July 2009

In B.C. comic, Hart had heart for God

July 6 2009 by Lindsay Perna, Religion News Service

When cartoonist Johnny Hart died more than two years ago, many feared that his strips of spiritually-probing prehistoric cavemen and talking animals would become extinct.

But this May, the Hart family bound his religion-themed “B.C.” comics into a new collection, bringing Johnny’s stone-age pals back to life.

And they’re still causing controversy.

The book, I Did it His Way, collects some of Hart’s best-known religious cartoons, tries to explains one of his most controversial and pays tribute to the man who was both loved and loathed by his 100 million readers. The book is packed with Christian crosses, theological debates, and Hart’s unique wit.

“He wanted people to know that God had a sense of humor,” said his daughter, Perri Hart, who produced the book with Johnny’s widow, Bobby.

“He really always felt that this was what he was called to do,” she said.

RNS photo courtesy of Thomas Nelson

Johnny Hart’s family has collected his religion-themed “B.C.” comic strips in a new book called I Did It His Way.

Throughout his 51-year career, Hart spread his gospel of God-inspired cavemen in more than 1,300 newspapers. These “holy” sketches were scattered among the secular gags throughout the year, but Hart was not always welcome on the funny pages.

Perri Hart purposefully did not include a cartoon that enraged Islamic groups in 2003, saying that the comic was not intended to be religious and certainly not meant to insult Muslims.

“A number of his cartoons seemed to poke what he would consider to be fun, but Muslims took offense,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “When it crosses the line into bigotry and intolerance that’s when we have to speak up.”

CAIR chastised Hart for drawing a crescent moon, an Islamic symbol, on an outhouse in a cartoon where a stone-age man said: “Is it just me, or does it stink in here?” The cartoon was published during the holy month of Ramadan.

“(My father) said, ‘I am not smart enough to think of that,”’ said his daughter, Patti Hart.

Michael Peters, creator of the popular comic strip “Mother Goose & Grimm,” and a close friend of the Harts, praised Johnny for preaching with his puns. “He stuck to his guns, God love him,” he said. “John was getting persecuted for printing in those papers.”

The Hart family did include what they called “one of the most controversial ‘B.C.’ strips that Johnny ever produced,” in the collection. The Easter Sunday cartoon from April, 2001, depicts a Jewish menorah transforming into a crucifix. The seven candles of the menorah are extinguished by the seven last utterances of Jesus Christ and fade into a cross and an empty tomb.

The book includes a disclaimer explaining that Hart intended to honor both faiths by showing that Christianity is rooted in Judaism.

Yet Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the Hart family should have left out cartoons that offend Jews — especially those that might infer Christianity replaces Judaism.

“If you want to be sensitive, don’t repeat. Don’t give it further life,” he said. The book “makes it worse. It gives it permanence. Daily cartoons are a lot more fleeting — a book stays forever.”  

Hart would animate the Three Wise Men on the blackboard of the local Sunday School class he taught. He even sent a simple tracing of his hand to Dik Browne, creator of “Hagar the Horrible,” when his fellow cartoonist was diagnosed with cancer. Hart told Brown to place his hand on the paper so that they could pray together.

His cartoons offer insight into the life he led and the life he urged his readers to follow, his family said.

For the past two years, Hart’s grandsons and daughters have taken over the production of “B.C.”

“It was strange seeing the first cartoon in the paper with my name on it and not his,” said Mason Mastroianni, Hart’s grandson who took over the drawing of B.C. “It was just kind of a quiet day.”

They adopted Johnny’s menagerie of insightful cavemen, turtles and ants with less controversy, but also with less religion.

Their most prominent religion-themed comic featured a cavemen “signing-up” for Jesus since he has “everlasting” health-care.

7/6/2009 3:39:00 AM by Lindsay Perna, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Flu prompts Caraway closing

July 2 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Camp Caraway will be closed the week of July 6-10 after two campers from the week of June 22-26 were diagnosed with H1N1 flu.

The two campers became sick after they returned home and were diagnosed with the illness commonly called “swine flu.” Camp staff was then examined and five staffers were diagnosed with the virus.

Camp Caraway
, which runs sessions weekly during the summer, had a short camp week this week as it hosted Camp Angel Tree. This week’s campers were on their way home when word came that campers from the previous week and several staff had tested positive for the flu.

Brian Davis, executive leader for administration and convention relations for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said families of all campers from all three weeks involved have been notified of events by email, regular mail or letter sent home with campers.

Davis said camp administration has been working closely with Randolph County health officials, who said it is impossible to pinpoint the source of the outbreak.

A typical camp week has 110-120 in attendance. Camp Caraway summer sessions are for boys up to age 15. Camp Caraway is adjacent to Caraway Conference Center, which is unaffected by the camp’s closing.

Camp Caraway is in the Uwharrie Mountains near Asheboro.

7/2/2009 9:50:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 3 comments

NAMB honors North Carolina for Annie gifts

July 1 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — More than 350 representatives of small to large Southern Baptist churches were honored for their 2008 gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions during a June 23 luncheon at the SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.

Recognized as either the top dollar-giving or the highest per capita-giving church in their local association to the Annie Armstrong Offering, the churches — along with associations, state conventions and Woman’s Missionary Union — were praised for raising more than $58.1 million in 2008.

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) honored churches of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina for leading all state conventions in their gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, sending $6.08 million for North American missions.

NAMB President Geoff Hammond said the 2008 Annie Armstrong offering was just 2.3 percent less than the year before. He reminded luncheon attendees that 2008 will be long remembered for the start of the worst U.S. recession of the last 60 years and for $4-per-gallon gasoline.

“Being in this room means your church and your association have influenced people to give to North American missions,” Hammond said at the luncheon. “On behalf of our missionaries, thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.”

Noting that North America is a mission field, Hammond said the United States and Canada are two of the few industrial nations continuing to grow. Canada is growing by 250,000 immigrants a year, he said, while the U.S. will have 100 million more people in the next 35 years.

“Thirty years from now, we’ll see an American population that is 30 percent Hispanic and 46 percent Anglo,” Hammond said. “Folks, we have to reach the peoples of North America and you are NAMB’s key partners. It is going to take praying, giving and going.”

 Richard Harris, NAMB’s senior strategist for missions advancement, said NAMB had 5,611 commissioned missionaries and 3,077 chaplains at the end of 2008.

Saying 46 percent of NAMB’s budget comes from the Annie Armstrong offering and 36 percent from the Cooperative Program, Harris said, “We’re in some troubled times — economically, politically and spiritually.”

Woman’s Missionary Union, headed by Executive Director/Treasurer Wanda Lee and President Kaye Miller, was lauded by Hammond and Harris for their support of the Annie Armstrong Offering.

“We couldn’t do what we do without you ladies,” Harris said. Lee replied that the partnership between NAMB and WMU “has never been closer or better.”

NAMB’s Harris also released the top 10 states for Annie Armstrong donations in 2008: 1. North Carolina, $6.08 million; 2. Alabama, $5.85 million; 3. Georgia, $5.1 million; 4. Texas (BGCT), $4.7 million; 5. Tennessee, $4.06 million; 6. South Carolina, $3.9 million; 7. Mississippi, $3.8 million; 8. Florida, $2.9 million; 9. Texas (SBTC), $2.5 million; and 10. Louisiana, $2.2 million.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)

7/1/2009 5:13:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Update: University cancels mission trip for ousted church

July 1 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas — A Kentucky Baptist university has, at the last minute, withdrawn its invitation to host a youth mission team from Texas after the Southern Baptist Convention disfellowshipped their church for its toleration of homosexuals.

Brent Beasley, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, said the church’s youth minister received a call June 30 from an official at the University of the Cumberlands informing her that the congregation’s youth choir is no longer welcome to stay in dorms or perform mission work through the school’s Mountain Outreach construction program, which builds houses for the disadvantaged in Appalachia.

Beasley said a church near the school’s Williamsburg, Ky., campus also canceled a concert that had been scheduled as part of the mission trip.

He said a big part of the 12-day mission trip/choir tour, scheduled to begin July 3, was the stop at the university, affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

The Mountain Outreach program was established in 1982 by two students overwhelmed by the tar-paper shacks without electricity or running water they saw while on a driving tour of rural areas long plagued by poverty.

Beasley, whose first Sunday as Broadway’s new senior pastor is July 5, said the Broadway Chapel Choir, as the youth choir is called, has been taking these kinds of mission trips for years.

“All these kids want to do is praise God with their singing and serve God by helping those in poverty,” Beasley said. “We’re not going to let denominational politics keep them from doing this good work.”

The Southern Baptist Convention voted without discussion June 23 to accept the unanimous recommendation of the SBC Executive Committee to sever a 125-year-old relationship with Broadway. The committee said the congregation failed to prove it had not acted to “affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior,” a requirement for SBC membership since the early 1990s.

Formerly called Cumberland College, the University of the Cumberlands was founded by Baptist ministers in 1889. The school has historically served students primarily from the collective mountain regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and Alabama.

University officials declined to comment on their rationale for revoking the invitation to Broadway’s mission team.

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

7/1/2009 5:06:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 9 comments

Churchill Downs chaplain sees faith blossom

July 1 2009 by David R. Lema Jr., Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The “Run for the Roses” is well-known at Churchill Downs, but for assistant chaplain Yurian Cabrera, the “roses” of the Kentucky Derby come second to seeing faith blossom at the famed racetrack’s fruit of ministry.

Cabrera, a 29-year-old native of Cuba, is a church planting missionary and part-time pastor of Iglesia Bautista Senda de Luz in Louisville.

Serving as a chaplain at the racetrack is yet another of his passions.

“I just love the smell, the track, the horses and, most of all, the people who work here,” Cabrera smiled broadly, a dark goatee highlighting bright cheeks.

Early in the mornings, he relays a “Minute with God” over Churchill Downs’ PA system in both English and Spanish as a devotional for track workers.

“It is a very brief reminder that God is real and that He cares about the workers here at the track,” Cabrera said.

More than 700 Hispanics, mostly from Mexico, Central America and Cuba, work in some capacity at the track. Many live within the stable area, or “backside” of the track, with others in nearby apartment buildings.

A beautiful on-site “Christ Chapel” at Churchill Downs provides a place for Cabrera to hold services in Spanish on Monday evenings. Local churches and ministries provide supper, while worship and praise music is provided by local musicians and church groups.

Kentucky Derby winner Pat Day supports the ministry and is a frequent guest speaker at Christ Chapel. He told Baptist Press he became a believer after experiencing the emptiness of worldly success and coming completely to Christ.

“God changed the mirrors of my life into windows,” Day said. “God is doing a wonderful work in this place.”

On Thursday nights at the chapel, Cabrera shares a practical Bible study followed by a family friendly movie in Spanish, with plenty of time also provided for fellowship and one-on-one ministry.

The chaplaincy program provides for the workers’ material needs through an on-site clothes closet ministry which also supplies basic care needs. Additionally, the outreach offers English classes; workshops on legal issues; counseling; and family and children’s activities.

Renier Rosales, 23, one of the workers who walks and trains horses at the track, recently left Cuba where his family remains. Rosales counts on Cabrera and the church family at Iglesia Bautista Senda de Luz to help fill the void.

“I like the church meetings here since I can do my work and minister to my co-workers at the same time,” Rosales said. “I thank God for Pastor Julian since he is always there to help me.”

But Cabrera’s ministry is not tied to the walls of Christ Chapel. He visits the workers on a daily basis and knows them by name. He keeps up with the names of the horses they train and follows some of their records. “One of the men we shared Christ with used to be a big-time drug dealer and user in Guatemala who came here running from the law,” Cabrera said. “Today that man is currently coming to all of our services and activities here at the track.”

On the weekends, workers are encouraged to worship at one of several local Hispanic Baptist churches. Since most of the workers do not drive, Cabrera led his church to start a new work across the street from one of the back entrances of Churchill Downs.

Pastor Ernesto Font, one of the ministers at Iglesia Bautista Senda de Luz, started Iglesia Bautista Victoria last February with 15 people. As a result of June 15-20 Crossover evangelistic efforts prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Louisville, nine new converts have asked for baptism into this growing fellowship of believers. Font noted: “It is very easy for the workers at the track to cross the street and visit our church.”

Cabrera is optimistic about the future of the Good News in a place where the thoroughbreds run.

“I want to continue what was started,” Cabrera said. “Our church is fasting and praying for God to start a revival in our city.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lema is director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Center for the Americas in Miami and a correspondent for Baptist Press.)

7/1/2009 5:02:00 AM by David R. Lema Jr., Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Korean Baptists reach missionary goal early

July 1 2009 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Members of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America are celebrating the mobilization of 1,000 people for missions service through the International Mission Board (IMB).

The council set a goal in 2007 of sending out 1,000 missionaries through the International Mission Board by the year 2010.

The 600 or more people at the Korean Council’s annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., responded with fervent applause and intense prayer when Ken Winter, IMB vice president for church and partner services, reported the figures: At the present time, 300 Koreans are serving with the IMB; another 200 are in the missionary candidate process; and 500 have committed to go when resources are available.

“The IMB encouraged us to send missionaries, so Koreans have to support IMB,” said Sun Ik Hwang, pastor of Hanmaum Korean Baptist Church in Columbus, Ind., when he voiced a plea to council attendees June 23 to connect each missionary with a church for one-to-one prayer.

“Korean churches need to support not only manpower but financial support,” Hwang also told the council.
The theme of increased support of the Cooperative Program emerged several times from various speakers during the Korean Council’s June 22-24 sessions at the Louisville Marriott East.

One nominee for president — Kyung Tae Cha, pastor of Bethany Korean Baptist Church in Layton, Utah — made increased support of the Cooperative Program the main point of his candidacy speech.

While the presidency later went to Sin K. Baik, pastor of Atlanta New Way Korean Baptist Church, Cha was elected first vice president. Jong-oh Lee, pastor of First Korean Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., was elected second vice president; Hyeok Kim, pastor of Global Mission Baptist Church in Garden Grove, Calif., secretary; and In Gyun Oh, pastor of Hanuri Korean Baptist Church in Carrollton, Texas, treasurer. All were elected to a one-year term.

Chongoh Aum was re-elected to a four-year term as the council’s executive director, the group’s only salaried position.

In other business, the Korean Council voted to give formal recognition to the Southern Baptist College and Seminary in Los Angeles, which was started 25 years ago by Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary as an Ethnic Leadership Development center.

“We approve our pastors go there,” Executive Director Aum later told Baptist Press.

Known informally as the Korean Southern Baptist seminary, its president is Sung K. Park, pastor of Berendo Street Baptist Church. While the church houses the seminary, the two entities are independent of each other, said Peter Jong Han, a member of the seminary’s board of directors.

“We ask Korean Council to approve our seminary so our graduates can work in all other states,” Han said. “We have approval of Southern California Korean Fellowship, but need nationwide approval.”

The Korean Council functions much like a mini-SBC, with international and home missions, Sunday School, English ministry, Brotherhood and Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) departments. Each made reports of their work during the Louisville gathering.

The SBC’s IMB, North American Mission Board and WMU gave hour-long presentations to the council, as did the Korean youth, which held a youth conference led by Jae Kim of Jacksonville, Fla., during the council meeting.

“It was inspiring and heart-touching,” said David Kim, 15, a member of Kentucky Mission Church in Louisville, Ky., about the youth conference, which was themed “Back to Beth-el.

“I didn’t know anything about this until now. I want to come every year,” Kim said.

Jae Cho, pastor of Hanmaum Church in Durham, N.C., said his two sons were the reason he attended this year’s council meeting. “They like it very much,” he said, referring to the youth conference.

Instead of breakout sessions this year, various leaders made presentations on topics of interest to the attendees as a whole.

Jee Duk Do of Tidewater Korean Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Va., speaking on retirement, said, “Number one, don’t worry about anything. Trust God. Your future is in God’s hand.

“The best blessing is a little bit short [of what you’d like it to be] to ensure leaning on God,” Do said. “Young pastor, don’t calculate your future. You’re a worker. The Master will provide for you. ... Show Christian character by the way you respond to retirement.”

A leader in the council’s English ministry also gave a presentation to the council, as did the wife of a church planting pastor.

Following each report was a time of concerted prayer, with each person praying aloud in a low voice that collectively rumbled and vibrated throughout the conference hall, until closed by the prayer of the leader. The prayer time after Kim spoke was particularly poignant, with sniffles and tears being heard throughout the meeting hall.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message.)

7/1/2009 5:00:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

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