July 2015

Boko Haram attacks claim hundreds in Nigeria

July 7 2015 by Daniel Woodman, Baptist Press

Twin explosions rocked the Nigerian city of Jos and left dozens dead or severely injured, according to the BBC and Associated Press.
The attacks have been tied to the terrorist group Boko Haram, who had also been connected to a string of terrorist attacks throughout Nigeria in which as many as 300 people were killed earlier in the week.
The first blast hit a shopping complex on July 5 near the University of Jos while the second blast targeted the Yan Taya Mosque just minutes later, according to a report from a pastor in Jos relayed to Adeniyi Ojutiku, a Nigerian who lives in Raleigh, N.C., and leads the Lift Up Now organization to meet political, economic and social challenges in his homeland.


The explosion at the mosque, according to the information Ojutiku received from the pastor in Jos, has widely been reported as direct retaliation against Sheikh Sani Yahaya, who has encouraged Muslims to coexist peacefully with those who hold other religious beliefs.
Also Sunday, a suicide bomber killed five worshippers at a church in Nigeria’s northeastern Yobe state.
Despite many political promises and military endeavors by the Nigerian government, Ojutiku said Boko Haram’s recent attacks show that not enough is being done to counter the terrorist group.
Ojutiku expressed disappointment in the Nigerian government’s response to Boko Haram, but he also voiced a need for a global response to the violence.
“The region has been left to deal with the issues … but now [Boko Haram] has become part of the [ISIS] terror network,” he noted. “And therefore it is important that this strategy to combat Boko Haram be globalized both in terms of the foreign policies of Western countries and also of Christians. Christians globally are not showing enough concern about what is happening to other Christians, especially in Nigeria.”
Ojutiku suggested that Christians view Boko Haram in the same light as ISIS both in terms of physical and spiritual danger to the Christian community. Pointing out that Boko Haram ties itself to ISIS and wishes to establish an Islamic caliphate, Ojutiku warned that Boko Haram will stop at nothing to reach its goal.
The actions of Boko Haram garnered global attention when the radicals took 276 girls hostage in April 2014. International outrage followed, but a majority of the girls remain in captivity where, according to an account by one escapee to CNN, they are raped and sometimes forced to carry out acts of violence against other captives.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Baptist Press intern Daniel Woodman is a journalism major at the University of Missouri.)

7/7/2015 11:10:31 AM by Daniel Woodman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

God-sized miracle sought in Buenos Aires

July 7 2015 by Anne Harman, IMB Connections

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – “Where is Marco Polo?” The question is a legitimate one in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Marco Polo is a pastor who has invested 20 years in the city’s Cildáñez neighborhood, a melting pot of immigrants.
When the question is asked at the offices of Parque Indoamericano Baptist Church, the staff knows that Polo likely is meeting a need in a nearby villa, or slum area. The church provides about 20 ministries to immigrant neighborhoods, from traditional worship and discipleship to small groups in homes and youth events. Construction continues adjacent to the church on a home for adolescent and single mothers. Daily, 300 infants and preschoolers receive meals and personal nurture in two childcare centers.
The villas near Polo’s church, where people build cinder-block dwellings perched upon one another, house Bolivian and Paraguayan immigrants alongside Argentine neighbors. Spiritually, they practice Catholicism mixed with idolatry and animism.
Despite their poverty, the people warmly greet Polo and his co-pastors, Omar Díaz and Edwin Laime, as they visit church members’ homes.


IMB photo by Chris Carter
IMB missionaries Kevin and Laura Baggett take their son Lucas on an errand in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lucas says that while his parents may be Americans, he claims Argentina as his home.


For Sara Cisneros, the church is her family, providing for needs that arise for her and her children. The church also gives clarity and support in her Christian walk.
“I came from a family that did black witchcraft, white witchcraft and sacrifices,” Cisneros said. “God gave me freedom – a good life, a clean life. I believe His promises and that He has sanctified me.”
The church ministers to hundreds of families much like Cisneros’.
“There is a great openness towards the gospel [and] … a great need,” Polo said. In spite of insecurities and in spite of drugs, the houses have open doors. The neighbors are easy to reach. It’s easy to go into a home and share.”
For much of the Southern Baptist mission’s 112 years of work in Argentina, International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries have partnered with Baptist pastors like Marco Polo to share Christ in the nation’s capital city.
But the need is expansive: Nearly 14 million people live in greater Buenos Aires. By the IMB’s estimate, only five of every 100 porteños (people of the port) have a personal relationship with Christ.

Influencing the influential

In another area called Microcentro, people line up in Starbucks for their morning café con leche (coffee with milk) and medialunas (sweet croissants). Dog walkers steer groups of eight or 10 canines through the 3.5 million people bustling into the city’s center for another workday. Thousands of drivers sit gridlocked on Avenida 9 de Julio, touted to be the widest boulevard in the world with 18 lanes.

An air of caution pervades the cosmopolitan area beyond the veneer of custom-made suits and luxury sedans. Signs in Starbucks remind patrons to “keep sight of your personal belongings,” and residents warn tourists to hide valuables.

IMB Photo by Chris Carter
IMB missionary Kevin Baggett (center) chats with a stranger on a subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Transportation in the megacity is burdened by the city's nearly 14 million people, so much of Baggett's day can be spent in a subway, bus or other vehicle just to get across town and back.

In a modern high-rise office building, Enrique Vetere juggles appointments as an attorney specializing in bankruptcy cases. With the faltering Argentine economy, business is booming. He also works as a law professor in local universities. About 15 years ago, Vetere was committed to ministry similar to Marco Polo’s, serving lower-class people. But another professional challenged him to reconsider.
 “The gospel does not flow “up” economic lines, the peer reminded Vetere. Rather than working in a lower-class area, he should use his status as an attorney to build contacts with businessmen for sharing his faith. Those influential people could then share Christ with their subordinates.
The comments deeply affected Vetere and his wife. In response, they created a ministry called “Prometa,” short for “Professionals in metamorphosis,” through which they host lectures by and for professionals, teas for professional women and other events – always seeking opportunities to witness. Vetere also pastors a church for professionals.
“We have seen [the challenge with] getting professionals to know Jesus is that … they are deep-down inside convinced they don’t need anything,” Vetere said. “They have a good career, they probably have a good quality of life, they have an income, a house, a car, a country club, so they don’t need anything.”


God-sized miracle

A common denominator in the ministries of Marco Polo and Enrique Vetere is a group of IMB missionaries in Buenos Aires, led by megacity strategist Kevin Baggett and his wife Laura. The team networks with Argentine pastors and leaders in focusing on the city’s spiritually lost people.
“Believers both in Argentina and in the U.S. have a hard time understanding that cities with churches are still a mission field,” Baggett said. “There may be more people [living] in a single apartment building in a megacity like Buenos Aires than … in an isolated [people group] in the jungle or in the countryside. The people in that apartment building could find a church if they were looking for one, but they aren’t, and no one is targeting them with the gospel, either.”
Having access to the gospel and having it presented in a way people can understand are two different things, Baggett noted. The churches in Buenos Aires are not reaching the city’s upper-class and educated populations and the young generation (ages 20-40), he said. About 60 percent of porteños claim to be Catholic; after Catholicism, most identify their religious affiliation as “none,” atheism, “other” or agnostic. Only 5 percent say they are evangelical Christians.
To explain this to their national partners, Baggett’s team completed 6,200-plus street surveys. They also launched a prayer emphasis to aid their partners’ work. Baggett spends hours each week meeting with Argentine Baptists, asking, “How can we serve you?”
Despite the vastness of his adopted city and its pervasive spiritual need, Baggett has hope.
“I believe the church [the Baptist church] in Buenos Aires has the potential to be used by God to change this city, this country, and make disciples all over the globe,” he said.
With that potential in mind, the missionaries’ megacity team promotes a “1-3-1 group” plan adapted from a similar plan developed by Tennessee Baptists. The team trains Argentine pastors and churches to start one outreach group. The goal is to baptize at least three people from that group and for the group to multiply at least once by the end of its first year. 24 churches have made the commitment. One church with 50 attendees started nine groups, and half of the group members do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. The possibilities for life-changing results are enormous.
“My prayer for Buenos Aires is this: That God would do something so awesome and so great and so incredible that only He would get the credit for what happens,” Baggett said. “I pray that there would be people from the lowest squatter grounds … to the most upper exclusive areas in the city that become His disciples and … form into groups and … start to multiply.
“I pray that He would do it in such a way that the whole world would look at Buenos Aires and … see that only God could have caused such a change.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Anne Harman is an IMB writer.)

7/7/2015 10:55:48 AM by Anne Harman, IMB Connections | with 0 comments

Douglas Blount joins SBTS faculty

July 7 2015 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS Communications

Douglas K. Blount joined the faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as professor of Christian philosophy and ethics July 1. The Board of Trustees unanimously elected Blount at their April 20-21 meeting. President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told trustees Blount is a “spectacular” addition to the faculty.


Douglas Blount

Before Southern, he was professor of theological studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He also taught at Criswell College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Dr. Douglas Blount is well known and well respected among Southern Baptist and evangelical scholars,” said Gregory A. Wills, dean of the School of Theology. “He is deeply committed to the truth of the scriptures, and is humble and engaging. He arrives with a wealth of classroom experience. Students will profit greatly from his courses.”
Blount earned degrees from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He completed his doctor of philosophy degree  in 1998 at Notre Dame, where he studied under a faculty that included noted philosopher and theologian Alvin Plantinga.
He has contributed to numerous books, including the Exploring Christian Theology series, the Holman Illustrated Study Dictionary, The Apologetics Study Bible, and Why I Am a Baptist.
“I’m honored and pleased to be joining the faculty of Southern Seminary,” Blount said. “It’s a great privilege to serve at an institution so well known for both its confessional integrity and commitment to excellence at every level, a privilege that brings with it the responsibility to continue and contribute to both those institutional distinctives. I take that responsibility quite seriously and am committed to fostering those ends.”
While at Notre Dame, his dissertation, “An Essay on Divine Presence,” explored God’s relation to space and time. Blount’s academic interests include the divine attributes, theoretic and applied apologetics, hermeneutics, faith and science, and faith and culture.
“My passion is to help students develop their ability to think Christianly, especially in a culture increasingly hostile to our faith and its Founder,” Blount said.
Blount will be joined at Southern Seminary by his wife, Andrea, and their two children, Katie and Andrew.

7/7/2015 10:54:22 AM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS Communications | with 0 comments

James Dunn, soul freedom ‘firebrand,’ dies at 83

July 7 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

James Dunn, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs from 1981-99, died Saturday, July 4, in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was 83.
Dunn led the church-state organization, now called Baptist Joint Committee (BJC) for Religious Liberty, during turbulent years in its relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Disagreements between SBC leaders and the BJC over public policy and other issues led to the convention’s defunding of the organization over a two-year span at the 1990 and ‘91 SBC annual meetings. Until its actions, the SBC was the largest financial contributor among the BJC’s then nine member denominations.
The SBC cut all ties with the BJC in 1992.


James Dunn

Prior to leading the BJC, Dunn had served 12 years as director of the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He was a trustee of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., at the time of his move to Washington and was a member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s advisory council.
After retirement, Dunn taught Christianity and public policy at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.
The BJC, in its obituary of Dunn, described him as “a firebrand Baptist” known for “his stalwart defense of religious liberty.”
He is survived by his wife Marilyn. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, July 18, at Knollwood Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Dunn held a doctor of theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, studying under longtime ethics professor T.B. Maston. Dunn earlier received a bachelor of divinity degree from Southwestern and an undergraduate degree from Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.
In a folksy yet bombastic style, Dunn opposed conservatives on such matters as prayer in public schools and federal vouchers for private schools. But on occasion he found common ground with conservatives, most notably in the passage of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which in recent months has emerged as a battleground between conservatives and gay rights activists.
Dunn was the author of several books and the subject of a 2011 book titled James M. Dunn and Soul Freedom by Aaron Douglas Weaver.
Russell Moore, then-dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of theology, reviewed Weaver’s book after its publication by Smyth and Helwys.
“Love him or hate him, Dunn was a powerful force in Baptist life in the twentieth century,” Moore wrote, crediting Dunn with quips he (Moore) had used in his classroom such as “Everybody wants a theocracy. And everybody wants to be ‘Theo’” and “Ain’t nobody but Jesus going to tell me what to believe.” Moore currently is president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Moore wrote that he agreed with Dunn on various issues, “perhaps above all … of what a Christless civil religion does to the witness of the church, which is to freeze it into something useless if not satanic.”
Yet Dunn “was not exempt from the pull toward a civil religion and a politicized faith,” Moore wrote. “On the issue of abortion, for instance, Dunn refused to call for the protection of unborn human life. … His principle of ‘soul freedom’ gave a theological basis for the right of a woman to choose to abort her child. But what about the question of the personhood of the fetus, what of his or her ‘soul freedom’? After all, ‘soul freedom’ wouldn’t mean the freedom of a white supremacist to lynch, would it? Of course not. Can a corporate executive claim the ‘soul freedom’ to pollute a water stream? No. … Dunn saw the limits of ‘soul freedom,’ and courageously so, when it came to issues of segregation, economic predation (including the state lottery system), and so on. It’s a tragedy he couldn’t see it here” on abortion.
Yet Dunn’s death sparked an outpouring of affirmation on Facebook and in other media.
Brent Walker, quoted in an obituary at Baptist News Global, said, “How fitting that he died – like fellow freedom advocates Thomas Jefferson and John Adams – on the Fourth of July.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/7/2015 10:50:46 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NAMB fund to assist burned black churches

July 6 2015 by Mike Ebert and Diana Chandler, NAMB/Baptist Press

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has established a fund to help African-American churches that have been damaged or destroyed by fire in the past two weeks.
Fires at seven black churches have fueled discussions of racial hatred, as the first occurred within a week of the June 17 massacre of nine black Christians by a 21-year-old white supremacist at a Charleston church.
As investigations into the fires continue, two of the blazes have been confirmed as arson and a third has been ruled suspicious. While none of them have been deemed hate crimes, NAMB is already offering assistance.
“Southern Baptists should be the first to condemn acts of hatred toward African Americans,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “Regardless of the causes of these fires, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to come alongside and offer whatever assistance we can.”
NAMB is starting the fund with $50,000 to be immediately available to the churches in need of assistance.
“It has been heartbreaking to hear of these fires,” Ezell said. “We wanted to provide an easy, centralized way to help.”


Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Observer
Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, a predominantly black Southern Baptist congregation, is one of several African American houses of worship that have burned since June 17 when a white supremacist murdered nine members of an African American church in Charleston, S.C.

Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and new national mobilizer for NAMB, said while African-American churches are in need at the moment, “what is happening today could happen to any of our churches in any of our states.
“We are living in a crazy day and time when there is no respect for God, no respect for the Bible or for houses of God. So these kinds of things could happen anywhere,” Luter said. “I would encourage all Southern Baptists around the nation to pray for those churches in South Carolina and elsewhere that have been impacted.”
Luter appealed to Southern Baptist pastors to lead their churches in a response.
“I would encourage pastors to put themselves in the place of these pastors whose buildings are destroyed,” Luter said. “Pray for them, yes, but do all you can to contribute to this fund so we can help our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Arson was confirmed in a June 24 fire that caused $250,000 in damage at Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., a predominantly black Southern Baptist church that also hosts services for two Nepali congregations. It is the only black Southern Baptist church damaged to date.
Arsonists torched College Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., on June 22. A fire the following day at God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Ga., was suspected to be arson, but that had not been confirmed. Other fires occurred in Greeleyville, S.C.; Jackson, Miss.; Tallahassee, Fla., and Warrenville, S.C.

Southern Baptist leaders comment

Key Southern Baptist leaders voiced outcry at the arsons.
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd said “racism and prejudice must cease.”
“The continuation of African-American churches being burned in our nation is highly concerning to me,” said Floyd, pastor of the Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “Our Southern Baptist family hurts for our brothers and sisters who have suffered these devastating losses, especially those who are suffering at the hands of individuals who purposely inflict harm. As members of the family of God, we stand with them in prayer and encouragement.”
K. Marshall Williams, president of National African American Fellowship of the SBC and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., called the arsons “the manifestation of sinful and wicked humanity.”
“We need a nationwide outcry and action on all levels of government and society to insure that these acts of terror and hatred toward African Americans who are worshipping the true and living God cease,” Williams said. “I recognize more than ever that, as Christians, we are in intense spiritual warfare. … So I cry out to the Lord to protect and heal the broken hearts of His people. And I fast and pray for the Lord to change hearts and send a revival and spiritual awakening to our land. We need the Lord!”
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said he is brokenhearted “at the burning of a house of prayer or God’s house and it disturbs me greatly because of the cowardice of such acts and the hatred of such acts of violence. I am deeply disturbed that people would act so cowardly and hatefully, especially toward a building where people gather for worship of our Lord, and it is a heinous act of violence that I pray will be mediated somewhat by the apprehension and the prosecution of these persons who are responsible.”
Two churches previously reported in Baptist Press and other media outlets as black congregations are in fact majority white: namely, College Heights Baptist Church in Elyria, Ohio, a Southern Baptist congregation that suffered $1 million in damages in a June 27 electrical blaze, and Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tenn., destroyed in a June 23 fire caused by lightning.

Church fires not uncommon

While federal agencies including the FBI are assisting in investigations, the number of fires is not out of the ordinary, according to credible statistics.
Between 2007 and 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 1,780 fires annually or 35 weekly at places of worship and funeral properties, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a nonprofit fire safety group, stated in its latest report released in 2013. Of those fires, arsons accounted for 16 percent, or 280 fires a year, the NFPA reported.
Marty Ahrens, NFPA senior manager for fire analysis services, advises the public to keep the fires in proper perspective.
“I do think the church shooting has made everybody, particularly those in the South, a lot more nervous and sensitive to any issues affecting churches, which is completely understandable,” Ahrens said. “While church arsons do occur, there’s a wide variety of motivations. … There’s a fair amount of petty vandalism.”
Most fires at churches are very small, she said, and about 30 percent are due to cooking. Additionally, churches are vulnerable to fires because maintenance work, including electrical repairs, often is performed by volunteers, Ahrens said.

1995 church arsons

Southern Baptists have helped churches recover from fires in previous years, including numerous African-American and multicultural churches set on fire by arsonists in 1995 and 1996.
At the 1996 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans, messengers approved a resolution deploring the crimes, and pledged to, among other things, “pray for, support, encourage, stand with, and assist our sister churches and fellow believers in the African-American community who have been victims of these criminal acts.”
Southern Baptists contributed at least $724,000 to an arson fund initiated in 1996 by then-SBC President Jim Henry. The monies helped 98 African-American congregations in 17 states rebuild after arson attacks.
Henry initiated the arson fund with an offering during the 1996 annual meeting. At the time, messengers gave $38,628 in cash and $57,690 in pledges; even before the offering, $185,000 had been raised in pledges by state Baptist conventions and churches. The overall initial total was $281,318. Henry, in his presidential address, had urged pastors, church and state convention leaders to “go home and take collections and free up resources to assist in rebuilding.” In an earlier news conference, Henry said he hoped the offering would help show “that we’ve come a long way since some earlier days when these kind of things happened and there was no response from our convention and evangelicals.”

NAMB fund donations

Those wishing to give to the NAMB fund for the churches can visit namb.net/givenow or call toll-free (866) 407-6262. Checks should be made out to NAMB with “Church Fire Fund” on the memo line and mailed to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta GA 30368-6543. One hundred percent of donations will go to help churches – regardless of denominational affiliation – impacted by the fires.
Ezell said the fund is an example of the kind of activity NAMB will be undertaking under its new “Send Relief” efforts. In addition to traditional disaster relief activities, Send Relief will include meeting needs surrounding issues such as hunger, human trafficking, International Learning Centers in Send Cities, medical and dental needs, military and first-responder family support and national construction projects among others.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert writes for the North American Mission Board. Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

Related Story:

7 black churches burned in 10 days

7/6/2015 12:06:34 PM by Mike Ebert and Diana Chandler, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Church’s CP part of being in ‘center of God’s will’

July 6 2015 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Faced with unanticipated dangers at home and abroad, Christians can find “true safety” in serving the Lord, pastor Rob Muncy told the Mississippi congregation he leads a week after a June 17 massacre of nine worshippers at a historic black South Carolina church.
“We talked about how some people don’t go on mission trips because of safety,” Muncy told Baptist Press. Yet in Charleston S.C., “a group of people [were attending] Wednesday night prayer meeting. Physical safety is just an illusion we comfort ourselves with,” he said.
“The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”
About 25 people were in attendance at Woodville (Miss.) Baptist Church’s June 24 Bible study and prayer meeting, six from African heritage. Muncy spoke in response to the June 17 massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where white supremacist Dylann Roof opened fire after sitting for about an hour as a visitor in a Bible study and prayer meeting.
“Year-round at Woodville Baptist, a key facet of being in the center of God’s will is giving to missions through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program, as well as being involved in local missions, church planting as far away as Vermont and Ohio, and numerous short-term mission trips globally. Through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists work together to support state, national and international missions and ministries.


Christmas gifts were donated to nursing home residents through an outreach of Woodville Baptist Church in Woodville, Miss.

“The Cooperative Program is the model for evangelism that all other denominations are looking at,” Muncy said. “It may not please everybody all the time, but it’s the best system for evangelism, freeing our missionaries to focus on ministry, evangelism, reaching people with the gospel.
““I include talking about it, explaining it, in my sermons from time to time,” Muncy said. “Giving to the Cooperative Program is being obedient to the Great Commission. Jesus said to go and make disciples.”
Woodville Baptist was founded in 1800 as one of the first Baptist churches in Mississippi, 10 years before the town of Woodville was chartered. The church has been committed to giving at least 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program for decades.
“We have RAs [Royal Ambassadors], GAs [Girls in Action] and Missions Friends on Wednesday evenings, and the kids learn about it there, too,” Muncy said. “This church gladly takes on the mantle of training the next generation.”
Being in the center of God’s will also involves raising up future generations of pastors, missionaries and other church leaders. “We honestly don’t know how many [we’ve mentored],” Muncy said. “Last Saturday at a memorial service in town I met another pastor from Meridian, Miss., who grew up in this church.”
Local ministries include being part of a PBM Ministries (with PBM standing for Presbyterian Baptist Methodist) that gives groceries to nearly 500 families the last Saturday of each month, reaching some of the 40 percent of Woodville residents who live below the poverty line.
““There are still 1,000 families in need that are not being reached, so we hope to grow and expand to include counseling, life skills training, gardening and tutoring,” Muncy said. “We get to pray with every person. As much as they need the food, they need prayer more.”


About 100 community children attended the 2015 Vacation Bible School at Woodville Baptist Church in Woodville, Miss.

Church members lead weekly Tuesday Bible studies at a local maximum-security correctional facility and minister Thursdays at a retirement home.
In a town where racial separation is the norm on Sunday morning, Woodville Baptist has partnered with New Life Community Church, an African-American congregation, for 21 years to provide Backyard Bible Clubs each summer. This year about 85 participated.
And an interracial crowd of about 100 youngsters participated in Woodville Baptist’s 2015 Vacation Bible School.
“We have to be involved in the community God has placed us in,” Muncy said. “When I came to Woodville, this town was 75 percent African American, and our church was 100 percent white. I don’t know how not to invite everybody I meet to church, and our church now reflects that.”
While whites still fill the pews Sunday morning, Wednesday evening is “very integrated,” Muncy said.
“And what was perhaps a half-dozen adults in prayer meeting and Bible study in 2008 has grown to at least 25 adults, plus another 60 teachers and students in the missions education programs. Woodville Baptist also provides ESL classes for more than 30 Guatemalans from a people group that has settled in the area.
“With the kids and our dedicated teachers, we’ll have more on Wednesday nights than we do Sunday morning,” Muncy said. “We pray for the sick and for the lost by name. We also pray for our town, our leaders, our nation. Prayer is followed by a verse-by-verse study of the Bible and how it applies to life.
“Everyone says the South is so racist, but we do everything together,” Muncy said. “We shop together, we go to functions together. But when it comes to church, there’s just the mentality of separation. We’re working on that.
“Sharing the gospel is the primary purpose of the church,” Muncy said. “The Great Commission isn’t a suggestion. … The scripture says we are saved for good works, and the only good works we can do that will last through eternity is to lead others to Christ, and discipling Christians.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen Willoughby is a writer based in Mapleton, Utah.)

7/6/2015 11:55:21 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

WWII POW’s pitch opens K.C. Royals’ season

July 6 2015 by Brian Koonce, The Pathway

Dale Mitchell took the mound in front of 40,085 roaring fans for the defending American League Champion Kansas City Royals’ home opener against the Chicago White Sox. His cap pulled low, Mitchell cocked his arm and let his pitch fly.
At age 90, Mitchell had the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.


Photo courtesy of KC Royals
Dale Mitchell, a 90-year-old World War II POW, rekindles his skills as a B-17 bottom turret gunner to throw out the first pitch for the Kansas City Royals’ home opener.

A former high school second baseman, Mitchell and a grandson practiced the pitch on Easter and the next day it was Royals’ star third baseman Mike Moustakas on the receiving end.
“I wasn’t nervous. I knew I was throwing it to a young guy,” Mitchell, a member of First Baptist Church in Bethany, Mo., said. “I knew he’d run after it if he needed to. I told my Legion and my VFW posts that I hoped I represented them well.”
From his fellow veterans to his church to his family (they nominated him for the Buck O’Neal Legacy Seat at Kauffman Stadium and later learned he would throw out the first pitch), it’s hard to imagine anyone not being proud of Mitchell, whose World War II service included his B-17 being shot down in Europe.
Nearly 80 years ago, Mitchell accepted Christ at a little country Baptist church when he was 12 years old.
“I was a Christian all during my military service,” he said. “Being with the Lord, I can honestly say I never had any fear during any of it.”
Mitchell graduated from high school in 1943. Saying he wanted a challenge, he said goodbye to his high school sweetheart Doris and, unafraid of heights, joined the U.S. Army Air Force. After boot camp, he became a bottom turret gunner in a B-17 Flying Fortress. Inside the transparent bubble, Staff Sergeant Mitchell would man twin .50-caliber machine guns to defend the bomber from German interceptors.
“We had excellent gunner’s sights,” he said. “You just lined it up.”
His job was easy, Mitchell said, and he and his crewmates were well-trained. But the Flying Fortress’s 13 machine guns were no defense against well-aimed anti-aircraft fire. Mitchell and his crew found this out on an unusually warm winter day after dropping 8,000 pounds of bombs on Nazi railroad marshalling yards in Vienna, Austria. They took heavy anti-aircraft fire coming in and even heavier fire as they winged their way back to Italy. It was Mitchell’s fifth bombing run of the war.


Dale Mitchell, in his World War II uniform in 1943, was a Christian “all during my military service. Being with the Lord, I can honestly say I never had any fear during any of it.”

“Every time we went on a mission, the chaplain came out and prayed with us,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t afraid for our safety or our success. They always told us that if we made it through five missions, we had paid for our training. See, by that time we had pretty well taken control of the sky. The Germans never challenged us much with their planes, but they had pulled back all their anti-aircraft guns from all the countries they’d been run out of into and put them all in German and Austria. And … they just let us have it.”
The B-17 took hits to its engine and fuel tanks and caught fire as they neared the Yugoslavian border. The navigator kept telling the crew that if they could just keep the plane in the air 15-20 more minutes, they would be able to bail out knowing they’d be returned to American forces a day or two later.
“I guess we almost made it through that fifth mission,” Mitchell said. “If we hadn’t caught on fire, we would have made it back to Italy.”
The pilot stayed with the plane the longest as everyone else bailed out. The pilot made it close enough to the border that he was picked up by friendly forces, but seven of the crew – including Mitchell – were less fortunate.
“I lit right in the middle of a Hitler youth school,” he said. “Right on the lawn in front of the whole class.”
As the captives were taken by train to a camp near Berlin, it was the only time Mitchell was sure he was going to die – amid friendly fire by Allied forces.
“Our Air Force attacked the German train I was on,” Mitchell said. “I thought death was certain, and I cried out to God to take me to heaven.”
He and thousands of other prisoners were then transferred to Stalag VII-A near Moosberg, the largest German prisoner of war (POW) camp, forced to march the 300-mile distance.


Dale Mitchell stands beside a B-17 bomber during World War II. He was a bottom turret gunner aboard a B-17 shot down by anti-aircraft fire and was taken prisoner by Nazi forces.

“Everyone knew that Germany had lost the war, so we were treated much better than the POWs that were captured earlier,” Mitchell said. “We slept on the ground rolled up in a blanket. There was just one tap for water, and the [waiting] line never went down, day or night. We never faulted the Germans much for not giving us food, because they didn’t have any food either.
“I was blessed to stay healthy. I was young and grew up on the farm. I guess I handled it well.”
Four months later, on April 29, 1945, Patton’s Third Army rolled through Bavaria in their Sherman tanks and liberated the camp, setting Mitchell and 110,000 other Allied prisoners at Stalag VII-A free.
Once home, Mitchell married Doris and graduated from the University of Missouri’s agriculture school in 1949, working for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service until he retired 30 years ago.
Seventy years removed from war, Mitchell now enjoys time with Doris and the four generations of his family, worshipping at First Baptist and cheering the Royals in their recent resurgence, though it is usually from the comfort of his own home instead of the pitcher’s mound.
Almost as if he was looking down his sights, Mitchell’s pitch on opening day flew straight, and one-hopped into Moustakas’s glove. The crowd cheered wildly.
For the rest of the opener, Mitchell handed the pitching duties off to Kansas City’s ace Yordano Ventura. The Royals won the April 6 game 10-1 over the White Sox.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce writes for the Missouri Baptist Convention’s newsjournal The Pathway, on the Web at www.mbcpathway.com.)

7/6/2015 11:45:15 AM by Brian Koonce, The Pathway | with 0 comments

Veterans befriend pastor after losing his father

July 6 2015 by Jim Burton, Baptist Press

When Tommy Kelly was 23, his life was turned upside down when his father died from a heart attack.
A faithful Christian, his father had been a deacon and church treasurer and was the local magistrate. Kelly was amused when local lawyers, who had far more education than his father, referred to him as “judge.”
And Thomas H. Kelly Sr. was patriotic, having served in the Army right after the Korean War.
“His military experience had a tremendous impact on him,” Tommy Kelly said. “I came along about 10 years after he enlisted. We were very close.”
The senior Kelly also supported his son’s decision to enter the ministry.
“There was a big void there in my life when he died,” said Tommy Kelly, who was in seminary at the time.
At the church where he subsequently served, Kelly began to cultivate relationships with veterans who were about his father’s age.
“My heavenly Father showed me how He was going to help fill that void,” Kelly said of the veterans. “A lot of those men have taken the place of my father.”


Tommy Kelly, front row, right, pastor of First Baptist Church, Varnville, S.C., joins with military veterans honored at the church this spring. Also on the front row, from left are Phil Stanley, who fought in Vietnam; Frank McClure, a Korean War veteran; and Marvin Kinard, who served during World War II.

For the past 21 years, Kelly, who currently is the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s president, has continued to develop relationships with veterans at First Baptist Church in Varnville where he serves as pastor.

Ministry in the Low Country

When Kelly moved to South Carolina’s Low Country to lead First Baptist in May 1994, the church averaged about 75 in attendance. Today, attendance has more than doubled.
The pace of life is slow in Hampton County, where the population density is 37 people per square mile. Varnville’s population of 2,437 is second only to the county seat, also named Hampton. Two major factories in Varnville created most of the jobs there for years, but both are now closed.
“Even with industry closed down, there’s still a need for the church,” Kelly said. “They need it more in times of despair than in times of prosperity.”
First Baptist has remained healthy, raising nearly $800,000 for a new family life center and nearly doubling its staff since 1994.
While Kelly can enjoy such measures of success, he sees relationships as far more important.
“About 15 years ago, I had been in the office and was riding up town about 9:30 a.m. when most restaurants would quit serving breakfast,” the pastor recounted. “I found some men who were veterans drinking coffee. It became a habit to leave and go drink coffee periodically. Through those relationships I found out what was going on all over town.”
The visits kindled friendships that included hunting and fishing together. The life experiences of the coffee-drinking veterans, many of whom were not members of his church, were such that they would often use expressions that Kelly hadn’t heard since his father had said the same.
When Kelly asked the veterans for advice, there was no lack of opinions. His relationships with veterans in his church grew particularly deep, one of whom was Lloyd “Tootie” Griffith who had become a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer in recent years.
“At his funeral, I just broke down and wept,” Kelly said. “He was very close to me.”
Other veterans remain close to him today.

Marvin Kinard, 89, World War II

Marvin Kinard volunteered to serve in the Navy in 1943 when he was 17. During his two years, six months, 28 days and three hours of military service, Kinard served in a host of stateside administrative tasks.
“I am still somewhat living back there,” Kinard says of his military service. He married Sarah, his sweetheart, in January 1945 and left the Navy about a year later. They returned home where Kinard worked in his father’s grocery store before opening one of his own before going into wholesale food sales.
Upon his return, Kinard was active at First Baptist Church in Hampton where he mostly taught children. His commitment to his local church ran deep.
“In 1952, the store that I had opened, one Sunday morning it caught fire and burnt,” Kinard said. “I did not have any insurance. I just went to church.
“The merchants in Hampton came together and built it back in three weeks,” Kinard said.
About 12 years ago, Kinard and his wife joined First Baptist in Varnville where again they became active. Sarah died in February 2014. Kinard, now 89, though not as active in the past, still attends regularly.
“The church means everything to me now,” he said. “I go there to worship, for that reason alone.
“Tommy is an inspiration to me,” Kinard said of his pastor.

Frank McClure, 85, Korean War

When Frank McClure enrolled at Clemson University, it was his first time away from First Baptist Varnville, where he had attended since birth. He studied electrical engineering and subsequently spent 42 years in banking.
McClure reported for military duty with the Army on his 22nd birthday. Soon, he was in Korea near the 38th parallel providing communications support for commanders.
One night as the Chinese were aiming for the headquarters compound with 88mm high-velocity canons, McClure rolled out of bed into a commo (communications) trench, which he said was not deep.
“I had left my helmet in my jeep, which was parked in the headquarters tent,” McClure said. “Shrapnel and bullets were flying by my head. That was the closest I came to being shot.”
He returned to Varnville and to First Baptist, which had long been a “part-time” church. Worship services in town rotated between several churches.
After Varnville called its first full-time pastor, McClure’s involvement grew. He joined the choir and continues today. “I love to sing,” he said.
McClure’s admiration for Kelly is clear.
“I don’t know I’ve ever met a man who was more sincere in doing what the Lord wanted us to do,” McClure said.
When Kelly called McClure once for advice about a pressing matter, his advice was simple.
“A knee-jerk action is bad action,” he told Kelly. “Sleep on it. Don’t rush into anything.”

Phil Stanley, 71, Vietnam

Serving with the 25th Infantry Division, Phil Stanley was in the main combat area of the Tet Offensive during his entire time in Vietnam. Huey helicopters would deliver him and other troops on search-and-destroy missions.
“I always sat on the floor with my feet resting on the running board,” Stanley said. “I always liked to be the first one out. Just wanted to hit the ground first.”
On July 2, 1967, the helicopter dropped his crew in the wrong landing zone – in the middle of a Viet Cong camp.
“A rifle grenade hit my close friend and exploded,” Stanley said. “I ended up getting shrapnel from it.”
The Army awarded him the Purple Heart, but the physical wound didn’t compare to the emotional wounds.
“It really hurt me when we came back and our country was spitting at us and throwing rocks at us,” Stanley said of his arrival at Fort Ord in California. “When I got home in Hampton County it was a lot different from that. I got a wonderful welcome.”
Without his friends and church, Stanley said his transition back to civilian life would have been “impossible.”
“You have those nightmares, which I still have some,” he said. And he went through stages of suicidal depression.
Stanley spent his career in retail, and he and his wife have remained active at First Baptist, filling multiples roles through the years. “I can’t survive without our church,” he said. “We all have some rough times. They are there when you need them.”
And he loves his pastor.
“He’s just wonderful,” Stanley said. “He’s a brother in Christ.”

Lessons learned

Finding father figures among veterans has served Kelly well.
“By sitting at the feet of these men, I have learned a great deal that I would never have learned in a seminary classroom,” the pastor said.
Kelly admires the loyalty the veterans show toward their country, community, jobs and families.
“They were very much like my father in their commitment to their country and their Lord,” Kelly said.
Much of the teaching has happened over morning coffee at a local fast-food restaurant. In jest, the men there call themselves the “Hampton mafia” because they “put a hit out on somebody every day.” Those “hits” can turn into visits, baptisms, weddings and funerals.
“The strength of the church is not what happens on Sunday morning when the doors are open, it’s what happens in the community and the world when the door is closed,” Kelly said.
And sometimes, it happens over a cup of coffee.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a photojournalist and writer based in Atlanta.)

7/6/2015 11:38:41 AM by Jim Burton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

CP 1.45% above projection at FY three-quarter mark

July 6 2015 by Baptist Press

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) are 1.45 percent above the year-to-date SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget projection, and 1.24 percent above contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page.
The year-to-date total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of June and includes receipts from state conventions, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2014-15 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
The $143,051,247.48 received by the EC for the first nine months of the fiscal year, Oct. 1 through June 30, for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget represents 101.45 percent of the $141,000,000.00 year-to-date budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The total is $1,752,801.88 or 1.24 percent more than the $141,298,445.60 received through the end of June 2014.


The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution to its state convention.
The SBC-adopted CP allocation budget is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through IMB, 22.79 percent to North American missions through North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the convention’s six seminaries, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources are self-sustaining and do not receive CP funding.
According to the budget adopted by the SBC at its June 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore, if the Convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $188 million dollars, International Mission Board’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.
Designated giving of $176,306,998.94 for the same year-to-date period is 1.69 percent, or $2,933,477.57, above the $173,373,521.37 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief and other special gifts.
June’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $14,499,629.31. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $19,899,363.75.
State conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective states and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted and the timing of when the state conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the EC.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the EC are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at www.cpmissions.net/CPReports.

7/6/2015 11:31:28 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

7 black churches burned in 10 days

July 2 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Fires at seven black churches within the past 10 days have fueled discussions of racial hatred, as the first occurred within a week of the June 17 massacre of nine black Christians by a white supremacist at a Charleston church.
Arson had been confirmed in three of the fires as of July 1 but none had been deemed hate crimes. Two of the churches are Southern Baptist congregations.
Southern Baptist leaders voiced outcry at the arsons in comments to Baptist Press.
While the fires are still under investigation, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd said “racism and prejudice must cease.”


NBC News screen capture
Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, S.C., is the eighth predominantly black church to burn in the past 10 days. Arson has been confirmed in three.

“The continuation of African-American churches being burned in our nation is highly concerning to me,” said Floyd, pastor of the Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “Our Southern Baptist family hurts for our brothers and sisters who have suffered these devastating losses, especially those who are suffering at the hands of individuals who purposely inflict harm. As members of the family of God, we stand with them in prayer and encouragement.”
K. Marshall Williams, president of National African American Fellowship of the SBC and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., called the arsons “the manifestation of sinful and wicked humanity.”
“We need a nationwide outcry and action on all levels of government and society to insure that these acts of terror and hatred toward African Americans who are worshipping the true and living God cease,” Williams said. “I recognize more than ever that, as Christians, we are in intense spiritual warfare. … So I cry out to the Lord to protect and heal the broken hearts of His people. And I fast and pray for the Lord to change hearts and send a revival and spiritual awakening to our land. We need the Lord!”
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said he is brokenhearted “at the burning of a house of prayer or God’s house and it disturbs me greatly because of the cowardice of such acts and the hatred of such acts of violence. I am deeply disturbed that people would act so cowardly and hatefully, especially toward a building where people gather for worship of our Lord, and it is a heinous act of violence that I pray will be mediated somewhat by the apprehension and the prosecution of these persons who are responsible.”
The fires have spurred a popular Twitter campaign #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches. The NAACP tweeted that its state conferences are calling for black churches to “take necessary precautions.”
The latest fire destroyed Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in the small town of Greeleyville, S.C. The church had been rebuilt after the Ku Klux Klan burned it to the ground 20 years ago. Greeleyville is 65 miles north of Charleston, the site of the massacre at Emanuel AME Church that took the lives of the pastor, leaders and others ranging in age from 26-87 as they were praying in Bible study.
Arson was confirmed in a June 24 fire that caused $250,000 in damage at Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., a predominantly black Southern Baptist church that also hosts services for two Nepali congregations.
A June 27 blaze still under investigation destroyed the sanctuary of the predominantly black College Heights Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church in Elyria, Ohio, causing $1 million in damage, the Cleveland ABC affiliate NewsNet5 reported.
Arsonists torched College Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., on June 22, and on the following day at God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Ga., both predominantly black congregations.
A fire of undetermined origins destroyed Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, S.C., on June 26. Bobby Jones, the church pastor, told National Public Radio that he had often discovered “KKK” scrawled on the building’s outside walls but said he hoped the fire was not set by arsonists. The fire left only the steeple and two walls standing in the church that was home to about 35 worshippers.
Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Fla., was destroyed by another June 26 fire likely caused by a tree falling on overhead electrical lines, fire officials said. Damage at the predominantly African-American church was estimated at $700,000.
Black churches were targeted by arsonists in the mid-1990s, when more than 70 black and multicultural churches were burned in a 20-month span, according to news reports.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/2/2015 12:09:04 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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