July 2018

California wildfires: Chaplains become first phase of DR

July 31 2018 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) chaplaincy teams have begun providing spiritual and emotional counseling to survivors of Northern California’s Carr fire, which started on July 23 and rapidly grew over the weekend to consume more than 98,000 acres.

Screen capture from TIME
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplaincy teams have begun providing spiritual and emotional counseling to survivors of Northern California’s Carr fire.

Mike Bivins, director of California’s SBDR efforts who has been on site visiting shelters, reported that between 800 and 1,000 survivors have been in and out of shelters in the Redding area.
“As of [Monday morning, July 30], no evacuation orders have been lifted,” Bivins said. “We are anticipating that shelters will remain for three-plus days.”
According to reports on Monday morning, the Carr fire has destroyed over 720 homes along with 240 other structures. The fires are only at 20 percent containment, and officials could not yet predict when firefighters could expect to reach full containment.
Bivins said California SBDR teams will deploy a laundry unit today and have engaged local churches to help with laundry and showers for those in their communities. Southern Baptist volunteers and churches also have been able to provide pet care for survivors whose shelters do not allow pets.
“For us, one of the big things is continuing to partner with the local church to provide assistance and help them,” Bivins said. “In some cases, it’s about providing for the local church and enabling them to minister rather than rolling in and taking control.”
California SBDR is on standby with the American Red Cross to help with feeding if they are needed. They are also prepared to provide ash-out services for homeowners whenever asked. In mid-July, California SBDR teams completed ash-out work on nine mobile homes that burned during the West fire in San Diego County.
“Mike really has done an outstanding job,” said Sam Porter, national executive director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief for the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief compassion ministry. “His strength is in men’s ministry, in strengthening their grip on Christianity and how it affects their lives as men. As a result, he has a great chaplaincy team.”

Heavy rains dampen SBDR response in Colorado

After fires burned more than 100,000 acres in southern Colorado, heavy rains have led to flooding and mudslides. The damage has rendered much of the area around La Veta unsafe, forcing SBDR teams to shift their response to Cañon City.
“We’ve had some very heavy rains on the mountain that we were working on,” said Dennis Belz, Colorado Baptists’ state DR director. “The mountain is very unsafe. The homeowners have had to move out. Many homes that did not get burned have been affected by the flooding.”
SBDR teams from Texas, Kentucky and Louisiana helped to clean up the foundations of 15 homes that had burned down, but the mudslides essentially covered up their work.
Before the rains came, SBDR teams were able to help residents recover priceless heirlooms, including a Vietnam veteran’s dog tags as well as family pictures dating from as early as the 1800s that managed to survive the fires despite having been stored in a cardboard box.
“There are some very, very sad people out here,” Belz said. “They’re not sure if they’re going to be able to do anything on the mountain yet or not.” Geologists will be testing the mountain near La Veta to determine the viability of the area.
Belz, in the 32nd day of Colorado Baptists’ response to the disasters, deployed teams to remove mud from homes affected by flooding in Cañon City. He also will travel to the northern part of Colorado to assess damage done by tornados that touched down near Byers.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is among the three largest providers of disaster relief assistance in the United States. Southern Baptist churches, associations and state conventions all partner to mobilize volunteers, resources and equipment to provide services. The North American Mission Board provides national coordination and assistance in larger, multi-state responses and mobilizes volunteers through its Send Relief ministry.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/31/2018 10:44:42 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

Charles Fuller, SBC Peace Committee chair, dies

July 31 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Charles Fuller, a Virginia pastor who chaired the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Peace Committee, died July 28 in Roanoke, Va. He was 86.

SBHLA photo
Chairman Charles Fuller delivered the SBC Peace Committee’s 1987 report alongside his boyhood friend, SBC President Adrian Rogers.

Formed in 1985 in response to a motion at the SBC annual meeting, the Peace Committee was charged to “seek to determine the sources” of controversy amid the convention’s Conservative Resurgence and “make findings and recommendations.” Fuller was thought a natural fit to chair the 22-member group – which comprised conservatives, moderates and centrists – because he was theologically conservative and committed to the SBC but not part of the Conservative Resurgence’s “machinery,” as Fuller put it.
When asked to consider chairing the committee, Fuller told his wife Pat, “There is no way that I can come away from this a winner personally,” he recounted in a 1994 interview with the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (SBHLA), presumably because moderates and conservatives alike were likely to criticize him.
“I remember she said to me, ‘Well maybe this is the contribution you are to make to Southern Baptists,’” Fuller said. “So I agreed to do it.”
SBHLA correspondence files contain numerous letters of concern Fuller received from individuals on both sides of the controversy.
Among the Peace Committee’s members were six men who served as SBC president at some point, including Fuller’s boyhood friend Adrian Rogers. Three other Peace Committee members were nominated for SBC president.
After 14 meetings over two years, the committee reported at the 1987 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis that “the primary source of the controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention is the Bible; more specifically, the ways in which the Bible is viewed.” “Political activities,” the Peace Committee stated, were a secondary factor in the conflict.
Peace Committee recommendations adopted by messengers included affirmation of a “high view of Scripture” as one of the “parameters for cooperation” within the convention and a request that “all organized political factions ... discontinue the organized political activity.”
The committee voted to disband in 1988 following a final report to the convention that year.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., who has listened to the complete audio recordings of the Peace Committee’s meetings, said the tapes “reveal that Fuller served effectively as chairman, but was not a major participant in debates of highest controversy.”
“His leadership of the committee explains to a large degree the fact that it was able to produce a report at all,” Mohler said. “His concern was that the opposing sides in the controversy might release separate reports or that the Peace Committee would eventually be unable to produce any report at all.”
When Fuller presented the committee’s 1987 report, he told SBC messengers “the high moment” of two years’ work for him was when the report was complete and two committee members “miles apart” ideologically “fell into each other’s arms and embraced.”
“They still did not agree,” he said. “Their convictions remained as they had been. But in their hearts, they had found the place, in the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, of peace.”
Among Fuller’s other denominational service, he preached the convention sermon in 1985 to the largest SBC annual meeting in history and served on multiple SBC boards and committees, including stints as chairman of the Radio and Television Commission and the Committee on Order of Business.
During Fuller’s 38-year pastorate at First Baptist Church in Roanoke, Va., he saw membership grow from 2,000 to 6,000 and became somewhat of a local celebrity in southwest and central Virginia for his radio and television broadcasts. Most famously, he delivered a daily 60-second radio devotional called “God’s Minute,” beginning in 1972.
Just 30 years old when called to First Baptist in 1961, Fuller revamped the congregation’s downtown ministry, according to a 1999 article in The Roanoke Times. He drew some criticism in 1968 when, days after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, he and the chairman of deacons approved use of the church’s sanctuary for a community memorial service.
Fuller’s pastoral legacy was tarnished when he confessed to First Baptist in 2004 via video that he had an adulterous affair during his pastorate. Then-chairman of deacons Gene Cress was quoted by local media as saying, “We at First Baptist grieve the confession of Dr. Charles Fuller ... You reap what you sow.”
A native of Andalusia, Ala., Fuller earned a bachelor of arts from the University of Richmond and a bachelor of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was awarded three honorary doctorates.
Fuller was preceded in death by his first wife of 44 years, Pat, and his second wife of four years, Margaret. He is survived by his third wife Carol, three sons, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
A service of worship and celebration will be held Aug. 3 at First Baptist.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/31/2018 10:44:17 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Religious liberty: International conference seen as key advance

July 31 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Religious liberty advocates drew hope from a first-ever international gathering of government officials, civil society representatives and faith leaders to promote the freedom of all people to practice their beliefs.

State Department photo/Public Domain
US Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback delivers closing remarks at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2018.

The U.S. State Department convened the inaugural Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom July 24-26 in Washington, hosting delegations from more than 80 governments in an effort to combat persecution of and discrimination against people of all faiths. On the meeting’s final day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the event would be held again next year.
The conference included addresses by Vice President Mike Pence and other U.S. officials as well as testimonies from persecution survivors and equipping sessions for civil society organizations.
The event also produced both a declaration and a plan of action on international religious freedom.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) was encouraged at how the event “evidenced the work of Ambassador [Sam] Brownback and his team of dedicated public servants to raise the profile of religious freedom as a foreign policy priority,” Travis Wussow said, referencing Brownback, ambassador at large for international religious freedom in the State Department.
“Baptists have always been at the forefront of insisting that religious freedom is not legislative grace – something that can be dispensed with and withdrawn by the government – but is instead an inalienable right recognized by government,” Wussow, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy, said in written comments.
“After a week with men and women from over 80 countries, I’m pleased to see these same arguments being marshaled from all corners of the globe with the hope that religious freedom will be recognized by governments worldwide.”

Diplomatic achievement

Tom Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), lauded Brownback and other State Department officials, saying they had “pulled off a diplomatic coup, not only in convening, but in exhorting, educating, and persuading.”
“Nothing approximating this high-level foreign policy gathering on religious freedom has ever happened before,” Farr said in a written statement. “The United States must lead this new multinational coalition and begin the process of changing things on the ground.
“With this vice president, this secretary of state, and this ambassador, I believe the stars are aligned actually to reduce persecution and advance international religious freedom,” Farr said.
Brownback and Pompeo both expressed delight with the ministerial’s results.
Brownback described the event as “a spectacular success” and “a launch of an alliance with governments, with nonprofit, with faith community people.”
“I really think we’re at a moment where the Iron Curtain prohibiting religious freedom is coming down, and that you’re going to see a burst of freedom – of religious freedom around the world – taking place,” Brownback said at a July 26 news conference.
Pompeo said on the event’s final day, “As the first-ever event of its kind, we didn’t know exactly what the response would be. The reaction has, indeed, been overwhelmingly positive.”

Heightened emphasis

The United States has given increased attention to global religious liberty the last two decades. This year marks the 20th anniversary of enactment of the International Religious Freedom Act, which established the ambassador at large and Office of International Religious Freedom in the State Department. It also created the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which tracks the status of religious liberty worldwide and issues reports to Congress, the president and the State Department.
The Ministerial came only a month after the Pew Research Center showed restrictions on religion continue to increase. In its June 21 report based on 2016 numbers, Pew found 83 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with high or very high religious restrictions. That is a 4 percent increase over the previous year.
All religious groups were affected by the increase in hostilities, according to Pew. Christians and Muslims, the world’s two largest religious groups, were the most widely targeted groups in 144 and 142 countries, respectively.
While the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom consisted of three days of official sessions, organizations sponsored nearly 20 related events surrounding those hosted by the State Department, according to the International Religious Freedom Roundtable. On July 26, the ERLC and RFI – joined by Boat People SOS – hosted a discussion of religious freedom in Southeast Asia.


The ministerial produced various statements designed to further religious liberty:

  • The Potomac Declaration, which asserts: “Every person everywhere has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Every person has the right to hold any faith or belief, or none at all, and enjoys the freedom to change faith. Religious freedom is universal and inalienable, and states must respect and protect this human right.”


  • The Potomac Plan of Action, which calls on governments to protect all religious adherents, to condemn violence and discrimination against a religion, to revoke anti-blasphemy laws and to guard against genocide and ethnic cleansing.


  • Statements of Concern on three issues – blasphemy/apostasy laws, religious liberty abuses by terrorist groups and religious freedom violations in the guise of counterterrorism – and three countries – Burma, China and Iran. As few as three countries and as many as 24 countries signed on to the statements with the United States.

In his July 26 speech to the gathering, Pence announced two new initiatives: the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program, as well as the International Religious Freedom Fund.
Under the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program, the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development will collaborate to provide aid quickly to persecuted communities, starting with those affected in Iraq by the terrorist campaign of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The International Religious Freedom Fund will support religious liberty initiatives and provide assistance to victims of religious discrimination or violence through donations from governments and other entities. The U.S. government will cover all personnel, administrative and overhead costs.
“To all the victims of persecution who are here with us today, many of whose stories I’ve had the opportunity to tell and those that I have not, know this: we are with you,” Pence said. “The people of the United States are inspired by your testimony and your strength and your faith. And it steels our resolve to stand for your religious liberty in the years ahead.
“Here, in America, believers of all backgrounds live side by side, adding their unique voices to the chorus of our nation, proving that religious freedom means not only the right to practice one’s faith; it lays a foundation for boundless opportunity, prosperity, security and peace,” he said.
Pompeo announced three other efforts in his July 26 speech: 1) The International Visitor Leadership Program, 10 days of equipping in the United States for overseas religious freedom activists; 2) a three-day workshop in October to support public-private alliances for the promotion of religious liberty; and 3) regional follow-up conferences hosted by various countries.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/31/2018 10:44:03 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

World Changers repair homes, deliver meals in Chattanooga

July 31 2018 by Megan Conley, World Changers

The sound of hammers radiated down North Chamberlain Avenue in Chattanooga, Tenn. Every few minutes, shingles were tossed off one side of the roof, and new shingles were lined up on the other. Even though this particular July morning had barely begun, the sun was already radiating off the hot tar paper. But that didn’t slow down the group of World Changers volunteers working on Priscilla Ford’s roof. 

Photo by Megan Conley
Ten years ago, a World Changers crews repaired the roof on Doris Smith's (pink shirt) Chattanooga home. This summer a World Changers crew returned to Smith's home and built new stair rails leading to her front porch and made other minor repairs to her home.

“[These students] are dedicated, and they are mindful of helping low-income and underprivileged people do repairs on their home they can’t do for themselves,” said Ford, whose home was in need of a new roof.
This is the attitude of thousands of students across the United States who volunteered to serve this summer with World Changers, a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources. World Changers provides construction, church planting and urban missions experiences for youth groups by giving them the opportunity to serve for a week in communities across the country, including Chattanooga.
More than 500 students from 28 churches served at back-to-back World Changers projects in Chattanooga, July 7-14 and July 16-21, repairing 49 homes. Throughout the summer, World Changers hosted projects in 20 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Students pay between $280-$375 to attend a World Changers project and typically sleep on air mattresses or cots in empty rooms of local schools or churches. In Chattanooga, Brainerd Baptist Church hosted the teams.
For Chattanooga homeowner Doris Smith, the work of World Changers has impacted her life once before. Ten years ago, a World Changers crew put a new roof on the home she shared with her mother.
This summer, during the second week of projects in Chattanooga, a World Changers crew returned to provide new repairs to Smith’s home.
Smith said the presence of the World Changers students also uplifted her spirits, since most of her family lives out of state.
When the groups are finished with their work each day, they return to the church, eat dinner and attend an evening gathering. Each evening has a different emphasis, from learning about the host city and its particular needs to diving into Scripture and having discussions about the gospel and what it means to live on mission.

Photo is by Megan Conley
Ethan Polzin from Grace Baptist Church in Woodbridge, Va., helps repair a back deck for a homeowner in Chattanooga, Tenn. Polzin was among thousands of students across the United States who volunteered this summer with World Changers, a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources.

A unique addition to the World Changers evening schedule this year was the introduction of R&R night – an opportunity for church groups to come together and enjoy an evening of fellowship. This night is planned by the local coordinator for each project and takes on a different experience in each city.
For the projects in Chattanooga, R&R night was spent partnering with the local chapter of Meals on Wheels. Each church group received bags of groceries and a list of addresses. The groups, accompanied by a Meals on Wheels volunteer, spent the evening delivering groceries and visiting with meal recipients.
“Most of these people only get that one, hot, home-delivered meal per day, which basically delivers one-third of their daily nutritional value,” said Jamie Tyson, manager of information systems for Meals on Wheels of Hamilton County. “Some of these people, their only interaction with other people is with the home-delivered meal volunteer, the person who brings that meal every day. Our program is like a safety check, as well as a hot meal.”
Since 2013, World Changers has aided Meals on Wheels in delivering 676 meals to Hamilton County residents.
The students and adults in Chattanooga worked each day on various projects, from repairing decks, exterior painting, interior painting, interior repairs, roofing and other construction repairs. However, along with completing the work at each home, the students are encouraged to find time to share their faith in the surrounding community. 
For Savannah Hamrick, from Aversboro Road Baptist Church in Garner, N.C., the week spent serving in Chattanooga allowed her to put her faith into action.
“It’s not about you and it’s not about how you’re feeling, it’s about what you should do for other people and what Christ is leading you to do,” Hamrick said.
Students are encouraged to continue the lifestyle of serving others after the week concludes. Maggie Davies, also from Aversboro Road Baptist Church, shared how the work done during the week is a reminder of Christ’s call to make disciples even as she returns home.
“When I go back home, the mission continues,” Davies said. “It’s not supposed to be left here, and we don’t have to travel to always be on mission. There are people back at home who need us just as much as people here need us.”
For youth leaders Bobby and Nancy Shelton from Bethel Baptist Church in Canton, N.C., World Changers not only helps their students grow closer together, it puts into practice a lifestyle of evangelism they seek to foster in their youth all year round. 
“We want them to do what we do here in our own hometown,” said Bobby Shelton.
While the week spent at World Changers is a great way for students to make new friends and serve in a new community, the overall mission for the lives of the students is far greater.
“You can throw a coat of paint on a house and it’ll last for a little while,” said Nancy Shelton, “but if you can share the gospel with somebody, that’s got eternal value and lasts forever.”
Registration is now open for 2019 projects. For more information, visit worldchangers.lifeway.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Megan Conley served as a project director for World Changers this summer. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/31/2018 10:43:07 AM by Megan Conley, World Changers | with 0 comments

‘LGBT Christians’ conference draws SBTS, ERLC responses

July 30 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Revoice Conference for “LGBT Christians,” which provoked a messenger question at June’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, continued to draw a range of responses from Southern Baptists as it convened July 26-28.

Russell Moore, R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Revoice states its aim on the conference website as “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” The conference is being hosted by St. Louis’s Memorial Presbyterian Church, which is affiliated with the theologically conservative Presbyterian Church in America.
One conference session, according to the website, explores the question, “What queer treasure, honor, and glory will be brought into the New Jerusalem at the end of time?” Another addresses “the experience of non-straight individuals who are in opposite-sex marriages.”
Among Southern Baptists, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern) President R. Albert Mohler Jr. has criticized some aspects of the conference, as have the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission staff and Denny Burk, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty University and an ERLC research fellow, has endorsed the stated goals of the conference. Research fellows meet once a year for a two-day meeting and do not speak for the organization, according to the ERLC.
Conference founder Nate Collins identifies himself online as a “married, same-sex attracted/gay man” and a former “instructor of New Testament” at Southern. He earned his doctor of philosophy degree from Southern in 2017.
The seminary told Baptist Press it employed Collins in some capacity from 2014 until the spring of 2018, but he held the title “instructor” only in 2015-2016, when he taught elementary Greek as a doctoral student in New Testament. His other roles included online teaching assistant, grader and tutor. Mohler told BP Collins has never been a faculty member, adding, “I would not allow anyone associated with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary or Boyce College to be involved in this [Revoice] conference.”
Collins told Christianity Today July 25 that Revoice organizers affirm “a traditional, historic understanding of sexuality in marriage” and “are not advocating that people use one language over the other” to describe the experience of same-sex attraction.
Still, Mohler said the conference is “deeply troubling.”
“It is encouraging that they state their intention to hold to a biblical understanding of sexual behavior,” Mohler said of Revoice, “and to define the only appropriate expression of sexual behavior to be marriage as the union of a man and a woman. But that said, it appears they’re trying to create a halfway house” between cultural norms and biblical morality “that is inherently unstable. There is no way that faithful Christians can celebrate an unbiblical sexual orientation and claim to be faithful to Scripture.”
Mohler added, “The moment you begin identifying as an LGBTQ+ Christian, you’ve created an unstable identity.” Humans “have a pattern of sexual attraction, but for Christians, our ultimate identity must be in Christ.”
ERLC President Russell Moore expressed a similar view when asked by an SBC messenger June 13 to comment on the appropriateness of the terms “gay Christian” and “sexual minorities.”
“Our identity is to be found in Jesus Christ,” Moore said, “not in the sum of our temptations.”
When asked by a separate messenger whether the ERLC would “disavow” Revoice and whether it would retain Prior as a fellow, Moore said, “I don’t know about the Revoice Conference, but I do know” Prior “has committed herself to go anywhere and everywhere and stand up and tell the truth about God’s Word about human sexuality.”
The week following the SBC annual meeting in Dallas, Moore recommended via Twitter an article by ERLC staff member Andrew Walker on Revoice. Walker commended Revoice for supporting “any same-sex attracted Christian ... trying to find their identity in Christ,” but he cautioned that “the conference’s programming and the casual embrace of finding one’s identity in what the Scriptures prohibit, seems to be an enormous miscalculation with real-world implications.”
An ERLC spokesman told BP July 26 Walker’s article “represents the entire organization’s concerns with the Revoice Conference.”
Prior affirmed her endorsement of Revoice in a July 26 email and referred BP to an online interview with the blog English Manif, which advocates traditional marriage and is geared toward a male readership, according to the blog’s descriptor.
Prior affirmed to English Manif June 16 that as an ERLC fellow, she is accountable to the SBC’s ethics entity. She added in the written interview, “Even some of my colleagues in the ERLC have written in opposition to the conference. I share some concerns about the language and terms used by some of the conference speakers. I think some terms are unclear, ill defined, and perhaps unfortunate.
“However, the need to understand what people mean by these terms and how they are used within the context of their endeavors to honor God and the scriptures through sexuality that is in submission to scripture points to the very need for such a conference,” Prior said. “The aim of the conference is biblical faithfulness even amidst the struggle, and that is why I endorse it. That does not mean I endorse every speaker, every panel, every presentation. Again, I want to support those who are attracted to the same sex but choose obedience to God rather than indulgence to self.”
Denny Burk, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), told BP he is “grateful” Revoice’s organizers “are committed to celibacy [outside biblical marriage] and that we share the same definition of marriage as uniting one man and one woman. These are not small things.”
Yet Burk, a biblical studies professor at Southern’s Boyce College, also critiqued the conference, noting, “The differences we are adjudicating are important and mark a watershed moment for evangelicals.”
Burk commended the 2017 Nashville Statement on biblical sexuality as expressing “a more faithful, biblical vision” than that of Revoice. Among the Nashville Statement’s affirmations: adoption of “a homosexual or transgender self-conception” is inconsistent with God’s purposes.
The Nashville Statement was drafted in August 2017 as a joint venture of CBMW and the ERLC Research Institute during an ERLC national conference. Mohler, Moore, Walker, Prior, and Burk all were among the initial signatories.
In October 2017, Southern’s trustees made The Nashville Statement one of the seminary’s confessional documents, which all professors are required to affirm.
“Will evangelicals recognize that biblical teaching about human sexuality is worth preserving in the face of serious error?” Burk asked in written comments. “That is what is at stake here, and how we answer the question will determine how we exhort and encourage struggling sinners. The answer to the question has implications for everyone who experiences desire as a son or daughter of Adam, which means that it implicates all of us, not just those who struggle with same-sex desire. The stakes are high.
“We are not arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. We are addressing real-life, serious questions. I don’t think the proponents of Revoice are providing faithful answers,” Burk said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/30/2018 11:20:09 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Race relations gets ‘Shrink the Divide’ insights

July 30 2018 by Rhoda Pickett, The Alabama Baptist

Messages emphasizing relationship and friendship as a way to combat racial strife were set forth to more than 1,600 ministers, church members, youth and senior citizens during a “Shrink the Divide” gathering in Mobile, Ala.

D. Ladd Photography
The church must call the world "into a relationship with Jesus Christ and each other," John M. Perkins, an evangelical minister, civil rights activist, Bible teacher and author, said during the "Shrink the Divide" gathering for racial reconciliation July 24 in Mobile, Ala.

As ushers in gray T-shirts with Shrink the Divide in white letters handed out programs and directed visitors to seats in the Mobile Civic Center Theater, the atmosphere took on the feel of a worship service. A praise band shared several songs including one with the words, “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.”
Shrink the Divide - a July 24 gathering for racial reconciliation - was sponsored by The Pledge Group, encompassing Mobile-area pastors who are seeking “to unify the body of Christ and our communities across ethnic and denominational lines, realizing that racism is a heart/sin problem and only the gospel will bring about such unity.”
Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., was one of the event organizers. “We could not be more excited and satisfied with this event,” he told The Alabama Baptist. “Our response from those who want to join us in practical ways of shrinking the divide was overwhelming.”
Keynote speakers Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and John M. Perkins, a minister, civil rights activist, Bible teacher and author, focused on the gospel and authentic Christianity.
Moore, who along with Perkins received a standing ovation when he entered the stage, told the crowd “that once you are in the family of God, you are a joint heir with Jesus Christ.”
“If you have really been brought in by this gospel, then that’s going to change the way you see things, including the way you see yourself in relation to other people,” Moore said.
Issues involving reconciliation “could not be more relevant in the kind of American society that we are in right now that is riddled with division, riddled with racism, riddled with injustice, riddled often with hatred for one another and often infected with a kind of racism and racial animosity that is more subtle than it would have been at other points in American history which means that it is even more dangerous,” Moore said, while acknowledging, “What God has called you to do is going to take time.”
Perkins described the situation as a crisis of belief and owning sin.
“Our crisis is in not understanding authentic Christianity,” he said. “Sin is a rebellion against God and all sin in the end becomes your own. That’s a problem. The problem is that we don’t own our sin. And so we don’t believe. We don’t own our sin and so we can’t forgive. And even now we use our sin as a weapon. I won’t commit to you because you hurt me so bad and you might hurt me again. The problem is a crisis of belief.”
The church must call the world “into a relationship with Jesus Christ and each other,” Perkins said. “And the Christian life must be the outward [manifestation] of the image of Christ.”
During a press conference prior to the event, Perkins said Christians must learn to be intentional in their obedience, and “the wraparound in Scripture is friendship.”
“The sin unto death is the sin we don’t confess,” he said. “The thief on the cross got that. He wasn’t baptized. He wasn’t a Baptist. He wasn’t a Presbyterian. He wasn’t an usher. He got that. He got that because it was intentional.”
Rob Couch, senior pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, agreed.
“I really believe that the key to all this is building friendships with people,” Couch told The Alabama Baptist. “I think that when we get to know one another, we can realize how much we have in common [and], a lot of these barriers will start to come down.”
Litton, also speaking at the press conference, added that understanding the gospel is vital.
“But the problem is we see a church that is more polarized than the unchurched.... [T]he church holds certain doctrinal beliefs, and we’re not questioning those, but it’s how we apply them,” he said. “We’ve got to return to the basics of seeing another person as made in the image of God, which means they have value and worth and that their skin color is in the beauty of what God made them to be and we accept that person and love that person, and it doesn’t matter if you vote like me, think like me or look like me, but that God placed you here, and I honor you because God made you.”
Members of The Pledge Group have been working on relationships and getting to know one another for nearly four years.
“In the process we’ve learned what it is to love each other, what it is to become friends, what it is to carry one another’s burdens and wounds,” Litton noted. “And in that process we began to spread out to others.”
Jerry Jenkins, senior pastor of Moffett Road Assembly of God, told The Alabama Baptist that as a younger man, racial segregation caused him to leave Mobile, but spiritual intervention compelled him to return.
The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., led him and other pastors to discuss avoiding a similar incident in Mobile and ultimately his decision to join The Pledge Group.
“We are seeing the racial division come down in my church,” Jenkins said. “We are integrated.”
The Pledge and its outworkings, drafted by the group, state:
“I pledge to love my neighbor and to reject my tendency to distance myself from those different from me.”
Carry Forward The Pledge

  • In my daily context, I will recognize and engage with persons of other races, speaking a warm greeting to them as fellow travelers on the journey of life;

  • In my prayers, I will pray regularly for racial unity and harmony and for spiritual revival in our shared local communities and in our nation;

  • In my personal initiative, I will pro-actively foster and deepen relationships with persons across racial, socio-economic, ethnic and denominational lines.

For more information, go to thepledge.us or shrinkthedivide.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rhoda Pickett is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist, thealabamabaptist.org, news journal of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/30/2018 11:19:53 AM by Rhoda Pickett, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

NAAF to ‘fill the gap’ in state convention church training

July 30 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Through a new initiative of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), consultants are available to help state conventions train church staff in discipleship, evangelism, missions and community ministries.

Photo by Diana Chandler
California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Director Bill Agee, left, shown with National African American Fellowship Executive Director Dennis Mitchell, leads one of the first state conventions to enlist the help of the African American Ministry Assist Team NAAF is sponsoring.

NAAF’s African American Ministry Assist Team (AAMAT) is designed to fill Southern Baptist resource gaps that NAAF said are widening for the nearly 4,000 African American churches in the SBC.
AAMAT will fill a critical need for both churches and state conventions, said NAAF President Marshal Ausberry Sr., pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax, Va.
“We just can’t keep walking on by as we see our brothers and sisters in need,” Ausberry said. “The overall goal is not only to stand in the gap, but to fill the gap by providing trained volunteer ministry consultants who will provide technical assistance to the local church.”
AAMAT consists of an initial group of 13 specialists aiding Southern Baptist state conventions in California, Georgia and Florida. State denominational leaders in Louisiana, Ohio and Oklahoma have expressed interest in the program designed for national implementation, NAAF leaders said.
Ausberry described AAMAT as a financial benefit to both churches and conventions, and said the initiative increases the conventions’ benefit to churches.
“State conventions in effect add church consulting resourcing personnel with a minimum financial investment. That’s just good management by the state conventions,” Ausberry said. “It also sends the message to the churches that their state conventions are proactive in providing high quality ministry consulting services from experienced practitioners – a tremendous benefit for being part of a local state convention.”
AAMAT, initiated in 2017 under the term of former NAAF president Byron Day, trained its first class of consultants July 16-20 during the 2018 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C. Initial participants are ministry specialists in states where conventions have expressed an interest.
“The ultimate goal is to establish a ministry assist team in every state where we have an existing African American fellowship,” said AAMAT project development team leader Eugene McCormick, pastor of Christian education at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.
Bill Agee, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention utilizing AAMAT, was among AAMAT training session facilitators at Ridgecrest. He described AAMAT as “a great tool” in helping churches identify needs and receive specialized training in targeted areas of discipleship, evangelism, missions and church and community ministries.
“I think it will bring a unifying factor to our churches,” said Agee, noting the diversity among California’s family of churches. “I think for them to know that they’re important enough that there is an initiative for them says a lot. Sometimes churches feel like they’re left out, for some reason, and we want them to know that they’re important, and we want to help them in any way we can.”
AAMAT allows the California convention “to reach into another segment of our population [where] the churches are asking for help. Having people willing to do that is a big deal.”
Between September 2018 and April 2019, AAMAT will partner and work with two churches each in California, Florida and Georgia, McCormick said, deploying consulting teams to each state.
Other ethnic fellowships may also find the program model beneficial, NAAF Executive Director Dennis Mitchell told Baptist Press.
“Our whole vision is that we can take this blueprint and hand it off to every other ethnic group in this convention,” Mitchell said, noting that other ethnic fellowships can use the same model to reach needs among fellow congregations. “Now that’s Kingdom.”
AAMAT members presented at Ridgecrest are Chuan Anderson, minister of education, First Baptist Church of Palm Coast, Palm Coast, Fla.; Nadine Ansley, children’s ministry director, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.; Bryon Barmer, pastor, Bright Hope Community Church, La Mesa, Calif.; Phillip Brown Sr., pastor, New Directions Church, San Diego; Adrienne Clay, member, Mt. Zion Church of Ontario, Ontario, Calif.; Robert Daniels, member, Grace Bible Fellowship of Antioch, Antioch, Calif.; Jackie Henderson, member, Green Forest Community Baptist Church, Decatur, Ga.; Freddie Hinson Jr., pastor, New Hope Baptist Church, Hudson, Fla.; Kevin James, pastor, New Creation Bible Fellowship, Tracy, Calif.; Brian Johnson, deacon, Green Forest Community Baptist Church; Jesse Nelson, senior pastor, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, Panama City, Fla.; Letra Smith, evangelism and discipleship director, Elizabeth Baptist Church, Atlanta; and Jean Ward, pastor, East Atlanta Baptist Church, Atlanta.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/30/2018 11:19:39 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Forbes names LifeWay one of best U.S. employers for women

July 30 2018 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay

LifeWay Christian Resources has been ranked as one of the nation’s top employers for women by Forbes magazine.

LifeWay, with 5,000 employees, landed at No. 282 on Forbes’ 2018 “Best Employers for Women” list – the first time the business magazine has published rankings in that category. Earlier this year, Forbes also named LifeWay as one of America’s Best Midsize Employers – ranking it 196th among 500 companies.
“LifeWay continues to focus on enhancing employee benefits and workplace culture to make LifeWay a place where people want to work,” said Connia Nelson, LifeWay vice president of human resources. She noted that changes LifeWay has made have included moving to a flexible work environment and increased time off for vacation and parental leave, which have helped create an organizational climate attractive to and supportive of women.
“LifeWay always leads with its faith and mission,” Nelson said. “We want to make LifeWay a place that reflects our commitment to family and provides a healthy work-life balance.”
Forbes partnered with market research company Statista to identify America’s best employers for women. Statista surveyed 40,000 Americans, including 25,000 women working for businesses with at least 1,000 employees.
The anonymous survey asked respondents to rank their employers on criteria such as working conditions, compensation, diversity and how likely they’d be to recommend their employer to others. Responses were then reviewed for potential gender gaps. Statista specifically asked female respondents to rate their employers on factors such as parental leave, flexibility, discrimination and pay equity.
LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer said the Forbes recognition is “a testament to the culture we have established at LifeWay. We have an incredible employee team made up of gifted and exceptional individuals who fully embrace LifeWay’s vision and values.”
Founded in 1891, LifeWay Christian Resources is one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services, including Bibles, books, Bible studies, church supplies and other Christian resources. The Nashville-based company also owns and operates more than 170 LifeWay Christian Stores across the nation.
To see the full list of America’s Best Employers for Women, visit Forbes.com. For more information about LifeWay, visit LifeWay.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/30/2018 11:18:12 AM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay | with 0 comments

Uncovering the forgotten history of Sunday School

July 27 2018 by Aaron Wilson, Facts and Trends

Robert Raikes was like a lot of cause-oriented millennial evangelicals. As a writer, he stuck to impartial reporting instead of sensational “fake news.” He fought against inhumane prison conditions and founded a program to educate underprivileged children.

Etching of Robert Raikes with a student

But Raikes wasn’t a millennial. He was born in 1736, not 1986.
He was, however, part of a generation of Christians who sought to live out their faith in the public square for the good of others. And part of those efforts included the founding of Sunday School.

Sunday School beginnings

Visiting a friend outside his hometown of Gloucester, England, Raikes observed local children cursing, gambling, and fighting, according to Thomas Walters’ 1930 biography Robert Raikes, Founder of Sunday School.
Horrified, he asked a local woman standing outside her door about it. She replied, “This is nothing [compared] to what goes on on Sundays. You’d be shocked indeed if you were here then.”
The woman told Raikes people couldn’t even read the Bible in peace at church due to the chaos caused by the children. They, along with their parents, worked at a factory every day of the week except Sunday. So on that day “they behaved in a most unrestrained way.”
Raikes returned home determined to help children like those he saw. He was the publisher of a local paper, so his mind probably went quickly to literacy and education.
During that time, education was primarily the realm of the middle class or higher, according to John Mark Yeats, associate professor of church history at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Many children of the poor worked horrible hours in factories during the week – often in excess of 12 hours a day,” says Yeats. “Those on the lower end of the economic spectrum often did not have access to educational opportunities due to their overburdened work schedules, which kept them trapped in a cycle of poverty.”
Walters writes that when Raikes opened his Sunday School in July 1780, he spent the next week inviting children from poor families to participate. Many objected that their children did not have proper clothes for school. Raikes responded that if the children’s clothing was fit for the streets, it was fit for them to come to his school.
Those first school days began at 10 a.m. with teaching. The students were dismissed for lunch and came back around 1 p.m. After a reading lesson, they would go to a church service. That was followed by another round of classroom instruction until around 5:30 p.m. when they were sent home.
After more than three years of Sunday School, Raikes published a small account of its successes in his newspaper, making no mention of his own involvement. Others had started similar programs in previous decades, but papers in London picked up Raikes’ story and the idea began to spread.
By this time, the number of children in Raikes’ program had grown to several hundred and increased weekly.
Employers began to notice a change in the children’s behavior. “They have been transformed from the shape of wolves and tigers to that of men,” said one manufacturer.
Other evangelical reformers – including several better known now for abolition efforts –began to join the Sunday School movement. Hannah More started Sunday Schools around her home with the financial support of William Wilberforce and the encouragement of John Newton, the former slave trader turned minister and author of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”
“Some historians have posited that the Sunday School movement did more to empower the lower class than any other thing in the early 19th century,” says Yeats.
What began as a small group with Raikes in 1780 grew to more than 200,000 students across England in only 20 years. By 1850, the number had climbed to 2 million. This does not even include the number of parents and siblings who were taught by children bringing their lessons home from Sunday School.
As education became more common, Sunday Schools began to transition into a religious training program for all ages. “We see this happen rather quickly in the U.S.,” says Yeats. By the 1840s, what was once known as the Baptist General Tract Society expanded its work to include biblical education material for all ages and became the American Baptist Publication and Sunday School Society.
This transition continued until today when Sunday School is almost exclusively seen as a means to teach Christians more about the faith they’ve already come to embrace. To many, its evangelistic and social justice origins remain unknown. But others continue the tradition of Raikes by using Sunday School to reach beyond the walls of the church to those in need around them.

Modern movement

What started as a service project for Sherrie Poirrier’s Sunday School class at First Baptist Church (FBC) in Woodstock, Ga., has grown into its own nonprofit organization to serve a mobile home park.
As part of FBC Woodstock’s LoveLoud initiative, Poirrier says, her Sunday School group went one day to the park to give out free clothing, household items, furniture, and Bibles. The group also offered free haircuts and legal advice.
After that day, Poirrier says her heart was broken for the people there. She immersed herself in a bread ministry already serving the mobile home park. Eventually, she became the leader of Living Bread Ministry and wanted to do more as she saw the overwhelming needs.
“It’s right in our town and most don’t even realize it,” Poirrier says. “People are strangled by the bondage of drugs, domestic abuse, and alcohol. Many of the children have parents with felony records who cannot find employment.”
Much like Raikes centuries earlier, Poirrier saw the needs and wanted to bring the gospel to bear on her community – and it started with helping to educate the children who lived in the mobile home park. “We have a camper on one of the lots where we provide free tutoring to the children,” she explains.
The ministry offers Bible studies to the men and women on Saturday and specific year-round activities for the families. Funded solely by donations from Christians, Living Bread Ministries helps those in the area with groceries, medical bills, clothing, car repairs, and school supplies.
Ross Ramsey is doing a similar ministry to a local apartment complex with First Baptist Church in Allen, Texas. Volunteers from Sunday School classes come to a Saturday training and then go into the neighborhood to help people and share the gospel.
The church had recently begun a new initiative and the apartment complex was “begging” for the church to come over to help. “It was a marriage between tools and a place to use the tools,” Ramsey says.
He says the outreach – driven by Sunday School – has resulted in an explosion in leaders, increased personal evangelism, members discovering their identity in Christ, and a more diverse congregation.
“I have never seen anything like this that has gotten people from being passive in the pews to being ambassadors for Christ in the street,” Ramsey says.
Sunday School is the perfect place to start an outreach ministry, he says, because that’s where a church’s labor pool is. “Our Sunday Schools were full of people not doing anything, so that’s where I started.”
That’s where Salem Evangelical Covenant Church in Oakland, Neb., started as well. The 50 people gathered each week would take up a Sunday School offering. It was barely enough to cover the costs of their children’s curriculum, says Kate Webster. Then she visited her niece’s church and got an idea.
Salem Covenant took an old shoebox and “bedazzled it – just covered it with gemstones and ribbons,” she says. The church also decided to use the Sunday School offering to bless others. “One Sunday a month, we would give what was collected to a person or anything we thought could benefit from it.”
The very first week of using the Sunday School offering for others, the church received more than three times what it had previously gotten in an entire year. The money was given to a local family in need.
Since then the tiny church has given away tens of thousands of dollars. One project involves giving the church kids money to spend on gifts for kids at the local children’s home. “It’s just great to see the kids search so hard for a deal so they can get more things for the other kids,” Webster says.
The church is thrilled it’s been able to give so much away, but Webster is clear this is about more than the money. “It’s about the love, the prayers, and support being shared with our community and even those beyond it,” she says. “It’s about teaching our kids – and adults  –what’s important.”
Those efforts are reminiscent of Raikes and the founding of Sunday School itself. Yeats says it’s what modern-day churches should keep in mind. “There are amazing ways to transform a community, if we can be attentive to societal needs, meet those needs, and ensure the gospel is communicated clearly.”
To capture the heart of Sunday School’s origin and continue that into the 21st century, modern Sunday School programs must reach beyond their classroom walls, according to Yeats.
“When our Sunday Schools become only training programs for devoted Christians to get more knowledge,” he says, “they miss out on the very thing that made the initial foray into the project so worth it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls, @WardrobeDoor, is online editor of Facts & Trends, a quarterly magazine of LifeWay Christian Resources. This article first appeared at FactsandTrends.net. Used by permission.)

7/27/2018 10:05:34 AM by Aaron Wilson, Facts and Trends | with 0 comments

Iowa tornado devastation triggers Baptist DR response

July 27 2018 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams have begun cleanup work in Marshalltown, Iowa, following a devastating tornado July 19.

Photo courtesy of Iowa Baptist Convention Disaster Relief
Volunteers serving with the Iowa Baptist Convention's Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team begin cleanup in a homeowner's yard in Marshalltown, Iowa. The town was hit by an EF-3 tornado Thursday, July 19.

A Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief team arrived Tuesday to set up incident command at Iglesia Karios in Marshalltown. Chainsaw teams from Iowa have dispersed throughout the city to clear debris. An SBDR feeding team has prepared meals for recovery workers in the area.
Additional SBDR volunteers from Kansas-Nebraska and Florida already are on the ground in Marshalltown. Mike Carlson, co-director of Iowa Baptist Disaster Relief, expects volunteers from other nearby states to arrive later this week and early next week. Teams from other states interested in providing assistance should contact their state disaster relief director.
“It looks like a war zone to tell you the truth,” Carlson said. “When you go downtown, you’ll see a lot of glass and brick everywhere.
“On the east part of town, there are about 10 blocks that are very heavily hit. There’s really not many trees standing. A lot of those homes aren’t livable,” Carlson said.
The EF-3 tornado injured at least 235 people in the town of 27,000 located 50 miles northeast of Des Moines. Carlson estimates that at least 100 homes were destroyed. Many more homes will take substantial work before people can return to live in them. Carlson believes it will take months, if not years, for Marshalltown to rebuild.
Some of the worst damage in Marshalltown came to the town’s courthouse and the brick buildings in the town square. In recent years officials and property owners had slowly worked to revamp the buildings, many of which are now destroyed. Jenny Etter, executive director of the Marshalltown Central Business District, estimates that the city had spent $50 million in building renovations since 2002.
A dozen or more tornadoes hit central Iowa last Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. The two biggest tornadoes, both rated EF3, hit Marshalltown and Pella, with peak winds of 144 mph.
SBDR chaplains are also in Marshalltown to provide support and counsel to residents impacted by the tornado. Sam Porter, the North American Mission Board’s executive director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, prays the SBDR response will provide volunteers opportunities to share the gospel.
“[The] number one goal with disaster relief is to earn the right to share the gospel,” Porter said. “We work with those impacted. We treat them with respect. We pray with them. When they ask the question, ‘What makes you do this for no charge?’ that’s when you’ve earned the right to share the gospel.”
The Marshalltown tornado comes on the heels of the SBDR response to flooding in Des Moines, Iowa, where teams wrapped up work last week. Eight people came to faith last week during SBDR efforts in the capital city, Carlson said.
Porter and Carlson urge Southern Baptists to pray for Marshalltown and the rest of Central Iowa.
“Pray for all the people who live here,” Carlson said. “A lot of them lost their homes. They lost their cars. They lost their job. There is a lot of a need here.” 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/27/2018 10:05:21 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments

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