “The goal is to bring everyone to the table to whatever degree possible — not only to talk with one another, but also to cooperate in mutually beneficial ministries whenever possible.”  

Bullard recently published Every Congregation Needs a Little Conflict. A new book, Real Denominations Serve Congregations, will be released in 2010.

7/30/2009 4:35:00 AM by Tony Cartledge, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Special needs the focus of conference

July 30 2009 by Andrea Higgins, Baptist Press

RIDGECREST — “Go, Bobby! Go!”

Below the blindfold that covered his eyes, a broad grin spread across Bobby Shifflett’s face. His classmates laughed and cheered as the 44-year-old Shifflett, who has Down syndrome, tried to spoon cotton balls into a bowl without being able to see what he was doing.

BP photo by James Yates

Jason Reynolds, left, listens as Darlene Ponder, a volunteer in special needs ministry at Woodlands Hills Church in Asheville, N.C., reads to him.

The uninhibited enthusiasm continued as class members went on to answer Bible lesson questions during Special Friends Vacation Bible School (VBS), part of the special needs ministry track offered at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center during a weeklong emphasis on “The Power of the Connected Sunday School” July 10-13.

“Have any of you ever shared Jesus with anyone?” teacher Jo Ann Banks asked.

“Yes!” replied adult learners who had disabilities ranging from intellectual disabilities to autism to genetic disorders.

“He died on the cross for our sins — so we could have eternal life,” said Rob Powell, 39, in a strong, matter-of-fact voice. Powell has Williams syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder.

Across the hall, parents, advocates, church members and Sunday School teachers learned key elements of establishing and improving special needs ministries. The information included tips regarding ideal space needs, teaching tools and outreach methods.

For some participants, the conference’s lively VBS was their first opportunity to get hands-on experience in a class full of special needs students.

Dianne Reynolds of Gainesville, Fla., was drawn to the LifeWay conference as leader of a task force to form a special needs ministry at Northwest Baptist Church in Gainesville. Her son Jason, 13, has multiple diagnoses, including Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a degenerative nerve disease.

BP photo by James Yates

Alex Pott, a resident at a group home in Asheville, N.C., operated by the North Carolina Baptist Children’s Homes, runs under the parachute during a game.

Ronda Bradley of Belmont, N.C., whose daughter has special needs, said she attended the conference to learn more about how churches can reach “the most unreached population in our country.”

“Nobody thinks they get it,” she said.

“Oh, they get it,” said Banks, who started a “Special Blessings” adult Sunday school class nine years ago at Woodland Hills Baptist Church in Asheville, N.C. “We apply it to their everyday lives — and we make it fun.”

Banks has more than 25 years of experience in special education, leading a troop of Girl Scouts with special needs for 10 years, building a ministry called A.D.A.M. (Adult Disability Activities Ministry), and raising her special-needs daughter, Kelley, who is 30. Banks has learned that individuals with developmental delays are capable of more than coloring or being read to during Sunday School. She said purpose emerges as churches learn from them.

“They can have that childlike acceptance we’re all supposed to have,” observed Ellen Beene, a special needs resources editor at LifeWay. “If you want someone to pray for you without ceasing, tell the special needs class. They also laugh and have fun with a joy that a lot of our adult classes have forgotten.

“They are totally uninhibited when they worship,” Beene added. “It doesn’t matter if someone is off key. No one’s judging them. Theirs is the most sincere worship I’ve experienced.”

BP photo by James Yates

Bobby Shifflett, left, shares a fist pump of encouragement with Mr. Scott, a volunteer.

Conference instructor Susan Foster, who writes for LifeWay’s “Special Buddies” curriculum, said, “We’re continuing the ministry Jesus started,” explaining that Jesus spent a lot of time among people overlooked by mainstream society.

Volunteer Scott Hurdt, 22, a student at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., often helps Banks with special needs retreats. His experience has taught him how much he enjoys working with people with autism. “If you do it once, you’re hooked,” he said.

Jon Ponder agreed. He volunteers, along with his wife, Darlene, in Banks’ Asheville class.

“What cool people,” Ponder said. “We had a girl in our class in a wheelchair, and she would pray for Jesus to make her be able to walk, but then she would say it’s OK if that wasn’t until she was in heaven. You just can’t hear that enough.”

During a break after an outdoor game, group home resident Ralph Moore, 53, who has developmental delays, turned to Banks and thanked her, carefully reaching for the right words.

“You are just a fabulous, sincere person,” Moore said. “You’ve got a much more good way of teaching — that I can understand.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Higgins is a freelance writer for LifeWay who makes her home in North Carolina. For more information about special needs ministry resources and events, visit LifeWay.com/specialneeds. View a multimedia production from the camp.)

7/30/2009 4:30:00 AM by Andrea Higgins, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Slain missionary’s widow retires

July 29 2009 by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Instead of celebrating with flowers, chocolates and a romantic dinner, emeritus missionary Lyn Hyde spent her 43rd wedding anniversary alone. On June 12, 1966, Lyn had vowed to love, honor and cherish her husband, Bill, until death parted them. In 2003 a terrorist’s bomb at a Philippines airport did just that.

As she sat on an airplane following her husband’s body back to the United States, Lyn decided she would never return to the Philippines.

But God had a different plan.

BP photo

Lyn Hyde, left, of Iowa was among 53 retired missionaries honored at an emeritus recognition service June 13 in Rockville, Va.

God began impressing on Lyn’s heart the story of Joseph and how many trials he had to overcome.

“Even though he was sold into slavery by his brothers, he was wrongly accused by Potiphar’s wife, he was thrown into prison ... he never gave up,” Lyn says. “Even though he maybe did not understand why all this was happening, he still trusted and believed in his God. And so the Lord was teaching me. I may not understand why God allowed my husband to be killed by a bomb, but God understood and I could still trust Him. And even though going back to the Philippines would not be easy, I could still trust that there was a purpose (in) going back and not to give up.”

When Lyn returned to the mission field the following year, her new assignment was helping train Filipinos to work in closed-access countries.

It was during this time she found comfort in God’s faithfulness to Joseph.

“God really used those passages in Genesis for taking me back to the Philippines and keeping me there on some of the days when I said ‘I can’t do it, God. I just can’t be here,” she says. “I can’t do what you are asking me to do.’”

Ironically, it was among the Filipinos that Lyn found closure.

One Sunday evening, she attended the worship service of a partnering Baptist church. The guest speaker, before giving his life over to the Lord, had made it his mission to kill Christians. He was following a legacy passed down from family members who were imams [Muslim leaders].

His message at church that night was about his conversion from Islam to Christianity.

Although the speaker had never met Lyn, “he just shot off that platform and came directly to me and grabbed my hands, and he said to me, ‘Please forgive my people for what they did to you and to your family,’” she recalls. “‘I have killed Christians because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. And many of those people, I have not ever been able to go back (to their families) and ask for forgiveness.’”

Lyn told the man she forgave him.

“(That was) one of those moments I knew that’s why God called me back there — not only to give me some comfort, but to release this man from the things he had done before he knew Jesus Christ,” she says. “That was just something the Lord knew He needed to put in my life so there would at least be a face of one [former terrorist] that was sorry for having killed my husband and taken away the father to my children. [God] enabled me to stay until He made it clear that He was releasing me from the Philippines to come back to America.”

After 31 years of missionary service, Lyn retired in June 2009.

She and Bill had dreamed of living in the mountains someday but put that dream on hold when they moved to the Philippines. Now, however, Lyn has made a home for herself in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“As I was praying about when to retire and where to retire, the Lord just clearly led me that I was to follow that desire that my husband and I had — and that He has something special for me there. So I’m going to continue with that.... I think Bill would be pretty happy.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Anderson is a correspondent for the International Mission Board.)

7/29/2009 6:38:00 AM by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Rainer: Hypocrisy not biggest obstacle

July 29 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — People who don’t attend church are not too bothered by what they view as hypocrisy in the church, but there are some things they don’t like about Christians, says the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm.

BP photo

Thom Rainer said non-Christians don't like Christians who act superior.

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, has been researching the “formerly unchurched” — men and women who have been Christians for less than a year — for nearly a decade. He says the results are surprising.

Contrary to popular belief, Rainer says, non-Christians by and large are not turned off by the church, preaching or Sunday school and are quite responsive to direct one-on-one evangelism.

But there are some things non-churchgoers don’t like about Christians, Rainer says in a recent blog:
  • Christians who treat other Christians poorly. “The unchurched don’t expect us Christians to be perfect, but they can’t understand why we treat each other without dignity and respect.”
  • Holier-than-thou attitudes. “The unchurched know that Christians will make mistakes, and they often have a forgiving attitude when we mess up. But they are repulsed when Christians act in superior ways to them.”
  • Christians who talk more than they listen. “Many of the unchurched, at some point, have a perception that a Christian is a person who can offer a sympathetic and compassionate ear. Unfortunately, many of the unchurched thought Christians were too busy talking to listen to them.”
  • Christians who don’t go to church. “The unchurched saw the disconnect between belief and practice in the lives of Christians who did not or who rarely attended church.”
Rainer’s original research was published in a 2008 book titled Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, but he has continued to follow those groups since.

Rainer says that contrary to the stereotype that hypocrisy is the main obstacle to evangelism, non-churchgoers are really not too bothered by some hypocrisy with Christians.

“They are well aware that any human will stumble at times,” he says. “But these lost men and women want to know that Christians will treat each other well. They want to see humility in our lives. They want to know that we will take the time to listen, and even take more time to really be involved in their lives. And they want to know that we love our churches.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

7/29/2009 6:35:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Faith-healing questions persist despite verdicts

July 29 2009 by Steve Mayers, Religion News Service

OREGON CITY, Ore. — For more than half a century, children in the Followers of Christ church have died for lack of medical care, a pattern lawmakers and prosecutors have worked over the past decade to change.

But as the case of two parents who were found “not guilty” July 23 illustrates, it is no simple matter.

Jurors found Carl and Raylene Worthington not guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the death of their 15-month-old daughter, Ava. On a misdemeanor charge of criminal mistreatment, the jury convicted the father and acquitted the mother.

As the Worthington case showed, juries can be reluctant to convict deeply religious, loving and otherwise law-abiding parents who withhold medical attention on religious grounds. In addition, a conviction is no guarantee that determined believers will change.

“The deterrent value of a conviction and jail time is probably going to be minimal,” said Steven Green, a law professor at Willamette University, and director of the school’s Center for Religion, Law and Democracy.

“It sounds like these people (members of the Followers of Christ church) are extremely committed, extremely devout and not about to change their ways.”

Jurors spent a full week crafting a verdict. They negotiated a thicket of values — religious freedom, parental rights, the rule of law — and then cleared their own path to justice.

In explaining their mixed verdict, the jury forewoman emphasized that the Worthingtons did not intentionally cause their daughter’s death, even though intent was not a requirement for a guilty verdict on either charge.

“Regardless of what the instructions were, a lot of people on the jury believed there was supposed to be intent,” said Ken Byers, one of two jurors who believed Carl Worthington was guilty of manslaughter. “Some people couldn’t clear that hump.”

After the verdict was announced and Byers learned more about what the church teaches, he said he wished he had pushed harder for conviction. “There was a sense on the jury that we needed to send a message that this is not acceptable behavior,” Byers said. “I’m not sure the message is loud enough.”

Oregon lawmakers have also been conflicted about parents who rely on faith healing at the expense of their child’s life.

In 1995, legislators introduced legal immunity to Oregon’s homicide statutes for parents who assert a religious defense in the death of a child. In 1997, they expanded legal immunity to include manslaughter. Then, after a Followers of Christ child died in 1998 of untreated diabetes, legislators reversed course, but only by a half step.

In a compromise law passed in 1999, legislators left some religious exemptions — such as for murder or in sentencing considerations — but eliminated them in cases of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and first- and second-degree criminal mistreatment.

The Worthington case became the first test of the 1999 legislation.

Although the law prohibits the Worthingtons from using a religious defense against the manslaughter charge, jurors considered the Worthingtons’ beliefs in finding that the couple acted reasonably in relying on faith-healing rather than attempting to revive their daughter when she stopped breathing or calling 911.

A key question remains unanswered: Will prosecution or the guilty verdict soften the Followers of Christ’s stance on medical care for their children?

“There are some people who ... believe that adherence to their understanding of the Bible is much more important than any human relationship,” said Nancy Hardesty, a Clemson University professor of religion who studies faith-healing practices. “They see this as an affirmation that they are following God and other people aren’t.”

The Followers of Christ church board of directors does not grant media interviews. Questions submitted through the church’s attorney went unanswered.

Carl and Raylene Worthington’s families have belonged to the Followers of Christ for generations, and their beliefs are deeply tied to the church’s strict adherence to faith-healing rituals — prayer, anointing with oil, laying on of hands, fasting — to treat illness and misfortune.

Another jury will hear a similar case next January when Raylene Worthington’s parents, Jeff and Marci Beagley, face charges of criminally negligent homicide in the death of their 16-year-old son, Neil, who died a few months after Ava.

While the law can punish, it cannot force the deeply devout to alter their ways, say those familiar with faith-healing devotees. A conviction “is not going to be a deterrent,” said Shawn Peters, a University of Wisconsin teacher and an expert on law and religion.

“It’s a kind of martyrdom. It’s a badge of honor. We have individuals who really don’t care about temporal earthly punishment,” said Peters, author of “When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children and the Law.”

“Things will change,” he said, “when the parents decide to read the Bible a little bit differently ... in a way that allows prayer to be complemented with secular medicine.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Mayes writes for The Oregonian in Portland, Ore.)
7/29/2009 6:32:00 AM by Steve Mayers, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Nags Head Church uses the waves

July 28 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Learning from the waves provides a lifetime of education for Steve Wise who shares it with people who want to learn to surf.

“Paddling is the main engine,” Wise said. “They have to build up their strength.”

Photo by Mickey McCarthy

Hukilau Surf Camp provides surfing and water safety instruction to three camps for youth and one camp for adults every summer at Nags Head. Visit photo gallery.

Until then, Wise and other volunteers, mainly from Nags Head Church, help surf campers by giving them the push they need to get to the waves.

Wise started Hukilau Surf Camp 10 years ago after a missionary encouraged church members to use their passion for the Lord.

That charge clicked with Wise, who loves surfing after growing up close to the water thanks to the U.S. Navy: Puerto Rico, Cuba, Hawaii and Virginia. He started surfing in Hawaii where his family was part of First Baptist Church, Pearl Harbor.

The first camp was open to youth, and several years later, Wise began offering one for adults.

Wade Marland, an X-Ray technologist and church member, came to that first adult camp in 2006.

“I’d always wanted to try surfing and had never had the chance before,” Marland said. “The waves were really good.”

Marland had bodyboarded and skateboarded before, but surfing always attracted him.

“I love being outside anyway,” Marland said. “I think it’s a cool way to share my love for God.”

Marland has been a volunteer since his first camp. It gives the father of three girls time to surf and allows him to be a part of God’s creation.

“You have this huge body of water that God created,” Marland said. “You have to respect it.”

Long board stability
The longer board that the camp provides beginners offers stability, Marland said.

Wise, who is also a pastor elder at Nags Head, estimated that about 20 to 25 percent of the campers are from the Nags Head area. The rest are either on vacation or visiting relatives in the area.

While the camp is designed to show the fun side of surfing, Wise said, “We’re not trying to hide that we’re a church. Our No. 1 passion is for Jesus Christ.”

Each camp lasts about three hours on a Saturday morning. For $25, about 20 campers learn some water safety tips and how to pop up on the boards.

Over a decade Wise and the Nags Head Church volunteers have helped more than 500 people learn the basics of surfing and water safety.

At most camps Chad Motz, captain of Nags Head Ocean Rescue and a church member, instructs about rip currents and how sand bars form and move.

Each camper is also given a goodie bag with a T-shirt, surf Bible, tide table, instructions on how to buy a used board, etc. Three youth camps and an adult camp are offered each summer. Wise also helps others learn how to do surf camps or teaches groups the basics. A church group is coming from Virginia for a lesson for its high school and college guys.

He’s been to Ecuador to lead a camp at a Baptist facility on the coast and earlier this summer taught a youth group in Florida.

Hukilau is a Hawaiian tradition of using a large net to catch a lot of fish. Huki means to pull and lau means leaf. A large group participated in and in turn celebrated the catch. The camp’s theme verse is Isaiah 51:15 (NAS): “I am the Lord your God who stirs up the sea and its waves roar.”

For more about camp, contact (252) 441-7548 or visit www.surfcampobx.com/.

7/28/2009 10:09:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 1 comments

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